Thumbs Up


For a Monday, today was pretty damn great.  A solid two thumbs up kind of day.  Here's why:

My proposal for an occasional 4-day work week was approved!  I can now take one extra day off per month, which frees up twelve days during the calender year that I would otherwise be behind a desk in a windowless office.  I am so stoked to have this extra time, and grateful to the powers-that-be at my organization for supporting the idea.  It's a small change, but one that will give me greater flexibility with my limited and sacred free time.  

Also, I applied for my passport today!  I thought I would have to go after work and that it would be a long nightmarish process riddled with bureaucratic BS, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I decided to scope out the scene over my lunch hour, and was prepared to have to call my supervisor from the long line, telling her that I would need to take two hours of personal time because I was stuck in some horrendous line.  But here's what actually happened: I hopped on the subway, went to the post office at 30th & Chestnut, waited in line for the application, applied, had my passport photo taken, hopped on the bus, picked up a salad at the Liberty Place food court, and walked back to my office, all within the span of 55 minutes.  I've waited longer to mail a package free of liquids, perishables and explosives.  Getting a passport was like the Jiffy Lube of all government-related experiences.  I challenge you to interface with the government, take two modes of public transit, pick up lunch and return to the office in less than an hour.   

Next, when I got back to work, I received official notification that an abstract (paper) with my name on it had been submitted to a national Social Work conference happening in January 2013!  This actually starting unfolding over the weekend.  When I was in grad school, I was a research assistant for two professors who were conducting different research studies.  Well, one of them is ready to publish the findings of his study, and is including my name as an author because of my role in the study!  He is submitting the abstract to possibly be selected for a paper presentation at this conference next winter, so today, I received official notification that 1) it was submitted for review, and 2) it has my name on it.  I am so floored by this news, and so filled with gratitude for everything from the initial experience of working on this study to the latest development of being included as an author.  I just didn't see it coming, at all. 

Then when I got home, I saw that I had a piece of mail.  Not a bill or piece of junk mail, but a card from my mom.  I quickly scanned my mind as to why she would be sending a card.  Birthday? No. Anniversary? No. Holiday? No. Just because? Maybe.  I opened it and was so surprised to see that it was a donation towards our Costa Rica trip!  The only caveat is that I have to have a drink in her honor while in Costa Rica.  Damn, I don't know how we're gonna make that happen, given our rigorous itinerary filled with ass-in-the-sand sessions followed by floating-in-pristine-waters sessions.  It was an awesome and totally unexpected surprise, and once again, left my heart so grateful.  Thanks, Mom!

Finally, the last piece of goodness for today is that I turned the last page of a book that has held my imagination captive over these past few days.  Not that I love ending a great story - I don't, I'm actually quite sad - but I do love loving a book in its entirety and feeling like I've come full circle with the characters.  I've been reading 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World, which is the true life story of a family (parents John and September, and kids Katrina [11] and Jordan [8]) who dropped out of everyday life (school, work; you know, the things that typically define us) for 52 weeks to travel the globe.  It's been an inspiring read, and has opened my eyes to the incredible experiences awaiting those who have the courage to dream, and save.  Not that I currently have dreams of funds for taking an Around-the-World trip, but reading this book has challenged my perceptions of what it can mean to raise a family in the world.  It was one of the best stories I've read in a long time, and tonight it came to an end.  Happy tears :)

So all in all, today was pretty thumbs up.  In fact, I kind of wish I had a third thumb to raise.  Actually, based on today's wish success rate, I better exercise caution and rethink that one.  I'll settle for two thumbs up - way UP!

The Good, the Bad, and the Beauty


Here's the good news: I have booked my airfare to Costa Rica to visit my friend Jen!!

Here's the bad news: I don't have the money to pay for my trip, yet.  I charged it; it's the American way, after all.  It's my patriotic duty to stimulate the economy even though I can't *technically* afford it.  But I'm not one for technicalities, anyway; they get in the way of dreams.  And as far am I'm concerned, in an epic battle of rock-paper-scissor, dreams are to technicalities what scissors are to paper.  Dreams win every time.  So, I'm taking a leap of faith and trusting that if I book it, they (dollar bills) will come. 

I figure as long as I can raise a few hundred bucks by the time I leave (June 27th), I should be golden.  I've already raised about 46% of my targeted goal, which includes airfare and spending money, so I just need to double that and I'm good.  So far I've raised money by participating in a focus group, doing online surveys (slowest and most boring form of fundraising EVER), and speaking at a local University.  <-- Isn't that a hoot?  A University actually paid me (me!) to speak on a panel.  As if I were an expert on something!  I wish more of those opportunities would fall in my lap the same way that one did.  

So anyway, I'm hoping to participate in a few more focus groups, maybe get a temporary part-time job delivering flowers or something, and solicit donations from friends, family and the best blog readers in the whole wide world.  Hope you like butter, cause I'm butterin' you up! 

I'm still waiting to hear back from the powers that be about my four day work week proposal.  I won't be totally shocked if it's shot down, but I am holding out hope that it's approved so I can create more free time in my life for beautiful moments and the pursuit of joy.  

Speaking of beautiful moments, check out this little beaut: Almost every morning as I board the train, I see an older gentleman who always seems to be searching for someone in the crowd of commuters.  While everyone else is zoned out in their books, papers and smartphones and has that smug "don't look at me, don't breathe on me, don't touch me - this is my last 20 minutes of peace before the work day begins" look on their mugs, this guy is eager for some human contact.  As it turns out, his "lady friend" boards the train a few stops after him, and they sit next to each other in silence (it's the quiet car), just enjoying each others peaceful presence before the inevitable chaos of the day sets in. 

They both get off at the same stop in the city, share a kiss on the platform, and head in different directions.  I can only imagine what their relationship is like.  Are they life partners who have separate lives?  The comfortable and almost intimate silence between them makes me think they've shared this love for a lifetime.  But, the eager way he looks for her in the morning makes me think this is new, giddy love.  Whatever it is, I adore these two and appreciate the beautiful moment they bring to my morning commute. 

That's all for now friends.  I'm off to continue my hustle in hopes of making a few bucks to finance my dreams.  Where there's a will, there's a way! 

Monday Musings


Mondays are rough, aren't they?  Especially after weekends that feel rich, full, and provide ample time to do the things you actually want to do.  So yeah, this past weekend was pretty phenom.  Nothing super amazing, it just felt like I had enough time to accomplish savor all that I wanted to, including date night, time to catch up on sleep, time with family, time to play in the dirt, and time to do all the little precious things that tend to fall through the cracks. 

So, waking up this morning and heading to the office (my office has no windows, by the way) felt less than phenom.  AND, today was the first really warm day; I think it was 89 degrees and sunny, so ya know, I had beach on the mind pretty hardcore.  So, as I was leaving to take my lunch break, I stopped in my boss's office and said, "How do you feel about a four day work week?"  Not that I want a four day work week every week (four 10-hour days would weigh on me just as much over time), but it would be a nice option every now and again to help extend the weekend and help with that whole work-life balance.  The jury is still out on whether or not my organization will allow such freedom, but I'll keep you posted.

I spent my lunch hour in a sweet little pocket park, totally zen'd out and enjoying the sounds of nature drowning out the sounds of the city, or trying to.  Birds are serious nature noise-makers, but they got nothing on bass.  Ultimately, Tupac won out (still?!), but the birds made a valiant effort, and I for one got lost in their sweet songs. 

Ironically, a bird pooped on Jay in this very park many moons ago, right after he told me that it's good luck to have a bird poop on you.  Really.  It was awesome.  We almost had our first kiss here, right after the bird pooped on him, but something held me back.  Probably the glob of bird shit on his shirt. 

So anyway, I hope the four day option pans out.  Going back to the whole "joy and making meaning" business, I think time is a key aspect of that.  Having options about how to structure my work time would mean a lot to me, especially if it means freeing up time (and activities) that have traditionally been off-limits.  So yeah, that's where I'm at these days: creating options, freeing up time, and rethinking what's off limits.  I mean, back in the day, back in the pocket park, kissing Jay was off-limits (mostly because of the bird shit), but we created another opportunity, and look where that took us :) 



Speaking of following one's passion and doing what brings joy, have a look at how my dear friend Simone is following her passion.  A few years ago, she moved from the East coast to San Francisco with nothing more than her dog and her knives.  Soon after, she started her organic catering company, Zenbelly.  Now she is taking Zenbelly to the next level, and we all have the opportunity to help her in one way or another.  

Warning: this will inspire you.  After watching, you'll either want to contribute to her cause, or you'll want to share it with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.  You've been warned.  Enjoy!

CLICK TO WATCH: Zenbelly Kitchen

Joy Findings


Over the past week, I've been talking to friends and family about how they make meaning of their experiences and about what brings them joy.  Some interesting, although not surprising themes have emerged.  Have a looksie at my initial findings:

People make meaning and reflect on their experiences through writing, prayer (spiritual expression of some type), conversations with loved ones, and creating things with their hands.

People identified the following things when asked what their "joy-spot" was: Relationships (family, friends, romantic partners), travel, children, faith (religion, spirituality), creative expression (either producing or reveling in), the outdoors, and making a solid contribution to the world.  

I have to say, I tested the 'joy-spot" theories out over this past weekend, and I can confirm what the masses have told me.  Since Thursday, I have spent some incredible quality time with friends and family, I've traveled, I've expressed my faith and spirituality, I've engaged in creative endeavors, I've spent time in nature, and I'd like to think I've made a contribution by enhancing others' joy.  And it totally worked; this weekend was nothing but a non-stop marathon of joy.  Well, traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike was less than joyous, but at least I was with my BFFs, so they made up for the reoccurring traffic nightmares.

Unfortunately, the joy marathon has left me totally exhausted, so I need to sleep on it before I make meaning or turn in into something else.  But for now, I just wanted to share the results of my casual questioning.  Y'all are onto something here.  Carry on with your joyful selves.

Oh, one last thing: You know what else brings me joy?  SLEEP.  Nighty night friends.  



'Tis the season for blooming and blossoming.  Don't mind if I do.


The Pursuit of JOY


So, in the past few days, I've realized that I'm hungry for something beyond what's currently on my plate.  I'm definitely still in the throes of trying to put words to this general feeling of unrest, so please bear with me as I try to hash it out here. 

It all started to surface last Thursday evening when I came home from work.  I had been out late on Wednesday night, so I was looking forward to coming home from work on Thursday, suiting up in my "sleep attire" (elastic waist sleep pants and a t-shirt), and getting horizontal on the couch.  I don't know what happened while I was on the train, but by the time I got home, I had no desire to get cozy and get lazy.  I felt restless, unmoored, and full of longing for something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I could feel emotion rising from within, and knew that a good cry session wasn't too far behind, but I had no idea WHY.  

My sweet husband Jay didn't really know what to make of me, but he did know exactly how to help me.  You see, Jay and I have this secret weapon called "snuggles".  I know, fierce, right?  You know the saying, "The cure to everything is salt water: tears, sweat, or the ocean"?  Well, snuggles is our salt water.  It ALWAYS cures what ails us.  And it's not just the physical act of snuggling, it's the safe space we create while snuggling; a space where we drop all defenses, present our truest selves, and just get real about what's doin'.  Whenever we're fighting, if it escalates to a point of ridiculousness, it's not uncommon for one of us to say, "super emergency snuggle session - right now", and it always melts the tension and gets us communicating.  If there's one relationship secret I've learned over the past 15 years, it's the power of snuggles.

So, last Thursday while I was pacing around and wanting to crawl out of my skin for some unknown reason, Jay convened a snuggle session.  As soon as we laid down and he asked me what was up, it all started coming out, words, tears, everything.  See?  Salt water.  

I wish I had a transcript so I could share exactly what I said, but I basically talked about the importance of making meaning out of our lives, and questioning if I was doing all that I could to not only have meaningful experiences, but to attach meaning and process all experiences so that they ultimately have meaning.  Gosh, I just used the word "meaning" like four times in one sentence.  My bad.  

Essentially, I want to ensure that I'm creating and living the life that I envision for myself, and that is a life full of beauty, joy, passion and artistic expression.  I want to make sure that I'm not just living to accomplish certain things or attain professional ideals, but that I'm living to experience joy, beauty and passion.  I do NOT want to wake up in 20 years and realize that I've missed the point; that I've been so hyper-focused on being responsible and achieving the next age-appropriate goal that I've forgotten about the pursuit of joy.  

These thoughts and feeling are no doubt connected to the experience one of my friends is currently having.  My friend Jen recently quit her 9-5, sublet-ed her apartment, and moved to Costa Rica to teach English, but really to experience joy and to make meaning out of her life.  I SO admire Jen's decision, and feel inspired to take similar, yet different measures in my own life.  Not all of us can - or are interested in - leaving our everyday lives and moving to a new country.  But, we all can, and should check in with ourselves and make sure that the lives we're living are the ones we want.  Are we following our passions, or are we tied down by someone else's ideals?  In twenty years, when you look back, what will you regret?  Are we taking the time to really process our experiences and draw meaning from them, or are we just working for the weekend while crossing tasks off our to-do lists?  

As for me, I have always struggled with routine and the monotony that sometimes accompanies adult livin'.  I get that we all have to work to be able to afford the lifestyles we choose, and to pay back student loans.  I'm not trying to escape the reality of life (ok, you caught me, I kind of am).  I'm just saying that I need more than merely working to live.  I need joy, and beauty, and I need to be able to process all that and turn it into something meaningful that I can share with the world.  And my hope is that the joy and beauty stuff takes up a larger chunk of my time than the responsible "work" stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my life and am stoked with the choices I've made thus far, I'm just trying to have an honest check-in about where I'm headed. 

I've never been someone who's professionally motivated.  Even when I went back to school in my late twenties, it wasn't for some future goal or career; it was something that brought me, ...wait for it... JOY.  I love learning and being intellectually stimulated.  But, the minute I had to start thinking about a career, well shucks, I lost interest.  But again, I get that we all need jobs, but I don't think I was put on this earth for my job.  I think there's way more important experiences to be had, and that's the realization that has bubbled up over the past few days.  

So what do I do with that?  I can't quit my job.  Do I need to look for more meaningful work?  Perhaps.  I think the real lesson for me in all of this is that I need to 1) Identify what my passions are and figure out what brings me the greatest joy, 2) Figure out how to spend the limited time that I have devoted to those things, and 3) Make sure that the life I'm living resembles the life I want to live, and eliminate - within realistic bounds - the stuff that detracts from the pursuit of joy.  Lucky for me, I know what brings me joy and how I can share it with the world; I just need to DO it.  

So, about that work thing... I need to work, but I can certainly find ways to make my work align more closely with joy.  What I'm more concerned about is maximizing my free time and using it proactively for the pursuit of joy or to make meaning out of my experiences.  In a nutshell, I want to make good choices, and not just be a victim of circumstance.  Life is short, and while I believe in destiny and fate, I also believe that we have the gift of choice, and that to some degree, our lives are what we make of them.  

So, that's where I'm at.  Ever since last Thursday, I've received an abundance of signs that I'm on to something with this whole joy/passion/limited time thing.  From facebook status updates to inscriptions in the sidewalk to professional presentations, the signs are telling me to follow my passion, to take risks, to live without regret, to travel more and to worry less about money, to follow my bliss, and to be passionate about my job. I don't know how to apply all this right now, but I got the memo, loud and clear.  For now, I'm gonna focus on writing, as writing is JOY, and is how I process life and make meaning of everything.  For me, writing is the cornerstone.  If I can devote more free time to writing, whether in this format or something more private, I will have taken a step in the write (pun intended) direction.  

In addition to writing, I want to work smarter but not harder.  Maybe I'll look into working 4 ten-hour days and having long weekends.  And maybe I'll seek out new travel opportunities, like visiting my friend Jen in Costa Rica, or visiting family in Northern California, or just getting in the car and going some place new.  Here's what I know: life is short.  I was 25 like 10 minutes ago.  I'm now 35.  I'll be 45 in like 5 minutes, so I should probably maximize my time and prioritize the pursuit of JOY and let the career chips fall where they may.  It's all about the joy, baby.  

So, thanks for reading this lengthy yet important post.  If the spirit moves you, please comment and share your own thoughts on how you make meaning of your experiences in the world, and what you want your life to look like.  I don't care if you're 18 or if you're 88 - we all have choices to make about tomorrow, and have unique experiences that inform those choices.  

I wish us all joy, a bit of restlessness, and ultimately, PEACE.  

Star and the City


Today, I became a star.  

This morning, I was a virtual nobody; free to roam the earth anonymously without having to wear wigs and ridiculous looking over-sized sunglasses.  But tonight, I am a virtual nobody whose star is rising.  That's right folks, my dreams are coming true: I have broken into the closed-circuit television industry at 55+ communities in southeastern Pennsylvania!  Today, a star was born.


So yeah, today I found myself in a for-real television studio, under the lights and feeling a bit like a deer in headlights.  It's such an unnatural environment, even though I was just "having a conversation" with someone about Medicare fraud.  Sexy!  At one point, the woman interviewing me said something like, "it's just like you're at home in your own living room".  Right, cause my living room has crazy bright lights and four television cameras pointed at me at all time, and I'm always mic'd at home.  Totally natural.  

While I don't remember much about the actual experience, I'm pretty sure it went well, all things considered.  I totally butchered my organization's mission, but it's all good cause they're gonna omit it.  I was like, "the mission of my organization is to, um, improve the... interests- no, the rights, um, and the autonomy, yeah, the autonomy, of old people- er, I mean older adults, and uh, like, advocate and stuff".  I'm exaggerating, but you get the point: it was not good. 

Other than that minor blunder, I *think* the rest went well, and that my star is on the rise.  The whole thing felt like binge drinking (not that I know what that feels like), because it felt really good during the process, but I can't remember a thing.  Fingers crossed. 

 After my stint in Delaware County Hollywood, I hopped in my Zipcar and had some time to kill before the car had to be returned, so I had a choice: return the car early and return to work, ya know, be responsible; or go for a joy ride in my Mini Cooper and celebrate my new-found fame.  You'll be happy to know that I made the right choice.  I did go back to work early, I just took the long way.  Damn Philadelphia traffic ;)  

I have to say, I do love driving in the city in the middle of the day.  Not because I love driving in the city in the middle of the day, but because my perspective is flipped; I am never the driver, I am always the pedestrian.  Being the driver is a fascinating experience.  As a ped (as I affectionately call us) I have a limited view; I see what's in my immediate environment.  But as a driver - WOW - I saw the whole scene; I saw the South Philly scene, the Schuylkill banks scene, the Graduate Hospital scene, the Rittenhouse scene, the Avenue of the Arts scene, the Jefferson scene, the Old City scene, the Pine Street Scene and most importantly, the human scene.  People are crazy beautiful in ways you'd never expect.  Who knew driving was such a voyeuristic activity?  AND, it was totally fascinating to see all this through my eyes, my new STAR eyes.  

What can I say?  Being a star changes everything.  Get your autographs now, friends.