Monthly Archives: November 2011

on boston + the idea of home.

For some reason, I always go back to the music that I loved sophomore year of high school; something about those songs resonates with me more and more as the year’s pass. From The Postal Service’s “I am a visitor here, I am not permanent” to Something Corporate’s “I’ve never felt so lost, I’ve never felt so much at home,” I still identify with that music.

A friend from college and I were chatting texting recently (it’s 2011 after all); she also moved to a new city this year where she didn’t know anyone, similar to myself. She said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since: “I feel so temporary.”

That, friends, in a nutshell, is how I often feel these days. College also felt temporary, but not like this does. It’s the classic existential crisis of not knowing where home is anymore. Is is Boston? St. Louis? The small town I grew up in? Or is it just Missouri/the Midwest, as I more generally say these days? However, part of me will always claim Rome as one of my homes, too. See, this is when it really gets complicated.

Today at Casserly House, I was chatting with one of the morning ESOL teachers. She asked about my Thanksgiving and how it was being away from home–or was Boston home now?

My answer? Boston… home? No, definitely, definitely not.

A housemate and I had a long conversation last night about, among other things, plans for life post-JVC and being homesick. She asked me how I felt about Boston now, and while I have a lot of thoughts about Boston, New England, and the East Coast and life outside of the Midwest in general, the first thing I thought was simply, “I need to go home.”

Because I have yet to learn how to process my life without the context of home. And that’s something I’m still trying to figure out.

we give thanks.

thanksgiving hand turkeys by jvc boston

>There’s only a few minutes until the official start of Thankgiving, which I will be spending in Boston with 3/4’s of my housemates (we’ll miss you, KH!). It’s a bit strange to not be spending this day in Missouri with my family, but I’ll be there again in just a few weeks for Christmas, so I’m not too sad. Mostly, I’m just grateful: for this year, for the blessings I have known, and the people I’m privileged to know.

And on that note, here’s a brief rundown of a few of the things I am most thankful for.

family + friends.
Your support has meant the world to me throughout the past year, from applying to JVC, to graduating college, and finally moving out to Boston and starting this year. Whether we’re close to each other or far away, the fact remains that you all are one of the most visible ways that I can see God working in my life, and that says it all.

JVC. Casserly House. Casa Taj. Boston.
I don’t think I can even attempt to express what these last few months have meant to me. I’m already forever grateful for the opportunity to learn to walk with these people, to explore this city, and to live with this wonderful group of women. I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

SLU. (And let’s be real: Hump’s patio.)
Once a Billiken, always a Billiken. I will forever be grateful for the memories, opportunities, and mostly, the friendships I gained at SLU.

a roof over my head + food on the table every night.
I have never been more thankful for these two things than I am this year; it’s a cliche thing to say on Thanksgiving, but I mean it wholeheartedly. Yes, I’m on a tight budget because of JVC, but every night I come home to cabinets full of food and a warm bed to sleep in, and that is so much more than many other people can say.

community.
In many shapes and forms: family, friendships that feel like family, faith communities, Casserly, and so on and so forth.

education + the opportunities that come with it.
This is something I will never take for granted again after what I’ve witnessed these past few months.

simplicity.
Sleeping in on Saturday mornings. The smell of homemade bread. Finishing a good book. The crunch of fall leaves under my feet on my walk to work. Community dinners. Pumpkin beer.  Having my own bedroom for the first time since high school. Colored tights. Country music on the radio. A shower that never seems to run out of hot water. Long T rides to write in my journal.

unexpected kindness + generosity.
From students at Casserly, from strangers and people who are practically strangers, and from the people who love and know me best.

home. (and the fact that I’ll be there again in a matter of weeks.)
As much as I love this whole experience, I am so, so grateful that December 22nd will find me back in Missouri. I miss my family, my friends, and being able to see the stars from my front porch steps.

and mostly–to, and for, God.
Who keeps surprising me in the best possible ways.

In short, I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, and to be happy. I hope you spend this Thanksgiving with those you love and appreciating the blessings in your life.

P.S. Also, I am so very grateful for those of you who have been reading this little blog of mine. It means so much to me that even a few people have become invested in following along with my story. Truly, thank you.

poverty, joy, and everything in between.

So, I feel like I’ve been pretty quiet on this front lately, and it’s certainly not because I don’t have anything to say. In fact, I have so much to say that I don’t really know where to begin.

However, because it’s already late, I’ll just leave you with a recent story from Casserly:

Earlier this week, S. Nancy was gifted 15 tickets to see a performance of the Nutcracker in Boston. She has been busy doling them out to the local girls in the neighborhood to go with their mother’s.  A couple of days ago, she asked one of the girls, M., if she would be interested in going. This girl loves to dance, and we naturally expected her to be enthusiastic about the idea of going to the ballet.

However, M. strongly said, “NO,”  when asked, and when S. Nancy questioned her about why, this was her response. It broke my heart a little bit, and you’ll see why:

“No. Because it’s something I’ll never to get to do, and I can’t want things I can’t have, because it’s just too hard. It hurts too much.”

This girl is in the fifth grade. She is barely into double digits, and she already practices self-denial as a form of self-protection because she doesn’t know any other way to cope, to survive in this world.

I wish you could have seen the look on her face when S. Nancy told her she was going to get to go to the ballet for the first time–that she could have something she never dreamed possible.

These are the moments I hope to carry with me long after this year is over: both the deeply personal, powerful knowledge of what it is like to be poor and to deny yourself even the desire for something you think you will never be able to hold… as well as the look of joy on the face of a child whose world just got turned upside down in the best possible way.

month three.

Month three of JVC will be remembered as, among many other things, the month when I (finally) started taking more pictures. Also, for much fall-related celebrating, the Cardinal’s winning the World Series, some milestones at Casserly (as well as my first work-related breakdown), and much more.

As of today, I’m 1/4 of the way through this year, and I can feel it. I’m nowhere close yet to the end, but I definitely think this is the end of the beginning. With more questions than ever in my mind, I’m hoping I can continue to embrace this experience with a spirit of openness in the coming months… and we’ll see what comes out of it. Anyway, without any further rambling, here’s some of my memories from the past few weeks:

spinach lasagna. the examin. a lesson about rice. challenges. cardinal’s games. 375 at harvard yard. muddy jeans and destroyed flats. pumpkin spice-chai lattes from starbucks. awkward t rides. shorts and tights. spiritual direction at bc. boston book fair. reading at trident cafe. costello’s tavern. apple picking. arboretum afternoons. mass at st. cecelia’s.

more personality tests: infj. surprise parties at casserly. theology on tap. ricotta and spinach pie. 7-way google hangouts to watch the card’s game with some of my favorite people. sandwiches at al’s. head of the charles. jp lantern festival. cardinal’s games at foley’s. awkward realizations. st. cecelia’s.

“being the boss” at casserly house. community time. funfetti cookies. lentil and potato pot pie. jvc recruiter visits. first snowflakes. most epic baseball game ever. sleep deprivation. regis halloween party. being nervous. 11 in ’11 for the stl cardinals. sleeping in. snowtober. failed trips to newark for jvc halloween. mass by myself at st. cecelia’s. finishing books at starbucks. vegetarian food festival. house pumpkin carving + photoshoots.

halloween. $2 burritos from chipotle and thrown-together cow costumes. the kitchen floor drama. mexican casserole (FINALLY). all saint’s day. my life with the saints. a rough week at casserly asp. the runaway. nights in. apple cinnamon bread. saturday mornings at forest hills cemetery. flu shots. grad school apps at jp licks. foley’s. falling back. st. cecelia’s.

extreme highs and lows at casserly house. first work-related emotional breakdown. hand turkeys and being thankful. some of the best news ever for one of the esol students. pizza and a pint. kateleigh’s birthday. 4 day week/3 day weekend (thankfully). a new favorite bookstore: brookline booksmith. 11/11/11 (!!!).

may you know that you are loved this day.

And then there are days at work that are terrible–not because my coworkers are frustrating, not because kids won’t listen and talk back, and not because I’m disappointed with my own performance.

No, there are days, afternoons, moments that are terrible because a fifth grade boy, in the middle of his homework, says, bluntly, that he thinks that God hates him.

And that’s when I realize in one overwhelming flood of emotion what I’m really up against this year. It’s not math homework and standardized tests. It’s a world that makes these kids think that they’re stupid, that they aren’t valuable, and that they aren’t loved; a world that’s so discouraging and cold that a boy who has so much potential can’t see a glimpse of it.

And those are the moments that I realize that the best thing I can do for these kids is just to love them. If they can walk out of this program on the last day of the school year and know that they were loved and valued at Casserly House, no matter what else happens, I’m calling this year a success.

own your slippers.

One of my goals for this year as a JV has always been to do a lot of reading. While I have only begun to scratch the surface so far of all of the books I want to read, my most recent book–Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese–provided a lot of wonderful food for thought. Here is one of my favorite passages from Cutting For Stone:

Ghosh was touched. He lay in the center, and we huddled on either side. Hema sat at the foot of our bed.

“In prison, lights were out by eight o’clock. We’d each tell a story. That was our entertainment. I told stories from the books we read to you in this room. One of my cell mates, a merchant, Tawfig—he would tell the Abu Kassem story.”

It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of them. But his every attempt to get rid of the slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

“One night when Tawfig finished, another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man said, ‘Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.’ The old man laughed, and he seemed happy when he said that. That night the old man died in his sleep.

[…]

“The following night, we couldn’t wait to talk about Abu Kassem. We all saw it the same way. The old man was right. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…”

[…]

Ghosh sighed. “I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

P.S. On a similar note, I’m newly obsessed with Good Reads, so if you care to see what I read over the course of this year, you can follow that here.