Monthly Archives: December 2011

home is where the heart is.

(let’s just pretend that this picture also has a heart about 80 miles south, okay?)

Perhaps my father said it best:
“So, it’s not that you don’t like Boston,
but it’s not home.”

Yes.
Exactly.

And this week has been exactly what I needed.

I’m still figuring out a lot of things about myself, about where my heart is, and about where I’m supposed to be after this year of JVC is over. And right now, my heart is so wrapped up in Casserly, the people I work with, my housemates, and this whole experience that sometimes it’s hard to find a larger perspective.

But–and this is really important–while I am undoubtedly certain that I belong in Boston this year, my heart belonged here first. Way before I memorized the route of the Orange Line and the streets of Jamaica Plain, I loved these country roads. And I will always belong here in a way that is best summed up by old country songs on the radio.

And that’s a good reminder.

Forever and ever, amen.

it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas.

“celebrate me home” by kenny loggins; it’s been on repeat for the last few weeks.

It was Christmas today at Casserly House–and it was perfect. Okay, I’m lying. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly what I needed… and that kind of makes it perfect.

People who know me well know that I love Christmas. However, twenty-four hours ago, I was honestly dreading today. As per Casserly House tradition, we had both a Christmas party with the morning ESOL students, then another party for the After School kids. Preparing for all of this has been crazy, and I was just really tired. Frankly, I was not really happy with the Thanksgiving prayer service/party I planned, and I was dreading this afternoon in fears that it would be more of the same. Part of me was just ready to throw in the towel and head home to Missouri for ten days.

However, today was wonderful. It wasn’t perfect, but there were a lot of really wonderful, beautiful moments in the midst of the craziness, like eating food the morning ESOL students brought in from their home countries and singing Christmas carols with them. In the end, it all worked out; the kids party went really well–way better than I could have hoped–and I just felt so happy, so thankful, so (cheesy as it is) full of Christmas cheer.

It’s days like today that remind me of why I’m here, why I love it, and why it’s so important. It’s these memories that are going to make getting on another plane to come back to Boston in ten days to tackle the rest of this year that much easier.

Tomorrow night at this time, I will most likely be on the way home from the airport with my parents. I already plan on listening to playlist of Christmas music with titles involving the word “home” for most of the way, with a side of this and this, and my suitcase is packed and ready.

Missouri, you’re calling my name tonight, but it’s nice to reminded of the reasons Boston has carved out such a place in my heart.

crunch time.

It’s crunch time in Boston–on so many levels. The past few weeks have been crazy busy with preparing for Christmas and all that entails at Casserly House, grad school applications, my own personal Christmas preparations, community commitments, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong–a lot of these things have been fun and wonderful–but I am looking forward to life calming down a bit.

However, after two and half more days of work, I get to board a plane bound for St. Louis (well, for Baltimore first, then St. Louis!). I could not be more excited. It’s been a wonderful first four months in this city, but it’s also been a long time since I’ve been home. Since I’ve really seen the stars. Since I’ve slept in my own bed. Since I’ve been surrounded by my family and best friends. Since I’ve been around people who appreciate the state of Missouri the way I do. (This is when I am tempted to begin calling Missouri “God’s country”… but I’m not there yet, no worries.)

I mentioned this briefly in my last point, but the honeymoon phase of JVC is definitely over. Boston’s not as new as it used to be. Not that I’m necessarily disenchanted with it–especially when we’ve had the second warmest November on record!–but it certainly seems smaller now than it did back in August… or at least, it feels different. (Let’s not talk about the irony of a girl from a town of 8,000 calling a metropolitan area of 4.5 million “small.”)

(Side note: people keep asking how I feel about Boston, life on the East Coast, etc. Let’s just say that I have a lot of thoughts on this city and life on the East coast–both good and bad–that I am purposely not going to delve into at the moment. We’ll save that for later.)

Needless to say though, I’m ready to be home… at least for 10 days. Now, if I can just make it through the next two and a half…!

P.S. On an entirely different note–yet completely related at the same time–exactly two years ago today was my last day in Rome. That day is still one of my most cherished memories of all time. I don’t think I could have imagined then where I would be today, and ironically, I’m thinking about a lot of the same things, as another trip home after months away approaches.

just a small town girl.

One of my housemates recommended the book American Wife to me recently, and the following passage from it encapsulates so much of how I feel about Missouri and growing up in a small, Midwestern town. There are some things I love about the East Coast and especially Boston, but I think the Midwest will always be where I feel most like myself.

“Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful. When I was young, this was knowledge shared by everyone around me; as an adult, I’ve never stopped being surprised by how few of the people with whom I interact have any true sense of the states between Pennsylvania and Colorado. Some of these people have even spent weeks and months working in such states, but unless they’re midwesterners, too, to them the region is nothing but polling numbers and caucuses, towns or cities where they stay in hotels […] 

Admittedly, the area possesses a certain dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage point of a coastal city. 

Certainly picturesque towns can be found in New England or California or the Pacific Northwest, but I can’t shake the sense that they’re too picturesque. On the East Coast, especially, these places–Princeton, New Jersey, say, or Farmington, Connecticut–seem to me aggressively quaint, unbecomingly smug, and even xenophobic, downright paranoid in their wariness of those who might someone infringe upon the local charm. I suspect this wariness is tied to the night cost of real estate, the fear that there might now be enough space or money and what there is both must be clung to and defended. The West Coast, I think, has a similar self-regard–all that talk of proximity to the ocean and the mountains–and a beauty that I can’t help seeing as show-offy. But the Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself.”

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

month four.

Month Four = officially 1/3 of the way through JVC.  Because I’m really tired, and this is already a day later, I’ll say one thing for now: the honeymoon is definitely over (and more importantly, we all still like each other).

(And I’ll say another thing just because I can: I think I’m as excited for Christmas break as the kids are, which is saying quite a lot.)

month four.

veteran’s day = day off work/3 day weekend. too much grad school nonsense. watching harry potter 7: part 1 & 2. foley’s for kateleigh’s birthday. listening to meatloaf and skipping. st. c’s. the aquarium.

happy birthday, kateleigh!

simmons info session. inspiration wall. thanksgiving prep at casserly. theology on tap + the occupy movement. analyzing ourselves. dating lessons. epic target and old navy trip. 75% off. pour house + people watching. bll nightcap’s at foley’s. more awkward realizations. st. c’s. watching the town. spiritual direction at the arboretum.

spinach cheese casserole. casserly house thankgiving prayer service: we give thanks. most chaotic and stressful afternoon ever. thanksgiving dinner with peter. thanksgiving break (!!!). sleeping in. grad school apps. sweet potato, lentil, and spinach soup. lunch at women’s lunch place. tamales. apple pie with dave and “the dave” at foley’s. volunteering at wlp. sneaking in snacks to the descendents. “crazy friday nights” (but not really). roslindale christmas tree lighting. bromance. the purple shamrock. st. c’s. “you just got pope-d.” discovering pavement coffeehouse.

not actually our tree. or house.

nostalgia and freaking myself out. slow days at casserly. new volunteers. advent spirituality night. advent small group. seeing jim martin speak at bc. visiting st. stephen’s + flour. second visit to pavement in a week. christmas decorating + cookie baking with sarah. advent mass.

vegetable pot pie. spirit animals. advent group. one-on-ones at jp licks. dinner at flour. holiday pops. philly prep. 12 hour car rides. philly cheese steaks & napping in abby’s car. phillies navidad and all of the ridiculous that goes along with jvc parties. jvc reunions. dancing dancing dancing. dunkaccinos and angry drivers.

philly christmas party

thanksgiving break.

… and a week later, I’m going to talk about my Thanksgiving in Boston.

I had a two day work week because of the holiday. Monday was a normal day, but Tuesday was Casserly House Thanksgiving. I was in charge of planning a Thanksgiving Prayer Service/Party for the kids in the afternoon. It was easily the most intense afternoon I have had so far at Casserly House, but I survived and they liked my cookies (chocolate chip, funfetti, and snickerdoodles — would you expect anything less from me?).

While the afternoon was mildly chaotic, Tuesday morning with the ESOL students was incredibly touching; we did a craft where the students had to write down things that they were thankful for, and I absolutely loved being able to share this experience of gratitude with them. The opportunity to work with and get to know the ESOL students is one of the things I am most thankful for from this year, and ironically, a few of them actually put down that they were thankful for me (along with S. Nancy and the other teachers). That is still so weird to think about… Yes, I may be the one they call “teacher,” but they are the ones who are really teaching me. Truly, I’m the one who is thankful.

Tuesday night, we had our official community Thanksgiving dinner with our Jesuit liaison, Peter. We went pretty traditional for the dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie), and it was great to spend that time together.

Wednesday was pretty relaxed since I had the day off work. On Thursday, we went to Women’s Lunch Place, where one of my housemates works, for Thanksgiving lunch. Our actual Thanksgiving dinner that night, however, was tamales Cristina’s mom sent us all the way from LA! Mexican food for Thanksgiving may not be traditional, but it was certainly delicious.

After dinner, we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, then meandered down to Foley’s to pay a visit to Dave, our favorite bartender. He had hinted heavily the week before that apple pie was his favorite kind, so I baked one and we took it with us (full discretion: it’s my favorite too). Foley’s is something of a JVC Boston tradition, so it seemed only fitting that we spend our Thanksgiving there.

On Friday, we volunteered as a community for lunch at Women’s Lunch Place. Women’s Lunch Place is a completely different environment from where I work, and it was really wonderful to see where Abby works and to know more fully what her experience this year is like.

The rest of our long weekend was pretty relaxed. We went to a movie (The Descendants–pretty good!), watched some movies, went out on Saturday night, and I worked on grad school applications on Sunday.

All in all, Thanksgiving break was really nice, and while it was a little sad not being at home, it also just seemed fitting to spend this time with my community within the context of this year and our time together.