Sisters, Friends, and Study Abroad

I think I made what is to be one of my favorite college memories last night. It was one of those moments when you can step out of yourself and say “This. This is what I’m living for. And I don’t want it to end.” Of course it does, but now you have a snapshot of that one particular moment with that one particular set of feelings and that one particular smile of pure contentment playing on your lips.

Before I tell you what it was that had me loving life, I should probably give you some context before you think all I do is cook and partake in other house-wifey duties. I should also mention that this relates to my future plans for next year.

I know I’ve written that I have a sister, Curran, but I don’t think you know much more other than there’s 13 years between us and she is now raising a beautiful family with her husband Tim in Massachusetts. I didn’t get to visit her very frequently during high school, and I get to even less now that I’m in Maryland. However, since starting college, I’ve begun the practice of visiting her for about a week in the summer and winter. Those visits are truly a change of scene that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

In the winter we sit in front of a crackling fire and sip hot cider while reading books after the kids have gone to bed. In the summer we go to children’s museums in the day and concerts in the park at night. But no matter the season we always cook together. Curran has her own garden and a farm share to supply fresh vegetables and herbs; I swear it tastes different from what you buy in the store. When we start a recipe from her arsenal of cookbooks, I always end up learning something new about the art of cooking. From a faster way to chop onions to the proper order of making pesto, she makes these lessons family memories.

This is due in part to the conversations we have and the music we listen to, but the best thing we share during these bonding sessions is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Yes, I know, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s something that has become a family past time. As we mince garlic and wash lettuce, we try to guess the Listener Limerick and always have a good laugh when Paula Poundstone is on the show.

And as of last night, I was able to share this experience with my roommate Erin. After an exhausting week we wanted to keep our Friday night relaxing, so I made homemade spaghetti sauce with fettuccine for dinner. Instead of playing my usual cooking playlist and dancing along, or Erin watching Doctor Who in our bedroom, we enjoyed each others’ company in the kitchen. And listened to Wait Wait.

As I stirred the sauce, I looked over to see Erin laughing at Peter Sagal’s commentary while playing her 3DS, the warm light creating a comforting glow, and our future dinner filling the room with a tantalizing aroma. That’s when it happened. That moment of happiness: a sense of belonging based on the trust of friendship and the sharing of interests.

Now, as to how this could possibly have anything to do with my future plans, well…next semester Erin and I are embarking on an adventure. We’ll be leaving family and friends (though I’m sure we’ll make some new ones) to study abroad in Cork, Ireland! We’ve agreed not to be direct roommates for that time, but it’s reassuring to know she’ll still be there with me. To say I’m excited to share new experiences and make new memories would be the biggest understatement of the year. I am beyond excited.

I am impassioned, thrilled, wild, ecstatic; basically every possible adjective that could express happiness at this wonderful opportunity to learn about a new culture and make some amazing memories with one of my good friends.

Taking a Break

Ready…Set…Wait for it…GO!!!!

And they’re off! Spring break has begun! Fresh air! More sleep! No homework! Freedom!

Well, kind of. By the time this is published, some students will be on their way home and others will be chomping at the bit to finish their last midterm. And, ok, fine, maybe I won’t get that much more sleep, and I know I have homework, but the fresh air and relative freedom still stands.

I say “relative” because I know my time isn’t truly my own. I’ll be running around, being enjoyably busy, and I know I’m not the only one. Loyola students tend to be fairly active during the week away from school. During my talks with friends I’ve heard some pretty interesting stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanks to the ease of travel in Baltimore, my friend Mary is flying out to see her sister in Pittsburgh. She’s really excited to see the Andy Warhol Museum and ride the incline (like that little red trolley from Mr. Rogers). I visited there a few summers ago and had a fantastic time. She’s in for a treat!

I know my roommate Erin plans to take the opposite route, and will be spending much of her time catching up on missed sleep. She also has her sights set on gaming, reading and hanging out with friends from home.

Likewise, my friend Ben told me he’d be getting some quality homework time in, because school will follow you where ever you go!

On a school-related note, some of my friends (quite a few, come to think of it) will be participating in Spring Break Outreach, a program that students apply for, and during which serve in communities across the east coast. There are eight sites, all in different states, all addressing different issues. My roommate Nicole will be learning about environmental and energy issues and visiting with organizations and local communities who are trying to address the problem. Lindsey, my fellow blogger, will be leading a group that focuses on prison reform and works with Baltimore agencies to educate students about the difficulties faced by current and past inmates. Other programs deal with rural and urban poverty, migrant farm labor, building communities, HIV/AIDS awareness, and racial justice.

I’ve also heard from other students that they plan to hang out with family and friends (even to Arizona and California!), spend some time skiing, and more than once I’ve caught “Disney World” while walking through Boulder.

What are my plans, you might ask? Well….I haven’t quite figured them out yet! I’ve been eying a few art museums since I haven’t been to any this semester (and that just feels weird). I really want to visit the Barnes in Philly (so many Renoirs and Cezannes!) and check out the Brandywine Museum’s F.O.C. Darley exhibit. My dad will be celebrating his birthday by going to the Museum of Mathematics in NYC to attend a talk about math in Pixar movies (I’m actually kind of excited for that). Other than the usual hair cut, visit to my high school, and obligatory restocking of food, I have no idea what else lies in my future! I hope it involves a trip to Barnes and Noble, though. Maybe I’ll eventually get to see The Hobbit or catch up on Downton Abbey.

No matter what I do, I know I’ll enjoy my chance to breathe and recuperate from midterms!

Photographic Evidence

Wow! I haven’t written in a month and it feels … weird. At first it was nice not to stress about writing a post during finals, and then it was also nice to enjoy my Christmas peacefully, but afterwards I kind of missed it. Really missed it, actually.

By the end of break I was itching to write about my adventures and, oddly enough, get back to my hectic life on campus. Sometimes the schoolwork can be overwhelming (It’s only been two days and I have so much homework!), but I think if I wasn’t as busy as I am, I wouldn’t be happy. I need activity in my life; whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, I need something to be invested in.

I think that’s why I was so busy over break, and let me tell you, this was no resort in the Bahamas or skiing in the Alps!

But I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow. That would be immensely boring and I have enough pictures to make this much more interesting. However, I will explain a few events because not all pictures tell an accurate story!

Christmas at Grandpas

The Annual Ugly Sock Contest

My aunt started a crazy tradition of having an “ugly sock contest” and I usually got stuck with all the horrible socks. This year I got my revenge!

James

I think this was one of my favorite parts of break. My cousin who lives in New York City asked me to cat sit for her during New Year's weekend so I brought my friend Phoebe & Stacey along on the journey into the city and spent five glorious days exploring together.

 

Misty misty morning

At the Lego Store

The Intrepid Explorer!

Bethesda Terrace

Beware the Weeping Angels!

Our walk in Central Park turned into Let’s-Find-All-The-Places-Where-They-Filmed-Doctor-Who. Which was brilliant! I think we climbed on every boulder in the southern half of the park until we found the right one.

Superman Alex
While I visited my sister in chilly Massachusetts, I finished up this hat for my friend Alex.
Off to Sherlock...

You'll never believe where we went next!

At the ballThe Daintiest Thing Under A Bonnet Charity Ball hosted by the Baker Street Babes. A Sherlockian dinner and auction whose total proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project. (Photo Cred – Melinda Caric)

Silent Auction

Photo cred Melinda Caric

I got to spend a few days at home reading, doing laundry, and curling up with my cat, but it’s safe to say I had more fun running around with my friends than sleeping!

Somewhere in there I played Cards Against Humanity, saw Les Mis and Django Unchained (I can’t believe I got carded to buy my ticket), and almost made it to The Hobbit.

And that, my dear readers, pretty much wraps up my winter break! I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family, or away from work, or enjoying yourself in some small way. Here’s to a new year and a new semester!

See ya around guys!

You’ve Got (Snail) Mail!

There’s something about getting mail that makes you feel like you actually exist.

Whether it’s a mailbox or mail stop, you have a physical location on this earth that is assigned to you and no one else. It sounds so simple, so “old timey,” now that most people use email and social networking sites to connect with each other, but there’s just something about reaching into a little box, grasping an envelope, and waiting with baited breath to see who sent it.

This is especially true in college, when every contact we make with our friends and family from home is virtual and on a screen. If you ever wonder why students get so excited to find out they have a package, this is why. It’s something physical and concrete they can hold. if it’s a care package from mom, then mom held it, too. Or if it’s a letter from a friend, then that notebook paper has been on another campus in another state.

Last year I received a surprise package from my friend Alisa (pronounced “Alice”) with a small note attached. I wrote her a page and a half of my excited ramblings and mailed it. A few weeks letter, a four-page letter was in my mail stop. And thus began our written correspondence for the next year.

Side by Side

As you can see, she decorates her letters with doodles.

Doodles

 

And I decorate my envelopes.

To AlisaTo Alisa2

I always look forward to her letters. I’ll rip open the envelope and start reading as I walk home, laughing at all the shenanigans she gets into (she’s in Princeton’s marching band so she has some pretty awesome stories), exclaiming in jealousy at the Lit course she’s in, or feeling lucky I don’t have to take another Comp-Sci class. No matter how long they are, they’re a wonderful read and lift my spirits (even if the topic isn’t “happy” it’s still good to hear from her). And yes, I keep all the letters!

I know, I know, writing letters by hand, who does that anymore?!? Getting me to write a thank-you note is like pulling teeth (I’d rather say thank-you in person) and sometimes I really don’t feel like replying to emails. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll get a relatively quick response, but with snail-mail there’s anywhere from a week to a month waiting time, giving me a chance to experience new things to write about. And come up with new ideas for envelope decoration!

Based off my own iPodPlace your hand here...

No matter how you do it, keeping in touch with friends and family is crucial to your well-being in college. I may not talk to my parents daily, or even weekly, but I still want to know how they’re doing. The same applies to friends. Just as I have friends on campus I see daily (my roommates) or weekly (Ben, Alex, Mary, the list is very long), there are people from back home I still keep in touch with (Stacey, Phoebe, Alisa).

Even though writing a letter can be time consuming, or I don’t always know what I want to say, it’s still worth while. It’s like writing in a journal, but there aren’t more empty pages that stare up at you when you’re done. You know something will be returned.

Kilroy Was Here

Brotherly Love and Christmas Tidings

“I’m going to kidnap your roommate”
“What?”

A few moments later there was a knock on my door and my neighbor/friend came in, picked me up by the legs, and proceeded to carry me to his room.

Ah yes, the joys of having brotherly friends.

Don’t worry, I was going to hang out in his room anyway, so I got him to put me down so I could get my knitting and homework. But honestly? I love having friends who can be totally goofy and are like a second family.

Actually, they’re more like my primary family for nine months out of the year. And that’s truly what gets me through each day, knowing there’s someone who has my back (or legs), and can relate to my experiences. It’s true I have two sisters, but there’s such a large age gap it’s like we’re in two different generations!

So, when I get back from breaks it’s like a little family reunion, everyone hugging each other, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying each others company.

In the case of this Thanksgiving break, our reunion consisted of freaking out over homework, decorating our Christmas tree and the rest of the room, and other prep for the holidays.

I won’t bore you with the first bit of our reunion, except to say that reading a book (for history class) about the Holocaust will make you 100 times more thankful and appreciative of the life you are currently leading.

As for the second bit:

I have now experienced the joy of a Christmas tree in my own place!!!

You know when people move into their first apartment and have to buy their own furniture, or celebrate their first (fill-in-the-blank) in their new “place” and it’s a really big deal? Big in terms of life steps and making your own way in the world. Well, that’s why I’m so excited about having a Christmas tree in my apartment.

Setting up the tree

Always the dramatic one...

Last year my roommates and I hung things up and baked sugar cookies we then decorated, but we didn’t have a tree.

The Christmas tree at my house is always one of my favorite childhood memories. We would get a real tree, strap it onto the roof of the car, I’d help my dad bring it into the house, set it up, and laugh at the cats’ reactions to its sudden appearance in our living room. We’d spend one night decorating it, filling it with ornaments passed down through the generations, pictures of family members young and old, ornaments made in kindergarten with bow-tie pasta and glitter paint. The whole house would smell like pine; it was wonderful. On Christmas morning candy canes and small presents would be hidden amongst the branches.

The tree in my apartment is significantly smaller and therefore can’t be host to as many surprises, but it still adds Christmas cheer to the room.

Fin!Close up

As my roommates and I decorated, we listened and sang along to Christmas music, everything from Jason Mraz’s “Winter Wonderland” to Bing Crosby’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I’ve also discovered the wonders of Pandora’s Folk Christmas playlist (my favorite artists so far: John Fahey and Windham Hill).

We’ve also been modifying the posters in our room; there will soon be a sleigh and reindeer traversing the Starry Night.

500 Days of ChristmasSheldon

I’m sure we’ll decorate more before we go home for the holidays, and I know I have to put some time into knitting Christmas presents for my roommates! I think I’ll be spending more time with my brotherly neighbors to work on that.

I want the presents to be a surprise!

The Omniscient Fortune Cookies

Loyola administrators are smart. At least, whoever decides when to have breaks and special weekends is. It’s like they’ve figured out a formula to keep students at a tug of war with their parents over college’s newfound freedom.

Think about it this way:
Week of Fun Without Major Homework + Week of Intro Activities + Week of First Club Meetings & More Homework + Week of First Papers & Exams = Perfect Build Up to Family Weekend.

By the time 4 weeks has gone by, most students want a little bit of “home” back in their lives.

And then by Sunday they want their Loyola back.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, but I also love my independence. This school is so much like a home to me I don’t always need the reassurance of my parental units to know there’s someone who cares about my existence. But it was still nice to spend the weekend with them, even if it was a short visit.

*Insert cheesy but heartfelt call out to Mom and Dad here*

For those of you who are wondering what this whole Family Weekend thing is about, I’ll give you the low down:

It begins on Friday with the Honors Convocation, during which all the students who received academic achievement awards, summer programs, or are in an honor society, are recognized. The first years who are in the Honors Program or received academic scholarships are also recognized. Of course, before the awards are given out, there are speeches and one of the faculty is honored for “outstanding achievement in scholarship or creative work,” (The Nachbahr Award).

The rest of the weekend passes in a blur of sports games, food (provided by the university and your parents’ ability to drive you to the Inner Harbor), a “big” event on Saturday night, and mass on Sunday (always packed).

The school keeps everyone busy, even if families don’t attend every event.
For example, I spent my Saturday morning drawing

and enjoying the quad with my parents

before working on homework while they chilled out in my common room.

We also went out to the Towson Mall; I needed some more “mature” clothing.
(I’m really more of a t-shirt & jeans girl, and have recently found myself lacking in the
“job interview” and “nice occasions” clothes department)

After asking my dad if there was an equation to determine the yield of clothes purchased from clothes chosen (in vain), we decided it was time to eat dinner.

Little did we know of the fates that awaited us at P. F. Chang’s.

It sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure the fortune cookie writers have had workshops and focus groups to determine which phrases resonate most with customers, because my own and my parents’ fortunes were eerily relevant or accurate to our lifestyles.

Mine: Keep your feet on the ground even though friends flatter you.
My mom’s: Learning is a treasure which accompanies us everywhere.
My dad’s: Patience is a key to joy.

How could I apply these indispensable pieces of wisdom to my life?

Patience is truly the key to completing homework, as I try to reassure myself that my History paper is a treasure, and in the end a joyful experience when my professor will (hopefully) flatter me with a good grade.

Maybe fortune cookies and parents teach you more than you expect after all.