Saturday, December 29, 2012

home on the farm

Villa farm

This morning, I headed out to the Villa for one last Christmas celebration where I was greeted with Christmas hugs and kisses. Only some knew that I would be there so it was great to surprise the others. We sat around the table after breakfast drinking coffee and sharing stories about sled-riding, ice skating, and snow.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take some snow pictures (even though I left my good camera at home). Cleveland is pretty, but nothing beats the Villa. All was quiet on the farm except for a flock of pigeons on the barn roof that scattered just as I took their picture.

I never thought that I would be a person who would feel at home on a farm. I'm a city (or close to it) girl. The only flowers my family ever grew were dandelions. I didn't know what vegetables were in season and when because Giant Eagle stocks the same vegetables all year long. (Never mind that the only vegetables ever served in my family's house are corn and potatoes). I remember feeling bad for my friends who lived "in the country" -- a whole 10 minutes from the mall. I figured that their life must be boring.

Now, after spending a year out in the country and 4 months working on a farm, I can see myself living in the country with cows as my neighbors. My home is now in the city and I love the close proximity to people and places, but I count the days until I can retreat to the quiet of the country.

Out to the woods and sheep barn

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

living community

Uzbek bread, raisins, cashews, & almonds
A few weeks ago, I sat down to an impromptu meal with an Uzbek family. Impromptu for me, but they had long planned to feed me dinner after I told them I'd be over at the end of the work day. Upon arriving, I was greeted at the door by the children, who welcomed me into their home like I was a long lost relative. I helped with homework, learned about Uzbekistan, listened to and shared family stories, and laughed. At one point during the meal, the father said, "When you eat bread together, you are family." His words have stuck with me for weeks now.

Sitting down for a meal together is something so simple that we often overlook it. How often do we grab dinner on the run? I've lived in intentional communities for 4 years now (college, FCV, JOY, and here). In each location, dinner time has been a sacred pause in our day. Some days, we cook and eat together sharing stories and rants about the day. It's a time to unwind, to check in with each other, and to laugh. As the father said, it's a time to build family (community) bonds.

A good fried from high school is moving in with us next week. Last night, I tried to explain this concept to her. How could I put this concept into words for someone who has never lived in community - or with roommates - before? I talked about sharing household expenses and tasks, cooking together, and setting aside time to spend with one another. I couldn't explain it clearly so I told her that she just needs to experience living it. Join us and our friends as we pile in our living room to watch the West Wing or go Christmas caroling through the neighborhood. Join us for coffee in the morning while we watch reruns. Join us for Mass or frisbee at the Lake when it's warm. Invite others over for dinner (or Saturday lunch) when we cook something delicious out of the same basic ingredients that we buy every week at the West Side market.

This morning, I was still trying to figure out a way to best describe my life when the Uzbek father stopped in my office to share some news. "When are you coming for dinner. My sons want to see their sister." I told him soon. Maybe I can take them around with me to explain family and community.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

He hasn't answered yet.

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the deaths of Sr. Ita Ford, Sr. Maura Clarke, Sr. Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donavon. They are the four American Churchwomen who were killed in El Salvador on Dec. 2, 1980.

"I'm 26 years old. I should be married. I shouldn't be running around doing all of these things. But then I think, I've got so many things I want to do. It's hard when I see my friends getting married and having babies, that's something I've thought I ever going to have kids? Sometimes I wonder if I'm denying that to myself. I really don't want to, but that's maybe what I'm doing. And then I sit there and talk to God and say, why are you doing this to me? Why can't I just be your little suburban housewife? He hasn't answered yet. Sometimes I get mad at God. Sometimes I tell God I'm going to chuck the whole thing, that I've had it." 
- Jean Donovan

My life exactly. Or, at the very least, exactly how I feel. Right now, I so resonate with the struggle Jean Donovan mentioned. I'm 26 years old and, as always, struggling between what I want and what I feel I should be doing. "Can't I be normal?" I'm frequently asking this. A slight shake of the head of a push in the opposite direction is the only answer (or non-answer) that I get. As my friends marry, I wonder "Will I have that?" or "Should I want to have that more?" I don't know the answer.

My grandma told someone that I flitted around like Hillary Clinton. No one knows what she meant, but I think she wanted me to put down some strings -- no more moving from state to state for volunteer programs. I can't stay still--there are too many things that I want to do. I can't imagine myself tied down to a family and home. I'd feel Despite this knowledge, I still wonder if that's what I should be doing.

(Here are some great reflections about the American Churchwomen: Wandering in Wonder, FaithJustice, and Share-El Salvador).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

speaking to me.

“Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. There IS a track just waiting for each of us and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else.”
Joseph Campbell

Sunday, November 11, 2012

a rant directed at those who jumble all the holidays together

Dear Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, Target, Best Buy, & any other business who feels the need to play Christmas movies/music already,

Last time I looked at the calendar, it was November 10. Last time I checked, Christmas fell on December 25th. Why do you feel the need to play Christmas music and/or create obnoxious Christmas displays this early in November?

I'm one of those people who refuses to listen to Christmas music until December. I've got Thanksgiving and Advent still to come. I grew up in a family who didn't decorate a tree or display many Christmas decorations until the week before Christmas. We like to celebrate each one of our holidays on its own. Thanksgiving isn't Christmas. Thanksgiving is the day for my family to come together, give thanks for one another, remember those who are no longer with us, share a meal, and laugh together. One month later, we will gather to celebrate Christmas.

I complain when you don't give your employees Thanksgiving day off and when Black Friday turns into a day of utter mayhem. Christmas displays and music this early in November makes me want to boycott your store or tv channel. Give it a rest and remember that there are other holidays and that not everyone wants the Christmas spirit thrown in his/her face all year long.

a disgruntled person.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

photo walk and life

The back part of our driveway (where we park) has an interesting old brick wall lined with leaves and some ivy. On Sunday, the leaves had finally changed and were the perfect colors for a picture.

A couple weeks ago, I had a day off and decided to wander around the Tremont area of Cleveland for a picture walk, some coffee with a friend, and quiet time. I was still actively taking part in the photo challenge over at fatmumslim. I think the challenge for that day was "angles." Tremont, much like Ohio City, is such a photogenic neighborhood.

now closed. I love the play of light and dark in this picture.

Things at work have finally picked up leaving me with not much time to breathe during the day. I'm running around getting the hang of things in this area. Confirmations and reminders as to why I am in the refugee resettlement field. Days are usually long and frequently stressful, but I get to meet interesting people.

On Sunday afternoon, I sat in a waiting room while my car got a tune up. The other lady there struck up a conversation with me over the Browns game and the book I had brought in with me. (Merton, Seven Story Mountain). I learned her life story, listened to her missed dreams, talked about refugees, the Peace Corps, Catholicism, and so many other things. The mechanic let us know that our cars were finished, but we stayed talking & screaming at the TV. At the end of the 2nd quarter, we shook hands and God blessed each other before returning to our respective lives.

Friday, October 19, 2012

happy reunions

Happy reunions at the airport are my favorite part of my job. Today, I got to take part in one.

Harvest and Homecoming: New Roots in the Bronx from International Rescue Committee on Vimeo.

They always remind me of Love Actually and the happy reunions at the arrival gate of London's Heathrow Airport.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

the embrace of home

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the smell of it, the changing leaves, the everything. This weekend, I headed home for some time with friends & family. Sunday morning brought Mass at St. Pat's with the Nuns on the Bus Ohio crew. It was exactly what I needed.
walking the trail
my favorite trees
This tree turns the most fabulous shade of fiery orange.

The Nuns on the Bus Ohio stopped in Youngstown yesterday for a rally at MYCAP and, then, spent the morning at St. Patrick's celebrating Mass.

Monday, October 8, 2012

merging worlds

I've completed training and 3 weeks at my new job with a refugee resettlement organization. I know that refugee work is where I belong and I'm ready to really dive into my job. I've spent the past couple weeks learning more about the refugee population with which I will be working. My only experience is with the Somali and Iraqi communities. Now, I am working with the Burmese, Karen, Nepalis (Bhutanese), Uzbeks, and Iraqis. I've enjoyed a Friday afternoon Michael Jackson dance party with a couple 3 year old kids in my office while they waited for their parents to finish an ESOL class. I've set up apartments and used charades in an attempt to determine what someone wanted. After about 2 months of not working, I'm slowly becoming the workaholic that I always am.

Lately, I've been more aware of the many ways my life is changing and merging. I don't have just one place that I call home. I have a couple places that I can go and say that "I'm home." My challenge is merging each of those worlds and finding out exactly what I want to do. I've been acutely aware of this over the course of this weekend as I traveled from one home to the other and shared laughter and hugs with all the people I love.  

I'm participating in the October photo a day challenge over at fat mum slim. Here's a selection of pictures from the last week.
Day 1: where you stood
day 3: this happened today
day 4: what you read
day 6: I'm thankful for...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hey! I know her!

Tonight, I'm thinking about the Somali refugees with whom I worked in Minnesota. I started a new job yesterday working with Burmese, Karen, & Bhutanese refugees. I can't help but think about the crazy first weeks in Minnesota - hitting the ground running, learning the city with the refugees, getting lost on the bus, learning about the medical field and refugee camps and the Somali culture, etc. I came across this publication from the MN Literacy Council. Go to page 80 and read the story submitted by Anab. She was one of the first refugees I worked with and became a good friend. She's someone that I miss.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

all in a year or two

written in June 2008 - not long after I graduated from WC

I spent a good part of college worrying that I was going to miss my calling. The term "calling" was new to me. My Presbyterian friends talked about calling and predestination and wondered why I didn't know my calling. Sure, I went into college thinking that I was going to teach high school English. I toyed with the idea of going into Teach for America. By the time I began my sophomore year, I had a sicking feeling that I didn't want to teach. Nonetheless, I completed the mandatory 2 week field experience over Winter Break. I hated it. I finally found the courage to drop secondary education and eventually broke the news to my family.

I spent the rest of college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I tried journalism and wrote for the school paper. That was ok, but not how I wanted to spend my life. When people asked me what I wanted to do, I could only say, "I want to work with people." I carried that with me as I found a job working in a development office. (Not a fan of the work, but I loved where I was working). Somewhere, I found the courage that I wanted and took off for a year long volunteer program in Minnesota. I spent the year living in community and working with a refugee resettlement program. I found a job that I loved.

I took off for Minnesota on August 21, 2010, and I haven't looked back. A year ago, I began a year of learning and working on a farm and at a Catholic Worker House. I traveled into the complete unknown world of farm work for four months and relished the time I spent working outdoors. As the program ended, I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to head. In July, I packed up and moved to Cleveland without a clear plan. In a week, I'll start a position with a refugee resettlement agency. I'll be going back to a field that I love. I wish I could tell my recently graduated self to trust her instincts, be ok with doing something different, and not to stress out so much.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

new beginnings or just a continuation

After 2 years, I've left the world of volunteering. It was a sad day when I moved to my family's house for 2 weeks in mid August. I then moved to Cleveland to live in community with 2 former volunteers. I'm searching for a job...and am hopefully close to securing one.

Their pairs have been lost in the move.

Living in Cleveland has been a plan for a while. I thought I would end up here last year, but decided to go for the second year of volunteering. It's right now to be up here. I love the area that I'm living in and the community that I'm starting to build. I'm realizing or reaffirming that I am made for community living. It's right for me. I don't know how long I'm going to be up here or where my next step is, but I'm ready to find out.

Coffee on our balcony. I think this is my first morning in the apartment.
Sunset over Lake Erie. Definitely the best part of living here.

Living on Lake Erie is great. I love the sunsets and afternoon frisbee games in the park. Moving here, I left the farmland...the cows, long walking trails through the woods, and some of my favorite people in the world. It's been an adjustment, but I still know that I have a home back there.

It's an adjustment because I miss this place every day.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'm still here...In the process of moving & transitioning.

Monday, June 4, 2012

the interim

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you...
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

-John O'Donohue

Sunday, June 3, 2012

an afternoon at Fellows Riverside Gardens

 A couple weeks ago, my roommate and I spent an afternoon at Fellows Riverside Gardens (Mill Creek Park). We dodged rain, but managed to spend a couple hours wandering around. It was a nice place to spend a couple of quiet hours.
Want to check out the City of Youngstown?

Fellows is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon.

This was my favorite flower.

Friday, April 6, 2012

my week in pictures

A fun evening spent with friends eating outstanding food and trying our hands at Batik decorated Easter eggs.
Coffee and lounging around on Friday morning while watching some favorite tv shows because it means that I have a day off for Easter.
These flowers from our back yard because they survived the cold nighttime temperatures this week.
This is why I love my job.
Leftover salad from our night decorating eggs because I'm rarely a salad fan, but this was delicious.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Sunrise, Clare's Well, Annandale, MN - 6/29/2011
Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.
-Archbishop Oscar Romero, 15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


[both taken on 2/22/12, ©eam]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

moving towards change

“Growth means change 
change involves risk; 
stepping from the known to the unknown.”
-George Shinn

Friday, January 13, 2012

Music for a snowy Friday

Winter has taken its time getting to NE Ohio/Western PA and I'm completely ok with that. Temps dropped over night and the rain turned to ice and snow. I'm sitting in my bedroom looking at the snow blowing horizontal and contemplating a walk up to the main building in a little while.

A few weeks ago was the Kennedy Center Honors (2011). This was a huge deal in my family because Neil Diamond was honored and, in our house, Neil Diamond is on the same playing field as God. His music was the first I remember listening to as a kid. I actually don't remember being exposed to that many other artists. For me, though, I was more excited about Yo-Yo Ma and Meryl Streep. It was like a melding of my favorite artists in one television show. During the concert, James Taylor (and others) took the stage to sing "Here Comes the Sun." I cried watching it that night. I think it's amazing and I'm glad that someone finally put it up on youtube.

Friday, January 6, 2012

on hugs and the last day of vacation

I stumpled across this post this morning after a friend told me to check out NPR's "On Being" blog. Pádraig Ó Tuama, the author of the post, is one of my in we both have roots in Co. Cork.

Hugs, for me, are essential. They are a hello or goodbye, sharing of love and friendship, a kiss of piece, an awkward moment, consolation, laughter, and everything in between. Turning down a hug is a sin in my family. You might as well spit on the person. 

Today's my last day of vacation. Technically, I don't head back until Sunday, but weekends don't count. I'm ready to get back to my "regular" life in a place that I call home. As much as I've enjoyed a lazy 2 weeks, I'm ready to not be able to sit around all morning in my pjs while drinking coffee and watching Will & Grace. I've spent the majority of this week going stir crazy. Yes, it will be good to be back in my normal routine.

Monday, January 2, 2012

a month of pictures [dec]

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe
Believe - Josh Groban

 my friends
the first snow of the season

 our Christmas tree
 Christmas cards this year were handmade and required a lot of hot chocolate and coffee to complete them in time.
Rainbow the day I headed home for break