Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Joy Journal


"I hope that you live your life - each precious day of it- with joy and meaning." This past summer, on a bus from Boston to NYC, I listened to Sheryl Sandberg share this wisdom in her address to the UC Berkeley graduating class at their Commencement. In her speech, she discusses finding deeper gratitude after tragedy through a focus on joy. Particularly by thinking what brought her the most joy at the end of each day. 

This idea of reflecting upon joy resonated with me and after a week of thought, I landed with the idea of my Joy Journal. I've tried many a journal and so I was a bit hesitant to commit to such an idea but I quickly found that simply reflecting on the joys of the day, itself brought me joy, and I was eager to write in my Joy Journal each day. 

The Joy Journal is simple. Each day, I write down three things that brought me joy below the date. Some days, I'm in the mood for paragraphs and others I succinctly write three simple words in my sloppiest handwriting before bed but either way, I end the day with joy. Some days, the joys are more profound and other days they are as silly as a SnapChat that made me giggle. Whatever it is - I write it. Truthfully, there are days where its a struggle to think "what brought me joy today?" and I will certainly lean on my go-to response (both physically and figuratively), Henry. But no matter the initial difficulty, I'm always able to think of something that brought me joy. 

I created this journal myself and feel less bound by the traditional expectations of a journal. I've tried the One Line A Day and many others but for me, this is what works and I love it. I've shared with a few friends and the go to response is "oh, like a gratitude journal." While similar, not exactly. I'm not necessarily grateful for chocolate chip cookies or for the @dogsbeingbasic Instagram account, but they both unapologetically bring me joy. 

I've developed a new nightly routine where I read my devotional and write in my Joy Journal before saying my bedtime prayers. (Sadly, I've finished Savor. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way.) This routine of reading, joying, and praying has brought an overall sense of calmness in my life when I was feeling drenched in anxiety and exhaustion. While I still feel anxious, overcommitted, and exhausted each day, at least I end the day with JOY! 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans:15:13 

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. I picked up the adorable journal at my favorite store in NYC, Book Culture. If I could move into Book Culture and have the closet of Kate Spade on Madison, my Joy Journal would explode! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm Back!

Oh my goodness! I took an unintentional (almost) three month hiatus from the blog and while I've written countless blog posts in my head, I decided to actually work pen to paper or hands to keyboard. I've been quasi-journaling (thats worthy of it's own post) but I'm back to share five of my favorites from the past two and a half months besides my epic failure at Starbucks for Life.

Home
In July, I went home to Florida for two weeks! I pictured two weeks moving along at a glacial speed but between snuggling on newborns, obtaining sun poisoning, and throwing a surprise engagement party, the time flew by! I loved being home with my family and in two weeks, I was able to catch up with family, friends, my parents, college friends, Charlotte friends, elementary school friends, and WOW was it glorious. That's not even counting the copious amounts of sweet tea! Being home made me realized how much I eventually want to be home. Not too sure what that means but I do know that I don't want to be a plane ride away from my closest friends and family.

Henry
My precious perfect angle pie muffin cupcake has been rather high maintenance these past few months. Since June we've had a tooth removed, hip x rays, hip dysplasia medicine, upset stomach, ear infection, and a sudden dislike of the food we've been eating for years. I'm terrified to filter my Expenses Google Sheet and see exactly how much has fallen into the "Henry" category these past few months. Though tough on my bank account, he is starting to be back to his old self and I could not be happier. In June, he could barely walk. When we went outside, we couldn't even cross the street because his hips were causing him so much pain. It was heartbreaking for me to feel so helpless and while he hates his current medicine and I bribe him with an apple every morning to take the dose, he's doing so much better. Just last week, he jumped on the kitchen counter to grab and eventually open a package and while I was frustrated that he jumped on the counter, I was also elated that he physically could do such a thing so I rewarded him with apples!

Self Discipline 
I started NYC Marathon training in July and studying for the GRE in August. While both challenging in their own ways, I'm feeling stretched thin in terms of my self discipline and there are days when I really just want to binge watch Netflix with a bowl full of cookie dough. The weather is FINALLY starting to cool off so the past few runs have been borderline enjoyable. Excitedly, I made a friend who is also training for the marathon and now weekend long runs are becoming a bit more enjoyable especially when they involve splashing through every children's splash park we can find along Riverside Park. In full nerdiness transparency, I actually enjoy studying for the GRE. I have a vocabulary app on my phone that has become my latest obsession even though I have a difficult time remembering that the word doggerel is not necessarily related to a plethora of puppies and solving the quantitive comparison problems definitely gives me a math high.

Slowing Down
In an attempt to keep myself occupied on long runs, I started listening to podcasts only to discover that I really run best without any noise though I did find a few that I enjoyed. While I take great pride in my ever present sense of urgency, I truly enjoyed this TED Radio Hour on Slowing Down. I'm also dying to read Adam Grant's Originals and work on denying my pre-crastination in the hopes of being a procrastinator and more creative. I'm enamored with this thought so if you read or listen, let me know so we may discuss.

Back to School
Last week was the first day of school and I'm currently a whole sea of emotions as I prepare for our first ever graduating class! It's exciting but also terrifying and my inner perfectionist cringes at every hiccup I make but I also know that I'm learning and growing and the scholars are growing and learning and together, we will all figure it out!

Ok, that's enough for now. I have the best intentions of coming back sooner. I think I've set the bar pretty low so hopefully I'll be back before early December.

xoxo,
Danielle

PS. I'm currently craving this handbag that I deem absolutely necessary for work. And these shoes which my feet need for any chance of survival for the upcoming NYC fall. And lastly, this sweater was made for me. All hail the bows and tassels!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It's Been Waiting For You


Last week, somewhere amidst Regents Exam grading, visiting The White House, and winning Miss Congeniality among 11th grade staff members (voted by students) I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in New York City. I did it. All four seasons. 365 days. While it passed faster than a "New York minute," it also moved at a glacial pace allowing me to stop and take notes along the way. With that, enjoy a few of my reflections re: one year in NYC!

The Subway. I have a love-hate relationship with the subway. Driving around in Charlotte, I was able isolate myself in the comforts of my Audi with my panoramic sunroof and parking sensors while listening to The Highway on Sirius XM.  In New York, no matter your race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or education level, the quickest route from Point A to Point B is the subway. While usually trying my best to avoid becoming nauseas, I love taking in the sights on the subway. From the overly exerted mom trying to manage an upset baby and an energetic toddler while trying to carefully steer their double stroller to be out of everyone's way when the doors are fluctuating between opening on either side of the car, to the ever so chic woman in her designer shoes and perfectly styled hair. We all take the subway. We all hold on to the same poles that likely haven't seen a disinfectant in centuries and gasp with frustration when the conductor announces a delay or investigation ahead. While I hate the smell and want to soak myself in Purell after each ride, I love that we all paid the same $2.75 and shared in the experience together no matter where we were coming from or where we are going.

The Food. Delicious? Yes. Overabundance of options? Yes. Everything you could ever desire? Not quite. Up until a year ago, I spent my entire life living in the south. The land where sweet tea flows more rapidly than the latest juice cleanse and ranch dressing is a common side item. I've found so many wonderfully delicious incredible places that I love, but nothing quite compares to southern cooking. (Even the southern themed restaurants are a disappointment.) Which is why, I pledge my allegiance to the trusty Chick-Fil-A.

The Cost. Knowingly, I took a pretty chunky salary cut to move to a city with a significant higher cost of living. There were bound to be a few lifestyle changes but HOLY MOLY! Everything is so expensive from a mediocre chicken sandwich at a cafe to hair cuts to laundry to dog-walkers. (Fortunately, we lucked out on the dog walker department and have an incredible, affordable, trustworthy pal to treat Henry to his daily walks.) I think because I lived in Charlotte first and saw how affordable life has potential to be, New York seems extra doubly expensive to me and truthfully, I miss the mystical lands of J.Crew and Tory Burch that I now only see in my wildest dreams.

Before I turn into a Negative Nancy, a few things I love...

Walking. In the warmer months, I can walk EVERYWHERE! I love walking countless blocks (Starbucks in hand) and am convinced that all of the walking must collectively count as some form of exercise thus, I've likely earned my oatmeal raisin cooking from Levain.

Central Park. It's a true luxury to live so close to this iconic park. In Charlotte, I lived one mile from Freedom Park and I would regularly make the trek just to take in some of Olmsted's beauty. Now, I can see one of my favorite places from my bedroom window. Whenever I'm having one of those days or weeks where I feel overwhelmed or disheartened, I take a stroll through the park and remind myself how lucky I am to call this place home.

The Rooftop at the Met. If you follow me on social media, you may aware that I venture venture here on a weekly basis. I love to give my $1 donation and soak in the magnificent views. Cliche as it may be, I'm an awe of the juxtaposition of Central Park to the concrete jungle. Similar to my fondness of the subway, it creates this beautifully blended scene of equality knowing all of the hustle happening below and is unlike anything I've experienced in a city I've lived in before.

While I have no idea how long I intend to stay in New York City, I know that while I'm here, I will push myself to appreciate it. The movement can be exhausting and I've never found myself craving a more simple life as deeply as I do while here, but in that busy-ness that has become life, I have found a deeper sense of presence and gratitude for all that surrounds me.

xoxo,

Danielle

P.S. Two things I'm currently loving. This article and this video. Oh, and this! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Recently

Sadly, my posting have dwindled down to once a month. In efforts to avoid one post in May, I thought I'd share a "recently" post for anyone who may still be reading (hi Mom!)

1. Truthfully, I've considered doing away with this blog. At one point, writing the blog and connecting with readers brought me so much joy. I frequented other blogs and loved interacting in the blogosphere. While I'm shocked that I've found a joy in writing, I'm not sure the blog is necessarily the space anymore. Earlier this year, I started a Word doc titled "draft" that has become a series of my rambling thoughts and while theres no opportunity for likes, shares, comments, or double taps in my Word doc, it still brings me so much joy. Undecided on this one...

2. H.O.L.Y by Florida Georgia Line is my obsession. Every few months I go through an obsession. February was Love Yourself. All of March and April belonged to the Hamilton Soundtrack (still on repeat.) May has been the month of H.O.L.Y.. It could be because I am desperately missing the south right now but this song just makes me wanna sing ALLELUIA as I drive around with the windows down and the music turned up as loud as possible.

3. This article. It's wedding season. While I'm certainly glad others have found their forever best friend, I find myself wanting to take a hiatus from social media during these blissful months. Unlike the author of this article, I'm not engaged and I realize that by having these thoughts I sound completely bitter, but she said everything I've been thinking (and only shared with select friends) so well, that I had to include in today's rare posting. When I think of my closest, dearest, best friends, most of them are either married, engaged, or in a long term relationship. So if I had angst against the marrieds, I'd be pretty lonely. I'm truly filled with so much joy at their happiness and am happy for them but I find myself frustrated with the celebration obsession on social media. I wish we celebrated life's other accomplishments - graduations, promotions, ventures - with the same level of enthusiasm.

4. To prove I'm not a cranky old cat lady, I've started a new hobby - engagement session photography. By hobby, I mean I've done it twice, but I find immense joy in strutting around Central Park with my camera pretending to be a "photographer." It's also fun to have subjects without four legs that obey commands and don't require a treat to take a picture. All that said, I'm also subscribing to the methodology of take photos in rapid fire and of the 1,000 one is likely to turn out decent.

Mike and Margot 

Krista and Drew 

5. Birds. This may seem a bit silly but ever since spring has sprung in NYC, the birds have been overtaking the city. Each day, when I step outside onto the bustling streets of Manhattan, I live in fear of being attacked, by a bird. Unlike the mice, they don't scurry when they see you. The sort of linger. Then, you're in the awkward moment of who goes left and who goes right. And you stop and debate but then the little creature flutters straight towards you and you're left with no choice but to let out a terrifying shrill and then run. I feel like no one prepared me for this danger in Manhattan, the birds. 

6. It's also warmed up enough in NYC that I am no longer forced to take the subway. This is glorious because while I try to be all woman of the people riding the subway, I hate it. Maybe I was too spoiled by the immaculate subway system in Korea but I find the NYC subway cards to be a tad bit dirty and well, I can't ride more than 40 blocks without getting sick. I also get sick in cars of all kids - Taxis, Ubers, Lyfts. Made for a difficult winter but now, I'm happily walking everywhere I need to go even if that's a 50 block trek. 

7. Equinox. Ok, so during the winter when I never saw daylight and it was always freezing, I joined Equinox and it's definitely my happy place in NYC. While certainly a significant portion of my salary, I'd be willing to live off of cereal if thats what it took to stay at Equinox. Admittedly, I feel bougie and I definitely own that title but my gosh, one whiff of the steam room and I'll surrender because I love that place so much. 

8. Henry. What's a post without some Hens love? Henry has started to have some hip problems which means I've become a full fledged holistic veterinary in my natural treatments for him. I did a lot of research and have discovered this combination of fish oil and glucosamine vitamins that seem to be working. For now. He also needs to have a tooth removed which is going to cost us a pretty little penny. We looked into potential funding opportunities including becoming a host and hostess on DogVacay. One mention of potential fleas and we quickly aborted that idea. Meanwhile, Marco, one of our porters in the building, has taken to giving Henry treats and Hens has never been happier. Marco treats Henry to a treat prior to going outside and then, upon our quick return to the building, Henry consumes about 12 milk bone treats (I know, not organic, but I can't tell Marco that's not allowed.) It's now reached the point that if Marco is at the door, Henry will lay down and refuse to walk so he may swiftly return to Marco. Recently, our cross walk lit up and I tried to get Henry to cross the road to the park. Desperately needing love from Marco, he laid down, in the stripes of the cross walk, and whimpered loudly until I returned him to his feast with Marco. Definitely the epitome of first world problems, but it seems to be suiting Henry well. 

9. I'm going to The White House in June with DP and I'm majorly overjoyed with this trip. While the purpose of the trip is definitely to support scholars, I'm having a terrible time deciding if I want to channel my inner Kate, Michelle, or Olivia. Aside from catching up with Barack int he Oval, I'm hoping Michelle will show me her garden. 


10. I shared this already on Facebook, but I seriously get chills thinking of this

xoxo,

Danielle (and a sleeping Henry) 




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

South Korea

Now that I'm more than week removed and I've returned to normal sleeping patterns, I thought I would share more from my trip to South Korea. 

First, the inevitable question... Why South Korea? At DP, students take Korean as a foreign language and we learn a lot about Korean culture. The founder of our school taught in South Korea, the literacy rate among adults in South Korea grew significantly from the 1960s to early 2000s due to a cultural value on education, and not many of our scholars come to DPHHS with prior knowledge of Korean language so it provides an opportunity for all scholars, despite where they may be in their other academic classes, to succeed. All grades take international trips over school breaks and I was selected as a chaperone for South Korea! 

Truthfully, I very did little to prepare myself for this cultural experience. I had the agenda somewhere in a sea of starred emails but only really looked it three days before the trip to begin my packing because I had to be mindful of my attire on certain days (professional, appropriate casual, DP <3s South Korea t shirt.) A full fourteen hour plane ride from the comforts of NYC, our nine days in Korea felt like nine weeks. Typically, we did wake up calls at 6:00 AM which meant that I had to be presentable to scholars (not in my jammies) by 6:00 AM to wander the halls and cheerfully knock on doors exclaiming "Wakey wakey buttercups" and having all scholars in the room tell me "Good Morning" in Korean (not that I knew what they were saying.) The days were packed from museum tours to cultural experiences to meals and we didn't arrive back to the hostel until around 10 PM which meant lights out around 10:30 (sometimes... 11:00.) If you happen to be counting, that means I was not receiving my precious and completely necessary eight hours of sleep. Once the day started, we went full throttle bouncing around on subways and buses as we ventured across Seoul. Somehow, the kiddos, never tired. Like, ever. They would reach a few moments of almost quiet and then one would make a move and they would all join in. I have no idea how they managed, but they did and it was quite exhausting. I'm sure there were countless posts to SnapChat of me saying "please walk urgently" and "lower your volume" as I obsessively did headcounts. 

The food was OK. I have to remind myself that what we experienced would be like coming to America and eating at an Applebees. Something that's fine and mediocre but you don't actually crave or think anything taste over the moon reach for the stars delicious. Also, Koreans love their spice. And well, I can't eat spicy foods. Therefore, I enjoyed a lovely palate of white rice throughout the duration of my trip. There was one evening, in the shopping district, where we had about $60 to have dinner in our small groups. This was a little more than halfway through the trip and when we spotted a Krispy Kreme, I may have allowed it under the pretenses that we don't have Krispy Kreme in NYC so we weren't indulging in western food but merely being even more culturious. Once I allowed the doughnuts, they gave me the puppy eyes as they asked for pizza for dinner and well, I wanted it too. I told them we had to get something Korean but we only had enough money for cheese and none of us were too terribly upset. Also learned that Koreans don't really differentiate between breakfast, lunch, and dinner the way we do. To accomodate us, our hostel made us American breakfast each morning consisting of cheese sticks, french fries, salad, and toast. 

I shared a few pictures below... enjoy!  

We visited a Korean university, HUFS, where President Obama visited a few years ago and they marked the trail he walked through campus in yellow bricks. Naturally, we walked part of it and I feel this much closer to being First Lady. 

My Starbucks addiction is out of control. But these sippys made my trip. I also started drinking real coffee (not just refreshers) in South Korea. It all began at a rest stop with an Angel In Us Coffee where I delightfully ordered a java chocolate chip frappuccino and savored every sip.  

I spotted peonies while visiting the palace, of course. A few days later at one of the museums I read how peonies are a symbol of wealth and power and have long been adored as the king of flowers. While typically saved for palace events, they were also used to celebrate happy events for ordinary people. 

We visited Gywongbokgung Palace in Seoul. I loved the contrast of royal gardens nestled within the palace walls surrounded by a major metropolitan area. 

We have a sister school in Uljin (Korean countryside) that we visited. Uljin may have been my favorite part. I prefer the countryside and felt like we had more opportunities to experience authentic Korean culture. When we arrived at the school, their students and staff greeted us overly enthusiastically. If you look closely, you can see them peeping out of the windows to wave. It was incredibly welcoming and warm and I was in awe of their excitement. In full transparency, I may have told myself that this is what life would be like if I were the Duchess of Cambridge and for the brief walk from the parking lot to the gymnasium I may have lived in a little bit of a fantasy. 

Our scholars + Korean scholars following a day of cultural presentations. 

We had some down time in this park and I discovered this dog. Given how much I was already missing Henry, this was one of the highlights for me. I spent probably an hour laying on the ground smothering this dog in affection. He didn't understand one lick of English and all I could muster was pretty (I think it sounds like pollo in Spanish) in Korean. His owner appreciated my fondness and while we weren't able to communicate outside of small bows, we eagerly shared pictures of our pups on our cell phones with each others. 

We learned a lot about the Korean Civil War which is still going on (ignorantly, I had no idea.) We were able to travel to North Korea (see below) but South Koreans are not and this city is the farthest north they are allowed to travel. Many of them have family members that were separated from them in North Korea and they have no way of knowing what happened to them. Many South Koreans come to this spot to celebrate their loved ones and honor them. This display of ribbons with handwritten notes was beautiful but also incredibly heartbreaking. 

That my friends, is North Korea. When they said we were traveling to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) I thought it was a tourist attraction. I expected heightened security but thought more along the lines of Ground Zero. As we approached, I quickly learned otherwise. First, South Koreans are not permitted to travel to the DMZ so we traveled on a bus with all foreigners. We arrived by bus where we were greeted by armed soldiers who entered our bus and checked our passports. Then we went to another checkpoint only to do the same thing and eventually all loaded onto military bus. Once there, we had to be completely silent as we walked in two straight lines to the edge of South Korea to see the building beyond the blue UN building that is North Korea. There were soldiers standing outside and I was definitely uneasy with the experience. If you look at the picture, to the sides of the blue UN building, you'll notice a point where the gravel changes. This marks the line between North and South Korea territories. We were escorted into the UN building where we were able to technically walk in North Korea territory. I was certainly nervous not only for myself but also for the twenty teenagers I was traveling with who constantly needed redirections. I was so nervous of something finding its way to SnapChat and landing us all in North Korea but the kids were equally as uncomfortable and followed every direction carefully. 

To unwind, we went to one of the shopping districts in Seoul which can best be compared to Times Square. After purchasing a plethora of funky socks and face masks, this is where I permitted the scholars to indulge in doughnuts and pizza. 

We spent one night at a Temple and while beautiful, not my favorite part. We had hiked to this smaller temple when we were in Uljin and it was beautiful. I enjoyed the peace and the surroundings, but I didn't have much desire to stay in a temple. When back in Seoul, we traveled to a nearby temple and stayed the night. This included buddhist practice, meditation, silence, and bowing. We woke up at 3:30 in the morning. It was a neat experience but I'm quite certain my back was in pain for days from sleeping on the ground and I'm not too sure silence suits me. 

On our very last day, we went to the amusement park, Lotte World. This might have been my favorite part for many reasons; it resembled Disney World and I was instantly happy, it was majority inside and spanned multiple floors which as a former Rollercoaster Tycoon aficionado, I thought was the coolest thing ever, and aside from a quick check in around noon for lunch money the kids were on their own for six hours. The rides all had long lines and well, I was enjoying my time at Angel In Us Coffee. I true grandma status, I did ride the monorail. 

And because well, we all have favorites. 

And a little throwback because when I was seventeen, I took my first international trip to Europe with my friends. And while I don't remember my chaperone's name, I do remember complaining about the two bags of luggage I found absolutely necessary to bring, napping in the Louvre, actually using a map to find the Louis Vuitton store in every major city because our hot pink razors didn't exactly have GPS capabilities, and sneaking off in Italy for vino. Maybe all of the pains of my trip were payback for being the absolute peach I'm sure I was while traveling around with BK's European Travelers in Summer 2006! 

This ended up being much longer than I anticipated and I'm too lazy to proofread so I apologize for any typos. :) 

xoxo,

Danielle


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Everything Well


Image source, I forget. But this beauty is the current background on my Gmail and I love it. 

In my head, I've been writing this post for weeks. It seems this is where most of my posts are stored away these days never truly coming to fruition. I've left myself very little time to write and everything has become a task on the "To Do List."  My Google Doc where I am constantly prioritizing action items and tasks and it's become routine to copy and paste "write a blog post" to the following week. So here we go... 

In full transparency, I'm tired. I've been a lot overwhelmed and a little depleated. There's so much that I want to give myself to but I find myself stretched too thinly and disappointed for not giving my best. I've been rushing and scheduling to produce, to be purposeful, to be thoughtful, that I feel inadequate at so many things. 

For the first time in my professional career, I'm loving my work. I care so deeply about making an impact and truly believe in meticulously planning every detail. (This is another posts in it's entirety that is still written, in my head.) I want to do well at work and support scholars to my utmost ability. I whole heartedly believe that we've only made it to where we are because someone forged the way for us and that it's my responsibility to support others in all that I do.  I'm running the New York City Marathon this year and while outwardly, I'm excited and just hope to finish, I again, want to do well. I don't want to run just to run but I want to properly train and prepare myself to do my best. I want to eat well. I want to be mindful of everything I'm putting in my body but I find myself devouring cookies and peanut butter cups and then blaming myself for how I feel after. I want to be good a support system to my former students. I want to continue to support them and not become so consumed in my new experiences, that I forget to ask how their classes are going or how well they are managing through this first year of college transition. I want to be a good friend. To remember birthdays, anniversaries, job interviews, to ask about families, and occasionally send snail mail instead of a five second snap. I want to be a good Dog Mom to Henry and not feel like we are simply coexisting in between trips outside to use the restroom. I want to savor every moment with him. I want to have a relationship and be mindful of other's feelings and not be so intertwined with EOD deadlines and workout class schedules and emails and eating well that I don't make time for others. I want to read. The "Reading List" on my Safari is obnoxious. I have articles from October that I've yet to get to. I want to watch The Real Housewives of wherever and not feel guilty for neglecting so many other things. I want to do everything and I want to do it well. 

It's fundamental to my understanding of myself to be this way. In reality, I can't do it all. As much as I want to. Oh! How it pains me to want it all. I have to find balance for myself and I'm not too certain of how to create this desperately craved balance in my life, but I'm trying. It's complex. I'm content in effort and exhaustion and it's all so wonderful yet I still push myself to find joy in and purpose in all that I do. It's a journey and while difficult at times, a happy one. 

While I have the best intentions, I'm sure I won't write for another month (or two.) Here's all of the things that despite the exhaustion have brought me joy these past few weeks. 

1. I won tickets to see Hamilton through the Broadway Direct Lottery. Even though I was convinced that the lottery was fake and no one actually won through #Ham4Ham, I was persistent with my efforts and entered every single day and every single day I would get the email "Try Again." But one blissful Thursday afternoon, the email subject said "You Won" and I happily abandoned all priority items on the to do list to spend the night on the front row at Hamilton. 

2. Paloma received a full scholarship (for all four years) to Elon. I knew how deeply she wanted this opportunity and so with reservations, I agreed to let her take the year off and pursue this scholarship. I felt weighted with responsibility that she had to do well. The application, my recommendation letter, the interview, it all had to be perfectly. We obsessively prepared and practiced and to receive that call, the one filled with tears of joy and happiness, and complete rambles of excitement. 

3. I've decided to cut my hair. It's a change I've pondered for a long time as I feel deeply attached to my long hair and the fantasized connection it gives me to the Duchess of Cambridge, but I'm openly committing to chopping it off. 

4. I watched all of Fuller House on Netflix and as unbelievably cheesy and predictable (whatever happened to predictability?) I loved it. 

5. Aiden Donnelley Rowley, my favorite author and UWS neighbor, published a new book, The Ramblers. Her writing constantly pushes my thinking (especially on the balance) and I loved getting lost in her most recent novel. 

6. I've had this desire to start painting. I never enjoyed Art and often became flustered in my attempts to be creative but I'm hopeful that I may be able to tackle the world of abstract, a teensy bit. 

7. At school, I planned a fantastically decorated Midnight Breakfast (took place from 5:00 - 6:30 PM) which I loved being a part of and being in that space that allowed our scholars to be authentically themselves without reservations. This included a class-wide sing along to multiple Beyonce songs. I performed a lip sync dance with my Advisory and learned a routine to both Adele's Hello and Beiber's Sorry. We've interacted with FeelGood's Columbia chapter multiple times which has allowed me the opportunity to share a brie, apple, and cheddar grilled cheese with scholars for their very first taste and engage in thoughtful conversation around the Sustainable Development Goals. I hosted my second college admissions panel and this time, enlisted the help of scholars to make it even more meaningful. My homeroom, Boston College, won the cleanliness award. And, this past Saturday, all 70 of my precious juniors took the ACT for the very first time. 

Yes, I want it all and the days of effort and exhaustion are worth it for every ounce of these moments of joy. I will find balance but I'll also but unapologetic for my tiredness as I figure this balance out as I truly have and overwhelming amount to be thankful for. 

xoxo,

Danielle



Thursday, February 18, 2016

New York Made Me... Friendly

photo credit: the always talented Inslee

I know New York has a fearsome reputation with a history of demonstrating incivility and arrogance. I too, believed this stereotype. I'm not sure if it's my longing for friendship or the complete immersion into a culture where I am constantly surrounded by a multitudinous amount of people but New York has made me friendlier.

Not that I was unfriendly before. More distant. Those who know me laugh when I say this, but I do consider myself an introverted, private person. In Charlotte, I was sometimes intimidated to say hi to an acquaintance standing in front of me in line at the grocery store. That awkward moment of how loudly do I say their name? What if they don't recognize me? What if it's not them but a twin I didn't know they had? I'll just give my phone a perplexed look as if I were responding to an urgent email. We were all  moving along within the same space but each within our own bubble. Aside from Mr. Moo at the UPS store (remember when I thought it would be a good idea to start an online eBay shop?) or the Sales Associates at Monkees, I rarely interacted with anyone I didn't already know. I moved through the motions, space to space, going about my routine without much notice to others around me.

Now, I frantically talk to everyone. I have my regulars. The always flannel clad man who opens the cafe a block from my apartment each morning. Eric, the animated barista at Starbucks who I baked cookies for at Christmas. The woman who waits at the bus stop with her daughter each morning. While I don't know her name, we always warmly greet each other especially with the bitter cold New York has had recently. Then there are those I don't know and will likely never see again. The young girl in pigtails in a pink puffer jacket who I decided to play train conductor with one day. At each stop she would enthusiastically yell out "ALL ABOARD!" and I would share the next stop with her so she could announce to the passengers. The older woman at the gym who wanted to dish on all of her favorite late night show hosts (I'd never stay up late enough for late night) long after my hair was dry. There's Sophie the three year puppy who I sat on the floor of the subway with so I could pet her obsessively.

A few hours ago, I hopped in a shared Lyft at SFO where not along ago, I would have ridden in silence counting the miles until I was alone. Yet, I introduced myself and eagerly learned about her life. A true New Yorker (born and raised) we had much to talk about. We became so chatty, I gave her hug when we reached her destination. I sat there in utter shock of myself. I don't even like to be touched and here I was initiating a hug with a stranger.

Not too sure of the source of the above mentioned friendliness, but I'll take it and I'm going to attribute the friendliness to New York City. I had visions of becoming an all black wearing abrasive, supercilious city dweller. While the all black has certainly rubbed off on my wardrobe,  I'd like to think NYC has made me warmer and I don't mind the change.

xoxo,

Danielle

Friday, February 12, 2016

Brie Mine, Valentine

I've always loved Valentine's Day. In elementary school, I would carefully select my valentines to be distributed to my class, likely princesses or puppies. In middle school, along with my two best friends, I homemade a meal for my friend's family is her kitchen turned restaurant named "The Sassy Sister's Beef House." Because, what is more romantic than feasting on burnt beaf stroganoff with three dramatic middle school girls?  College Valentines were filled with crush parties, themed mixers, and my loved karaoke performance of "Always Be My Baby" and last year I planned my very own Galentines Brunch. Maybe its the accumulation of all my favorite things - pink, hearts, chocolate, flowers, champagne, cheesy sayings, sparkles. Maybe its the acceptance of ridiculous romantic comedies. Or perhaps it's that I classically fall for every Valentine's Day marketing ploy (I seriously thought about who I could have a #StarbucksDate with this week) but I'm smitten with Valentine's Day.

Typically, I'm incredibly reserved when it comes to relationships and dating and I'm not one to openly share but since I love Valentine's Day and I've always been a fan of owning my follies, I thought I would share a few of my favorite awkward relationship-esque moments.

In February of the 8th grade, I had finally worked up the courage to give the boy I had been "going out" with for like three months his Christmas present. With the prolonged Christmas present exchange, there was no need to stress over Valentine's Day gifts so we went to the school dance where I proudly wore a brown corduroy skirt and pink button up - thanks Gap- and we thought about dancing together for one song and almost worked up the courage to do so, then our moms arrived to pick us up.

Flash forward to over four years later, I was in my first relationship - Facebook relationship status update and all-  as my summer crush transitioned to my boyfriend. We had been to dinner together, just the two of us, several times and I even invited him to my parent's birthday dinner that July but I still wasn't sure if he "liked" me. After about six weeks of uncertainty, we were vulnerable with our feelings and ventured into a relationship together. I'm quite certain it was another two months before I kissed him and likely December before I was comfortable holding hands in public.

Junior year of college, while most of Clemson was off meeting their future husband, I dabbled again in the relationship waters. This time, uncertain as to if we were ever actually a couple and rightfully so. I had the hopes of being like all my favorite TV characters, Ross and Rachel, Chuck and Blair, and fell into the on again off again trap that lasted entirely too long. A quick glimpse into how long, one of our endings followed an argument over my interest in Taylor Swift's album, Red.

My last relationship was probably my most clueless. After months of talking to each other everyday, the exchange of gifts with thoughtful handwritten notes, and holding hands while walking along the cliffs in Newport, I had no idea we were dating and still found myself wondering if he potentially had feelings for me. Once confirmed and stated without any ambiguity, I asked if I could call him BAE and then felt slightly embarrassed for the rendition of Four Five Seconds I had performed in the car earlier. After one week, I asked for constructive feedback on my progress as a girlfriend.

All this awkwardness aside, I still love Valentine's Day. If I could, I would proudly wear my corduroy skirt and dine at the Sassy Sistas Beef House. I made Frozen Valentines for the girls in my homeroom and will likely eat my fair share of Magnolia Bakery cupcakes this weekend. Enjoy!






Happy Valentines,

Danielle

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Five Years Ago


January 19, 2011. Five years ago this week and exactly one month from the day I graduated from Clemson, I overfilled two suitcases with much more than I needed and traveled to live in a foster care home for Native American children in Lame Deer, Montana. Being the invincible twenty-two year old that I was, I felt more than prepared for the winter storms and motherhood that awaited me. 

This weekend, for the first time, I reread my blog that I wrote while living in Montana. While I felt ridiculous becoming emotional at my own written words, I was taken back to a precious, exhausting time that I will forever cherish. Reading between the lines of my thoughts, I was elated with happiness yet also noticeably exhausted. Being a mom was hard. Through all the mentions of fevers, timeouts, vomit, and naps, I also wrote about gratitude, perspective, and His overwhelming presence. 

Now, five years forward, my heart yearns for the simplicity of that charming yellow house. While our paths were once so incredibly intertwined, we now are only memories in each other's lives. My baby boy is now nine years old yet to me he will always be in his onesie pajamas flapping his arms like a bird for me to fly over the baby gate we had installed to keep his little sister from crawling up the stairs. I can feel his warm little hand in mine as we ran from the dragadiles (dragon meets crocodile of a creature that only lives deep in the snow of Lame Deer.) I deeply yearn for my heart lying on his bottom bunk while I rubbed his belly to fall asleep sharing his Spongebob blanket. 

I never felt so exhausted as I did then both physically and emotionally. Looking back, I was eager to go. I wanted to be twenty-two again. Yet, I was so in love with where I was. I miss that home. Those moments in time. Rarely does a day pass when I don't think of my sweet boy in our yellow house. My, has my world changed since then. For the longest time, I battled guilt. Guilt for leaving. Guilt for the times when I wasn't fully present. Guilt for the nights I spent longing to be back in Clemson for my second semester of senior year. Guilt for putting my own future ahead of his. 

While I keep up from a distance and conclude that he is well, so much of who I am is for that little boy. He's in every student I teach. Every time I smother Henry with my love, some goes to him. I see him in each overly energized little boy bouncing down the city sidewalks. Whenever I feel drained to my utmost core, he is what pushes me onward. While we may never be together as we were in those first three months of 2015, he made me who I am. He inspires me to want to be a mom again. To selflessly love others before myself. To be the very best version of who I am, for him. 

- Danielle