Friday, May 27, 2011


Thankfully a digital move isn't nearly as cumbersome as changing locations physically.

I have a new blog:

Please go there to see my latest posts. The old posts are also imported there.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

I am VISTA, hear me roar

 Graphic created by Kara Quick
When I officially became an AmeriCorps VISTA in July of 2010, my confidence in my title and position in the world was shaky. The ink on my bachelor's degree was still drying, it was the first summer I wouldn't be living at home, and in all honesty I wasn't completely sure what my job would entail. 

But I had confidence that whatever I was doing would be part of something bigger and much greater than myself, and that kept me going.

Though my first year as a VISTA won't end until mid-July, I can already tell you how eye-opening this year was. Some people like to automatically slam federal programs because it's easier than actually thinking, and also because some programs have indeed flopped. As someone who's spent a year in AmeriCorps and will re-enroll for another, I can show you how transformative VISTA life is, for the VISTA, for the community, and for the country.

There's a lot of information out there that can tell you what a VISTA does, but I'll give you the skinny: VISTAs spend their days (full time, often more than 40 hours and sometimes weekends) putting together the pieces that your typical citizen doesn't have the resources or time to do. And all of these pieces are critical to maintaining and growing American culture and society.

Yesterday about 30 North Carolina Campus Compact VISTAs met for our end-of-year retreat somewhere between a pasture and a church in Gibsonville, NC. In the peace and quiet of a picnic area we shared memories and lessons from our VISTA year through show-and-tell and/or story time. It was so edifying to hear the words of my fellow VISTAS, some of whom I've known since pre-service orientation in June, and some of whom I met yesterday. 

My VISTA colleagues all did amazing work this year. Some projects focused on literacy, some on partnership building, some on service learning-- but they all are dots we can connect to form a fight against food insecurity, AmeriCorp's target over the next three 

Some of the gang at pre-service orientation in Atlanta.

These girls were strangers at orientation, and now we're
table buddies at ever NC Campus Compact event.
Photo by Jonathan Romm

Last summer when someone asked what I do, my response was almost in an apologetic tone. Not only was the explanation lengthy and potentially confusing, but the person might even question why I would spend my time serving instead of making a salary somewhere.

Not anymore.

I'm incredibly proud of my time as a VISTA, and all because of the work other VISTAs have done, are doing, and will continue to do. This year AmeriCorps was on the funding chopping block and consequently under the microscope for effectiveness and quite frankly, how strong its return on investment is. I'll finish my first year as a VISTA knowing with certainty that capacity building and community enrichment is anything but discretionary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The month of April and laundry

Life as newlyweds has been pretty busy since October 16, but the month of April was by far the craziest: Campbell events, a visit from baby sister Catherine, road tripping home for Easter, and marking our sixth month of marriage. Okay, maybe that last one didn't make us any busier, but it certainly added to energy of everything.

Oh yeah, and Norton jumped out our second-story window. (He's fine.)

Eating peanut butter and playing at the park sure is tiring.

Being married for six months isn't that big of a deal, but being married for half a year is. The next six months will dissolved away even faster as we celebrate more weddings, learn new recipes, have new adventures, and eventually celebrate our first anniversary!

I'm learning that marriage means a lot more than supporting just each other. It means supporting each other's families, working together to be parents (to a dog, but same goes for kids in the future), and taking responsibility for practicalities that keep life organized, like laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. 

What I've learned the most over the last six months is time management. A typical day doesn't allow for a nap or three hours in front of Hulu or Facebook. In other words, shocking as this may be, marriage is not like college with a male roomie! Every day is an intentional effort to connect with Elliot, give 110% at work, be a good doggy mom to Norton, and keep up with chores at home. 

When I finally do plop on the couch in the evening, I like to look around to see a happy husband, happy puppy, and relatively clean apartment. I don't need every surface to be sterile. I just want a clean floor and a few pieces of clothes ironed. 

Side note: Another big lesson from the last six months is that I can't do everything perfectly all the time. I just have to give what time and energy I have and be happy with it. This especially applies to laundry.

The highlight of April was having Catherine visit and then finishing up that week by driving to Massachusetts to celebrate Easter (my favorite holiday) with the family. I hadn't been home since the wedding, and my grandparents' failing health and overall homesickness made our time there extra special. Being home is one big sigh of relief-- I don't have to be doing anything in particular but eat delicious food and visit the people I love.

I'm looking forward to what adventures the next six months will hold. Birthdays, new furniture, a hair cut, mini road trip-- whatever it is, it's a special event because I can share it with Elliot and we make it part of our life together.

Photo by Story Photographers

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The essentials of newlywed life

I was just in the kitchen putting long-gone leftovers down the disposal while thinking, "Man, I wish someone told us to be sure to eat all the leftovers." Not as if forethought and advice were going to solve that problem, we just have a bad habit of neglecting leftovers (and I'm picky about how long food can remain safe in the fridge). 

As I sorrowfully scraped earthy smelling chili and crusted over casserole down the drain I mentally compiled a list of advice I would give my many friends getting married in the near future. These aren't things anyone suggested to us in a wedding card or a hug after our wedding ceremony. They're lessons we've learned in our three months of marriage.

1. Don't ignore your leftovers. 

2. Grocery stores have the best deals Monday - Thursday. On that note, cut coupons.

3. Know who does what around the house.

4. Talk about sex and money, even if it's awkward. This means using words out loud to have a conversation.

5. Go to the farmer's market. 

6. Buy trash bags in bulk. (We bought ours in July and still have plenty left.)

7. If your job allows you to talk throughout the day (a text here and there), do it. 

8. Buy a Swiffer mop.

9. Get a pet (or a plant) soon. Doesn't have to be a 50 lb. chow chow, just something you can care for and cherish together. 

10. No television in the bed room. I don't mean "no television during sex," I mean don't put a television in your room. 

11. Be comfortable with farts. On that note, Febreze products on sale are awesome.

I think we learn something new every day, though these are the big things after being bound to each other for a little over 90 days. I wish I had pictures for all of these (especially the last one) because they would make the list really hilarious. 

Valentine's Day 2011... numbers 11 and 1

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sweet relief on a Thursday morning

I'm just going to cut to the chase-- I watched the National Prayer Breakfast live this morning and have never felt so inspired by a president or his words.

The power of President Obama's remarks didn't come from what side of the aisle he votes on, his vision for health care, or his ethnic heritage.
The magic was in the message: he feels compelled to serve others because of his faith.

And he very clearly defined his faith-- he said point-blank that he accepted Jesus Christ about 20 years ago. That's evangelical-ese meaning 20 years ago he adopted mainstream Christian beliefs that changed his outlook on life.

Every election cycle with a new candidate raises many questions, but a recurring topic is the candidate's faith, or perhaps lack thereof. What does he worship; how will his beliefs affect policy; will the Middle East care? etc. Or in the case of President Obama, because he's a shade of brown and his mom didn't consult the book of Anglo baby names: is he a Muslim?

I liked two things in particular about the speech:

1. The president, after years of mystery, came out and said what category of "believer" he falls into.

2.  He connected faith to service and reiterated Jesus' commandment to serve each other and those less fortunate, in both cases out of love (not pity or to impress a girl).

I think, at the end of the President's time at the podium, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. He had so tactfully and eloquently explained the history of his personal faith, how he and Mrs. Obama share their faith, and that the motivation for serving in the Oval Office is, again, his faith. If anyone had questions about anything related to his faith before, they got several answers today.

Above all, Barack Obama became a human for those few minutes. To most of the world he's the leader of the free world, an unapproachable political rock star. It's hard to explain how sharing something as intimate as faith can form such a strong connection, but it does. And who doesn't want to be connected to the boss of the stars and stripes?

Bonus: my favorite tid bits from the speech.

"In the wake of failures and disappointments I’ve questioned what God had in store for me and been reminded that God’s plans for us may not always match our own short-sighted desires."

"My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years. All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. 'Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.'"

"And the last recurring theme, one that binds all prayers together, is that I might walk closer with God and make that walk my first and most important task."

"And it is my faith, then, that biblical injunction to serve the least of these, that keeps me going and that keeps me from being overwhelmed. It’s faith that reminds me that despite being just one very imperfect man, I can still help whoever I can, however I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can, and that somehow God will buttress these efforts."

Read the transcript of the speech here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning how to be awesome

Alas, I have become one of those bloggers who writes steadily for a few months then suddenly forgets about it. I'm a fair-weather blogger, apparently.

The nitty gritty, in an organized list, of course:

1. Three weeks after the wedding we adopted a chow chow from the Wake County SPCA. His name is Norton, and if you're my Facebook friend you know how adorable and mischievous he is!

2. We've been church hunting since November and might have a winner. Only time will tell!

3. House searching has also been on our to-list. We're quickly growing out of the apartment-- so much stuff and Norty needs a place to run around and be a doggy.

4. I decided to stay with Campbell as its VISTA for another year and am very excited about what the future holds for a culture of service at the university!

On a more qualitative note, married life for us is lovely and every day is a new adventure. Norton is our dog child and satisfies our need to comfort and care for something... and my need to dress something (just being honest). We talk about how cute he is when he sleeps, we stare at him adoringly while he licks peanut butter off a spoon, and we love to show him off at public places like the dog park and Pet Smart. Minus places where we show him off, he is our child for the time being (and very proudly the first grand child in both families).

I guess you could say the theme of life right now is growth-- growing into a married couple, growing into professionals, and growing into care takers. Eventually we'll grow into home owners and some day we'll grow into parents (calm down Mom, not too soon).

In the moment we enjoy growing closer to each other and enjoying one another as spouses. Nothing in general is terribly different in our routine, though we are a bit busier and the pile of ironing is perpetual. Corny alert: we have each other forever, and that makes every day really awesome.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the beginning...

... okay, I won't insult Scripture by making it into a play on words. I just wanted a catchy title for this post.

Two weeks ago life was in the process of plucking me up in cyclone of lists, plans, and details as the wedding creeped ever closer. Last minute preparations haunted the short days leading up to October 16, and as the peace after a storm, the day of the wedding was the comfort and salve to relieve the stress of the last ten months.

I won't give you a play-by-play of the ceremony and reception, but let me tell you-- the day was fantastic and we really couldn't have asked for anything better. Granted the weather was less than perfect, but once photos were done and we could warm up inside, our angst for the wind and chill melted away into what became the best dance party New England has seen since Bostonians flooded the city's streets to celebrate the Sox winning the World Series.

Now that the wedding itself is in the past, what Elliot and I are appreciating right now is just being together at our home. We've never lived together before, so coming home to each other, cooking dinner together, and making the bed together are new and exciting activities for us. We unpack boxes of wedding gifts, make fun of Fox News, and discuss which shade of brown the bedroom curtains should be (I think you can guess who cares about that more)-- all such simple things, but thrilling when done with the person with whom you're spending the rest of your life.

Mushy, mushy, mushy... I know. But such is the life of happy newlyweds. A few months ago it felt so cool to choose our wedding invitations and which food to serve at the wedding because those decisions represented the next big step for our relationship and individual lives. Those decisions, however, were for the short-term and now the big stuff like buying a house and swirly babies (don't get too excited yet) are on the horizon, and those are the decisions we can enjoy for decades to come.

If you didn't get to see the online footage of the wedding, the archived video is below.

That's all, folks!

Watch live video from saraandelliotwedding on