September: 30 Day Challenge, one second of video a day

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s I love to film things. I think I get that trait from my Dad. Growing up, I can always remember him with a video camera. When we were really young, it was a huge one that he carried on his shoulder. Thankfully, for the health of his shoulders and back, technology advanced as time passed and he eventually got a handheld camcorder. I took on the role of the family filmographer when I was a teenager. I still am the one who takes a lot of the family photos at events and I make the family montage videos for special occasions. I love doing it. I love looking back at old photos and watching videos. It’s heartwarming. It’s such an amazing way to keep track of the past. While meandering around the Internet one evening, I stumbled upon a website that listed 30 day challenges. I’m always up for something that’ll help me stray from the normal humdrum of the week, so I read on. I saw one post about a 30 day challenge of taking one second of video per day. Naturally, I thought this was awesome. It involved taking video and documenting my own life, and being self-obsessed….I LOVE MY LIFE, I decided to try it. Below are my clips put together. I think this is something I will continue through other months. I would like to try and get more creative with it. I was surprised that I remembered each day to take one second of video, no matter how mundane the task was, such as laundry, heating up a bowl of Spaghettios, or watching my boyfriend cook.

Write it and Run with it

I’ve been involved in a few different sports throughout my life: basketball, cross country, track, softball, and volleyball. I think the biggest reason I got into sports was because of my older brothers. I wanted to do whatever they did. The two that I enjoyed the most were basketball and running. Through high school, I played intramural basketball, but didn’t run much. When I got into college, I didn’t play any sports regularly, but I picked up running again my sophomore year. My sophomore year was the year I switched my major to English, the year I began writing more.

I find it interesting how similar running and writing are. When I run, my mind runs as well. I love to run when I’m frustrated or nervous about something. I feel as though I can run it out of me. Writing does the same for me. When I have something I want to say or want to express my feelings to a person, I prefer to write it out of me. That’s not always an option, but when it is, I take the writing option. My shorts stories are often inspired by real life events. Now that I’ve said that, I know whenever anyone reads a story they’re going to ask who it is about. I accept my fate.

Running seems to have become a big trend over the years. I guess since I started doing big races a few years ago, I began noticing it more. Towards the end of college, I became involved in doing the Broad Street Run. I’ve run that a few times, I’ve run the Philadelphia Half Marathon, The Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon, and some random 5k’s and 10k’s in the area. I started this because of my oldest brother. We’ve run a few races together and it’s been a great way to bond as we grow up.

The more I write and the more I run, I discover how both activities are an exercise of the mind. Writing obviously uses the mind. I’m working my mind to formulate thoughts and sentences, even though sometimes the sentences are mindless. Running, while using the entire body, also uses the mind. When I run, I talk to myself to encourage myself. I don’t talk aloud, that would be reason to put me away in a home and I don’t want anyone to put me away just yet. When I run the long races, 10 miles or 13.1 miles, there’s a point where my body gets fatigued but my mind is still fresh. If you get tired in your mind while your running while your body is also tired, then you’re done. You’ve given up. It’s happened to me before. But when my mind is still poised, I will myself to keep going. It’s amazing what one can do if they literally put their mind to it. If you believe in yourself, and will yourself to keep going, you really can keep going. Same goes for writing. I get so excited about sitting down to compose the next great short story, the next great blog post, the next great journalistic article……but sometimes nothing comes out. I stare at the most terrifying thing ever, a blank white Microsoft word screen. No words. The cursor blinking maniacally at me, a blank slate waiting for me to fill it with my never ending wisdom. Wisdom that I cannot seem to muster for the life of me. But, I keep doing it. I keep trying. I will my mind to keep trying.

Running is hard and can be emotionally taxing. So is writing. Even though I am a young writer, I’ve come to learn rather quickly that writing involves a great amount of rejection. Rejection is obviously emotionally taxing. Somebody telling me I’m no good is the last thing I ever want to hear and something I fear. But I’m going to hear it. In order to be a writer, you need to develop a thick skin. In running, you also need to develop a thick skin. I have callouses on my feet. It’s nasty, but the weird side of me think the callouses are kind of cool. It’s a sign of hard work and I have quite a few epic stories I can tell involving my feet and blisters.

Fear is a feeling I have battled with and fear is an obstacle in both writing and running. Deciding you want to be a writer is a rather daunting thing to do. It’ll probably take me many years to climb up the ladder of success that I have set before myself. I can recognize that being afraid of failure has stopped me from making certain decisions. It’s held me back in some situations. Fear can hold one back when they’re running as well. Deciding to run a 13.1 mile race is frightening. Fear of getting hurt or not being able to finish a race. I have overcome the feeling of fear in both writing and running.

Being afraid is okay though. It’s a natural human feeling. It’s what you do to overcome that fear that matters. An important thing that human beings need to remember when they are faced with a daunting situation is, we’re all in the same boat. There is somebody else out there who feels exactly the way you do. None of us are alone. I feel as though that’s an important thing to remember when being a writer and a runner.

Even though both activities can be scary, there is nothing like the finished product. It’s an exhilarating feeling when you finish a story you’ve been working and people think it’s actually worth reading. It’s a wonderful feeling just being able to write a complete story, I get an idea and I run with it, whether it’s ready for the world or not. It’s crazy incredible getting a story accepted and having it published. Makes me feel like a real writer. There’s also nothing like that last sprint to the finish line in race. I can’t quite put into words how that feels. Both are rewarding accomplishments.

I’ve heard people say, “What is so hard about writing?” Sit down, grab a pen or a computer, and write. But nothing is easy. If it’s something you love and care about and you want it to be great, it’s not going to be easy. Running seems easy too. Just get up and start running. But it’s not. There is more than meets the eye with both activities. Determination, discipline, effort, dedication, courage, courage is a big one…these are all words that can describe what it takes to be a writer and a runner. I guess those are terms that describe what it takes to do anything really. But let’s just pretend it’s just for writing and running for the sake of this blog post and for the sake of my sanity.

I’ve been working full time in an office now for a year. I’ve enjoyed it. I definitely enjoy getting a steady paycheck. I’ve thought a lot (probably too much) about what my purpose in life is. I figure I’ll work full time and save some money until my writing career takes off and I can make money from that. But I have strayed away from writing short stories. I still do it, but I’m not as active as I was. I also strayed away from running. I started to blame it on work. Oh, I’m too tired to run. Oh, I’m too tired to write. I started to stray away from two things that I really enjoy doing. There’s no excuse for stopping things that make you happy. Obligations in life, such as working full time, are inevitably going to get in the way of things that you enjoy. The test here is balance. Another important key to writing and running. Life is too short to get bogged down and not do what you love to do. People sometimes say oh you can’t have it all. I think you can have it all. It just takes effort. I realize I have chosen a path, writing, that requires me to balance full time work that allows me to make money to save with making time to nurture what I think is a talent that I can one day turn into a career.

I had an epiphany the other day, I always think I’m having those, maybe it’s just heart burn.  I’ve started writing more and I’m going to start running more. Even if I am tired when I get home, nothing wrong with being a little tired. I always say, there’s nothing wrong with a little sleep deprivation. Although, there have been medical articles out about how harmful sleep deprivation is. I need to stop reading health articles. It’s because I work in a doctor’s office and am in a family of doctors. I’m convinced something is wrong with me, other than the obvious things.

I feel kind of like a poser when I say I’m a runner. I’m not an all star athlete who is out to break records. I enjoy running because it works both my mind and body. I’m in it for the joy of improving myself, the joy of reaching new goals. That’s why I like to write.

This is another one of those “on the fly I didn’t proofread or really think this through” blog posts. I had an idea so I decided to run with it.

California Adventure

A few weeks ago, I traveled with my boyfriend and his family to Yosemite National Park in California. I realize I keep calling him my boyfriend, as if he doesn’t have a name. So y’all know, his name is Zach. So back to my train of thought, I went to Yosemite with Zach and his family. My general response to this trip OH MY GOD. INCREDIBLE. The things I did, the things I saw, simply incredible. Zach’s family members are hikers. My family and I have tried out some nature walks etc., but we’ve never considered ourselves hikers. Needless to say, when I was first invited on this trip, I was a bit nervous as to what I was getting myself into.

The one time my family and I tried camping, we ended up in my aunt’s backyard in upstate Pennsylvania. I can remember waking up in the tent…in a wet sleeping bag…and everyone had already gone inside to eat breakfast in the house. I decided at that young age that my camping/hiking days were over. As I got older, my brothers and I didn’t show much interest in those things so I think that’s why we never did them. My close friends never did anything like that either and kids will typically do what their friends want to do, at least that’s how I was for a while.

When his parents first invited me, the trails and mountains of Yosemite weren’t the only thing that intimidated me, the fact that I was going to spend a week with my boyfriend’s family made me a tad nervous as well. Don’t get me wrong, they are great people. I really like them (I hope they’re reading). His parents and his sisters are great and I get along with them very well (if any of you are reading this do I get brownie points?) Any time I have spent with them has been a blast. They remind me of my own family, very easy to get along with and easy to talk to. But, let’s be real here, when you’re dating someone who you care about, family get togethers can be somewhat nerve-wracking, particularly a week long trip across the country. After the first day though, my nervousness of being with the family subsided. I was put to the test, but I think I passed.

When I told my family I was going to Yosemite and we’d be hiking a lot, they all laughed. I laughed too. My family knows how I enjoy adventurous activities, but they also know the lazy side of me who can sleep until 1pm. But I figured what the hell, we’ll see what happens. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it.

Well, as  I previously stated, it was INCREDIBLE.

First day hike

The trails led us to a place I never thought I could walk to, the sky. Nothing makes you feel more grounded than being on top of a mountain. I felt minuscule and gigantic. I felt humbled, yet cocky and powerful. It was hard on me physically, but not as bad as I thought. I’m pretty active, a little less active than I used to be, but overall pretty active. I play sports, run occasionally, and attempt to keep up with some sort of work-out routine. But I can’t deny, it was a good work out. It’s funny, we watched the movie Frozen, (or Fronan as my adorable 2-year-old niece likes to call it), when we were in the car driving from Oakland to our cabin in Yosemite. The first day of hiking, a few of the lyrics of the hit song Let It Go came into my head as I made the climb:

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know,”

I didn’t want them to know that I was tired towards the end of the climb to the top. I was definitely feeling the burn.
However, once I reached the top of our first hike, I was singing this part the rest of the week:

“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all!
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, now I’m free.
Let it go, let it go! I am one with the wind and sky.
Let it go, let it go, you’ll never see me cry!”

I was ready to conquer anything that was thrown at me after our first day. Each day was more incredible. (Zach, how perfect is the Frozen reference haha. Zach loves Frozen. Sorry Zach.)

One night, we went to a nice dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel, very cool place and delicious food too. Mom, don’t worry, I was very polite. I only occasionally spoke with my mouth full, but I kept my elbows off the table and put my napkin in my lap.

The hotel was surrounded by mountains.

Ahwahnee Hotel

So after dinner, we were walking back to our car and we got to see the mountain El Capitan in the moonlight. OH MY GOD. It was amazing. The way the moonlight blanketed the peaks was so graceful looking. And the stars were speckled in the sky like jimmies on ice cream. It was majestic. We also noticed, there were little specks of light here and there on the sides of the mountain. People were sleeping on the sides! I wanted to try and capture a picture but I couldn’t get it with my iPhone. Too dark. If you google “El Capitan at night” you can get somewhat of an idea of what it was like. But a picture really can’t do it justice.

To pick my favorite moment is pretty hard. Each day was memorable in some way. But if I had to choose, I’d say Thursday and Friday were my two favorite days. Thursday we woke up early and hiked up Glacier point. Glacier point has about a 4.6 mile hike up to the top (7,214 feet above sea level), and it’s pretty much all up hill. This one was challenging, and the elevation started to get to me as well. High elevation is no joke on the body. My breathing intensified and at times I felt lightheaded, but I was well hydrated etc, so I was fine. A little lightheadedness was totally worth it though.

Panoramic Glacier Point

Me and Zach - Glacier Point

Group Shot - Kids

On Friday, we went to the edge of the park to a secluded area. A local suggested we go. We found a secluded lake and Zach and his sisters and their boyfriends went swimming. I refrained because it was hailing! But it was so beautiful and peaceful. We were the only people there which made it even more amazing.

Z, Sarah, Hannah, Brian

After we hung out at the lake, we climbed another mountain. This one was the highest we did. The elevation was over 12,000 feet above sea level. The view from the top was mesmerizing. It was hard to believe I was that high up in the air. This one was the most scary for me. There wasn’t exactly a set trail so we were climbing up rocks.

Top of the world

Zach’s parents didn’t climb this one with us, which in retrospect, I am sort of glad they didn’t for one reason: I went ahead of everyone and go to the top first. I thought the top was flat, but it came to a point with a little flat area then it dropped on the other side. I got to the top and screamed “holy shit!” I can’t have his parents hearing me curse. But, now that I think about it, I’m going to assume they’re reading so they’re reading me curse. Can’t spell class without ass, right?

I was mesmerized by this one. It was hard to believe what I was looking at. It really did look like a movie set. I couldn’t fully comprehend what I was seeing, I just kept staring with my jaw dropped. I was in awe. It’s an overwhelming experience. Moments like that are why I have grown to love traveling. Once you get that feeling, you begin to yearn for it. Getting away for a few days and experiencing something completely different from the every day norm is so enriching. I’ve lived in the same city my whole life and while I do love it, it’s so refreshing to get away for a period of time and see what else is out there. I feel like the Little mermaid, I get a cooped up feeling and I find myself singing, I want to be “part of that world.” Evidently, I sing to myself a lot in my head. Better than signing out loud. I’m tone deaf.

Queen of the world

Cuties on a Mountain

King of the world

It was really special to be able to experience these things with Zach too. I think we’re an adventurous couple and adventures like this can bring people closer together. I mean, I literally climbed a mountain for him. Ain’t no mountain high enough! I know he’s cringing right now at my corniness, but cringe away man.

Those are just the highlights that I thought of from the trip. I have a lot more stories, like the day when we jumped into a freezing cold pond. Freezing cold doesn’t even describe it, it was mind numbingly cold, but it was awesome! Zach and his family are from Massachusetts, so they’re used to cold water. I on the other hand vacation in South Jersey, where the ocean is typically lukewarm, and I consider that cold.

Cold water

And I can’t forget the day we spent walking around the Sequoia trees. I never thought I could be so shocked

by trees. Trees are pretty amazing.

Sequoia Tree

Me, Z, and a Sequoia

Fallen Tree

I also can’t leave out the photo of the squirrel attacking me. I pretty much asked for it.

Squirrel attack!

The entire week was eye-opening, fun, adventurous, and a great chance to get to know everyone better. Thank you to Zach’s parents for an amazing experience!!

Group Shot

A little something I threw together. I had to do it. I crack myself up.

Ten Things I’ve Learned since working in an office

I’ve been working in an office full time now Since September 30th (that’s my birthday so you know when September 30th 2014 comes around). Below is a list of the top ten things I’ve learned since starting office life.

 

1.) I put way more thought into my outfits than I ever thought I would. Every night I plan to set out my outfit for the next day. In my typical fashion, I never follow that plan. By the time I get to my room at night, I just want to go to bed. So I convince myself that I will have no trouble finding an outfit in the morning and I go to sleep. I’ve started dreaming about my outfits. It’s okay if you said to yourself she’s crazy. I’ve learned to take “she’s crazy” as a compliment, so thanks for the compliment! I’ve looked in my closets (yes, I have multiple closets. I’m spoiled, I know and it’s fabulous) and dresser so many times that  I have every piece of clothing memorized. I’m one of those girls who looks at everything and sighs, “Oh, I never have anything to wear.” Ashamed to admit  it, but it’s a hidden part of me. I started dreaming about my outfits a few months into working and when I wake up I know just what to wear. I have become intent on not re-wearing the same outfit. I never used to care about that. In college, my first time living “on my own,” I wore the same jeans for weeks and had three t-shirts in a cycle. Obviously, it’s impossible to not re-wear outfits, but I plan it out so I don’t wear the same dress within a few days. A few times I’ve been asked to work at a difference office with different people….I’m going to admit, I wore the same outfit two days in a row. Nobody knew though….until right now. Don’t worry, it was clean!

 

2.) I say the word crazy way too much in normal conversation.

“Hey, Kate. How about that snow this winter?”-coworker  “I know, right, so crazy.”-Me
“Hey, Kate. Hot out today, isn’t it?”-Coworker  “Yeah, it really is. Crazy.”-Me

“I can’t believe what that person said to me.”-Coworker  “Totally uncalled for. People are crazy.”-Me

NOTE TO SELF: LEARN NEW WORDS OR THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK AND DON’T FALL BACK ON CRAZY. IT SOUNDS CRAZY. As much as I love words and I love speaking in public, I tend to lose my words in small talk and fall back on overused phrases. Fluctuation and decrease in temperature really isn’t that crazy.

 

3.) Lint rollers are a God send. I never felt the need to use a lint roller. Probably because I never really looked closely at my clothing before leaving the house. I have the tendency of being very unobservant. Working in an office has made me so much more aware of lint. I think it’s because I’ve worn black pants so much in the past few months….more than I ever have in my life. I’ve either worn jeans or brightly colored pants. Large amounts of lint on black pants looks ghastly.

 

4.) It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been doing something, I still have trouble getting into a routine. Every day I set my alarm for the same time and every day I do not wake up at the set time. I consistently sleep till the last possible minute, get ready in a hurry, and rush out. Every, single, day. I am not a morning person. Well, that’s not completely accurate. Once I’m awake I’m pretty okay, but that simple action of removing myself from my fluffy pillowed fortress seems so utterly unbearable. If I know I can get ready quickly, then I wait till the last minute. And I’m also never really late. I often say, I’m always running late, but I always arrive on time. Makes sense to me. I like to call it Sprandio Time. None of us are that great at keeping to a time schedule.

 

5.) I’ve learned how to use a letter opener. I can’t quite describe how I looked when I used a letter opener for the first time. Thankfully, I was sitting alone in an office when I used it. To give you a good image, picture what an envelope would look like if a small ferocious animal tore it up. That’s how it looked when I first used a letter opener. After shredding a few envelopes, I finally perfected a swift slicing motion and I can open an envelope with ease. Opening an envelope with one swift motion was one of my prouder moments this year.

 

6.) I learned how to use a fax machine. The first time I was asked to fax something, I walked up to the printer and stared blankly at it. I didn’t say right away that I didn’t know how to fax something. I’m the boss’s daughter, I try my best not to look like an idiot. I walked boldly into the printer room and thought I could figure it out myself. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that I just can’t seem to accomplish. I walked back to my coworker’s desk and I said, “Uh, wait. How do you send a fax?” She kindly responded, “Press the fax button and dial the number.” I walked back into the printer room and stared again. “Where is the fax button?” The slender, rectangular button stared at me. It seemed to jump out at me and smack me right in the eyes…..FACSIMILE. Come on English major.

 

7.) I ask more questions than I ever thought I would. Growing up, I was never one to ask a lot of questions in school. If I didn’t understand something, I did everything I could to figure it out before asking for help. When I started working in this office, I asked a lot of questions right away…at least after my initial fax machine encounter. There are a lot of little things to remember and every person does the same task in their own way, so I have learned different ways to do the same tasks depending on who was training me.

 

8.) I’ve learned the importance of savoring my Fridays and Saturdays. When I was doing freelance work and going to school, I could occasionally treat weekdays as weekends. As much as I want to go home and sleep some Fridays, I will myself to keep going on so I can get the most out of my weekend. I also refuse to wake up any earlier than 10am on Saturday if I can absolutely avoid it. I love sleep. Saturdays are for sleeping in. I don’t care what anyone says.

9.) I’m learning so much about how to interact with people and how to handle certain situations. I’d consider myself a social person, but I can be shy when I first meet people. Working in this environment and taking on so many different roles, such as interviewing new patients, has made me more comfortable with leaving my comfort zone quicker than I ordinarily would. I didn’t realize working in an office could reveal new personality traits I didn’t know I possessed.

10.) This one is weird, but, hey, so am I….I surprisingly don’t go to the bathroom more than the average woman. Growing up with four boys, I was always the one who had to pee on family trips. I was the one crying in the back of the car, “I have to go to the bathroom, Daddy.” Legit crying. I admit it. My dad always says I could write a book titled “The Bathrooms of North America.” I thought if I had to go and I didn’t have the chance, then I would never be able to go again. Totally logical, right? Right. There;s a lot of women in the office and we all go….a lot. I’ve developed a way to check to see if the bathroom is occupied. If I angle my head out of my office properly, I can see if the bathroom door is open or not so I don’t have to travel down the hall only to approach a closed door. Seeing that closed door is such a let down. I walk down, see it’s closed and turn right around back to my office. Sometimes, I continue on to the kitchen and pretend I’m getting a glass of water or a snack. I linger and wait to hear the door open. If it doesn’t, I make my way back to the office. The bathroom door always opens the second I step back in my office, just like the phone always rings when I leave it.

Those are the top ten things I’ve learned. Like they say, though, you learn something new every day.

May God Bless and Keep You Always

One thing I seem to be struggling with lately, and it’s probably an area almost everyone struggles with, is understanding life. I’ve probably noted this before, since all this stuff I’m sending out to the world is about my take on life. Life is a gigantically deep thing to understand. Gigantically, (is that a word?), isn’t even a big enough word to encompass life. It’s infinitely deep, infinitely interesting, at least to me. I know it’s one of the great cliche questions out there, what does it all mean, why are we all here. In the past few years, I have found myself getting frustrated because I get this feeling that I need to know why things happen the way that they do. A lot of it doesn’t make sense and that makes me upset. I tend to over think things and I tend to think about them so much that I write about them and then I think I sound profound. Hence, the blog. And all of you wonderful people humor me and read what I think. I know I sound redundant because a lot of people talk about this topic.

Through my 26 years, I have experienced the best and worst life can bring.

Birth and death.

We all experience that, obviously. Life is birth and death and all the nitty gritty wonderful and terrible things that fall in between. I’ve said this before and again sorry if I sound like a broken record, but the innocence we have when we are young truly does amaze me. I feel as though I was able to overcome certain situations better when I was younger. I feel the need to channel that lost innocence, that lost understanding that I once possessed. I’ve really felt the need to do that recently.

A few weeks ago my uncle passed away suddenly. He was my mom’s only brother. The only boy in a family of 7. He was the first one of the 7 to pass. I was with my mom when she got the phone call. I still can’t get the look on her face out of my head. Saying it was heartbreaking doesn’t begin to cover it. She lost her big brother. Being the only girl in my family, I feel a responsibility for my mom. I know if she’s reading this she’ll say to herself, “What? She’s ridiculous.” But that’s my mom. She doesn’t like people worrying about her. She’s the strongest person I know. To see her cry, I can’t even begin to tell you what that does to me. My mom and her sisters went from being middle aged women back to being little girls. Their big brother was gone.

I’m from a big family. I’ve seen family members pass before. In the past year and a half though, we’ve lost a few family members. It never gets easier and it never makes sense. No matter if they were sick, or if it was unexpected. I don’t know why I thought it would or hoped that it would make sense. But it just doesn’t. Each time this occurs, I get this jolt of a feeling that says to me okay this time it will fall into place in my mind. This time I will get a sign or have some sort of epiphany of what it all means and why it all happens. That never comes to me. It’s been getting hard too because it seems like my inner circle is starting to go. Before, it’s been great aunts and uncles, grandparents, and not that it’s easier to see them go, because it’s not, but went it happened, my young mind was okay with the fact that it was their time to go. It was their time to move on from this world. My innocence allowed me to feel a comfort that they would be okay. I don’t feel that comfort as much anymore. My nephew was with us when we found out about my uncle. He saw us crying. My mom said to him, “Robert went to heaven. You remember Robert, right?” I’ll never forget his sweet little face. He shook his head up and down and had a frown on his face. He looked up and said, “Yeah. I remember Robert. We will all remember Robert. He’s gone and he’s not coming back. But he’ll be okay.” He was so sure of himself, so confident. It was amazing and he doesn’t even know how he comforted us. This little boy said such big words with so much confidence. I was proud of him.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I would say in this post or if I would even post it. Because I really don’t know what to say. I guess that’s a lie since I can’t stop writing. I worry about how I would come off in this post. I don’t want to come off as a poser or someone who is trying to push their beliefs or something. I just need to talk about these things and I feel the need to write about them too. I don’t know if any of this will help anybody who reads, or help anybody who has recently lost someone, especially my cousins and aunt and the rest of my family members. With anything I write, I ultimately just want to make an impact. And I hope I do that. I hope I can inspire those who don’t know what to do when these things happen to be open to talking about it, open to write about it whether it’s public or private. Getting it out verbally or on a page can really do wonders.

My boyfriend was with me when we first found out my uncle passed. We’ve been dating two and a half years, so he’s been around for the most recent sad moments in my family. This time though, he was there for the actual call. He saw me crying and he put his arm around me and held me. He said to me, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what do.” That was all he needed to do. Death is a scary thing. Plain and simple. It’s terrifying. Everyone says, well, it’s part of life. Yes, it is. But ya know what, it scares the hell out of me.

I’ve beaten myself up about that, that it scares me. But since I’ve been reflecting on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay because we are all in it together. We aren’t alone.  Every single person on this entire planet and whatever is out in other galaxies, everything has experienced death. Even though it physically separates us, it connects us emotionally and spiritually. And I’d like to believe it connects us after this physical world. I’ll be honest though, I’ve doubted that faith that I used to have as a child, the great and comforting belief that we are all reunited one day. The belief of an afterlife that was drilled into me through my twenty some years of catholic school. It’s another thing I’ve struggled with, but I don’t get as upset that I struggle with it. Now that I’m older, I take it in a different way. Growing up it was just a fact, like the sky is blue. The sky is blue, we get eternal life when we die, it’s all a fact. I feel as though it makes me a stronger person to have doubts because I take the thought more seriously. I’ve become a more spiritual person because of my doubts and fears. I use them in a positive way to search and try to understand it all.

I don’t think my boyfriend realizes how important it was that he was there with me. Well, now he does because I just wrote it and I’m sure he’s reading, or at least I’ll make him read it. I mean he should read it. You should be reading. I hope you’re reading this, thanks by the way. And, sorry, I know I told you I wouldn’t call you out on my blog, but welcome to the life of dating a writer.

Just feeling him next to me gave me comfort. Being in his arms made me feel safe, it made me feel like it was all going to be okay. I watched as my dad did the same thing for my mom. That’s what works for me, having someone next to me. And different things work for different people. Some people want to scream and hit things. Do it. Some people prefer to be alone and cry. Do it. Do whatever soothes you, whatever brings you solace. But do not hold it in. Holding it in doesn’t help, I know from experience.

It’s these times unfortunately when we realize how important our time is and how important it is to have others around us. We hold those we love closer. We cherish the times we have with them. Perhaps these things happen to teach us to say I love you more, to hug more, to  laugh more, to be genuinely happy to be living our lives the way we want to live them. It’s evident we are each given a certain amount of time. We don’t know how much, but as cliche as it sounds it is imperative to make the best of the time we have. It’s so incredibly important to keep in touch with family and friends. Today’s world is so interconnected through the Internet and I think it’s great the way we can keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, the list goes on. But it’s also so important to keep that face to face connection. Make that physical effort to go see somebody, to have a face to face meaningful conversation. You never know when it will be the last one. I think our society has lost the beauty of that face to face connection. I honestly have moments where I feel more comfortable having a conversation via texting, emailing, or the phone. But we must make a conscious effort to maintain that face to face contact, even if we have to make a bigger effort to travel to see our loved ones. It really is beautiful, the interactions between people. Something as simple as a conversation, it’s beautiful. Life is beautiful, even though it’s hard, it’s painful, it’s confusing, it’s completely hectic. At least we all have each other in it.

I hope all of this ties together and makes sense. I’ve thought so much about it that I’m not even sure what I wrote and I’m not even going to proofread it so pardon the grammar and spelling mistakes if there are any.

So here’s to those I’ve lost recently: Robert, Ronnie, Weston, Mimi, Eddie, and all those who have gone before them. I hope you are all up there having a damn good time together laughing at us as we stumble our way through and try to understand what you’ve left behind. We wouldn’t mind if you shot us a message of what it’s all about, just if you feel like it. You know, we’d love to know. And, if you can, read my blog, because this one is for all of you.

May God bless you all and keep you always. I love you.

 

Melanoma Awareness Month

Two weeks ago, Kate O’Neill, deputy director at the Chestnut Hill Business Association, former boss and friend of mine, contacted me to help her promote her foundation The Noreen O’Neill Foundation for Melanoma Research. Kate’s sister Noreen O’Neill passed away July 2000 of melanoma. Kate has become a dedicated advocate in honor of her sister. The foundation holds a fundraiser at the Wells Fargo Center every year in June called the Running for Cover 5k. Kate, who has been so kind to me and always keeps an ear out for me for writing jobs, asked me to write a story about one of the foundation’s board members, Rich Beston. Below is Rich’s story. Please read this inspiring story and share with others to promote the awareness of melanoma. To find out more about this wonderful organization you can visit: http://www.foundationformelanomaresearch.org/

 

Rich Beston: A Beacon of Hope

Rich and Ann Beston met in 1994. Their story started out like most: they fell in love, got married, and started a family. In honor of melanoma awareness month, here’s a story of a survivor and how he and his family have come full circle with his cancer journey, which led him to his active involvement in the Noreen O’Neill Foundation’s annual Running for Cover 5k.

A few years into their marriage, Ann gave birth to their son Ryan. The couple was experiencing the best of what marriage can bring. Unfortunately, about eleven months after Ryan was born, Rich received news that would change their lives.

Rich was a typical guy growing up. In the summers, he would go to the shore and hang out with his buddies on the beach. He was a fair skinned, blue-eyed boy, who would get sunburn often. “We would fry,” he said. “I would get so sunburn and back then, you got sunburn and then you got rid of it.”

Rich and those he grew up with were never warned of the dangers of the sun, not the way we are today. He would get blisters on his body and face, but he dealt with it and went back to the beach. He was a guy who believed himself to be invincible.

In early 2000, Rich went to the doctor for a normal check-up. He removed his shirt and the doctor noticed a quarter sized bump on his shoulder. He asked Rich what it was, Rich casually responded that he had noticed it before, but disregarded it as a boil, a thing guy’s get. The doctor inspected the so-called boil and referred Rich to a dermatologist to get a biopsy.

In February 2000, Rich was at work and received a phone call from his doctor that he will never forget. “I went to my boss and I told him I had to leave early because I was just diagnosed with cancer.”

Cancer, just hearing the word can give a person chills. Rich didn’t know anything about cancer, nor did he ever suffer from a serious illness in his life. He said the worst thing to ever happen to him was the flu and some broken bones from playing ice hockey as a kid. Sadly, Ann was all too familiar with the dangers of melanoma. Her father passed away from it in 1981 after it metastasized to his brain. He was 47.

Rich arrived home from work and broke the news to Ann. The growing family had some good news a few weeks before when Ann found out she was pregnant with her second child. It seemed like the good and the bad were colliding and their dreams of raising a family were suddenly at risk.

“We just had our first child, we were pregnant with our second. We were starting our family. I had never been a dad and Ann had never been a mom. All of that was in jeopardy.”

After his referral to a dermatologist, Rich had surgery to remove the tumor on his shoulder. CAT scans were ordered and it was discovered that he had suspicious spots on his right lung. The cancer had metastasized. He was officially diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma to the lung. The five-year survival rate for stage IV is about 10%.

They were introduced to Lynn Schuchter, an oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. According to Ann, Dr. Schuchter seemed to “fall into our laps.” Rich consulted with Dr. Schuchter and had surgery to remove two lung nodules in hopes of eradicating the disease. After the surgery, Dr. Schuchter suggested he participate in a clinical trial involving an experimental vaccine therapy, the C-Vax. The C-Vax was sponsored by the John Wayne Cancer Institute in California. The trial was a double blind phase III clinical trial. There were ten participants, five received the vaccine and five received the placebo. For the next 8-10 months, the vaccine was administered to his abdomen. The injections caused open wounds. “It was painful,” he said. “There wasn’t anesthesia. The holes were like big blisters, pus holes. It was freaky.” All the while, he wasn’t sure if he was receiving the vaccine or the placebo.

While Rich was fighting for his life, Ann was preparing to bring a new life into the world. In September 2000, Shannon Beston was born. Ann found herself caring for two babies and a sick husband. When asked how she handled it, she responded, “It was exhausting and insane, but I did what I had to do.”

Rich received continuous scans throughout the clinical trial period. Towards the end of it, a scan showed he had a new spot on his smaller right lobe.

The monster was not giving up.

Dr. Schuchter proposed that Rich begin chemotherapy in June of 2001. Ann said, “For four months he would leave us on Friday for his chemo and stay in the hospital until Sunday.”

In October of 2001, the chemotherapy became too toxic for Rich and Dr. Schuchter decided to start giving him an oral form of chemo called Temador. At this point, she asked Ann to bring in the family. They were told to get their affairs in order and prepare themselves for loss. The cancer was becoming too tough to fight.

A few months went by, and Rich got another scan that showed that the tumor found in the middle lobe hadn’t grown. Everything he went through was working. Dr. Schuchter suggested the middle lobe be completely removed. Rich was undergoing yet another surgery, but this time it would be the last one.

In March 2002, it was declared that Rich was no evidence of disease (NED). The combination of therapies, his doctors, and the support of his family, and friends helped Rich overcome the biggest hurdle of his life. “I’m so grateful to Penn and Dr. Schuchter. My gratitude is immense. Ann, my parents, my sisters and their husbands, and Penn saved my life. They gave me hope.”

Rich had won his own battle, but both he and Ann agree the war against melanoma is still raging.

When Rich was sick, Ann had researched cancer support groups in their area to find people who were going through similar situations. She didn’t find many results on the melanoma front, so she created her own support group. She found a website that listed melanoma patients and discovered there were some in her area. She sent a message out to meet at a local spot. To her surprise, a sizeable group showed up. Kate O’Neill and her mother Eleanor were among that group.

Kate O’Neill’s sister Noreen O’Neill founded the Noreen O’Neill Foundation for Melanoma Research in 1999. Noreen unfortunately passed in July 2000.

Ann and Kate became close and, soon after, Rich and Ann were invited to join the board. Rich and Ann have become integral volunteers and assist in the planning of the annual Running for Cover 5K at the Wells Fargo Center every June.

Rich is not only involved with NOFMR, he has also participated as a patient advocate at a recent AARC (American Association for Cancer Research) conference, and as a reviewer with the Department of Defense Peer Review Cancer Research Program. He has spoken at various conferences and Ann said sometimes people call simply to talk to them. They have become beacons of hope for those in need.

“To give someone hope is a gift. I needed it when I was struggling. If I can help anybody by giving them hope that they’ll be okay, then that’s what really makes me happy.”

Team Beston at the Running for Cover 5k

Team Beston at the Running for Cover 5k

Ann and Rich with Dr. Schuchter

Ann and Rich with Dr. Schuchter

 

Griffin for Life

On April 5th, I attended the scholarship gala at my college, Chestnut Hill. This was my third year on the planning committee. Giving back to CHC has become so important to me and I’m grateful I can do so. I not only received a great education there, but I learned invaluable life lessons. The people I met, the professors who taught me, they all helped mold me into who I am. I know it’s cliche, but those four years were literally some of the best of my life thus far. I know I’m only 26 and I plan on having many, many more great years, but those 4 were so defining.

I remember when I was looking at colleges, I wasn’t too keen on applying to Chestnut Hill. I wasn’t thinking entirely about where I would get the best education. I was 17 and I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. I was thinking of where would be a cool place to go, where I would have fun, where my friends were going, or where my older brothers went. I also wasn’t too keen on going to a school that was down the street from my house and down the street from my high school. How many people do you know who went to high school and college on the same street? Not many! At the time I didn’t like the idea, now I think it’s awesome because it’s different. I embrace being different now. I didn’t so much back then.

My parents spent a lot of time with me helping me figure out what school would fit best. I wanted to be a biology major and planned on becoming a veterinarian. They were most impressed with Chestnut Hill’s bio department. We decided CHC was the place for me. Reflecting back, I am so grateful for the time my parents spent with me. They understood that I needed help in making a big decision. I don’t know if they realize how thankful I am for the help they have given me my whole life. They’re still helping me!

I ended up changing my major at the end of freshman year to English. I found what I really loved and developed the courage to pursue it. I developed the courage to be myself and be proud of who I am. Many people know I used to make videos that I would post on YouTube. They’re completely ridiculous and I had the time of my life making them. The two girls I made them with lived next door to me. I was a shy person when I first started there, but the people I met those first few weeks made me realize I didn’t need to be afraid of being outgoing. Making those videos was my way of making my first mark at CHC. By the way, if you’ve never seen them, I suggest you check them out: https://www.youtube.com/user/kspran00. They’re hilarious. I was a YouTube star back then.

Going to the gala, donating money, putting in time to help plan an event that raises money to help kids go there is very important to me. I want kids to be able to experience the kinds of things I experienced. I want them to have the best years of their lives. I can’t quite described the feeling I get when I go back there. It’s like going home. Seeing old friends, professors, and the administration is heart warming. Everyone is so kind and genuinely interested in each other’s lives and success. I’ve brought my boyfriend with me each time I’ve gone and it’s great for him to meet people who knew me then. It’s important to me to connect my present and future with my past.

Colleges are notorious for hitting people up for money as soon as they graduate, and people get annoyed by that. But giving back to a place that helped mold who you are today is important. Even if you can’t donate money, donating your time is just as helpful. I’m so grateful I have been able to stay connected with CHC and I plan to continue to stay connected for years to come. CHC is my family and it’s so important to stay connected to family, to people who you can turn to in times of need, people you know will always be there for you, people who know you for you and like you for you…..even if you can be completely ridiculous….which I can be.

I like to call CHC a diamond in the rough. It can sometimes be overshadowed by the bigger schools, which is a shame because it’s such a unique place. I want to thank every person I encountered at CHC. Whether we spoke every day or we spoke once. I appreciate each and every one of you. This post can sort of piggy back off the previous post with the idea that it’s important to reflect back and remember who you once were because who you are today has grown from who you were yesterday. I know with each passing year I may continue to change and grow, but I know I will always be a Griffin for life. I’ve probably overused the word important in this post. But it’s important that I tell you how important this is to me! I think it’s important that I get  a thesaurus, perhaps imperative that I get a thesaurus.

Below are some pictures from this year’s gala….look at them….it’s important.

Most handsome guy ever? Yup.

Most handsome guy ever? Yup.

I was obsessed with my dress

I was obsessed with my dress.

Keeping it classy

Keeping it classy.

Sister Carol Jean Vale. One of the most amazing people ever.

Sister Carol Jean Vale. One of the most amazing people ever.

Sentimental

A couple weeks ago, my brothers and I went to my mom and dad’s house to begin cleaning out the remainder of our things. I “moved out” of the house two years ago. I put moved out in quotes because I’ll be honest, I’m there a lot for dinner. I spend the night sometimes just to be there to hang out….and so I can have a good breakfast in the morning. I sometimes even go there just to take a bath. They have the most incredible whirlpool tub and there’s a TV in the room. It’s called the exercise room. It’s like the ultimate bathroom.  There’s a toilet (obviously), a big tub, workout equipment, and a TV. Watching a movie while taking a bath is at the top of my list of favorite things to do after a long day.

I had no idea how many things I had packed away in drawers in my room. I found notebooks from first grade through college, a Bio textbook from that time I thought I wanted to study bio, pictures of grade school friends, pictures of Justin Timberlake back when he had the fro. I had a picture of him taped to my door. He was lying down on a sofa. It was from Teen People. Remember Teen People? Yeah. I used to take out all the pin ups from that magazine and cover my doors with them.

Some of the funnier things I found were from 2nd grade. One was a picture of a nut and it said I’m nuts about math because it’s my favorite subject. I have always hated math, but I guess my second grade self loved it. It’s funny looking at things like that to remember who you were back then. I obviously have memories of being that young, but these notebooks and drawings reminded me of the specific thoughts I had at that age. It’d be hilarious if I could talk to my younger self. I would tell myself not to hold back and embrace whatever comes my way.

One drawing from my creative writing notebook from 2nd grade had people handing food to people on the ground. Underneath I had written, “when I grow up I want to be a gardener so I can grow food to feed the poor.” (I was a terrible drawer by the way, the things that were supposed to be people looked like corn stalks). Feeding the poor…that’s so noble of me. I’ve never even planted a flower, let alone seeds for food. Maybe I’ll start a garden this spring.

The next page had a picture of the Power Rangers and it said my favorite time of day was 5 o’Clock because that’s when the Power Rangers came on. Funny, 5 o’clock is still my favorite time during the week, but for different reasons….it’s when work is over and it also happens to be when happy hour begins. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? I did ballet in 2nd grade (yup I was a ballerina). I didn’t like it and I remember I would run out afterwards to the car and tell my mom to hurry up and get home for the Power Rangers.

I also found my Confirmation journal from 7th grade. We had to write a journal entry every week….we addressed it to Jesus. It’s pretty funny to read. I read some of the entries and I didn’t remember being so reflective at that age….or at least I thought I was. I guess that part of me hasn’t changed….I still think I’m reflective and I tend to believe the stuff I think of is profound. The journal entries were addressed to Jesus. In most of the entries, I asked Jesus to help me be better a person and to help me be kinder to my brothers. I’m pretty sure every grade school confession I went to, I told the priest I was mean to my brothers. Story of an only girl’s life.

The journal entries also said how excited I was to become a full fledged member of the Church. I didn’t realize I was that excited. I’m a Catholic, but I admit, I’m not as good as I could be when it comes to going to church and participating. I went to church a lot with my parents when I was younger. Now that I’m older, it’s my choice to continue keeping up with my faith and I think I could get a bit better at staying involved.

I found some cards and mix CDs from old boyfriends. Those were comical.

I found a lot of cards from my college graduation. Stuff like that makes me realize how many people support me and made me miss college.

I found some pictures of friends who I don’t get to see all that often anymore.

These kinds of things are so important to keep, just to remind us of our past. Like I’ve said before, people get caught up in the moment a lot today, get caught up in the madness of the world. Our world is so fast paced now, and sometimes I feel like I’m just jumping from one thing to another and I don’t get a chance that often to take it all in. It’s good to get a chance to sit down and sift through memories to remind ourselves of our lives, the people and  things that used to make us happy, the people and things that currently make us happy. Cards, photos, drawings, journal entries, mix CDs, they are all reminders of who we once were and who helped us become who we are today. It fascinates me how we all grow and what facilitates that growth. It’s funny to see how interests change as you get older, from taste in music to taste in a significant other. If you’re ever feeling lost or confused, going back and looking at things like this can help remind you of who you are and who you want to become.

I found my 8th grade year book, which is hilarious. We had to write a paragraph about God’s plan. I wrote God’s plan was for me to become a veterinarian. That path changed! I was deemed most likely to become a WNBA star. My quote was, “What’s cookin good lookin?” My class award was most athletic girl. My nickname was Kitty Kat. Oh to be 13 again.

This experience was also cool because my brothers and I were all together again in our house. We do get together pretty often, which I feel very fortunate about, but I don’t know, that morning felt different. We were there without our significant others. We were going through our stuff. Reminiscing together. My oldest brother brought breakfast over for us….he’s such a dad now….it’s so funny. Hearing them laugh together under that roof sent my mind back to our childhood when it was just mom, dad, me and my boys. It was a fun morning. It’s going to happen again soon too because we aren’t done. We have way too much stuff. I’ll admit it, I’m spoiled.

I hate to get rid of things and I’m really glad that I am that way….even though it causes a mess sometimes. I get so sentimental. I did part ways with some things, but I kept a lot of stuff in a box…..just in case I feel nostalgic one day.

 

It's 5 o'clock somewhere

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Found this gem in my wallet.

Found this gem in my wallet.

A picture of me and my cousin that was taken in Disney World

A picture of me and my cousin that was taken in Disney World

A collage of my interests at the time

A collage of my interests in 7th grade.

Fire safety poster I made in 6th grade. I was known for being good at drawing aliens back then...

Fire safety poster I made in 6th grade. I was known for being good at drawing aliens back then…

Published

I’ve been published! I’ve been submitting to a variety of publications since finishing school and I finally got a story published. It’s a pretty cool feeling. I remember when I was in graduate school my teacher told us that we would get our fair share of rejections. At the time, I thought it wasn’t very encouraging to tell us, but of course I’ve become wiser since then and I realize that is in fact a very important thing to tell a young writer. We need to know it’s not all rainbows and sunshine right out of the gate. If we enter the daring, daunting world of writing thinking we’ll be praised immediately, we’re only setting ourselves up for disappointment. I remember the first few rejections I received, I felt a little down. But I got over it and figured there are a hell of a lot of other publications out there, somebody will accept me.

I JUST WANT A HOME.

And sure enough I got that first one. I feel like with anything once you get one out of the way, you gain more confidence and are more willing to be fearless and put yourself out there a little more than before. I know I got a little boost after hearing this news. Thanks to all of you for reading this blog and be sure to download this ebook Suddenly Lost In Words, not only to support yours truly, but also to support the publication and the other talented writers who are featured in it!

http://www.amazon.com/Suddenly-Lost-In-Words-Volume-ebook/dp/B00IC5HZ8U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392516145&sr=8-1&keywords=kate+sprandio

 

 

Back to regular programming/New nephew

So I tried out doing a vlog post as some of you may have seen. And I deleted it. I didn’t really like it. I rambled too much and the voice didn’t match up with my lips moving. It was a trial run and I’ve decided to stick to writing for now. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to watch it (lucky you), my vlog post focused on an exciting event….I have another nephew! His name is Leo. He was born Thursday January 9th, weighing in at 8lbs 14oz. Big boy! It doesn’t matter how many kids are born into my growing family, each time is amazing and special. I was able to go to the hospital to see him the day he was born. After being around John and Grace, I forgot how tiny a new born is!

There is nothing like holding a new born baby. They are so delicate and beautiful. You’re holding a brand new life in your arms. Their little eyes are filled with wonder and excitement mixed with a little nervousness. They soak up every moment like a sponge. It really is breathtaking. They’re a miracle. It’s also cool to see how their personalities develop. John and Grace are similar but also very different. Watching them interact with each other and other people is hilarious and heart warming. I can’t wait to see what Leo will be like as he grows up.

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Me and Leo!

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Me and Grace 🙂

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Grace and John napping before they met their new brother. I am the nap whisperer!

So many new and exciting things are happening. I love being able to share all of this with everyone. I hope you all enjoy reading about it. Tough luck if you don’t, I’m gonna keep writing! haha. 2014 is off to a very good start. So happy for my brother and sister-in-law. Congratulations to a beautiful family of 5!