Best of…DIY!

I love a great do it yourself project. I’m not the craftiest of persons, but I do love these fabulous tricks, DIY, or homemade creations as you may call them. While every now and again I find a goo one, I thought I might share them with all of you!

Do it your self awards (starting with the first three I have used for years and the last three all discovered this past month!)

  1. Cleaning product: I love the more natually side of products, but I also want it to work. I want it be working as hard as I am attack the soap scum! This concoction of vinegar and baking powder does wonders for stuck on foods for a kitchen surface to toothpaste in the bathroom. I put mine in a small spray bottle and get to work.  You can also create a similar solution to clean your oven in a healthy, non-toxic way.
  2. Yogurt: This one I learned about a year after my time in FrancisCorp. Truth be told, had I know about it beforehand, we certainly would have been eating this then! Fresh, homemade, less bitter yogurt- yes please! Now with this one, patience is key! It takes a few batches to get your yogurt to the thickness you want, but well worth it.
  3. Plant Food: Every gal loves a nice bunch of fresh flower. But nothing is sadder than seeing them wilt by day two. By taking a little vinegar and sugar, you can feed your flowers to last as long as two weeks!
  4. Hair-cuts: Recently I was out with some grad school gal pals. I comment on T’s new hair cut. Looking for my own new do, I asked where she got it done. She told me “I did it myself”. As I said, “whaaat?” our other friend B also said “Yah, I cut my own hair too”. Well, I just had to try it. And this chick guided me the whole way (and I also love how I can rock out to a great Broadway musical during a tutorial vid ;) ). TRY IT!
  5. Fruit fly traps: This is one of my newer finds, but I love it oh so much. I’m not sure if it is because I always have a stack of banana hanging out for smoothies or that I live in a 120 year old space, but man those fruit flys are pesky. When my dear friend Jane from Spain posted this, I was in heaven!
  6. Gar-scrap-ening: It’s not gardening, it’s not composting, it’s growing food from scraps. Say what?! As my mother’s child, I have a fairly black thumb. I try gardening, growing food from my window boxes, and I’m just not all that successful. I keep trying, and maybe one day I will get it. But this trick, both as a frugal grad student, and foodie makes me thrilled. The first 3 are pretty stinking easy, and I’m having great success with the first 2 I have tried!

What do you think? Are you game to trying the cleaning wonder or going to take the big dive and trim your hair?

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My garden of scraps, fruit fly trap and my handy cleaning solution!

Share your other favorite do-it-yourself wonders!

Sleeping out and speaking up

At some point a few weeks ago, I decided that I really wanted to volunteer at this year’s Sleep Out Broadway Edition. This annual event, run by Covenant House, provides a space for Broadway stars and homeless kids to connect, share and celebrate hope. This year, over 70 sleepers and another 10 participants raised over $200,000 to benefit the thousands of kids that CH serves in four countries around the globe. The goal is part awareness, part fundraising, as we say “sleep out so homeless kids don’t have to”.

My own experience with CH has been nothing short of amazing. I was blessed to secure a summer internship working with a large, successful non-profit. I had amazing supervisors, full of knowledge and who led with passionate hearts. Hence, I wanted to come back (even from my 3 day vacation) early to help out at this event.

Each sleeper that I checked-in was so excited to be with us! They were eager to tell me there story of connection to this work, through a co-star or even some children of long time CH supporters. No matter their nerves or excitement, they were ready to experience this night.

Story by story, activity by activity, I witnessed walls falling down and solidarity spreading between our kids and the Broadway community. Be it a life journey that hit home, an unforgettable witness of abuse, or a desire to wipe away pain, active listening was apparent.

While I had to leave to catch an early train, my last task was to unwrap the cardboard ‘padding’ for our sleepers. One night is not meant to replicate what the kids experience, but can provide a lesson and a place to develop an even deeper sense of solidarity.

This morning, as I still processed this beautiful night, I saw this amazing clip. The Stars sang to our kids, who were settling into their rooms just a few floors above the street, where our sleepers camped out.

This is hope. This can be a movement. This: community, listening, love, and action, can make a difference.

*

Disclaimer: Any opinions stated or inferred are my own, and do not necessarily represent the view or opinions of Covenant House. 

My writing process

Thanks to my friend, Ellen, I am participating in my first blog hop! This post acts as an interview, a place for me to explore my process. Plus, I am going to introduce you to 3 other amazing writers!

  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does it differ from others in my genre?
  3. Why do I write what I do?
  4. How does my writing process work?

Alrighty, here we go!

What am I working on?

Currently, it alternates between a personal project and absolutely nothing. Honestly, it is probably more of the latter these days as any of you readers still loyally with me in the blogspehere have noticed! Between completing my first year in graduate school and joining the senior staff at our Journal, I think I have relished in the opportunity to reflect in other ways (*ahem* maybe some foreshadowing to question #3!)

How does it differ from others in my genre?

Oh, my nothing very much differs from other’s nothing ;). Well, one aspect that has been liberating in my process has been a lack of a time frame. Something that is so unnatural for me….my to-do lists *may* include a rough schedule as to when they shall be done in a day’s time. However, working on a personal piece also allows me to write for me, not seeking approval for publication.

Perhaps now might be the best time to define “my writing”. It’s a collection of missives, woven by storytelling, spiritual reflection, and connection to other aspects of life. Sometimes it reads as self-help, other times humor, but it is always from the heart.

Why do I write what I do?

Solely to process. That’s my total and ultimate motivation.

How does my writing process work?

Well, its probably the first, most long lasting contrast to the rest of my life- it is undisciplined, selfish, and occurs because not one more fiber of my being can have it contained. I love writing, I love this blog and this creative place, whether or not words flow my hands and onto the screen.

 

So there you have it, small missives on my process! Now, I’d love you to read about these wonderful ladies:.

Mary: We met during our years of service in the lovely ‘Cuse, while living across town from each other. While we may have been in ‘competing’ programs some would say, we continue to keep in touch. I think you will love Mary’s style of honest, soul-bearing writing as much as I do.

Alli: My dear friend, food blogger and gifted writer. She has appeared here before and most certainly will again. She is a damn good cook, but also a damn good social advocate, who strongly believes that  every single person can (and should) use their votes, voices and consumer dollars to bring about real change in the way food is produced and distributed.

Talley: This gal  is studying for her Master’s in urban planning. When she’s not in class or stuck in the library studying, she enjoys writing and photographing about the places and people she sees. Her blog Rainy Days Aren’t Always Bad, shares her photographs and musings . Her hope is that her words and images will provide another perspective on how to view ones surroundings.

 

Nellie, Nancy and Ned

A personal pet peeve is feeling like a “negative Nellie”….or Nancy or Ned. However, these last few weeks, hell these last few months have been intense beyond words. One problem or crisis ends and a new one begins. And while I feel like I’m weathering this storm to the best of my ability, I’m starting to operate on a loss.

Yes, there are moments of light and laughter; a dear friend’s wedding, an evening of improv in my own backyard under the stars, a two hour get-away to the shore with my boyfriend. I am grateful….and I want more.

Writing a quick email update to close friends about my parent’s health, I hit a wall. How honest do I go? I wondered. Do I say I’m fully in “survival-only” mode?  There are no concerns about sharing the frankness of the illness in my family, but of my own, I just don’t know.

My fingers fly over the page, opening a new portal. I type the only words currently weighing on my soul ” Stake me to the ground”. I want to express my desire for life and love during grief and pain. I want to feel rooted to this world, even with chaos all around. Hold me, let me cling. Let me grasp the ground.

And the first page that opens provides the beautiful wisdom below:

 

ROMEO
Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
MERCUTIO
Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
ROMEO
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
……
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.

Happy Mother’s Day, to me

I was not looking forward to this day. It was the midst of finals season at school, with every last paper to write, groups to meet, and exams to be taken. In addition, home was chaotic. While I wanted to be there, it felt as if every aspect of life was pulling me in a bad way.

Yet, two beautiful and simple moments turned a day I slowly began to dread to one of silent bliss.

I had no idea what to get Mom this year. My Christmas gifts had fallen a bit flat, and there wasn’t an easy ‘need’ to fill. I decided on some lovely two- toned tulips. When I arrived at the house, Mom was watching TV with A, our aide. Starting to fall asleep, Mom wasn’t really phased by the holiday. Yet, A kept saying “How nice. Look K, look how nice. She brought you flowers, say thank you”. Mom’s “thank you” struck me as I thought “well I’ll be….that’s like a Happy Mother’s day to me!”

 

Later in the day we went to Mom’s friends for dinner. There our family friend was asking about my summer plans, when she turned and said to my mom “Look at Katie, hanging out with all these movers and shakers”. My Mom leaned and said, “who”? As our friend pointed to me, Mom turned to look at me with the broadest smile, one I hadn’t seen in ages. Again, a happy Mother’s day for me.

After dinner and before the favorite dessert of ice cream, we ladies went for a walk. I held back at first to catch my breath, and then captured this:

Sweet mother's day

Sweet mother’s day

There were 5 of us on a walk. Just part of the journey and a sliver of a reminder…it takes a village, not only to raise a child but to raise up each and every one of us. I know that my Mom has done that for me, my sister, and countless others. I just hope we can do the same for her.

To all the mothers and the motherly in this world- may you feel the love of community not just on your day, but everyday. Thank you. 

Grabbing hold and letting go

Lately, I have noticed that I am hoarding. A picture. A locket. An item of clothing once mine, then hers, and back to mine.  Pieces of Mom to have close. To be present and simultaneously live in the past.

She stuffs things in her pockets. We constantly laugh as we pull out pens, elastics, tissues, scraps of paper, rosaries, and other items. It’s a bit like Mary Poppins’ purse…you can’t believe all of what can fit in there!

***

But tomorrow we start a new step of this journey. It’s a bit more of the letting go and so of course I want to hold on tight. I want to hold on and not let go. Of time. Of the past. Of my Mom and who she is to me. And so we breathe through it. Sit with the urges to clench the present and avoid change. And sit with those moments of wishing we were three steps already ahead. Settled. Secured. Safe.

I don’t have any easy answers. But I know this process. I know it’s a flow. A struggle. A birthing of new life, even when it seems so contradictory.

For this beautiful poem by Ellen aligns with this idea: when it’s over, we may want it all back.

Just a day

Awaken. Lovely morning, and a mist the busy-ness of getting out the door, recognize how grateful I am to be in school. To take a moment to really appreciate this gift to self- taking a ‘time-out’ to learn, to excel (or fail), to challenge myself. The thought goes: “I really love that I’m in grad school right now“.

Moments later I am fighting with a banking institution over their egregious error. Frustration that could last the day is contained just to an hour (or any other time I brought it up ;) ).

A sweet friends brings individual bags of home-made cookies to class. Just because. I swoon and happily munch away them money woes.

A few of us skip out on a review, instead choosing to enjoy one of the first, true days of spring. Warmth on our faces, plenty of people watching, and another “oh yah, I am loving this [grad] life” moment.

A few hours later, I’m ready to pull my hair out over a powerpoint for a final group project. Yes, I’m being overly concerned, yes I am the only one stressed out, but it still manages to eat at me.

Arrive home to a seasonably warm apartment, and find a long lost show to rewind with.

A call comes in, Mom fell (second time this week) and I quickly leave to help out.

Thankfully Mom seemed to be ok, and after being checked out by professionals was allowed to stay home tonight. Both on the ride to and from my parents I notice the clarity of my thinking. Yet, noticing how silly it seemed to be so annoyed at a bank or powerpoint, when hours later, the ‘more’ hit.

This is just a day. I thought to myself. Not even “one of those days”, this is just a day that fits my norm right now. Glee, gratitude, grace, love, laughter, concern, worry, frustration, stress, appreciation, exhaustion. They exist independently and concurrently.

And yet, there is no desire to fight this. No pressure to find another way. Because it’s just a day. Just one of the types of my day.

Fall into bed. And sleep.

And beginning again.

For the love I have received

One of my dear friends gifted this beautiful note, a giving key and message. Her thoughts on hope, grace, and strength were so impactful.

Truth be told, this dear friend is one of my mentors. A work colleague I so admire that when leaving my position and people asked what I wanted to do with my Master degree, I said “Be Nadira”. Yes, yes I cannot ‘be’ another person, but that is how much I appreciate this woman.

So to receive a note of hope and love and a reminder to be Fearless, was just deeply touching.

 

Fearless

Fearless

I immediately put on the reminder of fearlessness, knowing this will hang from my neck for quite some time as a reminder of who I was a few months ago, who I am know, and who I will grow to be. And a reminder to do it all not in fear, but in love.

To live without fear…what a sharing of love that I have received.

Grounded in faith

Some moments in life make you rely on your faith, whatever that may be.

One such recent moment was learning  that my FrancisCorps Dad was entering hospice. This man is just one of the best. My heart swells when I think about him and his wife. What a beautiful, kind, and welcoming couple.

While in FrancisCorps, we each were given a “FrancisCorps Family”, a sponsor who also got to serve as mentors and supporters to us. My 4 room-mates more than once, commented on how I had the best one!

I remember multiple occasions when I called M&D, be it when everyone else was away for the wkend, and I was alone in the house; or just needed a refuge from the wonderful intensity of the service year. Every time I saw D, he’d call me “Daughter”, something that was so sweet when you are away from family. M also helped me with my resume and think about what career path I wanted to take. On the Fourth of July, I went with them to their small hometown upstate for a parade and family picnic, just like “one of the family”.

While D and I have at times exchanged emails over the years, it has been a good while now since we corresponded. After receiving word of his condition, the last stages of cancer that he had fought off since before I met him 7 years ago, I picked up the phone to get the word out.

There is no missing the irony here that an incredible man may be called home during the Easter season. He truly is one of the best. Nor does it escape my mind of the parallels going on with my own father. I spoke so highly of D to my Dad and vice versa. There were so many similarities, which is probably part of the reason that I loved spending time with him: he was so much like my own Dad. I know these two men would have been good friends if distance was not the obstacle.

For the past few Easter’s, I have reflected on Resurrection and what it means to me. Yet, again, I am not sure where in my life I need reviving. Maybe it is a movement from seeing death as the end, to part of a beginning. Maybe it is just accepting, despite all the terrible sadness in the current situations, that I have the power to do this- reflect on the amazing moments and witness grace. Maybe it’s stepping fearlessly into the future, even less sure than ever what it holds.

Regardless, I go forth with the memories I have of these great men, and am reminded how lucky I am for knowing them.

 

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

To cry

As long as you can still cry…

A mentor uttered these words recently, reflecting on my current family status of two ill parents. (As many of my readers are dear friends, you know of Dad’s brain tumor and Mom’s long battle with Alzheimer’s). This point on crying struck me. Because, sometimes it felt as if I couldn’t.

Days would come and go- some bad, some good. But between the planning, the urgent needs, the everyday life, the work, and the need for sleep…processing through tears just wasn’t happening.

 

But tonight, the dam broke down. It wasn’t a gut wrenching sob, rather as if a hole punctured a wall. And although we so little think of tears as light, they were. They lifted a burden, even if momentarily, and rays of brightness poked on through.

The cause of this moment… the arrival of multiple cards from friends. Ones of support and love, and reminding me of my inner strength.

Moments later, a cool breeze blew, and wind chimes rang out. A sign of what, I do not know, but a reminder of newness, of cool refreshing moments while in the darkness of night. Springing life after a desolate winter, darkness giving way to dawn.

And in these holy days, a reminder of finding safety and resurrection from depths of despair.

So tonight, finding tears… I gratefully accepted. And love- love that I wish to gratefully share.

 

*** Thank you for all the letters of love and support- how blessed I am.***