05. 05. 14. 10:31 pm

A Life Full of Light

“Oh you’re still young!”  Or so that’s what people tell me when I let them know my age.  Most people actually respond with surprise, “You are not!  I thought you were 22!” 

With 26 approaching in two weeks, I have started compiling a list titled “26 Things To Do While I’m 26.”  I’m one of those people who see my own glass half empty- never able to meet all of the expectations I set for myself.  In my own opinion, I can never be good enough.  I must always be striving for more, to be better.  I can always be a better sister, cousin, daughter, aunt, godmother, niece, goddaughter, Roxy-lover, friend, roommate, writer, teacher, co-worker, and person.  Therefore, I am encouraging myself to reflect upon my short but full life and all of the beauty that surrounds and fills it while promising to make the best of the year to come.

I’ve had pets all of my life.  I have had turtles, a hamster, fish, a rabbit, and dogs (one who was my earliest friend and another who is my best friend).  I grew up around the corner from both sets of my grandparents.  I got to see them every holiday, every birthday, and any day I wanted.  I played outside.   I spent every summer of my life breathing in salt air.  I have parents and siblings who define the meaning of home for me.  Other than a few bumps in the road over the years, I have promising health.  My parents have never told me I couldn’t do something professionally.  They have never held me back, no matter how badly they want me closer to home.  I had the opportunity to receive one of the best high school educations out there.  I am still in touch with teachers who guided me into young adulthood with unwavering support.  I was fortunate enough to serve impoverished youth at the age of 17, which brought my life’s purpose to my own awareness.  I have friends who have grown into family.  I attended a university that had service at its core and I met so many people who continue to inspire me.  I lived with my best friends for four years and have been able to spend every New Year holiday with them since graduating.  These friends have seen me at my worst and loved me through it.  I don’t know how they did it, but I have never met people around whom I felt so loved and accepted, even when I was struggling to love and accept myself.  I got to serve students with mental and emotional disturbances in York, SC.  I rediscovered my passion for social justice in Atlanta, GA and I learned how to love even more deeply in St. Louis, MO.   Florence, Italy was my home for three months.  THE statue of David was my neighbor and my worldview expanded.  I met the family that gave me my grandmother by selflessly allowing her to come to America 68 years ago.  I stood in the house she grew up in, I walked on the steps of the church in which she married, and I set foot on land and set my eyes on sights I had only seen in movies or read about in books.  Italy, France, Ireland, Great Britain, and Spain are not just pins in my world map, they are mentors who have fostered my deep appreciate for the world and travel.  I have run races of distances that once scared me and in conditions which some would deem silly.  I have held 2 babies just hours after they were born.  I get to be auntie and godmother to two of the coolest kids I know.  I see the beauty of the world every day in the eyes of the children with whom I work.  For the past 4 years, I can promise you that every day I have worked with a child (whether he was 16 or 6) I have learned from him and my faith has been restored time and time again by the love and resiliency of a child.  I have a home in a city I have grown to love, surrounded by people who challenge, love, and encourage me.  

At (almost) 26, I have so much for which to be grateful but I’m mostly grateful for the gift of being able to see so much of the light that has filled my life now that the fog has lifted.  I can also promise you that 26 will entail a whole lot of laughter, love, and clapping off beat.  Here’s to another year of dancing through life and learning to enjoy the ride.

03. 04. 14. 10:54 pm

Our Purple & Gold Story

Everyone has a story. If that person was fortunate enough to go to James Madison University, she likely has many great stories. Our story (I say “our” and “we” because this story has 13 main characters) began in 2006.

We are: Annie, Brittany, Casey (moved into our house and hearts in 2009), Emily, Heidi, Rachel (me), Chris (Tish), Christian, Colin, Doug, James (Stud), Jared (Gramps), and Tyler. We come from five different states, some of us are the youngest of our families and some of us are the oldest-none of us are the middle children. We were all placed in Gifford Hall. Most of us applied to live there. One of us (Stud), luckily just got placed there (on the all female floor, may I add), and another (Emily) had leg injury, which subjected her to crutches for her first month of college and needed to be in a dorm that was accessible.

This is, in fact, a true story of 12 strangers, picked to live in a dorm, eat, study and play together. This story also how they grew from college freshmen into a family that spends every New Year together and all of the joy, grief, and growth they’ve shared in between the bookends of the year.
We tailgated every home game together (thanks to Emily’s selfless parents who came and provided us with a BBQ every single game). We took classes together. We spent hours at D-Hall together (we once even ate breakfast, sat and talked for a while, then got up for lunch). We studied together, we went out together, and we celebrated every birthday with a cake, candles, streamers, and sometimes dinner. We moved from Gifford to Logan together (and some to apartments and onto RA positions). Come junior year we had ourselves a little competition to see who could get a nicer off-campus house the fastest in a boys vs. girls battle. We went searching, got our houses and as the universe knew how much we needed to be close to the others, the boys’ house and the girls’ house were only .05 miles away from each other. Close enough for us to begin our traditions of sharing Thanksgiving dinner (the whole shebang-turkey, giving thanks, sides, and deserts) and secret Santa, which kicked off our winter breaks. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we found a bit of ourselves when we found one another. We grieved losses of loved ones together, we nursed one another back to health when one was sick, we weathered broken hearts together, and we always had a cheering section, a safety net, and a place to call home. We faced our demons together, we loved and were loved through some of our most difficult times. Some of us got to travel and study abroad together. We fought, we cuddled, we cried, and boy did we laugh and love. We know and love each friends’ family. And we now have our own.

Since graduation in 2010, we have sent over 4,000 emails, spent the end and the beginning of 4 years together post graduation and celebrated Casey’s and Jared’s beautiful wedding in 2012 (in which all of the guys were the groomsmen and the ladies were respectively a bridesmaid, the wedding singer, and the heartbeat of the dance floor). We have lost people dear to us, we have welcomed nieces and nephews into our lives, we faced terrifying experiences of almost losing fathers (both fathers are now doing miraculously well), and we felt the joy and pain of everyone’s experiences no matter how far away we were. Author Glennon Doyle Melton describes life as bruitiful (meaning it is both beautiful and brutal), I couldn’t describe it better myself. I have yet to find a better way to experience the brutal and the beautiful than with the best people I know: the ones that make the brutal times feel safe and the beautiful times miraculous.

We are currently all over the country (and even the world when Heidi is deployed with the Navy). We inhabit New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, California, Washington state, Louisiana, and Washington, DC. However, no matter how far away we live from one another, we have yet to sacrifice a New Year reunion. We’ve celebrated in Boston, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, Long Island, and Lewes Delaware.

Everyone has a story. If that person was fortunate enough to go to James Madison University, she likely has many great stories.

From our story was born a family. I’d usually say it can’t get much better than this, but with a family like ours, it gets better every day.

11. 09. 13. 02:33 pm

the lucky one

I find myself thinking in my unoccupied moments (driving in the car, taking a shower, walking the halls at school) about how thankful I am that my dad is still here with us.

It’s been almost 8 months since we almost lost our favorite guy.  I caught some tears sneaking out of my eyes a few days ago because in a fleeting moment I was thinking and really trying to find an answer to the question, “what if he wasn’t here?”.  

I don’t know why our family got so lucky.  I hear and read stories from friends and strangers alike who are left with a sudden void when someone they love is taken from them.  My heart sinks when I try to imagine their pain.  Why are they presented with such hardships?  Why must they fight out life with one less member of their personal army?

I have no answers to such questions.  But I do know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I get to see my dad get stronger every day.  I got to see my dad flirt with death and come back to us.  I got to hold my dads hand, be beside him, and love him in what looked like his final hours.  I faced my biggest fear of losing a parent.  I collapsed into a pile of tears on my living room floor of my childhood home that is not home without my family.  I was reminded of just how fragile and precious this life is.

 And 8 months later, I’m reminded every day of just how lucky I am to be able to love and enjoy him while we are both still on this earth.  I get to hear his voice and feel his warm hugs.  I get to make him shake his head at something I say and I get to go for a 3 mile walk with him and discuss the economy, politics, and social injustice.  I get to watch him as he showers my nephew with adoration and stick by my mom’s side faithfully.  I get to still imagine him meeting my future husband and children.  I get to see him attempt to beat up my 33-year old brother and watch the Iggles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers with him.  

I still have him and I am so incredibly thankful for the doctors who gave their overtime, their skill, and their hearts to keep my dad’s beating.  

07. 25. 13. 04:36 pm
07. 25. 13. 04:27 pm

Favorite shots from abroad.

04. 15. 14. 07:24 pm

Boston One Year Stronger

I am a Philly girl by nature and by nurture.  If you know me, you know that Philly and I have a love/hate relationship.  I can talk all the smack I want about my home city, but you may not say an insulting word.  I love that Philly is home to my childhood and my family.  I love that I will never be anything but a Philadelphia sports’ fan.  I love that my family lives within walking distance of my house and that holidays consist of walking around from house to house after some wine, constant mocking of cousins, and lots of loud laughing and talking (yep, you’re surprised I’m sure).

I also love that Boston is home to my adulthood.  As I drove into work today and listened to the radio and the retelling of what happened in this city I have grown to call home as well, my eyes brimmed with tears.  A year ago today, I was waiting to board a flight to visit my brother and cousins in California.  My brother and I were running our second relay race down the coast of Southern California.  I saw a man in a marathon jacket awaiting the flight raise his head when a fellow passenger in the terminal mentioned a post he saw on Facebook.  “There was some sort of explosion at the finish line.”  That was all we knew for a while.  More runners got to the airport and more and more passengers gathered around the one working TV in the terminal.  My phone received so many messages from loved ones checking on my safety.  My phone also sent out many calls and texts to my friends who I knew were are the marathon.  I am one of the lucky ones.  All of my friends are safe. 


Once I got to my brother’s house I was obsessed with fear, curiosity, and sadness.  On the day of the first leg of our relay race, I had to physically pull myself away from the TV where I sat glued to the news for three hours.  I decided that this run was for Boston.  This Ragnar Relay was for all of the people who had one of the most joyous accomplishments of their lives stolen from them.  I ran for Boston.  It was a small way for me to pay my respect to a city and its people who I now call home to my adult life.

I am proud to be a Boston implant.  I am proud to be in a place that has helped me refine my passion for my calling in life.  I have found friends who have impacted me so positively and colleagues who inspire me to be better every day.  I am grateful every day to be Ms. Lafferty (or Laffy) to some of the most resilient, intelligent, and warm-hearted children in the city. 

My heart is aching for all of those who have lost a year ago today.  Boston is one year stronger today. 

03. 03. 14. 09:12 pm

BUT. There is beauty to be found in the pain. Life is brutal, but it’s also beautiful. Life is Brutiful. So I look hard for the beauty. I try not to drown out my fear voice, which wants me to run away from the pain, and listen instead to my love voice…and who is asking me to run towards it. To allow my heart to be broken open, because a broken heart is both a badge of honor and the most powerful tool on earth.

That love voice- she’ll help you find treasure. But she’ll guide you right into the minefields first.

So that’s why I write-to find treasures in the suffering. And as I write, my memories change ever so slightly. Reality and writing work together to create my memories, and their final result is that I remember events more beautifully than they actually happened. Or maybe, in writing them down, I’m able to see for the first time how beautiful they really were.

-Carry On, Warrior
08. 11. 13. 09:02 pm

March 18, 2009

When everyone is facing forward and watching the sun sink below the horizon, I like to peek to the sides and behind me to see how the hue settles on the outskirts of the scene.  Just a delicate net covering the world.  Maybe it’s the universe’s way of letting us know we are protected throughout the night.

I am seeing the world, and myself in its/my purest form.  I am seeing things I never thought I’d be able to see, going places I never imagined I would set my own two feet, feeling things I never wanted to feel again, and feeling moments of happiness and freedom which I never thought my depression would allow.  I am overlooking the city of Florence with the realization that in a few weeks, this entire experience will be a memory upon which I rely for laughter, lessons, a sense of independence, and fond memories of people who have brought joy into my life.  

-Written in my journal from the spring semester of my junior year at JMU studying in Florence, Italy.  (Written from the Palazzo Michelangelo)

07. 25. 13. 04:32 pm

some more favorites.

07. 25. 13. 04:14 pm ♥ 261

(Source: thegreyconcept)

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