December 28, 2010

The search is over.

I apologize for not sharing music in quite some time, but this will make up for it. I have found the only sound you ever really need to hear for the rest of your life. Truly.

The Civil Wars are the duet of Joy Williams (contemporary Christian artist from about 10 years ago, anyone?) and Alabama native John Paul White. Their first full-length album called "Barton Hollow" is due out in February, but the EP and free Christmas downloads have left my falling off the edge of my seat in anticipation.

Their songs are so raw, with no superfluous instruments used - usually just one piano or one guitar - and the lyrics are quite literally haunting. Their harmonies are stunning only made better by the unique tonality of their voices.

Their biggest song "Poison & Wine" appeared on an episode of Grey's Anatomy and Taylor Swift called them "exquisite." Can't argue with that.

Listen to Poison & Wine and Barton Hollow please, and then explore from there. You absolutely will not regret it.



PS: My awesome bro Tony also got us tickets to see these guys in February for Christmas - on top of the other special and generous gifts he gave me. Whatta guy. He always spoils me so.

PPS: Johnny Depp much?

December 26, 2010

Nice and squally.

Well, Christmas came and went and nobody in my household shot their eye out. I'd say that's a big victory.

Although there was a close call when one of my brothers got his four-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter each their own set of bow and arrows. Where was the fatherly wisdom in that purchase? Scary... I never thought I'd have to use the sentence, "Don't shoot the arrow in the house!" But when directed at Ty, I shouldn't be too surprised.

Anyway, we started the day with an advent reading about when love came down in the form of an innocent and helpless baby, and then I played the song "Love Came Down at Christmas" by Jars of Clay. I have never been an huge fan of theirs, but the Christmas album is absolutely amazing (thank you William). It was a great way to give our minds the proper focus on the day. And of course, all of this was done with tea and Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns. Every year, without fail.

I had some interesting sentiments throughout the day that I was quite content with - I'm growing up. As you get older, the number of presents gets smaller; it's just inevitable. But what I experienced was that I absolutely loved every gift that I received yesterday. For me, it's not about buying for the sake of buying. That's not my love language anyway (familiar with this concept?). But so much thought, care and personality came through in each gift.

I could fit all of my gifts into one 8x12" gift bag and that's the way I want it these days. I don't want to acquire "stuff," I want practical things that I either need or make perfect sense to give someone like me. Like the bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio from my brother Tony: Do I need that bottle of wine? Of course not. But it was so thoughtful that he got it for me because he knows I prefer white wine, have been to Australia, and would always choose the kind with an orange and yellow kangaroo on the bottle - obviously. And it went well with the bottle opener/corkscrew and organic vegetarian cookbook he got me. One thing I had specifically asked for, and another that I was so surprised and excited about that I spent the next 2 hours reading it from cover to cover.

Then later when the nieces and nephews joined us, my stomach turned as I watched the piles of useless stuff build on the floor. It was literally stressing me out. I don't want it to be that way with my children. Do kids just inherently expect that, or is there a way to raise them so they don't want that kind of debris? It seemed as though it was never ending! I will accept any advice from parents on how to raise kids in a fashion that is not this way (no offense to my family members).

But besides my miserly thoughts, the day was exceptional. The nieces were especially snuggly and we all enjoyed each other's company in our cozy home.

And with that, the snow came tumbling down. Call me a skeptic, but I always think that the weather folks build up these enormous storms and then I'm disappointed with some meager dusting. Well, I suppose we'll have to wait and see. It finally started up here in Haverhill and the wind is blowing like mad. Good thing I just bought yarn to use with my new crocheting needles. Time to enjoy the lock in and ride it out.

Happy blizzard everyone!

December 17, 2010

The end of an era.

It's true: my time as a college student is officially over.

But what does that even mean?! Today is the first day that I have been able to wake up and do... nothing. The past two days, I soaked up my last hours as a college student by working at 7:45AM, so sleeping until 10:30 this morning was such a foreign concept.

So then I made tea, read a J Crew catalog, and said bye to one roommate who's heading back to Virginia for Christmas. Where does that leave me? On the couch in my pajamas at noon looking up recipes before I go grocery shopping later. Awesome.

I know that over the next few weeks I'm going to be grappling with some pretty serious, "Who am I without Gordon College?!" questions, but I know that this is an exciting time of transition. I'm still me, but just with more time to actually be me. Any advice on how to handle the transition out of something that defined you for three and a half years?

In other news, tonight we're having a rockin' party to ring in the season in the only way we know how: with a Red Ryder BB Gun and a hearty cup of Ovaltine.

That's right folks, Christine and I have invited seven friends over for snacks, warm beverages and a little of this action...


Be jealous.

November 24, 2010

Give more than just thanks.

With this holiday season upon us, let's give thanks for everything in our lives and then expand to think outside of our immediate spheres. Here's an amazing, inspiring video that challenges and prompts a radical change in lifestyle. 

I'm game, are you?

video


November 18, 2010

The Final Hurrah

Here I am, finding myself in the home stretch! I only have 4 weeks left as a student and only 5 more days left of actual classes! Hallelujah. I never knew this day would come.

If you're interested, here's info on the number one thing that's been consuming my life lately... 
my senior thesis project! 

As a part of this project, I've planned a three-night series of events with times of worship and student speakers. With the help from the most wonderful friends, we've designed a logo, flyers, posters, created an interactive blog for students, filmed a promotional video, pieced together a band for each evening, gathered 6 students to share, and it all begins TONIGHT! I'm also going to be interviewed by Gordon's student newspaper, The Tartan, tomorrow for an article about the event, the inspiration and the planning process.

Please view the blog to get the full taste of everything we've been up to! This is the culmination of my college career, so check it out!



View the blog, the mission statement, the schedule and the video here!

November 12, 2010

Because I live by the sea...

I should invest in a fitting and appropriate light fixture such as this...


It's from Anthropologie (just like the item featured in my last "awaken" post), and I think it's so great. Tony has a buoy lamp that we scored yard-saling that would compliment this piece wonderfully.

It also makes me want to listen to this song, which I just put on now since it's fresh on the brain: The Wailin' Jennys - Saucy Sailor

The Wailin' Jennys will be feautured in a future "tune in" post, so be on the look out for that. They're good fun.

November 8, 2010

Recent Favorites.

Here are some photos from the past few weeks that have quickly made it to the top favorites...

Will & Cas
Grove City Visit
photos by: Kate O'Donnell





Nieces & Nephews
Topsfield Fair





Nieces & Nephews
Playing in the Leaves


Ashley & Cas
Haverhill, MA




November 4, 2010

If only.

It's Mental Health Week at Gordon -- a time filled with speakers, film discussions, Q&A panels with professors, and students sharing their hurts. When I think of Mental Health Week, it looks a lot less like this...



And sounds a lot more like this:

8:30AM: Wake up, go to the gym & work out for an hour or more.
9:30AM: Cook and eat a large, delicious breakfast that isn't rushed at all.
10:15AM: Shower and spend time fixing these rebellious dread locks.
10:45AM: Have a good, long quiet time.
11:45AM: Paint nails.
12:00PM: Meet up with friends for a delightful lunch.
1PM on: Go for walks on crunchy leaves, have down time with Will, catch up with the roommate I miss, call the friends who are far away, read for pleasure, practice my guitar, hang out with my mom.
10:30PM: Bed.

There's your Mental Health Week.

However, I will admit that when I got home this evening, I treated myself to a much needed halt of all things school-related. I was home alone (which never happens) so I made soup and a sandwich, and watched When Harry Met Sally with a glass of wine. That's right. Will I fall behind on everything else? Probably. But I deserved that.

October 27, 2010

An unwanted hiatus.

I'm displeased at how long it has been since I've blogged. However, many of you might not know that I only have

SIX WEEKS LEFT as a college student!

I love Gordon College dearly, but I'm thrilled that I'll be a December grad! With this though, my semester has been completely overloaded with things like...

a Senior Thesis Project, interning as the Communications gal in the Chapel Office, still working a bit in the technology department, catering at Willowdale Estate from time to time, learning how to belay at the ropes course and set up rock climbs (and hopefully get certified soon!), mentoring an amazing girl through Gordon's IRON mentoring program, helping to start an Outdoor Adventure Club at Hamilton Wenham High School, editing the Vox Populi (a student publication) and planning an activities curriculum for a group of homeschoolers ages 4-6! 

Oh boy.

Let the record show that I have no intentions of my life looking like this once I'm out of school. I do desire a simple life and I will assert control over my schedule to find leisure... in six weeks.

Things of note lately:
  • The Topsfield Fair was an absolute blast! I was there with my parents, Tony, Paul, Desiree & the kids, and Will, and we had a fabulous evening! Definitely a favorite autumn past time.
  • Will and I also enjoyed a glorious quad break in PA! We spent (not enough) time with his parents outside Philadelphia, and then headed west to visit the lovely Katherine O'Donnell, new Resident Director at Grove City! It was so good to see those folks and we wouldn't change a thing about our time there.
  • Even if our time there was directly connected to the all-nighter that we both pulled upon our return trying to finish a project. First all-nighter of my college career, actually. Not the best of times.
I suppose that's all for now. Only 49 days and I'm outta here. The countdown is on.

Now I need to go update my resume and do more job-hunting!

October 11, 2010

October 6, 2010

In the spirit of simplifying.

This seems to be a hot topic in my life as of lately.

Whether it be because my days as a student as numbered, expenses are mounting, or because a certain loved one is immensely passionate about the subject, the facts remain the same: simplifying your lifestyle is healthy for your mind, restful for your body, compassionate for the world, and gentler on your wallet.

Wondering how? Here are some small and applicable things we can all do to consolidate and move forward into a life of simplicity. Be sure to read the comments on this article too, because many readers contributed their helpful tips!

September 30, 2010

Do it for Massachusetts.


Friends, family, and readers of the like,
As a member of The Sierra Club, I just took action to tell Dominion Energy CEO, Tom Farrell to move beyond coal and start a clean energy revolution in Massachusetts.  As Massachusetts residents, whether temporary or permanent, I think it would be a nice thing for you to do too. Follow the link below and personalize the message to help bring Massachusetts into a greener, cleaner, healthier age for us and our future offspring.
Support the cause here!

Thanks!


September 29, 2010

Singin' a different tune.

And by that, I mean that you should start singin' these tunes. I'm also going to start tagging posts with "music" for music that I think not enough of my peers know about. There is no better place to start than with...

City and Colour


Canadian folk artist Dallas Green (Get it? A city and a color... what quick wit.) records under the name City and Colour and his music is undoubtedly in my top favorites. His first album called Sometimes was released in 2005 but re-released in 2009, and his second album called Bring Me Your Love was released in 2008. 

His sound is folk/acoustic, and very melodic and catchy. Songs like "The Girl" and "Save Your Scissors" will be stuck in your head all day, while songs like "Comin' Home" and "Constant Knot" are like a sweet serenade.

Please check him out. You won't be disappointed.

September 27, 2010

Inspired

I feel a desire or inspiration to create
                                         to act
                                         to go
                                         to do
                                         to be.

So here's my first little thought along these lines:

When I was in Australia, I went to the Paddington Markets twice. About a 15 minute bus ride from Sydney, the sidewalk and church courtyard was filled with artisans selling their goods every Saturday. Intricate jewelry, stunning photography, unique textiles, and jaw-dropping paintings are some of the things that you'd see meandering through the crowds and tables.

But my favorite was the pottery. Every time I go to an artisan sale or even a yard sale, I'm enamored by the pottery and ache to come home with something. Just last week I brought two matching mugs home from a yard sale because they were so cute and unique. My roommates say, "If you bring one more mug into this house, so help me..." But I can't resist. At the Wenham Artisan Fair a few weeks back, I exclaimed to my brother Tony, "I just need to be a potter! Then my problems will be solved!" A bit dramatic, I know, but it's the art form that captivates me the most.

In Paddington, there was an artisan who did screen printing on porcelain and it rocked my world. It opened a whole new door to this intriguing sphere of pottery! I couldn't find a photo of it on the Paddington Markets site, but here's a picture of the same things from Anthrpologie.



The Australian woman also made bowls, cups, saucers, mugs, platters and more! They were wonderful and awakened a desire in me to learn about porcelain screen printing. So adorable, right?

September 25, 2010

Resolve.

I'm resolving to blog more regularly.

There it is. I said it.

And a new chic look is just the thing to inspire me.

September 8, 2010

Interrupted by Love.

I know that I haven't written in a month (gasp!) and I wasn't planning on doing it this way. I was planning on writing a legitimate entry about my life updates, God's changes in my plans, and more humbling stories of things I've learned. Trust me, this is all still to come, but I've been interrupted by such a great love.

I slept in until 9AM this morning, comforted by the sounds of my roommate getting ready for the day and the steady falling rain. It was grand. Then I sat in the living room of my ocean-side home (yes, life is good - photos to come) with a cup of raspberry tea, my iPod, my new journal and Jesus. A dear friend gave me a book entitled God Calling and what a gem it is! Every day, I'm able to hear God speak to me in a tangible way and here's what he said today:

"When supply seems to have failed, you must know that it has not done so. But you must, at the same time, look around to see what you can give away. Give away something.

There is always a stagnation, a blockage, when supply seems short. Your giving clears that away, and lets the Spirit of My Supply flow clear.

A consciousness of My Presence as Love makes all life different. The consciousness of Me means the opening of your whole nature to Me, and that brings relief. Relief brings Peace. Peace brings joy. The "Peace that passes all understanding" and the "Joy that no man can take from you."

Beyond all words is My Love and Care for you. Be sure of it. Rejoice in it. Walk in My Love. These words mean much. There is a joy, a spring, a gladness in those who walk in My Love. That walk becomes a glad conquering and triumphant march. So walk."

Wow. Amazing. Isn't that what everybody wants? Don't we want to confidently walk in a love that will never fail us? So frequently we try to walk in the love of other people, but this is the only love that we can really be sure of. I certainly want the love I walk in to bring relief, peace, joy and care. I want to conquer and march triumphantly. These words from God were just so great today!

So as I didn't plan on blogging this morning, there it is. I planned on having bacon, eggs, and some of my roommate's delicious banana bread, showering and heading to school. But instead, I was interrupted by such an extraordinary love.


So walk.


Photo credit: Lyndsay Harwood, New Zealand.

August 9, 2010

Confession.

I've never read "To Kill a Mockingbird."

For some reason, I was never assigned to read it in school like everyone else, but evidently I'm missing out on the best book of all time. I have every intention of reading it, but I've struggled a bit this summer. It starts out a bit slow and I've been so unbelievably busy. The truth is, I renewed it from the library three times and never made it past chapter two.

So I hate to admit it, but I finally returned it to the library last week, admitting defeat. It was going to be a bit embarrassing to renew it for the fourth time - from the same library front desk clerk.

Which means that I've moved on to a different book that was on my list! This one belongs to a friend so I won't be ashamed for holding on to it for a while. But also, my life has slowed down a considerable amount, so I've found some time just to chill and read for pleasure. It's been just lovely.

I'm reading "The Secret Life of Bees" now and I've been really enjoying it, so I'll let you know what I think when it's done!

August 1, 2010

Quick updates & Humbling realizations.

All things considered, this summer has been... well, not great. I don't want to go on a whiny tirade about it, but I've been having trouble having joy amidst trying circumstances. However, I can shine light on these updates.

- Time with Tyson and Dayna Fischer was absolutely wonderful. I feel so blessed that they went so drastically out of their way during their visit to Pennsylvania to rent a car and come to Massachusetts for four whole days. It was a blast getting to spend more time with them and introducing them to my family and friends. I truly feel spoiled. What great friends I have in these Aussies :) I miss them terribly. Hopefully I'll see them again very soon.

- I just got back from spending the weekend in Connecticut with my dear friend Anya! She was my best friend at Gordon, but then she unfortunately transferred after our sophomore year to Western Connecticut State. I understand her choice, but I miss her dreadfully. Still best friends though! The weekend was so restful and pleasant, and I can't wait to see her again in less than one month!

- The hair is dreaded. I love it but no, I won't be posting pictures. They need time to form into their mature state - then I'll post pictures. It'll probably be mid-September. Until then, they're just kind of a handful and require constant upkeep.

- John Mayer, see you in four short days, darling.

Those things are the bright side. I keep trying to dwell on the bright side because other things are driving me up the wall. But today at Anya's church, the pastor's message was convicting and then I also read this little tidbit from my friend Oswald Chambers...

“Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34 ). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual fits of emotion to “wait patiently for Him”? ( Psalm 37:7  ). Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told. These are some of the facets of His ways that we rarely recognize."

Ugh. Fine. I'm annoyed - extremely annoyed - but I'll wait. I just feel like I can't catch a break this summer. I'm trying so hard to stay positive and remain faithful, but I'm running out of "bright sides," or so it feels. I'm confused as to why I'm being forced to withstand hit after hit, but I'll try to suck it up and take it.

 I definitely feel like I can't see one inch in front of me (even more so lately!) but does that mean that I shouldn't wait patiently? No. Does that mean that God doesn't have a master plan? No. But do I feel like I'm being told to do something? No! If God was telling me to do something, I'd do it, but I'm not being told; I'm just being thrown around like a leaf in the wind. I want stability in my life and with the absence of that, I'm growing impatient.

I'm not recognizing "the facets of His ways" right now, but I guess I'm not always entitled to that am I? I will continue trying very hard to seek peace and be patient.

July 11, 2010

Things bringing joy...

When life's worries and stresses get you down, it's always good to turn all of your focus to the things that simply bring you joy. So here goes:

1. My new temporary summer home: The beautiful Rockport, Massachusetts. It's closer to my jobs and I get to live with two wonderful women, Joanie & Taylor Wendt, who lovingly took me in. Until I move to the equally stunning Magnolia, MA in five or six weeks, I'll dwell here. Oh, and my best friend and I got to enjoy a gorgeous Sunday afternoon walk and take in a little of this action...


2. When friends seem close even though they're quite far. Like this one. She's such a valuable, talented, hilarious friend and I'm so frequently reminded that we are of one mind. I'm so glad she entered my life almost two years ago :)

3. When friends who actually live extremely far away come to visit. I am ecstatic to be joined by two of my favorite Aussies this Friday! I'm beside myself with all of this excitement. Tyson and Dayna Fischer, I hope Nat and I can show you a good New England time!

4. I get to visit Anya Haig in Connecticut soon! We will celebrate her birthday which is steadily approaching, get drinks, and see a Katie Herzig concert. All will be right with the world.

5. I will soon accompany a Californian to her first Red Sox game. Caitlin, it'll be grand and we should finalize a date soon!

6. My hair will soon be dreaded. Ain't no pahty like a dreadlock pahty! My friends and I will be embarking on this 4-5 hour long (hopefully) adventure in about two weeks. Say what you will, but it's happening and I can't wait. I've done basically everything else a woman can possibly do with her hair, so why not? It'll be fun! So as Kenny Chesney says, "I'll wear a Red Sox cap to hide my baby dreads" and dig my toes deeper into the sand.

7. I will soon be spending some quality John Mayer time. August 6th, he and I have a date. Thousands of other people may or may not be there as well, but we'll do what we can to sneak some alone time. Can't wait, Johnny. It's been a while.

8. Donald Miller's blog. It's always so great, but lately he's given the reigns over to his dog. It's quite funny and I think that man can write whatever he wants. He's brilliant and I aspire to write like him.

And finally,

9. The unknown is still kind of exciting. I tend to hate the unknown. Ask anyone. I'm so planned, so calculated, and spontaneous wouldn't normally be a word to describe me. Blessing or a curse, you decide, but I'm trying to learn to roll with the punches more. I feel as though I'm being punched a lot lately. Well summer "vacation", in your face. You're turning into quite a series of unexpected surprises, but I'll still have joy. And senior year? We'll deal with you in time. You're not off the hook yet - I'm onto you. I'm already being thrown for an interesting loop and you haven't even started yet. We'll see where this takes me because I can now honestly say that I have no idea what's in store. But bring it.

More on that to come. In the meantime, I'll aim to have joy that's deep, unshakable and rooted in the knowledge that in the end, I'll be just fine.

June 23, 2010

Priorities, Meaning & Simplicity.

The other day, I was utterly flabbergasted by something I heard on the radio. There was an annoying Giant Glass commercial on 98.5 Boston Sports Hub, so I think I flipped it to Kiss 108 and heard something dreadful.


When I heard these lyrics, I literally yelled out in disgust:

"I wanna be a billionaire so f***ing bad,
buy all of the things I never had.
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine,
smiling next to Oprah and the Queen.
Oh everytime I close my eyes,
I see my name in shining lights.
Yeah a different city every night, oh I swear the world better prepare
for when I'm a billionaire."

Now wait a minute. I don't typically listen to music on the radio unless it's Country 102.5, so seriously? Is this for real?

Above anything else, this made me sad. This is what the world has come to. People are so discontent with the reality of their own lives that they wish for money, hoping and assuming that being a billionaire will make everything better.

And how incredibly selfish and vain! I want to buy all of the things I never had, I want to be on the cover of a major magazine next to my new pal O (because we're equally wealthy), and all I think about is what the world will be like when people basically worship the ground I walk on. This is almost deplorable. I'll travel everywhere and people will fawn over me. And the world better get ready -- For what? For your massive ego to explode?

The song goes on to explain how he (Travie McCoy) would buy his wishlist, have a show like Oprah, adopt tons of kids like Brad and Angelina, play basketball with President Obama, have his own theme music, and also he put down FEMA for not doing enough about Hurricane Katrina. And he would also be frivolously throwing a few million in the air and single-handedly solve our recession. Awesome. What a guy.

Some might think I'm being too critical and this is just the way pop culture is now, but I have a different idea in mind. Here are some lyrics to one of my favorite songs by the incredible folk duo The Weepies, with an entirely different message being conveyed...

"When I get up in the morning, put the kettle on
Make us some coffee, say 'hey' to the sun.
Is it enough to write a song, and sing it to the birds?
They'd hear just the tune, not understand my love for words.

But you would hear me and know,
That I want to live this,
I want to live,
I want to live a simple life.

I dreamed you first, but not so real,
And every day since I found you, such moments we steal.
Like little fields, we rub our hands,
And hold our hearts between them...

... Move on, move on, time is accelerating.
Drive on, all night, traffic lights and one ways.
Move on, move on parking violations waiting.
Turn off the car, breathe the air, let's stay here.

I'll kiss you awake, and we'll have time,
To know our neighbors all by name, and every star at night.
We'll weave our days together like waves, and particles of light.

I want to live this,
I want to live,
I want to live a simple life."

Here's the difference, and I resonate with this so much more.
- I want to wake up and make tea or coffee.
- I want to greet God's beautiful creation.
- I want to sing for joy.
- I want to be with someone I'm madly in love with and have dreamed about all my life.
- I want to enjoy little, innocent moments with that person, and all those important to me.
- Time will pass on like normal, but I want to make note of the little things along the way.
- I want to have a peace that allows me to say, "let's stay here," not constantly desiring change.
- I want to invest in a community where I know all of my neighbors.
- I want my days to be intertwined with those around me.
- I want to live a simple life.

Travie McCoy and pop culture, please be content with a simple life. Money can't buy happiness, and the old adage is true -- the best things in life are free. There is beauty all around in the littlest things and you're going to miss it if your mind is only focused on the green.

That's all. I think I'm done ranting for now...

June 18, 2010

A Necessary Amendment

The main goal of this post is to right a wrong. When I posted almost a month ago (wow) I left out some very important people. However, it was simply because I didn't have the photos of them that I was coveting!

Since then, I have raided my mom's laptop and the photos that I had been lacking are now in my possession. Therefore, a special shout-out goes to my step-dad Paul, who I missed terribly while I was away. He was an amazing support while I was gone and I knew that he had me constantly covered in prayer. He would send me short, ridiculously funny little emails and heart-felt cards of love and encouragement.


And the beautiful young lady he's sitting with is my youngest niece, Ella. This girl sprouted up like a weed while I was away and now she's walking like such a little woman! It's been amazing spending time with her again and helping her to re-learn who Auntie Cassie is.

Now for these wild animals...


This could quite possibly be one of my favorite photos. Two brother-sister pairs, and I don't feel that it's necessary for me to explain which two go together.

Peyton is now two and she's a woman with a serious attitude. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. Always quick to let out a hearty chuckle (as opposed to a girly giggle like her little sister Ella), Peyton is kind of like being hit by a truck. This chick is a whirlwind who always keeps me laughing and I'm so glad to be around her again.

Ty is almost four and he is all man. Going a mile a minute, he always wants to either tackle things, climb things or jump on them. Just like his father, he's probably the most wild and I don't know if I always have enough energy to entertain this guy. Just like his dear old dad.

Zach is five and is the biggest goofball in my life. Since I've been gone, he's started playing T-ball and has moved into his new house with his sisters and parents, which he loves. He is my special little mate and we're going to plan an Auntie/Zacky date time very soon, where we might watch Toy Story 3 in 3D, go exploring in the woods and brush up on his Spanish skills.

Julianna is seven and is now the inhabitant of my old bedroom! I think she likes that some of Auntie's things are still around and we get to share a space. She's in the 2nd grade and she's always singing! She's quite creative, artistic and has a beautiful voice. Her dad has been giving her John Mayer cds, which I think is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, that's the fam! They weren't skipped because they were loved or missed any less, it was because I had these very specific photos in mind! Thanks for letting me brag on them for a while. They're simply the greatest.

May 23, 2010

Home is good.

I enjoy being here.
I'm still learning and processing through a lot of things,
            but I'm so glad to be back around these parts.

I do miss Australia. I miss seeing a few of the same familiar faces everyday.
        I miss the warmth. I miss surfing. I miss the Fischers & Jorgensens.

But home is where the heart is, and these are the ones who have mine.



What on earth was I doing without them for so long?


I know I said I'd be keeping up the blog when I got home, but life is crazy back here! And not with fun adventures. I'm currently in a Geology class from 9-12:30 everyday (longer on some Thursdays and Fridays for lab), then I work from 1:30-4:30, then I head straight home to Haverhill three nights a week for an Interpersonal Communications class 6-9:30! What was I thinking? This was a very bad choice. 

But that's okay -- only three weeks left and then my life should be fun again.

Despite the madness, I still love home, Gordon & the North Shore.


"It took leavin' for me to understand... home is where the heart is." - Lady Antebellum

April 27, 2010

The End.

We leave for the airport in a few minutes. It’s so difficult to wrap my mind around, because I’m feeling so many different emotions. They warned me this would happen, and I thought I was above it. Yeah, right. There are so many things to say and so many lessons learned. Here are some points of interest, all of which have their own story to tell…

  • No matter how far you travel, you can’t run away from matters of the heart.
  • “I have found the answer is to love You and be loved by You alone.” - Shane & Shane
  • Living the gospel, like, really living it, is attractive to the world. If you do so, people will take notice.
  • Your life is telling a story.
  • Seek to be knowledgeable about things that are foreign to you - don’t be ignorant.
  • The internet can grow to become an idol so easily. Fast from it whenever you can - life goes on.
  • After a certain amount of time, even the most romantic and exotic of places become just places.
  • Earthly beauty is a relative concept.
  • Jellyfish suck.
  • You are only responsible for your own attitudes and actions.
  • Everyone is searching for something.
  • Americans have accents, and apparently people around the world seem to like them.
  • There is grace and it’s so mind-blowing. His is sufficient.
  • The easy way out pales in comparison to the hard way - take the road less traveled.
  • Being a nomad or a vagabond is not romantic, it’s lonely. Roots are good.
  • Pine-scented candles are superb.
  • When you don’t have your friends, your family, your job, your responsibilities - who are you? You are you. And who is that, really? It’s not always what you expect, and it’s not always pretty.
  • Heaps of free time does not always help you prioritize. Take responsibility for your life.
  • I don’t think I’ve seen one person every single day of my life since I was about 5 years old. Now I have and I feel like we’re married. Love you Natty, couldn’t have done it without you, mate.
  • A fresh start can occur anytime, anywhere.
  • Family can be a relative concept.
  • I want to live simply.
  • Bugs at home are wimpy.
The time passed so quickly. It wasn’t what I expected in so many ways, but what a blessing this trip has been. I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t wait to share my stories with you all and reconnect in the northern hemisphere. Thanks for reading, for praying, for commenting, emailing, writing and even calling! I have really appreciated your support through all of the ups and downs. I’ll probably keep blogging as I adjust to life back home and unpack more of the things God’s been teaching me. I’d love for you to keep reading, but my ordinary life might not be as exciting as these past four months, so bear with me! Please pray for our safety, and I’ll see you in a few hours! Until then, cheers.

April 22, 2010

Sianara, Gold Coast.

We're done with classes.
We're done with finals.
We've said "bye" to Bond Uni.
And we're back in Sydney...

I'm pretty sure I'm content with all of that.

Sure, I'll miss the new best friends I've made, but I have faith in our global communication skills. We'll be just fine. My emotions are all over the map though as our days are numbered. We'll be flying back to the States in just 5 days. Where on earth has the time gone? There's so much to process through about these last 4 months, and hopefully my time in Sydney (and those ridiculously long flights) will allow for some good down time to clear the head.

Be praying for our adjustments. We're just realizing now that it will be an adjustment. We thought we were ready to go home, but this is really the end of an era.

I'm reading a fantastic book about living your life, examining it, and analyzing the story that your life is telling. Here's a challenging excerpt:

“I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is
because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don’t want to be
characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage.
And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants” (59).

Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years


I want to acknowledge the brilliance of life.
I want to accept responsibility.
I want to move, breathe and be courageous.
I want to be the protagonist in my story, the hero.
I want to be a grateful participant.

Hopefully my experiences here will grant me the necessary perspective for carrying on with my story back home. This is a chapter of my story - a new, bright color in my "technicolor life." God is working and this chapter is key. Pray that I will be willing and that I will be grateful to carry on with whatever comes next.

See you in a matter of days,

Cas

April 13, 2010

Waking Up

For Easter, Nat and I spent time in Sydney with some friends of mine and had the most delightful time. I think the only way to really convey how I feel about Sydney would be to type out one of my journal entries from our stay.

“April 2, 2010

I feel as though for the past month or so, I’ve been asleep. Things on the Gold Coast have run their course, and I’m no longer enraptured with it’s beauty or with the guaranteed daily warmth of the sun. I’ve been sleeping, just trudging along through my days with nothing unexpected happening or change to look forward to. It’s just blasé now.

It’s engaging, it’s bewitching, and I can’t describe it - but something about Sydney has woken me up. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a new place so the prospect of adventure hangs in the air, but this city is amazing. Nat and I both can’t believe the way Sydney has breathed life back into us. We feel transformed and it’s like we’re home. We’ve been here for just barely 24 hours and this place feels like home FAR more than the Gold Coast ever did in 3 months of being there.

I’m not sure what to attribute it to either - the weather down here is beautiful - so much cooler with a breeze that feels like New England Fall. The sun is also so warm still, but it’s not muggy. And the leaves are actually turning, falling, and blowing all around! It’s glorious. Australia, I didn’t think you had it in ya :)

But it could also be the houses. On the Gold Coast, everything is so modern, trying so hard to look cool so they’re not tasteful at all. One might look at a house or a building and say, “My, that’s unique,” but you would never be moved deep in your soul to say, “I must live here.” Down in the Sydney area, we’ve seen it all. We’ve seen the more modern styles, but we’ve also seen ranches, mansions, apartments and my favorite, the terrace house. We’re staying in a terrace house which is so fabulously home-y. There are sunflowers on the table, stone and hardwood flooring, stone backdrops in the kitchen, and big couches where I sit listening to the world’s best selection on the stereo next to me.

I initially wandered in with my green tea (in a darling Grandma-like mug with poppies on it) because I was drawn to the quiet sounds of Frank Sinatra (or something that sounded jazzy/big band-ish). So I sit here journalling with my tea and that CD just ended. I was a bit nervous as to what the 6 CD changer would grace my ears with next, but no worries. If possible, it’s actually better than its predecessor. I’m now being serenaded by the sweet sounds of the Michael Buble CD that I don’t own. It’s literally a dream. Did I mention that we went sight-seeing this morning after Good Friday service and then I napped for an hour and a half? Yeah, I’m a happy girl.

And THEN, just now, I looked up and to my left on the wall, I was greeted by a very familiar shape that warms my heart. There’s a large, black and white, very old, framed map of where? New England! Massachusetts was staring me in the face, meeting my longing gaze! So beaming and overjoyed, I leapt from my sunken-in dent on the couch to greet Haverhill and Wenham. Then I raced to get Natalie from the back patio to show her my new treasure. She was pleased with my find.

I also think that a huge reason why we’re loving it here is the company. It’s such a pleasure to be staying with Patti and Wolfgang. They are so loving and so helpful, we’re just adoring being here with them. It’s so great to be with adults, with Christians, and with a family unit. Those are all things that we’ve greatly been missing on the Gold Coast. It’s an environment of drunken, crazy college students and this is the type of connection we’ve been craving. The Fischers have been like medicine to our souls. I’m sure visiting Tyson, Dayna and the Jorgensens will prove to be the same. We’re just so grateful to be here, and I don’t even want to think about going back up to Queensland.

But let’s not go there. For now, I’ll just enjoy my new second favorite city in the world. Only second to home sweet Boston, of course. Where we’re staying in Paddington (a 20 minute bus ride from the city) is definitely an area I could get used to. It’s so artsy and adorable. The terrace houses are narrow and tall, and they all look so European with their balconies, iron lacing and vines. They’re so beautiful. We’ve also been to Rose Bay, Double Bay, Vauclose, Edgecliff, the North and South Heads and Bondi. They say if it isn’t happening at Huntington Beach or Bondi Beach, then it isn’t happening. Well now I’ve been there and I’m not sure what all of the fuss is about. It’s no Singing, that’s for sure…

Tonight we’ll spend at home with Patti and Wolfgang, having dinner and watching Jerry Maguire. Tomorrow, we’ll explore the Botanical Gardens in Sydney, then head to Newport! I can’t wait. I love it here.”

As you can see, Sydney captured my heart and held it tightly. It’s like Boston in the sense that it has that older feel. To me, it’s far superior to other cities we’ve been to over here because it’s not trying to be modern and hip. Obviously it’s no where near as old as Boston, but that’s the aura it gives off. Although it’s the busiest city in this country, it seemed so slow to us. Maybe that’s because I can compare it to the oppressive nature of New York or the hustle and bustle of a summer in Boston. But to Nat and I, it just seemed so peaceful, clean and vibrant. We also went to Manly, surfing in Palm Beach, climbed to the Barrenjoey lighthouse, and a few other places that Tyson and Dayna took us.

It was a fantastic Easter and we’re so thankful to the Jorgensen/Fischer clan for welcoming the weary travellers in. We loved it so much, we’re going back :) Our finals are done on April 21st, so we’re flying out that night to join them again for a week. We were supposed to be flying to US from Brisbane, but switched it to Sydney, because that will be a much better way to end our time here.

Something I didn’t mention was the joy that oozed out of every pore as we walked through Circular Quay. With the Harbour Bridge on our left, we knew that at any moment, we’d round a bend to reveal the Sydney Opera House. I was on the phone with Mom at the time (partially to let her know that we arrived safely and partially to rub it in) and I squealed with delight as that sparkly white beacon of all that is Australia came into view. To call it gorgeous would be an understatement. We gave it hugs because we were so happy to see it.

See all of the merriment - Sydney, we love you. See you in again in a week.

April 11, 2010

Bond Royale: All in for Tanzania

Later that night, Saturday, March 27th, my Event Management class had our big event - the culmination of all we had learned and been working toward!




Some of you may remember from blogs past, but the evening was a poker tournament to raise money for Bond University’s Tanzanian Physiotherapy Project. This initiative was started with the hopes of enriching their students’ educational experiences, while also reaching out to those living in the destitute Moshi region of Tanzania. The goal of the program is to raise $10,000 by the beginning of April to fund two Tanzanian student’s trips to Australia. These funds would cover the costs of their travels, visas, paperwork, living arrangements, and studies in the university’s medical program and clinics on the Gold Coast for four weeks.

Two Bond Physiotherapy students already made the trip to Tanzania last fall, and Bond hopes to keep this exchange with Tumaini University a reoccurring program every year. There are only fourteen physiotherapists in the Moshi region, and they are expected to serve nearly three million people. The money that we were hoping to raise (aiming for over $1,000) will most certainly be going to a good cause.

To participate in the tournaments, player would pay a flat fee of $30, which would cover the buy-in for the game and provide them with three drink vouchers for the bar. This way, the money would all go straight to the charity and people wouldn’t be gambling with money at all. The chips were representative of dollar amounts, but the contestants were playing for prizes. And the prizes were so sweet! First place prize was a poker table, combined with other prizes such as fitness vouchers, restaurant vouchers, bottles of alcohol, and tons more. The prizes were worth over $1,000 themselves! The event was held at Robina Tavern, just a short walk from campus, and we were able to secure a private room which included access to the outdoor balcony with a pool table.

My job for the evening was the group the prizes into categories, arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing way, and I was also the photographer for the evening (special thanks to Lyndsay and her camera)!

For my Broadcast Journalism class, I had to create a news story and I chose to preview my event. It sounds like cheating, but it made things a hundred times easier for me because I knew every contact person and didn’t have to travel for my interviews. It was just strategic, that’s all :) I finished my story a week early so that I could send it into a Gold Coast community site for additional advertising. I would post it, but I actually don't have a copy of it. The computers were wiped in the labs. Bummer.

Overall, the night was a huge success. People were dressed to the nines, they had a blast and I think we made our fundraising goal! Below is a photo of the majority of our group and our poster, but you can see the best photos from the evening here.






April 7, 2010

My abs went sailing...

It’s time for me to play some catch up on the blogging. A few Saturdays ago, I had quite an eventful day. On March 27th, Sarah, Natalie and I surprised Lyndsay and Tracey, with an early birthday adventure. Sarah and Tracey, our good friends from Endicott (blasphemy, I know), live across the street from us and we hang with them from time to time. Dinner, drinks, casual stuff, reminiscing of the North Shore together. It’s good fun and we’re glad to have them.

This time, Sarah devised a top secret plan to surprise Lynds and Tracey with abseiling in Brisbane. Their birthdays were on the following Saturday (Easter weekend), but we’d all be in separate parts of the hemisphere that day (Lynds in New Zealand and Nat and I in Sydney) so we celebrated early.

Abseiling is rappelling, the bouncing down the rock face as opposed to climbing up. I love rappelling so much, but had never heard it called abseiling. Oh, the Aussies. We got on the train at 6:30AM to be in Brisbane and set up to leap at 8:30. We enjoyed three hours of jumping, but there was an interesting dynamic I wasn’t used to - when I have repelled before, I’ve been in, you know, the woods. But here, you’re overlooking the river that cuts through the middle of Queensland’s capital city. It was definitely a unique experience. Then we had lunch in the city and explored Brisbane for a bit. The girls were surprised and a good time was had by all.

Here’s a glimpse of the day, but you can see all of the photos here.

The crew, minus Lynds behind the camera.
Tracey, Cas, Sarah & Nat.

Me, on the descent.

Brizzy.

This guy and I = good mates.

March 29, 2010

A Long Distance Thank You

On the morning of Thursday, March 26th, I awoke to a knock on the door. It was about 7am (so I simply stirred, not prepared to greet the day) but Nat had been up for over an hour I'm sure, so she signed for a package that was delivered to our doorstep.

We knew it was coming, so it wasn't a surprise, but the contents were yet to be seen.
Our dear friend Brad had sent us a very special package.

So although I'm completely swamped with work to do before we leave for Sydney on THURSDAY
I had to make time for this.

Thank you, Bradley, for taking the time to meticulously choose these items and send them our way.
It was like Christmas. Watch it here!

If you send us fun goodies, you'll get a special thank you video too. Just puttin' that out there.

March 25, 2010

For me mum.

A while back, I mentioned that I was going to attempt to make my mom's award-winning (or just very highly acclaimed by our family and friends) macaroni salad. Well, I did it and it was very close to the original! There were definitely some differences (which I blame on the gram/ounce conversion difficulties), but it wasn't bad for a first try in a foreign country with dodgy ingredients and faulty measurements! Have a look, wish you could have had a taste.


How's it look mum?

March 21, 2010

Early Autumn

I'm used to this.


Not this.



Does the Gold Coast Autumn intrigue you as Boston thaws into Spring?
I have finally added more photos. Check 'em out in my two new albums here and here.

Works like a charm.

Nat and I both had a pretty bad days last Thursday, but there's nothing to cheer you up like a little American Spirit.

Make sure your speakers aren't up too high.

USA, we love you.

March 20, 2010

A Universal Taste

This and last Saturday morning, I boarded a bus, sat for 15-20 minutes, then exited and enjoyed a delicacy that thankfully tastes the same no matter where you are in the world. With Bible, journal, iPod, chai, and a raspberry white chocolate muffin, it was a morning very well spent.

Thank you to these dear friends.

March 17, 2010

Cheers: An Australian 21st

As some of you may know, my 21st birthday was on March 6th! There were many emotions surrounding the day: it was my first birthday in about 16 years that I hadn’t shared with my step-dad (his is the day after mine), twenty-one is pretty big and I didn’t get to have a special bash with all of my closest friends, and I’ve been able to drink for over two months and I barely ever get carded. So that was kind of a non-event. However, it was my 21st and I’m in freaking ‘Strahya mate. That’s awesome.

But for all of the different dynamics playing into the day, my friends here made it a birthday to remember. If you don’t know me extremely well, birthdays are a BIG deal to me. And not just my birthday - I get really excited for the birthdays of others! It’s a day all about you! How frequently does that happen? We need to live it up, people. Knowing that, and knowing that I was missing my friends and family, Nat, Lyndsay and Kat did a phenomenal job at making it meaningful to me.

First, we went to my favorite bar to ring it in. On Friday night, we went to Hotel CBD and got some drinks. Then we saw a fight, and there was a fire in the kitchen so we had to evacuate. That made it memorable. Then Scott met up with us and we went to Varsity Tavern across the street, where the musical performers (playing acoustic nineties covers, happy birthday to me!) gave me a shout out over the mic at midnight and everyone clapped for me. It was a nice way to bring it in with a bang.

 

On Saturday, I went to the gym in the morning, then Lyndsay and I had a leisurely afternoon of shopping where I got some great clearance finds including a fun birthday dress! When we got home, Lynds and I made my cake, trying out hardest to duplicate Funfetti by putting sprinkles in the cake batter. It wasn’t a huge success, but it made it fun and it was a good attempt. Meanwhile, Kat’s mom who was visiting for the weekend made dinner for us all! It was delicious and I came home to a living room full of balloons and some of my favorite songs blaring over our speakers.




The girls had all bought me presents that I was to open at dinner. This is also where I opened my birthday card from Miss Betsy Gettis :) Thanks love. I honestly wasn’t expecting gifts, I just thought that we’d go out for the evening so I was so surprised! They really didn’t have to do that, but it was so sweet of them! Natalie got me an adorable skirt and a really classy dress with a belt which I love. Kat got me a dvd, an orange monkey loofa (she’s a goof), and a sweet nail polish. And Lyndsay got me a braided headband and a picture frame that she’ll be filling with a collage of our trip. They were all so wonderful! And they also all wrote me really sweet cards. Evidently Kat thinks I just turned two and Lynds assumed I was turning one.


 Then we got all dressed up and our friends came over a bit later for cake and wine. This is where Scott gave me his gift, which was hilarious and so thoughful. He’s a film student and we have a class together, so we talk movies and watch them together all the time. He’s also the film guru who has copies of famous screenplays. So knowing my love for Star Wars, he typed out the first 11 pages of A New Hope, and changed the characters and the situations to reflect our friends and our jokes. It was an absolute riot and we all loved it. Instead of R2-D2, we had Kat2-Law2. Instead of C3PO, we had Nat3Fer. Then of course there was Cassie Skywalker and Obi Scott Kenobi. He read it out loud to us, as we all chimed in with the sound effects: storm troopers, explosions, Kat2’s beeping. He ragged on our professors, poked fun at the movies we watch in film class, incorporated other friends of ours, mocked Kat’s absurd over-usage of the highlighter and Nat’s constant girly screams… it was so impressive. Coming from him, it was the perfect gift. It reflected his personality so well and we all had a blast listening to him read it and hearing our cameo appearances.











 After that, we drove to Surfer’s Paradise and hit up Fiddler’s, an Irish pub that makes me feel like I’m at home in Boston. Except the TV’s were showing cricket, so you’re rudely reminded that you’re not on Landsdowne Street, which is kind of a bummer. The atmosphere there was great though, and we chilled there for a bit before migrating to karaoke! They almost didn’t let us in because their bar area was full, but they let us rent out a private room instead. So all ten of us were crammed into a really tiny room, singing our little hearts out. The evening featured a little Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Lachey, Bon Jovi, Elton John, The Beatles and many more. Birthday Girl was given a free cocktail, and Birthday Girl’s party was given a free round of Tequila shots. Wouldn’t have been my choice, but it was a nice gesture I suppose. I highly recommend karaoke as a birthday activity, if you’re in the market for a good one.




Overall, the day was a blast! I felt so loved and appreciated by friends that I had only known for about two months or less. For a girl who was aching for friends, family and the familiarity of home, the day was the best possible alternative I could ask for. My parents had emailed me a video of themselves singing and being goofballs and that made me smile. Then the following Monday, their package arrived, including a drawing from my nephew Zach, photos from birthday’s past, confetti, noise makers, and of course these…


And as most of you know by now, my brother Tony wrote me the most incredible birthday song ever called “Twenty-One-Der” and recorded a music video as well, which featured many of you! For everyone who video taped themselves dancing to this year’s biggest hit and sent it to Tony: THANK YOU! That was so marvelous and it made me so happy! It’s so cool to feel loved by everyone even when I’m so far away. If you missed it, here’s the song and the video is posted on my Facebook. Look it up and see how awesome my brothers and friends are.

In conclusion: birthdays overseas can almost compare to birthdays at home. But only because my friends and family ROCK THE HOUSE when it comes to showing how much they love me. You’re all the best and I miss you so much. Thanks again for sharing in my special day :)
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