Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sorry for the wait!

I'm not sure if it's just the time of year or if it's just my life that has suddenly become overwhelming and busy. I want to apologize for being late on this blog post...I was doing so well! That being said my past week has been quite wonderful despite how all the over the place I have felt. I would choose being busy over being bored and as April continues to move at the speed of light, I am even getting a better idea of what I will be doing with my life next year.

Day 29: Game of Thrones

Monday: If you don't watch Game of Thrones, I highly recommend it. The new season just started a few weeks ago and with that Valentina, Emily, Alex and I have started a new tradition of watching it together on Monday evenings. I am usually horrible at remembering to watch shows as they air, so it's nice to have a group to watch it with and kick off the week right. Next week we're going to try and one up ourselves and bring some food :)

Day 30: One on One at Panera

Egg whites, cheese, sun dried tomatoes, basil on delicious bread. SO good.

Tuesday: The only thing better than breakfast at Panera is talking about your feelings while eating breakfast at Panera. Every month, I meet with my site coordinator, Layne, to discuss what is going on in my life, to check in on my well being and talk about YAV life. This past week, I had an especially nice conversation with Layne as she helped to talk me through my stresses as it pertains to next year. I was able to talk out all the items that I have on my plate, organize my thoughts and avoid what I thought was an inevitable panic attack. Growing up and being more responsible is so hard. I am lucky to have the support system I do down here because I don't know where I would be without it.

Day 31: Dobby

That. Face. 

Wednesday: One of my newer friends down here in New Orleans is the owner of one of the cutest dogs I have ever met. His name is Dobby, he is a little over a year and solidified for me that I need a dog within the next year or I might explode. I have been lucky thus far to befriends dog owners that let me love on their dogs as if they were my own but I seriously can't wait to have one of my own. This past week I got to take Dobby on a walk around Uptown and it was nothing short of wonderful.

Day 32: Acceptance to teachNOLA

Thursday: Quite easily the happiest moment of these happy days was my letter of acceptance to the teachNOLA program. teachNOLA in short is a teaching certification program that helps prepare individuals to teach in a high need school in New Orleans. I would go through a 5 week training program (end of May through the beginning of July), then once I'm certified get support through the interview process and once I (hopefully!) land a job receive a mentor throughout my first year of teaching (this first year includes attending classes and meeting with my mentor periodically) and then upon completion get my masters! Sounds almost too good to be true, right? I'm still working out the details of how it will fit into my YAV year but it is a great opportunity that I feel really blessed to have.

Day 33: Rooftop View

View during the day
View during Sunset

View with Alex, Anna Leigh and I in front of it!

Friday: This past weekend us New Orleans YAVs packed our bags and made our way to the Florida beaches to meet up with our fellow YAVs from Nashville, Atlanta and Miami. It was truly a blessing to be in such a beautiful place and to share it with people who know EXACTLY what you are going through this year even though for me, I haven't kept in touch with many of them. We were lucky enough to stay in this wonderful four story beach house with a 360 degree view of the water. My favorite part BY FAR was the rooftop porch where I spent pretty much all of my free time lying in the sun, engaging in wonderful conversation and taking in the breath taking view. The retreat was a perfect balance of relaxing, getting to know other YAVs and spiritual reflection.

Day 34: Crawfish Boil

Nom nom

Saturday: On the retreat each site was responsible for two meals and our site was responsible for Saturday night dinner! We decided to give everyone a taste of New Orleans and have a crawfish boil. I was a little embarrassed to admit then even though I live in New Orleans and have eaten plenty of crawfish, I have never participated in an actual crawfish boil! I learned out to crack open the crawfish (and suck the heads!) and loved it. There is something so wonderful about working for your food.

Day 35: Road Trip

The best. 

Sunday: They say that the best part of a journey is not always where you are going but how you get there. I spent 14 hours in the car with those nuggets this past weekend and couldn't have been happier. We listened to Jack Johnson (I think we made it through the CD easily 5 or 6 times), talked about how much we thought various items weighed and laughed as Anna Leigh freaked out when we got lost in a neighborhood. I can't believe I have only known these girls for 8 months because there are times (like being stuck in a car) when I feel like I have known them a lot longer. I am even more excited that they are staying in New Orleans and will most likely be my roomies again :)

Life has really picked up lately in wonderful ways. I can't wait to finalize my plans for next year more while still enjoying the last 3 months of my YAV year. Time flies and although I'm excited for what's to come, I don't want to miss out on the wonderful things that seem to happen each day.

Lesson from the Journey: There is a bug called a no-see-um (because you literally can't see them!) that attacked every one of us at the beach. I NEVER get bug bites but the no-see-ums didn't really seem to know or care about that. Worst bugs ever.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

For The Readers

I am going to be completely honest right now and admit that I do not really feel like blogging at the moment. I guess this is where the "failing" in 100 Happy Days comes from and I am trying my very best to overcome the urge to just crawl into bed. I had a wonderful past week and would love to share it will all of you but sometimes I wish my blogs would just write themselves for me! So this blog is for all the people who read my blog and have supported both my YAV year and me as a person. You deserve regular blog posts and I think I've done pretty well so far - so why stop now?

Day 22: Card from Momma

Monday: I don't think it is any secret how much I miss my family. It has been a constant adjustment being so far away from some of the most wonderful people in my life. My mom sent me a "just because" card that made my day. It is nice to know that no matter how far you go and wherever your dreams take you that there are people who will always be cheering you on. I get to see my family in a little over 2 weeks and I can't wait. I am extremely fortunate to have such a strong support system.

Day 23: The Danger of a Single Story

Tuesday: This Tuesday for our meeting we watched a Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie titled "The Danger of a Single Story". She talks eloquently and concisely about how it is so easy in our world today to only see and accept a single story. Her best example is how when she came to America to attend college, her roommate (only hearing that her new roommate was from Africa) assumed that Chimamanda didn't know certain things because her single story of Africa was that it was third world country, filled with poverty. Her roommate wasn't aware of the other stories present in Africa and how that narrowed her view of the people who lived there.  Chimamanda articulates this much more beautiful and I encourage to take the 20 minutes and watch the video. It is truly powerful and forces you to reflect on your own interactions with others.

Day 24: 12 Hours with Valentina

Valentina and I trying on cool helmets while doing some errands at Walmart!

Wednesday: Well it all started out as a typical day at work with Valentina. We didn't have volunteers this week so both worked together form 8:30-4:30. We then decided post work to go to the mall then the mall made us hungry so we got dinner and then dinner made us full so we had to relax and watch tv and then relaxing and watching tv turned into 9:00pm and I was like Valentina I love you, but it's time for me to go home. I am just happy that I can work with someone that I can easily put up with for 12 hours straight and not get sick of them.

Day 25: District Donuts

Donut Heaven.

Thursday: Ladies and gentlemen! Listen up! I had the most amazing donuts in the entire world this past Thursday. Valentina and I had to run some errands for work and this wonderful donut place happened to be on our way (funny how that worked out!) They have different flavored gourmet donuts each day of the week so me and Valentina each split and cinnamon sugar and a lemon meringue donut along with two cold brewed coffees. The donuts were literally to die for and the coffee was delicious. I already can't wait to go back. This city keeps surprising me with it's insanely amazing food.

Day 26: High Five of the Week

Unfortunately I don't have an action shot of me getting high fived so this will have to do!

Friday: Every Friday at Project Homecoming there is a staff wide meeting where everyone gets together to share news, what they've been up to and to eat delicious donuts. Each week there is a "high five" of the week which highlights someone on staff who has done an exceptional job in the past week. This week that person was me! It was awesome to get recognition throughout Project Homecoming staff because often times Village Managers get overlooked since we are separate from the direct rebuilding. It also happened at a great time because it was after 8 straight weeks of volunteers (where most of the weeks had 75+!). It is always wonderful to be recognized for your hard work.

Day 27: The Milk Bar

Saturday: If you know me at all the you know that food makes me happy and New Orleans is notorious for delicious cuisine. I have an ongoing list of restaurants that I want to try in New Orleans (it grows faster than I can keep up with it!) and one of those restaurants is called the Milk Bar. It is a sandwich/salad/smoothie place only a few blocks away from where I live. I finally went there on Saturday with Hannah and got one of their vegetarian options (go lent!) It had cream cheese, roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, avocado, and mushrooms on a delicious roll. Basically it was to die for. Nothing like a delicious sandwich.

Day 28: Catching up With AXO

Picture my sorority little Nicole took....oh Aaron Carter, to think one day in the past I had a giant crush on you.

Sunday: Easily one of the most important aspects of my college experience was joining Alpha Chi Omega. I met my best friends who have helped me not only survive college but continue to support me and keep in touch with me as I move onto my next adventures. My sorority little sister called me on Sunday to catch me up on her life and asked me what I had been up to. I shared what's been going on but what she had to tell me was far more superior than the amazing donuts I had had a few days before. Aaron Carter (the "I Want Candy" singer, younger brother of Nick Carter) came to Muhlenberg College and held a performance. He is 26 years old and went up on stage singing "I Want Candy", "That's How I Beat Shaq" and the ever so popular "Aaron's Party Come Get It". I died at this news and silently wished that I had graduated a year later just so I could have witnessed that concert.

Lesson from Journey: Sticking with anything can be really hard (like blogging for example) but consistently blogging has not only been good for me but has also proven a great way to stay in touch with friends, families and whoever else stumbles upon this blog.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Simple Living

One of the goals of the YAV year is to promote the idea of simple living. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what simple living would look like but it turns out that there is a lot more packed into those two words than one might assume. To one person simple living might mean not buying name brands. To another person simple living might equate to not eating out. Another person might interpret simple living as incorporating composting into their waste management. And yet to another person simple living might mean taking shorter showers. The ways in which we simplify our lives directly depends on the way we currently live so all of a sudden the words "simple living" seem to take on a much more complex meaning.

I came into this year expecting to be challenged in many ways including living on a small budget. To me living simple means giving up many of the "normal" ways in which I am accustomed to living and substituting them for more environmentally and money conscious ways of doing things. Simple living to me also means living more intentionally and thinking more critically about pretty much everything. The clothes you wear, the food you buy, where you spend your money, how you manage your waste, and most importantly how you and your actions fit into the larger picture. In short, simple living means being aware.

It's funny how much this year has forced me to think and reflect about some of my actions. When you have a very limited income you are faced with questions of prioritization that might have never been an issue before. A simple example would be buying cereal - name brand or store brand? If I eat out this weekend then I can't buy that new shirt I want but if I cook at home, I will go out and buy that new shirt. I have to make decisions that I never really had to make before. I think part of that is growing up (living independently, learning what things actually cost, etc.) but I think a bigger part of mulling on these questions comes directly from serving as a YAV. Simple living for me has brought up questions of needs versus wants and ultimately has forced me to reflect on my privilege.

I went to the Post Office earlier this week and while I was waiting in line this disheveled looking man was waiting in front of me with a bundle of paperwork in his hand. He was called up to the desk and upon handing the woman behind the counter his paperwork was told that he was ineligible for a post office box. Upon this news, the man got very upset and tears started to well up in his eyes as he told the woman he really needed a way to receive mail. She told him that he could apply for general mail but was not going to be able to get a post office box without proof of residency. The man told her that he was homeless (thus not having proof of residency) and did not want general mail but was very insistent on getting a post office box. He had to be turned away and he left upset and embarrassed.

It was in that instant that I not only felt privileged to receive mail but privileged because I've never had to think about not being able to get my mail. Seeing that man being denied his preferred way to get mail really struck a cord with me. What other privileges do I have that I am unaware of? Isn't it a privilege to be able to choose to live simply? "Give up" the comfortable life? I have been chewing on these questions all year and the more I explore them, the harder it is to accept the way some things are in this world. It is also hard to not feel guilty sometimes about the material things I have and brings me back to reflecting on my needs versus wants. What a cycle of thinking!

This year has taught me to not only be thankful and appreciative of what I have (from simple things such as receiving mail to my closet full of wonderful clothes to the food that is in my fridge) but also how my actions ripple out into this world. It is human nature to be self involved but I think when you are forced to think more intentionally about everything you see how the world is pieced together in a completely different way. For example, grocery shopping can be a completely different experience depending on your access and income. My roommate works in a poor neighborhood known as Holly Grove. Most of the residents in the neighborhood do not have cars and the grocery stores are too far to walk so if they want to go they have to take the bus. Many of these residents work during the week so their day off (most often Saturday) would seem like an ideal day to go to the store and get food. The catch? The bus doesn't run on Saturdays thus many of these residents only have access to corner stores selling frozen foods and junk food. How much does privilege blind us to broken systems? How much does privilege separate the rich and poor so much that they cannot even relate to the problems being faced? I don't know the first thing about not having a car.

Living simply in conjunction with privilege has really helped me to push the envelope when not only thinking about the people of New Orleans but how I want to live my own life.

Lesson from the Journey: It hurts my brain to think about how beautiful yet how broken our world really is.

Monday, March 31, 2014

If you're happy and you know it write a blog

I can't believe this past week marks the last week in March and tomorrow begins the month of April. To say time is flying would be an understatement. Starting tomorrow I officially only have 4 more months left in my YAV year and 4 more months to get everything I can out of it! That being said, I had a pretty good week and starting this upcoming week work will start to pick up (Project Homecoming's Summer Youth Mission is approaching!) and hopefully I will have a better sense soon of where I will be next year. For now I am trying to focus on enjoying every day I have here because I don't know for sure how much longer I will here.

Day 15: Ruby Slipper

Monday: I can't believe it's already been a week since Mike left. For our last meal I took him to the Ruby Slipper, my favorite brunch spot in New Orleans. I have officially taken every one of my visitors there and it has never disappointed. They have six different types of Eggs Benedict so even though I have been there 4 times I haven't tried them all! I got the Salmon Benedict last week and it was to die for. Great meal to end a great visit.

Day 16: Scene It!

Tuesday: Three weeks running now our Tuesday meeting has been the highlight of my Tuesdays. We have one night per month that is set aside for community time which basically translates to us all eating and hanging out together. Jess's parents were in town and graciously bought us all pizza which was instantly devoured. We then decided as a house to play a movie trivia game called Scene It! Things we learned? Jess knows pretty much everything there is to know about movies and the rest of the house doesn't haha. We had some good laughs including one category was the game gave you a movie title where the words were replaced with synomns and you had to translate it to reveal the title.

Pasture of Imaginings = Field of Dreams
A dozen +4 Birthday Torches = 16 Candles

Needless to say many of us couldn't control our laughter at this.

Day 17: Bad Words

Wednesday: One of my new friends here in New Orleans got tickets to see the new Jason Bateman movie Bad Words before it was officially released in theaters. I left work a little early so I could make it (how could I turn down free movie tickets?) and was not disappointed. I am a huge Jason Bateman fan in general and I thought the movie was wonderful. I also felt kind of like a VIP because I got a wristband and there were people guarding the door. I would highly recommend seeing the movie if you like Jason Bateman, adorable little kids, spelling bees, raunchy humor or all the above.

Day 18: Country Club

Thursday: I almost debated making the Country Club my happy moment for Thursday because the fact that I got to swim in an outdoor heated swimming pool while New Jersey is still freezing it's butt off just doesn't seem fair! But I did it anyways :) The Country Club is a bar in the Bywater that has an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub and is quite easily one of my favorite spots in New Orleans. It felt so good to jump in the water and take in the beautiful cool night. Once it gets warmer out I will be making much more frequent visits.

Day 19: Elvira Home Dedication

I wish I had a better picture with Elvira and her family but because of all the flooding and helping Kelly set up I didn't take any pictures! This is the front of Elvira's house though!
Elvira's street on the day of the dedication...doesn't look as fun as swimming at the Country Club does it?

Friday: One of the best parts about my job is that I get to help plan Home Dedications. When Project Homecoming finishes a house, part of the process is to hold a ceremony officially welcoming home the homeowner and presenting them with some gifts to remember all the hands that came together to complete their house. We present them with a quilt (hand stitched by Presbyterian women), a frame signed by Project Homecoming staff and volunteers) and a giant ribbon that they get to cut in front of their house. Elvira is a wonderful lady and was kind enough to cook all the guests Red Beans and Rice (so delicious) and open up her home for everyone to walk through. Unfortunately Friday ended up being rainy and there were flash flood warnings all day. Driving down her street was near impossible! But we all got our socks a little bit wet to participate in dedicating her home and it was wonderful to connect both Elvira's family to the larger Project Homecoming family.

Day 20: Kelly's House Warming Party
Rachel joked that this picture looks like a stock photo (I guess it kind of does!) but all of us cheering our glasses to Kelly's new home.

Saturday: One of my coworkers at Project Homecoming just bought her very first house! It's an adorable shotgun in the Mid-City/Treme area complete with an adorable backyard. She invited Project Homecoming staff, family and friends to grill, drink and enjoy the beautiful sunshine. Kelly is wonderful but I don't get to see her much outside of work so it was really a treat to hang out at her house with great food and company.

Day 21: Super Sunday
Hunter, John, Me, Anna Leigh and Rachel all enjoying DELICIOUS snoballs out in the beautiful sun at Super Sunday.

One of the Indian Chiefs, all the detail is hand beaded work - incredible!

Sunday: By far my happiest moments in this past week happened when I went to Super Sunday. Traditionally Super Sunday happens the Sunday after Mardi Gras and it a time where all the Mardi Gras Indians show off their costumes that they work on all year hand sewing and beading them. It was unfortunately delayed a few weeks because of inclement weather (you can't bring those beautiful feathers suits out in the rain!) so it finally happened yesterday. There are food trucks, live music, Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands parading around the park, and people just dancing their hearts out! So much soul and life. I went with Anna Leigh and 3 other Project Homecoming folks (John, Hunter and Rachel) and we collectively decided that the experience was wonderful and felt like authentic New Orleans. Anna Leigh even mentioned that she liked it better than the parades. Seeing the spirit, the excitement and the awe over the costumes was an incredible sight to see.

Lesson from the Journey: Funnel cakes are on a different level down here. Best I've ever had.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Next Seven

This past week has flew by. New Orleans was hit with some gorgeous weather that had me spending a lot of time outside in the sunshine. Daylight Savings has pushed back sunset to around 7:15 allowing me to fully enjoy the city. I had an impromptu visitor this weekend - my best friend Mike from home - which made me incredibly happy. I hadn't seen him since I left for New Orleans in August so hanging out and sharing the city with him, especially with such gorgeous weather, was nothing short of perfect. He contributed to many of my happy moments this past weekend but here is the breakdown for the past week.

Day 8: Painting My Nails

Monday: I am absolutely obsessed with Essie nail polish and usually always have my nails painted but when I actually take the time to do it well it makes such a difference! This is "Carry On", a color I got for Christmas, and although it isn't appropriately green for St. Patrick's day it was wonderful to have nicely painted nails for the rest of the week (and they are still going strong today!)

Day 9: Reflection on Mardi Gras

Tuesday: I love that my happy Tuesday moments have both come from our weekly house meetings. This week we all prepared answers to some Mardi Gras reflection questions. What did you like about Mardi Gras? What didn't you like about Mardi Gras? What is the spiritual significance of Mardi Gras? What was your favorite throw? How did you celebrate Ash Wednesday? What is it like to have an entire city stop and celebrate? My housemates had wonderful insights on the celebration and it was wonderful to process it all being a few weeks out of it. The general consensus was that we were all very happy to experience Mardi Gras as "locals" rather than a tourist because both experiences are so drastically different. It was also most interesting to me how defensive we all got about New Orleans when outside friends and family assumed that Mardi Gras is just a drunken and lewd celebration. I think this city has come to mean a lot to all of us.

Day 10: Hammocking in City Park

Wednesday: Valentina and I have made it a post work tradition to start hammocking in City Park. We found this awesome tree that allows for two hammocks to link next to each other (as you can see in the picture). City Park is quite easily one of my favorite places in all of New Orleans. It is home to the oldest collection of live oaks (some trees being over 600 years old!), has a mini golf course, amusement park, sculpture garden, beignet cafe, swingsets, open lawns and more that I haven't even seen. It's a perfect spot to unwind and hammock after working all day.

Day 11: Groundhog Day

Thursday: If you have never seen Groundhog Day you should stop reading my blog right now and watch it immediately. I had an iTunes gift card and my wonderful roommate Anna Leigh suggested I buy Groundhog Day. It is a wonderful and hilarious movie that I had completely forgotten about and now I can watch it whenever I want.

Day 12: Did 10 miles on the bike (and Mike arrives!)

Friday: I have gotten into the habit of biking 5-6 times a week and as my legs have been getting stronger, I have been setting a goal for myself to bike 10 miles and I finally reached my goal on Friday! I did 4 laps around the Audubon Park loop and felt amazing after! My new goal is 15 miles so we'll see how long it takes me to reach that :) The app MapMyRide is awesome and if you bike/walk/run you should definitely look into it.

Day 13: Mellow Mushroom and City Park

Saturday: Mike really wanted to watch the Pitt game for March Madness (his alma mater) so we hit up the Mellow Mushroom (a pizza/bar within walking distance from my house) and enjoyed the game. The weather was gorgeous - sunny and almost 80 degrees - so we walked around City Park afterwards, eating beignets, enjoying the big lake and sculpture garden. I wouldn't be mad if the weather was like that every day. I even got a little tan :)

Day 14: Muriel's

Sunday: Mike's last night in town, we decided to go out to a nice dinner. Muriel's has been on my list and was also suggested by Mike's mom who has been there before. It was delicious. Easily my favorite meal in New Orleans so far and that is saying a lot! I started off with Eggplant Roulade which was grilled eggplant rolled up and filled with three different types of cheese, then had Seafood Bayoubaisse which was crabmeat, shrimp and crawfish in this to die for sauce and then we both split a house made snickers bar. It was nice to dress up and have a long, relaxing, delicious meal.

Lesson from the Journey: Sharing this city with my oldest friend made me so incredibly happy. I am lucky to have people in my life like Mike.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Up

Lately I have been feeling pressure to "get my act together". Now that April is right around the corner, the daunting question of what I will be doing next year is more frequently being asked not only by others but also by myself. It's not like I have put off this task to the last minute or anything like that - I have applied to several programs and reached out to a few organizations. I don't doubt that I will find something to do next year but the fact that I still don't know what I ultimately want to do with my life or as a career is scary and often times extremely deflating. I feel like I have a lot to offer but I don't know how I want to channel my passions and my interests. It's definitely a challenge.

One of the things that has been weighing on me the most is where I physically want to be next year. I have come to love and adore the city of New Orleans more than I ever thought possible. A huge part of me wants to stay down here another year and continue to explore this wonderful place. It's funny how I thought a year would be a sufficient amount of time to really get to know a place, but I find that my To Do list is growing faster than I can keep up with it. Not that I ever anticipated doing everything but I thought I would have checked off a lot more than I have. There is just so much to see and do. It is also extremely attractive that many of the friends that I have made here are staying another year so if I found something to do in New Orleans I would have people to live and hang out with on a regular basis.

You always hear that growing up is hard and you come to appreciate the simpler days in life that will never be again (i.e. the days of no bills, few responsibilities and where the world felt like your oyster). Growing up is so hard. Sometimes harder than I want it to be. I wish I could get a letter in the mail saying "Dear Alyssa, You need to get so and so job to be happy and successful. Sincerely, Life". Wouldn't that just be lovely? I feel so lost sometimes that the day where I have a job that I am happy in and that supports me seems like a speck in the distance. It also isn't easy to have my sister getting her act together seemingly sooner than me. The pressure!

I guess I just need to keep reminding myself that 23 years old does not qualify me as ancient (I mean I can't even rent a car!) and I just need to take things one step at a time. Unfortunately that is way easier said than done because if I was thinking about this calmly and rationally I probably wouldn't be blogging about it. Keep me in your thoughts as I try to navigate this thing they call life.

Lesson from the Journey:
Yeah me either Wendy. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The First Seven

I can't believe that it's already been a week since I committed to doing 100 Happy Days. I have had a busy past week and plenty of opportunities to observe happy moments in every day. So here are the first 7 of my happy days!

Day 1: Homemade Thai Red Curry

Monday: I homemade some delicious Red Thai Curry. It had red, yellow and orange peppers, mushrooms, onions and bamboo shoots. I pretty much ate it for lunch and dinner three days in a row! Being a vegetarian has empowered and challenged me to cook more food and try new recipes.

Day 2: Ellen Davis Ecclesiastes

Tuesday: We have been using various chapters of this Ellen Davis book through our YAV year. Our focus this past week was the chapter on the book of Ecclesiastes. I wasn't at all familiar with the book before reading Ellen Davis' interpretation but felt an immediate connection with it's message. At first glance the book can seem very cynical (the author, Solomon, preaches that everything we do and everything we work towards is essentially meaningless) which I find very easy to relate to especially in my current stage of life. What is my purpose on this earth? Will what I do have an impact? These are questions consistently on my mind as I search for a place in the world. I think a very easy, and in my opinion a cop out answer, is that we might not know why were are here but if we are here we might as well make the most of it. Make the most of it how? Solomon in Ecclesiastes takes a slightly different and more satisfying approach to the question. He talks about how history and nature all move in cycles, so that ultimately all events are predetermined and unchangeable - the wise man and that man who does not study wisdom will both die and be forgotten. Death levels all. All people face death but yet life is better than death so we should enjoy life when we can. The only good is to partake in life in the present moment, for enjoyment is from the hand of God. This line of reasoning and recognition of death as a unifying agent among all living things thus we should enjoy God's creation while we can really resonated with me. I found a lot of peace contemplating the book of Ecclesiastes and how I can fit it's message into my own world view.

Day 3: Going to the Fly

Wednesday: The Fly is one of my favorite spots in all of New Orleans. It is located in Audubon Park and is essentially a big open lawn that looks over the Mississippi River. When the weather is nice, people set up their grills and blankets and enjoy the beautiful view as boats pass by on the river. Me and a few coworkers met up after work, grilled some burgers and enjoyed the sunset and good company.

Day 4: Trixie

Thursday: My roommate Alex had her family in town for the weekend and they brought along their brand new kitten! This adorable munchkin (named Trixie) got to stay at the YAV house for a few days. She is quite possibly the cutest kitten I have ever got to play with. So friendly and playful and she liked licking my fingers and playing with dust bunnies under the bed. Definitely a happy day getting to hang out with such a cutie.

Day 5: Mona's Cafe

Friday: I went out to a late lunch with my site coordinator, Layne, to Mona's Cafe. I got a delicious Falafel sandwich (resisted getting a gyro!) and enjoyed eating it outside. It is always nice to spend time with Layne because as much as she is my boss she is also someone I consider a friend. She has been such a support during my YAV year and I don't know what I would do without her. Getting some quality time together with good food definitely makes me happy.

Day 6: A Cajun Affair

Saturday: I wish I had a better picture to represent the YAV silent auction and dinner but to be completely honest, I was so busy running around and helping to coordinate the event I didn't take any pictures! The event went better then I could have ever anticipated. The food turned out wonderful (BBQ meatballs, loaded potato skins, cheese cubes, crawfish pies, cajun catfish, red beans and rice, salad, and bread pudding with homemade rum sauce to top it off!) while Anna Leigh and Sydney manned the bar (assortment of red and white wine, Abita Gold beer, Bourbon and Ginger and Margaritas). We had some awesome auction items that represented both New Orleans and our YAV talents (Anna Leigh auctioned off golf lessons, Colleen auctioned off a tie dying partying, Kalyn some of her paintings, Alex some of her creations from her ceramics class, etc.) We ended up raising $3,000 for the YAV program after all of our costs. The highlight of the night was by far the square dancing lessons which people got into!

Day 7: Bike Ride

Sunday: Since my knee is the worst knee in history (ok maybe a little bit of an exaggeration but sometimes it can be very annoying!) I have taken it easy on the running and starting biking! I downloaded this awesome app called MapMyRide that allows you to track your route, distance, duration, speed, and calories. My favorite route is taking the path around Audubon Park (as you can see from the picture). I really enjoy biking because you can go further distances than if you were to just run and Audubon Park ain't too shabby to look at :)

Lesson from the Journey: Apparently New Orleanians love their Murder Mystery dinners. Anna Leigh and Jess auctioned off a Murder Mystery dinner complete with three dinner options which ended up being bid up to $240! Making it the item of the night. And to make the situation better? The number 2 bidder said they would pay their top bid if Anna Leigh and Jess would do it for them as well. Pretty neat if you ask me :)