19 December 2016

For Acculturated: The 'A Christmas Carol' You Should Be Watching

I'm obsessed with all versions of A Christmas Carol. I've seen a one man show on stage in London, and almost every movie version there is (the good ones, at least). AND I've read the book! But, if you are low on time and can't watch every single version, read my latest article for Acculturated to find out which one you should be watching!

15 December 2016

What Millennials Understand about Christmas

Photo Credit: Julia Dent
The Christmas tree is up, decorated, and lit. Lights are strung outside, illuminating the dark and cold night. More lights are found creeping up railings, woven in garlands and tied with bows. Every surface is laden with something green, red, or sparkly. Stockings are hung. Nutcrackers dance across the piano. Santas gaze from the mantel. Snowmen tip their hats from the cupboard shelf. A Nativity is placed with an empty spot, awaiting the coming of the Christ child.

This is a home ready for Christmas.
But not my home.

06 December 2016

Here Comes the Bride

I have always been uncomfortable with prayer/chapel veils for Catholic women. Growing up in Catholic school, only the Home School Association families at our First Friday masses wore them, so naturally I thought them odd, awkward, and out of place, just like those kids. (Ah, the "innocence" of childhood thought!) It wasn't until this June, when I attended GIVEN, that I began to understand what the veil really meant, and the beautiful power it imparts.

Several young women at the conference wore their veils during mass, and of course my initial gut reaction was, well now we know who the super Catholic women are - an absurd thought in an environment of all super (awesome) Catholic women, myself included. On the last day, I sat at brunch with a woman who had decided over the course of the week to change her action plan to making and selling affordable prayer veils. She hadn't grown up wearing a veil, but rather it was a conscious choice she had recently made, and it had transformed her prayer life, she said. The veil signaled to her a vital shift in where she was and what she was doing. She was draped in the presence of God. She said to try it out, I might like it more than I thought I would.

01 December 2016

Fear of Settling? Find a Friend

Most of us have had to decide whether to move forward in a romantic relationship. Whether you have been on 3 dates or been together 3 years, at some point you always have to assess if this is the "right" person for you. This can be a really difficult assessment to make for some, for others, easy as pie -"Oh I just knew I was going to marry your father!" As a culture, we have two positions that complicate making this choice: the "Disney" complex and the "Don't Settle" complex. The expectations of these positions can make dating fraught with anxiety and filled with pressures beyond who will be putting dinner on the table.

22 November 2016

Goodbye, Year of Mercy

As the Year of Mercy comes to a close, Catholics across the world have celebrated the feast of Christ the King and will soon be lighting Advent candles. This particular moment in the liturgical year - the transition from one cycle to another, from end to beginning - more than ever puts before believers the conviction of reliance on God.

Last Sunday Christians declared Jesus as King of the Universe, "before all things, and in him all things hold together, that in all things he himself might be preeminent." Blasting organs and joyful alleluias filled the air and the grandeur of Christianity reigned. Yet, this Sunday, the same congregations will gather in comparatively quiet churches, with no Gloria sung. We now await Jesus, hope for a savior - a king - to come, rather than rejoicing that we have been "delivered out of darkness and transferred into his kingdom." We are suddenly in darkness - lighting candles one by one each week, the light growing stronger in anticipation, preparing for Christ to come, the "great light."

15 November 2016

"The Crown" Trumps Trump

It is rather fitting that Netflix released their original series The Crown at a time when Americans are probably wishing they were living in England, away from the ill wind of this election, sipping tea happily with queens and princes. While America is in turmoil about how its POC and minority communities are going to be treated under Trump, The Crown really really makes the viewer wish they could just be out duck shooting and having to choose between Clarence House and Buckingham Palace. Yet the show does not merely give us a point of nostalgia and escapism, but of comparison, pertinent to our tumultuous times.

09 November 2016

Like Coldplay, We're Going to "Fix You" America

Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election. Everyone take a deep breath, and exhale slowly - very slowly, because that's the part that actually calms you down.

Now, let's talk about how the United States is a free country, where every citizen is allowed to vote freely, and sometimes, that vote is a very difficult choice to make. So many people are making generic statements that the country is backwards, full of hate, and shameful; that everyone who voted for Trump must have those qualities, too.

Sure, there are many people who exercised their civic right - and duty - yesterday who are ignorant, racist, sexist, and [insert -ist here]. And it is sad, that in 2016, those are still qualities we are battling. Minority groups have a right to be nervous. Trump has said some incredibly worrisome things. However, some of those Trump voters are not -ists, and we have to hope they will continue to protect all the citizens of this country.

31 October 2016

The Anxiety of Aptitude

Photo by Impartnow.org
High school report card. All As and A+s. Calculus teacher comments: "Has aptitude in this area."

So what?

Aptitude is a fancy word that simply means "a natural ability to do or learn something" according to Merriam-Webster. When I finally realized that, I remember processing my report cards, which always had that phrase next to my math and science courses. Granted, I'm pretty sure those report card systems just have coined phrases that teachers can choose from, so maybe it didn't really mean anything, but these comments always set me into a minor panic. Aptitude in math and science? Does that mean that's what I am supposed to pursue?

10 October 2016

Turn Your Memes into Actions

Identity construction is nothing new. It's natural to ask “Who am I?” and “What am I looking for?” and “Why am I here?”  From philosophers and theologians, to sociologists and psychologists, to playwrights and rock stars, small and great minds alike have looked at themselves and pondered.

The answers are as complex and confusing as the human brain. People are complicated, and how they grapple with constructing their identities shows that. Trending on Facebook recently was the challenge to describe oneself in three fictional characters. This is an easy way to both categorize oneself in the familiar, but also to show many facets of one’s personality. I say easy, but let’s be real, settling on three characters is tough! And what will people think of the characters you have chosen?

26 September 2016

Swipe Right for Fictional Men

I recently sat around the kitchen table with my cousin, discussing which Austen man would be best for each of us. This is a game I can play for hours, as many times as necessary. We went through the merits of each man, and in doing so had to closely examine our own selves and our own hearts and desires. Mr. Darcy is rich and eventually thoughtful, but is he too serious? Edward Ferrars is sweet and attentive, but is he too quiet? What am I looking for?

Of course, they are all good men, and to end up with any of them would be a better match than many. The game, though, got me wondering how most people construct their idea of the partner they want. In an age of hook ups, clearly the men of Austen are not the model of attainment. Captain Wentworth, after all, feels so guilty that he even gave the impression of favoring Louisa Musgrove when he didn’t mean to. He would never have used her physically with no intentions.

29 July 2016

Listen to Lead

What have you listened to today?

That seems like an easy question to answer: the morning radio show, the news, the car horns outside my window, my boss giving me directions for the day.

We spend much of the day listening, and yet, do we know how to truly listen? Lately the message I have been getting is, no, we don't. 

29 June 2016

Our Frenemy Named Food

Farm Fresh or Grain Fed?
How many people do you know with a food allergy?

How many people do you know who have a digestion problem?

How many people do you know who, for some reason or other, just don't feel right after eating?

For me, this is a curiously high number. I can count on both hands (and then some) friends and family who fall into these categories. Peanut allergies, gluten intolerance, Chron's disease, FODMAP diets - sometimes I seem to be the only person I know who can eat freely. - Oh wait, I have to limit dairy because it irritates my skin and causes acne.

Food in many ways is becoming our enemy, and yet simultaneously it has become our obsession; both feelings stemming from the same root: a plea for recovery. Recovery of health and of a healthful way of cooking that understood the food we consumed and prepared it properly.

25 April 2016

Life's a Book

As an English major at Muhlenberg College, I used "The Method" as a way to break down and understand literature. We were taught by our professors (who happened to write a book on it) to look for repetitions, strands, and contrasts in the text - to notice something, focus on it, and then notice it again in perhaps a different light. The goal of The Method is to train readers and writers to think analytically, a skill that was not limited to English Studies but applied across disciplines. Religion, Philosophy, Sociology, Biology - the key to my liberal arts education was knowing how to approach texts, think about them, and write about them.

When I graduated college, moved back home, and desperately searched for jobs and meaning in life, I found myself floundering, lost, and confused. For months I trolled job listing websites, and wrote endless lists on endless topics: where to move, what to do, dream jobs, realistic jobs, jobs that would suck in the mean time but lead to other jobs, how to land a rich husband and not need a job, etc. I was searching for the perfect thing - for my calling - which led me to really getting nowhere. "Excessive perfectionism metastasizes into chronic procrastination" says Lera Auerbach in Excess of Being, and in a way that was true.

30 March 2016

For Acculturated: Make Captain Ahab American Again

Perhaps you have heard of the recent completion of Moby Dick as an audiobook/podcast by Plymouth University. Here is an article I wrote about it for Acculturated on the dichotomy between it as the great American novel and narrated and produced by the British.

18 March 2016

America for President

With the presidential primary elections in full swing, I cannot help but reflect on what these campaigns, taglines and pleas for a new leader imply and reflect about our society and its needs. Particularly, I have been thinking about this in light of David Castro's book Genership 1.0: Beyond Leadership Toward Liberating the Creative Soul.

Genership "describes the practice in which humans collaborate with one another in generative processes - activities that foster creativity. Genership enables productivity; it brings into existence the desired materials, services, technologies, and energies that benefit the group as a whole."

23 February 2016

Making Time for Tea

As I sip my tea this morning, I am faced with the message "say it straight, simple and with a smile" on the tag. My morning is often accompanied by thoughts like these or single words like "listen" and "enjoy." Though I often laugh it off, sometimes I cannot help but ponder the text as I sit. Why is my tea talking to me? Tea has always been thought to give messages through its leaves. Perhaps these little tags are meant to be an iteration of this tradition. Coffee does not talk. Rather, we grind it and hide it in a machine, absent from our finished product. Tea, on the other hand, we often let sit far beyond its advised amount of time. It dwells with us. We watch its leaves unfurl or the color change as the bag penetrates the water. And we are mesmerized. By giving us something to read, tea forces us to slow down and have a moment, if only for a moment.

28 January 2016

Philadelphia Restaurant Week

Philadelphia Restaurant Week is wrapping up this weekend. I enjoyed an amazingly delicious dinner at Russet last week. If you haven't made a reservation anywhere yet, I highly recommend going here! Read more in my review featured on the website Click. Go. Review.

19 January 2016

If I Were a Rich (Wo)Man...

Yesterday I completed my application for GIVEN, a Catholic young women's leadership forum. This conference is exactly what I have been looking for, so fingers crossed I get accepted. But even if not, how great is it that there is a space for young Catholic women to come together and be inspired by others and by the Lord, and explore their talents and aspirations? As part of the application, I had to answer the question: "If you had unlimited funds and all the time in the world, with no outside constraints from school or work, what would you do with your time, money, and talents?" It took me quite a while to figure out an answer, but as I was reading the Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale, I knew. So pardon me while I get on a mini-soap box, but here is how I would change the world if I could...

09 January 2016

Saved through Storytelling

As a millennial in a new city, struggling to find meaningful work, I recently turned to volunteering as a way of filling my time. I discovered The Best Day of My Life So Far, an initiative that began in Philly and has since moved nationwide, whose mission is to end senior isolation through intergenerational storytelling. As an English BA (and a blogger), storytelling obviously appealed to me, and seniors were a group with whom I hadn't worked previously. Now, a few months into weekly attending, I can honestly say this is not just a way to fill my time, but is usually the highlight of my week.

04 January 2016

Why the World Still Needs Anne of Green Gables

Perhaps Twilight readers (which is more of you than will admit) will agree that one redeeming characteristic of Bella Swan is her love of classic literature, particularly Anne of Green Gables. Unfortunately, beyond this passing interest – which gets totally obliterated in the films – Bella and the writing of Stephanie Meyer resemble L.M. Montgomery's book and heroine in no way whatsoever. Anne is independent; Bella is infatuated. Anne has goals beyond marriage; Bella marries early. Anne ages; Bella does not. I was reminded of this disjunction when I saw the Google Doodle celebrating L. M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday of Anne and Diana drawing in a meadow. Not a meadow where a lovesick girl makes out with a vampire, but one where young girls form profound friendships. Despite being over 100 years old, Anne of Green Gables is more relevant and important than Twilight to readers today because its characters solve real life issues with intelligent thought and a touch of feminism, which Meyer totally abandons for traditional tropes in a fictional world.