Learning to simplify

Next year holds the potential of being completely different than this year .. Of course it is expected, seeing as I will no longer be a college student, care free and young. I will be a real person, more than that, I may very well be in a developing country doing service.

The applications are in, one for a program in South Africa and another for a program in Haiti, two programs that could potentially turn my life upside down.. No more technology, no more calls home when I miss my mom, no more home cooked meals or shopping at the mall. Life will certainly be simplified to say the least. So I guess I need to find ways to start preparing for this.

My mom and I talked about it on the phone tonight. I don’t want anything expensive for Christmas, not an Ipod or a digital camera, not really anything technological. Little by little, I am beginning to inch myself towards a more simplistic lifestyle, one that incorporates more prayer, more trust in God and more gratitude for the little things in life, the things that money cannot by.

It is probably the hardest this time of year, we say its all about friends and family and memories, but I often see my friends pulling their hair out over buying for people on their lists or my family trying to get out of my what I want.. What do I really want? The simple things in life– smiles, hugs, letters, love, conversation, encouragement, understanding — let these simple things settle in my heart instead of under my tree.

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The Gift of h2o

Remember those middle school days when we felt obligated to get all of our friends Christmas presents? I would buy nearly a dozen body soaps from Bath and Body Works and 2 dozen candles, and would come home after a day of passing out gifts in school owning a dozen body soaps and 2 dozen candles.

Let’s face it, it is hard to shop for friends during the Holiday season, especially those Secret Santa gifts. Woof. Well I solved the problem for good last year and I have decided to carry it into this holiday season as well.

Today my girlfriends will receive their gifts in their campus mail boxes. What they really will recieve is a cardstock tear drop with a simple statistic on the front “Every 22 seconds a child dies from lack of clean water.” The cardstock is wrapped up with a glittered blue ribbon and a letter attached to the back of it. The letter reads….

“To a friend,

To reveal to you the purpose of this Christmas letter I unfortunately have to bring up the subject of crying. Tears are a natural part of life, they come when our heart is hurting, when we let go of someone we love, when we laugh so hard that we cry. We look at tears and we think they are normal, we never really marvel at their presence in the corners of our eyelids or rolling over the arches of our cheeks. For a moment imagine what it would be like to be moved to tears at this very moment but amidst the sniffles and sobs, nothing comes out. No tear drops.

It seems almost silly, something we never really give much thought to, but for 1.9 million children in the developing world it is a sad reality. Because of the lack of clean water and the inefficient forms of technology to filter this water, children in these countries are often so dehydrated that their body cannot produce tear drops. They cry dry tears. Without wells to supply the clean water, a child dies every 22 seconds due to this lack of clean water. That is three children every minute, 180 children every single hour.

Here is where you come in. You have been a constant presence and blessing in my life and I am eternally grateful for this. I am reminded of your simple acts of kindness towards me especially during this holiday season. I don’t think it would ever be good enough to hand you a gift card or a present that I purchase in an attempt to show you how much your friendship has meant to me. For this very reason, I would like to extend a thank you in another way.

This Christmas a donation has been made in your name to the World Vision Clean Water Fund.   Because of you, children in developing countries will be saved from disease that could potentially kill them. Because of you children will be able to attend school, no longer having to stay home sick because of water borne disease. These wells are the first step in making developing countries more stable and you have just played a part in working towards that tremendous goal.

This Christmas season please remember the donation that you inspired just by being a friend. Never doubt that you have not made an impact in someone’s life, you impacted my life so much that I am passing it along to children who need the difference so desperately. Because of you children are going to have clean water and a chance to grow up healthy in this world. Because of you, children are going to live, a chance they may not have had if you had not been the person I am so proud to know today.

I hope this season allows you to rest, relax and the see the difference you can make in this world. Thank you for making me the person that I am, giving me incentive to wake up every morning and showing me that grace of friendship. This is just a small gift of thanks in comparison to what you have given me in my knowing you.”

Why not give a gift that helps someone else this holiday season? There are millions of people out there who need help and support a lot more than we need meaningless gift cards and more “stuff.” I challenge you to find ways to give this season and to think about the value of the gifts that give back.

Do the mean girls ever die?

Mean Girls. A phenomenon that hit the public eye when Lindsay Lohan and her crew exposed the world to what Queen Bees could do. Lying. Manipulating. Calculating. Deceiving. Bitches. We sat in the seats of the movie theater and shuddered at the acts of these conniving divas as they took individuals who were not as “cool” or “popular” and aimed to ruin their lives through a Burn Book. Parents could not believe that this was reality, and although a lot of movie was a little dramatic at times, I think it did a fair job in depicting what it is like to be a girl in this world.

Confessions: I was once a mean girl. In middle school I had the luck of being friends with the most popular girl in school, Jessica. But the only way to stay friends with this pretty pretty princess was to be just as mean, if not meaner than her. A group of five of us would laugh at the expense of others, make others do favors for us and as a reward we would let them sit at the lunch table with us for the day. We voted people out of the lunch table if they were not wearing the right clothes for the day, yes, I know this also transpired in the movie “Mean Girls” but we did this every single day. Before school we would call one another to pass along the memo of what was acceptable to wear for the day and then we would all dress accordingly.

Where did this get me? Besides a reputation for being a mean girl and a humble servant of Jessica, how was I really benefiting from this? I remember specifically one instance where Jessica became fed up with one of the five. She wrote out a petition, full of nasty and mean comments about the girl, and passed it along for all of us to sign it and the rest of the grade to sign it as well. My heart was in my throat as I signed that paper, it was the equivalent of the Burn Book. When the teacher got a hold of this petition she took each of aside for a one-on-one meeting. In the meeting with me my teacher simply said, “I am disappointed in you, Hannah. I really thought you were a different kind of leader.” Those words stung me, still burn in my mind whenever this memory surfaces.

So I abandoned my mean girl ways. I finally came to my senses and realized that being nice to people was a better way to make friends, real friends, not friends that would dump you the second you did something that they did not like. This being nice to everyone deal has brought me a long way, and I can finally say that I understand the importance of true friendship. Real friends will fill you up and make you a person that you are happy to be.

But I am 21 years old now, a senior in college, and baffled that I still see this “mean girl” syndrome even at this age. A few of my closest friends are being treated horribly by their roommates for no apparent reason. Their roommates are using mediums like Facebook to openly make fun of them and try to humiliate them. As much we all usually want to throw rocks right back in this kind of situation, we realize that this does not get us anywhere. Stooping to the level of the mean girls will get us no where at the end of the day. Let them realize on their own that the mean girls took place in high school, and even then they weren’t exactly cool.

The advice I give to combating these petty princesses? Be a bigger person, the prettier person. Kill them with kindness. It would be so easy to deliver our own insults and try to knock them down a few notches, but at the end of the day we are making ourselves look just as ugly as them, if not uglier. Being mean isn’t cool, it will never be in style, it will never get us anywhere. Yes, people will want to talk about us, but never for the right reasons.

I am a firm firm firm believer in Karma. Karma will play its role in this situation as it usually unfolds in everything else. And a helpful thought to make us happy not to be in the shoes of those mean girls…. Often mean girls are insecure, they have a lot of fake friendships, they are unhappy with themselves and so they must find ways to take this out on someone else… We may be the butt of their jokes today but tomorrow they will have moved onto someone else. Its called a sad and lonely life with a pointless agenda of making other people feel bad. If anything, at the end of the day lets be thankful that we have something more to look forward to everyday.

Its that it will not come again…

Last weekend at Assumption before finals. The campus is full of students, especially seniors, trying to make the best of these final times together. Soon we will wrack our brains throughout the last of our exams, forget to sleep over 20-page papers, and then pack up to head home for the holidays. Of course we will be back again for another round in January but its hard not to see this all as bitter sweet.

Tonight the majority of juniors and seniors will get dressed up and dance the night away at the winter ball, I for one being so excited to put on my red dress and red pumps. I just have one hope for the night, that things that are bothering people, drama between friends, all of this will just cease for one final tonight to join together as a class.

When we graduate from college we will only have the moments to look back on. If we do not take the time to make these moments I think we will come to regret it.  Our time together is short, sweet and a gift. We should treat it as such. Forget the fights and the fumbles with enemies and just focus on the present moment. It will not come again.

Of course I will post up pictures from the night!

And for anyone looking for a fun holiday Christmas party idea, I would recommend an ugly sweater party. I have heard of them numerous times but have never actually experienced one until last night. What a blast.

“Leave a mark that cant erase, neither time nor space”

Have a good night, you know that I will be.

Holding hands with the holiday season…

Thanksgiving Day night. A day full of gratitude and even more calories  winds down. The adults wrap up the leftovers and relatives prepare for the long drive ahead. I sit at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee by my side, wondering where the day decided to go and why it made such a point to leave so quickly.

I am known to over analyze, over do, over achieve, over everything. Because of my ability to “over” all in my life, I very often overemphasize the holiday season. I plan for this day all year-long, and I chalk it up in my head to be the season that will never end, it will skip on and on with one perfect moment after another. The holiday season will just stay there implanted in our hearts every single day. Every day there will be a decking of a tree, a singing of a carol, the eating of gingerbread men and a sign of snow in the air. Every night we will turn on the white lights, have a cup of hot cocoa and go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

I wish. Really, I do. I decorated in October for this very reason. There is just something special, an indescribable feeling that hangs in the air, from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Night. But why? Why do we force this beautiful feeling to be slammed between November 24 and December 25? Why do we give ourselves one measly month to be good to one another, to be thankful, to stop and appreciate the scenery?

Of course the holiday season can have its share of chaos and cruelty, many of which will transpire as the stores open at 4a.m. tomorrow, but there does seem to be an undeniable urge to be better to one another. It seems like it always pushes everyone to write a few Christmas cards and help out at a homeless shelter, stop what they are doing and just be with one another. Maybe with great practice we could capture the essence of this season and slowly but surely work it into our everyday life, whether it be Christmas Eve or July 1.

My decision this holiday season is to soak it up for everything that it is. I plan to drain out the holiday season and really appreciate it. Come midnight I will shop, I will be good to my friends and family, I will merrily sing Christmas songs til people beg me to stop. But maybe, just maybe, I will let this “Buddy the Elf” mentality stick around after the advent calendar has ended.

The holiday season has the potential to bring out the best in all of us. Let’s not pack it up again with the boxes of ornaments ready to go up to the attic.

‘Tis the season.. lets not worry about when it is going to fall away from us… It may just be better if we let the holiday season hold us, instead of trying to hold it too tightly.