5th Grade, Filming & Fancy Footwork

 

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A few hours each month I find myself transported back to a time warp, where the chairs are smaller, the voices squeaker and the smell much sweatier. The 5th grade has not changed much since I was in during the 1999-2000 school year. Except none of the kids are blasting Nsync, trading Pokemon card or watching As Told By Ginger.

12783571_10153937280828698_7589761860778496392_oThey may have iPads and texting- but never will they be able to bask in perfecting the ultimate AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) Away Message and profile.

Anyway- there is a reason I’m back in the classroom besides nostalgia. I have partnered with Dancing Classrooms Philly to create original video content to showcase the impact their programs has on middle school students.

As a non-profit organization, Dancing Classroom Philly brings dancing lessons into 5th and 8th grade classrooms through in-school residency programs twice a week for a duration of 2 1/2 months. And the students getting more great workout learning dances ranging from the waltz to the rumba. Social interactions including eye contact, emotional intelligence, body contact and teamwork are all part of the program’s educational experiencE. 

12768130_10153917210298698_4055273941892517245_o Through the grant funded by The Philadelphia Foundation, I have been able to capture the spring residencies of the students at four Philadelphia area schools. By creating exciting video projects, my goal is to show how Dancing Classrooms Philly helps build confidence and break down social barriers in our schools and communities- while spreading the word why #ArtEdWorks!

This has been such fun freelance project and really allows me to use a medium of storytelling that I haven’t been using lately. Here is a sneak peak of a bit of the footage I captured during the 1st week of lessons back in February!

 

 

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Quarter Life Evolution

12837576_10156558722655063_725832271_oEverything has changed but nothing has changed.

That’s how my best friend, now roommate, has chosen to sum up all of the shifting variables in both of our lives over the past month.

Initially those string of words felt on target, but the more I adopted the phrase during my explanation to others, a particular word kept tripping me up: change.


12422356_10156558722690063_919887838_oLooking around at each aspect of my life, change is bluntly apparent. The new apartment that I now call home, although only .6 miles from my former place, is a change that comes with a new roommate, although rather instead of three Craigslist strangers, it is my best friend since preschool.  

Annie the cat now has more room to roam, despite of her main priorities still being a prime seat on a windowsill for bird watching and the foot of my bed.

My roommate and I still send each other politically incorrect memes via Facebook Messenger throughout the day, but rather than coming home to watch Jeopardy solo after work there is now someone else there to yell criticism at the contestants through the screen.

12596592_10156558718450063_1844387073_o (1)Monday through Friday still consists of me spending most of my days managing digital marketing for a healthcare system, but will soon be doing so in an office space around the corner from the space that had been my dwelling since starting nearly a year and a half ago.

With it, a new title now sits under my email signature which has brought a bit a welcomed padding to the bi-weekly paycheck that has thankfully be consistently deposited into my bank account since late 2011.

12422356_10156558722690063_919887838_oDad still calls daily each morning during his commute to work, but when we talk about health ailments his newly developed symptoms  are the ones that take center stage rather than the chronic decline of my mother.

Still sitting on the same couch of my childhood home, my mother’s routine has not varied from fighting with dog over the blanket, becoming preoccupied with morning talk shows and smoking True Blue cigarettes like they are going out of style. Of course this is all speculation- because for the last several weeks I have removed her from my own routine.

The actual definition of change, according to Google ,is ‘to make or become different’. Despite all of moving the parts that have been settling into my life this month- I believe all of them (minus my father’s debacle) have stemmed from the foundation of finding myself that began almost 2 years ago.


12837301_10156558718410063_116564018_oEvolution.
The definition, according to Google, reads ‘
the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form’.

Am I more complex form of myself? Perhaps if that includes finally implementing consistent practices of self-care, respecting self-imposed boundaries and strengthening an overall sense of self-awareness in everyday life. 

Maybe evolution is why after almost 27 years on this Earth, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, no longer searching for some sense of relief.

Evolution may just be the relief of no longer being a stranger to myself.

Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

365 in 365- Kinda, Sorta, Let Me Explain

il_570xN.483656551_25qxAlmost exactly a year ago, I had decided to embark in an ambitious endeavor of completing 365 things 365 days. At the time, it was a creative way for me to continue to try new things while regaining a new life balance, something that was lacking in 2014. The original list was full of mini road trips, photography projects, wish list items and many, many, many random to-dos

Forgive me if this sounds cliche, but there is no other phrase that can describe why all of the items on the list did not get completed. The unexpected happened in my life early in the year, placing me on a winding path for the rest of the year. Instead of focusing on this list that was sure to bring me enlightenment, circumstances caused me to rise to the occasion at work, where I had barely been for four months. An unintended Master’s class was upon me, expanding my industry knowledge and skills sets in a baptism by fire way. Somehow I blinked, and 2015 is in the final stages. In total, 95 items have been completed on the original 365 list. Yet there is no doubt that over the past year, the amount of new experiences, purchases, projects and skills developed total that target number of 365.

doallthethingsWhile all of the items are not included on here, each one has impacted who I am. From discovering my uncanny ability to multitask high priority tasks, to exploring my strengths as a professional, the direction of my future is clearer now than I had anticipated it would be this time last year. In respects to my writing, in 2015 I have had 33 essays published including 20 syndicated pieces and 13 original. My mind is still reeling about that reality. The gratitude I have in my heart for the opportunity to share my stories to help others feel less alone cannot even begin to be explained. Personally, the items that were completed (both planned and spontaneous) served as additional crumbs of insight leading me the path of learning more about myself. Self acceptance and inner peace is still a daily struggle, but maintaining an undistorted viewpoint has become more manageable.

To check out my favorite moments of 2015, including a photo gallery, click here!

To check out a photo gallery of my favorite photographs that I’ve snapped in 2015, click here! 

To check out all of the 33 articles I’ve had published in 2015, click here! 

Below are the list of the 90 items checked off the list, as well as a few of the additions: Continue reading

Why I Choose To Celebrate Christmas Without My Family

Originally posted on Bustle on 12/24/2015

bcd95f70-8be4-0133-9fe4-0e7c926a42afListening to all the Christmas songs that were impossible to escape on the radio this past month, I realized something for the first time in my 26 years: about 95 percent of holiday songs focus on home. “Baby please come home,” “I’ll be home for Christmas,” “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” yada, yada yada. But what happens when there’s no longer a home to return to? How do you deal with that, during a holiday that is supposed to serve as a magnet for families to reunite?

The rented roof over my head is a sanctuary for me and my ginger tabby cat, Annie (who was a Christmas present from a friend two years ago). And about 30 minutes away from my rental, the brick twin-home where I spent my entire childhood still stands. My parents still live in it. But over the past two years, the walls and people inside them have continually become more foreign to me.

Physical and mental illness have turned the mother I grew up with into someone more unpredictable than a roulette wheel. When I return for a visit, acid reflux, rather than a sense of familiarity and peace, tends to be the main feeling I experience. However, it’s more painful to see the ways that the unhappiness and unhealthiness have taken a toll on my father, who never gets an opportunity to jump off my mother’s roller coaster.

For years, I felt that as their only child, it was my responsibility to drag my parents, kicking and screaming, towards happiness. But two years ago, after hitting my own breaking point, I made the conscious decision to stop trying. Doing this required setting new, healthier boundaries that pushed me to figure out new ways to approach many different situations and relationships — including the holiday season.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 6.31.36 PMLast year marked the first holiday season in 25 years that I spent without my parents. Though the logical part of me knew that I was better off spending Christmas away from two people who were completely miserable, the emotional side felt my heart strings tighten with every mention of family during the month of December. Truthfully, the entire ordeal felt as if I was wearing a new sweater that wasn’t yet worn in.

Continue reading

Favorite Snapshots and Selfies of 2015

A collection of photos taken during the moments that have stuck out this year. The rare times that I’ve stepped away from behind the camera- or at least balanced with a selfie stick!

 

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Taylor Swift Inspires Me Once Again

Life Interrupted-Bethany DahlstromWe all know I love T-Swift. Like I am certain we’d be best friends if somehow she just followed me on Twitter. However, now I have an even another reason to be her biggest fan.

Through my job as a communications specialist at a local rehab hospital in Philadelphia, I have the amazing opportunity to share the stories of patients who have endured unfathomable obstacles to regain their life. One amazing young woman blew me away with her story, zest for life, and dreams for the future.

At 23-years-old, Bethany Dahlstrom was diagnosed with cancer out of the blue. She’d just returned from England after earning her Masters Degree and was planning on applying for her PH.D in fall of 2014. Instead, for the end of 2014 into the first half of 2015, she spent 95 days in the hosptial fighting for first her life, and then her mobility after treatments left her immobile. Each day, she fought through the pain and stress to work out during three hour physical therapy sessions. She and her team cranked up the tunes as she worked on walking again to Taylor Swift. You can watch below how Taylor Swift helped her shake off cancer and regain her life.

Finding My Voice, Baring My Soul, and Pissing People Off

baby-writingOver the past year or so I’ve grown as a writer. I’m learning that part of that means that at times tears will be running down my face as my fingers bang out the words that are pouring out of me. Other times, it leaves me unpopular with others as I refrain from wrapping each essay with a cookie cutter ending.

For years I’ve searched for articles and essays that ring true to my heart. And there have been times where I stumble across pieces of writing that make me feel less alone. That is what drives me to be a writer. My latest piece on Bustle took months working on with the amazing editor Rachel Krantz, but she pushed me to turn in into one of the proudest pieces I have ever written. Feel free to check it out! 

Fellow Writer Inspiration: Diana Castaldini

mentoringThere are some people in your life that you just click with instantly. By the tone of their voice, the vibe of their personality and the light in their eyes, people let us know how receptive they are of us. Sure, first impressions can be misleading at times, but over the last 25 years I’ve learned that initial gut feelings about people are usually on point.

One person who struck me like that was Diana Castaldini. As a self-conscience but ambitious 18-year-old freshmen at St. John’s University, I walked into the college newspaper the first week of school and began writing editorial pieces in 2007. By the spring semester, I had several published articles and was a regular at staff meetings. One afternoon, the editorial editor had no articles left but I overheard another editor lamenting that she had no one to take an assignment for the Features section. Unsure if I could handle it but curious enough to try, I volunteered to take a stab at it.

That ended up starting my stint as the Features Editorial Assistant under Diana, who was a junior at the time and the Features editor. From the first time I met her, she instantly put me at ease with her bubbly personality. Each week, we worked together to get the weekly paper out. In a cramped cubicle, I received a crash course on creating story lists, managing writings, editing, print layout, and operating on little sleep after production night.

150px-Newspapers1Most importantly, I listened to Diana talk about her internship at Good Housekeeping. It was the first time I had heard of interning, and my eyes were opened to the possibility that my dreams of working in the magazine industry could happened while I was a student. Being exposed to that part of education by an upper class man so early in my college career was a huge turning point in my career planning. Without that experience, I doubt I would have had the internship experience that I did.

At the time, I was still battling homesickness and being part of the Torch newspaper staff was the factor of me finding feeling at home at St. John’s University. By the end of my freshmen year, I became the features editor, which was a position I held until my senior year. Seven years later, I still look to Diana for advice and often consult her about writing ideas. She was my first mentor in my career and still is one!

Diana is a New York City native and a beautiful writer. Over the past few she years, she has experienced near-death health experiences that would make most of us crumble. But not Diana. Through her illness, she was reborn with a new purpose of life. From discovering different forms of exercises, alternative holistic healing and healthier eating- her recovery has transformed her into a passionate health care advocate.

Recently, she lost her beloved grandmother but had the bravery to share the breathtaking experience of coming face to face with a loved one facing mortality. Anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a grandmother will be moved by her honest essay. You can read her essay on her blog, Thinking Less After Brain Surgery. 

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

Facebook now has a new app that will create a short video clip about the highlights of 2014. To be frank, 2014 can kick rocks. Most of the year was spent dealing with stress, unhappiness and grief. But somewhere in the middle of the emotional roller coaster of the year, I managed to do a whole bunch of cool things. 2014 can only be summed in one cliche, corny phrase- Life Goes On. 

Here’s a 101 memorable things that I did this year. Thank you for reading my ramblings, commenting on my essays, and/or being in my life this year.  I’m still wrapping my mind over some of the shit that went down over the past 365 days, so I won’t even try to guess what 2015 will hold. 

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

 Participated in a vegan chicken wing eating contest- This was a disaster, no one warned me that seitan expands once it’s wet. But it benefited Philly Roller Girls, so it was for a good cause!

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Participated in a cupcake eating contest.It was my first large amount of sugar after clean eating for 40 days, let’s just say that night I wanted to die

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Went on an upside roller coaster- I actually tried frantically to get off the Batman Coaster but the attendant didn’t hear me so I was stuck going through with it

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Went to Six Flags- We meant to go to Belmont Beach, but the signs for the safari seemed more exciting

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Had an article go viral- I was annoyed about how much online dating sucked, and wrote an article about it one night after work. Apparently people like that kind of thing.

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Got published on Bustle

Got published on Literally Darling

Found out I was a social introvert

Took photos on Citizen Bank Park’s field before a Phillies Game 

Missed a plane transfer

Had my article and face appear on Yahoo.com

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Flew to California

Put my feet in the Pacific Ocean

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Went in a hot tub under the stars at night in California

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Had my face appear on a HuffPo email 

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Continue reading