Wednesday, January 30, 2013

March For Life happiness

We went to the March For Life last week, as mentioned in my previous post, and had a great time. When I say "we" I mean Bobcats For Life. However, I think the part of the weekend that was most special for me was just getting to share it with Ryan. I mean, he is a part of Bobcats For Life, but having him there as my boyfriend and my best friend, not just as a member of the organization, was special to me. He visited me in DC when I was there for the NRL Academy so it was nice to be back there together again.

Ryan is so special to me. When we arrived on Thursday night, we were both experiencing some pretty bad ear discomfort. I felt pretty stressed out and now in pain from ear issues and I kind of just wanted to go to bed and wake up again feeling great. Unfortunately, the night continued to be stressful with the 8 of us trying to find food in the cold at 11 p.m. and my hearing slowly fading away. Once we all got back to the hotel after dinner, I just couldn't handle the pain in my ears. It was just so terrible; it wasn't the normal airplane ear discomfort. Ryan stayed by my side throughout my whole ordeal. He went with me down to the lobby so I could cry without worrying about waking up anyone in the room. He searched on Google for cures (which, by the way, are bullshit. Yawning? nope. Gum chewing? tried it. Plugging your nose and blowing? don't want permanent ear drum damage.) and sat there with me as I cried and cried and used up a box of tissues from my tears and runny nose. He called his mom for motherly advice at 2 a.m. when my mom didn't answer (she did later, to her credit.). He searched online for a 24 hour clinic, but to no avail. He talked me through it all. Honestly, he handled himself like a social worker would. I recognized in him some listening and reflecting skills that I'd read about in my textbook that day. At the end of the night, after lots of phone calls to my insurance company's 24 hour nurse hotline and to our moms and a can of ginger ale, I ended up taking melatonin & ibuprofen and falling asleep on some hot hands. I woke up the next morning feeling so much better. I was so grateful for the care that Ryan provided me, despite how tired he was from such a long and exhausting day of travel and his own ear discomfort. How lucky am I.

The next morning was the Holocaust museum and the Rally. Before the rally, Ryan went with me to visit National Right to Life's office. I hadn't been back since the Academy and, even though I don't really have a relationship with anyone that was there that day, it just felt nice to go back into that building where I spent such a wonderful summer. This is where I got to be reunited with one of my Academy sisters- Erin (pictured above)! It was one of those dramatic "see each other from afar and run up" hugs. It felt so wonderful to see one of the girls in person after 1.5 years of staying so close through our online thread. I really feel so close to these wonderful women, even if we are all across the country doing so many different things. It is so great to be a part of a group of women and be the least lovely. I don't know if that makes sense, but these ladies are all just so much better than me, in that they all just make me want to go do good and be patient and respond to crises with prayer and not with angry emails. They have provided me with so much kind and thoughtful counsel since we met and I am just so lucky to have them to lift me up from this bitter & impatient place I feel like I have fallen into. How lucky I am to be the worst of us and to be able to benefit from so much grace that they share with me.

The Rally was great. It was so much better than the rally in 2011. Seriously. I was really actually inspired by some of the speakers, namely (and surprisingly) Senator Santorum. I didn't think he would really go the emotional route; I thought it would be more of a political speech than a personal testimony. It was really nice.  The thing that everyone from our group mentioned feeling inspired by was just the sense of being surrounded by so many people with a similar passion for protecting life. Sometimes I feel so exhausted, almost like swimming upstream, fighting this battle... but in this whole crowd, it's like you're just swept away by all the supporters. It's nice to just go with the flow; it feels safe in a way to just be able to let your guard down and not worry about having to fight for a little bit. I didn't see a single protester. I did hear some cray guy protesting the Cardinal that spoke.... but that was a really inappropriate time for that little outburst. Sad part of the March was that the whole reason we flew out to DC from Texas was to March for Life... and only 3 out of 8 of us actually finished the March. Everyone got too cold (and I don't blame em! I couldn't have lasted much longer.) and ended up going indoors to museums. I think 2 more might have finished the March after warming up. It was just a bummer we couldn't all march together. Oh well! Got to run into a friend who is now with the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist while on the march! It was a beautiful surprise. So lovely to see her looking so happy.
The rest of the weekend was great. Ryan and I did a lot of fun things together during free time. We got to meet up with a friend of mine who just graduated from Baylor and had moved to the city 4 days prior. It was so much fun meeting her & her roommate; we had a wonderful time! It was beautiful to see snow on the ground, an old friend's face, and Ryan in his winter hat. So many wonderful sights to see - and I don't even mean the monuments or museums. The bouncer at the bar we went to was playing Angry Birds so we talked about that for a while (just wanted to remember this hilarious moment in years to come). We also went to a bar we had found on Yelp a few weeks back and were so excited to see that the drinks were as awesome as the reviews suggested (Stan's Restaurant, folks!).
The next day, Ryan and I went to the Students for Life of America conference. I felt a little old for it, to be honest. After spending so much time in this movement as a college student, it just felt like stuff I had already heard a hundred times and also stuff I didn't think was relevant. Had a social worker conscience twinge when some guy - who I obviously didn't enjoy because I don't even remember his name - went on some rant about how the "COEXIST" bumper stickers are evil. Well, I'll rant about how wrong he is another day, but I wasn't going to sit there and have my soul cry from listening to such ignorance so Ryan and I went to check out the booths and I got to meet some sweet ladies from Feminists for Life. I think that was the highlight of the conference for me. We didn't stay the whole time. I do think it is a good experience for high schoolers and college students that are new to the movement and want to be in the pro-life movement with a very religious emphasis. I, however, am not about that. Another post on that someday. lolz. I appreciated the opportunity to attend though. It was inspiring to see so many teens gathered in one room for life.

That night, we went to the Basilica for Mass. Only bummer is that by the time we got there, the place was packed & standing room only.... and it was HOT. I felt really faint and couldn't stay in the main church area with all that heat, so I went downstairs to my favorite spot in the whole place. The chapel of Our Lady of Brezje. Something about this place has drawn me in since the first time I was there in January 2011. I ended up praying there after traveling 1,500 miles from San Marcos to D.C. only to run into the person who hurt me more than I'd ever been hurt before and had not seen in 6 months. What were the odds of that? I'd say close to slim. But after that chance/freak encounter I remember feeling so shaky and uneasy. Gosh, when I saw this person I honestly felt like I was in a bad dream. I immediately whispered to Reese, "he's here" and she knew exactly what I meant. I ended up speaking to this person - civilly, as considering unposted circumstances, there wouldn't have been a way for me to speak to him uncivilly - and walking away. That was the last time I saw him. Shaken from an unexpected trip to a dark time from the previous summer, I went wandering around the lower church to look at the chapels. There were hundreds of people down there for overflow seating from the upper church. People were in almost every chapel, praying or looking or taking pictures, but this one was empty... and it has always been empty everytime I have been there. I remember kneeling there and crying and feeling comfort in the fact that I had no one around to ask if I'm okay or try to talk to me. I remember just wanting to cry. The wall on the right had a quote engraved in it that may have been chiseled in the marble just for me in that moment:
and I kind of understood that the whole experience maybe just needed to happen. God needed me stuck in overflow seating and needed that person to be across the country in the lower church wearing that ensemble standing with that group of his colleagues - to prevent an uncivil discourse or tears on my part, perhaps - for me to have some kind of closure? I don't know. I just know that I cried in this chapel and I love this quote and that was probably the last day he really had much of a hold over me in a destructive way.
It felt really therapeutic to be back in this chapel almost exactly 2 years later knowing that I am free from the fear and insecurity caused by that person. It was wonderful to know that upstairs at Mass was my Ryan, a man who respects me and loves me and would never treat me the way I'd been treated by this person. I don't think I usually get this person on this blog- oops! I don't think I've written very explicitly about this person and I think this will be the only time I delve into that, but it is over and I am loved and I am respected and I am happy. I love that chapel and the chance to kneel there and pray. I haven't been praying enough lately; it is a problem. This is the prayer of Our Lady of Brezje:

Mary, Help of Christians,you show us how to be Christian,how to "hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:28).Help us to respond to God as you did,that His power work in us,that the Spirit form Christ in us,and that His mind, His heart, His will be ours.We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

After Mass, 4 of us went to Chinatown for dinner. I loved the food I had at Ming's! Ryan and I were both surprised by how much I enjoyed it, haha. After Ming's was one of the coolest parts of the night - meeting Ruthie (author of The Itchy Scapular)! I had never met Ruthie in real life before. We met through a very strange series of occurences that I think goes from Youtube to Blogger to Youtube to Blogger to Youtube to Facebook, or some combination of that. Luckily, I wasn't catfished! Ryan and I had so much fun meeting Ruthie and hanging out with some of her hilarious army friends at a very TEXAN bar called Hill Country. It was just so great to meet someone whose blog I've read and whose statuses I have liked. Ruthie is just lovely and hope we can meet up again!

 Had to get a traditional pic with the beautiful Mother Teresa statue at the Basilica. I swear I have a third one from another visit floating around my computer somewhere.

Overall, I just have to say that it was a lovely time. I've made this comment before but it's the only way I can think to describe- I lost my voice and can barely hear out of either ear, but doing what I love with the one I love was beautiful & unforgettable.

Oh, p.s. turns out I have a double ear infection & I'm on antibiotics. the end.

Monday, January 28, 2013

March For Life: Frustrations & Trip Planning Tips

On Thursday, 8 of our Bobcats For Life group headed out to DC for the March For Life. It all went well, but in retrospect there are a few things I would've done differently. DON'T GET ME WRONG, the trip was great. There were a few times I was frustrated... and these are ways that frustration could have been avoided:
Trip planning tip #1: Plan early, so you don't have 8 people on 5 different itineraries out of 2 different cities. The earlier you plan, the cheaper tickets are and the more likely you are to be able to find all your tickets on the same flight. Ryan and I flew together which was nice, but also had to provide a ride for 2 others who were flying out 5 hours before us, so our day started at 7:30 a.m. for our 2:00 flight...which proved to be exhausting at the day's end. 

Trip planning tip #2: Tell the group they have to bring cash- not just $20 bills, but $5s and $1s would be preferred. Just to be kind to the waiters at restaurants, do this. Also, when 2 of our group members wanted to split a cupcake that cost $3.95 plus tax, THE WORLD ALMOST ENDED. They each had a $20 bill and the total was like $4.27 so they wanted the guy working at the cupcake shop to do the math and split it, then take both of their $20 bills, then give them the change for the $40.... basically it was hell. I offered to just pay for the damn thing, but eventually - after an embarrassingly long and loud process that left the man working the register shaking his head - it got sorted out. I never carry cash with me when I'm at home, which I should, but definitely tell your group members to bring cash in small denominations to pay for food at restaurants when they won't split the check AND for times when they want to be petty and worry about who is paying $0.01 more when splitting a cupcake.

Also, make sure members realize that - if their trip was fully or partially funded by the organization or donations - they kind of don't have the right to complain about having to spend a few extra dollars at a restaurant on a meal. Believe me, I'm not saying "if people can't afford the food, they did something wrong!" but we went to affordable restaurants and fast food places the whole weekend and it bothered me so much to hear one person complain about how a meal was $12-ish when Bobcats for Life covered the member's entire plane ticket of almost $400. 

Trip planning tip #3: It's better to plan in excess and then decide to play things by ear, than to play things by ear and then have chaos. I planned our schedule for the trip and provided it to our members before leaving, but still... things could have been smoother. The biggest issue we had with this was meals. "Where do y'all want to eat?" or "What kind of food do y'all want?" never get anywhere. I planned a few meals and locations ahead of time, but when it was 11:00 p.m. and everyone was tired from flying and very hungry, it was difficult. I wish I had found a restaurant earlier so we wouldn't have had to waste so much time locating one on Yelp.

Trip planning tip #4: Mention manners ahead of time. This mostly means to say something along the lines of "Don't have your cell phone out at dinner unless you need it to be out." This translates to: "Dinner is not the time for meaningless scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Aside from the fact that this should be common sense, leading a group of eight 18-21 year olds through this trip taught me that common sense is not all that common. At one restaurant, 6 members had phones out at once. It was just flat out embarrassing. The group should be representing the organization in a professional manner, not looking like a bunch of 8th graders at the mall. 

Trip planning tip #5: You can never be too explicit with expectations. I am NOT saying to make a bunch of rules and be all naggy about that. We had like 4 rules- 1) keep your phone on and charged all weekend. 2) always have at least one person from the group with you. 3) if you go out after 9:00 p.m., just let someone know where you & your buddy are headed. 4) text me before you depart/after you land. However, when weather predictions say that the weekend will be around 20 degrees, if you mention to one person that he should plan to wear pants and he shows up for the trip wearing shorts.... I mean.... it really just put me in a bad mood. It's the common sense thing again. I wish I had emphasized more seriously that I was not kidding that shorts aren't okay. It isn't a fashion rule, but an "I don't want to deal with you getting pneumonia" rule. This member only packed 1 long sleeved shirt and 1 hoodie also. We had to stop at Ryan's on the way out of town to get more layers. It really started my day off on the wrong foot. 

Trip planning tip #6: Couples can be dangerous. I knew that Ryan and I would be attending the Students for Life conference together and no one else was going and I knew that we had a few sightseeing things that we wanted to do during free time, but I didn't think about the consequences that multiple pairs in a small group could have. Obviously Ryan is my best friend so it is logical that we would spend time together, likewise one member had her sister there (who doesn't go to TX State so wasn't too familiar with the rest of the group) so it was way logical that they would stick together, we had one member whose boyfriend got her the free flight through work so he was flying out with her - I didn't know he was staying in DC that weekend - so I learned that they would be together, so that left 3 members without a sister or boyfriend. I figured we would do more things as a group than we did, but that was difficult when Ryan & I had to go to the conference. Also, had a member who was sick part of the time and then went to meet up with friends that she had in the area, which I later learned was actually her boyfriend (I wasn't mad, it just felt deceptive to not say something about how your boyfriend happens to live in the city you are about to visit...). SO that made 2 couples  (romantic & biological paha) in the group, 2 people in the group with boyfriends in the city, and left 2 members without a partner other than each other. It sucked for them because when we had free time and all the couples were out, they were forced to do things together and they didn't really get along. One person said she was yelled at in a museum by the other and it was just like... sad. I was bummed by the two members of the group who had boyfriends in the city that didn't attempt to include our two solo members. 

Trip planning tip #7: Provide addresses & maps & directions ahead of time. I actually did this one! However, as I have mentioned before.... common sense doesn't always come into play. Here is an example of how one conversation went that could have been prevented if this group member had utilized the information packet I provided in advance:
G: what time is Mass?
S: 5:15, all the information and the time is in the packet
G: okay!! how do we get there? can we walk?
S: take the metro, the map & the metro stop are listed in the packet.
G: okay! do you know the name of the stop?
S: it is Brookland CUA. 
G: what's the address so we know how to get there?
This was all taking place while Ryan and I were at the Students for Life conference ON TOP OF another member texting me similar questions. Eventually, I just sent out a group text with all the info anyone could ever want about our trip to the Basilica as a preemptive strike. 

Trip planning tip #7: Take members who have been very active and shown passion for the cause all year. That's all I'm going to say for now, but it is essential. Without passion for the cause, people wouldn't want to spend hours in the cold and walk for a very long time in a slow moving group for the march (which is the whole reason for the trip).

Trip planning tip #8: You can't make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. I put lots of hours into planning this trip and doing everything I can to make sure it was an affordable and enjoyable time. It sucked to feel like I couldn't make people happy - especially the two members that were left after everyone had "paired off" - but I did everything I could. 

I'll post happy things & fun pictures & memories at a later time, ttfn!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

office hours

Can't sleep and remembered that I meant to blog about a week I had in December.

I've written before about how I have trouble figuring out grief. When Jon Scharfenberger passed away, I felt strange for mourning because I really barely knew him. We had a few very brief conversations in group settings, but when he was in that accident... I felt so much pain for him. I remember crying and praying and sitting in the chapel just at a loss for words. I didn't understand how to process the grief I was experiencing because I felt like I wasn't allowed to be so sad for someone I barely knew. I think part of the reason Jon's death hit me so deeply was that he was so involved in the movement and so young - it felt so close to home. It felt like a that could've been me... or any of us kind of thing. Well that feeling returned this past December.

One of my classmates in the school of social work passed away. She, too, was a passenger in a fatal car accident. She was 25 years old and had a precious young daughter. When I received the e-mail about the news, I felt so much guilt because I was not sure who she was. This woman who I have shared classes with for the past few semesters... I couldn't even be sure if I was picturing the right person. That was just a shameful moment for me. Then I searched for her on Facebook and found her... and I wept. It was an eerie feeling reading her "about me" and "favorite quotes." The part that broke my heart twice over was about how she was so ready to graduate and get her career as a social worker going... and how she loved her babygirl more than anything in the world. It was heartbreaking to read. How can someone be here one day, in class, on Facebook... and so quickly gone the next? It really could've been any of us... it could've been me... and oh that poor little girl... only two years old. Will she even remember what her mother looks like?

I began processing what happened and dreaded going to my social work classes that week. The professors would obviously mention what happened... and sometimes bad news just doesn't get easier to hear, even when you know what's coming. It was hard keeping it together as the attendance sheet was passed around the classroom and her name was still there; her usual desk was empty in the back of the room. This reflection brings me to tears. In my second class of the day, after managing to hold it together pretty well, my professor started to share the news again in case some students had not heard about our classmate's fate. Once again, her absence from the room felt so evident. She was quiet and sat in the back of the room, seemingly unnoticed, but that day... her absence was deafening.

Our professor, a strong and confident woman, began to share the basic facts of what happened. She was gentle and rehearsed... then she broke. She said, "I'm sorry - I told myself I wouldn't do this - " and she cried for a minute. I sat in the far back left corner of the room and I just put my head against the wall and let my hair cover my face and closed my eyes. She continued, "I just - can't believe it. Just on Thursday she was in my office hours and we were talking and now -- " and she cried.

The week went on and deadlines for our huge papers came up and questions about grad school dug knives into my stomach. I felt terrible. I felt the same mix of grief, guilt, why-not-me that I'd felt after Jon's passing. I guess I should be grateful for that confusion because it means I have not had to grieve the loss of too many loved ones in my life, but it was still hard. Eventually, my emotional and mental stress manifested itself in my schoolwork. I did terribly on an assignment I worked so long on. I just felt so depressed. Hopeless. So I went in to my professor's office hours thinking we would discuss my paper after she so graciously allowed me to go through it again.

I ended up crying in her office and a deeply buried existential crisis came out of nowhere in the form of "AM I EVEN GOING TO BE A GOOD SOCIAL WORKER?" and turned into a whole life-purpose questioning. My fears about my resume - how it is nearly 100% pro-life related - emerged. "SOCIAL WORKERS THINK 'PRO-LIFE' MEANS CRAZY. NO ONE WILL EVER WANT ME AT THEIR GRAD SCHOOL." And I just broke down (sense a recurring theme for this week? take a shot every time I have a breakdown... you'll be drunk in no time!). Luckily, this was no ordinary professor. This was a woman who loves what she does, cares about her students, and is basically who I want to be when I am a social worker one day. I've taken her for 3 classes and have gotten to know her somewhat personally and have grown to respect her immensely. After a week faced with fear of my own future, experiencing the termination of another's future, grief, stress, and self-doubt, she said one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me. We spoke about the abundance of pro-life work on my resume and how it can be phrased to appeal to individuals who may not be pro-life and, knowing she is pro-choice, that gave me comfort. She told me that I could be a social worker and still maintain my values and she said, "you wouldn't judge women who have had abortions, you wouldn't judge men who abuse their children." Oh and I tell you, just that little bit of confidence in me that she had in that's what I needed to keep from spiraling further into crisis mode. I don't even know why I'm writing about this but I just want to remember it one day. I wish I could have recorded that conversation, minus my sniffling and blowing my nose, and I could just listen when I am feeling like the only one of my kind in a sea of "choice." I don't know why I wrote this, really, but I can't sleep and started thinking about that comment my professor made to me and then reflecting on Amanda's passing and it just felt good to get that out.

(from BHLDN pinterest)

recent pro-lifery

I've been busy sorting out the details of our group's first trip to the DC March For Life, so I've been tapping away at my computer and making excel spreadsheets and trying to make sense of all these numbers...

but I've also discovered my new favorite way to "waste" time on a computer - no, not Pinterest (but I do LOVE it). I love to play with PhotoShop. I don't know what to call what I do when I spend time on there, but I love making things and flyers and, oh I love editing pictures, just everything. I am an amateur by all means and would never claim anything contrary, but it just makes me happy and I don't think I'm too terribly terrible at it. I have even felt proud of some of my "creations." I don't feel proud too much, so it's nice!

Anyways, these are some of the little things I have been making lately:

just fun. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

note to self

remember when you used to play guitar all the time? when you used to write? what happened to that? you loved it, ya know. sigh.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 in review.

Well, I haven't posted since the birth of my precious niece. OOPS.
Anyways, here's 2012 in review (mostly in pictures).
Oh yeah... I guess nothing happened in March... because somehow I missed that month.


So that's a year (or at least 11 months of it) in the life of Sarah... sans pro-lifery. I have an upper respiratory infection right now so I've been getting a lot of work done and playing with photoshop so many hours these days. Maybe tomorrow will be time for a "year in the (pro)life" post.

gossip girl

Just kidding, but I have been watching lots and lots of Gossip Girl over break. Literally, like I've been through 4 seasons of it. Anyways, that's all for now.


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