Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Daily Pilgrimage for Beauty

Last week I delved into the New York Times Bestselling book – Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – thoroughly enjoying every page of her vivid journey for self-discovery through Italy, India and Indonesia. Often when reading a good book, certain phrases will jump off the page that resonate so strongly I feel compelled to copy them into a small black book kept by my bed every night.
The most recent inspiring phrase from Elizabeth Gilbert actually made it onto a post-it note stuck to the top corner of my office computer screen. She wrote, “You were given life; it is your duty to find something beautiful with life, no matter how slight;” the idea that if you tried, you could find something beautiful in each and every day, and the belief that as receivers of the beautiful gift of life, we have the responsibility to do this.
Whether the small joy of seeing a smile spread across a child’s face or the simple pleasure of eating a fresh red apple in your office cubicle, we are obligated to search for this beauty –especially on the days when we are not sure if we can find it.
I think this could be a meaningful and powerful goal for the year, a kind of mid-summer resolution; making a conscious effort to put aside discouragement and frustration to try and find at least one beautiful thing in each day. With just one revelation of beauty, even the worst day could seem worthwhile, and the most devastating hours contain a moment of peace.
More than just a recipe for happiness, Gilbert suggests this as a calling we all have – a duty we often overlook. As humans we should not only aspire to bring something of beauty to the world, but also work to recognize the beauty that already exists in so many simple, unnoticed places.
I will start my pilgrimage of beauty today to search for something beautiful with life, every day.  My days this summer often feel monotonous and strained as they pass with little difference from the one before; the search for beauty often seems impossible to conduct from a cold, grey office cubicle.  Gilbert calls this my duty however, so I will give my best effort.
Perhaps though, if nothing else, there is beauty in the search for beauty – value in the desire to find something worthwhile in each day and the eternal optimism this represents. And well, today for lunch I did happen to enjoy a scandalously luscious peach…! 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coffee Mayhem

If you want to see an office full of nine-to-fivers go into sudden panic mode…break the communal coffee machine!  I learned this early Monday morning at my summer job working in marketing at a local bank. This internship has offered me amazing opportunities to write, produce training videos, and work on marketing projects, but the most valuable thing I’ve gained this summer has to do with understanding an important part of American Culture – The Office.
Although people arrive at the office around 7:57am to clock in… the real work does not start until much later. Emails must be laboriously checked, pencils, jackets and supplies arranged, evening events rehashed and of course a lengthy trip to the communal watering hole of poorly brewed caffeine must be made!
Our supercharged coffee brewer located in the office kitchen in the middle of the operations center serves as the heart of social gathering, procrastination, and obscene caffeine consumption. This beast of an appliance brews coffee continuously throughout the day quenching the insatiable thirst of an office full of caffeine -addicted employees.
This particular Monday morning, I arrived around 7:50am to widespread mayhem as people discovered that the jumbo sized coffee brewer (savior of tired working people everywhere) was broken. Panic calls were made to frantically rearrange meetings and organize Starbucks runs as everyone quickly realized that no work could possibly get done until this coffee shortage was remedied.
I reveled at the fact that one appliance glitch could so easily incapacitate a whole office full of talented people. As the ominous “Out of order” sign was taped on the coffee pot, I couldn’t help but laugh – never had I known or understood the great importance of that morning “Cup of Joe”, until now; but clearly I had underestimated its power.
A few hours later, as I sipped my steaming Vanilla latte delivered by a friendly coworker returning from her Starbucks rescue mission, it finally began to sink in – coffee really does fuels the office; the gasoline that keeps it running. Whether it’s your daily trip to the kitchen to share a friendly conversation and stir in your cream and sugar that keeps you going or the extra boost of caffeinated energy that helps you file that final stack of papers… coffee exists as a vital part of every office day!
Run out of fuel and your car will not budge – break the office coffee pot and well, you may as well call it a day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Lesson of a Letter

My 2 sisters and I have been apart all summer. Law school has claimed my older sister for these 3 months, and my younger sister Madelena’s adventurous spirit took her to Chop Point summer camp in Maine. She went last year as well and after having the best summer of her life camping, hiking, canoeing and eating lobster, she decided to go back for 2 sessions this year - 6 weeks.
At camp they are not permitted to have cell phones, so my 13-year-old sister and I have been pen pals for the summer. It seems so strange to be writing actual hand written letters in an age where the longest thing I usual write would probably be this blog and the only thing I actually hand write is my grocery list. I have to admit though that I love getting her letters written on beautiful purple stationary, and I know she anticipates every one of my pink and cream envelopes as well.
It is such a lost art – writing a letter. Somehow when you have to actually sit and think about what you want to say to a person and choose the words they are going to read in a few days, it forces you to reflect and ponder in a way that nothing else does. When you know you can be in constant communication with someone through texts, phone call and Facebook posts…you are never forced to think about the value or meaning of your words.
My senior year of high school I was dating someone who then went to the naval academy for college when I started school at the University of Miami, meaning he was 800 miles away in Annapolis. The summer before school started he went away to Plebe Summer and the only way we could correspond was through letters. Although I missed hearing his voice more than anything, I have to say it was one of the best times in our relationship. When each of us had to sit down every day and think carefully about what we wanted to say to each other, how we really felt, and evaluate all this before writing anything – it turned our relationship into a strong bond based on love, encouragement, understanding and trust. In writing a letter you realize you only have one chance to say exactly what you want to say, and as a result you will put a hundred times more thought into each word, phrase and line.
After school started in the fall and we could use all forms of communication again: phone, text, Facebook, aim, and Skype – instead of bringing us closer it really tore us apart. Facebook posts and pictures made it so easy for jealousy to take hold, and texts and chats were so easily misunderstood. Somehow hurtful, rash comments are easily said over the Internet and in texts where you can express every instantaneous feeling, you do not have to face the person and you know you can always explain it away 5 minutes later after whatever you wrote disappears into cyberspace.
So many times during that first semester I missed the days when we wrote letters that came from the heart and represented the feelings we actually had for each other- not the rash reactions to our stressful situation that often erupted. Somehow all the technology in place to make long distance relationships simpler only complicated ours, and eventually it fell apart.
When I sit down to write Madelena a letter I envision her opening it 4 days from now, and it forces me to think – what do I want her to feel and think when she reads this. Encouraged, entertained? Do I want her to laugh, or cry or ponder something? My pen holds all the power, the power of writing.
I love my sister with all my heart but I know at home I do not tell her this nearly as much as I should. When I write her a letter however, I must put all my thoughts, feelings, and meanings onto one page – so I always remember to be appreciative, encouraging and tell her I love her. Writing a letter forces me to share the best of myself and sift through unimportant frustrations and irrelevant arguments to grasp at what really matters in our life and our friendship.
In a way, writing a letter reminds me of that song by Tim McGraw – “Live Like You Are Dying”. You are forced to choose the last words you will say to a person for about a week and therefore those words become infinitely more valuable. Although I love my Facebook, send about 50 texts a day, and have all my friends on speed-dial, I will never forget the power of a simple letter, handwritten on a sheet of cream stationary. I am thankful for those months I spent addressing letters to the Naval Academy, 21st Company, and for the ones I now send every few days to Chop Point Camp, Maine – it has taught me something about life, the importance of our words and the value of searching to identify your true feelings, express them carefully, and always always tell the people you love, “I love you.” 

Friday, July 16, 2010


I bought my first car last week - a red, Ford Edge with 4,000 miles on it, a huge sunroof and a great sound system (all the most important things). Continuing in the grand family tradition of naming all our cars, I thought very seriously about what to name my new metallic best friend who I knew I'd be having many adventures with.

Red has never been my first choice for a car color, I always bought I would get something simple - either white or silver - but in the end this was what they had in the lot, and what I could afford, so red it was. Despite my initial hesitations about getting a candy colored car, it was love at first sight and I immediately knew what to name her - Wildfire. As I slide behind the wheel of my new sleek purchase, I began to ponder the meaning of this unexpected turn of events. I think sometimes life forces us to step out of our comfort zone for a reason and Wildfire, although unexpected - represents my own fire, determination, and passion for life that I sometimes forget exists.

Although I have only had her for a week, Wildfire already symbolizes breaking out of my comfining set system of expectations, allowing destiny to take it's course, and welcoming the unexpected while never assuming that I have eveything figured out.

I never thought in buying a car I'd get a lesson in life and a constant inspiration to go after my dreams, but Wildfire will now ensure that I never forget the fire deep down inside of me that although sometimes burns low, can never be extinguished.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Life's Last Season

The person who actually inspired me to start this blog is my Grandfather, although he'll probably never know it. My Mom is Swiss and my Grandfather - or Grosvati as we've always called him lives in Bern Switzerland thousands of miles away. We've always gone to visit him during summers and spent weeks at his house exploring the country he loves so much. Just this past year his cancer took a turn for the worse and this week everyone says he's dying.
My mom is over there with him now and says he won't live much longer. Mom is a presbyterian minister and Grosvati asked her weeks ago to do the service when he passes away. She's been working on it for days and it struck me what a huge almost impossible task it is to put into words everything you feel about a person. All the love and years of memories - all the pain and emptiness of can you even begin to think of what to say to honor a person who meant so much?
As I listened to her read a few of the sentences from her sermon over the phone I began to wonder, if I died tomorrow - what would people say about me? What would my legacy to this world be, and how would I be remembered...we may all live through the same four seasons - and pass through the same stages of life, but what we do with it is our choice.
My grandfather lived every single day to its fullest. He enjoyed life and the people around him, and was never afraid to speak his mind or go after what he wanted. Lying in bed in these last few days of his life he's told my Mom how thankful he is for that. One day, when my life is coming to a close, I'll be lying in that bed, reflecting on how I spent each day, and I want to be able to say that too with a full heart.
I want to be like my Grosvati and know that I gave everything I had.
This blog will be my witness - as I go through all the seasons of life, I want to learn through writing and write to help understand and remember; reflecting on my actions, my world and my life.