Monday, September 3, 2012

Birthday Weekend: A Summary

Premium Rush.  Sleep in.  Lemon poppyseed pancakes.  Netflix.  Home Slice Pizza.  Friends.  Laughter.  Peru memories.  Kids chosen.  Nap time.  Grocery shopping.  Hunger Games.  Productivity.  Mandola's.  Errands run.  TOMS shoes.  Wasp in house.  Cake baked.  Dishes washed.  Early to bed. 

All in all, I'd consider it a successful weekend.  A smidge of work balanced with a heavy dose of doing whatever I want to.  Just what I needed to refresh and prep for week two of school. 

Did you notice that I bought a pair of TOMS this weekend??  I'm so excited about them.  I've always been interested in the cause, but I decided I needed to be more proactive in my support after I found out that TOMS visited my kids in Peru!

Check out this video.  Those precious little boys in the blue shirts are the ones I work with each summer!!! :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Favorite Things Friday

So.....I had really good intentions of blogging this summer and that didn't happen.  Now that I'm back at school and I have less free time, maybe I'll start posting more often. ;)

Let's start with something easy: My Current Favorites

Day of the Week: Saturday - sleeping in!

Thing at Work: checking things off the to-do list (before I add 10 more things)

Pizza: Double Dave's Chicken Bacon Ranch w/o bacon

Thing at Home: getting things in the mail, like an early birthday present!

Song Stuck in My Head: Home by Phillip Phillips (bonus - it makes me feel like I'm watching  the Olympics again)

Website:  Try to read it without laughing so hard that you cry...

Purchase for this Year: Mr. Potato Head - to use as a class reward

Well, that's a good start.  Hopefully I'll be back soon!  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Excess Guilt

Tomorrow I will begin the trek back to one of my favorite places on earth.  Each year I return to Peru with a number of overwhelming feelings. Here are my thoughts as I embark on this journey.

I moved to a new apartment this summer.  Two thoughts plagued me during that chaotic time:
1. Why didn’t I choose a career that would allow me to afford a house sooner?
2. Why do I have SO MUCH STUFF???
With every move (and throughout the year), I make a genuine effort to pare down what I own.  I still manage to keep much more than I need.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been working to find a place for everything in my new apartment.  Once the cabinet and closet doors are closed, I tend to forget all that is behind them.

Until I visit these bedrooms
Cesar Vallejo Casa
Baby Casa
and see these shoes

and compare work environments.
the school at the Community 

Even my "necessities" (A/C, grocery money, electricity, running water) seem excessive in light of what the rest of the world has.  That's when the true disparity sets in and guilt isn't far behind.  Which leads to a time of discomfort and questioning.  

Should I sell all my possessions and give them to the poor?  Yes. 

Am I actually going to?? Not likely.

How can I continue to live like this???

When I take a moment to step back from my guilt, I am able to more clearly see the good that can come from excess.  Without my extra income (and the generous donations of friends and family), I would never have traveled to Peru. 

And it was in Peru that I met Ever.
Elias & Ever
Two years ago Ever was a helper for the casa that I worked with.  Although his English and my Spanish were limited, I was able to see his kind spirit.  Over the course of the week we managed to form a special bond.  I don't know Ever's story.  I hope to someday ask him.  

Last year it took me two days to track him down.  He was so busy with chores that he wasn’t able to participate in the activities with the rest of the kids.  On the last afternoon, he wasn’t at the farewell party.  I started asking about him again, determined to see him one more time before we left.  I looked up to see him running across the soccer field to find ME.  We hugged and danced and laughed and took pictures.  That’s when I realized the good of what my excess has done.  You see, there’s this precious teenage orphan who lives in a different hemisphere, but he knows that I love him and will to everything I can to return each summer.

So when I check my banking account or go shopping for new clothes and the wave of guilt comes back to me, I face it head on.  Don’t get me wrong, I can still be caught up in consumerism as much as the next rich person, but there are bigger things at work in my life.  And there is no room for excess guilt.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New York City - Part 3

Porgy & Bess
After dinner we headed on over and got in line for the show.  When we got inside and saw how close our seats were to the stage, we may have geeked out a little.  Okay…a lot!  I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to the stage before.  Afterward, I felt like I actually knew the performers.  I’m not sure if it was our proximity to the stage or the powerful story or the unbelievably amazing talent, but I shed a few tears during the show.  Actually, I straight up cried…more than once.  The plot is for mature audiences, but the entire cast was incredible.  Perhaps that’s why it’s received TEN Tony Award Nominations.  I will be watching the Tony awards (on June 10th) and I’ll gladly tell anyone who listens that I saw Audra McDonald in Porgy & Bess.
Tracy’s Tip: Go see Porgy & Bess and take some tissues.
After the show we walked over the Sardi’s for some dessert.  The place was packed, but we walked right in and got a seat.  We shared the crème brulee.  How have I not had that before?   It was so delicious.  I would have ordered a second one, but I didn’t want the waiter to judge me. ;)
Tracy’s Tip:  Find some crème brulee and eat it.  Trust me, it’s awesome.
Night Life
Our return bus choices were 11 p.m. (too early) or 1:15 a.m. (ridiculously late).  When we left Sardi’s it had started to drizzle a little.  Thankfully Laura had brought an umbrella for us.  Our first mission was to find the Port Authority, where our bus was leaving from.  After wandering around looking for the MegaBus sign, a homeless guy directed us to the alley between two buildings.  He was right, but we didn’t feel comfortable waiting there so we started to look for a place to hang out.  Unfortunately most of the restaurants in the area closed at midnight.  We finally found a McDonalds, bought a coke, and just sat there and watched people for 45 minutes.  Did I mention that by now we had been going for 15 hours straight in NYC and that my feet were killing me???  Between the rain and the waiting, this was my least favorite part of the trip.
Around 12:30 we decided to walk over to see if the bus was there.  Thankfully it was and we hopped on and tried to sleep while we waited to leave.  Unfortunately, the bus was full of rowdy college students headed back to Philadelphia.  I tried to drown them out with music, but was unsuccessful.  Where were earplugs when I needed them?? This was my new least favorite part of the trip!
Tracy’s Tips: Be extra careful about the shoes you choose for a 15 hour day of walking.  Bring earplugs just in case you’re on a bus full of noisy people!
To Sum It Up
It seemed like before I knew it I was on a plane back to Austin and back in the classroom teaching.  What I really want to know is, when can I go back?  I’ve got at least a week full of NYC adventure in mind for my next trip, now I just need to start saving!

New York City - Part 2

On to Battery Park
From there we walked along Wall Street (past the sad three Occupy protesters and tons of tourists), by the Bull at Bowling Green and over to Battery Park.  I was beginning to feel a little peckish, so we stopped for pretzels and cokes at a street vendor. 
There were two lines to get on the ferry: one for those who bought tickets online ahead of time and one for the poor saps that waited until they got to the park to buy tickets.  At 12:30 we walked through the gate and were quickly merged through security with people who had been waiting over two hours in line. 
Tracy’s Tip: Buy your tickets to Liberty/Ellis Island in advance!

Lady Liberty
 I still can’t believe I’ve stood at the base of the Statue of Liberty.  It was everything I anticipated it would be and more.  It definitely helped that we had the most PERFECT weather.  The sky was clear blue, there was a nice breeze, and the sun was shining.  I took a ton of pictures just trying to show the how impressive the statue is.  I’m not sure I can adequately sum up the experience.  You’ll just have to go visit yourself!

After making it back to shore, we started walking north in the direction of our next subway stop.  We had planned it so that we could walk past Ground Zero.  You have to really plan in advance to see Ground Zero so that they can do a background check, but we had opted not to do that.  There was a lot of construction going on and tons of people wandering around just like us.  Even though there were huge construction barriers that blocked the view of the memorial, there was a very solemn atmosphere around the place.  It was hard to believe that such a monumental event happened 11 years ago.
Times Square
We rode the subway back to Times Square.  I’m going to go ahead and say it…Times Square was the only part of NYC that I really didn’t care for.  It was just WAY too crowded.  I was legitimately concerned that Laura and I were going to be separated.  We stayed long enough to take some pictures and figure out which street our musical was going to be on then we headed out.
Central Park
We walked past lots of famous places – Rockefeller Plaza, FAO Schwartz, Trump Tower (How many buildings does that guy own?) – on our way to the Park.  By the time we got there I was exhausted.  Laura bought a coke and I got an ice cream cone and we found a bench to sit on by the pond.  Again, it was the most beautiful day ever and I could have stayed there for hours, but we had places to go!

Tracy’s Tip: If you want to experience all that Central Park has to offer, plan on spending one (or maybe two) days there.
Dinner in Hell’s Kitchen
In planning out the day, we looked for somewhere close (but not too close) to Times Square for dinner.  We hoped to find a reasonably priced place since we wanted to save money for things like musical tickets.  We did a little internet hunting, randomly picked two places with interesting names, and went with our gut.  Vynl’s was the perfect pick.  It was a small restaurant with clean restrooms, a fantastic waiter, and an entire jug of water waiting for us on the table.  We both loved our meals.  In fact, I’d go back just to have another chicken parmesan sandwich.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a reasonably priced place to eat in that part of town.  

New York City - Part 1

Remember that trip I took to New York City?  It was only a month ago, but it seems like a lifetime.  I wanted to share my adventures (and tips) from my day in NYC.  I’m sure mom (and my three friends that read my blog) will appreciate it. J
You may ask, why only one day?  Was it worth it for such a sort trip?  Yes, yes it was.  Going to NYC was on the top of my list of things to do in life and I was determined to seize the opportunity.  And that’s what life’s about, right?  Taking advantage of those crazy moments.  Kinda like that weekend in college when we took a roadtrip from Abilene to Gatlinburg.  (But that’s another story…)
Getting There
After weighing our options – driving was out of the question and train tickets were too pricey – we opted for the MegaBus.  It was $50 roundtrip and actually quite comfortable.   Just in case you’re ever planning to take a MegaBus from the White Marsh Park & Ride in Baltimore, I highly recommended getting there extra early.  The parking lot is not very big and was already full from Thursday/Friday passengers.  It would be possible to walk over from the IKEA parking lot if needed, but we got there an hour early and were able to find a spot.  Our bus left at 6:30 a.m.  I was determined to stay awake to see all the state border signs (which I did), but I managed to catch a few catnaps in between.
Tracy’s Tip: Take the MegaBus and get there early to park.
On the MegaBus!
Making a Game Plan
Laura had been to NYC before, so she let me choose what I most wanted to do.  I narrowed it down to three things: see a Broadway musical, go to Liberty Island & Ellis Island, and visit Central Park.  We mapped out a route the night before and decided that we would take two subway trips and do the rest of our traveling on foot.
The Arrival
I was practically bouncing in my seat when the bus arrived in NYC.  The MegaBus dropped us off by Madison Square Gardens, so we decided to hop on the subway at Penn Station.  Finding a booth that sold Metro tickets in the train station was a little more difficult than expected, but we finally managed to get tickets and find the right train.
Buying Broadway Tickets
 Securing tickets to an evening musical was first on our list of priorities.  After extensive research, we figured out that it would be much smarter to go to the South Street Seaport TKTS booth because evening tickets went on sale at 11 a.m. (instead of 3 p.m. at the Times Sq. booth.)  We got there around 10:30 and joined the line.  While we waited for it to open, we tried to narrow down the potential choices.  Laura’s the musical expert, so I asked her to pick her top three choices.  We decided that Porgy & Bess was the best option because it starred Audra McDonald.  No one around us was even talking about it and we were thrilled to get tickets in our price range. 
We got the tickets
Tracy’s Tip: Buy discount Broadway tickets on the day of the show at the South Street Seaport TKTS location.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Year of Hope

Part 3 is about looking forward.  Here are some hopes for 2012:

1. A New Degree – Optimistically, in the next few months I’ll finish my thesis, create a portfolio, take the last of my classes, and graduate with a masters of education.  There’s a lot of work involved, but think of the reward!  Everyone will call me Master and I’ll have all the power & riches.  (muah haha!!)  Okay…none of those things will happen.

2. A Deeper Faith – God’s been working on me for a while.  He’s clearing out room in my life and has made it obviously that he intends for me to fill it up with Him.  If I had to pick a word for the year it would be DISCIPLINE.  I would be the first to admit that I’m really good at procrastinating.  Why do now what you can put off till later??  Ironically (or not), discipline was my word for last year too.  I’m definitely feeling the nudge to get some of my priorities in order.  And that involves some uncomfortable soul-searching and a commitment to more time with God.

3. The Unknown – As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of “openness” in my life right now.  I’m not sure what’s in store for me, but I’m earnestly praying for some good friends.  Actually, I have lots of great friends, but I’m looking for some LOCAL girlfriends.  If nothing else, I’m looking forward to 12/12/12.  Besides being a cool number, my friend Tamara is fairly confident that’s going to be an important day for me.  ;)