Do You Know Your Neighbors? (Losing the Neighborhood)

Rooftops.
When we were young, a smiling Mr. Rogers asked us to be his neighbor. He taught me more than to put popcorn in my peanut butter and jelly. He taught me to believe in community, to smile and make friends. To be kind to strangers.

Does anyone in real life have neighbors like our friends on TV do?

Lucy and Ricky had Ethel and Fred. Fred and Wilma had Betty and Barney. Wilson was always available for a strange metaphorical lesson for the Taylor family on Home Improvement. George Feeney was always willing to lend an ear on Boy Meets World, Joey and Chandler were right across the hall whenever Monica and Rachel needed some friendly banter, and Winnie Cooper will always be the epitome of the girl next door. 

Although many of these TV friendships were created for easy plot conventions, I can’t help but think about how people treated their neighbors 40-50 years ago. When you could easily skip across the street to borrow a cup of milk or trust your kids to go knock on the neighbor’s door to ask their kids to play. When you could ask your neighbor to help you with some handy work or when bbqs and Friday night happy hours were shared events. 

I’ve never interacted with a neighbor that way and that makes me sad. 

A 2013 study by State Farm shows that only 25% of American know the names of their next door neighbors. 

What happened to our sense of community? And how is it hurting us?

We’re all too busy inside with our “social” media and Netflix binges. Our focus is on individualism and in turn our needs are more selfish and our sense of responsibility to community have gone way down. We are more alienated now then we have ever been. Also, we are all full of mistrust and weariness. We live in a world where we have every right to be scared of our neighbors.

Is our focus on individualism and our  mistrust of others linked? I certainly believe so.

Ryan and I live in a condo/townhome community, surrounded by hundreds of neighbors. We walk the walking trails and pass the same neighbors again and again, greeting with a slight nod of the head or a half-smile. Despite all of this, I know the names of only one couple that lives across the street. And it’s all because they made the effort.

They came over and greeted us when we moved in two years ago. They smiled big smiles and insisted that if we ever needed anything, they were there. It was comforting. Six months later they saw us moving in some new used furniture we bought off Craigslist and they very kindly gifted us a beautiful dresser and mirror they were trying to sell. Every morning they greet me with a bellowing “Hello, Katie!” Since then I’ve introduced myself to a few other neighbors and have been met with a little apprehension on their end. 

Sometimes when I take Maggie out at night, barefoot in my pajamas, I become overcome with anxiety that I’ve locked myself out of the house. My keys and cellphone safely locked inside while I’m abandoned out in the cold in my ugliest pajamas. Who’s door would I knock on to let me use their phone? Who should I trust? Who would trust me?

I try to hold the belief that most people are good at heart. But it’s hard for that hope to withstand when you read the news.

Our alienation and individualism is cutting down our civic duty. In this highly connected world we are very disconnected from those closest to us. Our neighbors. When shootings happen in schools and neighborhoods are threatened with homicides and robberies and community riots get out of hand are reaction is to hide and blockade ourselves rather than work together for a common good.

Isn’t putting aside our differences and working together for a common good what our nation was founded on? I can’t help but see that if we started to rebuild that connection with our community, if we started to bond together and help one another, our mistrust will also lessen. 

How do we put the “neighbor” back into the “hood”? So tell me, do you know your neighbors? Are you involved in your community? 

The Changing of the Seasons

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Fall.

I can’t go half a day without hearing someone screaming the merits of fall from the rooftops. 

I’m not ready.

It can’t be real. This undying love for Fall. It must be a marketing ploy, right? All these people are just brainwashed by Starbucks and the fashion industry to go out and consume and promote everything related to Fall and cooler weather. Right?

Are these fall fans the equivalent of an insecure teenager that has to defend every choice they make? Are they so depressed that summer is over and rather than wallow in self-pity as they pack away their bathing suits and sunscreen while they prepare their souls to battle another cold winter they make over the top lists of what they LOVE most about fall?

They must have good therapists. 

The changing of the seasons.

I can’t get into it. I’m not ready to say goodbye to summer.

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We spent the long holiday weekend at a lake in north-east PA. We spent the whole time boating, swimming, eating, and drinking. I’m still exhausted. It was perfect.

On the drive up through the mountains I couldn’t help but notice that a small amount of leaves were already changing colors.

Ryan jokingly asked if he should pull over the car so I could go give those leaves a piece of my mind. That wouldn’t be a stretch, me being the crazy woman on the side of the turnpike yelling “Don’t change! It’s not allowed!” 

lake1
Yes, that’s what it really comes down to.

Change.

I’m not good with change.

 I’m terrified of what lies ahead, of the unknown. We are all just blind people. Not knowing where life will take us. 

The changing of the season’s reminds us of that. We’re never in control.  

No matter how much we praise the warm full sun it will still descend into the horizon, off to play with the other side of the world. We can admire the soft green grass and the vibrant trees but the grass will still turn brown and stiff and the leaves will die and fall to the ground.

Nature, it has some humor doesn’t? Making us work hard and rake up those dead leaves while we mourn them. 

Spring and Summer are full of hope, of new birth, and a chance to dream and live with a little more freedom. Summer days are full of leisure, even though our schedules are generally more full in the summer than the winter. The warm sun greets us with open arms, making it easy to make hopeful plans for the future while in her company.

And then the sun abandons us. Our hopes prove to be silly little ideas.

In Fall I often feel like a hung over college student, cringing while looking back at the previous night’s events. Summer made us so young and naive. So free. Those dreams looked so promising through our big Ray Bans but in September, as the sun sets earlier and earlier each night,  they look like childhood fantasies. 

Seasons are a reminder that nothing is permanent. 

Like always, I’ll fight change for a bit until I realize I’m wasting time fighting when I could be living.

Soon enough I’ll be burning pumpkin candles and living in infinity scarves, but this girl has always needed a little bit of time to sort things out her way. (I hope you know I’m not just talking about the seasons anymore.)

Change. She sure sneaks up and knows how to ruin a good party. But she’s  been playing this game for far longer than my mind can even comprehend. I’ll try to trust her a little bit better.

Not only with this whole changing of the season’s thing, but with everything. 

xoxo Katie

Fear of the Unknown

Anxiety of The Unknown
Do you remember that annoying kid in school that was always raising their hand and knew all the answers? That was me.

I never wanted to be caught off guard, surprised, not know the answers, or not know what was going to happen next. I always did my research. I always discovered the answers. I always had a plan.

Otherwise I was a mess. The more that remained unknown the more I worried. I’d become overridden with anxiety and not enjoy life. 

I’m still this way. Even though the word “adventure” is in my blog title, a word that to many evokes spontaneous and hazardous activity, the unknown paralyzes me with anxiety. I like my adventures to be very well thought out.

Before I go on trip I do hardcore research on restaurants, sites, and hotels. When I go to the doctor I need them to calmly tell me each and every step of the procedure they are about to do. Dates are planned with a specific agenda. Lists, spreadsheets, calendars, and maps are all friends of mine. 

I’m not stupid. I know that life laughs in your face when you try to make plans. I’ve faced enough obstacles in my 31 years to know that life cannot be planned and the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.

Yet, I still find myself yearning to plan for the future. I want to do my best to ensure I’m as prepared as I can be. I want to know all the answers to all the things.

The small things: What will we have for dinner? What will I wear tomorrow? Where should we go on a weekend trip?

And the big things: Where will we be living in 5 years? Where will Ryan be working? When will we have a family? When will we have a house? How long will I be at this job? 

In just one year Ryan graduates from law school. It will be a great celebration after four years of hard work. He is currently on summer break. For months I’ve been looking forward to this summer so that we’d have more time together and the stress of school wouldn’t be weighing heavy on him (and me). We’d be a normal couple, waking up and going to work and coming home to have dinner together (even if it is at 8 p.m.) and full weekends free! 

Yet, here we are, getting paralyzed by the unknown.

This whole week my heart has been beating too fast for me to catch my breath. I have no idea where we will be in one year. Most likely we will be moving. I have moved 8 times since I graduated from college. The idea of moving out of our current house makes me want to vomit.

This past week I’ve been creating multiple budgets and looking up homes. I have no idea what state we will even be living in. We could be moving in six months. All dependent on where Ryan can secure a good job. I know that we are in this together and that is part of the fun, the adventure. But it doesn’t change the fact that this part of our future is out of our control.

Will he find a job? Will he find a job he’ll be happy in? Will I have to leave my job? Will I find another job? Will we find housing as nice as our current home? Will I have to say goodbye to my family? Will I have to leave this town, this countryside that I’ve grown to love? No matter how many houses or jobs or neighborhoods I look at, there is no way of knowing what will be.

 There is no way to plan for this. For once in my life, I do not know all the answers and it terrifies me. 

xoxo Katie

Illiteracy in the U.S. and the Impact of Reading

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I can’t imagine a world without books. Reading is the fuel for my heart and my brain. It provides me with so much joy, knowledge, and feelings of calmness. I believe not being able to read would leave me feeling displaced – as if I suddenly lost one of my five senses.

I love that I am instantly transported to a different world where I get to live in someone else’s shoes, discover a different culture, religion, point of view, or time period. I’ve written about my passion for reading and the many life skills being an English major has given me. My mom, a former first grade teacher, instilled the love of reading in me at a young age. I have fond childhood memories lying side by side on our bellies flipping through picture books and as we got older, chapter books. Books were everywhere. It was the quickest way to take a vacation, to escape, and to open the doors of my little home to the great big world. 

The studies don’t lie. Reading delivers huge benefits through all periods of your life.

Stress Reduction: reading even beats out listening to music, sipping tea, or going for a walk!

Mental Stimulation: your brain is a muscle and reading exercises it. Reading keeps your mind active and can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Improved Focus and Concentration: a major bonus in our busy, distracted, internet crazed world.

Lifelong Learning and Knowledge:  better equipping you for any challenges you may face in your lifetime. 

Vocabulary Expansion: making you more articulate and well spoken and a better communicator. Not to mention a better writer! 

Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

While thinking about the impact of reading on my life, I began to think about the negative side effects of NOT reading.

The data that I found on reading and illiteracy in the US shocked me.  I believe that this topic is completely ignored and covered up.


The data:

Total percent of U.S. adults who can’t read  – 14%

Number of U.S. adults who can’t read   – 32 million

Percent of U.S. adults who read below a 5th grade reading level  –   21%

Percent of high school graduates who can’t read  –   19%

Total percent of U.S. high school graduates who will never read a book after high school  –  33%

Total percentage of college students who will never read another book after they graduate   –  42%

 Total percentage of U.S. families who did not buy a book this year  –  80%


 Are you as shocked as me? 

Even worse, many of the U.S.’s social and economic problems are directly related to illiteracy, yet very little is being done about it. As we move forward with the current educational standards (heavy testing ahem), the focus on reading is not valued. Our entire country is being threatened and the U.S.’s knowledge bank is decreasing immensely.


 The statistics below show the direct correlation between reading and success: 

• One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

• 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

• 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. 

• 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

• More than 60% of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

• 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.If they cannot read proficiently in the 4th grade, he or she will have approximately a 78 percent change of not catching up. 

• Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

• Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. In the same period, more than 6 million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. 

•  Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.  

• Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. 

• In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. 

• Students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias) in their home scored, on average, higher than those who reporter having fewer reading materials. 

• Approximately 50 percent of the nation’s unemployed youth age 16-21 are functional illiterate, with virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs. 

• 46% of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. 


 The fate of our country is at risk. What can you do about it?

Continue to read. Continue to discuss books. Read the book before you see the movie. Buy books. Share books. Give books as gifts. Support teachers. Support authors. Donate books to schools, to daycares, to donation centers, and to shelters.  Read to children. Have children read out loud to you. If you can, become a literacy volunteer or a tutor to adult or child students.

Most importantly Read, read, read. 

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

Do What You Want To

Last week defeated me in more than one way. I felt drained, stressed, anxious, and like I had no extra room for happiness in my brain. My happiness and spirtuality didn’t seem like a priority.

On Sunday morning, my husband Ryan, who had an equally grueling week, said, “I know you want to rush out the door, but just take 16 minutes to watch this video with me. It’s important.” The video opened my eyes.

I curled up in bed with Ryan and was introduced to SloMo, the eccentric 70-year old who can be found performing a type of Tai Chi on roller blades while blasting classical music in San Diego nearly every day. The 16 minute video about SloMo instantly changed my perspective and I found myself re centered and awake. Ready to live.

At first glance, SloMo appears to either be a crazy homeless man or a mentally handicapped person aimlessly skating along the boardwalk. But oh was I quickly reminded to not judge a book by its cover! SloMo is John Kitchin, a retired neurologist who abruptly gave up his career in medicine and moved to a studio near the beach to live out what he loves doing most, skating in slow motion on the boardwalk.

Before he transformed into SlowMo, John Kitchin lived an all too ordinary life, one that was overworked, over scheduled, and obsessed with money and material objects. He was lost and unhappy and  had turned into a self-proclaimed “asshole”. One day while working at the hospital, Dr. Kitchin met a 93-year old man who was relatively youthful and was smiling.

Dr. Kitchen asked him what his secret to living such a long life.

His response? “Do what you want to”.

Twenty years later a lost and unhappy Kitchin gave his life a hard look. He was living by society’s rules that hard work, making money, and buying nice things will make your life complete. Here he was depressed and frustrated – living a life that was 90% about money and only 10% about spirituality. He was ready for a change.

At this time he also began to start seeing things a little fuzzy. Faces were beginning to be a little out of focus for him. He made a spastic decision to quit his former life as a capitalist and live a life doing what makes him happy.

Fast forward to his life living in a studio apartment on the beach, living out his day creating art and music and smiling and high fiving passersby as he happily skates toward the horizon for hours a day. He’s made his own rules. He has discovered that his one-legged way of slow motion skating provides a way for him to experience a sort of religious ecstasy and a connection with himself, calling it The Zone.

At first he thought this was all connected with his mental breakdown and he was going to continue to lose sight of himself and deteriorate until it killed him. Seven years later he has never felt more connected, happy, or centered. “Do What You Want To” has become is mantra for living.

Is he on to something? Decide for yourself. Believe me, it’s worth the sixteen minutes of your day:

SloMo has reminded me to slow things down. Forget the rules that others are making for you and make your own. Simplify your needs. Find what makes you happy. Reframe your life. Do what makes you happy a little bit each and every day. I will like my life depends on it, because it does.

xoxo Katie

31 Lessons I Learned In 31 Years

31 lessons learned in 31 years katie a beautiful little adventure

Today I turn 31 and like any good writer I’m sitting here reflecting on my last year. This is the year I got married, starting to feel a little physically older, and grew more comfortable with myself – body and mind. I thought I’d share a fun little list of 31 things I’ve learned in my 31 years.

31 Lessons in 31 Years

1. Don’t make assumptions. You rarely know the full story.

2.  Befriend your parents. It’s a once in a lifetime relationship and a friendship that will teach you the most.

3. Success is always in the eye of the beholder.

4. Take time for you. It’s not a selfish behavour. Take care of yourself and your happiness.

5. The cheaper the wine the worse the headache.

6. It’s okay to make mistakes. At least you’re doing something – like learning.

7. A dog can heal your soul.

8. Pause. You don’t have to make a decision immediately.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else is.

10. A nap can fix a great number of things.

11. I’m not a career woman. My job doesn’t define me and never will.

12. Never say never.

13. Not everyone has to like you. Stop trying to please them and stop apologizing for what makes you happy.

14. Style has nothing to do with fashion.

15. Love is all around.

16. Be present. Listen with 100% of your body.

17. Family is everything.

18. Sometimes you just have to know when to say, “I give up” and pour yourself a drink. It’s okay.

19. Forgiveness is both the most hardest but most rewarding thing.

20. You have to create your own happiness.

21. 99% of people aren’t paying any attention to you.

22. Expensive shoes and accessories are worth it.

23. Never miss a chance to say “I Love You”.

24. Nourish and feed your body well. It’s a vessel not a trash can.

25. Truly focus on the select few things that you are good at.

26.  Respond to phone calls, letters,  texts, and emails. Even if there is no question, if someone reached out to you, respond.

27. You don’t have to look amazing at all times. Relax.

28. Use your voice. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.

29. Don’t compare, there is always someone smarter, richer, prettier, and “happier” but there is no one else just like you.

30. No one ever has it figured all out, but each day is a fresh start at trying your best.

31. When you have the oppurtunity to dance, dance. Even if you look stupid, you’ll always have more fun than if you stayed in the corner.

Now eat an ice cream sundae and toast with some champagne with me. Cheers!

katie birthday margarita lake side

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

 

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

what do you want to be when you grow up, what is your passion

How often do you question and wonder about what role you want to be playing in the future? The thought about who I will be and what I will be doing in 5, 10, 15, even 30 years down the roads passes through my mind nearly every day. It’s the beauty of being human; we are constantly changing, growing, and propelling forward.

When we were little, the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was thrown to us from everyone we met.  My answer was always changing but the answer was always defined by the same constant – as a child, I chose my career choice based on what made me happy:

When I was 6 my answer was an elementary school  teacher. I wanted to follow in my mom’s foot steps and I liked to boss people around. But in hind sight I also liked sharing my newly learned tools with people. I’d spend hours setting up a fake school room and teaching my imaginary students that week’s spelling words or mathematical time tables.

When I was 11 I wanted to be an actress. I loved the way movies and plays made me feel, the power that actresses had to tell stories, to evoke emotions, and how they seemed to ignite with life.

At 13 I wanted to be child psychologist because I wanted to help children that couldn’t vocalize their pain or confusion. I wanted to help kids overcome unhealthy or dangerous environments and understand their thought processes.

At 15 I wanted to be an anthropologist/historian – I loved learning and researching about history – especially the history of society and domestic life. I wanted to learn more about trends and why certain aspects of history happened and continue to repeat themselves. I wanted to compare past narratives to current narratives, to learn more about the human race and our connections to the past.

At 18 I wanted to be a fictional write. Poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, a playwrite. Anything. I wanted to examine people, analyze life, and write stories. I wanted to find common truths, common loves, common understandings of the meaning of life and communicate them  and connect with readers through words.

All of these fields were based on activities that I was deeply interested in and that made me happy. Yet, I never got paid to do any of those things. None of these jobs ever became my career. I don’t consider my current job my career. My job does not define who I am.  I believe my career is the life long pursuit of happiness.

So, when your career isn’t serving the purpose of fulfilling your passions you may feel a little disjointed. As you get older, your peers, elders, and family stop asking you what you want to do with your life. As an adult you are overcome with too many other daily questions and worries. Yet, the responsibility to ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?” now lies solely in your hands.

What is your passion? Don’t let it get lost in the mundane day-to-day responsibilities of life.  I recently received some great advice to examine your tears. Think about it. What makes you cry?

Reflect back on the past couple of years. What has never failed to make you cry tears of joy? (perhaps you’re not a crier like me, then think about what has made you laugh uncontrollably or get angry or mad?) Once you discover what that is, find a way to incorporate that into your every day life. Do a little piece of that each and every day.

Perhaps it will be a simple hobby or something you only think about a few minutes a day. Nurture it, believe in it. Perhaps it will grow into something greater. Pinpoint your passions and find a way to live them. You’re never too old.

So tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up?

xoxo Katie