March Feature | Seasons

Monday, March 31, 2014

March gets me thinking about seasons. We all have this idea in our heads that March is the beginning of Spring, but in reality it's just a balmy continuation of winter. I know that Spring is a favorite season to most, but Fall is my favorite. I'll explain why. Good news for those who love Spring, a blogging friend of mine is here to share a little bit about it. 

Meet Jessinia! 
(I know if we knew each other in person, we would be friends.) She's a Minnesota girl taking a gap year in the Dominican Republic. (I LOVE the DR, and that's only place I've been to for an overseas mission trip!) She studied art at Bethel University for a year. Yes! yes! And she loves the Lord. She also blogs (obviously): "My blog reflects on my time in the Dominican Republic. I would love if you visited and read along on my journey." She will attend Seattle Pacific University next year.
Jessinia Images
Here's what she has to say about spring: My favorite season is spring. I grew up in Minnesota so in  the spring the snow starts to melt, the flowers start to bloom. It's a beautiful picture of new beginnings, anticipation and of promises. We are promised that after winter comes spring. The earth gets a new beginning, an uncovering. This year, I've been living in the Dominican Republic. I haven't seen this drastic change of the melting snow, but I am experiencing anticipation of a new beginning. I have learned so much over this past fall and winter and anticipate my coming home to start anew.
Jessinia Images
Check out Jessinia's Blog: A River of Joy / twitter

My turn!
I love fall. Spring is a season that I want to like, but I just don't. I don't like all the rain. I hate longing for warmer weather, and not having it come 'til at least half way through April. Growing up in Minnesota, spring usually doesn't start til May anyways. Aside from the weather, my mental state is much better in the fall than the Spring. The Fall has always felt like a fresh start in my life. This seems counter-intuitive to the season's patterns, but new things are always happening in the Fall for me. Plus, I always go into fall with great energy after having a "break" in the summer. I start a new year of school and sometimes a new job. Church usually ramps up in the fall. Everything just feels fresh. I'm definitely a better starter than finisher. 

Central Park in the Fall
Once fall comes, I don't mind the cold at all. I actually kind of like it. I get to bundle up in cute sweaters and wear earthy colors. I know that the holidays are approaching and everything just feels right. Fall just fits my personality. 
Central Park in the Fall

On Twitter or Bloglovin' ?  I would love a follow! 

Are you a fall or spring person? If you took a gap year, would you go to New York or the Dominican Republic? :) 

Hunts Point | Up Close

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The school I serve in is located in Hunts Point (the South Bronx). I like taking a closer look at the community I spend most of my time in while living in New York City. The area continues to fascinate and puzzle me. 

East Harlem

Friday, March 21, 2014

I have the privilege of living in a colorful area in New York City. East Harlem is also known as Spanish Harlem and it's full of culture and vibrance. I love it for the cheap food, cheap(er) apartments, and close proximity to my school in the Bronx and all the fun stuff in Manhattan. I'm pretty much right between downtown and the Bronx, which is great. There's always loud music blasting and plenty of chatter. It's the perfect place for me!

Want more East Harlem? Check out this post from the archives: Signs and wonders of East Harlem.

Sunshine to the Square Inch

Spring and other things

Thursday, March 20, 2014

To celebrate the first day of spring I had students in my art club make tissue paper flowers! and then hold them up for a picture :) Today was beautiful, and I can't wait to experience Spring in the city.

Here are those other "things":
I filed taxes for the first time this year. I got a couple hundred dollars refunded from Minnesota and the Federal gov't, but unfortunately I have to give all that refund-money to New York City. Just when you think NYC can't get any more expensive, taxes come along.

Last night I had an open house in midtown right after work, then I had a City Year meeting in Flatiron, then I had to shop for groceries. I had a little dinner on the subway (gross, I know) and finally made it home at 10 pm. When I got home, I put my groceries away, and then somehow wound up on my bed. BIG mistake.  I woke up in a haze the next morning (today) still wearing my City Year uniform....and very ashamed of myself.  I didn't even for shower! sheesh. Somehow I still made it to work (barely) on time. 

I paid $2.50 +tax for two hard-boiled eggs at the airport. Also, while at the said airport, a man started talking about his life to me and a couple other Canadians sitting in the waiting area. He was obviously feeling lonely and saddened from a divorce 8 months ago. I started to feel a little heartbroken for this man. He seemed so sweet and friendly. I can't imagine going through a divorce after a 14 year marriage. BUT then he went on to say that he went on 22 dates in 16 days to bounce back. 
Then he said that he made out with all of those girls. Sometimes two at once. 
Then he said he liked kissing and that kissing was great. 
Then this conversation became super awkward. And I politely withdrew myself from the conversation. 
What are you supposed to do when a stranger starts saying this stuff??

I met another "stranger" today. Thankfully this girl seemed interesting....and normal. She works at a start-up in the city and studied art in college. 

Today I found out that a teacher I see AND talk to every day at school is pregnant. She's been pregnant since October. Due this June. How do I miss these things?! I noticed she had a little pouch today, so I just asked a student if his teacher was having a baby. He said "yeah, we've been knowing she was having a baby." Then I went up to her and we both laughed because somehow that important life detail was never exchanged over the last 6 months. Before I left, I called her huge and she appreciated that. I guess that was the one thing I did right?? 

Well, here's to an exciting Friday and end of the week!

Chalkpaint Furniture D.I.T.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I'm not much of a D.I.Yer. but I love making things with people...especially my mom! My mom loves furniture, so while I was home for the weekend, I wanted to make something special with her. I must admit,  she did most of the work. I picked out things I wanted and worked alongside her, but she was the one to keep this little project going. 

This was the desk/bookshelf in our attic that I was eager to transform!

We made the chalkpaint for this project. It was very simple to make and it only required water, plaster of Paris, and flat paint. After we put a few coats on, we  my mom rubbed it with wax to protect the finish. 

The finished product
I love the soft finish of this desk and bookshelf combo. The knobs were from the clearance section at Anthropology and I really dig them. I can't wait to use this desk in the future! 

Curious why we used ChalkPaint? Read more about it.

Do you like customizing furniture? Feel free to link up projects you have made or like in the comments! I would love to see them.

Meet my sister

Sunday, March 16, 2014

She flies through the air in the name of gymnastics, and she does it beautifully. Her legs are killer and everything else about her body is perfect. I haven’t seen Miss Isabel for a while, but since I have lived in New York, her gymnastic abilities have gone through the roof.  Take a look for yourself at her amazing moves and form.

For those who don’t know me well, you might be curious why I am a white girl and my sister isn’t. Is this girl really my sister? yes. Isabel was adopted as a babe from Haiti and she fits into our family perfectly. She is currently a freshman in high school. This is her first year competing in gymnastics. 

Despite the Madness

Friday, March 14, 2014

This has been one of those weeks where there has been a million thoughts in my head, but nothing is organized, and I just don't have the desire to sit and try to write something out. There was a building explosion in my neighborhood, and the teacher I work with has been absent all week because of the stomach flu. Lots of chaos. I started reading this Journal prompt, and my apathy towards writing for the day changed.
I guess I'll call this...Thursday Thoughts? Maybe just a Thursday dump? The question she asked was, "If you had unlimited resources, what political or social issue, or area of scientific or medical exploration would you fund? Do you have a cause that is near and dear to your heart that you'd put your time, energy, and money into if you had the means? Tell us about it, along with a bit of background explaining where you're coming from."
Can you take a guess at what cause I'm going to talk about? I live it all the time... yeah, education. If I'm not thinking about the education of 25 other 12 year-olds, I'm thinking about my education, or my siblings' education, or my friends' education; education is on my mind a lot. There's no doubt there's a problem with the education system in the South New York America, and so many people are trying to solve it. When I started my year of service, I had a lot more optimism about closing the achievement gap and helping students get an education than I do now, but there's still things that can be done even though it's such a challenge. I haven't lost all hope! One area of school service that has always been relatively successfully (and a highlight of my day) has been the art club I run with another co-worker and approximately 10 students at the middle school. 

Doing art with the students has been relaxed, but disciplined at the same time. The kids act like civil and creative human beings when they engage in an art project. I've loved seeing creativity come out in the students, and I love the conversations that come up during the time. Students do not have any art classes during the school day, so I'm glad we can offer it to them in the after school space.  
A midst all the test-prep, math, and ELA students have to do, having the chance to be creative and inventive is very important for their education and well-being. I would love to further art education in schools. Art education can certainly go beyond things like painting and sculpture-making. Art education can be poetry, theatre, music, and I would even add subjects like computer science, robotics, and other technical subjects to the list. If a kid can be creative, then it's art in my books. Yes, art-education is more expensive and harder to manage, but those are the classes that students can flourish in and grow. These are the classes where they can be proud of their work they made and have something to show off for years. 
Art was always a safe and exciting place for me as a student, and I want more students to feel that way about it too. Art allows students to break out of the mold and be different from their peers. I know that art alone is NOT the answer to the education crisis, but from my experience, giving students the opportunities to be creative produces great things. 
I guess what I'm getting at is that education policy is an issue I would love to support and fund during my lifetime. I already moved thousands of miles away from home to work in the poorest congressional district in the country to serve in a failing middle school. That's one step in the right direction. I know I'm not an expert, but I'm passionate about it, and passion takes people places. 
What are your passions? Even if you share a word or two, I want to know what causes are on your mind.
**Random note** I wanted you to be aware of the definition of mad according to Urban Dictionary. I hear this word from the mouths of my students all the time. They say it, so I incorporated it into my title. "Mad: Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" translates into 'a lot' or 'extremely.' For the most part, it means angry. It's mad hot today. She has mad problems."

Blue Red Brown Orange

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend Snapshots.
I discovered this silvery sculpture at a park in East Harlem during my morning walk.
I was walking in the Upper West Side and saw tables set out on the sidewalk. I think the restaurant was feeling too optimistic about outdoor dining, but at least they are aware that it's getting warmer outside.
My friend is studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology and had a fashion show this weekend. Her line was "folklore imagined." That dress was one of her pieces.
I took a Spanish class on Saturday with some of my friends from City Year. It was good to be refreshed in Spanish!

Photography love.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Olivia Bee. 

She's too cool for school. literally.
Bee is a 19 year old, Brooklyn-based photographer who creates the dreamiest images I've ever seen. I'm crushing over all of them.  I discovered her in Emerging Photographer magazine and absolutely loved what I saw. She started photography at age 11 and gained attention by posting pictures onto her flickr page. Now,  she's already done work for Adias, New York Times, and Converse. Photography has become her full-time gig, and she easily puts in 80 hour work weeks. She says, "I forget about showing the product because I want to shoot a beautiful photo." 

I'm certain Bee will continue to make stellar images, and I look forward to seeing her go far in her career. 
Check out her site for more. 
Her instagram is also worth checking out. 

Do you have a favorite photographer? Let me know! I want to see her/his work. 

*All photos in this post belong to Olivia Bee, and are not my own*
*Facts are from Emerging Magazine, Spring 2014*

Skill Share {CC 4/23}

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

As part of this week's Creative Collective challenge, I enrolled in a Skillshare class. Skillshare offers online classes for anyone who wants to learn or develop a skill or hobby that interests them. They offer a large scope of classes like design, fashion, business, calligraphy, HTML, film, illustration, and much more. Classes are taught by an expert in the field and classes range in workload and difficulty. 

I don't have a ton of extra time to focus on learning a new skill, so I wanted to take a class that would keep me interested and also complement something I'm already doing. Photography fit the bill! I love photography and I also love the art of editing. I'm a firm believer that the key to good photography is good editing. 95% of my photography is done with an iPhone, but that doesn't stop me from taking the time to edit and make my pictures pop! Hopefully one day I'll own a DSLR camera and use Adobe photoshop, but for now I'm happy with the phone. 

I chose to take Photo Editing: Make good images great without expensive software.  This class is relevant to me and I'm certain it will teach me a thing or two. Here are a few video lessons that I'm anxious to go further in depth:

I have no idea what a histogram is and how it applies to photography.

I'm a little familiar with using tools on photos, but I would love to have clear definitions in my head about what certain tools do and when to use them.

This post will probably require a follow-up to see how I did with this class, but I'm happy to introduce it to you! One tip I would recommend if you want to try Skillshare is to become a member instead of buying an individual class. Especially if you just want to get your feet wet with online learning. This class costs $19, but it was free with a $10 monthly membership. The $10 membership allows you to enroll in many classes for FREE, and classes that still have a fee are automatically 20% off with membership. You can cancel a membership at any time, so say I didn't love the course after a month, I could cancel my membership.

Have you tried Skillshare before? Are you interested in trying it? 

The Creative Collective

Life update: Service and Perspective

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

*I started writing this post a couple days ago and needed to stop because I started to feel depressed. I wasn't depressed because of the nature of the topic, but because of my outlook on the topic, which happens to be my job. When I started City Year I was so flippin' excited! I thought City Year was the coolest and I couldn't wait to work with students practically all the time. That spirit lasted a few months, but since January, my enthusiasm and motivation have really dwindled when it comes to working with City Year. Some of the reasons for why I feel burnt out and tired of serving in the school are valid, but a lot of my negative feelings have blossomed from a discontent heart. 
How did I develop my discontentment? Words. Not just my own words, but words exchanged with other people in the form of complaints. COMPLAINING is poison. I know this, and I knew this, but I needed to be reminded of it. I want to nip my negative spirit, because deep down inside I know I'm doing something amazing. I know that I will look back on this year, and say "whoa, you did all that! You put yourself out there in a place hardly anyone would go. You put off your own education and personal development to serve 12 year-olds in the Bronx. How many people can say they did that during their lifetime?" 

Moving forward, I'm going to do my best to look at City Year the way I did when I came into it. There's one guy on my team who never engages in negative talk about the school we serve in, and I'm going to do my best to imitate that. He still shares truth and struggles, but he does it with a growth-mindset and when it's appropriate. He's the happiest at the school, and he's definitely making the most of his work. I know that not complaining is a great start to rekindling my passion and hopefully becoming a better corps member for the remaining months. I so desperately want to enjoy the service I do, and the first step is a positive outlook, especially through all the challenges I'm facing there! God wants me here for a reason. 

This is how I originally started this post:
Work: City Year is kicking my butt. I'm at a point where I'm counting down the days 'til school is over, and I don't like that. I don't know how to make an impact anymore. I don't know how to help these kids. On Thursday we had parent conferences and only 6 parents showed up. These were the parents who really didn't need to show up, because their child is doing "fine." The next day I wasn't in the school, but I texted the teacher I work with to see how the day went, and she said it was the worst day ever. Things seem to only get worse at this middle school. State tests are coming up in April, which are a HUGE deal for the NYC public schools. The staff in the building are stressed, but of course the students could care less.  Our after-school program is so stressful and long. Our team feels disconnected, and the kids go wild. I'm behind when it comes to getting time with students, and I don't see a lot of improvement with grades and overall performance in the students I work with. 
And this is when I needed to stop. Too depressing.  

Aside from this, I still love NYC. Love it. And I'm forming great friendships. I will share a happy post about City Year. I will. Actually, come to think of it, one of the students I work closely with in my class is greatly improving in math, and that really does make me happy.
 Baby steps, Abby, baby steps.

What do you do when you feel stuck or discontent? Do you have verses or quotes to share? 

Coffee Houses and Coffee Shops

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The campus ministry I attend had an open-mic coffee house on Saturday night. I was blown away by some of the talent, and it was a lovely time for fellowship and entertainment. One of the girls even  drew portraits for us!  For those familiar with Biblical scripture, the event was called Hebrews holy grounds... He brews holy grounds. good one. 
A couple friends of mine have a tradition of going to a new bakery every Saturday in Brooklyn. I joined along this week and we stopped at Konditori. It was a new Swedish bakery (mainly coffee shop) in Greenpoint. The ambiance felt fresh and sophisticated. The pastries were delicious. I definitely recommend it! 

Weekends are the best.
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