Death is nothing at all…

eu-lo-gy (yo͞oləjē), noun, a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died.

Writing my mother’s eulogy was never something I thought I would have to do. After my mother’s passing, we asked an uncle if he would give it, he responded asking if my sister or I had thought about giving it ourselves. My answer was no, I didn’t even contemplate I would or should be the one to speak. After discerning and discussing with other family members, I decided it should be me. That’s when the hard part began.

Based on a eulogy someone shared with me I knew only two things. One, keep it short and sweet. Two, I wanted to start with a powerful and meaning quote and end with a poem. That took 10 minutes to find and put onto paper, but for the next 36 hours, there I sat, looking at a paper with nothing in the middle.

How do you sum up a life in a brief speech? A life full of love and joy. A live full of ups and downs. A life full of friends and family. A life full of laughter and tears. I began to feel inadequate. There was certainly no way I could do my mother any justice in a matter of moments. What if I forgot something important?

While attempting to complete the speech, I was driving down an old country road. It was a picturesque winter scene of New England and I completely lost it. I was crying, sobbing really. It just hit me out of no where. A few moments later, the tears calmed down, much less but they just dribbled down my cheeks. That’s when the wave of emotion clarified my restless mind. The speech came to me. So many ideas, all at once; I felt overwhelmed but it all made sense. When I finally sat down at my computer, the words flowed and this is what I had…

It has been said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

My mom was a great teacher and a teacher to all – whether she was our mother, sister, daughter, friend or actually your math teacher. She inspired many and taught lessons both in and out of the classroom. We will miss these lessons immensely.

One lesson she taught us was to do what makes us happy. Something that made my mom happy was going on long drives. Normally these drives took us north, usually up Route 7 to Massachusetts and sometimes, if we were feeling adventurous, we’d hit the Vermont border. One thing we never did was drive south to New Jersey.

Often, we’d go to Kent Falls, the old covered bridge, Stockbridge, Mass or go shopping at the outlets in Lee. Some of my favorite memories with mom were these drives. We would stop in Stockbridge at the General Store so I could stock up on 10 cent candies and Sarah and I would plead to stop at Catherine’s, a chocolate store along the route, to get a treat.

She loved taking drives so much, we would drive over 2 hours away to go apple picking every fall. And during the summers, we would always drive a few hours down here to hit up Jones Beach so mom could work on her tan, a trait I did not inherit from her.

Car rides weren’t the only thing our mom enjoyed. Mom loved to play cards; though I’m pretty sure that is a requirement to be in the Donnellan family. There are many fond memories in the family of playing Michigan Rummy or hearts around our Grandmother’s dining room table.

Sarah’s favorite memory of mom is staying home on snowdays only to sit by the fire, play pokeno and feast on artichoke dip. And mom did enjoy artichoke dip; she always volunteered to make some for get togethers.

Another lesson we were taught by mom was to be good people. However that may be. Her rule of thumb was to always start by taking care of your family, and then those around you.

When I was preparing this, I asked some of mom’s friends if they had any good memories I could incorporate, Lourdes shared with me one of her memories. A few years ago, mom, along with other teachers, took up a collection to buy Christmas presents for one of the students whose family couldn’t afford them. Mom and Lourdes went out to buy 19 gifts for the students. This was also something that mom was proud to have done.

My mother loved her students. She was so fiercely passionate about ensuring they succeeded and would keep tabs on her former students; I can’t even imagine how many there were, but mom sure seemed to know whenever one of them had a big achievement.

She was very proud to be a teacher. In fact, over the past few months she would very proudly share that she was still a middle school math teacher and had not retired.

As a friend and former neighbor said the other day, “I hope one day to be half the teacher she was.”

Sarah and I want to thank our cousins, Kate, Kevin, and Kailyn, along with our friend Amaka, for their help going through the family photo albums and creating the picture boards and slideshow that brought back many memories of our mother; some of which are pictures from long before we were born, when our mom was a little girl with long blonde curls.

So let me end with some stanzas of a poem shared with our family by a friend:

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened. 

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

On behalf of our entire family, I would like to thank you all for being here to support us. Through all of this, you have all shown our family love, compassion and support. It has meant the world to us.

Rest in Peace, Mom. You are missed and forever loved.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scouts.

#ImWithHer — Now What?

Tonight many of us are feeling uneasy, nervous, worried. We thought we would be waking up knowing America elected our first female president. We assumed an inexperienced man would not be elected to the highest position in our government. We could go on for hours about this being unjust or fixed or a hoax. We could list millions of reasons why this happened. We could spend days asking questions…. 

Sixteen years ago we had a very strenuous outcome in an election, we survived it. We can survive it again. Regardless of how you voted, it’s time to continue. This is America. This is a result of democracy. We need to come together as one nation. We need to support our neighbors. We need to make sure that we, the people of the United States, are heard from and not dismissed. We must come together to ensure all of our freedoms remain intact and that the future of our nation allows generations to come to flourish. 

Trump supporters, don’t gloat, it doesn’t look good on you. Hillary supporters, spend a few days mourning, but don’t wallow in it, it will only suck you dry. We all have one duty now: Be an adult. Respect those around you; don’t bully others. Let’s show the world what America can do. We are one nation, we are strong, we will not let this get us down. 

I am just as shocked and saddened as you. I have my doubts and fears of what all of this means. I only ask that we all please remember that we already have enough inequalities and injustices in our lives, we don’t need more. We, as one, can work to ensure the future of our country. We still have the power to prove #lovetrumpshate

That’s all for now. Peace out cub scouts. 

I Quit My Job!!!

“I QUIT MY JOB!”…a year ago. (I gotcha on that one, didn’t I?)

No, I’m not crazy, I did not just quit my job (I now have a mortgage to pay, remember?), but I did quit my job a year ago (389 days ago to be precise. On January 3, 2013, I walked into my office with a knot in my stomach and my purse felt like it weighed a million pounds. (My purse is usually packed full and on many occasions others might have thought I was carrying bricks, but this day, my purse even felt super heavy to me.) What no one knew, was I had a letter giving my two weeks notice folded up inside of it, but I wasn’t sure I was going to give it to anyone that day. Now, I had made up my mind to quit my job, I just didn’t know when.

Let’s rewind a little bit to get the story here. Less than five months beforehand (August 2013), I accepted this job and the next day I told my boss that I had accepted a new position and would be leaving my first real job. Putting in my two weeks notice at my first job had been hard. It was the first job I took after college, I had job security, I loved the team of people I worked with, and I knew I had people who always had my back. So why did I quit you ask? Well we all know the saying “money talks”, and in this story, that seems to be the problem. I had been looking to leave my first job for another one with room for growth, more pay, and preferably closer to home. While that search seemed to lead nowhere, there was this one person who reached out to me on multiple occasions, and each time I replied that I wasn’t looking for another job in Manhattan, but finally I gave in. I e-mailed him back and asked what he had open, told him I changed my outlook and had decide I would be willing to continue my commute into the city for work. It seemed I sent that e-mail at the perfect day. This company just found out they had a manager who was going to be leaving to go back to school, it seemed too good to be true.

Back to January of 2013…. I walked into work that morning shaking. My purse felt like it was so heavy that it would topple me. The knot in my stomach was growing and my anxiety was hitting an all time high. Around 9AM, the boss yelled (this was a common occurrence) and I started shaking. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t calm down. I have no idea why he yelled but I do know that was all I needed. At 9AM I knew what I needed to do. I used our office IM to message the GM and President. I knew they both had meetings and conference calls, so I just let them know that I wanted to talk to them when they were free. I texted my family, they knew it was coming. But when I had made the decision the night before to write my letter, all we knew was I had had enough. It had become obvious to me that I had not made the best decision back in August, and I needed out. I had hoped that knowing my time was limited would allow me to get through another month or so and save some money up for my voluntary unemployment. The best advice I was given was to know when enough was enough and that’s exactly what I listened to. 

As soon as enough was enough, I left. To say I was unhappy is rather an understatement. Remember earlier when I said that this job seemed too good to be true? That should have been my first clue, it was too good to be true. I thought it was fate; I wanted a new job and there was one for the taking. I was getting a promotion, a hefty raise and a department of my own to run. It was just what I wanted, right? That’s what I thought too. While my stint at this company was brief, I learned a lot. Things really are clear in hindsight; I should have asked more questions when I was interviewing. An interview is just as much you interviewing the company as it is them interviewing you. You really do need to mesh with the organization and people you work with. I was working two and a half hours from home, with people that lived a very different lifestyle, for a company that made me question my morals and ethics. While it was not an opportune time to be unemployed, it was something I needed to do. I believe in living the life you love and I didn’t love the live I was living then. I was becoming a shell of a person. I didn’t have time to spend with friends. I came home and just wanted to go to bed, I didn’t want to have a a social life at all. I lost who I was, the only thing I had left was work and it wasn’t work that made me happy.

That afternoon I walked into the President’s office and they asked what was up. I said I wanted to let them know I was putting in my two weeks notice. As soon as the letter left my hand, a weight left me. I could breathe again, there was no knot in my stomach, I knew I had done the right thing. I was fortunate enough to have a family that supported my decision, I had limited financial responsibilities (they could be taken care of by finding some interim work), I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about, no kids to support, my car was paid off. I handed over my letter and I took back my life.

While it wasn’t the right job for me to be at, I do believe that it was a good thing for me to experience. For one, I never would have quit my first job to become unemployed (and therefore not qualifying for unemployment). I wasn’t happy at my first job either, but I was content. Quitting this job allowed me to find the one I have right now. I again work with a great team, but this time I am closer to home. I was able to get my life back. I have the opportunity to do my own errands, I can cook dinner during the week, I have even been able to focus enough to buy my own house (one that I can now enjoy, whereas if I were still commuting, I would never have had the time). A second great thing that happened was that I learned about myself during that time; I was able to find that my morals and ethics are strong. I was able to really evaluate what mattered in my life and I was able to find myself.

In the end, I gambled, and it paid off. The economy sucked, but I found myself a great job at the end of my journey. But in the meantime, I found me. And there is nothing more valuable than finding yourself. I struggled while I worked at this job. I allowed it to define me, I allowed it to take over. Now I know when enough is enough. Now I know that I am a lot more than just what I do from 9 to 5. I now know that when I put my mind to it, it can be done. I can’t say I recommend quitting a job for no reason, but I will always say now that I support those who do what they need to do. I was able to make an educated decision and calculated all of the financial implications beforehand. While I didn’t know until the day I handed in my letter when the end would be, I had already made that decision and had a back up plan in place. What I will say is, if you want out and you feel it is necessary, don’t make a rash decision, weigh out the options and come up with a plan for afterwards….remember as soon as you put in your notice, they are not obligated to keep you that long.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scouts.

13 Highlights from 2013

So I know I’m a few days late, but here are my top 13 highlights from 2013, in chronological order:

1 – I quit my job! On January 3rd, I turned in my two weeks notice. I didn’t have a new job lined up, that would be too simple, right? No, I was not happy and I had determined that my unhappiness was due largely to my job and work environment, so I decided to head to unemployment for a while as I figured out what I wanted to be doing and where I wanted to do it. January 16th was, very thankfully, my last day commuting from Connecticut to Manhattan.

2 – I got a new job! After about seven weeks of unemployment (which wasn’t really unemployment as I substitute taught during this time) and job hunting, I found a new job. This job was much closer and in Connecticut, two things I wanted. Now that’s its 10 months later, I can very positively say that this was a very very good change.


3 – Completing the 4th Pilgrimage of New York! On the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend, three of my girlfriends and I walked from Washington Heights to Battery Park by way of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This was the 4th PONY and the 4th I’ve completed. Every year there’s a new theme, and a new group of friends participating, but it’s always a great day to spend with the girls and walk some more life back into our faith.

20140104-104217.jpg4 – Had my 5 year reunion from Bentley! It’s hard to admit, but I have no choice but to live with the fact that I’m an adult now, there’s no more getting around that. And in June, we drove up to Waltham to visit with college friends and relive college life for one more weekend.

20140104-104801.jpg5 – Attended my friends Deaconate Ordination. In June one of my friends, who helped bring me back to the Church after graduating from college, was ordained a Deacon and I was blessed to be among our friends and witness his ordination.

6 – Went on vacation to Colorado! We took an extended July 4th weekend plus the whole week after, and flew out to Colorado to explore Vail, Breckenridge and Boulder while admiring the Rocky Mountains through many new adventures.

20140104-102711.jpg7 – Saw one of my best friends get married to the love of her life! The reason we went to Colorado was to see my best friends get married. Her wedding was beautiful (the ceremony was on the top of Vail Mountain, need I say more?) and it was great to spend the 4th of July weekend with them in such a great location.


8 – We made 30 gallons of white wine! The process started back in October of 2012, but after many racks and aging, our Muscat was ready and we bottled 30 gallons of white wine to keep our wine rack stocked for the next couple of years (we have taken a break from making some this year due to our move).


9 – I completed my first 5k! In October I drove up to Providence, RI to partake in the Color Run 5K with my friend from college! We’ve vowed to do another one next fall too 🙂


10 – Bike road for over 30 straight weeks! One of my new favorite hobbies is road riding (bike riding on the road). For more than 30 weeks, I successfully went on at least one ride a week.

11 – We bought a house! On our 3rd anniversary! That’s right, we are homeowners! We bought a house in a quiet little town in Connecticut. Call me a country girl, but I love living in quaint little towns; the city is better of as a destination location.


12 – Took Christmas/New Year’s vacation! Well, it was more of a stay-cation, I didn’t actually to anywhere (other than Grandma’s house for Christmas Day), but it was the first time as an adult that I have truly enjoyed the holidays. Instead of working until 5PM in Manhattan on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, I not only was able to enjoy having those days off, but I had a whole 11 days off to relax, enjoy time with our families and prepare to move.

13- We moved in to our new house! Nothing like a last minute addition, we moved into our new house on New Year’s Eve. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s our home and now we can be there everyday to enjoy it.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scouts.

Why I’m Pissed After Sandy….

Priorities. Where are people’s priorities?

We all want life back to normal, like yesterday. We want power, water, Internet, cable, phones, heat, the ability to cook in our ovens, etc…. But how do we get there? Prioritize. First, let’s make sure everyone is safe, then we can get to the luxuries we are accustomed to.

First, people need to check in to reality. Let’s not harp on the vocabulary Rudy is using in our emergency update calls. Yes, you can’t actually postpone Halloween since it is a fixed date, but we all know he meant the activities, i.e.; trick-or-treating, since you know it’s DANGEROUS for kids to be walking around most of town right now. (Remember, priorities, people’s safety.) Or how about the fact that most of town seems to forget that the non-working lights on Main Street equate to a four-way stop sign? It seems people are in more of a hurry these days than normal…I drove to Stop & Shop today and witnessed more people cutting others off and doing things that are definitely illegal at any time, but maybe they don’t care if they get in an accident and land someone in the hospital, at least they’d have heat and power then… And let’s all drop the “woo is me” attitude. Most of town is in the same boat, or a worse one than you. And many other communities are far worse off than us, let’s just be glad our whole town wasn’t under water. We need perspective here, we’re all spoiled and used to having a lot of luxuries in life. Let’s be adults and realize this could be a lot worse!

But now, to why I’m really pissed. Last I knew, Ridgefield had 80 blocked roads. And 64% of us don’t have power. My house has no phone, cable, power and the road is blocked, sort of. Thanks to a good neighbor, I don’t know which, the branches on the pine tree blocking my road were sawed off. My neighbors and I are able to drive under the tree (I say a quick prayer each time hoping the tree doesn’t decide to give way) to get off of our dead end at the edge of town. But when I was driving to town to use the Internet and try to get some work done, what did I see? The town and a tree crew at the Little Red Schoolhouse – removing the tree that fell on the roof and caused minor damage to the roof and chimney. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about preserving the history of our town and I want the Little Red Schoolhouse to remain open after storm relief, but, I’m more interested in having fire trucks and ambulances able to get to my neighbors and my houses before first. I’m not even asking for power yet, how about just enabling emergency services to get to all of us? The town might be able to send in an ATV instead of an ambulance (yes, they do it, they did last year after Irene when a neighbor needed to be taken to the hospital, but tell me, how is clearing the Little Red Schoolhouse supposed to help anyone on my block, or any of the other blocked roads, when God forbid, someone’s house catches fire?

Now, before you decide to criticize my bluntness, or the lack of grammatical editing that I couldn’t be bothered to do, think about the things that really matter. Why don’t you use that negative energy of yours to go help everyone who needs it? Cause guess what, most of the region could find something productive for you to do.

Strawberry Jam

Last night, Tom and I made our first batch of home made strawberry jam. This past Saturday, we went strawberry picking at Jones Family Farm in Shelton, CT and picked a wonderful basket of berries, 20120612-082545.jpgweighing in at 10.4 pounds. Is was my first time ever picking strawberries, and I was loving it. It’s so much fun to pick them, we didn’t realize until after we got home just how many strawberries are in 10.4 pounds. So we began to ponder, what to do with all the berries before they spoiled? Make jam!! So we googled and found a recipe that we wanted to try, one that doesn’t call for pectin and white sugar like most recipes do.

We began by prepping the berries. We hulled and halved 2.45 kg strawberries. 20120612-082529.jpg Then we washed the strawberries and .250 kilos blueberries — we were supposed to use 6 ponds of strawberries for the cope, but we ran a little short, and we had to measure in kills since that’s the only scale that lives in the kitchen, .448 kilos = 1 pound). Once the berries were ready, we put 3 3/4 cups honey, 2 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 small grated apples and all the washed berries in large pot and mixed it all together. >20120612-082502.jpg continued to mix the pot together over increasing heat until it reached a low boil. Once it was boiling, we began to mash the berries for 20 min with a hand potato masher. We then continued to boil mixture for 65 more min — it was boiling for a total of 85 minutes. 20120612-081703.jpg

While boiling the mixture, we sanitized utensils, lids and pots. (We had already sanitized the jars in the dishwasher.) Also, we got another pot of boiling water going for the “processing” phase. Once the jam was done boiling, we laddled (if that’s even a real word) the jam into 6 pint size canning jars with the help of a funnel (which we cut the bottom small neck off of so the jam could pass through with ease). 20120612-082039.jpg Once the lid was on, Tom “strong finger tightened” the bands on the jars. We then placed the 6 jars into our pot of boiling water for 10 min, all the jars were covered with 2″ water during this process. After 10 min, we took the jars out of the water and placed them on a cutting board on the counter. 20120612-082145.jpg

While cleaning up, we heard 5 of 6 lids pop within 5 min. We covered jars with towel and blanket and let sit overnight. We will move the jars to a cool, dry location later today once they are all sealed.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scouts.

The Great Outdoors and the Next Great Generation

“You can’t capture it in a picture, you have to be there to see it.” — Tobin Schafer, 12, of Ohio

No truer words have been spoken by the young boy at the end of a clip NBC’s Nightly News aired about the National Parks trying to attract more young people to come and visit them. While Schafer might be younger than Millennials, his sentiment is one that more Millennials need to share in order for our National Parks system to persevere and survive for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren. According to a University of Idaho analysis of Park Service attendance, “back in 1996, at Death Valley National Park, almost a third of visitors were in their 20s. But in the last few years, that number has dropped to just 11% at Yosemite and 6% at Yellowstone”.

The question is why? Perhaps it’s because Millennials and younger generations are addicted to technology (says the one who tried to ‘check-in’ on Foursquare when I reached the summit of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains). Perhaps it’s because beginning with our generations, kids spent more time indoors playing on the computer and with video games than we sent running around outdoors just enjoying the freedom of binging a kid. Perhaps it’s because we take for granted that they have always been there, and assume they always will be (you know what assume means — it makes an @$$ out of me and u…). The problem is no one has yet to figure out the reason why.

The NPCA, National Parks Conservation Association, urges its members of all ages to support the parks and to spread the importance of our parks. Many might take for granted that these parks are National Parks and assume that they will always be parks, but in today’s economy, the parks system faces budget cuts and drastic changes. According to an email from the NPCA President, Thomas C. Kiernan, to NPCA members, “Congress has slashed the National Park Service budget in the last two years — that’s an operations shortfall of $500 to $600 million! And funding is now 14% below where it was 10 years ago. Plus, President Obama’s proposed budget for next year would slash $22 million more from park operations.” A decrease in funding will lead to less staff at the parks to ensure the safety of visitors, less upkeep of the parks to ensure they are clean for new visitors and to protect the environment of the parks along with other cuts.

Funding is not the only issue facing the parks at the moment. Our government is taking actions that will effect the parks and the future visits of those who plan to visit them. Right now, the Manassas National Battlefield in Virginia is facing a highway to be built right in the middle of the battlefield. Who wants to visit a battlefield to see cars flying by? If I wanted to do that, I’d just go sit in a rest stop on I-95. And last month, the House Even passes a bill that could allow hunting in many of the parks. Who wants to go see a recreation at Gettysburg and fear that a hunt fight get caught up in the is and leave someone accidentally injured?

Some Millennials are out there protecting the environment, but is what we’ve done enough to ensure the National Parks stay for generations to come? Or decades from now, will we be viewed at the ones who allowed the parks to disappear? It’s time now for Millennials to decide what legacy we will leave our parks, and to act on it.

Long Trail Brewery

Only seven months late, but its finally time to take this out of drafts and finish it up!

What better way for a whiskey drinking, beer loving girl to celebrate being a quarter century old than to hit up a brewery? Since I was in Vermont, I headed to Long Trail Brewery for the perfect celebration. (Well perhaps had I been in Dublin I could have hit up Jameson and Guinness, that could have topped it…) Accompanied by my boyfriend, his friend and his sister (one of my best friends), we headed off to the Brewery for lunch and a tour before heading home to CT as the weekend drew to a close. We first decided to eat, so we headed to the outdoor seating area for some grub. When given the choice of drinks for lunch, we all chose the sampler as it seemed to make the most sense (plus it was only $6 for 24 oz. of beer).


We began with the Blackberry Wheat, which became my favorite of them all with it’s light and unique taste. It was followed by the Harvest, took me as a bit bitter, perhaps because I loved the one before it so much, but it was also too dark. Third up was the Long Trail Ale, which was just a generic ale. Nothing special, but not bad. The second half began with the Pale Ale and ended with the Traditional IPA, neither of which stuck my fancy. And taking up the spot between those two was the Double Bag. I like the name better than the taste, but it was a nice heavier beer.

While not all the beers were stellar, the tasting sampler was great and definitely the way to go if you’re not familiar with the Long Trail beers. The beer sampler was also better than the tour, which isn’t so much of a tour as it is a sort walk down the hall reading posters. My favorite part of the brewery was the deep well in the middle of the outdoor seating area that is one of the sources of the fresh water that they use in the brewing process. I would suggest if your in the area to take a break to sit down to try the sampler and have a bite to eat.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

Lessons Learned Living Abroad

My latest TNGG post, as originally posted here.

Over 80,000 American college co-eds study abroad each academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Each year, more and more college students are participating in study abroad programs at their college or university — some study abroad for a semester, or even a year, and others have internships overseas. Below are some important life lessons that can be learned while living outside the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Lesson #1 — not all of Europe drives on the “wrong” side of the road
During a study abroad pre-departure meeting at Bentley College, the study abroad advisor asked 10 eager students excited to head to Ireland “which way to look before crossing the road?” Confused, they asked “left, then right, then left again?” or “both ways?” While this question sounded silly at first, the advisor was trying to make a point — even though traffic may drive on the opposite side of the road in Dublin, you still need to look both ways before crossing the street. Being well aware of this difference in Ireland, which like the UK, Japan, Australia, India, Southeast Asia, parts of Africa and other areas, drive on the left side of the road, it still came as a shock to be on a bus in Italy driving down the right side of the road. (And don’t forget, if they do drive on the left, it means the passenger door is where the driver’s door is in America). Seriously though, you learn more important things than this, but you need to remember to keep using your common sense, assuming you have it to begin with.

Lesson #2 — not everyone likes Americans
A business professor at University College Dublin asked her students to break into groups to work on a semester long project, the only requirement was that each member of the group be from a different country, with an exception that you could have two Irish students in the group if needed. Her logic behind this was that in the past she had seen Americans be broken into their own groups, partially of their own doing, but also because no one else wanted to work with them — they saw the Americans as lazy. Erasmus students tend to take a semester abroad somewhat more seriously than American college students. Erasumus students, while in a foreign country, are usually from somewhere within Europe and are more well-travelled then their American counterparts. American’s see studying abroad as more of a travel vacation and adventure than a time to be studying seriously. (Myself included — according to Facebook, I studied drinking pints and sightseeing while at UCD.) Not only are American’s seen as lazy, but we are also seen as arrogant and a whole list of other terms we tend to cringe at.

Lesson #3 — Take a breath, and slow down
There’s a reason a “New York minute” is not called a “Sydney minute”. American’s are driven and pushed to accomplish things quickly and now. Many other cultures are more laid back and people take time to enjoy what is around them. Obviously, you try to pack in as much as you can into your trip abroad, but don’t jam things in just to say you did them; allow yourself to truly experience everything around you. Experience the culture around you. Go to a local bar and listen to some live traditional music instead of hitting up the discotech or local bar with American music. And don’t forget to take pictures and videos to remember these amazing moments.

Lesson # 4 — English is not a worldwide language
While many people around the world speak English, not everyone speaks it, even in countries which have large English speaking populations. Getting lost in the alleys of Venice with no known Italian is not the best situation to be in if you are lost late at night. Even if others do speak English, it does not mean they will let you in on that tidbit when you are looking for directions. If you are going to another country for a semester, study their native language before you head over. Even if you are only going for a weekend adventure, at least try to learn some key words (perhaps “help”, “water”, “bathroom” and “do you speak English?” for starters). While it might not be mandatory to study a foreign language in your school, learning another language can also benefit you later in life.

Lesson #5 –Be open and allow yourself to change
Sticking with the norm is easy, you know it, it’s comfortable. Going abroad automatically changes your norm, so why not change it all? Don’t go abroad and pretend to be someone else, but be open to become who you really are. You will inevitably make new friends (who could become some of your closest confidants when you go home and keep going on in life), allow these friends to know the real you, not the you you think you should be. Don’t be scared to try new things. Try the local culture, experience it all — you might learn that you like these things as much, or more, than your old hobbies (I learned that I love art during my semester abroad, and I used to think museums were boring).

Lesson #6 — Don’t stay home wondering “what if?”
The most important lesson I learned — life at home will go on. Thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can be in contact with our loved ones back home as often (or as little) as we’d like. Let go of your fears and go “balls to the wall”. As I have always believed, it’s better to do something than regret not doing it.

Don’t forget to take the lessons learned abroad and bring them back into your American life when you land at the airport to be reunited with friends and family. What lessons did you learn studying or living abroad?

Photo by SLU Madrid Campus

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

Cookin’ in the Kitchen

This weekend I decided to become a chef! Well, really I just decided that I need to expand my horizons in the kitchen and elaborate my knowledge of what I can cook. And yes, this idea was partly driven by the boy’s need to eat different meals, but also because I want to be able to cook delicious and healthy meals, not just Mexican food.

Saturday night I tried homemade pizza. Since I’m lactose intolerant, I made a cheese free pizza (yes, they do exist!) and then I made a veggie pizza too. The cheese free pizza was made with Trader Joe’s pizza dough rolled out with pizza sauce spread on top, baked until the crust is ready. Once the crust was ready, I added fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes (halved) to the top. **I stole this idea from a pizzeria in Manhattan where I went for a work dinner one night, and my co-workers ordered me a similar pizza, though that also had prosciutto on it too — very tasty. My other pizza started with the same base, but also had cheese. On top of the cheese, we piled sliced red bell peppers, sliced red onions, some more halved cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil leaves. This one took longer to cook, but again was ready once the crust was just the right crispness on the bottom.

Homemade pizza wasn’t where I ended. On Sunday night I tackled cooking fish for the first time ever (which also meant buying fish for the first time ever…) I saw a recipe on on Saturday that I wanted to try. It sounded tasty, and healthy. I took the recipe as a good starting point, but like always, I don’t follow directions to a T (unless I’m baking…) So I chopped up almost 2 full pints of grape tomatoes, tossed them in two tablespoons of olive oil, added basil leaves (torn into small pieces) and mixed in plenty of crushed garlic. Once it was nicely mixed, I spread it out in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and roasted the veggies in the oven for 15 min on 425*F. Then I added in 2″ pieces of Alaskan cod spread throughout the dish, and tucked under the veggies. The pan was then put back in the oven for 12 minutes, until the cod was cooked. The tomatoes and cod were to die for and I think this dish would work with any white fish or white meat.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.