2017…another year in the books

2017 has reminded me just how grateful I should be, how thankful I am for the amazing people in my life and how blessed I am to live this life I have!

I’m not going to lie, 2017 started out as a rough year. 40 days in, my life changed forever. Dealing with my mom’s passing was rough, and I really thought it was going to define the year. While I am sure I will always remember that as the most influential part of my 2017, I have been blessed with a multitude of other experiences to make this year enjoyable in the days since. Here are my top 17 highlights from 2017:

  1. Monroe got a new yoga studio – Blue Lotus Yoga, opened by a dear friend of mine who has entrusted me with help her with her social media and website, and all the while it has only made Elaina and me better friends.
  2. My friend Mary came to visit from down south just to keep me company and be with me for a tough weekend. While it was a short visit, it is one I will always remember as she but her own life on hold for the weekend to be there for me at the drop of a hat.
  3. I got my 3rd tattoo – it’s my mom’s handwriting and says “Love, Mom”, taken off the Christmas card she wrote me last year.
  4. Tom and I went to see Jake Owen in concert! (I have to get at least one country concert in each year.)
  5. Once I finally had a chance to leave home for a bit, I visited Jenna and saw Oregon and Washington for my first time! We went beer tasting around Portland (along with whiskey and wine tasting) and even had a flight across the gorge in Washington! I was also able to see Mulnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge before they were hit with a devastating wild fire. Also, while in Portland, Jenna took me to my very first professional soccer game – and I will admit that I loved it!
  6. I spent Mother’s Day weekend in DC with Emily – wine tasting around Virginia and taking in another Nationals game.
  7. I completed my 2nd Warrior Dash with some awesome ladies from my softball team.
  8. I got a dirt bike!!!
  9. Spent Labor Day up on Cape Cod with Tom, Jenna and her family to wish her farewell before her next chapter of life and adventures in Cambodia! And since it was me and Jenna, rum, gin and wine tasting were all on the menu! Along with a 20+ mile bike ride on the rail trail. And we even caught a sight of seals off the coast in Provincetown.
  10. Finally took in a Bridgeport Bluefish game at Harbor Yard before they left town for good.
  11. And even though Hurricane Irma rained out the Tampa 2017 installment of #ktomandlamargotimlbtour, we booked a last minute trip to Cleveland where we saw the Indians win 21 straight games (and then break their win streak two days later). Plus we saw the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and cruised on the Great Lake to see a different side of Cleveland.
  12. I finally made it to Canada thanks to a work trip to Montreal. And though I didn’t have time for sightseeing, there was time to pick up pure Canadian maple syrup to bring home! Work also sent me to Atlanta, so I finally stepped foot outside the airport. And was able to experience some southern BBQ while we dined. My final work trip sent me to Torino, Italy for a week. And included a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt, which gave me ample time to go walk around the city instead of just hanging out in the airport.
  13. After wanting to learn for a long time, I dove in and took a calligraphy class at Joyful Noise Paper and have been enjoying practicing my new hobby ever since.
  14. I spent November writing my 30 Days of Thanks and looking back on all of the blessings I have in my life.
  15. I was elected chair of Monroe Youth Commission.
  16. I survived 3 straight days of Christmas baking – making 100 raspberry thumprints + 121 chocolate chip cookies + 3 Irish soda breads + 81 meringues + 45 chocolate covered pretzels…all for the weekend before Christmas. And that doesn’t include anything I made for Christmas itself, which we hosted for the 1st time this year.
  17. The Gotimer family grew again as Lizzie and Brian got married!

Day 19 – Wanderlust

I am thankful for my sense of wanderlust. One of the many lessons I have learned over the past year is that it really is the life in your years that matter. Taking new adventures and seeing new places. I’ve got my bucket list (which needs some updating) and I have been blessed this year to have gone on a number of trips – Portland, DC, Cape Cod, Cleveland and a number of day trips plus Canada and Atlanta for work (not to mention going to Frankfurt and Torino next week)! In addition to trips I love trying new things, like my new hobbies of calligraphy and dirt biking. So here’s to more adventures with friends and family in the coming years!!

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

2010 Thus Far…

So this morning I read my friend Katelyn‘s latest blog entry — 2010- the year of the road trips? That’s travel — and I’m totally stealing this post idea from her, really cause as soon as I replied to her post, I realized that I was doing the exact same thing…

I keep poking fun that my two “big” trips this year were to the mid-west — Indiana and Ohio. Truth is, just as Katelyn’s year was full of weekend getaways, so was mine — I was fortunate to have a year full of exciting adventures. My year so far in review looked a bit like this:

January: a one-day road trip to drive Tim back to school in Virginia — I hit eight states that day; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — and went to a Rangers game

February: two weekends in Waltham/Boston, MA — one for Mike’s birthday and one to be Alexa’s family for Family weekend back at Bentley

March: saw a screening of The Human Experience in NYC (I recommend to anyone who has not seen it), partook in the first ever NYC Pilgrimage, in a span of 7 days, I went to Springfield, MA two nights in a row for the Elite Eight and Final Four Division II Basketball Championships (drove home to go to work in Manhattan in the morning), went to Foxwoods that Saturday morning with my college roommate, followed by the rest of the weekend in Providence said roommate, and then headed up to Waltham after work on Tuesday night to ring in Alexa’s 21st with her

April: retreat in upstate NY with the youth group I used to work with

May: a long weekend in Philly to see my little sis graduate from Villanova, followed by flying to Indiana the following weekend for Jenna & Kevin’s wedding, went to the Dave Matthews Band concert in Hartford, opening weekend, and then spent the weekend in Poughkeepsie, NY with the other camp counselors

June: Brooklyn & Queens for Ela & Karol’s wedding

JulyLady Antebellum & Tim McGraw concert followed by a Rascal Flatts concert two weeks later, plus the weekend in between I was at my mom’s family reunion

August: I worked a grand total of 10 days! I had a long weekend in Kent, CT with Mary, went to Camp Veritas as a counselor and hit up the Dutchess County Fair

September: spent the weekend before my birthday celebrating it in with my college friends in Waltham/Boston and on my first Booze Cruise on the Boston Harbor and then rang in my birthday weekend at the Trace Adkins & Toby Keith concert

October: road tripped to Ohio with Courtney & Sharmila — we also visited West Virginia & Pittsburgh while we were out there — and this weekend I am yet again off to Waltham/Boston for Bentley’s Homecoming

I should also point out that this does not include any of my nights out in Manhattan, my gallivanting around the state of Connecticut and random day trips to Hoboken and Long Island to hang out with some of my innumerable cousins. Plus, there’s still two more months worth of extravaganzas to plan before 2010 is done.

So really, my point is, even though my biggest trips this year were to the midwest, I am grateful that I have been able to spend so much quality time bonding with my friends. I may have only boarded a plane bound for Indiana for a weekend, not a private plane bound for a week in the Bahamas with 600 of my closest friends, but all is good. My friends are awesome, and I got to see so many of them this year. Not only am I grateful because I spent so much time with my friends, but as my parents have pointed out to me, I have done a lot more this year than other people have, including themselves. In this economy, plenty of people do not even have the chance to go on a simple car ride to spend the weekend 3 hours away, whether they don’t have the time off from work, or the money for gas and other expenses. In short, I will do my best to stop complaining about my lack of a real vacation as today I realized that I think a bunch of little ones are better anyways — instead of going on say one or two vacations spread out this year, I get to go on little ones every few weeks.

Bucket List

My on-going blog entry titled Bucket List is now it’s own page! By having it as a stand alone page, it make it much easier to constantly update it. I hope you check it out every now and then to see what I’ve been up to…

I’m walking 39.3 miles in 12 days!

As some of you know, I like to do crazy and adventurous things in life — simple doesn’t usually explain my way of doing many things. As you may know by now, my next large task is coming up in less than two weeks. I have spent the last four months training for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. It’s taking place October 10-11 in New York City and I’ll be walking a marathon and a half over these two days with my friend Kate and hundreds of other women.

Did you know that every three minutes, another woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer? I didn’t, and I was shocked to learn how prevalent this horrible disease has become in this country.

I am eager for my walk and in addition to having a strong finish to my training to make sure I’m prepared for the walk, I want to finish out my fundraising with a bang and I need your support! I have pledged to raise money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer as part of my participation in the walk. Your contribution will help to support medical research into the possible causes of and cure for breast cancer, education and early detection programs, and clinical care and support services for women with breast cancer in communities across the country, especially those here in the New York area. There is a special focus on helping medically under-served women, the poor, minorities, the elderly, or those with inadequate health insurance.

It is faster and easier than ever to support this great cause – you can make a donation online by simply clicking on this link to visit my personal page. While I understand that times are hard right now, whatever you can give will help! I truly appreciate your support and thank you in advance. Plus, in addition to your financial support, I could use all your prayers for myself and the other women as we come into the final stretch of preparation before we partake on this wonderful journey.

Thank you for your support; you really do make a difference. You rock!

the best birthday gift

My birthday has just past and the best birthday gift I received was not a present (though I do like all those that I received). The best gift I was given was a suggestion from a friend. For my birthday, I went out to dinner at Carmine’s, a family-style, Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with my friends Kristen and Mary. After randomly discussing people going out to dinner and intentionally buying more than they could eat in order to have food left over to take home, we quickly realized that we had too much food for the three of us. Even though all we had ordered was a bottle of wine, a salad and a plate of penne alla vodka, the wine was the only thing the three of us were able to finish. The salad and pasta could have easily fed 4-5 people instead of just the 3 of us that were there.

We knew that we would not be able to take the leftovers with us since we didn’t live nearby and we were heading from dinner to Joshua Tree in Murray Hill and no-one wants to head to the bar with a doggie-bag in hand. Mary came up with a wonderful idea during dinner — at the end of the meal, we should ask for a doggie-bag and give our leftovers to a homeless person on the street. At once I knew that I loved this idea and I wanted to do it. So once we could eat no more, we asked the waiter to please wrap up the remaining salad and pasta for us to take with us. After dinner, we left Carmine’s and headed for the subway to Grand Central Terminal. Since I take the train into GCT everyday, I knew that we’d be able to find someone in need of dinner right outside, and that’s what we did. When we were walking down 42nd street right in-front of the station, we passed a girl and guy, not much older than ourselves, looking rather glum and disheveled sitting on the sidewalk with their dog and a sign saying they would work for anything. You could tell they had been on the streets for a bit of time, but that they were sit somewhat new to being out there — or at least, that was my take on them. Once we passed them, I turned around and asked them if they would like our leftovers from dinner. They both looked up with relief across their faces. The girl’s face lit up and she responded very simply, “yes, please”.

Her very simple and polite response nearly made me cry. I am fortunate enough to not only have a roof over my head and food on my plate, but I also know that I will never need to think about they day I could end up on the street. I am blessed to know that there are enough people in my life that would take care of me if a reason ever arose in which I found myself homeless and/or hungry. As soon as she said yes, I placed the bag on the ground in front of them and their belongings and turned to continue walking. I was not looking for a thank you. Nor did I want to make it into a production and draw any unnecessary attention to these people who were just trying to survive.

Not only did this make me feel good because I know I did a good deed, but I have been trying to discern lately what I’m called to do and earlier this week I decided that I am called to serve others. The last three things listed on my bucket list are to make a difference in someone’s life, inspire someone and to be a good person. I have these all marked off as a “continual work in progress”as even if I do make a difference or inspire someone, I hope I can continue to do it and make an impact on someone else’s life. And doing a good deed doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person involves a sum of good deeds and actions done by someone over the entirety of their life…

Once I turned to keep walking, I noticed that almost everyone within 20-feet of me on the sidewalk had stopped to look at me. I wish I could say I don’t know why they looked shocked, but I know why. We don’t often enough see others doing kind actions to others. People in Manhattan don’t tend to take their leftovers with them to hand them out to a stranger. I want to change this. It’s not that hard. From now on, whenever I’m out in the city for dinner, I am going to ask to take any leftovers that I may have and give them to someone who most likely won’t have dinner otherwise. Maybe if you and I all start doing it, by the time I have kids they can learn to do this as well. And hopefully by the time that happens, they won’t have to turn around and have a sidewalk full of people staring at them with judgmental looks. Hopefully our generation can reinstitute chivalry and manners into society. Maybe if we can do that, we truly can make the world a better place…

Being Famous Isn’t Everything

I have been catching up on some of the blogs that I follow and one post that my friend Jason made on his blog made me think about this post that I am going to write. He wrote about the cost of fame. Jason said listed the possible benefits of fame as:

  1. a legacy/being remembered
  2. the ability to influence what others think (whether right or wrong!)
  3. financial stability

He also listed the possible disadvantages of fame as:

  1. being under the public spotlight
  2. determining who your friends are
  3. higher probability of stalkers/assassinations

Jason was weighing these against each other and decided that his anonymity was more important to him than the possible cons of fame. This got me thinking…you don’t need to be famous to have the pros that he listed. Not only do you not need to be famous to have those things, but I would hope that everyone wants all of those things whether they be famous or not. I know I want all of these things.

I don’t necessarily know that I want to leave a legacy persay, but I do want to be remembered when I die. There’s a saying that goes something like ‘when I’m gone, I want people to smile when they remember me’. I don’t need everyone in the world to remember me and I certainly don’t want some spectacle to erupt such as when Michael Jackson died. I want my friend and family to remember the good times and I hope I can make a big enough impact on some of them that they tell others about me.

This brings me to my next point. I hope that I can influence people and I hope I can be a positive influence on them (check out my bucket list, I want to inspire someone and make a difference in someone’s life). I mean, who doesn’t want to positively influence others. I want to be a good role model. I work with a youth group and my goal is to always be a positive influence for them. I want them to make the right choices in life and I want to help them get through the turmoil that is high school. When I’m a mother, I want my kids to follow in my footsteps. I want them to do good and to take my advice. Not only do I want to be able to influence their actions, but I am not opposed to influencing their thoughts. I want to be able to make others see that there is a reason to be kind to others. I want to be able to make others see that there is all the reason in the world to try and be a good person.

The third thing Jason listed was financial stability. Now on this one, who doesn’t want it? I don’t want to be wealthy, just financial secure. I want to own my own car and home. I don’t want to be in debt. I want to be able to provide for my family and send my kids to college. I’m not going to ask for a handout. I want to work hard to gain my financial stability. I like knowing the true value of a dollar and don’t want someone to be able to pull out my stability from under me.

Jason also said their were cons to being famous. I think that these things can also apply to others. Maybe we are not all subject to living in the public spotlight as much as famous people, but we all have some sort of public that is watching us. When you come from a small town like me, people know too much about everyone else. Gossip runs rampant through our society and we are all victims of it. And most of us, myself included, can’t complain and wish to be exempt from it, as we all partake in gossiping.

Everyone has to deal with figuring out who their friends are. I have been having this issue all my life, as so many others have as well. It’s not even just having to figure out who your friends are, but figuring out who your friends should be. Maybe some of our friends are really just a bad influence on us. If that’s the case, do you really want to stay friends with them? Maybe someone wants to be friends with you because you know someone or have something that will benefit from them. Perhaps this makes it even more dangerous for those of us who aren’t in the public spotlight all the time because we are not always aware that people may just be out there to use us, not be our true friends.

The third was that famous people have a higher probability of having stalkers and assassinations. I disagree. I don’t know what the statistics are, but there are definitely tons of people who aren’t famous and have stalkers. And maybe non-famous people aren’t being assassinated, but I’m pretty sure there are tons for murders than assassinations every year. The only difference is, the famous people are the ones in the spotlight, just because we don’t hear about all of them doesn’t mean that “normal” people don’t have to deal with it too.

So my point is simple, you don’t need to be famous to reap the rewards, nor do you need to be famous to deal with the cons of being famous. Everyone should want to have a positive influence on others, everyone should want to be remembered and everyone should want to be financially secure. If people didn’t aim for these things, then what would the point of society really be?