Trip to D.C.

I got home from Washington, D.C. last night! I was gone for a week as I chaperoned my church’s mission trip. It was my first time to D.C. and it was an amazing experience.

There were 4 chaperons that went on the trip (how crazy that I am old enough to be a chaperon?!) and 11 teenagers. It was a great group of people and we were able to do mission work with the homeless and hungry, as well as explore D.C.

The whole gang visiting the National Mall.

On Sunday, we arrived early at the Atlanta airport for our flight into Baltimore. We had a long wait to check our bags and go through security, due to our large group, and we ended up being the last on the plane. I’ve never had to run through the airport before! Once on the plane, we were able to relax and rest.

We arrived safely in Baltimore and took a bus and then a Metro train to our station at DuPont Circle. Our group stayed at The Pilgrimage, the basement of The Church of Pilgrims, in the heart of D.C.  The location was wonderful, but the amenities left a lot to be desired.  Our group happened to be staying at The Pilgrimage with another church group from Pennsylvania.  It was difficult sharing such close quarters with people that we didn’t know and whose views were very different than ours. 

Once we unloaded our luggage at the church (and I claimed the bunk bed next to the only outlet in the room), we headed out to shop for our groceries for the week. I was assigned the “dinner” for the week and let me tell you, it was a big job. It felt a little strange to be buying so much food when I knew we were there to help people who had no food. 

Our first day of mission work was Monday and we worked with A Wider Circle, a charity that acquired donations to give to those who are starting a new stage of their lives. They also provide job advice and professional clothes. We spent the morning moving furniture and organizing the large warehouse.

 Our day at A Wider Circle ended fairly early so we were able to do a little sightseeing. Our group took the Metro to Union Station and walked to the Capital and the Senate. It was amazing to be able to see something so iconic.

The Capital Building

Monday night we tried to bond with our roommates from Pennsylvania and we all cooked pasta together. I was in charge of dinner (again) and realized just how difficult it was to cook for 35 people! I felt like Chef Robert on Restaurant Impossible!

Look at all those loaves of bread!

I was exhausted by the end of the day from so much walking and physical work. It was hard for me to sleep the first few nights in D.C. because there were so many noises from the city that I was not used to. Luckily, exhaustion eventually won and I had no trouble sleeping by the end of the trip.

On Tuesday we went to The Capital Food Bank and sorted goods that were donated. It was fun work but I was starting to feel like I would never be able to see the fruits of our labor (I wanted to be able to interact with people who needed our help, instead of just working behind the scenes). It was another short day, work wise, and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting the White House and going to a nice dinner with the group.

Wednesday was probably the longest day of my life. Our group of 15 needed to split up for the day and Group 1 had 3 places to go (starting at 5:00 am), while Group 2 had only 2 places to visit (and they didn’t start until 8:00 am). I secretly had my fingers crossed to be put into Group 2 because I had been sleeping so poorly, but I ended up being 1 of 2 chaperons for Group 1. I am so thankful that I was because we had a great day.

Wednesday morning started out at a soup kitchen. Once again, I was put on cooking duty. Luckily, once the food preparation was complete, I could go out and mingle with the guests. I ended up having some amazing conversations with people who I know have impacted me greatly.  There was one man that was a photographer. His camera was his only possession and he was so proud of it. He had some of his prints with him and he showed us his work. I was in awe that somebody without a home would be able to capture such beauty. 

After the soup kitchen, we had a quick coffee break before we headed to Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table is an organization that prepares foods to send out on food trucks. People are able to eat at these food trucks twice a day. Our group was put on food prep. I have never chopped so many potatoes in my life. We were all getting tired by this point, having been up for so long, and cutting potatoes for 4 hours got a little monotonous. Luckily, there were no slips of the knife from weary workers!

Hairnets are hot

After Martha’s Table, we realized we had about 3 hours until we needed to be at our next location. The one place that I had been wanting to visit in D.C. was Georgetown, specifically, Georgetown Cupcakes. The rest of the group needed no convincing and we hopped on the Metro to take us across D.C. We walked across a beautiful river and into the breathtaking town. Not having a lot of time, we made our way directly to the famous cupcake shop and got in line. I ordered the Red Velvet and the Chocolate Ganache. My tummy was so happy. The cupcakes were delicious and the scenery was even better.

My awesome group on the bridge leading to Georgetown.

After our pit stop in Georgetown, we headed to our final work cite for the day. We went to a place called Thrive D.C. where our group served dinner to women and children (they also sang karaoke). I was asked to monitor the computer lab that gave homeless people access to the internet during the day. I gladly accepted as I had been away from the computer for a few days now and I was anxious to see if I had any job leads. (It turned out that I did, but I will leave that for another post).

Once our marathon of a day was over, we dragged ourselves home for dinner and fell into bed.

We had another 4:45 am wake up call on Thursday morning. Our last day of mission work dawned bright and early. The entire group made our way back to the soup kitchen where we had worked the previous morning (Charlie’s Place). I was excited to get back because I wanted to see if my new friend the photographer would be there. Unfortunately, one of our sweet girls got sick on the way to the church and I volunteered to take her back to The Pilgrimage. I was a little bummed to be missing such a great experience and a chance to see my friend, but luckily, I passed him on my way back to the church! Talk about A God Thing! Seeing his face light up at seeing me and me realizing that I was actually friends with a homeless person really solidified how great this experience had been for me. I spent the rest of Thursday morning trying to help our girl feel better and relishing my run-in with my new friend.

I actually had some free time on Thursday afternoon to visit a friend from high school and college! My friend Sarah and I met up for coffee just off the Metro Center Station. She is in town for the summer working at a hospital for her internship. It was nice to have an afternoon to myself and to walk around D.C. not feeling like a tourist (like travelling in big groups always tend to do).

When I arrived back at the Pilgrimage on Thursday night I walked into a debacle. Our group had decided to cook “Brinner” for our dinner and the bacon had burned. The fire alarms were screaming and people were fanning the smoke out the windows. Our housemates from Pennsylvania did not enjoy that very much. By this point in the trip I was very ready to go home!

Friday was a sightseeing day and we struggled to all agree on where we wanted to go. We ended up going to the National Cathedral for a tour at 10:30. I was in absolute awe at seeing how God inspired people to create a worship space so beautiful. It was designed to be second only to Heaven. 

Amazing

We all had some Episcopalian pride due to the fact that the National Cathedral was Episcopalian and so is St. Teresa’s (our church). Our tour was so special and I left feeling very blessed for the experience. 

After a quick lunch, we decided to go to the Holocaust Museum. It was a very sad few hours but also very informative. Most of the older kids in our church really appreciated the museum because they had just studied the Holocaust, while a few of the younger children were just saddened and depressed.

Next we went to the National Archives were we got to see all of the United State’s important documents. This stop was high on my priorities but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.  I did not realize how faded the words were on the documents and also how crowded it would be. Nevertheless, it was great to see such historical documents.

To end the evening, our group had another great dinner out together. 

Saturday morning started by us cleaning and packing. We left our luggage at The Pilgrimage and bade farewell (happily) to our Pennsylvanian roommates, and then headed to the National Mall. We walked the entire Mall and I have to say that visiting the Lincoln Memorial was by far the most memorable part of the trip. My heart just leapt to my throat when I saw such an iconic image of such a great man.

The girls in front of Honest Abe

After walking the National Mall, we found a food court and grabbed lunch before heading back to get our luggage and head to the Metro for the airport. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 and we ended up getting to the airport extra early (4:30). We were all tired and sweaty and just so ready to go home to our own beds. We could not have been more disappointed to see that our flight was delayed! I had packed in a carry-on (along with 4 other kids) and marched myself up to the Help Desk and found us a flight that could leave at 6:05. After clearing it with the other kid’s parents and getting myself and big cup of coffee, the 5 of us boarded our flight and hugged the rest of our group goodbye (as they had checked their bags and could not get on the earlier flight). When we landed in Atlanta at 8:15, we learned that the rest of our group’s flight was delayed until 10! I was so thankful that I had packed light and was home safe and sound.

Matt picked me up and the airport and after assuring that the few kids made it back to their families, we headed home!

I love to travel, but there is nothing that compares to sleeping in your own bed. I cannot wait to go back to D.C. and keep exploring the many museums and culture (I was a little sad that we never made it to any of the Smithsonian’s). 

I have a few days until Matt and I leave for NYC! And I will be 22 in exactly 1 day! Good things are coming!

My Love Story

So last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about my love story with Matt. Our 5 year anniversary is coming up in August. I have now known (and had a crush on) Matt since 2006! We have so many sweet memories of the “early days” that we often talk about, but I find myself forgetting little details. So…I am going to share it here.

Matt is one year older than me, and we met at Harrison High School on the swim team my sophomore and his junior year of high school. My first impression of him as the new kid was that he was very cute, and a bit stuck up. Rumors had been floating that he had a girlfriend back where he came from and that made me a bit wary of him. He was also very quiet, which I took as arrogant. I admired him from afar but focused on my more attainable crushes (gosh, hormones really are rampant in teenage girls). It wasn’t until his senior and my junior year that we began talking.

Matt used to swim on a year-round team and would not practice with Harrison’s swim team, only participate in the meets. I didn’t see him often until November, after he got in a car accident and could not keep up at his old practices due to a knee injury. He started coming to our regular practices and swam in the lane next to me. All the girls on my team loved him. I began to realize that he was not arrogant, just a bit shy. I remember my friend Kaitlyn telling me that he had asked about me a few times and mentioned that he liked my smile. I was ecstatic and began thinking that we had a chance. During our practices, I would go so far as to try and sync my flip turns to be the same time as his and always made sure that I had the best form (so lame).

In December, our team had an overnight meet in Tennessee. I remember sitting close to Matt on the bus and being very jealous as he sat with my friend Kaitlyn, sharing headphones, and laughing at Dane Cook’s album (good Lord, I hope our taste has matured). Kaitlyn was just a good friend to him, and even got us all to go out to Waffle House together, although Matt and I were too shy to make much progress.

In February, our team had our very last swim meet (Matt’s very last high school meet, ever). It was supposed to be a fun meet, Senior Appreciation Night, and silly relays. I had been hearing about Matt dating another girl on our team and was very upset. But lo and behold, Matt and I ended up doing a silly relay together (along with my sister) and I thought that he seemed interested in me! Hope again!

 At the same meet, a year later! (Matt wasn’t ready…I’m ALWAYS ready 😉

Later that night, after all the races were over, a big group of us on the team decided to go out for Mexican food. It was Matt’s birthday and we were going to celebrate. We arrived at the restaurant and found that there was a long wait to seat a group as big as ours. The girl that Matt was supposedly dating turned to Matt and asked if he’d rather go to a different restaurant. Matt said he did but that he had driven his friend and his friend wanted Mexican. Then Matt turned to me and said, “Emily, could you drive Colby (his friend) home?” I was devastated. I really had thought that Matt was interested in me, and here he was, pawning off his friend so that he could go eat with another girl. That was probably the most upsetting moment I had ever had in my dramatic teenage years.

Matt and “the other girl” ended up staying with us at the Mexican restaurant. He sat by me and I remember him asking me if I was a vegetarian after I ordered the Veggie Quesadilla (I wasn’t…the things the mind decides to remember…). After we left that night, I was still stung with the feeling of unrequited love. I focused on my other crush, once again, and tried to forget about Matt.

 Matt at his birthday dinner with the team.

I ended up finding out that Matt’s date with “the other girl” did not go so well. My heart soared! A few weeks after the Mexican restaurant incident, we had our swim team banquet. I was named team captain for the next year. The day after the banquet, I woke up to my dad telling me that our beloved dog had been hit by a car. Cody died that morning and I went to school in tears (attendance policies are very unforgiving if you skip school because your dog died). I remember avoiding Matt’s glance in the hallway that day (we always shyly smiled at each other in between 2nd and 3rd period) because I did not want him to see me looking so upset and with no makeup on. He ended up finding me in the hallway after lunch and came up to me and said, “Captain.” He did a cute little hand salute. It was such a sweet and bold gesture (for him) that I was actually able to smile.

The rest of the school year went by and our only interaction was the sweet little waves and smiles in the hallway. I made promises to myself every morning that I would just go up to him and ask him out. It never happened, and when the seniors had their last day, I was very upset. I didn’t even want summer to start because I thought I would never see him again.

The fates shined upon us and Matt ended up swimming for my friend’s summer league swim team that was my summer swim team’s rival (my friend and I were the coaches of our respective teams). He would be at our first meet! I was so excited to know that I would be seeing him again. The night of the meet, Matt ended up breaking his heel doing a flip turn in my neighborhood pool. I used my lifeguard skills and wrapped his foot. We flirted shamelessly the entire night, so much so, that I neglected my coaching and swimming duties! My team ended up losing by 3 points (practically nothing in the swimming world), but I couldn’t be upset because it had been such a fun night. Both teams ended up going to Brusters’ afterwards to celebrate. This is where I think I broke Matt’s little heart…

I had a very good guy friend growing up and he happened to be on my swim team. This friend was an obnoxious flirt and loved messing with me. While we were at Brusters’, Matt thought that this friend of mine, and I, were dating. Matt left Brusters’ a little abruptly and I was heartbroken once again, not knowing how Matt had interpreted things! Our one shot was gone and this time I knew we would never see each other again.

The stars aligned and on our last swim meet, which happened to be my 17th birthday (June 25), both teams (mine and Matt’s) ended up at Brusters’ again! This time, I was bound and determined to make something happen. I bravely gave Matt my number and we talked about going to see a movie together.

A few weeks later, Matt texted me (this was still in the time when text messages cost $0.30) to ask a question (the icebreaker). I was on vacation with my family and he had asked if I was going to be at a swim meet…I wasn’t. Luckily, he found the courage to ask me out to the movies once I got home from my vacation. We went and saw “Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and I remember agonizing about what to wear. The movie was terrible and I was so rigid throughout the entire thing that I barely remember the plot. After the movie, he walked me to my car and hugged me. We made plans for a second date. Our second date was at my house and we ordered pizza and watched “Superbad”. He ended up staying at my house until 2 AM. I was too polite to ask him to leave and he was too polite to excuse himself. I remember talking in my living room and just staring at the clock, as the time flew by. I felt so grown up having a boy over so late, even though we sat a good 6 inches apart. He finally left and I was just glowing.

The next morning I woke up to a Facebook message (Facebook was very young, Matt didn’t even have one) from one of Matt’s friends saying that “Matt was missing.” The message said that Matt’s parents had called his friend asking for Matt (Matt had told his parent’s that he was going to that friends house, being too embarrassed to tell the truth). The friend said he had never heard from Matt and Matt’s parents had called every police station and hospital in the area. My lovely sister replied to the group message saying that Matt had been at our house until 2 AM. What a good impression. Matt was safe and his parents were furious and now everyone knew that we were dating.

We went on exactly 8 dates before Matt plucked up the courage to kiss me. I remember thinking that maybe we were just friends. I decided to plan a date that was a little more romantic than just dinner and movies. I asked Matt if he wanted to go to the lake on my family’s jet-ski, just us two. It took him a day to respond. I was in agony thinking that I had been too forward. Finally, he responded, apologizing for the delay, as he had been sick.

We went to the lake on a very hot summer day (after I had painstakingly shaved my legs and tried to apply “natural” makeup). As we were idling out to the open water, me in the driver’s seat, I told Matt that he should hold on. He asked, “To what?” I groaned internally and thought that this boy was going to make this difficult. I shouted over the motor, “To me!” He grabbed my lifejacket as lightly as possible as I jammed the throttle. We had a great day tooling around the lake and laughing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When the sun got too low in the sky, we packed up and headed back to my house. We watched Talladega Nights in my basement and Matt FINALLY put his arm around me! Yes, that is how slow he moved. (He tells me now that instead of watching the movie he would watch the clock and say in his head, “Okay, at 11:18, you will put your arm around her shoulders.”) Right as the movie ended, all of the power went out. I mean everything, including the street lights all around our neighborhood.  It was pitch black. We stood up (him never taking his arm from around me), and made our way upstairs to find a flashlight. He decided that he better go home and check on his family since the power was out. We walked out in the pitch black night to his car. He hugged me for about 20 minutes. And finally…(cue the harps) …WE KISSED. Our first kiss was so sweet and I’m so glad we did not rush into it. It was perfect.

After that first kiss, we became that disgusting couple that nobody wanted to be around. The floodgates had opened and we were shameless teenagers in love. I remember going to Braves games and him putting his hand in my jeans pocket (he would NEVER do that now). I cannot remember a happier time in my life.  Matt eventually had to leave for college and it was very hard to say goodbye. Luckily, we saw each other nearly every other weekend. Our long distance relationship made the time we spent together so special. I don’t think we had our first fight for about a year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My favorite photo of us, taken soon after he left for college.

I am so lucky to have Matt and even though our relationship has many ups and downs, I am thankful to have such sweet memories to think about when I need a little reminding of how perfect he is.

IMG_0752Matt and I recently at a Braves Vs. Cubs Game

In Need of A Change

I like to be busy.

I did not think that I was that way but I am going stir-crazy not having anything to work towards.

I had surgery for a deviated septum exactly a week ago, and while it was a painful and sleepless few days, I have fully recovered and am just waiting until I can work out again (a few more days). Before my surgery, I have just been shopping, and going to the pool, relaxing and sleeping in. It sounds like the life but I feel like I have no direction. Something needs to change-soon.

Luckily, I think I have nailed down a job as a transcriber, working from home. I am thankful that I will have some income and something to do with my day, but it doesn’t allow me to be around people, or doing what I’m passionate about. I also have an interview tomorrow for a temp position. Hopefully that will come through as well!  I guess I expected to have a teaching job lined up, even though that is not very likely. 

Right now, the real world seems like an exclusive club that doesn’t want to let me be a part of it. I know that I am only 21 (almost 22) and have accomplished a good amount for my age, but I am just ready for more.

Again, sorry for being ranty…just a lot on my mind. :/