12.09.2009

'It's the most wonderful time of the year'

As I sit here waiting for my teeth to finish whitening- I feel the need to write a new blog! I feel that it's been rather hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Perhaps it's the fact that I have no earthly idea where September, October and November went. Maybe it's my hard financial situation? It may be my general unhappiness that I'm sick of waiting tables... regardless I was feeling a little Bah Humbug about the whole season... until a couple of dear friends reminded me just what this season means.

After going over my finances for the month of November and December it was realized that I wouldn't be able to afford to go home for Christmas. Devastated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt while typing an explanatory email to my family. No sooner had I made the hard decision than visions of spending December 25th rushed through my head. I could just picture myself: Not showered, sitting in the living room with my flannel pj's on, surrounded by half eaten Christmas cookies, a sleeping dog by my side, a Christmas movie on replay, and tissues everywhere from all the crying. This was going to be awful.

My Mom soon reminded me how dramatic I was being and reassured me that it was just a holiday. "I'm sure you can have dinner with the Bishop and his family?" she suggested. Great. I love my bishop, but do I really want to invade their family Christmas dinner consisting of Him, his wife, and his 6 kids all under 14? No. I started crying again. What about stockings, and presents, Mom's home made coffee cake and the reading of Jesus' birth from the book of Luke? What about all the traditions that I so greatly looked forward to each year?! What about seeing everyone open their gifts and laughing with my siblings... this would just be awful.

As the month of November drew to a close people began asking when I would be returning home for the Holidays and in return I filled them in on the depressing situation. They all thought it was awful, but assured me I would be fine (although their assurance often times read as 'thank goodness I am not in this situation'). When my dear friend Christina asked me what my plans for Christmas were- her reply shocked me. She simply said "No. You are going home for Christmas". A giggle escaped my mouth and I reassured her I would be fine. She once again replied with  "Courtney, you are going home for Christmas". 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Christina Kelly bought me a plane ticket home. I cried when she told me, I cried when she booked it, and I cried when she gave me her reasoning behind this extravagant gift. 

I've been talking about a Christmas tree with my roommate Lauren, for months now. I asked her if we could get one. I talked the pit bull vs. tree situation over with her. She has put up with my silly strand of Christmas lights and 4 minuscule candy canes that I call 'decorations' in the living room. If I had my wish, every inch of our apartment would look like the store windows at Macys... however this year, it wasn't an option. I couldn't afford all those decorations as well as a tree. I chalked it up to my bad 2009 luck and swallowed that hard pill. 

After a long and hard shift at work, I returned home to find a small (yet BEAUTIFUL) tree with Christmas lights and a card attached to it. It was an early gift from my dear roommate that sent me jumping up and down and screaming like a 5 year old girl. Lauren bought that tree for us, when it really meant nothing to her... she did it because she knew how much it meant to me.

My point is not to brag, or create a sense of envy. Instead stop for a moment and think of something you've done for someone this Holiday season. It could be as simple as a smile or as expensive as a plane ticket. The point is, Christina and Lauren's simple gifts humbled me. It reminded me that Christmas means the most when you strive to make those around you happy. 

I am so thankful for my friends. I love my family. I am eternally indebted to a Savior who gave His son for me. I hope that everyone has a truly blessed Christmas, and remember... try at least once during this holiday season to look outside yourself and make someone else smile:)

10.22.2009

Wise words for your thoughts...

I'm reading Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist' again for the second time, and as my dear friend Josh Smith says : "That silly Alchemist is always right!"

For such a simple story this book is utterly profound.  Everyone should read this book! There are a couple of phrases that have really hit home for me that I would like to share with you.

"When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises." This sentence struck me to the core. I know i've always felt some version of this, but it wasn't until reading this book that I came to understand my feelings better. What is life composed of? Well, literally it's composed of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. A day wasted is life wasted. I know that seems a little dramatic- however I firmly believe it to be true. We should never feel 'bored' in our lives; and if we find ourselves 'bored' it's our own faults. Life is filled with too many options to settle for boredom. Our lives are made up of tiny little events or happenings that create who we are today. Next time you find yourself bored, think about the great things that have happened that day. If there aren't any- it's never too late to create some!

"People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of." I cannot preach this saying enough! Living in this century, especially in the United States, I feel the pressure of succeeding. I feel the pressure to disregard things like love, family and relationships to pursue my career. It's actually quite simple to have it all, because I am a firm believer that if you are consistently working towards goals in your life, you will never be disappointed with where it takes you. Dreams change as often as people change. When they do, don't resist them but allow them to change you for the better. 

"Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should live their lives, but none about his or her own." Oh how true this is!! I have an opinion about how everyone is living. I can tell you what I think they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, what mistakes they've made.... and that makes me a hypocritical mess. Life is hard and confusing. We are all human beings who are prone to screwing up. Next time you begin to judge someone for their choices in life, stop. Take a good, long and hard look at what choices you've made in your own life, and choose to love them for all theirs. We are all in this game of life together and we could all use a lot more supporters than judgers.

"It's the simple things in life that are extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them." This goes along the same lines as my last post. Life is actually terribly simple- we just choose to complicate it. I have a painting on my wall that says "Real power is usually unspectacular: A simple setting aside of fear that allows the free flow of love." Let's strive to be wise and recognize the power that comes from simplicity. 

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." Life is full of dreams. If you've achieved one of your dreams then it's time to realize a new one.  Marriage is one of those dreams for many people and if you are lucky enough to have achieved that- congratulations!! Now start daydreaming of a new goal that you and your spouse can benefit from. If you are single, there is no better time to be marking goals off of that long goal list you have. I have a bucket list of 40+ things I want to accomplish in my life: single or married. I am currently working on 2 of those dreams and plan on completing that list before I kick the bucket! Life becomes mundane and boredom sets in when we don't challenge ourselves in new ways. Our divine potential rests on our ability to push ourselves to the next limit. If you don't have a goal list, well then sit down and make one!

The last thing I want to talk about is something a friend said to me last week as I was brooding about past mistakes. He said "Courtney, you need to respect your mistakes and move on." I was touched by his wonderful advice. A missionary from church once told me that God forgets our mistakes when we repent of them, however we don't. We remember them so we don't repeat them. I have a hard time forgiving myself for things I have done in the past, but I've often wondered how one moves past the mistake fully and still remembers the consequences of that action. The answer is to respect them. The definition of respect is: A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard. Learn to have that deferential regard for your mistakes so they don't hinder your future!

Life is a funny thing. It can kick you when you're down. It can starting raining when it's already pouring. And it certainly can be joyuos beyond measure. Choose to live fully. Choose to love fully. In the end, when you are sitting in your rocking chair on the porch, celebrating your 90th birthday- you'll have so many incredible stories to tell. My goal is the same as my best friend Josh Lattimore: to be the most interesting old person anyone's ever known. The only way to achieve this is to live now.

10.13.2009

The times they are a' changin.

Bob Dylan said it best. The times are always a' changing. 

For a woman who has hated change her entire life, I have begun to grow accustomed to it's inevitability. I was quickly reminded of this concept yesterday while helping two of my best friends move into their apartment in Astoria, Queens. 

Josh and Raynor have been dating for awhile and I have been blessed to witness their lives progressively change- for the better. I watched them fall in love, I helped Josh pick out the engagement ring, I saw them deal with the stresses of being engaged and planning a huge wedding themselves, and I was there to witness and humbly participate in their wedding. I was there for the first dance, the reception, and the exit to the honeymoon . Not even 2 weeks later I was helping them set up their first apartment together as husband and wife. 



As I pulled items out of the moving truck I stopped for a moment to take in the significance of what was happening. As a child or a young adult these are moments you dream of: meeting the love of your life, getting married, and starting a life together. When you so closely observe the beauty of this progression, you realize how simple it really is. Isn't it funny that the events that we dream of the most in our lives are usually the smallest and most intimate? 

I felt a little of this when I graduated from college. It was the day i'd been waiting for for 5 years and suddenly after a 45 min. ceremony- it was over. There was no Hollywood orchestrated score behind it, or dramatic scenes with proclamations of love. Instead it was simple. I've always expected that so dramatic of a change deserved a dramatic send off; yet what i've come to realize is, it wasn't the change that I was unable to wrap my head around, it was the simplicity of the moment.

I think this is the point i'm getting at. Life is simple. Change is simple. The reason people grow so hateful of change is because they complicate it with their preconceived notions of their own future. We can actually do ourselves a service if we focus more on living in the moment and enjoying the simplicity of life, than complicating the future for ourselves. 

I have more respect for these life changing events now, than anticipation. I am no where near getting married or starting a life with my future spouse- but I cannot wait to meet him. I cannot wait to be able to experience more of these intimate moments in life. The lesson though, is not to focus on 'how happy I will be when I finally find the love of my life', but how I can find ways to be happy now.

I'm so grateful that God has put people like Josh and Raynor into my life, who show me the significance of simple love, and who allow me to share in their new adventures with them.

9.17.2009

I've had so many thoughts rattling through my brain recently, some of which I'd like to share with you.

I'm not as knowledgeable as i'd like to be. One of the things I dislike most about myself is my lack of basic world knowledge. I don't know a lot about politics, or about other countries. I know little about the war we are fighting, the affairs of the world, and the cultures of others. However does that truly make my opinion less valuable? I base most of my decisions in life on feelings. Some find that foolish, but I find that honest. I try not to react irrationally or immediately but to take that initial feeling and then put myself in other people's shoes. I have a tendency to put myself in their situations so fully that I end up feeling a lot of what others feel. In fact, I feel like that may be what this world is missing. If more people stopped and just felt what others do... we would be less likely to ignore each other, hurt each other, or be so quick to judge each other. Knowledge is not the only way to debate and solve problems.

 In the past two weeks I have engaged in a couple political discussions with people; both ending with me feeling defeated and stupid. Why am I looked down upon because I don't know that a certain tactic used by our president is socialist?  I even had someone make a jab at me for being an actress who "obviously took her opinions from the Hollywood elite". Not only is this not true, it's offensive and rude. I am a human being. I am not naive nor am I completely informed, however that does not make my opinion any less valuable. 

Love has been on my mind a lot. Not because I am in love, but actually because I am nowhere close to it. 

It's funny how once you begin thinking about something, conversations in your life cater to that particular subject. I have had so many conversations recently about love- good and bad, lasting and short term etc. and they have all ended in once conclusion: I believe in love.   

It's easy to live your life as a jaded, unemotional, 'down with love'  person. Swearing off love is taking the easy way out. In my opinion, it's a cowardly way of living. To live your life in a way that avoids heartache, means you also live a life void of unadulterated bliss. 

I've been in all kinds of love. I have pined away for men who will never know how much I yearned to just be near them. I have been in a relationship where we both loved, but were never honest about our true feelings.  I have loved someone who didn't love me in return. I have felt the platonic love for friends and family. Even though I have yet to find that 'perfect love'  I still feel:

"it is better to have loved and lost then never loved at all". 

I know it is cliche- but it is true. 

It's been a year now since I felt the worst heartache I've ever felt. I blamed myself for allowing myself to love someone who was inevitable going to hurt me. I cursed the above quote for the ridiculous notion that people wanted to feel this extreme pain. It's only now that I realize, a year after it's ended, that what was so painful was not loving him; the pain came from not having the courage to be honest with how much I loved him. I played his games, I pretended to not have the deep feelings I did, and because of that I have been wracked with torment for the past year of 'what ifs'. If I told him how much I loved him- would he have stayed? Would he have left sooner? Would he have agreed? Would I still be with him? Would it have hurt less later?...

If you can love someone with all your heart, be transformed into a hideous mess of human being when they hurt you, and pull yourself together again... congratulations. You are living.

Love.
Learn.
Love again.
Live.

9.13.2009

I'm a workin' Girl ;)

It's official.... I have a job!! I have accepted the offer and began training this past week at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill located on restuarant row, right next to Times Square.

It's a New Orleans themed eatery that I have found to be extremely pleasant. The people that I am working with are wonderful, and they have all been so generous and helpful. The restuarant is split into 3 sections. The bottom floor is a bar/ lounge, while the top floor serves as the actual restuarant area. There is also a back porch patio on the upper mezzanine (as they call it) as well.

It will be a challenge to work on the bottom floor, seeing how most of the service I will be doing will be cocktailing. I don't know much about alcohol- but am learning quickly; jeez there is a lot to learn!

What really has impressed me are the managers. There are 2 main General managers who are simply delightful. They are understanding, complimentary and truly want you as a server to be the best you can be. I've never waited tables in a place where the managers were so supportive of their staff.  It's a relief.

I'm not saying the place is perfect.... but I am saying for the first time since my first little job at Coldstone Creamery in Cary NC, I left work happy. And considering waiting tables is not even close to what I really want to be doing, that's saying a lot :)

Cheers to what will hopefully be a great experience!

Here's the website if you wanna take a look

http://bourbonny.com/media/bourbonstreet.html


9.03.2009

"I Feel Pretty oh so pretty..." or do I?

Today I decided to make an effort. 

For no reason at all I curled my hair, spent some time on my make- up, and actually ironed my shirt. As I took a final look in the mirror I liked what I saw. "See! I can be beautiful!"  I thought to myself and smiled. 

As I grabbed the keys to head out the door I heard a little wimper. Tucker (my roomates pitbull) gave me the look. You know the look- the adorable tilted head, ears perked, big eyed look. It melted my heart. "Ok!" I said. "Let's go out." His tail immediately started wagging as I put his leash on; I couldn't help but smile. 

All that effort and all that time, wiped away by a single dog walk. 

I live in Washington Heights (which is located directly above Harlem) on the West Side of Manhattan.  It isn't the safest neighborhood; being predominatly Domincan, home to two gangs, a lot of hoodlum children, and little to no english spoken. I am not racist. Never have been and thought I never would be, but living here is trying my patience.

As I walked out of my apartment on the third floor, down the stairs, and into the lobby I was immediately bombarded by my first intrusion. "Hola Hermoso" (Hello Beautiful) said the gruffy looking man who involuntarily held the door open for me; as he looked me up and down, front and back. I ignored him. YOU HAVE TO! My roomate Lauren and I have learned that you can't win in these situations. If you say thank you, they continue to harrass you like they actually have a chance to get you home. If you ignore them, they reply with some snide remark like "didn't your parents ever teach you to say thank you?" 

As I continued out the door and across the street to the park I was repeatedly hollered at, wistled at, cat called and flat out "eyed down" by every male oustide. (Trust me, there were well over 25 of them) With each whistle or rude suggestion I began to feel more and more unattractive. I wished I hadn't made that extra effort. 

Some people may be confused as to why I don't take it as a compliment and move on with my life. If the men who harrass my roomate and me were genuinely saying "you look lovely today" or "I really hope you have a wonderful day" then I would. However, that's not what they want. It plays out more like the scene from West Side Story where Anita goes to Doc's store to warn Tony about Maria meeting him (minus the touching). It's vulgar, it's rude and it makes me feel like a dirty unnattractive woman.

Shame on men for treating women like this, and shame on women for giving them a reason to treat us like this. I am a God loving woman who works hard and deserves to be respected. I deserve to have the door held open for me without expecting something in return. 



8.31.2009

"Perhaps on the whole, embarrassment and perplexity are a kind of natural accompaniment to life and movement; and it is better to be driven out of your senses with thinking which of the two things you ought to do than to do nothing whatever, and be utterly uninteresting to all the world." -Margaret Oliphant

Today began the search for a job. I went to Kinkos, printed off 21 resumes and began my quest for employment. I ventured from Columbus Circle, down 9th ave (finding my way to restaurant row of course) and came to a close around Times Square. What a day of self discoveries! Here are a few:

1. It takes a lot of guts to job hunt. There is a huge difference between applying to jobs online, and walking from restaurant to store inquiring about openings, only to be constantly rejected. 

2. The occasional interview makes all the previous rejections (including a few of the next ones) all worth it.

3. Shame on my prideful demeanor. I've always felt that I was the type of person who didn't have an issue with pride. I know that God give's me all my blessings/talents and it is to Him that I am eternally grateful. Then why, upon noticing a small 'burger joint,' did it take me 5 minutes of internal debating to enter and inquire about their open positions? I am not above flipping burgers, nor is anyone else in this world. I have a college diploma- so what? I was just working at a fine dining establishment- so what? One of my professors from college, Greg Funaro, used to tell us that we weren't entitled to anything. It's true. Where did this sense of entitlement come from? Shame on me.

4. The embarrassment factor. As I approached the Applebee's located at Broadway and 50th I felt a voice inside me say "go inside and apply!" which was quickly challenged by another voice that said "applebees? What are you, in high school?" I fought off the second voice and stepped inside to apply. Within 30 minutes I was taking an aptitude test, and 30 minutes later I was hired. I loved the environment. It was easy going, good music playing, and just seemed like fun. "What's so wrong with applebees? " I asked myself. I knew I would be embarrassed around all my friends who work in fine dining- New York style restaurants. Why should I be ashamed that I enjoy working at silly chain restaurants instead of stuffy eloquent ones? The answer : I shouldn't.

Don't get too excited. The job offer was only for a hostess position (in which I would make $8 an hour...I can't live off of that) and it doesn't begin for another 2 weeks- meaning I am still on the lookout for a job. I accepted the offer, with the hopes that I will soon find something else. The search presses on tomorrow!

8.29.2009

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

I was fired yesterday.

 Never having been fired before, it was indeed shocking to hear those dreaded words: "we can just go ahead and assume this isn't going to work out". I felt as if I was being broken up with by a long term boyfriend!

They didn't have a reason as to why they were letting me go, nor did they care to try and come up with one. They simply informed me that I wouldn't even be allowed to finish out my last 3 shifts of the week. 

They couldn't have chosen a worse time. Having been previously unemployed for 3 weeks at the beginning of July, I had a month of working and was fired 4 weeks later; I have no savings and have barely been able to make September's rent. Basically I am living in the most expensive city in America with $30 to my name. Literally $30.

Amidst the feelings of embarrassement and shock there is also an excitement. People think I am ridiculous for finding poverty exciting. I've never been rich or close to it, however I've never known what it felt like to live below the poverty line until I moved to NYC. While reading the play "A Streetcar Named Desire" (written by my favorite playwright Tennessee Williams) I came across a quote that completely summarizes my feelings for this matter. 

"The sort of life which I had had previous to this popular success was one that required endurance, a life of clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold of before, but it was a good life becasue it was the sort of life for which the human organism is created."

Creativity, art, and greatness comes from trials like this, if you let it. They say that art is the study of life; and if that's true, then my art is going to be great. I will prove Darwin's theory of 'survival of the fittest' by not only surviving but flourishing through this trial.

God is good. He will bless you if you let him. He will not only bless you with good times but also with trials. My cousin Garrett pointed out a beautiful scripture- 1 Peter 1:7

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

The next few months are going to be hard but fruitfull, I can tell. September will be spent scrounging for a job and being able to pay all of my bills on time. October will still be uncertain while trying to build some kind of a savings cushion back up; and November begins Holiday shopping for loved ones that will wipe out my savings all over again :)

Ah... c'est la vie!