Friday, September 30, 2011

Challenges #13, 14, 16, 22, 24, and 27, BAM!

I am on a roll! I must have been saving up my lenting energy over vacation last week, because I've been crossing things off my master challenge list like a maniac since I've been home. In addition to the challenges that I wrote about in my previous 2 posts, here are a few other things I've checked-off:

Challenge #13: Call Someone You Haven't Talked to in Years. I called one of my old pals from my days at Hy-Line Cruises, Dan Schermerhorn. It was nice to catch up and we even made some tentative plans to get together in the near future. Hi Dan!

Challenge #16: Leave Someone a Thank You Note: After obtaining my 4th job in 5 years from my college's Career Services office, I decided to write them a thank-you note to let them know how awesome they are. Fellow MassArt grads, if you ever need a job, look here first, the MassArt alumni network is an invaluable resource.

Challenge #14: Say Hi to 3 Strangers: Sounds easy, right? But how many times a days do we walk by people and look right past them? On the way to the mailbox to mail my thank-you to MassArt, I made an effort to say hello to everyone I passed along the way. Why is it that we're taught to ignore strangers we pass on the street? Is this a New England thing?

Challenge #22: Ask for Someone's Advice, and Take It: I'm leaving this one up to my 12MOL friends: What are some ideas for future lents? I have October and November lined up, but I'd love some advice on something you think I should do in December. Any ideas?

On an advice related side note, I found this awesome site
Elder Wisdom Circle, in my latest issue of Whole Living magazine. It's "a group of more than 600 advisers, age 60 to 105, who offer free one-on-one advice online". So cool! Also, my friend Amy started an advice blog that everyone should check out: Let's Be Honest Advice.

Challenge #24: Go to a Neighborhood Business You've Never Been to: Since I obviously love supporting local Watertown businesses', I was psyched when my yoga teacher Ben, pointed me to Maximo's, a new takeout place on Mt. Auburn in Coolidge Square. They have great vegetarian options and I liked it so much that I went back the next day and ordered the same thing, the tofu burrito, mmm...

Challenge #27: Introduce 2 People Who Don't Know Each Other: I'm working on organizing a craft night with 2 of my favorite crafty ladies who don't know each other very well, Jocelyn and Marissa.

And I'm not done yet, there's still 7 hours left in September!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Challenge #23: Thank an Old Teacher

When I saw challenge #23: Thank an Old Teacher, I remembered a site that I saw a few weeks ago on my favorite designy blog, Swissmiss. It's called Thanks for Teaching Us, and it's a virtual collection of thank-you notes to teachers all over the world. Although I've kept in touch with a few of my teachers from over the years (thanks, Facebook), I've never actually taken the time to thank them for being so what better time than now? I could write novels about my all-time favorites, but for now, here's a quick "you were a totally amazing teacher" shout-out to the cream of the crop (in no particular order):

Mr. Losordo, my 5th grade teacher who was basically the coolest guy ever and who might just take the cake for "favorite teacher of all time." I have the fondest memories of him playing his guitar and singing Beatles and Lemonheads songs to us with Miss Randall in class. When my brother was born midway through the school year (yes, we're 10 years apart in age), Mr. Losordo made a bet with me that he'd owe me $10 if he had Sean in class someday and couldn't remember how to spell Dzenawagis (unfortunately, Sean was assigned a different 5th grade teacher, mega bummer for both of us). Where are you now Mr. Losordo? I'm enlisting the help of the internet when I finish this post.

Mr. Ciborowski, my 8th grade history teacher who sparked a serious passion for history in me that had me wanting to follow in his footsteps and become a history teacher myself for a long time. Not only was he a great teacher, but he had solar panels and an energy-efficient washing machine (I remember many stories about this special "Sweedish" washing machine) in his house way before it was the norm. Plus, he could do the best pigeon impersonation of all time. You're the man, Mr. Cib.

Frau Butcher, my high school German teacher. Frau, it's shocking how much German I still remember to this day (ask my friends, I spontaneously break into German all the time). I always looked forward to coming to class on Monday mornings because we would all sit and chat about our weekends—in German of course—and because of this, I learned the language in such a practical way. You would have been proud the time I was in München and successfully found my way to the restaurant I was looking for by asking for directions "Entschuldigen bitte, wissen sie woe..." Vielen dank!

Ms. Welch, although you were never actually my teacher, I spent a lot of time in your classroom because you graciously volunteered to be the advisor of our Animal Awareness club. Not only did we love you because you volunteered your after-school time to help us with things like organizing greyhound racing protests, but you treated us like people instead of just high-school kids. I still remember the time you had us all over for dinner too, veggie lasagna! You're awesome, I only wish I could have actually taken one of your classes.

Many thanks to all of my wonderful teachers over the years—I wouldn't be where I am today without you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Challenge #11: Do Something Nice for a Neighbor

Because I recently moved to a new neighborhood, I was psyched when I saw challenge #11: Do Something Nice for a Neighbor.

Sadly so, it seems that the days of greeting your new neighbor with an assortment of fresh baked goodies are long gone (although I wouldn't put it past Donna Hamnquist to do so). Most of us, especially those of us in our transient 20's, move from place to place, never really taking the time to get to know the people who live their lives in such close proximity to our own. I've lived in a number of apartments since leaving the tight-knit neighborhood of my childhood, and I have to say that I definitely miss the sense of kinship and community that comes with investing in those around you. For a generation that's so connected, we often live a very insular lifestyle.

But back to the challenge...

There were a few chilly days before we left for Michigan, and this first peek at fall weather had me craving some home-baked treats—specifically the oatmeal-maple scones from the Flour cookbook. Even though I knew that we couldn't (more like shouldn't) eat 12 scones before leaving for our trip, I went ahead and made them all anyways, figuring I'd find something to do with the extras. After a successful taste test, it dawned on me that this would be a perfect way to complete my "do something nice for a neighbor" challenge. Win!

I packaged up a few of my tasty little scones in some parchment paper, tied a ribbon on top, and left them by my upstairs neighbors front door with a note. Sure, they could've had a food allergy or an oatmeal-maple aversion that I was unaware of, or maybe they'd just think that I was a total creep, but since they generally seem like reasonable people, I assumed that they'd at least appreciate the gesture. I mean, it's the thought that counts, right?

In the end, I can't say whether or not they think I'm a weirdo, but I did receive a nice thank-you message in return, so all's well in my book. Mission #11 accomplished!

If you're into baking, I highly recommend this recipe and the entire cookbook (which I linked to above). Everything I've made so far has been incredibly delicious.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

To-Do Today:

Oh boy, am I behind...but it's for good reason: I'm away on vacation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Weddings, family time, overeating, sleeping, wine drinking and exploring, have taken over my normal schedule, so my apologies for ignoring my usual responsibilities like blogging. I have missed out on quite a few challenges, so here's my official catch-up to-do list:

1. Video chat with a faraway friend (Does Fanne count because she's back home in Mass?)
2. Give 5 high-fives (I'm already 3 into this one)
3. Call someone you haven't talked to in years
4. Say hi to 3 strangers (easy since I don't know too many people here in Ann Arbor)
5. Make something for someone (this may have to wait until I get home, we'll see though)
6. Leave someone a thank-you note
7. Teach someone something (simple considering I'm surrounded by small children)
8. Cook dinner for someone
9. Send a friend 3 links they'll love
10. Give 3 compliments
11. Leave a positive comment on a strangers blog (any suggestions for cool blogs to check out?)
12. Ask for someone's advice and take it (hmmm...)

Time to get to work (and also enjoy the last official day of summer)!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Challenge #10: Feed a Homeless Person

There’s a little quote on my lululemon lunch bag that reads “Do one thing a day that scares you”. While I can’t say that I consistently accomplish this, I have always believed that if something scares you or pushes you out of your comfort zone, that it’ll somehow be beneficial in the long run (barring some obvious things, of course).

When I read GOOD’s #10 challenge, feed a homeless person, I was definitely a little bit uncomfortable—so much so that I immediately started brainstorming modifications that would allow me to stay within my safety bubble (bad Danne!). I brought the challenge up to Dan last night over dinner at Pizzeria Regina to see if he had any insight on the situation. We went back and forth a bit, talking about experiences that we’ve had when we’ve seen homeless people angrily deny gifts of food, saying they only wanted money (the scenario I was dreading), and trying to determine what would be a comparable challenge. What if we bought scratch tickets and passed them out to the homeless people camped out in Harvard Square? What if we paid $20 for a Spare Change Newspaper instead of the suggested $1 donation? We settled on the scratch ticket idea, and even though I thought it was a pretty good compromise, I still felt a little bit like a slacker.

But then, out of nowhere, this miracle happened:

We’re leaving the restaurant with a big box of leftover margarita slices when a woman sitting outside on a bench stopped us and asked “Hey, could you spare a slice?”

Now, I have to interject here and say that NEVER in my life, literally never, has a homeless person asked me for food (and living in a city, I see homeless people all the time). They have ALWAYS asked for money. Also, I’ve been to Pizzeria Regina about 10,000 times and there has NEVER been anyone outside, begging for food, never. In sheer disbelief that this was actually happening, especially in such close proximity to the conversation that we just had, Dan and I quickly opened our pizza box and offered the very grateful woman whatever she wanted from it.

Call it coincidence, call it the law of attraction, or call it the universe really hooking it up, but whatever it was, it was awesome, and I was more than happy that I was actually able to complete this challenge in its original form.

Uni, you never cease to amaze me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The First 7

I'm 7 days into the GOOD 30-Day Challenge: Connect With People, and I have to say that I'm actually doing pretty well keeping up so far. Here's what my first 7 challenges were:

1. Send someone a postcard: Even though this was the first challenge, it took me a minute to round up some postcards, so I'll be writing mine tonight (I'm doing 2—and I won't say to who, surprise!).

2. Talk to a service employee: This was sort of a no-brainer since I do this all the time anyway, but I did make an effort to go a little bit past "How are you?" and I was as smiley as could be.

3. Share an old photo with a friend: I posted this cute little thing to my BFF Sondra's Facebook page:

4. Ask a family member about their day: Well, it did help a lot that I was visiting my family on the Cape this weekend, but I went out of my way (in a very sisterly way) to interrogate my brother on his workday, so much so that after I asked him what his favorite part of the day was, he looked at me dumbfound and said "I don't really know how to answer this, no one's ever asked me that before". Hehehe...

5. Plan a group outing: I've been trying to but this seems to be a busy week for people, so let me just ask the internet—who wants to go swing dancing with us this Saturday night at the Armenian church in Watertown? Any takers?

6. Ask a co-worker out for coffee: Does tea count too? I still have to do this one, time to (wo)man up...

7. Buy a friend a gift under $5: This gave me a great excuse to go to Target on my lunch break today, and buying fun little presents is just that: fun. I've been known to play the $5 present game on long road trips too and some of my favorite possessions have come from it.

On to the next 7!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sayonara Summer and September’s Challenge from GOOD

Really? Already? Sigh…I’m afraid it’s true. Even though I don’t feel the impending doom of the start of a new school year anymore (thank the lord), Labor Day weekend always feels bittersweet because it marks the beginning of the end of those magical summer months. Sigh again. Although the official end of the season doesn’t come until the 22nd,  I’ll always consider September a fall month—no matter how many beach days I can still squeeze in. So, with this change of season will also come a change of lent, as I officially close out my summer bucket list challenge.

I can’t say that I checked everything off, but I got pretty close, and even though I won’t be taking a formal tally after this weekend, I still have plans to do a few of the things that are still outstanding. All in all, I have to say that I had a pretty quintessential summer, full of beach days, BBQ’s, fair rides, boat trips, farmers markets, and bon fires (and don’t forget bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings and moving), and I really do have my bucket list to thank. Sayonara summer, you certainly were sweet.

Moving on to September’s challenge, where I’ll be participating in The GOOD 30-DayChallenge: Connect With People.

I had an entirely different idea for what to do this month, but when I got my Daily GOOD email yesterday and saw their 30-Day challenge focused on connecting with people, I decided to jump on board. I’d been concocting a similar challenge on my own which was focused on going out of my comfort zone to connect with strangers, but I hadn't gotten around to working out all the details. Looks like the good (ha) folks at GOOD did all the work for me, thanks guys!

I’ll write more later, but I’ll leave you with the video from their website describing the challenge. Wishing a happy and safe Labor Day weekend to all!