Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back at 2011

Do you need a new year to make changes to your life? No. But I think the new year is a good time to start new things and break old habits. That's why I make resolutions. I've been doing it since high school. At th beginning of the year I make a list of things I want to accomplish, and I don't look at that list until the end of the year.

I just looked back at my resolutions for 2011, and even though I didn't accomplish everything on that list, I did accomplish a lot. It's interesting to see how much my priorities have changed since the beginning of the year.

Here's my list for 2011, and in bold are the things I accomplished:
1. Lose 10-15 pounds and do it in a healthy way
2. Make a final decision on graduate school (technically I can't make a final decision until I'm accepted, but I did narrow it down)
3. Donate blood more often
4. End every semester with at least a 3.5 GPA
5. Drink at least 6 cups of water a day (ideally 8)
6. Cut back on fast food to 2 times a month
7.Stick to a daily skin care regimen
8. Floss at least every other day

9. Exercise at least 3 times a week
10. Try new foods
11. Budget money every month
12. Cut down on how much I spend
13. Write every day (even if it's just a little)
14. Continue my Project 365 even after Day 365
15. Update my blogs more often
16. Drink responsibly (I had to add it in there)
17. Find (and start) an internship
18. Expand my music collection
19. Change the way I view my body & health
20. Throw away things I don't need anymore
21. Stop biting my nails

Stay tuned for posts about 2011 in review and my giant resolution for 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 5: Reflection

As this trip draws to a close, I'm taking time to reflect on this week. The highs and the lows. The lessons and the memories. Absolutely everything.

One of the biggest things I'll take away from this trip is the fact that there are still good people in the world. The people we met were so welcoming and appreciative of everything we were doing here. The people on this trip have such a passion for making a difference in this world. Not many people would take a week out of their winter break to volunteer. But we did. And we had a great time doing it.

I learned so much about the issues that affect Mississippi. I had no idea how much Mississippi was affected by Katrina, but learning about it was so eye-opening. Learning how educational inequality and poverty affected this area was evident in all of the volunteering we did. It made me want to do something. It sparked a light in me to help change the world.

I have so many amazing memories, and I never imagined how much fun I could have in five days. But in those same five days, I learned and grew. And I'm coming back to FGCU a better person. A more confident leader. A more appreciative individual. And a passion to make a difference.

I'm coming back with a new outlook on Mississippi and the South in general. I don't know where in this world I'll end up, but I hope my journeys bring me back here.

Alternative Fall Break 2011. Biloxi, Mississippi. It's been real.

Day 4: Rising Above

It's hard to believe that our last full day in Mississippi is over. This day was a perfect explanation of why I wanted to come on this trip.

Today we spent half of our day at the Boys and Girls Club working with kids on how to use Prezi and making origami. I started off with Prezi but switched to origami since I was having difficulty. The origami turned out to be just as difficult, but I got the hang of it after awhile. I was covered in glitter, but I loved spending time with the kids.

After lunch we went on a tour of Biloxi and Ocean Springs. We saw a lot of the Hurricane Katrina memorial and the sign used in the BP commercials. Back in Ocean Springs, we discovered the perfection of the donuts at The TatoNut Shop.

For dinner, we went to The Shed which has out of this world BBQ food. It's a really neat place...and it's impossible to describe. While we were there we played with some kids and talked to their parents about Katrina, among other things. We made s'mores and talked around the bonfire. It was an absolutely perfect way to end the day.

I learned a lot today, both about myself and others. While tackling the issues of poverty and educational inequality, I was reminded of how fortunate I am. These kids have big dreams, and some of them might not get to see those dreams because of their circumstances. I believe all of them have the power to do big things, and I hope they don't let their circumstances get in the way of their goals.

When we asked the kids what they asked for for Christmas, most ofthem said "nothing." These kids, who have so little, don't want anything because they said they have all they need. It was amazing to me how mature these kids were. The next time I say that I want something, I'm going to remind myself that I have everything that I need.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 3: Breaking Barriers

Sometimes I forget that Hurricane Katrina affected more than just New Orleans. Through this demolition project, I was constantly reminded of the reality that many gulf coast Mississippi residents face. It's been an eye opening experience...but also one full of rewards.

Today was full of pushing limits and breaking barriers. I did things I was good at and things I never imagined I could do. I swept dust off the floors, tore up wood floors, and hammered the crap out of wood panels. I took out my anger and frustrations, but proved to myself that I'm capable of much more than I think.

My high was taking a hammer and smacking the crap out of wood to break it from the beam. It was a thrilling experience...and the best stress reliever. My low was injuring my shoulder and realizing that I had to stop. I push myself in everything I do, but when it comes to my health I don't take risks. It was a setback, but I'm appreciative of everything that happened before that moment.

A local news station came today and filmed us on site, and it ended up on the local news in Biloxi (WLOX). It was a really cool experience and unlike anything that's ever happened to me.  While watching the news later that night, we saw ourselves on TV...and there is even a segment of me hammering wood panels :)

At the beginning of the day, one of the owners of the house came over to us and we all gave her a group hug. At the end, I heard her say, "thanks, I needed that." It reminded me why we were here. It's not simply to tear down a house so they can build a new one. It's to make a difference in the lives of people. We're here for the people...and the experience too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 2: Demolition and Hope

Imagine asking a nonprofit to help re-build your house after it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Imagine that when they come to your house to see what needs to be done, they find more problems than just the roof. Imagine hearing that your WHOLE house needs to be torn down and re-built.

This is the scenario of an older couple in Gulfport, MS. The Hope Community Development Agency is working to tear down and re-build their house. Today we worked on the demolition.

When we got to the site, we were all given various tasks - move wood to the dumpster, tear up the flooring, remove shingles from the roof, knock down walls, sweeping away dust, sawing wood, and the list goes on. We worked for hours and hours doing tedious, yet super important, tasks. And at the end of the day, we got to do one of the biggest tasks- physically knock down the building with our bare hands. We started with the frame of a house and ended with a pile of wood.

I felt kind of like a brat today. While I was sitting there complaining about my back hurting and having a few splinters, it made me realize that the couple whose house we were tearing apart had nothing. They thought they were getting a simple roof repair, but instead they were having their house knocked down and re-built.

I've been so blessed to have the things I do. And the next time I complain about not not getting something that I want, I'll remind myself that I have everything I need. And I'll remind myself of this couple that has nothing. But they still have hope. Through adversity, they have hope that one day they will have their home back. Because like I was told today, there's no place like home.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

First day in Mississippi

Today I, along with 21 other FGCU students, headed to Biloxi, Mississippi for alternative fall break. On this trip we will be addressing issues such as disaster recovery, poverty, and educational inequality.

We left at midnight and got to Mississippi at 11:15am local time (12:15pm Florida time). When we arrived we took a tour of Camp Victor, the place we'll be staying for the week.

After getting settled, we went to lunch for our first taste of the local cuisine the food was incredible and the people were so helpful. Then we did ice breakers and introductions, took naps, then headed on a journey to find the beach.

On this trip we got lost a few times and truly learned how nice the people of Mississippi are. Local residents helped us find our way and took time to talk to us. The encounter we had on the way back to Camp Victor is one I will remember for a long time.

He was walking into his house and asked us where we were from and why we were here. We answered and explained that we were building houses for Hurricane Katrina victims. He ran into his house and brought out a small box. He explained that he was here during the hurricane and is constantly amazed by how people keep coming and coming to help. The box of chocolate was his way of saying thank you to us for helping.

It was truly a heartwarming experience and one I will remember throughout this trip and when I head back to Florida. THIS is why we are here. To make a difference. To give back. To inspire change in this world.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm 22!

Happy birthday to me!!!!

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! It's been an amazing day so far, and it's only going to get better.  Twenty-two isn't so bad <3

Expect some major blog updates coming soon.  I leave for Biloxi, MS tomorrow for alternative break, and I'll be posting about my experiences on the trip.  Thank goodness for the Blogger app on my iPhone.

Keep Calm and Party On!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dear Inspired Reader

Dear Inspired Reader,

I have no idea who you are, where you live, or how long you've been reading my blog.  But I want to say a huge THANK YOU for my letter and presents.

Last Wednesday, when I arrived at the last day of my internship, I saw an envelope on my desk.  When I saw it was for me, I thought two things.  (1) I never receive mail here, and (2) this must be some sort of joke.  But I opened the envelope and read the beautiful letter inside.

I had no idea that anyone even read my blogs...and never in a million years could I have imagined I'd be an inspiration to someone out there.  Your letter means the world to me, and I read it every day as a reminder that I'm doing something right in this world.  I will write more about my weight loss journey...especially since I'm going to be kicking things up a notch very soon.  I hope you will comment on my posts letting me know how your journey is going too.

Inspired Reader....YOU inspire me <3

xoxo, Christina