Thursday, December 30, 2010


Even though my pile of presents under the white lighted Christmas tree, adorn with family ornaments, shrinks smaller each year, the warmth of my heart grows mightier and my spirit brightier. Or maybe that warmth is just all the liquor. Either way, it drapes my home on Christmas Eve and lingers in the air until everyone has gone, late Christmas night.

Christmas day consists of my immediate family. We've now been without either of my grandfathers for the past four Thanksgivings and Christmas'. We all still get together on Christmas day at my parents house like they have for twenty plus years now. It's laid back and the music is mellow, the food is delicious, the laughs are loud and the coffee is strong but my parents and I reminisced this past Christmas Eve about how festive, busy, red and green our shiny holiday use to be.

When I was small, I would rush to bed early because the sooner I fell to sleep, the sooner I could run down our blue carpeted stairs the next morning to see the sunlight shining on a plate of stale crumbs and a glass, coated with a film of dried, curdling milk. I'd jump up and down feeling the magic in the air as if santa had farted fairy dust on his way out while I was dreaming of the presents that I would find under the tree. We would start by disassembling our stockings in the living room. One by one, starting with little me, we'd start to pull our goodies out. Chapstick, chocolate, maps, compact discs, trinkets, doodads and other stocking stuffers would line the floors and the shreds of wrapping paper began collecting. Once Mom and Dad poured their coffee and the lights were all shown, we would enter the Christmas Tree Room. I'd been waiting hours upstairs, awake in bed for this moment. I'd close my eyes, walk in and peek through my little fingers and nearly pee with excitement as I'd find action figures and beanie babies and nerf guns laid out just for me, by Santa's generous hand. On my first Christmas, he left me a stuffed sheep that was bigger than I was! Another year I got a heavy plastic Dallas Cowboys sports locker for my bed room. As I got older I received a snare drum, a jukebox, my favorite print by Jack Vettriano in a glare-free frame and a fifteen inch television that is actually still currently in use. I am lucky and extremely grateful for the childhood I had.

We never had a chimney but I never second guessed it. Santa always treated me well and I knew that if I didn't believe, then I wouldn't receive. One time, I found a "made in China" sticker on one of my stocking stuffers a week after Christmas. Mom told me that Santa had elves all over the world. I bought into it. I remember my second grade teacher drove to each of her student's houses to leave little silver bells with our parents to place under the christmas tree as if Santa had gifted them, such as in the Children's book, The Polar Express. I may have been seven but I was no fool. My peers and I thought it was stranger than fiction. I'm sure it was soon after when the truth was laid out in front of me, one evil night over summer vacation.
"What about the Easter Bunny?! The Tooth Fairy too?!" I felt betrayed. Lied to. Used. Then I thought of all the gifts and coins and chocolate eggs, hidden with care and I realized I couldn't complain. Mom came home…
"Mom, I know."
"Know what honey?" she replied.
"Dad told me." I stood confidant.
"Told you what?" and she glared at my father. I said,
"Santa. I know that he doesn't really exists. That big white bunny too, Mom. And I want my teeth back." It was the first step of little me, growing up right before her very eyes. The following years were still just as magical though and full of surprises. I actually cried when I opened up my mandolin because I knew it was from the heart of my parents.

Santa brought me everything I wanted this year and I didn't even have to write a letter. The News said a couple weeks ago that the postal offices were inundated with letters to Santa. They read them right there. So many children write letters in hopes that they will get everything they want from Santa. This year, adults were also wrote to Santa! Feeling so desperate and still believing in the magic of the season, they feel as if they have no where else to turn to other than Old Saint Nick in hopes that they will find a job, a home, clothes, a smile for their children and a push out of debt. They said that even the children this year mostly asked for necessities instead of electronics.

This magical season brought me people I hadn't seen in months; Run-ins with friends from high school, long telephone conversations with three of my cousins I hadn't been caught up with, meeting and singing with new friends in Portsmouth, support from my favorite customers when told I was leaving and the reappearance of my one true love. Santa brought me everything I wanted this year: community. Santa placed my desires on the mantel by the stockings but guilt still dwells in the toes of your socks I stole. Santa's timing may have been a little off but somehow, it makes sense that the universe would slam the gears into the notches they are currently grinding into.

The radio stations have wrapped up the holiday tunes as the Christmas consumers jam the phone lines of technical support help desk numbers. It’s back to work and although Christmas day didn’t exactly feel like a "day off," it was another special holiday season spent with the people I love, my family. I hope that your holigays were spiritual no matter what you celebrate. It was a much merrier Christmas than expected for myself. I give thanks to those closest to me each season and if we all worked on a little unity, then everyone's holidays could be much more merrier than expected. Magic exists, just believe in yourself, it's within you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

AmeriCorps: Exuberance

Over five years ago, like most twelve-graders, on our last day of school, a month before the rest of the school got out, on that bright May day, I ran from that building with tears in my eyes, feeling free and vowing never to look back. I didn't. I still don't. I close my eyes whenever I drive by. But on that bright May day, just weeks before Drunken June, I took what belonged to me (my graphing calculator and my dignity) and went to Denny's with a couple close friends to suck away our bitterness with lemon slices. When I ran from that building, breathing a sigh of relief, so happy it was finally over, I was scared shitless and tripping over the pages of a new chapter.

Over five years ago, like most twelve-graders just graduating from their tumultuously adventurous years, I wanted to go far away from the suffocating waters of school. I felt as if I dove into the pool of college text books and lectures and dorms it would be like diving into a pool with no water in it at all and floundering to synchronize my swimming with those around me who had a head on their shoulders and who were excited to be gliding along like schools of fish. Little did I know, these people, my fellow, former classmates, also did not have a clue as to what the hell they were doing at the time either. A lesson learned in that case is never let those around you be above you. We're all equals and if some one wants to teach, be open to learn. If you don't want to listen, then be confident in what ever it is you do, and go do it.

My high school sociology teacher was the founder of the non-profit , community service organization in Leominster called GIVE (Getting Involved In Volunteer Experiences). I served with my friends in that group at Leominster High School for a couple years and even attended projects for some time after graduation. I offered my helping hands to Habitat For Humanity, Ginny's Food Pantry, Sholan Farm, local churches, packaging treats for the troops and right at the high school, remodeling the walls and stalls in the bathrooms and cleaning the courtyards. Through many conversations with my sociology teacher in her classroom and at service projects I opened up about my fear of continuing school and seeking an alternative to keep productive during a full year off. She told me about AmeriCorps VISTA, a program she herself, had completed years before. I had no clue what "VISTA" meant, let only had ever even heard of "AmeriCorps." She explained to me that AmeriCorps is a national network of hundreds of locally and nationally founded programs across the United States. The two nationally managed programs are AmeriCorps Vista and AmeriCorps NCCC. After researching the website,, I realized that N Triple C was for me.

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a residential, national program with a goal of generating strength in communities as well as originating leaders through team-based, part time and full time community service while promoting self discipline by urging young adults to fully engage themselves. Those selected to make teams of up to twelve members between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four who have the willingness to demonstrate what ever it takes to make a change will commit to ten months of seventeen-hundred service hours which include eighty independent hours. The group preforms a variety of projects involving communities effected by natural disasters and also demonstrate environmental management by planting trees and clearing streams. The group may also be involved in repairing and rebuilding infrastructures in the community or for children and the unfortunately handicapped. Groups may also practice energy conservation by recycling and weatherizing houses and will strive to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the community through rural development by supporting local food banks, shelters, tutoring children, health awareness with the elderly, after-school programs, neighborhood revitalization, and historical preservation. A project could only last a day or up to eight weeks but generally, the team accomplishes about five different projects.

Deploying to any one of the fifty states or US territories and adapting to uncomfortable and sometimes high stress living, working and volunteer situations, to me, sounded like a perfect substitute to the "normal" high school graduate's life. I did not want to go back to school but at the same time I did not want to take a full year off only to get sucked into the world of retail, never to return. So I applied. I applied as soon as I could. I submitted my essay and application and references and I waited. I sent in my finger prints and had my phone interview. I was not selected. I was not selected so I took the time to regain my thoughts and refocus my goals. I ended up graduating from Mount Wachusett Community College with my associates in general studies with transferable college credits three years later.

Soon after I was finally free at last, a close friend showed her interest in the very same program and inquired as to where she could find out more. I told her all I could remember and the seed was planted in my mind again. Even though again, more time has dissipated, the time is now. I have resubmitted a new application with amazing references and an essay on my trip to Juarez, Mexico. I now anxiously await for Mister Postman to deliver my next package from AmeriCorps NCCC to continue the process and to hopefully begin the diversifying experience next Fall. Upon successful completion, an education reward of $5,500 dollars is granted to each team member. It is to be used to pay educational expenses, training or student loans. This gives me the opportunity to go back to school, with a major in travel and tourism and a minor in journalism or to cover the expenses of getting a travel agents license. I understand most travel expenses are now preformed cheifly over the internet but if I chose the right city and got a foot-in-the-door setting up business trips for which-ever-company, I would be nearing my goal of writing for a travel magazine in the far future.

AmeriCorps NCCC supports faith and community based organizations as well as national non-profits, schools, local municipalities, state governments, federal agencies, state and national parks and Indian Tribes. The members that are picked to serve and support these organizations will live together, work together, travel, eat and sleep together while sharing in the joy of helping others together in an experience unlike any other. All members will receive any necessary training through the Red Cross such as CPR, First Aid and disaster relief certification. The team engages each other and the community through well planned exercises that address the community needs while leaving room to flourish. Myself as an applicant, must have measurable goals to sustain concrete plans and must prepare to participate in a professional and sober way of life. I know that I contain the interest, motivation, flexibility, accountability and drive it takes to adhere a team of hard working viewpoints, perspectives and values in chorus and to play verses that bridge volunteers to discouraged communities. We can help. I can help. I am confidant that I can make a change, one small small at a time.

I am so thankful that five years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a handful of teachers that I could confide in as human being-to-adult. Not every student has it that lucky. Even though I hated most of my classmates (but still won best personality in the senior yearbook), I had my group of close friends and a support system of teachers that had my back. My sociology teacher was one of them and thankfully, she acquainted me with AmeriCorps. I have been learning practical skills through formal and informal learning environments throughout my entire life and I am most excited to continue to do so through activities designed to increase understanding, researching upcoming projects, participating in reflection sessions, keeping a service journal, and developing a service project portfolio. I would be psyched to be accepted into a team, strong enough to rebuild a community and brave enough to exude inner radiance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tangled Up In Blue Christmas Lights

   Homes slowly become decorated in tinsel and garland, as front lawns become winter wonderlands. Retailers rush to stock up while the dreaded shopping season escalates. City trees are lit and every downtown bears a holly wreath. It's the same every year but for some reason, even with the holiday music and christmas movies, I can not even force myself into the groove. Maybe it is because I have lost one certain sense of comfortable familiarity or perhaps it is my belief that christmas should come once every other year to really make it something special, like how the Olympics or the World Cup or Madonna don't come around every year, making them that much more fabulous.

   As most people anticipate Christmas (or which ever other holiday you care to check off), I anticipate rebirth. A new beginning to enrichen my life. In less than a month I am packing up my clothes, my mandolin and my laptop to relocate to the Southern land of Austin, Texas. Yes, Texas. Where I can be beautiful, talented, productive, successful and feel completely out of my comfort zone, which in a way will be inspirational. Nervous is an understatement and ecstatic is overkill; disbelief still fits but the opportunity just reeks of self-discovery.

   As I become older and live more responsibly, I realize, little by little, that our goals in life are what drive us to create the most well-worth life to live and actually live it. The best reality television show you can star in is your own reality. I have long term goals of settling down on the East Coast in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, making a living as a writer for a travel magazine that also sends me to exotic, impoverished, boring and amazing places in exchange for a few articles. That'll take a while. For now, when I get to Austin, I need to focus on my short term goals of being a published writer and volunteering time to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in their fight for equal rights for all. I have received confirmation that I can start helping plan and prepare the HRC Austin 2011 gala event in February. Check out their website at For work, I am hoping to transfer to a Southern CVS or apply at a new bank for part time work. I have also submitted an application to Whole Foods. Check out their delicious website at

   When I think about the last year of my life and how I have gone from feeling completely content and happy and in love, to ending a one-of-a-kind relationship (in which I will never be over), engulfing myself in 60-hour work weeks at two jobs and making the decision to completely up-root my entire life, I get a sharp, pleasantly, unpleasant tingle up my spine. What used to be his hands along my backbone is now guilt, which crawls through my stomach, reminding me of what I had planted and what could have grown. Afraid of the rain. For the past four months I have been a racing railway train (with a big red bow on the front), grasping for the blades of grass I can reach as I speed by, sometimes running on nothing but fumes. I have traveled across New England to eat a fried Oreo on the shore in New Jersey, to feel the freedom of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, to ride a Segway around Washington DC, to catch up with friends in my own home town. I have squeezed in the time to magically make scarecrows and ginger bread houses come to life in Portsmouth, to sleep in a burlington motel with blood bearing box springs, spent Halloween in the ghost town that was Rockland, ME on a Sunday afternoon and got to sit in on a "Gender In Music" lecture at UMASS Amherst with the talented Amy Ray (of Indigo Girls), the wise June Millington (of the 60's chick band Fanny) and Zoe Lewis, full of stories. I have been chugging along looking for the balance of dreaming big and working hard, overloaded with christmas trees in my caboose, quickly loosing their pine needles.

   My experience at the bank since August has been quite the endeavor. I knew virtually nothing about the financial aspect of our Earth that basically revolves around the green. Learning is easy, but retaining the information and putting it to correct use is tricky. Day by day I feel more confidant. Listening to the married women I work with speak of their married lives forces my life into perspective: Why am I still spending every day in Peterborough? I feel more than lucky to have two great jobs but if it is over, it's over and should I need to start at the bottom and work my way up all over again, I know I can be just as successful no matter where I am. I refuse to wear this elf hat any longer.

   New England will forever be my home but for now I need to be uncomfortably transplanted to Austin, Texas, where it doesn't snow, where I can soak up some sun like a solar panel, where I will soon learn many lessons on music, art, friends, writing, viewing and especially on how not to (or, how to) royally fuck things up. I will either topple over at the weight of my bad decisions or I will stand strong, rooted in the opportunity of choice and chance, tangled up in blue christmas lights.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Colorful Colin

     I was raised an only child in Leominster Massachusetts, an hour outside of Boston, in the same house my entire life. Keeping a journal since the age of seven, I’ve kept a watchful eye on the world around me.

     I have learned to be intuitive and sensitive, but have had plenty of lessons in realism. I refuse to feel negative about myself and struggle to gain self confidence and sustain exuberance. Art, music, photography and word structure are my passions. The music of the Indigo Girls has been a constant inspiration in my life. I play guitar and mandolin, crave hot summers and a sense of community, write poems, essays, short stories and reviews; I create play-lists of my favorite songs, read tarot cards and decoupage volatile visuals.

      High school graduation was the most achieving day of my life and was a bridge to my associate’s degree in general studies and continuing my hard work in overlapping retail jobs. My enthusiasm comes from community service and making people happy. If I can bring someone joy, I am one step closer to my goal of changing the world. I strive in my pursuit to someday soon, serve in the United States Americorps in their mission to reinforce community and expand leadership skills through team-based service projects.

      My main goal is to become an abundantly published writer. My supplementary aspirations are enduring more education in a talent like journalism or perhaps travel and tourism. I would love to write editorials on places or events for travel magazines or even reviews for music magazines. Someday I may even own my own coffee shop, bar, or book store; all are ideas of the future or "long-term goals," but today I need to focus on “the now.” I need to focus on what I have the ability to accomplish, like learning how to play the piano.