World Refugee Day was met with an explosion of dance, song, and craft. This day celebrates the courage of the millions of men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict. Driven by the Jewish value of "welcoming the stranger," HIAS Pennsylvania provides legal, resettlement, citizenship, and supportive services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from all backgrounds in order to ensure their fair treatment and full integration into American society. World Refugee Day was a great opportunity to welcome our new neighbors as well as to meet those fighting for such a great cause. WelcomeToPhiladelphia
The weather held out Sunday and gave way to an exciting and action-filled Mothers Day. Families and friends came out in car loads to enjoy the 25th Annual Willowdale Steeplechase in Kennett Square, PA. This was a first for us, but definitely won't be the last. Full of smiles, laughter, cheers, and excitement --- the Willowdale Steeplechase is truly a home away from home where you can enjoy good company, great food, and a positive atmosphere.
A huge congrats to our high school students! Through the anxiousness and excitement of The Penn Relays, these stars put forth their best and gave it their all. One thing I love about Philadelphia is its undying support for its youth. Every match was met with cheer and applause as fans, friends, and family encouraged the athletes to keep pushing. Although winning is a fantastic perk, sometimes the lesson is in rising to the challenge and seeing it through. There were many who won, but much more who didn't. However, out of all of these runners -- none quit. Even when their odds were bleak, they kept pushing. And THAT is an admirable and worth-mentioning trait. This year marked the 123rd Annual Penn Relay and it was truly a day to remember. Thank you students for showing us what strength, tenacity, perseverance, and Faith looks like.
The Tamagawa Taiko Drum and Dance never cease to amaze. The groups precision and energy speaks to their love and dedication to the craft. Every year we look forward to witnessing the colorful assemblage, soul shaking sounds, and intricate dance patterns and every year we're left in awe with wide eyes and huge smiles. It's hard to come by talent like this -- Philadelphia is truly lucky to have you all year after year. Best wishes on the rest of your tour!
You know those sports that everyone knows but few have experienced? Like wrestling...just about everyone knows about it but few have actually witnessed a match. Well that story kinda sums up Roller Derby. While it's fan base isn't quite as large, roller derby is a full contact competitive and strategic sport full of bad-asses and quick thinkers. It's a sport created and dominated by women and prides itself on aggression, adrenaline and mind churning stage names. So how does it work? Two teams of five are placed on the track. Each team is comprised of one Pivot, three Blockers, and one Jammer. The aim is for the Jammer to lap the opposing team to get as many points as they can whilst the opposing team of Blockers use tactical techniques to stop them. Its an hour full of cheers, sweat, bruises, and determination, and is on it's way to becoming the fastest growing sport in Australia, America, and the UK. I came across this game as I was browsing through my Facebook events looking for something to fill the day. I had never been to a roller derby game before, but anyone who knows me knows I'm always up for something new. So I headed out Saturday afternoon with an open mind and camera in tow --- and holy cow am I glad I did. The energy at the track is unbelievable! Between the team and the fans, there's not a minute that your mind wanders from the moment. Parking was easy (which is a super plus for me) and the drive was only about a 20 minute ride from my house (another plus)...so yeah, I'll definitely be back.
Sky Diving Revelations
So what do you do when you find yourself strapped to a man's lap at 13,000 feet and your 10 toes dangling from a plane? The only thing you can do...Jump. Sky Diving is one of may indescribable experiences that no matter how proficient your vocabulary may be --- it simply has be lived to get a full understanding. What you see, hear, and feel all contribute to a euphoric moment forever to be ingrained. I knew once I signed those "We-Are-Not-Responsible-For-Your-Death" releases, sky diving would be a memory I would forever cherish. But what I didn't anticipate were the life lessons and teachings that would come to follow.
1. Not knowing is okay. Not knowing and still not asking is not okay.
It's 2:30pm on a Monday afternoon and the department's meeting with the senior leadership is coming to a close. The final remarks are given and the infamous "Are there any questions" is asked. A blank stare paints a good percentage of the department's faces as you all think the same thing "Am I the only one who has no idea what was said?" -- but coincidentally, no one speaks up. Everyone dreads asking the "stupid" questions not realizing their thought may be a common idea among the group. I'm a huge offender of such an action, but I'm also making conscious strides in speaking up; and it's all due to too a little run in I had with a plane, a ton of open air, my best friend gravity. The mere thought of free falling from an aircraft made me fairly comfortable with covering all my bases. Where do I put my hands? What about my feet? How do I land? Do I bend my knees? Is my harness attached correctly? Should it be this loose? How big is the chute? Will it carry our weight? How much do you weigh? What if the chute rips? What if I pass out? What if YOU pass out? Is my hair okay? (Just kidding...but really, how's my hair look?) Being in the "know" allows for a much more favorable outcome than not knowing. Knowledge allows for an efficient response to sudden changes and an all around productive team. Asking questions is okay. Taking a leap and hoping that you'll figure it out on the way down is not.
2. I'm one tough cookie.
Well, maybe not physically (I can only bench-press 65lbs) --- but mentally I am a force to be reckoned with. A Wonder Woman of sorts if you will. One of your brains primary functions is to keep you safe. If you touch something too hot, a reflex kicks in and you jerk your hand back. If we encounter a dangerous animal, our brain tells us to flee or fight --- never to simply stand there. The brain produces fear. It's one of the many reasons we as a species still exist. But to face fear and overcome it is a feat not too many can toot there own horn about. To go against that sickening gut feeling attempting to counter your unwise and possibly life threatening decision is a true test of strength and will power. Weeks up until my final jump I thought of the many ways this experience could go wrong. But I also knew skydiving was something I truly wanted to do. So I fought...and fought...and fought...and fought. Every day I fought myself - my thoughts - my fears. I WANTED to skydive --- and no fear of what "could possibly happen" was going to stop me. Fear keeps us from doing things we'd otherwise enjoy. And unfortunately it isn't a one-time thing. I'm sure if I decide to jump again, that sickening feeling will return. But I'll push back. Mainly because I'm a #Boss (Yeah I said it) -- but secondly because I refuse to let fear dictate my life choices. Push your limits and experience something new. #WonderWoman
3. I don't live in the moment enough. From take-off to landing I was in total bliss. I still remember the race down the run way before the aircraft gained enough speed to get the wheels up. From the scent of the surrounding flora to my hair getting caught in the never ending wind as the view changed from a beautiful hue of green to an aqua blue; there was so much for my senses to take in, and I loved it. Every second of this experience was spent in that exact moment and that moment alone. I didn't think about what was to come or what has since passed. No thoughts of tomorrow's adventures, no worries about deadlines, Hell --- as I was gazing at the horizon I didn't even think about the jump which was to occur in less than a minute. I was truly living in the moment. Not a second ahead, not a second later. I realize now that I don't do this nearly enough. Too often am I thinking about something other than what's in front of me. Too often do I overlook my surroundings. I attended my cousin's birthday party about a week back. A time that was supposed to be full of family, friends, laughter, and smiles was being consumed by thoughts of upcoming deadlines, errands and house chores. Goal setting is important; don't let me be the reason your project isn't submitted next week. But learning to see the beauty in "now" and realizing how fleeting the present truly is can help us prolong each moment's value and make it more meaningful. Living in the moment doesn't come natural (not unless your my 4 year old nephew you thinks about nothing more than playing right then and there), but it is a skill that once learned and applied can help improve your quality of life and contribute to your overall happiness. Cheers to the moment.
As much as I love Philadelphia, it's always good to get out and see the world. You meet amazing people, hear the most inspirational stories, and witness first hand the beauty this world has to offer. The photo at the top right is a view of Arenal Lake from the base of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. The hike was tiring but well worth the reward. If you look to the far left of the image you can see a subtle hint of an impeding storm. This allowed for a breeze and cool down but also hasty trek back down. The photo to the right was taken at the CR Manuel Antonio National Park where creatures are free to roam and interact as they please. Granted, there wasn't much interacting between humans and monkeys (if there was the little guys were probably attempting to steal your food) -- but it's refreshing to see such creatures in their natural habitat free of chains and cages. I love the knowledge and respect the locals have for nature. In everything they do, they strive to have as a little of an effect on the environment as possible. The sunset at the bottom was also taken in Manuel Antonio after a snorkeling tour. It was at this moment where I found out that I'm not too strong of a swimmer, but as long as I had my life vest I would be alright! At the reef, you were within arms length (if not closer) to the marine life. An array of colorful fishes swam at your feet and fingers. You could practically touch them if not for their quick speed. This was one of my most memorable and amazing experiences. Traveling is truly one of life's most underrated investments. So much can be taken from a simple conversation with a local or another tourist - don't miss out!
Fearless, Driven, Strong, Bold, Beautiful and Imperfectly Perfect. Naughty Dame is a line which embodies the many and ever changing characteristics that the woman possesses. It's all about loving yourself and being yourself...and I was beyond excited to be apart of a clothing launch with such a positive message. Best wishes to you and your endeavors Rebekah!
"She was perfect. I knew this the moment she emerged from my body, wet and wailing. Beyond the requisite ten fingers and ten toes, the beating heart, the lungs inhaling and exhaling oxygen, my daughter knew how to scream. She knew how to make herself heard. She knew how to reach out and latch on. She knew what she needed to do to survive. I didn't know how it was possible that such perfection could have developed within a body as flawed as my own, but when I looked into her face, I saw that it clearly was that......perfection" -Vanessa Diffenbaugh
2016 just keeps getting better. Last night I was left in awe after attending SkyDance Philly's piece "Grounded Autonomy". From the delicate but fierce movements to the gentle but provoking music -- an onlooker couldn't help but be flooded with a range of emotions. The piece followed the once relationship of the two male leads, Sean Green and Garrett Olthius. Starting off blissful and sweet but to soon be followed by clashing, tension, and division - many of us were reminded of the roller coaster of emotions that relationships can take us on. We relived the arguments, the frustrations, and the nagging...but also remembered the misinterpretations and life lessons that came with it. Truly, the show was nothing short than brilliant. The scenes were divided between aerial stunts and contemporary movements, showcasing the raw talent and creativity of the dancers. And this division worked highly in their favor. It left us unaware of what was to come, while still leaving us wanting more. Through the heat of it all the act does end on a good note, with all parties forgiving each other as well as themselves, and moving forward with a new sense of freedom. Viewing a piece of this sorts was a first for me, but it has quickly rose to the top of my favorite performances. I look forward to seeing what SkyDance Philly has in store for the days to come.
A Little Parkour
So I was able to catch up with these guys at the Philadelphia National Jam this past weekend. I witnessed gravity defying flips and spins, along with never ending encouragement and tips. There are days when I find myself tripping over air or convincing myself that the wall did in fact move and run into me, so color me impressed to anyone who can take part in such a sport. Parkour is a method of training your body and mind to overcome obstacles with speed and efficiency. It takes a ton of training and practice, but one tidbit that was drilled into me was that "Anyone can do it". Start off slow, and build, build, build. Like anything, the key to success is endurance.
A Heated Festival
93 degrees. That was the high on Saturday, August 20, 2016…and I’m certain in addition to the sun’s rays hailing on you from above --- it had to feel much hotter. But amidst the rising temperatures and lack of wind, the performers at the Festival of India managed to keep their cool. Composed of intricate attire, detailed performances, and delicious food, the Festival of India was an event perfect for children and adults. As part of the PECO Multicultural Series, this annual festival is held in August to commemorate India’s independence from the British Empire on August 15, 1947. Children and adults of all ages took to the stage to celebrate this achievement through song and dance, while others joined in through applause and attendance. Visitors can also shop around for jewelry and clothing, while munching on delicious Indian cuisine. This festival illustrates another reason why Philly is such a great place to live. It’s a melting pot of nationalities, religions, and ethnicities – and makes an effort to celebrate them all.
A 5 minute bare all...
I had the pleasure of attending The Moth's StorySlam this week, and I have to say it's been one of the best events I've witnessed. There were no elaborate lighting nor did you see any spectacular performances. There were just a handful of people, baring heartfelt and their most memorable moments. The Moth StorySlam is an open-mic competition in which all contestants are given the same theme, and must tell a truthful story in line with that subject. The kicker? You only have 5 minutes. Along with a fantastic host and being an event hosted at a food friendly venue (who doesn't love food and stories?), you'll find yourself surrounded by individuals open for good convo and laughs. I was only able to stay for the first set, but a definite favorite was a young lady who raved about the many wonders of the female journey of puberty and high school. Pure anticipation and laughter from start to finish. For sake of modesty, I'll avoid details ---but let's just say some "first kisses" can go extremely well, while others can go so wrong. I'm looking forward to the Moth's next event in Philly and this time I'll be sure to stick around for its entirety.