Monday, April 23, 2012

Frat-ernizing with the Law

My first couple of semesters in college weren’t the most exciting. I went to a large Catholic university where I wasn’t feeling like I completely fit in at the time. During one of my classes, a student came in to talk about some of the extracurricular activities on campus. He mentioned a co-ed fraternity that sparked my interest. I decided after much investigation it was worth a shot. I went to a meet and greet with some of the people in the organization and I was sold.

A week or so later they sent me an invitation to pledge the fraternity to possibly become a member. I thought about the process and I had nothing to lose. Plus, it seemed like a great bunch of people that I could bond with and enjoy my college experience a little more to the fullest. So, myself along with eleven others embarked on this new adventure. Due to the intense amount of work and effort, a few people dropped out after two weeks. It was a lot to take on especially with school work responsibilities.

We received an assignment to go to one of our pledge masters hometown and take pictures at various landmarks. The seven of us decided that after our night classes we would drive over and get the job done. It was about 10:30pm when we left campus and the directions approximated that it would be about a half hour drive. We got really lost along the way, but finally made it there around 12:00am. The town was interesting to say the least. Very quiet and suburban, with no sign of any life at that time on a Wednesday night.

We were driving around aimlessly looking for the places to take our pictures. A  cop car pulls up behind us and we all immediately got nervous. He walked up to the car and asked what we were up to. I said we were looking to take a few pictures for a project and he asked why so late at night. We all looked at each other in fear not knowing what to say exactly. My friend Shelly burst out, “We have a pledge assignment for our fraternity, and we got lost, and we’re supposed to drive around this town looking for pointless objects, and…” The officer interjected, “Can you tell me what you all are looking for?” We handed over our list which had about ten things on it.

Without cracking a smile, he sternly said, “Listen, I’m going to drive to these locations, and you are going to follow me and quickly take your pictures. Then, you are going to get back on the expressway and head home, understood?” We simultaneously shook our heads yes. It actually felt pretty cool to be led around town by the cops to get what we needed. As we got our last picture, the office drove by the entrance to the expressway and over his loudspeaker yelled out, “You’re welcome, now go home!”

We did complete all of our assignments over the 8 week period and became brothers of the fraternity. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to change my college experience around and make the best of it. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life and helped shape the person I am today teaching me a great deal about friendship, trust, and unity.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Prom

One of the most exciting times in life is your senior year of high school. It’s a time when you end one chapter of your educational and social being and start a new one in college. One of the major milestones is the prom. It’s built up to be this magical night where you celebrate one last hoorah to your high school days as graduation nears. I went to my junior prom which was very low-key, but this was to be a grand event. It was being held at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, NYC, which seemed like a palace at the time.

The date was quickly approaching and me and my friend Sophia, my date for the junior prom, had decided to go together once again. Along with eight other friends, we rented a limo and made plans to go to a few clubs in the city and a 24-hour arcade afterwards. I wanted to do something bold to mark the occasion and I had the perfect idea. Sophia was obsessed with the boy band, Backstreet Boys. Her “Boy” of choice was the blonde locked Nick Carter. {Enter light bulb over my brown-haired head}

When I got off the bus coming home from school one day, I stopped in to the local CVS. I headed for the boxes of hair dye and picked out the closest one I could find to Mr. Carter’s color. I got home, took everything out of the box, read the directions, and got to work. As my head started to burn a bit, I jumped in the shower and washed the dye out. I peeked out from the shower curtain to look in the mirror. It was a sight for sore eyes. Though still wet, the color was extremely intense. I got out and towel dried my hair to see a drastic change that I was not ready for.

My sister got home and had a look of horror on her face. I then knew it was worse than I had thought. No wait, it got even worse. As she slowly circled around me, she began to laugh and said to come with her. We stood in front of the mirror and she held up a mirror behind my head. I had missed multiple spots on my head to what looked like a splotchy mess. When my Mom got home, she took it all with a grain of salt as I pleaded for her help. Being experienced with hair products, she explained that we couldn’t dye it back right now because it would be too much on my scalp/hair that it could start falling out in clumps. She called her stylist and said that I could come in tomorrow and she’d be able to fix it for me.

I planned on not going to school the next day; however I had a huge test that I could not miss especially coming to the end of the term. So I sucked it up and braved all the stares and smirks for the entire day. Sophia was stunned when she saw it and was speechless. I said, “I thought it would be cool if I looked like Nick Carter since you love him so much… but it looks horrible… and turned out to be a mess… I’m getting it fixed today…” She stopped me mid-sentence and said “That was a really sweet idea, but I like you just the way you are silly.” I got my hair fixed just fine that day and the prom was a huge success. All things in life come with little bumps in the road but it’s always important to remember to just be yourself.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Queen for a Day

You know how people always say “I never win anything!” I fortunately can’t say that about myself. Every time I hear the expression, I think about the first time I had ever won anything. In fourth grade, our class had an assignment to take part in a local contest. The premise was that our town paper held a yearly contest called “Queen for a Day.” For Mother’s Day, the newspaper accepted essay entries explaining why you thought your mom deserved to be pampered for a special day.

I spent a great deal of time contemplating what exactly I could write that would win the contest. I wanted nothing more than to win the prize for my Mom since she was so deserving of it. I did my best to tell about all the wonderful things she did for me and my sister, always putting us first. I submitted my essay and included a cute picture that we took at Disney World together.

Mother’s Day was quickly approaching, and I got a little nervous. I constantly thought about the possibility of winning, but also about the odds. Five grades in our school alone were participating and I knew of at least two other schools doing the same. Not to mention, there were probably tons of other people writing in. I had hoped at the least that a part of my essay or the picture would be in the paper since there was usually a few pages devoted to the contest including not only the winners.

Sunday morning rolled around and the phone was ringing off the hook. My mom came to my room to wake me up to let me know that family and friends were leaving messages about our picture being in the paper. I was ecstatic! I jumped out of bed and got dressed so we could go pick up a copy at the store a few blocks away. When we got there I ferociously tore through the paper to find the photo. There it was, not only the photo, but I had won the grand prize. We were both surprised and I nearly dropped to the floor. I watched my mom smile as she read my essay and gave me a big hug and kiss afterwards. She enjoyed her day at the spa and I basked in my first win in life.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fictional Storytelling

I figured since we have been working with fictional storytelling the last couple of weeks, I would give it a shot for one of my blogs since it’s not my normal forte:

Abby wasn’t the type to get so emotional but despite her new found joy, the world was also weighing on her shoulders. A year ago today, sitting behind her desk waiting for a new client to arrive for a financial consultation, she became agitated as a half an hour past the appointment time was passing. She got up from her desk to head into the lobby to chat with Jessica the receptionist. “My biggest pet peeve is when people are late. You know some jerks think they are so important that they can just waltz in the door whenever they want and expect everyone to wait for them on pins and needles...”

Jessica interrupted, “Um Abby, I think your client is actually here, standing right behind you.” She turned around with face red from embarrassment. “Hi, uh, you must be Daniel. And you can call me Mortified.” Daniel laughed and reassured her that all was fine. They moved into her office and began to discuss his money situation. “Well, I’m trying to get a loan approved to start up an animal day care business. That’s part of the reason I was late. My dog Rusty has been sick lately and I ran into some traffic on the way back from the vet.” Abby felt bad about her comments before especially since it all involved an animal. She’s always been an animal lover and admired Daniel’s passion to start up a business revolving around them. Maybe he wasn’t one of those jerks; anyone who cared for animal’s so much must have a big heart.

The next few weeks past and Abby arrived at work and checked her voicemail, “You have one new message: Hey Abby, it’s Daniel. Just wanted to let you know I got the approval for my loan. I heard you put in a good word with the bank. You must let me take you to dinner to thank you.” She had an instant smile and butterflies in her stomach. Her mind raced as she thought about how wrong it would be to date a client, but she couldn’t help the fact that she hadn’t stopped thinking about him since he’d been in her office.

They went to dinner, and another dinner, a movie, met each other’s friends, then the parents. Six months later, Abby was advancing at work taking on new accounts daily and Daniel’s business was going to be having a grand opening in three weeks. Then Abby’s boss dropped the news, “You’ve been doing so well lately and we’re all so impressed; we need you to head to the west coast and get things moving in our LA office. It’s a great opportunity and a big step up.” She was flattered, excited, and distraught all at the same time.

She got home and broke the news to Daniel. He looked at her and smiled with tears in his eyes. “So what does this mean for us?” Abby had no clue what to say. “I have to go, I’ve been working for a chance like this for ten years, but we can make it work, I know it.” Days then months went by, and despite the phone calls and skype sessions, they began to drift apart. Abby’s job was overwhelming and Daniel’s business was booming. After a late night at the office, Abby got home to a voicemail, “Hey Abby, seeing as how we haven’t spoken in a week and you seem to be setting up a new home for yourself in Los Angeles, I’m thinking it’s best if we take some time apart and work on each of our lives so neither of us gets hurt through all of this change…” She sat and took it all in and cried. “I’ve never felt happier and devastated all at the same time.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Giving Back

I’ve probably mentioned a bunch of times already that I’m a Christmas fanatic. I find that’s where some of my best storytelling comes from; a time when family and friends are together and everything feels right and peaceful in the world. If I had it my way, it would be Christmas all year round, or at least once a month. I do feel that sometimes the meaning gets lost underneath all of the decorations, presents, and hoopla.

During the holidays in 2006, I walked into Citibank to make a deposit and noticed a Toys for Tots box. I read the description on front and went home to look into the organization a bit more. I was really touched by their mission and what it meant for a child in need to get something special at this time of year. I went to Toys R’ Us the next day and purchased a few items to bring back to the box at the bank. But, I felt like I could definitely do more.

The following year, I decided instead of just buying a few toys and contributing, I could help even more kids by starting my own drive at work. I filled out all the necessary paperwork and got the ok to organize a dropbox at the hotel where I worked. Toys for Tots even sent me a bag full of buttons that I could give out to those who donated and showed their support. I wrapped the box up in sparkly gold Christmas paper with a big red bow and printed out some information about the drive to add to the box. I made fliers and posted them around the building, sent out an e-mail, and spoke about the idea at our weekly staff meeting to try and get everyone on board.

I bought a bunch of goodies at Toys R’ Us again and filled the box up a little to get things going. I was hoping it would be like a tip jar; once people saw something in there they’d get the idea an add something themselves. Well, I was more than touched and happy when after just a few days, the box was overflowing. The drop off day came around and I packed up everything in my car and headed over to the Marine Corps office. They were so appreciate and I felt great that each toy would be going to a child that may not normally get a gift on Christmas. I would encourage everyone to try something like this for any organization that is special to you or helps people in need. It really is a rewarding experience that you and those you help, will never forget.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The School Project

Remember those crafty grade school projects that you used to put your heart and soul into? The other day I was reminded of those days when my friend and I were at dinner and she told of a collage her daughter was making for a science project. I decided to tell her a story about my favorite collage that I made for my 5th grade current events class.

It feels like it was yesterday. The objective was to make two columns of likes and dislikes and fill them with newspaper and magazine clippings. I went with my mom to the supply store and bought a big bright yellow poster board. I searched through tons of periodicals and cut out a bunch of pictures to start arranging on my board. When I finally had everything filled up and organized, I glued it all down. It doesn’t seem like such a difficult project to me now, but at the time it was a big deal and took a lot of effort.

The day of the presentations had rolled around. I woke up got my backpack ready and went downstairs to put it by the door along with my project. I went back to my room to get dressed and a little while later my mom yelled by the stairs for me. She sounded uneasy as she called so I got a bit nervous. I looked over the banister and saw my dog Rocky peaking at me. I walked down to see a trail of little pieces of yellow paper coming from the door. I stepped into the living room and saw the remains of my collage torn to shreds, care of my little pup. He hated when I went to school because he would love it if I could just stay home and play with him all day. I was first panicked and angry, but I looked at Rocky’s sad eyes as he knew he did something wrong. How could I be mad at my little buddy? So I gathered up the pieces of paper in a plastic bag and brought it to school.

As everyone laid their projects out on their desks, I nervously awaited my turn to speak. My name was called, and I brought my bag to the front of the class. I explained, “I know that no one would believe me when I said my dog ate my homework, so I brought it in to show you. I did do the assignment; you can see the magazine clippings on some of the pieces here.” As the class erupted in laughter, I felt a bit relieved. Even my teacher was amused. She took a look at it and said it was fine, giving me an extra week to put another project together. You better believe that this time, I did not put the collage by the door!

Me, Rocky, and my sister Jenn back in the early 90's.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Vacation Book

Last week I spent five amazing days in Aruba, and now I’m back to reality in New York. I can’t be too upset though; it was a great trip and I’ll be back before I know it. In 1995, my parents decided that instead of our annual trip to Disney World we would pick a new destination. My Mom brought home a huge book featuring all of the tropical islands and information about each country and its activities, landmarks, and culture. So, we each got a few days with the book and at Sunday dinner the following week we would all sit down and reveal our choice from the book. If there was no majority decision, we would then talk out the four choices.

I studied that book like it was the SAT’s and went over each option thoroughly to make sure I made the best choice possible. I ended up picking a town in Mexico and was sure based on the information and pictures that at least one other person would agree. It was Sunday, and everyone came to the dinner table with their index card in hand ready to reveal their choice. I, being the youngest, went first. As I happily turned over my card, everyone listened and nodded as I explained my reasoning for Mexico. My sister was next, and she showed her card which said “Aruba.” Ok, it was a good choice too but not as good as mine. I didn’t listen to any of her speech as I eagerly awaited my parent’s choices.

Next up was Mom. She’s 100% percent going to pick Mexico, the level-headed matriarch of the family. The card flips over… Aruba! What, no way! I think I immediately started to sweat and show signs of panic. Again, her reasoning was completely blocked out of my mind. What would Dad choose? If he doesn’t choose Mexico, then Aruba it is. I was sure everyone would pick my choice. Oh how young and na├»ve I was. Dad laughs and shows his card. ARUBA. I nearly fainted, as I stood up and yelled “This was a setup! How did you all choose the same place! This is ridiculous.” After my hissy fit subsided and the vacation was planned, I reluctantly agreed to go. Everyone else had made the best possible choice. We had an incredible vacation, and my parents loved it so much they invested in a timeshare. Each year we go back and enjoy one of the most gorgeous places in the world and consider it our second home. I can’t even imagine if we would have gone to Mexico. We have made so many great memories in Aruba and they continue to grow each year.