Journey to Israel – Mt. Carmel & Elijah’s Cave

My pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the Middle East began early Tuesday morning (June 12), Mom took me to O-Hare International Airport in Chicago and waited for me to finish with check-in before we said our goodbyes.  I made my way through security with no problems (unlike the last trip I took, you may know if you read my blog about traveling to Australia last year) and only had to wait about an hour in the terminal before I was sitting on the plane ready for take-off.

The flight from Newark, NJ took off only a short time after our original scheduled departure, but seemed to arrive quicker than expected.  I was surprised when I realized I only had one hour between when I landed and when I was to start boarding my flight to Tel Aviv.  Seeing as though my new departure gate was literally on the complete opposite side of the terminal, and not wanting to be late, I kept up a brisk walking pace from the moment I stepped off the plane.

Because of my time crunch I decided against my better judgment, and grumbling stomach dismissing the idea of stopping at a restaurant for a real lunch, so a quick stop at the convenient store had to suffice.  I knew I was eventually getting a meal on the plane so a large bottle of water, trail mix and some pistachios were all I needed.

As I reached the gate I found out we had to go through another security check and ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes before finally making it through. Due to numerous delays our plane to Tel Aviv took off about an hour and a half later than the scheduled departure time; it took around 11 hours to get to Israel and except for the scary patch of turbulence we hit over the Atlantic Ocean, it was a nice flight.

I sat next to a very nice Israeli woman who was traveling back to visit family with her husband.  I found out they had moved to New York at least 30 years ago and just last year moved to Florida; two of their kids were born in Israel, with a third born in the states.  They travel back to Israel several times each year. During the flight she would talk to me every once in awhile, giving me some pointers for my trip and telling me not to worry about anything just because I was traveling alone.  She also kept feeding me snacks encouraging me to take more; lets just say I had had enough food by the time I got off the plane.  A long wait to get through passport check meant that by the time I did get through my luggage was already floating around on the luggage belt and had no delay there.

I couldn’t help but be nervous now, with everything in hand I was ready to go into the arrivals hall to meet my tour guides! Because I had seen pictures of them before I had no trouble spotting Steve and Janet Ray within a few minutes.  We took care of introductions right away and went off in search of the other early arrivals. First we found Kevin, who had arrived at the airport at 2pm the previous day (yes, he spent the night in the airport). Next we found Fr. Brad LePage, Chelsea and Will, all of whom had just come from a pilgrimage in Rome.  They too had arrived very early and had already been waiting for several hours in the airport as well.  Now with about 2.5 more hours to kill before the large group arrived from New York we were able to just relax and get to know each other.  Kevin, Will, Chelsea and myself are all very close in age and it was nice to know there were going to be other young adults on a trip mostly inhabited by wiser minds.

When the whole group had arrived we jumped on our tour bus and made our way to our first stop, Mt. Carmel and Elijah’s Cave.  We first celebrated daily mass in the chapel with Fr. LePage; today was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, and how appropriate that the reading for today was a reading from 1 Kings 18:20-39 (look it up and you will realize what a coincidence it is and if that isn’t an indication for how the pilgrimage will be, I don’t know what is).   Following daily mass we were allowed about 20 minutes to look around and actually go into the cave of Elijah.  The cave is at the foot of an altar inside the actual church, Stella Maris.  Although another mass was being celebrated inside we were allowed to go into the cave of Elijah to pray for special intentions; it was a beautiful moment to be in the same place as this great prophet.

As we left Haifa to go to our hotel in Tiberias we drove past the Bahai Temple and Gardens as well as the shipping port.  Haifa is the most industrial city in Israel.  Galilee was about a 30-minute drive away and we pulled up to our hotel, Ron Beach Hotel, just in time for dinner.  A large buffet with all kinds of salads, meats and dessert awaited us.  Our hotel lies right on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and all the rooms face the water…what a beautiful view for us to wake up to each morning!

The rest of the evening was ours and mostly consisted of people going to bed right away.  Some of us checked out the Sea of Galilee while others walked downtown on the boardwalk. It has been a long day for us all and we have an early morning tomorrow.

God Bless!

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Just a moment.

I find myself here at 2 in the morning, sitting in the senior studio doing a lot of thinking. I’m waiting for paint to dry (literally) and for my all purpose cement to bond, so I have a lot of time to let my mind wander.  At the moment I’m calm and have found a few hours of psychological and emotional peace; surely, though, it can’t last too much longer.

When I awake in the morning I will no doubt be back to what has become normalcy in my life – a continual stream of stress with a side of crazy.  I’m not even kidding you…senior show is constantly pulling at my seams trying to break me down. I cried once; last Friday on my drive home, five minutes. Nothing seemed to be going according to plan for me that day and the speed demons on the interstate pushed me to the brink.  I couldn’t help it, the universe smoked me all at once.  And when I say I cried I don’t mean a few little tears streaming down my face, I mean a flood of tears and the heavy sobbing!

As for the crazy part, it’s true.  I find that I can never have too many lists (yes I’m one of those people) and it always seems that they are almost never completely finished. The only way I can cross everything off a list is to take the incomplete items and add them to another list. It’s becoming impossible to escape them; they’re everywhere in my life – my phone, computer, planner, mirror, car, wallet, etc.  On top of the piles of lists I find myself having a very bad short term memory.  I haven’t lost it completely, my brain is just on auto pilot all the time.  True story, I lost my phone for the majority of today.  After class I replied to my text messages only to forget where I placed it when I was done.  After frantically searching for almost an hour this evening I discovered it had fallen deep under the seat of my car (which I had already looked under twice).  Undoubtably a mad mad world I’m currently living in.

On another note, during my moment of complacency I came to the conclusion of some things to expect as an art student.

1. I will more than likely never have clean hands (literally not metaphorically). They are always covered in one of the following: charcoal, paint, glue, clay, sawdust, dirt, cuts and scrapes, and pretty much any other medium.

2. I can always count on spending more money than any other major at school due to the costs of paper, pencils, paint, printing and all other supplies (including the ones that don’t start with the letter ‘p’).

3. I will always be busy, even when I’m not.  I subconsciously will always have art and design stuff on my mind.  It’s great when you wake up and realize your dream was about your current design project.

4. I will always and forever be frustrated and confused by printing.

5. Critiquing the world around me is an everyday occurrance.

6. So is identifying typefaces.

7. The average hours of sleep I get a night: 3-4. (At least I’ve only ever had to pull 2 complete all nighters).

8. I can’t make everyone happy, it just doesn’t work that way.  Suppose it doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying though.

9. By now my body is immune to any toxic particles or sharp fragments that I might ever inhale.  Over the past 4.5 years I have inhaled everything from spray fix to charcoal to metal – and I’m still healthy as a horse!

10. I love what I do and I don’t think I can see myself doing anything else.

Oh, the insanity of my life.  I couldn’t ask for anything different.


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Life is strange.

Life is strange.  Peculiar really.  My mind floats from one echelon to another in a matter of minutes and time goes faster than expected.  Maybe I’m sick.  Not like dying sick but mentally sick.  Seriously, I’m driving myself insane.  Trying to wrap my head around the pending deadlines is really doing me in.

The past few weeks have been filled with anxiety, planning, running committees, and too much stuff I don’t like to have think about. I’ve always been great at organizing the chaos in my life but the pending and ever nearing uncertainty of my future is making it difficult for me to actually do so this time around.  I have found a daily escape in my prayer time each afternoon/evening; it helps keep me calm and somewhat centered (at least for an hour or two).

Today, though, I feel like I finally made it to a plateau, only large enough for my tiptoes, but even ground none the less. Now that the first tests in my Logical Thinking and Theatre classes are both over I’ve realized that I really don’t need to worry too much about either of them – I’m going to be fine and can pull out a good grade no problem; I have a name for my senior project – excellent progress; and lastly I got to catch up with some good people in my life this past week.  But, I’m teetering on the edge to another slight decline for a number of reasons.

1. I have several projects due for work in the next month including taking pictures of nine different male/female models for a poster series that will require hours of editing, some posters, postcards, logos and banners. Yikes!

2. I have to build a portfolio and update my resume (which this would be no problem if I could just settle on a single idea)!

3. I have to plan out the rest of my senior show stuff and figure out when I’m going to finish it all!

4. There are not nearly enough hours in the day to finish everything I need to in the next two and a half months and you don’t even want to know how many cups of coffee I’m going to have to drink in order to get it all done.

All this craziness is really mixing my feelings up and making me act really strange sometimes too.  Today for example, I was in class listening to itunes with my headphones on and suddenly I had the urge to belt out some Kelly Clarkson.  What?!? I was never a huge of fan of her music from the beginning so I don’t know why it was in my library or why I suddenly had the strange urge to sing the lyrics at the top of my lungs.  Although I didn’t start singing out loud I sang the entire song to myself.  Hmmm.

Wow.  I probably sound super insane right now.  That’s not the case.  I’m fine…or will be.  Just know that I will be spending countless nights not sleeping for the next few months and if you see me around I may look barely there, half dead, awful – whatever you want to call it.  Just know that most of my social life will likely disappear for awhile and most of my connections with the outside world may become close to non-existent.  So, you may not hear from me but I’m still around.  Like I said, I’m gonna be fine.  It’s just a matter of months…just a matter of months.  Wish me luck!



Filled with anxiety

Wow.  Senior Show is going to be challenging for sure this semester! We are going to be held to a pretty exceptional design standard [not surprising seeing as how we are supposed to have had four years of excellent instruction] and it will definitely be nerve racking! I’m not gonna lie I had a small anxiety attack during class when we were going over our schedule for the semester…so much to do!!!

Oh, and after my mini anxiety attack [shoot, i’m getting anxiety just thinking about this] I decided to be the president of the PR committee – awesome! Really, though, I am probably freaking myself out about all of this. As soon as I find and solidify my idea I’m sure things will be fine…it’s getting there that will cause me trouble.

Today is the first day of no classes on Fridays for me this semester so I joined some lovely friends at a local coffee shop and started ideating.  I will admit that I was side tracked more than once this afternoon [including by facebook, online shopping for necessary organizational items, and yes, writing this blog] and I have yet to stumble upon any really good ideas. Never fear though, the search will continue tomorrow, seeing as I need to have the beginnings to a few ideas by monday afternoon.

If I can budget and organize my time efficiently this semester I feel the anxiety attacks will cease and I will [hopefully] be able to enjoy my last few months of college life!




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The last of many great firsts…

Today, September 7, 2011, marks the last first day of my college career. The last first day of art classes [eek Senior Show starts today!], the last first day of a semester buying art supplies at Penco, and the last first day of being an undergrad! For sure an achievement and oh, how excited I truly am!  It’s a beautiful beginning to what will hopefully be an amazing ending!

At this moment I am sitting outside in the beautiful weather, marking the change in the seasons; in many ways it is very fitting for this occasion.

My first class was Intro to Theater and I was pleased to be jumping right into the curriculum and not wasting the entire time going over the syllabus.  We went over expectations for the class then began by watching a video called ‘Collaboration.’ (Basically it was a mixed video put together by my professor which he recorded from a tv program).  It covers the different teams/directors/artists that it takes in order to put on a live performance.  Although it was not grade A quality and was filmed in the early 90’s I still enjoyed the viewing.  It made me reminisce about the times I spent performing on stage in dance recitals, concerts, and play productions.  It made me wish that I had been gifted with the ability of a great singing voice and the aspiration to become a star on Broadway.  I truly love the feeling of performing for someone else and making them smile!

This afternoon I will attend my first Senior Show class.  Hopefully our professor will share with us the details of our semester-long project.  If he does today marks the first of many long, sleepless nights, being fueled by coffee – can’t wait!!  ‘Til then…


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We awoke to a beautiful fall day in Sydney and made a quick stop at Starbucks before venturing into the city. After failing to figure out how to call out of our hotel room to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Tours we deciding walking there was going to be easier.  I couldn’t have felt more at home walking around Sydney…the city is just beautiful! The weather was perfect and we came across many interesting nooks, tunnels, and weathered architecture – it was wonderful! We made our way to the bridge tours and met some other nice tourists also waiting to jump on a tour.

Berta and I signed up for the long tour (walking the top of the bridge rather than walking the bottom arch) that left at 10:10am.  Our group consisted of many American tourists, a few local Aussies and even a father and son from Wisconsin (on an all expense paid business trip – lucky)!  As we walked the bridge our tour guide pointed out all the best Sydney had to offer and shared some great history about the city as well as the building of the bridge and the Opera House (which was just across the harbor to our right!  I have to say we lucked out with Mother Nature because not even twenty minutes after we had descended the bridge and ate lunch it began to pour rain!

Our plan had been to head over to the Opera House and check out any available tours but due to the rain we rerouted our plans.  We hung out in a tiny shopping center until the rain let up then made our way back towards the bridge.  On our bridge tour we received free tickets to the Pylon viewing tower; it is basically a museum about the history of the bridge.  We figured we could then continue to walk to the other side of the bridge so we could see Luna Park (the one with the famous clown entrance).  Well we came down from the viewing tower to pouring rain.  With no rain gear and hopes that the rain might let up soon we looked into the sky only to see miles and miles of gray skies.  We knew we only had one option and that was to make a run for it back to our hotel.

Unlucky for us, we had no rain gear, not nearly enough money for a cab back to our hotel and were quite a good walking distance away.  We finally made it back to the hotel, soaked from head to toe.  After a quick shower and a change of clothes we were ready to head back out into the city.  We walked over toward Darling Harbour (this time prepared for the rain) and checked out the aquarium and wildlife world.  Dinner that night consisted of fish and nachos at the Pancake House, not exactly what we had in mind but it did the trick.

The following morning we packed early, grabbed some Starbucks again then jumped back on our train to the airport.  Unfortunately we ran into a problem at the airport.  We arrived and discovered that we couldn’t check in as stand-by passengers until half an hour before the flight was scheduled to leave (we couldn’t even check in and wait at the terminal gate)!  After watching every single stand-by passenger just barely make the cut onto the plane back to the United States we were fairly certain that we wouldn’t make it and that we would have to figure out a last minute plan for an extra day in Sydney.

At the last minute we were called up to the check-in desk and the lady said that there were still two seats open (literally the last two on the plane), we said we would take them and that we didn’t care if where on the plane they were. Turns out that one was in first class and the other was in economy class.  No big deal, I had my ride in first class so as long as we were on the plane back stateside I would take whatever there was.

A short 13 hours later our Australian adventures had come to an end but I have to say that the experience was truly amazing!



More Australian Adventures!

Wow! So I went to Australia and stopped blogging halfway through my trip! It’s like I fell off the face of the Earth! Haha, more like jumped out of a plane over the Sunshine Coast! So, here’s the beginning of the rest of the story…it might be a little lengthy but, lucky for you I can’t remember every single detail from three months ago!

So I left you all last after my first day in Brisbane…well be excited people I went skydiving the next day!!!

We had to take a bus early Sunday morning for about an hour to Caloundra then walked around the small shops until our ride came to pick us up.  Just a short drive from the bus depot later and we were at Sunshine Coast Skydivers!  We filled out our forms, basically signing a sheet of paper saying we were knowingly about to jump out of a plane and that it was dangerous, haha thanks for the reminder! We were introduced to our instructors and harnessed up…by this time I was super nervous and had tried easing my nerves by joking with my instructor, Dusan Papez, about how this day was only going to be his second time skydiving ever (good thing he has actually had 30+ years of experience)!

We were loaded into the tiny plane and as I boarded last I came to the quick realization that last one in was first one out! That’s me! Yikes! If I wasn’t nervous before I sure was at that moment! Once we reached our altitude, 6,000 feet, and we were secured tightly in our harness with our tandem instructor we were ready to jump!

Dusan opened the door and I knew there was no way out except to jump.  He told me to smile for the camera and literally as soon as the picture was snapped we were out the door…I didn’t even have a second to think about it! We rolled out the door and twisted as we fell towards the ground! I started out screaming but mostly was smiling because it was such a rush! Ten seconds later Dusan pulled the ripcord and our parachute popped out…we glided towards the beach and the view on the way down was gorgeous!  I thought it was great being the first one out because I had the chance to see the other girls jump and land after me.

The whole jump happened so fast that by the time we were shuttled back to the base it seemed so surreal – I couldn’t believe that I had actually jumped out of a plane! It was so amazing and I would definitely do it again, this time from a much higher altitude though!

After the jump the rest of or time in Brisbane went by so fast that I don’t even remember the order of events or if when they actually happened! I think we spent the night dancing at a local club and the next day at the beach, which thankfully it was a really nice day out, cool because it was the beginning of Fall in Australia, but beautiful none the less!  That night we had to pack our bags and say our goodbyes to Tilly…we were headed to Sydney!

Our taxi van picked us up at the University and we traveled about an hour to the Brisbane airport.  Security in Australia airports is not as strict as in the US (we didn’t even have to take off our shoes) so we made it to our terminal with plenty of time to spare before boarding our plane.  Because we were traveling at night the plane was pretty empty so we had no trouble flying standby.

We reached Sydney fairly late and jumped on a train to the Wynyard stop, luckily encountering only one interesting lady who thankfully got off the stop before us.  When we stepped outside of the train station we could really feel the change of seasons, it had been raining from the time we left Brisbane to the time we reached Sydney and was now just misting.  There was a cool breeze and leaves on the ground.  We were excited when we found our hotel and could jump into comfy warm beds.  The next day was going to be filled with many adventures!



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