Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Life moves on and so should we." - Spencer Johnson

Here it is, July 9, 2013. Clearly I have been putting a final post off. I kept meaning to write, but between the many moving parts at the end, I just never sat down to post. Additionally, it has taken me about a week since the experience has officially ended to more fully accept its finality, and to be ready to embrace my next life journey.

Saying goodbye to my service site was one of the most difficult things I've had to do. I was so lucky to have been blessed with an amazingly supportive staff, and right through the end I had so much to do and contribute to. Luckily my goodbyes were somewhat spread over the course of the last couple of weeks, with lunches with coworkers and final gifts and the infamous "Tea." I am proud of myself for not shedding a tear at work, but it was so hard to leave such compassionate and motivated people. I am thankful that my time at VIP helped solidify my desire to pursue a JD and eventually (hopefully) work in legal services. I have an open mind about what's to come at law school, and plan to take part in many different opportunities. But I truly cannot imagine a life grounded in service. I have VIP and the Augustinian Volunteers program to thank for that.

The last few weeks my roommates and I attempted to get in as many adventures from our Philly bucket list as we could. We returned to Longwood Gardens as a community, spent a day in Amish Country, visited the Eastern State Penitentiary, attended a Phillies game, went to a Greek festival, attempted to finish our Top 10 cheese steak list, and tried out some new restaurants and bars. I was also lucky enough to have my parents and brother visit Philly for a weekend in June. We had cheese steaks, went on a ghost tour, visited the Magic Gardens (one of my favorite places), saw the Betsy Ross house, and had an amazing dinner at Max Brener for Father's Day. I definitely feel I saw a lot of the hot spots of the city and had many new experiences. I have to say, though, that I cannot wait to return to the area next year! Even though I'll be living outside the city, there's so many places I've come to frequent and foods I can't live without. I've also been planning to go back to Longwood Gardens for their annual Christmas spectacular.
 Longwood Gardens

 Magic Gardens on Father's Day

Eastern State Penitentiary

Besides finishing up at my service site and running around Philly with my roommates and family, we were anxiously awaiting end of the year retreat. Before retreat we were given a VERY extensive cleaning list. Cleaning an entire apartment is definitely a feat, and even more so with ceilings like ours (aka made for giants!) It took a few days, and although we were covered in sweat from the lack of AC and 95+ degree days, it was rewarding. We went out for one last community dinner at a really nice restaurant called Farmicia. I even ordered a steak dinner. Who am I?

Retreat was full of many different activities and reflections that sparked my evolving emotions. A lot of the focus was on transitioning - specifically transitioning to the next step in life, whatever it may be. For me it's returning home and relaxing with family and friends before entering law school. I have a couple of trips planned this summer (next week I will be in DC visiting my brother and taking a Law Preview class) and the first week of August I will be in Ireland with my family. The rest of the time I am using to mentally and physically prepare for my return to school. It's slightly overwhelming thinking about returning to much reading and writing and assignments where grades are of the utmost importance. I really want to excel, as it is such an expensive endeavor, and job prospects are often reliant on academic performance. My main expression at retreat is hoping I will be able to take the lessons I've learned this year into my coming life. I have become a bit more confident and less self-conscious of my own being. I have tried to live a bit more simply and stay on budget. And most importantly, I tried to live my life in alliance with my faith and surround myself with opportunities to grow spiritually and in service. While it will be more difficult to stay on this path in law school, I hope that by entering an Augustinian institution and reflecting on my actions and experiences I will be a bit more apt to stay grounded. I worry that because college is known by nature to be an extremely selfish time in a person's life, my law school experience will be similar. Because I will be so focused on my work and my schedule, I can see how it would be easy to slip into a more selfish lifestyle. I hope I can continue to find the balance I've tried to make part of my routine through my volunteer year.

We also talked a lot about expectations. Specifically, how did our expectations of the program and year develop and/or change throughout the life of the experience. It seems sensible that everyone has some sort of expectations, even if you intend to keep an open mind. I think looking back I was quite nervous about the religious aspects of the program. I didn't feel entirely tolerable of being in a place where spirituality and faith was the cornerstone. However, what I have been shown is the growing grace of God in society. While I myself am still not extremely religious by nature, I enjoyed meeting and conversing with the Friars, I liked attending mass with my community, and I enjoyed the time for reflection and prayer with myself, my community, and the larger program. I can't say that I would have been able to commit as fully to my experience if I hadn't been always asked deeper questions and given adequate tools for prayer and reflection. I had never been on retreats before, and I felt at ease in both solitude and conversation with others. I definitely have been at least a bit more awakened to the power of faith and I hope I can continue to explore and consider my experience in the time to come.

I am so humbled to have been a part of the AV program. While I went in sort of blind and uncertain, it proved to be a year of tremendous growth. I cannot begin to explain or process the entire experience at this point, as it is still so fresh, but one thing the staff asked us to do at our end of the year retreat was to write our "story." It was helpful in mapping out some of my year and the people and places that stood out. I have so many memories, some exciting, others trying, and still others a bit painful and regretful. While my community did not always challenge each other to the greatest extent, I still feel blessed I met two wonderful young women who share my deep passion for service. We came together to create a loving home and I know I will always remain in contact with them both.

 At the End of the Year Brunch

So I guess it's safe to say - I am an AV Alumni! I am proud to be one. I would recommend this program to any young college graduate, no matter what faith or service background they have. It is a miraculous program by nature because as the staff say, all they present is many different "opportunities." It's up to the participant and the community to take advantage of opportunities to challenge and grow over the course of a year - and really over a lifetime. I feel blessed to have been able to partake in a year of service. I am glad I will be in the Philly area so it will be quite easy for me to remain involved with the AV program and hopefully form a connection with new volunteers and serve as a mentor in the future. I am ready for the next chapter, but am certain that my "year of service" was really just a stepping stone for period of growth that will envelop the course of my lifetime.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." - Orson Welles

Here it is May 18th. Where did the time go? I can't fathom that in five weeks from yesterday it will be my last day at VIP. And just beyond that, it will be my last day in PA with the domestic volunteers. Yesterday at VIP I attended the Probate training for volunteer attorneys. Back in September, I attended my first training at VIP, which just happened to be a Probate one as well. Funny how time often goes full circle.

It's also been somewhat difficult for me to keep up with this blog. At the inception of my year, I thought I would update once a week or so. But for some reason I have found it hard to remember or take the time to write new posts. During my semester abroad it was often easier for me to sit down and write about my current adventure. I guess I knew there were friends and family out there waiting for new posts just to ensure that I was healthy and happy. This time around I feel like the blog is more reflective for me, and I also have become so comfortable in my new home and service site that I just typically spent the days living in the present and reflecting more or less internally and with my community. Still, it's nice to be able to sit down and write when the mood strikes. And with only about a month until the end, now seems like just as good a time as any.

First off, if I do have any curious readers out there that haven't seen Facebook or asked me directly, I chose Villanova for law school next year! When I really stopped to think about it, it felt like the right fit. I visited for a tour and observed a 1L class and the atmosphere and mission are everything that I would want in an institution. Villanova is a school in the Augustinian tradition, so service is very important to its scholarship. The Executive Director of VIP teaches a course called "Lawyering Together," which affords students the opportunities to do clinicals at an outside agency, much like an externship, but the positions are usually social justice-oriented. Needless to say, the pro bono opportunities are vast and I also have grown to appreciate and wonder at Philadelphia. Living right outside the city will allow me to network and use resources and skills I have already begun to dive into this year. There are many firms and legal services organizations, and I know that I will have a head start when it comes to finding a summer internship position. Maybe I will even be able to return to VIP as a law school intern! I would love to have the opportunity to deepen my skills and enrich my experience in a new capacity. Although it was a somewhat difficult decision to choose where to spend my next three years, Villanova felt like home. I can hardly wait for the next chapter in my life to enfold.

Making the decision after so many long months of test prep, applications, financial aid work, etc. etc. was beyond relieving. I've found that the last month or so I've been able to more focus on my work at VIP and home community. It's bittersweet knowing that it's coming to a close! I've gotten to do some fun things with my community lately. We had brunch at this beautiful little restaurant in Northern Liberties called Honey's Sit & Eat. I've definitely missed having breakfast out. We also went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum two weekends ago. While art is not entirely my thing, I did appreciate the "Outsider Art" display and the architecture at Rodin. I also tried Greek food for the first time at Zorba's, which is a really cute Greek restaurant near the museums. It was also Greek Easter when we visited, and I don't think I'd be wrong to say that the food just seemed to taste that much better!

 Us at the Rodin Museum as "The Thinker"

 My favorite piece of art

 Greek chicken kabobs!

A few weekends ago I was also fortunate that Sam and Meredith were able to visit again! They loved their visit in December so much that they made the trip again at the end of April. This time I made sure that they experienced Wawa and also had a cheese steak at a new place. Katharine and I have continued our cheese steak competition and are now 7/10 the way through! Three more yummy cheese steaks to put in my tummy in the coming weeks. Back to Sam and Mere's visit... On Saturday we went to Longwood Gardens. It is outside the city and is absolutely breathtaking. It has more than just gardens, as there are waterfalls, flowers, tree houses, a botanical garden, sculptures and so much more. You can get lost in the place, and there's new things to explore each season of the year. I hope next year I can make it back for the Longwood Christmas celebration.

 And just to make your mouths water a wee bit...

 Cheese steak from Tony Luke's

Chicken cheese steak from John's Roast Pork (#1 in Philly!)

In the coming weeks I am looking forward to going home for Memorial Day weekend (less than a week!) Then venturing to Longwood Gardens again with my community as well as Dutch Country to see the Amish. We also plan to make it to a Phillies game together and to a Greek Festival at the end of the month. The second weekend of June I am heading to Florida with my dad's side of the family for my grandpa's 88th birthday festivities. Then the third weekend of June my parents are visiting Philly! It's going to be a jam-packed next six weeks. I want to make the most of every moment. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

United in Mind and Heart

As I sat comfortably on the sofa during the first day of orientation, the Director announced, “You have all been afforded the opportunity to serve this year. And you had better believe it is an opportunity--you are all extremely lucky to be sitting here today.” I remember being taken aback for a second. It was probably the first time I had begun a service experience where I was not simply being reaffirmed of my good nature or thanked for committing myself to the betterment of others. Though I may not have realized it at the time, that was exactly what I needed to hear going into this year.

Indeed, back when I was beginning my last semester of college, I considered attending graduate school, taking a full-time job, or pursuing a year of post-graduate service. I eventually chose to dedicate myself to the Augustinian Volunteers. Service has always been a large part of my life, and during this time of life transition, a year of post-graduate volunteering seemed like the best avenue for growth. Going into the program, what I knew for sure was that I would be serving full-time at a legal services agency and I would be living with two other volunteers in “community.” At the time, I did not realize all that the term community could encompass, but I can now say with confidence that it is much of the reason that I more fully understand what it means to desire to live a life in pursuit of justice.

In the Augustinian tradition, community is where people unite in “mind and heart.” Each night my community members and I share dinner, stories, and life experiences. We serve as volunteers in different organizations, but what binds us together is our commitment to create a more compassionate world. The idea of community is not only exemplified in my home life; it is embedded deeply into my service site as well. Each day, I work as a homeownership pro bono case manager for the LawWorks Team at Philadelphia VIP, one of the largest pro bono legal services agencies in the country. When I first joined the office, I was surprised to find that there are only about fifteen full-time staff members. Despite so few employees, however, thousands of clients are assisted each year. It helped me realize that the work that I am doing can--and does--have a momentous impact.
Sometimes that impact manifests itself on a very basic, human level.

For instance, during a recent conversation with a client whose mortgage payments were being refused by her lender, I explained that I was not an attorney and thus could only offer her limited legal advice. She sighed, and while I prepared myself for her disappointment, she actually replied, “You’re listening to me, and that’s all I can ask for.” I was instantly reminded of that first day of orientation. This was the kind of opportunity that was afforded by our service--the kind of opportunity we are fortunate to have.

During my time in service thus far this year, I have constantly been inspired: by the stories my community members share, by my coworkers’ commitment to justice for the under-served, and by the work that our volunteer pro bono attorneys do on a daily basis. They give countless hours of their time to assist low-income clients who otherwise would go without necessary legal representation. This is the reason I want to enter into the field of public interest law. I want to join a community of lawyers who are trained and skilled, yet passionate about combating social justice issues that challenge so many peoples’ access to legal aid services. This year has afforded me an opportunity to unite in “mind in heart” with my community members, coworkers, clients, and volunteer attorneys – and I am truly blessed to be able to experience this sense of community on a myriad of levels.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." - Jimmy Johnson

Well, it's been a LONG and tiring process but in the end, it's paid off. I was accepted to two of my top choices for law school on Friday! Villanova and Syracuse. I am SO incredibly excited and blessed. It goes to show that experiences, letters of recommendations, resumes, and personal statements (in the law school world known as "soft factors" or "softs") really must play some role. Although my college GPA was good, my LSAT scores were not so hot. I took it twice and was not too happy with the results, despite having taken a prep. course and studying A TON. I have just never had the standardized test gene, and after college I became somewhat cynical about the "numbers game." But nevertheless, I am just ecstatic that I have the opportunity to attend one of my top choices for professional school!

I applied to 15 law schools. I am crazy. It was absurd. I just didn't know the outcome with the slightly lower LSAT and which schools would offer me scholarships and such. You just never know. I technically am still waiting on four schools' admissions decisions. But at this point there's a 90% chance I'll be either attending Syracuse or Villanova. For the longest time, Syracuse had been my dream school so that I could pursue a joint degree with a MA in International Relations. I got into that program last year and deferred so I could do this year of post graduate service. Then my experience at my service site instilled in me this desire to pursue law school for public interest law. I still am really interested in international development too, and I can't imagine never having the opportunity to do anymore field work in developing countries or complete development work. So this joint degree would be such an amazing experience, albeit very ambitious. Then there's Villanova. Villanova is an Augustinian school and I have come to love Philadelphia. I have already made some connections here and I could easily see myself happily living in the area and maybe even practicing here one day. I visited Syracuse last Monday and was able to tour the law building and sit in on a 1L class, so I am going to do the same this week at Nova. Hopefully I can make a choice soon!

I can't believe I only have a little over two months left at my service site! I really feel like I have grown so much because of my time at VIP. It's obviously helped in terms of professional development, but also just generally, like I am capable of handling difficult problems or complicated situations in a more calm and rational manner. I utilize help from my colleagues and supervisor but I have found out how to time-manage better and also find many answers on my own, or through trial and error. I have also discovered how a day-to-day job in an office can be really rewarding and also really versatile. I have found my sense of creativity to only be strengthened. Like when I decided to make an inheritance tax guide or coming up with slogans to help attorneys be inspired to take cases. I think keeping grounded is important at any job, but in the public interest field, where there's often limited resources and slow outcomes, it's vital.

I am also really happy in my community and spiritual life. When I entered the program I honestly didn't see myself growing spiritually much at all. I wasn't uncomfortable with the idea of entering a religiously-affiliated program because I knew there are wonderful service opportunities within the Catholic tradition. Plus after having attended Stonehill, I had some experience with the idea. But it's been really rewarding spending time with the Friars who live next door and hearing stories from my community members' sites. Everyone is really down to Earth and even if I never outright say things like "This is where I see God at work..." I have really come to feel more at ease spiritually and having those deeper conversations. Plus drinking wine with the Friars over a chef-prepared dinner is something that no human can refuse! Let alone a starving volunteer...

In other news, the weather seems to be getting better. It's been a brittle winter and although Philly didn't get much snow, it's still been miserably cold. I'm sick of the gloves and big jackets. I cannot wait to walk to the train in the morning with just a sweater or better yet, not even a sweater! Looking at this week's forecast, it looks like it's hitting the 70's! I'll certainly take it.

It's always weird how it's towards the end of an experience that you begin to feel more comfortable and at ease, and then it's over. It just makes me want to make the most of these next two months as best as I can. It's easy to get caught up in the future, especially in my case where I actually am making those big decisions! But it's another thing to enjoy the present in full. I have been trying to strike a balance between the two.

Here's a photo of my community members and I at an indoor mini golf place a couple of weekends ago:

Monster Mini Golf!

I think that's about it for now. Yay for spring!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. ~Proverb

Happy Spring! I honestly cannot believe that it is March 20th. I only have three months left at my service site, and just over that until the end of the program. I arrived in Philadelphia for orientation on August 20, 2012, which is exactly seven months ago. I guess this is really a time for reflection.

It's been a strange winter in Philly, that's for sure. While New England and many parts of the Northeast was getting slammed with snow, Philly often got rain and sometimes slush. We definitely never got a real "Noreaster'" or really more than an inch on the ground, if that. No snow days here :-/ Honestly, I think I would have preferred snow to rain sometimes because walking in the city when it's pouring and dirty is quite miserable. I also learned that intensive wind snaps umbrellas. Kind of an unfortunate lesson.

Monday night was VIP's annual awards ceremony. It is a night to honor volunteers (solos up to big firms), sponsors, and donors who contribute to the non-profit's mission and help support clients in need. A lot of people attended and there are different levels of awards. It was amazing to hear the impact that volunteers make, especially when it's compared to monetary values. For instance, one solo volunteer has been volunteering for the past two years since his retirement. In that time, he's taken over 30 cases and it equals $26,000 in free legal representation. I think when you hear numbers like that it really makes you aware of the great successes of our volunteers. A client also presented his story. He thanked VIP and his volunteer attorney, who helped him gain custody back of his two young daughters after he returned from prison. His family was with him and it was amazing to see his children and how proud they were of him. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work like emails and phone calls, and forget about what it is we're actually doing. Monday night was rejuvenating and a great bonding experience for all.

The VIP Staff at Awards Night 2013

As for me, I've been trying to manage living in the present with anxiously awaiting my future. I ended up applying to 14 law schools (a bit crazy... I admit) and now is the time where I am beginning to hear back and make decisions. I have been accepted to five so far and wait-listed at one. I am waiting to hear from the final eight, and my top four choices. It's a bit stressful because for the most part, if you're accepted to a law school before April 1st, you're expected to submit your first deposit (which can range anywhere from $200-$500 or so) by April 15th to secure your spot. If you've heard from all schools regarding acceptances and financial aid information before that time, it's not so bad. But I worry that I won't have heard from everywhere by that date so it's taking a big risk between paying a deposit I might have to eat, or waiting to hear from my top choices and not getting admitted in the end. Eeek. However, I already have a few good choices and I am hoping within the next couple of weeks I have more definitive information to go off of. It's also hard to decide to attend a school that is giving me more scholarship aid versus a school that isn't, but better ranked. I want to enter into public interest law in the future and am quite aware that I won't make as much as say, a corporate attorney or a partner of a big firm in the future. But public interest and government jobs are increasingly competitive, and going to a better school opens doors all around. Either way, I am choosing a program that has good clinical and internship programs in a variety of different fields because I believe that an experiential education coupled with good academics is the best fit.

I am hoping this weather improves by April! It's been a rainy, dreary winter. But the groundhog determined that spring is on its way. I sure hope so! I am excited to ditch the winter coat and gloves and enjoy walking around this beautiful city and seeing all that the warmer weather has to offer. My roommates and I are planning a trip to LongWood Gardens, which I heard is beautiful. We're also going indoor mini golfing this weekend and am planning a trip to finally use our movie passes that the program gave us at orientation.

Here's a photo of us celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the city last weekend:

All in all, I couldn't ask for a more supportive home community and work community. I am blessed to have this opportunity and I hope over the next few months I am able to take advantage of all there is left while also looking fondly towards the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck

Well, clearly it's been a while. Two months since my last post. I meant to catch up after Christmas but per usual, this year of service has been a whirlwind...

To hit some of the highlights, it was wonderful being home, even though it was just for over a week. I was able to relax, eat some yummy food (that I didn't have to make myself!), see family, visit friends, and experience good ole snow. I felt pretty rejuvenated when the time came to make the trek back for Mid-Year Retreat. I had the community car in NH so early on January 2nd I began the journey to MA. There were three pick-ups and then we ventured onto Ocean City, NJ. It was a long ride, to say the least. But it was nice to get down the shore and see everyone. All of the domestic volunteers arrived at different points throughout the day and we settled into the house for the retreat.

Mid-Year really proved to be a time to reflect and think about the first part of the year and what is to come. They kept emphasizing that we only had five months left of our volunteer year. It was hard to try to keep that in mind, while also trying to look ahead. I was in the midst of applying to law schools. The application process was consuming and stressful. It's hard because I want to feel present in my surroundings and enjoy the year, growing with every passing minute and never taking it for granted. But I'm also being pulled into the future because of my decision to pursue professional school. Either way, a year of service is just that - a year. It's temporal and finite. We spent a lot of time discussing ways to improve community life and what aspects are hindering progression. Although service trips and immersion experiences are things that I am very accustomed to because I've taken part in many, I had never been on a retreat. I wasn't used to a lot of free time and space and opportunity allowed for silent reflection and considerations. It was a relaxing few days and it definitely raised my spirits as I entered the second half of my volunteer year.

I cannot believe it's nearly March. I feel like I have just returned from retreat and it's early January. Once I got back I was determined to finish and submit my applications for law school. I ended up applying to 12 schools... eek! Most are in the Northeast, but there's a few that are spread throughout the country. I tried to choose programs that were known for public interest or had good clinical opportunities. Thankfully all of my schools offered me application fee waivers. But it was still so expensive applying. You pay a fee to sign up for the LSAT, the LSAC service that compiles what's called your law school report that's sent to each school you apply to, a fee to each individual school you apply to to send the report, and I also took a prep course and bought prep materials. It's really a racket. I am now in the process of finishing the financial aid applications. So hopefully in a few days the hustle and bustle of the application process will be finally over and then it's just a waiting game. Because I took the LSAT in both December and February I probably will not hear from the majority of my schools until end of March until mid-April. I was really excited that at the end of January I received a call from Admissions at one of my schools telling me I was accepted with a big scholarship. It was a really great feeling to at least know I was into one school. :)

I am still enjoying my service site. I feel like I have grown so much over the last six months at VIP. I can now handle stressful situations with a more mature and confident attitude. I found that I have the ability to be assertive and also to be intuitive. Because the executive director and one managing attorney are both on maternity leave, the entire staff has been working extra hard to fill the holes in their absence. I feel I am very needed and appreciated. I even came up with my own ideas of ways to improve our materials. I worked on an inheritance tax return guide for clients that explains to them step-by-step how to file the return. It was really rewarding to see a need, follow through with a remedy, and have it be appreciated. I am also getting better at pitching cases to volunteer attorneys. Although it's still kind of awkward asking people to take cases, I've learned that I must be self-sufficient and a self advocate in order to get cases out. It's a good skill for whatever job I eventually enter. Feeling like I am making a difference for people who have real legal needs, while also growing professionally and maturing as a person, I couldn't have asked for a better placement.

We are trying to plan some fun things to do as a community in the coming months. We signed up for the Philadelphia Color Me Rad run in June. It's the 5K run that tours the U.S. Paint is thrown at you as you run and you end up covered in all different colors by the end! Which reminds me, I better start training more diligently... We also bought tickets for an indoor mini-golf place, which sounds fun. We've been trying to go to movie premieres for free as much as possible too. If you haven't used gofobo.com I encourage you to create an account. It's completely free and then you can search for screenings in your area code. If there's an open screening you click on it and reserve the free passes to print. You can get up to two for account. They go quick, and you have to get to the movie early in order to ensure a seat, but it's totally free and you see the movies way before their release date. Sometimes there are even reviewers or famous people there! We've seen Warm Bodies and the The Croods. Even if you ended up not loving the movie, it was free and a good way to spend some time.

I should mention that the weather patterns are strange here. It's crazy to think that New England has been getting slammed with snow this winter, while Philly mainly gets rain. Even Nemo didn't hit us, besides a few flurries here and there. I am not complaining. Even though I am from NH, I do NOT have thick skin. I think I was born in the wrong state...

Anyways, from now on I plan to keep up with my blog. Wish me luck as I embark on the last four months of my service year and await my future plans!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens

Merry almost Christmas! I am realizing that it's been a month since I have last posted. I guess that's a testament to how busy/crazy things have been with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Nonetheless, things have been very merry and full of joy. I am happy to say that I safely arrived home last night (after quite the lengthy drive in our old Ford Escort) but my big and comfy bed was nothing sort of perfection.

So, I'll try to hit the highlights from post-Thanksgiving to pre-Christmas in the city. I am glad to say that I survived the December 1st LSAT! It was a grueling 5 hour endeavor, but it's nice to have more free time without my classes each week and loads of studying. The downside is I will probably be retaking it in February, so after a couple weeks of a mental break, I am going to begin studying again within the next couple of days. Because the LSAT is such a determinant of your competitiveness in the application process, it's worth putting in the extra time and dedication. I have also more or less finalized an application list and have finished most of the other big parts of my applications. So at this point, it's really focusing on taking the LSAT again and then getting my apps in and playing the waiting game. I probably won't know where I'll be attending until sometime in April or maybe even May, but I have a feeling the time will fly by and I am faithful that I will end up where I am supposed to. This year has helped me focus more on my current actions and being present to my situation. It's still really exciting to think about spending the next three years in law school, though!

The second weekend in December two of my favorite people road-tripped to Philly to see me! Sam (one of my best friends from high school) and Meredith (my college roommate) came together for a weekend of festive fun. It was so awesome to see them, and it was a great chance to do some of the touristy City things I hadn't gotten to. I walk by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall area daily getting on the train to and from work, but am sort of embarrassed to say I hadn't done the actual tours yet. The Friday night they arrived we went to get cheese steaks at Steaks on South. Another place checked off the top 10 list Katharine and I are trying to accomplish! Saturday we spent the day exploring the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Reading Terminal Market, Love Park & the Christmas shops around it, and Macy's for their annual Christmas light show and Dickens Village. We also got pizza at one of my favorite places on South Street and explored a couple of local bars at night. It was the perfect weekend and I had so much fun showing my friends my new home. It reminded me just how much there is to do in Philadelphia and how it's important to not only experience your work site and people you encounter daily, but to also get invested in the culture in which you live. I am excited that I still have nearly six months to see a lot more of the city's wonders!

 Love Park

 The Liberty Bell

 With Santa at Macy's

The third weekend in December was a busy one! Katharine's AV mentor invited my community members and I out to a nice dinner. We went to Raddichio-Cafe, which is an amazing Italian restaurant just steps from our apartment. I had chicken parmesan and enough bread to feed an army. What I really like about most restaurants in Philly is they are BYO/BYOB so it's nice being able to bring a bottle or two of wine to enjoy with your dinner.

The next day we went to the International Reentry mass and dinner for the AVs who just got back from South Africa and Peru. The mass was at Villanova and the dinner was delicious. One great thing about being a current volunteer is we tend to get all the leftovers after events. :) It was really heartwarming to see volunteers returning to their families and friends, but also sad to experience their mixed emotions as they said goodbye to their communities and their AV leaders and mentors. I cannot fathom spending a year abroad with a group of people and then having to readjust to America and transition into a new lifestyle that is separate from your fellow AVs. It's very similar to what I will experience at the end of June, I'm sure, but for now I can't picture it!

 Internation Reentry Dinner

 International Reentry Dinner

On Sunday we went to a volunteers gathering at Chestnut Hill College in Philly. There were volunteers present from a variety of different organizations who live in and around the city. Although everyone serves at different sites and their programs are all unique, it was nice and rejuvenating to meet fellow volunteers. We did a lot of games and activities based on the Holiday theme and had a great dinner. The college itself is beautiful, and we captured some great Christmas-themed shots.

VIP has been a really amazing place to be. Each day I learn something new and have invigorating conversations with coworkers and people connected to the organization. I have slowly gotten more responsibilities and work, but I have also become better at organization and time-management. I often find myself thinking of new creative ways to enhance my experience and share ideas with others. I came up with the slogan "Do a Good Deed this Holiday Season" to promote our deed transfer cases to volunteer attorneys. I tend to stress about having so many cases that are not yet referred, although I know that eventually they will go out to volunteers. Taking a homeownership case is a big commitment, as it can take many years to complete a lot of the cases. We also had a holiday lunch and gift exchange at work, which was really fun. It seems there's always extra sweets in the kitchen at work too, so I am never short of sugar-filled goodness!

Again, it's so nice to be home for a small break. I hadn't been home in over four months. On the 2nd I will head to mid-year retreat and be reunited with all the domestic AVs. I am really excited to hear about everyone's experiences in community and at their sites. I think it's one thing to do service and internally reflect, but it's another to share your experiences and grow together in solidarity. I hope everyone has a relaxing, safe, and wonderful Christmas and New Year!

P.S. Here are some lovely holiday shots:

Philly Christmas

Friday, November 23, 2012

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them" – John F. Kennedy

Well, I am long overdue for s a new post! Things have been crazy (per usual) but in a good way, of course. I'll try to touch on the highlights of the last couple of weeks.

It was really interesting being in a city at the time of a national election. You definitely see a lot of mixed visions. There were a lot of campaigns trying to encourage people to register to vote and of course to actually vote. My office was closed on Election Day as it aligns with the mission of our agency to have your voice be heard. I had mailed in my absentee ballot so the day was relaxing for me and a chance to catch up on sleep and LSAT prep. That's where the majority of my life has been these last few weeks - between work and LSAT prep I don't have a lot of free time. But the test is in a week from tomorrow, eek! I think I am as ready as I'll ever be. Standardized tests have never been my cup of tea unfortunately, but it is what it is. I am excited at the prospect of attending law school with either an international focus or grounded in the public interest/pro bono sphere. I am sure at some point in my life my passions will merge and I will find the right path. For now, I have both direction and an open mind, which I think are two valued components of starting the admissions process and then seeing what opportunities present themselves.

I should mention that one of my community members and I watched the Election results with a few of the friars who live next door. They were so funny to listen to - I think I had the preconceived notion that they would be very old-fashioned and also very conservative, but it just wasn't the case. All in all, an entertaining evening. I won't get into any political views on here because it's not the place, but I was really happy to see how many people took the time to vote and valued the importance of democracy. There are so many people in the world who fight and die for the chance to participate in an election like ours, so if just for this reason alone I feel you can not throw away the opportunity to be simply go to the polls and cast a vote.

Things at VIP have been great. I have a lot more cases now but I am learning to time manage better. It seems the day ends and I am so surprised, as I have barely noticed the clock creeping to the evening hours. I even have some different types of cases right now, like a fraudulent deed transfer and an adverse possession claim. I have become more comfortable and confident speaking with clients and attorneys. There is still so much to learn but I enjoy knowing that every day I will be speaking with new people and working on old projects as well - so it's a great mix. I also volunteered to help a coworker with Corporate Pro Bono Day. It was a training for small business and corporate attorneys to meet with young women who are in a business class. They all are wanting to start different types of businesses so the attorneys met with small groups and helped them to get started and answered their legal questions. I don't typically see our volunteer attorneys working directly with clients so it was a really rewarding opportunity. So many volunteers give their precious time to help the marginalized and it's such a humbling thought. I know that when I am an attorney one day I will remember this and hopefully dedicate some of my time to people who really could benefit from the expertise but cannot afford the price tag of the service. If you go into law, there has to be some desire to help people, I just never want to forget that grounding!

I went to a party at a coworker's house last weekend with one of my roommates. It was an adventure getting there, as she lived in a different part of Philly. But we had a lot of fun and it was good to get out and actually meet some new people. There are two girls that I work with who just graduated from college in May and although they are not working at VIP in a service capacity, we still have a lot in common in terms of our age and interests. I am beginning to be more comfortable with the people that I work with and also look to them for support and guidance. Many of the attorneys on staff have gone to a wide array of law schools and had many different types of experiences before coming to VIP, so it's great to talk with them as I am in this transitional part of my life. And hey, there's always some networking and connections to be made, right? :)

My coworkers Cindy & Mariana

I guess it's time to discuss Thanksgiving weekend! I was so excited to have a four day weekend. Tuesday and especially Wednesday at work were just so strange because a lot of people were out and there was the anticipation of the break. We actually had about 6,000 envelopes to stuff for fundraising so the entire staff worked on that for pretty much all of Wednesday. Needless to say, I don't want to see another envelope or letter for a while! Paper cuts galore. Wednesday evening one of my community members and I went to see Breaking Dawn Part II. I usually see the Twilight movies at the midnight premiere but now that I am a working woman I am just too gosh darn tired! It was really nice to relax and watch a movie at a theater though. Thanksgiving Day morning we went to the parade in Philadelphia. It is the oldest Thanksgiving parade in national history, though Macy's kind of outshines it, haha. Nonetheless there were thousands of people there and I saw Boyz II Men and Justin Guarini perform. And no holiday parade is complete without Santa at the finale! Then we came back and cooked up a feast. I was surprised it only took us about two and a half hours to prepare everything. Cooking for just three people is not too much of a hassle, but we certainly have a ridiculous amount of leftovers. We bought a six pound chicken breast, although I think it came with two breasts, but I am not complaining since I only eat the white meat anyways and it made it cook a bit faster. I also attempted to make a chocolate pudding pie by myself. It's still in the fridge but I'll let you know how it tastes today. It was sort of strange not being home for Thanksgiving. It only kind of felt like the holiday, but we set the table nicely and drank good wine and feasted and said what we were thankful for. We watched the Charlie Brown special at night and took after-dinner naps. We had brownie sundaes and ate some more. All in all, it was a great time. If you can't be at home, as long as you're in the comfort of other people you care about it's a good feeling. Here's some photos from Thanksgiving:



OH! I also got my business cards on Wednesday at work! It was pretty exciting to receive my first business card set.

Well, this post was a good distraction from my LSAT studying, but with the test being about a week away and this next work week going to be busy and having a site visit from our Augustinian Volunteers supervisor during the nights, I better make really good use of the next three days. Wish me luck!

I hope you and yours had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Flexibility makes buildings be stronger, imagine what it can do to your soul" - Carlos Barrios

It's been two weeks since I have last written! It's been such a whirlwind of craziness lately, so I will attempt to remark on the major events of the past couple of weeks...

When I last wrote I was busily preparing for my big event at VIP - Pro Bono Opportunities Day. After the copying debacle on Friday evening, I was a bit nervous for what Monday would bring in terms of preparation. I spent the entire day until 6pm at work preparing all the last minute things that go into such a big event. Possibly the most frustrating (yet rewarding) component was finally, successfully printing name tags for the judges and trainers. Who knew how difficult it could be to effectively produce labels, name tags, and the like from an office printer. Luckily, I started early on that feat and was finished by about 3:00pm. I dropped all of the materials for the event at Philadelphia Bar Association on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, I arrived at the Bar Association at 7:45am and set up. Participants, judges, and trainers began arriving around 8am for a networking breakfast. Then it was the poverty simulation and the Ethics training. All in all, it went well and there were no major issues. We ended up with about 35 participants, which was no where near the goal of 60 the Executive Director had, but a quality number of people nonetheless. It took A LOT of advertising and creative thinking to broadcast the event. I felt good after cleanup was done, and my boss was nice enough to give me the rest of the afternoon off. I didn't fight her on that - with all the extra time I had been putting in, I needed a solid nap and some R&R time alone at my apartment.

Here are some photos from the event:

The rest of the week I was able to catch up on some of my cases and other work that I had neglected a bit to PBOD. Once Friday rolled around, a lot of the office was worried about Storm Sandy and its potential impact on our computers and other electrical equipment. We were instructed to unplug all electronics and surge protectors before leaving on Friday evening. The impending storm was a pretty scary thing. It was supposed to hit hardest between Delaware and New Jersey, so living in Philadelphia we were obviously worried about what impacts it would have on our apartment and work sites. I was all prepared with extra water and flash lights, and was certain that we would lose the power at some point. Because it was Halloween weekend, though, we were determined a full weekend of fun!

On Friday night, my roommates and I went to Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia because it was Harry Potter weekend! The cute strip of stores, bars, and restaurants transformed magically into Hogwarts and the names of the places all resembled places from the books. They had an opening ceremony, a sorting hat, and a pub crawl. We mainly just walked around, tried butter beer, and had dinner at a local pizza place. It felt very Fall-esque! On Saturday, there was a quidditch tournament with a lot of local colleges participating. Unfortunately we did not get the chance to see this because we had been invited to a volunteers gathering at Villanova on Sunday afternoon. It was a chance to meet other volunteers in the Philly area and have a Halloween potluck dinner and party of sorts. So we needed to work on our Halloween costumes!

 Butter Beer! :)

Because of the uncertainty of the storm, the volunteer gathering was postponed. Sadly we had spent the majority of Saturday working on our costumes! My community and I were the Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Luckily, it was not an entire waste, because we went out to a local bar on Saturday night who was hosting a Halloween party!

On Sunday I did LSAT homework and we mentally prepared for the storm. My work was closed both Monday and Tuesday. It was a good time for me to relax and get some more LSAT work done. Luckily, though, we never lost power. I will say that my apartment is FRIGID, but that's another story. We need to have the heat turned on in here because we are wearing gloves in the house and doubling up comforters just to stay somewhat warm! As for the storm, it definitely poured and the gusts were intolerable and loud, but we lucked out. I know a lot of surrounding areas, especially NJ, was hit badly. As I talked with family and friends, I realized just how much a natural disaster can shake parts of the world and cause destruction and damage. As I read a lot of statuses from college students excited that school was closed and classes were canceled, it dawned on that it's sort of sad that a natural disaster is being celebrated by some. I began to think of a lot of my clients who are facing homeownership issues. Many of their homes are in only liveable condition, with a lot of unsteady roofs and leaking. A storm like Sandy may have been detrimental for them. So, I took my two days off to catch up on LSAT preparation, but I also made a point to think about how lucky I was and how some people are not as fortunate.

Wednesday was Halloween and a busy day at work. After being closed for two days, we all had a lot to catch up on. It was nice having such a short week, but it only means there will be more to accomplish this week. I actually have Tuesday off from work for Election Day. I happily sent in my absentee ballot already!

This weekend was very relaxing. We ate frozen pizzas and watched Mamma Mia on Friday night. on Saturday I slept in and did some LSAT prep. Then we hung out with a fellow AV who lives in the area. I was excited to set the clocks back, because getting another hour of sleep is always so uplifting! Today is dedicated to more LSAT prep and relaxation before another work week. Busy but happy - things are going well! Happy November :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” - Saint Augustine

Well, it happened. This was one of those weeks they talked about so much at Orientation. One of those weeks you wonder what it is you're doing and why you're doing it. Why you CHOSE it, nonetheless. One of those weeks you rely on the strength within yourself and most importantly, the bond of your community to pull you through.

In all seriousness, it was just an extremely stressful week. As I mentioned, I am planning Pro Bono Opportunities Day which is Tuesday. The goal for participants was 60, but as of last Wednesday we had like 18. I made a ridiculous amount of phone calls and emails and tried to rack my brain for any creative form of recruitment I could think of. I enlisted the help of the staff to reach out to their contacts, but it just was not happening this year. I know it was not my fault, but it's hard to not feel the pressure and feel like a disappointment if goals aren't met. I've always put pressure on myself, but this time it has a real effect on VIP and others, as it is an opportunity to train and recruit potential new volunteers and donors. One woman from a firm even had the audacity to say that I was "soliciting" her firm by sending a mass email. Soliciting? We're a non-profit whose aim is to help the poor and marginalized in need of legal assistance. Needless to say, I definitely hit a breaking point on Thursday morning. The positive that came out of this was the realization that I work at one of the most kind and understanding places. In addition to being positive and passionate so much of the time, my coworkers are honestly such kind-hearted people and I realized how much support and insight they offer. I hope that throughout my life I will be blessed to work somewhere like VIP, where the staff are not only knowledgable, driven, and passionate - but also kind and compassionate.

Now, things were looking up by Thursday afternoon as I promised myself I would leave at 5pm or shortly after, as I had been staying an hour to two hours late the past few nights. I also started my night online LSAT class this week so Monday and Wednesday night from 8:00 pm-11:20ish pm I was at my computer - exhausted. I was just beat by Thursday night. It was my night to cook dinner, but other than that, I was looking forward to crawling into my bed early and getting a much needed good night's sleep. I made chicken parmesan all by myself which I am really proud of:

Thursday I slept beautifully and felt rejuvenated for my busy Friday. That afternoon I was to go to Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA), which is one of the legal agencies that refers cases to VIP, to make copies. VIP used to be housed at PLA until it got its own office which is much spacier and suitable for the work we do. VIP has an agreement with PLA to do our large printing and copying jobs, though, since it is paid for by PLA. It was recommended to me to go either at the beginning or the end of the day because it would be less busy and the copiers would be less in use by the PLA staff. I walked over around 4:00pm with a VIP staff member whose mom actually works at PLA. She got me set up at a copier on the second level of the PLA office and then returned to VIP. I was about five packets in, with about another 40 minutes of copying left to do, when this PLA staff member appears behind me with a puss on her face. I knew from that moment this was not going to go well. She immediately started huffing and puffing and yelling that some people have work to do and asserted that I was not doing anything of importance and that I was supposed to be at the upstairs copy machine. When I quietly explained that I was told to go down here because someone was using the upstairs copier, she shouted and swore and marched upstairs, as I remained in a state of shock at her behavior. She returned after a few moments and told me there was another copy machine in the back that I should be using and continued with her attitude and turned my copy job after. I was flabbergasted. I left the door to go upstairs, unaware that once you enter the stairwell you can walk up and down the flight of stairs to each level, but each door has a key code by the door. Obviously I had no idea what the code was for any of the floors, and the doors were dark without windows, so it's not like I could have knocked or flagged someone walking by. Essentially I was stuck in the stairwell with at least another 40 minutes of copying I needed to complete. By this time it was nearly 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon and I didn't even bring my cell phone with me to PLA. I was almost in tears, but luckily figured out how to exit the stairwell at the first floor and end up at the entrance. Great, I thought, I can just take the elevator back up to the fifth floor and start this process over. Unfortunately for me, it must have been the backside of the building because once I exited at the appropriate floor it was not the receptionist area I recalled from when I first entered, but instead what appeared to be a back door with only a telephone you use to call in. I tried multiple extensions listed on the sheet next to the phone, but no one picked up, given my luck. Again almost in tears, I rode the elevator back to the first floor to ask the person at the front desk for assistance. But no one was there, big surprise. I went back to the fourth floor and luckily saw someone walking by so knocked on the glass door. She let me in, but I was unaware of where I was. I wandered to the back of the office space and saw my dear copy friend there, with nothing short of a glare on her face. She made a sly comment about why I was there that I chose to ignore, and tried to explain that I couldn't figure out how to get back upstairs and I needed the key code. She said it was personal information and then angrily agreed to take me up in the elevator herself. In the elevator she continued yelling at me and I had just about enough. When we go to the fifth floor receptionist area where I had first entered the people nicely asked me if I had finished my copies - then saw the horrible woman behind me. She continued to yell at them and swear and I just burst into tears. It was embarrassing but I had held it in for too long. She disappeared, yelling, and they apologized and explained she was a horrible person and always has been. A staff member led me to the back copy machine and I was luckily able to finish all of my copies before the office closed. I didn't get to leave until well after 5:30pm, but I vowed to never go back to PLA so there was no way I was leaving it until Monday. I hurried back to VIP, hoping that someone would still be around so I could get into the office, and was glad to see the lights were still on. I walked in my office, threw my massive amounts of copies down, and saw a note on the chair at my desk from my boss saying to come see her when I got back from PLA. I walked into my boss' office and she apologized and explained that Cindy, the mean, bitter woman from PLA, was a horrible, evil person who made everyone miserable. She said PLA had called her and alerted her Cindy had given me a hard time (for lack of a better phrase...) and she was very sorry. Long story short, this week was the most stressful one I have had in a long time.

Silver lining is by the time I left the office on Friday, we had 30 people signed up for the event. My boss was happy with this number, and I felt at least a certain level of relief. My boss even told me to take Tuesday afternoon off from work. I can go home once I am done cleaning up from the event and rest up. Normally I would fight her, but with the anxiety at an all time high, I felt so relieved that she told me to do this. Plus I've put in extra hours lately, anyways.

This weekend has been so relaxing, and what I desperately needed. I honestly have not left the apartment since returning from work Friday night. Yesterday I did some LSAT work, slept, watched a movie, and carved pumpkins with my community members. They came out excellent!

Of course my roommates are a bit more artistically gifted than me (notice the cat pumpkin...) but I was proud of my typical jack-o-lantern nonetheless. We displayed them on the stoop outside and felt accomplished. Today I took a practice LSAT and was actually very happy with my diagnostic score! I feel so much more relieved than I did two days ago. I know this week will be stressful, but once the event is over on Tuesday, things will be a bit calmer, at least in terms of my workload. And it is only ten days until Halloween! I am not sure what my community members and I are going to be yet. Next weekend we are doing spooky mini golf, Harry Potter weekend in Philly, and a Halloween themed volunteer gathering at Villanova. This is my favorite holiday and time of year so I just have to remember to take a deep breath every now and then - and fill it with hot chocolate and pumpkin seeds.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year's mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.” - Wallace Stegner

It is Sunday evening before Mass - one of my favorite times to relax and unwind and think about the both the past week and the upcoming week. Last week was exhausting. Even though it was just a four day week, my days were jam packed with emails, phone calls, and cases galore. When I returned home from work each day our site supervisor from the Augustinian Volunteers was waiting in the apartment for our monthly site visit. Site visits include individual meetings, community meetings, prayer, dinners, and other logistical things. We take turns each night cooking dinner for the community. On my night I did pancakes, home fries, and fruit. I think one of my personal goals for this year is to become a more skilled cook. I can make all basic dishes but I have not ever spent the time cooking more elaborate meals. Maybe I will make my favorite Cameroonian dish for my community one night - it's jasmine rice with a tomato-based peanut sauce and fried plantains. Yummm.

On Thursday night Hannah, our site supervisor, got us pizza and then we went out for frozen yogurt! It was also a new episode of Big Bang, so no complaints here. I am beginning to really enjoy Thursday nights because it's the anticipation of the weekend lingering and just one more work day to complete. Fridays are casual at VIP too, which is always a relief as my laundry begins to pile! On Friday I went to the Department of Records at City Hall with a coworker to learn the process of recording deeds, as I will have to venture there by myself on Tuesday to meet an attorney and client to record her new property deed. For lunch two of my coworkers and I went to this acclaimed hot dog restaurant called Underdogs. They have 22 varieties of hot dogs and if you grab a menu you can get a punch each time you try one of the varieties. If you order all 22, you get your name on the wall. There were some interesting choices, but a lot of them contained spicy ingredients, so I think personally I'll just stick to Underdogs in a non-competitive nature, haha. I should mention that two of my coworkers are currently pregnant so it is really funny listening to their unusual cravings. Hence, they were the ones who introduced us to Underdogs, just two blocks away from VIP. I got the California Dreamin' dog, which is a grilled hot dog on their signature roll complete with tomatoes, avocado, and a lemon twangy mustard. Their fries are delectable as well. I might just have a new favorite hot dog joint!

California Dreamin' hot dog

On Friday night I passed out early (exhausting week!) and spent Saturday morning cleaning and relaxing. Then around 3:00 my community members and I ventured to Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA. It is this picture-esque location in the suburbs with over 300 acres of everything from pumpkin patches, to apple orchards, to cider doughnut stands, to caramel apple vendors, to several indoor farmer's markets, to handmade Halloween and Christmas decorations. There is even a petting zoo and playground for children and fun hayrides. We had a blast exploring and taking Fall photos. We each got a pumpkin and even though mine was just a little over 10 lbs, my arm muscles are sore from carrying it back to the car! We then went apple picking and found unique spots to take pictures. It was a nice escape from the city for an afternoon :)

 Before pumpkin picking!

 Me in the pumpkin patch

 Philly community in PumpkinLand

 Caroline giving Katharine a boost to reach an apple
 Our potential Christmas card photo

 I got the apple! :)

To top off a splendid day, we stopped at Wawa on the way home for dinner. This has been on my bucket list for some time now, so needless to say I was quite excited! People in both PA and NJ rave about the wonderland that is Wawa. It's similar to that of a 7/11 or any other mini mart at a gas station. HOWEVER, the cool part of Wawa is the store is known for their delicious food options. You place your order at touch screen computers, print a receipt, pay the cashier, and then return to the food spot and your order is processed quickly and accurately. I decided on a chicken cheese steak sub complete with lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, mayo, pesto, salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. I also got a fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie and a hot chocolate with chocolate drizzle and whipped cream. What a perfect ending for a cool, Autumn day.

Fully immersing ourselves in the Wawa ordering experience...

This "Fall Harvest" weekend was just what I needed to rejuvenate before a busy work week. I am so excited to carve our pumpkins and continue in this Autumnal festive spirit.