The American Museum of Natural History

It is quite possible that I had more fun at the American Museum of Natural History looking at all of the ancient animal bones as an adult than I did when I was a little girl. I forgot how cool dinosaurs are until I was face-to-face with a skeleton of a T-rex towering above me.

Unfortunately I didn't get to the museum until 1.5 hours before closing, so I had to rush a bit in order to see the majority of displays on the four floors. It was fascinating just observing the things on display at the museum, but next time around I will definitely plan on staying longer in order to read the descriptive texts about each one. I especially loved the atmosphere in the Milsetein Hall of Ocean Life. It was dimly lit and the walls were dark blue making it feel as if I were in a giant aquarium. In addition,

“”The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is home to the Museum's beloved
94-foot-long model of a blue whale, a powerful evocation of the massive yet graceful nature of the largest animal ever to roam the planet.””

Considering my love for animals, especially and whales, seeing the giant blue whale in person was pretty Milstein Hall and looms over the exhibit from above.
I'd definitely recommend checking out the American Museum of Natural History. People of all ages find it truly enjoyable, which is a rare thing to accomplish. What keeps the museum fresh and full of life are the changing exhibits and museum's calendar full of events. One event that especially caught my attention and is coming up soon is Adventures in the Global Kitchen: The Lure of Chocolate in which a food historian will lead a tasting while discussing chocolate's history. Sounds delicious to me!
In case you'd like more information, The American Museum of Natural History has

a good website too with descriptions about the permanent exhibits, limited time exhibits, upcoming events and lots of other information.

Volunteering for New York Cares

This past weekend I completed my first project with New York Cares, the city's leading volunteer organization. I decided to sign up with New York Cares when I realized that I actually have more free time now after having finished up with school even with a full-time job. As a student my work was never really done. Not only was I a full time student but I also had an internship and was involved in several other extra curricular activities. There was always more reading or studying to be done for one class or another, so it was often difficult me to fully enjoy myself on weekends with the nagging in the back of my mind that I still had work to do in advance of classes on Monday. Now that I don't have work to do on weekends, that frees up my schedule tremendously, and I figured that it was time for me to give back and make good use of some of the new free time I've acquired.

There are numerous different projects you can sign up for with New York cares including: reading to younger kids, teaching older adults basic computer skills, practicing English with immigrants, working at soup kitchens, playing bingo with the elderly at old folk homes, and raking/gardening work. For my first project I decided to go to East Harlem to play sports with over a dozen first and second graders.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the volunteer project, and I was definitely a bit nervous about traveling all the way to E. Harlem by myself and trying to find where the school was located, but my newest thing since moving to NYC is to challenge myself on a consistent basis and force myself to try things that I'm originally uncomfortable or hesitant about. I'm not really used to playing

or even being around young kids, but I figured that since sports are something I'm familiar with, that would be the easiest way to be able to relate to the kids.

Overall, I had a pretty good time. The kids were, well,…kids. I forgot how hyper and rambunctious they are! Boy do I wish I had that much energy. They were running around as if they had an IV of Red Bull coursing through their veins. We started off the day by breaking into teams of 4 and having relay races to get warmed up. I was with one other volunteer and two second grade boys. I cheered on our team and encouraged everyone to run as fast as they could so we could win. I tried hard not to laugh when one of the little boys flagged down the male team leader and “”whispered”” in his ear that he didn't want to be paired with girls for the relay race. His attitude quickly changed though when our team won, and I finally got his approval. I then spent the next two hours playing soccer and football with the boys. They were aggressive little ball-hogs and liked to make up their own rules as we went along, but I just went with the flow of things, and the time passed fairly quickly.
By the end of the two hours I was exhausted and definitely ready for a nap. I'd like to commend anyone who works with young kids because, as cute as they can sometimes be, they sure require a lot patience, and you must always stay alert while keeping track of each individual. I really do believe that it requires a special sort of person to be able to teach and supervise young children. I feel like it's like life guarding on land.
During the last hour I spent with the kids, the other volunteers and I helped them make a healthy snack. I'd occasionally find myself simply observing the kids interact with one another. By the end of the three hours I was becoming familiar with their distinct personalities, and I thought it was cute how quickly seemingly attached they became to some of the volunteers in such a short time. Their innocence and vulnerability was so refreshing. It made me reflect on my own childhood.

While the first thing I did when I returned home from volunteering was to crawl into bed and relax for a few hours, I'm still very happy that I completed my first project with New York Cares. Isn't it funny that I feel like I took just as much away from this experience as I gave? I suppose that's what making a difference is all about in a way. When doing something makes you contemplate life and appreciate the thing you're doing, it becomes a mutual exchange with both parties benefiting.

Thanksgiving Dinner for One

This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family ever in my whole life. Originally I didn't think it was going to be a big deal. In my family, my mom's side of the family gathers for every holiday. We cook. A ton. And drink. Lots of wine. And laugh. Uncontrollably. I can always count on ridiculousness to ensue at any gathering. We're loud (and sometimes downright obnoxious), we know it, and we love it. I figured that this Thanksgiving would be like the rest, and buying a $400 plane ticket home, when Christmas is a bigger deal for us anyway, seemed unpractical since I only left Michigan four months ago anyway. My parents even shipped me boxed mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and a bottle of wine to make my own little Thanksgiving dinner at home.

I tried to keep myself as busy as possible to keep from thinking about my family coming together hundreds of miles away without me. I woke up early in the morning to check out Macy's Thanksgiving

Day Parade, and I had a blast. Then when I came home I thought I'd just sleep away the majority of the day. But of course, aftwe waking to an empty apartment, the loneliness quickly set in. I tried to diminish longing to be home by blasting music while I made my dinner for one and I put myself to work cleaning my bedroom, but before long I was confronted with sadness again which had evolved into a knot in the pit of my stomach.

What was also difficult was the numerous “”Happy Thanksgiving, we miss you!”” texts I kept receiving from family and close friends throughout the day, which served as a perpetual reminder that I was alone. As one who enjoys bouts of solitude, it was not much appreciated on this day, and I was aching for some human interaction. When one of my roommates came home he told me that most people who move to the city end up experiencing a holiday alone and how he considered it like an initiation to New York and becoming a New Yorker.

While I don't consider myself a New Yorker yet and I'm not sure I ever will since my roots are in Michigan, I certainly can say that I've been “”initiated”” into the New York lifestyle where everyone has experienced loneliness and almost everyone has spent a holiday without their family. To my wonderful family and friends who I thought I could be strong enough to spend a holiday without missing, boy was I wrong. I miss everyone tremendously, and although I was physically in another state, my mind allowed me to spend the day re-living past holidays together. What I finally realized, and maybe spending the day alone is what it took, is that it doesn't matter if family gatherings sometimes seem monotonous and boring in the traditional sense, it's being together under one roof for yet another year that makes it special.

Happy Thanksgiving from NYC. Love you all.