Because taking care of the Earth isn't just for hippies!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Turning 30, releasing my stranglehold on happiness

As I finish up my third decade of life and begin the fourth, I have become increasingly tense and anxious about all of the things I had planned to have accomplished or experienced by the age of 30 that have not yet happened. I have also been chasing after the elusive goal of "being happy." I've done pretty well at getting a lot of the externals that I associate with happiness in place. However, things don't add up - all of the good things in my life do not satisfy me. I psych myself up to do fun things and tell myself, "I WILL have fun today!" Funny thing is, you can't simply will happiness, no matter how hard you try.

In fact, as I have gradually been realizing, the harder I try to be happy, the more stressed, anxious and unhappy I become. Happiness is not like so many other things in life - it is not simply a matter of how hard you try or how skilled you are. Instead, it is something so sweet and delicate that if you concentrate too hard on it, it disappears. It's kind of like trying to see a dim star in the sky, if you stare directly at it you won't be able to see it, so you have to look off to the side just a little bit.

This became very frustrating for me. Happiness always seemed just around the corner, but not here yet. Then a dear friend of mine gave me a reality check. He told me, "When we over-think, it's a sign of how weak our faith is. Worrying means we don't trust God with our life." This is exactly what I have been doing. I have been over-thinking, trying to figure out the formula for happiness, and following it as best I could. I needed to stop gripping the existing blessings in my life with all of my strength. In holding onto them so tightly, it occupied all of my time and energy and didn't leave any room for anything else, including more blessings. 

The image that came to mind was sand in my palms. When you hold sand in the palm of your hand, it stays there as long as your hand is open and relaxed. When you close your hand and hold the sand tightly, it slips through your fingers. 

Sand Heart ♥

I have recently been refocusing myself on opening my hands, allowing myself to receive God's love. I do not need to worry about tomorrow, or yesterday. Only today. God will provide for me. The more I let go of my images of happiness, the happier I become. I trust that great things will happen in my life. 

Now, this isn't a lazy, let whatever happen to me type of letting go. It is an active trust. Some days it includes preparing for future possibilities and setting goals. Some days it does not. It is living life fully, one day at a time. It is not easy, but it is fulfilling. I have begun this process, and I'm sure I will still over-think things, but recognizing over-thinking for what it is helps me to relax and let go. It seems happiness rarely comes as the result of independence, it is instead the result of loving relationships, with others and with God.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Some thoughts on brokenness

I think I'm going to start updating this blog again. It's certainly been gathering some dust lately! We'll see how this sticks, my last post (3 years ago) I said the same thing!

I've been thinking a lot about brokenness lately. We all are broken, in one way or another. It is part of being human in a world full of suffering. No one likes to admit they are hurting though. We don't want to show weakness, we don't want to bother others with our problems, we don't want to be seen as a failure. But our weaknesses can also be our greatest strengths. Our brokenness allows us and compels us to depend on others to support us. We need community to thrive. If we never break down and have to depend on each other, we can continue on our merry path of self-sufficiency, not realizing the treasures of community that we are missing.

In my life, I have become exceedingly good at hiding my brokenness. I don't want to admit my struggles because I don't want to bother people with them, especially when so many people have struggles so much larger than my own. But in pretending life is worry-free, it helps no one. Other people see my life as perfect, or close to it, and wish they could be so carefree. Meanwhile, I stew on my faults and my fears in my own private darkness. I tell myself I don't want to bother people, but in reality I don't want to tarnish the image I have worked so hard to create. 

Now if you know me well and are thinking to yourself, "Whoa, what's going on? Is Claire okay?" Don't worry!! Life is GOOD. I have wonderful family and friends who love me, a good job, a great place to live, and FINALLY some stability in my life. Having all these externals in order is a wonderful blessing. Life is about growing, and I want to work on tearing down my elaborate blind I have been hiding behind. Because ultimately that blind is all about me, and sharing my brokenness is about me too, but is about the real me. I want to be the real me, not the "perfect" me.

So bear with me...this will be a journey. If this ends up to be a bunch of boring navel-gazing, so be it - please do not waste your time reading such stuff if it is and I apologize for inflicting it on anyone in advance. I hope instead that by sharing some of my struggles others will find solace that they are not alone, and that we can lift each other up instead of struggling along our individual paths of darkness.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So I think I'm going to start posting on this blog again, after two years of negligence! I finally have a job that leaves time for me to write some things for here, so this post is just a test to see if everything is still working with my new blogging software.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fun in Idaho!

So, for those who don't know, I'm now living in Idaho teaching at an outdoor science school for the next year. My experience here so far has been wonderful, and the area that I'm living in is absolutely beautiful! Right now, we're still in the training process, and the first group of kids come the week of September 10. I'm so excited to get started, it should be a really fun year.

The part of Idaho that I'm living in is not famous for its potatoes, but for it's skiing, mountain biking, boating and hiking instead. It's in the mountains, right on a lake, and surrounded by coniferous forests of Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pines, Grand and Douglas Firs, Engleman Spruce, and a sprinkling of Aspens. There is about 3 feet of snow on the ground for most of the winter!

Here are some pictures from the backpacking trip I took with the rest of the staff a few weeks ago:

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mt. Vesuvius, Venice, and the end of my time in Italy

Well, my time here in Rome is officially over. Sorry for the sparse blog posts the last half of the year! These past 11 months certainly have been quite the adventure! I suppose pretty soon I'll have to come up with a new subtitle for my blog as well...any ideas?

My last month or so in Italy has certainly been fun as well! Immediately after finishing my thesis, I spent a week gallivanting around Rome with my two cousins, Beth and Carey. We went to all the museums, saw all the normal touristy things, hopped the train for a day trip to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius and even squeezed in the Infiorata in Genzano, a "flower carpet" that was made on the main street of a little town just outside of Rome.

Here are a few pics from Mt. Vesuvius:

Last week I decided to head to Venice for the day, since I've never been there before and really wanted to go before I left for the States. I took the night train and got into Venice at about 5:30 in the morning. Walking around the deserted streets and around the mainly empty canals at sunrise was a special treat! It was a nice time of reflection for me, wandering through the thousands of small alleyways, over and around the canals. I took TONS of pictures. Here are a few from sunrise:

Most of the time I was there the whole city was flooded with tourists (even more than Rome!) and I relished finding the small, out of the way parts of the city that weren't quite as crowded. My two favorite parts of Venice were two of the smaller islands, Murano and Burano. Murano is the island where the famous Murano Italian glass is made. It was still pretty touristy, but because there are so many glassworks there, there are a lot of Italians you see just going about their daily lives (on the main island of Venice this is rare). The glass they make there is so beautiful!

Burano was enchanting. It seemed almost like I had stepped into another universe for an hour or so - where Italy is clean, its parks are safe for old people and children to enjoy, and everything is picture perfect. Rather than the huge metal security gates and guard dogs that are so common near Rome, there is merely a piece of cloth hanging over their open front doors to keep out the sun and give a little privacy. It was so peaceful and beautiful. If I ever go back to Venice, I would like to find a place to stay in Burano.

Note the pimped out speaker system in that little boat! Teenagers are the same everywhere.... :)

If you look carefully you can see the colored glass from nearby Murano decorating the flower pots.

Mainstreet in Burano

After visiting Murano and Burano, I headed back to the main island to explore the city by night. Here are a few of my pictures.

Gondolas covered up for the night

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Monday, April 30, 2007

I'm still alive! Just busy....

Sorry for the extremely long hiatus from my's been forever since I've posted anything on here. I hope to fix that soon, and update you on all of my adventures since then.

A preview of what's to come....
-Santa Marinella fun, the beach
-Rail trip across Europe for Easter break: including Germany, Switzerland, Austria and a little bit of Slovenia :)

It's been so long since I've posted anything I've actually forgot how exactly I was doing it - so bear with me! :P

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Safe Pollution"

An environmental ad campaign sponsored by Friends of the Earth, a British government-funded organization, shows condoms covering point sources of air pollution (via Grist). This struck me as rather odd - what exactly is the message they're trying to get across with this? What do they presuppose one thinks about the use of condoms in the first place? The message wasn't very clear to me - other than possibly a cheap shot at sex to get people to visit their website. Here are some possible lines of thought I came up with:

Common thoughts about condoms:

-As long as you use them, you're having "safe sex," where you don't really have to worry about the consequences of your actions.

Presuppositions they make:

-Condoms protect us from unwanted "pollution." That unwanted pollution is specifically sperm, which has the potential for creating human life, or any number of known or unknown diseases.

Possible conclusions one is supposed to draw:

-Pollution has unwanted consequences

-??? I really don't know...

Conclusions that I made from this ad:

I think it's really interesting that they used this metaphor specifically in their ads, because I think it really tells more about the inadequacies of condom use than about air pollution. There's no way you could ever catch air pollution from different sources by using something like a condom, it's very clearly absurd. Rather than taking responsibility for air pollution and looking for ways to reduce it or control it, this ad is showing a culture where immediate gratification is worshipped, personal responsibility is abandoned, and band-aid solutions for unwanted side effects are actively searched for. Sound familiar? Perhaps like part of the Church's argument against artificial contraception?

It's really interesting to me how both environmental groups and Christian/prolife groups often end up preaching about the same values: unselfishness, responsibility, and foresight - but in very different ways. What's the difference? What each group holds as their primary conviction in life. For the enviros - the Earth is sacred (or whatever other pc/equivalent term one prefers) and we must take care of it. For the Christian/prolife groups - human life is sacred and we must take care of it.

Is either conviction a bad one to have? No.

Are they mutually exclusive? I certainly don't think so - although I'm sure there are those who would disagree.

What conclusions would you draw from such an ad campaign?

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Monte Serrata

At the beginning of January, I found a group of women who go on full-day, genuine hikes every Wednesday. I was so excited to actually make use of my hiking boots again!! They meet early in the morning and bring a packed lunch to eat on the hike.

Two weeks ago I went with this group to Monte Serrata, which is about an hour north of Rome. The group consists of mostly women who are foreigners but living in Italy permanently. I was by far the youngest, but I enjoyed their company very much!

The day started at 8 am, meeting early so as to avoid rush hour traffic in Rome. As we were driving towards the mountain, it was very foggy outside and we were worried that it might be rainy. Being January, what is supposed to be the rainy season, it was a good possibility. The hike started in a city that was positioned on the top of one of three peaks on a the mountain. As we approached the city, the fog was left below us in the valley, creating the illusion of a sea which we were driving through only minutes before. The mountain appeared, not as a mountain, but as three tiny islands. Above the fog the skies were blue and sunny, the air crisp and clear.

The hike started out on a small road that was actually the driveway to a monastery that was on top of the second peak. Then we ventured off the road onto the real trail. It was so refreshing to be climbing over rocks again, rather than pavement! Once we got to the top of the mountain, the trail followed the ridge, providing an amazing view of the valley below. There was still plenty of fog, but it was starting to clear in some areas. We arrived at the main entrance of the monastery and stopped for a water break, since there was a small fountain there. Then we continued on to the last and highest peak, which didn't have anything on it currently, but there appeared to be ruins of a chapel there.


We stopped there for lunch. Oh it was so beautiful! After lunch, we went back towards the town on a different route, that went pretty much straight across to the town where we started. It was such a relaxing and refreshing day, I'm looking forward to many more amazing hikes on the coming Wednesdays!!

Hikers- M.Soratto

Our group

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


During Christmastime, Piazza Navona in downtown Rome is transformed into a Christmas carnival with a carousel, amusement park games, street performers, crafts for sale, the most candy and tacky toys you've ever seen in your life, and little witches hanging on the corner of all the booths. When I first saw this, I was certainly perplexed. What was up with all of these witches? The witch's name is Befana, and she brings Italian Children presents on January 6th. How, in such a Catholic country, is there a tradition that a witch brings presents?

Well, of course, there's a story behind it - and it does link back to Christmas (kind of). Here's the version I heard. There are variations, and I'm not sure which is the "right" one.

The three kings were on their way to visit the baby Jesus by way of Italy, and they needed a place to stay. The witch, being a witch, refused to let them stay in her home when they asked, so they went on and kept looking. Afterwards, the witch felt really bad for being so mean, so ever since then she has given children presents on the day the kings arrived to visit Jesus to try to make up for her mean behavior. Interesting, isn't it?

Pix 010

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Tivoli - the city of a thousand fountains - is about 40 minutes outside of Rome by train. My friend, Annika, and I decided to head out there the day before she went back to Estonia. It's a really cute city just like so many others near Rome, but is famous for it's Villas. Alas, by the time we got out there, it was after lunch. All of the Villas closed around noon for lunchtime, and reopened somewhere between 2:30 and 4. This is to be expected, but what we weren't expecting was that all of the Villas closed for the day around 4:10 because it's wintertime. We missed the 10 minute window when one could gain entrance in the afternoon, not knowing this until it was too late. So we weren't able to see the beautiful Villas that everyone raves about, but the city was beautiful on it's own, and we managed to have plenty of fun anyway.

Of course, there was also the spectacular sunset from the city walls as well.


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