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  • Packing for Pennsylvania: My 100 Items


    If your house was on fire and you could only save three things, what would they be?

    Fun icebreaker question -- I know.

    My answer is pretty traditional and boring -- computer, camera, safe box.

    But what if you could save 100 items? {Now we’re talking!}

    I’ve been thinking about this silly scenario a lot lately as it has been a firestorm of cleaning and packing around here as I vacate my current accommodation. I find myself just standing there with an item in my hand, asking the same thing over and over...”do I really need this?”

    While I don’t own a lot of things, I still think of myself as having too much.

    Do I really need this cable? Can I get by with six pair of underwear...or do I really need seven? Do they make running shorts that double as a swimsuit? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

    Now, I’m not going to get all “zen” on you (that’s Leo Babouta’s job), and I’m definitely not trying to come across as self-righteous (because I don’t believe it’s evil to own more than a hundred things...or even a hundred-thousand things) -- I simply want you to know that it’s possible to have a good time in life without having a lot of things.

    So, here are my 100 items:

    • 2002 Mazda Protoge
      HP Laptop
      Wireless Router
      Canon T2i Camera
      Tripod
      Samsung Galaxy S Cell Phone
      Power strip
      Tent
      Sleeping Bag
      Thermos
      Pull up bar
      Recorder (Musical Instrument)
      Rook (Card Game)
      Farkel Dice Game
      Scale
      Tuperware meal containers
      Leatherman Utility Blade
      Pillow
      Blanket
      Blanket
      Safe box
      Jeans
      Jeans
      Kakis
      Dress shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      T-shirt
      Long sleeve T-shirt
      Polo Shirt
      Cotton Shirt
      Cotton Shirt
      Light Hoodie
      Medium Hoodie
      Heavy Hoodie
      Wool Coat
      Scarf
      Stocking cap
      Gloves
      Under shirt
      Under shirt
      Under shirt
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Underwear
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Socks
      Running Shorts
      Swimming Trunks
      Glasses
      Razor
      Hair Trimmer
      Nail clippers
      Toothbrush
      Knitting Sticks
      Backpack
      Crock pot
      Convection Oven
      Roadside Repair Kit
      Suitcase
      Storage bin
      Storage bin
      Shoes
      Shoes
      Moleskin notebook
      Pen
      Battery Charger

    {Looks like I only have 84 at the moment. I know there is more and will update it as it as I finish packing. Also, please note that I don’t count items like toothpaste, shampoo, or food as they are commodities.}

    Consider writing your own list. It really was eye opening and helped me to focus on what I value most.

    Anything I missed? And what would you save from your house if it was burning down?

  • You might be from Pennsylvania if...


    Have you ever been in a conversation that goes something like:

    Friend: Yo dude! Did you see they’re making Top Gun 2?
    You: Eh...I never saw the first one.
    Friend: DUDE! How can you call yourself an American?!?

    Not seeing a movie might be an over exaggeration when challenging one’s citizenship, but it goes to show that there are certain experiences, initiations, and rights of passage that allow an individual to be included in a certain group, congregation, or culture.

    When I moved to to South Central Iowa, I remember asking the locals how long it would take to be considered one of their own. The almost unanimous reply was, “unless your family originally settled the town, you’ll never be considered a true local.”

    Ouch!

    Of course, most of these tribal regulations are harmless and actually lead us to joke about our own group’s idiosyncrasies. These jokes are usually light hearted and often begin with, “You might be from {wherever} if...” or “you know you’re a {whatever} if...”

    So, what about my new home of Pennsylvania? Is there anything that characterizes being from this great state?

    After crawling around the Internet last night, here’s what I found.

    You might be from Pennsylvania if:

    You say LANG-kist-er instead of Lan-CAST-er and LEB-en-in instead of Leb-a-NON

    Your turkey has "filling", not "stuffing", and most certainly not "dressing”

    You've been "yoney-bopping”

    Red Beet Ecks makes your list of top ten favorite foods

    If you refer to disgusting animal manure smells as "Guud Country Air"

    Words like: gumband; buggy; hoagie; chipped ham; and pop actually mean something to you

    You live within two miles of a plant that makes potato chips, corn chips, pretzels, candy, or ice cream, or that packages turkeys, beans, or bologna

    You think the roads in any other state are smooth

    Hearing horses clopping down a paved street doesn't bring you to the window to see what's going on outside

    Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow

    For those of you who either live or have lived in PA, what did I miss? Are there one or two things that makes a person a true Pennsylvanian?

  • Gods of Pennsylvania: Mr. Rogers

    The most precious commodity in the state of Pennsylvania is not the landscape nor the many attractions, but the people who call this place home. Among the almost thirteen million people, some rise above the rest, and in essence become gods among men.

    One such individual is the late Fred Rogers...or better know to most as Mr. Rogers.

    He was born and raised in Latrobe, PA about forty miles southeast of Pittsburgh. After getting his music degree in Florida, he was hired by NBC in NYC to do a production job but then came back to Pittsburgh to work at the public television station - WQED. During his time in Pennsylvania, he was ordained as a minister and was charged by the seminary to continue his work with children’s television. After a short time in Toronto, he moved back to Pittsburgh and started doing the show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. 895 episodes later, a children’s television show turned into an American classic and cemented Fred Rogers as a legend. (Paragraph references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogers)

    But even more than being the host of an educational kid’s show, Mr. Rogers was:

    Consistent: I’ve never known someone to be the same weight for over thirty years...well Mr. Rogers was! (143 pounds was what the scale showed everyday.) Other daily consistencies include: taking a morning swim, napping every afternoon, and never eating meat. Not to mention his show had the same format from start to finish -- walking in, changing jacket for sweater, lacing shoes, etc.

    Proactive: Fred’s reason for getting into TV was because he disliked TV. The first thing he saw on television was angry people throwing pies at each other. He vowed to make TV better and went into the industry to change it. Instead of just complaining about a problem, he went about trying to fix it.

    Respected: There’s a story that floats around about Mr. Rogers having his car stolen while working. The news of this happening was picked up by the media and within 48 hours, his car magically appearing back in his parking spot with a note reading, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.” He is also credited with saving the VCR and public television simply by testifying before congress.

    Kind: He was a big promoter of tolerance to all people and practiced his good neighbor mantra on camera and off. I remember watching an episode of Candid Camera where they were trying to provoke Mr. Rogers into losing his temper. As hard as they tried, he was understanding and spoke kindly to those who where trying to embrace him.

    I probably know more about Mr. Rogers than I care to admit, but I do hope to follow his example of being consistent, proactive, respected, and kind.

    If your curiosity has been peaked, I encourage you to read more about Fred Rogers by checking out Tom Junod’s incredible article “Can You Say Hero?” It’s worth your time.

    BTW...my favorite Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episode was where he went to the marble factory! What is yours?

  • Good grief!


    **Now, before I seem like a simpleton, I want you to know that I understand the phrase good grief” is a euphemism for “good god” and isn’t meant to be dissected independent of its original meaning. However, I do find it interesting that the association with god is grief...kind of like saying “why god?” (And don’t fret, I’m not planning on doing a word study in this post. I’ll save my nerdiness for other topics.)**

    If you ask me, “good grief” seems like an oxymoron. Throw it in with the living dead, an open secret, and the original copy -- it just doesn’t fit together. Even when it comes from the mouth of an adorable cartoon character like Charlie Brown -- it doesn’t make anymore sense.

    I was just thinking about this phrase in light of current events. You see, my beagle, Elli, a companion of 8½ years died yesterday as the respiratory disease she dealt with finally got the best of her. She was a very special dog and is now absent from the lives of many people who cared for her deeply.

    Right now, loss equals grief -- and it doesn’t feel good.

    But experience has taught me that grief eventually fades. And it doesn’t just fade, it changes into something beautiful. Something full of joy, inspiration, and lasting in spirit.

    This metamorphosis happened after my grandpa’s death a few years ago. While dealing with the heavy thoughts and emotions that accompanied the event, I was able to focus like never before on the things that matter most in life.

    It focused me on the present.
    It convinced me not to waste what I was given.
    It strengthened my convictions.
    It enabled me to love more.
    And It changed my course in life.

    So maybe “good grief” isn’t as much an oxymoron as I originally thought. Maybe grief can be good? Or maybe it’s better stated, “good can come from grief”.

    Either way, if you’re currently going through a time of hardship or loss, I sympathize with you -- IT SUCKS -- but let me lend you a ray of hope that good may come from grief.

  • The 3 Verbs, pt1 "To Live"

    I love the tavern scene in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, where Tevye and Lazar Wolf are  celebrating the wedding arrangement of Tevye’s daughter Tzeitel. They are so overjoyed that they break out in chorus singing about the good times and the bad, but that in this present moment, they should drink “L’chaim” (to life).

    In essence, they were saying that life should be celebrated (or at least embraced) no matter the situation.

    - - - - -

    On March 25, 2012, my job will be to live, discover, & connect inside one of the U.S. states for a year. And to help you understand a little bit more about the nature of this adventure, I’ll be spending this week “Vanna White-ing” the verbs I’m trying to embody.

    The first is “to live”.

    Simply put, my aim is to be absorbed into the state’s unique culture. My plan is to be exposed to a wide variety of people and places while seeking out the things that make this area different than anywhere else. Whether it be the way people speak, their affiliations with religion, art, or the world around them, I’m hoping to jump right in to the middle of it all to become like them.

    Another way to say this, is that by year’s end, I’d like for the people inside the state to consider me one their own. It’s a lofty aspiration, but I think it’s attainable.

    Of course, the meaning behind the word “living” also denotes the idea of sharing. Like Christopher McCandless’ final words in his diary, “happiness is only real when shared”, I think life is only real when shared. So, through a weekly blog, filled with pictures, stories, and observations, along with twenty or more videos throughout the year, I will be sharing this “verb” with you and the world.

    “L’chaim!”

    - - - - -

    I’d like to hear your suggestions on the ways I could best dive in to the culture of any state. Where would you start? Who would you seek out?

    Also, for your enjoyment, a link to the song, “To Life!” http://youtu.be/Vvr8AjT0aD0

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