• 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
      Samsung Galaxy S Cell Phone
      Power strip
      Sleeping Bag
      Pull up bar
      Recorder (Musical Instrument)
      Rook (Card Game)
      Farkel Dice Game
      Tuperware meal containers
      Leatherman Utility Blade
      Safe box
      Dress shirt
      Long sleeve T-shirt
      Polo Shirt
      Cotton Shirt
      Cotton Shirt
      Light Hoodie
      Medium Hoodie
      Heavy Hoodie
      Wool Coat
      Stocking cap
      Under shirt
      Under shirt
      Under shirt
      Running Shorts
      Swimming Trunks
      Hair Trimmer
      Nail clippers
      Knitting Sticks
      Crock pot
      Convection Oven
      Roadside Repair Kit
      Storage bin
      Storage bin
      Moleskin notebook
      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.”


    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?

  • Connecting generations through service

    **Our family laid to rest my grandma this past Monday. She loved helping others, which is why her memory lives on every time I get out and volunteer. I am forever grateful for her example of selfless love and kindness.**

    I started volunteering at the age of eight.

    I don't remember my grandma exactly calling it "volunteering", but that's what it was. She asked me on a Sunday afternoon if I wanted to join her at a nursing home while she lead a small religious service for a group of residents. I'm not sure what my exact response was, but I obviously tagged along. We sang a handful of songs, read an inspirational story or two, and then proceeded to visit with each person there. I remember feeling a little scared, but I knew what we were doing was a good thing and was glad to be there.

    As the years went by, I had the privilege of volunteering side-by-side with all four of my grandparents. We served together in almost all categories of charity and I came away from those times being extremely thankful for my grandparents who seemed to always serve with a ready and cheerful heart.

    If you're looking for a new way to connect with your grandchildren through service, give these three groups a try:

    Animal Rescues :: Working with animals is a great way to heighten the civic interest of almost any younger person. Whether it be walking dogs, socializing with cats, or having a family slumber party with a hedgehog, there's always a fun way make a connection with your family by helping out animals in need.

    Museums / Libraries :: Both of these places have special events throughout the months where you can volunteer together. Look for activities that include arts and crafts, holiday themed celebrations, or set up and tear down (then you can have fun at the event too!).

    Construction Projects :: Search for a group in your area that specializes in home building or repairs for the elderly, disabled, or challenged. Almost all of those groups have experience in using a wide variety of ages to complete projects. Besides positively dealing with a serious community issue, the skills learned will benefit everyone involved for years to come.

    Don't forget that it's best to contact the organization ahead of time to see what their policies are regarding children volunteers and to ask for their advice about children/teenage geared opportunities.

    Smile, take lots of pictures, and expect a ton of good memories!

  • What I think I know about Pennsylvania

    While growing up in Minnesota, with the exception of Disney World, my family only vacationed to the West. We’d cruise across the vast lands taking in the big skies and rugged mountains, we’d go to pioneer ghost towns and walk the cemeteries, we’d bask in the wonder of the natural and man made monuments -- cementing the ideals of the West into my adolescent brain.

    One of those ideals was to see life as an adventure; to search out the unknown. And since I had already been through the West, and I lived in the Midwest, my curiosity naturally peaked when I looked to the East.

    I tried to get my parents to take me to New York City or Boston, but the farthest I got was Michigan (which looked a lot like Minnesota). I realized that I’d have to get there on my own...so I devised a plan to go to college somewhere in the Northeast. One school happened to be outside Philadelphia, PA, and since my folks weren’t going to let me drive out there by myself, I begged my dad to go with me. He agreed. (I think he has the same sense of adventure as I do.)

    We crossed the border and were instantly stunned by how little we knew about the state. We never thought of Pennsylvania being a mountain filled, tree covered place. We never knew the state had so many historical landmarks. We never considered the amount of industry in one place. Needless to say, we were pretty ignorant but pleasantly surprised.

    So, from my limited exposure, here’s what I think I know about Pennsylvania?

    • Philadelphia was, at one time, the nation’s capitol

    • Lancaster County has a ton of Amish

    • The King of Prussia Mall is one of the largest in the world

    • Benjamin Franklin is kind of a big deal

    • Pittsburgh was a steel production leader until the 1980’s

    • The guy on the Quaker Oats container probably came from PA

    • Scrapple is on the secret menu of every restaurant

    • The Office television show is set in Scranton, PA

    • Only one president came from the state, James Buchanan (lifelong bachelor)

    • The Pennsylvania turnpike is also know as the “Tunnel Highway” with five tunnels along the almost 600 mile route

    • Gettysburg was the turning point battle of the Civil War

    • It’s O.K. to order a cheesesteak “wit whiz”

    • There’s a statue of Rocky Balboa on top of the grand staircase leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    I know...this list is laughable and almost indistinguishable from everyone else's idea of Pennsylvania, which is why I’m stoked to be living there an entire year. I can’t wait to be saturated with this enchanted land filled with history, natural beauty, and people who are known throughout the world and to know this state like the locals do.

    What’s your first take on Pennsylvania? What do you associate with it?

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