A Love Note to YAV 2013-2014 (and some other things)

Hi friends! So, life has been crazier than normal. Here's a quick run down on my life in the month of September.

Just a few dates on the calendar...

September 12-14th, PSL Fall Youth Retreat

September 17, I am now 24 years old. Also known as mid-twenties. Weird.

September 18-21, ATX for Becca's Engagement

September 24, I have my first real (bad) adult experience. My house is broke into. Sometimes people suck.

September 25-28, YAV re-entry retreat at Ghost Ranch.

September 29- October 1st, REFOCUS conference at Austin Seminary with fellow youth workers

October 4-5, I sleep for ~ 48 hours straight.

October 14-17, Alexander comes to visit

October 16, Alexander officially gets a job. Celebrations ensue.

My last blog entry was right after Becca's engagement. So I will get started with September 24. Yes, my house was broken into.  And yes, it was pretty terrible. Not only did we (me and my housemates) get cleaned out, it was a serious violation of my space. I was also the one who came home to the burglary. Thankfully I have an amazing host mom through the YAV program who dropped everything and came to the house to be with me while I did the walk through with the cops, called the land lord etc. While I was a firm believer in the mentor program pre-burgulary, I am now a fierce believer. Amy was very helpful throughout the whole process, in the immediate aftermath and continuing through the weeks after. Also, the Kates hedgehog sat for me, which was not in the original plan, but I was not about to leave Penelope in the house while I was gone.

Ghost Ranch (aka YAV Re-entry Retreat)

Now, onto more pleasant things. After you serve a year as a YAV you are invited to attend a re-entry retreat at Ghost Ranch. It is a really great opportunity to process your year through small groups, group therapy (if you want to), individual therapy (again, if you want to), trail hikes, worship and free time with fellow volunteers.  I think about 2/3 of my YAV class came back for re-entry. It's not mandatory, but it is strongly encouraged and you get to go to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for free. I don't have many pictures from the trip, but here are the few I took!

But really, re-entry was awesome. About a million times better than orientation. Seriously. Activities included (but not limited to), using toys to show an intense 'something' that happened during our year (which turned out to be a shockingly insightful activity and yes, Patrick, you can quote me on that). Worshipping together. Dancing together. Late night visits in Casita #9. Late night visits in that random cabin with a weird beam support system. Long conversations fire-side. A half hike to Chimney Rock (what?! I did half of it! That's more than none of it...). Coyotes. Seeing a billion stars every night. Making friends with some of the local transportation (the horses were very kind, but not very photogenic with their fly masks on). Hearing stories from the Philippines, Peru, Miami, North Ireland (to name a few) and sharing my own stories from New Orleans. 

There were 5 women, including myself in my small group. Our small group leader, Patrick, is attending Columbia seminary right now. Abby served in the Philippines, Sarah was in Northern Ireland, Michelle served in Miami and Mary Kate (a fellow Grace Presbytery volunteer) lived in Peru. Patrick was a YAV a few years back in Northern Ireland. Once a YAV always a YAV, I suppose.  Here are their blogs if you want to see what they were up to all year...

Update! Just got these amazing pictures from Michelle. She gets full credit for having her GoPro and using it and taking these adorable pictures of the small group we were in at Ghost Ranch...

This is what I know to be true, we all had extremely different experiences. We all grew, granted we all grew in very different ways, but I don't think any of us finished out the year saying "Hm, well I'm pretty much the same as I was when I started". Some of the growing was painful, some of it was challenging, some of it was freeing. I can also tell you this, despite our vastly different experiences with the culture, our work placement, our faith, even our personalities we could all relate to one another. I think that's why re-entry was so meaningful to me. You're surrounded by people who just get it. I know, I know, that sounds kind of crazy. Or pretentious. Or both. But it's true! It like we all have matching tattoos... on our hearts (ok, that was too much, I just had to try it out and see, but let's just pretend I didn't write that sentence...). I am actually very serious when I say that we are all connected. There was a lot of commiserating and "Oh yeah, I know what you mean" happening in our conversations. And what better place to commiserate than in one of the most beautiful places ever in infinity (on a completely separate note, I could definitely live in New Mexico and do ceramics for the rest of my life)? I almost didn't go to re-entry. As you can see from the beginning of this post, my September was packed full. I'm really glad I did. I walked away filled and energized and, despite some grumpy mumbling the last day of our retreat, excited about what is happening in the world and in the church (but let me be clear, if I ever hear the "oh she's just a YAV" as a reason not to take me seriously, I will not so gently comment about your character to your face).

Also, I got to know the wonderfully awesome Emily Warren. We may be soul mates in a past life, or maybe just soul mates in this life. Here is her vlog about the retreat... 

One final note about Ghost Ranch. We spent a lot of the retreat exploring ways to express ourselves and share our experiences. Big surprise, writing was one for me. I've been journaling since I was in 6th grade. Legit. Also, ceramics. Best life sustaining practice I've (re)picked up since I moved to New Orleans. That being said, I have slacked miserably on the whole creative writing thing. I just invested in microsoft word ($$$-- ughhhh) solely because I am serious about getting back into the writing game. Encourage me? Ask me to write you something? It takes a village, people! 


I got home from Ghost Ranch at midnight and flew out to Houston at 7 AM to get a ride to the REFOCUS conference at Austin Seminary the next day. Because when the going gets tough the tough keep going, which is not really the saying, but I like to think of myself as tough on occasion. The conference was great. I got to visit with a group of about 16 youth workers. All of them were from Texas, and most of them have years of experience. There was a lot of comparing notes, talking about our own experiences, sharing what works and what doesn't. We also spent some time exploring the idea of helping youth find a vocation. It was a great experience, I am so glad I had the opportunity to attend. I felt like I was in a youth workers think tank for a few days. I could say more but I feel like I used up most of verbosity for the Ghost Ranch bit. If you want to learn more about REFOCUS, let me know! Oh, and I got to see my cousin Matt for dinner. I had pho, it was amazing. I don't have any pictures from the trip, but here are a couple gems of Matt because, why not:

Matt as an adult.

And this adorable #tbt, Matt is on the left.

Alexander comes to New Orleans (and gets a job)

Coincidence? I think not. Alexander, Valentina and I all went to the Fly and had some celebratory champagne. Also, we got to play with this random puppy that came over to visit.

Valentina loves puppehs...

... and puppehs love her.

I spent 10 whole dollars on the champagne,
because this needed to be properly celebrated.

Even the dog got in on the celebration!

We continued the celebration at 12 Mile Limit, where Alexander
read aloud passage from the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records.
And that gets us well into October. Thanks for bearing with me, this was a bit longer than I had initially planned. Until then, give the Alabama Shakes a listen. Blast "On Your Way" while you're speeding down a highway. Feel good.



  1. FINALLY got a chance to read this! You are so great! I hope things have settled down in NOLA ��


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