it’s the most wonderful time of the year

It occurs to me that I haven’t told you anything about my work. Looking at this blog, you might think all I do is volunteer around town, climb mountains, and have TV marathons in blanket forts. And you’d mostly be right. But I do actually have a full-time JVC: Northwest placement, and I’ve been there 5 days a week since August, and I think maybe I should tell you about it.

I spend my afternoons at the Boys and Girls Club. It’s a pretty great gig; the bus pulls up after school and unloads 15-20 kids, who push and shove and peel off raincoats as they wait to add their names to the sign-in sheet. The boys then rush upstairs to the video games and yell about who gets to play first, while the girls make their way to the computers or the art table. Kids: supporting gender stereotypes since at least the 1950s. I give them their snack, and we color, make crafts, play truth or dare (there’s an app for that…because kids can’t come up with silly dares on their own anymore?), do homework, play hangman, talk about their friends, and play pool. I like to think I’m getting pretty good at pool, but my opponents are mostly in elementary school, so that’s probably not accurate.

The midde schoolers show up about 45 minutes later, and they’re fun because they talk to me more. They say things like, “You’re not bad at art…for someone who’s left-handed,” and “I’m naming this gummy bear Ricky Bobby.” They’re already talking about how excited they are for the Valentine’s Day dance. They also make iMovies in which they lampoon Lady Gaga’s songwriting or lipsync to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s really fantastic. I play and laugh with kids every day; they remind me how to be goofy, and in return, I try to give them a safe, happy, supportive place to call their own.

That’s not to say that my job is always easy. Sometimes the kids spill things or call each other names or fight over who gets the computers. Sometimes it’s chaos. Sometimes they’re too good at entertaining themselves, and I’m bored. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how hurtful we human beings can be, even at a young age, but I’m always saved by the joy they find in the little things.

And that’s just how I END my day. Each day starts at the local alternative high school, where I mostly just help out where needed. Lately, I’ve been in the history class, watching the Hunger Games trailer documentaries about the Berlin Wall and helping the students proofread their essays. The school’s about a 20 second walk from my place. I came into this year expecting long daily walks to help me get into shape. False. 20 seconds. Oh, the best laid plans…

Anyway, I felt the need to explain my job to you now for one very simple reason: CHRISTMAS BREAK. You know how working professionals don’t get that long winter break they became accustomed to as students? I DID GET THAT BREAK. I mean, not completely, but sort of. We still opened the club in the afternoons, but my mornings were FREE and OPEN and filled with sleep and giant bowls of cereal and phone calls to friends who live four hours ahead of me. Happy Holidays indeed.

Our break began as all the best breaks do: with cookies. We made more Christmas cookies than I’ve ever seen in one kitchen. Sugar cookies, gingerbread, pumpkin snickerdoodle…heaven. Basically, my little non-chocolate-lovin’ heart was in heaven. I can only assume I was a little too excited about rolling out the dough, because Anne had only three things to say to me: “I feel like we should give you a level,” “I now totally understand why you make your bed in the morning,” and, “I bet you’d be really good at editing your papers.”

What can I say, roomie? English majors don’t quit.

As for Christmas itself, I think this about sums it up.

The slippers were Patrick’s Secret Santa gift for Anne, but they just matched Martine’s ensemble so well that she had to borrow them for a little dance party.

We were allowed to spend money on our Secret Santa gifts, but everyone else’s present had to be free. So I gave…

Martine: yarn for knitting (I was her Secret Santa)

Anne: a homemade picture frame

Kat: a bracelet

Patrick: a compilation of Jack Bristow and Ron Swanson’s most excellent moments, including the complete Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.

And I received…

From Kat, a make-your-own gingerbread house kit

From Martine, a green and gold bracelet (PACKERS!)

From Anne, a collection of Mary Oliver’s poems. Best bedtime reading EVER. Thanks, Secret Santa!

From Patrick, skis.

How does one get skis for free? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

We also enjoyed brunch, a Christmas walk, and a visit from a dog. (Kat was house-sitting).

Typical domestic bliss, holiday-style.

And then it was New Year’s! We volunteered at a concert for local folk music acts, which would have been 10x more enjoyable if it hadn’t happened on New Year’s Eve. This is night to go out dancing and wear something sparkly. Guitars just don’t cut it. So after the show, we “went out dancing” at the Bayview, a local bar & grill, where they celebrated 2012 in style: by pushing all of the tables into a corner and hiring a DJ.  The song choices were simultaneously questionable and fantastic—I’m pretty sure there was a song from Sister Act in the mix.

Anyway, New Year’s Eve got me thinking, and not just about how badly Sitka needs DJs. 2011 was a gift. I graduated from Boston College. I spent spring break and my birthday at Disney World. The Packers won the Super Bowl (and then I followed two of my favorite Packers around Disney all day. Is this not what everyone does in the Happiest Place on Earth?). I spent four weeks at camp, went to LA, danced in a hail storm at Modstock, jumped in the fountain outside Gasson Hall, finished my thesis, went sledding for the first time in my life, read the entire Harry Potter series, saw a play on Broadway, met my four amazing roommates, and was shown so much love by friends both old and new. 2012 has a lot to live up to. I think it’s up to the challenge.

There’s one more thing I thought about on the night of December 31st: time zones. Time zones are always on full display on New Year’s Eve. Newscasters say things like, “And now it’s 2011 in Paris!,” and there are fireworks in Paris and it’s a whole new year over there, and you could be on the Eiffel Tower eating crepes with French guys, but instead you’re on the couch with your little brother and it’s still 2010. (Purely hypothetical scenario. No connection to my actual past experiences.)

Anyway, time zones. My birthday’s on Monday. I was born at 12:30something AM on January 9th…EASTERN STANDARD TIME. So when I was born, it was 8:30something PM in Alaska. It was still January 8th. I have a two-day birthday! This almost makes up for the fact that I can’t spend my birthday at Disney this year. Almost.

In lieu of Disney, please send presents.

Happy 2012, friends! I hope it’s full of fresh starts where you want them, and I hope the good things just keep coming.

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