100 Hours of Poverty: Recap

fried eggs breakfast

A simple/cheap/healthy breakfast (photo via Pixabay)

One of the things I love about St. John’s, which I’ve probably mentioned a dozen times already, is its Vincentian traditions. I have learned a lot about social justice during my time here.

One program Campus Ministry hosts that I always thought was interesting is called “100 Hours of Poverty.” Each participant commits to living for 100 hours on $18.49, which is less than $0.19 an hour, or $4.44 per day. This is the budget of an individual currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. This year, I was the first to sign up to participate in what I thought would be an interesting challenge.

Here are five lessons that I learned:

1. It wasn’t convenient.

It was actually a terrible week to try this. I was overcommitted, I was away for the weekend and didn’t have time to pre-cook meals, and on and on. But experiencing real poverty is never convenient either, and so I stuck it out.

2. It was more difficult than I anticipated.

My family tends to very, very frugally–no haircuts, no pedicures, etc.–and I know how to cook very cheaply, so I was surprised at how difficult the challenge turned out to be. I was restricted by circumstances, and so are the majority of those who are using these benefits.

3. I failed on Thursday, and I was lucky.

One of the things with 3 or 4 a.m. production nights is that on Wednesday, I generally do fine. I have a long morning class and then a long block of work in the afternoon. But on Thursdays, when I have a 7:30 class and a fuller day, I tend to crash. During the week of the challenge, I crashed and burned in a major way on Thursday. I ended up in such a funk and so after class I grabbed a bagel (about $1.50, which wasn’t enough to put me overbudget by itself but combined with my other food it did), worked my last shift and then headed home to crash instead of going to my evening meetings. I think I ended up spending $6 or $7 on food that day.

I am fortunate: I have that extra $3 to spend if I need it. Going over my budget had no real consequences. If I was really experiencing poverty, that $3 might have meant no bus fare, or no heat, or no food the next day, or any number of other negative consequences. 

4. Resources matter.

Being on a food-stamp budget if you know how to cook, are used to living frugally, have access to plenty of ingredients and a real kitchen and have time to cook from scratch is entirely different from living on this budget if you are out of the house 12 hours a day, or if you don’t know how to cook much, or if you don’t have a kitchen.

One of the things that struck me while working with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers for a week last year was that many of the people they serve tend to purchased fast food or processed food, not because they want to, but because they have no other option–for example, if they live in a shelter where if anything there is a microwave and maybe, maybe, a fridge. Or, they can’t get to the store to buy food regularly and have to purchase things that won’t spoil, like in my hometown where it’s unusual to live within walking distance of a store and there is no public transportation.  

5. I can do better. 

I know I can do better at eating well on a budget, and this challenge made that starkly apparent. I’ve tried to improve in many small ways over the last few weeks. 

For example, I’m boiling eggs ahead of time so that I can just grab one in the morning. I bought a loaf of bread and have toast as a nice quick snack instead of coming home starving and eating Nutella out of the jar (TMI?). I’ve been more conscientious about cooking ahead and freezing meals to bring to school during the week. I’ve been adding canned veggies or tuna to pasta and rice dishes to stretch them and make sure I get protein and green things. I make a pot of coffee in the morning nearly every day so I don’t buy it at school. If I need coffee during the school day, I get a plain black coffee for less than half the price of my preferred cappuccino, and I save the cup to get a cheap or free refill. 

All in all? 100 hours of poverty didn’t change my life in any big way. However, I’m glad I went through with it, and it’s been a great catalyst to remind me to pray for the poor (and volunteer when I can) and be more mindful of how I use my own resources. 

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Bonus: This cookbook is fantastic! Eating well on $4 a day. 

Shoutout to Mama C., who is spending Tuesday assembling/distributing food baskets for Thanksgiving. Go MUMC!

The song on my mind while I was writing this.

Weekly Wishes #6

Another week over, and a new one just begun….oh wait, that’s a Christmas carol. In honor of my mother, I’ll hold off until Thanksgiving for that.

A war memorial in Battery Park.

A war memorial in Battery Park.

Last week I wanted to:

  • Finish some articles I’ve been working on and write for the blog as well
  • Successfully complete 100 Hours of Poverty, a challenge we’re doing at school where you live for 100 hours on the budget of someone who is on food assistance. 
  • Get enough sleep and enjoy a week where I don’t have too much going on!

And I was moderately successful! As you can see, I blogged more than I have in a long time, I completed the poverty challenge (post to come?) reasonably successfully and I woke up for my 7:30 class this morning without a struggle.

One major problem with my week is that Monday and Tuesday are busy, and Tuesday is production night for the paper, which too often means I’m working until 3 or 4 a.m. This is NOT SUSTAINABLE, and when it happens the rest of my week is pretty much shot because I’m too tired to do anything beyond the bare minimum properly. I’m not sure how I’m going to solve this yet, and we only have three more to go this semester, but it’s clear I have to work on it.

The Nectar Collective

THIS WEEK my goals are:

  • Do something with the blog that makes me happy, whether that’s a post, a widget, or just playing around.
  • Set deadlines and get organized for my next round of magazine articles that are due
  • Go through my closet and find a more sustainable organizational system than what I have going on.

Bonus: here are some wonderful things I found this week!

#NYCin3Words: Ten Dollar Cookie (also: chocolate world)

It was a long, long week, so last night, I turned to chocolate. 

Namely, Max Brenner’s Chocolate World, a fairly well-known restaurant that was on my NYC bucket list and that I’d never visited.

chocolate worldLet me clarify something about this restaurant for you: THERE IS CHOCOLATE PLUMBING ON THE CEILING.

So that’s very exciting. What was not exciting was the fact that everything was slightly overpriced, namely the chocolate-chip cookie for $9.95, which only in New York would be seen as even somewhat acceptable. This reminded me of the #NYCin3Words hashtag, which has been trending for a couple of days and is worth spending a little time scrolling through. It’s always interesting to see what people have to say.

max brenner chocolateAnyway, back to the restaurant review.

Max Brenner was interesting, a little too touristy (lines were out the door the entire time we were there, and the wait sans reservation was about 90 minutes), and a little too expensive for my taste.

chocolate towers yumHowever, the fondue-for-two, which we split among three, was fantastic. Not least because it involved these “chocolate towers.”

fondue for twoIt was “European,” which apparently means it did not come with peanut butter or “tutti-frutti cake,” and delicious. There were even marshmallows and a little burner thing on which to roast them.

instagram chocolate pots yum foodMmmm.

 Takeaways: Max Brenner’s is okay. A restaurant devoted to chocolate is fantastic. I can’t afford to drink in this city. Also, I’m happy to have crossed something off the bucket list. 

A Window into the Work of an Artist

So a few weeks ago I got the chance to interview a lady who makes stained-glass windows. Seriously, how cool is that?

The piece I wrote was never published elsewhere, and since it’s that kind of day where I spilled coffee on my skirt and got hit in the face twice before 10:30 a.m., what better time to post already-written content. Enjoy!

 

Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nichols

Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nicolas, but still pretty.

 

Stained glass is in Sylvia Nicolas’ blood.

Slight and soft-spoken, Nicolas is the fourth generation of artists in her family to specialize in stained-glass windows. On family road trips across Europe, Nicolas, who is originally from the Netherlands, said that her parents would stop in every church they passed to admire the artwork.

Nicolas spoke at St. John’s University last Wednesday about her experience designing and painting the stained-glass windows in St. Thomas More Church. The event was hosted by Campus Ministry and was planned in conjunction with the 20th annual Founder’s Week celebration and the 10th anniversary of the dedication of St. Thomas More Church.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nichols' work in the background.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nicolas’ work in the background.

 

Nicolas was first approached by St. John’s about four years before the church was built, but when she discovered that there was a competition for the design of the windows she lost interest.

“I never do competitions, because I like my colleagues much too much,” she said.

However, she had an outline on her desk of the shape of one of the windows, and she began doodling on it. Eventually, the entire outline was full, and she began to color it in.

“Finally I’d drawn the whole thing,” Nicolas said.

When she began to officially design the windows, she estimates that she spent about a year and a half working on the project, which began with the four large windows at the top of the sanctuary, which depict the four gospels, and expanded to add 15 additional windows that now ring the edge of the circular space. 

Nicolas first draws and colors a detailed design for each window. She then plans how the window will look at scale, accounting for the bars of lead that must run through the glass at intervals to add stability. If a face or another important feature falls along one of these lines, she explained, the drawing must be altered.

 When the design is finished, a full-size cartoon is created and used as a pattern for cutting the glass pieces, which are then painted. The window is assembled and fired by a studio that Nicolas works with in Mount Vernon, New York, and the glass is covered in a layer of black matte. Nicolas scrapes away the black matte to reveal the designs underneath, and uses it to create depth and shadow in her work.

“Once I start working I work very intensely and very hard,” Nicolas said. “With painting on the glass, I get so carried away it’s hard to stop. Every time things come alive.”

 Nicolas, who resides in Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, spoke to a crowd of about 250 students and others inside the church. She gave a short description of her work, which was followed by a question and answer session and a light reception.

“Seeing them again is a great pleasure,” Nicolas said. “This is wonderful.”

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How cool is that?! I love churches and looking at the windows, and I had no idea just how much went into designing one.

The Official NYC Bucket List

Photo/Pixabay

Photo/Pixabay

I can’t believe I probably only have seven short months left in the Greatest City in the World. Although I’m ready to move out (spending entirely too much money to share an apartment with four to six other people is getting old fast), I know there’s so much more to take advantage of, and over the next few months I hope to get a whole lot crossed off of my bucket list.

Here’s what I want to see, do, and eat in the next semester and a half:

  • The third part of the High Line. I did the first two earlier this fall with Allie, and the third segment was opened just a couple of weeks after we went!
  • The 9/11 memorial.
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate
  • Max Brenner’s chocolate world
  • A rooftop bar
  • The United Nations
  • The Guggenheim, one of the only major museums I have yet to visit here
  • The Cloisters
  • St. John the Divine
  • Grimaldi’s pizzeria
  • All of the places in this Buzzfeed article
  • Go ice-skating. I like to ice-skate, but I have never gotten the chance to go here!

Stay tuned!!!

Weekly Wishes #5

The Nectar Collective
Like a true journalist, I have mostly emerged, mostly unscathed, from the crippling pile of deadlines that overwhelmed me last week.
This week I want to:
  • Finish some articles I’ve been working on and write for the blog as well
  • Successfully complete 100 Hours of Poverty, a challenge we’re doing at school where you live for 100 hours on the budget of someone who is on food assistance. 
  • Get enough sleep and enjoy a week where I don’t have too much going on!

I think I can accomplish that! What do you want to get done this week?

Dogs in Costumes. Yes. (The NYC Halloween Dog Parade)

If you follow me on Pinterest, you know that freshman year, peak Pinterest-using time, I was very into dogs and babies wearing outfits. And for good reason! Everyone knows that putting a dog in a costume pretty much just ups their adorability factor into infinity.

So when I discovered that there is a doggie Halloween Parade, right here in New York, I knew I had to go. This is truly the land of opportunity, folks.

IMG_2811Cause where else can you see a dog scout, complete with two humans ALSO dressed as scouts?!

It was a little bit of a disorganized mess, but then again, so is the Greenwich Village Halloween parade, and that one has humans.

IMG_2791The time of day meant that the light was really difficult, but it was so worth the squinting to capture pictures of A DOG DRESSED AS A NINJA TURTLE.

IMG_2795The owners were almost as interesting as the pups.

IMG_2783This princess went all out, with her own float, crown and human attendant.

IMG_2826This little guy was Paddington Bear. How cute!

IMG_2779A corgi. Dressed as Shake Shack. I know, your hearts are melting.

IMG_2832Where’s Waldog…

IMG_2829…a pirate ship…

IMG_2836And a million people taking photographs.

IMG_2819THIS little thing (she was seriously tiny) is Chloe Kardoggian on Instagram, and her owner uses her to promote adoption of senior dogs. I love this idea, and I’ve been trying to convince the Boyfriend that when we get a dog (in our dreams) we should get a senior one who is more in need of a home and likely already trained.

IMG_2854AND THEN I found this little guy, who is @oxdad on Instagram. He is a partially paralyzed little pup but as you can see, he certainly doesn’t let that stop his fabulosity!

IMG_2797This gives you an idea of how crowded Tompkins Square Park became!

Also: Ross the Intern was hosting, puppies were available for adoption (I WISH) and I explored a neighborhood I hadn’t visited before with my #1 partner in crime, Allie. It was a pretty ideal (and Pinterest-perfect) Saturday.

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This post brought to you by: the three articles, three papers and numerous small assignments due this week, from which I needed a break. Thank you to our sponsors* pretzels, Starbucks medium roast and Nutella.

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*not really sponsored, but I wish I was.

Scenes from the day Pope Francis married 20 couples

Read about this historic event:

I didn’t see the whole ceremony, but I did witness some of the vows from the square outside. I also got a few pictures from the behind-the-scenes, as we were standing behind the church after the Mass.

Have a beautiful Thursday! I’m so excited for the long weekend.

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An intricate gateway: St. Peter’s Basilica is on the left.

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The brides and grooms boarded these buses after the ceremony, in the shadow of the Virgin Mary.

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The back entrance of the basilica before the Mass ended.

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The pope’s crest rendered in flowers. I loved seeing this because it reminded me of seeing Pope Benedict’s crest being weeded out before the conclave!

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Members of the choir skip on their way out of St. Peter’s Basilica after Mass.

 

Between the Vatican and the Gardens

I was excited to tour the Vatican Gardens on my recent trip to Rome, as tickets are expensive and I didn’t have a chance to go when I studied there. However, due to the pope’s schedule that day, we were unable to do the full tour and instead got a guided tour of Vatican City in general.

Enjoy these photos from behind the scenes!

IMG_2570Instead of the actual gardens, we saw these gardens, where vegetables are grown.

IMG_2566A view across Rome from the top of a hill.

IMG_2563Also up there was this really cool pirate ship fountain.

IMG_2565 IMG_2560

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This tower is one of the oldest buildings in Vatican City. IMG_2569It contains this staircase that was built for horses to be able to carry riders to the top, like a primitive stairlift chair.

IMG_2575This beautiful courtyard ramp connects to the back of the Vatican Library/Archives and a parking lot. I was lucky to get a photograph without being run over by a Fiat.

“Love generates faith, and faith sustains love.” –Archbishop Rino Fischichella, of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

I have a few more photos on this theme to share tomorrow.