Greater Love

I feel spring coming!!!

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The days have been sunny and warm here, and this week it’s supposed to get up to a high of 63*F! Bye, snow. You were fun for 12 hours.

This weekend, I went on a retreat with the Boston University Catholic Center to Kennebunkport, Maine (which is where “the way life should be” according the state border sign). The theme of the retreat was Greater Love, a theme intended to help the attendees understand and grow more deeply into a truly loving relationship with God, with themselves, and with others.

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Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13

We often ask ourselves what love is, where to find it authentically, and whether it will last. From a Christian/Catholic perspective, phrases such as, “God is love,” and “Jesus loves you,” are often thrown around, which is great, because both statements are absolutely true. But knowing those truths cerebrally is very different from encountering them personally. This weekend was about both aspects— learning and experiencing the Love that is greater than all else, God Himself.

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This retreat was a little different from all my last retreats (herehere, here and here), because this time I was on the retreat team as the skits producer. Basically, during every retreat there are a few skits throughout the weekend to help animate the theme. I won’t get into much detail, but the actors (i.e. my friends who kindly volunteered to act) delivered hilarious, thoughtful, powerful skits, and I cannot thank them enough for giving their time and effort for the glory of God.

And now for some other nuggets of wisdom from the weekend about L-O-V-E. Huge thanks to Fr. Mark Murphy for being our insightful speaker this retreat!

“We are most authentically human when we give ourselves in love.” – Fr. Murphy

Fr. Murphy also said, “Charity always requires difficult things.” In other words, love is sacrificial. If God sacrificed Himself out of love for us, there is no way that we can love without sacrifice as well. But the difficulty that love requires is nothing compared to the peace and true freedom it yields.

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the coolest retreat directors in all the land

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channeling our inner “From This Moment On” Shaina Twain 

Love is not just a feeling; it is an act of the will. Emotions are a gift, and they can point us towards authentic love, but they are not everything. If people loved others in word and deed only when they felt like it, marriage and friendship would never ever work. It only works if you choose to love every day, sometimes despite your feelings or lack thereof.

shoutout to the kitchen staff at the retreat house! thank you for the delicious food all weekend!

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Angelica, one of the stars of skit team

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Charity is love of God above all else for His sake, and it is love of neighbor out of love for God. – Fr. Murphy

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God speaks silence. – St. Padre Pio

Get rid of the noise and clamor for a bit and let the gentle and loving God speak to you in the silence. Just you and Him. It’s all He longs for.

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Dan, another star on skit team

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“There isn’t any torture that you couldn’t suffer for the souls God has entrusted to your care.” – Fr. Murphy

In other words, suffering has value if you are willing to offer it to God out of trust and love. He will give you the strength to suffer for the sake of other souls, even if you don’t currently see why you’re suffering or who you’re suffering for or when the suffering will end. Suffering sucks, but how beautiful it is that God chooses to entrust us with suffering for the sake of His children.

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“He’s just so sausage-y!”

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The means of holiness is already there in the Church — it is Jesus Christ. – Fr. Murphy

The Church has good people in it. It also has people in it who do terrible things. The bottom line is that the Church has sinful humans in it, but Jesus Christ is always good, no matter what His children do.

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The more the soul lowers itself in prayer, the more the Lord lifts it up. – St. Teresa of Avila

The more we recognize our lowliness, the more God will raise us up to Himself.

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Acknowledgement of the truth is authentic humility. – Fr. Murphy

It is the truth that we are weak and sinful. It is the truth that God is Love and Truth itself and that we need Him. Acknowledgement of who we are and who we are not is authentic humility.

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Contemporary people learn more from other people’s witness than from their words. When people do learn from others’ words, it’s because of their witness. – Fr. Murphy

Basically, don’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk in order for people to learn from you and to know that what you stand for is good and true.

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best friend tradition ♥︎ 

We have a God who prefers littleness. – Fr. Murphy

God, the Creator of the universe, came as a little infant to a little manger in a little town called Bethlehem. He loves our littleness and comes to us when we feel the most insignificant and least powerful in the world.

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retreat team family photo (aka one of my most favorite pics of all time)

Fr. Murphy told us a beautiful story about an elderly married couple. The wife was bedridden and crippled, and her husband took care of her lovingly every day. The husband told Fr. Murphy that he loved her more in those bedridden and crippled days than he did on the day he married her.

This is because when you love someone who is crippled, bedridden and most helpless, your sacrificial love is most pure. Your love is the greatest because you are giving of yourself despite the other person’s inability to give back. It’s the same thing with the Church and with the world. When the Church is most broken and helpless (like it is today), that is when we love her and care for her most purely.

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~contemplative~

Thank you so much to all who made retreat possible. You are all stellar humans.

This is the most faith-filled post I’ve written in quite a while. I plan on addressing how my blog space has changed recently (in case you haven’t noticed it yet), but when God makes His way into your life, ya just have to talk about Him everywhere. He’s on the brain, on the heart.

If there’s one thing you can take away from this post, it is that you are loved so deeply by Love Himself. If you need more on that, check this out ➔ He thirsts for you.

And I LOVE YOU!!!

So tell me:

What is love? (← big question, but let’s chat!)

One beautiful thing you experienced this past week.

Other things on your heart that you’d like to share. Let’s get cozy.

Current Simple Joys

Life is hectic and cluttered enough, so let’s keep things simple today.

current simple joys

Snow days.

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{last Thursday}

Making waffles with my roommate on said snow day.

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and glasses of milk in mason jars

Ecstatic Californian friends who have never experienced a snow day before (@Sarah).

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crooked smiles because I’m pretty sure the left side of my face was frozen

Sipping hot cocoa and talking about the mystery of the universe with friends after coming inside from the frigid cold.

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Situations/statements that make me or someone else laugh like an idiot.

When people do spot-on impressions of other people.

Workout dates with Christina.

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Followed by lunch dates + good lighting for food photos.

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@ Mei Mei’s Street Kitchen – we shared corn fritters…

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…and I got a classic double awesome 

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When my best friend gets me a piece of carrot cake with a glass o’ milk at the dining hall.

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Waking up after less than 7 hours of sleep but still feeling alert.

Bending over to stretch and letting blood rush to my head after a long day.

Perfect avocados.

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Which turn into perfect avocado egg toasts.

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When hundreds of gross anatomy flashcards pay off.

Friends who are undyingly loving of one another.

Gelato on sale.

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Painting my nails while studying.

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Standing close to the stage for an acoustic concert with my best friend.

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Hailey Knox opened – she is insanely talented!!!

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just supporting my close pals

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they are incredible ♥︎ 

Discovering a new song to play on repeat.

Breakfast that’s already made.

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Having pockets of time to move and groove in some way every day.

Mountains of guacamole.

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not a joy – stomach ache after eating this whole thing #whoops

FaceTiming with the family.

Having something to look forward to this weekend (retreat + long weekend + Rachel turning 21!).

So tell me:

Three current simple joys in your life!

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m Happier Without Instagram

SNOW DAY!!!

It’s been two years since our last snow day here at BU. The last time this happened, we were experiencing snowpocalypse and had 5 snow days on almost every Monday of the week from January-February.

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#tbt

Someone noted that the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year also…

Yesterday it was sunny and warm, except for the morning when I got to ice skate to dance class. This is actual footage of me walking  perilously penguin shuffling across the frozen-over bridge.

I have never more greatly appreciated the function of salt on the sidewalks.

From salt and snow to INSTAGRAM. (#NoSegueNoProblem #BloggerLife)

I’ve been on a break from (what used to be) my favorite social media platform for over a month now. I miss it sometimes as I’m not “in the loop” with health living bloggers and friends as much anymore, but I can’t say that I truly miss it. In fact, I dare say that I am much happier without Instagram.

The main reason for which I am happier is that Instagram was a comparison trap for me, whether I liked to admit it or not, and now I’ve finally cut it out of my life. This mostly applies to fitness. I am much more content with my workouts (vs. thinking about the workout that someone else posted on Instagram today), and I’m less concerned about what my body looks like on a day to day basis.

The temptation to obsess over comments, likes, followers and notifications is gone.

I feel incredibly liberated in not having any social media icons on my phone. I don’t mindlessly pick up my phone to check notifications anymore. My right thumb also feels less fatigued due to less scrolling (true story).

My attention span has probably improved.

I don’t crave noise as much anymore. In fact, I find myself craving silence, which never used to happen.

I take fewer photos, which might be more of an advantage for my friends/family than it is for me.

I just have more brain space without Instagram.

Disclaimers: I do still have Facebook, because it’s a practical way to stay in touch with people and organize school events. Plus, the temptation to scroll on FB isn’t as great as it is on Instagram. Also, I’m not at all saying that everyone will be happier without Instagram. I just know for myself that Instagram has more negative than positive effects on my life.

I’m only a little bit sad to be admitting all of this. I did enjoy sharing workouts and tidbits of life, but I don’t need it, and others don’t need my Instagram presence. I’d say a personal blog is enough of me in the world wide web.

Other scenes from the week:

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an evening with the brachial plexus

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check out this pristine sky on the day I gave my first campus tour in 8 months!

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one thing I like + one thing I like substantially less

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banana bread baked oatmeal with pb + glass o’ milk

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Thrive Market delivery! 

Some moves and grooves I was diggin’ these past two weeks:

// Lower Body Supersets //

  • 3×10 squats
  • 3×20 jump squats
  • 3×10 deadlifts
  • 3×30 side jump lunges
  • 3×3 wall walks
  • 3×10 box jumps

// Hillary’s 400 Heavy Rep Workout //

// 45 Minute Fightmaster Vinyasa Yoga //

// AMRAP and EMOM //

12 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):

  • 6 pistol squats each leg
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 situps

10 min EMOM (every minute, on the minute):

10 min EMOM:

  • Even: 20 hamstring ball curls
  • Odd: 20 KB swings

// Fitness Blender 20 Minute Abs and Obliques Workout //

// 16 Minute Workout //

4 rounds, 30 seconds work, 10 seconds rest

Stay safe and warm if you’re in the snow storm! Enjoy your pre-Friday, friends ♥︎

So tell me:

Have you ever taken a break from social media and discovered that you’re happier?

Is it snowing where you live?

Three things about your week!

Your favorite way you’ve moved this week.

Commitment Issues

How ’bout them Patriots!?

If we’re being 100% honest, I left to study anatomy after Lady Gaga’s (EPIC) halftime show. #WorstBostonian. Megan and I got live updates via our screaming neighbors though.

So about these commitment issues. (No, there is no boy.) I talked about “operation: say yes” while I was studying abroad in Dublin, and that worked pretty well there, but I still have trouble committing to just about everything in my life.

Back story: Last week I had an unnecessarily rough time with a TWO page response paper for my religion class. My task was to answer “What is the role of ‘religion’ in medicine, if any?” in approximately 500 words, and it took me a total of six. hours.

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I texted Rachel telling her that I could punch a wall (I was literally yelling and shedding a tear or two when Megan wasn’t in the room), because I just could not for the life of me form my thoughts into a coherent TWO PAGE ESSAY. Luckily for me though, Rachel is a stellar best friend and competent paper editor who cuts all the crap.

Alison, I feel like you’re not committing to your argument, which, considering yourself, is not hard to believe.

Long story short: Rachel helped sort my thoughts and taught me that I just need to commit, not just in my paper arguments but in my LIFE.

Commit to social events. Commit to times and places. Commit to my ideas. Commit to my thoughts and words.

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I always commit to peanut butter though

I waste so much time (like those 6 hours on a two page paper) teetering back in forth in my mind about whether I should do something or say something, because I am (often subconsciously) terrified of commitment. I don’t want to be wrong. I (ironically) don’t want to waste my time if I make the “wrong” choice of plans. I want to please everyone all at the same time.

I felt like God was yelling at me to learn about commitment last week, because two different priests spoke beautiful words of wisdom that helped me realize my commitment issues.

  • Our Catholic Center priest, Fr. Barnes, spoke one day about how we shouldn’t overthink when choosing between two good things. For example, if you are choosing between helping a sick friend or making sandwiches for people who are homeless, you don’t need to mull over the decision forever. Just PICK ONE, because they’re both good, and you’re wasting time thinking about which one is the “right thing to do” when you could just be doing it. Fr. Barnes said, “God will bless it,” whichever you choose.
  • I was listening to a podcast by Fr. Mike Schmitz (← cannot recommend enough), and he said,

“God’s will is always something you know, because God always speaks in clarity…We have this weird idea that God tries to hide his will…I think we’re more interested in getting rid of the anxiety of making a big decision…God’s not waiting for you to answer a question he hasn’t asked yet…If it’s not absolutely clear what God wants and doesn’t want, then just move!”

In other words, just commit to what you know is good and right in that moment. If what you choose ends up being terrible, then hey, it’s called life and you learn from it.

And so I’ve tried to put this all into practice.

Should I go to the gym with Christina (@foodietunes) on a whim in between my classes?

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I only had time for a 14 minute workout and didn’t get to shower before my next class (did have deodorant though, so I wasn’t putrid), but I committed and had a blast with this chick. We practiced handstands to Aaron Carter’s new song to finish our workouts 🙂

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Should I go out and buy mozzarella and tomato to cook caprese chicken even though my basil is dying? (Seriously, this could become a big dilemma for me.)

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Um, yes. This was a fantastic idea. I set aside time to grocery shop and cook this properly (committed to using the grill AND the broiler), and it was one of the best things I’ve cooked in a while.

Should I spend a few hours on Saturday night with my girl friends?

Get your work done, Alison, and commit to this time with your friends (I am known to flake at the last minute for social gatherings).

Man, was this worth it. We talked, snacked, played Just Dance…

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…did (a single) square partner pushup…

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…and played the laughing game.

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Immediately after this was taken I said, “Wait why are we holding hands!? Ew, guys.” #waytoocheesy

Should Megan and I commit to making football-shaped scones for the Super Bowl party? 

Megan pitched the idea as a half-joke, but I took the idea and ran. We committed, bought the ingredients, and made our favorite British baked good.

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“football-shaped” is just one interpretation

As Rachel reminded me several times, scones are not a situationally-appropriate food for the Super Bowl, but they were still a hit!

I’ve been committing to other, more important things than scones, but my point is that I am at a point in my life where I need to improve my decision-making skills, overthink a bit less, and trust in myself a bit more (only because I know that God has entrusted me with knowledge and skills).

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Hope you all have a wonderful Monday!

So tell me:

Do you have commitment issues?

Thoughts on the Super Bowl? (I have none to share because I didn’t really watch it.)

What was the best thing you did this weekend?

And Just Like That, I Got Busy

Leave it to me to make a 12-credit schedule feel like a 20-credit schedule.

I feel like the busyness dial went from 1 to 100 in the past week, but I cannot complain. I don’t have that much time to write this (sleep is calling), but I thought I’d share some of the things that are filling up my days this spring semester!

I bought a 5-class pass for a modern dance class in Cambridge, since the dance class I usually take on campus was under-enrolled this semester. I don’t care that I have to pay extra and walk 35 minutes to and from the dance class, because this girl wants to DANCE.

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walking with this view ain’t bad

Last week, a couple of my dear friends were sick up the wazoo, so they needed a lot of TLC. My friend Sarah and I made Rachel loads of chicken noodle soup. And then poor Sarah needed some Gatorade and crackers a few days later… 😦

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Megan is a fantastic roommate for many reasons. She cleans things when I’m not around, helps me study for gross anatomy, and teaches me how to properly use chopsticks, because I’m the worst Asian and have never actually used chopsticks correctly (I cross them when I use them).

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this method never worked for me until last week when a Pennsylvania Irish girl taught this Chinese-Laotian banana how to do things right

She also shares her desserts with me.

brownie pudding in a crockpot, black raspberry ice cream, and a buttercream frosting sugar cookie from a box that her mom sent her ♥︎ 

And lastly, she doesn’t judge me when I eat banana something for the 3rd time in a single day.

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banana bread mug cake via Running with Spoons

I went to the dining hall for the first time in eight months last week, and it was fun being in the world of endless buffet again.

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I am working again, which involves cooking up a HURRICANE for my bosses. Last week I made them meatloaf, salmon, baked chicken parm, tuna salad, barley risotto, and roasted veggies. Yes, it did take forever. Yes, I did taste every single one of them.

I will be killing more trees this semester than I ever have in a single semester. Gross anatomy requires all the printing of notes and all the flashcards.

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Megan and I had a Dublin reunion with our lovely friend Cristen this weekend! She goes to a different school, so we met up in Boston for an Italian lunch. (Megan and I miss Italy so much.)

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Megan and I were pretty darn hungry, so we split a meatball panini + side salad…

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…and ordered our own pasta dishes. I got the spaghetti all’amatriciana (tomato sauce with pork cheek, onions, and pecorino cheese HOLY MOLY). 

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it was so good catching up with Cristen! 🙂

Other reasons why I fail as an Asian: I had no dim sum on Chinese New Year. Instead, I ate pasta, meatballs, and pizza. #identitycrisis?

National peanut butter day was last week, and I didn’t even know until Cristen texted me to remind me. Every day is national peanut butter day to me, so it all melds together.

I’ve gotten a couple great gym workouts in this past week + some much-needed yoga/walking days. Check out this intention wall in our gym!

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And all the diversity of intentions…

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“cry less” … “← same”

We had a SEEK reunion on Saturday night, and one of the activities was eating pizza with RULES. We were all numbered off 1, 2, or 3. Ones couldn’t feed themselves their own pizza, twos couldn’t touch their own beverages, and threes couldn’t touch their own napkins. Everyone had to help each other. I was a one, so Fiona and Rachel kindly fed me my pizza (which made me slow down significantly and appreciate each bite).

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“pizza me”

There have been a lot of meetings with some great people and one okay dog.

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our priest’s dog making himself very comfortable behind Rachel in the middle of our meeting

Apartment living has been a little more time-consuming than dorm life, but I’m loving it.

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Although I have to remember that I’m not grocery shopping for a family of four anymore. I may have bought a huge box of salad greens that could feed 10 people. Hence the green in every food I make these days.

Lastly, I’ve tried to make time for reflection, prayer, and good conversation in all my days. I could take the extra hour (or two) to study, but I know that I will not be well overall if I continuously go without filling my soul.

Alright I really need to go to sleep. Hope you all have a great week!

So tell me:

What’s been going on in your life!? (I haven’t been great about responding recently, but I read all your comments and appreciate them so much!)

Did you celebrate Chinese New Year or national peanut butter day?

Do you ever wonder, “how the heck did my schedule get so full!?”