WPSU's This I Believe

    In the summer of 2012, I had a lot for which to be grateful. My husband and I were expecting our first child in early September. As an anxious mother-to-be I spent those early summer months devouring books, movies, articles and just about anything I could find about babies and those first crucial weeks. I was thrilled and terrified imagining what it would be like in a few short months. Never once did I think that I might not be there to experience it myself.

    I Believe in Cars

    "Mitch, why are you such a knucklehead?" my dad says as he follows me out of our house and into the front yard. "Only a complete idiot would do something this stupid. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours" SLAM! My dad's voice is suddenly cut off by the reassuring thunk of my car door. I jam the key into the ignition and start the engine. Before my dad even has a chance to finish his sentence, I'm turning out of the driveway, leaving him behind. I lift the clutch and hit the gas; first gear, I can feel the stress starting to melt away as the RPMs increase. Second gear, what was the stupid thing I did again? Third and fourth, a smile starts creeping across my face, and by the time I hit sixth gear, I'm completely at peace; no upset parents, no problems. It's just me, my WRX, and the open road.

    It's 6 am. I peel myself off the bed. I drag myself to the shower. I get dressed. I grab my lunch, my coffee mug, my gym bag. I get into the car. For the next 15 minutes as I drive to work; suddenly it's not a Monday morning any longer. And it's not freezing January outside. I am engulfed in the wonderful, crazy, scary, challenging world of a book I am listening to on my smartphone.

    I Believe in Flying

    The butterflies in my stomach as the wheels leave the ground, the soothing hum of the engine, and the rush of flying through a cloud

    I Believe Cancer Cures

    Cancer. For most, hearing this word sends a shiver down their spine. For some, it brings to mind a loved one who has passed away because of the horrific disease. Cancer. But when I hear this word, I think of a family brought together with a stronger bond of love than they would have ever otherwise experienced. Cancer changed my life, but it changed it for the better.

    I was born weighing 2 pounds and 4 ounces. I was small, even for a newborn in a big world. While in the womb, the doctor gave my brother and me a low chance of survival because the umbilical cord was struggling to support us both. Despite this, we were born with no severe handicaps. By the time I was nine, however, I realized I was different from other kids my age.

    Our ten-year-old son has a variety of hobbies including cello, chess and swimming. But his favorite subject is the NFL. He's learned professional football is a universal language among the males in his life. Whether discussing Red Grange or Tom Brady, his eyes light up. "What if Eli Manning had stayed with the Chargers? What if the American Football League had never merged with the National Football League? These are the sorts of questions he ponders over breakfast. For all of his interest in the sport, his on field experience is limited to touch football with friends and flag football at the Y. Chances are if I tell him he can play tackle football next year, he will suit up in a minute.

    I Believe in Hogwarts

    When I was ten, reading was the last thing I would do for fun. I always finished assigned readings for class, but I never enjoyed them. I had to motivate myself to read. I would choose a book, read for fifteen minutes, and then reward myself with a snack or television show. Reading was the thing I couldn't wait to finish so I could do something else.

    I am ten years old and I can barely contain my excitement as I run down the stairs ready to rip open my presents underneath the Christmas tree. When I reach the tree, I find nothing. Not a single gift in sight, just the raw feeling of disappointment. Unexpectedly, however, my parents are standing behind me with an intangible surprise.

    I Believe in Christmas

    I believe in Christmas, but not in the way you might think; let me try to explain. I'm not Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, or Buddhist) or any other religion. I wouldn't say I'm an atheist, though

    I Believe in Autumn Days

    I believe in autumn days. I believe in all the clich?s

    The United States is made up of people from many different cultures and religions. Unfortunately, many people forget their traditions and cultural heritage when they're far from their homeland and they settle in other countries. I believe in embracing my Indian roots.

    I believe in dirty shoes. I believe in wearing shoes until there are holes in them, and then wearing them some more. Although my practice might seem extreme, I got this habit from BOTH of my parents. Ever since I can remember, my dad has said, "There is no hole in my shoes that some duct tape can't fix." My mother, on the other hand, has always encouraged me to date my shoes

    I believe in pottery. Pottery is an art of possibilities, a perfect union of form and function. While people create other types of art purely for decoration, ceramic art isn't made to be hung on a wall. Rather, ceramics can be used for everything from storage to gardening to cooking to drinking. Pottery adds an element of beauty to the most routine aspects of life. Drinking your morning coffee? It will probably look and taste better in a custom-made, wheel-thrown mug with a perfectly trimmed bottom and a marbled glaze.

    I Believe in the Blues

    Like most people, I get to feeling bad from time to time about one thing or another. Things don't always go my way, and the march of daily disappointments often leaves me in the dumps.

    I Believe in Lucy

    I knew something was different about my daughter Lucy by the time she turned one. She couldn't bear weight on her arms or legs. She hadn't started crawling or pulling up on things, and she wasn't talking at all. Her hands made odd motions in the air, and she didn't always respond when we called her name.

    My dad is a Lutheran minister, and I'd never heard him use the "f"-word till he tried to fix our bathroom plumbing. He had never trained, apprenticed, or even been acquainted with a plumber that I knew of. Yet he took on the leak under our sink armed with thriftiness, a Reader's Digest book on home repair, and a five-gallon bucket of good intentions.

    I believe in playing horseshoes on a sunny summer day on the 110th street beach in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Playing horseshoes on the beach is a family tradition that dates back long before I was born. It began when my Great Grandfather built a house in Stone Harbor back in 1960. Over the years he passed down the tradition to my grandfather and then to my mom and aunts and uncles.

    I am not an artist. Whatever gene my children inherited that allows them to draw, sing, write poetry or play music came from somewhere else on the family tree. Yet I learned early on everyone can enjoy art, even those of us with limited natural talent.

    I believe in telling stories. Stories establish legacies and immortalize memories. Stories explain beyond what we see on the surface.

    "You got time to lean, you got time to clean." That was my boss's favorite motivational quote. I started working at Leo's Steak Shop when I was 14. The small kitchen was unbearably hot at times, and the walk to the freezer 40 feet out back was unbearably cold at times. But just as fast as the workdays began, they ended. And the long days were somehow always so satisfying, even if I was only making $5.15 an hour.

    With all due respect to the more serious nature of most "This I Believe" essays I believe I'll have a beer! If you enjoy sharing a crisp, hoppy pils with your friends and neighbors, then I raise a glass to you!

    I just made it over the last hill. The hardest part is over and it's exhilarating. My cheeks are red, but my breathing is leveling off. I can feel my bangs flying out of my headband. I try to focus on my feet hitting the ground at a consistent "step step, step step" pace.

    When I was a couple of months old, I had pneumonia and I stopped breathing. My mom called for an ambulance and immediately began to pray. The ambulance arrived minutes later, and the EMT performed CPR on me. That day, I was the first baby the EMT had ever "brought back to life."

    I look down at the screen of my ringing iPhone and it clearly states that the caller is my best friend of eight years, Chelsey. I have some time to chat between classes, but as usual, instead of picking it up, I let it ring, ring, ring until it goes into voicemail.

    Many people say "I'll believe it when I see it," But I believe touching things is what makes them real: Feeling the water soak into my shoes after I step into a puddle Makes the rain real. Brushing my fingers over the imprints of the words pressed into a friend's letter Makes their meanings real. Compressing all the tiny air pockets In my bed's memory foam pad with the weight of my body Makes my end-of-the-day exhaustion very real.

    It all seems like a blur looking back on it. One minute I was throwing my graduation cap in the air and the next minute a moving van was driving away from the place I had called home for more than a decade. My parents had retired and were moving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a ski town they had fallen in love with years ago.

    Eat better, feel less stressed, become more productive at work, have more patience, and use your credit card less!? All these things and more have happened to me. Are they the result of having a regular exercise routine as new research I've read claims? I can't prove it, but I believe it! And believing something will work is necessary to making a habit stick, this too according to research.

    I believe that English proficiency is important in my life. I'm from China. English is an important part of our schooling from grade school to university. Some students not only study English in school, they also attend training courses and watch English television. Others just regard it as a task and study it carelessly.

    I Believe in Sandy Hook

    Terrible things happen in the world. But it's easy to believe bad things only happen to other people, in other places. On December 14, 2012, I lost that naivety. When a shooter walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School, my heart broke.

    I believe that love and support from family and friends is much more than a clich?.

    I believe hardship presents opportunity. I am a father to three boys, a loving husband to a beautiful wife, and an educator with the awesome responsibility to instruct our youth. But my life hasn't always been so pleasant.

    I believe in fish

    I Believe in Tea

    When I first get to know someone, I ask them what type of tea they like. It sounds like a strange icebreaker, I know. But there's more to the subject than meets the eye.

    According to my parents, I was obsessed with her from the start. My little sister was born just two years and eight months after I was. To me, her arrival didn't mean having to share my parents with someone else; it meant having a friend whenever I wanted.

    I Believe in Walking

    I believe walking is a natural act, far beyond exercise. While visiting French relatives in March, I twisted my leg skiing and spent the next three weeks limping around Paris. The limping isn't important to this story. The walking is.

    Simple physical tasks have always been difficult for me. Running the bases in softball, climbing the basement stairs, even reaching for something on the top shelf. I couldn't do these everyday activities, because for as long as I can remember I've always had some sort of pain.

    "If you're gonna play all-stars you have to be dedicated." That's what my dad said to me after I found out I made the State College National All-Stars Baseball team. I didn't really know what he meant, but I replied, "Yes, Dad," to appease him.

    Around three forty-five on a rainy Saturday morning, I was startled awake by the sound of my pager beeping. As a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, I can never count on a full night of sleep. I groggily pulled myself out of bed and staggered toward the desk to grab my radio. Our crew was being dispatched to a nearby home where a man was in cardiac arrest.

    I believe in the movies. I believe in silent films, in talkies, in grainy foreign documentaries. I believe in the Marx brothers, Doris Day, John Wayne, even Tom Cruise.

    I believe in being a kid. Today's world is full of over-eager parents and competitions to cross the finish line. But where is that finish line? Life is not about breaking through the red ribbon or lapping your peers on the race track. I believe life is about enjoying what you have while you have it.

    As you whiz by in your car, you may see me. Just a glimpse in your rearview mirror of a middle-aged woman moving up a hill on her bicycle. I say "moving" because it's just as likely that I will be pushing it as riding it. I say "moving" because I will be doing just that

    I place the wide, flat disc on the turntable, close the dusty lid and press "start." The guitar slowly fades in, followed by a loud bell. Finally, the drums break into a groove. Then, as Brad Delp of the band Boston starts to sing, I close my eyes and slip away.

    I believe in writing. Not newspaper reporting, or composing essays for class, or informational writing but inspirational writing. I believe in telling a story.

    I just finished my sophomore year at Penn State. The school boasts thousands of students, hundreds of clubs and an endless number of opportunities. With all those choices, you may wonder how I managed to achieve anything in college. Well I'll tell you how: I'm a firm believer in indecision.

    I believe in penny loafers, plaid skirts, navy blue stockings and white Oxfords. I used to sigh each morning as I threw on the same school uniform every day, wishing I could wear something more comfortable to school. I never had to worry about dressing to impress in a small all-girls Catholic high school.

    I believe that a woman's place is in the home. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that women shouldn't work or that men shouldn't help out around the house. But I believe that the woman is the one who makes the house a home. No matter how humble or how grand, it's the feminine touch that makes the difference.

    I Believe in SCUBA

    In June of 2009, I went with my family to Key Largo, Florida for a vacation. We headed out into the emerald waves nearby to go SCUBA diving. As we skimmed across the choppy water, I felt a mix of emotions. I was excited to try SCUBA diving for the first time, nervous to put my skills to the test, and anxious about the possible dangers of diving. Strong gusts of wind greeted our boat as we reached the spot our dive would start. The rapid slap of waves against the hull synced perfectly with my racing heartbeat.

    When I was 10 years old, my grandfather died. I was so sad and cried for a long time. But then I remembered a promise I made to my grandfather. Even now, I believe that keeping the promise is my duty.

    First there's a hushed suggestion. Then, the grandchildren start to whine. As my mother tries to calm everyone, my dad puts down the paper and issues the decree. We hold our breaths, fingers crossed.

    I believe in leprechauns. Well at least this month I do with Saint Patrick's Day approaching. Next month, I'll believe in the Easter bunny.

    I Believe in Books

    I believe in books. Reading books became one of my hobbies on the day my mother led me to the library in our village and introduced me to the librarian. At that time I was a fourth grader and it was my first visit to the library. The librarian showed me a thin red book. The title of the book was "Arbi." At first, I didn't want to read it because it seemed boring. But, I took it home anyway. I didn't have any interest in reading until I got that book. It was so interesting that I couldn't get my eyes from its pages.

    I Believe in Sailing

    I believe in sailing. When I'm out in my boat and the wind hits my sails, I'm alone. It's just me and the water.

    My mother was a great believer in "paying attention." She didn't need to say, "be careful crossing the street" or "watch out for strangers," or "drive carefully." PAY ATTENTION! covered all situations. The way she said it got your attention, and I still hear her voice in my head, 15 years after she's gone.

    In my last year of high school, I had a lot of responsibilities. I could hardly keep my eyes open during my classes because I only slept three hours every night. After school, I had to practice the play, "Mamma Mia!" for my school festival. After that, I went to a special school to cram for the entrance examination for college. I thought I was like a clock: I'd always keep working and never stop. But that year, I learned to slow down and trust others to help me.

    As a busy college student, I'm realizing free time is a rare gift. I spend my days running from class to class, to my part-time job as a customer service rep, to the radio show I host or to my THON organization's functions. My mind is constantly bursting with thoughts about my obligations, but I always have something to look forward to: my afternoon nap.

    For as much as I can remember of my 12-year-old life, my family and I have gathered to listen to stories from our Hindu mythology. We get together every other Sunday with members of the Indian community in State College. This "Story Hour" is made to help children, and even adults, stay connected with Indian traditions and culture.

    I believe in wearing mismatched socks. But it took me a while to get to this belief. When I was in 3rd grade, I had a nagging need to be perfect. It began with my grades, but as I got older I started getting desperate to have a perfect life as well. Needless to say, my socks had to match. By high school my need to be perfect became even more intense.

    As a child growing up in the hills that surround Tyrone, Pennsylvania, I spent many happy days exploring the riverbank behind my home. My friends there, plants and animals, consoled me through the heartaches, and celebrated with me the accomplishments of growing up. In return for all their kindnesses, I wrote them thank you notes in child's rhyme. These were my earliest lessons in writing poems that could heal my wounds and bless my heart.

    I believe in Civil War Reenacting. I believe in donning my 19th century clothing and stepping back in time. And during the Civil War's 150th Anniversary, I'm especially proud to be a Civil War Re-enactor and Living Historian.

    I Believe in Rocks

    I believe in rocks. Not just any rock, but my rock in particular. My rock is grey and smooth. It has little grooves on it as though fingers have held it tightly, and oftenbecause they have. My best friend, Zoe, gave me this rock in third grade.

    I believe that you and I and the entire world are connected. Buddhists say "We are all one." Christian's say "We're all God's children." Carl Jung says we share a collective unconscious. However you want to describe it, I believe that which connects us as human beings is much stronger than that which divides us.

    I Believe in Horse Manure

    I believe in horse manure. It reminds me of hard work.

    I Believe in Bananagrams

    "Take a letter. Okay, take another. Ha! Take a letter!" We all groan, looking at our Z's ,K's and Q's seriously piling up. We exchange looks that say, "Now how is this fair?" My mom happily continues to slide around her letter tiles, building her ultimate crossword. When the tiles are all used up, my mom throws her hands in the air and yells "WOOO HOOOO!" This is one of the many times my mom has beaten our butts at Bananagrams, and the feeling of relief that the round of humiliation is over isn't unfamiliar. But then, of course, someone says, "Who's in for another round? How about this time you have to use one dirty word!" And there we are, once again, all in.

    I Believe Everything Happens for a Reason

    August 18, 2011

    "Everything happens for a reason." That's what my mom told me when I was a little girl. And as a little girl, I didn't realize the significance these words would have in my life. But I soon found out.

    A couple years ago, my Grandpa and Nana visited my house for a cookout. We have a small farm nestled at the bottom of Mount Nittany. And we just finished putting the finishing touches on our pool. It was warm that day, the birds were singing and the sun was shining. We could even see some of our horses grazing on the grass. We all devoured hamburgers and hot dogs on the front deck that looks over the barn.

    I first had "coffee with the guys" in Oil City in 1980. I was in the habit of arriving at work early. But one day, I forgot my keys. Since I couldn't get into the office until my staff arrived, I went down the street for a cup of coffee.

    On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I went to the Library of Congress. Modestly displayed next to Thomas Payne's Common Sense was a single piece of parchment written by "An American Lady." As a woman and a writer, I was intrigued. Crowds of people moved past me to more well-known documents, but I was hooked.

    I believe in the smell of fresh laundry. I love the warmth from the clothes and the smell of detergent rubbed into every single fiber. I believe in this particular smell because it reminds me of home and family. This smell keeps me in touch with where I come from, no matter how far away I am.

    At a very early age, I learned what respect was and why I needed to use it. I saw respect reflected in the way my parents treated my sisters and me when handling important family issues. When my father was in the Air Force, my parents always let us kids help decide where we wanted to move next. We got to help decide where to go on family vacations and which charities we wanted to support. We were just kids, but our parents respected our opinions.

    "Everybody needs to play catcher at least one time this season." That's what my peewee baseball coach told the team when I was 8 years old. I had never caught in my life. I thought all you did was sit in an uncomfortable crouch and let the ball smack your hand until it throbbed. The black pads bake you in the hot sun. And your nose sits inches away from a dangerous metal bat. SMACK! Stuck behind the plate, there's no chance to snag a line drive. No hanging a glove over the outfield fence until the ball drops into it, robbing a hitter of a home run. That season I did the minimum and caught exactly once.

    Happiness may come naturally to some people, but it doesn't work that way for me. I have a good life, and people who love me. So why couldn't I be happy?

    I Believe in Inches

    An incessant buzzing wakes me. I roll over and slam my palm against the alarm clock. 5:35 AM. Even after seeing this five days a week, for the past four years, I still hope it will magically read 5:35 PM so I can sleep for another 12 hours.

    When I was growing up, I played with Barbies every day. I would sit cross-legged on the floor for hours and make up whole imaginary worlds for myself. The Christmas I was 7 years old, my parents surprised me with a Barbie dream house. They also gave me complete sets of furniture to fill the pink plastic rooms. That Christmas remains my favorite Christmas ever.

    "You'll enter stage left, and I'll introduce you, and then...." My screaming brain drowned out the conductor's directions. All I could think was, "This is it!" The conductor nudged me onto the stage, and I tried not to look at the tiers of seats flooded with people. I shuddered as I breathed in the musty smell of the antique opera house.

    When I was little, I would listen to my older brother play his guitar. The sound of the strings would echo through the house and into my ears. Over the years, I grew more and more interested in the guitar, until I finally decided to learn how to play.

    I believe in wooden roller coasters. I believe in the orchestra of clinking gears, crackling wood and screaming people. I believe in rustic and rickety coasters, even if they don't come with the loop-de-loops of the newer steel designs. I believe in wooden roller coasters.

    This past December, I went for a routine physical for the first time in three years. I had taken a stance not to go until my mom went for one. She hadn't had a physical in close to 10 years. I knew that if I held out long enough, my mom would eventually go. She would cave for the sake of my health long before her own.

    When I was seven years old, I had rheumatic fever. During April of that year, I was in the hospital for what seemed like months, but was really about 10 days. That whole summer, I was confined to bed rest. In 1958 there was no such thing as a television in a child's bedroom. No Internet. No video games.

    I Believe in My Mom

    About a week ago, I was sitting on the couch with my mom. I watched "Say Yes to the Dress"

    My grandfather has always called me "Doll" and my brothers were "Harry." I thought they were pet names until I was old enough to realize he just couldn't remember what my real name was.

    I Believe in Second Impressions

    April 14, 2011

    I was just shy of 17 the first time my brother Daniel introduced me to his girlfriend. Her name was Kristen, and I hated her immediately. She was short and quiet and my brother loved her. Granted, I may not have known what love was at the time, but in my teenage years, love meant a brother who would rather be with his girlfriend than with his siblings. Call it what you want, but I wasn't happy.

    I believe the world would be a more peaceful place if we were all amateur radio operators. I'm an amateur radio operator -- sometimes called a ham radio operator -- and I've been one for forty-nine years. I delight at talking on my short wave radio to people all over the world. Regardless of country, we're all friends in the ham radio world.

    I believe in feeling - in emotion. Emotions can be destructive, but I believe they also have the power to lift us up and make us more human. I am a self-proclaimed and proud "crybaby"; I cry happy tears, sad tears, overwhelmed by the wonder of life tears.

    One morning, I called the local barbershop to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the barber was all booked up for the day. "Well, this is a hairy situation," I said to my girlfriend as I hung up the phone. She replied, "They certainly left you stranded.

    With a name like Carlini, people think my family members must greet each other with enthusiastic embraces and kisses on both cheeks. Isn't that what Italians do? Well, not all Italian families are like the Corleones from the Godfather films.

    I believe in eating my convictions. When I was twelve, I stopped eating meat because I liked animals and didn't want to hurt them. My grandmother saw this decision as a personal betrayal.

    "Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd"

    As a Penn State student, I am used to being one of the masses. At football games, hard as I may try, my individual cheers cannot be heard above the roar of the crowd. At THON, I am just an extra body - another pair of aching feet in bright tube socks.

    It's ten o'clock on a Saturday morning, and I'm stationed on the corner of a busy intersection in Wilkes-Barre. Several layers of clothing can't quite shield me from the sub-twenty degree weather. I hold a sign in one hand, and a coffee can in the other.

    "The Three Musketeers," as my dad, my sister, and I liked to call ourselves, were shopping for school supplies for my first day of third grade. On our way home, my dad pulled up to a four-way intersection and stopped. When he proceeded through the intersection, everything suddenly turned black.

    Samuel Clemens

    I believe in being yourself, as clich? as that may sound to some.

    There was a time, years ago, when playing outside was the highlight of my day. From the moment I stepped off the bus after school, I was on a mission. A mission to change out of my good school clothes, call my friends, and play outside.

    I was always "the girl with the plan." In whatever situation, if my plan A fell through, there was always plan B. And if that fell through, well, you know the rest. From the age of three, I had concrete career plans. I was going to be a broadcast journalist, and I knew the precise path I was going to take to reach my goals.

    Ten years ago, I lay on my living room floor, paralyzed by severe depression. I had lost my job, my relationship, and my money

    My little brother and I have always had our differences. Only three years separate us in age, but we're worlds apart. Cory is quiet and withdrawn; I'm outgoing. Although he's my little brother, he towers nearly a foot over me.

    The first time I danced for myself, I was nine or ten years old. I'd been taking dance classes for about two years. I was a good student and would pay close attention when my teacher taught technique. But one day, I found pure passion.

    I believe everybody deserves a second chance when life doesn't go according to plan. My 12-year-old daughter was not part of my life plan, but in many ways, she saved me from myself. She gave me a purpose and drive I might not have otherwise had. But I didn't always see it that way.

    I believe in the power of music. I don't remember learning how to talk. But I remember hearing my mom telling someone on the phone, "We were in the car today and Laura started harmonizing. She's 4!" I didn't know what harmonizing was, but Mom sounded impressed. My 4-year-old singing inspired her that day.

    I believe in wiffle ball. I believe in slow pitch or fast pitch, one-on-one or nine-on-nine wiffle ball. In wiffle ball tournaments, leagues and pick-up games. I believe in wiffle ball.

    I believe in the neighborhood where I grew up. John's Circle in Norwood, New Jersey has had more of an influence on the person I've become than most people have.

    I believe in walking. Every day. I take about 45 minutes every day to walk with Smitty, our family dog, up to a place called the Peace Chapel. The route takes me across the Juniata College campus and through neighborhoods to an expanse of protected land that is wildish.

    For a long time I thought that rain was dismal. The wetness, the coldness, the humidity, the clouds and the darkness: gross. Everything about it gave me the blues. Especially on a Monday.

    I believe teachers can change lives. Everyone has amazing teachers. And I don't mean amazing because they don't give you homework, or because they let you use your cell phone in class. I mean Amazing. A life-altering, values-changing educator.

    Three years ago on a beautiful Sunday in September, I went on a bike ride with my dad and my brother. We changed out of our church clothes, saddled up, and hit the road.

    I believe that learning new things and staying active will keep me young. I've seen it work for others. Why wouldn't it work for me?

    When I was younger, the school librarian read my class a book about a Japanese man who traveled back and forth between his homes in California and Japan. Whenever he was in one place, he'd long for the other.

    I was a child of the '50s and had a pretty idyllic childhood, playing kickball and hula-hoop on the street, riding my bike to the ball field to watch a game.

    I know Wolverine's real name. I know where Jim Kirk was born. And I'm pretty sure I beat Super Mario Bros before I could spell. I'm a nerd; there's no disputing that fact. Cool kids go to drinking parties, I go to LAN parties. That's the way it's always been with me.

    I believe in bicycles. My bicycle is simple. I move the pedals, which spin the gears, which turn the back wheel. The wheels simply rotate. My bicycle does not need a windshield, heated seats or even a radio.

    I believe in learning from the past. We wouldn't be who we are now without it. Each moment in time affects us in some way.

    My husband got a call the other night as we finished a late dinner. One of his friends had two extra tickets to the baseball game and wanted to know if he'd like them. Of course he did.

    In the halls of my elementary school in Massachusetts, there was a poster that said, "Life is a journey, not a race." From kindergarten through fifth grade, I walked by that poster every day. I read it a thousand times, but I never really understood what it meant.

    I sometimes forget I have an older sister. She passed away before I was born, but that doesn't mean I don't have a sister. I didn't know about her until I was 12 years old. But now I think of her often.

    I believe in poetry. In the book Franny and Zooey, one of J.D. Salinger's characters says, to be a poet you have to leave something beautiful behind. That's my goal in life.

    I believe in change. If you never change anything in your life, things get boring. Change gives you character and keeps you interesting.

    I believe in the life-changing potential of good guidance. Every semester I tell my Sociology students: when I rolled the cosmic dice, I found myself a white male born into a middle-class family who raised me in a genuinely Minnesota-nice suburb. All I had to do to become the professor they see in front of them was not squander the opportunities within my reach.

    I believe in the clock. I believe in the power of the clock. Everything can change in a minute.

    I believe in Mario Lemieux. What if I told you that Mario Lemieux's career stats are 690 goals,1,033 assists. and 2 saves? You might ask how he has two saves if he was a forward while playing hockey. Well, I'm not talking about the type of saves a goalie makes.

    I believe in preserving history. It was a belief a long time in the making.

    It's a hot night and my six-year-old's room doesn't have a fan. Since my husband has a cold and is in the guestroom, Ryan is bunking with me. Truth be told, Ryan ends up in our bed for at least a few hours most nights.

    I believe in writing it all down. Since freshman year of high school I've been keeping a journal. It's a personal account of my life, starting from a point when school dances were life changing, and being caught with your parents in public was life ruining.

    I believe in pink. It's a timeless symbol of femininity. It is the color of a baby girl's first blanket. It's the best flavor of lemonade and the color of Elvis's Cadillac. It is a vibrant, feel good color.

    The day I climbed my first volcano, I was excited. The biggest thing I've seen in the world was before my eyes. And it was beautiful.

    I believe hunting is more than killing. Hunting is about being in nature. It's the sound of wind blowing through leaves and the trickling of mountain streams.

    I believe in Sunday breakfast. Not toaster strudels, donuts, or bagels.

    I will never forget May 12, 2008. My chemistry tutor was teaching me at home. All of a sudden, my building's doors and windows started to shake.

    I believe in reading. Not so much in reading for research or a job or class, but in reading for pleasure.

    I've never touched a gun. And, until recently, I'd never thought much about guns entering my children's lives. But when my son's Boy Scout leader raised the idea of a trip to a shooting range, I was alarmed.

    I got my first radio when I was nine. It was a Silvertone a little bigger than a pack of cigarettes.

    I believe, as the old clich? goes, that you can't judge a book by its cover. Like most people, I used to make assumptions about a person's character or lifestyle based on outward appearance. But I've recently come to realize how detrimental that can be.

    Like most people, I'm busy. I'm busy cleaning, writing, cooking, teaching, exercising, or doing any host of activities that consume the day. Sometimes I move through life so quickly there's no time for reflection.

    I sometimes forget I have an older sister. She passed away before I was born, but that doesn't mean I don't have a sister. I didn't know about her until I was 12 years old. But now I think of her often.

    As I cut a piece of burgundy thread and pull it through the material, I remember the tip my Nanny taught me about tying knots. My Nanny is a remarkable quilter. Over time, she has passed some of her knowledge on to me.

    I believe heavy metal. When I was 12 years old I saw Metallica's music video for the song, "One."

    It's 2001. I'm 10 years old, and my heart is breaking. I've just been told my father's car caught on fire. He's very badly burnt and might not make it.

    I've been thinking over the last few years about legacies. While many of us ponder our legacy as we get older, the idea became a good bit more meaningful a few years back when I was diagnosed with leukemia.

    I believe in the power of food. Food maintains life. And when we don't eat well, we suffer. Suffer from the many chronic conditions common today.

    I believe everyone has an obligation to act on behalf of the powerless.

    I believe in the African concept of Ubuntu. According to this philosophy, each of us is part of a larger global community and our humanity is interconnected.

    I believe in a good laugh. I'm the youngest child, and we're known for clowning around, acting up, even breaking things if it gets the family's eyes turned our way. So I learned early on humor can make you the center of attention.

    I dig shovels. I believe shovels allow us to appreciate tasks accomplished through our own exertions. The minimal carbon footprint is a bonus. And what else can you buy for twenty bucks that comes with a 25 year warranty?

    In 12th grade I was the best student in my class and the valedictorian. I was very proud of myself. I was dedicated only to my studies. My plan was to get the best grades, so in the future I could get scholarships and travel to new places.

    I always thought negatively when I was a child. I always thought bad things like, "I will make a mistake", or "She definitely dislikes me." Those thoughts made me afraid of other people. I didn't have a brave heart. Also, I worried about change, so I didn't try new things.

    This I Believe: The Magic of Change

    December 31, 2009

    When I was a little kid living in the Dominican Republic, I believed in magic. The idea of transforming things, making them appear and disappear, made me feel a great excitement. I remember seeing a magician once at a birthday party. His color-changing scarves and flowers pulled from nowhere made me think there was nothing impossible in this world.

    When I was growing up, I fought constantly with my parents over making my bed in the morning. An after-breakfast check-in was routine at my house. My mom or dad would walk down the hall, check each room, and call from upstairs, "Stop whatever it is you're doing and come make your bed." It was a chore that I simply did NOT like, and so I avoided it. I thought it was absurd to make my bed every morning. It was counterproductive. What could be the benefit of straightening a bed in the morning that would inevitably be undone that evening? This puzzled me for a long time.

    When I was a child, I was very shy. When I had to give a speech in front of my classmates, I became nervous, my legs trembled, and my heartbeat became fast. But an experience in high school changed my personality.

    Just a few years ago I was a stereotypical teenager. Everything was about "me." I wasn't interested in anyone else or their needs. I often neglected my family because time with my friends seemed more important. Family dinners were a burden and vacations a punishment.

    Growing up, I knew I was different. Girls are supposed to have sleepovers, giggle, gossip, blah.blah.blah. But, I was a painful homebody. I was the girl who called her parents to come pick her up from sleepovers. That burning, bubbling pain in my belly, also known as anxiety, controlled my life. I had no idea how to overcome it, but knew I had to eventually.

    On July 28, 2007, my mom broke the news to my brother and me that she and my dad were splitting up for good. At first I was shocked. She had been involved in an affair that I knew nothing about. She decided that she loved this person more than she loved my dad. She was moving out.

    Ten years ago, I lay on my living room floor, paralyzed by severe depression. I had lost my job, my relationship, and my money

    On the first Earth Day in 1970, I was 10 years old. Someone from our neighborhood in upstate New York had dropped off a flyer. It suggested we gather to clean up the street that connected our neighborhood to the busy main road. That street was littered with trash, dead leaves, and the remnants of late night teenage partying. I don't know who sent that flyer around, but I'm still grateful to them, because it was one of the best days of my childhood.

    Every time someone asks me what my major is, I cringe. "I'm double-majoring," I tell them, "in Communication Media and English. It'll only take me four years to graduate." I'm proud of that accomplishment. But I'm always hesitant to talk about it, because the response is so predictable. "Oh ya? What're you gonna do with that?" As if I had said philosophy.

    It took my wife and me three days to empty the cardboard boxes in our new apartment. I took care of the kitchen, unpacking mixing bowls and wooden spoons, placing them on unfamiliar shelves. "When will this feel like home?" I wondered. It didn't smell like home: the woodsy scent of particleboard in the cupboards, the overpowering lavender soap left by the previous tenants. It needed something familiar, like the smell of baking bread.

    I answer the phone and hear a familiar voice. "Kait!" she says. "I can't believe I'm celebrating my first birthday without you since that time you got strep. Was that fourth grade?"

    I believe people should blaze their own trails. That's what I've done, in spite of family pressures.

    In Chinese culture there is a concept called "tong zhou gong ji"; the very sprit of cooperation. On a trip to China with my family, I saw that concept in action.

    I grew up lucky. I had a home where I could put my report cards and spelling tests on the fridge door. I could sprint across the alley to my friend Lizzy's house if her phone line was busy. I could go for a run around the neighborhood and treasure my part of the early morning calm. Growing up, my life was easy and safe.

    I wake up to the slight pulsing of my left big toe -- like the vibrations of a car with the bass up way too high. I clumsily dropped my skate onto the toe yesterdayblade down. I throw my covers off and swing my legs up into the air while still lying down so I can examine the toe. "Looks normal," I think. It's fine. I slide my legs off the bed and stand up. I walk groggily into the bathroom. With each step, my left ankle clicks and a sharp pain runs up my leg. I ignore it and continue on. You learn to adjust to the pain.

    I remember being the happiest I've ever been when I was about six years old. I was playing in a field near my house. It was early summer and getting dark. I remember I could see a storm coming over the hills, but I lay in the grass with my brother and sister looking up into the clouds. The entire sky was a light brown color as the sun hugged the mountaintop. We waited for the rain, and when it finally came, we ran around letting the droplets run down our cheeks.

    Last night I ate a salad of radishes, field greens, and asparagus. The ingredients never sat in a grocery store. Less than 2 days ago they were still stuck in the ground.

    This I Believe: Embracing the Moment

    June 18, 2009

    People often ask me how I got involved with the Special Olympics.

    I believe we can learn to navigate life from dogs.

    Have you heard the joke about the boy who was being baptized? He was being dunked in the river for the third time when the preacher asked the lad what he believed. The boy replied, "I believe you're gonna drown me if you keep this up.

    This I Believe: I Believe in Compost

    May 28, 2009

    I believe in compost. Not just compost-ing, the action...but compost, the substance. Let me tell you a little bit more about this "black gold.

    Heavy, wet snow fell on Philadelphia. I was visiting the city for the first time to see my parents' new home. They'd moved from leafy suburbia to a gritty street of narrow row houses in South Philly. I wondered what they could have been thinking. Graffiti covered doorways. Broken glass laced the street. It was a place without trees. A place that looked short on hope.

    Thrift is a way of life for my parents. They were both born into families hit hard by the Great Depression. As kids they learned to skimp to make ends meet and throughout their lives they've never veered from that habit.

    Many people say my mother and I are like two peas. But I think our personalities are opposite. I am an optimistic and easygoing person, while my mother is hasty and judgmental. We have fights nearly every day.

    For most of my professional life I've worked as a health care administrator. Over the years, I've come to understand that providing high quality and cost-effective care is important, but it's just one part of a more meaningful process. The true challenge for health care is protecting human dignity.

    This I Believe: More than a Meal

    April 16, 2009

    The other day my daughter Emma mentioned her class was writing to French students about the typical eating habits of Americans. She observed few of her friends' families ate dinner together. This conversation made me reflect on why I believe eating dinner as a family is important.

    For many people, April 15 is TAX DAY! April 15 for me, however, has a different significance

    This I Believe: Theatre Is Transformative

    March 26, 2009

    I believe theatre has the power to transform lives. It certainly transformed mine.

    I think a lot about what people think of me. I think about what they see when I first walk through the classroom door and choose a desk appropriately far from the front, and yet not completely in the back. Wondering what sort of person I look like occupies my mind quite a bit at the beginning of every school year. I especially think about how I appear in classes where I don't really know anyone, and no one really knows me, except as the quiet girl who once sat in front of them in math class or whatever. The "quiet girl": It's a pretty safe way to not look like a complete weirdo. Ok, then . . . not a loser. Mission accomplished.

    This I believe; the three most powerful words in my life are "Make It Happen." I apply this simple phrase to any project or goal. Saying "Make It Happen" eliminates negative thoughts and focuses me on the task at hand. By consistently applying this phrase I have accomplished many things in life, large and small.

    This I Believe: The Power of a Smile

    March 5, 2009

    When I was younger, I was shy and my self-esteem was a little low. I'm told I usually walked around looking miserable, as if I was tasting something sour. I moved as if I were alone in this world. I remember I always had pressure on my face and and the weight of the world on my shoulders. I barely smiled. Smiling seemed like the hardest thing to do. People would greet me with a smile and a word. I would respond with a word, but probably not a smile. My not smiling wasn't a problem for my friends, because they knew that was my way of being.

    This I Believe: Creating a New Fiction

    February 12, 2009

    Walter Lippmann once wrote, "The adjustment of man to his environment takes place through the medium of fictions." In other words, people depend on stories the way explorers depend on maps. By "fictions" I don't mean made-up stories. I mean the narratives by which we define ourselves.

    This I Believe: Slowing Life Down

    February 5, 2009

    On a rainy morning when I was ten, my neighbor Mr. Lovett invited me into his home for a woodworking project. Above his fireplace sat an ornate eagle carved by Mr. Lovett himself. Its wingspan was wider than I was tall. I remember wondering how long it took him to make that eagle.

    This I Believe: Third World Riches

    January 29, 2009

    I believe in sharing

    This I Believe: Dorothy Was Right After All

    January 22, 2009

    The clouds were thick and grey as I sped southwest down Interstate-64 that fall day four years ago. In fact the whole theme of my 8-hour trip was gloom. Carcass-strewn roads; dense fogs; desolate highways

    This I Believe: The Silent Killer of Marriage

    January 8, 2009

    I believe that humans share more in common with animals than we realize. Understanding this has not only helped me in my work, it saved my marriage.

    This I Believe: Honor

    December 18, 2008

    I can remember quite vividly a moment in the 5th grade when a classmate hit me, trying to start a fight. David P. was a good foot shorter than I was. He had to reach up to land a decent blow on my chin. My instinct was to hit back, but I remembered my father saying, "It takes a stronger man to take a punch than to give one.

    This I Believe: Being In and Of This World

    December 11, 2008

    Raised as a Christian, I have spent much of my life trying to believe and failing, trying to convince myself of things that sat uneasily in my mind. But consider this: if a truck is barreling toward you, you jump out of the way. It's simple. Natural. That is "believing in the truck," as Scott Adams, best known for his comic strip "Dilbert," argues in the speculative book "God's Debris".

    This I Believe: Love Your Life Through Imagination

    November 13, 2008

    Every weekday, I walk from my home in State College to my office on the Penn State campus and back. It takes me thirty minutes each way and over the yearly course of these thirty-minute strolls, I've formed a belief. I believe in imagination.

    This I Believe: I Believe in the Next Generation

    November 6, 2008

    I believe this generation is ready for a change

    This I Believe: I believe in being true to yourself

    October 30, 2008

    Yesterday a close friend told me that my home looks a little bit "Trailer-Park-White-Trash." He meant well, like the Queer Eye guys mean well when they say "tisk" and gently guide a straight guy to the barber's for immediate removal of his mullet.

    This I Believe: The Power of Communication

    October 23, 2008

    I visited my mother recently. She's having some health problems. But she's passionately interested in politics, so of course we talked about the elections. It brought back some memories.

    This I Believe: I Believe in Family

    September 25, 2008

    That'll be $5.30,

    This I Believe: The Miracle of Baseball

    September 18, 2008

    I was a child of the '50s. And I had a pretty idyllic childhood, playing kickball and hula-hoop on the street, and riding my bike to the ball field to watch a game. Meanwhile, our neighbor's boy sat in the house and watched out the window. If Billy was lucky, he got to come out on the porch - but he never got to play on the street.

    This I Believe: Attitude is Everything

    September 4, 2008

    If it is to be, it's up to me. That's a quote my father ingrained in my head as a child. It's one I will never forget.

    When I was in the sixth grade I saw the musical "Rent" on Broadway. Afterwards I listened to the soundtrack non-stop for months, memorizing every lyric. For me, the message at the closing of the first act is what really stuck. The scene shows a group of 1990s "Bohemians," including a lesbian lawyer, a nightclub dancer, and a drag queen, raising their glasses to everything outrageous, scandalous, and, well, different. Unhappily observing are four conservative rich businessmen. I feel that in general our society lacks the ability to understand other viewpoints and stray from traditional values in the modern world.

    This I Believe: The Power of Teaching

    August 21, 2008

    My mom grew up in Hong Kong, where the education system is very different than the one we have here in the United States. In Hong Kong, students are taught to memorize, and not necessarily to understand. A friend from Hong Kong once told me a story of how she used to memorize the solutions to math problems because she didn't know how to do them. For this reason, math was never really her best subject.

    This I Believe: I Believe in My Fans

    August 14, 2008

    I'm no one special. I don't consider myself different from anyone else. But when some people discover what I do to pay my college tuition, they light up. They look at me as if I'm special. It's a little embarrassing. I've never understood why my ability to throw a football well entitles me to so much admiration. When people say, "Good luck next season," I just smile and say "Thank you."

    This I Believe: The Power of Family

    August 7, 2008

    I believe in many things, like the Green Bay Packers are better than the Steelers, and that miracles really happen. But I believe most in...

    You don't need ketchup with this meal!" I heard this line from both my parents throughout my childhood. I don't know what made that...

    This I Believe: Giving Fear a Voice

    July 24, 2008

    I have been afraid many times. Fear has been the most powerful negative force in my life. When I was a toddler I was afraid of the noise...

    This I Believe: Music Can Bring People Together

    July 17, 2008

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, "Music is the universal language of mankind." I agree. Music has a prominent place in every...

    This I Believe: I Believe in Second Chances

    July 10, 2008

    When I was a teenager, I spent my summers hanging out at the corner gas station. Occasionally, while the owner was out pumping gas for a...

    This I Believe: Product Over Process

    June 26, 2008

    I still remember the first time I got an F. It was a fifth-grade social studies test; we had to memorize all 50 states. I could only come up...

    It lifts my heart to see a rainbow, to see that arc of bright color against a pale blue sky. Most people depend on chance to catch a...

    This I Believe: Vulnerability is Our Strength

    June 12, 2008

    Most of my friends have recently graduated from college. Every so often one will call me up to grumble about their new job, telling me how...

    I work at the Centre County Women's Resource Center. Our clients are diverse -- women, men, and children. They come from all socioeconomic...

    This I Believe: A Season For Hope

    May 28, 2008

    Each year, mid-March to be precise, hope springs eternal. I'm not talking about warmer weather or an extra hour of daylight. No, I'm...

    This I Believe: Just Like Pastrami

    May 22, 2008

    I believe in pastrami -- well-marbled pastrami. Hot, thinly sliced, piled on fresh rye bread with dark mustard and a crisp dill...

    This I Believe: I Am Evolution

    May 15, 2008

    I believe evolution. It's easy. It's my life. I'm a paleoanthropologist. I study fossils of humans, apes, and monkeys, and I teach college...

    This I Believe: I Believe in Humor

    May 8, 2008

    It's the last 800 meters of the cross country race. I'm running as hard as I can. My aching muscles scream with pain. My dry throat pleads..

    "It is Trisomy-21. It is Down Syndrome." Beyond those words I heard nothing, sitting in the obstetrician's office. The doctor was...

    This I Believe: Unpacking My Life

    April 24, 2008

    I believe in getting rid of stuff. Recently, my husband and I moved back to Pennsylvania after spending a semester teaching English in...

    This I Believe: I Believe in Extraterrestrials

    April 17, 2008

    So, Doc, do you believe in extraterrestrials?

    This I Believe: The Rewards of Discomfort

    April 3, 2008

    I believe in wearing uncomfortable shoes. I believe in wearing skinny high heels, the kind that always get jammed in that crack in the...

    This I Believe: Be Grateful for What You Have

    March 27, 2008

    Finish your vegetables because there are children in India who are starving!

    I believe in the truth setting you free. When I was young I used to have no qualms with telling a lie to suit my purposes, whether my...