Cruising and Life Updates

This post is mostly about the cruise I took at the end of June, but before I get to that there are some things I want to update everyone on. 1) I have a great job now as an RN. I’m working with kids which is what I have always wanted to do and they are chronically ill children so I get to see the same kids a lot and get to know them which is great. 2) I changed my blog name (woo!), now that I have graduated and my school does not give my place of residence away to anyone who may want to find me, I am a little more comfortable sharing some more about myself. Which leads me to 3) hi everyone, I’m Mary! I’m 22 and I am an RN. If you have questions, ask away (be forewarned, if I think that they are too personal or give away too much about where I live, I may not answer them sorry!) Now that we have covered those bases, read on if you want to know about my trip to Alaska.

 

As a graduation gift to myself, I paid for an Alaskan cruise that my best friend and my two sisters took from Vancouver to Seward. It was incredible. Most anyone who has met me knows that I LOVE the mountains, and the trip had no shortage of them. From the moment we arrived in Vancouver we were surrounded by them constantly. While on the boat much of our time was spent sipping cocktails and taking in the beauty that was all around us. When we were ashore, we had some great adventures and learned about the culture and history of the area.

Before we boarded the ship, we had a little less than a day to explore Vancouver. It is an absolutely stunning place. I do not much care for cities, but this one was different from any city to which I had ever been. Everything was clean, the streets, the sidewalks, the subway tunnels, people were friendly, it was calm and quiet, and the homeless population was minimal. We made use of the minimal amount of time we had in the city by walking along the harbour front and trying out some local restaurants. There was a ride that we splurged to ride on, called Air Canada. It was similar to “Soarin'” at Disney World, but instead of flying over America it makes you feel like you’re cruising through the air over various places in Canada. After a fun ride, that let us see more of Canada then we were going to have the opportunity to see during our short time in the country, we boarded the boat that was to be our home for the next week.

The first port of call was Ketichikan, the salmon capital of the world (according to their town sign)! We got off the boat shortly after they lowered the gangway so that we would have some time in the morning to explore before heading to church. Before catching the vans that were going to take us to the church, high on a hill, we went to check out historic Creek Street. Creek Street is a board walk that runs over a creek and is the town’s historic red light district, housing prostitutes for much of the first half of the 20th century. As many of the signs in this area of town declared, Ketichikan is where “salmon and men came upstream to spawn.” After learning about this more seedy portion of the town’s history, we went to church, which hopefully balanced us out a little bit! Once mass was over we caught the city bus to Totem Bight park. Here we learned about totem poles, clan houses, and bald eagles. There was even a bald eagle who flew about 15 feet above us! Our national bird is even more incredible up close than from a distance. Then we caught the city bus back to the ship. The poor driver was so frustrated the whole time because his horn had a short in it and kept honking randomly, but all the passengers found it hilarious. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to wander around the town as it was a short day in port, but I quite enjoyed the things we got to experience.

The following day, we were in Icy Straight Point also known as Hoonah. Since much of what can be done at this port are scheduled excursions, and our excursion was in the early afternoon, we took our time before disembarking the ship. Right after getting off the ship we went to sign some waivers and meet the bus that was going to take us up to the highest zipline in the world! On the bus ride up the mountain, a native man (whose American name was Glen) told us about the island and different sites we were passing. Sadly, some of the landmarks he was telling us about could not be seen from the bus because Alaska is often dreary so there were lots of clouds blocking our view. Some facts that I found interesting: the K-12 school in the town has a little over 100 students; the bear to people ratio on the island is 4:1; bear hunting is legal, but one may only kill a bear every 4 years and most people don’t out of respect (also the meat is apparently pretty chewy); a gallon of milk on the island is $8; last year the island saw 25 ft of snow at the coastline and even more in the mountains! The bus ride to the top was 45 minutes and the trip down on the zipline was only about 90 seconds. Flying at about 60mph over such stunning and unobstructed views was absolutely incredible. After our quick trip down the mountain, we went to explore the old cannery. In the cannery, they had some old canning equipment on display and information about the canning process. If you didn’t know, canned fish is all chopped up and put into the can and then it is cooked. Now you know. Getting back to the ship we walked along the beach, which, instead of sand, was made up of smooth rocks. There were 100s of undamaged shells in among the stones, because, as Glen put it, “at low tide the table is set” with all the shellfish you could want. It was definitely a fun day, exploring a port that was different from any other port I have been to because it is privately owned (i.e. not by the cruise lines).

Next up was the only American state capital not accessible by roads. You can only get there by air or by sea! Juneau is likely the most quaint state capital I have been to, and I have been to several. I would not say that it is a bad thing that it is quaint though, I think it matches the state in a lot of ways. Though the state itself is massive, the people who there live, for the most part, reside in small towns and villages and the capital reflects that. While in Juneau, we took the tramway to the top of Mt. Roberts. Again, the weather was not really conducive to seeing the views from the tram. While on the mountain, we got to see a bald eagle named Lady Baltimore up close. She lives there as part of a raptor preserve, following having her wing broken, her beak damage, and one of her eyes blinded in a hunting accident. We also took a short hike and saw a cross, for the short time that it was not covered in clouds, that was originally placed prominently on the top of a crest in the early 1900s by a Jesuit priest who loved hiking. Once we were sufficiently chilled from hiking in the rain, we went to check out some programs before we took the tram back down. There was a video about the Tlingit people, the natives of the area, their culture and history. Then there was a string performance by a Alaskan native who told us some different stories that related to the history of the area. Coming down the mountain on the tramway was sadly just as cloudy as the trip up, but once we broke through the cloud cover the views were spectacular. By the time we got down the mountain it was lunch time so we made our way to a restaurant that served local foods. I had some of the most savory crab cakes I have ever had and my best friend was adventurous enough to try a reindeer corn dog which she quite enjoyed. Following lunch was an all uphill trip up to the Alaskan state house. We took a self-guided tour around Sarah Palin’s old stomping grounds and learned about how the state representatives used technology as it advanced in an attempt to best communicate with their constituents. Alaska is a rad state and the same can be said for the capital.

Our next port of call was Skagway; a very historical town, as it sprung up during the gold rush in southeast Alaska. We learned about the era when Skagway was a boom town with thousands upon thousands of people rushing in and spending all of their money at a chance to get rich. In the old train depot that is now a museum we watched videos about people spending the last of all they had just to not make it all the way or get there just to find out there was no gold left for them. Thousands of people died, turned back, or got there just to maybe work for someone who had already bought a plot of land where there was gold. One of the few people to get rich was Captain William Moore. He settled the inlet long before the gold rush and always imagined people coming and living in the town he wanted to build, only for people to come, push him off his land, and change the name of his town from Mooresville to Skagway. He sued the pants off everyone that took from him and died a rich man. Unfortunately, his descendants were not so lucky with his daughter-in-law taking her own life and several of his grandchildren dying young (one of them under suspicious circumstances). We wandered around and looked at the old timey buildings before heading back to the boat.

Until the end of our cruise, we were out at sea but we did pop into glacier bay for a few hours and had the chance to witness the majesty that is a wall of ice that would dwarf you, were you to stand at the foot of it. There were seals on ice (as our on board naturalist would say “not the latest Disney ploy) and huge pieces of glacier floating past our boat as we got close to the glacier. The less distance between our vessel and the natural wonder the louder the cacophony of thunder like sounds as the glacier broke and dropped car sized chunks of ice into the frigid waters. There really is no experience to compare it to, because it just that unique to be so close to a behemoth of frozen solid water. After spending maybe an hour and a half up on deck, my best friend and I went to change into bathing suits so we could warm up in the hot tub and watch the glacier shrink in the distance as we left the bay.

The next stop our boat made was Seward, Alaska where we had to disembark. Stepping off what was our retreat for seven glorious days was sweet, sorrow. We found our bags and caught the bus over to the train station where we checked our bags for the day, so we could go explore the town until the train was to leave that evening. Starting out we found a wall where people were writing things they wanted to do before they died my favorite of which was “make dank memes.” Truly touching. We made our way down to the Alaska Sealife Center, where we had a blast learning about fish, birds, and all the other fascinating animals that thrive in the freezing waters off the coasts of Alaska. There was a baby walrus that they were nursing back to health after finding it abandoned by his mother and learned that baby walruses love to cuddle which is ridiculously cute even though they are huge even as babies. Upon leaving the sealife center, we had lunch and then went to walk around. We found the Seward library which is beautiful and also has a stunning view of the mountains and the bay, so while I sat upstairs and read alongside my best friend, my sisters went downstairs to watch a video about the Iditarod. After the video ended, we decided to walk back to the train station along the first portion of the Iditarod that is in Seward (this, it turns out is not the trail that the race runs along but is mile zero for the historic Iditarod trail). Before heading to the station to board the train we stopped into the national parks office in Seward and got the stamp for the national park which was pretty sweet.

The train ride took us through some of the most beautiful lands that America gets to claim and we soaked up every minute of it. Also I got to check off “eat dinner on a train” off my bucket list, even if it was not as glamorous as I was hoping. Coming into Anchorage was beautiful and even though it was about 10:30 at night when we arrived at the train station the sun was still high in the sky. We grabbed our bags and tossed them into the back of a taxi van to head for the airport. When we got there, my sisters left to go pick up their rental car since they were staying for a wedding and my best friend and I got in line to go through security so we could board our 1:30 am flight.

We had a connection in Phoenix where I caught about an hour nap on the floor (I am TERRIBLE at sleeping on planes, in cars, etc.) before we boarded our flight to Charlotte. The flight across the country was pretty amazing and it was fun trying to guess where we were based off landmarks when the sky was clear, but as we came into North Carolina there were dark clouds below us and about 10 minutes after we were supposed to land the pilot came on over the PA system to tell us we were being diverted to Charleston, SC due to a storm over the Charlotte metro area. I was so unbearably tired that I wanted to cry. After several offerings of false hope and stupid decisions made by fellow passengers, we finally took off again for Charlotte nearly four hours after we were supposed to land in the first place. We ended up staying the night in a hotel close to the airport because both of us were much too exhausted to drive the hour and half back home. It was late in the morning by the time we rolled out of our cushy hotel beds and went to pick up my car from long term parking, but we were well rested and more prepared to go on and on about what a great time we had exploring the land of the midnight sun.

Friends, if you are thinking about going to Alaska, do not think anymore. Go. The land, the people, the beauty of it all…it pulls you in and makes you never want to leave. I could go for another month and I don’t think I would have my feel of the 50th state. 10 out of 10 would Alaska again.

Please enjoy these pictures from our trip.

Thanks everyone for reading my ramblings even though I don’t post consistently. Y’all rock!

Mary

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Triggers: the good kind (most likely)

Have you ever smelled a specific scent and been taken back to a different time? heard a specific time and flashed back to a another season of your life?

 

There are a few scents and songs that when they hit my senses, more often than not I jump inside my mind to revisit a totally different time.

When I smell a campfire it triggers one of two memories. The first memory is participating in a event that used to be hosted by dad’s church. When I was in elementary school and middle school, my family helped reenact large chunks of the Christmas story. The portion that I always participated in was the town of Bethlehem. This was a length of the parking lot that was set up to resemble the market during the time of Christ. There was a blacksmith, a baker, fruit and vegetable stand, potter, a well, a temple, and all throughout the town there were fires going to keep the townspeople warm because this event was always the weekend before Christmas and everyone was wearing costumes that were not intended for winter weather even in the south. I have very fond memories of sitting around those fires pretending we were in Bethlehem for the census that brought Mary and Joseph to the town all those years ago (“Have you seen the star?” “How lucky you are to have a place to lay your head tonight.”)  The other memory that campfire smoke brings me back to is being in high school and going to bonfires with fabulous friends. These bonfires brought so much joy and laughter into my life. Both of these are such wonderful times in my life and I love randomly remembering them.

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Another scent that is significant to my life is spearmint. Every now and again when I chew spearmint gum, I flash back to sophomore year. At the time I was dating a sweet fella who always smelled of spearmint. These are bittersweet memories to come back around unexpectedly, because though he is a great guy who is still my friend, the memories that come back are of us being close to each other and we have been simply friends for a long while. Sophomore year was also just an interesting year in general for me. It was my first year at the main campus of my high school (we have a separate freshman campus), my second year of marching band, and I thought I knew a lot about who I was (spoilers, I was wrong) because I was almost 16 which seemed like a pretty mature age at the time. Thus, there are ups and downs to reliving that period of my life, even briefly.

 

Along the same lines, the Ocean Eyes album by Owl City brings me back to freshmen and sophomore years of high school where I listened to that album All. The. Time. It was such a great time in my life. I met the people who were closer than friends for me for 4 years, because we spent close to all of our time together. I became a better musician through marching band; I had my first kiss; boys hurt me (for the most part unintentionally–high school is full of stupidity); I became very close to some friends and grew apart from others. All in all, there are mixed emotions that come back when I listen to that album.

 

Free Falling by Tom Petty is the ultimate trigger song for me and a solid sized group of people I know. This song was such a huge part of my senior year of high school that I cannot listen to it without it bringing up some memory from that period of my life. The marching band I was part of was likely the closest knit it has ever been during the 2012 season and during our show that year we all gathered in close and sang that song together. Some of my very best memories are part of from that year so I am typically very happy and nostalgic when I hear that opening theme. Unfortunately, there is always a little twinge of sadness as well because a guy that I graduated with who had a major part of that movement of the show took his own life after we graduated. All of us were so deeply saddened and, at least for me, now that song has a slightly different meaning woven into it.

 

There are other songs that bring me back to specific memories and certain scents that I do not come across as often and thus aren’t as pronounced in my mind, but I always love stumbling across them and thus old memories. Hopefully I’m not alone in having these sensory triggers. I’d love to hear about any triggers y’all have!

Here’s to a new month, even though I cannot believe it is already August.

-M

 

P.S. I took an amazing trip at the end of June and am working on a post about that which will be out soon-ish. I also have a full-time job now, that I am loving, so I will also be writing about that soon as well!

P.P.S I updated my name, because I’m not a student anymore!! To be determined as to how much more of my personal life (state, school I attended, etc.) I’ll be sharing on here now that these things won’t link me to a specific campus where I live. Internet safety is important friends!

A Time for Change?

Three days. I will have my degree in hand in three days.

“You must be so excited!” everyone who hears I am graduating soon say. I am so so SO excited, don’t get me wrong, but nobody ever notes the other emotions graduates are feeling. Not a single soul has asked about the other emotions I am meeting in this “change of life” stage. Stress, nostalgia, sadness, joy, pride, gratitude, love. These are all emotions I have cycled through in recent weeks.

Yes, I am done with all the requirements that my university requires of me in order to earn my degree, but I still have a large test looming in my future. One cannot become a registered nurse without passing NCLEX, so even though I have a job lined up it is dependent upon passing an exam. Thus, I am still feeling some stress.

Recently, I have had photos and posts from the ends of school years spanning from freshmen year of high school to last year. My sisters’ college graduations have popped up, junior and senior proms, moving out of dorm rooms, and AP exams my senior year of high school have all come across my Timehop. There have been such massive changes in my life and yet there are lots of constants in my life. Unbelievable amounts of nostalgia have hit me as I have walked around my university’s campus.

This nostalgia has made me feel full but it some ways it makes me really sad that there are chapters of my life that are closing. High school does not feel long ago at all and yet my college days are coming to an end.

Though I am sad that college is ending, I am overjoyed that I am about to be a nurse. Caring for people is all I have ever wanted to do, it is why I have worked so hard,  and now I am shifting into a part of my life where that is what I will be doing!

This degree is not something that I could laze about and still earn. There has been literal sweat and actual tears on this journey. I was not handed the chance to graduate I worked really hard to reach this achievement and I am not ashamed to say that I am proud of myself.

Though I have put in the work to earn this degree, there is no way I would be where I am without God, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and all kinds of super awesome people in my life. There is a slew of people that I am so blessed by and for whom I am unbelievably grateful.

Constant throughout the past few weeks (and basically always in reality) has been a feeling of love. Love for my school that has given me unforgettable experiences and tons of knowledge. Love for my friends from various chapters of my life who give me constant encouragement and never abandon me (even though I can be a lot to handle) Love for the profession of which I am so excited to be a part. Love for my amazing parents and siblings, who are the best people I know and who are always willing to listen to me.  The most love for the Word, the source of all love, my constant companion, my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

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If you know someone who is graduating or just graduated, keep in mind that they are probably experiencing lots of emotions. Be excited for them, but ask them how they are really feeling. Congratulations to all the graduates out there!

Pray for me and everyone else who are facing tests that stand between them and the professions they are pursuing

-M

Moving On Up

Adult life story time everybody. Get excited.

Recently, I have applied for many RN positions in the area I want to live in following graduation. (For those who do not know: yes you can apply for nursing jobs in anticipation of receiving your license even if you do not have it yet.) Up until Tuesday, I had not heard from anybody following up on any of those applications. Of course Tuesday, I was at work all day and I work at a day school taking care of kids so it was not like I could say “hold on kids, I have to take this phone call.” By the time I was able to call back that evening the only option was leaving a message so I decided to call again in the morning.

When I called Wednesday morning, I knew they wanted to set up an interview but I had no idea they wanted me to come in that afternoon. Was not scheduled for work that afternoon, so I spent the day mentally prepping for a 4 o’clock interview for my first grown-up job.

I am excited to say that the interview went really well! They seemed to really like me and be impressed by my answers to their questions. I really liked the environment and the job itself would be so great: 8-5 hours, no weekends, no holidays, and I’d get to work with kids? Sign me up.

They’ve got another person to interview this coming week so I will not know whether I got the job until after that individual has been interviewed, but I am excited by the prospect that I could have this job. Shifting into this new stage of my life is scary and invigorating all at the same time so here’s to adulthood.

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring (even if you have seasonal allergies like me)!

M

Expectations on the “day of love”

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

This day means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some it is an extra special day for celebrating the love that is shared with a special someone, for others it is a day to celebrate all the love that exists in their lives, and for others still it is a sad day that’s only purpose seems to be reminding them of their single status.

The existence of the holiday can be attributed to St. Valentine of Rome whose feast day is the 14th of February. He is typically associated with “courtly love,” but in reality he was a faithful man who was ultimately killed for his beliefs and mission. A beautiful sentiment that a man who loved the Lord so much, ultimately became the namesake for a holiday associated with love even if most people don’t really think of it as his feast day.

So what is my expectation on this feast day turned commercial love holiday? I would love to say it makes no difference to me and it’s just another day, but unfortunately that is not fully true. I would also really like to blame social media, but ultimately the blame falls nowhere in particular.

It is worth saying that I am still very single. I am not upset about it; I don’t have the time necessary to pour into a relationship that involves pursuing a man’s love, affection, and respect. Plus, there is a lot to be said about self love prior to romantic entanglement. While I am not upset by the fact that I’m not currently in a relationship, it is tough to see many happy couples celebrating the affection they have for each other all at once. Seeing happy couples on a day to day basis is typically very encouraging to me; it is beautiful to see reflections of Christ’s love in their relationships. However, it can be discouraging when you feel like the only single in a room filled with couples. I fully understand that I am far from being the only single person my age, but few people blow up facebook/twitter/instagram/ snapchat with their single-hood on Valentine’s day. The love I receive from God, my family, and my friends is so sweet and I cherish it very much, but for me at this point in life my expectation of Valentine’s Day is tinged with a little nostalgia and longing.

I have spoken about this previously, but due to the way I’m feeling today, and surely some others out there as well, it is relevant again. Missing being spoken for is not unheard of when you see picture after picture of happy people out on Valentine’s dates whether or not you are missing the person who held your heart in the past. It can be hard to be single on a day when so many are celebrating finding their “perfect match,” but it is important to keep some things in mind. If you have been in a relationship before and are not anymore, there is a reason for it; learn from the relationship you had with that person and allow it to help you to be a better significant other in the future. If you have never been in a relationship before, you are not alone in your wait; when you decide to put your heart out there for someone it will be so so special. Lastly, it is of limitless importance that you remember that there are oceans of love all around us (I know that is hard to believe sometimes when you watch the news, but I promise it’s out there!) that comes to us in so many forms: a friend, a minister, a customer service rep. who made your experience pleasant, that guy who let you into traffic, and the list goes on and on. Look for the love that is in this world and the wait for the one who will walk beside you in life and love you in a way you have only dreamed will seem to get here much faster.

I hope you are all having the loveliest February!

M

PS I’m less than month away from finishing my final classes for nursing school and entering into my preceptorship during which I will shadow the same nurse for a month and basically work beside her as a regular nurse. Please pray for me during this exciting and terrifying time!

I Feel Like a Woman

Part of me wants to ignore the events of this weekend. There are women on either side of a great divide, and sadly a lot are being thrown directly into the great chasm. I am proud of all those who stand up for what they believe and draw attention to issues they care about, but there are some issues I have with many of the marches that occurred this weekend.

First of all, it seems to me that the word “feminism” is being thrown around a lot, but without a full understanding of what it is. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” This sounds great, in theory. There is a roadblock from making this an achievable goal though that everyone is ignoring. Men and women are both humans, but we are so different that equality really is not possible and we would not really want it. Home insurance and automobile insurance are both great, but it would not make sense if the coverage was the same.

Secondly, why in the world would women who are pushing for women’s rights intentionally disclude a large group of women who also want to march???? Nobody seems to be talking about this, but pro-lifers who were excited to be a part of the women’s marches across the nation were turned away. When women tear each other down, how are we supposed to rise up? It makes no sense to me that you would call an event a “women’s march” if you will not allow all women to be represented.

On top of all of this, there are people on social media who are ripping down women who are self proclaimed feminists, most notably Taylor Swift. T. Swift speaks out often about her opinion of what would be good for women and surrounds herself with strong lady friends. She did not attend a march. The internet sure as anything noticed and there are many who are attempting to decimate her reputation. There is no reason for this. All of us should encourage each other: women should encourage women, men should encourage women, women should encourage men and men should encourage men. We are all on this planet trying to make the most of life here on Earth so be positive and help others.

Today and everyday, I am a woman who stands for what she believes in and human rights for all.

-M

P.S. political comments are welcome as long as they are thoughtful and civilized.

Home.

Surely everyone heard the saying “home is where the heart is” at least once. If you haven’t you either don’t live in a primarily English speaking country or you are a recluse. Which if either of those statements apply to you, it is a mystery how you came to stumble upon this blog.

This saying has been weighing on my heart so heavily lately (alongside other quotes and songs about home) and it all brings me back to one idea. I have loved living at school, meeting wonderful new friends, growing as a person, and learning. Now that I’m a senior though, I have to think of my future. Where is my home?

For so many, I feel like this results in great conflict in their hearts and minds, but for me it is so so so simple. My heart, and consequently my home, has always been with my family. I say all the time that my hometown and the area immediately surrounding it is a great place and I want to live there because of this combined with the fact that there are great hospitals where I could get a job. This is true, but it’s not the reason I want to move back to the place I have always thought of as home.

All my plans for the future would be desolate if my siblings and my parents were only in them sparingly. There are points throughout every day that I wish that one of my family members were there to experience something with me that I think that would be fully appreciated by one of them or would make a joke about. For many I’m sure this is how they think of their best friends, but my siblings and my parents are best friends to me. Yes, I have very close friends who are not in my nuclear family, but to me those friends are family to me, just a different kind of family.

Realistically, it would be my dream to just buy a large lot of land in my favorite town and build homes for all the people I love most. I’ve posted before about how disappointing it is to grow up miles and miles away from your extended family, and I don’t want that for my kids. I want my future kids to have the opportunity to be close friends with their cousins and the future children of my best friends, while growing up in a great community in my beloved (adopted) home state.

For now, I hope my heart’s longing will be quieted a little by the idea that soon, so soon, I’ll be home.

Hope everyone has gotten a taste of fall! I have and I’m LOVING IT!!!

M