Monday, August 28, 2017

The Last Frontier

     This past June we travelled to Alaska the way most people do, by cruise ship. Maybe that's why I was slightly underwhelmed with this particular excursion compared to some of our other recent cross-country trips. A cruise ship almost seems too packaged and commercialized, not quite original enough for something like an Alaskan adventure, but by the end of our vacation, Alaska (and our cruise ship) had greatly exceeded my expectations and quickly landed itself at the number one spot in my wander-luster heart.
     Our trip was comprised of 8 days, 7 nights and 4 ports. For anyone interested, our cruise liner was the Norwegian Jewel and I would highly recommend their company. Keep in mind, this was my first cruise so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I can’t imagine the food, service, or experience getting much better. 

     Our first port was Ketchikan, Alaska and it was far and away my favorite docking view of all of our stops. The colorful houses stacked against the mountainside, the perfect brush-stroke mist rolling in over the tree tops and... the pines. Oh my, those pines. My evergreen senses were just exploding with happiness. When I envision Alaskan living, this is it, right down to the last rain-soaked tavern on the water's edge.

Our first pitstop in Ketchikan was, of course, the gift shop! I must say those cruise ships and ports get suckers like me every time with their trinkets  and souvenirs. But after a token magnet was bought, we taxi’d out to a trail named the “Rainbird Trail.” Fun fact: the trail was named after the mythical “rainbird” that was said to inhabit the local rainforest. We didn’t want to hike in an area that was crawling with cruise tourists, but we also didn’t want to spend too much time riding around in a taxi and this trail was the perfect fit. It was less than 10 minutes from port and we only ended up passing one other couple while we were on the trail. The trail was only about 2/3  of a mile long but it  provided some steep passes and amazing views. Par for the course, it was raining lightly the entire hike, which I thought was perfectly appropriate for our Alaskan rainforest experience. 

Another fun fact: Something extremely special happened on this trail, my brother proposed to his girlfriend, and I was there to document the whole thing!! 

        After our hike, we taxi’d back to the port area and grabbed some chowder at a local pub. And did a little more shopping of course.
     Our second port was in Juneau, Alaska. We lucked out and had absolutely gorgeous weather for our hikes while in the capitol. After docking, we took an air-tram to the top of Mount Roberts and did about 1-2 miles of hiking in an alpine area near the top of the mountain. The trails were fairly easy and slightly busy since the tram is located right off the port, but if you get there early enough, it isn’t overly crowded by any means. 

        From the mountain-top trails, we hiked another 2 miles to downtown Juneau through the Tongass National Forest. I was convinced we were  going to have our first bear sighting, but alas, mountain goats were the only wildlife encountered. We had only 8 hours in Juneau before we had to board the boat again and we used every minute of it soaking up these trails.

     After Juneau, we docked in Skagway, Alaska. This was the only port that Taylor and I paid to do an excursion booked through our cruise liner. We met our guide at the port hiked a short distance through town to the railroad platform, then took an hour long train ride aboard the Yukon Railway. After hopping off the train at the our trailhead, we hike eight miles round-trip to the Laughton Glacier, stopping atop the glacier to grab some lunch and hot cocoa. The train ride itself was awesome and provided amazing panoramic scenic views. 

               Nothwithstanding the beauty seen from the traincar, however, nothing can compare to boots-on-the-ground hiking through the forest, along the river, up the mountain, to the glacier. In eight short miles, we encountered some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet. 

      Our guides for this excursion were top-notch. They were very laid back, yet informative. Plus, they had a snack bag full of candy bars, so I was immediately sold. They worked for Packer Expeditions, and I would highly recommend booking any excursions through this organization if you’re in their area. 
     Our final stop was Victoria, British Columbia. This was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. Everything from the landscaping, to the sidewalks, were pristine and gorgeous. We had lunch by the harbor and mostly just walked around the downtown area and enjoyed the sites.

     Our Alaska trip ranks as number one on mine and Taylor’s list of adventures, and we’ve had some other real doozies. We’re already planning a trip to get back there as soon as we can. John Muir said it best, as he usually does, when stating “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fall Y'all.

It’s fall y’all. 

There is something about fires in the Fall that make everything seem new again. Whether I’m outside snuggled in flannel and oversized sweats or inside with a good book and a blanket, fires in the fall time are my absolute favorite. Not only do they provide wonderful Instagram shots, (which we all know is the utmost importance), but they also have this uncanny ability to make you forget any and all qualms with the world. For instance, right now I’m currently sitting next to my first indoor fire and my only concern is knowing when I can make the switch from coffee to wine…

Have you noticed how fall looks good on everyone? Christmas season is usually when we outwardly start to count our blessings and cherish the important things in life such as friends and family (and dogs), but if you take the time to notice, really Fall is when people are at their best. It’s a new beginning without the stress of the holidays kicking in yet.

If you’re from the South, Fall also means football. So automatically, the male population is happy and the females can at least pretend to be happy because football also equals good food, and once again, more Instagram opportunities (think cute tailgating pics, crockpot recipes, seasonal alcohol—just scoot a little to the left to catch that pumpkin beer label). For all the unfortunate souls not football-crazed and from the South, you still have the allure of all things nature has to offer in the Fall. Being outside is the best medicine, and I think even the most indoor laying-AC loving-bug spraying-spider screaming boring ol basic you-know-what loves to get their booty outside to enjoy the leaves, the temps and the undeniable inner peace that comes from a walk in the wilderness.  

With fresh pumpkin spice lattes, comes fresh possibilities (or something like that). The leaves fall, and with them you can rid yourself of any bad energy. Breathing in that cool, crisp air and breathing out the stuffiness of summer (or maybe that’s just allergies) is cathartic and relieving. If you’re not taking the time to take a deep breath before stepping into your car in the morning, then shame on you. However, if you park in a garage that is swarming with moths like i do, then just wait and take a deep breath when you get to work and step out of your car. You’ll be breathing in new Fall life, but your co-workers will think you’re just really exasperated and they’ll leave you alone until mid-morning coffee round two. Really it’s a win-win for everyone. But i digress…

If you haven’t found your Fall feng shui yet, never fear. The season is just now at our finger tips, it’ll be within your grasp soon. Take time to soak in all this short season has to offer and extend that wholesome happiness to every person you can. Like we’ve all been warned, Winter is coming so until then may the pies, pumpkins and patagonia vests be ever in your favor.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

More than genetics.

One of my first blogs on myspace described how different parts of my personality came directly from members of my immediate family. I have long since forgotten my myspace login information so I haven’t read that entry in forever, but the idea has always stuck with me, enough so that I wanted to revisit and elaborate on it. 

Let’s start with the younger of my two older brothers, Joshua. Physically, Josh and I have always been very similar. We’re both tall and lanky, especially when running bases or up and down a basketball court. We both have weird, sensitive skin: you touch us, we turn red. No, it’s not a rash, you can stop asking. We have the ability to eat pretty much whatever we want without seeing too many repercussions; trust me, it’s a blessing and a curse. Apparently we look alike, with our facial expressions and mannerisms matching perfectly when reenacting stories or telling jokes. Setting the physical things aside, he’s my spirit animal in many other ways. Our love for Harry Potter is slightly embarrassing. We sit around discussing magical creatures and story lines like it’s our day job. Unfortunately, we both missed the boat on being sailors but our vocabularies would prove otherwise (sometimes fuck is just the best word for the job, am I right?). Also, if ever riding in a car with either of us, please don’t scratch that roof material. That sound alone will drive us crazy with our reactions being too weird to put into words. We’re both goofy as hell, too loud at times, and not the best drivers. I believe we both share a desire to be liked by everyone around us. Josh genuinely cares about people and their feelings, almost to a fault. He just wants everyone to get along and is forever a people pleaser, which is something that I struggle with, but because of him, will continue to strive for. 

My oldest brother, Jacob, is everything I want to be. You know when you have that one person whose approval you seek? Or opinion you treasure? That’s him for me. I think my parents engrained that in me by telling me I was just like him when I was growing up. Be mindful that this was said when they were yelling at me for being a smart ass or for being stubborn, but it made me swell with pride either way. So how much of my personality comes from Jake versus how much of it do I just want to be like Jake is a fine line. My humor will never be on the same level as his, but it’s definitely on the same track. To know us, is to know sarcasm at it’s finest. I get my good taste in music from him. Thank goodness because otherwise I’d still be stuck in my Avril Lavigne era with a tie around my neck. Along those lines, he also taught me good taste in movies. Sitting me down when I was possibly much too young to watch the suicide scene in Full Metal Jacket may have been weird, but hey that’s Jake, and I loved him for it. He taught me the importance of a good campfire and the meaningful conversations it can bring. We both can be a little uncomfortable with change, but I think it’s more that we value familiarity. Jake is a genuinely compassionate person. Whether it’s soaking every chord in at a small music venue, or discussing our family and relationships, it’s something he teaches me to display time and time again. 

My mom is the ultimate mother. You know what I mean? Groceries bought. House cleaned. Laundry folded. Dinner on the table. I honestly think there is something to being a good working housewife and I get that from my mother. She taught me the importance of being a good hostess and that food is love. She also taught me to not start doing anything for my husband that I don’t expect to do for the rest of our marriage, so much for having him clean his own pee off the toilet bowl. Both of us can be somewhat defensive and sensitive in nature, what woman isn’t? Any nurturing habits I have, though they be rare and mostly aimed towards my dogs, I got from her. She loves her kids more than life. Subconsciously, she taught me the importance of sibling relationships. Growing up, I saw how close she was with her sisters and I believe those family values are reflected between my brothers and me. Most importantly, she taught me the healing power of a good shopping spree. 

My dad is my hero. Sure most things I got from him could be interpreted badly, like my greasy hair for instance, or the fact that i’m an absolutely miserably human being if I haven’t been fed, and let’s not even talk about my aloof driving skills. There’s also the fact that I go around unplugging everything in fear of an unlikely house fire which growing up always drove me crazy. Now, Taylor just loves having to plug the coffee pot back in every morning. Sleeping with a gun next to me and being paranoid of a break-in also stemmed from his 3 a.m. nightly habits of checking to make sure all of our doors were locked (he works in prisons for a living so cut him a break). Setting aside all the absurd intricacies that I swore I’d never do and now proudly own up to, my dad is the most selfless person I know. He taught me the importance of faith. He said it didn’t matter so much the denomination of the church you attend, but only that you have a relationship with God. And even though we still disagree on Harry Potter and Obama being direct results of the Devil’s handiwork, I wouldn’t have realized the importance of religion (organized or not) without my father. To say he’s charitable is an understatement. He gives money he doesn’t have to family he hardly sees. He gives his free time to helping others when I’m sure all he wants to do is relax between his weekly flights for work. He’s taught me to love selflessly, no matter the circumstance. I’ll never be as charitable as my daddy is, but how lucky am I to have witnessed it first hand and to have an example to live up to. 

My family literally completes me. My parents have taught me, in true parent fashion, what to do and also what not to do in life. My brothers have been and always will be my best friends and my soul mates. I wouldn’t be who I am without these four people and will take what they’ve given me, the good and the bad, and cherish it always. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Find your time. Find your peace.

The one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to when moving out to the wilderness was commuting. Before the move, it took me all of 3 minutes to get to my office and now it takes me a full 45. How would I wake up that early? What about not taking the dogs out for lunch? When was I going to be able to shoo-shoo? (TMI probably). However, I kept comparing it to my dad’s commute for all our years in Dickson. We purposely moved an hour outside of Nashville to give us a simpler way of life while he sacrificed two hours of his day driving back and forth. Talk about a family man. If he could do it, I could too. 

After talking to my oldest brother, who assured me that he actually misses his 45 minute drive back and forth to school, I actually became pumped. If you know me, then you know that anything my brothers say is golden and taken straight to heart. I was sold.

So on my first day, I woke up early, rolled the windows down and turned on Jason Isbell (if you don’t listen to him by now, then you’re seriously missing out). With Alabama Pines playing in the background, and the neon pink sunrise coming up over the cornfields, I almost mistook my life for a movie and drove straight to the coast. Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but you see where my heads at. It was rewarding. Like I was getting to have this special show all to myself, just because I woke up a bit earlier.

The days following my first commute were very similar: usually graced with a beautiful sky or amazing storm clouds. Good music playing a theme song in the background. I have 20 minutes of backroads to bask in God’s greatness and then 20 minutes of highway to belt out some tunes and get my head right. 

What i’m coming to realize is that it’s not necessarily the scenery, or even the music that makes this a new favorite ritual of mine. It’s the possibility of silence. Spending time alone, with only my thoughts to keep me company, sounded boring at first, but now it’s actually intriguing. 

Think about your day…when do you ever get a minute, let alone 90 where you can zone everything out? I’ve never had that before, and now that it’s been forced upon me, I crave it. Of course, it’s hard to keep your mind from racing straight to a to-do list, or all the things you forgot to do the night before. In those cases, just turn the music up louder. However, usually my mind goes to blessings, and counting everything that I should be thankful for. I’m sure the sunrises and scenery have something to do with that. I have time to reflect and get excited about upcoming events or call a friend I haven’t talked to in awhile. On my way back home, I can decompress. Leave all the shit from work somewhere floating around in my car and not in my mind, effecting the rest of my night. And if I’m not in the pondering mood, it’s been nice to not think about anything. Sometimes time doing absolutely nothing is time well spent. 

Is this why weirdos have been raving about meditation all these years? I guess I finally get it. I know we hear it all the time, but it’s true: in today’s world we have to learn to unplug and slow down. For most people, like me, we find that happening in a way that we wouldn’t have necessarily chosen by ourselves. So I encourage you to find your solo minutes, whatever it may be: hiking, traveling, cooking, yoga, running… Not feeling energetic? Just go for a drive somewhere pretty. It’ll put some things in perspective and from what I hear, apparently keep you from being less bitchy at work. I guess I wasn’t much of a morning person before. A little proof that people can change some, if given the right road map and a good mixed cd. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Keeping the faith.

I’ve recently been preparing myself for some big changes in life. My husband will be graduating law school in May and trying to decide our next step has been all but consuming our minds for the last several months. After spending the majority of the school year without any job offers, we had decided to take fate into our own hands: come July we would pack up and move back to Tennessee. More specifically, Chattanooga, Tennessee, a place where neither of us had lived before but that promised the lifestyle we craved. We spent about a month mentally preparing ourselves for moving to a new town, with not a ton of money and no job prospects for either of us. Psyching ourselves up with this crazy-adventurous-move-like attitude that it’ll work out because it did for Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love type thing (yeah I know, not at all the same). However, like a typical storyline, life (and God) had other plans.

Have you ever had times where you were waiting on God to “take care” of something? Praying for a situation to work out, for some sort of sign to point you in the right direction. For us, we literally were wanting to be pointed in a direction: stay where we are and somewhat settle, or go chasing after our dreams in the good ole South? I feel like sometimes if God isn’t answering us when or how we want him to, then we bend the reality to make it fit into a different plan, our plan, not His. That’s kinda what I was doing…I was covering up our scared, hopeless thoughts with brave, adventurous ones. Not really a bad idea, but something that is truly hard to invest in 100%.  My thoughts were if life isn’t working out where we are, then we should move to where we want to be. Basically, if we don’t create our own opportunities by moving where we want to be, then nothing would happen. Obviously, God wants us to move because nothing is happening here. Right? Wrong.

A few weeks after we made our final decision to move, after we had looked at houses to rent, and after I had warned my patients that I wouldn’t be here in 6 months (yeah people get attached to their hygienists), we got a phone call. A phone call that Taylor had written off months before, but it was an offer for his dream job position as a federal law clerk in Indianapolis. It took us about 30 seconds to accept the offer and just like that, our shiny, brave adventure was thrown out the window.  

So of course after that, my thinking shifted, my faith shifted, probably back to where it was suppose to be. I learned, once again, that I have no clue what God’s agenda is for me, so I need to stop trying to obsessively plan for it. I shouldn’t have to convince myself that what I’m doing is God’s plan. I learned that I need to be patient. If something isn’t working out the way I want it to, at the rate I want it to, I need to chill out. Faith is my favorite idea in this world, and I believe it can keep all of us sane.

As a result of Taylor’s job offer, we get to stay in Indiana for at least two more years. A place that we are starting to feel more comfortable calling home. I get to stay at a wonderful office that I absolutely love working at with co-workers that I can also call my friends. But maybe best of all, we found a dreamy log home that we get to move into this summer and create lifelong memories in. A different adventure in its own right. 

So I guess my point is, things work out, and usually in ways we don’t expect. Keep the faith, friends.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

25 things I've learned in my 25 years.

In a few short months I’ll be turning 26, so I decided to mark my quarter of a century here on Earth with some nuggets of knowledge. I am fully aware that by the time I’m 50 (or even 30), I’ll look back at this and laugh at how blissfully unaware I was, and I’m sure my 70 year old self will say I was just a naive dumbass, but nonetheless…! Below are 25 things that I’ve learned to be true in my 25 years of living: 

1. Keeping a good manicure can do wonders for your self-esteem.

2. Being genuinely kind is easier said than done, but so so important. Try harder.

3. Music heals.

4. Sometimes a good joke isn’t worth someone else’s feelings, so think more Ellen, less Tosh. 

5. It’s always good to have something to look forward to. Whether it’s a vacation 8 months out or a coffee date in an hour, it counts.

6. Someone is always going to be better than you at most things. Go ahead and get over it.

7. The batter is usually better than the finished product, so always leave some in the bowl for licking. 

8. Sex is good for your marriage. Lots of sex is really good for your marriage. 

9. Going outside your comfort zone, however far, usually ends up being a good thing and a great memory.  

10. Dogs are kids too. (sorry real moms) 

11. Let’s be honest, honesty is not always the best policy.

12. Family is the most important thing, really the only thing. And friends are family too. 

13. Marriage may not be a job, but you definitely have to work at it. 

14. Take care of your parents, they took care of you. 

15. Some of the greatest conversations take place around campfires.

16. Falling in love with a fictional character is totally acceptable. Just realize how much of a wreck you'll be when they die. 

17. It's okay to cry for no apparent reason. It helps me all the time. 

18. Food (and alcohol) bring people together.

19. If you get angry when you don’t eat, then eat. If you get grumpy when you don’t sleep, then sleep. Your loved ones will thank you. 

20. High school days are not the best days of your life. (Neither are college)

21. Don’t judge others. You’ve probably been there done that, or at least thought it. If you haven’t, then your best friend has. 

22. Money can buy happiness but that shit is expensive (and short-lived) so be careful. 

23. Sometimes you just need your mom. 

24. Dinner always taste better if someone else cooks it. (so does breakfast, so does lunch)

25. Don't be stingy with compliments. If you like something about someone then you need to tell them. They may need to hear it.

26. Faith will get you through. 

Okay, okay…yes I know I said 25!! I couldn’t narrow my list any more than I already had (originally had about 40 things- yeah I’m a fountain of endless wisdom over here). Item 26 happens to be the most important to me, and has kept me sane in moments of madness. If you take nothing else from this list, take that.

Stay tuned for the 50th year version. 

#27. You're never too old for a cookie cake and princess balloon. (me on my 25th b-day)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dreaming of the PNW.

Lately, I’ve been on this kick. Let’s call this kick: The Pacific Northwest. Have you been there? If not, drop everything (except your phone because you’ll wanna take pictures) and go there immediately. We went there about 8 months ago and I still catch myself daydreaming about it. It’s this place of mystical-magical-ever greenness that should only exist in some prehistoric dinosaur heaven but it’s right here on Earth, and it’s just waiting for you to see it. Confession: Sometimes I get so caught up on the South (and all things Tennessee) that I forget there are other places in the United States. Spectacular places. 

Taylor and I visited the PNW this past year in May kinda on a whim, we wanted to trade in our annual Florida beach trip for something different. Thanks to a friend, we had a general outline of places we wanted to visit, things we wanted to see, but little did I know that I’d fall in love. Dramatic? Yeah, well this place will do that to ya. Everything was dramatic from the vastness of the mountains to the richness of the evergreens. 

Our first stop was Seattle. I feel it important to mention that upon arrival to the West Coast I was sick…very, very sick. I was feeling the worst I had felt in years, and I still loved every minute of our vacation, which says a lot. We spent a couple of short days in Seattle doing the touristy things like visiting the Public Market Center, going to the aquarium and drinking at breweries. Seattle was about what I expected: chilly and rainy but cool. 

Day two and three consisted of Portland, Oregon. Some of my favorite highlights were from Oregon: The Grotto, Mt St Helens, and of course more breweries. The best part about Oregon though was the absolutely beautiful scenery. If you ever want to immerse yourself into complete appreciation of God’s handiwork then take a drive through Oregon’s forests. It’s unfathomable to see nature’s creations there and not believe in some sort of higher power- it’s just that grandiose of a landscape. The waterfalls and trails we explored through the Mt. Hood scenic loop were breathtaking. I don’t know why or how, but seeing things like that bring you back to yourself, back to reality, and I don’t mean the housewife kind, but the kind that makes you laugh harder and love stronger. 

We spent the next couple days driving down the scenic highway 101. You could make a vacation out of driving down the Oregon Coast alone. The evergreens reach all the way out to the ocean as if they are dying to jump into the deep blue water. It was so different from any coast or beach that I had ever seen before, but in such a good way. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from the trip, every day literally seemed more breathtaking than the day before, but the night we camped beachside at Coos Bay was probably my favorite experience. We were nestled right up against a sand dune, tucked under some evergreens with the ocean at our back. I remember watching the sun set over the ocean that night and thinking that nothing could be more perfect than this moment. 

The furthest south we went was the Redwood Forest. It was almost eerily breathtaking. I kept expecting a velociraptor to run by and eat me at any moment. I’m sure that really makes you want to go visit ASAP but seriously that’s how much of a prehistoric vibe the Redwoods emitted. We also camped in the Redwoods National Park, and that was my second favorite experience of the trip. Waking up beneath something so big can make you feel so inconceivably small, but it also has a way of weighing everything out to help you understand what’s important in life. 

The drive back up to Seattle was filled with more beautiful sites and a couple of hotels to even out the “roughing it” we had been doing. By the time our departure flight came, I wasn’t ready to leave. Usually a week away from home and reality is all it takes for me to be ready for the routine of every day life, but not this time. I was like a kid in a toy store (I always liked toys more than candy) and I was convinced that there was more to be seen around every corner. But alas, a vacation is a vacation because it lasts only for a limited amount of time, and our time was up. 

I recommend visiting the Pacific Northwest to anyone and everyone. If you need tall trees to ground you or mountains to lift you, it will do it. Hell, if you just need a good drive with good music or a good brewery with good beer, it’ll do that too. I’m convinced that God spent just a little bit more time on that corner of the country, when you go see it, I’m sure you will to.