Archive 2014 April

Angel Rocks for Easter

One awesome perk about being married and living so far from most of our family and friends is that we get to make our own completely original holiday traditions. And we can be as conventional or non-conventional as our hearts desire. Our first Easter together was no exception. The whole weekend was actually a blast because he had a four-day and he’d just gotten home from a month of training, but the actual day of Easter was my favorite.

We forgo-ed the baskets, the candy, the ham, and the family (the last one wasn’t on purpose!). He slept in and I went for a run because this weekend was the very first weekend the bike and walking trails around our neighborhood were clear and I was itching to test them out. After a 5 mile run, we had a late breakfast and then we drove down Chena Hot Springs road and decided to do the Angel Rocks Loop.

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Angel Rocks is a 3 mile hiking trail that leads hikers up to these awesome granite formations that overlook the mountains and valleys that surround the Chena River. On a normal day, it would have been an easy hike. On a day that I decided to see how far I could run for the first time this season, my hip flexors were burning most of the hike. Because of the amount of snow, I’m not entirely sure if we made it to the top most rock or not, but we ended up scrambling up one that overlooked everything perfectly and hung out there for awhile, eating nuts, drinking water, and taking pictures.

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I always have an intense wave of humbleness overcome me when I go hiking and reach the “summit” of my hike. Some of the most spiritual moments of my life have been overlooking mountain ranges, rivers, tiny roads and people, watching birds fly below me, and seeing how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things.

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There’s something about seeing the world from this perspective that almost drops me to my knees.

After our hike, we used our new grill and made steaks, asparagus with parmesan, and grilled onions and peppers. Dessert was ice cream and lots of it. It was a completely unconventional, original Easter holiday and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My religion is nature. That’s what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me.”
– Oliver Sacks

 

12 Books for 2014 Check In

Back in January I wrote a blog post about my love for reading and my commitment to read a book a month for the next year.

Well, it’s four months into the year so I thought I’d do a little check in. Since I’m checking in on one 2014 goal, I might have to check in on the rest as well. It never hurts to see if I’m on track. I rather not reach the end of 2014 and feel like I wasted the past year (Type-A personality problems).

The Reading List:

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath [x] 2. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
3. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
5. MWF seeks BFF by Rachel Bertsche [x] 6. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells
7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho [x] 8. Watership Down by Richard Adams
9. A Little Princes by Frances Hodgson Burnett
10. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
11. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
12. The Help by Kathryn Stockett [x]

I’m 4/4 and four months in! Three of those four books I can thank to my March vacation home. Flights from Fairbanks to anywhere on planet earth Minnesota take a ridiculously long amount of time, and I also had a 16 hour road trip squeezed into that ten day trip. In short, I read like crazy.

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Of the four books I’ve read so far, The Help by Kathryn Stockett was without a doubt my favorite. I still have yet to see the movie, so it was fun for me to read it with zero expectations. It was wonderfully written, realistic fiction novel based on African-American housekeepers/maids working in White households in Southern Mississippi in the 1960’s. I was laughing, crying, and feeling the warm fuzzies throughout the entire read.

The Bell Jar was excellent, but eerie. Read with caution. You may start to question your own sanity as you free fall into the mind of the clinically depressed Esther Greenwood. It is a classic, and my second favorite of the books I have read so far.

MWF Seeks BFF by Rachel Bertsche is not a bestselling novel, or even all that well-known, but for someone who just moved from a city with all my friends to an isolated location where I knew no one but my husband – this book was relatable in every way. If you have just moved and you’re looking for ideas on making friends, or what it takes to establish a good friendship with someone, this book is filled with research, evidence, and first hand accounts of the author’s struggles to make new friends after her move from New York City to Chicago. I appreciated this book immensely.

Lastly, I read the Alchemist. One of the most read, translated books of all time or something? This is potentially the unpopular opinion of the year, but I was not impressed. It hooked me and it was an easy read, so I dived right in and finished in a few short hours on our road trip, but I wasn’t left feeling much when I finished. It was too vague, and the whole “personal legend” thing was not much of an inspiration for me. I felt like the book tried way too hard to teach the reader a lesson.

I’m currently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith, which is unfortunately not catching my attention at all after 100 pages in, and I have a strict “life is too short to read bad books” policy. I may have to add a different book to the list and let this one go…

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 
― Dr. SeussI Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

How are you doing on your 2014 reading goals? What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? What did you think of The Alchemist?

 

 

 

PSA: Back up your writing

The heart attack I just had (figuratively of course) when my computer wouldn’t turn on and instead was just staring at me, stuck on a grey page with a spinny wheel of death for a solid twenty minutes was enough to make me FINALLY back up the story I’ve been writing.

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YOU DON’T KNOW FEAR UNTIL THIS HAPPENS

I hate that part in the writing process where I finally have to admit, out loud, it’s a story. Because that means I’m growing attached. I’m falling in love with the characters and the setting and the plot (which still needs a lot of work), but it’s all coming together slowly but surely. I’ve been in the denial process for awhile now. It’s just a “bit of personal writing”. It’s “nothing”. It’s me “expressing myself”. Uhm, no. It’s a story and when I thought all 30+ pages of words were lost to a blank, empty grey page, I wanted to bawl.

Tears were at the brim of my eyes when the computer did decide to go to my home screen and allow me to find the document, fully intact and unharmed. Of course, it was uploaded to my Google Drive and external hard drive immediately because I’m not about to go through that loss again.

I’m also not ready for the loss of inspiration, the loss of what to say next, and the feeling of loss when the story isn’t good enough to be the “real deal”…which is why I’ve avoided ever talking about this hobby of mine.

“I love writing,” I tell people.

And when they instinctively ask, “Oh what do you write?”

Suddenly I’m embarrassed and not good enough to call myself a writer. “Oh I blog, wrote a lot in school, do some journaling, you know.”

I want to say it. It’s at the tip of my tongue. I can feel myself excited about my current idea, the character development, the intricate setting, but instead I tell them I blog. I journal. I write articles. Because God forbid I admit I write stories and I have since I was about 7 years old. That I create characters with as much history and background as any person standing next to me in real life. That ideas come to me in dreams, while driving my car, at work in the middle of filling out of an order or planning a campaign.

I have a writer’s brain, because I am a writer. I’ve never been published, and I don’t have any awards for writing. This hobby is mine and mine alone. But for the first time in my life, I’m realizing it’s still valid. I have potential and drive. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see my dream become a reality, but that doesn’t make me any less of a writer.

So save the document you’re pretending is just a “silly little thing”. Seriously. Do it. Right now. Maybe it’s not writing you’re into. Maybe it’s poetry, or music production, or graphic design, or photography, or whatever thing you love to do but are too scared to label yourself as such. I’m no poet, no artist, no photographer, no writer, etc.

Actually you are.

Whatever you’re creating is valid and it matters, and so do you. Be proud of your work and call yourself whatever label you see fit. Your only critic, MY only critic, is the one looking at me in the mirror.

I am a writer.

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”

– Joss Whedon

Alaskan vs. Minnesotan Winters

It’s April.

My tiny hometown in Minnesota just had a blizzard and was dumped on by snow. My current place of residence, Fairbanks, AK still has about a foot of snow in our yard, despite not having snowed in weeks. I wonder what it’s like to actually experience April showers and April flowers. Maybe one day I’ll find out. For now, I’m just an unofficial expert on two of the coldest locations in the United States.

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But what location really experiences the worst winters?

Well, from a completely unscientific, non-meteorologist, experience-only point of view, here’s my breakdown:

Length of Winter

Alaska wins, hands down. Despite Minnesota’s sporadic snowfalls in late April or early May, the temperatures usually warm up significantly right after that last snow and everything melts in a matter of days. Fairbanks winters start early and drag on…and on. We’ve had mid 30’s during the day and single temperatures overnight for almost the past 6 weeks. With hardly any budge in temperature.

Snow Fall

Minnesota, this is all you. This year I was told we got a little bit more snow than normal and it was maybe a foot and a half total? I’ve seen feet upon feet of snow in good ol’ Minne growing up. This year in particular, they had more snow than I can remember in the past five years. Fairbanks completely dries up after January, and we see almost no precipitation between now and June.

Temperature

I saw -48 degrees with no wind chill this year in Fairbanks. My mind was actually blown. It was ridiculously cold. So cold my car hardly started even after being plugged in at all times for weeks on end. The oil literally freezes solid at around -30. All cars have to be winterized in Fairbanks and there were weekends in December and January where I was willing to do pretty much anything that didn’t involve having to step foot outside. Alaska takes the cake for temperature. I think the coldest I’d ever seen in Minnesota was -25.

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Don’t even get me started on “ice fog” in Fairbanks…

Darkness

Ugh, Alaska. Probably one of my least favorite parts of winter. It was annoying enough in Minnesota where it got down to 7-8 hours on the worst days. We missed the shortest day of the year this year in Fairbanks due to spending Christmas in Alabama, but the day we left, we were at about 2.5 hours of sunlight. It felt like living in a scary movie at all times. No, I’ve never watched 30 days of night. I never will after living here.

Wind Chill 

MINNESOTA. I completely forgot about the miserable Minnesota wind chill until I went to visit in March and couldn’t stop whining about it. Fairbanks is in a large valley that hardly ever gets wind chill. Two days this entire winter I recall it feeling “windy”. Every other day was just a “still” cold. Minnesota has air that hurts your face and your legs and your soul. Walking to class in college would leave me with beat red thighs and crying eyes thanks to the wind.

Worse Winter? 

Such a toss up, and I’d have to say they tie for equally miserable, but completely different reasons. Alaska’s darkness is not the least bit enjoyable. It makes taking Vitamin D and getting outside during bleak hours of sunlight essential to prevent insanity. I don’t get seasonal depression, but I couldn’t imagine anyone who did being able to live in Fairbanks.

Minnesota? Minnesota wins for being colder. No matter how low that temperature gets in Fairbanks, the air doesn’t move, so if you bundle absolutely everything, you’ll be okay. Minnesota’s cold is the most unforgiving kind of cold, with the wind tearing apart any happiness you have. I can’t even imagine living in North Dakota…

So there you have it. My take on winter in two of the coldest places in the United States. You may or may not be able to tell, but I’m so ready to not experience a 6+ month winter for the first time in my life. The next place we’re stationed, I don’t care if rains 300 days of the year or has hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If it stays above freezing the majority of the year and sees minimal snowfall, I’ll be the happiest, most shocked girl in the world.

I’m going to go turn up the heat in my house and pretend there’s not snow on the ground today, April 5th. But not before I leave you with five ridiculously good songs from my newest acoustic playlist on Spotify. What is it about the perfect mellow playlist that brings out inspiration, feelings, and a dreaming heart? A big shout out to “Life Unexpected” (and me marathoning it until 4 AM last night) for all of these musical choices.

1. Beautiful Tree by Rain Perry
2. You Got Growin’ Up To Do by Joshua Radin
3. Can’t Go Back Now by The Weepies
4. Family Name by Peter Bradley Adams
5. Here We Go by Mat Kearney

 

 

 

 

 

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