The reality of my next unmapped adventure completely hit home, Sunday night as I laid my head down for the final time in Seattle. I know in my heart it might just been for a year, but reality is, I don’t know where my life is going to be when the end of the school year roles around. If these mapless adventures have taught me anything, it’s that nothing can be planned out. Unforeseen events can happen and life can change quickly before realizing they’ve changed.

It’s one of the exciting aspects of life, knowing that things aren’t mapped out perfectly. Those unmapped adventures are what brings excitement into our worlds. Doors open at any minute.

This particular mapless adventure, has begun. My stuff was in storage. My car completely packed to the max. I was waking up to embark on a solo road trip through 5 states, to arrive at my parent’s house for 1 final week at home. This was it. No turning back now. I am really going to be moving to the US Virgin Islands. Read more

30 Years on Planet Earth

30 years.

30 years is how long I’ve been blessed to be alive and healthy on planet earth.

30 years, I’ve been blessed to be apart of a growing family, who have done nothing but support, love, cherish, and guide me through this crazy thing called life.

30 years, I’ve spent my time growing, learning, becoming, and loving.

30 years, I’ve enjoyed exploring, searching, and trying new things.

30 years.

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A Hiking Adventure- Winter Edition: Lake Valhalla

Here in Seattle, winter can be well…wet and grey. I try my hardest to not let it affect me much, even though it’s completely opposite from Arizona winters. The wet and grey never really stop me from doing anything outside because it is just rain. Last year, I trained for running races and did a few non-snow hikes in the rain and cold. This year, however, I decided it was time to venture out into the mountains and to the snow.

Every since leaving college in Cedar Falls, IA and Flagstaff, AZ, snow hasn’t really been something I seek out for fun and enjoyment. It’s cold. It’s wet. Did I mention it’s cold. I didn’t really enjoy it much in Iowa, though I had more sleet and ice storms than snow storms, and I only did 1 day worth of snowboarding during my 2-years in Flagstaff. To be honest, I only remember a few (<5) times where my family ventured into the snow; skiing in Utah and sledding in Prescott to name a couple. I mean, after all my parents did move AWAY from the snow and cold when I was only 6 months old.

So why did things change this year and my new found love for the snow? Well, first off, Seattle is only 45 minutes from the western boarder of the Cascades Mountain Range, and the beginning of winter included MANY feet of fresh powder, which was something we didn’t get the past couple of years.  Several of my friends started posting pictures of their snowshoeing and snowboarding adventures with beautiful white snow capped mountains. The more they posted, the more I became intrigued and eager to explore.

After talking with my friend Chris, we set a date to head eastbound and have a little snowshoeing exploration of an area just east of Stevens Pass, a popular snowboarding/skiing destination (Chris did the destination planning). I was able to obtain an inexpensive but sturdy pair of snowshoes prior to this adventure, which was a great decision to purchase instead of renting. Renting snowshoes from REI can cost around $40 and I was able to snag mine for $70 at Costco. I didn’t feel like spending more as I wasn’t sure if I’d like snowshoeing or not, but I also didn’t feel that the $30 difference was worth not purchasing.

It was finally time to head off towards the mountains and the sun was shining though the weather was FREEZING. When we arrived at the trailhead (or roadside), Chris’s car temp gauge read 2 degrees. I cannot tell you the last time I was in 2 degree weather, let alone 2 degree weather starting a HIKE.

Chris choose a trail to a place called Lake Valhalla, a known nordic location for cross-country/downhill skiers. Before we got started, Chris spent sometime getting me up to speed on my snowshoes and it took a few steps before I was feeling comfortable (though my poor hands were freezing).

For the next couple hours, we shoe’d our way upwards, stopping occasionally for some pictures and eventually found ourselves at a flat surface, but no lake was located. We continued snowshoeing downwards before turning back towards the flat. It was at this point that we discovered the lake was off to the side of the flat surface but completely covered in snow.  I guess we should have known it’d be cover as the mountains got about 4 feet of snow. After we learned this, we stopped for a short snack break completed with tea and coffee!

These hours spent in the mountains, consistently took my breath away. With the amount of snowfall covering the mountain peaks and treetops, the overwhelming white was beyond perfection. My heart and soul were filled with happiness, peace, and love for the snow. It was this trip that I could truly say, I love the winter and I love the snow. The pictures don’t even do this trip justice.

A date to remember…

December 11th. December 11th. A date I wish I could take back. A date I wish I could change, but not sure I really would. I’ll explain why.

This date will forever hold a special meaning to me. It came at the right moment, though not the way I would have like. It will be a date to remember, but not the good type of “date to remember”. It was a date of change, a date of “slap into reality” and a date of shame.

I made a decision that night, a poor decision indeed, and chose to have a few drinks then get behind the wheel. I know what you’re probably thinking, “I’ve done that before” or “most everyone has done it once in their lives”. You are probably correct. But on that date, I got caught. I chose to Drink-and-Drive. I chose to put my life and other’s in danger because I wasn’t and didn’t think clearly. I didn’t think of the consequences. I didn’t think about the shame and the embarrassment I’d feel after the event. I didn’t think of the pain and sadness I’d cause my parents and my family. I DIDN’T think. I was selfish.

I have been hesitant to write this post because, as we all know, once it’s on the internet it’s out there. But if my story can help just one person learn from my error, from my lapse in judgement, my lack of thought process, then it was worth sharing.

At the time this happened, I was in the mindset or “Go, Go, Go”. I was living in the big city and everywhere I looked there was something to do. I was living in a busy, busy house with many roommates where some kind of fun activity was always surfing. I wasn’t saying no at the right time, I wasn’t taking time for me, I was drinking more than I should have or needed to be drinking. I started losing a little of me and then the DUI occurred. The DUI that forever changed my life.

For the next 6 months following the DUI, I drifted away from MANY people. I lost a little of my faith and was mad at God, I stopped doing what I love to do, and I honestly started hiding from practically everyone. I started running a lot (for me) knowing I needed something to focus on (a marathon to be exact) and pulled away from all other aspects including close friends and volleyball, a sport I LOVE. I even stopped going to church. It was a dark 6 months. It wasn’t until the summer hit, that I started opening up to other and share my story (as my counselor requested me to do).

I tried to make it through alone, and it wasn’t working. My friends started wondering and asking me what was going on and when I finally told them, not one of them looked at me any different, not one of them ran away, not one of them stopped wanting to be my friend. It was relieving to know that I have great friends who accept me, all of me, the good, the bad, the ugly. I don’t know why I felt that I could do this alone. I don’t know why I felt that people would judge me. Because the truth of the matter is, if you have those people in your life that love you and care about you NO MATTER what, then you have one of the best gifts ever. People make mistakes. People have lapse of judgement. It’s how you respond to the consequences that help you become a better you.

I started going back to church that same summer and felt more joy and love in my heart than I ever thought possible. I continued my running/training for the marathon, but found myself spending more time with other believers and less time wanting to go out. They pulled me out of my darkest time and brought me back into the light of God’s love and God’s arm. The second half of 2015, was some of my favorite 6 months since I’ve moved to Washington. I grew close to many people and I feel like I have some of the best group of friends I could ask for.

Sometimes, it takes a MAJOR slap into reality to truly show you how blessed, how loved, and how much joy life can have. I don’t wish a DUI or ANY bad event on anyone, but if it happens to you, remember that there are people in this world who care about you. God will be there for you, whether you are mad at him or not. He doesn’t leave. Use the situation and grow from it. These types of events aren’t designed to bring you down, they are designed to help you grow into a better, stronger you. I know it has for me.

Redneck Extravaganza

Have you ever had a weekend that filled your heart with so much happiness, gratefulness, love, laughter, and faith? I experienced one of those weekends less than a month ago and have had so much love in my heart since. I’ve been battling personal struggles for the last 9 months and this weekend showed me that I’m on the uphill climb to a new and better me. It’s possible to feel as though you’ve got nothing left but still grow in relationships, make new relationships and reconnect with our Savior.

My Redneck Extravaganza weekend was spent with 5 other Christians, who are so kind-hearted, grateful, loving and all around wonderful humans, who I am lucky to call friends. The weekend didn’t start off as planned, as we were initially planning on climbing to a fire tower through forest and snow. However the day before, Washington’s weather took a turn from sunny and 75 to raining and thundering. Not quite the ideal weather to summit a mountain. Instead, one of the guys, Ben, put an idea out there for camping over in eastern Washington near a popular destination called Mosses Lake. As I didn’t have any knowledge of such place, I was all in, regardless of the decision. And the decision was to postpone the fire tower climb and head east to camp.

We met as a group bright and early Saturday morning, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and loaded up Big Blue or Diesel. The men (Ben, Paul, and Jonny) had this vision of how the truck needed to be loaded because we had 3 kayaks, 6 bikes, fishing gear, and all of our stuff. Us girls (myself, Brittany, and Angela) really did try to help them, but let’s face it when men have a vision, it’s really better to just let them do their thing. When the truck was finally loaded, we piled into the truck (all 6 of us) and began our road trip.

I selected the middle of the back seat (not sure if I actually selected it or if that’s just how it worked out) but I didn’t mind. It was fun to be between everyone during the drive through the city and beyond to the I90 corridor, as I began learning about many other adventures and stories the group has shared together, more specifically the men’s stories.

We made several pit stops, which all included very random and very hilarious extra activities. Those included random running/sprinting to a pole, group circle push-ups, running through a corn field (resulting in me getting smacked in the face from a corn stalk) and an apple orchard during a MASSIVE wind advisory, and stopping at Wal-mart for a very important purchase, wife-beater tank tops.

The actual location of camping was outside of a town called Othello, in an area called Columbia National Wildlife Refuge/Seep Lakes State Wildlife Recreation Area. A bridge separates the refuge from the recreation area and we decided to take a break there and it turned into the first photo-shoot opportunity. It involved me standing on a truck, the group striking posses on the bridge, and climbing on the sign. We continued on before making our first selection of spots to camp, which turned into our second photo-shoot opportunity, but not our actual camp site.

We piled back into the truck and continued on our way finding a line of rocks blocking a washed out road. This location was our 3rd photo-shoot opportunity and was the start to a good 2-3 hours of off-roading adventure with more random episodes of fun. Us girls started to get restless and we decided to turn back to where the rocks were, but not via truck. The 5 of us, minus Jonny, who drove, jumped onto our bikes and did a little mountain biking.

We finally selected a camp site located near the edge of the lake on a small cliff. It was absolutely breath-taking when setting up camp with the sunset on the horizon and a beautiful, clear sky. Once camp was set up (thank you men for putting up the tents), we enjoy a delicious dinner and some after dinner entertainment with a super moon shining light on us. Nighttime kayaking occurred for Ben and Paul, who went out to fish, and Brittany and Jonny, who took the singles out of the smooth and quite lake. Angela and I stayed behind; I was having too much fun with nighttime photograph trying to capture the stars.

When the group came back from kayaking, I introduced them to something called “Flashlight Nighttime Photography” and we spent a solid 2 hours tracing each other and playing Pictionary via the camera. This was followed by bedtime.

I was the first awake and I woke up to rain dropping down on the tent. Us girls were toasty warm in our tent, but that wasn’t the case when I exited. The rain wasn’t too hard, but it was a bit chilly. I don’t do well just sitting and waiting, so I took off on a hour + bike ride and when I was returning to the camp site the other women were on their way to the restrooms.  Before the men awoke, I got to spend some quality heart to heart with the girls, which whenever you can have girl-time is a special time.

We had some breakfast including coffee and spent some time in worship. I don’t think I’ve been that open and honest with people in sometime. I never felt judgement about my mistake/miss-comings  that I always think I would. I felt loved. I felt friendship. And I felt God again. These 5 people brought back the one thing that was missing during the last 9 months. They brought me back to Him, my Savior, my Heavenly Father.

During worship, it went from cold to super sunny, which we knew meant it was time to hit the water. The men spoiled us and offered to break down camp as we took off on the kayaks towards the canal. We gathered back together, 4 people in kayaks, myself and Ben on the inter tube tied to the double kayak.

This is when our day gets a little spontaneous. We hit the canal, which is a free flowing body of water so we didn’t have to do too much. That was until we hit the bridge. Yes, I’m talking about the same bridge from the day before. Want to know why we stopped? Well, because we (the guys mostly) wanted to jump off the bridge AND designed a rope swing. Why not? I have no fear in heights and honestly have loved “cliff jumping/bridge jumping” when I’ve done it. Every time something adventurous comes up and I’m with Ben, he tells me “Do it for Mapless Adventures”. It’s hard to say “no” to that (though I don’t usually say no) and so that’s exactly what we did. I jumped off the bridge twice and tried the rope swing, but wow of wow did that not feel good. Brittany and I some how really hurt our hands and fingers from the release off the rope (I actually ended up breaking my top knuckle on my middle finger) but it was still a blast. We ended our trip, after Angela and Ben continued down to the bikes and Jonny and Angela rode onto the truck, with one final photo shoot opportunities with the sunset in the back ground.

It was another eventful road trip back to the city and am so thankful that Jonny was a wonderful driving with the amount of rain we hit through the I90 corridor. Our arrival home was past midnight, but with the amount of laughter and adventure that endured I didn’t mind getting home so late. We called our weekend Redneck Extravaganza, but it ended up being “Chasing Sunshine” because that’s exactly what we did. This one is diffidently one for the books!