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7.6.17

Story County Conservation // Ames, IA

90° temperatures and absurd humidity didn’t stop me from an evening hike around one of my favorite places in Ames last night. While it did cut the final hike on the George H. Clark Sr Trail a little short, there were so many highlights about this walk. I always stop to read the sign about pollinator fuel stations which is located at the beginning of the park. Pollinators (such as bees and butterflies) are what keeps our world and lives going round, and helping them survive and do their jobs is so simple. You can set up a small pollinator fuel station in your own yard with native and pesticide free flowers! Any size – – from a small pot to a large garden – helps support the industries that we rely on for food, clothing, etc.

Another part of Story County Conservation that I love to visit involves interactive activities such as the Climbing and Music/Movement Areas. It was especially fun to make some noise with the metal and wooden xylophones when the park was so quiet. While there weren’t other people walking around, I did come across a new turtle friend, deer and coyote tracks on the sidewalk and per usual a wide variety of bird calls in the trees. One difference between Story County Conservation and East River Valley is the prairie grass that SCC has. It is always fun to hear the different movements in the grass you are walking along even when you never see that is making the noise.

By the time I was making my way back towards my car the sun was starting to set. Few things compare to an Iowa sunset, and this one made the sweat and mosquito bites worth it!

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between, Uncategorized

6.17.17 / 6.18.17

Frankfurt, Germany // Heidelberg, Germany // day eight // day nine

Now that our trip is over, and I have adjusted to the grove of real life again, I can finally write about our last day/night of this adventure. Our eighth day was a little more low-key than the rest of our trip. We spent a good portion of it in Heidelberg at a 700-year old castle and wandering through the cobblestone streets of Marktplaz. We took a funicular train from the base of the mountain, because every castle is on the side of a mountain, and toured the grounds much of which have been turned into a museum. The castle, while in ruins from its demolition in the 17th and 18th centuries, was absolutely stunning and is home to the world’s largest wine barrel (58,000 gallons and two stories tall!). The views from the side of the castle overlook the city, the river Neckar and the Old Bridge that crosses it.

While we took a train to the top, we decided to walk back down the side of the mountain to the city where we came across a fresh food market located outside of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Heidelberg is a college town which was very evident as we walked around. There were an abundance of cafes (with gelato of course) and slightly more affordable stores as well as bustling diversity at every turn. We stumbled across a Hindu festival that was being held right outside of the university and while we didn’t stay for the parade, we were able to talk with some of the people participating in it. Many of them were not from Germany, but instead surrounding countries and travel as a group of missionaries spreading the practice of Hinduism.

As we continued to wind our way through the streets of Heidelberg, we found a local beer hall (shocker, I know) and decided to eat there for a later lunch. The food was great and the atmosphere was extremely vibrant. After lunch, our entire tour group met up on the bus to head back into Frankfurt for our farewell dinner. We had a few hours to rest or explore before dinner and I took the time to catch up on some postcards and take a short nap.

Our dinner was at a restaurant a short train ride from the hotel and the food and wine were particularly good. Once back at the hotel, we grabbed a few last drinks at the bar reflecting on the trip and taking about where in the world we want to travel next (maybe a return to Belize anyone?!).

Our mid-morning flight from Frankfurt to Detroit on the 18th was fairly pain free and full of sleep and movies. We even made it to Detroit in time to catch an earlier flight to Des Moines. While our bags didn’t make it, we landed in our beds before the sun went down in Iowa. Until the next adventure, Prost!

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6.14.17

Neuschwanstein Castle // Vaduz, Lichtenstein // Engleberg, Switzerland // day five

Today we covered a ton of ground, and I was able to knock two more countries off of my list! We started the day with an hour and a half drive to Schwangau, Germany where the Neuschwanstein Castle – the inspiration behind the Sleeping Beauty Castle – is located. The castle was built by King Ludwig II as a private getaway where he themed each room either with swans, medieval decor or a gothic look. King Ludwig didn’t want visitors to his castle, so despite having a giant dance/singing hall no one ever used it. This palace was extremely controversial as King Ludwig paid for its construction out of his own pocket and via means of borrowing great amounts of money (instead of using Bavarian public funds). The castle is located on the side of a mountain and offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys, towns/villages and lake at the base. The mountains offer an incredible backdrop to the lake as well as a hiking trail along the edge.

From Scwangau we continued our bus ride to Vanduz, Lichtenstein – the capital of a country with a population roughly the size of Belmont at 36,000 people. The city we visited lies right along the Swiss boarder, and therefore is one of the countries that makes Switzerland landlocked. Here we grabbed lunch, mailed out postcards and learned that Haley’s family is from Lichtenstein before heading towards Engleberg.

Switzerland has quickly stolen a piece of my heart with it’s absolutely stunning mountains. Our hotel is located on the side of a mountain and is completely surrounded by gorgeous snowcapped peaks. Tonight we wandered around Engleberg after eating dinner at the hotel and were able to talk through the courtyard of a huge local monastery. Tomorrow we will make our way up the Swiss Alps via Lake Lucerne before exploring the local area.

 

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5.28.17

Story County Conservation // Ames, IA

Sunday’s weather was quintessential springtime in Iowa. Thus, part of my Memorial Day Weekend was spent hiking around and exploring the paths and trails of McFarland Park/Story County Conservation. One highlight of this adventure was coming across a robin’s egg (shell) along the George H. Clark Sr. Trail. There was a noticeable difference in the flow of the streams, as a result of recent heavy rains, compared to a few months ago.

I used my Nikon 55mm lens for this shoot; once again choosing to focus mostly on textures and details along the trails.

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5.5.17

A relatable blogpost about Endometriosis: http://www.lennyletter.com/health/a160/the-sickest-girl/18268533_10155376361708487_6276987880105082782_n

I have read this blog post probably two dozen times, and other than the obvious fact that I’m not a widely successful TV star (and the less obvious fact that I do not share the additional medical challenges as Lena), this piece speaks to me. It speaks to my experiences and to my relationship with the Endometriosis that can cause havoc in my body. Endometriosis is an enormous reason that I feel so strongly about a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.

“Simply put, Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the uterus grows in other places in the body … While Endometriosis affects one out of every ten women, only a fraction of those cases will ever be diagnosed. Many will be dismissed as having mere menstrual pain or, worse yet, some modern version of hysteria.”

Endometriosis looks like my dog, Reilly, not understanding the concept personal space with me on the bed. And while Reilly is always a cuddle bug of a pup, what the picture show or t18195154_10155376361768487_2207508336892290187_nell you that it was taken two days after my fourth endometriosis surgery this past February. I wasn’t moving too well, was a little high on some pain meds and all around not the happiest camper. There were extremely slow movements; There were four hour naps after a 20 minute outing; There was a lot of Netflix; and there were tears.

My Endometriosis looks like my dog bursting any personal bubble to make sure everything is okay when I’m crying and then staying that way for the previously mentioned four hour nap.

And one of the worst parts about having Endometriosis? The doctors can’t give you a “why,” only an explanation as to “how” the disease functions.

In the ten years since being diagnosed, I have been hospitalized for Endometriosis pain management countless times and have undergone four surgeries to manage and treat my disease; I have missed immeasurable amounts of school; and I depend on a two inch needle being stuck in my butt every three months to administer the medicine that keeps the disease in check. I essentially have to trade the pain-free days for medically induced menopause. Because in ten years, that Lupron shot is the only thing that works.

In ten years, I have experienced the doctors who have said that “a girl your age” can’t have Endometriosis despite the surgical pictures and scars to prove it. I have experienced being the “sickest girl in school” when I missed days and weeks on end of classes. And like Lena, I have ignored my pain and the “messages my body was sending me in favor of productivity, attempting to prove my resilience.”

And yet despite all of this, you see, I am “lucky.” I was diagnosed when I was thirteen, and I was diagnosed in months not years; albeit those few months, and the many painful ones I have endured since my diagnosis, are what I imagine hell is like. I have a doctor who listens and explains; I am covered by health insurance that still helps to pay for an outrageously expensive solution; I have friends who understand; and most importantly I have parents who offer me unwavering support.

This isn’t supposed to be a pity party, though, because as Lena so accurately explains, “I would choose to be a woman. Any day, any way, any time … I am oddly fearless for a wimp with no upper-body strength. And I am no longer scared of my body. In fact, I listen to it when it speaks. I have no choice but to respect what it tells me, to respect the strength of its voice and the truth of my own.”

My goal is to not only bring awareness to this disease, because man it really sucks sometimes, but also remind people to be kind to one another – you never know what someone else is going through. Endometriosis, along with countless other physical and mental illnesses, does not look like a broken arm or the chickenpox. Instead the symptoms “look like a pair of sweatpants and a Charlize Theron–in–Monster–level grimace.”

So here’s my ending rant..

I want to remind everyone that there are A LOT reasons for a woman to rely on birth control other than to manage whether she gets pregnant. Abstinence doesn’t control Endometriosis – medicine does and that medicine happens to be birth control. Planned Parenthood offers some of those medicines and the Affordable Care Act offers the opportunity for them to be just that, affordable.

For those who question the validity of the pain that they or others are in – listen to it. You don’t have to be superhuman all of the time, and pain usually has a story to tell.

And lastly, to the insurance companies that don’t want to pay for the treatments that work, and the politicians who think that affordable healthcare shouldn’t be a priority – I challenge you to go spend a few days, weeks or months in the fetal position on the couch due to crippling pain, hugging a heating pad and bottle of pain meds like they are the only things you would bring to a deserted island and then let me know what you think. Unless you know how to tell my uterus (or other people’s body’s) what to do to work properly, and want to share that magic information, we cannot let this new health care bill pass.

I’m so lucky to have access to great healthcare and have health insurance that covers the treatment for my disease, but that is not necessarily the norm, and Endometriosis puts me in the club of pre-existing conditions. So, being told that I may not qualify for affordable healthcare down the road definitely leaves me feeling a little “triggered.”

TL;DR – “I hope for a world where illness isn’t equated with weakness, where mental health issues do not discount physical ones, because, guess what, we are complex beings.” But most importantly – be kind to one another. Everyone is facing some kind of battle. Speak up and keep fighting for what you believe in. Go call your senators. Go tell your congressional representatives how you feel and what you think. Make your voice heard.

Much love. Peace and blessings.

 

 

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4.8.17

Church of Christ, Scientist // Boston, MA

Another trip home, another tourist adventure. Dad and I spent Saturday afternoon wandering around downtown Boston, and went toured both the Christian Science Publishing House’s Mapparium and the Church of Christ, Scientist (and it’s 13,000+ pipe organ).

The church is absolutely stunning, and it is full of rich history. Did you know that the Christian Science Church was founded in Massachusetts? This structure on Massachusetts Ave is the religion’s “Mother Church” or its Headquarters. The original church was built in 1894, and the 1906 Church Extension seats roughly 3,000 people. Outside of the church lays a reflection pool – although it is currently under renovations to help make it more environmentally-friendly.

Besides the awe-inspiring beauty of this phenomenal church, it’s incredible stained glass and historical significance – I walked away reminded yet again why I love Boston so much. This 127-year-old church is located right in the middle of multiple skyscrapers, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, part of Northeastern University and countless other urban happenings. That’s Boston. Historical and modern all in span of one block.

Note: Photographs not for commercial use – simply for viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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3.26.17

Story County Conservation //

Sundaze? Negative. Sunday’s are for hiking and playing around with a new lens. It was so much fun to walk around Story County Conservation this afternoon and explore the woods and streams. Todays photos were mainly centered around interesting textures and small details, as well as some subtle signs of spring, instead of the usual wide landscape shots.