Things I’ve learned since I was 15

I work in a treatment facility for emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth. My work is a challenging trial of endless patience and stern compassion. Sometimes – like today – I run into situations where I am tested by these impressionable youth. When they come to me for my help I try to maintain the delicate balance of giving good advice white keeping emotional restraint.

The facility I work in is co-ed. But personally I prefer to work with girls. It can get real hard. These young women are swimming upstream through thick layers of insecurities and past traumas. There are times – like today – when I want to sit them down, throw away that professional divide and talk to them like I will talk to my own daughter some day. One thing I would really like to do is tell them what I’ve learned. What lessons life has taught me. And so, in order to practice sharing my what my own life lessons have taught me, I’ll share it here.

Things I’ve Learned Since I Was 15 (aka Things Every Teenage Girl Needs to Hear):

1. You are beautiful. No matter what you think the outside world, friends or family are trying to tell you to look like, you are down right breath-taking in you’re own skin. Own it, girl!

2. You are the queen of your world. Take command and walk tall.

3. Yes, you will fall in love. And you might meet someone who feels right, but is really all wrong. Don’t rush love, girl. Love will come and and find you some day when you are ready for it to find you. And when it comes it will feel like the sweetest treasure you’ve ever known. That boy you’re with now or crushing on now, he’s just a lesson you need to learn. You’ll find that special One someday. Don’t worry, and take your time.

4. You don’t ever deserve to be disrespected.

5. You are strong, fierce and powerful. 

6. God put you on this earth so that you could shine like the rare jewel that you are.

7. Women are strong creatures. You are strong too. And though you may weather many storms – of the heart and mind – you can overcome them, because you’ve got soul.

8. You are precious, priceless and irreplaceable. 

9. There’s a good chance you won’t believe any of this right now, but take it from me- it’s all true. And someday you’re going to realize it. And when you do, all those bad people in you’re life that have been bringing you down..you will rise above them and all their bullshit, and you will suddenly see just how powerful you truly are and have always been.

10. There is always hope.

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Riding in the Rain at Midnight

I was going to go to the gym today. I spent the hours of 7pm -11:50pm telling myself I was going to go to the gym.

I didn’t go. But I really did mean to.

Around 11:3opm this evening I decided enough was enough, and began dressing in sweats. I just bought a new pair of stretchy yoga type pants this afternoon and was excited to break them in. As I was dressing, I decided now would be a perfect time to test out my new rain paints. They are my first ever Mountain Hardware possession. And since weather.com declared that tonight was “SEVERE” weather, I figured “why the hell not!”

I also spied my REI rain shell in the closet and figured why not go all out and grab my head lamp too. Thus, resembling a poorly slaped together astronot, I left my apartment to walk the half mile to my gym.

And then I passed my bike…

I had kept my bike parked at the “Downtown Transit Center” (aka Parking Garage) since mid last week. And tonight presented the perfect opportunity for me to give my rain gear a test run on the new bike! It would also get me to the gym faster. “Horray for perfect circumstances”, thought I.

I began pedaling the short distance to the gym. The wind was at my back and the rain wasn’t bad at all. In my naive state I decided “GYM SHMYM!” and rolled right on by. To be honest, the dim, unlit windows and backglow of neon pipe lighting in the weight room certainly set an eerie vibe. Even though I could get in with my key pass…it was just too creepy looking for me to have actually wanted to go in.

I biked another mile blissfully forgetting what happens when you turn around in a tail wind whilst it’s raining. It occured to me as I passed the last street light that my red rear blinky had not been turned on, and so I set my foot down in order to reach back and flick it on when ::SPLASH!::

…And just like that the giant puddle I was standing in and a giant hole in my shoe collided in the inky darkness. With a completely saturated set of toes, I pedaled forward a little bit more when I decided that perhaps I was a tad under prepared for a bike ride in the rain at midnight. My feet were wet, and I’d forgotten my gloves (I was supposed to be in a gym!). And so, deciding against going any further, I turned around.

The problem with turning around where I was is that I was on a spur of Glacier Highway that is completely unprotected on one side by the elements. As I was riding along, heading away from downtown, I had the natural hill of the mountainside blocking me, but once I turned around, I was on the outer lip of the road that was open and exposed to the channel. The wind had been blowing rain at me the whole time, but I had been going in the same direction, now I was riding against it’s vertical gust. Needless to say it wasn’t a very pleasant feeling.

Ohhhhhh the benefits of riding WITH the wind. The rain felt as if it had magically picked up intensity, hammering my face and practically blinding me the whole way home (a mere two miles that ended up being little more than a wobbly game of peek-a-boo on a bike). I crept along trying not to go too fast since I couldn’t see very well. I was also thankful that it was 40 degrees and not 10, since my fingers were quickly getting numb. As I made my way towards the shelter of the buildings of downtown, I began to take stock of the lessons I’d learned on my short little ride.

1. Always bring your gloves, you never know.
2. Buy a pair of goggles, you’re going to need them.
3. It’s time to throw away those sneakers, sentimental value being what it may.
4. Buy a brighter headlamp so that you can SEE when you’re about to set down in standing water.
5. Plan ahead better.

I am happy to report that my body is bone dry. Good investment on the gear that I did bring! And I am tempted to make the ride into work tomorrow even without goggles…but we’ll see.

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My First Quarter Century Ride!

Last week, I bought a new bike. The one I bought last year was $83 from Wal-Mart and – appropriately – sucks. I also left it outside all winter which didn’t help my situation. Poor Wally Bike.

This one is nothing super special either. I bought it from Costco for $60 off it’s original price at a grand total of $300. And there is a good chance I’ve been ripped off. Oh well, it’s a step up from the Wally Bike. Eventually I’ll get it right and settle on the fact that I need a grown up bike. This one feels good though and it rides fairly well.  Supposedly it’s a Men’s frame, but it has that slanty top bar that Women’s bikes have. It’s also an 18″ frame when in reality I usually ride a 15″ frame so like…if I ever have to jump off, I’ll end up hurting myself extra special.

My main prerogative is to get fit and lose weight without totally killing myself. Having said that, winter will be here in just a few weeks, and then I’ll have the lovely battle of snow and ice on the roads. I’m going to buy studded tires, and I’ve been watching youtube videos of people in northern climes who “icebike” as it’s called on a regular basis…Mostly Minnesotans and Canadians. I really hate the idea of crashing, especially on a cold, hard surface, so I figure I’ll either whimp out and never do it, or do it and be just fine.

Allen helped me take the bike home via car, which is ironic since the whole purpose was to actually ride the damn thing. Either way we got to see a pretty spectacular rainbow on the drive to downtown – it  followed us the whole way. Perhaps it was the sign that the biking fairy godmother is watching out for me.

I had puttered around town on it a lot that week, and I even took it the 14 miles to work on a cold, frosty, yet bluebird clear morning, but never really had the chance to do a solid ride like I’ve been wanting to for the simple pleasure of doing it. Yesturday was sunny with a high of 53: the perfect day! And while the forecast called for bright sunny skies agian today, I knew that my graveyard shifts at work were soon going to wear me down to a useless, tired, lump. (a.k.a: right now).

How can you beat that sky!?

Before I began, I decided that the ride would have 1 of 2 outcomes: I could either ride to the glacier and back, or I could ride the Mendenhall Loop from Glacier Spur to Auke Bay, continuing all the way back to the Nugget Mall intersection where I could take the bike path back to downtown.

The ride from downtown to the valley is a “straight shot” in that there are really only 2 routes to pick, and both go – naturally – to the valley. Bikes aren’t allowed on Eagan Drive (the pretend highway), so I simply took the only option: the Glacier “Highway” route which meanders along the different neighborhood zones of Juneau.

I passed new snow on the peaks behind Lemon Creek. The first snow fell about two weeks ago, very high in the mountains, and is now slowly beginning to descend. I haven’t hiked in the area shown just yet, but I hope to make a stop to that come this winter. (Once the bears are asleep).

Once I got to the Nugget Mall I had two options, go left and head towards Auke Bay (all uphill), or go right and head to the glacier (flat land). I could make the loop circut with either  choice, the first just being more work. I decided I was not cardiovascularly there yet, and opted for the flat course. I pedaled my way towards the beginning of Glacier Spur Road, and spied the left hand turn that would take me onto the back of the loop. Ahead of me the mendenhall towers were watching my decisions. Their brilliant, snow capped, saw toothed peaks shone in the Fall sunlight with breathtaking brilliance, and I just couldn’t pass them by. I did pass by the loop road though, and headed the last mile to the Glacier.

I arrived with sunlight on my face, and the surprise of new snow on top of Mt. McGinnis. When I had been by two weeks ago, there was just the slightest trace of white at the tippity top of the mountain. Winter is certainly coming my way with haste!

I walked around the glacier snapping pictures and admiring the beauty of the natural world. It certainly hasn’t escaped me yet that I live in a place where in just 12.5 miles, I can be standing in front of such an amazing site.

 

I was glad with my choice of destination.  I sometimes forget just how lucky I am to live in a place like this where I see these sites as if they’re right outside my back door. I read just yesterday that almost all of the Canadian Ice Shelf has melted off this year. Over the summer in Juneau a huge chunk of ice calved from the glacier and water began gushing forth for days, flooding mendenhall valley and requiring several homes to be evacuated. Later reasearch discovered that a glacial lake out on the Juneau Ice Fields had drained into Mendenhall Lake, explaining the deluge of water that had gushed out. I’m no expert, nor do I want to get too high up on my judgement horse, but after living in a place like this, and working in trail conservation last summer, I have to say that sometimes I get worried about where our planet is headed. How much longer will we be able to bike to glaciers set amid snowcapped peaks and stare at the wonder of geologic time suspended in ice?

I was thinking all these thoughts when I decided that the wind coming off the mountains was a little too cool for what I came dressed in and so made my way back to the bike for the journey home.  Allen called me just two miles into my return journey and I ended up joining him for an inpromptu late lunch of blueberry pancakes and coffee at Donna’s Restaurant. After parting ways – he to the bus and I to my bike – I pushed myself with all speed to see how fast I could make it the 9 miles home. To my delight, I passed one of those digital speed monitors JPD leaves out to passively aggressively let motorists know they’re speeding. And…it totally caught me! 12mph! I have no idea if that is good or bad or terrible, but I felt – and still do feel – triumphant that the machine even noticed me and that I got to see myself represented on its screen! How exciting!

I made it home as the long shadows of the mountains were starting to crawl across the flats. For my last effort, I huffed myself several blocks up a steep hill to the door to my apartment – at this point totally excited with myself. I had had a great, great day on my bike, not to mention the added bonus time with boyfriend, pancakes and the amazing sites! And, the fun wasn’t quite over. I jumped online and checked the mileage: 25 miles round trip! Ah-HA! And that isn’t counting the little offshoots of bikepaths I took into different neighborhoods along the way. TWENTY FIVE MILES!

My first Quarter Century Ride! Not bad!

 

 

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Feeling Rushed

I hate the feeling of being rushed. But I thrive on the feeling of being busy and needed. Isn’t that a fun one?

As my term with AmeriCorps is wrapping up, I am busier than I’ve been in months. Not only do I have to plan for one last major event called National Public Lands Day, but I also have taken on the added assignment of helping coordinate some field trip presentations with staff at the Alaska State Museum, not to mention the hours I’ve devoted to job hunting, resume writing and interviews.

My replacement arrived yesterday. I was apprehensive to show him what would soon become his desk:

Guess I’ll clean that later…

And the double whammy about my messy desk top is that the contents of that pile just happen to be the training manual that has been compiled and updated massacred by me and my chromosome level inability to organize.

Oh I’m organized. But it’s all “up here” (points to head), where NO ONE ELSE can see it or benefit from it. Sorry new guy.

I’m stressed, (typical), and overwhelmed, (also typical). And honestly there is a part of me that enjoys this feeling. And no, I don’t mean “stressed and overwhelmed” like finding out my house is in foreclosure, my husband is leaving me and my job fired me. I’m referring to the fact that I have that personality type where I’m happiest when I’m at my most productive. My weakness is that sometimes in order to maintain productivity, one must remain organized. (Ah-HA! You say). It’s this annoying little twist that I have in my behavior – I want to get a lot of things done and meet lot’s of people and be involved in the center of big projects. But then I don’t keep organized and end up getting lost!

I need an intervention! I need therapy! I need aromatherapy candles and meditation  a double bacon cheeseburger without calories and a two week stay in Maui.

I need…to figure out how to fix my weaknesses professionally so that I can take over the world like Stewie and the Brain someday.

 

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I need to update

So guess what! I got a new apartment! YAY!

My broke ass can’t afford it on my own, so I have a roommate. Which is nice. It’s my friend Andrew. He’s featured me in a few of his own blog posts, usually mocking me. But that’s okay, he bought most of the food.

He and I are splitting a two bedroom apartment on the 7th floor, in the middle of downtown Juneau. It’s a great location. Parking seemed like a bitch at first. But really you just need to know where to go.

I am totally in love with this place. We got just about all of the furniture donated from a former United Way board member who moved down to Seattle. it was very nice of her. The highlight of our free picks is a 1960’s coffee table which houses it’s own vintage radio and record player. My wonderful boyfriend got it to work just last week. Andrew and I are thrilled and have demolished the record section at our local Salvation Army. ( 10 for $1, how can you resist that!?). So now at any time of day our neighbors can hear classics from Harry Belefonte, The Incredible String Band, and more 60’s recordings of The Boston Pops than even a former Bay Stater as myself might care to admit.

Initially the apartment smelled like vomit. I am attributing this to the unattrative combination of a mango candle I bought, when mixed with the aroma of garlic that emanates from our kitchen. (Most of the time whatever either of us cook has garlic in it). However, I bought some pumpkin pie spice candles which have successfully drowned out all other odors. Now, whenever I walk in, I am met with the wafting scent of pie…which really isn’t a problem. Who doesn’t like pie?

My spiritual life has improved, I will admit, since the apartment sits on the corner of the block which is flanked on three sides by churches. Front and center of the living room windows – at all hours of the day or night – Jesus is judging me. To my right, out the kitchen window, is the Episcopal church, the one where Jesus is like “Hey man, it’s cool, you’re a good person. You totally let that guy take the good parking spot last week. I love cafe mochas too! Omg lets be best friends!!!” Then to my left is the octagonal Russian Orthodox church, where people chant hymns in ancient languages and there are probably ancient looking mosaics depicting a long lost world of rich history and near myth. Then there is the Catholic Church – my church – that stands front and center looking into the living room, whispering to me that I’m a terrible sinner full of failings and shortcomings. Those churches judge me…all of them, even the Episcopal one. As a result…I make an effort to go to church on Sundays. Grandma would be proud.

The view is wonderful though, all in all. I mean, I live in Alaska! Come on! It’s especially nice if you look up because then you will be able to admire the mountains that surround downtown. I can see Mt. Juneau and half of Mt. Roberts from my windows. It’s nice.

After subletting from other people for the last year, it’s nice to finally have my own space, where I can do whatever I want, decorate however I want, listen to music on something other than headphones. It’s all good.

I feel more settled now that I have a place of my own. Now I just need to find a job to pay for it all. It seems the stress train never ends. At least I have a nice living space to stress myself out in:

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To Drive or not to Drive

It takes about 4,000 miles of driving to get from Raynham, Massachusetts to Skagway, Alaska. Skagway is about 4 hours north by ferry and is also the cheapest ferry ride for getting a car to Juneau.

My car has about a 13 gallon tank. Up here in Juneau gas is about 4.25 a gallon. But let’s round that up to $5 just for good measure. The car can get about…oh, I don’t know…let’s say 28 miles to the gallon. 13 gallons x $5/gallon is $65 a tank. So to find out how many miles I’d average on a full tank….that means 28mpg x 13 gallons = 364mpt (miles per tank). So…if I’m doing this right…that tells me that if I take the total distance of 4,000 miles and divide it by 364 full tanks, I should get 10.9, which would be the number of time’s I’d need to fill my tank.

SO…that means that if I need to fill my tank up 10.9 times…eh let’s say 11 times: 11 x $65/fill up = $715 in gas money.

Hot Damn.

Let’s not forget that Canada goes by Liters…and their gas is more expensive. So really this is an extremely rough estimate.

The ferry from Bellingham, WA is $1,065 for 1 passenger plus her 15′ car.
That would be a distance of 3,150 miles for a gas price of about $562)
($1,065 + $562 = $1,627)

The ferry from Prince Rupert Island, BC is $443
(That would be a distance of 3,540miles for a gas price of about $630)
($630 + $443 = $1,073 )

The ferry from Skagway, AK is $148. You know the rest.
($715 for gas + $148 = $863)
So yeah, Skagway is the cheapest.

I still have to fly home to actually get to the car. Average prices of  a JNU – BOS leg are currently $408 before taxes and fee’s for the month of August.

So before I even get off the ground I’m looking at $1,271 total trip cost. I haven’t even considered the price of a hotel room or food….I’d like to think I could sleep in my car for the ten day average trip time it would take, and only eat what I bring with me…?

I also have been asking myself if I feel up to the idea of driving 4,000 miles alone, most of it through Cananda, with no real solid knowledge of car fixing – should anything go awry.

Thus the question…do I get the car, or don’t I?

It’s really all only a matter of time. I either get the car this summer, or in the Spring. By spring the gas costs will be higher and the trip will cost me more. I’d like to think that if I wait, I’ll have more money to spend on this endeavor than I do now…which is really the only factor holding me back. I don’t want to spend such a large amount of money while in a position of not knowing what my future job income will be. My current AmeriCorps term end’s Sept 30…which cannot come fast enough.  I am sick of watching all sorts of lucrative job openings sail by me as I sit trapped in such a low income commitment that I am no longer getting anything rewarding out of.

A nice bonus to February and March is that in addition to the cold winter receding…the ferry is generally cheaper. The ticket prices from Bellingham, Prince Rupert and Skagway will all be less and I’d like to think that I’ll have a job where I can actually afford to do the trip, and still come home to a savings account.

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“Hold on to your butts!” – Samuel L Jackson from “Jurassic Park”

Where has the time gone?

It’s been about two months since I’ve been on my blog to update it. The reason being is I’d been so stressed out by things up here that I didn’t have the mental ability to go ahead and REMIND myself how stressed I was by writing it down for all the world to see.

::Hi MOM!::

But thankfully, time heals most. And so I’ve started to come down from my proverbial cliffs and remember that life is supposed to not be so anxiety educing (most of the time).

So what was so stressful?

Well there have  been a lot of things. For one, I had to plan a huge event in April called Global Youth Services Day. It took a lot of effort and time and panicking (some of the panic was unnecessary, I admit) on my part to pull it all together. I managed to put together a pretty good event and was happy to put it in my pocket as one more accomplishment. (Yay).

The real problem was that my GYSD planning decided to coincide with a little personal inner meltdown phase of an intensity that I hadn’t yet encountered in my young adult life. I was losing focus on what I enjoyed about Juneau – or if there was anything I’d ever enjoyed about it at all. I felt myself getting more and more and more homesick with each passing week. I began to fear what the future was going to bring, and how I was going to navigate the waters that lay ahead. I could feel my emotions begin to stagnate as I wallowed in the weeds. I couldn’t stand how dark the winter had been all of a sudden. Spring wasn’t coming fast enough, my living situation was no longer pleasant. I began to realize how much I missed my friends from back home who know me on a deeper level than I even know myself. I missed my family and grew sullen when I realized they weren’t coming to visit this year, in part because they’re not travellers, but also because they probably assumed I would come home in October. But would I?

What was going to happen to me?

I can’t articulate every insecurity that hit me, but they all did, and it was wave after wave of unhappiness, loneliness and indecision. I started to wonder why on earth I ever agreed to come here in the first place. What was so horrible about Massachusetts? As I looked around Juneau, I began to realize I had no hobby, no past time, no personal little interests that connected me with the community I lived in. And that little revelation only made me freak out even more. “I am wasting my LIFE!” I said to myself.

I mean…I was here, but I wasn’t here at the same time because I was holding myself on reserve in case Alaska didn’t work out in the long run and I had to go home, or go somewhere else – something I equated with defeat (yet wouldn’t allow myself to say that out loud). As a result, I wouldn’t allow myself to invest in Juneau for fear that I would just get lost in it. It was a vicious cycle. I was refusing to define myself here so that I wouldn’t get attached in order to make leaving easier. Ironically though, because I refused to define myself here, I was only getting more and more lost on whether or not I should even stay in the first place. After all, who the hell was I anway? I mean sure…I know who I am, but I didn’t know who “Sara the Alaskan” is….who the hell is she? What does she do? Where does she shop? What foods does she like? Does she read books? Does she swim? Does she like to go for walks still?

Personal Crisis. Never fun.

But what I think I might realize now is that I’ve been defining myself on my own terms since arriving, I just never realized that in order to understand ones-self in any circumstance or region,  you have to strip away the trappings of life that come with an identity, and just do you. Maybe I used to live in Massachusetts, and maybe I used to have a set of parameters by which I understood myself and defined myself. Be they my friends, my family, my job, my clothes, my music, my interests. But that changed when I decided to leave it all behind. When you’re this far from everything that is familiar, you need to come up with your own version of yourself. And I had to start to assert in my own mind, who I actually was. Not in regards to family. Not in regards to friends. Not even – ironically enough – in regards to location. But rather, just in regards to me. Me. No matter where I am or who I’m with.

One evening as I was talking with some friends here about my anxious little crisis one of them at some point laughed and said that thats why she loves the mountains. “They don’t care about this stuff, they just sit there being mountainy, not concerning themselves with any of our silly human worries” (it was something to that effect). It was funny to look out the window and envision a mountain as some sort of primordial spirit that sits there benevolently, silently ignoring us as it whiles away the eons.

This past week, one of those same friends had a friend of her own come to visit from New York City. She commented that “it’s very quiet here”, and actually that little statement really made me stop and think. I guess I’ve gotten so used to it. But yes…it is very quiet here. There is no hustle and bustle that places like NYC are famous for. People aren’t demanding or rude, and they’re rarely in a hurry. Nature closes in on all sides, often enveloping the town in a thick blanket of fog, always there is the thick pine woods defining the boundary between civilized Juneau and the wilderness just beyond. And in this little pocket, we Juneauites can whirl and worry and fret and plan all we want, but we still have to wait for the ferry, or the plane if we want to be taken away. We have no choice but to accept that you can’t get to certain places if the tide isn’t right, or if the fog is too dense. And no matter how much we might freak out about little things in our lives, or who we are, or where we’re going, we can look up at the mountains and be assured that for their part, they know where they are, and who they are, and they’re not busy questioning it, they just sit there, and are.

 

 

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