I’m not sure where my passion for protecting the environment/ loving nature stems from (pun intended). Perhaps its my love for hiking and spending time on the woods. Or maybe its my fascination with green energy. Regardless, I care a lot about living a “green” life, in a world full or plastic and waste. I’m that person that carries my own bags to the grocery store, checks the ingredients in my cleaning products, and reuse almost everything I own. GO TO POST
It is now two weeks after this precious day and I wouldn't change a thing. These pictures bring the day back to life, and I am so thankful it was captured so perfectly.
[continued from previous post...] My guests began arriving around 2:30 and were ushered to the ceremony space. Not until a week before the wedding did my dad suggest we use this land as a place for the ceremony. We had planned on everything simply being under the tent that we had rented for the reception. When we saw all the space that this area had though, all the beauty and potential, him and many other handwork kids built bench after bench and laid it out perfectly.
Of course, Mark had already seen me earlier, but we were not married and we still had not kissed. When my dad and I stepped out onto the path leading to the alter, Marks looked as though he was seeing me for the first time that day. While we avoided a lot of tradition in our wedding (sand, candle lighting etc.), we did not shy away from highlighting symbolism. Pastor Matt put a large emphasis on the moment when my dad took my hand and handed it to Mark. My dad was my protector and leader, now he was entrusting Mark with that role.
During the ceremony, we had a small worship time, where a talented group of our friends played "Beautiful Things" by Gungor and "It Is Well" by Bethal. This was a beautiful time for us, to take a deep breath and soak in the music and powerful lyrics of both pieces.
We exchanged vows, the rings, and before Pastor Matt said "you may kiss the bide", Mark whispered "turn your head right!" I laughed and we kissed. Contrary to popular belief, about first kisses our first kiss was not awkward or gross. It was such a special moment and all that waiting truly paid off.
The rest of the evening was such a whirlwind. We had a wonderful cocktail hour around the pond at camp. There, we had hor douves set on little unique tables at different locations, with decorations, antique benches and picnic tables for guest to visit at. After we got our wedding party photos, we joined our guest and began our rounds of trying to see everyone.
The reception was kicked off with Carlton (our DJ/ MC/ Camp friend) announcing the party which was followed by hilarious toasts from the maid of honor and best man. Then the salad bar opened.
Planning food for the wedding was another huge endeavor. Lowville NY does not have many catering options, and what it does have (bless it's Mennonite heart) is mostly potatoes, some kind of meat and a veggie slathered in butter. We had a local place cater our smoked chicken breast, but everything else was made by incredible women from my home church. Even the vegan option--butternut squash risotto-was made from scratch. The salad bar was a blast, choosing each unique ingredient, the dressings that would match it, and quantities in which they would be served in. I remember the day before the wedding, one lady delivered two huge garbage bags filled with cooked quinoa. They were heavy and probably the weirdest thing I've ever seen.
True to our season selections of food, we chose cupcakes which seemed to fit fall- carrot cake, apple spice, mocha, etc. Mark and I had a cinnamon apple gluten free naked cake which he kindly served to me, and I shoved in his face.
Our dad's gave speeches which brought on my third of fourth waterfall of tears for the night, and we had our dances. Me with my dad, Mark with his mom, and then our long waited for first dance. Isabelle sang "Hundred More Years" for my dance with my dad- which made everyone weepy. Then, per our special request, Mark's friend Gab sang "Three Rounds and a Sound" by The Blind Pilot for our first dance.
The rest of the evening continued to be magical and beautiful. My photographer- Miranda grabbed a few creative night shots, which we loved (and gave us more excuses to kiss), we danced to more favorite songs, tried to say hi to our 250ish guests and servers, and I tried to stay warm by throwing on Mark's suit coat.
It all ended with a send off around 9:45, after which, Mark and I were driven back to Buffalo by one of his groomsmen to catch a flight the next morning.
As I continue to reflect on this beautiful day and all the work that was put in, I cannot express how thankful I am for each person who helped make it happen. There was so much work put in--all for this one day....But what a perfect symbol of marriage. Never in my life with I go through an experience, have a day, like this again. And my parents know that--which is why they--and everyone else, so confidently put in so much work. In celebration of this beautiful union that The Lord brought together.
I will never forget this day, and I am incredibly blessed to have all of these lovely pictures to share with others.
Enjoy & be blessed!
My wedding day began as most do, a hearty breakfast (because I was basically guaranteed to miss at least one other), and a pot of coffee. My bridesmaids and I had stayed up late talking, giggling and reminiscing. It had been my last night as a single woman and I was full of excitement for the future.
These past few months have been full of trips to my hometown of Lowville, NY (from Buffalo- a 4 hour drive), cutting paper for decorations, shoveling mounds of wood chips, and planting hundreds of succulents. My then fiancee helped my dad build a bridge, and he whipped up a beautiful arch only a couple weeks before our big day. Everything that went into the day was a project--and I loved it.
While I wasn't home, my parents worked so hard to make my dream a reality. One of my best friends took charge as a wedding coordinator and another girl organized all the food/ food related tasks. Over the weeks, groups of kids worked in the woods, getting dirty, wet, and tired. All for this day. I am still overwhelmed with gratitude.
After getting ready in the morning, Mark and I had chosen to do something a bit different and unconventional (which to anyone who knows us is no surprise). With my pastor's direction, we did an "intention of marriage". We wanted a small, intimate group to be there to support us as we entered into the journey of marriage, to pray with us, and listen as my pastor shared a very personal word and scripture.
Mark and I had waited. We had saved our first kiss. And that made entering into the covenant of marriage extra special to us. It was not just a formality, it was a commitment to give ourselves as pure humans to each other. To love each other unconditionally for life. We were not married on the bridge, we simply shared our intention to. My dad still walked me down the bridge and Mark saw me for the first time--and teared up. It was beautiful. Following that, our families prayed around us, speaking protection, wisdom, and encouragement into our lives.
I would not have traded this time for the world. The knowledge that these families of ours were there--not just for the big day, but committing to supporting us forever, was incredible.
Afterward, Mark and I snagged a few photos with my incredible photographer and I went off to hide in the cabin next to the pond before the ceremony with the rest of our guests at 4pm...
To be continued....
Now that I've officially graduated, got a job, moved into an apartment, and ran to Target at 10:30pm on a work night (which is my bed time) to buy my own toilet paper, I guess you could say that I am #adulting hard core now. In a lot of ways I still feel like I'm in high school. I'm learning, making silly mistakes, and looking to make extra cash whenever the opportunity comes my way. But in a lot of ways- I look back on high school and see such a different person, both in my action and in my thought. I spent time living with my finance’s family before my apartment was ready to move into. Mark has a two adopted sisters—ages, one is four and the other just turned 3. The older one share’s my name—Ella—and as crazy, loud, and dramatic as four-year-olds can be, I adore her. During the few weeks that I lived with them, I saw innocent Ella moves through life with such energy and passion. She is beautiful, her dark skin looks like satin, eyes are shaped like big, round, almonds, and her hair is thick, soft, and falls in teeny tiny ringlets around her face. Ella is told she is cute, pretty, and loved by so many people. It is true. But that doesn’t change anything. To Ella, life is an endless would of possibilities. One day she might decide to be a princess—and spin around the house with her "Elsa dress” on. The next, she might decide to look for treasure buried deep in the sandbox, stick her head in it, and feel the consequences when her mom is picking sand off her scalp for the next month. Ella doesn’t care what other people think. Ella is beautiful—physically—but that means nothing to her. Which made me sad when I thought about it at first—that someday Ella will feel the pressures of society, to be, to look, to act a certain way—in order to maintain her “prettiness”. This post is a letter to Ella…
Dear Ella, You are an incredible girl. You are strong. You are smart. You are funny. And You are physically beautiful. People tell you often how pretty you are, how pretty your hair is when it is all combed up into a big bun. How cute you look in your little pink dresses. And how lovely your smile is. Obviously I could not agree more. But I hope that “the cute & pretty girl” does not become the core of who you are. I hope that all this acknowledgement of your beauty will not become your source of affirmation someday. I hope that somehow—through our age of photoshop and Instagram filters—that you will know that your defining beauty is from within.
Much like you Ella, I was a care-free girl growing up. I loved playing outside, singing to the radio, and eating big bowls of ice-cream late at night. For a long time, I wasn’t bothered by what people said or thought about me. I was me. I was Ella. And then things changed when I neared my teenage years—as they do for many girls. I became aware of body image and what it meant to be “pretty” in our society. I grew up in a wonderful home—I never heard my mom complain about her body image around me and she never said anything discouraging about mine. But it is our culture. Lets face it, we all want to be “pretty” and we’re fed content which tries to define what “pretty” looks like. In our teen years, we see glossy magazines screaming the same message at us. Pretty girls are popular. Pretty girls are skinny with perfect abs. Pretty girls get dates. Pretty girls get the attention, love, and security we all crave.
Among my memories of playful teenage adventures, I remember hours of standing in front of the mirror wishing I looked a certain way—I wished my body was thiner and curvier, my eyes were less huge, and I could grow a few more inches. I remember conversations with friends revolving around our desire for "beauty" and how we could physically attain it. We were selective about which pictures of us got posted on social media, and we made sure we only got tagged in ones where we looked our very best. It was life and we were embracing our culture.
Ella, let me clarify here. Beauty is not a bad thing. It is a gift. Your beautiful eyes, hair, and skin are a lovely masterpiece. Our culture has commodified beauty though—to something that can be bought or sold. Just as other people enjoy when you laugh and smile—don’t stop sharing your beauty because culture is trying to turn it into something trivial.
I don’t really know when my personal struggle with body image ended, but it was sometime in college. I realized that life was much more than physical appearance and worrying about looking like a super model took away from experiences awaiting me. I lost a decent amount of weight and experienced both the benefits thin-privilege (people being kinder to you because you are “pretty”) as well as the accusations of anorexia. I guess I was forced into owning who I was and what I looked like. I stopped dressing for others and wore what I wanted. I could care less about what the celebrities were wearing, what diet they were on, or how they were doing their makeup. In a way—I took a step toward the freedom you have Ella—to live life free of the pressure to look “pretty”. (I remember seeing a pinterest post during this time of “the perfect dress for your body type” and was like—what the heck?. It showed that a mermaid dress could only be worn by a select few and the empire waist dress should be worn on the bigger girls to cover up their “unflattering love-handles”. Seriously? Let the girls wear what they want.)
Ella, embrace a broad definition of beauty. Our society tends to idealize an exclusive image of what “pretty” means. If a woman has a genetic inheritance close to that ideal, she is ideal, she is envied. Other women, less fortunate, are taught to wear clothing and make-up that draws attention to or de-emphasizes their “best” and “worst” traits. They learn to compensate. Our societies narrow definition of beauty takes individuality out of us. Each of us are so individual in our physical appearance, interests, and mannerisms—it is wrong and nearly impossible to not embrace a broader definition of “pretty”. But culture tries to force a narrow one upon us. Never look down upon someone because they are different than you—instead appreciate their unique gift of beauty, see the individuality, and admire the masterpiece that God created in them.
In college I surrounded myself with beautiful people—people of diverse interests, intellect, and deepness of thought. In my mind these people were the pretty people of the world. For them—their beauty came from experiences and love for the world. I hope you choose friends like these Ella. They will build you up. They will edify and challenge you. They will remind you that life is so much more the way you look. Don’t ever confuse beauty with value.
Ella, I chose to write this to you after my second week of work in my new job. I was still living with your family at that time. Coming home to you I saw pure love for and wonder for life. You were beautifully curious about everything surrounding you. You would spin in your flowy dresses some nights and run around, chasing chickens in old shorts other nights. The endless amounts of laughter that you brought to the end of my long days made your physical beauty seem so insignificant compared to the joy radiating out of you. At work, I started eating my packed lunch at a table of girls who worked in different departments at our building. I felt young there—21, hardly out of college, living with your family—not quite on my own, and slightly blind to the world of pop culture, among girls well into their adult career. One thing that immediately caught me off guard though was their constant, daily conversation around body image. Not one of the girls sitting around our table is “fat”, but there was always a new diet. Someone was always counting their calories. And someone was always commenting on how much weight she gained or lost. One time I tried to tell someone they looked great the way they are and a girl made a snarky comment on how skinny I was. There was no win and it was shocking.
I sat their one day—eating about twice as much as anyone their shamelessly and diverted the conversation to talking about good restaurants in the area. The girls perked up and started talking about the cool taco bars, the best places for ice cream, and hipster cafes. It hit me—non of these girls really hate their life, food, or their bodies. They are simply a product of a culture which shoves a narrow message of the ideal “pretty” down their throat. We went out to eat today—and we all ate tacos until our stomachs exploded. We laughed and told stories about high school. No one cared that they had eaten twice as many calories than they would normally eat, that they had salsa on their blouses, or cilantro stuck in their teeth. We were having fun and I felt like I was with truly fun, intelligent, and beautiful people. To me—they were all prettier then, than I had ever see them. Ella, remember this and never skip the cake at the party.
Finally, sweet Ella, your physical beauty—as lovely as it is—will fade. The contagious laughter that you bring to the world will leave little lines on your face. Your adventures in the great outdoors (which I truly hope you have many of) will leave scars on your legs—from scratches and bruises. If you decide to have children someday, society will try to tell you that you will become “less pretty” because to it. Child-bearing "ruins your figure”. But Ella, live life—embrace what you look like and do not let it define you. I pray that you find more joy in running around outside with band-aids across your knees than you find in front of the mirror or on the scale. I pray that you never trade the opportunity to become a mother in order to stay in your size 2 jeans. Enjoy life, it is a gift.
When I look at you Ella, I see a pretty girl, but I also see a girl who is intelligent, curious, loving, and full of joy . Never forget that. The greatest beauty to be found in life is not what the world sees when it looks at you, but what you seen when you look at the world.
The Other Ella
Rochester NY. My home for the past 3 years.
This morning it was raining out. Not like a crazy freezing downpour—more like a humid drizzle. I didn’t have my umbrella when I stepped outside to walk over to the mailroom, but it was ok—a little rain never killed anyone. As I walked, avoiding the puddles on the sidewalk, I was filled with a certain kind of nostalgia—the kind I always got when a week of summer camp ended. Some mixture of the humid rain (which always seemed to make an appearance on the last day of camp) and the finality of this week—which was sinking in, probably caused this sensation. I like nostalgia, but this was unexpected. 10am, Monday morning, nostalgia.
Warning... this is going to be a kinda long post- so grab a cup of coffee, cuddle up with a blanket, or close your computer and save my thoughts for later. Whatever you're feeling- but you've been warned.
I’ve been in a constant state of reflection the rest of today. My roommate and I spent a solid hour reminiscing about our first semester living together. I turned on the radio today and “Chandelier” by Sia was playing (which was my jam all freshman year—don’t ask). Then tonight the senior art students went to our professor’s house for dessert. We shared our best memories from Roberts and laughed at our most embarrassing stories.
My roommate and I this past October, Before spending fall break cooped up in a cabin doing homework together.
I have so many stories—funny, sad, embarrassing, amazing--yet at the same time, its hard to believe I’ve been in college for three years. It feels like yesterday that I was leaving home after a summer of working at camp and stepping into my first dorm room with a roommate I’d Facebook messaged three times prior. I remember the excitement of being on my own, the fresh love of new art classes, and the overwhelm of all the new people and activities.
I’ll be putting out some more blog posts with all sorts of stories from my college experience over the next couple weeks, but today I want to share a story about an overarching theme of my time here at Roberts…. It starts out like most students and is not crazy or exceptional, but stick with it— the ending is good.
Ella Zehr in 2014 went into school with an end goal— to graduate with a great GPA, get a job right out of school, have minimal debt, and graduate in 3 years (and get married not long after—although I was a “strong independent woman” and wouldn’t have told anyone that at the time)… I was driven, an overachiever, and ready to take on the world.
Things changed though—as they do for many students. I remember being told freshman year—by 3 upperclass art students—that I should transfer from Roberts in order to get a good job when I graduate. Let me tell you, that was not encouraging to a studious freshman with high aspirations for her career. I was paranoid—if my school couldn’t give me the skills I need to succeed after graduation, why was I here? Later I discovered that these students said this because Roberts is not an easy school and they were struggling—I didn’t know this at the time though.
After hearing from the third student that Roberts isn’t the place to be, I did my research and announced that I was going to transfer. I’d leave my newly-beloved music department family, my soccer team, my new roommate, and the new city of Rochester that I was growing to love. I told my parents, my roommate, my boyfriend.. everyone knew. I remember walking into the library to print a scholarship form for another school—on the verge of tears from all the overwhelm it was causing me—and a friend came over to say hi because it was a rare occurrence for me to be in the library (because I spent 99% of my time in the art building). He saw how upset I was and comforted me, offered to pray with me, and got dinner with me that night. For months after that, he joked that I only came into the library when something was wrong (the other time he saw me in there was when I was filling out a “change of major” form).
Freshman year at a football game with two of my best friends at the time.
I had all my paperwork done within a couple weeks for my transfer. I felt strongly that transferring—as hard as it was going to be— was for my best. I would be getting a better education and would be ready for the real world after graduating. At the time I was in a sculpture class. The new, adjunct professor teaching was a young ceramics artist who had just finished her masters. She was energetic, smart, and so driven in what she did. As a teacher, she had high expectations for us—which was good, but also added to my stress. (I learned how to use the band saw that semester and I think I still have nightmares about slicing my fingers with it while trying to cut a piece of wood…) Anyways, one day I stayed late after class ended to sand an abstract, plaster sculpture. I sat at my table, my phone was dead (so no podcasts or music), and I was alone with my thoughts—which revolved around transferring.
My professor walked in and sat at the table across from me and watched me work—I don’t know why she came back after class ended, but she was there, giving me tips on my piece here and there. I asked her about her art career some. She told me that she did her undergrad at Roberts—which I hadn’t realized. After Roberts, she applied to the prestigious art school where she did her masters and got in. I asked her if she felt like Roberts prepared her for the masters program and the real world. She bluntly said “no”. I was caught off guard by this—like ‘you’re a professor and you’re saying that the school that you teach at doesn’t prepare us for the career field you’re supposed to be training us for?’. She didn’t try to defend herself- just said “no”. Then proceeded to say that she had to work extremely hard during her masters to flourish as an artist in her desired field.
I don’t know why I felt comfortable telling her then about my decision to transfer for this very reason, but I did. In that moment, she felt like a friend—sitting across the table talking to me—allowing me to confide in her. I told her everything—what other students told me, my desire to be the best that I can in what I do, and fears that Roberts wasn’t going to prepare me for that.
My plaster sculpture- a wall hanging done spring 2015
What she said then—which she probably doesn’t know, much less remember—changed my outlook on my college career. She looked me in the eye and said “Ella, college is what YOU make it. Not credibility of the system, no professor, no specific program will ensure you get a good job when you graduate, get into grad school, or “succeed” in your field. That is on YOU. If you want to succeed, you need to put forth the extra effort, take the extra step, get involved a little more, do the extra research in your field of study, etc. Other programs might have some of those ‘extra’ things already built-in, but it doesn’t change what is out there. You have resources and a goal. The advantage of Roberts is that these professors care about you more than your professors would at any other “art school”. These professors have the desire to build you up—not only as and artist, but also as a person. They’re not going to rip your art apart all of the time and they’re not going to discourage you exploring your faith through art. They will push you to work art and be your best. They will have conversations with you about art, art theory, and life that you can’t have other places because we live in a Post-Modernist society and everything is “ok”. Robert’s art professors want you to think critically for yourself and will help you develop your own moral standards—which would not happen elsewhere. Roberts art program may not be the best out there by scholarly standards, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed going here. You will reap what you put in.” (obviously that was not word-for-word but its pretty close..)
I realized then that Roberts was what I wanted. I wanted a place that would challenge me, and where I could push myself to succeed. If this professor finished her undergrad at Roberts and is so good at what she does now—and she is willing to sit down with me, during her free time, to tell me about her experience, I wanted what she had.
So I stayed.
My dad told me later that he had been praying that I would decide to stay—he felt that it was a bad decision for me to leave, but never wanted to enforce his opinion on me. My roommate felt the same.
What changed after that has driven my time in college to be what it has been. I applied—on a whim for a student council position of graphic designer. I was going to be a graphic designer, but I didn’t know graphic design at all at the time. I figured out how to use Illustrator, got it on my computer and interviewed for the position. I remember seeing the email at midnight during April of my freshman year—saying I got the position—in pure amazement. I was jumping into my career already. I have had that position since.I became a photographer and designer for two more groups on campus. Made connections, and got involved in everything I could. I worked extra hard to learn the Adobe programs—when most of my graphic-design major classmates already knew how to use them, I was at square 1.
I went on an art trip to Paris and London my freshman year for a month with 9 upperclass students I didn’t know. On that trip, I got to know a senior who became an inspiration to me then—and still is today. On the back porch of our hotel in London, she shared her testimony with me and I learned the power of testimony—even to other Christians. This wouldn’t have happened had I transferred or been at a traditional art school.
Paris. May 2015 on an art trip.
After that year, I vowed to never discourage a student—especially a younger student—about Roberts or Roberts art department. I didn’t want anyone to go through what I had gone through. Why focus on the few negatives when there is so much good?
Now, two stories to finish off my long story:
During my second year at Roberts, I had a high school senior stay with me for a weekend while she was visiting. I showed her around the school, told her about my major—and the opportunities I’ve had within it. We bonded over talk about artsy photo spots in Rochester, quinoa, and instagrams. She thought she wanted to do computer science—which Roberts doesn’t really have—but hadn’t decided yet. Afterwards, this girl met with her admissions counselor and told her that she wanted to go to Roberts. After talking with me, she realized that she wanted to be a graphic design major and saw a lot of advantages with going to Roberts for it.
This year, I met a girl who is a freshman marketing major. Her concentration is graphic design though and prior to declaring that, she had some questions for me—which I happily answered for her. I’ve had the privilege of helping her with basic photoshop when we’ve happened to be in the design lab together. It makes me happy to encourage her in her skills—and champion the program she is in that allows her to learn them so well. This is what I wish the seniors had done for me when I was a freshman in her shoes. Seeing as I’m graduating, the student council needed to hire a new graphic designer. I encouraged her to apply—even with little experience, I knew she would be great. Had I not encouraged her to apply, I don’t know that she would have. Anyways, she got the position and is stepping in with a confidence that I didn’t have two years ago when I got it.
I am proud of these two girls who I have been blessed to encourage in their college pursuits. All this to say, no school is perfect, and Roberts is certainly not perfect. It has been worth my investment here though. My teachers genuinely care about me as a person—and that is what has set my college experience apart from most. Tonight, when I was eating chocolate at my professor’s house with the other art seniors, I was reminded how blessed I am to have had this experience.
If I could tell any prospective student one thing though—college is what YOU make it. It is your attitude, your pursuit of greatness, your desire to get involved. That is what will propel you forward. Don’t think for a second that you will succeed in life because you are going to a school with a good reputation in your field of study. Sure—that can help— but it is not going to get you a great job someday.
I got a job about a month ago (story about that to come) and I will be walking the stage on Saturday. Its crazy how fast it has gone, but hey—it was great! Now I’m here—sittin at my desk, drinking my turmeric latte (latest obsession- link below for recipe) and full of nostalgia and gratefulness. My life is good. God is good. And my Roberts experience was good.
My final violin recital.
1) senior exhibition-my capstone artwork 2) ceramic mug that I threw-came out of the kiln with a whole in the bottom so I turned it into an air-plant jar. 3) tile display- another ceramics piece in progress 4) Akron Falls- a recent hike
My ceramics art teacher's site: https://www.joannapoag.com
My hand lettering portfolio (senior exhibition work): http://ellazehr.weebly.com/handlettering.html
Favorite Turmeric Latte: http://minimalistbaker.com/5-minute-vegan-golden-milk/
There's something kind of nostalgic about waking up to the sound and smell of brewing coffee. Then getting ready slowly, making my bed, and listening to my "Simply Christmas" Spotify playlist (link below)...Then drinking coffee-about 10 cups- as my day gets started. Yes- I'm on break. Currently I am snuggled up on my massive bean bag chair, sipping coffee (shocker...), my fan is on in attempt to clear the air alittle (I decided to get out the oil paints in my bedroom again... genius I tell you... if I start having foggy-head problems halfway through break, we'll know that it wasn't from staring at a screen too long). I am also running photo edits for a work project while gathering thoughts for this post.
Thought 1- which I have been savoring for the past week of so... the semester is over. This semester was hard- beyond hard. I feel like at times I was forgetting what it was like to be human...and I'm still trying to get out of that robotic-like state of always working on "the next thing". Let me tell you- living in a constant state of stress is not always a fun time. Thought 2- even though it was a challenging time in the life of Ella Zehr, I learned/ grew up more in those few months than in the last few years. (Ok maybe not, but you get the point) I made a couple commitments to myself this semester (including making time for other people and considering the "bigger picture") which taught me so much by sticking to them.
But I'm done. I can take time to breath... Before I left school for winter break, the church I go to on Sundays (EGC) was doing a series titled on generosity (link below for the recorded audio sermons). The series spoke on giving- specifically financially and how the money we have is not really ours. It is the Lord's and he allows us to distribute it as we see fit- in essence- He trusts us. I left church almost every Sunday with a big old knot in my stomach. Guys, I'm gonna be raw here- I was giving nothing.
Now, before we move on to talk more about generosity, I have a couple stories for y’all..
Story 1-Ella: age 12- decides to save water by taking a "1-song-shower". She puts her reliant k cd into her CD player (which is plugged into the bathroom wall) and starts the music. By the end of "pink tux to the prom", Ella is out of the shower.
Story 2- Ella: age 15- decides to save money on shampoo by making her own. She mixes apple cider vinegar, baking soda and water. A month later Ella is down to ridiculously dry (also probably smelly) hair and 2 showers a week.
Story 3- Ella: 19- gets off the meal plan at her college and figures out how to spend 10$ a week on groceries... proceeds to live off of beans, quinoa, carrots, and plain oatmeal for the next year.
Story 4- (last one- bear with me) Ella: 20- figures out that her commute to work on Colorado Springs is so hilly that she can save gas $ by putting her car in neutral after the first mile.
Ok you get it- I'm frugal. I've been frugal basically my whole life. (Exceptions apply to coffee and pineapple)... so where am I going with this?
Well, like most college students, I'm in debt. It sucks. When I found out this past spring that I was going to have to take out a loan, I think I tasted puke in my mouth. For someone who speaks out against going out to eat frequently and advocates for doing 99.9% of shopping at thrift stores, the thought that all my efforts have come to me taking out something I can't pay is sickening.
Yes- being frugal is good, it's good for our economy, it allows us to live more simply, I like to think I am healthier because of it. I also think it is Biblical- Jesus did not carry around more than he needed (and often didn’t even have what he “needed”) Despite all this, one thing that being frugal has driven me to become is less generous.
If I am constantly thinking about saving money and how much money I need to pay off, I will never be able to give. I can sometimes justify spending when it comes to myself, but somehow- when it comes to other things, the thought that I can’t give until I am stable myself looms over me… And this is the lie that has taken me so long to recognize.
I have read/ heard the story about the poor widow that Jesus speaks about in the Bible, but (call it what you want)- this “epiphany” that I am the “poor widow” and we all are called to be the “poor widows” struck me recently. Mark 12:41-44:
"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”
If I am called to give what I have, that includes everything I think I “need”. She gave out of poverty! I am not living in poverty- yet I am still fearful of debt. When I think of what I have as God’s money that he entrusted to me, I have no reason to give a portion of it. Do I trust God to still take care of me if I give? I hope so.
Guys- I was convicted. Then my church did this crazy thing at the very end of the sermon series, at the end of a Sunday service- where they passed the offering baskets back around to us. In the baskets were little envelopes that said “God trusts you” on them. We were told to take one envelope each. Inside was money- in incriments of 10, up to 50$…. yah- I’m not kidding- they were giving US money! And I don’t go to a small church either.
I sat in my car after the church service and prayed. I knew where the money I was given would go and I was feeling all the emotion. That week I got a compassion child (link below for more info). It had been on my heart for months, but like I said, I was in debt, and I didn’t feel that I could do it. But I can. 40$ a month isn’t going to kill me, but it will make a huge impact in the life of my little girl in Haiti.That money is going to mean more to her than it ever will to me.
So here it is: 1) I need to give- regardless of what I think I “need” and 2) God trusts me. Everything on earth is temporary, and the money I have is not my own. If I can give with the little I have now, it sure will be easier someday when I do have more. Me being frugal all those years hasn't been a bad thing, but it has taken me long time to realize that I can be frugal and generous.
...And a question to leave you with.. Are you giving as the “poor widow” did or are you letting your own “needs” deter you from it?
“No one has ever become poor by giving”- Anne Frank
There really is nothing like coming home with a suitcase full of clothes that smell of Adirondack seasoning (also known as a combination of fishy lake water & smokey campfire- with a touch of deep woodsman bug spray). The feeling of taking a hot shower- being certain that you got all the dirt off your hands and sand out of your hair is pretty good. Then, there is the physical, mental & emotional exhaustion that you can finally start recovering from. This is Friday night after a week working at summer camp.
For those of you who’ve worked at a summer camp, you understand- after weeks of this routine- you get used to it. For those of you who never had the privilege of working at a summer camp, this probably sounds terrible. The whole Sunday afternoon- Friday evening, pouring yourself out in just about every way possible, only to have Saturday “off” (meaning go climb a high peak or two with friends at 6am because why not?) and do it all over the next day. But it’s really not. Intact, I love it.
Its a Wednesday- camp ended about a month ago and I’m finally recovered on my sleep (I think..). Now I’m sitting at my desk, drinking my 2nd cup of mango-chillie trader-jose tea (because why not?), listening to my bluegrass spotify playlist, and procrastinating working on homework.
I remember going to Beaver Camp as a kid and dreaming of being on staff one day. Camp was something I literally looked forward to year-round. As you can imagine, staying there all summer long, living the life of my super cool camp counselor was a dream. When I was 11, I had a counselor who I stayed in touch with- via letter writing for almost 6 years. The impact she made on my life is bigger than she probably realizes- or even I realize.
I don’t remember our letters being super spiritual or anything like that. I remember talking about school and sports. Sometimes we talked about our friends and families. Normal stuff- just in the form of hand-written letters (which also says a lot because, believe it or not, my hand writing wasn’t really legible until high school). I looked up to her a lot. She was a number of years older than me and when she got accepted to a prestigious college to study piano, I remember adding an extra half-hour to my violin practice time every day. It was little things like this about her that “inspired” me to be different.
Looking back now, I appreciate everything she invested in me on a different level. I’m not the super high energy 16-year old junior counselor that I was years ago. Midnight is my bed time and I need periodic hours of time to introvert daily. There were times that one week that I counseled this summer, after coming back from Colorado that, as much as I loved my campers, I did not feel like being surrounded by kids who wanted to prank other cabins and puddle jump all day. I live a busy life- as any of you who’ve lived the college life understand- I don’t have "time, and when I do have time I don’t want to be around high-energy people.
But the memory of this counselor that I had all those years back kind of changed the way I went into that week at camp, and now how I’m going into a new semester. She was a college student. She had her down days. She was busy and probably often exhausted. Yet, she made time for me. I realize now that I’ve had the opportunity to make that same impact no others. I’ve had it all those years working at camp. When I was tired after a long day full of the crazy camp routine and drama in my own life, to choose to sit out on the porch with that homesick camper and put her needs above my own. Or to choose to puddle jump (even though I hate puddle jumping and didn’t have rain-boots) when my campers gaze outside longingly at the big brown spots scattered across camp. Its not easy to choose to invest in people like this but ( I know this because of what someone else did for me) that is worth it 150%.
So I chose to do camp that way this summer. It was worth it. The other night I had a Skype date with one of my campers. Nothing spectacular was discussed, but I promise you- that hour long conversation about soccer and homemade spaghetti sauce meant more to her than an extra hour of staring at a computer screen doing homework would for me.
Now I’m back at school. I’m an RA. I have a floor full of girls who rely on me. I don’t always know what to do for them- sometimes they have emotional needs and they need a shoulder to cry on. Other times they just need to re-stock their toilet paper. Regardless, my job is to meet them where they’re at. Second. I’m on the Student Association Leadership Team (SALT- or a fancy way of saying “the larger body of the class councils”). My job there is to promote events through my “design skills”- and set an example to the rest of the student body. I’m a senior. I’m supposed to know where places are. I’m the president of the art club. I’m supposed to be friends with all the art people and create community there.
So whats this all mean? Well, what I came up with is that, just like camp, I need to CHOOSE to invest. I listened to a podcast once where the host said something along the lines of “people love to talk about themselves, so if you ask good questions and just listen, they will naturally be drawn to you and want to be your friend. They will come back to you when they have troubles because they know that you care.”- just from being a good listener. The impact I could make on somebody’s life from an hour long conversation is way better than the A I could get on my Western Civ test. As the person I am at school, in all the roles I am in, I have this great opportunity to do great things- I just need to prioritize my investments.
The other day (I promise- this is the last story, but it is so great, so hang with me) I was in Target. (Background here… There is a Starbucks in the Target down the street from school. People have a thing for giving me Starbucks gift cards. So through my use of those, I finagled myself into a “Starbucks Gold Card”. Now with this fancy card I can get free re-fills on coffee while I’m there…. So naturally I stay there as long as my computer stays charged and drink 3-8 cups of coffee, and take more for the road. Its nice to get in a different environment for homework efficiency as well.) Anyways, its about 7-8pm on a Friday night. I’m sitting at the little counter in the Target Starbucks. Drinking coffee and working on my art project. Mostly taking notes as thoughts came to me, and doing rough sketches. A guy sits down a few stools away from me and starts playing on his phone. The sounds were annoying and I didn’t have my headphones to listen to music. Anyways, after him sitting there a while, he looked over at me and asked what I was working on. I told him I was working on my senior capstone project for my art major- a children’s book, written in poetry, dealing with the effects of adoption and foster care on children.
He told me he was a writer and asked if he could read it. I told him of course (I love constructive criticism). So he read it and stared at the screen a moment. He told me it was good and asked about the inspiration behind it. After some conversation he told me that he was adopted and what I wrote really resonated with him. I half wondered that night, after coming back to school, if I hadn’t been open to conversation with this person, in the midst of my own homework- if he would have opened up to me like he did and given such a genuine response to my work.
Food for thought. Where are you investing?
There is something oddly funny about pulling up to a Grand Marriot Suite, in Saint Louis Missouri, in the little valet parking circle, in Syd. I’m pretty sure- based on the looks of the guys in suits standing outside the entrance- that they’d never seen a 2001 Subaru Forester with hail damage on the hood and a Lamorgeni sticker in replacement of the broken subaru logo on the front, pull up to their hotel. Much less driven by a frizzy haired, blood shot eyed, 20-year-old with her 16-year old sister passed out in the passagner seat. At 1:05 in the morning…
Thats where I was on Tuesday, August 2nd. But we’ll back track even further to the Thursday before. It was our last day of work at Focus. Not only was a rushing to finish my graphic design duties, but I was also living in the mindset that this was potentially the last time I would see all these new friends who I’d gotten so close with over the course of those 8 weeks. Its crazy how many people approach you, while you’re causing a ruckus, packing your cube, and pray with you or give you a gift, or just tell you how much they appreciated your service. My heart was #blessed.
Later that night I stood on top of a boulder at Garden of the Gods which I had climbed up- carefully because I had my DSLR. Below me were about 15 of the other interns, Keila, and her husband. We had just filled our stomaches with ice-cream sundaes and everyone seemed caught in a remorseful- because it was our last night together- food coma. I watched the sun as it set behind Pikes Peak and realized that the view I was seeing hadn’t ever become mundane. I still savored it- just as I had the first time I saw it. What was different this time though, was that I felt some sense of ownership over what I was seeing right then. It had cooled down quite a bit and dark clouds loomed above, in the multi-colored sky. This was my view. God had painted it just for me in that moment. I had savored it every night from the deck of my host families porch, or my bedroom window- but this particular sunset was extra beautiful. One of the interns took a picture of me, holding my camera up to my face. The picture captured me so well. The nostalgic, blank, expression on my face, my drooped shoulders from frustration over my inabilities to capture exactly what I was seeing, and my firmly planted feet- planted in disbelief that I wouldn’t be walking over these red rocks again for a long time.
Even though I probably sound like it, I wasn’t sad. When people asked if I was sad or excited to leave I would say neither. I was indifferent and it was bittersweet. I was content. I hadn’t wasted my time that I was given in CO. I had made great friends. I had great friends waiting for me at home. The feeling I felt while standing on the boulder, watching that sunset, is kind of indescribable, but it was indeed the last time I could savor the environment around me with these amazing people.
I got back to my host families home that night, made myself a cup of green tea (the usual..) and began skypeing my boyfriend. I don’t remember much of the particular conversation, but I remember being super tired and telling him I wasn’t going to talk too late even though I could sleep in a touch later because #nomorework. Anyways, he was carrying the conversation, I was dozing off (I feel the need to add here that there is a 2 hour time difference between CO and NY. NY is ahead. And my boyfriend starts work at 7 in the morning…. I am admittedly a wimp.) and I heard this weird pounding on the roof. It had started raining so it was due time for me to close my window- and I was curious what the sound was. As I slid my window closed, I saw the neighbors across the road holding huge blankets and tarps, flailing them in the wind, trying to cover their two cars that were parked outside their garage. All too quickly I realized what was happening and what the pounding was.
I think as I was telling my boyfriend what was going on just then, before hanging up, I looked in the little video frame of myself in the corner of Skype and saw a pale, bug-eyed girl staring back. I ran downstairs- listening in horror as the pounding got louder. My host parents stood on their front porch, one of them holding something round, the size of a tennis ball. I walked over feeling a sense of helplessness wash over me. It was hail and Syd was out in it. The thought of getting a blanket out to cover him crossed my mind but was shot down when my host dad said that getting hit with one of the balls would probably give someone a concussion.
So that was the end of Syds windshield and dent-free hood. Ella was not a happy ex-intern. Literally three days before leaving CO and there I was googling Auto Glass stores to find out when they were opening the next day. By then it was past midnight and my boyfriend who still had work at 7am EST was up waiting to hear the verdict on Syd. Now one thing I tend to do is get mad over un-necessary spending of $, especially when it comes to Syd. He’s had 3 different engines in him since my purchase this past Christmas break- and you can imagine all the other expenses which came with that. And when I watch my windshield get demolished in a hail storm, helpless, with the knowledge that I would be paying out of pocket for a new wind shield (#cheepestinsurance) you can imagine how not happy I was.
One thing that Mark said that night in attempt to comfort me was that maybe someone out there- an auto glass business owner or roof-repair guy- needed money to support his family. Maybe God allowed the hail to come in order to give them business. Or maybe God wanted me to learn to trust him more with my finances. Who knows, but I think it helped a little. 7am rolled around fast and I was standing at the counter of an auto glass store. By the grace of God, none of the 5 spider cracks were infront of the driver’s line of vision Luckily they could get me in and have my car done by the end of the day. 10 minutes later people were being told their cars wouldn’t be done until the following Sunday (it was Friday).
The next day I picked up my dad and sister from the Denver airport and Isabelle got her first taste of riding in Syd in 95 degree weather. I took them to FOTF and then to Garden of the Gods. Later we met my host family for dinner at a greek restaurant where they proudly served fancy Gyros and cheese served in flames. It was nice to see them again and show them what had become my home for the past couple months.
In retrospect, as nice as it was having a perfect new windshield, another downside to not having that Friday to myself was that I didn’t have time to process my time in CO. As I get older I am learning the importance of processing experiences- good and bad. Learning to purposefully just sit still and think. Appreciate what I went though. Push away thoughts of the next week for just a few minutes. I needed a calm and I didn’t know it. I think of Jesus, caught in a boat during a storm with his disciples. "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”” (Mark 4) I really think that I didn’t have enough faith then to trust that God would calm the “storm” of busy-ness in my life.
Sunday we began our trip home. I said goodbye to a tear-ful Ellie and my host parents. They had made a nice breakfast for us and I had played my violin for them one last time. Even though we had gotten a later start than we intended, our plan was to end up in Saint Louis that night so my dad could go to a conference Monday morning- and stay so he could speak at it on Tuesday. That was not Syd’s plan though.
We were in Kansas. Hot. Flat. Kansas. The drive was going good and I was enjoying time with my dad and sister when my car decided to break down. There was an exit we could pull off on and when AAA came, they were able to bring us to the next exit which was luckily a little civilized. (This is the middle of Kansas we are talking about). There was nothing we could do that Sunday afternoon but wait. My dad reminded me that there are far worse things going on in the world than my car breaking down and sitting in a shop overnight, but my frustration didn’t go away easily.
Wakeeney, Kansas’s pride and joy was probably the Best Western we stayed at. The random diners we walked by Monday morning, as we went back and forth from the shop and hotel looked like something out of a movie about a forgotten small town- like Radiator Springs from “Cars". After eating a late lunch at pizza hut, we were on the road to finish the 7 hours to Saint Louis- which is where we were when I started this post.
As much as I don’t care for big cities, I’m not gonna lie- after being in the uncharted territory of Wakeeney, Kansas, the 30 story Marriott Suites in the middle of the bustling city felt pretty good to pull into Monday night. Isabelle and I woke up after my dad left to speak at the conference in a fancy building across the street- running off of less than 6 hours of sleep and jet-lagged. Since my dad was there for the conference, Isabelle and I got his card to get into the exclusive dining area for breakfast. Starbucks coffee and Tazo tea was served with every type of milk out there, honey in little glass jars, and organic sugars. I piled my plate full of real scrambled eggs and went back to fill a big bowl with the endless variety of fresh fruit (90% of that bowl ended up being pineapple though- and of course my heart was #blessed). Isabelle made the best parfait I’d ever seen and we both walked out with a huge, perfect honey crisp apple.
The rest of Monday was spent exploring Saint Louis and strolling around a free art museum with Isabelle while my dad spoke. Around 5 left and took the next leg to Columbus, Ohio. Isabelle once again joined me at shotgun and DJ-d through my spotify playlists, thankful we were finally headed home.
“If you stumble, make it part of the dance” -unknown
Until next time...
1-6 (Garden of the Gods) 7 (Wakeeney, Kansas) 8 (Hail that hit Syd)
I like living with the mindset #noregrets- especially while spending my last two weeks in CO Springs- hence the lack of blog posts recently. #Noregrests is kind of a more adult-ish way of saying “yolo” I guess, but I’ve been living by it anyways. I began writing this post/ coming up with exactly what I was going to write about 4 hours ago, while driving through Kansas. Now we’re still in Kansas- at a Best Western- in a tiny town, stopped en route, not by choice.
Before I get to all that, I need to back-track a little. We’ll back-track to exactly a week and a day ago when I woke up to about 6 different alarms, playing variations of sounds, spread randomly across my little bedroom. There was no way I was sleeping through this trip (I slept through another early hike, and let me tell you- Ella was not a happy intern). It was about 3:30am and I was about to conquer America’s mountain. My new hiking camelback that I found at Target for 20$ was packed to the brim- water (#nevertoomuch), my DSLR Cannon rebel (#loyties2Cannon), rain jacket (#coloradoweather), and corn tortillas filled with peanut butter (#priorities). So us interns met at FOTF and carpooled to the 10$-per-day parking lot at the base of the Manitu Incline and Pikes Peak.
10$ per-car per-day sounds kind of expensive, but its actually really good when you consider that the street parking right down the road is 5$ per-hour. So we pull in to this parking lot around 4:40am and what do ya know… its PACKED. Not a single spot. So we drove down to the 5$ per-hour parking, thinking it was our only option. Now, I’m going to add here that there is a shuttle from a free parking lot in downtown Manitu Springs. This shuttle is specifically for the Manitu Incline though and wasn’t scheduled to start until 7am- sunrise. I’m in the backseat of my friend’s Jeep, shoveling down chia seed pudding that is loaded with mangos, watching the drivers try to find 4 spots close together, when we realize that the meters don’t start until 7am, and in order to add hours to your spot, you need to plug in your cell phone… and in order to use your cell-phone, you need service. And on Pikes Peak there is no saying where we would find that.
Long story short, we drove the the free parking in Manitu Springs and Keila (the intern coordinator) offered to shuttle us up to the trail head and not go herself. It was literally our only option. We began cramming in the car to shuttle up, when- what do ya know- the Manitu Incline shuttle pulls up in the parking lot- about 2 hours early! #Godisgood. So we began the sunrise hike. By 7am, we had a beautiful view of Colorado Springs and were on to second breakfast. (Us interns had recently done a Lord of the Rings movie marathon so quotes like “but what about second breakfast?” and “we’re taking the hobbits to isengard” were popular as we walked).
Its kind of hard to explain the rest of the 8 hour hike to the top of Pikes Peak. Scroll down and look at pictures now because they say pictures are worth a thousand words- and I like to think that mine are worth a couple thousand. Pikes Peak has a little giftshop/ cafe with fresh donuts at the top. We sat in there for an hour or so, inhaling the calories we just burned and then falling asleep at the long tables. Luckily we had a few interns who had no desire to take on the 12.5 mile hike to the top and agreed to drive up at 3:30pm to pick us up and drive us down. We got a few group pictures and drove down the steep mountain. Half way down, people checked our brakes to make sure they weren’t over-heated- if that gives you an idea of how steep this mountain is.
The rest of the day was spent hobbling around my host family’s house and drinking cup after cup of coffee to stay awake. It was my host parents anniversary the next day so I had offered to babysit Ellie while they went out for a nice dinner. Ellie wanted nothing more than to go on a walk down the trails behind their house and how do you turn down a 3-year-old? So I hobbled down the trails, thanking God that her legs are a quarter the length of mine. I was thankful though, when she announced that she was hungry for dinner and we began making our way back.
The next morning- because I’d been living with #noregrets, and refused to turn down any opportunity, I woke up around 5:30am to get to a church in south Colorado Springs for their pre-service worship run-through. My old youth pastor who lived down there had asked if I wanted to join his church (where he is a worship pastor) and play worship for all three of their Sunday morning services. I played violin and loved every moment of it, but was glad it was over by the time the last service finished around noon.
Looking back on this morning, I’m super thankful. I realized once again how #blessed I am to have people I know who care so much about me- there in CO Springs. People from home- who got that aspect of my life, but were also super like-minded and I could have those certain types of conversations with and feel super edified after. I remember having a conversation with my boyfriend a couple nights after- telling him about these people, but also my fellow interns. How like-minded we all are and how hard it is going to be, going back to my school where being a “conservative Christian” is not trendy at all. Or my home town where I surprised people when I announced that I (a girl) was going to college. Its been a nice reminder that there really are people at the same place in life as me- who are like-minded. I feel like God brought me back into the lives of my old youth leaders and into the lives of my fellow interns at the perfect time. Like right when I needed that reminder that there really are people like me out there. God's kind of cool like that.
I got back to my host family’s house was greeted by an excited Ellie who announced that they were going to a castle. Only a few days before I had been telling someone that one thing I had wished I could do still- while in CO Springs- was go to the Glen Eyrie Castle…. so naturally, when my host family invited me to join them for a picnic at the castle, I couldn’t say no. 6 years ago, my host parents had gotten married there and wanted to show Ellie the beautiful place. You can read more about everything there is to do at the castle (theres a lot) here https://www.gleneyrie.org , but basically the history goes something along the lines of Palmer- a CO Springs founder built the castle for his British wife who always wanted her own castle. Unfortunately they had to get out of the high altitude due to her failing health and she died before it was completed. Kind of romantic anyways...
Again, I won’t take time to describe the castle- go look at the photos… To make a grand finale to the crazy day, Keila had planned for all the host families and interns to go to a Sky Sox baseball game together. Baseball is definitely not my favorite sport, but I don’t care who you are, baseball games are fun. (Honestly I think I did more socializing and spent way to much time trying to convince the other interns that doing the incline within the upcoming week was a good idea- its fine.) Needless to say, Ella was one sleepy intern by the time I got home.
And now Ella is one exhausted human from this past week for #noregrets, so you’re gonna have to stay tuned for part 2 here. We’ll just say this- God is good. The other interns I worked with will be missed. Weather is unpredictable in CO Springs. And Syd is one needy Subaru.
(One last side note- my reference to sleeping through my alarm the other weekend is the reference to an interesting day in the life of Ella Zehr which I won't take the time to discuss. Instead of going on a super long hike to horn peak with some of the interns, I ended up going on another hike- on columbine trail- with 3 interns who had no initial desire to take on horn peak. Our conversations on this hike were amazing and by the end of the day I was much less bitter about sleeping through my alarms... and two phone calls... and three text messages (maybe I am still little bitter...). Anyways- I say this because I got some pretty sweet pictures on the columbine hike and have included them below..... Ok I'm done now...)
1-5 (Columbine Trail) 6-19 (Pikes Peak Hike) 20-22 (Glen Eyrie Castle)
One thing that I have never seen before is piles of sand the size of small mountains. I’ve been to the beach sure, but that has nothing on the dunes that I saw last weekend. One thing I have never done before is drift down a fast moving river in an inflatable raft, holding a paddle to my left, feet jammed inside the raft- in the little nooks sewn on to "help secure us". I’ve kayaked in some crazy water and I’ve had some exciting canoe trips, but nothing really stands white water rafting.
I love sitting on the back porch of my host family’s house, drinking tea, listening to my spotify playlist titled “i drink coffee" and blogging. The sun is currently setting behind Pikes Peak and giving the clouds surrounding it a pinkish tint. Its sometimes hard to enjoy the little moments like this when you’re constantly going from thing to thing. I love doing everything I can possibly do- especially when it comes to being outside. If someone randomly suggests a hiking trip, it’s pretty hard to turn it down. (I write this with the knowledge that I’ll be waking up at 4:30 tomorrow to hit another 9mile hike up Horn Peak.) I think it is important though to make an effort to just sit, find peace and contemplate life.
About a week ago I got an email from a professor, reminding us that we should be well into our required summer reading and artistic process for our senior capstone class. (Of course I’ve been doing that... *shakes head*. (side note for those of you who are wondering what a senior capstone class is- it is a class that art major seniors take. We explore something we are interested in within our medium and produce a body of work to display in the gallery based on that. We can do basically anything, but there needs to be a process behind it. Since it is a capstone class, this project will be a key component of my portfolio in the future)….So I once again walked around Anthropologie and sat in Barnes and Nobles, looking over everything from vegan cookbooks with beautiful photography to fat theology books on religion across cultures. Anything to spark inspiration. As concepts came to me, I doodled them in my little leather- bound journal from Paris.
So what have I come up with for my capstone project? I’ve got a long ways to go, but it has all sparked off of a few things I have been passionate about lately. As many of you know, I am in love with brand development. That is what I want to do someday and I could talk for hours about how brands impact consumers. So naturally, whatever I do, I will create a brand. Now, another thing I am slightly obsessive about is economical, and healthy lifestyle. I care about how I spend my money, how I spend my time, and what type of food I put in my body. For example, as fairly strict rules, I only shop for clothing at thrift stores (because the clothing economy is so messed up) and I don’t eat processed food. I also think our culture would be better if families spent more “vacations” outdoors- hiking, camping, canoeing, you name it- instead of at expensive theme parks and resorts where we are influenced to only spend more money. I sometimes wonder, if more people had thoughts on this stuff like me, would our society change? What if young kids became passionate about living a more economical and outdoorsy lifestyle?
That doesn’t answer the question I know. But the direction I am tentatively going in is creating a series of children’s books- lots of hand lettering and watercolor scans- about places to travel and stuff to do outside. Books fun for anyone to look at, but designed in a children’s book sort of way.
Exactly a week ago today, myself and three other interns crammed into the back seat of Jason’s jeep, with Jason at the wheel and another intern at shotgun (saving gas money and being all together were priorities here). We drove for 3 hours through the beautiful Colorado county-side- seeing little old western towns set in-between groups of mountain ranges. Then we hit “the dunes”. As our little group crossed the huge piles of sand, I felt like I was walking across a set from Star Wars- like when Luke is on Tatooine in the old films. It was hot, and climbing the dunes was an intense calf workout. There was also no win with the shoes- if you ever go sand-duning (I just made up that verb…) be warned. The sand was about 140 degrees so it burned your feet if you wore sandals. But if you wore sneakers or hiking books, the sand filled them right up. No win.
So I was able to cross the “see sand dunes” off my bucket list, but after seeing people slide down the dunes on some form of snowboard, I added something else. Another thing that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember is white water rafting. And as of today, that is checked off as well.
Before I get to that, I will back up to yesterday. I saw a friend from NY, from high school soccer, that I hadn’t seen in years. One of the benefits of social media is that she knows I’ve been here all summer and when I saw that she was at the Springs airport, flying in for a huge conference, we were able to connect. After work and a marketing team picnic yesterday, I met Chelsea at Panara Bread right down the road from FOTF. Some people change a lot over time, even if it is only a couple years- I know I have. But sometimes, even though people change, you’re still at the same level/ same stage in life as them. That was the case with Chelsea and I. Our friendship was able to pick up where we left off and I was blessed by that. A familiar face, a cup of iced coffee, and in a city I love. What more could I have asked for for my Friday night?
Now. back to the white water rafting… This morning, bright and early our big group of interns met at FOTF. We all had our morning faces, cups of coffee and backpacks with towels. From there we carpooled about two hours to “The Surf Factory”- a whitewater rafting guide group near Browns Canyon. We were “trained” when we arrived about safety, what to do if we fall out, how to paddle, and all that stuff. Then we hit the water. Luckily today was hot- because Colorado water is cold and the rapids were pretty high. There was 5 interns and one guide per raft. The guide would yell stuff as we hit rapids like “forward” or “left backward”- and we responded in a (basically) viking-like manner, paddling as a team. There was one opportunity we had, where we were allowed to jump out and hang onto the side of the raft as we floated through smooth water. Apparently the only reason we all jumped in was because we needed to pee, but nobody said that until the end of the trip.
A couple girls in some of the other rafts fell out, but were pulled in easily. No damage. Our guide was super chill and had good conversation with us and we took the opportunity to explain further what FOTF was after he asked what our positions at Planned Parenthood were. After filling up with food (which always tastes better after doing any form of exercise for an extended period of time), we headed back to the Springs.
Now here I am, ready for another exciting trip tomorrow- bright (or not so bright) early in the morning. Its crazy, and kind of saddening to think that we only have two weeks left. But its all the more motivating to appreciate and love each moment and opportunity here.
Sand Dunes (White Water Rafting pictures to come.)
Hi there! My name is Ella. Here on this blog I share a few of my greatest passions—my fine art and photography as well as my desire eat and live a meaningful life. I enjoy long, challenging hiking trips, massive smoothie bowls, and thought-provoking coffee-shop conversations.