Ad Astra

I wouldn’t wish this feeling upon anyone.

I feel like I’m leaving part of my life.

Today was my last day at Johnson Space Center, and I turn in my badge tomorrow. It’s been so amazing. I’ve had such a wonderful time.

I’ve grown to be much more confident. I’ve met so many amazing people. I’ve had opportunities to work on amazing projects.

There will be a longer post later. I just needed to ramble for a moment.

But I promise, NASA, you haven’t seen the last of me. I will be back.

~E.

Intern Space Program

We just so happen to all be interns in Houston, Texas.

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Yesterday, five of us made our way to Paige, Texas to launch a beautiful rocket that interns had been working on since the Summer tour. The orange tube with a glider on top of it was our Monday evening for almost the entire time we have been here so far.

From avionics work, to soldering, and even coding on the three hour drive there: the ever-dwindling group of interns I worked with on this was in love with this rocket.

On the day of the launch, it was pretty cold but we were excited. We wanted to test our fins, because we thought those were our weakest point on this rocket.

glider flip

Approximately two seconds into launch, the glider slipped off the top of the rocket, and the shock cord zippered the airframe.

The glider’s tail ripped off, and we recovered it in two large pieces on the ground near the launch pad.

The rocket kept going up, and we lost it in the sky for several breathtaking seconds.

Someone spotted the rocket, but no parachute had deployed. People screamed “heads up!”, while others scrambled to find the rocket. It landed about three feet away from four cars, and came down with a whistle and a loud thud. When we turned around, we saw the state of our beautiful orange rocket…

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Crushed and broken into two pieces, the parachute never deployed. However, by some miracle, our fins stayed in tact. The indentation in the ground was rather large, and we had to pull about six inches of dirt out of the rocket once we dug it out of the ground.

We weren’t going to let one unsuccessful launch deter us from another launch- we still had avionics sensors to test!

Using one of our interns’ level 2 certification rocket, we strapped in some avionics equipment and hoped for a successful launch. On our launch card, we named the rocket “Shame”.

Perhaps “Lawn Dart” would have been a better name.

_EKB0683

The ejection charge never happened, and the rocket came right back down in a beautiful parabola.

While the rocket most definitely did not survive (it was dug at least 8 inches into the ground), every electronic component that cost more than a dollar did. _EKB0695

We were actually able to recover data, so for our purposes… that was a successful launch.

That poor rocket, though.

We all had such a fun time though, and went to dinner at Bastop Roadhouse after. I’ll have to say, their Sourdough Bun was phenomenal.

All in all, we all learned so much… learned so much. I’d always been interested in rocketry since completing Civil Air Patrol’s model rocketry program, and this was definitely a HUGE step up from that.

I’m so excited I was able to be a part of the Intern Space Program. 

InternSpaceProgramLogo-Transparency

Allons-y…

Here we go, a blog post written at 4 o’clock in the morning. I just need to talk. To write. Every normal person’s asleep, so I figured I’d turn here.

My high school robotics team was called The Sonic Screwdrivers. Based on, you guessed it, Doctor Who. I got the references for the most part then, but I’d never watched it. I always brushed it aside.

I started watching Season 1 on Amazon Prime Wednesday night, and continued Thursday night. I finished Season 1 early this morning- well, maybe yesterday. Saturday. Words aren’t my strong suit right now, yet I can’t seem to shut up.

Image result for rose tyler doctor who

I fell madly in love with the idea of Rose and the Ninth Doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. It took me a while to warm up to David Tennant… But I did. Moving along, I grew just as fond of Rose and the Tenth as I did before with the Ninth.

I watched all of Season 2 today. In one day. well, rather, one span of 24 hours… I don’t think it was really a “day”. Your concept of time kind of goes away in the TARDIS… Ha. Haha…

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. I sobbed. I sobbed like there is no tomorrow. I was not ready for the ending of Season 2. Oh hell no. I’m honestly still lightheaded and it’s been half an hour since I finished watching. Perhaps that’s from staring at a screen all day. Perhaps I cried too much. Maybe I should eat something. Oh well.

Image result for rose tyler doctor whoI’m not sure yet if I’ll move on to Season 3. I don’t think I’m ready yet. I need to do something productive this weekend. I guess it kept me from spending money on stuff I don’t really need, so there’s a plus.

I am still in awe. Still in shock.

My high school robotics team was named after this show?! Why did no one grab my by the arm and force me to watch it? I could have had such a better appreciation.

I’ll watch Season 3 eventually, but I honestly don’t think I’m mentally stable enough to start again any time soon.

Image result for tardis

So, lion girl, is this a fandom blog now? No. Not at all. I just needed a place to capture these dumb emotions posed on me by a fictional television show.

I started writing this at 4:15, how is it already 4:45? This is crazy. why does time move so fast- yet so slow?

I need to get some sleep. I should get some sleep. Oh yeah, and I guess my birthday’s in 12 days. That’s kind of neat I suppose.

If you read this, thanks. Thanks for reading my dumb ramblings from crazy hours. I promise, this blog is occasionally fun to read and actually relevant. I’m going to make an attempt to go to sleep (and maybe ditch this onsetting headache…)

Time Lord science… It’s bigger on the inside.

~E. 

Tomatos, Tomatoes, and NASA.

For a large part of my life, I rejected the letter “e”. Words like the plural of potato, the plural of tornado, the plural of tomato.

Tornados. Tomatos. Potatos.

Adding the “e” was heathenish. It was an injustice to the word. It degraded its value.

For the longest time, I would do this. I’m not quite sure why. My science teacher asked me one year why I deliberately spelled “tornado-e-s” wrong, when the rest of my spelling was impeccable. I never did quite have an answer.

I still don’t have an answer, and I still have my judgement against adding the letter e into those words. It’s simply unnatural.

I did finally learn how to spell necessary, though. A shirt has two Sleeves, and one Collar. And exercise. I still struggle, a little. but, it’s not a size. Exer-cise.

Spelling is weird and the English language is crazier.

On a whole other note, NASA is going great. I’m still drinking from a fire hose, but it’s getting so much better. My mentor and coworkers are phenomenally brilliant people. I’ve made some great friends and I’ve eaten a lot of great food… and some borderline terrible cafeteria Indian food.

I’ve also checked two goals off my goal list. I met an astronaut, and I attended a lecture. I was able to attend the Expedition 58/59 News Conference with NASA Astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian Space Agency Astronaut David Saint-Jaques. The news conference was broadcast on NASA TV and you can replay it on YouTube. I really liked the introduction video music. I was able to get a selfie with Anne McClain, and we were also able to take an intern group photo with her. It was phenomenal!!! The lecture I attended was given by Ginger Kerrick, the first Hispanic female flight director and non-astronaut CapCom. She was amazing.

Today, I competed in the JSC Hackathon. My team was posed with the Integrated Flight Scheduling Application challenge, to create a process or system to manage the Aircraft Operation Division’s resources and flight assets, which can be anywhere on the globe at a given time. It was absolutely amazing and I learned so much!

We ended up coming in first place out of the 10 teams competing.

It’s been such a crazy and amazing ride so far. I’m the POC of the intern Professional Development committee, I’m Co-Chair of the Social Media committee, and I’m the PAO of the Intern Space Program. I told myself in the beginning that I wasn’t going to run for anything and I was going to chill, but you know, life happens.

I cannot believe tomorrow closes out my third week as an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Only 13 more weeks to go, and I know it’s going to FLY by. I’m still learning something new every day. I’m still journaling.

I’m currently in a debate with myself whether to upgrade to the iPhone 8 or the Google Pixel 2. NASA bought my project two Google Pixels… and I fell in love. Accidentally. My current phone’s battery life is terrible and Snapchat hates me, so hey. What could go wrong. I feel guilty because I feel like I -just- bought an Apple watch… but we’ll see. Maybe it’s time for me to go back to the Android side.

Classes are going well, my weekly journal for my internship credit is a breeze. Philosophy is rough because it’s online-discussion-based, and ew. But I’ll survive. Countering opinions with people is a fun pastime.

I have yet to take Leo the Lion on site with me, but maybe he can tag along tomorrow. We’ll see.

OH. I got a massage on Sunday, and it was the most AMAZING thing I’ve ever done for myself. If you’re in the Houston area, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Tippy at Sabai Massage and Health. Wow.

I’ll leave you with a quote said by David Saint-Jaques in the news conference.

The only way you can achieve something is by doing something you love”

~E.🚀

drinking from a fire hose

All my life, I’ve been told things that most people struggle with are like “drinking from a fire hose”. What a beautiful analogy for trying to process a lot of new information at once. Things like starting college, filing taxes, and getting a job. Things I did not struggle with.

jsc sign

Working for NASA as an intern is no small feat, I’ve known that from the start. I did, however, finally experience what drinking from a fire hose tastes like. I’m still finding out. I just completed my first week at NASA, and almost everything feels over my head. It truly is an incredibly humbling experience, though. It really took one of my co-workers to sit me down and tell me that if I learn nothing else from him, let it be that no one is going to care if I ask questions. That no one will think I’m not smart. I really had to break out of my shell, and swallow whatever pride I thought I had.

I’m surrounded by a wonderful group of peers and mentors that absolutely love what they do, and I am so fortunate to be able to learn from them. All the other interns are incredibly friendly, too. There’s about four others from Ohio, which is really cool. I guess in my mind I pictured that everyone would be from Texas, but that’s actually not the case at all! One girl I befriended at orientation had spent a lot of time at Kennedy Space Center, and another guy had just finished working for Lockheed Martin.

nasa goals

I also decided it was time for me to finally try out the bullet journal thing, which I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. I’ve set a few internship-long goals, such as obtaining my amateur radio license and a scuba certification. One of my favorite goals, however, is to learn a new thing every day. At the bottom of every day’s page, I’ve written what I’ve learned. It’s such a beautiful, creative, and fun way to keep track of things.

Some things are not quantitative goals, like being more confident, making new friends, or being less picky. I love the challenge though, and I’m having a blast.

When it comes to food and my picky-ness, Texas is a wonderful place to attempt to overcome this. As long as I can continue to stay away from seafood, life is good. I’ve been packing my lunch most days for work, which is really good for my attempts to avoid getting a lot of fast food (and blowing my entire paycheck at the Chick Fil A across NASA Parkway).

My mentor and his wife took me out for lunch at Noon Mirch on Thursday. Noon Mirch is an Indian buffet-style restaurant about five minutes down the road from NASA. I ate a lot of new foods that I never would have tried before. I had a variety of lentil-based dishes, and I even had a breaded jalapeno.

noon mirchMy favorite, by far, was the creamed spinach (known as Saag). The Naan (a flatbread-like bread) was good, too. There were chicken meatballs, and rice, and more breaded veggies.

For dessert, I tried some rice pudding with a cookie. It was an interesting dish.

On Friday, I went out to eat with a different group of co-workers to Ritter’s, a burger and hot dog place that serves frozen custard. I got a burger there, and it was pretty good. I mention this since I mentioned trying to not be picky- the burger had “Ritter’s Sauce” on it, and I have no idea what it was.  Five points for me. Yay.

rocket park

Here’s a view of Rocket Park, where I ended up because I needed to use the restroom while waiting for my badging appointment (and their restroom didn’t work). It was super cool to see. I’ll definitely have to go again and take the time to look around inside the giant hangar- there’s a Saturn V rocket in there.

On Friday evening, I participated in Critical Mass with the family I’m staying with. Critical Mass Houston is a GIANT bike ride through Houston. Like, there were probably around 2,000 people there. It was super cool. The event began as a social protest to bring awareness to how un-bike friendly cities are, and I think that’s a great point.

critical mass

We ended up riding almost 25 miles, which was an incredible feat for me since I haven’t really rode a bike since being in the Netherlands in May. I felt incredibly accomplished when I finished all 25 miles. I met a bunch of really nice people (almost everyone in Texas is super nice) and I had a blast. My legs didn’t even hurt that bad the next day. I should do this more often. It was also a phenomenal way to see Houston. It’s such a beautiful city- especially in the dark. It also has a lot of one-way streets… And I thought Ohio was bad! 

saltgrass steakhouse

Yesterday, M and I drove down to Galveston for dinner. We went to Saltgrass Steakhouse, and yes, I got double potatoes. YOLO, right? (Please never let me say that again)

The fries were phenomenal. AND I WAS, AT ONE POINT, PROBABLY 30 FEET FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO. That was incredibly epic. It’s nothing like Lake Erie (whoa, who would have guessed).

Texas is super cool, and NASA is amazing. It’s a little weird to not be in classes right now (*glances at the two online classes I’m taking*), but it’s such an amazing experience. I’m so happy I took the internship. I’m so happy I got this opportunity. Right now, it’s like drinking from a fire hose- but soon, I’ll learn. One co-worker I met that I got lunch with Friday said that it’s still like drinking from a fire hose, but she just found a way to redirect it to a pool first. Maybe I’ll find my own pool soon, too.

Last, everything is genuinely bigger in Texas. I always thought it was a joke, but it definitely is not a joke. A movie theater we went to to see “Crazy Rich Asians” had over 25 theaters. It was crazy huge. Oh, and I said y’all. Once.

Alright, I think it’s time for me to keep convincing myself I’m being productive by staring at my philosophy class and not actually doing anything. Wish me luck!

I looked up “space quotes” to be cute and end this in a NASA-esque fashion but this is what I got and I thought it was cute anyway… so here goes.

“There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.”

~E.🌎

How to Survive a Drive with a Lion

Buckle up and hold on for the ride, because I didn’t even know driving 7 hours and only stopping once was something this girl is capable of. The drive from NE Ohio to Houston, Texas was WILD. To be completely honest, I was pretty sure that my 2004 Volkswagen Jetta would die on the way. Spoiler alert: we made it!

But like.. how?tx1

Well, none of it would have been possible without the help of a phenomenal family friend. He drove the rest of the time, which… 20 hours minus 7 is a whopping 13 hours. He started in Ohio, and drove all the way to Jackson, Tennessee. Tennessee was probably the most boring part of the drive in my opinion. It felt like we were in Tennessee for EVER. Leo and I shared the Chips Ahoy cookies in the backseat next to him in Tennessee, and probably ate a few too many, but that’s okay.

I drove from Jackson to Marshall, Texas. I drove through Memphis, and all the way through Arkansas. The sunset was gorgeous. Driving through Little Rock was an interesting experience. Lots of bends, lots of cars, and lots of lights all at once. Gas prices started going down the farther south we got though, which is something I’m super thankful for. Also, why does Arkansas smash city names with the word “Arkansas”? Like… Is Arkadelphia really necessary? Even auto-correct wants to change that to Philadelphia. Also, why not “Philansas”?

Driving into Texas was crazy. By this time, it was dark. I had my first experience driving on a road with a speed limit of 75 miles per hour. Legally going that fast is pretty cool. I’ve been told there’s a road somewhere in this state (which is unnecessarily large, by the way) where the speed limit is 85. I may have to go find that road.

We made it to Marshall, Texas where we stopped at a Whataburger. I will admit, that was a phenomenal hamburger. Especially at 1 o’clock in the morning (two o’clock to my body, yay central time!). After eating, my friend drove the rest of the way.

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We got to the place I’ll be staying right around 5 o’clock in the morning and met my host. Leo was extremely excited to stretch his paws after such a long drive. The bed was super comfortable. I finally fell asleep around 6 o’clock in the morning.

Somehow, I woke up at noon. I took a shower, organized a bit, and met the family. They’re wonderful people, and I’m so excited. The house is gorgeous. My room is so nice. The daughter is a year older than I am, and she’s super cool. We’ll call her “M”. M and I got Chick Fil A today, after she showed me around the area. There’s a Chick Fil A right across from NASA, and I think self control may be the biggest thing I learn during this internship. I also saw a real palm tree for the first time today!

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Orientation for the internship is on Monday, and I’m so excited. I’m also nervous, though. It’s going to be crazy. I don’t think it’s truly sank in that I’m in Texas, and I’m about to work for NASA.

tx2I’ve jokingly told a few people now that if the Space Force Academy becomes a thing, I’ll be one of the first females to graduate (super relevant, I know). But you know what, you never know where life takes you. Leave your options open.

I just hope next time I leave my options open and go where life leads me, the bugs are a tad smaller. When they say everything is bigger in Texas, they mean it.

So, how do you survive a long drive with a lion?

  1. Lots of Chips Ahoy Chewy cookies
  2. 1 cold Gatorade for every 2 hours of driving
  3. A cool family friend (knowing lots about cars and playing cool music is a bonus)
  4. The ability to admit when you’re tired
  5. The ability to sleep in the passenger seat of your own car (yes, it’s super weird)
  6. Lots and lots of adrenaline. Arkansas was boring, but once we got into Texas…
  7. Clean your windshield every chance you get at gas stations. Dead things leave streaks if you use the wipers.
  8. There’s no shame in going the speed limit, even if cars in Kentucky decide they want to attempt to take off next to you.
  9. Don’t merge too close in front of drivers from Arkansas. They need at least two semi truck-lengths to feel secure.
  10. Have fun!

So, there you go. Enjoy your next road trip. Or don’t, that’s all up to you.

I’ll be back to ramble to you from NASA’s Johnson Space Center next time, right here on my blog! Hopefully maybe my nerves will settle down. That would be cool.

Until then, don’t be afraid to try new things!

~E.💫

the overwhelming wave

I don’t easily admit my weaknesses. Right now, I just need an outlet. I need this blog for me. I didn’t even know it was possible to cry for three hours straight. I didn’t even know it was possible to cry in your sleep.

I haven’t been okay. My mom and brother left to go back to the Netherlands after a three week visit late last night. My boyfriend spent the night with me last night and him going home is always hard… but this time it hurt so bad.

Goodbyes are never easy. My mom always says that it’s not goodbye; that we’ll see each other again. And I know that. These goodbyes though- they felt like goodbyes. It’s all too weird.

I am excited for my NASA internship. I really am. I’m just so incredibly overwhelmed. All these doubts and thoughts running through my mind of “what if I’m not smart enough?” or “what if I don’t get along with the people?”.

There’s so much still to do. So much to pack. To clean. To read.

It doesn’t help that I got a cold on Sunday.

My stress level is through the roof and I’m not quite sure why I can’t pull myself together. I miss my family. I miss my boyfriend. I miss my friends.

I’ve completely lost my appetite. This cold thing has made me feel weak. Listening to music even has no appeal right now.

This post really has no good content. I just needed to type. I needed my outlet.

I know everything will be okay. I do. I just needed to take a breath and type this.

I’ll be okay… just maybe not today.

~E.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration | The Intern

The past few weeks have been an insane rollercoaster ride. On June 10th, I started the application process on NASA’s internship website.

If you’ve ever had any interest in NASA, I highly encourage you to apply. NASA is so much more than astronauts… NASA is so much more than just fancy science or math majors! I truly do believe there is a position at NASA for everyone.

The application process really does not take that long. When I applied, I originally sat down at work and took about fifteen minutes just filling in personal information and things I could quickly answer. I then set it aside for a few days, when I returned and completed several open-ended questions about my skills and experience. That too, only took me about 20 minutes. I needed a letter of recommendation as well, and I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by multiple phenomenal mentors making this no issue at all. The letter was submitted on June 18th, and I submitted the application on the same day.

The application process was relatively painless. I applied to a few projects at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio since it is the closest NASA facility- therefore making it the most logical. I occasionally logged in to the internship portal and checked if the status of my application had changed. For a whole month, nothing happened. I had begun to accept that school was starting soon, and I did not think anything else of it.

On July 23rd, I received an email from Melissa Corning, one of the Intern Program Coordinators for NASA Johnson Space Center. You read that right: NASA Johnson. I did a quick Google search because my brain couldn’t believe it. That is, indeed, the NASA facility in Houston, Texas. The hub for human space exploration. THE Johnson Space Center. I was baffled. I was amazed. And then logic hit me. How on earth could I go to Texas? Ms. Corning contacted me because of my application: several things had stood out. She asked if I’d be interested in interviewing for an internship formally titled “Evaluate Standards for Wireless Architecture for Internet of Things in Space”.

Naturally, that alone sounded phenomenal. The description and required skills only made it sound more appealing as I read on. Linux. Programming. Networking. Sign me up!

On July 24th, I had a phone interview. It went really well. She asked me questions. I asked her questions. She told me the mentors really liked my resume, that I had a very high chance of getting this internship. When we got off the phone, I jumped up and down in excitement. I just had an interview with NASA! She told me I would know by “the end of next week”.

On July 26th, I got a reply to my thank you email, thanking Ms. Corning for the interview. I think I may have cried in excitement, I’m not sure. She congratulated me on getting the internship.

On July 27th, I got the formal offer from the NASA Internship Application System.

On August 2nd, I formally accepted my internship offer.

The entire process took about a month and a half. Something that started as an application to NASA Glenn Research Center because “it’s close and it’s NASA” turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.

There are a lot of logistics to figure out still, such as where I will be living and how I will be getting to Houston. That’s almost 21 hours to drive, if that is what I decide to do. But I am incredibly fortunate to have an incredible support system of my family, friends, and my boyfriend and his family. Everyone has been so incredibly supportive, and I know I would not be able to do it without their help and encouragement.

I also can’t forget to thank Kent State University – especially the Digital Sciences department. This internship will not negatively affect my schooling at all, I won’t even be behind when I come back! I am so fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible faculty and staff that truly cares about me and is willing to work with me so I can follow my dreams. The Office of Continuing and Distance Education also deserves a mention… Everyone has been so encouraging and excited and it’s truly amazing to work with such a great group of people.

This is a pretty big deal to me, so I have decided to dedicate a specific page of my blog to NASA. If you head over to shebecamealion.com/nasa, you’ll see my big updates from NASA in one consolidated place. I do plan to blog regularly of course, and for those posts you can check out the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” category right here on my blog. And of course, these views are my own and do not represent or speak for NASA in any way. 

Had you told me two weeks ago that I’d be going to Houston, Texas instead of Kent State University, I would have thought you were absolutely insane. Of course, I still think it’s a little crazy. But honestly, when in my life have I ever done things the “traditional” way? I’m so thankful for this opportunity. Never in a million years did I think I would ever get the chance to work for NASA.

Never stop dreaming, and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams… even if they seem a little crazy. The sky isn’t the limit: there are no limits! So dream big and let life take you wherever you want to go.

I’m incredibly excited to share this journey with you!

~E💫

Image result for nasa

Hello From the Otter Slide

Hello, it’s me. I’ve been wondering….. oh wait.

Image result for hello from the otter slide

Hi guys! It’s been a while. I finally decided to crawl out of the depths of despair and not blogging to update you on how I’ve been for the past 4(ish) months.

Also, enjoy my title pun and the otter slide to the left. I totally borrowed that picture from Google, but hey.

The last time I published a post was April 10th. I’ve written a few drafts since then, but I haven’t finished those. Or had the heart to publish them. Maybe one day.

So where the h*ck have I been since April?! Well….

  1. I finished off my Freshman year of college with a cumulative GPA of 3.888
  2. I went to the Netherlands and visited my family (and that lovely bun, George)
  3. I had the time of my life as Cadet Deputy Commander for Operations at the 2018 Ohio Wing Encampment in June
  4. I celebrated my one year anniversary with the guy of my dreams
  5. I attended Region Cadet Leadership School in Michigan. That was pretty cool. I got the Leadership Award.
  6. I finally promoted in Civil Air Patrol (I’m still a C/Major, I got Achievement 16. But I finished PT and my essay for the Eaker award!)
  7. I went to Warped Tour
  8. I saw Hamilton in Cleveland
  9. I have lost 10 pounds (and kept the weight off) since March
  10. I sure as h*ck haven’t been keeping up on my writing prompts, lol
  11. A fellow FIRST Robotics mentor and I are starting a team in our area of Ohio
  12. My next CAP event is a familiar one… I’ll be taking my second shot at Cadet Commander of D-Day Ohio in August!
  13. I’ve almost finished watching every season of Hawaii Five-0

So yeah. Life has been keeping me on my toes lately.

I’ve also done an incredibly terrible job on those monthly writing prompts I “promised” I’d do. I guess I’ll toss July’s in with this blog post…

 

What makes you proud to be an American?

I have been attending school in the United States of America since second grade. For 11 years, all of my classrooms proudly displayed the American flag. For 11 years, the first thing out of my mouth in the morning was the Pledge of Allegiance.

In Middle School choir, I had multiple opportunities to sing in front of service men and women- both somber and happy songs- to thank them for their selfless service to the United States of America.

In High School, I played Taps on my trumpet on multiple occasions, the most notable being the open air Memorial Day ceremonies. I stood in front of a large crowd in my small town, I stood in front of service men and women. I stood in front of a memorial with hundreds of names. I stood in a cemetery with hundreds of flags.

In college, there is no more Pledge of Allegiance. There are no more flags in every classroom. But on my wall, hanging proudly is the American flag.

All throughout my life in the United States of America, I have visited multiple churches. I have celebrated various holidays: I did an Easter Egg Hunt on Russian-Orthodox Easter once!

I can go to the store in the United States of America and choose if I want to go to Walmart or Kroger or Aldi or Meijer or the sketchy gas station on the corner.

In 2005, I became a citizen of the United States of America. A few years later I was there for my mom when she got her citizenship. There were interviews. There was the fun citizenship test (they really should just take the AP US History test and throw it out and use the citizenship test, let’s be real here). There was lots and lots of paperwork.

But after all those fun hoops to jump through, there was lots of crying. Happy crying. Happy crying because we were now citizens of the greatest country in the world.

No, I’m not saying that America has everything figured out, and no, I am not getting political. However, I am free.

I can proudly display the American flag on my wall. I can safely walk past the flag in the morning on my way to class. I can get an education. I can go to the church I want to. I can blog and write and speak freely. I am allowed to drive. I am allowed to carry a gun. I am allowed to petition for things I believe in. I have the right to vote.

I may be free, but none of this is free. I have all those rights, and so many more, because a lot of incredible men and women fought, are fighting, and will fight for this country. Some gave the ultimate sacrifice. Others return safely.

We should never forget any of them, as they are the reason we wake up safely in our beds each morning. They are the reason we can walk past the flag every day.

I am proud to be an American because of all the brave men and women who have fought for this country, and fought for the rights of people they don’t even know- of people that may not even be born yet.

I am proud to be an American because of the members of the Armed Forces that stand up and fight for our country’s morals and beliefs.

I am proud to be an American.

~E. United States on Apple iOS 11.3

P.S. Happy Belated Birthday, America! 

Two Years as a Lion

Two years ago, this blog was started as an outlet for my ramblings about life and a stuffed animal Simba from The Lion King. I then realized lions are so much more… that I am a lion. In my first post ever I wrote “I like to think of myself like a lion. Strong. Fierce. An over-comer. Yet, gentle. Because, everyone sees some shit in life. But, it gets better. As stereotypical as that may sound. Really… Everyone can find their lion. My inspiration just happened to… actually be a lion.

Before this blog, I actually had a blog that I used for about 4 days in February 2015. “Ramblings of a Teenager” I called it, and it had some of my poetry on it. It doesn’t come up on Google, you’re welcome for saving you the time. Most of that poetry is on here now, anyway.

My point, though, is that I’ve always had a fascination with blogging. That first one didn’t really work out, but I’m still at it blogging here- and I feel like it’s really helped me. Twenty followers and 71 posts are just numbers, but what has really helped me is being able to write. I can clear my mind into my blog posts. I can calm down when I sit and write. It’s such a wonderful outlet.

A lot has changed since I started my blog- and even since I wrote my “One Year” post. I’m still so incredibly thankful to those of you that read my blog, whether from my Snapchat, Instagram bio, or people I don’t even know that follow me… you’re all amazing humans and I appreciate you.

A year ago, I was in The Netherlands not sure of what I was going to do with my life. A year ago, I was single. Over the course of that year, I met an amazing guy that I can share my life with. I lost some friends. I moved back to the United States of America. I made some friends. I started college.

Last year, I was finally starting to find my self-confidence. Now- today- I smile confidently no matter what I do. I can go into a job interview with a smile and truly mean it.

I’m so thankful for all the people in my life, my family, my friends, and everyone else for helping me become who I am now. I’m thankful for those late night conversations, those dinners where we laugh, those times where we cry. Everyone in my life is phenomenal and so fantastic in their own way, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You’re all probably waiting for the attached photo of how baby Simba is doing these days. Well… he’s in The Netherlands. He did not move to America with me. And you know, that’s okay. Life’s all about moving on, leaving things behind, and looking for the future where even brighter things will greet you.

I will never forget the idea that started this blog, however.

These are my journeys, my thoughts, Simba’s travels, my poetry- well, I really just hope for this to be an inspiration to others. For others to find their lion. Or owl, gazelle, octopus, eagle, stork, anything. For others to keep fighting, to find life’s beauty, to be strong.

While Simba may not travel with me anymore, I surely do. I love to those capture moments in writing, photography, and memory, and I can’t wait to see what life gives me for the rest of forever.

I started out my very first blog post with the quote “smile, you’re amazing“, and still carry on this ending style. Why should today be any different?

Here’s to seeing where I’ll be next year, to growing even more, and loving myself and others…

And smiling… because you’re amazing.

~E.♥