Rookie Recap: Destination Deep Space

img_20190117_165011.jpgThe FIRST Robotics Competition is an incredible experience. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog in little anecdotes or goals, but never to the extent I am about to go.

This year, myself and a fellow FIRST volunteer named Dave decided we were going to bring the FIRST Robotics Competition a little closer to home, and started a team at a local high school with the help of science teacher Mr.F.  

It all started on the first Saturday of January, known as “Kickoff”. January 5th, a group of students got on a bus to Girard, Ohio to analyze this year’s game, and pick up the kit of parts.

This group of students had, for the most part, never worked together before. They also had very little clue on what this “FIRST” thing even was.

Throughout the six week build season, this group of students became smaller and smaller, eventually steadying out at 13. Six weeks to build a robot? How’s that possible? Well, these students accomplished it. The picture above was from January 17th, two of the six weeks into build season. And that’s not a robot.

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Four and a half weeks into build season, we had a driving robot, strictly from the kit of parts.

February 5th was the date of this milestone, and it gave the students some renewed hope. Maybe they’d get something they can put on the field, after all.

Of course, there were so many obstacles we had to overcome, and we could not have overcome them without outside help. The teams in our area, specifically team 2010, really stepped up to help us and mentor our students in ways myself, Dave, and Mr.F could not.

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February 15th. Four days until Stop Build Day, and the day we have to put the robot in a giant bag.

We had a structure on top of our robot! It was starting to look like something. Again, major shout-out to the designer from FRC Team 2010.

It was simple. We had pneumatics at the front to push out a platform to “grab” the hatch panels, and were going to add a box on top for cargo.

A sturdy robot that promised consistency, team members were starting to realize the time commitment that the FIRST Robotics Competition called for. Two days a week for two hours was simply not enough, and there were several days leading up to Stop Build Day where the students would stay until late at night to finish what they were working on.

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Stop Build Day finally came on February 19th, and we put this guy in a bag. I was going to say “little guy”, but at 80 pounds and a perimeter of a little under 120 inches, this was no “little guy”.

Stop Build Day didn’t come without its own challenges, however. Finishing the robot, and then driving it for about an hour were our goals. Both of those were met- and then a problem met us. Our robot stopped driving. Lights were flashing red, and errors were coming up left and right.

After extensive troubleshooting and messages exchanged on community FIRST platforms, we got our robot driving again. We put it in the bag right away.

Two weeks of waiting, and our team would be attending the Miami Valley Regional in Dayton, Ohio, as its first ever regional event.

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A little over three hours away, our group of nine students got on a school bus at 4 o’clock in the morning on Thursday and headed to the Nutter Center.

I wish it went as smoothly as that paragraph made it sound. Our robot and tool cart didn’t fit on the school bus, and Dave had to drive down with those. After taking the wheels off the cart, laying the robot on its side, stuffing the robot cart into my car, and putting Dave’s spare tire on the bus, we were set for a crazy 4am drive.

The drive itself was incredibly uneventful, other than simply just being exhausted and following a school but that was going… quite fast.

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We got to the Nutter Center, and unloaded the pit and robot stuff from the three vehicles. Students were speechless at the size of the event… It was unlike anything they’d imagined.

A drive team meeting kicked off the day, and practice matches would soon follow.

We only made two of our practice matches, as we had a lot of stuff to do on our robot. We added the box (which turned into a triangle) for the cargo on top, and we finalized the bumpers. There was also lots of fun troubleshooting and coding that came along with being at our first ever competition.

But, after only one formal practice match, the students did it. On Friday, we were in the first qualification match of the day, and we won. It was a rush of excitement for everyone. img_20190308_133359.jpg

Several hours spent on the practice field in half hour increments, adapting the code to fit the needs of the drivers, and learning how to manage stress while still driving effectively were the key parts of Friday, and these students absolutely nailed it.

For the majority of Friday, we were seated in the number one position, of 60 teams. That’s… incredible for a rookie team.

On Saturday, we made it into alliance selections, and eventually were the Captain of the #5 Alliance. Selecting teams 3484 and 4027, we went into the playoffs.

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While we lost 0-2 to the #4 Alliance, I saw our students display enthusiasm and leadership like I had never seen before.

The quiet students really broke out of their shell, and while stressful, the drive team made several tough decisions with the team and alliance.  

It was a crazy experience of ups and downs, but the students absolutely had the time of their lives. We ended up being awarded Highest Rookie Seed, as well as the Rookie Inspiration Award at the 2019 Miami Valley Regional.

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I’m so incredibly proud of all the students on the team. It was a crazy weekend, and I learned so much as well. Patience, stress management, communication… being a mentor is no easy thing, but it is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.

Seeing the drive team work together and communicate, and witnessing the students break out of their shells were the highlights of my weekend, perhaps even more so than any award meant to me.

I can’t wait to see where the next few years bring us.

-E.🤖❤️

can february MARCH?

No, but april may.

I’m sure you’re all thinking it: “Can this lion girl stop with the puns already? No, sorry.

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February has been a crazy month, full of weekends busier than the weekdays and restless nights. Jumping head-first back into the school thing after being away for a semester is a lot harder than I thought it would be. And I’m still not a morning person.

It’s midterm week and somehow I’m still surviving; I got an A on my aeronautics midterm and I didn’t fail psychology so that’s pretty neat. I still wonder why I actually took psych this semester. Chemistry sounds way more fun. Oh well, we’ll get there.

School is super stressful. And then here I am, adding harder classes into my roadmap. Am I ever content? Probably not. I just want to learn everything about everything.

So, before I ramble on any longer about literally everything I’m attempting to balance right now, let’s check in on February’s goals.

February 2k19 – Goals

  1. Organize my apartment and make everything look nice
    • It’s going well! There’s still some laundry and stuff in places, but I finally carried all the recycling down and it’s starting to feel like mine. I’ve had a couple people over and may even be hosting a group of friends soon, and it’s just so nice to be able to do that. I should possibly finally get a living room rug and some more seating though. If anyone wants to buy me a bean bag chair, I won’t argue.
  2. Run and walk more
    • I went to the rec center like.. once? I do walk way more, though. This goal is going to stick around, most likely. I need to find motivation, and time.
  3. Do dishes immediately after using them
    • This has been going crazy well. My sink is always clean and I wash all my dishes regularly. It’s such a great feeling, and I’d 110% recommend trying this at home.
  4. Cook at home for every meal feasible
    • This has been decent. I haven’t gone out as much as I did earlier in the year (sorry Arby’s, I’m no longer single-handedly funding you). At some point in life I’m getting groceries, and I’m starting the clean eating diet. Whole grains! Non-processed foods! Fresh fruits and vegetables! I’ll let y’all know how that goes.
  5. Sleep routinely
    • HahahahHAHA oops
  6. Apply for scholarships
    • Check. (was that a pun? maybe? idk someone give me a check)
  7. Clean my car
    • It was clean, UNTIL IT SNOWED AGAIN.
  8. Be the best coach I can be for the robotics students
    • The Miami Valley Regional is next week, and it slowly feels like everything is creeping up on me. Am I forgetting something? Is everything going to go wrong? I need to read the game manual like six more times. At least I finally know the students’ names. I need to really know what every part of the robot does. I need to be there for the team. This is fine (please see meme above).

February has been quite the ride, in case that wasn’t already clear through my goals. Stop Build Day for robotics came and went, I attended the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing, and we held encampment staff selections. It’s been a crazy whirlwind of driving robots into walls, a resort from the 70s, and a lot of conference calls.

I also officially transferred to my new squadron in CAP, and it’s been an absolutely wonderful time working with the members. Attendance was the highest I’ve seen it last night; with five cadets and myself attending. Yes, it’s a small squadron. But it’s already been great for me. A 15 minute drive to meetings is lovely.

Alright, let’s set some goals for March. March has always been one of my favorite months. I’m not really sure why. It’s just got such a happy feeling. Hopefully this year is the same way.

MARCH GOALS

  1. Eat clean, as much as I can.
  2. Drink more water! Lots of water!
  3. Learn more about FRC and robotics in general.
  4. Study more for psychology, programming, and database management.
  5. Exercise. (Walk. Run. Lift. etc.)
  6. Refresh on CAP regulations.
  7. Organize my Google Drive(s) and other external storage.
  8. Take good notes and use my new planner often.
  9. Go to sleep and wake up at a regular time each day.
  10. Finalize shelves and hanging decor in my apartment.

Let’s do great things this month. Thanks for a great February… Here’s to March!

-E.🦁

New Year, Same Me: Hello, February.

It’s been two whole months since I’ve actually published anything, and my goodness have those two months gone by fast. Perhaps I should start where I left off.

My last post was December 14th, from the lovely Houston, Texas. It was the day before I turned in my NASA badge. No, this is not going to be my long NASA post, but that will come, eventually. It’s slowly growing in my drafts, and I want to make sure it’s perfect.

December 19th. The day I got back to my apartment after the three day road trip with M. What a long, fun drive filled with country music, migrating birds, and stupid hotel laws (I’m looking at you, Arkansas). Sven (the trusty ’04 Jetta) made it home safe and sound, as did his driver (yes, that’s me).

M left the next day, I drove her to the airport at an ungodly hour in the morning. I spent the next few days unpacking and spending time in my apartment. I bought a desk, and M had bought me a microwave and some other various kitchen supplies as a housewarming gift. I miss her, she was a great friend and person to hang out with.

It didn’t really feel like Christmas this year, mainly because I’d just left Houston- where it was a beautiful minimum of 50 degrees every day (and no snow!). I spent Christmas with my boyfriend, his family, and his grandparents. It was lovely.

Two days later, I flew to The Netherlands to spend New Year’s with my family.

It was so nice to see my mom and brother again- and my bun. George is still a lazy floof, but he’s happy and healthy and turned two on January 21st!

We had our own Christmas; and all my gifts were absolutely NASA themed.

And suddenly, it was 2019.

We went ice skating, ate lots of great food, visited my great grandma, saw the Joker statue up close that we’ve always driven by,  pet Ophelia the cat lots, gave a presentation at my brother’s school on NASA, and well- then I went back home. It was a nice trip and I’m so glad I got to see everyone.

When I got back to the United States, I spent another day with my boyfriend, and then headed home. Of course I had to stop at IKEA to get some furniture for my place… I now have a queen sized bed (and it’s lovely).

Since then, school has started again. It’s a strange semester. Getting back into the swing of classes has been hard. It’s also snowed, a lot. We had this fun “Polar Vortex” come through and cancel classes for two days. I’ve gone back to work at OCDE, and that’s been nice as well. I was selected as Cadet Commander of the 2019 Ohio Wing Encampment, and planning for that has been in full swing.

Of course, FIRST Robotics Competition’s build season began in January (and ends next week!). I’m super excited about this year’s game (Destination: Deep Space), and even more excited about the rookie team a fellow mentor and I started.

I’m so proud of the dedicated kids who have been putting time into this program. We may not have a big team, but those who are involved are awesome.

Life has been pretty quiet around here. Very busy, but quiet. Work, school, homework, robotics, extra stuff for my major (like attending the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing Conference next week), Civil Air Patrol, exercising, cleaning, getting groceries… Yeah, I’m somehow balancing this. Being an adult is overwhelming sometimes, but honestly, it’s nice. Also, so is living alone. 10/10 would recommend.

So, obviously last year’s writing prompts did not go very well (if I tagged everything correctly, I only actually did 4 months out of the 12… yikes). I’m going to go back to doing goals, like I did in 2017. I set a few goals in January on my lovely Trello board (Trello is my life lately), so let’s move them here and possibly add a few.

2k19 – Goals

  1. Achieve the Carl A. Spaatz Award in the Civil Air Patrol
  2. Obtain my CCW
  3. Get a computer certification (CCNA, CompTIA, etc.)
  4. Obtain a General Class HAM Radio License
  5. Go scuba diving
  6. Save $1,000
  7. Stop apologizing all the time
  8. Read at least one book per month
  9. Stop looking down on myself and gain some confidence
  10. Don’t blame myself for everything

These goals seem pretty achievable. I age out of CAP in October, and I really want to have at least attempted the Spaatz exam before then. My goal right now is May, but I’m extremely nervous and I know I still need to work very hard to get there. The other ones are all pretty self explanatory. Certifications, licenses, yeah! Let’s get this bread (is that still a meme?).

Alright, let’s set some goals for the month now. I missed January due to my lack of blogging, but that’s alright. February: let’s go.

February 2k19 – Goals

  1. Organize my apartment and make everything look nice
  2. Run and walk more
  3. Do dishes immediately after using them
  4. Cook at home for every meal feasible
  5. Sleep routinely
  6. Apply for scholarships
  7. Clean my car
  8. Be the best coach I can be for the robotics students

These are good goals. Hopefully doing this again will encourage me to blog at least once a month. I honestly cannot believe I’ve been blogging for almost three years now; it’s so crazy to read back on some old posts and see how far I’ve come.

So, with that, I will end this post. I will finalize my NASA post soon, because I’m sure some of my followers are just here for NASA. That’s alright.

As always, thanks to my followers and readers. Y’all are awesome.

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Last, thanks for everything, Opportunity.

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark…”

You were a good rover. The best. What started as 90 days became an amazingly long mission that allowed us to learn so much. Thanks, Oppy.

Maybe we’ll see you on Mars one day.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” -Henry Ford

~E.💕

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.

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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.

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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. 

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💫

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Hello From the Otter Slide

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

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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.♥

Not Going Through the Motions Anymore

I was never very popular in high school. Back then, I was quiet. I went along and got decent grades. I graduated with a decent GPA. It wasn’t the best, but neither was my effort. I spent my time looking for excuses to spend time in the band room with my best friend and the band director. All I wanted was to be around the field I knew I would end up in- music education. I was so passionate about music, and that’s where I was the most social. I wasn’t afraid to get up in front of a group of students while job shadowing a local band director and talk. I wasn’t afraid to mentor my peers on sight reading- or anything altogether. I participated in bands and ensembles outside of my high school and met a bunch of new people, several of them who would be around for quite a while and leave a large impact on my life.

Nevertheless, in high school people didn’t know me. I was that “band girl”- if I was anything to them at all. A few of the more “popular” people knew me because I did track and field. That was it.

I used to look back and wonder what I did wrong- why I never fit in with them. Everyone was friends with everyone in third grade, why didn’t that last?

In high school, I constantly stressed about college. I -hated- math, and I’d be damned if I ever had to take another math class in my life. I didn’t think I was smart. I didn’t think I could do it, in all honesty. In a way, being a music major was my soft landing. I was comfortable there. I knew EVERYONE I would be going to college with. Did I really want that? I thought I did at the time. I was incredibly passionate. I really was.

It was a hard decision, and not an easy one to make. Many blog posts, late night talks, self reflection, a bit of self loathing, and a lot of self love helped me make the decision I did.

Today… it really hit me. I made the right choice. 

I’m in a place I’m happy. I’m doing better than I ever did in high school. My GPA for this semester so far is a 4.0, and I’ll be damned if that goes down. I love college. So many people told me it’d be tough. That it’d be scary. That I wouldn’t meet new people. That it sucks for shy people. Well, they were wrong. This is a whole new world. A whole new place of opportunity. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But I love it more than anything. I love where I am today.

Yesterday I helped someone with some ridiculous algebra class’s homework and I HAD FUN WITH IT. I took a moment to reflect on that. Here I was in high school, ready to bash my head against a wall because I hated math so much. Because I thought I was bad at it because I wasn’t the valedictorian. College is so much different, and by god I love it.

I have plenty of friends. I guess you could consider me popular, these days. It’s nice. I still have the few people that I’d trust with my life over anyone else, but it’s nice to have a group to walk to classes with. It’s nice to see smiling faces in most of my classes that will actually enjoy sitting with me. College is so much better than high school, and I’m so glad I chose the path of getting a STEM degree.

I couldn’t be happier.

~E.

Second Star to the Right, and Straight on ’til Morning!

A small brick house with the number 25 on it sits hidden cleverly behind a tall tree. It’s not a free-standing house, but it’s still roomy enough for my mom and I. A giant curtain cascades from the ceiling onto a little blonde girl hiding in it to “scare” her mother. The blonde girl carefully runs up the stairs to her room, which is skillfully decorated in yellow and blue. One of her favorite things is her Lion King rug, the one with baby Simba and Nala. She runs over to her mother’s room and admires the round pink lamp hanging from the ceiling over her bed.

Her mom calls her downstairs to eat dinner. They sit down at the yellow table in the small kitchen dining area and laugh about something that happened that day. The girl refuses to eat cucumber, and dinner concludes. She flops down on the green-and-white-striped couch and props her feet up on a round papasan chair. She daydreams about what America will be like. She tries to imagine away the boxes that surround her and the feelings she’s having. She’s very excited. But also nervous, and almost a little sad. She has so many friends, something she doesn’t ever believe will change. She glows with joy to think about the email address her mom allowed her to get to keep in touch with her countless companions.

On her last day of school, she proudly goes from classroom to classroom with a poster of two red cats for the teachers to sign, a Dutch tradition for when a student leaves school. She knew the whole school knew her as the girl moving to America, and everyone thought she was so cool. She couldn’t help but grin. It was bittersweet, saying goodbye to the students she grew up with, but she promised she’d come back one day.

Her Lion King rug had disappeared to somewhere, and eventually the young girl and her mother boarded a plane. A plane to America.

I’ll never forget the feeling of stepping outside of Pittsburgh international Airport that August of 2005. The air was warm and welcoming, a feeling I’ve happily associated with that airport and landing there in the summer months. It’s something I often look forward to when flying; feeling that welcoming, warm, American feeling once more.

I know we drove “home”, but I don’t remember too much of it anymore. I wish I could put smells into words better, because that’s really all I remember. The scene is this: a big white house on a corner of an intersection in a small neighborhood.

The young blonde girl opens the door to her new house, and is immediately overwhelmed. She was excited, but she wasn’t sure how to feel. “The doors are really hard to open”, she thought to herself. She went exploring in this new, unfamiliar place. There was a small, enclosed space on the front of the house that captured her interest. It was incredibly warm, and smelled like an old book store. She immediately started fantasizing about turning this space into hers, her playroom. She ran up the stairs and pulled doors open. The door to the right was awkward to open, and probably the hardest in the house. Inside was a room with the ugliest carpet you’ll ever see. Red clad the floors, with some sort of pattern of black color sprawled across like it was natural. The only furnishing in this room was a black couch bed thing- something the girl later learned was called a “foo-tawn” and to stay away from it because she could get her fingers caught in it. She found her room next door to the weird red room with the strange bed-couch-thing. A closet with squeaky doors greeted her, looking over a tall twin sized bed dressed in pink flowery sheets.

Fast forward some time, and our little girl starts school. She starts in Second Grade, with the knowledge that she’ll probably do it twice because of her age and her lack of any English speaking almost whatsoever.

The little girl proudly, but nervously, walks into her new school building. She knows what to expect a little bit, because she’d been given a tour the week before. She even got to ride a school bus for the first time ever, and that was super cool. She read the numbers on the walls of the school building carefully. She stopped at 38… and went inside. That was her “homeroom”, whatever that meant. She went inside and sat down, keeping her head low and staying quiet. Other students were fascinated with the shy blonde girl who had just joined them. They’d never seen her before. The teacher introduced her, and immediately other students came up to her and asked her all kinds of questions about her home country- most of which she didn’t know how to answer. She quickly became friends with a girl named Erin, and the two young girls were soon inseparable. She befriended a few more people- to include Sarah and twins Taylor and Tiffany. Her first sleepover party was at the twins’ house, and Sarah became a close friend as well, often spending time with her at Truck Night with her father’s monster truck.

Befriending Erin (and the other girls) showed me that it was possible to move on, that I could make new friends somewhere else. I stayed friends with Erin pretty consistently throughout the duration of my general education, up until senior year of high school. I still don’t really know what happened, but genuinely I hope she’s doing well. She’s in the Army now, and I hope her life is going great. Throughout the years of being friends with Erin, one time her mother told me that when I first moved, she thought I was from “Neverland” and how excited young Erin was to meet a girl from Neverland. Sarah and I still talk occasionally, but I’ve practically lost complete contact with the twins. It’s funny how you grow up, and eventually move separate ways.

For the longest time I always blamed my mom for “ruining my life” by dragging me away from the friends I had in the Netherlands and moving me to this country. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I truly appreciated America for what it is, for giving me the opportunities I have today, and for allowing me to have some of the greatest friends. Opportunities, experiences, and friends that will actually last no matter where I go. Realizing the bigger picture, realizing that the world is a small place that with modern technology is easily traveled, and realizing that those who truly care will always be there helped me close the door on this chapter of my life. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t not relate to that Miranda Lambert song about the house that built her… and if I had the chance I’d absolutely go take a look at what my old house looks like now. But I accept that I’ve moved on- and I realize how happy I am where I am now.

January: Think back to a moment where you’ve come to the end of the road with something important in your life—a relationship with a lover; moving out of your childhood home; graduation from school; etc. Write a scene wrapped around that moment, describing how you felt (good and bad) and how you closed the door on that chapter in your life.

 

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

~E.⭐