The New Office Normal: Adapting to Change in the Workplace

When I began drafting this post, I thought I’d write about how we’re getting back to normalcy but after a bit of contemplation, I’ve come to the realization that there really isn’t going to be a time when we get back to the normal we’ve all been used to for the majority of our lives. New normals will grow from the world we are currently in and we will adapt and eventually embrace them.

Work has probably been one of the most changed elements in a lot of people’s lives. Along with many others, I found myself working from home during the rise of the pandemic in the United States. I’ve worked from home on the occasional random day before and wasn’t worried about my focus or ability to complete a full day’s work. In addition to working from home, my hours were reduced to 32 per week and instead of shifting my schedule to just four days, we kept it at five. My days started later and ended sooner and the confidence that I had that I’d be okay working from home began to dwindle each week I spent at home.

It was harder to concentrate every day because my home became everything. It was where I ate all three meals, where I worked, slept and relaxed. I didn’t leave my house and that became detrimental to my mental health. And I know that so many others have, or still are, feeling that way. It’s not easy and it’s not normal. I thank my lucky stars that I still live with my family and that I wasn’t alone at home for those two and a half months. I had people to talk to and interact with face-to-face which many people didn’t have. A lot of those in the professional work industry rely on the social aspect of office life. Even though my office is small, I still enjoy visiting with my coworkers and I missed that.

As restrictions changed and the content of my work began to look like it used to, it was time for my workspace to move from my dining room table back to my actual office. My boss approved our return but preparations had to be made and guidelines put into place. The workplace had to adapt to continue to keep us comfortable and safe.

To start the returning process, I had to move my desk. I was out in the main lobby area behind a divider in a shared open space with our front desk agent and if I stayed in that space, we would have to both wear masks for the entirety of the work day. The two other full-time people in our office have personal offices with doors that can be closed so while alone in their closed offices they don’t have to wear masks. So, to make it comfortable we moved my desk to the back room that we use as storage and where maintenance had a small desk the manager used only on occasion. Moving into the back room, though far from glamorous with an unfinished concrete floor, housekeeping supplies and old filing cabinets, allowed me to be in an area where I could close the door and work without breathing through a mask all day.

Though we all are in our own personal spaces we still wear masks when in the common areas and keep our six feet social distance. For my boss and I, we are only in the office three days a week so we have some time together, but also have time at home where we aren’t restricted. When we are in the office we’re also required to take our temperature upon arrival to make sure that we aren’t running a fever.

We also respect each other’s personal space and only allow one person in the kitchen at a time. Sanitation of commonly touched surfaces also occurs daily. To give us an additional layer of protection, our office continues to be closed to the public, with the exception of deliveries, so we don’t have unnecessary outside interactions. These standards will hopefully keep us safe and healthy.

To be completely candid though, I think some of the regulations that my boss has put into place are a little extreme considering there are only four of us in the office and we live in a mountain community with an entire county population of about 15,000. Nevertheless, I understand the precautions and the continuous risk that COVID-19 presents, especially to a small tourist community. I’m also (now) extremely happy that I have the ability to be back in the office and to have some interaction with my coworkers. Returning to the office was not as exciting as I hoped it would be simply because it wasn’t like returning back to the normal I’m used to.

After the first few days back in the office I found myself wanting to return home to work full-time. It wasn’t what I was used to and I thought “maybe I’ll be happier at home.” But after thinking about my two and a half solid months at home and how isolating it was, I realized these few regulations weren’t going to kill me. I’ve also learned to do a few things to bring me back to feeling more upbeat at work.

  1. Talking a walk break. My coworker usually walks during his lunch break and I’d occasionally join him for the 30 minutes around the neighborhood. Now that restrictions are in place for restaurants he can’t spend the second half of his break in the coffee shop right below us so he walks for a full hour instead. This little break from being cooped up in the office is great. I get some steps in, some social conversation and I get a break from work. The fresh air is also a huge plus.
  2. Listening to music loudly. When my desk was in the common area I didn’t get to listen to my music very loudly, or I used headphones. Now that I’m in my own space I figured it was okay to listen to my music out loud (and uncensored). Music has always helped me concentrate, and stay awake, during the work day so having even more freedom with it has been good for my sanity.
  3. Keeping communication open. Before there was the risk of contracting a virus just by standing close to someone, we generally just went to each other’s desks to talk. Now it’s expected to send a quick email to discuss anything work related and socializing became a faux pa of sorts. To remain communicative and to have the ability to simply chat about the latest TV shows we were binging or discuss the latest county gossip, we started using our office phones kind of like walkie-talkies. It’s easy to pick up the phone and dial a three-digit extension and we all feel a little better just knowing that there are other people in the office and that we can still interact even though there are walls between us.
  4. Remembering that this will not be forever. Like I’ve already said, we will never get back to the normal that we are used to but these rigid standards will not be in place forever either. It’s temporary and we have to think about how this time will only be a short period in our lives. There will probably always be a risk, but at least we won’t live our lives staying six feet from every other human on the planet.
  5. Knowing that we are all in this together. Sometimes when you’re isolated working from home or even isolated working in your closed up office, it’s easy to feel alone. For me, knowing that there are so many other people feeling the same why I am feeling helps in a weird way. I know that for some people, like my coworker who lives alone, it’s a lot harder. I know that I’m not the only one living through this experience and even though it’s a terrible dystopian-feeling time, we are all in this together.

Returning to the office was, and will remain, a different type of working environment. We all have had to adapt and change the way we normally conduct business but the main thing to remember is that we will get through this. We must take what we have now and learn from this experience. We might even get the opportunity to find ways that work better than how they did before.

As I personally get used to being in the office again I know there will continue to be growing pains and days where I just want to go home and forget that this is all happening. And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I can only hope that we all find what works best for ourselves and use this time for a bit of personal growth. I also hope that everyone out there is staying safe and is keeping their sanity intact.

The Short Warm Season: Summer and Fall Wrap-Up

Even though it is technically still fall, here in Colorado we are already in full-blown winter. It’s already snowed twice and it’s sticking to the ground so it’s staying for the next six months. I’ve been a bit absent from here lately, but it’s because I’ve been busy. So here’s a wrap-up of all that I was up to this summer and fall.

Camping

I only got out once this summer and believe me, I wish I had gone more. Thankfully, my family wanted to go out to one of our favorite remote spots in Routt National Forest for a weekend in August. It’s not far from where we live so it’s an easy location to pull the camper out to. We didn’t have the best weather, but the clouds cleared and the wind died down to give us this beautiful sunset.

Reading

I tried to read a lot this summer because it’s always nice to sit outside, enjoy the warm weather and get lost in a good book. Check out my 2019 Reading Challenge page to see what all I’ve read. My favorite spot to read: my hammock in the comfort of my own backyard.

Hiking, hiking and more hiking.

I didn’t hike as much as I would have liked, but I did still got out quite a bit. Some of my favorite trails are just 10 minutes from my house making them very convenient for a quick adventure. The Indian Peaks Wilderness offers an abundance of trail types and destinations like Cascade Falls where my mom and I try to hike to every summer together.

Concerts

I have never been a huge concert goer. They have just never been a major priority for me, but then again I don’t keep up on new music (fortunately, I have a friend who keeps a playlist updated for me). My first concert was the fabulous Kelly Clarkson back in 2006 when I was 10 years old and the next was my sophomore year of high school where my brother (from another mother) scored Katy Perry tickets last minute.

This year I managed to go to two concerts: Kacey Musgraves at the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater with my music guru best friend and then the stunning Carrie Underwood with my mom who hadn’t been to concert since Kelly Clarkson with me 13 years ago. Both were amazing concerts that I really enjoyed attending.

Kayaking

I have to say I’m lucky for having friends that are willing to let me borrow equipment and go out with them. My high school best friend has a spare kayak that I think I spent more time in than her family probably did. I’ll forever be grateful for where I live and the ease that comes with getting to nature. One of my favorite spots, Willow Creek Resevoir, is less than 10 minutes away and is non-motorized so you don’t have to dodge boats while paddling around.

Family Time

My mom got a kayak for her birthday and I got to take her out during the peak of fall foliage – resulting is some beautiful photos obviously. She loved it and can’t wait to get out next summer. I love spending time with my mom and hiking, camping, kayaking or just spending time with each other. It’s valuable time that I have now because I’m unsure where I’ll be next year.

Adventuring

Summer and fall are the best times to go out and adventure. I consider every day that skews from your typical routine as an adventure. I had a few ups and downs this summer so when fall came I decided to make the most of it and just enjoy life. That meant anything from taking a day to watch my favorite movies, sit and read or simply spending time with friends and family. It all wrapped up beautifully with a birthday hike with my best friend in early October.

Then winter hit…

The warm weather came to a halt on October 10th when we got our first snowfall of the year. So here is to the next beautiful season and all the adventures awaiting us!

My Pinning Addiction

I know I’ve been absent for quite some time with a post (book reviews excluded). I promise I’m working on a few new posts and I hope to get some up here soon.
With that being said; if you have any ideas for posts or want to know anything in particular, let me know in the comments below.

In the meantime, if you want to take a look at my Pinterest to get to know me more, click here.

I’ve been a fan of Pinterest since a friend in high school introduced it to me six or seven years ago and I haven’t stopped pinning since. I can say that I’m almost addicted to Pinterest at times and can spend a good hour just scrolling through pins. I don’t get too crazy though, and have narrowed down my boards over the years and taken out all the ones I created in high school that were too specific to teenage life. You know, the “Prom” board and the pins that talked about how to decorate your locker. I’ve grown up a bit and refined my tastes.

Lately, I’ve been focused on crafting, cooking and decorating. Of course, I have other interests that get their own board like “The Works” which is hair and nail oriented and “For My Feet” which is all shoes. Like most pinners, I have several boards that vary in category and content. Whenever I find myself pinning something more often to a board that doesn’t necessarily fit, I create a new one. It will most likely be an ever-growing social media platform for me.

If you’re on Pinterest give me a follow and I’ll follow back!

Stay tuned for more posts coming soon.

My 100th Post

When I started this blog to share posts about my summer hikes back in 2017 I never thought I’d become an actual blogger.

After I finished school I decided to really focus on my writing and expanding my blog presence. And I’ve loved every post I’ve written so far.

Blogging has given me an escape that I’ve been extremely grateful for these past two years. This last year alone has brought many challenges that produced both wins and losses. I’m thankful to have this blog to help celebrate those wins and to analyze the losses. I also extremely enjoy writing about the books I’m reading. It gives me a drive to read and write even more.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone that’s been along for the ride. I will continue to blog until I grow out of it. Which I hope I don’t do any time soon.

This post is short, but I wanted to celebrate my 100th post with a thank you to everyone that follows, reads and likes these posts.

I’m currently researching some new topics to blog about so I’d appreciate any suggestions. Feel free to drop them in the comments below.

My Online Watchlist

The age of cable television is dying and streaming services are taking over. I, like many others, don’t watch cable television. I subscribe to popular streaming services instead: Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon Prime.

A lot of people joke that they don’t pay for their Netflix and that they just mooch off of someone else’s account. I’m on the other end of that, I’m the account owner and I have two moochers.

I’m currently waiting for some of my favorite shows to return with a new season so I’ve been watching a few new shows and of course rewatching some of my go-to’s. So, I thought I’d share what I’m currently watching and what I have on my watchlist.

I have many different tastes and like watching all sorts of shows and movies so if you have suggestions please drop them in the comments below!

Netflix

Currently watching:

  • Once Upon a Time – I’ve actually watched a good portion of this series but never finished so I’m starting over and currently on season three
  • How to Get Away with Murder
  • NCIS – have started and stopped a while ago. I need to pick it up again.
  • Dexter
  • The Office – I have multiple friends who are almost mad at me for not having seen it yet so I just started it this past weekend.

To watch list:

  • Black Mirror – The most recent season. Heard it’s good.
  • Riverdale
  • New Girl – my best friend and co-workers love this series and I’ve seen an episode or two but haven’t started the binging.
  • Criminal Minds
  • Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  • Designated Survivor – my mom and her boyfriend love this show.
  • Gilmore Girls – yup, never seen it, but I’m still a middle/high school girl at heart.
  • Gossip Girl – same as above
  • Supernatural – I’m a Vampire Diaries fan, thought this would be a good show to fill that void.
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  • The Originals – again, Vampire Dairies fan but haven’t been able to binge this series.
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Queer Eye
  • Christopher Robin
  • The Ranch
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Reign
  • The Sixth Sense – saw it once and want to watch again, but I’m a scaredy cat and need someone to watch it with me.
  • Bird Box
  • Room
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

Hulu

Currently watching:

  • Law & Order: SVU – one of my all time favorite shows and I watch it when I’m not feeling anything else.
  • Family Guy – that background noise type of show that I don’t mind falling asleep watching.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – I watched this a lot as a kid and I’m enjoying watching it again from the beginning.
  • Love Island
  • 9-1-1
  • Grey’s Anatomy – waiting patiently for the new season
  • Station 19 – also waiting patiently for the new season

To watch list:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • The Enemy Within
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – heard great things, should check it out.
  • Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD – a mom recommendation.
  • The Resident
  • Whiskey Cavalier
  • This Is Us – yeah… haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet.
  • New Amsterdam
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – I want to read the book first.
  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists – saw all of PLL, gotta watch the spin-off.
  • Manifest – actually started watching this with the family on actual cable and then missed a few episodes so I have to start over.
  • Will & Grace – both old and new.
  • Shadowhunters
  • The Good Doctor
  • Mom – need to watch episodes I missed.
  • The Good Wife
  • Younger – started and stopped and have no idea why.

HBO

Currently watching:

  • I’m putting Game of Thrones here only because I’m still sad it’s over.
  • Big Little Lies – I haven’t started the new series yet, but I’m super excited.

To watch list:

  • Sharp Objects
  • Aquamarine – saw it when it came out and loved it. Need to watch it soon.
  • Ready Player One
  • Love and Other Drugs
  • Farenheit 451
  • Westworld

Amazon Prime

No “Currently Watching” unfortunately, just a to watch list:

  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Downtown Abbey
  • Z: The Beginning of Everything
  • November Criminals
  • Lady Bird
  • Wayne’s World – a classic.
  • The Glass Castle – read the book in school, want to see the movie.

Throw in your comments of your favorite shows and what I should add to my watchlist in the comments below.

A Quick Trip to Oregon

A week ago I returned from a short trip back to Oregon to see my college best friend who lives in Portland and to see another best friend graduate.

It was the perfect length of time and I got to explore the Portland area and return to my alma mater. It has been a year since I was last in the area for my own graduation and it was great to go back.

I arrived early on Saturday and was able to explore a part of downtown Portland called Slabtown. Walking around and ducking into stores is one of my favorite things to do simply because it is easy and you can enjoy plenty of time to talk with whoever you’re with, in this case it was my college best friend Gabriella who was my tour guide and host for the trip. She knows the area well so we started with a drink at the Solo Club and then walked around until stopping for dinner at Grassa. If you’re ever in the area you have to try the mac and cheese at Grassa. It was so delicious and rich and perfect for two people to share with a side of garlic bread.

One of my favorite parts about this trip was all the food and drinks that we enjoyed. Gabriella is a foodie and even has her own blog all about food that you should definitely check out. That’s one thing that I really enjoy doing when exploring a new town is trying local restaurants and eateries. I am an avid Yelp user and a Local Guide for Google so when it comes to looking for restaurants I look at other peoples’ experiences and what they thought of the restaurant.

After walking around and enjoying the beautiful summer weather and food, we had a mellow evening of relaxing and just hanging out at Gabriella’s apartment where she has a beautiful garden patio. She grows her own herbs, some vegetables and of course flowers, succulents and general houseplants right on her third story balcony. It was a wonderful place to wind down the evening with some wine.

Look at this beautiful scene!

The next day we walked to the local Sunday Farmers Market to pick up some fresh produce and other goodies. I love farmers markets and this one was great. I wish I had one as big and diverse near by to get fresh and locally grown produce every week.

After returning our bounty at the apartment, we then went to the the International Rose Test Garden and explored the beautiful park. There are so many roses and it was nice to be outside and enjoying the warm weather that Colorado was lacking. If you’re in the area take the time to head up to the public park and take in all the beautiful flowers.

After the Rose Garden it was another wonderful restaurant for an early dinner, PDX Sliders. Fantastic burgers and fries and a wonderful outside patio. I’m a sucker for a good burger and throw in a patio and well seasoned fires and I’m one happy girl.

After the day out and about we chose to stay in and enjoy the pool and the remaining sunshine and then try out our own version of wine and paint night. It’s actually a lot of fun and there are a lot of easy tutorials you can follow online. We both got to paint our own scene while enjoying wine once again. (Wine was a theme for this trip in case you had not noticed)

Monday was graduation day at the University of Oregon so we ventured down, explored campus and reminisced about our last year and our own graduation in 2018. I got to see a very close friend receive her degree (with honors!) and celebrated a bit before heading back to Portland. It was quick, but great.

The night finished off with Chinese take-out (always delicious) and way too much wine with Gabriella and her boyfriend who had returned from his own quick trip. It was the perfect last night to a great vacation.

The following day we had brunch at yet another wonderful place, Trinket, and then we headed downtown to my all-time favorite bookstore Powells. It’s the world’s largest independent bookstore and you need a map to get around the downtown location that takes up an entire city block. I bought way to many books that amazingly all fit into my carry-on suitcase.

We spent two+ hours in there and came out happy readers. We then walked around and ducked into a couple stores before heading back to grab my suitcase and go to dinner before heading to the airport. Dinner of course was another great restaurant with a wonderful happy hour ($5 margherita pizzas).

It might have seemed short, but it was really the perfect length to catch-up, explore and reminisce about college. I have several friends that are still in the area so I will definitely be going back in the future to visit everyone.

I find that even taking short mini-vacations can be super beneficial for mental health and well-being. I was lucky to have a friend to stay with so in reality all I paid for was my plane ticket, food and some souvenirs (mostly books). I also was able to miss just two days of work so it didn’t hinder my workload and I didn’t come home to a million emails.

If it’s in the cards for you, I suggest taking a long weekend to head somewhere new, or somewhere old, and just take time to explore and relax and not worry about your day-to-day life. It does wonders for the soul.

My Summer To-Dos

Summer is finally here and I want to do so many things. And I’m sure many of you have a long list as well. There’s still a bit of snow on the peaks in the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado but it’s beginning to get warmer and there’s plenty of activities to be done this summer.

I have only a few things scheduled and a lot of things that I hope to do in between. I’m a very classic (or you could say stereotypical) Colorado gal and I am hoping to spend most of my summer outside. Of course I work, boo adulting, so everything has to be either on the weekends or after work.

I’m kicking off my summer tomorrow with a trip to Oregon where I get to see my best friend, explore Portland and attend the UO graduation as an alumna. And here are the rest of my Summer To-Dos:

  • kayaking on Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain and Grand Lake
  • camping (of course)
  • Kacey Musgraves concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater
  • reading – gotta keep up on that Reading Challenge
  • backpacking trip – hopefully with the boyfriend
  • game night
  • yoga – inside and outside
  • hiking – I have a few specific hikes I’d like to complete this summer and I will certainly share them
  • outdoor movie night
  • visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • open an Etsy store (stay tuned for this)
  • get in shape – workout more
  • plan a vacation for the fall or next spring
  • bike riding – there’s an awesome path that I can access from my work parking lot
  • spend time with my mom, best friends and boyfriend
  • farmer’s market
  • s’mores
  • wine festival
  • spend time relaxing in my hammock
  • go to WaterWorld with my brother from another mother
  • house warming party (we still haven’t done one)
  • play frisbee golf
  • make homemade ice cream
  • get better at paddleboarding
  • craft fair
  • work on my novel
  • putt-putt golf (also maybe some real golf?)
  • shopping (this is really year-round)
  • picnic somewhere new
  • go to the movies – there’s a lot of movies coming out this summer that I am very excited about
  • campfires in the backyard
  • pay off my car
  • get back into art – drawing mostly
  • play soccer
  • paint pottery
  • get an awesome Chaco tan
  • garage/yard sale-ing
  • cook, a lot
  • make a fort and have a movie night inside it
  • star gazing
  • get crafty
  • 4th of July fireworks
  • outdoor music festival

There are plenty of things I’m sure I have forgotten, but I want to know what’s on your summer to-do list! Drop them in the comments below.

Happy Summer!

My Workspace

Since I’ve been at my (not-so-new) new job now for six months I thought I’d share how I’ve made my desk my own.

I never thought that I’d be the type of person to sit at a desk all day for work, but I am. I will hopefully have an opportunity in the future to work remotely at home which I would prefer. But for now I have a desk in an office of four (sometimes five) whole people.

I started with just my laptop and I thought that was enough for me, but then I got the monitor screen and it is ten times better. I didn’t realize how much easier it is to have two screens. It makes working on a project less stressful and puts less strain on my eyes.

I recently added my Hydroflask coffee mug as a permanent desk ornament because of my new found love for coffee. My Hydroflask water bottle is also always a must have and everyone should have a water bottle on their desk. Even though you are just sitting around, you need to hydrate people!

The desk calendar (as well as a National Park’s hanging calendar not pictured) are vital to my scheduling sanity. The notebook is also a must-have as I write down all the tasks I need to complete in a given day and any notes that come up in throughout the day.

For the fun stuff I have my “pet cactus” as someone once called it from my boyfriend, pictures and of course a Honeydukes jar filled with Jolly Ranchers. Other fun stuff not pictured includes a large drawer filled with snacks because everyone needs a work snack drawer.

What does your workspace look like?

Five Days on the Green

It has been almost two weeks since I returned from Junior River Trip and as I promised in my post before I left, I’ll share a bit about my recent trip down the Green River in Utah.

In short, it was a wonderful trip that I will certainly remember for years to come. As I said in my last post, my own Junior River Trip made my high school experience and as a staff member it was a whole different adventure.

The pre-trip meetings are one thing, lots of preparation and learning but being on the river is a different animal. Unlike the majority of Junior River Trips, we had a small group, only 12 students compared to the typical 18. As a staff we knew it would be a bit different but it was successful nonetheless. 

The first day was an early rise and a bus trip to Utah to meet the Green. The bus was obviously full of both tired and excited kids and staff as well. The journey brought back great memories from my trip five years ago and it was that first day where I began creating new memories of this trip. 

When we arrived at the Green there was lots of preparation: unpacking, inflating boats, setting up camp, etc. Then it was a short hike, dinner, campfire and finally bed.

The next day we were on the river. Unlike your typical river trip which is generally all manpower, we barged together, all four boats, and used a motor to propel us down the 28-mile stretch of river. We didn’t use the motor for the entire day but it made for a quick trip and a relaxing first day. It was a great bonding experience for the entire group to be together and just enjoying the sun and companionship. There wasn’t any stress, no anxiety about the days to come and no worry about what we left behind in our day-to-day lives.

Being on the river is a great time to relax. Though you’re working to move a boat from point A to point B, cooking and packing and unpacking daily you’re away from the work emails, the traffic every morning and evening and the exhausting stimulus of daily life. Now don’t get me wrong, you are tired every night when you lay down to sleep, but it’s a different kind of tired. 

When we arrived at camp on the first day it was all hands on deck to unload the boats, set up the kitchen and place the thundermugs. At every camp once everything is in place and sleeping sites have been found there’s program to bring the group together and to practice things that are meant to be a bit challenging. It’s this first night that individuals are tested and leaders begin to emerge. 

As a program assistant I was an instructor, a judge and a spectator. I never thought, as a student on my own trip that the staff actually learned anything themselves. It was that first day that I realized, even as a chaperone so to speak, I was going to learn every day from these kids. 

And I really shouldn’t call them kids. They are young adults about to enter their senior year of high school. I remember at that time I felt like I was still a kid, but I didn’t want to be called or treated like one. I realized that again on this trip.

Even though the rain threatened to come down on us that evening (and pretty much every other evening moving forward) it never came in full force and we were able to enjoy a campfire and then off to bed to sleep off the day. 

The next day brought lots of paddling and adventure, but also challenges. (Would it be an educational trip without some challenges?) The biggest challenge of the day was a blindfolded activity that would scare most. We blindfolded each student and lead them around the shore with their boat captain in the lead. And then we loaded them on the boats and pushed off into the current of the river. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to paddle as one, and I can say, as that spectator, watching my boat group establish a method, paddle in unison and make it through a rapid blindfolded together was extremely impressive. 

We challenged our two groups that day even more when we arrived at camp. For program we had three activities that progressively got harder and again the group excelled and I learned even a little bit more than that first night. 

The following day was a short one on the river as we had not originally planned to be paddling. We arrived at our camp shortly before lunch and had time to kill before the group was off to face yet another challenge: a repel. The sun was high, the temperature was hot and we all decided to enjoy the cool of the river. The students played, learned how to properly use a throw bag and I, against my will, was tackled into the water (thanks Coach). It was a great relaxing time for the whole group, staff included and it ended in the most memorable meal of the trip, a real ham dinner complete with pineapple upside down cake. It was a great day that had a wonderfully sweet ending. 

The following day was again a short paddling day, but we got to head off the river and a top the canyon wall to hike to a petroglyph site. The day finished at camp where we went off on another small hike that started the program for the biggest night for the students. They were about to be placed in their own singular campsite to spend the night solo. Solo night is an integral part of the trip as it amounts to the biggest challenge the students face and they have to do so alone. 

When I look back on my own river trip experience I remember being worried about solo night and feeling like I wouldn’t make it through. I of course, did make it, and took a lot away from the experience. We ask all students to write a letter to themselves that will be sent out a year later. I saved my letter of course and thought I’d share an excerpt with you here. 

Kelsey,

     It’s solo night, JRT 1. You’re alone in the canyon. The sun is setting just over a hill, but it’s still bouncing across the canyon behind you. Do you remember those sunsets? It’s really silent here too. All you can hear is the breeze in the willows and the water rushing in the river. This place is beautiful and even though you’ve been cold and wet and dare I say miserable, you love it here. It’s a place to be away from the stress of life, the hard times and even the people that you miss. 

I do remember those sunsets and I remember feeling cold and wet and a little miserable but I did love it there. I loved being able to go back as well. Even though the staff remains together on solo night, I still felt a bit of what we hope the students experience: an understanding of how I play into the grand scheme of things and how I am living my life.

The next morning when we rounded up the students from their individual spots I saw a lot of mixed emotions. You could tell a couple students hadn’t slept well out on their own and others had thrived. It’s certainly a challenging experience, but it’s one of growth and self realization.

At breakfast you could tell everyone was happy to see each other. It was also our last day on the river. We packed up camp, loaded the boats and headed down the river to the take out point. It was both a happy day and also a sad day. We came together again as a group and actually barged up as two paddle boats. We sang, we laughed, and we played games. It was an unexpected mood lifter that got everyone’s spirits up.

Then we reached the take out point.

When we unloaded and said goodbye to the rafts we established camp for one last time on the Green. Campfire was a bit different as we had now spent six days together and were about to head back to our regular lives. We gave out awards, both serious and comical. We also reminisced about certain events and moments on the river. It wrapped up our week and we headed off to bed.

The following morning we were up early, packed and were ready to head home. We of course had to say goodbye to the river first. I remember this being a hard time on my river trip. I had made so many new connections and really didn’t want to head back to reality. It was different this time but only because I was paying more attention to what those around me were feeling.

We all had our ups and downs throughout the trip but the end is always the hardest. We sang our last song together, boarded the bus and headed home.

This river trip was different from my own in many ways. Instead of being a student experiencing something for the first time, I was a staff member reliving my own experience but also watching and learning from everyone around me. I was honored to have been asked to be a part of the trip and I took away a lot, not from being a staff member, but from spectating and learning from the students. It made me feel like a high schooler again and I made many great memories.

I hope to be invited again and make even more memories next year. I thank you Hozhooji, my ever persevering boat group for making my first JRT as a staff member a memorable one.

Why I Jumped on the Game of Thrones Bandwagon

**This post contains spoilers from the final season of Game of Thrones.**

With the series finale of the HBO show Game of Thrones, I thought I’d share why I decided to jump on the ever-so-popular bandwagon.

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy, especially when you add in an original storyline and interesting characters that you get attached to. Of course, the author of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire that started the epic show knew how to make you fall in love with a character, and then he’d kill them off. G.R.R. Martin’s stories and characters were relatable even though they lived in the fictional seven kingdoms of Westeros.

The television adaptation of Martin’s stories made the characters even more relatable. The series, which began filming in 2009 has had a strong ten year run and gained followers from across the globe. The hype of the show grew more and more over the years and with the wait of a year and a half for the final season to premiere excitement grew even more intense.

It was this anticipation that friends around me had that made me want to join the Game of Thrones Fan Club. A lot of people always seem to want to avoid the mainstream trends and be original and I’m not afraid to admit I used to be one of those people. I’ve since realized that being a part of the mainstream isn’t always a bad thing and that you should watch what you want, eat what you crave, try that new hairstyle or buy that popular shirt because why not? Game of Thrones was one of those mainstream things that I told myself I didn’t need to watch. It again was the continuous build of excitement and the increase in fans around me that finally sealed the deal on whether or not I should watch the series.

About a year and a half ago I decided that I should probably check out this wonderful show that everyone was obsessed with. I began watching the show but didn’t get past the first season. It was hard to follow with all the plots, the characters and the strange going ons. It wasn’t until I finished school and had time to actually focus on the show that I started watching from the beginning again which was this past fall.

It was probably around the end of the first season when Ned Stark was executed that I got hooked. I felt for Arya and Sansa watching their father be killed for trying to uphold the truth and honor of the Iron Throne. I practically binged the rest of the series and slowed down when I got close to finishing season seven. As the last season had not yet premiered I wanted to savor the remainder of the streaming episodes. I was able to start and watch the eighth season as they came out every Sunday with the rest of the country.

Like all Game of Thrones fans, I had my hopes and predictions for the final season. Before the beginning of the eighth season, I was in the Targaryen Stark 2020 club and was all about the girl power that Daenerys exuded every chance she got. Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons was a role model.

I was rooting for Queen Daenerys until the end of the second episode. I really thought I wanted her to take the Iron Throne until her conversation with Sansa about the fate of the North. It was then that I realized the sweet and innocent girl from the first season was gone. The power hungry ruler had emerged and even supporters like the Starks weren’t going to be properly thanked after the war. And I had grown very fond of house Stark.

Unlike most fans (and critics), I think the final season was well written and effectively ended the series. I think Daenerys always had some form of evil, vengeance seeking part of her that remained dormant until she reached the point that she’d be able to act on it. In episode five, “The Bells”, she was given that opportunity.

Taking out her rage on the people of King’s Landing was a bit surprising, but it made sense. So when it came to either following murderous Queen Daenerys or ending the terror of more wars to come, Jon’s choice came with tears, but also with logic. Of course the assassination of the Dragon Queen couldn’t have gone unpunished so Jon’s exile and loss of the throne also made sense which many disagreed with.

Overall, the end of the series wasn’t my favorite, but it successfully wrapped up the decade long show.

It will be interesting to see how G.R.R. Martin finishes the series in his long-anticipated book. I haven’t read the books yet, but I’m looking forward to reading them in the near future.

For now though, our watch has ended.

Feature image from variety.com.

#DucksGive

A year ago I wrote about the Art of Giving and gave insight into the University of Oregon’s annual Giving Day #DucksGive.

This year, instead of sitting behind a computer and calling for donations, I was on the other end receiving the call.

Giving back to the university that I spent tens of thousands of dollars to attend wasn’t even a minor thought in my mind back when I began college. It wasn’t until I got the job with the Annual Giving Program that I realized how important private donations are to a public university.

An annual giving day has been established around the country for various universities both public and private. The University of Oregon created its version, #DucksGive when I was a freshman. It was then that I realized one day I would want to give back.

A lot of recent graduates don’t agree with giving back to the university, trust me, I’ve called a fair few of them in my time. I’m proud to be one that will give back year after year.

Today was the beginning of that history of giving. Josh, a former co-worker that still works for AGP, gave me a call today and asked me if I, like many other alumni and university supporters would join in on the giving day challenges and help unlock matching challenge gifts set out by larger donors.

I did. I donated and I’m proud of that donation.

Thank you for the call Josh and thank you to all that donated today for the 2019 #DucksGive. And thank you #DucksGive for being a wonderful success over the past four years and thank you for letting me be a part of it as a student and now as an alumna.

It’s Time to Get Lost on the River

Five years ago I was fortunate enough to spend six days on the Green River in Utah with fellow juniors as a school trip. That trip made my high school experience.

The trip, which has been around since the 70s brings a whole different kind of high school adventure to Middle Park High School juniors.
Spending six days on a raft floating with your peers without plumbing, without the comforts of home and without technology opens up a whole new world to students that might not have the opportunity to do so on their own.

The Adventure Education Program allows students to get out and experience the wonderful natural world with endless recreation possibilities. It allows instills a respect for nature and the importance of preservation.

I learned all of this as a student and won’t ever forget the beautiful memories I made.

Today I embark on the same trip but with a completely different perspective. This time I am the student, I am the teacher passing on my knowledge and my respect for the river. I am a leader guiding these students down the river that gave me a new love for nature.

I bring with me to the river the memories I made five years ago in hopes of creating new ones through different eyes.

Stay tuned for my post trip report.