Don't Be Stupid Or Lazy; Always Wear Sunscreen

Don't Be Stupid Or Lazy; Always Wear Sunscreen

Adventures are fun when you're not paddling 150 miles.
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About two weeks ago, I went on a trip.

It really wasn’t a trip like any other I’d been on. I’d been camping before, but this was a more untraditional sort of a camping trip; it was a canoe trip combined with some camping. And by some, I mean I slept about less than 10 hours that weekend. This canoe trip was one that had us traveling from Lansing to Grand Haven. More specifically, we [my friend Claire and I] paddled from the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing to Grand Haven State Park, although we technically ended at a boat launch, just before the actual state park.

This trip, nicknamed Campus to Coast, sponsored by the MSU Outdoors Club, consisted of Claire and I paddling for about 16 hours a day and sleeping very much less, if any. And when I was woken up from the little sleep I got, I wasn’t always the best with not giving Claire angry looks (I’m sorry!). In total, We had about nine dams to portage and many miles to paddle. So naturally, this trip was around 150 miles and almost 60 hours.

Before you say “What were you thinking?!” I wasn’t. I didn’t look at the total mileage of the trip before I agreed to do it with Claire. When I did, it was definitely unnerving, I kept repeating, "What did I just get myself into?!" On the trip, I was kind of dying by the second day, but as Claire would say, “We thrived!”

While it was seriously a tiring trip, we both enjoyed ourselves, Claire probably more than me considering she’s doing it again next year. Overall, this trip was an adventure—an adventure where we made friends and had an experience I don’t think many people are able to say they’ve completed. An adventure where we shared many laughs and answers to questions just to pass the time while paddling. An adventure where we also forgot sunscreen… Yeah… Not a good thing when you’re paddling for about 16+ hours a day and the sun is reflecting off of the (gross) water of the Grand River.

This trip was one that I don’t think I ever could’ve guessed I would go on, but it was one that was very worthwhile. I’m proud of Claire and myself for getting through the entire thing, for surviving on mostly Cliff and granola bars that weekend, not dying of dehydration and for actually finishing that race. There were about 110 participants when we started and throughout the course of the race, about 12 teams dropped. It was shocking to hear, but also when the water was that gross and freezing, it was understandable.

My point in all of this is to remember to wear sunscreen on trips because Claire and I burned. BAD. Thankfully due to friends and A LOT of aloe vera and chapstick, we were okay. In the minds of two college freshmen who really have no clue what exactly they’re in for, we got burned, quite literally. Even before the race started, we (read: I) rolled my eyes a little at the guys putting sunscreen on at 6:50 a.m. I didn’t even think of it until it was too late. So, don’t be stupid or be lazy or even just want to be tan so you’re not pale; put on the dang sunscreen.

This trip was and is one for the books for sure. As much as I might sound like I complain about it, I actually loved the adventure that was taken. I loved making new friends and learning afterwards that our campus ministry group had been tracking us through the MSUOC website, which held a spreadsheet of what times each team arrived at various portages and camps. I think even through all of the pain I was in after and during the race (canoes are heavy, ya know), I wouldn’t trade this race or this experience. I loved spending the weekend outside, and sleeping in a hammock and a sleeping bag in 30 degree weather wasn’t a total damper on a wild weekend adventure.

**Word of warning: if you go on this trip, remember sunscreen (this is number one!), make sure you have the upper body strength of two people who can lift 80+ pounds and use a tent. I like the hammock camping, but I do not recommend it. Oh, and remember to have fun and stay positive!**

Cover Image Credit: Jillian Howland

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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