The Amazing Escapades of the Break of Spring

Sandy Toes
Oh yeah, you wish!

Spring break is one of those times of the year that every college student looks forward to. We can practically smell the sand and the salty air of Mexico and we cannot wait to fall asleep listening to the rolling waves and the swaying palm trees. I hate to break it to you, but few of us actually make it to the beaches of Mexico no matter how cheap the ticket prices are and how many promotional emails we get.

 

Instead, most of us go home, visit the family, and hang out with the cats and the dogs and the goldfish. It’s usually too short of a break to make any money, so we enjoy ourselves for once and binge all our favorite movies and tv shows with a big bowl of popcorn sprinkled with Mochi Crunch and Nori.

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We call this Huricane Popcorn (Thanks for the picture, Google!)

But for some of us, home is pretty far away. Sometimes this means that we stay in the dorms during breaks, or we go on adventures with our friends, or we visit family in states that are a lot closer than home sweet home.

My brother, Daniel, moved to Butte, Montana, for college, and in that beautiful state full of open skies and snow as far as the eye can see, Miss Katie went to visit her country-western-turned brother.

The adventure started as I took a shuttle to the airport. It picked me up at the front steps of Parson’s Hall, the driver loaded my luggage into the van for me, the seats were comfortable, and the ride was smooth sailing all the way!

Car _Usie_ with Daniel (1)
Me and The Bro, Daniel (This was last year… Sorry, I didn’t take a selfie this year…)

From the Missoula airport, my brother and I stopped for lunch before heading to set up a temporary corral for the ranch he works at in Deer Lodge. “Katie,” he said, “we’re going to be cowboys today!” Indeed, the plan when we got home was to watch John Wayne in The Cowboys, but we were just too tuckered out. By the time we got home, both of us fell asleep on the couch as soon as we took our shoes off.

So, we saved The Cowboys for another day, woke up bright and early the next morning, and headed out to the ranch to collect some horses. Some very friendly horses who associated my brother’s truck with food!

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We had to rush to close the windows!

The horses would have climbed right into the cab of the truck if we had let them! My brother and I hopped out of the truck, him with a bucket of oats in his hand to collect the horses, and me to fend off the invaders so they wouldn’t damage “Sven” (no, seriously, my brother’s last truck was named Olaf). It was 7 degrees outside, and for a whole five minutes, I felt like I was an icicle. Now I know why the horses wanted to jump into the truck so bad—they weren’t hungry, they were cold!

Since Daniel was still in school while I was on break, I spent a few days just hanging out. I did some homework, watched some of my new favorite shows, and ate some of my brother’s world-class cooking. My mom sent us cookies to munch on, and the tub of green shortbread was almost empty by the end of the week—yum!

My brother and I make a pretty good team when it comes to food—he cooks and I bake. But with him doing all the cooking, my trip couldn’t be completed without baking with our family friend, Nancy, and her puppies, Pepper and Mystic. Pepper must know I have a Brittney Spaniel at home, (queue picture of Freckles) because as soon as I walked in the door, he smiled right at me and wiggled his whole body so much I thought he would fall off the chair he was sitting on!

All day long, through baking pies and two sets of cookies, the dogs traded places on their favorite green chair, each piercing me with their pleading, “Pet me! Pet me!” eyes. The would sit on my feet while I was mixing dough and follow me to and from the oven with each and every tray of cookies.

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Caramel Maple Cookes – YUM!

How did our confections turn out, you ask? Splendidly! You have not lived until you have tried Nancy’s apple cranberry pie or tasted caramel maple cookies fresh out of the oven!

 

At the end of the week, I said goodbye to my brother and hopped on a plane back to Seattle. I took another shuttle and was back in the dorms in time for classes on Monday morning. No, I didn’t go to Mexico, and I didn’t hang out on the beach, but I returned to Saint Martin’s with my mind and my spirits recharged after spending time with animals galore and people who make me laugh so much it hurts!

Until next time, Montana! I’ll be back again soon!

 

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Snow Daze

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A tree outside of Parsons

Think of all the snow you’ve ever seen in your life falling from the sky. Little flurries blown from the treetops, snowflakes dropping out of the sky and landing like dandruff in your hair, tasting fresh snowy dew on the tip of your tongue as you run through a cascading waterfall of snow…snow…snow.

 

Total all the snow up in your head, inch upon inch, and try to quantify just how much you’ve seen.

How much did you get?

For me? Not even a foot.

Being from Maui, I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen snow. I can total all those beautiful snowflakes up to a whole snowman about the size of my fist. Impressive, I know…

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Old Main at a distance

So when snowflakes the size of pennies started falling from the sky, I wasn’t just shocked by how swiftly it all added up, I was dumbfounded. I skyped with my parents at home and showed them my new winter playground and we went for walks around campus from miles and miles apart. My catchphrase whenever anyone from home would call was this, said with as much enthusiasm and hope as a five-year-old asking for ice cream: “Do you want… To see… The snow???” Please! Let me share the snow with you! It’s so pretty! And it shines as bright as diamonds! And it smells like sugar cookies and rainbows!

 

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Looking up at Old Main

In a matter of days, the weather reports claimed that Seattle received a record-breaking 22-inches of wintry freshness. Forget Olaf in summer, I was Katie in the snow, and I was not going to melt! I had stepped through my wardrobe and into a different world full of whispering trees, talking animals, and winter wonders all around! We had three snow days in a row at Saint Martin’s, and I had to sit on the floor with my back turned to the window in order to get any homework done. What can I say? Snow is soooooooo distracting!

On the very last of our snow days, as the silvery blankets began to melt away, I set up shop in Harned Hall’s lounge to get some work done. After days in my room, I was succumbing to cabin fever and just needed to get out.

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O’Grady Library in the Background

As I sat there doing my readings for class, I watched as a little girl in a pink coat trekked through the snow to the top of the hill next to the library. She had a matching pair of pink gloves and a purple hat, and at the top of the hill she met a man with a gray beard. He held a bright orange sled for the little girl as she hopped on, crossing her legs in front of her and grabbing on tightly to the sides.

A “ready,” a “set,” and then off she went, flying down the hill with the speed and finesse of a race car driver.

 

Up and then down, again and again she went, and all the while, I could feel her joy even from behind the glass. That pure, sweet joy that childhood brings where the world is big and bright and full of promise.

For me, snow brings back all that joy and promise, that magical hope that everything will be alright, that right here, right now, from this very moment, only good things can come.

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Heading back to the dorms

This is the magic that snow brings, as we gather by the fire with our loved ones, all clutching mugs with frosted fingertips, sharing stories that transport us to another time, another place. We aren’t warm because of the fire, we are warm because we can take a step back, take a deep breath, and feel the love that surrounds us.

This is the feeling that I hold on to, that with enough hope, with enough love, we can fix anything. We believe in the impossible because we believe in the people we see all around us with smiling faces and shining eyes, and nothing is impossible anymore.

 

When I think of this, I feel like the little girl with the pink coat as she sat with her dad in Harned Hall after a day in the snow.

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The front of Parsons

“Are you ready to leave?” he asked, and he chuckled as his daughter shook her head.

“Alright then, when?”

She took her time, muffling her words with one giggle after another while she wiped melting snow from her hair. Her face lit up with a smile that could win the heart of a lion. “Never.”

Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening

In the lane, snow is glistening

A beautiful sight

We’re happy tonight

Walking in a winter wonderland

(Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith)

Copy of SMU Snow Day
Saint Martin’s University, Winter Wonder Land

Yup! It’s that time of year again when your favorite place to be is bundled up by the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate and reading a good book because baby, it’s cold outside!

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The first frost of the season

Moving from Hawaii to Washington, I knew it would be a lot colder than what I’m used to, but I didn’t think I’d need a whole new wardrobe… Of course, when the temperature is hovering just above freezing, and there’s frost on the ground, it’s probably a good idea to dress warm. And so, in the spirit of winter weather, I bring to you all the things I’ve bought since coming to Saint Martin’s that I would’ve scoffed at buying at home…

 

Believe me when I say you don’t have to be that one person who insists that they don’t need a coat. It’s Washington. It rains. It’s cold. If you’re like me and don’t like cold, wet rain, get a leather jacket with a hood! They’re waterproof, warm, and stylish to boot! And… You may be able to find one second-hand, and whether you steal it from your brother (thanks, Daniel!), or you find it at a thrift store, I promise you won’t regret it.

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Not gonna apologize for these…

I get teased by my friends for wearing snow boots, but let me explain two things: they’re waterproof, and they’re warm. The snow boots are excessive yes, but I bought them for a trip to Montana and figured I’d use them in Washington too. You’re going to want a pair of waterproof boots no matter what. And whether they’re combat boots or rain boots, they’ll keep your feet dry and your toes toasty all season long. While you’re at it, get yourself some wool socks for even more warmth!

 

For my friends who go home to warmer climates, here’s one for both school and home: an over-sized scarf. Use it as a regular ‘ole scarf, wrap it around your head babushka-style like I do, or use it as a blanket! My best friend got me one last Christmas, and I am eternally grateful for her wonderful gift! When I’m in Washington, I use it as a layering piece that keeps me warm and dry, and when I’m home, it becomes a shawl for those chilly Maui mornings.

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Snow is falling at Saint Martin’s University

One of the coolest things about Washington is that you get to watch the seasons change, and especially at Saint Martin’s, you get a front-row seat to all the action. From vibrant orange leaves to a few days of snow, daffodils blooming and juicy apples ready to be picked from a tree, we get a little taste of everything. When you’re used to just one season of hot and dry with a few showers sprinkled in, dressing for the weather can be a challenge. The biggest advice I can give you though, is to own your style, whatever it is. If this means wearing shorts and your rubbah slippahs to every class, then go for it! If it means bundling up in your boots and bubble coat, then I’ll be right there with you!

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And yes… Those are wool socks on my felt fireplace

Wednesday…

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It’s always fun to get into the Halloween spirit!

It’s week ten and we are officially half way through the semester! Midterms have come and gone, the holidays are just around the corner, and everywhere at Saint Martin’s University, I see a community coming to life as it does every year. New friends, old friends, people we’ve known forever, and people we just met yesterday, all coming together as one.

 

Finally, we know all our classmates’ names and we’ve developed countless inside jokes that keep the laughs rolling. We can study together instead of separately, after all, two heads—or maybe even eight—are better than one.

But on the flip side, this time of the year is like the Wednesday of the semester… Half way there, and half more to go. We’re getting over the hump of being away from home and summer has become a distant memory, but we can’t quite taste the Christmas cookies either.

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Sugar is always welcome!

Last week, I faced a Wednesday moment. All I wanted to do was rush home and hug my family, see my friends, and hang out in the sunshine. I couldn’t shake my glass-half-empty mentality, so I decided to flip the glass instead. And once I started counting what I have instead of what I lack, I was surprised to see the bounty around me.

 

  • I don’t have time to miss home! Between classes, clubs, and work, there’s always something to do on or around campus.
  • Over my solid year and a quarter at Saint Martin’s, I’ve made friends that feel like family. We offer endless support and annoyance, are always ready with food, and keep the warm hugs coming.
  • Gala is right around the corner! The once in a life time opportunity to dress up in your fancy duds and serve a community that has long served you is finally here! It’s a chance to give back to those who have given so much. And plus—it offers a chance to dress your best!
  • The fall colors are a rainbow of vibrant hues, and the chilly air means I get to break out my scarves and sweaters. Even though I endlessly complain about the cold, I do enjoy dressing in layers.
  • My family may be far, but we talk all. The. Time. Everyone is just a phone call away, and boy do we take advantage of that. Nothing compares to a smile from home, but it’s easy to make it work with texts and phone calls, skype and social media…

 

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Breakfast delivered from a friend on a sick day!

I won’t lie… Wednesdays are hard. They are all the sweetness of a Friday with all the dread of a Monday. But they don’t last. Think of how fast the time went by until we got here—think of how time will fly from here on out! It’s crazy to think of a whole sixteen weeks as short, but it really is when you break it down.

 

It can be easy to get wrapped up in melancholy—that space of time when all you want is what you once had. But it won’t last. Before you know it, you’ll be thrown into a new adventure and what you once had becomes what you have. Sometimes this means going back, but sometimes it means looking at the present with a new lens.

Don’t think of the glass as half empty or half full—think of it as simply being there. Enjoy each moment, for if you blink, you just might miss it.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” –Henry David Thoreau

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“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” –Desmond Tutu

How to Pack for College

Sandy Toes
Sandy toes are now a thing of my past…

Here’s the thing: I hate packing. I hate the finality of my possessions being boxed up and put away. I hate the either/or game I am forced to play with each new item. I hate having to break down everything I own into two suitcases that must weigh no more than fifty pounds. But mostly, I hate what these things all signal: my time at home is coming to an end.

To make matters worse, and because I love to put things off until the very last minute, I generally start packing a day or two before I leave. I have clothes strewn across every couch, chair, and stool, my suitcases are empty, and I have music blaring in the background in an effort to drown out my dramatic thoughts.

Mom's Packing Fun
Always remember to pack your mother…

It never works. Usually, it ends with me crying in the middle of the living room until my mother steps in with a giant hug and says, “It’s all right, Katie.”

This time though, there’s something different. I started packing early to avoid the usual chaos. I made a list of things that go back, things that stay, and even things to buy. I promised myself that there was no reason to panic. But mostly, this time, more than any of the others, I don’t mind packing.

Bridging the Gap
“Hey there!”

When I leave home, I have somewhere to go back to. I have people and places that I can’t wait to see. This time, I’m not flying into the unknown.

Welcome Home Saints 2018
I left one home to return to another…

I’m a college sophomore this year, and I don’t pretend to know all of the answers, but I do know some. I know the cafeteria schedule, I know my classes, and I know something else that is very important: I’m not alone.

For one, I know that everyone at Saint Martin’s is supporting me on my adventure. Each student has each other’s back, and as cheesy as it sounds, we really are in this together. Professors and faculty members wish to see students succeed, and so they too become an integral part of our journeys. Families far and wide are also rooting for each and every one of us. This outpouring of love is what keeps me going when I’m away from home. But there’s another type of support that I’m feeding off of more than ever…

Freckles Baby
“Don’t go Mommy!”

You could say that teaching is my natural calling. After all, I was only five when my parents started walking in on me conducting reading lessons with my dolls in the living room. But teaching is about more than just lessons and drills. Being a teacher means caring for your students, body, mind, and soul. It means being a provider of what I believe to be a most basic human right: education. And I’ve never been more motivated to pursue this career path than now.

Katie's Sisters
Snack time was an important part of our school day…

This summer, I worked for Maui County Summer PALS as a Leader. I was charged with an average of 15 children per day, and though I often went home exhausted, I absolutely loved it. Now, I have a list of children who are wishing and hoping they make it into my classroom in the future, and boy, is the pressure on. I also have a band of high school students who are holding up signs of encouragement from my volunteer work at my old high school. They too, were ecstatic when I told them that I wanted to become an educator.

In total, I have an army of people who are behind and in front of me, cheering me on, wishing me well, and standing at the finish line while I run the race of my education. And I do this all so I may turn around at the end of my race and encourage others on their own. To some, this may be daunting, but to me, it is the very thought that is accompanying me back home to Saint Martin’s.

Sunsets Over the Ocean
“Off to another adventure!”

Smile! 2018
Don’t forget to pack a smile…

So yes, when one is packing, one must pack more than just a suitcase… Clothes and keepsakes can only get you so far, and so, you must also pack your mind. Stow away all the well-wishes, the good times, and the laughs, and keep them close. Time at home is precious, so do not forget it, but at the same time, do not lose sight of the future. Each time I come home, I return as a new, better version of myself. I have learned not just to speak for myself, but to speak for others. I have learned determination the likes of which I’ve never known before. I have learned kindness in ways that I cannot convey without becoming emotional. All of these things from Saint Martin’s. All of these things that multiply each time I pack up my things and move back to Lacey for another semester. All of these things that keep me going each time I want to give up and throw in the towel.

For all those at Saint Martin’s University, fellow students running the race with me, faculty and family members cheering us on; for those at home, my own family, my kiddos far and wide, everyone who put an ounce of belief in me; for everyone reading this as I start my sophomore year at Saint Martin’s. I want you all to know that I’m packing away a piece of your spirit and taking it with me wherever I go. You are what keeps me going. You are the reason why, a year after I started, I am committed to seeing this thing called college through. It may be hard, it may be messy, but this time, I am ready.

Saint Martin's Banners

 

Tropical Adventures

One of my best friends in the whole wide world is someone I have known since the beginning of time, Miss Kamaile of Kula, Maui. Over the past few years, we’ve gone on countless adventures together, laughing all the way. We’ve trekked across our island, visiting beaches, lavender farms, and even jungles. We’ve decorated cookies and cupcakes, shopped until we dropped, and shared cups and cups full of the best homemade hot chocolate imaginable.

This summer marks the first time that Kamaile and I have both been working full-time, but despite our busy lives, we still make time for a few wild adventures of our own. This time, we chose Maui Tropical Plantation on the west side of our island home.

Maui Tropical Plantation
Picture courtesy of Google Images…

The Plantation has been a part of Maui’s history for a long time; before it became a tourist destination, it was a sugar plantation. Today, the land is still used for agriculture as it is leased to growers of papaya, coffee, and even hosts some of our own family’s cattle. The Mill House, the Plantation’s locally-sourced restaurant, often uses these and other local resources to form their daily menu.

Kamaile and I started our tour of the Plantation with the gift shop, where we found jewelry, tropical-scented candles, handmade goods for a local kitchen, and an amazing assortment of stuffed animals. Our next stop was the Plantation’s resident allspice tree—and yes, allspice really does come from a tree. The leaves, when broken, smell just like pumpkin pie, or, for the Saints out there, just like the Monk’s Bean’s spiced latte served around Thanksgiving.

We enjoyed leaves and petals all around, and even met a few geckos along the way.

One of the coolest things about the Plantation is the animals found amongst the blooms. When Kamaile and I were young, the Plantation was home to monkeys in large enclosures all around the park. Today the monkeys are gone, but in their place, dozens of ducks roam free! These guys and gals are the tamest birds I’ve ever met, and enjoy bread sticks thrown to them from restaurant customers and other sightseers.

We rounded out our tour with a little exploring, and found a gazebo tucked away at the far end of the property. This, my friends, is my new favorite spot.

Kamaile and I said our goodbyes to the ducks, the geckos, and the trees, promising to come back again one day. Another adventure had gone by, another day spent with a friend, and another hidden corner of Maui explored. Where will the wind take us next time?

Home Is Where the Heart Is

 

Beautiful SMU
Saint Martin’s University on the last day of the school year

Going home is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. It means an end to finals, an end to tough classes, and an end to the rain clouds. It’s incredible to know that you will soon see sunny skies and fields of green; but going home also means saying goodbye to you new friends, your Saint Martin’s family members, and even the rain clouds that you have come to enjoy. But how can you say goodbye to such an adventure?

Perhaps the first step is packing up your dorm room. You gather your belongings into plastic bins and then put them into storage until they can be used again. Baskets and containers are stacked in the corner of your room, clothing, dishes, and knick-knacks are scattered everywhere, and suddenly, it is all too much.

Dorm Pictures
Pictures on the wall…

How can one year, a solid slice of your life, amount to a few storage bins, a couple of stray boxes, and a bag full of bedding? You look around and think, “This can’t be all!” but at the same time, you know it’s too much. How will all this fit into your friend’s car? How will it fit into your small share of the storage unit that you’ve rented out with your friends? It’s a strange dilemma… you’ve accumulated too much stuff, but at the same time, it cannot be enough to account for each experience you’ve had at Saint Martin’s University.

Ahinahina and Mocha
Theses two are always the last to be put away…

This hits home, especially for the students who cannot take the bulk of their belongings with them. So, we, as the students from states far and wide, play a game where we must toss items between storage, suitcases, and donation boxes. We must make a choice with every possession: Which box will you choose?

But guys, gals, Saints far and wide…

It’s not about the amount of stuff, or even the stuff itself—It’s about the memories that happen within all of it. The care packages, the late-night snack runs, all the adventures that made the year amazing—those are what matter. The life lessons are the things that we should be holding on to, and though they do not fit in a box, they fill our heart just fine.

I realized this last week while standing in an endless TSA line: I’m going home, but to do so, I must leave home. My mom left me a gift on my dresser, something else to add to my collection, and as soon as I saw it, I immediately ran outside to hug her and said, “This is coming home with me.”

When did SMU become home? Well… I guess you could say it was in those little moments. I found where I belong when I wasn’t looking for anything more than an adventure. Now, I have two places where my family resides. One is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by tropical plants and loved ones. The other is in the Pacific Northwest, full of evergreen trees and friends who I couldn’t imagine life without.

Bunny
The bunny always comes home with me

Home is not a landmark, it’s not a place you can put your finger on. Home is a feeling. It is the safety of family and the fun of friends. It is stable and yet full of surprises at every turn. It is laugher that rings out around you, smiles that beam out at you, and unconditional love. Home is not in a structure… Home is in your heart.

Shania and Jimmy-Bob
And so does the monk…

At each semester’s end, I am happy to say that I come home. But at the start of each semester, I return to my home as well. While I go back and forth, I miss the other with all my heart, and yet, I savor each moment in both places, both homes, because my home is not a place, it is a feeling. Something deep inside that guides me when I need an extra push. Home is where my heart is, neither here nor there, but both instead, and with both, I am whole no matter where I go.

Maui
Maui on my first day back