Autumn Readings

As quick as the leaves changed in the fall, my season of readings for the last part of 2018 has come to a close.
I’ve kept busy the past couple months:

Carlow University

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Red Dog Reading Series

Black Cat Market

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Honey Bee Review Reading

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Full Pint Wild Side Pub

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Hell’s Lid Reading Series

 

And one more upcoming reading at the Millvale Community Library

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Girls Write Pittsburgh Winter Reading Party

 

Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays with your loved ones!

 

Until next time,

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An Island of Strength: Puerto Rico Prospers

There will always be beauty in tragedy, this I’ve come to know.

Surely you’ve heard about it in the news over the past year. Due to the absolute devastation Hurricane Maria brought the island of Puerto Rico, the battered island is still healing but moving forward. El Yunque, its beloved rainforest, still looks beautiful but will take nearly decades to truly recover. With the changes, new species of flora and fauna will appear.

In the short time I was here, it was difficult to imagine what it looked like before- all around me it was still so lush, green, and thriving. Colorful streets and smiling people. The pride that beats down like the hot sun. This is what I will take with me from this place- the bounce back. The miracle of life and the sense of love and hope it brings. The strength of a whole community overcoming the odds together. The ability to not only survive, but to prosper.

Here is an insight to my time there:

Walking around the colorful Condado, glimpsing the sunrise at Ocean Beach and catching the sunset at Atlantic Beach.

My new favorite dish- Mofongo!

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Heart of Old San Juan

El Yunque National Forest

What a sweet way to bring in 28 years.

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                                              Keep living. Keep overcoming. Keep thriving.

                                                                                                                     Love always,

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The Maine Attraction

Ever since I took that trip with my mom to Punta Cana, I’ve been asking her to travel with me again.  Though I already have a great relationship with my parents, I especially value our time together as we all get older. To my surprise, she finally said yes! (Maybe because this was a domestic trip, for once? Haha.)

We flew into Portland on Thursday evening. She had never seen whales in real life and wanted to see them, so we opted for a cruise that next day. Of course, we had to get our first fresh lobster roll beforehand!

 

We got lucky and saw three fin whale, and a couple harbor seals! And, of course, the famous Portland Head Lighthouse.

 

Walking around Portland/Old Port: Portland Observatory, Eastern Promenade, East End Beach, Fish Point, Fort Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Bug Point, etc.

Our favorite spots to eat included: DiMillo’s on the water, Becky’s Diner, Portland Lobster Company, The Holy Donut, Gilbert’s Chowder House, and so many more.

The next day, we rented a car and drove to Acadia National Park.

Such a beautiful day! Highlights included: Eagle Lake, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, among others.

We took a ferry to one of the many islands surrounding Portland the next day. We opted for Peaks Island and enjoyed blueberry soda while soaking up some rays. We didn’t know that wild blueberries grow naturally here- 44,000 acres, to be exact.

 

Coastal Maine is surely a sight for sore eyes, and there’s no other person I’d rather soak in that beauty with then my incredible mother. I know we’ll both cherish this time together in years to come.

 

Until next time,

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COLORado

Hi friends!

Another adventure for ya. The moment I spotted round trip tickets to Denver for $150, I was sold. Combine that with reuniting with a college friend, gorgeous mountain hikes, and an incredible concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater and the opportunity for a weekend getaway to Colorado was a no-brainer.

First up, my friend Lindsay and I went hiking in Roosevelt National Forest.

Lake Isabelle was quite a sight for sore eyes.

Here are some awesome spots around the city: delicious dinner at Tacos Tequila Whiskey, the Botanical Gardens, Capitol Building, Union Station, Linger (mortuary turned into a restaurant) and the sun setting near Highland/Lodo district.

On Saturday night, The Avett Brothers put on one hell of a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. We did the bus to show route, let loose, and had a night we’ll never forget. Good jams, good friends, good times.

As per usual, my short getaway was all kinds of perfect, though it wasn’t even scratching the surface of this amazing city and state.

To sum it all up, I absolutely loved it and I’m moving here.

 

                                                                                   Stay wild,

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Weekend Warriors

Last weekend I took a trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, with some friends for a little getaway. The weather finally broke and it was a beautiful day for hiking and being out on the water, which is just what we did.

After a couple miles of hiking in the morning, we cooled off by the lake.

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It was my first time here, and I loved every minute of it. Just a short two hours from Pittsburgh, there truly is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for adventure or just to relax in nature. We also did the Mountain Coaster, which was thrilling!

As the sun rose higher in the sky, we opted to go paddle boarding. I’d never been before and have terrible balance, so I was interested to see how I’d do. It was a blast, and honestly easier than I expected. We also jumped off the dock and went swimming.

On the way back to Pennsylvania, we stopped at Mountain State Brewery for some firewood flatbread pizzas and craft beer. With all these state parks right at our fingertips, there’s no excuse to not get out and enjoy them, especially if you don’t have the luxury of vacation days. I’ll definitely be back!

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Cincy

In the past, I have written a couple posts about the Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention. Read my first post here, and about the 2016 conference in Minneapolis and the 2017 conference in Louisville.

I just returned from the 2018 convention in Cincinnati. It was a whirlwind of a weekend! On the way there, I started off with a stop at one of my new favorites in Columbus: Winans. Chocolate and wine, you can’t go wrong…

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Once in Cincinnati, I spent most of the first day exploring. It was a cloudy day, but still beautiful nonetheless. Below are some of my favorite sights in the Queen City:

*Roebling Suspension Bridge, Smale Riverfront Park*

*Great American Ball Park, Findlay Market*

*Hathaway’s Diner- I could eat all my meals in this charming, old-school place.*

 

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10/10 recommend!

I gave my presentation on Saturday afternoon and connected instantly to the brilliant writers: DeAndra, Eric, and Korbin.

*Rhinegheist Brewery*

Speaking of murals, Cincy has plenty!

*At the Red & Black Conventions Award Gala with my two guys, where my poetry collection was awarded a prize.*

And the next night, I got to reunite with my best friend from high school, who was visiting town.

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Already can’t wait to see what next year’s convention has in store.

See you in 2019, St. Louis!

 

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Land of the Midnight Sun

John Green, I finally found her. (Anyone who gets that reference, I love you.)

The idea that I was flying to Alaska was still baffling me. It didn’t seem real until I flew over the mountains.

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On Tuesday, my first full day, I woke early to catch the bus to Denali National Park. As you might imagine, the drive was nothing short of overwhelming beauty mile after mile. Our bus stopped at Talkeetna Lodge for break and snack. There was a loose moose sign which was my first big “Welcome to Alaska” moment. Though I didn’t see it on the property, I did see a moose on the side of the road shortly after!

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Welcome to Denali!

Once we pulled in to the lodging areas outside the park, I immediately threw my pack in my cabin and headed out. I wanted to take advantage of every second I had, since I was only here a short time. First, I set off on foot to the Wilderness Access Center and the Visitor Center. From there, I took the Savage River shuttle deeper into the park and saw two more moose.  Just as I was about to start hiking, it began to rain. I tried to wait it out, and debated whether or not to move forward, but finally I just went for it. And it was awesome. So awesome. The beginning was an immediate straight shot up loose rocks, and I had to take multiple breaks to catch my breath so I wouldn’t get dizzy. I’ve discovered since getting my pacemaker a year ago that I struggle a lot with elevation, which is frustrating.  Once I reached the summit, the rain stopped and all the clouds cleared, breaking way for the most beautiful double rainbow. It was almost surreal.

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I saw lots of squirrels, sheep, bunnies, and birds. No bear, though! (I wanted to see one, but from afar, of course!) I made a mental note of what to do if I encountered a wolf, bear, or moose.  I talked to myself around corners, making noise to alert them of my presence. Luckily (or unluckily) I didn’t encounter any. Once I emerged from the woods to find the road, I crossed it and continued on to another trail. On the drive back, I was the only passenger. We saw caribou grazing and then a moose crossed right in front of us, framing the perfect shot!

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The perfect shot.

Though it was already 8 p.m., I wasn’t ready to be done.  I continued on Horseshoe Lake trail, passing a sign that warned of bears frequenting that area. I pressed on, and the first sight of the lake was well worth it all. This was God’s country, and I knew it. At the lake, I found a beaver dam and watched in awe at the many playful otters swimming. I followed the trail further to the Nenana River. I could’ve hiked for hours more, but it was already 10 p.m. and I hadn’t had dinner! I was starving, and if I continued to hike alone in the dark, I might end up being someone else’s dinner.

Once out of the park, I indulged in salmon, seafood chowder and a salad at the Salmon Bake, took a warm shower, and collapsed in bed. 17 miles done!

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Delicious meal at the Denali Salmon Bake!

The next day, I didn’t have long to hike. I had to take the bus back to Anchorage at 2 p.m. For lunch, I got a reindeer hot dog at the Denali Doghouse, then an espresso Funky Monkey shake and cinnamon chocolate chip scone at Black Bear Coffee. Not the healthiest, but I treated myself. Best coffee shop in Denali! I urge you to check it out for yourself.

When we arrived back in Anchorage, I had a special treat waiting for me. My good friend, Stephanie, was also in Anchorage! When I first found out she was going to Alaska, I had tried to plan my trip so that we could meet up, but it just wasn’t working out. That is, until we realized she was flying out from Anchorage the morning after I’d be arriving back there, so on her last night there, we could! She was there for work, and they were having a meeting so I sat in on that.  It was pretty neat to hear how much their experiences in Alaska had impacted their lives. After, we all piled into a van and drove to Earthquake Park by the airport and watched the sunset as planes flew overhead.

Having gone to bed after 1 a.m., I had the hardest time waking up on Thursday. But luckily, I  was already packed up, so there wasn’t much else to do to get ready for my trip to Seward.

 

On the road there, we talked about the areas we were driving through. We saw the mud flats, talked about the dangers of them with the high tide, etc. We drove deeper into Chugach National Forest. As we were entering a small town, Moose Pass, the driver asked us to see if we could find what was “missing” from this town. Someone mentioned a gas station. “Bingo! There’s not a gas station because then it would be called ‘Moose Pass gas,'” he joked. We laughed.

Seward was the cutest port town, lots of brightly colored buildings near the water’s edge, boats bobbing in the harbor, otters popping their heads up, ever curious what we were doing.

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One of the most popular things to do is take a wildlife cruise into Resurrection Bay to Kenai Fjords National Park, and I had the time to do it. It was beautiful being on the water. We saw more otters, humpback whales (look for the spout of water!) as we made made our way to Holgate glacier. On board, they had an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet which was mouthwatering.  They pulled a chunk of the glacier out of the water and made margaritas with the ice which was so cool.

The captain had received word from a small fishing boat that there were orcas ahead and sped up to reach them. It was so amazing to see their sleek black and white bodies glide through the water. I never thought I’d see that in the wild. They were swimming in a pod of about five, and were so peaceful and sleek through the water’s surface.

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No words.

Once we pulled back into Seward, I boarded the bus back to Anchorage. The Turnagain Arm views and entire stretch of Seward Highway were just as magical driving through again. When I got back to Anchorage, I stopped at Humpy’s for some halibut dinner. Not wanting my trip to end, I decided I’d walk to see the midnight sun one final time. I walked to Elderberry Park and took the coastal trail near the water to Resolution Park and the Captain Cook monument, but couldn’t find it. Suddenly, I saw a cop car that was hidden to my left.  I asked him for directions, and he offered to drive me there! You should’ve heard my mother’s reaction when I told her I was in the back of a cop car on my final night in Anchorage. The sunset was magnificent. Worth every second of sleep I was missing.

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Looking over the land of the midnight sun.

Even in this moment, I can still see it. I knew before it sank below the horizon that I already missed it, and would never forget it. On my walk back to my hostel, the pink sky reflected off the mountains in the distance, a final burst of beautiful light etched into my memory. I could have spent a lifetime here, but those four wonderful, awestruck, and wildly beautiful days were all I could ever ask for.

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