Making Waves.

My life mantra is “make waves” because I seek to live every day as the water does, ebbing and flowing, trying new things, being changed by the environment and giving back to the community around me.

In the last year, this mantra has become so important to me. I remind myself to live intentionally every day and to make waves in the lives around me, but also to allow my surroundings to make waves in my life as well. Living this way allows for growth, opportunity, spontaneity, and a lot of fun; it’s how I have found myself in so many new and exciting situations and places in the last year. I have made so many new friends, and gone to so many cool places and I hope to continue to do so…

Which brings me to this: I will be moving to Colorado!!!

I have spent the last two months in Gunnison, Colorado and have been serving as an intern at Western State Colorado University. This position has provided me so much experience as a professional. I have moved to a new location. I am working on a new campus. I am adapting to a new culture and community. I am supervising student employees. I am having a blast.

Working in this position has also provided me the opportunity to land a full-time professional position in the same department. That’s right, you heard me, I have landed my first #SAPro position as a Resident Director. I will be managing two buildings during the school year and will be coordinating housing arrangements for camps and conferences during the summer months. What a great opportunity!?

By jumping out of my comfort zone and trying new things, allowing my world to be changed by my environment, and focusing on building relationships and community in all that I do I have made waves here in this small community and it has made waves in my life in turn. I have stirred things up, brought something new, learned so much and am excited to keep doing this work.

I guess it pays to work hard and push through the seasons of life. Sometimes life comes crashing down and sometimes it’s a smooth sea, but if you don’t make a little waves in that smooth sea, nothing changes, and what is the fun in that?

I have only been in Sunny Gunni for two short months, but it has been two of the greatest months of my life. I truly believe this is a “right place at the right time” situation. I was meant to be here for my internship. I was meant to come to this campus. Western is a great fit for me and I am thrilled that my first professional position will be here in the Rocky Mountains where I will be working alongside an amazing team of professionals who will challenge and support me every day.

I’ll post updates as I know more information about my move and what this new role will be like. Stay tuned.

-Joel

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An Unquenchable Thirst

I am a proud Michigander. Raised by the Great Lakes, I have seen the beauty and power of the lakes, and it is this beauty and power that attracts me to them so much.

I have always lived along the shore of a lake. It is more than a location to me, it is a lifestyle. I am infatuated with lakes, with bodies of water.

I believe in water’s beauty. I believe in water’s power. I believe I have a deep, spiritual undying connection to water.

I am learning that it’s more than a connection. I think it’s an unquenchable thirst – a yearning to be by the waters edge.

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My life mantra is “Make Waves” because I seek to inspire just as the water does. I strive to change things up constantly, be changed by my environment, and to give back to my surroundings and my community the way that water does.

Water is my life source. I need it…we all do. Our bodies are 70% water. How cool is that? You can only go a few days without water. That’s even cooler! Water provides homes, food, and adventure, among so many other things. That’s the best part.

I believe in water. I believe in adventure. I believe in making waves.

I am thirsty for this life source and all that it provides. I seek more adventure everyday. I dream of sitting by the water for hours and just watching the waves crash against the land. I reminisce on all of the great times that I have had cliff jumping into Mother Superior’s mighty waves. I think of the countless summer bonfires on the shores of Lake Michigan. I remember the time I spent collecting shells with my grandmother on Crystal Lake.

Water is my cure. My medicine. My meditation. My religion.

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Water allows me to have deep thoughts, meaningful conversations, grand adventures, and soothing meditations.

Colorado is providing me with all of this. It is fueling me with a satisfaction that I never realized I craved. But it is leaving me thirsty for more.

I am ready for big adventures, meaningful relationships, environments and surroundings that ebb and flow, and lots of lakeshore living.

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I had a long day at work today so I spent an hour or so sitting on a rock by the river afterward and I couldn’t believe how uplifted I felt. There is  nothing in this life that a few minutes by the water can’t cure.

This is my ode to water.

-Joel

Elevation.

Elevate: Verb. To raise or lift something up to a higher position.


Moving from the flat lands of South Dakota to the mountains of Colorado, elevation is something that I have had to adjust to in the past two weeks.

I don’t often share with people that I have Asthma, as it doesn’t inhibit me nearly as bad as it does others, and I don’t often suffer from attacks or struggle breathing during every day activities. My Asthma is mostly sports induced or brought on by change in weather. Unfortunately, being at a higher elevation means that I have had a much harder time breathing and my Asthma is something that I am much more conscious of. I have to make sure that I have my inhaler with me wherever I go, just in case.

It’s weird how something that I have lived with for most of my life is now suddenly a much bigger deal simply because of my surrounding environment. It’s weird how one simple change has altered my way of thinking and the way in which I do my daily tasks.

Another way in which I have had to adjust to elevation is through my job as a Conference Services Intern. Western State Colorado University’s slogan is “Learning, elevated”. These two words drew me in so quickly. I’m not sure why, but the concept of learning elevated intrigues me. Working for the university and representing this brand is something that I am proud to say that I am a part of. It has made me think further about what elevation truly means.

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My challenge for the summer is to elevate. I strive to grow as an individual, to grow as a professional, to learn as much as I can and to uplift the people around me.

As an educator and a leader, I have the opportunity to impact thousands of people everyday. I create thousands of experiences in a day without even realizing that I am doing so. In a customer service related field, I have to make sure that the experiences that I am creating are uplifting to those around me. I can elevate my students to their highest potential by giving them the tools that they need to be successful, the resources to make that happen, and the support that they need at any given time. I can elevate my guests by providing great service to them and creating experiences that they remember as positive.

Life is all about the experience and the impact that our surroundings have on us. It is all about environment, community, and elevation. If we strive to uplift rather than to tear down, we will all be stronger, more successful, and happier individuals. This is my dream for the summer. I hope to ensure quality service experiences for my guests, learning and growing opportunities for myself and for my students, and a desire to continue to elevate as I move forward with my life.

Life’s a climb, hike on!

-Joel

 

#TheFlannelogues

Something fun and exciting is brewing – this afternoon I launched a new creative project!

#TheFlannelogues is a space that I created so that I could share stories, songs, and scenes from the local coffee shop. My intent is to capture the environment that I love so much. I hope to share my experiences at coffee shops – ranging from the smells and the sounds to the stories of the unique characters that I meet there.

Come along with me on this journey? Settle in, grab a drink, and enjoy!

-Joel

Heading West

{“I headed west / I was a man on the move” – The Lumineers}


Hello my friends!

I’ve been doing some traveling in the last week and wanted to share my journey with you but needed to collect my thoughts before writing.

Anywho…

I left Vermillion on Saturday, after attending graduation and sending all of my coworkers and friends off to their real lives. As you all know, I am not a planner and don’t really like to follow itineraries, rules, or schedules, but rather fly by the seat of my pants – is this still a phrase that people use? – and go with the flow. This is exactly how I like to travel. So I didn’t have any plans for how long I would drive, where I would stay for the night, etc. The only thing I knew was my destination: Crownpoint, New Mexico, where I would stay with my brother, Josh for a few days.

It was about 2:45pm when I hit the road. And I stopped for the night at 12:45am in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I definitely slept in my car in the Walmart parking lot – this is the true definition of adventure – and loved every second of it – all five hours of it. I woke up at 5:45 and was ready to move again. I went inside to go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and grab a quick breakfast at the McDonalds inside. McDonalds was closed – probably for the best – so I decided to cross an item off of my Colorado Summer Bucket List – yes, I’ve been researching fun things to do and explore while I am here for the summer – and I stopped at Switchback Coffee Roasters for a coffee and a croissant.

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Switchback Coffee Roasters

This place was quiet, cute, and quaint. I was one of three people there – no surprise as it opened at 6am and it was 6:09 – so I had a choice of sitting inside or out on the patio. I settled in at a spot right by the window, with low hanging lights, and a plant in the center of the table – perfect. I will definitely be going back to Switchback.

I got on the road half an hour later, after discovering that Garden of the Gods didn’t open until 8am – so much for that idea. I left the Springs and headed south to New Mexico,  planning to stop for lunch in Santa Fe. I made it to Las Vegas and was so hungry I decided to make a quick stop in this tiny little town. What I didn’t know was that this town is not as sleepy as I thought it would be. I stopped at what may perhaps be the world’s slowest Burger King. I waited for 20 minutes for a 10 piece nugget – Byyyyeeee – and was so frustrated I almost left without my food.

After this extended stop I was anxious to get going again. I wanted to stop in Santa Fe, but now all I wanted to do was get to Albuquerque. So I skipped my stop in Santa Fe, and stopped at Pinon Coffee House in Albuquerque to pick up some good coffee for Josh and I to drink this week as well as a small dark roast to get me through my remaining two hour drive.

Finally, I had made it to Josh’s house! He was outside putting green chile cheeseburgers on the grill when I pulled up. Hank greeted me in his usual fashion of excitedly hopping up and down on his hind legs. Boy, was I glad to be in this tiny town again. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something really cool about Crownpoint.


Josh had to work all week, so I mostly kept Hank company, caught up on sleep, and did some running on the Mesa while I was there.

We did do some exploring and adventuring though. Josh took a personal day on Wednesday so we headed to Santa Fe on Tuesday night. We went into Cuba for dinner at what may be the best Tex-Mex restaurant in New Mexico and waited to see what the weather looked like to make our decision on camping in the Jemez Mountains for the night.

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El Bruno’s is the best Tex-Mex around
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A beast of a Navajo Taco

We ended up grabbing a motel room and posted up in a warm bed instead of cold, snowy, rainy mountainside. I curled up with my book and a Happy Camper IPA from Santa Fe Brewing Company, while Josh watched the Spurs v. Rockets and enjoyed a beer himself.

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Happy Camper IPA & The Minimalists

Wednesday morning we tried soaking in a hot spring but the road was closed due to weather, so we decided to go check out Bandelier National Monument instead. While I would have loved the hot spring bath, the hike at Bandelier was worthwhile, so no complaints here! After this we headed to Meow Wolf, an interactive art exhibit in Santa Fe. If you ever make it to this city, you have to check it out. It’s story telling, jungle gym, art museum, and puzzle all in one.

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“If you want a better view of the horizon, sometimes you’ve got to break a sweat climbing that hill” – Ron Pope
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Hiking up the Alcove Trail at Bandelier
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From the top of the Alcove Trail at Bandelier

After Meow Wolf, we drove to Albuquerque to take the tram up the mountains, but it was foggy and cold so we decided not to do it as we wouldn’t have had a very good view – I also was not dressed warm enough. We stopped at Page 1 Books and each found some books on sale! Hooray for local, independent bookstores being around still!

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Page 1 Books

We grabbed some grub at Bosque Brewing Company where I had the best and spiciest grilled cheese imaginable – I don’t do well with spices and this thing killed me but boy was it good. Here we ended our adventure-filled day and drove back to Crownpoint.


I left Josh on Friday morning. He went to school and I went North to Colorado, anxious to arrive in Gunnison. I stopped in some amazing cities on my way, and drove along the Million Dollar Highway, a narrow and winding mountain road with views that are unbeatable, but you don’t want to look in fear of driving off the edge of the mountain. I made it to Western State Colorado University between 2 and 2:30pm and headed to the Residence Life and Conference Services office where Paul would get me checked into my apartment.

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Western State Colorado University: Home of the Mountaineers

I started to get settled and then headed to dinner at High Alpine Brewing Company with Paul and some of his friends. I’d have to say my first night in town was very pleasant, an insight into what my summer and what Gunnison in the summer will feel like. Thanks Paul for treating me to my first meal in town!

Since Friday, I have explored, done some hiking and running, and have gotten more settled into my apartment.

My roommate and co-intern, Ezequiel, will arrive on Monday and I can’t wait to meet him and get started with training!


More updates to come.

Happy Mothers Day!

-Joel

5 Reasons Why I #LOVermillion

Just like that I am done with my first year of #SAGrad and I have to admit that there are many “Great Faces” and “Great Places” in South Dakota. I’ve met some amazing people, done some exploring and learned to make Vermillion my temporary home. I have a year left of grad school, but it is time for another adventure.

I am dying for my move to Colorado for the summer – everyone keeps telling me that I will fall in love and not return to South Dakota. We’ll see – but I will miss some things while I am gone. There are five “Great Places” in Vermillion that have brought great joy to my life this year and thinking about the fact that I won’t be able to frequent them when I leave actually makes me really really sad. But in just three short months, I will be back for them!


1. The Bean: I have mentioned The Bean on my blog before – and I will probably write about them again – but I wanted to give them a little more attention. I am wildly in love with The Bean. A community coffeehouse is something that Vermillion lacked when I moved here. Lucky for me a few months later, we got one. But besides being the only place I ever go to study, and the place that provides we with high quality craft coffee, The Bean offers a sense of home.

Leslie, the owner of and mind behind The Bean is one of the first people that I met in Vermillion. We met in late July or early August – before the store was open – at the Farmers Market where I purchased a cold brew – and knew in that moment that we were destined to be friends – and chatted about her dream of opening a coffee shop. I also met Shannon (one of Leslie’s amazing employees) that night. We connected over our Michigan roots – Upper Peninsula T-shirts and my GPS coordinate tattoo always start the best conversations – and the fact that we are both Northern Michigan University alumni. These two connections were all I needed to know that I was going to be just fine here. I think I became The Bean’s biggest fan that day and have been supporting them – almost every day – since. The Bean continues to be my go-to spot for meaningful conversations and a good cuppa joe.

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Left to Right: Leslie (Owner, The Bean), Stephanie, and Me!

When asked “Why a coffee shop?” Leslie will say that she was excited to create a space that offered a warm, comfortable, community feel. She’s done just that. When you walk into The Bean – whether it is Leslie, Ed, Shannon, Martin, or Jessie (owner of the Iron Rooster, which shares space with The Bean) behind the counter – you can expect a smile and the friendliest of greetings. It is this greeting – paired with a hot cup of coffee and a treat – that I look forward to so often. In fact, Leslie and I share this dream of creating a warm, comfortable, friendly space for the community to gather. I have wanted to open my own coffee shop for a long time – but always told myself it would never happen – and since meeting Leslie and falling in love with The Bean, I am even more sure that this is something that I want to do someday. Thanks so much for the love and inspiration y’all! You’ll be seeing me soon!

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But first, coffee…from The Bean. Seriously, how cute is it!?

2. Dakota Brickhouse: In addition to being a coffee snob, I am also a lover of craft beer – yes, this has contributed to people labeling me as hippie, hipster, and granola – and when I moved to Vermillion, we didn’t just lack a coffeehouse, but a brewery or taphouse as well. I am beginning to think that my presence in this small community is what is leading to all of these great businesses popping up in town – just kidding, we have some great minds that saw an untapped market for both coffee and craft beer.

With a rotating tap of craft beer, a fine wine selection, $5 sangria, homemade appetizers that put most bar food selections to shame, and a rocking new patio it is pretty obvious why Dakota Brickhouse has become a favorite of mine.

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Grand opening of the Brick House patio featuring local band The Beards

As a grad student that works for the university, and advises students, I try to avoid the bar scene – If you’re a young professional, you probably understand what I am talking about – but in a small college town it is tough. There are only so many places to go grab a cheap dinner and beer. Thank God the Brickhouse opened! With it’s classy atmosphere, and high quality menu of provisions, it is not an establishment that college students go to get drunk on Saturday nights. If I run into a few of my students there, it isn’t awkward drinking with them because I know that none of us are going to be misbehaving here. We are here for enjoyment, not a great night out. The Brickhouse has filled the absence of IPAs in my life since it’s opening, and it will continue to be my favorite place offering veggie burger and taco slider options. Between the fun and charming staff and my group of friends – also known as the Booth Crew – it’s always a good time at the Brickhouse.

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Some of the Booth Crew: Anna, Sadie, Me, Ashley, and Sam

3. That Lambda Chi porch: *Cue Kenny Chesney’s Keg in the Closet*

Most of you reading already know that my Graduate Assistant position is with Sorority and Fraternity Life. Yes, I do live in a fraternity house. No, I am not a “frat boy” – in fact, you will never hear me use the term “frat” as it is incredibly degrading to the young men that I live and work with. Being a live-in adviser is one of the most fun and challenging jobs that you could have – if you think it is awkward seeing your drunk students at the bar, try coming home to a house party…yea, that’s exactly what I mean by challenging…but also what I mean by fun!

The thing that I love most about living at Lambda is the constant interaction with my students. There is always someone around which means my opportunities to learn and grow from my students are endless…as are my opportunities to engage with them in meaningful conversations. Many of the moments that have been most magical and meaningful this year have occurred on the front porch. We have this amazing front porch and a beautiful lawn and we love to spend time out there on nice days. Whether I am drinking coffee in the morning, reading, doing homework, grilling with the guys, or just watching them attempt skateboard tricks off the edge and toss footballs around, the porch has offered me many good times this year. I can’t wait to have another year with the Lambdas, and another year on this front porch.

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Nothing beats life on the front porch

4. Spirit Mound: One of the only places to hike in Vermillion, Spirit Mound offers my escape to nature, and a view into both Iowa and Nebraska. In addition to the view the fact that Spirit Mound is a stop along the Lewis and Clark trail is so cool to me. It has history. This is more than the only hill in Vermillion but a resting place to our ancestors and a spiritual ground for the Native Americans that once inhabited this land. Honestly, I feel so incredibly spiritually awake when I am hiking Spirit Mound. It is not just the name. I can feel the presence of those around me and I feel connected to the Earth. I have always been fascinated with the Native philosophy on spirituality and practices involving ritual, nature, and giving back to the earth. I connect to that much more so than the modern way of American life. Somehow, Spirit Mound really brings me back to my center and allows me to focus on my surroundings and be aware of everything. I just really like this place, and am so happy that I found it.

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Hazy day Spirit Mound Hike
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The day I realized Winter running in South Dakota is much worse than in Michigan

5. Clay County Park: I am pretty sure that no one besides me goes to this park on a regular basis. I have been going there at least once a week for the entire year and I have only ever seen other people there twice. I love how I can be so close to town and yet feel so far away, so alone. There is a loop trail at this park that is about 4 miles in total. I love to run 2.5 miles of it in particular. I love this part of the trail because it travels along a cornfield, into the woods, and by the shore of the Missouri River. I see all of this great scenery and natural beauty in just 2.5 short miles. This is one of the only trails in Vermillion, so I am lucky that I have even this short path to run on.

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The first time I ran this trail the corn was taller than me!

As I pack up and drive away from Vermillion for the summer, and anxiously head to the Southwest, I think about these five places and the greatness that they brought to my year. I’ll see you in just three short months!

Peace out Verm!

-Joel

 

What it Means to #LiveLikeMike.

If you’re a regular to my blog, you’ve heard me speak about Mike before. If you’re new to the Adventures of Joel and have no idea who Mike is, you can read his story here.

Anywho…It’s a year after his passing and he and Monica have been on my mind a lot this week – even more so than usual. 

I thought that I would get some of my thoughts out and share them to help me talk out my feelings this week.

So here we go.


Mike was extremely connected with the natural world and appreciated everything around him. He was the true definition of someone who lived life to the fullest. Mike was a photographer, a musician, and a writer. Mike was a dreamer, a thinker, a philosopher. Mike was an explorer, an adventurer, and a wanderer. Mike loved deeply, lived intentionally, and danced always.


They say “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and I believe this to be true. But this is not the case with Mike. Seeing all of the lives he touched in just 24 years, and the community of support that Monica and the Purdy family have around them proves differently.

Everyone who was a part of Mike’s life knew what they had before it was gone. To have Mike as a part of your life meant that you had inspiration, adventure, passion, drive, meaning. You knew this because Mike lived so intentionally that it was clear to everyone how great life could be if you simply watched him or engaged him in conversation. He embodied everything that one could wish for in a friend and was transparent enough to tell you everything that everyone else was too afraid to say. He lived boldly and everyone knew it. It’s what attracted so many of us to him. He had this radiant, magnetic power.

You listen to one of his songs, look at one of his photos, read one of his journal entries, take a peek at one of his tattoos, and you just know exactly what you have by being connected to Mike. You know that he was one of a kind, an original, some magical force of nature. You knew he was special. He was rooted deeper than the rest of us. He was connected to everything that shared air and space with him.

Mike didn’t live like the rest of us. He didn’t spread hate or unacceptance. He didn’t care what people thought. He wasn’t obsessed with material possessions and worldly belongings. He just sought adventure and meaning. And somehow he always seemed to find it, and spread that knowledge to the rest of us.


Now, you should know, that I didn’t really know Mike very well. I knew of him, but I feel like I can tell his story pretty accurately, because I feel like I am one of the extras in Mike’s life movie.

Monica and I have been best friends since the first day of undergrad where we met because we happened to both be in the same First Year Experience block. Five years this beautiful soul has stayed by my side. Thanks, love! Since day one, she talked to me about Mike. So over the years, I have come to know the gypsy mountain man that is Hiker Mike as a symbol of simplicity, love, and adventure. He has become someone that I aspire to be. Someone that I look up to for guidance – a sage, if you will.

Now that Mike is gone, I feel his presence stronger than ever. I am inspired daily by the strength that I see in Monica and Tim and the Purdy family. I have a greater need to be free, to get back to the good life, to enjoy simple things, and to care less about stuff. I live more intentionally, so that I may embody the way that Mike lived. I seek to get outdoors at least once a day, smile at strangers more, and bring light to this dark dark world. I strive to float, like Mike did, above the white noise of the world and above the darkness.

To me, living like mike is a journey. A transition. A transformation. It means to self-discover. To share. To connect. To inspire. To create. To breathe. To jump. And most of all to love.

It means to love everyone. Unconditionally. Wholly. And to grow in love every day. To live like Mike is to stir things up, break the mold, and make waves in the lives of those around me. It is to be unapologetically myself and to explore this beautiful world as the original being that I was created to be.


I’m not sure if this post truly captures the essence of Mike that I was hoping to, but I had to share some of Mike’s best attributes, and why this year has been so important to me as I continue to grow into the Joel that I aspire to be – the Joel that lives a little more like Mike everyday.

This week has been hard. Today has been hard. But just one year ago, I was sitting on the shore of Lake Superior in the company of some of my closest friends, sharing blankets, tears, and the warm embrace of Mike’s spirit as we all received the worst news that can be imagined. This memory is one that I will never forget.

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My favorite photo. Because I feel everything I felt that night every time I look at it.

So, to Monica, Tim, the Purdy family, Diane, Megan, and Grace – Thank you for sharing that special moment with me. Thank you for being the force of strength that we all needed to get through that dark night. I love you all.

And, to everyone else – Try to live a little lighter from now on. Try to embrace simplicity, adventure, authenticity, yourself, others, and love. When is the last time you tried something new? When is the last time you dared to live boldly? When is the last time you lived like Mike?

Big love today,

-Joel