Exploring the Land of the Midnight Sun

This past week I vacationed in Alaska with my husband, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, my three nieces, and my nephew.

Here’s a photo of the squad.

This trip has been in the works for almost two years! My mom traveled to Alaska two summers ago with a group of her friends, and she had the absolute time of her life. When she came home, she couldn’t stop talking about the adventures she’d had and her desire for all of us to make the same trip.

(Here’s just a glimpse of the beauty we witnessed in AK)

But you and I know vacations are never as glamorous as they appear in the photos we capture, and this trip was no different. Traveling with ten humans is no joke. Some of us are introverts; others are extroverts. Some of us like to sleep in; others like to stay up late. You have shower schedules and people with varying appetites. Not everyone likes mustard on their sandwiches.

We also came to realize that even though we’re blood, we’re not always the best communicators.

Still, this trip was special. Being a long distance Auntie, it really meant a lot to be with my kiddos, to ride with them in the bed of a truck, to play cards with them on a ferry, to cheer them on as they reeled in fish, and to listen to their riddles.

Here they are, from oldest to youngest!



They each have wildly different personalities and from each of these precious young humans I gleaned something special this week.

In no particular order, here are some of the bits of wisdom I collected from these kids.

  1. Don’t be afraid to somersault when everyone else is walking
  2. Never give up, even if you continually reel in seaweed
  3. Share your talents, even among strangers
  4. Make friends wherever you go

There ya have it. In keeping with my Gratitude Series, this week I’m most thankful for the opportunity to vacation with my family, even if we are a crazy bunch.

What are you most grateful for this week?


T. Shaw

The Dark Horse is Forever

For those of you who read my post called “Meeting Golden,” I promised to write about the time I crashed my friend’s week-long vacation in Hawaii.

Here it is!


We decided that she’d get a ten minute head start to smoke a cigarette. I didn’t mind, relishing in the extra time to snooze on the pull out couch.

We met during undergrad. We’d study Chaucer and Shakespeare together, always with Dr. Caldwell. In our final semester, Britany suggested we take creative writing. I agreed but insisted, “We’re gonna take intermediate, okay?” That was until intermediate wasn’t an option. That’s when we parted ways. Britany took the advanced class, and I joined in with the beginners.

Britany called right before graduation. One of her regulars had gifted her with a trip to Hawaii. The room was paid for; all she had to do was book a flight.

I half jokingly invited myself, and before I knew it, I was asking my husband if I could fly to Hawaii with a friend I didn’t know too well.

Don’t get me wrong, Britany and I talked regularly, but most of our conversations revolved around homework, how we had procrastinated again, and the kids we had tutored during the week. Our friendship only existed within the walls of our university. Things could get awkward in Oahu. A week is a long time to spend with just one person.

On our trip, Britany and I developed a system. She’d smoke and after approximately ten minutes, I’d take the elevator down and slide out the back door to meet Britany in the designated smoking area. Every time, I’d find Britany with a new friend. They would be swapping life stories like kids with trading cards. A lady gave us fresh banana bread, another advised us where to snorkel and which bus to catch.

But the most memorable encounter was when I observed Britany sitting on a bench with a Japanese couple. Britany and I were supposed to be on our way to sing karaoke. I had hoped once she saw me, she’d rise so we could leave. Instead, Britany invited me to sit down. The couple spoke little English, and for the past ten minutes, they had communicated using google translate. Together we lingered, bonding over cats and sharing bits of ourselves. After awhile, the four of us drifted to the karaoke bar.

There we sang in our own languages. Although, they did join in with Aerosmith’s “I don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” We clapped and cheered for one another, and between anthems we’d chat, speaking into the tablet’s microphone. It worked well, although there was one particular instance Britany and I looked down on the screen to read,

“The dark horse is forever”

We’d lose it, compose ourselves, and tell them to try again.
I wonder what secret messages we spoke into them.