Summer Escapes

Well, summer seems to be flying by once again. This year, I have taken full advantage of the long, sunny days. The past few weeks have been filled with an abundance of travel as well as time at the Lake of the Ozarks. I’ve been frequenting the South and have really enjoyed spending time with friends and family and exploring new parts of the country.

I feel quite lucky to be able to spend time at the lake as well. It’s nice to getaway at a place with limited cell phone service. I love relaxing on a raft or boat all day with a nice cold beverage in my hand. Not a care in the world.

 

lake life

 

Life can get a little stressful from time to time, but I cling to these delightful summer moments and memories to get me through.

I hope you have experienced adventures and getaways of your own this summer – where ever they may be!

-Mackenzie

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Going Green

This summer I fell in love with green smoothies!

Every morning I start my day with a green smoothie.  It makes me feel refreshed, guilt-free, and also sets the tone for the rest of my day.  Plus these smoothies are extremely easy to make, even for someone like me who considers the kitchen to be foreign territory.

Here is the helpful chart I found on Pinterest:

Green Smoothies

After trying several different combinations, here is what I’ve learned that I like as well as some tips for making your custom green smoothie:

  • I stick to spinach or kale
  • Many of my smoothies have included an apple as one of the “Pick Two.”  This is mainly because we usually have apples in our fridge. Plus I really like apples.
  • I like to freeze my fruit.  The smoothies are still great if you don’t freeze your fruit but if you do, it gives it a thicker and creamier texture. (I still add the cup of ice when I do this).
  • Some ingredients out of the “Pick Two” are really strong and will overpower your smoothie (CUCUMBER)
  • I always stick to using a cup of water rather than the other options
  • My favorite “Pick Two” combination has been apple & pineapple
Photo credit: simplywonderful.com
Photo credit: simplywonderful.com

Do you have a favorite green smoothie recipe?  Feel free to share it in the comments!

Cheers!

Cheese Please

I recently applied for a job and was asked by the company to write about my favorite food in about 250 words.  The result was pretty cheesy:

Cheese Please

I have an undeniable obsession and love of cheese, in any and all of its glorious forms.  Whether it’s melted inside a spicy enchilada, spread across salty crackers, or sprinkled on top of pasta, I’m a firm believer that a little bit (or a lot) of cheese makes everything better.

One of my favorite cheesy meals is ravioli.  I’m picky about meat so I just prefer it solely stuffed with delicious, warm cheese and drenched in marinara sauce.

Olive Garden deserves some sort of shiny award or gold star for their Cheese Ravioli.  It is to die for.  It might be the best ravioli I have ever had and it is even topped with…wait for it…more cheese!  It has Italian cheese melted on top of the rich marinara sauce and ravioli.  Those endless breadsticks aren’t so bad either!  Add a glass of wine and I am one happy camper.

What’s really great about this meal is that it can translate from the restaurant into your own kitchen.  For someone like me, who considers the kitchen to be a fairly unfamiliar place, the food I do make is all about ease, time, and convenience.  That is another pro of this scrumptious and filling meal: I can easily make it at home in less than ten minutes.  Although my freezer bag of ravioli isn’t nearly as good as Olive Garden’s ravioli, it still satisfies my cheese cravings.

Whether it’s just a small snack or a heavy, filling meal, you know my motto: you can’t go wrong with cheese.

Communication Is Key

It’s been a few weeks since my college graduation and I’ve been keeping busy updating my resume, writing cover letters, and searching for what is next for me in life.  In the midst of all the job searching, I was asked to take part in Webucator‘s “Most Marketable Skill” campaign in honor of the class of 2014.

Webucator provides onsite and online training on various technologies.  They are currently offering continual self-paced free courses in Microsoft Word 2013.

This opportunity to write about a specific skill that I believe is essential for success has allowed me to reflect on the job search process that I am currently navigating.  To me, communication is key, especially as a marketable skill, but also in life in general.

Whether it be verbal, written, or even through various media, good communication is essential to success.  No matter the major, you have to be able to communicate well to even apply for a position.  Having received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Journalism & Mass Communication, I have strengthened my communication skills, especially my writing skills, over the past few years.  I have learned the importance of applying strong writing to a resume and in a cover letter.  This is usually a company’s first impression of you, and by strengthening your writing, you can effectively emphasize the skills and experiences that would make you a strong candidate for the position.

Verbal communication is also extremely important as well.  This is a specific aspect of communication that I would personally like to work on.  I find that sometimes it is easier for me to get my thoughts organized through writing.  However, when it comes to interviews, presentations, etc., being able to verbalize your skills and your ideas is essential.  I consider each interview to be a learning experience.  No matter if you get the job or not, you can reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and apply what you learned to your next interview.

If you’re like me and you’re searching for a career, my advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Visit an adviser or the career center at your school.  Ask someone (a professor, a friend, a family member, etc.) to read over your resume and cover letter and to set up a mock interview.  If you apply for a job and don’t get it, don’t give up.  Thank the company for their time and ask them for advice and constructive criticism.

We are constantly communicating.  It’s a very marketable skill, and it’s applicable and essential in every career.  In the workforce, you will constantly be communicating with coworkers, clients, consumers, etc.  You might even market a product or service through various forms of communication.  Excellent communication skills that are professional and appropriate for your workplace are essential for happiness and success.

Communication is key.

What are some of the ways you work to improve your communication skills?  What do you think is the “Most Marketable Skill?”  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

May

Is May really almost over?

It has been such a busy month for me and it flew by in the blink of an eye!

Earlier this month, I hosted a Trivia Time fundraiser for the 550 Relay.  The 550 Relay is a nation-wide marathon relay that raises money for the LIVESTRONG Foundation and Camp Kesem.  I am the State Captain for Team Iowa for this event.

The Trivia Time fundraiser took place at Old Chicago in Coralville.  They generously donated 10% of the revenue generated during the event.  We also raffled off several great prizes during the trivia competition, including five tickets to a White Sox v. Royals game!  With trivia team registrations, 10% of the revenue, and the raffle money, we were able to raise $1252.60!

trivia time fundraiser

I am nearly halfway to my goal of $5000.  If you would like to donate, you can visit my personal fundraising page.

Collectively, the participants of the 550 Relay have raised a total of $73,881 so far.

The next big event of the month was my college graduation!  After a busy two weeks of final papers and exams, I was able to walk across the stage and earn a BA in English and Journalism & Mass Communication.

After the graduation ceremony, I spent the day with my grandma, several of my aunts and uncles, my parents, and my siblings.  We indulged in a Bloody Mary at Share before heading to Formosa for lunch.  Afterwards, we made our way to Cedar Rapids for a quick power nap and then dinner and drinks at one of my favorite restaurants, Daniel Arthur’s.  What better way to celebrate than with family and lots and lots of delicious food?!

graduation

I am looking forward to exploring what is next for me and navigating through the “real world.”

 

Drag Fashion: A Work of Art

Hi all!

I’d like to share with you a story I wrote for my Writing Across Cultures class! I realize that this will be a pretty long blog post, but I’m proud of the story and wanted to post it here!  Hope you enjoy!

 

Drag Fashion: A Work of Art

IMG_0242

“Clothes make the woman, clothes make the man: the costume is of the essence.” —William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Drag queens have been around at least since the Elizabethan era.  Although at the time they might not have been known as “drag queens,” in Shakespearean theatre, men took on female roles due to the fact that women were banned from the stage.

According to an article titled “Costuming the Shakespearean Stage,” the audience would be able to tell from the costuming whether an actor was portraying a male or female character.  Because Shakespeare’s plays were originally written for the professional stages of London, the apparel reflected items that were commonly worn in England.  The article states that the basic apparel frequently seen on Shakespearean stages for men included “the shirt, doublet, breeches, nether hose, jerkin, cape, robe or gown, ruff or band, hat, and footwear.”  Common costume for women included “the chemise, dress or kirtle, farthingale, gown, ruff or band, headdress, and footwear.”

Today, many famous actors still take on female roles.

Loyce Arthur, associate professor of design in the University of Iowa Theatre Arts Department, mentioned some familiar faces that have cross-dressed for their roles.

“Jaime Fox and Jim Carrey played women on the show In Living Color,” said Arthur.  “Robin Williams played Mrs. Doubtfire.  Jared Leto was the latest serious character.  On the Key and Peele show they play women from time to time.”

While the stage remains a repetitive factor when it comes to female impersonation, Barbara Croy, costume tailor for the University of Iowa Theatre Arts Department, noted that there may be differences in concept and approach when cross-dressing for a performance in a play or for a performance in a drag show.

“Most cross-dressing for the theatre is inherent in the script and is used as a vehicle for comedy or social comment within a plot,” said Croy.  “Sometimes a director chooses to use gender switching to express or provoke certain thoughts.”

What could be considered as early forms of traditional drag began appearing in the late 1800s and early 20th century.  Once again, the stage was the place of female impersonation.  It was around this time that Julian Eltinge, known as the “leading female impersonator of all time,” began performing in Broadway shows appearing as a woman.

According to “Effeminacy or Art? The Performativity of Julian Eltinge,” female impersonation was especially popular during this time period, and, in the late 1800s, what is known as “prima donna” impersonation or “glamour drag,” became the main form of female impersonation.  This type of female impersonation typically featured glamorous costumes depicting beautiful women.

Gina (pronounced “jahy-nuh”) Belle, a drag queen who performs at Studio 13, a nightclub in Iowa City, Iowa, described her personal style as “tacky, gaudy, old-school drag.”  Her style relates to “glamour drag” as she mentioned rhinestones, sequins, feathers, and beads as must-haves in the costumes she puts together.

While some drag queens today draw inspiration from “old-school, glamour drag” many modern drag queens try to emulate a specific celebrity in their performances or simply attempt to look how a woman today might present herself.

Quentin Hill, a University of Iowa student who has performed in drag, discussed his choice of wigs for his performances.  While Hill generally picks a wig that will fit his drag persona, Ann Franklee, if he knows what numbers he is going to perform that week he will try to find one that resembles the performer or the artist.

Often times, drag queens will change their outfits, including their wigs, for each number they perform.  Hill generally performs two to three numbers per show as Ann Franklee.

“Ann is very classy and modest,” said Hill.  “I always describe her as your cute, little Jewish girl.  She likes to wear a lot of dresses and her hair is always well dressed and her makeup is always clean.”

The process of transforming into Ann takes about three hours on average for Hill.

After showering, shaving, and organizing his variety of products for his performance, Hill will sit down and start his transformation ritual.  First, he glues down his eyebrows using an Elmer’s Glue Stick.

“It takes a couple layers of glue to make your eyebrows lay completely flat,” said Hill.  “Then you comb all the clumps because if you don’t get the clumps of glue out when you cover your eyebrows you’re going to see the chunks in it.”

Next Hill moves onto the process of applying facial makeup, a practice that many drag queens refer to as “painting.”

“It’s very much an art,” said Hill.  “You really are transforming yourself and it’s like working on a piece of art.  That’s why we call it painting your face.”

Hill begins by blending foundation into his hair line, over his ears, and down his neckline.  After the foundation is set, he can start drawing on eyebrows, applying eyeliner, resetting the creases of his eyes, and applying false eyelashes.  The eyes are followed by the contouring and highlighting of his nose, cheeks, and forehead, and filling out his lips with a combination of lip liner, lip stick, and lip gloss.

If you want to look good, Hill’s advice is to put in the money for decent makeup.

“You really can’t get away with using just regular makeup,” said Hill.  You need to use theatrical makeup and stage makeup.  When we transform our faces we literally redraw almost all of our facial structure.”

Another important aspect in female impersonation is clothing and the presentation of the body.  While many of the drag queens who perform at Studio 13 have cited stores such as Express, Forever 21, Plato’s Closet, and Ragstock as their main sources for costumes, some drag queens have enlisted the help of Croy to design, make, and alter their clothing.

Croy has done custom work for several past Miss Gay Iowa USofA participants.

Miss Gay Iowa USofA is a pageant that requires all contestants to be males.  The participants are judged in three categories: Personal Interview, Talent, and Evening Gown.

According to Arthur, while shoes used to be a problem in regards to dressing female impersonators, you can now find size 12 and 13 shoes at stores such as Payless ShoeSource.

“It’s much easier in 2014,” said Arthur.

Before the clothing comes the task of acquiring a female figure.  According to Croy, this can be done through various methods of binding with duct tape and purchasing ready-made foundation garments, including padding for the bust and hips as well as cinchers for the waist.  There are places that manufacture especially for the cross-dressing community.

Hill also described his process for transforming his body into a feminine figure.

“You need to have at least five or six pairs of panty hose,” said Hill.  “You also need to have hip pads.  We get foam hip pads and we cut them out so we can look more curvy and natural.  You need to have a bra and come up with a way to make boobs, so what a lot of drag queens do is take a couple pairs of panty hose and fill them with rice.  Then you can measure out kind of how big you want your cup size to be.”

Along with creating a female figure through hips and breasts, Eltinge shared a few especially detailed tips and tricks for crafting more feminine hands with The Theatre:

“I usually wear a bracelet on each arm to shorten the length of the arms,” said Etlinge.  “The size of the hands can apparently be decreased by the way in which they are held.  The first rule is never to allow the breadth of the back of the hands to be seen, but to hold the hands so that the narrowest portion, for instance, the thumb and forefinger or little finger, will show.  The hands are powdered very white, and then the fingers from the second knuckle to the tip are rouged very red.  This gives the effect of tapering fingers no matter how blunt and square they may actually be.”

Many female impersonators today approach Croy with a vast knowledge that is handed down from one “sister” to another about the tricks of the trade.

These tips and tricks are often passed down through what are called drag families.  According to Hill, these families occur when an older drag queens takes in a younger drag queen and makes her a daughter.

“Your drag mother can be one of the most influential people in your life and really supportive in both your drag life and outside it,” said Hill.

In Iowa City, many drag queens have the last name “Belle,” making them part of that specific family.

“With a family comes a resemblance and a kind of style,” said Hill.  “You’ll notice a lot of resemblance amongst the Belles.  They all kind of paint the same way.”

In Iowa City, the Belle family, Ann Franklee, and several other drag queens have found a home on the stage at Studio 13.  Known as the “Corridor’s favorite GLBTQ Nightclub for over a decade,” the venue hosts drag-related events almost daily.

Currently, one of Studio 13’s most popular events is called Sasha Belle’s Drag Race.  This event is inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, a drag competition show airing on Logo TV.

RuPaul is cited by Logo TV as the “most famous drag queen in the world” and is the “host, mentor, and inspiration” of their show.

At Studio 13, Sasha Belle’s Drag Race is currently in its third season.  The competition starts at 10 p.m. every Sunday.

Each week, competitors are judged based off of their participation in a challenge as well as on a runway look.  Usually, the competition will involve all kinds of different drag skills.  In the first challenge of season two, competitors had to craft their own outfit out of duct tape.  At the end of the show, the bottom two contestants have to lip sync a song for their life.  Whoever performs the best lip sync gets to stay.

Drag culture has also made its way to Iowa City in the form of an annual Drag Ball.

In the fall of 2013, Spectrum UI, formerly known as GLBTAU, sponsored the ninth annual Drag Ball.

Hill, who served on the board of GLBTAU as president for two years, explained that a lot of time and money goes into planning the ball.

“We usually start planning in the spring semester so they have it ready for the fall,” said Hill.  “It’s a really long, drawn out process.  We usually hold it in the Second Floor Ballroom of the IMU so we have to make sure that we book that early enough in advance because we like to have the drag ball at the end of October, kind of around Halloween.  And October is also LGBT History Month so it’s a good time to do that.”

Usually, a drag queen is hired to emcee the show and two to three professional drag queens are hired to perform at the event.  Students can also perform as amateurs.

Last year, many people drew fashion inspiration from Lady Gaga.

“It was right when “Applause” came out by Lady Gaga so a lot of people kind of went with that theme,” said Hill.

Hill channeled Ann Franklee for the occasion and wore a grey dress with a black belt around the waist for one of his numbers and a bright, yellow skirt with a black, sequined tank top for another.

Although the fashion and style may change from year to year and from drag queen to drag queen, the stage continues to be a welcoming place for the transformation and performance of female impersonators.

“Everyone needs to go see a drag show at least once in their life,” said Hill.  “For a lot of the drag queens, they’re entertainers and what they’re doing is entertainment.  It’s expression and it’s art to them.”

 

Not Four Years, But For Life

Not Four Years, But For Life

seniormomsday

2014

“Do you two realize you look like twins?!”

My mom and I smiled at each other as we turned toward the complete stranger in the purse aisle of a T.J. Maxx.  We thanked her for her comment, which was flattering, and assured her that it wasn’t the first time someone had noted our similar appearance.

Ever since I was a little girl, friends, family, and even complete strangers like the woman who stood before us would remark at how much I look like my mom.  What they didn’t always realize was how much alike we are personality wise.  This was something I didn’t realize either until I moved away to college and joined Alpha Xi Delta, the sorority that would play a major role in deepening our mother-daughter relationship.

2010

After receiving my acceptance to The University of Iowa, the next question that everyone seemed to eagerly ask me was, “Are you going to join a sorority?”  I would always respond with an indifferent, “I don’t know,” and a shrug of my shoulders.

Pre-move, the continuous questions about going through recruitment loomed in the back of my head.  Many of my family members had been in sororities, including my mom and my sister.  Therefore, I was considered a legacy at both of their chapters.  Described in Alpha Xi Delta’s blog, a legacy is the granddaughter, daughter, sister or niece of a sorority member in good standing.  My mom and my sister both encouraged me to at least give the recruitment process a try.

Even before stepping foot on campus I was intimidated by the process due to the preconceived notions I had of sororities and the women who were a part of them.  I pictured myself, with my wavy and unmanageable brown hair, pale skin, and my beanstalk stature, lined up next to bronzed, blonde beauties.  But if my mom and sister found something special in Greek life, maybe I would, too.

I signed up for the two weekends of emotional overload that is known as Fall Formal Recruitment.

On a hot, sticky August afternoon, I took my first steps into sorority life and never turned back.  I became fast friends with other women as we bonded over our shared insecurities and the overwhelming ridiculousness we were putting ourselves through.

We would march our way into one of the 15 sororities on campus in a single file line, whispering nervous comments to each other right before we reached the door and shook the perfectly manicured hand of the sorority woman we were matched up with.

There was singing, chanting, awkward conversations, disappointment, excitement, decorations, and exhaustion.  Every emotion you could feel, you felt it very deeply.  Sorority recruitment brought all of your insecurities to the forefront and throughout the process you were too emotionally drained to try to hide them.

Erin McDermott, former Recruitment Chair for Alpha Xi Delta, offered advice for potential new members: “By going through the formal recruitment process you have nothing to lose but everything to gain. While the process may be difficult and tiresome everything happens for a reason. Stay true to your beliefs.”

Numerous times I wanted to drop out of the Fall Formal Recruitment process, yet I clung to the hope of finding something special and something similar to what my mom and sister had found in their organizations.

By the end of the exhausting process, I found the one place on campus that I truly call home today.  I received a bid, or a formal invitation, to join Alpha Xi Delta, the same chapter that my mom called home 29 years earlier.

1981

“Why did you want to join a sorority,” I asked my mom.  “I didn’t,” was her short reply.

Oddly enough, my mom and I shared a fairly similar recruitment experience.  When Gayle Keiser, my mom, began attending The University of Iowa, her mom encouraged her to give the recruitment process a try.  Gayle was hesitant much like I was, but she eventually signed up for recruitment even though she didn’t think she would end up joining a chapter.

Being from a small Western Iowa town, Gayle knew nothing about recruitment when she first arrived at school.

“I was the hick from the small town who didn’t know anything about it and didn’t know about buying the perfect outfit,” said Gayle.   “You would run across girls from the city who knew about buying the perfect outfit and knew what houses they wanted.”

While some women seemed to be more focused on the outward image during recruitment, what Gayle was searching for was genuine friendship.

“Too many people would look at you and decide just by how you looked if they really wanted to talk to you or not,” said Gayle.  “I had a girl that talked to me by looking over my shoulder the whole time.”

Despite her initial hesitations and disfavor of the recruitment process, Gayle found what she was looking for in Alpha Xi Delta.

“I just so happened to meet a group of girls that I enjoyed being around that became my friends,” said Gayle.  “You’re looking for a friend.  You’re looking for someone that you can confide in when things go wrong and also celebrate with when things go right.”

2014

I dug through the purses at T.J. Maxx and held up a black bag adorned with bright roses and skulls.  It was a Betsey Johnson bag, just what we were looking for.  Betsey Johnson was an Alpha Xi Delta just like my mom and me and for Alpha Xi Delta’s Moms’ Day celebration each spring we put together a Betsey Johnson basket for a silent auction.

I began to reminisce about my past four years of college as we moved to the sunglasses stand.  I had found that something special I was looking for in Alpha Xi Delta.  I’d found friendship, confidence, involvement, leadership, and passion.  I had found a group of women to confide in when things went wrong and to celebrate with through the good times, and that group included my mom.  Through recruitment, initiation, late nights, exams, brunches, and various celebrations, not only had my sisters been there, but my mom had been there as well.

“What has been the best part of being in the same sorority as me,” I asked my mom as I picked up a pair of tacky, hot pink sunglasses.

“It’s been fun to share the secrets and to feel the bond of not only mother and daughter, but of sisterhood,” said Gayle. “It’s brought me back to the sorority and to trying to be involved again.”

Not only had my relationship with my mom grown deeper thanks to Alpha Xi Delta, but her presence throughout my sorority experience made for special memories that few can understand.  In turn, I had helped her reconnect with the organization that meant so much to her during her college years.

“Not four years, but for life,” I thought to myself.

My mom and I will have Alpha Xi Delta, and each other, for life.

A Week Without Wi-Fi

Last week I once again faced my irrational fears of planes and sharks as I visited the Dominican Republic.  While there are many aspects of the trip that I could write about, the beauty, the experiences, the different culture, and the people from several different countries, what has continually been on my mind since I returned was how relaxing it was to spend a week without Wi-Fi.

At first I was a little bit anxious not having access to Wi-Fi and to Twitter, Facebook, texting, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as you can imagine.  I was worried about letting my mom know that we had arrived and that I was safe.  About an hour later I realized that she probably wasn’t worried at all (lol).

No Wi-Fi allowed me to have a peace of mind that isn’t very achievable in every day life.  I was able to focus on my surroundings.  I could focus fully on the amazing experiences, the beautiful surroundings, and the interesting people everywhere around me in a way that people can’t do when their phone is attached to their hand and their mind is wandering to their waiting notifications and obligations.

Dominican Republic

Upon returning to the United States and to unlimited internet connection, I’ve found myself feeling even more anxious and annoyed when it comes to social media and to the Internet.  While it’s unrealistic to completely disconnect from the media world, I’ve been trying to think of ways that I could cut back on my usage the past few days.  What I’ve decided to do is completely unplug for about an hour each day.  This means turning off my cell phone, laptop, the TV, etc. and having an hour to center myself and to simply relax.

What are your thoughts on your own media usage?  What ways do you “unplug?”  I’d love to hear your thoughts & ideas!

Have a great week!

Dominican Republic

The Van

Below is a writing assignment that I put together for a class. The assignment was to write about a place and the length requirement was 500-600 words.  I believe I wrote close to 700 and I still feel like I could go on for 10 more pages!  Keep in mind this version is pretty rough, I would love to revise and add on, but here it is for now! Enjoy:

The Van

I never thought I would be the type of person that could go weeks without a hair dryer.  I never thought I’d be the type of person that could give up my slew of unnecessary make up products.  I never thought I’d be the type of person that would be able to use the restroom in various outdoor settings.  I never thought I would be the type of person who would be comfortable sleeping in a new, and many times unexpected, place every night.

In the summer of 2013, I left behind many of the luxuries of my life and I adjusted to the unknown.

In the summer of 2013, I lived in a van.

My adventure began when I came across an email describing an internship with a nonprofit organization based out of Des Moines, Iowa called Above + Beyond Cancer.  The organization was coordinating an event called the Million Dollar Marathon – Coast to Coast for Cancer.  The event was a marathon relay from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, with three to four marathons being run each day, all by a variety of people who had been touched by cancer.  Along with making it across the country, the goal was to raise $1 million for cancer survivors.

I signed on to be part of the crew.

The majority of my time was spent in our support van, a Mercedes Benz Sprinter Passenger Van that we used to follow behind our marathon runners to ensure their safety.

Simply driving from our starting point in Ocean Shores, Wash. to our destination, Rehoboth Beach, Del., nonstop, should take about 44 hours of driving time.  The van guided us on our journey for 42 days and through 14 states.

The red and white van was about 12 feet tall, 19.5 feet long, and could hold around 12 people. The outside was plastered with Above + Beyond Cancer logos as well as the logos of various sponsors.  The back was coated in neon yellow and read, “CAUTION, SLOW MOVING VEHICLE, RUNNERS AHEAD.”

The inside of the van had black seats and grey, often dirty, floors.  There was always at least one cooler stocked with Gatorade and water for both the runners and the crew.  Consuming too much liquid is something I often avoided on my five-seven hour shifts in fear of not finding a satisfactory place to use the restroom in whatever terrain we were traveling through that day.  Although there’s not much to look at when traveling five mph through Nebraska and Iowa, I found that the endless cornfields provided perfect coverage for the all too often restroom needs.

Never-ending supplies of warm, gooey Clif Bars were often our only snack available.  By the end of the first week we were all sick of them.  Just a glance of their packaging at the grocery store today still makes me a little bit nauseous.

The van was often hot, sweaty, and stinky.  The runners were sweaty before they’d complete their first mile and I was sweaty from the lack of air conditioning on the days when the outside temperatures were too much for the van.  The sweat and stench clung to the seats of the van, a constant reminder of the people that entered our lives every day and completed the inspiring feat of running 26.2 miles.

Despite the heat, despite the smell, despite any frustration, the van was where we always wanted to be.  If you weren’t in the van, you would experience serious “FOMO,” fear of missing out.

Molly Hopkins, a fellow crew member, described the van perfectly: “It was the smelliest place I’ve ever wanted to hang out in.  The place where memories were made and people overcame their own doubts and insecurities.”

The van was our vessel to see the country at a slow but magical pace of five mph.  The van was full of life and inspiration.  Most of all, the van brought people together, united by the memories and stories preserved within its walls, and forever united in the fight against cancer.

Last Semester Bucket List

I am now two weeks in to my last semester as a college student, and let me tell you, the feeling is extremely bittersweet.

I feel more ready than ever to take on whatever new adventures may come my way post graduation.  I also have a serious case of senioritis.  At the same time, it makes me sad knowing that my talented, smart, wonderful friends will all go their separate ways after college, living hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from each other.  This is why I decided it’s time to knock some items off of my bucket list and take advantage of the time I have left in Iowa City as a college student.  I want my last semester of college to be full of unforgettable memories.  No regrets.

Mackenzie’s Last Semester Bucket List:

1.) Go to a basketball game

2.) Go to a baseball game

3.) Take a Zumba class

4.) Visit the Amana Colonies (wine tasting!)

5.) Spontaneously go tandem biking

6.) Ice skating at the Coral Ridge Mall

7.) Karaoke night at Sam’s Pizza

8.) Eat at the dorms

9.) Hot Yoga

10.) Townie bar crawl

11.) Attend a reading at Prairie Lights

12.) Host/attend a Murder Mystery Party

I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list! Feel free to share ideas in the comments!

Cheers!