She

This fictional story is part one of a series of stories I started writing about mental illness, more-so, living day to day with different mental illnesses. I would love to answer any questions you have of me, and would love to talk about mental illness or experiences you have had. 

She

She wanted to wish him a good morning, but she didn’t even have to get out of bed to know that today was a roller coaster day. His barefoot pacing in the hallway echoed in dull thuds up and down the worn floorboards, the constant movement vibrating throughout the otherwise quiet home.

It was just enough to fill her with anxiety all her own. She covered her head with a pillow, blocking out the morning light. Exhaling, she let the hot air surround her face as she pushed the pillow harder around her head. She remained this way until it felt like she would pass out. Just about to remove the pillow, she realized the pattering pace in the hallway had stopped.

Rolling out of bed, she pulled a tank top out of the hamper along with some underwear and strung her ample limbs through the openings in the unwashed garments. Standing by the door, she closed her eyes and inhaled sharply through her nose. She straightened her defeated posture and opened the door. Walking down the hall, she called good morning to him as though she had no idea he’d been nervously treading up and down the hall for the last hour. But he was no where in sight. At the realization, a small, relaxed breath escaped her lungs. Seeing his disheveled gait and lost look first thing in the morning gnashed at her heart, tore apart her stomach.

She crept down the hallway as lightly as her 250 pound body would permit. Outside of the kitchen door, she stopped, listening for him. Not hearing anything, she pushed on the heavy cherrywood door into the old plantation kitchen. The formal dining room was a separate room down the hall, but with just the two of them roaming the huge house, they converted the old pantry into a breakfast nook where they ate most of their meals together. He wasn’t in the kitchen. She separated a bagel and turned the halves face down on the toaster oven rack. A noise in the hallway made her jump, filling her with anxiety again. When no one came through the door, she sighed and opened the fridge, removing the leftover rhubarb pie and homemade whip cream, and began eating the three remaining pieces out of the pie tin while waiting for her bagel to toast.

As she ate the last cluster of rhubarb pieces and licked the whip cream off the rim of the pan she heard the dull, plodding footsteps coming toward the kitchen. Having quelled some of her anxiety with the pie, she forced her spine to stand a little straighter and stretched her facial muscles into a no-longer frequently-flashed smile from over a year ago.

Entering the kitchen, his shoulders filled the doorway, his hulking, slumped posture looming for a moment before entering. He walked straight to the fridge as she asked if he’d eaten yet. He replied with only a shake of his head, not turning away from the contents of the fridge. Walking up behind him, she wrapped her arms around his chest and kissed his neck while suggesting she would make scrambled eggs.

“That sounds nice,” he answered in a detached tone after a few moments.

She gave him a tender squeeze and ran her hand up and down his back as she turned to ready a pan for eggs and hashbrowns. She tried to make small talk as she whisked the eggs and milk into a foamy froth, pouring the mixture into a ceramic pan, but he was lost in his own thoughts.

She remembered when she once told him she wished she could see and experience his mind to better understand what he was feeling. The horrified look he gave her at that moment still sends prickling chills down her spine. He choked up a little, replying that he didn’t want to be stuck in that hell, and he couldn’t understand why she would want to willingly experience it. His eyes looked scared as he said it, and in that moment, the look told her more about what he was going through than the last two years of watching him silently suffer.

Changing the subject, she began to tell him of her plans for the day and was about to invite him to go on a walk through the forest on their property, down a path she just found while searching for a good area for her gardening plot. She turned to make eye contact and realized he was walking out of the kitchen in an almost zombie-like state.

Instantly she was overcome with worry. Had she yammered too long? Said something that upset him? She ran through the scenarios in her head until she was pulled back into reality by the fire alarm. Jumping at the piercing squeal, she pulled the smoking pan of now-charred egg mixture off the stove and set it in the sink, reaching over it to force the window open.The alarm was still ringing, she realized, grabbing a towel just as the kitchen door violently swung open.

“What’s going on? Are you ok?” He implored, not waiting for a response. “It’s just burned? What were you doing, spacing out again? You need to be more careful.”

“Sorry,” she replied, “I was just thinking, I guess.”

“Are you alright?” He more accused than asked. “You’ve been rather distant lately, is something wrong with you?”

It isn’t my problems that are bothering me, she thought, though she’d never say as much. He had as much control over his problems as she did, about zero. It wasn’t his fault he had a mood disorder, anxiety, depression, the whole works. It wasn’t his fault that his brother called her every other week to accuse her of sending him on a “downward depression spiral.” Telling him that she occasionally was stressed out by his constant anxiety and mood swings, something he could not control in the slightest, would kill him.

She knew he’d considered suicide in the past. She didnt ever want to be a potential cause for him to consider it again. She couldn’t handle the pain of losing him.

So when he wrongly saw her stress as absent-mindedness, she didn’t correct him, but would instead say she was tired, or had a tough day at work. It wasn’t ideal, and she felt like she was lying, but until his new medications began to work, she saw that being supportive and trying to create a positive environment were the only weapons she could use against the dark thoughts harbored in his mind.

Instead, she apologized for startling him and creating such a ruckus, and said she would clean up and open the windows, and suggested they head to town and get breakfast at the diner while the kitchen aired out. His gaze was fixed on the burnt eggs in the sink and he didn’t answer. She waited, and after a full minute, asked, “sound good?”

“Ugh, sure. I mean yes, lets go.”

She opened the four other windows in the sunny kitchen, got dressed and grabbed her purse, her long forgotten bagel still in the toaster oven.

He seemed like a completely different person at the diner. He chatted with the waitress and twittered on about different things he had been reading up on lately. He smiled. They chatted lightheartedly over coffee for almost an hour.

When they returned home, they walked through the woods on the trail, holding hands and planning out where to build treehouses and forts with their future children.

They returned to the house and helped pick wood ticks off each others clothes and he playfully poked fun and how squeamish she was about them.

They made love, sweetly, then passionately, in the sunroom and lay together in each others arms until the sun grew too warm and they had to retreat into the cool recesses of the house. She told him she was going to shower, then do some chores around her house, spending her last day off work doing laundry, dishes and cleaning the floors. It would only take an hour or two, then they could spend the evening together.

As she spoke, she could see his demeanor change. His eyes went from a bright, happy blue to a clouded storm as his shoulders began to slump forward.

She should have known better, but before she could stop herself, she asked,

“What’s wrong, sweets? Did I say something wrong?”

A regretful look flickered through his eyes, then he was lost again.

She made a move to hug him. He sat, stone-still, looking at something, or nothing, she wasn’t sure. She released the hug and stood there for a moment. He still hadn’t moved.

“Umm, I’m…I’ll let you be for a little while. I’m gonna clean up my mess in the kitchen.” She said as she began to walk away.

Just before she got out of arm’s reach, his hand shot out and gently grasped hers. He pulled her back in front of him and hugged her waist, burying his face in her plump midsection. He held her, not moving. After a full three minutes, he pulled his head back to look up at her face.

“Sorry.”

She smiled at him, said he had nothing to be sorry for, and said she really should get on the dishes.

“You just do something that’ll help you relax, I’ll be back as soon as I finish.”

As she walked out of the room, she looked back. He was lost again-where, she didn’t know, but the pained expression infecting his face told her that the thoughts or memories that were torturing him were not friendly, and he would probably spend the rest of the day paralysed by his own mind.

She found herself in the kitchen now, but instead of cleaning, she flipped the dial on the toaster oven, reheating this morning’s bagel. She layered as much whipped cream cheese on in as she could and absentmindedly ate her stress away. It wouldn’t solve her problems, but it made her feel better for now. Though, her heart still ached for him as she thought about his uncontrollable struggle.

Would he ever feel better? Would his new medications and therapist release him from the prison of his disease? She often worried she would come home one day and find him taken by the disease that tormented him.

One day at a time, she told herself, licking a bit of cream cheese off of her finger.

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Let’s talk depression and why I dislike suicide prevention campaigns – Daily Thoughts 02JAN2015

Over the last few years I have dealt with depression and mental illness in many forms. Personally-a minor depression which caused me to constantly doubt myself and put myself down, never being able to convince myself that I was doing the right thing or I was doing well. I was completely unable to see the good I had done, no matter how many people told me otherwise.

I also have been dealing with a much more serious form of depression in someone very close to me. It was heartbreaking to me that this person I love dearly was struggling so much internally. Watching them seek and receive treatment and walk the long LONG road of recovery has been equal parts almost impossibly hard to watch and beautifully wonderful watching this person get back to being who they were before they got depression.

Why do I bring this up? Because so many people think that depression and mental illness is a fault in the affected person that cannot be fixed.

In reality, depression is something that happens TO a person, just as you or I get a cold at any time of the year. Depression happens to someone without any warning. The problem is, unlike a cold, where you cannot hide your runny nose and sneezes, depression can be hidden, festering into a horrible, system-wide attack.

The best example I keep coming back to is the death of Robin Williams. “But he committed suicide,” you counter.

I disagree. It is true, he took his own life, but it was the result of depression. Depression and mental illness are the CAUSE of suicide. Here is the best example I can think of: Lets take a cancer patient. They have been suffering from cancer for years. Getting treatments, seeing different doctors, but the treatments don’t work. When the patient dies, the cause of their death is more than likely organ failure–the liver and kidneys stop working, or the lungs can no longer exchange gasses–and that is why the patient dies. But instead of saying they died from lung or kidney failure, we say they died of cancer, because that’s what we could see on the surface.

When someone commits suicide, that is what you see on the surface, but underneath, it is really the depression or mental illness that caused their death.

Suicide prevention is not what we should be focusing on, managing and treating mental illness and depression is what we should be advocating. Mental illness and depression are the disease, not suicide.

These comics explain depression in a way I never could. Please read them, please look to your family and friends and neighbors and support them if they are experiencing this disease. Or show them to the same people if you are experiencing symptoms of these diseases.

Adventures in Depression

Depression Part Two

Getting lost on purpose – Daily thoughts 7.29.13

Sometimes getting lost on purpose is some of the most fun you can have.

Armed with only a worn, torn road map (Sprint doesn’t service the area we were in well, so no Google maps for us) and my incredible sense of direction – that’s not sarcasm, I always know what direction I’m facing, it’s a convenience that Jacob finds creepy – Jacob and I made our way to his family reunion.

We ran into some road construction and followed the detour like good little Minnesotan travelers, that is, until we realized the detour was taking us over 60 miles out of our way. Then we decided  to take our own route.

We had the map – the map that is about 10 years old, and my trusty navigator-fiance led us off the scheduled detour and onto our own detour.

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Jacob was narrating directions from the map as we took in the sights of roads we had never driven before. I had a rough idea of where we were in reference to where we were supposed to be — and that was WAY way out of our way — but we were enjoying the rolling hills and deep green colors of the trees and varied lolling fields of crops, mostly corn or soy beans, with the occasional bright yellow heads of sunflowers starting to peek up through rows of tall green stems.

Jacob told me our next turn was to be a right onto highway 4 and as soon as I spotted the sign, I slowed and took the turn. After about five miles Jacob said, “I think we are on county 4, not highway 4.”  Sure enough, in my over-eager state to get to our destination, I had made the turn on the wrong road. We briefly discussed if we should turn around or just find yet another route.

Since the road we were on wasn’t even on the map, we just started driving on any east-bound road we could find — all of which were gravel — until it came to an end, then went north until we found another road that went east, thinking that EVENTUALLY we would have to hit highway 4 and know just where we were again.

We never did find highway 4, but after a long series of gravel east-then-north-then-east-bound roads we came to a paved road that appeared to lead around a lake. The navigator told me to take a right – it was a pure guess – but a correct one!

Finally! The “Kuperus Family Reunion” signs that Jacob says his grandmother has been putting up for over 20 years, if not longer popped up on the edge of the road next to a sign pointing to a campground on Lake Koronis.

We were late arriving by about two hours after all our detouring, but as soon as we realized and accepted that we would be late, the ride was relaxing and enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful. We passed many old farmsteads that we fantasized about living in one day — when we grow up.

To quote a Deena Carter song, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line…” but in my experiences, the most fun is the longer and uncharted of the routes, especially with your best friend by your side.

Showing your flaws – Daily Thoughts 7.23.13

I woke up after having several dreams overnight that included many people from my life who, in my dreams, were exactly like they are in real life except their flaws weren’t hidden. Last night, my dreams vividly detailed the worst parts of all of these different people — now I don’t know what that says about me, but it got me thinking about how we see people and how much of ourselves we let other people see.

I have spoken of my great grandmother before and she came to mind once again because she was a person who let me see her in sickness, who told me things that she kept from other people to “keep up appearances.” I also think she told me because she knew that I knew enough to know when she needed help with something. Especially when she didn’t want others to know she wasn’t feeling well.

One of the things on the unending list of things I loved about her was her fashion. She was a working woman when she was in her prime and after seeing this article on buzzfeed I realized that she hadn’t really changed the way she dressed — up until her death in 2008, she dressed in clothing she had probably owned since the 1960s. Sure, she bought new clothes for weddings and had some nice church dresses, but she was a simple woman with simple taste. She didn’t have to “dress to impress” anyone because her attitude toward life did that for her.

I remember helping her press her slacks and blouses and sometimes even her stockings. She had the fashion of a 1950s working woman and the spicy attitude to go with it.

Grandma didn’t like people to know when she was under the weather. She didn’t like it when the neighbor man came over for morning coffee early before she had time to do her hair. But she also didn’t hold back her thoughts. She was a straight-forward, honest woman. If she would have been in my dream, she would have been exactly the same person she was every day. I think that is something to strive for.

It’s okay to have flaws, everyone does. But we waste so much time trying to hide our flaws. What are we afraid of?

The list isn’t short — failure, rejection, humiliation…and those are just the ones that sound the worst, there are so many more, most with worse implications that just self-humiliation.

I’m going to strive to show my flaws, to lay it out on the table. I think once it’s out there, it’s easier to deal with. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken some seriously weird dreams and a buzzfeed article for me to figure this out.

Missing my family – on growing, learning and positive attitude

I’m sitting at work today, miserable. My desk faces the wall and the faces staring back at me are eight blinking screens towering over my head. For twelve hours at a time they cast a ghoulish green hue into my corner, battling with the fluorescent lights to see which can needle through my eyes and spark a white hot fire behind them, blinding my brain, forcing me into a catatonic, ‘function enough to get through the day’ kind of state.

I don’t get to talk to many people. When I do, I am usually on the blame-end of the hot fire poker. It seems that my job — this desk with the towering screens and effervescent bubbling, blinding light — was created as a boiling pot to pour all the blame and anger into.

My desk is the blame vat and I answer the phone.

****

I used to have a job I loved.

LOVED.

A word I cannot stress enough; loved.

A job where I was excited to go to work. Excited to see the people I worked with.

They weren’t just co-worker drones that leered past me in the halls, peering through the slivered windows of the doors in an manner that made you wonder if they knew your darkest secrets or had some juicy gossip on you.

The people I worked with weren’t my co-workers, they were my friends. They were my family. I had to build myself up with them, learn to trust them and have them learn that they could trust me. We were a small group and we knew everyone’s secrets but we took care of each other anyway. They were my family. I consider some my brothers, others are like sisters to me, some, the weird uncle or the creepy in-law that people politely put up with but try to swiftly avoid. But we were a family.

We could, and did, say anything — to anyone. We could fight like families do and still come together at the end of the day and depend on each other, but more importantly, laugh together.

My favorite part of this hodge-podge family was that we used constructive criticism. We could tell each other what we had done wrong, we could hash things over, we were willing to argue and fight to prove our points, just to get our points proven wrong, forcing us to eat our own words.

But we learned. We taught each other and we learned from each other.

Admittedly, this vast amount of learning came mostly through mistakes. We learned from our own mistakes and we learned from others mistakes. We played pranks, said things that were too true, and still, at the end of the day we could sit down as a group – as a family – and the stress of the day would melt away with jokes and laughter. On bad days we would come together and the stress would melt with talking and tears.

The times weren’t always fun. In fact, when I really think, — really remember– my feelings at the time were mostly those of despair, of failure, of hopelessness and a profound feeling of being lost and not knowing where I was going.

I didn’t feel competent in my job skills and that really bothered me. It made me feel inadequate.

But with such a strong support structure, I learned. I grew. I became adequate to myself. I was pushed to my limits, learning things I didn’t know I should have to learn. Doing things wrong the first, second, third time to get them right the fourth, fifth, sixth time.

I loved the attention from my “co-worker” family. I began to crave it, to want to learn more, to see more, to know more, which led to me to begin to ask more.

The best advice to this day I have ever been given was by a friend, and I guess also a co-worker and definitely a fellow family member, we’ll call him the bald eagle. He said,

“Always question everything.”

****

When I first started working at my current job, I felt shunned. I came into the job with experience, which, in the blame vat, is something that you are not supposed to be equipped with, I guess. The people that were already working here learned their skills after they were hired, it was part of taking on the job.

I felt like I was walking in with a leg up, I had less training to do, less initial learning to complete. Still, I went through the same exact training as everyone else, but I felt like I was treated differently – and not in a good way.

When I asked questions, I felt like I was put down because I knew too much. If I asked a question that the ‘askee’ did not know the answer to, I was told

“it doesn’t matter, we don’t need to know that stuff here.”

I loathed that answer. “We don’t need to know that.”

Why? Why would we limit ourselves to knowledge?

At first, I brushed off this limit that was placed on my allowance for knowledge. I went with the flow, that’s what you have to do when you first start working for a large company. If you fight the current you get beaten down, eaten by a big hungry bear as you struggle backwards upstream.

But this limit has begun to eat at my soul, to tarnish the cheery disposition that I work so hard to bring along with myself every single day. It has turned me sour to the job.

Now a little bit about the blame vat:

I work in an area that I cannot leave or people might die. It sounds like I’m being dramatic, but I’m really not. I never get to meet these people, the patients that I take care of. I only see their names and their heart rhythms. I don’t get to administer care if something goes wrong, and the worst feeling I have ever felt as a health care provider is watching someone’s heart just stop beating and not be able to do anything about it.

So why do I call this place the blame vat?

A wise woman and mentor of mine once told me,

“Shit rolls downhill.”

The blame vat is the bottom of the barrel. It’s where frustrated nurses call when their patients aren’t doing well, it’s where blame is placed when messages don’t get passed along through proper channels.

We are supposed to have all the answers but have absolutely no authority, which spirals into a cyclical question hell. A nurse calls and wants to know what she should do for a patient with a certain heart problem. I may know, I may not know, but even if I did, I can’t tell her. Why? Not because I’m an asshole. Trust me, I’m not. I can’t tell her because even though I have had the experience of treating patients for seven years, now I only get to look at a screen. And you can’t diagnose or treat a patient just based on their name and their heart rhythm.

So this vat of blame that I stew in for 12 hours at a shot has really brought down my mood. Instead of coming into work with a smile on my face, I have noticed that I look at the ground, avoid eye contact. I walk as fast as I can to get where I’m going, and once I arrive at the blame vat, I stay put. (Mostly because I can’t leave) but also because interactions with the other jilted people is just as unpleasant.

Working for a large company means you have a lot of co-workers. But to me it means that I make no friends. There are a lot of people around, but you never really work with the same group of people. You don’t get to build up trust in those around you, and they don’t learn that they can trust you.

I am tired of the blame vat.

I hate – and I don’t use that word lightly – coming to work with the mindset “I really don’t like my job.”

I don’t like thinking of my job as a torture chamber. I want more positivity in my life, and the only place I don’t feel positive is at my job.

I have decided to change that, because I really do like my job. I have the opportunity to improve or save up to 70 patient’s lives every time I go to work. The health care professional in me should be giddy with joy for that statistic.  So I have started forcing myself to smile more. To make eye contact with people again. To make meaningless conversation because I guess that is what you do when you work at a big company with co-workers. (I’m getting really cynical, but this job just really gets at me, crawls under my skin and lays it’s itchy eggs of negativity.)

My main point is that I’m trying. Trying to be more positive.

Sometimes trying is all the better you can do.

So I smile, I say hello and make eye contact, I compliment people who I otherwise wouldn’t talk to because, as sad as it sounds, the only way I can get people to talk at all around here is to compliment them. It feels good to give people compliments, to see them smile. It makes me feel good that I made them feel good, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’ve made a difference.

And that, I believe, is the real heart of the problem. I’m still stuck, boiling in the blame vat and I feel like I haven’t made a difference.

My quest for knowledge and my push for others to know more has been crushed. My attempts at teaching, at constructive criticism, at learning from others, have failed, they are not accepted methods of practice here. How can I make a difference? How can I help others when I can’t learn and grow?

I miss my old work family.

Injuries are not a vacation – Daily thoughts 7.15.13

This is my second week back to work after having lower back surgery. It feels great to be back at work, back to my old life, back to me.

But then co-workers started asking me questions like

Doesn’t is suck to be back after all that nice time off?

No. Not it does not suck. Before I was gone, I was in excruciating pain every second of the day. I couldn’t walk standing up straight, I didn’t feel like myself.

Now I am back at work, I don’t have any restrictions and I am starting to feel like the peppy ‘ol me again. It is really nice.

While I was gone a co-worker broke her foot and was unable to work for a few weeks during the initial healing period. Today was her first day back and in the first three hours she has been here, I have heard no less than four people ask her how her “vacation” was.

Getting injured and missing work is not a vacation.

It is miserable.

Your life is stopped in it’s tracks, and instead of planning on going out with friends, you plan (or more like freak out about) your finances, because your employer doesn’t pay you while you are out on leave. You figure out how to get to and from doctors appointments when you can’t drive a car.

And then, when you are finally feeling better you come back to a place where you are supposed to feel normal, and your co-workers, these people that are essentially your friends, say things like this.

It makes you want to go crawl back into bed and hide under the covers with a pint of ice cream.

Being injured and out of work or missing school doesn’t mean you are on a vacation from life. It means that your life gets put on hold while you try to figure out how to put yourself back together enough to function normally.

Taking your own engagement photos – Daily Thoughts 7.14.13

After waiting for a year and three months, I was finally able to talk Jacob into taking some engagement photos yesterday. I think it worked because I guilt tripped him into it by saying, “Well we were supposed to get married three days ago, but that kind of fell through, so can we please, please, PLEASE at least take some engagement pictures?!”   🙂

We also want to try to keep our wedding budget low and since I have the equipment to take our own pictures and the willingness to learn how to edit them, I thought it would be a fun experience to take a stab at taking our own photos. My eventual goal is to also take some at the North Shore — my second most favorite place in Minnesota — and at Itasca State Park –My first favorite place in Minnesota.

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We went to Maplewood State Park in hopes of finding a nice green grassy field. I was willing to put up with the potential of wood ticks if it meant that we could get some nice pictures in some prairie grass. But when we arrived, all of the nice prairie grass fields look like they have been mowed over and sprayed with gallons of weed killer.

The thistles were somehow able to survive though…

Needless to say, we had a pretty good time.  I made us a little picnic lunch we spent the morning with Jacob posing like I was next to him while I ran back and forth between the camera. This is the first time I have tried to take pictures in this fashion, so it got a little frustrating at times, but we got a couple good photos out of the experience. July132013h

Some things I took away from our experience taking my own engagement photos:

1.) Make sure you tell your Fiance that you intend to take the photos AS WELL AS going to the park to have a picnic and enjoy some lake time  🙂 I woke up at 5 a.m. and started thinking about all the fun pictures we could take while Jacob was still asleep, and, well, he was a little disappointed that he had to spend part of the day standing in front of a camera. (Overall, he enjoyed it, I just don’t think he wants me to know that)  ❤

2.) If you own a remote for your camera, learn how to use it before you go out to take photos of yourself.  — I bought a wireless remote a while back but I never bothered setting it up. It wasn’t hard, but with the imminent rain, I just decided that running back and forth between the camera and using a 10-photo burst with the timer was a little easier. (I have learned!)

3.) Even though Jacob seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world when we started, with enough joking around and wandering off of the marked trails, we were able to have fun, which I think was the best part of our day.

4.) When taking your own photos, make sure that the other person doesn’t make faces like this when you are taking specific pictures that you want to use on your save-the-date cards!

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 We took four different pictures for our Save-the-dates like this and he made a crazy face in each one. Luckily that just means that I get more time to experiment with taking pictures and he has to put up with me taking a bunch more photos of us together…he acted like I was performing Chinese water torture on him the whole time, but eventually I got that lovely smile to come out, even if he had to throw in some crazy faces too.

5.) I mentioned this a little, but I should have done some more investigating into the environment at Maplewood State Park. I frequent Itasca State Park, and I have never seen acres upon acres of fields just mowed down and dead-looking. The only green “fields” we could find were swamps, and since we didn’t pack our hip waiters for our engagement photos (What were we thinking, forgetting those?!)  Any areas with natural prairie grasses were mowed down and a nice dead-brown color. It was rather disappointing.

5.) Plan ahaead. For us, this was a spontaneous idea that I cooked up at 5 a.m. But before we take a trip to do any more photos I will be making detailed calls with the state parks that we will be visiting prior to heading out.

Overall, we had a great time and, as usual, we were able to make light of the less-than-optimal situations.

I have a few more photos on Facebook if you are interested in seeing more photos from this trip!