[D] is for [il Duomo]

It's Thursday.  Let's throw it back a little bit to last July.  

Imagine me sitting at a Panera Bread 15 minutes before their close, frantically trying to upload a scholarship paper.  The internet connection was down at home, so I was praying that their website would get its act together [who am I kidding? It was probably bogged down by 2,483 other applicants  submitting their entries with minutes to spare like I was doing.] and hurry up on the photo uploading process before Panera closed.

The scholarship in discussion here was a teen travel blog contest.  Umm, I'm a teen. And I travel.  And I conveniently have a blog as well.  It was meant to be, obviously.  

As the last photo finally spun its way to 100% uploaded, I breathed a sigh of relief, hit submit, and got out of there before any more annoyed glances were shot my way.  

Fast forward to the present.  I had completely forgotten about that scholarship and became really anxious to see what had happened with it.  Not to toot my own horn here, but in terms of writing and grammar, I generally know where to put commas and stuff which leads to a large advantage over a lot of my peers.  So I got excited, hoping to see some prize money with my name on it, just waiting for me to swing on by and claim it.  

However, what I found was completely different.  

Instead of the best case scenario of "Congratulations! You're a winner! Here, take $1,000!" I found the word "disqualified." 

Why? Because I hadn't uploaded a stupid profile picture, that's why.  

This really bugged me all week long and to be honest, I was a little upset with myself for most of the day after I found out. Not being one who enjoys to dwell on the negatives though, I figured that since I had been disqualified, I can at least share my story here now!
And get this: my A to Z Europe series is now on letter D and I had written all about the Duomo in Florence, Italy.  See?  Every cloud has a silver lining! So without further ado, I present to you my disqualified essay travel blog!

location // Florence, Italy
I glanced down at my watch for what must have been the third time that minute.  The line wasn’t getting any shorter, but time was certainly ticking. To take my mind off my watch, I looked up to take in the intricate detail that adorned the Cathedral of Florence. That view was much better than the one of the seconds flying by.  

After we had passed about an hour admiring the Cathedral from the line, the chance that we had been waiting for finally presented itself.  We were next in line to take a stab at climbing the 463 steps that wound their way up to the viewing platform of il Duomo. 

We had been told that the ascent itself, not including time at the top to drop our jaws because of the view or the climb down, took 45 minutes.  Our group meeting time was slotted for 5 pm which was less than 40 minutes away.  We had to move! 

Directed into a narrow, concrete stairway, I stepped up onto the first stair.  

“Good news, guys! Only 462 steps to go!” Sometimes I’m funny. That wasn’t one of those times.  

Placing one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again, we were climbing.  Attempting to keep track of where we were, I counted the stairs in my head, updating everyone every fifty steps.  At one point, a constant spiral of 150 stairs in a row made my head spin, but I kept going because I was determined to make it to the top.  No way was I going to stand in line for about an hour only to miss out on the view! 
Part of the climb takes you right up close and personal with the frescoes in the dome.  It was incredible!
Eventually, I lost track of what step we were on and my legs were definitely not feeling as fresh as they had before I had bounded up the first 200. Luckily for me, this is when the waiting game started.  Due to the less than abundant width of the staircase, there was barely enough room for a single file line to pass through, so even beginning to imagine that two-way traffic was possible could be considered insane.  

One of the more spacious stairwells. 
Facing a steady flow of descending tourists, we were doomed to stand on a crowded landing for eternity.  Well, at least that’s how it felt.  When there was finally a large enough break for us to claim our spot on the stairs, we were headed up again. 

Soon, the stairs got even steeper.  After one final mini-stairwell, we hit step number 463 and all of a sudden, we were on top of the world.  

Literally stopping in my tracks, I breathed “wow” over and over again.  The entire city of Florence stretched out below me and the hills undulated in the distance.  The bell tower, which had completely dwarfed me when I had my feet on the ground, was now like a little kid that I had to look down to see. 


Taking advantage of the opportunity to see the view from all 360°, I slowly made my way around the platform, never taking my eyes off the scenery.  

After I made my rounds, I regrettably began my descent back to the real world. As I stepped down, down, down, I mused over the incredible display of beauty I had just taken in. After 463 more stairs that were a piece of cake compared to the first set of 463, I stepped into the sunlight.

My jaw dropped for the second time that day when I learned that we still had ten minutes to spare until we met our group.  Wow. 


Fall Appreciation Post in Photographs

I am absolutely in love with fall.  Never before have I enjoyed a season like I have fall 2014.  Thanks to my new camera and a challenge that is forcing me to get it out everyday, I can show you exactly why I'm digging this season. 

Day 12 of my 365 Days of Photographs Challenge
Day 14. An early morning at my very last cross country meet. 
Day 4.  A rainy day didn't keep my family and me from getting our cider and doughnuts! 

Day 19. My mom and I went on a gorgeous bike ride today. 

Day 17. This tree outside of my window is an absolute stunna. 
Extra, extra! This is that same tree - no filter, no edits.  What'd I tell ya? It's incredible!

Day 16. A Sunday afternoon. 

Day 9.  Looking up offers a whole new perspective.  I need to remember to do it more often.  
Day 10.  Apple orchard apples are bar none.  Fact. 
Rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. // Joel 2:23
I have a picture of this same tree three weeks later and it is nearly bare.  Crazy how fast things change.  
 What's your favorite part of fall?




There are two types of sick days. Type #1 is the kind where going to work/school is probably preferable compared to the amount of discomfort that your illness puts you in.  Those are sick-sick days.  Type #2 is the "my slight headache might be contagious, so I wouldn't want to risk passing this on to anyone" kind of days where staying home was most definitely a choice rather than out of necessity.  Those are #sicknotsick days; you know, kind of like #sorrynotsorry? And that was my day.

To be fair, I was honestly worried about still being contagious after catching a gross virus last week that had me down and out all weekend. And I felt a lot better this morning when I woke up (two hours after school had already started) than I did last night.  But in terms of how my day went, it was obviously a #sicknotsick kind of day.

#sicknotsick because . . .

|| I was creative || with my nails. Instead of them being just dark gray, I added a little triangle of blue to each of my ring fingers.  It was really easy and probably everyone and their grandma has done it by now, but it's definitely the most creative I've been with my nails in a while, so I'll pretend like this is an actual accomplishment.

|| I watched ||  Friends. And laughed. A lot.  Because it's just too dang funny.

|| I practiced || my Spanish skills.  Translating articles got way more exciting than it should be -- but I actually knew a lot of words! So that was bueno. (See, I'm pretty much fluent.)

|| I made || soup. Butternut squash soup, to be exact. And it was so delicious that I had it for lunch and dinner. Go fall!


|| I blogged || for the first time for a guest blog! Allie asked me to write a post, so I rambled on and on about how much I love fall.  That was a good way to make you want to go read it, wasn't it? It should be appearing soon though!

|| I read || Z by Therese Anne Fowler, which is a biography (of sorts) of Zelda Fitzgerald. I love biographies & Fowler is killing it with her writing style.  Plus the Fitzgeralds are really interesting in a sort of tragic way. I definitely recommend it so far!

That pretty much wraps up my #sicknotsick day.  Being #sicknotsick was definitely worth all of the homework that I'm going to have to make up tomorrow . . . well, let's just not talk about that.

How do you like to spend your days off?  Do you ever take #sicknotsick days?



The Heartbreaker

I jumped out of bed this morning.  Like for real, jumped out of bed right as my alarm went off for the first time.  And if you're my mom, you know that's not usual.  Today was exciting - I only had to spend three hours in school today (two of which were study halls and the other was English, my favorite.) while the other five were spent in the Detroit train yard.  Not your typical location for a school day, that's for sure.

I, along with the rest of my school's National Honors Society, and students from other area Lutheran schools spent about 4 hours hauling box after box after box after box (. . . continue for infinity. Seriously.) out of semi-trucks and packed them not so-neatly into boxcars to benefit Lutheran World Relief.  

This is Day 5 of the 365 Days of Photographs project! 
Knowing that all of those boxes, stuffed to the brim with soaps, quilts, health kits, school supplies, and other items to benefit those in need, were being sent off to help others, made the hours fly by.  It didn't hurt that we had a pretty good time while we were at it.

Upon arriving back at school, as we were entering the lobby, a girl was headed out.  This was odd since there were still two hours of classes left in the day.  As she got closer, I could tell that she had been crying. Hard.  As one of my friends went up to ask her what was wrong, I watched my friend's shocked reaction to the answer and I knew that this wasn't your typical breakup/failed test score/emotional breakdown. Something was seriously wrong. 

As my friend came back to us, she answered our questioning looks with a sentence that changed the entire mood of today.

"Jamie* committed suicide." 

Instantly, I felt my heart break. Goosebumps covered my arms and I felt like throwing up.  My mind raced as I searched for some possible way that this could be a sick joke, a misunderstanding.  

To give some background, Jamie was a student that no longer attended my school but a lot of her close friends were made in her time spent there.  I didn't know her well at all, yet I never heard a bad thing about this girl.  She was sweet, funny, and seemed genuinely kind.  I know that she had trouble with a mental health problem of some sort, but that isn't what this post is about.  

What it is about though is how incredibly tragic this situation is. Tragic for her mom, dad, little sister and all of her family who loved her. Tragic for her best friends who found out through a phone call that she had taken her own life.  Tragic for people like me who, from a distance, had no idea that anything was currently wrong.  Shocking, heartbreaking, and terrible for all.  

As I walked the halls of school the rest of today, I noticed tear-stained faces and an odd silence that rarely is accredited to a high school hallway. 

I don't know what was racing across other students' minds today, but I do know what was on mine.  

Why am I so quick to avoid "awkward" eye contact and look down at my phone instead of offering a smile?  Why is it so easy to step over a pile of dropped books to avoid being late to class instead of being compassionate? How come taking the best for myself and leaving the leftovers for others is considered "getting ahead in the world" instead of what it is: selfishness? 

How many people do I walk past each day that are struggling? Struggling with realizing that they are incredibly important and valuable no matter what the world may tell them? Struggling with addictions, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts? Yet how often do I take the time to take the focus off of myself and show love towards them? 

Guys, this is heavy stuff. But it's real. So tragically real.  

I had spent all morning helping those that are worlds away, yet somehow I frequently miss doing the same for those that I encounter face-to-face on a day to day basis.  

As Facebook posts, pictures, and heartfelt goodbyes honoring Jamie are flooding my newsfeed tonight, I can only think of how she would react to knowing how many people there were that cared for her and loved her. 

This is proof of how urgently important it is that we share the overflowing, abundant love of Christ with everyone that we come across.  You and I do not know the personal battles that the people around us are fighting every day.  Maybe we won't ever know.  But what we can do is make sure that everyone realizes that they are valuable and that they are worth it - no matter what the world may tell them. The smallest bit of compassion and love on our part may mean the world to someone who needs it.  You never know. 

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:8

God, the Creator of the universe, the Almighty, holds each and every person so dear that he sent his son to die for you, and you, and you, and me and everyone else on this planet.  If each person is worth the death of God's only and perfect son, then shouldn't we treat them as such? 

The fact that not everyone knows and is treated like they're that valuable is the real heartbreaker in my mind.  Take the time to share a smile.  Ask how someone is doing and genuinely care about their answer.  Practice compassion in all that you do.  Who knows? You could be saving a life. 



365 Days of Photographs & Other Events

I just love the word photograph.  It just seems so vintage and candid, like a summer memory from my childhood.  I don't know what it is about photograph, but it's definitely one of my favorite words because of the connotation that comes along with it.

With that being said, I'm tackling my 20 before 20 bucket list again! Here's a few of the updates:

|| numero 6 || complete a 365 day photograph challenge: I got a lens upgrade! My new pal, the Nikon D3200, and I are a great fit together.  To get to know each other a little better, I decided that this would be the perfect time to take the challenge of capturing at least one photograph a day for a year.

Day One is the yearly winner of the Allison's Favorite Fall Tree award. It's a real prize, I assure you.  

 Day Two was Sunday, so of course, what better than a #SelfieSunday?

Day Three's photograph was taken yesterday when I visited Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  

Today is Day Four, and we may be headed out for a family cider mill excursion tonight.  If so, you can look forward to a very fall-themed photograph!

Moving on to the "& Other Events" part of this post . . .

|| numero 19 || be accepted to my dream college: I've taken the (wherever that may be) part off of this goal because I know where that is now! I've been accepted to my second choice and I applied to my first choice yesterday! I should hopefully be able to check this one off of the bucket list by Thanksgiving.

|| numero 20 || work at camp for a summer: I'm one step closer to making this a reality for the summer of 2015! I'm completing the application form soon, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me with this!

Here's to exciting happenings! Happy Tuesday!
Love, Allison

P.S. Anyone a Nikon D3200 user? Care to give a girl some tips?