Independence Day at Pearl Harbor

Independence Day at Pearl Harbor

We turned and stood erect at 8:00am when the National Anthem blanketed the entire Memorial, silent in contemplation and in wonder at the stillness of hundreds of people honoring our country’s flag over the tomb of thousands of soldiers. When the Anthem concluded, there were no applause, no immediate sounds, just breath being caught, tears wiped, and thoughts gathered.

To attempt explaining the overwhleming mix and surge of feelings being at the Pearl Habor Historic Memorial on Independence Day seems merely impossible.


Docked side by side in the Harbor were a United States Aircraft Carrier and a Japanese Battleship who flew an American Flag in honor of our Independence. Our tour guide atop the USS Missouri said, “Look how far we have come,” as she pointed to the two ships across the Bay.

A view from the USS Missouri Battleship toward the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
Left: United States Aircraft Carrier – Right: Japanese Battleship – Docked together as they both fly the American Flag in honor of Independence Day

We entered the Pearl Harbor Monument Theater to watch a daunting 23 minute video as a preface to our boat tour passing Battleship Row to get a closer look at the USS Arizona who lay at the bttom of the bay as a resting place to 1,102 of the nearly 1,800 men killed in the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The almost 30,000 ton ship sank in 14 minutes and burned the just-filled oil tanks for 3 days following the attack. Oil, or “Black Tears,” continue to seep from Arizona at a rate of 1 gallon per day; believed to be the tears of the soldiers below which will conclude rising to the surface when the soul of the last soldier rests.

USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri (behind to the left). They sit bow to stern as a representation of the ‘start’ and ‘end’ to WWII.
Tree of Life (oil) above the USS Arizona. *Photograph by Jerry Kaufman

As we walked about the ‘Road to War‘ and ‘Attack‘ gallaries, we listened to various accounts of the Attack from Civilians, Survivors, and Children (via self-guied audio tour). We walked carefully and quietly along side of hundreds of people around model ships, preserved uniforms, and facts and stories spread across every wall of the open buildings. Feelings similar to that of being in your favorite History class, investing your attention so much so that you lose track of time and never want the class to end, is how I felt as we inched our way through every exhibit, hoping my eyes could capture every bit of information.

We stood in the exact spot where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of WWII, atop the USS Missouri Battleship. We walked about the quarters of the ship impossibly imagining a sliver of how it would have been 77 years ago.

One of the most interesting and empethising backgrounds was that of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a man of contemplation as every human experiences. It is recorded that Yamamoto, while all his staff members were celebrating, spent the day after Pearl Harbor sunk in depression. True or not, the background of Yamamoto is definitely provoking.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial should be among the top of everyone’s bucket lists. We have never felt such a sense of patriotism, reverence, and honor – especially on the Fourth of July. I can’t help but wonder and ask: what would July 4th mean to you if the world were in black and white? No red, white, and blue, just 50 stars and 13 stripes flying high over the free land we stand on at the expense of so many defending peace, democracy, and love. IMG_9350

We watched fireworks over the Memorial from a neighboring beach that night.
A few more pictures showing sheer joy of being at one of our favorite places on Earth on one of the best days of the year!

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Maui in a ’88 VW

Maui in a ’88 VW

|| Maui || June 18-20, 2018 ||

We wanted to go to Maui! So I booked us a flight and Ruby, our ’88 Volkswagon Vanagan for 3 days! We found our van on Outdoorsy (a van rental website for the outdoorsy-types) from Walle and Becky, a couple who owns POME (Product Of My Environment) surf shop in Paia, Maui. Now, Ruby was a manual transmission. You know when someone introduces a new, terrifying skill/experience to you and they demand you jump in the deep end head first to learn the quick way? This was driving Ruby. Finicky, manual transmission, in the dark, on a one-lane road with over 600 hairpin turns… Imagine us stalling out at a stop going up hill – lol. Or parking arcoss 3+ parking spots for easy access out of a parking lot without having to reverse. That was us. 40 mph max (usually about 15 mph) white girls living the pinterest-van-life experience.
But, off we went! 2 bags, Ruby, and ourselves!

Our main “activity” was The Road to Hana.
I downloaded an app called GyPSy Guide that worked offline as a GPS Tour Guide – GOLD, you guys. We named the Siri-like man’s voice, Harrison. He told us all about the history of Maui, kept time for us, let us know what stop options were ahead AND when to turn. I highly recommend this app ($10.99) if you come to any of the Hawaiian Islands and don’t exactly know what you want to do.
THIS ROAD IS INSANE (look at the map below):roadtohanamap
The Road to Hana on Google Maps, with no stops, says you can get there in about 2.5 hours. Hana, the town itself, is nothing special, and we didn’t actually even stop there. We continued from where the map above says “END” around the most thrilling, intense, scary, narrow, edge-of-a-mountain, road path we have EVER experienced. Ever, ever, ever. Twice as crazy as the Road to Hana, and that was crazy.

At one point, Mara watched out her window while the car going the opposite direction watched my side to pass each other without hitting – about 5 inches to spare. The guy driving the other car and I high-fived for not pooping our pants.

A few of our stops along the Road to Hana!

Garden of Eden Arboretum
Besides the 24,587 bug bites I got on this very short, paved hike through the garden, the best plant here was the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees. They literally look like someone painted them – AMAZING!!!

Kaumahina wayside
This stop was random, but had a wonderful view. We took a picture of a nice couple from Kentucky. The wife told us they were hysterically laughing a mile or so back at sign that said “DO NOT PASS” on a one-way part of the road. lol I liked her. She has a sense of humor.

Pua’a Ka’a Wayside
Harrison told us to bypass this stop as it was a wayside where locals like to come swim because not a lot of tourists stop. Except THESE TWO TOURISTS! (Who happened to need a shower). We parked Ruby, got our travel size shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and headed to a little waterfall tide-pool were we had THE BEST bath we had our whole trip (compare to showers at public beaches with people around and having to press the button every 3 seconds for water to continue to spray unevenly at one-trillion fastness. This was arguably the best stop.

Hana Lava Tube Cave
“Let’s go,” Mara said, as Harrison told us about he Lava Tube Caves as I zoomed passed the turn. I swung a U-ey and $25 and two bright-ass flash lights later we were inside the Lava Tubes giving ourselves a self-led tour. They were AMAZING. Hawaii’s geographical history is mind-blowing. We don’t understand how people don’t stop to read the historical description signs… If you travel, read. Learn something! There’s NO way this trip would have been as amazing as it was if we didn’t care to learn about what we were doing!

Wai’anapanapa State Park
Okay, this bay was out of a freaking book. Every shade of blue you can imagine, crystal clear water, black sand/pebble beaches, and black lava cliffs everywhere. I was hoping to see someone just off one of the cliffs so I could convince Mara that we could do it too. But, no one did. Probably because it’s not advised??

Haneo’o Beach
I have no words – definition of paradise. There are 2 legends of the island behind us in the photos: First, the demi-god, Maui, pulled up the island with his magic hook that connected to the heavens (Moana, right? lol). The other is that Pele, the goddess of volcanoes broke the earth open from the Kaiwiopele hill and created the island. Sidenote: Hawaiians take Pele very seriously and believe the current volcano on the big island in erupting because Pele is angry. Mara won’t let me take a lava rock home because we cannot be held responsible for volcano activity. lol

Ohe’o Gulch / Seven Sacred Pools
We took the short loop. By this point we were exhausted so a two mile each way hike didn’t sound appealing. We chose the bang-for-your-buck trail that lead us to a look out point without a railing – giving Mara anxiety the naturally brings her hands to the earth for stability. lol It was fine, there’s no way we would’ve fallen. Her eyes thought otherwise.

Ke’anae Peninsula
“Ke’anae’s Old Stone Church, called “Ihi’ihio Iehowa o na Kaua” in Hawaiian, was built in 1856 and is the sole surviving building of the April 1st, 1946 killer tsunami which wiped out the entire village. There was an 8.6 monster earthquake that originated in the Aleutian Islands chain off the coast of Alaska that caused a 100 ft. high, devastating tsunami near the epicenter in the Aleutians, but had lost most of their energy and were maxed out at 35 feet by the time they hit the Ke’anae Peninsula.”
Church in Ke'anae

We had one small hiccup after the Road to Hana on Piilani Highway around “The Backside of Haleakala (mountain)” 

We came to a stop close to the top of a dirt/rock road following 5+ cars because (God forbid) traffic was coming the opposite direction. Like I said before, the roads are TIGHT so stopping to let traffic through is more than common. Except this time, Ruby quit. And wouldn’t start again. We started to lose our cool (Mara). We knew Ruby was hot and needed a breather from the rough terrain and hills, but she would. not. start. again. It would cost thousands of dollars and HOURS to get help out here. We thought, battery. Okay, let’s wave one of the trillion cars passing us down to ask for jumper cables. So we did. about a dozen times. Turns out, rental cars are not equip with jumper cables (something to consider Enterprise/Hertz/Alamo). Finally a nice man with his family stops and says, “have you tried pop-starting it?” We both yell, “NO!” in the most hopeful voices we’ve ever had. He pulled over, recruited two more guys, and before you know it, they were pushing Ruby around the bend and after a couple attempts of different combinations of clutch and gas, Ruby was running. Walter, our angel from heaven who stopped to help us, was shouting, “Pump the gas! Go! And don’t stop!” SO WE DID. This, atop the anxiety from driving a manual along the side of a mountain all day, about gave me an ulcer and Mara a panic attack. Off we went! What’s a road trip in a VW without a little mechanical problem? ;) As we drove along the 50+ mile road back to where we started, we felt as if the long line of cars following the slow VW became our cheering squad and they chose not to pass us just  to see us make it to the end of the road. We passed Walter and his family many times as they stopped and on the highway – hooting, hollering, and honking at him every time, yelling, “Mahalo!!!!”

We showered at the Maui Planet Fitness, had Mexican for dinner, and camped out in the Home Depot parking lot. :)

‘Iao Valley State Park
The next day we went to ‘Iao Valley which was AMAZING. Home of The Battle of Kepaniwai, fought in 1790 between Hawaiʻi Island and Maui. See for yourself:

D.T. Fleming Beach Park
Our last stop of our trip to Maui was at a white sand beach near Honolua Bay. We bought a pink raft at an ABC store who blew it up for us!!!! We spent an hour in the water, scrubbed up at the public beach showers, and headed back to the POME shop. Ruby died on us one more time on the way home – this time while going 35 mph down hill through a stop light. 25 minutes later, she started up! You know what I always say – what’s a road trip in a VW without a little mechanical problem? ;)

Thanks for sharing our journey!!!

aloha hawai’i

what a time to be alive

Rainbow Falls, Hilo, HI

Buying a one-way ticket to Hawaii is mind-blowing. However, being here now absolutely takes the cake. You guys, this place is everything you see in every picture. The photos that look edited, color-enhanced, and ‘look at me-esque’, ARE REAL. The geography of this island is INSANE and I’ve only seen about 20 square miles of it so far. There are about 4-5 bridges between our house and town, and I clap and lose my mind over EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. every time. I am a walking, breathing, exclamation point with adrenaline that is probably making my blood pressure elevate to unsafe levels. Let’s get to it, though. Here, I plan to document nearly every detail of our trip LIFE for the next two months. Here is what you need to know to to get yourself a one-way ticket into our loop:

  • “Us/We/Our” refers to Mara & I.
  • We live on the East side of the Big Island in Hilo.
  • We are living in an airbnb until the mid-second week of August (the whole freaking summer. what.) It’s a one-floor, wide-open, wooden-heaven, windows-open-24/7, travelers’ dream home.
  • Because employees here are often travelers, we haven’t had many issues finding resources. A nice man named Peter, rented us a car (2005 Ford Escape) for the time we are here. He also lets us use snorkeling gear, lawn chairs, boogie boards, etc. anytime, for however long, ever. wow.
  • Mara is a travel nurse working 40 hours a week at the Hilo Medical Center on a Med-Surg Unit. (travel tip: find yourself a nurse and travel with them. #walkingpharmacy)
  • I am in the process of beginning my job doing behavior therapy for tots with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their home. I’ve been doing online training the past few weeks, and meeting every tiny requirement to become a Registered Behavior Technician. This is actually a credential I can tack onto my special ed title. (I have to fly to Oahu to take an exam next week for it. bum-mer. #lifeisrough)
  • Rainbows are an hourly occurrence here. It’s literally the rainbow state.
  • Wild-hogs are a thing and are everywhere. They run at the speed of light.
  • My heart is racing just typing this because I want every person to experience the bliss of Hawaii right now in this very moment.
  • ANY suggestions, tips, dude-you-have-to bucket list items are WELCOME. However, we consider ourselves native Hawaiians so nothing cheesy. LOL. I’m a pasty white girl wearing Chacos and a backpack filled with all essentials in it at all times. But, native.
  • My plan is to return a forever-bronze, island girl who just happens to live majority of her life in Wisconsin/Minnesota.

Stay tuned – SO much more to come!!!

|| Update June 11, 2018 ||

I come writing to you from a beach chair on a lava beach after hanging out with a loggerhead turtle!!!

Here are some fun things – enjoy!

  1. EVERYTHING in Hawaii starts with an H or a K – pull up google maps, it’s a real thing.
  2. Get this – Target has the cheapest groceries… what an excuse to go to Target ;)
  3. The cheapest gas price at the moment is $3.64 (when you pay cash)
  4. The cheapest gallon of milk is $4.97 at Target. I KNOW BUT I NEED IT.
  5. Our kind property manager’s assistant brought in baby goats so now we have new members of our little neighborhood! (They are not named yet)
  6. We live about 20 steps from a Lychee Orchard. Okay, we’ve decided that lychee looks like a giant raspberry, has a pit like a cherry, you peel it like an orange, and it’s the texture of a grape. They’re amazing and I can’t believe I’ve been alive for 23 years without knowing this delicacy exists.lychee.jpg
  7. Speaking of delicacies – Subway is the bomb here.
  8. Everything (meaning most things) are closed on Mondays. Just a Hawaiian thang.
  9. There is such thing as Hula Ministries at New Hope Church. 5 Hula dancers graced us with their talents at church yesterday to Danny Gokey’s song Rise!
  10. PSA: we now know where Yankee Candles get their ‘Ocean Mist’ scent from… Wai’olena Park & Beach in Hilo, Hawaii. It’s a real scent!carl smith selfie
  11. We experienced our first cockroach, pray for us. Mara put a Tupperware container on it and slid a piece of paper under it and I took it outside. We immediately went to Target to buy Raid and Mara covered every possible roach entrance of our house (every window sill and baseboard). Future visitors, don’t worry we got this.
  12. We also learned the hard way to take trash out very often. I opened the trash to throw something away and felt like I was being punished by a plague of flies. GROSS. You should have saw it, I ran outside with the trash can at the speed of light.
  13. Speaking of delicacies… HAWAIIAN SHAVE ICE (It can be Scandinavian or Italian, it’s just ice with sugar flavor in it)IMG_2765
  14. We went across the island to Kona this past weekend to celebrate King Kamehameha (Hawaiian Holiday honoring the King who united the 8 islands) and watched a parade. It was awesome – no candy, no big crazy advertisement gigs, just each Island’s representatives riding horses in IMMACULATE attire.20180609_103107
  15. Hawaiian tip #243 – listen to the lifeguards when they toot their horn and warn you of a big wave. You may not see it coming, but I PROMISE it’s coming and they don’t calm down for one frightened Katie.20180609_164038
  16. Hawaiian tip #186 – TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE and hike down some hidden path, you may just end up in the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens after hours and witness beauty you never thought was real. You guys, we LIVE in Pinterest.
  17. Spending all afternoon at a beach in beach chairs and hammocks is good for the soul. And ordering pizza.

|| Update July 21 , 2018 ||

We’ve been able to show some guests around the island in the last few weeks!
Abby posted a vlog of her time here, check it out!
Hawaii 2018

Tom and Sharon joined us for 9 days and we did all the things! Here are just a few:











Miss Deiss’ Earth & Arbor Projects

Miss Deiss’ Earth & Arbor Projects

The past two weeks I have been swimming in plastic bags! To celebrate Earth Day & Arbor Day, we (5 students & I) hosted a Plastic Bag Drive! We designated a small space in my classroom where students kept busy collect, counting, sorting, grouping, and stuffing plastic bags!!! (Some “looked” like they had poop on them so I had a couple gaggers – lol) It got pretty competitive – especially once Dilly Bars were involved. The class with the most plastic bags collected won a dilly bar party! Our winning class had over 1,100 bags.

Grand total: over 7,900 plastic bags!


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On Arbor Day, we loaded a van FULL of our bags & took a trip to the Pierce County Recycling Center where we toured the facility, saw some serious recycling action, & dropped off our bags! What an AWESOME opportunity for my kids to learn goal making, predicting, organization skills, team work, dedication, communication skills, and leadership. These kids are rockstars! #luckiestteacherever

PS – if Room 231’s walls could talk, the past two weeks they’d have stories to tell… :)

Bookworm Nook 2018

Podcaster, author, & speaker – Shauna writes with conviction from a rare perspective in our rooted-mindset-generation. Every chapter will have you wowing & totally inspired. READ IT!

Nina Laurin’s first ever book & it’s a criminal-minds, thriller with a big twist. I couldn’t put it down & now I’m borrowing it to everyone I know. You won’t be disappointed.

reading people.jpg

Reading People was a book full of information. If you’re interested in finding out more about how people are hardwired, this is a great read. It’s a boxed in book, so I found it hard to connect with. I did discover that I am enneagram type #3.

Pending – let’s be honest, I probably won’t finish it… Awesome book for a history buff, FULL of rich language and interesting, rare information about a city’s discovery!

everybody, always.jpg

In – progress as of June 12, 2018 :)


Caribbean Paradise

Caribbean Paradise

Spring break 2018 || March 2-11 || Adventure of the Seas
||Puerto Rico, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Maarten||

Day 1: Travel

To avoid a lengthly layover somewhere in the Northeast overnight, we hopped a flight to Chicago where we (Mara) slept on the airport floor for 7 hours! Right near Southwest Airline’s baggage drop. We made a nook on the floor with our 3,738 bags we brought (4). I experienced sour gummy worms that tasted like something you’d find under your bathroom sink at 2:30am. I also used the bathroom at 3:00am and directed a very peppy family of 6 toward the closed baggage drop where they quickly learned that you don’t have to show up 2 hours before boarding like you used to in the 1900’s. Let’s be real – almost missing a flight is way more fun… we will get to that part.

Day 2: At sea

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OUR TIME? All day on a ship and we had no idea what to do or where to go. It wouldn’t be until Day 3 or 4 that we found the SELF-SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINE by the pool. Guess how many we ate. Guess. Although the ship was laced with jewelry stores, we enjoyed free pizza from the snack restaurant, buying candy/snacks and mouthwash from the liquor store, and laying pool side to get a base tan. Music all day long, Zumba, trivia, reading a good book, and thinking about nothing we’re a few of our favorites.

Day 3: Curacao

 Curaçao has a bridge that is straight out of a Dr. Seuss movie. Run with your imagination. In Curaçao we jumped in a taxi and went to a beach where we had to pay to rent a beach chair for the day. Lazy. Day. We learned the (sort of) equivalent of the USD$ and ANG quickly. We also found a mini mart and stocked up on snacks like a bag of Cheetos puffs and an 85¢ eFruitti Pizza Gummi Candy. Please tell me you remember. I flipped, hadn’t seen them in years!

Day 3: Bonaire

18-square-mile-Bonaire was so fun! We rented a moped for the day for $32. We didn’t know it was the crappiest one they had, we just knew it was the last one. We snagged it and rode all day around the entire island! Wild flamingos, beach stops, lunch, icees – whatever we wanted because you can do whatever you want when you have a moped. Our 2nd favorite island.

Day 4: Aruba

Anticipated to be our favorite island, we were excited to see it called “One Happy Island.” Plot twist. We walked a mile inland to a place we thought was our Jetpack Excursion starting point. It turned out to be a nutrition store with a nice lady who called a taxi for us. Two taxi rides, a public transit ride, and a walk in the rain later, we arrived at the world’s smallest, hidden Excursion counter IN a Hyatt Hotel. Our Excursion has been cancelled and I was praying to get my $200 back. We did, and went impromptu Jet Skiing instead! Cheers to Aruba!

Day 5: At Sea

I would say around day 5 I learned I had a fine art obsession. I found these INSANE 3D paintings of trees that were so colorful and vibrant and I had to have them. At $2,000 a piece, they offered me two pieces of art for one low payment of $1,450 with free shipping! Hold your pants, I didn’t buy them. We also got to be great friends with your waiter, Artan, and waitress, Dinah. We sat at the same window seat every night. Dinah remembered lemons for my water, real butter bricks, and the buns we preferred. Artan memorized our orders (mine): Caesar Salad, New York Strip, and Strawberry Cheesecake for desert. He also got confused when we switched sides of the table one night. He asked us nicely to stay where we were. :) by day 5 we were BRONZE.

Day 6: St. Maarten

Our favorite island! St. Maarten is STUNNING. The only island we didn’t explore to it’s depths, it was the one we could live on! After finding beach chairs to sit on, letting the waves sweep our bags away, getting my childhood dream islander braids, and losing the jet ski key in the middle of the cove, we had THE best meal of our entire trip. The nice gentleman working is the island’s best shot maker. Obviously we had a shot. Or 3. We could have stayed in St. Maarten for days!

Day 8: Puerto Rico

Docked at 7am with a flight at 8pm calls for a rental car exploring San Juan! We spent the morning zip-lining and ventured the coast – the damage from the hurricanes lingers reminding us that returning home is soon to follow. We enjoyed a nice ocean bath, took a snooze in the fanciest mall parking lot I’ve ever been to, and accidentally got 4 4-piece chicken nugget orders before heading to the airport for one last pit stop.


$1,500 per person. (Not including flights because I’m awesome and have a
Southwest card that gave me 50,000 points! Wig.)


  • Pay whatever it takes to get a room with a port hole. Or if you’re made of gold, a patio. Accidentally sleeping in until noon is fine, unless your missing daylight on the most beautiful islands ever! Also, I wished I could fix my eyes on the horizon to compensate for the swaying of the ship. Get a window, man!
  • Bring lots of cash. You never know how many taxi rides & public transit rides you’ll take to get to a beach you thought was on the other side of the island.
  • Don’t pre-buy excursions. Our 2 fell through and we ended up doing 2 impromptu ones and saved $275! When you get off the ship, locals are waiting to take you anywhere you want to go & give you the means to do so (& will negotiate).
  • Buy a drink package prior to the trip. Even if you don’t need the alcohol, get a soda/juice package so you can have lemonade, & such. It’s SO much cheaper buying it ahead of time.
  • Prepay gratuity. We got charged $14.50 per day, per person, for gratuity. Kind of a slap in the face after thinking it was all included with the cruise price. Make sure you pay it before you go!
  • Do karaoke. Seriously a blast & you make friends instantly. Ignition Remix if you want a couple extra bonus points.


On January 1, 2017, I started saving $5 bills. I wanted to see if those “savings” pinterest plans worked – would I cave and use the money mid-June, or would I stick it out and have a nice wad of cash at the end of the year?
Now, I probably used about 6 $5 bills in 2017 due to emergency situations (probably ice cream that costed $4.96) Also, take into consideration how seldom we use cash compared to our cards now. Swiping or the chip-reader guy is quicker (less effort, let’s be real) than pulling out cash, waiting for change, putting away the change, holding up the check out line, etc. Not to mention, you save 5% with your Target RED card, so cash is out of the question there. So, I went through phases in 2017 of using cash.
Regardless – Every $5 bill I found in pockets, received in change, earned, exchanged, etc. went into a box. After a while, I started to put dollar bills in there, some big bills, and soon I was putting any spare cash I had in the box, hoping by December 31st, I’d have something substantial.
WELL, yesterday I counted it!
Here were the results of a 1 year long $5 bill savings experiment:
I saved 126 $5 bills. various $1 bills, some $100’s, a couple $50’s and $10’s, and some $20’s coming in above of $2,000. YO. 2k! Just for putting some cash in a box throughout the year that I didn’t even miss!
I wonder what it would’ve been spent on if I hadn’t saved it – God knows there wouldn’t be a significant increase in the number on my savings account. Now that I know it does work, I think I’ll keep it going!
Saving $5 bills is a habit of mine now. One thing I noticed during this experiment was the lack of $10 bills. I had only saved 4, but they are also less common among the other dollar bills in general.
So, I think I’ll start saving those, too!

Save something this coming year!
Maybe $1’s, maybe coins!
Whatever it is, I promise it’s a treat on December 31st :)

A Miss Deiss Sneak Peak

Well, that’s a wrap! My first 1/2 year of teaching at Hillcrest Elementary is dunzo and Ellsworth Elementary is in the works of being a fully functioning, nearly 800 student school! On Wednesday, December 20th the entire gang came over to EES for a few hours. It took longer than planned, but we managed to get every single student and staff member into one giant panoramic photo.

As we prepare for January 5th (first day with students), I’ve witnessed and felt many emotions – stress, excitement, anticipation, sadness, and overwhelm. Above all, though, there is a massive sense of oneness. Whether we like it or not, many are becoming one. Many schools, many people, and many offices now reside in EES. The same hallways kindergarteners and 4th graders walk, the superintendent walks. Breakfast and lunch is prepared, toilet paper and paper towels are refilled, lesson plans are made, wifi is being fixed, fires are being put out, and phones are being answered all under the same (giant) roof! It is going to be organized chaos and AWESOME.

A view from inside the room! To the left in the door to the hallway, student seating, & I opened my storage wardrobes to show the fun stuff! Lots of sensory items, documents, student resources, & Legos. LOL. The far right wardrobe is for my 3 wonderful aides & any other staff  who needs a place to call home. :)

Instead of SMARTboards, we now have interactive projector boards.
*Fun Fact: we can only hang things on magnetic surfaces in the room.
Studies show that less stimulation in the classroom increases student performance!

The two far doors lead into Safe space/Sensory rooms for students to utilize when their bodies are unable to be in their classroom. The door to the right leads into a Motor/Sensory room with a large spin chair, bean bags, a trampoline, pillows and very low lighting.

Here is a panoramic view if you were to walk into my room right now! (Missing some furniture)
It will be a (hopefully) quiet, low lighting, and low stimulation space with multiple tools to help students who are not able to learn in their classroom for various reasons. :)

As the Behavioral Special Education teacher, it’s so important to make my space not only physically safe, but feel safe. Whether a student needs to cool off, take break, blow off some steam, do some academic work in a quiet space, receive low sensory input, or needs a place with a caring adult to process through something, this space is designed for it. It will adapt to the culture of the students soon enough – but for now, this is Room 231! WELCOME!

Like & Follow Ellsworth WI Community School District on Facebook
to see frequent updates as we begin our new journey!

What do tonsils even do, anyway?

Hey adult thinking about getting your tonsils out, you need to know these things…
This situation hurts like hell but it tolerable with drugs.
Day 1-3: Pain scale: 5. 
Day 4-9: Pain scale: 8-9.
Day 9-14: Pain scale 2-4.
My nurse said on day 15 I would be good to go and not regret my decision to get them out. She was right!
It’s right on the money – day 15 was magical (in comparison to the first 14.)

  • You can eat cereal after about day 8 if you let it soak in the milk for 15 minutes.
  • You can brush your teeth – sounds silly, but I wasn’t sure if I could! You can. :) (for that stank breath)
  • You will be constipated from the drugs for a few days. Buy MiraLAX & start taking it a couple times a day starting around day 3-4. (your butt will be messed up until about day 20)
  • EAT WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR MEDS even if it’s 3am.
  • Narcotics heightened all my senses.
  • Whining HELPS. It’s true I promise. Just cry if you need to.
  • Sleep enough so you don’t have to yawn – yawning is awful.
  • Take advantage of not doing anything for 10+ days – no driving, (essentially) no cooking, less-frequent showers, long long long naps, binge situations (netflix), and visitors!

Days 10 – 15:
When asked how I feel, I say I’m rounding the corner. Not around it, but on the verge of feeling better. My pain really depends on time of day, amount of talking & activity. My ears continue to hurt. Day 13-15 my pain really turned into a tightness feeling more than anything. The worst part of eating is moving my tongue too much – where my tongue meets my throat is raw and terrible. Naps are less frequent & I feel like I’m able to handle normal things at a normal pace – wrong. Walking is tiring and being up & about for a few hours is far too long. My body just slept and went on very low fuel for 2 weeks – thinking I am ready to go, go, go is naive. Oh well, I learned the hard way for you! Take it easy.

The weekend (day 8 & 9):
Also, where my tongue and throat meet feels like I’m swallowing razor blades (sorry for that visual).
Today (day 8) was the first day I really, seriously felt like it hurt too much to talk.
Usually I can handle it, but today was rough.
I got a lot of school work done! But I didn’t talk or swallow once while doing it (about 4 hours) so when I did finally open my mouth it was EXCRUCIATING I almost tipped right over.*
I had ice cream for lunch and noodles for dinner in case you were wondering.
Day 9
Today I learned that yawning is not a graceful thing.
TMI coming at you – narcotics make you constipated so don’t laugh, but I did the #2 today after about 5 days!
I went most of the day today without any pain killers…
Piggy-backing on that, I drove today. I drove into town today by myself.
Knock on wood, cross your fingers – but I think I’m rounding the corner, friends. I think the end is in sight.

Happy New Year!

Days 6 & 7:
Here are some of my current questions:

  1. Why do my ears feel like someone jabbed a stick in them and left it in there?
  2. Were they going to tell me that it hurts to stick out my tongue?
  3. Why are my doctors both on vacation? I’m about to run out of pain killers. WHY did they go on vacation?*
  4. Does anyone have extra narcotics? LOL.
  5. Is it going to be above 0 degrees anytime soon?

Here are some of my current comments:

  • I can’t believe how bad my breath smells and tastes. wow, you guys.
  • I’ve worn my glasses since the day of surgery. mostly because who knows when and where I’m going to fall asleep. Lol
  • Ice cream & Pudding.
  • Whining helps so much.
  • I can talk loud, so people say “what?” a lot… as if I’m going to be able to strain my neck and vocal chords to meet their need of a stronger, louder, more clear voice. Sorry I can’t even stick out my tongue – move your ear closer to me.*
  • I’ve gotten a lot of crafting done so I’ll have some new stuff up on my craft page soon!
  • I’ve taken pictures of my throat before and every day since surgery. I think doctors should pay me for my photos (with my captions on each) to show people what they are about to get themselves into.*

*I’m genuinely sorry about the sass. This sucks.

Cinco de Tonsils:
Hello friends, my sass has surfaced a bit today – you’ve been warned! So, first, to any adults considering getting these damn things removed, here are a few disclaimers you need to know:

  1. Do not get within 3 feet of anyone. Today my dad goes, “You need to go brush your teeth, your breath is atrocious.” I WOULD BE OFFENDED, but I said back, “You think I smell bad? You should taste the taste in my mouth right now. I brush and brush, but it doesn’t go away!” He felt bad. lol
  2. Narcotics are fine and all, until:you have to eat something with them every time you take them (mac-n-cheese and applesauce every 4 hours)
    • NAUSEA IF YOU DON’T EAT. 3am? eat or by 8am you’ll want to throw yourself inside the toilet.
    • they make you constipated, yet gassy. HOW.
    • they make me an emotional meatball about 1 hour after taking them
    • i literally cannot keep my balance about 1 hour and 15 minutes after taking them
    • you become a permanent resident in your bed (p.s. flip your mattress a few times during this stupid recovery)
    • you count down the minutes until you can take more and justify taking them 1/2 hour early because it’s fine.
  3. You will be babysat. 4% of people bleed (gushing blood) after this stupid surgery and for some reason, people think you’ll be one of that 4% if you don’t watch you like watching paint dry.
  4. To walk up a normal flight of stairs is  c a r d i o. I’m doubled over when I get to the top to let me heart rate drop from 180 bpm visceral fat zone back to 60bpm-I-reside-in-my-bed zone.
  5. This isn’t a tonsillectomy recovery, this is a straight-up diet. I am skinny. I eat applesauce and mac-n-cheese. The only reason I ate something other than those two things is because my extended family made food for Christmas. Bless.

Until tomorrow!

Day 4 – Christmas Hangover:
A sleep schedule is not my thing lately. 1:30, 3:00, 4:30, 5:00am, etc. take meds, take the other meds, eat a snack so I don’t get nauseous, take meds. That’s about all! Today has been a little different though, as I’ve been nauseous all day. Nausea is a curse and it manhandles you unlike any other way the term “manhandling” can be used. So as I typed this, I found myself on the bathroom floor, blanket draped over me, bucket in hand, waiting to erupt. Ugh. Good news though, I did not erupt and I just successfully ate a crustless grilled cheese with luke-warm tomato soup! Yahooooo!!!! Finally, some substance.

Today was a very good day! I spent majority of it with tiny wads of paper towel in my ears to muffle the booming of, what is normally, typical-sounding conversations around me. For some reason the quietest of noises pierce straight through my ears. I stayed on top of my meds and I stayed at about a 2 on the pain scale! For lunch I had, get this, pickle roll ups, my aunt’s infamous jello, some buffalo chicken dip, a couple cream cheese roll ups, and meatballs! I swear it was gold sent from heaven.

Day 3:
Not good, guys. I woke up nauseous and soon after, tossed all my cookies. Although I felt better after that, I hovered at about a 5 on the pain scale and knew I wouldn’t be able to keep down any meds I wanted to for a while. I finally started taking some medicine again early evening leading me into a talkless, yet wonderful, Christmas Eve evening where I was determined to eat my favorite, green bean casserole, homemade mashed potatoes, and 2 deviled eggs. Success!! I closed out the night feeling beyond cloud 9 ;) and decided I would be faithful to medicating when I do not have an empty stomach.

Fun fact of the day: on top of tossing my cookies, I got hiccups 4 times.

Day 2 – tonsil-less:
Today’s activities:
– I mustered up the ambition to craft for about an hour
– My lovely caretaker and mother warmed me up some left over mac-n-cheese
– I’m working hard to catch up on How to Get Away with Murder
– In my (lots) of spare time I am reading For the Love  by Jen Hatmaker
– I even went to a Packer party at my brother’s house and ate about 12 pickle roll ups tonight!
– Pain and discomfort is increasing, but so is my dose of oxycodone :)

Today’s fun facts:
– Oxycodone causes minor itching.
– My throat is fuzzy white (scabs).
– My uvula is the size of a dinosaur and blocks my airway when I lay on my back.
– I don’t lay on my back. lol
– Napping is actually the best thing in the world.
– I am taking daily progress pics of my throat.
– I recommend Kim as a caretaker and a mom if anyone in looking.

Not a horrible day, my friends! Thanks to all who checked in on me via texts, I felt the love today :)

Post-op Update:
Here’s what, I’m sure, you all want to know: I’m alive! And I feel good good good. My uvula is huge, and my lack-of tonsil sights look like I felt in the BearHugger – a toasted marshmallow. No pain yet = no narcotics yet. And Kim made me room-temp, watered-down Mac-n-Cheese!!! Yum. So – I’m sleepy, I’m warm, I have a headache, my ears are sensitive to sound, and I’m chatty!

Guys, one of my OR nurses was a Deiss, duh. Dr. Coyle, my surgeon – great man. Ryan, my anesthesiologist – hilarious and very kind, he had me take my glasses off then let me walk to the bathroom. LOL. I needed him to come back in the bathroom to grab my drip bag because I literally couldn’t see anything. Ryan wheeled my into the OR where it was actually a party. Music, people all around, and a man said, “Welcome! This is all for you!” as he gestured toward his crew and the bed. I don’t recall how I got onto the operating table. I also think they asked me what music I wanted to listen to but I could be making that up. Ryan put a mask on me and LIGHTS OUT.

So after surgery, I couldn’t remember Deann’s name and kept asking over and over. Apparently she was also Corey’s nurse earlier this year! Kim says my doctors/nurses and I came out of the OR laughing – No shock, I’m so damn funny ;) I asked her if, while I was in surgery, she went to the gift shop and bought me a teddy bear. She didn’t. Eye roll and huff. They showed me my tonsils in a jar, but I didn’t remember. They kept asking me if I saw my tonsils and I kept saying, “I remember, but I don’t remember!” When Kim told me she took a picture of them I was on-the-moon happy. Per Kim’s recall, I asked if the garbage man takes them when they dispose of them. LOL. I’m still wondering though… ALSO, it was Tami’s 25th anniversary of being a nurse today, that was fun – she is the best. :)

I’m doing well, tonsils are peace-out, I’m going to sleep my face off, and I got a free pair of socks! Stay tuned – the worst is yet to come!

1:00pm day of surgery!!!!!!!!!
Tami is a very kind pre-op nurse with three kids and husband. She brought me into room #4 (which happens to be my favorite number – I don’t think this is a coincidence), she gave me a nice purple BearHugger gown and grippy hospital socks! She plugged a big tube into my gown that blows warm air so I’m a giant toasted marshmallow :)

IV – check, call button – check, designated driver – check (she has a puke bucket in the car. eye roll.) I’m comfy, but hungry. So far, this is a piece of cake. ;)

December 22, 2017 – the day my life will change forever because, what do tonsils even do, anyway? They take up room in my throat, that’s what. They aren’t even full tonsils, they’re half-assing thingies in the back of my mouth that are supposed to help “fight off germs” – whatever that means, that have HOLES in them. Giant meteorites come out of them and I gag like when the doctor sticks a wooden tongue depressor down your throat. Tonsil-stones. The WORST possible thing that could happen to my throat besides mono, strep-throat, and seasonal chest-colds. I can’t even swallow a damn medium-rare perfectly prepared piece of steak cubed up into the smallest bites The Littles could eat them in one swallow – but, noooooo, Katie Deiss has to over work her jaw muscles and dip her head like a giraffe to force food from her tongue down to her stomach. Okay, I’m done. Literally and figuratively. I’m done ranting, and I’m done with these germ-collecting, massive, white-spot, bigger-than-my-actual-throat, style-cramping, life-nuisances. So, December 22nd, tomorrow, they get cut out and never come back. Bless. I hope you’re all ready for 2 weeks of annoying complaining because: a. I’m not going through this tragedy alone, and b. whining helps (my latest motto). Stick around, friends. I’m going to keep you up-to-date on my pain level, activities, and sleeping patterns. Disclaimer: I’ll be heavily medicated :)



The hardest thing about gift-giving is acquiring the perfect something that will, when that special someone tears the wrapping paper off of it, jump for joy, gasp of happiness, and grin a mile wide. That’s why we give – to witness the bliss of the receiver. Forget a Godwink, finding the perfect gift and watching someone open it is a total Godhug. But, finding that perfect “something” is HARD. What do you get your brother and sister-in-law who has everything you can think of? What else is there to get your niece or nephew besides a giftcard to Target or Buffulo Wild Wings? Yes, it’s hard… but be THAT gift-giver this year – be the reason for the joy-jumping, happy-gasping, and, wide-smiling. Put some thought and effort into an individualized, mapped out gift that will, in return give you a Godhug.

Here are a few unconventional, individualized, small-business, joy-jumping ideas to help you this Holiday season:

*Check back frequently! I will add ideas throughout December!

The one-stop-gift-shop! Follow the link below or venture over to my CRAFT page where you can order pinterest-inspired wooden signs to get that happy-gasping reaction from everyone in your family or friend group!


Erin Summers – a Kansas girl, living in Pennsylvania, can design, create, and produce anything you would like in regards to calligraphy and graphic design! Her specialty? Ornaments! Check her Etsy website out!


April – a midwest-loving photographer ready to laugh, cry and celebrate the most special moments of your life. Willing to bend over backward to make your wedding day/portrait session the best it can possibly be, April wants to be a part of your story.
Mention “Godwinks Blog” when you book with April & receive 10% off a session or wedding package!

Sophisticated Grace Photography

Maisy Diegnau – a college-girl on the go, fundraising her own way to a year long internship with Young Life. Christmas, birthday, thank you, words of encouragement… you name it, she will make it! I asked for “just because” & “Thanksgiving” cards & was a happy customer! Help her fundraise  by purchasing a pack of cards! 5 cards for $5 or $1 each & gratuity for mail-delivery is appreciated. Email her at:

Cairn – built by a group of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, they are inspired to enrich and expand the outdoor experience by fostering connections among those who create and enjoy it. Subscribe to Cairn or give a gift. It’s perfect for the adventurer in your life. My best friend subscribed me for 4 months – awesome products gave me the joy-jumping reaction.

Check out Cairn here!


More ideas:

State/National Park Passes
Wisconsin State Parks
Minnesota State Parks
National Parks

Local Memberships 
Swinging Bridge Brewery, River Falls, WI

I’ve always imagined getting all the special ladies in my life together with their recipe boxes, signature dish, & a pen to sit around a table, handwrite copies of their favorite recipes, and share their favorite dishes. Everyone would get a copy of the best recipes – handwritten. There’s just something about sitting at the counter when your mom makes her grandma’s infamous baked good & the recipe sits, vanilla stained & full of sugar, on the counter; the corner bent, ink worn, & the prettiest penmanship I’ve ever seen. I stare at it as the Kitchen Aid rumbles, eggs crack, & evidence of homemade goodness accumulates across the kitchen. Do it – give recipes, moms grandmas, & friends. They’re underrated – Pinterest has nothin’ on you!

Handwritten letters via US Mail
What is more exciting than getting an unexpected, actual letter in the mail? Not a jury duty summon, an Amazon package, or even Christmas cards. I’ll wait. My favorite part of snail-mailing special people, is not getting a text saying they got my letter. Yes, you read that right – it’s NOT getting a text or call. I love imaging someone opening my letter like it is just something we do. And I love anticipating a letter in return – it’s fun to wait for the tattered envelope with an inked stamp to show up in the mailbox. Consider the trip it took from the hands of it’s writer to yours. The pressure it endured from the pen and palm that rested on it, the ink stamp, and stack of letters that toppled it in the mail-man’s mail bag. It’s as if the letter experienced pressure over time to arrive in your hand a diamond.  Put pen to paper this year, send the gift no one will ever forget – send letters. 

Just books; paper copies. Give someone your favorite book.

Minnesota Children’s Museum
Minnesota Zoo
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Ancestry DNA Kit