Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Lesson Learned and a Final Goodbye

Current City: Dallas, TX... my new home

Life has a funny way of taking turns when you least expect it. If anyone still follows this, you probably have noticed that it has taken me about 9 months to finally write. AmeriCorps has been over for about 7, and last I left you I was supposed to go back as a Team Leader. Well, as some of you know, if not all of you now know, that didn't quite happen the way I had intended. And it has taken me about 7 months to put back together the pieces that remained of me after hitting a brick wall.I am finally starting to feel like myself again. And as each day passes I am finding closure to every unraveled end that had left me in limbo.

I guess in a sense I was avoiding this blog. More or less because I was afraid of the wounds that it would reopen by posting on it or even rereading it. It made everything real again, and the fantasy that I had been living for months, forgetting that anything had ever happened would come to an end. But to be honest, the more I tried to push the memories away, the more AmeriCorps would come back. Like it or not, it changed me. I am no longer who I was the 10 months before I started on a journey that would change my life. 

I am stronger, healthier, wiser, and my passion and love for people has grown in ways that I never thought it could have. I learned how to handle different situations- some learning what not to do in certain situations, but then again we all make mistakes. I learned that not all situations can be controlled, and sometimes you have to embrace change and just enjoy the ride. Most importantly, I learned how to forgive and accept, not only other people, but myself. 

My team- 11 strangers- became my family. Like a typical family, we disagreed, fought, and sometimes even screamed at each other. But in the end we forgave each other and still loved and accepted one another for who they were. And although we do not talk a lot, some more than others, and everyone has started their own individual life, I still love and cherish each one of them. I think about them every day, and would still do anything for them. So thank you Water 6 for everything you have taught me and an amazing 10 months. I will never forget you.

So here's to a new chapter, amazing memories, and picking up the pieces and moving on.... 

Love always,


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Location: San Isabel/ Pueblo/ Canon City, CO

So, Let me explain where I have been the past month or so. Immediately starting our second round, we spent a week back in Lake George, then reported to San Isabel Lake in Southern CO. It is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. We are located in a work center right across the street from the lake, where get this, wild irises grow. Meant to be? I think so. But alas, we have no phone service nor internet, so my lack of updates is kind of explained.

At San Isabel we have been put to major work massacaring trees right and left, and doing burn prep work along a road. This entails cutting 20-30 feet from the road and then dragging the trees, limbs, everything else you cut a chain length, or 66 feet from the main road. In long pants, long sleeves, hard hats, gloves, etc, this gets pretty hot especially in 80 degree weather. Which isn't awful, but the dragging gets tiring. Especially when my squad likes to be macho and try to drag entire trees 66 feet up hill. It's awesome.... Slightly sarcastic, but you do feel pretty awesome after you drag a huge tree that distance.

We have been working alongside a fuels crew from Canon City during our time here. They are amazing! Alfonso, the leader of their squad, helped us with our training during second round. He is hysterical, and every time he is around the energy instantly increases. He starts the morning with "HEYYY GUYS!!! DID YOU DREAM ABOUT ME???" over the loud speaker in their truck. The crew consists of 3-4 other guys, depending on the day, all around our age. They have been a blast to work with, and have taught us so much about fires and being a fuels crew. I know we will all miss them terribly after this week, when we have to say goodbye and head to Leadville for 3 weeks.

An exciting thing that has happened was that WE GOT TO GO ON OUR FIRST FIRE!!! YAAAY! It was sooo amazing. We worked all day, and then at 4:30, when we were wrapping up, the fire call goes off on our radios, and we were called to be a first response crew to a fire up in Fairplay (about 2-3 hours away from our location). So we piled into our trucks and started our long journey up there. We got to the site around 8 PM, then our trucks couldn't make it up the steep hills, so we had to park, put on all our gear, grab our packs and our tools and start the mile hike up the steep hills to get to the actual meeting place to hike into the fire. An hour later, we finally made it up there, and started our inital attack on the fire. Of course, we basically had no idea what was going on. All we knew was that it was dark, there were flames and smoke everywhere, and we were to follow the fire line searching for hot spots, trying to put out some of the smaller flames. It was 10 PM by the time we were done for the night, 11 before we made it to our bunk houses, and 1 AM before we got dinner and went to bed. We were up the next morning at 6, ready to go. The fire had mostly put itself out except for the top left flank, where we concentrated our efforts on digging line and cold trailing/ putting out hot spots.

The rest of the days were spent mostly like that. Cold trailing, putting out hot spots, and checking for smoke. We were there for around 4 days. It was such an incredible experience. It was exhausting, but Alfonso's humor and the exciting atmosphere that the fire provided, made it an incredible experience. And I am so grateful I got to participate in a complete fire, from First Response to Mop Up. And we got to see a heletack, which even the fuels crew hadn't even ever seen before.

It was a wonderful reminder of why I wanted to be on this team, and I am so grateful to have had that experience.

That is about all for now. I wish I could go into more detail about the craziness of my life, but my computer is about to die. But! I will try to update soon, and if you want to know more just give me a call! I love to talk about it :)

I miss you all, and hope you are doing well,


PS! I GOT THE TEAM LEADER POSITION!!! I WILL BE IN DENVER NEXT YEAR AS THE MEDIA TL! So, another full year of blogs ;), this time with more chances to update! Get excited...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A tearful goodbye...

Location: Freeport, TX

Once upon a time, there lived an AmeriCorps NCCC corps member who was awful at updating her blog... And who is apologizing profusely about the lack of blog posts. 

So this is no fairytale, and is real life... And I am truly sorry. Things got insanely crazy, and this round wrapped up much faster than I thought it was going to. And every time I sat down to update, something came up... or I was just busy every weekend. Which is true. Well I am currently sitting here on my last night in Freeport, reminiscing about the past month and a half, and I am reminded of how thankful I am for being able to be a part of AmeriCorps. 

This project was completely different than any that I had had in the past. I was able to see the lives that I was touching. I knew from the get go that I was going to get attached to the kids that I was working with, but after a month and a half the day came that I had to say goodbye. That's when reality of this program hit me hard. For them it was just another Friday, and they would be back Monday, and everything would be normal. Life would go on just as it would have any day before that, but for me it was the last time that I would ever step foot into my club, see the map of the US painted on the ground as I walked the long path through the gym to the classroom, pour their apple juice, and talk to them about how their days went, and what their plans are for the weekend, and the last time I would ever see my kids. I wrote them a letter, and read it out loud to them, choking back tears, wondering if they actually cared, or if they were just excited for the candy that I was about to give them. When I was done I looked up and saw tearful eyes all around me. That's when I knew that I had affected many lives. And then Monday when I received a card from them, all signed, tears formed again. One particular note stood out. "Dear Ms. Kristyn, I hate that you are leaving us. But you will always have a place in my heart. Love always, Laura" It was from a 6th grader that I had become particularly close to over the past month and a half. 

These projects have gone by so quickly. As I head back to Denver tomorrow, I am reminded that nothing is permanent, especially in AmeriCorps. You are so used to change and bouncing from one project to the next that sometimes you forget that the things you do really do matter to people, and you are afraid to become attached because eventually you will have to say goodbye. And in two short months I will be walking across the stage at graduation, saying goodbye to the people that have become my family over the past 10 months. We have lived together, worked together, played together, and relied on each other for everything, and I'm not sure what I am going to do without them. 

The past month and a half has been trying. With the potential shut down that loomed over us, we knew that in an instant everything could have changed and we would have been jobless. The kids were, in a nice way... Challenging? I think would be the best word... but they helped me learn so much about myself and how to handle different conflicts. I have been so luck to have had this project, and I will miss the Boys and Girls Club of Brazoria County dearly. But I will take back the lessons that I have learned, and to quote Laura, they will always have a place in my heart. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Miss B"

Location: Freeport, TX

Howdy from Texas! I have been here for almost a week, and am absolutely loving it! We are about 5 minutes away from the beach, and yes we have already spent a day there, and yes despite my wearing sun screen, I am already burned. I am living on a cot in the back of the administrative buildings with 9 other people. It has been quite the experience so far. I am always the first to go to bed, which is sad, but luckily I can sleep through a lot of things so that doesn't bother me. We shower in another club that is 2-3 blocks away. Another interesting experience. But so far so good!

We started work yesterday, and so far it is amazing. Anthony and I are at a traditional club about 20 minutes away from where we live. It is a little rural community, and the kids that come are mostly between the ages of 3rd-6th grade. They are adorable! Quite a handful, but I'm already in love with all of them. The second I walked in they nicknamed me "Miss B" because they think I look like Brittany Spears... hopefully before her downfall. And Anthony has been nicknamed "Elvis" cause of his poofy hair. I love it. :) 

I had my TL interview the other day. It went well I think.../ I hope.... We'll see. I rambled a lot when I was nervous, but I hope they found it endearing. Haha I will let you know! I should know about May 23rd... so give me a few months. 

The team is amazing still. Its been wonderful being on a normal team. Not that i don't miss my other team dearly, but I really do love my new team. We all are getting along wonderfully, so hopefully it will continue that way!

Well, that is all for now. I hope that everyone is doing well. 

Update soon!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

A New Beginning

Location: Denver, CO

So, it has been exactly a month since my last post. Sorry about That. Things became crazy the last 2 weeks of work and I honestly didn't have time this past week for an update. But here I am, back in my dorm room packing for my next adventure- Freeport, Texas where I will be working at the Boys and Girls Club!!! I am super excited. We are exactly 15 minutes away from the beach, where you can just guess, I will be spending all of my free time. We are 2 hours away from Houston and 4 hours away from San Antonio- so Road Trip!!! It will be an amazing experience being able to work with people again. Don't get me wrong, I love my fire management projects and have become a pretty decent sawyer, but I miss the interaction with people. It's easy to lose track of why you are doing what you are doing with environmental projects, where as you can actually see the difference you are making in the children's lives. I have heard that it is a challenging, but completely worth while project, and I can't wait. 

My new team is absolutely amazing too. Everyone is thrilled to be going to Freeport. They all seem really nice and out going, so as a whole I feel like we are all going to get along very well. My new team leader is Heidi, the UDA for the Water Unit. We are the first team that she has had all year and she seems just as excited as we are to be going. It is funny seeing the difference between how Alex runs things and how Heidi does. Both have completely different leadership techniques, and I know I will learn a lot from each of them. It will be nice to have a few months away from my old team to regroup and refresh, but I will miss them dearly. It will be weird not seeing them everyday for the next 2 months. But I feel like it will make us appreciate each other much more when we are reunited!

I have officially applied to be a team leader next year, and I have my interview next week! I'm a little nervous because 18 people from the Water Unit alone applied, and only about 4-5 of them will become team leaders next year. So, wish me luck! 

On a fun note, Denver had a HUGE St. Patrick's day parade yesterday downtown. So Meg and I went down early and watched about 2 hours of it- the thing lasted almost 4. It was hysterical people watching too. There were old men in kilts, children dressed as fairies, and lots and lots of  drunk people wandering the streets cheering on the parade. It was a blast to watch. We ended up staying downtown for the rest of the day, enjoying the weather and the city before going out that night with everyone from campus. It really made me appreciate Denver, and realize how much I am going to miss it over the next few months. Who knows- maybe this is where I will end up after AmeriCorps!

Well, that is all. I start my 3 day van ride down to Freeport tomorrow, so I will try to update as soon as we get to the Boys and Girls club! I hope everyone is doing well.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


Location: La Junta, CO

Greetings from Picketwire Canyon's McDonalds! Sorry I have been out of touch for a while. Anthony, who is the one guy on the team who has the internet, told us that we couldn't use it for a few days due to the fact that we accidentaly went over last month... ALSO we are currently in the middle of an adventure in Picketwire Canyon, CO. A little little part of the Comanche National Grassland in southern CO. We are here till Friday and have been since last Monday. Russ, our supervisor told us that there would be no phone service except for if you climb a huge hill behind out house and stand on your tip toes on a pile of rocks with your arm in the air... you think I'm joking? I will post pictures later.... pretty amusing. Though AT&T still had no service down there. So we have made frequent trips to La Junta, a town that is 45 miles away from where we are located in order to do some work. So instead of working on my team leader application, like I should be, I am updating my life for you all!

Lake George was filled with not doing a whole lot, and our sponsors trying to find busy work for us to do. I am now a pro at shortening blinds, sharpening tools, and cleaning the kitchen... Amazing isn't it? We started our real project this Monday with a trip to Picketwire. We are here for 10 days working on cutting down an invasive species... which is a lot more brutal than the honey suckle was back in Gray Summit. This stuff actually fights back... and I have the bruises and cuts to prove it. But I have become a lot more comfortable with a chainsaw and am now able to carry it/use it easily for a full tank of gas (which is about an hour or so). At first I was barely able to hold it long enough to cut down a tree, now I am demolishing them all over the place! Picketwire is absolutely beautiful. We are in the middle of a canyon and everywhere you turn there are picturesque landscapes. And what is even better? It is 50 degrees outside!!!! Feb 13th, and its 50 degrees. We went from -30 in Lake George to 50... it is like Heaven outside. I'm not even  minding running at 8 AM since the weather isn't below freezing. I will be very sad to leave, but I am excited for the next part of our adventure in Lake George. 

Shuffle round is approaching! For our third round, we get to choose our projects! This means our team will be split up and we will be mixed up with everyone, and even have a new TL. Which I am very excited about. I love my team, but it will be very nice to have a break for a few months. Our unit got projects that I am actually really excited about, though not everyone is... My top two are Boys and Girls clubs in both New Mexico and Houston. There is also a habitat project in Oklahoma City (Which sorry my Tulsa friends.. I didn't rank that number one), rebuilding a city in Kansas, and two other trail type projects... one in Arizona and one in southern Texas. I wanted to try to escape the outdoors for a project round before we start our firefighting in May. I will let you all know as soon as I find out my project!

We got to go camping and hiking this weekend! Which was so much fun... freezing at night, but amazing. We set up camp up on the top of one of the canyons and had the most beautiful view. It was great bonding with the team, and I am becoming relatively good at gracefully falling down mountains and avoiding cactus :).

I think that is all for now! I will be without phone service for another 5 days, but I will try to update once I get back to civilization :)

I hope you all are doing well! I miss you!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Officially Red Carded!

Location: Lake George, CO

Well, the past two weeks have been absolutely crazy! We have been living in a classroom for 8 hours a day... I have not missed being in a class at all. We finished our S-130, S-190, and S-212 classes. Meaning, we now have our Red Cards for Wildland firefighters!!! We can work for the US Forest Service as Type 2 Hand Crews during fire season. We also received our A Sawyer certification. Meaning we can operate chain saws as long as there is a B Sawyer supervising. It is hard to believe that the first time I have ever touched a chain saw was on Thursday, and now I am certified to use them all the time for the next 3 years if I so choose. Though my body tells another story! Lifting those things for 8 hours a day is crazy. They way about 25-30 lbs and you are basically supporting them off of one arm. 

For our certification, we had to successfully "fell" (or cut down) two trees, as well as limb them and buck them. Which is harder than it sounds. :) The way they teach you is to do a face cut (aka a horizontal cut into the tree the way you want it to fall) and then a 45 degree sloping cut to meet that (a diagonal cut that meets with the other side) that way you have something that looks like a mouth on the tree to help lay it where you want it to go. Then you have to put a back cut in there about 2 inches above your face cut. ... Let's just say it is a lot to think about under pressure.. as well as making sure that the tree doesn't fall early, nor will it land on anyone. 

Ren, Megan, Jeremy and I went to explore the Garden of the Gods last weekend.... It was so beautiful. I have never seen anything close to it... well maybe Red Rocks in Denver, but this was everywhere. We had fun climbing up rocks and exploring around. Meg and I had an even better time watching all the puppies go exploring the Garden too. The views were so beautiful. It amazes me that places like that really exist. I could probably go back every weekend and not get sick of it. 

That is about all for now... I will try to update soon about my first week of real work!

I miss you all..