As another year is born, I give thanks for the many life lessons in 2017. Celebrating a new year is all about leaving the last year behind and ushering in a new year and new opportunities. One of the many things we do as a new year is birthed is make our new year’s resolutions.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to take better care of me. To continue to slow down and let God continue to create beauty in my own life and appreciate the beauty of the things I already have. I will be taking a bit of break from writing blog posts, but never fear, I ‘ll be back.
I have been invited to contribute a chapter in “Chocolate And Diamonds For A Woman Soul” a best selling anthology. Chocolate and Diamonds For A Woman’s Soul is a collection of stories from international authors around the world.
Women from seven countries are sharing their stories about faith, resilience and grace. It will be released on this coming International Woman’s Day, March 8, 2018. I will also be completing my book from “From Pain To Power” as well as working on some other important projects that I am very passionate about. So be sure to stay tuned for updates.
If you are on twitter please follow me @ www.twitter.com/queenadventures. I am also on facebook @ www.facebook.com/queenadventures , please stop by and like my page. I’ll keep the light on for you!
I wanted to share with you some of my most valuable lessons of 2017 . Those lessons that made me happier and healthier and hopefully a bit wiser. Make sure to stick around below for some REALLY cool pictures of South Dakota’s beauty!
As most of you may know, I still work as a registered nurse. Almost a year ago, I embarked upon a travel assignment to Rapid City, South Dakota. My travel to South Dakota would be different no doubt. Lucky for me, an Air Force veteran, the military taught me to embrace the experience, embrace the journey and embrace the adventure.
Aim High, Air Force!
I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect as there really aren’t that many people who look like me, dress like me, think like me, or even talk like me in South Dakota.I usually only ask myself two questions upon my arrival to a new assignment.
Those questions are what the heck am I going to do here and where is the mall?
With South Dakota now a part of the equation, I now had a collection of questions to add to my standard two. When I first arrived I am sure the fine citizens of Rapid City were filled with questions about me as well.
Lord knows, I am sure they had no idea what to think of me.
Being the sassy, direct southern girl I am, they had no idea what they signed up for NOR what they were in for. Whether or not they were ready for me or I was ready for them, I literally donned my cowgirls boots and left the warm beaches of south Mississippi and headed for the wild, wild and very cold west for my next adventure.
They say there’s gold out west. I guess I’m about to find out if I’ll strike it rich!
Yep, Yep… This sassy southern cowgirl is on her way to the Wild West!
Travel to South Dakota was literally an adventure out west. I left my car behind because I was traveling in February and I knew that my very low to ground automobile was no match for the blizzard sized snow of South Dakota.
Being a single mom, however, we do whatever we have to do in order to take care of our babies. I jumped on a plane and landed to freezing temperatures and snow on the ground.
Upon my arrival the people of South Dakota was very different than I had imagined. Much to my surprise, I was immediately welcomed with warm smiles and I met some of the nicest people around. I am sure at this point they still did not really know what to think of this sassy Alabama girl!
I had found a place to stay very close to the hospital so that I could walk to work. Yes, you read that part correct.
I walked to work everyday one mile to work and one mile back every day. Many times I walked in freezing weather in the snow.
In fact, I walked to work in 19 degrees WITH snow on the ground. One mile there and one mile back to work I went. I walked EVERY where. I walked to get my groceries, I walked to the drugstore.
I even walked four miles to and from Sibelle’s Hair Salon to get my hair done simply because I didn’t want to wait in the freezing cold for the bus. The adjustment wasn’t easy but it was necessary. My Air Force training instructor would have been proud.
After some time at the place I was staying, I had to move out. Believe it or not, there were pest control issues that were simply intolerable. . Now I was faced with the questions of “Where Do I Go Now”, How Do I Get To Work,” What Do I Do Now.”
If you are single mom used to juggling life’s complex issues you know exactly what I am talking about. I found myself all alone no family support around me for thousands of miles… NOW what?
My friends Mary and Gus who happened to live completely on the other end of town invited me to stay with them. They not only invited me into their homes they treated me like family.
Gus and Mary
From Mary and Gus carting me around was second nature. From Walmart, to work on the days I worked at the hospital, to any other place I needed to go. To Mary and Gus , I was family. I know that many times there were other things that they could have been doing or for that matter would have preferred to do; However, they carted me around without hesitation or even a hint of regret.
For months Mary and I rode together to work and in November she semi-retired. That didn’t stop her or Gus’s generosity. I still needed to go to work and Gus and Mary ALWAYS made sure I made it work on time whenever I needed to be and they picked me up.
I was going to take a cab to work because I needed to be there very early one day. Mary insisted she wouldn’t have it. She has literally gotten up from the comfort of her bed at 5:00 am to make sure that I go to work even though she was off that day.
I told Mary that I could take a cab on those days that she did not have to go so that they would not be inconvenienced. I didn’t want to be a bother to her or Gus. I asked Mary about having to drag me around here and there after she retired. She replied simply and sweetly, “You’re just another family member we have to drop off””.
So with that I bundled up a few minutes early as Gus and I made our way to pick up Daniel, their infant grandson, before dropping me off to work. Gus was tasked with taking me to work, after lovingly and carefully strapping baby Daniel in his car seat.
While Gus carted me to work ,Mary was off with whisking Sam and Jane, their other two grandbabies off to school. Yep, I was woven into the fabric of their family.
They wouldn’t have it any other way. I never had to worry about whether I was welcomed or if I was a bother, I always knew that I was more than welcomed in their home and in their lives because they always made me feel that way.
I remember the first time Mary introduced me to one of her best friends Julie. Being the SO NOT shy person I am, I began to introduce myself as Mary and Gus’s house guest. Mary firmly interrupted me and simply said. “She’s not just our house guest, she’s my friend.”
You don’t meet many people like Gus and Mary, but boy they sure were my South Dakota guardian angels and I’m glad they were sent my way.
Me and Mary
The rest of Gus and Mary’s family. Kate, Shaun, little Emma, Jane, Gus with little Daniel and Mary with little Sam
I knew there were many places I wanted to explore in South Dakota. I had plans to rent a car to adventure out. My friend Sharon was the first to speak up and offer to take me around and show me some of the most beautiful places in South Dakota that I had ever seen. She didn’t wait for me to ask around. Her words were simply, “I am free this weekend, I can take out and show you around.”
Whether it was to see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood, the oh SO wild adventures of the Sturgis Harley Davidson Bike Rally and to many other places to name , Sharon and I went many places and she was the best tour guide by far that I’ve ever had anywhere!
Me on a bad hair day with my favorite tour guide Sharon.
Then there was Terri, my partner in crime at work who always supported me and came along to anything I ever hosted and everything I invited her to do. Whether it was a party, going on a haunted tour, or hanging out at the Vertex, she never hesitated to say Yes, Yes Tracy, count me in… I’ll be there! Not to mention she is also one my best jewelry customers!
Me and My Partner in Crime…. Terri
Lastly but certainly not the least, there was Jeanine. Jeanine never hesitated to teach me everything she knew from her years of wisdom and experience. My transition at work was made a lot smoother due to Jeanine always close by.
Although, I don’t have a picture of Larimie, except in the group picture down below. I could always count on Larimie so much that I affectionately called her my ” ride or die chick.” I am not sure if either of us figured out what that term really meant. It just seem to fit her.
Me and ” Mother Hen” Jeanine Taking A Real Bad Selfie….
Then there were my sister Queens Yanga, who happens to be from Africa and my sweetie pie Amber who welcomed me with open arms from Day 1. I loved spending time there getting pampered. Yanga always hooked me up. Amber always brightened my day. Love these two to pieces!
Spending some time at Sibell Salon deciding whether to go blonde or black. You ladies know how that is.. Decisions, Decisions…
Living among people who were quite different than myself I learned many things. Not only did I learn many things about them but I think I learned more about myself. I learned that with all of the hatred, and divisiveness in our world today, there are still good and decent people among us who may not look like we do, act like we do, or for that matter believe the way we do.
We simply have to open up our hearts to see them. There are still many people in this world who are ready to accept you, make peace with you and many cases love you if you only let them in.
I have learned over the years that tolerance is more than a nine letter word. Being tolerant of other people who are different than we are means being respectful and mindful that we have differences. Those differences are what makes us all unique, not better than and certainly not less than others. It simply makes us unique.
Most importantly to always keep into focus that many people are struggling with issues and complexities that we may know nothing about. As human being we are all flawed and many of us are simply trying to do the best we can with what we little we have.
To judge people so harshly on the surface, limits not only our life experiences but our own possibilities to grow. Getting to know other people who might not look like we do or think like we do stretches us outside of our comfort zone. It also helps us to engage in life more fully and completely by not missing out on amazing people and amazing opportunities.
It also help us to realize that to live a life well lived is always better when you first seek to understand instead of always being understood.
Unfortunately there are people in the world that mean us harm and for those we must always stay aware and remain prepared. I wish that wasn’t true but it is. Unfortunately, that is the world that we live in. For many it is not fair or just.
That is a fact that many deal with daily, including myself. For me, however, life has always been about finding balance working to address and advocate for those who are suffering but to also work just as fervently to find the good in others.
Spending time with people in other parts of the country allows me to create that balance in my life . It allows me to see that with all that is going on today, there is still goodness in the world. When you believe there is still good in the world you always find it.
God places love in our hearts to share, it’s up to us what we choose to do with it. So many try to define love in only romantic terms and they limit themselves that way. Love is such a huge concept that it simply can’t be confined to only one time of love.
The key to a happy and a fulfilled life for me has always been to choose AUTHENTIC and REAL love. I choose to walk boldly towards it no matter where I may find it. I don’t know if I will ever find the “one” as it pertains to a romantic love. I don’t worry so much about that as I have learned to appreciate the life the life I have now.
There is just so much life to experience and so many ways to give and receive love to worry about things I can’t control. If an amazing man finds his way into my life while I am enjoying my life then I would say it’s meant to be.
My life is meant to unfold naturally and whatever goodness I find while I am on my journey , I am open and receptive to all the good that finds it way onto my path.
There is one thing that I do know for sure. I will always choose to live life fully and completely. I only have but this one life to live.
Living in South Dakota for that time allowed me to slow down and self-reflect who I really am and where I where I want my life to take me. Slowing down in South Dakota allowed me to re-learn that my life may not have turned out the way I had anticipated or planned, but my life is exactly the way it is supposed to be.
So many times over the course of our lives we focus so much energy on what we don’t have or what others say we should have to be worthy of goodness. What other people think I should have should only apply to their lives and what works best for them.
The power for me lies within being able to fully appreciating what I already have . The rest will come to me as apart of MY story, MY life is meant to tell.
By learning to embracing a life of gratitude EVERYDAY for what we already have we are building a strong foundation. A foundation to truly being happy instead of having the appearance of being happy. There is a HUGE difference between the two.
Hiking in beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, experiencing the splendor of Sylvan lake, exploring the magnificence of Needles Highway and the natural beauty of Custer State Park taught me even more things. It taught me to always appreciate not only the beauty I already have in my life but the beauty that constantly surrounds me. I just needed to slow down to see it. I am sharing some of it below with you. Enjoy!
Custer State Park …..Where The Buffalo Roam
Mama and baby mountain goats posing for a photo opportunity
The Majestic Sylvan Lake In It’s Frozen State
Traveling To Needles Highway
The tunnels and natural architecture in the Black Hills Of South Dakota are simply break taking. To spend an afternoon driving through the Black Hills is an afternoon well spent. It literally is one of the most beautiful places I have visited.
Needles Highway AKA Hwy 87, is a national scenic byway. It was completed in 1922. It is 14 miles long and consists of many sharp turns, tunnels and granite structures. To say it’s impressive would be an understatement.
It’s tight squeeze after all!
Eye Of The Needle Eye, located of course along Needles Highway. This granite rock formation is stunning. The pictures just don’t do it justice. The drive along Needles Highway will literally take your breath away. There’s nothing better than taking in Needles Highway by convertible or by jeep on a beautiful summers day. That’s what I call living!
It’s stretch time!
It’s PLAY time !!!
Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest mountain carving in South Dakota. It is a memorial for all Native American Tribes and I was very honored and humbled to learn more about the Native American culture The Memorial is on privately held land and has been under construction since 1948. When it is completed it will protray the Native American warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing into the distance. It really is a must see to take in this part of history.
This view from inside the Crazy Horse Museum. The museum is filled with Native American Art and History. I highly recommend a visit. The statue shown will be what the mountain will look like once the craving is completed. I hope that it’s completion will be within my lifetime. Definitely something to look forward to.
There really isn’t anything quite like the excitement you feel when you arrive at Mt. Rushmore. The closer you get the more excited you’ll become. There’s just no way you can visit South Dakota without visiting Mt. Rushmore. There’s just no way….
Entrance To Mt. Rushmore with our state flags represented
Spearfish Cannon Waterfall
Okay ladies if you are looking for THAT quaint little romantic chapel to have your next wedding or your first. This is IT! The Chapel In The Hill in the sweetest hideaway I’ve seen by far. It is located near Rapid City and was built in 1969. It is a Lutheran church. It is an exact replica of the 1150 AD Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. I was able to attend service there during my visit. It is open to the public. Many people DO get married here.
Rapid city and the surround areas simply has some the most extraordinary sculpture art anywhere in our country. The pictures really don’t do them justice. They really are quite impressive.
You cant visit the area without going to Deadwood. Deadwood is home to Casinos and Tatanka: Story of the Bison. Tatanka is where you find some of the most captivating sculpture art. With life sized buffalo, horses and battle fights, there is a lot to see there.
Tatanka: Story Of The Bison
The Alex Johnson Hotel is located in downtown Rapid City. It was built in 1927 and is said to be haunted. In fact, it was featured on the Sci-Fy channel special Ghost Hunters: Hotel Haunts Unleased. It is a very elegant hotel with the ambiance of the 1920 and is filled with Native American art. It is definitely worth seeing.
The Lobby Inside Hotel Alex Johnson
Most people who know me, know how much I LOVE music and the arts. When we were told by the staff that the piano has been known to play mysteriously by itself. I had to go and check it out for myself. No ghost playing piano, but I did enjoy my visit to this one of kind hotel.
The vertex is the private exclusive sky bar on top of the Alex Johnson hotel. The view from the Vertex is simply stunning. It’s definitely something to experience and highly recommended. Take your sweetie with you or enjoy some me time. Either way you’ll enjoy the experience.
I couldn’t mention all the great places in or neap Rapid City if I didn’t mention MY all time favorite restaurant Delmonico’s. Delmonico’s is an experience. It is THE place you take your sweetie or treat yourself. Make sure you save up for this one. It not on the cheap but SO very worth it. The steaks are AMAZING!
Mary and I out for and evening at my favorite restaurant
The waiting area inside of Delmonicos
Great steaks and entertainment too! Delmonico’s the best!
My time and my adventure had to come to an end. There really was no other place that I would have wanted to celebrate it other than at the Dakota Steak house in Rapid City surrounded by wonderful people. The Dakota Steakhouse is another one I would highly recommend. The steaks are great and the ambiance is cozy. If you want another great dinning experience, visit Dakota Steakhouse. You’ll be glad you did!
Leaving them was bitter sweet. There’s no one I would have rather celebrated my last night and my incredible journey with than this crew. What’s an adventure it’s been!
Travel nurses leave their homes and many times loves ones every day to serve patients and hospitals across our country. I stand with these other travel nurses as we serve our profession proudly.
As I close this chapter and year of my life. I look forward to a New Year filled with new opportunities to teach me to kinder, braver, better and stronger.My friend Sharon said to me before I left, “Tracy you are a good soul”.
To be honest that was one of the kindest things that anyone has every said to me. It was the best gift she could have given me besides her friendship.
A gift, I will ALWAYS treasure. When I arrived in South Dakota I didn’t know what to expect from the experience . I can honestly say I received more than I could have ever have hoped for and I only hope I left a little in return.
They say there’s gold out west and I would have to agree.. I went with an open mind and left with heart rich with gratitude and thanksgiving for the good still left in the world. I left looking for gold and I found it and a lot more.
Stay tuned for coming updates to see what I’ve been up to as I take a little time off from writing. It is my hope that as you make your resolutions for 2018, you resolve to laugh more, love more, forgive more and reflect on the things that are already beautiful in your own life.
They really are already around you. You only have to open up your heart to receive them. Feel free to stick around and read some of my previous blog posts. There really is something here for everyone in your journey…..Happy New Year. See You Again Soon!
Feel free to share in the comments below some of your New Year’s Resolutions. I’d love to hear them.