Hoover Dam

Last weekend, my dad and I went to Nevada. While there, we went to the Hoover Dam. Neither of us had been there before, so I was really excited! I didn’t really know what to expect. Seeing a picture of something never has the same effect as seeing it in person.

It was amazing! It was huge! We got to walk around the top of it, which was really awesome. It looks big in pictures, but nothing beats standing at the top of the dam and looking all the way down to the bottom. Plus, there was also a gigantic bridge that I thought was beautiful, and there were lots of cables and metal work that are all a part of the dam.

I saw this sign on the Hoover Dam and thought it was cool. I didn’t know that the dam was named after one of our presidents. Then I started doing some research, and I learned many more interesting things about the dam.

Apparently, it wasn’t always named “Hoover Dam”. It was originally called Boulder Dam, because it was going to be built in Boulder Canyon about 10 miles north of where it is now in Black Canyon. After an engineering reassessment, the location was moved to where it is today. In 1930, the Herbert Hoover administration changed the name to Hoover Dam. Under the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the name was changed back to Boulder Dam in 1933. Then, under Harry Truman, the name was once again changed back to Hoover Dam permanently.

Construction of the Hoover Dam began in 1931 and was complete in 1936. It took 200 engineers and 7,000 dam workers to build it, and they finished almost 2 years ahead of schedule!

The dam is a giant wall made of 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete, which doesn’t include another million for the support structures, intake towers, and the power plant. Two batch plants were built on the site to make all the concrete that was needed. They used railcars and overhead cable systems to transport the concrete to different places throughout the dam.

(From the very top of the Hoover Dam looking all the way down)

The Hoover Dam was crazy high. 726 feet tall to be exact, and 1,244 feet long. The dam is actually 660 feet thick at the base, which is 60 feet longer than 2 football fields put end to end. You’d never know that just from looking at it! It’s amazing to learn about all these things you never see but that make up the Hoover Dam.

(View of Lake Mead from the top of the Hoover Dam)

Lake Mead is a by-product of the Hoover Dam.  Through the dam, the lake offers water and hydroelectric power to the people of Nevada and Arizona. With 550 miles of shoreline, 247 square miles of area, and 1 1/4 trillion cubic feet of water, Lake Mead attracts 10 million visitors a year. You can take boat and helicopter tours to explore the beautiful lake, or take in the view from the dam.

(The memorial built in honor of the people who died while building the Hoover Dam)

If it weren’t for the memorial, I doubt I would have ever thought about the possibility that people died while building the dam.

Work on the dam was very dangerous. “High Scalers” were people who would hang by a rope from the canyon walls in order to clear out rock and debris that was in the way of the construction. The heat alone was enough to kill. 25 people died during the first two months when the heat ranged from 116-130 degrees. Conditions were harsh during the Great Depression, and people struggle to find ways to protect themselves from the elements and feed their families. People gave their lives to try to provide for their families and build the dam that would provide water and electricity for millions of people. Knowing that about the people who lived and died while working on the dam gives me a greater appreciation for it.

(Dad and I in front of the Hoover Dam)

Seeing the Hoover Dam with my dad was an amazing experience and a whole lot of fun. But now that I know a little bit about the dam, its history, and the people who worked on it, I feel even more in awe of that large concrete structure. It truly is an amazing piece of work and an important part of our history.

I would absolutely recommend visiting the Hoover Dam. Just make sure you take your camera. You’ll be glad you did!

Lego Sea Dragon

I love Downtown Disney! My family and I go there almost every time we go to Orlando, FL. Last time I was there, we went to the Lego store as the sun was setting. The giant Lego Sea Dragon in the lake was in front of the beautiful orange sky and the sun was in the perfect position. It looked like the Sea Dragon was eating the sun. I was super excited when I noticed it. I was able to get some awesome photos of the Dragon with the setting sun.

Photography takes lots of practice and experience (which I greatly lack, but I am working on it), but sometimes it’s just about being at the right place at the right time.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Backlot Tour

Left to right: Me, Savannah, and Sarah

Last time we were at Disney World, we went during the home school days with a family of friends who were also homeschooled. One of the things that made this trip different and special was the Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios. I’d done it before, but my friends hadn’t.

So, we were in line for the ride. The line started moving as they let people through, and then they stopped it right in front of us. We could not believe we just missed the cut off. It wasn’t a huge deal though. We knew that we’d get on the next one.

While we were waiting, a cast member stepped to the front of the line, right in front of us, and announced that he needed four volunteers over the age of 16. I couldn’t believe it! I thought the cut off age was 18, and I was 16. I shot my hand up, and the guy picked me. Savannah also volunteered even though she didn’t know what she was volunteering for. Then we volunteered Sarah. All three of us were picked, plus another gentleman.

I was so excited! I knew what was going to happen, and I couldn’t wait! Sarah and Savannah on the other hand were freaking out. I didn’t tell them what was going to happen, and neither did the cast members.

They suited us up in boots and these funny blue outfits with hoods. Sarah and Savannah were only more confused.

They took us out and walked us down a long pathway leading to a ship. While a cast member was explaining to the audience what was going on, a different cast member assigned us roles and told us the actions we had to carry out.

Sarah and Savannah heard tons of water crashing down. I told them to just try to ignore it. I don’t think that made them feel any better.

Finally, it was our turn to perform. We acted like we were sailing a ship that was under attack from an air raid and from submarines. A cast member was shouting orders, there were sound effects, and fire and water effects. All while the guest were watching us wave our arms and spin the wheel trying to look like we knew what we were doing. I don’t think we succeeded. We looked pretty funny up there. But that’s all right.

It was so much fun! When everything was said and done, Sarah and Savannah agreed that they enjoyed it too. We didn’t even get too wet!

To see us wave our arms and look silly, check out this video of us performing in the show at the Backlot Tour!

North Georgia Canopy Tours

Last year for my Sweet 16, my dad took some of my friends and me to North Georgia Canopy Tours. We got to ride 12 zip-lines, walk over 2 sky bridges, hike 3 nature trails, and rappel from a platform. The whole tour lasted 3 hours. Our guides, Austin and Brett, were amazing! They were a lot of fun and really funny.

My favorite zip-lines were probably the ones that went over ponds and the 695ft long dual zip-line at the very end that we got to race on.

I had an amazing time with my friends and family on this trip! It’s a trip I will never forget. I would definitely do the tour again. I recommend it to anyone who loves zip-lines or anyone who has ever dreamed of trying them.

To get an idea of all the fun we had, check out my video of the tour!

Relationship and Responsibility

I spent last week at a CIY MOVE conference with my youth group. We traveled to Lee University in Tennessee, and I spent the week there worshiping God and hearing from different speakers alongside 1,400 high schoolers. It was an amazing week. I had a lot of fun, and I learned so much about God and His Word during that week.

The main speaker that week (and my personal favorite) was Ben Hardman. He was the speaker for the morning sessions as well as the senior classes. I just want to share what I learned from him about Relationship and Responsibility along with my own studies on the subject.

A relationship with God is exactly what it says. It’s time we spend with Him and getting to know Him. It focuses on reading His Word, spending time in prayer, and worshiping Him. Responsibility focuses on doing God’s work. It’s serving others, telling other people about Him, or social justice. A relationship with God is extremely important, and so is handling the responsibility that He gives us.

The problem comes when we try to live out one and not the other. Relationship on its own can become very inwardly focused. Pray and worship suddenly becomes all about us. Responsibility on its own can still involve doing good things. However, without a relationship with God, we have no way of knowing how He wants us to serve Him. The difference between doing good things and doing God’s things is huge.

We must have a balance between our relationship and our responsibility. They must go together. One without the other only results in falling away from our Father.

John 15:1-11 gives us a picture of how a relationship with God and the responsibility He gives us goes hand in hand.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

Jesus uses the illustration of a vine and its branches.

My grandparents own a daylily farm, so I’ve grown up around gardens. I became a Junior Master Gardener when I was 12, and I’ve even been to a couple of Master Gardener classes with my grandparents.

I learned a long time ago that pruning a plant promotes growth. We have apple and pear trees and a pomegranate tree. In the fall, we’re supposed to prune the branches. By doing so, we promote growth in the trees so that the next year they will bear forth even more fruit than they did the year before.

John 15:2 tells us that God does the same thing to us. Of course, this is just a metaphor, but the point is that God works in us to get rid of anything that would prevent us from growing and bearing more fruit. Namely, sin.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5

Jesus calls us to “abide” in Him. “Abide” means to remain or to stay. He wants us to have a continuous relationship with Him. Jesus makes it clear that, without a relationship, we can not take on responsibility. Without responsibility, we cannot bear fruit. We can’t do anything apart from Jesus.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” – John 15:6

This verse is a picture of destruction. It shows the judgement that will come to those who were never saved. Those who never know God and never bear fruit will one day spend eternity in hell. (Matt. 3:10, 7:19, 22-23)

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” – John 15:7-8

If we truly believe in God, if we have a relationship with him, we will obey his commandments. John 14:21 & 23 tell us that those who keep God’s commandments are the ones who love Him. It also says if we love Him, we will keep His word. If we are committed to God’s word and His will, our prayers will be fruitful (Matt. 7:7-8). God is glorified when He answers our prayers.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15:9-10

This love comes from obedience (John 14:21,23). Jude 21 tells us to “keep in the love of God”. Jesus sets an example for us by abiding in our Father’s love and perfectly keeping His commandments. We are to strive every day to be like Jesus.

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” – John 15:11

We can find true joy in God as we obey His commandments.

I’ve realized that I usually stray toward the responsibility side, neglecting the relationship side. All these things help me remember that it’s not just about the relationship, and it’s not just about the responsibility. I must have both.

I can find love and joy in my relationship with God. As I get to know Him and grow, He will lead me in His will. He will give me responsibilities so that I may serve Him and bring Him glory.

Relationship + Responsibility = Fruit

Discovery Cove

In January, my family and I went to Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL. My sister and I got to feed exotic birds, snorkel with fish and sting rays, and swim with dolphins.

During our dolphin encounter, we got to feed and interact with a dolphin named Kaylee. The instructor taught us signs to make, and Kaylee did different tricks.

Here we were acting like we had a fishing pole, and Kaylee acted like she was on the other end of the line as we “reeled” her in.

Samantha and I with Kaylee!

I kissed her! :D

We got to ride on Kaylee while she swam!

We both loved it!

It was awesome to be able to interact so closely with such an amazing animal! Dolphins are definitely one of my favorite animals!

A Crab, Some Pigeons, Butterflies, and an Iguana

In December, my family and I went on a 7-night Disney Cruise on board the Disney Magic. During our trip, we saw and interacted with many different beautiful animals.

First, we found a crab smaller than my hand on Coco Beach. I’d never seen one just out on a beach before. It was pretty cool.

Coco Beach is also home to lots of seagulls and pigeons. The seagulls can be mean (usually only towards other birds), but they are afraid to get too close to people. Pigeons, however, won’t hurt you, and they aren’t the least bit scared to perch on you if you have food.

Our first port-of-call on the cruise was Key West, FL. We went to the Butterfly Conservatory there. It was beautiful. It was amazing to see so many different butterflies in one place. For me, it was a photography dream come true.

There were places in the conservatory with food for the butterflies. But even with that benefit, it was still a challenge to get the butterflies to stay still long enough for a picture.

Our next port was Grand Cayman. While there, we went Cayman Turtle Farm. They probably had thousands of sea turtles ranging from 7 weeks old all the way up to 65 years old.

This is Sparky. She is 65 years old, which makes her the oldest sea turtle on the farm. She was easy to pick out from all the others because of her distinct white color with black splotches.

My sister, Samantha, and I were excited when we saw a place where we could touch younger sea turtles. We couldn’t believe it when we realized we could actually pick them up out of the water. Being a lover of all animals, Samantha was especially excited.

It only got better when my mom saw that a worker brought out 7-week old sea turtles. They were about the size of my hand. Absolutely adorable. Samantha was in love.

We also stopped in Cozumel, Mexico. A local had a giant iguana that he was letting people hold. It was huge and heavy, but so cool.

And then he told me to kiss it…

…so, I did.

My family and I had a lot of fun on that cruise seeing new places and interacting with a wide variety of animals.

Beautiful Nevada

My dad and I went to Nevada back in November. We went for a 4-day defensive handgun class at Front Sight, in Pahrump, NV.

It was my first time in Nevada, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It is a beautiful state! The view is absolutely breathtaking! Pahrump is a small town about an hour outside of Las Vegas. You truly feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded 360 degrees by mountains. I never got tired of waking up to that view.

I found a really small cactus!

The High Ropes Corse at Front Sight with the beautiful sunset behind it.

Day or night, the view was unbelievable!

I’m looking forward to going back soon!