Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dubuque, IA

After a day in Galena, we spent the night in Dubuque (cheaper). Someday we'll come back and stay in an adorable Bed and Breakfast, until then, it's Priceline negotiator for us.

 This is downtown Dubuque. Brick everywherrre and life is good.

One of my friends, Kellie, told me about this. A guy lived on a bluff overlooking downtown and sick of his commute, he built a tiny railroad/elevator  down the bluff. God bless quirky people.

The following two houses were right next to each other. When we were coming into town, I saw the towers peeking above the other buildings so I pointed and said, "There." So gorgeous and clearly in need of my tender loving care.

Can I move into this sun room?

Still mastering the photos in the glass.

But the important thing is that my pinky is up.

We fueled up on frites in Galena before going skiing in the afternoon. Skiing in the midwest, right?

All in all, a lovely little overnight, 2-day trip.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Galena, IL

I've been slowly, slowly writing out my El Salvador trip. In the meantime, I wanted to share our recent trip to Dubuque, Iowa/Galena, Illinois. Jason had his very last spring break (!) and we took an overnight trip to the east side of the state. It's been such a long time since we traveled together; how I missed it! We spent the first day in Galena. If it was good enough for Ulysses S. Grant, it's good enough for us. Quaint, charming and picturesque. We were both surprised with how much there was to do on the main street, and we even got a head start on Christmas shopping which is kiiiind of unbelievable for us.

Disclaimer: I am obsessed with beautiful houses and buildings. You've been warned. 

My favorite building was this white beaut. Swoon. 

Spice wall.

Jason. That is all.

Madly in love with these three photos. Singing Aladdin and winning my heart all over again.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Here comes the sun

Ahh, yesterday. The weather was warm and sunny (and windy, because it is Iowa after all) and I was feeling footloose and fancy free. Iowa winters are rough on this Arizona girl. I’m already cringing and cowering thinking about the NEXT winter even though the current winter hasn’t left town yet. I certainly feel tougher after surviving nearly two but more than ever, I understand that I’m a sunshine kind of girl. Which, yesterday. I didn’t wear my winter coat the entire day. I frolicked in an aisle of ranunculus and brought two little ladies home with me. Jason fired up the grill for the first time this season and it felt momentous. We sat OUTSIDE on our patio and enjoyed burgers with this slaw on top (heavy on cilantro) with a side of sweet potatoes and Vitamin D. I felt like a princess.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mellani Palmer Larson

I read the text on my phone and then stared out the window into the snow, my vision blurring with tears. What does one say to a friend whose mother is hours from the end of her life? In the evening, another text came. And I lay on my sofa and stared into that phone for a long, long time. Typing, erasing, staring, typing. Praying for words that didn't want to come. How does one honor a life, a beautiful and sweet life, and convey the extent of grief at what is lost, through a few words on a phone?

Another text message came in the spring last year. Too distraught to call, but it was cancer. Cancer, the word that became a fixed companion in our conversations over the last year. It has drained our eyes of tears, called us to question the future, torn us apart individually and bonded us together. The miles between us have been consistently a sucker punch to the gut. Texts, emails, phone calls, and skype to bide the time, but comforting a friend whose mom has cancer is so much harder without those moments of simply holding each other and crying. 

Molli has been my best friend since fifth grade, meaning our friendship lasted through the ups and downs of grade school, middle school, high school, college, and adulthood, with new marriages, a new baby, new jobs, new friendships, and new places to move. It has been one of the most meaningful friendships I've had in my life and in large part, it is thanks to Mellani. I was always a shy guest in their home, not the kind of kid to quickly win over a family with charm and charisma. And yet, she consistently encouraged Molli to continue our friendship. In her motherly wisdom, she saw that we needed each other and understood our loyalty for each other. That constant support was a driver in our friendship. It meant so much, as an insecure teenager, to know that Molli's mom trusted me and wanted me around. That was her biggest gift to me.

Mellani was so grounded; a foundation of fortitude and grace in her home, at work, and in the community. She understood priorities and her family was always first. She had a smile for everyone and would always, always lend a helping hand. She was strong, kind, creative, silly, hard-working, and humble. She was a positive part of so many people's lives and she leaves a huge hole in her absence. It is more evident than ever that the quality and depth of my friendship with Molli is because she grew up under the wing of her mom, guided in how to care, love, and serve. Mellani's legacy will live on in her beautiful family; a continual blessing to those who benefit from knowing the wonderful Larsons. 
Oh, how she will be missed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

El Salvador

I've been back in the US almost a week after a trip to El Salvador with my church. It was a lot of firsts for me: first international flight, first time being in Central America, first missions trip, first time mixing cement and laying brick, first time working with a translator, first time falling in love with a community so quickly.

I have a jumble of words about the experience in my head that I'm still sorting out but until then, I want to share some photos of the faces I can't stop thinking about. Definitely left a piece of my heart in Anemona.

Monday, January 27, 2014

When I grow up

I was an active participant in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) in high school. My club was new and still figuring it all out which mostly meant more fun, less structure. We traveled in yellow buses and hung out in hotels watching late-night movies. We paraded around in business attire for competitions and won a surprising amount of awards.

One competition continues to surface in my mind from time to time. I had naively signed up for an event that was something to the effect of “Telephone Marketing.” In my pinstripe skirt and closed-toe pumps, I was shown into a small room with a desk, a telephone, and a prompt about some made-up company’s product. I had some time to study the prompt and then the phone rang. A man’s voice on the other line, low and deliberately slow, began asking me about the product. I was supposed to answer his questions, hitting all the bullets and features to effectively sell the product.

I was dreadful. I muttered and mumbled and stuttered and stumbled. I could hear in his voice that he knew I was doing a terrible job, and I’m sure he could hear in my voice that I knew that he knew that I was doing a terrible job. It was humiliating and my only saving grace was that I had those four walls to hide my shame.

Nearly ten years later, I will be at work and a project appears without much detail and a short deadline. And I have to chuckle because sometimes real life feels just like an FBLA prompt from an imaginary boss to prove my “deductive reasoning” and “quick action” skills. Seemingly I’m still 16 in a 25-year-old body just faking it each time I’m given any responsibility (people really trust me with things?!). I hope one day I will actually feel like a full-fledged, professional adult, but now I remind myself that I am not a Telephone Sales Rep for ABC Company and boy is life good.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fondue night

A couple weekends ago, our friends broke out the wedding gift fondue set and we partook in the finer things in life, namely fondue. I love friends who make an event out of eating and we have the very best. We dipped everything in creamy cheese and even had a broth to cook meat. It may have been a little "dainty" for the guys but they couldn't really complain because it was all delicious.

If only this was my dinner every night.