Monday, November 25, 2013


This post is not glamorous, but, honest. I'm thankful for my German heritage and to come from 2 lines of folks who managed their money, valued hard work, and living within their means. They may not have had much, but they had enough. I am thankful to have enough. I am thankful to have a spirit of self-discipline to say 'no' and to keep my wants in check. I am thankful for Dave Ramsey for writing 'Total Money Makeover' and making money management seem do-able - not complicated or too time-consuming. I am thankful to serve my family with this 'gift.'

I heard a few weeks ago about Germans' hatred of debt, having an innate desire to be free from debt and not burden another. This has been instilled into generations of Germans that it is considered a national trait. When I heard this, I thought, "Oh! That makes so much sense!"

Furthermore, a couple of weeks ago, I read an editorial about the cycle of poverty. It has been documented that generational poverty actually impedes the ability to plan long-term. Those who have lived in poverty for generations, paycheck-to-paycheck, simply focus on the immediate needs - never thinking about planning for the what-ifs in life. Again, I thought, "Oh! This makes so much sense."

My second reaction was one of gratitude. My grandfathers are both German. They were savers. They were planners. They were disciplined. As I said, they didn't always have a lot, but they always had enough. Because my grandpa Herman was such a planner and saver, what he left for my Gramma Faye has been enough to sustain her for the last 23 years - and allow her to be a generous giver. I consider this a great legacy.

When I got my first "real job," I realized that I needed to start being responsible with my money. ...but I didn't know how. When I asked my dad about budgeting, he said, "Just keep track of how much you spend each month - and there's your budget." Fair...but, not what I needed. I didn't need to know what I was spending my money on; I needed to know how to spend my money; how to save it.

Enter Dave Ramsey's, Total Money Makeover. This book changed my life. He gave a recommended percentage to spend each month on necessities, showing me how to live within my means. He recommended how much to save; how much to give - encouraging generosity. Within a year, I had enough money saved in my emergency fund to off-set a month where I didn't get paid (paperwork mishap; my contract ended and no one knew it). Because I had planned, I didn't freak out. While I did the 'dirty work,' I looked at this provision as a gift from God - because He laid it on my heart to be responsible and also the spirit to say 'no.' (self-discipline)

The budget became such a routine that I just kind of forgot about it. ...and then I got married.
Enter two different approaches to money management. Enter two people who thought the other one would take care of the details. Enter two different expectations. ...enter chaos.

I am one who lives by expectations - especially others'. My example prior to marriage was that the man handles the money. My dad was a great money manager; my mom spent it. :) My grandfathers managed the money. The married people in my life who talked about marriage were an example of the same pattern: man manages; woman spends. I thought that to have a marriage that lived up to others' expectations; that 'honored God', ours would have to look like this.

Conversely, Dan's mom managed the money - so he expected that I would to. I remember going out to dinner and he'd sign for the check, then give me the receipt. I balked. WHAT was he doing? WHY would I want that? I don't want to carry around his receipt! Why is this MY problem?

A year into our marriage, we were still having this 'discussion' of responsibility. [Downton Abbey quote-time: Cora, "Oh, I hope that we aren't having a disagreement in here." Violet (Dowager Countess), "Oh, is that what you Americans call having a discussion?"] My friend Heather mentioned that Dan must thinking highly of my ability to ask me to take on such a role. This completely changed my perspective. I could use my ability to serve my husband and our family...or I could be a wretch about it. Hmm...which choice would be more loving and honor God the most?

So, I'm thankful for God sending us His Spirit - his power - to change our hearts, attitudes and perspectives. I'm thankful for the ability to see beyond the immediate and have a long-term, and eternal perspective. I'm thankful for the corrective teaching and conversations.

...but really, as I completed my weekly/bi-monthly duty of balancing the budget, I'm really quite thankful that we have enough.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ordinary Time

Yesterday, I was thankful for an 'ordinary' day; a slower, quiet day, where I can enjoy my conversations with my co-worker/friend.

Thursday was a good day, but it was ordinary. You know? Nothing spectacular; nothing just was. Being able to be thankful for the ordinary - for the quiet, for the 'typical' not something easy for me. I have an expectant heart; I am always looking for the big thing (especially when I was single!), the next life event. I am learning to be thankful in 'ordinary time'...which is good since 'ordinary time' makes up so much of our lives.

November Rain

1) I am thankful for rain in November!
2) I am thankful for gray days in November.
3) I am thankful that I grew up in Iowa and know how to drive in rain, snow, and sleet (ish), and do not find Tucson November rainy-day driving "crazy" or "stressful" or "hard" or "day-ruiners" like some of my students do. [additionally: I'm thankful that it's not a "cold" November rain; 66 degrees, baby!]

...and also, I am thankful to Guns & Roses for writing an awesome song about November Rain, which is now playing in my head.

For your viewing pleasure. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Today, I am thankful for connections. I am thankful to have worked with great people while at ISU, and that I connect those great people with my current students. Today, I landed one of my UA students a job at ISU next semester while he is participating in National Student Exchange.

This is pretty self-explanatory, however, there are many days and multiple occasions that cause me to be SO grateful for my time at Iowa State as a student and a staff member. I am sure that my love of and gratitude to Iowa State did influence my student to spend his semester away at ISU. We spent a lot of time talking about possibilities, and I spent a lot of time gushing about ISU. To think, I could influence someone to spend 2-3 months in an Iowa winter instead of Arizona!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Birthday Week: Monday night through Thursday

I know you're dying for the details of birthday week!

On Monday night, after our marathon shopping spell at IKEA, we headed home for a dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Dan grilled steaks & ribs; I made brussel sprouts (sorry Dad - I'll make them for you when you come next) with mushrooms and bacon, and a kale/honeycrisp apple salad - with a maple vinaigrette. For dessert, we had Trader Joe's pumpkin bread pudding (soooo good) with my mom's homemade whipped cream (with a dash of cinnamon).

On Tuesday, Lisa, Mom, and I headed to Sabino Canyon for a hike. I have no pictures. I was with two terrific photographers, so...maybe, if you're my friend on facebook, you'll see the pics, IF they post them. :)

I had grand designs of a 5-mile hike, but after our narrated ride to the trailhead pointing out all the places where mountain lions have been seen, we were a little uneasy. Our uneasiness was compounded when we were the only ones who got off to go hiking. So, here we were - alone, among lots of craggy rocks where the kitties like to hang out (though not typically in late afternoon), and we hiked about half a mile. Was it beautiful, yes? Would I go back? Yes...but maybe get off on a different trailhead...

Can you tell we're related? Didn't even plan the fact that we were wearing the same shirt...the day before, we almost dressed alike....

After that, we hit up a Salvation Army on the way home to find my 'costume' for our annual Christmas photos. We had dinner with Dan on campus. He had a retreat at church. We hit up Nordstrom Rack.

We found these gems. I put them on (for fun); she posed with them and got quite the response on Facebook!

On Wednesday, we headed to Tubac - a former fort in territorial Arizona for the Spanish. I had never been, but had heard about it and thought it'd be fun to check out. It was definitely an experience! Lots of unique shops and we didn't hit most of them. I did get to teach Lisa about Sacred Heart Jesus...or Super-hero Jesus, as she called him. :)

We got our toes done on the way back to Tucson.
That night, we had DELICIOUS desserts from CafĂ© a la C'art for my birthday. There are pictures that exist of the dessert, the candles, and the family bonding, but they are not in my possession.  Also that night, we took our Christmas pictures. We're trying to get them sent early, so that you all know our address - and then we can get your cards at our new house!
Thursday morning, we headed to Frank's for a birthday breakfast.  Lisa and Mom, thank you so much for coming and making the week a great one! It was such a great time!

Birthday Week: Friday through Monday

Well, yesterday was my birthday…and my birthday week celebration came to a close. The timing of events were perfect, really.

Last Friday, Dan and I went out on a date. It’s been a while since we did something like that. When you’re married without kids, it’s easy to forgo dates, because, well, every time you eat out, it’s sort of like a date. …this semester has been crazy. Our schedules seem much busier and it just seems like we haven’t been on the same page or wavelength. This date was our way of refocusing our priorities on each other.

So, Dan made reservations at one of our favorite restaurants, The HUB, and we got dressed up for a little evening on the town.

My cute dress is one of my latest Salvation Army finds! :)
You know you're age when:
When you choose your meal based on the vegetables that come with it. I chose a pot roast because it came with brussel sprouts. (Quite delicious!) Dan almost chose a meal that came with asparagus (because of the asparagus)...but settled on the dish with the fries. I'm still counting it as a win. I've obviously rubbed off on his thinking! :)

Saturday was homecoming for the University of Arizona. The U of A has a homecoming parade a couple of hours before the game. Dan's school had a tailgating tent on the mall, so we had front row seats for the parade. It's one of my favorite parts. :)

The Wildcats battled the UCLA Bruins. Kick-off was at 8pm. As you can see by the picture, we were in shirt sleeves! You know you're in Arizona, when....


Sunday was spent preparing for our guests of the week: my mom and one of my best friends, Lisa.

They arrived Monday morning, and we the proceeded to spend 3.5 hours at IKEA in Phoenix. It was my mom's first time at IKEA, and she signed up to be an IKEA family member. I think she might start a petition for an IKEA to come to Kansas City. :)

This kitchen would/could possibly work in our house...for that major renovation in the distant future.

Dan's closet MUST HAVE!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankful for a “people”

I'm thankful to have a parish to call home: St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center at the University of Arizona. Blessed day of thanksgiving celebrating 50 years at our campus location!

Today, the parish that Dan and I call home celebrated 50 years in a church building at the corner of 2nd & Cherry on the U of A campus. During the mass, I was just overcome with thankfulness, gratitude, and emotion for having a parish home – and for being part of the community here. I am so thankful to be part of a people.

I wasn’t really even aware of how much belonging to a people meant to me. …but, once the tears started this morning, I keep remembering and recognizing just how important it is to belong to a people.

Growing up in a small town, you become aware at an early age that you belong to a community. Within that community are smaller communities – pockets of people who belong to each other perhaps because of the church they attend, the club they belong to, their neighborhood, or by blood. Within our town, we had our church, our Country Cousins (our neighborhood group that celebrated birthdays/holidays/each other that lived in about a 2-mile radius of each other), Jaycees/Mens’ & Women's Club (for my parents), and then later, our 4-H clubs…and, of course, the friends made from school activities.

Our circles/communities grew as we grew older. The boards that my parents served on expanded our circle to the county; Adair County Pork Producers, in particular, became one of our communities. Our circle within the county subsequently expanded the more involved we became with 4-H and showing at the county fair. Then, our circles expanded because we were serving on county/area/state councils.

…and all of this…connects you to the people that you live near. The connection to one another, especially in rural Iowa, binds you. This belonging stirs a need deep in your soul – to be with one another, for one another, love and serve one another, and meet others’ needs. This belonging is part of you.

…and, outside of your community, it is hard to find again. After I graduated and was living in Ames, the ache for community was almost impossible to bear sometimes. Yet, I always could go home – where I was known and welcomed; where I belonged. Eventually, I found community in my church.

…and, today, I became aware that (finally) I am finding that – within our church, yes; and, even within the state, through Dan’s job. Yesterday was U of A’s homecoming and Dan’s School hosted a tailgate. It was great to see his co-workers – our friends, and their kids and feel…at home. It was great to connect with his former students, who feel like part of our extended family (yes, a little like our kids). It was great to connect with judging team alumni who we see at Cattle Growers Events and have real conversations.

Belonging – having a people – is so important to us, as human beings. We were made for it. Today, I was able to pinpoint what it is that has made the transition to Arizona so hard. I am without my people. Yes, YES, I have my person. My person is so vital and integral to my purpose; I am called to my person. But, we have also been called to a people. We are not just for ourselves.

Friday, November 8, 2013

‘Know Thyself’…INFJ

This might seem lame to some, but it's not lame to me: I AM SO THANKFUL TO HAVE DISCOVERED MY 'TYPE.' I LOOOOVE personality types/assessment, and just have found the ENFP fitting me like it did in the old days. I've changed. for the better. I hope. The lone wolf has left the wolf pack: INFJ.

Well, my thankful post yesterday might seem strange to some, but for me it was most definitely like the planets lining up for one glorious moment to shine light on something that had been puzzling me for the last several months: my personality type. In college, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and came back as an ENFP. At the time, it seemed perfectly fitting…and I think it’s because that’s who I wanted to be.

In a way, I’m a bit of a personality chameleon because I’m not quite comfortable in my own skin (which, by the way, is totally an INFJ thing). It started in high school, when I took my first personality assessment, True Colors. I was a blue, through-and-through, but my secondary color has flip-flopped worse than a politician running for re-election. [Nice analogy, huh?] I took this assessment during a State 4-H Council retreat; I wanted to be respected as an organized, responsible leader…so, I gravitated toward the ‘gold.’ Truth be told: I am far from gold. During the discussions, I saw the oranges present and thought, “Man, I like attention. I want to be orange.” As a category, NFs are a tricking bunch because we know enough about personality types/people to recognize their strengths and want them for our own, but rarely do we recognize the strengths within our own type.

My mantra in college was definitely: “let’s not be too quick to make plans, let’s see what comes along.” This mantra is “totally P.” YET, my biggest struggle in college was, “What I am going to be doing after college? I should be getting married, God, but I am not dating anyone. What is the plan?” I REALLY, REALLY wanted a plan. But no grand, step-by-step plan was revealed for my life. So, I had to learn to adapt to not seeing the next step and being okay with that. However, I didn’t really let anyone into that struggle, other than those to whom I felt extremely close. Again – these actions scream I+J (introvert, judging).

It also seemed like my habits screamed P…like never being on time. No one who’s a J would consider 7:15 being like 7. But, I do. Interesting fact, according to PersonalityPage, “there is conflict between the inner and outer worlds, resulting in the INJF not being as organized as other Judging types….signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk.” UM, yes. However, the J shows up in this regard: “They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives.”

YES. I am in this constant state of re-evaluation, always checking myself. Again, PersonalityPage: “a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves – there’s always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don’t take time to revel in their accomplishments.” Mmm-hmmm. This is also a reason why I am attracted to the rectangle in psychogeometrics; always desiring to reach up, to get better. While the authors don’t say this, I would also imagine that INFJs struggle with comparison. It’s hard to recognize and acknowledge our accomplishments; and in a need to keep improving, it seems natural to compare what we are doing to others. Natural – but not best. Smile

Intuition is very strong for INFJs, and for me. INFJs can be good leaders, leading by instinct and vision. This could not be a more accurate description of me. I “just know” the needs of the organizations that I belong to and how to meet them in the best fashion.  Yes, my knowing does extend from interaction and discussions with members, but then a vision and a plan to accomplish and meet those needs just…comes to me – and sometimes, as a result of prayer. These things are hard to explain to non-Ns, and this gift can be particularly strong with INFJs, so we ‘protect’ this inner gift and share it only with those that we feel can be trusted.

I love this line: INFJs are as ‘genuinely warm as they are complex.’ And, honestly, we want to be loved for complexities. I know it makes me different, and sometimes difficult, but just love for my complexity, and you’ve got a friend for life. Trust my ‘knowing’ – and you’ve got me.

“They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress” (PersonalityPage).

Yep. Please remember this STUDENTS, friends, family. This is completely accurate for me. In fact, just a couple of days ago, a student confronted me after an evening workshop about a grade she received, and immediately my entire body stiffened/tightened. I hate conflict. Again, trust my evaluation of your work, PLEASE! I do not want to give you a 7.5, but for real, it was bad, and the fact that you cannot recognize it… I have had to teach myself to pause, breathe, listen, then respond with reasons. I think this one of the reasons rubrics are so important to me – I need them in order to explain my reasoning, with evidence, to my students.

“They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don’t believe in compromising their ideals.”

So, let me tell you a story about Jessica. Excluding grades 1-7, I have had 2 boyfriends. I have gone on…probably 10-15 dates. Within minutes of a first date, I could tell you if there would be a second. Usually, that answer was an easy, “No, there will not be a second.” This is that strong iNtuition at play. I just knew the type of guy I needed...and what I desired for my life. However, if you see the preceding quote about conflict, this then led to a lot of internal conflict knowing that I would be letting the guy down, and most likely, the person who set us up, too. So, even though I really WANTED to go on dates – they were not that enjoyable. I really liked meeting people, but not the dating part because then I had to steel myself for the let-down.

Oy..and that high expectations part…yeah, uh huh. Trying to temper this with the aid of the Holy Spirit because that doesn’t always lead to happiness in marriages. It’s super hard. SUPER HARD.

“In the workplace, INFJ will show up where they can be creative and somewhat independent. …They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks. They will either avoid such things, or else go to the extreme and become enveloped in the details to the extent that they can no longer see the big picture.”

This past year, I have been discovering this to be very true for me. This is why I enjoyed my work with TRIO so much – I was able to be somewhat independent, and creative by planning programs and events. I want to creatively plan programs. It combines my intuitive side of knowing what needs should be addressed, and then lets me work to solve it. Since I don’t deal well with minutia – I need someone at my right hand to take those ideas and make them reality (Nicole Nechanicky!). We were such a good team.  In teaching, this also explains why when students ask, “How many pages is this supposed to be? Do want this to be the header, or this?” I want to throw a book. Not literally, but I really don’t care. I want you to address the content that should be addressed and do it well. If you can do that in 5 pages, great. If you can do it in 3, even better. I will read what you put in front of me, and I will read it objectively.

What I really appreciate about discovering my type, though, is that I can see how my Strengths (StrengthsFinder – Gallup) fit into this type, as well as my “shapes” (psycho-geometrics). My top 2 Strengths are Individualization and Ideation: hello, I and N! My shapes are circle (always circle first), and then triangle/rectangle. After completing a learning styles assessment, I process information holistically (N), but I make decisions reflectively (I+J). Again, this seems ‘in conflict,’ yet, it’s ME.

“Life is not easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.” (PersonalityPages)

If you stuck around and read this far, you might as well check out the page that lead to such an epiphany:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6: First Friends

I am thankful today for my first friend, Jina Bresson. Our parents have been friends since before our birth, attending the same church and were in the same Lamaze class. So, she literally is my first friend, and her family was my second family. I am so thankful for the life lessons we learned together and that we were able to process those life lessons together (lots of hour-long phone calls throughout high school, even when we'd spent the entire day together in classes & activities). Now that she has 2 daughters of her own, I know her prayer is that her daughters will find similar life-long friends; I echo that prayer for your girls, dear friend.

I imagine that it's fairly rare to find people who have been friends from womb to tomb. While Jina and I are not in the tomb (yet), I'm quite confident that we will be one of those pairs. I am not exactly sure when our parents met, but I think it was at church - and then the friendship grew while both were in Lamaze class. Jina's mom and my mom were both transplants to our little community, and I imagine that they found a lot of comfort in being in the exact same place at the same time: newly married, newly pregnant, new mothers.

Jina is the first friend that I remember having. I remember her coming over to our house one day so that my mom could watch her, and bringing chicken...just in case she didn't like what my mom made for lunch. We would have been around 2-3 years old at this time. From the earliest of memories, she was always my friend.

I wasn't always nice to her. Once, in second grade, we were jumping on an old bed in our basement, and I reached out to touch her shoulder, and ended up scratching her eye. She had to wear a patch on the eye for two weeks; I made her promise not to tell anyone that I was the one that had caused her pirate-look because I was embarrassed and afraid no one would want to be my friend if they found out this was how I treated friends. She, like a good friend, like a faithful friend, didn't tell...which made me feel even more guilty. She was so good to me, and I...wasn't.

I could fill pages with Jina Lilly stories, PAGES. She was my best, dearest friend growing up. Our history began together, because of this, she understands me like none other can. We spent hours disseminating the events of our day, the actions and motives of our classmates and friends, making sense of the world around us.

I think the best word to describe her character and her friendship is this: fidelity. She is dependable, trustworthy, loyal, and faithful. Her even-nature helped temper my enthusiasm. Her faithful nature was a good rock for my sporadic, 'adaptable,' "P" nature. I can't imagine the first 18 years of my life without her by my side. I am so thankful for her.

Today is her birthday - and I wish her many more sweet years of happiness.

[Fun birthday story: she was actually due on November 12, and I was due on November 4. She came 6 days early; I came 10 days late: even our arrivals were true to our character. I always thought it was 'so neat' that our due dates were 8 days apart, and our real arrivals were still 8 days apart.]

Day 5: the teachers of life lessons

Today, I am thankful for Dr. Martin & Brett Kramer calling my use of the word "like" to the carpet; for the hours that Mrs. Amdor spent working with me to prepare for speech competitions; for the extensive speaking experiences afforded to me through 4-H and FFA. These people and experiences have shaped me into a competent public speaker. One of my co-workers yesterday complimented my ability to stop, pause, and find the right word rather than using fillers when teaching and presenting. It didn't happen, naturally; it's the result of practice, response to correction and suggestions, and mindfulness.

So, that basically sums it up.

When my co-worker bestowed this compliment, I immediately called to mind the fateful day/conversation. I was sitting in the waiting room to meet with my advisor, Dr. Robert Martin, who was also the Department Head for Agricultural Education & Studies at Iowa State University. It was my junior year. Dr. Martin came walking into 201 with Brett Kramer, a PhD student and instructor, who was one of my favorites. Naturally, I greeted them enthusiastically. Naturally, a conversation began.

I can't remember what I was talking about, but in the middle of the conversation, Dr. Martin remarked, "Jessica, you use the word "like" too much." Brett agreed.

Like any good college student, I tried justifying my use of the popular filler. I said, "I'm not using like as just a filler, though, I'm using it to describe what people say."

I believe he responded something to the effect of: "Jessica, you should use that word, then, not like. Say what you mean, and find the best word that accomplishes that."

Here is why I appreciated, and continue to appreciate, Dr. Martin: he observes changes that should be made and then mentions what should be changed. He didn't chastise or mock. He just called it out, matter-of-factly - to make me better, not to belittle.

Observing some panel members, recently, I discovered that one could have used a Dr. Martin in her life. Generational are hard, but not impossible, to break. As I said in my post: it's the result of practice and mindfulness.

Day 4: AZ friends and detoxing

I have a 2-fold thankfulness today. 1) for my Tucson friends; 2) for Dan's willingness to let me try out home remedies on his illnesses. Last week, he started feeling his weird sinus infection coming on. By Saturday night, he was down for the count. He slept all day yesterday...and then, I made him take a detox bath. So, far he's made it through today.

This one is much more divergent. :)

On Monday, I was really thankful for my friend, Anne Marie. Before I met Anne Marie, my co-worker described her to me as crafty, and her "closest to Martha Stewart"-like friend, then said: "You can't be friends with her; she's my friend." She wasn't forbidding me to be friends with her...but, you know, when you have that friend and you know she's awesome, but you don't want everyone stealing her time away from "your time"? I think that's what she meant. ...maybe.

Anyway, over the last year, Anne Marie and I have become pretty close. She and I share very similar interests - crafting, baking, Pinterest, thrifting, decorating, wine, and we have good talks. She's such a blessing to me. On Monday, we had another one of those 'good talks'...and then, she had a good talk with her priest and has decided to become confirmed within the Catholic church - and asked me to be her sponsor! She's a reminder to me of how good God is to us. :)

Part 2: I find a secret pleasure in serving Dan and trying home remedies to aid his healing. He refers to me as a hippie whenever I suggest them, and I consider that a compliment. 

On Saturday night, Dan started to feel pretty run-down. He slept most of the evening, and then most of the day on Sunday. I decided to put my 'pinning' to work: 1) I brought out our 'Scentsy' wax warmer - and put a tablespoon of Vicks & water in there, and let it warm and then release its nasal-opening vapors; 2) try out one of the 'home remedies' that I'd pinned - a detox bath.

So, I bought some Epsom salt, baking soda, and tried out our bath tub.  The recipe: 2 cups Epsom; one box of baking soda (about 1.5 cups - it should have been 2, but a small box is only 1.5 cups and I forgot to buy 2. I also did a calculation in the store converting teaspoons to tablespoons to cups. Thanks 4-H - and Mr. Brown, our high school science teacher.) - to the salt/soda mixture, I sprinkled some ground ginger (good for getting a sweat going to purge the bad stuff), and a healthy dose of Eucalyptus oil. I should have measured that - it was so strong, my eyes started watering. My nasal passages have never been clearer.

Like a good, dutiful husband, Dan endured the bath. It was recommended that during the first 20 minutes the impurities are released and the last 20 allow your body to absorb the minerals/nutrients. He made it 30; I thought that was admirable. He essentially slept the rest of the night, but went to work the next day and seems to be quite on the mend. We might have to keep this in our regular rotation.

Day 3 - DST

Day 3: I'm thankful for falling asleep to rain. I live in Tucson, AZ, so this is a rare treasure especially in November.
I am also thankful for the time change. AZ doesn't observe daylight savings time: with today's change, I'm now an hour closer to our loved ones in the Midwest!

On Saturday night, about 11, I noticed that it sounded like rain. I thought this strange because we live in Tucson and earlier in the week the weather-lady had said we'd have a drier than average fall and winter. Yet, here it was: rain. I was so excited.

Dan was sick and essentially passed out on the couch. I said, "Dan! It's raining!" He murmered, "SO? Who cares?!" Ah, sick-sleep-talk...sometimes, it's not very understanding.

The rest of the US celebrated on Sunday with an extra-hour of sleep. In Arizona, we don't get the extra hour because we don't observe daylight savings time. I've heard that it's because we get enough sun as it is, here. TRUE THAT. I celebrated that now I only have to imagine what my Iowa friends/family might be doing an hour ahead before calling, and our Michigan family/friends ahead two hours. I don't know why but it feels far less bothersome/intrusive to call someone knowing we're "basically" on the same time frame - instead of being so far ahead.

[That last statement shows just how much of a "P" I am on the Myers-Briggs personality scale. No "J" would ever dare to say that an hour, or even two hours, ahead/behind could be considered 'the same time.']

Day 2: Reconciliation

Day 2: I'm thankful for the act of reconciliation. Thanks, Jesus.

Today, I let my freak-flag fly (by that, I mean my Catholic flag). I have much more to say about the experience and just how thankful I am, but today, I will leave it at this.

Month of Thanks - Day 1

I need help with being more grateful. The best way to do that? Practice being grateful by calling to mind blessings each day. On Facebook, I'm 'attending' the 2nd annual Blessed Turkey project, where I record each day's thanks. I decided that on here, I would expound upon my daily posts.

Day 1: Today I am blessed to have a husband who recognizes my strengths. Dan connected me with a grad student who needed to observe university instructors teach lessons. It was such fun to share my philosophy of learning/teaching, even when guest lecturing!

The back story: A former Animal Sciences student, now an Ag Ed grad student, contacted Dan needing to observe some university instructors. He is currently going through reasons with his students, so while, it might be helpful for the students to have another listening ear - it wouldn't really help her with her project. So, he connected her with me. Similarly, in my classes, my 'lectures' for the year are basically behind me. I invited her to observe one of my guest lectures in a colleague's class.

It really was a lot of fun after the class to disseminate why I approached the topic the way I did, why it's very important to me to include activities that can be reflected upon, and then connect the activity to the topic. I truly love experiential learning...and seek to incorporate its elements into all my classes. I want my students to become LEARNERS - not consumers of information. This is the best way I know. This is why I am also thankful for my ag ed roots - not only from the classroom (undergrad & grad education), but for the experiences that led me there (4-H and FFA).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

‘Member that time we went to Mackinac/Michigan?


At the beginning of August, we were able to spend almost two weeks in Michigan with Dan’s family. It. was. glorious. We were able to spend 1 day with my Gramma Faye in northwest Ohio (she’s 92!). We had a great dinner with Dan’s best friends from high school, their wives, kids, and parents. Right before that, we were able to have coffee with my best friend, Andrea – a new transplant to southeast Michigan.

…and then came the Fair. Once again, we were able to spend the week at the great Shiawassee County Fair. It’s better than Christmas. (Not like actual Christmas, but travelling home for Christmas.) We get to really spend quality time with Dan’s family – sister, brothers, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, hopefully-one-day-sister-in-law, niece, nephews – and Dan’s cousins, their kids, and aunts & uncles. On top of all that, we had people visit us at the fair: Jim & Attie Brix and their kids; Ben & Jessy Tirrell and their kids. Dan and Attie were state FFA officers together, Attie made our wedding cake, and they are just wonderful people. Ben and Dan worked together at the sheep barn at MSU; Dan was in Ben and Jessy’s wedding; they are also wonderful people. We wished that we lived closer to both of these families; they are such good friends. Spending time with so many beloved people was so refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing, we spent 1 day on Mackinac Island. Yes, even just one day on the Island can be considered refreshing. It is awesome & I highly recommend that every one of you visit! When we were planning our trip back, we knew we wanted to take a little ‘mini’ vacation up north, but weren’t sure whether to go to Mackinac or Traverse City. After doing a little reading about the Island, I was sold on Mackinac. It sounded like the perfect place to truly get away.

The first rule of Mackinac? No cars. No motorized vehicles. It immediately causes you to just slow down. To get around the 8-mile island, rent a bike, ride a horse, or drive a horse & buggy. It sounded perfect.

It was. Here are some pictures.

DSCN2211Mackinaw Bridge

A word about the bike ride: when I did renting bikes, I got REALLY excited when I saw that tandem bikes are available. Immediately, I thought that riding a tandem bike would be awesome – mainly because of the cute picture. In my head, it would be the cutest thing.

We could have rented bikes from our hotel…but, that morning, they were out of tandems. [The woman working at the front desk looked at Dan and said, “You’re a good husband,” when I said that our vacation would be ruined – jokingly – if we didn’t ride a tandem.] So, we went to one of the (many) bike rental companies and rented the tandem. Then, we were fitted for the bike. Then came time to push off and pedal.

I couldn’t do it.

I am, by nature, a fearful person. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 9. Two days after finally being brave enough to ride, I hit rough gravel, went down, and sprained my ankle. So I’m a little gun-shy with bikes. I ALSO haven’t ridden a bike in ten years. So, I’m also way out of practice. When it came time to lift my foot that had been firmly planted on the ground, I couldn’t. It was cemented.

I had to go back into the office and ask for two single bikes. When I made the request, the woman taking reservations said, “Oh, you don’t want to do the divorcycle? Probably a good idea.” 

It was. I felt really uncomfortable with the idea that I could cause BOTH of us to go falling if I didn’t do things the right way. I still had a white-knuckle grip on my bike with the fear of crashing…but, about halfway around the island, I started to relax. By the time we got back to the “city,” the day-trippers were arriving in full-force. I said a quick prayer to be able to make it through without problems – and I did! Dan was impressed that I made it through town without a problem. I also think he was shocked that riding a bike was so scary for me….

Views from our 8-mile bike ride on a beautiful morning.


After the bike ride, we visited Fort Mackinac. The first photo is one of the many beautiful homes. (I think this one was for sale for a mere $1.5 million!)


A statue of Father Marquette stands in front of the fort. This seagull thought it was the best spot to relax. The fort is located at the top of the hill (which was steep hike).


These are views of the town and harbor from the Fort. Don’t you just want to live there??


A glimpse of the horse-pulled taxis you could hop, if you grew tired of walking.


Now that I’ve convinced you to visit Mackinac Island, some advice. Staying on the island is AWESOME. We were very blessed that one of the hotels offered a Groupon Getaway that allowed us to get a room at a discounted rate. The hotel was the Harbor View Inn and was amazing. They have 3 different houses on the property, which have been renovated as individual hotel rooms. Our ‘house’ was beautiful. Our room was lovely. They serve breakfast; they have coffee and infused water available all day. Each of the houses has a wide porch with patio furniture. It was a great stay.

If you’re staying, go have a drink at the Mustang Lounge. It’s a great place to relax and meet some locals. If you’re just there for the day, go have lunch/supper there. While you’re there, get the Whitefish Dip. Trust me. You will not regret it. It’s incredible (from a non-fish enthusiast).

Mackinac’s all about the fudge. We didn’t try fudge at every place that made it. We decided to buy our fudge to share with the family at JoAnn’s. The fudge and service were terrific. We were able to try ANY fudge we wanted. Recommendation: TRY THE PENUCHE. AH-MAZ-ING. It’s a brown-butter fudge and sooo delicious. We brought home 5 kinds of fudge – and the penuche (which no one had tried before) went first. The Kieslings have discerning palates when it comes to fudge – so this is a ringing endorsement.

Visiting Fort Mackinac was fun. If you visit the fort, you will be able to visit other historic places around town, like the blacksmith.

This sign was hanging in his shop. I thought that my dad and Aunt Nancy would appreciate this. They don’t call me “5-bucks Rohrig” for nothing!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thanks, Mom

In honor of my mother's birthday today, I thought that I would share some of the lessons I learned from my mom.  This is written a bit more in the spirit of a 'roast' instead of the tear-jerker memoir. But, if I know my mom, she'll get teary even while laughing.

Thanks, Mom, for being well-dressed. Your hand-me-downs keep me looking good.

Thanks, Mom, for loving to shop. This ensures that I get those aforementioned hand-me-downs while they are still in style.

Thanks, Mom, for showing me just how long 15 minutes can last. I am positive that I learned "15-minutes" can be anywhere from 20-35 minutes from you. I thank you for the lesson; I'm not sure Dan does. :)

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the value of a Cabbage Patch Doll. When in first grade, I really wanted a "real" Cabbage Patch Doll - not the "fake" CPDs that my mom made for me. The fake ones had weird noses and looked like they were always leaking snot. So, around Easter time, while shopping with my mom (at Sernette's!), I spotted one I wanted. She allowed me to get it, on the condition that I 'bought' it. So, for several weeks, I would do chores; my mom would hand me a dollar, and I would hand it right back to her. I learned that one CPD was enough for me. :) ...and I treasured that 'real' CPD much more than if I didn't have to work for it.

Thanks, Mom, for not reading too many parenting books. That one time that you read the book by John Rosemond was a pretty rough week for me. I didn't enjoy paying 25-cents every time I called Matt a "Butthead."

Thanks, Mom, for not realizing that I called Matt a "butthead" because the older brother on the Wonder Years called Kevin that all the time.

Also, thanks for not looking too hard when you couldn't find that parenting book anymore. I hid it in the guest room at Grandma Faye's. ...and I think it stayed there until she moved. ...and I'm not sorry.

[Also, can we just take a moment and appreciate the perfection of the insult that 'Butthead' is? It combines 'poophead' and 'fartface' into one, all-encompassing, put-down: 'butthead.']

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me power of suggestion. I can still remember your entry in my autograph book in 2nd grade:
"I chose yellow [the color of the page you wrote on] because it is one of the school colors of Iowa State. That is where I went to school and would be honored if you went there, too."  
So, from 2nd grade, I knew that in order to make my mom happy, I would have to go to Iowa State. [not that I would have ever chosen another school...but I might have at least taken a look] :)

Thank, Mom, for being such a cool Mom. Part of the reason that I always wanted my friends to come over was because I wanted to spend time with my awesome Mom. I still want my friends to hang out with you and see how great you are.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to make awesome faces for photos.

Thanks, Mom, for showing me how to laugh at yourself. ...and to not take yourself too seriously. You know what best exemplifies this? ...the bumper boats at Okoboji....

Thanks, Mom, for letting me be me.

Thanks, Mom, for knowing when to tell me to just knock it off when I'm being too much of me.

Thanks, Mom, for making our house a home through your decorating. It's always welcoming, inviting and warm.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to work to deadlines. Company coming over in 2 hours? Plenty of time to clean the house! [To be fair, if you had cleaned the house any sooner than the day that company was coming it just would have been needed to be cleaned again...the day of.]

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that even though the company we are cleaning for has seen a dirty house before, we should still clean the house for them, anyway.

Thanks, Mom, for instilling me with the DIY-spirit. Why spend money for something when we can have the pride and joy of doing it ourselves?

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the power of dreaming. As in, the power of visualizing what DIY-awesomeness could be ours when Pinterest wasn't even a twinkle in their creator's eyes. The 4-H Building at the Iowa State Fair was Pinterest for generations of Iowans...and still is for my mom and me.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to leave your home/family to make a new one in a new land among new people.

Thanks, Mom, for being better than a sister and a best friend. You are my teacher, my confidant, my corrector, my fashion-consultant, and my friend. I love you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You?

Today marks twelve years since the day we will never forget. Many Facebook posts today center around noting 'where we were' and the commitment to 'never forget.' I find it interesting how the details of when I heard are still so vivid. After reading my friend Andrea's post, I think we need a follow up to the 'where were you?' and ask, 'how did it effect you?'

This was Andrea's Facebook post that got me thinking:
I do remember this day, 12 years ago. Heather was my very groovy roommate. She had just stepped out of my car to go to class at ISU after we enjoyed a morning drive. I flipped on the radio as I turned the corner to head toward work. The words sank in as all other sounds and sights melted away. At work, every available TV was tuned to see the news of unfolding events. After a while, I decided that I was going to keep at the stuff of life, and for the day, that meant working, and most definitely praying, so I walked the quiet hallway to the lab. Ho-Ming strode in not long after to tell us the second tower had fallen, and I think we all looked at our work and wondered what it was worth. I decided it was worth doing. We would keep learning, creating, and living. I prayed for the victims, and for the perpetrators. For every family. For justice, for mercy, and for resolve. The lines for gas were long on the drive home, and I shook my head. I thought, if things turned bad, as long as the company stayed open, I would be working. I would also be contacting my brothers and my parents as soon as possible.

I find it interesting how the details of when I heard are still so vivid. I remember what the "early" morning September light was like, as I drove down Beach Ave. to park at the stadium. I remember tuning into 102.5 on that stretch of road. I remember pulling up to the 4-way stop of Beach & 4th St. and hearing the commanding sergeant of Camp Dodge say, "Oh my God," in a breathless, horrified whisper...and then, silence.

...and then, I pulled into the parking lot, so that I could board Cy-Ride to my Tuesday-Thursday classes, and thought, bewildered, "What is going on?" The radio dee-jays hadn't explained in the brief 2 minutes I'd been listening that the North & South Towers had been hit by planes that had been commandeered by terrorists. I knew that the South Tower had fallen, which caused the commander to utter that horrified whisper - a whisper I can still hear.

I rode Cy-Ride in a bewildered state. I walked into my classroom in Curtiss Hall desperate to know something. Only a few of my classmates mentioned it; my professor said nothing. We just had class like any normal Tuesday.

Immediately following that class was Ballroom Dancing. More was known by now - and I was filled in on some details. I don't really remember how I felt. I remember that we still danced.

Then, I went to the Memorial Union, where news coverage was being played in the Great Ballroom. I watched for a while; I took it in, in a sort of daze - what did all of this mean? ...and then, I realized that my mom was in Washington, D.C. So, I took the bus, and called home. My dad assured me that my mom was safe.

When I think back to this day, I feel like there is a swirling mist that surrounds the day. This fog of mystery and chaos enveloped us - despite the clear, bright, September day. I don't remember what I felt, but I remember feeling the need to be near God. So, I sat down at my desk and for 2-3 hours worked on a Bible study, entitled 'Becoming a Woman of Purpose.' ...and I remember in the midst of the chaos, confusion, and mystery, a sense of profound peace.

Reading Andrea's post and her response to hearing the news gives one the perfect glimpse of her. She embodies Paul's admonition to the Thessalonians to lead quiet, busy lives. She goes about her work as it were a calling.

The events of 9-11 cemented me to Christ. I was growing in my knowledge and understanding of, and relationship with Jesus in the year leading up to 9-11-01. That day, I realized that there was One to whom I could turn for purpose, for comfort, and for peace that would transcend all events and circumstances of the world. ...and this has made all the difference.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Robot Proof

Have you ever commented on people's blogs and then had to 'prove you're not a robot' by typing in a strange combination of letters and/or numbers?

How many robots are leaving blog comments that we have to prevent this behavior?

Were the robots rude? Were they leaving 'you're mama's so fat' comments on food blogs?

I mean, really.

A blog-commenting robot?

This post was not done by a robot...but, I have no way to prove that because there is no code I must type to verify my humanity. :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Projects: Pillows

When we moved into this house, we inherited a couch. Maybe inherited isn't the right word...we asked for it. The sellers left the couch in the house during the showing, so Dan asked if we could have it when put in the offer.

It's a great couch; comfy and large. The only downfall is that it's a little dated. The upholstery is a yellow & blue plaid (which is fairly neutral). The throw pillows that came with the couch were VERY southwestern.

A couple of weeks ago, while at Pottery Barn, I found 4 PB placemats. One of my "new" things is to make pillows from fancy placemats. It works really well. The most work is ripping the seams out of the placemat. Here are my 4 new pillows:

I love this way of making pillows. Pottery Barn pillows are awesome - but expensive. Finding a placemat for $4 that fits the PB color scheme, yet is original and the hints of 'handmade' - that has all the things. 

Projects - the Bar

Remember when I started a week of two weeks ago?

I wanted to post a bunch of pictures of projects that I was working on right before our big Independence Day party. So, first:


This project began on May 6, when my mother and I went shopping for a dresser. While at Sam Levitz (furniture store), we walked through the clearance section. Sitting in the back of the store (this area was far more 'warehouse' than store), we saw this gem:

It's the top portion of a china cabinet. It lights up (when plugged in). It has 4 glass shelves and a glass background. It was made of REAL WOOD. It was $50.

It was PERFECT to be made into a bar/drink cabinet. Per Pinspiration, I had wanted to remake an armoire into a bar - and this seemed...better...and available...and cheaper than the armoires being sold at the Habistore or Tucson's plethora of thrift shops. :)

Since it was the top of a china cabinet, the "top" of the cabinet was unfinished. We would need to make a bar top. No problem! We're a 4-H family! We LOVE projects!

That day, while Mom and I were in Hobby Lobby (one finally opened in Tucson at the end of March - and this was my first time; it was like coming home), we ran into a very friendly woman, who had just finished tiling a tabletop. She gave us a lot of ideas (ceramic tile & silicone) and thought it would be no problem for us to finish this. My mom really wanted to get the project finished while they were here - but they only had one day left to their stay.

A couple weeks later, Dan and I headed to Lowe's to buy tiles, plywood, and the adhesive. I think we spent about 2.5 hours in Lowe's...the most we'd ever spent there in one trip. This is a view of the tile layout from the top. The large tiles are marble, 12"x12" tiles - they were about $1 or 1.49/tile. I thought this was a STEAL and would make the bar look classy. The marble is surrounded by 2"x6" white ceramic tile (sometimes referred to as 'subway' tile, I believe). Along the long-side, there are tan, glass tiles that are 1/2"x6". On the shorter side, there are 2"x4" tan, glass tiles. FYI - should you decide to do this someday, glass tiles are the most expensive.

As you can see, we had to cut 2 ceramic tiles. Lowe's will do this.

We decided to add wheels to the bar for several reasons 1) the 'cabinet' is heavy; 2) adding tile would make it even heavier; so, wheels will make this puppy much easier to move.

After finding the tile, it was time to get plywood cut. We met an overly "helpful" associate who said we should NOT use silicone to secure the tiles, but some crazy stuff called "kwik-set" that we could use to build up the grout-stuff to ensure the tile would be the same height.

Adding plywood shims to support the plywood base and tile-top.

After the shims were added, we took a couple weeks off from the project because Dan was in Qatar. I thought about attempting this on my own...and then didn't. :)

So, on mega-project weekend, we got to work. Dan secured the plywood - and then, we mixed up the quick-set stuff...and put on our brick-laying hats.

Red Solo Cup: not just for Toby Keith or college parties.
The tiles secured!

The pictures really make the project look awesome. The quick-set did NOT live up to its reputation. It was very hard to work with, and even harder to "build up" to get the ceramic and glass tiles equal to the height of the marble tiles. It would have been easier to cut thin plywood strips and then use the silicone the lady recommended. Ah well, live and learn. I think we might get some silicone to put in the cracks to finish sealing the tiles.

Here is the bar in its home, complete with another Pinterest-inspired project (ENJOY).

The letters are 3D cardboard letters from Hobby Lobby that have been spray-painted with a satin-nickel finish. The letters were mounted with squares from 3M. (Also, the O and Y are now even with the other letters.)