Wednesday, November 14, 2012

prayers, please.

My Grandpa B.,
my father's father,
has been in the nursing home for
some time now, dealing with Parkinson disease.

Now he is in the hospital,
and his body is failing him.
He has developed trouble breathing which has
caused him to fall ill with pneumonia.

Please pray that he would be comforted,
that he would know God's peace,
and that he'd accept Christ's love.

Please pray for my family and me.
This is a lot to deal with, and
I personally don't know how
I will be able to handle it.

Please pray that God would be glorified by
the members of my family,
including my grandpa,
now and forever.

Thank you for praying,
as always.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And then there was.

Today started out as a dark, dark day -
the darkest day I've lived in for a long time.

But today I realized -
only when you
open your eyes
and truly,
genuinely see that
you live in a world of
do you finally
                understand that you need to

Friday, September 14, 2012

I want to call my dad.

What would this world be like if we could make a call to heaven? 

well, I was about to write out a list, and then I realized:
If we could call heaven,
We'd only talk to God.

God is who and what every person searches for and
what every person truly needs.

If we could call heaven, then  everything would be different.


As you know, we can't call heaven,
and we can't call God,
and we can't call anyone else who is there.

if, and
only if we would call heaven and still have the same
physical, mental, and (mostly) spiritual boundaries that we have now,
I would call my dad.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


As you might have known/guessed/been totally confused about from my last post,
it's been really hard to write.

Shoot -
it's been hard to write
and to talk
and to

Grief - year one is now done, year two isn't that fun.

That being said, year two, while not without it's vices, definitely has already had some victories.

So here I am,
trying to express myself again,
whilst dealing with existing in and getting out of the
deep dark hole that is

Thanks, as always,
for reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Asleep awake asleep

Here I go to sleep
Awake awake
And soon asleep
Wishing away what will be in my dreams
Here I go to sleep

It's been a hard summer,
One that I look forward to putting to bed.
I look forward to the fall,
And what comes with all of that.
So while I have had a hard time
writing, speaking, and thinking,
I look onward to putting to sleep this summer of silence and
waking up my words really soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


a lot of things happened this week.

a lot more things happened this week, one year ago.

when it comes to grief, most people forget you are suffering after some point in time,
and that is almost the hardest thing about it.

one year ago, i went home to be with my dad during his last month of life.

when you experience grief, the first year is in fact the hardest, and the
anniversaries are the toughest part.

oddly enough, this time it wasn't the date of the anniversary, but the day.

A Tuesday - that's when I went home on a bus, was picked up by a friend,
who transferred me to my waiting sister, who brought home to be with dad.

This past Tuesday, it had been 52 weeks (not quite a year),
and this past Tuesday,
almost no one actually knew what that day truly meant.

The anniversary of the beginning of the toughest month of my life.

Hopefully I can share some of the lightness from that month - there was more
lightness there
than most people can understand -
but please know that what posts I can actually write out may, at times,
be difficult in tone for most people.

It's just that - this is almost the only place i feel like i can actually explain what is going on.

Thanks in advance for reading[/listening].
It means a so much.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

and then there was...


John's back on Friday from his
6-week chaplaincy training.

First there was two,
then there was one -
                               one here,
                                         one there,
- then there was two,
and now we're ready to (geographically, et. al.) be one again!!!

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.
In some circumstances, no - it doesn't.
In this circumstance, yes - it did.

If I have time, and
if I get in a writing mode like I'm in right now,
I'll explain later
                      how this has all worked.

Right now,
I just thought I'd let you all know I'm excited.


Monday, June 25, 2012

ray of life

I always thought geometry was the most practical of all the math disciplines.

Sure, if you're in a math-heavy field,
linear algebra or differential equations may be a bit more relevant for you.

Geometry, I feel, truly can reflect time and space.

--- --- --- --- ---

In May,  I was up in MN for my sister's graduation and mother's day.

It was a good weekend for sure, but a hard one, too.

My sister looked gorgeous (per usual) with her friends on that day,

her boyfriend (a true winner) was loyal and dedicated in every way,

and my mom looked as proud as punch both on that day and the day before
when we celebrated her in our lives.

I'd be lying, however, if I said that there wasn't any sadness that day.

Just a little more than 9 months had passed since my dad died;

9 months is hardly a school year's worth of time.

He was so close to seeing Ash walk across that stage.
So close,

Nothing is farther away than a loved one in a place that you can't see,
can't call,
can't visit.

So close,

--- --- --- --- ---

A ray is a line which starts at a certain point with given coordinates,
and then
the line goes off in a particular direction to infinity,
possibly through a second point.


After looking at this definition and this picture, I see 3 things:

1. The end point, no matter how close it is to something, is the beginning of an end.
2. The ending direction doesn't stop.
3. The end can pass through, possibly, a second point.

My dad thankfully passed through a second point. 
He died - his life on earth is done, and it is absolutely painful for us who wish he was here.
He passed through the point of death, and then he passed through the point of life.

Eternal life - in heaven - is now what he has.
Eternal life - in heaven, with God and Christ - is now what he has...infinitely. 

don't call it a comeback

Given the hard realities of the last year and the
overall difficulty getting back into the swing of things as I know it,
cooking and baking have been a rather low priority, especially
trying new things.

Now, with John almost home and
the summer really kicking in,
I ended up getting excited about cooking something tasty.

I know - it's been a while, and
wouldn't you know -
I'm-a gonna post a picture
of a little dish I thought up today.

Caprese Bruschetta

Tomato topping: 2 handfuls of tomatoes go into a small sauce pot that has been drizzled with olive oil.  Salt and pepper the tomatoes, drizzle a little more oil on the tomatoes and cover with a lid.  Saute on medium heat. 
Once the tomatoes start to "pop" (you'll hear the steam coming out of them - 5 or 6 minutes), take a wooden spoon or a skimmer and squish all of the tomatoes until they are popped.  Add a clove or two of minced garlic (the amount depends on whether you like garlic a lot). 
Turn up the heat to medium-high, and let the mixture reduce so a saucy consistency.  Take it off the heat, add chopped basil & grated Parmesan, 2-4 tablespoons each, depending on your liking.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Italian Bread: slice, spread on olive oil, toast under a broiler, don't walk away from said broiler.

Mozzarella Cheese:  Slice two 1/4 inch thick pieces of mozz.  Cut both in half and squish until they are thin. 

Assembly: Place a piece of mozzarella onto each piece of bread.  Spoon the tomato mixture proportionately onto the bread and cheese.  Put the bruschetta onto a plate, place the plate near a window, take a picture with your phone, and enjoy.

Want normal-shaped bread? Don't walk away from the broiler. :) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a writer.

I think the first time I ever said that
I was a "writer" was
just this last spring to my then-boss.

Long-story-short, we were talking about
the nature of our communications department
(3 people strong!)
and how it had developed.  My boss was great, and
he gave me and my coworker a lot of writing projects to do.

As this conversation started to conclude, I said, with
great hesitation,
"I like this job - I like the creativity, and I like writing,
because I am a writer."  There was
a pause after that,
because I don't always feel like my blogging is "writing" rather
than just talking and
leading you all through my thought process.

Some people call this kind of writing
I call it
actively causing you're eye to
follow my words by using
progressive verb tense and
prepositional phrases.
              Also, the use of interesting
                                formatting doesn't hurt with
                                                obtaining your attention, either.

Anyway, I'm saying these things because
     a. I read the Daily Generous Wife blog,
         b. The author of that blog linked this 15-day writing activity, and
             c. I've had a lot of thoughts in my head lately, and this is at least one
                 that is easy to get out.

Also, on a whole other topic,
today is the anniversary of D-Day.
I'm incredibly thankful for the
immense bravery and sacrifice
the soldiers had on that day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"My weakness I feel, I must finally show"

Hit play and then read, please.

Sorry for the inevitable 15 seconds of advertising,
which probably/almost absolutely happened - this is likely the only
legal copy of this song on YouTube.

--- --- ---

There's nothing like a tough day in infertility land.
Well, actually,
there's nothing like a tough day in infertility land when
more reminders of what you're missing are appearing

The "tough-ness" happens to be particularly difficult
during times of change.

--- --- ---

I've been quiet lately; it's something
that happens when there is a lot going on.
Here's what's all going on: 

1. We're taking a "break" from trying to conceive (TTC). It's produced as many challenges as it has relief.
2. I start a new job today. It's a needed and wanted change, yet out of my safe/comfort zone.
3. John leaves for 6 weeks very soon.
4. Grief is making a comeback, producing vivid memories of incredible clarity.

 --- --- ---

Truthfully, this year has been tough, and
there is a bit of a constant haze that has
kept me from understanding
how life should be, how I should be.

I have a lot of stuff to work on,
and most of what needs to be worked on
will be in God's strength and timing
there's no way
I could fix all of this).

It's clear that I've gotten a little "better,"
but I would appreciate everyone's prayers
that these weaknesses I have
that I'll be beginning to show
will be uplifted with God's strength.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

weeks - days - forever

6 weeks -
                 how long my husband will be gone for army chaplain training.
2 weeks (plus a day) -
                                   how long until he leaves
3 days -
              the length of his drill this weekend
Forever -
                 how long I'll love him (and him, me). 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

and the whole earth shook.

Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went
to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake,

for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and,
going to the tomb,
rolled back the stone and
sat on it.

His appearance was like lightning, and
his clothes were white as snow.

The guards were so afraid of him that
they shook and
became like dead men.

The angel said
to the women,
"Do not be afraid,
for I know that you are
looking for Jesus,
who was crucified.

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
Come and see
 the place where he lay.

Then go quickly and tell his disciples:
'He has risen from the dead and
is going ahead of you into
There you will see him.'
Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb,

                     with joy,

and ran to tell his disciples.

         Jesus met them.
                          "Greetings," he said.

They came to him,
clasped his feet and
worshiped him.

Then Jesus said to them,
"Do not be afraid.
and tell my brothers to
go to Galilee;
there they will see me."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Well I figure I might as well.

It's that time again -
a monthly blog post!

Really, I wish I could write more, but in what I hope will be a
post in the next few days, I'll explain all the reasons and
excuses of why I just feel like I can't.

But for now, I'd like to show you a picture of some cookies.

 Well, Google, you decided to get fancy with the text wrapping, huh?

What does this have to do with anything? 

I ran the March Madness Bracket tourney at my work, which was
a ton of fun!

Most of the people picked Kentucky to win (I picked Ohio State...bah, Kansas!),
and it came down to final score predictions to
determine the winner.

The winner, Dr. Bob Herron, wanted some kind of cookie with
pecans in them (doing his Louisiana roots proud),
so I was able to find this little gem after a couple clicks of the mouse.

They are tasty - yet another winner from the Smitten Kitchen site.

One key tip - don't skip the oatmeal.  You will,
I say,
will regret that decision.

p.s. I know text wrapping has been around for a while, just wanted to acknowledge it.
p.p.s. I know Google doesn't really read this blog...or DO they?!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

hi, again.

It's been a while since I've written, and I
can't guarantee this will be an awesome post of any sort,
but I am just going to spout off some thoughts here, and
maybe I'll whip up some thought-provoking text on this blog.

Thought 1:
Watching the cyclones on TV is exciting, because IL doesn't do
Big 12.  Thankfully, CBS does online March Madness broadcast.
First two points of the game?  ISU!
But there is a bit of sadness in this situation here.  If I showed you
this room I'm sitting in, it would only include me and the guys on TV.
I miss Iowa.
I also am having a hard time watching KU score 7 crazy unanswered points.
Fingers-crossed that these ISU men can pull out some away-game
Hilton Magic. 
Update: 22-26, KU.  Make 'em cry, Cyclones!

I know #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament get preferential
placement in regard to which region they get to play their
first games.  Having your first games in your home state, though,
just seems too dang good. 

I'm got a lot of feedback on my infertility post, and I'm wondering if
I should start a series.  Maybe.
This month, I thought we had finally done it, but no such result.  
Guess I still have some writing material, right?


It's tough when I'm explaining something about my hometown, and
I have to explain something about my "mom's house." 
It's not just that my dad died, but that he did die - he didn't leave. 
So many people live in broken homes - officially broken by divorce -
and I just want people to know that my parents loved each other
and they didn't give up - ever.

We - John and I - also have to clarify about our living arrangements
whenever we talk about Minnesota.  When we were engaged,
he lived in Minneapolis, and I lived in Chaska. 
Actually, I did have
a student once ask me if my then-fiance and I lived together, and
when I said no, he said "Cool!" 
(Tara - take one big guess as to who that was)

The weather is great right now, and hopefully we get some rain.
The farmers could use it, and so could the daffodils! 
Hopefully I'll be getting some pics of those this spring.

Next year I'll be leading a Trinity Wives small group on campus.
Hopefully God blesses it as much as he did our small group this year.
One awesome thing: one of the women from my group
volunteered (unasked!) to go with me to my group, whatever that will be! 

Well, I got photoshop for Christmas (on super sale!), and let me tell you,
it's a unique program, and it
does some fun things like ----
create 10 Year Reunion Invitations!
Coming in April to a Mailbox Near You*
*that is, if "you" were a part of the class of PIHS 2002. 

If you have two cents if not twenty cents about
how to get into shape, meaning
how to get toned up,
build endurance,
and eat healthy,
then please chime in.
Oh, and keep in mind that, when you give
those two or more cents, that I
am a weak little thing,
don't like to run (but wish I did),
and I don't tend to get hungry that often.

Time to finally make my wedding photo book.  
3.5 years isn't too late, is it?

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Today was the first day that my husband has actually
been "owned" by the army. 

Today was the first day I spent a whole Saturday here
by myself without a car since...a long time ago.

Today was the first day in a good long while
that my husband was more tired than me at 10:00 p.m.

Today was the first day John got to interact with the people
he is going to help through this chaplaincy program.

Today was the first day that my husband got to see
the evidence of the clearest reason God brought us here.

Today was the first day of many where I'll listen to my
husband tell as many stories in such an enthusiastic way
as he did today. 

was a good day.

Only we could have expected change happen so unexpectedly.

Saturday starts the chapter for us
that we've been trying to write for quite some time.

The main issue was that we had the pen, but
the delivery man had yet to bring us some paper.

Well, take that metaphor and apply it to
the army, and guess what -
that's our life.

Saturday is officially Day 1 of this army life we're
going to be living.  John starts drill in T-minus
7 hours, and he found out about said drill weekend
T-plus 36 hours ago.

Oh, and we found out about where and with whom
John would be drilling T-plus 48 hours ago.

But wait - John was supposed to be told this information
about 3 months ago.  You know - T-plus 3 months ago.

And wait - this was a process we started 14 months ago (no "T-plus" there). 

That, my friends, is how you learn patience and grace.

That, my friends, is how you hone your sense of humor.

And that, my friends, is the definition of
hurry up and wait. 

Welcome [back] to the military to us.
Welcome [back]. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stories about my dad, #2

Something my dad always liked to do was tell stories.

After multiple brain surgeries and a reconstructive one on
the area where the surgeries took place,
he ended up having a hard time telling stories that weren't
what we had heard many times before.

I think that it was
a. the way he rebuilt relationship with people after he hadn't seen
them in a while,
b. the way he emphasized what was important to him,
c. the way he got through the effects the surgeries had on his
short term memory so that he could get to new stories or
thoughts that he had that day.

Also, he would forget a lot of things as his time on earth winded down,
and he was known for randomly switching conversation topics,
particularly when he got tired.

While this was difficult and frustrating for all of us at times,
it definitely also provided for some laughs - a necessary thing
when going through tragedy like this.

One of those times he did a topic switch-er-roo happened when
John asked Dad for my hand in marriage.

John drove down to PI from the cities one Monday afternoon.
He happened to pull in the same time as my sister.  She looked
at John with two seconds of confusion, then started freaking out (of course).
She knew what was coming, and, apparently, so did my dad.

Ashley walked into the house and yelled, "Dad, John's here to talk to you!"

John headed upstairs where my dad was.  They started shaking hands, and
my dad started "smiling like a fool" as soon as he got it.  He didn't
quit shaking John's hand. 

John asked dad, "So Gary, do you know why I'm here?"
Dad said "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" with his classic chuckle during
excitable situations.

"Well, I'd like to ask permission to marry your daughter," John told my dad.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah." Dad replied, still grinning from ear to ear.

"Well, Gary, what do you think about that?  Is that ok?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."  Still happy, still shaking John's hand.

As they have this exchange, Ashley tells John to come downstairs
to talk about all the details of the proposal (she had to know!).

After a little while, Dad yells down, "Ashley, tell John to come up here when he's done."

John went upstairs, and Dad said, "You know, you didn't have to ask my permission."

"I know," John said, "but I felt it was the right thing to do, and I wanted to do it."

"Ok.  Say - I need to show you something."

So at that point John was thinking that Dad was going to give him some kind of
advice about marriage or what Dad did to propose to my mom.

Instead, Dad proceeded to go to the kitchen,
open the freezer,
and say
"Check out these walleye I caught!"

Classic Dad.  You never knew when a moment like that was going to happen next.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Work it out

So tonight I went to Zumba.

It was the first class of the semester at the new
fitness center at TIU.

Let's just say that when you see the Zumba FB photo pop up on your news feed
and it's a split screen of what you feel like and what you actually look like
when doing this hour-long-
what you see will be 100% accurate.

After a while, or at least
when you still have energy,
you feel great,
you know:

Having fun,
feeling the beat,
and all that.

The catch, however,
is when you haven't worked out hard in YEARS
and it's been almost 5 years since you
did any form of dancing regularly,
well - you will look like this:

"This submission comes all the way from Romania, proving that yes, they are all gymnasts."
From Awkward Family Photos

Well, actually you look significantly
amazing than that guy, but you get my point.

So, I thought that maybe you who have 8 minutes and 13 seconds
on your hands to watch a fantastic example of when I
actually was coordinated and in-shape,
here you go.

Greek Week 2007
1st Place Lip Sync

If you have only 1 or 2 minutes and
yearn to see me dazzle the stage
(including a big misstep I took at 4:15),
I'm the one wearing purple in the first act.

Purple is a dazzling color, people.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Infertility Feels Like

It feels like a bully.

Not that one that says crap to you at your locker every day. 

You can take care of him (or her) with a smart phrase or two.

No, this bully is a tormentor,
and - perfect.

It makes you believe that everything is perfectly wrong at just the worst time.
It gets you right after you think you finally did it.
Yes, you finally did it! actually didn't.

It feels like discouragement.

It makes you believe that you're

It tells you that you've got something wrong with you.

It tells you that you can keep trying,
but it's probably not worth it.

It feels like a thief.

It robs you of your joy.
It robs you of your hope.
It robs you of your future.

It makes you question proven solutions,
question any alternatives,
question everything you do.

It makes you question your past.

Why did you wait to try at all?
Why didn't you try as soon as you could?
What's the purpose of doing "what's wise" when
       you don't even have the self-experienced wisdom
       to know what the...what you are doing?

It makes you feel like you've been a disappointment.
    Why didn't you give your dad a grandchild?
    You know, your grandpa will never know your kids now that his memory is going.
    Will your sister ever get to be an aunt?

It makes you doubt your whole future.

You were supposed to be a great mom.
    Will you even be a mom?
    What says you can get pregnant?
    Who says you could ever afford (or achieve!!) adoption?
    Why do you think you're special enough to have a family?
    Why do you think you're special enough to do...anything?

It feels like you've lost a part of you:
    -An arm
    -a leg
    -your hearing
    -your sight
    -your heart.

... ... ... ... ...

It'd be great never to have to deal with these things,
but this is my lot in life right now. 

Nothing is impossible with God,
nothing at all.
Yet, even He knows that this pain is insufferable.
Proverbs 30:15b-16
 “There are three things that are never satisfied,
   four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
16 the grave, the barren womb,
   land, which is never satisfied with water,
   and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’  

I love, love, love kids.
It's amazing to be there for them,
to play with them,
to imagine with them,
to help them understand life on earth.

But with as much joy as I get from kids,
                          -and trust me, there is plenty of it-
I can't ignore this hurt,
It's been 2 long years,
including these last 6 particularly long months.

Insufferable as it may be,
I still have hope: 
hope that there is still a chance,
hope that it's just a matter of time,
hope that somehow, this blessing will happen.

Here's to hope - in God - that things start looking up  -
                                                                         hopefully soon. 

Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Tomorrow I'll be publishing a post about what infertility feels like.

It's something I've googled before, and why?

Well, infertility - the feeling of enduring it - is hard to put into words.

So I want to write this post beforehand to let anyone know who wants to know
that there are plenty of things for which I am thankful despite
the very difficult experience of trying to conceive.

I am so thankful for the kids who live on campus here and in our community.
There are just some precious little ones who light up my day,
and they are the cutest things.
When my friend Heather's girl, Rachel (2 years old) remembered
my name after not seeing me for almost a month,
well, that just lit up my day.
Not only that, but it really lit up my day when she then
proceeded to tell me where babies come from:
"My baby brother will come out of my mommy's tummy!
And you - when you were a baby, you came out of your mommy's tummy!"
What a cutie!

I'm thankful for the blessing of John's brother and his wife being pregnant
and due this summer.  We are excited to be aunt and uncle, and
it's nothing but surreal for us.  This little one will be smart as a whip
and tall as a bean stalk.  The doctors already have him or her measuring about
a week ahead of schedule.

I'm thankful that I have my husband.
He's been more than encouraging these last several months.
He also does great at putting up with me and my...crap.
Crap is the easiest way to say it.
Anyway, he's a winner, that's for sure.  I'm so glad he's my husband.

I got to talk to my sister twice last week.
That's getting into record-breaking territory!
I'm thankful that we are able to talk more now that
her college schedule is winding down.
That, or I was thankful to talk to her because she was
still on break!

I'm thankful for my mom.  She has been
really compassionate throughout this whole infertility ordeal,
and she is patient with me when I talk about the same things
for the 200,786th time.

I'm thankful that we're here at TIU.
It's hard to imagine a more encouraging environment,
and it's incredible to feel that after a difficult start last year.
I have a distinct feeling that, as challenging as this place can be,
it also has a "cradling" effect; once we're back
out in the real world completely, it will be
quite the transition!

I'm thankful for God,
that, no matter how far away I get,
He's there.  He's there
and I'm pretty sure He's just waiting for me
to take some kind of leap of faith into his will for me.
Don't ask me what that would be; I don't know.
I just feel it.

So those are some things I'm thankful for.

It's good to write this down when it's hard to see the silver lining at times.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

a first!


Four exclamation points worth of excitement is welling up in me, and why?

We have lived in this same one-bedroom apartment
at Trinity International University
in Deerfield (really, Bannockburn), IL




Ok, for most people, that's no big deal.
For us, it's a first.  We've never lived in one place for over
a year since we were married just under 3.5 years ago, and
today we realized we had moved here a year ago
after we remembered it's Saturday, not Friday, and
that we moved here a year ago this past Thursday. 

                                       Yes, that's almost a run-on sentence,
                                                                           and no, I'm not fixing it.

So, after we exchanged high-fives and I said "I'm going to blog about this!",
John came up with the good idea to highlight the places we have lived so far.

No pictures of our apartments for now, although I am
sure I can add some some other time,
but here's a little run-down of all the places we have lived since the summer of 2008.

Twin Cities, MN (our engagement)
I lived in Chaska, MN, and John lived
in Dinky Town of the University of MN campus in Minneapolis.

Chaska highlights: I lived by a nice little lake that had some good trails around it, although way to many bugs.  That's a lake for you, though, so no big deal.  The old part of the town was historic and pretty, and I should have spent more time there and explored around their old buildings and parks near the MN River.  Also, I only lived about a quarter mile from where I worked, but was still far enough away that I didn't run into students every minute.

Dinky Town highlights: Lots of restaurants, close to everything you need to see in Minneapolis, and right near a bunch of other cultural highlights.  What I liked best is that John lived in a legal fraternity (he was in law school) that was in an old historic mansion.  It had nice architecture and was a welcome escape from suburbia (I needed it!).  Once you got over the frequent gun shots heard from not-at-all far away, you began to appreciate the awesome music scene and tasty hole-in-the-wall cafes that were just a block or two away.

NW Wisconsin
John worked at a boy scout camp and a chaplain and an instructor.

Camp highlights: this city boy with a country boy heart got his fill of manliness that summer before we got married.  He also had an awesome time working with kids and preaching God's Word.  This place had plenty of bugs, no air conditioning, and the same food every single week, but John loved it to bits.  I got to visit him that summer, and it restored my faith that teenage boys could be acceptable citizens in society.  John talks about going back from time to time, and he usually is smiling when he does it.

Ames, IA
Our first apartment

Ames highlights: We got hitched in August '08 and settled in to a two-bed, one bath, galley kitchen apartment.  This was the biggest place, save "The Center" - see below, that we have yet to live in.  We packed everything we have ever owned and wasn't still at our parents into this place and still had room to spare.  The kitchen was tight, and I'll admit that I hardly cooked in it compared to what I do now, but the place came with every amenity we could have possibly wanted: new carpet, new paint, free internet, free cable, all utilities included except for electric, a deck, a nice bathroom, and a stones throw from a Walmart.  Yes, this MN girl would have never conceived having a Walmart in her backyard as a good thing, but I'll tell you - it provided for great late-night entertainment and wallet-friendly purchase.  Plus, we didn't waste gas driving there, even in the winter. 

Newton, IA
"The Center"

Newton highlights: Without firm employment in Ames and a new 12-month lease waving in front of our faces, John wisely decided that we should live in Newton.  Living with his parents was a little daunting conceptually, but that's not what he had in mind.  We ended up living in his grandpa's office building/warehouse, which housed his old electrical contracting business when it was still operating.  Meisner Center, which has the creepiest shadows I've ever had to live with, was set up for four months as our apartment.  How did we do it?  Well, pictures from that I do have somewhere, but we used a conference room as our living room, the main office as our bedroom, the break room as our kitchen, and the secondary entryway as our computer room.  The last one was because it was the only place with a window close enough to the WiFi one of the center's renters let us use for free.  The bathroom had a shower (for mid-day golf outings by the boss - used once, ever), and we did laundry at John's parents house.  We also watched TV, cooked, were ate dinner, and played games at John's parent's house.  We basically lived there and slept at "The Center."  It was a good place to live, save a few break-ins that happened while we were asleep in a different part of the building.  I only found out about the second one this past Thanksgiving because John and his Dad didn't want to freak me out anymore than I already was.  Overall, though, it was a safe, fun place to live for the fall. 

Des Moines, IA
Sherman Hill

DSM Highlights: I'll try to make this shorter than "The Center," but it will be hard.  We LOVED Des Moines!  We lived the oldest historic neighborhood in DSM, Sherman Hill.  The houses there are amazingly beautiful, and it was a pleasure just to take a walk whenever we were able.  We lived in an apartment complex with great neighbors and an incredibly nice landlord named Dan.  Dan would do a great job attending our needs, and he also helped facility a nice community! Oh, and we got to paint our 2 bed, 1 bath apartment, too.  It was fun, but made us never want to paint an apartment again!  :) In addition to a nice apartment experience, we were walking-distance from Downtown DSM, as well as some awesome restaurants and a fancy schmancy grocery store.  Finally, we had a community garden here at the local elementary school, from which we learned what to do and not to do when it comes to growing your own things.  SO fun and such a great experience overall.  We'd suggest this neighborhood to anyone.  Finally, we attended a wonderful church. Grace Church in East Des Moines, where we met awesome people in and out of our small group, were a part of Awana, and grew more in our faith than we had in a long time. 

Newton, IA
John's parent's house

Newton, again!: Well, due to several events all colliding at once, we ended up deciding to attend seminary here in Chicagoland.  The trick with that was that we had a month in between when our lease ended in DSM and when we'd be moving to IL.  Thankfully, John's parents are great, and we got to stay with them in their 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath house for that month.  Now, we'd be heading up to MN for Christmas anyway, so we weren't there the whole time.  That being said, we were in tight quarters for a while, but we got used to it.  It was fun spending time with them, particularly when you compare that to purging through every single item you own in order to downsize for a big move.  Lots of games, food, and good memories came from that month.  His parents are very generous and hospitable, that's for sure!
         ---- A little aside: this past summer we lived at my parents house, too, until my dad passed away. 
                While it was definitely difficult considering the circumstances, it was a great experience doing life
                with my mom and sister.  I deffintely miss seeing them every day, and I don't take it for granted
                when I get to.  In addition to spending great time with my mom, dad, and sister, I also got to see
                 my friend and her husband bring their son home from Ethopia, another friend's little one-year-old
                 boy, have coffee and late-night walks with my best friend from HS, and see many family
                 members throughout those weeks. Plus, my dad affirmed his faith in Christ - praise God!

Deerfield, IL

And that leads us to our little apartment in Bannockburn, IL, with a Deerfield mailing address and an incredibly expensive overall price tag.  We've met great people here - great, GREAT people who have awesome hearts for God.   We're still figuring this area out, but these 12 months haven't been without some fun discoveries of what the North Shore has to offer.  Hopefully we'll be able to get to know more people, both on-campus and off, and we'll continue to appreciate this place as our home more and more. 

So there you have it - everywhere we've lived in the last 3.5 years.  It's been good training for the potential future of living as an army wife, I'd have to say!