Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A[nother] New Year

Image from Pinterest
My first post of the year was called "A New Year," as I'm sure many of you remember 😉

January 1st does certainly mark the turnover of a new calendar year, there is always something refreshing and exciting about the turnover from August to September. But as other bloggers have said, there is just something about September 1st that feels "new yeary," especially for those who are on or somehow connected to traditional school calendars. Also, September is the month in which autumn officially begins, and that is by far my favorite season. Personally, I'd like to say that September 1st feels like a good time to declare a new year in my little family. In August 2017 my husband was called away for a two and a half week Army training and then days later for a short hurricane relief deployment. Between that time and now we've faced a lot of hurdles, some of which I have documented here, and I'm really ready for that "year" to be over.

So, here we go. September 1st(ish)! A new start of a new year in a new place! I will detail my first month as an Assistant Professor at Olivet in October, but in this blog post I'd like to go over my last month of summer fun and then the preparation (ahem, or lack of) that I did leading up to the start of the fall 2018 semester.

Personal: Durango Vacation

To round out the summer, Wade and I spent two weeks in beautiful Durango, CO. This was our fourth time there in the same number of years, and we always really enjoy ourselves in this lovely mountain town. We stay at my Grandpa's condo near Purgatory Resort, and we like to venture into town as well as by and through the gorgeous natural landscapes. One of my favorite views in all of the world is Haviland Lake. It's not far off the main road down the mountain, but the accessibility in such a serene setting is one of my very favorite things about it. The lake sits peacefully in the San Juan National Forest at the base of the San Juan Mountains. The lake is no more than two miles up the road from the condo, so we make sure to visit it every time we go.

Haviland Lake January 2016

Haviland Lake August 2018
In addition to visiting the lake we also ate out at a lot of fun places and had delicious food like a spicy tuna sushi burrito, a chocolate crepe, vegetable curry, and galub jamun. We celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary in Durango, and we ate sushi and seafood ramen and a raspberry sorbet dessert. We also did a couple hikes while we were in the area, but there were a few areas blocked off due to mudslides that occurred shortly before we arrived. A forest fire called the 416 fire burned through almost 55,000 acres of the San Juan National Forest for two months before we arrived. Due to the massive burn areas, rains that fell after caused major flooding and mudslides in the town. We saw remnants of the mudslides, and thus the fire, in the blocked off hiking areas and roads under repair. Durango is a resilient town, though, and the people seemed strong. 

A couple other special things that we did while we were in the area were spending a day at the spa, and Wade got a new tattoo on his right forearm. For our anniversary gift to one another we decided to do a spa day. We had been to The Woodhouse Day Spa in Durango when we went there for the fourth of July weekend in 2015, so we decided to go back. It is a luxurious, relaxing place, and we love spending time in the thick white robes, sauna, steam shower, and quiet room overlooking the river even before getting our spa treatments. As a special gift partly from both of our parents, Wade enjoyed a Swedish massage, and I got a warm agave nectar pedicure. Both were very relaxing.

Another special thing that we did while in Durango was Wade got his third tattoo. Again, we had been to this business before, namely when we got our matching arrow/cross tattoos to commemorate our ten years together when we went to Durango for the new years weekend in 2016. We went back to Your Flesh Tattoo & Piercing, and Wade worked with the artist Brian Hutflies to make his design come to life. Wade got this tattoo done in honor of his older brother Matt who passed away on June 1st of this year. Wade explained that he got the tattoo done in memory of how much his brother loved both to bike and the diner that he managed and planned one day to take over. Matt's passing has been difficult, especially as it was so unexpected, and I'm glad that Wade took this step to commemorate not only Matt's passing but his life.

Our time in Durango was really sweet, and I'm glad we went. We drove there and back, so it was quite a long trip, but we actually enjoyed that as well. The Harry Potter audio books got us through. We finished up Order of the Phoenix and moved on to Half-Blood Prince before we got home. On the way out to Durango we stopped in both Lincoln, NE and Denver, CO. On the way back we made one stop in a small town in Nebraska for one night.

Professional: Semester Preparation

One of the major projects that I worked on this summer was the revise and resubmit that I received from an article manuscript that I submitted to the online journal Peitho: A Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. I originally submitted the manuscript back in 2015, and I had sent in a second draft since then, but this third revision was long overdue. I did, with the help of a mentor, Maureen, and my writing group, finally send it back in, and just today I received another revise and resubmit! The work the editors are asking me to do is more re framing and clarification. I hope to be able to do that in the next month or so and send it back once more. This publishing work is not for the faint of heart! I think once I have completed this manuscript I will turn my attention to some of the data that I collected from my students' work and draft an article manuscript discussing some of my findings.

Along with this article revision, I have spent much of my working time this summer (when I wasn't traveling, helping family, or recovering from my surgery) putting together my classes for the fall. I will be teaching two sections of College Writing 1, Advanced Writing, and Business Writing and Technical Communication. While in CO I put together syllabi for all four of the courses, and I am glad to at least have that much done, even if there is still much more to get done before classes start.

I will include links to my course syllabi here. I think it is good to have record of these documents, as well as be willing to share them. Whenever I make new syllabi for new institutions I try to include components of the institution in the document themselves. In this case, I've used the Olivet colors of purple and gold throughout the pages, as well as put the logo on the top right corners:
In addition to syllabi writing I've been putting together project descriptions, responding to emails, and getting aquatinted with the Olivet system. Many hours of work are very little seen in these beginning stages of projects, but I am excited nonetheless to jump in! As I've prepared for this year, I've taken the aesthetic, spirit, and words of my Harry Potter house (which I sorted into on Pottermore) to heart! I'm prepared with my golden accents, my mindset of hard work and patience, and even printed a beautiful Hufflepuff poster to hang in my office. Here's to a wonderful new year!

Image from Etsy

Hufflepuff Scarf from Amazon

Poster from Etsy

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Seven Years!

This month's post is a personal one, as today my husband Wade and I are celebrating seven years of marriage! As I said in my last post, this summer has been tough, and there isn't really any part of it that has gone to plan. In addition to the difficulties mentioned, I also had to cancel a trip to Denver for a girl cousin's weekend because I hadn't recovered enough from my gallbladder surgery to make the trip. All that being said, I'm excited to celebrate this milestone in my marriage and reflect a little over the past several years, specifically on our amazing wedding weekend. Get ready for lots of photos and a walk down memory lane! 
Engagement photo by Michael Anderson & invite design by Jerry Scheller

Wade and I met for the first time in the fall of 2001 at a youth group meeting. I was wearing a black, pleather jacket and Wade was wearing a red, Adidas sweatshirt. Our middle school selves were not super impressed with the other. We were in the same class of 30 students starting our freshman year of high school, and we actually became friends through a mutual friend group in the fall of 2004, our sophomore year. The beginning of our dating relationship started about a year later when Wade asked me to be his date for our junior year homecoming in November of 2005. He officially asked me to be his girlfriend on January 2nd, 2006. Aside from one short break, we dated throughout high school at Abundant Life Christian School and college at Olivet Nazarene University, and he proposed to me the spring semester of our senior year of college on February 11th, 2011. We had been dating just over five years at that point, and then just over five months later (about ten years after we met), we were married!

Our first homecoming, first date as a couple, and engagement were all documented in my parents' front living room:
Homecoming 2005
First Date 2006

Engagement 2011
As this is our seventh wedding anniversary; though, I want to recap and remember our amazing wedding weekend! For almost the entire summer prior to our wedding Wade was in Washington for his LDAC training. That meant that not only could we not see each other for about six weeks prior to getting married, but we also couldn't talk on the phone, text, or email, either. We did send letters through the mail to one another, updating each other on our daily lives and details leading up to the wedding. In some ways it was sweet and old fashioned feeling, but in many ways it was quite difficult to be apart through that time period. The good news, though, is that he got home in time to get his suit tailored, choose our vows, and prepare for the weekend!

We chose to get married on a Friday night, and I wanted the wedding to have an "Old Time Madison" feel. I wanted black satin dresses, butler passed hors d'oeuvres, and a night of dancing. I think we and our 175 guests enjoyed all of that and more! Because of Wade's summer schedule, when we were getting married, and the fact that many family and friends came in from out of town, we decided to make a whole weekend out of our nuptials. Here's our wedding weekend! 

To make you feel a bit more like you were there, check out this playlist of songs played at our ceremony and reception. 

We began the festivities on Wednesday, August 3rd with all day bachelor/ bachelorette parties. The bachelor party actually lasted overnight as they ate, hung out, and camped at Lake Wisconsin together. My bachelorette party was thrown by my sister and a dear friend, and we had a phenomenal day. We got our nails done at 007 Nails, took a Betty Lou dinner boat cruise, had desserts and opened lingerie gifts at Brocach Irish Pub, did karaoke in a private room, then hung out downtown. It was so much fun!

The day following the parties was the day of the rehearsal. We spent the day preparing wedding favors and other details, and then we rehearsed and lived it up that night! We rehearsed the wedding ceremony at Ridgeway Church (then called Bethesda), then Wade's parents threw an awesome luau party in my parents' backyard. The luau was complete with tiki torches, leis, and a full Hawaiian spread. They hosted about 50 people at the rehearsal dinner, and it was a wonderful night. 

The next day, of course, was the wedding day!! Friday, August 5th, 2011 dawned bright, clear, and hot. Our wedding started at 6:00 PM, so we had the day to sleep in a little, get ready, and take photos with our bridal party. Before photos, Wade and I met in the sanctuary of the church for a private first look. It was just us and our wedding photographer, Lukas Keapproth. I walked up behind Wade, he turned around and saw me in my dress for the first time, and we hugged. It was the only moment in the whole day when I cried, and it was my very favorite.

Wade and I each had eight members of the bridal party on stage with us in the ceremony. In addition, we had two ushers, two bridal attendants, a flower girl, and a ring bearer. Our total party of 22 was big, but we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Coordinated by our amazing wedding coordinator, Conni, we had the ceremony at Bethesda, then we hosted the reception at the Madison Club, the perfect venue for the theme and feel we wanted for our day. We laughed, we toasted, we ate, and we danced-- our first dance was to "Hold On" by Michael Buble. That day will forever be one of my very favorite days. Enjoy these photos from Red Wave Weddings that expertly captured some of the most special details and moments. 

The day honestly went perfectly. Though we were a bit disappointed that we didn't do a receiving line so we missed getting to say hello some guests, there is almost nothing about our wedding day that I would change. It was sweet and special and so much fun.

Both of our parents hosted a brunch for our friends and family the next morning, Saturday, August 6th, at Lake View Bakery & Deli connected to Hotel Ruby Marie where we and many of the guests stayed the night before. We opened our presents, and it was great to have the chance to spend more time with some of our guests. This was our final wedding weekend event, and it was a wonderful culmination to the festivities. We enjoyed every moment of our wedding weekend-- so much so that I want to reminisce all about it seven years later! 

We spent the next week on our honeymoon in Panama City Beach, FL enjoying the second half of our fifth year together and the beginning of our forever. 

In our seven years married, Wade and I have adopted two dogs, lived in three different states, five different houses, traveled to five different countries, and worked at least eight different jobs. To summarize a very wise (& handsome) contestant on the Bachelorette, it's not the falling in love but the staying in love that is truly the best part of life. I'm glad that 17 years ago I found someone that I could fall and stay in love with... even if I had no idea then. 

In our vows we promised this to each other: "I take you to be mine, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love. On this day, I affirm to you in the presence of God and these witnesses my promise to stay by your side in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and bad. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you for as long as we both shall live."

Seven years later, I'm so glad to attest that every word was true.  

Monday, 9 July 2018

Thailand, Briefly

While the end of the spring 2018 semester was smooth sailing, the summer of 2018 has started out on some rocky waters. Most recently, I had an unexpected gallbladder removal surgery and am now working towards recovery. Previously, I spent a good portion of time in between the end of the semester and the beginning of June preparing to head to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got my long, linen pants, bug repellent, and airplane pillow all set to go. On May, 31st, 2018 I flew from the Chicago O'Hare Airport to the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. We landed there on June 2nd, somehow losing a day in transit. I was the co-leader of the team with Dr. Kristy Ingram from Olivet Nazarene University, and we had a team of 14 students. Twelve students were from Olivet, and two students joined us from two different universities in Michigan.

Unfortunately, for me, the trip ended fairly quickly as some unexpectedly difficult circumstances arose with my husband's family, and I felt like I needed to come home to support him and his family. I was so disappointed and really sad to leave the team in Thailand, but Kristy and I both felt that I needed to be at home. I left Thailand on June 5th, and then miraculously, landed back in O'Hare just 12 hours later-- on June 5th. Timing in travel is so interesting.

While my time in Thailand was very short-- a total of about three days-- I do feel like I got a taste of the vibrant, dynamic city of Bangkok. Bangkok is the capital city in the Kingdom of Thailand, and in 2018 there are close to 10 million people who live there. Also, in 2017 it was listed as the most visited city in the world, with Business Insider citing an estimate of 20.2 million international visitors. It was colorful, noisy, crowded, inviting, diverse, and welcoming. Some of the students on the team had never traveled outside of the United States prior to this trip, but I know for all of us, the arrival into this bustling hub was a bit overwhelming. I didn't get a chance to go to Chiang Mai with the team, but I hear that that has a pretty different feel than the hustling city of Bangkok. 

Though I only spent three days in the country, I did get to experience some pretty special things. Namely, I got to tour, I got to eat, and I got the chance to help support the team. 


While in Bangkok, we stayed at the Bangkok Christian Guest House. The staff was very welcoming, and the guest house was large and well cared for. It was also a convenient hub from which to go out and visit the city. With the guest house as our base, we had the opportunity to tour the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Exhibition, and the grounds of the Grand Palace. Of those three tours, I enjoyed the market the most. It was loud, colorful, and busy. We spent the day wandering the aisles of goods and testing a lot of delicious delicacies (more on that in the next section).

One note about our day at the market, and really every moment in Thailand, was that it was hot. And this kind of heat is no joke. I lived in the dry hot of the Arizona desert for two years, and I've grown up in the humid hot of midwestern summers, but the combination of those two kinds of heat was not for the faint of heart. The almost suffocating inhales of air that seemed to almost immediately transform to a layer of water dripping down my back was a lot to take. We had a six hour day at the market, and there was very little relief from the day. At one point I asked one of the students if she wanted to get a foot massage done at one of the many stands advertising. We sat down in a small stall with a large plastic sheet separating the six seats from the main mall, and the air conditioner blew down on us. It was lovely, and a welcome respite from the heat outside.

The Grand Palace area was also, just that, very grand. After touring the memorial exhibition we had received a lot of information about Thai culture, religion, government, and even architecture. That made walking around the palace area interesting and gave some good context to what we were seeing, even as the grand buildings stood tall above us. The Thai people greatly venerate their king, as they see him as a dynasty in the line of the gods. Their practice of removing shoes before entering any sacred place shows their devotion and respect for these spaces. These buildings are also set against the large, long skyline of Bangkok in an accurate representation of the way that the old and new, traditional and modern, and quaint and vast seemingly coexist simultaneously in this city, at once inviting the visitor to stand in awe and to feel at home in this vibrant place.


Another thing that I got to do in Thailand was eat. And as I said on my Instagram, when I say eat, I really mean consume rice and fruit. Before I left, a friend who had visited Thailand told me to be prepared to eat a lot of rice. I figured I do eat rice pretty regularly, but I really had no idea. When she meant eat rice, she meant at every.single.meal. Luckily, I really like rice, and it was paired with a lot of delicious sauces and sides. In addition, my cousins kept telling me about all of the delicious, ripe, varying fruit. I had visited Burkina Faso, Africa in May of 2010, and I still remember the taste of the fresh, sweet mango. I was so looking forward to tasting the fruit in Bangkok, and I was not disappointed.

Many of the students had never tasted a lot of the food that we were presented with and many of the fruits were new to me as well! We tried durian, which can be horrendous, but we caught it right in the ripe season, and it was soft, sweet, and light in taste and texture. The Thai people call it the King of Fruit. Paired with this fruit, we then tried the Queen of Fruit, and I loved it. It has a thick, deep purple shell, but the fruit inside is white, and it is both sweet and tangy, and so lovely. Really good. We also tried rambutan, which has a beautiful, pink, spiky shell. It is almost as much fun to look at as it was to eat. Then, of course, we ate lots of delicious mango, and I was in no way disappointed. Fresh mango eaten in tropical climates is one of my all time favorite foods/ eating experiences. I had it fresh, with sticky rice, in smoothies, in candy, pretty much anyway I could consume it. I probably ate at least a mango a day, and in reality probably more, during my short stint there. Other than maybe fresh Anago sashimi, I don't know that there is any better food in the world.

The students were brave in their eating! They tried the fruit, octopus legs, and all the various rice dishes placed in front of us. We ate at the guest house, at the market under tents in the pouring rain, in a long entry way at a church, and at street side stands on plastic tables and chairs. The food was as much about the kindness and welcoming nature of the people and places where we ate than the food itself. At the street side stand dinner, we were hot and tired, and I waited probably close to an hour to eat. I was ready to just head back and go to bed, but then a plate of Pad Thai was placed in front of me, and oh, man, I devoured the whole thing. I don't know why it came as such a surprise to me that Pad Thai would be so delicious in Thailand, but I loved it. It was sweet, spicy, peanuty, soft, and fragrant at the same time. At the church, we had rice and fruit with a delicious, spicy shrimp sauce. The community had come together to cook us a meal and welcome us to their church. Their kindness and willingness to serve us was so appreciated. 


The reason that this team of 16 left our homes and flew 24 hours (not quite, but ya know) around the world was to offer support to the missionaries and staff in Thailand. The life that these people live is one of service and sacrifice. Kristy and I were very clear with the team prior to leaving that we were not going to this place to go on vacation, or even to help the Thai people for a week or two and then peace out. Our goal in this trip was to be a support and a hope to the people who are working day in and day out to better the lives of those around them. The fact that we got to interact and be invited into these spaces to get to know these Thai people was really wonderful, but it wasn't our goal. We were both so conscious, as is MIA at Olivet, of the damage of "voluntourism" trips can have on spaces and people groups that they often intend to help. Instead, we went to Bangkok and then the team continued on to ask those who minister in these contexts everyday what we could do to help them. That meant bringing a lot of supplies from the United States, being ready to step up at a minutes notice to lead a service or group, or to simply offer a word of encouragement for the work they were doing.

The team stepped up to do this. While I was there, I got the opportunity to help lead them in preparing for a church service. Four students readily volunteered to share their testimonies, and then as a team we prepared and sang a worship song in service. The students were ready to jump into these roles and honor the people of the church through their service. Once I left, the team went to the Maetang Tribal Children's Home and served there for a week. They cleaned, painted a mural, played with the kids, and led a game night with the community. I know it was very hot and probably often uncomfortable, but they did this work with gratitude for the opportunity to be there.

Even from the United States, I was so proud of them and the work they were doing there. I was sad, of course, to not be a part, but I too felt honored to have had the opportunity to get to know these students, travel with this team, and support the work and effort they were making. I gave the students beaded bracelets before we left, as as symbol of the unity of our team and a reminder of our mission to be a support to the team members were were joining in Thailand. I was especially glad to have my bracelet once I returned home. I kept wearing it, and it helped me to keep the team in my heart and my mind and to feel a little less far away from them. There were a lot of different personalities on team. We learned that by doing the Hartman Color Code Personality Test before we left. On the team we had six blues, four whites, three yellows, and three reds. I made these color coded candy bags for them before we left to remind them that even though we are all very different, we each have value to add and a story to tell. I hope they remembered that throughout the trip and now as they are home.

The last month has been rocky, as I said, and more than ever I have begun to understand that life is short. It really is. We don't know what is coming next or what obstacles or hurdles we will need to face, but as I encouraged the students, approaching any and every situation with gratitude and an attitude of giving is one of the best ways to cope. Instead of asking, "why is this happening to me?" we can learn to ask, "how can I give of myself in this situation?" An attitude of gratitude for the little things and then one of giving of oneself or resources is so important. I learned that through my brother-in-law's life. I learned that through my time with team in Thailand. I hope I keep learning it my whole life.