Dedication

The end of the Brownsville chapter of my life (and a new page in the Wisconsin one)

I should start off by saying this post will be filled with all sorts of emotion. And it’s also a post I never thought I’d end up posting, but I can’t help but be overjoyed that I am.

I have officially accepted a job as associate editor at Taste of Home, which is located in Greendale, Wis. I will be working in their Special Interest Publications department. They handle the “Best of,” seasonal, recipe card publications and more. I’m sure I’ll be able to do a much better job explaining once I start!

This part I am overwhelmingly happy about. Not only am I extremely excited about my new job and all the wonderful people I’ll have the opportunity to work with, but this also obviously means I get to move back home. Though I have never regretted moving to Brownsville for a single moment, it’s been no secret that I have always loved and missed Wisconsin and my family and friends there. Heck, I have a blog post that is dedicated solely to just that.

It’s been particularly difficult the past few months to be away from home between several big events happening in the lives of those dearest to me (upcoming weddings, weddings I’ve missed, babies born that I didn’t get to meet until they were one, upcoming babies, people getting new jobs, lots of missed birthdays, etc.) I have been praying this whole time that God would allow me to remain content and happy until it was time to move, and to show me specifically what His will was every step of the way. This is the new chapter for me.

Of course, there is also quite a bit of sadness that comes with this announcement. I have been so blessed since moving to Brownsville. I have wonderful current coworkers and fantastic friends here. Leaving them will be no easy task, and it honestly breaks my heart a bit to do so.

When I moved to Brownsville nearly two years ago, I barely had a college degree under my belt. I was quite literally the doe-eyed girl who had no idea what she had gotten herself into. Driving the 1,500 miles from home to Brownsville ALONE was the scariest thing I had ever done. (Don’t worry, one of my family members WILL be flying down to join my journey back.)

I had never stepped foot into my new apartment or work before I arrived. I met my roommate in-person the night I showed up at her door. I knew NO ONE. But I was so incredibly welcomed by everyone in Brownsville. The generosity and hospitality extended to me was beyond what I could have expected. I wasn’t able to go home my first Thanksgiving away, but my boss and his family invited me to their family’s gathering. I had coworkers invite me to meals out, parties and more. The church Bible study group I joined became my family away from family. There was always someone I could turn to here.

The past (almost) two years have been nothing short of amazing, and I will always cherish the times I spent with the people here. From work: The time we drove past the border fence for a story (and Marci tried to scare me by talking about snakes). The many times I camped out in courtrooms with various coworkers while waiting for verdicts to come back. The time Jackie, Yvette and I ended up on the longest, hottest three-mile march for Stations of the Cross, followed by standing on pavement for three hours with Laura and Brad for a car accident. The time Yvette and I quite literally melted as we waited all day outside the federal courthouse. The time we all took a field trip out to the beach (for a story). All the times Favi and Diana fought over “custody” of me. The time I got to stand on a bridge halfway between Mexico and the U.S. for an event (and getting back into the U.S. proved iffy). I could go on and on.

With friends: The time we all went camping (where a mouse ended up in the toilet, I jumped out of a tree into a swimming hole, and we went to look at the stars and instead just got freaked out by zombie Jovan). The corn maze and IHOP night (where Claudia told the girl who tried to cut in front of us exactly what she thought, and Pedro and I freaked out because we thought Sam’s water had broke). The time we had chicken at 10 p.m. All the Dance Central parties. The girls’ nights. The Truth or Dare night. The crazy birthday song singing. Lunch every Sunday (except I won’t miss the mall food court). The movie nights where it took us an hour to pick out a movie (and it was an awful one with talking Golden Retrievers). The Super Bowl parties. The beach days. Heartfelt talks with almost everyone at one point or another. The Schlitterbahn days (and accidentally ending up as David and Mel’s official third wheel). Fourth of July sitting on Jimmy’s truck (with Jimmy in the kayak mounted on top). The ugly Christmas sweater parties. David and Mel’s wedding (and literally dancing ourselves silly). Again, I could go on.

All this to say: I have loved Brownsville. I have loved the people I’ve met here. I have loved the tan I’ve gotten since being here ;). Leaving will be so very difficult, but I will never forget it. I know it’s time for the next chapter of my life though and I can’t help but be excited for that.

I will miss these people.
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I love these ladies.
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I will miss working with these lovely people (and others not pictured!)
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I will miss being their unintentional third wheel.
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I will miss camping excursions and insane, boiling hot tubs with these people.
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I will miss forcing the newsroom into the Christmas spirit with this lady.
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I will miss these random outings.
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I will miss our Christmas good tidings.
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I will miss these people. Period.
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Soul-bearing

Surrender

This blog post is going to be a bit different than my norm. It’s going to fit more in the “soul-bearing” category, so you’ve been forewarned.

I’m a dreamer. I have big plans for my future. I’d like to travel around the world (upcoming entry on that, especially since I despise being in an airplane for more than an hour). I want to write a book. I’d like to get married. Adopt a few kids. Go to a Packers game. Go on a date with Aaron Rodgers (just kidding, kind of). Go parasailing. Be in the front row for a concert. Go to the Olympics. Make a significant mark on the world. Be invited to the White House for one reason or another. Help raise awareness about the importance of organ donation. That’s a short version of it.

But here’s where it gets hard. Because ultimately it’s not up to me. Sure, I can do the most possible with my God-given life and talents, but my life is not my own in the end. I’m a huge control freak when it comes to my life, and giving it over is not something that comes easily.

I’ve been hanging on super tight to several dreams of mine lately. I’ve been pushing and praying for them to happen. But surrender? That’s way too scary. That would mean releasing my death grip on them and letting God take over.

But it just hit me that I have to. Because I’ve never been in control, nor should I be. I do believe God has a plan for me that is bigger than the one I have for myself.

However, this revelation doesn’t make giving it up easier. I still fight for control all.the.time. One of the hardest things for me to do with anyone is trust them. If there’s something I can get done on my own in a quick manner, I’ll do it. And while that works fine and dandy for my work life, it doesn’t for my personal life.

So here’s what this whole ramble fest boils down to: I’m giving up control. I’m tired of saying I just want God’s will for my life, and then not living it out. I’m tired of stressing my body out. I’m tired of not putting my complete faith in the One who knows best.

There it is. Dirty laundry and all. And now I’m going to listen to that video I have embedded above one more time…

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Dedication

My love letter to Wisconsin

As many of you know, my heart is always, and always be, very loyal to my home state of Wisconsin. In the almost six years that I’ve been away (four for college, two for my current job), I’ve come to realize homesickness is something that will never go away. Wisconsin is too much a part of who I am for it to ever leave. It sounds so beyond corny, I know, but I truly believe part of my heart is constantly in Wisconsin and with my family.

What follows is my list of things I love about Wisconsin. My hope is that it A) allows people who haven’t visited it to understand a bit of why I love it and B) gives my fellow Wisconsinites a chance to smile and nod.

1) The green. Living in deep South Texas now, I miss vivid green vegetation. When I went home for my sister’s college graduation in May, I was completely overwhelmed when I woke up my first morning back, walked downstairs and saw this.

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Honestly, it took my breath away. I never realized how beautiful it was when I grew up there. And the air! I swear I’m not exaggerating when I saw the air is so FRESH there. Maybe it’s just because the around-the-clock heat in Texas makes it extremely muggy here, but I literally just walked around outside taking deep breaths when home. It was magical.

2) The camping. Some of my best childhood memories come from our annual family camping trips. Devil’s Lake State Park is probably my all-time favorite.

Funny story about Devil’s Lake: I don’t remember how old we were, but my sister Amanda and I had a pup tent at some point. We were SO excited about it. But the sad reality was that the pup tent was really only meant for a single Cub Scout, and not two young girls. We woke up early the next morning SOAKED because we had touched the sides of the tent when sleeping, letting all the dew and moisture in. We were cold and shivering, but didn’t wake up our parents (our mom takes mornings very seriously, something I take after her), so somehow our next best option was apparently to climb up a tree together and huddle for heat? I still don’t know how that made sense, but that’s what we did. And then we were stuck. Our dad rescued us an hour or two later (who knows) and warmed us up with a campfire. Good times.

3) The food. If there’s one thing I’m good at when it comes to being an ambassador for Wisconsin, it’s getting people to love good cheese and summer sausage as much as I do.

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Now I’m hungry. Ugh, but the food is all seriously so good. And if you’ve never been to a Culver’s before, you have truly never lived. No joke. The way Texans feel about Whataburger is the way the Midwest feels about Culver’s. But (and I know I’m getting dangerously controversial now), I say it’s better because Whataburger has burgers. Culver’s has burgers, cheese curds AND custard. Everything you could ever possibly want, right there. I don’t know why I’m torturing myself by talking about this, so moving on…

4) The festivals. I am always thankful I grew up just outside Milwaukee, because basically everything in the state happens there. The summer is the best time to be there with a festival every weekend basically, all starting with the ginormous music party that is SummerFest. From there, there’s German Fest, Irish Fest, Polish Fest, Festa Italiana, Bastille Days, etc. I loved living in an area that celebrates all the cultures there. And then it all wraps up with the Wisconsin State Fair, which is just a wonderland of all that is great about Wisconsin.

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Mmmmmmm, sweet, delicious corn.

5) The sports. Anyone who knows me knows this was coming. I adore Wisconsin sports, particularly the Packers, Badgers and Brewers. In one way or another, those teams helped make up my childhood. The first time I ever remember being completely overcome with joy was when the Packers won the 1996 Super Bowl. As a 10-year-old, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to go to college and be a Badgers cheerleader (which didn’t happen, but it’s cute). One of the most peaceful things in the world to me is a Saturday afternoon at home with Bob Uecker announcing the Brewers on the radio playing in the background.

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Our 2011 Thanksgiving photo.

Due to Paul Ryan’s recent upgrade to vice presidential candidate, I’ve noticed nearly every photo of him with his family is all of them completely decked out in Packers and Badgers gear. Let me assure you: This is completely normal. We’re proud of our teams beyond what others understand.

6) The location. When people ask what has been the biggest adjustment about moving to south Texas, my answer takes some by surprise. It’s the distance between here and a “large” city, which is either three hours away in Corpus Christi or four hours away in San Antonio, depending on your personal definition. I never realized how fortunate I was to live where I did in Wisconsin, since Milwaukee always has something happening, Madison is only an hour away, and Chicago is only an hour and a half away. It’s just different living separated from a metropolitan area.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I got for now. Of course, I can’t mention home and Wisconsin (I still haven’t stopped referring to Wisconsin as “home,” even after my move) without saying my family is a huge part of it. I’d be happy being anywhere they are, but them + Wisconsin = the best.

Wisconsin, I’m missing you, but thanks for always making coming home sweet.

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Funny stuff

Wisconsin State Fair and my brother’s hilarity

Today my family went to the Wisconsin State Fair, something I loved going to when I lived with them still. They are wonderful (or cruel, depending on your angle) and texted me photos of all the funny animals and delicious food they were eating.

And then my brother sent me a thread of emails with a hilarious version of his State Fair journey. I still think he could have been a writer, buttttttt he decided to use his genius brain for the world of computer programming.

Below is Wisconsin State Fair, told through my brother’s words/photos. One inside joke you will need to know: Growing up, I had a rabbit named Gabby. I was the only one in my family who liked her; she was a bit of a menace. In hindsight, I have come to realize she was an evil bunny.

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Our journey began as we gazed upon noble cow, fervently sniffing ‘neath the freshly relieved cow companion.

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He turned and looked at us. He knew what we had saw but yet…there was no remorse in his eyes. Simply pity. He looked at us as if we were insects. It only could be described as mortifying. The ray of light shone behind his regal maw, gently highlighting his majestic face.

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The brown cow gazed at us as if he had a secret to hide. But it was all too obvious: this cow was full of the finest chocolate in the land. He stuck his nose in the hay defeatedly. He wasn’t going to admit it to himself, but he knew we knew. But he couldn’t stay depressed for too long; who could with such fine jewelry dangling from their floppy bovine ears?

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The two cattle stared at each other intently. One had scorn in their eyes, the other had naught but fear. I shuddered to know what would happen next. Would a fight break out? Somehow, that seemed to be the most favorable scenario. I briskly walked away from the sticky situation like a cat on a hot tin roof, lest I be caught up in the ensuing maelstrom.

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Jettisoning the bovine kind entirely, I stumbled upon something of a more… feathered persusasion. The steely bars framed his face. He was nothing but a jailbird. I looked into his glum eyes and a solitary tear ran down my cheek. Shall I stage a jailbreak, I thought to myself? Nah, I shant, I reconsidered. I had to press on. I knew it was fowl play, but there were bigger rabbits to fry.

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The bunny rabbit flittered its nose at me as if it were trying to tell me something. A secret, perhaps? I went in closer, as if for a kiss.

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The bunny rabbit rebuffed my advances, or at least what it perceived as such. Perhaps it wasn’t trying to tell me anything after all. Or perhaps it was too perturbed and didn’t think I was worthy of bestowing such wisdom upon anymore. None could know. Certainly not the girl with the green hat. She simply continued staring blankly ahead.

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Trudging grudgingly onwards, I finally felt a glimmer of joy, as a newfound friend flashed a gleaming smile up at me. I pensively smiled back at her.

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But it seemed I had made a tragic misread, as she frowned back at me. She was absolutely disgusted. I nervously backed away.

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I then met her second cousin, once removed. It seemed, perhaps, she had run a number on him just as she did me. He stared ahead as if he were gazing across a thousand yards. I knew right then and there he had seen some horrors that I could never even dream of. I nodded my head respectfully and promptly let him be.

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And that’s when… I found her. Gabriel. Or Gabby, for short. She stared at me with vitriol in her eyes. I wanted to say “it’s not my fault,” anything to calm the wretched beast. But before I could utter a single syllable, Gabby whispered, “Find her.” I knew exactly what she meant. I dashed out of there with the speed of a comet.

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I knew where to go, but the sea of bodies made me despair. No matter; I knew I must press on. Or face certain death from the hare.

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I made it. I found her. “Bitter,” she read. I nodded.

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But wait, there was more! I quickly read through and thought to myself for but a second. Then I nodded even more forcefully. Having found exactly what I was looking for, I dashed back, hoping my parental unit had stayed in the same place.

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Indeed they had. Just as I left them.

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Suddenly, Amanda. And just like that, the journey had ended almost as soon as it had begun.

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explanation

Olympics, Posh Spice, and triple salchows in the living room

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Guys, McKayla Maroney is TOTALLY our Posh Spice. I have to give Annie Barrett props for figuring this out first.

If you follow me on either Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I’m obsessed with the Olympics. Gymnastics, swimming, track and field, synchronized diving, volleyball… I love it all. Heck, I even love the Winter Olympics. During the 2010 Winter Olympics I was in my final semester of college, but that didn’t stop me from parking myself in the front of the TV with two friends for all the ice skating, speed skating, bobsledding, and skiing coverage we could handle.

There’s lots to love about the Olympics. The patriotism (from the USA and other nations; nothing makes my heart skip a beat faster than a hearty “USA! USA!” chant), the triumphant moments, the come-from-behind victories, the unknowns who steal people’s hearts, and so on.

For me, I tease and say I could have been an Olympian if I had tried. I kid, but I really did love watching/doing gymnastics and ice skating when I was younger. I wasn’t good, but I liked it. Plus, I took beginner gymnastics lessons at the same gym Athens all-around gold medalist Paul Hamm came from, along with his twin brother, Morgan. I went skating with family and friends around the same rink speed skating gold medalists Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen and Shani Davis trained on. So maybe knowing all this Olympic history helped hooked me on watching them at an early age.

I adored Kristi Yamaguchi (and still do). I had photos of her in an album (which also contained photos of multi-colored vests I wanted… I was a weird kid), and practiced triple salchows and skating backwards in the living room with my sister. Then Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan happened and my 10-year-old brain exploded.

Similar to our figure skating obsession, my sister and I would practice balancing on thin lines, visualizing balance beams in their place. It all started when Kerri Strug and the rest of the Magnificent Seven won gold. Also, I wanted Shannon Miller’s hair scrunchie.

Now every time the Olympics roll around (winter or summer), my life momentarily pauses so I can be a part of all the moments. I’m older now, but I still get giddy when a surprise athlete bursts on the scene, teary when someone breaks down singing the National Anthem, and slightly lose my voice when an event comes down to the wire. I know the Olympics aren’t everyone’s favorite, but for me it’s all about cheering on my country, learning more about others, and marveling at people who let me live vicariously through them and help me to dream bigger in my own life.

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