done deal

Yes yes yes.  I said yes all over again at 7am this morning. To be completely honest, it was the third or fourth time I promised my forever and always.  Not that I’m running around with multiple rings and loads of men, but I’ve staged a few engagements for my brother’s wedding wood-shop business.
Lucky for us all, Jon’s parents have a gorgeous cabin in Northern Wisconsin, and their backyard is something of a fairytale.  We’ve been visiting the past couple days, and it makes me wonder how much I need to go back to the city…
The first time I went to the cabin, Jon’s dad laughed and said I looked ‘ready to go shopping.’  In my defense, I’d been nervous to ‘meet-the-parents,’ and so I’d gone shopping for what I considered ‘cabin attire.’  I quickly learned that my boots, jeans, and sweaters were all wrong – I needed swim-wear, camo, and get’n dirty clothes.
A few *seconds* after meeting Jon’s family, his oldest brother asked if I wanted to shoot guns in the backyard. Shoot guns? Holy macaroni — The only thing I’d ever shot was film (with a camera), but I didn’t want to appear ‘too city’ and so I said yes.  Ryan (same brother that owns the wood shop) watched as I shot a bullseye on my second try (20 gage at 50 yards).
When Jon’s other brother, Derek, heard about my success with the gun, he asked if I’d ever caught a fish.  I answered no, but I reminded him that I was an Arizona girl living in Chicago — when would I have had the chance?
A few hours later?  You guessed it – we headed out to the lake to cast some rods and reel some fish.  This time around, however, I failed to impress with skill and had to rely on generosity – I offered to buy ice cream for the family.  That might have been the move that won them over…
Jon put a ring on it, but now I’m wondering whether it was the ice cream or the gun that made him so confident that I was The One.  What do you think?  And, more importantly, how was your weekend?

for the record

Have you ever told a stranger that you loved them?  No?  Okay, that’s normal – good for you.  But guess what?  I went to the airport Friday, and when I bought a magazine and Raisinets for the plane, the cashier turned to me and said, “I love you sweetheart.”  I was stunned, of course, and I wondered why this stranger felt the need to profess her love.  Thinking quickly, I figured it might be cultural (‘i love you’ instead of ‘thank you’ or ‘have a nice day’) and so I simply said, ‘i love you too’ (didn’t want to be rude).  As the words left my mouth I realized the woman had actually said, “i love your sweater.”  Oops.  Time to board my plane.
Consciously cultivate silly and laugh through the awkwardness.  Not the advice most people offering during heart-to-hearts and other moments-of-import, but the simple prescription almost guarantees laughter and good times.  Our anniversary trip to Chicago (to attend a friend’s wedding) began with an awkward moment for the books, but the silly moments and big, big laughter lasted all weekend.
Round-trip flights from Chicago to Minneapolis are $75 on Spirit Airlines.  A great deal, right?  But did you know it costs $100 to bring a carry-on bag?  It’s hard to justify the relative cost of a bag when you’re excited about visiting friends for under $100.  And so, dear friends, we didn’t bring any carry-on luggage for the weekend.  Jon wore his suit on the plane, I stuffed everything I needed into a tiny purse, and we arrived wrinkled and underprepared for the weekend of endless rain.  My one outfit was drenched and soaked right after landing.  We bought clothes after the flight, and I returned with my new shirts tucked inside my jacket.  Classy,  right?
How was your weekend?

fast lane adventures

I wonder if people from my past would recognize me if we ran into each other in a bookstore.  Not a former roommate or an ex-boyfriend, the people who know my core, but someone that I sat by in class or knew from volleyball – an acquaintance, perhaps.

It’s not that my hair is different or I grew a size, but something indistinguishable to the eye has definitely changed.  I suppose this ‘person from the past’ would have to stop for a minute or seven to recognize the difference. 
I used to bill my time in 15-minute increments and fill my daily schedule with speed lunches and speed dates and back-to-back appointments.  Need something?  I have 30 minutes for so and so, 1 hour for X and Z, and then 15 minutes for this or that. 

Everything changed when I fell in love. Everything changed, everything changed.  I could say it 10,000 times to emphasize the vastness of the change.  I could shout it from rooftops and balconies and windows and mountains.  Thing is, it’s truly remarkable how little time it takes for your world to feel brand new.  So often we think that change is the result of hundreds of little actions, but that was not the case here: my change was instant.
Before Jon, my life was lived in a fast lane filled with adventures and jobs and boys and friends and merry-making.   They were good times, yes, but they all blended into one another in a happy-haze.  After meeting him, my world simmered down to such a slow saunter that I feared it would altogether stop.

Being with Jon feels so incredibly special that I want nothing more than to build a lifetime of memories with him.  All of a sudden, I have nowhere to be and nothing to do and everything feels just right.   

forever grateful

Before we loved, they showed us how to hold a marriage together with kindness, trust and laughter.  Thank you.

absolutely yes

A polar-vortex brings swirls of snow and bursts of cold that can only mean one thing: time for a road trip.  Not a typical reaction, perhaps, but the promise of white-capped mountains and glistening pines had us cruising down I-95 by 9am on Saturday morning.  That’s right – we wake early enough to shower and nosh and pack before even Target is open.
Mashed up pictures from the weekend, but only the top right is actually in the car: bottom right is the pup, top left is a gift from Jon, and the bottom left is a murder mystery party from Friday night.  For inquiring minds — we did not solve the murder.
Totally changing topics: I wanted to make a fun game that encouraged thinking about people & things you love.  My solution?  Sweetheart mad libs.  Perhaps sweetheart isn’t the very best descriptor since this mad lib is good for best friends, pets, books, and, well, just about anything else you love.  Problem is, ‘things you love mad libs’ just didn’t sound as good.

The quirky mad lib is a simple & silly way to reflect on the unique reasons you’re grateful for the people and things in your life.  If you want to see the game, you can download it here.

To get a little rah rah rah with the mad libs, I brought them on our road trip and left them in small town cafes between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The best part of the weekend happened when we got home and I had a letter from my dear friend Emily asking me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  Emily and Mike are the type of infectiously happy couple that everyone wants to be around, and I’m so honored to help them celebrate their big day.  Can you tell I’m excited?

better than chocolate

What role do you play in someone else’s story? The way we impact the lives of one another is incredibly important, but how often do we pause to consider the affect that we have on the people around us?

We go through this life to help others.  For close friends, that means being there to celebrate a job promotion, the time he finally asked you out, the time he finally made it official, and all the other happy moments that define our lives.  It also means that we’re there for the setbacks, exchanging ice cream for tears and trading hugs for stories of suffering.
My friend Amy has played a leading role in my life.  She was my partner-in-crime when we finagled Vespas, my hot date when we climbed the Eiffel Tower, my life-coach when I couldn’t find a job, my therapist when I experienced heartache (time and again), and my friend, always.

I could fill an entire Chicken Soup for the Soul with stories from friends and family that adore Amy.  People gravitate toward her joyful personality, and they fall in love with her sincere desire to make the world a better place.
Luckily, she just started her own blog, and now you can get to know her (love her) just like I do.

A highlight from her new blog is when she tells her professor that chocolate is her favorite food.  The professor then asked “What kind of chocolate? Semi sweet? Milk chocolate? Dark Chocolate? Truffles?”   Her response: “YES.”

Read more here:


rolling around in ice cream

People often ask how life changed when I got married.  The question fills my head with pictures of me&Jon pulling the car over to run through sprinklers, getting in trouble for popcorn fights at the movies, and staying up all night (on a Tuesday) to watch every episode of Breaking Bad. 

It seems that people expect me to lament over all the cooking and cleaning, but the apartment only takes 30 minutes to clean (it’s as tiny as a treehouse), and I love cooking meals and hosting dinner parties.

There seems to be a stigma that being married makes you grown-up.  Dear reader, I’m here to upend that nonsense.  I may have a ring on my finger, but my childhood definitely isn’t over. No way, no how. I decided long ago that I would prolong childhood as long as possible, and I’m still reaping the benefits of that glorious decision.  So bring on the puddle stomping, the pillow fights, and the opportunities to play with my food.
ImageYayLabs! supported my love for playing with food by sending me an ice cream ball.  If you know me, then you’re realizing that not many things would make me much happier. I love ice cream (and cookies, brownies, fudge, candy – I have very sweet teeth), games, and any excuse try something new.

The ice cream ball only works when shared with others. Literally. After you pour in the 3 or 4 ingredients needed for your dream concoction (flavors range from chocolate covered cherry to toasted coconut fudge), you need to roll the ball around for approximately 20 minutes.  Perfect for a rah rah rah experiment, right?

You’re already probably guessing what came next, and you’re right: I took the gadget to the lake and made ice cream with strangers:
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIf you’re thinking that the pictures in this post look better than usual, that’s because Justina Louise spent the day with me again.  It’s somewhat like heaven to have a friend that works as a wedding photographer but enjoys photographing goofy experiments.  It’s also awesome that Apricot Lane keeps making me look so fly in all the photographs.  Thanks for making playtime so much fun y’all 🙂

celebrate others and increase your joy

happiness is on my mind with the interactions taking place in the rah rah rah series (random acts of happiness).  today i took a second to write down my 13 happiest moments in 2013, and they ordered something like this:

  • my wedding day
  • a friend telling me she’s in love
  • another friend telling me she’s in love
  • a friend telling me she’s pregnant
  • another friend telling me she’s pregnant
  • my sister winning a house lottery (!)
  • moving to minneapolis
  • a friend getting a job offer that she’s been wanting for a while
  • a friend dropping everything and traveling solo to south america because it’s been on her bucket list for soo long
  • jon’s parents giddy excitement as they planned their trip to the baltic sea
  • jon’s parents excitement when they announced their retirement
  • my brother-in-law’s college graduation
  • my bachelorette party in austin
  • my honeymoon trip to isla mujeres
  • visiting good friends in new york city

the list suggests that some of my happiness comes from personal milestones, but a great deal of it comes from celebrating the achievements of friends and family. does it follow that we can be happier simply by celebrating the good fortune of others?  the answer seems to make sense– if the people around us are flourishing and happy, then their joy is capable of increasing our own.  per usual, i grabbed my camera and headed to the streets of minneapolis to test my theory.  i approached strangers and asked them to talk about the last time they were happy for someone else:0
the first man i approached was more enlightened than the buddha himself.  he looked at me like i was nuts, and he told me that he’s always happy for others. always? always.  he said that he’s happy because he has 4 grandchildren — ages 8, 9, 15, and 17 — and all of them are healthy and loved.  he said that being around his grandchildren is enough to make him happy for all of his days.  i scribbled down his words, and then he gazed up at the sun and reflected for a bit.  after, he told me that he’s also very happy that the people of minneapolis have such wonderful lakes and sunny skies.

while the rest of the responses weren’t exactly going to make the buddha smile, they did provide further insights into what’s making the people of minneapolis happy:
“i’m happy it’s my sister’s birthday, and that we’re together at the lake instead of working.” (girl in blue)
“it’s my birthday!!!” (girl in yellow)
“i am sophie, and i am happy because my sister just got pregnant. she was trying for a couple years, and it was really tough for her, and then she called from work –even though she wasn’t supposed to be on the phone– and she told me the good news.”
“i’m happy that my son came home from maryland to visit for a while. he hasn’t been home since 2009, and now i have him here for 2 weeks.” (woman in hat)
“i’m happy my mom’s happy” (man in hat)
“my sister had a job interview today at the school where our mom works — it would be great if they could work together.”
“friend of mine just got married – they’re an adorable couple and incredibly happy together.” (guy in sleeveless)
“my sister got engaged” (girl in dress)
“a friend of mine has a coffee-date with a coworker” (guy in polo)
“a friend got married – or, well, a few did – it’s wedding season!”
“a friend of ours just had a baby–and so did we!”
“my brother, joe fessler, just dropped a new album. he was working on the mix for over a year, and it turned out awesome.”
“my dad just started his own company”
“my daughter just had a perfect baby.”
“our son is engaged to the most wonderful woman.”

i set out to make others happy, but i was definitely the lucky one today — it was so. much. fun. listening to all the happy moments that people shared with me.  i loved hearing the enthusiasm  and love with which people spoke about their friends and family (and yes, they were all smiling while they talked — mission accomplished).

time flies with the pigs


Hot off the heels of country fest, Jon and I loaded up the jeep to drive to Iowa for a wedding.  Google maps confirmed that the trip from Cadott, Wisconsin to Des Moines, Iowa was 6 hours, and so we left at 8am – plenty of time to get to the 6pm ceremony.  Or so you would think.  Views of the gorgeous countryside had me begging Jon to pull over so I could take pictures:
And then we came across the greatest restaurant I have ever seen:
I love BBQ the way Jon loves pizza, and so we headed inside to try the town’s 12 homemade sauces. The waitress suggested the famous spam burger (miracle meat, apparently), and told us to feel free to shop for piglet trinkets while we waited:


The piglets got us thinking about selling pets, and I asked Jon how much he would sell Kinzie for. He valued her at ten thousand, and I told him I would never forgive him if he lowballed our sweet puppy.  He agreed, but said that he would have to let her go for 20k.  I asked him what we would tell his parents, our friends.  Simple, he explained — we lost her.  My reaction:
With all the amusement of the piglets, BBQ and countryside, we realized it was 2:30 we were still in Minnesota- with three hours to go.  We cranked it up up 85mph, force straight, changed in the car…


and made the wedding (on time):