Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Fall'ing

"Everyone should take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."
I am an Iowa girl who loves the four seasons. I love the first smell of fresh cut grass, clean windows, and the first bike ride of spring, late nights grilling, chilling, and sitting on the deck during summer, and weekends 'snowed' in during winter. Perhaps most of all, I love the season of fall. I love hoodies, football games, pumpkins, crisp walks and crunchy leaves, a glass of wine, a bowl of soup, and a roast slow-cooking in the oven. But as life gets busier, I often find myself sprinting through each day without taking time to stop and enjoy all that the season has to offer.

SO...here is my personal list of what I would like to find the time to do before the days get short and the snow begins to fall...

1. go away for a day...take a hike to Pike's Peak to see the fall leaves, pick some apples, and enjoy a glass of vino with Beau
2. snoop around in some gift shops with Mom
3. get arms deep in a couple of pumpkins; carving the skins and roasting the insides
4. pamper myself on a much-deserving relaxation Saturday...a hot bubble bath, fuzzy bath robe, and a good book
5. clean flannel sheets on the bed
6. caramel apples, turtle corn, and wild rice soup
7. a girls' night IN...movies, junk food, and gossip
8. cuddling up in a movie theater- a great flick, warm hoodies, and greasy popcorn
9. a fall baking day...hot apple cider, fresh pie, and zucchini bread
10. a visit to Beau's parents
11. a night in with Beau- a little Frank Sinatra, home-cooking, and late night walk
Quite the spread from 'Fall Fest' party last October!

'Fall'ing

What a week. Between my Wednesday night Master's class, a HUGE stack of ungraded papers, and my summer curriculum plans all dried out, I couldn't seem to find a life outside of teaching this week. Up at 5:30 every morning, I get ready, head to school around 7:15, and attempt to prepare for a whirlwind day of instructing, emailing, meeting, grading, talking with UNI students, organizing, sorting, updating, reading, writing, and missing my laid-back, summer attitude. I've come to an important realization the last couple of weeks...I have now reached a time in my life when I can't reach the end of a never-ending to-do list. I used to feel such a sense of accomplishment crossing each day's tasks off my last, with time remaining to sit back with my feet up and read, watch tv, or talk with Beau. Now, it's turned into a daily race with the clock, leaving me absolutely exhausted by the end of each day. This week, I spent some time at the quiet UNI library---I just love that place. I worked hard and was able to get quite a bit done at night. So far, my hard work has paid off in the classroom; I just love my classes and can see true learning taking place with all of my students. Now...it's about learning a balance- a balance between life and work, life and play, my students and my family, and time for things I love to do...

Today, I've enjoyed a great fall day. Beau and I had plans to go to Galena; however, decided a weekend at home was more important. I love this time of year---the weather is getting crisp, smells of leaves linger in the air, and I'm starting to crave comfort food. Last night and today, I was able to enjoy some great things about one of my favorite times of the year...

-going for a nice walk at 9:00pm last night. I started drifting off to sleep at my usual time on Friday nights (8ish), so Beau woke me up and said, 'Ashley! Get up! We're going for a walk!' Turns out, the fresh, cool air was exactly what I needed to refresh my mind. We walked and talked, snuggled up in our sweatshirts and pants, and gazed into neighbors' picture windows. We talked and got excited about all the perks of living in a place with changing seasons---fires in the fireplace, chili, football, and Christmas lists!
-after our walk, we sat for a bit on the deck, listening to the W'loo West W'Hawks cheer their team on at the stadium behind our house. The band played, the fans cheered, and I found myself drifting back to the good ol' days of cheering on the Trojans
-we slept with the windows open, nestled up under the cold sheets, embracing the fact that we had NOTHING to get up for early in the morning
-woke up to a beautiful Fall Saturday morning...a fresh pot of coffee and yummy omelettes from Beau!
-I finished my fall decorating...mums and pumpkins outside, candy corn, leaves, and fall foilage are now showing their colors in the livingroom and kitchen
-Pandora and John Mayer sang to me all afternoon; I baked yummy banana bars and looked at some fall recipe books
-I thought hanging clothes on the line in September was a great idea...good thing Beau was home to help take them down during an unexpected fall rain shower!
-Now, I'm about to get ready for a much needed date night! We have no plans in store and that feels extra good!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

UNI Fight UNI!!!

The PANTHERS ran away with another win! 30-0 against St. Francis!

Highlights of our Tailgate???

-Chris P. brought a nice little flat screen television to watch the Iowa game. We hooked the antenna up to Chas and Bridgette's Panther flag pole!
-Taking a little piece of the old Dome turf home with us...
-Ryan Parkhurst, in his little UNI jersey, emptying April's pop can and taking it to some college guys playing the Louisville Slugger game! He was definitely a hit with the college girls :).
-Beautiful weather! Shorts, shades, tees, and sunscreen!
-$1 'Dome-Dogs'

More pictures to come...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Praise God!

I've been on pins and needles all day waiting for Kate Mcrae's MRI results.

God is good! The tumor is decreasing in size and is MUCH smaller than when they started this ordeal. They still have a long way to go, but the chemo is working!

I'm truly overwhelmed with emotion, all for a sweet little child I've never even met. This must be the 'working in mysterious ways' talk from the Bible.

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Time of My Life...

Last night during my usual end-of-the-day cool down of channel flipping and paper grading, I took a minute to check my Facebook page and MSN homepage.

The headline on MSN stuck out like a sore thumb...

Patrick Swayze Dies at Age 57.

I wasn't expecting to feel sad. It sounds silly, but in many ways, Patrick Swayze was a significant part of my childhood...

Here is an excerpt from a memoir I wrote this summer titled, Preserving Neverland.
If I were asked to share a single word that seemed to represent a reoccurring theme in my childhood, I would choose imagination. Imagination. While financial security, job mobility, and social status were hard to come by inside my family's hand-crafted small-town home, imagination was always in abundance. My older brother and I were blessed to have a full-time mom, which allowed us to explore our own surroundings day after day instead of the confined walls of a day-care center. Perhaps this is the reason I was content in my own little world and actually preferred to play by myself opposed to my many peers. As I look back now, I wonder what the neighbors thought as little Ashley, barefoot with dirt-stained knees, twirled like a clumsy ballerina in the middle of our dead-end street, a pink baby's receiving blanket secured tightly around her tiny waist with a safety pin, singing to every word of "I've Had the Time of My Life," from the 'Dirty Dancing' soundtrack. I especially wonder what our home-schooled, strict religious neighbors thought as Ashley proceeded to lug her Fischer Price cassette player to the neighbor's house to promote and share her taste of music with the neighbor girls!

When I wasn't attempting to imitate the flamboyant, oftentimes, objectionable moves of the actors in the movie (by myself, remember), I was standing on the couch, waiting in anticipation for the famous 'lift' at the culmination of the film. With arms outstretched to an invisible Patrick Swayze (my brother refused to be part of this), I would jump off the couch and land in a Neverland world of fantasy and fairytale.

I'm not sure why I was so drawn to 'Dirty Dancing' as a child (or why my mom allowed me to view, let alone memorize it), but it did not stand alone in my personal favorite category. Sandy in Grease, Whitney Houston's damsel in distress role in The Bodyguard, and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman were frequently portrayed in the living room or backyard. Although I did not have a clue about the plot or seemingly reoccurring themes in these films at the innocent age of eight, I wonder if it eventually shaped my draw to the 'bad boy' persona in high school. Now, decades later, I've often wasted afternoons stuck on one of these films while aimlessly flipping through the channels. For some reason, they never get old to me. No matter what I have on my plate at the time, a stack of papers to grade, a stack of dishes to wash, or a stack of bills to pay, I can't help but find myself drifting off to Neverland.

It's funny the things that will evoke such strong surges of memory and importance in our lives. It's reflecting on the small moments that truly make the ordinary extraordinary...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And that's another Panther...


What do a deck of cards, bagel dip, temporary tattoos, beads, and purple and gold cans have in common?!?!?! You guessed it! All were part of our tailgate party to kick-off Panther Football at the DOME this year! Beau and I are season ticket holders this year and after getting lots of grief in Iowa City last week for supporting the purple and gold, we were ready to cheer on the Panthers at our home turf (which is brand new, beautiful, but slippery).

What a beautiful day for football (or specifically, tailgating, since the weather stays pretty much the same in the Dome)! 85 and sunny, we were wishing the Panthers would have saved their 'black-out' for a colder day...however, I was able to liven up some of my ever-fading summer tan.

I think UNI proved they might be contenders for the best football team in Iowa! A 66-7 win over South Dakota State led to a smooth start and an early clear-out of a nearly packed UNI-Dome. I'm convinced a new era has begun for Panther football. When I was in college, the Dome wasn't half-full for Homecoming. Today, on the same day as the annual Cy-Hawk showdown, the Dome was shaded with an almost packed crowd in black. I'd say well-deserving of a great football program at a really great school!

Until next week...UNI FIGHT UNI!

Pray for Kate

It's weird the people God puts in our lives. People to teach us, guide us, and help keep us on the right path. People to lean on, laugh with, and depend on when times get tough. And sometimes, He puts people in our lives who we will never meet physically, but who serve as powerful reminders and testaments to His undying faith, hope, and trust.

I'm talking about Kate McRae.
Kate is an absolutely adorable, five year old girl from Arizona. Kate is fighting a brain tumor and has been through more in the last three months than most can comprehend in a lifetime. Her family, strong in faith, yet fragile in spirit, have started a world-wide prayer chain from http://www.carepages.com/, an organization offered to families with loved ones in longterm hospital care. I found out about Kate's story from some people at church and have been consumed with it since. Although reading her daily ups and downs breaks my heart and often leaves me with a deep pit in my stomach, her family's honesty, reflection, and trust in Jesus serves as a powerful ministry, as well as a daily dose of raw perspective.

Please pray for Kate and her family. Here is the link to her website: http://www.prayforkate.com/

"So call upon His name, He is mighty to save, this is our God..."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Goodbye Summer, Hello Comfort Food!

Beau and I had a great summer. I'd say we got off to a pretty great start leaving for seven all-inclusive days in Mexico a week after school let out! We soaked up lots of sun, ate way too much food, played on the beach, and celebrated our two-year anniversary, Beau's birthday, and the completion of my first official year of teaching. If only we could begin summer with a beach side suite every year?!?!

The summer wasn't entirely 'no work, all play,' as I took nine credit hours of class towards my Master's Degree. I met some great people and had the opportunity to take classes with my sister-in-law!

While last summer was deemed our 'Money Pit' summer of kitchen and basement renovations, we kept the home improvement to a minimum (this all depends on which neighbor you ask). We managed to plant some bushes, stain our deck, and rip a gigantic tree out of our front yard.

As most of you know, Beau and I are cooking addicts. The true highlight of our summer might have been the nights spent cooking, drinking wine, and relaxing on our back deck. Favorite meals??? We conquered grilled pizza, I attempted to master the art of pie-making, we played with some exotic Caribbean dishes from our muse, Bobby Flay, and had a pretty delicious 4th of July feast with great friends. Food makes us happy and we like to think of it as an odd way to express love (unless we're possessive in the kitchen).
We ended the summer with a weekend away to one of our favorite places, Chi-Town! The Second City, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millenium Park, Italian Village, Gene & Ann Chinander, and of course, Wrigley Field, topped our trip this year (yes...we not only stayed in the same hotel as them, but ran into Gene and Ann three different times during our weekend- and sat directly in front of them at Second City---what a small world!).

Goodbye Summer...

Until we meet again...You've been oh-so-good to us.



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