Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An update on where I've been...

I know I've been neglecting this blog. What happened was equal to that of getting the dreaded second letter from a pen pal. I was pen pals with many people growing up - which might explain my adult obsession with sending mail to friends. One of the pen pals was slow to write back, which was an early lesson in patience for me. One time, the return letter was taking too long so I wrote again. I was told later by the receiver's mother that this created guilt with my pen pal and he would refuse to write due to embarrassment.

Ok, so that's what went on here. I knew I wasn't writing. I definitely had things to talk about - I just decided to keep concentrating on the wonderful whirlwind path life was taking me. I'll try to write more often. Maybe that can be my goal for 2014 - write at least once or twice a month?


New job (yes, again): So I noticed my last post was in July. That was just before I was offered the Assistant Director, Digital Media position in the Office of Alumni Relations at Drake University. This is a dream job of sorts for me. I am a proud Drake alumnus and knew it would be easy to work with our audience. I'd also longed to be in a full-time (non-contract) digital media role. Further, I really wanted to work with social media, which this position allows. Further yet, I've always wanted to work at Drake. As you can see, it was a dream opportunity that I was thrilled to take on. I am part of a great team that is fun to collaborate with and that I learn so much from regarding the world of events and marketing. (P.S. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see part of what I do).

I've gotten to travel to Chicago twice, and Ryan went with me one of those times. I got this beautiful photo from the trip:

EVEN FURTHER, one of the benefits that come with this position is free tuition (it's taxable income). Which leads me to...

Graduate school!
I finally started graduate school to obtain my Masters of Communication Leadership. I'm already done with my first semester and finished with three beautiful High Pass grades (As). I'm signed up for three more classes in the spring. I've really enjoyed getting to know my cohort. They are who I will take my MCL courses with throughout the program. Here we all are on the night a cohort and I lead discussion:

I am debating on my school plans for the summer. I may take one class if it ends before July because...

BABY! Ryan and I finally announced that we are expecting our baby to be born around July 1.

Here are answers to some questions you may have - the ones of which I'd actually be willing to answer, anyway.

No, I don't know what the gender is, but we'll find out and tell everyone. Yes, we know what it will be named but will not be sharing that. That is something between Ryan and I and we don't need people's opinions of our child's name before it's born. No, I won't be sharing ultrasound pictures anywhere but in person with very close family only. Just a personal preference.

YES we are quite excited to have another person to take on our awesome Smith adventures. Yes, I will still work and go to school - and yes, we can handle it. I sought mentoring on the decision to have a child while in graduate school - and only from people who have actually done it. They were the only ones that said we can do it, and frankly, they're the only ones I trust.

Enough of that. Currently, I'm 15 weeks and quite happy I'm out of the first trimester. I got a sinus infection in week 9 and was miserable. Now I'm in full on nesting mode on our home, which has turned into a maddening cycle. My sister and a friend think I should blog about this journey since I would make it funny. I probably would. Meh. We'll see. What do the two readers of the blog think?

This is the image I used to announce on Facebook January 1:

You may understand now why I have been absent - and can further understand why I may disappear again, especially once school starts back up Jan. 27. I've made it my New Year's resolution (sort of) to blog more so hopefully see you around!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Christmas in July

I've always wondered what the crap people were talking about when referring to "Christmas in July." After a quick Wikipedia read, apparently it's in reference to the southern hemisphere, whose winter is actually in July. This means countries like Australia and South Africa have Christmas-like events in July so it feels more winter-ey. Keep in mind, this does NOT replace Christmas. I mean let's not be silly.

Who knew.

Now that we've established THAT, welcome to July! I have a great way of bringing some Christmas tales to you this sultry day. Remember my post in May about my Oma? Well, I gave a brief eulogy at her funeral in May and I told three Christmas stories that encompass our relationship. She really loved Christmas and always made it a big deal for us. I really love these stories, so thought that I would share them with you.

The first story is about my first Christmas. I was a really sick 3-week-old, and near death in the hospital on Christmas Eve. Everyone was praying a lot to help me make it through the night, as the doctor's said that would be a miracle. I've been told that grandma actually prayed that God take her life instead of mine. I'm glad he didn't, and gave us some time together first, but that really speaks to her faith and love for others. Especially for me. Perhaps I have her to thank for this life?

The second story was a few years later. As a kid, I really wanted to give my family Christmas presents but with no money and no transportation, that was hard. So, I ran around the house and wrapped each person's most prized posessions. That Christmas, I left the room, came back with the presents and said I was Santa's Elf delivering the presents. Everyone was pretty weirded out and perterbed that their item had been missing so long, but grandma played along. "Oh, Santa's Elf THANK YOU!" I appreciated that. She always gave us what us grandchildren wanted, and most of the time that was a lot of hugs, love, and unwanted wet kisses.

The last story is about my last Christmas with her. I gave her a book I made on Shutterfly of pictures I took when Ryan and I were in Schwetzingen, Germany. This was the town she grew up in, and lived on the castle grounds there. When she opened it, she broke down and started bawling. She cradled it in her arms and said, "This is the greatest gift I've ever gotten. I'll treasure it forever." I was really glad to do that for her and give her a last glimpse into her childhood.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cold turkey on JUNK

From June 2011 to November 2012 I lost 30 pounds. In between that were a lot of ups and downs but I was happy with that loss. Maybe a little too happy.

After I hit that nice, low number on the scale just after Thanksgiving I kind of let go. At the time, I was working out 2-3 times a week and eating very well. I let that go by the wayside over the past few months and gained over half of that back. Bleck.

So, it's time to get back on the horse! I know I'm not the only one who let go of that healthy lifestyle for a bit, so I don't feel like a failure. It's just high time I get back to business. I will say this is not to fit in a bikini or weed my garden in a tube top. I feel beautiful no matter what that number on the scale says, and I have a husband who sees me the same way. However, I know what being overweight does to your body. The benefits of a healthy weight are astounding. It starts with my knees. Did you know that losing one pound is the equivelant of taking four pounds of pressure off your knees!? For someone with Patella Femoral syndrome I say, SIGN ME UP!

ANYWAY, back to that wagon I fell off. Here are some things I'm doing for the next month to get me back on the right track. For 30 days I'm going to follow these rules. NO exceptions! I'm trying to figure out a way to motivate me as I work well with a visual that I see every day. Perhaps a sticker for each day that I follow all of these? Maybe a checkmark for each rule I follow each day? What do you think I should do?

Here they are:

1. No candy. Goodbye Sour Patch Kids.

2. No cupcakes. I'll miss them, but I don't think Scratch will go out of business from this move.

3. No beer! Yes, that's right. I drink heavy, delicious, 9% alcohol beers. They have to go. I'm going to drink gin and tonics or something light as an alternative.

4. No (non-diet) pop. I'm doing to try to make this no pop in general, but a Coke Zero every now and then might occur. Pop is so, so, so bad for you. I once heard you can lose 10 pounds just from cutting pop out of your diet. Whether or not that's true, I just don't need it in my body in the first place.

5. No White Chocolate Mochas. Yea, so this blog post telling you my obsessions with Scratch and Starbucks. Yep, they go. Everything goes!

6. Work out at least 3 times a week. Whether that be running, biking, dancing, or whatever, I'll get moving somehow.

7. Count all of my calories. No matter how ugly they may be, every bite is going on MyfitnessPal.

I've heard of some similar lists like this that people live by to lose weight, or just stay healthy. I have one family member who has a note on her fridge that says, "No chips or fries. Drink lots of water before each meal. No eating after 8 p.m." There's one more but I don't remember it. You get the idea.

Today is actually day 3 of this endeavor and I'm doing great. I haven't had pop of any kind, I've taken my super healthy lunch and snacks to work each day, no candy, no cupcakes, no nothing. I've counted every calorie and on Monday night Ryan and I went for a run together. We also have a 72-mile bike ride planned for this weekend, weather pending.

What I need from you: Do you have anything to add to my magical list? Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep myself accountable?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Photos for Iowa State Fair 2013

I promised that I would post pictures of the photos that I submitted to the 2013 Iowa State Fair. Setting it as a goal this year put a fire under me to get some submitted this year because I hadn't submitted in five years or so. Out of the 6 or so photos that I submitted, I've had one displayed. You can only submit four photos each year. The ones they decide to display is the honor of it.

I wasn't completely in love with one in particular. I'm not being pessimistic, but I don't think any will be displayed. I DO think Ryan's will be... and it's a photo of me. So... in a way I will have made it, no? You review and tell me what you think. I was also pretty happy with the names so pay attention to those. Keep in mind they are NOT judged on their names or mats.

I named this picture of a tree on the top of Pike's Peak Cold and Coniferous.

This is a view from behind the clock at Musee D'Orsay in Paris. I named it Time Transfixed.

This was taken in the gardens of the castle in Schwetzingen, Germany, where my Oma grew up. I named this one simply Stag.

I LOVE what we decided to name this one: Martian Winter. Adorable.

Finally, the one you've heard so much about. This is Ryan's picture of me. He named it Cheshire.

I'll let you know if either of us have something displayed. Which one is your favorite?

I golfed!

If you're following along on this blog (and I can only assume no one is), then you must know about my 2013 goals, since I include them in every post. Well, today I golfed 9 rounds at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Johnston, completing my seventh of twelve goals for 2013. Woot!

I did pretty awful. But, like most things, I found a way to have fun. And, like most things I've ever tried, I simply left room for improvement. I've always been pretty terrible at things my first try. But, I get progressively better rather quickly. It makes learning things fun for me, actually.

I had 3-4 really good shots so I tried to focus on what made them good and repeat that. Most times I was trying too hard. Some times I took my rage out on the ball and turned out a good shot. I'll definitely golf with Ryan again, but definitely not every time. A friend today told me she plays Best Ball with her husband, and I think that's a GRAND idea! We'll try that next time.

Enough talk, more pictures to tell this story.

Proof. Probably the best shot of the day (that I will post, anyway) of me actually golfing

Holy moly, LOOK at hour RED my hair is. This is ryan trying to get an artsy shot.

Cool shot of Mr. Smith.

OH, and MAN was my day made when we rode home. I got pulled over (72 in a 55, eek) and did NOT get a ticket! I was more happy about that than anything else. Score! It's the little things.

Friday, June 14, 2013


It's been a while since I've done a review blog of my favorite things. While the following items are my favorites, they are really more obsessions that I have right now. I titled this post with the "S"s capitalized because it turns out my three obsessions below all start with S. (I was never good at headline writing).

Starbucks Rewards card app: This is an app on my phone that I can use to purchase items at Starbucks. If you collect enough stars, which you earn with each purchase, you get certain rewards. What I REALLY like about the app are the free downloads. Each Tuesday they give you the code for a free download on itunes. They are more than often songs that I would purchase myself, like Stubborn Love by The Lumineers. They also give you game downloads. One week I got Star Wars Angry Birds for free. I also tried fun games I wouldn't have downloaded on my own like Heist.

I was recently upgraded to their highest level of rewards - the gold level. I was excited, but quickly realized this is a pretty ridiculous thing to show any excitement over. But, apparently you do get a pretty sweet personalized card. (see picture I grabbed online below). Maybe I'll post a picture when I get mine.

Song: Take it on faith, by Natalie Maines. This is a free song I got from the above obsession. It's a 5 minute song off her new solo (as in not with the Dixie Chicks) album Mother. Based off this song I just might buy the entire album.

Scratch: If you're an Iowan, I need say no more. This is a cupcake place in West Des Moines (and Waterloo and Cedar Falls) that has the best cupcakes in the world. No, I'm serious. On Saturdays, you have to stand in a 20-minute-long line to get a cupcake. And it's worth every minute. I get these as a surprise dessert for Ryan and I sometimes, a treat for coworkers, or just because I wanted it, damnit! My favorite is the Salty Dog. It's vanilla cake, salty peanuts and the most important part: buttercream frosting. I'm not sure what's in this amazing frosting other than peanut butter, but it's making Des Moines folk addicted. YUM!
The Salty Dog. Sorry it's not a full cupcake, but I couldn't resist..

Update on my goals for 2013:
-We are registered for one day (July 23) of RAGBRAI. Yes, I made us register and pay. After all, we might need to use the bandwagon.
-We are going for a round of golf next week. Next week! We borrowed my father-in-laws clubs for the occasion. I'll have to have Ryan take some pictures.
-We are two sessions away from completing our Alpha course at church. YAY! We actually miss our old life group from church, whom we left to do Alpha for a bit. We are excited to touch base with them in July.
-I submit my photos THIS WEEKEND for the Iowa State Fair. I'll be honest, I'm not confident about them, nor very excited about any in particular. I did convince Ryan to submit a picture that he took of me. I think out of all five (four from me), his is the only one that will be chosen to be displayed. So... in a way I'll still make it to the display, right? I'll post better pictures later, but for now I need you to help me name the last two pictures. Below is an awful shot of them I took with my phone.

Please help name! I was thinking for the one on the left calling it "Identity Crisis," because they are desert rocks covered in snow. Thoughts? (Please actually comment on blog this time).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

KITTYS!!! (... and other reasons I'll never be able to run for office)

I always joke that if I ever run for office, an opponent simply needs to place a kitten in front of me during a debate. I would lose instantly due to the squeals that would explode out of me. I love cats. This XKCD comic does a pretty perfect job of explaining my reaction when a cat is around.

Here's the twist: I don't have a cat. That lovely man that I live with and happily vowed to spend the rest of my life with is deathly allergic to them. You honestly won't hear me whine and complaining about it because there was no "choice" about it. I wanted a cat, he's allergic, I love him more than anything in this world, I choose happiness. Case closed. But, I do long for a kitten snuggle every now and then, so I decided to fulfill that by volunteering at two different animal shelters each month (twice a month).

They both are very different, and both provide very fulfilling experiences for me.

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa is one of the shelters. Every other week I take pictures of the cats for adoption. Those pictures are used for posting ads online. They were at capacity for their cats when they rescued 50 cats from a hoarder this week. This means they need help, and have lowered their cat adoption price down to $25 a cat. That's a HUGE deal. If you're like me and cannot have a cat, consider donating to them. You get the newsletter if you donate $30 or more (and yours truly was in the newsletter last month). The other thing you can do is SUPER COOL! You can have cat food sent straight to their doors using this Amazon Wish List. OR get free shipping on Wag.com.

KCCI also did a story on it. The ARL Facebook page is following some of the adoptions, and telling some great stories along the way.

I feel bad now that I've talked so much about ARL, because it's this next shelter that really fills my heart. The Animal Lifeline of Iowa is a no kill, special needs animal shelter. I volunteer helping the cats every other week. Right now, they have FIVE litters of kittens. You'd think I'd be in heaven in a happy pile of kittens, but that room is stressful making sure each kitten has been fed and watered, had their litter cleaned, and had their medicine. The medicine is the craziest part because each kitten gets a gulp of medicine. Keeping track of that is quite the task, and usually takes three of us volunteers.

I've been taking a LOT of pictures at this shelter each week. Currently, this beautiful little girl is my favorite:
And here are some more adorable kittens up for adoption there:

AND, here are some alumni of the shelter.

This one is Cagney. She was my very first little favorite kitten. She came in skin and bones, and got snagged up pretty fast because she is quite loving.

And this one is Kringle. He's blind, but you wouldn't be able to tell when he plays. He is also very lovey, and was adopted quickly.

I thought this was an appropriate blog topic today due to the timely needs of the ARL. I have 5-6 rough drafts of blog posts sitting in the queue, so stand by for more exciting updates on the life of Mrs. S.