Thursday, December 10, 2015

Heartfelt goodbyes

To my dear and faithful readers,

We've been through a lot together! Living in Fargo, being a FOCUS missionary, taking foreign mission trips, running half marathons, learning through suffering, and so much more. I suppose I didn't tell you, but I also got married in October! I've been pondering my next step and have finally made a decision.

I'd like to consider this my final goodbye from this little piece of the internet I've called home for the past four years. Change is difficult for me, so it's hard to believe that this will be my last time scribbling my thoughts here. For me it means that:  my FOCUS days are really over (though they have been for some time), my single life has come to an end (which isn't a bad thing at all if we're being honest!) and that it's just the end of an era. A really good and fruitful era.

Blogging has given me space to process, look inside myself a little deeper, and of course be built up and supported by the many readers who have helped to make this time feel worthwhile. It has aided my growth in honesty--honesty of what I am capable of, accepting failure and unmet expectations, and of course it has been a part of my journey towards personal freedom.

So with that, thank you. I've felt nothing but love and appreciation from my dear readers at Answering the Call.

On that note, I have decided that giving up in the blogging world just isn't for me, at least not for now. If even after four years you are still interested in what I have to say, I will be e-thinking over at a new domain:  The Kersting Order. In the best interest of myself and our family, and because the internet can be a scary place, I've decided to make the blog private for now, but I'd love it if you all came to join me over there! If you don't know how to make this happen, just shoot me an email at thekerstingorder@gmail.com, and I'll help you out. Otherwise, when you go to the link it should prompt you to create a login and password, and that should be all you need to follow along. *Please use part of your name (first, last, first letter last name, etc) as the login to help me out; random usernames may or may not be approved. Thank you!

I look forward to the next months and years of writing adventures with you, and can't wait to see what the future holds!

God bless you and keep you in His peace during this Advent season!

With love,
Kelsey Marie

p.s. I will leave you with a few of our favorite wedding photos which I've meant to share with you anyway. Enjoy!






Thursday, June 25, 2015

He loves them both.

In light of recent events, I've been listening to this song all day. All of it just speaks so perfectly to the nature of the situation, and not only the words are beautiful, but if you take time to watch the images in this video you will literally be moved by God's beauty. I'll return to this later.

An old friend from Fargo was killed in his home early Tuesday morning. I know I'm not the only one asking questions, thinking the "what ifs?" and still just reeling over Tuesday morning's events. I've been refreshing newsfeeds and news websites more frequently than I care to admit, searching for answers, information, anything. Anything that will bring Sam and his story to life.

But then I'm reminded of  the reality of what occurred, and the incredible community supporting one another, his family, and all those who Sam befriended. And to top it all off, as one of my closest friends said regarding his final act of love, "There he was giving Jesus a drink of water. I mean there's no doubt in my mind he went straight to heaven with that single act."

Where to begin with a guy like Sam Traut? I think Norm says it beautifully here. Sam truly was "a Saint among us." He, more than almost any other person I know, was the first to jump in and help accomplish a goal, but always brought a joyful and intentional spirit of friendship. He always seemed to have his priorities in order, valuing relationships of his family, friends, classmates, and most importantly - God. I remember thinking on more than a few occasions, "Man, I should really learn how to enjoy time with my friends and just being the way that Sam Traut does." He never seemed to let life cause him stress, he just loved. He loved the present moment. He loved each person he met. And I know he answered the door on Tuesday morning out of love. A true love for his neighbor, in every sense of the word.

As Josh Garrels has been speaking to my soul through his lyrics today, I found both solace and heartache in these words:

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
and Jesus cries because he loves 'em both

There is no doubt that Jesus weeps at this incident:  not only at the tragic taking of Sam's life, but that a man whose soul he died to save would risk his life to take another. Jesus cries because he loves them both. So hard to accept, nearly impossible to wrap my mind around. But I would be a fool to turn back on God after all he has given me, and the many walls he has broken down in my own heart to see him in other people, regardless of who they are or where they live. Shame on me for feeling hatred for a man, when instead I should feel sorrow, sadness and pain at the emptiness that led up to this tragic turn of events. 

Luckily, as a reminder for each of us, this song finishes with an immense amount of hope:

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
and even when I fall I'll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

As much and as well as Sam loved others during his 24 years in this life, there is solace knowing that now, in union with God he is free to love perfectly once and for all. Sam's ability to love is no longer confined by space and time, but he truly is free to love with Christ's love - each and every person, outside of earthly limits. Sam, with his missionary heart, reminds me of the words of the Little Flower
"My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth."
Sam, thank you for being a model of Christ and imitating Him with every selfless act. Bring to completion the good work that you've begun on earth and continue to show us the Father's love.

Let us continue to lift Sam's family, friends, and community in prayer. Too, let us pray for the conversion of Ashley Hunter, even if for no other reason than because Jesus loves them both


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  -  Jesus

Monday, June 22, 2015

A perfect Minnesota weekend in pictures.


This past weekend Lee and I had the opportunity to spend a lovely and relaxing weekend at a cabin in northern MN, just living the summer lifestyle. The weather was perfect and the company impeccable. The only complaint I have is the fact that it's road construction season and the drive to and from Minnesota ended up being over 8 hours each way (including a couple stops scattered throughout). Luckily for us we looove us some good quality time, so spending uninterrupted time as a couple in the car turns out to be pretty great.

I ended up forgetting my phone at mi casa, so I was without it for the weekend. I realized I forgot it before we even left town on Friday, but made the conscious decision to leave it, and I am so glad I did. The couple of phone numbers I needed Lee either had, or had someone who had them. It was a glorious, unplugged weekend for me, and a time to enjoy the weekends' four F's:  friends, friends' dogs, family and fishing.

Some highlights of the trip:

  1. Quality time with Lee's family and our gracious hosts.
  2. Learning to fish and actually catching a few.
  3. Swimming in the extremely clear lake. My skin says thank you.
  4. Loons! So many loons! 
  5. Running into some friends from Fargo who just so happened to be on the same lake at the same time we were. And in the land of 10,000 lakes, that's almost enough evidence to go buy a lottery ticket!
  6. Passing through small-town, rural Minnesota dreaming of life's simple joys presented there.
  7. Lots and lots of doggy playtime. 
  8. Wearing my WI Badgers hat.
And now for some pictures, courtesy of my charming fiancé unless marked otherwise (no phone = no camera = I do what I do best:  mooch): 

Off for the first fishing expedition!
This does not accurately describe my freak-out sesh of trying to hold the fish for a picture.
My first fish of the trip really spoiled me! A nice large-mouth bass.
A record-setting perch on day 2! (For this year at the cabin at least...) My third species caught, too :) 
Because everyone takes a selfie with the fish they catch, right? Lee caught this bass.
Not once, but twice did a fish eat my entire hook and worm right off the line. I'm just guessing they were
so big that the line couldn't hold their weight. Here is Dean helping a sister out.
We went out on Saturday evening and it was honestly the perfect night. Here are some pictures as the sun was setting (all credited to Lee). You can even see Venus and Jupiter next to the moon! It was so fun.

Does this not just scream "Summer in Minnesota"!?

Celestial bodies on a trip back into the dock for the evening.
And here are a few from the sunrise on Sunday morning, courtesy of Dean (our gracious host). Just goes to show that God truly is the greatest artist:





One of the shorelines along which we fished
(and the only thing I caught swam away with my hook and worm).
I never thought I'd say this, but I like fishing. I didn't just put up with it because it was something that Lee enjoyed, but I actually enjoyed standing in a boat for long periods of time, casting line after line and having time to just take in being at the lake.

As I watched fish after fish bite on each of our lines, I started thinking about how stupid fish can be. Don't they see the ginormous hook sticking out of the extremely fake worm? The worm even has little colored sparkles in it. As I continued casting with no luck, I started to think deeply about how we humans aren't too different from these fish. I imagine some of these guys have even been caught and released back before, so getting hooked on our lines wasn't their first rodeo. Luckily for them we only take their measurements, maybe a picture and then send them back. They'll live to see another day.

As humans we get lured into the same traps time and time again, too. (Feel free to appreciate my pun.) I particularly thought of sin and vice, and how we can convince ourselves that something is good for us, or that it won't necessarily hurt us, even though it has before. We focus our eyes on the sparkly worm and fail to see the large pointy hook.

That was all the farther I got into that train of thought when I decided to derail and leave the deep thinking for another time. Mostly because it was an extremely beautiful night (see above photos for proof), but also because there are plenty of other opportunities to think about how fishing can relate to humanity, so I decided to bookmark it for now (and likely not return until the next time I go fishing, or ever). 

As a fairly outgoing extrovert I never thought I could enjoy quiet and stillness that fishing requires of me. But luckily I've got just enough competitive spirit in me to cast each line thinking, "THIS one will be the 4 pounder, I know it." Looks like you still can teach an old dog new tricks, and it's never too late to try something new.

Have fun trying a new hobby this summer, stories are welcome!

xoxo,
Kelsey Marie

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A belated happy one-year Iowa-versary to me!

Today marks my one year and a week and a halfish-iversary of living in Iowa. I drafted an entire post complete with pictures and the whole works on the actual day of the celebratory event, but even I got bored with the year's recap that I just decided to scrap it and start over "in a week or so." Well, hi. It's been a week or so.

Because it's been a while and I'm long-winded I could bore you with a long litany of things that have been keeping me ever-so-busy in recent weeks. But instead I'll just give you a short list, for "funsies," as they* say.


((* they = me))


1) Vacation Bible School.  (Who is this a vacation for anyway?) A friend at church convinced us we'd "be great" as crew leaders, so we thought we'd give it a go. It did not go unnoticed that the other crew leaders were either mothers that had their children there, or teachers, but it was good to see how we worked together as a team while trying to constantly gather up the little chicks as we moved from station to station.

VBS summed up in our words:

Kelsey: "What is the actual purpose of VBS? I feel like a glorified babysitter. But without the glory."

Lee:  "VBS was like herding cats. Regardless of how hard you tried, the kids just kind of did their own thing."

And there you have it. We decided that we'll help out again (maybe) when we have our own cats kids to herd...

2) Strawberries. I just really like 'em. A lot. And they are in season. And that means they are cheap. Or at least, cheapER. I love me a good helping of these delicious, red berries. In fact, I bet I could write an "Ode to Strawberry," or even an entire post dedicated to my shallow affection for this outer-seeded berry. Instead, all I will say is that, mmmm. Strawberries.

In AN attempt to live within my means, I only buy berries when they are on sale (because otherwise GOODBYE food budget), so I have been livin. it. up. the past few weeks with the strawberries being 2/$5. Never have I appreciated that more than I do this year for some reason. #adultlife

3) Wisconsin. Yep. Went there last weekend and soaked in some really happy family time. Rusty's favorite thing (aside from a b-i-k-e  r-i-d-e, which you better not actually say in front of him lest you have a crying pup within seconds wondering why you aren't getting your shoes on) is climbing in the laundry basket as soon as clothes exit the dryer. I brought home my dirty laundry and as soon as I set the basket on the floor, this happened:


Oh Rusterford (as Lee calls him). You cute little devil, you.

4) Wedding planning and family time. Mom and I did wedding planning galore (flowers, linens and decor, oh my!), and on Saturday night the whole fam-dam'ly was able to kick back, eat supper, porch-sit and play Mexican Train Dominoes (contender to be my all-time favorite game...this month). Mom's cousin Kurt stopped over after playing a harmless prank on us and ended up getting in on the domino action, which made me desire small-town and/or a more integrated community life even more. Kev isn't in the picture, but you'll notice the Mexican beer he proudly (and very intentionally) enjoyed while we played.



5) Soccer. Remember how I mentioned the soccer league I signed up for? We had our first game on Monday and I am proud to say that not only did I survive, but I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how playing soccer for the first time in eight years would go, especially in an unseasoned poorly warmed-up body. All things considered (and all the things were: having no subs, being the only female on the team, playing defense while being one of the biggest wusses ever), our first game went pretty well. We also have some stellar forwards and outside mids (Lee), so that made my job as defender a whole lot easier.

I was feeling all happy and riding out that endorphin high on Monday night and then Tuesday morning hit, and I could barely walk. Embarrassingly so. I have been sore before, but this definitely reached a new level. I thought I was doing a good job of hiding it until I met Lee for lunch yesterday (Wednesday) and he pointed out my "gingerly walking" and asked how my legs were feeling. But it's okay because healthy competition = good for me every once in a while. And apparently so does exercise.

6) This video. And that hat. Mostly just because I bought this hat in the name of skin protection.

Linking up today with Ana over here for a summer link-up!

p.s. 4 months from yesterday you can refer to me as Mrs. Kersting! Lee's thoughts on that:


Nailed it.

Hasta sometime soon,
Kelsey Marie

Friday, May 29, 2015

I could get used to this.

Way back in April (which seriously feels like such a long time ago!) I made a quick, yet necessary, decision and deemed May a "no-travel month." Can I just give myself a big ol' pat on the back for having one of the best ideas I've ever had? And Lee definitely deserves one too, first for putting up with me during a crazy hectic April, and second for helping me realize that traveling 4 out of 5 weekends in a month is something worth thinking about doing never. again.


As the lovely month of May comes to a close, I just need to say how freaking awesome it was to just be for an entire month. The most traveling we did was a happy day trip to Galena to see my family on Mother's Day, but other than that we've been laying low and I gotta say, I. loves. it.

Can you say, going for walks, garage sale-ing, grilling and eating on the patio, breaking in some new soccer shoes and just getting more sleep overall? Although the schedule has begun to fill up during the week, it's amazing how great I still feel to just have no (or very few) set weekend plans. Want to drive around and look at all the really expensive houses in town? Sure. How about checking out garage sales (and finding a surprise STEAL on wedding decor)? Well, okay. Wait, how about we find a new recipe, make it, and then just do WHATEVER THE HECK WE WANT. Yeah, twist my arm. In sum, this month of no traveling has been such a blessing. I recommend a "no-travel month" to anyone, yes, even you with your friends and family hundreds of miles away. Believe me, you (and your wallet) will thank you.

I am even more affirmed to encourage this after reading this article linked from Laura over here. One of my deepest desires is to live in a community and not just have a utilitarian relationship with it: "I live here. I work here. I get my groceries over there. Then I leave and see my family and real friends on the weekends." I deeply desire to be planted in a community and truly integrate myself into it--I want to go to the local festivals, know the "hole-in-the-wall" goldmines, see friends and neighbors at the grocery store checkout and get caught talking for 45 minutes, and best of all, I just want to be present to those around me, to myself, and to my family. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it?

Anywho, since I haven't blogged in a while, some fun things as of late and in no particular order are:

1) Canvas and Cabernet.

I have been wanting to do this for such a long time! So many of my friends have gone to the "wine and painting nights" and always come back with these beautiful paintings that look like they were done by a professional. I was particularly excited about doing maybe a field, or a sunset, or a nice river with a moon reflection. (Mostly I just wanted to do a moon reflection). Instead, this was the painting for the evening:


Chevron stencils, a stencil of Iowa and oh yeah, Iowa. Soooo yeah. No moon reflection. Or nature setting of any sort. Even a flower or butterfly would have sufficed! But really?? A tribute to Iowa? Since living here I've definitely learned that Iowans feel the same way about their state as I feel about mine, but if we go again we are definitely looking ahead to see what the painting will be for the evening before making a $35 commitment. I mean, are we supposed to hang them up? Maybe I'll put it right next to my Wisconsin art... or the Blessed Mother. Or maybe in the basement where it belongs....but it's the experience and bonding that counts, right?!

2) Jenne came to visit!

Not going anywhere for a month really has it's perks:  your friends come to you. Holla. We had a wonderful weekend equipped with going for walks, eating kale (....), grilling out, and giggling like schoolgirls (which we somehow always manage to do). Also, every time we are together we find a way to squeeze in the following: going to confession, getting Caribou, FaceTiming Fr. Cheney and now we may start a new tradition of drinking a delicious and low-calorie beverage called 1020's. (basically just vodka, tonic water and crystal light. YUM).

Top: On a walk through the state park.
Bottom: Enjoying grilled salmon and asparagus on the patio.

3) Breaking in new soccer shoes.


Lee sweet-talked me into going out on a limb and signing up for a rec soccer league with him for the summer. He's been doing this the last two years and loves it, whereas I'm over here like:

Seriously. I haven't played a full game of soccer since senior year of high school, and after doing very few, minimal soccer exercises (passing, running around an open field one time) I was spent. Literally done for. So we'll see how these Monday night games go. My only goal is to survive. And stay hydrated. Other than that, no promises.

Silver lining: My old soccer gear has been tossed at some point in the last almost decade since graduating high school (SO weird to say that), so in return for signing up for the league, Lee bought me these shiny new kicks so I can lay in the grass on the sidelines run around aimlessly in style:


Pretty flashy, 'eh? Actually, I'm not sure if you've perused the soccer cleat section at any store lately, but you should check it out just for kicks (wink).  We were both pretty disgusted at the blindingly bright and horrific designs that I wouldn't even want the cutest child to wear. Apparently bright and flashy is in...but what happened to the traditional black shoes with the three white stripes?! Simple and classy, right? Maybe I'm just that far out of touch with style and reality (likely), but either way, some of those... yuck. This was literally the closest I could get to the classic cleats I donned once upon a time.

4) Wearing my new skirt at every opportunity outside of work.

While in Galena I splurged and bought the skirt pictured below. I've wanted a versatile maxi skirt for some time now--mostly because people always look so comfortable in them! I've been striking out left and right, so I finally just gave up. And then, while shopping with Mom, a wave of something came over me and I decided that this would be a good idea... and don't even think about telling me otherwise!


Those blurry iPhone selfies were taken on two separate occasions... so clearly my creativity with this skirt lacks. But the woman in the store told me that "they just can't find any shirt that matches the blue in the skirt!" So when I came home and found this bad boy already in my closet, I felt a sweet, sweet sense of victory. A very small victory, but victory indeed.

5) Shopping for hiking boots.

Due to the fact that our honeymoon cabin ended up being a little less than we budgeted for, both Lee and I thought it would be a great idea to get him some new kicks, so we can explore the trails in comfort and style. Plus, it's just a great idea to get hiking boots, especially since we both enjoy a good hike through the woods.

I didn't take any pictures of Lee trying them on, but I did snap this pic because it's the same pair of shoes that daddio sports all the time, and it made me miss ma 'n pa:

Dad's are the ones on the far left, with just a hint of orange. :)

So these are just a few of the happenings that have been happening in the vida de Kelsey. In sum, stay home for a month and you might just end up painting a tribute to Iowa. Or haggling at a garage sale. The possibilities are endless!

xoxo,
Kelsey Marie
There is nothing like staying home for real comfort. -- Jane Austen 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I have six days left with my Sixth Graders, and I’m… (fill in the blank)

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of a dear, and extremely talented friend of mine, Miss Joyce! If you like a fine wine, then you will also enjoy this beautifully crafted reflection from today's featured writer. I'm not entirely sure why, but I just have a hunch that you would. Roll with me here.

Miss Joyce, and I began our longstanding best friendship during our awkward days in 6th Grade. She desires to live forever in that year, for some odd reason, as she is currently a 6th Grade teacher in the Twin Cities. She enjoys cooking for friends, getting lost in a literary classic, coaching basketball, laughing uncontrollably (mostly with me), and sipping on a fine whiskey. Sara loves those in her life very deeply, and is a magnificently gifted woman.

When I sit down and attempt to explain my thoughts and feelings in relation to the end of the school year, I’m inundated from a million different directions.  The end of the school year often brings utter joy and merriment from students, while most teachers I know, myself included, express such jubilation with a celebratory beer and deep sigh of relief.  A break.  Finally!  After toiling for nine straight months, I am able to experience freedom…and perhaps a little more sleep.  No more being confined to my local coffee shop every Saturday and Sunday because I need to grade papers.  No more rushing back from social gatherings because I fear sleep deprivation will result in my behavior toward students being likened to a hungry bear searching for food come tomorrow morning.
What people don’t realize is that teaching is not a cush job.  I don’t leave school and cease thinking about my students.  It doesn’t stop at their academic performance, and assessing their papers and tests.  When I go home at night, my students are forever on my mind.  Ask any of my friends what subject matter I discuss most often, and they will, without hesitation, tell you:  My students.  I marvel at their innocence, I laugh and smile at their joy, I worry about them, I have hopes for their future, I wonder if any of the material, primarily the life lessons, will actually stick with them, I long for them to know and remember how deeply I love each of them.  Over the last nine months I have spent over 2,000 hours of my life with these students.  In seven days I will wake up, and for the most part, have no contact with them again for three months.  For some who are switching schools, I may never see them again.  Re-reading that last sentence breaks my heart.
Everyone tells you that the second year of teaching is far better than the first.  After having experienced my second year, I can tell you with confidence that it’s true.  My lesson plans are ready, I have a sense for what I’m doing, and even grading seems to take less time.  They don’t, however, prepare you for the gut wrenching pain of your “second good-bye.”
Last year at this time I was blissfully unaware of how deeply I would miss my incredible, hormonally raged, behaviorally challenging, capable, awkward, hilarious, curious, and delightful eleven to thirteen year olds.  Ignorantly, I waved and hugged them good-bye, and promptly went off to enjoy my celebratory beer, or in that case, whiskey.  The days went by, and my heart once having been so full of love and life from these students’ daily presence, recognized a deep emptiness and loneliness.  I know the ache, and I’m confident I’ll experience it again because I spend every day with 26 of the most wonderful people that I know:  My students. 
Their joy, innocence, fervor for life, curiosity to learn and grow, desire to become who they are inspires me daily.  No one can frustrate me like my students, no one can make me laugh or understand goodness like them either.

The countdown toward the last day continues, and while my students are excitedly anticipating freedom from school, I am doing my best to savor every last moment.  Six more days I get to spend with these little gems.  I hope to God that He gives me the strength to endure day seven.  Until we are reunited next Fall when their awkwardness is at its height, and their concern for being cool may, in fact, prevent them from acknowledging my existence.  This year’s sixth grade class will forever hold a special place in my heart.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Our [Awkward] First Date

Three years to the day marks my first date with the wonderful man I now call my betrothed, my fiancé, my soon-to-be partner for life. Hard to believe, right? It definitely does not feel like it's been three years. Maybe longer, maybe shorter, but definitely not three years. I mean, a LOT has passed since our awkward (in my opinion) first date at Applebee's.

Want to hear the story?

Well.... OK.

But I must warn you, it's pretty awkward. (In my opinion)



I won't tell you our whole story, because ain't nobody got time for that, but maybe that will come in a future post down the road. No one ever really knows around here.

DISCLAIMER: The awkward factor. While recently reminiscing about said first date I mentioned to Lee that it was a little awkward for me. He responded to the likes of, "Really? I didn't feel that way at all."



So there ya have it, my awkward trigger gets tripped a little easier than engineer boy's. C'est la vie. And c'est la not surprised at all.

Back to story:

My first year of missionary life with FOCUS is coming to a close (and for those of you who have heard of FOCUS, you probably already know about the first-year dating fast that all missionaries are obliged highly encouraged to take part in) and I'm staying in Fargo for an extra week just to soak it in, and move all of my stuff to our new apartment for the next year.

Lee conveniently overhears my teammates and I talking about all the time they will need to spend moving all my unnecessary crap stuff and he graciously volunteers to help me move, or gets graciously volunteered by Lucas. I forget which. Either way, he was gracious.

Lee makes a conscious effort to help me move allll the way across town (actually it was closer to 6 blocks). I'm pretty happy about this because let's be real, I know I'm gonna need as much as help as I can get because even though my team is the Packers, packing vehicles is not my forte. I soon find out that Mr. Engineer is an excellent packer and if it isn't for Lee's help, this moving fiasco would take a whole lot longer, and quite a few more trips back and forth in the Taurus.

-----

Moment of silence for "The Taur." May she forever rest in piece... and at the hands of my cousin who now drives her. Model year 2000, completely rusted out underneath, but still toting passengers from point A to point B. What more can you really ask for? (Answer:  Lady.)

-----

Back to story. Lee and Lucas in good, chivalrous fashion, help me move. We spend a good portion of Saturday moving and having a jolly good time. The last back-and-forth trip for the day is done, and I'm at my empty apartment by my lonesome, wondering what to do, when I notice my Bucky Badger floor mat is not at the entryway where he normally lies. I open the fridge and what do you know, there's Bucky, rolled up and on the bottom shelf. (Lucas went to the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana so we always had friendly verbal jousts about who's school is better.)

I sent a picture text to Lee of said floor mat in fridge, and though I don't have the text conversation saved, it went something like this:

Kelsey: Did you have something to do with this? (Bucky in fridge)
Lee: Lucas might have suggested that.
Kelsey: Very funny.

(break in texting)

Lee: Would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?

--Pause for Kelsey to get all sweaty and nervous and WHAT THE HECK IS HE ASKING ME ON A DATE?! I JUST SPENT ALL DAY WITH HIM.--

Kelsey: Sure, when and where?
Lee: Applebee's at 6 pm. I'll pick you up.
Kelsey: OK, that sounds good!
--Kelsey = so confused --
Kelsey: Random question, but what are you going to wear? (Dressing up = date, right?)
Lee: Probably a polo and some shorts.
Kelsey: Okay, sounds good. (Phew! Totally NOT a date.... Or wait, is it? I don't know what a polo shirt signifies!)

Awkward enough yet? It gets better.

The next day comes, Lee picks me up and we go to Applebee's. As soon as I get in the car I instantly start nervous talking to fill the silence which Lee is completely accepting of. (The whole time wondering: "Is this a date? Why didn't he just ask me when we were together yesterday? The text means it's not a date, right? Should I ask him? Does he like me? Do I like him? I think I'm going to puke!")

((Of note, at this stage of life, baby Kelsey still doesn't quite understand that some people have different temperaments, and some truly see silence as a gift to be treasured, while others see it as an obstacle to be tackled. I was very much in the camp of the latter, while Lee was and is very much on the side of the former.))

We both order and hardly eat the chicken strips basket (this detail is courtesy of Lee) and I, in all my nervousness, continue to fill every bit of silence with question after question after question. What was your family like? What kinds of things did you do when you were growing up? Tell me about your mom. TELL ME ANYTHING.

Hell hath no fury like Kelsey nervous-talking to an engineer on a maybe-but-not-really-sure-first date.

At one point I remember thinking, "Does he even want to talk to me?"

Apparently, he did.

And here we are today. Engaged to be married. Who. would've. thunk.

The only photographic evidence of Lee helping me move. Taken from an old cell phone.
He and Lucas sitting on my couch in the back of Lucas' pick-up.
xoxo,
Kelsey Marie

Friday, May 15, 2015

Six Click Takes {SQT}

1) This commercial. Just, lol.

Ever since their dawning and the rise of the gecko, I've always had a thing for Geico commercials. I don't know how they continue to manage to be hilarious, but they really do! When I saw this one for the first time the other night, the suspense and build-up leading to... Dora... just cracked me right up. I lol every time.

2) Also, this commercial at 27 seconds.

Okay, so I'll admit it, this week I've been hooked on this addicting show and I've managed to see both of these commercials for the first time this week. Seriously, I think Chopped might be taking a back seat pretty soon. It's just so intense! If I were ever on that show I would literally start bawling, just like this poor girl did. And they still left empty-handed. So sad. 

3) I had a great conversation with an old friend last night regarding the direction of this here blog. I'm just so excited to dream big and continue thinking of different prospects! More on that to come...

4) My friend Claire and her soon-to-be hubby started a new blog yesterday and I just need to give it a shout-out. She's one of my favorite bloggers hands down, so you should probably give 'er a read. Plus, she's moving back to the Promised Land, we share a love of our mutual Alma Mater, and she's an incredible missionary. Sooo obviously we get along.

5) In case anybody cares, last night I got a STEAL on lettuce. You know the different kinds of lettuce: there's the normal Dole head o' greens, then you progress to the Romaine, the bagged lettuce, and then there's always that nice stuff in the plastic cartons? And it's always really overpriced? WELL last night I figured I should get some salad stuff for supper (because lunch yesterday) and they had those plastic boxes of lettuce for $1.00 each! And one of them had a $.55 coupon on it... so I literally got days worth of salad greens for $1.45. You can only imagine my excitement.

6) Tonight I am scheduled for a "professional blow out" at Ulta just down the street from work. I don't often treat myself to things like this, but I thought it might be worth a shot. From what I understand they are going to wash my hair (which in itself is worth almost any amount of money...can you say head massage?!) and then just blow dry it as normal, but teach me how to make it look like this: 


But let's all be a little more honest, I know my hair won't end up looking like that with just a blow dryer and a brush. I'm not that naive. BUT I am excited to see what I will learn! Pictures of that to come... maybe... or maybe not. Stay tuned to find out!

Have a happy Friday.

xoxo
Kelsey 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Some days call for coffee.

Please tell me I'm not the only person on earth who wakes up some mornings and thinks, "I'm definitely getting to bed early tonight!" and then proceeds to make a five-second game plan of how "I'm going to come right home from work, go for a run, eat a healthy supper and then start winding down for bed at 8:00. Yep. No matter what. That's what I'll do today."

HAHAHA.

I love it when myself in her tired-stupor state thinks she understands life. Because let's be real, plans as such literally happen never. Well, maybe they did that one time. That one time in a blue freaking moon.

This is what the actual schedule for nights like this should look like:
-come home from work
-look at workout clothes, proceed to crawl under Bucky Badger blanket and take a nap.
-have a cheddar dog for supper (way better than it sounds, trust me)
-watch three episodes of Chopped (because honestly, who can watch just one?! If you've mastered this share your secret.)
-fall asleep on the couch reading
-piddle around and still get to bed past 10:30
I think the problem is more "user-based," if you catch my drift. But hey, I'm still a novice at life, remember? Also, for anyone who has children, I bet you're probably thinking, "Oh Kelsey, you have nooo idea." And you're right, I probably don't.

BUT, today I had one of those days. In fact, I have those days most Thursdays, but that's okay, because that's what coffee is for. Oh crap, the "coffee fast" that I'm attempting to clear up not clear skin... Oh well. It's not every month you get "A free coffee every day in the month of May!" from Panera Bread. This week I've been really good, I mean, coffee-free Tuesday and Wednesday is nothing to scoff at. But I think I kind of originally started with the intention of having coffee on Thursday mornings. Don't worry, I'll be back at it tomorrow with coffee-free Friday.

But why the exception for Thursdays, you ask?

Well dear reader, Thursdays are my most tired day of the week. I think for lots of reasons: 1) it's still not Friday, so it's still just a little too early to be excited for the weekend; 2) it's not the beginning or middle of the week anymore (which somehow gives me motivation to be awake, I'm not quite sure how that works); 3) I have a weekly holy hour on Wednesday nights (which I doze through at least half of...regularly); 4) it's still not Friday and 5) last night I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment and had to throw wood chips at my roommate's second-floor window to wake her up so she would come open the door for me.

Okay, so #5 isn't a regular occurrence, but the others are. And that did happen to me last night which still has me laughing today. I don't think I'd be laughing if said roommate didn't end up hearing my pleas while chucking wood chips at the window: "Peace, wake up! It's Kelsey! I locked myself out!" Thank you Jesus for encouraging her to have her window open on a 50-degree night. I took my apartment key off the key ring and stuck it in my running shorts when I actually did go for a run yesterday (note, yesterday wasn't Thursday--see schedule above), blissfully leaving the house for the evening without having returned it to its proper home. I had all my other keys, but not the one that I really needed. Peace is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise individual, so that decision was no bueno. Seriously. I mean, shacking up with Lady doesn't sound so bad, but oh wait, yeah it does. Altimas are meant for comfort driving, not comfort sleeping.

But for some happies: we've had a few fun date nights in recent weeks. Here's a fun picture from date night this week. Just chowin' on some grilled hot dogs, baked beans and potato chips in picnic-like fashion on the patio on a beautiful sun-in-your-eyes evening. Delightful.


And here's one from last week's date night:  we built a fort and spent the entire evening doing fun activities in said fort--making Mother's Day cards, eating yucky Chinese "food" and laughing. A lot. All fun things I tell you. Such a happy time. Plus, it's not every day you can get your fiancé to pose like this:


That's all I've got for today, folks. Happy rainy Thursday.

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's the five-month countdown....

Please tell me you were thinking of this song when you saw the post title. Please. I definitely had it in mind while crafting that little bugger. If you weren't, just go ahead and read it again, thinking of Europe in all their glory. (p.s. did you know that Europe released a new album this March?! Not even joking you right now...thanks, Wikipedia.)

Anywho, 'tis true, 'tis true, Lee and I will be wed five months from yesterday! CrAzY to think about, especially since the last few weeks have really brought an overwhelming sense of peace in the present. Get this:  we actually like being engaged!! a.k.a. we aren't sitting around wishing for, "well when we're married 'this,'" or, "only X amount of days...get me outta here!" ("here" referring to engagement).  This has been a constant conversation with us, and even though the goodbyes at night don't get any easier, we are 1) so thankful that we don't have to spend all of our time together on Skype like the good ol' days and 2) both very much enjoying this brief time of engagement in our lives. It's not like we can one day go back and say, "let's just be engaged again!" Not gonna happen. Not because I don't want it to, but because, ummm, marriage. Ya feel me?

This whole notion of having peace in the present is a really profound reality in my life right now, especially as my one-year anniversary of packing up Lady and moving out of Fargo comes up in a week. (Any new followers out there: Lady is my Altima. Read the post I wrote here, or watch a younger, tanner me getting the keys here!) There have been many times over the past year (up until this very day!) where I have thought to myself, "Man, I. miss. Fargo." And, truth be told. I do miss it. But more than Fargo itself, I miss the life I had in Fargo. This blog didn't even capture 1/8 of the many good blessings I received while I was there, but now that the reality has finally set in that I will simply just not live that way again (with teammates, working for FOCUS, mentoring women as a full-time job...), I have been forced to succumb to the reality of the present.

And you know what?

I think I like it!

Not only do I like it, but now that I'm finally starting to realize that this is the daily life of KMK, it's starting to feel normal, not like I'm just trying to fit into life like I'm a piece from the wrong puzzle. Sure, there are rough days when I wish for the way things were, and boy do I miss my friends from the hinterland. But little by little this emotional sap has been coming around to accept the way things are, and actually enjoy myself so much more.

We went to Galena with the Kaufman's for Mother's Day! What a wonderful day.
Swimming into shallower waters...

Today also marks the beginning of a completely vanity-driven attempt at a not having caffeine nor chocolate. Want to know why? Because all hell broke loose on my face and in recent months pubescent style acne has been covering my entire chin. I mean, I've gotten small break-outs here and there, but this is completely different! Even while going through puberty I don't remember having a breakout quite like this.

"Kelsey, don't you think maybe you're a little stressed with the whole wedding/huge life change/still adjusting to Iowa thing?"

Well, maybe. BUT. But but but this might be different. I don't feel really stressed out by those things, and in all honesty wedding planning is kind of a breeze (so far!). I did zero outside research, but after doing a quick overview of my diet and lifestyle, I've realized a few pretty common denominators in recent months:  coffee and chocolate...and I did switch my face-washing system right around the time this all began... SO I am going to resort to my former way of life and ditch the new system (for now!), even though I love the way it makes my skin feel and has just the perfect amount of tingly sensation after step 2. You all know that tingly sensation that just makes your skin feel cleaner?! Even if it actually isn't? That's just the best. But it doesn't quite make up for a chin that could be mistaken for a pizza. So it's time to give 'er a rest and go back to the basics here.

p.s. please ignore the coffee I sipped this morning while getting ready for work; it was Panera coffee leftover from yesterday, I swear! You can't let stuff like that just go to waste...

Anyone else out there in their mid-twenties having acne breakouts? What did you do to get rid of them? Hit me with some advice!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blogging after a 3-month hiatus.

If you think this post is going to magically inspire any writer's block-affected bloggers out there, you've stumbled upon this site by mistake, though I'd love for you to stay! This post is merely me giving myself a warm welcome back to the world of blogging after a three month hiatus. It has been far too long, my friends. And you wanna know something? My lack of writing has had nothing to do with writer's block or lack of substance. I'm embarrassed to say the real reason...


my absence is out of pride (again). And it probably won't be the last time I don't show up here because of some silly thing I'm embarrassed about. For example, never, ever writing yet still claiming I'm a "blogger." Such a phony!

"It's been so long, all of my readership is probably gone anyway."

"I'm not a missionary anymore, who really wants to read the humdrum life of KMK?"

"My blog is embarrassing me and needs an update. I don't want to write until the entire thing is 100% made over."

These are just a few of the things I've been telling myself for the past few months, most of them lies. Except that third one. My blog needed (and still sorely needs!) a makeover. Poor blog, I'm sorry if I've offended you. We've been together for so long now! But truth's gotta be told. You be gettin' a litttttle outdated.

Did I just write on my blog, to my blog? Must have a few screws loose today...

Anyway, why did I start writing again? Oh yeah, to tell you why I haven't been writing. 

Long story short (or maybe long, I never quite know until I'm done sputtering thoughts out via keyboard):  I've been reading q-u-i-t-e a few blogs lately. And when I say quite a few... you should probably check out my blog roll and see some of the other ones I've been skimming reading embarrassingly thoroughly. I don't know what it is about reading the intricacies of complete strangers' lives, but man is it entertaining! I am learning new things and picking up tips on just about everything under the sun:  lifestyle, budgeting, fashion, blogging, crafts, and seriously so much more. It also feels like I've made tons of new friends. I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous. But I know more about some of these people's lives and children than I do about my closest friends! I feel a bond with them. I am starting to sound like a real creep.  But anyway, all that reading sure makes me want to join them and get back to writing in my own peaceful corner of the 'net. 

Some of the questions I've been asking myself for many moons now are these:
  • What kind of blog do I want to write? Serious? Spiritual? Funny? Real life? All of them?
  • Do I want to gain readership? Or just write for fun?
  • Do I want to publicize my blog on social media? I thought I was trying to lessen my time spent in those avenues...
  • What will my title be? (Lord knows we need a new title over here!)
  • What will it look like?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Will keeping up my blog be like a second job? I mean, I just don't know how Grace does it sometimes.. she must get oodles and oodles of emails, comments, and she still manages to keep up on the social media, nearly daily blog posts, oh, and her 4 children (5th one coming soon!...see what I mean? Creep.). 
  • Am I ready for this?! 
So there ya have it. Kelsey feeling so paralyzed/excited/nervous that she doesn't know how to move forward in the blogosphere and begins talking in the third person. Screws loose I'm tellin' ya, screws. loose. 

What are your thoughts? I welcome any and all feedback to my current conundrum, and if you know of someone who happens to do graphic design and/or build websites...send 'em my way. Not literally, an email contact or phone number would suffice. No need to burden UPS with that kind of liability. Also, if you write a blog and I don't already follow you, you should probably let me know and I'll start stalking you reading what you write. Believe me, I've been making tons of mental notes (and actual notes, on Google Drives) with blogging tips, linking, how to have a super duper cool blog, you know, all the important things.

In sum, I'd like to give myself a warm welcome back to the blogosphere, and let me know how nice it is to be back (oh, that pride thing again). But seriously, 'tis good to be here! For now you may be receiving more random posts from moi, but no guarantees. 

I recently watched Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third for the first time (it was a fantastic weekend!) and I just cannot get over Puss 'n Boots. Literally, I laugh every time I think about this face.  I'll leave you with this:


xoxo,
Kelsey

Monday, February 2, 2015

I Stand with Green Bay.

Is it just me, or do any other Sconnies out there feel at least a little guilty for not being disappointed in the outcome of last night's game? Did anyone else realize they were actually cheering for the dreaded Patriots (which also means cough, Tom Brady, cough) when the Seahawks gained possession of the ball with just over two minutes to go in the 4th quarter?

I saw it all happen again, as if in slow motion:  Wilson launches a beautifully executed pass down the field and the Seahawks steal a victory from the Packers...err, the Patriots. It almost felt as if I was watching the NFC Championship game all over again when last night's game hit the two-minute warning. I could barely keep my eyes open and watch the Seahawks make their way down the field, even when Jermaine Kearse made the catch of his career.


I wanted to cheer for my fellow Badger alum, I really did. I even convinced myself that I was for most of the game. But then, when Wilson was picked off within mere inches of scoring that final touchdown, I felt a sense of relief. Sweet, sweet vindication. Sorry Wilson, my Badger pride runs deep, and you even seem like a great guy. But you stole my Packers' chance at the Super Bowl, and I'm not quite ready to forgive you for that just yet.

So anyway, it wasn't until the final minute of the game that I realized I was cheering for Tom Brady all along. That mere fact still stings a little, but cheering for either team made me feel like a traitor. When the time ran out and the Seahawks showed their true colors, I had no regrets, and hope that Packer fans everywhere slept soundly last night, and woke up this morning with smiles on their faces.

Can't wait til next year.

GO PACK GO.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm not planning my wedding.

Confession: the post title is a bit of a stretch. What I mean to say is that I'm not afraid to not spend (my condolences on the double negative) every waking moment thinking about the wedding day and plans for this dress or that table decoration, who to invite, who not to invite, etc etc. And it certainly is a temptation to think that your life needs to revolve around wedding planning (thanks, frequent emails from The Knot, WeddingWire, etc etc)! For Pete's sake, we haven't even been engaged a full month, yet! (We will have been tomorrow, though.) Moreover, I want a marriage that lasts a lifetime, not a spectacular wedding that will only be one day. Plus, the way the world works is this:  things will inevitably go wrong. No matter what. End of story. Things will not always go 100% as planned (thanks, FOCUS Missions, for giving me a hard, fast lesson in that one!) so if I have all of my eggs in the "having a perfect wedding basket" I will certainly be disappointed without some level of detachment.

Shortly after Lee and I got engaged he brought up one of his fears, which also mirrored one of mine: that through this period of engagement we would quit growing in friendship and focus solely on our wedding. I for one am a sap for weddings and also am a girl who loves all things pretty, has a lot of time at work to daydream and has a great cohort of friends and family who are over the moon excited for us and want to help with wedding details in any way possible.

Even with all of these factors, I'm not planning my wedding. Well, actually, it's not just me. It's Lee and I, so it's we. And we are definitely planning our wedding. BUT we are not allowing the planning for a mere one day of our lives to consume us for the next 255 days (thanks for the countdown, wedding websites everywhere).

With that, we have decided to institute...

(...drum roll please...)

wedding-free date nights!


Okay, so that might be a slight over-reaction, but it really is pretty exciting--both the date nights, and the ability to reference one of my favorite movies.

Also, for me personally, I have attempted to institute wedding-free Wednesdays! This is when I make my best attempt* at not doing anything wedding-related on Wednesdays, and then offer the struggle for the kiddos that I'll see later that night in religious ed.

* I'm still human, and still excited about having my own wedding someday, after all! I can't expect perfection right away, but I'll keep striving.

Ever since we've lived in the same city, Lee and I have held fast to our weekly date nights. Each week we take turns planning the evening's events, and we even extend our curfew until 10:00 on those nights so that way it's extra special (getting old is rough, dontcha know...).  This wonderful schedule has allowed us to enjoy a plethora of activities that take minimal planning but that we might not do otherwise (think: read each other books at B&N, $5 movie Tuesdays, try fun new recipes or restaurants, carve pumpkins, scrapbook, etc).

I think that regular date nights are essential for couples--dating, engaged or married--and should be cherished and guarded each week, especially until the little ones come along and make life a little more joyfully chaotic. Also, when couples spend all of their time just "hanging out" and not actually doing anything, it can lead to not getting to know the person and all of their wonderful quirks, likes, and dislikes, but just feeding the emotional highs you get when you're close. It's a hard fact to face, but I do believe it's true. Snuggling up next to each other on the couch every night may seem like a great idea, but with any firm resolve to remain pure and chaste, that can really be dancing on the edge of the fire, if you know what I mean. That's why we keep a running list of "Things to do with the other" and when in need of an activity, we don't have the excuse that, "there's nothing to do!" Shoot, we've got a whole list right there on our handheld devices. And believe me, there are always things to do. Take this example from Olivia over at To the Heights. You don't need to live in a big city with lots of social options to keep you entertained; try something as simple as having a candlelit homemade dinner, or teaching someone your favorite game (in this case it's chess..and one of these days I WILL let you teach me, Lee, I promise).

Because both Lee and I cherish our weekly date nights, we have decided to guard them even from our own wedding planning, and let these nights be just about us and our growing friendship. Our relationships don't just stop growing when we get engaged or married, anyway. Plus, this is a pretty sweet deal, am I right? Sure, it's tempting to want to bring up the, "what about this idea?" or, "Have you thought about that?" But in all reality, we are starting to see that those ideas aren't going anywhere, and will be there to talk about the next day. We also have a nifty Google wedding spreadsheet with a "To-do" tab, so if we think of something to talk about, we can just add it on there and talk about it on some night other than our date night.

After a little reflection about why I think setting time aside to not do wedding planning is so important, I realized that in a sense, it is a lesson in trust. Trusting that everything will work out just fine--regardless of when this reservation is made or that decision is decided, we just need to trust that everything will work out exactly as it's supposed to. So far we have had zero road bumps in planning and choosing venues, so it's also pretty easy to trust right now. But in a real, tangible way, this is preparing us for marriage when we will need to trust in God to take care of all of the unknowns (our family, our jobs, our finances, etc.) when we can't control everything. And ultimately, I don't want to be the one in control anyway. That's His job, not ours.


Here are a few pictures I found from some of our fun date nights:
Lee made me a fancy birthday dinner of salmon and asparagus for this date night.
Carving pumpkins before Halloween!
We each picked out a children's book that we liked and read it to one another.
(Lee picked the book above, I chose Walter the Farting Dog. So romantic.)
Making our first cookie cutouts together for Christmas! 
Grilling at the State Park by the
lake for date night.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Congratulations and good luck.

Lee and I have the privilege of attending the 7 am Mass at our local parish most days of the week. There is no Mass on Mondays or every other Wednesday, so on those days I always feel a little off. But man am I thankful for the days that start on such a positive note! Also, the other 15-20 people there are retired, so they always enjoy seeing us and remember to thank us for helping pay their social security. It's quite hilarious.

This morning was a little special though. Our priest, I'll refer to him as "padre" for now, has been gone since we've been back from the holiday break. We were pretty excited to tell him as soon as we got back, and hoped for a special blessing on our engagement, but he was gone all of last week! 

So this morning before Mass Lee and I stopped into padre's office to let him know the good news and ask for his blessing during Mass. Man was he excited for us! He gave Lee the typical, "what were you waiting for?!" line, but Lee has a lot of grace with that and always just smiles and laughs. He's so funny, and I love seeing how he reacts when people say things like that. He never uses more words than necessary, but just the right amount.

At Mass last week a few people saw the ring and congratulated us, but apparently the word didn't spread (which is quite comical because the group is pretty small, and we have daily Mass in a small library downstairs in our church). As soon as padre mentioned the "exciting news of Lee asking me a question and now I have a ring on my finger," everybody clapped! They were so happy, it was cute. I felt like I had five sets of grandparents in the room by the way they were all so delighted.

Padre then told us a quick story: "You know," he said, "when a couple gets engaged it's customary to only congratulate one of them--the groom--because he wins the girl. To the girl, rather than congratulations, you should say 'good luck' because now she has to deal with the guy!" And then all of the men in the room erupted into an uproar of laughter. Lee blushed, and I smiled. Because in my opinion, I'd have to say that while we both deserve the "congratulations," we also both need the "good luck," and I'd wager Lee more than I! While girls are exciting and beautiful, they are also difficult, way complicated, and experience a menstrual cycle. This may be something that men just never fully understand. And that is okay (until the Packers lose a shot at the Super Bowl the week my period starts...but that's hypothetical of course).