Oct 31, 2013

I Need Your Help: Writing "To Any Soldier"

Hey dear friends, I have a huge favor to ask of y'all.

Last night, I participated in a group discussion with many family members in the battalion that M is a part of at basic training. Among many of the topics we discussed, one of them was mail. The battalion commander mentioned writing "to any soldier."

As he explained, some people join the Army because they don't have a great family life. Because of this, many of them don't receive any letters. This is huge because these letters are their only real connection to the outside world. I write M a letter every single day and I know many friends and family have written him as well. He always talks about how getting the mail from home makes the bad days good and the good days better. Some days if it weren't for these letters, I think he would have a hard time pushing on.

Can you imagine being in an environment where everything is so structured and you have no relief from that?

So my friends, I'm calling you to action. Will you please help me write to these soldiers who don't have anyone else? I'm going to work on writing as many as I can but I just can't do it all. Let them know someone cares. That someone is proud of them for putting their lives on the line. Not to give up because it's an accomplishment to be proud of. A card, postcard, letter, picture from kids, anything at all will brighten their day, I promise!



I'm asking that you share this post in every way possible. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Let's get the word out there to help these soldiers make it through another day with a smile on their faces! Email me at throughthehansonlens@gmail.com for an address to send all these items. I will be collecting them to send in a large group on November 9th. The blog world is huge, let's overwhelm them with support!

Please help me friends! Just taking 5 minutes out of your busy day will make their whole week.

love,
Mandy

Oct 30, 2013

Rainy Day Thoughts

Today was pretty uneventful and this post is really late to the game. But, you got a few thoughts from my day!

"Wrong shoe choice today, smart one."
"Aaaaaaand, my socks are wet."
"If you don't have an umbrella but you do have a hood on your coat, why are you not using it?"
"Dude, your shoes sound like a g"iant squeak toy."
"Ugh..my shoes are like giant puddles."
"Glad I didn't do my hair today."
"Whyyyyy can't we have underground tunnels on campus?"
"Oh shit, I'm going to get hit by lightning."
"It's rained a billion times around campus yet I haven't invested in rain boots, what's wrong with me?"
"I need a bigger umbrella."
"Finally out of the flood, I should have built an ark."
"You're really diggin' up your nose there buddy. Oh...nooo..eww."
"Oh, it's sunny out, must have stopped raining. Nope, still raining."
"Sorry I just stabbed you with my umbrella but if you suddenly halt in the middle of the sidewalk it was bound to happen."
"I've never seen so many different patterned umbrellas."
"Hellooo Blue bus."
"It stopped raining, I guess this is what a 100% chance of rain all afternoon looks like in Iowa."

Late night posts = not a whole lot of anything. And you can't take the 30 seconds it took to read that back! Have a good night :)

love,
Mandy

Oct 28, 2013

When I Thought I Knew It All

I didn't have much of an exciting weekend (just waiting on the phone to ring) so there's no weekend update here. I chose one of Wifessionals' Get Inspired topics to write about today!

Did you ever start a schooling, program, or career only to find out it wasn't 'YOU' or it 'wasn't what you thought it would be'? Did this lead to a change in life plans?

Junior year of high school, I thought I had it all figured out. I took a college nutrition class and it peaked my interest. I hadn't really thought too much about what I wanted to do and I've always had an interest in food. What better job than being a dietitian?

Senior year rolled around and I applied to the only in-state school that had an accredited dietetics major. A few days later, the email I was anxiously awaiting popped up in my inbox. Congratulations! You're a Cyclone! I'd been admitted to Iowa State University. I accepted my offer and filled out my housing choices for Fall of the next year. I signed a housing contract and was set for my freshman year of college. Then, I booked a campus tour. That's right, I had never even been on the campus before signing a housing contract! 

Lucky for me, Iowa State University has the most beautiful campus I've ever seen. I knew I'd picked the right school the second we pulled in. I could just picture myself walking down the sidewalks through Central Campus. We picked probably one of the worst days possible to visit. It had been in the upper 60's to lower 70's except for the day we visited. On a drizzly, chilly, October day, we trekked across campus. We may have gotten a smidge lost (I laugh about this now that I know my way around campus) but we made it to all of our appointments. We left later that day and I had the biggest smile on my face. If I could love it here on one of the crappiest days of that Fall, I knew I'd enjoy my adventure!

Scared, little freshman me moved into the dorms a year later. I only had two classmates who also came to the school and a few other friends on campus but none of them lived near me. I was essentially on my own. I hung out with my roommate and floormates, anxiously awaiting my first day of college. Classes were a breeze in the beginning. About a month in I started to get worried. I was in a pretty advanced biology class and no matter how much I studied, everything was over my head. The more I looked at the class list I'd be taking over the next four years, the more I got worried. Biology, chemistry, math, and nutrition among other things. I was in another nutrition class but I just wasn't enjoying it. In the back of my mind I kept hearing a little voice repeat a phrase I thought would never apply to me: About 50% of college students change their major before they graduate. That will never be me I thought but now it was starting to look like an option. 

By the time Thanksgiving neared, I knew I'd made a mistake. I loved the atmosphere at Iowa State but my major of choice just wasn't right. *Insert many nights of hyperventilating about what to do with my life and lots of tears* I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life. The one thing that came up in my mind over and over was children. I didn't want to be a teacher, what else could I do? Child, Adult, and Family Services. I've had an interest in helping kids for a few years, this seemed quite fitting! 

*Raises hand* But Mandy, I thought you want to be a stay at home mom. Well, that is the plan. And although I do feel like I'm wasting a lot of time and/or money on getting a college degree when I really want to be a stay at home mom, this is my backup plan. When I started college, I never imagined I'd be married by the time I was a sophomore. I hoped it would happen while I was young but I had no idea it would! Now, with M in the Army, I have no idea what the future holds for us. I may have to get a job out of nowhere and I'm trying to be somewhat prepared for that. It's really hard to get motivated for school sometimes because of all of this. But one thing I would like to do if I had to get a job outside of the home is work with military families. It could be in photography, family counseling programs, after-school care, daycare centers, the list could go on and on. 

This group of people have quickly found a place in my heart. I cannot imagine getting a job outside the home and not working with them in some way. There are way more military families out there than you could imagine and there's always more ways to help them!

So, my life plan was to be a dietitian but it just wasn't for me! Now, I'm married and hoping to be a stay at home mom but preparing for the possibility of working with military families. Quite a flip I'd say! I don't regret the path I've taken because I would have missed out on a lot of amazing memories and great friendships in the place I call my home. 

Did you ever choose a path for your life only to have it go a different direction?

Love,
Mandy

Oct 24, 2013

When You Stop Dating

Blogging two days in a row, who am I?

I've made it no secret that my husband is in basic training and that our only communication other than a few glorious phone calls is through letters. Sometimes I only get letters once a week, but usually they come in groups on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We're both a little unsure about how this happens because we send them out daily but at least it's fun to get multiple letters at once!

We knew being away from each other for an extended period of time in a marriage that's still so new would be a challenge. Especially with minimal communication! We also knew we'd find a way to make it through the days. One thing I don't think either of us expected was to see how "comfortable" we'd gotten in just a short year of marriage. Life happens and we let it get the best of us. We've stopped dating each other or doing all the things we did to "land" the other person in the first place. Don't get me wrong, we still have a pretty darn happy marriage but we've slacked on things that are important to us!


He dumped me out of this wheel barrel just seconds after this picture was taken. "On accident" he swears :P



Minutes before he was about to propose...can you see the nervousness on his face?



Apparently we also stopped taking tons of pictures together. While digging for pictures, the closer I got to the present day, the fewer pictures of us together there were..

We're still young. We have relatively few responsibilities at the moment. If we let life get in the way of marriage now, what will we do when we have full time jobs/kids/more adult obligations?

If you want to see the things that are important to your marriage or the things you could improve upon, spend 6+ weeks away from your spouse. Kidding! It's more fun to be with them. :) We probably would have figured these out eventually but I'm happy to have this experience. It's been eye opening! I've seen our love grow ten-fold in the past few weeks! We've reaffirmed the things that we love about each other, talked about a few tough topics, and discussed all the ways we aim to improve over the coming months and years of our lives together!

My goal for this next month is to start dating my husband again. Tricky task while he's away but I'm up for the challenge! I'm determined to fix this before it becomes an actual problem. No one ever said marriage is for the lazy!

How do you continue to date your spouse? Any of you with experience dating your spouse long-distance, how did you overcome this extra step?

With love,
Mandy

Oct 23, 2013

This Week In the Life of the Hanson's

Just popping in with a little update!

Life has been pretty uneventful around here which means a lack of blog posts. Nothing to talk about makes for boring, forced posts so I've just been enjoying life in the mean time! I even took a break from social media on Monday and breaking the habit of checking Facebook/Twitter/Instagram every time I pick up my phone was harder than I thought! Good news though, I felt so much more relaxed when I wasn't constantly checking for updates. AND I wasn't comparing my day to everyone else thinking "Why didn't I do that?" or "I want to buy that, too!" It's really good for your soul to just spend a day being ever so grateful for the things God has given you instead of wanting for all the things you don't have.

Try it!

The update I have for y'all today is that Mark has passed another important qualification for basic training! He took his BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship) qualification yesterday along with the rest of his company. Although I haven't heard from him personally, the Facebook page for his battalion was updated this morning saying his company had 100% qualification rate yesterday! So impressive!! I was nervous all day yesterday and wasn't looking forward to waiting until this weekend to hear if he passed. He had to take his second APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) today so he didn't get much of a break. At least white phase is almost over! Soon we'll be reunited and that's what is getting me through each day with a smile!

Thank you to all the family and friends who said a prayer for him and for continuing to pray for us throughout this journey! We couldn't do it without you guys!

With love,
Mandy

Oct 18, 2013

My "Adult" Style

When we moved out of our apartment last year, I got rid of literally half of my clothing. When I realized I wasn't wearing all that stuff I knew there was no reason to keep it! The problem now: I never rebuilt my wardrobe. The even bigger problem: I don't know what my "style" is any more.

I went to find some cardigans the other night and realized I no longer shop in the "junior" section although the sizing tends to fit me better. I relate more to the adult section. Who am I? I also started thinking about what items I can stock my closet with now that will carry me through future jobs. I used to love wearing fitted clothing but now I'm much more comfortable in less fitted stuff. I like to buy simple pieces so I can add accessories which gives me more options. I'm still working on what exactly I would consider my style but here are a few examples of what I typically wear in the Fall.


Cyclones In the Fall

Golden Fall

Class in Fall

Class in Fall

How did you decide what you wanted your adult style to look like? What are your favorites items in your closet?

Happy Friday, friends!
-Mandy

Oct 17, 2013

Business Casual and Future Talk

I'm awfully late to the party today, but I should get credit for at least showing up?

There hasn't been much going on around here which could be one explanation for my absence. Or it could just be because I'm lazy. Yeah, it's definitely the second one.

Still writing letters daily and making the hour long bus trip to the post office. It takes awhile for the letters to come through but on the plus side, I get to hear about multiple days at once!

Yesterday I went on a "study tour" of Ames where we visited local places that my major could possibly intern or potentially work at some day. There are 3 "options" to the Child, Adult, and Family Services major and it may come as no surprise that I chose the child option. The only problem with that is all but one of the places we went to were geared towards the youth/family or gerontology options. It was freezing and we were told to dress in business casual clothing. I wore a sweater, gray trousers, and heels. I was a little irritated when I spent all day standing in heels while most of the class wore leggings and sweatshirts. Clearly "business casual" is not a term people my age understand. One thing the trip helped me decide is that I would like to work with Military families some day. I'm not sure if it will be childcare, counseling, programs, or even photography but these family have found a dear place in my heart. At least that's one future decision I can check off the list!

The car is still stuck in it's place but hopefully will be fixed within the next few days. I never realized how much I relied on our car until it stopped running! Hopefully this is the last malfunction until M is back so he can fix it!

Tomorrow I get to start a special project I was offered at work. My class schedule hasn't allowed me any set hours this semester so I've just been subbing. The only problem is that people either haven't needed subs or the hours they ask for are during my classes. My boss felt bad that I wasn't getting any hours so she offered me this project so I can get a paycheck again! I felt privileged that she wanted to make sure I was still getting some time in and I can choose my hours with this project. I can work as much or as little as I need and that's perfect for my ever-changing schedule!

Other than that, it's the same old, same old around here. I've added some new photos to my photography facebook so feel free to check them out!

Another Friday is right around the corner and I couldn't be happier about it!
-Mandy

Oct 15, 2013

This Week Of My Life

This past week was a blur. I had three photography sessions, class, car troubles, and a week of crockpot meals. More excitement than I've had in a few weeks!

One session was planned for Sunday but as I talked about, got rained out and we took them on Monday. I had a blast but realized I have a lot of preparing to do before I make this a more permanent part of my life. One of the biggest things I need to fix: comfortable shoes! I wore some of my favorite boots but by the end of the session my feet were killing me.


The next session was a "best friend" session I planned with some of my friends. Despite heading out a little late, we still got a ton of pictures before the light was gone! Thankfully I have friends who love to be goofy, I definitely got an ab workout from laughing at this session!



The third session was actually later that night! Being out of a car, it was a bit of a struggle but thanks to loving friends, I made it there and back no problem! Having photographed my second engagement (that's right, another one of my friends got engaged!!) I'm starting to think I may actually like life event photography! I took lots of detail shots and sat with the anxious man who was ready to pop the question! A few mishaps couldn't stop him! I was in tears by the end of the whole deal and despite it being so dark (only candlelight) I got some pretty awesome pictures!


My car troubles have continued, of course since I know nothing about cars. This time it's really out of commission though. Hasn't moved in over a week and although the bus has been getting me around, I miss having a car! Hopefully I can get it looked at and into a shop by the time the week is over!

I also declared it the week of the crockpot and despite two "cheat" nights, I think I did pretty well! Thursday night I didn't have any time to make or eat supper and Saturday I just didn't feel like cooking! I made: Sun-Chili, Mon-Green Chile Chicken, Tues-Stuffed Pepper Soup, Wed-Lasagna, Fri-Chicken Salsa Casserole, Sun-Chicken Ranch Pasta. Other than the Chili recipe which is our own, I found all the recipes on Pinterest. I don't follow the recipes exactly because I never have everything I need or I don't like some of the ingredients. They were all delicious and M will be happy that I'm adding them to our favorites list.

Crazy that M is in White Phase already! He's been writing daily and so have I although they tend to arrive in groups of 2-4. Saturday I had over 12 pages to reply to! He said they've lightened up a bit so he's really enjoying it now. One thing that was hard over the past week was we both struggled a bit. We discussed a really difficult topic and there was a bit of miscommunication on both ends. With letters taking so long to reach each other, we were frustrated at different points of the week. Thankfully we figured it out but it's another example of how our marriage can grow through this! If we can work through a struggle over letters than I'm confident we can work through any struggle when he gets back home. Another day closer to seeing him and I couldn't be happier!



That was a whole lot of information overload! Hopefully I can get back to making more of a regular appearance around here.

Happy Tuesday!
-Mandy

Oct 9, 2013

Weekly Update!

Holy cow, the last week has flown by! I won't be complaining about that though, another week of Basic Training in the books! I cannot believe it's already next month that I get to see my husband. We went into it thinking it was such a long time but it's been going quickly for us both, especially M.

Last week I headed out to a local lake around the golden hour to just relax and take some pretty pictures. It was so breathtaking out there! Just before I was about to head home, I took a photo that made me cry. That photo was just like one I would have expected to come from one of the many photographers I adore. It was thee photo that made me realize this isn't just a hobby, but something I want to do as a career. It gave me the confidence to know that this is something I can day! Then I "unveiled" my photography Facebook page to everyone I know in real life. I was blown away by the response to it! I had several people jump at the chance to take pictures including a family session and an engagement session. WOW!

I had a girls night sleep over with one of my best friends on Friday night. We spent the whole night talking, planning, and of course, baking! It's so great to have a friend in a very similar life situation as myself. We don't get the chance to have full blown conversations very often anymore so spending just a few hours doing so was perfect.

Saturday marked the first weekend that I've spent alone in a month. It. Was. Glorious! Honestly, I spent the whole day doing nothing but sit and relax. I don't even mind that I got nothing accomplished! I headed off for my daily run to the post office and just as I was pulling back into our parking lot, I got the best phone call. Despite a crappy phone signal that cut us off a few times, I got 30 whole minutes to talk to my soldier. I had the biggest smile on my face the whole time and I was so proud that neither of us cried the whole time. Just a few weeks in and we're already both in a great place with the whole thing!

Leading up to M leaving, I was so worried that he wouldn't be the silly guy I love when he got back. This phone call reassured me that though he'll be more refined, his personality still shines through! One thing I'm especially proud of (and am about to brag about) is that he passed his first APFT last Monday which is why he got to call. The APFT is the physical fitness test they have to pass (among other things) to graduate. M has been pretty worried the whole time about passing and he killed it! He also admitted that between throwing live grenades and rappelling has turned him into an adrenaline junkie. He even asked to go skydiving when he gets back!

Sunday I prepared for a photo-shoot I had planned for that evening. Except the temperatures were frigid and it was a dreary, drizzling day outside. By the time we headed out to the lake it was raining pretty heavily. We rescheduled for the next day!

Monday the weather could not have been more opposite. Seventies and sunny blue skies! Exactly what I wanted for this shoot! Getting some practice in with friends is really helping me get ready for the future! It helps that we have amazing Fall foliage right here in Ames, too!



Though my car is currently dead on the spot, I'm not letting it get me down this week!

Hope y'all have a happy hump day!
-Mandy

Oct 2, 2013

USPS - You Made My Day


Sending mail is something I do every single day now. I've always loved getting mail and sending it is pretty fun, too. However, I haven't had the best experience with USPS in the past, especially here in Ames.

Yesterday I rushed home from class to print out a shipping label and get the package I made for M out the door. After trying on multiple different printers, I couldn't get the shipping label to print out correctly. Frustrated, I headed over to the nearest post office which is about 10 minutes away. After having not one but two people steal a parking spot that I was about to pull into and almost being t-boned by someone backing up who wasn't looking, I reluctantly headed inside.

After waiting in line for a bit it was finally my turn at the counter. I explain that I tried to print the label off to ship my package and I couldn't get it to work. I asked if they could print a label for me since I already paid for the postage. The employee took it off to a supervisor and I waited until he could figure it out. Wait a bit more and he comes back out. He says he's got some left-over postage he can put on my package and since it's already addressed to M he takes it and gives me a tracking number. Then he explains the process of getting a refund for my shipping label.

I don't know if he was being kind because I was clearly frustrated or if he saw who I was shipping the package to but they shipped it for free! I left with a huge smile on my face and a happy heart. I will definitely be thinking of a way to pass that act of kindness onto someone else.

Thank you USPS for coming through for me!

Happy Wednesday friends!
-Mandy