Nov 27, 2013

Finally Reunited and Feeling Army Strong

Good morning! 

I've avoiding talking about the trip I left for a week ago in hopes that if I don't talk about it, when I wake up tomorrow I will still be on an Army base. That's not how it works? Well shoot. In that case, I'll tell you all about it while I sit here and pout a bit more.

Last Tuesday I anxiously packed up the car, baked a pan of coffee cake (one of M's favorite desserts), then headed off to class. I dipped out early when I found out we weren't really doing anything in class. I grabbed Gage, hopped in the car and hit the road for a 7 hour drive by myself!

Though I decided the GPS hates me after getting me lost multiple times, I finally made it to the hotel. I hiked up and down the two flights of stairs to our room to get everything inside. I unpacked and tried to head to bed but I knew I wouldn't sleep. And I didn't.

I "woke up" Wednesday morning with all sorts of butterflies in my tummy. Just a few hours stood between me and seeing my best friend for the first time in over two and a half months. That's the longest time we've ever been apart! I took off over a half hour early because I knew I would struggle with finding the building he was in. Fifty minutes later I finally found the right building after the GPS took me to many places that were in fact not the building he was in. I was upset, felt terrible for being late, and was pretty close to tears when I saw him for the first time. Just like that, none of it mattered!

The distance, the days apart, all the tears, disappeared when I finally found him in the sea of men who looked exactly alike. Though PDA had to be kept to a real minimum, the reunion will always be in my mind! We took off for the hotel and drove around for half an hour trying to find it before I stopped to ask for another map. I'm telling you, this place is HUGE and the buildings are only marked if you are on the right side of the building. We spent the rest of the day just soaking up each other's presence. It was glorious! Dropping him off made me sad but I knew I would see him early in the morning!

The next morning I woke up to many texts from my family, realizing I'd overslept by more than an hour and had to be at the graduation site in a half hour. Thankfully I already had everything set out, I knew where I was going, and my hair cooperated for once! My family and M's family drove down as well so I met up with them and we waited for the whole thing to start. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in tears as these men and women became soldiers of the U.S. Army!

After the ceremony was over I ran through the massive crowd and found M. He was so happy to see me! I met one of M's best buddies from basic and his buddy's girlfriend. It was so cool to meet all the guys he'd been telling me about, the ones who were there for him when I couldn't be! We took a ton of pictures before heading out to eat. We sat all 9 of us around a big table, enjoyed way too much food, and listened to lots of stories. My family had to turn around and make the 8 1/2 hour drive back so they headed out with Gage right after lunch. M's family brought us back to the hotel and then headed out as well. We spent the afternoon hanging out, watching movies, and enjoying junk food. Other than taking pictures and a few texts here and there, we put our phones away the whole time we were together. Best decision we could have made! It let us enjoy the moment instead of responding to all the people who were excited for us. Dropping him off was awful. We had no idea whether or not he would get a weekend pass since he was staying in the same place for AIT. I didn't know when I would see or talk to him again. He told me to stay for formation so I waited around with some of the other families as they lined up. Up until this point, he'd had his phone sporadically over the two day period. Then I watched him frantically text me one last time before his phone was taken away again and they headed inside. Somehow through the tears I made it back to the hotel and tried to pull myself back together. A little while later I got a phone call from M saying everything was fine and he got to keep his phone!

The next morning he "shipped out" to AIT which was just a little ways down the road. A few hours later he let me know he was getting a pass for at least the day and to be there in half an hour. Holy #^$%. So I jumped up, threw on some clothes other than PJs, and ran to the car. Thankfully I found the place with just a few minutes to spare. After sitting in a little room and listening to a brief from the new barracks, I signed him out for the day. We talked about how his graduation date was actually about 3 weeks later than what we were hoping for and that he only got a two day pass instead of three. After minimal pouting, we spent the day goofing off and reconnecting. I only teared up when I dropped him off and went back to my room.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I didn't want to get out of bed. I knew it was my last day with M and I just didn't want to get up because I knew that meant the last day had started. I signed him out and brought him back so we could figure out our plan for the day. We ended up designing our Christmas cards, calling some friends to talk for a bit, a little bit of shopping for Army apparel, driving around talking the way we used to and then many tears on my part. I was a wreck and I will own up to that. The days didn't pass too quickly but they just weren't enough time. I wasn't ready but I couldn't do anything about it. The past few days most of the soldiers were back in the barracks about a half hour before the deadline. This night, we all clung to our soldiers until literally the last minute. We finally forced ourselves out of the car and the no PDA rule had to be broken. I was not about to leave my husband without saying see you later one last time for awhile. All of the cars sat in the parking lot for a few minutes after all the soldiers had disappeared inside. I let myself have a little bit to be upset in the parking lot and then I pulled myself together. It could be worse, at least I know he will be coming home to me soon.The next morning I packed up the car and made the 8 1/2 hour drive back home by myself. No Gage for entertainment, it was pretty awful but I made it!

I'm so thankful for all the prayers and well wishes y'all have sent our way throughout the past few months! We reconnected and our marriage is Army strong that's for sure! I'm grateful that the trip down and back went off without too many problems. I'm thankful that our families could help us celebrate as well. I'm thankful that M gets to keep his phone now that he's in AIT. Most of all, I'm just so thankful for the opportunity to spend a few days enjoying the company of my husband and best friend. And a special shout out to the milsos (military significant others) who kept me sane and supported me throughout this journey. No one understands it better than someone who's already been through or is currently going through this!

Here's to hoping AIT passes as quickly as BCT did!


Pretty sunset with a little dog slobber on top
My handsome soldier <3
The first thing he wanted was caffeine. Starbucks was definitely our friend!
The men and their ladies!
So in love with him!

His and hers.

Skyping now that we're apart again..

Love,
Mandy

Nov 20, 2013

On the Road Again..

When I head out on a roadtrip, I don't head out empty handed. Here are a few of my favorite things for a successful trip!

Roadtrip Essentials
1. Water--definite need on long trips to stay hydrated.
2. Snacks--I couldn't make it through a trip without these!
3. Sunglasses--the sun visor doesn't do much for a short girl like me. Always have sunglasses in the car!
4. Music--a good playlist can be the difference between nearly falling asleep and jamming out the whole way.
5. Coffee--to stay awake!
6. Chapstick--gotta keep those lips hydrated too.



Passenger Roadtrip Essentials


1. Magazine--Doesn't matter which one, usually I grab whatever is cheapest!
2. Knitting supplies--I've been working on the same scarf for months. Maybe I need to take more roadtrips so I will finish it?
3. Phone--easy entertainment.
4. Chocolate--the way to my heart!
5. Canon Rebel--you never know when inspiration will strike!
6. Coffee--just as much of an essential for a passenger as it is for the driver.

What do you bring on long trips?

-Mandy

Nov 15, 2013

So Much Change

I've got this huge smiled plastered on my face. I can't help it! You would too if you were seeing your husband for the first time in two and a half months!

The number of days left on the countdown is literally so small that I could scream and shout! Took a little trip down memory lane as I was looking how much we've changed over the years. Soon I'll be able to add another photo that shows even more change! I'm ready for the weekend, hope yours is full of fun and happiness!

Just before we were "official!" We were talking as more than friends.
Prom my junior, his senior year
First Anniversary
Prom my senior year
Second Anniversary
Proposal <3
Third Anniversary
Making a new anniversary and family!
Fourth dating anniversary
First Married Anniversary
Love,
Mandy

Nov 14, 2013

An Early Present

Guys, I bought myself a Christmas present. Never done that before but it's for the good of my photography I told myself!

Last year I bought the Extremely Essential Camera Skills tutorial from Photography Concentrate after Jenni at Story of My Life mentioned how much it helped her learn to use a dslr. I ended up snagging it on sale the weekend after Thanksgiving. Though I didn't even own a dslr until March and didn't sit down to use the tutorial until May, it was worth it! I spent a few hours straight going over and over the tutorial until boom, it just clicked! Thanks to this tutorial I'm now shooting in full manual and RAW which was scary to think about when I first started. I'm no expert but if you want to learn how to use a dslr without taking a class, BUY THIS.

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My parents bought me Adobe Lightroom for my birthday this year. Lightroom is a less overwhelming version of Photoshop. I snagged it with a student discount and it's been perfect for my skill level, I've been using it ever since. Not that I know what I'm doing at all. I finally decided to check out the Super Photo Editing Skills tutorial that Photography Concentrate has. I've tweaked my editing skills a ton since I first started using Lightroom but I have a long way to go if I want to reach my goal! I cannot wait to sit down and have my mind blown once again! Plus, it gives me a nice distraction as I'm counting down the days until I see M again.

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I also grabbed the Creativity Field Guide on sale. I tend to struggle with being creative during a shoot, I guess that's a skill that comes with time and practice. Merry Christmas to me!

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Have you ever gotten yourself a Christmas present? Heard of any other fantastic tutorials that helped you learn photography?

Love,
Mandy

Nov 12, 2013

Fall Cara Box

It's that time again! When I heard about the Fall themed Cara Box I knew I had to participate. Fall has quickly become a favorite time of year for me, it was perfect!

The exchange used to be monthly but because Ms. Kaitlyn has the most precious little baby to worry about, the exchange is now 4 times a year. There will be a sign up for the Winter box at the beginning of December if you want to check it out!

Over the past two months, I have been getting to know two sweet ladies. I sent a box to Jillian over at Keep Calm and Wear Pearls, keep an eye out for her Cara Box post to see what I picked out! Natalie of Here I am, the Handmaid of the Lord sent me the sweetest box. I couldn't have asked for anything better! Check out the pictures below to see what she sent me.


She had the prettiest shipping label I've ever seen! Had to crop out both of our addresses for obvious reasons..
Fall decorations and a sweet hand written letter!
Pumpkin coffee!
Even more pumpkin flavored treats. Can you tell what one of my favorite parts about Fall is?
Handmade cards for me to send to my soldier!
Super warm boot socks! These will be handy with the cold Iowa winter on it's way!
Fall polishes!

Love,
Mandy

Nov 7, 2013

Today

Today I did something that I don't think I've ever done in my life.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I was happy with what I saw. Not because I've made any major changes to my diet or exercise and not because I worked hard to look the way I did. I looked at the body God gave me and I knew that this is how He wanted me to look.


Growing up, people constantly told me I looked skinny. Always telling me to eat more, even saying that I was too skinny (just as hurtful as being called the opposite). Then puberty hit me and I gained some curves. I'm not saying I gained a lot of weight but people definitely stopped telling me I looked skinny. Call it shallow but I started to think since people weren't telling me I was skinny anymore that that meant I was fat. Ridiculous now that I think of it!

I see nothing wrong with putting in the hard work to improve your body! I wish I had the motivation to eat healthy all the time and to work out on a regular basis. What I have a problem with is when people look at their bodies day in and day out fully hating what they see. Even worse, when they put in the effort to work out but they can always be a little stronger, a little better than where they are.

Where does it stop?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect. Most days I think "Man, I should have started working out like yesterday." But today? Today I looked at myself and said "You are perfect the way you are." Truth be told, I've never said that to myself. Most people have never said that to themselves. It felt good amazing to say it and believe it.

Life is too short for us to all sit around obsessing over someone else's idea of what we should look like! Chances are, the thing you hate about your body is the thing someone else wishes they had. If I told you my weight or pants size you would probably say "Well of course she's saying this, that's so little." I hear that often. But at 5'2" that weight sits a little differently than it does on a 5'9" frame and people tend to forget that. We're all made differently, no two people have the exact same body type. We have such a flawed version of what we look like that we probably wouldn't even recognize it if an exact replica of us walked by. Love your body! There are so many better, more productive things we could be doing than dwelling on our flaws.

Eat well and get an occasional workout in but love who you are in the process! My husband thinks I'm sexy and today I feel it too! Those are the only opinions that truly matter to me. I love to eat healthy but I also have a killer sweet tooth. I hate to work out but it gives one hell of an adrenaline rush.

Be who you are and be proud of it! Don't ever let someone who hates their own body make you hate yours.

Love,
Mandy

Nov 6, 2013

Tragedy on Campus

Something really scary happened on campus Monday morning. I need to express how I'm feeling about the whole thing.

You can read more about it here or here but the incident ended with a 19 year old losing his life. I'm really sad and honestly, I feel less safe on campus. Thankfully I was still snug in my bed at the time of the incident but had it happened an hour later, I would have been walking right through the area.

I walk that path to class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Many students were in that area when a truck being chased by police cars came flying the wrong way up a road and onto Central Campus. Shots were fired and the man was taken to the hospital. He was pronounced dead soon after.

ISU has an alert system in place for any emergency on campus be it incidents like this, the "bomb" threat like a few weeks ago, threatening weather, or anything else that could come up. All students are encouraged to put their information into the system. You can receive an email, a phone call, a text, or all three. The system was just tested a few weeks ago and everything seemed to be working just fine.

The problem on Monday was that the alert system failed. The chase had gone through multiple parts of campus where students were on their way to class, shots were fired, and the suspect was taken into custody long before the alert was sent out. Students heard the gunshots but had no way of knowing where it came from and that they weren't in danger. I'm signed up for the alerts but I never received one in any form. Many other students didn't either or if they did, it was way after the incident occurred. I read an article today stating that the email ended up in many students' spam folders instead of their inbox. We were told to stay away from the area but the school decided not to cancel classes. It's nearly impossible to avoid this area as it is literally the center of all the classrooms.

It's really scary to think about these things happening on our beautiful campus. A young man lost his life and we were all told to continue on with class like nothing had happened. Students weren't informed of what was going on and could have been injured in the process. There are still a lot of questions about what happened and why it was handled the way it was by the police and the school.

I said a lot of extra prayers on Monday for all those who were involved or affected by this incident. I definitely feel blessed that I wasn't walking through there when it happened! I'll pray that next time a major emergency happens on our campus, things are handled differently. It makes me feel uneasy to think about all the tragedies that have taken place in a school setting, this one included. To be told to continue on with our day is pretty appalling and acting like it didn't happen is even worse. What kind of world do we live in where it's okay for someone to die on a college campus and we just ignore it?

-Mandy

Nov 5, 2013

Disappointment

Y'all, I had really high hopes. And then the blog world let me down.

My last post was about writing to soldiers in need during basic training. I've had quite a bit of support from blogging since we started out journey with the military. Many of these people have their own connections to the military. I thought, who better to understand what these men and women are going through than those who've seen what it's like.

But you know what happened?

I got two emails from that post. Two. Neither of those sweet ladies were bloggers that I regularly hear from either. Not one of the bloggers I regularly read, comment on, email with has said a word to me about wanting to help out. And I'm ashamed. Maybe I over-estimated the willingness of people to take five minutes out of their day to brighten someone else's. I had a few people email from my Instagram post and one dear friend who also put a huge shout-out on Facebook to help. Even people I know in real-life have failed to help out.

When whiney posts complaining about first-world problems get more attention than ones like this, I really just shake my head and wonder what happened to all the good people in the world.

So, since no one else has stepped up to the plate I've set out to do it myself. Fifty envelopes sit waiting for soldiers I will never meet. I've filled a few already and I'm determined to get the rest done too.

People speak so highly of the blogging world, myself included, but I definitely need to readjust my expectations.

Rant over.
-Mandy