Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year….a reflection

2011. What a year. With only a day and a half left for 2011, I decided to sit down and reflect on what a year it’s been.

I suppose I could say it was full of laughter and tears. Good news and bad. Success and disaster. Questions and answers. Growth in some things, deterioration in others. But really, what year can’t say all of those things?

But I know one thing is certain for 2011: It paved the way for a picture-perfect 2012.

Why?

Because I get to get married. And not just get married to anyone. I get to marry my best friend…my absolute nerdy soul mate. The journey to find him has all been worth it (tough, but worth it). Our road to engagement hasn’t always been easy…but we’re a better couple because of it.

But a lot of other memorable things happened in 2011 besides my awesome (and nerdy) engagement. For one, my sister and her husband are going to have a baby. I get to be an aunt. And Kevin and I are the godparents. That is just so cool. Words can’t describe how excited I am to meet her.

I got a new job. I got a new, better and more fulfilling job. I am happy. I finally love coming to work. Never thought I’d see the day I didn’t dread a Monday…and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

My parents upgraded to an iMac laptop computer. Words fail me there. Never thought I’d ever sell them on an Apple product. Go me! (And Kevin!)

On a less positive note, I did lose my final great-grandparent this year. My Grandma Pfeifer died back in November. She was 93. She was a wonderful, kind woman and we all miss her. Especially at the giant family Christmas party each Dec. 23. But I know she’s finally at peace…she gets to be with her husband and son again after nearly 30 years – and she gets to see her dad again, who was killed when she was a little girl. So as sad as we all were to see her go, we know she’s happier in heaven with the people she’s never really quit grieving for.

Now – on to less personable (be still awesome) events.

NASA Kepler scientists discovered the first “circumbinary” planet…which means scientists could use a Star Wars reference…circumbinary means a planet with two suns…just like Tatooine. Nerd radar off the charts yet? Good. They also discovered the first two known Earth-sized exoplanets; quadrupled the number of worlds known to exist beyond our own solar system; and discovered Kepler-22b – a planet similar to Earth, the closest discovered yet. What will 2012 bring? Hopefully lots more from NASA.

2011 brought a lot of excellent nerd movies to the big screens also. Some personal favorites of mine were X-Men: First Class, Captain America and Thor (Green Lantern was OK…). I was also a big fan of Sucker Punch. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it (though it did make the worst movies list in some people’s cases). I’m thinking 2012 will be just as good (if not better!) for nerd movies…Batman, Avengers, Spiderman, etc.

As for music – Incubus released a new album. That’s all I need say.

All in all, 2011 was great. God has been graciously kind to me, my family and my friends. I can only hope and pray 2012 will be the same.

XOXO
MJ

Friday, December 23, 2011

Engaged!

So. It’s finally happened. Kevin and I are engaged. It still seems so surreal…even though it’s been almost a week!

He proposed to me December 17 in the middle of Legend Comics on 52nd and Leavenworth. He wrote and drew a comic book about us, printed a handful of copies and had a few Legend employees (who were in on it) put it on the shelf for me to find.

Here's the full story of how he proposed. It's kind of long, story…so sorry in advance!

I work at OfficeMax on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Two Saturdays ago, we had planned on going Christmas shopping but just didn't get around to it because I had to finish stuff for my sisters baby shower. So we decided to go this past Saturday. He said he'd pick me up from work and we'd go eat lunch, then go shopping. So he gets there at about one and I'm running a little bit late with a customer. So finally I clock out, go change and we get in his car. I thought we were going up to Westroads to eat and then shop but he gets in the turn lane to go east on Dodge. I asked him where we were going and he said he wanted to stop at Legend Comics (on 52nd and Leavenworth) to get a few things before we go eat. He asked if that was OK (as if I would really care…I love Legend – and comic books). I do remember telling him that’s fine as long as we weren’t there for too long. I was hungry! I figured we’d try Chick-Fil-A in Midtown again because two Saturdays ago, the line was forever long when went and we've been meaning to go again. He said we wouldn’t be there too long…he just had to pick up a few things. Legend was right on the way so it didn’t strike me as odd…not that I would have found going to Legend to be odd. We frequent it quite often.

So we get there and park and we go walk in. We say hey to the people who own the place, who Kevin knows really well. Then we start looking around. I'm looking at Star Wars toys and a neon Ghostbusters sign (for $125!) and then was looking for this comic book called Fables that I really like. Meanwhile, he's standing by this shelf of new comics, just grinning at me. I was like, "What?" ...figuring he was just making fun of me because I like Fables or something. And then he goes, "Check this out" and kind of looks down and over to this comic book sitting there.

I glance at it and see that it says, "Ashlee and Kevin vs. the World." At first, honest to God, I thought in my head, "Well that's a huge coincidence." HAHAHA. I was just SO confused for a minute. Then I realized it was a comic book he had made! I mean – it looked so real! So I picked it up (again not thinking of this being in any way related to an engagement) and start reading it. I really just thought he had made a comic book about us and got it published and was just surprising me. I start reading and I slowly start realizing that it was way too personal to be a comic book for just anyone. Then I start thinking, "Oh my gosh...is this really happening?" I kind of started paying attention to him as I'm getting towards the end of the book and I noticed he was shaking ever so slightly and breathing heavily. He was nervous! Then I really knew what was happening!

I don't even remember the last few pages of the comic book as I was reading it there. I just got to the last page that said, "So I have one more question for you..." and it had this comic book character of him holding a little box in his hand. I turned to look at Kevin and he was down on one knee with the ring out and he asked me if I would marry him. Of course, I freaked out, said yes and gave him a huge hug and kiss! Then everyone in the store started clapping and cheering. Turns out the staff was in on it and they were taking photos! They even kept a copy of the comic book and are going to frame it with a picture of us and hang it up in the store. How perfect is that?





It was pretty amazing. And like I said – even though it’s been almost a week – I'm still on cloud nine. If someone would have told me that I'd walk into Legend Comics that day and then walk back out being engaged, I would have told them they were crazy! I was completely caught off guard and had absolutely no idea what was happening until it was literally happening. He did so good! What an awesome early Christmas present, eh?

We’re talking with our priest – Father Lewis – tomorrow and will get a date set then. We plan on getting married at St. Thomas More. We’ll let everyone know the date once we actually get it set! But we do have a date in mind. Now it’s time for planning! I have been dreaming of this time in my life for so long. But now that it’s here…it doesn’t matter as much as just being with Kevin. The fact that I get to be with him for the rest of my life…well that’s way better than any wedding we could ever plan. But I am looking forward to trying on dresses and picking colors, etc. (typical girly bride stuff…) As of right now, it seems so overwhelming…but in a good, exciting way.

Hopefully I can continue to blog regularly about the experience. I bet it would make for some interesting blogs. ;)

XOXO
MJ

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks...

Thanksgiving was yesterday. And I noticed how both Facebook and Twitter blew up with what everyone is thankful for.

And it got me thinking. What am I thankful for?

What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for a lot. And I’m thankful every single day – not just on Thanksgiving.

I try not to take for granted even the little things in my life. I know how easily they are taken away.

So I’m thankful for my job – and that I really, really love it. I love what I do, I love the people I work with and I love how I’m treated. But mostly, I’m just happy to be OK with waking up and going to work in the morning. I look forward to it. Come Sunday night, I’m not sick with fear anymore about having to deal with being treated like utter crap. I’m not made fun of. That isn’t fun. I just feel very fortunate that I have a job at all (because so many do not) so I can have a place to live, pay my bills and even sport a few luxuries once in awhile.

I’m thankful for my health. So many people suffer from such debilitating diseases and are in such constant pain. I feel fortunate that I can get out of bed each day and breathe, walk, talk and just be on my own.

I’m thankful for fresh, clean water. It’s one of those luxuries many of us take for granted.

I’m thankful for the freedom to express my religious beliefs. I am Catholic and it is very important to me. Everything I have and everything I am was given to me by God. And I am glad I can openly thank and worship Him for that.

I am thankful for my wonderful parents. Without them, I most definitely wouldn’t be where I am today…both literally and figuratively. They have been my rocks in an otherwise unstable, constantly changing world. I owe them my life – and there is just no way I can repay them back. Not in an entire lifetime.

I’m thankful for Kevin. I’m thankful for how he treats me like a queen; how he’s there for anything I might need; how he makes me laugh and just kisses me on the forehead when he’s frustrated with me. I’m thankful to have found my soul mate and that we get to spend the rest of our lives together – even though that would never be enough.

I’m thankful for my wonderful sister – and new brother-in-law. Even though they aren’t here, they supply such happiness to everyone and they are giving us a new gift – the gift of life – a little baby girl who will be born in March.

I’m thankful for my brother – and for his wonderful, beautiful girlfriend, Sarah – who makes him really happy. Even though he’s super busy, I know he’d be there in an instant if I needed him!

I’m thankful for my grandparents – who have taught me to look at life differently – and to stop and smell the flowers once in awhile.

I’m thankful for my two little fur-ball cats – Isabel and Nellie. They have brought such joy to my life (even though they’re sometimes a pain in the butt) and are my little companions when I’ve felt alone and sad.

I have many other family and friends – some who have passed on – and I am so thankful that each and every one of you are or have been a part of my life.

Thank you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Update

Hey everyone ... or the one or two of you who even like to read my stuff... ;)

I haven't written in awhile...since July probably. I've been so busy.

So now it's October. I've turned 27. It was an amazing birthday. I got so many phone calls, texts and Facebook messages (yes, those count!) and I just felt immensely blessed. Kevin even got me tickets to Vala's pumpkin patch (among a few other things!). We're hopefully doing that on Sunday if it doesn't rain.

Also, my parents made me the most amazing cake. Check it out!


My job at Werner is going great. I love it. I've never loved a job as much as this one - well, maybe the World-Herald. That was a fun job. I just feel so confident and safe at Werner. And I've been welcomed so well by everyone and I'm appreciated. Do you know how nice it is to be appreciated?

Anyway...October has been lovely so far. It's been in the 80s all week. Looking forward to Halloween. Kevin and I are already watching scary movies! And this week we're going to go shopping for Halloween costumes.

So hopefully something really exciting happens soon. I'll keep you all posted.

XOXO,
MJ

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More photos..

Day 50: July 5, 2011

Rain, rain go away...come again some other day. Or actually not for awhile. We don't need anymore moisture here!


Tonight, the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant play at the Stir Concert Cove. I hope it's stopped raining by then!

Day 49: July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

We spent the day at my parents...and went to the lake for awhile. :)


Day 48: July 3, 2011

Today we celebrated an early Fourth of July with Kevin's family out at Beaver Lake. It was a great time!



Day 47: July 2, 2011

Today I worked at OfficeMax. It was terrible. I got a pretty bad headache while I was there so after work, I headed home and slept for an hour and a half. Kevin woke me up and we headed to Cedar Creek to hang out with mom and dad and Mike and Diana. We ate dinner at mom and dad's, then went back home, watched Lord of the Rings, painted and fell asleep.


The backyard at mom and dad's.


Me and Buckley!


Lisa's painting is finished!

Day 46: July 1, 2011

Thank God it's Friday. Last Friday at the Voice!!! Not counting down, am I?


Afternoon snack.

Day 45: June 30, 2011

Happy birthday, Erin!


Day 44: June 29, 2011

I ran another 5.5 miles. Not the smartest idea...considering it was like 95 degrees. Oh well.

This is a picture of my desk. Soon...I will be leaving it forever. I wonder if it's sad?


Day 43: June 28, 2011

Today was better. I ran 5.5 miles and started painting a picture for Lisa.


Day 42: June 27, 2011

Back to work. My last Monday at the Catholic Voice. Kind of weird. Didn't feel good. Got a mango pineapple smoothie from McDonalds.

Sorry...again, not my photo. It was one of those days.


Day 41: June 26, 2011

Sunday...we are super tired today - and very burned! Even though we put sunscreen on twice each, we still received a nice gift from the sun. :/

Here I am, looking out at the Niobrara shortly before we left. It was a rainy day.

Day 40: June 25, 2011

FLOAT TRIP! Woo! So much fun. And it was a beautiful day! Couldn't have asked for better weather for me and Kevin's first time down the Niobrara. Unfortunately, the person who had the only waterproof camera dropped it into the river (gotta love drunkies). So we have no proof.

This is NOT my phone but we were here at Smith Falls. Beautiful!!!


Day 39: June 24, 2011

Finally on the road to Valentine, Neb. for our float trip with some friends. We ran into a nasty storm during our 5.5 hour trip and were really tired by the time we arrived...at nearly midnight!


Day 38: June 23, 2011

Happy 27th wedding anniversary mom and dad! They invited me, Kevin, Jacob and Mike and Diana with them to the College World Series. It's weird not having it at Rosenblatt. But the new stadium is really cool looking...at least from the outside. I have yet to step foot inside.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finally...some good news!

So I received a call this morning at about 9:30. It was Werner Enterprises offering me the position I interviewed for last Wednesday! Words cannot describe the relief I feel. And all the other emotions...excitement, happiness, nervousness. I am so elated at finally being able to leave the job I'm at now.

So a big thank you to everyone who put in a few prayers for me. They were much appreciated! The big man upstairs was listening! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 37: June 22, 2011

Today I gave blood. It went well. My hemoglobin levels were at 14. Yay for me. Those multivitamins I sometimes take are actually starting to work! The next time I can give is August 17.


The snacks afterward are always the best. :)


Day 36: June 21, 2011

Today, after work, I drove to my parents house. First I stopped at my grandparents to check out the flooding situation. Boy, it's bad. Really bad. And it looks like it's only going to get worse with Gavins Point Dam increasing releases. By Thursday, they'll be releasing 160,000 cubic feet per second. Previously, they were releasing 150,000 cfs (record). It sucks. Here are a few photos from the day.




Day 35: June 20, 2011

Today, we drove back to Nebraska. It was nice to get home and see my cats. But I'm bummed to have to go back to work tomorrow. That's the worst! Good thing is the CWS is here this week and we're going floating this weekend.

We weren't home long when a storm rolled into our area. Boy was it scary looking!



Day 34: June 19, 2011

Today we woke up later than usual. We took our time getting ready, then headed downtown. We had lunch at Giordano's, then headed off to the beach for a few hours. It was a little too cool and the water was freezing! But we had a fun time laying on a blanket, talking and playing Scrabble!

After the beach, we headed to Navy Pier. We walked around, got some ice cream and rode the giant ferris wheel! Next, it was time to head back to his aunt's. Our vacation is almost at an end!






Day 33: June 18, 2011

Another fun-filled day in Chicago! We went to Portillo's for lunch (yum!) and then walked around more. To cap off the night, we got dressed up and ate at a very nice Italian restaurant!



Day 32: June 17, 2011

Chicago Cubs vs. Yankees game at Wrigley Field. What an amazing day! :)



Day 31: June 16, 2011

Today we did a lot of walking. We walked probably 10 miles total. We walked around at the Chicago Art Museum, saw the Bean, ate some lunch, did more walking on the Magnificent Mile and did some shopping. Pretty awesome day even though my feet were killing me at the end of it!



Day 30: June 15, 2011

Vacation! We are Chicago-bound!


We ran into a little bit of stormy weather as we neared Illinois.


Day 29: June 14, 2011

Mumford and Sons! Great concert. Only problem was the parking. Since the west parking lot is gone because of the flooding, people had to park at the Mid America Center and take shuttles. Well...after the concert it was raining and a few hundred people were waiting for shuttles. Instead of waiting for an hour or more, Kevin and I hiked the 2.2 miles to the MAC in the rain. It was an adventure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Amen.

God help me, I am trying so hard to do this. I am trying to just trust and follow God to where he wants me to go. But it is hard. My current job tests my faith, resolution and sanity every single day. I work with an awful (not to mention insanely annoying) editor and a horrible, mean-spirited boss who constantly demeans and criticizes everything I do or say. I can’t speak correctly, I can’t write correctly and I can’t think correctly in his mind. I never do anything right. I am the epitome of everything that is wrong in my generation – which he thinks is lazy, uneducated and will run this country into the ground. As if his has done any better. We’re where we are for a reason, after all.

Anyway…that’s not the point of this blog. The point is really to get it out – because writing helps me feel better. It clears my mind. It eases the pain, if only just a little bit.

I am hoping two events will bring closure to this time of my life…that I will finally be able to start on a new career path…with a better company…with better, more understand people who will appreciate me for the intelligent, kind and educated person I am.

After all, I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism. I have held a position at the Omaha World-Herald (which I was hired onto before I even graduated college).

I sometimes (let’s be honest…I almost always) wish I would never have gotten the job I’m currently at…but I think – for some reason only God knows right now – there is a reason I am here. I’ve made a few good friends while working here. I’ve gained experience in journalism, too. I’ve also learned to appreciate and respect myself…I guess my boss singling me out every day to harass me for absolute ridiculous and untrue reasons, has really helped me to focus on the good things about myself…and the good things I do.

I’m human, though. I do mess up. But I always wonder why I get one review every month when no one else does. Oh that’s right … I’m the only one who needs it, he told me. Even though I never take more than an hour lunch…I rarely check Facebook except during my lunch and I am never on my phone. I can’t say the same for several other people in the office. Yet he turns a complete blind eye to them. He even tells the secretary to watch me while he’s out of the office. As though I’m a pre-schooler, which he’s often called me before.

So again, my prayer today and every day for the past two and a half years has been to ask God for patience…for understanding…for forgiveness. But most of all I ask Him for the strength to keep looking…to find another place to use my talents. All I want is to be appreciated and treated with respect and dignity. That’s not too much to ask in 2011, is it?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3, 5-6

XOXO,
MJ

Monday, June 6, 2011

More 365 days of photos...

Day 28: June 13, 2011

Haircut. I couldn't stand my hair anymore. Had to get it cut. Plus I didn't want to deal with it while we're in Chicago. My bangs were driving me nuts! I want to grow them out but I just don't have the patience for it!

The guy (not the usual guy I go to, unfortunately. He was booked...) did a good job of layering and thinning my hair. I really like it! But he totally butchered my bangs! I was mortified at first but when I got home and styled it my own way, it was all much better. In about a week, it'll look even better. :)


Day 27: June 12, 2011

Happy birthday, E!!! :)


Day 26: June 11, 2011

Santa Lucia Festival. Kevin and I took Maguire and Roe. It was a fun time!



Day 25: June 10, 2011

TGIF! Woo! Kevin and I went to Famous Dave's for dinner before he headed off to play volleyball. Yum!

(I did NOT take this photo...)

Day 24: June 9, 2011

Star Trek in bed with Nellie. :)


Day 23: June 8, 2011

Wednesday lunch with Kevin! We got some salads at UP and sat in the park. It was lovely...and not too hot! I wish I could eat lunch downtown with him every day. It would be wonderful. :)



Day 22: June 7, 2011

Tuesday. Worked alllllll day. At 9:30, I stopped at the Blue Jay to see Kevin. Had two slices of pizza and a drink. It's such a dingy little bar ... but yet so homey. :)


This drink is an infusion of Absolut Mandarin, Mello Yello and grenadine.

Day 21: June 6, 2011

Monday. Back to the grind. Had a difficult day at work. It's becoming increasingly frustrating every day. I babysat after work, which was fun. Then Kevin and I went for a very relaxing 4.5 mile run. It was a nice way to ease out of a stressful day.



Day 20: June 5, 2011

Today was the epitome of a lazy summer day. Went to church, then hung out by the pool and soaked up some sun for awhile. Then I went to my parents house and lazied around outside some more.

I did not take this photo...but it perfectly describes the sort of day I had yesterday. I actually did not take a photo yesterday. Does that count as a failure of the whole project? I did take one on my regular camera but I don't have the cord to upload it. Maybe another time. Until then, this will have to suffice.


Day 19: June 4, 2011

Priest ordination. The Archdiocese of Omaha welcomed four new priests on Saturday. Taking photos at the Cathedral, however, isn't my favorite thing to do. It's not real photographer friendly...let's just say that.


Day 18: June 3, 2011

I love Fridays. Need I say more? We celebrated Craig's birthday at the Green Onion. It was a good time...except I had to leave early because I had to cover the priest ordination the next morning. :(