Back in Estherville + Life News

Hi everyone, sorry for my lack of posting the past few days. I've been sick with some viral thing and allergies, but finally I'm starting to feel better! I am up with my grandparents now—YAY—and so I should be able to write a lot more now. We put the finishing touches on my room before I left, and I hope to take some more pics with my Instax camera this week to add to these new lights I got!

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And since I was sick, that meant I had plenty of time to break in my new mattress THAT I LOVE!!! It's also so much higher up than my old one, which I really like.

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We met my grandparents in our typical spot (read my whole post on spending time with them and being in their town here) and got the usual pictures!

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I always love the car rides up getting to talk with my mom. Lately we've been talking a lot about college and my options there. I love talking about that because I find it fun to think about, and I don't think it's too early to start figuring out what it is I want in a college or major. And speaking of which, the other day I had an orthodontics appointment where we look at my annual pictures and x-rays of my jaw and teeth. I have the worst possible teeth and jaw ever—clearly, if you've ever seen my pictures. And unlike just about everyone my age, I haven't been able to get my braces on (or off, which many my age are already getting off). We've had to wait for so long because my jaw has kept growing, and so of course they didn't want to start anything with braces or whatever only to have it grow more and then need to redo things. But, and we expected this, it looks like I'll be needing jaw surgery.

We've heard about this potentiality since the beginning. When you have a jaw as bad as mine, it's probably inevitable. But my orthodontist was so sweet and assuring, promising that we could work with whatever I decide. I think that I am going to get the surgery done, though. The way they have described everything sounds like without me getting the surgery, getting braces could do something with my bites, resulting in me looking really weird without the surgery. I just hope getting the surgery doesn't make me look uglier, but that's why she explained that we could go meet with the surgeons, who are down in Iowa City. She said they're really good and the ones they collaborate with, which I can believe because Iowa City has a good reputation in the medical field. I go meet the surgeons where they'll examine me and give us more information, and then there would be more talking with my doctors after that. She said that more than likely they won't even take me for surgery until I'm 18, so it would be awhile, but then they could finally start working on my teeth.

It wasn't the ideal news. I was hoping to avoid surgery, especially since 18 is an inconvenient age to have it considering you're a freshman in college, but there are ways to schedule it in, like the summer before or after. To be honest, I think it will be kind of fun getting to go down to Iowa City to meet the surgeons, especially since the building is on campus, a college I've been considered (it is known as the "writing university"). I've never been on campus or to Iowa City, so that should be fun. Also, my orthodontist told me that they have cute residents and interns there so...

#WorthIt.

Okay, well, I am going to blog deeper posts in the coming days, like my letter to my future husband in which I can warn him about his competition in Iowa City I guess ;) So read the first one here (from 3 years ago...)! What have you all been up to? Has anyone ever had jaw surgery before?! I'll be on a liquid diet for one month... I can't imagine how that is going to go!

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Let's Catch Up Again

I am so thrilled that it's summer. The first few days have been lazy days for me, which I probably needed. I have been a bit productive though, especially in terms of my room. I've been blogging about the process of redoing my room forever: here, here, and here, just to name a few. It's been a slow process, but finally it's just about completely done!

I was able to find a new white dresser that was both affordable and in good quality. I was shocked at how many dressers weren't in good quality despite having an expensive price tag. Finally I found one I loved at a local furniture store, and they delivered it for free. That simple change has already made my room look much better.

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I also have a chair that I sit in for most of my days; it's furry and velvety and a crisp white like the rest of my room (despite the rosy walls haha, but some pink is an absolute necessity). And I got everything rearranged and cleaned—I think I have approximately twenty notebooks inside my nightstand. The life of a writer! And I use each one of them haha.

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I'm also finally getting A NEW MATTRESS!! The mattress I have is close to a million years old and has been killing me, so I'm thrilled to get a new one. The one I picked out is super plush, my favorite. I'll probably never leave it.

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I've been keeping up my usual diet of eating all the time and haven't done a workout since the end of PE class. I found these things at Walmart and have been eating them daily as a nutritional breakfast—they're wonderful ;)

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And we've also been to one race already at Knoxville. We tried something new; we went into the pits because evidently kids can go in there with parental permission, and we tailgated right by this fence nearby one of the turns. It was a new experience that I highly enjoyed!

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I also have a blog post on life lessons learned from the races, and you can read that here.

A Writing Update

I have something that I will be sporadically working on, and I'm going to announce it here as soon as I get it going. I've been talking about doing it for awhile, and I actually did attempt it once. Hint: you should follow me here. :)

I think that's about everything new going on with me. Next week I am going to see my grandparents because my family is going to Canada. I bailed on that; two years of the nonstop fishing life was plenty for me. I will blog as much as I can up there; I already have one post idea in mind because I did it up there a couple years ago. Hint? Read this post first. :)

What are you all up to? I'd love to hear! Remember, if you ever have any questions for me or any specific blog post requests or topics you'd like to hear my thoughts over, you can simply ask me on this page right here!

P.S. In terms of the shopping world, I have been doing my research and finding good deals on things I need. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I've been desperately needing a new swimsuit for a year now. The last swimsuit I had bought had been for my trip to Florida, and then in spring 2017 we went to a hotel to spend a couple days swimming for spring break, and I needed a new one because I had obviously outgrown the other one. So when we were up in Des Moines at that time, we stopped at Scheels to find one and were not so pleasantly surprised at how expensive they turned out to be. I got the cheapest one there, which was $60. And it was cute in its own way, until I actually wore it. Then its functionality seemed to disappear, and plus I didn't care for the way it fit on me. It was a two piece, and the top kept floating up, which I didn't like because that's not comfortable when you're swimming. Plus, every now and then I go with my grandma nearby us to some swimming classes that are a blast, and so I've been wanting a new one, all of this is to say. And so I did research online, only to find that the vast majority of swimsuits are, on average, $100! I have this dream swimsuit here (it's called the One Way Ticket and is a one-piece) that I fell in love with after I saw it on a fashion blog, but at almost $120 I knew I wouldn't be getting it anytime soon.

Plus, I generally prefer one-pieces. I'm not huge on bikinis due to the modesty (or lack thereof). I know there are modest bikinis, but I just lean towards wearing a one-piece because if they make them and they look cute, then why not? Plus I think they're more functional anyway and can be worn as a cute bodysuit if you pair them with jean shorts over it. Anyway, when Memorial Day sales were going on, I saw that J.Crew was having special discounts on their swimwear. I decided it couldn't hurt to look as I was almost out of options, and I wanted a new swimsuit badly. I was shocked to find this swimsuit here, that looks nearly identical to my dream swimsuit and had only a regular price of sixty something—I probably would've payed that—but then it was on sale for thirty something. It's mainly sold out now, but I was thrilled. It was also backordered when I bought it, so I hope I get it eventually. I actually had it shipped up to my grandparents' thinking that maybe it will arrive when I am up there—hopefully. It'd be fun to wear when I go jet skiing at 'Boji!

All of this to say that it definitely pays to do your research. I have this Wishbin account that lets me keep track of all the items I want or need, and periodically I go through and check for good deals. You'd be shocked at how many you can find if you just give it time.

I'll keep you updated on any more deals I find and will also let you know when I get this swimsuit, haha. :) Maybe even I can be a fashion blogger? Haha, we'll just have to see.

Thanks for following along! ♥*♡

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Reflections on Freshman Year

I am officially a sophomore now, guys! I finally don't have the freshman stigma surrounding me anymore, which is a relief. :)

So each year of school, I like to do a post covering everything I learned and how it went. I did one large post over each year of middle school and what I learned that was really fun to look back on for me; check that out here.

Freshman year, to be honest, kind of felt like a repeat of eighth grade, and my mental state pretty much stayed the same from then but sometimes even went back to my sixth grade mindset, yikes (read this post to find out why). So I really needed to be conscious about how I thought and, really, I flunked at that. I'm actually working on a blog post right now that talks all about patterns of thinking, because if there's one thing I figured out like seriously only two mornings ago, that would be it. Nevermind the fact that it had been drilled into my head all year. That was when it finally clicked for me. So stay tuned for that; it accidentally ended up being a book, so I have a lot of editing to do on that post.

Anyway, this year went by at rapid speed. Holy heck. I can vividly remember myself in eighth grade being bored to death, waiting for high school, waiting to get more opportunities, etc. I can remember being at a doctor's appointment, and when my mom set a date for the next one, it was sometime in the fall, and we were like, ooh, to think I'll be a freshman then! And now I'm a sophomore haha.

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To be completely honest, for awhile I wondered what I would even put in this post. Because freshman year didn't seem to carry with it any new life lessons since it felt like another repeat of eighth grade. Plus there was something about my mental state that was just lacking this whole year, which may have made me less openminded to learning new lessons. I was so ready to be done, though. Maybe it was because I had such high expectations of it, I don't know. But it did make me more aware of not wishing my life away. I don't want to be somebody who wishes everything away because they think they can't be happy until they're in high school, or college, or married. Because none of that can truly fix your happy state, that's between you and God. But I do have a sense of restlessness in me, and I don't think it's all because of me just choosing not to be happy. Oh, I'm sure that's some of it—the biggest thing I learned this year was how to take control of your thought life again, and I'm writing a blog post about that.

But I do think my personality has a need for deep connections, for meaning and purpose, to help and inspire people, and I just don't think I'm getting any of that right now. I still feel pretty stifled. I have a lot of dreams I get incredibly impatient over, which was probably the most challenging thing of this year. It just felt like it dragged, and I hardly did any writing the whole year, on this blog or on my book, and that's horrible, because they say if you want to be a good writer you should write everyday about anything—just to practice and perfect your craft. And now it's extremely evident how I've hurt myself by not doing so; my writing on my second novel has been so sloppy, I've already rewrote it once. And I don't know why I didn't write at all; I think, honestly, I get so lazy and worn out mentally from school that I just can't put anything into it. Because I'm not super busy; I have plenty of time to write; in fact, that's why I'm hardly involved, is because I want to devote that time to writing. But gosh, it just gets tough.

I would often find myself growing jealous of the juniors and seniors because they were able to start planning for college, sending applications, going on visits, etc., haha. One day when I'm their age I'll probably look back and wish I had these days of doing next to nothing, but who knows, I guess? Even as a kid I've always wanted to grow up faster. I can remember seeing my cousins or older relatives when I was a lot younger up at my grandparents' house, and I remember crying to my grandma because I would get so upset that I couldn't engage in the "big girls" activities—I don't even remember what, exactly, those were, but I know I was upset about something—or just the fact that it seemed like I couldn't fit in with them. Even back then I always hated being thought of as more immature, even though I know I was, haha. I've always been impatient, because even then I would get frustrated that I couldn't DO anything. And I think that's how I felt a lot this year.

My hopes are that now with summer I can somehow find the motivation to get going on my book; in 2014 I managed to get halfway through my first novel, and then I was only eleven years old, so there's no reason why I can't do it now! I'm sure some of it is just my perfectionist way of thinking, too, that everything I write has to sound perfect. But it doesn't—especially not in only a first draft. So I actually have the hopes to complete my second novel this summer; I feel like that's doable, but we'll see!

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The one good thing about this year, though, is that I did make some good connections and have a lot of special people who encouraged me when I thought I couldn't go any farther. For awhile, I would get frustrated because in many ways I thought that sometimes I was doing all of the pursuing and initiating in any relationship I wanted. And I don't mind doing that, but it gets old when many people don't reciprocate it. But I finally got the message that people do care, and I learned to quit being so cynical about that. It also showed me that no matter what, I want to be one of those people, too, who checks in on other people and goes out of their way.

This year mainly consisted of required courses unfortunately, but next year I get a little bit more freedom to choose courses in my areas of passion. This year, though, I got to take a college course! I didn't know I was able to do that as a freshman, but I was able to take an online course that I really liked. It was over current problems in our world and was a sociology course, so I definitely enjoyed it. I felt like everything I learned was transferable to all of my other classes, and I was thankful to have the opportunity to take it. I already got to see my schedule for next year, too, and I was thankful I got all of the classes I signed up for to fit into my schedule. Sophomore year has a lot of required classes, too (physics being one of them...banging my head against a wall already). But I got the electives I wanted, and I'm thrilled for them. I'm taking two online college courses again—one each semester—over philosophy and ethics. I think I will like philosophy; it seems like a deep subject that would be aligned with my personality. And I'm almost positive I will like ethics; I blog about morality all of the time haha. And then I'm taking a creative writing class (yay!) and Advanced Placement Psychology (can't wait!!!). I've never taken a psychology class in my life yet have somehow already decided that I think I would like to major in it one day hahaha, but my cousin has taken some psychology classes, and I remember from what she told me being fascinated by it. And as my obsession with people keeps growing, I think it'll be a good class for me to take haha. I'm looking forward to all of those things, so hopefully they will turn out good.

The other interesting thing that happened that I wasn't entirely sure how to think about? I got glasses. Don't even get me started on my eyes. Over the last couple years, I have been so worried about them as it feels like funky crap keeps going on in them, and I've been worried I'm going blind or have some brain disease on way more than one occasion. I sincerely feel bad for my eye doctor, because I kept making lists of things wrong with them and keep calling even though I've been told I'm fine. But at my last appointment, my focusing wasn't as good. It wasn't horrible, but they thought by me getting glasses just to have when I do work or am on the computer could help ease the strain. So I got them. I was pretty picky about which style I was going to get because believe me, I was less than thrilled, and I had no idea that big name designers made glasses! I probably sounded like such a snob rattling off all their names—Jimmy Choo had gorgeous sparkly frames that were expensive to say the least haha—but I honestly had no idea that they made them, so that made me feel a little bit better, ha. I actually did not pick out mine until the very end; I was indecisive about some simple black pair I believe, and then the lady helping us came out with this pair that wasn't on the wall, and I guess it was love at first sight because I knew I wanted them.

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I would write more in depth about how I've learned to control my thinking again—which was the major takeaway from this year—but seriously, I have a lengthy post already in the works covering that, so stay tuned. I would say that freshman year for me was one of those years you just have to get through. It was one of those years where you do a lot of waiting (my favorite years haha...NOT), and so for me I just had to endure it and get through it. And I'm thankful God helped me through! It actually did go by fast for a year that dragged, so I'm glad. But of course I want to be thankful for each day and do the best of my ability to work on my dreams for God's glory. My first few days of summer, I have literally done nothing. I have been so lazy. Last night was the first time I took a shower since the end of school that was on Friday. ;)

I've been doing a bit of journaling, though, and put together a list of the things I want to do this summer and that I need to get done, so hopefully I can start being productive.

And if I had to give advice over freshman year? It would echo a lot of my middle school advice that you can read here: don't give in to peer pressure and stay true to who you are (being as quiet as I am, you wouldn't believe some of the conversations I overhear in my classes of things kids are already getting into...so it's very important to stick to your convictions). It's one of those years where everyone wants to establish themselves, and there's a lot of drama around that. But seriously, know that that crap means nothing. Focus instead on your academics (which begin to count this year and don't SLACK OFF like I heard some kids do just because it's freshman year—do your best and do the right thing anyway!). Focus on developing your passions and what you want to do with your life for the glory of God. I've had a blast doing that, and it's just those reminders that, once again, the petty crap—prom, cliques, to name a few—is just that, petty crap that no one will care about in ten years. So don't let that be your fixation.

Also, it brought me back to my sixth grade year that you can read more on here, where I just have to remember to trust in God's plan and not get sucked into the worldly expectations of society. It's tempting to do, but it's not worth it. And unfortunately, it basically took me all year to figure that out. But hopefully this summer I can get a fresh mindset and be better prepared mentally for tenth grade.

As far as my summer goals go, I'm hoping to write everyday about something and to begin working on some short stories, too, to keep my writing diverse and interesting. I also am going to go jet skiing at Okoboji this summer, which I can't wait for, but hope I don't kill myself while driving it. :D What are all of your plans for the summer?

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Serious Observations You Can Make at the Mall

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Of all the malls near us, I would say Jordan Creek is by far my favorite. They have the best variety of stores in my opinion, and plus I just think the overall architecture/layout of their mall is pristine and inviting. I've had good memories over the years of going shopping there with my friends and with my mom and sometimes even my grandma. And I've also noticed that every time I go there, it puts me in this weird sort of contemplative mood, maybe because there's always a bunch of people of all kinds, so it just makes me wonder about them and their stories. I actually wrote more in depth about that here.

Last month I got to go to the mall (twice!) with my mom. We went the first time as a late birthday gift, and then the second time we had to return a pair of jeans. And I realized, especially after the first time when we went and spent a full day there, that there are definitely some deep observations you can make while shopping that really says something about us as a society and as people. When I went to list out all these things, I realized that they all flow perfectly into each other, too, almost as a direct correlation.

The prices are insane.

Okay, you might be asking how this has to do with anything "deep" and that this is just my opinion, which you might be right on that part at least. But is it just me, or have prices for clothes seem to have steadily gone up? Or have I just been living under a rock...? I don't know, I just remember that when I was younger, Under Armour hoodies were all the rage and "the" thing to get, and they were regarded as expensive. I can't even remember how much they cost—wasn't it somewhere from $40 to $60? Well, then you grow up and you see they're making simple tees and blouses for that kind of money, and jeans/dress pants are STARTING at $60 (there are some stores that have them for less...I've had to look for them though, but that could also be due to the fact that I read fashion blogs). Or now to buy one bra, that alone is almost $60?

I actually do think this leads deeper than it sounds, though. In business class, we learned about standards of living and how the United States has one of the highest. I'm by no means an expert on these things, but it makes me wonder if that really says something about us as a spoiled nation. Regardless, it's not too hard to see that titles (including clothing stores) and money and THINGS mean everything to so many people. I mean, when you go to a clothing store like Express, and say you want to buy one outfit for work or school: a nice blouse, dress pants, and maybe a pair of plain flats. That would EASILY cost you over $100. For ONE outfit. I seriously feel like I could go to the mall, spend $200, and feel like I haven't bought much of anything in the long run because that's how fast things add up. Granted, it all depends on where you buy things, but this is definitely a trend I'm seeing in a lot of fashion stores, and even if people can't buy from those places, it seems to be an unwritten rule that they should be able to, that that's the thing to do to establish yourself.

I've also witnessed this through reading fashion blogs. I usually don't have anything against them, but sometimes I even wonder about those. This sounds rude, and it's none of my business, but after seeing them post daily about outfits where one shirt could cost maybe $200 alone, and as far as I can see they don't have a prestigious money-making job, it really begs the question: where the HECK do you get this?!

But people are obsessed with stuff. And I like clothes just as much as anybody else and maybe then some, but I'm also content after I come home from a day at the mall and don't feel the need to go on "splurges" and "sprees" every dang day like I KNOW many people do. And there IS a psychological reason for that, despite what they may tell you. I'll address it later in this post, but this all leads me to...

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People are just filling voids.

If you go to the mall, it can be so overwhelming. Take one of my favorite stores Express for example. We had to go there first on our trip to the mall because I had gotten a pair of dress pants that didn't fit and needed to be returned. I looked around for awhile of course—it IS my favorite store—and honestly, it kind of made me frazzled. Why? There was just so much stuff. Everywhere. It was claustrophobic and, even more than that, plain overwhelming. It's like, where do you look first? The walls are filled with stuff, and so are the center places of the stores, which is why there's hardly no place to walk and especially if the mall is busy. I honestly try to make the rounds at my favorite stores, but sometimes I just feel like I'm walking in circles and haven't even looked at anything because that's how overwhelming it can be.

Anyway, there is a multitude of clothes to the point where you don't even know where to start. But more than that, don't even get me started on the advertisements and all the sales that are specifically designed to sell more stuff, to lure you in some other way. And if you go the mall, you see people falling for it alllll the time. And look, it's not necessarily BAD to do that; I love taking advantage of sales. I just got these expensive sandals that were half off so they actually ended up being priced like "normal." But again, I'm sure you can tell that there's a difference between people who spend time at the mall to hang out or just to look around and go when they have some extra money to spend. And then there's the people who go all of the time as a means of escape, who shop like their life depends on it and believe in their mind that they NEED these things, and spend money on credit cards and rack up the bills on stuff they may want but don't need. And it's not bad to buy things you want, but to these types of people, in their minds, it is a need. It's like they can't go without buying things; it's become a means of gratification that they have to have in order to be happy.

But it won't make you happy. All it is is simply a temporary high. And there's tons of common things like that, that people think, oh this is the meaning of life!!! Take travel, for example. Again, travel? Not a bad thing. I have my own yearnings to travel and explore one day, but just like with shopping, there are people who do this like their life depends on it. In fact, it's almost becoming a cliche pattern I keep seeing. It's (typically) these teen or young girls who are in college, or young and around that age, and they try to feign it as oh, it's just my zest for life, or travel is what brings me happiness, and life is made through travel. And I completely disagree with all of those things. If you MUST travel to be happy, it's not your longing for adventure, it's your need for escape and a better reality. If you have deep longings in your heart that aren't being met by other things, then traveling to the opposite side of the world isn't going to change that. I understand that travel is fun, but ANYTHING can be turned into an addiction—especially hobbies, if you're not careful. Because when you feel like you have to spend your whole life traveling and can't be content unless you've gone here, been there, etc.? That's a mental problem, a happiness problem.

And I don't say that to be mean. I know this, because I've had to experience it myself. I have times where I get so discontent, and guess what happens? I think I NEED to travel or NEED to go shopping. When I'm trusting God and turning to Him with my desires, I still want to travel and shop, but it's not that restless, get me the heck out of here now sort of feeling. Because that goes much deeper, it goes to your soul, and your mind, and who you are psychologically as a person. You're not born with the need to travel or shop 24/7. Neither of those are basic human needs (which is why it irritates me when people act like these are the ways you find happiness). You're born into sin, which can result in a restlessness that makes your heart learn to go find something—anything—to satisfy it. And that's fine if you're going to God and the healthy things He's put in your life. It turns into an addiction when you place all of those expectations on buying things, going here, or attending this sporting event, etc.

That's a serious, major problem that I have seen so many people fall into. And then you wonder why this country has such insane mental health rates. I mean, that's really ironic, isn't it? We have more than any nation in the world, and yet we're the most unhappy. We have too many toys, plain and simple. Too many distractions. And I'm not advocating that we take all of that away—I'm beyond grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities we have. But humans are fragile. If we don't know God, and don't have strong convictions and moral values, it's all too easy to slide into the slope of discontentment, which this nation is very much so doing. Cue the spoiled brat mentality. That's why it all comes down to being grateful for what you have and learning that you DO NOT NEED TO TRAVEL, SHOP, OR DO ANYTHING to be happy EXCEPT KNOW JESUS (John 6:35; John 10:10). If you look at those two verses, it will show you that God is not by any means against your happiness. But there is a deep issue when that happiness is not met through Him and you look to the THINGS instead of the One who gives the things.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
— Romans 1:25 NIV

And thankfully, my mom and I have realized this. And oh, that doesn't mean we're perfectly happy every day, or that we never have days where we want more. But by knowing God over the years, you start realizing that once you start straying, something is missing. And then you're like, oh yeah, that's Him. Because the things He gives us—while good and things we should be thankful for—are still never designed to take His place. And at the end of the day, Mom and I are DONE with shopping. There is a point where it's just old, you need a break. It won't meet your happiness needs forever. That's why you enjoy it for what it is, never letting it take God—and God alone's place.

Also, this is completely not serious unless you're as serious about consuming all of the junk food you possibly can like me: I've already blogged about Chick-fil-A before and how I'd never had them before, and prior to that blog post I never ate there again because we have none nearby. But I got to at the mall! It was even better than I remembered. There was also this ice cream place near the food court that served some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted in my life. And trust me, I would know, I've only consumed ~16495 and counting of different ice cream related things!

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I also thought this could tie in well with this post: I never did recap what it was like going to an Iowa State Cyclones football game. Well, it was truly unlike anything I'd seen before. Maybe I need to get out more, but really, I've never seen so many people like that compacted into one area, everyone literally ecstatic over a football game. And it also shocked me by the demographics, too. You would think there would be mostly college students, since it is Iowa State, and there were a lot of them. But there was also an overwhelming number of older people. Like I would bet people way into their forties, fifties, sixties, and maybe even then some. And they are just as hardcore as the college students...

And again, don't tell me that those reasons aren't directly linked to the ones I outlined up above. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the whole entertainment industry is just flooded with people trying to live out their false dreamlands. And again, I have nothing against going to a football game. I really enjoyed the game. I've always liked the Cyclones, so it was a fun experience. But it just makes you wonder, when you see forty to fifty some year olds tailgating, partying and drinking like they're 21... It's like, really, when is it time to grow up?

But I did enjoy the game. I would go again, but I would probably wait until the weather was decent, because when we went, it was so cold it hurt.

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All of this is to say that none of these things on their own are bad. I love to watch movies, to go shopping, to travel, and do all those things. A lot. But there have been times where I've caught myself just doing or wanting those things because I want to escape from some reality, either circumstantial or mental. And I've even seen how futile my attempts at doing that have been—you'd save yourself a lot of heartache if you just went to God first, and then those things are put in their proper context and can be enjoyed that much more. He even says to delight yourself in Him, and then He'll give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). But that's also not a checklist. So many people treat that as like, okay let's go to church on Sunday and get trashed on Monday, etc. TRULY and AUTHENTICALLY delight yourself in God because of WHO HE IS and HOW HE DESERVES IT, and THEN the desires get added. Because trust me, if you're just treating it as a checklist and the relationship isn't in your heart, I promise you won't be happy, and you won't get the desires of your heart, either. Oh, you might try, but it won't work—the depravity will still be there.

I think that's something we need to be more conscious about as a society. People say to leave God out of it, but it's like, where has leaving Him out gotten us? A whole bunch of bad things skyrocketing. There is such a thing as having too much stuff where it can harm you mentally. Look at celebrities. Very rarely do I hear of them having happy lives. They might say they are, but big whoop, anyone can say they're happy when they're really dying on the inside. Seriously, because then look at how most of them end up: in rehab, in jail, or dead, because they committed suicide or engaged in too much partying, etc. And that really is unfortunate. You would think people like them would be happy, right? Wrong. Humans aren't designed for as much stuff as we have, I honestly believe that. Like social media? The more I think about it, I just think that's a psychological mess we've gotten ourselves into by creating that, and we'll probably, well, already are, seeing consequences for it already. That's why God warns about money so much, too, and pursuing riches (1 Timothy 6:10). It's not that having money is bad. It's just that most people get so caught up in pursuing it or using it that they completely lose themselves in it, and it's the same with ALL of these things.

Above all, knowing Jesus and relying on Him alone is the key. We have to know Jesus authentically so that when we do get off track, He's there to hold us accountable. We need Him, and we weren't designed to live without Him, I don't care what anyone else says. One look at our culture tells you all you need to know about how well leaving Him out has gotten us. I agree wholeheartedly with 2 Chronicles 7:14: it's time for us to humble ourselves and get real, and turn back to the One who we were designed to live for.

Ashlee Mae

My Happy Place {Estherville, Iowa}

Life is all about perspective. And it's funny to see how one thing could mean the world to somebody and then to somebody else mean nothing. Because it's all about how you see certain things. A prime example of this is the small town my grandparents live in. To so many people it's just a town, and many times not a good town, but to me, it's like my happy place. I have so many memories there. Going there to see my grandparents was always an adventure, and I always looked forward to it. In a strange way, as we'd drive past the "Estherville" sign, it was almost like coming home. To my home away from home. And when you leave, it's always bittersweet, and you're full of the memories and the happiness and counting down until the next visit.

These memories in this town have ultimately made a major contribution into who I am today, and you can bet that this town will show up in one—or a lot, lot more as of my current queue—of my stories, whoops. I even have a playlist on Spotify titled "Estherville," and it contains all of the songs that remind me of that town when I need to be in a mood to either write about it or just want to reminisce. It's hard to put in words the feelings I have in my heart towards a specific place and the memories made there. That sounds cheesy, but it's true :) I mean, how can you describe the symbolic meaning that something has in your heart that you know isn't true for everyone? I suppose that's my job to figure out. I'll attempt to here.

I've taken quite the amount of photos over the years of this town and doing things here. It's cool to look back because I've taken pictures of specific places in town over time, so then I end up having a collection of photos of this specific place or doing this certain thing. You can see some of the highlights and what they have meant to me below...

The Car Rides

First of all, Estherville carries with it a lengthy drive for us, around four hours away (I used that as context for how long it took me to take a practice SAT this year...) My family has had fun memories of trips up in the past—in fact, I've actually blogged about that before!

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Meeting Gramps and Grams

Sometimes my mom and I will meet my grandparents halfway somewhere when I'm going to stay by myself for awhile. The two hours with Mom always flies because we're in deep discussion the entire way. And then getting to see Gramps and Grams and get pictures (in the same spot no less!) is fun and even better to look back on. I love it when we get to eat out, too ;)


Disappearing Under the Horizon

Going along with above, Gramps and Grams will then get me where we'll proceed to the interstate, and then Mom goes over a bridge where she eventually will fade out of sight, but it's kind of a bittersweet feeling watching that. We always pray for safe travels and good times, and God has delivered.


Sparky's

Continued from above, Sparky's is the rest area that's become tradition to stop at.


The "Estherville" Sign

One of the first things that greets us when coming back, it's definitely become special and significant. Whenever we see the sign, that relieving feeling of "yay, we're here!" sets in. It's that heartwarming coming home feeling. And it's bittersweet to leave it. (I actually think it sucks to leave, but then my parents get all sad because they think I don't like going home, WHICH I DO LIKE MY HOME, but it's always sad when you have to leave another meaningful part of your life.)


Staying Up Late

Okay first things first when in Estherville you always stay up until twelve in the morning at the earliest and drive Grams insane. I have the best memories of this, of chatting with my cousin on Facebook while Grandma yells at us both go to bed, chatting with another cousin over FaceTime about the BEST topics ever (:D) while Grandma yells at both of us to go to bed. Reading with another cousin and browsing the internet until Grandma yells at us to go to bed. What would she do without us? But to be fair, in this photo I was actually exhausted at midnight, because I was staying with them for a week and missing a week of school, SO I was exhausted from Friday's waking up at a very ungodly time in the morning. And to my shock, Grandma was like, okay we'll go to bed in a minute but I'm going to finish playing Cookie Jam first. ONE HOUR LATER... I couldn't say I was upset, though. I was actually pretty impressed.

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Grandpa and Grandma's house is large enough that there are multiple rooms (they had four kids after all), and so "our room" is the only one besides Grandma's that is downstairs, and it happens to be by their busy street. I always sleep by the window, so staying up late, I have fun creeping out the window on people and just gazing up at the peaceful dark sky that peeks out through Grandpa's large trees in his yard to see the sparkling stars. You also hear EVERYTHING in that room, like motorcycles at two in the morning...


The Des Moines River

The Des Moines river runs through part of downtown Estherville. I think it's one of the town's best features; there's the Swinging Bridge that stretches above it, the Rock Garden, which is beautiful, and just recently they added a walking trail that goes alongside it and by both the Rock Garden and Swinging Bridge. Keep reading to see more on all of those, too.


Recreational Trail

Recently, they added a new trail downtown that stretches along the river and goes under the main bridge downtown. The trees nearby are also beautiful, and I love walking it! My cousins have also walked it, and it's fun to walk it near sunset, too, when you can see the lights from downtown.


The Swinging Bridge

You can walk over this bridge that goes over the river, and it's a lot of fun, something we've enjoyed doing over the years. There's supposed to be lights on it at night, and one time I got to see that. It was gorgeous watching them twinkle against the night sky and hearing the rapid current below. My grandpa and I loved that. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the lights on it since. Maybe somebody vandalized it? I'm not sure...


The Rock Garden

This is as it says and is a beautiful mini paradise right along the Des Moines River that runs through the downtown. Many vibrant flowers make up the area as well as the rock trails and steps. It's a great place to hang out around, relax in, and definitely to take pictures in!!


Fort Defiance

Fort Defiance is a gorgeous state park that is on the outskirts of town. Estherville is in a valley when you see it from this view, and the view at Fort Defiance is gorgeous. It's definitely been a favorite for us over the years, going for rides and just sitting and talking on the bench. One time, we encountered these shady people and almost ended up in a scary situation when it was Gramps and all us grandkids going for a ride. That only happened once though, but it definitely goes to show you that when you're in a secluded area like that, you should never go alone. And then on a lighter, more hilarious note, one time we saw these kids in a car doing some rather, well, interesting things, we can assume. I'll let you use your imagination on that. I promise it's usually not that eventful, that's why I took note of the events above haha.


Eating Out

The activity I do the most in Estherville is eat out, and if you've been around this blog for any length of time I'm sure you're not at all surprised by this ;) There was a week I spent by myself up with my grandparents just a year ago actually (even that feels surreal), and you know what, we ate out at least once every single day. The first day we met halfway for my grandparents to pick me up and we ate with my mom at McDonald's, then the next day we ate at Subway (see, we do have a little bit of healthy in the mix), then a Mexican restaurant, Dairy Queen and Hardee's (in the same day!), Dairy Queen again, McDonald's, and Godfather's. There was a grand total of one day where we didn't eat out.

Now when I come visit, I go on "streaks" of eating out, which basically is like the Estherville version of a Freshman 15 where every day we have to eat out somewhere. That's probably not the best thing I could've started, but I'm enjoying it very much... Honestly, if you want to run into me in Estherville, you should go to one of the fast food restaurants or other places where they serve food. I'll probably be there at least once, if not several times, a day! :D


Going for Walks

I've had a blast making memories just by simply going for walks around town with Grandma. I think she enjoys those about as much as she does staying up until midnight ;) But we actually do have a good time, and we get to talk about life and get real and deep, which is what I love the most. One time when I was really little, we walked around the block with my mom, and it began to rain, and my mom ditched my grandma and me as she ran back... Hahaha good times! Walking under the sunset is also one of my favorites. I remember walking over to the cemetery nearby around dusk a lot; I wish I could remember what we talked about for sure, but going for walks has always been fun.

And then in the summer of '15 I got the brilliant idea to walk downtown to Casey's to buy donuts! See, you can walk off calories as you're consuming them. Read ALL about that here!!!


Food

So in addition to eating out streaks, it's also tradition to eat as much junk as possible, which I also love and shouldn't probably. We get McFlurries ALL THE TIME, as well as walking to get donuts. And then there's chips and frozen dinners and it's wonderful....


Shopping

Estherville doesn't have a vast array of stores for shopping, but there's a cute consignment shop with great deals on fashions for both men and women in excellent shape. There's also a boutique that is a lot pricier, where I got my adorable ELC pullover! I love their clothes; I just need a credit card to splurge there, though, haha.


Bike Rides

One of my favorite memories is going for bike rides with my Gramps. My Grams has tried to come with me, but one time coming up their steep driveway she fell off her bike and tumbled over. So that was the end of that! But Grandpa and I have so many wonderful memories of going biking together. He has two beautiful bikes: one for him and a new purple one he got a few years ago for me. We have our usual route that I basically know by heart, but sometimes we also try new ones. One time we went up a steep hill by the hospital—that was a mistake! More like a good workout and not the leisurely route we take. (Grandpa almost died going down a road from the hospital one time—read that here.) My brother and I have also gone for rides together, which is fun getting to hang out as we ride up and down the streets or around the block. My cousins have also enjoyed that, too. There's a big valley across the street, and I remember sometimes we'd have a blast riding down it, trying to get enough speed to accelerate back up.


In the Wintertime

My grandparents decorate their home beautifully for Christmas, and the town does an awesome job as well. The center of town looks gorgeous during Christmas—every building has lights, and there's a tree hanging from above in the center square. It definitely makes the town feel that much more welcoming when coming home for the holidays.


Going for Rides Around Town

Grandpa loves to take us for rides around the town and out in the countryside encircling it. I really think Estherville is so pretty, and the sunsets and skylines are breathtaking. It's a classic small town, and I love riding around it! My cousins do, too, and whenever Grandpa and Grandma have visitors, sometimes we even take them for rides and give them the whole tour. We have plenty of inside jokes that I probably can't put on here though (Grandpa you know these... :) These are some of my favorite memories. Plus Grandma and I go for rides by ourselves sometimes and have had some pretty heartfelt talks, too. In fact, we've figured out that she can't talk and drive, or else she slows way down and has a parade of cars behind her... And then she's like, "Oh my garsh! I need to speed up!" Oh, I laughed just writing that.


Stormy Weather

I love weather and storms. I don't know why, but I totally geek out over it. One time as a kid, I had to go in my grandparents' basement for a tornado warning, but nothing happened thankfully. (And Grandpa stood upstairs watching outside hahaha) That's the only major weather event I can think of. Well, and that time we had a major storm, and the next day Grandpa was picking up sticks while Grams and I were walking home from Casey's, and he cut his arm open on one of the sticks. Read about that here!


Reading

I have the best memories of just relaxing with a good book and devouring it in a day. As a kid, I have old journals documenting that I did that. I love sitting on their comfy couch while I read in the comfort of their living room. It's also fun to go nearby to Spirit Lake to their Walmart and see if they have any books of interest. Then of course I don't let Grandma go to sleep until the whole book is done ;) When I was younger, I used to love going to their library, which is beautiful in a timeless fashion.


Writing and Journaling

Of course, I've spent a ton of time writing up there. My journals from when I was really young back up how special this town and time with my grandparents has always been to me. I would always love going to their Dollar Store, which used to be at a different location from where it is now, and I knew exactly where all the stationary was, and that's always where I went. I have this lengthy, cringeworthy story I wrote in one of the journals I got so long ago. It's kind of a cute story, though, especially since I tried my best to integrate my faith into it at eight, seven, nine years old—somewhere around there. And don't get me started on my memories of blogging up there. I kept Grams up late writing a letter to my future husband, and we obviously can't forget my first hiatus and how obnoxious I was when I launched my site again while eating lasagna!


Coloring

Okay I totally threw this one on for Grandma's benefit as she colors 24/7 (while simultaneously talking on the phone 24/7 haha). I have colored with her like, once, and for me the routine is that I color for approximately ten minutes with all of her pink gel pens (I'm obsessed with both of those things so I finally caved after she begged me to color) and then I get bored/impatient/both and doodle, and then I quit. :) The end.


Games

We also love to play games, from card games to basketball out in Grandpa's court. Those are also things I've grown up doing. Grandpa is hilarious to play games with; he really gets into it, to say the least. One time we were playing 31 with my cousin and her friend at around eleven at night, and we were talking about scary stories and creepy things that have happened like murders, you know, those topics that are great to talk about at eleven at night. And my dad was over at a sprint car race, and usually he doesn't come home until midnight or so. Grandpa and Grandma's doorbell was almost breaking, too, and so it just made this low, dragged out tune like something you'd hear in a haunted mansion during a horror movie. So Dad comes home early with none of us expecting him, and that doorbell rings because we had the door locked not knowing he was coming back early, and since our previous discussion consisted of creepy unsolved mysteries, we all just fall out of our chairs. Good times!


Faith

Of course, my faith has been matured a lot, even in this town with my grandparents. I've gone to my grandparents' church before, but it's beyond even that. It's getting to witness the godly examples and hearing my grandma's wisdom. She has inspired me to be a better person and has been the perfect listener to me over the years. I thank God for both of my grandparents being there for me. There were even times where I was depressed in Estherville—not from being there, but just from life in general. But God is faithful, never leaving me that way. So I learned and grew from it, and I've learned a lot from being there over the years.


My Grandparents

Obviously the main thing, if it weren't for my grandparents and the way they've taken care of me and spoiled me and been my second parents essentially, this town wouldn't mean nearly as much. But because of them, it'll be in my heart permanently. They've supported me and prayed for me and always been there for as long as I can remember, which my old diaries prove. God uses grandparents for a special purpose in a teen's life, and I can't thank them enough for having their place in mine.


I also have always loved the anticipation of getting to come to Estherville. It was never something to dread but always something to look forward to. Last Thanksgiving we left after school, and during that morning my mom sent me this:

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And then upon arrival, there's always this sense of calmness and serenity, like oh, we're home—it's home away from home. :)

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Also deserves an honorary mention:

There was this game I used to play ALLLL THE TIME when I was a kid, like when I was in middle school. And then I shortly grew out of it towards the upper years. It was a moviestar game, and it was really fun because you got to be creative in designing your person, creating outfits, your room, and you could make movies that were more like episodes in a TV show. I have SO many good memories playing that game with one of my good friends. And I remember when I first started in, like, fourth grade I believe, that was when Grandpa and Grandma didn't have WiFi (shock), so we would go to their library where my brother and I would play it on their computers. But then they got internet and I had a laptop from school, so I played it whenever I came up.

Oh, and don't forget music. When I first got my iPod in Christmas 2012, the three of us went up for Christmas, and this was back when Iowa did what it was supposed to in December and actually looked like a winter wonderland. Well, I listened to my new One Direction album the WHOLE way up (they were all the rage then and I LOVED THEM and had SUCH a crush on Harry Styles). I still listen to them even now—I just love their voices. And then there's all the country music we've listened to on rides in Gramps' cars (we always change it to the Highway for more modern songs haha), and there's also some pop songs I grew to like from listening to the hits on the radio I make Grandma have for me. :)

Previous posts on Estherville:

Spring Break & Everything Else

What I've Been Up To

Back Home and How Are You, Dreams?

On Letting God

The Things You Don't Forget

Wow, there is my book on Estherville. The funny thing is, I feel like this post has hardly scratched the surface of all my memories and the significance of this town in my life. That's why I'll be writing novels about it! Haha okay I will do my best to keep them diverse, but you'll definitely see glimpses of it and possibly more than that in a couple stories. Another thing I didn't touch on in this post was Okoboji, a major tourist attraction in Iowa with the lakes. We take that for granted almost because it's less than twenty minutes away. We hang out over there a lot, too, and have our favorites there. I could do a post on that, too, although it doesn't have quite as much sentimentality attached to it as Estherville, but it also definitely has created a lot of special memories.

Thank you so much for reading this long post, if you made it this far. I'm genuinely interested to know if any of you have special places or anything like this that sparks such vivid memories, that has been a key role in your development as a person not just physically, but psychologically, too. Leave a comment and let me know if so. This is why I think writing is so fascinating, too—nobody has a story like mine, and I don't have a story like yours. We all have unique features, places, people, and events that have shaped and molded us, for better or worse. Trying to tell the stories of different people is truly amazing, and it all leads back to God. I thank Him for this town and the memories I've made here and how, ultimately, it's all brought me closer to Him.

Ashlee Mae