A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #3: In the City

This was the day of my trip that made my dreams come true. That may be a little dramatic but not really because I have been dying to see real skyscrapers since I’m pretty sure the BUILDINGS in Des Moines don’t classify as that. As Calgary was our main destination on this trip, I was thrilled to finally start exploring all this big city had to offer. Kirsten and us girls had spent a couple nights deciding on what we wanted to see and had in mind a couple amazing spots. This post is the third part of a four part series in which I recap the amazing trip God blessed us with between me, my mom, and cousin Kir and aunt Corrine. I’m so thankful for all we were able to do, and if you’re not caught up on all the adventures and lessons along the way, you can read the first post here, all about our road trip up to Canada, and the second post here, all about exploring Banff. This post is going to recap one of my favorite things…the city.

Wow. It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite day of this trip, let alone a favorite thing or memory. But Kirsten asked me on the way home what part was my favorite… Honestly, I don’t know if I can pick any one thing, as all of it blends together in the most amazing, memorable way, and each part was beyond special in its own way. But if I absolutely HAD to choose a day…something that stood out just a little bit more…I guess what can I say, I’m a city girl, and exploring this city was truly a dream for me. Walking downtown and seeing all these true skyscrapers left me speechless and giddy, the views were something I could only dream of, and at the end of the day we wrapped it up with some shopping, and I scored some deals at my favorite store (in Canada!!), and then we ate pasta. The city, shopping, and carbs, what more can I ask for!

All of these pictures are some of my favorites, the best I’ve ever had in my life. I am so thankful to God for all of this trip but especially this little part in particular. He knew I wanted to see a city, and these views He blessed me with the ability to see did not let me down at all. In fact, they were better than I could have imagined.

Day Four continued: Beginning to Explore the City

A Canadian Walmart

The first thing we did once we got back from Banff was head to a nearby Walmart, close to our hotel. Our hotel was still in the city, so there was lots around us. Since we wouldn’t be having breakfast at our hotel, we needed to go pick out some breakfast foods and stock back up on our party snacks. It was a lot colder in Calgary maybe because a front went through or something, so I turned into a snowflake as we walked inside, and then we all had to find the bathroom basically and Kir and I went right back to capturing photos hahaha. This Walmart was quite different, though. Like Kirsten had said, it seemed more like a Target, maybe because of the lighting or how big it was. Mom found Hunter a couple Calgary Flames shirts he’d requested, which is their NHL team. They had pretty nice quality shirts—made by the NHL. We looked around and picked up some stuff while solidifying our plans for the next day. Our day in Banff turned in to just that—a full day, so we got home around suppertime, which didn’t leave time for much else. Kirsten had mentioned this cafe type restaurant in the city she’d wanted to try, called Regrub, so that was another thing we thought we were going to have to do the next day.

But before I forget… I literally couldn’t believe what happened at their Walmart. Like I honestly laughed out loud. They have those self checkout things like ours, but at the end, it asks how many grocery bags of theirs you used. You have to enter a number, and THEN THEY CHARGE YOU like five cents per bag. It’s socialism at its finest.



God worked a little miracle for us then in that it just so happened Regrub ended up being across the street from Walmart. Kirsten was so excited and like that’s the place, so all we had to do was put our groceries in the car and walk over, since it was just on the other side of their parking lot. We had supper that night there instead, making it one less thing we had to worry about finding the next day. I love God moments like that.

Regrub is a burger bar and that is basically all there is: burgers and shakes. Which was perfect! Kirsten had read about it on another blog and knew she wanted to try it after seeing a picture of one of their elaborate shakes. The place seemed to be inside a big building with an industrialized theme, and from my spot at the table I could see other places way on the other side that looked either closed or out of business. The decor was so cute. I also raved about their water haha because I thought it was some of the best “natural” water I’d had at a restaurant. I’m like that girl on Signs who’s so picky about how water tastes haha. The service was also impeccable here. Right away, the girl and the guy running it were welcoming and gave us menus. It’s convenient because we took our table number (on this cute bunny haha) and then could look over the menu, then we would walk back up to the counter and order, allowing you all the time you need. They had this pretty mural on the wall next to us, too.


Mom and I decided we’d split a cheeseburger, since we guessed they’d be fairly big, and neither one of us can usually finish a whole one to ourselves. We just got that plain except with Ketchup of course because we figured the shakes would be very filling. The guy was so sweet and made sure he recorded exactly what we wanted on the burger since we asked for it plain haha. Then we decided we’d split a shake, and Kirsten and Corrine did between each other also. We all went with the Dr. Peanut, which had ice cream mixed with LOTS of peanut butter of course, a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and Reese’s peanut butter M&M’s. They brought the food to us and were all around very nice. That was one good thing also, that as the days went on, we did meet some nice Canadians haha. Mom talked with a nice older man who pumped our gas for us at one of the gas stations when we filled up before heading to Banff earlier in the day, and he welcomed us to Alberta after Mom told him we hadn’t met some nice people. Also, when Kirsten and Corrine checked into the hotel, they mentioned our incident on the road, and they scored some drink coupons haha. Being kind is far undervalued in society; never underestimate the power of having good character and doing the right thing for the glory of God.


How adorable is this setup? They know the drill!


At the Hotel

Staying in hotels and the memories made there were some of the more underrated memories of this trip. I enjoyed FaceTiming the boys back home and seeing my dog, too, of course. I enjoyed always hounding Kirsten to send me the day’s worth of photos, which she always had to do via Messenger because we didn’t have reception, and it would take forever for all of them to go through. Somewhere around midnight, though, when we were turning in for the night, they would come in and I’d be thrilled. It took a couple days for them to come through in Canada, so when they finally did I was in heaven. I have some of the best, most heartwarming memories of everyone in the hotel room doing our own thing and just talking and reflecting on it all.

We went to the hot tub again, all of us, and it was cold! We wore our robes out, but the hot tub would actually get so hot that I would take my arms out and feel the cool breeze blow across. It was a nice combination. We had some good heart to hearts out there as well. We knew they were doing fireworks in the city for Canada Day, but we were too far out to see them unfortunately, but someone told us we probably would be. We had a moment on our trip that definitely made up for it, though, which will be recapped in the next post.

Day Five: Exploring Calgary

I was not sure what to expect from exploring the city but was definitely eager to get the adventure started. I couldn’t yet fathom how the skyscrapers would look being so close to them, just like I couldn’t imagine how the mountains would look either. I took my backpack again, we had some of our breakfast foods, and then we were on the road again, off to our first destination.

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Peace Bridge

Before we arrived in the heart of Calgary to start our adventure, I took a photo of our hotel from the highway. Then we made our way to the Peace Bridge, which looked beautiful in photos, and Kirsten and I knew we had to go there.


There are those skyscrapers!! I absolutely could not wait to be right next to them.


Okay, now onto the Peace Bridge. There was parking alongside the road by it, so we hopped out into the cool breezy day with quite a bit of cloud cover, leaving everything at a good temperature. I had brought my leather jacket along, though, because I get cold easily, and plus I liked the edge it added to my outfit. As we were walking across the street and onto the sidewalk to the bridge, I was already in awe of the views. I can only imagine what they would be like at night. And being so close to the skyscrapers left me thrilled at all to come!

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Finding Parking

This was an adventure itself but not really all that great haha. Navigating inner city traffic like that is stressful I’m sure. I’m so thankful Corrine was able to do it for us while Mom helped with directions. We did pretty good all in all for not having any reception or a map. Eventually we just paid to park along a certain road, and one of the security guys was really nice in helping us figure out how to do it. I took plenty of photos of the skyscrapers! I was IN AWE. I didn’t know how big they would actually be, but they were MASSIVE.


I loved how the building below had such a clear reflection; it looks like water almost. Just seeing one building after another towering over us and the people walking…it was like something out of a dream. I love that lifestyle.


This skyscraper was so luminous I had to tilt my phone just to get it all in a video.


Calgary Tower

When we did find parking, we set out on foot to go to the Calgary Tower. I knew I wanted to go up in a skyscraper somehow, and while this wasn’t technically a skyscraper it still counts. It was a bit chilly, and as we walked I didn’t really know what to expect with this. I was envisioning something like the tower at SeaWorld we went to in Orlando, where you sat in a chair and just stayed there while it spun you to the top. However, this was so much more amazing than I could have dreamed. It was funny because we had just been talking about the tower in Chicago with that glass floor, and I said I’d like to do something like that. After getting our tickets, we went into an elevator with a bunch of other people, and to my surprise this elevator takes you all the way to the top. Once at the top, you can walk in a circle to see the panoramic views of the city, AND they had a glass floor at the edge of the entrance! I was a little freaked out by it at first but quickly warmed up to it. There was a lot of people there at first taking pictures so we had to wait, which got me a little frazzled, but it all turned out great, and these are some of my favorite pictures ever.

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Me probably thinking it’s so beautiful I could cry…haha.

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For whatever reason this picture of Kirsten kills me…because her head is literally inside of the camera…

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It was interesting to see them working on one of these skyscrapers—the one on the left, at the very top.

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But really…the views were surreal. To be that high up and seeing it from that transparent perspective, like I’m sitting on top of other skyscrapers or the main roads…it just blows my mind. I loved it so much.

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We walked around taking photos and videos of these views. We could even see the mountains way off on the horizon, which was surreal to think we had actually seen them. They also had a mini theater inside a room at the center of the tower, and we went in and watched a clip about how it was created and its construction process, which was neat to see. It has lights at night, and I think it would be amazing to see it in the dark.


When we were trying to find parking, we ended up finding the Saddledome haha, which Hunter wanted a picture of because it’s the home of the Calgary Flames NHL team. We were also of course able to see it from the tower. It makes me dream haha!!

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Here we are repping our hotel with their lovely water bottle we forgot to move… This photo literally could have been perfect but no, there always has to be a photobomb. I still like it anyways, though.

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Walking Downtown

One of the best things after that high (literally though haha because we were up in a tower…), we just decided to walk downtown. We were going to try and find this mall that was downtown, but we ended up deciding to go to this mall that I thought had the best selection, so then we turned around to find our car, especially because we didn’t have much time left to be parked where we were. Walking around, though, right by the skyscrapers, was a dream for me. That was so much fun and just stopping to take pictures and talking with Kir and the girls. They had this luxury pet hotel we found funny. Everything seemed so fancy except for this one bridge we had to walk under haha. All of the buildings had such cool designs, though, and the sidewalks were pretty nice. There was quite a bit of construction in some areas, though. It was fun to just explore like that, though, and my backpack turned out perfect for this day, except I almost forgot it in the tower and about had a heart attack because I left it by the glass and then we walked around and I realized I didn’t have it… Thank God no one took it, though.

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I had so much fun taking the picture below, and a young lady walking by gave us a big smile haha. Being tourists and being in awe of something really is a wonderful thing. I never want to lose the wonder and awe for life, for God, for the seemingly little things… Some people get so bored and passive about life, just because they’ve been more privileged or just don’t have that passion and zest. I think it’s sad to be that way, and regardless, I know I want to always keep that fire for God and all He puts in my life.

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Since the Calgary Tower took up a bit of time and we decided to go to a different mall than one they had downtown, we decided to then head back to our car before our parking time ran out. We cut through some outlet mall like building, and I tried to squeeze into the revolving door with Kirsten, which didn’t work out the greatest haha.

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CF Market Mall

This is the mall I had looked up the day before and thought I would like to visit. They had a big directory of stores I recognized and liked, and on the way back from Banff, we actually went right by the name of the road it was on, and I pointed that out. This was clear on the other side of Calgary, though, so it took us some time to find it. While we got turned around a couple times, I think we did pretty good for not having a GPS in a big city! This mall had all of my favorite stores as well as stores the rest of the girls were interested in, too, so we were all able to get something we liked. They had a Disney store Corrine got a lot at, and I believe Kirsten found some things she wanted also, and Mom got a bunch of Canada blankets she loves. And I found one of my favorite stores so we were all happy. We entered through Topshop, which is a store I’ve heard of thanks to fashion bloggers but we don’t have one in Iowa, and talk about overwhelming. I had a million things I liked there, but it was so big there was almost too much to choose from. I thought I’d come back to it but after getting lost and taking the long way to my store with Kirsten, I was too worn out to find anything else, plus I’d already gotten what I wanted.

I almost didn’t get any of the stuff I’d picked out, though, because they kept declining our cards, which freaked us all out because we had been using them constantly on our trip (it’s way cheaper using your card than cash in Canada because with cash you lose money since ours is worth more). The machines were just super picky about how the cards were inserted, though, so finally we got it. Gotta love when you need more retail therapy for the retail therapy that ends up causing stress haha. I loved what I got, though, and by the time we got back to the hotel and I took pictures of all of it, I was just thankful to have gotten it.

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The Old Spaghetti Factory

After seeing (and smelling!) this in Banff at their mall, we decided we’d have to eat here the next day. After having our fill of shopping, we made our way to find this. I don’t think this was too far from the mall—the mall was actually in the area of our hotel—but on the road it was on, there was a train going down the middle of it, which was cool to see with its station and all. Corrine also spotted a Dollarama nearby. Kirsten was very thankful we didn’t end up going to it.

We didn’t have to wait too long to be seated, and the restaurant had a nice look and warm feel to it.


I was just in the mood for simple spaghetti because you can’t go wrong with that. Corrine and I were both wearing white haha, and she did spill a little bit on her shirt, but hey, this was our first time eating all day long since breakfast in our hotel room, except Mom had to get a pretzel at the mall because she gets super hangry when she shops without food. She just won’t do it.


Back at the Hotel

Really, my obsession with shopping and this store is kinda bad. But look at the pink bags! How could I not love it? It’s a total girly girl’s fashion dreams!

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One of my favorite things about each day was picking out new outfits to wear and pajamas for each night and then packing other stuff away. Something as simple as that can teach me gratitude as I thank God for all the material things He’s provided me and blessed me with. Living out of a suitcase was a blast for awhile, but like Mom was saying, it’s a blessing to be able to have somewhere to come back to, a place to call home.


We stayed out late since it was our last night in the hot tub, and then Kirsten and I took photos of the city view in the dark.

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I was quite sad to be leaving the city and to think that was our last night, plus that hot tub was super nice. I was so filled, though, after a day like this. What more can I say about it? It was a dream come true for me, and I loved getting to talk to God through all of it, when a desire like that does become fulfilled because of His abundant provision and love. Not to mention how being surrounded by people in a populated area like that always gives me that longing and wistfulness to share His love and light with the world. That’s what I hope these recaps can do despite all the photos and such, is show His faithfulness and how He is always with us and what life is about. I was also thankful we had quite a bit to look forward to on the way home. We booked our hotels that night (Kirsten cracks me up because she says she’s a hotel snob, and we were looking at this one we booked where the town had two of them, and one looked exceptionally nice while the other was still nice, too, but Kirsten goes “we got the crap” hahaha even though ALL the hotels were nice especially considering their price). We also had things to look forward to on the way back, like Glacier National Park. Stay tuned for the last and final post finishing up the recap, as well as my reflection on how God used this trip to reveal more to me about Himself and the life He’s calling me to live. Thank you all so much for following along with me!

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A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #2: Visiting the Mountains

Seeing mountains for the first time is hard to take in at first. That’s what the next two days of our trip mainly consisted of, but we were also blessed to be staying at this nice hotel with an awesome rooftop hot tub. And, on these couple days, we ran into a couple problems along the way, but they got resolved thanks to God. This post is going to continue recapping the amazing girls’ week I still find hard to believe has already come and went. This is the second part of four posts recapping the trip, and while you can read them in any order, for the full effect you have to start from the beginning. Read my first post here, which is all about the road trip portion from Minnesota to Canada! I won’t spend too much time distilling information because all you need to know is in the first post. I’ll get right in to sharing the amazing memories of continuing our trip up to Calgary, then heading to Banff where I saw mountains for the first time, heading back and checking into our hotel, and then also the next day we spent at Banff.

Day Three: Driving to Calgary and Exploring Banff

Breakfast in Medicine Hat

Picking up right from where we left off, we did have free breakfast at our hotel in Medicine Hat, so after getting ready we headed down there right away. I learned from prior experience that eating healthy on this trip just wasn’t going to work for me and accepted the fact that for breakfast I would only be eating chocolate muffins, so, that’s what I did. Afterwards, we got back to loading up our car and getting back on the road.


Driving to Calgary and Banff

The drive to Calgary followed the routine of the other one in that it was not too exciting. Except I believed we stopped somewhere on the way because Corrine found another Dollarama. There was a legitimate reason why we stopped, but I don’t remember now. I was exhausted, and Kir and I both slept for a portion of the drive. I wasn’t really all there until something wonderful happened on the road to Calgary… Just wait for it.

Kirsten took this picture for me when I didn’t even know it. Gotta love having a photographer for a cousin!


I was ecstatic once I could see those skyscrapers!! It was also surreal once the horizon was not full of hills but literal mountains. I have never seen the mountains before, and I know Kirsten really wanted to see them on this trip, and she’d heard of a nearby town, Banff, which we saw lots of road signs for. We didn’t drive through the main downtown of Calgary on this day, and when we arrived we decided to keep driving to Banff because we couldn’t check into our hotel until three in the afternoon anyways. It was not that hard to drive to Banff, and thankfully Mom was still able to see our location on her GPS, but we had no reception! I sure missed that aspect of Canada, not…


But back to that wonderful moment. On the road, it was like three lanes and we were in the middle, well, Kirsten found this cute guy in a black pickup next to us. Well, Kirsten and I were trying to look at him, and I guess we weren’t being all that discreet or quiet because he ended up looking back at us, and then my mom said he waved, but neither of us witnessed that unfortunately because that, I’m sure, would have been hilarious to see. We wanted to get a picture of him without being creepy, so I just was casually holding my phone and talking to Kirsten since he was by her side, and I was just casually pushing the camera button while he drove by without actually glancing at him. I actually got the most perfect photo ever, just at the right time when he’s right next to us, and he’s looking right at us. It’s gold. Kirsten put it on Facebook even. You’re welcome. I’m getting too good at this. Unfortunately he ended up turning off on an exit, but there’s nothing like flirting with a guy you’ll never see again in your life for a solid few minutes. I’m not as brave as Kir so I’m not going to post that pic, but I bet you can never guess who’s right in the lane behind us here…


We drove right by their tower for when the Olympics were hosted here. I’m not posing it though because it ended up being a traumatizing landmark for us on the way home. Let’s just say we had a dumb, rather unfortunate incident on the road…not a car accident, but definitely the potential for one. That was really a downer after coming off the high from Banff, when we were all exhausted and just wanted to get to our hotel. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Entering Banff

The views going into Banff were breathtaking. The mountains kept coming at us, and then you could fully appreciate their size. Like Mom said, we were like little ants driving into them. There is actually a main, very busy road that goes into them. SO MANY TOURISTS!! Oh my gosh, Banff was about as populated as the Disney parks we went to as a family in May, which you can read about here. And I don’t mean anything by saying this, but it was surprising how we hardly ever saw any Americans. There was people from all over. This is fine until it becomes near impossible to take photos without people getting in the way or in the background. Kirsten was about ready to blow a gasket. It is a stunning place, though, with LOTS AND LOTS to do. They have many various towns in this area—Banff is just one of them—and there’s so much you can do without even entering the Banff park. What we explored on both of the days was really only the tip of the iceberg. You could easily spend a whole week just at this place, and they had many resorts, but Kirsten said they were super expensive. We got to see so much for free, though, which was priceless.

Back to seeing the mountains. Those trees from Ontario literally were littered all over the mountains. I tried putting the size into perspective by thinking how I’m not even as big as one of those trees, and one of those trees on the mountains is like a dot. It’s amazing to see them and how God made them.


Stopping for Lunch

They had towns and exits periodically, which was interesting in and of itself. Normal looking towns with normal fast food chains and such right between ginormous mountains. One even had a high school. We ate at an A&W, which was busy. Everything was, really, but I was starving and also somewhat irritated because our cooler had leaked onto the seats and got the bottom of my jeans wet… I do love the jeans I’m wearing on this trip, though; the material is very durable, and I love the color of the wash. I literally brought every piece of denim pants I own with me haha, which was still not an insane amount but definitely overpacking haha.



We then kept driving into Banff. Like I said, there is tons to do here, and this could be something you do for a week on its own. There are also many towns along the way (everything was Banff to me, though, haha). Kirsten had some spots in mind, though, for taking pictures, so we kept driving around for a spot we could pull over at. The roads in the mountains and by the lakes were so crowded, with so many people pulled over for hiking and things like that.


We made another quick stop at an information site for tourists. Scored free WiFi, too!!! I was starting to get tired by this point, but I’m glad we stuck it out for the views to come.


We made our first turn onto a backroad by this mountain, which had a very small waterfall trickling down it. There were signs for a bunch of lakes around here, as well as exits for the actual town of Banff and some others. It could be very overwhelming, honestly, with all there is to explore and especially because we were just looking around without any concrete plans.


Lake Minnewanka

We actually stumbled across this spot by accident… We were on just a basic two-lane road with no place to turn around, and we all freaked out a bit when we start turning onto this big bridge, and then this crystal blue lake pops out. It was gorgeous!


Cascade Ponds

Then, not too far from here once we got turned around, we stopped and parked by the Cascade Ponds. Parking was definitely an issue here with all of the crowding. We had this problem the next day also, but thankfully we were able to find a spot here, and we went out to explore this hidden gem of views. All. The. People. So much camping. This is where Kirsten started getting irritated about all the inevitable photobombing haha. The air also had a bite to it—I didn’t want to hang around too long for photos in just my t-shirt.


Also, it’s worth mentioning to enjoy this obnoxious pink shirt while you can because you’ll never see it again. I was stoked when I found this bright pink shirt while shopping for my birthday because the pinker my life is the better it is, but I’m also realizing I have to have boundaries when it comes to pink, which is something this shirt does not have. It stained all of my clothes once when I wore it up at my grandparents’ house INCLUDING my white denim shorts, but thankfully that came out. I thought maybe I’d try washing it since I didn’t think I had since buying it, but no. It ruined my bras, too. I was not happy about that. But I guess that’s just an excuse to buy more, right!! RIP my pink shirt, though. It was nice while it lasted.


Cascade of Time Garden

This is actually in Banff, and we got to do some driving around the town before arriving here. SO MANY PEOPLE! I mean, the little town streets were overflowing with multitudes of people. The town was so quaint and cute, though, and so nice looking, wedged right in between luminous mountains. It was such a sight and fun to recognize some of the stores—like they had one for The North Face and stuff like that. Corrine had wanted to check out this garden, and I’m so glad we did. While this was also pretty crowded, it wasn’t as bad as some of the lakes, and the pictures and views were to die for. The sunshine also felt great on my skin. This photo is a view looking down one of the roads in Banff.


Thanks to the nice people who took this photo for us!


There were sweeping views around every corner, full of such vibrant color and natural wonders. Photo opportunities were definitely in abundance! At first I wasn’t so sure about all there was to do in Banff, but I was quickly humbled by the vast array of views. Just taking them in is amazing to behold. God’s creation is beyond beautiful. I can still remember seeing the sights like it was yesterday, and it’s hard to believe I was actually in these places, sensing all of it. I’m thankful to have the photos and memories now. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back!


I love waterfalls! I have another fantasy that I am going to have something like this in my backyard one day. #whenimrich haha


It actually reminds me of the Rock Garden in Estherville I love to visit when I see my grandparents, except times a thousand with water flowing through it and in the valley of mountains.


My mom was pretty proud of herself for directing this photo, and Kir and I couldn’t be more thankful!


Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

This is a luxury hotel in Banff that is literally a castle. Kirsten told me it is super expensive for a night—I think she said like a thousand dollars or maybe a little bit under that. We drove into a nearby parking lot to get some photos with it. I can’t remember if we were technically allowed to do that or not, but it worked out that we could jump out quick to get them. I only wonder what it looks like inside.


Bow Falls

This is another secret treasure of the area. And we discovered it by accident when trying to find our way out! As soon as we saw it, I’m pretty sure Kirsten made some obnoxious, raw noise that made me die. Talk about all the heart eye views. We were able to actually snag a couple photos where it looks like no one is around, but don’t be fooled. This was probably one of the most crowded spots. There was a big ledge up to this river that everyone was getting pictures by, and the parking lot was completely full. A lot of people were just driving through and then would stop and jump out of their car, which is what we did quick.


Hotel Clique Calgary Airport

Alas, time to introduce the grand hotel we stayed at while in Calgary. Kir found a great deal on this fancy hotel, which was not far at all from their airport. While it wasn’t in the heart of the city (read: SKYSCRAPERS), it still held plenty of mesmerizing views, especially at night. Our fave thing, hands down, was the rooftop hot tubs. I’ll recap these plenty of course. When we first got there, we were still nerved out by the ride home. Okay, we actually had quite the traumatic experience on the way home that made us homesick for our country because on our first day there, we encounter a frightening situation and rude people. We were already anxious to get back and find our hotel and get checked in after a long day of being in the car and exploring Banff, and running into this scary situation on the road, when we were so close to arriving, was very unsettling. It killed the mood for awhile, and then to make matters worse, once we parked at the hotel and Kir and Corrine went to check in, Mom had called Dad and then laid her phone down and couldn’t find it. It honestly was like it disappeared, so that was a fiasco trying to find it. We knew it had to be in the car somewhere.

Long story short, I couldn’t really stop to appreciate the hotel until I caught my breath because they came and got us, we headed up to our room, and then I had to get connected to their WiFi and get on Facebook Messenger to text my dad if he could call Mom’s phone, since she was the only one of the four of us to have phone reception—another hiccup on the trip in and of itself, since Corrine and Kir had to call their provider to get theirs figured out. There was actually a moment that was funny in a sad sort of way because Kirsten was wondering about what would happen if she gets charged, and she goes, “Like what if someone blows up your phone?” Then the poor girl gets to find out after being put in a group chat on Messenger with her co-workers, had about 60 incoming messages including both photos and videos. She about had a heart attack, but I don’t think they got charged too much. And Mom did find her phone. Corrine found it for us thankfully. She was down in the car listening for it while Mom kept searching all our stuff in the hotel room. It was somewhere wedged in the seats. I know I was frazzled after all of that stress, but then it’s like no, take a deep breath and relax. There might be bad things that come, but God will get you through it, even if it feels super uncomfortable for awhile. It WILL pass.

After getting settled and attempting to catch our breath, Kir wanted to scope out the hot tubs with me and the views, so we went for a little walk around. Our room was not too far from the elevator and stairs on the corner, which was nice. We were also on the fourth and highest floor. We walked the opposite direction of the elevators down this hallway where there was a big window giving a panoramic view of the city and nearby highway—which reminds me that another blessing was how easily we were able to find our hotel. This is also where their ice and vending machines were. The hot tubs were actually on the third floor on a section of the roof, and right by the elevator there was a window overlooking them, which was nice when we wanted to spy on whoever was out there!

When we got back, we needed to decide on what we were having for supper. They had a restaurant and bar in the hotel, and Kirsten and I also walked down there to get a menu. The hotel had a sleek and modern appeal to it. There was also a shelf by the check in with movies you could rent, which was cool, but we ended up not having the time for it. Even though we felt frazzled, we decided just to go down there and eat. Unfortunately that probably wasn’t the best decision, as we were less than impressed with their food selections and the quality, and plus the service, once again, just wasn’t there. Welcome to Canada…not. That didn’t help with lifting the mood unfortunately, but as time went on and we got more relaxed, it all turned out okay.

The rooms were awesome, though. I absolutely loved ours. Once again, they had very comfortable bedding, and the beds GLOWED. The overall decor was modern, almost futuristic, but classy and neat. The bathroom was also super nice, and the shower was another story! It was a great shower, but it took my mom and I like ten minutes to figure out the controls because it was definitely different. All of it was nice, though. I enjoying getting ready in the bathroom because the walls were almost this cool orange sort of color, and it was cozy and fancy at the same time. They even had a mini TV on one of the shelves in the bathroom that you could watch while in the shower!


Rooftop Hot Tubs

Let’s be real, this is the selling point for us on the hotel. It was always nice having to look forward to these at the end of each day. It was breathtaking at night! City lights—I was in heaven. Kirsten and I were eager to check out the hot tubs after the long day, and with all of the stress, our moms wanted to come along, too. Just Kir and I went at first, and then they came out closer to dark. Kirsten wanted a picture of the sunset, but unfortunately we were a little late. I just couldn’t believe the views, though. I love the city and seeing it at night. We could also see planes coming and going. On all sides of the hot tub, there was just beauty to take in. We got dressed then, and the hotel provided these cute little robes, which was nice as the nights got chillier. Before we ran off to the hot tub, though, we had to get pictures of the views.


Another random little note about this trip is all the kissy faces we made hahaha. It’s only natural, I guess, that when you want a picture, gotta blow that kiss! No, but we actually tried to get our moms to do it and thought it’d be funny if we had them doing it while we smiled normally because usually it was the opposite way around and they made fun of us for it, but let’s just say they don’t really understand the art of the kissy face… Hahaha. I don’t think I’m allowed to post our selfies in the car of said attempts because…yeah. A for effort though!!


The views of the hot tub, though. They have this whole little hangout area by the hot tubs, and there’s two, which is nice so they don’t get too crowded. There were chairs and furniture off to the side, and they also had convenient benches and hangers for robes and towels, as well as a rack of towels. The fitness room was also right across the hall from the hot tubs, where we helped ourselves to some of their water, which they had branded, haha. The views were just a dream for me. They also played music, and our boy Shawn was on!!! It was also nice how late they stayed open, about until midnight I believe. Corrine and my mom took pics for us at first, but then when we all came back Kir and I wanted our phones, and thankfully I didn’t drop mine in the hot tub, but the risk was worth it haha.


We always liked the one on the right. It was closer to the bench and the side views of the city—THE LIGHTS!


This hotel was right by another one also, so we think people from there would come over also. It never got that busy, though, for us. It was so nice because when Kirsten and I were in there, we were planning out the next few days in Calgary and what we wanted to do. We decided to spend half a day in Banff the next day and then start doing things in Calgary. We went over the spots we wanted to check out in the city, also, and reflected on life together.


After that full day and I finally showered and got caught up on my beauty routine, I think we all slept good. We planned on getting up pretty early again to head back to Banff. On Canada Day. We didn’t realize it was going to be Canada Day on our trip, so that may account for some of the craziness. We were excited, though, to do a bit more exploring and take more photos and then get ready to see Calgary.

Day Four: Another Day in Banff and Exploring Calgary

The Absence of Breakfast and Driving to Banff Again

I was excited and optimistic for a new day in Canada despite the previous day’s struggles. To wrap up this post, I’ll just share the part of the day in Banff, and then the next post will pick up where this one left off. Instead of bringing my purse, I had brought a cute backpack I’d gotten for Christmas with me to haul around, the perfect size for all the essentials and for adventures like these. I had fun transferring everything into that, and then we were on the road once again. Revisiting driving again after the traumatic experience was somewhat bitter, and pretty early on I was ready to die because we hadn’t had breakfast. Another unfortunate thing that happened was we thought we had free breakfast at this hotel because the site they had used to book it said so, but then they told us it wasn’t included… That was probably okay because we were not fans of their restaurant anyways. But I was still dying, and the drive to Banff was still over an hour. Views of the mountains were a welcome distraction.


I just can’t imagine climbing a mountain. I kept thinking it would have been fun to actually see someone on one, though.


Finding Lunch

We tried to find Lake Louise, and we went up along the roads to it, but it was so busy that all of the parking was gone, and the wait for a shuttle was hours long. That was a little disappointing because Corrine had wanted to see it, but we had no idea the wait could be that long, and when we found these cute shops near a cafe we ate at, the local workers told us the best time to go is at night or super early in the morning, but we didn’t have time to do that. The views we did see were more than sufficient, though. And I was just happy to find a cafe. We ate at Laggan’s Cafe. Everyone loved it, and I loved the views and such, but I was slightly disappointed by what I ordered. I’m so picky though with food, so take that as you want. I got a hot dog that was good but pretty tough for my taste, but what upset me most was this giant chocolate cookie I got. I thought it would be super soft, but it was hard and crunchy. I only like my Oreo’s that way, otherwise I like my cookies soft and gooey haha.


Bow Falls Again

Kirsten wanted to come back to this spot again for more pictures. Since we’d found it the first time by getting lost haha, we had to consult our map and pay close attention to the signs to find it again. We did, though, and it was just as beautiful. There were tons of people again, and we had to just park off to the side somewhere again and get out quick to take the photos.


Kirsten bought me this hat just for this photo she had planned. I was supposed to wear it the day before, but seeing as it was buried in my suitcase which was the first suitcase to go in the trunk before all our others…that was out of the question. It would have clashed with my shirt anyhow, so it was much better I wore it this day, and I made sure to take it with.


Kirsten was mad at the people on that island for getting in our photo haha.


Downtown Banff and Cascade Shops

One of the things we wanted to do today that we hadn’t the previous day was explore the downtown of Banff and their shops because they were a town full of various places, from a full fledged mall to cute little bakeries. In fact, one of the interesting things about Banff was this mall. We entered on a regular corner, and there wasn’t anything flashy about it; it just looked like a regular store of theirs except it was right by a Gap. You step inside, and the first thing you see are these escalators and glass overlooks, just like at Jordan Creek. It still blows my mind how it ended up expanding into that. They had clothing stores, places to eat, and more. We went into an Ardene, which reminds me of Forever 21 to a T (and a lot of things are named differently in Canada…like Reese’s candy bars are just called “Reese”), and then we saw an Old Spaghetti Factory, which stirred up our appetites all over again, so we decided to find one in Calgary for when we explored later. At Ardene, Kirsten got a few things, and while I really wanted to, I knew we would be going shopping later in Calgary, so I decided to hold off.


I enjoyed walking around their downtown, though it was stressful trying to find a place to park. So many of the parking places were full, but eventually we found a street nearby one of the main ones to park on, and then we just walked the rest of the way. We ended up exploring a few souvenir shops and tried to find an ice cream place for Kirsten because she had been craving it for many days, but all of the places were so busy we decided to wait.


I still can’t get over the amounts of people. Even at pedestrian crossings, it wouldn’t even be our turn, yet there was such a big group of people just walking across a four-way main intersection, forcing traffic to stop. We followed the crowd I guess because what do you do? Go with the flow of traffic, haha. That didn’t really work out too well for us on the road during our traumatic experience, though…


It was Canada Day, which I think is like our Fourth of July, so Corrine and I snagged one of these cuties they were giving out at one of the shops! Gotta love all the food we ran into on this trip!


Kirsten Gets Her Ice Cream

We decided to stop at a McDonald’s in one of the towns on the way out of Banff. That was crazy busy also to wait in line, but then we sat down at one of the booths. Kir and I both got Oreo McFlurries because I guess they don’t have the Reese’s peanut butter cup ones we normally like. I can’t complain about Oreo’s, though. While we were eating, the one thing I was responsible for on this trip was finding the mall we were going to shop at. I did some research and scanned the directories and screenshotted the one I liked best along with the address using their free WiFi. We did not have time for this today, though, as our day in Banff got pretty long, and Canada Day shortened the regular hours anyway. I was excited, though, and a little nervous about making everything fit, but things did have a way of working out, and after awhile I realized it was not worth it to get all uptight about making things happen. Rather, I was just going to be along for the ride and take in whatever we were blessed with. And God blessed us abundantly.


The Drive Home

This drive was much more low key, thank God. It got cloudy as we left and looked like it could storm, but the views of the clouds crowding the mountains were amazing.


Kirsten got this cute hat at one of the shops. I also thought the weather was really nice on this day, but it seemed to get colder as we got to Calgary, where I wore my jacket more. It was also a sad feeling to leave the mountains, as this was the last we’d see of them up close anyways. Like my mom had said, seeing the mountains is truly a special experience and not one we can just have anytime, whereas doing things in the city we pretty much can do anytime. At first I was nervous about being in Banff so long, but once I realized that I remembered to soak in every moment. It’s definitely not worth it to waste away beautiful moments like those just because you’re anticipating something else. Enjoy every single moment as it comes because that’s what makes up a life. That’s when God will grow you and show you things you never dreamed you’d see. About yourself, about others, about the world, about life, and about Him. And that’s what life is about.


I am so thankful to God we got to see Banff. I guess I had never heard of it until Kirsten told me about it, and when she showed me a picture I thought it was beautiful, but I thought it was just a lake and mountains, but WOW! It blew my expectations out of the water. I didn’t realize how big it truly is and all it includes, and we literally explored probably just a bit of it because we didn’t even go into the park. I didn’t realize it was such a big tourist attraction either, which makes me feel all the more blessed to have been able to go there. It was truly unforgettable and a very humbling experience. It makes me in awe of how big God is and what a small place I have in the world but also knowing that it’s that spark that can change and influence the world. I’m so thankful for all He’s created and for Him letting me get to see it. Stay tuned for the next recap of the trip—all about the city!! Thank you for reading and being a part of this!


A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!

The Day Before

Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…


What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!



The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.


It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.


It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.

Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.


Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.


As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.


Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.


Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.


I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.


I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.


We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.


Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.


This was our view of the interstate we had been on:


More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…


North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…


I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”


Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.


I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.


Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.


We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.


We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!


We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.


When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.


We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.

Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.


Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp


And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!


On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.


They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!


On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.


The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.


Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.


Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.


Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.


However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…


I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.


Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.


Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.


Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.


We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.


This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.


And here’s all of us with Buff!


All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!


Weeks of Reflection

My family took their annual trip up to Canada where they would be fishing for a whole week, and this city-loving-girly-girl took a pass on that last year and did so again this year. I did spend the two years before that going on the trip with them, and while I highly enjoyed the experience of seeing another country and the outdoors in that way, I’m more than ready to explore other things. Like cities! And more shopping!! And hotels!!! (I did recap my experiences of Canada here and here.)

But the time hasn’t come for me yet where I can pursue those fascinations except for the shopping, so instead I spent about two weeks with my grandparents in MY “happy place,” their little small town that is also not too far from MY ideal version of the lake life in Okoboji. And I shopped online. A lot. I didn’t buy anything though, unfortunately. And we ate a lot. But I really had a good time with them. It always feels bittersweet when I leave their house. After that period of time, I was definitely ready to see my family again and my lovely room. My three minute a day conversations with Mom weren’t really cutting it, since there’s no internet up there or phone service and so she had to call me with a calling card. But I miss my grandparents terribly. I miss just going for drives around town whenever and our talks. I miss getting all dressed up everyday. I miss staying up late with Grandma!!! Most of all I miss all the time I wasted online shopping. Well, kidding, because let’s be real, I do the exact same thing just about everywhere.

It was one of those times where I did want to write, or at least, my intentions were there. Because I guess what I really wanted to do—and did do—was stuff my face with junk food and go online shopping. Pray for me, my motivation at this time could use a little work.

As the days went on, though, I began thinking about a blog post that would be perfect to recap this time. I didn’t think I would write one, honestly, because eating and online shopping are interesting to me, but probably not to the rest of the world.

The one productive thing I ended up doing was journaling. I know I’m one of those types of people that can be guilty of trying to do too much, too soon, where a time to relax can’t be that because you feel like you have to be doing something productive constantly. That’s important to some extent, but so is rest and taking time to renew your mind. I’ll be honest about this time: I still felt like my mind was reeling from the end of the school year. When my last day of school came and went, it didn’t even feel like the end, and it still doesn’t. These school years have been more challenging than most, for sure, because my greatest struggles aren’t really with academics or even people.

They’re with my mind.

And I was kind of taken aback when my “happy place” didn’t give me all the answers. Didn’t just erase the anxiety or the sadness. I know I’ve expected that before. You go on a vacation or plan out some time that should help you regain your sense of sanity, but it doesn’t. That’s not anyone’s fault but mine. You can have everything, but usually the people that do are some of the most unhappy because that can’t fix you, and then you become confused as to why. I want to share more thoughts on this from the weeks, but first I have to share all the little moments that make it so wonderful and that make up true life.

First off, anytime I am with my grandparents I feel so much joy. I thank God so much for them because they’re encouraging, loving, and are always there for me and listen to me and all my teenage problems and negative mindsets. Having people like that is truly a gift from God, since there’s nothing I did to have them be in my life. And it’s things like that I have to remember when the days get hard and it feels like you can’t trust God: remember all the things He’s already done for you. Sometimes when you want something so much, you are unable to see what you’ve already wanted and been given. I think that is one of the main issues I faced my sophomore year that trickled into this time, is wanting what I want, right now, and God is not ready to give it to me yet. Then I let lies from the devil tell me that He doesn’t care about my dreams or desires or that He won’t do anything with them. Yet when I pause to truly think about that and be rational, I realize that all He’s done for me proves the exact opposite.

This is why reflection is huge. I’m too guilty of letting my emotions run my life and just going with the flow in terms of what I feel. If I’m not intentional in praying to God about what I think, my thought life will be a mess and threaten to destroy me. I’ve never believed more in the power of what you think since I’ve started reflecting on my own thoughts. It’s amazing and almost kind of frightening how one problem can look like the end of the world to one person yet another person can look at it with peace and clarity, and it has no control over their behavior. Why? Because they think about it differently. This is true even for me. There are days I could cry because I am so thankful for the life God has given me and all the little miracles He’s done to keep me on the right track, and then there are days I could cry because I feel so down about everything and nothing seems right. This could happen over the course of two days, when nothing has really changed at all. It’s called watching what you think, and the Bible even talks about this in being on your guard for attacks from the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

I am thankful that I have people to help me with this. Sometimes all it takes is just having a conversation with my grandma to bring me back down to earth or her encouragement to quit worrying and just turn to God. I’ve always been a worrier, which is not something I like about myself, but I’ve also grown so much in my faith through God helping me overcome it. And one quote I remember saving as a kid said something about just taking a breath and letting that worry go. It’s amazing how just that very simple word—breathe—can make all the difference when it comes to anxiety. Seriously. When I have a worry just consuming me, and I actually take the time to stop and take a breath, it loses its power over me. Or I take the time to stop and pray about it. It’s no wonder the Bible is filled with words like “be still,” and that is why Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite Bible verses. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Worries don’t hold a candle to that if you just stop and meditate on what that means. God is sovereign over any worry, over your whole life, and you can know you can trust Him. I write this for myself just as much as I am for all of you because I know I’ll be back to worrying about something, and that’s when coming back to read this is so important.

I also am extremely grateful for the influence my grandparents have. They’ve been through so much recently and are of course still human, but their faith is so strong and has inspired me so much. It proves that God can get us through anything.


If I didn’t recap the food we ate, would it have really been a week with my grandparents at all?! Grandma made me these bagels for breakfast, and then I also discovered frozen French toast sticks at HyVee that taste just like the ones I used to love at my school. I’m not sure how healthy they are, but I don’t really care either because they were amazing and I was finally eating breakfast because normally I don’t… Grandpa was undergoing radiation treatments over in Spencer when I was there, so we would have to leave by noon, which didn’t leave us time for lunch until the late afternoon, but let’s be real I didn’t wake up until ten most days anyway… #summer


This was the real highlight of all the food we consumed. Their Hardee’s has these little sliders you can get, and they’re super cheap and the perfect size for me because I don’t usually eat a full sized cheeseburger unless I’m super hungry, and then the curly fries are the perfect addition. I miss these so much…


This was in the waiting room that Grandma and I were in while Grandpa had his radiation done. Thankfully, it didn’t take long, but it takes its toll, so I was glad I could be there with Grandpa. He had to do it everyday, Monday through Friday, and now we just pray that it got all the cancer. I was up for the end of his time doing this, which just proves how every moment should be appreciated and is a gift from God. I also remember talking with Grams in this waiting room about the thoughts I’ve been writing about and needing to release my grip on things. Life can feel very unpredictable, but we can’t let that shake our faith because God never changes. He is always good, faithful, and His promises are always true. That’s something I have to remember when life hurts or when I feel anxious for the future.

Their waiting room also had these cookies, which I ate most of the days, so yes, please still pray for my diet. It’s just as wonderful as ever. And that’s one thing I don’t have any desire to change, which is why I need all the more prayers…


I loved getting to go for car rides, too, like we always do. I had good talks with Grams on those, and then Grandpa would take us out for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s, too, almost every night, and we’d drive around town. I regret letting worries about things that aren’t even relevant to my life right now seep into my time with them, but now I can take it all as a learning experience to just be in the moment. That is so huge and something this society is forgetting how to do. We’re so driven by what’s next, what we should be accomplishing next, etc., and that is draining us. It’s okay to just have some weeks like these that are low-key and maybe not the most productive but an essential time for God to speak to you and for you to just rest in Him while He takes care of it all. Because He can, and He will, and the thing I have to remember is He doesn’t need my help with that. He’s never asked me to worry about my future or otherwise try to manipulate it and figure it out myself. He knows just when to bring the insights, opportunities, and connections that I need, and me worrying and obsessing about finding those doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make time go faster. It doesn’t lead to any answers. Again, be still, He says, and know that He is God. That’s His job. I just need to obey and relax.


Their Godfather’s went out, which still upsets me, but we ate at Pizza Hut instead, and theirs was also wonderful. Then at the end, we asked for one brownie and cinnamon roll, but I guess they only come in packages so…we got a whole box of both! Which was perfect for our diet!


Lastly, we of course had to stop at Okoboji, and while it was a really hot day, I had fun just looking through some of the stores. I actually didn’t buy anything though I thought about it, but I’m glad I didn’t because one day we went to a JCPenney’s in Spencer and I scored much cuter finds at much better prices there. A dress and sweater totaling under $50. June is the time to buy sweaters, people. It was like $5, regularly $40 or so. Then I also got a dress I hope I ever find an occasion to wear it to, and that was on sale.


Back to the thoughts I was talking about earlier. I actually cried a lot during these few weeks. Again, that wasn’t really because of any circumstances. Hanging out with my grandparents is a blast, and it wasn’t related to being there at all. However, I let thoughts that I battled my whole sophomore year consume me. One thing I’m learning has to do with desires because sometimes my dreams absolutely consume me, and it’s exhausting. Constantly looking for opportunities because I’m afraid I’ll miss something or waste my life if I don’t. Constantly wondering, obsessing, and letting what I want in the future take me out of what God has given me in the present. It’s a battle I constantly face, but I’ve learned this: every moment, no matter how joyful or painful at the time being, is part of the journey God has you on to shape you into the person you’re meant to be. You’re not going to miss anything, unless you do go on your own way ahead of God. Then you’ll miss blessings He wants to give you right now. Because my life doesn’t start when I publish a book. It doesn’t start when I get married. It’s unfolding right now. There’s so much beauty in the right now. I have so much anticipation and longing for things I still want to do, but God knows. He’s given me those desires, and He says if I am seeking Him first, those pure desires will be given to me also (Psalm 37:4).

But that’s where I went wrong. I’m consumed by my desires to the point where God isn’t first anymore. How can I expect to get those things—and actually be satisfied with them—if God is not the center of my life? My desires mean nothing without Him at the center, and my life will not be enjoyable if I’m not putting Him first.


We love listening to country music on their TV station and in the car, and two songs I found that I love and that spoke to me were “Catch” by Brett Young and “Living” by Dierks Bentley. The former talks about how when a guy was just going about his life and not looking for anything, a girl came along. It reminded me that God knows just when to bring everything into your life that you need, and just relax in that. You don’t need to go looking for things and wear yourself out. The latter is another good song about just appreciating the life you’ve been given and really taking in your blessings and each moment as it comes. I listened to both of them a lot when I felt down.

Chasing after dreams and desires is exhausting. It’s exhausting because God never asked me to do it. He already knows the plans He has for me, for you. And He knows just how to accomplish them in His timing. So here’s to letting go of all the how’s—that’s not our job to figure out. The most amazing, wonderful miracles come when you least expect them and when you may not even be aware that you need them because when you’re seeking God, He knows how to keep you on the right path. He knows how to bring you back when you’ve strayed. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to stop trying so hard. Take the pressure and expectations to perform off. Let God do His work in preparing you for what He has planned. And rest assured that when you’re seeking Him first, all of the pain, all of the longing, and all of the desires He’s put in you each have their purpose in your journey. He WILL work it all for the good. You don’t have to know how. You just have to believe Him when He promises that and enjoy what He’s doing right now in the everyday.


What Life Is All About

A little over a week ago, I got to attend my cousin Kirsten’s graduation ceremony at the University of Iowa, and I have to say, the entire day we spent with her and family was amazing. So amazing that I felt the need to write all of it down that I could possibly remember in my journal, and now my nails hurt from clenching my pen so much! It was one of those days, though, that you just want to hold onto forever. But of course reality has to set back in, and as I texted her the next day, I felt depressed thinking of the fun times and then having to return to the monotonous grind of school/”the real world.” Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way because I can look back on that time and let the joy of it radiate in me now. I wanted to blog about it, though, because not only did I have a great time and want to remember it, but I also…well, I’m trying to think of some other way to say “learned a lot of lessons from it!” because I feel like I say that with literally everything on this blog. Lessons learned from hockey, lessons learned from shopping, lessons learned from staying up late on my phone stalking social media… Okay, fine, I get it. It’s always important to learn, though, am I right?! We may as well just change this blog tagline to “everything a teen girl does and every lesson she learns from it.” Well, there’s worse things to blog about, I think!

Anyway, I really enjoy spending time with my family, and Kirsten is the type of person you just always have fun with. I’ve blogged about our times together before, including just last summer when we tried jet skiing, an experience I highly recommend! You can read all about that and many other adventures right here.

Kirsten was graduating from Iowa, and seeing as we live only an hour away from Iowa City, my mom and I were going to go to her ceremony. Mom gets pretty anxious about the driving and making it there on time when we knew it was going to be crazy, but once we got that part out of the way, we were able to relax. I’ve only been to Iowa City one other time before this, when I had to go see my surgeons there to talk about jaw surgery, and I wrote about that experience here as well and—you’ll never guess it—more lessons I’d learned!


I was very overwhelmed by how many people there were and how big the stadium was that the ceremony was held in! There were crowds of people so big that when trying to walk through, you’d actually rub against someone, haha. Trying to find her family to sit by was a little hectic, but thankfully we were able to find them just before things got started and settled in. I enjoyed where we sat because we sat at some table/desk-like structure in the middle, and these plastic rolling chairs were actually very comfortable. It was nice to see her family!


Even though the ceremony was super long, it didn’t really feel that way. We were able to spot Kirsten just before we missed her haha, as it moved fast and in no organized order. We did get good pictures of her, though. Then afterwards we were able to meet up with her and, seeing as my mom and I were starving since we hadn’t really had breakfast that morning, we decided to go eat somewhere. Kirsten wanted to check out the mall they had and try Zombie Burger which was in their food court, so we ended up deciding to meet there. Before we left, though, we took some pictures with Kirsten.


I was, of course, ecstatic to be going to the mall, but Mom was still frazzled about getting out. Getting out was actually very stressful because there was not nearly adequate enough organization to directing people out, so everyone was just going as they please with no real flow. Once we got out of that mess though and then out of the mess of driving all the way through Iowa City because Siri thought that was the best route to the mall evidently, and after Mom was able to make it inside the mall and get food and such, it ended up being more relaxing with the stressful part behind us. We got food right away and enjoyed catching up with Kirsten and her mom. They actually ended up coming back to our house with us for a bit because we were going to end up going back anyway to pick up my brother, who wanted to see them, and spend some time at their hotel in Altoona. So it did end up working out that we were able to do just a bit of shopping, too! I made Kir go to one of my fave stores with me, and I was thrilled that finally a day where I go to the mall and they were having deals at my store! Mom went with my aunt to pick up some new soaps and stuff like that, and we met up with them later. We didn’t go too crazy, but hey, I was able to leave with something on sale from my store—and actually convinced Kirsten to get something, too—so I was more than happy with how it all played out. And then Kirsten and I went into a dressing room literally just to take a picture, and I’m sure the sales lady was wondering what the heck we were doing, but anyway, we got the picture, so what else matters?


The car ride home flew by as we were lost in conversation the whole way. Seeing as Kirsten and her family live up in Minnesota, we don’t get to actually see them much, but when we do, it always goes by so fast. It’s those times you never forget, though, and they’re that much more special. I’m always so thankful to God, and even though the day stays full of activity and as a result I don’t feel like I talk to Him as much, I know that’s a blessing from Him and something He wants me to enjoy, is that time with family. It all leads me back to Him as I thank Him for those times and days and reflect back on them later. It reminds me constantly of His goodness and provision and the good times in life that I can enjoy while I’m here. We enjoyed talking with them once we got home after making a stop at our Walmart because Kirsten wanted to see if there were cute Hawkeye shirts—and normally there are—but unfortunately our Walmart let her down just like the Spirit Lake Walmart did last summer when she wanted an Okoboji shirt. Maybe one day, Kirsten…! I was happy Kir got to see my room because I’ve changed it immensely since she was last at my house.


I love having her to take photos with because we both can be conceited together hahaha. But really, you gotta have some way to document those memories! And thankfully she’s as picky about her photos as me, so we always make sure we get some good ones and some not so serious, also, to highlight the fun of the day!


Once we got my brother, we headed to Altoona to take them back to their hotel, since they’d be headed back the next day. That time was really special because everyone got to visit with one another in the room, although Kirsten and I were rarely in the room because we literally made the rounds walking around the hotel and talking and getting pictures about five different times, haha. We talked about everything from upcoming events we were looking forward to to guys to life now to Kir’s fear of elevators! And we took lots of pictures. And one time Kirsten literally walked into a room where there was a big dance for a wedding, which I proudly got on video, and then another time we walked into this group of dancers or something and that was quite awkward given how they were dressed, and then another time I found this cute guy, and we wanted to go look at the casino even though obviously I wasn’t getting in, and there was a gift shop, and all sorts of reasons why we were wandering around endless times! Probably one of my favorite parts of the day, just walking around with her like that and talking. I love being able to go for walks like that with people. Even when I’m at the hockey games in Wells Fargo, I always love walking around the arena.


Gotta love that view!

I was so thankful we got to see them and have that time with them. I know that good gift of family is all from God, and it makes me so thankful for how He provides like that. He knows when I need a break or when the seriousness and routine of life needs to be broken up or when I need to be reminded of what really matters. And I know I probably say this all the time, but it just makes me so appreciative of my family and what He’s put right in front of me. It’s that reminder I need to keep enjoying the good and keep working because school can be difficult for me, both with people and with the stress of keeping up with the workload. It’s always nice to have that break, that reminder and refresher of what makes life rich. Working hard is good and important, but I don’t ever want to be so obsessed with things that I can’t let go or release control and just enjoy the season of life I’m in. Because believe me, I can get very uptight that way, and I can doubt God and lose my focus on Him and what matters. But then there are days like this, where He’ll remind me of it again and again, to remember those moments, those feelings, that knowing that He always provides and He is the One who makes life joyful. And there will always be those times for those who trust in Him completely. I’ll write much more on this in the future because learning to let go and appreciate the moment and NOT GETTING IMPATIENT LIKE I ALWAYS DO HAHA is something He’s been working on immensely in me this year. But we are getting there, people! So thank you for always following along and going on this journey with me. I pray all of you are doing well and will stop to align your focus in life with God’s because that is when you know what life is about and will have His true joy.