Sunday, August 4, 2013

All you need. . .

Since getting back home 3 days ago, I've hardly had time to process anything.  1 wedding, 2 bachelorette parties and a family reunion.  The last few das have been full of friends, family and laughter.  

I hve had such an amazing journey these last 4 months, and am so grateful to all my friends and family I met along the way.  Today I started to get a little sad, thinking my journey was over.  But then my friend Cris reminded me that my journey isn't over.  It continues for the rest of my life.  

I set out on a journey to see more love in the world, to find hope and joy in people's lives.  15 states, 8 flights, 5 buses, 4 trains, 4 car trips, and a bicycle ride later. . . I am amazed at how much I saw, and how many people touched my life.  I feel blessed to know so many fun, amazing, open hearted and open armed people in this world.  Not only did I see more love on my journey, but I felt it.  I shared it.  I thought it and spoke it and hope the ripples can keep on rippling.  

This journey helped me to see more love in my own life, and bring the loudness of joy to the surface.  What a beautiful life, with loving people.  Like Rumi said "When you open to love, you are helping people you don't know and have never met."  

In the midst of our crazy world, we can still approach our lives and the people in it with love.  If we could all see the world through lenses of love, the world would be a happier, healthier and safer place to be.  Imagine the possibilities if you chose to live intentionally with more love in your life.  Who would you forgive?  What peace would settle on your heart? 

I learned too many things from people along the way to put into words, but the few lessons I will leave you with for now are this.    Life is precious.  Forgive yourself.  Love is everywhere.  Every single person is beautiful, and can teach you something if you listen. Life may get stressful or hard, but every morning wake up saying "Joy, joy, joy."  Joy that you are alive, joy that you are you, joy that your life is full of love - you just have to remember to open your eyes to it.  Are your eyes open?  Go tell someone right now that you love them!  And then tell that to yourself.  Life really is as cheesy as the Beatles make it sound - all you need is love!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Goodnight Chicago!

Chicago was a brilliant pit stop.  So fun!  We had a day FULL to the brim with exploration.  We started at the Art Institute o Chicago where my mom was in heaven.  We found her favorite artists, and she was so giddy - like a kid in a candy store!  The exhibits were pretty fantastic, my favorite being miniature rooms fashioned after 18th century European homes.  

After that , we jumped on a double decker bus for a tour of the city.  I don't usually do touristy things like this (I usually hop on the wrong subways, spend half my day looking at maps, and accidentally spend $20 on a ticket that costs $2), but I loved it!  It was so nice to just be able to sit and enjoy the scenery, an be dropped at any stop we wanted to explore.  

We were very impressed with all the beautiful architecture, beautiful old buildings in the shadow of modern humongous ones.  Some of our favorite parts were the bean (an awesome reflective kidney bean that reflected the skyline), the Navy Pier, and the city lit up at night.  In the evening when all the lights turned on an the city came to life, it was pretty fantastical.  My mom rode on her first subway - we took the wron train, almost got the doors closed on us, and were sitting next to a belligerent drunk guy, but she never complained.  

This morning on our way out o Chicago, we stopped in to have breakfast with my great aunt Anita.  She was so sweet!  We sat over coffee an talked about family, travel, and the adorable story of how she and my uncle Gerome met.  As we said good-bye, she stood in her garden and blew us a kiss.  

I have absolutely loved this part of my trip, finding family everywhere - connecting, sharing food, sharing stories, and always feeling the love.  

My favorite piece in the museum

My mom and her art love

Adorable art bears

The reflective bean!

Goodnight Chicago!

Me and Anita

Windy City or Bust?

Pastor Stuart invited us to Church Sunday morning, so of course we went!  There is something special about going to church in a small town.  The community is small, but so faithful!  On Sunday, there were about 18 people at church, and the atmosphere was full of joy.  

Pastor Stuart welcomed us at the beginning of service, and when we shared peace, everyone welcomed us with big smiles.  I absolutely loved the close, casual vibe.  It was like a conversation between the congregation and pastor.  As he was giving his sermon, people would respond , or comment as they felt.  We laughed during church, and kids raised their hands to share prayers that were in their mind.  

And I loved listening to Pastor Stuart.  He is such a passionate and loving man, and as he spoke you could hear the love in his voice.  During one of the hymns he teared up, and shared that the way the beautiful music  honors the history it holds on the church touches him. 

After church we spent time chatting over coffee.  No one knew anything about our family but we adored the company all the same.  Zwingle may be small, but the love and community is huge!  I love that little town!  

After Zwingle, my mom and I decided to head to Chicago.  We had no plans for the next 2 nights, and figured - why not?  It's only 3 hours away. On the road, up until Chicago, our scenery was still just corn and soy beans!  Farm country.

Per Pastor Stuart's recommendation, we stopped at a delicious pizzeria, for Chicago'a signature deep dish pizza.  Oh my gosh!  My mouth is salivating just thinking about it!  And Gino's East had a very cool, artsy vibe.  Turns out everyone in Chicago has an alliance to a different pizza joint (every person recommended a different place as best pizza) but we thought ours was pretty awesome.  Then we walked around some shops and buildings on the magnificent mile. We went up trump tower, and I was freaked out!  Too tall for me.  My favorite building was the Chicago Tribune building, engraved with powerful quotes about freedom of speech.  

We were super excited for our unexpected stop in the Windy City!  We got a hotel outside the city, ready to explore the next day!
The United Harmony Church of Christ

Chicago city skyline

My mom at Gino's East

Me!  Seriously.  I want some! So worth the lactose intolerant attack.

The Chicago Tribune Tower


One of the main reasons my mom and I are together for the last leg of my trip, is because my moms side of the family comes from a little town in Iowa - called Zwingle.  We headed their Saturday afternoon in search of some family history.  When we got to Zwingle. . . We laughed about how small it was.  It's about 3 blocks long, population 93.  We were looking for the church my great, great, great, great grandpa founded.  The only businesses on the 3 block strip are a bar, post office and church, so it wasn't hard to find.  The church was locked, so we went into the Cemetery and found our relatives.  FC Bauman ( my great 4x grandpa) and his wife have a headstone closest to the church.  He was the Reverend of United Harmony Church of Christ from the late 1800s until 1905. We also found my great great grandma (his great granddaughter), Blanch Estella (who my sister Hannah Estelle) was named after.  Grandma Estella was the organist for the church. 

While we were walking around the graveyard, a dog started barking at us from the neighbors house.  A young boy came out and apologized, saying the dog was very protective of the graves.  I asked him about the church, and he said "Well, my dad is the pastor, hang on."  Perfect!  

Pastor Stuart was so wonderful!  He was welcoming, and spent time showing us around the church and giving us some history.  Stuart had read our grandpa's journal - he was reverend from 1859-1905, and made 75 dollars per year!

While looking through records, we found old documents, another one of our grandpas journals, and he even gave us copies of big black and white pictures of our Grandma Estella playing the organ!  

We felt super blessed to be there, sitting and learning in part of our history.  That evening my mom and I went to Dubuque, to spend the night.  We spent a lovely evening walking along the Mississippi, listening to some live music over wine, and hanging out a a roadside motel. We even went to a casino to bet 5 bucks.  my mom had never been before, and she won 7 bucks!  All in all- we had an amazing day!  

Zwingle!  We found it!

My mom and Pastor Stuart looking through pictures

That's my great, great grandma Estella playing the organ!

Dangling our feet over the Mississippi 

My ancestors, and church founders, FC Bauman and Elizabeth Cort

Stained glass window dedicated to our grandpa

My mom winning at the casino! 

Our grandparents with the church

With my great, great grandma Estella. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Steamboat Rock on the Iowa

Thursday was full of our Mexico friends (not to be confused with our Mexican friends).  After getting our hearts full with the Hindys, we spent the night at the Schuller's.  Six years ago we met John and his son Marcus in Mexico, and the next year he brought his wife Joan and his daughter Abby.  We felt a super strong connection with these Iowa friends, and have stayed in contact over the years. 

Even though we hadn't seen these friends for 5 years, after spending only an hour with Joan and John, it felt like we had seen each other every day.  They made my mom and I feel right at home - putting us up in their beautiful home on the river in Steamboat Rock.  

Our first night after catching up over wine, John took me on a night adventure tour.  It was pouring down rain, and when we were walking over a railroad bridge, a raccoon started prowling towards us.   I was ready to run, or jump in the river or something, but luckily John scared it away. 

The next day, John and Joan took us on a tour of their adorable town - right on the Iowa River. John and I floated the river on tubes while my mom and John worked on some decorations for their daughter's upcoming wedding.  The river was really fun, super cold, but absolutely beautiful.  Being in the land of corn, we got our corn diplomas while with the Schullers.  We saw the anatomy of a corn stalk, learned about seeds and tassels, and got the political and economical low down of the fields and farmers.  

In the evening, Marcus came home from Cedar Rapids.  We had a great dinner, made s'mores at the fire,  and star gazed in the parking lot - the stars in the open sky of Iowa were breathtaking!  We saw some shooting stars and made lots of wishes. 

On Saturday, my mom and I had to say good-bye.  It was so hard to leave!  They took such good care of us, and fed us such delicious bacon! Bacon is my favorite food, and having farm fresh bacon was definitely a high light in Steamboat for me.  

Thank you John and Joan for all your hospitality, for feeding our bellies, for being excellent tour guides, and for all the friendship and love.  Ya'll are pretty special people and we already can't wait to come back to Iowa.

My mom, Joan and John talking at the Iowa River

Iowa is so green and beautiful!  The state motto is "Fields of opportunities"

John prepping for team meeting

At the fire

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zombies and stewardship

Late Wednesday night, my mom flew into town to partake in my Iowa adventure. We went to Zombie burger for a late dinner, and had fun eating the crazy zombie named food, and writing a poem about my burger for the resturaunt.  My burger was called "Undead Elvis" and had peanut butter, fried bananas, Baccon, and an egg.  I had to try it because of how ridiculous it sounded.  It was good one bite, then weird the next - so I left unable to decide my judgment.

On Thursday, after staying at Hotel Annie, we drove up to see our friends Steve and Mary Hinderhofer, 2 of the most faithful and giving souls I've ever known.  We met these two many years ago building houses in Mexico.  The second year we went down with them, we were there when Steve proposed to Mary.  And now they have 3 kids! We haven't seen these guys in 4 years, and now they have a houseful.  

It was great to catch up, play with all their adorable kids (Tommy, Manny and Danny), and be part of some of the amazing stewardship Steve has dedicated his life to.  Steve started an organization called "2 Coats," and it is a community support system.  The idea is that everyone has 2 coats, and can always spare one for someone in need.  This is then generalized to everything in life.  People have stuff, time and talent they can spare and share.  

As we all were hanging out in the house, 2 different neighbors stopped by to give them food, stuff they made or stuff from the garden - and we were so surprised!  Their community is so giving, and Steve says that happens all the time.  The world should be following the example of this small town of Grundy Center, Iowa.  

Steve also started a community garden, where he invites the community to help and harvest, and then he cooks food and they share meal.  As I weeded alongside Steve, I realized how much I missed working alongside him.  His energy, his passion, his devotion and love for community and God . . . He's one of those guys that inspire you to be a better person.  Plus he has a contagious giggle.  

It was so awesome to spend time with these friends.  They have a beautiful family, and are amazing parents, and I can't wait to see (and come back to experience!) the difference they will make in the world. 

At Zombie Burger in Des Moines

Our poem about my burger

The beautiful Hindys, they are loved and Wanted!

Steve cooking food in the garden

Saturday, July 27, 2013


On Monday night, I flew into Des Moines to hang out with my soul friend Annie.  We met building houses in Mexico, and became friends in the back of the vans making sarcastic comments and causing general mischief.  

In Des Moines we caught up on life, ate good food and reminisced about 90s music.  Iowa has this awesome bike race called Ragbrai, and it's a ride across the state.  The riders bike anywhere from 40-90 miles per day, and each town they stop at, there's a big party, concert, food and mayhem.  Tuesday night the riders came through Des Moines, and we got to see prep work for the party.  We tried to wait for the 10,000 bikers to come zooming past us, but they never really did. We saw about 10. Apparently the rest were at the camp ground down the way. Or were still partying in the city before.  

On Wednesday Annie's best friend Stacy came into town - she also built with us in Mexico.  Annie and Stacy are 2 o the funniest people I have ever met, and I got my fill of laughter.  

Apparently I didn't get any pictures of my friends while I was with them! So, these will have to do. . . 

Here is Annie. . . 

And here is Stacy, Whose nickname is Hoody.  

Des Moines Capitol 

A cool statue full of letters at the Papa John statue park