birthday boy.

October 28, 1987 was a perfect day.
Thanks to a patient woman who endured 30 hours of labor (seriously, Mama A…whoa),
Grant Thomas Armstrong was born.

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We often joke that we would not have liked each other had we known the younger versions of ourselves. I think we’re wrong. I look at what you bring to my life and those around you now, and I can’t help but think that your God-given attributes are exactly what I’ve always needed:

passion…
intentional love…
care for the important things of life…
ridiculous humor…
absolute joy…
childlike excitement…
honesty…
support…
words of encouragement…
complete selflessness…

I love your outlook on life. I love that it’s filled with hopefulness and trust in a God who knows our path. I love that you look at every hurdle in life as something to be conquered, not something to hinder. I love that I can trust your advice even when I resist it. I love that you love others fiercely and with great loyalty. I love that you love God’s church and want to serve it. I love that you bring to my life goofiness when I get too serious. I love seeing you make people laugh. I love your weirdness. I love how you take care of your family. I love how you love others without judgment. I love your intentionality toward our marriage. I love your obsession with adventure and new experiences. I love how unashamed you are to just be yourself.

No elegant words will ever be enough to express how much I just really like you. And the fact that you’re more studly than a Greek god is an added bonus.

Happy 26th Birthday, Señor. I love you more than a junior high girl loves hashtags.

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numb thumb.

I once heard a rumor.

The rumor was that everything changes in grad school. You read with more focus, study more hours, take copious notes in every class, and prepare for tests weeks in advance. You can read 200 pages in a matter of minutes. Your idea of a long paper is anything over 20 pages. You laugh in the face of multiple choice tests. HA. Give me a Scantron sheet and watch me fly, weakling. You’re a pro. You take all the silly decisions you made in your undergrad and redeem them with your new-found knowledge.

Poppycock.

Grad school reminds me of all the things I did wrong in my undergrad and leaves me in a dismal state of wondering why I haven’t changed. Seriously, procrastination, why do you win every time?!

I was reminded of these unfortunate misconceptions about 48 hours ago when I completed the first midterm of my grad school career. My mind went through a series of thoughts in the preparation process. Anyone who’s been in college can resonate with this:

“Oh, I have a test in a few weeks. I should totally start studying.”
2 weeks later…“Oh, I have a test in 4 days. I should totally start studying.”
2 days later…“When’s that test, again? WHOA. Monday?! Why haven’t I started studying?!”
Day of the test…“What…have…I…done?”

Ya’ll. This midterm kicked my tooshy-toosh. I mean, just look at the books it covered.

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Don’t succulents and swirls that resemble a mid-2000’s Windows screensaver just scream, “Study me!”?

I make it sound like I don’t enjoy these topics. That could not be more wrong. Nerdy Laura LOVES this stuff. I geek out over counseling theories and human development. Oh, and in case you were wondering, everyone could use counseling. So, sign up and keep us future counselors employed, mmk? But don’t come to me yet. My knowledge hardly extends beyond Freud. And lawwwd knows you don’t want me to go there…unless you’re in love with your mother or father. In which case, please seek help.

Back to the midterm.

Like I said–it was brutal. Did you know that “short answer” in grad school actually means 1-2 page hand-written essay? And when you have to answer 10 of those “short answer” questions, you may lose feeling in your hands afterward? Essay tests are nothing new to me. But never ever have I ever taken such a long essay exam that my THUMB goes NUMB. After every question, I found myself doing hand and finger calisthenics. Honestly, the tip of my thumb is finally regaining feeling today. Who knew there was such physical prep work required for taking tests?

After 2 1/2 hours of “Hmm. I’ve answered ‘c’ 3 times in a row. Surely that can’t be right,” and thumb-numbing essay answering, I was finally done with my first midterm. While it was one of the hardest, most information-heavy tests I’ve ever taken, I felt confident in the material I studied and regurgitated (hate that word).

Up top, brain synapses!

booked.

13 states. 2 foreign countries.

In the past 12 months, I’ve traveled to or through 13 states and visited 2 foreign countries. I have a bit of a travel bug, if you couldn’t tell. I’m completely unsatisfied if I have to stay in the same place for more than 3 weeks. I think I may have an addiction. Help, please.

But a few of those states have a special place in my heart. They’re home to me.

My mom and stepdad recently moved back to North Carolina. Green, wooded, southern-charmed North Carolina. I spent 3 years living in the gorgeous state as a child, and I love visiting. The town they live in is quaint and the people are sweeter than a southern woman’s tea. And although I’ve never lived in the house they reside in now, it’s still home.

For nearly 15 years, my dad has lived in New Hampshire. It’s a treasure of a state. Where else do you get mountains AND beaches? Ok, other than California, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, etc…I’m trying to prove a point so let’s disregard those ones. People are real in New England. Like, if the server doesn’t like you, they don’t fake it. And if you took a pahking spot from a stranger, you’ll get a lahbstah up ya hind pahts. What gems they are in the northeast. I love that I can call it home, too.

I love my new home in Colorado. While our apartment may not show that we’ve fully settled in, I can feel it in my bones that this place is going to steal my heart. I sensed it for the first time last week. I took a quick trip to Minnesota for work. When my plane landed back in Denver, my spidey sense tingled. I was home, and it felt right. This place is unlike anywhere I’ve lived. I love that it snows in October. Legit SNOW. Remember that red tree outside our apartment earlier this week? Check it out this morning…

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Uh, yeah. That was 4 hours ago. Now it’s back to its normal fall-self because the sun has shown its face. Goodbye, snow. The UV rays have won this round.

And then there’s Indiana. Say what you will about the Midwest, haters. Indiana is genuine, flat, corn-infested, and the absolute best. I’ve moved around a decent amount in my 26 years, but it’s always felt like home. I met some of my best friends, dated and married my husband, and found Jesus in Indiana. I may not have been born there, but I’m a total Hoosier at heart.

And in 6 days, I’m going back.

Last night, I booked a flight to Indiana. I leave next week. My trip will be a whirlwind (only about 48 hours long!) and filled with work responsibilities. But I imagine it to be memorable. It will be my first trip back on campus since moving to Colorado. Tears will likely be shed as I have mini-reunions with our dear Upland friends. And I can’t wait.

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I always knew I had a travel bug. Who knew it could be satisfied by visiting a small, Indiana town? See you soon, Upland.

real reds.

A few weeks ago, I went on a mini-rant about how Denver fell short of my autumn expectations. I was all like, “Wah, wah I want colors. Wah, wah where are my reds and oranges? I’m so deprived and entitled.” Embarrassing, right?

Denver’s scenery is stunning. I realize in some of my last posts I’ve pointed out its shortcomings, funny stereotypes, and all the ways we don’t fit in. But lesbihonest, about 99% of the population is a transplant from another city, state, or country. It’s basically a melting pot. And somewhere along the way, people saw mountains and thought, “Yeah, we should climb those monstrosities. To the mountains, unbelievably fit people!” And boom–California was born. They found gold, formed a basketball team (Go Nuggets! I can’t explain how disappointed I am to know they aren’t named after McDonald’s tasty treats), and became one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Read the history books. I swear it’s all true.

Yes, Denver is super active. Yes, it is drier than Sahara, and my lips are permanently chapped. Yes, the UV rays from the sun can burn your skin in a matter of seconds. But it is seriously gorgeous up in hurr. And it’s not just because of the mountains.

As I was reading for class this weekend, I looked out the window and nearly fell off the couch.

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THIS was outside our apartment. THIS TREE. How could I have missed that?! It’s RED. Like, oxblood red–a very popular color this season. Kudos to you, nature! You’re so chic.

I was floored.  Now that I’ve seen it, I see more colored trees everywhere. Apparently, they line the main street by our apartment. I was just so caught up in missing the Midwest that I overlooked these bold, enchanting colors.

So, on top of being entirely embarrassed, I’m also crazy excited. We have red and orange leaves in the West, too. They’re just not as obvious when I’m so focused on what isn’t present. Take time to look at the fall beauty around you, sweet friends. Whether you’re in Colorado, Indiana (bless your sweet soul), or Florida–the delicate beauty of this season is to be found.

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Major props to señor for capturing this shot! What a pro.

the germans.

I’ve always been a big fan of festivals.

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And let’s be real. It’s primarily because people like this guy ^^ can be found there. He’s dapper, highly intoxicated, and overall just loving every bit of his life. Let’s all stop and learn a lesson from this man: true happiness always involves suspenders and a fedora. Let’s call this man Viktor since he is clearly so very German.

Viktor was a trip. Walked right up to our group and became fast friends. Unfortunately, we didn’t share his love for excessive alcohol consumption, so he moved on quickly. But he made our Oktoberfest experience even more authentic.

I’ve only been to one Oktoberfest prior to last weekend. It was…not your typical Oktoberfest. It was hosted by a group of men at a Christian college so tame would be a good word for it. But we drank (root) beer, shot guns, carved pumpkins, and got poop on my face.

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Yeah. You read that correctly. FECES ON MY FACE. I swear it was an accident–an entirely disgusting, smelly, embarrassing accident. I was on a farm, wiped what I thought was dirt off my pants, scratched my face, and shabam–cow feces on the face. But here’s a lesson to take away: poop is not a good facial exfoliant.

Also, can we please acknowledge that I totally did the Miley tongue like 4 years ago? Trendsetter!

Back to the point: Our friends invited us to a small mountain town last weekend for an Oktoberfest. It was quaint and fantastic. The sun was setting behind the mountains, the air was crisp, the trees were gorgeous, and the entertainment was…uh…festive? Think Rolling Stones cover band with a female lead vocalist who may or may have been in her 60’s. So, there’s that. And we met Viktor, so we can’t complain.DSC_2054

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Plus the company was cute-to-boot. Brandon and Tracy are just really wonderful. We have so enjoyed getting to know them. Seriously. Denver is lucky to have such cool people.

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Like I said, I’m a big fan of festivals, and I’m sure it will be our first of many in Colorado. Plus, any festival where I don’t get grossness on my face is a GREAT festival.

faux fall.

Red, orange, yellow, gold, brown, more red.
This, I declare, is the essence of fall…

DSC_6822…in Indiana.

Brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, YELLOW, brown, brown, brown.
This, I’m discovering, is the essence of fall in Denver.

Sweet Moses, I just want to see COLORS. What is this faux fall?! I want to drive down our road and swerve as I stare at the beauty of the changing red leaves. I want to look out my window and SHED TEARS because of how gorgeous the trees are against the backdrop of the mountains. I want to join all my cool Indiana friends in finding the perfect Instagram filter to enhance the orange hues. Seriously, how perfect is Lo-fi on those autumn shots? Kudos, Instagram gods.

Alas, I settle for yellow…or, mostly brown. Find me a red leaf tree in Denver, and under its shade you will see me for the remainder of the season.

But there are hints of that fall I so deeply love back home: scarves (my neck is having a party like, erryday), occasional grey skies and fellow midwesterners.

DSC_2022comboDSC_2034combinedDSC_2039These two. Simply the best part of our Colorado journey so far.

\\ Side note: Señor and I finally did something Colorado-y and cool! We dined at the legendary pizza stop, Beau Jo’s, with our super dear friends, Mark and Lauren. As if pizza wasn’t enough, this place also provides honey for dipping your crust afterward. How many carbs can a carb-lover carb if a carb-lover has enough carbs? Yeah. Translate that, complex sugar-lovers. Also worth celebrating: it was our first trip into the mountains since moving here. Soooo, we’re basically locals. Next thing you know, we’ll be telling you which powder is the best to shred. Again, translate that because I have no idea what I just said. \\

It should be noted that Colorado’s faux fall isn’t all faux. I’ve heard there are beautiful Aspens that turn yellow for like, 20 minutes (I exaggerate). This is a big deal. And I’ll take what I can get out here. Even if it is one color.

Plus, it could be worse. I could be color blind.

#NODISRESPECTTOCOLORBLINDPEOPLE