Wednesday, November 2, 2016

There is No Place like Nebraska

With the Ohio State game this coming Saturday, I have Nebraska football on the brain. Here's an oldie but goody.

         “It’s football Saturday in Memorial Stadium and there is no place like Nebraska!” The crowd exploded, cheers of “GOOOO BIIIIIIG REEEEED” filled the air, and the marching band made their way onto the football field to play the Nebraska fight song. As I stood up and clapped along, shivers ran up and down my spine – this was the loudest the crowd had ever been (at least since I got here two years ago). It was the night that every Husker fan had been waiting for – the night that we would prove to Oklahoma that we were a force to be reckoned with. The crowd was fired up, and so was the team. The sweet smell of victory was in the air, and we wanted it more than anything.
       Memorial Stadium was packed full – it was the 303rd consecutive sellout game, which meant that over 86,300 fans were present. Nebraska fans have come to be known as the best in college football, and they are the reason that game day in Memorial Stadium is such a big deal. Fans from all over the country travel hundreds of miles to spend four hours inside Memorial Stadium cheering for their team. What is it about this place that makes it so special? Why is it that, upon walking through the gates into the stadium, a person changes from a student, doctor, lawyer, or teacher into a die-hard football fan?
On football game days, Memorial Stadium undergoes a significant transformation – it changes from a football field to a place of excitement and wonder. It goes from being completely empty to being more packed than a can of sardines in a matter of minutes. There seems to be something in the air in Memorial Stadium on game day that, once inhaled, changes the way a person feels about Husker football. It’s something that can only be understood by those who have attended a Nebraska home game – it’s something that can never be fully explained or put into words, but I will attempt.
       Unlike many of the students at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I was not raised to be a Husker football fan. In fact, I remember the first time I saw Memorial Stadium. I was coming into Lincoln for my first college visit. My mom and I had just gotten into town, and Memorial Stadium was the first thing that really stood out to me. I was jamming to some Justin Timberlake on my iPod as we were driving down US Highway 34, and then I saw it – I was completely dumbfounded. I looked at the façade of the stadium in pure astonishment, and took note of the five national championship titles the Huskers had acquired. I wondered who Tom Osborne was, and why the playing surface had been named after him. At that precise moment, I began my journey toward becoming a part of Husker Nation. Someday I, too, would be infected by this Big Red fever.
            I spent the majority of my freshman year watching the Husker games on television (I hadn’t signed up early enough to get season tickets) and learning as much as I possibly could about the program. I learned that the current coach, Bill Callahan, was the worst coach Nebraska had seen in forty-six years (He won a whopping twenty-seven out of forty-nine games), and that, as of November 2007, he would no longer be the head coach of the Cornhuskers. I figured out who the new athletic director, Tom Osborne (affectionately known by his fans as T.O.), was and why he was so important. I realized that, under his reign, the Cornhuskers never won less than nine games in a season, and earned three national championship titles. As I learned the history of my team, I began to understand why everyone in Nebraska seemed to live for football. In fact, I became one of those people – I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a game.
            After my year of Nebraska football enlightenment was over and I had made the complete transformation from ignorant and oblivious out-of-state student to informed and enlightened football fan, I bought season tickets. During the 2008 season, I didn’t miss a single game. I was overwhelmingly happy every time my team pulled off a win, and completely devastated when they lost. I was ecstatic that the new head coach, Bo Pelini, was bringing the program back to its former glory. After the season was over, it was almost painful for me to wait eight more months to see another Husker game.
            It was the next year that I really noticed the atmosphere of Memorial Stadium on game day. As I walked into the sea of red in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, November 7th, 2009, I was overcome with a feeling of pride and love for my team. It was one of the biggest games of the season – Oklahoma vs. Nebraska is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, and it had been eight years since the Huskers were able to pull off a win against the infamous Sooners. Just a year before, we lost the rivalry game by an embarrassing forty points. That was NOT going to happen again. We wanted our revenge, and we were going to get it. It was the second year of the Bo Pelini era, and every Husker fan in the stadium was praying for a win.
       I joined my friends in the East Stadium student section just in time for the tunnel walk – a Nebraska tradition since 1994.  As the HuskerVision screen lit up with the words, “Not the goal but the game; Not the victory but the action; In the deed the glory” and the image of the Huskers making their way out of the locker room, The Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius” began to blare over the loudspeaker. Everyone in the stands began to clap to the beat of the music, and as the coach and players stepped onto the field, the roar of the crowd could be heard from at least a mile away.

       As I sit in the stands of Memorial Stadium now, on a brisk February morning, it is difficult to believe that it is the same place. There is no one else around, and the air is thick with ominous silence rather than acclamation. Football stadiums aren’t supposed to be this quiet – I shouldn’t feel so alone here. There should be tens of thousands of other red-clad people surrounding me, shouting with excitement, serving as a distraction from the worries and concerns of everyday life. But today, from where I’m standing, it is hard to imagine the stadium as that sea of red that I have come to love so much.
       When I walked into the stadium this morning I was not overcome with pride, and there was no sudden transformation from student to avid football fan. I was just… me.  I was not greeted by vendors yelling, “HOT AND FRESH VALENTINO’S PIZZA, COME GET YOUR VAL’S PIZZA,” or, “MOUNTAIN DEW, PEPSI, WATER! COLD AND REFRESHING, ONLY $2!” I was not trampled by fans rushing to get the best seat, or members of Husker nation fighting to get to the restrooms before kickoff. I didn’t hear the overly zealous (or perhaps just slightly tipsy) UNL students cheering and screaming as I approached the student section.
       Instead, I am surrounded by steely gray rather than Husker Red; the sky, the bleachers, the walls – everything is just a bland and somewhat gloomy shade of gray. I find that my mood begins to match every shade of gray around me. I begin to feel emotionless and indifferent. My mood suddenly brightens, however, when I look down at the bright green field. Not only is it the most colorful and stimulating part of the otherwise lifeless stadium, but it also conjures up images in my mind. I imagine our football team running drills at an early morning practice. I wonder what it’s like when all 150 of the guys are on the field at once. I smile at the thought – it amuses me to envision a hundred and some odd guys lined up doing tackling drills, jumping jacks and push-ups.
       I suddenly snap back to reality when I hear the campus bells start to chime the song, “No Place Like Nebraska.” I stand up and start to clap along, then realize that I am completely alone and probably look absolutely ridiculous. I sit back down and take another look around, hoping to notice something that I had missed before. I don’t notice anything, and instead let my imagination wander back to the Nebraska-OU game that took place three months ago.
       I can almost hear the screams and cheers of the crowd as I close my eyes and remember the game. I can remember it like it was yesterday; the crowd was so overwhelmingly loud that I could not even hear my own cheers. The first play that comes to mind is the pick-off by Prince Amukamara in the second quarter – his interception got the Huskers to the one-yard line and gave them the opportunity to score. As Alex Henery’s kick for the extra point sailed through the uprights and the band began to play “No Place Like Nebraska,” everyone began to scream even louder. Everywhere I looked, people were hugging and high-fiving complete strangers, but it didn’t matter – we were all members of the die-hard Husker football fan family.
       The rest of the game was just as amazing as the second quarter had been, even though we only scored three more points. The Huskers played astonishingly well, and even though the Sooners had nearly twice as many total yards as us, we were able to beat them by seven points. As the game clock ran out, and the final score flashed on the big screen, I was overcome with emotion. Even now, when the game is just a memory, I feel an enormous smile begin to form.
       As I think about the outcome of the game, I recall the quote etched into both the southwest corner of Memorial stadium and the western façade – coincidentally the same one that was featured in the tunnel walk. I feel a kind of reverence for the words as I contemplate their meaning. I have heard them a hundred times before, but, until now, have never thought about their origins, or what makes them so memorable. I, like most Husker fans, can only ever remember the last five words of Hartley Burr Alexander’s infamous quote – “in the deed the glory.” However, as I sit in the stadium today, it dawns on me that, in order to fully comprehend the meaning of those five words, one must first hear the preceding twelve. “Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.” I finally understand why those words are there – to remind the Huskers to play with heart, to leave everything they have on the field. It does not matter if a game is won or lost; all that matters is how it was played.
       I look at my watch and realize that I only have five minutes to get to my 10:30 class; I spent more time here than was intended. I gather my belongings and make the walk out of Memorial Stadium. As I walk, I think. I think about the atmosphere of this place, and how it can be so magical one day, and so plain the next. I remember how it felt to enter the stadium this morning, and have a sort of epiphany.
For some reason, taking the step through that big red gate today just wasn’t the same escape from reality that comes with game day. Perhaps it was the absence of all the people that inhabit Memorial stadium on game day, but the vivacious and energetic atmosphere that I had become so familiar with upon entering the stadium was nowhere to be found. I could not distract myself from my responsibilities of everyday life – I was still worried about classes, work, and relationships.
            While I sat in the stands of a completely empty Memorial Stadium, I found the answers to all of my questions. I didn’t know it then, but now, walking through the bitter cold, it dawns on me why, exactly, game days in Nebraska are so special. I know exactly how Memorial Stadium comes alive on football game days. The extraordinary atmosphere surrounding the stadium on game days can be completely attributed to the tens of thousands of Husker fans. As I said earlier, Husker fans are the best in the nation, and they are the reason Memorial Stadium is so exceptional.
       Without the fans, Memorial Stadium would just be another college football stadium. Without the fans, Memorial Stadium would lack character. Without the fans, Memorial Stadium’s big red gate would lack the power to change a person from a student, teacher, doctor, or lawyer to die-hard football fan. Without the fans, the air in Memorial Stadium would be filled with the stench of stale popcorn, pizza, and the body odor of fifty football players instead of being filled with team spirit and Big Red “Fever.” Without the fans, there would be no reason for the football team to play.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Real Life | Real Product Reviews | Norwex

Happy Tuesday!

Sorry I missed yesterday's post - I totally spaced it over the weekend, so it didn't get put together in time. Anyway, this week's real product review is Norwex!
If you haven't heard of Norwex, I pulled this little blurb from the "about" section of their website:

"Our purpose is simple but powerful: The idea that working together, with trust, integrity and honesty as our core values and radically reducing chemicals in our homes as our mission, we can improve the world around us." 

Basically, Norwex produces cleaning products with no chemicals. I was totally skeptical at first, but after attending a Norwex party and watching numerous demonstration videos (like this one), I was hooked. I had to try this stuff. I went ahead and ordered the basic household package. I ended up winning a makeup removal cloth,  and my mom gifted me a bathroom scrub mitt. I have also used so many more products, but I thought I would review the few that I actually own (and just let you know that I haven't used anything from Norwex that I didn't want for myself).

First up: The basic household package (more specifically, the envirocloth)

 I LOVE my envirocloth. I will never use another washcloth in my kitchen (or anywhere, really) again. It makes me sad when my envirocloth is in the washing machine. I use this thing for everything. I wipe my table and counters off with it, I clean my stove with it, I wipe the floor with it, I wash my windows and mirrors with it (combined with the glass cloth). It is seriously a must-have and I honestly don't know how I lived without it. See the picture above? Cleaning my microwave literally took me less than a minute. I know the envirocloth might seem a little pricey, but it is worth every single penny. I'm actually going to order another one so that I don't feel sad when mine is in the wash.

Next up: the makeup removal cloth

I don't actually have photos of before and afters for this one because I haven't worn makeup since before I decided to review Norwex this week, and there was no way I was going to lather my face in makeup just to take it off ten seconds later. Anyway, the cloth works great at taking off your makeup from the day. It actually works better than most makeup removers I've tried, and doesn't leave that greasy residue. I love it.

Finally: the bathroom scrub mitt

This is actually one of the only Norwex products I've tried that I will tell you you can probably live without. Don't get me wrong - it works so well! BUT... it's not perfect (as you can see from my disgusting before and after photos of my nasty shower... GROSS). It holds a ton of water, and that really bothers me when I'm trying to scrub at something - I don't like feeling the squishiness of excess water. Other than that, it does a good job of scrubbing. It really is no match for some good old bleach and icky chemical cleaner, though (although the whole point of Norwex is getting those icky chemicals out of your house).
Other products I have used and would recommend: the kitchen cloth, body cloth, and mop.

The final Verdict: YES. If you are worried about having harmful chemicals in your home that may not even be truly getting rid of all those icky germs, then you need Norwex. I cannot recommend these products enough. I haven't had to buy cleaners in forever - I just don't use them anymore. I don't worry about Elsie getting into my "cleaning" cabinet, because all it is is a couple of washcloths. It has made such a difference having a safe way to clean my home. An added bonus? Elsie can help.

Have you used Norwex products? What did you think? 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sometimes It's Okay.

As moms/women/humans in general, there is a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time. In this world of social media, our lives are constantly on display for the world to see (yeah, yeah, we bring it on ourselves). With that, we see everyone else's lives. We all know that people post the best parts of them and their family on social media, but sometimes it's hard not to compare our bad to other people's good.

We find ourselves feeling guilty and getting worked up over the stupidest things (I say, "we," but by that... I mean "me/I"). I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've come up with a list of things that we beat ourselves up over, but really... they aren't the end of the world.

Sometimes it's okay.... 

to be selfish. I know so many women who don't take any time for themselves. They are constantly putting everyone and their dog first, and you know what?! That sucks. Stop it. Take a friggin' day off. Pawn your kids off on somebody, take a day off of work, whatever it is that sucks up your time... leave it for the day. No one will die without you - life will go on. Sure, the house might look like a tornado when you get home, you might have an inbox full of emails when you get to work, but those things don't matter. Your sanity and well-being matter. Quit feeling guilty for wanting a day off and just take it. Seriously. Get over yourself - you're not that important, work and family will survive 8 hours without you there.

to quit. I am not a quitter. I was raised knowing that if I started something, I sure as hell better finish it, because quitting is not acceptable. Except when it is. Sometimes we spread ourselves too thin and realize it too late. It is okay to quit. In fact, sometimes it's good to quit. I'd rather be able to give a couple people 100% than half-a** my way through 20 different things. 

to say no. I wrote a whole blog post on saying no a while back. I still maintain that it is a necessary evil, and it is oh, so wonderful to be able to say that word and not feel bad about it. 

to be a hypocrite. I tell Elsie all the time that she can't have oreos until she's eaten dinner. But guess who's a big, fat hypocrite? That's right, ME!!!  I eat all the oreos I want before eating dinner and I don't even feel bad about it. HA!

to scream. I've screamed at my kid - I'm not proud to say it, but it happens. We are all human. I'm not talking about screaming at my kid, though - I'm talking about screaming at the world. The other day, :I was just pissed. I hated the world, I was mad at myself for being upset about things because, really, I have it pretty good. I seriously left my house at 11:00 at night, got into my car, and proceeded to drive and just scream. It's a good thing it was nighttime and no one could see into my car, because I'm pretty confident that I looked like I'd escaped the madhouse. But you know what?! It was really therapeutic. I just screamed and cried and screamed some more. It was awesome and I felt sooo much better after that. Try it, you'll see.

to look like a hot mess when you leave your house. Living in Utah is like this whole other world. All these women at the grocery store, perfectly made up... me in my sweatpants covered in boogers, poop, and spit up. I've come to terms with the fact that I enjoy sleep more than I enjoy looking like I put effort into my appearance, and it's okay. You can see in the photo below with my non-made up face and greasy hair that appearance really isn't my top priority most of the time.

What about you? What could you add to this list?  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bridal Veil Falls | An Easy "Hike" for the Kids

I was going to jump right in and say, "Happy Hump Day," but then I realized that it is, in fact, Thursday, and not Wednesday, and I didn't know if I should feel happy that the week is closer to being over, or sad that I didn't get to use my planned greeting.

Anyway. Let's just move on. Like I mentioned last week, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors here in Utah. I've made it a goal to find as many easy hikes as possible so that I can wear the kids out early in the day so that they are ready for naps by about 2:00. I blogged about the Grotto Falls Trail last week, and thought I'd blog about another super easy hike this week. In fact, it's so easy I don't think you could even call it a hike - more like a stroll.

Bridal Veil Falls is located in Provo Canyon. The trail that I'll be discussing is the lower falls trail, and it is super easy for anyone and everyone - it is great for strollers, wheelchairs, crutches, runners, walkers, longboarders, skateboarders, roller bladers... you get the idea. It is a paved path that is about a half mile to the falls and back. We went up there Friday morning with a group of friends, and all the kids had so much fun throwing rocks, chasing each other, and looking at the ducks and fish.

If you're looking for a a beautiful view or just an easy way to kill an hour or so with your kids,  I highly recommend this walk!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Home Tour Part Three | Elsie's Bedroom

Happy FRIDAY!!!

Oh, man. Words can't even describe how glad I am that this week is over. Anyway, time for the weekly home tour! I'll show you our office someday, but right now it is a room full of crap. That's not even an exaggeration. It's bad. So skipping the office, we will go to Elsie's room! I've made it a goal to keep her room pretty simple. A bedroom (in my opinion) is not for toys or playing - it is for sleeping and relaxation. Besides, I enjoy the fact that she can pretty much clean her own room because there's just not a bunch of crap everywhere.

At some point I would like to have an accent wall in here, but haven't found any vinyl decals that I'm in love with (sooo much easier and less permanent than paint). For now, it is a simple and clean space, and I am happy with it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hiking with the Littles | Grotto Falls Trail

Hi there!

One of the things I was most excited about when I found out we were moving to Utah was the hiking! I was so pumped to be able to spend more time in the great outdoors without being eaten alive by mosquitoes or dripping sweat the second I walk out the door. Well, we moved here, then it was cold, then I was huge, then I had a baby, then it was hot, and... you get the idea. The last thing I wanted to do was go walk a couple miles in the mountains while carrying the baby and keeping Elsie in line.

This week, though, it finally cooled off a bit and I felt up to the challenge (plus my friend Jessica is staying with us, so I had help). I went to a Facebook group to figure out what hikes in the area would be easy with little kids and someone mentioned the Grotto Falls Trail in the Nebo Loop near Payson. It sounded easy enough, so I made everyone pile in the car and we headed to the canyon.
The Verdict: At a total distance of 0.6 mile, the Grotto Falls trail is great for little ones, old ones, and everyone in between! It's an easy hike without any challenging terrain. If you have a bad sense of balance, you might want to wear shoes that can get wet and walk through the creek instead of over the "bridges," but other than that, anyone and everyone can enjoy this hike!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies to DIE FOR!

You guys. I don't know if you know this (actually I don't know why you would  know this), but Mike makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world. That's saying a LOT, since I'm not even a big cookie person (except Oreos, obviously).

The other night, we all spent some time together as a family making these delicious cookies. And by that, I mean Mike made the cookies while Elsie terrorized him, helping occasionally, and I documented the whole thing.
I convinced him that he needed to share his recipe with the world, so here it is.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World
1 stick butter (softened but not melted)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup of flour (anywhere from 1-1.5 cups is ideal)
1 teaspoon + pinch of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate chips, m&ms, and/or walnuts to taste

These cookies are baked at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

We like chewy cookies, so we usually pull them out a little bit under-cooked and let them finish cooking on the baking sheet on the counter. If you like crunchy cookies, don't do that. HA!

Anyway, be sure to mix the dry ingredients separately or at least distribute the salt and baking soda evenly throughout the dough. If you don't do that, you will end up with a bunch of puffy cookies and a bunch of flat, miserable cookies.

Don't soften the butter too much, or you will end up with dough that is too liquidy, and you'll want to use flour to compensate... BUT DO NOT DO THAT! If you accidentally soften your butter too much, refrigerate (or even freeze) the dough for a couple of hours to harden it a bit.

This recipe yields about 2 dozen delicious, chewy, amazing cookies. Try not to eat them all at once.

You're welcome. 

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