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Archive for May, 2009

Pedal for Nepal

Hi everyone–I’ve certainly got plenty to blog about but need to carve out some time to feel inspired and gather my thoughts 🙂  In the mean time, my friend Dana’s uncle is trying to support a good cause this summer.  Check out Pedal for Nepal if you dig bicycling and helping kids!

More to come!

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This past weekend, Jensen and I headed to Omaha, NE for a Strong Bonds (www.strongbonds.org) weekend retreat.  These retreats are hosted by Army Chaplains and are amazing.  They pay for your hotel (Double Tree Omaha), provide meals, pay you to be there, and if you have kids, they reimburse you for childcare so that you can be there with just your spouse for the weekend.  Come on–who wouldn’t go? 

We headed out Friday afternoon so that we could arrive before dark.  Jensen had never been to Omaha and I had only been there once in high school.  Thanks to Mr. GPS (he’s such a good friend), we arrived with no problem.  After we checked into the hotel (note: Double Tree gives you a free, warmed chocolate chip cookie at check-in.  Part of a “Sweet Dreams” campaign), we headed out for dinner.  We ended up at La Hacienda.  A bit sketchy from the outside, but great Mexican food–reasonable prices, good portions, fast service.

Then we decided to check out the two-story Borders store right next door.  I think it’s funny that Jensen probably hardly ever stepped inside a book store before we met and now, I think he likes to go more than me!  Anyway, at this bookstore, I found a wonderful new treasure.  Recently, I discovered Jan Karon’s Mitford series.  Love it.  At the Ames Library Sale about a month ago, I scored the first four books for $0.50/each!  I’m working on gathering the rest.  I also love cookbooks.  They are so fun to browse and imagine how you’re going to cook all these wonderful dishes in the oodles of time you find yourself with each day.  At Borders, I found a Mitford Cookbook!  Oh I cannot wait to share it with those of you reading this and sharing in my delight!  It was definitely a good start to the weekend.

Now, I don’t want to get caught up in all the details of the retreat and not leave room to talk about the speaker because basically, he rocked. Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage is a six session dvd-based marriage seminar by Pastor Mark Grungor.  He’s a crazy little Puerto Rican man (married to a redhead by the way–too bad we didn’t see pictures of their kids!) who is passionate about humor, good marriages, and well, great sex.

I’ll just share with you a few highlights of the things he shared.  Jensen and I are hoping to buy his dvds and have you over to watch them with us.

1. The Tale of Two Brains.  Mark’s first two sessions are on the differences between men and women’s brains.  I should note that he really believes in focusing on what is right about two people in marriage, not what is wrong.  We already all know we’re not perfect.  Anyway.  So, I had heard analogies about these differences before.  Mark’s analogy is this.

Men’s brains are like warehouses full of boxes.  The number one rule is that no box can touch another box.  Ever.  The second rule is that you can only take out one box at a time.  When you’re speaking with a man, he responds by going into the warehouse, finding the box he thinks is appropriate, looking at its contents, sharing them with you, and then very carefully putting the box away–it cannot touch the other boxes!

Also, and this is very important.  Men have a very special box in this warehouse.  It’s their favorite box and they take it out often.  It’s called THE NOTHING BOX.  You know when you’re talking to him and seem to get no response?  He’s just in his nothing box.  When he gets home from work and just wants to “zone out” for awhile.  He misses his nothing box and just needs to see it for a few minutes.  And just from my personal observation, nothing makes a man run for his nothing box like hunger.  Feed the boy–then have a deep discussion!

Haha, I tell you what–there were a lot of husbands who got let off the hook when the women at the retreat found out that every guy in the room had this box–not just theirs

Mark said he often has women ask why they can’t go into the nothing box with him.  Guys–you know this answer… because then there would be SOMETHING in the box 🙂

Women’s brains are vastly, vastly different.  We are a ball of wire.  Very similar to the internet–click on one thing and you never know what you might find, but you can be sure it’s connected to something else 🙂  I’m not really sure what else to add to his discussion of women’s brains.  I’m sure Jensen could tell you what the enlightening parts were.

2. How to Stay Married and Not Kill Anyone

So this section was about how men and women “count points” differently.  It’s not that he’s advocating keeping track of the good/bad that your spouse does, but let’s face it–we all do it. 

Here’s men’s way of counting points.  He gets out of bed in the morning when he really didn’t want to.  500 points.  He went to work and dealt with with his boss all day.  3000 points.  He remembered to call you at lunch to ask how your day was.  At least 7500 points.  So by the time he gets home, he thinks he’s done pretty well and deserves some time to just sit so that his wife can catch up to him.

Now the women.  She got out of bed this morning when she didn’t want to.  1 pt.  Her husband did too.  He gets 1 pt.  She went to work all day.  1 pt.  So did he–1 pt.  She stopped by the grocery store on the way home, picked up the kids from sports’ practice, gave her friend a call on the drive home, and took the dog out when she walked in the door.  4 pts.  Her husband sits down when he gets home.  0 pts.  The rest of the evening may continue with her doing tasks and maybe she’ll go to bed with 20 points in her mind while her husband is still sitting at 3 (meanwhile he thinks he’s up by thousands and can’t figure out why she’s mad!).

Once again, the point of all this is not to count points or assume men are lazy.  The point is to help each person understand the other, rather than just getting upset.

He also said since men give themselves so many points anyway, they think if they want to show their wife a kind gesture, it should be BIG.  Example: If one rose gets me one point, twelve roses should get me twelve points!  Wrong!  Giving her roses gets you one point.  However, giving her a single rose on twelve occasions definitely gets you twelve points 🙂

And men, listen up.  You want some big points–for not even doing anything?  Plan a romantic date for your wife–arrange all the details and tell her a week in advance.  Then, throughout that week, every time she thinks about what you did for her–1 pt.  And every time she tells her girlfriends about what you’ve done–1 pt.  All for something you haven’t even done yet!

I think that this was a good example of one of his mantras throughout the weekend: Be nice to the girl.  It’s probably the thing he emphasized most.

Oh man–we were all rolling on the floor–it’s so often true!  I won’t share any of the other great stuff because like I said, we really hope you guys will watch his dvds.

I will recommend that if you get a chance–even if you’re single–check out his website and consider doing The Flag Page activity.  It’s insanely accurate and will really help you understand how you approach the world.  It’s only $10 to buy the code to complete the measures and I just cannot tell you how helpful it has been.  If you’d like, I’m more than happy to discuss my Flag Page with you. 

And if you are a military family, I really encourage you to check out a Strong Bonds weekend.  We convinced two other couples to go to this one and I really think they both had a great time!

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Sunday morning, I woke up early to fix breakfast for Jensen, his dad, my sister, and our friend Angie.  On the menu: egg scramble with sausage, green peppers, onions, and cheese, cantalope, banana streusel muffins, and mimosas.  I let everyone sleep in until about 10 and then we ate, left all the dirty dishes, and headed to church.  I was pretty excited about this as it may have been the only time Jensen’s dad will ever make it to a Stonebrook service.

After church, we lounged around the house for the afternoon (still recovering from Saturday) and then went to watch Astrid and Scott’s softball games.  Cheers to Amber for being a good sport!  Their team needed one more girl and I had invited her to come watch the games with us.  She was the only female spectator wearing tennis shoes so we nominated her 🙂  And she hit the ball every time she was up to bat–go Amber!  We ordered some Papa John’s after the games (we were famished from all that spectating) and rented some movies.  A good evening of relaxation before our travels the next day.

On Monday afternoon, we headed back to Minneapolis.  Our plan was to take Cruz to the Mall of America before going to hang out with our cousin Emilee and her family for the night.  We spent a few hours in the mall, browsing stores, playing some skee ball, grabbing some dinner before heading over to Hudson, WI.  We were staying at Emilee and Tim’s that night so that we didn’t have to get up SUPER early to take Cruz to the airport.  Emilee and Tim are wonderfully hospitable and it was a good opportunity for Cruz to meet some more of our family.  The guys basically played video games while the girls chatted all evening.  Perfect 🙂

Tuesday morning came bright and early.  We got Cruz to the airport with plenty of time under sunny skies.  After that, well, Amber and I have a really hard time resisting IKEA so we convinced Jensen to let us go for an hour or two 🙂  The trade-off was going to be that we’d stop at Cabela’s on the way home (Jensen had never been there). 

We met up with Tim and Emilee to have lunch after IKEA.  Back to MOA.  On this trip, Tim told us about a flight simulator program they had in one of the stores and I told Jensen he should definitely try it out.  After all–it was his celebration weekend! 

We said our good-byes to the Wagners in the mid-afternoon and it was off to Cabela’s and home!  I had actually never been to Cabela’s before either so it was an adventure for both Cartagenas.  I really enjoyed looking at the vast amount of camping gear they have while Jensen browsed the weapons.  Amber and I even played their Big Hunter video game and I won!  Haha, I only say this because I am so not a hunter and couldn’t believe I beat her.

All in all, I think Jensen felt very celebrated and loved throughout the weekend.  We were glad to have friends and family to share it with us.  It was a great time, but boy do I need a nap!

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Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to work out and complete the rest of the party prep.  Once again, Amber was kind enough to run around with me.  We were able to get everything done by 11ish–just enough time to jet home, wake everyone else up, and get ready!

To my surprise Jensen and Cruz were awake when I got home.  Astrid had come over and everyone was lounging around.  I hurried everyone through the shower (we have the world’s tiniest bathroom–only room for one person to be in there at a time) and by no small miracle got Jensen to Scheman on time.  Then, I went back, picked up the rest of the gang, and off we went!

For those of you who haven’t been to an ISU graduation, you have to get there really early to get a decent seat.  So we were in the nosebleed section.  Section 232 to be exact 🙂 

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Thankfully, one of the nice parts of Jensen being in military uniform was that he’d be easy to spot in the seat of black caps and gowns.  So, as we’re sitting there I decide to kill some time deleting old pictures to make room for the day’s shots.  Everything is going along just fine when I see the message that NO digital camera operator wants to see “DELETING ALL IMAGES.”  What?!  No! No!  Exit!  Shut down!  Anything! 

Argh–I don’t know how it happened, but I managed to delete all the pictures I had taken that day and over the last couple of months.  Thankfully most of them were downloaded to my computer already, but man–this was not a good start to graduation!

Given a few moments, I resolved to be super careful the rest of the day and set my mind to enjoy the festivities.  It was exciting to be able to spot Jensen in the crowd and he was actually able to see us (although he told us later he didn’t recognize any of his family members at first–only Kory Kawai–his island brother from another mother).  Clay Anderson, the astronaut from Iowa, gave the commencement address.  He spoke about being persistent, passionate, and practical.  It was definitely one of the better speeches I’ve heard at graduation. 

One of the other nice parts of this year’s graduation ceremony was that I actually really knew my students who were graduating.  Last year, I had only been here a semester and they had other advisors for 3+ years of the college career, but these new graduates had known me since their junior year.  I’m super proud of all of them!

After graduation, we tried to meet up amidst the crowds of people to snap a few photos before heading to the commissioning ceremony.

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Jensen and his proud dad, Cruz

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Doesn’t he look spiffy in his uniform?

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I guess Astrid is the only one who knew I was taking a photo 🙂

After this, we hurried through traffic to get to the commissioning ceremony.  It was one of those stressful times when you’re in the left lane, but you really need to be in the right.  After trying to nose in a few times, my sister finally rolled down the window to another car (who also had their window down) and asked if we could cut in.  They let us!  One of the other people in the car said to Amber, “that’s backseat driving” and she replied, “no, that’s getting it done.”  Rock on, sister.  That’s what the Hare women do–we get it done.

We made it to the ceremony with minutes to spare.  Jensen had asked our good friend Jon Buller to give him his first salute (it’s a military tradition that new lieutenants have an enlisted person give them their first salute in exchange for a silver dollar).  Jon,  his wife Ashley, and their little boy Evan were all able to make it to the ceremony.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the actual ceremony.  The lighting and my camera were just not getting along.  The actual ceremony was fairly short.  The cadets stood up, took their oaths, heard a few words from Lt Col Soupene, were pinned by their family members (Cruz and I put Jensen’s gold bars on), and then given their first salute.

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He’s officially 2LT Cartagena!

After this, Amber and I headed off to make sure everything was in place for the party.  I had arranged a group of awesome girls (thank you Nancy, Libby, Ashley, Angie, Amber, Katie!) to decorate everything and set out the food.

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The rest of the evening was spent enjoying a great meal and the company of friends.

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Jensen enjoying some of Dan Jones’ speciality pulled pork.

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Mmmm…cake.  There was homemade Wiggy ice cream too!

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Ross got a star for being such a good eater 🙂

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This was a hungry bunch!

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Good friends–The Lennanders and Schades

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Jensen, my dad, Astrid.

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My good friend Carrie brought her family to the party!

Jensen’s new commander actually stopped by the party and stayed for a couple of hours!  This was an awesome first gesture.  I’m sure there are many other things he would rather have been doing on a Saturday night, but he took the time to get to know Jensen and his family and friends.  Definitely bonus points in my book!  We got everything cleaned up, packed up, and headed home around 10:30 p.m.  Just in time for one last family photo!

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On Thursday afternoon, immediately following Jensen’s LAST FINAL EVER (well, of this degree), we headed to Minneapolis to pick up Jensen’s dad from the airport.  We haven’t been back to Puerto Rico in three years and his dad hadn’t been to Iowa since our wedding, so this was quite the anticipated trip.  Thanks to Amber’s handy dandy GPS (we really need to invest in one of our own), we made it to the airport with no problems! 

We met up with Cruz and headed out of the city.  We had already planned to come back to Minneapolis a day early at the end of his trip to show him around and so for now, our plan was just to get home to Ames.  We decided to stop for dinner at the Cracker Barrel.  Mmmmm…so much food!  Thankfully Jensen was doing the driving on the way back so it was okay for me to slip into a food coma in the back seat 🙂

We arrived in Ames around 10:30 and Astrid joined up with us.  I thought everyone would be tired (I was–I had been  up since 5:30 a.m.) but those Cartagenas are NIGHT OWLS.  I finally went to bed around midnight because I had to work in the morning, but they kept going and going…  Ah well, this is the stuff reunions are made of.

Friday morning they all slept in (Cartagenas also LOVE their sleep!) and I headed off to work to deal with some last minute graduation issues for my students.  Last spring, I actually had someone come in around 2:00 p.m. on the Friday before graduation to handle some last minute issues.  This spring, my students only had until noon and then I was outta there!  My sister deserves HUGE recognition for being my driver/adviser/pusher through this whole graduation party planning process.  She made herself available whenever I needed to go and get more supplies.  This particular afternoon, she was helping me pick up the ice cream, the rest of the decorations, and the cakes.  Hy-Vee did an AWESOME job on the cakes

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Except for one tiny error–did you catch it?  We obviously didn’t before we left Hy-Vee–we were just excited that they did such a great job on the symbols!

Anyway, after all the errand running was done, we headed down to Des Moines with a small group to go out to Bravo! and see the new Star Trek movie.  This was my official graduation gift to Jensen.  When we arrived at Bravo! I almost had a heart attack because we almost had the same waiter as before!  He was the waiter at the table right next to us, but thankfully we got someone else–whew!  Jensen and I were the only two in our group who had been to Bravo so it was nice to introduce everyone to a great restaurant.

We headed over to Jordan Creek to catch the flick and wow, we got there just on time.  We were able to find good seats for our group of six before the crowds starting pouring in.  No one in costume at our showing, but there was some serious cheering when they flashed “Iowa” on the screen (James Kirk grew up in Iowa).  All in all, I think we all enjoyed the movie.  It was fast paced, action packed, and relatively free of unnecessary romantic relationships and all that comes with them on the silver screen. 

AND, interestingly, this was one of the few films I’ve seen that broke my rule.  As many of you probably know, I have noticed that in movies, a girl/woman will have her hair in an up-do until you are supposed to realize that she is the object of someone’s affections.  At this point, her hair will come down and be down for the rest of the movie no matter how practical it may be for it to be up and out of her face (such as in a flippin’ fighting scene!).  But unless, I’m forgetting something, I’m pretty sure Spock’s girl keeps her hair up the whole time!

After the movie, we headed back to Ames.  Once again the Cartagena men outlasted me, but I went to bed knowing that Saturday would be a fun, but very long day…

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In fun news, yesterday was my first day that I tried to ride my bike to work!  All in all, it was a positive experience, but I’m going to have to figure out some method to revive my hairdo after the wind/helmet combo 🙂  After work, I had a meeting at church so I rode my bike there as well.  All together, I rode about six miles yesterday–which I think is pretty good for a newbie!

So I was going to the church to have a meeting with the women’s ministry leaders for an exciting fall event (more news to come!) and arrived a few minutes early.  I began to talk with a pastor’s wife about life post-Jensen’s graduation.

As some of you may know, up until this past fall, we’ve spent the last few years preparing to leave Ames and spend the next twenty years roaming from base to base as an active-duty family.  Well, that plan got changed last fall and since then, I realize I’ve let myself get very comfortable with the idea staying in Ames. 

Was it hard to shift gears last fall?  Yes.  There was something exciting and challenging about the thought of being an Army family.

Has it been exciting to think about staying? Yes.  It meant getting to keep the job I love, in a town I love, with people I love.  A pretty sweet deal!

But as I was talking to this woman yesterday and sharing that we really don’t know what will happen with the job search, I realized suddenly (and with fear), oh no!  What about door number three?!

All this time, I’ve been viewing my life as either a) leaving for far away or b) staying in Ames.  But who is to say that God will have us do either?  What could be behind door number three?!

Thankfully, I was able to recollect, remember that God is good and whatever changes he brings about will be for our good, and get about to the business of surrendering. 

I know that there has never been a scenario in my life where what God had planned–no matter how OUTSIDE of my thinking it was–turned out better than I could have even asked or imagined (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

I know this will be a daily process.  I know that for awhile, when Jensen tells me about a job offer/opportunity, I will still hesitate with trepidation as I wait for him to reveal the location.  But I also trust that there will be sufficient grace through this process and that we’ll arrive on the other side strengthened and better for it.

Here’s to believing God for what’s behind door number three in your life!

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Saturday night was an interesting evening and definitely out of the norm for me.  Amber, my sister, invited me to go down to Des Moines for the evening to celebrate our friend Tyson’s graduation (and leaving of Ames).  With the house clean, laundry put away, and the beautiful weather beckoning–I said, why not? 

Amber, Tyson, and I met up with Libby in West Des Moines.  We started the evening with a nice dinner at Bravo.  Have you been there?  It’s a great (chain) Italian restaurant over by Jordan Creek Mall.  One of my favorite things about Bravo is that they take weekend reservations!  This just takes the stress out of a night on the town!  Being stress-free certainly makes the food taste better! 

One warning about Bravo–the water does NOT taste good.  The first time we went there, they told us it was something about the Jordan Creek area, but regardless either ask for a LOT of lemon or plan on drinking something else!  On Saturday, we decided to splurge and share a bottle of wine.  It definitely made the evening feel like more of a celebration and helped with the taste of the nasty water! 

Side Note: While we were at Bravo, our waiter was fairly inattentive.  And THEN, I look up and I see him doing Jacob’s Ladder (the string game) with another server!  Ooo–I was torked!  I tried really hard not to, but it was difficult for me to not be short with him when he did occasionally check on us.  In the end, I tipped him (mainly because I plan on returning to Bravo and don’t want to have a future MORE negative experience with him should he serve us again) but I did put a note on the receipt asking him to be more aware of how he’s acting in front of customers.  Opinions?

After dinner, we headed to Prairie Meadows to watch some of the horse races.  Now THIS was definitely something out of the ordinary!  I definitely don’t enjoy casinos, but the races are outdoors and with the beautiful weather, it proved to be an enjoyable evening.  We even ran into the Schades (Ross, Amy, and Natalie) while we were there!  This was probably the highlight of the evening.  Ross and Amy were kind enough to help explain all the stats to us, their betting strategies, etc…

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And of course, Amy and Ross were teaching Natalie the value hard earned money…

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All and all, it was a great night with some good friends. 

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And I even won $2.60 on the one race I placed a bet!

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