plus 30.

I feel like I’ve aged about thirty years since I turned 25. Not necessarily physically, though I do have my fair share of poppin’ joints. It’s more of a mental game changer. I’ve always been an old soul and I’ve owned that proudly, but the last few weeks, I’ve taken it to a whole new level.

I’ve received two mailers from AARP in the last two weeks. What’s up with that? As much as I’d love that free bag for membership, I’m about 30 years away from being eligible!

  • I purchased water shoes and started water walking after work. For those of you who don’t know, basically, people ages 40+…and me walk the lazy river (with or against the current, your choice) at the local pool.  I’m seriously considering joining a water aerobics class once the pools close for the season. I smile so much more when I’m walking laps with people 30 years my senior than I do when I run. There’s something to it, people. Try it.
  • I dance in the car without shame…like a dad in the school pickup lane. I sing in the aisles of the grocery store. Life’s too short to be ashamed of enjoying the little things, my friends. When I Want it That Way comes on, there’s no stopping me! 😀
  • groot
  • I went on several roller coasters and spent the next week a bit dizzy and out of whack. Also, I can’t swing on a swingset anymore without getting motion sick. How ridiculous. I’m definitely not 16 anymore.
  • I don’t like to leave my apartment after dark. Now, this isn’t because I’m afraid to drive at night. I’ve become more of a homebody over the years and don’t feel like leaving once I get settled in.  
  • My poor circulation has prompted me to come up with a new motto. Function over fashion. Hoodies over dresses? Been there, done that. Socks with sandals, here I come! There’s no hope for cute tank tops and shorts this summer. Give me some flannels and Cosby sweaters. I need all the warmth I can get in these air-conditioned buildings!
  • I’m going to start a letter writing group. I’m old school. Pen and paper feed the soul. Long live snail mail!
  • My goal before the marathon is to touch my toes…Dreaming big, folks!
  • Also, I can’t just run miles, come home, and live life. I have to foam roll and stretch and listen to my body. It’s not nearly as forgiving as it once was.
  • I got pseudo asked out by an 80-year-old man the other day. I may be an old soul, but come on! That’s taking it a bit too far, don’t you think!? I’m not one to frown upon age gaps, but I’d say 55 years is a few too many.
  • My grandma used to drink Boost and Ensure for nutrients. I think I’m going to have to jump on that bandwagon. I can’t seem to get all my calories and nutrients into my body these days.
  • I’m totally out of touch with pop culture. With no internet or cable, I don’t really follow what’s going on in the world. I watch movies and read books, but I’m definitely not up on the latest trends or happenings.
  • I wake up with mysterious bruises on my body. 

25, say hello to 19.

Recently, a friend asked me if I could tell my 18-year-old self anything, what would it be? Well, I spouted off a few answers, but finally settled on this. So, this is a letter to 19-year-old me, because I needed this more the next year.

Hey, Hannah.

Let’s just cut to the chase. I’m not going to break the space-time continuum and tell you to do or not do things. I’m positive your experiences this past year have been meaningful and without void. Without a doubt, they still have things to teach me, six years later. I know you’ll be able to see the good in them someday. That day is not today and it’s okay to not be okay, but in the future, you’ll be thankful for this time in your life.

As Forrest Gump said, “shit happens”. Your ideas about life and faith are changing for the best. For the first time, you’re seeing this world as it truly is…broken. And you’re seeing yourself as broken and in need of redemption and grace. You’ll have these revelations over the years, but this one seems extra traumatic. You will get through this.

Even though your life seems to be falling apart, your classes aren’t. Enjoy this semester. Rock those speeches and debates about Christopher Columbus, the Peanuts gang, and Sarah McLaughlin. Switching your major was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. Congratulations, this rash and emotional decision is the best thing you did for yourself this year. Way to nosce te ipsum! know thyself.

11141161_10152873212617695_7945849188331924705_nAnd, don’t change anything about your relationship with MNM. Even that time you yell at her…she loves you and is the first friend to be honest with you and tell what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. Love her even more for that. Keep sitting on her counter and kitchen floor. Keep washing dishes and cooking with her. You’ll learn far more about life in that blue and yellow kitchen than you’d ever have imagined.


Let me reassure you, life goes on. It may not feel like it can after all that’s happened, but you at least make it to 25 and you’re a much better and healthier person because of this experience. You’ll keep moving forward and taking it one day at a time. Lean on MNM. Keep going to Calvary. Keep reading, you’ll find so much healing in books in the next few years. I promise. Keep up with the Sonic runs, exploring parks, and your solo basketball career. Let nature, and Route 44 sweet teas with peach, help you heal. Write and reflect. Let your words make sense of things, even when you don’t know what you’re feeling.

Let me just say, emotions are not the enemy. Do not apologize or be ashamed for crying or being sad or angry. It’s healthy and good and necessary. And let me just say, I firmly believe everyone should go to counseling by the age of 25. We all have crap in our lives. We all have things to work through. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Trust that process because it brings healing and the Maker uses it. Also, forgiveness. It’s a powerful thing, sweet girl. It takes time, but it will come when you’re ready.

23031163_10155102557200872_7983899911781982151_nYou’ll become brave and courageous. In the next few years, you will place a high value on honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability because it’s the core of your deepest friendships with two sweet ladies you have yet to meet. You’ll solve the world’s problems and a few of your own over a cup of coffee or late night chats at the dinner table. Cherish these moments. Feel deeply and listen actively. These are two of the wisest women you’ll ever meet.

This will last for a season and soon, you’ll enter into a new season. That’s the beauty of life. We are ever changing and growing, learning from the past and seeing life differently because of it. You’ll never escape this experience, but at some point, it won’t feel like it’s tainting your life every day. It’ll be a part of you and our journey. a scar you carry to help remind you of where you’ve come from. You’ll be a more empathetic and understanding gal because of it. These will turn into some of your greatest strengths. Own it and flourish.

“He moved through the days in peace and wonder, for his whole story had been told for the first time, and he found that he was still loved.”

not a sound on the city streets, just the beat of my own heart.

it’s been two months since I made this place my home. it certainly doesn’t feel like home, but it’s a work in progress.

new developments:

  • quarters are a coveted currency in my life. never before have I been so excited to find a quarter at the bottom of my bag or on the street. that’s chump change for some, but one step closer to a load of laundry for me.
  • best way to break in a new apartment? catch a mouse…and from the look of it, find it about a week later. ew.
  • I bought an air mattress for all my guests…in my studio apartment. turns out the pump was missing from my box…rookie mistake. it worked out. thank goodness my friends are resilient.
  • I decided to run the Des Moines marathon. it gets me out of the house, exploring trails and parks, and gives me something to do with my free time. it’s been a goal of mine since I started running in 6th grade to run a marathon by 25. well this is the year, people. I’m doing it.
  • discipline is a struggle. a very necessary struggle to be a functioning adult. running. making decent dinners i.e. balanced, healthy, meat-inclusive meals. cleaning and taking care of my space. focusing and project management at work. making intentional connections with people. so. much. discipline.
  • empathy is one of my top strengths according to StrengthFinders. it’s also my downfall. I tend to take on people’s pain, which is great for relating to people but not so great when trying to function as a human adult, but you’re so sad because of sadness and crap in other people’s lives. this came up when I thought about natural disasters and the potential of moving to Nepal. I got caught up in Hannah Baker’s life through Thirteen Reasons Why. I invest in book characters’ lives so much so that I bawled like my best friend drown in a creek on her way to Terebithia. currently, there are some big life changes in a few of my friends’ lives. what’s that mean for me? sadness and loneliness and excitement and anxiety because I understand what a move entails. bleh.
  • people are kind. I’ve had a few people ask me how I’m doing and how the transition is going. Hannah of a few years ago may have said everything is fine and dandy…or really, that girl may not have even made the move. Hannah today values authenticity and vulnerability. I told them the job is great. the social transition sucks. it takes time, I get that. no doubt. but it’s still hard to be lonesome at times.
  • I’m realizing there are a lot of things that aren’t deal breakers. for example, my apartment is full of dormer ceilings and weird angles. not the end of the world, but I did hit my head one too many times that first couple weeks. a few other things, awkward shower setup, temperature control, lack of cable and internet. These things get me out of the house to explore the libraries and coffee shops in the area. I have been stubborn and wanting to go without because I don’t want to have to need things. I could be in Nepal and living differently. but I’m not. I just don’t need the creature comforts we’ve grown accustomed to. true confessions. I did break down and get an air conditioner because it turns out being able to breathe and sleep in this humid Iowa summer is a necessity.

it’s a good thing, I am okay doing things by myself. I eat out alone. I’ve adventured downtown to an Asian festival and just yesterday, I went to my first movie by myself. It’s not so bad. at the Celebrasian festival, I tried a new drink, discovered a new game, and danced with a bunch of strangers to some rocking music. I danced because I enjoy dancing. also, dancing happens quite often in the car…when I Want it that Way comes on the radio three times in one day, you crank it and car dance for all it’s worth!

those are my thoughts on month two.

making my way downtown.

IMG_2678Making my way downtown, walking fast, faces past and I’m homebound.

Vanessa Carlton knows what’s up, though it’s a process to be sure. I recently moved to the city from small-town Iowa. It’s been an adjustment but it’s coming along at its own pace. These are my reflections from my first month in a new home.

  • it’s a good day when I can make it from point A to B without the aid of Google Maps. baby steps, my friends.
  • I am much more willing to do dishes at someone else’s house as a blessing to my hosts…I can’t say the same is true for the pile of dishes in my own sink.
  • making friends was much easier on the playground. it’s a whole different ballgame out here, people. the real world is teaming with the temptation to compare, degrade, and belittle oneself when interacting with people who have the potential to be kind, sweet friends with life experience and knowledge to teach me amazing things…instead, I see intimidating older folk who chuckle at my naivete. is this the case? maybe. but certainly, they are kind people who are willing to share life with me, despite my insecurities.
  • public libraries are the bee’s knees. true story. I didn’t appreciate them enough growing up, but after working at a library, I see the beautiful role they play in our communities. I can truly say they are one of the most underestimated public services around. there is so much knowledge and wonder contained in one building! what took me so long to see that?! I’m thrilled to have such a good network of libraries around me.
  • spontaneity and the unknown don’t fly with me. I can handle it to some extent, but for the most part, I like to know what’s going on and have a clue of what to expect. let’s just say this is something I’m working on. so many opportunities for growth! Downtown HyVee – 1, Hannah – 0.
  • perspective and time make all the difference in the world. taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture helps. taking a deep breath works too.  it’s funny to me that I was okay in Nepal to explore the city by myself and not feel overwhelmed or get upset. it was an adventure…and maybe that’s what the difference is. this is my daily reality, and the thrill of the adventure wears thin sometimes.

the moral of the story is I’m seeing the timing of the bigger picture and it’s encouraging, challenging, and affirming. I can see how my life and experiences up to this moment have prepared me for this new season. the struggles of being a young missionary and trying to find my place and role in a diverse town and small startup. it opened my eyes to the world and the beautiful cultures and people in it. that’s also where most of my graphic design training, professional experience, and teamwork came into play. my period of librarianship has reinforced a deep love of reading and seeking knowledge. hearing “not yet” to a dream was hard but there is a good reason why I’m experiencing life on my own in an American city versus Kathmandu right now. a very good reason, my friends. there is always room for growth.



a step forward.

It’s the last day of the month. The last day of the year. The last day of Dressember.  

sadly, this one didnt make the cut

 I’m really okay with not wearing dresses or blogging everyday anymore. It was a great and challenging experience, but I’m pretty excited for a more flexible style and schedule and jeans. I love me some jeans!

Did I have a crazy revelation or raise a boatload of money for Nepal? No, not so much. But that’s fine. I opened up about Nepal and trafficking. I learned about a few more organizations and got to be a part of a global movement to combat human trafficking. I hope y’all feel like you know a wee bit more about what’s going on in the world.  

So, though the month is over and nothing feels drastically different with my life or the slavery situation in the world, it’s okay because this was a step forward. A month to be open and vulnerable. A time of intention and purpose.

I don’t want this to be the end. And it won’t be. I can guarantee that. This was a good jump start for my trip to Nepal. For my future working to fight trafficking, whatever that may look like. I already have a couple plans for the beginning of the year to continue this journey or awareness and education.  

So, here’s to the new year. Here’s to education. Here’s to taking steps forward. Here’s to justice and grace. Here’s to value and dignity and feeling loved. Here’s to the beautiful people of Nepal.


The last few years, I’ve read countless articles and a couple books about how to help people well.  about how charity can actually hurt people more than it benefits them.  about how short-term trips may cause more damage to the economy and organization you work with.

This realization causes serious cognitive dissonance in my life.  I want to help but I’m scared that I’ll hurt someone in the process.  And I have.  I’ve been a part of several projects and worked with a number of organizations before I was conscious of my actions’ consequences.  That freaks me out.  To what extent did my trip to Haiti cost the orphanage we stayed and worked at?  How did I make those parents feel when I “adopted” their family for Christmas?  How did handing out food to the same people year after year help them provide for themselves?
It’s these thoughts that haunt me.  these thoughts that hold me back and make me ponder why me?  what can I offer?  what difference can I make?  and how?  how do I go about this and cause the least amount of damage in my wake?


photo credit: Jason Schuller

So, these books and articles were helpful by making me aware and mindful…but they also made me timid and anxious about helping people.  Have you ever thought about these things?  How your best intentions of benevolence may be received as maleficence?

Have you also thought about how not acting on the needs that you see may be contributing just as much?  We’re in this awful place of tension.  It’s hard to process and work through.

You see hungry people so you want to give them food…but you also know that handouts encourage dependency and that’s not terribly helpful now is it?  but there are hungry people?!  what do you do about it?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I guess you do what feels right to you; what gives you the least amount of cognitive dissonance.  Could you have ruined someone’s life with one meal?  no, probably not.  Can you learn from that experience and modify your actions for the next need you run across.  Of course!

What I’m saying is, it does no good in the world to spend all your time thinking, theorizing, and strategizing how to help your cause because you don’t want to mess up.  Those things all have value, they do, but I believe we must act as well.  And we learn so much, maybe more, from those actions.  From the mistakes we make.  At what cost, you may ask?  That depends on the situation.  But we can’t sit in a room and account for every possible consequence.  That’s not feasible if you really want to make a difference for this cause you care so deeply about.

Maybe making a wake is part of the process.  This sounds so cruel (please don’t take this as an extreme) but maybe hurting others now can help you become a better helper.  Maybe you have to be part of a flawed process, in order to see the flaws.  To gain a better perspective about the people and the situation you’re working with.  To walk through it with someone and understand how the process made them feel.  To ask better questions of yourself and the community you’re working with.  Notice I said with, not for.

There are so many obstacles that could get in our way.  so many.  but we have to work around them.  we have to get over our fears and do one small thing to start with.  Soon enough, these small things will add up to make this great wake behind us.

i have a dream.

It’s the end of the month and I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over.  Trafficking sucks.  I love Nepal.  It’s prevalent there.  I want to do something about it.

Now, what does that look like?  I honestly don’t know.  For years, I’ve dreamed about starting a women’s ministry.  One that uses the story of Don Quixote and Dulcinea (Aldonza).  Something that helps these girls see they are loved and valued even if they don’t share those same feelings.  Something that shows them hope for future opportunities and a full life, despite what they’ve been through.

There would be training, because empowerment is a far better solution than a simple rescue-op and setting them free into a foreign life after being oppressed in a trafficking situation.  Uncertainty-management theory suggests victims are likely to return to the trafficked lifestyle for fear of what lies beyond that world (Thank you, Comm Theory).  There would also be counseling, because let’s be real, we all need counseling.  Patience, love, grace, support.  An open and honest community.  books, resources, time and space to process and heal.  I really believe this is key.  Everyone is going to handle things differently.  It’s a process.  a journey that each person needs to go on themselves, with the love and support of others.

These ideas are just ideas.  Nothing is in place.  It may just be a dream for the rest of my life, I’m not sure.  The more I look into organizations and what is currently being done, I see there are so many good NGOs out there.  The more I work at a start up nonprofit, the more confident I become that it must be a calling.  The more I think about this dream, the less sure I am.  photo-3

DQ and Dulcinea were a huge part of my process.  I fell in love with their story and can see myself in it.  It’s like one of those books or movies you love dearly.  You know the one you want everyone in the world to see and love….but they don’t.  They come up with all sorts of faults or say it’s just okay, or sit on their phone the whole time you’re watching it.  It’s super disappointing.  And your instinct is to protect this thing that you love so you don’t have to go through the disappointment again with someone else.

Maybe this is what I’m feeling.  Or maybe it’s not the right time for the dream.  Or maybe that dream was to get me through a season of life.  I honestly don’t know, but that’s where I’m at and I’m okay with it.  It may not take the form of a full-fledged nonprofit.  It may be purely online, one on one, visual, or written. I have no idea.  But I’m thankful God shared this redemptive story with me a good five years ago.  This nonprofit vision helped me see a purpose for my story.