Ghetto Fabulous

Ghetto fabulous window

A not awesome sidebar from our trip to Lamoni over the weekend was something that happened to my car. We pulled into the Pizza Shack on the way out of town with a trailer full of Alli’s paintings.

When we came out to the car, I saw that the driver’s side window of my car (as in my side) had slid down. I tried rolling it back up.

Not so much.

I realized it had fallen off the track in some way and I didn’t have my automotive tools with me. Duct tape to the rescue!

Now, I have to make sure and thank Varsity Drug in Lamoni (stores in Lamoni don’t really have websites, or I’d link it) for actually having duct tape since there wasn’t a hardware store readily available. (FYI, there is a hardware store in Lamoni, but it wasn’t open. At noon. On a Saturday.)

So the Durango is starting to fall apart. It’s got almost 150,000 miles on it now and it’s got a good 50-75,000 more (at the least). For now, I’m planning to rock the ghetto duct tape look (although it does make it difficult to roll down the window and get the mail) and I’ll probably head to Anderson Automotive to get it fixed.

But for now, that’s why my window looks ridiculous.

The Pizza Shack

I went to college in a small Iowa town called Lamoni (pronounced LUH-MOAN-EYE).

In that town are maybe 6 places to eat, but everyone in the town knows of the Pizza Shack.


Named the Best Pizza in Iowa (in 1981), the Shack, as it is affectionately known has been owned and run by the same family, the Hamptons, for a few decades now. The Shack was there when my parents were at Graceland in the late ’60s and it is still there now, ten years after I graduated.


I worked there during my freshman, sophomore and junior years at Graceland and during those lunch shifts, I met and got to know the woman who would become my wife. I was a cook and she worked the front of the house. We got to spend a lot of time laughing and talking as we would get ready for lunch service.

I lived next door to the Shack for a year too. That was the year that Alli and I started dating. Coincidence? Probably. I remember how I used to come back from work smelling of pizza. I never tired of that smell of dough and sauce and pepperoni. The old oven, the linoleum floor, the stop light and jukebox and the old decorations all are a part of the wonderful experience and make the memory all that much richer.


If you’re ever on I-35, headed from Kansas City through Des Moines, be sure to stop in Lamoni. Just watch out for the Amish people.

Three-O KAY!

So I don’t know how many know this (obviously Scott & Susan re: their comment), but I turned 30 on Saturday, December 23. It’s a monumental birthday and one that I’ve been looking toward with much trepidation since I turned 25.

I didn’t really want to think about what we were doing for my birthday so I told Alli that I was relying on her to plan everything. The only thing I knew when I went to sleep on the 22nd was that I was to be ready by about a quarter-to-9. I even had Alli tell me what I was to wear for my birthday since I had no clue what we were doing.

Imagine my surprise when we pulled into my parents house and I saw this:

A 15-passenger Van?

A 15-passenger van waiting for us to whisk us off to where ever we might be going. I think my exact words were, “What the heck is a 15-passenger van doing in the driveway?” Either way, my level of excitement went up a notch. My presents were packed into the van and my family (Jake, his girlfriend, Mom & Dad) hopped in with the Arnold family, which had picked us up at our house and drove us here. I looked around and saw trivia questions and some random games here and there and I thought to myself…we might not be very close to the place we are going. I had no idea what was going on and I loved it.

My dad drove us all over creation and we finally emerged in the Northeast of Kansas City near Worlds of Fun. I thought that we might be going out to play in a poker tournament at the casino, but as I thought about it more, I figured that couldn’t be right.

When we merged onto I-35 North past I-435, I had a decent idea of where we were going.

And I was right. The 9 of us drove 2 hours north of Kansas City to have lunch at my favorite place in the world, the place where Alli and I first became friends when she worked in the front and I was a cook in the back, THE PIZZA SHACK, the small hole-in-the-wall pizza place by our alma mater, Graceland. It was a great lunch. We at a TON of pizza and I got to open my presents. Here’s a picture of me texting my college friends to rub it in where I am eating:

Texting from the Shack

I got some great stuff. Alli got me a sweater and some shirts from Express, my parents got me these really cool storage boxes for my office, Jake and Kelly got me a great Chiefs hat that I’d been wanting, Ashley got me Season One of How I Met Your Mother (awesome show), and Tom and Carol got me the leather jacket I’ve been wanting. It was a blast. I even had an awesome cake that Alli made me.

Then we piled back in the van, gave a small tour of the town of Lamoni, then headed back towards Kansas City, our bellies full of pizza. Once we returned, everyone planned to come over to our house to watch the Chiefs game when it started at 7. Alli and I returned the 15-passenger van (thanks Doug & Shauna!) and waited around for everyone to get there. Alli seemed anxious for everyone to get there and it made me think that she might have something else in store for me.

I was right.

Once everyone arrived at our house, Alli had us all sit at the kitchen table. She went into her studio and returned with a large box and a letter that she began to read to me. The letter talked about our trip to Santa Fe last year and how we had just spent time together exploring the city’s many art galleries. It talked about one evening how we had come upon a place called the Andreeva gallery that featured the work of an artist named Erin Cone.

What I didn’t expect was this:

My Erin Cone Original

Alli had been using extra mural money to send to Erin for a commissioned portrait of the two of us, using my favorite picture of the two of us that I self-took when we were in Santa Fe last year. It was the best gift, one that was totally unique and one that I will be grateful for forever. Not only that, but we’ll have it forever, hanging over our bed as a constant remind of that great trip and a great birthday that really wasn’t that scary after all.

Thanks to my family for participating in my great day and thank you so much to Alli, who planned the whole thing, even working in my ability to watch the Chiefs game. I love you. For your 30th, let’s go to ITALY!