Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Only Love Can Do That!

In light of recent events, I thought it appropriate to share a quote and a "what I'm loving" post!

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Dr. Martin Luther King

What I'm loving... 

Families melding together.

A house with lights.

A German Christmas fest that would make my Gpa proud!  Complete with krat, spiced wine and a mini boot!

Christmas flowers from Andy.
The sparkle of the season.

CHEERS, Everyone! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acupuncture for Infertility

I am no fan of needles.  But, somehow, I dislike the fact that I don’t like needles even more than the needles themselves.  I’m a subscriber to the whole “mind over matter” train of thought.  Because of that, I always think I can mentally push through the whole needle-hating situation.  In fact, one time I left a class in high-school to give blood, and announced that I would be back after “saving the world!”   True to form, I headed in, had my finger pricked, and passed out.  True, embarrassing story!

So, I warned my doctor.  I told her I don’t like needles, and she was nice enough to cover my eyes with a scrumptious “lavender pack” before inserting needles into all of my pressure points and leaving me with a nurse to properly “harness my chi!”  I harnessed for three minutes.  Yes, you read that right.  Three minutes before I began to sweat like I had just finished a marathon, and lose all of my color.  Thankfully that nurse noticed (because this stubborn girl was hell-bent on pushing through) and removed all of the needles.  I lasted one-tenth the amount of time an actual acupuncture session typically lasts.

They talked to me about how my body was hitting a “reset” button, and how the energy was actually moving.  They attempted to convince me that this was a good thing.  And, I appreciate their effort.  I really do. Hell, everything they said may even be true!  But, nothing could stop the avalanche of tears that followed.

The problem with infertility is that it’s a constant battle with the idea of failing.  And, as I have explained before, I am an achiever.  This particular day may very well have been the hardest day I’ve had on this journey.  I couldn’t stop the flow of tears, the idea that I would never be able to give my husband a baby or the thought that if I couldn’t handle acupuncture than maybe I couldn’t handle the pain and anxiety of being a parent.  Another problem with infertility is that you come face-to-face with yourself at your most vulnerable.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

More on Infertility Choices

I started writing this post because I couldn’t find any resources that really spoke to me as I was experiencing each of these stages of infertility.  What I was looking for was someone to walk me through the choices that were offered, and how they decided what their next step would be.  Unfortunately, I never found this.  Maybe it was a futile quest.

Ultimately, I hope our decision-making process is helpful to someone else.  

Following our initial baseline testing including; a sample from Andy, blood work from me, a sonohysterogram, and another ultrasound, we were left with little answers.  Although my reproductive anatomy seems to skew left, no one has indicated that this issue should be cause for any major alarm.  Because fibroids were detected in my earlier MRI, we went forward with a sonohysterogram that did not show any blockages due to fibroids.  Ultimately, there is suspicion of endometriosis but we walked away with a diagnosis of “unknown infertile!” 

By “walked away,” I mean we literally told the doctor that we would like more time despite feeling pressure to make a decision that day.  The options we were given included:

Clomid and IUI:
Thanks to the blood work and semen analysis, we know that I am ovulating and that Andy has healthy little swimmers.  So, to me, this seems like we would be attempting to solve a problem that we don’t have.  My logical mind tells me that this strategy could potentially lead to more problems (hello, multiples!).

This procedure seemed to me, to not be the “right” solution for us because it would be expensive and limiting.  Although it could give us an idea of issues undetected before now, we could easily end up lighter in the pocket and with no further answers!  Ultimately, our doctor indicated that we could get many of the same answers that we would from this procedure from option #3 and more!  (Who doesn’t love a good BOGO sale?)

Laparoscopic Surgery for Endometriosis
For us, this seems to be the most appropriate next step.  My fear is undergoing an unnecessary surgery should I not actually have endometriosis.  And, frankly, more extreme poking and prodding doesn’t sound appealing right now.
So, we decided to take our time.  We are taking a few months to explore some “holistic” methods such as chiropractic and acupuncture.  And, in three months, we will revisit our options!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Infertility Choices

Month one was followed by many more months of unprotected intercourse.  I say it that way because I always hated the idea of “trying.”  I had this notion that trying was for the couples who were desperate to have a child.  We weren’t.  We were living in Florida for a year following a year in Oregon.  We were traveling the country, gaining experiences with each other and building careers.  But, I was smart enough to know that it would be convenient to experience the early stages of pregnancy while we were living away from home-base, and I was working from home.   In my perfectly-plotted plan, I would be able to “toss my cooks” in my very own toilet while growing ears, lips and little lungs!

As the months wore on, the worrier that lives inside my brain began to grow.  I experienced more periods that were heavy and abnormally uncomfortable so I decided to call my doctor.  We had been at this for around nine months, and while I wasn’t overly concerned about the time, I began to be concerned about my cycle and the increasing severity of it.  I also wanted someone to tell me that it was okay.  That everything was normal – the periods, the time period and the emotions that were just starting to pop-up around the whole ordeal.  Unfortunately, that’s not what I got.

I withstood them taking my blood to check my hormone levels (I hate needles!  But, more on that later!), an ultrasound and a very uncomfortable internal ultrasound.  The internal ultrasound lasted a long time.  I had never had one done before so I didn’t know how abnormal this was.  I also didn’t know that ultrasound techs typically prod around gently (rather than violently) while talking to you about the weather, your job or the holidays (rather than where the heck your left ovary is!). I later got a copy of the report from this ultrasound and the tech described it as “very difficult!”

This is the part where I have to stop and tell you a little about myself.  I am an achiever by nature.  I literally have one of those corporate signs that sits above my desk so people can easily identify my strengths.  Second on the list is “achiever!”  This means that I set goals for myself, for organizations, and I go after them.  Relentlessly.  This means that when something is described as “very difficult,” I want to conquer it!  This isn't a particularly favorable strength when it comes to fertility.

The ultrasound seemed discouraging, and my instincts were confirmed when I got a call from the doctor’s office.  They indicated my estrogen was extremely low, and that they’d like to have me go in for an MRI to rule out any “masses” that may be pushing my organs to the one side.  All the sudden this seemed like it could be a much larger issue than infertility.  

I experienced the whole scary MRI process complete with multiple pokes at various parts of my body in an effort to insert an IV, tears and an uncomfortable joke made by a nurse about my inability to be a drug-addict due to my fear of needles and apparent bad veins.  (Mental note:  Add drug addict to the long-list of things I am not good at that also includes; making babies, internal ultrasounds and dealing with needles!)  I waited a few anxious days for the results of the MRI and was only somewhat relieved when I got a call explaining that there were no masses in my abdomen.  

I say somewhat relieved because both the questions that I started with, remained – why are my periods abnormal, and is this somehow linked to issues with fertility?  I was however given a drug that could help with my heavy periods which I never took.  Because I would be moving to a new state soon, I was able to pick up my file including all the reports from the MRI, etc. so that I would be able to share it with a new doctor in my new state.  I’m happy I did this as the reports offered more insight into potential issues – mainly mentions of fibroids, etc. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Whose Life Is This Anyway?

I can remember a few moments in recent history when I’ve had the thought of “whose life did I just walk into?”  One involved an amazing experience in Napa (and exceptional wine), and the other involved a paper bag and a request for a sample from my husband.  I’d take the former every single time offered.

As we moved to our new state and settled into our new digs, I began to seek out a new doctor.  I was positively in denial.  Errr, I mean, I really thought I just needed a great OBGYN to answer a few questions.   I called a doctor’s office that I felt comfortable with, and as concisely as possible explained our situation, to which she replied with a swift referral to their infertility specialist.  {Insert instinct to open one of those bottles of exceptional wine at the mere thought of an infertility specialist!}

Thanks to busy schedules, I eventually got an appointment with said doctor on the day of my husband’s annual division meeting which left me to experience this alone {unlike the wine situation!}.  Blurg.

What surprised me about this appointment was how few questions were asked of me.  This was my first appointment and there were no less than three mentions of IVF.  Hell, we hadn’t even quite hit a year of trying – why would we be discussing IVF?  I think there is basic protocol in working with infertile women that includes trying to get them pregnant as quickly as possible and, in some cases, at any cost.  But, my husband and I are quite pragmatic.  We are known to map out our lives on white boards, and we are both planners!  (I know, I know, amazing candidates for the unpredictable journey of infertility – or parenthood for that matter!)

Further, I do not feel a desperate need to have a child.  While I understand that this may put me in the minority of infertile women, it’s the truth.  I always thought that my husband and I would have a family.  I know that we could give a child a good home to grow up in, and I believe that I would love being a mom almost as much as Andy would love being a dad.  BUT, I also know that I have a great life.  There is a huge part of me that believes “having it all” means appreciating all that you have been given.  I know that I have an amazing husband, a career that I enjoy, and family and friends who are second to none.  Therefore, I can’t help but think that this could be my “all.”
But, I digress.  Back to the doctor’s office…

The whole experience caught me off-guard!  So, I did what any smart, educated, very confused woman would do – I started crying.  Not for any particular reason other than, I repeat, I felt so confused.  I wanted to scream my symptoms at these nurses and have them help me find a solution, but I was quickly learning that it wasn’t that easy.  And, although I felt as though I had been put through the entire gamut already; this was merely the beginning.

Ultimately, we decided that we would proceed with the basic testing.  A sample from Andy.  More blood work from me.  A sonohysterogram.  And, another ultrasound.

I was now three months into this journey and hadn’t had a single question answered.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Work in Progress.

We're slowly getting settled and it still feels like home.  We were lucky to find a place to call ours that needed little more than our personal touch.  Most of that touch has come in the form of paint.  We chose to change the wall colors and even the oak trim to better suit our tastes.  

This might be the one and only "before and after" shot.   Taking photos of our progress will also be added to "the list!"

I think painting brings with it an unhealthy obsession with perfection.  I am no professional painter, and therefore it seems there is always something to “touch-up;” always something to make better - like many things in our lives!

So, I'll state the obvious and add "the blog" to the ever-growing list of things that could use a "touch-up."

I walked away from this place for a while, and, to be honest, I often do this.  When I’m designing something that just isn’t getting “there,” I walk away.  When Andy and I are at a crossroad, and no strides are being made toward a productive resolution, I walk away.  And, when I’m out for a run and I just can’t keep up the pace, I walk away.  I do this to put space between where I am and where I’m trying to go.
The walk-away technique has something to do with a pursuit of perfection.  If the design project isn’t quite perfect, the discussion not heading toward a perfect solution, and the run not perfectly exhilarating; I walk away.  Lately I have been obsessing over the whole idea of perfection, and my inability to meet my own expectations.
Then I read this quote.

 “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

I tend to be the type of person we all read articles about.  Usually those articles are titled something like; “why you can’t have it all,” or anything equally motivating.  I read them, and then – quickly – ignore their message and continue.

I continue to strive for that picture-perfect existence where I have a fulfilling career, productive conversations with my husband, a clean house with a built-in system that washes {and folds} the laundry, so I have time to listen intently to friends, lend a helping hand to family, and work-out five times a week!

But, I forgot that the cracks tell the story, not the perfection.   The cracks shed light on who we are, and the missed strokes remind us of where we’ve been.  Although I think walking away can be the solution, I know it's not the the only solution.  I think evaluating the crack is what gives us the light.  And, this is what sets us apart.

I think it’s important to spend time with our faults.  To share them.  To develop strength through others, and to learn from our weaknesses.  I think it’s important to have people see you when your juggling act has ceased - when the balls have fallen.

I think that's exactly how the light comes in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It Started As a Hunch.

I always had a hunch.  A hunch that it wouldn’t be as easy for me to start a family as it seemed to be for everyone around me.  But, I’ve had a hunch about a lot of things in life – mainly that I’d win the lottery regardless of my playing it – and many of them have fallen through.  I used to share my suspicion with close friends like I do with other silly thoughts that come and go – Am I getting an old lady butt?  I’m terrified that when I actually want a baby, I’ll be infertile!  Is it just me or would Kate Beckinsale play me while that guy who plays “Joel” on Parenthood plays Andy in the story of our life?  This particular thought – the one about my perceived inability to procreate – was always received with a simple; “we all think we can’t have kids until we turn up pregnant!"

For me and my husband, this hunch has proved to be something more.  This is our story.  And, let me clarify that this story is in laymen’s terms because everything I have found to this point about this whole infertile subject is very stiff, very Doogie Howser, MD sounding. 

My hunch became more of a reality as my period grew increasingly heavy and intolerable.  I remember quite clearly the day I was wearing a “champagne” colored bridesmaid dress as something more the color of merlot began leaking down my leg {despite me already using multiple feminine products}.  I remember hobbling to the bathroom to clean-up and calling my {pregnant} sister for reinforcements in the form of diaper-like pads.  Anyone who knows the pain of “trying,” knows that the reminders of babies and families are everywhere.  Even in our underwear!  Ah, touché life… touché!

This was month one of “trying.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wandering Home.

I wanted to finish sharing the details of our journey from Florida to Iowa.  I really did.  But, it seems the fast-forward button got stuck on the remote that controls my life.  Maybe I was eating too much Jerry Cherry Laffy Taffy and that's what did it.  In short, I don't know where the time goes.  But, ever one to keep my word... here's a quick recap of our trip that was, gasp, over a month ago now!

We hit Smoky Mountain National Park, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Bloomington, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois before we finally found our way home. We laughed a lot.  Fit in time with family and friends, and even managed to work a little.  

I had to include this photo because it just may be some serious home decor inspiration.  I love the mix of natural wood, metal and the pop of turquoise.  I think I was supposed to be learning how Bourbon is made at this point in the trip but was distracted by the feel of the room!
I don't mean to gloss over the trip.  It was amazing.  It was the cherry on top of our sundae that has been the last two years.  And, I love maraschino cherries!  But, somehow when I sat down to write the last of these short stories, this is all I had left...

Marion, Iowa.
I used to try my best to not use the term “home” when I referred to Iowa.  I believe in creating your home wherever you go.  I think it’s important to feel at home in new experiences, in your skin, in unknown places, with different people and, overall, in your life.  But, then I climbed into my own bed on Bellboy Drive with the windows open and a cool breeze coming in and I started questioning everything I believed.  Because, well, this feels like home.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Short Stories From Traveling Home Pt. 1

Savannah, Georgia.
Sometimes when I eat really good meals I plan my last bite out in advance.  I know exactly the flavors I want to linger in my mouth.  Like, when I’m eating seafood ravioli I know the garlic bread isn’t the winning last bite; it’s the noodle, a bit of ravioli stuffing and a bunch of sauce, washed down with a swig of wine.

Anyway, Savannah wasn’t like the all-knowing last bite.  I couldn’t figure out which part of Savannah I wanted to experience last.  Each time I turned the corner to see old buildings, beautiful homes, huge trees, frozen drink bars, breweries or, wait for it, FORSYTH Park, I wanted to let each of those experiences linger longer.  I wanted to freeze-frame the stories my husband told me of his younger self wandering this town many years ago while stationed at Ft. Stewart.  I wanted to knock on the doors of beautiful homes and ask if they wanted a houseguest for ever a while.  And, I wanted more peach sangria, and more people watching while eating pizza.  But, that’s the problem with road trips; they’re short.  You have to come and conquer in a hurry, and hope that the memories are solidified in your brain until next time.

Charleston, South Carolina.
Unfortunately, we were early for the whole Blake Lively / Ryan Reynolds nuptials.  But, I understand why they chose to get married in this location.  It is romantic.  Romantic like it feels right to walk into a beautiful restaurant, and splurge on the whole experience.  And, hold hands while exploring.  A morning run even feels romantic in this town.  I think it’s the scenery, but it might be the buildings, or brick roads, or fountains.  Or, it might have been the sight of my husband’s face when he spotted his utopia – a coffee shop / bakery / carrier of craft beers – at the end of said run.

{The bar pictured here is Closed For Business - Worth a stop if you're around!}

Asheville, North Carolina.
Something about Asheville made me laugh.   It started upon arrival and it really didn’t stop.  Maybe it was because the town reminded me of Portland and I couldn’t contain my excitement.  Maybe it was the amazing meal (the best of the entire journey!).  Maybe it was because, after a few too many beers, Andy and I thought we were hilarious in all sorts of weird ways.  Or, maybe it was because Asheville is confused about whether women need to wear shirts.  And, I was caught off guard.  And, I need to grow up!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Leaving Melbourne

This has been a hard post for me to write.   I’ve started, erased what I started, put a title up, erased it, and restarted, no less than six times.  This is the end, but it’s also the beginning, in the whole when one door closes, another opens, way of thinking.  This is the end of our two-year “traveling adventure," and it’s the beginning of a road trip that we’re excited about {posts from Savannah, Charleston, The Smokey Mountains, Bloomington, and Chicago coming soon!}.  It’s the end of one chapter but the beginning of a whole new one.

The more I think about wrapping this chapter of our story up, the more I think about previous chapters.  When we left Iowa, it was a stressful time.  At one point, while I gave myself fully to a job, a fiancé who was grinding through law-school, and a family enduring what many families have endured the last few years – the gruesome effects of unemployment – my body revolted and developed a rash that covered much of my torso.  All-the-while, I planned a wedding and hoped the rash would be on its way in time!
So, when we pulled away from Iowa, I shed no tears.  Far from home, I found a place to become a more balanced version of myself – sans rash!  Andy and I found a stride as a couple in Oregon.  We learned how to exist without any preconceived notions of who we should be, and somehow found our way to a new us that felt more genuine.  I did shed tears as we left Oregon.  My trembling Bambi-like legs were unsure if they could support me without the comfort of an unknown place full of inspiration.

Saying goodbye to the beach!
We arrived in Florida and immediately felt less connected to the area.  But, we hit the ground running.  Literally.  With the Florida sun shining down, we put those legs to the test and began to train for a marathon.  These training runs saw our hearts and determination stretch further than I had ever seen them be stretched.  But, more than that, these runs saw the same version of Andy and myself that we had come to rely on in Oregon.  Soon we grew an attachment to our new state and our legs became even stronger – more like Bambi as a full-grown stag!

And, the sun sets on this chapter!

What I tend to like most about each of our chapters, is that they are unremarkable.  Our story is like so many others.  Our road has speedbumps, and twists and turns, just as everyone's does.  But, we have been lucky to experience this trip together.  We made a decision early on to allow this experience to be an adventure.  The thing about adventure is that it grows in your heart, and the more you feed it, the more it wants to be fed.  So, I know we'll keep feeding, keep growing, and keep watching doors open!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Key West

I have to say that I was hesitant when we decided to head down to Key West.  I had only heard great things about the area but, for some reason, it wasn't at the top of my "have to see" list.  Fortunately, the area exceeded all of my expectations!

Since it was just Andy and I, we sought out more low-key areas to enjoy cocktails, the night life, and dinner while still taking in all that Duval Street has to offer.  Here are a few of our recommendations...
  • Sunset Pier:  We had some awesome nachos and pina coladas as we watched the sunset on our first night.  This was a great way to start our weekend and we'd highly recommend this stop!
  • Sippin:  We found this little coffee shop one morning, and I have since had a reoccuring dream about the key-lime croissant that I had with my coffee - AMAZING!
A Key West Sunset
Remember the croissant will haunt you... in a good way.
  • El Siboney:  This place is off the beaten path but well worth the walk.  If you like Cuban food, I'd recommend their Ropa Vieja.
  • The Porch:  We were excited to find this low-key bar right on Duval with a great selection of craft-brews.
  • The Gardens Hotel:  We wandered into this hotel because we saw "wine bar" on their sign.  In the back, you can put money on a card in order to taste the many wines they have on tap while walking through their gardens.  The wine was great, the atmosphere was great, I can't imagine how great it would be to stay at the hotel!
  • Sloppy Joe's:  Ok, this one is more renowned but we loved the pina coladas here, and even found that they had a good selection of beer on tap at the small bar in the back.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park:  Thanks to Andy's research, we knew that beaches in Key West were somewhat hard to find.  So, we headed to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to spend a relaxing afternoon reading on the beach! 
The obligatory Southernmost Point photo!

A few Key West snapshots.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Clarity in Travel

One day, a few years ago, Andy mentioned to me the idea of a job that would move us to a different city each year for three years.   Typical to many of my emotion-first reactions, I shut-down the idea before he could explain further.  There was no way that I would give up my career while we wandered around the country exploring his – especially when there were perfectly good jobs to be had in Iowa.

But, if my husband is nothing else he is persistent.  And, as the economy took a tumble, the idea of leaving the familiar behind became intriguing.  We kept talking, as we often do when it comes to big decisions, and, in the end, I came around.

Today, what I had originally feared has become the best two years of our lives.  And, what was once familiar seems somehow intimidating.  With all these emotions in tow, we headed out for one last trip before the big move back.  And, true-to-form, we didn't touch the radio dial on the drive from Melbourne to Key West.  Instead, we talked through much different emotions and decisions than we had just a few short years ago. 

We stopped in Key Largo, to break up the drive, and found our way to Bahia Honda State Park.  We lucked-in to two spots on a boat that was heading out to do some snorkeling.  After a quick 45-minute boat ride, we found ourselves in the middle of the ocean with strangers, snorkeling equipment, and much to explore.  I jumped in, and felt the butterflies of anxiety before I blew up my life-vest, got my mask and snorkel situated and grabbed my husband's hand.

The last few years I have read a lot about why people travel. For most people it's to escape. It's a time to leave the computer and cell-phone behind, and live in the moment. Then there are those who find that the unknown provides clarity. I remember the day we left Iowa like it was yesterday; just as I remember the day we left Oregon. What I remember is inching closer to a place of clarity. A place that says that we can travel – seek out that escape – everyday not just while we're on vacation!

As the hour and a half of snorkel exploration evaporated in what seemed like minutes, I realized that there was nothing to be intimidated by. Not in this ocean and not in what lies ahead. There will be different bumps in our road, and there may be less "new" places to drive to and explore, but there will be no less adventure. Because, if we can continue to dive into life the way we dove into the ocean, continue to hold each other’s hand as we see and do what's new, continue to kick when the other is tired and laugh along the way, than we can continue to live in this place of clarity!

{More from Key West later this week!}

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Few of Our Favorite Travel Tips

We are planning a quick weekend getaway.  We are excited for this trip and plan to soak up the last of our "us" time before we head out on a much longer trip {back to Iowa} in a few short weeks.  As I was packing this morning, I realized that we've learned a thing or two about traveling the past two years.  So, I thought I'd share a few tips on how we get up and go without killing our wallet!

1.   We always pack snacks!
I love to eat and especially love enjoying local food when we’re traveling but, let’s be honest, our bank account {and waistlines} can’t handle eating every meal out while on the road.  So, we typically arm ourselves with snacks to get us through the day to cut down on the meals that we end up eating out.  We have found almonds, PB&J, pita chips and hummus, water, and Starbucks Double Shots do the trick just fine.  In addition, we will sometimes pack beer and wine in case we want to enjoy a cocktail at the hotel before heading out in the evening!  Finally, we love to share meals when we do eat out.  Again, this saves us money but also leaves room in our bellies to enjoy local brews or a glass {ok, multiple glasses!} of wine.

2.   Free breakfast!
Of course, when you’re flying somewhere, rather than driving, it can be hard to lug along a giant bag of snacks.  This is when I typically try to find a hotel with a continental breakfast.  You can get through a morning of exploring by grabbing a yogurt and a few bananas as you fly out the door.  One caveat that I will add, however, is that we love coffee.  We will often grab our free breakfast to-go, and seek out a local coffee shop to enjoy their brews.  And, we collect Starbucks mugs from across the country so if we can’t find a local joint, we’ll always stop in a Starbucks! 

3.   Be Brand Loyal!
Is this a travel-tip list or my marketing philosophies?  Well, both, I guess!  I love reward programs and am a member of many.  When we fly, we typically fly Delta.  So, I’m pretty brand-loyal there and that translates into my hotel stays.  If we are a member of a reward program at a hotel that we don’t stay at often, I ensure my points go toward my Delta miles.  However, we have a few favorite hotel chains, and for those we stick with accruing their points that offer free stays down the road.  I also seek out their promotions that can offer 4x (or more) the points at different times during the year!

4.   I LOVE Groupon Getaway and Living Social Escapes!
When we start planning a trip I typically head to Groupon and Living Social to see what kind of deals they have in the given area.  We have had great luck so far.  Hotels often offer good deals on stays and include vouchers for food and drinks while you’re there.  I love this because it gives us a chance to head to the bar, grab a drink, and ask the bartender for local recommendations! 

Last year, when we went to Vancouver, we had a pretty specific budget and no specific plans so I hopped on Groupon and bought a deal for our hotel and multiple attractions in the area.  The Groupons lead us to cool local restaurants and different parts of the city that we may not have otherwise sought out.  In looking back, this was one of our all-time favorite trips!

5.   Social Media Rocks!
Again, what’s with the marketing director appearing in this post?  I love to ask for recommendations!  I don’t go many places without shooting a Tweet asking for must-see areas!  When we were planning our trip to Napa, I reached out to our favorite wineries in the Willamette Valley on Twitter for recommendations.  I then researched the recommended wineries on Facebook to learn even more, and all that research proved fruitful!  We also never underestimate our friends and family who will point us in the right direction based on their experiences in a given area!  

How’s that for a morning mind-dump?  Balancing our budget, and need for adventure, can be tricky so we are always looking for more tips on how to accomplish this task.  What do you recommend?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Good Morning!

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

As I fill my new house with furniture I love and reminders of places we’ve been, I can’t help but think of what I envision our new house to be.  I’m a pretty visual person.  I get outfits stuck in my head and get frustrated when I can’t find said original outfit {invented in my head} either online or in stores.  So, it’s no wonder that I have a picture of what I want our new house to be.  This beautiful picture includes green walls, furniture that is a good mix of modern and rustic, and great bedding {a personal obsession!}.  But, the picture includes friends who find comfort being in our space, lots of laughter, and eventually tiny feet tapping across the floor too.

What I’ve been thinking a lot about is what happens when the picture  – that perfect image –  isn’t achieved.  I've been working toward putting as much energy into the "other" stuff - our well-being - as I’ve been putting into our décor.  Because as we plan for beautiful walls, furniture, and families, what is most important is that we feel at home with wherever life takes us.

And, this morning it took us to the beach to watch the sun rise.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

It was a few weeks ago when I made the drive from Waterloo to Cedar Rapids to work for a day.  On the drive I heard one of those songs that stays in your head and really starts to bug you.  You know it.  It’s by Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles.  But, this time, I turned the song up, and started singing along.  All the sudden it seemed it was written for me.

Because, after this particular work-day, I would pick Andy up from the airport and drive us down to Davenport for a good friend’s wedding (the first of two wedding-weekends in a row!).  And, I had already started receiving text messages from friends who were sharing in my excitement for the weekends ahead.  The words never rang more true.

“…There’s only one place they call me one of their own.”

So, we checked in at the hotel in downtown Davenport, and headed right over to have a beer at the first of many “old stomping grounds.”  Front Street Brewery had an ice-cold Cherry Ale on tap for me!  It’s funny how it tasted even sweeter than remembered as I kicked-off my vacation home.

We celebrated the new Bowers into the morning hours two nights in a row, and woke up early to suck in as much of our home state as we could.  We hit the Davenport farmers market, a little café for breakfast, our favorite coffee shop, grocery store, and hotelVetro!  All of this in just the first weekend! 

And, then we spent the week with family.  Kissing baby heads, helping siblings, and drinking wine with good friends.  All the while we were making phone calls, and getting ready to officially start building our road back home. 

“...I went as far as I could, I tried to find a new face, There isn't one of these lines that I would erase…”

At the end of the week, we went ahead, and signed our first mortgage papers.  And, it felt right.  We are ready to put down some roots.  To move to Marion, Iowa in September.  To come home.

“…It doesn't matter where you are, it doesn't matter where you go, if it's a million miles away or just a mile up the road, take it in, take it with you when you go…”

Yeah, I took a pic of Andy signing the papers.  Be jealous of Andy's embarrassing wife!

And, we were lucky enough to celebrate our next step as a married couple with great friends as they begin their personal journey. 

"...Who says you can't go home!?"

Congrats, Betsy & Caleb!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Date Night

I often reflect on how thankful I am for being able to continue my career by working remotely.  I know I’m fortunate, and I'm truly grateful, but sometimes the monotonous days start to wear on me.  Every once in a while, the walls start closing in, and the next thing you know, Andy and I are in an argument about tomatoes.  Yup, we have it out over who cut-up the extra tomato in the fridge.  And, at some point in the ridiculous argument we realize that it’s time for a night out.  A date night.  Because, this just won’t do.

So, we recently left our tomato quarrels behind and headed to West Palm Beach.  We discovered this area a few months ago, and really enjoy planning special nights down there.  For one, there are great restaurants, and many stores we don’t have access to in Melbourne, but we also enjoy the drive time so we can either sing loudly to Zac Brown Band or hash out whatever is going on between the two of us.  {Confession, I cut up the extra tomato!}

We started this particular night at City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill.  We like to stop here for happy hour because of their extensive wine list and two for one special.  On this particular night we enjoyed glasses of Van Duzer and David Bruce Pinot Noir as well as a glass of Stag’s Leap “Hands of Time.”  And, we’d recommend them all.

Somewhere between strolling through shops, chats, and a few tears, we got back to a place that will "do."  I suppose this place is different for everyone, and the scenarios that shine light on just how out of sync we may be are different as well.  But, I believe in taking the time to find this place.  I believe that life should be lived in this place of synergy with each other, and with ourselves. 

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