Feb 26, 2018

Key Largo

...5 days, 4 nights, free airfare, rental car, and hotel, 6 cities and 600 miles driven in between.

We had not been on an actual leave-the-state vacation since May 2013.
Every time we vacation, we go to South Beach, Miami.

Then we moved to our forever home in early Fall 2013, and infertility consumed our lives until the tail end of 2017

During those trying years, we vowed that if it wasn't in the cards to have a child after all our hard work, we would pack up and use all the points we racked up on that damned credit to take a vacation.

So that's what we did.

In the last five years, we charged every single thing we could (and then immediately paid it off), including all of our fertility treatments, to our credit card.
That's over $100,000 in bills....to get the amenities of our vacation for "free."  

I list how many points, aka, dollars we spent for all of the free stuff in case you're looking for a good deal.

So our vacation was the price tag of whatever we purchased while in Florida, which ended up totaling roughly $1,300, or $260 per day for 5 days.

Here is what we did!

Day 1: 
We flew into Ft. Myers (155 CC points) and picked up our rental car (188 CC points). I had reserved an intermediate sedan with unlimited mileage as I knew we would be driving a lot. When we got there, we immediately regretted our decision for such a small car and I ended up haggling with the guy at Alamo to give us something better. We ended up driving away in a no-frills, 4-banger, missing an antenna, Jeep Compass. 
Not our finest moment, but we made it work.

We drove an hour to Ft. Myers Beach where a good friend of ours lives. 

Mark was reunited with his bromance and we ate fish tacos at Junakoo right on the ocean. 

We drank far too much the first day, the second day...Hell all the days. That's what vacation is for right?

Day 2: 
The next morning we said our good-byes and drove 165 miles through the Everglades to Key Largo, where we saved a box turtle from the road.

But first, we stocked up on essentials at a local Publix in Homestead. 

The next 3 nights we stayed at a Dive Resort called Amy Slate's (626 CC points). The Keys are incredibly expensive, but rooms seemed a lot more sensible in Key Largo vs. Key West.

At check-in, they gave us an upgraded apartment with more space, but when I say this place is no-frills..I mean it. I had to keep reminding myself that it was just a place to sleep and shower. Keep your standards low if you stay here. The beauty is on the OUTSIDE of this place, not the interior.

We ended the night with a sunset boat cruise and some beers on the small shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico.

Fun fact: There are NO beaches in the Keys. None. Zero. Zilch. What little beachfront there is doesn't have direct access to the ocean like the main state of Florida does. We had no idea!

The area has very little internet and phone access as well as they are still re-building from Hurricane Irma. It was a nice change of pace to not be glued to our phones. 

Day 3: 
We packed the essentials and drove 100 miles to Key West. The locals are mostly retired, so even though the speed limit was 55 at times, I don't ever believe we broke 45mph. Give yourself 2.5 hours to get to Key West from Key Largo if you are driving during the day.

Key West is a very walkable town with a lot of good bars, local music, and boat scenery.
We watched large pelicans swim over extra-large Tarpon fish by the charter boats, mingled with a cruise ship full of Ohio State people at Sloppy Joe's Bar, and watched an incredibly kick-ass NOLA band at Green Parrot.

The night ended with dinner at Salute and a rather quick driver home, as it was after 9pm.

You will save even more money if the bartender forgets to charge you for drinks. That happened to us at Green Parrot. We didn't even realize it until the next day!

Side note: My hair is always fabulous in the Southern heat. I didn't use any sort of hair tools while I was there and I will NEVER complain about that!!

The overall verdict about the Keys is that....we aren't really Keys people. It's still an incredibly beautiful area and we were happy to explore, but without a desire to dive or fish, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot more to do besides eat and drink. 

We are beachfront people with more of a Miami-flare...so that is exactly where we headed the next day.

Day 4:
We packed up after a quick breakfast in our apartment and headed to Key Biscayne to explore. We landed at our first beach in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. They have a beautiful light house and we got a chance to see some power boats, a blimp, and some beautiful scenery along the water.

Key Biscayne has a lot of local raccoons, and I ended up feeding them some chips on our way out.
They were surprisingly domestic which was hilarious to us!

We toured all the local real estate in Key Biscayne. There was a completely run-down property for sale for a measly $8.5M so we figured we should start saving now to be able to afford a tiny home by the year 3078.

We made our way back up to South Beach where we ended our day.
The beach, the scenery, the bars...all so familiar and fun!
Mark lost his debit card along the way so you know it was a good time.

Day 5:
Our last day of vacation! After driving over 550 miles at this point, we slowed way down and soaked in every second we had left.

Breakfast was at the famous Mrs. Mac's Kitchen in Key Largo. They did NOT disappoint! Snow crab, eggs, mimosa's and key lime pie, of course!  I highly recommend!

We headed back up to the top of Key Biscayne and landed at a public beach called Virginia Key.
The water was shallow and warm, with plenty of locals (and puppies!) along side of us.

We brought our speaker and jammed to tunes for the reminder of the day, tanning and drinking beers.

The last day was by far our favorite. 
We headed to the airport at MIA Saturday evening to drop off our rental and take our AA flight home (275 CC points). My backpack held us up for a bit of time while security dug through it because I accidentally jammed a bunch of water bottles in it without thinking (because of the booze).

All in all, we had a truly fabulous time. Escaping the Chicago cold in February may easily become a yearly tradition moving forward! We talked about Ft. Lauderdale and areas more north the next time!

Thank you for following along!! XO
Feb 16, 2018

The Good This Week

Hello and Happy Friday!

Life was rather chaotic at home this week but I am always striving to find the good in each day and share it with you!

Here is what went on this week:

1. My skin has always been sensitive to harsh chemicals, weather, allergies, you name it. This week it showed it's ugly side and my eyelids, under-eyes, and nose completely started to swell, become irritated, peel and flake.

It was really sexy.

I started my home-remedy by eliminating my old concealer and banishing the new mascara from my daily routine (I don't know if they were the culprit, but they were the only two glaringly obvious changes that were made in the last week or so). I stopped using make-up on my eyes as much as possible and layered on the face cream.

When that didn't stop me from looking like an old, peeling, lady, I bought two new, and maybe weird options, Gold Bond Eczema Hand Cream and A&D Ointment. Yes, the diaper rash stuff.

But I'll tell you what....they did the trick! My eyes are almost back to normal and will hopefully stay that way!

2. I dressed up my office computer background with this beautiful image. Feel free to do the same!

Image via DesignLoveFest

3. Need a little inspiration to make your days better? This post has 50 ways that give me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

One suggestion was to light a candle while getting ready in the morning. I don't know why I have never implemented this! (probably because I'm always racing at the speed of light to get out the door and this would be helpful to slow my ass down and enjoy the morning more)

4. I have been listening intently to the Life Coach School podcasts each day. This one in particular really resonated with me this week.

I highly suggest listening to her episodes from the beginning. They may not all be applicable to your life but there is definitely a lot of feel-good information to hear!

5. Our dog and cat got into a scuffle on Monday, and although that event was awful and the cat ended up with a broken leg (in two spots!), a couple beautiful moments happened afterward.
First, the cat had a splint exam at the vet on Valentine's Day, and the nurses cut out heart-shaped wrap pieces to give his splint a little flair. Second, Mark came up with the genius idea to lower his bed to just a mattress, that would allow the cat to hobble in and out so he can rest where he is most comfortable. Talk about cuteness overload!!

6. We filed our taxes and signed a new tenant to our rental!

A HUGE exciting sigh of relief in the financial-squeeze department. There is still much work to be done, but I have been waiting for these two thorns in my side to go away for nearly six months now!

7. I made a couple more Episodes on my YouTube Channel! (bear with my experimentation with editing and framing, I'm still learning a lot about what works and what doesn't!)

In case you missed them, I discuss the idea of changing your mindset in the face of uncertainty during IVF. These episodes can easily translate into nearly every obstacle you face outside of infertility as well!


If you love watching, I would be eternally grateful if you subscribed and/or shared my work with your friends and family. We need more good in the world and I am happy to lend a helping hand!

Oh, and please talk with me! Comment here, email me, dm me on Instagram, and comment on the YouTube channel. I want to hear from you and get your insights and feedback about these topics!!

So that's all for this week! Thank you for reading and following along! XO
Feb 9, 2018

This Week

...I traded squeaky clean hair for another 20 minutes of play with my pup. On a never-ending quest these days to spend more time in-the-moment and less time multi-tasking, I pressed pause at one of my favorite daily routines that makes me immensely happy. I will take all the extra time with that fat sausage I can get.

...I started a Gratitude Journal. One small $5 splurge for a cute notebook and gold pen have inspired a quick re-cap of all the little things that went RIGHT and made me HAPPY that day. There is gratitude to be had with even the trying moments (HELLO hour-long commute in the snow...but HELL YES to more inspirational podcast time) and I am diligently working to change my perspective.

...my progesterone is high, which means I am eating and peeing at an alarming pace. (thank you, infertility, for shedding light on the different phases of my menstrual cycle and lovely hormones to follow)

...I pushed myself in the gym and therefore am making more time outside the gym to stretch and give myself grace. My muscles ache and my stomach is rumbling, so I am literally and figuratively feeding both. Extra stretching, Epsom salt soaks, and clean eating are the way to my heart each day.

...I am reveling in my capable hands and swift knack for budgeting to get us through the final hurdle to some home and financial projects. Stress comes in swiftly but I keep re-focusing my attention to one step at a time, instead of all-at-once.

...I made a few on-the-rocks pina-colada's and it reminded me just how much fun summer is, and that our little getaway is just around the corner.

...I did our taxes. Although the IRS needs to get their shit together so I can actually file, they are done, and soon our credit card debt will be a thing of the past. Cue a sigh of relief (and maybe another pina?)

...we had more sunlight than past weeks, and I took a billion of sunrise photos out of sheer excitement.

...I took time for myself to change my perspective with how my current season of life is going. Instead of constantly longing for the bigger-better thing, I need to really start appreciating how good things are now. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but we really have come a long way with our home lives and careers, and these really are the good-old-days that I'll look back on with a warm-rosy glow, right?

...I became a YouTube vlogger!! (video-blogger). There are currently two episodes up. The first one was linked in my last post, and below is the second!  Please feel free to comment, interact, subscribe, ..whatever you feel like doing! This platform is meant for you to get my real emotions and thoughts on these subjects like infertility and happiness, and in turn, you should know I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and opinions too! My goal is to create community with these posts and I think this is an excellent way to do so!

...and finally, I braved the first major winter snow storm this year, headed into the office and brought Burn!! You have no idea what having him around does for my happiness!!

What made you happy this week? Anything inspire you?
Cheers to the freakin' weekend! XO
Feb 7, 2018

Winging it Wednesday: I Started a YouTube Channel

So you guys.....can I tell you something?

Although this may not be shocking to most....I have SO MANY thoughts and opinions and ideas running through my head.

Like...all the time.

And a lot of time I get really inspired and want to tell you all about it, but then I go to write everything down on the blog and I literally cannot type as fast as my brain wants to go, then it gets all jumbled up because I keep skipping over thoughts and none of it makes sense, and then I don't want to fix all my grammatical issues so I just push delete and stew in frustration.

Anyone else? Bueller?

So then I thought....what if I recorded myself?

I found out something interesting at the end of 2017....you guys are sort of obsessed with my face.
And not in like a stalkerish way. (although, that may actually be true, and if it is...please do not reveal yourself so that I don't have nightmares for eternity)

But a lot of the positive feedback, yielding the most responses, is when you guys actually SEE me.

So then I thought...well what the fuck...let's give them what they want then!

I think a Youtube channel may be the way to go.
That way I can give you all the little thoughts and emotions and real, honest opinions, and hell, maybe even ADVICE about life...in a real and raw way...one that isn't necessarily filtered in a blog with a pretty picture slapped on it.

Not that I will halt blogging, I just think that a writing format isn't exactly giving me the platform I need to express how I really am. Which, by the way, translates into I am bat shit crazy...so it may just be entertaining to watch the train wreck unfold?

OH! And you know what else I want to do?
Drag Mark into it, sometimes.
I LOVE him, and he is hilarious on camera. And I think you do too, right? We are both literally insane in our own ways, and I thought it would be awesome to feature us as a duo here and there.

I am really just winging all of this. Waiting to have a fully hashed out plan has never been my forte.
So here we go! Episode One, below! (and yes, I'll work to use "um" less as I get more comfortable)

Feb 5, 2018

Bathroom Upgrade: Rounding the Last Corner

OK folks!
I rounded the final corner.
I see the end to this little upgrade of our bathroom and it's glorious!

Those that missed the first update, you can head back HERE.

So, I had to change my mindset after the first weekend.

Side note: Changing my mindset is sort of a running theme with this current season of my life. I'll dive more into that in my next post.

I was in what I call HGTV Mode, where I figured I could just knock out my to-do list in a weekend. In comparison to a serious renovation, this was all just a bunch of paint, right?

But rushing through this project started to deplete all the FUN I get out of it.
And what is the point of rushing through something haphazardly when there isn't any joy in process?
I should just outsource it then, if I really can't stand it. And that is not me at all.

So I did A LOT of work that first weekend.
And most of it involved new techniques with new applications that I have never tried before.
You really can't expect it to be perfect on your first go, and boy...I can assure you, it was not.

Two things stood out immediately:
1. I needed a third coating of epoxy paint on the tile in good, natural lighting, and
2. I really do not like chalk paint

So I bit the bullet, and over the course of the next few weekends, tackled each section of the bathroom, in full, to my liking.

I re-taped the majority of the space that I ripped off with glee the week prior, thinking I was done.
I re-painted each tile and each little grout line.
I patched and repaired some areas that were haphazardly slapped together out of desperation to be finished.
And I listened to a lot of podcasts along the way.
I can honestly say that coming out of the bathroom renovation has completely changed my life outlook. It was the little bit of therapy I needed to start viewing my life differently.

I am left with a few more items to check off.
1. De-haze and clean up the travertine floors, then dye the grout lines back to bright white.
2. Add a line of caulk between the bottom wall tiles and flooring after they are dry.
3. Hang the wall mirror.
4. Accessorize

There were a few moments when I started to get overly zealous and wanted to change up the color of the hardware, pick new bulb covers, and a variety of other small projects that could easily have added another $20-$50 to the budget and another weekend.

But then I gently reminded myself that the current layout of this bathroom isn't how it's always going to be, that what I've done so far is make this room a lighter, brighter space, and vowed to be content with all the work I have put in to get it to that level.

And that is good enough for me. :)

Thanks for following along. XO
Feb 1, 2018

Simple Minded

My brain won't shut off.
I have a lot of things running on auto-pilot in there, both big and small.
Externally, I know a lot of it is just static that keeps me from completing normal tasks. I have been diligently working to remain present and focused on the tasks that require immediate attention vs. those that are larger and more existential in nature.

I have identified this void in my life and how it came to be.
Whether or not that is progress towards my purpose, I can't be sure, all I know is I have something concrete to work off of.

When I strived to become a mother, I essentially started placing the idea of motherhood on a pedestal. Motherhood would give me my purpose in life.
Because after reading as much information about the new life that comes with parenthood, and listening to other's talk about how much their daily lives changed, how much more fulfilled they are, how their sense of being shifted, how hard it is yet SO. WORTH IT, I just knew, YES! This is what I need in my life. I need this overwhelming life change to feel fulfilled!

As each month passed, and we were faced with more obstacles along the way, I started visualizing that this little pedestal that motherhood was perched onto...started to grow.
Higher and higher it climbed, until it seemed so high, I couldn't see it past the clouds.

When I became pregnant, finally, I assumed I would start to feel this sense of purpose I had longed for for so. many. years.
But I didn't, really.
Instead, what happened was full blown panic. Between illness, sadness from losing my beloved dog, the Holidays, and feeling an overwhelming need to start planning out the rest of my life with this new baby, my purpose didn't feel fulfilling.
It felt chaotic and stressful and icky.

And then I landed flat on my face at the close of 2016, which a miscarriage that shook me to the core, and that mountain to motherhood essentially shot into outer-space. I had no idea how to get there, and I started to think that maybe God was making this incredibly difficult for me because, perhaps, this wasn't supposed to be my path. Although I didn't want to admit it.
Maybe the last five years were supposed to teach me more about who I am, which, quite frankly...I don't really know anymore.

This void in my life started to unravel some other areas that band-aids hid for a long time.

About how I never seem content with what I have. How I make excuses for not being able to do-it-all and how I always feel guilty for not striving to be, do, create...more.
I'm not naive to the world around me, and sometimes that creates more resentment than happiness.

This is a separate notion than wanting to renovate, create, work on my life and my home.
I often never have any issues with motivation.

I just mean that a lot of times I feel like I don't do anything extraordinary.
What I do is a lot of okay-ish things.
I am very mediocre in a lot of ways, and it's really unsettling for me.

Because I thought that I would just kill it in life as a mother.
And now I'm not a mother and likely never will be, in the traditional sense, and my purpose, my bigger purpose that I was supposed to attain through that path is gone.

So who am I if not a mother?

When I cry these days, it's not necessarily because I'm reminiscing about the loss of our boy, or other tragic events. It's because all these overwhelming thoughts and ideas about who I am and who I want to be and how to do it and what makes me truly happy and what my purpose is all come flooding in and I don't know how to rifle through them easily.

Since I know first hand that I have ongoing anxiety and seasonal depression, I know myself enough to know that I would likely not be having these thoughts in the middle of a hot summer day.
I know a lot of these larger notions about myself are stemming from an abundance of free time and lack of sunlight.

I am working to change my mind set.
Instead of embracing the gloom of these winter days, I am changing my thinking to focus inward.
Think more simply.
Focus on one task at a time, check it off, breathe.

I have proactively taken on home projects to find something to do with my hands when work is at a lull.
I am challenging myself with workouts so that I can exhaust my mind and sleep more deeply.
I keep a small journal at my bedside, to jot down highlights from each day...a way to remember things I am grateful for.
I listen to uplifting and influential podcasts to and from work...to calm my commute and leave me less frazzled.
I am doing what I need to do, when I need to do it, on my own schedule, instead of constantly being a slave to other's schedules.
I am trying to feel less guilt for a lot of my complicated thoughts and reclusive nature these days.
It's who I am right now and I shouldn't be ashamed of it.
I am working extremely hard to be mindful of the things I do, when I do them, and find happiness and gratitude that I get to do those things, even if they are unpleasant.

I know I'm in a rut. I know my mind is on overdrive right now. I know a lot of times I want to throw in the towel and walk away from everything and sell coconuts on an island.
But I also know this is just a season of my life, and it's not outwardly pretty, but beautifully broken.
It's who I am, and I am grateful for these gray days.
They really do make the brighter ones so much more colorful, don't they?

Thanks for reading. XO