Blogtember Day 16: That Not-so-snarky Facebook Post

Friday, September 27, 2013

Challenge: An anonymous letter to your Facebook friends. Be as snarky as you'd like. (but don't include people's real names.) 

Today's prompt certainly provides a great opportunity for me to rant and rave about all of the annoying things people do on Facebook. 

Those people who still don't know the difference between their, they're, and there. 

The friends who send me about 234875987234 invites a day to play Lucky Slots or Candy Crush or any one of the other ridiculous games I have no interest in playing. 

Or the ones who take selfies every hour on the hour.

Yes, they all definitely drive me a bit crazy. 

But since yesterday's post, I feel like it wouldn't be right for me to go on and on about something so negative when I'm still feeling so positive. 

I'm home sick from work today (looks like I finally wore myself out) and I really don't have the energy to write anything long and exciting. So instead, I leave you with this happy little clip :)


Have a wonderful weekend! See you Monday for the last day of Blogtember!

Blogtember Day 15: Falling In Love at a Coffee Shop

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Challenge: Go to a coffee shop. Order a favorite drink. Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Or write about anything you'd like! Bonus points for including a photo from the coffee shop.


I thought this song was all too appropriate for today's post.

As I sit here at the window in this cozy little coffee shop, typing away and sipping my caramel latte on a gorgeous day like today, I can't help but feel incredibly fulfilled.

Even though I had a terribly rough morning and these last few weeks have been trying mercilessly to tear me down and break me with all of the weight and stress that they've brought with them, I still feel so incredibly blessed.

There are so many things to be grateful for. So many things to appreciate. And today, I am taking a moment to recognize them.

Every year, as the fall sweeps in I feel myself breathing deeper. There's just something about autumn that gives me great pause. And with the summer fading, I find myself falling in love with life all over again.

I love...

...the tiny little colored leaves littering the cobblestone streets outside this big window.

...how the air is crisp and clear but the sun is still so warm and bright.

...waking up on a chilly Saturday morning to pumpkin spice in my coffee and endless cuddles with my husband.

...how life feels fresh and new.

...realizing that no matter what happens, the world keeps spinning and I will always have an amazing group of people here to support me.

...how this season reminds me to give thanks and to show gratitude for all I've been given.

"When autumn comes, it doesn't ask. It just walks in where you left it last. You never know when it starts, until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart." - John Mayer
  

Blogtember Day 14: Mistakes

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Challenge: Write about a time you screwed up - a mistake you made.

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Mistakes.

I'm all too familiar with them.

That time I decided to let my best friend cut my hair and try to give me cute little "wispy" bangs like she had? Yea, not my best choice.

That year I thought that my cucumber-watermelon scented roll-on eye glitter would look fantastic in my school photo? The glare made it I look like I had a skin condition that was strangely limited to just my eyelids.

How about that time in middle school when I entered the talent show to perform a dance that my friend and I choreographed ourselves, only she was a competitive dancer and I was anything but... I'll just say it didn't quite turn out the way I had pictured it.

And my poor decision making skills weren't only limited to my adolescent years...

Last week I mistakenly replied to an email divulging personal information to our entire division instead of the single recipient I had intended to share it with.

Just this morning, when I got into work I discovered that I had accidentally stored some brand new reagents we received in the fridge instead of the freezer rendering them completely useless. There goes $600 down the drain.

Now I could easily sit here and whine and cry about all of the times I've screwed up. Yes, some of them are embarrassing and most of them are things I wish I could have done differently, but no matter how much I wish I could erase the past, I'll never be able to change it.  And chances are, tomorrow, I'm going to do something else that's pretty dumb.

While I do try to avoid making mistakes, I've learned to accept the fact that I'm human. And that I can't change that either.

I am imperfect. I have weaknesses. I don't always make the best choices. And my mistakes show only that. It's not the end of the world.

Blogtember Day 13: Dominion Ice Cream

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Challenge: Review a book, place, or product.

It's funny to me that I'm choosing to review a place that I haven't visited in almost two years, but I can tell you honestly, I've been dying to go back ever since my last trip.

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In the heart of Baltimore, there is a unique little ice cream shop called Dominion Ice Cream and after just my first visit to the shop in Charles Village, I was hooked.

Since they opened in 2006, they've grown quite popular. They've been voted Baltimore's Best Healthy Ice Cream, featured on the Food Network, and have also appeared on the new HBO Series "Veep."

So what's the thing that makes Dominion's ice cream so different from other frozen treats? Their vegetable ice cream flavors.

Yes, I said vegetable.

Now, I know people might think that veggies and ice cream shouldn't really go together, but I tell you, the folks at Dominion know how to do it right.


They have all sorts of interesting flavors including sweet potato, spinach, carrot, butternut squash, sweet corn, cucumber, beet, and red cabbage. Each scoop is only 100 calories and is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. There's nothing like enjoying some delicious ice cream and feeling no guilt about it!

Even people who don't like vegetables can enjoy Dominion's ice cream since the vegetable flavors are totally hidden. Well, with the exception of a few flavors like sweet corn, cucumber, and butternut squash (which are delicious by the way) but even with those, the vegetable flavors are very subtle and they are sweet so it still tastes like dessert. Of course, for those who are less adventurous, they do have traditional flavors as well.

The ice cream at Dominion is some of the creamiest I've ever tasted and it's definitely a place that I would recommend checking out if you're in the area.

Blogtember Day 12: Life Lately

Monday, September 23, 2013

Challenge: Life lately.

Considering that I skipped the last three blogtember challenge posts, I think it's safe to say that things have been pretty hectic for me lately.

With "Grant Season" beginning I've been a little overwhelmed.

Most of my days at work have been spent here.
And most of the time I sit there like this...
But the work keeps coming and the numbers can't crunch themselves, so I'm forced to analyze data whether I like it or not.

Aside from pulling my hair out at work, things have been lovely.

Our one year anniversary was yesterday and we spent the day relaxing mostly. I went over to my parents' house for a few hours in the afternoon to watch the Ravens beat up on the Texans (which made the day even better) while Mike set up at home for a little surprise he had planned.

When I got home that evening, he greeted me in the driveway and led me to the back yard. When I stepped through the fence, I was surprised to find a beautiful homemade candlelit dinner he had set up.
On the table was a blue glass vase that he had made himself at a local glassblowing shop. I was absolutely stunned! I hope that we can go back sometime so that I can learn the process too!
We exchange a few small gifts and broke out our wedding cake. We only took a small bite but I was surprised to find it really wasn't that bad!

The rest of the night was spent relaxing and watching the Emmys. It was very low key but it was exactly what I needed.

As the days get crazier and crazier, I am more thankful for the sweet, quiet evenings I get to spend with my love.

A look back...

It's amazing to think that one year ago yesterday, I was walking down the aisle toward my best friend to promise forever.

I’ll never forget that moment when I saw him standing at the altar.

I had millions of butterflies fluttering around inside me as I waited in a small back room at the church before the ceremony started. My parents and grandparents and all of my best girls were right there with me trying to calm my nerves. I kept anxiously and a bit impatiently glancing up at the clock every few minutes. I’ll never forget the feeling of excitement I felt when I heard the church bells strike twelve. I knew it was time.
I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by the emotion of it all until my dad took my arm, we crossed over the threshold to the church door, and I saw Mike standing there with this big, goofy smile on his face.
With tears in his eyes, he was brimming with joy and right then that all my nervousness vanished. I knew that in that moment everything was perfect and I was exactly where I needed to be.

Up on that altar, in front of everyone we love, we united our lives and made a sacred vow to love and care for each other eternally.
I had always imagined myself crying when I recited my vows. I thought I wouldn’t make it past a few words before the tears started flowing, but as Father Gene began to speak, and I began to repeat him, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. The words felt so right and looking into Mike’s eyes, I was home.
For the rest of the day, we danced and sang and laughed and loved.
With our families and best friends all around us we celebrated the beginning of a lifetime of happiness. We could not have been more blessed.
Somehow a whole year has slipped by and with each passing day I grow more and more grateful to have Mike by my side. Our wedding day and the days that have filled our first year together as husband and wife have been truly spectacular. I wouldn't trade a single moment. As we begin our second year together, I am eager for the adventures that life has in store and I can't wait to see what unfolds.

That Time of Year...

Friday, September 20, 2013

There’s only been one thing standing in the way of me and my blog this week and that horrible, terrible, awful thing is what I like to call GRANT SEASON.
Right now, as I type this, the halls and offices of my workplace are filled with PhDs, MDs, fellows, and technicians frantically working away crunching numbers, compiling data, and attempting to create wonderfully convincing stories to present to the NIH in hopes of gaining funding for all sorts of exciting medical research.
Typically around this time of year, things start getting busy as everyone is trying to rush to complete their projects so that they have good data to submit in time for review. It really kicks into high gear as the end of the year gets closer but for our lab, we’ve been going full throttle starting this week. We have two major grants to write and a paper to get published before we hit 2014 so I don’t see things slowing down anytime soon.
With all of the chaos, I will unfortunately be skipping the last few days that I missed of the Blogtember challenge BUT, I do plan on picking back up again on Monday.
Of course, since our first anniversary is Sunday (ahhh, so excited!!), I am thinking about doing a little post then, too.
Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Friday!

Blogtember Day 11: Memory Lane

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Challenge: A memory you would love to relive.

It's really hard to choose a single memory. There are so many that I have frozen in my mind that I would give anything to go back and relive. Moments with my grandparents, with friends and family, growing up... I cherish them all.

Since our anniversary is coming up in a few days, however, I am going to have to go with this one.
It was the perfect day and standing there in front of everyone we love and hold close to our hearts, we promised forever. Love is such a beautiful thing.

Short and sweet today! Happy Tuesday!

Blogtember Day 10: A Letter To My Dad...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Challenge: Write a public love letter to someone in your life. (It doesn't necessarily need to be romantic.)
Dear Daddy,
As the saying goes, “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Dad.” Those words could not ring truer and I can proudly say that I was blessed with such a special man.
While I didn’t always know how to express it growing up or sometimes I was embarrassed to do so, I have always loved you with all of my heart and I will forever appreciate all that you have done and continue to do for me. This letter will hopefully be something that will remind you of that for years to come.
There is no one in the world that is wiser, kinder-hearted, more self-less, and as generous as you, Daddy.
I have watched you from the time I was a little girl until now as a married woman, make many sacrifices for your family and give everything you have to provide for those you love. It is incredible to me how effortlessly you perform each and every one of your roles in life. Dad, husband, uncle, brother, son - whatever it may be, you have always been an outstanding provider. And with all that you give of yourself, you inspire me every day. I pray that one day, when I have a family to care for, that I can display even a tenth of the strength and altruism that you possess.
Growing up, no matter what problems I encountered, you always had an encouraging answer. Anytime I was perplexed by a math problem or if I had an issue with a friend at school, you could always provide a solution and you made me feel strong enough to handle it on my own. I’ll never forget the countless hours you spent with me at the whiteboard in the laundry room, working those word problems or algebra questions until I not only understood the concepts but I could practically teach them.
In the time that you spent with me practicing soccer drills, tagging along to band competitions, watching me in school plays, teaching me to tie my shoes, ride my bike, tell time and dance and pray - I learned so much from you.  Through your time with me you sowed your love and I cannot thank you enough for that.
You have always supported me and cheered me on no matter what my dreams looked like at the time. Whether I wanted to be a singer or a writer or a scientist, you were always right there with a plan to help me get there. I never had to worry because you had given me the tools I needed to find my path in life. In all that you have taught me, what I appreciate the most was the confidence you gave me to be myself. You could not have given me a greater gift.
Your humility, your wisdom, your patience, and your unconditional love are all things I hope to reflect as I grown into the woman I am destined to be.
You’ll always be my flugelmeister. I love you so much.
Love,
LJ

Blogtember Day 9: A Self-Portait

Friday, September 13, 2013

Challenge: A self portrait.

When I first saw this prompt on the list, I cringed.

I obviously wasn't going to draw or paint something and put it up here so I knew taking a "selfie" was on the horizon.  I don't know how most people feel about taking pictures of themselves, but it is not something that I enjoy. I am the furthest thing from being natural in front of the camera so I was not looking forward to facing my insecurities and going in front of the lens.

After I accepted the fact that I couldn't wimp out and totally skip this post, I started to stress out a little. Where would I take it? What should I wear? Should I have planned this ahead of time? I pictured being up late the night before, standing in the bathroom, making awkward faces trying to take one of those cliche MySpace pictures we all know and hate.

While I did end up in the bathroom, much to my surprise, taking a self-portrait turned out to be kind of fun! I took about 40 of them before I actually decided which one to post but in the end, I actually enjoyed the project!

Happy Friday!

Blogtember Day 8: The Internet Influence

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Challenge: Discuss ways that blogging or social media has changed you.

I can most definitely say that blogging and social media have changed my life both in positive and negative ways. Blogging has been more of a blessing while social media has impacted me a bit more negatively.
Through blogging, I like to think that I’ve found my voice. It excites me to finally have a space that’s truly mine and something I can share with the world. I love having a creative outlet that allows me to exercise my passions and document my life at the same time.
I feel good at the end of the day when I’ve been able to put together a post about something that I care about deeply and it feels even better to have people respond in such positive ways. Even if there wasn’t a single person reading my posts, I think I would still love to blog, but having such wonderful feedback from so many inspiring people from all around the world is incredibly validating.
I like that I actually have to put thought and time into each and everything I write, unlike the constant dribble of Facebook and Twitter. Honestly, how many meaningful and significant things can you say in 140 characters or less?
Blogging has taught me to be patient with myself. It has helped me to reign in my perfectionism and allowed me to write more freely without stressing over every little sentence and punctuation mark. I now care more about what I’m saying than how I’m saying it. Expressing the feelings I have or the stories I want to tell have become more important than worrying about how many mistakes I’ve made. In this space I get to be me and people don’t have to read it if they don’t want to. The ones who do, make a choice to come here and I appreciate them so much more for it.
Social media, on the other hand, has become more of a bad habit than something that enhances my life. 
It may seem like a wonderful thing to be connected to your friends and family whenever you want - especially those that you don’t see often or those that live far away. But in reality, I find myself getting so caught up in what everyone is posting and trying to absorb everything about their lives that I forget to live my own.
Most of the time, the things people post are not even that interesting. I don’t really need to know what your cat is doing or that your boyfriend brought you breakfast in bed or that you’re at the airport waiting for your flight. Yet for some reason, I continue to check these updates because without them I would feel like I had missed something or I was somehow “out of the loop”.
Social media has also caused a lot more disappointment in my life since it became part of my everyday routine. For a while I would wake up every morning, scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and start my day feeling pretty crappy after seeing all the awesome stuff people had been doing while I had been wasting my time sleeping. (I know. Ridiculous. But it was how I felt.)
I would constantly compare whatever I was doing to the pretty pictures my friends were posting, wishing that my life would suddenly be more like theirs. Why can’t I live in New York City and go to swanky restaurants and drink mimosas all afternoon? Why doesn’t my boyfriend bring me flowers just because he was thinking of me?  I wish I could afford those $600 Jimmy Choos!
Then, I read an awesome article that Jenni had posted a while back about social media called “Instagram’s Envy Effect” and it really hit home with how I had been feeling. It made me realize the source of my unhappiness and its roots in social media. It’s easy to feel bad about your life when you constantly compare how you are living to the “highlight reels” of your friends. Ten to one, when they are sitting at home alone on a Saturday night in their PJ’s eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, they’ll be comparing their night to yours, too.
The point is, I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that social media is not your life. It’s great to connect with people, but there needs to be a balance. Having all that information at your finger tips can be a great and powerful thing but it’s essential to take time to “unplug” and live your own life once in a while.

Never Forget.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It’s hard to believe that it was 12 years ago today that our nation was attacked. I was 12 years old.
Half of my life ago, on this day, I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, but I could still see the dust and dirt, the pain and the tears, the shock and the fear, the questions and the uncertainty that covered the faces of thousands of New Yorkers and Americans alike on that tragic day.
While I will never forget the horror that 9/11 brought, I will also never forget the patriotism and unity that grew thereafter. I will never forget the heroism of those in uniform who searched for days and weeks on end, sorting through the rubble for a life to save. I will never forget the civilians who came together, from all races, religions, and walks of life to lend support to those in need. I will never forget.
Today, my thoughts and prayers are with all of those who lost loved ones on and after 9/11. In honor of those lives, take a few moments today to reflect and remember.

Blogtember Day 7: Shopaholic

Challenge: Share links to your favorite online shops, preferably with a few photos of your favorite items in each shop.

Oh, what would we ever do without Etsy?
I have so many favorite shops it will be hard to narrow it down but here goes!
I discovered this little shop when I was searching for wedding albums after we got married. I wanted to do something a little different with our pictures instead of the typical leather-bound albums. When I saw the wood and the hand-torn pages, I immediately fell in love and I placed a custom order as fast as I could. Michelle’s work is absolutely beautiful and not only are the books incredible, but even the packaging is GORGEOUS, too!

This shop is based out of Ellicott City, Maryland, (yay for local!) and I found their shop when it was featured on Etsy a while back. Everything they make is absolutely precious and the detail they put into their designs is incredible. They primarily do wedding stationary and portraits. I wish I had known about them before our wedding!


Ever seen the headbands that Jessica (of Little Baby Garvin) puts on her adorable little girl Harper? Yep, this is where they come from. AND I AM OBSESSED. Even though I don’t have little ones of my own yet, that doesn’t mean I can’t dream about the days when I get to “decorate the baby!”


I know this one isn’t an Etsy shop but it’s still online! The owner and super talented decorator of these adorable little treats is the sister of a girl I went to high school with. I have honestly never seen more a more delectable cookie! They’re almost too pretty to eat!


 
I stumbled upon this shop when I was browsing for eco-friendly jewelry a couple of months ago. They acutally make their jewelry from fallen branches, trees, and other scraps of wood that would have otherwise gone to waste. While I love a nice piece of jewelry, I don't like to wear anything too extravagant or flashy, and these simple yet beautiful pieces are just my style!

Are you just as obsessed with Etsy as I am? What are some of your favorite shops? Feel free to leave a comment and share what you love!

Blogtember Day 6: Turning Point

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Challenge: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn.

For me, a major turning point in my life came when I met my husband. I know a lot of people probably say they were changed forever the moment they met the love of their life, but for me, the same is true.

I had just finished my junior year in college and I had just gone through a pretty rocky break-up a few months earlier. After that relationship ended, I had promised myself that I would take time to focus only on myself and not jump into another relationship. But of course, fate had other plans.

After meeting Mike for the first time, I could instantly feel that my life was going to change for the good. I honestly felt like I had found the part of me I had been missing my entire life. Things with us were just simple and I had never felt that before. Effortless and unconditional love.

In all of my past relationships, even though I was happy for the most part, I had always still felt like something was missing – like I need to keep searching. I never really felt like I was fully content. Emotionally, I never let myself completely connect and I never truly let my guard down.

For the first time in my life, after meeting Mike, I felt like I was done searching. I felt like I had finally found my soul mate. I had found the person that I could give everything to and that wanted to do the same for me.

It was the best and most pivotal moment in my life.

From there, we’ve been able to grow together and learn from each other every day. I am so in love with him and I am so grateful for all that he does for me. I would be no one without his support and love. It excites me to see what our future holds and the ways we continue to grow in love for the rest of our lives.

Blogtember Day 5: Personality

Monday, September 9, 2013

Challenge: Take this short personality test and respond to your results.

The funny thing about this prompt is that I just wrote something about being an introvert last month. So in a way, I've already sort of checked this one off the list but I'll share my results anyway!

According to this test I am an INFJ. Introversion, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging.

I've actually taken this kind of Myers-Briggs test several times throughout my life. I took it in middle school, high school, college twice, for pre-cana before getting married, and even just for fun. What's crazy is that usually, everytime I take it, I get slightly different results. Well, with one exception: I am undeniably an introvert. But for the other personality indicators, I've always gotten different combinations. ISFJ, ISFP, INFP - I've gotten them all at one point or another.

At first I thought that there was something wrong with the test, or maybe even me, but now I'm beginning to think that it's because my entire life I've had a hard time fitting into categories. In life, I've found that I've never been able to identify completely with one particular lifestyle, belief, mentality, or group of people and that translates to the idea behind this test. I've never really had a strong leaning percentage toward one personality type over the other (with the exception of introversion). In some situations, I receive information through what is actually present that I can see, feel, and touch directly but in others, I "read between the lines" a bit more. I also process the information in different ways, depending on the circumstance. Sometimes I react with strong emotions and other times I respond in a more calculated manner based on what truths I know.

As far back as I can remember, I've felt sort of in-between on just about everything.

In school, I couldn't really figure out where I fit in so I became friends with kids in all social circles. I was never really grouped into one specific clique and because of this, I found that I could participate in lots of different activities. I was in band, theater, AP classes, sports, environmental clubs, law clubs, religious clubs, you name it.

It seems that as I've gotten older, nothing has really changed either.

I have a natural talent for math and science but I love and appreciate writing, music, and art. My left brain and my right brain are at constant war. Politically, I am very moderate - not really liberal but not really conservative either. I agree with a few ideas on all sides. I also can't even name my true eye color! Some say it's hazel, but it really just changes from light brown to green and back again or sometimes it's a little of both.

Growing up, my mom would always bring up how polar opposite she and my dad are and I believe that I only have them to thank for my multi-faceted personality. She would often cite the results of their Myers Briggs tests as evidence. My mom is an ESFJ and my dad an INTP. Literally. Polar opposites. My mom is a bubbly, outgoing, "whimsical" (her word, not mine), passionate, determined, and intelligent woman.  My dad is a quieter, thoughtful, wise, analytical, and logical engineer. When I think of my parents, and this may sound totally off the wall, but, I see colors. My mom being the warmer, vibrant and expressive reds, oranges, and yellows whereas my dad embodies the cooler, richer, and calmer blues, greens, and purples.

And of course, I often feel like I'm that awkward shade of brown that you get when you mix them all together.

I've realized though that not having one specific talent or knowing exactly who I am is not necessarily a bad thing. I used to think it was, but as I've matured, it's actually become something that I love about myself. While I may not have a passion to become a track star in the olympics or a great composer or an astronaut, that doesn't mean that I can't do something great. It just means that I have the opportunity to live my entire life exploring different avenues, trying new things, and enjoying a little bit of everything along the way, all in the name of discovering myself.

Blogtember Day 4: Shenandoah Bears

Friday, September 6, 2013


Challenge: A story about a time you were very afraid.
There is something about the Shenandoah valley and its breathtaking views that is just so romantic. Well, it's fitting I guess, since you know what they say... Virginia is for lovers. But it really is one of my favorite places in the whole world. However, while the mountains of Virginia have given us many wonderful memories, they have also given us a good deal of trouble, too. You may recall the story I shared about our run in with the law. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only terrifying experience we had. On that same trip, only a few days before, we encountered something much more intimidating than a ranger with a loaded gun.
During our stay at Matthews Arm campground, we spent every day hiking up and down the mountains. On our first day there, we wanted to see as much as we possibly could so we picked one of the more lengthy trails. Despite the strenuous and rugged terrain, we kept climbing higher and higher just to get a better look at the valley. We hiked for a few miles or so and found a somewhat private overlook at the very top. Mike had planned an adorable little picnic lunch and when we found a nice little shaded spot, we spread out to enjoy the incredible view. After we finished eating, we sat back to relax and soak in the sights of the magestic blue and green mountains. We snapped a few photos and then headed back down the mountain. 
The sun was beating down pretty hard and after about fifteen minutes into our steep descent, I started to doubt whether or not I could handle the rest of the trip. Mike is an Eagle Scout and I knew he had a lot of hiking and climbing experience but I was losing confidence as the trail got rockier. I was already feeling pretty weary when about half way down, Mike shouted, "FREEZE!" I looked up to find that we were standing only a few feet away from a large black bear. My heart plunged into my stomach.
Seconds before, my biggest worry was not passing out from heat exhaustion and now I wasn't sure we would even make it off the mountain alive. There was literally no one around for miles to help us if the bear did take notice of our presence and decide to attack. To be honest, I had no idea what it was going to do, I just knew I didn't want to be there to find out.
The bear sniffed around and started walking a bit closer with his eyes set on the ground. We had some left over food in our pack and I started praying that he wouldn't smell it. As he got closer, I noticed that although he was massive to me, he was still pretty young and this could only mean one thing. Mom was probably not far away. There is only one thing I do know about bears and it's not to get between Mama and baby or she'll tear right through you.
My fear set into panic and I frantically whispered to Mike for help. I started to tear up picturing us being clawed to death. I have never felt that kind of fear before. Amazingly, Mike responded in the calmest voice that everything would be okay and he wouldn't let anything happen to me. He reassured me that as long as we were still we would be fine.
Fortunately, after the longest two minutes of my life, the bear wandered back up the mountain. Mike rushed to hold me. As strange of an experience as it was and as stupid as this sounds, looking back, I think it made our relationship stronger. Walking away, I never felt so protected in my life. I knew at that moment that Mike would have done anything and everything he could to make sure I wasn't harmed.
So I guess you could say that although it was one of the scariest experiences in my life, it was also a positive one!

Blogtember Day 3: Advice

Thursday, September 5, 2013

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Challenge: Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered.

Today I will divulge something embarrassing about myself.

I was a band geek.

Not only was I a band geek but I also played one of the least feminine instruments of all – the saxophone.

When I was growing up, my Grandma Sharon always talked about how much she loved jazz music. I remember her telling me all about her favorite saxophone players and songs she loved that featured zippy little alto solos. In the summer when I came to visit her and my granddad, sometimes she would take me for car rides into town in her green convertible.  She would play songs from her favorite artists and she’d turn up the volume a little when we’d pass the Amish trotting along with their horse and buggy, winding down the back country roads. I’d lean my head out the window and close my eyes as the wind kicked up my hair and the notes filled my ears. A little piece of heaven those memories are to me.

In the 5th grade, I got the chance to play in the school band and I was so excited to start learning music. When it came time for me to pick an instrument, thanks to my Grandma Sharon, I knew exactly what I wanted to play. I remember walking around our local music shop with my parents looking at all the shiny brass saxophones and pointing to the alto when my dad asked me which instrument I liked best.

“The saxophone?” My mom asked, looking at me funny. “But it’s so heavy. You know you’re going to have to lug this up and down the stairs at school twice a week.”

“Yep, I know!” I said.

“Are you sure you don’t want to play something smaller, like the clarinet?” She asked trying to convince me to pick something that was lighter, both for me and their wallets.

But I had made my decision. I was going to play my grandma’s favorite instrument and learn to be a jazz musician.

After weeks of lessons on the basics of reading music, learning the parts of a saxophone, figuring out what a reed was all about, and blowing my brains out into only the mouthpiece and neck of the sax, my band teacher Mr. Osment, gave us our first assignment that actually involved the whole instrument. I was finally going to start playing music! Our task was to put our instrument together and play a “G.”

When I got home that evening, I carefully assembled my shiny little Yamaha. I placed my fingers on the correct keys, took a big breath just like I had practiced, and blew into the instrument expecting a beautiful G. Much to my surprise, the awful squawk that resulted was far from beautiful.

I tried again. “SKKWWWAAAAAWWWWKKK!!”

Horrible, awful sounds erupted from the horn every time I tried to play. It had seemed so easy. I had the instrument set up, I knew what keys to press, and I was holding the proper embouchure, or at least I thought so, but I still could not play a G!

I took off my neck strap, tossed my sax onto the couch, and began to cry. My frustration had driven me to tears and I was so defeated I wanted to give up. Not only could I not play the saxophone but I knew this would disappoint my Grandma, too.

I called for my mom. She opened the door to her bedroom upstairs and poked her head out asking what was wrong. (She told me later that she and my dad had actually retreated from the terrible noise!) She could see how upset I was and came down to console me.

“I’m done! I give up!” I shouted through my sobs.

She sat with me and dried my tears. “There are things in life that won’t come easy,” she said, “but think of all of the opportunities you’ll miss if you let the tough stuff get the best of you.”

That day she taught me the importance of not giving up after the first little bump in the road, explaining to me that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s useless to throw in the towel when you’ve only just begun to learn something new. If you give up the moment things start to get rocky, you'll never get anywhere in life. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist and I can get easily discouraged when things don’t pan out exactly as I had expected them to. But from time to time, I'll recall my mother's words and it helps me to dig a little deeper. Especially in my marriage.

To this day, I will never forget when she said “Honey, no one was born knowing how to play a G.”

It has stuck with me ever since.

Blogtember Day 2: Three Months Off

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Challenge Day 2: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do? (bonus points for fun photos from Pinterest, but don't forget to cite the source!)
I can imagine that if I was given the opportunity to take three months off from everything I currently do, my journey would look something like that of Elizabeth’s from Eat, Pray, Love.
I would do nothing but travel.
Well, I guess I should say that this is what I would do given three months off AND unlimited funds…
But, yes, I would travel.
Italy, New Zealand, Greece, Thailand, Costa Rica, Spain. I’d want to see the world.
I’m not sure where I would start or even how I would get there but for three months I would do nothing but sit around and soak up the cultures of the world. I would eat, write, take photos, and bask in the glory of a new experience.
Since I was young, I’ve always had an appetite for adventure and a longing to explore places I’ve never seen. New cities, new people, new food, new sights, sounds and smells.
I want to discover it all. 

Blogtember Day 1: Where I come from...

I'd just like to preface these posts by saying I'm not sure where the tornado that has been my life over the last few days came from but I won't let it stop me from completing this challenge!

I had to go to bed pretty early on Tuesday night because I had to be into work before 6:00AM yesterday morning. I wasn't too upset about it until I wasn't able to leave at 2:00 like I had planned and instead didn't get off until 6:30PM. I'm not a fan of 12 hour days...
The sad thing is that I actually had the first couple of posts already written! All I had to do was push the publish button but I literally did not get a second to do so until now.
So despite all of the craziness, I do plan to continue with Blogtember and I want to thank you for bearing with me!

Challenge: Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.
I come from a line of highly driven people.
People who took what they had and made it work for them. None of them started out with much at all but each and every one of them made something of themselves and learned quite a few lessons along the way.
My grandparents on both sides were born of the generation of do-ers.
The kind of people who worked for something. People who built their lives with their own two hands and didn’t count anyone else to support them. If they didn’t know how to do something, they learned or taught themselves.  They had big goals and dreams and they were taught that if they worked hard enough, they could achieve anything. They were poor growing up but it didn’t stop them from getting what they wanted. Even though times were tough, they knew that making excuses would only keep them right where they were.
My grandfather always tells the story about when he first moved to Maryland from Chicago many years ago. Fresh out of the Navy with a wife and two small children in tow, he ventured out to the East Coast to find a home for his family after landing a new job in Linthicum. After a long search, the only house that he could find was a bit small and more than he could afford. Since he had not started his job yet, he had no money for all of the up-front costs. He either had to make this house work or his family would be out on the streets. Realizing he had no choice, he looked the selling agent in the eye and said, “So here’s what we’re gonna do…” and convinced the man to give him an interest free loan covering all of their closing costs that he would then pay back when he could afford it. I’m not sure how it happened but the man agreed and they got the house.
Of course, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My parents grew up to be just as determined and driven as their parents and along the way, they too picked up a nugget or two of wisdom.
When my parents first got married, times were very tough financially. There was a point when my dad would take just enough change in his pocket to buy soup for lunch and nothing else. Day in day out they stuck to their budget, keeping their eyes focused on the brighter future ahead. Despite their tight circumstances, they built a system that helped them to save, gradually climb the ladder, and eventually flourish. Now, you would never know that they once struggled, but through their hard work and discipline, they made a beautiful life for themselves and for me.
All my life I’ve heard stories about how my family has taken the hand they had been dealt and turned it into something great. No setback or bump in the road could keep them from getting where they wanted to go.
I would like to think that I inherited a little bit of that work ethic and passion for life. I can only hope that I, too, will live a life that reflects all that they worked to achieve.