Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” - Anne of Green Gables

This quote has been floating around in my mind lately.

October. The air is crisper, the leaves are falling, and life is shifting gears. With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, there's so much change swirling around.

People are decorating their porches with bright orange pumpkins, bales of hay, and beautiful blossoming mums. Pretty photos of carefully decorated tables, spiced lattes, bonfires, and cozy boots are popping up on every page. Everyone is busy with something. Preparing and baking and readying their homes to welcome guests this season. Everyone seems to be taking full advantage of the spirit of autumn, trying to make the most of the daylight while we've still got it.

And me? Well, I'm just sort of taking it all in. I haven't carved a single pumpkin or raked a single leaf. I haven't decorated my porch or sipped any cider or done much of anything at all, actually. I'm just sort of stuck.

October is usually a time when I feel most alive. Every year, when the summer heat gives way to the cooler mornings and evenings, I feel my soul awaken. I'm typically moved by the change of pace that autumn brings, but not this year.

This year I'm standing still. When everything around me is in transition, all I can bring myself to do is watch. Day in and day out I sit quietly, observing. Reflecting. Grieving. Trying to decide what Octobers mean to me now. I'm still reeling from loss, trying to pick up the pieces, and carry on like the rest of the world. But, no matter how hard I try to enjoy the normal things, the elements that make October beautiful, I can't see past how very different this October feels. How much this October has changed me. How much this October has changed all the future Octobers.

I'm still very glad to live in a world where there are Octobers, but it's going to take some time to adjust to this new reality.

Picking up the pieces

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Sunday, October 12th, I watched my grandfather take his last breath. We were all there with him. Talking to him, holding his hands, trying to hold back the tears, joking and laughing and storytelling like he would've wanted us to, then letting the tears fall anyway when we finally realized he was truly gone.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer back in January and despite agressive chemo treatments over the last few months, the cancer spread and quickly took over his body. When we got the call Sunday morning from my Aunt Jeanie and my Grandmom, we all scrambled to get up to the hospital in Pittsburgh to be with him as he passed.

He had always said that if things ever got so bad with his health, and his body was failing him, that he didn't want to die in the hospital. Instead, he wanted to buy a giant tub of butter pecan ice cream and climb to the top of the mountain near his home and pass on. While we couldn't give him the mountain in his final hours, we made sure he got his ice cream.

It's difficult for me to try to describe the kind of man my Grandad was because he had lived such an incredibly full life that a single post would simply not do him justice.

He was one of the first to hold me when I was born and from that day on, I adored him just as much as he loved me. He taught me so much in the years I knew him. He showed me so many new places, helped me to appreciate history, and develop a strong love for learning. He was a brilliant storyteller, full of knowledge and life experiences, and I never got tired of listening to him. When Mike first met him, he told me the same thing - that he could sit and talk with him for hours just absorbing everything he had to share.

While some describe him to be sort of gruff and stubborn (which he probably was from the stories I've heard of his youth) I have only known him to be kind and gentle. To me, he was the man with the big warm belly who gave the best hugs. The one who spoke with a slight back country drawl and would do anything for his family. He loved peanut butter and chocolate and books about war and airplanes. He loved to sit and watch the history channel adding in personal anecdotes from time to time if they were running a program about something he had experienced. His second favorite channel was the weather channel - something I still laugh about to this day. He could fall asleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, but the minute you said his name, he would answer like he had never dozed off in the first place. He had a strong love for his tiny hometown in the valleys of the Allegheny mountains and even though he had lived many places around the world, he always came back to his roots.

Everyone who knew him would say that he was a man of strength and grit. He was a survivor who weathered many storms both literal and metaphorical. He had quite literally traveled the world, seen more places, and had more adventures than anyone I've ever known. And through it all, he never lost his passion for life. He was a man who knew exactly what he wanted and made darn sure he got it.

What I loved most about him was his wisdom. He was a teacher who loved to share his knowledge. And, boy, did he have a lot to share. Aside from all of his travels and experiences, he was a man who loved to work with his hands and had many skills. He love to build things like cars and motorcycles and even planes. I remember when I was younger, he and I spent some time together when my parents were away and he took me out to watch him fly. He showed me all the different parts of his plane, how it all worked, and explained how he had built ones like it.

That was Mike's favorite part about our last visit to PA - checking out his shop where he was building his plane.

He was a very special man to many people and we all miss him so much. The holidays this year will be especially tough without him. There's a big hole in our family now and it's going to take time to heal from this loss.

While I'm still greiving every day and I will be for a long time, I am glad he's no longer suffering. He's finally at peace and I take comfort in knowing he's never far away either... after all, he'll always be up there in the sky, flying his planes and blasting good old Hank Snow, watching over us all.

Love and miss you Grandad.

In loving memory of Robert Dale Lane
April 17, 1938 - October 12, 2014

Halloween Memories - Blogtober Day 9

Friday, October 10, 2014

For me, Halloween is one of those holidays that has always been either really, really good or really, really bad. Never in between.

When I was little all of my Halloween memories were good. I mean, it can't get any better than having an entire night devoted to bagging a ton of free candy. My friends and I would walk from house to house for hours, carrying pillow cases, doing our best to fill them up as high as we could. Fortunately, we lived in a really big neighborhood so we could hit lots of homes in a relatively short period of time. My childhood best friend, Erika, her little brother Garrett and I would stay out as late as our dads would let us trying to get every last piece of candy from every last house with a light on. The best was toward the end of the night when people would give us all of the candy they had left, emptying out their candy bowls, so that they could go to bed. That's when we would score some of the best stuff. It really was all about the candy.

That's me there in the indian costume.
This was in kindergarten when our parents would go all out to dress us up.

This was the year I was an American Girl (I think I wanted to be Felicity?) with my best friend Erika.
Our moms actually made those dresses!

Probably one of my all-time favorite costumes. This was in middle school and I actually didn't have a costume to go trick-or-treating so my dad and I went into his closet and pulled out a bunch of his most mismatched clothes to make me a "nerd" costume. I think I pulled it off pretty well even without the clothes.

When I got to college, my Halloween experiences began to go downhill. While they created lots of lasting memories, and most of them started out really, really good they almost all eventually ended really, really badly. The reason for the highs and lows can mostly be blamed on alcohol.

One year, a group of my friends and I went out to Fells Point in Baltimore to join the massive crowds that flooded the streets around the bars during their Halloween Pub Crawl. We dressed up as the characters from "Scrubs" and drank pretty heavily at their apartment beforehand. This was probably where the night should have ended. We should have just thrown a Halloween party at their apartment and skipped the cab downtown. But this was college, there was no stopping us. We were determined to continue the fun. When we got downtown, we spent an hour or so walking around checking out all of the awesome costumes, taking drunk pictures with strangers like we knew them, and just trying to have a good time. Then out of nowhere, this random girl in a superwoman costume ran up to one of our guy friends sobbing and threw herself into his arms. Being the compassionate drunk person that I am, I decided to see what was wrong and try to console her. BAD MOVE. The second I tapped her on the shoulder asking her what was wrong, she flung her head back, screamed at me calling me a very profane name that I will never repeat, and then punched me square in the jaw. Between the box of Franzia I had consumed and superwoman's mean right hook, I was down for the count. I came to in an ambulence surrounded by medics. They checked out my jaw, asked if I wanted to go to the hospital - of course I said no - and then we were on our way. Unfortunately, getting punched in the face wasn't the worst part. It hurt like hell the next day but as it turns out, when she punched me, she managed to hit me hard enough to tear a section of my gums which got infected and I spent two weeks on antibiotics after that. Woo... college is fun.

(And no, I never told my parents this story - sorry mom and dad... at least I turned out alright!)

The Halloween that takes the crazy cake though most definitely has to be in 2010 during my senior year in college the fall after I met Mike. We had a Halloween party at our apartment on campus. Mike went as Captain Morgan with his bottle of 100 proof Captain Morgan and I as Ke$ha with my toothbrush and bottle of Jack Daniels. (Get it?)

See all that liquor behind us? I'll let you guess how that one turned out.

Helene in Between Blogtober
I know I'm a day behind but I'll be back on track tomorrow! Happy Friday!

Best and Worst Vacations - Blog Challenge Day 7

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today's challenge: Best/Worst vacations.

To be totally honest, the worst vacation I ever took is not something that I can comfortably blog about since too many friends and family read my posts. Even if no one I knew read my blog, I still don't think I would be comfortable talking about it since it was the most miserable trip I've ever been on. Who wants to relive all that negativity?

To avoid being totally cryptic, this awful vacation involved people who were not my family members (most of whom I had met only an hour before our flight out of Maryland) and they were by far the loudest, most immature, rude, and obnoxious people I've ever met in my entire life. They barely knew me and somehow I ended up getting dragged into their drama for a full 8 days and 7 nights. Now, it wasn't all bad, since I ended up meeting a couple of cool people, and there were a few (fleeting) moments of fun, but I would be lying if I didn't say that it was a pretty intense emotional rollercoaster. Thank god there was booze.

So instead of discussing the awful details of that trip, I figured I would instead share some photos and memories from two of my all-time favorites.

Number one? Our honeymoon! What newlywed didn't love their honeymoon? Okay, I'm sure there's a few, but for us, it was one of the best trips we have ever taken. Looking back at the photos now, I'm extremely jealous of myself. I wish I could be back there floating in the Caribbean instead of sitting at this desk.

For our honeymoon we took a week-long cruise on Royal Caribbean out of Port Canaveral to the Western Caribbean.

We sailed to Labadee, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Mexico. We relaxed on all the beaches, ate incredible food, drank way too many cocktails, danced our tails off, and had a genuinely wonderful time.

Some of the highlights were ziplining in Labadee, jet-skiing and snorkeling in Grand Cayman, getting massages at the on-board spa, going to piano bars and comedy clubs with our other newlywed friends every night, and playing literally every single trivia game the ship offered. We lost every time, but god it was fun. If you've never been on a cruise, I highly, highly recommend checking it out. You won't regret it.

The second vacation that I'm going to share today has since become the highlight of my year. This past May we had the opportunity to stay in a treehouse (the Burl) at Treehouse Point in Washington State.

We spent a week there hiking and exploring every mountain we could find, checking out the city of Seattle, drinking tons of local wine and coffee, eating more oysters than we could count, and visiting with our awesome family.



It was one of those trips that is actually kind of hard to describe to people since we did and saw so many things. We took advantage of every moment and somehow, didn't end up exhausted in the end. It was actually rejuvenating and incredibly relaxing. I think just having time together exploring a place that neither of us had ever seen was what made it so great. And, come on, what better city to explore than Seattle?

To read the full posts with links and details, click here for Treehouse Point and here for our Seattle adventure.

10 Things I Wish I Told Myself When I Started Blogging - Blog Challenge Day 6

Monday, October 6, 2014


I haven't been a blogger for all that long but there are most certainly things I wish I had known when I first got started with The Life We've Imagined.

1. PROOFREAD PROOFREAD PROOFREAD. This cannot be said enough. I naturally edit everything I read since my brain seems to be wired that way, but I wish I would have taken more time to do this when I first got started.

2. Be yourself and find your own voice. Don't try to be like anyone else. Yes, there are a lot of awesome bloggers out there that produce a lot of super awesome stuff but don't copy them. Don't try to blog exactly like they do. You have a voice of your very own. Just do you.

3. When someone comments, comment back. This is really sad but I never used to respond to comments or check out the blogs of those who were commenting for the first few months of blogging. It's kind of dumb but I didn't really know that I should. I think I was just so excited that people were actually reading my stuff and following along that I completely forgot that they too would probably want their own work to be read and followed. You can't have a blogging "community" if it's just one sided.

4. Learn to use a DSLR. Pictures really are everything. Of course, smartphones are getting really fancy now so this may not be necessarily true in a few years, but I think investing in a DSLR is a good idea if you have a blog. I've been learning to use mine in "manual" mode for the last year or so and while I still post a lot of instagram photos here, it makes such a difference when you use a real camera. I hope that one day, I can post exclusively photos I've taken with my DSLR.

5. Don't feel pressure to blog every day. If you miss a day, or a week, don't apologize. Sometimes things happen. Life is crazy. We all understand that. I hate seeing bloggers apologizing to their readers for taking time off and dropping off the radar for a bit. I used to apologize too, and while it's probably good to acknowledge your absence, I don't think anyone should have to feel sorry for real life taking priority.

6. Be patient if no one follows you at first. You may not have a ton of readers right from the start and that's totally OKAY! (I still don't but that doesn't stop me!) Keep going anyway.

7. Haters gonna hate. There will always be internet trolls. Don't give them the fight they want.

8. Just like in school, cite your sources. If it's on your blog and you didn't come up with the idea, take the photo, or write the recipe be sure to give credit to the people who did. You would want the same if someone was using your material!

9. Don't be a Debby Downer. Everyone has moments of frustration and anger and it's perfectly fine to share them, but if every single post you write is negative, people will stop reading. I've come across bloggers who do nothing but complain and while I try to sympathize for a while, it's really hard to relate to them and at some point I lose interest.

10. HAVE FUN! Last but not least, ENJOY blogging - don't let it become a chore!

Helene in Between Blogtober

Fall Bucket List - Blog Challenge Day 5

Sunday, October 5, 2014

So I thought I was going to be able to keep up with this challenge every day but obviously, that didn't happen. Oops! Although I may have missed two days, I'm back at it again today!

The prompt for today is to make a fall bucket list. With this beautiful, crisp weather that has recently set in, I couldn't think of a better topic!

1. Go apple picking. I probably shouldn't have put this on the list considering we just got back from the apple orchard after picking for an hour or so but I still think it's worthy of making the list!

2. Take a trip back to Boston. My good friend Alicia and I are planning to take a trip back up there next month and I absolutely can't wait to explore more of the city!

3. Hike a part of the Appalachian Trail.  I've had this on my 101 list for a while and I'm ready to check this one off! The fall is my absolute favorite time to hike with all of the leaves changing color and falling all around you - it's just perfect. We have a couple of trails in mind and I can't wait to get out there!

4. Do a Halloween Pub Crawl.  We are planning to go to Federal Hill this year for their Halloween pub crawl weekend and I can't wait to dress up! We are planning our costumes with our good friends Matt and Ali - I can't wait to share in a few weeks!

5. Go to a Farmer's Market. The fall is also one of the best seasons for farmer's markets, for sure! While I love going in the spring and summer, too, my favorite produce is the stuff that's available exclusively in the fall.

What's on your bucket list? Happy Sunday!

Helene in Between Blogtober

Dream Jobs - Blogtober Challenge Day 2

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blogtober Day 2: What was your dream job when you were little? What is it now?

When I was thinking about what to write for this post, I considered lying and saying something normal like a doctor or a teacher to save myself from embarrassment, but the truth is that when I was little, I used to tell my parents all the time that I wanted to be a backup dancer.

I blame 90's pop music.
Damn you, Britney.

Now, let's keep in mind that I had approximately ZERO dance experience, except for that year I spent at Dancer's Dreams Dance Studio when I was five years old. We performed "Catch a Falling Star" in little purple tutus and I dropped out after our recital because I claimed that "the tap dancing was too loud for my ears."

Look at that form!

As I got older and pop music began to take over the world, my feelings for dance began to change. I would see my favorite boy bands on TV, (N*SYNC all the way baby) and I would literally spend hours studying them, learning the moves, and "performing" in front of my audience of stuffed animals and American girl dolls.

If this is hard for you to imagine, since nowadays the only "dancing" we see in music videos or live performances generally involves a bunch of fist pumping or suggestive gyrating while wearing a foam finger and a giant teddy bear backpack (I'm looking at you, Miley) let me provide you with an example...

Okay, so there were no backup dancers in that video. I'm aware of this. I just loved the fact that I found a video of N*SYNC on TRL. God, the nostalgia. And the bucket hats!

Here's a better example.

I mean come onnn. Who wouldn't want to get paid to do that?!

Obviously, my dreams of becoming a backup dancer never amounted to much beyond my in-home performances. Instead, I ended up going to college and getting a degree in Biotechnology. (Totally similar, I know.) I think in the end though, I was still able to find and follow my true passion even though it turned out to be a little less glamorous.

As far as my dream job today? I would have to say that I think I'm pretty close to it right now.

While I have plenty of rough days that make me want to throw in the towel, I still work for one of the top research universities in the world. I get to learn from some of the best doctors in the business, collaborate with some of the brightest, most intelligent people I've ever met, and every day I get to work for a chance to contribute an important piece to the puzzle that is modern medicine. I'm helping people and that's all that matters.

Helene in Between

If I Won the Lottery - Blogtober Challenge Day 1

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I can answer today's first Blogtober challenge prompt in one word: travel.

If I won the lottery I would travel.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Mike and I were suddenly to strike it rich, we would quit our jobs immediately and book plane tickets for the next flight out of the U.S.

We have been talking and dreaming and dying to see the world since the day we met and although we have traveled a little here and there, our hard earned dollars have been destined elsewhere for the last few years. Buying a house, getting married, and paying off school loans take priority, I guess, at this stage in life.

There are a few other things we would probably do with the money too, like pay off all of our debts, make sure our families were secure financially, and make a couple of large charitable donations to the causes close to our hearts. But aside from all of that, we would most definitely travel.

It would be incredible to be able to take a couple of years to do nothing but explore new places, experience new cultures and traditions, eat and drink the finest foreign cuisine, and meet people from all different walks of life.

We'd go everywhere. Europe, Asia, South America, Australia - our list of destinations is quite long.

For the last couple of years, we've been drawing up plans to see Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Amsterdam, and New Zealand. And that's without the big bucks. I can only imagine how much more ground we would cover with a much larger bank account.

So, now that we have a plan, can some please tell me, where's my winning ticket?

So excited to be linking up for the Blogtober challenge this month! I hope you join me in blogging every day in October! Click below to find out more!

Helene in Between Blogtober