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Guest Writing: The Life Enthusiast

As many of you know, I occasionally guest write for my friends. 

This month, my friend Britt asked if I would contribute to her blog series, The Life  Enthusiast Chronicles. As this is one of my favorite things on the Internet, I was thrilled to be asked, and immediately agreed to be a part of it.

Each month, Britt asks a different writer she knows to answer the same question: what makes you enthusiastic about life?

So, head on over and check out my answer to the question. 

While you’re there, be sure to browse through the other posts and if you love Britt’s work as much as I do, buy one of her awesome novels! My personal favorite is Nola Fran Evie if you need a starting point. ☺️

You can buy her books on Amazon

Bringing Noise to the Silent Struggle

I haven’t posted much lately. Life has been….interesting. I’m not complaining, at least I’m trying not to, things have just been weird. Especially, lately.

You may not know this, but I am a guest contributor for my friend Nathan’s blog, NateTheWorld. Each month, Nathan sends out an email to his contributors asking for submissions and he provides writing prompts, in case any one needs inspiration. I don’t always send something in, especially if my own life is a crazy, hectic mess because finding time to do one. more. thing. just doesn’t seem possible.

But, this month one of the prompts was ‘my struggle’ and it spoke volumes to me. So I sat down and started writing. I sent my contribution over to him and he posted it. And then I started thinking about the struggle I wrote about and thought about how I was still struggling. Still dealing with it and what else could I do to lessen the burden?

So, I wrote another piece and posted it to my other blog. And really, I thought that would be it. That a few people would read either piece and maybe find comfort in my words, or at least have some light shed on a topic with which they are unfamiliar.

But that is not what happened. Not at all. What happened instead is I started receiving messages from people telling me that they were going through the same struggle. That they had a similar experience. That they, too, understood my pain and frustrations. It was……overwhelming. Amazing. Incredible.

Then, I decided that if I received such an amazing response from people I know, what could happen if people I didn’t know also heard my message? I reached out to another blogger/writer that I really like and asked him to read the piece, and if it made sense for his page, could he post it? AND HE DID! I couldn’t believe it; this person who doesn’t even know me, felt like what I wrote should be shared.

Of course, comments came in, and they didn’t all go my way, but that’s alright. Because at the end of the day, I know that thousands of people have read what I wrote, and perhaps they learned something they didn’t know beforehand.

Some of the comments said I was perhaps being a little too emotional or oversensitive to the topic at hand. Maybe. But that doesn’t make me wrong. Or make my point/opinion invalid.

Facebook2 Facebook3For the record, I DID donate those samples to my church. And I gave the coupons that I kept receiving to the Early Ed. center so they could go to parents who WANT them.

I'm not sure that expressing my opinion makes me selfish, but she's entitled to think that.

I’m not sure that expressing my opinion makes me selfish, but she’s entitled to think that.

I’m not sure that it’s the worst article ever, but again, she is entitled to think that.

Facebook6I’d also like to point out that I didn’t say anything about malice from the companies; I pointed out the short-sightedness of the campaigns. I also didn’t call for a boycott, just stated that I won’t be giving my money to them. As for questioning my struggle with infertility, that I took a little personally. She says that a year of not conceiving doesn’t count as infertile. Actually, it does. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website: “Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year for most people and six months in certain circumstances.”

My husband and I have been trying to start a family FOR A YEAR! That doesn’t seem like a long time, unless it’s something you really want and it doesn’t happen, over and over and over again.

Facebook7This woman commented several times, apparently I struck a nerve with her. Especially since she called my post a rant (it wasn’t). But, I am a long time reader because I haven’t ALWAYS been in this struggle, and because the guy is a good writer and the “hilarities of parenthood” crack me up. But, perhaps I’m not allowed to laugh at parenthood since I’m not part of the club? Who knows.

Not all of the comments were negative, though. Some of them were really nice and were from people who had experienced similar things or understood what my whole point was (that the program’s targeting is wrong because they don’t know who the person on the other end of the data they purchased really is. Being a woman that shops at Babies R Us doesn’t make me anymore a mother than eating a banana makes me a monkey).

Facebook5And some of the comments were just really nice and proved to me that what I had to say was at least heard AND UNDERSTOOD by some people – which is really my ultimate goal. To be understood. Isn’t that everyone’s goal?

Facebook1 Facebook8I did contact the companies that send those formula samples; I sent them my article. And one of them responded letting me know they removed me from their mailing list. Which I appreciate. But that’s not my point. They need to reevaluate the whole thing. I understand the purpose of the campaign. They want to sell a product. But, there might be a better way to target the correct people; I don’t have the answer to HOW to do that, but I’m sure they have really smart people working for them that can come up with the answer.

I let them know that I appreciated being removed, but that if this is happening to me, then it is happening to other women. And that’s the problem. They said they’ve given the information “to the appropriate department” so who knows if anything actually comes out of it. I really hope it does.

So, that’s the biggest thing that’s been going on in my life lately. Just bringing awareness to a silent struggle. One blog post at a time.

Suddreth Vacation – Dublin

After a whirlwind final morning in London, which included a tour of Buckingham Palace, we made our way back to Heathrow to catch our flight to Dublin. We were seriously pushing it on our timing but we made it just in the nick of time and got there right before our flight began boarding.

After we got checked into our hotel, the first order of business was finding a SIM card for Brett’s phone so we could make calls and look up maps. We walked through St. Stephen’s Green, and made our way out to Grafton Street. We found a mobile kiosk and got squared away and then headed on our way to find some local grub.

We ended up at The Hairy Lemon which served up an AMAZING beef pie. Whoever said the Irish can’t cook must really hate food, because everything I ate in Ireland was incredible.

We went and explored the Dublin Castle which is really cool. You can just walk right into it and there is a really pretty green space in the center with gardens that you can explore.

The next day we walked around the city, saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, and the River Liffey. We got caught in an Irish rain storm which went as quickly as it came and finally made our way to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate. It’s an awesome experience. You get to walk around the storehouse, see the water that comes in from the Wicklow Mountains, see and smell the hops that are used, and you can even go through the Guinness Academy where they teach you how to pour a proper pint of “the black stuff” and become a certified pint puller. From there you can hang out in the Gravity Bar which offers a 360-degree view of Dublin. On the windows are silhouettes of what you’re looking at; like Phoenix Park where the Dublin Zoo is located.  

We walked through the Temple Bar area later that night, and while I’m glad I got to see what the fuss is all about I am REALLY glad we weren’t staying there. Too noisy, busy, and touristy.

The next day we spent more time walking around the city and just taking in the beauty Dublin offers. We walked to the Jameson Distillery where they explain their triple distilling process and walk you through each step of the process. Pro-tip: if you do the tour and they ask for volunteers, volunteer. They are going to let you do a whisky tasting comparing Jameson to two other whiskys; you’ll get a “diploma” afterward, too. In addition to the tour, your ticket gets you a drink of your choice between two options. I passed on my drink and got Brett an additional whisky.

We ate at some really awesome places while we were in Dublin; I had a great lamb stew at this farm to table place just off Grafton Street. We ate dinner at a place in Temple Bar called Boxty where I ate the best beef stew EVER. Finally, we ate at a place we had seen on Bourdain’s show The Layover called Crackbird where we had some really good chicken.

After three days in Dublin we decided to take a day trip to Belfast. My Mom’s friend just so happened to be in Belfast while we were in Dublin, and since she lives 1,800 miles away when we’re in the States and was only an hour and a half away in Ireland we decided to drive up and meet her and her boyfriend for dinner.

We used Airbnb to find a place to stay in Belfast and ended up staying at the quainest little house with the most Irish lady ever. It was awesome.

Stay tuned for the final portion of our vacation!

Suddreth Vacation – London

For the second part of our vacation we took a short flight over to London (if you missed the first part of our vacation, Paris, you can catch up here).

We arrived at Heathrow in the mid-afternoon and hopped on the Heathrow Express which took us straight into Paddington Station. We grabbed a cab from the taxi queue and headed off to our hotel in South Kensington – The Kensington.

Our hotel was beautiful and was just a quick five minute walk from the tube station. Always full of surprises, the husband really outdid himself in London. When we walked into our room, I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t a room at all, but a suite! And sitting on the windowsill were a bouquet of my favorite flowers, alstromeria. Shortly after our arrival there was a knock on our door and there was a waiter with a tray of chocolate and strawberries and an anniversary card from the hotel.

kensington

After we got settled in to our suite and freshened up, we went out to explore the city. We decided to head towards the Thames and walk around the neighborhoods down there. We admired Westminster Abbey, Parliament, The Queen’s Tower and Big Ben, and the Central Methodist Hall. We even got to see the London Eye, though it was from across the river.

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

As we were walking through the neighborhoods we came across a little pub called Prince Albert’s and popped in for a pint and some chips. It was right after working hours so the place was jumping with locals and it was so neat to watch everyone just enjoying their lives!

Later that night we met up with a friend at the White Stallion for some dinner and drinks and really just had a great time. It was so nice to talk with someone who lives there and could suggest fun touristy things to do that wouldn’t make us look like ultra-tourists.

The next day we went down to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. I really didn’t know what to expect but when we arrived there were about ten thousand people there! No joke. The pomp and circumstance is truly remarkable. The guards taking over march down the street and in to the courtyard of the palace while the band plays. The mounted guard walks down the streets around the palace clearing the street of pedestrians. It is really an amazing show of force and tradition.

Two Royal Guards.

Two Royal Guards.

 

Just being near the palace was incredible. It is gorgeous and it just seems so crazy to me that you can just walk down the footpath and boom – there’s a palace. In the middle of the city!

After that we went up to King’s Cross to take a glimpse at Platform 9 and 3/4 (of course). They really have a pretty good setup there. You stand in a queue and two Potter people take your picture as you run into the wall. FOR FREE! There is a souvenir shop if you’re brave enough to enter – it was a mad house when we were there. I opted not to enter. The next time we go back to London though, I definitely want to take a Potter tour!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon on Downing Street and in the Churchill War Room Museum, which is incredible. The artifacts on display are impressive but what was so interesting to me is that you actually get to walk through the actual place where Churchill watched the war progress. The maps he and his team used to track progress are still on the wall and you can even see the pinholes from where they were showing troop movements. There is a section of the ceiling that has been removed so you can see the six inches of concrete that Churchill had poured above the rooms because he found out that they weren’t very secure. If the building had been directly hit the building would have collapsed on them. The concrete was a little bit of a cushion. This museum is one of the best I’ve been to and the interaction you get to participate in really immerses you into the story.

 

The War Room

The War Room

 

 

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That night we went to this wine bar called Gordon’s on the recommendation of our friend. The bar is below street level and is built inside of what looks like a cave. They only serve wine, but you can cheese boards, meats, and breads to go along with your wine. The place is really tiny and filled up quickly, but we were able to procure two spots to sit inside – they have outdoor seating as well. After our leisurely wine and cheese experience we walked to our restaurant, Simpson’s On-The-Strand, to enjoy our actual dinner. This place is incredible. We each order a beef wellington, because London. They had a piano player, and beautiful decor, and the service was outstanding.

We went back to our hotel and enjoyed some champagne and snacks by the fireplace in the lobby area and enjoyed some really fantastic people watching.

Cheers to year one!

Cheers to year one!

 

On the morning of our final day, I was a little frantic. We had packed the night before and everything was ready to go, but we had one more thing to do before we went to the airport. On our first night in London, in a moment of trying to be super helpful, I offered to buy our passes into Buckingham Palace. There are only six weeks out of the entire year that the palace is opened for tourists and we happened to be there during part of those six weeks! I want to go inside a palace! I’m a princess, afterall!!! So I bought the tickets and thought everything was good to go – until I received my email confirmation and realized that I bought tickets for the wrong day! I read the terms and conditions and it stated clearly, no refunds, no exchanges, sorry not sorry. I was crushed. I was trying to be so helpful and the one thing in London that I absolutely wanted to do, I messed up in a big way! After we watched the changing of the guard we actually walked over to ticketing area and explained the situation – I purchased tickets for the wrong day; we were leaving the day the tickets were for and was there anything at all they would be able to do for us. We tried to get in to see the palace that day during the last time slot, but it was full. They absolutely would not refund my money, but what they could do was put us in the very first time slot for the day we were leaving. We accepted their offer and went about the rest of our day, although I was still pretty bummed out because the first time slot of the day was 9:30 and our flight was at noon. I didn’t think there was any possible way we would be able to go through the palace and make our flight.

But, as I’ve said before, my husband is incredibly thoughtful. He is also a problem-solver. So, we took our luggage with us and headed to the palace – and you know what? THEY HAVE A BAG CHECK ON SITE! Which meant that we would be able to leave our bags, explore the palace and still make our flight! Unfortunately, there is a pretty strict no photography rule inside the palace so I can’t show you any pictures, but I promise however beautiful, magnificent, and incredible I say it is, it’s even more than that. I couldn’t stop smiling and was just so blown away by the fact that people live there. LIVE. THERE. It is amazing. If you are thinking about going to London, go when you can get inside the palace because it is sooooo worth it. Plus, you get to view the Queen’s gallery, the carriage and mews, and the gardens.

 

Just hanging outside Queen Elizabeth's house. NBD.

Just hanging outside Queen Elizabeth’s house. NBD.

After we exited the palace grounds we hailed a taxi cab and went back to Paddington Station to take the Heathrow Express back to the airport. Thanks to some very kind people who let us jump to the front of the queue we were able to make our flight on time. When we got to the gate they hadn’t even started boarding so all of the anxiety I had that morning was for nothing!

We boarded our Aer Lingus plane and got ready to continue our journey in Dublin!

 

Dia duit, Éire!

Dia duit, Éire!

Stay tuned for the next bit of our journey….

Ringing in the positive

While at dinner with my father and sister and brother in-law last night my husband leaned over to me and very quietly said ‘I would like the next three sentences out of your mouth to be positive.’

Naturally, my immediate reaction was to go on the offense and my husband knew I would and told me ‘I know you’re trying to be funny. I don’t think you realize it’s negative. I was just making you aware.’

Funny thing is, he was right. (Don’t tell him I said that). I was trying to be funny and I didn’t realize I was being so negative.

And like it or not, I think this is something that I do often without even realizing it. Another example?

During a recent conversation about movies and actors I stated that I do not like Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone asked me why and I don’t really have a good reason. She just bugs me. But while I was having the same conversation with my best friend via text message, I said the reason I don’t like her is because everyone praises her for lashing out at the Hollywood bullies and ridiculousness of the industry name calling and the meanness of it all but she’s doing the same thing. She’s just attacking the the attackers. Just because you’re being mean to the meanies doesn’t mean you’re not being mean.

And then my best friend said ‘btw that’s you!’

Man. I suck.

I don’t want to be mean. And I don’t want to be negative. I’m the kid who tattooed the phrase ‘kindness can change the world’ on her wrist. The person who brought home an entire litter of flea infested puppies that were dumped on the road because I was afraid they were going to get run over. Or eaten by coyotes. I’m the nice person.

But recently I’ve been made aware that I’m not. I’m the mean person. And Humanity, I owe you a giant apology.

So, in 2014 I’m going to focus on the positive, pay more attention to my attitude, and make each day a reason to be thankful. Having just come off my favorite season, I think I need to do a better job at giving thanks all year instead of from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Here’s to 2014 and positivity!