Wedding Memories

Wedding Memories

17 years ago, I said “I do.” 


But let me back up just a bit.

It was early 2003. I had been living stateside for 2 years, still trying to figure out what to do with my life. (I came back from 2 years living in Istanbul, Turkey for the first 2 years after college. Ask if you’d like to hear all about that experience!) 

I had tried online dating, which was disastrous. A phone call with an acknowledged racist…a creeper trying to get my phone number “so I can let the phone ring when I get home and you’ll know I made it safe.” 

Yeah, not exactly the kind of people I wanted to get to know better.

So when my mom told me about yet another personals site, I rolled my eyes. But since her dear friend had just celebrated her first anniversary with the man she met on this site, she had higher hopes than I did.

To honor her, I went along with her wishes.







I spent over an hour working through the long questions, all about what makes me tick and what I wanted for my life. Several family members sat in the dining room with me, helping me figure out how to answer it in a way that reflected reality.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I finished, typed in the parameters of the type of guy I was looking for….

and nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. There were 4 guys in a 60-mile radius. Two lived in Canada. (nothing against Canadians, but I didn’t want to have to keep crossing the border for a relationship) The other two were very clear “no”.


What a waste of time.

I went to bed, frustrated at the lost hour of my life, knowing I was right and mom was wrong.

The next morning, I decided to try the search one more time. To make sure I wasn’t missing something in my parameters. 

And this time there was a fifth result!

A guy who seemed rather obsessed with motorcycles, but otherwise a guy who made me laugh and nod with agreement from his long, well-thought-out answers.

I wrote him a message.


And heard nothing.

It was nearly 36 hours before I got a response back. (turns out, his parents’ fridge had died, so they spent the weekend getting a new one and doing everything that goes along with that, so he didn’t get on his computer).

I saw the message the next morning, and was relieved and quite intrigued.

Here was a man who made me laugh. Hard. He was sincere. His parents had graduated from the same college I had, and their pictures were in my parents’ yearbook because three of them graduated the same year. Suddenly the 60-mile distance felt a lot less.

So we started writing. A lot. And often. Many, many long emails  back and forth the entire week. 

By the end of the week, we were both hooked. 



We had our first date scheduled for that Saturday (June 7, 2003). It was a marathon 13-hour date. Breakfast at Bob Evans, a picnic lunch at Letchworth State Park, a coffee at Leaf and Bean Coffee Shop, and home to meet my family and my crazy dog.

It was enough. We knew. Even though there were rocky parts of that date, it was obvious we wanted to get to know each other better.

By the end of the second week, we were planning our wedding. July 3rd, he proposed. September 5th, we walked down the aisle. 

When it’s right, it’s right!

Next installment: what “Happily Ever After” looks like. Well, what it looks like in our lives. I don’t think this is exactly what everyone wants, but it’s pretty perfect for us!


Finding peace

Finding peace

I didn’t plan to write about anything related to the coronavirus. 

But then I saw an article that I saw last week about the number of suicides during this period being higher than the number of virus-caused deaths.

And a conversation I had earlier a couple days before about how people are going out of their way to, well, get out of the way of others made me realize that I’m not the only one who feels incredibly isolated during this time.

I’m actively fighting it. I have one friend I’ve been getting together with weekly. (thank you, Leslie!) I’ve been talking on the phone to my mom. And I am an introvert who has never had a problem being alone.

But even I have struggled with feeling alone. Feeling stuck. 


Last summer, Seth Godin wrote a blog post that hit home, but not in the way you would expect. His goal was for people who are offended by other people. For me, though, I’m the opposite. If I think it’s a person, I have patience with them. But if it’s electronics, I get SO frustrated SO quickly.

Yesterday’s blog post almost didn’t happen. It was completely written, and then I clicked the wrong button and *poof* it was gone! 

Thankfully I know it’s never really gone, so with some patient poking around I found it again and brought it back. 

But now I’m having issues getting Mailchimp to work with this blog. I’m pretty tech-savvy, but it’s time to bring in Level Two Tech Support (which means sending a Hangouts message to my husband’s computer. JOSH!!!!!!)

What does all this have in common?

Wait, you think I’m supposed to have something planned when I write?

 Oh yeah, it does.


I’m realizing that right now, we are all desperate for peace. For a feeling that life won’t fall apart in the next five minutes.

I’ll write in the future about the work I’m doing to get my adrenals back where they should be, and how much of a difference that’s making in my outlook on life. But right now, with them improving but not there yet, I understand all the people who deal with depression, anxiety, or just the general feeling of unrest.

This is a difficult time. We’re all hurting. We’re all trying to make sense of the half-truths and misleading news articles and polarizing views we’re being bombarded with. No matter where you fall on the issues (and please don’t tell me what those are! Chances are, I already know), you’re likely feeling the same way I am. Wishing we knew who we could honestly trust, and wishing all the untrustworthy people would stop muddying the waters.


My wish is that people could find ways to stop feeling so alone, and that we could all spend more time focusing on what we all have in common, rather than dwelling on the much smaller areas of disagreement. 

So if you’re like the guy in Seth Godin’s article and do better when you imagine it’s an inanimate object, or if you’re like me, pretending Alexa is human so I have more patience with her, it’s all about finding what makes us calm back down. Instead of focusing on where we differ (whether that’s about wearing or not wearing masks, taking a knee during the national anthem, choosing to vaccinate, eating a certain way…the list goes on and on), it brings me a lot more peace when I focus on how much we have in common. If I look at someone who chooses all the things that are the polar opposite of me, instead of thinking, “why would she choose that,” instead I choose to imagine that she put the same amount of thought into her decisions as I did. Because you know what? Whether she did or not, we both have to live with the consequences. 

And as soon as I do that, I have peace. 

If she chooses to feed her kids gluten wrapped in MSG deep-fried in trans-fats, what is that to me? I mean, really. Why should I feel like it’s my job to educate her? All it does is bring me stress to consider what her life could be (or, if I’m perfectly honest, what I think it should look like). 

“I am the one thing in life I can control”

My favorite line from Hamilton…the line I’m working on teaching my children…and the line I need to remember myself.

I can find peace during this crazy time by remembering that it’s me, and me alone, that I’m responsible for.

For you, that might mean wearing a mask any time you leave the house, knowing you’re doing your best to make sure no one contracts the virus from you.

…It might mean exactly the opposite: choosing to go mask-free, and instead smiling at the people you see in stores, helping them feel a little less alone during this time.

I’m really writing this as a way to keep myself accountable. Today has been a rough one, and I’ve been feeling like the world is out of control. Because it is! But I can control my actions, my responses, and the feelings I choose to hold onto. 

And today, right now, I choose the ones that will bring me peace.

How does this resonate with you? What have you done to find more peace during this crazy time?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
[email protected]


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Coffee part 2

Coffee part 2

Have I told you how much I love coffee?

The sound of the coffee pot gurgling…

the smell…

that first sip…

 I love it all. (well, maybe not the coffee breath that follows)

Last August I realized I was feeling jittery and exhausted immediately after having my caffeinated coffee. I sighed, knowing what it meant. 

Thankfully I was already on my way to discovering how to make decaf taste *almost* as good as regular (last week’s post will catch you up if you missed it). But first I had to wean myself off of it. And then figure out where to go from there.


Today’s post will cover three things. These are what I’ve discovered personally. Most of it did come with some study, but not enough for me to take the time to find links. So sure, take it with a grain of salt, but more importantly, know that I stand behind what I’m writing because it worked for me!

1 (least fun): weaning off of caffeine

2 (more interesting): more effective times of the day to have caffeine

3 (best part): a way to enjoy caffeine without getting re-hooked


1. Weaning yourself off. 

I cut a small amount out of the amount of caffeine I was drinking each week.

The first week, I went from 2 large cups of full-caff to making the second cup half-caff. 

The second week, both cups were half-caff.

The third week, my second cup was decaf.

The fourth week, it was all decaf.

 This kept me from getting headaches (which I had had when I tried going cold-turkey in the past).


2. Most effective times to have caffeine

Our bodies have natural rhythms of higher and lower energy. I’m sure you’ve noticed how sometimes you’re dragging, and a few minutes later you can do a lot more. This is much more obvious late in the evening, but I notice it throughout the day. 

Obviously not having caffeine in the evening is a wise choice to help you sleep well. For me, I learned years ago that I couldn’t have caffeine after 3 p.m. or it would affect my brain when I tried to sleep. You’ll have to figure out exactly what your own cutoff is. 

But less obvious is that coffee first thing in the morning isn’t ideal! Our bodies are gradually increasing in energy over the first hour or two, so if you have caffeine while your body is increasing in energy, you won’t really notice it. The bigger problem, though, is that the caffeine will fade the same time your body’s natural energy fades, so the crash is much more pronounced. So when I have caffeine, I make it about 2 hours after I get up, when I can actually enjoy the increased energy it provides! 

This is not how our culture views coffee, but I’ve noticed a difference in my energy level since I changed my timing.


3. Enjoying caffeine without getting re-hooked

This is my favorite part, because I can enjoy high-octane french roast without worry that I’m going to have a headache when I stop again.

An article Josh found a few years ago gave this plan:

Take 6 weeks off of caffeine. (wean off gradually and then start the counting)

Then, go ahead and enjoy it as many as 5 days in a row, but then take at least 2 days off of it.

It works! This has been my philosophy for awhile now, and it really works. If I had a horrible night and really need the boost, I’ll enjoy my regular coffee, knowing it isn’t getting me hooked again. 

Oh, and the best part of all of this: because I’m no longer dependent on the stuff, it gives me far more of a boost when I do have it. (wow, I really should have started with that fact!) As a matter of fact, that’s why we originally did it: it wasn’t to avoid the withdrawal headaches, it was so that the caffeine actually did something. 

So there you have it! What do you think? I would love to hear if you decide to try some or all of this, and then you can let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts! [email protected]


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Decaf Coffee

Decaf Coffee

Coffee is important to me.

When we opened our Airbnb, I included the word “coffee” (as in “this is an ideal place to drink coffee”) in virtually every picture I posted. 

It used to have to have caffeine. Not that I always needed, or even wanted, the energy, but because it tastes so much better, amiright?

In my next post I’ll talk about how I weaned myself off of caffeine and what I do to allow it not to become an issue now. It’s pretty cool that I can have caffeine when I want, but it doesn’t give me a horrible headache to go without it.


First a funny backstory/side note.

I used to drink my coffee with cream and sugar. I got rid of the sugar, and eventually decided to go without cream or milk too. Those first few cups of black coffee reminded me of the smell of a skunk. But I got over it and now I only want it black. Why, exactly, did I do this? I’ll tell you: to make my coffee more low-maintenance. Because I love being as low-maintenance as I can be.

Which makes the following section really, really funny.


So seriously. How do you make it so that it actually tastes good? Is it even possible?



(disclaimer: the links are to my Amazon affiliate account. I may get a small percentage if you order anything on Amazon when following the links that, uh, follow).


First off: french press. If you’ve never used one, it’s the same basic principle as making loose tea. You pour the grounds in the press, pour hot water over the grounds, wait, and then squeeze it down. Pour out the coffee, leave the grounds in the bottom.

For whatever reason, french press coffee is much richer than from a coffee maker no matter how good that model is (and I do love my coffee maker)


So pretending you’re convinced to try a french press now, what about the beans itself? 

You have two options. You can either buy coarse-ground coffee (since you need the same coarseness for cold brew, you can add that to the search terms), which is very hard to find for decaf. OR you can buy whole beans and grind it yourself

That’s what I ended up doing, because it was that hard to find coarse ground coffee. The grinder I linked to works great after multiple uses a day for 1 1/2 years, so I highly recommend it.

Then it’s a matter of finding beans with some bite.

Depending on how strong you like your coffee, this could be quite a challenge. I like french roast or other similarly dark roasts. That really makes decaf feel like…well, like Pentatonix without a guy singing bass. Still decent, but missing depth.

Reading up on ways decaf is made taught me that Swiss Filtered was a much healthier, much more flavorful form of decaf. So we started trying different brands. 

My favorite: Kicking Horse. We get it in two-pound bags with our subscribe and save order. 

There’s a first runner up: Don Pablo. It’s about half the price. Not as good, but for the amount of coffee we drink, we wanted to try it.

Our plan for this month is to actually combine the two and see how that tastes. I’ll let you know what we decide if you’re curious!


Tomorrow I’ll write about how (and why) I weaned us off of caffeine, but I knew hearing about good alternatives was going to be the right place to start.

So what do you think? Would you consider going to decaf if you knew it still tasted good? I’d love to hear your thoughts! [email protected]


I’m going to leave comments closed on my blog posts, because nothing is more depressing than seeing a bunch of “0 comments,” and I detest having to delete spam. So write to me if you’d like to give me your feedback! And feel free to subscribe by going here and signing up!



Disney as a local

Disney as a local

First off, we live in the shadow of Cinderella Castle.

Before we moved to Central Florida, we used to come down here from Buffalo every winter for a beautiful, exhausting week at the Parks. 

In early 2013, we moved down here, and yes, proximity to Disney was one of the requirements for where we chose. 30 minutes? Yes please!

As soon as we got our Florida driver’s licenses, we got our first Annual Passes. The bliss! The kids were 4, 6, and 8, and we spent every spare minute we could there. 

Then I got braces. So we couldn’t renew those passes.

I remember a lot of sad Hudson faces that year. “Is Disneywowld closed?” I had to explain that no, it wasn’t closed, but we couldn’t go there. It was harder on me than it was on him.


Since then, we’ve gotten passes most years. We had to go another year without them for financial reasons, but usually we’ve been able to pull it off.

Compared to the amount we spent on airfare, transportation, hotels/resorts, food, and park passes (for a WEEK), the annual pass is about half of that. 

So our trips are shorter now, but far more frequent. Instead of doing everything at each park, we can pick a few things and go home when we’re hungry. We can plan our days around our Fastpasses, just go for the Food and Wine festival, or just go to Animal Kingdom for a couple drawing classes. It’s a beautiful thing.


Doesn’t it get boring?

First of all, have you actually thought that? 

Short answer: NO. It doesn’t. There’s just too much to do there, too many things to enjoy again and again. Disney doesn’t get old. Its focus is nostalgia, which means each trip builds on the last one, because not only does the Dumbo ride remind me of my first time on it at 15, but then I remember the time the kids were tiny and rode on it in the rain. 

 Then there’s something magical called Disneybounding, which I explained here. and demonstrated here. This is a wonderful way to keep each trip fresh, and to create magic for the other Passholders and the Cast Members. 

Twice a year we participate in Dapper Days, (the pictures above are from Dapper Day in November, 2017) which can get rather pricey if you give me too long ahead of time to plan. Let’s just say our Country Bear Jamboree/Spaceship Earth weekend cost us a LOT more than I planned to spend, especially considering we got most of the pieces at various Goodwill stores!

Then there’s the advantage of knowing where the cameras are on all the rides. Planning these can be a lot of fun!

So what do you think? Could you keep making trips (we average about 1 a week) for 5 years? Or are we unusual? (actually, maybe don’t answer that) 

And more importantly, can you tell who we’re dressing up as in these pictures, and who should we attempt next? 



Feel free to drop me a line and suggest things I could discuss here. ([email protected] ) I would love to hear what you think, too!

I’m going to leave comments closed on my blog posts, because nothing is more depressing than seeing a bunch of “0 comments,” and I detest having to delete spam. So write to me if you’d like to give me your feedback! And feel free to subscribe by going here and signing up!



Homeschooling, year 11

Homeschooling, year 11

We homeschooled long before Coronavirus.

Let me tell you: what most people experienced this past spring was nothing like what we do. That’s why most homeschoolers insist that what the rest of the world was doing wasn’t really homeschooling. 

It did make for some really funny memes, though.

I’ve been doing it since day one. I taught all three how to read using the same book my mom used for the youngest few siblings (more about my family at a later date). 

To be completely honest: by the time Rebekah (my middle child) finished using it, this is all that was left of our copy. Hudson got a new one, which we then passed on to someone else.

A lot of people ask, jokingly or not, if I would be interested in taking their kids as well.

I’m honored, because it means my kids are doing okay. But seriously, if they watched what our kids did, they wouldn’t ask me*.

In homeschooling circles, there are a number of ways to teach your kids. 

Florida has a Virtual School, which is basically public school at home. Some of my friends love it, some hated it and ran as fast as they could from it. But that’s pretty much the same response to public school in general. 

Then there are open-and-go curricula, which is where a company will send you all the materials you and your kids need. Christian or secular, themed or more traditional: the options are endless. Overwhelming. So much fun to look through. 

The other end of the spectrum is something called unschooling. This is a very child-led instruction, where the parents figure out what thrills the child and creates natural learning opportunities for them. 

I’m a hybrid. Apparently there are others like me, and we’re known as “eclectic” homeschoolers.

Yeah, eclectic sounds just about right.

It means we pick and choose what we do, and it can change whenever what we’re doing stops working. 


That means we’ve tried a little of everything. Well, everything but virtual school. I want to be my kids’ teacher, and that isn’t likely to change at any point.

We currently use a variety of things.

Two of the kids (don’t ask which ones because I’d have to go ask them) use something called Teaching Textbooks for math. It’s an online/CD math program that teaches, gives problems for them to do, and then helps them when they make mistakes. 
One of them uses the Life of Fred series to learn pre-algebra.

All three of them use Prodigy (the free version) to practice their math. I’m not a fan of Common Core, and some of the problems they throw at the kids are about 8 math problems in one, but it’s an enjoyable way for them to make sure they really get the concepts.

That’s just math! Then there’s spelling, which is a combination of three different things as well. 

After those, though, then things kind of unravel.

History is something that I’ve always loved, but somehow we’ve never actually completed a curriculum. Never. Not even the one I created. Yes, I’m embarrassed by this fact. We’re only three chapters from completing the one we bought a year ago, though, and we have decided we WILL finish this one. 

(picture to the left is our creation of Hagia Sophia, from 2011, which we created as a church, then tore down the mosaics and painted over them to represent its changing to a mosque in the 15th century.)


So how do my kids learn?

They do what they’re interested in.

For Jasmine, that’s drawing and writing. So she draws daily, submitting some of them for critiques from her online friends. She writes continually, sharing her stories with me. (only problem: I don’t think a single one of them actually has an ending!) She’s learning Swedish on the DuoLingo app (so she understands the names of IKEA products. Makes me so proud)

Rebekah is passionate about dance, so she’s taking private ballet classes while studios are closed, and she does Pilates watching YouTube videos. She’s challenging herself this month with a writing goal.

Hudson says he does nothing exciting, except for doing stuff that’s exciting. Basically he lives to entertain. He baked cookies from a recipe on his own yesterday, so he’s learning to read a recipe and about fractions.  

 I’ll write another day about how dyslexia and dysgraphia have impacted our choices, because it’s a pretty big topic on its own.

If you’re keeping your kids home this year and aren’t sure you want to do it the way you did last spring, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m happy to help! 

*So why did I say you wouldn’t want your kids at our school? Because the kids finish school before breakfast, and spend the rest of the day on Scratch, Minecraft, or playing with their neighborhood friends. 

Wish you knew what I thought about a topic? Feel free to drop me a line and suggest things I could discuss here. ([email protected] ) I would love to hear what you think, too!

I’m going to leave comments closed on my blog posts, because nothing is more depressing than seeing a bunch of “0 comments,” and I detest having to delete spam. So write to me if you’d like to give me your feedback!