Amanda Moments
July 27, 2015

It has now been one full year that I’ve been off birth control, and about seven months since my last (and first!) post about it. A lot has happened since, and this ride has been one of my most trying yet. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs since I made this decision. I feel that there is so much misinformation out there about the pill and what can happen when you go off it, how it relates to your fertility and body chemistry, and if my experience can help anyone else out there, I want to share that. For a long time, I felt like the only one going through this, and no woman should feel that way about what happens with her body. So, here’s what has been going on with me. The good, the bad, the gross, the exciting and the frustrating. Be warned.

going off birth control one year update

*I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. What happened to me may not necessarily happen to you.

As a refresher, ICYMI, I was on the pill for almost 10 years, and in addition to that, I also had been on spironolactone (or “spiro,” an acne pill) for at least five years as well. Last summer, I stopped taking both pills at the same time to prepare my body for TTC and to lead a more natural lifestyle. I was going in pretty blind. I had heard that upon stopping the pill, it might take a few months for your cycle to regulate and your body to adjust, but I figured it’d be a breeze since most women are adjusted within just a few months.

Nope. The first several months, I experienced crazy cycles, cramping and PMS, acne all over my body, really oily skin, weight loss, increased libido, hormone fluctuations that made me an emotional hot mess, becoming obsessive about needing a baby like yesterday and reading everything about fertility. Still, I figured a few more months would solve it all and I’d be good to go in no time. Still wrong. Twelve months later, I am STILL struggling. Some things have gotten better, some have gotten worse and some entirely new things have come up.

I almost don’t even know where to start. There has just been so much since that last post. Let’s start with where I left off, I suppose.

What’s Happened Since

My emotions have leveled out for the most part. I still have typical PMS and regular hormone fluctuations based on my cycle, but nothing extreme and drastic like in those first few months where I was a hot mess most of the time. My libido has also leveled out and seems to ebb and flow with my cycle as well (no pun intended).

Period Probs

My cycle has still been erratic, though for the past four-ish months, it’s been consistent. I started having a full week of spotting followed by a full week period, so it felt like I was essentially having a two-week period, which is no fun at all. In the month of March and April both, I was bleeding more often than I was not bleeding.

Where Have All the Hair Strands Gone?

Around the same time I noticed the new normal (which was not normal at all) with my cycle, I started noticing hair loss. Like, really noticeable. Larger amounts were forming in the shower drain and it seemed I was constantly picking loose hairs off my shirt. Every time I’d brush or comb, a lot would come out. Not in clumps or spots, just all over, a ton of strands were always falling out. Much more than I’ve ever seen before. And then I realized that my hair mass was a lot smaller than it used to be. My ponytail suddenly seemed so teeny, and when my hair was down, it was almost transparent. There was just nothing to it! When I went to my hairstylist for a routine trim, she commented on it as well. In fact, she said that it seemed like my hair was still thick at the base of my head, but the farther out, the less there was. She was perplexed, and together we brainstormed everything that could be causing it. She suggested I eat more protein, do less heat styling, not wear scarves and see my family doctor. Neither of us once ever suspected it could related to that damn birth control pill.

Acne’s Back, All Right!

Meanwhile, my acne and oily skin was getting worse by the month. It was getting so bad that it felt reminiscent of my early teenage days, and I was really self-conscious about it. It was starting to affect my self-esteem big time. I tried a few natural acne solutions, and they were no longer cutting it. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go back to the dermatologist and beg for help. I was hoping for another medication that would be less aggressive and harmful for potential babies than spiro was since we were still not preventing (aka playing baby roulette). I tried one topical cream, but it did nothing at all, so finally I just went back on spiro. I agreed to stop taking it immediately if I became pregnant, but I just couldn’t do this acne anymore and was desperate. I was a little sad to be back on prescription pills, but least it wasn’t birth control again. What can you do.

A few months into being back on spiro, I’m thankfully seeing some moderate results. The oilyness is gone again and the random ass zits are gone again. I do have mild breakouts around my period, but it’s far better than it had been when I was off everything. The doc mentioned it probably wouldn’t be as good as before, since the previous combination of both birth control and spiro together is what really did wonders for my skin. Womp womp.

No Babies, No No No No No Babies

This whole time, also, no babies happened. I know that weren’t officially “trying” for one yet, but because I was off the pill and had made lots of lifestyle changes to boost my fertility and health in general, I honestly had thought that by now I would have become pregnant anyway. The timing had certainly been right for it a few times. I was perplexed why it hadn’t happened, and then started to become worried. My mom had told me that our family is very fertile and women conceive easily, so what was my problem? I tried to shrug it off since we hadn’t been trying too terribly hard yet, but it still weighed on my mind.

A couple months ago, I suddenly realized I was coming in hot on my 12 months off the pill and realized that by then, things should be remarkably better than they were. Each month should be getting easier, not harder. The combination of all these problems suddenly started to come together in my mind. The weird cycles, more zits, hair loss, weight loss and lack of baby in my belly hit me hard. Until then, I kept thinking they were all separate problems needing separate solutions, but then it dawned on me that I needed a doctor’s help…and my prime suspect as the root problem was that birth control pill. I promptly made an appointment with my ob-gyn and family doctor right away, not sure which would be best to start with.

Doctor, Please Help Me! 

The first one was with my ob-gyn. Being the over planner I am, I printed out a calendar of the past year and marked every period, each day of spotting and any other weird symptoms related to my lady bits I could think of that might help the doc help me. After going over my symptoms and concerns with her, she explained that it most likely was all related (including the hair loss, weight loss and acne) to being on the pill for so long then going off. She also explained that spiro is known to cause irregular cycles, especially when used without the pill in conjunction (since the pill regulates cycles), and that it is an adrogen blocker (meaning it messes with my hormones and has something to do with testosterone), so receiving 10 years of synthetic hormones via birth control, combined with spiro, and then going off both at the same time, essentially shocked my body because of the drastic change in hormones. Most women’s bodies are able to start producing natural hormones again shortly after going off the pill, but my body wasn’t able to do it probably because of the length of time I was on both pills together so it was in freak-out mode because it didn’t know what to do.

She also suspected I may have PCOS, which would further explain all my issues. I didn’t fit the typical PCOS profile since I’m not overweight, but it would explain all the other symptoms and would offer some answers at least. At the very least, doc said it could just be a basic hormone imbalance that a few pills could fix. She also suspected thyroid problems (especially since my mom has had hypothyroidism for decades) as another cause. She seemed confident that there was a logical reason and solution and that some blood tests would tell the real story. Once we had those results, she’d call me to tell me what to do from here. I was actually starting to feel excited and hopeful that these tests would provide answers, and that I’d soon be on the road to normality. Even though PCOS was a suspect, and PCOS sucks for fertility, at least we’d know what to do to work around it. I felt like this would be good news, and I expected to find out that was indeed the reason my body wasn’t able to be normal again after so long off the pill.

And so I was sent to the lab for a blood test. Four vials later and a multitude of tests later, the results came in. And they were … 100% normal. Everything was exactly where it should be and from the tests alone, I looked to be normal and the pillar of health. Nothing was wrong with me whatsoever according to the blood.

…But then why was I still so effed up? This didn’t make any sense. I was shocked at these results and my doctor was perplexed. She felt confident from the blood tests that I definitely did not have PCOS, or any kind of hormone or thyroid imbalance. Basically, this meant there was no reason that we could tell was causing my problems besides the basic reason of my body simply could not adjust to not being on birth control. I could go back on it to be “normal” again, but that kind of prevents the ability to make a baby, and with how much this pill has messed me up, it’s the last thing I would ever want to be on again.

So what would we do? Well, she said that even though all the issues are related, we’d have to treat them all individually and just hope and pray that would do the trick. She prescribed me a three-month treatment plan of a pill called prometrium. This would serve to regulate my cycles again and hopefully help me ovulate again since I likely wasn’t before. From what I’ve gathered online, prometrium is a bioidentical form of progesterone only. This means it’s makeup is the same as the progesterone hormone that the body makes itself, as opposed to the synthetic form delivered in combination birth control pills. And even though my natural progesterone levels were fine, the extra boost would essentially kick-start my cycles into regularity. Doc assured me that I could still safely become pregnant while on this pill.

I researched side effects of it and started to become worried. I found a lot of horror stories of what prometrium had done to other women. But I knew I had to do it, and so I took my first dose June 1 and hoped for the best. Thankfully the only side effect I did experience was it made me really tired (which is the most common side effect, which is why it’s always prescribed to be taken just before bedtime). Fifteen minutes after popping my pills, I am out cold, but I still wake up just fine. Phew. The first month on prometrium went by the book. It was a relief. The second month didn’t go as well. It almost was like I wasn’t on it at all because I was back to a week of spotting before my period started, which is what that pill is NOT supposed to let happen. I called my doc in a panic of course, and she said maybe the first month’s dose did the trick and the second dose wasn’t necessary, so as my body was finally started to regulate, it now couldn’t because I was still delivering extra progesterone to it. She said to finish the second course but not proceed with the third one. That brings us to the present.

But, I got ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack to what else happened in between receiving the blood tests results and starting prometrium.

The Other Doctors

When I went the family doctor shortly after the ob-gyn, she agreed 100% that all of these symptoms were pill related. Further, she suspected that the hair loss was my body’s response to the change in hormones and it shed as a way to protect itself (or something like that.) She referred me to another dermatologist to help determine if my hair will ever come back to what it used to be.

She also said she was pretty sure I wasn’t anemic, but that if I was, it could play a role in all this too, so she ordered more blood tests to check my iron, hemoglobin and lipid levels. All came back totally normal. She recommended I start taking a hair, skin & nails supplement to assist in hair regrowth and to eat a ton of fruits and veggies in a wide range of colors to make sure I receive good nutrition to also help. Thank God it’s farmer’s market season now so I can stock up!

At the dermatologist appointment to discuss my hair, that doctor assured me that I have tons of new growth coming in, which is why my hair felt so thick at my roots, but so thin at the ends. This is good news, since now all I have to do is wait for that new growth to come down. In the meantime, I decided to get a haircut (I went with a just-above-the-shoulders bob) to try and hide the drastic difference in thickness as I wait for those roots to catch up with my ends. It’s still visible, though a little bit less so, but I’m still pretty self-conscious about it so I wear my hair up most days, and when it is down, I’m constantly sweeping it all to one side to hide how thin it is.

Oh hey, I got ahead of myself yet again. I need to backtrack again, this time to the meltdown I had right after receiving all my blood test results.

The Emotional Breakdowns & Fear of Infertility

My friends kept telling me that it was a good thing all my tests were normal, since it meant nothing was wrong with me. I know that logically that’s a good thing, but I could not shake that it was a bad thing. To me, it was bad news. I wanted to have a specific problem so we knew how to fix it! How can you fix what you don’t know is broken?! I actually wanted to get a PCOS diagnosis so we would know exactly how to work around it. I felt like now were going to wing it, and I couldn’t hope for the best without knowing the exact problem.

I had the sinking feeling I was falling into the dreaded category of unexplained infertility.

I spiraled. Without conclusive answers from those tests, I started to overanalyze every symptom and fear that because my periods were irregular, it meant that I wasn’t ovulating, which meant I would never be able to have a baby.

For 15 years, I swore I didn’t want kids anyway. But once I was a married lady, everything changed and baby fever hit me like a freight train. It became all I wanted and dreamed of. Now the fear that it could not even be a possibility rocked me. I was devastated and I felt like I was spiraling into despair and panic.

I felt broken. I felt like a failure.

I became bitter and angry and an emotional hot mess. I blamed the pill for effing me up. I blamed my doctors for not being able to fix me and for not telling me how much the pill would mess me up. I blamed myself for not researching more about sooner and for taking that effing pill in the first place 10 years ago.

Enter Therapy

Thankfully a few days into my spiral, I had an appointment to see my therapist, and I broke down to her. I gave her the rundown of everything that had happened and my fears. She was sympathetic and talked me off the ledge. She explained that getting those results was a trigger moment for me, and my emotional response to it was fight-or-flight. Apparently when the brain experiences a trigger moment, a switch flips into a natural fight-or-flight response as a way to protect itself. I was running purely off of anxiety and stress from the situation. She explained that even though this was a natural response, there was a way to get my brain off of its irrational thinking and turn it into logical thinking.

We walked through every single symptom and emotion around it. Every fear, every event. We broke down, one by one, what it could mean and what I would do about it if it were reality. Slowly, throughout that session, I calmed down. Slowly, I began to see that I could handle this. It was not the end, and I didn’t have to roll over and die. I just had to think through it logically. It felt like a GIANT weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I broke down again, but this time, in relief.

Peanut Butter, Baby Time?

Ironically, not long after that therapy appointment, new bizarre things started happening to my body. Like, pregnancy symptom things. At first I just thought it was more stuff related to all these other problems, and it was my body still adjusting off of the pill. But these symptoms were different than before, and they kept morphing. I knew this was different. For the first time in many months, I did not have the typical spotting before my period, which was due like now. My boobs were tender. My lady bits felt weird. I was emotional, but not in the hot mess way like before. Like in the crying at random commercials on TV kind of way. I was starving but no food was appealing and I couldn’t keep more than a few bites of anything down. I wanted to eat but everything made me gag. I peed a lot. My cat was snuggling me at every possible second like she never had before.

I had the gut feeling a baby was forming in there. I took a test. Negative. Damn. I took to the Internet and Googled everything under the sun. I spent hours upon hours learning everything there was to know about the earliest pregnancy symptoms and process. I realized that if I was (and the timing was right this month), it would still be too early for my hcg levels to register on a test, so these could be false negatives. I became hopeful, and then I became obsessive. Literally, every single thing that happened in my body I Googled if it was a pregnancy symptom. Multiple times a day. I hiccuped, but only once? Pregnancy. Obviously.

I started thinking of baby names and how we could decorate a nursery. I planned out exactly how I would announce the news to Cal and then to everyone else. I figured out my due date. All I had to do first was wait for that positive. So I waited. And waited. And waited. And tested and tested and tested, Negative, negative, negative. By this point, I was 14 days post ovulation, and I should have been showing on a test.

I started worrying that I could have lost it early on. I did take a hot bath earlier in the week. Could that have done it in? What about the deep clean I gave the bathroom days prior? Or changing the cat litter? Surely cleaning materials and kitty pee would be bad for a forming baby. More Googling told me that it’s entirely possible for an egg to be fertilized, travel to the uterine lining and take several days to implant before actual pregnancy has occurred, and that you can experience symptoms that early too. That fertilized egg can try to implant for like a week before it gives up, and if it doesn’t take, then it’s over. It’s not technically a pregnancy yet until implantation has occurred, therefore it also is not technically a miscarriage either. It’s just something that could have been but wasn’t. It wasn’t viable, and the body knows that early enough to prevent implantation. Fascinating, right?!

Also, it could have been nothing at all. But in my heart I don’t think it was. My new symptoms started slowly fading away, I never did get a positive, and eventually bitchy Aunt Flo came to visit. Damn.

Turns out, this probably happens to tons of women all the time, but most of the time, they don’t even know it. The very earliest pregnancy symptoms can be mistaken for PMS, and sometimes they go unrecognized completely, especially for busy women that just aren’t paying attention. Because I had become so finely tuned in to my body for the sake of tracking related to my medical concerns, I noticed the smallest variations in my body right away.

I’ll never know for sure what happened during those two weeks, and even though my heart become set on being pregnant, I actually felt a peace about realizing I wasn’t. I was surprised I wasn’t more crushed about it. I was, a little bit, at first, but then I came to accept it. In fact, I viewed this as a good thing. If it was that implantation failed, that means I do indeed ovulate, and that it IS possible to become pregnant, which is actually a giant victory. Even though this one could have failed, future ones may not. And when I told Cal what had transpired, it was one of the best things for our marriage yet because it made us closer and made us both realize that maybe we were more ready for a baby than we first thought we were. I was happy. It was good.

Now What?

Where am I now? Well, I recently finished the second round of prometrium and will not be starting a third. We are hoping that my cycle is fixed from the dose already. I feel much more level-headed after the roller coaster highs and lows of the past couple months and feel like I can talk myself logically through anything else that might come my way. I am trusting in my doctors, in fate and the plan and hoping for the best. It helped that I had my high school reunion to pull off, which served as a distraction from all of this. Now that that’s over, I also have a new job to focus on and a house to save for.

As for a baby, we’re still not trying yet, but not preventing, and I’m trying to not become obsessive again about one. I’m trying to trust that it will happen when it’s meant to, as well as that my medical issues will sort themselves out as they need to.

Here’s to hoping that the second year of being off the pill goes better than the first. I got this. I hope.

June 8, 2015

Today, June 8, is my two-year marriage anniversary. As I’ve shared before, I thought I knew what I was getting into since Cal and I dated for 8 years before sealing the deal, but turns out I was wrong. Marriage is tougher than I thought, but I grew so much in that first year. Now, in our second year, we are really finding our stride, and but we keep growing and learning as a couple… as I think we probably will every year.

We’ve overcome some minor issues already, but new things always emerge as we grow as people and as adults. Here’s what I know, as a Mrs. for two years now.

what i know about marriage 2 years in

Tell Your Husband First
I did actually make this point in my one-year marriage post, but I’ve found it’s still so, so important, and it’s also something I still struggle with. When I have news, or want to get something off my chest, I want to burst and need to spill it, stat, often to my best friend, mom or even therapist. But every time I make a point of waiting until I talk to Cal about it first, it makes me feel so much closer to him and is such a small thing with a big impact.

Choose Your Battles
This is one more thing that I mentioned last year, but that has become a more prominent goal for me to work on. I have a tendency to nag, to nitpick, to focus on the negative instead of the positive and point everything out. While I simply thought I was being open and honest at first, Cal expressed that it seemed I couldn’t let even the small things go, which created some tension at times. I’m really working on overlooking the small stuff, asking myself if it truly matters before I say something and choosing my battles. I’ve found that this has helped both of us a lot. I feel happier because I just move on quicker now, and he’s happier because I nag less. This was one of our communication barriers that was easy to resolve once I listened to what he needed and put my own defenses aside.

Be Empathetic
When your spouse is dealing with something, don’t just offer up empty advice, or listen without absorbing what he’s saying. Engage. Listen. Sympathize. Step back, put your own perspective on hold and really think about how this is affecting them and how they feel about it. Trying to truly understand your spouse is imperative in my book, especially when you have a tendency to be kinda selfish and only think in terms of how it affects you.

Likewise…

Support Each Other on Everything
Be your spouse’s #1 cheerleader and supporter. You may not always agree 100% on everything, and that’s fine, but you do still need to support each other once decisions (or compromises) have been made. I mean, if your spouse can’t rely on you, who can they always count on? You need to be their constant.

Make Time for Each Other and Be Present
This is something I’ve been really working hard on lately as well. Since my blog rebrand, I’ve thrown a lot of the blog “rules” out the window and only post when a) I have something to say, and b) When I have time. Unfortunately, this has meant fewer posts, but in the end, my marriage is my top priority and deserves the bulk of my attention. Now, if Cal and I are home together, I do not blog. I set aside time to work on posts on lunch breaks at work, on nights at home he has band practice, or maybe on a weekend for like an hour. Otherwise, we’re spending time together and being in the moment.

I’m also working on not mindlessly scrolling through my phone while we’re together and being very intentional with our time. This. Works. Wonders. I truly believe this has been a big part of why my marriage feels stronger now than it did when I used to multitask, which just doesn’t work. Cal should get all my attention, not just some, when we’re together. My girl Chelsea wrote about love dates, and they’re just one way you can practice this.

Communicate Often
I totally encourage keeping the lines of communication open at all times. This means talking about both the big and small stuff often. Sometimes things change, goals and motivations shift as we navigate through stages of life, and you should make a point to share those. And yes, even small things like asking how their day went or what’s going on at work, with their friends, etc. If you don’t ask, you may not find out what’s going on with your spouse. Some marriages may prefer to keep outside things separate, which may totally work in some cases, and more power to you if that works for you. For us though, we like knowing what each of us has going on in all aspects of our lives, so continuous check-ins are a must.

For our anniversary this year, we’re doing it low key. To save money as we’re trying to get into a house soon, we’ll just be eating dinner out together later and splurging by ordering dessert. Sometimes simple is just fine!

What other lessons in love have you learned recently?

February 19, 2015

differences between my husband and i

One thing I think is really fascinating about not just my own relationship, but so many others, is the dynamic that two different people bring when they come together. On paper, my husband and I don’t have a ton in common. Sure, we both like loud screamy music, have a thing for other races, similar political views and enjoy a good potty joke, but that’s about it. In fact, I remember that after we met, I looked up his MySpace profile (yes, remember this is back in the day when MySpace was still a thing and Facebook hadn’t yet caught on) and recall thinking that had I not already known him, I never would have picked his profile out as someone I’d be romantically interested in. My profile was full of rambles about my personality and likes and dislikes, worded carefully and perfectly punctuated. His seemed thrown together and brief – something about being a country boy and Jim Carrey. I don’t remember the specifics, but I thought it was funny how differently we presented ourselves to the world, how different we were on paper/on the screen, and yet somehow, in person, we were perfect.

Had we been on an actual dating site, I can’t imagine we would have ended up together.  My profile would have said that I was seeking a romantic man, calm, soft-spoken, kinda brooding, thoughtful and wise man. Basically, everything I thought that I was then. His would have said seeking outgoing girl who just wants to have fun and laugh, and I’m sure something inappropriate would have been in there. I would have hit next. Instead, fate (in the form of mutual friends) is what brought us together, thankfully.

Boy oh boy am I glad I ended up with someone who is not at all like me, because it turns out, we really balance each other out.

It’s the small things, the nuances of our personalities, that can really make the difference, dontcha think?

Here are a few of the things, big and small, that set Cal and I apart:

-He’s outgoing and friendly and loves talking. I am shy, introverted and prefer to listen (until you get a few drinks in me anyway).

-He likes to be the life of the party; I prefer to sit in the dim back corner, alone and hidden so no one talks to me.

-He likes to be early; I am chronically late.

-He has a huge family with more cousins than I can count. My family is teeny tiny and I have a total of two cousins.

-He communicates with others (especially in the workplace) very direct. I like social niceties and fluff. Bring on the sugarcoating!

-He likes beer. I need something fruity with an umbrella.

-I can’t do math to save my life; he at least can do basic math on the spot when needed.

-I overanalyze pretty much everything; he takes most everything with a grain of salt and moves on.

-I like everything to be fully planned out with a list of all the lists I need. He’d rather wing it.

-I like trying new foods. He will not eat something a second time if he didn’t like it the first and is a picky eater.

-He has thick, luscious locks. My hair is thin and limp. (I would love to switch this one around!)

-I have a temper and small things often set me off. Not much bothers him and he is patient.

-He’s a great cook (just like his dad) and can cook any kind of meat. I ruin most any meat I try to cook, but I can rock sides and sweets.

-He loves watching sports; I prefer trashy reality TV.

-He likes dogs; I know that cats are better.

Because of all this, it means we have to compromise. A lot. And also that we help push each other when needed. He helps me see things a new way, and vice versa. He pulls me out of my shell, I help tone him down. I can’t see it any other way now!

(Thanks to Steph for the post idea!)

In what ways are you different from your significant other?

I also have a giveaway for you today! I teamed up with Kathy from Him & Me and some other lovely gals to give one reader $60, a wine glass from Tabitha and a blog design from Amanda. Enter to win below!

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February 11, 2015

guide to grand forks

You may have noticed the other day on the blog, or over the weekend on Instagram, that I mentioned that it was my husband and my 10-year-anniversary. I wanted to celebrate our “dating” anniversary one last time for the decade mark, before we only celebrate our wedding anniversary going forward.

I knew I wanted to do something fun and different than just a trip out to dinner, but I was stumped at what to do that wouldn’t cost a fortune. I liked the idea of going out of town for a weekend getaway, but then the problem is you never know the good places to go. Desperate for help, I reached out to my girl Julie at the Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The CVB was kind enough to plan an amazing weekend for a group of North Dakota bloggers this past fall, and I just knew she would have great ideas for an amazing, romantic weekend for two in Grand Forks. Alas, she sure did. Julie put together a spectacular itinerary for my husband and I to ring in our 10 years together, and it was just what we needed.

Our Weekend Recap

Friday

On Friday after work, we hit the road and drove north to start our romantic getaway. Can I just say, I’m always surprised how easy travel is in this state. From our home in Fargo, all it took was a quick hop and a jump to get on i29 and go straight north for one hour – no exits, no merging, no detours, no hills and almost no traffic. It’s one of the easiest drives there is. And then the second exit into Grand Forks, hang a right, and there was our weekend oasis: the CanadInn.

That first night, we got to just relax in the hotel since we were coming off a long work week. There’s so much offered at the CanadInn though, we could have never left and still had a blast. The hotel has a giant waterpark, three restaurants, an arcade, fitness center and is connected to the Alerus Center, which is home to UND football and other concerts and events.

Our room itself was more than we could have imagined and the nicest hotel room I have ever been in. It was a Jacuzzi suite on the top floor with a 3-person Jacuzzi tub, two bathrooms, kitchenette, king bed, living area with a couch and lounge chair and 2 giant flat-screen TVs, not to mention a pretty good view.

canadinn bedroom

canadinn living room

canadinn grand forks view

Once we settled into our room and stopped freaking out about how incredible it was, we went downstairs for dinner at ‘L Bistro, the in-house Italian eatery. We started with the crab and artichoke dip, but I couldn’t get enough of the pita bread, which was seasoned and buttered to perfection. We both also got pastas and salads, and a tiramisu to go.

crab dip

We waddled up to our room and I promptly got that Jacuzzi tub fired up. After channel surfing (from the tub!!), I talked the hubs into watching Pitch Perfect, which I happily found on ABC Family, and we watched most of the movie from the comforts of that warm, bubbly tub with a glass of wine. Perfection.

tv in the tub

No better way to end the rest of the night than with some tiramisu in bed!

tiramisu in bed

At the hotel, everyone was the embodiment of North Dakota nice. The desk staff was helpful and friendly, the server at the restaurant was attentive, even the cleaning lady we saw in the hall was sweet and smiling. As we were leaving and Cal had taken the first load of luggage to the car, I grabbed the last few bags and was seriously struggling getting out the main door. I alternated between dropping my suitcase and the bag with our swag about five times, and a nice gentleman helped me pick it up and hold the door. He may have chortled at my hot mess situation, but I deserved it. My klutz was on full display.

We could tell we were close to Canada there – the first night as we were heading out to dinner, in the hallway we legit heard a man say to his friends, ‘They serve beer out here, eh?’ in a typical Canadian accent. We giggled about it and repeated the phrase about 18 times the rest of the weekend. It’s the small things. 🙂

Saturday

Saturday morning, we slept in, which was a real treat to not have to listen to our cats screaming at 6 a.m. to feed them. We drove downtown to have breakfast at Dakota Harvest Bakers, which was this local gem, humble and simple, filled with people of all ages. We snagged one of two open tables and enjoyed our egg sandwiches and fair-trade coffee, sat back and chatted.

dakota harvest

With some time to burn before our next agenda item, we hit the road to check out a new boutique, Curious. It was a cute store filled with funny and adorable gifts and trinkets. I quickly found a wooden Home sign that I knew I had to have, and we picked up a few more things to bring back for fun.

curious purchases

I gravitated toward these necklaces and totally wanted them, and then Cal said the one looked like stained glass and the other like Runts candy. Men, right?!

necklaces at curious

We also went shopping at the new Scheels in the Columbia Mall. We both needed new winter coats and Cal wanted to find a new baseball cap. Scheels is a huge sporting goods store, and we easily could have gotten lost in there for hours, but we stuck to the list, much to the chagrin of the staff who tried to lure us into every section we walked by. We did snag some awesome new coats on clearance though, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Next up: What I was looking forward to the most – my massage appointment at Avant. Kerry there helped me relax and loosen up that tension I constantly have in my neck. I was also impressed at her music selection, which turned out to be piano lullaby covers of popular rock songs. I knew I heard some Guns n Roses! They had tea and water out in the waiting area, and I got sucked into the product section afterward. I needed a new heat protecting spray for my hair anyway, and they were selling soy candles with New Orleans themes – I couldn’t say no!

avant massage

After our shopping and spa adventure, we headed back to the hotel to hang out before our dinner reservation. I used the time to present my gift to Cal, which in honor of our 10 years together, was 10 reasons why I loved him. Each reason was listed on a slip inside an envelope with a small item to represent it.

envelope gifts

We also recorded the next Golden Vlog (coming tomorrow), which was fun to do together. I attempted to curl my hair and get ready for dinner, which failed as usual, but what can you do.

before sanders

Then we headed back downtown for our dinner at Sander’s, which also exceeded my expectations. Our server was awesome – attentive but not overbearing – and the food was spectacular. I downed the tastiest glass of Moscato I think I’ve ever had and followed it with my very first-ever duck and spaetzle. It. Was. Amazing. So, so, impressed with Sander’s.

sanders meal

On the way back, I noticed that in the Town Square (where they have their farmer’s markets in the summer), they had an ice skating rink set up, and it was so adorable I had to creep on it for a little while.

ice skating downtown

Sunday and other thoughts

Sunday we had intended to go back to Dakota Harvest to bring some fresh-baked bread loaves back home, but we totally forgot in our haste to make checkout. There certainly was plenty more we could have done in the city, but we were eager to get back home and see our pets, unpack and settle back in before the workweek started again. We couldn’t resist the Tim Horton’s drive-thru on the way out of town though!

We both left feeling refreshed and inspired, and so impressed with our time in Grand Forks. The city was so kind and accommodating and showed us such a great time.

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend checking out any of the businesses I mentioned.

The Grand Forks CVB provided me with a free weekend trip, but all opinions are my own.

February 9, 2015

10 years ago

Ten years ago, Cal and I started dating.

Ten years ago I was a 19-year-old college freshman, figuring out how to be an adult, away from home, on my own, doing my thing. Months earlier, I had decided to stay single so I could focus on school, making friends, having fun and finding myself. I was doing pretty good with that plan until life intervened and brought a certain 20-year-old college sophomore from the dorm over into my life.

It happened because I was pretty obsessed with the band The Used. I heard they were having a concert in Minneapolis with My Chemical Romance and I desperately wanted to go. I asked my friends, and none of them wanted to go. I always had been on my own with my musical tastes – not many of my girlfriends shared my affinity for loud, screamy metal music, or even semi punk rock. And then I remembered something.

My roommate’s boyfriend had mentioned to me time after time about this guy on his floor who he thought I should meet. I had zero interest in meeting a guy for no reason other than because someone thought we’d be ‘so good’ together, so I ignored him. But I recalled just one of the things he had mentioned we had in common – the same taste in music.

And so I gave in. I told him to hook a sistah up, but that he better not be a creeper, because I needed a concert buddy. Some time in January 2005, this guy, whose name happened to be Cal, stopped by my dorm to meet. He was pretty cool. He had a lot of gel in his hair, seemed a little nervous, but otherwise, he was funny, nice and definitely wouldn’t kill me.

Shortly after, our mutual friends wanted to go on a group date to see the new movie that had just come out, Boogeyman with Barry Watson. My roomie and her bf said that Cal and I totally should come along, and I figured what the heck. I certainly had no other plans for a Friday night, and so out we went.

The movie was awful, but the company was good. After that, we were kind of digging each other, so slowly we started spending more time together. I had hesitations about becoming romantically involved with anyone so soon into my college years, but there was something there I decided to not ignore. One night we were having so much fun together that we stayed up until 3 a.m. talking and getting to know each other, sharing stories and laughing.

And then on Feb. 9, 2005, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I said yes.

Ten years later, here we are. Married, with three pets, in an apartment in Fargo, ND, trying to buy a house and share our lives together. Ten years later, we both are different people than those young college kids, a little wiser, but still silly college kids at heart. We’ve shared lots of tears, lots of laughs, lots of moments and lots of love.

All I can say to my college roommate’s boyfriend, all these years later, is thank you for pestering me about a guy named Cal.

wedding pictureLori Anne Photography

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey
February 2, 2015

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Last month, I debuted my marriage goals for 2015. Let’s do a quick check-in and update! I’m also happy to be co-hosting the linkup with Amberly this month!

My goals, as outlined, last month:

-Clean out our physical clutter.

Update: We have successfully started this! We both went through our clothing and got rid of a lot of old things that no longer fit or that we don’t like or wear. Then together we tackled our bathroom closet and our storage closet and tossed about 1/4 of the stuff we had in those and reorganized what was left. It looks so clean and nice, and we both comment on how nice it feels to walk into it without that cluttered feeling. We feel great about our progress so far and will tackle the spare bedroom next!

-Plan on at least one monthly date night and focus on our time intentionally, and unplugged.

Update: Well, unplugged hasn’t happened yet, but we did have a great discussion that renewed us both on wanting to keep up regular date nights and spend more time together. Rebecca‘s Oscar Movie Challenge has helped with that recently as it gives us an excuse to go to the movies and rent some too. We also have some hockey tickets laying around we can use soon, plus a weekend getaway planned that I’ll share about later:)

-Be aware of, and thank him, for all the big and small things he does for me and our family.

Update: I’ve been trying to be more aware of the small things, but old habits die hard, man. Just this past weekend, he commented, asking if I noticed after the fact that earlier he gave me a nice shoulder massage as we were waking up, but in the moment I was too hazy to acknowledge anything, and then I kind of forgot. It was a good reminder to thank him for being kind and thoughtful in the moment. This one will continue to be a work in progress!

-Continue trying to not be such a nag or taking my anger out, or placing all the blame on him, and stepping up and holding myself accountable too, in life and in our marriage.

Update: I’m not sure I really failed OR succeeded at this in the past month. We had one spat in which I let one snide comment slide out, but I caught myself and changed my tone in follow up, and we had a nice discussion about it afterward in which we both expressed our opinion and tried to come to an understanding. It’s another continuous thing, for sure!

-Do random acts of kindness for him!

Update: This was a giant fail. Well, I did pack him a few nice lunches and picked up some berries that he mentioned wanting, but I was hoping to do something a little grander. With February being a special month, there’s no excuse to not fit something in this go around. Stay tuned, I guess!

-Work toward our goal of moving into a house, and making sure we communicate effectively, and compromise if necessary, for the best experience together instead of a stressful one.

Update: Though we’re financially getting a lot closer to this goal, we still have a lot to do in preparation before we really start searching – we need to shop around for lenders again, figure out what the heck is going on with the flood plan in this town, and update our budget spreadsheet so we know exactly what mortgage payment we can afford, all before we meet with our realtor again in the next month or so. Oy. It sounds stressful already, so it’s going to be very important we maintain clear communication with each other and stay patient with the process. Stay tuned on this for sure!

As for any new goals this month, it’s definitely to stay the course with being aware of the small things and communicating effectively, especially in the moments when I am annoyed and have a tendency to react poorly. I know that I need to think before I speak and be more considerate in my approach.

This month also marks 10 years since we started dating, so I hope to think of a really thoughtful and/or creative gift or way to commemorate and celebrate this. Since it’s also Valentine’s Day soon, this should push us to either have another date night, or maybe I’ll use it as an excuse to make a pie from scratch, which is on my 101 Goals list.

Marriage & Relationship Goals

New to the Marriage & Relationship Goals Link-up? Goals help our relationships grow stronger and get better with time as well as help us to continue moving forward and avoid the “ruts” of life. This link-up was created in hopes of inspiring your relationship with your significant other no matter your chapter in life and love. We would love for you to join us in making the things we do in our relationships intentional. If you would like more information, click here.


What goals do you have for your relationship? Come linkup and share with us!

January 10, 2015

marriage resolutions

It’s that time when we’re thinking about our resolutions for the New Year. Most lists include personal goals, but if you’re married, I think it’s so important to make sure you work some relationship goals into your list.

If you need some ideas for marriage-related resolutions, I made a list so you can pick and choose which you want to work in, or just to spark your own inspiration.

CLICK HERE to see the full list in my guest post on Brooklyn’s blog, A Little Too Jolley, today!

January 5, 2015

marriage goals

It’s been awhile since I linked up with Amberly for Marriage & Relationship Goals, so with the new year, I knew it was time to re-evaluate my marriage and fit in some related resolutions (or goals, whatever you want to call it) for the foreseeable future.

Cal and I have grown a lot together in 2014. We really worked at our communication, and it helped our relationship so much. We talk about expectations, responsibilities, life, the future, our plans and dreams, and still have lots of fun together. We tackled our debt, worked hard to save money for a house, which we hope to buy in the spring or summer if all goes as planned, and we both started better habits. He quit smoking, started exercising and eating better, and I took on more freelance writing, mastered couponing and meal planning, went natural, and put effort into being a happier, more positive person in general and less of a nag to him.

Though I view 2014 as a win, there is always something to improve upon, so here’s what’s on my radar for the next year:

-Cleaning out our physical clutter to allow for more time and energy to be spent together, which will also make our move into a house easier! (more on this in tomorrow’s post)

-Plan on at least one monthly date night and focus on our time intentionally, and unplugged.

-Be aware of, and thank him, for all the big and small things he does for me and our family.

-Continue trying to not be such a nag or taking my anger out, or placing all the blame on him, and stepping up and holding myself accountable too, in life and in our marriage.

-Do random acts of kindness for him! I want to fit in some just-because ways of showing my love for him (like serving him breakfast in bed one morning, etc.).

-Work toward our goal of moving into a house, and making sure we communicate effectively, and compromise if necessary, for the best experience together instead of a stressful one.


 Marriage & Relationship Goals
Do you have any other marriage/relationship goals for the New Year?

November 30, 2014

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You are the big 3-0 today! I know you’re trepidatious about being a decade older, but I think you needn’t worry, because there’s only good in our future. (Please tell me that next year when I join you in the thirty club.)

Can I tell you the truth, as hard as it is for me to admit, especially publicly? Sometimes, I feel like you’re a better person than me. In fact, you’re like, the best person I know. And I don’t show you that enough.

I can be a nag. I know I am, and I am working on it. Always critical, always placing the blame on everyone but myself, always being passive-aggressive, scoffing at the nice things you do, often finding the negative and not the positive.

I can’t even count all the times I’ve been a bad wife. If you load the dishwasher a certain way, I tell you it’s wrong instead of thanking you for doing it. You tell me I look pretty and I remark at how disgusting I am instead of accepting your praise. You clean up after my messes (far more than you should), and I don’t even notice. You ask how my day was and I give you the stink eye or rant about the rude driver on the way home instead of calmly answering and asking how your day was. And yet, I don’t hesitate to point out your mistakes. I will grumble for weeks about the smallest thing you forget to do.

I don’t always think about the small things you do for me all the time. Like putting the dishes away because I forget. Or letting me choose what show we watch. Or letting me ramble on and on about XYZ . Or letting me lay on you on the couch even though you’re not comfortable. Or cooking dinner because I don’t feel like it.

And even though you have every right to bring up my own imperfections, you very rarely do. All I get back is love and appreciation.

When I joined a marriage group with other bloggers a few months ago, I realized how unfair I can be. I realized that I was a “no wife” rather than a “yes wife.” And for that, I am sorry.

You are funny, smart, confident, hard-working and kind, and I love the crap out of you. Sometimes I wonder why you wanted to marry this hot mess, but I sure am glad you did. You love me despite my faults, and I love you even more for that. I vow to try much harder at appreciating both the big and small things you do for me and to be less critical.

Today on your birthday, I want to thank you. You’re not just my other half; you’re my better half. And I look forward to many more decades together.

November 15, 2014

create date night at home

When’s the last time you had a date night with your spouse? I’ve got some tips to bring the romance to your dining room table. Join me over at Amberly’s blog today where I am guest posting about how to create a date night at home, complete with meal ideas.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE POST

What other tips for a date night in do you have?