Lessons I learned from spending the summer abroad- #3

image0 (3)Between holidays, celebrations, work, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying every minute of this chapter of life, I haven’t found the time to finish writing my lessons I learned in the Dominican Republic this summer.

We’ve almost been home for the same amount of time we were gone, which is just insane to me. I feel like time went slow much slower while we were away, probably because we were on island time, hardly working/ had a routine, and I was counting down the days until I had my warm bath and A/C again. (haha, oh the good ol days. 😉 )image8Even though it’s been a while since we lived abroad, the lessons I learned this summer are still affecting my every day life. And that is why I continue to write these posts. So, here is number 3 and a ton of cute photos of the Dominican babies that I miss seeing everyday. (and one of my favorite DR baby of all) 😉 image0 (5)

Lesson # 3 I learned from living abroad this summer:

This world isn’t a bad place. 

When we first broke the news to our family and friends that we decided to spend 3 months in the Dominican Republic, we had a lot of responses like “are you sure?” and “is it safe there?” Like anywhere Derek and I have traveled, we expected this response. We knew that these reactions come from loved ones caring and worrying about us, and wanting the best for our safety and health. But we also knew that we would never purposely put ourselves or each other in situations where we didn’t feel safe, and our friends and family should know that we’re not THAT dumb. 😉

We obviously did our research before packing our bags and temporarily leaving reality behind, which is one of the reasons we decided to go with the same program that we did in China. ILP’s main concern with their volunteers is safety, which is why they have such strict rules. (No alcohol, no beaches after dark, in the house by 9PM, etc.) If you want more information on this program here is their website —> http://www.ilp.org

image6 (1)In addition to choosing to go with ILP again, we researched the safety of the country, which areas to stay away from, which beaches to avoid, what health concerns came with the bugs and food there, and so on. But I have since learned that no amount of research and preparation can affect the outcome of certain situations, or bad ones from happening.

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While were away this summer, the news back home broadcast-ed that a few Americans had passed away while visiting the Dominican Republic. Most of these deaths were from being poisoned at a certain resort by a Dominican local who worked there. Of course, news like this is going to spark concern in our family and friends. I had a total of 8 people reach out to me that week asking if “we were okay, if we felt safe, or if we had heard the news of the deaths.” Again, I know this was coming from their hearts, but we had to remind our loved ones that just because 4 american people got poisoned at a resort 6 hours away from us, while drinking alcohol late at night, didn’t make Derek and I any less safe. In fact, this situation left us feeling more safe and thankful of the strict rules of our program and our concerned neighbors in our community.

 

image2 (5)With this certain situation and a few others I experienced, I started to realize that a lot of people have the mindset that this world is out to get them. That traveling is scary, foreign countries are unsafe, and seeing the most beautiful sights, and experiencing different cultures isn’t worth the risk of getting sick with a virus or putting themselves in unsafe/ uncomfortable situations.It is perfectly okay if you think this way, but you most likely have this mindset due to things you’ve seen on the news, have read on social media, or have heard from your paranoid family and friends. I know this because I used to have this same mindset. I used to get overly anxious while leaving home, and think of every bad situation that could possibly wrong, even though I knew bad things happened close to home too. (Why is it that our minds naturally jump to every bad situation while traveling, and not just living our every day life?)

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My mindset didn’t start to change until I got over those fears, took the risk, and actually experienced traveling for myself. I eventually learned that the world is not out to get me. It isn’t scary, it isn’t unsafe, and the experiences I’ve had while traveling have always been worth the risk of something bad possibly happening.image5 (1)image7image5 (2)

Bad things happen everywhere, to random people. Whether you git hit by a drunk driver on your way home from work, experience a mentally unstable man shooting a gun at a concert in Vegas, get kidnapped in Europe and traded into sex trafficking, or get poisoned at a resort in the Dominican Republic, bad things happen.

But just because these bad things happen, doesn’t make this world a bad place. I believe, and I personally have seen, that there is so much more good than bad in this world. For every uncomfortable or scary situation I’ve experienced, I’ve experienced hundreds (hell maybe even thousands) of good ones. And if I am being completely honest, a lot of those thoughtful, genuine experiences have been while I am traveling.image4 (1)

For example, in the Dominican Republic, we lived around people who had close to nothing. Their homes were built through charities, their few outfits that they owned were donated, and their food was mostly scraps or leftovers (sometimes even from our group). But they were the most unselfish, giving people I have ever met. One week, they shut down all of the neighborhood shops and streets for a couple days to mourn the death of a neighbor and provide food, love and support to the grieving family. They would go out of their way to make sure their neighbors and community were taken care of, no matter how big or small the situation was. And they didn’t stop at their loved ones, because they did the same to us. We were complete strangers from a foreign country who didn’t even understand their language, and I have never felt more love (OR SAFETY) from a community.

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And this kindness doesn’t just exist in that ghetto community of the Dominican Republic. In fact, I can think of a experience with a thoughtful gesture from a stranger in each country we have visited.  From my experiences of living abroad, I have learned that overall this world is a good and safe place. Kindness and love exists everywhere, even though the news and media doesn’t always show it.image1 (7)So with that, here is a little reminder. You can live your life being cautious and paranoid that bad things will happen to you, or you can take the risk and do the things you want to do, even if they seem insane, or unsafe to other people. The choice is your’s, just make sure you aren’t putting your dreams on hold, or not visiting certain places because of that one time you heard about something bad in the news.

Because I promise you, no matter where you go, you will find love, kindness and safety.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

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Shara and Axel’s Woodland Baby Bash

image3 (3)I’ve kicked off my holiday season with so much celebrating, and I am not an ounce upset about it. Two weeks ago, we celebrated baby bird at Ryan and Amber’s shower along with our Halloween party.  (see previous post) image0 (3)Last weekend we celebrated our nephew at Shara and Axel’s baby shower, and also attended Nicole and Andrew’s wedding. And Monday night, we are celebrating my wonderful grandma turning 80. My life has been a constant party filled with loved ones, and there is nothing I enjoy more.

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image4 (1)Since I hosted Shara and Axel’s baby bash with Michele and Heather, I wanted to post about it. It was such a perfect celebration, I got so many wonderful pictures, and it was another event that I decorated that I was pretty proud of.image1 (9)image3 (6)image0 (5)image5 (4)image2 (7)

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image7We went with a woodland theme for decorations and food, complete with “mama and papa bear” sashes. Much to our surprise little boy got so many cute outfits and gifts that also went along with this theme. I have a feeling he is going to love campfires, trees, and the mountains. 😉image2 (5)

image4 (2)image3 (4)image1 (10)Shara and Axel wanted a more intimate party with family and close friends, so we kept the guest list small.  Aunt Debbie and cousin Shawnee even made it from out of town, making it that more special for the parents to be. Shawnee is also pregnant with a little girl who is arriving in March, so of course we had to get a photo with our THREE baby bumps. image2 (6)image0 (4)We played a couple baby shower games, enjoyed each other’s company, indulged in way too much food, and sat in awe of all of the cute baby things that little dude got spoiled with.

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I love this nephew of mine so much already, I can’t wait to hold him and give him all the loves in just two short months!

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Also, since so many talented people helped this cute little party come together, here is some credit! 🙂

Food: Heather, Michele, Shawnee, 
Label signs and HOMEMADE cookies: Shara
Wood cookie stand and sign holders: Axel
Diaper Cake: Heather 
Theme, Decor, & Photo back drop: your’s truly 

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

Our Very Happy Halloween

image1 (8)I can’t believe I am already writing my “Halloween post” again. Years always seem to go by pretty slow to me until the holidays roll around, and then I feel as if I was just celebrating these special days. This year, Derek and I dressed up as the milk man and a 1950’s house wife, I had to take advantage of that bump of mine because who knows if I will ever have another baby bump on Halloween!

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image6 (1).jpegOnce I thought of our perfect costume, I had to figure out where we were going to wear them. Instead of waiting around to get invited to plans or a party, I decided to throw my own! Kallista and I hosted a friend Halloween party last Friday, and it was one of the most fun Halloween celebrations I’ve ever had. We kept things cute, but also spooky. image3 (7)image1 (11)image0 (7)

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image2 (9)We had drinks, food, dancing, and of course costumes, and the best part? Most of my favorite people attended.image1 (10) image4 (2)image1 (9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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image4 (3)image0 (5)image3 (6)I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me if is it different celebrating the holidays since I am pregnant, or boring since I can’t indulge in my usual celebratory wine. And to be completely honest… no. Being surrounded by loved ones,  good music, and good food, for any type of celebration or holiday, will always be my favorite thing no matter the circumstances. Plus, the party planning part of it all was just another highlight. image10

image6 (2)Other than our Halloween party, the only other celebratory thing we did this month was carve pumpkins with the Birds. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of our end results, but we took these bump photos and they turned out way cuter than our pumpkins did anyways. Who wore it better? The ladies or the guys? image9image1 (7)image7image8And of course, I decorated our Dursteler abode. Decorating for the holidays is my favorite thing about our home. Plugging in our lights every night and lighting my fall candles day makes our home so cozy! image5 (1).jpegimage4 (1)image3 (3)

image0 (3)I’ve also indulged in way too many pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Being pregnant this year on the holidays is great because I am supposed to be gaining the weight that I’ve put on. And everything tastes better than it ever has. Little babe must know how content my heart is this time of year because she seems pretty happy with all of the cookies and sweets I’ve been shamelessly eating. 😉 image0 (4)image2 (8)Speaking of little babe, it is so weird to me that this holiday season will be our last of just Derek and I (and Harvey) This year is our 10th year of holidays together, so next will obviously feel so much different. I am so excited though! I can’t even comprehend the magic that having a baby, or kids in general, will bring to the best time of the year.image5 (2).jpeg As far as tonight goes, our plans are to order take out and play cards at Ryan and Amber’s, which is a usual week night thing for us. I am glad we have friends who still likes to socialize, but understand the tiredness (and hungriness) that comes with being pregnant. (and dealing with a pregnant wife 😉 ) image0 (6)I wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

Our Magical Night at Rise

image0 (4)At the beginning of this month, Derek and I attended the Rise festival. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is an annual lantern festival held in the Mojave desert that promotes letting go of the past and setting new intentions for the future. It is a 3 night event with live music, food trucks, and a total of 6 lantern releases. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in or you want more information on it, here is the link:

https://risefestival.com/image1 (9)I’ve been wanting to attend this event for years, especially because it is so close to our home. Derek surprised me with tickets for my birthday back in March and to be honest, after our crazy summer, I totally forgot we were going until we got the “your event is coming up” email. Of course after being reminded, I felt like it was my birthday and got so excited again!image4 (2)image1 (7)

image1 (11)image0 (9)We attended the event Saturday evening/night. We drove down to Vegas that morning, checked into our hotel and ate dinner at a cute little diner. We even made it to 7 magic mountains along the way. I’ve always wanted to visit this spot as well, and even though we’ve passed it probably 100 times, we had never been. Isn’t it funny how we don’t take advantage of all the cool things and landmarks that surround us so close to home? It wasn’t anything too special, but it was cool to see nonetheless.image1 (8)image2 (5)image4 (1)

image2 (6)The event itself was amazing. We had such a fun night together in the desert surrounded by beautiful music, bright stars, no cellphone service, and thousands of like minded people. It was such a peaceful experience and such a nice little break for us to have together.image4 (4)image1 (10)image7image8 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image9Our tickets each came with two lanterns to release. I wrote my absolute favorite things on one, and new intentions I’ve set for myself on the other. Derek wrote things that fill his heart on one, and drew his Aries symbol on his other one. (Since when did I convince him to be so into astrology 😉 )image5 (4)image2 (9)

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image4 (5)The actual lantern release was magical to say the least. I’ve seen plenty of photos and videos of these things, but I was blown away by the beauty of it all. Derek and I were both at a lost of words for a while and I may or may not have even cried. 😉  It was such a beautiful moment that I highly recommend every one experiencing at least once. We’ve already talked about going again next year!image3 (7)image0 (6)image4 (3)image3 (5)We ended the night binge watching cable TV and eating way too much pizza in our hotel bed, slept in the next morning and headed back home. I love all of our extravagant travels and adventures, but something about our short weekend getaways together fill my heart in a way that airports, beautiful beaches, and fancy airbnbs could never.image5 (1)

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image3 (3)Side Note: Since I am on the topic of travel and a lot of people have asked… Yes, we have a couple travel plans before baby comes. We will probably leave for the holidays, and hopefully have one more “vacation” before her arrival. We don’t like the idea of a “baby moon” because we plan to still travel a lot with our future little ones. The main difference being, we’ve both agreed to never leave Harvey again for longer than 2 weeks, so looks like we won’t be gone too long for the next 10ish years. 🙂image6 (2)image5 (3)

And with that, I’ll leave you with the words I wrote to the stars…

Here’s to: Adventure, Change, Memories, Happiness, Growth, Beauty, Gratitude, Love, Feelings, Being aliveimage2 (7)

Onto the next adventures (grand and small), Wren

 

 

Lessons I learned From Spending a Summer Abroad- #2

image0 (1)Like I mentioned before, Derek and I both had a lot of growing and life lessons learned while we were away for the summer. I’ll never be able to explain how temporarily leaving reality for a few months changes you, but I try to do my best to give you an idea through my words and these posts.

The second lesson I learned from living in the Dominican Republic this summer was,

Disappointment can not exist without expectations.

This lesson can apply to just about every single thing in life, but after being in charge of a group of 30 volunteers, and listening to constant complaints, this lesson became more apparent to me, and I took it to heart. Since being home, I’ve thought about this certain lesson a lot, and my whole perspective on life and my “problems” have changed.image6While we were in the Dominican Republic, one of our duties as a head teacher was to act as a “counselor” for the volunteers that needed it. This meant to constantly check up on each volunteer, listen to their personal problems, keep it all confidential, and try to help them in the best way we could, so that they would enjoy their experience abroad.

To be honest, I absolutely LOVED this part of my “job”. If you know me personally, you know I am always willing to provide a listening year, a shoulder to cry on, and any advice, even when I know it may not help.

But as I listened to each volunteer talk about the experiences, their complaints, and their expectations, I learned that the volunteers that were struggling the most had very HIGH expectations going into this experience, which led them to feel disappointed, let down, and even depressed. Some of them even went as far as breaking the rules and sending themselves home because this experience was “just different than they thought it would be.” I constantly found myself thinking “well what did you expect?”

image5I am not trying to say that having expectations is a bad thing. I think it’s important to have them when taking an opportunity, forming and connecting relationships, and starting something new. However, like with most things, I think there is a fine line that can be crossed when having too high of expectations can lead to unfulfillment and unhappiness.

After observing this all summer, I started thinking about my own personal expectations and exactly where they are with the things in my life. My own experience abroad, my marriage, my relationships with family and friends, my career, myself. I think It’s important for all of us to know where our expectations are, so that we can prevent ourselves from feeling let down or like we “settled” for something we didn’t want.image3 (2)For example, if you have expectations of being comfortable, having a set schedule, and feeling like all things should always go as planned, I do not recommend moving out of the country for a few months, or even traveling out of the country, unless it is on a guided tour.

If you have expectations of having a love story like every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen, and finding a real life guy or lady that looks good 24/7, doesn’t have any personal issues, and always treats you like a queen/king, I do not recommend dating and just sticking to watching those romantic comedies. 😉

If you expect to start a new job, move out of state, or meet new people and be completely comfortable without any learning curves, I promise you you will be disappointed or let down at one point or the other.image2 (4)My point is, I think it’s important for us to find what expectations we have, and do our best to avoid situations that will not meet them. Obviously, we will all be let down or disappointed from time to time. And sometimes, we don’t learn what our expectations are until this happens (like when we move out of country for 90 days and think WHAT THE HELL DID I DO). But on the other hand, I also think these experiences can teach us to lower our expectations, and we can learn to find happiness and fulfillment in even the shittiest and uncomfortable of situations.image4I’ve personally applied this lesson a lot since being back home and I feel way less disappointed by the things that would normally stress me out. Yeah my check engine light is on, but what do I expect from a car that is 15 years old? Yeah my dream job didn’t want me to come back to work, but what did I expect after leaving them to travel out of country for 90 days? And yeah, I can’t do the yoga pose that I had a goal of accomplishing by this time, but my body is growing another human, so its OKAY… And so on. I am all about living my life with the less amount of stress as possible. And even though stressful situations will always be there, I’ve felt a lot more content after learning to lower my expectations of things.

If you personally find yourself in a lot of stress, or stressful situations, try finding where your expectations are and either lower them, or do your best to avoid situations that you know won’t meet them. I promise it will help!image0(this selfie was taken at the Rise festival, that post will be next!)

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

 

Our Summer in the Dominican Republic- Video

Here it is, Finally!

Our video of our most adventurous, most life changing, and most beautiful summer yet.

3 things about this 3.5 minute film:

It makes me so emotional to watch it. Like most videos I make, they make me nostalgic for the moments in them, and also so happy and thankful that I live this life that I do.

I can’t believe that at one point our days looked like that.

And…I really miss the ocean.

“Run with the feeling of being alive while we’re still young.”

Thanks for watching, xo

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

Second trimester update and some exciting milestones

Happy October!IMG_8555I am officially down to the “5 more months” mark of this pregnancy, and I am finally starting to feel like myself again! I know it is different for everybody, but it has been true for me when they say that the second trimester is easier on the body than the first. To be honest, I think most things that I experience will be/ and are easier on my body than experiencing the first trimester I had. 😉IMG_8533In the last week, I’ve experienced some amazing milestones. One of them being receiving my blood test results back to confirm baby’s sex. Since I announced it on my social media accounts today, I wanted to write a little second trimester update on here- for anyone who cares, and for my future self, of course.

  • First things first, and one of the most exciting… It’s a girl!!

IMG_8545IMG_8587Growing up with only sisters, and having only nieces so far, I always pictured myself as an “all boy mom”. I always thought that I’d be completely content having all sons, but the second that pregnancy test came out positive, I knew my little one was going to be a girl. I just had a strong intuition that I was going to have a daughter.IMG_8544When the doctor told us at our 14 week appointment, I wasn’t at all surprised. Derek was actually more excited and shocked than I thought he would be, probably because he was surprised at how right my intuition had been. 😉 Since it was still early, we told family and close friends, but didn’t announce it. But I got my blood test results back yesterday, and baby is still a girl. And we are so excited!IMG_8557

A few other fun milestones and updates in the last couple weeks:

  • I can’t remember the last time I threw up a meal, and I can make it through a day without a 2 hour long nap, meaning I haven’t felt this good since June. Now that I finally feel better, I can’t believe how sick I actually was!
  • With that exciting milestone, I am finally starting to gain some weight back and am very proud of it. Right now, I am one pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight and I am happy that baby is finally starting to grow at a faster pace.

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  • I felt baby girl kick for the first time, and my belly finally started to pop. Both of these things have made the pregnancy, and the fact that I am going to be a mama, feel more real.
  • Baby girl’s official due date is February 29, 2020. Meaning she is due on leap year! But if she arrives 5 days late, she will be born on my 26th birthday. Whatever day she arrives, she will be an emotional, sensitive Pisces like her mama. (sorry Derek 😉 )

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  • We have a name that we really like, that we occasionally call her, but we will probably wait to meet her before we make it official. PS-why are names for dogs so much easier than they are for humans?

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  • Derek’s sister, Shara, is due with a baby boy in January, meaning she will have a cousin just 8 weeks older than her, and I finally get a nephew! It’s been so fun being pregnant together.

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  • Derek is obviously very excited to have a little girl. He always greets me with a kiss, a kiss on my belly and a “how are my girls?” and I can’t wait to see him become the best daddy.

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  • Harvey is still just as obsessed with me as ever, he loves resting his head on my stomach and is already the best big brother. I just hope he loves her this much when she keeps him up all night and takes his spot on the couch.

IMG_8560IMG_8559IMG_8547And with that, I want to say thank you for all of the love and support we’ve received with this new chapter. Our lives have changed so much this year, and to bring this adventure into the mix of it all makes me think even more that things do happen for reasons and that timing is always right, even when it doesn’t always feel that way.IMG_8554Here’s to this beautiful changing body of mine, the rest of the wonderful second trimester, and to officially being parents to a daughter!

Onto the next adventure, Wren