Do you suddenly feel like you want to run straight into the woods and forget about everything?
Yeah, me too. And I know the perfect place to go.
First, make sure you like tigers.
Rad! Who doesn’t like tigers? No one, that’s who.
Then, make sure you aren’t afraid of heights and climbing.
Now book your stay at the Necedah Tower in Necedah, Wisconsin. We were checking off some state parks in the area and stayed overnight in the Necedah Tower, which Daniel, the owner, built over the course of seven years. Daniel was very knowledgeable about the area and Wisconsin’s natural history and enjoyed showing us around the tower and talking about its construction.
The views at the top can’t be beat.
There’s a comfy queen bed, a bathroom and shower, and everything you need for a night. There was no Wifi or TV, though, which was fine with me. Bed at 8:00 p.m.! The tower is in a quiet, wooded area, but easy to find. You can’t see it from the road, which makes it even more spectacular when it appears at the end of the driveway.
Due to some problems getting up to code (the part you sleep in is up to code and we weren’t worried about being unsafe at all—the whole thing felt very solid) Daniel has pulled the listing from AirBNB until he can get an inspector out. He closes the tower during winter anyway, so check back in the spring. You can become a fan of it on Facebook by looking for Necedah Tower. If you want to stay somewhere different, give it a spin. Daniel built his own house, too, and he also takes pictures of Bollywood performers.
We didn’t see any clowns in the woods, but they probably are out and about after 8:00 p.m. All the more reason to go to bed early.
I’m working on a mind-numbing, soul-sucking data entry project at work that has me questioning my existence and general contribution to society. I have been listing to podcast after podcast as I type type type away. Here’s what I’ve been listening to.
I started listening to podcasts on a frequent basis back in 2013. I had already listened to most of the This American Life catalog, but didn’t venture beyond that. Then I had my great financial crises of 2013: a $500 doctor bill that totally changed my outlook on money. I downloaded some Dave Ramsey in desperation and listening to him inspired me so much back then. While I don’t agree with his politics, he has some great financial guidelines for people who are clueless (like I was) about how to budget and get on track. I used to make Kris listen to it sometimes, but after one episode wherein Dave Ramsey kept calling a caller a “butt” Kris had enough. I eventually grew tired of DR going off on political rants, and graduated to other money podcasts to keep me inspired. One of the more recent ones that I enjoy is HerMoney with Jean Chatzky. Jean interviews different people of varying degrees of fame, and then answers listener questions about money. She’s interviewed Angie Hicks from Angie’s List about starting a business from scratch, Ali Sweeney about identity theft, and even Dave Ramsey. While it is geared toward women, anyone can learn from it. She touches on careers, inspiration, organization…pretty much relevant to anyone who gets or wants a paycheck. Hundred dollar bills, ya’ll.
Heavyweight is similar to This American Life, but sticks to one story and the host/narrator is directly involved. It’s funny and sad and has moments of beauty…basically TAL condensed. I was hooked by episode 2, Gregor, which covers the story of a guy that loaned Moby his Sounds of the South albums back in the 90s. Moby sampled Sounds of the South heavily for his Play album and subsequently blew up and became the famous bald vegan we all know. Gregor has complicated feelings about this and has repeatedly asked Moby for his albums back over the years. He goes to L.A. to track Moby down to get the albums back….20 years later. It is a fascinating listen, and Moby has some dark revelations about his fame.
2000 was a weird time.
On Friday nights I can be found drinking wine and shouting at Dateline on the TV. “The husband did it!” is my usual refrain. Naturally, I loved Serial. I tried to fill the gap listening to a podcast (I won’t even name because I can’t recommend) about the Maura Murray disappearance, but it ended up going off the rails as they followed bizarre tangents. I was reluctant to spend time on another, but I really enjoyed listening to Accused. This follows a cold case from 1978 and there are so many suspects and twists that I listened to all eight episodes in two days. Elizabeth Andes was murdered in her college apartment a few days after graduation, and her boyfriend, Bob Young, was immediately accused. He gave a confession under intense interrogation, but was ultimately acquitted by a criminal and civil jury. Accused interviews everyone and anyone around Elizabeth at that time, and it is fascinating to follow the cold case. There are no easy answers in this one, but it is well put together and the tenacity of the two female reporters is remarkable.
Of a far less murder-y flavor is Happier with Gretchen Rubin, which takes a look at habits and personality types and gives tips for making life easier and more productive. Gretchen and her sister discuss their work and family lives, and I frequently come back to bits of advice they give. One that’s running through my head lately is: what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. This is deceivingly simple: exercising every day, writing every day, doing a little cleaning every day will get me further than devoting a huge chunk of time to these activities every once in a while. I try to keep this in mind when I want to procrastinate, or put off the horrible data entry project I’m slugging through at work.
I’m a fan of Gretchen’s books, too, and I’ve started using her one-sentence journal as a gratitude journal. Gretchen introduced me to the 5 Love Languages (I’m the kind that likes getting gifts, so next time I see you, feel free) and Headspace, which let me try out guided meditation. Overall, lots of tips and tricks to examine yourself and fall down the rabbit hole of self-improvement.
The next podcast is an acquired, dirty taste: My Dad Wrote a Porno. This is put together by an English guy whose dad, like the title infers, wrote a porno. He reads it out loud to his two friends and they try and make sense of what is happening in Belinda Blinked, the porno book. There is nothing remotely sexy about any of the writing. It’s similar to trying to figure out if Pitbull has ever had sex based on his lyrics, and just as befuddling. This is one podcast I have actually LOLed at, and it’s always fun to listen to sophisticated British accents as they discuss x-rated topics. Especially when you’re at work (headphones are on for this one).
So, what podcasts are you digging? I am always on the hunt for new ones and have found some great ones through trial and error and recommendations from friends.
Also: I’ve figured out how to insert gifs. And no, I won’t stop.
Pregnant! July 15. It’s a Friday and Kris is out of town until Tuesday and I am getting ready to dig into my first night home alone in quite some time with a bottle of red. There’s nothing I like more than falling down a slightly drunk YouTube black hole by myself. But before I pop a bottle, I pee on a strip and there is the faintest fainty faint line, but Google tells me a faint line is still a real line, and there’s a baby in me and holy crap. We were trying for this for a few months, and now it’s real. I calmly tell the dog and cat first because I want to wait to tell Kris in person on Tuesday. The dog shakes her head and the cat wanders off. Later that night, the cat pukes. I don’t think they want a sibling.
It’s a long weekend to keep this to myself. I go to a baby shower on Sunday and I keep my little secret under my hat. I’m pregnant, too! I whisper it into a mirror when I’m in the bathroom at the shower. Me, too. I’m going to have a baby. It’s still sinking in. My boobs are sore, pants are tight, I’m hungry and tired. Is four weeks pregnant too early to buy maternity pants? I go to the library and check out Pregnancy for Dummies. I go nuts on my Pinterest. I buy presents to tell our parents and other family members. I download the app that tells you the size of the baby by week, and charts baby’s development. It is already a baby, from moment one, to me.
Telling Kris is fun. I bought a University of Michigan onesie (even though I vow to myself that baby will wear a University of Wisconsin onesie first) and I pin a cute note on it to let him know he can have fun scooping the litterbox for the next nine months. He is elated about the baby, resigned to the litterbox. I enjoy reading him the gross bits from Pregnancy for Dummies. Linea negra. Mucus plugs and bleeding nipples. Episiotomies. What the actual hell. I mean, I knew all of this stuff in theory, but now it’s going to be me in March. Me.
One person in this photo is pregnant.
We go to his brother’s wedding in Denver a week later, and we keep our secret. It’s fun, just the two of us knowing, and we’re sitting at a table at the wedding with a pregnant woman who is ready to pop. Me, too, I think. I’m pregnant too and no one knows! It’s a giddy, tight thought that runs circles in my brain, wearing down a track. I ask the bartender to give me a diet Coke in a lowball glass so that people think I’m drinking a cocktail. We eat cake in bed after the wedding, and Kris watches TV and I read. In the book I’m reading, All the Way Home, which I picked up because it is supposed to be primarily about a home renovation, the wife in it has two miscarriages in a row. I just got done reading The Light Between Oceans. There were a ton of miscarriages in there, too. Miscarriage. The word is a far away iceberg. I eat more cake, telling myself that the baby wants more cake.
Oreos in lieu of cake.
We tell our parents. His first, then mine. We just made four people grandparents. We talk about the future. The baby’s due date is my mom’s birthday. I start looking up astrological signs. Aries or Pisces, depending on the actual birthday. Gemstone: aquamarine. Baby will be class of 2035. It will be four months old when I turn 33. It will be eight months old for Christmas next year. I will look very pregnant by this Christmas. Baby is the size of a blueberry. Then a raspberry.
We countdown to our first doctor’s appointment, August 11. On that day, we take half a day off from work, grab lunch, talk about the baby and future in the endless, circular way we have been doing for four weeks. We go to Menards and buy new outdoor lights and talk about renovation plans. The bedroom we have slated for the nursery is going to need blackout curtains because it faces east.
We’re early to the appointment. I’m giddy. Nervous but excited. There will never be another moment like this for me, for us, in which we get to see our first baby on the ultrasound monitor. We wait to go from one lobby to another, then the exam room, then the ultrasound room where we wait some more. My doctor arrives. She congratulates us warmly before getting down to business.
The ultrasound wand goes in and there’s my uterus and there’s the yolk sac and there’s the embryo. The embryo is tiny. Too tiny for eight weeks, she tells us. It looks more like six weeks instead of eight and you need to come back in two weeks so we know everything is growing correctly. Here, she says, pointing to the barest flicker, is the heartbeat.
Stunned, we are dismissed from the doctor’s office abruptly. No prenatal counseling, no picture from the ultrasound. Just go home and hold your breath for two weeks.
Still, I hold on to that heartbeat. It’s better than nothing. We still have a sliver of hope, but the doubt is worming its way in. I get asked by a friend if I’m pregnant. Am I? What is going on? I should be able to answer that question. You either are or you aren’t. No one is a little pregnant.
The days tick by slowly. Each night I count on my fingers how many days are left until the next ultrasound. 13 days. 9 days. 5 days. I still feel very pregnant, nauseous and tired and hungry in rotating intervals. My lower stomach even puffs out, although that could be the recent overindulgence in cake. My boobs still hurt. I am no longer complaining about these symptoms. They are all signs pointing to my rising pregnancy hormones and a growing baby.
We talk about the possibilities, but what good is talking about them? Nothing can happen. Everything can happen. We wait it out in exquisite agony. We are flying blind, completely helpless. Maybe this is our first taste of really being parents.
The next appointment is August 25, the day before Kris’s mom’s and my dad’s birthday. We can’t have bad news. We are much more somber when we get to the ultrasound room. No joking anymore. Just nerves. My doctor doesn’t make us wait this time. She starts the ultrasound, finds the shadow she has been looking for, and she searches and searches, and is silent and I know before she speaks, but knowing doesn’t make a difference.
“I’m seeing the yolk sac. But what I’m not seeing is an embryo,” she says, and I’m grateful for her tone, which is measured, and conveys the right amount of sorrow. I feel bad for her in this moment. How many times has she had to deliver this news to people? A dozen? A hundred?
Our secret joy becomes our secret loss.
She gives me three choices: have a D&C surgery where they go in and remove all the fetal tissue, or I take some pills which start the process of getting rid of everything, or I just wait for my body to do the job. I opt for the pills because I don’t want to take time off of work for a procedure. I don’t trust my body to do anything right, not anymore.
I poured myself a glass of wine that night, which feels weird and makes things more real. Later, we filled the prescriptions at Walgreens. I made a mental note for the future that the next time I am getting a prescription someone in line could be standing there waiting for pills to start their miscarriage. I bought giant maxi pads that I haven’t had the pleasure of since 7th grade. Hello, wings, long time no see.
The physical pain was nothing, a footnote. I woke up early at 6:00 a.m., ready to be done with the whole process. I took the pills, and then the pain pills. Numb was where I wanted to be, and I mostly was. I spent the day in bed watching Snapped and making frequent trips to the bathroom. The cramps got worse and worse, and I grew tired in spite of the pain. I made one trip to the bathroom and knew that was it, and it was. Everything was over.
The following days were a blur of normalcy. I still went to work, even though I was fighting back tears at my desk, biding time until I could cry in my car at lunch. Kris and I went on a vacation we had planned for months before. We did the things we always did. I cleaned the litterbox. I checked the option on the pregnancy app that indicated miscarriage. The app emailed condolences. Pregnancy for Dummies went back to the library.
The pregnancies that were on the same timeline as ours had been began to crop up on Facebook, and my heart clenched. Why did they get to be pregnant and not me? They will be the ones holding a baby in March, not us. I tried to get back to my routines, looking for any distraction. I exercised. I meditated, I read, I wrote, I worked. I cleaned and meal planned, made plans for the near future. I smiled when I didn’t feel like it, and made bad, dark jokes. I cried more than I’ve ever cried. I’m still crying.
Was this punishment for being ambivalent at various points in my life about motherhood? For my always cavalier joking about babies? Are our genes some sort of toxic combination? What if this happens next time? Will there even be a next time? If I was waiting for a sign to have kids, isn’t this the sign I was waiting for? A big fat no, do not attempt? The questions kept coming, and keep coming. Is this because I’m asking for too much from the universe? Or is this just a case of cells not dividing properly, a 20% outcome of all pregnancies, like my doctor explained? Surely it can’t be something as simple and random as that.
It’s been almost two months. It hasn’t all been sadness. We’ve laughed since then. We’ve had fun, we’ve joked. Gone out to dinner, argued, read books and watched movies. We’ve celebrated and felt happy for friends expecting babies, and we still like seeing babies in our Facebook feed. I’d love to end this post with something happy like a “but we’re pregnant again!” line, but life doesn’t work that way. I’m not pregnant.
Instead, today I’m thinking about our baby that couldn’t stay and everyone else with a secret joy that turned into a secret loss.
Along with browsing AirBNB (I feel like they should pay me to work for them), these are a few of my favorite things lately.
This planner from Bloom. I loved my Some eCards planner, but this one is far superior. It give a monthly view, a weekly view, and lots of pages to set yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals. You can even track water intake if you want. I feel so much more productive and well-rounded with this planner. Some of it is too gooey for my tastes—I don’t dig quotes like “Don’t stop until you’re proud,” but eh. It’s a welcome change of pace. I should really just paste some funny eCards in there and it’d be perfect.
And yes, that’s my special Staedtler pen that I use specifically for this planner, and no, I’m not a nerd. You’re the nerd.
This ring from Etsy. I needed some writing inspiration and decided on part of a Hemingway quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It reminds me of how much fun writing is! Eh, or something like that.
This magical tea from Good Earth is a nice addition to my tea stash. It has caffeine and makes me feel like there are calories in it, but there aren’t. This is my winter jam because my office is perpetually freezing and sometimes I can feel my fingers if they’re wrapped around a mug of this stuff. But, be warned that the tea bags come with lame quotes. Fortune favors the brave. Thanks for the reminder, Good Earth. Again, something that would be improved with Some eCards.
When Kris wasn’t home for dinner one night, my cat took his place at the dinner table. I was highly amused.
I revived the morning smoothie ritual, and am really on board with the current mix: frozen banana, chocolate protein powder, spinach, and a few mint leaves. It’s sweet and refreshing and takes two minutes.
I probably won’t want something cold in the winter, so I’m enjoying this while it lasts. Has anyone tried a hot smoothie? I am disgusted and intrigued.
Wearing all black to workout makes me feel like a ninja, especially in my Body Combat class where we punch and kick and pretend we have swords. The real feat of ninja-ry is getting out of the house without being covered in cat hair. I never really put much effort into gym clothes because, c’mon, I’m just going to get sweaty, but I’m permanently retiring my workout t-shirts which also doubled as pajamas sometime and weekend wear (sometimes all in the same day, ha!). I love my New Balance tank. Very flattering, and nice and long, which is a problem I have with workout clothes.
That’s what has been rocking my world lately. Hello, October!
We earmarked Labor Day weekend and beyond for working on a goal of ours: getting to all 50 states by the time we’re 35. Luckily, due to lots of previous travel, this shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish with some planning. My family road trips left me bereft of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In a happy coincidence, Kris has family in North Carolina who graciously let us use their guest house, so the rest of our plans fell into place.
Here are some of the highlights, in no important order:
AirBNB for the win. We stayed at some really cool places that allowed us to get a flavor of the area. West Virginia was our first stop, and after a long day of driving, we realized our mistake of not making a more concerted effort to get to our AirBNB before dark. The roads were winding, dark and narrow, and GPS was long gone. I relied on my phone as a flashlight and reading good ol’ fashioned directions, just like early settlers. Terrible! Somehow we pulled in to our final destination, and got a case of the creeps. A gigantic white mansion loomed in the dark (no one was home) and we nervously punched in the key code to the above garage apartment that was our stop for the night. After speculating on how many murders had occurred/ghosts existed, we barricaded ourselves in our room and fell into uneasy sleep.
In the morning, all was well. We sheepishly put back the furniture we had moved and explored the beautiful country setting we found ourselves in. The apartment was perfect, and we should have stayed longer to enjoy it, but we had to hit the road…
To get to the Peacock Cottage in Virginia! When we arrived (after a spirited navigational “discussion”) we were greeted with mini bottles upon mini bottles of wine. Thankfully, after a full day romping around Shenandoah National Park, Kris didn’t feel like doing much in terms of dinner and he dug into the treats and and I cracked open the wine, and we explored the farm.
The Peacock Cottage had an attached enclosure that housed two peacocks, Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie was braver than Clyde, and Kris, for some reason fell in love with her and was calling her “Bon-bon” and “Bonnie Bun” every time I turned around. He wasn’t even the one swilling the wine. We heckled Clyde and demanded that he show us his feathers, but he mostly ran away from us. Clyde was an asshole. A beautiful asshole.
We spent the next few nights in the aforementioned guest house in Marshall, NC. There weren’t any peacocks to heckle, but there was a dog named Clyde, and a few cows.
Knoxville was just a stop over place to cut the long drive back in half. We stayed in a room in a nice family house and enjoyed a king-sized bed. I couldn’t figure out how to work the hot water in the bathroom, but Kris assures me I was just turning the wrong handle. Not sure about that, but I gave myself credit for trying to shower as I doused my hair in dry shampoo.
Even though this place was no frills, it did come with an excellent breakfast of gravy and biscuits. I would never order a breakfast like that, mainly because I don’t like gravy, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. The biscuits were delicious and the sausage gravy had a little spicy kick that I’m still thinking about. The owners’ three kids entertained us with stories at breakfast. They mainly involved people crossing the road and getting run over. Coincidentally, we almost got rear-ended right outside this AirBNB.
Knoxville and the Wigsphere? Oh, Sunsphere.
Last stop was by Turkey Run in Indiana. This vintage camper lives in a private campground. The owner of it clearly put a lot of time into decorating it and I could’ve spent hours looking at all the little knick-knacks, but in reality I was more intent on finding the s’mores supplies, which I did. I ate two and Kris only had one because he was ‘full.’ I don’t know how I married someone who stops eating when they are full.
Inside of the camper:
So, in case you can’t tell, I really, really dig AirBNBs. It can be a little awkward for me to make small talk with the hosts, but sometimes, if you are lucky your husband will do that for you, or the owner will be out of town anyway. Consider it if you are traveling! We’ve had lots of good luck with them, and they are usually cheaper than a hotel, or you can splurge one night (Peacock Cottage) and skimp another night (Knoxville) according to your needs.
Oh yeah, we did stuff on this trip, too, other than stay in cool places.
We visited Shenandoah National Park, and did some hikes there. The park ranger who sold us our pass bought a car in Wisconsin. He said he bought it in “Sun City, by Madison.”
Went to Monticello. TJ seems like he was a pretty interesting guy. We saw an original pair of his boots, and I must say he had shockingly skinny calves.
We explored the Biltmore. This is easily an entire day adventure, and worth the steep admission price ($75+ each with the audio guide). After exploring the house and gardens, we made our way to the winery. The wine pourer lady was too slow for us, so we destroyed their free sample snack area in revenge. Which led to us dropping another $60 buying presents, so I guess the Biltmore really won that round.
Asheville was fun. I highly enjoyed the Omni Park Grove Spa, which we don’t have any pictures of because we were too busy relaxing. Obligatory stop at Honey Tupelo Cafe, even though Kris was full. Full means nothing!
Side trip to cross the border into South Carolina to see Table Rock, and the home of the Blair Witch.
Grandfather Mountain was hot and the elevator was broken. We were both sweaty and gross and one of us was cranky. That person is not pictured out of respect for their privacy.
Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Clingman’s Dome, which I kept calling Klingon’s Dome to annoy Kris.
Also not pictured: two different alpine coasters that we rode. Very fun. Pro tip: do the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge. Another pro tip: do not drive through Pigeon Forge on a Friday afternoon when there is a convention for vintage cars because it will make you murderous or suicidal.
Turkey Run State Park in Indiana: a childhood haunt of Kris’s that we revisited. Just a little hike, he said. Yeah.
All in all, a good time and three missing states checked off for me.
PS-We also saw Dinosaur Kingdom 2. Don’t ask me. Ask Kris.
Prague was my favorite. I have always wanted to go here, fueled by, of all things, the scenes from Mission Impossible that made Prague look romantic and mysterious. The architecture and cobblestones made it look like something out of a fairy tale. This was one city where my thoughts were not, “When will I be back?” but “I must come back.” I can’t wait to explore more of eastern Europe someday, and we’ll have to stop by Prague again.
Our last stop was Croatia. We flew into Split, Croatia and took a ferry to Hvar. We couldn’t stop taking pictures of the water.
That’s all! Thanks for looking. We had a great time and made some amazing memories.
Venice! One day and one night. Beautiful maze. Throw away the map because it won’t help.
Roma! A lot fewer pictures of us because we were getting a little…haggard…at this point.