Jul 28, 2014

Celebrating 7 Years: Real Life & a Walk Down Memory Lane

I woke up this morning so irritated at D. Last night was our last night sleeping on our comfy rental mattress. We have to give it back today and start sleeping on an air mattress again (our stuff STILL isn't here--shoot me). Instead of sleeping soundly (like one hopes to sleep their last night of comfort for a while), I slept horribly...mostly because D stole all the covers. Blanket, sheet...the whole shebang. I tugged and fought the sleeping bear, but continually lost. He happily snored away, oblivious to my dilemma...and I shivered all night until I finally got up to find another blanket. Naturally, after getting up, I couldn't fall back asleep. Story of my life.

D got up at his usual time to get ready for work. I silently rejoiced that he was gone. I was ready to get one solid hour of good sleep in before I needed to get up myself. Unfortunately, sleep alluded me again, so I rolled out of bed and grumpily made my way downstairs for breakfast. When I walked in the kitchen, D was standing there with a sheepish look on his face. He knew I hadn't slept well...and he knew I was going to give him crap about it. But before I could get an angry word out of my mouth, he walked over gave me a big 'ol D-sized hug, and said "Happy Anniversary, my love. Best 7 years of my life!" 

Well, dang it. Not only did he steal my furied thunder, he made me remember what I forgot--our 7th wedding anniversary. I mean, I knew last night that our anniversary was today, but in my fog of annoyance and lack of sleep, I forgot. We'd also kind of already celebrated our anniversary last weekend at Disney, so again, I forgot. The look on his face, the words he said...how does one yell at another after such a sweet morning greeting? One can't. So, I held my tongue. Then, he handed me a hot cup of coffee, fixed just the way I like it, and all that anger I woke up with just washed away.

This is what 7 years of wedded bliss looks like, folks. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed, forgiving cups of coffee, and eating crow after your husband remembers an important milestone and you...well...don't. Most days, you'll see all our bright-shiny marriage moments. Those are my favorites to share. You bloggers know what I mean. We looovee to share the good...what bad?! There's no bad! Just don't look behind the curtain. Even after all the years we've spent together (13.5 including the dating years), the gosh honest truth is...we don't always get it right. We argue and bicker, we overlook and forget. We nitpick and hold grudges, we say things we don't mean and let our own agendas overshadow the important moments in life. This morning, I almost let something so silly as a bad night's sleep tarnish the beginning of a special day. Thankfully, D knows me better than anyone and knew just how to melt my icy attitude with a few simple words.

Even in the not-so-shiny moments, one truth remains constant--our love and respect for one another and our marriage. This morning, I felt 7 years of hard work, trust, and heart-racing, passionate love bear-hug me right there in our kitchen. No amount of lost sleep could be more important those 15 seconds. So, I swallowed my grief, smiled up at D, and thanked him for giving me the 7 most incredible years of my life. We drank our coffee, ate our eggs, and I sent him off to work with one heck of a kiss. I'll suffer through 100 more years of crappy sleep if it means I can wake up to that man every morning. And that's also the gosh honest truth.

Happy 7 years, best friend. You make me better. Everyday.


And now for a fun & embarrassing walk down 7 years of memory lane....

Engagement announcement photo 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Just hitched! July 28, 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

First dance as husband and wife, July 28, 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Still enjoying alcohol together...typical. ;) July 28, 2007 // Salzburg, Austria 2014

Jamaican Honeymoon, July 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Day we brought Tuck home for the first time 2006 // Reunited with our baby dog! June 2014

First Married Christmas in NC 2007 // 6th Married Christmas in Germany 2014

 1st Anniversary--Destin, Fl 2008 // 2nd Anniversary--Emerald Isle, NC 2009 // 3rd Anniversary--Tulum, Mexico 2010

4th Anniversary--Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany  2011 // 5th Anniversary--Lake Constance, Germany 2012 // 6th Anniversary--Riquewihr, France 2013

7th Anniversary--DISNEY WORLD!! 2014

Can't wait to see what the future brings! 

Jul 24, 2014

12 Ways Living in Germany Made Me a Better Person

1| I've become well-versed in cooking my own delicious Mexican food favorites.
Queso Blanco? Perfected it. Arroz con Pollo & Enchiladas Verde? I'm a master. Homemade Guac & Margaritas? None can beat mine. When you can't find great Mexican food in your host country, you learn to make your own. And you save money in the process. Everyone's invited over for a fiesta...as soon as I get furniture, of course.

2| I now enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Not really sure this makes me a better person, but it sure does make me feel good! Before moving to Germany, I was mostly a tea drinker (except for the occasional super sweet Starbucks indulgence). Today, I can't go a morning without a good cup of joe. Look at me all grown up and sophisticated! [eye roll] ;) Europe had stellar coffee and lovely cafes to drink it in. Spoiled me rotten, I tell ya. I'm currently scouting out cappuccino/latte makers for our kitchen, so send me any suggestions you've got!

3| I actually go to parks now.
Parks. What a novel idea! Why don't many Americans go to parks? I rarely did before living in Germany. Now, I'm all like...LET'S GO PICNIC! And run! And just lay out in the grass staring up at the clouds like the Europeans do! I really miss our giant, green park just down the hill from our German flat. It was always filled with people doing all kinds of fun activities. The parks here in Florida are small (at least the ones in our area)...or they're beaches. I know, I know...you're playing the world's smallest violin for me now, aren't you?

4| I can parallel park like a friggin' pro.
Living in a flat with no garage or designated parking space meant D and I had to get really good at parallel parking...and real quick! Street parking was a total pain in our butts for 3 years, but at least one new skill was acquired out of the inconvenience. Any new drivers out there need lessons? I charge in hugs.

5| I'm a more aware and efficient driver.
Pass on the left only. Slow drivers in the far right lane--always. No trucks in fast lanes (except to pass). No lingering in the passing lane. Germany gets these things right! It's illegal not to follow these rules there. Now, if I could only get everyone in America on board, we'd be golden! Germany may have had pushy drivers, but they sure were smart about their Autobahn rules. They just make sense. The only rule I'm glad is out the door now that I'm back stateside? No right turn on red...ever. Feels so freeing to be able to do that again!

6| I've developed an affinity for long lunching.
Don't ask me out to lunch unless you plan on sitting there with me for a couple of hours. Not kidding. The whole "slow living" phenomenon that Europe is so famous for totally rubbed off on me, in certain ways at least. Lunches and dinners out in Germany usually meant 3 hours of dining and chatting. It was so nice to really enjoy my food and our company. Here, everything is so rush, rush, rush! Even more reason to slow down and just be in the moment. Don't worry, if I linger too long at a restaurant or cafe here stateside, I make sure to leave a heftier tip. Small price to pay for a less-hurried life.

7| Germany helped me rekindle my love for yogurt and granola.
German yogurt was the bomb. Probably because it was almost always full fat. If I ever wanted a sweet treat, I'd stock up on German brands of yogurt (and their equally delicious muesli--granola, to us Americans). Now that I'm back stateside, I've stuck to my yogurt obsession, only healthified it a bit. Yay for probiotics!

8| Sundays have become a true day of rest.
Even though I complained about it a lot, there was really something to having everything closed on Sundays in Germany. The day was quieter, slower, more relaxing before the hustle and bustle of the work week began. We replaced running post-church errands with spending time with friends; family, if they were in town. Hopefully we can keep up that tradition here in Florida.

9| I look forward to recycling things.
I thought this would change the second I stepped foot off the plane back in America, but I'm happy to say I still feel the urge recycle things. Unfortunately, we can't recycle all of the same things we did in Germany, but it's still a heck of a lot more than we were doing before our 3-year stent abroad. I feel much more environmentally cautious today than I did in my pre-Germany life. Feels awesome.

10| I've become an excellent care-package sender.
My affinity for snail mail skyrocketed while we were living in Europe. Living so far from home--cards, care packages, and postcards we almost a necessity to keep me engaged with my loved ones. I LOVED putting packages together and sending them off to friends and family. Snail mail is dying these days (which makes me incredibly sad), so I'm trying to help save it...one care package at a time.

11| I've learned so much about world geography, different cultures, food, etc.
Do you know where Luxembourg is located? I do. And the tiny counties of San Marino, Aurora, and Liechtenstein. Before moving to Europe, I had no idea 2 out of the 4 of those even existed. It's amazing how worldly you become after living somewhere other than your home country. I feel so grateful to have been able to expand my global knowledge and to have so many amazing stories to share with our future children.

12| I'm acutely aware of my American loudness...and I correct it.
One of the main things I noticed while living in Germany was how incredibly loud Americans can be...myself included. I was never belligerent or so loud you'd have to tell me to shut up, but Americans, in general, tend to talk louder than most Europeans. Not sure why that is exactly, but since moving back stateside, I'm constantly checking my loudness in public settings so as to not draw attention to myself. In turn, I'm now ultra aware of other people's loudness. I kind of hope this change blows over with time, because I'm annoyed out in public more often. No wonder Germans seemed so cranky some days!

If you've ever lived in a foreign country, did certain things about you change when you returned home? 
Share your experiences!

Jul 23, 2014

Travel Like A Boss Series: Travel Insurance -- Yay or Nay?

Let's say it all together...YAY!!! Definite yay. Well, at least where D and I are concerned. If you're an avid traveler, you've probably purchased, looked into, or at least heard of travel insurance. Some of you probably think, "What's the point?" Others of you might have found out the hard way why travel insurance can be so important. One thing is for sure, it's something all travelers should be aware of. As harsh as this may sound, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Simple as that.

D and I almost always get travel insurance for our trips. Being a military family, lots of things could pop up (i.e.- deployments, last-minute training, TYD's, revoked leave, yadda yadda...the list goes on and on) and cause any one of our trips to be canceled at a moments notice. I don't like to leave life to chance (especially when there's lots of money at stake), so we plan ahead and snag up travel insurance for our big trips. Anything over 5 days, we insure it. Any trip totaling over $700, we insure it. Any trip that takes us to multiple countries on various forms of transportation, we insure it. Any vacation that might have us zip lining or mountain climbing or doing something super adventurous, we insure it (ahem, ourselves). The thing is, you just never know.

Call me a Worry Wort or a Cautious Casey, but when you've forked out thousands of dollars and planned your little heart out for the vacation of your dreams only to have it ripped out from underneath you because of an unexpected issue, you don't want to leave anything to chance. Paying an extra $100 to make sure we're covered for a myriad of unforeseen travel changes or, heaven forbid, an injury or natural disaster, is the kind of peace of mind worth investing in. D and I almost had to cancel our 3rd wedding anniversary trip to Mexico because the start of his first deployment fell right smack dab in the middle of our vacation. At the time, we were naive and didn't have travel insurance. Not only was I a panicked wreck about the deployment, but I was devastated we were going lose thousands of dollars because of cancelling our trip. Talk about adding insult to injury. Thankfully, his deployment got pushed back a week and we happily went to Mexico, but had his commander not worked some magic, we would have been out $2,500. Mexican resorts don't give a rats @$$ about your husband's deployment. That money would have been gone forever. After that scare, we vowed to always get travel insurance for any big trip we might take. So far, we've kept our promise...and thankfully, we've never actually needed it. 

There are gobs and gobs of different travel insurance companies out there. A simple Google search brings up dozens of pages filled with links to various insurance websites and comparisons sites to help you do your research. It's always smart to shop around and see what options are available to you (not all insurance plans are made equal!). If this is your first go at snagging travel insurance, here are some helpful tips to make the search a little easier:

1| Figure out what kind of coverage you need. 
Do you want full coverage? Partial coverage? Need your bags covered? Medical coverage? SO MANY OPTIONS! Decide what coverage or situations would be important to you and price out plans from there. If you don't care about having your rental car covered (because maybe you aren't even renting one on your trip?), then choose a plan that omits that option, if possible.

2| Insure for the full cost of the trip.
Typically, when you are travel insurance shopping, you'll have to put in your total trip cost to get an accurate quote for insurance. Make sure to include items like plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, excursions...anything you've already pre-booked and forked out a deposit for, include it! 

A few things to consider when choosing the right travel insurance plan for you:

    • Trip Cancellation--most plans have specific terms as to what qualifies as an appropriate reason for trip cancellation, so take note of the wording specific to your coverage!
    • Lost/stolen bags or personal gear--some plans only cover your bags and gear up to a certain amount (per-item limit). Try to find a plan that allows for a higher limit if you've got excessive or expensive gear to cover.
    • Coverage for adventurous sports or activities--some plans may only cover certain sports or activities, so make sure whatever activities you're planning to do while on your trip are covered.
    • Medical expenses--including transport home for serious medical treatment. Make sure to fully disclose any pre-existing medical conditions and medications when choosing a policy.
    • Personal liability--accidents happen and sometimes it's your fault. If someone decides to sue you, don't admit fault until you've talked with your insurance provider, just in case. Travel insurance doesn't typically cover liability while you're driving, so it's always good to make sure you've got coverage for that elsewhere. TIP: obtain appropriate local licenses to operate whatever vehicle you may drive in whatever country you might travel to. Failure to do so may nullify your coverage.
    • Is it safe to travel there? --you may not be covered if you choose to travel to a destination affected by terrorism, war, civil/political unrest or a natural disaster such as a volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tsunami, etc.
    • Extra coverage--life is weird and sometimes airlines or tour companies screw you over with canceled flights, delayed departures, missed connections, or going under. Some insurance plans cover for these headaches, others don't. If you're concerned about any one of these unforeseen issues (or just have really bad luck), maybe spring for the extra coverage.

3| Carefully read through the entire insurance plan, including the fine print! 
What exactly is considered an unforeseen event? Am I covered if I lose my job and can't afford my trip anymore? Are my plane tickets covered? What if a hurricane interrupts my vacation? Whatever the situation, if you think it could happen to you, make sure your travel insurance plan covers it. If you're a military family, this is especially important. Make good and sure your coverage includes a military clause stating that you'd be covered in the event that your trip has to be cancelled due to a deployment, revoked leave, or any other military-related duty. If you're unsure about any part of the fine print, call the company directly for clarification.

4| Keep a copy of your travel insurance plan number and coverage description with you when you travel.
You never know when disaster may strike, so keep those insurance documents on hand--just in case. Add any important phone numbers and contacts you might need in the rare event you might actually have to file a claim, visit a medical facility, or have your trip interrupted.

Reputable Travel Insurance Companies:
Travel Guard (we have used this company)
Travel Insured International via USAA (we have used this company)
World Nomad
CSA Travel Protection

While there are many other things to consider before taking a trip, travel insurance should be a bullet point on your "to-do" list. Your time and money are important assets. If traveling is a priority in your life, you can't afford to leave those things to chance, so why not travel smart and give yourself some peace of mind. Fingers crossed travel insurance will always be just a precaution.

For more travel tips from my Travel Like a Boss Series, click here!
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