I recently had the great honor of taking a trip to Washington, D.C. on behalf of the nonprofit health care clinic I work for. I felt very undeserving, having been with them for just under three months, but beyond grateful nonetheless.
My husband and I have always been interested in politics. We often have conversations about American history, current political events, and our favorite Presidents. We’ve also talked about visiting D.C. at some point, so I felt kind of bad that I was making this trip without him! He was happy for me and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll make it back together.
Before I left, I was mapping everything out. Where I was staying, where the Capitol was, where the conference was. I then happened upon maps showing the National Mall. My excitement shot through the roof when I realized I’d be just 10 driving minutes from the White House! And from the White House, I could walk to the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial – two things I said I had to see before leaving. Any doubts I had left me in that moment because I felt so lucky to be taking this trip.
Getting to D.C. was a breeze. Round trip I was able to see four new airports I’d never been to. I had downloaded transportation apps before I left – Super Shuttle, Uber, DC Taxi. Uber was my favorite but Super Shuttle got me from the airport to my hotel. When I arrived in D.C., I had just 30 minutes to get checked in, freshened up, and driven to my first destination. I got there right on time, was inspired by the conference’s opening session speakers, and met others from Iowa who work at other community health centers before heading to a (long) dinner with them. After waking up at 4 a.m. and traveling for eleven hours, I was SO TIRED. Although I enjoyed dinner, getting to bed felt better than it had in a really long time.
My second day was the one I was fearing the most – meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill. Although I was just there to observe, not knowing what I was walking into was bothering me. I figured if I didn’t puke or poop (which I didn’t), I’d be golden! Sadly, this the standard that helps me put high anxiety situations into perspective. Anyway, the day ended up being amazing, I felt bonded with the Iowa folks who attended with us (because we were all nervous as heck), and walked away with a new perspective on how politicians and Congress work. I got to experience a view of the inner workings of our congressional system in a way that many will not have the privilege of doing.
Here are just a few photos I snapped inside some of the House and Senate buildings (I didn’t want to be too touristy):
As a reward to myself for a successful day, I planned to sight see that evening after reading D.C. at night is a must-see – which was so true. During drinks with our colleagues, I mentioned to my boss that I was going to catch an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial (look at me sounding all fancy). I was surprised when she said she’d like to join me! And I’m so glad she did.
Here’s a quick recap of what we saw and how it made me feel:
The third day was great, but won’t be interesting to most of you. It was conference day, back to back educational sessions. My head was bursting with new ideas by the end, which is exactly what I wanted and needed to happen.
Overall, the experience was just wonderful. From what I saw and learned to the people I met and bonded with. I felt very proud to 1) be an American, and 2) be a community health center advocate.
I’m happiest that this trip lit the political activist fire within me. I’m learning politician names, parties, districts. I’m paying attention to their words vs. their actions. I will say I’ve already been disappointed my one of the Iowa politicians I met. The words he spoke and the character he portrayed DO NOT match up with his recent actions. I was sad this happened, but it has led me to take some additional steps to stay informed, hold these people accountable, and take action in getting others to VOTE people like him out.
I’ll share a couple of the additional steps I’ve taken so far before closing:
I have been alluding to good news on my Instagram account (linked at the bottom of this post) for the past couple of weeks and I am excited to finally share what it is!
I got a new job! I'm leaving my corporate health care system marketing position to start a brand new, never before held community relations role with a local non-profit health care clinic. I am so excited! I'll be a one person department, create my own job description, and develop a marketing strategy from the ground up - adding structure to their currently disjointed efforts (my absolute favorite thing to do!).
I followed my heart and found a job that I believe will feel less like a job and more like a mission. I've never felt comfortable in corporate settings. I'm thrilled to be "going back to my roots" with a smaller health care organization. I started my career with a city-owned, critical access hospital, so I'm very comfortable wearing 20 different hats and diving into what needs to be done. I'll be perfect for my new role.
I must say though, although I'm not cut out for the corporate world doesn't mean my time within it was wasted. I learned so. much. I did so. much. I was supported so. much. So many opportunities and resources were at my fingertips. The room I was given to grow is unmatched. I wouldn't be able to move into my next adventure confidently without everything I have learned from working for a health care system. I'm forever grateful.
Finding a service-based position with an organization that cared for the underserved was really important to me. I was so lucky to find this opportunity. I knew immediately that I would be a great fit. I couldn't stop thinking about how I could be of service to them and to their patients. It was pure agony waiting for their call after I interviewed. I accepted their offer immediately. I had never felt more sure about wanting a job in my life.
The decision to leave my current job to embark on a different career path has been difficult, but I know it will be worth it. I'm trying really hard to be intentional about the choices I make - including who I give my time to and what I spend my time doing. The older I get, the faster time goes. We spend so much of our precious time at work, I wanted to make sure my time was being well spent among a population that I've cared deeply about for a very long time. I've been extremely blessed throughout my life, it's time for me to turn around and help the next ones in line.
Here's to initiating change in hopes of better things to come - even when it feels really scary. I've already been reflecting on what I've learned in my career thus far and how I can bring my best self to my new role. That's the best part about change to me. Looking inward to apply past learnings to new situations.
If you have any tips on how you bring your best self to work or to your day-to-day life in general, I'd love to hear them!
I don't know if it's the increased meditation and added daily reflections, but I've been thinking a lot about a lot lately. Including our "paths" in life.
I catch myself pondering about (and sometimes yearning for) what my life would be like in an alternate universe. Something I think we all do. Daydreaming about "if we could do anything" what that would be. But lately, when I start thinking about what I'd include in my "grass is greener on the other side" scenario, I wonder why I'm not doing the things I'm dreaming about. They're not that unrealistic (I'm not daydreaming about becoming an astronaut, although that would be cool). Why do these desires feel so out of reach and only permissible inside my head?
I know these thoughts exist for a reason, are normal, and aren't necessarily always meant to come true. But what if some of them did? I'm into that part of the thought process right now.
Here's a passage from my daily reflection book that inspired me to take these ponderings even further:
"It is about the true vitality that waits beneath all occupations for us to tap into, if we can discover what we love. If you feel energy and excitement and a sense that life is happening for the first time, you are probably near your God-given nature. Joy in what we do is not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health."
How wonderful is that? Yes. Yes. Yes! Here's where this passage led me: If we pay attention to what shows up in our daydreams, and our dreams align with at least some of the actions (however big or small) we're already performing in life that bring us JOY - there's got to be something to that. When these two things line up - maybe it's a sign to take our actions to the next level. To make our dreams a reality. To follow our path.
This whole concept is so exciting to me. Particularly because this is happening to me right now - the alignment. Some things that were seemingly far fetched dreams at one time are now within reach - not without hard work, sacrifice, and some serious strategizing - but I could get there.
I feel like I watch and read about so many others living out their dreams. They follow their path. Their joy. Take risks, blaze trails, don't care about what others think. It's beautiful and empowering. Their success in doing this proves that it's possible for anyone. So why not me?
If you've been thinking about this, too, and are really wanting to follow a dream or dreams that you have - do it - or at least start taking steps towards them. Don't feel selfish, or insecure, or foolish. Remember this, "Joy in what we do is not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health." Follow your path, nurture your soul.
We love when we get to spend one-on-one time with our nephew, Max. He makes us so happy just being himself. Energetic, talkative, smart, musical, loving and quite the cutie (as evident in the photos below).
Recently, we took Max to Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa. Joel and I hadn't been to Adventureland since we were younger and were looking forward to seeing the park through Max's eyes.
Max was eagerly awaiting us when we arrived to pick him up. Bags packed, he was ready to go! He's a good road-tripper as long as you have good music, drumsticks and snacks on hand.
We got checked into Adventureland Inn (which was very nice, highly recommend) and hopped on "Molly the Trolly" to head to the park. Max's excitement was contagious and we both felt childlike anticipation for what the day had in store. Holding each of our hands, Max led the way, taking in everything as we entered.
Max is four, so I had a little concern that there wouldn't be a lot for him to do. I was completely wrong! On most of the rides, if an adult is along, little ones can hop on. We didn't do any crazy roller coasters or anything like that, but there were a few rides that freaked us out while Max was beside us laughing hysterically! Like the two pictured below:
The thing Max was looking forward to the most was the Adventureland Bay waterpark. It was pretty impressive and Max had a blast! He wore a little life jacket so Joel and I showed him how to kick his feet to swim back and forth between us. He also learned a valuable lesson about closing your mouth before jumping in the water!
When we were done at the waterpark, we were all pretty beat. We finished up on some rides he mentioned he wanted to try on the road trip down, had some treats and enjoyed a juggling show before we headed back to the hotel.
Our hotel room was poolside so we took one last dip to end the day. When we asked Max what his favorite part of the trip was he replied, "Two pools!" And the first thing he said upon waking up the next day was, "That was a really fun day." My heart swelled up to about 10 times its regular size!
Needless to say, it was a fantastic little weekend getaway with our favorite little guy! Joel and I actually want to go back again soon because although there is a lot to do with kids, there's much fun to be had by adults as well!
Joel and I have been so busy lately. Running from place to place, event to event for the past few months. We normally land at around 8:30 p.m. each evening, exhausted, but together.
We had a single weekend that was open in June, so we took full advantage! We hopped in the car and took a quick overnight trip to Chicago.
Chicago is one of our favorite playgrounds. Our country hearts still have a little city edge to them! On this trip, we spent all of our time at Navy Pier for "The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism." We are both huge Stones fans (I recently expressed my love for them in this blog post) so it was hard for us to contain our excitement in the weeks leading up to our visit!
There are no words for how wonderful the exhibit was. I'll let the pictures do the talking and just say, if you are a Stones fan like us, make the time to go. It is in Chicago until July 30, 2017. The experience is very personal and you'll leave feeling deeply connected to this band of magnificent men. Here's a sneak peek:
On our way back, we decided to "ooze" and took the scenic route. We stopped by Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa - home of the American Pickers:
If you like art, especially abstract and psychedelic art, I highly encourage you to visit the "Works By Wayne Coyne: Featuring The King's Mouth" art exhibit at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. It. Blew. My. F***ing. Mind.
I have been looking forward to this exhibit ever since I heard it was coming. I didn't know anything about Wayne Coyne (lead singer of the Flaming Lips) but I liked the vibrant work I knew he was bringing. He was in Waterloo to open the exhibit the day before Joel and I visited, and after going through, I really regret not attending the opening night!
The plus side of going the following day is that we could take our time, which we did. We wandered in around 8 p.m. on a Friday night. There was another event going on, and although the art gallery was technically closed, they let us go in. It was just the two of us among some of the most thought provoking work I've seen in a long time.
I'm not going to tell you what I saw, because I want you to see it with your own eyes. What I will say is that it was an experience unlike any other I've ever had in an art gallery. It is interactive, it is out of this world, and it is where my mind and heart go when they wander. It was the dose of color I needed in my life at that moment, and I'm still thinking about it.
One tip I will give is that you should look at the paintings that tell the story of The King's Mouth before you enter The King's Mouth installation. Then you'll know the story behind what you'll see. It is out of this world. You will crave more when it's over.
I snapped a few photos during our time there, but again, I do hope you'll go experience it on your own. It is truly fantastic and I'm very thankful to the Waterloo Center for the Arts for pushing the boundaries on this exhibit! The exhibit is open until April 23. Here's an article on it from the Des Moines Register if you're interested!
Joel and I love to spend time in Cedar Rapids. Partially because that's where he comes from, partially because it has so much to offer.
If you haven't been to Cedar Rapids in awhile, I suggest you make the trip. The city is flourishing with so many great public spaces, stores, restaurants, arts facilities and other unique options to take advantage of.
I took a couple of days off to spend time with Joel and we decided to spend one of the days in Cedar Rapids. We visited some of our favorite places and I wanted to share some of those places with you!
Our first stop is always the Newbo City Market.
The city market has a lot to offer. Diverse food options, handmade items, hardy plants, sweet treats, essential oils and more. On this visit, we tried the Mexican food booth and their new crepe booth. Both were DELICIOUS!
We resisted buying anything else this time around, but did some browsing!
I was hoping our next stop would be this new, cute shop that is inside an old farmhouse style home. Unfortunately it wasn't open, but I took a picture of it so perhaps you can stop in next time you are in town. It's called Little House Artifacts. They have a lot of really creative repurposed and upcycled items alongside traditional antique goods.
Before leaving the Newbo area, we stopped by a shop we hadn't been to before. It was called Newbo Mercantile & Vintage Shop.
The shop owner was very nice. She and I chatted the entire time we were in the store. They offered vintage clothing and other items, eco-friendly and natural goods, DIY supplies, tea, and other miscellaneous gifts.
I bought a few things. Eco Bags (four total) that I can use for bulk and fresh foods when shopping, and honey from a local hive. See below for one of the Eco Bags. I was so excited to find some of these! (Plastic is bad. Boo, plastic!)
The final place we stopped in downtown CR was my favorite store - Gooselake Creations. This store has a very unique selection - similar to the Little House - with a mix of repurposed and upcycled items alongside traditional antique goods.
I go here to look at what they have to offer, of course, but my main reason for stopping by is for inspiration. I have never left without a new idea that I can't wait to get home and execute. The shop owner is as colorful as the items he sells, is very kind and makes you feel like you're his only customer.
I walked away with some new ideas and a couple of items. A "Bees & Honey" poster inside a window frame and two rust orange baskets. We already hung the poster, but I'm still thinking about where I want the baskets!
This is just a tiny glimpse into what Cedar Rapids has to offer. I hope you'll take some time to explore this city when you have a chance!
It always amazes me that no matter how many times we explore and re-explore areas of Northeast Iowa, it never gets old.
We recently joined Jerry and Nancy (my father and mother-in-law) on their annual trip to visit original Sires homestead properties along with graves of Sires family members that I only know by the stories Jerry tells us. Our trip took us through several small towns, the primary ones being Dorchester, New Albin, and Lansing. This was our second year going along and it was so much fun!
Jerry is passionate about history in general, but especially when it comes to his family. Although he's talked us through the family history before, it's extremely neat to have him tell us about it in the actual places his family was born, raised, and in some cases, still inhabit.
My favorite part of these trips is visiting the cemeteries. Many of them are small and tucked away in the woods. And a lot of the headstones are very old, so they are weathered and beautiful. Such a peaceful setting to reflect on life then and now.
The house pictured below is located on the homestead of all Sires homesteads, the cream of the crop. This is where it all started. It's the most beautiful home (to be clear, not the original house) in the most beautiful location. We also made a few new friends, see the pups off to the right.
Along the way, we made some pit stops at antique shops and pumpkin patches, ending the adventure at the Irish Shanty for a Gunder Burger...and a half n' half! All in all, a wonderful day with some people I love an awful lot. Can't wait to do it all again next year!