Infertility: My Story and Hope with #TheStorkOTC

The journey to parenthood can be difficult, particularly if you’re one of the 7.3 million couples in the U.S. having trouble conceiving. If you’re not experiencing difficulty yourself, you likely know someone who is. Fertility troubles are an all-too-common issue–one that I am honored to discuss in partnership with The Stork OTC, an at-home option that could bring hope to many. We each have a story that has brought us to this point of struggling with infertility. Here is mine.

I hit puberty later than my friends, I was fifteen and my periods were extremely unusual. Or rather, I guess I never knew when I would have one. Months would pass, and I would not have one, and then it would come with painful vengeance and last a week or two. I felt like I couldn’t handle what all other women since the beginning of time dealt with every single month. When my period would start, I would curl up in a ball in bed and just cry. The idea of standing up was terrifying because every time I felt as if my abdomen might rip open. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. I was miserable and truly embarrassed to complain about my period. I went to the doctor and tried different brands of birth control, which actually created more problems and made me incredibly depressed. Nothing seemed to cure the problem, and I just learned to live with it.

Finally, at the age of 22, I found an OB/GYN, who explained that something was not right if my period was causing me enough pain that I could not function. He scheduled a laparoscopic surgery to check for endometriosis. I will never forget laying in the out-patient surgery recovery after my first surgery. My doctor came in and said it looked as if endometriosis was all over my uterus and my ovaries, and he was able to “clean up” the scar tissue. At this point in my life, I was newly engaged. My doctor said that if I ever wanted to have children, I should do it soon. What?! I was planning my wedding NOT planning on adding more people to our family.

Actually, it was the week of my wedding that I have a “flare up” of my endometriosis. I could not stop bleeding. Talk about a great way to start my romantic life with my husband. It lasted for months, so my doctor put me on a six-month cycle of Lupron. This put my body into a menopausal state to allow the endometriosis to die down. While on Lupron, I was extremely emotional and had terrible hot flashes. It stopped my period and all the spotting, and that was such a welcome change that I happily accepted hot flashes in exchange!

A couple of years later, the Real Geek Dad were ready to start a family. After trying to get pregnant on our own for almost a year, my doctor used the word “infertility,” and he explained all of our options. In 2003, while Real Geek Dad was getting his sperm tested, I began taking 50mg of Clomid, and at my first scan it was clear that I still was not ovulating. Real Geek Dad’s tests came back, and he was not the problem. I had never thought ovulation was my problem, and here we were on medication to make me ovulate and it still wasn’t enough! The next month they doubled the dose and I did ovulate, but I did not get pregnant. Each month, he increased my dosage, and after six months, my doctor stopped Clomid. Both financially and emotionally, we were at our limits. We decided to walk away and pray. Lord, your will not mine. Six months after we stopped infertility treatments, I became pregnant naturally. Unfortunately, I did not carry this baby to term. Our little angel went to heaven on the New Year’s of 2004. A word like “sadness” cannot explain the feeling of loss and disappoint that we felt, but the hope that we had was that I was able to be pregnant. It would be later that year that I would be pregnant with Jadyn, meaning “thankful” in Hebrew, because we were so thankful that the Lord gave her to us.

What is exciting for me to hear is how the medical community is trying to help infertile families like us. Did you know that there is a drug-free conception device that offers a relaxed and private way of conceiving at-home using new technology based on cervical cap insemination? It’s called The Stork OTC. It’s a sensible option that puts you in control, and is widely available over-the-counter, without a prescription to optimize your chances of conceiving this month. Newly published data in the Surgery Technology International demonstrates that The Stork OTC is more effective at delivering sperm to the cervix than natural intercourse. In an age when reproductive treatment options are largely high-cost and complex, The Stork OTC offers an elegantly simple way to optimize chances for conception, in the privacy of home, and a fraction of the cost ($79.99/single-use device) than invasive procedures such as IUI, IVF, etc.–procedures often not covered by insurance, and that we would have simply not been able afford.

This is my infertility story. If you have recently be diagnosed with endometriosis, or your endo is now leading to infertility problems, I hope that you know you are not alone. Fortunately, there are products like The Stork OTC available to help you on your journey. In the end, I hope you find peace through prayer because you will never be alone with Jesus. Know you are no alone in this fight for a family.TheStorkRealPoshJoin me and others for a one-hour Twitter chat on December 8, 2015 at 12PM ET. We will be asking questions and sharing stories with the Twitter party hosts (@TMChatHost, @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe and @EmilyMcKhann), using the #TheStorkOTC hashtag. There is also a giveaway for five CVS gift cards. Can’t wait for you to join us!

Disclosure: Real Posh Mom was commissioned by The Stork by Rinovum to tell my story of infertility. For more on The Stork OTC, visit rinovum.com/thestork.com.

7 Ways to Involve Your Kids in Holiday Tasks

Holiday-TasksThe holidays are all about spending time with loved ones: enjoying good company, great food and all the presents in between. With school out, kids will do what they want: glue their eyes to a TV, tablet or smartphone screen. Fortunately, My Job Chart is helping parents get kids involved this holiday season with recommendations of fun tasks that kids can do. The list of holiday-themed chores is fun for kids and helpful to parents. The new tasks will not only help keep them busy and off their tablets, but will also give them a sense of purpose and responsibility when there’s no homework to do.

  1. Sweep and water the Christmas tree: The Christmas tree is a holiday favorite, and those families that like the look, smell, and feel of the natural pine, know what it takes to keep it looking fresh and clean. Fresh trees require up to a gallon of water every day. Set up a reminder and keep the tree looking fresh through the holidays by allowing the kids to take on the responsibility of regular watering and needle cleanup.
  2. Clean guest bedrooms: In most households, the guest bedroom is left untouched and un-cleaned, until the holidays come around. Have the kids dust, sanitize, and change the sheets for arriving guests. Once guests arrive, have the kids give them a tour and show off their accomplishment.
  3. Help decorate the home: Decorating the home is one of the best parts of the holidays. Setting up the stockings, lights, and ornaments are all things kids can help with. While it is not recommended that kids climb on ladders to set up lights outside, they can help by handing nails and other tools to a supervising adult.
  4. Make cookies: Whether kids believe in Santa or not, baking cookies is a favorite during the holidays. Not only does it leave the home warm and with a delicious scent, it also provides snacks for guests to snack on, not to mention they make for a great dessert after dinner.
  5. Wrap gifts: Wrapping gifts is usually an activity parents leave children out of, mostly because their motor skills aren’t always the best. Get the kids involved this year and let them add their personal touch to each gift. Perfect isn’t always better. Kids will have a sense of accomplishment and the un-perfect wrapping will make it easy to distinguish each gift.
  6. Salt the sidewalks: Depending on the part of the country you live in, snow can be a blessing and a curse during the holidays. Making it easy for guests to walk to the door is essential. Let kids help and have some fun by allowing them to salt the sidewalk. It will save parents time and keep kids busy.
  7. Volunteer: No more chores left? Have the kids offer their services to a neighbor in need. Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean driving across town on a cold, snowy day, sometimes, people who we never think about are in need. A simple gesture can go a long way in making someone else’s holiday a better one.

Dallas’ Northpark Center Celebrates 50 Years with Special Events!

Northpark 50 years

The iconic Northpark Center in Dallas, TX  recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary on August 22, 2015 and is celebrating this huge milestone with a series of unique and very fun events that you will not want to miss.  If you’re familiar with Northpark you know that it’s not just a shopping center, it’s a cultural experience!

First, here’s a little background on Northpark:  It was named as one of the “7 Retail Wonders of the Modern World” by Shopping Centers Today.  NorthPark Center is a luxury shopping experience with over 235 unique retailers, restaurants and legendary department stores, and a clientele from around the world.  NorthPark Center is also very unique because it also features an incredible display of art, architecture and landscaping throughout the mall.   The center has won countless awards, including the American Institute of Architects’ Best Design of the Decade, and features internationally-acclaimed 20th century artwork on display throughout the light-filled space and amid the 1.4-acre landscaped garden, CenterPark Garden.

northpark

Here are some of the events that are happening at Northpark as part of their 50th Anniversary Celebration:

Northpark 50 years of fashion

FASHION EXHIBITION

Art Meets Fashion1965 – 2015
August 22, 2015 – January 3, 2016

A definite “must see”!   This exhibition features specific examples of dress that reflect the synergy between art and fashion from 1965 to the present. The exhibition includes The Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas (which is considered to have one of the most important historic fashion collections in the country).  The exhibition is located on Level One between Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.  Garments on display include designs by Oscar de la Renta and Giorgio di’ Sant Angelo.

NorthPark fashion photos 1

Northpark fashion photos

Guided Tours
Saturday, October 10, 12:00 pm and 1:30 pm

Free guided tours of Art Meets Fashion: 1965 – 2015 with Texas Fashion Collection Director and Curator, Myra Walker.

RUNWAY SHOWS – Friday, October 9th and Saturday, October 10th

For the  schedule of runway shows go to:   http://www.northparkcenter.com/pages/northpark-northpark50-fifty-years-of-fashion

Reserve tickets for October 9 Runway Trend Presentation.

Seating for all shows is limited and must be reserved.

Northpark garden

 Saturday, October 17, 2015
7:00 PM, CenterPark Garden

NorthPark Center invites you to a free family concert in CenterPark Garden. Enjoy the magnificent 60-piece orchestra performing popular selections by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin, as well as scores from JawsPirates of the CarribeanFrozen and more. Open seating in CenterPark Garden. Reserved seating will be available on the Bread Winners patio by calling 214.303.0049.

ArtROCKS! 
Featuring a concert by Gravity Feed and a performance by Dallas Ballet Company

Sunday, October 18, 2015 
1 – 4PM, CenterPark Garden

Children can participate in hands-on art activities led by important artists from North Texas, including Joanne Cervantes, Nathan Green, Kelly Kroener, Annette Lawrence, Suzanne O’Brien, Shamsy Roomani, William and Thoele Sarradet, James Thurman, and more! The event open to the public, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Leo Villareal Exhibition
Coming Soon

In celebration of the 50th anniversary, two major works by Leo Villareal will be on view within the shopping center, including a newly commissioned piece inspired by his iconic Buckyball sculpture. His work can otherwise be found at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, The National Gallery in Washington D.C., and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Northpark HammeringMan

IN-STORE EVENTS

For a complete listing of the many “In Store” Events at North Park go to:

http://www.northparkcenter.com/pages/northpark-northpark50-fifty-years-of-fashion

He Named Her Malala

Not long ago the new school year started for us across the United States. For my family and I know for many, schedules were shifted meaning earlier wake up times and cranky kids. My Inara, now in second grade in Laguna Beach, California, sighed heavily and expressed her annoyance at both the early rising expected of her in the morning and the interruption to her summer social life. I brushed her hair and told her a story about a girl on the other side of the world who was forbidden to go to school, but risked her life to do it anyway. I told her the story of Malala Yousafzai.

#HeNamedMeMalala on #RealPoshMom

A week later, I was honored to learn more of the young woman’s story at an advance screening of He Named Me Malala, by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman), opening October 9th across the country. The Fox Searchlight film is a portrait of the teenager’s life back in Pakistan and now in the UK, and it depicts not only what happened the day that a Taliban gunman shot her for speaking out and defiantly attending school, but also the evolution of her family, culture, country, and personal mission. Despite obvious opportunities to be preachy, the film stays on course about the central unifying issue: the importance of raising and educating strong girls to become powerful independent women, and the positive effects that this has and could have on the world.

There were moments, as I suspected there would be, that moved me to tears. The tears didn’t come from shock, sympathy or devastation, but rather from gratitude. Gratitude for a father who broke tradition by celebrating and sharing the birth of a daughter, gratitude for parents who instilled a passion for education in their children, and gratitude for a family that has every right to spread hatred and fear but instead spreads inspiration and strength to all who will accept it.

#HeNamedMeMalala #FoxSearchlight #RealPoshMomThere were also moments of laughter. Malala is a teenager with two little brothers to torture. To them she’s the annoying big sister getting too much attention and making them do their homework, not the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and an international hero. Still the love in the family is evident and heartwarming, especially between father and daughter. Even when you wonder why this man willingly made his daughter a target, you begin to understand the long-term goal: ensuring that in the end she would get the education she is entitled to and the platform she longed for. When she was asked during a conference call last week what it was her father did to make her this person, she explained, “It’s not what he did. It’s what he didn’t do. He didn’t clip my wings. He allowed me to move forward, even though I am a girl.”

Wanting an even deeper understanding, I have been reading the memoir I Am Malala, choosing passages to read to Inara before bed at night. She and I cuddled on the couch to watch Stephen Colbert interview (and do card tricks with) the young woman last week on The Late Show, and we were both jealous when a friend in New York watched our young heroine speak live at the Global Citizen concert in Central Park. I am proud of my daughter’s interest and have even used Malala’s story in discussions about inequality around the world, including in our own country. It has all been a learning experience for us both. I intend to take Inara to see the film when it is released on October 9th and she is looking forward to it. Because the subject matter can be disturbing the film is rated PG-13, but as we’ve discussed it at length and are reading the book together, I am confident that my 7-year old can handle it. Other parents should take appropriate precautions, but know that it is told from the perspective of a very intelligent and peaceful young woman, and it is at no point unnecessarily violent or disturbing, beyond what it should be in order to be truthful.

The evening after the screening was back-to-school night for my daughter, whose public elementary school overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by a state park in southern California. The principal boasted that all classrooms had less than 20 children, and the teacher showed off the iPads and laptops available to each student, all thanks to all of the generous support from the parents and community. While I am grateful that my daughter and her friends have the opportunities they do, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with sadness at the inequality of education. Even within our own country there are children lacking basic school supplies and quality teachers due to lack of funds and interest. As a mother with one daughter and another one on the way, my heart aches especially for the 60 million girls around the world who should be in school today but do not have access to education. It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be.

#HeNamedMeMalala #FoxSearchlight #MalalaYousafzai

With the release of this film comes the opportunity to create and spread the #WithMalala movement in support of the Malala Fund. The goal is to enable all girls, everywhere, to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities. They work with partners all over the world helping to empower girls and amplify their voices; they invest in local education, leaders and programmes; and advocate for more resources for education and safe schools for every child.

“Do I speak for myself?” Malala asked during our call, “Am I going to use my voice?” She did. Let us join her, and start by visiting the sites, seeing the film, and spreading the word.

#HeNamedMeMalala

#HeNamedMeMalala #FoxSearchlight #MalalaYousafzai

 

8 Lessons From My First Year Overseas

Today, I hit my anniversary since my family packed everything that we owned and moved overseas and boy, did it fly by. The list seems endless, as I sit here and reflect on what I’ve accomplished and learnt in the last year, but there are certainly a few lessons to note. The best part is that you can take most of them with you no matter if you have moved overseas or not.8LessonsOverseas #1 – Pay Attention to Your Surroundings.
Keep your eyes opened and ears perked at all times because safety and security is important. Before you sign a year lease, rent for a week or a month in a neighborhood, and see if it fits your lifestyle. Does it have a good school for your kids? How close is it to public transportation? Does it have petty crime? Don’t be afraid to ask the locals. I have found them to be the more helpful than the real estate agents.

#2 – Relationships Relationships.
This is becoming such a cliché, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of whom you know in your city. People want to know who you are and why you live in their country. Get out there and meet people. They will soon be like family. When you have an emergency, it is good to know that you have friends who will be there for you.

#3 – You’re in Control.
No one is going to push you forward, but yourself and that really applies to all aspects of life. You won’t be confident all the time, especially in the beginning, but you should never take a conservative approach by waiting in silence for your neighbors to invite you over for coffee or for dinner. You dictate where you want to be and where you can go – knock on their door and ask someone over to your house.

#4 – Be Open-minded and Willing to Learn.
Yes, you are knowledgeable, but your way isn’t the only way nor is it the right way. Be humble, flexible and adaptable because you are the foreigner. By observing and learning from those around you, you may begin to act more like a local.

#5 – Know Your Currency.
Learning currency conversion is very important. Before you go on a shopping spree, make sure that you have the conversion rate ready, and your calculator on your phone open. You don’t want to bankrupt the first month or two of moving overseas.

#6 – Be Willing to Put in The Hours of Language.
Learning a new language is not easy. Just accept the fact that you will not be fluent in an year. Ok, well, there are some of you that will be, but I just want people to be realistic. There is so much to learn and absorb. Although it’s not always fun, you will need to put in the hours, especially in the beginning when you’re learning and trying to communicate with locals. Be prepared for super high and low moments. I have some great stories about things I said that were COMPLETELY wrong, but the people are so gracious because you are trying. Just remember that. 🙂

#7 – Don’t Be a Whiner.
No one likes to be around the pessimist, who complains about everything. That’s the kind of attitude that doesn’t get you friends. Conditions won’t always be ideal, so strive to have a “what’s the best way to approach this problem” attitude. This way, you’ll become more tactical and strategic in how you handle any obstacles that come your way.

#8 – 100% All the Time.
You won’t like living overseas all the time. There will tasks you’ll need to do that seem insignificant, inconvenient and just flat out senseless. You may even realize that living overseas is not as romantic as you thought, and you’re just not into the gig anymore. Focus on the positive. Take sometime to stop what you are doing, and go outside. Go to your favorite restaurant. Hike your favorite mountain. Sit on your favorite beach.larrybirdquote

I’m Just Not Ready for Summer to End (and for Senior Year to Begin)


Summer don't end

I’m really not ready for this summer to end.  It’s not just because I love summer.  I do love our summer vacations (read my article about the importance of Family Summer Vacations on this blog) and I have always loved having my kids at home all summer.  I love the freedom of sleeping in, going to movies on weeknights, staying up late, etc.  But this summer I don’t want it to end even more than ever because I know once the summer break ends my sons’ last year of high school starts.

 

I have twin sons, Jack and Jared and their senior year starts next week.  I am pretty sure that it’s going to be the best year they have ever had.  Both boys are involved in lots of wonderful and amazing activities at school and they are really looking forward to their senior year.  They are more than ready for it but quite honestly I’m just not.  It makes it even harder having two children who will end their high school career at the same time.  I don’t get the luxury of easing into the empty nest world like mother of multiple children do.  (Although several  moms have told me that it really doesn’t get that much easier with each child, sorry.)

Cruise Jack and Jared 2015

The upcoming year is going to be hard for me as a mother because it’s going to be a series of lasts.   It’s going to be their last high school homecoming dance, football season, cross country meets, theater plays, and the multitude of church youth activities that we have been such a big part of.  It’s going to be my last year to make them breakfast and send them go to off to school every morning with a hug and a kiss and it’s going to be the last year that I get to see them every night and hear about their day.  (Ok, let’s get real here; I have boys so I don’t really hear that much about their day – boy moms I know you understand).

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I will be checking off all these lasts mentally throughout the year and I will be taking even more photos if that’s possible and I’m sorry guys but you will just have to deal with it.  I’m not going to complain about making lunches this year or how much you procrastinate on doing your homework, I promise.  I’m going to attend every high school event and happening so that I don’t miss ANYTHING, because I know this is it.  I don’t get to do this again.

I understand that after high school that they will be back for summer and holiday breaks but I also get that it will never be the same.  They will come back as young adults, more independent, and more removed from our world.  I know that I will survive and it will still be great but it will be different.  They will still be my boys and we will still love each other to the moon and back.

If I look forward to a year from now when they leave for college I admit that it is also kind of exciting to know that we will begin a series of firsts.  My husband and I will be moving them into their dorms, attending parent weekends, college football games, etc.  But in the meantime, several friends have told me to cherish every moment of their senior year because it goes by so fast.  I assure you that I will.  #motherofseniors #cryingthewholeyear #proudmom #can’twaittoseewhattheydo

Jackie and Jack Beach Final

I will be writing about Jack and Jared’s senior year throughout the upcoming year!  I hope that it might help in some small way other moms or dads who are taking the same journey now or in the near future.  Stay tuned!

Things I Would Tell My 10-Year-Old Self

world-is-your-oysterToday is my oldest’s birthday. I can’t believe I have a child who is officially in the double-digit range. My mini-me is now a 10-year-old.

Here are 10 things that I know now, and I hope my daughter will know.

  1. It’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
  2. You are responsible for what you do, no matter how you feel.
  3. There are people who love you dearly, but just don’t know how to show it.
  4. True friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.
  5. No matter how good a friend someone is, they are going to hurt you every once in a while, and you must forgive them.
  6. Just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And, just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.
  7. You don’t have to change friends if you understand that friends change.
  8. You shouldn’t be too eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.
  9. Even when you have pains, you don’t have to be one.
  10. Every day you should reach out and touch someone. Like you and Olaf, people like warm hugs, holding hands and friendly pats on the back.

Image Source: Rifle Paper Co.

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Travel

 

Truly understanding and appreciating a new culture can take months or even years. When traveling, most of us don’t have that luxury. Those for whom a few days to a week is about the best that can be hoped for have to figure out how to get the most out of limited time. A checklist of museums and attractions is a common instinct, but it won’t give you the deep connection that makes travel rewarding. After years of planning events around the world I have learned that taking a few simple steps allows travelers to better connect to new places, make amazing memories, truly feel at home in a strange land, and always have the best travel stories to tell.


Beijing1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE
. I know that this is obvious, and the obvious response is that it’s difficult and time-consuming. But you don’t have to be fluent to get the benefits of putting in a little effort, and it will make you much more comfortable. Learn the most important phrases: “Hello,” “Where is the bathroom?” and the most important in any language: “Thank you.”  I also like to learn to ask for the check and how to say the equivalent of “Cheers!” every place I go. Ask a native speaker to check your pronunciation; with those basics you may even convince passerby you are a local. And on that note…

2. DRESS THE PART. The more different you look the more different and isolated you will feel. People in obvious Paying respects to Shakespeare in Budapesttourist garb always look so awkward, and are easy targets for scams. Do some quick research – Pinterest is a fabulous resource – on what the locals wear and pack your suitcase accordingly. Are they more casual or more dressy than you are used to? Are they having fun with colors and prints or are they in muted earth tones? Do they all have scarves or head coverings? Most importantly check out the shoes, because they will tell you what the most fashionable and practical choices are. Are most of the women wearing cute ballet flats? Low heeled boots? Wedges? They probably know that it’s the best way to be comfortable in the lifestyle and climate and look fashionable at the same time. Nobody in New York City is wearing white or super high heels; follow their lead because they know something you don’t. Dress like a local and you may even find other tourists asking you for directions.

Love In the Time of Cholera at the home of the author in Cartagena, Colombia3. READ LOCAL LITERATURE. You may not be able to pick up the language in a week, but pick up a translated novel that takes place in the city or region you will be exploring and start it before you leave, giving your mind a head start on adapting. In Paris read Émile Zola, J. M. Coetzee in South Africa,  Haruki Murakami in Tokyo, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar in Istanbul, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia. Walking the streets of Cartagena reading Love in the Time of Cholera imagining Florentino Ariza spying on his beloved Fermina Daza from his park bench gave me a stronger connection to the city, as if we shared a secret. And during the afternoons when it was too hot to do anything but lay by the hotel pool, my mind was still exploring as I turned the pages.

4. CATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE or festival, outside of the tourist zone. While I’m sure the hotel’s dinner buffet hula dance extravaganza is lovely (and you should learn the history of the hula in Hawaii), find out where the locals go for a good show. One of my favorite traditions is finding a great jazz club no matter where we are, from Shanghai to Krakow. Sitting in a small club, surrounded by locals and visitors from around the world with a shared love for jazz, introducing ourselves to the band members (from Poland, playing New Orleans jazz, in Istanbul) after the set and drinking with them and their friends until 4am is still one of my favorite memories. In New York or London, skip the long-running big spectacle shows that everyone has seen, and pick instead an avante garde performance. Go downtown to see an Off-Off-Broadway play. You are much more likely to be surrounded by locals and to feel as if you are one.

Krakow, Poland5. HANG OUT IN A CENTRAL SQUARE. There are the classics like Washington Square Park in New York and Trafalgar Square in London, but try hanging out in Krakow’s Rynek Glowny and Prague’s Old Town Square too. Learn the history. See the commerce. Listen to the conversations and the protesters. Take pictures, but also eat the street food, tip the musicians, feed the birds and read your book on a park bench. Don’t rush on to the next attraction; just sit, rest your feet, take it all in and fall in love with your surroundings.

6. And while you’re at it? TALK TO PEOPLE. As always in a big city anywhere in the world be cautious and streetwise, but often the locals are as genuinely curious about you as you are about them. Ask them questions. If they’re interested, buy them a pint and get their life story. Some of my favorite travel stories are just repeating someone else’s. In a tiny restaurant in a hillside German town we ended up spending hours with a chef from Ibiza, his Russian winemaker friend, an American GI (who was initially just looking for an ATM), and a dog named Snob, all of whom remain seared into my memory years later. It all started because we asked questions.

7. JOIN A TOUR LED BY AN EXPERT DOCENT. There are plenty of big group options that teach you less than a common guidebook, but with a little research you can find engaging, unique, and highly intellectual tours. A 6am bicycle tour through Montmarte, while the shops are just opening up and the empty wine bottles still litter the streets of Paris, will give you a unique perspective of the city. An artist-led graffiti tour of Bogota will teach you more about the culture, politics, and history of Colombia than any other. A historian who has hiked the entire length of the Great Wall of China can point out things nobody else would notice.

Early morning bike tour through Paris
We were guided around London a few weeks ago by a docent from Context Travel, a network of scholars and specialist in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, environmental science, and classics who lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups (6 or less). With her we not only got a personalized tour helping us to understand the city’s history and major landmarks, we discussed the upcoming election, the conflicted feelings on currency and immigration, and the true purpose of Her Majesty the Queen, and were surprised with a visit to what once was The Texas Legation in London. The company’s website makes it easy to pick a city (they currently operate in 25), pick an interest, and reserve a guide. It is well worth it.

8. FOLLOW CURRENT EVENTS. Watch or read their news (BBC World is a great resource when traveling). Even if you can’t IMG_7971take a tour, do a little online digging to understand the struggles of the people. What are they concerned about? What have they been through? No matter how pretty and peaceful a place can seem, there is always a group of people who are unhappy. Understand them and you come closer to understanding the whole culture. If you are in a place where your country’s policies are not appreciated, find out why and try to see yourself and your politicians from their perspective. People around the world want to be heard; offer them an ear.

9. MEET UP WITH A FRIEND. If you know someone who lives there, even if only casually or from years ago, reach out and ask them to meet up. If you don’t know somebody, chances are there’s a friend of a friend somewhere. Maybe a coworker once studied abroad and maintained some connections. In this global village, you can find people with similar interests via Twitter or Instagram in advance of your trip and meet up when you get there. You will let down your guard and forget you are in a strange land for an hour or two. Locals anywhere rarely get to experience their own tourist attractions, and usually love to show off their neighborhoods when someone visits. Give them that chance.

Off-Broadway Play in NYC10. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. What do you like to do at home? If you’re into sports, arrange to see a game while traveling or find out where there’s a pub showing a match. Soccer isn’t my favorite sport, but watching a big match with a rowdy crowd in a European pub is an experience everyone should have at least once. Do you enjoy live music? Hiking? Theater? Exploring new restaurants? People do those things around the world. Find your passions and experience them in a new place, because it will make you feel at ease, it will ignite your spirit, and it will show you how alike we all really are on this planet. And that is the very purpose of travel, isn’t it? That and the stories.

Tea in Beijing

 

 

For more information about CONTEXT TRAVEL: https://www.contexttravel.com

 

Follow my travel adventures on Instagram at @SeeJayneGo

My Son, Chivalry is Not Dead!

Chivalry To my son,

I believe one of things that I am suppose to do for you as your mother is to train you how to treat ladies and eventually your wife. Don’t get confused by others who say you should treat a lady just like another guy. No, honey. Please remember that most women still want to be treated with class and dignity.

First and foremost, open the door for a lady…and for anyone regardless of the sex or age. Even though she may insist that you don’t need to, open the car door for your lady. It will set you apart from others. Next, walk on the outside of a sidewalk, so your lady to be further from traffic. In doing so, you can “take one for the team” if a car drives in a puddle and splashes the sidewalk. On a side note, this is a must when walking with children, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 😉

Give up your seat. It may seem like a no brainer, but sadly is not. If you are riding a train or in a place waiting where seating is limited, always give up your seat to a lady when present. This rule also works well for the elderly and physically handicapped. Remember to pick up your lady at her front door. Don’t have her meet you at the car. When out and about with your lady, introducing her to your friends and family is an absolute must. This welcomes her to the conversation and makes her feel comfortable. When leaving, assist a lady with putting on her coat. Always make sure that she gets home safely.

See, honey, chivalry is not dead. It is not old-fashioned. I knew you were a knight, the first day I held you. And, I know one day that you will be some lady’s knight and shining armor. You have a heart of gold and make sure your lady knows that she is more precious than rubies.

Love,
Your Mom

Only A Mother’s Love

CheesyFamily

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.
A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”

Sophia Loren

As much as we love traveling and being out in the world, we also cherish our cozy, loving & simple home life. My boy is rarely ever ready for school on time because he is playing around the house and just hanging. Mornings are the best. It is so hard to break our rhythm and go about the rest of the day. We wake up, and we go out on the terrace, I enjoying my coffee while the kids eat a little breakfast.HappyKidsWe cuddle…a lot. The kids love cuddling on the couch and watching a movie or laughing at our favorite TV show. My son is an earlier riser, so his cuddles come with my warm cup of coffee, as the sun is rising. My daughter is a night owl, and she loves to cuddle when the boys go to bed. These cuddle times are sweet. It is when I hear the hearts of my kids – how school is going, what they dream about and what they fear the most.

We take leisurely walks to the beach. We listen to music together, and sometimes the kids join in on the song. Honestly, it is usually after I let it go. 😉 We browse through clothing and toy store windows along the center of town while enjoying some gummies or an ice cream cone. And, there are times when we cry together. Life is hard, but in the end, we have each other.SlothKids

We do our thing. It is simple, but it is ours. And, I am grateful to God for these two amazing gifts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the incredibly courageous, strong and beautiful women!