love for the mailbox.

I love sending out happy mail.  Totally love it.  I always mail things out late.  Always.  In 2015, I mailed our Christmas cards out the day after Christmas.  Really.  I also have way too many ideas and not enough time.  There, I admitted it all.

Now that that's out of the way!  One of my goals for this year was to send out more happy mail.  I really really enjoy sending out happy mail to people.  I know I love opening my mail box and finding a handwritten envelope and wondering "Who sent me something?  I wasn't expecting anything!"  So I know if I enjoy this, I'm sure other people do as well.

Lots of people have been expressing the same feelings the last couple months: what can I do to change the world?  To make this a better place?  To do good?  (We all know why we're feeling that, no need to get political!)  I too feel the same way.  What little things can I do to make a difference?

For me, one of the answers is HAPPY MAIL!  And, as said before, one of my goals this year is to send out more happy mail.  So, when I found these handmade tags and envelopes (I created a few years ago) in a box, I decided to pass them on to some friends and family.  So (ahem, one day after Valentines Day, don't think that's going to change!), I wrote a little note for each handmade item, signed and sealed them, and off they went to 8 randomly-selected contacts from my phonebook.

And you know what happened?  I made someone's day, and received some very lovely messages from the recipients.  The recipients being my grandpa, a few cousins, my aunts, my mom, and a few dear friends.  And those people took the time out to thank me for making their day and for the little surprise (sorry for getting your hopes up Aunt Sandy, not a baby announcement...).  And it was sooo lovely.

And I plan to do it again soon!  Getting nice messages from people wasn't my goal, I purely wanted to do this just because, but it made me feel so good and appreciated!  And filled me up!  And that's a freaking awesome feeling!


#nndailytip - documenting pets!

Happy happy weekend!  My absolute favorite!  I've been sick all week with a bad cold, so this weekend is definitely for some R&R to try and get better.

Last year, I was a part of the Pocket Your Year design team and super enjoyed it.  I'm excited to share that I'll be continuing on working with Megan on creative projects for 2017.  More on that soon!

This week, Megan is talking about documenting pets for her #nndailytip on Instagram.  (If you don't know about #nndailytip, definitely check it out.  Megan shares lots of fun, useful tips on all sorts of different subjects related to documenting and memory-keeping).  If you follow me here or on social media, you know I have an ultimate love for our own furries, so I was super excited to contribute a few tips of my own!

You can check out the #nndailytip about documenting pets this week on Instagram.  Also, if you're looking for some cute animal photos to make you smile during the day, check out the hashtags I use for our furry children on Instagram:
Follow me on Instagram @kelsterjean (or use the link above if you're on a computer).


new year, new chances.

Happy happy 2017!! I know, I know, we're already a month-ish in and holy crap, where has the time gone?!  This post has been in my drafts since the first week of 2017, and the upcoming expiration of my website keeps reminding me that I need to either use this blog or let it go... (sigh)

So first things first: how did you celebrate the welcoming of 2017?  The hubby and I spent the evening watching Secret Life of Pets (finally!) and building our new 6-cube bookshelf from Target.

We also finally hung up these pretty little shelves (from Menards) to hold our collection of Shiner bottles.  (Side note, I'm not a super big fan of the color of the shelves, but they match our cabinets and when you rent, there's things you can't change, like the color of the cabinets...oh well!) 

I should also note that we're not super big drinkers.  First of all, it took us a freaking while to collect all these (and let's not talk about the one or two that I peeled the labels off to use for craft projects!)  And there's also a story behind why hubby and I love Shiner, why we're connected by it, that I hope to document sometime this year.

So onto 2017!  Wooooo000000t!  I'll be back soon to share some of my creative goals for this year, and my plans for memory keeping.  I hope you'll join me as we live and love through 2017!


choosing photos = the struggle is real.

I take lots and lots of photos.  AND LOTS!  It's a terrible habit.  I'm not as bad as I used to be a few years ago, but this has been my ultimate downfall and main reason for failing at Project Life in the past.

This year, I'm doing really good though, because I'm learning to enjoy the moment more and not have "take a photo" be my first instinct.  It's a work in progress!  I was so happy that this month in the Pocket Your Year workshop, we were talking about curating our spreads.  Figuring out what photos to include and what photos to leave out.  The struggle is real.

It's really tough going through photos and picking only your true favorites, but here's what I do to help pair down and get scrapping quickly:
  •  Try dumping all of your photos into a folder (either on your phone or your computer) until you are ready to sort and scrap them.
  • At the end of the month, go through your photos {and stories documented} and decide which ones are still important to you.  For me, if they make me happy or make me smile, they are something I want to keep and remember.
  • Don't get rid of photos just because they are poor quality or are blurry.  Sometimes these are the only photos we are left with, and end up being the ones we appreciate the most.

When you end up with lots of photos, like I did for this highlight spread of September, you can use hidden journaling, pockets, tabs, and flip-up pockets to include lots of photos and stories that might not otherwise make the cut.

The most important thing is always: do things the way it works best for you, and document the stories and memories that are memorable to you!


mail a smile - World Cardmaking Day!!

I'm almost 100% positive the phrase "mail a smile" is copyyrighted by the United States Postal Service (USPS), but I'm using it, and secretly hoping they won't track me down and make me remove it from my blog!

So, that important message aside, Happy World Cardmaking Day!!  Before I became obsessed with pocket page/Project Life scrapbooking, I looked forward to this day every year when I could spend lots of time making handmade cards to send in the mail.

I still love creating cards for the simple reasons that 1) Creating them gets me doing something different, and I like variety, 2) It's not quite my forte and gets me out of my comfort zone a bit, and 3) I love mailing them to people when they're having a crappy day!

To celebrate this fun day of making paper greetings (and protesting buying ridiculously overpriced store-bought greetings), here's a handful of cards I've created the last few months!

The tree and flower cluster above are both stamps and all of the paper used was from my scraps.  For me, it's all about just using the insane amount of craft supplies crap I have.  You have it, you might as well use it!

I'm all about stories, so I love the stories behind why I make some of the cards I do.  For this bunch:
1) The top card was for my BFF's fiance, who has a deep appreciation for art and handmade things.  I wanted to make the card as cool as he is.
2) I used the sentiment "one in a million" for a friend of my hubby's, who always brings him back something when visiting Peru.  This time, it was the handmade stone-carved nativity scene and the shot glass in the leather cover. 
3) Tried a "shaker card" for the first time.  Not too shabby.  I sent this to my grandpa (abuelo) as a thank you for all of the little gifts and camera-related items he has sent me this year.  He's one of my favs!

One of the funnest things about creating cards is trying new techniques, like watercolor.  I don't watercolor much at all, but tried it on the cupcake and teacup above.  Always try new things!

And finally, this one for hubby's grandma's 90th birthday.  90, seriously!  She holds a special place in my heart, so I loved creating this vintage-inspired card for her.  The lady above made me think about how she might look in her younger days.

Soooooo, are you inspired to create some handmade greetings?  Remember anything you create will be loved and adored by someone.  I can promise you that!  And if you're not sure where to start, search around on Pinterest and YouTube for some card inspiration.


a million thanks and an update!

So, we finally put our story out there!!  Wooooootttt!!! Let me tell you, even though lots of people already knew what we were going through, it was freaking scary hitting that publish button and having it all out there for the whole wide world to see.  When I wrote that post shortly after our first failed IVF process, we were so so completely heartbroken and I was very emotional.  I knew that sharing our story and being so vulnerable meant opening up to the good as well as the bad, and anytime you do that, it's super scary.

But despite all that, we are so happy that it's finally all out there and that we don't have to hide a thing anymore!!  Even though we both already knew we had amazing support, the feedback we received in response to our story was completely overwhelming. I found it ironic that people called me "brave" and "strong."  (This is something I struggle with alot, the meaning of being brave and strong).  Really, we are just normal people going through some super tough things and learning how to handle it as we go along.

Anyways, rambling.  A huge tremendous overwhelming THANK YOU to everyone that read our story and commented and are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers and rooting for us this whole time and from here on out.  We are so so so so lucky to have the most wonderful people in our lives, that are cheering us on, and we are beyond grateful!

So where do we go from here?  Well, I met with our doctor about a month after our news.  It was tough being back in his office, and seeing all our nurses, and trying not to cry my eyes out.  Our doctor was so disappointed, like we were, especially since he said everything was "perfect."  I had such a heartfelt meeting with him that I appreciated so much!  Our doctor told me the reason for our fail was "implantation issues," and what that means right now, we are not sure.  We decided to undergo some testing before going through another process, to try and find this out.  This I also appreciate so much: having some answers or at least trying to find out some more information before wasting more time and money and emotions.  We took a break for the summer, just to be away from it all.  During this time, we (of course) had other things going on in our lives that were tough, but also grew as a couple even more.  It was so nice to pay attention to each other and our furries again without having to worry about anything fertility-related.  I started testing in August and we will most likely be going through another process sometime this fall.  We are excited and hopeful, but nervous and scared as well.  We don't want to think about what will be after that.  We just want to focus on getting through that and hopefully coming out with the best news possible.

We have learned so much from this experience so far.  Both about each other, our relationship, and ourselves.  I do not for one second regret the decision to be so open and transparent about our situation.  The best feeling in the whole wide world has been hearing a friend say that because of us and sharing our story, it has helped them share theirs (even if it's not to this big of an audience, but maybe just their loved ones).  This is all we've ever hoped for.  That people know that this really effing sucks and is very hard to go through, but you don't have to be in it alone, and there is absolutely no reason to be ashamed.  100%.

Thank you so much again for allowing me to share our story.  

xoxo always

story: our IVF journey.

I wrote this post a few days after our first failed IVF process, and it's been sitting in my drafts for months.  I decided to finally share it for no reason in particular other than to just share our journey so far.
This is our IVF journey and our feelings and our story, and may be different from other people's journey or stories.  Please be kind.
Today I'm sharing our IVF journey thus far, or a nutshell version of it anyways (it's long and complicated).  It was our {mutual} decision to be open about our fertility issues, so some of our family and friends may know some of this already, but I wanted to share the details and our experience.  A story of sorts.  In case you're interested but more because we want to bring awareness and understanding to what it's like to go through this.

us on our birthiversary-taken 4/2/16.
Where it all began.  A little back story.  We found out during the summer of 2015 that we actually had fertility issues.  Prior to that, we had been trying to conceive since 2012.  Not religiously at first.  We were like other "We're trying to have a baby" stories.  Stop preventative measures.  Get all excited because finally you don't have to use anything!  Then month after month goes by and nothing happens.  Since we were still super young and hopeful, we decided to just let it ride.  By summer of 2015, we already did the "fun" trying to conceive things like tracking ovulation schedules and trying during certain times of the month, using a Basal thermometer to track ovulation temperature spikes, and reading "The Impatient Women's Guide to Getting Pregnant."  One of the first suggestions in the book is to have the male tested, as a precaution, after at least 6 months of trying.  "Usually the male passes, but this is just the first step just in case."  Well...the male didn't pass and that was where the adventures of our infertility began.

Funny side story to this:  There was a mix-up at the lab and the results of Alex's first sperm test came back as a post-vasectomy patient.  "Yes, there's still sperm present."  Um....yes, there's supposed to be!!  Ooops.  (We should have known then that was a sign for all things CRAZY!)

us-summer 2015, at wedding #4.
So, during the summer of 2015, which was our crazy wedding season (6 weddings), we were also in the midst of our fertility testing.  Blood tests, ultrasounds, a dye test, and several sperm samples.  Fast track a few months to meeting with our doctor and we find out we both have issues: Alex has unexplained low sperm count and I have ovulation issues.  Great!  We're really a pair.  (In all honesty though, Alex and I were both equally happy to learn we both had issues.  It put us on the same playing field and it was equally both our faults!  This is one thing I have been so happy for throughout the whole process: we have been in this TOGETHER, literally, since the very beginning).  Our doctor decided we were the perfect candidates for IVF.  He explained that he doesn't always fast track patients straight to IVF, but we needed to pick the best sperm and put it with the best eggs for a good chance, so that's what had to be done.

special delivery-fertility medicine.
Welcome to IVF.  We made the first call to start the IVF process on February 17th.  It began with birth control (which we find so funny since I've never taken it before in my life and now I had to to try and get pregnant).  We seem to have such great timing for everything.  The day our fertility medicine was delivered to us, March 2nd, was the day before our little Murphy passed away.  When we began the IVF process, Murphy wasn't as sick and we thought he just might need a surgery.  By the time we realized that he wasn't going to make it, we already had the IVF medicine ordered and there was no going back.  So while we were grieving over our little Murphy, we were starting a long grueling process to try and start a human family.  Talk about tough shit.

all of the medicine for one IVF process.
We started our first shots on March 21st.  Before shots, I was on several medications and both Alex and I were on a 10-day antibiotic that kicked our asses (to try and kill any bacteria that could be potentially transferred during the process).  It gave us both bad stomach aches and we felt overall like crap.  I've heard lots of IVF patients say different things about the shots.  The reality for me is I don't like shots.  Who does?  But they weren't too terrible.  I used ice packs almost every time and I cried a few times (I'm a very emotional person, and have cried alot because of infertility), and we had a handful of times where we drew blood.  But overall, the shots weren't that bad.  One of the things I am grateful for the MOST out of this process is how willing Alex was to assist me with shots.  I knew I couldn't do my own shots (I'm a klutz and again, the emotions) and I owe him a million hugs for administering them for me.  It was not easy.  The first 9 days we only had one shot, at night.  Not too bad.  On March 30th, we had two shots in one day, then on March 31st, we had 3, one in the morning and two at night.  The three shots a day continued until April 8th.  By then, both my thighs were pretty sore and my left one was black and blue.  The abdomen wasn't too bad.

Here we go.  We administered the HCG trigger shot on Saturday, April 9th.  It was scary because it was the biggest needle and "this was it!"  Alex was terrified to administer it, but thanks to our amazing nurse, who drew a circle on my butt, we had the right area.  Yah!  Our retrieval was Monday, April 11th.  We both took the whole week off of work for this.  This was it, our first chance, and we wanted to do it right.  We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. on Monday.  The retrieval was very short, maybe 1 1/2 hours.  While I was sedated, Alex provided his sperm sample.  After, our doctor told us he was able to retrieve 10 good eggs from me.  He seemed a little disappointed, but we were ecstatic.  10 good eggs!  (We found out later that the reason for the slight disappointment is because the higher the number, the more he has to work with and the greater the chances of frozen embryos).  On Tuesday, the 12th, we got the call that 8 eggs were fertilized using Alex's sperm.  This was such a load off for Alex, as this was one of the things he was most nervous about.  Wednesday we had a free day where we went and hung out just the two of us for a bit.  It was a beautiful day and we went to the local outlet mall and bought new dishes and had dinner together.  Super nice and relaxing! 

2 little embryos transferred!
Thursday, April 14th was our transfer day!  Yah!!  We arrived at the hospital at 9:30 a.m. and had another quick procedure.  I was also sedated for this procedure (which isn't always typical but was necessary for me due to my tight cervix).  Afterwards, we took the happiest of photos that still makes me tear up.  Two little embryos transferred back into us!  Two little "me and Alex combined" embryos!  All of our hard work led up to this moment.  The doctor told us that everything "was perfect," and we were so excited!  After the transfer, I was on bed rest for three days.  It sounds lovely to lots of people, but gets really old after the first day or so.  But we were so afraid of messing up the process that we did everything the doctor told us to do: don't shower for three days, no bathtub for five days, keep your legs up, don't get up and do anything except go to the bathroom.

My last blood test=our negative pregnancy test.
And here we are.  Who sings that song "the waiting is the hardest part?"  Just like if you were waiting to see if you're pregnant naturally, there is waiting for IVF.  I went to the doctor on Monday, April 18th.  Four days after my transfer, for testing.  Then again on Wednesday, April 20th.  Then a final time on Monday, April 25th.  During this time, we tried to be as hopeful and positive as possible.  We talked alot about the possibility of twins.  We talked about the "babies" that were inside of us.  We laughed as much as possible.  We tried to be happy about everything we had gone through to bring us to this point.  We had come so far!  On Monday though, I just didn't feel as hopeful.  All day, I was nervous but tried to chalk it up to nerves and anxiety.  In the end, it came down to a call I received at 2:14 p.m., that started with the words "Unfortunately..."  It's amazing to me that so much of the process leads up to a moment that could end it all in just 6 minutes.  You go from being at the doctor every other day for weeks, taking tons of pills, and scheduling your life around shot times, to weaning yourself off of medicine and going on a waiting list for a consultation.  It ends that abruptly.  And that is where we are at.

The last photo of our first IVF process (after lots of crying).
What's next.  We don't know alot about what went wrong.  Most of that will be discussed at the consultation we have with our doctor in a month or two.  What we do know is that the embryos didn't latch on and my HCG level was never high enough to indicate a pregnancy.  I failed the first blood pregnancy test we took, on April 25th.  For now, we get a much needed break from it all, while we wrap our heads and hearts around what's next, and try to go back to a semi-normal life.  We're not exactly sure what's after that.