Thursday, August 21, 2014

4th of July

Well, folks, it's August. So this is apparently the time of year when I get my 4th of July pictures put up. This year we went to the river with our Sunday School class from church. We always have a great time with these sweet friends (and now all of their babies!). I'm sure you guys know what happens on 4th of July...this one was very typical except that I remembered to bring my camera this year and was able to get some great fireworks shots. I've been trying to get some fireworks pictures for about 3 years now and it just hasn't worked out up until this point. So, without further ado, here is a photo dump of some of the best shots I got from that day.







I also got to try out some shots with a long exposure. The kids got some sparklers and were playing around with them. I got some cool shots where they were drawing shapes or hearts, but this first one was totally by accident and it turned out to be one of my favorites.




The sky was beautiful that night. It was supposed to rain, but the weather ended up being completely perfect for our cookout and for the fireworks. The neighbors of the river house we were at were the ones setting off the actual fireworks. It was a great night and we had a great time.





These sparkly fireworks are my absolute favorites. They were hard to get on camera because they fizzle out so fast. The picture doesn't do it justice. They are the fireworks that start out as a regular firework shape, and then just when it looks like it's completely disappeared, they burst open again with shimmery fizzy looking lights.





Friday, August 1, 2014

Red Sox vs. Braves

I feel fairly certain that I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband is a Red Sox fan. Not like your average “eh…if I watch baseball I’ll cheer for them” but more like a “I live and breathe and die by baseball and I get all the updates on my phone and I watch every game” kind of fan. So, naturally we had to go see them when they were close by playing the Braves on Memorial Day weekend. Yes, Memorial Day. I am way behind in updating the ol’ blog! We had great intentions of spending the night and watching 2 games, but apparently there are a lot of Red Sox fans living in Braves country, because the tickets were sold out faster than we could buy them. Robby’s dad was still able to pull some connections and he got the four of us tickets for the Monday afternoon game.

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It was really cool to be there on Memorial Day. They did a whole impressive opening with the national anthem and a bald eagle flying around, a 21 gun salute, and then a flyover by the jets. It was awesome, and since that was just a few days after I found out my brother was going to be deployed of course I cried through the whole thing. 

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This is my favorite Red Sox player, Dustin Pedroia. I like him because he’s small but he has so much talent and energy. He hops like this literally every time someone swings at a pitch. I love it. It’s my favorite moment to catch on camera when we go see them play.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave out Big Papi. He’s my mother-in-law’s favorite player. He’s funny and can hit bombs like no one else. 3829

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Two of my favorite guys. This is literally the only time they will willingly pose for a picture. I got one of them at Fenway from our vacation last year in the same pose. Also, can we talk about how much they look alike?! It’s like looking into the future.

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This was also one of my first opportunities to try out my new lens for my camera. I have a 50mm lens that I love but this was my first leap to purchase a lens that wasn’t a kit lens. I love it more than I thought I could! We were way high up in the outfield and I was able to zoom in on this conference at the pitcher’s mound like we were only a couple of feet away.

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Poor Ortiz went to hit the ball and fouled one off his own ankle. That face of pain says it all. He’s a champ though, and he came back and hit a home run a couple of innings later.

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We got pretty sweaty in the Atlanta sun so Melinda and I walked around underneath the stadium for a while to cool off. This was a great view and had way better picture opportunities. 3843Unfortunately, while we were walking Ortiz hit his home run, so the best shot I could get was of him coming around third and headed for home. It turned out to be one of my favorite pictures though.

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We hit a small snag in the game when the skies opened up and dumped buckets of rain everywhere. The game went on a delay, and even though there were lots of people that were trying to wait it out, we ran for cover.

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We stayed nice and dry while the rest of those suckers sat in the rain.

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We didn’t sit around long. We were tired and hungry and we weren’t really sure if the rain would quit anytime soon, so we left the game before the rain delay ended. We headed over to Pie In the Sky Pizzeria, which is one of our favorite restaurants in Atlanta. There was an episode of Man Vs. Food that was filmed there because their pizza is as big as a trash can lid. You can see that one slice is as big as Robby’s whole forearm!

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They have a challenge that you can do where 2 people get to try to eat this whole thing loaded up with like 3 pounds of meat. It’s intense. We chose to just eat a few pieces and take the rest home. I got a nice, tiny gluten free pizza all to myself. It was pretty good. I still wish I could eat the good stuff though. We also got a nice bonus because right about the time that we sat down with our food the rain delay ended on the game. We got to watch the last few innings from the comfort of a dry restaurant and we got to eat, so it was a win all around.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

4 Weeks In...

I'm jumping on board. It seems like everyone knows someone who has decided, either for medical reasons or just as a preference, to go gluten-free. Although I'm not sure why anyone would subject themselves to that level of torture just for preference or for weight loss. Because, let's be honest, who doesn't love a hot, flaky biscuit, or a donut from Krispy Kreme when the Hot Now light is on? Why someone would voluntarily give that up I have no idea. But, I digress.

So if you don't know what gluten is, it's basically in everything delicious. Kidding (kind of). Basically it's a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. But that information is everywhere and you can find out more with a google search. Plus those people will be smarter than me anyway. I'm more worried about sharing the personal side of this story and how gluten affects me (and maybe you or someone you know).

I've always had headaches. Since as far back as I can remember. We are talking all different types of headaches; sinus headaches, tension headaches, migraines, you name it and I've had it. Regularly. Like 4 or more per week for my whole life. I buy Advil in the giant tubs at Sams Club and everyone laughs when they see it on the kitchen counter. Or when they hear me walk into a room because of the pills jingling in my purse. And there was a time that I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Mom took me to the doctor and they did all these special tests and shocked the crap out of my arms to see what was causing the numbness in my hands in the mornings.

And about 9 years ago, I developed a rash on my legs and arms. It wouldn't go away. Sometimes it would heal in one spot only to reappear in another only days later. I had been to regular doctors and specialists for this crappy thing and no amount of lotions or creams or antibiotics could kill it.

The numbness in my hands and the migraines started about the same time; right as I started high school. . Also, around that time I started to notice there were certain restaurants that made me really, really, sick. It was mostly italian restaurants like Olive Garden. I noticed that no matter what I ate there, I would get a really bad migraine and end up on the toilet for days after eating there. (sorry for that visual) The rash started right after I started college, and at that time I hit 21 and I also started to notice that drinking beer had the same effect on me as eating at Olive Garden. I told the Hubs that I thought I was allergic to beer and Olive Garden and he thought I was nuts.

After we got married, we started trying to have kids. I had a miscarriage, and I went back on birth control for a while after that. I started to notice that my brain seemed really foggy all the time. I noticed that there were a lot of times when I knew what I wanted to say but words and phrases that I used all the time were hard for me to come up with. I would catch myself saying stuff like, "what's the word for when you...." and the answer would be something simple like "change lanes" or "investigate". It was like phrases I used everyday were hard for me to remember or use in a sentence. I thought it was the birth control so I stopped taking it, but that didn't help the fuzziness go away. I was always tired and I could sleep like 11-12 hours a night no problem, and I would still need a nap the next day.  

Now, I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes, because for years I had friends who noticed similar symptoms, plus others like early onset arthritis, or numbness in their hands and legs in the morning. Those friends all decided to stop eating gluten and saw a dramatic improvement in their symptoms and their overall quality of life. I had several people tell me that I should look into the symptoms of Celiac disease or try to cut out gluten and see if it helped my symptoms. All I heard was stop eating bread and I knew that was not an option for me.

Well, the rash got increasingly worse, and it got so itchy that it was all I could think about. I finally went to the doctor. He tested me for Celiac disease, which it turns out I didn't have. That was a major bonus. But, he said it sounds like I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which can have all the same symptoms of Celiac disease without the autoimmune component. Basically, people with celiac have more gastrointestinal issues (and maybe other issues as well) while people with gluten sensitivity have more non-GI symptoms like foggy brain, joint pain, numbness in legs/hands, or chronic fatigue.

I heard the doctor say that and I immediately went to Chick-fil-a and ordered a fried chicken biscuit because I didn't want to deal with that. Long story short, after a couple more weeks of pretending the doctor was wrong and my symptoms would go away on their own, I stopped eating gluten. That was almost 4 weeks ago.  And I simultaneously wish I had cut it out sooner, and that I didn't have to do it at all and I could have one of those chicken biscuits again.

What I mean by that is this: I feel better than I ever, ever, ever have in my whole life. My headaches are g.o.n.e. I haven't had a single headache in almost a month, except for the migraine I got immediately after eating something with gluten in it by accident. That's an all-time record. Also that migraine was my wake up call that this is serious. I'm can't just play around with it and eat gluten free when I want to and have a double cheeseburger on the weekends. Well, I could, but I am afraid I would pay dearly for it and to me, it's not worth it. I am not nearly as tired as I was before. I can thrive on 6 hours of sleep, whereas before, that would have been my husband's worse nightmare. Me on no sleep/too little sleep is like shooting Godzilla with a tiny airplane- your town will be destroyed. Now, I can get up early and go to the gym without falling asleep at my desk at 8 am or killing a co-worker for looking at me the wrong way. My joints don't hurt when it rains and I can run on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes without being crippled the next day. My foggy brain is gone and the annoying film on my contacts is gone and I can see clearly without running to the eye doctor every month for a stronger prescription. It's amazing!

The downside is that I'm past the rainbows and unicorns phase where the health benefits alone keep me from salivating over a donut or wanting to shoot someone for a loaf of french bread. We have now entered the despair phase. The poor, pitiful me part where I realize I can't go out to eat like a normal person without making the waiter want to spit in my food because I have to ask for the ingredients of every marinade and whether they fry their french fries in the same oil as their breaded chicken nuggets. I'm starting to become more comfortable with ingredients like xanthan gum and corn starch, and I'm learning to try (and fail miserably) with new recipes. There have been some successes though so it's not all bad. And as much as I'm complaining right now, it's still worth every single minute to not have migraines and a nasty rash all up my leg (why hello swimsuit season, I've been afraid of you for the last 3 years so let's make up for lost time).

So, there's all the dirty details of why I'm not eating gluten anymore. Maybe someday I'll take a picture of all my recipe fails so y'all can laugh with me (or at me) because last night's crab rangoon and sesame chicken was downright inedible. We are still laughing about it. If you made it this far into this post you are either my mom or some sort of super human who just loves reading. Either way, you deserve a medal for your dedication.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Only Hope We Have

Have you ever noticed that as humans, our life seems to go through stages? Sometimes it seems like you are on top of the world and everything is going right, and sometimes it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you and there's no hope left. Sometimes you are just stuck in the middle.

Lately everything for us has been good. I feel like we are in a good place financially, with both of our work situations, with relationships, and just with life in general. But I have several friends who are in the middle of going through some very very hard stuff.


There's a friend who is working so hard to serve Jesus. She's doing everything she can to dive deeper and learn to trust and help others get there too. But Satan knows and he hates what she is doing and what she's learning. He's turning everything she knows into a lie. I know she's trying to hang on, but I can see something cracking. I don't know how much more she can stand.




There's a young girl who is fighting for her life. She's heard about Jesus all her life but she doesn't think it can be true. To her, that amount of power and love and goodness can't possibly exist. She's fighting through fear and pressure to be popular and pretty and smart and athletic and good all at the same time. She doesn't even know that perfection outside of Christ is just a cleverly crafted lie. She's trying to escape, but the razors and the drugs aren't enough anymore. She's desperate, but she doesn't even know what she's searching for.


And there's a man. A man with a boy inside somewhere but his heart is calloused from years of seeing and doing hard things. He has to keep his heart hard to keep himself strong, but he's forgotten that strength comes from the Lord. He belongs to Jesus, always and forever, but it's been years since he's spoken that powerful Name. He turns to the bottle to forget that's he's lonely and hurting and afraid, and he wraps it all up cleverly, hidden behind his humor and his good looks. He's holding it all together, for now.


This morning I was praying. For some of these people I didn't even have words. Their pain is dark and haunting and so so real. Their situations are so different: one trying to live it out, one prodigal who doesn't know what lost is, and one who's never even known the truth. But for each scenario, each pain-filled journey, there is one over-arching solution.


Jesus.


He's the only hope we have. 


He's the only hope we will ever have.




That sounds cliche, but I don't mean it that way. I mean to say that the only hope for the desperate, the dying, the searching or the lost is the powerful, life-giving Savior. The name of Jesus is enough to send the powers of darkness running in fear because it's the Name above any other.

It takes real courage to fight when it feels hopeless, to get up in the morning when your heart is tired and there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep going on, to cling for life day by day by day to the only Source of life.

The Enemy is real. His name is Satan and he's a dirty liar. He doesn't give you truth, but rather a version of the truth which is really a beautifully packaged lie. He attacks the weak and the helpless and those who are obedient and even those who don't know he's coming.


But, we have this Hope. 





 John 16:33 "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."


If you're searching and you don't know how to start, consider telling Him. Look for Him. Ask Him to show up. He is so faithful.


And if your life is going great? Don't be fooled. Jesus is your only hope too. Without Him we are all just slowly dying in our own sin. With Him, we have the power that raised the dead to life, the love that reached out to lepers and the unwanted, the grace that searched each of us out in the middle of our mess. There is no salvation apart from Jesus (John 14:6). And if your life is good right now, maybe there's someone in your life who is struggling? They don't need you to understand or to have gone through the same thing, but they do need your love and your prayers. And sometimes, they might just need someone to remind them that there is a Hope.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Snow Pictures

Well, Snowpocalypse 2014 has come and gone, and the Polar Vortex is now a distant memory for most, so it seemed like the perfect time for me to post all of these snow pictures I've had sitting on my computer since January. If you know me in real life then you know this is just about par for the course, because I'm late for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Anyways. This winter was Boston's first one, and there was plenty of snow for her to play in. She loved it. I, on the other hand, hate snow, so Robby was the one who took her out to play in it and I would mainly come out to take pictures and then retreat to the warm fire.

She was pretty hesitant at first. She did a lot of shaking and trying to get the cold stuff off of her coat. 

Then, she found her favorite stick half buried in the snow, and she realized it was actually pretty fun to dig around in!

She came up with a white nose and face on more than one occasion. 


She doesn't usually stand still long enough for any type of picture, so I took advantage of the times that she paused to try to figure out what was going on.




 This is probably one of my favorite sets of pictures of Boston.


And of course, the snow was made even better by the fact that there weren't many cars on the road and she could run free without a leash. So when she spotted her daddy's truck she took off.




This puppy loves everyone, but her daddy is her favorite person of all time.


This one is not in focus at all, but it does show her hilarious personality. She is 100 miles and hour all the time.


While we were outside, I tried to exercise my photography skills and get a shot of a snowflake using my macro lens. It is definitely harder than it looks!! This was the best picture I got in an hour of trying, but you can still see some of the individual flakes. God is so cool. 


 And finally, my favorite part of snow days: snuggling with lots of blankets and a warm fire.


We have a hatch door that leads outside where you can load in firewood. Robby keeps us loaded down during the colder months.


Even though he's the firewood stacker, I am the fire builder. To be honest it's just because I'm a little more patient and I don't let it die as quickly. It's a job I take seriously. Just look at that fire burn!


It's a rough life for a dog these days. Playing in the snow really wears Boston out! Haha.

Since it's already spring I guess this is the last we will see of those kinds of temperatures until next year. Thankfully.