MIA

1 Oct

Yikes. So I just dropped off the face of the planet. However, after you read my obligatory catch up post, I think you’ll completely understand my lack of posts.

Starting with our fertility stuff, not much has really happened. We tried IUI three times and they didn’t work. Our specialist told us that we could either continue trying IUI or move on to IVF. At that point, we decided to take a break. I was struggling with depression and my body was completely worn out. I just couldn’t continue on the way we were going. My reproductive organs were running my entire life and it was exhausting. Since then, we’ve continued to try but it hasn’t been the main feature of our lives. I wish I could say we are doing lots of amazing, fun things instead but that’s not entirely true.

Since January, Josh has been taking an extremely difficult online course that is almost impossible to pass. It will be a huge step for his career if he does pass so I’m glad he’s taking it. However, it means I’m alone a lot. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time. I’m an introvert to the core and alone time is a necessity for me. But I’ve been getting lonely. Plus, since he’s so busy, a lot of the housework, meals and taking care of the dogs falls on my lap. Normally, this would be no problem but as you will see in the next couple of paragraphs, I’ve been having some health issues. He took his test (24 hours of nonstop testing at his computer) and we think he passed. He had to get 70 points to pass and he got 100. We aren’t celebrating until he gets the official word though. When we do, it’s going to be a BIG deal for him. I’m proud of him, but it’s still been a challenge.

On top of that, I’ve had some major health issues lately. It started shortly after we finished our last IUI. I started to feel really awful (tired, nauseous, achy, etc) and all the glands on the right side of my neck swelled up bigger than I thought was even possible. I saw three different doctors, had dozens of blood tests, had a fine needle biopsy (horrible), more blood work, ultrasounds, and finally an excisional biopsy where they removed one of my lymph nodes for testing. It was supposed to be a simple procedure where I would only miss one day of work. Um, no. It was horrible. I can’t remember the last time I felt that much pain. I was taking a double dose of pain meds and it didn’t’ even put a dent in the pain. I had the surgery on Monday and didn’t go back to work until Friday and even that was rough. One of the things the doctors were worried about was tuberculosis  The reason they were worried about that? Well, I tested positive for it. You know the skin test they do for TB? I had one and my skin swelled up enough to worry the doctors which is why they pushed for the second biopsy. Fortunately  all my test results have come back normal so far and I won’t need treatment. I am not officially diagnosed with TB. That means I’m not contagious and it was most likely a false positive. It was still a lot to go through for everything to come back normal.

The biopsy was only two weeks ago yet today I found myself back at the doctor for a completely unrelated issue. For the past month I’ve been having horrible lower abdominal pain. I haven’t been able to see my gynecologist though because I’ve had to deal with the biopsy first. I finally made it in today and pending an ultrasound next week, my doctor is pretty sure my endometriosis is back. This means that I will be going through my third surgery in only 2 years. Even worse, I have no clue how long it will take to schedule my surgery and in the meantime, I am in so much pain I can barely stand it. Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I never really had the typical symptoms so I wasn’t prepared for this level of pain. It’s completely awful.

Outside of health issues, I’ve had some family stuff that I won’t talk about here but let’s just say it’s been incredibly stressful.  Seeing family members hurt and going through pain yourself is just hard. Really hard.

To make matters worse, my best friend moved to Seattle for 6 months. She should be back at the beginning of next year and we’ve been keeping in touch by phone, but it’s still hard. I miss her so incredibly much. She is the most amazing person ever and being around her for just a minute makes me feel so much more positive. I’m fortunate to even have a friend like her. Another one of my friends made it completely clear that I meant nothing to her. With everything else going on, I think it hurt worse than it should have. I kept telling myself that someone who doesn’t care about you isn’t worth getting upset over. Easier said than done, I guess. It just would have been nice to have someone else to talk to right now.

Ending on a good note, we went to Ireland a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to share our pictures! We had a wonderful time even through the health issues and I’m so glad we went. Stay tuned for those recaps!

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Tell Me a Story

7 May

Sadly, this is my last week of Brooke Snow’s amazing class. I always get so sad when her classes end. This week we had two assignments. Part one was to tell a story with only one picture. Part two was to take a self-portrait.

Time for some honesty. A couple of times during this class, I got a little down because I didn’t have kids of my own to take pictures of. So many classmates used their own kids I just had my husband and dogs. But this week I realized something really important. Someday I will have kids. I will either be a mother of adopted children or I will finally be blessed with a child of my own and I will take hundreds of pictures of them. But right now? Right now, it’s my husband and my dogs. They are my family and that is such a wonderful thing. I need to document my life as it is right now because I don’t want to look back on my life someday and be sad because I took this time for granted. So, I had a GREAT time this week. My family completely ROCKS!

My first shot is my story shot. And this? This is my gorgeous husband. I mean come on! He’s so hot. (Click images to enlarge.)

The next shot was where I had to get in front of the camera. I pretty much never do this so I’m really glad Brooke made us do it this week. We had so much fun getting this shot. My remote broke so I had to keep running back and forth and was laughing so hard. And I totally LOVE this shot. Like, I am going to order prints and hang it in my house. I can’t get over how great Josh looks!

Here’s a couple extra I got while we were hanging out by the trains. I am so fortunate to have a husband who is willing to do this. And now I have more pictures of him to swoon over!

Brooke, thank you again for an amazing experience. I really feel as if my photography skills and confidence has grown so much over the past four weeks. And if any of you guys are ever thinking of taking an online photography course, I absolutely recommend Brooke’s classes!

Homework Week 3

29 Apr

So I really struggled with this homework assignment. It felt like all my creativity was gone and I didn’t know how to get it back! I had a photo shoot scheduled with an adorable little girl but that ended up not happening and that threw me even more. I had no plan and was totally lost. I came so close to just skipping the assignment this week because I was getting so stressed. Finally, on Sunday afternoon I thought to myself, “Why don’t you just walk around your house and take some shots of the dogs. Test out the lighting and see if you can finally find some decent lighting in your house.” I used to think our house was the worst house ever when it came to natural light but I think I just wasn’t giving it a chance.

The pictures I took this week are not my typical style and they are just kind of different from what I would normally take. However, maybe that’s a good thing. I started thinking out of box and just relaxed and had fun. Also, my dogs think I’m completely insane now.

For the first part of the assignment we were told to take images of contrasting elements. If you think about it, there are endless possibilities of contrasting things to take pictures of. My brain, however, decided to just stop working. I take pictures of contrasting things all the time but when I was asked to actually be aware of it and plan those things, I drew a blank. I seriously spent an entire week trying to figure out one contrasting thing I could take a picture of. Finally, one day while I was watching my adorable dogs, I realize that hey! They are really different. Piper is bigger, stocky and has this gorgeous black fur. Lexy is shorter but with long thin legs and is a light tan color. So I gave it a shot! (As always, click on the images to enlarge.)

The next part of the assignment was to take an image and capture the much desired “decisive moment.” The decisive moment is basically when everything comes together for a very SHORT instant and you want to capture that. While I was having fun with the dogs, I climbed up on some furniture, got my camera ready and yelled, “OH MY GOSH GUYS! LOOK OUT THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW!” They both sprinted into the room and jumped up on the window sill. I knew they wouldn’t stay there long so I was ready and got one shot. I think it came out pretty good!  (And no, I never do that to my dogs just to laugh when they run into the room to look out the window. Why would I do that? That would just be mean!)

So, all in all, after a week where I felt like my creativity was lacking and I was ready to give up, I am proud of how everything turned out. I guess it goes to show that when you RELAX and just enjoy yourself, creativity will find you again.

Perspective

23 Apr

This week in Brooke Snow’s class we learned about perspective and the concept of less is more. Guys, perspective is so crazy important. It is amazing how much changing your perspective while you are behind the camera, can make a HUGE difference.

There were two parts to our homework assignment. Part one was to take a picture like someone would normally take it. Then, you are supposed to change your perspective and see how it affects the quality of your image. At first, I had decided to use Lexy as my subject but she decided playing in the sun was much more interesting than posing. I got a few cute shots and then I let her do her thing. Piper was very cooperative and plopped right down in the shade to be my perfect little model.

The first image is my “typical” shot. It’s not horrible but definitely not my favorite. The next two shots are from another perspective and they are so much better! See how important perspective is?

(ALL IMAGES CAN BE ENLARGED BY CLICKING ON THEM.)

For the second part of the assignment, I decided to take some pictures of Josh’s new guitar, or should I say, the love of his life right now. It’s ok. I’m not jealous. Anyway, the first shot is fine but it didn’t really show the sleekness of the guitar. I wanted to show the amazing color and how, well, awesome it is! So I removed the extra parts that were not needed.

I couldn’t resist sharing some other images that I really liked, but since I was limited to the number of images I could use for this assignment, couldn’t be a part of the homework. Of course, Lexy got one picture included. She’s too cute to leave out!

Lifestyle Photography Homework

15 Apr

Last year I took a online photography course offered by the amazingly talented Brooke Snow. I learned a ton and decided to take another one of her classes this year. Part of the class is weekly homework and I will be posting those assignments here. The class I’m taking is about lifestyle photography and I can’t wait to see how my photography improves and changes throughout this class!

Our first assignment is to pick a charcter we would like to document, take some detail shots and some shots of the character doing something. I chose my awesome husband as my character. One of the things I had to get used to when I married Josh, was the fact that he always has to have some project, hobby or class to work on. When we first started dating, he filled all his free time working on homework for his Master’s degree. After that was done, he decided to learn a completely new skill and build a database for the company we work for. Now, he is learning yet another new skill and is working on becoming a certified hacker.

This personality trait of his has slowly become one of the things I love the most about him. As I was taking these pictures, I kept finding myself smiling. There are so many thing in his office that are just…Josh. And those things make me happy.

The first three images are detail shots of things around his office. I love his cluttered books and his neatly written notes. The last picture is Josh working hard with only the light from his computer. (Click to enlarge pictures.)

Third Time’s the Charm!

9 Mar

IUI number 2 didn’t work. I actually handled that a lot better than I handled the first one. So we are moving on to IUI number 3 and we decided this will be the one that will work. The number 3 is our lucky number (yeah, that’s a long, lame story) so this just has to be the one!

I went to my baseline appointment at the fertility clinic yesterday. The appointment went as usual except for when I was walking out. I walked past a girl that was getting her blood drawn. This isn’t anything new because let’s face it, when you are dealing with infertility, you should expect to constantly be poked and prodded. I used to get so scared to have my blood drawn and now I don’t give it a second thought. 

So anyway, as I walked past the girl, I overheard her conversation with my nurse. (Yes, she’s MY nurse.) My nurse said “This is a GOOD thing!” and the girl responded with tears in her eyes, “But I’m so scared.” 

I can only assume that she was pregnant and getting her blood drawn to test her hormone levels. I walked out to my car and the moment I got in, I burst into tears. It just felt so unfair. That poor girl should get to be excited about being pregnant but she doesn’t get to do that. After dealing with infertility, you feel so broken. Nothing goes your way and your body constantly lets you down, so why would pregnancy be any different? 

I hope that her pregnancy is uneventful and that she finally gets the baby she has been working so hard for. I hope that her infertility wounds heal even though the scars will always be there. And I hope I get to that point someday soon. Here’s to IUI number 3!

The Catholic Church vs. the Government

14 Feb

I rarely go into political or religious issues on this blog but I am so angry that I can’t keep quiet on this one. I’m sure most of you know that Obama has mandated that religious organizations, include Catholic organizations, are required to cover birth control and abortion medications in their health plans.  This requirement directly goes against the core beliefs of the Catholic Church.

The first and most important point is that it is unconstitutional for the government to force a religious organization to go against their beliefs. Period. It’s pretty simple really. I’m sure you have heard many, many news articles covering the issue of religion in schools. Many people believe that there should be no prayer or mention of religion in school. While I think that may take it a bit too far, their reasoning is separation of church and state. Religious organizations cannot tell the government what to do and the government cannot tell religious organizations what to believe in. It completely blows my mind that anyone can think this mandate is acceptable. Even if you do not agree with the Church’s stance on birth control and abortion, you should be able to see that this mandate is wrong and sets a very dangerous precedent.

One of the statistics I have heard is that 98% of Catholics use birth control. This statistic has been refuted (http://www.lifenews.com/2012/02/13/figure-that-98-of-catholic-women-use-birth-control-debunked/). If that source is not enough for you, take this into consideration. The CDC conducted a study that showed only 62% of women in the U.S. aged 15-44 actively use any form of birth control (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf). How is it possible that women who belong to a religion that rejects birth control as one of it’s core beliefs, has an average 30% higher than the national average? It’s not.

In reading blogs I have seen many people try to defend this mandate. Inevitably, someone will throw out that Catholic priests rape children and the Church covers it up. Guys, come on. Yes, there were some horrible men that abused children and it was wrong and awful. Those priests have either been jailed, forced to resign or defrocked. Some leaders of the church did try to cover it up which is completely wrong. Pope John Paul II “declared in 2001 that “a sin against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue by a cleric with a minor under 18 years of age is to be considered a grave sin, or delictum gravius.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases) The church has enacted new policies in order to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. The Catholic Church does not condone rape or molestation of children.

Furthermore, people seem to assume that only Catholic priests abuse children, when in fact, there is no higher rate of abuse in the Catholic Church than in any other religion or even in the general population (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/04/07/mean-men.html). If that source is not enough for you, let me know and I will provide others.

Another point people keep trying to make is that Obama amended the mandate to say that the insurance company has to provide the birth control and abortion medication coverage so the Catholic organizations will not be paying for it. That is not true. Most employers pay for a majority of their insurance premiums. For example, the company I work for pays 75% of the medical premiums. Employees only pay 25%. Some organizations are self insured which means they pay all or most of the insurance premiums. So if the organization pays the majority of the premium and that premium covers birth control and abortion medications, the organization is paying for the birth control and abortion medication coverage. Obama changed nothing. He basically just reworded it hoping that many people would be fooled.

Most people do not know how much good the Catholic Church does. Did you know the Catholic Church was the main reason education is available to those outside of nobility? Did you know that the Catholic Church has a nonprofit hospital system that has 637 hospitals that treats 1 in 5 patients in the US every day? Did you know that in Chicago alone, the Catholic Charities will provide 2.2 million free meals to the needy in that area? What about the fact that in the US, the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at the cost of 10 billion dollars a year to parents and parishes. If there were no Catholic schools, those students would have to be educated in public schools and that would cost taxpayers 18 billion dollars. (source for this paragraph is from the book Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.)

If you take only one thing from this blog post, let it be this. The government does not have the right to force a religious organization to go against their core beliefs. This cannot continue.