Friday, September 30, 2011

Tomorrow is "D-Day"

Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments on yesterday's blog. (*Side note - Someone brought to my attention that my comments were disabled for a while on that post, so I got most of your comments via facebook. Sorry about that! The comment issue is fixed now!) I'd almost talked myself out of sharing that in the blog-o-sphere, but I'm glad now that I didn't hold back! You're encouragement has really blessed me, and it's good to know that there are other people out there who have been through this and had success with the Candida diet. It also helps a LOT to know you guys will be praying for me during this whole process!

Tomorrow is D-Day - the Dreaded Diet Day!  > insert groan here <  

I've been eating this week like I was sentenced to death on Saturday - trying to have one last taste of some of my favorite foods. We couldn't afford to eat out every meal, but I did manage one last Chick-Fil-A run (with honey mustard and sweet tea! Thanks Mom & Dad!), one last Decaf White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks, one last Apple Cider with caramel sauce, cinnamon, and whipped cream, and Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing (I've been dying to try the recipe!). I'm also going to have some McDonald's french fries with sweet chili sauce this afternoon, a Sonic Cherry Limeade, and then Rusty is taking me out to my favorite place - PF Chang's - for my "last meal". I'll probably scarf down a Hershey Bar before bed (as I am not allowed to have chocolate on this diet - not even a taste!) and that will be the end of "life as I know it"!  :(

Can you tell food is one of my love languages? My Dad called the above list my "Bucket List" of food! Haha!

If I'm being honest though - I really haven't enjoyed myself much. For the past few weeks, nothing has really tasted good to me, and I've been dealing with nauseous feelings that come and go (a lot). I've also been EXHAUSTED. Even when I'm not sleepy, my body is tired. Sometimes the smallest tasks leave me worn out and terribly run down. Rusty keeps telling me that will all go away with this diet, and that is really helping to motivate me!

We went shopping yesterday at Whole Foods to prepare for the coming week. After 3 stressful hours, a month's grocery budget, and a lot of frustration, we finally had a week's worth of food. I can't tell you how difficult it was to shop with these restrictions! If I have learned anything, it's that SUGAR and PRESERVATIVES are in almost everything we eat (yes - even at Whole Foods!) SOY and YEAST were also super frustrating to try to avoid. I read label after label and actually came home with a stye in my eye from it!

I think the most intimidating thing was knowing I can't make a mistake. If I eat the wrong thing, I can set myself back WEEKS in healing. So, unlike a normal "I'm going to eat healthier diet", I can't treat myself with a little bite of chocolate if I kept up my diet all week. And if it were just the Gluten Free and Dairy Free diet and I ate the wrong thing, I might get sick once. With the Candida diet though, we are trying to starve out yeast. If I eat something that will "feed them" by mistake, then my weeks of sacrifice could all be for nothing. I could essentially go back to "square one". So I was super careful when it came to selecting foods!

The expense was definitely one of the worst parts though. As a couple who lives the way we do (very frugally) it was hard to swallow the prices for some of these items. I am usually a WalMart shopping, Great Value Brand buying girl, and "organic", "gluten-free", "non-GMO", "dairy-free" items are about 4 times the price! I'm hoping some of what we bought this trip will last several weeks though... *crosses fingers*. I think it's interesting that insurance will pay for me to go to 11 different doctors, and to take about 30 different prescriptions (none of which helped me at all!) - but it doesn't cover the kind of food I need to eat to actually get better! I just have to keep reminding myself that God has always taken care of us, and He will provide what we need... even if it is not in our "normal" budget.

Just FYI - I've had several friends message me wanting to know more about this diet, and asking for direction/suggestions, so I'm going to try to be detailed with my diet updates. I may share some of my weekly menus, which gluten free/dairy free/candida diet approved foods are less disgusting than others (haha), and how I'm shopping for them with the hope of (maybe) helping someone else out! If there's anything else you specifically want to know - just ask in the comment section.

For those of you who aren't interested in this topic, I'm planning to keep posting other (fun) things in the coming weeks too!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No sugar - No gluten - No yeast

If you're a regular reader of my blog, then you know I've been dealing with a lot of health problems in the past 18 months. I call them my "mystery illnesses", and they just keep popping up - one after the other. It's been frustrating to say the least (especially when only one of them has been diagnosed, and no one can give me anything to heal - or even manage - my symptoms).

Well, last week I had a procedure done called a "hand cradle scan". Those of you who don't believe in homeopathic/natural medicine are going to think the idea is kooky, but the team of doctors I saw (yes, real "MD" doctors) said this procedure has cracked some of their most difficult cases. I won't go into detail about it all (because it does sound pretty kooky - even to me) but you can find out more here. Basically, this "hand cradle scan" tells you essentially everything that's wrong with you. From vitamin and mineral deficiencies, to parasites, to food allergies (or sensitivities), and even more serious issues like meningitis!

And, without listing everything she found wrong with me, I'll share the most important issues that we have to address -

1- Parasites (we were right all along!)
2- An intolerance to a certain protein in cow's milk & goat's milk
3- Gluten intolerance
4- Yeast Overgrowth

Now, #4 is not a "yeast infection" - but a "yeast overgrowth". It's hard to explain, but because of a lot of factors (like digestive issues, or taking antibiotics or prescription steroids, among others) you can develop a yeast overgrowth in your body.  This yeast can get into your intestines, tissues, and blood stream (which mine is in now). It can also attack your organs, and in serious cases it can kill you. The more I've read about it (since getting this diagnosis) the scarier I've found it is! People have gotten deathly ill because of yeast, but it is rarely (if ever) diagnosed or treated properly. And, just in case you're still thinking this is nuts (as I was) - I also had a biopsy done by a dermotologist and sure enough, there is proof of yeast in my tissue!

The only way to rid yourself of this yeast, is to "starve it out" with a special diet over the course of several months. It's also recommended that you take a prescription that will help (which I am).

Of course, since mine is connected to my digestive problems - I also have to address those. And, since they found parasites and some vitamin/mineral deficiencies, I'll also be taking another prescription AND some herbal remedies to help with those.

If you're wondering what that looks like specifically - for the next 3 months I'll be taking over 20 pills a day (did I mention I hate swallowing pills?!), and following this strict diet:

Candida Diet + Gluten Free diet + Milk Free diet
NO sugar (which includes artificial sweeteners, honey, syrup, etc)
NO gluten (which is in almost everything)
NO yeast (which means no bread, crackers, cookies, cake, etc)
NO fruit (too much sugar)
NO milk
NO aged cheese
NO vinegar (which means no condiments, which means no ketchup - AGH! - no salad dressing, no mayonnaise, etc)
NO fermented foods (which means no pickles, relish, or soy sauce)
And here comes the worst part....


Are you crying yet? Because, I already have.... several times (if I'm being honest). The list goes on to explain I can only have a few veggies (most of them have too much sugar or too many carbs), no preservatives (which are seriously in almost everything!) and pretty much nothing I didn't make with my own hands (ie - nothing pre-made, nothing processed, nothing "easy"). I'm sure there are more "no-no's" I'm forgetting, but you get the jest.

There are a lot of things I'm concerned about.

#1 - sickness. I know this diet is supposed to be healing me, but apparently there are some "die off" symptoms (for both parasites and yeast) that can make you super sick for the first few weeks (nausea, headaches, exhaustion, etc). The thought of being even sicker is not very appealing to me (especially when I can't have anything that comforts me when I'm sick - like ginger ale, crackers, etc).

#2 - weightloss. I've gained a little bit of weight since we got married that I wouldn't mind losing (it would be nice to fit back into some of my suits and dresses from college!) however, I've been told to expect MAJOR weight loss from this diet. A friend of mine who had to follow this diet (who was already little and didn't need to lose any weight) loss 55 pounds in a month! I am terrified I'm going to look like a skeleton by the time this is over!

I have other concerns too - like - How are we going to be able to afford all these "specialty foods" I have to eat? Will I be able to keep this up? What will happen when I start to add my "normal foods" back into my diet? What will happen when we travel overseas and I can't find the right foods? What if I do this (miserable) diet and it doesn't heal me?

And then there's the social aspect of it all. I have been so THRILLED to be back down South and able to meet my girlfriends for lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. In the last 2 weeks or so I've cooked dinner twice for friends, eaten dinner out with 2, had coffee with another, and Rusty and I met a couple of friends for dinner. It's been wonderful to spend time with people I love over yummy food! What happens when I can't do that? How will we have a social life? (I know, this sounds silly, but I'm just venting here.)

There are more questions, and fears that keep popping up - but the bottom line is, I know I have to try this. I'm tired of being in some sort of pain/discomfort every day. I'm tired of waking up with new (crazy) symptoms several times a week. I try to put on a "happy face" but the truth is - physically I'm miserable! I've been to 11 different doctors in the past year and a half, and had over 17 doctor's appointments. NONE of them have been able to heal me (or even relieve any of my symptoms). We have spent thousands of dollars on labs and procedures and prescriptions that did NOTHING. We're at a point where these illnesses are affecting every aspect of our lives (including our work). I have to do something.

If I ever want to be healthy, I have to do something. If we ever want to be able to start a family, I have to do something. If I want my marriage and my ministry to thrive, I have to do something!

So, this Saturday, October 1st, I am going to start this awful diet. I figure, it's either going to save my life, or it's going to kill me. For those of you who want to pray - please, please do. I contemplated not sharing these details on my blog (because, it's not always fun to be so "vulnerable") but the truth is, I don't think I'll make it through the next few months without your prayers. Right now, I feel extremely overwhelmed. I am going to need your prayers for willpower, strength, and health. Please also pray that this works (quickly) and doesn't interfere with our plans to visit our partnerships in India and Thailand this November/December. I'll do my best to keep you updated once a week with how it's going.


If you're reading this and you have experience with this diet - advice, encouragement, or any recipes to share, please leave a comment! I would love anything you have to offer that might help me through this!

Monday, September 26, 2011

For all your smudgy stainless steel...

Right after you get engaged, comes your wedding registry. For us, that process was pretty stressful - considering we had no idea where we were going to live, or what kind of house/apartment/etc. we'd be living in.  So when it came to choosing kitchen appliances and storage containers, I just went with "stainless steel" - figuring it would last the longest, look the nicest, and match just about any decor.

That was 2 and 1/2 years ago. Today, I'd like to scream out "FALSE ADVERTISING", because there is nothing "stainless" about my steel tea kettle, crockpot, trashcan, paper towel holder, or countertop containers. "Smudgy Steel" would be a better name for it, as I tried everything to clean it - Lysol Kitchen Cleaner, Lysol wipes, Windex - and still it was covered in smudges and streaks. It was so frustrating! We'd spent extra money to get the "stainless steel" items, because I thought they were the best/wisest investment. And now, my kitchen countertops were covered with disgusting looking appliances and storage containers.

That is, until a few days ago.

On my last trip to TJ Maxx, I found this miracle working bottle of Caldrea Stainless Steel Cleaner. (Seriously? You have to clean "stainless steel" with something specific? Why has no one told me this before now?! And if that is true, why is it not called "special steel" instead of "stainless steel"? Are you all laughing at me now? Was this in the "How to be a Good Wife and Keep a Clean House" handbook I didn't get a copy of?!) This cleaner smelled amazing (I bought the "Herbs of Provence" scent), and I loved that it was non-toxic, so I brought it home to give it a try. It only took about 2 minutes before I was pulling my husband in the kitchen to "watch this" and buffing with glee! My stainless steel was finally shiny and smudge free again!

Maybe I'm an idiot, and you all knew about this incredible stainless steel cleaner - but - if you've been living under a rock (like me) and are frustrated with your smudgy, streaky, "stainless" steel then I hope I've helped you out with a great recommendation!

(*Note - I found mine at TJ Maxx for $5.99, but I've heard it is also available at Target. Just be sure you only use a little and that you "buff it off" with a clean towel after you've wiped down your appliance. If it still looks smudgy - keep buffing - it takes a little elbow grease. It's so worth it to get the shine you're looking for though! It even seems to repel fingerprints... BONUS! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A few little happies...

Thanks everyone for your concerns about the mold (here and on facebook). I really appreciate your prayers! We're back home today and hoping for the best... but we did wear masks to pull the plastic off our bedding AND we replaced the air filter in the AC unit with a top-of-the-line hypoallergenic one that is supposed to clean mold out of the air.

Sooo... hopefully we won't die ;)

Moving on to something happier (as promised) - I wanted to show you my two awesome finds from a recent trip to TJ Maxx (oh how I LOVE that store!) My friend Kelly just wrote a great blog about how she believes God uses material things to make us smile sometimes, and He definitely did just that with these two little "happies"!

First, meet my new little friend, the Peek-a-boo Owl!

Isn't he just the cutest thing?! Rusty asked why he looked all "scratched up" (he doesn't understand the vintage look) and came up with a theory that he must've run into the wall because he had his eyes covered and wasn't watching where he was going. (I love my husband and his silly imagination - he makes me laugh! He's going to be so good with kids someday, dont'cha think? ;) I think Mr. Owl would be precious in a nursery someday in the future, but for now he makes me smile. I'm still trying to find a permanent place for him... I'm thinking maybe the kitchen window?

And my second "little happy", was this gorgeous copy of Jane Austen's Emma!

I've actually never read this book, but love Jane Austen. Just a few days ago I won this cute towel from the North South Creations Blog with an Emma quote on it, and decided I should put the book on my "to read" list. When I saw this beautiful hardback version the very next day for only $12.99 I had to have it!

I love the look of old hardbacks, and was really excited to see new ones with that same vintage appeal. Apparently, this is a new line from Penguin, and the covers are just awesome! I would seriously be tempted to buy some of these just to decorate with! The gray and blue snowflake covered copy of "The Christmas Carol" is already on my Christmas List (I love snowflakes!)


There's another "little happy" I found for cleaning - but I'll save that for another post. All I'll say now is, if you have stainless steel - you will be THRILLED to hear about my new find! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Yesterday I saw a notepad for sale that said,

"I try to live simply, but drama just keeps following me around!"

Boy is that true for us this year. Let me show you our latest drama.....

See that disgusting-ness? It's MOLD. and MILDEW. and it's inside our CEILING. 

I know, I know - it looks horrible, doesn't it? I can almost feel my throat closing up just looking at the photo! We knew one room of this house had water damage and some mold and mildew before we rented it, but we were told it would be killed/cleaned/repaired before we moved in. {editor's note: Our move in date was September 1st. It is now September 22.} When the contractor came out today to begin "minor repairs", the section of the ceiling he pulled out looked like this....

... and he stopped on the SPOT and said that this job had just changed from minor to major (which means he needed approval from the owner on a new quote before he could continue). So, tomorrow, he'll be ripping out the ceiling (and mold spores and sheetrock dust will go everywhere in our house via our AC vents), Clorox everything (which should create some super fun fumes for us to breathe), Kilz everything (more fun fumes), and then leave it all to dry for 3 days before putting in a new ceiling.

So, what was going to be a relaxing weekend of watching football, and finishing unpacking and "settling in" to our house, will now have to be spent at a friend's house so we aren't breathing all this gunk. And as for all the "stuff" we have unpacked - it now has to be bagged up in garbage bags or covered in plastic - because I really don't want a moldy couch or bed or pillows.

I am trying not to freak out about this. I just keep thinking about Kirk from The Bachelorette telling his story of how he almost died because of mold in the basement of the house he lived in during college (terrifying!) From what I've read about mold, once it's in a house it is pretty much impossible to get rid of completely (b/c of how mold spores travel). I am really upset about the fact that this ceiling is being torn out (making all that airborne) with all of our furniture, clothes, bedding, etc in the house. The last thing either of us need this year is another illness to deal with! So, would you please pray that God would give our lungs supernatural strength to deal with this exposure? And would you also pray that they kill ALL the mold/mildew during this repair? I have had the sniffles since we moved in, and I am praying they will go away after all this is finished!

Thanks friends! (I promise a happier update on our next blog :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finding BALANCE :: Thoughts on moving, decorating, and keeping my perspective

Sorry for the lack of blogging... I've been trying to dig myself out from under all these moving boxes. (And almost landing in the ER due to a night of excruciating stomach pain that we still don't know the cause of. Ugh. I am so OVER this year of health problems! I am officially on doctor #7 and "mystery illness #3" - and it's only September. My husband has nicknamed me "Job". But that's another story!)

Have any of you moved lately? What is it that makes this process so stressful? And EXPENSIVE?! We were really excited about moving, and thought it would be "no big deal". We told ourselves...

#1 - We don't have that much stuff!
#2 - We won't have to buy anything but a dining room table! (our last one was our landlord's)
#3 - We will be settled in NO TIME!

Oh boy, were we WRONG! First of all - I am convinced things multiply in a move. Seriously. Where did all those extra hangers come from?! And all those clothes? And how many purses/carrying bags/shopping bags do I OWN?! And how do we have THAT many boxes for the kitchen?! I am still trying to figure out where everything is (in boxes) and where to put it (in our house). And purging. A lot. (Dear Salvation Army, you can thank me later ;)

And that #3? TOTALLY DELUSIONAL. The house we are renting is bigger than our last one - and yet - nothing fits in it. All the little nooks that we had for things in our old house are just not in this one. I cannot figure out where to put anything! Not to mention our issues with #2 - which are seriously affecting #3.

See, we really did believe all we'd need to buy was a dining room table and chairs.  We were excited about buying a REAL piece of furniture that we loved, and could keep for a long time.  All our other furniture is "hand-me-downs" or thrift store/used furniture store finds, and I was excited to make a "real" purchase on a piece we would keep for a while (or forever!)  Until we got here, and realized our kitchen was tiny. I'm talking - one bedroom apartment size - tiny. Which means - we didn't have storage for our stuff! (And I'm not talking "fine china" - we don't own any of that. I mean - a crockpot, and mixing bowls, and casserole dishes, and a george forman grill and a cake plate. Would. not. fit. anywhere. Ugh.) So - we suddenly had to add a sideboard/cabinet of some sort for the dining room to our "to buy" list.

And THEN there were the curtains. I told Rusty before the move that I wasn't planning on buying any curtains for this house - because I'd find a way to use ours from our previous house. Since both were rentals, I'd bought the cheapest, most versatile curtains I could (all taupe, cream, brown, or black). I figured I would wait to "invest" in nicer, more brightly colored curtains until we bought a home and knew we were staying for a while. Well friends... I should've measured the windows. Because, they are ALL floor length. Which means all my curtains from our last house are too small! Frustration!!!

Now,  I realize, in the "real world" - these things really don't matter. The people we work with overseas could care less about kitchen storage and curtain length. They'd be happy just to have a kitchen and curtains! But I have let it get me in all sorts of a funk lately.

Instead of "God, I am SO thankful for the beautiful house that you provided for us, and for all the wonderful people who support our work, and for the money to pay our rent!" - I keep thinking - "Why can't we have "real jobs" and make more money so we can buy a house and I can paint my dining room walls a pretty terra cotta color instead of this ugly yellow!?"

Instead of, "God - thanks for giving me such an abundance of clothes and kitchen tools that this house is overflowing!" - I keep thinking - "I wish I had a walk-in closet. And I can't believe I have to buy a stupid cabinet for the dining room! Now I might not be able to get the table I wanted!"

And while reading design blogs for decorating ideas, I sometimes think, "Who in their right mind would pay THOUSANDS of dollars for a coffee table?!? Do you know how many starving kids that would feed?!"- but I also sometimes think - "I wish I could pay thousands for that GORGEOUS coffee table that would look SO good in my house. I am so sick of all our crappy hand-me-downs and thrift store furniture!"

Ugh. I am so fickle. And fleshy. Sometimes I don't understand why God loves me anyway!

I just wanted to be real with you guys and share what I'm struggling with right now. The truth is, I believe it's perfectly alright to have a beautiful home. I want our home to be a place that is comfortable, and attractive. I want it to be a place we enjoy working in and a place we can rest and relax in. I want it to be welcoming to guests when they need a place to stay. I don't think those desires are wrong or sinful. The truth is, I've been very blessed by friends with beautiful homes who have opened them up to us!  

HOWEVER - I also think we have to find a balance. I love this quote ::

{live simply sign from danielson designs ltd}

... but I don't know that there's a hard and fast definition of what that means for everyone. I think we are called to examine our lives and our spending on a regular basis. I think we are called to give and live sacrificially. But I don't necessarily think that means a call to poverty, or shirking away from God's blessings. The truth is, God loves beautiful things (have you seen His creation?!) and He loves to make His children smile! But in everything, we must find balance.

I am working hard on that right now. I'm trying to find a balance between my flesh and my spirit. I am working to remember that I can make a house beautiful without the most expensive things. I am working to remember that my home can be welcoming and comfortable without being perfect. I am working to remember WHY we sacrifice and just how incredibly worth it the kids are that we sacrifice for. And I am working to change my perspective to one that's more grateful.

And you know what? God is providing! And I am growing. And our home is coming together! And I promise I'll show you pictures and tell you all about the process.... I just wanted to share about the process in my heart first.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We made it!

I don't have time for a big update today, but I just wanted to let you all know that WE MADE IT! After a 2 day - 15 hour drive (about 7 and 1/2 hours each day through quite a bit of rain) we finally pulled into our driveway in ALABAMA!

We've been working non-stop since we arrived, trying desperately to get unpacked and settled in (I forgot how much WORK moving is!) but I promise as soon as everything is set up I'll share some pics with you. For today, I thought I'd leave you with our moving shots.

Here we are at the edge of our front yard in Michigan - standing by our (full) moving truck! We were tired but ready to hit the road!

And here we are in January 2009 (newly engaged) when we moved to Michigan! (This is actually in Kentucky. There was a LOT more snow when we arrived in Port Huron later that day!) I think it's funny how much bigger our truck is in the picture above.... married life means lots more stuff to move!

We're taking a break from unpacking today to drive over to Arkansas, and we would appreciate your prayers for Rusty's grandmother. She is in the hospital and hasn't been doing very well (she actually gave us quite a scare in the middle of our drive down) so we're going to head over and spend some time with her. We weren't planning on traveling again so soon, but it sure is nice to only be 5 hours away (and able to visit) instead of 16!

If you could pray specifically for HEALING in her foot (there is a chance it might have to be amputated), for the fluid to stay off her heart and lungs, and for her heart and kidneys to be strong and healthy, we would really appreciate it!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Goodbye Michigan..

Today, we start the 14+ hour caravan (Rusty in the 22' Penske truck + towing his car, me in my Explorer, and our friend Mark in his Tahoe) to Alabama. As much as I hate packing and moving, I am thrilled to be coming HOME!

Some of you know that the past 2 years and 8 months in Michigan have been one of the hardest seasons of my life. (For many reasons... maybe someday I will elaborate more on that.) Michigan is not my favorite place (helllooo, I'm a Southern Belle! If there's no SEC football or sweet tea or Chick-Fil-A then I'm not really going to feel 'at home'!) BUT with all that said, there are still plenty of things we will miss about the place we called "home" for our first 2 and 1/2 years of marriage.

We will miss our house. Our 3 bedroom, beautiful little house that the Gutierrez family worked so hard to prepare for us, and our dear, dear friend Arlene let us rent for only $300 a month! (I know - we were crazy blessed!) This little house was our first home as a married couple. It's where we came home from our honeymoon, and where Rusty carried me over the threshold. It's the first place I was able to truly call my own, and the place I realized I love to decorate! It's where we decided to make The Sound of Hope our own non-profit. It's where we laughed and planned and cried and fought and dreamed. We will miss that familiar feeling of coming "home" here after a long trip... we will miss the way the light floods through all the big windows.... we will miss our big front porch and the swing Rusty napped in.... we will miss the big back porch and the back yard full of flowers. And of course, we will miss my cute little "backyard bunnies" I have chased since we moved in (though I never did catch one!). After all, that's how I got my pet-name "Bunny" from Rusty! ;)

We will miss our church. The people who welcomed us in before they even knew us and made a place for us. The people who gave all of us (World Racers included) lots of furniture when we first moved to help us get on our feet. Pastor Mark & Tracee, Doug & Carrie, the Leadership Team, the people I sang on the worship team with, the guys Rusty played softball with, and all the amazing people whose stories we told through Rusty's video work with CC... not to mention the wonderful individuals and families who have chosen to support us & The Sound of Hope financially! I wish I could name everyone we'll miss from church but I'd surely forget a name (there are just too many people!) I look at all the sweet kids from our church and I can't believe how much we have seen them grow up over the past few years! We will definitely miss our hugs from sweet little Zoe, Haven, and Saige Gearhart, and watching Cory Wargo play football! :)

We will miss doing iStock shoots with Shawn and Rosie! I seriously had SO much fun with this "side job" over the past year a half! Brainstorming ideas with Shawn, pulling together costumes and props, and then the shoots themselves were just a blast! I've been a rockstar and a renaissance queen, a cowgirl and a cook, a nurse and a nerd, a "couple in love" and a 50's/60's girl, a businesswoman and a bride, a wife and a mom. We've done a Fall shoot, a Christmas shoot, a New Year's shoot, and just recently, a shopping shoot! It's been great to have this creative outlet, and SO neat to see where these pictures have started turning up! Plus, Shawn & Rosie are so talented! I have been amazed at the photos they've taken! We've been really blessed to have spent so much time with them and their sweet family!

And believe it or not - we will miss the weather! Okay... not all of it (about half the year here it is just miserable!) but we actually love the snow! We think it's beautiful. It will be odd not seeing it this winter (though I will be glad when it's not snowing in April, blech!) I am proud to say that this Southern Belle actually learned how to adapt to the snow and ice! We also LOVE Autumn here... there is no where in the world I've ever seen the trees turn so beautifully! And the fact that it really "feels" like Fall with a crisp, cool breeze tops it off! And then, there are the summers. Granted, they are short, but they are incredible! 70's to 80's with very little humidity and a cool breeze....ahhhh! If we could find a way to live up North July - December, and then down South the rest of the year, I think we'd be in heaven! (Weather-wise anyway! :)

I'm sure there are other things we will miss over time, or just find odd that we don't see anymore. It will be weird not to see signs for Canada (we live on a border town here), Canadian car tags and money, and not to hear people speaking French in Target and TJ Maxx. It will be odd not to see the river or the lake - both are truly beautiful (even in the ice and snow!) and the seagulls they bring all over town. We have a lot of "adjustments" ahead, even if we're returning to somewhere familiar!

But, on the way out of town, I just wanted to remember all the things we loved about Michigan. And to say "thank you" to the people here who have welcomed us, loved us and prayed for us while we've been here. We hope you all stay in touch!

Goodbye Michigan! Thanks for the memories!