As I celebrate Thanksgiving today, I reflect at how truly blessed I’ve been this year following last year’s hardships and struggles. Though it all hasn’t been smooth sailing, it’s been night and day since 2016. That fact alone makes me grateful.
I hope as you enjoy your full-fledged dinners today, you take a moment and count your blessings.
Here’s a good chunk of what I’m thankful for this year, besides the typical response of family, friends, and health:
Beach proposals. A welcoming workplace with great coworkers. Moving helpers. Friends who visit from other states. Lush. Seeing my grandma celebrate her 90th birthday. Mayo Clinic physicians and nurses. Bridge Cards. Sailing on the Detroit River. First birthdays. Purple-streaked hair. Glasses of wine with friends. Entyvio. No Name Road and M-22. Eating poutine in Niagara Falls. Battleship on the balcony.
And sorry to be a tease, but the biggest thing I’m thankful for is still a secret — yet will be revealed soon! Make sure to keep your eyes on this blog to discover what that is. Sorry not sorry!
I also want to state I’m thankful for you and every other reader that comes across my blog and spends a few minutes reading my posts or simply window shopping through my recipes or past Stitch Fix posts. I really appreciate your time here, and I hope you continue to check back here or follow my social media accounts to stay updated.
What are YOU thankful for this year? Tell me in the comments below!
is National Adoption Awareness Month and our story about how adoption touched our lives may be different than others who have adopted, but one thing remains at the heart of adoption: creating a loving family.
When people hear we have adopted, and may not know us or seen pictures of our daughter, Claire, we often are asked many inquisitive questions: “Where did you get her?”, “Does her birth mom get to see her?”, “What if the birth mom changes her mind?”, “Is it a white baby?”, and our favorite, “Why don’t these women use birth control?” To each person we pick and choose educating on adoption or maybe handle insensitive questions with humor or address them head on. We get it. People are curious.
But adoption is a very personal decision for both adoptive parents and birth parents. There are often very personal details woven through those stories which people often don’t consider. We would like to share our story with you.
Both coming from large families, we always knew we wanted to have children from very early on. But what happens when children don’t come ? For us, we struggled with infertility for five years. At first we thought it was no big deal, as most couples may not conceive in the first year of trying. But as time passed, we started looking into what was going wrong. Facebook and fertile friends are a bad combination. Every new ultrasound and due date announcement painfully reminded us about our own pregnancy issues. At church we watched all the babies being baptized with moms and dads much younger than us, feeling left behind in starting a family. We prayed to God for a child, asked Him, “Why us?”, and got angry with each ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and failed round of IVF.
We finally asked ourselves, “Do we want to be pregnant and give birth, or do we want to be parents?” The answer was simple: we wanted to be parents.
At first, adoption seemed daunting and we didn’t quite know where to start. We decided to begin with talking to adoptive parents and adoptees we knew, to ask them about their adoptive story. We also researched various adoption agencies and found one well recommended. The most intimidating part of the whole process involved the home study as a case worker asked us anything and everything, including adoption motivation, our relationship as a couple, employment, finances, childhood and family relationships, family history, and how you plan to raise a child. It all felt very intrusive and unfair that we had to prove our worthiness to raise a child, but we came to appreciate how all this information helped birth mothers make the biggest and best decision for their child. Finally, we took on the task creating an online adoption profile, which helped potential birth mothers learn more about us as a couple.
Our prayers quickly turned from ourselves to the well-being of our future child and its birth mother. We prayed God would give her peace as she made an adoption plan for her baby, and we prayed she would have a supportive family as she considered moving forward with her plan.
Our wait ended up to be surprisingly short! We received a call near Memorial Day of this year, telling us that a birth mother selected us and was due six short weeks away!
We met her and her young daughter with our caseworker the following week for lunch and were as nervous as could be. We brought photos of us as ice breakers just in case an awkward silence occurred: our first date during a homecoming dance, pictures of us and our families, and our recent trip to Disney World. The lunch was very surreal. We remember looking across the table at this beautiful, strong woman, and then down to her stomach knowing that she wanted us to parent the baby she was carrying. Mind. Blown.
But what blew us away more was how excited she was for us and how much she wanted us to be a part of the rest of her pregnancy. She wanted us to come to her OB visits and ultrasounds, but most importantly, to be in the delivery room on the big day. You could feel all the love she had for this baby and how she wanted the very best for her.
Our daughter’s birth mother continued to amaze us. She had contacted us a few days before her due date, wanting to know if Sarah wanted to do the “kangaroo care” for skin-to-skin holding and bonding time immediately after birth. She wanted us to know that this baby would be part of our family from her very first moment.
When the time came, Justin cut the umbilical cord and the OB gave our daughter to Sarah. Emotions flooded over us in those timeless first moments as a family. This tiny baby girl was our daughter. We were finally a family! We both shed happy tears uncontrollably. This whole process had been so beautiful and felt like this was what God had always planned for us and our new baby girl, Claire.
We continue to have an open relationship with our daughter’s birth mother, sharing Claire’s first moments with photos, videos, and letters. We continue to meet with her every so often to share our baby girl’s cuddles, laughs, coos, and babbles. Sometimes a few weeks may pass and we will say to each other, “have you heard from Amber recently?”, because we want to stay connected. We are woven together into each other’s families forever.
People often ask us if it’s hard or strange to incorporate more people into our daughter’s life, to which we always reply, “There’s no such thing as too many people who love this child.” Adoption is a beautiful thing and we now thank God every day that we didn’t get pregnant, because if any of those other times would have worked for us, we wouldn’t be Claire’s parents.
We’re Sarah and Justin, an adoptive couple from Michigan. We both work in the medical field and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors or at our second home in Disney World. We’re here to share our story of adoption and how we came to welcome Claire, our daughter, into our family through the adoption plan of her birth mother.
By now, I’m hopefully you, my lovely reader, know about The Crohn’s Couple — the YouTube channel that my significant other and I started about a month ago now. If you haven’t, then shame on you for missing my posts (kidding!), and check it out here.
We’re preparing an Ask Us Anything video in the near future. This is your chance to pose a question or multiple question and we’ll answer it based on our knowledge, experience, and opinion. We want you to comment with anything you’re afraid to ask or are curious about regarding Crohn’s Disease, or specifically about the disease in our lives.
Wondering more about what having an ostomy entails on a daily basis? How do you adequately support someone who has Crohn’s Disease? And what about how Crohn’s impacts more private issues? We want to be real, honest, and helpful in this video, so nothing is off limits. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask even the weirdest of questions. And don’t worry, submissions can be anonymous if you prefer — just send them to email@example.com.
Don’t forgot to follow us on our Instagram page: @crohnscouple
Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in…stuff? I mean items that take up valuable space in your home, closet, or storage area.
It can become a problem quickly and without you even realizing it until after you’re surrounded by belongings you can’t remember why you purchased in the first place. Maybe in the moment just HAD to have it, or maybe it provided some sort of retail therapy, or maybe you had big plans for a piece that simply didn’t fit with your style once you brought it through the front door.
Yeah, we’ve all done it. But how do you undo it? Purging!
Purging is the best way to rid yourself of all the clutter, and the best part is, you can purge in little bits at a time throughout the year, or do one large ordeal. I prefer to purge twice a year, when I switch out clothing/decor in the spring and fall because this is when I really notice when I have too much crap laying around in bins or hanging in my closet that doesn’t get used. It’s ideal for right before a big move, too!
Starting a purge can seem like a daunting, exhausting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Today I’m going to share my easy process for purging that will have you de-cluttering like a pro.
Purchase storage bins
You don’t know the importance of large storage bins or totes until you use them for the first time. I don’t know how I moved so much in the last decade without them, and I’ll never make that mistake again. Purchase bins based on the size of your storage area and love of convenience. Bigger is not always better, because totes can get heavy! Colored bins are nice, but if they’re opaque you have to open them to see what’s inside (which means you might be doing some heavy lifting if what you seek isn’t in the bin at the top) or make sure to label each one.
I purchased five inexpensive bins similar to these from Target, and often you can find them on sale, especially when college begins in the fall. They stack easily and keep your belongings tucked away neatly until you need them again.
Focus on one area first
Looking to purge an entire home all at once can be overwhelming, and makes you quit before you even begin. Instead, look to a single room — or even better — a single section of a room, like a closet or cabinet. Focusing on a smaller area is much easier to tackle and doesn’t make you stress out thinking a job is too big. Doing it this way also allows you to finish that section sooner, giving you satisfaction, which in turn provides more motivation to do more and more. Before you know it, that entire room will be finished!
Separate into piles or stacks
Organization is key when it comes to purging, because the last thing you need is to create one big pile you’ll have to sort through a second time.
When I decide to keep an item, it will stay in its place unless it’s seasonal and needs to be swapped out. However, having “no” and “maybe” piles will help you focus on how much you’re getting rid of and what may need another going over. Just try to keep your “maybe” pile as small as possible. After years of purging, I don’t even have a “maybe” pile anymore!
For me, my “no” pile is a “donate” pile, and I’ll either give my purged items to shops like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, or find a resale shop that benefits a greater cause like a woman’s shelter. And don’t forget animal shelters, which typically accepts gently used blankets and towels, or libraries, which sells used books to help keep operations running. Donations also give you the opportunity to receive a tax refund, too.
Trash or treasure?
Once you have your “no” pile all set to go, give everything a quick review to make sure it doesn’t belong in the garbage. Things you should trash are items that are broken, stained or soiled beyond help, or incomplete. These pieces are not going to be someone else’s treasure, and they should be pitched. If you think it’s junk, someone else will, too.
Items that can be sold or donated should be as close to new as possible and sanitary. They are belongings you’ve outgrown, don’t enjoy anymore, have no use for, or just don’t want taking up space any longer.
The “have I used this in the past 6 months” and “will I use it in the next six months” method
My end all thought when it comes to getting rid of something. I always revert back to this, and usually the answer to the question makes the decision for me. Obviously in some cases, like seasonal items, pieces can be omitted because of course you’re not going to wear that tank top from October to May (if you’re in Michigan, or a climate zone similar to it). But in general, if I go a summer without wearing a certain top, pair of shorts, or skirt, that’s usually a sign that I probably won’t wear it next summer, either. Into the donation pile it goes. Ask yourself the question when you’re struggling on a piece and be honest with yourself.
I rarely regret purging decisions when I use this method!
What about sentimental items you just CAN’T get rid of?
I’m incredibly sentimental, so I typically run into this issue when I purge, even when I ask myself the 6 month question mentioned above. And one of two things happens: I either keep it for another few years before I find I’m finally ready to part with it, or I make sure it’s in my possession but well-kept and out of the way if I don’t want it on display (see: storage bins). Odds are, everyone has at least one thing they’re seriously attached to, and it’s okay if you never get rid of it!
And there you have it. My foolproof way of successfully purging items in your life that you just don’t need anymore! It’s such an incredibly freeing feeling once you’re done, and your sanity will thank you for it.
What are your personal tips for purging? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Soooo I hate going so long without a blog post, and I’ve been wracking my brain for something enjoyable and let’s face it, easy for me to complete since I’ve been really busy juggling life, this blog, and the new YouTube channel with Justin.
I try to focus on the positive, and when my favorite radio station morning show started a segment called “Tell Me Something Good,” where listeners call in to share some detailed wins in their life, I thought it would be a good type of blog post.
Does it work? Does it not? *shrug* You tell me! Let’s get started.
My New Hair
This might be shocking because 1.) You’ve never seen me with dark hair before, or 2.) you didn’t realize I’ve never been anything but blonde for my entire life.
New hair, DO care! I decided to do something completely out of my comfort zone, and I traveled more than an hour to have it done by a stylist I completely trust who did my hair years ago. My inspiration came from a photo I found on Pinterest, and I finally had the guts to get it done. And I’m glad I did! I’m obsessed. The base brown color is so much darker than I’m used to, but I don’t feel it washes me out, and I love the plum color streaked throughout — especially when I curl it. It’s perfect for fall! What do you think?
This is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve been really loving the act of scouring through the four bridal magazines I’ve been given, dog-earring pages of dress styles and designers I love, funky reception decor ideas, and even those pages giving tips that make me say “duh!” The big event is a ways out, but having more of a direction early is a good thing so I’m not entirely clueless when I go to all of my appointments.
The photo is from yesterday, but my cat Callie has an adorable habit of snuggling next to me on the bed. It usually happens at night because I have to get up for work in the mornings, but on weekends when I can be as lazy as I want she gets super cuddly. I tend to lay on my side toward the edge of the bed, and she will come and plop down in between, twisting onto her side too. She’ll let me slide my arm under and around her, so I’m spooning her, and she’ll lay her head down. It’s the cutest thing ever, and I cherish those moments when I can bury my face in her fur.
Pets, I tell ya. They’re the best thing ever!
Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara by Essence
Eyelashes for days! Yes, days.
A friend of mine posted about this mascara after she picked it up on the recommendation of a beauty website, so I decided to try it as well, and I’ve been spreading the word about it too. Lash Princess False Lash Effect by Essence, which I grabbed at Ulta for $5, is the absolutely best drug store mascara I’ve ever used, and I’m going to even go as far as saying it rivals some of my $24 tubes! Lash Princess doesn’t clump, but it creates incredible volume and length! I’ve fallen in love with this product.
Stranger Things 2
The second season of this popular Netflix series was released last week, and if you haven’t binged-watched this already, what’s wrong with you? Kidding. Although this season wasn’t as thrilling as the first, it still dished out plenty of surprises. I’m already chomping at the bit for season 3.
I gotta say though, seeing Sean Astin make out with Winona Ryder is just plain weird. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll ever get over.
So those are the things I’m currently loving! What are YOU diggin’ right now?
If you weren’t aware, the World Series is happening right now. Well, maybe. Perhaps by the time this is published, the Astros will have won the championship in Game Six. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine. Basically, this is the most important week of the baseball season. Teams slog through 162 games and then another month of playoffs to make it to this week for the opportunity to be the best team in the world. It’s like the Superbowl, except better, and there’s seven games spread through roughly eight or 10 days instead of just one game with a notoriously disappointing half-time show.
And some crazy nonsense went down in the 9th inning of Game Five.
Here’s the setting: the Astros were up 12-9 over the Dodgers. The series, a best-of-seven-winner-takes-all, was tied 2-2, so if the Astros could get their three outs and win the game, they’d roll into Game Six with a distinct advantage over the Dodgers because the pressure would be off. All they would have to do is not screw it up. The Dodgers, on the other hand, would be feeling the pressure of losing the series if they didn’t show up with their best game. Essentially, winning Game Five would go a long way to helping the Astros win the World Series.
All they needed were three outs.
The Astros pitcher, Chris Devenski, was pitching very well, and then Yasiel Puig, the Dodger’s monster-hitting right fielder, stepped up to the plate with just one out left and a man on second base. Devenski nearly had him, and then threw a change-up on the outside corner (think, low and away from the batter). It was a good pitch, because it looked like a fast ball at first, which is what a change-up is supposed to look like. It’s used to fool a batter into either swinging early because the pitch is so slow or swinging over the ball because it drops so suddenly. But, somehow, Puig reached across the plate with an ugly, off-balance swing and hit the ball over the left field fence. What should have been strike three and the end of the game turned into the Dodgers just one run away from tying the game. Devenski kept throwing good pitches, and somehow the Dodgers kept hitting them. The Dodgers tied the game. Devenski was put on the bench and replaced in the tenth inning.
If you’re tired of hearing about baseball, good. I’m done. Here’s my point: some days your best won’t be good enough. You’ll try your hardest and give it everything you got and do all the right things and life will still figure out a way to mess you up.
And all you can do is go sit on the bench and try again next time.
So let yourself off the hook today. You tried hard. Go home, watch the World Series, get some sleep, and then try again tomorrow.
It’ll be okay.
Joey Cottle is a pastor and writer from West Michigan where he lives with his wife, Abigail, and two kids, Liv and Levi. He’s passionate about theology, leadership, and a host of other things. Check out his personal blog here.
Is it the end of the month already? Like I suggest in the title of this post, I feel like I’ve been in a daze this month, with everything that’s been going on. Let’s break it down, shall we?
In the very beginning of the month, the motherboard of my iPhone 6 fried. I was at work, and the screen faded to black, then wouldn’t turn on. After having it accessed at a Verizon store and a local “fix it” store for phones, I had to purchase a new one. All of my information, photos, videos, etc. Gone. Just like that, though if it’ll turn on when plugged into a computer I can salvage everything. I ended up going back to Android and purchasing the Google Pixel (first generation), as it was the same cost as the iPhone 7 and I was honestly sort of sick of Apple’s limitations, in addition to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 being way overrated. Have to say that I love the Pixel though, and I’m not regretting the decision at all. I just didn’t need that surprise, or the surprise expense.
Read the “smiles” section for more details about my fiancé’s surgery, but following the surgery he had to go back into the hospital due to some outstanding pain. Ironically enough, he has a small fluid collection near his tail bone (sound familiar?). They aspirated it, but could only get out a since cc of fluid. However, it seems to have alleviated much of the problem. He and I are both severely tired of hospitals, especially when his physicians are located an hour and a half from where we live. Hopefully we’re done with that.
After a beautifully mild month, this morning reminded me that winter is just around the corner. I walked outside to my car in 32 degree weather, with thick enough frost to make me pull out my ice scraper from the trunk. Sigh.
Apart from those things, life’s little stressors have been happening a lot over the last few weeks, and it’s really wearing me down.
Back to Justin’s surgery! Though the surgeon told us there were some unexpected fixes that needed to happen, the operation couldn’t have gone better. The surgeon moved his ostomy to the opposite side and closed up the previous side, and she also resected about 11 inches of small bowel. In addition, she prevented a fistula that was likely starting to form where his intestine was sticking to his bladder. Unfortunately they weren’t able to perform anything by the laparoscopic method, so he has a large incision on his abdomen. Other than post-op pain, he’s doing well in general. We’re all just waiting for this to pass so he can get back to normal, now that the diseased bowel has been removed.
Last but not least — if you missed my last blog post, Justin and I have decided to start our own YouTube channel about Crohn’s Disease. It’s called The Crohn’s Couple, and we’ll be uploading our first video any day now! Please subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss an episode!
So that’s October. It’s been a heck of a month. How has yours been?
We’ve dubbed it The Crohn’s Couple, and we’re going to bring you videos that encompass all that Crohn’s Disease is for us — and likely for other people — in entertaining and informative ways. Through this channel we’re hoping to spread awareness about the disease, educate people about it, and hopefully help other sufferers feel they’re not alone. We’d love it if you could join us by subscribing to the channel and helping share the videos once they’re posted! They should be coming soon!
If there’s anything you’d like us to address through this new channel, let us know, or send us some questions for a future Q&A video.
We also have an Instagram account, so if you use that social media site, please follow the account @crohnscouple!
I sat at my desk for a looooooong time before figuring out what I kind of photo to shoot for this post.
Let it be known, that if there were a bunch of mini-me’s running around the office I would not attempt to crush them under my size 13 shoes.
Although, I’m not sure what my co-workers would stare at more: A hoard of miniature versions of myself or what I actually did to make this composite photo.
Similar to two posts ago, I had to set my camera up in one place and take multiple images of myself in order to create this composite.
The first image I took was of me taking the step.
And yes, it’s just as awkward as it looks. You have to imagine how the final image will look as you shoot it.
As well as hope that no one sees you doing it.
One co-worker did and many eyebrows were raised until I showed him the final product.
“Oh, that makes sense now. Cool.”
The remaining pictures were taken from the same angle, I just positioned myself in different scenarios as best as I could. I had to go back a couple times to reshoot because once I got some of the images into Photoshop the angles were slightly off.
That’s the fun of a project though.
Trial and error.
Editing the images together is a little more tedious than actually shooting them, but only by a little.
The photograph of the giant me stepping is the image that I worked on the most. The other three were pasted into that one.
I had to cut out the other versions of myself using Photoshop’s polygonal lasso tool.
As with many things in Photoshop, that sounds more complicated than it is. I literally just cut myself out.
Then I moved on to scaling the versions of myself down. I shrank them down to their proper sizes and made sure that their feet matched the ground beneath them.
You have to be very thorough here. The shadows under the shoes and the slight reflections from the tile floor are things that need to be addressed in order to make a photo manipulation like this look good.
To add shadows under my feet, I simply took a soft brush tool and applied a slight layer of black pixels where necessary. To get the reflection on the tiles, I duplicated the versions of me and used a blur technique in Photoshop that blurs an image vertically only. I then erased everything but the bottoms of my feet and made the reflections very light.
Overall, I’m fairly satisfied with this photo manipulation. It’s a fun little project that stretches the imagination.
Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.
No matter how many pets I have, my heart bursts whenever I visit an animal shelter and see all of the wags and whiskers approach their cage doors hoping for a forever home. Shelter pets are something extra special. Look into their eyes and you’ll see a rainbow of emotions that may just surprise you. And I bet you you’ll connect with at least one of them. Unfortunately, pet overpopulation is real everywhere, and too many incredible dogs and cats are euthanized every day.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, it’s the PERFECT time to adopt a cat or dog, thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation Empty the Shelters event! This allows you to adopt a pet for free this Saturday, Oct. 14! More than 75 shelters and rescue organizations are participating in this event, and you can see the complete list here. Licensing fees may still apply, but that should not hold you back from a fur baby!
I wanted to spread the news about Empty the Shelters, because both cats in my household came from shelters. I can’t imagine life without either of them. Here they are in their cute glory: Callie, then Jett.
Callie, my cat, came from the Ionia County Animal Shelter, which is one of the participants in Empty the Shelters! I adopted her in 2010, right after I moved to the area. I clearly remember walking into the building (which is not the same building as today’s site) and looking at all the felines crammed into a small room. Immediately one adorable kitten rushed to her cage front, stood on her hind legs and placed her front paws on the door. She meowed and meowed, staring right at me as if to say, “you’re mine! I choose you!” At that moment, I knew she was the one and adopted her the next day. She’s been my snuggle buddy through a lot of good and bad.
Jett, Justin’s cat, came from the Animal Rescue Coalition of Mecosta County, which is not one of the selected shelters, but is still incredibly important to finding dogs and cats quality homes and should not be overlooked. Justin was charmed by that energetic boy right away due to his big ears and not even a nub for a tail.
Pets are a blessing. Cats and dogs comfort you when you’re sad, keep you company when you’re feeling alone, warm you with snuggles, provide entertainment during play time, and always keep you on your toes. Their endless, unconditional love never ceases to amaze me. We are so lucky to have these animals in our lives, and I wish I could save them all.
Though this specific Empty the Shelters event is mostly Michigan based, there are a few other locations that have participating shelters, including Chicago, and Bissell hosts the same event in other states during other times of the year.
Even if you don’t live in the area for this event, check out the animals in those shelters anyway, because you really never know which pet you’ll fall in love with. And if you’re in a situation where you can’t adopt, please always consider donating to an animal shelter when you’re able — even if it’s food, old blankets, new toys, cleaning supplies, kitty litter, or leashes. Most facilities usually have a very limited budget, and many operate by donation only. If you have spare time, many shelters also look for volunteers to walk dogs, clean kennels and cages, and even play with kittens to increase socialization.
There are many ways to save a life when it comes to shelter pets, but if you adopt, you may be surprised who’s life is really being saved.