June 27, 2015

Back to "work"

They say when you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life....that is very much true for me.

I made the decision last year to only photograph elopements and intimate weddings (less than 20 guests), so 2015 is truly the first year of my photography career where I don't have any large weddings. Now that June is here and I'm feeling good, I am officially back to "work"! I say "work" because my job truly doesn't feel like work at all. It feels like I get paid to play in the mountains with my camera. :)

On any given Saturday afternoon, I can be scrolling through my Instagram feed and see dozens of my wedding photographer friends gearing up for days full of stress, heat, cranky wedding planners, late makeup artists and out of control wedding guests. But not me! Nope, this girl no longer has to work 30 weekends in a row between May and October since most of my clients opt for weekday elopements. This girl doesn't have to deal with stress and chaos anymore. This girl doesn't have to be on her feet for 10 hours, carrying 25 lbs. of gear and walking 7 miles all over creation (did you know the average wedding photographer walks 7 miles at a wedding?!) Ahhhhhhhhhh! Thank you LORD that I free from that stress and exhaustion!

 Last week I had an elopement in Telluride and a then tiny little wedding at Copper Mountain. Both couples booked me over 9 months ago and they both booked top packages, so refunding their money would have been painful. I decided to bite the bullet and go for it. Since I'm not quite 100% healed, David came along, just in case I suddenly didn't feel well (plus we got to turn it into a fun trip away together). Overall, I felt amazing! I definitely worked a little too hard and had to take a few days this week to recover, but that was a small price to pay.
We stayed at a beautiful riverside inn just outside of Telluride. Another perk of this job? My clients pick awesome wedding locations and then pay for my travel to get there and lodging. Sometimes I have to pinch myself...is this a real job?!
We stopped for a roadside selfie as the sunset....how can you not with a location this beautiful?
Our elopement location in Telluride. Wowza!

We stopped in a beautiful area so David could get a little fishing time under his belt and the next day we had fun in Copper with some clients from Texas that planned a tiny little destination wedding on top of the mountain. Unfortunately the chairlift broke, so we had to 4x4 up the mountain in our car with the bride and groom! I'm sure that will be something they always remember!

My associate photographer Andrea came along with us on Saturday in case I needed her to step in and help out since I was going to be on my feet for several hours. I am so blessed to have her, she is literally carrying me through this year. She has stepped up to the plate so much, helping me out, shooting for me, answering emails when I was in the hospital. She's amazing. I was so thankful she came with me on Saturday! This was our first time shooting together in 2 years! Crazy!
My clients brought their sweet little dogs all the way from TX for the wedding! They were a little afraid of the elevation as we hung out on top of the mountain!

Gosh, it felt good to be in the mountains with my camera in my hands again. Photography is so important to me, it has been really hard to go without it for so long! I had an absolutely blast with both of my clients, going back to work couldn't have gone better.


June 24, 2015

Firmly Rooted

It's interesting to me how easily our identities can be gobbled up by motherhood and pursuit of it. I have friends who have lost all sense of "self" because they have so wholeheartedly devoted themselves to being a mom. They take a step back years down the road and have no earthly clue who they are anymore. And then myself...I have devoted so many years, so much energy, money, time, emotion, tears and prayers into becoming a mom. And when I took a step back I realized that somewhere along the way, I too had lost a sense of who I am

For a long while, I felt like a mangled mess sitting in the aftermath of an infertility tornado that had cleared a path straight through my identity. Infertility chewed me up and spit me out. The aftermath of that destruction had become a place of isolation and loneliness and I found myself sitting among the rubble trying to figure out which way was up.

The hardest part of that aftermath was I feeling like such an outsider. A misfit. I would look around and all I saw were people doing something different than I was doing. It made me deeply uncomfortable to not align with the world around me. I mean, I've always fit in. Ever since I was a child, I have always done the same things as my friends, gone with the flow, been in the same life stage as my peer group. I've blended in quite well until recently.

My inability to blend in anymore made me realize just how much I've looked to the world around me for validation. I looked to friends, family, Facebook, bloggers, church, women in line at Target, people on TV, other photographers and society for acceptance. I drew a huge amount of affirmation from the infertility community, but after a while I started feeling like an outsider even there. I have sought after affirmation, approval and my identity from the world for far too long. Is it any wonder I felt lonely and lost when I kept looking for validation in invalid places? 

God in His grace and goodness, gently reminded me that I need to stop looking at the world, and start looking to Him for my identity.

Christ is the Beginning and End, my Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and my Complete Joy. He is the Source of all that I am and ever will be. And He has created me to walk a unique path, to live a life that maybe doesn't look like everyone else's. And you know what? I'm learning to not only embrace this truth, but give myself permission to get excited about it. Instead of feeling self conscious about my inability to blend in anymore with the world around me, I'm reveling in my ability to break away from the patterns of this world and follow a path of discovering who I am in the Lord. Maybe it sounds a bit cliche, but honestly few things seem as important to me these days as having an identity that is firmly rooted in Jesus.






June 3, 2015

Lulu

I am officially a Puppy Aunt! Sweet baby Lulu came to join our family on Monday! 

I journeyed with my sister to pick her up and take her to her new home, which proved to be a pretty easy task. We thought she might be a little furry wrecking ball in the car, but she just sat quietly and occasionally chewed on the straw to my diet Coke (thanks Lulu, I guess I was done with it anyways). We brought her to my sister's house and let her explore, did a fun little puppy photo session and played outside. 

I am officially obsessed! She is the squishiest little nugget of fur I have ever seen in my life! She's getting close to being potty trained already, thanks to a wonderful breeder who started the process early! She loves her stuffed toys and she is completely attached to Jenny. Precious little punkin!

I love her name too, it's so much fun! It rhymes with lots of things, like moomoo and foofoo and bugaboo. She's going to have a bazillion nicknames. While my sister is definitely the poster child for Lululemon, puppy Lulu is not necessarily named after the clothing company. But maybe we could strike a deal with Lululemon to see if she could be sponsored by them or something?!? ;)

Welcome home sweet little LuluMoomooBuggaboo! Love youuuu! :)




Lulu loves her Aunt Becky! ;)



May 28, 2015

Healing: 8 weeks

Now that I've hit the 8 week mark(Woooo! HUGE milestone!), I'll probably only do one post per month about my recovery. I would love to start focusing on other things in life besides healing from brain surgery-it's easy for this process to just take over completely. I'm glad I did these posts though, it's been a great way to keep track of my progress!

The Good
So much good! Physically, I'm feeling amazing. I have tons of strength and tons of energy. The dizziness has really been minimal and the exhaustion is gone. I've been walking so much, which I know is helping! I made it up to 4 miles this week, which is amaaaazing! Praise God for the ability to walk with no dizziness or problems. It's like a dream come true! Minimal pain and pressure. No more issues with talking too much. I have so many moments where everything is my body and brain is peaceful...it's like this whole SCDS thing never even happened. I'm so thankful for all the healing that has taken place, especially over the last 2 weeks. I'm just blown away by the awesome progress!
From one of my many walks this week
Also, we met with the neurologist this week to discuss the brain cysts that were found the day before my surgery in April. I felt like it went pretty well. Essentially, I have yet another area of my skull just above my left eye where the bone has started to thin and wear away, creating an abnormal pocket. That pocket is being filled with fluid and brain matter (blech). If it grows or if the bone continues to wear away, it's a problem. If it stays the same and does not change, I'm in the clear. It puts me at higher risk for seizures, double vision and migraines...so if those things ever present themselves, I'll likely need another surgery to fix it. What is up with my skull bones wearing away?! It's like I have arthritis in my head or something. :/

Thankfully, the doctor was not concerned with the pituitary cyst at all, no issues there. He also felt like perhaps I'm just a slow healer and that I should wait a few more months before being worrying about the fact that I can still hear my heartbeat. I've resolved to just put it out of my mind until October. If it's still there, I'll continue my investigating. So, overall it was a good visit. There are a few concerning things, but so long as I remain symptom-free from the cyst behind my eye, I'm good to go! Yay!

**Edited to add: Not sure what this is about, but the neurologist called again today to say they may need me to come in for a spinal tap. It will depend on what some of the imaging I've had done says. So, I guess maybe I'm not totally done yet?

The Bad
Probably anyone recovering from major surgery get easily frustrated, impatient and doubtful if they'll ever get back to "normal" again. I think it's maybe extra hard with something like brain surgery because so much of the recovery is intangible and incredibly difficult to track or quantify. The swelling is gone, all of my shaved hair sits hidden underneath my normal long hair, there is no more physical evidence of brain surgery, aside from a scar on the side of my face and even that is well hidden! And as I stated above, physically I'm feeling great.

But the way I look and feel physically doesn't always match how I feel cognitively. And that is highly frustrating.

Prime example: the other day I was making guacamole while listening to music and then David asked me a question. Game over. I couldn't think clearly, I struggled to find words and started to feel panicky. The only thing that helped was sitting down and staring out the window. It took a solid 5 minutes for me to come back to reality. Gah! It's just guacamole Becky!!! How hard is it to make guacamole while talking to your husband with music playing in the background?! Apparently, too hard. I know, I know. I need to give myself grace. I had brain surgery 2 months ago. It's a minimum 6 month recovery. Grace. Grace. Grace.

I just feel caught in that tension between feeling healed, but not completely healed. Like, I have the energy to go climb a mountain. And I think I could climb a mountain if I wanted to. But I know that I would pay dearly for it...I'd probably get confused and lost on that mountain. Exhaustion would probably hit me on my way down and I'd have to take a nap on the trail. Then I'd probably have to enlist someone hold my hand and lead me down the rest of the way.

I remember before surgery, people in my support group always warned about not overdoing it during recovery. "If you do too much, you'll pay for it". I never understood that, I always though "you're recovering from brain surgery, how on earth could you overdo it?!" But I get it now. Your body tricks you into thinking you're totally fine and it's ok to start doing things normally again. But your brain can't keep up with your body. And this is where patience continues to play a part in the healing process. Only time and God's healing will help with this area of recovery.



May 25, 2015

This & That

  • Driving is going to be in my near future! YAY! I miss it sooooo much! I miss the freedom, the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want. My surgeons felt like the first week of June would be a good time to ease back into it and since my dizzy spells have virtually vanished this past week, I feel very confident that driving is in my near future! I probably will just stick to side roads and little trips around town in the beginning. And of course, I'll be driving with David in the car before I feel comfortable enough to venture out alone! 
  • My sister is getting a puppy!!! She is the sweetest little squishy nugget I've ever laid my eyes on and I am excited to be her aunt! She is an English Labrador and she should be coming home in the next 2 weeks! I'm going to show up unannounced (since I will be able to drive bwahaha) and take her on long walks in the park and feed her lots of treats and spoil her rotten, because that's what puppy aunts do! I fully intend on training her how to be a real Colorado dog, which of course means hunting squirrels, playing in rivers, climbing mountains and relaxing by campfires. Precious little punkin, I love her so much already!!
  • David's brother is getting married this week to his beautiful fiance (she's from Costa Rica and we love her bunches!) outside of Breckenridge. It is going to be an intimate affair with delicious cake and yummy food. I'm so thankful that I am feeling well and will be able to attend and celebrate with my family!
  • Before I left for California, I bought myself a new shirt to hike in, knowing it would be a loooong time before I ever got to wear it. I wanted something to keep me motivated to stay on track with my vestibular therapy, focus on healing and keep getting stronger. One walk around the block eventually turns into a mile around the neighborhood. One mile turns into three. Walks turn into nature walks which turn into hikes. This has been a great motivating tool to help me stay focused on getting better. I've been feeling soooo good this week, I think it won't be too much longer now before this pretty little shirt and I are out on the trail!
  • This is the longest I've ever gone without taking photos with my camera. If the darn thing didn't weigh more than I'm allowed to lift, I would have picked up my camera weeks ago. I find myself craving this creative outlet in a way I didn't know existed. When I go out for a walk, all I do is look for unique light, patterns, reflection, colors, lines. It's almost like I don't know how to look at the world anymore without thinking about photos. I can't wait to have that beautiful piece of metal and plastic back in my hands. 9 more days to go! Since I don't have many elopements on the calendar this year due to my surgery, I'm going to fill all my free time with practicing more landscape photography. Here's to a summer full of learning, failing, growing and practicing!
  • I was only there for 10 minutes, but I got a taste of being back in the mountains this weekend. Sweet David drove me to one of my favorite places and we walked around for a little bit, took a few pictures, admired the pine trees, blue sky, mountain air and beautiful lake. It gave me the tiniest taste of what will hopefully lie ahead this summer. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I can't help but to hope for a few hikes, drives and adventures in the mountains this summer and fall. God's creation has always been my favorite place to heal and find restoration.

May 19, 2015

The Wilderness

I haven't written about infertility in a long while. But I have things on my heart and time on my hands, so here we go. David and I struggled with infertility for 3 years - then I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which was taken from me before it took my life - then that has been followed by another almost 3 years of infertility. We do not feel called to adopt (yet), we do not feel called to foster (yet) and we do not feel called to (or safe) pursuing fertility treatments anymore. The only thing that feels right in our hearts is waiting upon the Lord and enjoying our life together as husband and wife. We've been waiting for quite a long time with no answer in sight other than to stay in the place where we are.

I frequently feel as if I'm walking on a path in the wilderness. A path that has not been walked on by someone in a very long time.

For the past year, I've held on to this picture of traveling in the wilderness. I love word pictures. I love when I can conjure up a scene, a mental allegory of sorts, because it helps me to keep pressing on when reality seems harsh. I really believe God gave me this image of the wilderness. I first encountered it one day as I was driving deep into the woods for a photoshoot. I had just hung up the phone with my last 2 friends who called to announce they were pregnant (yep, they told me at the same time. Band-Aid approach, I guess?). It was now official, all of my friends in their 20s and 30s were either pregnant, currently giving birth or had a complete family. I felt utterly alone. It was in this moment that I felt God whisper, "It's just you and me now Beck. Get ready for a wilderness experience. You're going to learn the meaning of 'Jesus alone is enough'. It's going to be hard, but it's going to be good."

Let me tell you about this wilderness path that I'm on. It's overgrown, covered in mud and fallen tree branches. Completely unmaintained. It's so faint at times that I frequently lose the path altogether and find myself just bushwhacking in hopes of eventually catching sight of it again. I trip over roots and stumble daily as I try to make my way along.

This path is lonely and isolating. I look around desperately hoping to catch sight of another fellow traveler. Occasionally I see someone off in the distance, but they're on their own path and heading in the opposite direction. They might throw their hand up and wave as they continue on, as if to say "I see you there friend, but my eyes are fixed on the destination ahead of me and I don't have time to stop and chat." Yes, this wilderness can be lonely. It's often just me and the trees. Just me and the stars at night. Just me and God traveling this broad piece of land.

This wilderness is also vast, lush, beautiful, holy, inspiring. There is majesty in this wilderness and intimacy with God like I've never known before. There is healing here. Deep healing. There is discovery and peace, a sense of calm and trust that I don't think I've ever known before. God didn't bring us out here to just dump us off and leave. He is with us every step of the way. And like all cross-country travelers, we have been outfitted with the best survival gear, a trusty compass and a healthy sense of adventure (oh how different things would look if I kicked my feet in rebellion every step of the way!). God has given us everything we need to get through this wild land.

The fact that we are in uncharted territory undoubtedly means that others will not understand the journey we are on. Some people may think things got too hard, that David and I just gave up. Some believe we've closed ourselves off to the idea of parenthood, that we've simply walked away. But that's not true. We are simply being obedient to God's calling on our life right now. We have diligently followed God's voice every step of the way over the last 5+ years. And at this moment, He just happens to be calling us into a place that doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance. A place that is unfamiliar, unknown and doesn't look like what everyone else is doing.

It's frustrating for sure. It's hard to be misunderstood or judged. It's hard to go against the current and do something that virtually no one else in your peer group is doing. It's tempting to question God's plan and wonder if He really knows what He is doing. It's sad watching friends live the life you thought you were going to live. It's painful and confusing, disruptive and often feels endless. It's just plain hard sometimes.

But honestly, I must admit that I often find myself kind of loving it out here in the wilderness. I guess over time as I realized we may be here for a while, I decided to at least try and find the silver lining. Despite the isolation and lack of knowing where we are going or when this path will end, it sure is a beautiful place to roam. I love that God has created our story to be so unique that I am hard-pressed to find others like us on this path. I love that He drawn close to me, provided for me and picks me up when I fall (which is often). I love how much I've learned about His character and the Spirit inspired insight I've gained. I love the peace and healing I've found out here. I love walking hand in hand with David along the way. We try our best to enjoy our life to the fullest right now and that is beautiful. I love that our story isn't over, we just have to keep walking a little ways further.
 





May 18, 2015

Healing: Week 6 & 7

I had a feeling that I might not be able to get a post done last week for my 6 week mark since Caitlin was in town. I was right. :) That's ok, we'll just combine weeks 6 and 7 into one post today. My surgeons said that the 6-8 week post-op point was when I would really turn a corner and I believe they were right!

The Good

This week I had so much energy, I had to restrain myself from flying out of the front door and breaking into a full sprint. All I want to do is go for a nice 15 mile hike ;) It's a mixed blessing, because although I am feeling good and have lots of energy, I can't act upon that energy in the way I want. It's going to be a looong time before a 15 mile hike is a reality! But that's ok, I'm able to do other things with my energy that still honor the healing that is taking place.

Since Caitlin was in town and I had a full-time chauffeur at my disposal who willing to drive me wherever I wanted, I decided it was time to slowly ease back into society. What better place to start than Target?! We also went to Whole Foods, had a picnic, went to David's office and my in-law's. I'm happy to report all my outings went very well with minimal crying, confusion and mental breakdowns haha! I could tell God's hand was with us everywhere we went, protecting me from rogue shopping carts, crowded aisles and overwhelming produce sections. It felt really really good to be out and about!

Our pre-Target selfie

Whenever Caitlin and I get together, we talk talk talk talk. We can't help ourselves, it's just too much fun. Since she lives in Mexico, we don't get the chance to be in each other's physical presence very often and we had soooo much to catch up on. Typically, too much talking causes pain in my ear and jaw that will stick around for 24-48 hours, so I've had to really monitor how much I talk.  But last week I learned quickly that this is getting better. I definitely talked too much each day with her around, but the pain would typically only last 3-10 hours and rarely over night, so that is major progress!

I'm also happy to report that the lingering exhaustion has vanished (knock on wood)! It's like the day I hit the 6 week mark, the exhaustion went away. I can now easily chop an apple without needing to rest afterwards haha! I wonder if it's tied to how much I'm walking now...I'm up to almost 2 miles per day and I can't help but wonder if the increased activity is also increasing my energy and helping ease the excessive tiredness. I also think that all my walking is really impacting my balance for the better as well. This week I had 3 straight days go by without a single moment of unsteadiness or feeling unbalanced. It's really tempting to push things even further and think "well, what if I walked 5 miles? Wouldn't I feel even better?" No. There is definitely a limit of "too much" that causes me to feel worse, so it's been a tedious process learning to do enough that I'm promoting healing, but not so much that I'm causing setbacks.
 
I also officially decided to outsource half of my editing jobs so that I could take more time to focus on healing and on getting better. I still have plenty to keep me busy, but keeping up with all my editing was stressful and unnecessary. So I hired a freelance editor and she's doing a great job and helping me out. Having that stress lessened is pretty great!

The Bad
I finally heard back from my UCLA neurosurgeons on the lingering heartbeat that I still hear in my right ear. They officially said it is "not normal to continue hearing it at this stage in my recovery". They suggested that there is probably another issue going on and that I should continue the investigation with the neurologist in CO.  Most likely, it is the brain cysts that are putting pressure on my brain, causing elevated intracranial pressure. One of the most common symptoms of elevated intracranial pressure is pulsatile tinnitus (hearing your heartbeat). So that is really hard. I was and still am very discouraged. I will be seeing a neurologist in CO next week, so maybe we'll get started down a road that leads to some answers.

Don't get me wrong, the surgery was still successful. It fixed my worst symptoms (vertigo & constant feeling of an ear infection) and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't hesitate. I'm so so so thankful I had the surgery, I really am. This is just an odd twist, because the pulsitile tinnitus was the very first symptom I ever had and we always attributed it to SCDS. But it looks as if it was actually evidence of something else going on that we just never knew about. It feels a little bit like we're back at the drawing board when it comes to that.

There are other small and rather insignificant setbacks I've had in the last 2 weeks like the continued confusion when there is too much auditory and visual stimulation, or pain/pressure in my ear and jaw if I talk too much. I still get off balance at times as well. But that is all still normal. This is a long recovery, so I'm learning that patience is part of the healing process.

May 7, 2015

Healing: Week 5

This has been an interesting week for sure. I'm in this weird limbo area where I am not yet fully recovered and not fresh out of surgery either. I have moments where I forget I even had surgery because I feel so darn good. And then that is followed up by moments where it feels like surgery was just yesterday. It's an odd place to be....feeling good, but then not so good. Full of energy, but easily exhausted. I guess I'm learning to take the bad with the good and go with the flow each day.

The Good:

  • I finally walked a mile! Yaaaay! I've been trying to reach that milestone for a long time and I finally did it on Tuesday. I was all by myself and I just kept going. I didn't get tired either. I was tempted to keep going, but the last thing I need is to have a wave of exhaustion come over me while I'm 2 miles away from my house. 

  • My balance continues to improve. I've even had whole days go by with only 1 or 2 moments of dizziness, which is amazing compared to where I was right after surgery and before surgery. It is so nice to see the world normally again.
  • I'm feeling really good on my own, which is so nice. I can walk alone and be home alone without any fear of something going wrong or needing help. It's a sense of independence I haven't had in a while.
  • I started working again this week. No, not out taking photos...that won't happen for quite some time! But I've been able to edit, invoice clients, email etc. for long periods of time without much issue. I do need to take breaks every 30 minutes so that I don't overdo it, but I've been fairly productive. I will admit, one day I worked too much and I paid dearly for it!
  • My hair is growing! It's about an inch long now where they shaved it and it's beginning to cover the incision. Woo!
  • I've been blessed to see some sweet friends this week and my best friend from college is coming into town next week to stay with us for a while and help out! I'm excited to see her and put her to work pulling weeds in our yard bwahahaha! ;)
The Bad:
  • What started as normal post-operative pulsing in my head&ear due to swelling and fluid has slowly morphed into what is eerily similar to my pre-op heartbeat in my ear. It sounds the same, feels the same and is about the same frequency as before surgery. It could still be normal. But it could be abnormal. I've reached out to my surgeons and am awaiting their response on this. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep my head up and not be discouraged by this.
  • Exhaustion and confusion continue to follow me around some days. I definitely notice it more if there has been sustained amounts of visual or auditory stimulation, like conversation, music, reading etc. My brain just hits a point where it can't process anymore and I get what I call "mashed potato brain"-I can't think straight, I can't find words, I have trouble tracking what is happening etc.
  • We have had like 5 straight days of bad weather here in CO, which is soooo not normal at all. My head is super sensitive to the barometric pressure, so I've found myself with more pressure and ear popping /crackling this week. It's like there is a bowl of Rice Krispies in my ear haha! 
  • I'm getting reeeeaaallly tired of my movement restrictions. Like, I just want to bend down and pick up my socks on the floor. I'm tired of trying to grab things with my toes. Ha!

About Me

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Hi friends, my name is Becky. I am a follower of Christ, wife, sister and friend. I own a photography business based in beautiful Colorado. I am an adventurer at heart and an explorer God's creation. I'm obsessed with beauty products, simple living, traveling, hiking, camping and all things outdoors. I am learning more about God as I navigate the aftermath of 5+ years of infertility. I'm glad you're here, I'd love to connect with you! :)

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