Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Walk With Me Through 2014...

I'm pretty sure I say this every year, but 2014 flew by so fast! I can hardly believe that I am already writing my Year in Review post...

Most of January was packed with things to do to get ready for our church launch. I realized I had not read as many books as I had wanted to in 2013, so I set a goal to read more in 2014 {which I did! Post to follow soon...} I had my check-up with my GI and got the green light to only have yearly check-ups moving forward- a huge step! We set up our home coffee bar, and got to relive David and Laura's wedding when their wedding photos came in. 

In February, we officially launched Redeemer Church! We started hosting public services at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday nights, and we also launched our Redeemer Kids ministry and Missional Community groups. February was also birthday month! I celebrated #29 with family, friends, Panera, cheesecake, and the Sprinkles ATM. I also started my {30 Before 30} bucket list. A bit ambitious, but fun nonetheless :)

I was off to a good start with my reading goal by March, having already finished 3 books. We also got to be a part of Adrian and Sami's wedding, with Mike officiating, and me stepping in as videographer. The hard part about March was that I was sick for most of it, and we had to move out of our house due to a spewing poop hole in our backyard. That was ALL kinds of fun.

In April, I finished the 1000 gifts Joy Dare, and I am so glad I spent 12 months counting everyday blessings. I had a scare with an elevation in my liver enzymes, but thankfully everything turned out ok. We got to have dinner with my dad and brother when my dad came into town for a work conference, and then got to see he and my mom later in the month. We had several tornado watches/warnings, which made for one unhappy Sasha pup! Work for me started to get super busy, and it kind of stayed that way for the rest of the year. Mike picked up some part time work at Chick Fil A, but was still in full-time pastor-mode at Redeemer. We celebrated Good Friday with Mike's parents, but then celebrated Easter Saturday with a cookout at Redeemer.

I started working away at my {30 Before 30} list in May by learning how to fold a fitted sheet {finally!}, starting a little yoga routine, and going to Canton Trade Days with Laura. I celebrated acknowledged World IBD day and went on a hunt for B-12 since there was a nationwide shortage. Ben and Lindsay introduced us to the game Tetris Link, so we may or may not have played A LOT of that in May. Mike moved from part-time work at Chick Fil A to full-time work as a Marketing Lead Coordinator, so things got really busy.

In June, we had a sleepover with Mike's family to celebrate his mom's birthday. We were also in full VBS prep-mode, so most of June was kind of a blur of island adventure curriculum and crafts. We still managed to find some time to celebrate Sasha's 7th birthday, enjoy a pedicure with Laura {me, not Mike haha}, and see a Rangers game from my company's seats!

In July, we threw a baby shower for a couple gals in our church, and we also celebrated our niece's 1st birthday! I was excited to make her 1 year stats poster, and I got the bug/itch/desire to start an Etsy shop...We went to the Rough Riders game with our Redeemer family, and we got to visit Mike's family farm with his parents and grandma. We also celebrated our 3rd {!} anniversary with a fun weekend getaway to Fredericksburg. 

My baby brother graduated with his Masters degree in August. We were so proud of him and more than excited to celebrate with him! There were a lot of random events in August: National Dog Day, the McCullough's 40th anniversary celebration at Main Event, my employee appreciation event at work, and seeing a Les Mis play with my hubby. My parents also sold my childhood home, and I got to spend a girls weekend with my mom.

In September, I continued working away at my {30 Before 30} list by finishing/ordering our 3rd year photo book and getting a McKinney library card. We both got a little crafty, with me excited about my new sewing machine, and Mike finishing a song lyric painting for his office. McKinney was voted the #1 best place to live in America {woohoo!}, we celebrated another niece's birthday with a pajama breakfast brunch, and we also discovered Reese's dark chocolate peanut butter cups. September is also when I learned the evilness of doxycycline, and when we made the sad decision/announcement that we were closing Redeemer Church :(

We spent most of October closing down the church. While it was certainly difficult and sad, we were blessed by the outpouring of love and support, and we know that the Lord used our time at Redeemer for His purposes. There was a lost of talk about the Ebola virus, I got to introduce the state fair to my mom, and I realized I only had a few more months left to finish my {30 Before 30} list! I marked off making more cards for people, reading a book in one day {thanks to federal jury duty}, and celebrating my 10 year friendiversary with Laura.

November kind of came and went, and I'm not really sure how it went by so fast; I hardly blogged at all. The executive assistants were highlighted in our company's newsletter, and we spent Thanksgiving in Crested Butte with sweet friends.

For the 2nd year in a row, I blogged for Crohn's Awareness Week in December. I also may or may not have spammed my blog with {30 Before 30} list items :)  From making homemade bread and learning to sew, to working on my calligraphy and discovering I don't care about plants, I was in a mad dash to finish as many as I could! We enjoyed several Christmas activities, from ICE! at the Gaylord Texan and Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God tour, to bowling and shuffleboard with family. My parents came into town, and we got to spend good time with them.


I have to say that I'm not really sorry to see 2014 go. The Lord was our comfort and strength, but we had a rough year; it was just hard in so many ways. I'm more than ready for a new year, and a fresh beginning. 2014 will certainly go down in the books as a testing year, or a year we walked in the valley. I am so thankful that His mercies are new every morning, and that His faithfulness will always endure. 

{iPhone Rewind} :: December

Vacation was nice, but then reality struck. I was back to work and spent a couple of weeks digging out from under the stacks...

And some mornings you just need a snowman cookie for breakfast :)

I feel as though I have a new watch. I don't...I have had this watch for several years...but I am pretty sure I haven't worn it in over 2 years. The battery died, and I kept meaning to get it replaced...but now it finally works again, and I'm kind of excited to be a watch-wearer again!

Mike texted me this photo of Sasha saying he found her parked in front of the heater hoping that it would magically turn on. Silly puppy thinks that is how it works :)

I had bought tickets to Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God tour for Mike's birthday, and we headed to the concert in December. Andrew Peterson is one of Mike's favorite singer/songwriters, and it was such an amazing concert!

This wonderful box reminds me of Christmas in San Antonio. We often would get a sampler of different meats and cheeses from New Braunfels Smokehouse to snack on during the holidays. It was just a fun tradition...that we introduced to Mike, who LOVED it! And so we made sure to get a box delivered to our house :)

These were the fun Christmas gifts I gave to co-workers this year. Don't you just love Pinterest inspiration?? Super simple and a crowd-pleaser! {yogurt-covered pretzels, tag is my own design}

This year, we received a CRAZY amount of treats as gifts. I snapped this photo too early, because this is definitely only half of what we got, and the snack counter quickly transferred to a snack table. It was nice to have around with my parents in town, but we had SO much!

I loved this gift idea we gave to our niece Elizabeth. I picked out nail colors that matched different Disney princesses, and added a coordinating tag. Super simple, and she loved it!

Christmas with the McCulloughs is always fun :)  My sweet FIL bought these warm hats/masks for his girls. We were not quite sure what he was trying to tell us...

The boys got matching gifts too: electric salt and pepper grinders and an induction oven. It was fun to watch them open and compare their gifts together :)

My amazing hubby BUILT me a craft table for Christmas!! For several weeks, he kept sneaking away to work on his secret project. He did such a great job, and I absolutely LOVE it! He MADE me a craft table!!

My parents came into town, and we had a great time! We headed to Main Event one day to play Shuffleboard and Bowling. Mom got serious about her Shuffleboard ;)

We spent most of our time just hanging out and watching movies. Gotta love family snuggle time on the couch!

This quiz was floating around Facebook, and my little organizer brain was intrigued, so I took it. Not surprised at the results :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

{30 Before 30} :: Grow Something Edible or Pretty

I specifically put this on my list, because I am not known for my green thumb. I keep my puppy alive just fine; plants? Not so much. It has been a miracle I have kept my boss' beloved plant alive. There have been several a few close calls.

Despite my previous failed attempts, I decided I wanted to try {again} to grow something edible or pretty. Plus, I have Mike now to help me keep it alive, so surely my odds are much better...

For Valentines Day, my sweet husband made a trip to Home Depot, talked with the plant people, and bought all of the things necessary for me to start growing some flowers. Yeah, he's pretty cute :)

We started with Morning Glories, Bachelor's Buttons, and Lavender.

We got a few sprouts of green, but all three plants were dead within 2 weeks. Whoops! I think I planted too soon, because I wasn't able to put them outside in the direct sunlight...

...and then summer rolled around and it was too hot to put them outside.

...and then winter rolled around {again} and it was too cold to put them outside. 

...and then I decided I don't care about plants.   :)

So this one didn't actually happen. I just don't have a green thumb, and I'm ok with it. Maybe some day I will have a desire to put forth more effort to growing something. But for now, I am ok with focusing on other hobbies :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ICE! 2014

This past weekend we got to see ICE! at the Gaylord Texan with Ben, Lindsay and Presley Kate! I have seen the ICE! exhibit two other times {here and here}, but this was Mike's first time to go. It was fun to finally experience it with him, since we were not able to go the year I ended up in the hospital for Crohn's.

This year's theme was Frosty the Snowman, and it was amazing yet again to see the artistry and talent throughout the exhibit.

Yes, Mike and I got in line with all the kids to go down the slide #sorrynotsorry

One cool thing about the exhibit this year was that they showed you a little more of the "process." We even got to watch one of the artisans working on a sculpture.

The "before" blocks and the finished sculpture

And as always, they ended the exhibit with a full nativity scene.

It was a fun day out at the Gaylord Texan, and we really enjoyed hanging out with Ben, Lindsay, and Presley Kate!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

{30 Before 30} :: Practice My Calligraphy and Start Using it Again

I learned calligraphy when I was in middle school. It was actually a unit in my art class {how fun is that??} Anyway, in high school and college I used my calligraphy to help others with wedding invitations and diplomas. 

It had been awhile since I had practiced, so I knew I wanted to pick it up again. I actually veered a little from just calligraphy, per se, and focused on my hand lettering in general. And it's SO fun. I'm not super awesome at it yet, but I really enjoy hand lettering! :)

Making more cards for people was also a great opportunity for me to practice my calligraphy/hand-lettering on the envelopes. Here are just a few examples:

I plan to continue practicing my hand lettering...I guess it's my form of doodling :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

{30 Before 30} :: Learn to Sew

I have wanted to learn how to sew for awhile now. I can sew a button if may not look pretty, but it will hold :) I have several friends who sew, and I have had a long list of items I would like to make!

I had to start with the right equipment. I asked my sister-in-law about what sewing machine a newbie on a budget should start with, and she said I could have her original machine. It needed some work/tuning, but it was going to be such an incredible blessing to have a machine to learn on so quickly!

My first "lesson" was on a night when the boys were having a poker night; we decided it was a good excuse for a girly craft night. Since we were waiting on my newly inherited sewing machine to be serviced/cleaned, I got to learn on Lindsay's fancy digital one :)

My first project: new pillows for the living room!

I was surprised at how easy it really was! I instantly fell in love with sewing, and I quickly found a new hobby/obsession. I love the idea of being creative and making my own stuff, so sewing is right up my alley!

Lindsay and I had lunch one afternoon, and she said she had a surprise for me in her car. I figured it was her old machine, tuned up and ready to go, so I was really excited to see it! But when I got to the car, I found this lovely gift:

It turned out to be more expensive to fix the old machine than to get a brand new one. And so she picked this one up for me instead. This was SUCH an incredible blessing and overly generous gift! I am so thankful for her sweet and generous heart. She said it was slightly selfish because she wanted us to be able to create together...and that we shall do!! I couldn't wait to get started!  :)

It took me a little time to figure out my machine...Lindsay wasn't sitting next to me like in my first lesson. But I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I made sure my first few projects were fairly basic...sticking with straight lines and simple patterns.

Key Chain- this is actually attempt #4 ha :)

I have a few other projects in the works, but just haven't had a ton of time to complete them. Does it count that I "learned to sew" if I am still in the process of learning?? :)

I am excited about continuing to learn how to use my machine and increase my sewing skills. Yay for new {fun} hobbies!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

{30 Before 30} :: Make Homemade Bread {Actually Use Our Bread Machine!}

Mike's aunt was cleaning out her house, and we inherited a bread machine....and that was our first year of marriage. And it has basically sat in our cabinet since then.

So I decided to pull it out and first see if it was even working. Good works just fine! It's an older model, so it's not super fancy, but I think it gets the job done :)

Because I don't have a clue how to use a bread machine {and didn't have the instruction manual}, it was a little bit of trial and error. I didn't realize it takes like 4 hours from start to finish {oops}, and my first try I started the process too late. So I basically just did part of the process in the machine. I let the dough mix and rise a little in the machine, but then I took out the dough and let the bread rise outside of the machine and baked it in the oven later.

It actually tasted really good! The dark brown stuff on the pan is the flour that I shouldn't have put on the pan because it burned. But other than that, the loaf of french bread was yummy!

So since it didn't turn out exactly like it should have the first time, but still tasted good, I decided to plan a little better and try again. I let the entire cycle run- dough, rise, and bake. This loaf looked a little prettier, and also tasted pretty yummy :)

I let it sit in the machine a little too long, so the outside was pretty hard, but the inside was nice and soft. I am excited to try other recipes and other types of bread!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

{Crohn's Awareness} :: Why Are You So Tired All the Time?

This is a question I constantly ask myself, and is probably one of the more frustrating parts of having an autoimmune disease. I am tired. ALL. THE. TIME. Everyone is tired; I get that. But when your body is literally fighting against itself, there's a new level of tired that I didn't know existed before I had Crohn's.

Fatigue and exhaustion are hallmarks of Crohn's Disease. It is certainly worse when my disease is active, but even in remission, I experience fatigue. The autoimmune response that happens in my intestines causes inflammation, which is my body fighting against itself. In addition, I experience body aches with Crohn's, so my body is just always taking a beating. Being in constant pain is just downright exhausting.

Fun fact: Vitamin B-12 is found in a number of foods (shellfish, beef, fish, soy, bran, dairy/cheese, eggs). It helps in the production of DNA and red blood cells, and is an important player in the functioning of your nervous system. B-12 is absorbed in the ileum...but because my ileum is diseased, my body doesn't process/absorb B-12 like it's supposed to. So Crohn's makes me B-12 deficient. Which means I have low energy. So I have to give myself B-12 injections every month, just to keep up a normal level.

With all of these factors, it makes sense why I am tired all the time, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating. I have been blessed to not have to miss a lot of work due to Crohn's...because most of my issues happen at night. So that can disrupt sleep, making it more difficult to keep my energy up. I have to be sure I get adequate rest in order to manage my disease and stay in remission, so I sleep A LOT. I am not able to do as much as I used to simply because I run out of steam quicker. It's annoying, but it's life now.

It's a weird, constant cycle, and just something I am learning to live with. It's hard for my Type-A personality to not just do everything like I used to. I don't like having to ask for so much help, or letting others do things for me all the time {mainly my servant-hearted hubby}. So you can bet I take advantage of my good days as much as possible! Which, if I am not careful, only serves to exhaust me...  :)

I am thankful that the Lord has caused me to slow down in a number of ways. I may not like it all the time, but I see His grace and loving hand in it. It definitely keeps me on my knees and dependent on Him more often...a good thing, if you ask me!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

{Crohn's Awareness} :: What is it Again That You Can/Cannot Eat?

I get this question a lot. Before Crohn's, I was the person that just smiled and ate whatever was served to me, whether I liked it or not. If they got my order wrong at the restaurant, I just dealt with it. But now I have become "that" person...the person that a) has to request a special meal when we meet with friends, b) takes a long time to order at restaurants because I'm asking the waiter specific questions about their menu items, or c) sends something back if it's something I can't eat. I HATE it, because I don't like being high maintenance. But there's not much I can do; the alternative is to suffer the consequences, and I'm not a fan of that :)

I have learned that there are certain "trigger" foods, or items that irritate my intestines. This is mostly because they are harder to digest, or just natural irritants to your digestive tract. Trigger foods can be different for varying Crohn's patients; so what is ok for me to eat, may not be ok for someone else. If I eat any of these "trigger" foods listed below, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom, and I usually end up in a lot of pain.

So my DO NOT EAT list is:
  • Greasy foods
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Beef
  • Pork {at least not in large quantities...I eat this very rarely and only if I have been feeling well}
  • Processed lunch meats {again, at least not in large quantities}
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Caffeine
So basically a lot of good stuff haha. I have actually not missed too many things, but every now and then, I will catch a wiff of a burger and fries...or fried chicken...and just wish I could still eat those things. It's a good thing I have eliminated most of these items from my diet, as they're not very good for me anyway...but I will get a craving for something every now and then. And it just makes my heart a little sad.

So you can guess that we eat a lot of grilled chicken, turkey, fish, and pasta in our house! I'm glad I like those things, because otherwise it would be really tough. I am so thankful that my husband is so easy going when it comes to definitely helps that he is so flexible. And he is so sweet to participate in my diet, at least when he's with me. So the good news is that I can eat breads, gluten, dairy, peanut butter {but not peanuts}, vegetables, most fruits, and most importantly: desserts! :)

There are times when I have to go on a low-residue diet {think mashed potatoes and smoothies}, and that kind of stinks. This is when my intestines are irritated, or when I am experiencing some sort of blockage. The bland, smooth diet helps my insides to calm down, and allows for things to, well, move along in my system. {TMI? Sorry}.

Someone once asked Mike if I ever cheat on my diet; he had to kindly explain to them that cheating for me could have terrible consequences. There have been times when I have pushed the envelope, particularly with something made of corn or something containing seeds...and I have paid dearly for it. Even with small quantities. So there really is no room for cheating. I just end up kicking myself and deeply regretting it.

I can control what we eat at home, but it's harder when we go other places. Mike is really good about giving people the heads up, so he takes good care of me from that aspect. Parties are trickier, because you don't usually get asked about dietary restrictions; so there have been several parties that I have ended up just having to wait to eat until afterward. If I come to your house and don't eat your food, please don't take offense! It's only because my insides can't handle it :)

When I eat out, I can usually find something to eat on the menu. It might not be anything exciting, but it's at least something edible. So sometimes that means eating out isn't very fun or exciting for me. That's most frustrating when it's an expensive, not very good menu item...but it's the only thing on the menu I can eat. I have also learned never to assume anything...hence the reason I ask the waiters a lot of questions. I have learned the hard way that I should have checked at the beginning whether or not that wheat bun had seeds on it!

So there are some things I have to avoid, but for the most part, I still enjoy a lot of good food :)


Friday, December 5, 2014

{Crohn's Awareness} :: You Don't Look Sick...Are You Really?

This is often one of the most misleading things about Crohn's Disease. Most of the time, I look fine and {relatively} normal, and no one can tell that my insides are wreaking havoc on themselves :)

So the bright side is that I often don't look sick! For the most part, Crohn's only affects my insides, and there are often no visible signs of the disease. That is an incredible gift from the Lord, in that He has allowed me to be well enough to go about my daily activities. I really have not experienced huge limitations, and for that I am grateful.

But looks can be deceiving! While I don't look sick a lot of the time, I am often battling abdominal pain, intestinal issues, body aches, and fatigue. Crohn's is autoimmune, so my body just doesn't function like it is supposed to all the time. I have mentioned living with a "new normal;" and often that really means that I work/play/smile through the pain and discomfort. That's not meant to elicit pity, that's just reality. My co-worker often {lovingly} scolds me for not mentioning when I don't feel well; often her only clue is that I just get a lot quieter than usual. So while I may not look sick, I often still feel it.

And let's just be real for a minute...Crohn's is an intestinal disease, which means that a lot of visible symptoms are experienced in the privacy of the bathroom. Now of course, I have been in very public places when Crohn's symptoms have manifested {which is miserable for everyone}, but I can at least hide behind a closed door. You might have to cover your ears and comfort small children, but I can hide out until the coast is clear if absolutely necessary. TMI, I know. Just keepin' it real.

My sweet husband is the one person who sees more of my actual sickness than anyone else. He is with me when I am at my worst, and he patiently endures the day-to-day realities of living with an autoimmune disease. So he could probably tell you better than anyone, that yes, I am really sick :)  I am so thankful for him, how he takes his vow of "in sickness and in health" very seriously. It was dropped on him pretty early in our marriage, but he is awesome. I couldn't face Crohn's without him. But I sometimes even mask my pain and discomfort from him {and especially him} because he has to deal with it so much. I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to constantly have a sick wife.

Anyway...part of the process is learning how to live with your disease. There are the obvious physical aspects, but there are also the emotional aspects of living with an autoimmune disease. It can be really tough some days. On a bad day, it's hard to be at work, be out with friends, or keep a positive attitude. And there are definitely times when I need to pull out the sick card and actually "look sick." But most days I grin and bear it...because I have had to accept my new normal, making the best of it. While Crohn's is very much a part of my life now, I refuse to let it define me. It would be too easy to let it take over, and then it would be more overwhelming than I want it to be.

So yes, I am really sick...sometimes even if I don't look like it   :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

{Crohn's Awareness} :: What's the Difference Between IBD and IBS?

A lot of people assume that IBD {Irritable Bowel Disease...what I have} is similar to IBS {Irritable Bowel Syndrome...something I do not have}. The truth is that they are two very different things. While I don't want to minimize the effects of IBS, it is a less severe diagnosis than IBD, mostly from a long-term damage and complication standpoint.

IBD is the collective diseases of Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. They are incurable diseases of the intestinal tract that cause inflammation, ulcers, and damage to the bowel. IBD affects 1 in 200 people in the United States. You can read more about the differences between Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis in my post from yesterday.

On the other hand, IBS is a group of symptoms that cause some type of disturbance in bowel function; it is not a disease. It is known as Spastic Colon, Spastic Bowel, or Mucous Colitis because of the way the intestines act up. It can cause a great deal of discomfort, ranging from mildly annoying to disabling. It is more common than IBD, affecting 1 in 5 people in the United States.

The key difference is that IBS does not cause inflammation, ulcers, or other damage to the bowel. Symptoms do not include anemia, bleeding, weight loss, or fever, and it rarely requires hospitalization. Treatment for IBS also does not usually involve surgery or powerful medications.

There are mixed views on what causes IBD {genetics, environmental factors, etc}, and some believe that stress causes IBS. Either way, there is no definitive cure for either.

I do think that anything gastrointestinal stinks {haha- no pun intended...ok, maybe a little}.

#themoreyouknow #youarewelcome  :)

- Healthline