2019 Personal Review & 2020 Personal Goals

February 6, 2020

At the beginning of last year I did a personal review of the previous year and set goals for the year. It was interesting to look back and see everything that had happened. Sometimes I get to the end of a year and I can’t remember even remember what I did and when, it’s just all a blur. Which is interesting because when you’re in the moment it all seems so important and memorable. So I’ve decided to once again review the previous year to remind myself of what filled up my 2019.

To be honest, 2019 was not the best. If I had known what was in store for 2019 I would have avoided it like the plague. I’m thankful for the pictures that I did take this year because they remind me that I actually had good times in 2019. This blog post might go more in depth than what I normally share about my life, but that’s because I also want this blog post to be a resource for people who might be going through something similar as me. I’m writing this not to scare anyone, especially potential couples, but to show how I am overcoming such a difficult year and how God has been so good and faithful throughout it.

In 2019 Ben and I both decided to focus on my health because my chronic neck pain and anxiety was getting to be at an all time high. I was very hopeful and we had a plan. The funny thing is you can make a plan and you can lock yourself into it and dig your feet into the ground to anchor yourself to that plan and then life happens.

We rang in the year with my family at my sister’s house and then in mid January we had Ben’s work’s holiday party. I hit January with a bang, right as planned: I signed up for the gym and started going twice a week, plus I went to physical therapy to strengthen my neck muscles, I met with my psychiatrist and brought Ben to help me understand what he was saying and found a therapist to work on my anxiety. I was on track.

But this is what I looked like most days. I was in pain and after having two episodes around Christmas where Ben tried to wake me up from a nap and I was mentally there, but physically couldn’t move anything or communicate we were determined to figure out what was going on. My neurologist ran almost every test possible, I had an MRI, MRA, MRV and who knows what else he tested. It all came back normal, which was a relief, but also frustrating that we didn’t know what had happened in December.

These are my girls! The picture is a little pixelated, but these are the girls of Spark. It’s made up of mainly photographers and they meet once a week to discuss our faith, photography and hang out. I try to go once a month since they meet about an hour and a half away from me in New Jersey. Towards the end of the year I couldn’t drive that far, but the first half of the year I did my best to be there once a month.

Ben was supposed to have a conference in San Diego in January so we booked a trip so I could go as well to see the city and visit Disneyland for the first time. Ben ended up canceling his conference, but we still went on the trip. First stop was the beach! We went to La Jolla so I could see the seals, play in the tide pools and get my feet in some west coast water.

Let’s be honest the main reason I wanted to go on this trip was to go Disneyland! I was so excited to finally get a pin that said it was my first visit!

Possibly my 3 favorite things at Disney: shopping, Mickey ice cream and Cinderella.

We went to San Diego next and explored it for a couple of days, we even went whale watching.

Our last full day we spent in Coronado at the beach. The water was freezing, but it was 75 degrees that day and it was such a wonderful day. Until that evening.

From California I was supposed to fly to Pittsburgh for the week and Ben was flying back to NY (originally he would have gone to the conference for the week). I’ve flown by myself plenty of times, but I was in pain and I was worried about carrying my luggage and wishing that I could be with Ben in NY since we had just had an awesome trip and then I had a panic attack… way to ruin the last night of vacation. We decided when I got back to NY I would see my psychiatrist again about my medicine.

My week in Pittsburgh was a lot of fun, it always is. I got to hang out with Sophie and have a Mommy-daughter date. Sophie, who you could literally put any food in front of her and tell her no and she would ignore it, snuck downstairs one night after dinner. We looked all over the house for her and finally found her chowing down on the hambone that she had got out of the garbage bag that hadn’t been put in the garbage yet. Normally she cowers because she knows she’s done something wrong, but she just looked at us like, “I’m not even sorry that was so delicious”. And we couldn’t reprimand her because it was hilarious and let’s be honest at 15 year old if she was going to die from it, that was a great way to go.

I was cold, but I also purposely always wore a blanket because Sophie lays on any bit of blanket she can and I wanted her at my feet ๐Ÿ™‚

While I was in Pittsburgh I also visited my best friend, Chelsy, and her girls. They love to do crafts so I always try to bring one for us to do. Target and Michael’s usually have cheap little craft kits.

Our friends Kate and Jordan are missionaries and were home for a year before they went onto their next assignment. We went to visit them and play with their kiddos one last time before they left the country.

Luckily they also flew out of NYC so we got to see them one more time and help them with the kids and all their luggage.

In February Ben shares his birthday with our niece Katelyn so we made a visit to his family and celebrated together.

In March, instead of our church, Awaken, having a typical Sunday service we packed ziplock bags with a t-shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner and a note of encouragement. All of which we had spent weeks collecting. We were able to pack 400 bags which were distributed to local homeless shelters.

For Christmas Ben got us tickets to see one of our favorite band’s, NeedtoBreathe, acoustic live tour. It was sooooo good!! I didn’t want it to end and listened to their acoustic live cd from the previous year for several months on repeat.

I’m not very domestic… I hate cooking/burn everything and I can go weeks without really cleaning, like there needs to be a layer of dust for me to clean. (Don’t get me wrong I like everything put away and the kitchen needs to be clean since that’s where we cook. I just want to clarify we live in a clean apartment.) One of the few things that makes me feel domestic is my ability to sew and this year Ben started trying that. His engineer brain even took my sewing machine apart and he cleaned it out for the first time since I got it 21 years ago. The only think is I need to get him to stop calling the thread, “yarn”. ๐Ÿ™‚

With the beginning of spring comes gardening! We even brought out our neighbor’s dog Nala with us whenever they weren’t home.

My best friend, Jess, and her family moved back from Philly to Pittsburgh this year so we went to see them one more time before they moved. Lucy is obsessed with princesses so we did a princess makeover with makeup and nail polish ๐Ÿ™‚

My neurologist wasn’t satisfied that he still didn’t have an answer for what happened in December (My neurologist is seriously the best) and so there was only one last test left, a 48 hour EEG. Basically it was a Hail Mary. Electrodes were glued to my head and then connected to a device that I carried around in a little bag. They give you a button to press if something happens or if you feel something so the technicians know to look at the brain activity at that certain time. As you can see from the picture below it’s extremely comfortable and sexy.

A couple days later we got a call from our surprised neurologist that they had found 3 frontal lobe spikes that were believed to indicate epilepsy. It was shocking, but it was also relieved to have an answer. We acted quickly and met with my neurologist. I began taking medicine and we reported it to the dmv, which meant my drivers license was suspended. In New York state you have to be seizure free for 6 months to get your license back. We were able to back date it since I hadn’t had a seizure since the end of December which meant I couldn’t get my license back until June. Needless to say this was all a shock and loosing my license was the hardest.

My neurologist did suggest that I get a second opinion and so we went to see one of the top epilepsy specialists in NY. She looked at all the data and said that did not believe I had epilepsy, she even consulted her colleagues. We were left confused, not sure what to do. I should mention that I was also seeing my psychiatrist pretty consistently because my anxiety medicine wasn’t working, even leaving the house was starting to make me anxious.

At this point in the year I stopped accepting any more weddings. The hardest part, but also the most necessary, was that I called each couple I had booked. Ben and I would pray before each call that it would go as smoothly as possible, that I would be able to communicate what was happening and that the couple would be understanding. I already had 2nd photographers booked for each wedding (as part of my collections), but I had talked to my photographer friends and had 3rd photographers ready to come to each wedding if for some reason I couldn’t make it. Each phone call was like torture for me because I knew I was giving shocking news to a couple who thought they had moved on from booking their wedding photographer. I explained what was going on to each couple and I explained the plan I had in place if God forbid I couldn’t make it to the wedding, but I also gave them the option to cancel our contract. All of the couples trusted me enough and stuck with me. I did cancel one wedding, but I’ll explain that further down in this post.

The week before Easter we went to visit my family. I think Ben knew that I just needed some time with my family and some Sophie snuggles.

Although Sophie always prefers Ben over me (that’s Ben underneath the blanket on the right).

Sophie tries to escape whenever I snuggle her (especially if the phone or camera comes out) and with Ben she goes to mush and looks lovingly at him. ๐Ÿ™„

We also went to see Chelsy and her family and of course I brought some crafts. I trade crafts for snuggles haha

For Easter we were with Ben’s family which is so fun because there’s lots of kiddos for an Easter egg hunt.

Our church tries to make it a point to do multiple service projects each year and we have gone multiple times to The Sharing Shelf to help sort clothes donations. It’s really amazing how this grass roots organization started and is providing clothes to so many kids in need in Westchester county.

In May we went back home to visit my family and celebrate my Grr’s birthday. Can you tell we did a lot of traveling in 2019?

And I found out that not only was Jess pregnant (due in June), but Chelsy was pregnant (due in December).

This part of the blog post may be a little heavy and long so please feel free to skip it and scroll further down if you need to, but I’m going to talk about having more seizures and the steps we went through.

In the middle and end of April I had what looked like to be two seizures. They were different then what happened in December 2018 except for like in December I woke up from a nap. So in April I woke up from naps and started flailing around and having a hard time breathing like a seizure. I went to the ER both times. Luckily one happened in the evening when Ben was around. The second one I had a heavy feeling in my chest so I called Ben in the middle of the day and he came home to check on me, by the time he came home the seizure had started.

One of the hardest parts throughout all of this was that I had a wedding coming up at the beginning of May and I was so afraid I wasn’t going to be able to shoot it. Luckily the bride and groom are friends of ours and they were beyond supportive and more worried about my health. Plus my photography friends and community really helped me out. Ben and I felt the the Devil relentlessly attacking us the week before the wedding, but we prayed and sang worship songs relentlessly. And all thanks to God, I was able to shoot the wedding and have Ben and two amazing photographers that went above and beyond that day to help me. Plus one of our good friends was the wedding planner so I was just surrounded by so many caring people that day.

The two seizures I had convinced my Epilepsy Specialist that I needed to go into and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) for 3 to 5 days depending on when/if they could force a seizure. It was the last thing I wanted to do, stay in the hospital in the Upper Westside and wear the electrodes for the EEG that long. I had all the what-if’s going throughout my head: what if I have to share a room & bathroom with someone, what if I don’t have a seizure, what if it’s a nasty hospital room, what about the nasty hospital food, what if it’s too noisy and I can’t sleep, what if the bed hurts my neck. But Ben and I knew it was the only next step. And God took care of me, I got one of the few single rooms, it came with an amazing view overlooking the Hudson River and I had the nicest nurses and doctors.

What to expect when you’re admitted into an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU): You’re admitted into the hospital and then taken up to the unit and your room. You’re given an IV, a technician attaches electrodes to your body for a continuous EKG and glues all the electrodes (I think I counted 25) to your head for the EEG. Finally your head is wrapped in an absurd amount of gauze. All of the wires from the electrodes are connected to a machine that you carry around in a little bag. Since the machine doesn’t have enough battery life to last 3-5 days, it’s attached to around a 30 foot power cord. So you’re basically on a leash and can’t leave your room. Not only are you monitored by the electrodes, but there’s also a camera monitoring the whole room (not the bathroom). The nurses in the unit monitor the EKG, EEG and the video the whole time you’re there. Once it’s all over they take the electrodes off with warm water. Your hair is a mess because of the glue chunks and the days of not washing your hair. It’s lovely.

How to stay sane in an EMU: Bring your own pillows and blanket for your bed. Bring pjs, but also clothes for each day (you’ll need button up shirts and I used camis because I could step into them and pull them up). Try to keep the same schedule that you would at home: You can’t take a shower, but I brought a towel, washcloth and soap so I could somewhat clean my body. I would wash up, brush my teeth, change into my clothes for the day and make my bed (Even if you lay in the bed, but use the chair they give you and your moving tray table as a desk.) I would do daily stretches and walk around the room (I brought flip flops & cheap slippers that I threw away later so my socks wouldn’t be touching the hospital floor)… and then I would have to untangle my “leash”. I brought more work and stuff to do then I could ever finish, but I liked having options. In the evening I would get ready for bed and change into my pjs. I’m a picky eater and I made the breakfast & lunch food work (with the help of my nurses). But there were no good options for dinner and what they brought me smelled terrible. Ben was a sweetheart and would work all day, pick us up dinner and drive over an hour (traffic was terrible) to spend some time with me. Finally, I brought a hat that I wore home to cover my glue covered hair.

What we found out: I don’t have epilepsy. I had a seizure while I was in the unit. I honestly believe it was everyone praying that I would have a seizure and get out of the unit quickly (I know, it’s a weird prayer request haha). I woke up after the first night in the unit with the heavy feeling on my chest like I had with previous seizures. Around 3pm I decided to take a nap since I knew that waking up from a nap could spur on a seizure. And sure enough that’s what happened. At first I was awake and couldn’t move and then it turned into me thrashing around in bed. Because I was being monitored by video that’s when the nurses came in. The EEG didn’t show any spiking or abnormality in my brain waves which is why they didn’t come in sooner. In past ER visits I was given medicine to calm me down, this time the nurses held meย  down and talked to me. It was the first time that a seizure had just passed on its own. So the pros were I didn’t have epilepsy and I could in fact work my way through the seizure. My Epilepsy specialist said that 1/3 of her cases end up with what I have, Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). The way I understand it is my body doesn’t know how to deal with the stress or anxiety I have (I deal with anticipatory anxiety so leading up to an event my anxiety is high, but once I make it to the event I’m perfectly fine.) so may body’s way to cope with everything is to shut down. (Some people deal with blindness or turn mute whenever their anxiety is too high.)

It’s important to note that when I say “seizure,” my brain wave activity does not change at all like it would normally with an actual seizure or epilepsy. So it’s technically not a seizure, but it looks like I’m having a seizure (every time we went to the ER they thought I was having a seizure) and it feels like I’m having a seizure.

What that means going forward: My psychiatrist was not equipped to handle the PNES diagnosis. In fact, he denied it was a real thing and instead wanted to change my medicine for a 7th time. My Epilepsy Specialist had worked with a Neurologist/Psychiatrist and suggested we see her. We were hesitant at first because she was out of network and a drive into NYC. However after another seizure that landed me in the ER the day before I was supposed to shoot a wedding in July we reconsidered. (By the way, I made it to that wedding and was able to photograph it!) Where my old psychiatrist always seemed dumfounded and would Google stuff while we were with him, my new psychiatrist knew exactly why each medicine wasn’t working and was able to basically evenly switch me to new medicines. (This was huge because normally with these type of drugs you have to slowly go off of one drug while slowly go up on the new drug.) My new psychiatrist also suggested I go through the book Taking Control of Your Seizures with my therapist.ย  By my weddings in September & October I was waking up excited and ready to go which was such a change where for over a year I was dreading weddings the whole week before and having anxiety attacks the morning of weddings.

My PNES is an on going condition. But I am learning my auras, or the way my body feels before a seizure may come on. And I’m learning what my triggers are, the things that make my anxiety high. While we continue to adjust medications that are working positively, I’m also learning ways that I can cope and lower my anxiety by myself. We do believe that one of the things that really heightens my anxiety is my chronic neck pain, another thing we’re working on. Just knowing that I’m not the only one with this condition, that I can get myself through the seizures and that I finally have a good psychiatrist helps so much.

My garden was my sanctuary this year. I spent so much time in it, especially whenever I could feel my anxiety rising I would just go outside and pull some weeds (a chore most people hate, but I find relaxing lol).

In June my cousin, Chase, graduated from high school (he’s the tall blonde that doesn’t look like he would be in high school haha).

One day after church we had some friends over for a barbecue. While the girls all hung out the guys may have worked on my car ๐Ÿ™‚

We went to a fair with some of our friends. Reece loved the rides and he also loved the cotton candy… except for the fact that it was sticky.

There were lots of pool days with our friends!

Because of my chronic neck pain I get nerve ablation done every 6 months by my pain management doctor. (Basically the doctor uses needles to target the nerves that are causing the pain and then they use radio-frequency to burn the nerves.)

In June Jess had Paul! I flew in for a couple of days to take newborn pictures and to hang out with Jess, Chelsy and all the kiddos. I brought beads to make necklaces as a craft with the girls.

After Paul’s newborn session I dressed Sophie up in his outfits and took “newborn” pictures of her lol.

I love our outdoor space so much!! I love our garden, my flowers, Ben’s grilling, our fire pit and having people over to enjoy it with us. Ben’s parents came to visit us for the day so we made them this yummy meal… Ben did most of the cooking.

I’ve lived in NY for 7 years and had never been to Playland Park. (It’s actually one of the amusement parks that Walt Disney visited whenever he was planning to build Disneyland.) We went for George’s birthday, but Reece rode all the rides. I love this group of friends so much!

Our friend Jackie started coming to Awaken 2 years ago and really became involved. Besides being a great friend, she helped me so much with hospitality and slides which I coordinate for church on Sunday mornings. Her visa for the US sadly ended so we threw her a going away party. And thank goodness for technology so we can still text each other regularly! We are going to go visit her in China at some point so she can be our tour guide and so we can visit both of the Disneys in that area. (My goal is to visit all of the Disneys in the world! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

In July we went on our annual family vacation with my extended family. Before we went there though we went to Blizzard Beach in Disney with my immediate family on the Fourth of July. We really had such a great time!

On our vacation with our extended family we got my Grammy Bear down to the ocean so she could put her feet in the water.

This right here is living the life! It’s my go to happy place!

For my birthday we all went out to my favorite restaurant the Columbia. And I told my family all I really wanted for my birthday was a family picture!

I love these picture that we took, but they also remind me of how I wasn’t feeling so great on my birthday. To be honest I could feel the anxiety and pressure building up inside of me with traveling home around the bend and shooting a wedding that weekend. The next day I did have a seizure and my family was actually all there to help me through it which was amazing. I did shoot that wedding on the weekend when we got back and I was perfectly fine shooting the wedding and so excited for my couple, but this was the wedding that the day before I had a seizure and couldn’t get myself through it so I ended up in the ER. While I usually love the summer and look forward to it, it was a very rough and uncertain time.

I just need to show my birthday cake that my Aunt Karen and Ben made together for me! I asked for a cake with sprinkles and they went above and beyond… especially with the limited baking supplies available at our timeshare.

The Gulf is usually perfectly blue and calm with a little wave here and there. I’m happy to float in it in my donut float all day, but it drives Ben nuts. On our last day a hurricane was coming in and we got some huge waves! A wave would crash over me and then I’d pop my head up and count to make sure everyone was still there.

When we got back from Florida our garden was crazy, we had to use bamboo sticks to contain everything.

Also in July Ben went to Ireland for work for a week so I went home. Penn State is about the half way point so Ben drove me there and my mom and Sophie met me! Sophie hadn’t been to Penn State since I was in college!

We celebrated Finn’s 1st birthday while I was home.

I also of course saw Chelsy, Jess and all the kiddos. And I brought a craft, we decorated Cinderella’s castle.

I treated my parents and Sophie to some ice cream. Look at her little tongue!

I forget what month Sophie was diagnosed with kidney failure, but in July she started wearing diapers at night (later on it became all the time) because she couldn’t control her bladder. As sad as it was to seeย  her in the diapers, it was also freaking adorable to see her little tail come out through the hole.

My Momma is so good to me (Let’s be honest, both of my parents and Ben’s parents are so good to me.), but whenever I’m home we usually go on a Mommy-Daughter Date as I’ve named them. While I was home for the week we actually spent almost every day together since she’s a teacher and was off for the summer.

The only downside to this trip was the last day. I was supposed to fly back to the same airport as Ben was flying into in NYC so then we could drive home together. I couldn’t get myself to wake up in the morning to get ready to go to the airport and when my mom tried to wake me up I started convulsing. Now I was in the process of switching from one medicine to another that were basically supposed to be on the same level (so an easy switch), but I ended up in the ER. Poor Ben was already in the air so when he landed he found out what was going on and both him and my mom drove to Penn State again. To be honest, I don’t remember much after that, I was in a very agitated state.

One of my favorite things that we try to do each summer with our friends Tricia and George is go sunset sailing with SoundWaters in Stamford, CT. I could own a sailboat one day.

I don’t know why the image on the left is so grainy, but that was our last night with Jackie and then the next day I drove her to the airport.

And remember how my license was suspended when we told the NY DMV that I had epilepsy? And then we found out I didn’t have epilepsy which meant my license never needed to be suspended. Well I still had to go through the whole process of getting my license back. The people that I talked to at the DMV were very nice, but it wasn’t just a simple have my doctor write and say I didn’t have epilepsy. I had to go through an hour long test with an occupational therapist and then an hour long driving test with a driving instructor. And on top of it all my health insurance wouldn’t cover the drivers test. It was such a hassle. But I think Jackie was one of my first passengers once I got my license reinstated.

So many of my friends had babies this year! I think there were 5 total. This was Kate’s baby shower.

We got so much from our garden this year! We ate so many tomatoes (I alway love making bruschetta), green beans, cucumbers and zucchini. And the flowers were amazing! I grew Dahlias, Cosmos, Astilbe, Lavender and so many Zinnias!

In August Ben’s grandfather turned 95, we went out for his party, but stayed at my parents for a couple of days. We went out Thursday night so then Ben could work remotely on Friday. He had quite the setup outside and even got Sophie to hang out with him.

Most of the time Sophie acted like an old lady, she was 15, but when you pulled out her pool she got in it even if there wasn’t water. And once there was water in it with some sticks she would play until you forced her to stop, it was like she was a puppy again.

We went miniature golfing with my family, which seemed to turn into more of a game of trying to keep track of your ball.

Ben’s grandfather’s 95th birthday. It was so nice to have almost the whole family together.

We have two bunnies in our yard. One of them was a baby and “some bunny” didn’t know the rules of the garden so I had to plant a lot more Marigolds this year to keep them away.

Ben had a conference in Boston so I went with him.

During the day I was on my own while Ben was in his conference. I would do some work and then go exploring since we were in the seaport area.

Then at night we’d go out. The Bell in Hand Tavern is one of my favorite places for dinner. It’s so cute because it’s such a skinny building and I love sitting in the window section. I love the Old North Church and we caught it against a gorgeous sherbert sky.

Baby Mae was born to our friends Kate and Alex and big sister Hannah. I got to go visit them in the hospital.

In August we also went to the Outer Banks for a family vacation with Ben’s family.

I loved watching the kids play together in the sand and water. I may have helped Anna and Katelyn build a castle that actually made it through the night to the next day.

This was the best! Taking Chloe on a walk so she would fall asleep and then letting her nap on me ๐Ÿ™‚

With lots of kids we did some sort of an activity just about every single day. We went on a tour to see the wild horses.

I brought paint and other crafts supplies so we could paint seashells.

We celebrated Will and Ezra’s birthday while we were there.

My cousins live in Outer Banks so we took a day to go visit them in their new house and swim with the kiddos.

This summer my Aunt Judi introduced me to Color Street. They’re stickers for your finger and toe nails. They’re great because you don’t have to wait for them to dry and they stay on for almost 2 weeks. I don’t wear them all the time, but I love to wear them when I’m shooting weddings or for special occasions.

In September we had a girl’s night that was also a celebration of Steph and her baby girl on the way.

Our church, Awaken, worked with another local church, Hillside, to raise money for people without water through Charity: Water. We raised enough money that more than doubled our initial goal. Plus it was so neat to see two churches come together and work for the same cause.

I was so excited for this event. Ben and I had created our own little team to raise money and we were able to raise more than we expected. After the walk we all got together for a time of lunch and hanging out. I sat down to rest and sure enough I could feel a seizure coming on. It could have been due to many reasons: the walk, the heat, I was upping a medicine or that I hadn’t drank enough water. With the help of Ben and some friends they were able to get me into our car and blast the air conditioning. It took awhile, but I was able to get through the seizure and even go back inside with everyone. (Even though I was thoroughly embarrassed.) It was disappointing because I had shot a wedding at the beginning of the month and woke up ready to go and excited. I felt very with it and can could easily communicate what I needed people to do. I had felt like I was really making great strides with my medication and therapy for the PNES.

In September we went to Pittsburgh again to see The Lion King in the theater.

We also went with Chelsy and her family to take some maternity photos and take the kids to a farm for fall activities.

It was really hard to leave Sophie this time, but she actually smiled for our goodbye selfie.

It a shame we don’t own a house because Ben loves to build things. And he’s such a perfectionist that what he builds is always perfect. He saw a picture of hanging shelves with holes in them to put pots in for plants. And with my love of plants, I was all in for another place to have plants in the apartment. We went to a reclaimed wood lumber yard near Ben’s parents at the beginning of the year so I could pick out the wood. Then he spent a good amount of the year building these awesome hanging shelves. (It took time since he had to borrow tools or wait until we went to one of our parents’ houses to use tools.) But I love my shelves with all my baby plants!

I’m very proud of these pumpkins! My Grr gave me pumpkin seeds and I planted one behind our bushes just to see what it would do. I’ve heard they can be very finicky. Well this plant took off and we even had to stop it from climbing into our neighbor’s vent and up the back of the bushes.

In October Ben’s cousin got married in Ohio. This was the wedding that I had canceled photographing because Ben was supposed to second shoot this wedding and I wouldn’t have any backup if something happened to me. Kelsey was the sweetest when we called her and understood what was going on because she’s a nurse. I was able to help her find another photographer. Their wedding was wonderful and it killed me all day that I wasn’t the one capturing it.

But I also think that God had a bigger plan. Because Ben and I weren’t photographing the wedding we were able to spend time with Ben’s grandfather. I even got him out on the dance floor for a couple of minutes.

Oh I hate seeing everything dying in October. For the first time I collected seeds from my flowers and dried them out. I’m going to plant them this Spring instead of buying new seeds. We’ll see what happens!

Aww little Kit was born in October to our friends Steph, Dave and big brother Reece and I was even able to shoot a newborn session!

Sophie passed away in October. Her kidney failure had got worse and she wasn’t really moving, eating or drinking. I didn’t get to go home to say goodbye to her and that still bothers me, but every time I left for the past year I had been saying goodbye to her like I might not see her the next time I was home. The last time I was with her in September she actually let me take her around the yard and take pictures of her. This is the dog who would look away anytime I pulled out my phone or camera. To me this was her gift to me, that somehow she knew it was the last time we’d be together. In all honesty I look at these pictures and she doesn’t look like she’s 15 at all and I’m not saddened by this pictures, I’m comforted.

Ben was in Ireland over Halloween so I got to go with Reece, Kit, Steph and Dave to the mall for trick or treating.

Ben is a man of many talents, I keep finding out more of them each year. I knew he could make applesauce, he’s been doing that for a couple of years and freezing it. But this year he decided to try using his mom’s stuff and can the applesauce. Of course they all turned out perfectly and every couple of weeks we open up a jar for dinner.

Our friend Alex got a job in Georgia, which unfortunately meant Alex, Kate, Hannah and Mae all moved there. We loved having them as a part of the Awaken family.

We went to visit my college roommate, Carrie, and meet her fiancรฉ Nate. They’re getting married at the end of February and Ben and I are going to photograph their wedding! We can’t wait!

At the end of September and beginning of October my neck started hurting even more than usual and the pain started going down my right arm into my fingers. I had an MRI done and found out that I had a partially herniated disc right below the herniated disc that I had replaced almost 5 years ago. Because it was only partially herniated we decided to try an epidural instead of going right to surgery. The idea is that the epidural will allow the body the chance to absorb the disc and so you’re no longer in pain. (That’s what I was told, I still don’t get it.) I had an epidural done twice (by the way they do it through the front of your neck), fortunately it gave me relief for a period of time, unfortunately it didn’t solve the problem. Surgery would be the next step eventually.

Ever since we got married we’ve spent Thanksgiving with Ben’s side of the family. This year Ben made the turkey this year and it was excellent. And I finally picked the perfect portions for my Thanksgiving plate so I was able to finish everything. I found out was always putting my plate over the edge so I had too much food… the green vegetables hahaha.

My mother-in-law’s 65th birthday was on Thanksgiving so we also celebrated her birthday!

My Aunt and Uncle live about 30 minutes from Ben’s parents so the day after Thanksgiving we go to their house to celebrate what is known as Thanksmas. (Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving day and Christmas the day after.) We did white elephant gifts again this year and I got a board of toilet paper (the board was originally a donut board from my cousin’s graduation party.

My Uncle Keith took family portraits this year. Do you like Ben’s ugly Christmas sweater? I made it with old decorations I had and a sweater he never wears haha.

We spent many Sunday mornings this year at Awaken where we get to hear from our friend and Pastor Dave have great community with so many people. A group of volunteers from our congregation put together a worship team this year so that we no longer have to hire worship leaders or play YouTube worship songs with the lyrics.

At the beginning of December we went to Awaken’s Christmas party and Ben and I made sure to get use out our ugly Christmas sweaters again.

I wasn’t really in the Christmas spirit this year, but we still managed to somehow put up the most Christmas decorations in our apartment since we’ve moved in.

We also baked a lot! We made two batches of my favorite sugar cookie recipe. And Ben made two apple pies this season.

I went down with a group of friends to the city to go to the Marchรฉ de Noel Strasbourg Christmas market.

Ben had to go to Fort Worth, Texas for business so we made a trip out of it and flew in a couple of days early so we could go to Waco and I could see all of Chip and JoJo’s Magnolia places. We visited two years ago, but this was our first time to Magnolia Table.

We went at the perfect time for Christmas at the Silos!

We got a s’mores cupcake and a candy cane with red velvet cake cupcake. Ben got a chocolate one too, but he ate it right away and I didn’t get a chance to take a picture… you’d think he’d learn by now ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Magnolia Press Coffee Co had also just recently opened so we went there too. This girl needs her coffee! The Texas Pecan coffee at Magnolia Press and the Diner is excellent!

When I was doing research about the Christmas at The Silos I saw that they had an ice rink on the lawn for the event. I paid ahead of time for us to ice skate, not reading all the details that it was essentially plastic that you “ice skate” on. I’ve only ever lived in the north, I didn’t even know these types of rinks existed.

I hadn’t had a seizure since September and I felt like I had been making really big strides in my therapy and with the seizure book we were going through. But I had another seizure hours before this moment. I was exhausted all day, had accidentally messed up my medications two days prior which can throw me totally out of whack and we had found out a couple days earlier that Ben’s grandfather was in hospice (I mention all of this to try and explain what could have been the source of the seizure). We went back to the hotel so I could take a little rest before we went ice skating. When Ben woke me up I couldn’t move or talk, but I was with it. I think Ben is learning the signs now and can see it in my eyes. He knew that I was trying to wake up, but I was having a seizure. I was actually able to come out of it relatively quickly and made Ben go ice skating (we had paid and I wanted my moneys worth lol) even though I was having a hard time walking and had to lean on him.

We also did some antique shopping and we went to visit Harp Design Co. which is on Fixer Upper.

We got to meet Jimmy Don who is also on Fixer Upper and opening a store right by The Silos. But we also drove all the way out to Jimmy Don’s studio. Which just happens to pass the Gaines’s house on your way from Waco.

Before leaving we went to see two projects that Chip and Jo had announced they’d be working on, Cottonland Castle and the Grand Karem Shrine building that will be turned into a hotel. And we went to see the Hillcrest Estate since that was being renovated the last time we were in Waco.

On our way into Fort Worth we stopped at the Stockyards where cattle used to be sold. Now they do a reenactment of bringing the cattle through the street. It was interesting to watch, but I just wanted to go save all the longhorns and let them loose.

A couple days before Christmas we went to Ben’s parents’. All the grandkids came over to ice cookies with Grandma and maybe a little help from Uncle Ben and Aunt Cass.

Apparently the kids like it when Uncle Ben reads to them. (Kids seriously always seem to go to Ben.)

We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve morning/afternoon with Ben’s family.

Christmas Eve evening we drove to my parents so that we could do Christmas morning with my family. Here’s the before and after. We don’t pick up any of the paper, ribbon or boxes while we’re opening the gifts.

I made Shuggy hair bows and Finny bowties that snap onto his collar. I made them for the different holidays and of course Steelers.

We stretch out opening Christmas presents as long as possible. We even take a break in the middle for breakfast.

Once the presents were all opened and the family room cleaned up I went to take a nap. I had a migraine and my neck was killing me thanks to that partially herniated disc. This would be the start of a series of 4 seizures and 2 anxiety attacks over 5 straight days. To say that it was frustrating and embarrassing (even around my family) is an understatement. Ben was emailing my psychiatrist and eventually Ben & my psychiatrist made the call to give me a little extra dose of one of my medicines to try and stop the seizures and their reoccurring pattern. Thank goodness it worked!

It wasn’t until I returned to New York in January and went through the seizures and everything that happened with my therapist that I realized all of the seizure triggers that were occurring that I wasn’t realizing. The two big ones were my pain level was at a very high point and I was subconsciously/consciously dealing with death (it was the first Christmas without Sophie & Ben’s grandfather was only days away from passing).

Don’t get me wrong, we still made the most out our visit. My mom was having my extended family over the house anyways so I got to see them. We went to Ohio to Ben’s family’s Christmas party and we were able to say our goodbyes to Ben’s Grandpa.

Plus I finally got to meet Chelsy & Jonathan’s 4th little girl, Leonie.

Look at what the friendship of the 3 amigas has turned into!

And of course I brought a craft for the older girls ๐Ÿ™‚ We made reindeer ornaments with their pictures.

I went over to take some newborn picture of Leonie and this time Elle taught me a craft. We made jellyfish and then we traded so we could put each other’s jelly fish on our refrigerators.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh, Ben and I actually looked at having our wedding there because I love it so much. We went one of our last nights with my parents to see the Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show.ย  It did not disappoint!

We purposely went at night because because they have a light show that you can walk through outside.

We did find out late at night on December 27th that Ben’s Grandfather had passed. We were so thankful we had been able to say goodbye to him the previous night. Even though it was hard to say goodbye to him, he was 95 we were so thankful that he was reunited with Ben’s Grandma and his Lord.

For New Year’s Eve we spent it with my family at Kristina and Phil’s house. Kristina even made a Yule Log for dessert, it of course turned out perfectly.

So that was 2019, if you made it this far I am impressed and very thankful that you stuck with me. It was a lot to write, and like I said before I didn’t write this post to scare anyone, but to provide information to those who are going through something similar and to show how faithful God has been. There were so many times this past year that after something had happened we could see where God had been guiding us and making a path, especially a path for healing. Ben, our families and our friends have been such a support, prayer team and blessing this past year.

For 2020 I’ve chosen the word hope (it was even the word I put on our Christmas card). We are obviously still working with my doctors on my health, but this year I have great hope. We have seen great strides in my health both mentally and physically. I’m feeling more and more like my old self. Ben has really been my advocate with my doctors and stays on top of how I am feeling. I would have not made it through 2019 without him. God knew what He was doing when he gave me Ben as a husband. ๐Ÿ™‚

It has been so encouraging to get back to photographing weddings and go from just making it through to thoroughly enjoying my work and creative outlet. Before my first wedding in 2019 I thought that 2019 might be my last wedding season. I was ready to give that up photography if that was what God had for me, I was even throwing around ideas of what I might do instead. It was torture the days leading up to that first wedding, but when I got to that wedding and started shooting I felt like I came alive.ย  I remember whispering to Ben, “I can’t give this up, photography is what I was meant to do.” God clearly laid it on my heart at that wedding to continue with Cassady K Photography. That is why I fought so hard in 2019.

My favorite verse is, “We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”ย  – Hebrews 6:19

And this year I’m also focusing on this verse, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11

I have hope for 2020 and can’t wait to see what God has planned!

Westchester, New York, Wedding, Photographer, NYC, New York City, Cassady K Photography

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