Origin Stories.

Every year about this time, I write a post similar to this one. Then I don’t publish it, out of concern that my words would be misread or misunderstood. This year I decided to go ahead and hit that publish button.

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For the past ten years, the constants of my life have been that I am a writer, a mom, a wife, an accountant, a homeschooler. But four years ago, that shifted dramatically. Very suddenly I found myself sure I was going to die, dealing with daily chest pains and blacking out and heart racing. Four months of every medical test imaginable and I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia. Since that point my life has consisted of working every day at being able to minimize my symptoms. Drinking obscene amounts of water, running nearly every day, abstaining partially or wholly from the delicious parts of life like caffeine and chocolate and sugar, IV treatments, and tracking everything imaginable to see what helps or hurts my situation.

For clarification, I actually do live a fairly normal life, but I work seriously hard at being able to do so.

There are some things I can’t fix, however. I have tried countless things to make my brain work as quickly and as wittily as it used to, and nothing seems to help. Writing takes infinitely longer, and I have shrunk my writing schedule down from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, times a week to the current 2 and sometimes only 1 time a week. If I happen to go back and read something that I wrote more than four years ago, I end up in a funk for a couple of days because it makes me so mad at how well my mind formerly functioned. And then it frightens me that my brain is in a continuing state of decline, and it’s going to get even worse.

Every year about this time, when my Dysautonomia gets especially rough (thanks, summer) and my brain gets unendingly fuzzy, I struggle with whether I should continue writing, or if I should take that pressure off of myself and quit while I’m ahead. Other times I glance at my blog’s dwindling visitor numbers and ponder whether I’m like a sitcom that’s gone three seasons too long.

But then I remember that the real reason I’m writing is for my children to read. They have 2,100+ posts over nearly ten years, many documenting their lives, and they already enjoy reading and hearing the stories I’ve captured here. Although Ali has reached the age where I don’t write about her as much because she deserves her privacy, Noah still has a lot of childhood left to document. And so I convince myself to keep writing – to not care if I’m boring people or losing readers with my diminished ability to craft words in a captivating manner. I write for the reason I started writing – to record our own personal history book.

(It really is hard to remember that because I love you all so much, and the hundreds of relationships I’ve birthed out of writing are precious to me. But at the end of the day, I try (but often fail) not to stress about my writing.)

So if I don’t write as often as I used to, or if you also notice that my writing style has drastically shifted, or if I take a long quiet break, please know that I’m probably somewhere, racking my brain for words and original thought, frustrated that I can’t remember how to think creatively.

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But as hard as the writing loss has been, from the journey of dysautonomia came my love for photography. Because when my brain was too foggy to form words, I could still tell stories in picture. And since I was now forced to exercise to stay lucid, I was seeing (and appreciating) more of my surrounding world on the daily.

From that birthed Picture Birmingham, my photography business where I sell my prints, note cards, and other photo art products so that I can donate all the profits to The WellHouse, a ministry that helps rescue and care for victims of human trafficking. In the three years of Picture Birmingham’s existence, it has raised over $15,000 for The WellHouse – and zero dollars of that would have existed if I hadn’t gotten dysautonomia.

So although my daily life is affected in annoying and constant ways, and although my ability to craft words and love for writing has been decimated, and although I have to work every day to live normally, dysautonomia has forced me to LIVE to be able to live – and therefore, to help my children also live a life full of seeing our beautiful world. It has forced me to appreciate my state, to explore, to engage in nature, and to do crazy things like go in a wet cave and climb on a slippery pedestal above a 50 foot drop.

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It has changed who I am and what I value. It has given me an appreciation for this spectacular world and an ability to go explore it. It has given me the opportunity to use those explorations to help women that are suffering in ways that I cannot imagine.

So yes, I have an incurable illness. And yes, that’s really stupid and annoying. But as illnesses go, this one does have its blessings. And I am, (at least some of the time,) okay with that.

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Drought Updates from Lake Purdy.

On November 4th, right before it was announced that we were in a Stage Four Drought Emergency, I took a trip to our water supply, Lake Purdy, to see what it was looking like.

November 4:

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A few days later, I went back to take sunset pictures.

November 11:

161111e-Lake-Purdy-Drought-SunsetFor more of the sunset pictures, click here.

For reference, this is what Lake Purdy looked like in June:

June 10:

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It finally started raining a little over a week ago, and has rained what has felt like quite a bit since. The rain let up yesterday, so the kids and I fled the house for an Alabama History field trip today. While we were out, I decided to take them to Lake Purdy to see how things were looking.

It was fairly disheartening at first – it didn’t look that different.

December 7:

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November 4:

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The “stream” seemed slightly wider, but not by much.

December 7:

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November 4:

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But the kids found the whole scene amazing. We pretended to find giant dinosaur bones,

December 7:

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And they seriously enjoyed the challenge of “walking on the cracks:”

December 7:

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We came upon a couple of delightful gentlemen who showed the kids arrowheads and 1800s pottery they’d found, and tried to give them pointers on what to look for.

December 7:

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As we got further down the stream toward what is left of the lake, things definitely started to widen out. This looked much better than last time.

December 7:

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November 4:

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There were birds chirping and flying overhead,

December 7:

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December 7:

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and despite the giant expanses of dryness, life seemed to be coming back to the lake.

December 7:

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November 4:

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But the most exciting moment when we started back toward our car and noticed tiny, vibrant streams seeping up through the cracks.

December 7:

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November 4:

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The dry earth is slowly giving away, from the inside out.

These are Two Pieces of Important Information.

First piece of important information: I want to personally invite any local (or non-local, if you really love me) people to come see me next Saturday, November 19. I teamed up with the fantastically talented Sarah and Allen Woodall to present a pop-up shop at West Elm (at the Summit.) We’ll be there from 10-4 and will have all SORTS of amazing Christmas gifts. We are single-handedly (okay triple-handedly) saving you from the immense pain of Black Friday shopping, people.

2016 Holiday Popup

All of my Picture Birmingham proceeds are donated to The WellHouse to help rescue victims of human trafficking.

Second piece of VERY important information:

Along with my normal gift products that are perfect for your Christmas Shopping (coasters! pillows! prints! metal prints! note cards! a couple Christmas ornaments! and so much more!), I will have a very limited supply of an extremely special gift item….

Roadkill Note Cards.

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They feature four different animal models found and posed in the Birmingham area. Each animal’s name is lovingly scripted on the bottom right hand corner inside the card, and half the cards also have captions to make your notes all the more special:

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The note cards are printed on a gorgeous linen paper and are perfect for wedding thank yous, meaningful notes, baby shower cards, election condolences, and other such momentous occasions.

(And obviously your Dirty Santa game will be red hot if you show up with these cards.)

So come to the Pop-Up shop and claim one of your sets of these rare note card. 10-4 next Saturday, November 19. West Elm.

Oh. And if you can’t come to the pop-up shop or you need them SOONER THAN NEXT SATURDAY, you can order a set (or 10) from this super secret link.

BONUS third piece of very important information: I have two sets of these precious note cards set aside to GIVE AWAY to two of you. To win one of these sets, comment below with a short eulogy for one of the animal friends. It can be whatever you want it to be. The more you make me giggle, the higher the chances that I’ll send you a set of Sloppy the Squirrel, Sleepy the Chipmunk, Crunchy the ‘Possum, and Sunset the Armadillo. I’ll announce the winners in the comments section next Friday, November 18.