Long Exposures: Just Have Fun

let-there-be-lightGuest post by Justin McKee

Continuing on with last month’s theme, let’s explore the possibilities a little more with long exposure photography.

Before we delve any deeper into this topic, be sure to grab a flashlight or a really obnoxious kids toy.

The really fun aspect of long exposure photography is that you can mess around with light in ways that you aren’t normally able to. Like with last month’s post, with your naked eye you would never see the movement of the stars across the night sky in the same way a camera can.

If you set your camera up for a long exposure on a tripod, anything that moves in front of your camera is going to be blurred. Intense light, like light from a flashlight, can overexpose areas of the photograph that it touches. As you move the flashlight back and forth you’re creating a trail of that light just like you did with the stars.

So, there’s a lot of room for creativity. You can dance around with the light and create abstract shapes and swirls, or you can even be as precise as writing your name. Just keep in mind, you’ll need to write backwards because you’ll be facing the camera.

Camera set-up is just like the set-up in last week’s post for star trails. You’ll need a sturdy tripod, and a shutter release remote wouldn’t hurt either. Having a lens with a wide aperture helps significantly.

Set your camera’s ISO to 100 or 200; there’s no need to stretch your sensor’s limits because the long exposure and wide aperture of your lens will generally bring in enough light on their own. However, as with any environment, you’ll need to take some test shots first to get the numbers down.

Focusing might be a touch tricky this time around. Because you’re not focusing on something as far away as the night sky, you’ll need to ask someone to stand in your shot where you’ll be to properly focus your camera. You also can get away with focusing on the ground where you’ll be standing.

Or you can be REALLY fancy and mess around with focus by intentionally making the photograph out of focus. When you shift focus heavily it can create some interesting spectral highlights in your photograph. This can be especially pleasing when shooting images of Christmas lights or traffic in the city.

The No. 1 rule with long exposure photography is to just have fun with it. There are no hard rules and no major time constraints. Enjoy!

meJustin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Crohn’s Disease and the Longest Month of My Life (pt. 2)

OK, here is the second part of my story discussing my recent emergency hospital stay. If you haven’t read the first half, click here.

After both surgeries, I continued to stay in the ICU at Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit. I have to admit, I don’t remember much of the first week and a half — thank you, pain medications — but I was fortunate to have a number of friends and other family members come to visit me for chunks of the day. When I wasn’t out for the count, I had access to my laptop, the TV, and reading material, so I was pretty well occupied.

I had incredible nurses in the ICU. I’m not exaggerating. I can think of only two I didn’t personally care for, and I had a lot of nurses attend to me. Of course I had my favorites. These were women and men who were upbeat, kind, encouraging, helpful, and sympathetic to my situation. They never hesitated to get me what I needed at the drop of a hat, and were always there in seconds if I needed something at 2am. One even braided my hair a few times, one gave me a small, wooden cat figurine after we bonded over our cat photos on our phones, and one male nurse in particular was incredibly easy on the eyes, which is always nice, ha. I’m so thankful for the nursing staff in that ICU. They definitely made the experience much better.

Throughout my three-to-four-week stay in that section, I underwent so many CT scans and x-rays I lost count. I had to have two PICC lines inserted into my arms, injections each day for reducing the risk of blood clots, drains inserted into my chest and abdomen to get rid of fluid that had built up, and was subjected to another procedure that I won’t talk about, but definitely do not want to experience ever again.  I had the NG tube in for a while (meaning no food), but they took it out after a couple weeks to see how my body would do. Unfortunately, I had to get another reinserted because I was throwing up and producing too much bile. Let me tell you, having an NG tube put in is one of the worst experiences of my life. It’s indescribably awful. But it was needed and was in for at least another week.


(Photo by Justin McKee)

I was literally wasting away in the hospital. Not being able to eat food for weeks, I got used to crunching on ice chips throughout the day. I lost a lot of weight. In addition, bathing wasn’t exactly an option. Nurses can scrub you down with a soap solution and warm water on wash cloths, but you never really feel clean. Washing your hair is impossible, and mine quickly became the greasiest its ever been. I had dry shampoo on hand, but you can’t use that forever. The hospital offers this shower cap with soap that is supposed to work, but it only ends up leaving your hair one step less greasy than it was before, so using it was a moot point. And don’t even get me started on shaving. My armpit hair and leg hair were competing to see which could grow the longest. It was disgusting, and I felt like a caveman.

Once that fourth week hit, I was going stir crazy. Finally came the day where I was released from the ICU and taken to the regular recovery wing of the hospital. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best experience in that area. I could honestly feel my sanity slipping from me. I hadn’t seen anything but hospital walls and hadn’t breathed fresh air in a month. It drives you mad. And I could tell I was changing. I was increasingly cranky, pessimistic, and emotional. Beware. Luckily, I was only there for four days and was thankfully released in the middle of that week.

You have no idea how it felt to be wheeled out of those hospital doors. I cried, smelling the air and seeing traffic, buildings, and people.

Since I was released, I’ve been healing and taking it (relatively) easy at the home of my parents. I’m trying to regain the weight and strength I lost, and attempting to find my love of food once again. Right now, I’m eating toddler-sized portions and some days struggle to have the energy to get out of bed. Other days, I’m raring to go, able to shower and walk around without getting tired. More of those days are happening, though, which is encouraging. The incision on my abdomen is tiny and thin now, and almost closed. Follow-up appointments are this week, and I’m hoping for good news.

Although I don’t know how long I will have to be a guest in my parent’s home, I’m hoping to get back to my own cozy abode as soon as possible. Wish me luck.


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The Compassion of Stitch Fix

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how much Stitch Fix is a part of my life. I love receiving boxes each month and trying on the selections my stylist picks out for me!

Well, the first week that I was in the hospital (read more about that here), I was a week away from my next Fix being processed, so I rushed a note off to customer service, explaining what had happened and that I would need to stop my boxes for an unknown amount of time.

Well, imagine my surprise when my dad — who was staying with me in the ICU at the time — brought back mail from my apartment, and had a Stitch Fix box in his hands. I was a bit confused, but wasted no time opening the box while laying in the hospital bed, getting more excited as the tape ripped away.


There was a card on top that I grabbed first, and I couldn’t believe what I read inside. The incredible staff at Stitch Fix said they heard about what I was going through and wanted to brighten my days with a few gifts. They also gave some really sweet compliments about this blog and sharing my journey with Crohn’s.

After the card, I started unwrapping the gifts. First I pulled out a beautiful cream and mint fringe scarf from LOOK Collection. It’s so soft and perfect for fall, and I can’t wait to pair it with my fall tops.

Then I discovered the cutest mug from an Etsy shop called Three Letter Birds that says “Strong Woman,” in the teal that perfectly matches Stitch Fix’s color scheme.


Finally, I opened a burlap type bag from 80 Acres and discovered three goodies inside, all for body care. I pulled out lotion, a bar of soap, and a tube of chapstick from the company’s Verde collection, made with California Extra Virgin Olive Oil and without parabens (perfect for my eczema-prone skin). And let me tell you, the scent of these products transports me into the largest open field of flowers, chamomile, and lavender. It’s so relaxing and I’m sure has some stress relief side-effects!


It was hard to keep the happy tears at bay as I went through the box. I was so touched that a company like Stitch Fix would send me a care package, and it really made me think differently of the company, which has become more and more popular as time goes on. It’s huge now, and to think they’d care about my personal struggles is mind-boggling to me. The staff showed compassion, kindness, concern, and gave me encouragement during one of the hardest times of my life. And I’m so, so thankful, and have such a high level of respect for the business. Not to mention I’m very impressed.

So to Stitch Fix, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You gave me a light in a very dark time and made me love you even more.

I can’t wait until I have healed enough to schedule my next box.


Now you can have your own personal stylist! Click the banner below and schedule your first box. Once that box shows up at your doorstep, you’ll help me support this blog.

And of course, you’ll help support a great company that shows love and kindness to their subscribers. So go for it, schedule a box for yourself.

-Photos by Justin McKee

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Crohn’s Disease and the Longest Month of my Life (pt. 1)

Finally, this is when I tell you where I’ve been for more than a month. Why I’ve been MIA from this bog. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably already know. Here are most of the details; at least part 1.

Here’s the skinny: Crohn’s Disease came back. Hard. And put me in the hospital for a month.

And I almost lost my life. Twice.

It had been two weeks since my partial bowel blockage, and I was feeling not as great as I thought I should be after starting Prednisone, a steroid to help with inflammation. But as you do, you live life, keep going. I was being careful about what I ate. On Aug. 21 my dad came down to visit and that entire day I felt fine. It was when he was leaving that I felt a new, slightly painful sensation take over me, but I didn’t delay his departure.

small-intestineFast forward 30 minutes and I was in agony. Agony barely begins to describe what I was feeling. Thinking back, it was like my insides were getting ripped out of my body and I wanted to throw up, have the largest bowel movement ever, and then die. In that order. I was crawling on my floor, in so much pain there was nothing else to think about. And sweat was rolling off me in multiple droplets like I had just run 20 miles.

After suffering for about another 10 minutes (10 minutes too long), I called my dad and asked him to turn around and take me to the ER since something was very wrong. He speeds back and he almost has to carry me to the car since I can barely move. We get to the ER at the hospital that’s just around the corner from my apartment, we wait, they run a test, we wait hours longer, and they find out I have a perforated small bowel and need emergency surgery. However, because the procedure would be too much for them there, I was shipped via ambulance to that hospital’s sister hospital in downtown Detroit at about 4am. By that time, my mom and Justin joined the chaos to make sure I was looked after.

Now, if I would have waited even a day longer to get checked out, I could have died. A perforated bowel means everything in your intestine is spilling into your gut, poisoning your blood and destroying your body.

This is where things get a bit hazy for me, since I was becoming doped up on pain medication. I was placed in the ICU right away and remember at least five IVs in my arms, and I even had a type of IV in my neck called a Central Line. It sounds a lot scarier than it was. The worst part was the burning of the lidocaine to numb the area where they put it.


(Photo by Justin McKee)

I had surgery that day, and the surgeon had a game plan in place. Because the Crohn’s was so bad, two feet of my small intestine had to be cut out. Unfortunately, the rest of his plan all became irrelevant once my blood pressure dropped so low they almost lost me on the table. They literally drowned me with fluids — about a half dozen liters — to save my life. Obviously that stopped everything right there. I didn’t even know what happened until later, and it was still hard to believe.

The next day I had surgery number two, which went much better, and the surgeon decided to let my body heal the incision wound on its own without stitches or staples. Instead, I was hooked up to a wound vac, which helps everything heal. And even though dressing changes hurt like a mother, I would highly recommend this technology. It really helped my wound become smaller each day. It didn’t take too long until I didn’t need it anymore and just changed to regular gauze and tape dressing.

Waking up from surgery was the scary part, because I was intubated (had a device down my throat to help me breathe) and also had an NG tube down my throat. I couldn’t talk, it was hard to swallow, and each moment was very painful. It was hard not to just rip them out of my body, and it was frustrating trying to communicate my needs. Thankfully, the breathing apparatus wasn’t in for too long.

This was just the beginning of what would become a month-long stay in the hospital.

Instead of this post getting too long, I will stop there and give the next half of my story very soon. Keep your eyes on the lookout, and once it’s up I’ll add a link here in this post.


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Being Still To Capture Movement

Justin Long ExposureAlright, enough boring stuff. For the past few weeks my guest posts have discussed a lot of technical mumbo jumbo and I think it’s time I changed that.

This post is about long exposures.

A long exposure is when you have your camera (preferably a DSLR) set up on a tripod with the shutter speed adjusted for a time that is longer than a second (roughly).

What’s the practical application?

Well, you can take pictures of the night sky, cars passing by or very dimly lit environments and they won’t look supremely noisy because your ISO won’t be cranked. The long exposure time allows more light to come into your camera, which means your aperture and ISO can take a break for once.

So, given that we’ve already covered the boring stuff, you should know that when you use a shutter speed that’s longer than a second, any subjects that move in your photograph are going to be blurry. Alternatively, if your camera moves, your entire picture will be blurry (hence the tripod for maximum stillness).

When shooting long exposures you won’t be shooting subjects that are moving too much. The only time subject movement really applies is when you’re taking photographs of the stars or storms — but that’s just artsy and cool, so it’s OK.

If you do choose to have a living subject in your photo, it’s important to let them know that breathing is an all right thing to do, but not much else. If you’re outdoors under the Milky Way and have a friend who wants to stand in a field with their arms stretched towards to the heavens, it would be fair to let them know that they’ll have to hold VERY still for at least 15 seconds or more.

Let’s focus on a single subject for this post regarding long exposures: Astrophotography; taking photographs of the night sky.

Whenever you choose to go out and take photographs of the stars, you’ll need to keep in mind that you’re going to be taking a picture of a moving subject. Well, to be truthful, you’re actually the one that’s moving. The earth below us is constantly in motion and exposures over a few seconds long can create a very cool effect: Star trails.

If you keep your shutter open for long a enough period, you’ll see the stars moving across the night sky. How cool is that?

When shooting astrophotography, one of your first decisions should be where you’re going to shoot. Shooting photos of the night sky in the city is a no-go. There’s too much light from the city polluting the sky for you to capture all the stars. Go out into the country for best results.
Next, it’s time to find out what kind of lens you’ll want to use. You’re going to want a lens with a wide aperture. F/2.8 or wider is best. The next decision regarding your lens is going to be what focal length you’ll want.

Do you want to take a photograph of most of the night sky or a specific star? That will depend on the focal length of your lens. 16mm will take a photo of most of the Milky Way. 300mm will let you zoom in nice and close to the moon.

One last thing about the lens: Focusing. Stars are very far away. It’s important to set your focus to that distance. Autofocus isn’t going to cut it either, so don’t try it. If your lens has a focus window … good! Just set your focus to the infinity symbol. If your lens doesn’t have that feature, try turning your camera’s live view mode on to digitally zoom into the stars in the center of the frame. Focus the lens using that nifty feature and your focus will be close to perfect.

Next, you’ll want a sturdy tripod. This is especially vital if your long exposure is going to be hours long. Any bumps or slight movements can ruin an otherwise great photograph. OK, I lied: The last thing you’ll need to do on your lens (because you’re using a tripod) is to turn of any Image Stabilization/Vibration Control/Optical Stabilization. We’ll cover that more in a later post. For now, just trust me.

Alrighty, enough hardware stuff. What is your photograph going to look like in the end? Well, it’s important to get two things right when composing your photograph. You’ll need to make sure that the horizon is level. Shooting a test shot with a high ISO and quicker shutter speed is a good way to check that. Next, you’ll want to find a good foreground subject so your photograph isn’t JUST stars.

I mean, you can do that if you want — but having a foreground subject can really create some nice visual interest other than the stars.

Setting up your camera depends entirely on what kind of photograph you want to take. Do you want to take a photo with the stars in motion or still? Either option requires different settings.

Justin Meteor Shower1


Your shutter speed, aperture and ISO will need to be very specific to capture star trails properly.

First, you’ll want your shutter speed to be longer than 15 minutes.

That’s right. Minutes.

That amount of time — at least to me — is a minimum to capture star trails. The trails will be too short otherwise. Use a remote shutter and your camera’s bulb mode (check your manual) to leave your shutter open for that long. A remote shutter can be a big help because once you switch to your camera’s bulb mode and click the remote, it will keep the shutter open for more than the camera’s 30 second limitation. Otherwise you’ll have to hold the shutter down with your finger or some sort of tape/pebble mechanism … just use a remote. They’re cheap.


As mentioned before, your aperture should be as wide as it will go.

Because the camera’s shutter will be open for so long and the lens’ aperture is wide open, the ISO can remain relatively low. ISO’s of 100 to 500 are completely acceptable. I wouldn’t go much higher though; there’ll be too much light otherwise.

With these settings you’ll have a very clean photograph of the night sky and some beautiful star trails. Another tip: Find Polaris. The North Star. Your star trails will look especially cool with that in the photo. Go out and try it and you’ll see why.


To take a photograph of the night sky without the stars moving (too much) in your photograph, you’ll want to set up your rig similarly to how you would if you were shooting star trails. The only difference is that your ISO is going to be cranked and your shutter speed is going to be a lot shorter in duration. An ISO of 2,000 to 6,400 is acceptable.

Your shutter speed is dependent on the focal length of your lens too. If you’re shooting a photo with a focal length of 16mm, your shutter speed can be a touch longer because motion will be less evident with a wide angle. If you’re shooting a photo with a focal length of 300mm, your shutter speed will need to be shorter to avoid too much motion from the stars in the frame.

A good rule to follow is the 500 rule. If you divide the focal length of your lens by 500 you’ll get the amount of time your shutter should stay open before star trails start to occur.
At 16mm you can keep your shutter open for roughly 30 seconds. At 300mm you can keep your shutter open for roughly two seconds.

That’s a huge difference.

The best way to learn how to shoot long exposure photography is to go out and do it. I spent a lot of time during my college years outside messing around with long exposures. Much of that time was spent in front of my best friend’s house with a flashlight creating light trails by dancing around like a moron.

Actually, that’s a great idea: Next month’s post is going to continue on with long exposure photography. This time we’ll point our cameras back to earth to capture light trails. See you then!

meJustin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Waiting (Impatiently) for Baby Hannah

Although becoming a parent is not on my personal bucket list, it’s very exciting for me when my closest friends become moms for the first or even third time. I don’t have many friends I see often with children, and those I do have I’m unfortunately not near to see often enough and am not able to be even a semi-large part in their kids’ lives.

I’m hoping to change that a little though, with one of my best friends, Allie, who is expecting her first child in a little over a month with her husband, Donnie. The pair are having a girl! And breaking the trend, they announced the name they have chosen for their new little bundle: Hannah Rose. Perfect, no?

Allie Baby Shower5

Now that I live in Metro Detroit, about an hour away from their home in the same area, I’m much more able to spend time with them. I was also lucky enough to be able to attend their recent baby shower to help celebrate.

The event took place at a really eclectic Italian restaurant in one of its back rooms. Allie’s family did a great job decorating and planning! Look at some of the super cute pieces that made this shower unique! The cupcake favors added an extra dose of “aww,” as Patty is the baby’s last name. Come on, now!

Allie Baby Shower3Allie Baby Shower1Allie Baby Shower2

As for the gift, I chose a different route, since I had given Allie a bag of baby gifts a few months prior. So instead, I chose to focus on HER post baby, because everyone seems to forget about mom once the infant is born. Though I haven’t been through pregnancy, childbirth, or raising a newborn, I can only imagine the toll it takes on the body and mind of the mother after going through such an ordeal. My gifts centered around quick and easy pampering to make her feel beautiful at times when she probably won’t after changing countless diapers, getting spit up on, and barely sleeping through the night. I grabbed dry shampoo, quick-drying pink nail polish, a nail buffer and file, stress-relief bath bomb, a loofah, and a gift card to Tim Horton’s for her favorite iced cappuccino.

Allie Baby Shower4

I did add a small water rattle toy for baby’s bath time, and we were all requested to bring a book instead of a card. Well, I can tell you it was a successful gift, and definitely something to maybe keep in mind for the next baby shower you attend!

Like I said before: being a parent myself is not for me, but I think being an honorary Aunt is something I can handle. I want to be a strong, confident, loving female figure in Hannah’s life, and even in the lives of my friends’ kids who I don’t get to see on a regular basis. I want to be able to treat them to ice cream and playtime in the park one moment, and give them back to their mom and dad during a crying fit the next!

Allie and Donnie are going to be amazing parents and they certainly have an awesome support system to help them through every test of the job. I personally can’t wait to meet their little one!


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Stitch Fix Review — August 2016


Hello my fellow Fix-ers and readers! It’s time for yet another Stitch Fix box, and this time around it’s a little bit different. You’ll learn why if you keep reading.

I’m not sure of the reason, but this month I really wanted to bust out of my usual. I wanted an adventure of sorts! With clothes. For this Fix, I asked my stylist Kimberley to give me something in genres I don’t ever pick for myself: like boho chic, glam, or edgy. I suggested a casual dress or kimono, but also asked for the staple pieces I’ve been seeking be put in the primary holding spot if she happened to find any. I sent off my note, and waited.

Kimberley, however, did not style my box this month. That girl took a needed and well deserved vacation, and therefore Stitch Fix hooked me up with another stylist named Kate. So how did it go?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse; Extra Small/Petite; $44

Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse1Papermoon — Hearst Cross Back Blouse2

The mint color of this top is spot on for my taste, but sadly that’s about the only thing that was working for me. It’s a very boxy piece that I felt was too short, and I’m not a huge fan of the polyester fabric. The cross factor in the back wasn’t really enough of an incentive to make me want to purchase this, either, and it kind of billowed like a cape in the wind. Back this goes.

Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top; Extra Small; $48

Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top1Papermoon — Kyndall Lace Detail Knit Top2

This top is certainly my style in every way. I’m a sucker for navy, I love the knit fabric and it was a very comfortable fit. The black lace is romantic and very flattering across the back, too! But while I really liked it, something about me didn’t absolutely love it. Maybe it was too similar to other pieces in my closet, and I’m trying to bust out a little. Maybe it was the black on navy, and I wish there had been more contrast to the piece. Either way, I chose to send this back.

Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse; Extra Small/Petite; $54

Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse1Collective Concepts — Clement Scoop Kneck Blouse2

This top has so much potential, but it just fell flat. The style is really feminine and the floral print is bright and fun, but the fit just was not right for my body. Like the first top in this Fix, this piece is boxy and short. It didn’t lay correctly on my frame because of the super silky fabric, and it made the cute details on the back bunch up. I feel this top is one you shouldn’t have to wear with a cami underneath, but because of all of its problems I couldn’t go without one or I’d risk a wardrobe malfunction. And it looked weird with a cami, in my opinion. I knew right away I’d be returning it.

Papermoon — Mauna Kimono; Extra Small; $38

Papermoon — Mauna Kimono

A kimono! I was so happy to see this in my box, as it was something I requested and haven’t ever tried before. The fabric is a simple, sheer mesh, that’s great for a breezy, summer cover up. A great way to add some color and pizzazz to your outfit, too! Even though we only have about a month and half of warm weather left here in Michigan, I don’t have anything like this in my closet and figured the price was right. I chose to keep it!

Collective Concepts — Galen Laser Cut Dress; Small/Petite; $88

Collective Concepts — Galen Laser Cut Dress

As you can see in the photo, fit was the biggest issue of the day for this dress. I really liked the style, the laser cut outs, and the color, and was very excited to try on something I don’t normally gravitate to. But once I saw how baggy it was on me that excitement faded. The dress is way too big, plain and simple. No matter how I fiddled with it, there was no looking good!

Overall Thoughts

While I didn’t expect the same outcome as a box styled by Kimberley, I thought Kate did her best at choosing items she thought I would like based solely on my note and Pinterest board. Though fit was the biggest problem this month, I could definitely tell she tried to match details of certain items I pinned and I’m appreciative of that. I do, however, look forward to having Kimberley back!

I’d love to hear your own thoughts about this Stitch Fix box! Leave me some comments below!


Now you can have your own personal stylist! Click the banner below and schedule your first box. Once that box shows up at your doorstep, you’ll help me support this blog.

-Photos by Justin McKee

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When Crohn’s Disease Brings Life to a Halt

I’m sorry for the lack of postings this week, but I’m here to tell you what’s been happening the last few days.

Actually, scratch that. It goes back a week or so. And word of warning, this post may mention bathroom things and/or poop, and you should understand why having already read the headline. Prepare yourself for a longer read.

Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, as I’ve written about it here on my blog, but I’ve also been in remission for many years. Flareups happen every once in a while, but they were uncommon, and usually occurred when I chose to consume something I knew might have a negative side effect.

Crohn's PainHowever, within the last few weeks, I noticed abdominal pain happening more often in the evenings, a LOT of gurgling in my gut, and sometimes vomiting. It didn’t happen every day, but enough to make me say “when my insurance kicks in, I’m seeing a doctor and getting referred to a gastroenterologist.” With my new job, my health coverage didn’t kick in until the first of the month following 60 days of employment. That’s August 1st. I’d see a doctor as soon as possible and get this sorted. I didn’t have long to wait it out, and I’ve done this before.

My body, however, had other plans, starting Tuesday.

That afternoon, I once again had severe gut pain. I resigned myself to bed around dinner time and stayed there, not able to sleep much, and threw up late in the night. I woke Wednesday extremely fatigued and feeling like hell. It took me double the time to get ready for work (sick days aren’t allowed until you’ve worked for a whopping six months. I know, I think the same thing.) and I let my boss know what was going on. I made it only a half hour late, but within a short amount of time I knew I’d be worthless in the office. I tried to make it to lunchtime, but I knew something was very wrong, so I left after two hours, immediately crawling into bed when I arrived home. Again, I stayed there all day, only getting up to use the bathroom or feed my cat. Extra strength Tylenol did nothing but give me weird dreams and slightly dull the ache in my abdomen. Sleeping was intermittent, and I threw up bile, as I hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day.

Thursday morning was just as bad as Wednesday. I needed a doctor. Needed help. Now. I was exhausted, in a lot of pain, bloated, and sick of throwing up. I was days away from my insurance kicking in, but I wasn’t functioning, and I couldn’t wait any longer. My mom offered to come down, and I happily accepted. I needed encouragement and definitely having a driver was most welcome. We went to Urgent Care, just down the street, hoping they could give me something to ward off the pain until I could see a GI doctor. However, it being Crohn’s related, they suggested we go to the ER.

When I heard ER, all I could see was me drowning in thousands of dollars in bills, especially without insurance. My brain really fought going in, but I didn’t really have much of a choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Luckily, the nearest hospital is around the corner from my apartment complex.

Oh, and side note: obviously when you visit a doctor’s office, you get weighed. Well, at some point since I began having these issues, I lost quite a bit of weight. I was a staggering 97 pounds. And I usually clock in at about 105. Not good.

The ER wait was quicker than expected, but then again it was late morning. Went into a room, gave the nurses and a resident doctor the scoop, and they immediately started an IV of fluids, gave me anti-nausea meds, and took some blood for testing. Oh, and they also gave me a shot to slow my bowel, which doesn’t sound bad. Except it was. It was the most excruciating shot I’ve ever gotten because the nurse literally had to jab it into the front of my leg, right into the muscle. My mind was screaming expletives. The area still hurt yesterday. It did help the pain in my gut, but I’m still not sure if the pain of the shot was worth it.

Fast forward through wait periods and I went in for x-rays of my abdomen and a CT scan of the same area. Yes, the procedure with the nasty barium to drink beforehand. Hooray. More waiting, a urine sample, and then they delivered the news: I had a partial small bowel blockage and needed to be admitted.

Hospital Stay IVAgain dollar signs flashed before my eyes. We went over the alternative options with the doctor, especially concerning the lack of insurance coverage, but he really stressed the need to be kept at least 24 hours on current fluids (with nothing to eat or drink) to see if the blockage resolved itself. Otherwise I could be facing bigger problems, surgery, and bigger bills. What else could we do?

I got up to my room and resigned myself that I’d be spending my first night in a hospital bed, hooked up to an annoying IV system that beeped loudly whenever I so much as moved my one arm (or didn’t move it at all). More blood was drawn, my mom was able to grab me some necessities from my apartment, and I tried to settle in as well as I could.

The next morning, Friday, additional vials of blood were needed, but I felt good. Like, really good. No gut pain, no gurgling, no nausea. And I had an appetite, which hadn’t been present since lunchtime on Tuesday. A number of primary care, GI doctors, and those from a surgical team talked with me. Thankfully, my labs were showing as normal and my lack of symptoms were a very good sign, so surgery was not going to be necessary. And since I hadn’t been able to see a primary care doctor or gastro yet, they set all of that up for me, but laid down the law that I needed to start properly managing my Crohn’s now. Duh, right?

More tests, more waiting, and they allowed me to select something from the full liquid diet menu of the cafeteria. If I could prove eating and keeping food down wouldn’t be an issue, doctors were confident I could be released. Best. News. Ever. So I ordered some Cream of Wheat, ate that up, and sipped water without issues. A few hours later and another blood draw, I was free, and told to take it easy on eating, but stay away from high-fiber food like vegetables and fruit for a few days. I was also given prescriptions for Prednisone and Zantac for inflammation.

Now I can’t say I’m yet at 100 percent. I still have some gurgling and minor abdominal pain in the evenings since I’m still dealing with inflammation, so it makes me a bit nervous to eat much of anything until I have my next bowel movement (I’m not an everyday go-er. TMI?).

I’m taking it slow, day by day, hoping the meds kick in sooner rather than later. Praying I don’t have another trip to the hospital in my future. For those of you who saw my post about it on my personal Facebook page and sent well wishes and offered prayers, thank you so much. It’s great to see support when fighting an invisible disease.


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My Favorite Nail Polishes for Summer

Summer Nail Polishes

Summer is in full swing! I meant to post this a few days ago, but I’ve been so busy it completely slipped my mind! It’s not to late, however, to rock these great summer shades on your fingers and toes.

Essie — DJ On Board

Essie - DJ on Board

What a great purple! DJ on Board is a fantastic newer color from the Essie lineup that works so well with summer because of its fuchsia shimmer. The first time I ever wore this polish was on my toes, and I received a lot of compliments and inquiries about it. Such a purple as this is eye-catching and it’s perfect for the beach or the hottest night spot.

OPI — Coca-Cola Red. 

OPI - Coca-Cola Red

Why wouldn’t this OPI color be on the list? You may know I’m a bit obsessed with Coke, as it’s my favorite type of pop (I’m actually drinking one and wearing a Coke T-shirt as I type this – not planned by the way!), but Coca-Cola really fits as one of the best refreshing summer beverages (alcohol added or not!) and this red shade matches the brand’s signature can. It’s bright, bold, and hot, just like the season. Perfect.

Essie — In the Cab-ana 

Essie - In the Cab-ana

To me, this color by Essie screams tropical waters, beaches, and palm trees. In the Cab-ana is one of my favorite polishes in my entire collection. I wear it all year round, but it works best in the summertime and really pops against tanned skin. I’ve also seen many summer brides wear a shade like this as their “something blue.”

Zoya — Dixie

Zoya - Dixie

Dixie is one of my newest nail polishes, and I currently am wearing it on my toes. Zoya has made the dreamiest shade of pink, and it makes me think of sunsets and watermelon. I also love the creamy formula of this one, because I typically only need one coat on my nails for it to be opaque. Such a fun, spicy color!

Essie — Meet Me at Sunset

Essie - Meet Me at Sunset

I’m not usually one for orange colors, as it typically clashes with my skin tone, Meet Me at Sunset should be a summer staple when it comes to nail polishes. I mean, look at that burnt orange! And just think of the pretty things you could do if you combined this and Dixie for a gradient effect! Summer needs to last longer in Michigan.

So now that we’ve covered summer, which polishes were your favorites? Leave me some comments and let me know your own go-to summer shades!


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Pokemon Go is Catching Us All

Pokemon Go

If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go yet, I ask you one question. HOW? It’s all over the TV news, in the papers, and on every street. It’s the new reason why people are gathering in local city streets, parks, malls, and attractions in droves, glued to their phone’s display screen.

I’ve become one of those people.

I was a bit too old to jump on the bandwagon when the original version of Pokemon exploded onto the scene in the 90s, but I knew the idea of it because my cousin was a Pokemon fanatic, collecting the cards and knowing each of the creatures by name, stat, and evolution. My minimal knowledge of Pokemon came from the few creatures depicted in the first version of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64.


Let me briefly explain Pokemon Go. The app allows you to seek and collect Pokemon in real time and, using Google maps, your specific area of location. On the screen, your avatar moves when you move, in whatever direction, and along real-world streets through GPS. Even after rolling my eyes about those who downloaded the app the minute it was released in the U.S., I ended up joining in due to the true-to-life map aspect.

So as you travel around (walk, bike ride, skateboard), Pokemon of all types appear on your phone’s screen and you try to catch them using Pokeballs and other items you collect at “Pokestops” located at points of interest in your area such as monuments, water fountains, important buildings, etc. You keep collecting Pokemon, evolve them into their stronger versions, and make them more powerful with their own special skills. Some Pokemon are more rare than others, and some can only be found by certain geological features like bodies of water.


You can also battle Pokemon caught by other app users at “Gyms” (also real life points of interest) who are on a different team (which you select). Through all of this, you gain experience points and level up. You also can hatch Pokemon out of eggs, all by tracking kilometers through the app’s GPS locator. Yes, these are real kilometers logged by real physical activity.

But what’s the point? As the catchphrase says: “Gotta catch ’em all.”

There are about 150 different Pokemon to catch (so far; I’m guessing they will add more than just the original creatures in the future). I personally love collecting the things, as most are pretty cute or fierce looking. I’m still learning all the names.


There’s also another aspect of this game that I love: the community. There are so many people of all ages playing Pokemon Go, and most I have interacted with have been very friendly, very willing to share tips on where to find certain Pokemon and how to play more efficiently, and most are making sure Pokemon catching hot spots are safe for everyone to enjoy, even at night. Businesses are even supporting it as they see their revenue increase thanks to hungry and thirsty Pokemon Go players.

I know it looks a bit bizarre when you see hundreds of people in their teens/20s/30s playing Pokemon Go at the same time — we sort of look like zombies with a hive mind — but it’s also extremely amusing as you’re just as into catching Pikachu as the stranger next to you. It’s a phenomenon I’ve never seen before.

So go ahead, try it. Catch ’em all.


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