Christmas is coming!

Christmas…… I have these dreams of cozy family time, roaring fires, love for all, peace on Earth, home cooked meals etc. Am sure you get what I mean…

Instead, I find myself still on another business trip at the end of this year, wondering how I will manage all I want to accomplish before I fly home to spend a couple weeks in the UK. I have not bought any Christmas presents, although my emails are bombarded with ads, promises of cheap and cheerful presents. I have not decorated my apartment, other than the below Christmas trees in the window. No roaring fire, I don’t even have a fire place! Today in the news I saw a New York bomb attack, California wild fires.. peace on Earth is still far away.

What is Christmas really about? Why is there so much pressure on this season? Should we not be celebrating the fact that Jesus came to this Earth as a little babe, to reconcile us with our Heavenly Father? Would it not be sufficient to just be grateful for that, and let the rest pass by?

Maybe that’s what I will do this year.. just be… a little Mary, sitting at His feet, rather that Martha..always busy… I still have a couple weeks to ponder that some more…. what about you?

You Can’t Save What You Don’t Love…

The title is a quote made famous by Joel Sartore, who decided a couple years ago to start a project called the photo ark, and if you haven’t checked it out yet…you should!!! What an incredible project! But in the documentary, he mentioned the quote “You can’t save what you don’t love” and for me, it is a quote that resonated very deeply.

 

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals, and the older I got, the more I realized that I loved animals more than people…It got to the stage that when a person died in a movie I was sad but didn’t cry…If an animal died, however, I would be crying for days on end.

There is just something about protecting animals who have no voice that meant a lot to me from very early on in my life…Movies like Free Willy and Flipper just sparked something inside me. So the earliest opportunity I got in life I wanted to make a difference. I will talk about this in future posts but I went to Madagascar for 3 months with Frontier to help with the research out there and educating the local people how to be sustainable without damaging the environment and then a couple years later I went to Zakynthos for a month to work with protecting the turtles there and again educating both tourists and locals about what they should and shouldn’t do to protect the turtles.

 

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Every moment of my life, I am trying to think of ways in which I can do something to help protect not only the marine environment but all animals. It can start with a simple thing like adopting a pet from an animal shelter and giving them a new chance at life to shopping with reusable bags rather than plastic ones and shopping for sustainably sourced fish and knowing which fish are currently thriving and not eating a fish to extinction.

So back to this quote, Joel talks about the fact that we are not going to save an animal species or the environment as a whole without falling in love with it. Everyone has some animal that they love, why not try to protect that species, even if they aren’t endangered yet!

Maybe for Christmas instead of buying something material, why not buy an adoption pack of their favourite animal? Or buy something from a charity where the funds go to protecting our planet’s wildlife.

What is your favourite animal? And what are you going to do to make a difference?

~ When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being, I see a friend, I feel a soul – A. D. Williams ~

Favourite Things About Autumn…

Autumn is a time of year where some get depressed with the falling leaves and the temperatures dropping. I, however, love it! And here are some of the reasons why!!

As a photographer, autumn is one of the most inspiring times of year to take pictures…the changing colours, the coats, the scarves, the hats! So many possibilities without being too hot or too cold!

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The smells!!!! Apple orchards are in full swing and the smell of a fresh apple is unbeatable in my opinion! All the variety of pies that are being made, the smell of rain, the smell of crisp fresh air! Autumn really does have the best smells!! This time of year also brings around my favourite drink of the year! Hot apple cider!! The smell of apple, cinnamon and star anise really warms me from the inside out!!! It is also a time of year where teas come out more and more from our cupboard. I start drinking tea on a daily basis, not English breakfast though! More fruit and herbal teas! The perfect way to warm up after a day outside in the cold crisp air!

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Of course, there is also Thanksgiving, a day where we can reflect on what we have been most thankful for that year! Now I am living in England where it isn’t normal to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I love the thought of acknowledging what you are thankful for that year and what you are looking forward to (plus the good food!!!!!).

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The layers…So I’m a girl that whatever the time of year, I will be wearing multiple layers, 2 strap tops plus a t-shirt. But at this time of year, it starts becoming socially acceptable to wear these multiple layers and I suddenly become fashionable!

Autumn also means that it’ll soon be winter and that means Christmas! A time of year we can reflect on the birth of Jesus and what that means in your personal lives!

So what is your favourite thing(s) about autumn? Let me know in the comments!

~ Autumn shows how beautiful it is to let go! – Anonymous ~

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…

So some of you are aware that I have been fighting fibroids for the best part of 6ish years (that I am aware of). It is far from easy and I feel like it isn’t as well known an illness as it should be! So here is my story and how I am living with it!

So around 6 years ago I realized that my periods were getting more and more painful and lasting longer…Not ideal at all! Eventually, I said to my parents that I need to see a doctor. And so off we went. One of the members of my dad’s church at that point kindly agreed to see me and ran so many different tests to see what was wrong. A couple days later I came back to get the results. Suspected fibroids…so I needed to go a couple doors down and get a scan done. This is where it was confirmed that I had multiple fibroids in my womb…and they were large!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue my treatment with them, and so I went back to the NHS where I needed to be rescanned and all the tests had to be done again…by the time that all the results had come back, I knew they had grown. I started to look pregnant…So they decided to scan again…this was almost a year after the initial scans had been done and this time they were 30x30cm and there were 2 main tumors. This explained why I looked pregnant and couldn’t lose weight. Unfortunately,  it affected my everyday life, at this point, I was in my second year of university, about to start my last year. Just walking up the stairs was difficult and I would lose breath…let alone having 12 hour practicals where I had to clamber over rocks and try and hold my balance. The issue was, was that because the fibroids were so large, they pushed everything to a different place. This meant that my intestines were pushed up, which in turn meant that my lungs were squashed.

That time of my life was incredibly hard. My last year of my undergrad was easily one of the worst years of my life. My boyfriend (Jamie) had to basically move in with me to help me for days on end as I could barely get out of bed without collapsing and I just had no energy. I had other serious health scares in that last year too, but somehow I managed to finish and got my degree! However, that was not the end of the story for my fibroids. They kept growing and growing and the pain on my spine was becoming unbearable. They were so large that they were actually pushing my spine outwards…as you can imagine, everything hurt then…even lying down!

Eventually, I got in contact with a specialist in fibroid care and he took my case seriously and was shocked to see such a young person going through this. I was only 20 when it was finally diagnosed. He suggested that I go on hormone therapy as the tumors were too large to operate on unless I wanted a hysterectomy, which I really didn’t. So for 6 months, I was taking daily hormones to try and shrink it, and it did! At the end, one of my fibroids had almost completely vanished and the other was down to 10x15cm. A HUGE improvement! However, that doctor went away on a sabbatical, and here I am a year later and still haven’t heard anything new. So my fibroids have grown again and now I’m chasing the doctors to hear what my next step is. So here I am, still waiting…

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I know my situation is a weird one, as I am a caucasian girl in her early 20s and I have fibroids that are normally only seen in African women…It is almost unheard of here in western Europe to have fibroids this large and this fast growing. What I do know is that my fibroids are caused by a hormone imbalance, I make too much estrogen…So even though surgery is imminent for recovery, unless I stay on low-grade hormone tablets for long-term periods, they will come back and it will happen fast.

One thing that has bothered me the most through all this is that when you’re going to get ultrasounds done to see where the fibroids are and how large they are, they do put you in the same area as expecting mothers. Now most of the time that is not a big issue. However, in my case, I have been told that I might never be able to have kids. That was devastating news for me and then being in a room with expecting mothers is a bit of a kick in the stomach! Another thing that has bothered me a lot is people coming up to me asking me how far along am I…I really want to have kids of my own, but I also know that that might not happen for me, so it hurts…

But through all of this you have to keep a smile on your face, otherwise, the days will become dark and you lose hope! Know someone who is going through this? Give them a huge hug and just be there for them! It’s not easy!

Have any of you experienced the same thing? Know of any treatments? Want to know anything in particular? Write a comment or message me privately!! Would love to hear from you all!!

For now… the adventure continues!

 

10 Days, 11 States

Doing a road trip in America is a strange experience for a European. You can drive for days and not leave the country! Quite different from where I come from… a state is like a country.

In some states more time was spent than in others: Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and back in the Home state Minnesota.

What was the highlight of my trip? Spending time with family, especially those not often seen. It makes you realize how important connections are, and how special family time is!

The holiday is over, life returns to a sense of normality… the next event to look forward to is Thanksgiving. A moment of reflection on all the things and moments of the past year we can be thankful for. And after that Christmas, thanking God that He came to this world to show us how much He wants us to be with Him. And I get to spend the holiday with my own little family in England. Yay!

Family

This has been some rollercoaster week. The road trip did not end in Memphis (previous post) but went on to Chattanooga.

My wider family is spread across the world. My grandpa used to say that the sun was never setting over the Knopper family. One uncle with all kids in Australia and one uncle with both kids in America. The result of that was that our own family never really saw or had much physical contact with this part of the family. After all, letter writing was never our strong side and phone calls and visits were very sporadic.

Being in America does give the opportunity to reconnect with family here. Not so easy, as I am in Minnesota and the family is now also spread over America. However this road trip was all about connecting with my uncle, who lives near Chattanooga. And that is where my story started…

Unfortunately my uncle is not well, and his son (my oldest cousin) was planning to visit, which happened to coincide with us being there also. I picked him up from the airport, after he graciously sent me a picture of what a grown up cousin looks like… after all, it was more than 40 years ago and I was only a 3 year old when I saw him last…I have some vague memories, but mostly fed by the pictures I stil have from that time. However, it felt like I had just seen him last week! I certainly felt I could talk for hours more, trying to catch up on so many years of life history. I certainly feel sorry for his ears!

The week has flown by, seeing all the places my uncle works at, or spends time at. Tennessee truly is a beautiful area, and seeing Southern University was an experience.

It was also very moving to see the Desmond Doss grave site once more, and be reminded of what it means to stand up for your believes, no matter the cost. At the memorial side is a slogan ‘freedom is not free’ which is so true. There is a cost to everything.

Spending time with family is very special. Treasure it. Time given to us can be very short. Choose wisely, and don’t thread carelessly.

It’s Friday evening, time to sleep and relive some of this weeks memories.

Memphis

Memphis has a couple of interesting memorials…. Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley and Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King lost his life. 2 Icons, 2 very different reasons.
Our day started out with finding Elvis Presley Boulevard… the Boulevard which has the museum and the home of Elvis. Something we only heard about and seen in documentaries and movies. His house was quite small, although the grounds were large. Not at all as I had imagined it. Some rooms a little extravagant but certainly homely and inviting. Not very wheelchair friendly, but mum was parked outside in the carport while we could look in the basement rooms. Below a few pictures, a little impression.

After the Graceland tour and an ice cream we drove to downtown Memphis. Another icon was here in Memphis, but lost his life… others decided he needed to die. Martin Luther King was standing on the balcony in front of his room talking when someone shot him from the opposite building. Suddenly you look with very different eyes to the city. It’s a beautiful museum, dedicated to freedom. You can stand almost immediately below the balcony, see the firehouse and boarding house.. a moment of quiet contemplation. 

2 very different people, but both shaped the world as we know it today. 

A strange day as such… but definitely one to remember and to know I want to come back to Memphis… there is more to explore and see!



4 States in 1 Day

Today was just a very long drive from Missouri, through Arkansas, Tennessee to Mississippi where we are now camped for a couple nights. We sure are a long way from home, as the temperature and even season changed! We left with snowfall in Minnesota and bare trees, to full autumn colours, with here and there a bare tree.

I love autumn colours! I already wrote a whole blog post about that, but lengthening autumn with another week is just fine by me!

Tomorrow…. Graceland/Elvis! Weird how you can be so excited about someone making music so long ago, in a style that’s not even exactly mine… but truth be told, he was the King of Rock and Roll and it’s exciting to go see where he lived and recorded his music! 

More later….


Road Trip

And so we are on our way… as soon as I knew my parents were coming I had booked up the road trip to visit my dads brother. A long way away, in Chattanooga. 

We set off about 3 Friday afternoon with destination a hotel in Independence Missouri. About an hour south of St Paul we saw a massive Cabellas. If you have never been inside you probably don’t know what pulling power that store has for Europeans, who never really see shops where you can buy positively everything to kill and cook animals. My mother had seen a coat in that shop, and our mission was to check if they had her seize on a good colour.

We were admiring the stuffed animals, when my dad realised he was naked…. no phone!!!! I don’t know about you, but without phone these days we feel lost, drowning in a feeling of emptiness without something to hold in your hands… so back we went to retrieve it…

We arrived in Missouri at 1.30am… a little later than anticipated… but on our way!!!! Today the destination is Memphis..therefore… to be continued….

Birthday

Today was my birthday…I always pretend I don’t really care about birthdays, but deep down I do… after all, who does not appreciate the fact some one thinks of them specifically on this day,..

When I woke up, my daughter had already wished me a happy birthday…. it warmed my heart.. however, my husband was quiet… maybe he forgot? He called me in quick succession just as I was getting ready to go to work, so I called them back from my car… such great invention… FaceTime… it truly makes the world smaller. They sang for me… yep… feeling like a birthday girl alright! Shame you are no longer home, my husband said… your present is under your bed…. nooooooo…. now I had to wait till the end of the day!!

Finally I got home, and quickly checked under the bed…. a bag!! My husband had visited me in the US some weeks before and has managed to surprise me! From my favourite Store!! Lovely cards and a lovely sweater…. and my daughter bought me a gnome… those Norwegian ones I love so much….

I am far away from home… but I feel very special indeed!

Thank you!