27 July 2010

Thoughts on Being Back

I was going to post this for our one month/4 week "anniversary" but life was busy and I couldn't quite get my thoughts together. But I think this 6 week update will suffice better anyways.

So after 6 weeks of being back in the U.S. I'm still hesitant when I cross the street because I am unsure which way traffic will be approaching me. I almost always still want to look right-left-right, instead of left-right-left. Thankfully my driving doesn't seem to have suffered too much except for the one minor "freak out" moment I had last week when I pulled onto a 2 lane road where there was no traffic. As I pulled out I thought I was going to the wrong side of the road, but turns out I was headed to the right side which in this country is the right side to be on, so it was all okay. Just a mere .5 second adrenaline rush. I'm glad that doesn't happen too often.
I have discovered I miss my local Scottish grocery store, Sainsbury's, way more than I thought I would. I mean, I knew I was going to miss my granola cereal from there, my Frutis granola bars (though, brought some with me and am just now down to my last 3), and my oatcakes (I have still had those too - just down to my last two packets now. Sad!), and we knew Mark would miss his Milk Chocolate Digestive biscuits, but I was unprepared to miss the produce section (especially £1.50 amazing pineapple or £1 for 8 kiwi) or dried fruit and nut section. I am slowly figuring out where I can get the best selection of those items without paying an arm and a leg. Still, I obviously got more used to it than I realized and have walked out of a grocery store dejected more than once.

Just like when you go to a new country for the first time and are more aware of everything around you, I have had that on some level here too. One thing I have really noticed this time being here is the prevalence of obesity. I mean, I have heard repeatedly that obesity is endemic in the U.S. but never noticed it like I have recently. It's not that there aren't overweight people in Scotland, because there are. I just knew or saw much fewer obese people. Its actually quite disturbing to realize how many people here are eating themselves to the grave.

Most other changes I've noticed have been of the imperceptible kind - like I know they are there, I know I am different, I know I think differently than a typical American (or even American believer) but can't quite pinpoint why. Every now and then someone will say something or do something that before moving to Scotland I would have dismissed or not noticed, but now I notice it, think about it and more than likely disagree or find it not quite how I would see things. Maybe at some point I will be able to put into words what those things are exactly. Or maybe not.
I think more than ever before I am now faced with the desire to live "the American Dream." It's more than slightly depressing to be nearly 32 (and 35, if I can speak for Mark too) and have no home to call our own (and living with mom/dad (though we are no doubt incredibly grateful to be here!), no jobs (though I'm working hard on creating a photography one and Mark is definitely still working hard on his thesis), no children, and no "real security" (from a worldly, financial standpoint, that is) to speak of. However, in the midst of struggling through some of these thoughts I saw my dad reading "Radical" by David Platt. He's actually challenging the entire church to read the book so Mark and I have both started reading it.

If you haven't gotten your hands on a copy yet, you need to ASAP! It is phenomenal. Or maybe I should say phenomenally challenging. Reading the book has been a refreshing reminder of why we don't have so many of the things I want right now. A reminder of why we have sacrificed so much for Mark to follow what he believes (and I support) God wants him to do with his life. It's all been for God, Jesus, the Gospel -- they are all undoubtedly worth every last sacrifice and anything that we don't have that I am desiring. I've been exhorted that I indeed have been given much! I have been given the thing I need MOST in this life - a Savior and forgiveness of my sins. And also other needs and wants abundantly provided for. Speaking of which, I've been humbled by how God has provided for us during this transition time. Money has come from some unexpected sources and God is most certainly providing for our needs.  Anyways, I'm sure at some point you'll be hearing more on this book....until then, go read it!

So that's my lengthy and unrelated thoughts on life back in the good 'ole U.S. of A. Thanks to those of you who made it this far!

***Some of these flag photos I took on or around the 4th of July (which really did deserve it's own post) but just never got around to posting. The rest are from my trip to Philly. Oh, and the first one was to record the little note and flags my mom left on our bedside table the very late night we returned "home." It was a very happy sight! Thanks, Mom!

23 July 2010

Crisps and Chips

While we were in the UK we were continually amazed by the flavors of their "crisps." Take for instance, this bag I found discarded on a sidewalk the month before we left: "Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak."
Not sure why it has to be "Argentinean" and how that taste differs to a NY Steak Strip in chip flavors, but it must. Mark's personal fav was the below somewhat healthier option "Sun Ripened Sweet Chilli" (yes, they spell Chili differently).

These are just the beginning of exotic chip flavors. According to Wiki here are Walker's current flavors with corresponding pack colors:

Current flavours and packet colours

  • BBQ Rib (Black)
  • Cheddar Cheese (Yellow)
  • Cheddar Cheese & Bacon (Light Orange)
  • Cheese & Onion (Blue)
  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Light Yellow & Green)
  • Lamb and Mint (Dark Green)
  • ManGo-Karting Chutney (Light Brown with Orange)
  • Pickled Onion (Lime Green)
  • Ploughman's (Dark Green)[7]
  • Prawn Cocktail (Pink)
  • Ready Salted (Red)
  • Roast Beef and Horseradish (Dark Gold)
  • Roast Chicken (Orange)
  • Roast Gammon (Dark Pink)[7]
  • Salt & Vinegar (Green)
  • Smoky Bacon (Maroon)
  • Sour Cream and Chive (Cream)
  • Steak & Onion (Brown)
  • Sweet Cumberland Sausage (Dark Gold)[7]
  • Thai Sweet Chicken (Turquoise)
  • Tomato Ketchup (Dark Green and Red)
  • Worcester Sauce (Purple)

Walker's is once again running its "Do Us a Flavour" campaign where the public submits ideas and the company makes them on a limited edition basis - go see for yourself (look under "choose a flavour"). There are some scary flavors there.

Anyhoo, we always thought interesting chip flavors were just a UK thing. Imagine my shock when I was in Target yesterday and saw what I think I remember to be Doritos All Nighter Cheeseburger.  Just not sure how I feel about meals being marked on a chip. It's just, well, wrong. Not that I eat them anyways. I'm just sayin'. 

19 July 2010

Philadelphia Recap

Thought I'd give you a quick Philadelphia recap in photos (what else would you expect by now?). My watermark accidentally ended up on some of these and I don't want to reimport them so I hope you don't mind!

While in Philly I stayed with my long-time friend, Lisa. We have been friends since 8th grade. It was great to see her again and catch up. We saw each other last year when she came to visit us in Aberdeen, but a lot has change since then -- she is now married! I was so sad that I had to miss their wedding in March so it was so fun seeing the pictures from the wedding and watching the video, and in general hearing wedding stories (like the horror one of having to buy a new wedding dress 2 weeks before the wedding). 

On Thursday Lisa and I went to the National Constitution Center. Her husband, Micah, knows someone who works there who was able to get us free tickets (a $20 value including the Ancient Rome & America exhibit) It was a great center and they gave a fabulous presentation about "We the People." Just a fun factoid - the constitution was signed on my birthday - a few years prior :)

They had a hall with statues of all the signers of the constitution. It was actually kinda freaky. I kept thinking they were real people. 

We both got to sign the visitors book that was in the form of how the constitution is. Yes! That's me - in a sleeveless shirt with shorts (I know, you've probably never seen that on this blog - forgive the whiteness). Y'all - it.was.hot! Actually, this day it had cooled down to about 93F instead of being 102F from the previous day! Lisa and Micah don't have central air in their flat (I kept calling it that - too hard to say apartment. Flat is soooo much easier!) and their little room units couldn't keep up so it was about 87F in their place on Wed.  Anyways, we were all thankful for the cool-down on Thursday and afterwards.

I loved how all the flags were hanging in the center of the center :)

And I was rather proud that I was able to find the Tennessee flag without looking at the name plate. 

A view of Independence Mall in Philly

I got to briefly stop by Love Park before heading to see my friend Becky. I had fun hanging out with her family, taking their photos and eating a delicious Rachel-friendly dinner.

After a very long day on Saturday of photographing the wedding Lisa picked me up from the reception. She asked if I was up for seeing Boathouse Row all lit up. Their place isn't far from it so I said sure. It made for some wonderful photos.

As we got out of the car to head in for the night I saw this serene little image. The photo hardly does it justice, but it was just a quaint view and one reason I love Philly. It was nice to be in a city and not see granite :)

15 July 2010


Here's proof that Dad and Mark did indeed catch fish as large as they said they did!

Impressive, huh?!

12 July 2010

Never Say Never

It's hard to know where to even start. I wanted to post something this past week and it just never happened. There are multiple things I could post about, but perhaps I'll focus on the one main one. The thing I said I'd never do. And yet did. Yesterday.

I photographed a wedding.

And guess what?! I loved it! It was an amazing day and I still can't believe how much fun I had! And how relaxed I felt. (Thanks for your prayers!)

The past 6 months or so I've been following various wedding photographers' blogs to be inspired and to learn from their work. Over and over I have read the photographers describe what an absolute joy and privilege it is to be with a bride and groom on their wedding day. Yesterday, in the midst of various moments both happy and mundane, I had the same feelings that I had been reading about for months. I felt incredibly honored to have been asked to be the photographer - the one to share such intimate moments with the couple and family throughout the day. A day that none of them will forget. Nor will I.  A bride and groom have great faith in their photographer. The weight of that did not escape me in the months and days leading up to The Big Day, nor did it when the day actually arrived. Their faith in me both inspired me and humbled me.

As I started getting more and more involved and passionate about photography in the past 12-18 months I was asked repeatedly if I would do wedding photography. At times people assumed that would be the next step for me. I vividly remember telling multiple people I would not do wedding photography. Too much pressure. Too many chances for failure.

Never say never.

The funny thing is that when I was first asked to photograph this wedding I rather quickly in my head and heart knew that I didn't want to do it, especially based on my previous assessment of what I thought wedding photography was all about. I agonized deeply over the decision, asked for multiple people's opinions, and prayed often for wisdom about making the right decision. At the end of those two weeks my outlook had changed and it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up, but I also knew what I needed to do prepare in various ways so that I could be the photographer I wanted to be on that day. Since that time I've worked diligently to be ready.

Over and over the past few days I knew I had made the right decision. Everything just felt right. Sarah and Matt (the bride and groom) were wonderful to work with, as was the family. And despite the pouring rain and ominous clouds (at least 1/3 of the skyscrapers in Philly were covered with dark, thick clouds as Sarah's dad drove me to their house around 10:45am), God heard my pleas for some sun and kept my heart at rest (I was dying for some of that beautiful natural light to help me make better photos). It was still raining when we arrived at the church a little after 1pm.

But, my friends, miraculously (literally) it began to clear!! By the wedding's start at 3pm the sun was streaming in the large side windows. Throw in some outstanding music provided by stellar musicians, a radiant bride walking down the aisle to bagpipe music (I wish you could have heard it! It was perfect and I was nearly in tears looking through the viewfinder!), and a convicting wedding sermon and it was a recipe for the best first wedding I could have had.

God is good. And I haven't stopped praising Him since.

01 July 2010

Week 2+ of Re-entry

In many ways it seems like we've been here longer than two weeks and 2 days. Not sure why that is, but just how it feels to me at least. Thought I'd give you some highlights of the past week or so.

Last Wednesday I got to shoot my first photo session of the two most adorable girls. They go to my parents' church (now our church too!). Their mom told me about a fabulous public place that has tons of old barns and buildings. I'm in love and will definitely take future clients there for more photo ops. Check my photo blog for more photos in the next day or two.

Don't you just LOVE their Americana outfits?!

Thursday Mark and I drove nearly 3 hours east to Knoxville to meet up with some dear friends from Raleigh (who were visiting family in Knoxville). Mark and Travis used to be in a small guys group together. When the guys all got married (within about a year of each other) several of them kept meeting and just added their wives. We always enjoyed getting together with Travis and Julie (and Phil and MaryAnn) during that first year of marriage. It was great to see part of Tennessee while driving, as well as to go to the World's Fair Park in downtown Knoxville. But seeing T & J and their 4 blessings (meeting the youngest for the first time) again was a real joy!

***Sadly I just discovered that I accidentally deleted all those photos before downloading then on my computer, so you'll have to take my word for it that they are some cute kids and that Knoxville looks pretty cool from the Sunsphere.

Friday Mark spent the majority of the day car hunting and FINALLY FOUND ONE!!! Hurray and praise the Lord! It's a black 2001 Nissan Sentra that seems to be a decent little car with wonderful AC.

Our new little car as seen from our bedroom window.

Saturday was a big (and long) day for me. I shot my first wedding as an assistant to Sarah from Eyeris Photography. She was great and overall it was fairly low-key wedding, so a good one to get my feet wet with.

A quick shot I took before going to the balcony for the rest of the ceremony.

This is the brother and nephew of the bride. I kept finding myself drawn to the babies and children during the wedding - maybe a sign that that truly is my photographic passion. Or maybe just what I'm comfortable with at this point.

Monday I woke up with a summer cold passed on to me probably by my dear mother. I was thankful it skipped the sore throat stage and was mainly just annoying sniffles. And thankful it is basically already gone. Monday also marked the day we became official Tennesseans by obtaining our TN drivers licenses - FIVE forms of ID later, mind you. But, as proof that Tennesseans are hands down the friendliest folks I ever did meet, I had the best DMV experience I ever remember - and it only took 30 minutes!

Yesterday Mark and Dad took mental health days and spent the day fishing on a boat on the Caney Fork River. It is reported they caught tons of fish with 2 strippers weighing in around 20lbs, but Mom and I are dubious due to no photos yet being produced. They came home beat but contented (and hungry).

This morning I did editing, editing, editing, then spent part of the afternoon at the massive and incredible downtown Nashville library with my mom. I just wish we lived closer than 25 minutes from it. It was amazing! Mark has been back at reading, writing, reading, writing. Fun times.

So that's what we've been up to!