Photography · Saving Money

Best Portrait Cameras & Lenses For Beginners | What Gear is in My Bag?

This is totally not sponsored by anyone, I just sincerely love these brands. Most of these images are edited in Lightroom mobile, which I also love and am not sponsored by. Haha. (But it also means image quality is compressed a bit, since all of these came from my phone.)
Below are affiliate links, but feel free to shop around for the best price at various retailers if you choose to buy something! 95% of my camera equipment I personally DO buy on Amazon, though.

I have always been a pretty open book when it comes to photography, and have always been a little bit irked when other photographers are not. I remember doing the research for YEARS to find the things that I liked best, and being totally ignored often when I would reach out to other photographers for advice.

I mean, I get it. EVERYONE is a “photographer” now.

Does this make me a photographer yet?

But honestly, isn’t that kind of cool? We live in a digital world, and we live in a VISUAL world. And honestly, I am captivated by images.
So bring on the new photographers! I can’t promise you I will pay you to photograph my family, but I totally want you to take gorgeous photos of your babies. There’s shots you will get in your home that NO photographer will ever have the ability to be paid to take, and THAT is special.

And honestly, in the end, I think that every single photographer is different. There are hundreds of ways to use cameras, hundreds of opinions on what is best and what works, and hundreds of different editing styles.

So take my advice as you may, but this is the equipment that I know and love.


The most asked question that I get?

“I want to start taking photos of my kids, family, pets, travel, home, small business, food, makeup, ect… What camera should I start out with?”

It’s somewhat of a loaded question, because of course, not all cameras are created equal when it comes to what they are best made for, especially when you start talking about lenses. There will definitely be equipment that is better suited for landscapes vs. portraits, and vice versa.

That being said, I have experience with several brands over others, and I definitely have a strong opinion on which cameras will produce the best images with the littlest amount of effort (or knowledge.)

So, here are the pieces that I have in my camera bag, meaning they are the pieces that I have fallen in love with over the years. At the bottom, I’ll give you my recommendation for a great camera for beginners, especially those wanting to get started with portrait photography, which is what I know best.

Mirrored Cameras:

This is all of my “professional” equipment, so this is the equipment that I take when I am being paid by a client to take their portraits. I have shot with Canon for years, and am particularly glued to their 5d Mark line. I have owned the 5d Mark ii as well, and think it is a GREAT camera to start out with if you are looking to dive into the world of more professional portrait photography. Full frame cameras will definitely be more expensive, but when paired with a great lens, they are so worth it.

Mark 5d iii + Sigma 35mm 1.4
Mark 5d iii + Sigma 35mm 1.4

Canon Mark 5d iii

As stated, I adore the 5d line. Full frame, excellent resolution, and just really easy to use cameras. That being said, if you are looking for a starter camera on the more amateur end of the spectrum, I wouldn’t recommend this line. The 5d cameras do not have an “auto” feature, and you must know how to meter your images yourself in order to use them correctly. That being said again, they are GREAT for forcing you to learn how to correctly meter your images. Ha. I started out with the Canon Mark 5d iiwhich is a great price now that it is one of the oldest models. These cameras taught me how to do completely manual settings, and I actually even back-button or manual focus on them now too.

Mark 5d iii + 70-200 2.8


Canon 70-200 2.8

I can’t believe there are already 3 versions of this lens! I own the version linked above- the II. I personally don’t believe there is enough difference between versions for an amateur photographer for it to even matter. The only thing I would recommend is making SURE you buy an IS (image stabilization) equipped version. This lens is HEAVY, so the extra stabilization is absolutely crucial for creating tack-sharp images. This lens is perfect for kiddos in play, and is the lens I use most when I am shooting weddings, sports, or anything in fast motion. It has an excellent range, and when shooting around 135mm, the images are CRYSTAL clear. This one is my favorite to capture little ones who are on the go, without disrupting them by being super close up to them.

YEARS ago I also owned the Tamron version of this lens, and I remembered loving it so much. I upgraded to the L glass, image stabilized version only when I had saved up the money and was shooting weddings regularly.  I actually still miss the rich, warm coloring of that Tamron lens, and would love to play around with it again someday.
My Tamron retained its value, too- which is something that isn’t always true of lenses. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly telephoto, it’s a great option.

Canon Mark 5d iii + 85mm 1.4, editing is lighter than I usually like, color is more rich in original

Canon 85mm 1.4

This is a beauty of a lens to own, and I will likely never sell it. The crystal clear images from it are phenomenal- take a minute to look up the hashtag on Insta if you don’t believe me.
I do not use it nearly as often as I imagined I would, though, and I think that is important to state. For the price, I probably should have gone ahead and just purchased the Sigma that I will talk about next, and pocketed the difference. If you are looking for an entry-level lens, I wouldn’t recommend this one. It is BEAUTIFUL for low light situations, and is absolutely my favorite to use with kiddos and with individual portraits, but if I were just taking photos of my kids, I wouldn’t be able to justify the price that I spent on it.

Canon Mark 5d iii + 85mm 1.4

Furthermore though, I have heard super mixed reviews on the non-L glass step down from the lens, which is the Canon 85mm 1.8Personally, I have never been totally in love with a Canon lens that wasn’t L-glass, so I would most likely be on the negative review side of this particular lens. But because I haven’t shot with it, I can’t say that for a fact. It would be a great option if you are looking to just get started, but not pay an outrageous price for a portrait lens.

Canon Mark 5d iii + 35mm 1.4

Sigma Art 35mm 1.4

This is my favorite lens for everyday use by miles. I have read on many sites that this lens struggles with the slightest little hint of focusing too close or too far. (I’m talking like, the camera focused on the ends of the eyelashes instead of on your eyes kind of deal.) I chose to purchase the lens still, because there are countless YouTube videos on how to recalibrate the lens to not do this… BUT, that being said, I have never noticed anything but SUPER sharp images from it.
I couldn’t even tell you the last time I took my 35mm off of my camera body, or the last time I used my 85mm. This Sigma lens is perfect if you are trying to take photos indoors, as it allows for very close up shooting without only photographing somebody’s nose or eyeballs. I absolutely love this Sigma for my kids, and actually use it for most of my client work now, too. After reading review upon review about Sigma’s Art line, I am actually convinced it stands up to Canon’s L glass, and it’s almost always several hundred dollars cheaper. Win-win.

Mark 5d iii + Sigma 35mm 1.4

Canon 50mm 1.4

This was one of the very first lenses I bought, and I purchased it when I wasn’t able to afford the L-glass step up of the 1.2. I have shot with a Nikon 1.2 lens, and it is a beautiful lens, but personally I don’t think it is worth the almost thousand dollar increase to jump up to L glass in this case. If you are looking for an excellent, VERY budget friendly portrait lens, this little gal will be a great lens to start with. I no longer own it, as I have replaced it with my Sigma & L-glass lenses of different focal lengths, but I did sell this lens to my sister, who I believe loves it too.

So for mirrored cameras, what do I recommend for a FIRST camera?

The Rebels have a great line if you are looking for a cropped sensor that will be way more budget friendly. I shot with Rebels all through high school when I was yearbook editor, and they are excellent cameras. They will also still have a built-in flash, as opposed to the 5d line, where you will have to buy an external flash if you are looking to photograph anything extremely dark. My low light lenses give me the ability to almost never need a flash, but if you are not able to afford one of said lenses, I would stick to something with an in-camera flash. Always buy a great diffuser for any flash you use, and you will have MUCH less harsh images.

But honestly, my overall recommendation?
Any Canon. 

From WAY back in the day. Mark 5d ii (old version) and a KIT LENS. (Gasp) Honestly I believe this is the 24-105mm from Canon. Whichever kit lens came with the Mark ii back then, haha. 

I’ve shot Nikon too, and it just doesn’t compare in my opinion. The rich colors I consistently get from Canon are to die for.

Sounds funny after I just reviewed two super specific bodies, right?

That’s because I believe the biggest way to create beautiful images lies in the LENS, and in knowing HOW to use your camera. If you are looking for a mirrored camera that would be great for portraiture, I suggest finding a body that fits well with your price range, then choosing one of the lenses I recommended above. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 will forever be my top pick, but my super budget-friendly starter lens would have to be the Canon 50mm 1.4. It was my first Canon lens, and served me well for several years before I upgraded.

Mirrorless Cameras:

Sony a6000

Wow, wow, wow. I can’t say enough nice things about this camera. After just reviewing my well over $2k camera body, I actually honestly almost prefer my Sony now. This camera is insane, and the movement towards mirrorless cameras is really exciting for me to watch. They are small, they are lightweight, and they are SO MUCH EASIER.

Sony a6000 + Sigma 30mm 1.4 (it even shows my poor kid’s missed long hairs in the front… haha.)

I bought this camera originally to take with me on trips in Japan. My Canon equipment is beautiful and wonderful, but it just does not work well with crowded Japan trains, and I really don’t love carrying all of that money around on my back. I had read amazing reviews on the Sony a6000, knew it was small and compact for travel, and so I impulse bought it at our BX.

And wooooooooow am I glad I did.

Sony a6000 + Sigma 30mm 1.4

Personally, I would buy the camera body only, as linked above. The kit lens that comes with the camera is essentially useless to me personally, because I shoot often in the low light of my home, and want a pretty blurred background in my images. I shoot my kids inside our tiny rental house, and having a wider-angle lens like a 30mm is the only way that I am able to keep their entire bodies in the frame without only taking a photo of just their foreheads.

Sony a6000 + Sigma 30mm 1.4

So I want something that serves me well in low light, can fit my entire kid into the frame at a close range, and creates a pretty bokeh (blurred background.)
The kit lens that comes with this particular camera doesn’t serve any of those things, and I will sell mine now that I have received my new Sigma lens to replace it, because I have absolutely no use for it and honestly don’t like the images it produces.

If you are looking for a step up from this camera, or more of a professional grade mirrorless body, I recommend the Sony a6500. I hear raving review after raving review on this mirrorless body, and have a feeling it would be spectacular paired with a low-light, wide angle lens. I have not used them myself, but I hear that the 16mm and 24mm Sigma lenses paired with this body are a match made in heaven. The 6500 body is next on my “want” list, but I am being a responsible saver for now, so that will probably come a little bit down the road. (Drew, don’t read that, I’m not planning on ANY more camera equipment, just like I promised. Ha.)

Sony a6000 + Sigma 30mm 1.4

Sigma 30mm 1.4

I seriously can’t say enough good things about Sigma. I purchased my first Sigma lens about a year ago, and looking back- my images with that lens were actually better than the images I took with my L-glass Canon lenses at the same time. Sigma doesn’t mess around, and they know their stuff. If you are looking for a specific lens, but are struggling to dish out the funds, check out third party lens reviews. Often, Sigma lenses are cheaper, and have better reviews. I have fallen in love with this one in the two days that I have had it, and I actually find myself reaching for my mirrorless camera with this lens attached over both my Canon AND my phone.

Sony a6000 + Sigma 30mm 1.4, basically taken in the dark


So ultimately, what camera do you recommend for a beginner in portrait photography?


Well, again, loaded question. But if you are looking for an easy-to-use, relatively budget friendly, beginner level camera that will beautifully photograph your kids, a landscape, or the food you are eating, I really recommend the Sony a6000, paired with a low aperture lens. As mentioned, I own the 30 mm Sigma 1.4 with mine, and adore it.

Ultimately, I believe you really can’t go wrong with most choices, though- IF you take the time to research how to use them well. Avoid kit lenses (the lenses that automatically come with a camera, as manufactured.) Learn to use your camera, and watch all the YouTube videos you can on it. Take seminars, listen to podcasts, surf Pinterest. In the end, I believe wholeheartedly that you can make any camera’s shots look like they are professionally taken- it just takes some serious practice and knowledge. I know bloggers that shoot 100% with their iPhones, and you would never have any idea.

Most often, beautiful images come not only from talented hands, but from those who have taken the opportunity to LEARN their camera and lenses. It takes trial and error, and what works for you may not work for another photographer. Heck, I still totally mess up my settings on a weekly basis, and I am still having “OH CRAP, how did I not know this?” moments in regards to photography.
Take the time to read, research, and understand why reviews are posted the way they are, and what a review means coming from an individual. A travel photographer will review a lens differently than an indoor portrait photographer. You will find your niche, and the lines/brands that you love most. And in the end, I believe that probably more than 80% of beautiful photography lies in EDITING, and knowing how to do so without over-processing. I will share a post on that eventually, but feel free to message me on Insta with any questions you have about editing. Watch Youtube videos on editing styles, on streamlining editing, and on how you can make your images pop. It’s a surefire way to create beautiful images that are even better than the ones you pull straight off of your camera.

I hope this helps you get an idea of what you may want to start out with, but if not, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram, asking me my thoughts on a specific body or lens! I actually respond to messages there, I promise. Haha.

Happy shopping, and happy shooting!


Japan Life · Life · Parenting · Shop My Instagram

One Japanese Custom Americans Should Adopt | Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off in Your Home

dearfoams pin

If you know me, you know that there are so many things I love about Japan. Just the other day, I was telling Drew that I am beginning to ache for the place, and we still have a little over a year left in the country. I could go on and on about the kindness of the Japanese, the beautiful rural countryside, and all of the customary Japanese things that I love here.
One of the things that I love most about the Japanese people, is that they are very conscious about cleanliness.

I’m telling you, I am going to cry when I return to American gas station bathrooms. There’s nothing like walking into a FamilyMart and using an absolutely spotless bathroom ANYWHERE that you stop on a road trip.

Being in Japan, there are several roles on our base that are filled by the Japanese nationals vs the US military. In particular, most of our housing maintenance department is managed by the Japanese people. This means, when your toilet breaks, they are the kind ones to come fix it.

Do babes ever chew on anything SAFE for them?

And because toddlers seem to have a life goal of flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed during the fifteen seconds that you decide to look away to load the dishwasher… in a nutshell, we see maintenance a lot in our home.
One of the things that I was most startled by when welcoming the Japanese into our home for the first time, was the fact that they carried two sets of shoes with them. Without asking, they removed the shoes that they were wearing outside our front door, and they immediately stepped into house shoes to wear within our home.

As we have integrated into life in Japan, we have quickly realized that this practice is not just isolated to homes.

You go to the doctor, you will put on slippers.
You go to the hospital for a procedure, you will put on slippers.
You stay at a hotel, you will put on slippers.
You go to the onsen, you will put on slippers.
You go out to eat, you will put on slippers.
Even if you go to the bathroom, sometimes, you will put on slippers.

At first, I just didn’t really get it. To be honest, when we came to Japan, we were not big on the “no shoes in the house” rule. After the first week of culture shock from constantly taking off my shoes and replacing them with house shoes everywhere, I finally decided to do some reading on WHY I was constantly swapping shoes as I entered these various buildings. I was disgusted with my own ignorance, because the reasons are numerous, and they are pretty monumental.

This post is sponsored by Dearfoams, but the content was researched and written 100% by me, and all opinions are 100% my own. I agreed to work with Dearfoams because I genuinely love their company, and I will never speak highly about a brand that I don’t sincerely love.

4 Reasons You Should Remove Your Shoes at the Door | Why Everyone Needs House Shoes


“What did you say is on your shoes?!”

1. Outside shoes are GROSS

Did you know that almost ALL shoes that are worn outside of the home for at least one month carry fecal matter on them? Yep. Your outside, everyday shoes are covered in poop. A study from the University of Arizona on this particular topic says that up to 93 percent test positive, in fact.¹ When I first read this little bit of information, I was absolutely horrified.
In homes with children, this is obviously an even bigger deal, too.
Think about it this way: right now, Ellie spends 95% of her day on the floor. She touches it with her hands, then chews on her fingers. She rolls all around, and sometimes even falls asleep with her face smashed against it. Wearing house shoes or slippers that NEVER leave our home insures a clean environment for her to explore, drool, and chew happily (and safely.)

2. It keeps your house clean

I mean, this is kind of a given, right? This is probably the main reason that most people choose to remove their shoes at the door.
We live in the snowiest city in the world presently.  And what happens when snow melts?
Our porch is constantly covered in dirt, mud, and water, and during the early spring, everything in sight is covered in pollen from the cherry blossoms. Being able to swap out our muddy/dirty shoes at the door, and put our feet into nice, clean soles, keeps our house so much cleaner. I mean, anything that makes my mopping/vacuuming schedule much easier to handle is a must- do for me.

Heck, you can even wash house shoes in order to help keep your floors that much more clean. Did you know that Dearfoams created the very first washable slipper with comfortable foam padding in it? Even all the way back in 1948, they were committed to creating a product that was safe and easy to keep clean for your family. To this day, most Dearfoams slippers are machine washable, meaning even your house shoes can be cleaned periodically- keeping your home as clean and safe for your little ones as possible.

3. It is so much more comfortable

You might be asking, “why wear shoes at home at all?”
If you are asking this question, I venture to say: you clearly do not have a toddler.

Legos. One word. One scary, painful word.

But in all seriousness, it is incredibly convenient to own a pair of shoes that are comfortable enough to wear all day inside of your home, yet protective enough to shield you from the plethora of sinister little bottom-of-the-foot hazards that are children’s toys.
Perfect trade off. Your feet remain protected, and you remain comfy.

4. It is polite

This is HUGE in Japan, and I wish it was something that was better practiced in the states. While I don’t think America will necessarily begin carrying a pair of house shoes with them when going to visit friends, I do wish that it would become customary to remove shoes at the door.
It is respectful to the family that is hosting you, it is cleanly, and it is so so easy to do. In our experience in Japan, hosts customarily actually provide YOU with house shoes upon entering their home. Talk about a way to personify “Mi casa es su casa,” right?


There are so many huge reasons to begin building the habit of wearing ONLY house shoes in the home. Mum Ana Lucia Komori puts it best in my opinion:

“When we take our shoes off we are free from all the things that happened to us during the day but that don’t belong to our intimacy and spirit at home.”³

I LOVE that concept. As you shed your dirty daytime shoes, and put on your cozy house shoes, you are leaving the heavy parts of your day behind. You are settling into your own home for the night, and allowing your burdens to stay at the door, where you can pick them up to deal with the following day.

So I challenge you, start taking off  your shoes immediately upon entering the home. If you’re like us and like to wear shoes anyway, buy yourself a pair of house shoes. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Dearfoams are absolutely our favorite.
Cozy up, leave your burdens behind, and keep your floors clean for the tiny hands and feet that are exploring their little world.



DIY · Home · Rental Decorating

Coat Closet Turned Mudroom | Rental Friendly Decorating

Living in base housing can be tricky sometimes in regards to decorating, especially if you hate PLAIN. After all, everything has to be basically pristine by the time that you leave, and with usually only 2-4 years at each house, it can be extremely tempting to just live with the plain white walls and ugly fixtures in the house.

But I believe it’s possible to do a few simple things to easily make a rental (or base housing) feel like home, while still being able to restore all the changes to move-in-ready condition easily.

Today I will be showing you how we took our tiny front coat closet and transitioned it into a workable space! On our particular base in Misawa, we actually don’t even have to replace the doors- housing will do that for us as long as we keep all the hardware.

closet pin REAL.jpg

So, here is how I turned our TINY, useless coat closet (that was stuffed to the brim with things we couldn’t even reach) into a brand new, cute little mud room! We actually didn’t even use half of the stuff that was in our closet, so it was becoming a catch-all for stuff that just needed to be put away elsewhere.

Halfway through my mess

If you are reading from Misawa, we live in the 3 bedroom townhome style, so this is the closet immediately upon entering your front entryway. Taking the doors off and creating a small bench opens up the space SO much, and makes your entryway look astronomically bigger- for real. I was blown away the second I took those doors off, and I don’t feel incredibly cramped when walking into the house anymore. You can even store guest shoes in the space in front of the bench, which keeps your walkway more clear!

Here’s a couple tips on how we did it:

Take off all hardware, and store it in a plastic baggy

Or, simply leave it attached to the doors! We take all the screws and pieces that don’t remain attached to the doors, and store them in a plastic baggy, then tape it with painter’s tape to the door. This way the tape doesn’t damage the door, but we are able to know for SURE that the hardware stays put with the door. When moving out, we just place the door with the taped hardware beside the closet for our housing inspection. (Or if you are required to replace the doors where you live, all the hardware is right there, and you don’t have to go searching for it!)

Store the doors under a couch or under the bed

This way kids, pets, or adults don’t damage them in any way, and they are totally out of the way! We store ours underneath our king size bed, so they are totally hidden under there. (Thanks to our sweet friend Sierra, for the idea of storing things under couches or beds. This works so well for us.)

And that’s really it! Super, super easy project, and if you search Pinterest (here is the link to my profile– I have some inspiration under my entryway board) , there are a million ways to build a small bench for whatever size your closet space is. I have absolutely NO power tools, other than a super cheap drill and drill bits, and built this last night in around 2 hours.

And because I’m always asked in my Insta/Facebook DMs where I get my products, here are all the links for the shop-able products shown in these photos!

Mason jar – you can get a mason jar just about anywhere! I pick them up all the time from thrift stores, but I linked one here from Amazon! Almost any thrift store will have jars in their glass section, usually from anywhere from 25 cents to $1.

Peonies  – these originally came from EBay, but I linked similar ones from Amazon!

Books- we the bottom book at a 25 cent book sale/ the top one belongs to a set that was passed down from family! I love to find old books that have pretty colored covers both for reading, and for decor.

Linen basket -the reviews state that this never regains its shape- which I believe is TOTALLY inaccurate. If you fill it with items, it immediately resumes the shape it should be. We use ours to hold Henry’s winter gear!

Wire baskets -these are the small size, and they often go on sale for $11.99-$12.99! Wait for the sale, and wait for a coupon code. I believe I got mine for around $5 each when I had a 40% off coupon.)

Twinkle lights – I had a coupon for these, making them around $5 for each strand. We have these EVERYWHERE in our house, because I adore twinkle lights. If I get another code, I will update it on my deal page, found HERE. (I run an Amazon discount page on Facebook!)


Hunter boots – the boots shown are my navy blue pair in glossy! I’ve had them for 2 years and they still look basically new. (Isn’t it funny how these have become a decor piece?)

Wreath -this is my DIY wreath for under $10 from Daiso! You can find the tutorial on my blog by clicking the link.

The white planks and bench are actually all made out of wood that I found on the side of the road. (My friends refer to me as the curb queen occasionally.) So many things that are thrown out on a weekly basis are super super useable, even if it isn’t for their original purpose. My favorite thing to do is to take your trash, refinish it, and post it in my own home. Ha.
I believe the white planks originally came from a small crib, the boards for the bench were from a handmade toy box that was falling apart, and the structure from the bench actually comes from two dresser drawers that were being given away for free. Even the screws came from the destructed toy box, so I have absolutely zero dollars invested in the bench that I crafted, minus an 80 cent bottle of stain from Daiso.

Hope you find some inspiration for your own closets! I am so much happier as I enter my home now, and I love the space that my entryway is after taking off those dang doors!


Life · Marriage

How Our Marriage Survived a False STD Diagnosis

Ha, does that title grab your attention enough? I hope so, because this isn’t really a post I can share a million photos in, if you know what I mean. I believe now that the truths I will share with you are SO important to know, though.

If you haven’t read our marriage story, you may not know how utterly surprising this blog’s title is, coming from our relationship.
If you have read the post, you know Drew and I committed early on in dating to wait until our wedding night to sleep together, and we kept that commitment. It is something I have been proud of for years, and something that I have absolutely adored about our relationship.
When that is your truth, and you KNOW that YOU have never been unfaithful- yet a doctor is calling you and telling you that you have undeniably caught chlamydia, which is contracted 99.9% of the time via direct sexual contact- what would your first thought be?

Yep, mine too.

So, how does a marriage survive that?

Let’s start from the beginning.

During pregnancy, most doctors request that mothers receive a routine pap smear sometime during the second trimester if they have not had one recently. I didn’t think twice about their tests, and honestly didn’t even know that they were testing for STDs too. I have never once in my life worried about their tests, because I have only had one partner my entire life, as has my husband. So around two weeks later when I saw my OBGYN’s number ringing on my phone, I wondered if I had simply forgotten to schedule my next appointment with them.

Instead, I was greeted by a solemn request for a confirmation of my last name and birth date, and was asked if it was Emily they were speaking with. I agreed, and thereafter heard the words that blew my mind.
“Ma’am, we have received a positive test result for chlamydia. Because you are pregnant, I will need you to come in immediately to begin treatment. Please come in today and do not wait, as this can be dangerous for your baby. Do you have any questions?”

Um, hell yes I have questions.

Now, I am not a rude person to strangers, like… ever. Everybody has a job to do, and some jobs are worse than others. I imagine delivering test results like these really can’t be fun, especially when test results of this sort can carry so much emotional weight with them. But during this call, I didn’t care at all how I sounded, I just needed answers. Immediately, I interrupted and very firmly told the doctor that they had picked up the wrong chart. I believe I even rudely told them to not make a careless mistake like that. My doctor kindly reconfirmed my credentials, checked the system to make sure no mistakes had been made, and confirmed that this was indeed my certified test result.

At this point, I felt rage immediately begin to bubble up.

If I haven’t slept with anybody but my husband, and I have an STD, where the HELL did I get this from?

To be honest, I have never been well-versed on sexually transmitted diseases. I remembered the mind-burning photos from health class, but I didn’t even know which STD chlamydia was. I mean, we started dating at age 15/16, never slept with anybody before we married in our 20’s, and have obviously never saw anybody else since we married. There was no reason to worry about any sexually transmitted diseases, because there was no chance that one could be contracted between the two of us.

At least, until one apparently was.

The next four hours of that day are a complete blur, to be honest. I have never been filled with so much rage, humiliation, and contempt.
I immediately questioned my doctor if there was any way to contract such an infection outside of sexual intercourse. She confirmed that there was not.
I questioned her on what that meant for where I got it from. I was told that if I did not cheat on my husband, my husband, statistically, had to have cheated on me.

In that moment, my world shattered, but I still wasn’t convinced.
I rudely demanded that I be retested. My doctor agreed kindly, but told me I must still seek out treatment, because results for a retest would take weeks to come back with us being overseas, and to actually have the infection could be dangerous for our Ellie.
She told me that I needed to tell my husband, and that he should be tested too.
The hospital that we see also requires that all STDs be reported to public health, mostly for the safety of the base, and that we be consulted by a public health counselor in regards to safe sex practices.

I hung up the phone, threw it into my closet with force, and immediately burst into tears. Drew thought that I had just received a call from home telling me that a family or friend in the states had passed away, because I was sobbing so hard he couldn’t imagine what else could make me cry like that. A million thoughts were swirling around my head at that point, because I knew one of two things was true:
Either my test results were incorrect, or my husband, who I had promised to wait for almost ten years ago, had been with somebody else.

Let me tell you one thing right now. You need to find yourself a Drew. My husband is the most patient human I have ever met, and he is the most understanding human I have ever met. He’s sarcastic and often isn’t directly empathetic, and he is very direct and to the point, but when it comes to issues like these- the big issues- he is a rock. And that is exactly what I needed for those next two weeks while we waited for more results to come in.

So, I hung up the phone sobbing, and stomped into the living room where he was sitting. Before I ever told Drew that information that I had just received, I decided to approach it from a skeptical wife’s standpoint. I walked up to him, barely able to speak through tears, and asked him if he had cheated on me. I’ll never forget his look of confusion, and I actually heard him laugh at the question. He told me he had not, and asked me what in the world was going on.

I ignored him, and rudely asked him again. “Listen, I am freaking pregnant. I am carrying our daughter! This is a big deal! Have you cheated on me?”
He replied confused again, “No, Em. I haven’t cheated on you. Now what is going on?”

So I told him absolutely everything that was told to me on the phone. Drew ONLY once, later on that day, as we were waiting to receive treatment, “well, you didn’t cheat either right?” When I told him I had absolutely not, he never asked me again. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband, who is an incredibly trusting, level-headed, and calm individual. But during that first 6 hours after this diagnosis, I shot every question and accusation I could conjure from any depth of doubt I had stored over the last 10 years.
And in response, I cannot remember a time in our almost 10 years of dating and marriage that I can remember Drew being more patient with me, but man, am I thankful for his response to the chaos. He held me in our living room while Henry stared at me, utterly confused as to why his mom was wailing. Drew even kept laughing at my anger over the weeks, because he knew the entire ordeal was a huge mistake. I of course, tried to feel this way, but was only overwhelmed with dread when it came to the entire subject.

By the time I had collected my thoughts after the call, I decided to march straight into the medical center and demand retesting. I walked to the lab before checking in anywhere else, and demanded that I be retested BEFORE ever accepting treatment, because I wanted to know if my test results were correct. If they weren’t, I wanted the ability to wipe the whole ordeal from my record. It was suggested that Drew receive treatment as well. He was not even referred for testing before being offered treatment on the precedent that he would undeniably have the infection too, obviously because he is my husband. But he demanded a test from the doctor as well before ever agreeing to take treatment.

We were both counseled by public health on how to not contract STDs, (ironic, in hindsight, right?) were told that a false positive was extremely unlikely, and were made to ingest our treatment in front of our doctors so that they could record that treatment was taken.

I remember sitting in front of a nurse, who looked upon me with pity as I sat crying with my toddler son on my lap, drinking the antibiotic that was to “cure my chlamydia.” She was as kind as she could be, and I can’t blame her for looking at me the way that she did. After all, if my husband had cheated, and I had contracted the STD in this way, it would be an INCREDIBLY emotional moment for a pregnant woman to endure as she sat in an office accepting treatment.
She asked me if there was anything she could do for me, and I tearily replied “no, thanks.”

I remember sitting in every office that day, embarrassed beyond belief, and absolutely filled with rage as doctor after doctor told me that it was incredibly unlikely that I had been misdiagnosed. I was told by doctor after doctor and article after article that there was no chance that chlamydia could be contracted in any way other than sexual intercourse, and that if I truly had not cheated, there was only one explanation for how I had received the diagnosis: and it was not the explanation I was wearily reaching for.
And as infuriating as that is in hindsight, I suppose this is a normalcy today. These are the things that these doctors see on a daily basis, and honestly, to have a married couple come in for an STD diagnosis and treatment, stating that they had both absolutely not slept with anybody else in their entire life and marriage would be a situation what was… well… somewhat laughable.

Nevertheless, I held out hope that my retest would provide me peace and clarity in the situation, while reading every medical journal in the world that undeniably told me that it would not.
We were both sent home after receiving treatment. They told us that the certified retest results for both of us would be back in around 14 days. Unfortunately, being stationed overseas, many tests have to be sent stateside for reading, meaning many tests take a LONG time to return.

This meant that the next two weeks of my life were absolute hell, to be honest.

I’ll never forget the countdown. I had determined exactly how long my first results took to return, so I was pretty positive of the day that I would receive the call with my new retest results. My heart raced the entire day, and I’m guessing my blood pressure was pretty sky-high. Drew, on the other hand, put everything behind him the same day that we accepted treatment. He took my harassment for the following two weeks, he took my random outbursts of anger and tears at the situation, and he took my accusations- even if I said them passive-aggressive-jokingly.

And when I received the call that my retest came back clearly negative for chlamydia, he simply said “Well yeah it did.” And when his retest came back clearly negative he simply said, “Well yeah it did.”

So, yes friends. I never had an STD. Drew never had an STD.
To this day I have no idea if my results got mixed up with someone else’s on paper, or if my specimen got swapped with someone who truly did have chlamydia, or if it was simply a skewed test (which can actually happen, albeit somewhat rarely, during pregnancy.)

All I know, is I was told I had an STD, when I have never had an STD.

Do you see the depth of that statement?

Had I decided not to demand a retest; had I taken the advice of every single doctor that day; had I chose not to believe my husband over a diagnosis… said diagnosis could have ended our marriage. I could have accepted the words coming out of the mouths of those with letters behind their names, because they are those that we trust to tell us the truth about our bodies. I could have walked away from my marriage months before birthing our sweet Ellie, believing that I had been wronged by a man who has stood by my side through so much. Don’t get me wrong, I trust in the knowledge and expertise of doctors. I trust that the doctors that oversaw my care were doing all that they could to correctly diagnose and treat me. I trust that the doctors I saw (and still see) are good people, with no intentions to ever hurt us. But unfortunately, doctors are not always correct, and that is one of the hardest parts of living in a fallen world.

All of this mess went down almost a year ago to the date. I have told very few people outside of my close friend group and my immediate family. Honestly, for months now, I have still been morbidly embarrassed by the entire fiasco. I am not proud to admit that I have called medical records and chewed out the attendants when they wouldn’t wipe the entire thing from my record. I have checked my online results time and time again to make sure they they were properly documented with the correct notations of the positive being a “false positive.” I have told every doctor who views my lab results during current appointments that they were INCORRECT, because I have been so mortified by the entire emotional memory. But I am sharing today, because in hindsight, a few truths were SO important during those moments. And I believe it is undeniably important for you to know these truths, too.

1. You are entitled to a second opinion, and you are entitled to retesting.

In anything. In everything. Whether a doctor tells you you have cancer, or that your husband has cheated and you have contracted an STD from it. If something doesn’t add up, you are forever within your right to say “Bye, Felicia.” Ask for a retest. Seek out a new doctor. Go to a completely different medical facility. Do whatever you can to feel that your results are correct, while communicating your concerns with your healthcare team. Because as my mom has told me for years, all doctors are PRACTICING medicine. No doctor is 100% perfect 100% of the time, and no lab is perfect in the slightest. This is just a simple truth of life, and it is nobody’s fault.

2. Test results are often mixed up, labeled incorrectly, lost, or otherwise falsely positive/negative.

Seriously, do the research on it. Not just from WebMD. Read medical journals. Read statistics. Read information from the CDC.
Anyone and everyone you speak to in person will tell you, “Oh, that crap doesn’t happen. Test results are test results. Yep. You have an STD from your scumbag husband.” But statistically, this happens WAY more often than you would expect.

And in addition, watch your lab tests be labeled. Confirm your name, date of birth, and label on everything you provide to a medical facility. If you do your due diligence in making sure your results are labeled as your results, you cut out at least one possibility of getting a false result.

3. A diagnosis should not immediately come before the trust you have built for years with your spouse, especially not before talking things through with them.

In hindsight, I am still ashamed of how much more trust Drew had in me than I had in him. Thankfully, we have built a marriage based on open communication, full trust, and thankfully, he is one of the best men I have ever met, and loved me so well through it all. Go into all aspects of your marriage with this mindset. If you married your best friend, your partner in life, and your biggest cheerleader, remember that during the chaos.

4. It should always be okay to tell your spouse how you feel.

This is something that was fundamentally important to us making it through those weeks. I could sit down, look at Drew, and say, “Babe, I believe in my head that you did not cheat on me, but my heart is absolutely bursting with sorrow that you did.” And he understood that that was a valid way to feel during the fiasco, and he loved me through it.

5. Good people exist & good marriages exist.

The hardest part by far in this entire process, was the fact that I could tell nobody. For those weeks, I cried at home or only to my closest friends. I reached out only to those who personally KNEW my marriage. Because I knew if I reached out to anybody else for advice or encouragement, the immediate response would be one of anger and pity for my side of things, and I would undeniably hear “Wow, Emily, I am so sorry… but your husband cheated while you are pregnant, and you should leave him.”

The world will tell you that there is nothing true left, that commitments do not matter anymore, and that these situations happen daily. While they are not necessarily wrong, and this stuff does happen daily…  they are wrong. Good marriages exist. People who value commitment over everything else exist. Faithful marriages exist. And above all else, in a world where this is very often not always true, marriages can be rebuilt. I still have a statement that I cling to years ago, that I believe is SO crucial to know in today’s world.

No, not “everything happens for a reason.” Rather,

Anything can be redeemed.

I will tell you this: That two weeks of chaos… SUCKED. There has not been a time in our marriage that I felt lower, that I felt more depressed, or that I was more sure that terrifying times were ahead. It was emotional and exhausting and I cried my tear ducts dry so many times over those weeks. But if it taught me anything, it taught me that good men exist. It taught me that my husband is so incredibly kind. It taught me that marriages can make it through anything. And ultimately it taught me that the commitment that we made, means something to each of us.

And let me tell you something in hindsight. If you are unmarried, find yourself a spouse who will stand with you through those moments, even if they are crying right beside you. Find somebody who will accept your anger, your tears, and your understandable doubts, and realize that this is the exact things that God does for us.

Find yourself a spouse who values the commitment they made to you over the words a doctor is spewing at them as they accept treatment for what you were supposedly diagnosed with. Find yourself a person who knows what real commitment means.

Because when you are sitting at home for two weeks, staring at a phone, willing with your whole heart for it to ring in order for there to be a “I’ve made a terrible mistake with your results” call… a feeling of infatuation, of romantic love, or of chemical attraction is absolutely NOT what you are clinging to.

But, do believe in your spouse. Honor your commitment. Through better or through worse, give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them forgiveness. Give them the grace that Drew has given me daily since I walked down the aisle to him. Because if there is ever a time that you practice “for better or for worse,” it is during the moments that you are sitting on a cold, paper covered bench, drinking a bitter and pasty mixture to “cure your chlamydia,” as your husband sits 4-5 rooms down, doing the exact same. You will come out of those moments with an appreciation for the person you married, and with the realization that a Christ-honoring commitment will be hard, it will be messy, and it will be so beautiful, and so worth the chaos.



6 Months- Ellie

Weight: …..I forgot to update her 5 month weight… But, uh… I promise I will update this one. Can I just put “thunder thighs” here? (Don’t hate me when you’re older and read this, Ellie. They’re super cute.)
Eye Color: Blue, and I am officially confident they will stay this way. Hooray! We have a brown eyed babe and a blue eyed babe! How cool is that?!
Hair: Very very little hair, but very blonde! Her cradle cap has disappeared (I might have brushed it out…) and her new hair is starting to grow in now!
Size: 9-12 months. She wears size 5 diapers, because her thighs and legs are bigger than her 2.5 year old brother’s…
Baby girl has had an eventful month, to say the least. Following in the footsteps of her brother, who took his first steps at 7 months, she has begun to pull up to standing on our couches.

Girlfriend has shown very little interest in her thumb over the past month, and doesn’t take a paci SUPER often. She still loves her Cutie-Pats, but does not need a paci or her thumb to fall asleep anymore.

Ellie moved to her own room this month, and while she wakes up SLIGHTLY more in her own room, she still only wakes 1-2 times/night. After nursing, she always returns right back to sleep.

Little lady is adventurous, to say the least. Naps are becoming harder and harder to have, because the little squirt is just too interested in everything else. When she wakes up, she is immediately wide awake, immediately happy, and immediately ready to play.

Girlfriend had her first solids this month. We plan to do a mix of purees and baby-led weaning, but you can see her first purees experience here!

Ellie loves her big brother and mama, and she has found a love for my bible study friends, as well as Judah; Erika’s son. Judah won’t leave the house without crying for Ellie to come with him. There might be an arranged marriage in the future, though I believe Judah may already be promised to about 4 other little ladies on base. Haha.

Ellie loves her Rock-A-Roo, which we got for free from a friend on base. (Shout out to you, Vanessa- it has been a lifesaver the past month!)

Henry likes to bring Ellie toys and her paci, and is very good with noticing when she is crying. He still will not DARE let her touch his blanket, and he likes to block her attempts at following him by jumping directly in front of her with a sumo-power-stance while yelling “GOTCHA.” Most of the time he likes to do this in his underwear or when he is not wearing pants. (insert laughing-until-you-cry emoji here.)

Ellie yells “MAMA MAMA MAMA” constantly. I’m still her favorite person in existence.

Girlfriend’s thighs and calves are larger than her 2 year old brother’s, and she wears the same size diaper that he would.

Ellie girl thinks it’s hilarious when Henry is upset and cries. She belly laughs at him.

She is still a stomach dweller, and will still ONLY sleep on her stomach. If she is laid on her back, she will wake up immediately. We are big on safe sleep, but have started putting her to bed on her stomach, as she has very clearly proven that she has the muscles needed to flip if she has to.

Ellie crawls with ease, sits up on her own without hesitation, raises up to her tippy toes, and stands frequently. I am predicting first steps by 7 months.

This little babe’s tooth came COMPLETELY through on the day she turned 6 months old. She now has one (very sharp) tooth. Henry got both of his bottom teeth at once, but it looks like only one is coming in for now for the little lady.

The Japanese still adore her, and ALWAYS open their eyes super wide at her since her eyes are so huge.

And your Henryisms of the month:

As mentioned, Henry likes to “GOTCHA” his sister, and will jump into a power stance in front of her to try and block her. He most often does this after using the potty, meaning he is most often naked.

Henry loves to watch my ER/Fire shows, and yells “OH NO, NEED AM-BOO-WANCE!” when he sees someone in need of help.

He thinks everything that is foggy/smokey means a fire. Every time I run the dryer and he sees the steam outside, he screams at me about there being a fire outside.

He reminds me that Ellie is in the car still if I ever take him out first by shouting, “OH NO! Sissy! Car! Sissy! Car!”

The kid still has a love for chicken fries, and cries if we pass Burger King without stopping. (Which is unfortunate, considering they are closed for renovations for several weeks.)

The two of them are driving me nuts in one way or another on a daily basis, but MAN are they fun. Ellie is developing such a funny personality, and I know I say it every month, but I 100% can’t believe she is already halfway to one.

We love you, sweet Ellie Alice! You are such a pain in the butt to my ability to leave the house without you, but such a ray of sunshine in my every single day.