life as we know it

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I told Nick last night I was going to write about my love affair with Ethiopia tonight. He was disappointed; he wrote about his love affair with me, and I'm writing about my love affair with Ethiopia. Sorry, babe :)

Africa seems like a cool continent to everyone, right? Exotic animals, rich history, beautiful lands. I think everyone wants to visit Africa, but I sure wasn't thinking I would have the opportunity at this point in my life. Besides, I was going for the safari, right?!

I was a graduate student at Duke University and was in class what seemed like all the time (because I was). I had heard a woman was coming to speak about developing your own non-profit organization, something I thought was pretty interesting. I had to duck out of class early to make it to the discussion, but I'm sure I got permission first :)

It turns out, Janet Fink was the speaker for the evening. She had graduated from Duke University with her Bachelor degree and it turned out, her non-profit was Superkids, an organization that sends therapists (physical, occupational, speech, play) and other volunteers to orphanages around the world. I introduced myself afterwards because I really felt like the vision of Superkids perfectly aligned with my values and how I saw (or at least how I always hoped) my life unfolding.

We kept in touch and we figured out that me traveling for a few months after I graduated from Duke was a great option; I already had a job lined up that I could start once I returned and it's pretty easy to understand that once you're a "working girl," you don't get time off like that very easily. I was in. I assumed I was traveling to China because that was the only country Superkids had sent volunteers in the past. Janet had some other ideas, though, when she told me she really thought they could use my help in Ethiopia setting up some new programs. It only took a few months to convince my husband that it was a good idea for me to go (coming from a military background knowing the countries that surround Ethiopia made him just a bit nervous).

Eight days after I graduated with my doctorate, I took off from Raleigh, North Carolina with stops in Boston, London, Amman, Jordan and then on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Seriously, who booked those plane tickets with that many layovers? This gurrrrl.

We arrived in Ethiopia in the middle of the night so we didn't have the opportunity to take much in. My first trip was two months and I lived in an Ethiopian home on a compound with another house, where an Ethiopian family lived.

Those first two months in Ethiopia were, well, life-changing. My second trip, more life-changing going on. When you have a chance to be in the darkest of the dark places, including overpopulated orphanages where diapers are rationed and there isn't enough food to go around, the garbage dump where people are dying from the diseases they contract from eating rotten garbage and where families have considered taking their child and dropping them off in the countryside because they can't afford to support them, you can't help but be changed.

A lot of people ask me what do we do in Ethiopia. Well, whatever needs to be done. I'm a physical therapist by trade but a Christ follower which means I do my best meet people's needs by serving in any way. A few of our projects...

we've built custom adaptive chairs to assist with children's positioning and during feeding

we've done caregiver education programs surrounding child development, medical issues, hygiene, feeding, daily schedules, the importance of play, infant massage and other various topics

of course physical therapy intervention

taken kids to doctors appointments, CT scans, for brace fittings, to the hospital

assist with some of the orphanage organization

create safe play spaces for kids to provide stimulation and encourage development

create weighted blankets for children (shout out to keely o'dell!)

create binders outlining proper positioning and interventions for specific children

taken, set up and trained caregivers with specific equipment

we've had our eyes opened

We've assisted with shoe distributions, helped with wound care at the Mother Teresa Home for the Dying and Destitute, created daily schedules to encourage child development. We will do anything we find that needs to be done. What will we do on our next trip? Well, we'll be going to court. And the trip after? U.S. Embassy. Our next few trips will be adoption related, but you know that doesn't mean they'll be able to keep us away from Kebeb Tsehay and Kechene (two of the government orphanages where we spend a lot of time) or from Hands for the Needy, the organization our dear Ethiopian friends created in order to serve the people of Korah, right? Ethiopia is literally a part of me. Pieces of my heart are in that country and always will be. I'm just lucky God sent me somewhere so beautiful with the most generous and friendly people I've ever met. <3 Ethiopia.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giveaway galore!

We can't get over how awesome you guys are. SERIOUSLY. Humbled, in awe, emotionally challenged. There just aren't words right now to describe how we're feeling. Hopefully after this week we'll be able to share just how much you all have touched our lives.

Until I can get my brain that organized, there is an AWESOME giveaway posted over at Give1Save1 today. In the giving spirit, Amy Kendall is offering up copies for FIVE winners of the Amharic version of her book/CD combination Simple Language for Adoptive Families. Check out how WE feel about this, then go over to to enter the rockin' giveaway. GOOD LUCK!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Love at Second Lap

Nick's point of view about how we met, fell in love and got married is better than my version. Enjoy!

So here's how it happened: Kelly and I were in the same undergrad program for about a year so we shared all the same classes. The problem was Kelly never put out that, "I'm single, flirt with me" vibe so I just made the logical assumption that she was dating someone. Towards the end of that year, I knew my National Guard unit was going to be heading to Germany for about two years so I really wasn't expecting any new relationships to start up.

Well you know what they say about love finding you when you finally stop looking for it, it finds you. During one of our classes we had to do a fitness test that consisted of walking as fast as we could (without running) for one mile on the indoor track at the University of Cincinnati. The mile was 9 laps I think and Kelly and I somehow ended up starting the test next to each other. While I was taking this test very seriously and walking as fast as possible, Kelly just wouldn't let me walk faster than her. Then I wouldn't let her walk faster than me and back and forth until we just looked at each other and started laughing.

Even though our nephew Chris doesn't get it we laugh A LOT!
It was our first conversation and on the second lap I broke out with, "OK. Here's what's going to happen... I'm going to Germany for a couple years so while I'm gone you'll finish undergrad and start PT school." Kelly was following me so far. "Then I'll be done with the military and we'll get married (remember, this is our first conversation) and once you're done with school we'll move out to Colorado." The craziest thing happened just then, Kelly didn't run! There's nothing better than being yourself, which for me is just a goof ball, and being completely accepted.

Ah to be accepted as I are :)
So instead of something like, "Ummmm too fast creeper." Kelly cracked me up when she totally went with it and said, "That's fine, but just so you know, I'll need a ring from Tiffany." And so our conversation went on like that as we each refused to let the other walk fastest. We laughed at how much our shins burned and how we lapped every other student in our class, but when we stopped we realized that we had walked two more laps than we needed to! You know you found a good one when you just get lost in conversation. Kelly and I got to continue that conversation as we walked back to where she lived, which just happened to be where I was ticked off I had to park that morning. 

I was sure nobody would want to start a relationship with someone who was sure to be gone for the next two years so I just felt free to act like myself. Some of the things that stand out as what not to do include putting your phone number in a girl's phone as "Husband Nick", bending a fork into the shape of a ring and putting it on her finger during her birthday party, and continuing all of the jokes into the rest of our classes to the point that most of our classmates wanted to puke. When we got to that point in a friendship where it's either the friend zone or the, "do you wanna wear my varsity jacket," I told Kelly I completely understand that she probably wouldn't want to start a trans-Atlantic relationship with me. Nothing was more surprising than when she simply said, "Why don't you let ME make that decision?"

Ten months later, we got engaged on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and two years after we had our first kiss at Ault Park in Cincinnati, we had our wedding reception in the same place. It's been great to see what came out of that second lap. God has been amazing to us. Kelly got her ring, I got to move to Colorado and even though we didn't mention Ethiopia while we were walking it's been one of the best things to happen to us. 

At the base of the Eiffel Tower after she said yes!
We are so thankful for everyone who has been reading this and supporting us with prayer and even donations. Our week as the featured family on Give1 Save1 has gotten off to an unbelievable start thanks to you and your willingness to share our story with your friends. Words can't describe how blessed we feel to have you as our friends and family. Thank you thank you thank you!

See our video at Give1 Save1!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spread the Word!

Today is finally the day! We are SO excited that we have this opportunity to be the featured family on Give1Save1 this week. Give1Save1 is a website created by fellow adoptive momma Beth Cupitt who thought up this crazy awesome idea. If 30,000 all gave $1, her adoption could be fully funded. How fantastic is that idea? Beth has so graciously allowed us to be apart of her new vision.

What can you do? You can help us bring our daughter home. By donating $1 (or more) at Give1Save1, you are helping us fulfill God's calling for this time in our lives. Our daughter is living in an orphanage in Ethiopia which is most times more than my heart can bear to handle. We are SO grateful to all of you, those in a position to donate, and those of you that just aren't. We would also appreciate a few more things...

1. Prayer for our adoption; that God will cover our family, including our daughter, with protection during this really difficult journey.
2. Spread the word! We believe the more people that have an opportunity to hear our story, the closer we will be to bringing our girl home.

We'll be spending this week introducing ourselves more...our love story, our quirky tendencies and other things you never knew about us. THANK you for taking time to check us out and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!
Head on over to Give 1 Save 1

Tree chopping and drumroll please!

Nick and I have an annual tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. We used to go to a tree lot and pick a nice, full tree...until the price tag for that tree was just as full, spawning a new tradition that began last year. Living in the amazing state we do, we buy a $12 permit and then start our hike into the forest until the skies open and angels sing down on the perfect tree. Okay, it's not quite that simple. In fact, we come up with many 'maybe' trees, that once we walk away from, we can't locate again to give it a second look. I've learned most likely, once you start to walk away, that tree is a distant memory. We got a later start than normal and although we spent about 3 hours last year tracking the perfect tree, we only had about an hour and a half until the sun would be setting (which is early around here these days) and a light snow storm was rolling in. A few maybes and 45 minutes into our searching, we found THE ONE. Although last year, our first year transitioning from tree lot people to cut your own from the forest people, I felt a little like we had settled for a Charlie Brown tree, this year it has grown on me a lot more.

The forest where we cut down our tree

Taking a break from searching
Tree hugging Nick, claiming our tree!

My husband is strong. And handy.

All packed up and ready to head home!

Once we finish decorating the tree, we'll show you some pictures to enjoy! AND...Nick and I have something REALLY cool going on starting tomorrow. Stay tuned for details that we'll share tomorrow (Sunday) evening! You can even start the drum roll now! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's my favorite!

In church last week, our pastor shared the diary of a dog versus the diary of a cat. It went like this... {via}

The Dog's Diary 

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Playing with a ball at the dog park. Duke's favorite thing!

Jumping into the lake. Duke's favorite thing!

Running through the snow. Duke's favorite thing!

At the drive-in movie with dad. Duke's favorite thing!

The Cat's Diary

Day 983 of My Captivity
    My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.
    The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am.
What a difference in perspective. I often think of my perspective surrounding responsibilities I have and how my sometimes poor attitude affects how I go about these responsibilities. For instance, what if my day looked something like this...
6:00 a.m. - Wake up; enjoy a warm shower and breakfast and be thankful for all I have been blessed with. My favorite thing!
7:30 a.m. - Go to work with the opportunity to help provide for my family while improving the quality of life for my patients at the same time. My favorite thing!
6:30 p.m. - Home from work, opportunity to clean up the house a bit and make dinner, grateful to have a nice home to clean and food to cook. My favorite thing!
7:30 p.m. - Spend quality time with the husband and pup, laughing and having fun with my family. My favorite thing!
I could look at my daily life, each task and responsibility, as a chance to be present and engaged and truly enjoy it as my favorite thing, as opposed to having the cat's perspective (I'm allergic to cats, anyway). Yes, some of these things are easier to be on my favorite thing list. i.e. Waiting for my daughter while she is in Ethiopia and I'm here in the favorite thing...? I could definitely work harder, however, at trying to make the most of it. Make it a favorite thing? Spend more energy on my family and myself, knowing that once she arrives, we'll be hunkering down working hard at our transition. 

For now? 9:30 p.m. - get back to putting lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree we cut down today. My favorite thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Fun

When you're hanging out in your comfy chair with the day off from work, and you look out the window to see your neighbor with their kids having all kinds of Thanksgiving Day good times you realize how much fun it is to live across the street from a playground. In the name of research and safety for our soon-to-be adopted daughter I (Nick) decided to join my neighbors.
Weird...I remember this being bigger...20 years ago
First I thought I should test the weight limit of the swing set. This one was good to go while I was just sitting there so why not try and put a little motion into it? I can honestly say there was some surprise at how much height you can get in just a couple swings. Surprise and of course that little twinge of, "should I be doing this?" Luckily my buddy Brian was there to take my mind of such a silly question by letting me know that he and his brother had just finished seeing how far they could launch themselves. He drew a line in the mulch that seemed far, but reachable. That is, until I tried my first launch.
I think I was in the air for 10 seconds before this picture was taken :)
My mistake was in thinking I needed to get really high in order to go farther. All that did was give me time to regret my decision before I hit the ground well short of the goal. Tries #2, 3, 4 and so on were equally hilarious for everyone involved. Let's just say I felt like a big kid again and the marked goal in the mulch was NEVER in danger. Maybe I need to work on my technique a little bit, or maybe we should just change the game to who can jump the highest off the swing set! Hey, I'm off work tomorrow too! Rematch!
Perfect form!
Is there an age limit for this toy?
It is truly great to be around friends and family on Thanksgiving. Kelly and I spent most of the day cooking and having fun in the kitchen. We caught up with family on the phone and wish we could be in more than one place at once, but we know they are having a great time with each other back in Ohio. Kelly and I are so thankful for each other and for our family. We are also thankful for so many of you who are taking time to read this blog and who are making such a great effort to keep up with us and our story. We are looking forward to some great fundraising opportunities so stay tuned! Until then...does anybody know how to go REALLY far when jumping off a swing set??
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Nick and I sat next to a miracle at church today. I believe we are all miracles in one way or another, attempting to come up out of sin and live lives that glorify God. But really, we sat next to a hero. This gentleman had been a patient Nick worked with. He had been in the hospital for a long time and was finally released yesterday. In one conversation Nick and he had, they learned we attend the same church. Nick asked him if he would be in church today. His response was, "well, I thought I should take a week off, I'm just getting out on Saturday." Nick said, "Yeah? So will I see you in church Sunday?" He and his wife saved us seats in the second row this morning and it was amazing to see him pull himself to his feet during one of the songs. Nick said, "Now you're just showing off!" The sermon today was based on the scripture from Ecclesiastes 9.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." Ecclesiastes 9:10

After the service, Nick leaned over to his former patient and said, "this reminded me of you. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." He had been fighting for his life. Then fighting for his mobility. Fighting to return to his life at home so he can be an inspiration to others. We have to fight with all our might. The battles of this world require all of our commitment to follow the path God has set for us, no matter how difficult, discouraging or exhausting it may be.

I find myself tired frequently. Tired of working so much. Tired of waiting. Tired of the overwhelming thoughts of the needy of this world and how I could ever make an impact. It's days like these, people like this and sermons with these words of encouragement that remind me it is all worth it. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I was fortunate to receive my graduate education at Duke University, a college known for providing a opportunities for students to succeed and excel in their passion. Well, many students at Duke have a PASSION for Duke basketball. I was one of those students, and I am still one of those alumni. Nick and I are really excited for Coach K to have won his 903rd game, claiming the title as Division I college basketball's winningest (who thinks that's a word?) coach of all time. Having heard Coach K speak, read his books and seen how he fosters leadership, discipline and responsibility in his players, we believe he deserves every moment of this. We were so fortunate to have had seasons tickets (or parts of season tickets) all three years I was at Duke. Did I mention we were BIG fans??

Floor standing for Duke vs. UNC
Dicky V!
Call that dedication. I'm under the blue blanket, camping out to enter the lottery for season tickets
Put Potter In! Put Potter In!
Legend at Duke...crazy towel guy!
Looooooove Duke basketball

Congrats, Coach K! I'm proud to be a Blue Devil!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I had another Sabbath yesterday. It was ironically also Veterans Day, and I happen to be very proud of the vets in my life, including my grandpa, father and husband. Nick was in the Army for ten years, serving in the Infantry, where he learned that Fort Drum is the coldest place on earth (seriously, they sent soldiers from Alaska there for cold weather training. Nick's first day was -50 degrees, as in, temperature, as in, pre-wind chill) and as Military Police, where he learned that the police are not appreciated for the job that they do. Here's a couple pictures to honor my hubby.

Nick and my dad at his welcome home ceremony in 2007

meeting in Frankfurt for Christmas in 2006

I had this made for Nick to display all of his Army stuff
We celebrated by hitting the slopes! We were blessed with the gifts of season passes to Loveland Ski Area this year, so we intend to make the most of it. We had a BLAST. Our boards were great and although I'm paying the price for working on breaking in my boarding boots, it was nice to be out and together all day. We took a few good spills practicing our skills, which include 360s and quick pivot turns as of yesterday. You may know that my LEAST favorite part of snowboarding is getting off the lift (should I be embarrassed to admit this?). Seriously, skiers have it so easy. Stand up, start to ski straight down the hill. As a boarder, we have to make it off the lift bench with only one foot strapped in the bindings, proceed to sit in the snow, strap ourselves back in and then attempt to gracefully stand back up while your feet are firmly attached to a solid board. So perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic, but seriously, least.favorite. Nick and I are lucky to live in a place where we can hop in the car and take a reasonable drive to the slopes for a day. We didn't get any pictures yesterday (we forgot!), but I think we looked pretty similar to this:

Nick and I felt pretty sorry for the schmucks that looked like this (which certainly wasn't us):


And that would definitely not be a reason my body feels b.u.s.t.e.d. today. Nope, for sure not.

We're looking forward to a fun season and I'm looking forward to having the mountains this winter to encourage my time to take a step back, breathe, relax and enjoy time with my husband. Thanks for following us in this journey (and for believing that I looked like that boarding. You do believe it, right?).