Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Say My Name, Say My Name

Names are important... As a physician in a children's hospital, I see many obscure and even ridiculous names.  It makes me wonder where these names come from.  I enjoyed as a child knowing I was named after a famous actress, but even more than my middle name was from both my Orthodox Jewish maternal great aunt as well as my paternal grandmother and paternal aunt.  I loved knowing it was in honor of someone, regardless of whether I found the name to be "pretty."

As a girl, I always played with the idea of naming my future children....I even forced JT into talking about it early in our marriage when the idea of children were a distant plan.

However, when we received the referral for Tedi, we tried changing his name in our heads.  We lobbed up many names that just did not seem to fit him.   Finally, JT looked up the meaning of the name Tedros, since so many Ethiopian names are intentional and have meaning.  The meaning.... "Gift of God."  At that time, after struggling with infertility, that name seemed perfect.  How could we change the name of the first gift God gave us?  (it was truly funny when we learned he was actually named after an Ethiopian pop star by the same name)

Chernet, however, has a name with an unknown meaning.  We thought about changing his was more uncommon, less easily assimilated in to American culture.  However, Tedi looked at us and said "why would you change the name his Ethiopian mommy gave him"..... it was settled.  After that little jab, I looked back into our paperwork and realized that one of Tedi's older bio siblings also had the name Chernet.  Not coincidence.

Now, finding out I was pregnant, I was actually going to have to name a child. We could not reconcile a girl's name.  However for a boy, JT had always loved the story of Joseph in the Bible....actually both Josephs.. the young boy turned King who followed God's plan and Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus. I liked the name a lot but still tried out others....yet we came back to it.  Then, JT, again, looked up the meaning of the name.... "God will add"  Honestly it was humbling....God had chosen to add to our family in His timing and with his plan.

I wanted this boy to also have a family name.  I wanted it to be a part of me as we decided on my maiden name.  Our son has a name:

Joseph Stewart Henderson

I am not saying that all names have to be so intentional.  I mean, there are names I just like regardless of meaning or such.  But I am happy with our boy's name.  More irony.... the day we found out we were having a boy was also St. Joseph's day in the Catholic Church.  We are not Catholic but one of my very best friends is and she shared this with me..... again, not a coincidence.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


If you are like a few members of our family, when you saw this picture, you believed either we were adopting....adopting two kids....or adding on to our home.  BUT...our family is g r o w i n g.  This time, however, in a different way than our history suggests.  I am having a baby.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  I can not believe, that after all this time, I actually typed those words.  After years of negatives followed by unfathomable heartache, the double line on the stick (and the three subsequent tests to confirm we were not crazy) that November morning was a joyous feeling that I can not explain.

When JT and I sit back and ponder the way that God put together our family, we cannot help but smile.  Stepping into adoption changed us in ways we still cannot describe.  If you know us, you know how we have been changed.  We are better spouses, citizens, employees, family members and friends because of our two Ethiopian-born boys.  You cannot help but be a better person when you are around Tedi.  He is the most loving, compassionate, rule-following child on earth.  Chernet, and his story that was racked with fear, death, abandonment and anger, teaches all of us how to truly love. 

There are many things that a family can be nervous about surrounding a pregnancy.  Sadly, one of the things I am most nervous about hearing is "Oh congratulations! I just knew that after you adopted you would get pregnant!"  While not a mal-intended statement, it is one that stings nonetheless, as if to say our boys were only a means to get to a pregnancy.  I pray that our boys never feel like this was the case.  It could not be more different than our reality. 

***Friendly Tip: please do not say that to any of your friends who have a story similar to ours.

I can not put into words my amazement at being watching this little person flip around inside of me.  Sometimes I catch myself in a moment of peace or going about my busy workday when I pause and realize that something is growing inside me.  When we were matched with the boys (while they still lived in Ethiopia), I would sit wondering about their days, their meals, their moods, their longing for a loving, stable family... different situations but oh so similar emotions.

I can not tell you how excited our boys are to have another sibling! Chernet gets to be a big bro for the first time and Tedi can not wait to hold a baby.  We have a feeling that we will have two eager helpers come August.

The big question- will this be another boy or a little girl?  Any guesses? 

Check out these other pictures that we used to surprise our families with the announcement (and I do mean surprised because they were all shocked!).  Our friend Taryn took the pictures and our talented buddy Chris (you remember him from developing Chernet's "Welcome Home video") added the design elements. 

My father loved this one- always looking for a deduction

He had no clue what was written on this board when we took the photo

Tedi: "When are we going to eat this bread instead of look at it?"

JT's brother and sister-in-law loved this one

A baby Cardinal coming in August

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One Step Closer

Natalie and I have both been sad a lot during the past few weeks.  Not in a six year-old mopey, I didn't get my way sad (where have I seen that behavior).  I am referencing the sad when you feel the heaviness of this world.  We both have friends who are battling with some really big stuff right now- health stuff, family stuff, identity stuff.  Some of it is life and death (which Natalie also deals with everyday at work- how does she do this?).  Some of our friends are at those points in life when you can see a fork in the road and you hope and pray they make the correct choice.  Walking through those things are tough.  It's heavy.  It's real.  But I'm honored that we can walk with our friends through big stuff.   

I find myself drawn to the Christina Perri song, "A Thousand Years."  I know it is a sappy love song but when you delve into the lyrics, I believe a lot of wisdom can be garnered for each of us.  When we go through tough times, I imagine this is a song God would like to hear us sing about Him- our Dad. 

 "One step closer

 I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me

Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

 One step closer"

The advice I would give to our friends who are struggling, and to those of you who may be hurting and walking through really tough things is to hold on.  As the song tells us, you are "one step closer."


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Drink Poop

Would you drink poop?  Moreover, would you let your children drink poop? I think it is fair to say that it may seem like an obvious answer of a resounding NO!

Let me tell you a story....  Our friends Jeff and Holly went to Ethiopia to put in a clean water system in the dump of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, called Korah.  As they were installing the system, the local pastor insisted the water supply his community was one that was clean.  He said that why would he ever give his daughter and wife unclean water.  Our friends took a sample of the water, placed the testing chemicals in it....then they waited.

Usually it takes a number if hours for the water to reveal toxins, contaminants and the like.  However, my friend said within two minutes flecks began appearing.  Flecks are poop...feces...crap....stool....excrement.... The pastor sat there, weeping.  My friends said he wept tears of anger...anger at himself for allowing his daughter and wife to drink this water.... tears of sadness that this was the water ONLY available to his family, his community and his church.

They installed the clean water system.... cold, fresh, clean water.  It was so clean and tasted so different from what the church was used to....they feared the water initially.  Then, in joy, they let the water run over their faces and hands in celebration.


So what?  Why do you care? Why do we care?

Well from July 31 through August 8, JT has the opportunity to install three water systems in Ethiopia for Eyes That See the organization that helped start Tedi's orphanage (check them out here).  He and a few other guys will be giving an orphanage, a school and a community center CLEAN WATER.  These children can have water to drink that is safe without risking parasites, fungal infections and basically protect them from drinking POO...

How can you help?   In order to provide three systems to these centers, the cost is $6000.  Several other families who have children from Ethiopia feel equally as vested as we do in this.... They are working to raise money to help provide the systems.  Now, we want to do our part.

July 3, 2010 and July 22, 2012 are the dates our boys became our sons, our family.  These are the days we gave them CLEAN WATER, something you and I often take for granted.  It is also Chernet's birthday month.... In honor of our boys' family month and Chernet's birthday, we would like to get this money raised....

875 MILLION people worldwide live without clean water... I would argue there would be a lot less morbidity, mortality, orphans, death, illness if clean water were accessible.  We, our family and yours, can not give clean water in every inch of the earth. However, we can do SOMETHING.  Visit here to read about the amazing non-profit agency that designed the chlorination systems we will be installing.

We are asking anyone who wants to help....if we can get to $6000 by July 20, we will be pumped!
Go HERE to donate (there is a PayPal "donate" button at the bottom of the page or you can send in a check).  Please note *Clean Water* in the comments/notes/memo in whatever manner you donate.

Every bit helps!

Thank you so much for all the support you have given our family in the past.  We hope you choose to help our son's birth country, and its beautiful people, once more.

Monday, May 13, 2013


I am a master cropper.... I do not like pictures of myself.  I can see every flaw....look at all the lumps and creases and feel horrible about myself and yet miss the joy in the picture... the moments, the love, the laughter.  Frankly, I will even volunteer to take the picture rather than be in the picture.  Last week I read an article HERE that talked about NOT wanting to photographed because of insecurities.... These quotes really hit home for me... even as it pains me to opening admit it...

"Seeing myself in pictures actually produces the faintest sick feeling in my stomach. Isn’t it amazing we can see the beauty in our best friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts without the slightest thought to their flaws . . . but can obsess for hours on our own imperfections? We fixate on our flaws to the point we shirk at any documentation that our round faces and curvy bodies ever walked the earth. No pictures to show how we LOVE, how we laugh, how we are treasured by our families. How is it possible that a double chin can overpower the beauty of a mother cuddling her child? How does arm fat distract from the perfect shot of a spontaneous hug? I swear y’all . . . how is it that we can put more value on a TUMMY ROLL than the captivating way you throw yourself into a roar of laughter during a shoot? "

Then this part hit me more than above: 

"Can we acknowledge that the insecurities we have in our heads will never be a part of how our children, husbands, and friends see us? Can we just please let our loved ones remember the YOU they love. Your children want pictures with their mom. Your husband wants pictures with his beautiful wife. Your mom and dad want pictures of the happy, successful, amazing woman they raised (ok, and more pictures of the grandkids while you’re at it)  And if you’re thinking that high school friend on Facebook will say to herself (“wow she has gained weight”) then . . . newsflash you DID. You gained weight. Shed a tear. Read a book. Drink a Sweet Tea. Watch Oprah. Whatever it takes. Accept this reality . . . YOU GAINED WEIGHT. The truth is you’ve gained a lot of other things too (a career, a family, some kids, a house, a love for travel, the ability to coordinate your separetes . . . ) and that girl from high school is going to spend a lot more time hating on those things then she ever will on your double chin. So you’re feeling too fat to be photographed? . . . Ok. But you’re the only one who notices. The rest of us are too caught up in loving you."

I read this earlier last week and found myself at my friend's wedding this the wedding and at the rehearsal dinner.  How in the world could I get out of pictures.  Moreover, this friend AND her finance are photographers.... This article creeped into the back of my mind.  Was I going to miss out on all these pictures with my wonderful boys, loving husband and laughing friends.  So I gave in and I did it.  I took pictures.  Because I decided the more I was okay with myself and how I look, I may start believing what others say.  
So here is this girl....a pretty girl, I think, loving the boys in her life, loving her childhood friend....loving herself

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Guest Blog: Change of Plans....

My name is Meredith Kruer and my husband Jeremy and I have been greatly blessed by Natalie and JT's friendship. (More than they will ever know.) Natalie asked me to write a guest post and all I could think is..on what? Well, I think I have my topic. 

I'm sure you can guess, I know Natalie and JT through the blessing of adoption. When my husband and I start on this journey we began with the plan of 1 child, a healthy infant. As we continued and our friendship with Natalie and JT grew our view on our adoption changed. We decided to increase our age range and be open to a child who is HIV+. 

Fast forward, we ended up with a referral on 2 kids, a sibling set. A little girl who is 6 and a little boy who is 2, both HIV+. After talking with my husband, Natalie was the next person I called. Freaking out over 2 kids. She walked me through my thoughts and helped me see clearly.

Fast forward again, we traveled in December to Ethiopia for our court hearing. Here is where things change and what my blog post is really about. While in country we were fully prepared for the sites, sounds and heartache to be seen. We knew and were prepared to see poverty, orphans, and all the emotions that come with that. What we were not prepared for is what God literally placed in front of us, a much bigger calling. 

We were out visiting a town, Nazaret about 45 miles from Addis. We had a busy day of visiting a school for orphans and 2 different orphanages. We played, laughed, handed out snacks and clothes to the kids at the school. We loved on, played and laughed with the kids at the orphanages. It was a great day. To be able to open our arms to these sweet kids and just show them love was nothing short of amazing. 

While at the last orphanage, when entering Jeremy and I saw a young girl preparing coffee (big thing in Ethiopia). She was stunningly beautiful and we assumed she was a young worker there. After touring the orphanage, we sat under a gazebo and watched her as she finished the coffee. As we sipped the most amazing coffee we had thus far, she sang for us. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Like angles singing from above. I watched her as she sang a song with such passion. Then I looked to our guide, he was crying. It was that moment that I knew that beautiful noise was filled with pain.

After 2 songs, our guide translated what her songs meant. The young woman was an orphan, age 15. She had written the songs herself. She has been in the orphanage for 8 years. What did Her songs mean: song 1; Her life will begin at the foot of Christ. Here on earth she has never known true love, happiness or a family. But her life will begin at the foot of Christ in heaven, where she will have love and a family forever. Song 2; Why is it that God has chosen her to walk this life, a life of no love, no family, no one to call her her own. She has watched our kids loose family and new families come for them. Why has God chosen her to walk this life. 

Talk about heart breaking! Jeremy and I cried right there. We were utterly heart broken for this girl. As we got in the van to make our trip back to Addis, we just cried and cried and cried for her. Immediately once back at the Transition House we sent an email to our Sunday School class telling them about this girl and her story. We asked for them to pray for her, pray for a family for her and burden the hearts of others for her. 

It didn't stop there. Word got out, emails spread, God began to work. As we left Ethiopia sad and upset about leaving our 2 children, we were just as sad and heart broken over this girl we met. Once home we continued to pray for her. Still heart broken. Our minds raced as she was running out of time to be adopted. See at age 16, they can no longer be adopted into the US. Her birthday was in August. We were told that a family with paper work already done and in country would be her only hope. 

Here's the thing. If you are quiet with a still mind and heart and listen closely, you can hear what God is telling you. You just have to be open and ready to be obedient to His Will. And His will may not always be in your plans or your will. But His will is better, we just have to take the leap of faith. God doesn't promise us it will always be easy. In fact He says in Matthew 5:10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Even though adoption is not easy, it will be hard, it is emotional and adopting older kids and teenagers comes with added challenges, they deserve a chance too. 

James 1:27 "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." 

It doesn't just say the infant orphans, the healthy orphans or the orphans that we don't think will be too much trouble. God means ALL orphans! It means that though we are guaranteed struggles, battles and hard times, we should praise God through them as He will continue to guide us through the storm. 

So what happened to that beautiful 15 y/o girl we met. Her name is Feven and God has blessed her to be part of our family. As we listened to what God was calling us to do, we knew that she was ours. As scary as it may be to have a 15 y/o daughter who will turn 16 in August and we are 30 y/o, I know that we can do it. God will equipped us for it. 

After 2 trips to Ethiopia and being surrounded by the older children, this is where my heart is. My heart belongs to my sweet Feven who is legally ours and waiting to be cleared by the US Embassy to come home. It belongs to her friends who are still there waiting for families. It belongs to the ones who will never have a chance at a family if people are not willing to open their eyes, hearts and minds to this wonderful possibility. It belongs to the ones who have already aged out and are living on the streets, no education, no food, no work, no money, no way to provide for themselves. My heart belongs to them. My heart aches for other families to be open. I was scared too and at times I still am. But I also know, these kids are the most wonderful, heart warming, caring teens you will ever meet. 

What does our heart ache for? What is it that God has called you to do? I cannot answer that for you, but if you listen closely, you can hear God's whisper. He can tell you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

OneChild (Guest Blog)

This is my first ever guest blog, and what a privilege it is to do this for Natalie and JT! I love these people. Natalie and I go way back as my husband was her youth minister back in the day. One of the biggest perks of ministry is getting to seek how God conitnues to work in people that you have loved. Natalie has blown me away with how she has allowed God to shape her and lead her! JT I just met face to face last week (seriously), but thanks to facebook, I feel like I've known him for years! I love his heart for God, for serving, for orphans and those in need. And I love that he is willing to take risks for Christ. So, when I was asked to write a guest blog for them, I was thrilled to do so! And because the topic of clean water is fresh on my mind, I thought I'd share a bit about that. 

It's only 29 days away as I write this. My heart already beats a little faster to think about being back in Ethiopia. But it goes wild to think about WHY we are going. Y'all, I just cannot find the right words to tell the joy I find in being a part of taking clean water to the beautiful people of Ethiopia. 

Most of you know our story (because I've told it everywhere I can think of!). But for the few who may not know who the heck I am or what in the world I know about the problem of dirty water, let me catch you up.  My husband (Jeff, he totally rocks!) and I, alond with our son (Bryan- he rocks too!) brought home our daughter (Ellie- yes, she rocks too... duh) in August of 2009. She was almost three years old and weighed in at 22 pounds. She was 32 inches tall. We saw the pediatrician right after she came home and found that she had 5 parasites in her from the dirty water she had been drinking in Ethiopia. We started meds right away to get rid of them, but it took a full 9 months before they were gone. Yes... 9 months of antibiotics. 9 months of stool samples. 9 months of very little growth, tummy aches, you name it.  But here's where the story gets good!  Once the parasites were gone, she grew 12 INCHES AND 15 POUNDS in the following 9 months. (yes, you read that correctly!)

We watched our daughter transform in front of our very eyes, and we were certain that we couldn't just be happy that she was well. There were so many others still in Ethiopia who were hurting and drinking that same filthy water as our Ellie had for so long. We knew their names. We knew their stories. We'd held their hands. We couldn't ignore them. The truth is that God calls us all to care for the orphans (See James 1:27), and our daughter was no longer an orphan, so we still had work to do. 

We began to research clean water. I'm ashamed to admit that it took watching my child suffer before I became aware of the massive problem this is across the globe. The World Health Organization tells us that 2.2 MILLION children will die this year alone from preventable diseas before they reach their 5th birthday. The lack of clean water reaches more than 1 BILLION people worldwide. 

Folks, this is just not acceptable. 

When we learned of our daughter's parasites, we had the blessing of knowing that we had the ability to do something about it. We had doctors, medicines, money to pay for those things. She had a chance. There was relief in my heart when I looked at my tiny, emaciated daughter and I knew that she was in a safe place with access to water that would not harm her. And really, every mother deserves to know the same thing. Every mother in every land deserves to know that she has what is needed to provide life and growth to her children. And shame on us if we don't do everything within our power to help them be able to do that. 

Jeff and I began to research, and we were led to WaterStep, a great group that is working to find solutions for clean water across the globe. With WaterStep, we had found the part of our search for how to clean the water, but we still lacked access to getting that solution into Ethiopia and in the hands of people who would use it. That's where One Child Campaign comes in :) 

One night, I was in bed googling things like "water projects in Ethiopia" and "mission work in Ethiopia" just to see if anyone else was addressing this issue. I came across a blog of One Child Campaign that stated they had been in Woliso- the very town our daughter was from! The blog went on to say that they had a desire to be able to do clean water projects with some of their ministry partners in Ethiopia, but they did not have anyone with that knowledge at the time. I sent an email that night, and within a few days the founders of One Child Campaign, Caleb and Becca David, were sitting in our dining room, having pizza and dreaming big with us. 

It's been one of the most exciting journeys of my life to be a part of this. The first time we were able to install a water chlorinator and witness the people of Ethiopia drink pure water for the first time is a moment that I will never forget. Hearing mothers tell us since then of how their children do not get sick every day, do not have diarrhea every day, can go to school, etc etc because of clean water access is something I will never grow tired of. Seeing people across the U.S get on board with us by praying, donating and going with us has energized me even more. This is God's work. It's holy, and it's beautiful. And I want more of it. 

So...if you're reading this, chances are that you want to be on board too. How can you get involved?? 
For starters, you can become aware of the problem of lack of access to pure drinking water. Second, you can pray for those who are without that access and for those who are trying to change that. Third, you can give. It's no secret that it takes money to do this work. In Ethiopia, a clean water system can be set up at this time for approximately $2500 that will give clean water to limitless people in a community. 
So far, One Child teams have set up  5 systems, and are planning to set up 3 more in May, so your donations are ALWAYS welcome! (go to to give). Finally, you can go. Nothing teaches you quite like seeing firsthand te need for clean water. Check out One Child's website and sign up for a trip. There are still a few spots open for our trip in May too! But whatever you choose, do SOMETHING. Lives are at risk here, and there is no time to waste. 

I believe with all of my hear that this is God's work in progress. And I believe that it is about to open wide and blossom far beyond our wildest dreams. Thanks be to God! 

Written by my dear friend and someone whom I admire, Holly Prosser.  Follow them at

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In the Meantime...

...I have done things like turn 30, present at a conference in New Orleans on HIV in the adopted child, signed my life away to a house, built a support beam to take out a wall in said house (that was a new one thanks to my dad), watched friends bring home their new children, watched our small group from church grow and change, and much much more.

It is interesting when you stop and think of "meantime".... you think you have done so much but when you look back it feels so nothing has been accomplished.  But at the same boys are changing before my eyes.  Every time I blink, they change.  They grow.  Chernet has more English...more love....better behavior.  Tedi is smarter and asking so so so many challenging questions and is so smart.  (If only they could tie their shoes.)  They are both amazing soccer players and love Walker Texas Ranger and the Bible on the History Channel.

So while "meantime" seems so fleeting, its these little, seemingly insignificant moments where life happens...memories are made.  Friends show up or don't...relationships grow and strengthen.  I want to live in the meantime, soak it all up....

I will try to catch up the blog on the big stuff but also write about how the meantime is changing my life.  Over the next few weeks, the blogs that will be coming...

Chernet and Change
Our House: The Difference a Yard Makes for a Boy
Our House...what we have done
What's Next for us
Adoption topics: Should you or shouldn't you, supporting others
On Pregnancy...and no I am not pregnant
Several Guest Blogs
HIV Topics: basics, meds, love, sex

If you think of any topics you would like shared, let me know and I will do it.... also, any questions.....

Back in the Game

Yep... it has been awhile.  Two months maybe?  And only one post at that.  I need to do better.  I know that.  I think I had a wake up call for my computer time sometime in late January that I was paying a few thousand dollars for my pediatric board test and I should probably start studying....yes the test is not till August but it is a BFD (big freaking deal) and an expensive one.  So I made a schedule and to stay on schedule, well I basically stopped blogging.  I get a little nervous when I get off schedule so there you go.

In the meantime, we bought a house.  Yep, we grew up and purchased a house.  We have painted and done some work and are loving it.  The boys now have a backyard and are typically found killing each other at soccer.  We are now slowing down the work on the house and enjoying life again.

My plan... as I continue to follow the "schedule, I am going to blog again.  Pinky Promise.

Playing the front yard
(at least they are wearing shirts...)

Monday, February 25, 2013

30 Blessings

I guess turning thirty is supposed to elicit some sad feelings of getting older....or so I hear.  I will be honest.   I did not really think about it.  I mean, I realized it was my birthday.  I realized it was the thirtieth.  I did not have some epiphany, life crisis, or changes.  It did, however, allow me to reflect and truly appreciate the blessings and the people I have.  Because let me tell you, there are days when I struggle to see the blessings.  You would not think that ... I have a wonderful husband, two kids from Africa thus having seen some the saddest parts of the world, I have a great job....  Nevertheless, I continually see myself through the first world lens....the lens that depicts me as overweight/fat/whatever you want to call it and this so called lens tents all other aspects of my life.  For example, I think "Because I am overweight, I am not a good enough doctor/mom/lover/mother/friend" or "Everyone sees me as fat and do not see me as a good doctor/friend/daughter/etc...."  I realize that is unreasonable, irrational, that there are bigger problems in this world.  I mean, come on.  I have adopted two children from a third world country.... I have lived in a third world country.... I see kids die.... So yes, I get the world has bigger issues.

Yet as I flew home from New Orleans where I was presenting a poster at a medical conference, I sat there, in between sleeping, thinking "Stop being so hard on yourself.....Get over yourself....look at all your blessings" So here are my 30 honor of my 30th birthday.....

1) JT: There aren't enough words I can say. For being social when I'd rather be in my own bubble, being organized and anal in the midst of my chaos. For loving me despite myself.

2) Tedi: for making me a mother, for his gentle spirit and kind words and unconditional love of everyone.

3) Chernet: for teaching me patience and unconditional love. For showing me that I have more energy than I think I do and for a smile that can change your day.

4) My family..... I have a dad and mom who are proud of me regardless and would give me the world if they could and "step" family members who treat me like their own...

5) Work.... while it is not an easy job at times, I am lucky to have a job I love, that challenges me, and work with people whom I admire and make me better.

6) Church.  I attend church at a place that is dedicated to serving.  That is what Jesus looks like to me.

7) My missional community (aka small group)...we don't just get together and boringly read Leviticus.  We actually live life together....funerals, moving, babies, adoptions, celebrations, dinners and struggles.

8) My health.  Yes, I know. I am overweight, but I am lucky to have good health.  I am not in great shape but I have my health.

9) My sister....though very different from me, I can not think about my life without her.

10) Other adoptive families: To see other people living like us and giving our boys a connection to their heritage.  Especially knowing people who get it.

11) My gift of sarcasm: While still learning to be aware of my audience, it is a gift that allows me to deal with the beautiful and butterfly-filled world around us.

12) My medical school:  Yes, I went to a Caribbean school that was expensive and stressful, but I am a doc now and I am a better person for the experience.

13) Greeting Cards: getting them but mainly giving, I also think I've said enough about these on my blog that you get the gist of my love for cards.

14)  Central Air and Heat: Having lived in an environment where I paid for electricity by the minute, I love being cool or warm when I want...

15)  Ice Cream...yes, it contributes to my weight.  I love it.

16)  New Friends... I realize now that each new friend has been intentionally placed in my life and am thankful for what I am able to give them, if anything, and what they are able to teach me about myself.

17) Words... both the words I write and the words I read. While I want to share what is on my mind with those around me, I often have a hard time doing that verbally, and therefore writing is a medium where I can do this freely.

18)Work friends; co-residents, nurses, and even attendings have become more than just friends...they have become more like family.

19) For friends who tell it like it is whether you want to hear it, whether you blush, whether you get pissed, or whether you get embarrassed because it makes you feel good about yourself. I am thankful that there are people out there who will actually put you in your place.

20)  Music.... all kinds.  You should see my Pandora...Zac Brown Band, Wilson Phillips, Matthew West, Sister Hazel, Pink, Michael Buble Christmas.... you get the picture.  Music is memories and each song is a special memory.  So while I am a horrible music, I am thankful for thee

21) Christmas. Santa. Baby Jesus. Family. Trees. Carols. Smells. Love Actually.

22) Old friends...a reflection into my past and have picked me up along the way.

23) First moms... the Ethiopian women who birthed and mothered my sons, before giving me a chance to be their mother.

24)  Diet Coke.... stupid, yes.  But I love it.

25)  Down Comforter....following diet coke, only barely.

26)  Good make up and perfume. I don't consider myself high maintenance in many realms, but I love me some Daisy perfume, Fresh Chapstick, and Dior mascara. (though I only buy it once a year after Christmas)

27) Lazy Sundays. Football games, sweat pants, naps, pizza, and my boys. Enough said.

28) Board prep materials. I'm not thankful for them now, but I hear I will be after October 22nd.

29)  Getting my hair done, I love when someone else plays with my hair, and that I can sit there and not think or worry.  My hair dresser gets mad at me because I only come 3 times a year and my boys go once a month.

30)  My salvation...without it none of the other stuff matters.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Before You Were Mine

A few months ago Carissa Woodwyk, a adoptee who speaks on adoption from her perspective, asked for people to read and review her book that was coming out.  I agreed, thinking, "well, I have read most adoption books, and I have done a life book for Tedi...but what is there to lose?"  I was wrong.  It was such a humbling book.  Even with Chernet, where the details are sparse, it gave me tools to prepare something for him.

Here is the review I wrote for the book.  I encourage you to check it out.

"When I adopted our first son, I was guilty of saving every momento, picture, and piece of paper throughout the process for his "lifebook." It was not until he was home for over a year, in the middle of our second adoption, that I realized this was more than a scrapbook of our adoption. We were going to meet his birth mom and I wanted to tell the real story for him. I did my best but still felt something was missing
I finished "Before You Were Mine" and now feel equipped to do justice to both of my sons' stories, both the one overflowing with information and the one scarce and full of pain. Having heard Carissa Woodwyk speak previously, I instantly valued her opinion, but having that combined with Susan's personal experience as an adoptive mom gave a palpable and real look at the impact of lifebooks in both the adoptee and the adoptive parent's life. Moreover, they integrate the necessity of faith and Christ words into the lifebook in a way that both teaches and gives deeper meaning the child's journey. A must read for all adoptive parents."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beard for Glory

We have these friends, Lindsy and William Wallace, (yes his name is William Wallace), who have the faith and the patience that I have never seen.  We met them at an art fair where she was with her friend who happened to be the mom of Tedi's classmate... small world, eh?  Then, we became friends, completed our Both Hands together last March.... We love this people...  now it is time to step up and be the friends to them that they have been to us.

Let me highlight their adoption journey:
~ 3ish years ago decided to adopt from Ethiopia...halted for pregnancy
~had baby Meadow and restarted their Ethiopian adoption.....halted because William got cancer
~beat cancer and restarted adoption from Ethiopia......halted because Ethiopia said they could not adopt because of the cancer
~changed to the Congo program and matched with a five year old boy
~this boy was returned to his uncle and in the meantime took in 2 and 4 year old foster sons
~matched with a second child and this boy was also returned to family

Would you blame them for stopping?  I would not.... I can not fathom what I would do in the same circumstances.  Nevertheless, they have persevered.  They had decided to take a break..... and then they were told about a baby girl named Glory.... read the story here: It's a Girl.

The baby, Glory, is not with their previous adoption agency.  They got NO REFUNDS on any of the money spent during the process above.  So they find themselves starting from scratch home study, new dossier, new money.

To raise support to get Glory home, they are doing something totally different.  I know you are shocked that a guy named William Wallace has epic beard.... they are selling $5 chances to see if keeps or gets rid of the beard.... check their blog here: Beard for Glory...please consider supporting them....

Here is the post:
You may not know this, but my husband has the God given ability to grow an "epic" beard.
The epic beard.

I didn't know either until last year when he grew out his beard for 12 full months. Said beard then took on it's own persona. I couldn't go anywhere with the beard without hearing "man, that beard is epic" or "great beard" from every other man the beard and I encountered.

I'm all for beards but I prefer my husband and being married to the beard got a little, well, hairy. I was thankful when the one year mark arrived and the beard had a long dicey encounter with a razor.  

The beard has been gone for barely two months and my hubby is already longing for it's return. So I thought, "How can a girl make the most of this legendary facial hair?"

And Beard for Glory was born.

Here's the deal folks - we're letting you in on a little marital wager. (Are we the only ones who do this when there is a disagreement? The wager part not the public on the interwebs marital disagreement part.)

Visit Beard for Glory and vote with your wallet. $5 buys you one day - beard or no beard.

On Valentine's Day, whoever has the most "days", or votes, wins. The beard grows or it goes for that number of days. YOU decide. The Point - ALL the money we raise gets us closer to bringing Glory homeOur goal for Beard for Glory is $5,000.

Ladies, if you consider yourself my friend, would you please skip your latte this week and buy a day or two for me? You know where I'm coming from right?

HIV Guest Speakers...

JT is the half this marriage that likes speaking....likes anything social.  I am cool to stand back and talk to those I know... However, he forces me out of my comfort zone.... Several months ago he spoke at Highview Baptist Church when they hosted their own orphan care and adoption seminar.  I was working that day, and honestly at the previous 3 he has been involved in.  Finally, next Saturday January 19th, I will be there, in the flesh, not just in pics (like below).

JT and I are leading the breakout session on HIV+ Adoptions in the upcoming seminar on 1/19/2013.... We would love you to come to the conference....if you are interested in adoption, foster care, or serving orphans and widows even if you are not at a place to adopt.  The other sessions include: International Adoption Travel, Transracial Adoption, Domestic Adoption, Healing a Child's Loss and Trauma, Financial and Adoption Processes, Dealing with Infertility, Caring for Orphans as a Family and Church, Local Orphan Care Options, Waiting Child Adoptions, Are You Ready to Adopt.

Check out for more info. We would love to see you there.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Parent's Perspective

I am often thought to be too sarcastic...rough....guarded....bordering on cold....not emotional.  People have said versions of this.  Let me tell you the truth.  These are all a front.  They are a self protective front of which I am fully self aware.  A front for a deeply emotional and sensitive girl...

And this weekend, namely yesterday, I had the wind knocked from me...leaving nothing but bottled, raw emotion. I think we are all affected watching twenty six and seven year olds lose their lives.  How can we not be? I have read arguments and debates and words about gun control....people who homeschool who are thankful their kids don't worry about this scary stuff....those talking about mental illness, incorrectly describing Asperger's syndrome.....this same number of children dying of preventable illness all over the world.... I get all of this. I do.  It is all, well most of it, worthy of conversation.  Just not today, not yesterday.   Say that I am hiding behind emotion, whatever you want.

I just can't breathe every single time I think about it.  I have seen children die.  I have held a dead child and yet tears suffocate me when I think about my own children, five and six year old boys, in schools very much like the one in Connecticut having a round of bullets emptied into their small bodies, stealing the world of their laughter and joy while in a place where they feel as safe as they do at home.

I caught myself being constantly convicted throughout the weekend at my frustrations....the not listening, talking back, fighting with each other, singing inappropriately loud in the car, stepping into yet another person's personal space....and there it went...the air from my lungs... I had to still discipline and redirect and correct but I kissed more heads and was much more patient as we attempted wrapping Christmas gifts and baked cookies and wrestled.

How do you not look at these children, all lost in minutes, not to illness or accident but merely going to school,.... how do you not see your own children...imagine the loss and devastation? If you don't have children....your friend's child, your niece or nephew, god son or god daughter?  Stop for a minute.  Stop thinking about guns.  Stop thinking about your politics.  Stop watching the news (I had to do this).  Stop and let your heart step into the grief you would have if placed in the same situation, the loss of your child, by any means really.  You can not stay there.  The whole of it swallows you and you run to your kids' bedroom and tell their sleeping bodies of your love and listen to their breath and memorize their scent because that brief descent into grief allows you to know it really may be the last just might.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Opportunity

"Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional."

I love this quote.  It sums up the life Natalie and I have been blessed with.  I had a friend tell me the other day that Natalie and I haven't chosen an "easy life."  He told me that he finds strength in the way that we live life.  This was one of the greatest compliments paid to me as our life is not easy (living apart in med school, infertility, adoption, moving 10 times in 8 years, HIV adoption, Natalie working 90+ hrs per week, me balancing a career, kids, church, etc.).  To know that my friend views that we do this willingly, happily (most of the time) and with the goal of loving people is encouraging. 

For the past 2 1/2 years, I (JT) have worked for Family & Children's Place as Associate Director of Development.  FCP's mission is "to strengthen our community through healing the trauma of abuse, violence and neglect and promoting safe, healthy and stable families through research based services."  I have been honored to work with some of the best therapists and counselors our community has.  To see the cycle of child sexual abuse end at our Child Advocacy Center is amazing.  I am humbled to have been chosen to advocate for the most vulnerable population of our community: abused children.  I have seen our community rally around this cause and finish a campaign that raised $11.5 million to open a state-of-the-art CAC dedicated to the treatment of  victims of sexual abuse.  I have solicited gifts that were tens of thousands of dollars and connected many people to our mission.  As I look back on my time, I realize that I am the blessed one. 

As we all realize at some point in life, nothing lasts forever.  For the past six months, I have felt a nudge that said maybe my time at FCP was drawing to a close.  I did not know what the next step in my career would be.  Natalie and I were very prayerful in seeking what a career change would look like.  Most of you know that we are very passionate about our church, The Avenue.  We have been involved in The Ave since its infancy.  It is a church plant on campus at the University of Louisville.  I have the pleasure of serving as an elder here.  

The Avenue has to function differently than most churches.  90% of our attendees are younger than 25.  As you can imagine, our weekly offering is often low.  We joke that sometimes people tithe a half eaten bag of Doritos.  Our goal at The Avenue is to plant churches on 100 secular college campuses in ten years.  Read more about that plan here.  In order to achieve our vision, we have to generate revenue.  I was approached by The Ave staff about coming on board with the task of helping us become financial sustainable.  My title will be Business Administrator and will allow me to wear a number of different hats including: starting an Orphan Care outreach at our church (very cool), mentoring/discipling college students and young adults and connecting with the UL campus.       

Here are some reasons I am excited for this switch:

-I love working with college students.  College students are passionate about "doing" not talking.  They hate the "lip service" generation and want to be the hands and feet of Christ.  They are passionate about social justice.  They keep me young and I hope I can provide counsel and wisdom.
-I get to continue to do what I do best which is helping people find and connect to their passion.  Plain and simple, this is where I find my energy and happiness.
-Pace of life with our family.  This job will allow me to pick my boys up from school every day and have more time at home to help Natalie.  This is priceless to Natalie and me.  Since Natalie started residency, we feel like we are burning the candle at both ends.  This switch should allow a little more margin and rest.
-I get to work with some of my best friends.  Read more about those guys and girls here.

Our family is so excited about this move.  I am saddened to leave behind so many good relationships at FCP but know that I have left this place a little better than I found it. 

I will finish with the best career advice I have ever been given.  It is advice that I strive to live every day and something I have repeated to many of my friends.  I had the pleasure of working for the all-time winningest college basketball coach, Don Meyer.  He has told me at least a thousand times that the key to a successful life is:

-Find your gift
-Develop your gift
-Give your gift away to as many people as possible

Monday, December 10, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

I have shared my trials and tribulations of failed pinterest ideas.  However, in looking about trying to add more holiday ideas to my arsenal since I love Christmas (the secular and the Jesus), I came across the idea of Light Em Up.  Basically, it is doing something each day during the month of December to teach your children to give back to others during the holiday season.  If my children are like yours, they receive more than their share of gifts from family and friends and such.....I thought this was a great idea, and while I am not perfect at it and am learning and trying to teach Chernet and Tedi why we are doing it...

A couple of ideas we have completed....
~ taping quarters to the pop machines at the children's hospital (aka my work) so that the next person got a free soda
~ pushing in carts at Wal-Mart
~ buying the cashier her favorite candy, which happened to be M&Ms
~ writing thank you notes to 3 people for being good friends to us
~ decorating the house on Daddy's birthday to let him know how special he is
~ baking cookies for the nurses at my clinic to thank them for the last three years
~ taking coffee to the teacher who does the car rider line in the cold(ish) weather each morning
~ buying coffee for the car behind us at Starbucks

These are just a few of the "days" we have done so far.  And you know, we do Santa. We do Elf on a Shelf.  But we also do Love of others...and giving back and if you feel one cancels the other, sorry... I don't hate that my parents that lied to me about Santa...I love every single memory of it...Trust me the lies of Santa are NOT the reason for my adulthood "issues".... but what I did learn from my parents (despite their Christmas "fibs") was giving up so others could have...putting others above myself, my children most of all.   I only hope in small little ways I impart this to my boys as the Christmases and years come and go. 


When Chernet came home 4 months ago, we did not know if we would ever go out to eat or return to our sense of normalcy.  He was crazy....untamed, resistant to love and to discipline.  That child is one I rarely see glimpses of home...  But I remember them.... I can remember those days... for good or for bad. 

When he started school, he invaded other children's personal space.  He did not listen to the teacher.  He did many many things that pushed other children's limits.  I remember those days.  I feared because of those days my son would not make friends, be accepted or be allowed to move on.

Thankfully children do not have the MEMORIES of adults.... Last week, Chernet had his Christmas performance at school.  They did one song with instruments, one with singing, and one with dance.  As we circled the school looking for an open entrance, Chernet grew more and more excited.  We walked into the lobby and one little boy screamed his name and ran to hug him.  Then, the other door opened and another little boy saw him and screamed, "CHHHHEEERRRNNEETTT" as he ran to hug my son.  I got choked up as Chernet turned to say "my friends" with a huge smile on his face. 

I am thankful that children do not have my memory and really do forgive and forget.  If only we adults operated more in this mindset.  Nonetheless, I am thankful my boy has friends and is moving past things from four months it is time for me to do the same!

More Family Pics

A couple of blog posts back I posted a few pics from our family photo session.  You really should check out  whether you are an adoptive family, a bride, a family or whatever.... the pics are great...  Here are a couple of our favs.

Family Evolution....Christmas Card Style

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Yesterday at noon I snuck into a call room with two of my close friends, logged in to the National Residency Matching Program website, and to my shear pleasure, found out that I "matched" at the University of Louisville (where I am currently) for my critical care fellowship.  I know many of you do not know what this means..... basically, I have six months left of pediatric residency.  If I stopped there, I would be a general peds doctor.  However, I want to work in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and to do so, I must do three more years of training.  Glutton for punishment?  Maybe. 

Nevertheless, I could not be more excited.  First, I have a husband that will support me through five to seven calls per month for next three years, love me even when I am not lovable, and be both a mother and father at times... (And calls do not mean I sleep at home and answer a pager... I wish.  I spend the night in the hospital and he is home).  Second, I love this city and the friends that I have made here and are staying here.  Third, I could not be luckier to be educated by an intimidatingly intelligent and challenging group of faculty. 

Yet, I am so scared....that I do not know enough, won't be good enough, can not balance work and family.... and at the same time, so ready to learn more, challenge myself even more. 

Frankly, I am just so blessed.  Erica took me out for Thai food the night before.  My friend Sarah brought me breakfast on match day as well as had cookies ready after it was final.  Kasey and Heather brought me cards (because they know of my love of cards).  My boys sent me flowers.  My medical student made butterscotch brownies since I am the only person who buys the butterscotch Lifesavers and she had hear about it.  I was flooded with texts and Facebook messages.  My nursing friends on the med-surg floor bought me great Mexican food and we had a little fiesta.  Shreep bought me a diet coke (very crucial and thoughtful!).  I was on call after the match so JT took my post call day off....we took the boys to a doc appt, had brunch at Wild Eggs, watched the movie Lincoln, and finished up the boys Christmas.  I am overly loved, if you will. 

I mean, it was just a great time.  Some would say "well why make such a big deal, especially if you were kind of, sorta sure you would match there?" A good friend even said as much. That is valid, I guess.  But it is a life changer.  A big decision.  A big day.  And I appreciate those who went out of their way to make my day special and made me feel loved. 

So there it is.  We are staying here in Louisville, at least until June 2016 that is!