our wedding.

Two weeks ago today, I married my love, Benjamin Hoover. A new season, overflowing with love and joy has begun. I have thought of so many different ways of sharing some of this special time, and I hope you enjoy this walk through a few of the treasures and backstories of the day we became husband and wife.

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Our Rings: All Five of Them

It takes five rings to tell our engagement and wedding story. When Ben asked me to marry him on the beaches not far from our California home, he gave me a simple silver ring with my birthstone, an Aqua Marine, in it. He had commissioned the ring from a jeweler — making one to fit my right hand that I could take with me on all of my travels around the world. Together we found an antique ring that we had copied with great grandmother’s diamond for my second engagement ring, something new from something old.

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Creating our own tradition from one I knew from my childhood spent in Jordan, I got Ben an engagement ring as well, that he wore on his right hand (a very simple, very inexpensive ring – nothing special except its significance). In the weeks following, Ben would say, “Another first…. I had dinner tonight wearing a ring…. I took a shower with a ring… I taught a class with a ring…And so on.” His conclusion was that men too should get engagement rings as they are a precious reminder of a new and beautiful season, a season of preparing for marriage.

When looking for our wedding rings, we wanted simple bands that matched. For me, one that I could wear when I traveled but also to go with my wedding band. I love what we found. I love that we used jewelers working from home or local stores for our rings. I love the simple beauty and deep significance of our rings.

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And this bowl. “To have and to hold.” A gift from my sister-in-law Lauren, was used by our ring-bearer (my nephew Liam) and hold my engagement rings on my bedside table when they are not on my hands.

My Wedding Jewelry: Gold from Damascus

Much of my childhood was spent in the Middle East, where women would receive sets of gold for their wedding. While we lived there, my Dad bought my Mom a set of gold that was stunning in its simplicity – handmade knots linked together. When I was 19 years old, my Mom and I went to Damascus one last time before our family left Jordan. Dad had us buy three sets of gold to match my Mom’s: one for me and each of my sister-in-laws on the occasion of our weddings. Several days before my wedding, my Dad gave me my wedding gold at a family dinner. It is so beautiful. Even more than its beauty, I love knowing that this marriage was planned for and prayed for years ago.

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A Family Wedding….

This wedding was about family and friends — the wonderful community that surrounds us. Our deepest hope was that people would enjoy each other as they celebrated with us. And so we wanted to celebrate in a way that included things we loved to do with each other and those we loved, hoping for lots of conversations and laughter. Before the details, one picture of the community that gathered with us that day – representing so much family and so many friends from different times and places.

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Location & Decoration: Family, Colors and Places

The wedding was held in the gardens of Aunt Louise’s house. The gardens were large enough for the ceremony to take place in one area and the reception (dinner and games) in another area. Living in California where our backyard is closer to a postage stamp than a lawn (and it is brown, not green), it felt so wonderful to be surrounded by such natural beauty.

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I love bright colors, and my mom made hundreds of yards of bunting that danced in the wind all day. Cloth napkins were made into bow ties around plasticware for people to use and then take home. The fabrics we used were from America and Africa, combining beauty from the two continents of my recent life as I live here (now with my Benjamin) and continue to travel the world.

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I love that we can return to the place that we got married every time we visit Pennsylvania. It will forever be a special and happy place to us.

Games: Fun on the Lawn

Ben and I love to play games together, and a garden wedding seemed a perfect place for lawn games, or games that could become lawn games. We took our photos before the wedding… part of which allowed us time to take some time to play these games before anyone arrived. It was like a little date – games and laughter  — I just happened to be in a wedding dress.

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Food: A Local and Family Affair

The centerpiece of the our dinner was barbecued chicken — Hoover BBQ Chicken that is — a family recipe and on a homemade grill with a Hoover Dad as the grillmaster. Sides from Wegmans (a grocery store – but prepare for a a long and serious argument from Ben should you ask why, or if, they are better than any other grocery store). It required a giant napkin to protect my white dress.

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And then there were the drinks: sangria and beer. We sipped sangria right after the wedding as we soaked in the glory that we had said our vows and were actually married – we were husband and wife! A few precious moments alone. Thank you to Uncle Todd and Aunt Karen for making gallons of this sweet glory. We smuggled a quart of this into our hotel on our wedding night too. And then there was the beer that my brother Chris made and bottled special for our wedding and Lauren designed special labels for. Somehow we managed to save a few and sneak them home in our luggage. Perfection.

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Dessert was cupcakes from a baker who works from her home. On cupcakes: let’s just say that flavors like Blueberry Buckle and Peanut Butter Cup make my day. Nom nom nom.

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Our Wedding Party: Deep Friendships and Long Faithfulness

These dear friends are like family to us. My bridesmaids (Renee, Bethany, and Elizabeth) are ones that I have known for years, have lived in community with, and have shared the ups and downs of life with. I could not imagine this day without having them there with me. Ben’s groomsmen (Jonathan, Matt, and Duane) included his brother and two dear friends from his childhood that I had heard endless stories of since we first met. As we stood at the alter, we had the great blessing of being surrounded by deep friendships and also be six people who each have strong marriages and have been blessed by children in their homes. In the week leading up to our wedding, we heard countless stories of love and faithfulness, all encouragements that what we had now was just the beginning, that our love could grow deeper and richer with time. What a beautiful witness. And yes, all three beautiful ladies standing with had their first child this year, and so we swapped flowers for babies after the wedding… love these women, their husbands, and their babies.

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Our Family: We Are So Blessed

There is so much to say about our families. We love them so much and wish that we could be close to all of them – though that would mean somehow being everywhere from Georgia to Pennsylvania to Scotland all at one time. One could always hope. We are blessed to both come from great families, to have parents who’s love has grown richer through the years, and to have siblings we love being with. And the kids – oh the fun of the nephews and nieces. As we return to a life of emails, phone calls, and skypes, it is fun to think back to this time together that was so precious.

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The Ceremony: Where Two Became One

Our ceremony was simple. We were surrounded by nature and family and friends, and we were married by Gary Jacabella, Ben’s uncle. This was the most important part of the day and the one that is the most difficult for me to express. Getting married is a very surreal stepping from one reality to a new one, promising to choose to love another for the rest of my life – a promise I am sure I do not yet fully understand. There are three things that I would like to share with you: the family blessing, our vows, and the Lord’s Supper.

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The Family Blessing comes from A New Zealand Prayer Book  and was read by one Crane sibling and one Hoover sibling as we celebrated our families.

Eternal God, creator of us all,
we praise you for all the ways
in which your love comes into our lives,
and for all the joys
that can come to men and women through marriage.
Today we especially pray for Pamela and Benjamin
as they begin their married life.
With them we thank you for the love and care of their parents,
which has guided them to maturity
and prepared them for this commitment.
Give them strength
to keep the vows they have made,
to be loyal and faithful to each other,
and to support each other throughout their life,
that they may bear each other’s burdens
and share each other’s joys.
Help them to be honest and patient with each other,
and to welcome both friends and strangers into their home.
In all their future together
may they enjoy each other
and grow through the love they share, until, at the end of this life,
you receive us all into your eternal kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

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Our vows, which will take us a lifetime to understand and to live out. May we never forget the promises we made on our wedding day.

In the name of God, I, Benjamin/Pamela, take you, Pamela/Benjamin, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, through laughter and through tears, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.  Forsaking all others, I commit myself to you. I will seek to serve you with tenderness and respect, energy and intelligence, imagination and love. This is my solemn vow.

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And the Lord’s Supper… our parents helped serve everyone on our wedding day as we shared in communion together for the first time as husband and wife, surrounded by our community. I wish I could extend this richness to you as well.

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Dancing: Mostly in the Kitchen

Ben does not love to dance, but he dances with me… mostly in the kitchen and sometimes under the stars on the beach. To make me smile, he danced with me under the stars at our wedding. And then I danced with my Dad. I love these pictures, and goodness, I love these men.

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Now: Creating a New Normal

Ben and I are back in California now…. we had a lovely week in the Poconos ignoring the world following our wedding during which we explored waterfalls and hibernated in a cabin (read Ben’s post about that here). Then a week of work and trying to make one home out of all of our stuff; we are getting there. As I sit back and remember this time, I smile at its beauty and am so thankful for everyone who made it possibly by helping with the wedding and those who traveled distances – small and great – to celebrate with us. I only wish that we could have had more time with each of you. I am thankful that friendships cover miles and years and cannot wait to see you again.

End Notes

You can read Ben’s post about our wedding here.

All photographs (except the last one) are by Jen Capone. She is pure awesome.

hydra: a greek island vacation

It was an outstanding vacation. Eight uninterupted days on Hydra – a Greek island with no cars (but plenty of donkeys) with some of my awesome family. I am not sure when I last took a true break – so long and far from communication that I could truly unplug and forget about life off the island. We slept late, ate great food, swam in crystal clear water, hiked hills, saw monasteries, ‘discovered’ hidden beaches, read books, and played games. In a later post, I will share a few ‘how to’ tips in case you decide this island is for you. For now, a photo journal. If you want more great photos of the city (and a humorous account of the low water pressure, check out Lauren’s blog).

First, meet my fellow vacation peeps: Lar, Matt, Mom & Dad. Awesome company. And that is part of the city / port of Hydra.

Let’s start with the town. Exactly what I imagined a Greek island town to look like: whitewashed walls everywhere, blue shutters, red tile roofs, winding paths, and bougainvillea (vine with magenta flowers in this photo).

A restaurant in waiting. Not even trying to be picture perfect.

I wonder when this lantern was last used.

The city of Hydra from above. You are either walking up or down in the town (and around the island). Other islands can be seen in the distance.

On our walks, we came across other ports – the ports of the local fishermen. I love how old boats tell stories with their worn wood and peeling paint.

My hiking companions. Hot and sweaty, but loving the adventure (and dreaming of the swim to come).

One day we hiked over the island and back down to this hidden beach, which we had entirely to ourselves.

Another day the whole crew hiked to the top of the island (just more than 500 meters) to catch the view for miles around.

This was the view from the top. It felt like we were on top of the world.

On our hikes we saw ancient, gnarled olive trees.

And we saw desert flowers in bloom.

And we visited old churches with beautiful ceilings.

And we met donkeys, the island’s transport system.

I promise we did more than hike – we also cooled off in the crystal clear waters surrounding the island.

There was incredible food – here a massive piece of baklava. 2 pieces shared amongst 5 and we were all in sugar comas. Not pictured were the fresh peaches, figs, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers and other fresh fruit that was simply divine. Or the food we made or the food we ate out. So good. And the feta. Yummmy.

I mentioned that we ‘made’ food. We love to cook and this was our view every night: sunset followed by the city lights from our house on a hill. Would you go out ever night if you could have this?

Today I leave you with this photo – of an alternative boat dock. Just one of so many hidden gems on Hydra.

 

 

i climbed ben nevis

Not too many weeks ago, I climbed (hiked) Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK (though lower in elevation than my home in Kigali). Today it has been cold and rainy, which somehow seems an appropriate time to write about the climb. This was a big climb for me – my longest ever. You go from sea level to 4,400 feet and back in about 9.5 miles. For all the other outdoor things I love, you might wonder why this is the longest hike (in terms of elevation change) I have done. I have bad knees, and honestly did not know how they would do, but figured it was worth finding out.

I tried to put everything in my favor including buying walk poles. In America, it seems walking pools are for the old or the trendy. In Scotland, however, they were a normal part of hiking attire and at least one third of the hikers (of all shapes and sizes and ages) had them. Given that Scotland is a land of walking, hiking, and climbing, I decided to learn from their wisdom. I am thankful that I did learn and plan on taking the sideways glances of Americans with a smile on my face every time I use them in the future. They are grand.

Back to the mountain. Actually, first to the glen. Our first day at Fort William, we decided to hike Glen Nevis, the valley below Ben Nevis. I didn’t think about the kilometers to miles conversion much, and we ended up doing a 12 mile walk. I can fairly confidently say that Matt & Lauren (brother & sister-in-law) would have been thrilled to turn back early and cut the walk in half (or less). But, they humored me as I urged them on, and we stopped for many pictures along the way.

The next day was Ben Nevis. We were prepared with food, drinks, all appropriate layers and a compass in case the top became totally clouded in. The nice guy at the shop described it as a “long, hard plod.” But it was already sunny (miracle) and the weather forecast was good (another miracle). And so we began the plod up the mountain. At this point, I was reminded that my legs are used to walking flat ground for miles at end, but going up is not their favorite. Matt, who bikes all the hills of Edinburgh, smiled and urged me on. Ever the brother, he loved the role reversal.

Matt and I did make it to the top where we the clouds again cleared and granted us some amazing views. I need to mention here that Lauren, though not feeling great, made it half way up the mountain. This, from a woman who bought her first pair of hiking shoes less than two years ago. Check out her comments about the mountain here. And that is how I climbed a mountain, saw some grand views, and fell in love with walking poles.

a summer of camping

This summer has been filled with some fantastic camping. Often it has seemed to be ‘too hot’ in the city to do much of anything, but when trees replace cement buildings, streams replace sidewalks, and lakes replace parking lots and malls, suddenly the heat becomes manageable. Trees and bushes absorb rather than reflect and amplify heat as well as provide protection from the intensity of the sun, and water serves as a constant cooler. And so, I have done my best to be outside, near water, as much as possible.

On these trips I have taken a break from photography. Not because I don’t love photography, but because I needed a break from being behind the lens. I have wanted to see and experience without the lens  of a camera acting as a small barrier between me and life. I wanted to turn off the part of my brain that is constantly framing an image, timing lighting, and working to best capture vivid colors. My hope was that this would provide a breath of fresh air for me, and would facilitate living and playing much. It has been a beautiful time.

Last weekend was the annual “Crane Kid” camping trip, which for the first time ever included both of my parents. I really should rename the trip to “Crane” camping trip seeing as we had three generations represented between my parents, siblings and nephew. It was a perfect cap on the summer: hours playing in a lake, kayaking to islands, board games by flashlight, and a peach crisp over an open fire. What I love most about this time is that it pulls us all out of our respective spaces. Surrounded by nature, there is no hiding behind technology or household duties, and we are simply together. For me, this is the makings of a perfect vacation.

 This is my nephew, Thumper, chilling out in the afternoon heat. He had so much fun explore: rocks, sticks, spiders, and water – who could ask for more? Photo compliments of his mom, Esther.

As this season of camping draws towards a close, I have packed up most of my camping supplies and sent them back with my parents to use while I am in Rwanda. I reserved my small 2-man tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag for Rwanda in hopes of fun to come. As I leave the rest of my camping gear behind, I am starting to dream of putting together a new “Africa camping box” when I arrive in Rwanda inspired by art as much as utility… check out this post by Artemis Russell on her site, junkaholique, to see some of my inspiration. I promise to take my camera out more when I am there so as to share with you the beauty of the land that will become my home. Although it is a densely populated country, I am confident, hopeful, of finding new spots that can become my own.

In the next few weeks, I do promise two additional posts on camping – but I fear these will be informational more than anything. When searching online for details on these two sites, there was a void of helpful information, so I hope these posts serve well those who come after me. I hope that will be some of you. And, even if you do not go to these spots, I hope you find nature escapes that are welcoming regardless of the weather – places where you can live large with loved ones.

dads: this is the gift you can be

This summer I have been thinking quite a bit about daughters and their dads. As I prepare to move to Rwanda, I am reminded of conversations past that have stuck with me and become a part of who I am. When I last moved (to Nashville), I decided it would be difficult, too much, to do the move by myself. I had outgrown moving in a car and needed a small U-Haul, and decided to ask my brother or a friend to help. When I told my dad about this, he reminded me that I chose to ask for help, which is fine, but that it was not because I was incapable of doing it myself. A seemingly small distinction, but it was an important reminder: I am strong enough and creative enough to make it happen, but chose the strength of friends. This, my friends, was the reminder of a great dad. No, I do not have to do it all myself, but it is not because I am incapable.

I remember crawling into my dad’s lap as a little girl. I would sit there while he talked with other people, and he would rub my back; I was completely safe and happy. In middle school, I would go out on our boat while my dad SCUBA dived, just waiting until I was 12, old enough to get my Jr SCUBA license and join him at depth. In high school, he was always around at night to proof papers, and during the holidays, we dove together. When I struggled along the way to getting my masters and doctorate, there was dad on the sidelines cheering me on, believe in me more than I believed in myself. At 30, I still search out the place on the couch next to him where I can cuddle up with his arm around me. I am, and always have been, a daddy’s girl.

What I want you to know is this: a girl’s relationship with her dad matters. Growing up, I knew that I was beautiful and strong, that I could persevere, and that I was loved. I was blessed to grow up in a home where both my parents loved and supported me, and in communities that did the same. I don’t want to diminish those factors, but today I want to share with you the the influence my dad has had on my life.

I am beautiful. I know this because I was regularly told so by my dad. Not every day in way that would make me wonder if it was actually true, but at all the right times. When I made an effort to look nice, it was recognized. If I was prancing around the house looking for affirmation, I would find it. No need to go hunting for it elsewhere. When I left home for college, I was able to rest on this foundation. My brothers have fallen into my father’s footsteps, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. If society ever makes me question my beauty, all I have to do is turn to the men of my family and they will remind of my foundation. I am beautiful.

I am strong. I remember being in fourth grade helping my dad carry the big ice chest down the stairs. In middle and high school, I carried my dive tanks and gear; always trying to carry as much at a time as dad. To this day, we rough-house; although dad can still put me on the ground, I have surprised more than a few men who thought they could tickle me without repercussions. Verbal banter in our house started over breakfast where dad, already caffeinated, would work on waking our minds up. Through the years, I learned the basic of argument, logic, and reason through discussions at home. I learned that my opinion mattered and that I was not to be discounted – physically or mentally – because of my age or my gender. I am strong.

I know how to persevere. During the summer break in elementary school, I would sign up for a 10, 50, or a 100 mile swim. I did not like swimming without the team, so dad swam every lap with me, and I (or, really, we) always met the goal. In high school, I was expected to do my best – and dad was always there cheering me on. He made needed tutoring possible, proofread papers, and simply to encouraged the nightly studying. I learned to believe in myself and to persevere.

All of this was done with love. I knew I was loved and the world knew it too. I could mess up or falter, but that never impacted his love for me. If I was hurt, I would be picked up and surrounded. That love, my friends, changes the world. In the midst of this love, there was safety to discover and be encouraged in the things I loved. There was safety to grow and become a woman.

I consider myself blessed to be a daddy’s girl. Not every girl has the gift of the opportunity to become one. To all the girls and women who read this, I hope that you were given that gift. For you dads and future dads reading this, know that your words and actions have the ability to transform.

To my dad, thank you. Thank you for giving me the gift of being a daddy’s girl.

Happy Birthday dad.

my brother married the lovely lauren

This time a week ago, I was surrounded by family and friends as we celebrated my brother’s marriage to Lauren. It was a non-traditional wedding filled with thought, intention, and creativity. Which should surprise no-one who knows the two of them: bio-electrical engineer and graphic designer who both love being surrounded by family.

The weekend began with a small rehearsal followed by a lovely dinner at a Decatur steak house. The most mentionable point here is that this dinner was the only event not held at Lauren’s parent’s house (though yes, in case you were wondering, the food was excellent). The wedding (and rehearsal) was in their small library and the reception in their grand room.

The wedding was home grown, whimsical, lovely, and perfect. The house was decorated, or I should say, the stage was set, by Lauren. Everything was dreamt and created by hand – elegance meets whimsical. Remember I mentioned non-traditional? Matt had a best-man (Chris, my brother) and a grooms-maid (me), and Lauren had a maid-of-honor (Cath, her twin sister) and a brides-man (Nate, good friend). My mother performed the ceremony. The total wedding party consisted of 20 people – the people they celebrate holidays with. All people I readily hug rather than shake hands with.

Appetizers? Middle Eastern fare and martinis. Dinner? Southern barbecue complete with home-made bibs to protect our wedding attire. The beer was brewed by my brothers and made elegant by Lauren’s special labels. The cake was made by dear friend Elizabeth and was divine. The party favors were home-made pop tarts. There were brilliant toasts by the maid-of-honor and best-man. Matt & Lauren got married and our families happily grew. That was the wedding in a nutshell.

I wish I had brilliant photos to share with you, but I was in the wedding and loved celebrating every minute of it. You can see more photos at Lar & Cath’s website or on the photographer’s blog. If any family photo’s come in, I promise to share them with you in the coming weeks. For now, I am going to go sleep under my mosquito net in Northern Uganda.

celebrating with family and friends

As I mentioned in my last post, I celebrated my 30th. Not just one night, but, well… the celebrations continued for a couple of weeks. All because I have amazing family and friends who helped me celebrate and are always up for some fun. Here are a couple of highlights.

Four friends + one lake-side cabin = hours of relaxed fun.

We had amazing food – including this apple pie in the deep dish apple pie plate that was made for me. More about it another time. And the games. Oh the games we played.

Boys will be boys. Apparently this rock needed to be pushed, hauled, and otherwise shoved into the lake. It made a big splash. And they gave each other a high five.

Then Joel and I went rappelling off a 120 foot cliff. Stunning and awesome.

Right before we got to the Stone Door to go rappelling, we had care problems. So, while rappelling (and here playing with the ascender), we talked to more than a couple friends to be rescued. A rural Tennessee adventure (really not that different than an African adventure) later we got home that night.

Then I celebrated with my siblings. Happy moments being around the same table and playing together. Next time I will be sure and get our (most awesome) sibling additions into the photo. I am so thankful I love my brothers’ wife and wife-to-be!

We went rock climbing at the nation’s largest climbing gym, Stone Summit, which just happens to be in Atlanta. We adults had fun, but the cutest thing by far was my nephew, Liam (aka Thumper), who did his best to copy us.

And then there were the “Happy Birthday’s” by text, phone, email and card as well as packages in the mail. Thank you everyone for helping me celebrate the beginning of my 30’s!

beach vacation: wataumu village

When our plans began, we were going to meet up in Port Sudan for some diving. But yours truly was unable to get a visa to Sudan. Thankfully, I have flexible parents and our little diving trip was moved to Kenya. And that is why, after two weeks of work in Rwanda I met my parents on the Kenyan coast.

It was a classic Crane vacation. A small resort/guesthouse, narrow streets,  testing little restaurants, books for everyone, plenty of ocean time, and smiles all around. Here are few photos that tell some of the story of our time in Watamu.

Marijani Holiday Resort is where we stayed. Simple, clean rooms. Beautiful garden. Excellent breakfast. Located in town a block from the beach.

This is the road that goes in front of where we stayed. A beautifully horribly failed project to have drainage below the sand road. Now there is no road. The best part of this picture is the sign on the gate:

Tuk tuk taxis. Need I say more? Definitely increased the fun quality of our time there.

Dive buddies. We have been diving together since I learned when I was 12 years old. (Before that I would watch dad dive and think about when I would be old enough to dive.) We dove with the dive center at Ocean Sports. I highly recommend the operation – definitely the best that I have experienced in Africa. And there is plenty of great wildlife in the marine reserve to make it worth the effort to go diving.

Mother and daughter enjoying a walk on the beach. (Mom is the source of my love of water – we spent some good times bobbing in the water in the afternoons.)

My beautiful parents.

Traditional dhows sailing in after a day of fishing.

The young boy was playing in the surf and then swam out to meet a dhow coming in. Then he grabbed onto his older brother who was holding quite the nice catch. It was such a joy to witness the fun of these brothers.

This little cafe is run by an Italian couple and has outstanding gelato. Their sandwich was also good (which is really important because, although they had a dozen flavors of gelato, there was only one sandwich). They also serve coffee and croissants if you need a caffeine jolt.

This is the lovely mama that my mom bought mangoes from. Mangoes that were absolutely divine and no bargaining required.

All of that to say: Watamu Village is a great place for a chill vacation. Highly recommended.

my brother is engaged

It’s true. My brother is engaged. I am so thankful that I was here this week – setting up for a sunrise beach engagement, sharing smiles and laughter early Christmas morning in the house, beginnings of wedding planning, and taking the engagement photos. Yep, I got to do engagement photos for Matt & Lar. Not my normal subject matter, but they were perfect subjects and it was so much fun to share in their joy. This photo is a sneak-peek as I am sure there will be more photos up before long on Lar’s blog: asiancajuns.com. And now… headed back to Nashville for one last weekend of fun before I return to work and the normal swing of things.

merry christmas

Today I am with family and friends so close to my heart, and last week was spent with other loved ones. I dearly wish that I could continue this time spending daily life and taking time to simply be with so many others. But I will not wish for something else in such a way as to let today slip by – today is beautiful. I was looking for a reflection on Christmas, on the glory of Christ become man, on Mary, a young and single mother, on the glory of what we celebrate at Christmas. In the midst of searching, I found this instead. It spoke to my heart, and though not specifically on these themes, seemed appropriate for today. Merry Christmas friends.


i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth

day of life and of love and wings;and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any – lifted from the no

of all nothing – human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~e.e. cummings

family time

Somehow in the midst of all the fall and winter holiday goodness I have yet to post about Thanksgiving with the family. As our family grows, I continue to be thankful and blessed when we can all be together. And together we were for Thanksgiving. We gathered in Atlanta where both of my brothers now live, my parents flew in from Sudan, and a few friends who are like family joined us too. We always seem to fill every bed available plus a few extras.

This was one of those great holidays where I was able to simply take the time to be. To be present with loved ones. The brothers did an amazing job of organizing things – they both created the food menu and did much of the cooking, as well as figuring out the sleeping situations. Though I am always happy to help or to fill these roles, it is awesome to see responsibilities changing hands as we each continue to grow.

My camera was only pulled out for a photo shoot with my amazing nephew, Liam, as orchestrated by the wonderful Lauren Lee. You can check that out here. I do wish I had a few pictures of Thanksgiving as Mama Lee (Lauren’s mom) orchestrated what will likely be my most elegant Thanksgiving meal ever – delicious and lovely to the last bite. These are two photos my mom took that I simply have to share. Liam decided he was hot and so stripped down to his diaper for Thanksgiving. I love that there is an age where this works! The second is a slightly out of focus and yet wonderful family photo. This Christmas we will be in three rather different locations, and so this is a beautiful reminder of family as Christmas travels begin. I hope that you will be with loved ones for Christmas.

thumper turns 1

Although we celebrated his birthday last week when I was in Atlanta, today my nephew, Liam, aka Thumper, turns 1. He has been an incredible blessing to my family. Watching him grow and develop a personality this year has been so much fun. When I met him last Thanksgiving he did nothing but sleep on me for hours at a time. Now he is crawling across the house and walking while holding onto anything in sight. I think my favorite is that he likes to copy his mom and dad – he has his own (broken) laptop for the living room and a small frying pan for the kitchen. And, just like I promised Thumper, we all went camping together before he turned one. These are few pictures I took last week on a trip to the park; the last is my favorite. Yes, I am a proud aunt!

thumper’s first birthday cake

Last week I was in Atlanta with my siblings getting over jet leg and enjoying some family time. The highlight of the week was the celebration of my nephew’s 1st birthday. We made a big cake and a little one for him. Banana spice cake with cream cheese frosting. At first Thumper was not so sure about the situation – the blue food in front of him. Then the sugar and some smiles. And then he was full. We all smiled. Thank God for kids. 1 year old pictures coming next week.