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Life as We Know It

5 Nov

Man, it has been a long time since I’ve posted.  Things have changed.

A lot.

We’re now a family of five.  Me and Joel, Clara, 5, Lucy 2.5, and Ben 5 months.  Clara is in kindergarten, learning to read, and being as spunky as ever.  Lucy is our little strawberry ginger, has a firey personality, and is such a goof.  She wants to make you laugh at all costs.  Ben is our sweet baby boy.  Much loved, long awaited.

It seems like most of our marriage has been varying in the amount of transition and waiting that we’re going through, but there’s always some transition or some waiting.  Maybe that’s normal, but it feels like we have an abnormal amount.  I mean, in 8 years, we’ve had 2 new degrees, 3 or 4 different careers, 3 kids, 3 moves (the fourth coming up next year), 2 failed attempts at the BAR, one business acquisition, started and run 3 businesses.  I kind of think that we are gluttons for punishment in some ways.  We do not do one life change at a time – we like to pile them all together for some reason.

Basically we’re crazy.

There are so many things that I want to talk about here.  Way too much for one post.  At some point I will post in more detail about the last 8 years, our story with Ben, our transition to three kids, postpartum depression, and more.  My brain is spinning with all that I want to write, but it’s too jumbled for me to sort out right now.

If you’re here, I kind of can’t believe it.  Thanks for hanging in.  There’s much more to come.


23 Oct

testing… I’m thinking of coming back to the blog… just making sure it’s all still working.

Uganda – an overview of our trip

11 Jun

As you might remember, at the end of February, I packed my bags, said goodbye to my family, and headed across the Atlantic Ocean with 10 people I didn’t know to Uganda.  I had traveled internationally before, but always with my husband or my family, and never with people I hadn’t met.  But this opportunity presented itself, and it was obvious that I was meant to go.

When you get back from a trip overseas, people often ask the same question: “How was it?”  And rarely is there time to fully explain it, and almost never are the right words available to describe it. I could write a book about our time there, but I’ve had trouble finding the right words to start.  And I definitely can’t explain it in a 20 second passing conversation.  It’s hard for me to boil it all down to a blog post even, but I do want to give you a little peek into my time in Uganda – the people I met and the things I learned were beautiful and hard and overwhelming and emotional and amazing.

Let me start with the team.

The only person I knew going into this was Kristin Cook.  We had hung out briefly a few times, and I knew a few things about her – she loves Jesus, she’s a talented photographer, and a great story teller.  She’s energetic, funny, and always positive.  We set up our flights together and were able to travel all the way to Uganda together – every step of the way.  I’m not sure I would have made it without her.


Katie Jameson – I didn’t know Katie, and while a lot of other people knew of her (she’s an Instagram phenom), I am a little out of the loop, I guess.  She’s tall, beautiful, loves big hats, iced mochas and chocolate cake.  She has an eye for interesting and unique compositions, and had a theme for every day she shot in Uganda.  She thinks about her craft, and though she’s relatively new to the photography industry, she’s an all around artist.  She designs clothes, and you can expect to see her work on a runway someday.  For now, she makes her home in Austin, TX.


Samantha Pelissier – Oh my dear Sam.  She lives in California and is married to a fruit farmer – what a life!  They spent the past year traveling the world and camping out of their VW bus.  A free-spirit, a heart of gold, an instant friend.  She shoots with film and my dream camera, a Contax 645 and creates the dreamiest images.  She and her husband are starting the adoption process, as well.  And she lifts really heavy weights.



Valerie Keinsley – newlywed, photographer, graphic designer, and web genius – she’s amazingly fun to be around!  She’s got the biggest most tender heart, and cares fiercely for her friends.  She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.  Valerie is both strong and vulnerable, which is a rare combination.  She’s the kind of person that you want to have on speed dial for those days that life just gets to be a little too much.  If only we lived closer together, Valerie.   (PS, she’s also the newest staff member at The Archibald Project!)


Justin and Keary Cheney – They are maybe the sweetest couple ever, the minds behind Grace & Salt, and soon to be adoptive parents (from Uganda!).  They live in California, and have the cutest little puppy who they take on all their adventures.  Justin creates incredible furniture and wooden signs for their easy shop, and together they make gorgeous wedding images for their clients.  They are also adopting from Uganda, and they shared that with us a few weeks before we left on the trip.  How awesome is that? (And how do I not have a photo of both of them??? Sorry Keary!)


Steven and Maggie Shafer – Hailing from Colorado, these two are writers and journalists.  They ask thoughtful questions, and listen to the answers carefully.  Their words are always carefully chosen.  Maggie works for a startup company called Bulb, and Steven is a woodworker (y’all, he posted a photo of a keepsake box he made the other day and it is GORGEOUS).  Their senses of humor never failed to make me laugh, and I just want to move to Colorado and be best friends with them.


Nick and Whitney Runyon – These two are the masterminds behind The Archibald Project – founders and pioneers.  They are from Austin, TX, where Whitney has a photography business and Nick is a pilot.  Yep, you read that right.  In addition to being just the coolest people ever, they have a heart for orphans and adoption.  They like to play pranks on people, but only people they really like, so count it a blessing, if it ever happens to you. (Also not sure how I don’t have any photos of Nick… wow!)



I could not have asked for a better group of people to travel with.  Within minutes of meeting, we were all talking about things that most people don’t talk about for years.  Deep, important things – with thoughtfully crafted questions and genuine interest.  I had almost forgotten what that was like.  It was so clear that everyone on the team was just exactly who was supposed to be there.  I am so thankful for these 10 new friends I made.  It’s funny, but after only 12 days together, I think about them every single day and I miss them like crazy.

I set out knowing that I was going to meet some amazing kids – orphans we would call them.  But they are so much more than that.  I know that because I was lucky enough to get to look into their eyes, push them in a swing, sing songs with them, learn some of their language, and let them nap on my chest.  These are beautiful, sweet, children.  They are children of God – just like you and me.  They are trusting, loving, and carefree, despite coming from some very difficult circumstances.  Many of these kids have lost parents to HIV or other tragedies, but some of them have loving and healthy families who just can’t afford to feed them. These kids are just like our kids… they love attention – every second of eye contact, every hand hold, every kind word. They love to play games, sing songs, run and swing.




The babies’ home where we were is part of an organization called Arise and Shine Uganda. It was started by Sharon Nyanjura, a local Ugandan, who is now 27 years old.  Her family, like many Ugandan families, found themselves struggling to support all their children (there were 12!!), and Sharon eventually had to find missionaries willing to sponsor her education.  She was able to complete primary and secondary school, thanks to her sponsors, and she even graduated from university with a degree in Organizational Psychology.  Her education has served her well.  3 years ago she started the babies’ home, which now houses 30-40 children at a time.  She has also started a primary school in the village where she grew up, runs 4 guest houses which provide some of the income necessary to run the babies home, income generating projects to help families be able to afford to support themselves and their children, and while we were there she opened a restaurant in Jinja.  She has accomplished all this in 3 years!  This woman is unstoppable!

She has big dreams for her organization – she wants Arise and Shine Uganda to be all over the country – helping families, providing education for children, providing health and hygiene education to the public, and taking care of orphans.  As I heard her talk, I looked around at the children she is taking care of, and I couldn’t help but think that if these kids were able to have access to an education like she had, and if they could dream even half as big as she does, they could help change their country.


Waiting for the Words

14 Mar


We’re back, and I’m so excited to share with you all I learned and experienced in Uganda.  I want to start right now, but every time I sit down to start typing, the words escape me.  I will have so much for you, but right now it’s all very scattered and unintelligible.  I have pieces of stories written and the rest of the words are still forming in my mind.  There is so much to share, so much to do.

I’m going to try to compose my first story this weekend, but until then, please check out what my teammates have written so far!

Valerie – Things Emma Taught Me

The Archibald Project – Village Visit Day

Katie Jameson – Made With Love: Sole Hope

Katie Jameson – Learning to Trust

Uganda Trip – How You Can Help

14 Feb

Less than two weeks until I head to Uganda!  I’m gathering all my items to pack in one place, and as I’m doing that, I’m packing a GIANT duffel bag of things to take to the kids at Arise and Shine (the babies’ home we’ll be working at).

I have a few things to pack in that duffel bag already, but I would love for it to be FULL!  Or even to have to take TWO of them!  Can you help me fill up that suitcase??

Arise and Shine has given us a list of things that they need:



Baby formula for infants
Vitamins (gummies)
Tylenol or Paracetamol (pain relief and fever meds)
Baby sheets
*Clothes 0-5 years (boys and girls)
*Shoes/sandals 0-5 Years (boys and girls)
Educational materials
Preschool supplies
Disabled children equipment (any thing to help them get mobile, toys that can stimulate them, etc)
Washable diapers
Tooth brushes and tooth paste

*Gently used clothes and shoes should be fine. Anything would be such a blessing to these kids.
The above items are what Arise and Shine really needs. I know that so many of you have businesses and Etsy shops with items that would be such an added blessing to these kids to go above and beyond just basic needs. Below is a list of other items that would also be so great to bring to the home. Keep in mind the items are for kids ages 0-5. It would also be amazing if you wanted to include a little note to the kids that I could read to them!



Stuffed Animals
Baby slings
Coloring books or drawing pads
Play mats
Burp Cloths

…or anything else you can think of!

If you want to help out with some of these items, please email me at and I can either give you my address for you to send me the items or we can work on coordinating pickup.

Thank you so much for all your help!!  I can’t wait to share all these things with the kids in Uganda!

I’m going to Uganda!!

9 Jan

With all these beautiful people!


More about this coming very soon.  In the meantime, you can check out The Archibald Project.  Watch their videos of adoptions they’ve documented, and like their Facebook page.

This is going to be an amazing trip – I can’t wait to share more about it with you!  Stay tuned!

Just a touchdown short…

22 Oct

So, we got Joel’s scores back from the BAR exam about a 2 weeks ago.  As it turns out he was so so very close to passing.

6 points.

That’s all that separated him from passing.  6 points.

Joel is encouraged by that.  He was so close, and I think it makes him feel like he doesn’t have as much ground to make up as he thought he might.  And considering all the things that happened right before the exam (all of us sick, his busted ear drum, losing 2 weeks of study time, not sleeping for several days leading up to the exam and getting only 2 hours of sleep the night before), he feels really good about that.

I am still heartbroken.  We were so close.  I was so sure we were done.  He was diligent.  He worked hard.  He did everything he could, and 6 points is all he needed to be done with this.

So we created a study schedule and got ready to start all over again.

Then we got his essays back.  He got a zero on one of them.

There was one essay that he wrote in the wrong book.  The proctor told him it would be fine to rip it out and staple it into the answer book.  If he were to get a zero on any essay, you’d think it would be that one, right?

I thought that, too.

We would both be wrong about that.

That essay, which only had 3 sentences – his conclusion – in the answer book, got him a 3.

The essay that got a 0 was one that he wrote 3 pages for.  That, when looking at the sample answers they sent back, has the same conclusion, the same rule statement, and essentially the same points as the sample answer.

Please, someone tell me how that equals a zero.  Please.  Because I cannot understand it.

To me, it seems like someone just didn’t feel like grading anymore, and gave a zero because they felt like it.

We can file a grievance, but there is no appeal to change the scores or get it re-graded.  I think we should, even if it does nothing more than get that grader removed from the grading panel.

There’s still nothing really to do, except for Joel to take the exam again.  And pray that God will show us what He is doing with this.  I can’t believe that He would let this happen for no reason.  So I can’t wait to see what He’s doing.  Why all this happened.  I know  He must have some purpose in it.  I just cannot imagine what it is.

the news

30 Aug

We left Raleigh yesterday with high hopes for good news to come in the mail today, to reach us via a phone call from someone who would check our mail.  

Today, when the phone call came, it was not the news we had hoped for.  My heart sank.  

Joel didn’t pass the BAR.  

Those words don’t even seem to make sense in my head.  But that’s the cold hard truth.  He didn’t pass.

To say that I wasn’t prepared for this would be an understatement.  I was totally sure he  had passed.  But I can tell you this, he could not have worked any harder.  60 days is a short time to re-learn all the details of all those classes.  And he worked so hard every single day to learn it.  

Even though I’m having a hard time dealing with this, and even though I can’t see it, I know that the Lord is doing this for a specific reason.  I’ve seen it too many times before to deny that… things that we couldn’t possibly understand why they were happening, looking back it’s all so clearly the hand of God in our lives.  I know that this is the same thing happening again, and I won’t understand it for a while, but I’m sure one day we’ll be able to look back and see it clearly.  I’m clinging to that as hard as I can.

So we move on.  

Joel will request his scores and his essays back and then he’ll take them in to the lady who does bar stuff at Campbell.  She’ll help him figure out what to focus on, what to study, how to study, and maybe recommend a tutor to help him.  He’ll study again.  And in February, he’ll take the BAR again.  This time it won’t be so intense – he’ll have 6 months this time, which should mean he will be around more and able to help me more than he was in June and July.  Which is a good thing, because I don’t think we would survive two more months of that.  

So, here we go – bar exam round 2.  Lord help us.

We made it!

17 Aug

I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy, but we made it through the bar exam. We actually did!

It’s been not quite 2 weeks since Joel finished, and life seems to be slowly but surely returning to normal. Except I’m not even sure what normal looks like anymore.

Law school has been a 5 year ordeal for us. Here’s how Joel put it (I stole this from his Facebook page):

Tomorrow (and Wednesday) I sit for the BAR. It is a day I have been working towards for almost 5 years. I have faced some challenges along the way. Starting with bombing the LSAT and repeating it 3 times, to finally after a ton of hard work getting admitted to Campbell Law’s PBAP program. I worked my tail off and drove to Buies Creek everyday for an entire summer, only to miss out on a law school seat by 1 point due to a computer issue that was Campbell’s fault! I had to wait a year, retake the LSAT, reapply and finally made it into law school in 2010. In my first year, Rebecca and I had Clara, bought a new house, became landlords, moved out to Holly Springs and had the first law school finals experience all within a 3 month span. I worked hard for three years of school, we welcomed Lucy into the world during the last semester, and I graduated law school. I am very proud of the fact that not only did I finish in the top 1/3 of my class, but I did it while starting and running 2 businesses during school, planning to open a law firm, starting a family and raising two kids, spending time with all three of my girls, family and friends, training BJJ and Thai boxing at least 3 times a week, getting three stripes on my blue belt (my goal was a purple belt but I guess I can’t do it all!), doing Billyfit once a week and getting into the best shape I have been in years.

Whatever happens tomorrow and the day after, I could care less about the outcome, because there process has been far more valuable to me then the results. Having to fight through two weeks of being sick, having an ear infection, my ear canal swollen shut and a burst eardrum, on top of all the girls being sick, and no one getting any sleep has made studying difficult! However, my faith taught me a long time ago about the value of difficulty and suffering. BJJ has brought that lesson home to me in a very practical way. I spend hours every week getting my butt kicked by people stronger then me, weaker then me, faster them me, younger then me, older then me, more technical then me, smarter then me, dumber then me. Yet there is value in, and I have learned from, every one of those experiences. I am better for it. If I pass today, I will be happy, if not, I’ll dust myself off, get back up and do it again, and again and again until I prevail, and I am fine with that. Thank you to everyone who has helped me out the last few years to get here. I sincerely believe I could not have gotten to this point with out all of you. See ya Thursday!

The last two months have been the hardest that I can remember in my life. More demands on my time, more stress, more trying not to show stress and stress my husband out even more (lots of failing at that), more kids, more frustration, not getting to the gym as much as I needed to to work out that frustration.

More studying and writing notecards for an exam I wasn’t even taking. But I could probably pass the wills and trusts section and the corporations section if I had to.

In the end, we’ve all come out alive. Perhaps slightly scarred, but alive. I keep feeling like we’re doing something we’re not supposed to by relaxing, going to the gym, going on vacation, playing at the pool, and generally doing everything but think about law school. It has been so long of that being our main focus that we aren’t sure what to do with ourselves.

If this gives you any indication of the state of our lives during the two months he was studying for the bar, I did laundry only when absolutely necessary. Just being honest, here. After the bar, when I finally caught up and got all the laundry clean, the pile to be folded and put away was literally a mountain as tall as Clara that covered our whole king sized bed.


There are a lot of things that are that way. We were, quite literally, in survival mode. And it is taking a while to dig out from under all the piles, literal and figurative. Among the many things I missed: getting to spend time together as a family, getting to go out of the house by myself, doing things because I want to, cooking healthy food for my family, going to church all together, and having a husband who has more than 5 minutes during the day to talk to and play with his children.

It has been a hard road, y’all. There is no doubt about that.

It will be several more weeks until we know if Joel passed the bar or if we will have to go through all this again. (Oh please, Lord, no.)

I’m operating on the assumption that he passed, but in the event that he does have to take it again, you may need to send a search party, because I might run away.

Just kidding.

But seriously.  I really might.

I really couldn’t be more proud of Joel.  He has worked so hard for this – harder than I’ve ever seen him work for anything.  He has made us so proud.  Clara still talks about his graduation to this day.  What she really remembers is his funny hat, but that’s cool.  She knew it was a special day and that daddy had accomplished something important.  And she’s right about that.  It hasn’t been easy for anyone, but don’t they say something about things that are worth doing aren’t easy?  Well, “they” would be right.

We’ve taken the last week or so to spend some time together as a family, and it’s been good. I think we are all ready to find our new routine.

For now, though, we are trying to piece life back together a bit.  I have a massive list of things that we need to do just to get the house back in order.  If you’ve been in my house in the last 2 months, I apologize.  I looked around the other day and realized everything has just been left wherever it was put down, meaning in the entry way and dining room of our house.  The end result?  We look like hoarders to anyone who comes to our front door.

So, yeah.  If you came to our house, I’m sorry.  And thank you for not saying anything about the disaster.

But most importantly, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped us with anything at all over the last few months.  There have been so many of you that helped us – from our neighbors watching our kids to my parents letting me and the girls go there every weekend in July so Joel could have a quiet house to study in.  Whether it was watching our kids, going for a walk around the neighborhood, offering a word of encouragement or a reminder that this was only a temporary situation when it seemed never-ending – even the tiniest things made the biggest difference, so THANK YOU.

I really am hoping to catch up or at least post a bit more often here, now that things have calmed down a little.  No promises, though…

Graduation and the rest…

15 May

Joel graduated on Friday morning.  It was amazing and surreal and emotional.  We were surrounded by family and friends who have been a part of this journey with us.  People who have listened to all the stories, marked all the big milestones, wiped tears, said encouraging words.  We couldn’t have been happier to celebrate with everyone.

I cried when I saw him walk in to the auditorium.  I cried when he walked across the stage to get his hood and his diploma.  I cried when the president of the student bar association talked about how some students have sacrificed being the best in their class because their families were their priorities, and rightly so.  I was proud.  I was thankful.  I was relieved.  I was elated.

We had a party that night – and again, we had lots of friends, family, and neighbors who have walked with us through this 3 year journey who came to celebrate with us.

You might think that graduation marks the end of the law school journey.

You would be wrong.

We do have one week off – this week – and then BAR prep begins.  The first week is online classes, thankfully, so Joel can come with us to the beach.  But after that, it’s every day, 9-1 or 9-5, and then studying at home, writing practice essays, taking sample tests.  Every day until the BAR exam on July 30-31.

And then it’s over.  And, assuming he passes, Joel will be starting work.  That’s a whole ‘nother story.

I’m a bit behind on things – I still need to post (and write) Lucy’s birth day story, and there have been a lot of other things that have happened since then that I need to write about as well.  But my concentration has been on getting us to graduation, so the blog has fallen a bit behind…. along with a few other things.  (Hence the cleaning lady who came to help me clean the house before the party, and her comment as she looked around for a minute, “Ok, I see we need some help here.”)

Lucy is 3.5 months old already, if you can believe it.  She’s an amazing baby.  SO happy!  So quiet and content.  I just adore her and her sweet red hair and fair skin.  She smiles and giggles, and there is really nothing sweeter than that in the whole world.

Clara is crazy as ever.  She says the most hilarious things!  I am trying so hard to keep track of them and write them down.  I created an email account for her so I can just send it there, and she (or I) can have it for later.  There’s at least one almost every day, and I just crack up.  She’s starting preschool in a few weeks, and I’m so excited for that.  She’s going to love being around other kids, and having structured activities to do.

Me myself and I, are back to work.  I’m finding that as much as I love my job, it is really hard to want to leave on the weekends.  Those sweet baby giggles and hilarious toddler sayings are tugging on my heartstrings every moment I’m away.

So off we go, into the next phase of this journey… we’ll just have to wait and see what it holds…