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While driving the other day, the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me sucked the wind right out of my lungs. I could hardly breathe.  It was all I could do to hold it together until I got home.

It said: “I can lactate, what can you do?”

Of course that person was celebrating motherhood and the incredible miracle of a woman’s body being able to create, grow, and sustain life.  Of course those are beautiful things, and of course she would have no intention of hurting anyone with those words.

How could she know the struggle of the woman in the car behind her?

Over the course of my life, I have been astounded by the number of incredible women who have loved, befriended, mentored, and cherished me.

I was blessed to grow up in a safe little town where I could babysit and house clean for neighbors, where I could listen to the stories and wisdom of so many incredible women.  I had remarkable friends who played volleyball with me, baked cookies, watched Jane Austen movies, and taught me how to be a friend.  My mom and sisters cultivated so many good things in me, including a totally bizarre sense of humor.

When I went off to college, I made the absolute best friends of my life.  I had no idea at the time how these girls would stick to my heart like glue.  We’ve known each other for nearly half our lives, and we’ve shared so many memories, laughs and tears together.

Then there were all the great women I’ve learned from professionally.  Women with hearts of gold and incredible work ethics.  Mentors and mentees, all such great friends.

And where do I begin with the women I’ve met abroad?  Crazy-smart women with such bravery and such a passion for helping the world’s most vulnerable.  Friends in China, Kenya, and Malaysia.  Women who loved me like crazy, even if we only lived side by side for a short time.

All these women.

And then I came to San Francisco.  I have experienced such beautiful diversity, in every way you can imagine.  I’ve become friends with such a tribe of smart, beautiful, courageous women.  Women who have suffered through divorce, the death of a best friend, the illness of a child.  Single women.  Married women.  Women with kids, women with no kids.  Women with amazing careers, women with dreams on hold.  Women who run marathons, swim in the Arctic, do fire dancing, run their own businesses.  Each woman with her own story – her own triumphs and her own heartbreaks.

In a lot of ways, I am so amazed by all the incredibly diverse ways women here in America can live their lives.  We have so many more options than the generations of women before us.  Our opportunities here in America at times seem endless.  In many ways, I feel so grateful to be on the planet at this particular span of time.

But here’s where I struggle, and this is partly why that bumper sticker hurt so much:

As women, we have such capacity to be there for each other. So many times we win, but perhaps just as many times we fail.

I find myself asking this question again and again:  How can we as women in 2016 love and support each other, no matter what choices or circumstances we are in?  Without judgment, without unsolicited advice, without gossip.  How do we sit with each other, knowing that we each carry a life’s journey that is unlike anyone else’s?  How do we hold each other’s dreams tenderly, knowing that not one of us has control over the fulfillment of our heart’s desires?

How have other women come through for you?  How have they failed you?

I remember being in my 20’s – growing in my career, unmarried, trying to navigate through adult life.  I was told by so many well-meaning friends that I “shouldn’t wait so long” to get married.  I was being too picky, they said.  I wasn’t putting myself out there enough.  Did I even want to be married, they asked?  These comments hurt more than I’d like to admit.  These women spoke as if I could just grab a spouse off a supermarket shelf, easy as that.

I spent so much of my 20’s just trying to pay attention to the doors opening and closing around me – trying to be brave and make the right choices.  I was lonely a lot of that time and sincerely wanted to meet the right person.  It was hard seeing so many friends – many quite a bit younger than me – getting married and starting families. I spent thousands of dollars on bridesmaid dresses, wedding gifts and bachelorette parties while my own home was outfitted with hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. I am glad I spent that money and love those friends so dearly. I’m so glad I could celebrate with them. But at that time in my life, I was caught between simultaneously feeling like I was following the right path and also feeling like a complete failure.  It was an awful way to feel, and I had very few voices affirming me.

As hard as that time was, this particular stage in my life has felt even more difficult.  This is a tough thing for me to be vulnerable about, but Dave and I have not yet been able to start a family.  Statistically, about 1 in 8 couples struggle with fertility issues.  Of those couples, about 25% of them experience what is called, “unexplained infertility.”  That means no medical reason why a couple can’t conceive.  We are part of that very small, unfortunate number.

On an emotional level, this has been really tough.  We very much want to be parents.  It has also been difficult taking a very private experience and sharing it with countless strangers – doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, acupuncturists, you name it.  Most of the world’s couples get to start their families in complete privacy.  This has not been our story.  Taking something so intimate and watching it become clinical has not been easy.  It’s also not easy feeling like you’re failing at being a woman on a monthly basis.  There are days when it is difficult to be sincerely happy for all the friends and family who are having babies all around us, seemingly easy as pie.

But even harder than all that has been navigating the questions and advice.  Being told by friends that we waited too long try and start a family.  Being asked if we event want to have children.  Being reminded of my age.  Being told I focused too much on my education and career, that maybe I shouldn’t have lived abroad or taken a job when we came back to America.  Hearing so many random recommendations for particular doctors, sex positions, herbal teas.  Suddenly my uterus is everyone’s business – all my life choices are on trial, ready for speculation and judgment.  Just like my marital status ten years ago, everyone has advice and opinions on something that is quite private.

I understand that much of this is given with the best of intentions, coming from people who love us dearly.  But it’s not helpful, it’s actually quite painful.

What has meant the most?

Women who have walked a mile in my shoes coming alongside me with an encouraging email, text message, or hug.  Women who know exactly what this particular kind of pain feels like.  Women who remind me of all that is good and worthy and beautiful about this particular path I’m on.  Women who are not quick to judge, offer advice, or tell me how I should be living differently.  Women who don’t take it personally if I don’t want to talk.  Women who celebrate and affirm the amazing opportunities that I have been given.  Women who just plain love me.

That’s what I need for myself, and that’s what I want to give to the other women in my life. I want to hear more stories and offer more empathy. I want to take more girl friends out for a drink when they land their dream job. I want to babysit more often so the tired moms I know can have a night off.  I want to keep going to those baby showers and bachelorette parties.  I want to cheer for those women who are heading back to school, chasing that new dream, living that new adventure.  I want to affirm, affirm, affirm all those brave choices that my friends are making every day.

As women, we have incredible capacity to nurture and inspire each other.

Let’s take our stories and use them to love one another better.  And please, let’s be gentle with each other.  Before we speak or speculate, let’s think about the countless other beautiful souls around us who are all just doing their best.

It seems way too long since I wrote anything on here.  The longer the hiatus, the harder it is to think of a comeback post.

And so I’m posting a recipe.

Nothing speaks of comfort and home to me more than a slice of pie.  I think of the pumpkin and pecan pies my mom would make for Thanksgiving every year.  I think of Pennsylvania and having peanut butter pie at Rachel’s with my best friends.   I think of Gullifty’s in Pittsburgh and their famous ten-pound apple pie.  I even think of those glass cases at restaurants like Perkins, Big Boy and Eat n Park that would showcase their “homemade” pies.

When I moved to China, the first pie I made was lemon meringue with my friend Ellie.  Without an electric mixer, we had quite a time beating those egg whites into a meringue, let me tell you.  I loved having Chinese students over to my apartment to learn about Thanksgiving and the tradition of making pie.  When I moved to Kenya, I loved walking into a party carrying a strawberry rhubarb pie for friends like Katie and Nate to enjoy.  I loved learning how to bake gluten free pie crusts for Anne, Debbi and Rachel.  I carried pies on all sorts of Kenyan getaways – taking them in taxis, on planes, and even on motor boats.

When Lucy moved to Kenya, I made a true pie-making friend.  I loved talking through which pie we would make that week, then sit in her living room knitting while our latest experiment baked.  Her husband Rod would always peek in from time to time, nonchalantly asking how much longer the pie had to go.  I loved bringing coconut cream pie to home group, watching Peter and Karibu lean back in their chairs with a contented smile with every bite.   I loved baking a blueberry pie with Dave’s mom in California and have his brother Joey concede that it “wasn’t too bad…for a pie.”  I’ve baked pies now in four different countries, all for people I love.

I just love baking pie.

The following pie is a real winner because it’s Dave’s favorite.  The man was born without a sweet tooth, a crying shame if you ask me.  For years, he’s politely taken bites of pie, told me they were delicious, then left the rest of the slice on his plate.  But then came THIS pie.  This pie has changed it all.

Blueberries & Cream Pie

For crust:
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup butter, chilled
1/4 tsp. salt
5-8 Tbs. ice water

Add flour, salt and butter together in a bowl.  Mix with pastry cutter, two knives or a fork until you have coarse crumbs.  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.  Roll out on clean, floured surface and place in a 9-inch pie dish.

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For filling:
1 Cup sugar
2 Tbs. (heaping) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, separated
1 Cup milk
1 Tbs. butter, melted

Mix all the above ingredients together, except for the egg whites.  Using a metal bowl, beat egg whites until slightly stiff.  (I put my beaters in the freezer for a few minutes and have my egg whites at room temperature so that the beat up nicely.)

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Gently fold egg whites into custard mixture.

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Place a layer of blueberries in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust and pour custard mixture over the top.

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Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until custard is set.  (Custard is set when pie is golden and mostly firm, just a little wobbly right in the middle.)  You may need to cover the pie with aluminum foil or a cookie sheet for the last 15-20 minutes to keep it from browning too much.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then put in the refrigerator.  Best if chilled for at least 4 hours.

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This pie is also delicious with other kinds of fruit, especially other berries, mango or peach.

Enjoy!

fundraiser update

We are sitting here, blown away.

Just 9 days ago, I wrote a blog about Ken and our hope to raise $2,000 to cover his cleft lip and palate surgery. We never expected that so many of you would respond so quickly and so generously to this request.  Because of you, we met our goal and Ken is going to get the surgery he needs for a healthy life!

Thank you!!

Seriously…thank YOU.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but we weren’t sure how much money we’d be able to raise.  So we kept delaying our gift into Ken’s fund, expecting that we’d need to “top it off” near the deadline to make sure we met our goal.  But then you all blew us out of the water before we could make our gift!

So we have put our heads together with New Day and have decided to give towards another fund – a much more ambitious one, and one that is going to save the lives of two little girls:  Tabitha and Lydia.

Tabitha

Lydia

Two amazing young women – Hannah and Lindsay – are raising the $14,000 needed to cover the heart surgeries for both babies.  Dave and I are really honored to give towards this fund.  We hope that if any of you were hoping to give to Ken’s fund and didn’t have the chance, that you’ll hop on over with us and give generously towards their surgeries.

This fund really touches me, because I knew so many “heart babies” when I worked at New Day.  Over the years, New Day has brought in so many children with serious heart conditions.  Luke.  Addison.  Cooper.  Emily.  Jack.  So many others, each coming through one (or more) major heart surgeries.  I remember the kiddos used to peek down my shirt sometimes looking for a scar.  At New Day, it’s a little odd not to have a scar on your chest!

The staff at New Day have built incredible relationships with surgeons in Beijing too – doctors who came to fight for these children as hard as the New Day staff.

I was told that a surgeon actually took one of the New Day staff aside one day to ask a question.  He said that without a doubt, New Day brought the sickest children to his hospital.  They had the most complicated conditions – and on top of it, they were orphans.  Unlike other babies in his care, these babies were not surrounded by loving families.  But despite all that, he said that the New Day babies always seemed to beat the odds.  They came out of surgery better than expected, were moved from ICU faster than predicted, and on their way home faster than anybody would have thought.  And he just couldn’t figure out WHY.  But our staff person smiled and had the answer…

“Well, we pray.”

What she explained in her answer is that people from all over the world are cheering these kids on – with prayers, with finances, with care packages, even with Facebook “likes.”

It’s true that by all accounts, the children who come into New Day have the odds stacked against them.  But that’s not the end of the story.  We each have the enormous joy and privilege to turn the tide every time we make a gift or say a prayer.

And so please consider joining with Dave and me as we give towards the surgeries for Lydia and Tabitha.  These little gems are worth fighting for.

his name is Ken.

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It’s easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.”  – David Platt

Nearly two years.

Nearly two years ago, I lived in a dusty little village on the outskirts of Beijing.  I would walk 30 minutes past vegetable stands and bicycle shops to one of my favorite places on earth – New Day.

For those of you who followed my stories over the years, you know how much that place changed me.  I lived and worked with people who cared passionately about making a difference, especially for orphans with serious medical needs.  There were so many victories, so many kids who got better and went home to loving adoptive families.  There were also incredibly hard times when a child would pass away.  But even then, we would celebrate their lives and rejoice that we could love them.  I worked with people who risked their hearts again and again and again on behalf of children who needed somebody to fight for them.

I’ve never known another place like New Day.

You may remember my stories introducing you to Luke (formerly Seth)…
and then meeting his adoptive family
also meeting Jack
and Abigail
and Emily

You may remember when I wrote about this sweet little boy

These children and many more touched my life.  I know they touched many of yours as well.

In just under 3 weeks, Dave and I are headed back to China for a 10-day visit.  I’m really excited to show Dave more of Beijing and to enjoy some really great Chinese food with him.  We’re also taking an overnight train to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors (something that’ll be new for both of us).  But more than anything, I can’t wait to take him back to New Day.

They say you can never step in the same river twice.

I know many faces have changed in the last 2 years – many of the special people I worked with have moved on to new adventures.  But at the same time, many faces will still be familiar.  And there will be many new faces to meet as well!

One little face I can’t wait to see belongs to a baby named Ken.

He’s an incredibly happy little guy who was born just 2 days before our wedding.  As we celebrated our marriage with friends and family half a world away, his parents were grappling with the reality of having a son with pretty major medical needs – both a cleft lip and palate.  On July 7, Dave and I were enjoying one last day in Montana before heading off to Cancun for our honeymoon.  On that same day, Ken was abandoned in a grove of trees, then taken to a local orphanage.

Thankfully, little Ken is now at New Day.  He’s thriving under the loving care of amazing nannies and awaiting the surgery that will give him the ability to speak and eat normally.  The cost for this life-changing surgery is $2,000.

My goal in the next few weeks is to raise all the money needed for Ken’s surgery.  It’s a big goal:  $2,000 in just a matter of weeks.  But I think we can do it!

Let’s join together and help change this little man’s life!  We are using Chip In, (a really great, secure way to give online that looks a whole lot more nifty on blogs that aren’t hosted by WordPress.)  Through ChipIn, we can also track our progress and watch as we reach our goal!

So please consider giving not only to a great organization but directly to help little Ken.  Any amount helps and helps Ken get one step closer to a full and healthy life!

a day in the life…

I don’t want my blog to be a platform for complaining – especially if this is only the second post I’ve written in 2012.  But this day has been gnawing at me, and the only way to get it out is to write.

Sometimes I don’t know how to wrap my mind around living in Nairobi.

As far as daily life goes, I’ve got it better here than probably 99.9% of the population.  Things are inconvenient and frustrating no doubt, but I live in an apartment that is safer than most, drive a car that is more reliable than most, and have access to better health care than most.  I am American – that means I have citizenship in a country that gets me access to travel just about anywhere I want.  I miss my husband when he travels, but I know he loves me and is faithful to me.  Not many Kenyan women can say that.  Every day, I wake up knowing that the worst day I’ve ever had in Nairobi is like cake compared to the daily life of most people living here.

But at the same time, there are some days that are just SO frustrating.  Am I allowed to be frustrated?  Am I allowed to shake my fist in the air, wondering if anyone in this whole country understands customer service?  Does every task have to be a challenge?  Can there ever be an “easy” Kenya day?

And so here’s a recounting of my day – typical things that could happen whenever.  This day wasn’t remarkable in its awfulness.  The awfulness is more in the knowing that I’ve had many days like this, and tomorrow is likely to be the same.  I feel bad that these things wear me down so much, in light of true suffering going on just down the street.  But still, I’m sending my my privileged-girl complaints out into the void…hoping someday I can have a better perspective.

#1:  Gas Station
I pull into the station and see two attendants serving other customers.  They nod at me, acknowledging I’m there.  I wait.  And wait.  Then wait some more.  After several minutes, a big Prado with red diplomatic plates pulls up.  The driver starts hollering for service.  The attendant hops to it and starts filling his fuel tank, checking his oil levels, etc.  I continue to wait.  When the second attendant finally comes to my car, I lose it.  I demand he explain why that other customer was more important than me.  I don’t listen to him repeat “So sorry, madam” about 10 times and just ask him to fill my tank as fast as possible.  I sit there fuming.  Then I realize that I am this American woman, sitting in an SUV, losing it on a poor service station attendant for something he didn’t even do.  When he comes to collect payment, I apologize to him and ask him to forgive me.  He doesn’t know what to say.  l pull away, feeling like a privileged jerk.

#2:  Healthy You
I walk into a health food store, looking for the fixings for gluten-free pie crust.  I only need 2 ingredients – rice flour and xantham gum.  I find the flour just fine but need help with the second.  There is one employee in the store, serving a well-dressed woman who is talking on her cell phone.  She doesn’t even look at him or talk to him, only taps on various canisters of nuts and seeds, grunting when he’s filled the bags enough.  I wait while he does this with about 10 items for her, and then I ask if maybe he could direct me to the xantham gum.  She flicks me on my arm and says, “Excuse me but I was here first!”  She goes back to her canister-tapping and grunting, and the employee whispers that they are out of xantham gum.  Then, she insists on checking out in front of me, even though I have only one item.  As this poor lone employee scans her items at the register, she goes back to the canisters again and starts indicating more additional items she wants.  Not once does she get off her phone or speak a word to the employee.

#3:  Nakumatt
Free from Healthy You, I go to the main supermarket in town – Nakumatt.  I walk towards the express lane with my 3 items, and 2 teenage girls cut me off with handfuls of candy.  The total comes to 411 shillings, and they have just 400.  They pull out one item, but the check out employee does not know how to remove an item from the register.  She calls a manager.  He doesn’t come.  She starts asking other employees to find the manager.  They kind of scan the crowd but do nothing.  And so we wait.  And wait.  Finally, I pay the additional 11 shillings just to keep the line moving.  The girls never turn around or say thank you.

#4:  The Bus
Trying to turn onto my road towards home, a school bus full of children turns in front of me.  Because there is so much traffic, the bus blocks traffic from every direction.  After much honking, arguing and hollering, it’s decided that  three vehicles (including mine) have to back up to clear up the mess.

How do I get through days like this with patience?  How can I stop judging women who are rude to a clerk at a health food store, when I just lost it on a gas station employee 20 minutes earlier?  How do I get home at the end of the day without my stomach tied in knots?

I want to be better than this.  I want to be more patient, gracious, and kind.  I want to treat people with dignity and respect.  I want to be a better person than I am, and I think Kenya is showing me just how far I have to go.  I don’t mean to say this in a self-condemning kind of a way.  I just mean that I am so glad I know a God who cares about the state of my heart more than I do.  He’s brought me this far and changed my heart for the better in so many ways…He won’t let me down now.

“I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.” – John Newton

I got an incredible care package from my sister and mom last week!

The contents included two kits for holiday food I crave – pumpkin bread and fudge.  Before I even fully realized that soon I would be eating PUMPKIN BREAD and FUDGE, I just stood there marveling at the packaging itself.

“In the States, they actually put all the ingredients together for you?!?  In a box?!?  Pre-measured?!?”

I’ll be honest that lately I’ve been idolizing life in the States.  And by that, I mean a pre-packaged life – the sort you could buy at Target.  Caroline-in-a-box.  I’ve wanted a life where everything coordinates, makes sense and has met all necessary safety standards.   Ideally, this life would come in a lovely gift box with a ribbon and gift tag.

Here you are Caroline – a nice, predictable life.

None of us have this luxury, do we.  I suppose at the end of the day, none of us would choose a life that was designed by a mega-store anyway.  But maybe we each know what it feels like to want to settle down into a life where you can just breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Aaah, this is me.”

I haven’t felt much like me lately.

Maybe it’s adjusting to married life.  Maybe it’s adjusting to life in Kenya.  Maybe it’s just being 32 and still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.

I tried to articulate this to my friend Jessie over lunch today, and she gave a marvelous analogy that I will try to repeat in some understandable form…

She explained that when living overseas, you really have to stitch a life together.  It’s sort of like making a crazy quilt.  There are all sorts of fabrics of all shapes, sizes and colors.  On their own, they don’t amount to much.  But together, you have something colorful that provides warmth and covering.  It may not be the fabrics or patterns that you would choose, but somehow they all come together.  You make adjustments.  In time, you find yourself content.

You feel like yourself.

I remember doing this in China – making friends from around the world, learning to cook in a tiny oven, decorating an apartment, stumbling through a new language.  I stitched together a crazy quilt of a life that I loved.  It wasn’t anything like my life in the States, but I felt like me.

Three years ago, Dave began quilting a life for himself here in Nairobi.  (For those of you who know him, isn’t it funny thinking of him making a quilt?  But I digress…)  It took time and work, but now he’s got this colorful life that covers what he needs to enjoy living here.  Friends.  Frisbee.  Softball.  Poker nights.  Work.  Travel.  Work travel.  Overall, it’s been a good fit.  It suits him.

Then almost a year ago, I started quilting a Nairobi life too.  I pulled in different pieces from here and there and began stitching them together.  Friends.  Safaris.  Cooking adventures.  Jobs.  Swimming lessons.  All through the year, I’ve added pieces to this quilted Kenyan life of mine.  But there are still some gaps and holes – it’s not a great fit just yet.

Dave freely offered his quilt to me when we got married.  But a quilt made for one isn’t meant to keep two people warm.  I’ve attached my half-sewn creation with all its holes and ratty edges too.  We’ve been adding new pieces on together, and that’s been the most fun of all.  Travel.  Dinner parties.  Movie nights.  Fierce games of Dutch Blitz.  Church involvement.  Soon we’ll celebrate our first Christmas together as a married couple.  The quilt we share is expanding and starting to cover what it takes for us to share a life.

It seems a bit early to be thinking of 2012 when we haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet.  But next year, I really want to enjoy the ride.  I want to appreciate this colorful, crazy quilt life we’ve got here in Kenya, rather than longing for a predictable life instead.  I want to be thankful thankful thankful for this one-of-a-kind life I get to share with my one-of-a-kind man.

And hopefully soon I’ll be able to sit down and breathe, “Aaah, this is me.”

how it all came together

All right, I promise this is my last wedding-related post.

This is more for me to help remember, I think.  I had a whole lot of fun thinking of little details to personalize our wedding – not just for us, but for other people as well.  It was a little tricky at times, ordering things online and having things made here but not knowing until the day before the wedding if any of it would match.  Thankfully, it was gorgeous.  I want to make sure I don’t forget these little details and what they meant.  So please indulge me one more time and  allow me to walk you through our wedding at the micro level…

Colors
This was an easy one.  Turquoise/teal has been my favorite color for a long time – I find myself wearing it almost every day.  JCrew makes really cute bridesmaids dresses, and I loved that each of my ladies got to pick a style that suited them.  I love how it turned out!

Favorite girls in my favorite color

Flowers
Red was an easy choice for our accent color.  It’s bright and cheerful, looks fabulous with turquoise, and happens to be my grandma’s favorite color.  After some debating, I narrowed the flowers themselves down to three:  roses, gerbera daisies, hypericum berries.

Roses – My dad has always loved growing roses, so our house has been surrounded by bushes of every variety and color for as long as I can remember.  They’re a gorgeous flower that is difficult to grow in a rough Montana climate, but my dad patiently coaxed hundreds of them back to life after a long, brutal winter.

The specific variety of rose I chose for our wedding was called a “Freedom Rose.”  It was a gorgeous red color but especially paid tribute to both our patriotic dads, who each served in their respective state assemblies.

Daisies – I chose gerbera daisies because my best friends Anna and Kathy both used them in their weddings, so it felt only right that they should carry them in mine.

Hypericum Berries – My wonderful friend Chitra used them in her wedding, and she has the best taste of anyone I know.  Because I loved them so much, I ended up using them in Homecoming florals at Grove City every year I worked there.

I ordered all the flowers online in bulk, so each of us got to make our own bouquet.  In addition to my bouquet, I also made small bouquets for our moms and Dave’s grandmother Mossy.  Anna also did an incredible job on the boutonniers, and my mom and Robbie made every centerpiece a work of art.

Turquoise and red - love the combo!

Vases
I touched on this a couple posts ago, but Dave and I ordered a bunch of vases from a company called Kitengala here in Nairobi.  They make unbelievable things out of recycled glass.  We began with purchasing two pitchers for our moms and then ended up ordering smaller vases that we used as centerpieces and gifts for our guests.

And here’s how it looked all together…

Finally, here is a quick photo tour through a few of my other favorite details..

The stones in my ring are tsavorite, from the Tsavo region of Kenya. Dave's ring was a disappointing online purchase, so we got him a replacement to this one after the wedding.

These are the earrings my friend Jane gave me in China - long before a proposal or anything. Good thing they ended up looking so great with the dress! The necktie was my wedding gift to Dave - made by Hugo Boss, his favorite designer from his fashion days in NYC.

I ordered a unique piece of jewelry for each bridesmaid, all made by the same artist on Etsy. So they kind of coordinated but also reflected each person's personality.

Had Maasai bead sandals hand made in Kenya for all the special ladies in the wedding. Each girl got a uniquely-designed pair, and most of them fit (sorry Robbie!). Also, we all painted our toes in OPI Red - my favorite polish color!

My sister Maryann made these unbelievable strawberry cheesecake cupcakes for our reception. Also, they were displayed on my mom's lace tablecloth. This tablecloth was used on the cake table for the weddings of all 3 Koopman girls.

Our friends Linda and Susan provided unbelievable cookies for our western Pennsylvania-inspired cookie table. My two sisters also made incredible contributions. So delicious! Maryann even made mini "black and whites," a favorite of my dad's. They were also a tribute the great city of New York - a city my grandma loved, and the place Dave called home for 6 years.

We had this box made in Kenya to carry our rings for the ceremony. My original goal is that we would put love notes to each other in it for years to come. It's where we store our keys.

All images by Lockie Photography