Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm a Lucky (Wo)man

When I think back to two years ago - in January of 2011 - oh my goodness, I had my life all planned out. I had one semester to go, I was going to graduate in May, join the Peace Corps in September & be on my merry lil' way in life.

Oh, but life is so unpredictable.

Yes, I graduated. Yes, I joined the Peace Corps. But so many things happened along the way and in between.

The Peace Corps delayed my trip from September to January. I attended a life changing "Humanism in Medicine" medical elective at Gesundheit!Institute with Patch Adams. My Peace Corps trip to Guatemala in January was cancelled. I found an incredible job opportunity with the Office of Diversity at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

And then… I fell in love. Before moving to Botswana for the Peace Corps.

Needless to say, I never saw that coming. And the girl who always swore she was too independent to go to the Peace Corps with a boyfriend ended up with one :o)

When I envisioned my time in the Peace Corps… call me crazy but I didn't even imagine that I would have vacation time. Is that insane? So many people dream of all the fun travels they will have during their Peace Corps service - and I can honestly say I never thought about it until arriving in Botswana. And even then, I never thought two weeks of my vacation would be in Europe.

This blog post is more than a bit belated, as I returned from my European adventures in the first week of January. I think other Peace Corps volunteers can relate to the "post vacation blues" though… it was quite an adjustment to come back to my village life, and because of that, it has taken me a full three weeks to figure out how to write about my experiences.

So here goes!

Michael's mom (Tammy) & step-dad (Tim)moved to Germany a few years back & since I've never been to Germany, I've obviously never met Michael's parents. A month after arriving in Botswana, Michael's mom purchased tickets for Michael and I to come visit them in Germany over the holidays… a difficult offer to refuse! I knew spending the holidays with Michael & his family would be a nice break from my life in Botswana & I was excited to have the opportunity to get to know his parents while exploring a bit of Europe as well.

Our trip in a very simplified version:
-We spent the first few days in Germany with his parents - helping them with the last minute planning for a Christmas party.
-Tammy, Tim, Michael & I flew to Paris for a few days to soak in all the beauty the city had to offer. Spent lots of time sight seeing, browsing around the Christmas market & wandering around the city ( I was mesmerized by TALL buildings & architecture… almost everything in Botswana is one story high)
-The four of us spent Christmas day together at home in Germany
-After Christmas, Michael & I went to visit a good friend of mine that I met at the medical elective with Patch Adams in 2011. We spent a few days touring around Genoa, Italy - - eating, drinking & spending time with Sara's family.
-Finished up the trip at home in Germany with Michael's parents, said our good-byes & we all went our separate ways back to our lives in three separate countries… crazy!

Tammy & Tim at the Louve :o) 

The Eiffel Tower at night <3 

Spending time in Italy with Michael! 

spending time with the Patti siblings in Genoa, Italy

Since I've returned from my trip, everyone wants to hear about all the things I saw, all the food I ate, all the culture I experienced. I am pleased to tell people about how much I enjoyed Europe & how the culture in Europe differs from Botswana/USA, but when it comes down to it, I must admit I am in awe of the PEOPLE I was with, not the places I went.

You see, I've come to realize that the people in your life are far more important than the places you go. Of course, I would love to have the time & budget to see every country in the world, but simply visiting those places pales in comparison to seeing those places with people you love.

The Eiffel Tower was breathtaking … but I loved it even more because I was with Michael. Christmas in Germany was cold, crisp & beautiful… but I cherish the memory because of sitting on the floor around the Christmas tree with Tammy, Tim & Michael. Wandering around the back alleyways in Genoa late at night was new and exciting… but being with Sara, Michael & her friends brought laughter and joy to my life.

I fell in love with Europe & I'm itching to go back to see more. But more importantly, I felt loved by Michael & his parents. I enjoyed spending time with all of them, getting to know each of them better, and thanking my lucky stars for all those unpredicted twists & turns in life. I find it hard to imagine a better life for myself & continually find myself in awe of all that I have been blessed with.

A HUGE heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to Tammy & Tim for being so outrageously generous and hospitable. I appreciate your patience with my exclamations of "oh my goodness! Hot water comes out of the taps!" or "You have carpet!" or the moments when I'm lost in thought wondering about why you don't have to dump out your shoes to check for scorpions or shake out the blankets to get rid of cockroaches.

:o) I will always have fond memories of this vacation to Europe during my service & I will forever be thankful for the fabulous cast of characters in my life.

And in the words of Pearl Jam…
"I'm a lucky (wo)man to count on both hands
The ones I love.."

Love & Light,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Power of Love

My childhood memories with my grandparents are filled with love, creativity, inspiration, and adventure. Each moment spent with them was truly magical… and after raising five of their own girls, my grandparents really had a handle on child management for their seven grandkids.

They encouraged us to play. To get messy. To seek adventure. To run wild & free. We laughed with them. Cried with them. And most importantly, grew with them.

Their disposition amazes me to this day, and each conversation with them leaves me with more wisdom and knowledge. As I grew into a young woman, they encouraged me to be a leader, to stand up for what's right, to love with all my heart, and to always believe in myself. My favorite characteristics about myself can often be attributed to their endless love and devotion to our family.

looking at old scrapbooks and listening
to stories of their youth <3 
My relationship with them only grew stronger over the years & no matter where I found myself in life, I knew I could depend on their strength. They never missed the important events - birthdays, graduations, holidays- and still managed to keep up to date with all the other details in life - who I was dating, how my friends were, my future plans-.

During my first year away from home, I was attending the University of Hawai'I at Manoa. Far from home and on my own for the first time, they came to visit, see my new life, and tour the islands. When I bid them farewell, I knew that they weren't just my family - - - they were two of my very best friends.

I made the decision to move home to Colorado my sophomore year to be closer to both of them as they were undergoing chemo and radiation. Whether they know it or not, I made that decision because they had instilled such strong family values in me - that it killed me to be that far from home. The summer after my freshman year, I used to drive to the hospital as often as I could to visit my grandmother in the hospital. It absolutely killed me to see a woman so full of love & life battling against cancer. That summer, I listened to this song on repeat - - - and cried. And prayed. And asked God to help our family. And miraculously, our family did pull through. With each phone call & doctors visit, my heart was filled with hope as each new report of good health came through.

precious moments with my family 
I've been so blessed to have such a close relationship with my grams & gramps. They are so dear to my heart… and now, here I am, thousands of miles away from home following my dreams - unable to be by their side as times get tough again. My grandmother has started chemo once again & has had a terrible time with her knee throughout all of it - only recently discovering she has gout. If I could do anything to relieve the pain - - believe me, I would do it. Waiting to hear about her progress is difficult for me, so I decided I should do a little active waiting by sending my love from Botswana.

our beautiful family
I truly believe in the power of love & we are so blessed to have such a strong family to love her through all of this. The strength and tenacity we have by bonding together is something we've all learned from the years of marriage between my grandparents. They have taught us to become the best people we can be by simply walking the walk themselves. They have shown us that nothing in life is more important than family by leading their own family in love & in Christ. Through the good times & bad, I know that my family back home will be there to support them & I will do my best to show them my love from a distance.

There is no one I love more than my family. I will continue to send my love & be faithful in prayer. Please keep my sweet family in your prayers as well, we would all appreciate it so very much.

I love you Grams & Gramps -- I am me because of you.

Love & Light,

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Years Resolutions

  1. Seek simplicity.
  2. Keep faith.
  3. Notice more.
  4. Love harder.
  5. Stand strong.
  6. Enjoy life slower. 
  7. Spend more time under the stars.
  8. Treat others according to my character, not theirs.

Love & Light,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Looking Back on 2012

2012 was a year full of challenges, growth, perseverance, and immense happiness. There were moments I wish I never had to experience as well as moments I will treasure for the rest of my life. But at the end of it all, every step of the adventure has been worthwhile. Here are my highlights of 2012…


Rang in the new year with two of my favorite people

After my assignment with PC Guatemala was cancelled, I was ecstatic to accept my new invitation to PC Botswana!

Family reunion in Akron, CO to celebrate my grandmother's 81st birthday

Family Retreat for Camp Wapiyapi - an organization so close to my heart <3


Continued working with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion - lucky to work with great students!

A dear college friend, Anthony, came to visit me in CO to say goodbye before I left for Botswana


Family vacation to Las Vegas, NV to visit my brother, sister-in-law, niece & nephew

Surprise get together with some dear friends to say goodbye before the PC


Going away party at my mom's house - thank you to all my loved ones who attended!

A not so pleasant memory - my father in the ICU the week before I left the country (and so very blessed to have him in good health after a stroke & heart surgery later in the year. Life is so fragile! Love you dad!)

Saying Good-Bye to the best group of co-workers a girl could ever ask for!

Spending Easter Sunday with my lovely family & seeing the finished quilt from my beautiful grandma! She made an incredible quilt out of my old sorority/college T-Shirts. Love you so much grams! 

FINALLY leaving for the Peace Corps & moving in with my host family


Celebrating my 23rd birthday with my PC family - a remarkable group of people!

Spending countless hours at PST (Pre-Service Training) and trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible-
 like how to ignore cow heads in the fridge and other important things like PC approach to development :o)


Swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer! 

Moving to my new home in Kang, Botswana

Bringing home my first cat, Makibikibi


Learning all about my new community and finishing my community assessment

Bonding with my amazing family next door 


Attending my auntie's wedding in Kang

IST (In-Service Training) in Gaborone to learn a bit more and reconnect with my beloved Bots 12 group!


Educating the community about teenage pregnancy - a big collaborative project with students from the senior secondary school

Teaching the Biology & Epidemiology of HIV to a new group of Peace Corps Trainees

Welcoming a new puppy into our lives on the family compound!


Hosting a Peace Corps Trainee for a week in Kang - showing her my normal life as a PCV!

Organizing inspirational talks about the importance of education at Motaung Junior Secondary School

A lovely game drive out at Lerucama Ranch - so much beauty in the desert!


Hosting a weight loss contest at the local clinic & helping organize a community health fair in Kang

Completing my first season of PC SKILLZ /Grassroots Soccer - a program designed to teach about HIV/AIDS using soccer. So proud of my girls who graduated!

Spending Thanksgiving in Maun with an incredible group of Peace Corps Volunteers


Christmas party with my beloved staff workers at Kang Clinic

My brother graduating from Colorado State University - so proud of you!

Going to Europe for Christmas & New Years to spend time with Michael & his parents

*   *   *   *   *

The life I live is a very beautiful one, full of love and blessings. I am so thankful for each & every one of you who enriches my life. Like I always say, I am me because of you. 2012 was quite remarkable and I'm looking forward to what 2013 might bring.

Happy (Belated) New Year to all of my loved ones!

Love & Light,