where did those 3 months go?

You probably think I forgot about the blog. And I did. Mostly. But for those of you who still check to see if we're posting (ahem...Barbara)...here we are.

Where have we been? Ending summer, starting the school year, back in the DR, and trying not to spend every waking moment behind a computer screen. But you don't care about that, you want pictures. Well, here you go.

yes, it's true. justin actually touched a horse and didn't die.

hayride and visit to the pumpkin patch


she really like picking her own pumpkin


For the first time in 5 years, yes count em 5 years, we decided to pay actual money to go on a real vacation. (Not one where we go visit friends and stay for free at their house which is what we always end up doing because we love our friends and free places to stay.) We decided to try our first B&B in Asheville.

It. was. awesome.

We walked downtown, had great meals, enjoyed the outdoors, shopped a little, met some interesting folks, and just enjoyed each others company.

The Beaufort House

Breakfast on our private deck

first course: blueberry peach cobbler

second course: 3 cheese quiche and fruit

kayaking on the french broad river

a blue heron

my arms were so sore by the end (7 miles)

a snack at the Woolworth counter

It was a short getaway, but so worth it. And we missed our girl, but she was in great hands with the Britts!


A few days ago we had our sad sidewalk removed since the nearby trees' roots were causing serious havoc on the concrete.

Today we went outside to play and Tessa joyfully found a nice use for the empty space: a sandbox ..."dirtbox".

Fun huh? She would grab small fistfuls of dirt and toss it in the air as though it was enchanted specks of love, glitter and magic. Well...it got me thinking. Specifically I was thinking, "this stinks, she deserves better." And furthermore, no matter how much she loved the dirt, I knew of something better. Something cleaner, blissful and wonderful. Something that she could really enjoy. (Yes, this will most like be a sermon illustration.)

So we called up a friend who had mentioned having an unused sandbox that we could have. Made a quick run to Ace Hardware for a few bags of you-know-what. And Boom! It was real play time.

I think she likes it. She was in it for a couple of hours at least. Eventually we were able to pry her away...but we had to use a cherry popsicle as bait. (In a related story, we're expecting to give Tessa more baths.)

First Pres Family DR trip

Here's a quick video of one of the many things the group did during their trip. In spite of the tropical storm that was drenching us everyday, we found moments of joy, hard work, and laughter. The video shows one of my highlights for the week. We wanted to have some time for the families to interact with each other as a whole. So, we thought of doing a "field day." But, with the weather and not wanting to invite mass chaos by giving specific invitations, we decided to hold the event in Club Cana (a covered outdoor shelter). As for the families, we decided to invite the Women's Co-Op and their families figuring it would give us a pretty good one-to-one ratio.

The afternoon came and we were literally in drenching thunderstorms. The event was to start at 2:30 which means 3 on Dominican time. At 3pm, it was still just the Americans sitting and waiting. I decided to go up to the gate and check. The rain had let up and as I walked toward the gate, I see all the families huddled under a covered area. As soon as they see me, they yell, "Holly!" I immediately wave them over and see that they are there and excited for the afternoon.

The rest, you can see for yourself. It makes my heart smile.

her favorite things


blue bear

strawberries and eating with a fork

playing dress up

the only reason i'm sad i missed the oscars...

If you don't already know this about me, I'm obsessed with SYTYCD. (Call it American Idol for dancers.) So, in my surfing the web for more about the choreographers and dancers on show, I came across the LXD. I thought I'd share my 8am inspiration of the day.

LXD from Bboy WIZ on Vimeo.

Relevant: Haiti

I know a blog post is way overdue. And I'm working on it. But for now, head on over to RelevantMagazine.com. It's one of our favorite mags and their recent article on Haiti is excellent.

Thank you Relevant for shedding some much needed light on the situation in Haiti.


A couple weekends ago, our friends' daughter came to stay with us for the day. She and Tessa are 8+ months apart, so they are just getting to the point where they can enjoy playing together. We felt quite accomplished when we got the two of them buckled into their carseats and on our way to lunch with friends.

T, K, and Justin making dinner in the little house


K showing T how to roll the ball

deciding who gets to sit in the chair

silence is golden

...but there's only so much singing I can do without a little help. And while I'm sure Tessa loves the sound of my singing voice, I was a little worn out on the few songs I know all the words to by heart.

See, we were recently given a second car. Yes, given. There is an awesome family that knew we were in need and asked if they could help. They had a car they weren't using and asked if we wanted it. Ummm...huh? Let me think about it. OKAY! So, it's been great these last few months having my own mode of transportation. However, the stereo was locked and no one knew the security code to get it working.

So, my sweet hubby installed a new stereo for me last week. Isn't he the best?

The Christ School in the DR

My last trip to the DR was with a group of 8th graders and their parents as well as a few teachers and the school principal. It was a quick week chock full of activities. My favorite part of the week was the 8th grade class party. We invited the Dominicans and Americans to have lunch, play games, and enjoy a baseball game together. Typical middle schoolers no matter what country you're in...they sat boys on one side, girls on the other. Then, during the game time, somehow the girls began pointing out which boys they thought were cute. They would then proceed to run over and actually tag him. Not sure the boys had any idea what was happening. Oh 8th grade. So awkward.

The week was fantastic. Reminded me why I like my job so much.

I think I forgot how to blog

Or maybe I feel so overwhelmed with blog posts that I've had in my head that I can't seem to figure out where to start. Or when I get a few moments with my computer, I realize I need to do actual work instead of write lots of frivolous thoughts. Though most of my imaginary blog posts have substance. I want to tell you about my last 3 trips to the DR, and about all the fun things Tessa is up to now that she's 15 months, and how much I love my husband and want to celebrate him on his 32nd birthday (yesterday), and how excited I am that my bff is moving within 15 minutes of my house after she's been 5+ hours away for the last 8 years, and well, there's so much more. So instead of logging into blogger and writing, I don't.

So, here's my first attempt at reuniting with my blog. I'm going to cheat and tell you to read this. Because of everything I have to say, my friend Anna can tell it even better.

Glad to be back. Thanks for reading. Oh and how about a cute Tessa pic for good measure?

planes, charter bus, subway, train, automobiles

2 weeks ago, our little mission team of 61 people was split over two flights to get home from the Dominican Republic. One group (ours) would fly via JetBlue; the other Delta. Both were supposed to connect through JFK at similar times to land in Charlotte. (so was the plan.)

This is our journey to get 31 people home that took place from 9am March 13 - 9am March 15 while the Nor'easter hovered over New England for 3 days.

  • 9a-11:45a: SDQ: We arrive a quickly find out that the Nor'easter has canceled our connecting flight. JB employees frantically hit keyboard keys for an hour only to say..."you should just go to JFK (New York) and your chances of getting to North Carolina will be greater from there."
  • 2:45pm: attempted JFK landing: wind gusts of 60-70 mph shake the plane to the point of much nausea. 300 feet off the ground, the pilot pulls up (probably saving our lives) and we're diverted to another airport.
  • 3:30pm: Bradley International Airport, Connecticut: I submit that Bradley should NOT be called "international" since they only handle ONE international flight PER WEEK.
  • 3:30pm-9:30pm - we were kept on the plane because US Customs officials were not present to process our flight. That's 6 hours (!!!) where the plane could have gone to Charlotte and back! Meanwhile, Tessa and other small ones start to lose their cool. Some students lighten the mood and seize the opportunity to snap photos in the cockpit.
  • 10p-12:30a: JetBlue takes our group (via charter bus) to JFK. We stop at McD's along the way to eat our first meal since breakfast.
  • 12:45am: We're in line at JB hoping to get 31 people accommodated. (because of the storm, no hotels, no meal vouchers, just sit and wait.)
  • 2am - 8:45pm - JFK: most of our group gets parred down thanks to concerned parents re-booking their children on other flights. (JB's policy does not allow booking on other airlines.) People sleep throughout the day on the floor. Full flights keep us stuck. The remaining 12 of us await the fate of the 9:45pm flight to Charlotte. Tessa keeps everyone's spirits up. They figure if she's okay, then so are they. (a little lesson on perspective for us all.)
  • 8:45pm: for no reason, and with clear-ish weather (maybe the clouds were too low?) - our flight is canceled. The cancellation line for JB stretches over a block long.
  • 9:45pm-11pm: our remaining group of 9 - beyond sleep deprived, tired, neglected - leave JFK and JetBlue (you know the scene in a movie where the kidnapped victim has one single glimmer of hope to get out and run for their life? -- that was us.)
  • 11pm: We depart via Amtrak for Baltimore, MD. (Tessa finally goes to sleep.)
  • 1am-ish (really, now all times are vague and blurring together). shuttled to BWI airport in hopes of catching a 5:25am commuter flight via USAirways. (T is still asleep. Holly is again thankful for the reclining stroller.) Team passes out (again!) on concrete floor.
  • 5am: 7 of us are on the flight. Holly, Tessa and Justin wait for the glorious moment when "flying standby" actually pays off. (T - still sleeping!)
  • 5:20am: Our standby boarding passes are issued. (we're on the plane!) Tessa sleeps through the whole flight!!!
  • 7am: We land in Charlotte!!! Tessa wakes up. happy baby. tired mommy and daddy. (no checked luggage since it was on the canceled flight).
  • 8am: car ride home. Justin drinks coffee only to find its caffeine effects seem futile.
  • 9am. We arrive in the church parking lot.
The actual mission trip to the Dominican Republic was wonderful. But we joke that we went on two trips that week. "There was the one where we went to the Dominican Republic. And then, there was the one where we went to JFK." (Thanks, Marti.)

[ By the way, the Delta group was diverted to Cincinnati and were all home by Sunday evening. They had a hotel Saturday night and meal vouchers. We're waiting to see if JetBlue can win the bronze medal for public relations by helping us cover the additional $$$ it took to get 31 people home. ]

First steps

She's so big. Learning to swim (okay... float!) and now taking steps!

Tessa's First Birthday

After three weeks of postponing due to snow, we finally were able to throw Tessa's birthday party. Thanks to the Shores, we had an amazing stress-free time. I take no credit for the beautiful decor you see. I'm just glad I have a pro-party planner as a good friend who loves Tessa like her own.

1 year + cupcake

Even though Tessa's party keeps getting rescheduled (weather!!!) we had a micro-party to celebrate the special day. [warning: watching the following movie may make either crave a cupcake or never eat one again.]

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/user/lewiedogg#p/a/u/0/EcVe9w6Uzxg

525,600 minutes

How do you measure...a year in the life? (Now you will be singing this all day!)

Here's Tessa on her 1 year birthday. What a difference a year makes.


The following was shared with our college students last week via a weekly email. From time to time I might re-share some of those "thoughts" here. Enjoy.

If you walk in our house you’ll be greeted by two special mutts, Montana and Neela. Montana is a bit older, a bit bigger, and a bit sweeter than her little sis. Neela is the eternal puppy, little miss sneaky, pretty whiny.

Neela is the one who I will honestly say “gets on my nerves”. She tests my patience. She looks at me as if to say “I know what you want out of me...but go ahead a accept that I am who I am. And just to prove it I think I’ll poop right here.”

If you were at Emmaus this past Tuesday you heard that Neela was hit by a car Sunday and her leg was amputated Tuesday morning. Right now, Neela sits on my office couch just as happy as can be. Probably feeling extraordinarily special that she gets a seat of honor...and coupled with the sweet meds.

I’ve been hard on Neela. Really hard. Her attitude — if you can call it that — makes it hard for me to love on her but I learned through this process how important she is to me. She’s part of our family...and Tessa’s favorite dog to kiss. (Yuck.) I love her, not in spite of her issues…but simply because she is a part of me and my story.

I think that sometimes I’m like Neela to God. I’m just a little odd. Too confident in myself. I smell like I’ve rolled around in death. I’m maimed and wounded...and the scars are not attractive. But God doesn’t weigh my value by these peculiarities. He sees my desperate desire for living water and my need for a Savior and he delights in my vulnerability. My weakness does not repel him. In fact he loves me. And he loves filling my weakness with his love.

“How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! …Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” Ephesians 1:3-6 as paraphrased in The Message
What a blessing he is!

Have you thanked your heavenly Father for pursuing you? For choosing you? For inviting you? Rest today in the truth that you are beloved, part of a divine family...and your wounds don’t scare him.

I know right?! He really is that good! - Justin

Haiti donation contact

If you have items to donate or questions, contact Myra Phillips. myra@silicones-inc.com

You can bring items to First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem on Sunday. Building B. 1stpres.com

You can help Haiti

We have a plane leaving Winston-Salem within the next week headed to the DR bringing medical supplies. If you'd like to donate anything toward our efforts in Haiti, here's what you can do:

Start a medical supply drive and/or take up money to buy supplies.

Here is a rough list of what is needed. I will let you know what to do with it as soon as I can. But go ahead and start collecting!

All and any first aid supplies… ie bandages, splints, braces adhesives etc
Antibiotics, pain meds…. etc

We need antibiotics, sutures, casting materials, ACE bandages, gauze, antibiotic cream, IV fluids, water purification tablets, Band Aids, Diabetic and hypertensive medications, protein powders, milk, vitamins, baby formula, baby bottles, pain medications, tape, IV tubing, angiocaths, syringes, needles, glucometers and strips, sterile and non sterile gloves, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, recharable otoscopes, iodine, betadine, alcohol, peroxide, acid reflux meds.

what am I to do?

Tomorrow, I'm DR bound once again. This time, I will have Haiti on my heart as I go. Provided that my flight goes as scheduled, I will be a mere few hundred miles and yet feel a world away from the devastation that I am seeing on the news.

If you are wondering like me, "what am I to do?," I just wanted to tell you that Mission Emanuel is putting together a shipment of supplies to take to the country. You see, a few years ago, we built a water filtration center. We have the capability to provide thousands of gallons of clean water. We have medical supplies and resources that have been gathered over the past 13 years of ministry in the DR. What an amazing God who knew that all along. He knew that we could do what we can to mobilize our people to help. Thanks to so many of you, we can DO SOMETHING.

But what really gets my heart going is that I believe God can use this to change the hearts and lives of so many Haitians and Dominicans. What most of you might not know is that there is a H U G E divide between the two cultures. "Hate" is sadly not too strong a term to use in labeling their relationship. Their history has put them at odds with each other for a very long time. There continues to be much discrimination and prejudice among the general Dominican population towards Haitians. My prayer is that God will use this to break down those barriers and show all of us that we are no different. I pray for Dominican hearts to be broken for their neighbors that they would realize we are ALL called to action. God can work so much better when we get out of the way, forget what shade of brown our skin is and just LOVE somebody.

Ok. I'll stop there. If you want to give, do it. I don't care how. Just $5 will make a difference. At our water plant, a 5 gallon bottle of water costs a little under $2. I bet you can find that hanging out in your couch cushions!

Anyway, if you'd like to donate through Mission Emanuel. Click here. Or if you prefer talking to a real live human being (Julia, Kathy, or Traci), call 407.422.9200.