Feb
15

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When the plane touched down in January it was still dark out. We arrived right in the middle of the Harmattan winds and I could see the haze of dust circled round the lights on the tarmac. I was exhausted having not slept and traveling with a two and a three year old. There are no jetway bridges. You deplane and wait for a slew of buses to drive you over to immigration. We are ushered into a small room with fluorescent lighting and mosquitos everywhere. It's humid. I'm sweaty and terrified. We get through immigration and drive to the hotel. In the back of the Prado I clench my children as we drive, the sun beginning to rise and shine light on rubble, unfinished buildings where squatters live, and goats grazing on trash. My husband turns back from the passenger seat and could read the terrified look on my face. I couldn't live here. I was booking the first flight home.

Fast forward and I can't imagine living anywhere else. Uprooting your family from suburbia to developing West Africa is not for the faint of heart, but if you can open yourself up to the journey it is one with incredible rewards. Many people have said your first post is like your first love but I disagree. Three years in Dakar changed me. I am not the same person who stepped off that plane in 2012. For me it took living outside my comfort zone, my cultural bubble so to speak, to push me to see myself for the first time.

Now we live in a big European city and most days I find myself missing the simplicity of Dakar. How life moved slower. There wasn't any real need to be on time. The lazy haze of the afternoon spent on the beach. The warm sun beating down on you. Life was about the important stuff. The good stuff. I feel lost in the sea of endless choices being back in a busy city. Everyone is on a schedule. There are 200 restaurants that deliver to my address. The village is gone. Replaced with cold modern buildings and perfectly paved sidewalks. I long for the colorful HLM market in Dakar. I knew just how to navigate the narrow paths of makeshift market stalls to get to my favorite wax vendor, dodging the guys selling brooms or boubous. Everyday it was a different price. Everyday there was something new. Now my walk to the fancy gourmet store in the city is a lonely walk. Just me and my thoughts. I miss the laughter and the noise. The incessant honking of the cabs, people shouting in Wolof, and the distant hum of afternoon prayer.  I miss the guys selling phone cards and the feeling of victory when I learned how to add data credits to my phone so I could Instagram in real time. Convenience is everywhere here but what I learned in those three years is that I value community over convenience. I value belonging over fancy shops and fresh blueberries. Life is so simple when you strip it down. To feel connected to somewhere and to someone is all we truly need. I learned that happiness in life is what you make it.

We left on a Friday. Always flight SA 207. The movers had come and gone and we waited with heavy hearts and bags for our airport transfer. Our family had grown over three years. There were five of us now, but really there were six. When the guard rang that the van was here, my heart sank. It was real. I had to leave. Therese held Evie tight kissing her sweet neck and then wrapped her strong arms around me. We were both crying. We promised we wouldn't. On the drive to the airport I thought about all the memories as we passed familiar places. How this city, three years ago, seemed frightening and unknown. Now it was bustling with the life I loved. I couldn't imagine that I wasn't coming back to Dakar. I tried to think this was just a much needed vacation to the states. That I would be traveling this road again and complaining about something mundane, like the taxi in front of us straddling the center line. I felt panic rise up in my chest. How do you leave a place that changed your heart?

It's been two months since we left West Africa. As I sit in my charming apartment in the city with the cold sun shining through the windows, I ache for one more golden sunset over the Atlantic. The lessons Dakar taught me were plenty, but the most important was the capacity to love and understand unconditionally. I somehow found myself between fear and love; between hating everything about Dakar and never wanting to leave. In the end there are only similarities; it doesn't matter what God we worship or what land we call home. We are all seeking love and understanding.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

Oct
19

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Our sweet baby Evie turned one on October 1st. We thought it appropriate to keep up with our monthly photo shoot. Of course we needed a cake. And a fancy one at that.

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Bébé wore custom Bapribap. A lovely children's clothing line here in Dakar. I have the pleasure of working with the sweet owner Annica on her rebrand. Cannot wait to reveal.

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Chair and basket made locally and the sweet little globe was from her sip & see. As you can see below she wasn't fond our our dummy cake. Sorry bébé but we couldn't let the waste the pretty one!

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Happy happy day little one. xo

Sep
09

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A friend posted this article on Facebook yesterday from the Wall Street Journal and I just couldn't get the images out of my head of people who are sick and dying of Ebola being turned away because there isn't any more beds. Then I read this article from the MSF blogs and I was in tears. There needs to be more action. Here is a little insight from Julie Thwing MD, a CDC doctor here in Dakar:

"On August 29, Senegal confirmed a case of Ebola in a Guinean student who had come to Dakar from Guinea following the funeral of his brother, who had died of Ebola. In the 10 days since, the Senegalese government has responded very actively, identifying all his household contacts and health care workers who had come into contact with him, asking them to stay at home, and having teams visit each contact twice daily to monitor for development of symptoms. They have put together a Crisis Management Committee and numerous sub-commissions all charged with various aspects of the response that meet daily, and have been meeting with external financial and technical partners as well to mobilize resources and coordination.
The World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, and numerous other organizations are supporting Senegal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent a team to support the Ministry of Health. All are very impressed by the response of the Senegalese government and believe Senegal is in a good position to handle the threat of Ebola well.
Things to know about Ebola:
1)    Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, profound weakness, and general pain.
2)    People who are not symptomatic are not infectious.
3)    If a person who is ill with Ebola is identified and given supportive care early on, it increases the chances of survival.
4)    If the contacts of a person with Ebola are all identified and followed carefully, and isolated at the first sign of symptoms, the chance of it spreading further are near zero.
As long as there is Ebola in surrounding countries, there will very likely be more imported cases of Ebola in Senegal. This is not a failure. Success is identifying, isolating, and caring for people with Ebola, identifying and following all their contacts, and preventing transmission beyond their immediate contacts. Ebola gets out of control when people are scared, lie about their contacts, or refuse to allow teams to visit them daily (or flee). We need to speak out against fear, and to help people understand that it’s so important to tell health care workers if there are any contacts that may have had Ebola or any travel to an affected country in the past three weeks. We need to encourage confidence in health authorities."

 

Julie Thwing MD

CDC Senegal

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Here are ways you can help:

Doctor's Without Borders
Support Dr. Dan Kelly from UCSF as he travels to Sierra Leone to provide assistance
Americares Ebola donations
Aug
27

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Our very first art print is up on Brickyard Buffalo today through August 29th! These sweet 5x7 art prints are featured at 50% off! My first attempt at hand lettering! The print was designed for the May Happy Mommy Box and I thought it would also make a great addition to the shop. Happy Hump Day!

Aug
21

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Last September I had the pleasure of designing Matt & Sabrina's wedding paper goodies as well as their invitation sent earlier in the year. Sparkles, navy, pink, seriously Sabrina was after my own heart. Love all the gorgeous details and I cannot believe it took me this long to get this on the blog!

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So many fun goodies in their invitation suite including monogram tags, custom postage, illustrated map, and mini enclosure cards. Menus and programs were done for the big day and we loved changing up their monogram on the menu to reflect their new married initials!

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We designed several fun signs Sabrina used throughout the ceremony and reception.

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Escort cards to place in mini succulents that doubled for a wedding favor. We also included symbols for meal choice on the escort cards.

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Beautiful images byLaura Ivanova Photography | florals by Munster Rose | wedding design & coordination by Denae Brennan

Aug
04

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As soon as school ended this year we packed our bags and headed for the good ol' US of A. Our first stop was Anna Maria Island, Florida. A cozy 7 mile stretch of white sand and teal waters. A local hotspot and mostly unknown to tourists which is a huge bonus! Having lived in the Tampa Bay area for 3 years we loved loading up the car and making the short drive to Bradenton. Not much has changed on AMI  and I was in heaven eating fish tacos, sipping margaritas, and sinking my toes in that pretty white sand. We even got to meet up with old friends for a day. To say it was the most relaxing time of our month long stay in the states is an understatement. It was so nice to be unplugged with family. Away from the stress and obligation of seeing everybody and making plans. As much as we love coming home, it is never quite a holiday. Mental note that all holidays must consist of a beach, a cocktail, and a good book.

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We rented a great beach house right on Bradenton. You can find the listing here. The couple who owns the beach house was right next door and was such a big help. The 3 bedroom house had everything we needed: beach toys, a pool, a gas grill, and fabulous patio where we enjoyed our coffee every morning listening to the waves crash with a killer ocean view.

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The sweet couple even let us borrow their new kayak. If you are in the area we highly recommend this little beach house! We cooked several nights at the beach house. Publix was just down the street off the island where we found some local fresh catch. However, if you want to know my favorite  spot on AMI to grab the best seafood in town go to Starfish Co. 

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This little dockside seafood shack accepts cash only, serves the food in paper boxes, and has no waiters (you place your order by the bar), but that doesn't mean the food is subpar. The best seafood in the area hands down. I always get the crab cakes, but the hubby tried the grouper and it was delicious. The hushpuppies. Amazing. Crab cakes and Stella. A match made in heaven.

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Nothing beats a Florida sunset and cotton candy skies. xo.

Aug
02

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There are really only two times a week (despite what you think) that I look cute and put on mascara: weekly coffee date with my girlfriends and date night with my husband. We determined that this would be a great starting point for our 24 hour #igtruth challenge. Essentially, the challenge involved 24 hours of letting our walls down or in this case, allowing our followers to see what is really happening behind the scenes of our otherwise seemingly perfect Instagram accounts. I do kind of feel like I cheated. I'll be honest my house was pretty clean that day (aside from the OCD nightmare at the end of the hall otherwise known as the kid's room), because we had dinner guests coming. I was diligently following my ducks around to keep at least the dining room free of Legos and pirate ships.

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Exhibit right is what I posted Thursday but on the left is what was really happening. My drooling, no napping side kick helping me do everything BUT set the table properly. She loves taking selfies already. I am so not ready for the teenage years.

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No nap means early bath time for this baby in her awesome reptile/snakeskin tiled bathtub. *No animals were harmed in the making of those tiles, just your eyes. 

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It's 5 o'clock and in the Ergo she goes white we show the world just how messy my older children can be.  It actually got worse before the night ended. In fact, I am pretty sure 3 days later it's still a mess. I try to have blinders on when I go in their room carefully tip toeing the lego land mind.  They should probably pick up their toys and put them in their respective places but there is more to life than organizing toy bins.

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Back to where we started. The ugly paisley couch and my post-wine lazy self. Big Warby Parker glasses hide the dark circles. So does the Pic Tap Go App. And in case you were wondering we were interrupted during dinner twice by my middle child because he had and I quote a "real big problem" because he discovered a rip in his sheet. Bébé fell asleep for an hour and was awake until our guests left around 10. Real life.

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By Friday I was back to pretty photos of Chinese knock off French Monopoly. xo.

How did you ladies do? Loved your post Khady!

http://instagram.com/kmasson | http://instagram.com/jenndeatley | http://instagram.com/danielleliebenow

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