We Eloped!

📷: @ashleighlay

We love seeing all the creative ways people use letter boards for weddings and marriage announcements. One of our recent favorites was Ashleigh using her board to announce that she and Paul had eloped! We loved this announcement and were so happy for Ashleigh and Paul. We reached out to Ashleigh to get their full story. 

To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.

We had been passively thinking about eloping for a few months. When we finally pulled the trigger, we had a month to plan. We decided to keep it a secret from everyone (besides our closest family and friends, of course; they would have hated us!). Since social media is life these days, we wanted to make the announcement on our social channels. We knew immediately that we wanted a Letterfolk board in our photos to make the announcement. The photo of Paul holding up the board was him being excited and acting silly, with me just trying look as cool as he did, hah.  Everyone loved the board and the photos!

Tell us how you met and ended up getting married! 

We awkwardly met at a wedding. Paul was an usher, and I was a bridesmaid. The bride and groom tried to set us up because we had similar interests, but we were against it, lol. We both were in all the wedding festivities (rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception) making eye contact, but never spoke a word to each other until we were leaving the reception. I introduced myself to him briefly/awkwardly, and we parted ways. I thought he was cute, but I never thought I would see him again. And a few days later he messaged me on Facebook. That was 6 years ago!  

Who first brought up the idea of eloping? Did it take one of you convincing the other, or were you both immediately in? 

We've known for a few years that we were going to marry each other, but we weren't in a hurry. In the past year, we really started thinking about getting engaged. I started getting nervous about when he was going to propose, if he'd pick out the right ring, how he was going to do it. So one day early this year, I asked him if we should just go to the courthouse (that way we could bypass the whole proposal). He didn't say yes or no. A few days later, I brought up the proposal and engagement ring topic, and he was like, "Wait, I thought you wanted to elope?" Then I was like, "Is that what you want to do?" And he was like, "Is that what you want to do?" ... and apparently it was what we both wanted to do. 

What was your favorite part of the day you got married? 

The photographs! Our photographer, Stacy Able, was fantastic and she seemed to grab every bit of goodness from the entire day, and now we have those moments digitized forever (cheeseball) -- all the color, the fun, the happiness, our friends, and our city. She instantly became a friend as we began sharing stories of travels. I couldn't be happier with our photos.

Another favorite part of it was that the whole event was small and chill. Afterwards, we got together with some of our close friends and had a quiet celebration filled with drink and food. What better way to finish it off?

What was the reaction of your friends and family?

Our families were both overjoyed about the entire thing, but also poking fun with some "About time!" comments. Paul's twin sister has been married for almost ten years, so that tended to bring on the question from his siblings: "No ring yet? what the heck?!" 

Our friends and families have been very supportive about everything. They were involved in helping set up our backyard bash, which had our board featured on the photo table. 

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?

We're toting the board along with us as we road trip from Portland to Los Angeles!! 

If you or someone you know has a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at hey@letterfolk.com

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Hepworth Party of Four

📷: @ebiehepworth 

We see so many amazing stories from our community every day, which makes deciding on who to feature extremely difficult! This is one of those stories we knew right away that we wanted to share. We followed Ebie and Zac's story for months as they adopted two adorable little kids from Africa. We were lucky enough to interview Ebie and get all the details about their amazing journey. 

To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.

The story behind the photo was sharing the news that Zac and I could FINALLY go to Liberia, West Africa to meet and finalize the adoption of our two babies! We started in January of 2016 and traveled to Liberia June of 2017 so it was a long time coming :) 

There seem to be a million different directions you can go with adoption. How did you end up going the direction you did?

You’re right, with adoption it can be daunting where to even begin. Do you want to go the domestic route or the international route? If you go international, where do you even begin with choosing a country? How do you stay encouraged despite the mountains of paperwork you have to fill out?! For us, it had been a dream in my (Ebie) heart since I was a little girl. A lot of people assume we started the adoption process because we were not physically able to conceive a child, but that wasn’t the case. We simply decided adoption was something we wanted to do and figured, "Why not just jump into it?"

Zac and I have both always had a huge heart for Africa, so when we decided to actually move forward, we started with researching which countries we fit the requirements for. (Since we are both young and had only been married a few years, we didn’t qualify for a lot of countries.) After starting in Uganda then having the door close, we found ourselves filling out an application with a new program in Liberia West Africa. We NEVER in a million years thought we would be adopting two children; however, God made it evident from the beginning that his plan was going to be a wild adventure. You see, Zac and I work for a nonprofit that requires us to fundraise 100% of our income. And if you know about international adoption, it is NOT cheap. To get the journey started, we sold our couch so that we could pay the application fee! So how in the world were we going to pay to adopt a child!? However, the Lord told us to sprint after his heart and the rest would unfold, so that’s what we did.

We fundraised enough to cover the agency fees for one child, and then the unthinkable happened, and we got matched with TWO children, a two-year-old baby girl and a seven-month-old baby boy. And since our children were not related, the cost was going to be double. Our hearts were encouraged and beating out of our chest at the fact that we got matched with two children but we couldn’t help but wonder how in the world we were going to afford it. One week after we accepted our matches, an organization called Adoption Story Fund called us and gifted us a grant that covered the ENTIRE expenses of our second adoption. Never in our lives have we been more encouraged by the radical miracles of Jesus and his heart for orphans. Since starting the journey, we have received dozens of messages from other young people all around the world sharing that after watching our story unfold, they started the adoption process too. Every time we read these messages, we are encouraged! We always tell people, "If you want to adopt, don’t just talk about it; take a leap of faith and do it. The funds, the logistics, the details -- it will all unfold in one way or another and the end result will always be an increased level of faith.  

Tell us about the moment you found out you would be parents.

People kept calling us “mama”and “dad" from the second we announced we were adopting. We thought it was sweet, but it didn’t really feel right until we saw the faces of our kids and realized they were actually OURS. The first time we saw their faces, we were both kind of in shock. Leading up to that day, we assumed we would break down in tears and weep for weeks, but when we saw their faces, we smiled, knew that we were going to love them forever and simply looked at each other and said “We are going to be parents. Guess we should celebrate with some Italian and wine.”  

What was it like seeing your kids for the very first time? 

The very first time we met our kids was not the way we “pictured” it would be. We had all these ideas of how we would try and record it and treasure the videos forever. However, as soon as we pulled up to the baby home, we jumped out of the car because we saw our sweet girl smiling and waving at the car! Despite there being 16 children, our sweet girl stood out like a sore thumb to us. We were instantly stormed by huge group of the kids at the home, but all we wanted to do was meet our two little ones! I (Ebie), kneeled down with a HUGE smile and said “Hi sweet girl. I’m your mama! Can I hold you?” And she nodded her head. I picked her up, and Zac came around behind me to look at her precious little face.

After a few minutes, one of the caretakers brought our baby boy. He handed him to Zac and we both were amazed at how different he looked in person than his photos! After we had them both in our arms, the tears set in and the reality that we were a family set in. . . . Even though the day was not how we imagined it would be, it was without a doubt one of the greatest days of our lives.  

Your Husband shared in an Instagram post that one of the children you were adopting may have medical complications. How did you overcome this particular challenge?

Two months after being matched, we were informed that our baby boy tested positive for Hep B. He had spent a majority of his life in and out of the hospital with various things, but it got to the point where he was hospitalized for weeks at a time, so they finally decided to run some tests, and they didn’t look so good. Our adoption coordinator called us and informed us that he was very sick and that they didn’t know how bad the Hep B was so if we were not comfortable with adopting a child with special needs, she understood if we needed to withdraw our match. The thought never even crossed our minds. He was our son and that was all there was to it. From the moment we hung up the phone on the first initial phone call, we prayed for the Lord to bring healing into his body.

Long story short, his life is a miracle. Two months after the initial positive test, he tested negative for Hep B. We were told to take the results lightly because Liberia being the 4th poorest country on the planet, there were often false negatives. However, six weeks after that, another negative Hep B test! THEN after the Hep B, he got pneumonia, malaria a few times, and then measles. But like I said, his life is a miracle. Many people we have met since being here look at our son, remember how sick he was, and tell us they didn’t think he would make it. And yet here he is, smiling, giggling, and waking us up every day at 4:30 a.m.! As far as what got us through it, it was our faith. Whether he had Hep B chronically and served as special needs or not, we were faith-filled that we were hand-picked to be his parents. So we took that honor and ran with it!  

Tell us a little more about your kids and their personalities.

Our children are hysterical! Seeing their photos for so long, you make up a personality in your head of what you think they will be like, and let us just tell you, BOY WERE WE WRONG. Our baby girl is independent, smart, SASSY. If you can’t find her, odds are she is eating quaker oatmeal on a walk. Her laugh makes the entire world stop, and she calls us “Ma” and “Pa.”

Our little boy is a cuddle bug, an early riser, and a little clumsy. He is obsessed with trying to win the affection of his sister and has random outbursts of laughter because he thinks someone is chasing him! ;) They couldn’t be more opposite, and it’s been the most wonderful journey watching their personalities develop right before our eyes.  

To you, what aspects of the adoption process go most unoticed? 

To us, I think the biggest part of adoption that goes unnoticed is the seriousness and the challenge of the transition for both the children AND the parents. For us, we have never been parents, so when we got these two children, we basically just canon-balled into this whole parenthood thing! We read the books on adoption and knew the transition was not to be taken lightly, but it has been SIGNIFICANTLY harder than anyone ever shared. The amount of trauma and cultural differences that you have to work through each day is exhausting. You can overload your mind with knowledge before adopting your child/children, but none of that info will stick if you don’t know the personality and traits your children carry.  

Tell us about your work with @wipeeverytear & @fearlessgirlco in combating the sex trade.

Zac and I work for an organization called Wipe Every Tear. We have safe houses in the Philippines and help rescue and restore women who have been trafficked in the sex trade. Being in the field that we are in, we know the statistics of orphans that end up in the sex trade. Since adoption was something I had dreamed of my entire life and my husband was adopted by his father, it was just a matter of “when” for our family. (Side note: the thing with international adoption is that you want to make sure you have done your research on your agency because many agencies unfortunately are not always ethical.)

Something that is special about Wipe Every Tear that many nonprofits don’t do is that we ask EVERY SINGLE GIRL what her dream is, and then we do everything we can to watch that dream unfold. We have girls who want to be business owners, travel agents, and more (I could go all day). We are not intimidated by the cost or the length of time it takes for these girls to finish school; we are in it to watch their dreams come alive! Watching our girls graduate from college and seeing the cycle of poverty break for their family is truly remarkable. We also are co-owners of a business called Fearless Girl. We encourage young women to live a life full of adventure and passion. We create resources for young women to go through in hopes that they’ll kick fear in the butt and sprint after their purpose.

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?

Hepworth tribe coming in hot. #HepworthPartyOfFour

If you or someone you know have a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at hey@letterfolk.com

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Max's Story

📷: @maxandmaddiedetroit 

One of the hardest things to see is a child fighting an illness. We came across Max's story when we saw this photo of him celebrating 30 days with no seizures. When we heard more about his story, we were so inspired by his bravery and positive outlook he had. We love to use Folks of Letterfolk to pass along the stories that inspire us to all of you, and Max's story is just that!

To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.

Max was diagnosed with atonic and myoclonic seizures on World Epilepsy Day (March 26) in 2016 just before his 5th birthday- oh, the irony. His diagnosis was not expected. Max had dealt with health issues since birth- chronic ear infections, 90% hearing loss (prior to tubes), reshaping helmet, adenoids removed, bronchomalacia, speech delay, etc., etc.- but always had a sunny disposition, an infectious smile and a lover of life.

The week prior to his diagnosis, he seemed off. He had fallen down the stairs, seemed distracted and just 'not himself.' My 'mom gut' nagged at me all week after he fell down the stairs on a Sunday...on Friday he woke up came downstairs and fell straight on his back (locked knees) twice. I immediately called his pediatrician and was instructed to take him to the ER. 

Triage ran a number of tests-diabetes, cardiovascular, CT scan, etc. The CT scan showed excess gray matter, which was an indicator of epilepsy. We were admitted and had a 48 hour EEG. Max had several more episodes during his stay and it was determined he had epilepsy. His type of seizures are rare and difficult to treat (and diagnose). There are limited medications he can take that are effective on his seizures...after about 6 months on meds we were at the point that his seizures were increasing and we had almost reached the maximum dosage on the meds, so the Ketogenic diet was recommended.

We began the diet in April 2017. He was hospitalized for 4 days to rid his body of sugar and to start the diet. The Keotgenic diet focuses on burning ketones instead of glucose. They really are not sure why it works, but it does for a large portion of patients. Max's diet is highly controlled. EVERYTHING (all meals and snacks) is weighed and follows a 2:1 ratio of fat to carbohydrates + protein. It is extremely low to virtually no sugars and carbs. The diet is somewhat similar to the Atkins diet (high fat, low carbs and sugar), but highly regulated. We use an app/website (ketodietcalculator.org) to log meals and have a dietician to regulate and approve proportions.

Tell us about Max's personality and what he likes to do.

Max is truly an amazing kid! He takes 14 pills a day and never fights me. He is disciplined on the diet and never cheats. He is genuinely happy.  He is the class comedian (I hate to admit it, but he really is funny- just don't tell him!), a gentle soul (he is conscientious that his friends and family are happy and feel loved), enjoys school and LOVES life. He is obsessed with cars (Audi, VW and Jeep are his faves), plays soccer, and loves riding his scooter and listening to music. He worships his older sister, Maddie. Maddie is so patient with Max, and his biggest ally. Max started kindergarten in September and could not wait to start reading and bring a backpack to school.

What has Max taught you and those around him as he fights this battle? 

To live in the moment. This is something I struggle with- always looking for things to be perfect and stressing about the 'what ifs.' Max has taught us to slow down. He has taught us to celebrate each day, each moment- whether big or small.

How have those around Max rallied around him in his fight? 

Family, friends, teachers, social media family, etc., have been his biggest cheerleaders. Supporting his diet, educating themselves on epilepsy, and accepting what we cannot change...and supporting me and my husband- which is huge. 

What is the update on Max? How is he doing with his seizures? 

Fingers crossed, but he is doing well! We have increased his calories (he is losing weight on the diet), so he is adjusting to the change. Little changes in the diet can impact the processing, but his ketones are right where they need to be.

We were so touched by Max's story and want to know how we can better support kids with epilepsy.  

Awareness. Research is ever evolving.  Every new discovery leads us closer to a possible cure. Max will not outgrow his seizures, but my hope is that this car-obsessed boy will be able to be a DRIVING 16-year-old car-obsessed teen.  

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?


If you or someone you know have a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at hey@letterfolk.com

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A La Crate

📷: @alacraterentals & @niphoto_commercial

Being small business owners, we love to follow other homegrown businesses with people living out their dreams. We stumbled on A La Crate rentals Instagram feed, and an hour later I was ready to move to Wisconsin just so I could rent their products. They rent out amazing pieces for events that range from contemporary sculptures to one-of-a-kind chairs and tables. We love swapping small business stories and thought we would share theirs on this week's Folks of Letterfolk.

To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.

Our team is comprised of visual people. We take a polaroid of our customers (when we have the privilege of meeting them face-to-face) and keep it with their paperwork/reservation thruout the planning process. After their event, the photo goes up on our wall. It's not uncommon for a new customer to walk up to the wall and find a familiar face! It's such a small world.

Tell us how A La Crate was started and what you guys are all about. 

The idea of A La Crate was born when we couldn't find rentals with character for our wedding. Jeff and I have design backgrounds and wanted our big day to represent us as a couple. That's a hard thing to do! We ended up collecting everything under the sun and then afterwards went to sell the pieces. Through the selling process, we met so many other couples struggling as well and thought, "Someone should really share!" From there, the concept took off. Now almost six years laterA La Crate is known for its one-of-a-kind pieces. We think of ourselves as an ARTISAN event rental company. We have a curated collection of rentals with uncommon character: things that evoke a time, a place, or simply a feeling. Some are found, some are made. All are thoughtfully crafted and all have a story. Let our stories tell yours!

The first line in your Instagram bio describes A La Crate as "A warehouse of uncommon rentable goods!" What is the most bizzare/uncommon item currently in your warehouse? 

Hmm, great question. I think we may need to rethink our tagline! Or perhaps swap out “uncommon" for “artisan". When we wrote that, we really wanted to communicate that our rentals were different. Not what you think of when you first hear the word "rentals." Our pieces are all MADE by us or local artists or FOUND. That is what makes them uncommon in our eyes. To call out the most unique piece, I may have to go with our JD Wolfe Cake Stands (see pic below). These beauts were handmade for A La Crate by local potter, Jennifer Darner Wolfe. To toot her horn, she currently has clay slab boards for sale with Anthropologie ShopTerrain (wow, right?!)! Ecstatic to have custom made pieces by Jennifer in our inventory, too.

How do you go about finding unique and rent-worthy pieces?

It's definitely gotten harder as the trends have changed over the years. We used to do a lot of craigslist purchases, antique malls, flea markets…you name it. Lately we've been BUILDING inventory though. Working with local craftsmen to make cocktail tableshand-built barscustom backdropsreclaimed harvest tables and benches. We find mid-century modern gems and have them reupholstered. We do our best to stay true to carrying MADE and FOUND pieces. It's what makes us "us". That being said, I'm a firm believer in MIXING new with old. So our flea market finds work really well with our new MADE rentals.

What is the most rewarding part of running your own business? 

The relationships. Madison has been the best community to open and run a business like ours. The community has been so supportive and taken us under its wing. Before running our own business I didn't really feel connected to the city. Everyone always said how much they loved Madison, and to be honest, I didn't really get it. I "liked" Madison, but didn't "love" it (yet). Once we opened A La Crate (ALC), that switch happened for me. I was able to better get my head around the city. Happy to report I love it here now and that has everything to do with the relationships built.

Seeing you balance raising your kids and running your business hits very close to home for us. Do you have any good secrets in finding a good balance? 

I wish there was a secret. Maybe it's to embrace the flexibility that you have juggling both (kids and running a business). We keep trying new schedules/work responsibilities as the business and our family grows. If something isn't working well, we stop complaining and ask each other what we can do to change/improve the situation? Our most recent shift is that I (Sarah) am working full-time and Jeff is staying home full-time (trying to work during naps... keyword "trying”). Our son, Ames, is 3 and our daughter, June, is now 1-1/2! It's yet to be determined how this part of our story unfolds, but we are thankful to have the opportunity to try it.

Where can we find A La Crate to rent some great rentable goods?

We are located in Madison, Wisconsin, and serve a 250-mile radius. We travel as far as Chicago and up to northern Wisconsin as well. If it’s within 250 miles…we’re there!

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?

We'll tag you if it ever changes, but it still says: Let our stories tell yours. - ALC 

If you or someone you know have a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at hey@letterfolk.com

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Bye Bye, Cancer!

📷: @helloerinv

Whoever said goodbyes are the hardest part clearly hasn't heard this story. We saw Erin's creative and witty celebration and had to get to know her a little more. We asked her about all the ups and downs that she faced in her fight against cancer.

To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.

Last December, I was diagnosed with b-cell lymphoma, (and created the #bonvoyagebertha because both B cell and Bertha start with a “B”.  and hashtags are apparently cool these days), then I kicked lymphoma's butt, and this was how I announced that my PET scan was clear! I cant take the credit for the boards: while i was getting my PET scan my friend Leslie was busy at home watching my two little girls and writing out the boards so we could celebrate when I got home. How did we celebrate? With bunt cakes, and margaritas, and handmade artwork from my girls.

How did you cope when you received the diagnosis? 

Receiving my diagnosis was a huge sigh of relief. I think the days (weeks) leading up to it were possibly the hardest of my life. It's absolutely terrifying knowing you have a mass, but not knowing what it is, or if/how it can be treated. But once I was diagnosed, my fighting instincts kicked in and it was GAME ON. I still cant believe 2017 was the year I lost ALL OF MY HAIR. Cancer was always something I thought only happened to “other people.” And I truthfully cant believe it happened to me (but my short hair is a really good reminder). 

How were you able to maintain a positive attitude while you fought cancer every day? 

I would be a liar, liar, pants on fire if I pretended I had a positive attitude each and every day. I had some dark days during/after rounds where I was just plain tired -- tired of chemo, and cancer, and being bald, and not having a “normal” life. I craved normalcy SO BADLY, so that's what we clung to. Simple things like taking my girls to school, being able to watch them all day, going to the gym suddenly made me SO HAPPY. And that’s something I truly hope I don't lose -- taking those little things for granted. Also, everything is better with a sense of humor. EVERYTHING. What's a marriage if it doesn’t involve your husband taking his razor to your head when things get patchy? 

Tell us more about your family and how they helped you with this fight. 

I think as hard as the “fight” is on the patient, it's even harder on the caregiver and family. My husband was absolutely wonderful through it all. It's hard because as the patient you have no clue what you need. But everyone wants to help, they want to do ANYTHING to make it better -- even if it's running all over town to satisfy your craving for lemon meringue pie. We have two little girls (5Y and 2Y), and we fought to keep their lives functioning as normally as possible. They reminded me each and every day to laugh, smile, and, most of all, to be okay. Our parents were crucial for helping us too -- emotionally and physically (by the final few rounds I couldn't function for my 5 chemo days and my mom would take the girls to her house). 

When you look back on beating cancer, what are some of the special moments that stick out to you? 

One of my favorite moments was when my five-year-old shaved my head! It's so hard losing your hair, but we wanted to make it not so scary for the girls. So we let my daughter take the clippers to my hair to help me shave it off. We may have made them a little TOO comfortable with the bald because they refused to let me wear hats! It taught me a lot about confidence! 

Describe the moment you found out you were cancer-free. 

My dad came with me to my PET scan so we could take a peek at the scan before my oncologist (perks of having a Dr dad). I walked out after the scan, and I could just see the relief on his face. We studied the scan, looking for the mass and both just started crying. I called my husband and we both started crying in utter disbelief that the fight was over. I think I’m more emotional AFTER chemo than during chemo. just looking back at everything we went through still brings tears to my eyes. We went home to tell the girls I wasn't sick anymore, and my oldest looked at me and said “YOU WERE SICK?!” And that's when I knew my husband and I had handled the whole process right. 

What got you through the hardest parts of this fight? 

My friends and family, but hands-down my friends. I felt so incredibly supported by my IRL friends (because they love me, they HAD to support me and tell me I looked epic bald), but it was the friends I've made through social media that REALLY blew me away. I made so many close friendships because people genuinely cared. They reached out, distracted me, and just offered me unconditional support.

Your story has touched the hearts of so many people. How can we better support the cause of others fighting cancer? 

Oh life. It's full of twists and turns and roads you never imagined you would travel. I remember December of 2016 sitting there thinking, "No way. There is no way I have CANCER. I'm young! I'm healthy! I have two little girls! I can't LOSE MY HAIR!" And then December 23 hit and it was confirmed. I had the BIG C. But I'm lucky. Lucky that cancer research has come so far. Lucky that when I was diagnosed, my doctor knew the exact path I needed to take. Lucky that I survived this. Think you don't know rare cancer? Pediatric cancers, leukemia, lymphoma (my BFF), thyroid, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers are classified as rare. (Yes, I had to google if I had a "rare cancer.”) So this past year I rode (and will continue to ride) in an event called Cycle for Survival. All of the proceeds go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where they do research, and even researched and fine-tuned my chemo treatment.  

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?

GUYS. I’m so embarrassed. . . but honesty is always the best policy. My board currently reads “Insert instagrammable AF quote about summer here”. . . but my daughter starts kindergarten on Monday, so I have BIG plans on fitting in with the rest of the Internet and forcing her to pose with the board.  

If you or someone you know has a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at hey@letterfolk.com

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