Vera's Journey

Folks of Letterfolk

📷: @millieholloman 

You may be familiar with the well-known African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what you may not know is that it also takes a village to adopt a child. The process of foster care and adoption is one that is long and complicated, requiring the help of many different people. Vera’s mother, Millie, decided to photograph the various people involved in Vera’s adoption process. With each person holding up their message, we began to see all the different perspectives and the joy that adoption brings spreading far beyond the parents and child.

First off, tell us a little about the series of photos and the story they tell.

On March 7, 2017, I adopted Wren after she spent 1,070 days in foster care. I wanted to find a way to document the day in a way that allowed her to look back and see how much she was wanted and loved. I also wanted to have a collection of images to express my gratitude to my village that supported me on this foster care journey. Without them, this single woman who also runs her own business would never have taken the leap into foster care. My friends helped me pull of a collection of images using my Letterfolk board and I posted them online that evening with a letter to them.

Tell us more about Vera's adoption. How did you find her and eventually adopt her?

This little girl entered my life a little over 3 years ago. She was the first foster child to walk through my front door that April day. When her feet crossed into the threshold of my home, she walked right into my heart, but little did I know one day she would nest there forever. I was instantly smitten, even though she presented as a scared and shy two-year-old who wanted nothing to do with me. Wren was just spending a few days with me while her foster mom finished 2 weeks of work before retiring. She warmed up to me slowly as she spent the next week tagging along with me to work. I spent that first week we met slowly gaining her trust, but we still had a long ways to go. She returned to spending weekdays with her foster mom. A short time later, I was asked to do respite care for Wren. Respite is when foster parents help each other by watching the children so they can travel or get some time away. Her foster mother would sometimes ask me to watch her for several days to a week at a time while she traveled. I loved having her so much. We would plan fun weekend events to fill our time together. When I look back on her story, I can see The Lord's hand in every single aspect of it. He was planning the entire time for the two of us to be together, I just couldn't see it yet. The circumstances seemed far from likely that I would ever be able to adopt her.

In November of 2015, I had a six-week-old baby boy. He had come to me right out of the hospital at just 4 days old. I was struggling to find a balance between sleep, work and being a mom again with no maternity leave. I got a call explaining that Wren was being moved and asking if I was willing to take her for a brief period of time. I was informed that the placement might turn into adoption. I told them I wanted her for as little or long as would allow. I was overjoyed to have the chance to spend more time with this little girl! When my family returned from our vacation on December 6, 2015, I greeted her with a Pluto pillow pal from Disney (which is still her favorite today). That’s where our forever story began.

It's often easy to forget all the people involved in an adoption. What made you want to include all these people in Vera's adoption announcement? 

I’m a single mom and a business owner. Without many of the people in this photo and knowing I had their support, I most likely would never have ventured into foster care. Perhaps the letter I posted to them online will give you even better insight:

"Today was a big day for me and my girl, but it wasn’t just about the two of us. Sure, our lives are the most dramatically changed through this adoption but Wren’s story is far reaching. We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” Well it’s true! I’ve often said that when I signed up for foster care, I signed up for the heartache and pain that often come with it. But my family and friends didn’t sign those papers, just me. I just drug them all into it. They’ve been through the ups and downs with me. They’ve supported me when I called crying after court hearings or given me a shoulder to cry on when I’ve had to buckle kids in their car seat and send them off with another family to love. They have fallen in love with these kids and they have prayed big prayers for us all. They have stepped up and filled in the gaps for the roles I can’t be to these kids. Today they cried great big tears and they celebrated alongside us! I’m so grateful for my friends and family, those there today and those who could not be with us but were in spirit! I would not be where I am today without my village, and words can’t express how much you mean to us! Thank you for bringing Vera Wren into our tribe and loving her like your own!“

Describe how you felt the day the adoption became official. 

The day was busy and full of family and friends and celebration, so I think it hit me on the way home that afternoon. I was talking to my Mom and I realized that I was solely responsible for making decisions for her life right now. And that’s a BIG deal when up until now, major decisions had been made in a courtroom by people who had either never met her or only met her a handful of times. There are no words to describe the joy I felt knowing we had the promise of forever together, just a big ole’ bucket of happy tears. 

Tell us about Vera's personality and what she likes to do.

Her joy is evident and she shines a little brighter than most! She is spunky and hilarious. She always has a fun idea for a new adventure. Right now she is really into swimming and loves to go to the pool. She also loves to ride bikes, go get a snowball, play with her cousins and enjoys the company of her American Girl doll pretty much everywhere we go.

Vera's story has touched the hearts of so many people. How can one support the cause and make sure more kids like Vera find loving homes?

Get involved in foster care! Whether it is helping support other foster parents with meals and resources so they can keep helping more kids, getting licensed for respite care to give breaks to others, or even taking placements long term. One thing I’ve learned over the past 3 years is that all of these kids need a loving home, and love is the only thing that can really change them and their circumstances. All of these kids deserve a family who cares! I wish I could take them all in and give them a village that loves like ours.

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

All you need is love

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Not all it's cracked up to be

Folks of Letterfolk

📷: @birchbutterfly

There’s often an exhilarating rush to trying something new for the first time. Sometimes it results in a newfound passion, and other times it results in a broken wrist. Unfortunately for Nicole, it was the latter of the two. Her first time snowboarding may not have gone as she'd hoped, but she was a good sport about it and had some fun announcing her injury with her letter board.

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

My husband and I got free ski passes at the resort we got married at in New Hampshire, and we finally decided to cash them in. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to snowboard. Under the advice of people I know, my plan that day was simple: don't break your wrists. Sooo, guess what? On the first day, while trying to turn, I lost my balance, and fell with my arms completely stretched out.... cue the ski patrol. Needless to say, my husband and I evacuated the scene, went to the hospital, were told by doctors "Yup, that's ugly," and then drove back home. They had splinted me, handed me X-Rays and told me I needed to see a specialist. The whole thing was a total bummer. I really had no choice but to just have a sense of humor and stay positive. That's when I decided a curated Letterfolk board was necessary!

Did you know it was injured right away?

Snap. Crackle. Pop. I knew INSTANTLY.

Do you take credit for at least injuring yourself doing something cool? 

From time to time, I may add "triple back flip" when I tell the story, but I guess the real story is better than falling on ice.

What's the most annoying part of having a cast?

EVERYTHING is annoying one-handed, but for me the worst was my morning routine. Shampooing my hair, washing my face, hooking my bra, buttoning my jeans, zipping jackets, the list goes on. It was a good day if I could find a long sleeve shirt that fit over my cast

How is your wrist feeling now? 

Wrist is not quite 100% yet, but it's getting there. It's been a long road. I am BEYOND grateful it was not my right hand! I am a painter and illustrator, and I don't know what I would have done if I'd broken my dominant hand. Thankfully, I was still able to take on commission work on my Etsy shop BirchButterfly!

Will you ever give snowboarding another go?

My feeling is to maybe check back when my wrist has fully recovered! 

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

We threw a party hat and sunglasses on our rottweiler for his 7th birthday and stuck a beer and this letter board next to him.

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From Airstream to A-Frame Cottage

Folks of Letterfolk

📷: @tincanhomestead

The idea of renovating a 1970’s airstream and making it your home may be just a daydream to many, but for Natasha and her husband it was much more than that. We loved following along as they rebuilt this living space and made it their own. Now they are once again transitioning to a new space and going through the renovation process all over again. We caught up with Natasha to ask about their past and future renovating adventures.

Tell us your story and your journey of living in an Airstream.

My husband Brett and I were traveling in a Volkswagen van for six months, and as we started heading home, we started thinking about what we really needed to live. Our storage unit full of stuff at home seemed like a burden. So we started thinking about ways we could live differently and were inspired by our pals at The Modern Caravan to give airstream life a try. We'd already built out our Volkswagen van, and I had a lot of experience with building electrical and renovations, so we figured we could manage it.

What was the restoration process like and how long did it take?

The restoration process was super rewarding but a lot of hard work. All the walls are curved and that makes for some difficult building. We spent a year of steady work on it.

There are a lot of us that look in from the outside with envy. What advice or words of caution would you give to folks wanting to make the leap?

FIND A PLACE TO PARK FIRST. And after that, don't underestimate how much work it's going to be. Most people that start renovating airstreams don't finish.

Tell us what made you decide to sell your airstream and build an A-frame style cottage in the woods?

Seattle is a tech boom city and is getting to be a pretty overwhelming place to live. When we imagined ourselves living in our airstream, it was is the middle of the woods. But in Seattle that wasn't going to happen. When we started talking about Vermont, we had planned to take the airstream, but eventually decided against it because our vintage girl isn't really made for crazy winters and tons of snow.

What will you miss about living in your airstream?

Everything! It's such a wonderfully cozy place to be on a rainy afternoon. Or in the summer with all the windows thrown open. It was our first home we owned together.

And what aspects of having a grounded house are you looking forward to?

A bigger closet and room for a ceramics studio.

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

"Home is wherever I'm with you". ♡

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"Happy Birthday, Dad!"

Folks of Letterfolk

📷: @sarahrunsla (featuring @movethejohn)

The idea for Letterfolk first came to us when we were trying to think of a creative way to mark the milestones of our first child. We see so many of our customers doing the same with their babies and we loved this fun take on the idea that Sarah posted for her dad’s birthday.

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My Mom's Journey

Folks of Letterfolk

📷: @nakupendanjeri

International Women’s Day (celebrated on March 8th) commemorates the movement for women's right and is a day to celebrate and share stories of the women in our lives that inspire us. Among those stories was one shared by Njeri about her mother. After seeing Njeri’s photo and comments about her mother’s example, we wanted to know so much more about her mother and her journey from Kenya to the USA.

Tell us the story behind this photo.

My mom vividly remembers the day this picture was taken. Imagine this story as told in a Kenyan accent: "I was in Nairobi coming out of design class for the day. It was beautiful outside and I passed by some people taking photos on the street and thought why not pose for a picture? Why not? In those days no one had their own camera and I thought it would be good to remember a good day. I came back a few days later, found my picture and smiled again." I picked this photo because my mom is my age and although looking forward to the future, she took a moment to revel in the present.

How did your mother make it to the U.S.? And what type of business did she start? 

My dad was in the states finishing school so when the time came, my mom packed two suitcases, left behind every single family member and familiar place and braced for the scariest experience: 17 hours of flying with a 4 year old. We made it to Pennsylvania and my mom never looked back. In the early days, her main goal was making sure I made it to school and back and was assimilating well. In her downtime, she explored Penn State and started to build a community around us. A few years in, my parents started selling African art at local markets. Twenty-plus years later and they've grown their business to include travel tours to Africa, opening their first hotel/lodge in Kenya and running a successful African art store at the King of Prussia Mall (largest mall in the US!) 

How has your mother's example shaped you as a woman? 

My mother's example, oh my word — where to even begin. She guides me every single day. She is a brilliant and strong woman of faith, love and hands gifted from the culinary gods. One particular lesson I carry in my heart is her saying: "Njeri, no person is better than you and you are better than no person." I find immense confidence and resilience in that statement especially working in a field that is 98.9999999% male dominated. Too often, for fear of coming off "soft," women put up a tough exterior and my mother has always pushed us to embrace all facets of our personalities. As a result, almost everyone who knows me describes me as "the sweetest person that they wouldn't dare cross." I love unconditionally, take my work very seriously, bake cakes and play rugby because NEWS FLASH: it's 2017 and I can do all the things.

What are you seeing around you now that inspires you and gives you hope for women around the world?

I am inspired by women starting to tackle the awkward conversations amongst themselves that start with 'what is your experience as a ______ woman and why am I so removed from your struggle'. We cant move forward as a strong unit without first listening, truly listening, to what other women around the world have mourned and celebrated.

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

As I write this to you, I am three days away from taking a huge financial licensing exam (send all the prayers, PLEASE) so I've been updating it with funny, encouraging, motivational quotes. This week I'm bribing myself to study so I've got my reward on the board: GUCCI SOHO DISCO BAG. So far, the motivation is working.

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