Hello, 2017

January 13, 2017

2016 was, in one word, intense.

We said goodbye to the hopes of biological children, and we began the adoption process. We applied for grants, filled out paperwork until our fingers cramped, raised (and saved) over $40,000, cried, waited, and then … rejoiced.

On August 15, 2016, the love of our lives: Elias Mateo Vinson, was born.

We went through the emotional hellos and goodbyes with his birth mom. We drove from Maryland to Tennessee with a newborn, and he didn’t cry once in the extremely long car ride.

Elias went to Michigan, Chicago, and Wisconsin, and he met his grandparents, extended family, and a whole lot of friends.

Then, after years of feeling like my body hated me (gaining lots of weight, exhaustion, digestive issues, and so much more), my doctor found a volleyball-sized tumor growing (rapidly) in my abdomen. Elias was two months old.

I had surgery, pathology came back clear, and I began the long, painful road of recovery. It was brutal.

We went through ups and downs in our marriage, and we experienced so many emotions in one year. It was exhausting, exhilarating, crushing, scary, joy-filled, sweet, intimidating, frustrating, nerve-wracking, healing, redemptive, and overwhelming. It was intense.

So much life can fit into less than 200 words.

Here’s to you, 2017. Here’s to a hopefully less-chaotic year. This is the year of eating well, being active, taking baths, spending less time in front of screens, spending less time criticizing myself, and soaking in all the newborn snuggles.

Hello, 2017.



Together, We are Motherhood: Meeting the Birthmother

June 27, 2016

Just be yourself.
 It was advice from many friends and family as we pulled up to the small brick house in Maryland. I wore a black and white striped dress and leggings, both worn from many washings, deciding to wear something familiar and comfortable.

In the week leading up to this meeting, I felt every emotion in the book. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Gut-wrenching nervousness–the kind where you feel like throwing up or running away. Will she like us? I wondered. Would I be too shy, too big, too Asian, not enough, too much? 

Nos venmos a las 3! Que ganas! I texted her that Saturday morning — essentially, We’ll be there at 3, and we’re excited!

Zach, my brother’s girlfriend Anna (acting as translator), and I got out of the car, blinking in the bright sunshine. Estamos aqui! I texted. My heart pounded. There was a lump in my throat.

We saw him first — O. The baby’s biological half-brother. For me, it was love at first sight. I took in his huge brown eyes, his face awash with innocence and curiosity. She, K, was behind him; she was beautiful.

We all smiled and exchanged holas and names. I hugged her — the woman carrying a son. The woman who will soon, God willing, make Zach and I parents. As we hugged, her stomach, swollen with the baby, pressed against me. Solo hablo un poco de Espanol, I apologized (I only speak a little Spanish).

We ate at Rita’s Italian Ice. He had chocolate ice cream with Oreos, she ordered plain vanilla. Does she want anything else on it? Hot fudge? Peanut butter cups? Caramel? I asked Anna anxiously.

When O ordered his ice cream, she pointed to the small cup, but he pointed at the medium, looking at her with hope in his big brown eyes. She conceded with a small smile — who could resist those eyes?

We sat at a small table, feeling relief in the air conditioning. It was much easier to converse face-to-face than in the car.

The evening before, I talked with one of my best friend, Rachel. She adopted a baby boy, Henry, and she knew the emotions I was feeling. I know these moments are unnatural. They are hard. Ultimately I believe they are also healing. You are a brave momma. You will spend your entire life doing hard things for your son. He will grow up to be strong and brave too. He will grow up to look like you, she said. A friend had texted that to Rachel when she met Henry’s birth mom. And now, she was passing those words on to me.

I repeated the words in my head as we ate. Yes, the moments were unnatural but they were also perfect.

It felt like sacred ground, sitting in those chairs at Rita’s.

Anna effortlessly translated back and forth, and I remembered enough Spanish to be conversational.

At one point, I said out loud the words I practiced over and over: Nos estas dando el major regalo de nuestras vidas (You are giving us the best gift of our lives), and she smiled broadly as I admitted to practicing. We talked about her favorite food (pupusas) and how she was feeling. I showed her and O photos of the baby’s nursery and of Zach and my parents. We reiterated our gratitude to her over and over — words will never be enough.

Zach told her we would do everything to give the baby the best life we could offer. She immediately nodded and said I know you will. Our time together flew by; I didn’t want it to end.

K is, without a doubt, the strongest woman I know. We barely know her, but at the same time, we know her intimately. Rachel told me it would be like that. As I sat next to her in the car, O whispered to her in rapid Spanish. She laughed and stroked his forehead. She reprimanded him quietly and gently when he interrupted. He snuggled up to her, and she rested her head on his. She loves him so deeply. She loves this unborn baby so deeply. Placing a child for adoption is an act, I believe, of pure unselfishness. It is an act of complete humility.

While we drove the ten hours back home to Nashville, I felt a deep sense of peace and pain. Even if K were to revoke the adoption and decide to parent, I realized that while I’d be heartbroken, I would also feel complete peace. She is a good, good mama, and all I can do is hold this adoption situation with open hands.

I also felt a sense of unworthiness — a feeling of how can it be, that I will be given this greatest gift? K is giving us a gift that we could never, ever repay. She will be making us parents. Because of her, I will be called mama; I will get to rock a dark-haired baby boy to sleep; my arms will feel the weight of a child.

I think the greatest, most pure love is shown through sacrifice. K is sacrificing her own wants, desires, and heart for the good of her unborn child. What a gift. It’s a mama’s love.

The baby will come any day now. When she texts, we will get in the car and drive. I know it will be a mixture of joy (a baby!) and grief (K’s and O’s pain).

There are so many more thoughts in this head of mine, and so many emotions that I am still processing. K and O are on my mind every minute of every day; I pray for them like breathing — constantly. I want to wrap them in my arms and protect them; I want to shout my gratitude from the rooftops. I want K to know the torrent of grief I feel for her — that her pain is not lost on me, that I see it — and her. How lucky this baby boy is already — to have two mama hearts ready to love him.

He is mine in a way that he will never be hers. Yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine. And so together, we are motherhood. -Desha Wood


How We Were Able to Travel Europe for Two Months

January 3, 2016

donuts-swedenSpoiler alert: we’re not rich.

But, we were able to travel Europe for seven weeks* without breaking the bank. So, how did we do it?

1. We worked … the whole time
As freelancers, Zach and I know we are incredibly blessed to be able to bring work with us wherever we go. Freelancing does, of course, have its drawbacks, but for the ability to travel at any time without affecting your work (too much), it’s pretty darn great. The first month (in France), I was incredibly busy wrapping up a big project. We knew it would be that way, and we chose to stay in Annecy, France the whole time so I wouldn’t feel like I was “missing out” when I was inside all day. For the most part, in the second month, I took one day off per week and my work load was a little lighter.

Because we were working consistently, we still had income coming in. Sometimes, I felt overwhelmed by working so much, and other days, I was grateful for the structure it provided.

2. We rented out our home in Nashville
We have owned our home in East Nashville for four years, and for most of those four years, our friend Andy has rented out our basement apartment. It helps supplement our income, and he’s also a great guy who happens to do all our yardwork too! The only way we were able to afford housing in Europe was to rent out the rest of our house too. We used airbnb and were fortunate to be able to find a family who wanted to rent it the entire time we were gone. That money went toward our housing in Europe, where we exclusively used airbnb and VRBO.

3. We chose small, inexpensive rentals
Because our stay in Annecy was so long, we were able to get a better deal on our apartment with airbnb. I believe it averaged out to $45 or so a night. For the rest of our time, we stayed in studio apartments because they were the least expensive. We didn’t always stay in the center of the city; many of the places we stayed were a good walk into town, so we averaged around 8 miles or so of walking a day — forced exercise!

4. We cooked our own meals
If you know me, you know food is extremely important to me. I wanted to be able to experience the cultures via food, but Zach wanted to be sure we stuck with our budget (see how we balance each other out?). We decided to eat in during our time in France, and got all our food from the weekly markets and the grocery store. However, every morning, we bought pastries for breakfast and a baguette (usually around $1) to go with our lunch. We also occasionally splurged on waffles with Nutella (around $3), mulled wine ($1.50) and gelato. In Italy, we had our hearts set on pizza and pasta, and we ate our breakfasts and lunches at home and split a lot of meals out. Thankfully, Italy’s food was the most affordable, so a mouth-watering pizza often cost around $6. Sweden and Copenhagen were trickier; they are very expensive countries, but we cooked a lot and cut corners. For example, a nearby coffeeshop had great tomato soup, and instead of buying a sandwich, we took advantage of the FREE fresh-baked bread they offered customers. We might have eaten more than our fair share!

5. Experiences = Free
Due to the expense (and stress!) of renting a car, we chose to walk everywhere or take the bus. There were a few times we splurged on “experiences”: we rode a ferry to the Isle of Capri, took a boat tour of Lake Annecy, and rented a car to hike the French Alps. But, all in all, we did a lot of free sightseeing. We hiked local trails, walked around elaborate cathedrals, and took in the cities by foot. It made for more planning and research on our part, but we were left with a fuller pocketbook and possibly even more-toned calf muscles.

6. Research, Research, Research
When we initially decided to go to Europe, I thought it would be easy. You just book a place to stay, purchase flights, and that’s it — right? Little did I know, it’s very time-consuming. And in order to save money, research needs to happen. Zach compared commuter trains vs. buses vs. flights vs. high-speed trains, and while it was a pain, it saved us a lot of money! The only expense we needed to save up for was our flights to and from Europe, which we booked early.

And, as a side note, we took insurance off our cars while we were gone, using that money, along with normal gas money, to pay for travel between cities in Europe.

Those are just a few ways we were able to go to Europe for an extended period of time. We feel deeply blessed to have experienced the trip, and we hope to do it again in the future. But for now, we’re enjoying snuggling up in our home and sleeping in our own bed!

*Many of you know, our dear Grandma Ruth passed away during our trip, and we cut it short to attend the funeral and grieve with family.



Italia! Sorrento, Capri, & Pompei

November 24, 2015

sorrento-cityIf you ever find yourself in Southern Italy, be sure to visit the Almafi coast. We stayed in Sorrento (as Positano was out of our price range) and it was incredibly beautiful. While summer is the most popular time to vacation on the Almafi coast, it’s also expensive — and our travels took us there at the beginning of November. The weather was perfect, crowds were minimal and views were breathtaking.
Sorrento is known for its Limoncello, seafood, and beautiful scenery. We walked through groves of lemons, pomegranates, olives, and oranges. And, while we certainly ate as much as our stomachs could hold, we also averaged walking 8-10 miles a day — plus, the Italian coast is not known for being flat.

sorrento-truck sorrento-door sorrento-cannoli

We took a day trip to Capri, which was recommended by several friends. There’s lots of high-end shopping, from Prada to Fendi, but we simply enjoyed the staggeringly beautiful views and left the spending to other tourists. We did, however, eat overpriced pizza and bruschetta! We also sipped a refreshing lemon slush and treated ourselves to cannoli and hot chocolate at the end of the long, very tiring day.

Though we had hoped to visit the Blue Grotto, we missed our chance; it closes at 1PM. I was disappointed, but we watched a fishing competition, basked in the sun, and fed the fish stale bread instead.   christina-capri capri-boats capri-overview

capri-sea capri-fish capri-road capri-beachOne of our last days in Sorrento, we went to Pompei for half a day. It was once a Roman city, but in 79 AD, the nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted, spewing lava and ash all over the city. Many of its citizens fled, but there were several who stayed behind — and they inevitably died. The interesting thing about Pompeii is this: Because of the huge amount of ash, lack of air and moisture, the town was essentially preserved, allowing excavators and historians a detailed look into the life of a Roman citizen back then. The voids that once held people (who decayed) were filled with plaster, giving site visitors a sad, yet incredibly accurate visual of the position they died in.

It was part heartbreaking, part fascinating, and though I’m not a history buff in any way, I thoroughly enjoyed our time there. (And no, it did not have anything to do with spotting Jude Law! … But that may explain my deep desire to watch The Holiday on repeat.)


After five nights in Sorrento, we moved on to Bologna and are currently staying in Parma. More on that to come — and, of course, plenty of food pictures to follow. : )


Where we are is not the issue.

November 6, 2015

where we are

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.
-Gerald Locklin

Vinson_035_1photo by the lovely Alana Rasbach (our Nashville home)

I read this poem on Instagram and proceeded to read it four or five more times.

“There is always the anticipation /of the change, the chance that what is wrong / is the result of where you are.”

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Zach and I came to Europe for a fresh adventure and a chance to re-calibrate ourselves after a tough couple of years. We came because, with our freelance jobs, we could. We came to behold new beauty and fill our bellies. We knew leaving Nashville for a bit wouldn’t “fix” any of our insecurities or pains, and it’s good that we were prepared. Because we are still the same.

There is excitement, of course, and the magic of France is not to be undermined. But in the midst of cobblestone streets, foreign languages, chic boutiques, and autumn bliss, there is still uncertainty. You still fight with your husband. You still have bad days. Just yesterday, I let my feelings of inadequacy ruin my day. My hair was wrong, my clothes were wrong, my body too big. I’m in France, but troubles don’t dissolve when you fly 4,600 miles away.

I have always struggled with feeling like “more” is better. If I could just get better jeans, if I had the perfect fall wardrobe, if I bought that blanket scarf, if I found the “perfect” bootie (note: not referring to “booty” though that would be nice too!), if my concealer really concealed … then I would be happy.

My struggle with this happens weekly, daily, sometimes minute-by-minute. But what is wrong is not where I am or even what I have, but rather, what I believe to be true.

It feels good to write that out. How do you confront the unhealthy beliefs in your own life?

 annecy-homeOur home in France.


Two Weeks In: On Catching Your Breath

October 31, 2015


As of today, we’ve been living in Annecy, France for two weeks. We only have two weeks left in this charming little town — and then we’ll move on to Italy, the land of pasta, Parmesan, and gelato.

Even though Annecy is small — it holds a little over 50,000 people — and we don’t have a car, friends, or many books here, we haven’t been bored. I am trying to finish writing another book and stay on top of work, Zach has been making lunch, dinner, and handling logistics of our upcoming travels, and during our free time, we set out on foot.

The market is three times a week, and to be honest, it is a little overwhelming. There are crowds upon crowds of people and it’s hard to make decisions when the next stand could hold better clementines and cheaper cheese. While it can be a overstimulating, the best part of the market (in my opinion) is coming home and filling our refrigerator. There’s an apple juice stand, and they make the best apple juice, and Zach always tries to pick out some type of sausage. Next on his list: bacon.

After the market on Friday, we left the raucous throngs of people and stepped into a cathedral. Instantly, our hearts settled. It was silent and reverent. A few people prayed. Sweet old women set out fresh flowers. Golden statues of Mary stood serenely and stained glass windows cast jeweled rays across the pews. Sometimes, all we need is a place to catch our breath.

This week, we ate a waffle hot off the iron and slathered in Nutella. We went out for dessert and learned that no matter how hard you try, the waitress might not understand your French. We took an hour-long boat ride around Lake Annecy and spotted a few castles. We found an enchanting flower shop with moss hanging from the ceiling, succulents crowded on small shelves, and exotic orchids flaunting their beauty. And this morning for breakfast, we split three treats: pain au chocolat amandes (chocolate croissant with almond paste), a crumble framboise (raspberry crumble), and a pistache framboise pastry (pistachio/raspberry).

Here are some images of our past few days in Annecy. And here’s to finding a few moments each day to catch your breath.













The Simple Life in Annecy

October 29, 2015


There are so many reasons to love this area of France: our daily baguette costs 1 euro, my favorite almond croissant costs only a little more, and Zach drank two glasses of mulled wine today for a little over 2 euros.

We walk several miles every day — and everything we need is within walking distance. The bakery, our cheese shop, breathtaking views of the lake, the market, and all the restaurants you could want. There are several hiking trails near our home as well as a grocery store.

Plus, the many flights of stairs we walk up and down each day are like our own personal Stairmaster.

Everyday life is made simpler in France.

While from the outside, our life looks much simpler here — no car, less than 500 square feet, a carry-on bag full of clothes — it also gives space for thinking and processing, grieving and soul-deep crying. It’s confusing. It’s complicated.

In Nashville, my weekly schedule was full: chiropractor visits, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine appointments, social events, church, small group, house projects, work meetings, and more. But here, I work, I eat, I walk, and finally, I grieve.

Throughout these past few years, grief has come in fits and spurts. Hope followed by disappointment followed by hope followed by a new procedure, shots, medicine, new doctors, new tests, failed procedures, and crushing test results. There was always something more to try: no gluten, acupuncture, a new drug, more thyroid medication, more organic, less stress — the list goes on, but doesn’t always offer a cure.

Now we are in a holding place. We’re not sure of what our next steps will hold. At home, I was surrounded by friends’ babies and children — and I loved it. For the duration, it filled that maternal void. I cuddled, I rocked, sang and fed. I read stories and changed diapers and picked out pajamas. It was a healing balm, and I knew I was so lucky to be an aunt-mama to those littles, “Tina” to the ones who couldn’t yet pronounce my name.

Obviously I couldn’t bring any of my baby-friends to France (though imagine how fun that would be!), and I think finally, my grief is pouring out. It was bottled up and I had numbed myself in an effort to self-preserve, but I am feeling again. The grief is here.

I’m not sure how to process it. Long walks help. The hot waffle with Nutella earlier today made me smile. Writing releases some of the tension. It’s been hard to pray. Parks & Rec has made me laugh. I realize we are “living the dream” in some ways, working and living from France, and soon other countries as well. So I’m moving through the grief and soaking it all in. I’ll remember this time as as a valley, but still so very, very sweet.


Travel, Uncategorized

Hiking in Annecy, France: La Tournette

October 27, 2015


This past weekend, we went hiking at La Tournette. It is the highest mountain surrounding Lake Annecy, and I read about it via The Overseas Escape. Upon viewing the pictures, the hike seemed more like a necessity than an option.



We woke up early, rented a car, drove for the first time since our arrival, and somehow made it to our destination. The roads were winding and the street signs in Annecy are rather unhelpful — so we did a lot of guessing, stopping, and guessing some more.

It’s cliche, but … the photos don’t do the hike justice. The views took our breath away, or maybe it was the completely uphill climb that had us gasping. Being the coordinated athlete that I am, I fell five times, but I got up six — and have a nice battle wound on my hand to show for it. Our trusty Everlane backpack held our snacks and water, which included a delicious slice of raspberry almond meringue pie.

Who needs Clif bars when you have French bakeries?



We didn’t make it all the way to the top, but we made it pretty darn close. Would we hike La Tournette again? Absolutely. But first, my thighs need to recover.



Not Yet.

October 27, 2015


God is good to all of us. He knows what we need better than we do. And just because he thinks it is better not to give you what you want right now doesn’t mean he isn’t answering you. You shall have what you ask for but not until the right time comes.” —Heidi, Johanna Spyri

My friend Emmie is a book connoisseur, especially in the realm of children’s books. She’s a school librarian and I am constantly inspired by how much she knows about illustrators, writers, education, and literature.

When I posted the above picture of a Swiss-inspired home we happened upon, I mentioned the book Heidi. I loved it as a young girl, especially the part when Grandfather gives Heidi bread and toasted cheese. My memories of the book are fuzzy, but Emmie sent me the above quote from Heidi, and when I read it, I cried.

Many of you know that Zach and I have been on this journey to parenthood for several years now, and with every invasive procedure, every prick of the needle in acupuncture, every doctor’s visit and blood test, the answer is still “not yet.” The stick is still negative. Time seems to be running out. The path is very unclear.

It hurts. At times, the pain is so much, I am not sure my heart will ever fully recover. The waiting, the hoping, the disappointment, the ache and longing — I carry them with me daily. It is certainly the most difficult season Zach and I have experienced in our 6.5 years of marriage, and perhaps even in our lives.

So often, I’ve wondered if God is listening, if he sees the tremendous grief I feel. Will he answer?

Johanna Spyri’s words felt like a tiny burst of hope. It’s been fleeting these days.

He is still saying “not yet.” It will not always be this way. So I wait.

God certainly knows of some happiness for us which He is going to bring out of the trouble, only we must have patience and not run away. And then all at once something happens and we see clearly ourselves that God has had some good thought in His mind all along; but because we cannot see things beforehand, and only know how dreadfully miserable we are, we think it is always going to be so.

Travel, Writing

Autumn in Annecy, France

October 26, 2015


Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” –George Eliot, 1841

When we left Nashville, autumn was just beginning to weave its colorful threads into the humid tapestry of the south. Leaves were starting to turn, just barely, and temperatures were dipping at night. I was slightly nervous that we would miss fall altogether since Annecy is colder than Nashville and ahead in changing seasons. However, I was in for a surprise.

This charming town does autumn quite well. In the mornings, when we walk down to the bakery for a baguette and a few pastries, the cold air rushes into our lungs in a hurry. And throughout the day, temperatures become mild and perfect for long walks along Lake Annecy. Ripe apples give way to fresh juice at the market, and jewel-toned mums are at the park, in window boxes, and in planters lining the cobblestone streets. Chestnuts flood the produce stands; the leaves are giving their last hurrah.

In my loyal mind, nothing will ever top a Michigan fall, but Annecy comes close.