Its like time stood still (well mostly)

28 08 2012

Its crazy how easy it has been to just jump right into things here in Colombia.  In the taxi on the way back from the airport at almost 2 in the morning (my flight was 5 hours delayed) we flew through one red light after another.  The tiendas on each side a blur (literally, we were flying) and it all came rushing back to me: bus routes, cool shops and markets, the statue of Jovita (an icon in this city) safe neighborhoods and other to avoid, friends, …. everything.  And as we pulled into Magnolia’s apartment, I was struck with this feeling of did I ever really leave this place? And when Magnolia walked out of her house in her pajamas and chastised me for arriving so late, I definitely realized that a part of me never really had left.

This feeling of time standing still, that I had been here all along, continued as I walked in the gates of Chiquitines, an orphanage that I had spent so much time in over a year ago.  The gaurd, the same.  The secretary at the front, the same. The director and majority of the staff, the same.  I rounded the corner to the courtyard and thats when it hit me…. time had, in fact, not stood still.  The kids, the few that I knew anyway, were gigantic.  They weren’t babies anymore but full blown kids.  And there was a whole crew of brand new little bitty babies recently taken under custody of the state.  These kids had been living, learning, experiencing life for 15 months, the were growing up.

What a difference a year makes!!  There was one adorable little girl many of you will remember from my blog last year.  She is one of my favorite people on this earth…. a smile and sweetness that will break your heart! I left this chunky little baby with her first braces and walker 15 months ago:










And arrived to find this giant!!











You are probably thinking… that just doesn’t look comfortable (and those shoes are huge). And you would be exactly right.  This walker is definitely not working for her anymore.  So we brought her a new one (and some shoes that fit too).  And for those of you keeping score, no issues with immigration at all (unlike previous trips)… I was totally prepared with all the necessary documents and they didn’t even flinch as I walked through pushing the gait trainer.

So here is our girl in her AMAZING kidwalk that my AMAZING friends at CMC in Dallas helped me get in an AMAZINGLY short amount of time (thanks so much!)










She is leaving with her forever family very soon.  I am sooooo excited that this little girl is being adopted! Can’t wait.  So later today we are going to go back to Fundamor to try and find a forever home for the kidwalk.

For now, I think she likes it!










More later.





Second annual…. SuperKids 5K

10 08 2011

Drum roll please…. I am excited to announce that the second annual SuperKids 5K: Run for Orphans will be October 1, 2011 in lovely Strasburg Colorado. A great day for getting together, going for a little walk/run, and buying some great stuff at the silent auction that follows the race.


Here are the details:

Registration:  8:00-9:00 a.m.

Race Start Time: 9:30 a.m.

Location: Strasburg High School

Price: Pre-registration $20.00 until September 20, 2010 (Guaranteed a t-shirt)

               Day of Race: $25.00 (T-shirt while supplies last) 

Prizes awarded to the top males and females in the following age groups:  (Under 19) (20-29) (30-39) (40-49) (50+)

 Links to registration include:

Pre-registration Online:

Pre-Registration  by mail: mail registration 

Sponsorship Packet: Sponsorship packet_2011

Remember, if you can’t be here… you can still support the cause as a Spirit Runner for SuperKids  or sponsor and help provide valuable resources and education to support all the fantastic kiddos Gladney Center for Adoption and SuperKids works with around the globe.

Email me at: with any questions. Send all registration forms or sponsorship commitments to:

PO BOX 335  Strasburg, CO 80136

Happy Running!!



12 07 2011

Dear internet friends and followers,

I am now back home in the lovely USA. Truth be told I have been here over a week. I apologize greatly for the abruptness of this post- but the return was a well maneuvered, full Hood family surprise for my mom’s birthday.  Obviously, there could be no alluding to this date prior to my departure. The result of all this trickery was absolutely priceless. I have never seen that level of shock in my mom’s eyes or heard her shriek like that in my glorious 29 years of life. 

The following will thus be one last bloggy attempt to give a semblance of verbal expression to an experience that is utterly impossible to sum up in words alone.  I will use mastercard to help me.  I hope it’s not copy written:

2 Cameras

52 braces (ankle foot orthotics)

Wearing the same backpack full of cloths for 8 months

1 debit card

14 airplane tickets

1 cell phone

6 orphanages

Innumerable bus rides

4 jars of “imported” peanut butter

9342 pictures

1 12X12 box of souvenirs

3 new Colombia mothers

1 pediatric walker

13 hours of video

47 blog posts

5 visitors/best friends coming to see me

0 Malaria pills (despite the fact I carried a huge vat of them throughout my entire trip… waiting for the moment they became necessary)

3 horseback rides

1 salsa lesson

2 lice infestations


Closing my eyes and smiling all the way down to my stomach with memories of thousands of amazing kids…. priceless

Giving me something to fight for…..   priceless

Being inspired almost everyday….. priceless

Thank you for accompanying me on this priceless journey.  A few of my favorite photos to sign off:











Thanks again for all the support, shout-outs, emails, visits and well wishes of those of you who silently followed along.  Thank you so much!!! Chao…. hasta luego.



1 07 2011

I have heard people say that this salutation in yoga means: the light in me recognizes the light in you.  I don’t know if it is true or not, but I like that idea. 

Here is actually a good point in the post to admit that I know very little about yoga.  I mean, I have taken a handful of classes, owned a couple of videos… but expert I am not.  I am actually barely a beginner.  But here is what I do know about yoga: it’s about listening to your body, learning to value yourself/your feelings, focusing on the moment, focusing on your breath.   And knowing this, was knowing enough to realize that there are some kids at the aldea that would really benefit from some yoga time.

I did it with a few little boys, but there was one in particular who really started to respond to it.  He, like many of the other kiddos here, is diagnosed with a handful of psychiatric diagnosis… which to me feels like multiple doctor’s attempts to explain and label what I would simply refer to as behavioral outbursts.  He is a sweet, considerate, gentle emerging teen that loves positive attention from adults… who can get angry and throw a fit with the best of them.  He has lately been having lots of trouble at school being aggressive with teachers and classmates.  He is not really the typical PT patient, but I just couldn’t resist trying this. The idea would be to start with yoga, focused sessions, but eventually get him to start using these strategies “in the moment” when the rage strikes.

From the first moment, he loved it.  It really amazes me how easily kids can “get in the zone”.  I have been in yoga classes and seen others…. and often struggle myself, with really letting going, “quieting the mind” I believe is yoga speak for the concept.  But I mean: not worrying about if I look stupid, if my butt is supposed to be that high up in this pose, why the girl next to me is doing so much better, and darn it if she doesn’t look a lot better in her spandex than me too, where did she buy that top I wonder?… breath dang it!! That is what it sounds like in my head throughout most of a yoga class.  But my buddy here seemingly stays really focused the whole 30 minutes or so that we practice together.  He starts and ends focusing on his breath.

Showing me his moves- child's pose

And I too have had my most focused, in-the-moment moments with this little boy.  Listening to him breath (I talk a lot with him about breathing in the good, the life, all things positive… and exhaling the bad, the stress, everything that is bothering him.  I hear him breath and I see him working to do just that.  I see his body and face relax.  And that constant breathing…. just typing about it now makes that lump in my throat, it really is powerful.  And every time that we are done, he sits up and opens his now sleepy eyes and I say… how do you feel.  “Relaxed” he says with a smile.

And with that, the light in me really does recognize the light in him. That, my friends, is namaste…. and you don’t have to know much about yoga to know that.

This is staged… but we wanted a little reminder of our mad skills!
The tias really love the idea too. So much that they have rearranged his daily schedule (which is highly structured because his behavior is lots better with consistent/predictable days) with two 30 minute yoga/relaxation sessions.  I worked with the tias forideas to talk him through some of the different meditations we do and they thought it was great and might even start it with the whole house.  This yoga business is contagious.


The side dish…

30 06 2011

I know all of you were probably thinking… wow, that Keely sure works hard. I wonder if she is doing anything fun there in sunny Costa Rica.

The answer is yes, and here is the proof:

Poas Volcano with the girls.  It was awesome because this day was really overcast and when we first reached the volcano, we say absolutely nothing. Then suddenly the clouds opened up and boom…. there was in fact a volcano there.  Fantastic.

Maura, Nicole and I... I swear the volcano really is back there


See... here it is

Sarcchi: this is a little town in the central valley of Costa Rica known for its artisan/crafts, most especially for making ox carts. It is really neat because the whole downtown area is covered with “sarcchi design” even the trashcans, park benches, street signs etc.  I pretty much love little artsy souvenirs, so this place was perfect for me.

Gigantic ox cart


Designer trash cans


And the street signs!

Jaco Beach: As far as cool tourist attractions, this is pretty much as “skip it” type of place. However, it is by far the closest beach to San Jose and one of the only day trippers, so I was excited when Rocio (the lady I live with) and her friends invited me to go.  It was honestly one of the ugliest beaches I have ever seen, but it was sunny and it was the beach…. so I was happy.

My feet. On the beach.

Nosara: Due to the disappointment of my first beach experience here in Costa Rica, I decided to take a long weekend to head up to Guanacaste. This penninsula in the northwest is supposed to be the bee’s-knees of beaches.  I once again lucked out and scored a travel partner, Melissa from California was also traveling by herself and we joined forces to have an great weekend. Filled with:


Me. On a bike.


The Cadillac of surfboards... I got up twice, what I will fondly remember as ten seconds of glory.

Yoga (sorry no picture)

Sunbathing/surviving the monkey raid: The second day I was there was absolutely beautiful so we decided to spend the morning laying by the pool. Peaceful, calm, beautiful. Until about 15 howler monkies invaded the mango tree above us.  They are such hilarious animals. They would eat a mangos with a zeal almost equal to that of the kids at the aldea.  They would chow on them and then when they were done, drop them to the ground. The issue is that when said monkey drops a mango from something like 40 feet, it hits with a bang.  It was not long before these cute little dudes had their fill of mangos and left (only to come back 2 more times later that day) leaving the pool area (and the pool itself) littered with half eaten mangos. Hard to be annoyed though, cause they sure are cute.



Mangos, yum.



The beach and views were awesome.


View from the B & B


Beach: low tide on the bike ride home

Happy traveling.


And you can call me Martha Stewart…

30 06 2011

My day yesterday was filled with just two activities: crafting and baking, in that order.  I totally harnessed Martha Stewart. I mean for about 12 hours, I literally because the “queen of craft”  herself.  And in that spirit I invite you to read the rest of the  blog in that flat, unemotional, ever so slightly manly, northeastern accent of hers…. feel free. Go on, you know you want to. 

The morning I worked with Ali, one of the rec directors, on a project for the play area.  We have been talking recently about how there is a handful of kids that can not participate in the group activities (pool, trampoline, PE type games) for various reasons, so they often just sort of wander around during these group activities.  I mentioned the idea of making a sensory corner and everybody loved the idea.  So Ali and I got to work yesterday making a sensory wall.  Basically the idea is for the kids to be able to look at and touch the wall… it has lots of different colors and textures, especially made for the kids that are “sensation-seekers”.  Anyway, we got off to a really good start and now Ali feels really confident (and has LOTS of supplies… thanks Maura and Nicole) to keep making the tiles to fill the wall.

bits and pieces of the sensory wall


a few more pieces

Also, we are going to hang a sensory swing in this corner and hopefully get them set up with an auditory stimulation program too.  It is going to be fantastic for the children with disabilities here…. they really need something like this!

But the Martha-ness did not end there.  For the past two months (yes, I have been here 2 months already… can’t believe it) lots of the staff at the aldea have been pressing me to make some “typical american food.” However, they then made a clarifying statement that I was not allowed to bring hamburgers, french fries… or anything else that one can buy at the MANY fast food american restaurants that line the streets here in Costa Rica. They wanted something more exotic. The problem was…well lets be honest, there are really two problems. Problem a) it is really hard to think of a typical american dish that is not, well, the typical american dishes they eat at Wendys. Problem b) I think they wanted a turkery dinner… and I sure as heck can’t cook that. 

My solution… divert. Divert to dessert.  I decided I could actually tackle a dessert and we were having a “potluck” lunch today so it was the perfect timing. After consulting my foody cousin, I decided on cobbler (an easy alternative for the classic american pie) for the staff and chocolate chip cookies for the kids.  Long story short goes something like this: 1 internet consult to learn that I could make buttermilk (which I could not find in the store) by adding vinegar to milk, 1 mis-translation that lead me to buy this weird pseudo brown sugar/maple sugar cane/not so great for baking stuff, 4 hours of baking… and I ended up with 78 chocolate chips cookies that the kids absolutely loved (though I think they are pretty easy to please in the sweets department) and a peach/strawberry cobbler that left a heck of a lot to be desired, but people ate it anyway(partially cause I doused it with icecream) and smiled kindly. 

Strawberries, peaches... and my dinner of taco meat and beans. Thats multi-tasking ladies and gents...


See... I really did make cookies


Post cookie bliss...

So maybe I have a bit of work to get the Martha Stewart level…. perhaps I am more of a Rachel Ray.


Color Esperanza…. no seriously, this time they are really coloring

23 06 2011

My schedule the last month or so looks a lot like this: therapy and coloring.

There are about 15 kids that I have been seeing regularly, following up on the evaluation that I did with Maura and Nicole… attempting to harness their “OT-powers” to help these kids with both their physical and occupational therapy needs.  It really has been an amazing experience for me to work with this population of kids because several of them have pretty rare conditions and very intense symptoms.  It has been so cool to get to know them, to understand what makes them tick… the see the personality and spirit that underlies their disability.  I think this is one of my favorite things about my job as a physical therapist.  It often feels overwhelming when you first meet a child with special needs, especially one that is very involved.  But I am always impressed by how human each one is.  How we can develop inside jokes, even the most basic things that start to connect us.  To see that light in their eyes, the life.  To realize that sometimes, if you really open yourself up, they can teach you as much as you can teach them. How to be in the moment, how to laugh, how to love.

I have been working like crazy to develop the treatment/recommendations for all the kids and have started training the tias and other personnel.  But have not been too busy for some serious coloring sessions on the side.  Like I mentioned there are 70 kids at this orphanage. I officially work with 15.  That leaves a cool 55 roaming around, watching me “work” (pediatric therapy pretty much looks like playing… we have lots and lots of fun) with the kids.  This leave 55 kids who ask me 2-3 times a week “when are you going to work with me?” So, I have found a way of squeezing in 10-15 minutes work sessions 1 time a week with the majority of them. Usually a huge group amasses, which means we usually have to do something quick and easy and lucky for me they love to color.  We have done some pretty creative things with paper, crayons and a few other simple items.   Like I said, it has a lot less to do with what we are actually doing, and more that I am taking the time to do it with them. To give them the opportunity to play and some kind words of encouragement for a job well done.

If there is one thing that I have learned in this experience, its creativity: how to use the limited resources that I have to reach the therapy goals and to relate to the kids. Its way more about your attitude and energy level  than what you have in your backpack.  So in that respect, I’ll just keep reaching out to these kiddos one coloring book page at a time. Kind of like this….




oh…. and we spend lots of time blowing bubbles too…

happy (and hopeful) coloring