I am feeling quite nostalgic and a bit emotional these days. When I open up my Timehop app and Facebook I am reminded that a year ago today, I was driving through the DR Congo with my One Million Thumbprints team. (I have posted about this experience in depth here  if you are interested or haven’t read.) None of us knew what to expect, and many of us were blindsided by some of the experiences. But we were all there for a reason. To bear witness. To listen. To look. To see.

It has taken me approximately 365 days to process this experience, and I am not sure I am finished. It was heavy, deep, painful, stressful, exciting, wonderful, epic, unforgettable. 1MT has been posting some of our thoughts and blog posts on Wednesdays leading up to the 1 year anniversary of our Kilimanjaro climb on March 8. Last week, my fellow teammate and now wonderful friend, Ruth, shared her vulnerable and honest thoughts about one particular experience we had in the Congo, at a fistula hospital. She expressed, so beautifully and painfully, what many of us were thinking, feeling and experiencing during that time as well.


(originally posted at www.onemillionthumbprints.org)

It is commonly purported that smell is the most sensitive of our senses and has the strongest connection to memory. When I put myself back into that room of the hospital, it is the smell that hits me first. Perhaps the disorientation began with the smell, but maybe it was the surprise factor. Was this visit on our itinerary? Did I miss it? Was there an announcement or a description of the place that I overlooked? Was the group prepared somehow in my absence?

When our team of American peacemakers and mountain climbers entered the fistula hospital, it felt wrong.

The hospital blindsided me. I have been to some terrible places and I have sat in clinics in Africa with bodies stricken with advanced HIV disease, but that hospital was beyond anything I have experienced.

Of course we were there to advocate for women like the ones lying motionless on cots, but our very bodies felt way to loud—to big, too bright, too much. We lumbered through the gate and across a courtyard in plain view of an assortment of men, women and children who sat on plastic chairs staring at us. We were the anomaly, the strangers visiting their misery.

The smell began at the entrance and increased as we made our way into one of the buildings on the hospital’s property. This smell of incontinence, blood and dust was overpowering. Like a haze, it made it hard for me to focus. I was toward the back of the group and tried to smile and wave to the bystanders. I did not want them to think that we were simply a foreign mob of voyeurs, but maybe we were?

Our guides shepherded us into a relatively small recovery room where several women occupied beds tucked against every wall and corner. A doctor was describing each of the patients and how the hospital addressed the profound surgical needs they presented. Our group was so large that there was no room to spare, so he would pivot his body and point to each of the women while describing their particular horror. One woman had endured multiple surgeries to her “front side” and they still had not been able to address the “other side.” He lamented that the surgeries thus far did not appear to be particularly successful.

She lay listening to him describe her body’s injuries in a language she did not understand while fifteen odd, white faces stood over her taking in this information.

Why was he doing this? Why were these women being subjected to this kind of objectification? Wasn’t it enough that they had been brutally attacked by multiple men while simply tending their garden, walking to the neighbor’s, or hiding in the kitchen cupboard while militia solders hunted them like animals?

Wasn’t our presence just adding to their humiliation and degradation?

And, to think that these women were the lucky ones—the ones who had connections to medical care and the privilege of being in this place…



Ruth, playing with little *Grace, smiling so as to not weep.


no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


My favorite mini session/fundraiser event is back! LOVE GIVES is a fun way to kill several birds with one rather inexpensive stone:

A mere $60 will secure the following:

  • 15 minute session block
  • set of custom created valentines cards
  • $30 donation to either LOVE146 or Preemptive Love Coalition
  • 1 digital file

This year I am partnering with two amazing organizations who exemplify LOVE to the most vulnerable in our world… child survivors of sex trafficking, and Syrian/Iraqi refugees.

Preemptive Love Coalition has been on the ground in Aleppo and Mosul all while hell literally broke loose. Instead of retreating to safety, they ducked and moved TOWARDS the thousands who were either trapped behind enemy lines or fleeing for their lives. Preemptive Love feeds and cares for thousands of families, including children, who have faced the worst the world has to offer.


LOVE146 has been on the front lines fighting against child sexual exploitation and rescuing children out of the “trade.” I have long supported the wonderful work of this organization and am so happy to know these precious survivors of unimaginable evil have places of refuge and healing with LOVE146.




Dates: January 24,25, 30 and February 1,2,3 during the day or after-school slots available. Spaces are limited.

Props: I will provide some very simple props such as flower bouquet and/or balloons, and I am open to discuss you bringing your own props to the session.

Products: A set of custom designed mini cards will be available as well as your choice of 1 digital file. Other products, prints or files will be available to purchase.

Location: Sessions will take place in my neighborhood in Ellicott City, MD by appointment only. Email or message me through this site if you are interested and I will get you the details for donations and time slots available. chelsea@chelseahudson.com

Here is a sampling of previous years’ images and cards:


no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

How am I possibly going to be able to explain my deep, abiding love for Berlin and our sojourn there with one image and story? It is just not possible. So this is a  6 Things I Loved About Living in Berlin post, or better yet, “6 reasons I left my heart in Berlin”

  1. Living in Berlin meant that we could travel quickly, easily and inexpensively around the rest of Europe. We made the most of this fun fact and traveled to the following places from Berlin (by plane, train and car): Prague, Denmark, Sweden, France, Bavaria, Austria, Spain, Italy (3 times!), Greece, and Turkey. We also traveled throughout Germany a few times: Heidelberg, Wittenberg, Berchtesgaden, Munich, Nuremberg and more.

















    WITTENBERG, GERMANY (in front of Martin Luther’s thesis!)








    ROME (with S in my belly!)


    A looooooved Rome



  2. Biking, walking and riding the S-Bahn (above ground trains), U-Bahn (below ground trains), trams and busses for about 95% of our transportation was good for the heart, lungs and soul. I miss this aspect of Berlin life every day. We were healthier in Berlin than at any other point in our lives. Exercise was functional not an accessory. Food was less polluted by chemicals and additives (thanks to stringent German laws), and was served in smaller quantities. Beer was plentiful.

    Ready to go for a walk, right outside our apartment.


    Riding the S-Bahn


  3. Living with and around tangible history has to be one of the things I enjoyed most. I read many books about East Germany and “the wall” and WWII. But more importantly, I rubbed shoulders with people who were still living with their stories from these era’s. One day, I walked outside my apartment and saw and old woman shuffling up the sidewalk with grocery bags in each hand. I knew I should offer to help her carry them but I hesitated thinking “Because she is older, she is not going to speak any English to me and might even get mad that I can’t speak German to her.” I shook it off and did the right thing and offered her with halting English and hand gestures to carry her bags. She responded with the biggest smile, handed me the bags and started talking in fluent English with me. In about 5 blocks I found out she grew up during the war and that when she was a child her village was bombed and she and her siblings lived in a field for some time. I wished I had been bold enough to have asked for her contact info and taken the time to meet with, sit with and listen to her stories. Another time, we invited a couple over for dinner right before moving away from Berlin. We lived on the east side. The girl walked into our apartment with eyes wide open saying, “This is where I grew up! This is my apartment building from when I was a child.” She and her boyfriend spent their childhoods in East Berlin, behind the wall! I couldn’t help myself and I begged her to tell us what life was like behind the wall as an East Berliner. All I had ever read about was a western perspective on East Germany and the wall. Their stories will stay with me for a lifetime. img_6339 bw-chels-wall
  4. While in Berlin, we had more people visit us than anywhere else we have ever lived in America. It was such a delight to have so many friends… friends my my past, college friends, and family members. Here are just a few images of some friend/family visits (not shown: Loretta, Gabe, some other JBU alumni, friends of friends): 100_1620100_0781img_2094img_4571amys-pictures-082dpp_0044img_3453bwimg_4545bw
  5. Golden October in Berlin is spectacular… especially for park life. We spent so much time walking through parks, playing in parks, picnicking in the park, riding bikes in the parks. Our first apartment was right around the corner from a real palace and its parkland. Dad’s job was right at the end of the famous Tiergarten park (think Central Park in NYC… but better). img_7456img_2087img_6556_1

    Your Dad’s project, the US Embassy is the white building directly behind the yellow tree. This is also the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

    6. Last but not least… the most important reason I will forever love Berlin is because Berlin gave me my first daughter, A. I will forever love this city for making us a family of 3 and for giving us such a spectacular environment to experience parenting for the first time. And although daughter number 2, S, wasn’t born in Berlin, she was most definitely made in Berlin. 🙂 Did you know Germany paid us to have kids? No joke! We would receive money each month from the government, even as expats. Our bank account really misses this part of Berlin living. 100_1139img_3671bwimg_1499img_6356img_0036dsc_0181_1dsc_0155

Day 13 – 812 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

Have I ever told you how much I love to travel? (understatement of the century I know.) I do love to travel… plane, train, boat, car, bike, foot. Anything that will get me to new places.

One of my favorite feelings in the world is traveling solo. Sure, I love traveling with you gals, taking you on adventures, exploring the world. But I really love traveling alone. There is something so freeing about being lost in my own thoughts and dreams, looking out the windows, figuring out how to get from point A to point B (especially if in another language). I love meeting new people, especially fellow solo travelers.

One of my favorite solo trips was to and from India with a stopover in England to visit some dear friends. I did some documentary storytelling photography work for a friend’s business and to help communicate with partners and supporters back home. It was one of the best weeks of my life to date.

On my way back to the USA, I decided to make a 36 hour stop in England to visit a friend from Texas who was stationed in the UK. So, I hopped off the plane, gathered all my luggage, made my way to the train station, found the right train, took it to the end of the line and then met my friend for the rest of the drive by car.


They lived in a quaint little village called Bury St. Edmonds (I wrote about it in detail here) and for the 36 hours I was visiting, the sun came out and blue skies graced us with their presence.

How would you like to live in a village with a huge Abbey? And the world’s smallest pub? And cobblestone streets? It was pretty spectacular. We shopped at the farmer’s market, ate dinner at a local pub (not the smallest one) that was a local favorite for families. The pub has couches and game tables, stacks of board games etc. Families would come and eat and play games together. What a fun atmosphere!

We drove to another local village, Lavenham, that is known for its asymmetrical architecture… as in houses sitting sideways, and nothing straight or even. We walked and talked and drank coffee and beer. I played with their little daughter, Julia. It was such a nice way to break up the trip home.

After my short 36 hour break, I hopped back in the car to be deposited at the train station to hop on the train to the airport to catch my flight back home to you girls.

There was a moment where I sat on the train platform waiting for the right train. I took a sideways selfie. I remember that moment and the feeling of complete contentment I felt from head to toe. I was in my zone. Traveling from point A to point B, alone, on my way home to you.


Day 13 – 577 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

One of my favorite experiences while living in Western Europe was to the southeast corner of Germany, Bavaria.

Grammy  had come to Berlin to visit us and I was pregnant with AZH in my belly. We decided to rent a car and drive down to a town in the Bavarian Alps called Berchtesgaden. Driving the German Autobahn is about as exciting as they say. Although we did not max out our vehicle’s acceleration to test the “no speed limit” option on the A-Bahn, we were supremely impressed with the well oiled system it was. No one parked in the left lane, and easy dance of weaving in and out of traffic. It was like a work of art. But, I digress.

Staying in Berchtesgaden was like staying in a storybook. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe it. We rented a chalet on the side of a mountain. We took hikes and drives throughout the fairytale countryside. I remember seeing men walk down the trail in lederhosen and hats… I thought they were in costume for some local festival. They were not. Fascinating! Farmers would set their barrels of fresh milk from their cows on the side of the road and a truck would pick them up each morning.

We went on a boat ride on the Königssee, a lake buttressed by mountains on all sides. It transported us across the lake to a hiking trail leading to another smaller lake. We passed cows with large cowbells around their necks, like a page out of Heidi.

Next, we drove across the Austrian border to see the actual places that The Sound of Music was filmed. The Lake District of Austria is also breathtaking. We drove backroads along beautiful lakes, and drank cold drinks at a castle in Salzburg. The hills were alive with such beauty and serenity.

This photo is of the small lake near the Königssee that we hiked around. As in the case of most photographs, this one doesn’t do the place justice.



Look across the lake… there are cows with bells around their necks dotting the pastures and a small shack with fresh milk and cheese available to hikers. Some hikes will always stay with you, no matter how short or long. This is one hike I would travel across the ocean to take again. In fact, if I could, I would pitch a tent on that little patch of green and spend a few glorious weeks in paradise.

What do you say, girls? How about we pack our bags and hop on the plane and plant ourselves smack dab in the middle of a fairytale in Bavaria?

Day 12 – 505 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *