Saturday, June 21, 2008

As Promised - Heart for Africa


Lately, I've had lots of wonderful compliments on my favorite necklace. Mark purchased it for me here before we traveled to bring home Hana and Abi. The artist is hand-making each piece to raise funds for her daughter's adoption from Ethiopia - double whammy!

Isn't it great???

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ethiopian Cuisine... sorta

While in Ethiopia we made sure to buy some spices and came home with a ton of Berbere and Shiro (sp?) powder. I have found that if you add it to a basic meat sauce (canned tom sauce and ground beef) I can call it Siga Wat (meat stew) and Hana and Abi chow down!! Mix it with some white rice and they'll eat their weight if we let them. Anyways, it is quite tasty, even if its not quite traditional(=

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers Day!!!


Happy Fathers Day to all you daddies out there - especially to mine and Mark's!!! ;)

Mark wrote this great note to me for mothers day and I was hoping I could create some of the same magic for him. Alas, he is clearly the writer between us (although if you need a contract drafted, I'm your gal). I've actually started this post a couple of times, but couldn't quite get anything coherent. Given that Father's Day is nearly over, I thought I better try for something... even if a bit ramble-y.

The truth is that I am a lucky, lucky woman. Not only do I have four wonderful kids, all brought into my life under unique and special circumstances, I have had a wonderful partner to share all of it with. I have watched good friends and family members lose relationships as their significant other loses interest in their love and their family. And lesser men than Mark probably wouldn't have stayed with me through everything that we've been through. Sometimes I even feel a little bit guilty - because I'm lucky enough to be with someone that has stood by my side for nearly eight years.

And not just stood there - when I've needed it he's led me, given me direction. At other times, he's stood aside and pushed me ahead, let me shine. But most of the time, he stays right by my side, living our life together.

For the last year and a half I've had the pleasure of watching him parent our children full-time. So many dads don't even want to put 100% into a part time roll and Mark puts his all into our kids each and every day. Sure, sometimes he gets stressed (he is human after all!) but even in the "worst" of it, he often still is able to step back and say that its really okay - he wouldn't trade this time with them for anything.

So I thank my lucky stars every day that my kids have a dad that wants to be with them every chance he can get. I think my daughters especially will grow up with such confidence. They've been loved and respected by a real man. Or more accurately, their superman - their dad. It will take a lot of work for some boyfriend to compare! And I've been fortunate enough to be married to the best dad I've ever met. Every day he teaches me a little more about how to be a better parent. We make plenty of mistakes, but we do our best.

Today he could have done anything he wanted (including disappear on his own which he NEVER gets to do!). And yet he still chose to spend the whole day with his kids. I can see the adoration in their eyes. And even though I think I can't possibly, I fall in love with him a little more.

I love you Mark.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shout Out!

Here's a little shout out to Stacie! She and her friends are going to be holding a "playgroup with a purpose" and each month collect items for different causes. I'm so excited that AHOPE is first on her list! What a simple, yet great, way to make a difference in your daily life. =)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Children Raising Children


See their stories in pictures here. Read more here.


The pictures were taken by 18 AIDS-orphaned children from Maputo, Mozambique, and 15 HIV-positive women in Cape Town, South Africa.


AIDS has taken their parents. Must it take their childhoods too?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quotable

"What AIDS could not do was suffocate the hope of the remarkable people I met throughout Africa. If people who had suffered such unthinkable devastation could maintain hope, then I could certainly hope for an end to this pandemic in my lifetime."



~Alicia Keys in
her editorial for cnn.com

White + Black = Black?

Okay - this is a rambly one!

I just read an interesting editorial on cnn.com.

The article questions whether Barak Obama really is a "black" candidate or a "biracial" candidate and what effect, if any, that has on (i) his history-making as the first "black" nominee of a major party (and possibly as President) (i.e. is he REALLY the first black nominee?) and (ii) if his white roots give him more appeal across all races.

I had a couple of initial thoughts when I started reading through this. 1) It is good that we, as Americans - as HUMANS - are having this conversation, this thought process. We are opening up to the effects that race has on us individually and as a society. 2) The fact that we are still debating Obama's color and heritage to this degree, probably means we aren't as advanced and progressive as everyone wants to believe. But admitting we have a problem is the first step right?

Racial issues have taken a new meaning for me over the last year. And although I am still in the infancy stages of parenting my two Ethiopian children, I have come to a few realizations. There are no great and perfect words to talk about race, culture and color. At least not in the mainstream.

Once common, the general public now shies away from the "color" words, at least to some degree. And perhaps with good reason. Black certainly isn't accurate - my children have beautiful brown skin. Yet brown often refers to different cultures. And although I am so fair I am nearly transparent (!) I'm not really "white" - more of a light peach wouldn't you say?

Our country likes to use the PC term African-American. Unfortunately, sometimes this is completely inaccurate (for example, in the case of Haitian-Americans, since they are "black", but not from Africa). Also, although the term is technically accurate for my kids (Ethiopia is in Africa after all), the "African-American" history usually brings to mind images of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, not Emperors Menelik II or Haile Selassie I. Both histories are equally important and I want my children - all of my children - to learn about both. Oh, and just a side note - Africa is NOT a country. It is a continent. For some reason this geographic fact has eluded many people for years.

Now biracial is a common term. I typically hear/see it is used in contexts such as Senator Obama, where one parent is "white" and another is "black." But it really can be used for any combination of races. In general, I think this author was correct - Obama may be half white. Just as white as he is black. But in our society today, white + black = black. And all that goes with that.

So what is right? Is there a right answer? Maybe it is all about reality. Because the reality is that my children are Ethiopian. They come from a beautiful, amazing culture. One that I hope they are truly proud of. I am. In a few months when the paperwork is complete, they will also be American citizens. I truly hope they are proud of this as well. Are they also African-American? I think the honest answer is it doesn't matter what I think, or what they think - our society will view them as such. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But as we've seen over and over again through the last few decades through today, there is still a great deal of hate and racism and ignorance and they will be forced to bear that burden.

But I think they will be better people for it. They have the opportunity to draw from very strong history in their many roots. And I can only hope that our world continues to grow and evolve and respect people for who they are inside.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Big Jumpin!

Thank you Grandma Diane and Grandpa Joe!!!! For the kids' collective birthday gift this year, the grandparents pulled through with the amazing, fun, monstrosity you can see below. ;)

The kids have been having a BALL all this week. Mark's been keeping them going like crazy, wearing them out! So it definitely has its fitness purposes. It is sure a good thing we have a pretty big yard though!

Oh, and it's so cute - Abi and Hana refer to it as "big jumping". Which I thought was pretty accurate...





Okay, Al can't quite jump, but she looks awfully cute!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Book Review - Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds


This book presents and interesting paradox - you cannot read it and walk away thinking that you are doing enough. Sounds somewhat depressing, I know! And yet, it actually provides a course of action - big things, little things, things that any one of us can do - to make a difference. It's a book for real people that just want to leave this place a little better than when they got here. And although the book is definitely written from the angle of a Christian and contains Biblical support for the statements and claims within, it is a book for all of us. Anyone that wants to do something for the greater good of humankind.

The title of the book comes from the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are set off in Red Letters - thus "this distinction reminds us that when God becomes Man and speaks, it is probably something we cannot afford to miss." And that's what author Tom Davis does - he takes those words of Christ, those words that call us to the front lines to actually DO something for one another. For the "least of us." And he made me feel guilty and excited all at the same time!

Tom starts the book off with a direct challenge: "Those of us who claim to follow Christ's teachings should be ashamed for what little we've done to help the countless millions of women, children and orphans who have died or are dying. Entire nations are going up in flames while we watch them burn."

Most of the book focuses on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa - a cause that is (obviously) very close to my heart. A cause that, frankly, most people don't care much about it. Or, perhaps more accurately, a cause that the average American is very ignorant about. And you know what they say, ignorance is bliss. A year ago, I was among the happy ignorant. After all, how did HIV affect me? And HIV in Africa? Please. Yes, in theory I thought it was very sad and all, but did I spend more than a moment's emotion on it? Honestly (and somewhat embarrassingly) no. But I don't think you can adopt from Ethiopia (or maybe you shouldn't) if you don't take a hard look at that disease. Africa suffers from many killers, including TB and malaria, not to mention poor nutrition and dehydration, but AIDS has become the face of Africa. To realize my children-to-be would likely have lost nearly everything in their lives in some way to this disease, well that realization changed my whole outlook. It became important to me to become educated. How could I raise my children to honor and respect their culture without understanding something that had become a fundamental part of it? A fundamental antagonist of it. Thus HIV awareness has become a strong interest of mine.

You may have noticed that "HIV" is now a category on this blog and posts relating to that are showing up more often. The main reason is that I have agreed to blog about
HIV awareness for RLC. I'm excited for the opportunity. It's a small thing. But its something. If I inspire just one person to do something, heck, if I can teach even one person something - it is certainly worth my time.

And that brings me back to the point of the post - the book. ;) (yes, I get off track!) Chapter upon chapter, story upon story of despair and yet pure hope. The kind of hope that can only come from a higher power - whatever you want to call it. The hell on Earth that millions of people are living in, yet the love and hope that they still have. And, the words of God that instruct us to help them, to give them a reason to have hope.

And, unlike so many writers on this subject, Tom doesn't stop there. He provides an answer. Or, more accurately, he opens the door by suggesting the start of an answer. Suggesting things that we can do in as little as five minutes a day that make a difference. If I step back and consider all the issues out there in the world - the disease, the poverty, the exploitation - it is just too much. But to see it broken down? I can do 5 minutes. So let's start there.

Check out the book. Then give 5 minutes of your time. I promise, it'll be just the beginning.



Where I'm Coming From

Okay, so this post(s) is long overdue. In fact, this post was meant to be a direct prelude last week, but alas, life with 4 young kiddos often gets in the way!

I don't even know where to begin. Any of you who actually read this blog or have spoken with me these last few months know that I've been searching. What for? I was never quite sure. All I knew was that I had been changed by my time in Ethiopia and I couldn't go back. Back to the person I was before. Well meaning, but naive.

I was pleased to find my first step, my first ray of focus. The Red Letter Campaign (RLC).

You know that old saying, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Well, this was my first bite. ;)

I saw a few references to it on several blogs, but I never looked too closely. To be perfectly frank, many adoption bloggers are very overtly Christian and very, very open in their faith. Although I have absolutely no problem with that, I've never been very comfortable at being particularly forthcoming with my own faith. So, I sort of brushed it off initially - something for those "serious" Christians. Something I wasn't ready to call myself.

But I finally took a look. I saw that RLC was hosting a conference call for anyone that was interested in being a part of its "Launch Ethiopia" campaign. I decided to give it a try. Over 60 people joined in this call on a Thursday morning. It was a lot of people like me - excited, desiring to do the ever elusive something, yet not quite knowing what to do!

I felt rejuvenated. I felt some hope that I might be able to find a way to make a difference, even if it was small. =) One of the major contributors to Children's Hopechest, who is working with RLC, is Tom Davis, the author of the book Red Letters. He offered a free copy of the book to anyone that would review it on their blog. Well, you know me and free stuff. So, short story long, here we are. =)



Hunger

Did your parents ever make you clean your plate because "there are children starving in China"? I don't think mine ever used that line on me, but I can't help but think of that cliche when I see stories like this and this gracing our headlines each day. In Ethiopia, one country alone - a country that is only 2/3 the size of Alaska - 4.5 million people are hungry today. And not just hungry - starving.

It just blows my mind when I see statistics that over 60 million Americans are classified as obese. I am not attempting to be negative or attack the overweight here - much to my frustration I have battled my own weight for years (and am currently failing miserably). As I struggle to only have one or two cookies after a satisfying meal, I often forget those half way across the world that don't know when their next meal will be or where it will come from.

And I can't help but wonder why the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" is as wide as ever.

Progress


Courtesy of msnbc.com:

"Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois claimed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, NBC News projected based on its tally of convention delegates.

By doing so, he shattered a barrier more than two centuries old to become the first black candidate ever nominated by a major political party for the nation’s highest office." (emphasis added)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A poem by Grace

Grace is 6 years old and is a very creative and loving child. Not sure where she gets it, but she loves to write stories and make books. Today she was playing outside with Abi and Hana and ran inside to tell us about a new poem she wrote. Here it is (with only VERY minor editing)...

I Loved My Parents Before Anything
by Gracie Lu

I loved my parents
before the stars.

I loved my parents
before the sun.

I loved my parents
before the clouds.

I loved my parents
before the trees.

I loved my parents
before the animals.

I loved my parents
before anything except God,
because God never had a start.