Saturday, March 31, 2012

Teret! Teret! About Tesfa School Number 1 of 5x3.

In Ethiopia before they tell a story they shout, "Teret, Teret!" "A story! A story!'

School number one of the 5x3 initiative has been fully funded. Tesfa has received the 56k for this school from this adorable family...
Jon, Elijah, David, and Liz Moss
From Liz Moss:

 My grandfather had an 8th grade education. He worked hard his entire life, living frugally and simply on the same farm for over 60 years of his life. He loved to see his two daughters and his six grandchildren live out life through education and travel. He rarely stayed in a hotel, preferring the comfort of his own bed. And, never took a vacation far from home, except if it was a day trip to watch a harness race for one of the horses he trained. He left a legacy of deep faith.

Four years ago, Jon and I started to fall in love with Ethiopia. It grew as we brought our two sons home (3 years ago and 1 year go). And, it grew deeper as we traveled and met the beautiful people in this amazing land. I truly have left part of my heart in Ethiopia each time I leave this country I have grown to love. I dream about it, think about it, and read as much as I can about Ethiopia. Ethiopia has changed my life--much more than just our two sons. When we traveled there last January, we went away committing ourselves to do more in the future. We came across Tesfa (actually through a chance meeting with Mike from Wisconsin in the Addis Ababa airport) and were intrigued. We have been dreaming and praying about this opportunity for the last year.

My grandparents both passed away in the last five years. Not only did they leave a legacy of faith, but they left money for their children and grandchildren. We don't understand how and why they lived on so little for so long, leaving us with so much. We truly see this as a gift and desire to give some it of away. With Ethiopia on our hearts and in our life, with a desire for everyone to have access to education, and with an ever growing faith, we desire to partner with Tesfa to build schools in Ethiopia. We are committed to this long term. The people of Ethiopia have changed my life...we're just humbly trying to change a few other lives.

 Liz and Jon's school, Tesfa's 9th, will be in or around Durame. The Moss Family is in Ethiopia now, probably on their way to see the school in Kololo.

But wait, there's more, Jon and Liz want to help raise the funds for 5x3's second school as well. In a couple of weeks, in their home state of Iowa, they will have a fundraiser with Jane Kurtz to get that second school off to a good start.

Amazing people. Amazing story.

Thanks to everyone who filled out the 5x3 survey. We are assessing location requests and moving forward. Please know that you don't have to fund a whole school to participate. If you'd like to contribute to school number 2 this second, head over to

If you live in Iowa and would like to help the Moss family with their April fundraiser, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Exciting News From Tesfa

Remember this picture?

Look what you did...

What they did.

To say that it has been rewarding to watch this school go up would be an enormous understatement. This is Kololo. This is Meazi and Melese's village. This village now has a school. There is now great hope for this village. Kids here will go to school. THEY WILL GO TO SCHOOL!

Thank you. All of you.

Would you like to build a school in Kembata? Maybe in your child's village? I'd like you to feel like I feel right now. I'd like you to feel like you can help create change. Do you want to build a school in Kembata?

Go HERE for more information.
I'll help you do it. You helped me. You helped them...
5 in 3. 5x3. Easy Peasy. Let's do this.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

C'Mon April.

When I was in college I dated a totally inappropriate older guy. He was an investment banker who liked to wear eyeliner on the weekends and go clubbing. At one point he told me his biggest goal in life was to make enough money to do cocaine every weekend. Yeah like I said, totally inappropriate. I'm not sure why I ever dated him. He was from the southside of Chicago, and he was very attractive. I guess that was my criteria at the time. He said something to me one hundred years ago that I still think about. He said, "There are two Julies, one is self confident and can do anything, and the other gets stuck in her own wheels and becomes immobilized. That last one is not attractive." March has immobilized me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is because March is such a horrid month for my kiddos.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of her death, we lit a candle for Meazi and Melese's mother. The kids said very sad, and very profound things while we did it. My heart broke into a million pieces as they spoke. How will they ever be happy people? They have lost so much. Their lives are confusing in so many ways. They are strong, but I can't help but feel depressed for them. March has been a struggle for them. Melese has been stuffed into a too small Ergo as I tried to comfort him. The minute he settled into it, he began asking me questions about Ethiopia; "How old was I there mommy?" "Where did I sleep Mommy?" "Where were you Mommy?" The kids are anxious. I am anxious and I am sad. My clothes are too tight, and I can't sleep through the night.

Trayvon. Trayvon's story has immobilized me. I can barely keep my kids safe in the carpool line. How, oh how, will I ever prevent them from being shot to death while buying candy? They like M&m's, and Jolly Ranchers. Almost every jacket they own is a hoodie. Maybe they were safer in Ethiopia.

I read this the other day: Today I just want to remind everyone that March (as well as September) can be rough on those who are prone to depression. If you're upset or frustrated or anxious or sad and you don't know why, don't be too hard on yourself. It could just be the rotation of the earth. (That's not hippie speak. That's science. It has something to do with the rapid change in light during this time of year and how our brains process that change [which is the CliffsNotes version of how my own psychiatrist explained it.])

I don't think it is the rotation of the earth. I think it is the murder of a young black boy. I think it is violence, racism, and loss, that has me stuck.

There are bright lights in this darkness I feel. At this moment the kids are in the tub harvesting a huge vat of honey from the honeycomb Steven just brought home. This comes just in time as we have eaten all of our honey. Every single last drop. Oatmeal has gone uneaten. Toast cries sadly from the plate, ignored. That will change today.

Today I am inspired by sweet things and by sweet friends who help me feel less stuck. Friends like Betsy and Tanya who remind me that we are not powerless on the earth, that we can band together and make a difference. Honey in my tea. Oil in my stuck wheels. Light in the darkness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Curious Case of The Bunny in the Nighttime- A Knuffle Kerfuffle.

Last April the Easter Bunny brought Meazi and Melese stuffed bunnies- that's Melese's in the photo. While not their most prized possessions, these bunnies appear quite a bit in Meazi and Melese's playtime. Packed among Pirate's Booty and Cliff Z bars in their backpacks, poised for a trip to 'Russia' or 'San Diego', these bunny companions are definitely loved by my kiddos. Like all of our toys, they also spend a considerable amount of time at the bottom of the basket, waiting patiently for M or m to deem them a worthy rescue in their latest firehouse scenario, or strap them into their imaginary car seats in their Plasma Cars.

This past August we threw a rather large ice cream social in our back yard. We got an enormous jumpy house and gallons and gallons of ice cream. We invited a family that we were hoping to get to know better. This family owns an Indian restaurant that we frequent. We like Indian food a lot. The owner, let's call him Raj, is super friendly, generous, and knows what it is like having small children. We first met him several years ago. He's watched us toast to finishing our adoption dossier, eat celebratory samosas when we got our referral, and walk through the door with two scared Ethiopians about to try chicken Tikka Masala for the first time. My very first impression of Raj was formed when we brought another couple to the restaurant for the first time. Our friend's son was having a meltdown and the one other person in the restaurant was shaking his head, and complaining about the noise. My friend took her son out for a walk. She returned when he fell asleep. Raj walked over to her and placed an appetizer on her plate "I know what it is like," he said.We had talked to Raj about getting together outside of the restaurant. He worked all the time, but asked if we would consider attending his housewarming party, "Of course," we said. We never received an invitation but when our party rolled around we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to have them over. He came with his adorable children, a girl 8, and a boy 7. They had jet black hair and big, deep, brown eyes that may have tied with our kids' eyes for biggest, brownest, and most beautiful. They heaped their bowls with ice cream, whipped cream, cherries, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, and m&m's. They ate and ate. It was a fun party, but I was a bit overwhelmed by how large it was. I wish I had hired a teenager to help out with the drinks, as I felt that I was too busy to really talk to all of our guests.

Raj had to get back to the restaurant and I saw him at the door. I was carrying Melese, and I hugged Raj goodbye. He was standing between his kids on our threshold. I bent down to say goodbye to them, and to let Melese say goodbye to them. All of the sudden I noticed that Raj's daughter was holding one of Meazi and Melese's stuffed Easter bunnies. Odd, I thought, Meazi isn't usually so generous with her toys and I didn't normally see her give toys away to people she had just met. I stumbled and said, "Oh". I looked at Melese and his eyes had become gigantic. He looked at the bunny, looked at me, and then back at the girl.

And then, I faltered. Mom Fail.

 I said gracious goodbyes as they hurried into their car. I closed the door and Melese stared at me with a look I hadn't seen before. "Melese," I said, did you give those kids your bunny?" He shook his head no. Hoping that Meazi had been so taken with the girl that she had presented her with a parting bunny gift, I smiled at him and said let's get back to the party.

Later, after everyone had gone home, and after the air had been let out of that monstrosity beside the house, I asked Meazi if she had given her bunny to Raj's daughter. She shook her head no, and began to cry.

And then sob.

"Buuuuuuuuuun Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun! My Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun Buuuuuuuuuun!"

Then Melese began to cry. His bunny could not be located either.

Steven and I sat Meazi down and tried to talk about the situation. We asked her to describe what happened, perhaps there was a misunderstanding and the girl thought the bunny was a gift? Meazi looked confused. Her face made us think that something weird was going on. I began to immediately try to diffuse the crying, "Just things! Just material possessions! Let it go Meazi." (This is sometimes a tricky thing with our kids with whom we worked so hard, encouraging them to form attachments to items. When they came home they were used to communal, orphanage toys. Early on, when they showed attachment with a toy, blanket, or article of clothing, we took it as a good sign! They knew they would now have their very own things! They didn't have to share.) "Just things Meazi and Melese!" I said.

Steven announced,

"We need to call them."

I recoiled in horror. The thought of Steven calling our friend (our friendship had just moved to a new level! We were ice cream socializing!) and asking him if his darlings were indeed kleptomaniac bunny stealers  was terribly upsetting.

"Please Don't Call Them!" I shouted! Let them keep the bunnies. Both Meazi and Melese were still whimpering.

Steven picked up the phone and called the restaurant. I heard him speak to Raj's wife, a beautiful, beautiful woman, who always wore intricate, sparkly, colorful saris, and had always been very kind to us. He explained the situation, and in a very diplomatic way asked, if perhaps there was a misunderstanding about the bunnies. He was very clear, kind, and managed to make it sound like it wasn't a big deal, and that he just wanted to know what the situation was so that we could discuss it with Meazi. He hung up.

Embarrassed, I said, 'I can't believe you called?" Steven shrugged his shoulders. I immediately imagined all sorts of horrible scenarios with Raj's kids getting punished for stealing. Did they spank in their family? What would happened to those big eyed beauties? What would happen to the bunnies? Would Melese ever forgive me for faltering at the door? Why, oh why didn't I say, "Oh those bunnies stay here sweetie! They are just toys to play with while at the party! Would you like a gallon of ice cream to take home?"

Raj and his family didn't call back. Weeks went by. I drove by the restaurant quite often, glancing in the window wondering how they were and when we were going to go back and have dinner there again.

Months passed. Now it was the elephant in the room. We didn't purposely avoid them, but when choices for a dinner out were suggested, we chose take out burritos.

Meazi added this incident to 'The Many Ways Mom has Failed Me' list, occasionally shaking her head and saying, "I still can't believe you gave away my Easter bunny mom!"

Steven and I speculated about what might have happened. Maybe they were angry with us? Maybe Raj's wife never told him that we called? Maybe we had failed at being friends too.

Six months later...

I am in the house getting ready for a rare weekday evening out. I am headed to see Lenny Kravitz in concert with my gorgeous friend Katerina. The kids are outside with Steven, playing in the yard. I hear some commotion, walk out and see Raj in our driveway. He is carrying a large bag of food; all of our favorite dishes, samosas, Tikka Masala, garlic nan, and rice. He is carrying a small plastic grocery bag tied in a tight knot. He is talking to Steven, and Meazi is running toward me shouting that he has brought us dinner. He hands me the small plastic bag and says, "I'm so sorry. I've had them at the restaurant for months. I lost your number when I lost my phone. I thought I'd just give them to you when you came to the restaurant next. I remembered you lived in this neighborhood, but I didn't have your address. I'm so happy to have found you."

I opened the plastic bag, and there they were, Meazi and Melese's stuffed Easter bunnies. One was a little worse for wear, having gained black streaks of what appears to be Sharpie marker. The other looked just as we had left her.

We stared at Raj. We thanked him profusely and told him how sorry we were about the whole thing, and about how much we missed him. He rushed off, needing to get back to the restaurant. The four of us stood there dumbfounded in our yard holding the bunnies, and our gigantic bag of food, the scent of curry wafting above us.

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dear America, It's Your Lucky Day...

Getting Ready.

It is early.

One man's flag is another man's microphone.



Always one random stranger in our family photos. Must learn photoshop.

The number one way we determine whether a restaurant is fancy enough to celebrate HUGE family moments-little jam jars. Check.
What happened when he heard they didn't have hot chocolate.

 Sure she asked to wear red, white, and blue.

Yes, she asked that her hair look like Dr.LaBootie's crown.

Doesn't change the fact that they will always remain...


Friday, March 2, 2012


This made me cry when I saw it in Meazi's classroom. When hasn't she been brave?

 Hopefully what she wrote about was something downright middle class and American like, "I was brave when Stride Rite didn't have light up shoes in my size" or "I was brave when daddy said that I couldn't get my ears pierced".  I hope she wrote about something like that.

Oh, and March,
We know what you are like...

This year you can suck it. We are a tight unit. We are huddled together and prepared to barrel through this month of sad anniversaries.

We give you a smile and a wave. We are together. We are holding on tight.

This is a time when we are brave.