Thursday, February 26, 2009


Eloquent post by Coffeemom, Here. And Drew and Carey doing some beautiful dancing of their own, Here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Signs? Cheesy but True...

Remember This Post?

Today I was too lazy to cut some already sliced cheese into smaller pieces for our afternoon snack. I just ripped some apart without looking.

Here is Steven's piece...

Remind you of anything?

Maybe it is a sign of something?

Maybe it just means Cindy is coming to visit?

Either way, I like it. I like it a lot.

Steven ate Somalia, and I ate Djibouti. We are holding on to Ethiopia for awhile.

Would You Place Children With These People...

Monday, February 23, 2009

My New Favorite Part of the Adoption Process...

The homecoming of a friend and her new daughter...

Seriously, I am so grateful to have been there. There is so much joy and emotion. You remember Julie O, I spoke about her here, toward the end of the post. She is one of those incredible single moms.

I feel so far away from my proposal that for me sharing this with her was pure magic.

For my sweet friends Natalie and Amy who are anxiously anticipating their court dates, there were a lot of emotions I am sure. Sweet Sentayehu was at the Gladney care center where their two girls are waiting.

It won't be long now. Hang on my friends.

I have never been so happy to go to the airport. It was a great night.

Welcome home.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Neither Steven Nor My Dad will be Voting on the Oscars...

While I was sick, I was lucky enough to get my hands on these...

When my dad was here, I wasn't well enough to do anything other than lounge around and watch movies. This is a picture of my dad during The Curious Case of BB...

As soon as I heard him snoring I would pause the film. He would awake with a,"How long was I out?" and I would rewind the film to get back to the part he remembered. It took us about six hours to watch the movie this way. I enjoyed the flick. I thought the themes about aging and love were excellent, and I enjoyed the trans racial adoption aspect of it. Did I mention that it was long?

In the middle of the other film, I said to Steven....

"You know the story of Harvey Milk right?"

He said, "No I don't," (which was a surprise because Steven Loves Abba is a friend to gays everywhere).

I said, "Oh, well what did you think Harvey Milk was about?"

He replied, "I thought it was the gay version of Boogie Nights."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deja Vu.

Steven and I began updating our paperwork today. Our fingerprints expire in a couple of weeks. We high-tailed it downtown, hit immigration and got a same day appointment for our new fingerprints. We drove to the prints place....

Me: Hi, I'm here to renew my fingerprints for my I-171.
Security Guard: You picked a really good day.
Me: Why is that?
Security Guard: Madonna is on her way in. She is doing another adoption. Don't say you heard it from me.

I am actually non-plussed by this information. There are already pictures all over the place of Angelina getting her prints. It is the LA office, and this task may be the only task that Hollywood superstars can't send someone to do for them.

My hands are so incredibly dry right now, that it took about thirty tries for each fingerprint. The old man who was helping me was completely silent and humorless. I tried several times to engage him in human conversation...

Me: Like snowflakes eh? Each one unique?
Dead Air.
Me: Oops, failed again! Will I ever pass this test?!
Me: Well, the toes are next right? (As I crouch down and pretend to slip off my shoe).
Him: Just a hint of the tiniest smile.

We lingered for a bit, primarily because I thought if I could get a picture of Madonna, I could send it to my friend Rana and cheer her up. Unfortunately, Steven and I were both hungry so we left.

We were right near our favorite Ethiopian Restaurant.

See us in the mirror?

I am trying to keep a stiff upper lip.

It's just tasks right? It's just paperwork. And really, even Madonna has to do it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Down, but not Out...

Sick! I have been sick since we last spoke. I think that was why I was so depressed, I was getting sick. Until I am better, here are some pics from my week. Highlights include an unexpected visit from my dad, and the second Valentine's Day Babysitting of Pip and Squeak. Enjoy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Taking a Break...*EDIT.

I am incredibly sad lately. I am sure it is just that insidious bastard- grief. That, coupled with the idea that there may not be any children in this house this year, has thrown me for a loop. I can also feel the self-loathing rush in. I know I should be grateful for all that I have. SO, I will spare you my misery, and remove myself from the blogosphere (for a week at least!)

I am out of funny pictures anyway.

*Please visit Charlotte. She has a lovely idea. I am thinking of submitting this post. What do you think?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fourth Folder Tag...

I was tagged by Rebekah and Tiny's Mom. Here is the only thing that is in the fourth folder of my I-Photo...

I know big surprise, it involves dogs. This is back when we lived in Venice, and had three pups. I am not sure that they like The Shins as much as I do, but I love the way their ears flicker to the sounds. Seriously folks, if you don't have a dog, get yourself to a pound and get one. Your life will be enriched. I mean it.

I Tag... YOU!

Homeward Bound...

Ty is coming home to our friend Julie.

Tigist is on her way to Drew, Carey and Zoe.

And yes, if you were wondering, that is the SoCal baby whisperer in the video.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Friend or Family Feature: Guest Blogger Edition- Rebecca Haile

One of the reasons I wrote Held at a Distance was to pinpoint what it means to me to feel emotionally and culturally connected to both Ethiopia and America. On that topic my book is quite personal, as are the balances I have struck around identity.

For this post, and with adoptive families in mind, I thought I would share the broader contexts in which I have thought about these connections since the book’s publication.

First, I’ve thought a lot about Ethiopian-American culture and identity in light of the dramatic increase in the immigrant community. Before the 1974 revolution there were so few Ethiopians living outside Ethiopia. Today there are between 350 and 500 thousand of us in the US alone, truly a staggering number. And although we are still a relatively young immigrant group, thirty years is long enough for us to realize that we aren’t going back “home”. The real business of living, we know, is happening here.

The bigger numbers don’t necessarily mean that little replicas of Addis Ababa will spring up here and there (though very traditional pockets may well flourish). Rather, like groups that have come before, I imagine that we will create something different, something that combines elements of the old country and the new. Take a look at the “movie” (a combination of still images, audio clips from interviews and music) I made with my friend Ara Oshagan about Los Angeles’ Ethiopian community. In it you can hear people, especially parents and their second-generation children, searching for words to describe their identity and struggling to articulate a balance that is true to their Ethiopian-in-America or Ethiopian-American or African-American experience. Here is the link. I think the real significance of this growth is that it permits so many more options around the preservation of culture and identity. Whatever people settle upon, they will not be limited by the kind of isolation my family experienced in central Minnesota in the 1970s.

Second, I’ve been thinking about these questions as a mother. All of a sudden, it seems, my two children have grown out of toddlerhood and are old enough to notice how our family compares to their friends’ families. They know that their mother and her (very numerous) relatives are Ethiopian, that this side of the family comes in different shades of brown and speaks with a range of accents or prefers Amharic. They know that their maternal grandfather is in a wheelchair for reasons having to do with Ethiopia. They also understand that their paternal grandparents are Greek and Armenian, and that their father was raised in Istanbul. At the same time, they are Americans who are very attached to their friends and for the most part feel no different at all.

I have such mixed emotions about Ethiopia. I love the country proper; can dream up in a minute the breathtaking topography of highland peaks covered in golden brush and practically feel the clean cold air of dawn in the mountains. I love the way that nature is always at hand even in the cities, in the cattle that can suddenly block the busiest street, in the drum of summer rain on tin roofs or in the lake-sized puddles that women in heels sidestep with such skill. I love and miss my extended family; I will always be grateful for the unconditional love and safety they provided me and forever mindful of their lessons about caring for others. It is probably also true that I love the idea of Ethiopia, the marvelous historic nation that might have been. I will always wonder, as I wrote in my book, what it would have been like to grow up there, in a place where my family simply belonged.

But I also know that the many things I have come to love about being American, the many freedoms I enjoy as a citizen, as a woman and as an individual, are just not on offer in Ethiopia. And as I think specifically about children, I think about all that is wrong with how children are raised. With love, yes, but also with extreme emphasis on qualities such as obedience and conformity and a general disregard for the individual nature or needs of a given child.

So what do I want for my children? What should I do, what can I do, to give them enough of Ethiopia while also respecting their other connections as well as their right to charter their own course?

For now, here are some of my ideas:

Ethiopian history. This one is easy. There is so much there, from the achievements of ancient Axum to the 3000 year-old written tradition to the encounters and clashes with European powers from the Middles Ages on. I don’t want to romanticize or overplay anything, though. I want my children to know the good and the bad and the mundane in-between and accept it for what it is. I feel so strongly that we have to embrace all aspects of a given subject if we mean to take it seriously.

I imagine that knowing Ethiopian history in this way will matter for my children’s sense of self – we come from this place - and will also teach them to be more sensitive to the complexity of other people and cultures.

Connection/Community. This one is harder. Harder to do, and harder to know how much to do. My children won’t speak Amharic; I recognize that. So I’m very grateful that they see their grandparents and cousins often, as this is a natural way for them to be a part of something Ethiopian – nothing forced there.

In terms of connection to a bigger community, I’m quite interested in how second-generation Ethiopian-Americans are defining their identity and their relationship to Ethiopia. Not all speak Amharic, not many have spent meaningful time in Ethiopia, and yet the connection, or at least the yearning for connection, remains. Without pushing them in any way, I can see how my hybrid kids could find a space within this community that is genuinely open to them.

In terms of on-going cultural exposure -- which is both good in and of itself, like exposure to history, and a critical element of community-building - I’m sure the growth will result in more restaurants, art galleries, bookstores, community centers and organized events and more chances to come into contact with other Ethiopian-American families. For example, last April Harvard hosted a three-day conference on Ethiopian creativity that would have been inconceivable ten years ago. I learned a ton about the art, music and political activity of Ethiopian immigrants from the speakers. And I also left feeling a genuine connection with the other Ethiopian participants, something I rarely feel in more traditional settings.

Two observations about adoptive families here. First, I fully expect you and your children to join this conversation and for your presence and participation to impact this evolving Ethiopian-American identity. It is entirely possible that my kids will have as much in common with yours as they will with kids whose parents are from Ethiopia.

Second, I think adoptive families may help lead the way in establishing more formal ways of transmitting culture. I get a lot of practical questions from adoptive parents – where to buy a specific kind of children’s book, where to get Amharic lessons – and often I come up blank. We don’t have such mechanisms in place yet. The reason for this, I think, is that we come from a majority culture and have only just started to recognize that Ethiopian identity in the next generations could easily disappear under the weight of the dominant American (and African-American) culture. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, it seems to me, emerge from the adoption process having already done a lot of thinking about minority culture and identity and the potential consequences of inaction. Also, of course, as immigrants we don’t have the same resources – financial or otherwise - that more established American families often do.

Communal Sensibility. Within an Ethiopian family or community, you can never think only of yourself. Everyone is very aware of how their actions affect everyone around them, and children are taught to be especially solicitous of parents and other elders. (To this day I can’t get myself a glass of water without offering one to everyone else in the room.) I hope I can pass on something of this very Ethiopian value to my children. That is, I hope they will come to understand their responsibilities and obligations as reaching beyond themselves or their immediate families. It doesn’t matter to me whether the community they think about includes people in New York City or Addis Ababa or whether it is a community of ideology rather than geography – it only matters that they think, and act, in a communal way.

Humility. Ethiopia will humble you. There is humility in being stopped cold by a power outage that leaves an entire neighborhood in darkness. In having a long anticipated trip cut short because there is just no way around a washed out mountain pass. In suffering the arbitrary actions of one repressive government after another, in living with curfews and random police stops, in having everything upended by revolution or civil war. In losing parents or children to military bullets or to illnesses that are routinely treated elsewhere.

Over the years I have found it useful to remember that even foundations can be fragile, and that the best-laid plans must be open to revision. I think some sense of humility and understanding along these lines will be valuable to my children as we move further into this unpredictable new century, a century in which America’s role in the world – and American confidence - may come under challenge. I don’t mean that I want them to throw up their hands or be fatalistic about outcomes. I just hope that some degree of humility informs their thinking and helps them make mindful, effective choices.

So that’s where I am, at least for today. No doubt my ideas will change as my kids grow and change. I’ll end with a bit of advice I got from my father when my husband and I were going back and forth on what to name our daughter: “Well, enjoy your decision. It will be the last one you make about her on your own.”

I think about that a lot.

Rebecca Haile

* Note from Julie...

Rebecca has graciously indicated to me that she would be more than happy to write a follow up post answering any questions we may have about today's post, or about Held at a Distance.

Thank you Rebecca!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It is Only With The Heart That One Can See Rightly...

And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose--" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

The only thing better than having breakfast with a little prince, is having breakfast with two little princes...

I have fallen in love...with an entire family.

Please Rebekah...move west.

Would you place children with these people...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And the Award for Biggest Bonehead Goes To...

I have to confess, back in March of last year, the lovely Liz gave me this blog award...
I had hoped that it meant I would soon be enjoying an awards banquet like this. Alas, the gala ticket never arrived. I sat down to pick seven other bloggers whose blogs I thought were 'Brillante'. (Is that a typo by the way? What is the country of origin for this award? Is that Italian for brilliant? How worldly!) While trying to make my choices, I was instantly transported back to fourth grade. I thought about how my mom threw me a super cool roller rink birthday party. She let me invite whomever I wanted. It was a blast. What if she told me I could only invite seven friends? The horror! The sadness! Who would be left out! Not possible. Well, for that reason I wrote to Liz, thanked her and said if I didn't acknowledge it, it was because I didn't want to leave anyone out. Really, I think so many blogs are brilliant for so many different reasons. I didn't want anyone hearing about the party they weren't invited to.

It seems, however, that the Queen of Hilarity has now bestowed on me this...

Charlotte, thankfully, has mentioned several of the women I find fabulous. I thought that perhaps it would be okay now to mention some additional Queens of Fabulousity*.

One of the things that these Fabulous women have in common is that they were the first Fabulous blogs that I found.

When we started the adoption process, I thought it would be a good idea to have a blog. That way, when people wanted to know what was happening (my family) they could just click and read. I would then be able to avoid the generic group e-mail. I thought that eventually, if we faced any difficulties and didn't feel like talking about it, we could just say, "Read the blog". So, ready to begin, I sat down and started perusing all things blog.

I landed on this woman's blog...

This is Katy. (Lori, I have completely pilfered this picture from your blog. I hope you don't mind, and I have something to say about you later).

I started reading Straight Magic. After about ten minutes, I threw my hands up in the air, shut my laptop and exclaimed, "Oh forget it!" This woman's blog is exactly the blog I would want to write if I were just more interesting, intelligent, insightful, humorous, etc. I got so discouraged. I almost started a blog with only one published line of words. It would read..."Yeah, what Katy said."

Feeling strong enough to open the computer again I landed here...

Holding Still. I have one thing to say about Erin, Put down "The Weaver's Craft," and pick up the 'Holding Still.' Erin writes beautifully about the challenges that come with the adoption of two sibling boys. I'm sure you have been over there already, but if you haven't... Go.

Next I found this woman....

Who is this woman I thought? She is so beautiful, and her blog is so interesting, and she runs marathons, and look at her kids! And she is worried about Haiti. I was just taken in. Does she live in Spain? What does her blog title mean? She seems very cosmopolitan. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she just happens to be living in Wisconsin, not Spain. She is basically awesome. Esperando A Zufan! And really, how cute is Zufan!

Elsa's mom. Wow...

The posts I want to direct you to are password protected at Habesha Child. I landed on E's mom's blog after she had come home from Ethiopia. She was so brutally honest about the difficulties she faced in country. I thought to myself, this woman is amazing. She is just putting it out there. I was also surprised at how people, through their comments on her blog, actually helped her, literally, to get through it. If you ask her, I bet she will give you the password so you can see how powerful a blog, and its comments can be.

And now last but certainly not least...

Drew and Carey. The fact that these folks were so physically attractive (my husband after meeting them in person last year sat down in the car and stammered...they are so.....beautiful), was certainly enough to draw you in. Who knew that they would also be such incredible people. With their blog they created something magical, and also something absolutely awe-inspiring. Their blog continues to inspire as they move closer to their adoption of the beautiful 'T'.

So they were the first. They are Fabulous for many reasons. Oh and back to Lori, read her August posts that describe her meeting her daughter for the first time. Oh and Beth's too please, read these. (See there was no way I could just pick five). These honest, brave bloggers are truly fabulous.

There are so many bloggers that I am grateful to, and that I admire. Check my blogroll. These just happen to be the first seven women that I found. All of you are invited to skate, every single one of you.

* Here are the rules to receiving this award:
You have to pass it on to 5 other fabulous bloggers in a post.
You have to list 5 of your fabulous addictions in the post. (Didn't do this, aren't my addictions obvious on this blog?)
You must copy and paste the rules and the instructions below in the post.
On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them.