Abundance

We’ve been running at full-tilt for the last few days.  The cousins arrived from Florida to enjoy a Buckeye Thanksgiving, and the house has been full-to-bursting since Wednesday.  11 people–eating, laughing, playing games, making art and…eating.  It’s a joyous occasion. Nothing illustrates my American good fortune like setting aside half a week to feast with some of the people I love best!

In the midst of all of this celebrating, my Ethiopian friends remain much on my mind.  I think about my friend Tiru, who is celebrating her Thanksgiving with all of her lovely daughters away from home for the first time.  I think about my friend Seleshi, who’s mother is visiting the United States for the first time since he moved here more than 20 years ago.  I think about Demissew, the man I met at the airport in Mekelle.  Every day I  wait for news that he’ll be starting his PhD program this spring at my alma mater, The Florida State University (with full funding, fingers crossed!)  And always, always, I think about dear friends at Children’s Heaven, Lola Children’s Home, and FOVC.

How nice, that in a life that was already filled-to-the-brim with good fortune, I’ve been given the gift of a wider world view.  The people I know, the places I’ve been…I’m an incredibly lucky girl, um, middle-aged woman.

So gifted, that when pressed to name a Christmas wish, I could only think to ask for one thing:  a goat (or a sheep… I’m not picky).  My relatives thought this a fabulous idea, so I know they won’t mind a bit when they receive the same, because really…what more could we wish for?  We all enjoy fine health, lovely homes, terrific kids, happy marriages and abundance. Nothing under my Christmas tree could possibly change my life in any lasting way, but the gift of a goat (or cow, a sheep, or chickens) will make a real difference to my very real friends in Ethiopia.

I’m sure most of you have been counting your blessings over the past few days too.  I hope that like me, you find your life is overflowing with good.  If so, maybe you’ll also ask for a goat for a holiday gift, or maybe you’ll give a gift of livestock instead?   Who wouldn’t like 8 chickens for Hanukkah?

Hoping your life is as abundant as mine,

Paige

Want to fill someone’s stocking with a sheep? Here’s how:

 

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Gratitude

Working on Night of Warmth (you know, the Columbus OH-IO fundraiser for EOR on February 25.  18 days!) makes me feel like this:

 

You know…delighted!!!  This little person, and the hundreds of other kids I met while I was in Ethiopia last November help keep me focused on the end goal as I help to put the finishing touches on Night of Warmth.  His enthusiasm and mine must be contagious, because there are a huge number of people to thank for all of their efforts to make Night of Warmth a huge success.

 

I’d like to start by thanking our guests, our sponsors and our donors.  Your shared commitment to the children of Ethiopia warms the icy spots in my heart.   The success of Night of Warmth will belong to all of you.

I’d also like to thank the world’s best event planning committee:  Meggann, Katie, Emily, Ali & Abbie have made planning this incredible event a walk in the park.   None of this would be possible without them or their terrific spouses who also volunteer for NOW, juggle childcare duties and sell tickets, all for the children of Ethiopia.

This time last year, as we planned Dead of Winter, I was a crazy mess.  Even with a fabulous, dedicated committee, the success (or not) of the event fell largely on my shoulders.  This year, it has been enormously helpful to be joined by two fabulous Columbus-area board members as we’ve put this together.  Amy and Alex are the best kind of women–I am SO lucky to know them both!

 

Lastly, the husbands of the board need a special mention.  From Day 1, my commitment to Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. has been a shared one.  Albert and our tots play a large role in my work for EOR.  It’s quite obvious that Amy and Alex could say the same.  Thank you Albert, Joel and Dan for your efforts.

When Night of Warmth is over and the proceeds have been tallied, I will be lauded again and again for the job that I’ve done.  Know now that EVERY time I say thank you for the praise, I will remember the role each of you played.

Ahmesegenallo, friends of Ethiopia,

Paige

Don’t have your tickets for Night of Warmth yet?  It’s not too late!   Visit our ‘Donate Now’ page for tickets or contact paige@ethiopianorphanrelief.org more more information.

 

 

 

Soccer Balls to Ethiopia

The beautiful wise young girl Maeve is the daughter of EOR donors James & Annie. Remember this face as I’m quite confident she is going to change the world someday. This month Maeve was highlighted in her school newsletter for collecting soccer balls for kids in Ethiopia. Take a moment to read her sweet note.

My baby sister Viola was born in Ethiopia, which is located in the NE corner of Africa. Since we brought her home my mom has worked with Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. (EOR). This year my mom and some other ladies from EOR went to Ethiopia. They brought backpacks full of stuff for the kids, supplies for hospitals, tons of clothes, and soccer balls signed by the kids from my 4th grade class, as well as my brother Quinton’s 2nd grade class. The soccer balls were given to girls at Children’s Heaven and kids at Lola and the orphanage care center in Shanto. 

The first time my mom went to Ethiopia she brought home something for our family, my sister, but this time we wanted to leave something from us there.

Thank you Maeve for your giving heart & the beautiful example you are for so many of us.

Kim

Reflect

 
A fabulous first for us.  Dan, husband of the amazing Alex, offered to be a guest blogger during August.  All of us involved with the board of EOR have amazing, generous spouses who also volunteer their time and efforts and talents to help the children of Ethiopia.  We are so grateful to all of them, particularly Dan, who agreed to share his thoughts with you.

Let me start off by saying, I don’t blog.  I haven’t blogged in the past…and might not blog again.  But when approached with an opportunity to blog for Ethiopian Orphan Relief – a cause of a very personal, and close interest for my family, and for me – I jumped (or maybe I was pushed….I don’t really remember).  I wasn’t sure what I would blog about, but thought I would give it a shot.

That being said,  as I write this 35,000 feet in the air, and on the cusp of one of the most important meetings I’ve ever been a part of, I look down and reflect on life – and what a little role we play in this incredible universe.  There is so much of this world I’ll never see – but so much good I can do to help make a difference We know so much more as a society today than we ever have before – but there are still more questions than we have answers to.   We battle everyday with decisions we need to make – and sometimes question our choices.

I guess what I’m trying to say, without making so much sense… is live for the moment.  Don’t worry about what we cannot control, but push our children on the swings for 5 minutes longer.  Don’t stress over the next presentation, but lay with your child a little longer when saying prayers or reading a story.  Let’s not stress over a clean house; our kids will just make a mess tomorrow anyway!

For me, it’s important to reflect at times as it keeps me grounded and I believe it makes me a better person.   So does my relationship with Ethiopian Orphan Relief.

Dan, (super husband of super Alex)

Thank you  Dan, for all that you share with Ethiopian Orphan Relief!

Relief

Today’s guest blogger is Staci. Here at EOR Staci is always one amazing supporter. From our pleas for dresses being made for the girls in Ethiopia, to our need for votes in the Classy awards, to her generous donations, Staci is a constant supporter of EOR and we are grateful for her! To read her personal blog please visit here

I recently wrote on my personal blog about the burden of knowing. How when our eyes are opened, when we see and vicariously experience what human suffering is, it is hard to live with that knowledge.
Why? Because the mantle of responsibility is heavy and descends swiftly. I think we humans know this, and so when we see titles of news articles about people starving in a far away place, or experiencing violence, we don’t want to see it. We turn the page, close our eyes and tell ourselves we will read it when we are in a better emotional place. I don’t want to be depressed today. We don’t want to face the staggering numbers, the stark reality, because the burden of knowing often makes us feel badly.

For example, you, or I just bought our kid $30 new shoes. We don’t want to feel badly about it, his feet are wide, inexpensive mock brand ones don’t fit, the used children’s store is far away, and Zappos has overnight free shipping. It is what it is, right? Why should we have to fuss about it?

Or we just signed our daughter up for dance classes. $70 a month. We are excited about it, it’s going to be wonderful, we don’t want to think about how far that money would go in Ethiopia.

Or we just went on a date, $30 babysitter, $40 dinner, it had been a long time, we wanted to go out…we don’t want to feel badly, darnit!

When we know what is out there, facing it in its horror involves emotion, a little guilt and it is not a comfortable juxtaposition to question what we spend, what we spend it on, and why when set against a backdrop of this Knowledge. We want to live our lives free of this heavy burden.

I have tried to shut it out, turn it off, not think about it, not click on the links to news stories, or first hand witness’ accounts of what is happening in ___________. But strangely, this doesn’t relieve the burden.

As if there were a yoke on my shoulders, weighing me down, the burden grows more and more. I feel like I am wearing a Scarlet Letter, H, emblazoned on every shirt for all the world to see, where H stands for Hypocrite. And though I know no one can see my conflict with what I know is the discrepancy between “where my heart is” and where my “treasure is” I know it is there, and the feeling gets heavier and heavier until I must do something. I start dreading the mail for the Sundance Catalog will surely be singing its siren song telling me what I need to feel happy. But know it’s a lie. My burden would still be there, all the heavier.

There is only one thing to be done: put my money where my mouth and really, heart are. In the same moment wherein I write the check, or click “send” for an online donation to aid fellow humans, I feel my burden lessened. It is a tangible, visceral feeling, that when when I offer relief, I receive it tenfold.

I am grateful to Ethiopian Orphan Relief for reminders about what projects they are working on, and what they need, and giving me the occasional privilege of seeking relief through their wonderful organization.

Staci

These adorable tots are 3 of the 4 kids Staci and her husband have in their family.

What a Loser!

It’s August, and time for a month of posts.

I’d like to kick off this round of 31 entries with a link to someone else’s blog.  That’s right, it’s Day 1, and already I’m passing the buck…

The blog in question belongs to a guy named Dave.  Dave, a regular guy and adoptive dad, has come up with an amazing fundraiser to benefit Ethiopian Orphan Relief (hey, that’s us)!  Dave is planning to lose 40 lbs between August 1st and October 31st, and has asked for pledges to motivate him and help orphans at the same time.  Today was his official first weigh-in, so it’s not to late to make a pledge to encourage him.

The board of Ethiopian Orphan Relief adores each and every one of our amazing donors, but I have to admit, we’re especially excited about supporters who think outside the box when it comes to raising funds.  Dave’s commitment to better health and to orphans is well…amazing!

Please visit Dave’s blog, and if you can’t pledge, at least leave a note of encouragement.  This is an incredible act of generosity; let Dave know you’re with him every step of the way!

Paige

Thankful

So the 3rd anniversary of my son’s adoption from Ethiopia came and went.  Of course, this was a day of mixed emotions for me.  There was the joy of celebrating my blessed family.  There was the nostalgia I feel for Ethiopia (has it really been three years?).  And then there was the grief and sadness I feel for the family and culture Eli left behind that day.

That day when we took him away from the country in which he was born.  The land in which he and would’ve otherwise grown and thrived (and I know he would’ve grown and thrived.  He’s the strongest person I know).  And the day that, even though he had been in an orphanage for several months prior to us meeting him, he would never have the chance to go back to his birth family.

As much as I love him and am selfishly so incredibly over-the-moon happy to have him, I’m truly sad that he isn’t getting to grow up in his homeland.  I’m devastated that he won’t grow up experiencing his birth culture on a first-hand basis.

And I feel extremely guilty that I am getting to spend my life with him — and his birth family is not.  I get to watch him grow and thrive and learn.  I get to tuck him into bed and make him the perfect PB&J sandwiches and push him on the swings and have dance parties with him.  And his birth family does not.

Why me?  Why do I get to raise him and not his birth family?  In truth, it’s just not fair.  Life just does not always seem fair.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when Eli resents me for taking him out of his country and culture.  I can imagine this day will one day be particularly difficult for him.  I wonder how long it will be now.

But on this past adoption anniversary, Eli was nothing but happy, happy, happy.  He truly had a great day.  He seemed to understand, as much as a three-and-a-half year old possibly could, that this was the anniversary of his adoption.  That three years ago, mommy and daddy met him in Ethiopia.

To honor him, we had some of our best Ethiopian buds (the fabulous Amy and Paige and their families) over for a cookout and some slip-n-slide.  And then, later in the afternoon, we took him to the neighborhood pool.  Eli never stopped smiling the whole day.

As I carried him up to bed, happy and exhausted that evening, he rested his curly head on my shoulder and said, “Thank you, mommy, for remembering Eli Day.  I love you forever and ever.”

Wow.  What my three-year-old was telling me was that he was thankful on this day.  And that’s how I should handle my emotions as well.  By being thankful for the blessed opportunity to raise him … thankful for the opportunity to bring HIS culture into MY life … and thankful to his birth family and their sacrifices.

Alex

A Brief History of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent nation and its second most populous, home to ruggedly beautiful landscapes dotted with the monuments of medieval Christian kingdoms. Several years of relative peace have brought new buildings, new roads, low crime and a booming trade in cut flowers and coffee.

Despite this it remains one of the poorest nations on earth, frequently drought and famine-stricken, about half-Christian and half-Muslim, surrounded by hostile enemies and full of heavily armed separatist factions. Since the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s corrupt regime in 1974, the nation has been riven by conflicts involving rebel movements that have been brutally suppressed, and with its neighbors to the north and south, Eritrea and Somalia.

In the early 1990’s, the overthrow of the Derg, a Marxist junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, promised an end to several decades of political terror and runaway military spending. But the independence in 1993 of Eritrea, a small and often contested section of Africa’s horn region, would lead to two years of fighting that cost a hundred thousand lives. A truce has held for several years, but tens of thousands of troops stand poised on either side of the contested borderline to begin hostilities anew.

–December 13, 2007  NewYorkTimes

I need to interrupt this history lesson for a moment:

After reading this brief history of Ethiopia, what comes to mind? For Westerners, images of famine stricken children may appear. We grew up with flashes of those photos in our minds. Pre-adoption, that is the image I believe would have been in my mind. However, I’ve been to Ethiopia, spent a quick two weeks traveling within the country and the image that pops into my mind now? A smile. 

The smiles of the young boys who lived together in Lalibela so that they could go to secondary school. They grew up 9 hours away and went home on the weekends. They ran so they could make it before dark. They RAN. They showed us their homework-Chemistry equations in English. So proud of simply being able to go to secondary school. 

I see the smiles of boys on their homemade reed raft on Lake Tana doing homework while they make their daily commute from their home on one of the many islands in the lake to their school in Bahir Dar. 

I see the smiles of the nannies that cared and loved my daughter for the months she was in their care. Their smiles went from an appraising look at our first meeting, to the tearful, happy and hopeful smiles of our goodbye ceremony.  

I see the smiles of the children we saw on our drive to Hosanna and outside the orphanage where our daughter was taken. Their feet mostly bare covered in the dust of living and walking amidst the dusty southern land. 

.……and the smiles that should come to mind to you? The smiles from all the hundreds of children that benefit everyday from the donations to EOR. The smiles that erupt at the sight of a new toilet, a new well, a new foundation for a school, a new pillowcase dress, a new notebook and a desk for an AIDS orphanage. Ethiopia’s history is proud and strong…and with you helping with our mission to help the vulnerable children in need, those smiles will only multiply and grow.

Thank you and now back to our history lesson….

Molly

Smiles from kids in Harar, Ethiopia

Adoption Talk

As I write this, my three-and-a-half year old son Elias is sitting next to me watching Sesame Street.  A family from Ethiopia just came on the screen to talk about how her family celebrates Passover.  I immediately jumped up and hit the “record” button on the DVR.  “Eli!” I said.  “Those children are from Ethiopia, just like you!”

“Yup!”  He said proudly.  “Just like me!”  And he gave me the thumbs up sign.

Recently, I’ve been beefing up my adoption conversations with Eli.  We’ve been looking through his baby book and talking about Ethiopia, the (age-appropriate) factors that went into his adoption, and how we became a family.  Right now he seems SO proud to be from Ethiopia (and the only one in our family from Ethiopia to boot — it seems to make him feel all the more special).

But I worry constantly about this changing — especially in the face of the comments we sometimes get when we go out.  Now, I’m not angry or complaining — I knew well before we became a transracial family that we would get the occasional questions, comments and stares — but it is difficult when well-meaning people make comments in front of Eli.  Especially because he’s at a very sensitive age where he understands a lot … but also not a lot.

For example, the other day, Eli, Ryan (my 14-month-old daughter who came to us through domestic adoption), and I were having lunch at Wendy’s.  We were having a great time noshing and talking about our day when older lady came up to our table and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help noticing your family.  I have to ask — did you ADOPT these children?”

Trying to come up with an appropriate answer for everyone involved — an answer that doesn’t embarrass the lady, but also doesn’t confuse or upset my son — in an instant, with my mouth full of chili, is no easy feat.  I think I said something to the effect of, “Oh, this is my son, Eli, and my daughter, Ryan.  Yes, my children came to me through adoption.”

“Well, bless your heart.  What a truly wonderful thing you’ve done for these children,” she pronounced.  I cringed.  Before I could respond, she shook her finger at Eli.  “Your mommy has done a wonderful thing for you,” she said to him.  “You are a very, very lucky little boy to have this lady as your mommy.”

Eli looked at me as if to say, “What the heck is this crazy lady talking about?” I jumped in immediately, but casually, and said to Eli, “Hmm, I think she has it backwards.  I know I’m the luckiest mommy in the world to have you and Ryan.  Right, Eli?”  And I turned to the lady graciously and said, “All I know is that I’m the lucky one to have my kids.  They’re the best things to ever happen to me.  Thank you though, and I hope you have a wonderful afternoon.”

Maybe you would’ve responded the same way I did … or maybe you wouldn’t have.  Every commenter, every comment, and every instance are different, so I never really have a “catch-all” response to just recite.  But I really try not to embarrass the commenter, no matter how much they’ve just embarrassed me.  Instead, I usually try to create teaching moments if the situation lends itself to that.  And, above all, I always try to advocate for my kids.  Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find responses on a moment’s notice.

One thing I really want people to know — more than anything else — is adoption is not a charity thing.  It’s a family thing.  My husband and I adopted Eli and Ryan to change our family — not the world.  Not that I don’t want to do “truly wonderful things” for people – just like the lady at Wendy’s said.  Of course I do. But there are other ways to do it.

Like by going to Ethiopia to help build shelters and school facilities for orphaned and vulnerable children.  Or, if you’re like me and you WISH you could do that but CAN’T realistically right now, then by SUPPORTING THOSE WHO ARE THERE – groups like Children’s Heaven and Friends of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (FOVC).

Children’s Heaven runs a much-needed center for girls who have been orphaned or are at risk of being orphaned due to AIDS, and FOVC is working hard to build a new shelter and school for more than 150 children who need a roof over their heads.  These are the people who are in Ethiopia right now – getting their hands dirty, dedicating their lives to helping those who are in the most dire need.  But they can’t do it alone.

Even though we can’t be there with them physically, we can help just as well by supporting them.

YOU can do “truly wonderful things” for people.  No matter where you are, or what you’re doing with your life, YOU CAN HELP CHILDREN IN NEED – by clicking here.

-Alex

They look like me!

Although having a husband who works out of town every week for years at a time often feels more like a curse than blessing, there are a number of benefits. Lots of hotel points and air miles mean we rarely pay for trips out of town. A client site in Washington DC makes it possible to visit a handsome daddy AND the National Mall pretty often–which makes all of us very happy. The happiest of all of us might be our four year old, Astrid Meklit. She chirped made up songs all week about our spring break journey. As we made the 8 hour drive on Friday, she warbled a similar tuneless song, and this time, I heard the words:

“the people, in the town, they look like me
On the bus, and on the train (that goes underground)
And in the museums, they look like me.
I love DC, cause the people look like me
Not just babies, but big people too”

I asked her about the song, and after a little embarrassment, (really mama? You listened to me?) she told me that she likes to be in DC, where there are “lots of people from Ethiopia, which is from Africa, instead of just the people we know in our town.”

And while we have scores of Ethiopian friends, both littles and grownups, and things are pretty diverse in our little universe, clearly, DC, with it’s awesome museums and metro system also offers other charms to my sweet Ethiopian girl. The Ethiopian bus driver, the Amhara man in line at Chipotle, the cute habesha girls at the Gap–they are an integral part of her DC visit.

That 8+ hour drive? We’ll be making it as often as we can.

Paige