Monday, April 23, 2012

Three years ago

Things weren't going all that well at our house. Tom had recently been "let go" from his job. Our adoption seemed to be perpetually stalled in the court process. We were feeling a lot of uncertainty about where we were headed.

One little phone call changed the mood. I saw the name on the caller id and picked up, curious but not expecting anything important from Lisa, our contact at Nightlight Christian. When she said "you passed court"... I just started crying. At that moment, it was an unexpected gift. Our girls were coming home. Thank you, Lisa, for the most perfectly timed phone call of my life.

Candace Selam and Sarah Fikir in spring of 2009.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring soccer finale

Much to Thomas' disappointment, the spring soccer season here in Ashland came to a close yesterday. He loves playing so much! Tom found a clinic in a nearby town that is running on Sundays, so he will get five more weeks of formal play in before summer. After that, looks like he'll be waiting for fall.

Thomas got four goals yesterday!

The red team.

Silly version of the red team. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Anna's big weekend

For the second year in a row, Anna's birthday fell on Prom weekend. Saturday night was the big dance and after prom extravaganza.

Anna with Mom and Dad before the big event.

Exchanging flowers with date Colby.

Anna and Colby

Anna with besties Kenzie, Abbey and Daryl.

Today we celebrated Anna's 18th birthday. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that she looked like this:

Me with newborn Anna.

Opening presents with the always helpful littles in attendance.

Eighteen candles!

Not one of the cool kids

I wish I had the ability to draw my thoughts out of my brain with a magic wand like they do in Harry Potter. Because I come up with some really insightful prose while I'm laying in bed before I go to sleep. The problem is, then I actually do go to sleep and the thoughts are gone by morning. If I could pull them out and save them somehow, that would be, well, magic.

I'll try to be coherent with just my muggle powers of recall.

So anyway, I was laying there the other night and some thoughts were percolating. The first one revolved around, for lack of a better word, "popularity". Normally, I would say that I quit worrying about popularity a long time ago... like sometime after high school graduation. Which is really good, because although I seem to generally get along with people well, I have never been that girl who is the super cool one to hang with. I had a brush with this in the mid-nineties when I had a good friend who was that girl... but ultimately my coolness faded away with the friendship after we moved to a new city. And honestly, I have been okay with that.

I had an experience recently however, that unsettled me a lot. While working on a project with a group I am involved with, I gradually realized that a member had subtly managed to guide the group into two segments: the preferred members (let's call them "the cool kids") and the not so preferred members (let's call them "the dorks"). I found myself squarely among the dorks, naturally, which didn't really bother me at first. The project kept us very busy with not a lot of extra time for socializing. But as time wore on, I found myself sort of pushed to the margins of conversations and the recipient of some subtly disguised mildly derisive comments. I wasn't alone, but my dork contingent was noticeably smaller than the cool kids contingent... and quite frankly, I'm pretty sure that most of the cool kids didn't even notice that we poor dorks were being marginalized in this way. They were enthralled by the head cool kid. It didn't take very long for me to feel like crap and want to be anywhere but with that group.

I am almost 49 years old, and I was reduced to crying alone because some people didn't like me.

It made me think of all the teenagers and kids who are treated that way everyday... kids who don't have almost fifty years of life experience to deal with their hurt feelings. It's sad. It also makes me wonder why in the world does this still occur at my age? I just don't understand why we can't all be nice to each other. Our whole culture seems to revolve around self-preservation and self-promotion and "telling it like it is"... which is frequently, in my experience, a cheap excuse for saying whatever one wants to whomever one wants without any regard for politeness or the feelings of others.

I don't think I am blameless here, either.

I am going to be making a special effort to watch my words and how I treat people... family, friends, the salesperson who just annoyed the heck out of me, complete strangers... because being kind is worth the effort. That annoying lady at the board committee meeting who just goes on and on and on, dragging out a meeting for what seem to be interminable minutes... maybe this is her passion and she doesn't have anyone else to share it with. Including others is worth the effort. It might be more truthful to say to the kid at the McDonald's counter "Your inability to count change correctly is delaying me by five extra minutes, and I had to wait 10 minutes in this drive-through lane. Don't you have any basic math skills?"... But really, "thank you" while receiving my change is all that is needed. Also, it's a much better example for my children. Maybe I can start a trend and be a cool kid after all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Because Every Mother Matters... Spring trip

We spent our first day in Addis, resting and hanging out briefly with some of the skateboard team. The next morning, we made the long drive to Dessie. While in Dessie, we met the wonderful volunteers of Beza, who coordinate our work with the mamas who are sponsored by BEMM. We split into two teams, and visited about 70 mothers and their families in their homes. There were many, many inspiring stories of improved lives through sponsorship... so many of these women just needed a head start and someone to believe in them.

While in Dessie, we took turns staying with Jaime at the safe house. We welcomed our first resident while we were there, an absolutely lovely 13 year old girl. The safe house has been named in her honor. While she is adjusting to life off of the streets, BEMM staffers will be evaluating our mothers in hopes of finding one who will make a wonderful foster mother for this sweet girl.

After a couple days of visiting mamas, we made the trip to Mareya (Mar-yay) to deliver the 4x4 ambulance, affectionately known by the team as the BEMM-mobile. I have never experienced anything more awesome than our arrival into Mareya... hundreds and hundreds of people singing and clapping, cheering and surrounding our vehicles... signs and banners... it was a heartfelt and incredibly moving welcome. We were put "on stage" and greeted as honored guests. The hospitality was generous and amazing. The most incredible highlight of our visit to Mareya was that Susan, our P.A. on this trip, delivered a healthy baby girl with the help of our intrepid leader Steffany and some minimal supervision from the Mareya medical staff. The parents named the baby Steffany. :)

Next, the hike up the mountain to Azga, the home village of our beloved translator and BEMM staffer Eyob. The mountains are beautiful... and steep. Honestly, I wanted to kill myself. I'm glad I didn't though, and got to enjoy one of the most beautiful places on Earth hosted by the most beautiful and loving people on Earth. Also, I ate goat and I liked it.

We returned to Dessie for more mama visits and a day of training and fun for the mothers. My group went to a beautiful area called Boru, which is sort of like a "suburb" of Dessie. It was incredibly beautiful and lush. Two of the mothers had to make the long trip from here to Dessie for the training day, which just proves the dedication of these women... they really want to change their lives. The training day featured medical stations for private HIV consultation, general medical check-ups, a station to write letters to sponsors, a nail salon station for some pampering, testimonials from some of our most successful mothers and lunch and fellowship for all. We were so pleased at how well everything went and the attendance was excellent!

On my last day in Ethiopia, I went with my friend Kim to the tattoo parlor. I got some improvements to my tattoo and Kim got her first one. I don't have good pictures to post, but I'll try to get some for later.

The group was wonderful and many new friendships were made and old ones strengthened. I plan to go next spring as well, and hope to take Emily. I can't stress enough what a worthwhile group BEMM is and how proud I am to be a small part of it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Coloring eggs with Grandma

Posing with bunnies after church

Easter egg hunt!

The spoils of the hunt. Evenly divided, of course.

Miss Sylvia Kittywhiskens in a basket.