Monday, December 31, 2007

Ethio Kids With Joyous Hearts

We always hear about the harshness of life in Ethiopia. As adoptive parents we try to imagine (at least I do) what life is like for the children outside of the orphanages. When I found this video it reminded me that whether they walk miles for walker, attend school regularly, see adults in despair, or wonder what their future holds, they are just kids.

This video really makes me smile and laughed at some parts too. It reminds me of growing up in 60s and 70s black America when we were able to find the JOY in really simple things. JOY no matter the circumstances. It reminds me of those summer picnics when your friends and relatives are over and your parents push you out there to show them the latest dance or sing the latest song. Everybody claps and for five minutes the stage is all yours.

You have to hear them sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" in what I believe is Amharic. There is one little boy in the video that stills the spotlight. He is a STAR! I can only imagine what is in store for him.

Games Ethiopian Children Play

If I haven't mentioned before I love YouTube. It is allowing me to bring Ethiopia in full motion video right into my living room. Really my computer is in my office but you get what I'm talking about.

Here is one that I think is interesting about the games children play. The narrator says that they wanted to chronicle the old games and teach them to children. The video is short but look closely at what you see: hopscotch, jacks, ring around the rosie, pick up sticks, tether ball, and paper-rock-scissors.

Can you believe that? Far away but much the same. PS. I watched it again and they are also playing hide-and-go-seek.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

10 Reasons to Adopt from Ethiopia

I saw this today in an Illinois newsletter about adoption. I made it personal to my Ethiopian adoption experience.

  1. Others tell you that you are good with kids.

  2. Your commitment will help change a child's future.

  3. Patience and a sense of humor are two of your greatest strengths.

  4. You have love and time to give.

  5. Reaching out to others seems natural to you.

  6. You have a spare bedroom, and you rather it go to a child than become yet another storage closet.

  7. You know how important it is to be a part of a family.

  8. You are ready to accept the challenge of parenting a special child.

  9. You believe that every kid deserves a family.

  10. Today there are approximately 6 million orphan children in Ethiopia who need the constant love of a family.

Dance With Me in Gurage Ethiopia

I found this short video on YouTube. It shows children of Gurage dancing. It looks like a cross between the The Running Man and The Butterfly.

The Gurage people of Ethiopia can be found about 75 miles south-west of Addis Ababa. They speak a collection of Semitic languages and dialects, collectively known as Gurage, but divided into at least three subgroups known as Northern, Eastern and Western Gurage.

The Gurage people Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Catholics. They are known for cultivating the ensete ventricosum or false banana plant, known as asat, although this is a practice they share with other southern and southwestern Ethiopians.



Friday, December 28, 2007

Who Created the Bowflex?

That might seem like a strange question but it's just really my way of introducing you to a few Ethiopians living and making their way in America.

That's right the man who invented the Bowflex immigrated to the US from Ethiopia . His name is Tessema Dosho Shifferaw, and he is the founder, president and CEO of a company called Dosho Design. Along with the Bowflex he also creates other fitness products that you can check out at Dosho.





Liya Kebede. Maybe you have seen the beautiful face of model Liya Kebede. She too is from Ethiopia. Liya grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and was discovered while she was studying in France. She rose instantly in the French fashion world and later moved to New York. She is listed as one of the top earning super models in the world and the first black model for Estee Lauder. See more pictures of Liya .


Then there is the famous dress designer, Amsale. Her full name is Amsale Aberra. Any woman who looks at bridal magazines will instantly recognize the name. Amsale is a famed bridal wear designer who grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her father, Aberra Moltot, was Ethiopia's vice-minister for National Community Development, and her mother, Tsadale Assamnew, was a housewife. When the revolution broke out in Ethiopia, her father was imprisoned, and she was left without his financial support. he Although her father survived and was freed seven years later, Amsale dropped out of school and moved to Boston to live with her sister.





Color Me Playful Toys for Children of Color

Cush City has a good mix of toys, games, puzzles, dolls and even back packs. Some things seemed a little pricey but I guess it is the price of being extra special. I laughed because they even sell Old Maid cards (I haven't seen them in years) and the old maid is a black woman.



Dolls Like Me probably has the widest selection of toys and gifts for children of color. I don't know why this matching game stood out to me.




Check Out Caramel Kidz

Ethnic Dolls
Ethnic Games and Puzzles
Ethnic Party Supplies
Ethnic Holiday Toys and Gifts
Black History for Kids
Multicultural Arts and Crafts


Jambo Kids has a few unique items that you might like.

JamboKids Doll and Book Sets
JamboKids Hard Cover Books
JamboKids Jigsaw Puzzles
JamboKids Posters
JamboKids Soft Cover Books
JamboKids Soft Fabric Dolls
JamboKids Trading Cards
JamboKids Wrist Bands



African American Books
Check this list of books.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Support the Adoption Fund

I believed this was my journey and that I needed to do it alone, so I've hesitated in hosting a fundraiser or asking for help from others through this process. The word of God says that we have not because we ask not so I am asking you to support this mission through giving.

  1. Shop 'Til You Drop - Use any of the shopping links found on the right-hand side. A percentage of all sales goes to the adoption fund.

  2. Financial Donations - Accepted through ChipIn. You can use the link or the red chip box below. ChipIn uses PayPal and donations can be in the form of check or credit card.
    Click to ChipIn!



To get a better understanding of the adoption cost they include agency fees, government processing fees, fees to support the orphanage in Ethiopia. Also included is the trip to see the children before the adoption is final and a second trip to bring them home. Below are the approximate costs.

=====================================================
ADOPTION EXPENSES
Those that are bold itemized figures have been paid.

Adoption Agency Fees ($15,450)

$ 1600 ~ Agency Application Fee
$ 1200 ~ Agency Processing Fee
$ 12,000 ~ Ethiopia In-Country Fee
$ 150 ~ Hague Convention Training (10 hrs)

Home Study & Dossier Expenses ($5150)

$ 1800 ~ Home Study
$ 750 ~ USCIS Approval
$ 500 ~ Document Preparation
$ 900 ~ Illinois Court Validation
$ 1200 ~ Post-Placement Reports

Estimated Travel Expenses ($7540)

$ 780 ~ Travel Vaccinations
$ 70 ~ Ethiopia Visa
$ 1,800 ~ Airfare, roundtrip, 1 adult
$ 2,400 ~ Airfare, one-way, 2 children
$ 1,500 ~ In-Country expenses, approx. 10 days

U.S. Visa for Children ($1310)

$ 400 ~ Medical Examinations
$ 800 ~ Immigrant Visa Fees
$ 40 ~ Visa photos
$ 70 ~ Ethiopian Passports

$29,450 Total Estimated Cost
=================================================

LEAVE of ABSENCE
The agency has a requirement that you stay home with the children for the first 12 weeks. Being self-employed I will not get the benefit of paid vacation time or family leave. I will lose about 3-months of income through the process.


Monday, December 24, 2007

The Children Should Lead Them

Isaiah 11:6 says that a child should lead them. I found this video on The Children's Project in Awassa, Ethiopia. The children are staging performances around many of the small villages to teach the people about the dangers of HIV and Aids.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Shop 'Til You Drop


Please go to my Charity Blast and make a purchase.

There are hundreds of stores to choose from. Charity Blast will donate a portion of EVERY purchase you make at online stores like Target, Best Buy, Gap, Old Navy, Staples and more to the adoption at no additional cost to you. By shopping through Charity Blast you save money on your purchases and contribute to the cause.

You can also use any of the shopping links listed below. Or If you know anyone who does a lot of online shopping send them the link.

When you buy these stores give!



Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm Ready for a Soul Christmas

This is the time of the year that we celebrate the birth of Christ. Some say that Christmas has become too commercialized and that too many have taken Christ out of Christmas. I would never do that. Christmas is also a time for family and friends to celebrate life with one another.

With all the big, lighted trees, gifts and celebration as long as I live there will never be anything like a SOUL Christmas. There are some things that we black folks do that just cannot be matched. Thinking back on my childhood there was nothing like OUR songs of Christmas. Some songs just can never be replaced. Thank goodness for you tube because I've been able to listen to many of my favorites. If you want to have a Soul Christmas, click the links and sing a long.

If you need to smile just imagine Don Cornelius announcing Christmas with love, peace, and SOOOOUUUL!

Here is my top 15 list
! Listen and enjoy and as my mother used to say, "Have a Happy, Happy and a Merry, Merry!"

  1. This Christmas - Donnie Hathaway
    This Christmas - The Whispers (The only one that can top the original)

  2. The Christmas Song - Jeffery Osborne

  3. Santa Clause is A Black Man - John Waters (Kimmy)

  4. Christmas Just Ain't Christmas - O'Jays

  5. Merry Christmas Baby - Otis Redding

  6. Give Love on Christmas - The Jackson 5
    Give Love on Christmas - Johnny Gill (Just love this version too)

  7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Luther Vandross

  8. Merry Christmas Baby - Otis Redding
    Merry Christmas Baby - Charles Brown original

  9. At Christmas Time - Luther Vandross

  10. Santa Clause Go Straight to the Ghetto - James Brown

  11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause - The Jackson 5

  12. Silent Night - The Temptations

  13. Little Drummer Boy - The Jackson 5 (The pictures will take you back)

  14. What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas - The Emotions

  15. Let It Snow - Boyz II Men & Bryan McKnight

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Report On Family Life in Ethiopia

There is an interesting website called Mountain Voice that has recorded actual statements of families living in Ethiopia.

E
thiopian society is built on cooperation. It is reported that every village and town also has mutual aid societies. People make weekly contributions, and the funds pay for marriage and funeral expenses and local road repairs. Society members who are ill can receive money from the fund for treatment. Even small business loans are handled by the local society, rather than by a bank. However, due to widespread poverty in the country, many people have been moving to cities in search of work.

A typical family consists of the father, mother, children, servants, and extended family members. The families are strong and tend to be large, ranging from 6-12 family members per family. The father is the authority figure, and the mother enforces the rules for the children. The family is responsible for teaching the children cultural and religious values and the skills necessary to become self-supporting adults.

Rural families, more often than urban families, tend to have a division of labor. The mothers usually work at home, while the fathers work in the field or other outside jobs. If both parents work outside the home, the parents depend on servants and extended family members to look after the children. Although, parents discourage their children from using violence, the parents often use physical punishment and believe in its effectiveness.

The mother is often the one who chooses her children's name. This chosen name indicates what traits she wants her children to exemplify. It is a custom for children to take their father's name as their second name. Parents consider children to be dependent of them, and the children can protect the family pride by behaving well.

Different Roles of Boys and Girls
Boys and girls in Ethiopia tend to have separate roles.

Girls:

  • help their mothers such as sweeping the house and fetching water
  • admired for their abilities in handicrafts, cooking, and cleaning
  • stay under family control until they get married
  • no choice in choosing a husband
  • can marry at age 14 (some marry as young as age 10)
Boys:
  • help their fathers in gardening, preparing land, planting, weeding, and caring for cattle
  • father trains son for work at age 6
  • admired if they are studious and have a good character
  • can choose their own wives
  • can marry at age 18
Games Ethiopian Children Play
Even though Ethiopian children lead hard lives, they also have fun. They play games with the children of their neighborhood. These games relieve some of their stress, and it is also a way in which children express their fears. Some examples of the games Ethiopian children enjoy are hockey, breaking grounds, hide and seek, football, and soccer.

Rules Children Must Follow
At a young age, parents teach their children certain rules, and the parents expect children to follow them. If the children break these rules, their parents and society will look down on them and they will be appropriately disciplined. Some of these rules are:

  • respect the elders
  • be obedient
  • don't question authority
  • don't interrupt their parents while they are talking
  • don't call adults by names
  • be disciplined

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tick Tock Control Clock

Control freaks of the world unite! E-mail is a dangerous tool in the wrong hands. In the right hands or at least in my hands it is a lightening rod. It's the one thing that I can use to make sure that things arrive where they should and leave on to their next destination.

To update to my earlier post, there is some good news and some other news. First the good news, I received a letter of congratulations from my agency today. My dossier has been weighed and measured and found acceptable. Still that dossier is missing two important documents, the home study and the I-171. More good news, I received my fingerprint appointment notice. Friday at 9am I get to head out to the immigration office in Norridge, IL for one more (we hope) round of fingerprints. I've already been printed by the state of Illinois and the FBI.

The other news? I used the inter-country coordinator's e-mail address again today to find out if she had received my home study. The answer was, not positive. She took matters into her own hands and contacted my placement agency. She learned that things were not sent to her on the date that I was told. She also assured me that as soon as she gets my home study she will process it in a timely fashion. Her response made it clear she is not the chink in the chain and that I will not be able to blame any delays on her. Well, at least now she knows my name. More importantly I have her e-mail address.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tock...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Clock Is Ticking

Funny that I never heard the loud sound of the biological clock ticking but this adoption time clock clicking in my head keeps getting louder. Just look at the two new clocks I've added to the blog. One is tracking how long it is taking for the Chicago office to process and approve my I-600A application. The other clock shows how many total days I've been in process for the adoption. It's counting the time that my application was sent to present.

The first part of the process was full of activity. Read this, sign this, notarize this, overnight this, check this, recheck that, call and check that all packages have arrived. Okay, now I have no more paperwork to fill out, no more packets to send in. Everything is out of my hands at this point. I don't like the feeling.

I exchanged eight e-mails with the inter-country coordinator at DCFS this week. I wanted to know how long it took them to complete their processing of my application. The result? She has not received the home study that my agency says was sent on November 30. She also told me that even if she had that they are currently processing application dates of November 26.

I've sent e-mails and have got no response from the Chicago CIS office who promised 20 days ago that in 14 days I'd receive a fingerprint notice from Nebraska. Nebraska? Yea, my thoughts exactly. Anyway all I can do is wait. Well there is one more thing that I can do. I can call.

The clock just keeps ticking. Tick Tock ....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Get Adoption Fundraising Ideas

If you are looking for your own fundraiser, try this! Fast Track Fundraising offers great fundraising ideas and tips whether it’s for your adoption, your church, or just trying to help out local youth groups.

easy fundraisers

You can sign up with Fast Track Fundraising for FREE. They have a lot of good ideas, like an online donation site and a Christmas bag fundraiser.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Do Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas?

Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa. It still follows the ancient Julian calendar, so Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church's celebration of Christ's birth is called Ganna. It is a day when families attend church. The day before Ganna, people fast all day. The next morning at dawn, everyone dresses in white. Twelve days after Ganna, on January 19, Ethiopians begin the three-day celebration called Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Christ.


What is Timkat?

Timkat or Epiphany is the most important festival in the Ethiopian calendar. It is celebrated all over Ethiopia, but the most spectacular celebrations are reserved for Lalibela, an isolated mountain town in the arid north of the country. Lalibela is famous for its unexplainable rock-hewn churches. Over a thousand years ago 11 churches were carved out of solid rock, and many Ethiopians believe they were built by angels.

How is Timkat Celebrated?
The festivities begin in the 3rd week of January, usually around the 19th January. Crowds, all dressed in white, dance and sing in the streets to the beating of drums. Priests, decked out in jewel encrusted velvet and satin robes, carry a replica of Arc of the Covenant called a talbot. They lead grand procession through the streets.

The real celebration begins at about 2am after the processions lead the people to a place symbolic of water baptism. Priests perform mass and bless the water. A communal baptism follows, with the most fervent Christians throwing themselves fully clothed into the water.

What's the History of Timkat?
Ethiopian history teaches that Christianity came to Ethiopia long before it spread to Europe. Missionaries arrived in Ethiopia some 40 years of the birth of Jesus. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, when the three kings were said to have bestowed their gifts upon the baby Jesus. This day falls on 6th January in the western calendar.

Here is a video of a young mans personal journey to Timkat.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Family Genes - Paternal

Heredity and genes are always interesting. What gets passed down by who and how? Here is the paternal family tree. From my dad's side I think we got big eyes and a lot of hair!

The only picture that I know exist of my great-grandmother Mary Almeda.




My paternal grandmother and my aunt.



Me as a little girl next to my niece.
















Not long ago and today.

The Family Genes - Maternal

Here are a few pictures from my mother's side of the family. You can see pictures for my father's side too.


Below is a picture with both of my grandmothers. I believe it is the only time that they ever met each other. Left to right is my father's mother Virginia, my mother's youngest brother Pete, my oldest brother Michael, and my mother's mother Louise.



And...here is my mother. Miss Myrtle or (Aunt) Myrt as she was called. Here she is in New York in the 1950s and later in the 90's.



The only sad part about this adoption is that she is not here to see it. December 27 will be the third anniversary of her death. One thing that she talked about a lot before she died was that she wanted me to have children of my own. Well, now I can tell her that she got her wish.


Me and my mother at my graduate school graduation. Even that was a long 14 years ago. But, one of my mothers many many sayings was, "I'm not getting older, I'm getting better." So, I must be getting close to being my best right now.



This picture isn't very recent but it is the only one that I could find with everybody on it (except for my youngest brother). My father, my sister-in law, oldest brother, my mother, and me.

Pilgrimage to Ethiopia

The Abyssinia Baptist church of New York that was named after Ethiopia just returned from their pilgrimage to Ethiopia. You can read part of the story below.

It took a 7,000 mile journey for the congregation of New York City's Abyssinian Baptist Church to find themselves.

One-hundred-and-sixty members of this historic Harlem house of worship traveled in September to Ethiopia on modern-day pilgrimage to birthplace of the church's founders.

Click here to read Lauren Green's reflections on her trip to Ethiopia

"We believe that that's the real center of the redemption of Africa, the real heart of Africa," said the Rev. Calvin Butts III. "Because it's peaceful, it's never been colonized and its people are fiercely independent and self reliant, and that's how we see ourselves."

Ethiopian merchants cofounded the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1808 along with African-Americans who deserted the First Baptist Church of New York City when it decided to racially segregate seating.

Click here to view photos from the trip.

The Adjective for Today is EXCITED!

I was always taught to be grateful for small things and this adoption process takes that to a new level. I find myself getting excited by every single thing in the process except for delays. But even with the slightest delay my good friend said to consider that a blessing because it just means that the process is slowing down just enough so that the most special children can be found for me.

Today I learned that my home study will actually be finalized and OFFICIALLY approved by my agency this week not in 4-5 weeks as I had originally believed. It could even happen TODAY! The faster the home study is approved the faster I get official program acceptance and go on the Wide Horizons' waiting list. With the approved home study I am only waiting for my dossier to be approved (Wide Horizons received it today also) and for my CIS approval.

I received the receipt from CIS (immigration) that they have received my application. The wait is now for fingerprinting -- again. This I really don't understand but it is a part of the process. What seems weird about it is that one of the very first things that I ever did in the process was get fingerprints taken that were sent to the FBI. I was cleared by the FBI in about a week and now a few months later I have to wait to take new fingerprints and have them cleared too.

Oh well. It comes with the process. Nothing will damper the excitement that I feel today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Dossier Is In the Mail

Yes! I completed the dossier and sent it off on Tuesday. It wasn't difficult getting any of the documents but it felt really good to take it to the post office yesterday. I had this really funny postal clerk. She asked me what I was sending off and then she said, "they are going to call you in April to give you the children." From her mouth to God's ears. April would be a great time for a referral.

So for those of you keeping up with this the Ethiopian Dossier is a collection of documents that go to the ET government body MOWA for Ethiopian adoption approval. What's in the dossier?
  • Power of Attorney documents allowing a representative to work on your behalf in ET.
  • Statement describing why you want to adopt from Ethiopia.
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Police Clearance stating that you are not wanted for any crimes.
  • Financial Statement
  • Medical Attestation that you are free of TB and other serious illnesses
  • Photos of you, the outside, and the inside of your house.
  • Birth certificate
  • CPA letter of the self-employed or Employment verification letter for others.
Since I sent it express mail, my dossier is now in the hands of the adoption agency. I think it now has to be sent to Washington D.C. for some certifications (not sure) and then sent to country.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Family Tree

Since I've been talking a lot about the significance of names in the Bible I thought that I would post a family tree that I found from the Bible. The names in red are said to be the geneological links to Jesus. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.



The Week from Heaven

The process is moving along again. I had gotten hung up on the Insurance Affidavit and the CPA letter; a special requirement for those of us who are self-employed. I'm calling last week the week from heaven because things went really smoothly. The CPA letter that I needed from a Certified Public Accountant was the most difficult hurdle so far. When I woke up Wednesday morning God spoke to me and said check with a tax preparation service. The only thing that came to mind was HR Block. I made a couple of calls and found out that their offices are closed for until tax season. Later that day I went to my bank to pick up updated account verification letters. While sitting and talking to my banker I looked out the window behind him and in big red letters a sign said, "Premier Tax Preparation Service." I've sat in that chair so many times over the last couple of months getting every document notarized. I'd never noticed the sign. It was 4:50pm so I ran over to the tax office and explained the situation (just like I'd done 5 or 6 times before) and before I could get the sentence out the lady said, "Oh yea, no problem." What? After two months of dealing with this could it be that easy? It was. I went back the next day with my documentation and had the letter in an hour.

After more than 45-days of inaction from my insurance company and the 45 calls that I made everyday, I finally got the information that they were able to make the policy change. The change was needed to allow me to prove coverage for the children. I have the insurance affidavit!

All of my US placement paperwork is complete. I sent off my I-600A and will be sending in my dossier by the end of this week. No more paper...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Where Your Treasure Is - Your Heart Is Also


I find myself being pulled closer and closer to Ethiopia.

I want to share the story of finding myself in this place but sometimes I struggle for the words. For those of you who know me, you know I don't do anything without thought, research, and study. I began this process fully committed to building my family through adoption and found so much more. The culture and the heritage of Ethiopia are rich in historical and religious significance.

How could someplace so far away seem so close to my heart?

I've learned a few things as I've followed my heart to this place. Everyday I have a better understanding of the spiritual connection and curious pull.

Where thy treasure is, there will your heart be. This states a universal truth. The heart focuses on what it treasures most. If the treasure is in heaven, heaven will have your heart.- Matthew 6:21

  1. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE - Ethiopia is considered the oldest independent country in Africa with the longest recorded history. It is the place where the oldest human skeleton was recovered. Anthropologists established that the skeleton is that of a 20 year old female that lived 3.5 million years ago. Hadar, the site of the discovery is registered by the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage. This discovery is very close to Addis Ababa where the orphanages are today. They have now discovered the bones of a man 4.5 million years old in Ethiopia.

  2. A HOLY PLACE - Ethiopia is considered a holy land. Axum (Aksum) is the ancient capital and relegious center for Orthodox Christians. For some it is seen as the bastian of Christianity surrounded by Muslims and other religions much like what is described in the Bible about Mount Zion. More about Axum.


  3. A PLACE CALLED ZION - In Axum you will find the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion this place is said to contain the Ark of the Covenant said to contain the testimony of God’s covenant with the Hebrews (Dt.31:26). In Ethiopia Zion refers to Mary, Mount Zion, and is also a name given to the Ark of the Covenant. My son's name was also Zion.

  4. BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE - Ethiopia is mentioned in the KJV Bible about 40 times. From its early mention in Genesis to the marriage of Moses to an Ethiopian woman, the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah, and later the relationship between Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba we find the Ethiopians playing a significant role in Biblical history. In the Bible you will find Ethiopia referred to as Cush or Kush as well as Abysinnia. (Here is an old Ethiopian Bible made from goat skin)

  5. CHRISTIANITY ARRIVES - In Acts 8:27 the Ethiopian eunuch meets Phillip and is converted to Christianity. "Then the angel of the Lord said to Philip, Start out and go south to the road that leads down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he set out and was on his way when he caught sight of an Ethiopian. This man was a high official of the Kandake (Candace) Queen of Ethiopia in charge of all her treasure." Philip helped the Ethiopian understand a passage of Isaiah. After Phillip's explanation the Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus as the "Son of God".

  6. ARCHETECHURAL TREASURES - Ethiopia holds 3000 years of historical mysteries. Visitors can experience living historical facts and monuments including the steles of Axum, the temple of Yena, Palace of Queen of Sheba, and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. It is said that Lalibela was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem. More pictures of the rock churches.

  7. THE GOSPEL IN ART - Christian Ethiopian paints flourished for hundreds of years, in the churches and monasteries of highland Abyssinia. The artwork provides a shows Christianity through the Ethiopian lens. If we were made in His image then it only makes sense that we would reflect ourselves in works of art. The traditional Ethiopian art tells not only their history and stories of Christianity but it also illuminates the gospel of their souls.

    A Link to Modern Ethiopian Art


  8. RELEGIOUS CELEBRATION - Each November Ethiopia celebrates the Festival of Maryam Zion. Orthodox Christians, pilgrim to Axum to celebrate. The Ethiopian Orthodox church open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. It's hard to believe that these pictures are from modern times.


  9. In January they celebrate Timkat the Epiphany to commemorate the baptism of Christ. The night before the celebration begins, priests take the Tabot (symbolizing the Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church.


  10. A PLACE CALLED HOME - This special place with all of its religious and historical significance is simply the place that my children call home. Somehow I feel that arriving in Ethiopia will be a sort of homecoming for me to. As many Jews claim Israel I now claim Ethiopia as my spiritual homeland.

Finding Ethiopia has added life and meaning to the gospel. Looking into the eyes of the Ethiopian children I see the hope that they have for things they've never seen or can't even imagine. To wake up everyday with nothing but a hope and faith that endures is powerful.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's In a Name? - Part 3 of 3

What's in a name? That was the original question right? To answer I decided to go to the source; to the beginning, to the Word. In the Bible that are so many stories about the significance of a name. None, however more important than the First Son of the Bible. God told the Virgin Mary that she would bear a son and that she would call him Jesus.

In searching the Bible, the word "name" appears 1,017 times. The second time that the word, "name" is found in the Bible it's mentioned in the same verse as the river Gihon found in the land of my children's birth -- a place called Ethiopia. I like that connection.

And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

God introduces us to Adam, the first natural father in the Bible. Adam's first responsibility was to give names to those things that God had created.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. Genesis 2:19

God entrusted Adam with the responsibility and accepted the names that Adam chose. Adam next chose a name for his wife and she became the first mother in the Bible.

And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20

The union of Adam and Eve produced the first generation of sons Seth, Cain, and Abel (as well as other sons and daughters). Nineteen generations later we find the names Sarai and Abram the son and daughter of Terah. Abram married Sarai and with this introduction we learn that Sarai could not bear children she was the first infertile woman. So, she decided that Abram should impregnate Hagar who was her handmaiden, making Hagar the first surrogate mother on record.

And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. Genesis 16:11

Ishmael becomes the first adopted son; born of Abram and raised by Sarai. If you follow the story, God had been disappointed in much of what had transpired with this couple. Still, in the 17th chapter of Genesis we find God stepping in to redeem them. With that redemption came the first name change. Name changes were later found in the Bible to represent a change in character, relationship or covenant with God, a new position, or introduction to a new life and new purpose.

When Abram was 90 years old, God changed his name to Abraham. The name change represented a new covenant and a new role as the father of many nations.

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. Genesis 17: 5

What stands out to me in that passage is that God redefines Abram's purpose and declares him to be the father of many nations before it happens. But God wasn't finished. God then changed Sarai's name and with that change, he changed her condition and her role. From barren and infertile he made her the mother of kings.

And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Genesis 17:15-16

As always, God kept his word and Sarah indeed gave birth to a son. Could this be that first instance of unexplained or unexpected pregnancy that follows years of infertility and the decision or actual adoption? The first son born to Sarah was named Issac.

And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. - Genesis 17:19

I could stop right here because I think that I have found the answer. After learning about the first naming ceremony of Adam, meeting the first mother and father, the first infertile couple, the first surrogate, the first adoption, and the first name change, the story gets even more interesting so I hope you will stick with me as I keep going.

What's In A Name? Part 2 of 3

I love how God works. Once I fully committed to the adoption I learned that that there were three or four families that I knew but never knew that their children were adopted. Recently I was with one of those teens who has been with his adopted family since the age of 2 or 3 and is now 16. I over heard a couple of the teenagers discussing names. Someone asked this young man his middle name and he immediately responded, "My real one or the one that they gave me." He told us his real first middle and last names (given by his birth mother) and then he stopped. As far as he was concerned he had answered the question. Only after being asked a couple of times did he tell us his first middle and last adopted names. The first name was the same but the middle and last names had been replaced. Someone commented that he at least had the same first name. He responded, "I really don't know that, do I? I only know what I'm told."

As the conversation continued he said that he was definitely going to change his name back to his real name as soon as he was 18. He gave several reasons, the most straight forward was because it was his to reclaim. He talked about needing to continue the real family name that had ended with him and of needing it to prove his connection should he ever find other birth relatives. He felt that the decision didn't really require explanation nor should he have to ask for permission to take back a name that he had never consented to give it up. Why he was placed for adoption was irrelevant. He still felt or needed the connection to that name and that family of his birth. It made perfect sense to me.

I was really touched by how honest he was and for the first time I wasn't so sure that I would change the children's names. I told him that I was in the process to adopt. I also told him that I thought of changing the children's names. I asked him if it thought that I should change them. He was direct and to the point, "no." I explained that some of the names are long and may be difficult for others to pronounce. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, "So what it's theirs."

I told him that I respected his opinion and his willingness to be so open and honest about his feelings. Still it left me wondering what story my children would tell at 16. Would they understand my reasons or would they think that no reason was justification enough. I'm still not sure what I will do; however he has put a lot on my mind. I don't think that I will make a final decision until I see them. It will be the first important decision that I make as their mother and the most personal one that marks their new life with me.

How will they see it? Will their name mark their future, the beginning of a changed life or will my decision to change their names disconnect them from a past that they need to treasure? I pray that God show me the way.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What's In A Name? Part 1 of 3

Read:
What's In a Name Part 2
What's In a Name Part 3

Other adoptive parents will understand as I am sure that none of them went through the process without considering whether to accept or change the name of their adopted child. I know that I have thought a lot about it and was sure that I knew I would change the first names of my children to names that had special meaning to me. Today I'm not so sure.

What's in a name? Is it just the melody or rhythm of the name? Is it the pride we share when say it out loud to friends? Is it the feeling we get when we call the name and feel it rolls from our tongues? Is it the surety we feel that when we call them they will answer to the name that they are called? All of the hope and desires that we have for our children are somehow tied to the name. The name represents who we believe them to be, how we want them identified, and how thoughts of the name will serve our children as they grow older.

My name is Valarie. That is Valarie spelled and pronounced with a "vala" and not a "valer". All my life I've had my name spelled wrong or corrected for me when I spell it right. I've constantly been asked "why it is spelled that way?" Nobody ever ask me what it means. I know that I was named Valarie after they threw away the name Gem as a female form of my father's name James. I know that they decided against Vickie Lynn that was a form of my Aunt Johnny Victoria's name. I never heard how they decided on Valarie except for that it was my father who decided. I've never known whether he spelled it wrong or intentionally spelled it differently to be unique. I've never known if he ever knew that there was another way to spell it. What I do know is that I like it the way that it is! I hate when people spell it wrong and I really don't like when people shorten it to call me Val. I don't really identify with that name.

Valarie; however means strong, that fits me. My middle name, "Annette" means grace, favor and mercy. Did my parents know that about me or hope that for me? God's grace and mercy has now allowed or rather provided me the opportunity and responsibility to decide how I name of my children. What will I do?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Homestudy Complete but NOT Approved

Everyday I learn that terminology means everything. Yesterday I was so excited at crossing the approved homestudy hurdle. Today I found out that having a favorable approval of the homestudy does not an approval make. In Illinois my HS now has to be sent to DCFS for state APPROVAL. I hear that it will take them 3-4 weeks and that I should expect they will want some things changed, corrected, or revised. Next it goes to my HS agency's headquarters in Maryland for approval (let's call this sign-off) before it is sent to my placement agency. Approved? Nope. I hear that then it will have to be rewritten to comport with the placement agency's guidelines; changed, corrected, and revised. So, who knows maybe by Christmas it will be APPROVED!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Homestudy Complete and Approve

Yesterday my homestudy was completed and approved. I got a chance to read over and verify all the information. Now it has to go to the placement agency for review and in Illinois it also has to go to the State DCFS for approval. It feels good to be done with that. The two things that have caused the biggest trouble have been the insurance affidavit and the CPA letter -- challenges of being self-employed.

The Insurance Affidavit - I'm self-employed with independent individual coverage that is not expandable to anyone else. On my search for another policy, I learned that no one is interested in making it easy for you. The second question they ask is, "are you adopting?" If you answer yes, you are immediately disqualified from application. I was told by my placement agency that it is illegal to ask the question but they ask and it is also at the top of the insurance forms that you fill out. The good thing is that I found this online insurance finder that helped me compare different plans online. Health Benefits Direct

The CPA Letter - It seems that if you are self-employed and can show consistent income through payment advices from clients, signed binding contracts that include the amount and payment terms; corresponding bank deposits into a business account, a business license, and tax transcripts directly from the IRS, that is not enough to prove that you are self-employed or have an income. They require a CPA letter to attest to the fact that you are now, have been, and will continue to earn self-employed income. CPA's may have mighty pens but they don't have crystal balls. The problem is that professional accounting organizations strongly advise CPA's from writing any letters of attestation and they don't want to write them. Suggestions? Any CPA's with a strong calling to support the cause, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Famous, Ethiopian, & Adopted


Marcus Samuellson is a famous Chef and was featured in an article at Tadias Online Magazine. I was familiar with him, but did not know until reading this article that he was not only Ethiopian but adopted and raised in Sweden.

In several conversations I've said that I don't believe my (adopted Ethiopian) children will be either Ethiopian or American but find themselves somewhere in between. They will always be Ethiopian by birth but their socialization will come from being raised in the US. As they grow older they will have to decide how they want to be identified. Finding ourselves is not unique to children of adoption nor to children who grow up in different places.

Samuellson describes it this way...

“The difference between an immigrant and an adopted kid, is that when you are an immigrant you are more clear on your identity; you are Ethiopian. When you are adopted you are stripped a little bit of one identity, and when you grow up you sort of go back to that identity.” “

He compares his upper middle class Swedish upbringing with that of his childhood friend Mesfin’s, who lived in close proximity to Stockholm’s ‘Little Ethiopia’ neighborhood. “What my friend Mesfin had was a community that I wasn’t familiar with. He was exposed to Ethiopian music, language, identity and customs.” Read the whole article on Tadias Magazine Online




Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Idea of Adoption

It's funny how ideas come into your consciousness. We may remember the moment that the idea arrived but are often unaware of what brought it to the surface. I can remember first thinking about adoption between the ages of 13-14. Like most little girls I dreamed about my wedding in full detail and color and also about the family that I would have. I wanted SIX children! I was sure it would be two boys and two girls, probably a set of twins and two of the children would be adopted. From a young age, I connected with the sadness that I saw in the eyes of some children and had a deep understanding of their need to be loved unconditionally.

Well, many years past eighth grade I am single, 41, and have no children. While the time has past for me to work on my four naturally born children, I have decided to adopt two.

That's right; I've decided to jump head first into parenthood and am on the road to finding my two special gifts that God has placed in this world. Today without even knowing her, I bless their mother for nurturing them in her womb. I bless her for giving them life so that I might have the opportunity to love them for a lifetime.

10 Questions About My Adoption

Since I've started down this path everyone has been so supportive. There are questions that keep coming up so I thought I try to answer the top 10 questions here. If you have other questions, let me know.

  1. Do you know the kids?

    No. I am doing private adoption and the process is a blind process for the most part. You have to meet the state and agency requirements, complete a great deal of paperwork, receive final agency approval and then you are given a referral. A referral is basically the identification and presentation of the children on paper. I will receive pictures, their names, their ages, their medical, family, and social history. By the time that I receive the referral the kids are only weeks from coming home.

  2. Do you want boys or girls?

    As I mentioned above the process is blind until just before the adoption is finalized. While some agencies allow you to specify I chose an agency that wants both boys and girls to have an equal chance of being adopted and does not support you choosing by sex. I would love to have a boy and a girl but I'm trying to look at it like a natural birth; you get the child(ren) that is meant for you.

  3. How old will the children be?

    My target ages for the two children are over 2 and under 6.

  4. Where are the kids coming from?

    My children are coming to me by way of Ethiopia. I am working with an agency called Wide Horizons for Children that have an orphanage called Horizon House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The children will live at Horizon House before coming to the states. (see pictures)

  5. Do you have to travel to pick them up?

    Unlike other inter-country programs you do not have to travel and their is no residency requirement. I will be making two trips to Ethiopia. The first trip will be immediately after referral so that I can go and see them. I will return 8-12 weeks later to bring them home.

    I can't wait to go! Anybody else want to come?

  6. Will the kids be U.S. citizens?

    Yes. The kids will come into the country as U.S. citizens. That is why I'm making two trips. Illinois is the only state that has a requirement that if you will not see the children before the adoption is final, you have to first become licensed as a foster care provider. I could not psychologically or emotionally wrap my mind around the thought of working this hard to get them here and then bringing them into my home as foster placements.

    So, I've decided to go to country twice. By going to Ethiopia before the adoption is final, my children will get IR3-Visas without that extra step, the children inter the country on IR4-Visas. With an IR4 Visa must states (Illinois) require you to readopt the children in your home state.

    An IR-3 in most cases makes re-adoption unnecessary, although it varies by state. With an IR-3 Visa, children are immediately U.S. citizens, automatically get a Certificate of Citizenship and they also can get a regular SS number, instead of an alien number.

  7. Why Ethiopia?

    The most direct answer is that somehow I was called to that place. I will write more on this in a separate post.

    I began the process looking at domestic adoption. Many evening I would go through pictures of waiting children from across the entire United States, currently in the DCFS system. I learned several things: 1) There a very few children in my target age group 2-5 that are not are not part of a large sibling group or do not have medical issues. 2) Of those few, DCFS has very specific guidelines on the type of home that the children should be in and many specify two parents, a need to live close to other siblings or relatives, and a willingness to keep those contacts alive. 3) The children are placed as foster care children (I would have to become a foster care provider) and many of them have not had their parental right terminated. So, you could have them only to watch them later returned to their parents. 4) The process could take up to 24 months to become final and there is no guarantee that you actually end up with the children.

  8. How long does the process take?

    The process varies based upon the age of children that you want and the agency that you choose. I look at the process in four distinct parts (there is some overlap). I am in my second month of the process. I am hoping that all of my paperwork will be complete by the end of November. I hope to have immigration approval by December 2007, a referral by May or June, and the kids home by August 2008. That would be 11 months total.

    To learn specifics about the process see:
    Adoption-How Long Is Too Long?


  9. Are the children healthy?

    You have an option to request healthy or a child with special needs. I have requested a healthy child. Any parent knows that even with an identified healthy child their may be some things that come up down the line. It is recommended that you take the medical records that you receive with the referral to an international doctor for review. I have identified an International Pediatric Clinic associated with the University of Chicago. They will review the records and then examine and assess the children once they make it to Chicago.

  10. Is it expensive?

    Yes. That is the short answer to a question that is relative based upon the size of your bank account or heart. It depends on your agency, the children, and the travel. The cost range somewhere between $18,000 - $25,000++. That of course does not include the costs of starting from scratch with two little ones that will come only with the clothes on their back.

    I am setting up a couple of online fundraisers to help defray some of the costs. I am also considering setting up a wish list for things that I think we might need in those first few months.

From Here to Ethiopia

It is a long way from here to Ethiopia, 7,500 miles give or take. So, how I found my way to this country was more by leading than searching. In another post I mentioned that I would spend many evenings looking through the many websites of waiting children here in the US. I would get so sad looking at the pictures thinking about what circumstances might have brought them to that place. I would scour the pages looking for some hint of familiarity in them, just one child that jumped from the page into my heart. I've watched and read a lot about adoption stories and have heard the adoptive parents describe the moment of knowing that they were looking at their child.

One late night, a little less than a year ago, I'd look at the same page of waiting children again I noticed a button for international adoption. There was a link for Ethiopia and from the moment that I hit that button my entire life opened up. I knew what my path would be. I knew that my child (I hadn't worked my way up to two just yet) was there. But how do you get from here to Ethiopia? I had no clue, I just knew that something in me drew me closer and closer until the miles seemed insignificant until thinking of Ethiopia as a far off country on a different continent was irrelevant. I wasn't sure how to get there; I just knew that I needed to go.

I knew that something was waiting for me there in Ethiopia, something greater than the birthplace of the children that I'd someday call my own. I read the stories of humanitarian efforts. I read about the how the US agencies had set up orphanages, of their commitment and care for the children. After reading about the 6 million children alone without parents, the war, the famine, and the poor life expectancy of innocent children, I looked at the pictures.

I looked at their faces and I looked into their eyes and I saw myself looking back at me. Even in their circumstance their eyes were bright and full of hope. There was an instant familiarity. There was a connection that was strong. There was a desire that was born that will not rest until I am able to truly find my way there.

Matthew 6:22 - The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Adoption-How Long Is Too Long?

It takes nine months to carry a baby to term and it can take that much time or longer to complete the adoption process. Depending on your agency and how long it takes for you to prepare paperwork the process could take 5-18 months.

I look at the process as four distinct phases. A lot of the documentation that is needed for each phase is the same and the phases can overlap. I'm actually adding a fifth step to the front of the process -- selecting an agency.


AGENCY SELECTION:
Once you have decided to adopt you quickly learn that their are a list of agencies approved or licensed in Ethiopia. A few short months ago when I started I believe that there were only 8 agencies and now that list has grown to about 15. With that many agencies it may take you awhile to sort through them and find out what you want.

AGENCY SELECTION PART 1 - PLACEMENT: You need to select a placement agency. Identify the agencies and select the agency that fits your needs. You will find that no only are the prices different but the have different rules, and requirements as well. This could take you 1-2 months of careful analysis. Is the agency in your home state? If not make sure that you get a list of approved agencies that the placement agency will work with.

AGENCY SELECTION PART 2 - HOMESTUDY: If you choose an agency that is not in your home state you will also have to select a homestudy agency that is licensed in your state. The homestudy agency has to meet the placement agencies requirements. This could take another 4-6 weeks. I think that a good strategy is to look at placement and homestudy agencies at the same time.

STATE HOMESTUDY AGENCY:
There is a process that is conducted by your home state called the homestudy. The process requires you to go through a screening, home visitation by a social worker, and the collection of documents and a written approved report.
This can take about 1-3 months.

PLACEMENT AGENCY: The placement agency is actually the Ethiopia contact agency, the identify the children, initiate the adoption, and make the placement. This takes approximately 2-4 months of gathering paper work that has to be completed and approved and waiting for the approved homestudy report.

US IMMIGRATION: After you have documented everything that you think is possible about your life you get to collect more documentation and submit it to the US Department of Immigration. You need to have an I600 (Orphan Petition) approved by immigration before you are considered paper ready and are eligible to receive a referral or bring a child into the country. This process can take 3-4 months.

ETHIOPIA ADOPTION & TRAVEL: All paperwork goes to Ethiopia and they begin the adoption process in the Ethiopian courts. There is a representative in Ethiopia handling that process on your behalf. Once the adoption is final you receive a US Embassy court date. Once you have the date, you plan your travel to be at the Embassy on that date. At the embassy you take more documents, get final approval to bring the children into the country, you complete their paperwork, and then fly back home. You may wait 2-3 months after referral to be notified about the court date. The court date may be 2 -12 weeks away. You make your travel plans go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, pick up the children, and return home.

Meet The Children of Ethiopia

Pictures from Ethiopia

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are thousands of pictures from a variety of sites.

Wide Horizon for Children, Inc. - www.whfc.org

All God's Children Adoption Agency.
  • Watch this compelling video Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the video.

Hundreds of pictures from Sprague Photo - www.spraguephoto.com
ASMAT - Photo slideshow of the Timkat procession, the outside of the churches, and local life.

Ethiopia Lives
is a program that has given digital cameras to young people in Ethiopia to document their lives. - www.ethiopialives.com
  • Celebrations: Festivals, naming ceremonies, and weddings.
  • Foods: Cooking of injera, fruit, a typical plate.
  • Work Life: See how people make their living.
  • Family: This picture notes how rare it is to see elderly relatives.

Photos by Martin are amazing pictures of one man's travel through Ethiopia.
These photos are from the travel library of Galen Frysinger. Check out his Ethiopia Page. You'll find more pictures from from:


More than 6,000 Pictures from Flickr show the range of diversity and ethnic groups that can be found throughout Ethiopia.

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]