Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lifebooks and other Inspirations...

by Liz

While I sit on the couch, house quiet as baby Ru sleeps, I'm working on Ru's Lifebook. A challenge that has teased and nagged and eluded me as I work on finding my wings as a first time parent.

Now its time to try on my wings as an Adoptive parent. I've filled out paperwork, gone to classes, read blogs, listened to professionals but now is the litmus test... I must make a book that answers, interprets, predicts and soothes. That fills in the question marks that can never really be filled in... see why I lag?

I've found my guru in Beth O'Malley's guide "Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child." I recommend its step by step outline. But filling in the missing photos, links, stats, whys and what-ifs... well, I'm on my own.

I will post a series of links I've found useful for other adoptive parents in this project... hopefully I'll save someone a few late night minutes!

Life Books:

Adoption & Ethiopia Background Info:

Maps & Photos:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creating Traditions & an Ethiopian Nativity Scene

(by Liz) I bought an Ethiopian nativity set while at the Toukoul orphanage. It was the last one in the gift store.

Made of crude earth colored ceramic, the simple scene was sweet and rustic.  I gave it to our parents that Christmas we returned. It was a lovely gift.
Ethiopian Clay Nativity set like mine. From seller Addisview on Ebay

Then, as we started to try and counter Santa's team of marketers with the real story of Christmas, I decided I needed a nativity set of our own for our little girl to enjoy. Although the Grandparents offered theirs back, I didn't think ceramic was going to last long with a toddler; so I thanked them "amesegenalu," and searched the web. And searched and searched.

"Pendant Icon [Ethiopia; Amharic] (1997.81.1)"Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ethiopian nativity sets are sure to be found on Ebay right? Isn't everything on Ebay? No luck at the time... now I've been updated that a seller named Addislive carries them (see above). I searched African shops, the international festival in Dayton, the culture camps (I even asked the visiting Ethiopian guests if they knew where to look). I was a woman on a mission. I emailed people I barely knew traveling to Ethiopia to keep an eye out for me. No one could seem to turn one up. Thanksgiving was approaching.

If you did a little search back there, you'll see that there are plenty of beautiful carved wood sets on Ebay from Africa... BUT I couldn't just buy an "African" one. . I was specific. It had to be, in some way, Ethiopian.  As if there aren't enough competing distractions for the holiday season, I decided that my best chance was to make my own set.

Of what? Why, closepins, ribbons and paint... in an Ethiopian style.

Ethiopian Closepin Doll by Barkhaus Design
So, I got to work; I researched Ethiopian ecclesiastical  art, I fretted in the trimming aisles of Hobby Lobby and Jo-Anns, I compared spray browns (Krylon Gloss "Equestrian") and figured out ways to spray without turning myself "Equestrian," I pinned, repinned and glued. I whiled away two 16 hour legs of a road trip, countless late night hours and stolen minutes too many to log... and then I had the start of the set. Enough to set the stage for our three year old for the first Christmas where the traditions will start to be recognized.

Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three kings tilt their classic Ethiopian oval eyes and strong noses toward an angel in an Ethiopian kehmees. Crude, a bit comical, some inconsistencies in style...I can rip it apart... but the set was a hit.

By Barkhaus Design
Each day her advent calendar contained a slip of paper with something kind, giving or just nice that she could accomplish that day. Each night she put that paper into the baby Jesus' cradle to make it "soft" for him.  We hid the baby Jesus on the tree for her to find and place in the cradle on Christmas morning before we ate the "Birthday Cake."

Its not perfect, but I'm pleased, a little light-headed perhaps from the Krylon fumes, but we did start to make some memories with our little craft project.

Usually just one Wise Man is Ethiopian...

Happy Ganna!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Future Penpals at SOS Children's Villages!

(by Liz) For Ru's "Homecoming Day" we wanted to honor her birth country and find a way to give back; one that she could be involved with as she grows up. We were thrilled to find out that the SOS Children's villages program works in Ethiopia.  This group, which started in 1942 to address the orphan crisis in Europe after WWII & has been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize 14 times, describes their mission this way:

SOS Children's Villages - USA

"We build families for children in need.
We help them shape their own futures.
We share in the development of their communities."

In Ethiopia they have villages in Addis, Awassa, Dire Dawa, Harrar, Bahir Dar & Gode. Here is a link to a page describing more specifically SOS' work in Ethiopia. > SOS in Ethiopia

What is really rewarding about their program is that you can sponsor an individual child in Ethiopia who will grow up in the care of their Village program. You can write, receive photos and letters and, if you're able to travel to Ethiopia, you can even arrange to meet them. What's more amazing is that when you sign up to sponsor a child, you can ask for a certain age or gender too; our little Habesha penpal is exactly 2 months younger than Ru - to the day! 

I hope that their friendship as they grow will help span the distance from Ru's home culture and shared orphan background. Already Ru talks about "her friend" and brings the photo to show her friends at daycare.

So, if you're looking for a way to stay engaged in Ethiopia and give your children a real live connection to their culture and background, look into sponsoring a child through SOS! Add your request for Ethiopia/gender & age to the "special requests" field in the "Additional Information" part of the form.

Want to Sponsor a Child in Ethiopia? Here's the link:
Sponsor a Child | SOS Children's Villages

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inspiration Gondar

View the rest of the line at Zazzle
(By Liz) I've been meaning to designed a line of stationary inspired by the very stylized aesthetic of the religious mural paintings of Debre Birhan Selassie in Gondar. Finally, I've gotten it off the "to-do" list and into the "done" one!

>>See the new line here on Zazzle.

We were told at the National Museum of Ethiopa in Addis Ababa that the Ethiopian style emerged out of religious illuminated manuscripts that were influenced by early Italian clergy. Can you see it?
Also, we were told that if the characters depicted have two eyes they are good, while if they're shown in profile with just one eye, they're evil. Bet you'll be looking twice now too!

While researching photos I came across this blog for an adventurous couple the Goodboons who've caravanned across East Africa in a Scarlet Toyota...


Ethiopian Incense - Frankincense and/or Myrrh?

by Liz

The smells were such a profound part of our experience in Ethiopia; the burning eucalyptus, the burning trash piles, the burning incense, the roasting coffee, the berbere. I brought back some incense and some berbere. It was a good start but I wish I'd thought it through a bit more. 

For one, I had nothing to burn this resin incense in. I also had no charcoal. Now, I'm trying to put it all together with an exhaustive internet search taking up my precious few hours of baby nap time. The goal - to make a presentation on Ethiopia to a local group here in town. I have music, I have berbere, I have art and crafts and books... the incense is a bit harder task.

From what I've found (and I may be wrong)... Frankincense is the primary incense used. Here is what one source said:

click herefor Ethiopian Frankincense @ the Hermitage

  • Frankincense is a sap or a gum of a tree and plays a big part in Ethiopian life. It is burned to clean the spirit in one’s house and to have tranquility and calmness. It is often used during meditation and prayer. 
  • Frankincense can also be used as a breath freshener. Chewing Frankincense cleans one’s teeth and gums.
  • It is said that Frankincense was offered to Jesus Christ when he was born since the stable in which he was born was unclean. 
  • Ethiopian’s also use Frankincense during cold and flu season. It is often burned to relieve cold and flu symptoms such as runny noises.

It requires charcoal and some sort of charcoal resistant burner. I remember having the opportunity to buy ceramic ones in Addis. Stupidly I did not. Its not an easy task finding either an attractive one or an Ethiopian one now that I'm back in the States. Add that to my wishlist with the Ethiopian Nativity set. I guess I'll just have to go back!

There are lots of places to buy incense; many of them cater to stoners and witches... I was looking for something a bit more authentic... so it came down between the Absynian Market which didn't look like it had been updated recently and the Greek Orthodox Holycross Hermitage of West Virginia. The father responded very promptly to my web inquiry so... the monks win.

Its so authentic it makes me feel just a little... unorthdox! Well, wouldn't be the first time!

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Of Black Babes & Barbies

by Liz
I've always been a fan of Barbies. That shade of vibrant pink still hits an instinctual pang of joy. Why did I love them? I now know it was the early yearnings of my inner interior designer. I didn't like baby dolls much and I didn't do what I now know is called "role playing" but I did build Barbie houses. Houses, and apartments, mansions, garages, tree forts, cabins, swimming pools, islands, boats - you name it - anything that I could imagine decorating or dressing.

Looking at Barbie now with her impossible figure lending credence to a life of Barbie botox & boob jobs, I'm caught between a mother's protective instincts and a deep sentimentality for my own Barbie time. Was she a good influence in my formative years or bad?  With one Better Homes and Gardens feature under my belt (see the May 2010 issue - last page!) and a career in graphic design, I'd have to say she was an early inspiration.

So, I've decided to bestow one upon my little girl and carry on the pink banner to another generation.

Next wrinkle; my daughter is black. And I'd like her Barbie to reflect her color, beauty and natural hair. So I set out upon a quest that has rankled millions of moms before me as I discover just how hard it is to find diversity in our culture; Barbie is no exception. Although each store has one or two pink boxes labeled "African-American Barbie," a quick glance shows most of them to be the same old Barbie in a different dye lot; long straight hair and all.

I've found two good exceptions, and the search wasn't easy. I wonder if Chris Rock has the energy to set upon the Barbie industry next?

Barbie Basics #004 (above to the left, found on Amazon.com) is a long-legged gal ready for the catwalk with a tight short 'fro. And the Barbie South Africa (to the right, found on Amazon.com) is truly regal with bronze lips no less!.

If only they had bigger hair!

Anyone else out there had better luck? Please let me know!

By the way... I bought the South African one. She loves it and named her "Tia." The "Pink Afflication" has begun in House of Robertson.

Below are some links to the Barbies mentioned above and new ones too as I come upon them. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wonderful wonder & Easter Outfits

by Liz

These are the things that make memories...

...hunting Easter eggs with the "quasi-cousins,"
...rolling down the hill and getting grass stains on the new yellow leggings,
...getting balloons in church
...ice cream sundaes at the kids table
...chocolate eggs
...coins in the basket
...bubble wands
...trying out the scooter with "aunt Bethany,"
... jelly beans.

As she'd say; "want more."

And the dress, delightful... Mama wants more (hint: Target Genuine Kids clothes can help!)