Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dear Dad,

***Let me begin this post by stating that when I first started this blog, my intention was for it to be used by family and friends to track our progress through our long journey of international adoption. But to be honest, it has turned into more than that for me. It has provided me with an outlet to speak my mind about God, poverty, adoption, planning for new parenthood, new cultural experiences,and today, my grief. This post is intended for my dad. However, I feel compelled to share my feelings on the blog because one day, I want my son to read through these blog posts (hopefully in book format) and understand more about not only the journey in  bringing him home, but also our thoughts, feelings, concerns, fears, and grief’s through the process as well.***

Happy Birthday Gar Bear!

Well dad, today is your birthday, I can’t believe you would have been 61! Oddly enough, I still remember your 38th birthday party at the cabin down in southern Ohio (I know weird birthday to remember, but I do recall reading your cake upside down and thinking you looked pretty good for being 83! I was only six or so at the time). A lot has gone on since we last spoke. Jay and I, as I’m sure you are aware, bought a house and are currently in the process of starting to fill it with kiddos. We did not go with our initial plan to have a biological
child first and adopt second. God called us, as He often does, to do things His way instead of our own. But we are beyond excited! Ya know, to be honest, we have been thinking a lot lately about you and Jay’s sister Becca. As our excitement grows for our new baby, we cant help but think about the amazing people in our heavenly family that he will meet long before he ever meets us, and the ones that are (hopefully) preparing him for the mess he just may find his new parents to be (at least at first anyway). Don’t get me wrong we are doing our research, but every time we have a friend’s child over, they show us how ill prepared our house is for a mobile baby. We still don’t know what an “ergo” is or a “diaper genie” but we still have time and our biggest goal is just getting him home all the way from Africa!  We may not know what the heck we are doing at first, but we plan to love our kiddo with the same love that both of you have shown us over the years. 

I’m not going to lie dad, there are still really tough days for me since your passing. I swear every time I hear the song “Over You” but Miranda Lambert, I burst into the loudest rendition my lungs can bellow, sob like a baby, and all while trying to maintain a moving vehicle ( I hear it mostly when driving).  I just really wish you were around to see what your little girl has turned into. I graduated with my masters last year, we are homeowners and fix things that break (by calling in someone to do the fixing that is), and I’m going to be a mommy in  about 18months (hopefully). But it's not just the big events in life that I miss you most, in fact its mostly just the small everyday ones. For instance, I really wish i could send you a picture message of a handmade wooden jewelry organizer I recently made, and then proceed to call you afterwards to walk you through how to actually open a picture message. After much frustration, and perhaps some choice words, I know you would be proud and show everyone you ran into the next week or two whether they wanted to see it or not.  But the future is what I've really been thinking about most today.  I wish our son could have met you here so I could see how he would light up like every baby you ever met lit up. I wish I could have watched you teach him how to fish and hunt and how to make stuff out of wood. Side note:  I think you would be pleasantly surprised with your son-in-law. We have made a point to do all the things you wanted to teach him. He recently shot a gun for the first time (he is an excellent marksman), and I even took him fishing (and actually made him touch the fish himself). He is going to be a wonderful father. He is so loving, caring, and selfless, a lot like how you were to me. Don’t worry dad, you were absolutely right when you told me on my wedding day that Jay would take excellent care of me…he does daily. But Dad, I wish, more than anything, that you could just be a part of our son’s life. I remember when I was 16 and you told me that when I had children you were going to duck tape them to the wall so they wouldn’t get into your stuff like I always did. I didn’t mention that to the social worker, didn’t think she would find it as entertaining as me and mom did.
But, with all that said, I think Jay and I are going to be alright. We know that both you and Becca are close to us all the time (please tell me that’s one of you guys who messes with lights when Jay is out of town) and we know you both are having a lot to do with our adoption
journey. I will smile the day when I see our kiddo look up and smile at seemingly nothing and know that its probably just you making some goofy face at him like the ones you always made.
Do me a couple of favors would ya pops, 1.) Please stop messing with lights..i get kinda scared sometimes when im home alone. 2.) Tell all the grandparents, Aunt Sheryl, Mike, OZ, and Carol I said hello. 3.) Please continue to bless and watch over our adoption. 4.) Tell Becca I am very excited to meet her one day. I feel like (and have been told) we would have (and eventually will) get along great. Her family is amazing and they continue to be touched daily by the impressive woman she was. 5.) Continue to watch over mom, and work on getting her to move to Columbus near us, would ya…maybe try the light trick on her or

I love you dad, and miss you everyday since June 14th, 2011.  I look forward to the day we meet again, and expect your face to be one of the first I see when I get called home. 

Love Always,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Grand Opening

I know everyone is probably getting sick of hearing about politics and such, but we were glad to hear word  last night that our "other " country's government (Ethiopia of course) and courts have officially re-opened for the year! It is wonderful news for adoptive parents that have been waiting for word about travel dates and court appointments and its great for us lower on the totem pole families as it means (hopefully) that we will begin to see some bigger changes in our movement and monthly number.
As I have stated before, we are truly in for the long haul. Every month we receive projected wait times to even hear about our little guy. This month it said we are projected to wait (at the current pace) 22 months before we hear word or see his face through email. Most likely 6 months or more on top of that before he is home. I get asked a lot why such the wait if there are over 5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone. It is shocking and disheartening at times to think that children have to wait so long to be placed in loving homes that are ready and willing to meet all their needs. However, we have to remember that Ethiopia is not a Hague accredited country, which is a designation for international adoptions ensuring that they take place in the best interests of the child at all costs (for more information on the Hague convention and accreditation click HERE). Our adoption agency is Hague accredited and as such, ensures that every child that comes into an orphanage, we are partnered with, is truly an orphan. They perform interviews and have court appointments for relinquishment of parental or family rights if and when necessary. They basically make sure that the country is not making money off the “sale” of children and that the best interest of the child is seen above all things.
Unfortunately, a lot of countries are so corrupt they don’t see the starving children at their gates at all. We recently got an update on the country of Guatemala and their adoptive practices and truly it is sickening. I’d like to share that here because I think this country (Guatemala) needs a lot of prayer and because educating others on the orphan crisis all over the world is how change ensues. Here is the exact update we received:

A Humanitarian Crisis Takes A Dire Turn When Guatemalan Courts Rule Against Indigenous Children And The Repeated Wishes Of Their Biological Mothers.  U.S. Powerless To Stop The Violent Separation Of Child And The Only Family He Has Ever Known.
GUATEMALA (August 12, 2012) – It is the tipping point. Recent actions in Guatemala where government institutions have threatened and coerced birth mothers to change previous testimony and has forced the return of children to families of origin who are either uninterested or unable to care for them has pushed the 5 year humanitarian crisis to a tipping point.  Close to 200 remaining U.S. adoptive families have worked tirelessly over the past 5 years to complete these legal adoptions.  The children they accepted referral of and have bonded with have been kept in limbo due to political game playing.
These actions put the country’s most vulnerable children at additional risk of physical and psychological harm for no logical reason.  Anti-adoption political sentiments continue to block legal adoptions that would provide loving homes to hundreds of abandoned children.
Last week Guatemalan Minors Court Judges and Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN) personnel decided upon the fate of several children who have been in the process of being adopted by U.S. families since 2007. The courts of minors denied access to American families and their legal representation who are legal parties to the proceedings.  All of the children have been subject to repeated moves, institutionalized, and in some cases physically abuse.  While the children have endured serious human rights violations in Guatemala, the U.S. government has stood back and watched as the legal rights of U.S. Citizens [in process to adopt them] have been denied or violated.
The Sarkees family has been pursuing the legal adoption of “Child A” for 5 years.  They have been the only family this child has known since his adoption began at birth 5 years ago.  The child’s biological mother has testified 12 times in court and in extra-judicial interrogations steadfastly confirming her wish to place the child for adoption.  Nevertheless, she was coerced to change her position last month by a representative of a Guatemalan institution.  On Aug 30, after 5 years of active disinterest in the child, she agreed to take back custody of “Child A”, per a court resolution.  Guatemalan Court psychologists and child welfare representatives disagreed with the unconditional and unsupervised return of this child to the previously unwilling mother.  All were devastated by the court’s action.  The child was inconsolable. (Photo available per press contact CAPTION: 5 year old boy ripped from the only family he has ever known as his adoptive mother cries “We will never give up. We love you forever.”)
Another family has been in the process of adopting their now 13 year old daughter for over 5 years.  The girl, “Child B” was removed from the home of her abusive biological parents in 2006 via court order and resides in an orphanage.  “Child B” knows and loves her adopting family.  They visit and support her and have tirelessly fought to bring her home.  Suddenly last week she was ushered into a social work interview, which lasted five hours, and sitting in the room were her abusive biological parents.  She was shocked when asked if she wanted to live with them. She said “No” and that she has a loving family waiting for her.  The PGN social worker tried to make “Child B” go back with the biological parents despite a  court order stating that the child was removed from her biological family due to grave abuses.  The child has NEVER been visited by biological family in the 6 years she has been living at the orphanage.  “Child B” has legal documentation that she was abused and is abandoned, which legally severs biological family rights.  For the time being “Child B” was able to refuse the PGNs request that she go back to her abusive biological family at the interview.  She and her adoptive family are living in fear that at any time the PGN could force her to live with her abusers.
In the four plus years of political game playing, hundreds of children just like the two above remain in institutions and living outside parental care.  Each has a long history of heartbreak, but at the core all the U.S. families have given every effort and resource to preserve the bond and to never give up on their adoptive child. The adoptive families are proud of the country of their children’s origin and want the people of Guatemala to know and understand their commitment to these children.
U.S. families entered into a bilateral legal international adoption process in good faith, according to U.S. and Guatemalan law. In Guatemala, the Ortega Law (New Adoption Law) went into effect January 1, 2008.  The Guatemalan Congress passed the Ortega Law with Article 56, a “grandfather clause” which states that adoptions in process at the time the law changed are to complete under the law in effect when they began.
The Department of State has mandates to protect American citizens’ rights abroad and promote the rule of law in other countries.  DOS is supposed to protect Americans under the laws within the foreign country.  In the four plus years that adoptions have been in limbo in Guatemala, case after case involving American families have experienced gross violations of the local law against their legal grandfathered adoptions.  Families have worked tirelessly to request that the DOS and the U.S. Congress follow the mandate, and protect their rights abroad and protect the innocent children who will become U.S. citizens themselves upon completion of the adoption.
Both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments have expressed a commitment to ensuring that the pre-Hague transition adoption cases continue to process.  However, since the law changed in Guatemala on January 1st, 2008 there are still an estimated 200 children whose adoptions remain in limbo, most of these children live in institutions and all of these children have loving families waiting to bring them home.
Please see for further details and updates

I know that was a little long for a blog post, but please pray for these children and their families. This world is not as small, simple, and safe as we like to believe. God has not made all things right yet, but someday He will and those children will never again be scared or hungry at the hands of corrupt judges and politicians. 
One more thing, November 4th is  known as Orphan Sunday and it is coming! It serves as a call for Christians to reflect on God’s heart for the orphans (and trust me, He has placed on lot of emphasis in our scripture about how he feels about orphans!). I know I have asked my church to reflect on this day and in turn that they ask the congregation to do the same, and Jay and I  are asking that you do as well. For more information on how to help advocate for orphans through your church and/or for free resources click Here

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yard Sellin fools

Let me begin with an update on our adoption status...not a huge amount of movement this month, but we are officially number 109 for September, two places up from last month. The courts in Ethiopia remain closed, and its predicted that they will not re-open until mid October, so we are not anticipating any real movement for next month either, but will be pleasantly surprised if we are wrong!

Now for the update on our largest fundraiser, our 30+ family donated yard sale. It was HUGE! We were shocked with the amount of donations that flooded into the the gray house on Frazell in the past few weeks. Our garage truly became a hoarders dream.  I'm sure our neighbors were close to holding an intervention for our seemingly new collection obsession. We took the advise of many yard sale mentors and advertised every where, had unique eye appealing signs, offered Africa shaped cookies, and wore our "Hearts in Ethiopia" matching t-shirts, all in hopes of attracting a large crowd.
The morning began bright and early Saturday at 7:00 am. Jay and I woke up and started pulling items and tables out, and basically got bombarded from that moment on (we were supposed to officially start at 9am, those die hard yard sellers don't mess around, and DONT get in their way of a deal!). It was a llloonnnggg day to say the least, and right when my feet started to bark and I was ready to go lay down, I realized it was only 10:30 am and I still had another 6 hours ahead of me, not to mention the following day! Our amazing family and friends really supported the effort, whether it was moving items around, pricing, packing cars for customers, completing sales, or telling everyone that walked up the driveway about Ethiopia and our adoption process, they were an invaluable asset to our sales success.  We truly have some amazing people in our lives and we are truly grateful to ALL who helped, whether through thoughtful and selfless donations, time with preparation, prayers, or actual (free) labor, we want to express a gigantic THANK YOU to everyone involved. With your help we were able to raise over
$900, with all proceeds helping to bring our little man home, and we still aren't done with the donation quite yet! We did have some left over "larger" items that we are currently selling on craigs and getting more than our garage sale asking price!  Here are a few moments we captured in between our sale efforts.

Uncle John taking a moment to try on some of the fashionable items for sale. I don't believe he bought any of these items, but the girls in the background really enjoyed the show non the less.

Jay and I sporting our fashionable Ethiopia attire.

Here is Nicole (a dear friend and co-worker) and both soon to be grandma's taking a much needed break.
Overall, it was great experience. I do want to share a pretty cool "God" moment that occurred at the very end of our garage sale. Before the start, I took time to not only pray for good weather and plenty of traffic, but I also took time in the midst of a packed garage to pray for all the amazing families who once had the items, and for the new families they would be going to ( I know it sounds kinda corny but I felt compelled to "bless" the donations as their revenue was truly blessing us). I prayed that the items would go to those who needed them. At the very end of the sale, as the nervous breakdown started to kick in from looking at the remaining multitude of items and wondering where on earth we were going to put them and who the heck would come pick it all up,  a couple of young girls rode up on bikes.  Their entire family had just moved from the Philippines and they didn't have much. They also spoke little English, but they shared their story and what they needed was just what we had needed at the start of our sale, a little help. We donated most of the left over items to this family and they were almost brought to tears with thank fullness. I really do hope that the items go as a blessing to that family and I am glad that God heard all of our prayers that day and answered them all! Thank you again to everyone who made this such a success. Jay and I are one step closer, well actually two according to the numbers and over 16,200 if your counting the Birrs (see below in my Ethiopian educational piece to understand this joke), to becoming a family and this event was a wonderful and beautiful reminder to the love that is backing us in our adventure.  

Now onto my Ethiopian Educational piece, which I thought should be
conveniently about the dollar, moolah, the dinero, or as Ethiopia refers to
it, the Birr. The official currency used in Ethiopia is known as the
Birr. It is the second most widely used currency in Africa after the
Nigerian naira.  Besides having almost all the legends in Amharic,
there are two features which help to immediately identify an Ethiopian birr. Early dated coins,
those dated before EE1969, (which as you recall, Ethiopia has their
own calendar and is seven years behind us..they just celebrated 2005
on Sept 11, hence thee EE1969) feature a crowned rampant lion holding
a cross. See below:

Later dated
coins, those dated EE1969 or after, picture the head of a roaring lion, with a flowing mane, as seen here: 
The currency conversion is one U.S. dollar to 18 Ethiopian Birr. However, foreign currency is rarely used in Ethiopia, so Jay and I will have to convert our money once we get there. Like the American dollar to coin, the Birr is divided into 100 cents. There
are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Birr notes, much like our paper dollar amounts.                  

According to the website I was looking at, the Birr is very stable and there is no significant difference between the official rate and black market rate..thank goodness right?!