What’s Up – Fun Size

20 12 2011

Fun Size Posts – Where my thoughts are not developed enough to be regular or king size.

Inertia – the desire to blog but the inability to get started because a blog at rest stays at rest.

Why Target Is Stupid – They don’t sell workout wear large enough for the people who really need to work out.  People whose asses are the exact size of my ass.  Thanks, Target.  Guess what?  Walmart sells it, and they call it a Large, so I feel skinnier and actually go to the gym.

A Weekend WithOUT Children – Yes, SAG and I had one.  In Houston.  As guests at a surprise party for my best friend.  It was awesome.  I ate a ton of Tex-Mex.  Our kids did just fine without us (the first time for Little Dude, the second time for PJ.)  I stalked Ethiopians. I tried a new approach instead of Selam-ing them, I Amasayganalo’d them.  As per usual, they were kind and patient with me.

Life Without A List – If I don’t have a to-do list I just bob around in the waves.  No direction.  No forward motion.  No sense of satisfaction when I actually do something and don’t have a place to cross it off.  When I finish this post I am going to make a list.  The first item on the list will say “Make A List.”  I always do that.  It makes me feel good to be able to cross it out.  The second item will be, “Write a Blog Post.”  Yep, my to-do lists are sometimes retroactive because it makes me feel good.

Holiday Cards – I sent out more than 60.  I hand delivered almost a dozen.  I have received less than 10.  The people on my card list are obviously assholes good enough friends with me that they know a card is not important in maintaining our relationship.

A Christmas Miracle – While we have been trying to develop an elaborate plan for months, we haven’t ever gotten past the first or second step.  Our goal to have our kids go to sleep in their own beds actually resulted in both of our kids going to sleep in our bed (clearly the wrong direction.)  Then both of our kids sleeping on an air mattress in the room now designated “the kids room.”  My chiropractor enjoyed this stage of the plan as it resulted in me having lots of neck pain from laying with them on the air mattress.  Yes, the plan keeps going the wrong way and we are completely at a loss with what to do next.  My fear of messing with Little Dude’s attachment helps to keep me paralyzed in this area.

Then, last night (because there was a hole in the air-mattress and we weren’t sure what else to do) we put our kids in their individual beds, sang a song and walked out of their room.  Something we haven’t been able to do with PJ in about 18 months.  Something we have never even thought of trying with Little Dude.  Guess what happened – They stayed in bed until they fell asleep and only came into our room in the middle of the night.

Usually I lay with them until they are asleep.  This takes at least 45 minutes on the average night.  It is possible that I just got 11.4 DAYS added to the next year.  A true Christmas Miracle.

The End Of Perfectionism – Releasing this quickly-written, poorly-crafted post into the blogosphere in an attempt to get inertia back on my side.  After all, a blog in motion stays in motion.


I Was Selamed – Twice

16 11 2011

I was in Washington DC over the weekend.

There is a huge Ethiopian community in DC.  As per usual, I was seeing Ethiopians everywhere I looked.  Sometimes when I was really seeing, well, you know, the world is a big place.

It started with the cab ride from the airport.

I Selamed our driver when he put my bag in the trunk.  He responded kindly.

After getting in the car and telling him where we were going, things got a little rough.  I had to try to tell him a specific way to get there.  But I didn’t really know all the details.  It wasn’t a super pleasant exchange.  No one was rude.  No one was happy.

As soon as that conversation ended, I started another one.

“Are you Ethiopian or Eritrean?”

“The world is a big place.”

“Yes, it is.” (feeling very stupid and not sure what to make of THAT comment.)

My friend who is not the type to strike up these types of conversations quickly jumped in to try to save me.

“She has a son she adopted who was born in Ethiopia.”

“Well, I am Somalian.”

I said, “I am sorry for the troubles in your country.  I worry about your people.”

Do you think you hear the sounds of ice breaking?  No, more like the sounds of traffic outside the windows.

Still, I pressed on.  And I laughed.

“Well, I am not completely stupid.  I mean, I figured you were from the Horn of Africa.  I know it is a big continent, but it is not like I asked you if you were from Nigeria.”

That got a small smile.

I explained I live in a small city in the middle of the country with very few African immigrants and that I am always looking to make connections, blah, blah, blah.

The cab ride continued with talking between my friend and I, and a few interchanges with the driver in which my comments and compliments were sincere but also born from my need to fix the problem I had accidently created.

And, because I need everyone to like me, and he couldn’t get my credit card to work, I made lots of stupid jokes at the end which finally had him laughing.

When we got out of the car and he was getting our bags out of the trunk he said to me, “You know Somalia?”

I said, “Of course.  That is why I told you I am worried about your country.  Worried about the drought.”

He thanked me for my concern.

I felt like I could get a job at the UN – pissing people off then trying to fix the problem I created.

So, not an auspicious start in a city where I was hoping to bask in Ethiopian glory.

Fortunately, I was wearing this all weekend.

I bought this beautiful thing in Addis.  But I hardly ever where it.  Because Little Dude rips it, and any other necklace I wear, off of my neck.

Four days without Little Dude meant four days in my beautiful necklace.

I was stopped in a restaurant on my first full day in the city by a couple of Ethiopians who could tell the necklace was from Ethiopia.  This led to a great conversation and me showing pictures of my children.

On my final day, while eating lunch in the airport, another Ethiopian woman asked me about the necklace.  Again, we had a fabulous conversation.

I don’t want to generalize about the Ethiopian people, after all there are millions of them.  But I can say this.  My conversations with these random strangers filled me with hope.

I think the way I pronounce Selam, when translated from Amharic back to English probably sounds a lot like, “That’s a beautiful necklace.  Did you get it in Addis?”

Rhyme Time – Fun Size

14 10 2011

A collection of things I thought about this week, brought to you in “fun size” packages (because my thoughts are not profound enough for full size or king size posts.)

Rhyme Time

At three-and-a-half, PJ loves to rhyme.  Some of the rhymes are funny.  Most of the rhymes are nonsense words.  But the clever girl discovered a new one last week and both she and her brother like to say it to me over-and-over again… “Selam, Mom”

On A Serious Note

In general I am politically skeptical.  Since most wars are political, and I prefer innocent children not to die, in general I am against war.  On the other hand, I often look at the atrocities around the world and wonder, “What is the point of having our advanced, extreme military if we don’t use it to protect the innocent?”  And by innocent, I am again, referring to children (not oil wells).  And I do not think only American children are innocent.

Anyhow, I am HAPPY to see us sending troops to Uganda.  Yep, happy to see us sending troops.  Wow, is that a weird sentence to type.  To read more go here.

He Knows What He Needs

I love living in a college town.  I love the energy, the diversity, the cultural opportunities that wouldn’t be available in other similar size cities.  This weekend is homecoming and we will be going to a parade, a street event with a spirit rally, decorations and skits.

Earlier this week we attended an event at the bookstore on campus.  When we were leaving I realized SAG was probably also about to walk out of his office.  I quickly called him and we agreed to meet by his building so Little Dude could ride home with him.  Both kids love to ride in “Big Daddy Truck” (never mind that SAG is skinny and the truck is not that big).  I pulled into a parking lot, got the kids out of the van and we started walking up the street towards SAG’s office.  We all met up on the sidewalk, then headed back to the vehicles.

As per usual, Little Dude was blazing his own trail at top speed.  He ran up to the building near where we parked and stood peering into the doors.  We had to go drag him away.  Any guesses what building it was?


Successful Selam-ing, Sort of

11 10 2011

Sunday morning I was in the suburbs of Kansas City at a Michael’s (of course – why weren’t you there?).  We were picking up a few last minute items for the fundraising shower that afternoon (to see a real post on the event including plenty of less-than-flattering pics of me, click here.)

I think we had been in the store for about a week-and-a-half when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man who I was sure was Ethiopian.  I immediately gave him a big smile, he smiled back and from an aisle-and-a-half away I said “Selam.”  I meant to say it sort of soft and quietly like a real Ethiopian would.  However, my normal speaking voice is fairly loud and completely unmodulated when I am excited, so I was probably yelling and nasel-y.   Still, he didn’t run away.  He came closer.

After the quick, “You are from Ethiopia, right?”  I shouted for my friend Tamara and her kids, Bethany and Judah, who were quickly walking away from me.  I mean the whole reason I was in Kansas City to begin with was to raise money for drought victims in Ethiopia.  And I was specifically doing it in the name of a friend who adopted from Ethiopia and was waiting for her second child to come home (Captain Murdock).  And I was in the store with a different child born in Ethiopia and his mother who is about to go back to Ethiopia (Tamara).  And, yeah, I am sure I was shouting and squeaking.

But Tarik, the man I Selamed, was kind.  And, because Judah is obedient and likes me, he was quickly in my arms and I could prove to my new friend, that I wasn’t just a crazy farenji in Michae1’s.   (I probably proved I was a crazy farenji holding a young Ethiopian, but still that seems a little less threatening, right?)

Turns out that Tarik is new to the area, although he has lived in the United States for quite some time and his English is awesome.  He just completed a six-month visit to Addis, before moving from Ohio to KC and is quite homesick.  Tarik is having a hard-time meeting people because he works so much and is actually thinking of moving back to Ethiopia.  He’s well traveled within Ethiopia and could be an amazing cultural mentor.  Moreover, he would probably appreciate some company.  Alas, I actually LIVE more than two hours away.

Still, I couldn’t let this Selam go to waste.  So I gathered his contact information to give to my friend, Captain Murdock, who lives in the area.  It may come in very handy when her new six-year-old son finally comes “home.”  I really hope she will contact him.

Even if they never make contact, the whole experience was completely worth it, if for no other reason than to watch Tamara squirm when Tarik asked her about her favorite food to eat in Ethiopia.  She had to be honest so she told him that she “stuck to the Italian dishes.”

Judah and Little Dude together in Ethiopia, May 2010.

Judah, Little Dude and their sisters in Missouri, October 2011


Got My Burrito Goggles On

22 09 2011

My burrito goggles are like beer goggles, only it is lunch time and I am not drinking.  And burrito goggles don’t make people better looking, they make them look like they might be Ethiopian.

The longer I sit in this restaurant eating my burrito and stealing furtive looks at the guy at the table across from me the more I am convinced he is from the Horn of Africa.

Problem is he is too hot to just, “Selam.”

After my experience “Selaming” a very NOT hot man two weeks ago I am a bit more cautious.  I “Selamed” him.  He said, “Why did you say that to me?”  I said, “Oh, sorry, I thought you might be Ethiopian.”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “I could be Ethiopian.”  Yeah.  Incredibly uncomfortable.  By the way, if I ever do decide to pick up guys at 4 pm on a Friday, I will wear mascara, oh, and I will SHOWER.


I keep looking and I am thinking thoughts like, “He eats like a North American.”

And, “I wish someone would talk to him so I know if he has an accent.”

And, “I don’t know many young Ethiopians who shave their heads.”

Um, reality check.  The vast majority of young Ethiopians I know are five and under.  Their mothers don’t let them use razors.

To make matters worse I am staring straight at him.  He is sitting in a normal…

Wait, he is getting up, oh, his shoes look Ethiopian.  DAMN – HE JUST LEFT.  DAMN!  Missed opportunity.

Well, back to why that was super uncomfortable.  He was sitting the “normal” way in this restaurant; facing the windows so you can watch life go by on the street.  I am facing the OPPOSITE way – so I can plug in my laptop.  There was no-one in between us.  So basically it was almost like we were sharing a table.  We were about seven feet away from each other and looking directly at each other.  EXCEPT – after he caught me staring I never looked up from my keyboard again.

I intentionally choose this restaurant because it is on campus.  The number of colors and cultures represented at any point in time is fantastic.  Also, I can sit here and eat a burrito while stealing WiFi from the Starbucks next door.  Part of the reason I come here is with the secret hope of running into Ethiopians.  The reason I bring my kids here is so they can see the many “Shades of People.”

Lesson learned, I need to get back to being bold.  If someone thinks I am trying to pick them up, so be it.  I actually ended up having an interesting conversation with that guy a couple weeks ago after it became VERY clear to him that I wasn’t hitting on him.

For the sake of my son, I will force myself to talk to strangers, even if they are hot.  (The sacrifices of a mother never end.)

And, I will remember to always check the shoes.  Because when it comes to stereo-typing people the shoes are as good a place to start as any.


What Now? Selam Update

30 04 2011

You know I never thought much past, “Selam.”

I didn’t think about the fact that I have a REALLY hard time understanding people who have accents.  I didn’t think about the fact that I don’t like entertaining at our rental house for 1,000 reasons.  I didn’t think about the fact that taking our kids OUT requires at least 76% of SAG’s attention and at least 76% of my attention at all times.  That leaves less than half of an adult to pay attention to a new friend.

Yep, didn’t think it through until the euphoria wore off from Sahmel asking to exchange phone numbers a few weeks back.

I came home and read up on Eritrea.  I came home and blogged about my success.  I came home and had a mild anxiety attack, “Now what?”

The weekend after I met Sahmel I thought about calling him and asking him to dinner – but I came up with a million excuses why it wasn’t the right time.  Then my phone rang and when I looked at the screen I saw his name.  I didn’t answer.  He left a message.  It got deleted.  I swear it wasn’t intentional.  And I had his number anyway so it did not matter, I could have called him.  But I waited.

Then it was Easter weekend.  I figured he probably had big Easter plans.  I figured lots of things that made it impossible for me to call him.  Then I figured out just how silly I was being.

So, this afternoon I called him and he was available for dinner.  Now What?

Where could we go for dinner that my two, 2-yr-olds would be welcomed?  That a recently arrived Eritrean would feel comfortable?  That wouldn’t ask us if we wanted to “super-size it”?

We decided to take him to a family friendly, Mexican chain.  Sahmel had no idea what I was talking about when I said we were going out for Mexican food.  But he seemed excited about the potential.  Anyone who will travel half-way around the world to start a new life must either be adventurous or learn to live with uncomfortable situations.  Sahmel seems genuinely adventurous.

I didn’t think about the fact that he wouldn’t be able to read the menu – duh.  I ordered a version of chicken fajitas for him.  He seemed happy.  I thought there were some parallels between the fill your own tortillas and eating with injera.

I think Sahmel’s English skills are impressive.  And our conversation flowed fairly smoothly.  I am looking forward to spending more time with him.  He told us about his family in Eritrea.  He told us that his mother has been asking him, “What is it like to live with all those white people?”

Sahmel is 18 years and six months (his wording.)  When he asked SAG how old he was and SAG told him, 43, Sahmel seemed genuinely shocked.  I remember my first job out of college, I was turning 22, one of my new work friends was 29 – I could not believe I had a friend that was THAT old.  We must seem ancient to Sahmel.

Well, that is one more adventure for Sahmel – being friends with white people, middle-aged, white people at that.


Selam Success

12 04 2011

In my head I have been practicing this sentence, “You look like you could be from Ethiopia,”  based on advice from Cazadora (Hot Soapy Agua) after my last post about Selam-ing someone. I am trying to get comfortable with it, and make it flow.  I think my big fear is it is going to come out like, “Hey, Black Person, are you from Af-REE-Ca?” (said the crazy white woman.)

I am honing in on a SE (suspected Ethiopian) who works at our local Walmart (which, embarrassingly, we have been frequenting lately).  His name has an unusual spelling – possibly a transliteration, and he couldn’t stop staring at Little Dude the other day.  But there was a line behind us and it was shortly after my last mucked up Selam-ing and I just couldn’t get the words out.  So, I am practicing in my head for my next encounter with him.  But, the Universe doesn’t deliver on my time-table.

So, today when we were leaving the library (which I am proud to say we frequent) we crossed paths with another SE.

The gentleman was across the street from us and we were both waiting for the light to change.  We would be passing each other in the crosswalk.  He looked Ethiopian to me, and I was trying to break down exactly why I thought that in my head.  Sure, there was the shape of his face and his general stature, but also the cut of his shirt and the way he wore it untucked.  I went back and forth in my head, yes, no, no, yes.

When the “walking man” appeared the kids and I began to cross.  I gave the SE a big grin and friendly nod, but as we passed I saw he had a tribal marking in the middle of his forehead, so before he got away I threw out “Selam” using my best Ethiopian accent.  He whipped his head around, changed direction and followed us back to the curb that he just stepped off of!!!!

We have contact.

S is actually Eritrean but lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.  He just arrived in our town about a month ago.  After chatting on the corner for a few minutes, we exchanged phone numbers (his suggestion). Our family will be taking him to dinner, hopefully this weekend!!!

I closed my last post about Selam-ing with the following sentence, “At this point, making connections in the street is my best shot.”  I had no idea this would become completely literal.