Sunday, November 8, 2015

World Adoption Day

Today is World Adoption Day- a day dedicated to raising awareness & support for those who are directly or indirectly affected by adoption. Birth parents, adoptees, adoptive families- those who are considering adoption, are enduring the road amid an adoption, or dealing with life "after" the gavel has dropped.  It's obviously a cause near and dear to my heart for many reasons! In conjunction with this, many churches across America have deemed this "Orphan Sunday"- one in which the Church discusses the many facets of children who need families and how to best care for those who are in the greatest need. 
I suppose it's easy for me, as a Christian, to see how my faith and our adoption have gone hand in hand. By no means do you have to be a follower of Christ to adopt- yet within my own adoption community of friends and fellow mama's I have met along the way we openly discuss leaning on our faith to get us through the tough times, being quick to give thanks to God for the good things, and offering prayerful support to those who ask.  I am a firm believer that the "Church" is comprised of people- not the building. That the bodies that fill the pews rather than the brick and mortar that hold the numbers for the address of a building are what I personally consider to be the body of faith that I am a part of. I do not care your denomination, title, or attendance record- to me if you call yourself a believer in Jesus and a follower of Him then you are part of the same "Church" I am. I wanted to very clearly define that, because I know I'm going to offend some people with what I have to say about the Church, and it's role in Adoption and "Orphan Care".   Please keep in mind when I speak of the Church I am speaking to the collective group of people who would consider themselves Christian, and not the members of the congregation I personally attend.
I also feel the need to disclose this: I hate the word "orphan". You will not catch me defining my child- or any child- with that word.  I have always thought long and hard about why that word irritates me, and I think I feel so strongly averse to it for two reasons. First, if you look up the definition in the dictionary, besides a child who has lost both parents to death the definition is also "a person that is without protective affiliation". When I consider that definition, and I call myself a Christian, I want to point out that we are all orphans, adopted by Christ into his Church. So I cannot define these children and classify them as having no "protective affiliation" when I know that as a Christian my job is to help care for them- to become their protective affiliation. The bible verses are numerous and the examples many where we are called to care for the fatherless. We- the Church- are called to be their protective affiliation.  I also hate the word because it implies that these children are parent-less. I believe that my son was created by God to be a member of my family. So to say that he was without parents- albeit maybe on technicality- is a statement I can't make. Not only did he have us, he also had his birth parents, for whom we are deeply grateful. Many of these children's stories are not clean and clear cut, but I believe each of them were created with their forever families in mind. I cannot call them orphans.   
With all that being said- I found myself asking this question during our adoption process:
Where is the Church?
Where are these Jesus-loving, God-following, hands-and-feet-of-Christ for the families who are filling out applications, submitting paperwork, waiting, praying, traveling and adopting? If we are directed to care for those without parents, does it mean that every family should adopt? I don't think so.  I don't think adoption is for everyone.  But being supportive is absolutely everyone's job in the Church, and I think we can collectively do a better job of being the support for those who have chosen that path.  I can count on one hand the number of times we were approached and told we were being prayed for during our adoption.  If someone in your "Church family" is adopting- reach out to them and ask them what you can pray for specifically for them. I promise it will mean the world to them.  The adoption journey can be long and lonely at times- because until you've done it, you can't fully understand it. Heck- the changes are so fluid and fast that in three years I will not fully understand how it works anymore either.  I think that-as the Church-if adopting a child is not your calling then your role is to be the hands and feet of Christ to lift and walk with the families you know who are adopting- and I think that is where the Church is failing adoptive families.
In fact within my own congregation- and I believe within my town (but I could be wrong)- we don't "do" Orphan Sunday.  I wonder why this is? I think, in part- it's because to acknowledge the needs of these children and to not be able to fix it is an ugly feeling.  Partly because we can read about the numbers- (close to an estimated SIX MILLION in Ethiopia alone)- but when we are allowed to sit in our nice church clothes on the padded pews and put faces to those numbers, it's uncomfortable.  We feel conflicted that we are not called to adopt yet we are being asked to care for these children.  Maybe it's because we can't stomach the fact that millions of children don't know the love of a parent, the feeling of a full belly and a warm bed, have never been rocked to sleep and no longer cry when they wake up in the night because they know nobody is coming to cuddle them. Maybe because the enormity of the problem seems insurmountable, especially when it's a single Sunday set aside to address it.  Where is the Church?
I can tell you where we should be. We should be seeking out the families within our Church who feel called to adopt, and supporting them. Lifting them in prayer, offering to pay one of their filing fees, encouraging them with cards and phone calls, championing for the cause, organizing fundraisers and bake sales and prayer chains and meals.  Becoming the proverbial hands and feet of Christ to do the heavy lifting and getting dirty and sweaty because God didn't call us all to adopt but he called us all to care for these children. 
So if your Church acknowledges Orphan Sunday, I hope you find out who in your Church is adopting and do your part to serve Christ by helping them. If you're considering adoption and feel called to adopt, I pray your Church helps you in big, Christ-like ways. If your congregations don't acknowledge this Sunday I hope that you can ask all the right people "why not?" until next year there is more discussion about the Church's role in becoming that "protective affiliation" for these children until their forever families have found them and brought them home. 
We are all orphans, adopted by Christ; and until these children know the love of a family like we in the Church know His love for us- our job is not done.  

photo credit Jenny Myers Photography

Friday, October 9, 2015

An Open Invitation

We want to extend an open invitation to all of you- yes YOU- who may be reading this.

If you ever said a prayer for our adoption, if you ever asked God to intervene so we could bring our son home, if you ever sent up good intentions to the universe, kept our family in your thoughts, supported us by purchasing a shirt or an auction item or even if you just feel like having a front row seat to this adoption has changed the way you look at family and faith... please come

Our son was given his birth name, Amir, by his birth parents. People who I have never met, whom I love dearly and think of often. When we first saw his face, when we knew in our hearts he was our son, we battled within ourselves with our desire to change his name and the desire to keep what was given to him by his birth family.  Would he embrace the change? Despise us for it? He was three- almost four- by the time he was to come to his forever home.  What would changing his name do emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.... It's a tough internal battle.
I reached out to an adoptive mama & friend of mine.  In this uncertain world of adoption and parenting, I'm just flat out amazed at how this network of people who have never met provide the most loving and caring support. My friend Karly was the one who verbalized what I was needing to hear. To paraphrase her....
God uses all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. Several times in the Bible, God chose people for amazing things, and called them by a new name in the process.  In fact, the biblical Sarah I was named after is an example.  Perhaps the feeling we had to change our son's name was not a personal desire but a Godly one.  Big changes, big expectations.... a Big God. 
Elias: The Lord is my God.  Indeed.
Additionally- we are his first exposure to being Christian. He was not in a Christian orphanage, and his exposure to Christ happened the first time we took him through the doors of our church- the very building and family into whom we plan to baptize him.  Beyond that, we want him to know that the family of Christ to whom he belongs is not a building, it's not a denomination, a label, a title handed down by dogma. If I could ensure one thing, it would be that he would know that he is a part of a family far greater than religious theory. He is welcomed into the family of Christ- made of friends and family who connect with their God on many levels, by many names, in many ways.
Those who prayed him home.

We want to fill the pews of this building with people who have literally been the light to the path home for our son.

 Hope to see you there.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Home: 1 month

I find it nearly impossible to believe that we've been home a month already! In some ways it feels like he has lived with us forever. Sometimes it feels like we just got off the plane... (and into the rental car!)

It's a bit of a struggle to write honestly about the first month home. On one hand, there is so much "good" to highlight, and having prayed & worked so hard for so long to finally be where we are, you don't exactly want to talk about the more 'real' moments and the struggle that adoption and parenting can be and sound ungrateful. But then again honesty and a "front row seat" to this is what this blog has always been about, right?
And people.... sometimes this is HARD.  Elias is a scared toddler taken from everything familiar and transplanted somewhere where nobody looks the same, sounds the same, smells the same or acts the same.  The biggest struggle is communication- when I need to relay a message fast and raise my voice a bit ("No touch! The stove is HOT!") he gets his feelings hurt.  He's also a toddler, so his independence level is twice that of his physical ability and communicating through those moments frustrates both of us. One struggle that adoption adds into this equation is that typically we encourage our three year olds to be independent- to dress, feed, and do things for themselves. With an adopted child, we really encourage them to trust us enough to let us do things for them. He has had to watch out for himself for so long that he struggles to let us do things for him. We want to be able to feed him, help him, and do things for him.  We almost have to go backwards to go forwards- and sometimes he fights trusting us because it doesn't feel natural to him. His strong will is asserted most with meals. He does not like anyone touching his plate or his food- so much that me cutting his meat for him has resulted in a total melt down (even though without it cut he wouldn't be able to eat it.)  We have to give him room and let him assert some of his own territory, but at the same time need to help him past the struggle of needing everything exactly as he thinks it should be- so that meals aren't always a stressful time for him (for instance the school lunch line!).  There have been meals that I have to ask Madigan to allow me to cut her food or feed her bites from her plate so he can see we aren't taking food from each other. The communication is such a struggle here because he sees someone reaching for his plate as a threat- and no amount of my terrible Amharic can explain that I want to help cut his food so he can feed himself. Figuring out if the behavior is a toddler thing or an adoption trauma thing and parenting to that root cause can be a real struggle, no matter how many books you read or classes you take.

I want to be very clear that these moments of frustration and 'hard times' are exactly that- moments. But I wouldn't be doing any favors to paint some kind of perfect picture about how coming home is "happily ever after" immediately. Because some new mama home in the first month might be scouring friend's blogs praying that another new adoptive mama somewhere is feeling the way that she is in that moment....because I have been there and done that.  And if you're reading this, new mama- please know that these moments get easier, they get farther apart, and they get shorter. Even in four weeks. :)

The best part has been the time between these moments. Elias is resilient, intelligent and affectionate.  For what this child has gone through, I'm so impressed with his ability to adapt and overcome.  Our ability to communicate has made huge strides.  I've learned a few key Amharic phrases, and he knows a LOT of what I'm saying and asking.  He follows simple directions, and can say several words in English. Just this past week he has started stringing three and four words together to make sentences in English. When we can't speak, we can manage to act out in charade-like fashion what we are trying to convey and get our points across. This is really helpful when he starts to get frustrated because he knows that if he waits just a second we can manage to act out what we want. It has also helped with meal times, because acting out with Madigan what I want to do with him, or showing him what we are asking has given him enough trust in us that we aren't stealing his food. I think I get more kisses from him now at meal times than I do the rest of the day. He LOVES asking for seconds and then patting his belly and telling me 'belly full'.  It has resolved 75% of the issues he has with having his plate touched or food moved causing a melt down.  He also came home terrified of dogs- screaming and kicking when he could even see them through the door. Slowly but surely, with exposure and patience he has gotten very comfortable around them. He even spent part of the morning feeding one of our dogs out of the scoop on a tractor he has.

Mostly, it's been amazing to watch Madigan transition (rather abruptly!) from being an only child for seven years, to being a big sister (to a toddler!)  Having to share your parents is hard enough- but she has learned to share them with someone who can also take her toys and run away, who she can't communicate with very well, and who sometimes requires BOTH parent's attention.  She has struggled with that- and will tell you honestly if you ask.  It hurts her feelings when people she knows and loves start conversations with her by only asking about him.  But she also loves him just as fiercely.  She has been a saving grace in moments when he is melting down and Brett and I are frustrated.  He instinctively trusts another child, more so than he feels instinct to trust adults; and Madigan modeling behavior to show him we can be trusted has been a God-send.
Growing from a family of three to four hasn't been textbook perfection, but nothing about adoption ever is.  It's a dirt under the nails, blood, sweat & tears fight to grow and love and learn about each other in the process.
photo credit Jolie Green @ Hays Daily News

Four weeks down.  A lifetime to go!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Coming HOME!

I know it's overdue, but I wanted to share the story of coming home before I forgot any details!

We dropped Madigan off at her first day of school, and we took off out of town. We stayed the night in Washington DC before meeting up with another adoptive family from Tulsa (who's son was at the same orphanage and we had the pleasure of meeting on our first trip to Ethiopia!)  We were ready to go get our kids!! We boarded the long flight, and landed in Ethiopia on Saturday August 15th, where our in-country guide Semmi took us straight from the airport to Adama to the orphanage to get our boys!

We waited in a side room, and they brought Elias to us. He seemed hesitant at first, shy and scared. I don't know what they had told him before he came in but he seemed more timid than the first time we met him. I knelt down and started talking to him softly, and before long we were out playing soccer in the yard- something I'm sure was more familiar to him than sitting in a room with strangers. Elias- who was called Amir or "Ommy" as a nickname there- was called "the silent one" by the staff. I had asked if they thought he could not talk or if he chose not to- and was told that he will say words and obviously understands directions, but he does not speak more than a word or two. We have great resources for all kinds of therapy in our community so I wasn't concerned. We had a coffee ceremony at the orphanage and then we loaded up to go. 

We drove out of the orphanage gates, leaving all that was familiar to our son. Although I was overjoyed for that moment, and knew all that we had planned for Elias and the love we can show him- I cried leaving. For the loss he was suffering then, for the loss he had to suffer to end up there- for every struggle we had to get to him, and him to get to us... I cried. He fell asleep in my arms and we made it back to the hotel where we ALL took a little nap.
Within hours, Elias was comfortable with us. I went into the bathroom and shut the door for a minute, and I heard the tiny chatter of Amharic. When I came out, Brett told me he was talking to him. The same thing happened when Brett left the room and Elias and I were alone- suddenly this flow of chatter- none of which I understood- was coming out of 'the silent one'. By the second day, Elias was comfortable with both of us that alone in the room he would talk, smile, play and cuddle. When we went out to the hotel restaurant, however- the shy, silent child was back. But in our room, we got a glimpse of the tiny personality this boy has.
We loved the first few days of bonding, playing and getting to know him. Once we had his visa and immigration paperwork, it was time to head HOME!

When we checked into the airlines was when we had the first red flag. The woman at the desk checked our flight plan and saw that somehow we were not all on the same flight from DC to Chicago. She was unable to change it- so we made a quick (and expensive I'm sure) call to our travel agent to fix it. She said she had no idea how she didn't catch it, but would have it fixed before we landed. However we had to check our bags only to DC and then would have to recheck them in DC when we had a correct flight path. When we landed in DC we grabbed our bags, hustled through immigration and then hurried to recheck our bags with our new flight plan as instructed. The delay doing that kept us from reaching our flight to Chicago- and we had to go back to ticketing. The woman there was very helpful and got us on a flight into Houston to connect to Wichita so we wouldn't be too much later than originally planned to get to the airport and meet family waiting to welcome us home.

Meanwhile, in Houston....

Apparently they were canceling over 200 flights that day. After our flight was delayed four times, it was cancelled. We had family and friends in Wichita waiting on our arrival, I had been traveling for well over 36 hours at that point with a toddler who did not sleep the best and couldn't communicate with me- and I was DONE dealing. I wanted to be home, or at least moving towards my home- and we were suddenly stuck in Texas overnight at the very least.

I think there are moments in your marriage when you really work well as a team and you are a well oiled machine- those moments when you fall in love with your spouse all over again.
This was NOT one of those.
Brett took off for re-ticketing and left me standing in a crowded terminal with a cranky three year old strapped to me, both of us on the verge of tears and sweating. As he stood in line to get re-ticketed, I called our agent who confirmed we weren't getting out of Texas on a plane that night.
I burst into tears.
If you really know me well, you know I'm not a crier. My co-workers joke that maybe I'm missing a gene, but I rarely find anything so upsetting that it's worth crying over. Maybe it's my trauma training, but when faced with something you fix it and move on. This was not a moment I was able to tap into that power. I. Was. Done. I stood next to Brett in the giant cancellation line, and I let the flood gates open. Strangers passing by gave me sympathetic, slightly scared looks. The woman in line behind us tapped Brett on the shoulder and said "Is she OK?" Finally I got it together enough to say "lets just drive. please. It's interstate driving from here. Google it!" Brett got on his phone and confirmed it was about 9 hours drive. It was getting to be late afternoon and we would be driving all night. But I needed to be moving towards home. So he called enterprise and held a car for us. The kind woman behind us, we learned while waiting and after I got myself together a bit- was headed to her husbands graduation. She made several phone calls and learned that she wasn't going to be able to get a flight to get her there in time, and driving alone all night wasn't a great option. So I did what any sleep deprived, semi-delusional traveler would do... I invited her into the car with us. One more adult to help drive and it would get her where she needed to go in time. She accepted the invitation! We cancelled our tickets and requested a refund on the flight and waited for her to do the same- where we met three others who had the same idea. Then we had the even better idea- lets all go together!!
Before we left for the rental counter I was very clear: "Just so you all know, this child has been with us for FIVE days, he doesn't speak English, I don't speak Amharic, and he's never been in a car seat. This could be nine hours of pure hell, just so you're all aware." We all decided that we had been through airport security, and we would have been in a plane together anyway, so it was obviously the best option we had! I heard one girl on the phone say "well if the Ethiopian and US government cleared them, I'm pretty sure they're safe." Ha ha!!
Everyone agreed, so we packed up and got out of Houston about 9:30 p.m. We all took turns driving and praise GOD, Elias slept all but the last hour. He got fussy but we headed it off with gummy bears and cookies. Because, strong parenting.
Finally about 7 a.m. we arrived in Wichita at the airport and took a group selfie!! These four strangers who took a chance in the car with us will forever be the most amusing part of Elias' coming home story.

So much for the airport welcome home party, right? At one point when travel plans were falling apart, I texted the photographer- whom I have still yet to meet face to face- and she told me this:
"Our airport homecoming is kinda like our homecoming in heaven. It may take a while to reach the finish line, and it's definitely a stressful journey. But when we finally get there, with the cloud of witnesses waiting and cheering for us at the end- we will finally be HOME."
This picture was when we arrived to our home in WaKeeney- 55 hours of traveling, exhausted but together.

Her words are so true. And maybe the path we take isn't exactly what we had envisioned but in the end... Home is there. And how sweet it is to be HOME.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Travel Call!! (and other important things)

A few things worth mentioning before I get into the excitement of "the Call" to get our son.... :)

I want to say a sincere and heart felt thank you to my friend Monica for really spear-heading the Adoption Auction we held online to raise travel funds. I sort of spun the idea by her and she not only offered to help she really did most of the work (and made a spread sheet. you guys... spreadsheets mean business. they're the real deal!)  To the crafters and small (and large!) business owners who donated their time, talents, gifts, goods and services: THANK YOU. Adoption reaches far and wide; these people not only enthusiastically said YES! when asked to help out- they recruited friends, and friends of friends.  Some of the donors of the items have never met me, do not know my family, and may never ever cross paths with us. Just people with a heart for adoption, for giving, for being good humans. They took time out of their busy lives to correspond with me, arrange donated items for delivery, and do all that so that their work could go to bring our son home. Wow.  To those who bid, wether you "won" an item or not: thank you. The generosity of those who participated is humbling. To those of you who "Shared" the link, who's friends saw and bid, who were willing to ask on behalf of our family for participation from your circle of people- my heart is big and full of love for you.  Everyone who supported the auction made a conscious decision to do so- and for that I can not find words big enough to express the thanks we have for that- and BECAUSE of that, we raised enough money to purchase our son's ticket HOME. That thought alone blows. my. mind. He is coming HOME, to us- and he's doing it directly with the funds from that auction.

Also, to my friend Katie who organized the adoption shower for us this weekend, and my many other co-workers who baked & helped with that; thank you. I'm genuinely grateful to have people like you in my life. It's safe to say Elias has a closet full of clothes, a toy box full of goodies and a bookshelf full of books because I have awesome friends.

All of last week's excitement with showers and auctions led up to Monday's event: the "travel call". For the record- it's not a call at all. We were told that our Embassy clearance would come in the form of an e-mail, between the hours of 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. or so (Ethiopia's business hours here in Central time). Another family we traveled with last time was in the same boat- so Sunday night texting with my fellow waiting mama and we both agreed if we saw the e-mail we would text the other. I woke up about 1:30 and did not have an e-mail. I heard my text notification a little after 2 a.m. and I grabbed my phone- she had her letter! So I checked my email again and there it was. Clearance! We replied as we were instructed and had confirmation minutes later. Embassy appointment 8/17! Several e-mails and texts later that day it was official, flights were booked & we were going back for our SON! We will leave Kansas Thursday and get to Ethiopia Saturday morning, where we will finally have him in our arms for the rest of forever. We will be returning on Thursday 8/20 to Wichita in the afternoon where my family has very kindly offered to bring my daughter to meet us- so we can have our little airport reunion, and have our family of four together on Kansas soil as soon as possible. Have you ever googled adoption airport homecoming? I dare you. :)

We are going to Africa. We are bringing our son HOME.
My heart.
It's full.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Beyond butterflies- What is this "cocooning"?

I love adoption conversations. I love when people feel comfortable enough to approach and ask me questions because they have genuine interest in what is going on in our family, our lives and in our community. It seems like a lot of people know "of" adoption or know someone who was adopted, or has adopted, but the actual internal workings, day to day grind of how someone goes through the process from application to proud parent is a bit of a mind-baffling thing for most of the population. I want to be clear: I love the questions. I love that people can walk away with better insight, and maybe a bit more of an open mind, open heart and understanding. It's fun!
So my favorite thing that always seems to blow people's minds is what is widely known in the adoption community as "cocooning". The question that inevitably starts that conversation is something along the lines of "Oh I bet you can't wait to get him home so you can ______ (have play dates, visit family, church, community events, etc.)"  And yes- absolutely every option is a viable one- I can not WAIT to get my son home and then share him with everyone. We have waited forever! We are so proud, excited, in love! I want to hold him up, a la Rafiki on Pride Rock in the Lion King and shout from the rooftops: This is our son! The one this whole community, state, facebook-web-of-friends-and-beyond has prayed for, messaged me about, loved from afar and held close to their hearts for THREE and a HALF years! 

We are SO excited for those times. Which is why, when I answer that variety of question I get a baffled response when I reply: "After we are done cocooning, I can't wait to take him on adventures!"
What is cocooning? What do you mean?
Well- cocooning is exactly what it sounds like: we will come home, and wrap our newly made family of four into our home like the caterpillar does. Just like a new mother does with her newborn child.

One way to consider it is to always remember: adoption stems from grief and loss. So although we are overjoyed that he is ours to love; we must strive to help him overcome that loss and grief and feel safe and loved. We will be teaching him what family is: what it means and how it works. That's a big job! 

Our son was not afforded the luxury of having every need met instantly and lovingly. Having spent the developmentally formative years in an institution instead of a family, he has learned that adults are caregivers- and this means ANY adult. The nannies at his orphanage are amazingly giving women. They obviously had love for him, and he for them; however, he does not get the concept of being my son and that I am his mother. He may not even get the concept of what a mother is supposed to do.
So when we come home, we will tuck away in our home where I will spend however much time it takes to teach him that he no longer needs to worry about how he will meet his needs for food, love, shelter, safety and care. We will show him that WE will meet those needs continually, perpetually, routinely and lovingly. It will take time for him to develop a healthy attachment to us, and to learn to trust the environment, schedule and faces in his new home and family. We intend to let him take the lead, and follow his cues for when is the "right" time to add new people, faces and places.  That process is known as cocooning, and just like the caterpillar- we will emerge in the amount of time God intends us to and we will be ready to spread our wings and fly. :)
I hope that explanation provides a little insight into why you may not see us around town for a bit, and when you do see us I may be asking you to be sure to redirect any "needs" my son may express back to me so I can meet them. I want to ensure he can express any grief and loss and still be shown love and care, because that's how we learn who our family is. We are not just another two faces in the line of caregivers he has had- we are his parents. We will be learning how to be a family of four.
 I can't wait

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ethiopia: beyond the orphanage

I have finally had a minute to sit down, breathe, and look back through at some of the images in Ethiopia. There were so many beautiful, wonderful experiences there, beyond meeting our son.

One of our favorite memories is the school we visited, that is sponsored by the adoption agency we are using. This is one of the pictures I took in a class room. These children have a passion for their education, almost as much as the educators we got to speak with did. It was fantastic to see. 

As we drove around Adama and Addis Ababa, we noticed a lot of construction. They use eucalyptus trees to build their scaffolding. I am pretty sure that OSHA would just go belly up & start twitching if they were to visit. :) 

We also saw a lot of what traditional Americans may consider poverty. Buildings made of makeshift metal scraps and wood pieces. Goats, donkeys and horses wandering around the streets, homes and stores. People begging on the streets, 'toilets' that are not more than a hole in the ground. Open air gutters and drainage systems to help the sewage flow away from the homes.  People doing hard, physical labor for a days wages to feed their families. 

But beyond that, we saw more. We saw what I believe Ethiopia is made of... beautiful people with a strong sense of family, love and community. Roadside shops with beautifully made crafts. Roads crafted with bricks laid one by one to connect these people to one another.  Breathtaking views from the tops of mountains of a city that is so full of a culture that is richer and deeper than we could only dream of here.  Pride, culture, beauty. It's only part of what Ethiopia is made of. 

Beautiful Ethiopia.

I know I've done my fair share of traveling. There have only been a handful of places that when I left, I felt like I was leaving a piece of my soul there. More than having to leave my son there until our Embassy process is complete, (which was leaving a piece of my soul on a different level); Ethiopia has a piece of my heart forever more. Although Ethiopia may not be "rich" by standards that we seem to cherish in the USA; it is a country rich in love, humanity, pride, family and beauty. And I think that's vastly more important.

Ethiopia, you have my heart.