Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Plumpy'Nut Goes To Africa


Read the detailed post below and see how YOU can help children recover from acute malnutrition
(yes, words on this Wordless Wednesday - this is nothing to be silent about)
YOU MUST MAKE YOUR DONATION BY SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1 TO RECEIVE MATCHING FUNDS!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At it Again - Redux - Double Down

Update on Food Aid to Ethiopia using Doctors Without Borders as Your Charity
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Donations must be made online and/or mailed by Sunday Nov. 1 to qualify for matching funds!

Why, you ask? Ethiopia and Kenya have been all over the news. Hear it on public radio, read it on CNN, listen to local programs discussing the world food crisis. Even my freshman high school students brought the news to me - "Hey Ms. Plum, did you see the news last night about the straving people in Kenya? They mentioned Ethiopia too." When the kids see it, hear it, read it, I know mainstream media is perking up their ears and taking note; the situation MUST be bad.

Lots and lots of adoptive families writing on adoption forums are asking, "what can we do - how can we help?" My classroom is talking. My friends are asking, "did you know?"  One mama made this video  and has inspired average folks, just like us, to think about how to help and compelled helping hands to unite. The conversations are laced with deep compassion for families who are suffering, for children having love but needing food. Adoptive parents are worrying about first familles. Waiting families are aware of the tragedies that are touching the lives of those they await. People who work for social justice are concerned - and aware.

I acted, with my social justice sidekick, Amber, in the best way we know how: We called Doctors Without Borders this week to find out what we can do and how we can make the most of our doing. I'm talking about doing with $10 or doing with $1000. Every dollar counts, and now it counts double. I'm not kidding. Right now MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has a matching program that will DOUBLE any donation. There are instructions below. Please read and give.

First, if you'd like to donate by check simply write a check to MSF at the following address:
Doctors Without Borders USA
ATTN: Charlie Kunzer
333 Seventh Avenue, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10001

In the envelope should be a note to Charlie stating:
your name
donation amount
Statement that this donation is for Meghan and Amber's Fundraiser
and should be dedicated to nutritional fund AND Janus Charity Challenge 2010

*Amber and I need to keep track of donations for the Janus Challenge, so if you could, please leave a comment with your info as stated above, I won't publish it, and it will be entirely confidential (sorry folks, just don't want to put my e-mail out here on blogland).

If you do this by credit card donation, please make the donation at the MSF website here:
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/donate/?ref=main-menu
Click on donate online. Or if you want to donate by phone, click on the donate by phone link.
Then send Charlie an e-mail at her address Charlie.Kunzer@newyork.msf.org  with the the following information:
your name
donation amount
Statement that this donation is for Meghan and Amber's Fundraiser
and should be dedicated to nutritional fund AND Janus Charity Challenge 2010

*Amber and I need to keep track of donations for the Janus Challenge, so if you could, please leave a comment with your info as stated above, I won't publish it, and it will be entirely confidential (sorry folks, just don't want to put my e-mail out here on blogland).

If you do this soon (as in, in the next few weeks) GREAT things happen:

1.Your donation is MATCHED by an MSF donor who set up a match fund for any money going into the nutritional fund: Plumpy'Nut and Ethiopia are the primary beneficiaries of the nutritional fund. 85-95% of nutritional fund monies end up in Ethiopia.

2. Your donation counts towards our annual fundraising campaign thru the Janus Charity Challenge - and we get to count the matching funds too - I mean...WOWOWOW.

Thus, next year in September we can make our donation report and hopefully win dollars to be added to the MSF nutritional fund. (if you don't know what I'm referring to, comment and ask about the 3rd annual fundraiser largely supported by readers just like you - or scroll through former posts).

*about 85-95% of nutritional fund donations actually ends up at feeding stations in Ethiopia - this is our strategy and we are so excited! Because Ethiopia has a history of temporarily kicking aid organizations out of Ethiopia now and again, this strategy means monies don't sit in a fund that can't be flexible - MSF can direct nutritional fund money to feed Ethiopians in Sudan, for instance (something they did for 3 weeks this past summer).

**it is not my intention to nose into anyones donation business, so please understand I've asked for a comment on the comments section of my blog about your donation ONLY so that I can track donation totals (side by side with Charlie) for 2010 verification for Janus Charity Challenge totals. These totals are my job to report to Janus and then Charlies verifies the totals to Janus Funds. I assure you strict confidentiality and will not share your personal information in any way with anyone. Of course, feel free to chat up your own personal actions here in any way you would like - including your personal strategies that might lie outside of MSF.

Please please ask if you have any questions. I am fully aware that charities are competing for our charity dollars. This very specific information that DOUBLES YOUR DONATION and allows me to begin the 2010 campaign extra early (um, like 10 months early). I hope to harness your concern today to make a difference in Ethiopia RIGHT NOW!

My stat counter says I get about 100 hits a day - so I'm hoping to see some of you in a private comment :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Snapshot


Lalibela - AlemTsehaye and her mother

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Needed: Supervisor


20 month old in need of constant supervision. Job skills required: energy, more energy, and a bit more after that. Creativity. Eagle eyes for preventing major injuries. Patience. Fortitude. Flexibility - both physical and emotional. Ability to distract and redirect. Encouragement of creativity, curiosity, exploration, and expression of both small and large motor skills. Emphasis on patience and energy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

For N and M: Fairies Forever


Songbird has loved fairies from the time of teeny weeny days. She makes these - she STILL loves to make these. We put them everywhere. Right now there is a collection sitting on top of one of my mom's antique windows. They're brown fairies. We're a brown family now. Ask if you'd like one.

UPDATE: there is a lot of fairy love out there and Songbird is ready to make little brown fairies until her fingers tire. Seriously, she already hit the Goodwill store and found tons of silk flower supplies for bright and shiny fairies. We'll be making and sending Thanksgiving weekend - good will gifts from us. Knowing, you, my freinds, each one of you knows how to pay it forward, so we'll just do this good deed in the spirit of others. And, per Heather's great request, Songbird will do a blog teach-one for a step by step guide on how to make these yourselves - but we're sending them to you all who have commented and want one/some/many! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Wild One in the Woods


I try to get outside with Blueberry every day. There is a small wooded path behind our house. Today we followed our cat into the wooded area to check out the fat cat's hunting prowess. It was pretty cool because the cat had made his way up a fallen tree - and we watched him explore from about 20 feet off of the ground. Blueberry was in the mood to do some trailblazing and bushwacking himself, so I just let him have a go at it. Aside from a lot of burrs on his sleeves and pants, he was pretty successful navigating the bumpy terrain of our wild wooded backyard. Gosh, he looks so old in these photos. He's only 20 months old! He's growing up so fast!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Pumpkin for my Pumpkin

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From the Frying Pan Into the Fire

My head is about to explode. I'm feeling the energy (read:stress) of working a lot of different agendas; parenting, teaching, partnering, friending (that's a verb I just created), and social justicing (another winner verb, eh?). I just might be in over my head. Or, this might be my new reality. Here's what is going on......
Parenting an active, determined, rockin' 20 month old is exciting and exhausting. And, I think I'm being a bit too indulgent of my one and only itty bitty's curiosity. "You want to climb up on the table and touch the hanging light? Sure, let me help you." Yeah, this is going to reach out and bite me down the road. I'm needing a little refocus and general intense focus on Blueberry to navigate what feels like a transitional stage for him. On the lovely side, when I sing him goodnight songs and rub and pat his back, he does the same on my arm and shoulder. I'm so in love with him. His daddy, upon hearing this compliment from me, "I can see the two of you continuing to deepen your connection," responded with, "he makes it so easy." Perfect words to hear. Yeah, good and rich and busy!

Life with biggies is good and rich and easy - but keeping track and staying intimate with grown up kids takes time and effort and its own sort of intellectual stamina. All 3 biggies are doing great. Biggie boy just declared that he will be joining other youth leaders and living and working in Central or South America next summer with the Amigos program. I COULD NOT be prouder of him. Serious tears folks - Waffles is going to be superb at the work of Amigos. More on his work later. Twinkletoes and Songbird are thriving at college. It's all good - and also engaging my good parenting listening skills when we 'make contact.'

Teaching freshmen involves some transitional hand holding and a lot of attention to detail. I am making the return to teaching well, and finding the demands of 40% with no planning or prep time to be a bit challenging. Finding little spaces to get work done on my own time is complicated. You know what I mean.

Partnering is an ongoing process. Mr. Silly Pants and I have been together for 4 years, and 1 married. We find that the longer we are together the more complicated we find our connection and our commitment. I think (and he thinks) that the deeper our trust, the more we just let it out and speak what we feel. Letting it out has been stressful, demanded talk time, and has been a little scary. Since we came together in our 40's, we both came with long relationship resumes - and there is stuff we just aren't willing to repeat, aren't willing to compromise on, and are eager to achieve in this relationship. We're working on finding our rhythm. It's good work. It's hard work. Sometimes it is work I wish I weren't needing to do with such intensity. But I need to do it. And, I want the rewards of the work with my man.

Friending requires time and space and attention. I need my friends. I adore my friends. 'Nuff said. Old friends, new friends - you're on my mind and I'm workin' on keeping you on my calendar. One thing I witnessed as my mom's life came to an end was the richness of her friends. As she lived and as she died (all in the same 6 months) I really paid attention to how friendships had rewarded her life. It's a gift to have witnessed her bonds of friendship and love, and I won't relinquish what I learned with inaction in my life with my friends.

Social Justicing ramping up like never before in my life. I've got a few fires going; MSF, AHOPE, and now Clinic at a Time. I'm working like crazy to figure out how to dedicate/devote time and energy to each of these organizations. There is news to share, work to do, events to plan, and now, grants to write. In brief, the Plumpy'Nut fundraiser for MSF totalled more than $12,000. We recently learned an MSF donor pledged matching funds to the MSF nutritional campaign at MSF. Thus, our fund have been matched and total over $25,000. It's amazing news and I am honored to have participated in work that has brought life saving nutrition to over 656 children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Next, AHOPE cooperative sponsorship support is ongoing, with an annual summer campaign. I would like to expand my AHOPE support to include a broader fundraiser - but the venue remains elusive. Finally, Clinic at A Time is 'newish' on my plate. The founder, Mulu, is a local woman and ours is an emerging friendship. I am presently helping her with some grant writing and finding this work both rewarding and challenging - and engrossing.
Add a weekly class entitled "Racial Healing" and you get the picture.

Really, how does one get it all done? I think this IS my new reality. My reality isn't any more or less than yours - it's just mine. And mine feels like it's heating up. I'm trying to figure out how to keep a good balance and STILL have time to read! Did I say read? Gads, reading seems to be one thing I am really missing right now. I have a great book titled "Healing Land" about the San of the Kalahari (I teach about the San in my HS class)...I'm on page 7 after one week. *sob*

Still, there is time to go the pumpkin patch. I do have priorities!


Sunday Snapshot

Gondar, Ethiopia Bath of King Fasiledes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Dinner Party and the Bole Airport Effect

There are no pictures for this post - it wasn't that sort of night last night. I didn't take pictures. Instead, I soaked in the first time I have had Ethiopians in our home. I inhaled the experience with every pore and every breath.

We had 20 people for dinner to offer a warm Wisconsin welcome to 4 Ethiopian medical fellows (2 docs and 2 nurses) who are participating in an amazing initiative to bring an emergency medical faculty program to the Black Lion Hospital in Addis. You can read about the program here. Our involvement was .... well, dinner. And more - but the more is still a work in progress as we work to make our welcome go beyond one evening's fellowship.

We invited a cadre of friends - all VIP's at the university involved in various health related capacities. We also added official program administrators to the list, none of whom we knew. And then the connections made themselves obvious with the multitude of greetings - it was as perfect a mix as I had hoped. Community was quickly established, and there were more than a handful of surprising connections and common interests.

Our gathering was complimented with delicious food; slow cooking meat for pulled beef and pork sandwiches - garlic green beans - sweet potato maple pecan salad - fingerling potatoes with leek and scallion - fruit salad - and an assortment of Whole Foods desserts. (D, our "rustic menu" did not include a can of baked beans you open with a camping knife). There was plenty of wine and beer on hand, of course, and coffee.

Blueberry was at his best...NOT. He decided not to nap on Sunday, and after playing for 2 hours in his crib he was up and at 'em with no nap and a distracted mommy and daddy. While Mr. Silly Pants spoke a sweet welcome to our guests, Blueberry wiggled in my arms yelling at the top of his lungs, "Momma Momma!" pointing vehemently at the tray of goodies and wanting only to eat the raspberry tops off of the tortes. Thank goodness for Waffles, who enjoyed a good meal and then stuffed the wee one into his snowsuit, put him in his Bob stroller, and took him out in the dark of night for an evening walk. Sleep settled in quickly and he made it all the way to his crib in the arms of his favorite awesome big brother.

I could go on and on about the conversations around the table - about medicine, about government, about poverty, about delivering health care in Addis and in rural areas, about maternal health care, about direct cash aid....I'm telling you - amazing. Our guests BROUGHT IT!

Instead, I'm going to share a few things.
Number 1: If you read this blog you know about Richard, the boy we send to medical school in Addis. Guess what? Dr. Makeda and Dr. Melaku are BOTH part of the faculty for 'our' young man's college. Let's just say we now have a new layer of encouragement and accountability for young Richard. We are thrilled to have this unexpected and amazing connection for him and for us (Dr. Makeda's son is also a 2nd year student - so that is awesome too). We wait to hear news of our sponsored student through our new sets of eyes :-) .
Number 2: My long time and dear friend, Artist Margaret, who supports the family of AlemTsehaye (mom plus daughters) also received some encouragement and practical assistance in her efforts to help AlemTsehaye and her family. Dr. Makeda is going to initiate contact with AlemTsehaye in Lalibela. We've had some barriers to communication with her that we think are issues of cultural bridging (gender based?) that Dr. Makeda is going to help us sort out so that Artist Margaret can go forward with a richer understanding of AlemTsehaye's life. In addition, AlemTsehaye will be in touch with an amazing Ethiopian woman, herself a child of a rural community and a mother.

Finally, number 3....this one is harder for me to articulate:
I don't know how to say this to people-but I said it at my dinner party. I said it in the presence of one my dearest friends, my husband, and to Drs. Makeda and Melaku with tears in my eyes. I spoke about how deeply Ethiopia settled in my heart as I stood in line at Bole Airport ready to leave Ethiopia. I was there, in Ethiopia, taking another woman's child to be our child. Nothing will EVER feel like this again in my life, and it has ruined me forever, in the best possible way. I took a treasure - a perfect boy - because his mother could not take care of him. Her reasons are her reasons, and they are our reasons now too. They are ours, collectively, as well, because WE are part of the global community that participates, in silent and complicit ways, to maintain power structures that oppress other people. I don't have the answer, and I know a large part of the answer lies in the hands of Ethiopians themselves (who need grassroots change from the top - down). But Sunday night we did something structural to promote, support, and encourage change.

Yeah, I don't really know how to write about Sunday night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Twinkletoes Dances - the first video on our blog

videoShe dances. I love that she loves dancing. That's what I had hoped for her - that she would discover the things that move her. This does that - wouldn't you agree?

THIS is why we call her twinkletoes



Dinner fo 20 - and the Black Lion Hospital at our Table

Tomorrow night Mr. Silly Pants and I are hosting a dinner to welcome 2 physicians and 2 nurses from the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa to our beautiful (and COLD!) city. We have invited an intimate group of our friends and colleagues to join us in welcoming the Ethiopians, who are going to be at UW engaging an intensive 10 week course of training in emergency medicine with a special focus on HIV medicine. You can read about this amazing program HERE. Mr. Silly Pants and I are excited to provide what I am calling an "elegant rustic" selection of yummy food accompanied by kind fellowship to our guests.
Indeed, we'll be spending the weekend cleaning and cooking. With Blueberry underfoot the going will be slow - but we will get it done. And, we've put Waffles on alert for Sunday so that we have some baby back up during what I'm sure will be a flurry of last moment items.

I am looking forward to being in the company of some amazing and dedicated people - and I am proud to bring just a little bit of familial warmth to our guests!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wordless Wednesday with some words


We are hosting a dinner party on Sunday to warmly welcome a group of Ethiopian medical fellows and nurses here for some special training in emergency room medicine and HIV medicine. More details to follow.....I'm overwhelmed with delightful obligations. Overwhelmed but delighted...seriously.
Image by Amy Cutler - cool stuff!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Run Report: Run for Congo Women-Chicago

Here is what I wrote for Tami, who asked, "hey, could you write a little paragraph about your experience of the run because I'm going to write a run report and I'll include it." Mostly, I'd like to write about the buzz of meeting Tami at such an awesome venue, but in the interest of NOT divulging my absolute star struck sentiment about meeting my blogging IDOL, I'll post my own run report here:

“I feel fat.” These were the words of a woman from Congo being sponsored by Women for Women International. She continued, “I feel fat with happiness. You run for us. I feel love.” These words propelled me and about 200 other runners on our 5K along Chicago’s Lake Shore path. The irony is, I am fat. Moving 40 plus pounds of extra “me” around the training loop takes a serious effort. I trained for 10 weeks, going from 3 minute running intervals to 40 minutes without stopping. It was difficult. Yet, my effort has been fueled by knowing that my work pales in comparison to the effort Congolese heroines muster daily to survive and heal the ravages of war. And, so I ran for my sisters in Congo. In my 38 minute, 30 second 5K run I felt the world was a smaller and gentler place – and new friends Tanisha, Tami, Tracy and Paula put their arms around me at the start and
(my self portrait during my run at mile 2)
finish in the best kind of sister’s embrace. My husband pushed our little son in his stroller along the route too, companions on the journey to better health and social justice. So, I ran my first 5K in more than 8 years to live my commitment to be a good global neighbor, a compassionate woman, and a model to my youngest son, who is a child of Africa and a black American. Today, I shouted across the continents to our sisters in Congo, “I feel fat with happiness too. I feel love. I ran for you! I did it!”
(our happy finish)

(sisters running for our sisters)
I can't help but make an additional comment about this photo. I love it. Can you see the joy on my face? It's not JUST the run, folks. This is a symbolic image for me. You know it - this last photo is a testimony to the changes I plan to CONTINUE in my life. Over on "Stuff White People Do" there is a provoking statement about the white folks being all too often in their own company. In my progressive not very diverse midwestern town, I'm guilty of this. The phenomenon is mentioned again when exposing the "teacher's gap" in a recent article on Tolerance.Org As a teacher, I'm guilty and to make it more complicated (and me, more complicit) in my present HS there are not fellow teachers of color! And finally, some of this stuff gets started back in the early years, as argued by Newsweek's "Babies See Race" article. Seriously, if I am going to raise THIS darling boy,be a good teacher to my students of color, and enact being a good ally, I NEED these women in my life. It's a complicated sentiment to express, and then it isn't. I want to own my motivations, all of them. So, I'm out there, doin' it. I'm running for me, I'm running for my sisters in Congo, and I'm running to grow my networks. Next, I'll be in MN to run for schools in Ethiopia. I plan to run with some fellow AP's in support of children in my son's homeland. Another 5K, another chance to stretch, grow, and make a difference. Tami, thanks for welcoming me into your circle. You are a ROCKSTAR and I can't wait to run with you next year. Anyone else? Join us - please.


Sunday Snapshot


Lalibela, Ethiopia
*another great photo by Waffles. He's got a great eye and such good composition.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy 1 Year Anniversary My Love




P.S. It's not Amharic for "Happy Anniversary" but it's still cool. Mr. Waffles took this picture in Ethiopia, and I love it for the perspective.