Tag Archives: Ethiopia orphans

Another Ethiopian adoption story

The Twietmeyer family.

As if I needed more reminders of Ethiopia…

Illinois couple Carolyn and Kiel Twietmeyer talked to The Today Show’s Jenna Bush Hager about adopting six children from Africa, including two that are HIV positive.

This wonderful story aired Monday.

How to sell a book: Step 1? Be famous.

In late January I signed up to take a Writer’s Digest webinar called “3 Secrets to Selling Your Nonfiction Book.” A few days after I paid for the session, I was invited to observe an open heart surgery scheduled the same day at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center.

It wasn’t a tough choice. The chance to stand in the operating room watching cardiac surgeon Brian deGuzman, M.D. do a double valve repair and maze procedure on a 60-year-old Valley wife and mom was a once-in-lifetime opportunity and an experience I will never forget. (Find related blog posts here.)

At one point during the six-hour surgery, Brian looked up at me and said, “Bet you thought I was kidding about all this heart surgery stuff!” It was certainly a different look at his life. Six months earlier, I was riding around Ethiopia in a white Toyota Land Cruiser with deGuzman and his wife Keri, who had just adopted their two youngest children. (I wrote about that experience, “An Ethiopian Adoption Story,” for our December magazine.)

I knew the audio transcript of the webinar would be available after the event, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I found time to listen to it.

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Small world stories – weekend edition

On Friday night, I went to the movies with my cousin’s daughter Andrea, a junior at ASU. We went to see “No Strings Attached” at Harkins Scottsdale Fashion Square. It’s not like I was expecting it to be a great movie (although the characters were very endearing). But I think Natalie Portman is a wonderful actress and I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Ashton Kutcher ever since my sons and I started watching (and laughing hysterically at) “That 70s Show.”

But that’s not why I wanted to see the movie. I wanted to see it because Greta Gerwig, the actress who plays Patrice, best friend to Portman’s character Emma, is a Sacramento, Calif. native who went to school with my son Andy’s girlfriend.

On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I went to my niece Mandy’s soccer game at Pecos Park in Ahwatukee. We’ve followed her Ladybugs club team for the last couple of years, astonished each time by the growing confidence and skills that we see in Mandy and her teammates. The girls won their game handily (3-0) and afterward, we went to lunch with Mandy, my brother Bob, my sister-in-law Judy and my 14-year-old nephew Ben.

Ten-year-old Phoenix dancer Kendall Glover.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive, Mandy told us that Kendall Glover, who is competing in the finals for the CBS Show “Live to Dance” goes to her school. And that Paula Abdul showed up at a school assembly to surprise Kendall with the good news. And that Paula gave Mandy a hug!

On Sunday morning, I saw an email from someone I’ve never met before. Somehow this mom heard about my trip to Ethiopia last summer with adoptive parents Brian and Keri deGuzman. She was writing to ask if I had any pictures of the Soddo orphanage we visited.

“My daughter was in that orphanage last year and I was hoping that you would have pictures that I could get,” she wrote. “I know you can’t show pictures of the kids but was wondering if you have any of just the orphanage itself?”

I was happy to send her the link to a post I wrote on July 30, which shows several pictures of the orphanage. The children are no longer living in this facility; they’ve been relocated to a temporary building pending construction of a new orphanage at Wolaitta Village. A project that was designed by graduate students of the EthiopiaStudio project at ASU’s School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture.

Small world indeed.

Taking comfort in small things that make a difference

In a week consumed by tragedy and despair, we hang on to every scrap of hope. Stories of heroic efforts, a community coming together in shared loss, a congresswoman who was shot point blank in the front of the head now breathing on her own.

We want to believe, in the midst of our shock and confusion, that something meaningful will come of this. That people who promote extreme attitudes, rhetoric and divisiveness will reconsider what they say. That the rest of us will stop rewarding them with our time, our attention and our ratings.

It makes me wonder why we have allowed ourselves to become so fascinated by ugliness and negativity. When did we become so addicted to gossip, criticism and extremism? Are our own lives so boring, so unrewarding, so lacking in creative challenges that we must find relief in the false sense of security that comes with arrogance and superiority? Do we really believe it’s better to fight each other than it is to collaborate? Are we really more comfortable blaming others for our problems instead of digging deep inside ourselves to correct them?

I got news this week of progress that is taking place in the village of Soddo, Ethiopia, which I visited last summer with adoptive parents Brian and Keri deGuzman. The emails provided much-needed perspective in this week of disbelief and pain.

The nursery at the new orphanage facility in Soddo.

The children at the orphanage I visited have successfully been relocated to a new, albeit temporary, home. (The original orphanage lost its lease this month, when its landlord decided there was more money to be had converting his property to a bed-and-breakfast.) The new facility is smaller but adequate and the staff has been working hard to help 30 small children adjust to their new surroundings. Orphanage Director Stephne Bowers and her staff are filled with hope. The new location is within view of the entrance to a property that will soon be developed into a permanent home for these, and future, abandoned children.

Building self-sufficiency, one chicken at a time.

There was also word of a new project created to help impoverished members of the local community reclaim self-sufficiency. Children’s Cross Connection, a non-governmental organization working in collaboration with the Ethiopian government’s Department of Women, Child & Youth Affairs, gave each of seven widows eight chickens, which they will raise and breed to create small businesses of their own.

A community social worker will visit the women to offer guidance and observe the chickens’ health and care. In a month or two, each of the women will “pay” for their business by returning a healthy adult chicken back to CCC so the project can continue to help other women.

We can’t prevent ugliness in the world, but we can control how much of it we allow to enter our lives. I am not listening to radio commentators this week. I am looking at pictures that show me how powerful some tiny, hopeful steps in the right direction can be.

Photos courtesy of Stephne Bowers.

Ethiopia – the babies are thriving!

I hadn’t seen the deGuzman babies since their birthday party in mid-November. So when I stopped by the family’s Paradise Valley home yesterday morning for a visit, I was pretty sure Tesfanesh and Solomon had forgotten all about me.

Keri greeted me at the door with Solomon in her arms. As I expected, the now 1-year-old toddler (who spent nine blissful hours on my lap during the flight home from Ethiopa last July) nestled his head against his mom’s neck when he saw me, curious but shy.

“He’s playing hard to get,” Keri said, confident that my bond with her children was intact. We greeted each other warmly, eager to catch up on the last few weeks’ flurry of holiday activities, family visits and progress on projects the deGuzmans support in Ethiopia.

Tesfanesh deGuzman.

I heard laughter down the hallway to the left. When I turned to look, I saw Tesfanesh crawling furiously down the hall in my direction. Instinctively, I got down on my knees to put myself at her eye level. Without a moment’s hesitation, she crawled straight to my thighs, using them for leverage as she hoisted herself up to standing and held out her arms for a hug.

I almost lost it. And I definitely lost any resolve I may have had to get back to the office any time soon.

I ended up spending three full hours with Keri and the babies — and also had a moment to catch up with Brian deGuzman, M.D., who had returned from a bike ride as I arrived that morning and had a bit of time at home before heading off to his work as associate chief of cardiovascular surgery at The Heart & Lung Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. (As he kept insisting he would, when we were still in Ethiopia, Brian calls Solomon “Minte,” an affectionate nickname based on his first name, Mintesnot.) The couple’s other two children — 4-year-old Jesmina and 3-year-old Musse, who also were adopted from Ethiopia — were at preschool.

Solomon deGuzman in the family playroom. A map of Africa is on the wall behind him, part of a wall-size map of the world that was already there when deGuzmans bought their house.

The family has pretty much adjusted to their hectic, happy lifestyle and the babies are thriving. Solomon (who did eventually warm up to me) is wiry, strong and as charming and flirtatious as ever. As he moves toward the “terrible 2s,” he’s also developing a knack for drama — moments of frustration quickly manifest in piercing cries and explosive jumps that suddenly stop when he is comforted, distracted or appeased.

Tesfanesh, who is a few weeks younger, remains sunny and serene. She is insatiably curious and (so far) very patient with the process of discovery.

It’s been six months since I traveled with the deGuzmans to bring home these two beautiful babies, born into poverty and orphaned in a country more than 9,000 miles away from Arizona. They are happy, cherished, growing and developing right on track. What could be more remarkable?

MORE about the deGuzmans

My December 2010 article, “An Ethiopia Adoption Story,” is now archived online.

Read more blog posts about my Ethiopia journey.