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It seems like it’s been quite awhile since I posted something.  I’ve had the honor and privilege of writing for the website Mothering In the Middle, a website for midlife parents.  That, plus the adventures in daily living – mothering The Littlest E, running our household, the quest to find our son a great kindergarten for next year, serving on the board of directors of Connect-A-Kid (an adoption mentorship program), and preparing for the upcoming holidays has made writing posts difficult.  My hope is to shift that in the New Year.  I do have another post which I hope to put up soon called Turning The Big 5 0.  In the meantime, please enjoy my latest post at Mothering In The Middle:

Lights

For some reason, being the eldest daughter in a Jewish family, I always thought I should marry a Jewish man. Well, I fell in love with the most wonderful man in the world who happens to be the son of a retired-Episcopal minister.

I grew up celebrating Easter and Passover, Christmas and Hanukkah, even though I’m Jewish. I knew my folks would be fine with me marrying Tom; they knew we loved each other very much and they knew we both had good heads on our shoulders.  Our families welcomed our togetherness.  To culminate our union, we had a beautifully blended dual ceremony with an Episcopal minister and a Jewish friend (ordained minister) performing our service.  [To read more, please click on this link.]

Image: Shoshana

Pumpkins

Our first Halloween with The Littlest E was easy breezy. He was 15 months old and didn’t really know or care about pumpkins, costumes, going trick-or-treating, or eating candy.  We stayed home that year and answered the door whenever the bell rang.

For the past few years some friends of ours whose son is The Littlest E’s age, have held a Halloween potluck.  To read the full post, please click on the Mothering In The Middle link below:

Mothering In The Middle

Next up : The License Plate Game

©2014 Melanie Elliott

I became a mom, through adoption, at the age of 45.  I’ve been a mom now for a little over 4 years, which means I’m pushing 50.

Yikes and Yay!

Drinking your way through menopause

I love being this age, even though I have a few more cricks and creaks in my body.  For the most part, I have a pretty level head, am grounded and comfortable in my skin.  Life is good with no major complaints.  There’s a bit more stress in my everyday world because we recently rescued a lovely dog, Pepper, so we’re all adjusting to the furry addition in our lives.  And, there’s an added layer of, well let me call it mishegas (Yiddish for crazy), in life due to entering the world of perimenopause.

For the rest of this post, please check out Mothering in the Middle.

Image: Rick Cooper

Next up – The License Plate Game

©2014 Melanie Elliott

A good friend if mine knows a family in need so I am reblogging her blog here to give you information to help the family. Give Forward is such a wonderful organization.  Please help if you can.   Thank you.

“No way around it,  being a parent of a child on the spectrum is a big challenge.  Throw in Cancer on top of that, and well,  it’s even harder. That cancer, for TMR’s Booty Kicker Melanie is out of remission and spreading for the third time…She has a beautiful Non-verbal child who needs care 24/7.  Right now this is Melanie’s world.   Melanie is a mover and a shaker who is fighting as hard as she can to kick cancer’s butt a third time. Please join us in supporting her family in their time of need. We know Melanie has so much faith,  love and healing energy behind her.  Please say a prayer for her and her family now, too,  see her happy and healthy and caring for her amazing son.  We are all cheering you on Melanie  sending you love and light and healing!!

If you would like to donate to the fundraising Campaign to support Mel and her family please visit the Give Forward donation page to DONATE HERE: Melanie’s Give Forward Page.”

Send love and prayers to Melanie, Luke and Tim

Send love and prayers to Melanie, Luke and Tim

Original blog written by Monika Ostroff

Continuing Culture

When Tom and I decided to adopt The Littlest E from Ethiopia, we made a decision to do our best to bring Ethiopian culture into his life and our lives in as many ways as possible short of moving to Ethiopia. It’s true that there is nothing like growing up in the country where you were born. International adoption is complex and there are many who believe it should be abolished and many who do not think that way. We chose international adoption because we knew there were children in the world that needed homes with parents who would love them, and there were certain aspects we were not comfortable with in domestic adoption. We made a pledge to the Ethiopian government that we would take care of The Littlest E, and part of that is ensuring he knows his country’s culture, heritage, history, food, music, etc.

Ethiopian Flag

We are fortunate to live in Los Angeles where there’s Little Ethiopia, a part of LA devoted to Ethiopian restaurants, travel agencies, merkatos (in Ethiopia it’s an open air marketplace, but in LA it’s a market), clothing and music stores. Plus, there are thousands of ex-pat Ethiopians living here and there is a sizeable adoptive community. Over time, we have met a number of adoptive families with children The Littlest E’s age and they have become friends. When our schedule permits, we go to the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center on Saturdays and our son, along with his friends, attends Amharic, Ethiopian dance and art classes. These classes are all taught by Ethiopians and exist to give the children a greater understanding of their native country.

 

I think of it as planting seeds, so that our son will hopefully look at Ethiopia and the culture with interest, appreciation, and a hunger to know more. It’s great to hear him speak simple words in Amharic like “Kai” which means red, and “and, hoolet, sost” which means 1, 2, 3. It’s not just about learning language, dance and art; he’s with his friends, his people.

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We also attend Ethiopian celebrations when they happen. The Ethiopian calendar (Ge’ez Calendar) is different from the Western calendar and their New Year falls on September 11th. A couple of weeks ago, we went to a New Years celebration in Little Ethiopia where we listened to music, visited booths, and saw lots of people. We happened upon a group of young boys playing street soccer, and our athletic son joined in. He was inches shorter than any of the other boys, but he held is own and even got the ball twice. This provided another taste of Ethiopia and the soccer game was the high point of the day for me (and I’m sure for him, too).

 

In August, we attended African Cradle, an Ethiopian heritage camp for adoptive children. There must have been at least 15 children all within a few years of The Littlest E, and within minutes after we arrived, he bounded down to the playground and immersed himself in playing with a handful of boys his age. I wrote about African Cradle a couple of years ago in an earlier blog. Again, it was an amazing experience. During the day, our son would be with all the kids his age and do arts and crafts, play soccer, and go on nature hikes, while the parents attended seminars on racism in team sports, cultural identity to name a couple of topics. There were times when the older kids and younger kids got to play/swim together. We’d all gather together for meals and, in the evenings after dinner, we’d go the fire pit and eat s’mores, listen to Ethiopian music and watch the kids play and dance. There were a fair amount non-adoptive Ethiopians helping with the camp, too. It was a sight to behold when we were all up on stage dancing, everyone together. It was like we were transported back to Ethiopia. It truly was a wonderful weekend and we all made some new friends.

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After attending African Cradle, our son wore his T-shirt he got there with pride. He’s proud of his Ethiopian heritage and Tom and I encourage that. He was born in Ethiopia and it’s part of his identity. As he grows up, it may become an even larger part of his life. Awhile back I was driving him to preschool and he started telling a story – he was 50 and came to visit one of his friends from preschool. I asked him where he was visiting from and he told me Ethiopia. It could be a prediction; who knows? What I do know is Tom and I are going to keep exposing our son to his Ethiopian culture, and when he’s a bit older, we’ll go back to Ethiopia so he can see it first hand. That will be one of many trips.

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I recently met a young Ethiopian man who has been in the U.S. for over a decade. Listening to him talk about his life and his own identity issues provided me with a possible window into my son’s life, adding adoption to that. It made me realize that there are many immigrants who may have issues of identity and how they see themselves in the world, not just internationally adopted children. It’ll be interesting to see how our son identifies himself as he grows up. For now, all Tom and I can do is be good stewards and offer The Littlest E with as many cultural experiences as we can, but at some point, it’ll be his decision.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

Images: Unknown, Melanie Elliott

Over the summer, my husband and I purchased a new computer. For a couple of years, I have not been able to sync my iPhone with our computer and upload the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in that time. Somehow, on my phone and in iPhoto, there are duplicates and triplicate of the same photos. These last few weeks, I’ve tasked myself with going through each photo/video and deleting any duplicates. Tedious as it is sorting through 2,000+ photos, it’s given me an opportunity to look at our family photos, our memories of a lifetime.

Life did exist before we welcomed The Littlest E into our lives. Tom and I dated for a couple of years before marrying and we spent 6.5 years of our marriage working at starting a family. Though, in that time there were lots of valleys, there were also many peaks. Our honeymoon is Greece, Turkey and Paris was an amazing trip, though I didn’t have my iPhone back then, nor did we own a digital camera so our pictures are all in print. The Alaska cruise with Tom’s family in 2009, our Christmas in Taos and Santa Fe, and the trip to the Grand Canyon. We also took a couple of trips with a support group I’m a part of for women who used Eastern and Western medicine to help in making their families. Those trips were to the Bahamas and Asheville, NC. All of these trips were amazing experiences, adding to our palate as individuals and as a couple. I also have pictures of the home we bought in 2007. Life documented in photos.

Then on April 9, 2010, our lives changed forever when I received the call from the adoption agency telling me they had a baby boy available for referral. Four months later, The Littlest E became our son. Fortunately for us, our agency sent us a number of photos of him along with a 13-minute video, before we even met him. We are grateful to have those images. These photos will eventually become part of his lifebook. Since he’s 5, he’ll help create his lifebook with us, which hopefully will be a good family bonding experience.

I know I’m not the only parent who’s browsed through family photos. Aren’t we all lucky to have them? Moments captured in time. Going through these photos brought back so many memories, our trip to bring The Littlest E home, his first few days/weeks/months with us, and the cementing of our family life. We have photos of all his toddler adventures with friends from the parenting classes Burbank Adult School and Sunnyside Preschool. I’ve looked at photos of holidays, boo boos, our travels to see family, the day our son became a U.S. citizen, and most recently, all of The Littlest E’s adventures in soccer, baseball and basketball. I wasn’t just looking at them, but re-experiencing them. Thankfully, my task isn’t finished yet.

What I glean from this trip down memory lane is we have built a lovely life for us and for our son. Most of the photos are filled with smiles, love and joy with The Littlest E, family members and friends. We are blessed to live the life we do, and I’m eternally grateful The Littlest E is part of it. If you have a minute, or five or fifteen, take time to look at your photos, your memories of a lifetime.

Next up, I’ll be writing about continuing The Littlest E’s Ethiopian culture, and all that entails.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

Several weeks ago my husband and I took The Littlest E to African Cradle, a heritage camp for Ethiopian adoptive families. We all had an amazing time and I was excited to share about it on my blog. Then we came home to news about Michael Brown’s death and our amazing camp bubble burst. I’ll still write about our weekend, but it’s important to talk about what happened in Ferguson and to Michael Brown.

Once again, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed this time by a police officer. The death and subsequent protests, militarization of police, unrest, deployment of the National Guard, peaceful protests, and Michael Brown’s funeral have occupied much of the news and, as upsetting as it has been, I’m glad it’s out there for the world to see. Why you might ask? Because the incidents in Ferguson highlight what’s going on in America. We are an incredible and wonderful nation, but we also have a dark side, and that dark side is our racial divide which doesn’t seem to go away no matter how many young, unarmed black men are killed, and no matter how often these stories make the airwaves.

Every time an unarmed, black youth is killed, I can’t help but think, that could be The Littlest E. He’s only 5 years old, but he’s already 3’ 9” and could be well over 6’ by the time he’s Michael Brown’s age. Who knows how much he’ll weigh by then? Currently, he’s this energetic, engaging, lovely, bright child, but someday, in the not too distant future, unless we shift how we view people of color at a cellular level, someone is going to walk on the other side of the street when he walks down the street. This happened to a black friend of mine. Or, maybe someone will follow him around a store when he’s shopping to see if he’s going to steal something, which also happened to a friend of mine. Or, maybe he’ll be pulled over for no reason whatsoever except that he happens to be a young, black man driving in a white neighborhood. This hypothetical list could go on ad infinitum, which is heartbreakingly sad.

At the root of the issue is this (and this is my opinion only) – ingrained in a number of Americans is the idea that black men are threatening. It may be unconscious, it may be masked as something else, but it’s there at a deep level. This can also be said of basically any person of color. Not all people of color are bad and not all white people are good. But knowing it, and KNOWING it are two different things. Maybe Michael Brown’s death will finally force us to have unpleasant discussions about race in our country. Maybe this will lead to some healing. Maybe things don’t change and Americans aren’t able to rise above our issues. I don’t know. It seems we have a lot of work to do as a nation. We could all use a course or two in diversity training. Seriously. We can’t ignore Michael Brown’s death.

Across the board, police need to undergo special training when dealing with teenagers and mentally ill people. Shortly after Michael Brown’s death, another man, Kajieme Powell, in St. Louis, was shot many times by police and killed. I watched the video of this on YouTube. It was horrifying. The man obviously had serious mental issues and was carrying a knife of some kind, but there wasn’t any reason for the police to shoot him as many times as they did after he was down, and then put him in handcuffs when he was obviously dead. It’s the same with Michael Brown. There was no need to shoot him 6 times. I’m not saying give teenagers or mentally ill people a pass, especially when there is a real threat to a police officer or person, but what about shooting to wound and not kill? A shot to the leg or knee can do an awful lot of damage, stop a person in their tracks, and give the police officer time to regroup without having to shoot to kill. Maybe I’m being naïve.

Police officers also need to not always jump to conclusions when they see a black man walking down the street. On Monday, television producer, Charles Belk, 51, was arrested in Beverly Hills and held for 6 hours because he fit the profile of a suspected bank robber. Here is a bit of his Facebook post: “Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong ‘tall, bald head, black male,’ … “‘fitting the description.’”

The police mishandled the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. Was there a need to militarize the police force? It only fueled the flames of unrest that first week. Thankfully, calmer heads took over and they actually had someone from the community in charge, which inevitably led to lesser violence. But, will justice be served? Will Darren Wilson ever be arrested? Why is it that he didn’t file an incident report until days later, and when he did, there was no relevant information about what actually took place that day? Why is he still on paid leave? There are many unanswered questions that will hopefully be answered in due time.

Another thing that really upsets me is why people feel it’s important to demonize Michael Brown, demonize the victim? Yes, he got into a bit of trouble as a teen. Yes, he stole from the convenience store. I’m not saying he was a saint, but he was your average teenager. So, because he was flawed he deserved to die? Who knows how his life could have turned out once he started college? His parents will never know.

What we need is a continual, honest, national dialogue on race relations in our country, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, starting at the community level and reaching out to the states, then regions, then nationally. This issue isn’t going to be solved overnight. We must make a conscious effort if we are to learn, understand and grow.

What will it take for us to dig down deep and shift how we see those we consider “other?” Since becoming The Littlest E’s mom, my acceptance of others and openness to diversity has broadened considerably. Did you ever see the Matthew McConaughey movie A Time To Kill? Samuel L. Jackson plays a man on trial for murdering two white men after he learned those men raped his 10-year old daughter. Mr. McConaughey plays the lawyer defending him.  In one scene, there’s only a shot of Mr. McConaughey as he describes the events of Mr. Jackson’s daughter and what happened to her. He asks the jury to close their eyes and he goes through step-by-step detailing what happened to the little girl, so the jury and the movie-watching audience is taken on this journey together. At the end of his monologue he says something like, “now imagine she’s white.” We can’t ignore Michael Brown’s death.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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