internet marketing The Big Sis Diaries: September 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Meeting Melissa Fay Greene (warning: long- but worth reading)

I realize that Friday is usually "Ethiopia Trip Post" day, but I thought it would be more important to recount how my meeting with Melissa Fay Greene went!!

On Wednesday, my mom and Sasha kidnapped me from school after my third period class so that we could drive to the library of a town that was five minutes away where MFG was speaking. (I know, I know. Why I would be missing school when I felt perfectly fine is a question a lot of people wouldn't be able to answer, but those people don't know how much it meant for me to meet her. As some of you may remember, I have been corresponding with MFG throughout our adoption process, and her responses have meant a lot to me. Here is my letter to her (she responded, much to my great surprise, flattery, and excitement, the very next day!!) Looking back, I shouldn't have been surprised by her generosity and compassion to respond so kindly to a young fan (and with such promptness!) I could see what a great person she was when I was able to speak with her.

We went into a room where a buffet lunch was set up, across the room where a desk piled with paperback versions of There Is No Me Without You. When I saw Melissa Fay Greene talking and smiling to another woman there, I felt like I was seeing a Hollywood actress! I couldn't wait till everything had settled down so I could meet her.

My mom and I then ran into another woman there with an adorable Ethiopian-adopted baby, and we soon found out that they were the Daileaders! They had arrived home TWO DAYS BEFORE with their sweet Sophie, and I immediately was overcome with admiration to coming to the talk fresh from a long, exhausting trip. Sasha was fascinated by Sophie and kept staring at her throughout the talk, and would time to time point at her and say "baby, baby." They're pretty much exactly a year apart and the Daileaders live just 15 minutes away, so I can see a new friendship developing in the future for Sasha.

When we were seated at one of the two long tables in the room, we began to talk with some other families who had come. We met several families who were in various stages of Ethiopian adoptions, many of them waiting for referrals. One family was waiting for their travel date and brought the referral picture of their extremely cute two-year-old daughter with them, which was fun to see.

Right before the talk started, Melissa Fay Greene walked by me on her way to the front of the room. She stopped, somehow recognizing me right away! MFG asked if the cutie sitting next to me belonged to me, and I said yes; she then proceeded to ask a few questions before she had to go up to talk. When the host was introducing the guest speaker, MFG leaned over and asked me if I would do her a favor and get her a glass of water. I was more than pleased to perform the task, and I thought it was very sweet and considerate to ask me since she probably knew that was something I could brag to my friends that I did later on. Also, as my mom pointed out, it probably would have been something she would have asked her own kids to do if they had been there, which made me feel a bit special :-).

She spent the next hour reading excerpts from There Is No Me Without You and talking about why/how she wrote it, including funny personal stories not included in the book as well as updated statistics and news. The stories carried me back to our trip and our adoption adventure, and I felt a twinge of nostalgia I hadn't felt before. I have been so caught up with my life now that I don't think about Ethiopia or the adoption process, and all of my memories started flooding back. I resolved myself then and there that I will go back to Ethiopia, and I will visit the children left behind there, even though I can't definitively say when now.

I loved listening to her; even though she's a famous writer, she's so personable, down-to-earth, and warm. Sasha was a very good girl throughout the talk, remaining fairly quiet and disruptive, although she did often lean over me to get a better look at baby Sophie. When MFG was done speaking, the adoptive parents with their Ethiopian children were asked to introduce themselves (there were three, including a family that had come in with their one-year-old baby boy.) After questions were taken and answered, we were able to talk a bit more with the other families and discovered that there were more in our area than we had thought. I hope that Sasha will be able to interact more with these children in the future and form many close friendships with Ethiopian-adopted kids like her :-).

I then asked MFG to sign the family copy of the book I had brought, as well as the copy we had bought there for a relative. She asked me what to write, and caught a bit offguard, I said that she could write what she wanted. When she had done this, we talked a bit more before it was time for us to leave. I honestly felt like I could have been having a conversation with anyone else I know; she was so casual and easy to talk to. I hope she will go on more book tours in the future, because I would love to have more time to speak with her- I have so many questions to ask her. What she has done is really an inspiration (I've found myself thinking that I want to grow up to BE her) but the fact that she seemed like such a regular person was equally admirable- it gives me hope that maybe I can grow up to do what she does in the future.

On the way back to school, I finally got the chance to look at what MFG had signed in the book. She had written, "To Susanna, My youngest and most eloquent correspondant." Wow! She is such an amazing woman. I hope that all of you will have a chance to meet her- it's so worth it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Have Fooled You All For So Long...

In reality, I'm a mean, nasty, cruel big sister. I wouldn't let her leave the room until I could get this picture.

On a much happier note, I get to see Melissa Fay Greene tomorrow! I can't wait to report on how that goes!!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Day 2

Understandably, we crashed when we finally got to our Dubai hotel after the long flight. While we were very eager to enjoy the hotel's pretty tropical surroundings, we were all extremely exhausted. We ended up sleeping 3 or 4 hours to replenish our energy, but since we didn't want to remain jetlagged for the rest of the trip, we forced ourselves to wake up after that.

Since it was already late afternoon Dubai time by then, we spent the rest of the day relaxing poolside and beachside. As you can see, the setting of the hotel was similar to many Caribbean beach resorts, but hearing the chantings from the mosques and seeing women clad head-to-toe in black in the ridiculous heat (more on this later) gave us more of a feeling that we were truly not in Kansas (or Connecticut) anymore. Outside of the hotel walls, it was a very different place from anywhere we had traveled before. But for that day, we let ourselves catch our breaths and relax for a bit- the last day that we would all be truly at leisure (story to be continued! :-))

I apologize if these videos are a bit hard to watch. I had to cut out parts of it here and there in order to preserve family privacy and also because filming was difficult at times due to the condensation that collected on the camera (it is RIDICULOUSLY hot and humid there!) Dividing the video into smaller videos was also the only way I was able to post all of it here, so again, I'm sorry if the production isn't quite as flawless as that of a huge-budget Hollywood film (hopefully I'll reach that level of videotaping perfection with time and experience :-))

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Such a Cliche, But It Never Fails

Yes, like all kids her age, Sasha has discovered and is fascinated by the "pots and pans" cupboard in the kitchen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

As I've Promised...Day 1 Of Our Ethiopia Trip

At 5am on June 20th, 2007, a very excited/nervous/elated family woke up to the first day that would lead into their greatly-changing lives. They double-checked their packing list, discarded and threw in last-minute items, and piled into the family mini van to head to JFK airport, where they would board a 9am flight to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The 12-hour flight was smooth, albeit long, but 500 in-flight channels certainly helped!

Day 1 blended into day 2 through time change and a very long flight. More on day 2 is coming to a blog near you (specifically, The Big Sis Diaries) next week!*

*I've decided, for the purposes of keeping readers informed on present-day goings-on, to post about one day of our trip each week. Next Friday, I'll post about day 2; the following Friday, day 3, and so on. But stop back before then for more info/pics about the everyday life of this Big Sis and her crazy family!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Anti-Racist SISTER meme

I was tagged by Dawn over at Meet Dawit (if you haven't been there, please go! Dawit's comments never fail to crack me up :-)) for the "Anti-Racist Parent" meme, or in this case, an "Anti-Racist Sister" meme:

1. I am:

Norwegian (50%), English (about 20%), Irish (about 25%), and just barely Polish (about 5%)

2. My siblings are:

Kristian (11)- Norwegian, English, Irish, a tiny bit Polish
Carsten (8)- Norwegian, English, Irish, a tiny bit Polish
Sasha (19 mos.)- Ethiopian

3. I first started thinking about race, culture, identity when:

Having an awareness of other cultures has been with me from, as I like to think, the time I was born. I was born in Norway, lived there for three years, and have lived in many different houses and two different states in the US since then. I have traveled extensively (I've been to 27 countries to date) and other places/cultures have always fascinated me to a great extent. Having been open to and aware of different cultures my whole life, I've been comfortable with being an "international girl" since I was very young. Although I don't remember it, my parents told me that when I was three, I told a taxi driver that, "I was born in Africa. I'm an African girl." They laugh, saying that I'm probably the farthest thing from being "African", being very fair-skinned with blonde hair and blue eyes, but I don't think that I was too far wrong, even though I didn't know it at the time. Having been to Africa three times and being priveledged enough to be a big sister to a child who has her roots in Africa, I honestly do feel that Africa is a part of me.

4. People think my (first) name is (I don't want to disclose my last name here):

Pretty and classicly fresh. In the words of my mom, "Susanna is a name everyone has heard of but no one actually has too much anymore." When I was young, I kind of didn't like the fact that I didn't know anyone else with my name, unlike my friends with names like Emily, Victoria, Alyssa, and Molly. I've since grown to like it-I think it suits me. My friends have nicknamed me "Susy" which I also like, but only when people that I know well or are around my age call me it (for example, I'd be uncomfortable if one of my teachers, who I want to take me seriously, called me that.) Unlike before, I treasure the fact that "Susanna" kind of stands out in a sea of Kates and Sarahs. I really don't like the fact that there is a Susanna in my chemistry class and a different Susanna in my government class. I don't know how that happened, but I'm unused to responding to my name if I'm not being spoken to.

5. The family tradition I want to pass on is:

Traveling. It's such a big and important part of my life. Given that I have the money and resources, I want my children to be exposed to as many different places and cultures as possible.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:

Being too far away from relatives to see them regularly. It's too bad that we can't celebrate holidays and important events with extended family, so hopefully my children will have more of that.

7. My siblings' first word in English was:

Kristian- "Ball" followed shortly after by "car"
Carsten- "Yite" (light)
Sasha- "Bye-bye"

8. My siblings' first word in a language other than English was:

Kristian and Carsten- I think it was "ball" in Norwegian (meaning ball, but pronounced slightly differently, with a shorter "a" sound)
Sasha- "Papa" (it's the same in English and Norwegian). As far as we know (though of course we can't be sure), Sasha didn't speak any Amharic since she had only been exposed to it for five months (in the region she was born in, they spoke a different Ethiopian language.)

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in our home is:

I can't say one phrase here, really, since we speak two languages fluently. We speak English with my mom and Norwegian with my dad, so there are a slew of phrases from both languages that are said frequently. We don't speak Amharic at all since Sasha doesn't respond to it.

10. One thing I love about being a big sister is:

Oh man, I have to pick just one???? I think one of the best things is knowing that they're there, that I can come home to smiling faces and funny stories no matter where I have been and what I have experienced. I think of us all being quite close, and I hope it stays that way.

11. One thing I hate about being a big sister is:

I think "hate" is used too strongly here, but I definitely have more responsibilities being a big sister to three. Sometimes it's fun, but there are times when I have to do things that I'm really not in the mood for and have to do anyway. It's worse, though, to feel guilty about not attempting to enjoy them, since every experience with siblings should be seen as a good experience.

12. To me, being an anti-racist sister means:

Just having an open mind. I've been lucky enough to have been exposed to different places and cultures throughout my life, and welcome every opportunity I have to be introduced to more. I'm sure there are many kids my age who wouldn't have been as excited as I was to adopt a younger sibling, but to me, it has meant everything. Before and since we have had her home, though, I've been surprised by the enormous number of people, kids my age especially, who have expressed their enthusiasm and have said that adopting a baby from Ethiopia is amazing in so many ways. More importantly, many have vowed to do the same thing when they're adults, or have tried to convince their families to follow our family's lead. This shows that already, the world is a changing place. I hope that adoption and global awareness and understanding only continues to blossom with time. Being acclimated with other cultures is amazing, and I hope many other people will be able to share my experiences.

I now tag Staci and Alli. Both are big sisters of adopted little girls, one from China and one from the US. I'd like to know about your experiences adopting from different places!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I was featured in "Teen Vogue"!!!!

For those of you unfamiliar with Teen Vogue, it is, as the title explains, a nationally-distributed (possibly worldly-distributed, too- I've seen it sold in Canada and Europe) magazine for teens by the makers of Vogue. I have subscribed to it for years, and about two months ago, there was an article in it all about Ethiopian-born supermodel Liya Kebede's work in Ethiopia, starting her own organization to support the building and facilitation of hospitals there and being elected UN Ambassador to Women and Children. Well, as soon as I finished reading the article, I wrote a letter into the magazine explaining my gratitude at their inclusion of this great role model's work since I have such a personal connection to Ethiopia. I had never really expected it to be included in a later issue in the "Mail" section from readers- frankly, I had pretty much forgotten about it until I received my issue of it today. I almost fell over when I saw my name in bold letters written in such a widely-read publication, accompanied by my letter! I guess it goes to show that you should really expect the unexpected- I'm sure they get hundreds, if not thousands of letters, and they only have room to feature a few in each issue. I guess I'm a celebrity now! :-)

Unfortunately, I don't think they have a copy of the Liya Kebede article on the Teen Vogue website, but here is the letter I wrote in response to it:

I just wanted to thank you for your story about model Liya Kebede's humanitarian work in her home country. I just returned from Ethiopia, where we adopted my little sister, and I saw firsthand the poverty and devastation there. Because of my sister's roots, I feel a very strong connection to Ethiopia. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a widely known celebrity lending her efforts to strengthen this beautiful and rich culture. I'd like to add that I can completely see where Ms. Kebede's stunning beauty originates- the people there, my sister being no exception, are gorgeous!

The article is on newstands everywhere now! :-)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Update

Helping Kristian do homework
Looking slick

Taking a cat nap

Cuddling next to Kristian after a lonely day without him

Sorry for the blog hiatus. Unfortunately, given all of the other goings-on around here, blog posting has fallen several notches down on my to-do list.

Things are going pretty well around here. School is so-so, which is probably the best that can be expected of a high school junior, given all of the demands this year. I'm finding time to see friends still, luckily- I'm going to my town's anual carnival tonight with a big group of them, and a pool party tomorrow afternoon. I also start work tomorrow, which I'm pretty excited about. I'm only doing Saturdays for now, but hopefully I can add another day or two after school after my schedule is smoothed out. The pay is pretty good (I'm saving up for a car; I'm paying for half) and as far as high school jobs go, I really don't think it's so bad. After all, I love kids, and a job like this will be great preparation for when I'm a teacher.

Classes aren't TOO terrible so far, either. Honors chemistry is starting to become more brutal, and AP Government is challenging in that you really have to be on top of your work- but otherwise, I can't complain. I do have a lot of homework this weekend, though, which reminds me that I should probably get started on it instead of writing this- but I do feel that blogging really can be as important as homework sometimes.

The boys are relatively happy too. Carsten is not feeling well, keeping him out of school for two days, but I think it's winding down now. Neither of the boys talk about school too much, which is a good sign- they wouldn't say anything unless it was to voice a complaint. Sasha, on the other hand, has been missing us terribly. She's glued to us when we walk through the door, smiling and laughing and chatting nonsensically. It has been lonely for her without us, but she's getting used to the routine her and my mom have during the day. My mom has been teaching her baby signs in order to stimulate her vocal communication with us, and so far it's working. She has picked them up right away and uses them appropriately, accompanied by the word itself.

Other than that, there isn't much else new to report. I know I've said I'll post more about our trip, and I've remembered that promise. I'm planning to write here a journal entry on each day of our trip, taken from the journal I kept while I was there, along with more videos. If I get everything done in a timely manner this weekend, I'll do the first one on Sunday. In the meantime, I posted some pics, just to remind those of you who forgot in the time since I posted last just how adorable my little sister is.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Baby's Day Out

We have some family friends of ours visiting for the long weekend, so today we went to Essex, CT, for a train ride and river cruise. As they say, pictures tell 1,000 words, so I'll let the next few photos I took (with my new camera!) of the day to do the rest of the talking ;-)
"Even if what the two boys behind me are plotting has anything to do with stealing and selling my dolls, I couldn't care less. This toy train is WAY too attention-absorbing."
"Oh, no. I would never think of trying to steal this pull-along train!" *bats eyelashes*

"Okay, WHAT did my brother just put me on against my will? Since it IS kind of fun, I'll let you get away with it- this time."

Yelling "Hi!" to the traintracks (she's very generous when it comes to greeting inanimate objects. She finds it necessary to say "Bye-bye!"to the dishwasher and washing machine before we leave the house.)

I call this the "paparazzi-catching-a-starlet-as-she's-walking-down-the-street" picture. Doesn't it look exactly like a photo of Nicole Richie emerging from a coffee shop?? (Save for the fact that Sasha was born in Ethiopia, 25 years younger, and is a good 2.5 feet shorter than Nicole Richie. And, of course, a little bit chubbier, too.)

Yeah, so much for Ethiopians not liking ice cream (she stole my mom's.)

At 19 months, she has her bored teenager expression down cold.

"Okay, I KNOW I didn't just hear you say that we have to get off the train soon. "

Ah, the fascination of it all...

"Okay, I can understand you playing peek-a-boo with me, or even making funny faces at me to make me laugh. But that weird dance you're doing to get my attention crosses the line. That's just plain bizarre."

"Oh, you don't think I know what you're saying when my ears are covered, do you? I think I heard the words 'toy train' and 'Sasha's birthday' in the same sentence." (No, we were really just playing peekaboo ;-))

The view of the Connecticut River from the train and the boat. Isn't it beautiful?

"Why hasn't anyone told me about boat rides before?! Under other circumstances, I'd be mad at you for that, but I'm too busy enjoying myself."

"If you'll let me wear your sunglasses, we'll be even."

The face behind the lens. I think readers of this blog forget what I look like since I almost never have pictures of myself on here. I managed to snap a few of myself on the boat...since I have "non-photogenia" disease, I don't often come across ones that I like of myself, but I guess these aren't TOO bad.

Needless to say, it was a great day!

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