Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Our Girl, and the Election

I’ve been reading a lot about voter demographics today. In short, a surprising amount of the election yesterday was determined by the black, Latino, and female vote.

My daughter, the Ethiopian girl learning Spanish in her bilingual school, is the new face of the United States.

I am proud to live in a country that has come so far, and hopeful that our nation can continue along this path. When she steps into the voting booth thirteen years from now, I hope that her opinions and choices are respected, and that the faces of our government reflect that of my child.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My New Book, August, And Ethiopia

If I didn’t make it clear in my essay about how I’m giving 10% of my book profits to Ethiopia Reads, my heart lies in the country where my daughter was born.

Sadly, Ethiopia and the country that borders it, Somalia, are in dire straights. You can read about it by clicking here, but I’ll warn you, it’s a heart-wrenching story.

I talked it over with my wife, and we’ve decided to send all the profits from the month of August of my new novella, “The Werewolf Solution,” to Doctors Without Borders.

What’s the novella about? Here’s the tagline: “In a world where werewolves have revealed their existence, a werewolf must track down the werewolf who killed his father before the killer can get to his son.” If you want to know more, you can check out the first review here. Or read an excerpt here.

Will this cut into my giving to Ethiopia reads? Not a bit. If “The Werewolf Solution” makes $100, I’ll send $100 to Doctors Without Borders, and $10 to Ethiopia Reads. That’s five books and enough vaccines to fight infections in 40 people.

The thing of it is, maybe you don’t want to buy my books, but you want to give. That’d be great. Click here, and give whatever you can.

And if you have no money, and still want to help, do me a favor. Link this entry on your blog. Post it on Facebook. Throw the link up on Twitter.

Help me to help Ethiopia and Somalia.

You can buy “The Werewolf Solution” on:

The Kindle

The nook

And if you find that you need an app for your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android, go here.

Thank you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why I’m Giving 10% of My Book Sales to Ethiopia Reads

Like many people, I grew up as a reader in a house with limited funds. Luckily for me, I lived in Oshkosh, WI – a city that had (and still has) a great library. I could go there at any time, and walk out with a stack of books I wanted to read, at no cost to me.

On July 28th, 2007, my wife and I arrived in Ethiopia and met our little girl. She was six months old, 12 pounds, and the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. I wept the moment I met her. (There’s video.)

Through our adoption journey, I learned about both the good and the bad of Ethiopia. The amazing food, the incredible culture, how the very history of mankind is tied to the country where my child was born.

And I learned about the abject poverty: The average person in Ethiopia lives on 125 dollars a year.

Then I became aware of a man named Yohannes Gebregeorgis.

You can look him up if you want to know more, but the thumbnail sketch of Gebregeorgis is that he was born in Ethiopia, and then immigrated to the United States in 1982. He got his masters degree in library science, and took a job at the San Francisco public library as the children’s librarian.

When he was unable to locate any children’s books that had been published in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, he took it upon himself to write and publish one.

In 1998, he founded Ethiopia Reads. Its mission? “To create a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books.” In 2002, he moved back to Ethiopia, and has since established 10 libraries, including mobile library carts that are hauled to rural areas by a donkey.

In an ideal world, an organization like Ethiopia Reads would never want for donations, and would spend week after week opening new libraries and sending out new donkey carts stuffed with books for children.

In an ideal world, I’d have so much money to spend that I could fund this kind of important work myself.

But that’s not how things are.

I can’t do it alone. I need help. Your help.

Why? Because starting July 1st, 2011, 10% of profits from my book sales will go to Ethiopia Reads.

What does that mean?

It means if I make $20 that month selling my books, Ethiopia Reads will get two dollars from me. According to the program’s site, that’s enough to buy a book for one child. (The program also gives books to children to keep. For some it may be their first and only book.)

If I make 1,000,000 dollars, I’ll send Ethiopia Reads 100,000 dollars – enough to create ten donkey carts.

But as the saying goes: Wait! There’s more!

If any one of my books (I have three as I type this, with more to come) makes it into the top 100 of the Kindle sales listing, I’ll give 20% of my profits for that month to Ethiopia Reads.

The only way I can make this happen is with your help. Here’s how:

Put a link to this post on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. The more people know what I’m doing, the more money I’ll (hopefully) raise for Ethiopia Reads.

Buy one of my books on the Kindle or nook.

Or, if you’re not interested in the genre of stories I write (supernatural/urban fantasy tales, some funny, some scary, all of them heartfelt), consider donating to Ethiopia Reads directly.

And that’s it.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for getting the word out!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Right, Dad?

I'm not sure I can format this one to tell a story, but here it is anyway: The newest, oddest thing my daughter does.

It goes like this:

Mihret and I get into the middle of an activity. Suddenly, my daughter feels she must state a rule. Like so:

Her: We sit when we eat, right dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

And so on. It's like living in a "Leave it to Beaver" episode.

What's interesting about it have been the variations. If Kara is around, we get:

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Mom?

Kara: Right, Mihret.

And so on.

Only now, because she thinks it's funny, when it's just me and the kidpants, I'll get:

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: You'll have to ask mom.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: Dude. You know I'm not your mom.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: *sigh*

I have yet to find anything like this in a parenting handbook...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unsolved Mystery

Lately, our life has revolved around a magical thing called The Potty.

If you listen to people like My Friend, The Nanny, kids eventually just get it. They figure out how to do it, they think it's grand, they pull off the pull-up and they are ready to go.

It happens as if by magic.

The only problem is, in our house, it isn't happening by magic.

Oh, we thought it would. We brought in underpants, we got excited about them, we tried to make them sound awesome. The little one, on the other hand, decided we could pee and poop in 'em. And why not? She doesn't have to clean them.

Then we figured we'd let it happen naturally at the day care. She'd move up to preschool, and all the other kids would be in underpants, and she'd want to be a big kid.

Didn't happen.

Then new, younger kids moved in, and we thought being a "big kid" might make a difference. Perhaps she'd learn to use the potty just to show the other kids how it's done.


We tried a sticker system, which lasted for ten minutes, because she tore the special chart off the wall. Not on purpose. She just wanted to look at it. She didn't seem to understand what it was for.

And all the while, she kept getting better at the MECHANICS of the potty.

She can pull down her own pull-up. She can wipe herself, when poop isn't involved. She can wash her own hands, and use soap, and dry herself off.

And in the last four or five weeks, she seems to have gotten to a point where she can actually hold in her pee, instead of just letting it out in drips and drabs throughout the day.

Which is certainly an important step.

She's finally, finally, finally learning to put all her pee and poop in the potty, and I'm going to tell you how that's happening:

It's called The Treat Tin.

What's in the Tin? Candy. Lots of different kinds of candy, collected over time, given to us at birthday parties, at day care, and pretty much any time someone encountered us and thought we had a cute kid who needed a treat.

That Tin has all the power in the universe. And I think the reason it works is that it's not all the SAME candy. Whereas we played this game once before with M and Ms, she eventually realized that she was always gonna get a little hunk o' chocolate if she went on the porcelain throne.

So if she didn't want chocolate, well, feh. Why bother?

This feeds into my other theory, which not everyone in the household agrees with: I think our kid has refused to potty train because she realizes it's a bad deal.

Right now, if she's playing, or reading a book, or watching a movie, and she has to go? She can just go. There's nothing to stop her. She can void herself and just keep on having fun. She knows that's an awesome deal many adults would kill for.

(If you don't believe me, Google the Bleacher Buddy.)

But since there's a treat at the end of the tunnel, she races up the stairs, and voids her bladder, and runs downstairs because she knows some variety of candy, maybe one she's never had before, is totally on tap, and she is PUMPED.

Just last week, I got her through an entire day in a single pull-up, because every time she felt an urge, she knew a reward was waiting for her.

Which brings us to "The Mystery" in question.

Generally, when I'm in the shower in the morning, the little one occupies herself with something from our DVD collection. VeggieTales, Elmo, Dora, and lately Charlie Brown. She has some juice, she wakes up (she's not very good at that, just like everyone else in this house) and it gives her a chance to mellow before school starts.

Meanwhile, Kara is upstairs if there's an urgent need. Granted, Kara is asleep, but she would wake up if there was screaming or a loud crash.

At any rate.

On this morning, Kara was already at work. I went into the shower. I got out of the shower. And there was Mihret, with a big grin on her face.

"I went poop! Can I have a treat?" she asked.

Here's the issue: Mihret doesn't poop alone. She can pee alone, because she can take care of all the extra business that goes with it. But poop is another matter. We've had poop dropped on the floor and tracked around accidentally during poop alone time, so we carefully monitor her during such times now, and perform all wiping duties.

And I know her teachers give her a hand during these times as well.

So... I thought she might have been lying to me. Or, worse, had done horrible things in the upstairs bathroom even as I cleansed myself.

I checked her hands. I smelled her fingers. No poop.

I went upstairs and checked the floor, the toilet seat, and the box of moist wipes. All seemed to be clean, unused, and in order.

The only thing that indicated my wee one HAD been in the upstairs bathroom was her little stool, which she stands on when washing her hands. It had been moved in front of the sink, indicating that she had, at the very least, washed her hands while I was cleaning myself up.

I asked if she didn't just go pee. She insisted there was poop. Later than night, I asked her again if she went poop today, and she said she did. When I asked if it was before school or during school, she said, before.

Ultimately, I had to trust the little one, and gave her the treat she requested. But now I'm trying to figure out if there's some way to add a potty-verification system to the upstairs bathroom.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Haiku for My Daughter

A Haiku for My Daughter
(in Honor of her Mama Delame)

She sang to you and/
I'm singing to you and our/
Voices, mother-love.

-Kara N. Patterson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family History and the Big Girl Bed

Growing up is tough. Growing up as a parent is tougher.

The various tests and troubles of parenting start the moment your kid comes home. They have a pattern of some kind, but they can’t explain it to you, because they haven’t learned to talk yet.

So your life turns into a science experiment of eating, and sleeping, and diapers, and cuddling, and eventually you get to a point where everything works.

At which point: Boom. Over. On to the next phase.

And you get to learn a whole new set of eating/sleeping/running rules.

Then you adjust, and then, BOOM, over.

In the midst of it all? The big girl bed.

As an adult with no children, you spend very little time thinking about the many beds of childhood. Your brain understands the whole baby/crib, older child/bed thing, and that’s about it.

But as you start raising actual human beings, you learn that there are many itinerations of the big-girl bed.

First, you’ve got the crib. NO blankets allowed. Maybe one, if it’s really tucked in. Because if you don’t tuck it in, the kid will kick it on their face, and then IT’S ALL OVER.

At least, that’s what the parenting books tell you.

Then they get a little older, and maybe you put a blanket in there.

If they’re little when they come home, you leave the bar on the crib down. The kid gets bigger? You raise the bar.

Then comes the day when your child moves to a “toddler” bed. Which means you take the bars off the side.

It’s like a small miracle. First it was a crib, and now, with a little tugging, it’s a bed. A small one, granted, but a bed all the same.

Finally, it’s time to move your kid to an actual, you know, bed-type-bed. Maybe a full. Or a twin.

In our case it was a twin, though I didn’t realize it at first.

You see, Kara and I were PREPARED for this moment. We bought an awesome crib, which is designed to turn into a toddler bed, and then into a bed-type-bed. Even better, when I told my parents that I thought it was time to move the kid to a regular bed, they said they had one.

There’s a story I’ll come to there. In a moment.

So our plan was set. They’d come over, they’d bring the bed, and we’d arrange the little one’s room to accommodate her brand-new, big girl bed.

Only, as it turns out, I know nothing about beds.

To start with, I didn’t take into account that my daughter’s bed-to-be would have to be a full-sized bed, in order to accommodate the head-and-foot-boards previously known as “crib parts.”

So, instead, I tore apart her crib, and my dad and I (mostly my dad) hauled the parts of the bed upstairs and started assembling them.

Which is when I learned something – the bed used to belong to my dad.

For weeks, my parents had referred to the bed in question as belonging to my grandparents. But I didn’t realize they were talking about the Patterson side. I had assumed they were speaking of the Dorows, who both passed away this year.

I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

According to my father, the bed that now sits in my daughter’s room was his – or possibly his brother’s. My dad was one of seven kids, and the bed in question was, essentially, a cheapie from Sears. Back when my dad was young. Which would have been back in 1950-something.

The bed resided at the Patterson household for years, until the Dorows had to move into assisted living, and needed beds that would fit in their tiny apartment. So this little bed, and its brother, left the Patterson household for the first time in their long history, and became part of the Dorow household.

Then my grandfather passed away, and the bed returned to my parents.

The bed itself is in great shape. There’s a scuff here and there, but my Grandma Patterson recovered the headboard years ago in fake brown leather that almost perfectly matches my daughter’s bedroom set.

You might notice that the color is a little off from the other furniture, but it would take you a while.

In a lot of ways, the bed is perfectly at home in my daughter’s room, a collection of books and toys from her childhood, my childhood, and my wife’s childhood. Adding a bed that my father, my grandfather, and almost certainly I, have slept in at one time or another feels right.

I’ve already said that growing up as a parent is tough. Three generations of parents have slept in that same bed, and with any luck, one day Mihret will present a big-kid bed to her son or daughter with the words, “This used to belong to your great-grandfather. And your great-great grandfather, for a while.”

And if we’re all very lucky, the bed will pass along four generations of parenting wisdom.