Our Jukebox Today

Today, Spice has been singing and singing this song. One of her names comes from the civil rights activist, and my favourite singer ever, Nina Simone. She heard that her auntie was showing a bunch of Nina Simone’s music to Gramma, and has been squawking out “To be YOUNG, gifted and BLACK!!” ever since…

Spice’s other favourite song this morning… “I love this song. It’s so sweet.”
BTW – did you know Elton and his partner have a house in Kelwona? That’s why we get him to perform here so often. Awesome.

Sugar’s gaga over Bruno Mars… I mean, who isn’t? This is her favourite song. She says “he’s nice looking, even though he smokes.”

One week until Ethiopia…


Well, it’s only one week to go… And we will be taking our girls back to visit eat Ethiopia for the first time. It’s funny because they are seven years old, and their priorities for this trip have been, in order: the spa, seeing bush pigs, and visiting their family. So that is how we have structured their trip.

If you are new to this blog, we adopted them in 2009, in the midst of our adoption agencie’s bankruptcy. I was blogging back then too, but our old blog imploded a year or so ago. Anyway, I ended up being two months in Ethiopia with newly adopted 2.5 year old twins. Ah, the memories. Since then, I’ve traveled back several times to run our charity, Vulnerable Children Society. My mother is now going on her fourth trip!

So it will be my husband and I , our 7-year-old twin girls Sugar and Spice, and my parents. It’s my father’s first trip, and my husband was in a bit of a daze the last one, so I think the major culture shock will probably come from them.

We only have 10 days in country …which really is nothing.

Basically, we will spend a day in Addis visiting one of our projects, a retraining program for teenage sex trade workers. And probably short visit at AHOPE. Maybe a visit to the natural history museum, if we can swing it.

The next day, we leave for Nakemt, which is where our daughters are from. We will be visiting their family, which should be a long and interesting process. That’s putting it mildly… We have one of those “complicated” family situations. We hope the girls won’t be too traumatized by it, and will come away with some good memories as well as bad. We’ve visited before, but not with the girls in tow.

Back to Addis for one day, where we will spend the day at another project: the Love and Hope Center on the outskirts of Addis, in the burbs of Kality. We will be installing the new Literacy Library, doing a craft with the 70 kids, and making plans for new projects, such, perhaps, a community garden.

Then off for four days at Lake Langano, to sit in the bush and look at the hippos and the monkeys. We are really looking forward to this bit. My father is a wildlife biologist, and he’s never been to Africa. So he’s got himself a book of wild birds of Africa and is so excited to try it out. My girls are also animal crazy… Did I mention that I am a nature freak and my husband is a veterinarian? So they are really happy about spending some time in the bush. I think it will also be a really good opportunity to decompress and deal with any trauma or big stuff that comes up when visiting their family.

We will visit the orphanage that they came from, on the way down, and some friends at Debra Zeit on the way back. Then we have one more day in Addis… The thing my girls are looking forward to the most. A day at the spa! I have also hired a guide to take the boys out doing touristy things in Addis. The guide, who I’ve used before, has instructions to take them to nice tejbett and other male focused activities 🙂

Anyway, we are looking forward to it. There’s a lot of planning, so much that no one will ever know about, except me. But it will all be worth it.

Let’s just hope our passports arrive back from the embassy before we have to leave!!

Tribes I belong to… How about you?

It seems like my weekly blogging time is now over a glass of wine at the Minstrel Café… A blissful hour and a half while my girls are at Brownies. We may have to pull all sorts of culinary and driving acrobatics to get them here by 6 o’clock, but it’s definitely worth it!

Today I was talking about tribes with my students, and oddly, I feel like talking about it more. For any of you new to my blog, one of the hats I wear is , (eh hem! Cleaning my throat) Business Professor. Sounds pretty spiff. But it’s much less glam than it sounds.

One of the benefits of huge job is that I get to talk about concepts that interest me, and then try them out in my own entrepreneurial life. The marketing concept of Tribes was popularized by the fabulous thinker Seth Godin. Basically, in a nutshell, tribes are a new way of describing a modern phenomenon. Because of technology, cultural mash-ups and geographic distribution, people are no longer just connected by where they live, and the race/gender/age/income that makes them demographically up. We tend to associate with now with people who have similar interests, and consequently have similar behaviours, understanding, and use of language.

I’ll give you some examples of the tribes I belong to… Maybe your belong to some of the same tribes? (I betcha, since you visit my blog!)

Ethiopian adoptive parents: we celebrate two Christmases and Easters, despise the shoulder shrug, have painfully tried to make injera, and understand the Habesha/Farengi concept. We are very connected online, and can be found in high numbers at Ethiopian restaurants. Have play dates with other Ethiopian and adopted kids; take our kids to any event with a lot of black people.

Simple life moms: grow our own food, have backyard ch*ckens, feed our kids organic food, ban the kids from TV, make homemade Christmas gifts, decorate with nature, repurpose furniture and clothes, have a big clothesline, attachment parenting, purposeful living, etc.

Mompreneurs: the juggle of a home based business, getting the word out when you have a budget of nothing, prioritizing your kid time, never knowing when to stop working.

Green entrepreneurs: we patronize each other’s business, challenge each other to constantly lower our environmental footprint, act as conduits into the green community, never show up in glam clothes… The coolest thing is “I got it from the Thrift Shop!”

Environmental education academics: wring our hands at how our institutions consistently ignore us, feel alone in our own institutions, meet in foreign countries to speak at the same conferences, are completed supported by the students while our sanity is questioned by our peers.

International NGO organizer: run small organizations, never have enough time, write reports and am always dreaming up another campaign, travel more than migrating birds, know how to cross the world and work the next day despite jet lag, wring our hands at bureaucracy, have exciting passports, work from home. Sometimes can’t sleep because we want to more.

And some I have belonged to, or sit on the edges of:

Big game hunters: yes, I have shot, butchered big animals. But I never wore camo. I actually never tasted beef until I was 12. We just ate moose, elk, sheep, etc. I can still drive a quad, make sausage and wrap meat. (Now I mainly eat fish.)

Rotary: oh, so many traditions… from fining each other at meetings, to navigating matching grant applications, to fundraising for every community and international project possible. The four way test of ethics. Being part of the last serice organization in the world. I still help with special events, and go back to ask them for money for my charity!

Exchange students: one of those experiences that changes you forever… Living in another culture, making your way in a new family, learning a language on the fly, growing away from and growing back into your Canadian family. All of my closest friends have been on an exchange… No coincidence, I think. And to date, I’ve lived with 13 exchange students and 3 au pairs.

Wine professionals/ serious lovers: take advanced courses in tasting, know all sorts of stories about each wine region that most people don’t care about, love geography, base holidays around wine regions, go immediately to the “expensive” section of the wine shop and drop a lot of money without regret, spit and don’t swallow.

Those are just a few examples, but you get the idea. Tribes aren’t our census description… They are really who we are. They are who we hang with, online and in person, and what we are passionate about.

I’d love to hear about some of the tribes you belong to… And if you belong to some of the same tribes as I do, tell me more about our tribe!

Arnica and Jason’s Fundraising Campaign: Literacy Library for the Love and Hope Centre

The one request we had directly from the folks in Ethiopia was for reading books for the Love and Hope Centre study groups. You see, 70 kids come to the centre in Addis Ababa each day, for a hot meal, showers, after school tutoring, counselling, medical care and a safe place to play. Education is the corn stone of the centre, and it’s the only way that these children will break out of the cycle of poverty.


Oddly enough, English is very important to learn, even if it isn’t an official indigenous language. English is essential for the kids to go on to post secondary, and it is extremely valuable in a number of professions. So the kids are tutored in English.

But… They need books.

And not just any books. The kids need levelled readers, in groups of 10. You see, they study in groups, so 10 of the same book is really helpful.


If you would like to help us fill up our adult-sized bags (as opposed to the kids… See below!) please consider making a donation to our Literacy Library campaign. We have a goal of $500. Jason and I will take the readers over in our bags (the next trip too, if we raise that much money!) so the kids at the Love and Hope Centre in Ethiopia can study. We have a special deal with Scholastic to buy the readers at 50% off, so your donation will go very far indeed!

Thanks for donationing!

Sugar and Spice’s Donation Campaign: Love and Hope Centre in Addis Ababa


When we heard that our 70 kids at the Love and Hope Centre in Addis Ababa could use extra health and sanitation items, the girls thought that would be the perfect thing to fill their bags for Ethiopia. They are going to be collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste, multivitamins, underwear, and first aide supplies for the children.

So they put together their own donation campaign… I just typed up the text. The girls decorated their posters for the school lobby and designed handouts. Don’t you love their creativity?


I think it is so important to let them do this campaign by themselves. It’s amazing what a little trust and empowerment in seven-year-olds can enable them to do!

If you would like to donate to their campaign, please contact us with a comment below before the end of January. The sooner the better, please. 🙂 Then we will know how many bags we will be taking!