How to Help a World in Crisis

I recently finished reading Ashley Judd's powerful book All That Is Bitter & Sweet.

She writes about global issues such as poverty, AIDS, prostitution, rape, war, genocide, lack of safe water or any water, Malaria, maternal death and high infant and child mortality rates. Truly devastating stories and history contained in the pages of this book, but Ashley deals with the difficult content with grace.

She also discusses her upbringing in a dysfunctional family system -- a family that battled addictions, a family that often ping-ponged her around from home to home, one parent to the other, and left her alone altogether at times.

She discussed feminism -- not in the connotation widely thought of negatively, but in the very basic definition that women have rights and should be treated with respect and humanity; that women are not in a sub-category to men; that women are human. If this concept is foreign to you it is likely that you, as I was, are unfamiliar with how women are treated in many countries.

She discussed her marriage to race car driver Dario Franchitti, her family issues, therapy, decision to pursue acting and subsequent decision to pursue global advocacy and activism work.

She takes the reader on trips into the heart of India, Cambodia, Thailand, and many places in Africa, including Rwanda and the Congo. I learned a lot about true poverty and what that looks like. I learned much about prostitution and what causes such high rates. In a word, it is caused by desperation. Starvation, 12 year-old girls who are AIDS orphans and have taken a handful of toddler AIDS orphans as their own children to mother and provide for. That doesn't even include sex trafficking and how women, young boys and children are snatched from their homes, smuggled across borders and enslaved in a life of forced prostitution.

Every chapter is devastating and creates urgency to help. There is so much need and so many in developed countries who could do so much good. So many things that are SO CHEAP, but save lives, like water purification systems and mosquito nets.

I am so glad my family is involved with Compassion International. I am so glad we sponsor Cristian, a 5 year-old little boy living in South America. I am so glad to know, when I read about fistulas from childbirth and sexual violence, that somewhere in Ethiopia this month, a woman got a life-changing surgery because our family sent money. I am so humbled, happy and grateful to help. But it feels like so little, and I want to do more.

I look around our small house -- a house that would seem like a palace to a family in parts of Africa. We have running water -- hot and cold -- that is safe to drink and bathe in, 24/7. We have basic health and healthcare. We have shelter and food. Our children are not in jeopardy of being infected with Malaria by mosquitoes while they sleep.

Suddenly, using the word traumatic to describe anything I've experienced in my life seems naive.

There is a balance -- finding ways to get involved and help while being at peace with living a more comfortable and safe existence. I thank God for the luxury of being born in North America.

We are so excessively blessed and lucky and fortunate. I want to soak in that knowledge -- truly feel it -- and then look for more ways to get involved in the fight against global violence, poverty and disease.

As Compassion International puts it: "Start small. Think big." How can you get involved?

Here are just a few quality organizations with which to partner:

Compassion International
World Vision
Show Hope
Fistula Foundation

Take an hour and visit some of these sites and see if you feel called to help. If you can't help financially, post links to these sites on your Facebook page, blog, Twitter. There is always something to do, and even though it doesn't always feel like it, every little bit helps at least one person suffering.


Using My Words

I have been focusing on the memoir I'm writing -- on loss, on love, on what makes a family -- and it has surprised me that the more words I use with my book writing, the less I seem to have for my journal or my blog. I keep coming back to this space, to say hello, or check in, and I just can't think what to say.

So hi and hello! I hope you are all well.

My husband celebrated a birthday last week and I had the pleasure of taking him out for a night. Here's a picture of us, taken in a mall parking lot, but reflecting happiness nonetheless.

We had dinner at Cheesecake Factory and got coffee at Starbucks and held hands and enjoyed hours with no sticky hands to wash or little bodies to buckle in and out of car seats. The girls had a great night having a sleepover at Grama and Papa's house.

I can't get over how blessed I am. Next month we are celebrating 9 years of marriage. I can't wait. I can't wait for that number to be double digits and then double and triple. 

I remember the longing to spend my life with someone, to be completely safe with another person. My husband is not perfect. I am not perfect. We are not perfect for each other. We are, in actuality, quite different. But I am safe with him. I know that I can tell him my dreams and my vision of the world and share my personal truths with him, and he will hold all of that safely.

This summer we're doing lots of reading around here, as all four of us are signed up for the local library's summer reading program. That means that, when I am not mothering and when I am not writing, I am reading. In one month I have read 6 + books and read several hours to the girls. 

We're definitely dripping with words around here, and we're not forgetting to use the ones we feel, like I love you. It's important not to assume that our family knows how we feel. Life is temporary. So we show and tell the love we feel, right now, while we can.

Are you using your words?


Traveling through History

This last week I've been working on my book. I have made more progress than I have in the last year combined. It's almost a fever... When I get a bit of time, after the girls are tucked into bed, all I do is write and read and edit and write more.

So I wanted to let you know where I've been.

I've been in the year 2004, when my grandfather first held my daughter; in the year 1980, when my aunt was killed by a drunk driver; in the year 2001, when the twin towers fell.

I've been traveling through history.

How did you spend your week?



Redemption comes in many forms.

Things happen and they aren't fair and they hurt. Loss and illness and disease and disability and strained relationships and failed attempts.

But if you get back up and keep going and process the hard stuff the best you can; if you keep focusing on the positive, while not living in denial about the hurt, if you just keep going...

Someday you'll find redemption.

Keep your eyes open and keep looking because it will come.

Puppy Slippers

his mother writes to tell us 
thank you
for the money we sent for Christmas

she says
he used the money to buy puppy slippers
my heart pounds a bit, holding her letter

once, after the miscarriage
i saw a baby boy that looked like our girls
dressed in denim overalls and puppy Robeez

the sight nearly undid me

and now she writes to say
he chose puppy slippers,
this little boy we sponsor, the same age our baby should be

the gift he is to me
is far more than the gifts he chooses
with our American dollars
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