30 June 2011

It may not be nice

. . . but it sure is funny!

I love NPR's Double Take Toons. This one made my day!

29 June 2011

Nature is Nurture

I read an article last week that emphasized the fact that sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. In this case, it's breastfeeding.

For a number of years now I have heard from various sources the benefits of breast feeding, particularly in the developing world. For reasons spanning from reducing infant mortality and improving nutrition to reduced fertility and accessible family planning, the sources I have previously read encouraged that mothers continue to breastfeed for two years in order to ensure that children are properly nourished and do not risk early exposure to contaminated water that causes diarrhea (and in turn dehydration and often death).

Nicholas Kristof takes up the breastfeeing argument in this article, reemphasizing the benefits of a mother's milk. And almost as interesting as the article are the reader comments. It is obvious that many women, in both the developing and developed world are misinformed about breastfeeding. There are various reasons for this--remaining myths created by formula companies seeking additional profits; misconceptions about hydration and the need for infants to drink water; difficulty with breastfeeding and lack of lactation support and information; etc., etc. The point is, whatever the reasons for not breastfeeding, the results are often increased infant mortality and malnourishment in children. While the benefits include healthier babies and reduced fertility in mothers (meaning, fewer children die and mothers have fewer children--two major issues in the developing world).

According to the research of The Lancet, 1.4 million lives could be saved every year if children were properly breastfed (meaning receiving breast milk ONLY for at least the first six months of life).

Again, this is so simple. It is a means all women naturally possess, regardless of their circumstances or even their own nutrition. (Many mistakenly believe that women who are malnourished cannot breastfeed. But actually, most women, even if they do not receive adequate nutrients and water, will still produce breast milk that can save their children's lives and reduce additional burdens to the family by requiring that food be provided for the infant.)

And while some mothers may choose not to breastfeed because of personal preference, many choose not to breastfeed because of lack of information and support. This is not a cure all, but educating women about breastfeeding and providing maternal care is an important, low-cost and relatively easy way of improving the lives of women, children and families worldwide.

Nature provides a way once again. Let's use it!
Picture taken from Kristof article.

23 June 2011

summer sweet

It all started with the sweetness of the white nectarines whose delightful scent wafted over to me from across the produce department and lured me in. I couldn't resist. And then, there they were, right next to the nectarines, a precarious pile of small, soft, pale sunset-orange apricots. I almost left without them, but then, why not? It's been so long, I thought. And I brought them to my apartment and left them sitting, waiting. Until today. I picked one up at lunch, and with the first semi-sweet bite, I was suddenly 5 years old again, in my backyard-- laughing and playing in the grass with my sister, enjoying a mild summer evening with my family as we picked and ate the warm, delicate fruits from our beautiful giant of an apricot tree. The tree that my dad meticulously pruned and my parents carefully protected with huge patchwork sheets on the coldest winter nights to save the delicate branches and leaves from (the occasional) freezing temperatures. The tree we tried to take with us when we moved to our new house when I was six, but which failed to thrive and blossom again after being transplanted into its (and our) new home, thus confining those fine memories of apricot summers to the few years of my life at our house on Mona Lisa Drive.

I like those memories. And so many memories of childhood. and summer. They make me feel warm and happy. They make me smile to myself 20 years and hundreds of miles away. I love that you never know when these reminiscences will strike. But that they are always beautiful and welcome and a little melancholy because you realize that those days are gone and there is no going back. And you miss it and want the freedom and innocence and simple joy of childhood. For me, the older I get the more I seem to long for those earlier days--"simpler times". And even though I love the ever expanding world of knowledge and possibilities around me, I still long to run carelessly around the backyard, knowing, always, that I had everything I needed to be safe and content, right where I was. It's nice to be taken care of.

17 June 2011

Never change forever

The saga continues.



After six years, husbands and state lines won't keep us apart! (right??)
Stay special, my friends!

13 June 2011

Treat a sister right!

This is for you, Savannah, and anyone else who read my last post and asked, "so, what can I do?" and "how can I contribute?"

What a beautiful question to ask, even if it isn't always easy to answer. I've been asking that question a lot lately myself. Here are few things that I have come up with.

A quick disclaimer:
These are things I'm obviously not perfect at. They're things I want to do better.
And I have a long way to go.

  1. Be aware. Know what is going on around you locally, nationally, internationally. Read the news. Read books or articles. And talk to people. Even when I am doing my very best at following the news I still miss a lot. It's great to know people who can help keep me up to date! Maybe start by reading Half the Sky. Or check out the website (where Kristof and WuDunn have suggested several ways to get involved and made a great list of organizations that can use help and support).
  2. Use you power as a consumer. And CONSUME WISELY! We live in a market economy. Supply and demand is real. So be careful about what you buy, what media you watch and which companies you support with your hard earned cash. When I watched the film "Miss Representation" I was struck by the realization that I financially support a lot of media that actually disgusts me. Though many of us are appalled by the degrading ways women are depicted and the lack of respect even the most powerful women receive, we continue to buy tabloids and watch movies in which women fall into the same stereotypes over and over again. We're feeding the beast even as we claim we want to defeat it. That has to stop. AND we need to be careful not consume excessively. It isn't just the environmentalist in me that begs everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle. There are finite resources in the world, and when some of us use a disproportionate amount we necessarily diminish access to resources for others. Don't use more than you need. Consume locally. Walk, ride your bike or take the bus. And know where the products you buy are coming from! Are you supporting slavery or child labor? Probably more often than you know, unfortunately. So make it your business to know, and not to waste!
  3. Support other women. Take note of women who are doing good in the world. Notice women in your own life who have talents and skills to contribute. Then tell them. That could mean supporting an NGO run by a woman, voting for smart capable women in politics or helping a friend see her potential. We as women sometimes forget to raise each other up. Sometimes we're even tempted to push each other down. But if we love and care for one another our collective power will grow.
  4. Excel! Do your best. Work hard. And have confidence in your own abilities. I truly believe that every person, man or woman, has something unique and important to offer the world. Find out what you're good at and what you love. Then go for it. Why not? You have the power to make the world a little more beautiful. So don't hold back.
  5. Get out there. Find opportunities to get out of your bubble. Volunteer. And if you already volunteer, maybe consider diversifying your service. Participate in your community. Go to fairs and events. Get to know your city and your community. That is a great way to be in touch with the issues that are closest to home. And home can be a great place to start tackling tough problems.
  6. Use your voice. Similar to my suggestion to use your power as a consumer, I think we all need to be a little better at using our political power. We live in a nation that purports to be "of the people, by the people, for the people" (Lincoln). If that is true, and if we want it to be true, we have to speak up. And not just to complain and gripe. We need to offer solutions, find ways to forge ahead and work to resolve issues. Vote. Write letters to your representatives. Write in to newspapers. And connect with groups and organizations that support causes that matter to you.
  7. Share what you know! When you come across an important story, tell people about it. If you find an organization you really support, spread the word. There are many people who don't know what you know, and we can all benefit from hearing what you have to say. So start talking. To everyone!
  8. Be creative. You know yourself. Think about what you're good at and how you personally can contribute to causes that are important to you. Think outside the box. And when you find something that strikes a chord, don't be afraid to try it, even if your way of contributing may seem a bit unconventional. That's what we need. Change. New ideas and new solutions. So don't listen to me if my ideas don't work for you. Find your own!
This isn't a comprehensive list. There are so many other possibilities I haven't come up with. But I hope some of these suggestions will spark ideas for you! So please share your thoughts. I'd love to know what you have to say!

*Please note that there are 8 ideas. And 8 is my favorite number. I call that a good omen :)

06 June 2011

A New Endeavor

It appears more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine 'gendercide' in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.

In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.

-Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky
Last week a few friends and I had our first book club meeting. I've never been in a book club before, but I was extremely excited to be a part of this one. Our topic of study is Women, Development and Equality. Our first book was Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It was INCREDIBLE! Truly. Kristof and WuDunn do an incredible job of bringing to light some of the most terrifying aspects of life for women across the world--from rape and honor killings, maternal mortality and fistulas, sex slavery and domestic abuse, they cover issues affecting women from every part of the world, and especially in developing countries. And yet, the book is hopeful and encouraging. Every chapter not only tells stories of women who have suffered under inequality and oppression placed upon women, but also stories of women who are standing up to these horrors and creating solutions and safe havens. There are some exceptionally inspirational women in this book. Women who should be our examples and our heroes.

But in our book club we want to do more than just read and learn about these issues. We want to find ways to become proactive in changing the status of women around the world. One of the things we all agreed on is that more people need to know what is happening to women in the world!

So, we have decided to try to share more about these important issues with those we know. It isn't always easy. Some people scoff at us as "feminists" (which we all readily claim! But unfortunately, many people we know use the term "feminist" in an inappropriate and negative connotation, thus casting our views aside as extreme or insignificant). Others recoil from hearing about such horrific and brutal realities. And at times people listen and agree that the inequality and disempowerment of women is awful, but they can't see solutions and they want go no further. What we realized is, maybe we aren't getting our message across in the right way. Maybe we haven't helped others to see that not only are these issues real and pressing, but we are all complicit. We all bear responsibility. And there are things we can do to effect change.

Now we just have to figure out how to spread that message. We have to figure out what people need to know and hear. And then we have to share it. For me, this involves continuing to read and learn--about problems and solutions. It means finding talking points and ways to include women, development and human rights issues in my day to day conversations. And it means stepping up to the responsibilities I have and finding ways to contribute.

As part of that, I will be posting weekly here on my blog about these issues in one form or another. I say that now to hold myself accountable. I hope you will nag me if I slack off. And I hope you will help me by posting your insights, questions and concerns. Because, ultimately, this effort requires all of us. As Kristof so astutely says in Half the Sky:
"[I]f the international effort is dubbed a 'women's issue,' then it has already failed. The unfortunate reality is that women's issues are marginalized, and in any case, sex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women's issues than slavery was a black issue of the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race gender, or creed."

photo: Maria Elena, Bolivia 2009

03 June 2011

Meet Ruby!

Apparently Barbie INC found out about Ruby ads and The Body Shop was no longer able to run them. But I can still post it on my blog :)

Bet Barbie is sorry now!
okay. maybe not.

01 June 2011

May 28, 2011

I don't know that I have ever done much for Memorial Day. I celebrated having a day off from school or work to be sure. But celebrating the service of American soldiers, maybe not as much.

This year, though, I went with other
AmeriCorps VISTAs at United Way to help put up crosses and flags for the soldiers buried in the Orem Cemetery. It was actually a lot of work! But I'm so glad I went. Not only did I get to see the sheer number of men and women who served their country in this area alone, but I saw the dedication and continued service that our veterans still give, preparing services like this one for Memorial Day and giving of their time, resources and energy all for their fellow soldiers and their families and our country. That's pretty inspiring.

One of those people is George, our VISTA Leader at United Way.

He is an incredible example to me. He is serving his second term as a VISTA, runs the American Legion in Orem, and serves as an Emergency Preparedness specialist. He is always full of stories about his 24 years of military service. From WWII to the Korean war, he served with honor and gained experiences that shaped his life and his character. George is a person who stands up for what he believes is right and puts his all into everything he does. He is someone I honor and respect!

This Memorial Day, I have a renewed desire to learn more about my own family. I love them and I love what I know about them, but there is so much that I don't know. I am challenging myself to spend more time talking to my family and learning about our history as my way of observing Memorial Day.

All of these beautiful photos compliments of Matt Chambers.