Archive for ‘Poverty’

April 25, 2011

New Address!

Hi Friends! I have switched from to which lets me do fancy stuff. Just in case I ever learn how to do fancy stuff!! I realized that my subscriber buddies may not be getting the new post updates because you are subscribed to this address instead of the new one, . Wondering if you would be so kind as to click over and resubscribe?  I promise, no more moving after this!!!  Thank you for reading!

April 16, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

You aren’t going to believe this.  I have found the happiest place on earth and it is located somewhere in fairly rural Pennsylvania!

Foliage Farm Plants for Sale

Having driven by this Elysium on several occasions, my husband and I decided to finally stop and take a peek yesterday.  I am so happy to report that it was every bit as perfect as I imagined it would be.

Rows and rows of every kind of flowering tree, shrubs, exotic trees, perennials, and beautiful pottery pots (for very little money!) delighted us at this heavenly little place called Foliage Farm.  We had this initial thought that since we were far from home, we wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything.  We left our wallets in the car and thought we would just explore a little to see what was there.  From the road it appears to be an enormous expanse of living things.  And it is.  Of course as soon as we stumbled upon these, we had to revise our plan and grab our wallets!

Foliage Farm Pots

In total we ended up with 6 of these beauties.  Even my husband was visibly giddy over the extremely low prices on the pots!  A pot like this at the evil box store (which will remain nameless) cost us $20 a few weeks back.  These pots were bigger, prettier, and way less expensive!

Once we had broken the seal, it was all down hill.  First a picked up a couple innocent little perennials.  A cute scabiosa.  Then a wallflower which I had heard from @4bratz2luv look great in the front yard and attract lots of butterflies and bees.  Then the cutest little dianthus in ruby red with great grassy-looking foliage.  Oh and bit by bit I ended up with 10.  It was a beautiful sunny day (on cloud 9) surrounded by living, green, springy things!  What a difference 1 zone makes. We are still without green grass or anything blooming.

Before we checked out we contemplated the many beautiful flowering trees.  There were several we would have brought home had we a slightly bigger vehicle.  The gorgeous yellow butterfly magnolia would be at the absolute top of my list. Its delicate blossoms looked like orchids perched on its slender branches.  Alas, too big.  We ended up with a star magnolia in the backseat all the way home and it is precious.  It is our first tree together.  My husband immediately felt protective of our little one and ask me all the way home, “how’s he doing? is he too bendy? is he OK back there???” and we mentally rearranged our yard several times to imagine the perfect spot for him.

Of all the ways to spend a sunny Friday afternoon, that has to be the best.  I seriously think it was a strong 9 on a 1-10 scale and about as close to perfection as a day on this earth could be.  How lucky I am in this life to have love, abundance, and a star magnolia.

April 11, 2011

One of Our Own: Thoughts on Birth

My son was an emergency c-section.  He was born at 42 weeks and was an undiagnosed footling breech when I went into labor.  I had planned a home birth in water and was greatly looking forward to it, having had such a great home birth experience with my daughter several years prior.  At around 41 1/2 weeks one of my backup doctors had a “weird feeling” and actually called me at home to request that I stop in.  He was concerned and I was very resistant as I had lots of birth courage from my 1st birth (a very positive, empowering experience).  I put him off and then finally agreed to go in. A midwife in their office felt for the baby and noticed right away that the baby was not head down.  An ultrasound confirmed that baby was a footling breech.  My doctor agreed to do an external version the next day at the hospital and even agreed to get the room with the big bathtub.  I had had two external versions already and greatly preferred the one that began with a long warm bath.  That one was less painful.

My backup doctors & midwife realized he was breech midday and very shortly thereafter I went into labor.  I was an hour from home when I went into labor and knew I would have to drive home, get stuff, and return to the hospital.  Also, my mom was with me.  Since telling her before we were home would have put her in a panic, I kept the contractions to myself and didn’t mention it until we were driving up our street.  I told her we would have to very quickly pack a bag, grab something to eat (I am such a rebel, I know this), and make arrangements for my daughter (then 3).  At the house I admit, I dawdled.  I made myself dinner to eat in the car.  I packed up an assortment of adorable baby clothes and blankets, I brought my own diapers.  And reluctantly, I got into the car and headed back to the hospital.

Somehow, my crazy mind still harbored the hope that I would be able to change this situation to go my way.  I held out hope to the very last second, that I would be spare this c-section because I had a home birth! I was a vehement, educated, read-everything-Ina May-every-wrote, natural birth fanatic.  There was no way I could even entertain the idea of having a c-section.  And then I had one.  Even my midwife/doula friend told me it was unsafe to attempt an external version while in labor at 42 weeks.  So I had the c-section.  It is almost 6 years later and I still can’t believe that it happened to me.  It was one of the worst days of my whole life.  Not exactly what a Mama wants to feel when she is welcoming her darling baby into the world.

I was, however, very happy to have the chance to labor even as I begged and pleaded for any outcome other than surgery.  I lost that, and many other in-the-hospital-related battles.  I got my healthy baby, yes, but I had to endure a whole lot of misery, discomfort, & outright terror (surgery carries many many many risks, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) in order to get him.  Six years later it still hurts me to think about that day, to think about the birth I really wanted, to read stories about vaginal breeches, or to hear about the c-sections being forced upon women through fear and intimidation.  I have made it my mission to help educate friends and relatives about the cascade of interventions so that they might be spared.  It seems like all of us who are passionate about birth do this, and rightfully so when we are doing it to help protect the Mamas we know and love.

An unfortunate side effect of my passion and zeal is that sometimes, I might not realize that the Mama I am talking to is one of our own.  And I might, inadvertently say things that could cause one of our own to feel badly about an unavoidable c-section.

We who are passionate natural birth advocates have to find a way to educate those who are not aware of the risks of the medical model of birth while being careful not to hurt each other should we stumble upon one of our own.  Most c-sections are the result of too many interventions & doctors trying to control mother nature.  But between a medical community which no longer knows how to deliver (nor will allow the delivery of) breeches, twins, VBACs, etc and true emergency situations, there are Mamas who know about birth, don’t want a c-section, and need our support.

Knowing what we know about the joy & empowerment of natural birth, how can we create a simulation of that empowerment and sacred feeling of birthing for someone who didn’t get the birth she wanted?

This post is dedicated to Carmen (@granolamom). I truly hope that this 3rd and final birth is joyful, fun, exciting, and sacred.  To send Carmen sweet baby-welcoming blessings, please tweet using the hashtag #mothersblessing.  Love to all who have experienced a disappointing or painful birth.
April 10, 2011

Baby Carrying in a Rural Ecuadorian Community

Here are some pictures I grabbed when my daughter and I were travelling in Ecuador last year. This was a community we visited in a very isolated, rural area at a very high elevation (we had some elevation sickness while we were there!!) My daughter did some fundraising for this school as they were a fairly poor community with very few supplies at their school. Some kids from a Quito school were visiting the same day we were, and doing some activities with the kids.  But I thought you all would enjoy seeing these:

March 15, 2011

March of Kindness

This post is part of a link up @codenamemama is doing for the month of March.  My great intentions of having it done sooner were adversely affected by our recent move! Visit her blog for more stories of kindness 🙂

There is a woman in our community who inspires me.  She epitomizes kindness. She cares about others and seems to be a bottomless pit of kindness.  She is also real, admits her flaws, accepts her own imperfections, and isn’t afraid to tell you what she has done in her mothering, that is less than perfect.  In so many ways I aspire to be more like her.

I met Carol a few years ago when our daughters were participating in a school activity together.  It was only after a birthday party, though, that I saw Carol’s van.  It is a 15 passenger van!  As in IT.CAN.HOLD.15.PEOPLE.  Now, there aren’t too many people out there who need a fifteen passenger van.  Deep down inside me, I have always kind of wished to have a large family.  Growing up, I imagined my kids all lining up someday, in their Sunday finest like the family in The Sound of Music. So of course, I had to ask.  I stood at the end of my driveway that day, when I probably should have been wrangling birthday party attendees, captivated by the story of her family.

Carol is the mother of 4 biological children.  And 4 adopted children (out of foster care). And (yes, there are more!) 5-6 foster children! For those of you who aren’t great at math, that is 13 children and a maybe! When you add in Carol and her partner, that is 15 people total, as in, the 15 passenger van is FULL.   Carol has nice kids.  Some of her kids have some special needs to which she gracefully attends.  This woman is the essence of kindness and truly puts her actions where her heart is.  I have seen her on enough occasions to know this.  And watching her with her kids, I learn things about what I can do better with my own.  No matter that she has all these children, she has always made time to answer my questions–about children, adoption, mothering.

Life is not always easy when you are putting your heart on the line in fostering and adoption.  I was very upset to learn that Carol is experiencing a loss that most people never have to deal with.  Carol recently took in a sweet baby boy, fell in love with him, began the adoption process and truly thought he was hers, only to lose the baby to the birth mother who had put him up for adoption in the first place.  There was nothing she could do but grieve the loss of her child.  In preparing for his departure, she put together all his things, made notes for the birth mom about his likes and dislikes, his routine, and things that give him comfort.  She packed up the special clothes and toys she bought for him, and sent them along.  When I spoke with her she was simply heartbroken, as any mom who has lost a child, would be.  It made me very sad to think of this baby leaving the only mother he has ever known and of my friend being forced to grieve this loss while trying to be strong for her other children.

At the same time that Carol was experiencing this heart-wrenching loss, I heard about a family in my daughter’s class who had experienced a fire that leveled their house and destroyed all their possessions.  The school was collecting clothing and items for the family to help them get through the end of the winter.  Their family is also a big one.  There are 10 kids in their family too!  I didn’t think much of it as I went through our outgrown clothing, figuring with that many kids, someone probably would fit in whatever size I could come up with.  I put together the bags of clothes and decided to call the school the next day.  I knew this family had been living with neighbors while they figured out where they were going next and how they were going to get back on their feet.  It seemed best to find out where their neighbors lived so I could take the things directly to their house rather than require an extra trip for them to pick it up.  I called the school to find this out and though they had already collected enough items, they did say where the family had been living.

In case you haven’t already guessed it, it was with Carol.

March 13, 2011


Decluttering, Emotional Housekeeping & Good Activism

Initially I didn’t want to include this post on my blog, as I wanted to stay true to my expressed mission of helping Tuk’a in Ethiopia.  My motivation to gather a community of people to underwrite the cost of this village’s development is that we have SO much, while others don’t even have the basics.  But then, it occurred to me–that is the whole point.  We spend a lot of time consuming. And then all the stuff we have purchased (just as the very wise Henry David Thoreau suggested) begins to own us.  Not only does it own us, the person immediately responsible for its purchase, it also begins to own our children, and their children, and whomever else is ultimately responsible for the stuff when we no longer can take care of it ourselves.  If we didn’t spend so much time and money acquiring it, we wouldn’t have to pay to house it, store it, maintain it, and eventually dispose of it.  Getting back to basics, eliminating the unneeded items means that I will be using fewer resources to own what I already own.

So here I am, linking up to both Project Simplify and to 2011 in 2011, in order to make the world (and my home) a better place. It is really hard to let go of STUFF so if any of you decide to join in, you will have my full sympathy as you deal with the mental/emotional aspects of the transformation.  It is my hope to adopt a different way of thinking so that my kids will go into the world with an entirely different approach to acquisition.  I do not want to send them out feeling beholden to material things.

Today I did the first of five week’s purging assignments through Project Simplify: cleaning out my wardrobe.  I was able to remove 44 items to go to friends or the Goodwill. Only 1,977 more items to discard by the end of the year (for 2011 in 2011).

My friend called at a great time, just as I was about to tear out my entire wardrobe for scrutiny.  She regaled me with her latest good news as I went through every single piece of clothing in my closet.  Admittedly it was a pretty liberating feeling to finally shed items I have been saving out of guilt or obligation.  I know this is probably the easiest of all the decluttering projects of the year, but I am still celebrating this victorious first step.  I didn’t get it all, there are still pieces lurking in there which don’t deserve their spot.  So I will continue to be vigilant.  What really concerns me, as I declutter, are the boxes of “special things” inherited from mother, grandmother, aunts… That is the stuff that scares me. These are the boxes I recently moved into the basement, full of momentos and photos from childhood, the things I made in junior high.  What are we supposed to do with all that stuff anyway? Luckily, that is a question for another day.

Feel free to join this party if you are so inclined!

March 4, 2011

The Blessed Ones: A Response to The Boy and The Bottlecap

A Guest Post From My Good Friend, @RadicalMommas:

Though she tried to leave this beautiful post as a comment on The Boy and The Bottlecap, it was too beautiful and too profound to leave it there.  It is now in its rightful place on the blog but left as it was which is why it sounds like a comment. 🙂

Great post, Lily.  I have so many thoughts about this, and I have debated which to share here because some might come across wrong, but each make of them what they will, and God knows best.

My husband was orphaned, more or less, in Senegal at age 6.  His mother died giving birth to one of his baby sisters, and although he was still raised by his “aunt” he has experienced 52 wise years or growing in the midst of conditions of poverty.  His perspective has really shaped my views in many ways and below I share one of our many (for me) life changing conversations.  Our belief in God, as you know, also has because what we know to be true is that, even those suffering the greatest amongst us are cared for by God, since this life is brief after all, and God knows that it is our greatest sufferings that make us closest to him, so God will challenge us more each year of our life if we progress toward him.  Every great prophet throughout history has has no shortage of tremendous hardships.  But, as brothers and sisters, we each have an obligation to always strive to make the life better for one another.

In Senegal, the Talibe (orphan boys) are numerous.  You can’t take a 10 minute walk down the road without passing by hundreds of them, many holding out their single can that they carry to collect coins, and foods scraps for their meals.

So, I always think about this one day my husband and I were in the city together.  I was pregnant and particularly emotional watching these boys this day.  My husband said, “why are you wasting tears for these boys?  You should be strong for them and for us all.”  I told him, so many of them are suffering, they are small and skinny, and many will never have a single book to read.  He told me, “you are being stupid and naive.  They are the blessed ones.  Look down at them.  They have nothing to hold but that can which they use for washing, for eating, and for collecting their coins.  And some of them will endure beatings or heavy illness.  But you see there…look at those boys…they are laughing and loving each other, too.  And, they came closer to God faster than many other people because God challenges those who are ready sooner than some others expect they are ready [because they are children] and in ways some people think no person should be challenged.  But, he said, you think of Serin Touba [a Sufi saint of Senegal, highly revered by the Senegalese and many others in the world].  He was sent three times to exile and beaten, and left to starve, and they tried these things in attempt to force him to disbelieve in his religion, but he would not falter, and neither are these boys.  You see, at every time of prayer, they are the quickest to prostrate before our creator and give thanks for the most humble, basic life they were given.  Don’t be sorry for them, just love them and that is all.  They are not sorry for themselves.  They are not shedding tears for each other.  They are just loving the hard life they were given and spreading peace amongst themselves.  The whole world can learn from that.  At the end of the day, this life is almost over for all of us.  We are just a tiny blink of time in this body, nothing compared to the grand life the awaits us if we stay close to our God throughout the toughest of times.  These boys might live a short life, and
that was enough for them, or God may have a plan for them that takes them longer to complete, and either way, we are living for the hereafter, so it is no matter.  Every person here [in my country] is prepared to share enough for these boys if they walk to our door even if it is their only scrap of food they have to share, so if it is meant for these boys, even they will eat today.  And if not, they will fast until tomorrow.  If it is hunger that takes them, it is no worse than if cancer takes you because hunger keeps you focused on God in every moment.  And, you see the people living with what many would say is “everything they need?”  They are living a filthy life at times, indulging constantly and not stopping to give thanks many times in the day for each breath they didn’t deserve [because unless we are saints none of us do].  These people have more than enough to give and many won’t even give their zakat [10% of their earnings and profits to be shared with the poor, as
prescribed in Islam, even from the poorest] because they will prefer to keep it for themselves in greed.  It is those people you should feel sad for if they never stop to consider that perhaps their life is the worst one.”

Those words are near exact and, since we live in a culture where belief in God is dwindling, I’m not sure if any of your readers will know what to make of his message, but I certainly never forget that conversation in my hardest moments.  And, I can’t discount anything he says, having lived a life many can’t fathom himself.  It is a blessing to know him.

I hope his message comes through the way he intended, despite any possible cultural or religious differences.

Peace and blessings to you my friend, I love you for the sake of God.  You are a really amazing woman on a beautiful journey that will shape your soul in many ways.

February 26, 2011

The Boy and The Bottlecap

A few years back there was a nice lady that worked at the desk at my gym.  We would always chat a little and one day she was handing out flyers for a massive yard sale.  She was selling all her family’s possessions so they could move to Ethiopia to do missionary work. She went on to tell me about how her 6-year-old daughter was very distraught about giving away all her books.  I had a 7-year-old daughter at the time and (surprise) found this very difficult to hear without losing it.  My (then) 7-year-old also had a passion for books and I couldn’t imagine her having to part with them.  The nice gym-desk lady went on to tell me the story of adopting her Ethiopian son (then 4).  Her family felt that it was their calling to return to his home country and affect positive change.  One thing she said which stayed with me was that “he always needs to be reassured that there is plenty of food.”  Even though he had been living with them for a substantial period of time, he had to be told daily that there was plenty of food to eat because the memory of no food was central in his mind.

This conversation affected me deeply.  We always have food!  In fact we not only have food but we have so many choices of food!  And I, for one, delight in all the different ways that food can be combined and recombined into delicious recipes and beautiful, satisfying meals.  I love eating and having enough to eat. The thought of a child being that hungry makes my heart hurt. He remembers chronic hunger vividly.

Within a few months, I happened to meet a man who was a business associate of my boss at the time.   He had adopted a child from Ethiopia.  Of course I interrogated him as thoroughly as I could politely manage, and he was generous with his stories and information.  The part of that conversation which I will never forget was his description of his son’s life before they brought him home.  This little boy was begging on the streets at age 4.  I had a 4-year-old boy at the time.  A precious little wonder who I protected like a mama bear. 4 is practically still a baby.  And the thought of someone else’s baby with no one to fiercely protect him, no one making sure he has food…

When the man and his wife went to pick up and bring home their new son, they asked him “do you have any possessions you would like to bring with you?” And the child said that he did and with a huge smile on his face produced a bottle cap.  That was his toy, his favorite item in the world, and he brought it with him.

When we find ourselves riddled with guilt for not providing for our child’s every whim, we must bring to mind the joy that this boy was able to extract from a bottle cap.  And we must teach our children to care, to reduce their consumption of the world’s resources, to be happy with less, to devote more of their hearts to the needs of others.

And the best way to teach this is to do it ourselves.

February 20, 2011

Planning Your Perfect Life

My husband and I are in the process of trying to find and buy our first home.

We, who live in wealthy cultures, are burdened by the pressure to live a perfect life, to design every major life transition like a skilled architect, to decorate our lives with the shining scenes a film director would carefully craft.  Fancy soundtracks and all.  We are repeatedly reminded, via shows like “A Wedding Story” that what every girl thinks about from infancy is how her perfect white wedding will look from the elaborate princess dress to the exact flavor of her cake.  Some of us (read: I do!) spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out every intricate detail of the paint colors of our someday home, the rugs we will walk across, and how we can fill our daily lives with “small” (read: grand) luxuries like extra deep bath tubs, beautiful bathroom tiles, plush beds piled with soft sheets and coziness.  We dream of all we can collect and arrange and what it will say about who we are and how we like to live.  I think about my future gardens, all the abundance and joy the bursts of color will bring to me as I gaze peacefully out the window with a cup of tea and a good book.

I wonder how many people living in this great country of dreams come true realize… we are kings?  We are KINGS!  We dream the dreams that others wouldn’t ever dare. And we are able to make many of these dreams come true.**  We can educate ourselves, feed ourselves, get the health care we need, and have shelter.  It is not just the meager basics of survival, either.  We can design our lives the way we want them.  We can choose careers we like, choose where we would like to live, choose our companions, friends, relatives, whether or not to become parents, whether to live a life of pursuit or leisure or both.  We are SO FREE!  But not just in the ways most people tend to think of when they hear the word “freedom.”  This is not just about our military, our fancy weapons, our position as a superpower.  This is about the every day privilege that so many of us take for granted, choosing instead to focus on the little disappointments and struggles.

Let’s frame our struggles a little differently for a moment.  Let’s say that if we didn’t have to walk several miles for a bucket of water this morning, we are doing pretty well!  And let’s be so amazingly grateful for that luxury!  As we slowly add each of the additional luxuries back into our lives, grateful for each one, let’s come to the exciting and overwhelming opinion that we live lives of great abundance.  From that abundance we can take a portion and apply it to the massive suffering of others in places where there is no water, no sanitation, no money, no education; where there are no resources.  Let’s celebrate our joy by helping others create a sustainable means to help themselves.

Please help me with a project to help provide infrastructure to a small village in Ethiopia: Tuk’a.  I have never been there, but I know they need us.  And this is one small gesture of generosity that will have a tremendous, measurable, sustainable, joyous impact.

We need 99 for Tuk’a (plus me).  For only $12/month we will raise this village out of poverty.  And we will raise our own spirits knowing we lived on this earth for a purpose beyond our own perfect lives and high thread count sheets.  We will have made an effort to reduce suffering in the world.  There is no greater accomplishment.  Thanks for your help!

**Please note that I am speaking of those of us who have resources in this country (the US) and do not mean to imply that we have no poor.  I encourage people to help the poor no matter what country they hail from.

February 13, 2011

A Valentine To Tuk’a

With all the waste associated with holidays, and our family focus on reducing our consumption and helping others, my kids and I decided the best way to show love on Valentine’s Day was to give to those who really need it:

Valentine made by kids for Tuk'a


Each of my kids will give out these little notes to their classmates at very little cost to us, allowing us to donate $12 for each class to the 99 for Tuk’a fund!  That is 2 months support!  We would love to have additional supporters sign on and adopt Tuk’a with us!