Do you remember when Ethiopia was dying? I was a in elementary school during those famines. The news was full of images of wasted skeletons walking through a barren landscape.

I remember raising money to send food to Ethiopia. The school I went to put down huge lengths of masking tape in the gymnasium and we brought in all of the coins we collected and laid them out on the tape on the floor. It had something to do with seeing how much we could raise.

Anyway. It's about to happen again. Only this time it's because aid organizations can afford to buy less than half of the food they could last year, because of rising food prices.

I wish I was reading Owlhaven last week. Because Mary was raising money to send to Ethiopia to help Dr. Mary feed people. I would have sent you all there. While her deadline for donating has passed, you can still follow her link and donate directly to Soddo Hospital.

But while we are talking about this...
Last week my husband met again with Scott Saben, the director of Floresta. We have something exciting in the works that I'll probably tell you about in a few weeks that we have been getting his advice in. Floresta works at solving the root problems of hunger. They work at reforestation, at teaching local farmers sustainable farming techniques. They work at addressing the ways of thinking that are damaging to the long term health of communities as well. Almost all of their staff are trained national workers and their efforts are beginning to show fruit. Literally. If you have little extra and you want to address this crisis head on and help solve the problem not just treat the effects, I highly recommend Floresta to you for your consideration. No, they aren't in Ethiopia yet. But they could be, with your help.


She's Gonna Kill Me...

This is my little sister.

But really, as silly as this commercial is... she got paid really well to make it, so I don't think she cares in the end.

And she did play at my wedding. And she doesn't have a degree, and doesn't want one. And she does play to, well, not sold out crowds, at least really happy to be there crowds that are pretty big.

Thanks to Carlos for finding it for me.


You Know you live in Southern California When... Part 2

I thought it was time to lighten the mood a little around here. And since my first post about SoCal living gets a lot of traffic, here are some more.

You know you live in Southern California when...

...you start to realize that whenever your children take their stuffed animals to the "Doctor" it's to have cancerous moles removed.

...you hear someone nearby you say, "Oh look it's only 102F now. It's finally starting to cool off."

...your first instinct when you smell your neighbors lighting up their grill is to rush inside and check the news for wildfires.

...you think it's too cold to go to the pool when it drops below 90F and there's a breeze.

...when you want to dress up a little and try to find a pair of sandals that aren't flip flops you suddenly discover that you no longer own any shoes that aren't flip flops. And your work out runners don't count.

...you work out. But not outside. It's too hot to run outside. You need to go somewhere air conditioned to work up a sweat.

...your kids think a smoothie with a protein boost counts as a meal.

...this April you picked the lettuce you planted last November, outside.

...the cheapest and healthiest fast food option is always some kind of Mexican.

...your Baby can almost say "quesadilla" at 18 months.

and finally

...you have fond memories of the years when you lived in a beach community and all of the characters who were local fixtures. Like the guy who biked up and down the boardwalk with a huge python draped over his neck. Or the guy who roller bladed around wearing nothing but a G-string and body paint. For Valentine's day it was red and he wore Cupid wings. On earth day he painted himself blue and green, and your personal favorite, he wore an orange G-string and painted flames coming out of his butt. And that thought makes you nostalgic. Good times people. Good times.


The Girl Effect

Thanks Jesse at 3littlebirds for telling me about this.

Correction: Her husband didn't make this video. But he found it and posted it. Oops

Watch the others too.


I have no title

I stand in my kitchen this morning mixing up another batch of muesli. As I pour out the oats I can't get the image of Fatima out of my mind. She lives in Afghanistan. Her parents are so desperate for food that they promised her to a wealthy man to marry for $6000. She is 11. One of my several credit cards has a greater credit limit than that. Her family doesn't have that kind of security blanket. We've needed to pay rent on the credit card before, and groceries, but we've always been able to pay it off again.

In India children live in slavery to pay off a debt of less than $30 that their parents needed to borrow. They may never be free.

I measure in the dried cranberries and think of the families who live on less than a dollar a day. They aren't eating cranberries with their millet. I grab handfuls of millet and toss it in wondering how many children have less than this meager handful to eat every day.

I watch my baby stuff spoonfuls of muesli and yogurt into her mouth, spilling some on her naked dimpled chest as she does. I think about Jonise in Haiti who held her 9 month old baby in her arms as he died of malnutrition.

I tell my children to get out their school work and think of all the families who can no longer afford to pay for school supplies because they need to buy food. Food that costs twice as much this year as it did last year.

I remember a commercial for a car company that I saw this weekend, I don't remember which one, they were talking about how they are using corn now to manufacture the stuffing in the seats. I think about all the people in Mexico who can no longer afford to buy tortillas because the price of corn has become prohibitive.

I think of the drinking bottles made out of corn and wonder why we can't all use a glass jar or reuse a bottle any more to hold water. Why can't we all just buy a filter and put it on our taps instead of manufacturing bottles out of food or petroleum and buying bottled water when we could be using the money to dig wells in Africa for people who have none. Why don't companies make glass bottles any more and reuse them? Sand is cheap. There are desserts full of it. Am I missing something?

I think of Al Gore and his Oscar for sounding the alarm on global warming. I think of him in his big mansion in Nashville leaving a bigger carbon footprint in one month than we do in two years. He could almost pay my rent with his monthly natural gas bill. And what about Fatima? Her family can't buy food because prices are up. Prices are up because people are turning food into fuel, partly. And car parts. [UN:Biofuel Production "Criminal Path" to Global Food Crisis?]

Why, because we're worried about global warming? Because oil companies are keeping prices inflated based on our fear of global warming? Because people are speculating and buying up stock in raw materials hoping to make a profit and driving up the price of rice in the process? Because the global economy is fueled by greed? How much is enough?

I don't have anything today but thoughts. I care, but I don't know what to do. I suspect that part of the reason we are here is because of the way the average American has been voting with their dollars that past decade or so. We and our choices are driving the global economy, whether we're aware of it or not. Most of us are trying to make wise choices. But the problem isn't as simple as it first appeared is it? And while the global economy adjusts children are starving to death, dying from hunger.

People in Vancouver sit themselves in chicken wire cages in downtown to protest the over crowding and poor treatment of chickens. And they should care, chickens should be able to run around and scratch and peck. But there are babies DYING of malnutrition. Where are the people curled up in fetal positions lying in the dirt while flies crawl all over their bony little bodies protesting the lack of food, making urban pedestrians uncomfortable? Oh that's right, they are too busy trying not to die somewhere far away from the American public eye.

I don't have any answers. It's not a simple problem. I don't know exactly what we should do.

I do know that I am compelled to do something. Love for my neighbor requires that I care. Even if they live on a different continent far far away. I already try to live below my means to send a few dollars here and there to help. I already try to steer clear of rampant consumerism. I think of the person in China and what their life is like as I look hold the great deal in the Target bin. But I don't know if it will make it better or worse for them if I refuse to buy it. They would just like a fair wage and a regular work day in a safe place. Does my need for a great deal fuel the corporate machine that uses them so callously? If I only purchase things from post consumer places, read second hand, will they be out of a job? Will they be worse off? Or will the Chinese economy return to more of an agricultural focus with the current crisis and consumer demand changing from plastic trinkets to organic food will it change things there? Is the lot of the organic farmer better than that of the factory worker?

I'm a whole lot of questions today and no simple solutions. All I've got is the hope that if enough of us live our lives aware of the way our choices affect others, and care as much about others as we do our own families that something will change, that this world can be healed by love if enough of us surrender to it and actively seek ways to love each other.


A Mother's Prayer

Dear God,

I try not to complain very often. Well, we both know I'm failing miserably at that, and fail often, but you know I'm trying, and that's something isn't it. And I'm deeply grateful for these children you gave me. Without them life would be an empty and desolate wasteland. They are the joy of my days.

Do you think that it's asking to much to pray that for just one day this week I don't have to clean up their pee? I don't know what's happened to them. On top of the night wetting, which one or the other has done all week long, they keep missing the toilet. Lord, only thou knowest how this is possible. They've been potty trained for years, they sit upon the toilet, and yet spray upon the floor. It is a deep and unsearchable mystery to me, and I'm getting rather tired of cleaning it up. I know, I just got an 11 day vacation from all things pee and poo related, except for the Baby's diapers, which I'm not counting. See how I've grown? But instead of feeling more on top of things since I've returned, I continue to be shocked by the sheer magnitude of urine these children are capable of producing, and the creative variety of ways in which this urine seems to become my problem.

I'm just asking for one day. One whole day with my children and free of the smell of pee would be heavenly. Maybe we could even make it a weekly thing?



Where love lives

It is lovely to visit family. Often. Sometimes it is trying, but this time it is lovely. It is fun to hang out with my musician sister in her cool loft in downtown artist subsidized housing spaces. It is great to get to go to one of her gigs and then sit down and have dinner with her and my brother and their significant others and talk about things besides parenting while the Baby runs around making herself the center of attention. It is fun to say things like, "My brother is a fight choreographer/stunt man and my sister is a musician." I remember the sheer bliss of jamming with talented musicians; how fun it is to play and sing with other people. It is sweet to see my aging grandfather who's vision has begun to fail as he holds my child and the look of proud tenderness that softens his craggy face. It is joy to speak to my grandmother about the things that we now have in common, the business of marriage and family. It is good to be with my mom and watch the Baby know her now and go to her for comfort. I am grateful for the way she and my dad take care of me while I am here, even while they are very careful to never have to speak to each other. It is deeply satisfying to reconnect with old and dear friends and to have deep heart to heart conversations, and silly light hearted ones. It is hard to find time for every one in this town where I grew up.

It is heartbreaking to see some people. Some people who have not grown past where they were before. Not in a contented way, but in an endless despairing downward spiral type of way. Once I recognized someone and crossed the street so they wouldn't see me. I could see from the way they looked, and walked, from the way their shoulders slumped and their head tilted forward and they muttered to themselves that life had not been kind to them, and I did not want to know just how unkind so I crossed over before they recognized me. I am ashamed of that moment. There was the friend whose life is falling apart, who clung to me sobbing as I made my way out of her house because I had a plane to catch, who didn't want me to leave. Her children have become sweeter and hugged me a long time as her husband drunkenly hugged everyone and I felt helpless and unspeakable sadness, and stupid for not seeing sooner what was going on, and then anger at her for not telling me, and then just love, but I still had to go, breathing prayers and what assurances I could as I went. I carry them in my heart still.

And now I am in the close bosom of dear friends and I feel hugged and loved and wrapped up in their gifts of kindness in ways that are often beyond family ties. Because for them it's voluntary love. It's the love of true family, of people whose hearts are knit together in spirit and in truth, in our common story of experiencing unconditional love and passing it along, of knowing and being known, of forgiving and being forgiven, of love that sees the weakness and helps to carry one through it, that blesses the strengths, that rejoices in what is praiseworthy, and believes and hopes all things. This place is the fruit of that kind of love set free and it is good, oh so good to be here. 
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