Thursday, December 1, 2016

Singing Your Fight Song A Capella

If there was ever an anthem for feminine power the summer of 2016, it was "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten. I wasn't really surprised when my girls seemed to like it and decided it would be good to put on their playlist. At the time, Hillary Clinton was riding high in the polls after the debates and celebrities were banding together to sing Fight Song in a glorious YouTube video masterminded by actress Elizabeth Banks.

I went to buy the song on iTunes, but was surprised to find two versions. I listened to the most popular one and guessed my daughters would want the highly-produced radio version with the big drums. Then, I listened to the acoustic version and knew that this was the one I had to have for me.

I know it's inspiring to hear the thumping bass and sing at the top of your lungs. I like that, too. Yet my experience is that in advocacy and in much of life, the meaningful victories are the result of unglamorous, unwitnessed grunt work. And that's when we have to sing our little fight song all alone to ourselves to keep going.

When I think of these two versions of the same song, it reminds me of running a marathon. The radio version is how it feels to be flying by all the crowds cheering you in the home stretch. It feels like a million high-fives all at once. But here's the thing. You will never sing that victory version of the song unless you're able to sing your fight song alone when the crowd's not singing with you. That acoustic version with the quavering voice is like all the hard, early morning, rainy day runs you do alone to prepare for the Boston Marathon. It feels like hosting an advocacy meeting when not one person shows up. It feels like your 20th form letter from your Congressman telling you he won't support your legislation. 

These Ugandan school children are reasons I fight.
They are fighting every day. Why can't I?
The hard truth is that if you can't keep going when no one else is physically in the room cheering for you, you might never make it to the finish line. That might not be good news, but it's reality. You have to supply your own drumbeat most of the time even when it seems like you're not making a difference at all. The most worthwhile successes don't come without the perseverance and hard work. When the going gets rough, RESULTS advocates remind ourselves of that with the shorthand phrase "Dirt work, dirt work, dirt work..miracle." You have to hold fast to the reasons you are fighting at all. As an advocate, cling to your motivations for starting the work and your memories of who you are fighting for in the first place. 

And know're not completely alone. You're never totally alone. I believe in you. You can do it. And sometime when we are eventually in the same room, we'll sing our fight songs together.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Anti-Poverty Mom's 2016 Shop Local Gift Picks

It seems my social media streams are full of notices to boycott a whole lot of businesses because of their ties to political figures or climate-harming interests. It's probably reflective of how contentious and negative 2016 has been for our country. Some I agree with, others I think are a stretch. But here's my two cents: No matter how you feel about Ivanka Trump or global warming, you really can't go wrong by buying local for your holiday gift shopping!

Now is exactly the time of year to think about local shopping before you're tempted to go ga-ga over Black Friday or CyberMonday after Thanksgiving. Do NOT forget about Small Business Saturday! Take a moment to think about a few important ways that shopping local is a great idea:
  1. You'll cut down on wasteful shipping materials and fuel used when ordering online
  2. You can support small business owners and get to know them personally
  3. More of your money stays in your community. Significantly more of your money goes to other local businesses, service providers, farms, and charities
  4. You can help create jobs in your own community. If the shop does well, they'll need more employees!
  5. You'll can support local artisans do what they love and help your community be more beautiful and unique
While I can't give everyone a customized list of independent, local merchants, I'll leave a few of mine for inspiration in categories that are great for gift shopping. Maybe you can find some near you that are similar? Even if you decide to order from my local merchants, you'll still likely be steering free of whatever it is folks are saying to boycott and you'll be helping my local St Louis community.

Photo Credit:
Apparel: Bravely
Bravely is a new business in St Louis and I intend to get a few presents from here even though it's not a brick and mortar store yet. "Bravely is an apparel company designed to employ and empower women recovering from sexual exploitation and addiction. Our shirts and accessories send messages of hope, love, and courage. When you wear and use Bravely products, you are sharing those messages with the world and changing lives while you do it."

Bath & Beauty: KIND Soap Company
KIND has a location in Webster Groves, MO that I love to browse. There are a few places you can buy products in other states (IL, TX, CO), but all their products are made here in the St Louis area. You can click on the link to see their philosophy of keeping bad stuff out of our bodies and out of the earth. My personal favorite product is the Shea Luxe Creme bubble bath. Oh...look at that picture...I'm almost out again. Time to go back! I also like their solid perfume. They sell lockets at the store and will fill the locket up with the solid perfume scent of your choice. You can even bring it back for refills!

Photo credit: Ash and Griffin
Artisans: Ash and Griffin Pottery
I've talked about these ladies before for a Mother's Day post, but I'm going to mention them again because they do an annual Winter Studio sale (party?) before the holidays. If your local artists do that, you should definitely go meet the artists, mingle with other people who dig the same stuff you do, buy stuff, and eat snacks! I bought a mug like this last year and I love how it beautifully draws attention away from the fact that I might actually be drinking a can of Coca-Cola for breakfast.

Vintage Antiques: Retro 101/Cherry Bomb
Retro 101 seems to be so retro that they don't have a website! So, I gave you their Facebook page link instead. This vintage store is fun and hip to browse around in. Just about any antique/vintage clothing store is going be a greener choice than buying new and they will have weird, one-of-a-kind gifts at a very reasonable price. Like this retro Japanese robe that became part of my Doc Brown Halloween costume. And yeah, sometimes, I may walk around the house in it drinking Coke for breakfast out of a pottery mug. Maybe.

Our Camp Fire field trip to Open Books
Used Book Stores: Open Books
Ok, this one isn't in St Louis, but it was local to me when I lived in Chicago and feel like giving props to my favorite used book store I've ever come across! This one is 'specially special because Open Books is not only a place to shop, but its also a nonprofit venture that provides literacy experiences for thousands of readers each year. You can bring in all your old books to donate and buy new ones. The proceeds go towards teaching kids and adults in Chicago how to read. Even if your local used book store is not a non-profit, it's still great to shop there because it's a very sustainable choice to use books already in print than create new ones. You might even find rare antique books or author signed ones!

Museums: The Magic House
I consider giving a membership or a gift certificate for admission to a museum to be local shopping, too. I  chose the Magic House to feature because this IS a mom-blog and it is a wonderful place of learning in St Louis. Where else could my daughter learn to install a play muffler on the underside of a car? Lots of museums provide learning programs for under-priveleged kids in addition to being fun for families. Your local art museum is making sure that culture and creativity are alive and well in difficult times when we need inspiration and beauty. Your local science museum is helping kids and adults become educated voters and citizens. A history museum like the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, IL helps us understand the failings of the past and inspires hope for the future. A gift of museum admission is the gift of education...and that is priceless. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

"How to Respond With Kindness" OR "How Not Be a Jerk Online"

Show of metaphorical cyberspace hands, many of you have seen something you disagreed with on your Twitter or Facebook feeds since Election Day? How many of you have responded on your own feed or commented on someone else's just to have it blow up into a vitriolic back and forth that left you feeling much worse than if you'd never checked your social media at all? I think it's happened to most of us. 

I find myself thinking about some of the rules of thumb I've created for myself in order to be the kind of person I want to be online. I'm sharing them with you, not to be preachy, but to remind myself to stick to my personal guidelines. Facebook comments are rarely a place where thoughtful exchange of ideas can change ideas that are fundamental to personal identities. Yet I hope my suggestions can help others navigate social media in a positive and constructive way.
"I see you, Mommy"

#1 Write as if your kids were reading over your shoulder.
You know the old response to sexual harassers that goes, "What would your mother say if she knew you were saying that?" I think we moms should ask ourselves, "What would your children say if they knew what you wrote?" Set the same good example in your on-line life that you set for them in-person. Besides, I'm not convinced that everything we do online ever goes away. The kids will probably find it eventually. 

#2 Remember there is a real person on the other end.
The Golden Rule? It's a good one. Paraphrased: "Treat others the way you want them to treat you." Would your comment make you feel horrible if it were directed at you? Is it more likely to turn people against your cause than bring people towards it? If you answer "yes" to either of those, you probably don't want to be hitting "send" on that nugget of hostility.

Or look at this tree.

#3 Stop. Breathe. Reflect before you type another word.
Is your heart beating faster as if you've just been physically threatened? This happens to me, too. Especially if someone has just attacked one of my core beliefs as in..."Women should not be in Congress," or "You are an over-privileged soccer mom." (I'm an over-previleged FINE ARTS mom, thanks) That accelerated pulse means you're entering an emotional area of the brain where your logic and long-term thinking are suppressed. You should measure your next words very, very carefully. Take a walk and look at a tree. Eat a piece of chocolate to release some serotonin brain chemicals to make you feel happier. Enforce a cooling down period on your comment. OR, just leave it alone. (see next paragraph)

#4 Don't make blanket insults.
Refrain from saying things like, "People who think that are..." or "You're all a bunch of..." As we'll see in an example below, it's hard to back up from that to say "Oh, well, I didn't mean YOU specifically." Yeah, you did. You said it and we can all read it right in front of us.

#5 Consider removing yourself from the equation if that's more beneficial.
Sean Astin, a celebrity activist who actually spends a lot of time online talking to his followers about controversial subjects, had this to say to a crowd at a RESULTS conference about getting involved in an unhealthy back and forth in a comments section. You know, those times when you want to say something positive someone and the internet trolls swoop in to attack? "Just drop your happy bomb and move on." Astin is always up for a thoughtful exchange of ideas, but I notice he's not above blocking people who just attack repeatedly with nothing constructive to say. Ending your engagement in the conversation is an option you have online that you don't have in real life and it's okay to exercise that choice. 

#6 Recognize the other person's feelings as valid
Are you still willing to be in the conversation and it seems the other person is really exchanging ideas instead of hurling insults? My favorite opening phrase when I'm trying to diffuse something online is, "I can tell that you are very passionate about this." It isn't mean. It doesn't give an inch of concession from my position. It states that I'm listening to them and I see what they are feeling without using the dangerous "I know how your feel" that leads to badness (What do you mean you know how I feel? You don't know how I feel! How dare you!!! etc, etc) A simple acknowledgement of emotion can be followed up with the next suggestion below...

#7 If possible, invite the other person to join you in making the world better!
This might be a radical thought, but if you can find any common ground at all, ask them to attend a meeting for a group you're involved in or to join an organization that supports your common ground. For instance, both Trump and Clinton supporters were interested in a fair election. Inviting the other person to be a legitimate election volunteer (not just a weird illegal lurker) might have been a place for common work. I often invite people to check out non-partisan groups I'm in that work on hunger or poverty. Even if someone doesn't believe in Food Stamp assistance, they might be willing to volunteer at a local food bank. Sometimes, I ask them to come to lobby with me or join RESULTS although no one online has ever taken me up on that yet. (Hope lives on!) It may not always be possible or appropriate due to geography or other circumstances, but I every time I do it, it diffuses the situation because the other person realizes one of three things:
  1. I'm actually suggesting both an in person meeting and WORK, which is uncomfortable for habitual on-line ranters and they don't wish to engage anymore
  2. I actually do respect their viewpoint enough to want to work with them on a deeper level
  3. We're actually on the same side in the big picture
Want to see it in practice? Yesterday, on a friend's Facebook page, I saw her advocating for asking the electoral college to reject President-Elect Trump. A woman (who posed with my friend in an "I Voted! Vote like a girl!" selfie less than a week ago) was pressing her about this position. The debate got rough with this friend stating an opposite view about the electoral college saying, "shame on anyone who would think otherwise". I jumped in to commend my friend's bravery in defending a position when a friend was calling her lazy and shameful. Of course, that person engaged with me. 

Okay, if I had to do that again, I would have edited out the "Have a blessed, shame-free day" line because it doesn't read off the screen well. In my defense, I'd just come from church and I really wanted her to feel free of the shame she was casting on others in addition to just stopping the casting. But I could have stopped my comment one sentence earlier and it would have been better. Luckily, she kept talking and it could lead to the place where I could employ suggestions #6 and #7.

Her willingness to check out the weblink for RESULTS is about the best thing I could hope for, so I ended my involvement right there. If you can come to an understanding, everyone feels heard, and people walk away thinking there could be a possibility of working together...that is a best case scenario. It won't always work that way, so don't forget about option #5 about removing yourself from the troll equation, but why not hope for the best?

Remember, we have a wide array of emoticons these days. Let's try to use more than just the sad and angry ones!

How have you been dealing with 
social media dissent in your circles?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If It's Not Right, You Have To Put It Right

There's a song on my playlist that never fails to make me smile and feel better. "Naughty," from Matilda the Musical should be required listening for all kids with a gleam in their eye to change the world. My advocate-daughters took to learning all the words immediately after we saw the show together.

Just because you find that life's not fair it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin & bear it
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
Nothing will change
Even if you're little, you can do a lot you
Mustn't let a little thing like "little" stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
might as well be saying you think it's okay
And that's not right!
And if it's not right!
You have to put it right!

But nobody else is gonna put it right for me
Nobody but me is gonna change my story
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. 

My wee girls in a great big hall.
Matilda makes a case for getting into trouble for the greater good in the long run. It's easy to see the connections between the musical and how we should stand up to bullies in the classroom. It also reminds me about how we should stand up to bullies in politics. But I even make the link to think that it can inspire kids to not let a little thing like "little" stop them from going up to a U.S. senator to say "that's not right" even if they do look awfully tiny in the marble halls of Congress.

U.S. Representative John Lewis
 of Georgia
It also reminds me of civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis who regularly tells audiences that sometimes we need to "get into good trouble" to make big change. He gave his blood and others gave their lives so that they and all Americans of color might have the right to vote. While I don't relish the thought of me or especially my children being beaten for standing up for our beliefs, nothing's gonna change if we always take it on the chin and wear it. 

I was so excited the last time I took my girls to Washington D.C. because THE John Lewis was leading a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives over the issue of gun laws. Unfortunately, by the time our plane landed and we got to Capitol Hill, the House was closed to the public and the sit-in was breaking up. I wanted to show them what good, non-violent trouble looked like. Still, we had watched him on C-SPAN earlier and they learned about it that way. I think Congressman Lewis might agree that "sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty."

Anyway, the bouncy lyrics of "Naughty" are all well and good when you're feeling empowered and on your game. Sometimes, however, I admit that I feel a little like Matilda's beloved teacher, Miss Honey (a.k.a. Jenny). Miss Honey sings a song about feeling that she is not worth enough. She doesn't think she's strong enough to be the champion that Matilda needs.

But this little girl needs somebody strong 
to fight by her side
Instead she's got me, pathetic little me
And another door closes
And Jenny's outside.

If we're being honest, most of us sometimes feel like Miss Honey who can't gather her courage to speak up in "This Little Girl." But the powerful point is that like many good teachers, Miss Honey sees Matilda. She sees the need that no one else does. And sometimes the person who is aware of a problem has to be inspired by the need of the vulnerable person(s) to find the strength in herself.  

How do you feel about "good trouble"?
What songs inspire you to speak up?

P.S. I'm not a saint. The song "Telly" that literally sings the praises of television makes me insanely happy as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beyond Voting...How YOU Can Influence an Election

Me, at the Hillary for American HQ in St Louis
Usually, I spend my space in this blog talking about advocacy and the ways we can influence government in-between elections. It IS election season, however, so I want to talk about how to influence the election beyond simply voting.

I was walking along with a mom-friend talking about the presidential election. Like most people, we were airing general grievances about the election news being everywhere you turn. Finally, she made the offhand comment, "Yeah, but after the primaries, there's nothing you can do about it until November." Ahhhh...she should know better than to lob an easy pitch like that at me! I love my friend very, very much, but that kind of attitude is exactly how elections are lost. Of COURSE there are a lot of things an average person can do about the election! 

My candidate, Hillary Clinton, isn't a quitter and neither am I. So, here's my list of easy things we can do to help Hillary (or any of your favorite down-ballot candidates) win:

#1 Talk to your friends about why you like your candidate. I know this sounds simple, but I know it's actually not easy for a lot of people. Yet it's so important! Person-to-person interactions are at the heart of political campaigns. Especially in a battleground state, your personal endorsement may be the thing that swings the vote of someone who respects you. And, as Lindy West said in her opinion piece in The Guardian, it's not enough to talk about why the opponent is bad. We need to talk about why Hillary Clinton is good! For me, it's her lifelong commitment to the health and well-being of women and children around the world. As an advocate, I've fought for HIV/AIDS funding, for girls' global education, and against child-killing diseases like pneumonia. Hillary Clinton has been right along side me on these issues as a senator, Secretary of State, and through the Clinton Foundation. Her tenacity for the issues I'm passionate about is probably the most compelling thing about her for me.

#2 Donate money. Yeah, It's a bummer that money makes the political world go 'round, but it does. The good news is that if you feel intimidated taking other more public actions, this might be an easy thing to do. Give $10 or $100 or $1000. Whatever is meaningful to you! Remember how far Bernie Sanders got with an average gift of $27? The little amounts can really add up and make a big difference. 

Bring your laptop and your cell phone. Modern
campaign work centers around these tools!
#3 Volunteer. How about getting out of your own space and meeting other people who share your enthusiasm? I find that is really valuable for my peace of mind when I live in an area with many people who do not share my opinions. Here are some of the things our volunteers do here at Hillary for America HQ in St Louis: 
  • Phonebanking (calling prospective voters to gather data and get out the vote)
  • Data entry
  • Answering phones
  • Door to door canvassing in other states
  • Calling other volunteers to remind them of their phone banking or canvassing shifts
  • Recruiting volunteers at community events like farmer's markets and festivals 
  • Voter registration
You can be in the trenches of making things, sometimes there is cake! Aaaand....if you volunteer for Hillary, sometimes actor Sean Astin will randomly show up!!! 

#4 Promote your candidate on social media. For people who regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, this might be the easiest thing to do. You don't have to get in the middle of national-level back and forth like Twitter heavyweight Peter Daou. Just tweet positive messages about what your candidate is doing or pictures of the action at your local campaign headquarters. Blogging (as I'm doing right now) is even better! Be sure to use all the local and national hashtags (like #ImWithHer #ClintonKaine #HillaryForMO ) when you tweet.

St Louis could really use some soda, bottled water, treats for
volunteers, garbage cans, and - oddly - a helium tank.
#5 Donate things. Hey, how does that cake magically get there to feed volunteers? Ah, someone DONATED it! Phone bankers are fueled by snack foods, soda, and water. Every headquarters probably has an ever-changing list of things they need from office chairs to bins to markers to bottled water.

There you go! Surely, there is something on this list you feel comfortable doing. And, even better, pick an additional one you feel a little uncomfortable doing and ask a friend to do it with you. After all, we're "Stronger Together" !!
Photo: (you
can buy these for $5 and they have braille on them)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Kiva Loan for Water

Here's a confession of mine: Sometimes, in an effort to get out a timely blog for a particular poverty awareness day, I'll write up a blog with suggestions for action before I've taken any concrete action myself. Now, it could be said that the writing of a blog is an action in itself. Nevertheless, it makes me feel like a bit of a phony if I haven't walked the walk before I publish a post. Alas...this is what deadlines to do the best of poverty-fighters from time to time. 

So, it was a whole week after the actual World Water Day last March, that I re-read my own blog to inspire myself and practice what I preach. Even though making a Kiva microfinance loan wasn't on my list of suggested ideas the week prior, I thought I'd head to to see if there were any water related projects I could help with. Kiva lets you give a loan as small as $25 to someone in extreme poverty, so that person can invest your money in a project that will both improve his or her life and allow a system to pay you back. I knew exactly what kind of project I wanted to fund this time. I wanted to lend to a mother for a water well or pump. Kiva did not disappoint!

This is the description for a loan that I found for a mom in Cambodia:
"Hay is a 56 years old married woman. She lives with her husband and 5 children in Ou Sangkae Village, Mien Commune, Prey Chhor District, Kampong Cham Province, where she operates a farming business. She has been a farmer for since 1985 and earns approximately USD $5.00 per day.

This year, the weather in Cambodia is too hot and it lacks rain. To handle this problem and to help her further develop her farming business, Hay is taking a loan Kiva from HKL to buy a water pump, which will be used to carry the water into the rice fields. Hay will continue working in her business in order to boost income for her family and provide them a better quality of life.

She is thankful to all lenders for their generous support"

A loan of $500 helped Hay to buy a water pump. I was proud to be the fifteenth funder, the one who fulfilled that last $25 to make her project take flight. That was five months ago. As of today, she has paid back 22% of her loan from us. I have no doubt that she will pay all of it back in the predicted 20 months. In the ten or so years I've been a Kiva lender, every single loan has been paid back to me in full. I'm fine without my 25 bucks for as long as it takes. In fact, truth be told, I'd be okay without that money at all. But I know it's also important to Hay and thousands of others like her that she have the means to pay back then loan as a businesswoman, not a charity case. When she pays it back, she's going to feel her own worth...and I can turn that money around and fund someone else's dream.

I have faith that the pump is moving life-giving water to life-giving crops and helping her family to survive. My hope - and Hay's - is that this loan will put her family on the path to moving out of poverty with dignity. 

Have you ever given a Kiva loan? 
If so, what kind of project did you help fund?
If not...what are you waiting for?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Strong Women of Jeju Island

This traditional Korean statue of a Jeju Island woman collecting water
also has working water spigots in this sculpture garden.
This summer, I travelled to South Korea with my daughter. Our guide (and Taekwondo instructor!) had the clever foresight to make Jeju Island our first stop. Located 130 km from South Korea's southern coast, the island is the country's largest island, smallest province and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It's perfect for relaxing when you need to readjust your internal clock. We were a few of the 9,000,000 tourists per year who visit this beautiful volcanic island. Geology aside, I found another aspect of the island's reputation to be particularly fascinating. You see, Jeju Island is known for the strength of it's women...leading to the nickname: "The Women's Island."

Wow! Who knew a place like that would exist in a country that struggles in regard to the status of women (particularly in business and politics)? Yet here is a pocket within Korean culture where the strength of women has openly celebrated for generations. On Jeju, women have long been a majority population and held economic power. An article from explains:
"Historically, Jeju has been known as an “island of women” as females outnumbered males, worked alongside men in both agrarian and marine labor, and typically had economic control in their families. Under the rule of the Joseon Dynasty, which exalted Confucianism and firmly elevated men over women, the birth of a daughter was nevertheless a happy occasion in Jeju's coastal villages as she could become a “haenyeo” (diving woman) and thus earn money for her family."
A picture of mannequins in a museum since I was too far away
to get a good shot of the real women doing the real job.
Diving women? Yeah! For centuries, women on Jeju Island called "Haenyeo" have supported their families by harvesting conch, abalone, octopus, and other creatures by hand from the ocean floor. They are a symbol of female independence and strength.

Even today, you can see them diving using no breathing equipment even though they are down for around two minutes as deep as 10 meters underwater.  They dive with masks and lead weights (to make them sink faster) and a round flotation device to hold a net for the harvest. 

It's dangerous work. Between 2009-2014, 40 diving women died. According to the New York Times, the number of these "sea amazons" has dwindled to about 4500 from 26,000 in the 1960's with 84% of them 60 year old or older. Nowadays, younger women on Jeju Island prefer to work in hotels or rental car agencies for the tourism industry, but that wasn't available to their grandmothers. Diving offered the women respect and economic freedom to decide where family income was spent. Talk about a working mom!
A mannequin in a museum models the traditional dress of a
woman carrying water.
At first glance, the independence of the Jeju women sounded great to me, but further research revealed that things weren't quite so rosy. There is a local saying - "Better to be born a cow than a woman" - that speaks to the rough and physically grueling life they lived. Even if a woman was out of the water, she still couldn't escape the same job held by millions upon millions of girls and women since the beginning of time...hauling drinking water.

The real deal. These ladies in the photo aren't models!

Before running water was available, islanders obtained drinking water from rain or coastal springs. Women carried water on their backs using earthenware jars strapped in bamboo baskets. Until the 1960's, water in mid-mountain villages (where the water supply was scarce) was collected by girdling a large tree with a belt fashioned of grass, which led the water flowing down the trunk into a jar. 

This image is so important to the culture that stone statues around the island recall the strength of the women who carried the life-sustaining water on their backs for years. My daughter got to try carrying one of the traditional jars herself. She says the jug itself was pretty heavy even when it was completely empty...and she is a strong Taekwondo black belt herself!

My daughter tries out a water jug her size. 

I'm glad I got a chance to learn about the Jeju women alongside my girl. It helped give us a historical perspective of women in a small community within a country we hadn't visited before. 

Gender equality is #5 on the list of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. We simply cannot end poverty without it. Because the basis of so many economies lies on the backs of so impoverished women, we owe it to ourselves to learn about gender roles around the world and support organizations and policies that help women lift themselves and their families up on a path to independence and respect. 

Here are just a few ways to be part of the solution:
  1. Join or donate to BRAC: BRAC takes a holistic approach to ending poverty in several ways including: microfinance, education, healthcare, gender justice and empowerment. They give women the tools they need to take control of their own lives. 
  2. Join or donate to Girl Rising: Girl Rising uses storytelling to inspire action that gets girls into classrooms worldwide. Watch a film on their website and tell your community about why girls' education matters. Sign up to be informed about advocacy actions you can take to help.
  3. Donate to helps bring clean drinking water to communities so that valuable time and energy is not lost when women and girls haul water for their families' daily use. Donating to them provides water infrastructure and supports the advocacy they do as an organization (although I don't think they have an action alert system for citizens to advocate)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rainbow Parfaits for #Global Goals

It's true that sometimes I am overly ambitious. I know this. I claim that my life is too short to do one thing at a time, so I multitask to a ridiculous extent and manage to work in a poverty-fighting action or lesson into almost everything I do. Sometimes to great success. Other times...well, let me tell you the story of the End of the Rainbow Parfaits.

I was browsing through Pinterest one day with my eye out for a fun dessert I might make with my daughter and her friends for an upcoming slumber party. They'd been in a baking phase and I wanted to indulge them a bit. This is when I stumbled upon the End of the Rainbow Parfaits.
Photo from
Now, I know most moms wouldn't look at these delicious treats and say "Hey, that looks like a good lesson about the Global Goals!!!" But I'm weird and that's exactly what I thought. See, when I saw that picture, my mind when straight to this infographic...
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which I previously wrote about here, are 17 goals for the world that will help us do three things in the next 15 years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. It's up to us as global citizens to choose which ones we personally want to work on to get there. Each goal has a color in the graphic, so I thought that it would be neat to make these parfaits and allow kids to choose the color representing the issue they felt most strongly about. Only want to help "Life Below Water?" Cool. Yours can be all blue. I can never choose just one and like to work on global health (green), life under water (blue), clean water (light blue), education (dark red), and poverty in general (bright red).

I wanted to make these with my daughter's friends and give them the message that THEY get to choose in life what THEY want to work on. Too often, we just spoonfeed kid the idea that they have to do something and give them a something that we personally want to do. In real life, we have a choice.

In the middle of the prep, I got a call from my good friend Jennifer Burden, founder of World Moms Network. I told her I was getting kind of aggravated while I was getting ready for a slumber party and putting together the ingredients for this pretty ambitious dessert/craft. She said something like, "Do you ever just do anything just for fun?" I laughed and (joking-not-joking)said something like, "I don't think so. Please help me. It's a problem!" And it was! I was stressing out about the party anyway. I had no business trying to add a poverty lesson into the mix!!! Why was I pushing myself into an "Advocate to Aggravate" campaign?

Sigh. Well, Jen talked me into a better mood and we proceeded with the craft. Let's see how it went shall we?

STEP 1: Mix up refrigerated sugar cookie dough with eggs, vanilla, and food coloring. For simplicity, I did not make 17 different colors.

STEP 2: Spoon the colored batter into cupcake cups.

STEP 4: Bake 'em up! Use this baking time to explain the Global Goals to your helpers and tell them to think about what colors and goals they would like to work on.

STEP 5: Remove from oven and admire how well you are doing so far.

STEP 6: Crumble up the colored cupcakes into separate bowls.

STEP 7: Spoon in a chosen color, cover with whip cream, repeat until satisfied. And VOILA!

hmmm...okay, so they didn't EXACTLY turn out the way they looked on Pinterest, but on the whole I think we...


So, yeah. It turned out to be a laughable mess. We won't be doing this for any bar mitzvahs or anything, but the girls had fun and they got some global learnin' along the way. I was not sorry we tried!! If you try it, tell me how it goes!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Planning Meetings on Capitol Hill..with Toys!

Are you taking the leap to advocate in a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.? How exciting! That's exactly what I'll be doing next week with my daughters at the RESULTS International Conference and Lobby Day. If you are going to lobby your members of Congress with a national advocacy group, chances are that the organization may have already set up your meeting schedule for the whole day. But if you are with RESULTS or Citizen's Climate Lobby or another one that puts a premium on the relationships between each constituent and their members of Congress, then you may well be in the position of creating your own lobby schedule. I find this to be extremely empowering, but it's also confusing if you have never even been to Capitol Hill.

How are you supposed to set up meetings with senators and representatives, coordinate volunteers, allow everyone to eat, and ensure no one is late for a meeting when you don't even really know where the Senate and House of Representative buildings are? It seems complex, but you can do it! Are you a coach who has assigned children of various talents to teams and put together a soccer schedule? Have you arranged rehearsal schedules for church Christmas pagents? 
Have you ever herded cats? You're qualified to schedule lobby meetings!
Requesting meetings is the first important step, but I'm actually not going to dwell on the mechanics of that since RESULTS has already covered that very well with a tutorial sheet appropriately called "How Do I Get That Meeting?" The focus of this post is to show you how you want your meetings to flow when you're in D.C., so that you have an idea of when you'd like to set up your meetings in relation to one another. In a departure from my normal blogging, I'm doing it in the form of a 7 minute video. As usual, I'm going to explain it to you the way I explain it to my children with visual, interactive you go! 

Video: Congress Critters Lobby Day Strategy 

We hope you enjoyed our production! In summary:
  • Group your senate meetings together and your representative meetings together since the House and Senate are far from each other on opposite sides of the capitol
  • Keep your meetings fairly short...about 20-30 minutes on average
  • Leave plenty of time to walk between meetings
  • Don't forget to plan for lunch and make sure your meetings before or after are in buildings that have cafeterias
What other scheduling tips would you add that you have learned from lobbying on Capitol Hill?