Buy Local: Pledge to Spend $100 at Local Merchants this Holiday Season

12/03.2008 Edit.  No matter where you live, spending locally will help your local community and I would encourage you to consider it.

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The Isthmus – Madison’s local weekly newspaper – is urging readers to spend at least $100 of their holiday money this fall at locally owned stores in Dane County – a move that could pump more than $15.9 million into the urban economy during this recession-plagued season.

The project is based on data showing that money spent in locally owned businesses tends to stay in the area and circulate through the community, increasing economic activity. Economists call this the multiplier effect.

You can pledge on their page.You will automatically be entered to win gift certificates from Willy St. Co-op, Dimaggio’s Euro Design and the Downtown Madison Business Improvement District (BID).

You can find a list of locally owned businesses at www.DaneBuyLocal.com.

Gratitude, Not a Cliche

My arm is killing me today from the surgery yesterday to remove potentially hazardous skin, but it isn’t Melanoma, the ‘bad’ cancer.  I’m thankful for good health.  I’m even more thankful that I’ve been depression-free for more than a year and that is just damn good news, when you’ve travelled to the depths of darkness and feared your own return.

I want a glass of wine, but I’m drinking non-alcoholic beer. I’m thankful for my sobriety. Though it has caused me to be “self-centered,” sobriety is worth losing some social life.  I’m thankful that I’m not falling down drunk this thanksgiving, or even heavily tipsy, at 4:00 in the afternoon, like years past.  It is amazing how your mind remembers, I woke up this morning wanting to drink today.  After months of sobriety and not even thinking about it, it’s kind of strange.

The pumpkin pie I baked today from scratch is the ugliest pie I have EVER made, but it was made with love, and it will (hopefully) taste good.  And if not, well, I’m thankful to not have to hold on to perfection as the ideal, because I fail it miserably and this pie is a good metaphor and reminder for me.

I have loads of laundry to be done, but I am thankful that we have such abundance.  Our home, Tom’s business, cars, food, health care; I could go on and on.

I lost a friend recently when I thought we were close, but I am thankful that learned some things.  I learned that I can be manipulative, and selfish.  And that friendship isn’t unconditional, but depends on how healthy you are and whether you cause a person too much work.  I play what you call “games” and am not there for my friends, as much as I need them to be there for me.

My family is spread out all over the country and has slipped apart since my father’s death, but I’m thankful that my 70 year old Mother is healthy and should live a good long time.

I’ve been forgiven by God for the many mistakes I’ve made in my life.  His grace is something I don’t fully comprehend, but as I am forgiven by him, which is undeserved, I can forgive others.

I’m thankful for my husband Tom who held me recently and whispered “It’s going to be okay.”  He’ll never know how much those words meant to me, because often I am afraid that it is NOT GOING TO BE OKAY!  He is an amazing man and I am often so undeserving of his graciousness and love.  He picks me up off the floor and reminds me of all the good things.

I’m thankful for my children, each of them unique and beautiful in their own way.  I am so thankful for their innocence, their unconditional love and the hugs.  My kids love to give and receive hugs.

I’m thankful that my kids are able to get an education, live in a free society where ideas can be expressed without fear, and they can believe in God without fear of oppression.  I’m thankful for Barack Obama!

Being thankful, no it isn’t a cliche.  I am thankful.

What is the most popular fruit in the world?

My son Dylan just asked me “If Milk is the King of Dairy, what is the King of fruit?”  Gee, I don’t know!  I have my guesses, but you would be as surprised as I was to find out what actually is the most popular fruit in the world.  It is actually my favorite fruit “in the world,” so I guess I am a global citizen after all.

Take this poll before you read on!

It’s probably safe to say, that when asked which fruit is the most popular fruit in the world, the majority of Americans and Canadians would respond with apples or bananas. That response would be normal, but far from accurate.

To the astonishment of most North Americans, mangoes are consumed worldwide by a factor of three to one over bananas and ten to one over apples. Although mangoes are still considered to be exotic fruits in America, ranking as number 24 of the top 25 fruits consumed in the US, they are considered to be staples in India, South Asia, China, and Latin America; often being referred to as “the king of the fruits”. Evidently, those in the many far corners of the world have learned something that has yet to be discovered in North America!

There are over 2,000 different varieties of mangoes ranging in size from a few ounces to as much as four pounds. One thing they all have in common is their nutritional value; mangoes are a fantastic source of vitamins C and E, niacin, potassium, iron, and beta carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body.

The fresh, ripe mango is a very juicy and sweet fruit with a unique and delicious taste. Some mangoes have a soft and pulpy texture similar to an over-ripe plum, while others have a firmer flesh similar to that of a cantaloupe.

Mangoes are widely used in chutney, fruit bars, cereal products, juices, pies, ice creams, and even milk shakes. Although a little messy due to their high juice content, they can be enjoyed simply by slicing the fruit as you would a peach or pear.

Excerpted from E-Zine Articles.

Condition Critical in Congo

I often wonder why in the West we are so numb to what’s going on in other parts of the world?  Who wants bad news all the time?  Certainly not me.

I’ve been reading a book on the first year of the war in Iraq.  And now, rather than ‘tune out’ reports on Iraq which is what I prefer, I listen to them with different ears.  Informed & caring ears.   The situation in Iraq has new meaning to me because I read about it.  But honestly, I just don’t want to be bothered or guilted into anything.  I am speaking for myself here but I’m thinking I’m not alone.

You likely know that there is a war that has been going on for a decade or longer in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mostly we don’t hear about it in our “world” news. I know next to nothing about Congo, but Googled it and found this out:

“Conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken the lives of 5.4 million people since 1988 and continue to leave as many as 45,000 dead every month, according to a 2008 mortality survey released by the International Rescue Committee.” 1

From time to time Tom and I give money to an organization called Doctor’s without Borders 2 (more about them below). Today, I received an email and found myself watching the most

riveting,

sad, and

maddening

video about what is happening right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo! (I tried to embed it here, but alas I am way too dense.)

Hundreds of thousands of people are on the run, and/or in refugee camps, fleeing a war that is raging in the eastern part of Congo, in the provinces of North and South Kivu.  Many people are sick or wounded, others have been separated from their children or parents. I’m sure you’ve heard the reports of women being harassed or raped. The people of the Kivus are in dire condition and the destiny of everyone in this region is shaped by the war.

This is a striking photo timeline of the war.  And here’s a link to the short video full of personal stories about the impact of this war.

I think, once I have learned so much about the people of Congo, I won’t be able to ignore it in the news any more.

But even as I write this, as I read on about the IRC on their website, I find myself sighing deeply and thinking I don’t want to know any more right now. (e.g. I just read $50 could ensure that 100 refugees have access to safe, clean water in the midst of an emergency. ) I think I’ll go make myself a cup of tea and while I do I’ll thank the good Lord that I have heat, a full tummy and a toilet that flushes.

We can’t care about everyone, everywhere, all the time.  But it is good to let the armor or complacency shield down every once in a while.  Because somewhere, right now as I write these words, people are suffering.

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1  The International Rescue Committee is a global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers. Working together, we provide access to safety, sanctuary, and sustainable change for millions of people whose lives have been shattered by violence and oppression. Founded in 1933, the IRC is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression.  The IRC is on the ground in 42 countries, providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster.  Through 24 regional offices in cities across the United States, we help refugees resettle in the U.S. and become self-sufficient.

2 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in more than 60 countries. New York office: 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY, 10001

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Life Long Yearning

dead
Image by M e l o d y via Flickr

The galactic hole in my heart

makes me tired of holding all the pieces together.

Tired of doubting.

Tired of needing.  Wishing.  Hurting.

Crying out in all the ways that speak of your neglect.

All my life, Daddy, learning

that I am incomplete.

So I gorge on all the things that don’t fill.

Wishing for love that never came.

All my life, yearning for the hurt to stop.

That I would not billow in space without

an anchor.

I want more. I need more.

I wish.  I hurt

and long

and cry

for love and finally, I find it at the Cross.

At peace I lay down my life long yearning.

I am home.

updated March 2, 2010

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You Are Not the Master of Your Life

Sometimes, when the chaos of life starts getting to me, I take my camera and walk around my garden. It’s quite a mess, speaking of chaos, but I can always find something beautiful in the mess. It’s amazing how even a strangely shaped weed can be beautiful close up with the sun shining behind it.

 

Usually, when I do this it is the LAST thing I should be doing with dishes and laundry to be washed, a psychiatrist appointment in a hour for Emma, a birthday present to be purchased for a last minute invite to a birthday sleepover, a dentist appointment for Jacob, grocery shopping for basics (which means I gotta do it), speech & language for Jacob, 50 pages to be read before Monday with Dylan, and on and on it goes.

Do you ever get the feeling you are NOT the master of your life, but rather you blow in the wind as a result of the circumstances that come at you? It is the MUSTS of life that get to me. Obligations and duties. But those things are also what get me through the hard days — when I need something to do in order to get out of bed.

What about you?

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

I sat down this afternoon to watch the Packers.  Afterward, I was flipping through the stations to get my mind off a poor performance and I was waiting to see what was needed as Emma celebrated her 11th birthday with five girlfriends.

After I scrolled along through over 100 channels I came to the 1967 movie classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharen Hepburn, as the liberal progressive white parents, and the hero is played by the first black acting superstar, Sidney Poitier.

I have never seen the entire movie and didn’t today.  I came in when the Poitier character was talking to his father about his desire to marry.  He said:

“… I owe you nothing … You did what you did for me because you were supposed to do.  You don’t own me.  You don’t even know who I am, what I feel, how I think.  And not until your whole generation lays down and dies will the dead weight of you be off our backs.  I love you and will always love you, but you think of yourself as a colored man.  I think of myself as a man.”

Prejudice and bigotry kept young blacks and whites in America from marrying or even dating in the not too distant past.  It was even illegal in many states, the year this movie was released.

My mind went instantly to Barack Obama, who’s parents’ marriage would have been in in some states.

In that same year of 1967, LBJ’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, offered his resignation when his daughter, a Stanford student, announced her engagement to a black Georgetown grad working at NASA. (Johnson didn’t accept it.)

I too always thought my parents were progressive liberals and were past the prejudices in this movie.  My father actually marched in the 60s.  But one day I came home my senior year of high school (’83-’84) exuberant that the star basketball player at my school, a guy that I had been friends with a while, knew well and liked, wanted to take me out.  I was absolutely gushing!  I really had a crush on this guy and he obviously like me too.   He was headed to MIT or something comparable.  He saved me in computer class, because I didn’t understand a thing!

But he was black.  And that was all my father could think about when I explained how cool this was.  Dad didn’t say no, but he served up a litany of reasons for why- it- might- not- be- wise- most- especially- “Think of your children!”  Children? Jeez, I wasn’t asking to marry the guy! I had hardly dated in high school for various reasons and this amazing, beautiful boy wanted to go out with me!

I never expected that reaction from my Dad.  And it’s puzzling to think how you can believe something intellectually but not be forced by real circumstances to prove it.  But you know what makes me really mad, and ashamed about the whole thing is how I accepted it.  I took it.  I sat there and did what he wanted.  Our my own fear of my father’s disproval, I never had that date.  I don’t remember exactly how I ended it, but twenty-five years later I still feel sick about it and wonder where Kendrick is today? Back to the movie, the girl’s father in the movie finally comes to see that they can and should marry.  He said “You are going to have to cling tight to each other and say screw all those people that disagree.”  So much is different, for the better, than when I was in high school.  No thanks to me, but to the brave men and women of the civil-rights movement.

From a NYT Op Ed written by Frank Rich on the 1st of November, but I found it today Googling the date the movie was made.

Obama doesn’t transcend race. He isn’t post-race. He is the latest chapter in the ever-unfurling American racial saga. It is an astonishing chapter. For most Americans, it seems as if Obama first came to dinner only yesterday. Should he win the White House on Tuesday, many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.

But we are a people as practical as we are dreamy. We’ll soon remember that the country is in a deep ditch, and that we turned to the black guy not only because we hoped he would lift us up but because he looked like the strongest leader to dig us out.

I’m feeling reflective obviously and profoundly thankful that Barack Obama’s parents had the courage to be together and that this incredible man was born.  But for me, at 42, as a mother, I have to figure out how this is meaningful to me beyond what I feel is a mistake  or huge regret in my own life.   How do I transcend this and do something positive?

My children are 20, 11, 9 and 7.  I must be ready for the day when they come home with the love of their life and welcome them with open arms, no matter their race, gender or age.

But on a lighter and more immediate note: Many cultures have traditions of opening their homes to strangers and inviting them to share a meal.  In the United States, many of us celebrate Thanksgiving often welcome visitors to our tables.  What about you.  If you want to I’d love to hear about the most interesting guest you’ve ever broken bread with — holiday-related or otherwise.

Where were they from? How did they come to be at your table? What tales did they have to tell? Did you feel richer for the experience of hosting them?

And as you consider this thanksgiving, rembmer that there are lots of people that won’t be able to travel this year because of the economy.  Perhaps consider someone you know and invite them to come for dinner.

Every Blessing (Thoughts on the President-Elect)

I am still reliving the jubilant scenes from Tuesday night of men, women, and children — black and white, Hispanic, Asian, and of many other nationalities and races, young and old weeping and cheering as Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America.   It was an incredible moment!    I wish we could linger there just a little bit longer.  I had this tremendous feeling of relief as the election was called.  Tom being a numbers guy had been following the polls and predictions and called it long before I was able to actually accept what was happening.  It is not just because the election of 2000 was stolen, but because I too, along with much of the world, was carried away with amazement that America was willing to vote a Black man into the highest office of our land.  I am so proud of us!

But the brutal reality is that Obama will inherit a terrible legacy from George W.  Wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  The current government’s failure to prevent an economic collapse.  Was it caused by greed or deregulation or both?  At this point, who cares?  Retirement investments are losing or have lost a fourth of their value, people need  Jobs, many Americans are working two or even three, others are losing their homes or are going bankrupt because of inability to pay healthcare expenses.  It is all, – so, – very, – sad.

I read today that the name “Barack” in Swahili means blessing.  I must say that the results of the Presidential election feels like America has been blessed.

For the first time in YEARS I am not ashamed of being an American.  Ooooooooh, Michelle Obama was blasted for saying something like she wants “to be pround of America again.” (Not a direct quote).  And I know what she means.

I’ve never been that patriotic, perhaps because I feel like what is called a 3rd Culture kid.  Being born in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and living there for the first years of my life, I often don’t feel like I identify with Americans.  (Nor am I New Guinean if anyone is wondering.)  I’ve seen American’s kiss the ground when they return home from a cross-cultural trip overseas and I just don’t get it.

Anyway, simply put I think President Bush and his reign has disgraced and tarnished America’s reputation globally.  And I’m not alone!!

I read on a NYT Op Page these comments from people living globally:

Jessica watched the results from a bar in Cape Town and wrote: “For the first time in recent memory, I can shout in the streets that I am American and be proud of the progress, hope and color that now define us.”

In Switzerland, an American was bathed in compliments comparing the election to the fall of the Berlin Wall. An American in Kenya named Tom wore an Obama T-shirt and found that his walk to work took more than an hour because so many people stopped to congratulate him and celebrate with him.

An awed Tanzanian named Leonard wrote to say that this election has promoted democracy far more effectively than anything the United States could say or do. He ended: “Long live America.”

And lastly here in the United States, an 8-year-old boy announced on Wednesday morning his new career goal: He will be America’s first Latino president.

“Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

(From a preacher who had once been a slave.)

I feel more hopeful about the future than I have been in a very long time.

To Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post

Dear Mr. Robinson,

I read with interest your thoughts on Obama being elected.  You are one of the most generous people on MSNBC (sometimes you are so full of restraint!) and I value your comments and critique.

“… something changed on Tuesday when Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. …”

I have five biracial nieces and nephews (two half Nigerian/half white and three half Mexican-American & half white) and a Chinese nephew and niece (with white parents.)

One picture of this new America is I have observed with great interest over the last decade as the kids in the March Madness contest have become clearly bi-racial and of many different mix of races.

Also all around me in my neighborhood here in Madison, WI, I see mixed families through marriage and adoption.

It is a new world that we are raising our kids in, a beautiful one.  The emotions you were describing — I appreciate so much!  I am so glad that these beautiful kids and my own are growing up in this time and place in our history to be relieved from the burden and pain, of the sting, of racism you and your parents have experienced.  They need to know our history of course, but they are living in a world in which there are fine examples to both inspire and to aspire to become… I know that Obama is but a symbol of change and that each of us has an ongoing responsibility to continue the important changes.

Thanks for your fine commentary.  I admire you immensely.

Making History — Did he really win? Yes he did!

I still cannot believe that the election has gone the way it has.  I am truly amazed and I am profoundly hopeful that Democracy has been restored just a little bit in America.  And that I am living in a day when a beautiful biracial young man can aspire to and become the President of the United States.

I am still in awe.  He is one of the best leaders that America has to offer the world and to see people around the world celebrate was a beautiful, life-changing, profound moment.

My kids woke this morning saying “Did he really win?”  Yes, he did.

On another note, as we look to the future, I am a frequent reader of Sojourner Magazine.  Something that I read on their website this morning that I loved, a letter to Obama, future President of the United States.  I don’t agree with everything on Sojourner, but this I agree with.

Priorities for our Nation:

  • Overcome poverty, both here in our rich nation and globally. Your efforts to resolve the economic crisis must include those at the bottom, the poorest among us. You pledged during the campaign to mobilize the nation to cut domestic poverty in half in ten years and to implement the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half.

  • Find better ways than war to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world. It is time to end the war in Iraq and emphasize diplomacy over military action in resolving problems in Iran and Afghanistan. We need better and smarter foreign policy that is more consistent with our best national values.

  • Promote a consistent ethic of life that addresses all threats to life and dignity. We must end genocide in Darfur, the use of torture, and the death penalty. I urge you to pursue common ground policies which can dramatically reduce abortions in America, and help bring us together on this divisive issue.

  • Reverse the effects of climate change on God’s creation. We must learn a new way of living in America to end our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. We need a spiritual commitment to stewardship and national policies that promote safe, clean, and renewable energy. You spoke of job creation and economic renewal with a new “green economy.”

We need your presidential leadership for this type of societal transformation, but I promise also to do my part.

I will pray for you as you assume the awesome responsibility of leading our nation. To be the best president you can be, you will need both the support and the push of the faith community. I pledge to help build the movement that will keep your administration accountable and faithful.

Blessings,

Please Vote!

O29 B a- M orange too A

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th US President, (1963-69).

Please, make sure you vote today no matter what your day looks like. Don’t let anything deter you!  I voted about a week ago, and the lines were long lasting about three hours.  I nearly gave up, thinking I’d have another chance. But Tom wanted to make sure that Molly voted (our 20 year old!) The election is about each person voting!!!

We need a resounding message tomorrow.  No matter what your conviction is, regarding who should be President, express it with your vote!

Dreams.

I had the strangest dream last night.  I woke up believing that my Dad had just died. In my dream I received a phone call saying: “Your father just passed away.”  And I was so confused.  I couldn’t figure out what the woman on the other end of the phone was talking about.

I kept thinking Dad just died?  That means he’s been alone all these years. I felt so sad.  Because I didn’t know that he was still alive, somewhere, sick and alone.

I still feel sad, though I know that it isn’t true, it is like I’m losing him all over again.

What does this dream say about me?

My dad has been gone, dead, for five and a half years.  He started showing signs that something was wrong right about this time of year; my mom and dad had just paid us a visit.  It wasn’t a particularly good visit. He was on his laptop the whole time. And he was acting really strange during that trip.  Grumpy, even angry and even at times mean. (More than usual people!)

And then he was actually diagnosed with the brain tumors, Dec. 1st, 03.

It’s amazing how a dream, no matter how untrue it is, can linger with you. It sits with you like a stomach ache. All day today, I couldn’t shake this sad feeling that Dad has been alone for the last five years — sick and alone — and I didn’t know.

Weird.