Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Day Babies!

Oh yeah, it's a snow day! I am preparing a roast, carrots, onions, and mashed potatoes to warm our bellies for supper and fill the house with mouth a watering aroma. As Philly prepares for another big storm (called a Nor'easter) we mid-western folk are trying not to be smug as some of the locals panic.

This morning Mark's trip to DC via Amtrak was rescheduled so now I don't have to worry about his safety or getting stuck in our nation's capitol. He was a little disappointed as they had predicted thunder snow in DC, which is so very cool to experience. His university closed today and PM kindergarten is not in session as the schools are closing early. We were prepared for the snow event to start this afternoon, so most of us are surprised that by noon we already have about 5 inches. Sophie had preschool this morning, but we're all home now, ready to hunker down and enjoy the day (or 2) off. We shall see what this afternoon's wave of snow will bring. Mark already has the base of our snowman started and Alexander is giddy to get outside.
At 8 am I shot a few video clips from our house. Once outside I was powerless to resist walking around the corner to the train tracks. There is just something magical about trains in the snow (though I wasn't able to capture any on video). The frozen blanket absorbs sound and the neighborhood was noticeably quiet. When I stumbled and landed on my back side I laughed like a little kid, fully padded and unhurt in my long winter coat.
Big changes are happening for our family. I am interviewing for a new opportunity tomorrow (send the good vibes/prayers please!), and we have begun searching for a house of our own. Yesterday my sweet Sophie communicated with real words and real sentences (well, little sentences). She asked for BBQ chips at breakfast (saying "chee" for chips) and when I refused she said "sad." Although I was a puddle, I held my ground for a whole 2 hours. She did not relent but patted my knee in the living room, saying, "Hi Mama. Go. Sit down. Eat" and fully expected me to follow her to the kitchen. I happily obliged and I gave her those chips. Before dinner she said, "Mama, eat please." Unless you love someone who struggles to communicate, you may not be able to appreciate the enormity of these exchanges.

I'm grateful for this snow day and for the opportunity for our family to take our collective breath as we gear up to move forward with our lives.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Super Bowl Traffick

Yesterday we joined our fellow Americans across this great nation in the time honored tradition of grilling burgers and brats, drinking a few brewskies, and watching football on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Good natured ribbing had been going on all week on social networking sites between friends whose team alliances superficially divided them. It was an entertaining game, especially when 338 pound Packer Raji did his touch down celebration dance. Football fans now eagerly await the Super Bowl and as the excitement builds, parties are being planned and the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is preparing for the big event.

After the football games and the kids had gone to bed I stayed up to watch a documentary on CNN called "Selling the Girl Next Door" by investigator Amber Lyon. If you missed it you can go HERE to read about it and view video clips. This documentary focused on underage girls who are illegally trafficked into the sex trade in the good old U.S of A. The statistics are overwhelming. Their stories are horrific. The truth about what is happening in our country is sickening.

Human trafficking happens all over the globe. Some people believe only former Soviet-bloc countries or the poorest of poor in the 3rd world have this problem. We conjure up images of women who are lured from impoverished villages with the promise of working as a waitress, only to be sold as sex slaves. The fact is that it isn't just a problem in other countries and it's not just women. Little boys and girls are trafficked daily and yes it is happening in our cities.

Do not misunderstand my message. I am not saying that only Americans who are trafficked are worthy of our outrage and that victims from other parts of the world are of less value. As Americans we take great pride in our ideals. After all we are the land of the free and home of the brave. The scope of problems such as this appear so massive, so foreign, so incomprehensible that we honestly can't believe its happening here. We have great difficulty wrapping our minds around the truth and are certain that there isn't anything that we as ordinary citizens could ever do about it. The sad reality is, it sometimes takes atrocities like this to happen close to home before we stand up and shout "no more!"

Recently the on-line classifieds website craigslist removed their adult services section where ads for buying people by the hour for sex were as common as ads for selling furniture. Once craigslist pulled this section, thousands of ads cropped up other on-line classifieds websites, in particular backpage(dot)com. For $5 anyone can place an add and it is reported that in 2010 backpage(dot)com earned $20 million from their adult services section.

When children are arrested in the illegal sex trade they are considered trafficking victims by federal law, not prostitutes. Many are runaways who have fled horrific homes only to find themselves in a much darker Hell. Some have untreated psychological problems. The vile pimps that enslave them purposefully addict them to drugs as a way to control their "commodity." These are children we're talking about! Kids who likely will not survive more than 7 years after they are first trafficked according to the Texas Attorney General. If they do survive, they often continue in the sex trade (many by force) but are scorned as prostitutes and drug addicts, the lowest of the low for which we as a society have little care nor compassion.

Again, if you think this isn't happening in your town, I challenge you to take a look for yourself. I'm not sending you to an underground pornography site, but rather a legitimate website for buying and selling goods and services. Visit backpage(dot)com and click a city, any city. Go to the section that says Adult. Just this morning I looked in ads placed in Waterloo, IA, Chambana, IL, Madison, WI, Oklahoma City, OK, and Omaha, NE just to name a few. These ads are for people for sale in 2011 in America! They can't blatantly advertise 11 year old girls, so they use code words like "new in town," "innocent," "ready to be broken in," or "sweet." These are not consenting adults desperate to make some money in a bad economy.

So fine. Now we know. We're outraged, shocked, saddened and yet still powerless to do anything about it. Except we aren't. Fortunately there are organizations and advocates working night and day to help victims of human trafficking. This brings me back to the Super Bowl. Even as football fans across the country are gearing up for the big game in two weeks, preparations that can only be described as evil are also underway. Pimps are traveling to North Texas with their "wares" to be sold largely to drunken men during Super Bowl weekend. Their "goods" include little girls and boys as young as 11 (and possibly younger).

According to "This year, the Super Bowl Host Committee is charged "to engage in responsible planning . . . to ensure the readiness of North Texas to host the first Super Bowl in the Cowboys’ new stadium." Local anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly offered to help the Committee use its influence to educate fans and the public about the dangers of child trafficking -- which could help to prevent thousands of rapes and abuses at America's biggest sporting event. But the Host Committee has refused to take meaningful action. And thousands of children will pay the price. is asking us to tell the 2011 Super Bowl Host Committee to take a stand against child trafficking. In Dallas, a terrific local organization called Traffick911 has created the "I'm Not Buying It" campaign. They've offered the Host Committee free PSAs, posters, banners and informational cards to educate the public and protect children from being abused and raped. But the Host Committee refuses to display the information. The Committee is working hard right now to generate good publicity for North Texas and the game, so public pressure at this moment will be especially powerful."

We CAN do something! It doesn't matter what country you're from, what political party you're affiliated with, or what religious beliefs that you may hold. This is an issue for all humanity. Help the activists who are out there doing the work that most of us cannot fathom. Tell the Super Bowl Host Committee that they have a responsibility to protect the children who'll be trafficked to Texas for the Super Bowl by signing the petition HERE Sign another petition created by rebeccaproject which is asking backpage(dot)com to shut down their escort services section and stop running erotic ads HERE! Now please, spread the word. With just a few clicks you can help put on the pressure in Texas and beyond.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Prov. 24:12

Friday, January 21, 2011

DNA Test for Down syndrome

My dear friend Gillian has written an article about the new non-evasive DNA test that can detect Down syndrome by examining a blood sample from pregnant women.

Have a read HERE and be sure to subscribe to her posts to help build her readership.

Thanks Gillian for allowing me to be a part of your work!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Beautiful Valentine

Looking for a unique card or gift for Valentine's Day? Support Reece's Rainbow, an organization that assists orphans with Down syndrome find their adoptive families by shopping at their on-line store. What an amazing way to say I Love You!
Learn more about Reece's Rainbow HERE

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Farewell Sargent Shriver

Today we join the Shriver family in mourning the passing of their patriarch Sargent Shriver. As a two-term AmeriCorps*VISTA, Special Olympics fan, and mother to a future Special Olympian, I and my family thank you.

If when I pass I can say that I've done even the smallest fraction of the good that you and your family have done for the world, then I will consider my life well lived.

There's quite a party going on tonight in Heaven. God bless you and your beautiful family.

For more information on his life visit

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guante Said it Better

As others (often) say it better, I would love for everyone to take a minute to read THIS POST by Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre who is a hip hop artist, spoken-word poet, activist, writer and educator based in Minneapolis, MN. He's been grand poetry slam champion of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Madison, and is a two-time National Poetry Slam champion (2009 and 2010, St. Paul team).
(also pasted below)

"Part of being passionate about art and culture is getting into arguments about art and culture. Sometimes lots of arguments. I’ve had my share, especially when it comes to the intersection of social justice and pop culture. What follows are eight rhetorical devices that I’ve encountered in these arguments and reasons why they’re invalid.

1. “It’s just a (movie/song/book/etc.).”
Culture informs society. To dismiss pop culture as simple escapism or background noise is naïve. No, a racist portrayal of a character on a TV show isn’t going to magically turn all the viewers into racists, but offensive images and words, over time, do make an impact on the real world, especially when those images or words correspond with institutions that systematically privilege certain people over others. Seeing and hearing this content normalizes and reinforces harmful stereotypes. Even seemingly innocuous archetypes like “the sassy Black friend” or the “wise old Asian man” become harmful because of the prevalence of the images and the lack of alternative images.

2. “You’re just being over-sensitive. Lighten up.”
When someone is offended, that emotional and intellectual response is real. It’s both rude and arrogant to simply write that off. Maybe the person really is being oversensitive, but the least you can do is take a second to try to understand where they’re coming from and debate the specific points that that person is concerned about. If someone thinks that “Avatar” co-opts and distorts indigenous struggles, and you disagree, talk about why you disagree; don’t just dismiss them.

3. “I’m also (Asian/lesbian/blind/etc.) and I wasn’t offended by that” or “I have a friend who is (Asian/lesbian/blind/etc.) and they weren’t offended by that.”
Doesn’t matter. You and/or your friend are not the absolute authority on all things (Asian/lesbian/blind/etc.). If other people are offended, that reaction is real; see point #2.

4. “At least it’s better than everything else out there.”
Doesn’t matter. The fact that you’re not Hitler doesn’t mean that you’re a good person. Additionally, the current state of pop culture is pretty damn dreadful when it comes to representation and social justice. Being a little bit better isn’t good enough.

5. “Sure it was offensive, but they didn’t mean to do it. They weren’t trying to be (racist/sexist/homophobic/etc). They just didn’t know any better.”
Doesn’t matter. The impact of words or actions is always more important than the intent behind those words or actions, at least in the context of interpersonal communication. If you accidentally offend someone, you might not be a bad person, but it does not absolve you of responsibility. Saying something stupid out of ignorance is only marginally better than saying something stupid out of malice. See point #4.

6. “They’re not saying that ALL (female/gay/Black/etc.) people are like that, just these specific ones.”
This is also known as the “but some women ARE bitches” argument. An artist cannot control how people ingest his or her art. Interpretations differ. Characters and images in pop culture are always symbols for larger communities, whether or not the creator of that culture meant it to be that way. Sure, Long Duk Dong from “16 Candles” is just one specific character. But in a movie (and corresponding cultural landscape) that has no other Asian characters, he becomes a vessel for Asian-ness and Otherness, both of which are characterized negatively. See point #5.

7. Anything involving the phrase “politically correct.”
As much as people try to characterize those who are offended as oversensitive whiners, phrases like “PC police” and “I don’t believe in political correctness” absolutely reek of whininess, like “boo hoo I actually have to think about what I’m saying and consider other people’s feelings; I’m so oppressed!” Political correctness doesn’t mean that you can’t be honest. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be offensive, if that offensive language is making a larger, important point. It just means “don’t be a jackass.” The “PC police” defense is a blanket rhetorical device that allows thoughtless people to dodge criticism. If you are going to say/do something offensive, it should serve a greater purpose, and you should take whatever criticism you have coming openly and honestly.

8. Why would you expect something better? They’re just trying to make money and most people don’t care about this stuff.
Of course this is true. But to simply internalize it is defeatism. We can fight back, make noise, start conversations, engage in boycotts, write articles, create better art, and make the connections between pop culture and society that need to be made."

A to the Men Guante!