Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something.


So a couple of weeks ago, we had a well known humanitarian aid organization at our church. They were there to sign people up to run a half marathon with a goal of raising funds to bring clean water to people who desperately need it. I'm supportive of their efforts and their goal, and I can't tell you how much I love seeing my church family extend themselves both physically and financially for the benefit of others. It's pretty cool.  

The two women who joined us from this NGO are obnoxiously obviously passionate about their work, and they were super enthusiastic in their encouragement for folks to get on board. A bunch of us went to dinner with them and throughout the evening one of them kept trying to convince me that I NEEDED to run this half-marathon. Apparently, my life would not be complete if I didn't sign up and start training. I admire her passion and loved hearing her tell stories of reluctant runners who signed up and were changed by the experience.  But I am not running this race. I have no intention of signing up, and I'm not gonna pretend "I'll think about it" just to get this chick off my back.

Yes, that's how it is.
I tried to let her down gently by explaining that it actually says “NEVER RUN A MARATHON” on my bucket list, but she didn't care. So then I alluded to the fact that I have a minor medical condition which keeps me from running, but she wasn't cluing in, like, at all, and since we were eating with some guys I barely knew I felt like I couldn't just blurt out, “I PEE when I RUN and I need SURGERY to fix it. But thanks for bringing it up...”, so she just kept pushing me to sign up for her cause.

Again. I actually loved this about her. Some people need a little push to do the hard things in life. Some people need some persuading. Some people need to be challenged. I get that. 

But what my marathon loving friend didn't know is that I had only been home from SE Asia for a few days. I was fighting to keep my eyes open from jet lag, I was still swollen and puffy from the 13 hour flight, and I was utterly heartbroken by my brief exposure to human-trafficking and slavery. What she couldn't know was that I was a girl with a cause of my own. So when she started to tell me about how good it feels to do something really difficult, to put yourself out their, to burden yourself for someone else, to sacrifice your time and energy on behalf of justice - as if I was just another spoiled suburbanite who'd never done anything that might break a nail - I only had one thought...

Bitch, please. You don't KNOW me.”

I sat across from her, picking at my burrito bowl and steeping in my own arrogance. I was doing self-righteous circles in my mind around the difficulty of the trip I'd just taken, how I put myself out there all the time, I have a huge burden for the victims of trafficking, and she has know idea how much time and energy I'd given up to go and hear about the work being done in SE Asia; to “tell the story”. I felt myself getting kind of pissed by the lack of recognition, by the silence of my husband, who surely should have spoken up on my behalf, like,  “Whoa now! My wife is practically a social justice HERO. Can't you see how fat her ankles are?! That repulsive bloating is from her selfless trip to rescue sex-slaves in Asia! She doesn't have to run your little race, because she's already doing her part... and also because she pees herself... but mostly because she is already putting herself out there. Did I mention she's A HERO?!

Alas. El Chupacabra was completely silent on the matter.

All I could do was sit there quietly, smiling and nodding like a smug, bloated douchebag, thinking about how awesome I am, and how she was way out of line if she thought she could guilt me into running a half-marathon for poor people with dirty water. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen, lady.

I didn't say anything though. I was content to let my pride swell in an internal dialog. But I lost my delightfully self-absorbed train of thought when I let my guard down for a second to pick cilantro out of my teeth, and that's when God slipped into the conversation in my head. 

He came at me, as He often does, with the tenderness of One who brushes my weak spots with a fingertip, gently pointing out the flaws, and speaking new Truth into my dark heart. There is no audible voice, no booming baritone, just a better understanding, a clearer line of thinking, a soft invitation to release what's broken inside of me and cling to His mercy, instead. God spoke no words to me that night, as I brooded at Chipotle, but what I got from Him in a brief moment of clarity was something like...

Baby Girl, you can hop down from that rickety, homemade pedestal, because really?
You haven't done shit yet.
                                    
                                      ~ Relax, I'm paraphrasing

And He was right. I was giving myself a pat on the back for what?! Taking a trip? Flying far away? Sweating for a few days?... I HADN'T EVEN DONE THE WORK YET. I hadn't written the words I intended to write, I hadn't told anyone the stories, I hadn't done my job – but I sure as hell wanted credit for my good intentions.

This is a common and destructive theme in my life. I forget that thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something.

This is why my email is overflowing. It's why my bills get paid late. It's why my friends feel neglected for lack of texts, calls, and coffee dates. This is why I don't send birthday cards to my nieces, and it plays a pretty big part in why it took me a full month to put down my thoughts about my trip to Asia (which I promise you'll find here next week).

think about doing it, and then I just... don't.

I think to myself, “I'm going reply to this email and, when I do, this is what I will say.” And somehow in my head that translates into checkmark, done.

I'm going to call my Dad. Check, done.

I'm going to see if this or that friend can have lunch next week. Check, done.

I'm going to pay my phone bill before I get a text saying it's overdo. Check, done.

I'm going to buy toilet paper so my kids don't have to wipe their butts with dirty socks and dry leaves. Check.

I am going to write about the incredible things I did, the beautiful people I met, and the life-giving work I saw overseas. Check. Check. Check.

Seriously. If I acted on the things I think about doing half as often as I think about doing them – or even like 1/10 of the time – I would be living a much fuller life. Not busier, but fuller, richer, deeper; My life would be a better outward reflection of my heart. If I actively lived out my intentions, my life would be a greater expression of the Faith, Hope, and Love that I intend to share with those around me.

I believe God wants me to tend more, and intend less.

I once told one of my beautiful sons, who struggles mightily with this same affliction, that he needed to ruthlessly eliminate the phrases “I'm going to” and “I was going to” from his vocabulary, and replace them with, “I am” and “I did”.

True dat, Pablo. 
Ha! I thought I was so clever... and then I tried it for myself. Turns out? Redirecting a soul-level character flaw is, like, really hard work, you guys. It's been so difficult for me to figure out how to turn my inner intentions into outer actions. (I mean, like, the good intentions. This world cannot handle a physical manifestation of my bad stuff. I'll just keep those thoughts to myself. And Jesus.  Cause he can deal.) Anyway. My spiritual epiphany at Chipotle was a like fat spotlight over my lack of self-control and my abundance of self-gratification. 

I'm gross.

Now you probably think I'm gonna wrap this up by telling you I relented to that chicks appeals and signed up for the half marathon because I need to put my money where my mouth is, or something like that.

Yeeeeaaah. That's not gonna happen.

NOT running a marathon really is on my bucket list. And there's the pee thing. So I will not be participating except to encourage my husband and son as they torture themselves for fun for clean water. 

My point is that whether we're thinking about running a half-marathon for clean water, or we're thinking about writing a blog post for abolition, or we're thinking about scooping mashed potatoes for the hungry, or we're thinking about making a charitable contribution, our intentions don't matter half as much as our outcomes. Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something. We should not be satisfied by our own good intentions. 

The world needs more tending and less intending. 

In order to tend, I have to accept that I was never meant to be a cheerleader or a hero, because He put me here to be a servant and a cultivator. He put me here to do the work, to write the words, to say the things, to listen and learn, and even to obey. He put me here to be humble and bow low, to stoop down that others may rise.

He put me here to tend the Earth.

So... I am.


.....       .....       .....

Is there something you've been thinking about doing that you should actually be doing? 
What did He put you here to do


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tired of caring.


“Sorry, not today.”

That's what I say to the big guy sitting in a lawn chair in front of Walmart with an American flag and a 52oz soda who is trying to get me to stop and sign something on his clipboard. He wants me to know it's very important and it will only take a minute of my time.

But I keep walking. I don't even make eye contact.

I have no idea what his cause is. I sincerely have no clue why he is sweating through his Nascar button up at 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon with some kind of petition in his hand. If I'm leaving Walmart, I assume it has something to do with gun-rights. Target? Voter registration. Trader Joe's? Environmental protection. Taco Bell? Legalizing weed. PetSmart? Euthanasia. Walgreens?...Euthanasia.

Anyway. I honesty don't know and I really don't care.

I've got enough crap to care about on my plate. I'm already aware of too many things to fret over and feel sad for and want to change. On the internet there's a new calamity every day. I can't open my laptop without seeing that I should be enraged about something; immigration, pollution, privilege, persecution, child abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, wars in other countries, wars “in our own back yard”, the war against poverty, the war on crime, the war on terror. There is a war against obesity, but, also, a war against body shaming. And when there's not a war, there's a battle! Because we're battling depression, malnutrition, gentrification, slavery, racism, agism, ableism, alcoholism....astigmatism.?... Basically, like, all the isms. And all the addictions. Plus, the economy is a real pain in the ass.

Issues! There are just so many issues, and they are all so big and so important and many of them are completely legitimate.

We've all met this guy and his clipboard. 
That's why I feel bad when someone lunges at me with their clipboard-for-a-cause on my way out to the car, and I kind of, sort of - we're talking ever so slightly - want to take it and fling it across the parking lot like a frisbee. And ,*ahem*, I might consider stabbing them with their clicky pen, too. It's so bad, I know, because I totally get that they're sold out for their cause. I know they want to tell me about something that means something to them. I know they are, in their own way, trying to change the world for the better.

Generally, I applaud that kind of behavior. But I am just so tired of... caring.

I'm tired of caring.

My compassion plate is full. It's overflowing.

I just can't care about all of the brokenness happening around us. There's so much going on, it's overwhelming. It's confusing. It's paralyzing.

The truth is, I've grown so skeptical, so wary of scandal, so observant, and so critical that even when I do start to care about something, I hesitate to get involved. I'm afraid to say the wrong thing, to contribute to the wrong people, I worry that my money will be misappropriated, and I'm fearful of causing harm in an effort to do good. As far as I'm concerned, gone are the days of flippantly signing petitions outside of grocery stores. Sorry, pal, I like your camo hat and your fishing lure vest, but I've gotta do my homework before you get my autograph. *flings clipboard* *eyes pen*.

Caring has become exhausting. With a never ending stream of fundraisers, awareness campaigns, blogger trips, micro loans, monthly sponsorship programs, sustainable businesses, and compassionate clothing in our news feeds, it can be hard to decide where to even start. It's so much easier to just kind of ignore the issues when they aren't right in our faces and go about our daily lives, but, as a culture, we are more engaged in the activities of the world than we have ever been. We are more aware, more informed, and more interested in seeing justice and equality happen on a global scale than ever. But I fear that, as a whole, we are growing tired. I think this constant inundation of giant problems and perceived solutions is leading us into a state of compassion fatigue.

Sadly, it seems like we're becoming desensitized to the relentless, overwhelming needs of our world.

We're getting tired of caring.

….. ….. …...

The first time I met Matt Parker, CEO of The Exodus Road, I told him “I'm not a cause kind of girl.” I wanted him to understand that I would be happy to come and see what they were doing in SE Asia to end trafficking and slavery, and if it was good stuff, I'd be happy to write about it on my blog, but he should know I was not going to take up his cause. I was not going to turn into some crazy abolitionist freak who wears “rescue” t-shirts and awkwardly brings up sex-slavery in the checkout line at Whole Foods. By this time, I'd seen lots of non-profits and lots of good work, and I'd happily passed their info along, but I never felt the need to become anyone's champion and I wasn't about to start. I think I wanted him to know that I cared, but like, not that much.

I was in the throws of compassion fatigue.

From last year, Matt Parker and El Chupacabra
talking about important things that matter.
Obviously.
I had only been off the mission field for a year, and I'd spent that year struggling to reconcile the ease of my life in the American suburbs with the poverty and injustice I had become familiar with overseas. So I came into meetings with non-profits, looking for partnership, with a really stupid disclaimer that was like: I'm sure your work is awesome, but your cause cannot be my cause because I don't only care about one thing... I care about a lot of things... a little.

Matt graciously accepted my douchey words of non-commitment and went about the business of teaching me everything he could about The Exodus Road coalition. Over the course of our week together, he kept emphasizing the words “core competency”. In the context of The Exodus Road, this refers to how each member/organization of the coalition specializes in just one area of work. So an aftercare facility doesn't do search and rescue, and a prevention org isn't moonlighting in rehab. Each organization is free to do what they do best – their core competency – and by doing so, they've created a network of skilled, equipped, and prepared workers in the anti-slavery movement. They each care passionately and expertly about only one aspect of the work, but they also work together, streamlining the process and sharing information, with the same end goal. Freedom.

The concept of “core competency” stuck with me.

On the long flight home, I kept thinking about how brilliant that is, and how with so many problems in the world, if we could all just care really deeply about one big thing, but partner in helpful ways with the people who care deeply about the other big things, we could make this a better place to live.

So I gave myself permission to stop caring a little bit about everything I saw and I spent some time figuring out what I felt most passionate about and how I could focus my energy into that one thing and, hopefully, use it to make a difference. I decided to be a girl with a cause.

I'm telling you all of this because.... well... I think you might be tired.

I think you might be sick and tired of hearing about sex-trafficking, or poverty, or malaria deaths, or whatever, and I want you to know that I get it. I totally get it. And I promise not to think you're a dick for wanting to roll your eyes because, OMG, another chick with a cause is mucking up your Facebook feed.

And I'm telling you all of this because... well... if you don't already have a cause, like, if you're not already participating in being the solution to just one of the world's problems, then I want to invite you to make my cause your cause.

Next week, I'm going to share stories from my latest trip, and then I'm going to tell you about ways that you can partner with The Exodus Road, and me, to focus on one cause in one place, and to change the world for the victims of sex-trafficking.

But I'm writing and posting this first, because I want to joyfully release you to love your one thing, ...even if it's not my thing.

Once I felt free to pick my one thing, the apathy I'd begun to feel for all the other things disappeared. What I found was that one cause leads to another. I have a passion for Search and Rescue, but becoming an active participant in the rescue of victims has led me to consider the next precarious steps of those who are entering freedom and how I can consciously participate in their success by using my buying power and my politics on their behalf. It's all connected. We're all connected. So do your thang to make the world better, whatever it may be.

But, seriously. DO SOMETHING.

Do your homework, sign your name, give your money, volunteer your time. Find a cause and fall in love, and give yourself away to it. Don't let compassion fatigue turn you into a Starbucks swilling zombie who only reads People.com "because everything else is just too depressing". 

Do something for someone else.

And come back next week to find out what I'm doing and how you can do it to. 

.....         .....         .....

What's your thing? Whose world are you changing? (Humble bragging is allowed for once!)


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're having a killer summer.


I love my kids. I really do. Like, I LOVE THEM... a lot.

But summer, you guys. Summer is killing me.

Summer is... how do I say this nicely?... Summer is putting a strain on our relationship. (That sounds better than "Summer makes me want to eat my offspring", doesn't it.) 

Don't get me wrong, I love the carefree feel of summer break. I love the days of no schedule; sleeping in, laying around, grazing all day, hanging out, going wherever whenever. I love having my boys around and spending time with them and feeding them and listening to them joke around the way brothers do.

It's all so relaxed and fun and enjoyable. For like a week. 

That's how long the “Summer is awesome!” feelings last in our house. One week. Summer would be so awesome if it was one week long! 

But it's 10 weeks long. 

Did you hear me?! I said T-E-N

That's ten whole weeks of having these two teenage boys in my house with nothing to do. They're just here; sleeping til noon, laying across the couch, eating all day, lingering at home, expecting me to drive them wherever whenever. They are always around. Everywhere I turn, I can see them. I can smell them. And they want to be fed. They are so hungry. The hungriest. However, despite their ravenous appetites, left to their own devices they will only consume food that can be pawed directly out of a bag, or eaten with a spoon. If it requires washing, cutting, mixing, cooking, or really any kind of preparation at all, then it doesn't exist to them. Like, they can't even see it. They don't see bread and ham and cheese apart from each other and think those things could become a sandwich – they actually believe that a sandwich simply appears by some sort of magic still unknown to them. I am dead serious. Wild chimpanzees have been known to do more in the way of food prep than my kids can be bothered with.

Oh, and the fighting. The “joking around”. The challenging and disagreeing and name calling. It never stops. Ever. These two can fight about anything. I mean that. If it can be spoken out loud, it can be an argument; the actual subject matter is completely irrelevant. Fact or fiction, history or contemporary, literary, science, philosophy? Doesn't matter, let's fight. I swear, I should start a twitter account called @fightsmykidshave and fill it with their ridiculousness all day long...

Seriously. No one cares. 

“Our cat doesn't have balls anymore, dumbass.”
Yes he does, they just cut the tube thingies.”
No, he doesn't. They took 'em out”
#ballsornoballs?



“If the chili is too hot, milk will help. It's chemistry.”
Actually, It's physiology.”
Chemistry.”
PHYSIOLOGY, moron.”
YOU'RE SUCH AN IDIOT. IT'S CHEMISTRY.”
#gotmilk


Batman could kick Spiderman's ass.”
You're stupid. Spiderman would crush Batman.”
#OMGWHOCARES?!

“The sky is blue.”
Um. Actually....”
#Shootme #Please #Imbegging

Can I tell you how many times a day I have to yell, “WHY ARE YOU FIGHTING OVER THIS?! JUST GOOGLE IT AND SHUUUTT UUUPP!”

A million times a day. That is not hyperbole.

But the worst thing about summer is the invisible man who lives with us. Seriously. Some invisible douchebag moved into our house and does random things all day long just to piss me off. I know this because when I ask my boys who left the toilet seat up, they both look at me like they're astonished just by the thought of it, and say, “It wasn't me.”

If I ask whose glass is on the coffee table, they're practically offended by the question. “Well,” they both huff, “It's not mine.”

An invisible hipster is ruining my life. 
Who wrote 'bite me' in the steam on the bathroom mirror? Who left an apple core in the dryer? Who dropped a plastic bag full of dog poop in the recycling can? Who opened the windows with the a/c on? Who put their underwear in the freezer? Who ate an entire box of Cheez-its? Who put a laundry basket over the cat? Who farted?

The invisible man, that's who.

I'm really starting to hate that guy and we're only halfway through summer.

I mean, what am I supposed to do for five more weeks while the invisible man leaves dishes all over the house and pees all over the bathroom? How will I tolerate five more weeks of this bickering and butting of buttheads? Who can afford to feed these animals all day everyday for weeks on end. WHO INVENTED SUMMER BREAK AND WHY AREN'T THEY IN PRISON FOR THIS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY?!?!?

Oh, relax, I'm just kidding.

Remember? At the beginning of this post I said I love my kids in all caps! (In internet language that means I am super passionate about it and it is indisputably true.)

Honestly though, I do cherish every minute of having my boys here... in my face... all the time. I know summer break is a gift. These kids won't live at home forever and someday I'll look back and wish I could spend ten weeks in a row with them again. But probably not.

So it's true we may survive the second half of summer by the skin of our teeth, but we will survive. We might even have some fun along the way. I've already got my boys cooking dinners from scratch in an effort to show them where food comes from. Plus, they finally figured out that bikes and skateboards are actual modes of transportation that can be used to take them places. Now, if they can get rid of that pesky invisible a-hole, the next few weeks are sure to be quite a bit more enjoyable for all of us. So there's hope.

We're gonna make it.

When summer break finally comes to an end, my beloved children will get back to the basics; they'll brush their teeth again, and they'll put on some shoes, and then they will triumphantly return to school -- lethargic and malnourished, dumber than ever from a summer full of video games and youtube -- but, as God is my witness, they will return.

Because I love them... and want them to live.  

....          .....          ....

How do you keep your kids alive all summer long? I'm open to suggestions. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking a (photo) Dump.



Well, I decided to do it again. Because everyone knows that a picture can be a powerful thing. That's why National Geographic is so popular, and also hella pricey. It's like the complete opposite of Playboy --"I only read it for the pictures." Know what I mean? *wink wink*

Anyway. The truth is, I've spent this week writing real words about important things that matter, sorting it all out in my head, fact checking, getting certain names and places right and purposefully obscuring others, carefully filtering the details in order to share what's relevant without being unnecessarily sensational, deciding on which pics are most appropriate and useful to the story.

There's so much I want to say about my trip with The Exodus Road, and I want to get it right. I want to tell you about the things we witnessed, the people we met, the good work we saw first hand, the thoughtful, longterm approach of the men and women on the ground in the fight against human trafficking. And, especially, I want to invite you to partner with this work in a significant way. I promise, all of that is coming! But, as you can imagine, it's not easy stuff to write about and I am a slow processor and a slow writer. Basically? I'm just slow. It will take me a little while to have something put together that I think is worth posting here. 

So, right now I'm taking a break from writing real words for a second to partake in one of the most powerful forms of media we have at our fingertips today; The iPhone photo dump. They used to say 'a picture is worth a thousand words', now they say 'pics or it didn't happen'. Both of those statements are really unfortunate for people like me, who's pictures only say a few words, like, "I can't tell what this is.", or "Why am I looking at this?", or simply, "Huh?"

Prepare to have your mind blown by my keen eye and skilled thumb. I give you...


A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE 
SOUTHEAST ASIAN SEX TRADE (but not really);
 A PHOTO ESSAY (but actually just an iPhone dump)

...........................................................

Our journey begins with.... Well? A slice of pizza.
This was the first pic in my phone. I'm not entirely sure why. It's probably because I have a real legitimate asthma inducing fear of flying and every time I board a plane I am 100% sure I'm walking down a narrow aisle to the seat of my death and pizza is my favorite food and I ate it right before I left, so I probably snapped this pic so I could die with my great love in hand. Why this is not a picture of my favorite husband and perfect children, I cannot explain. ...But, mmm, I do love me some pizza. 


Next up? Apparently, the first thing I wanted to remember from the country I lived to land in is an unreadable snapshot of a McDonald's menu taken from a bad angle. I'm beginning to sense a theme, but what can I say? I'm a real foodie.


Ok. Obviously nobody really cares that Mcdonald's has A CURRY CRAB STICKS PIE YOU GUYS !!!!! on their menu, so I turned my attention to taking pictures of more important things.
Like arms and legs. 
But seriously, look, there's a tuk tuk, right there! Can you see it? It's kind of far off in the background. Do you see it?!?! No??? No?! You have to look PAST the arms and legs... Y'now what? Just forget it.

This is a pic of a tuk tuk. Trust me. 
There were things to document at every turn; beautiful architecture, smiling faces, entire families on a single scooter, shacks in front of skyscrapers, small children running, playing, having all manner of fun, bustling streets, thriving businesses, restaurants, strip malls, engrish. And there were other things, too. Darker things. Massive red-light districts with miles of glowing neon, prostitutes holding their babies on the street while they called out to potential clients, women from all over the world - stately Russians, gorgeous Ukrainians, elegant Ugandans, delicate Cambodians - all for sale, and men of every country, creed, and color who arrived in droves to buy them. 
It was like a photographer's dream come true.

Alas, I am not a photographer. But I did get this pic of the city...

I don't even know.

...and this pic of the country...

Unbelievable scenery. You'll just have to take my word for it. 

...and this impressive shot of the ground with some white people's feet...

sigh.

...and the blurry inside of a parking garage. Wouldn't want to forget that now, would we.


As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed taking in the many sights SE Asia has to offer, but my primary objective on this trip was not tourism. I went to do a job. I went to learn. I went to witness, observe, and document the many ways the Exodus Road is working in partnership with other organizations and government agencies to end slavery and trafficking for good. That included an introduction to the world of undercover investigations. 

In order for this to happen, we were briefed and debriefed and rebriefed and then we were briefed one more time about what we could say and which pictures of their work are and are not acceptable to share publicly. This was a constant dialog in our group and we chose to err on the side of caution and safety for the people who are risking life and limb for this cause. 

I did, however, manage to sneak a sweet shot of a nighttime investigation so you'd have an idea of what we were up to, then I added a filter to really help the detail pop. You're welcome. 


I also caught this bit of excitement from one of our nights out. 
I know! I can't believe it either, but it really happened!



This is just an awesome pic of Roo Ciambriello in the rear view mirror. *ahem* Don't mind what's happening elsewhere, just look at Roo in the mirror. *cough cough*

These are not investigators and they're not doing any work.
SO DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. 

I can't remember, but I think this is some top secret shit that I didn't want to forget, so I snapped a pic to refer to it later. It's a good thing, too. 

I cannot read any of that. You?

In addition to the rescue side of things, we were invited to a couple of aftercare facilities to get an idea of what life looks like for girls and boys after they've been freed or escaped from an abusive environment. 

We toured the Anti Human Trafficking and Child Welfare Center for abused, exploited, and trafficked children. This is a pic of the other bloggers talking with the amazing guy who runs the place. Obviously. As you can clearly see here, they were enthralled by the stories of redemption and restoration he told us. He is honestly one of the most inspiring people I've ever met!


At this home, the children participate in skill building activities like mushroom farming. Seriously, those are mushrooms. I mean, they grow other stuff, too. But MUSHROOMS YOU GUYS!!!

I felt just like Alice in Wonderland.

Plus, they grow their own protein! 
I took a pic of this single egg because I was gonna say something deep and meaningful on Instagram about how one egg can mean the difference between life and death for these children. But then I remembered I'm not Sally Struthers. 


#Chickenstagram 

I got close and whispered, "My cat would love to meet you."
That's why it's making that face.

I really wanted a good picture of Khru Ja to share on my blog! This one didn't turn out, 
so I decided to take another... 


Ah, yes. Much better. 

:|

 Naturally, we didn't spend every second of every day working. We had a cultural excursion one morning and went to see an incredible, old, intricate Buddhist temple. So glad I got this crooked, out of focus, poorly framed shot for posterity.


And, one day, en route from one location to another, I looked out the car window and THERE WAS A BABY ELEPHANT WALKING DOWN THE STREET!!!!  

I swear there is a baby elephant in this picture. LOOK HARDER!!!

Before the trip, our hosts graciously asked us if there was anything special we'd like to do or see while we were their guests. None of us had any ideas, but I jokingly responded that
 I wanted to see an elephant walking down the road like it owned the place.

And then, purely by chance, THAT. ACTUALLY. HAPPENED.

 And I have a picture of an elephant's giant ass next to a taxi to prove it.

Just driving down the road, when ELEPHANT!!!!

And then we got back to work. 

Here, we're meeting with Matt Parker at a coffee shop to talk about next steps for
 The Exodus Road and how we, as bloggers, can get on board and help the most. His love and passion for enslaved and trafficked men, women,  and children is palpable and his business plans are sensible. ⬅ That's the kind of non-profit I want to back!

I probably should have been at this meeting
 insted of taking pictures of it. 

For our last night there, we wanted to celebrate with something really special...
So, um, yeah. We did.

This is a real place.

This big sign greeted us as we walked through the door. I'm putting it here, but in a small form because it's filled with stick figures defiling each other in a myriad of ways - all in the name of safe sex. Good on you, Cabbages and Condoms!


I guess I should not have been surprised in the least to find, once inside, a full sized version of Santa Claus... made from condoms. I knew no one would believe me, so I grabbed my camera. 


And, then, not trusting my own photographic prowess, 
I got a CLOSEUP.

I'm sorry. 

Condom art. It's a thing.

Then we got on a plane and flew home. The end. 


Wow. This series paints such a good overview of our time there. It was a busy, blurry, up and down, high and low, bright and dark, streaky, wonky, beautiful week. And there were condoms. 

I should probably pursue a career as a photojournalist. 

But, at least for now, I'll stick to what I know..

Like taking pictures of my cat being creepy. 

Knives really missed me.

...................................................................

I'm so nervous and excited to roll out my real posts about all we saw and my hopes for this community's involvement with The Exodus Road, their partners, and the future of those who long for freedom. It will take me some time, because I'm slow, but you probably already figured that out. 

Thank you for your patience and thank you for your encouragement. It has meant so much to me! 
In the meantime, check out Roo, Kristen, and Heather as they offer the unique perspective of their experience from their own eyes and hearts, and in their own words: 

Roo Ciambriello, semiproper.com :

Heather Armstrong, dooce.com :

Kristen Howerton, rageagainsttheminivan.com : 

.................................................................

I hope you enjoyed my photo essay! By my math, it's worth about 40 words. It's hard, I know, but try not to be jealous of my mad skills with an iPhone camera. 

As always, THANK YOU for following along!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A million ways to say it wrong.


Welp, I made it home alive.

Not that I ever doubted for a minute I would survive the trip to SE Asia. I knew I would live. 

I mean, except for the part where my calves, ankles, and feet swelled up like a couple of waterlogged loaves of Wonder Bread, and then when I accidentally ate a chili pepper that I'm 100% sure gave me a brain aneurysm, and except for the time an elephant tried to eat my entire head in one bite, and when my scooter-taxi driver departed from our group and zipped off with me alone down a dark alley in a big city, and except for being constantly on the verge of heat stroke, I felt totally safe and sound the whole time I traveled. Except for when I was flying, you know how I hate to fly. But other than that, it was a stress free trip and I was able to stay focused and attentive to the issues at hand.

Can't you see how terrified I am?
In fact, we all lived. 

All four bloggers survived our week long trip to the other side of the world, where we were introduced to the seedy underworld of human trafficking, invited in to the secret work of investigations, entrusted with the words and stories of exploited men, women, and children, and encouraged by those fighting for the aftercare and oversight of the rescued. And while our brushes with certain death took different turns at times (exhaustion, a billion insect bites, gluten overdose, relentless diarrhea, severe blood loss from accidentally shaving off a billion insect bites, bloating to the point of actually bursting open and having your guts spill out on the ground), I know that our shared experiences are sure to have changed the way we each spend the rest of our lives.

We lived and we'll keep on living and our lives will continue at their usual frenetic American pace, but as we settle in to our busyness, we've gained a new purpose.

 So now comes the really hard part, the truly life and death part.

We all lived. But like *barely*.
This is the part where we each stare at a blank page on a computer screen for too many hours trying to find the right words to say all the things we want to say and share the things we want to share. This is the part where we desperately try to do justice in what we write to the things we've seen and the stories we've heard, for all the hands we held, and eyes we met, and the hearts and souls we felt keenly connected to over one week across the world. This is the part that means life or death for a blogger trip, yes, but far more important, this is part that can bring new life to victims of human trafficking and sex-slavery.

Let me just say this out loud; No one wants the trip we “survived” to matter in tangible ways more than we do.

No one wants to share about the things we witnessed while preserving the privacy and dignity of the victims we saw more than we do.

No one wants to help you feel a deep connection to the good work happening in the world more than we do.

And no one is more afraid of saying it all wrong than we are. No one.

There are a million ways to say it wrong. There are a million ways to screw up something beautifully crafted by using one wrong word or adding the wrong picture. There are a million ways to be misunderstood. And there are a million ways for people to twist good words into total crap.

photo cred
I know this because as we made our way through a packed schedule and long days last week, posting pictures and status updates as rare snippets of wifi allowed, someone from internet land was never far behind to let us know that we were wrong, or stupid, or assholes. Or wrong-stupid-assholes.

If a picture of our group riding scooter-taxis went up, we would be accused of not caring about trafficking because we were having fun. (How dare we use public transportation!)

If a picture of the land or cityscape went up, we would receive a finger-wagging assertion of blatant “sex-tourism”. (How dare we fall in love with the beauty of the country!)

A picture of a red light district – with no distinguishable faces – would garner a complaint of “exploitation”. (How dare we share a vague picture of a world renowned tourist destination that is snapped a hundred times an hour!)

We loved the food. And that makes us
assholes who don't care about the
victims of sex-trafficking.
When we shared about hiring two prostitutes for an interview, we were charged by the internet police with everything from using the wrong words (they're sex-workers, not prostitutes?) to not paying them (because we would totally rob a couple of hookers?), to using them as fodder for the masses, and probably getting them beaten up by pimps. For the record, they introduced themselves as “prostitutes”, we paid them handsomely for their time, they expressed tear-filled gratitude for listening and allowing them to tell their own story to our readers, and neither of them had a pimp, just a couple of deadbeat boyfriends – but more on all that later!

My point is, this is a highly sensitive subject and WE ALREADY KNOW THAT!

No one wants to uphold the honor of the people, the country, the investigators, the NGO's, the sex-workers, and especially the victims more that we do. No one.

But we get it. Maybe better than anyone because last week we stood awkwardly in the disparity of it all, we get that we are privileged white women, middle class bloggers, lucky, spoiled, comfortable ladies of fortune. We have easy lives and too many shoes and we practically sweat money. And we get that because of all that, some people want to be offended by our desire to help and critical of our efforts to change the world for the women and children who weren't born into privilege. But how will justice happen if the people with privilege are too ashamed by their sweet lives to leverage their privilege on behalf of the powerless?

A few months ago, my pastor, Brad Franklin, said, “Justice happens when the people with power use that power to do for those with none.”, and I just couldn't stop thinking about how I am the people with power. Since then, I've been determined to find smart, reasonable, compelling ways to engage in the global fight against poverty and slavery, and I will use everything in my power (yes, all that ugly white privilege) to do it.

So I'll be sharing more from my trip in the coming weeks, as will Heather, Roo, and Kristen. Along the way, I'll be inviting you to join me in partnering with The Exodus Road to fight human-trafficking and slavery, and, truthfully, I'm praying I don't screw this up. When I think about the stories I want to tell, my palms get sweaty, because there are a million ways to tell them wrong and I'm scared. But I'll live, I know that - It's the bringing life to others part I'm worried about.

I went to SE Asia for an intense week and I lived, just like I knew I would. Now I'll talk about it and no matter who I piss off in the process, I'll live. 

But will she live? Will the girl smuggled across the boarder to be sold for sex daily live? I mean, like, will she really live? Will she live a beautiful life? Will she live a life marked by love? Will she know she's valuable? Will she ever learn her real worth?

I don't know. But I know I have the power to send out the ones who can find her. I know I have the power to equip those who will do everything possible to make her free. I have the power to bid her "rescue is coming", even from my place of comfort across the sea. So I will.

I want to leverage my power for those with none, so, yes, I'll do my best to tell her story. There are a million ways to say it all wrong, but I'm going to say it anyway, because this space, this audience, this readership, and these words are the most powerful thing I've been given.

And she deserves no less...

Thrive

.....        .....        .....

How can you leverage your power for those with none?