Monday, November 28, 2011

Half the Sky


I just finished this book.  It's one every woman should read.  And probably every man too.  But DEFINITELY every woman.  It can be a tough read, not because it's written poorly but because the things women endure throughout our world are heart wrenching, sickening, wrong, and just plain sad.

I had to take it slowly, but this is just the kind of book I would have written had I lived another life where I traveled the world instead of giving birth.  It even ends with 2 pages of what you can do just like this blog!  That made me smile.

It's full of stories of individual women and the terrible experiences that have been forced upon them and how they've miraculously been able to rise above them.  It cover rape, trafficking, maternal mortality, infant mortality, abuse, and more.  It covers just about every problem women endure throughout the world.  And it tells stories of women who have come up with and implemented plans to help solve some of the world's most insolvable problems.  My favorite story was about a woman who became a world class fistula surgeon without ever attending a day of school.  If you have given birth and don't know what a fistula is, you should learn.  As soon as you know what it is, you will want to help.  Somehow.  Someway.  It's a tragic condition almost no one in America experiences but is found all over Africa.  Women with it are modern day lepers and outcasts.  We lament that our bodies are not the same after giving birth.  After learning what some women go through, it will be hard to ever complain again.

This book will make you grateful for what you have and spark the desire to want to do more for women who have not been so blessed.  You can buy it on amazon for about $10 or used for about $5.  It could be a great Christmas gift.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Read this book.
  • Share this book with others.
  • Donate a copy to your library.
  • Ponder how you in your circumstances might be uniquely positioned to help.
  • Consider picking a problem from the book to support somehow.  There are plenty of organizations listed in the back if you want to support one highlighted in the book too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SIDS

Here's an website every parent of an infant or parent to be should read and consider:


This may not be the only cause of SIDS but it seems to make a lot of sense to me as one of the possible causes, and so easily preventable too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Read
Learn
Share

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coming Out of the Closet

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [wo]men to do nothing.- Edmond Burke
In light of the recent Rutgers tragedy and other things being said in the public religious sphere recently, I am done doing nothing. I know nobody reads this blog anymore because I have more or less quit blogging from a lack of time so there's been nothing much to read. However, it is still my outlet and this is really my only forum to say something I now feel is critical to say. I certainly hope it will somehow get out there, but all I can do is write and hope.

I have spent a long time listening and holding my peace, but it is long past time for me to add my voice to the conversation about homosexuals among members of the religious community. A couple of disclaimers to start with: First, these views I am about to type are mine and mine alone. I say this because many of you who might read this know me and my family in real life. If you want to know what my husband thinks, you'll have to ask him. Just because we are married, does not necessarily mean he has to support what I have to say, especially when I choose to do it in a public way like this. Second, if you are not a member of my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and reading this, I apologize for some of the language that is specific to my church. I believe most of what I say is applicable across conservative religious lines and you can get the gist of what I'm saying even if a few of the specifics are not applicable. And finally, the language when talking about this topic gets sticky, so many acronyms and words to choose from: SSA, SGA, Homosexual, LGBT, Gay, etc. I think the most politically correct term right now is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), but for the purposes of writing, it's simpler if I just stick with homosexual, even though the ideas can be applied across the spectrum. Fair enough?? Okay, here goes:

There have been some wacky cultural beliefs in my church over the years, like the notion that black people were fence sitters in the war in heaven between Satan and God, an idea which thankfully our leaders publicly apologized for later. There was another one that man would never go to the moon. And a host of other things. I don't mind this. My church is run by humans who are here on earth for the same reasons I am. To make mistakes. To learn. To grow. Time tends to weed those things out. Truth is eternal and stands the test of time. Mistakes fall away and generally don't bother me (most probably because I'm a white, married, stay at home mother with long roots in the church who doesn't live during a time when my church is actively practicing polygamy, so it's never been too personal; I fit the mold), but search as I might I can't find in our history another cultural belief to compare to some of those about homosexuality that was destructive enough to convince people that their best alternative was to KILL THEMSELVES. We simply cannot afford to be pharisaical (is that a word? if not, it means to act like Pharisees) about homosexuality. People are dying. CHILDREN are dying. Our homosexual brothers and sisters and children are jumping off bridges and killing themselves on temple grounds in despair. Can we just sit back and ignore this?

I could write for days about all the angles of religion and homosexuality. I have spent years reading, praying, fasting, studying, pondering and meditating about this topic. The mere existence of this topic hurts my heart. But today I just want to address one aspect: the origin of homosexuality. It is not my aim to debate the legal issues surrounding marriage nor the religious world's proclamation of the practice as sin. I only want to discuss the origins of homosexuality because it seems to me that whether someone believes homosexuality is genetic or whether they believe it's a choice with no biological basis, drastically affects how they treat and talk about and interact with the homosexual population. Undoubtedly there are deviant homosexual people who do all kinds of distasteful things, just like there are deviant heterosexual people of the same fabric. My purpose is not to talk about them. There are faithful, worthy, sexually inactive people of all sexual orientations. For the time being, please assume these are the kinds of people to whom I am referring.

Officially my church has no stance on why people are homosexual. Fair enough. Culturally, however, this is not the case. I suppose this is because officially my church is very clear in its stance that practicing homosexuality is a sin. I think people must be drawing their own conclusions from the official stance on sin and making inferences as to why they believe people are homosexual. I am continually surprised by how many people believe it is church doctrine that every homosexual is a deviant, evil person with no moral compass who is purposefully choosing to apostasize from the church so they can be free to do whatever they want sexually. Not so. This is a cultural belief that is doing a lot of damage to a lot of people.

To you who find yourself believing such things, I ask only this: have you ever known and loved not only a homosexual person, but a homosexual child? A child who is obviously gay long before their hormones ever develop to such a point that they would feel any kind of sexual attraction? Or have you ever known a teenager with no sexual experience whatsoever trying desperately to suppress and eradicate feelings they believe are evil? How do you explain such children? As someone who studied and taught theater (in San Francisco, no less), I have known and loved many and read the stories of many more. And I decided long ago that my search and study about homosexuality would not conclude until I was comfortable enough with my own beliefs to know how to guide/love my own precious child if one of them was born homosexual in a time such as ours.

My search has not concluded. And yes, I believe people are born this way. There is plenty of evidence to support my belief not least of which are people's own stories. Why do we insist people believe us when we bear testimony about our intimate experiences with God but refuse to believe someone when they share the intimate nature of how they experience their sexual orientation? I mean really, why, WHY would someone CHOOSE this? The answer is, they don't. Have you ever been a teenaged girl alone in a room with a straight teenaged boy? I have. That is a power and a drive that you can't just switch on and off for fun. Having been on the receiving end, I will testify to this. I'll also tell you why I think we refuse so stubbornly to listen to the stories of those who are suffering and wishing away feelings they cannot control all while reaching out so desperately for a hand to hold. I think it's because it scares us. And there is nothing so effective as fear to prevent the Spirit from helping us decipher truth. If we believe the stories and experiences of our homosexual children, it's no longer a simple, comfortable thing to make sense of the spiritual universe. How can a loving God allow people to be born with homosexual inclinations but forbid them from having relationships? It seems cruel. It gets doctrinally messy. It's scary to confront philosophically. It's easier to believe He doesn't.

Personally, people's own stories are good enough for me. If you say you were born this way, fine, let's work from there, but for those who still need something more, here is a good podcast from an faithful BYU professor about the scientific evidence for a biological origin of homosexuality (another disclaimer by the way: I could only find the podcast on this website, I don't necessarily recommend the rest of the blog or podcasts to the readers of this blog. If I could have found it posted somewhere else, I would have linked there instead. Sorry. If you want to sift through the rest of the blog, consider yourself warned and don't blame me for what you find.)

For me, this is where the real questions and thought begins...If people are born genetically homosexual, what are our responsibilities as their brothers and sisters and parents? How do we love them and how do we support them? How do we love and support anyone who is different from ourselves? Even if you don't believe God caused or divinely designed homosexuality, He most certainly didn't prevent it. How do we create a loving, safe place for our homosexual brothers and sisters and children within our community? How do we prevent them from believing that they are so inherently evil that their best alternative is SUICIDE!!!

Do I believe God has the power to change someone's sexual orientation? Yes. Do I believe it's an addiction that can be overcome with time and therapy and will power? No. I think it takes a miracle to alter someone's genetic make-up and I think those miracles are few and far between. More often than not we get to experience life in the package we came with. No matter how we vote nor what we do legally, this is not going to go away. These people are not going to just disappear. We need to ponder this prayerfully and come to terms with it.

I think this is a challenge for our time to test our capacity for love and charity; and we, as a society, are failing miserably. We can either allow our hearts to learn and grow and love or we can cast stones. The choice is up to us. I just pray we don't end up with too much innocent blood on our hands.




WHAT YOU CAN DO:
  • Love each and every child of God.
  • Teach your children never to hate or bully.
  • Ask yourself the hard questions and think honestly about how you would respond if one of your babies were to ask for help living/surviving with their own homosexuality.
PS For you Google Reader people, I can't figure out how to make the video clip show up on the reader, you'll have to actually click onto the blog to see it. Sorry!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hurry Help a New Refugee School Get Off the Ground!

I'm assuming my mom won't mind me copying and pasting her email here:



Help a new school get off the ground.  One of the first to service the needs of refugee children who have been resettled in the U.S. after having to flee their own war torn countries.  Kohl's department store will donate $500,000 each to the 20 schools that receive the most votes on Facebook.  You can vote five times for this worthy cause and help them hit the top 20 before September 3rd by cutting and pasting this link in your browser:   http://fugeesfamily.org/
The story of the refugee children in Clarkston, Georgia has been covered in the New York Times and in a bestseller Outcasts United.  A woman with an Ivy League education became a volunteer soccer coach and tutor for seven years.  The non-profit she established has now purchased 19 acres and broken ground on a school that will focus on refugee children who have most often missed several years of education.  
Help this school get off the ground by casting your votes and let others know how they can help.
PS The other schools in the lead are primarily private schools in New York and California

Friday, March 5, 2010

Human Trafficking and Craigslist Part II


When I posted my last post about Craigslist being a haven for human traffickers, I received several comments back that boycotting craigslist would be like boycotting the internet: a useless exercise in frustration. I can certainly understand this logic. Craigslist provides many valuable services and does many good things. We all appreciate a good deal, don't we?

While I generally don't respond to criticisms because we are all entitled to our own opinions, this subject is important to me so I'd like to respond to this particular criticism by adding my own personal reflections.

If there's anything I know about this world, it's this: I know it is rare to find something that is all good or all bad. Some of us believe in keeping the Sabbath Day holy, or abstaining from alcohol, or meat, or smoking. Nevertheless, most of us shop at grocery stores that are open on Sundays and sell alcohol, meat and cigarettes, myself included. Cell phones, computers and chocolate are all brought to us in large part through difficult to trace slave labor. However, we all buy them. There is rarely a way for us to choose perfectly clean, legitimate operations with which to do business.

We do our best to pick reputable companies, but in the end it's about drawing lines, picking the best available option, and making choices that can have a positive impact when we can. What are we willing to live with? And with new information, are we willing to change our behaviors, or is convenience more important?

For me, I draw a hard line at sexual exploitation. If you look at the psychological damage experienced by girls who have casual sex by choice, one can only imagine the trauma one experiences living a life full of forced sexual encounters. Some of these prostitutes/slaves will emotionally never heal enough to be capable of holding a real job for the rest of their lives. Sexual slavery knows no boundaries. It happens to girls of every age, race and economic background. Read this article about a teenager living at home in an affluent Detroit suburb who was forced into a life of slavery. The full story can be found in the book, "The Slave Across the Street". This is a problem that cannot be ignored nor justified. Slavery never can.

Make no mistake, Craigslist is a company just like any other company. It is not the internet. It is one website on the internet. It is a business. It makes its revenue from advertising dollars in big cities that pay per click on the website. It also charges for its adult services postings which explains why it is so reluctant to get rid of them. Craigslist says it is not out to maximize its profits, nevertheless making money is required to maintain the site 1. Despite the fact that craigslist has its hand in some noble and charitable causes, it still persists in allowing human trafficking on its site. To quote an old cliche, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.

Fortunately, there is a better option: ebayclassifieds.com, formerly kijiji.com. Ebay classifieds has no adult services section. It is smaller and less convenient right now, but as the word spreads, that can change. Myspace was the most popular social networking site in 2006, but Facebook overtook them in 2008 because they had a cleaner, safer product. It takes participation, but it can be done. This is an instance where you have the opportunity to make a choice that has an impact. With new information, are we willing to change our behaviors and in so doing create a better product, or is convenience right now more important?

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
  • List your stuff on ebay classifieds (kijiji)
  • Search for stuff on ebay classifieds
  • Tell your friends to do the same
  • Join this facebook group for good articles and the latest updates on this effort and invite all your friends on facebook to the group so they know about it too.
  • Contact craigslist and tell them you will be changing to kijiji until they remove the adult services section.
  • Contact ebay classifieds and tell them you will use them instead of craigslist and encourage them never to implement an adult services section of any kind.

Past Posts