Something worth watching: Girl Rising on CNN tonight

I hope you’re all having a good day, celebrating the dads you love, letting them know how important they are.

Because they are.  For most of us, parenting is the most important thing we’ll ever do.  It is how we will have the greatest impact on the future, both for our own children and for the world.

In light of that, there is something worth watching on tv tonight:  Girl Rising.  CNN will be airing it at 9pm EST.

There are some excellent fathers featured in it.  Moms, too.  Parents who are doing everything they can to ensure a better future for their daughters.

We saw it in March, with a small group of girls, and I wrote about it here.  I stated then that I’d have been comfortable taking girls as young as ten, but I’ve since spoken with a few people who felt ten is too young.  Use your own judgment, of course.  You might not want to discuss these issues yet, but I assure you there is nothing graphic in their presentation.

One more time, here is the preview.

If you watch it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

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Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is only two days away, so my pinterest and twitter feeds have been filled with gifts ideas for the past week.  Recipes for breakfasts in bed and brunches, suggestions of jewelry or spa weekends.  All sorts of ways to celebrate or be celebrated by the ones you love.

I haven’t paid attention to any of them, so here I am, wondering if I should send my mother in law flowers yet again.

For myself, I feel so blessed to be a mom, I really don’t need flowers or gifts, and the idea of eating in bed is repugnant to me.  The best gift I could ever want is to see my children thriving.  I think most parents feel that way, even the ones who enjoy a day of pampering.

We cannot imagine the pain of watching our child go hungry, of not being able to give them an education, basic medical care, a future.

I cannot think of a better way to honor moms than to alleviate the suffering of mothers and children who know those sorrows on a daily basis.

Once again, I’m turning to my World Vision Gift Catalog.

If there is one thing that reading Holocaust memoirs does for a person, it is to make them aware of genocide as an ongoing issue in the world.  So, for Mother’s Day, I chose to send support to refugees from the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Because of corporate and government grants, my little gift will be multiplied nine times.  I hope and pray that this will ease the daily burdens for another mom, far away, who has never even dreamed of a day spa.

I also wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.  However you choose to celebrate it, I hope you feel appreciated and loved.

Educate girls; change the world.

Yesterday we, along with a small group of girls from my daughter’s Sunday School class, went to see Girl Rising.

The film is rated PG-13, but I would have felt comfortable with my children seeing it as young as ten.  However, there were families that did not let their middle school daughters come with us, thinking the content would be too upsetting.

Frankly, the content is supposed to be upsetting.  Nobody should be delighted by the obstacles in a girl’s quest for education.  Nobody should find poverty amusing.

I was surprised at how softly the most sinister issues were handled.  Although the facts concerning child marriage, rape, and slavery were honestly stated, they were not graphically depicted.   I think a much younger or naive child might even miss the references within some of the stories.

The girls, writing about their lives with assistance from writers of their individual lands, emphasized the transformative power of education or their own strength.  These young people did not want to be (or be treated as) victims.  They want opportunities to learn and grow.

I’m not sure what the girls in our little group took away from the film.  Most of them seemed moved by it, but they didn’t relate to the girls in the movie.  These aren’t things they think about, living in middle class America.

A couple of the adults with us commented that they hoped, if nothing else, the girls would appreciate what they have.  I doubt that.  Those types of feelings don’t last long, and my goal in suggesting the film was not to induce guilt in a bunch of teens.

I hope they don’t forget what they heard.  I hope they heard stories of resiliency, stories of people reaching out to help others, stories that said, “You, girl, are important to society.  You have a brain and a voice.  Use them.”

If that thought guides them to become a leader, an activist for those without a voice, fantastic.  If it encourages them to be a better student or citizen or friend, that’s great, too.

Girl Rising is only showing in theaters for a week.  If it’s playing near you, try to see it with a girl you love.

A New Bike, for a good cause

$85 buys a girl a bike, getting her safely to school.I bought a new bicycle for Easter!

It wasn’t for me.  No, this bike was for a girl I’ll never know.

Why?

Women and girls are the targets of sexual violence throughout the world.  April is Sexual Assualt Awareness Month.  (I know, there is an awareness month for everything, so each month has several titles.)

As I shared a couple weeks ago, I believe that ugly acts deserve ugly words.  We need to stop using euphemisms to hide the truth of that ugliness.  Rape is a violent crime, horrible and ugly, and unpleasant to mention, but speak up we should.

We should also take action, in whatever way we are able, to prevent sexual assaults from occurring.

So I bought a bike through World Vision yesterday, so somewhere in India or Cambodia, a little girl can ride her bike to school, making her less vulnerable to assault or abduction.

I’ll think of her every time I ride my own bicycle to the library.  I’ll pray for her safety and her education.  I’ll pray for the boys in her class, too, that they will be taught to respect and value women and girls.  Maybe with education their daughters won’t need to out-ride their attackers.

Giving Up or Giving Out?

Did you celebrate Mardi Gras yesterday?  Shrove Tuesday? Carnival?  If I’m honest with myself, I do indulgence rather well every day, and don’t need a special occasion to encourage me.

Then there’s today, Ash Wednesday, preceding St. Valentine’s Day this year, leading many to postpone those Lenten fasts for another day or two.

Every year, friends both religious and not observe Lent by fasting.  Often they tell me, “I’m not really religious, but I’m giving up ___ for Lent.”  There seems to be a universal appeal to self-sacrifice, at least in small doses.

The reasons given and types of fasts differ, but most resemble a self-improvement plan.  Fasting from Twitter or Facebook; from chips, candy, or caffeine; from cursing; or from meat on Fridays, will, they think, somehow make them a healthier person, a more disciplined person, a person, perhaps, more pleasing to God or themselves.

I understand.  For most of my life, I’ve fasted for Lent.  Some years I’d fast one day each week; other years I’d give up favorite foods.  Sometimes both.  I always started with the best, penitential intentions, but a few weeks in, I’d begin to wonder if I was losing weight.  I was much better at sacrificing food than my vanity.  I never did lose weight, nor did I feel spiritually improved by my fasting.  I kept thinking, “If only I could fast and not think about the potential weight loss… If only I could humble myself.”

Then, a few years ago, I truly heard Isaiah 58, where the people ask God,

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

And he answers (highlighting mine, for the skimmers; I understand how that is.)

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

God seems unimpressed by merely not eating and praying and makes his usual request:  take care of the poor and oppressed.  Share what you have.  Be just.

Does that sound like fasting?   It certainly isn’t giving up Starbucks or Facebook for six weeks.  It’s not about discipline or self sacrifice for their own sake, or for your own sake.

However, when that daily $2 cup of Starbucks not purchased equals $80 you gave to charity, that is fasting that shares with the hungry.  When that former FB time is dedicated to tutoring at-risk students or delivering meals on wheels, that is fasting that undoes the straps of the yoke.

Last year, as a family, we gave up eating out for Lent.  Honestly, if we’d only be doing it as an exercise in spiritual discipline, we would not have lasted the first two weeks.  Having selected a cause at the outset that would benefit from our sacrifice, the Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls, it was easy to stay motivated.

Unlike my years of giving up sweets and treats, I didn’t dream about eating out, or debate whether Sundays should count.  I didn’t think about how I might benefit, and then feel bad that I was thinking about myself.  Again.  For those six weeks, I thought about those girls, and how much help they needed.  I could not stop praying for them.

I hadn’t given something up; I was giving something out.

When I see the material and spiritual poverty in the world, I know that my sacrifices and efforts are puny, and, even when done for a just cause, they do not make me righteous in the sight of God.  Yet I feel privileged that I can make even a small contribution in his name.

I also know that the righteousness of Christ goes before me.  His light rose in the darkness.  He poured himself out for the hungry and afflicted, of which I was one.

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

Free Books, Anyone?

I am a reader.  I love reading.  I love talking about what I’ve read.  I love hearing about what others have read.  (Unless it is trash.  Just being honest.)

So, when I heard about World Book Night, imagine my excitement.  They want to give away free books, and they are looking for people who want to help.

I want to help!  Pick me, pick me!

Take a look at the twenty-three titles they’re printing this year, and pick your top three, then fill out the application form.

The deadline to apply is January 25th, so don’t dawdle.

If I get chosen, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. There’s no guarantee, though, as they try to spread the books out both geographically and by availability of the books requested.

For my readers in the UK, here is the World Book site for you.

Do you ever feel helpless?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the sadness of the world, wanting to help, but not knowing how or where to start?  I’ve heard many people express that feeling over the past several days.

There is always something you can do to help others.

Does that mean we can prevent bad things from happening?  No, sadly, it does not.  We live in a broken world, full of messed up people, and bad things will happen.

Good things will happen, too, and we can be among those doing good.

A gift catalog arrived in my mailbox on Saturday that reminded me of this.  The timing was perfect; it is full of needs I can meet, ways I can help.

I can’t solve every problem, but I can buy gifts that will solve some problems, for some people.

For $25 I can buy a family two chickens.  For $30 I can buy five ducks.  With their eggs, a family can feed its children and earn extra income.

For $75 I could buy a dairy goat.  Five dollars less would pay for one year of education for an orphan.  $85 would buy a girl a bicycle.

Did you know that one of the reasons many girls stop going to school is (the very real) fear of being attacked or kidnapped as they walk along lonely roads to school?  A bicycle is more than fun to them; it’s safety and access to an education.

There are lots of other ways to help, too, everything from mosquito nets to prevent malaria to clean water projects to rescuing girls from the sex trade.  Take a look and see if there isn’t something that tugs on your heart.

If you do not want to send money to a Christian organization like World Vision, there are secular charities that do similar work, like Oxfam.

I know these may not be the issues that have drawn your attention recently, but there are families suffering and mourning the loss of their children all over the world.  If we can save one child anywhere, isn’t that something?

ps – I am not affiliated with World Vision in any way.  This is not a sponsored post.

No Shave November

I briefly toyed with the notion of giving Nanowrimo a try, but decided that I have a better chance at No Shave November.

Novembeard.

Why did I think that only women with swarthy complexions suffered with facial hair when they got old?  Probably because I thought there should be some justice in the world, and they got the facial hair so the wrinkly old pale women would have less to envy.

Once again, I have learned there is no fairness when it comes to the female body.

I also learned that “old” is actually “not young,” meaning that at age 45, I am fighting off a beard one whisker at a time.  To add insult to injury, they are red, like my hair used to be.

As you might have noticed in the portrait above, my eyebrows are slightly less bushy, which is good because they can no longer hide behind the big glasses that were in fashion for the last couple decades of the 20th century.  (I never did learn to/bother to tweeze them into shape.)  I did not draw the crazy old man eyebrow hairs (again – why did I think only men got those crazy eyebrow hairs?) because I only have two of them, both in the same brow.

I have downy blonde hairs which, were I of olive skin and glossy dark hair, would probably already be a mustache, but here my lack of pigmentation is, for a change, working for me not against me.  I’m choosing to ignore them because they are only noticeable if you are inches from my face.  Unless my husband is lying.  I drew them on anyway.

The chin whiskers, I cannot ignore them.  They drive me crazy whenever I touch them.  (Yes, I can feel them before I see them.  I’m weirdly tactile and have bad eyesight.)  Usually, I notice them when I’m in the car, the only time my hands are not typing, knitting, holding a book, or otherwise occupied.  Once I notice one, I have to pull it out immediately, attempting to grip them with my bare hands.

This drives my husband a bit crazy…I think it is because I look like a loon, obsessively plucking at my chin trying to create a vise with my fingernails to pluck that one invisible whisker.  I’m sure it is not at all attractive, but once I feel a prickly little stub, I cannot stop until it is out.  I have considered keeping tweezers in the glove compartment, and if more than three of you tell me that is a brilliant idea, I’m going to view that as a voter mandate and buy a pair for each vehicle.  Or not, as I’m not sure I could visually locate anything without a magnifying mirror, and that seems too crazy, even for me.

To participate in Novembeard, I’d have to stay out of the car for the entire month.  So I’m out.

For men,  No Shave November, it is a great reason to forgo shaving to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals.  It sounds rather fun, and takes a $30 donation to enter.  They shave tomorrow, the 1st of November, then no shaving until Dec. 1.  If your husband or son or brother or friend or co-worker is participating, you can also make them shave for a donation of $30, if you don’t like bearded men.  Or bid against others to prevent the shaving they desire.  Before and after photos are posted online.

Do you know anyone who is participating?  If your husband did, would you bid to have him shave, or to prevent him from shaving?

(I am not affiliated in any way with St. Jude’s.  I just like people who help sick children get better.)