Sunday, December 23, 2007

Beyond FESTIVE: A Few Photos and A Little Time Off

Yes, I said this last December, too! But this year I have a fairly good idea I just need a break through the holidays and then I’ll be back ready to blog through the New Year. Meanwhile, I’ll post a holidayish photo here and there and of course visit favorite blogs.

Right now, my little dumplings are bouncing off the walls upstairs in anticipation of the big day, so I’m off to tuck them in and warn them one last time that you-know-who’s watching. I wish that would still work with my teenager!

Happy holidays and best wishes for a joyous New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Beyond FULL: TWO Awards from Sherry at Sage and Thyme

And I thought I’d get a few gifts NEXT week! I failed to follow up on a note Sherry at Sage and Thyme sent me a few days ago about a Be The Blog award and didn’t realize how much she’d complimented me in her December 17 post. Just reading what she wrote about my writing and about BEYOND Understanding was enough to send me to my room to cry my eyes out. Then she followed up with the inspiring Citizen of the World award, which she also gave to three of my favorite bloggers, Carleen, Olufunke, and Tara. Sherry, I’m so honored that you think so highly of my work!

What goes around truly comes around, and I’m pleased to award a Citizen of the World award to Lisa at Eudaemonia. I’d hoped to post a discussion of Lisa’s recent knock-out discussion of juveniles in American prisons; this gives me a terrific opportunity to simply point folks in her direction, with a link to her December 14 post, When Kids Get Life.

“In our country,” Lisa wrote, “there are over 2,200 juveniles who are in adult prisons serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. In the rest of the world, there are a total of twelve.”

This is a cause that impacts so many lives and yet exists under our radar due to the fact that the kids who most need our help and support have made crucial mistakes that completely derailed adolescence for them. The truth is, so many of these kids experienced extreme forms of abuse throughout their childhoods and deserve a second chance. Some laws are changing but life without parole remains reality for most of these victims of the U.S. penal system (many of whom have grown to be young men), and Lisa has set out to help spread awareness not only among the general public but among the powers that be about this issue. Kudos, Lisa, and best wishes for much luck with your work in this field. Your posts have always been thoughtful and inspiring, but this one touched such a nerve with so many of your readers. I completely agree with the one comment stating that you’ve obviously found a cause you care deeply about. Please keep us posted on any new developments and continue to remind us how we can help!

Another blogger who’s a citizen if I’ve ever met one (!) is Britt Bravo at Have Fun * Do Good. Read her recent post on the fascinating, life-altering Women for Women organization and you’ll see what I mean. I’m so inspired by Britt’s devotion and determination not only to spread the word about worthy organizations but to help other organizers do their jobs well. No wonder Have Fun * Do Good was just named a top social entrepreneurship blog. Congratulations, Britt!

Another nominee for the Citizen of the World award goes to Matt at Empathy. Matt has a soft spot not only for the wonderful Unicef organization, but for people who make a real difference every day in the U.S. and abroad. Thanks to his upbeat attitude and bright voice, I never tire of visiting his blog to see what’s up from an enlightened New Jersey perspective.

I just realized all the wonderful bloggers mentioned in this post are located so far from each other (NJ, CA, CO, and Sherry in the wilds of Canada, lol!) and yet share the desire to help others that unifies so many folks in the blogosphere, regardless of where they live, work, and write (and write, and write!). I love you guys!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Beyond FEROCIOUS: A Roar for Powerful Words

My blogging buddy Lisa Kenney over at Eudaemonia very graciously awarded me the Shameless Lions Writing Circle’s “A Roar for Powerful Words” award.

Since my brain is fairly muddled this week due to pre-holiday preparations, I’m going to use Lisa’s description, to wit:

The award was initiated in November by Seamus Kearney, a writer living in Lyon, France. Here are Seamus’s instructions:

Those people I’ve given this award to are encouraged to post it on their own blogs; list three things they believe are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour, who in turn pass it on to five others, etc etc. Let’s send a roar through the blogosphere!

Thanks, Lisa!!

John Updike has a nifty line (or two or three) in his introduction to the book pictured above, The Writer’s Desk, a 1996 classic featuring comments on the writing process—and where it often takes place—by the 56 (including Updike) writers photographed by the brilliant Jill Krementz (Kurt Vonnegut’s widow, btw). My husband bought this book for me out of the blue a few months ago; no special occasion, without any hints or prompting. (Yes, he’s good to me!) It stands face-out on my closet bookshelf. The 1972 cover photo of Eudora Welty calms and inspires. I love that.

According to Updike, every writer is charged with transcending the setting in which he or she works in order to enter “a relationship with our ideal reader, who wishes from us nothing but the fruit of our best instincts, most honest inklings, and firmest persuasions.” So I offer this tidy set of three elements to good, powerful writing (whether fictitious or non): best instincts, most honest inklings, and firmest persuasions. With many thanks to Mr. Updike.

Five writer/bloggers I’d like to nominate, not only because they’re phenomenal writers but because I’d really like to hear their “three things”:

Laini Taylor, author of Blackbringer

Therese Fowler, author of Souvenir

Patricia Wood, author of Lottery

Patry Francis (only when you’re feeling up to it, Patry!), author of The Liar’s Diary. (This link shows the risqué new cover for the paperback version of The Liar’s Diary, due out from Plume on January 29!!)

Rather than tag Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, I’d simply like to list her as an honorary nominee to help spread the word about the insightful, international scope of her truly powerful blog (some others of you may remember Laila’s blog, as I do, as Moorish Girl) and book. While Laila doesn’t do comments on her blog, I’ll try emailing her to ask for her top three writing elements. I’ll let you know what I hear back!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Beyond UNFATHOMABLE: NYU Child Study Center’s Troubling “Rescue Me” Ad Campaign

I first heard about this ad campaign from Kristen over at From Here to There and Back through e-mail. Last night I read more at Jen P’s Find Out What Jen Finds and (through her post) at Niksmom’s Maternal Instincts and Kristina Chew’s AutismVox blog. All these moms offer personal insights into why this ad campaign is misguided and hurtful. I encourage anyone interested not only in rights for children with special needs but in simply helping worthy causes in a very immediate way to read more about the “Rescue Me” campaign and sign the petition in support of the campaign’s immediate demise. As Niksmom puts it: “This is not an autism-only issue; it is a case of perpetuating negative and harmful stereotypes about numerous disorders which can impact a person’s life. Education must include a more holistic picture of the person impacted. My son is not his diagnoses.”

I’m going to quote Kristina Chew at length here but there’s so much more to read in two of her posts on the subject and at the many links she provides:

“A number of readers (have) expressed at least disagreement and often outrage at the New York University Child Study Center soon-to-be-launched Ransom Notes public awareness campaign, whose message is that millions of children are held hostage by psychiatric disorders. Billboards and advertisements in magazines (including New York Magazine, Newsweek, Parents, Education Update and Mental Health News) and in kiosks will start appearing in January. The ‘Ransom Notes’ campaign is provided pro bono by…a worldwide advertising agency network with headquarters in New York…the shock value ads—which are designed to look like an actual ransom note and signed ‘Autism’ or ‘Asperger Syndrome’ or ‘ADHD’—are designed to startle, alarm, threaten, and get people to do something (hand over the ransom, er, donation, is my assumption).

“How we talk about autism—how we talk about autistic persons—directly impacts on how…people think about autism and how they perceive and act towards autistic persons. Implying that an autistic child is like a child who has been kidnapped—is a child who has been kidnapped—recalls older stereotypes of autistic children as ‘caught’ and ‘imprisoned’ in an ‘autistic shell,’ their real (normal) self ‘trapped’ inside.

“The notion that a child’s true and actual, normal self has been stolen away by some disorder (autism) is harmful to how other people perceive and treat my autistic son. The image of autism promoted by the ‘Ransom Notes’ campaign is purely negative and can only result in people seeing autism in general and my autistic son in particular in a highly negative light.

“This is a ‘public awareness’ campaign that makes the public aware only of one very dark aspect of being an autistic person and of raising an autistic child. Spend a day in our household and, while you will witness more than a few moments of anxiety, fretfulness, and a bit of noise, I hope you might most of all sense my son’s limitless desire to do his best, to struggle through his worries, and to smile and speak in half-echoed snatches of phrases—his patience and his constant efforts to try and try harder. I hope you might most of all sense what (my husband) and I feel always for (our son) and our small family: unconditional love, faith in each other, and effervescent hope.”

Go here to sign this important petition. If we don’t speak out for those who can’t, who will?

Photo © Best Syndication

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beyond FIRST LINES: A Blog Meme

Madame Brice over at Pajama Gardener tagged me a few days ago for this nifty meme. Following are the first lines of the first posts of each month for 2007. My lesson after collecting these: I’m a stodgy reporter at heart:

January: My girls are fascinated with the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They’re convinced that if Dr. King had never been born, their lives would be very different. (OK I cheated, but I love that second line.)

February: Black History Month is upon us and I can’t help but feel discouraged, and not just because we celebrate famous African Americans during the shortest month of the year and pretend that’s enough. (An annual gripe.)

March: Thanks again to Matt at Empathy for his March 5 post, “A Promise,” and for this terrific photo. (I steal post ideas from Matt all the time! He’s such a sweetheart.)

April: has just released the print version of From Hollywood Experts and Published Authors: Words of Wisdom for Starving Artists, a collection that includes two of my essays. (Blatant self-promotion; so sue me.)

May: This post and its title were suggested by BlogCatalog, a blog directory that’s spreading the word about a very worthy cause, DonorsChoose. (Love that site, too.)

June: No posts (Three kids and no school! Woohoo!)

July: The not-so-lazy days of summer have taken over, an extension of the crazy-busy days of late spring. (More like manic.)

August: I’ve been reading like a maniac (see?) this summer, storing up ideas and images and concepts I’ll explore once the kids head back to school and I have longer stretches of free time. (Yeah, right!)

September: I’ve tried to keep my list of links at right limited to resources that celebrate diversity or promote tolerance or otherwise offer helpful insights to BEYOND Understanding visitors. (Yawn!)

October: Carleen Brice over at Pajama Gardener has posted an interview with Kim Reid, a fellow Denver writer and author of the newly released No Place Safe. (Carleen and Kim: two terrific local authors I met this year. Now THAT’s worth noting.)

November: My first trip to Hawaii was indeed a fantastic get-away with my husband, and it was followed this past weekend with a trip to Chicago to see my youngest sister, Kristen, and her family. (Again, yawn. You have to admit the photos of my nephew were cute beyond belief, though. Not that I’m biased or anything. That’s him in the sporty Santa suit, btw.)

December: My daughter Lauren and I spent this past Thursday evening holiday shopping at a Global Girlfriend Open House near our home south of Denver. (Another cute photo saves the day!)

Here’s to much more entertaining leads as 2008 unfolds. And more cute photos. And more posts. And more writing time that’s got nothing to do with blogging. And a cleaner more organized house, more balanced healthy meals for my family, more baking, more gardening, more field trips with the kids, more…. You get what I mean!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Beyond FAMILY: Homesick for the Holidays

Patry over at Simply Wait recently wrote a poignant post about homesickness. As usual, Patry struck a chord with many of her readers through this brief piece, especially with her reference to that favorite bedroom from childhood. You can picture yours, can’t you? The wallpaper or wall color; the pictures that hung on those walls; the books and toys and furniture; your window or windows and the constant, ever-changing views they offered of your corner of the world.

My bedroom was upstairs in the back of this house. My best friend Shelly lived two doors down and grew up to be an artist and an educator. Eight years ago she snuck over to take some photos of my mom and dad’s house, then went to work sketching this picture so I could give matted and framed prints to my parents and sibs that Christmas. It was so nice to hear of the surprise and appreciation that greeted these gifts, and it’s always fun to spot this picture perched on a shelf or hung on a wall whenever I visit my brothers’ or sisters’ or parents’ homes. My mom and dad moved their expanding brood into this beloved house in upstate New York when I was two. It’s changed a lot through years of much TLC, but its essence remains the same for me. “Home holds a place at the heart of memory for ourselves and those we love,” I wrote for this gift eight years ago. I still feel the same about the cherished concept of home, especially at the holidays.

This year will be the ninth Christmas I’ve spent away from my childhood home, and it’s a poignant one. My youngest sister will travel from Chicago with her new baby boy, another sister who’s expecting her first child in the spring will travel from Boston, my big sister will bring her sons when she comes by, one of whom just started a job with a major financial services firm in Manhattan (“My son’s a New York banker!” was his mother’s joyful reaction, lol!), another who’ll graduate from Syracuse University (my alma mater, woohoo!) in the spring, that sort of thing. And my parents will beam at one an all, appreciative as ever of the many blessings they count daily, even more appreciative than usual (if that’s possible) due to some medical surprises and treatments this past year that they’ve faced with their usual patience and strength.

Yes, I’m not the only sibling in my family who’ll miss being home come the long holiday weekends this year; yes, I’m always so happy not to have to travel each December; yes, we’ll have lots of extended family from my husband’s side here in Denver to celebrate with us; and yes, I LOVE that my children get to wake up Christmas morning in their own beds and run downstairs to see the presents under the tree adorned with a collection of unique, treasured ornaments; but after nine years there’s still a part of me that longs to be HOME home for the holidays, if you know what I mean. I have a feeling many of you do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beyond FAIR TRADE: Global Girlfriend Plus

I’ve written about Global Girlfriend before and wanted to follow up with an updated collection of on-line organizations that not only offer terrific gift ideas, but are based on the belief that commerce all year long can have a very positive impact on many levels. Thanks again to Britt Bravo at Have Fun * Do Good for many of these leads. Each quotation below comes from the company’s mission statement. Happy shopping!

Global Girlfriend
“Global Girlfriend was created to help women worldwide gain economic security while providing you unique products and a simple way to help women in need. Our fair trade boutique offers a line of trend-setting, women-made, fair trade products including stylish apparel, accessories and gifts with one purpose—helping women in need help themselves.”

Other Sites:
The Hunger Site
The Breast Cancer Site
The Rainforest Site
The Literacy Site
The Child Health Site
The Animal Rescue Site

World of Good
“At World of Good, Inc., we create opportunities for hundreds of artisan cooperatives around the world to share their best work with you by serving as a bridge to the U.S. retail market. We respectfully assist artisans by providing access to fair wages, safe working conditions and long-term economic sustainability.”

Be Sweet
“Be Sweet was born when (founder Nadine Storyk Curtis) lived in South Africa's Cape Town from 2002 to 2004 and became enamored with the handcrafted goods (she) saw there. (Curtis) started Be Sweet to support these innovative groups by bringing their products to a wider market of socially conscious consumers interested in beautiful things that fund community development.”

The Amber Chand Collection
“The Amber Chand Collection: Global Gifts for Peace and Understanding is a mission-based enterprise that fully supports women in regions of conflict and post-conflict—as mothers, peace builders, entrepreneurs, and skilled artisans.”

Two Hands Worldshop
“Two Hands Worldshop offers beautiful Fair Trade certified arts and handcrafts from the world's artisans. Fair Trade means fair wages, safe working conditions and long-term, stable business partnerships for disadvantaged artisans and producers.”

South African Partners’ Masifunde Sonke: Let Us Read Together
“For each book purchased in the United States, SA Partners donates a book in the purchaser’s name to a school in South Africa. In this way, Masifunde Sonke addresses the need for access to books and library materials in South African rural and township schools, stimulates economic development, and also increases opportunities for cross-cultural learning between children in the United States and South Africa.”

Oxfam Unwrapped
Give a goat or camel this Christmas! “The Oxfam Unwrapped catalogues only contain items that people around the world have identified they need to change their lives for the better—our programs include emergency relief, farming, health, education, small business and advocacy. When you buy a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped your donation will help support our work in these areas, ensuring your donation has an impact on the lives of people living in poverty.”

A Greater Gift
“A Greater Gift is a program of SERRV International, a nonprofit alternative trade and development organization. Our mission is to promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner. Our goal is to alleviate poverty and empower low-income people through trade, training and other forms of capacity building as they work to improve their lives.”

Global Exchange
“The mission of Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Program is to successfully market fairly-traded products in order to (1) increase benefits for producers and consumers through economic fairness, mutual respect, and understanding, and (2) build support for a more sustainable system of trade. We strive to pay a fair price to disadvantaged producers and to support producer-initiated efforts to improve their quality of life. In addition, we seek to increase understanding and activism of U.S. consumers about unfair trade practices and the fair trade alternative.”
“Purchasing an item from not only helps provide income, dignity and hope to people in developing regions, but it also helps sustain the communities by promoting community development, healthcare and childcare, education and literacy training.”

Finally, remains a stellar example of how people who want to help on an international basis but have limited time, expertise, or means can pitch in a little to help make a huge, collective difference.

Photo: African Gift Basket © TwoHandsWorldshop

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Beyond FELIZ NAVIDAD: Holiday Treasures and Much More at La Bloga

Man, I love La Bloga! Every time I visit it’s chock full of fascinating reviews, articles, essays, etc. etc. from an eclectic collection of Chicana/o writers from Colorado and California. I’ll feature La Bloga contributor and prolific author Daniel Olivas again in the New Year (his new anthology, Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, is due out in February from Bilingual Press and will be a welcome, enlightening addition to my TBR collection). For now, I couldn’t resist linking to René Colato Laínez’s post “Picture Books for Navidad,” which highlights holiday treasures that celebrate Christmas stories and traditions from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and other Spanish-speaking lands. I’m not surprised to see two Tomie dePaola titles in the mix; he’s done so much to help teach kiddos about different cultures.

Current La Bloga posts range from a Manuel Ramos review of Martin Limon’s The Wandering Ghost, which sounds like a rough-and-tumble fast-paced plot-driven work that incorporates aspects of “crime fiction, military thrillers, and political suspense.” I suspect it’s a little too graphic for me, but it also sounds well worth a read for this:

“Obviously, Limón has a deep affection and appreciation for the Korean people and their culture. The book is filled with details about music, food, language, Confucian ideals, ancient ceremonies, the interaction between young and old Koreans, and much more. Most importantly, the perspective of Limón's characters, which includes their relationship with the Korean people and culture, invites a discussion about the meaning of the ongoing and presumably perpetual presence of American troops in a country such as Korea, and whether such a presence can truly keep the peace or simply exacerbate the conflicts.”

Talk about chock-full. Another recent La Bloga post, this one by Lisa Alvarado, highlights the plight of Texan landowners who oppose the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and refuse to allow access to their private land for the building of such a fence. Check out this post and this Houston Chronicle article for more information. The article’s lead pretty much says it all: “Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is giving Texas landowners opposed to a border fence one last chance to allow access to their land before he takes court action against them….” Crazy.

Scroll down a little more and you’ll see a Daniel Olivas post that references the announcement that Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has been named the year’s best work of fiction in a poll of authors and critics conducted by the National Book Critics Circle. Edwidge Danticat’s memoir, Brother I’m Dying was named the best work of non-fiction. BOTH these titles are high on my TBR list. Carleen and Lisa, let me know when you plan to read and discuss The Brief Wondrous Life; I’d love to join you!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Beyond FABULOUS: Patry’s Back

A comment from author Patry Francis at Simply Wait. I believe she wrote it on Tuesday. Welcome home, Patry!!
“Just got home this afternoon. My hospital stay was longer than anticipated, but on the other hand, the pain was also less than I expected. (That’s two ounces of bliss for every ounce of trouble in action!) As Ted said, the surgery was successful and the pathology reports were all good news. A meeting with the oncologist in two weeks will determine if any other treatment is needed.
“Reading and rereading all your wonderful messages made me cry and smile, then cry again. The amazing thing is that I HEAR and KNOW so many of your unique voices and spirits. And yes, I’ve had a percocet but even if I hadn’t, I’d say it anyway: I love you all for your kindness and just for being your wonderful selves. You have lifted me up more than you know.
“Right now I’m feeling pretty beat up and exhausted, but I plan to answer all my emails a few at a time.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beyond FESTIVE: It’s That Time of Year…

NPR featured a nifty essay by Amy Klein, whose work is included in the recently published anthology How to Spell Chanukah and Other Holiday Dilemmas from Algonquin Books (edited by Emily Franklin). While this book sounds like a lot of fun, I was most impressed by the way Amy Klein reconciled personal experiences with Decembers past in order to fully appreciate Hanukkah in her essay, “Hanukkah Is in the Holiday Season, Too.” Amy offers a unique Jewish-American perspective after having grown up in an Orthodox part of Brooklyn and then spending seven years in Israel:

“By early December (in Israel) every kiosk and supermarket presented cardboard boxes of fresh, sumptuous donuts for Chanukah. Sufganiyot, with jelly or crème or caramel or chocolate gushing out like a geyser. Fried, like potato latkes, to celebrate the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days.

“In the center of town a giant electric menorah was lit every night. Throngs of teenagers wandered through the midrachov—the pedestrian cobblestone square — until way past their bedtime. But there was no bedtime because it was Chanukah vacation.”

Amy compares this, of course, to the hyper-commercialized holiday season in the U.S., when “holiday” really means “Christmas.” Bombarded by Christmas songs on the radio, by “office holiday parties and media holiday parties and friends’ holiday parties, all with giant evergreens and mistletoe,” she acknowledges “the table with a lonely little menorah and plastic driedls, but (they’re) off to the side, almost invisible, dwarfed by the glittering ornaments and lights” of the Christmas tree. It’s the sensation, more than anything, Amy writes, that the country is throwing a giant party “to which everyone but me is invited.”

After returning to the U.S. from Israel, Amy recalls what she experienced halfway around the world and opts to give Hanukkah the center stage it deserves in her Decembers by throwing huge Hanukkah parties, “where people bring grab-bag prizes and eat latkes and donuts. I light the menorah each night with friends and sing the jaunty tunes of childhood. And I realize it’s different this time around in America. I revel in my Chanukah joys because I know that halfway around the world, come December, people are celebrating Chanukah like there’s no other holiday.” Hopefully this approach makes it at least a little easier for Amy and other Jewish-Americans to put up with the Christmas music on the radio, in the stores, and on the television each December. If it’s any consolation, plenty of us gentiles get pretty tired of it, too.

For more Hanukkah fun, check out NPR’s growing collection of fiction from Jewish writers in Hanukkah Lights: Stories of the Season. Which way is the proper way to spell Hanukkah? I’ve heard and read all sorts of discussions on this, and apparently one of the issues involves the fact that some letters in the Hebrew alphabet don’t exist in the English alphabet. Gentile that I am, with no experience in pronouncing the appropriate guttural “ch” sound that makes Chanukah sound so cool, I’ve always stuck with the easy way out when I wish friends and family who celebrate this holiday Happy Hanukkah!!

P.S. Amy Klein is also Religion Editor at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Her latest piece, “In Search of...Chanukah Gelt” is another great read. K.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Beyond FINESSE: Jen P at Find Out What Jen Finds

When I procrastinate on something, it usually turns out to be for a good reason. Jen P over at Find Out What Jen Finds gave me a wonderful Nice Matters award the other day. And while I felt compelled to immediately write a post thanking her for it and naming seven others who deserve this award, I put off that task until now. I’m glad I did, because this morning I read an amazing discussion on Jen’s blog that sheds even more light onto my understanding of families with autistic children and what they experience on a daily basis.

Consider these comments from Jen: “I went through a phase where I…couldn’t relate to my friends with neurotypical children of the same age as (my son), but I also felt like I couldn’t relate to the parents at the ASA meetings, and I didn’t really know how to relate to my girlfriends and their spouses/spices. It’s like I heard scenarios and had to stop and think, ‘does that apply to me and my situation? Can I really give an opinion?’

“When I finally came to terms to the fact that Autism will always be a part of our lives, it felt so terribly awkward to say that Autism will always be a part of our lives. And though I did say it because I knew it was true according to textbooks, there was always a feeling of uneasiness. I don’t think it was on MY part and MY acceptance. I think it was a self-imposed feeling based on what I thought other people thought and THEIR acceptance of it.”

Talk about a lot to think about as far as feelings of isolation, concerns about relating to others a in a peer group, and questions about others’ attitudes toward a condition. As a parent, this section really made it clear that parents of children with special needs cope with a phenomenal amount of stress every day and deserve a great deal of support:

“I don’t know what to expect for (my son) in school years, adolescence, college. … My biggest fear is that I’m getting ahead of myself. My second biggest fear is that I’m not planning ahead. What if I won’t fight for something because I don’t even know that he needs it?”

These soul-searching questions of Jen’s make my heart race in panic. I’ve discussed at length my tendency to react strongly to other people’s troubles on John Robison’s blog post about empathy. What would I do if I were in Jen’s place, I wonder. How does a parent with such dueling fears face one without exacerbating the other?

Jen adds that her self-discussion of such points was “spawned” (what a great word!) from discussions at Asperger Square 8 (an amazing blog that’s now in my sidebar), NTs are Weird (another terrific new addition), and John Robison’s post about the documentary Billy the Kid, which sounds like a must-see movie. I’m grateful to these bloggers for compelling Jen to write her current post, and grateful to Jen not only for introducing me to new bloggers who join John Robison in the category of tremendous, insightful, honest bloggers in my book, but for her willingness to share so much about her family life (including an ongoing array of adorable photos of her boys) to help me learn and appreciate the realities of daily life with children with special needs. She certainly deserves the Nice Matters award she received, and I’m really pleased she considers my blog a site worth visiting, too.

As for my seven nominees, this is going to take a little research and right now I have a house that looks like a cyclone’s been through. Or maybe three. If you’re a parent of a little (or big) person who’s mobile, you know what I mean!

Photo: One of my new favorites on Find Out What Jen Finds

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Beyond FAIR TRADE: Global Girlfriend Joins The GreaterGood Network

My daughter Lauren and I spent this past Thursday evening holiday shopping at a Global Girlfriend Open House near our home south of Denver. Global Girlfriend founder and wonder-mom Stacey Edgar took a few minutes to chat and take a photo with Lauren, who announced upon meeting Stacey “I like you!” And what’s not to like? For almost five years Stacey has championed women around the world working to support their families and communities through the sale of hand-made goods that include colorful bags, jewelry, paper products, and clothing. Global Girlfriend helps women in many lands: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nicaragua, South Africa, Tanzania, and Vietnam. In the U.S., Global Girlfriend sells products from women’s groups in Chicago, Nashville, Boston, West Virginia, and Denver. At their open house, they conducted a food drive to benefit women and children at The Gathering Place, a local agency for victims of homelessness and poverty.

While the open house is over, the Global Girlfriend site is up and running 24/7. As this wonderful Denver institution becomes a fantastic addition to The GreaterGood Network of Seattle, Global Girlfriend looks forward to new opportunities to expand the number of women it supports, provide increased orders to participating artisans, and offer a wider range of fair-trade women-made products to its customers.

Stacey notes that since 1999, The GreaterGood Network has been giving back to life-saving charities like America’s First Harvest and MercyCorps with each purchase made through its network of sites. GreaterGood shoppers can become “clickers” by clicking every day to donate cups of food, books, and mammograms at no extra charge. Sounds like The GreaterGood Network is a perfect fit for Stacey and her team of Global Girlfriends, including her loyal customers. Other GreaterGood Network sites include The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Literacy Site, The Child Health Site, The Rain Forest Site, and The Animal Rescue Site. Enjoy shopping with Global Girlfriend and other sites on The GreaterGood Network now and throughout the New Year! I know I will!