Friday Favorites

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hey there. Last week I had a huge migraine that completely wiped me out but I feel way better now, thankfully. This weekend, we're going to a little girl's birthday party, then to a story time in the park (topic is Liberty for All). On Monday, we're going out of town for the night and we'll return for our neighborhood's 4th of July celebrations and I'll remain on vacation for the whole week. I'm looking forward to 1-on-1 time with Leo! What are you plans for the weekend? I hope you have a relaxing and fun one.

Here are a few links I liked:

"White America would rather be broke than be woke."

Yet more evidence that the state of foreign affairs in this country is in shambles.

I want a church like this one. Le sigh.

She was and remains a hero to many French people -especially French women.

Yay Germany!

An online movie club that focuses on social justice? Sign me up!

This game might be fun for long (and short!) drives.

This recipe looks yummy and easy. Perfect for Tuesday!

What makes me happy these days

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

So much has been making me sad and furious in the news lately. Here are a few things that keep me feeling hopeful and joyful:

- Friends. Ah I don't know what I'd do without my friends, near and far. From my next door neighbors who love my boys and care for us to friends who live far but are a daily reminder of the goodness of true friendship to those I've never met in real life (I have an insanely amazing Facebook group of moms), I am so grateful for the girls who make me laugh, think, and feel part of a caring community. My friends are life giving.

- Lipstick. Because nothing makes me feel more put together than lipstick, even when it's 8 in the morning and I feel like death. Let's hear it for lipstick!

- The end of the school year. Leo and Jude are still in school all day so no daydreaming about all the summer activities we're going to do together, but can I just say this: no more homework. That's it. That makes me happy!

- Adulting. Joe and I sat down and pretty much mapped out our debt, meals, and chores. I know, this is so boring, but so necessary at this point in our lives. I love that it puts order and sense into our lives.

- The Library. I’ve borrowed so many books. I went there two days ago to get one book and ended up with four. I’m excited about all of them!

- Bleach. What? I know, but hear me out. I have boys. They love to play outside and come inside to touch everything. They pee in, but a lot of time, around the loo. Bleach has been good to this household!

- Sunshine. It’s rained quite a bit this winter and spring (again, to the rest of the country: yeah yeah I know, we Californians are major babies when it comes to the weather) and it’s super hot right now. I love summer and sunshine. 

- Twitter. My new shiny object! I get a lot of the news from there and just love scrolling down the page.

What about you? What's been making you smile and making you laugh, breathe better, and be grateful lately? 

Friday Favorites

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hi there. This weekend, we're celebrating our niece's first birthday and hanging by the pool. We're celebrating Joe's and my dads tomorrow. I hope you have a weekend to remember. Here are a few links I've found interesting.

Happy birthday DT!

This denial of justice keeps on being heartbreaking and infuriating. I feel a soapbox post coming soon!

Legislative (Congress) elections are happening in France.

Just say no - focus!

Oh, I can relate! (Also, yes, this is the 3rd WaPo link this week!)

Most books I read are about WWII or race in the US. This one (YA, which I don't usually pick up) was so worth it.

That would be so great in my flat. And speaking of wishlist, I'm drooling over this bag.

Book Review: Beartown

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Beartown, Fredrick Backman
Translated from Swedish

Ah, what a good read this was. I first got interested in that book because it’s about ice hockey! Leo has been an avid fan of ice hockey since December and the whole family (except Jude!) has taken that passion seriously. We’ve watched every Ducks game on TV, we went to 4 live games, we enrolled him in lessons, and we play roller hockey with him every evening in the garage or outside. This is some serious affair! So when this book that deals with a youth hockey team that has to grapple with, as the description says, “a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil” (child protection issue!) was published, I had to check it out.

The book starts out slowly. 150 pages in, the “violent act” in question had not yet happened. The author takes his time to describe the town and its main players (no pun intended. Ok, maybe). The rhythm is slow, like the town. Each character is established and set in relationship to others. We almost get lulled by the routine… this is sleepy Beartown. Not much happens, though the town is excited about the upcoming ice hockey junior tournament semi-final. 

When the incident happens, the rhythm wildly accelerates. And it doesn’t stop. I actually had to close the book and pause when it happened because it was so sudden -even though I had been expecting it. The ramifications of the incident on the lives of the characters we’ve come to know are numerous and deep. Readers are caught in the lives of all individuals and the events unfolding -I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot.

This book was gripping, realistic, and touching. I loved Kira, Maya's (the young girl) mom. Some other characters were also captivating, such as Amat, the son of an Afghan refugee, and Benji, who’s hiding his own secret.

The only annoying tidbit in the story were incursions from the omniscient narrator, giving us a worrying preview of what was to come. For instance, after Kira tells her daughter you can only survive the town, not live in it, the author writes: “Neither of them has any idea just how true that is.” But those mystery-type sentences were few and far between and didn’t disrupt the narration. They just made me roll my eyes at times.

Overall, I think my own interests in ice hockey and child protection made this book much more compelling. I don’t know whether someone without any interest in either topic would find this as enjoyable -but I think the writing is solid and the storyline convincing. I’d recommend it without a doubt.

Friday Favorites

Friday, June 9, 2017

Happy weekend! We're celebrating dear friends' baby girl-to-be, having dinner with our sister, watching Leo ice skate, and hanging out by the pool. What are you up to this weekend?

Here are some links I enjoyed:

Didn't watch the "Comey show?" Catch up here!

Which terrorist attacks get covered. In the same vein, hate crimes in the US are barely talked about.

I am raising feminists (I know, shocker!)

I finished this book in 2 days!

I've been watching this documentary on Netflix and have been absolutely hooked!

A friend recommended this planner.

I'm in love with this dog!

The Soapbox: Don't volunteer in orphanages!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

This post opens a series I’m calling “the Soapbox.” As you can imagine, it’ll be my space to vent, rant and be grumpy!

You may have noticed that a couple of links in my Friday Favorites encourage people who are not aid workers to stay home instead of going on what is commonly called a voluntourism trip. Voluntourism is mixing volunteering with international tourism (in a developing country). For instance, you go and help build a home in Kenya or you teach a class in Peru for one week or two. Voluntourism is frown upon by aid workers, for good reasons. Unless you have real skills to offer that others in the village you’re traveling to don’t have or don’t have enough of (you’re a nurse, a doctor, an engineer), you will not actually help anyone. You will feel good but you won’t really help “the locals.” And the absolute worst you can do is volunteer in an orphanage.

If you’re thinking about going to an orphanage during your vacation or on your church’s next mission trip, I have two words for you. Stop. Rethink. I’m not the only one who says that. Others have done it before (here or here). I’m just going to give you my very passionate yet respectful opinion.

Now I understand that aid workers are cynical people who scuff a lot at people’s good intentions. And I know people who want to volunteer abroad have a lot of good intentions, especially when it comes to children. They might have heard about the toll orphanages take on children -the more they stay in orphanages, the more attachment issues they experience. They want to reverse that by giving children love during a week or two. I get it. BUT, and this is the most important thing: volunteering in orphanages will damage children even more. Children in orphanages do develop attachment issues. Some will cling to anyone who shows a bit of love. So, say you come to an orphanage to cuddle and play with children. These children will love you back. But then you leave -your head full of wonderful memories, your camera filled with beautiful smiles. But these children? They’re left alone, abandoned. Again. And that happens anytime an outsider comes to an orphanage. Attachment / hope, heartbreak, attachment / hope, heartbreak. Repeat. The children will be even more hurt and will have much deeper trust issues. In short, you have done immense harm to the children you wanted to help.

Another reason why volunteering in orphanages is harmful is that it worsens the orphan problem. About 80% of children in orphanages have a living parent. They are “orphans” by definition (UNICEF defines an “orphan” as a child who has lost one or both parents) but, with adequate resources, they could live with their relatives, or in their birth / local community. But parents see well-funded orphanages and think their children will have a better life in these establishments. Orphanages are still popular recipients of donations from people like you and me -either individually or through places of worship. The problem is that in some countries, orphanages and, at higher level, the whole adoption system, become corrupt. Orphanages might receive money but not spend it on the well-being of the children in their institutions. They may take bribes when wealthy parents want to adopt so as not to go through the formal system (which is usually lengthy) or even offer parents money to place their children in their orphanages to increase the number of children available for adoption. As a result, some countries have decided to stop international adoptions, putting the lives of actual orphans who legally can and need to be adopted at risk because their only future now is to remain in the orphanage until they’re adults.

Next steps:

If you want to volunteer in an orphanage, please reconsider or make sure that you will not be in contact with children. For instance, offer to help with administrative tasks (writing grants or reports, filing).

If you want to donate to an orphanage, please do your research. Make sure that the institution is well run and that it offers opportunities to give back to the local community to reduce the number of orphans -in other words, you want to donate to an organization that doesn’t seek to raise the number or orphans but takes steps to intentionally reduce it.

Consider donating to organizations that work in communities to improve maternal health care, offer economic empowerment opportunities, encourage young girls to stay in school, and work on strengthening families by developing positive parenting behaviors.

These two non-profits are but a sample of organizations that seek to solve the orphan issue:
Better Care Network (this paper in particular is worth reading) and Heartline Haiti.