Archive for the ‘The World’ Category

Recently I was asked to review a book called Eco-Friendly Families. It was written by Helen Coronato and will be released on August 5th. This book is an activity guide to help families gently move toward greener living.

This was written in a nice easy-read format, with many suggestions that even young children might be able to do with the help of their parents. I especially liked the chapter checklists at the end of each chapter– they are basically a list of action points that people can implement.

The book contained a lot of things that I’m already doing, along with a smattering of ideas that I didn’t know. Frankly, I haven’t done huge amounts of thinking about my own ‘green’-ness, but as I read, I found my own ‘green’ policy solidifying in my mind.

It’s a simple one: basically I am for eco-friendly living up to the point where it might cost me extra money. Ask me to shell out extra bucks and I probably won’t buy it. Fortunately a huge portion of green living is actually frugal living as well.

Hang drying clothes? Check.
Using vinegar and baking soda as cleansers? Check.
Walking places instead of driving whenever you can? Check.
Storing leftovers in margarine containers instead of expenive ziplocks? Check.

Certainly there are some places where a larger investment up front will save your resources in the long run. A good example of that is flourescent light bulbs, which we have in a good portion of our home.

Where eco-living kind of loses me is in the organic foods department. Granted, we grow a ton of our own produce and I cook the vast majority of our food from scratch, so we have an advantage there. But in the grocery store when I’m looking at a rack of apples, I’m afraid my criteria is simple: what’s cheapest and isn’t a Red Delicious?

I probably won’t get around to implementing everything in this book, but it was a good reminder to me of all the small things we can do to live a little more lightly. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool tightwad like me, you might want to check this book out at your library. But if your family is just beginning to wonder what you could do to lessen your impact on the earth, this book might be a good way to jump in.

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My parents left for Ethiopia this morning, loaded down with all sorts of supplies for the hospital AND $1800 and a new ‘forehead swipe’ thermometer for Dr. Mary, thanks to y’all!!   They will be arriving in Ethiopia on Saturday and will be there until August 4th.  I know my folks would appreciate prayers for safety and health and that they will use their time in the best way possible while they are there!   Thank you so much for your part in their mission.

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For those of you who are new readers, in February I hosted a ‘blanket party’ to benefit the people that my sister Sophie is working with in Ethiopia right now. Over $4000 was raised. Part of the money was earmarked to buy blankets for moms who are too poor to even be able to afford a baby blanket for their newly arrived little ones. Part of the money went towards a new washing machine for the hospital. Another portion of the money went to fund surgeries for poverty-stricken patients at that hospital. And the last $500 of the money was earmarked to be delivered to Dr. Mary, an amazing doctor who for years has worked with the desperately poor in the Soddo area.

Today I got an email from my sister Sophie saying that she was finally able to deliver that money to Dr. Mary. Dr. Mary is a hard-driving, practical, efficient dynamo of a woman. When Sophie presented her with the money she was quiet for a moment. Then she told Sophie that because of the price of food she had been on the brink of discontinuing a feeding program that she herself had been funding for a group of destitute families living up in the mountains near Soddo. She told Sophie that now — because of YOUR money, my dear readers — she would be able to continue feeding those families.

So there you have it. Your money out in the world doing good.

My heart is full today.

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I left Ethiopia last night. For 2 ½ blissful hours, I was in Washington DC and New Orleans. I was trying to solve the mystery of the deaths surrounding the Pelican Brief. Then, when the lights turned back on, I was slightly disappointed to find myself back in Ethiopia, surrounded by 8 forenge missionaries. We all gave a little sigh as we re-entered the world of service in a developing country, where everything is dirty, and the locals all point, stare and shout at us. Some of us are going back to cleanliness and anonymity within a few weeks, but some will be staying for months. Movies are a necessary escape, and we all appreciated it!

When I woke up this morning, I was definitely back in Ethiopia. We had a plan to go somewhere at 10, but didn’t end up leaving until 11:45. We walked for 45 minutes on the muddy, litter-covered roads. People shouted. The flies swarmed. When we got to our destination, though, I was reminded of why I am here. We were visiting Bethlehem’s house. She invited us to come see where she lives, and insisted that we eat a full meal with her. We enjoyed a beautiful meal of injera, shiro, and alicha, along with dabo and Fanta. Her house is lovely, with aqua-colored walls and real tile on the floor. She has pictures on the walls, and a vase of fake flowers on the table. Each place at the table was graced with a doily.

We got the special service while some of the most beautiful children on the planet watched. They also danced around, made noises, and were absolutely adorable and perfectly well-behaved. Once we were done, the children got to eat. They devoured a whole tray of food in 3 minutes flat. McKinsey had toys for them, and they were thrilled with their bouncy balls and silly glasses.

We then proceeded to a different house (probably ½ mile away), where we enjoyed coffee, tea, potatoes, corn, and bananas with Etigeneyehu (e-tig-en-you). She is the woman who works at the Launders’ house, and she has 2 beautiful little boys as well. Her house is a bit more simple, with a dirt floor and chickens running through at any given time. The cow also lives in the house. At that house, though, we got the real treat. Her children, as well as the 5 little ones from Bethlehem’s house, plus mom and dad, all sang for us. Etigeneyehu’s husband got his instrument (almost like a harp/ukulele combination) out, and they all sang some adorable Ethiopian songs for us. Then all the forenge (Launders, plus Kara and I) sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” for them. Those brown-skinned kiddos loved that adult forenges would sing for them….and we even did all the actions! We had them rolling with laughter!

Sophie, Kara, and Ethiopian children

I love Ethiopia. These people live in such poverty, but they are so honored to have us rich, ridiculous, materialistic Americans in their homes. They feed us and love us, simply because we are there. Mark made the comment that in his observations, the Ethiopians tend to be happier with their little, than we are with our extravagance. We live in a culture of want, while they live in a culture of need. We really don’t need things like electricity and whole closets full of clothes. They are happy with their dirt floors and the cow living in their house. I have a lot to learn from them!

God bless you! Sophie

If you’d like to partner with Sophie to assist the Soddo Hospital in providing better care to desperately poor Ethiopian people, you can see contact information here.

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love, war and resale

A reader asked the following question:

What do you think about what I’ll call the “trickle-down economics” of thrift and yard sale shopping? My meaning is this: should Mrs. Jones with 2 children and a 6-figure household income shop resale and thrift because she wants to be a good steward and a frugal homemaker? Or is her shopping resale and thrift selfishly taking inventory from Mrs. Smith who is clothing 7 children on a small family-business venture? Does Mrs. Jones have an ethical dilemma in buying up inventory as well as holding back inventory by not using her means to buy retail? Or maybe there’s plenty to go around and all is fair in love, war and resale!

Here’s my take. I don’t see anything wrong with a well-off person using her money carefully by buying things used. In my area of the country, there are lots of thrift stores, consignment stores, AND yard sales. I just don’t see a shortage of goods in America. Plenty of good stuff goes into the landfill every year too.

The sad truth is that wealthy people often become wealthy partly by making frugal choices, whereas many people in poverty remain poverty-stricken partly because they would rather shop at Dillards than Goodwill. (No, not everyone…this is not a blanket statement…)

Some may argue that we are stimulating the economy when we buy things. Sure. But let’s face it. Most of us in America (even those of us living moderately) buy so much more than we really need. I applaud a person who is willing to step back and decide that yard-sale designer jeans will serve her just as well as ones bought brand new and full price. Even better to take that extra $50 she would have spent on the new item and look for a place to benefit someone.

Hire a hard-working college student to mow your lawn or watch your kids now and then. Find a struggling single mom and pay her (well) to clean your house. Sponsor a child through Compassion International. Give someone in a 3rd world country a loan through the KIVA website. There are so many different ways to stimulate the economy (someplace) that don’t have to involve big retail stores.

Don’t get me wrong— I buy things new too, and I am not suggesting giving up every ‘luxury’ in life. But I do believe that we all could enlarge our ability to do something good in the world if we looked at our potential purchases with a discerning eye, and tried to leave our money in places where it will really benefit others.

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Where should kids be?

After this heads-up from Chris, I went to read this ABC News story about the Edwards family taking their kids on the campaign trail.

Here’s my take: my husband and I dislike the type of invitations that say, ‘no children, please.’ Our children are the center of our life, and we get bent out of shape when people make it clear that our kids aren’t welcome. Oh, we go on an occasional date on our own. We’ve had dinner at friends’ homes now and then without children. And we treasure our quiet time in the evening after kids finally go to bed. But we prefer to spend most of our lives with our children. (And to tell the truth, most friends know that about us and do not invite us places without our kids.)

I am certain that if we were in the shoes of the Edwards family, we would rent the biggest tour bus you ever saw and show the kids America, homeschooling all the way. If a tour like that was done thoughtfully, at a reasonable pace, and with respect for children’s needs, a family could make some realy nice memories. Whether or not I agree with the politics of the Edwards family, I most certainly understand and respect their choice to keep their family together.

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My friend Sharon at Hearts of Hope organizes a yearly mission trip to help out at a couple of the orphanages in Ethiopia. She is already hard at work planning her trip to Ethiopia next March. One of the projects she hopes to accomplish this year is to supply the orphanage workers with scrub tops to wear while at work caring for the children. Read more about it here, and contact Sharon if you have scrub tops you would like to donate to this project!

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You decide.

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I love this story that my 19-year-old wrote and I thought you might enjoy it too.


November morning. I check the temperature online and dress appropriately. Jeans, t-shirt and sweater. Sensibly stout walking boots. Wool coat, scarf, gloves, and warm (albeit tan and ugly) hat. I enter the elevator, confident in my preparations to face the bitter 36 degrees. Two floors down, I am rattled. The doors open and admit a portent of April. I give her a slightly pained version of the typical, “morning is rotten and I don’t know you, but hi” look Then, wishing for chameleon skin, I lean into the corner and surreptitiously survey the new passenger.

She is about 5’5″ with her shoes, tiny, immaculately dressed and perfectly accessorized. Light blouse, flowy floral skirt and matching purse. Shoulder length blonde curls. Chunky wood bead necklace. I idly wonder if it is the sort of necklace that would scatter all over if the string were cut. Worried at this thought, I cram my hands into my pockets and avoid the temptation to find out.

And her shoes. Strappy and delicate, they frame every smoothly painted toenail. Four inch heels, perfectly, cleverly designed to fling an inattentive wearer (me) to the ground. Tiny little ankle-breakers with narrow, rhinestone studded straps and a remarkably painful looking series of criss-crossing. They’re adorable.

I refrain from asking her if the fairies don’t want their clothes back, as that would be snarky and I am a model citizen. Rather, I trawl about for a light comment that will not reveal my growing unease with my own attire. All I can come up with are thoughts on her clothing, the impending ice age, or her very slim ankles. These are discarded rapidly. The first because of the “reciprocal compliment” idea, namely, they get a compliment and want to return one. I have nothing to compliment and would have to submit to her scrutiny while she determined that for herself. The second would make her clothing seem ill-chosen. The third is just altogether wrong. No appropriate comment is found and I hold my peace.

We finally reach ground floor. I watch the lady float outside, half expecting an pumpkin-esque coach and four to sweep up and take her away. I clump outside and comfort myself with the knowledge that my shoes are not on assassins mission and I will not freeze on contact with the outdoor air. I don’t begrudge her seemingly innate ability to be cute. I resolve, however, to buy a new hat.

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Today was a very unusual day at the Owlhaven. I had a real honest-to-goodness hair appointment. If I am remembering correctly, the last time I had my hair cut by a professional was when I was a teenager. And not only did I get a haircut today, I also got highlights.

Mostly I’ve avoided subsidizing the beauty salons of America thru sheer tight-waddery. I don’t wanna spend money on something I have to redo again in 3 months. But after today’s experience, I have a whole new reason for avoiding hair salons in the future.

This cut and color of mine took FOUR (4!) hours of my life. During which time I read ROCK STAR magazine (did you know that someone married the very scary Marilyn Mansen?) and Architectural Digest. (Did you know that if you so desire, you can spend $49,000 on a MATTRESS?? S’truth.) Multiple times during the morning, I wondered why on earth I’d felt ‘proper’ highlights were important enough to spend half my day doing.

How’d the hair turn out? Well, feeling alternately bold and terrified, I requested a razor-cut and bleached blonde highlights. Then the whole 4 hours it was being done, I fretted that it was going to be: too bold. Too light. Too dark. Too short. Too choppy. You name it, I worried about it. And believe me, I had plenty of time TO worry.

Thankfully the beautician ‘read’ me right, and did not go too extreme. She cut 4 inches off my hair, toned the yellow out of it, gave me some nice little bleached-blonde streaks. Revolutionary I am not, but my hair feels light and summery and sassy and fun. Yet still me. Not sure it’d be worth four hours in the chair every 3 months, but I am enjoying it very much right now!

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