Sunday, June 26, 2011

Red is Positive, Black is Negative

As I've mentioned before, there's a little thing called Murphy's Law of Deployment.  It strikes again and again to family members of the military.  I've been pretty lucky so far and have not had too many issues with Mr. Murphy.  Regardless, I have been forced to learn a few things along the way about self-reliance and independence.

I'm not sure that this qualifies as Murphy's Law, but the battery in my husband's cherished and beloved Mustang keeps dying.  I suppose I can't blame this on Murphy at all because it is actually entirely my fault.  I haven't been starting it on a regular basis or even a semi-regular basis.  A couple of weeks ago I enlisted the help of one of my husband's fellow firefighters to jump start his car.  This would have worked fabulously if the plan didn't rely on me continuing to turn the key on his car.  I let the car run for 30 minutes, shut it off, and of course didn't attempt to start it again for pretty much a millenium.   Needless to say, the Mustang sits in our garage with an empty battery and low tire pressure.  I actually believe the tires may be molding into one particular shape because they haven't moved.  I'm a horrible car babysitter.

Today I decided I would be an independent and strong woman.  I would....gasp...try to jump start his car on my own!  Oh the horror! 

I pulled my car forward just narrowly escaping denting his bumper with mine.  It took me a good 15 minutes to find the lever on his hood.  Finally with both car hoods open, I stood proudly admiring my work so far. 

Now came the difficult part.

I opened the jumper cables, inspected the red and black clamps and promptly googled "how to jumpstart a car" on my iphone.  This was quite successful as there are several detailed instructions online.  I connected red to positive (+), black to negative (-), red to positive (+) on the Mustang, and stood there with the final black clamp. 

Connect to a unpainted piece of metal under the hood.

No problem.  I confidently clamped it around a metal piece.  Unfortunately, no one warned me that it would spark. 

Boy did it spark.

I jumped, screamed, retreated, unconnected everything, threw down both hoods, backed up my car, and ran inside.

Why is it that I have no problem defibrillating a human being, but cannot manage to charge a car battery?

Oh well, there's no shame in asking for help.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Indego Africa Winner!

The winner of my Indego Africa Giveaway is.....

Congratulations!!  Please email me with your shipping address:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, U.S. Army

**(Be sure to enter my first ever GIVEAWAY!  I don't have a lot of entries yet and the cosmetics bag is super cute.  If you are already a follower, just let me know in the comments section - that counts as an entry!)**

Happy Birthday, United States Army.   

Two hundred and thirty six years!  You old goat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

First Giveaway - Indego Africa!

I am really excited to announce that I am doing my very first giveaway -- and it is really awesome. 

I want to tell you about an amazing non-profit organization called Indego Africa.

Indego Africa ("Indego") is an innovative 501(c)(3) nonprofit social enterprise – and subject of a Harvard Business School case study (Nov. 2010) – driving forward a uniquely market-based approach to women's empowerment in Africa.

Indego employs a simple yet powerful business model: (a) partner with cooperatives (“co-ops”) of more than 250 women artisans in Rwanda on a fair trade basis; (b) sell its partners hand-made accessories and home d├ęcor products on its online store and at more than 70 U.S. retailers, including Anthropologie and Nicole Miller; and (c) invest 100% of profits from sales, and all donations, into its training programs for the co-ops in business management, entrepreneurship, literacy, and technology – all taught by Rwanda’s top university students on scholarship through its partner NGO, Generation Rwanda.

Indego Africa provides opportunities for women in difficult circumstances to first meet their families’ basic needs, and then acquire skills that enhance long-term earning potential. Within five years of partnering with Indego Africa, each artisan cooperative should include the following:

                WOMEN GENERATING SUSTAINABLE INCOME. Women consistently earn more than $2 per day through their own initiative and oversee households that are entirely free of hunger, inadequate housing, and school absenteeism.
               WOMEN LEVERAGING VALUABLE LONG-TERM SKILLS. Women deploy new high-value skills to earn supplemental income in their own community – whether at a cooperative, another employer, or their own business.
                WOMEN RUNNING PROFITABLE EXPORT BUSINESSES. Women manage cooperatives that are fiscally responsible, effective in product design and delivery, and dynamic contributors to the community – all while engaging the global export market on their own terms.
                 WOMEN FEELING HOPEFUL AND CONFIDENT. Women translate their experiences of financial success and increased productivity into a lasting sense of self-worth and pride, knowing that anything can be accomplished by working together with others and relying on their own strength.

By forging a strategy that validates and scales its mission, Indego Africa re-defines an outdated handicraft model of economic development and maps out a replicable blueprint for unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Check out this video message from Emelienne Nyiramana, one of Indego Africa's partner artisans who recently graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative Entrepreneurship Program in Rwanda.  Before partnering with Indego Africa in 2007, Emelienne and her colleagues made less than 25 cents a day carrying water.  They now run a profitable, transparent, high-profile business partnering with major retail outlets, including the iconic fashion designer Nicole Miller.

The women of Rwanda have so many incredible products available through Indego Africa and I encourage you to visit their website and take a look!

I'm giving away this GORGEOUS cosmetics case that was designed and produced by the women of Cocoki:

The cosmetics case will come with a tag signed personally by the artisan who created it!  I know this product is incredible because I own one and use it to carry around my favorite make-up.  Isn't it pretty?
To Enter:   

Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry (i.e. 1 comment for following, 1 comment for looking at the website, 4 separate comments for blogging about it).
  • Publicly follow this blog and leave a comment to let me know (this is different than subscribing - see sidebar at right to follow):  1 entry
  • Visit, look through the online shop and comment to tell me which product you think is the absolute coolest: 1 entry
  • "Like" Indego Africa on Facebook (comment to let me know):  1 entry
  • Follow Indego Africa on Twitter (comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Tweet about this giveaway (please include @Indego_Africa and comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Facebook about this giveaway (comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Blog about this giveaway (please leave me a link to your blog): 4 entries

This giveaway will stay open until Sunday June 19th at midnight EST and the winner will be chosen with

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Golf With the Locals

Did you know it's safe over there now?
At least it's not Afghanistan.
After all, the war in Iraq is over.
We're just advisers now.

The troops
They are just playing golf with the locals.
Today they had a big softball game
U.S Army vs. Mahdi Army
There were beers
And hot dogs
Al-Sadr showed up and led a song of peace.

Last night
All the Americans stayed up late
for a pajama party with the insurgents.
They had ice cream
Did each other's hair
And talked about Kim Kardashian.

Sure, it's safe over there.
Tell that to the 50,000 troops
looking over their shoulders.
Tell that to the 5 troops killed in a single day
June 6, 2011
Tell that to their families.

If you think it's safe over there,
If you think we can breathe easy
Tell that to the
wives and husbands
mothers, fathers
sisters, brothers
as they hear about attacks
Frantically searching for the location
What city
What city
What city
As they scan the page or listen to the news
As they hold their breathe in fear.

Tell that to the pregnant wife
as her Skype conversation goes silent.
A loud noise, then silence.
A silence that lasts days.
Tell her it's safe
as she tries to convince herself
that it's just bad internet.
A poor connection.
A storm.

Tell that to the troops
who think about the future months.
The final exit from Iraq.
The long road through the desert to Kuwait.
The drive out of the country
with proverbial
on their backs.

Or tell that to the troops who might stay.
The select few left behind
beyond the deadline.
The troops who already have threats
against their lives.
The ones who might be there
when everyone else
is home.

Tell them that it's safe.
After all, they are just playing golf with the locals.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Lucky Day

Today was my lucky day.  I won a TV!

My husband's family holds a memorial golf tournament every year in honor of his late cousin.  Fifteen years ago, his cousin died in a helicopter accident during a training session with the Marines.  The golf tournament raises money for a scholarship in his name and for various other military charities.

There was a raffle and I won the grand prize - a 32 inch flat screen TV!

Please excuse my photo crasher.
No, I did not buy her dentures. I think that's just her tongue.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eyes Wide Open Exhibit Revisited

Five years ago, I wrote an editorial for a university newspaper expressing my disapproval for the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Have you ever seen it?


Basically, the American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that works to promote social justice, peace, and humanitarian service.  They have done many important things since their inception in 1917 including establishing economic development programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, providing support to the U.S Civil Rights Movement, and providing aid in both World Wars and Vietnam.  In 1947, along with the British Quakers, they received a Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

The American Friends Service Committee is fundamentally opposed to conflict and has been against every war since its inception in 1917.  They have consistently vocalized their disapproval of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have called for immediate withdrawal since they began.

Here is what I wrote about their exhibit (Eyes Wide Open):


As I walked towards the Tisch Library last Wednesday, I passed by a group of individuals handing out flyers about the war in Iraq. They had signs up proclaiming that too much money has been wasted and too many lives have been lost overseas because of the war. I was continuing to make my way up the steps when I noticed a large number of combat boots lined up in a seeming attempt at a "memorial" for fallen soldiers. The sign underneath read, "Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War." 

As a girlfriend of an Iraq war veteran, I was curious. Upon closer inspection, I realized that attached to the boots were tags containing the names and towns of several fallen soldiers from New England. 

My heart sank. 

At first, I thought that it would be best not to voice my opinion, and I attempted to walk by; but as I passed, I was solicited to take a flyer. My polite "no thank you," however, was received with a sarcastic sneer. I took a few steps further and decided that this was not a time to remain silent. 

There are ways to be against the war in Iraq and continue to support our troops, and unfortunately, this exhibit was not an example of this behavior. Instead, the group took the names of soldiers and placed them in their exhibit without first obtaining consent to do so. 

This was clearly an anti-war protest masquerading as a memorial for those who had lost their lives. It put on the show of honoring the fallen soldiers by placing their boots in a row and listing their names. 

However, these soldiers were brave and honorable men and women who traveled across the world from their loved ones and sacrificed their lives for a cause that they felt was just and for reasons that are inalienably personal. It is disrespectful to use their names - especially in the context of their deaths - to propagate a viewpoint that may not have been their own. 

To use their names as an argument for troop withdrawal and to support the idea that the war is wrong only serves to say that they died for nothing. This behavior does not honor the troops, but in fact dishonors what they stood for, fought for and for which they ultimately lost their lives. Regardless of your opinion on the war, it is not right to use another person's name to further your cause without his or her expressed consent. The fact that an individual is dead does not give free reign on their identity. 

When I approached the individual at the "memorial" and asked whether they had gotten consent from every family member to allow the names to appear in their exhibit, I felt I was received with a less-than-friendly attitude. As I expressed my concerns and the offense that I had taken, the individual stared off into space and said, "Well, I stand by it, because it humanizes the exhibit." 

Yes, of course it humanizes the exhibit - I will not argue with that. But then maybe we should include the brutal stories of their deaths, because that would humanize the exhibit even more. Or perhaps we should show videotapes of their funerals or, better yet, maybe we should just put up pictures of their bodies. That would make for an especially humanized effect. 

The protestors used the soldiers, through the combat boots, as mere props and all but admitted that they were dramatizing their exhibit to express their views. When I asked the individual how he felt about the fact that many of the fallen soldiers would explicitly disagree with his views and may not appreciate their deaths being used as an argument for them, his response was that, "I'm pretty sure a lot of families of these soldiers would agree with me at this point." 

I was not aware that one opinion of the war could be extended to represent the opinion of another person and voicing it for them. Apparently, these individuals felt that they had the right to do that.

The "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit is a national traveling group that visits areas across the country. It is run by an organization called the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which promotes the philosophy that there should be an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Interestingly, the "Contributors" page on the Web site for the exhibit makes no mention of the fallen soldiers - the very people that they are using to express their views. The Web site also claims that the exhibit "features a pair of boots honoring each U.S. casualty … This traveling exhibit is a memorial to those who have fallen and a witness to our belief that no war can justify its human cost." 

I called the AFSC, and they confirmed for me that they do not ask permission of families before displaying names in their exhibit. They also admitted that some families have expressed disapproval about the nametags. However, the AFSC representative said, if family members are opposed to the naming of their loved one, they can file paperwork and have it removed. 

This is not an acceptable solution. Everybody deserves the right to control where his or her name is placed before it appears alongside a political message. Relying on families to hear about the exhibit, visit and file paperwork to remove the name is the wrong way to obtain consent. 

The organization asserts that it is not a protest, but instead, it is a place for "people to come and mourn those who have been lost." This exhibit was far from a memorial for the casualties of the war. 

A war memorial is a time to honor the individuals who sacrificed their lives. It is a time to stand up and applaud their efforts and remember how much they cared and how much they gave. It is not a time to list names as statistics to further a personal agenda, and it is certainly not a time to assert that their sacrifices were not worth anything - to say that their deaths were not justified. 

If you do not believe that their acts were brave or that their efforts are worthy of applause, then do not demean their deaths by using their names without their permission. I am not arguing for or against the political messages of this group, but am instead arguing against their acts of personal infringement. This is not an issue of the situation in Iraq and what actions need to be taken regarding this matter: It is an issue of respecting others for their opinions and their actions. 

An unpopular war is not an excuse to disrespect the lives it has claimed. It is time to truly honor the fallen. 

Take the names off the boots. 


Do you agree with what I wrote five years ago?  
Do you think writing the names is disrespectful or do you think it is acceptable and within their right? 
Is this a memorial, a protest, or both?  

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Opposing views are welcome just please keep it friendly.