Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balancing Luxury and Charity

Last month, our family went on a cruise to Alaska. It really was an enjoyable trip but as I was thinking of the luxury of the experience I also thought of the life situations of many around the world that is so opposite from what I was experiencing. I've become more aware of global poverty and my role in being the change I want to see in the world that I knew if I could afford a trip like that that I could also afford giving more to alleviate the poverty of many through out the world. I started thinking about what I could give. It really was a vague thought while on this trip and one I knew I wanted to continue pondering.

Then this last week, like an answer to a prayer, I heard on NPR an interview with Peter Singer who wrote "The Life You Can Save" which is his call to the people of the world to give a portion of their income to causes working to address global poverty. The website The Life You Can Save provides a calculator where you can find out what 1% of your income is (since I assume most of my readers earn less than $105,000 USD a year) as well as a list of organizations that are addressing poverty in a sustainable and community building way.

It was a bit of a wake up calling knowing that 1% of my income is less than what my family spends in eating out at restaurants each year (blush...) and yet its also a good lesson that giving to causes that actually make a difference in the lives of people is more possible than I had thought.

One of the organizations named on The Life You Can Save website is the Worldwide Fistula Fund which helps repairs physical damage to a mother caused by prolonged labor and lack of access to emergency maternity care in poor countries. The documentary A Walk to Beautiful highlights what is like for a woman who becomes completely incontinent as a result of childbirth and how she becomes an outcast in her community as a result. The treatment is estimated to be about $450 to restore a woman where she is able to rejoin her community.

Another organization that has come highly recommended to me is The Hunger Project because it assists an entire village for five years. This one is highly attractive to me as it focuses on an entire community rather than an individual or family.

I am also familiar with the humanitarian work that the LDS Church does and I know that in addition to providing immediate emergency relief in natural disasters, they also work on community building in poverty stricken areas around the world. I look forward to the day when my husband and I can serve humanitarian service missions. Perhaps I'll be able to put my midwifery training to use in this way.

In taking a look at my finances, I know this is something that I can do even in addition the tithing that I pay on my family's income to my church. In viewing the comfort and opportunities available to me and my children, I know that it is something I should do.

I took the pledge on The Life You Can Save and used their calculator to figure out what the guidelines are for my income level. I am encouraged by the stories of the people on the site who report that they can comfortably give more than the recommended guideline even on low incomes. One man from the UK makes the equivalent of $25,000 a year and finds he can donate 5% of his income to global poverty efforts.

Have you heard of this idea of widespread societal giving? What do you think? Will you take the pledge? Which organizations do you feel drawn to support?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Help me use up our vegetables

I purposefully refuse to substitute items from my CSA because I want to encourage adventurous eating in our house. There's a disconnect however. We get it and then we don't know what to do with it and sometimes I don't get around to figuring it out.

So I'm going to make this a a little game: I'll list the vegetables (we know what to do with the fruit...) that I got and you guys can tell me some ideas for what to make.

Hopefully, I'll get a plan to use everything up.

In this weeks CSA, we have:
1 bunch of radishes
2 Baby Bok Choy
1 bunch Red Chard
1 (surprisingly large!) bunch green onions
1 acorn squash
2 lbs of yukon potatoes
1 bunch of basil
1 head red leaf lettuce

With the bok choy, I'm planning to make a red lentil dish with spicy red peppers and coconut milk with jasmine rice. A neighbor brought it over to us after Belle was born and I loved it. Now I've got all the ingredients and I'm going to give it a try on my own.

Swiss chard we usually do as a side vegetable with any meal so that's easy.

We just had caprese salad the other night so I'm looking for something different to do with the basil.

I'm stumped mostly with the radishes. We're not fans of them raw and have no idea how to otherwise prepare them so we're not overwhelmed by the strong flavor.

Extra points are given to anyone who can combine ingredients for a tasty meal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

German is in the House

Rixa inspired me to blog about one of our family's newest adventures.

Willem is going to preschool, and not just any preschool. Its a school for German immersion.

Given my educational and professional background, I had been opposed to sending Willem to a preschool when I am a fully qualified (and have make a hobby of purchasing all the supplies needed by a) preschool teacher. But I am not qualified in being bilingual.

My husband, however, is fluent in German, though he has not attained native fluency. So when we found out about the German preschool, I was willing to give Willem the exposure to a language that he could learn and then converse with his dad. The hope is then that Belle will be exposed to the language and learn it herself. I may never become fluent but I'll benefit from the exposure and learn some as well.

Willem has been in school for a month now. I wish I could say that he loves it but he hates waking up and getting ready to go to school in the mornings he attends each week. I hope its just a matter that he doesn't like the process of getting there, but I have heard other complaints like there are too many children there and that he only likes mamas who speak in English and not in German and that he doesn't like German.

We're not giving up yet though. So we try to explain to him the reasons for why its a good thing if he learns a new language and why its important to go to bed early to wake up in time. My husband tries to speak to the children in German more often than he has in the past.

We've tried to think of ways to bring the German language into the house more. And the preschool teacher in me says that the easiest and most effective way of doing that is through German language children's books, music and other media. Its really hard to access German language children's materials in the United States. His school does have a lending library, thankfully, which we will begin to make use of.

Yet, just today, Rixa has helped break through that barrier about blogging about her Stand and Deliver: Little Pim language DVD giveaway!

I'm entering and I hope I'll be able to win one of the German language DVDs and we'll give it a try with Willem and Belle. They really like the Singing Times videos and I hope that a German language video would be similarly popular in the house.

Wish me luck!