Publication Day(!!!!) and Why This Story Matters Right Now

I used four exclamation points in the title.

Let that be a sign unto you.

Publication date…today!

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

Why this book, why right now?

Has anyone else noticed how broken and sad and angry the world feels lately?

I feel it in my bones, a hunger for hope, love, compassion, goodness.

But, I don’t want those if they come through avoiding the hard things like racism, elitism, cruelty, harassment, oppression, diseases, stigmas.

This story required me to write straight into the hard.

Like being a white woman in Africa. Like engaging in violence on female bodies and fighting violence on female bodies. Like war and poverty and humanitarian failures.

But also, this story showed me the way to finding that hope and goodness I’m desperate for. It isn’t in sweeping hard conversations under the rug, it is in diving right into them with humility and humanity.

That is why now. Because I believe you are also desperate for hope, goodness, and light. You don’t want to retreat into the corner, surrounded by people just like you. You’re willing to cross boundaries and to learn how to love and live better in the diverse world that is our real world.

You’re willing to go to hard places and be changed there.

You want a love that is stronger than fear.

You want a life that is stronger than death.

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

Books Are Not Babies and Will You Have a Party for Me?

I cringe at the comparison of books to babies.

I am not pushing a book out. No one is cutting a book out. Ebook, paperback, hardcover, donn’t matter. Not coming out my body.

I do not expect my books to call me even after they have existed for 18 years or more.

If I put a book on the roof of the car and forget it there and drive away, I won’t really care.

I don’t need to buy my books a passport or hold their hair back while they barf when they have the flu.

Unless I get a world record size paper cut, I do not expect my books to leave scars on my skin.

Still.

Let me tell ya something.

When I realized I would not be anywhere near my book on the day it officially publishes, I had a one second flash, one second, of the moments after I gave birth to twins. I had the not-awesome experience of birthing one child vaginally (with no pain medication) and one child via c-section (with all the pain medication) because of an emergency.

I glanced at the first baby as I was getting a spinal tap and then she was gone. I glanced at the second baby while I was getting sewn up and then he was gone. And then my husband was gone. I had just pushed out a baby and the docs chopped out a baby, doubling the size of my family in the span of 42 minutes and I was all by myself. I didn’t even know where they were. (Later I found out, one was in the NICU with my husband and one was in a crib in the nursery).

So, as annoying and utterly insufficient as the books to babies comparison is, I confess I thought of it as my book’s publication date looms.

There are loads of copies of the book out in the world. People are reading it. People will be reading it as of October 1.

And I HAVE NOT EVEN SEEN IT.

I haven’t touched it.

I haven’t cracked that lovely hardcover spine.

I haven’t held it up and danced around the room.

I haven’t taken any photographs with it.

I haven’t cut into a box of books and laugh-cried while my family rolled their eyes.

And yet you, if you’ve ordered it, will have it in your hands! I’m so jealous.

You know how people say publishing a book doesn’t change your life? Well for me, it literally will not change my life. I will go for a run, go into the office at school, hang out with my husband, miss my kids, and wonder what you’re thinking as you crack open that spine and start to read.

I have a favor to ask.

I will have a launch party (and it will be super fun and in Minnesota and please come if you live nearby, I’ll send all the details later and I’ll have another in Djibouti and if you live nearby please come) and I will get my hands on a book. Eventually. But not yet.

 

Will you launch for me?

Will you party for me?

Will you take a photo with the book for me? And post it in all the places so we can celebrate together?

Will you put a review up on Amazon or Goodreads for me?

I need you guys to celebrate pub day for me.

That would be super duper amazing.

If you’re the hashtagging type, use #strongerthandeath

Love, Fear, and Vocation

Quick link: A Love Stronger than Fear

Plough Quarterly published a condensed excerpt from Stronger than Death for their issue on vocation.

Did you know:

“A person being treated for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis typically swallows up to 14,600 pills & endures 240 painful injections. After all that, the chance of being cured is only 50%. Join our patients and doctors in asking for shorter, more tolerable treatments to be developed.”

Annalena Tonelli worked for decades to treat tuberculosis among Somali nomads and before that, treatment required even MORE pills and LONGER treatment times.

You can read a bit about her experience with TB and her struggle between feeling a call to care for the sick and a desire to be alone with God in this article.

Amid a volatile mix of disease, war, and religious extremism in the Horn of Africa, what difference could one woman make? Annalena Tonelli stayed anyway – and found a way to beat history’s deadliest disease.

Check out the full piece here.

 

Find the book at AmazonBarnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

Tools for Evaluating Aid Organizations

How can you evaluate the organizations who ask for donations? Or to whom you want to donate? Here are some practical questions to ask before donating, joining, promoting, or judging that I hope you’ll find helpful.

 

Are they a registered public 501(c)(3)?

Search the organization on Charity Navigator to see their ranking.

Search them on Google and explore their work, the ways they report and tell stories, the images they use.

Contact staff members if you would like to make a personal connection. Use the email addresses and phone numbers provided. Legitimate charities would love to hear from potential donors.

What are the organization’s goals?

Are they clearly stated? Could you repeat them to someone else?

Are they measurable, qualitatively and quantitatively?

What are their specific objectives?

How will they be implemented in reaching the goals?

What impact will they have on achieving the goals? Why are these specific objectives chosen?

Who or what is the organization targeting?

What need are they aiming to meet? Why?

Have they included the community in reaching their goals and objectives?

What has the organization accomplished historically?

Did they accurately measure their outcomes?

Were they transparent in reporting?

If they failed to meet a stated objective, have they adjusted their input and goals? Did they learn from previous mistakes? Have they identified potential obstacles and how to overcome them?

Who reported on these goals and outcomes in the past? Is it only staff members or do they have field reports from their targeted people?

Does the organization have sufficient capacity to reach their goals?

In terms of personnel, expertise, connections and networks, finances and gifts-in-kind?

Does the organization measure both outputs and outcomes?

Outputs are usually numerical. Numbers of books donated, numbers of children fed, numbers of wells built, number of people served in an addiction program.

Outcomes represent the actual benefit experienced by a community.

For example: an output is: 15 people went through the addiction recovery program. An outcome is: 9 people quit drinking after completing the addiction recovery program.

According to Shoshon Tamasweet, an NGO fundraiser and consultant, “Most NGOs measure inputs like, “We distributed 1,000 mosquito nets,” or activities, “We conducted 3 health camps.” They don’t measure outcomes, let alone impact. A simple way to think of it is from the perspective of the recipient: How did their life get better?  If all they got was a hand-out, there probably is not much impact.

He concludes with, “While cost/expense ratios are sort-of meaningful, (wasteful overhead, too much spent on administration and marketing), if an organization does not or cannot measure impacts, or at least outcomes, then they are not a good place to invest for change.”

 

 

General Tips:

Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing.

Don’t give in to pressure that you must hand over your credit card information NOW!

Do be proactive in following your passion. Find an organization doing work you believe in. This will help you feel more engaged and interested in their work.

Do follow-up with the organizations you donate to. Ask about their goals and progress, check-in with staff members you might know personally.

 

 

Sexual Harassment. Here We Go Again.

I was going to just put this on Instagram. But it got long.

Real talk about life in Djibouti.

Last night, while walking with a friend, we were assaulted not once, but TWICE, by boys. Using the word “assault” feels extreme, but what else do you call being followed, surrounded, insulted, and ass-pinched by 8-10 people?

I have developed the ability, out of sad and infuriating necessity, to shout and shame like you might not believe. I can turn it on and off, because I have to, on a regular basis. It doesn’t make a difference. I, and other women both local and foreign, continue to be assaulted.

It does not matter where we are, who are with, or what we are wearing. It has happened to me in all manner of scenarios. It has happened to me while with my husband.

I feel angry enough when this happens to me. But when it happens to one of my kids or to one of the people we have brought here to work, I rage.

Here is what I mean. If you’ve followed me long, you’ve heard it before:

Rock thrown and hit me in the head.
Rocks thrown and hit me in the back, legs, ankles, arms, scatter at my feet.
Cars and motorcycles and bikers swerve at me, intentionally.
Breast squeezed through an open car window.
Groped.
Blocked on my bicycle.
Butt punched by two man on a motorcycle. Hard.
Breast grazed by man on bicycle reaching out sideways.
Hair pulled by girls in market.
My daughter’s butt pinched.
My butt pinched. How many times? I’ve lost count.
Insulted with hand gestures, facial gestures, and words.
Words like: whore, slut, prostitute, sex, talk about my underwear and what movements various body parts are doing. I understand it. I wish I didn’t.
Bottle of liquid dumped on me at a stoplight.
Chased by men and boys.
Followed.
Attempted tripping.
Mocked.
Heard people tell other people to chase me.
Told my uterus would fall out.
Told I belonged in the kitchen.
Birthday presents snatched out of my daughter’s hands while walking literally around the corner from our house.
My daughter’s bike being pushed and chased and surrounded.

This is a partial list.

Many of these things have happened multiple times.

These are things that happen on regular days, while I do regular things. I refuse to cower in my house, that’s not a life. So I refuse to be kept down by this. But also? It sucks.

Assault and harassment feel like shame to women. It makes us feel ashamed and gross and vulnerable. But you know what? No.

Shame on the assaulters, the harassers. Shame on the people who see it or hear it and do nothing. Shame on the educators and parents and elders and friends who don’t model or teach better behavior.

I mostly enjoy living in Djibouti. When people hear how long we’ve been here, they say, “Oh! You must really love it.” And I do, most of the time. But this is a long list and it wears on a person. We actually moved out of our last house because I had developed so much anxiety about simply going outside the front door.

At that time, we involved our landlord, the police, the school director of the school across the street. Nothing changed.

Look, I know worse things happen. Bad shit does not make this stuff less bad. One bad thing does not erase another bad thing. I know it isn’t everyone. I know it happens in other countries too. Great. Fine. Still. Whatever. All of it needs to stop. I know rape and violent assault happen. I don’t hear people talk about it here, but we live in the world. And the world is violent toward women.

So maybe raising a stink about the bad stuff that happens to me will someday encourage someone to raise a stink about the worse stuff happening to them.

If someone says, “This list is nothing compared to the rapes that occur,” then I will respond with, “Oh really? Let’s talk about the rapes, then.” And the conversation will start.

Enough. I’m not asking for anything radical. I’m asking to be treated like a human. I’m asking to be freaking left alone.

Enough.

Writing about it feels satisfying and dissatisfying. My little angry posts aren’t going to make someone say, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t reach for that breast.” I don’t expect this to change a thing. I even get told to shut up when I talk about this, so the opposite of what I would hope.

I’m taking it up a notch. Next time? I’ll snap a photo and go to the nearest police officer. I am going to report. Report. Report. Maybe no one else does. Maybe no one else talks about it. Well, I will. Probably, the reports will lead to nothing. Fine. I’ll still report it and maybe, after years, there will be some action.

Yeah, I’m angry. I should be.

 

Here are my other public posts about this. I also wrote one exclusive essay in a past newsletter about the most violent incident that happened to me. Maybe I will make that one public later this week.

The Story Women Need to Tell

What Happens Every Time I Write about Sexual Harassment

This is My Body. Thou Shalt Not Break It.

Talking to Third Culture Kids about Sexual Harassment

Going Crazy

Going Crazy and Jesus