Black Friday and the path to freedom for the sex trafficked

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P1070037Tuesday morning, as I unpacked my camping backpack from my trip to India, I caught a whiff of smoke and curry, the comforting aroma that had worked its way into my fleece.  High in the Nilgiri mountain range in Tamil Nadu, southern India, I had just spent a week with young women who had been rescued from the prolific sex trade.  I heard stories of betrayal by relatives, stories of sexual abuse and rejection by parents – stories told through tears of sorrow but also tears of relief, knowing the hearers listened with open hearts and were prepared to share the burden of their life story.

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While the realities of the tragedies in these womens’ lives were presented to me every day, hope is a word that comes to mind.  After spending time in the wilderness chatting over curry, sleeping in tents in the cool mountain air, hiking through the eucalyptus forests and swimming in the pristine waters of the mountain lakes, these young women have been presented with hope.  They have been physically rescued.  Now their hearts are in the process of being emotionally rescued and spiritually restored.  After this week, each one of them heard there is a Hope and a future.

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Many of these women cannot return to their homes and resume a “normal” routine.  In a culture that idolizes community, they cannot simply reintegrate into village life.  Their past is known.  Their family is shamed.  They are dependent on organizations and groups that become their new community, giving them counseling, training and unconditional love as they learn to live beyond the scars.  One way these organizations assist women to become independent is by teaching them a trade and then providing access to customers who are willing to purchase their wares, not ostracize them because of their history (which would happen in their local community).

Today, on the biggest shopping day of the year, I wanted to highlight three organizations that specifically serve to train and empower women who have come out of sexual servitude and slavery.

This is the season for joyfully, thankfully, non-begrudgingly giving gifts.  We WILL give gifts, but where will those gifts come from?  Last minute purchases at Walgreens?  Maybe.  There’s nothing wrong with that, if you’ve actually found that perfect gift, one you know will make the recipient smile and perhaps even let out an inside-joke-giggle.  Nevertheless, we often wish we had planned a little more in advance and purchased something that would have a deeper significance.  Now is that opportunity.

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Beads in the Ruhamah workshop.

Beads in the Ruhamah workshop.

While in India last week, I had the opportunity to visit Ruhamah Designs and meet the dedicated artisans.  In their small workshop, they cheerily work away, knowing there is a team supporting them by marketing and creating a demand for their product.  Ruhamah is an “ethical jewelry brand that employs women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. Because many of these women were trafficked as children, they often have little to no education and few marketable skills.” Ruhamah, which means the one God loves, was established “to provide a viable, sustainable occupation for these women and an opportunity to start fresh in life.”

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A second organization is the Freed Jubilee Market, which provides an avenue for organizations from across the globe who work with women rescued from the sex trade to sell their wares in the United States.  The affiliate groups train artisans in innumerable crafts, including home goods (saree quilt, anyone?), jewelry, accessories and apparel.  AND, they are having a fantastic Black Friday sale today (November 28th)!  I am the proud owner of a colorful handbag made of repurposed sarees created by Ribi (as the tag indicates), an artisan at Deepika4aCause, a Jubilee Market affiliate in Calcutta, India.  I am sincerely impressed by the quality craftsmanship of the product – double lining, neat stitching, magnetic clasps, snaps and all.

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Handbag, similar to mine, on sale at Jubilee Market online.

Scarf on sale at Jubilee Market online.

Scarf on sale at Jubilee Market online.

Finally, supporting approximately 50 women in southern Asia, the Starfish Project provides opportunities for healing and growth through “counseling, vocational training, language acquisition, family education grants and health care access, as well as providing housing in our women’s shelter.” The Project primarily supports the women through the jewelry company where the participants take on “new levels of responsibility and leadership, and are able to provide for their families through meaningful employment.” The Starfish Project has an exhaustive inventory that is sold wholesale, sold to other online retailers, sold in boutiques across the globe or simply sold online to individuals like you.

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Moroccan Chicken Pie (B’stilla): Cooking in Community

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I am very privileged to have a Moroccan friend who lives locally.  She came over one morning to give me a cooking lesson.  Earlier in the month she had been sitting on my couch, relaxing with a copy of Saveur magazine, when the article on B’stilla called her name.  Flaky pastry dough is stuffed with layers of egg, crushed almonds and shredded spiced chicken.  We have to make this!  I will show you!  Definitely a sentiment I was happy to entertain.

When was the last time you got together with a friend to cook and delve deep into the kind of conversation that only can be induced after laboring with ingredients and then consuming the work of your hands?  It’s an all too rare event for me, I must confess.  In our culture the home cook usually labors alone.  All my necessities are within an arm’s reach – oven, mixer, open fire (in my case, a gas stove).  I don’t need to ask my neighbor to borrow a hot coal to start my morning flame.  I don’t send the kids down the street to the community oven to bake our daily bread.  I don’t stand across from my female relative, legs planted shoulder width apart, raising and lower a towering pestle as we rhythmically alternate pounding the grain in a cavernous mortar.

Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, New York Times

Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, New York Times

I have lived in and visited places where cooking and preparing the family meal is a long, laborious process.  Indeed, gathering and preparing food leaves little time for other profitable or leisure activities.  I don’t take modern conveniences for granted, but do lament that those conveniences allow us to be isolated in the kitchen.  For some, it may be a lonely place.  But few things are as bonding as cutting, chopping, mixing, pounding, stirring, frying, rolling, washing, skinning, peeling, grinding, frying, baking, dicing and – ultimately – breaking bread with a friend.  So, raise a glass and get to planning your next cooking get-together.  I know I am.

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A recipe that calls for flaky crust and pigeon, as the one in Saveur called for, would not normally be one I place on my weekly menu roster.  But my friend prefers her B’stilla prepared with chicken, without scrambled eggs (yeah, one less step!) and always buys pre-made crust (Amen!).  Thus, this is much less daunting and time consuming that it appeared at first glance on the glossy pages of the magazine.  Additionally, the pies can be frozen after the initial baking to be used at a later date.

P1060535 Rinse pieces of one whole chicken.  Pour lemon juice over pieces.  Sprinkle with salt and rub the pieces to remove the slimy membranes.  Let set in strainer for 10 minutes.

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Chop two onions.  Place in bottom of Dutch oven (using as a substitute for tagine).  Place chicken in pot and toss with onions, 1.5 Tablespoons each ginger and turmeric, one diced garlic clove, 2 teaspoons salt.  Cook on medium low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and basting with juices.

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Remove chicken from pot to cool.  Remove one cup of broth to make a gravy.  Add 1 tsp cinnamon to gravy.  Remove meat from bones once cooled.  Break into small pieces in a bowl.  Pour gravy over meat.

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While chicken is cooking, blanche (soak in just-boiled water) 2 cups raw almonds.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until skins are soft and peel off easily.  Pat almonds dry.

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Heat canola oil on medium-high heat.  Add almonds and turn heat to low.  Stir so they cook evenly, about 5 minutes.  They will continue to cook once removed from oil, so take them out just as they begin to brown.

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In food processor, pulse almonds with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

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Baste three sheets of lumpia with melted butter.  Arrange in clover leaf shape.  Place about 1/4 cup of chicken in center.  Pat flat.  Place a single sheet of lumpia on chicken.  Baste with melted butter.

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Sprinkle lumpia with generous portion of crushed almonds.  Add another lumpia sheet and baste with butter.  Place about 1/4 cup of chicken on next layer.

P1060551 Generously baste lumpia edges with raw scrambled egg and fold up the edges, completely concealing the chicken and almond layers.  Flip over pie and cover with two more buttered lumpia sheets.  Use the raw egg as glue to keep folded edges together.

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Place on greased baking sheet and baste with raw egg.

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Bake at 450 Degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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The Magnificent Magnolia: Baobab of the American South

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When we moved to this region of the United States, considered part of “The South,” I discovered the magnolia tree.  Magnolia trees are the baobab of the American South.  Distinctive and unique to this region, the massive blooms and richly colored foliage can be found in backyards and botanical gardens alike.  The colors of the leaves that float off the branches are the quintessence of autumn hues – alabaster, pumpkin, dusty bronze, saffron and bisque.

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This, of course, is a baobab tree, a classic in Southern Africa.

My local magnolia tree, which sparingly drops thick, glossy leaves.

My local magnolia tree, equally iconic in this region, sparingly drops thick, glossy leaves.

Noticing colorful collections of these leaves along fence lines and barriers where the wind had blown them, I recently thought they would look attractive arranged in a wreath.  I appreciate a seasonal wreath hanging on the front door as a warm welcome to guests.  A circle of locally scavenged leaves from the southern beauty seemed a novel idea, and particularly fitting while we live in a region where it is accessible.  I wonder if this has ever been done before?

If you are from the South, you are chuckling quietly at my naiveté.  I google search ‘magnolia leaf wreath image’ and find thousands of photos and ideas for a magnolia wreath.  Apparently they’re a staple around here.  I am reminded of a foreign friend to whom my family introduced peanut butter.  They loved it and called several days later to ask if we’ve ever tried it with jelly, because ‘peanut butter is delicious with jelly.’  Indeed.

My research on wreath creation suggested items such as foam and floral wire.  We’re a cardboard, paper sack, tape kind of family, though I did recently buy a glue gun.  Those supplies are plenty sufficient to create a wreath.  With my trusty assistants who helped collect, then trimmed stems and sorted leaves, we created this seasonal décor with a nod to our “Southern” locale.  We won’t always live near magnolia trees.P1060608

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Part IV: Cochem Castle, Cochem, Germany

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Cochem Castle is a neo-gothic castle located along Germany’s Moselle River.  It is superbly preserved and worth the winding detour off the autobahn.

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The joy of such an architectural highlight is in the details.

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The end of the handrails on the path up to the castle.

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On an exterior door.

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Do you have a photo you would like to share as part of the Eye-Catching Architectural Detail series?  Email it to me at willtravelwithkids @ gmail.com along with a brief explanation of the location.  Please only submit personal photos of which you own the copyright.  Thanks!  Looking forward to sharing what catches your eye.

Part III: The Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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The Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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Read more about the stately Biltmore mansion here.

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Do you have a photo you would like to share as part of the Eye-Catching Architectural Detail series?  Email it to me at willtravelwithkids @ gmail.com along with a brief explanation of the location.  Please only submit personal photos of which you own the copyright.  Thanks!  Looking forward to sharing what catches your eye.

Part I: The Winterthur, Wilmington, Delaware, USA

Part II:  Al-Baleed, Salalah, Oman

Part II: Al-Baleed, Salalah, Oman

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Boat at Al-Baleed World Heritage site, Salalah, Oman.P1030387

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Read the blog post from the trip to Oman here.

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Do you have a photo you would like to share as part of the Eye-Catching Architectural Detail series?  Email it to me at willtravelwithkids @ gmail.com along with a brief explanation of the location.  Please only submit personal photos of which you own the copyright.  Thanks!  Looking forward to sharing what catches your eye.

Part I: The Winterthur

Eye-catching architectural detail Part I: The Winterthur

The last few inches of an elegant stairway bannister.  A manhole, covering a storm drain, plastered with floral filigree.  The ruffled ridge of a five foot clay pot.  These architectural details catch my eye and I can’t help myself.  I have to capture it on camera.  Some artisan, skilled in his trade, has left his mark.  Over the next few days I will be posting some of these photos – artistic detail from around the world.  Join me on the tour!

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At the Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, USA.

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We originally visited the Winterthur early in 2014 to see the Fashion of Downton Abbey exhibit.  You can view a blog post of that visit here.

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Do you have a photo you would like to share as part of this series?  Email it to me at willtravelwithkids @ gmail.com along with a brief explanation of the location.  Please only submit personal photos of which you own the copyright.  Thanks!  Looking forward to sharing what catches your eye.

October 31 – Halloween pales in comparison

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On 31 October 1517, one man took a single brave action and changed the course of western civilization.  After a series of significant events and after careful study of the Bible, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  The wooden entrance of that church has since been replaced with bronze doors on which the Ninety-Five Theses are immortally engraved.

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The door is on the bottom left of the photo. The script encircling the tower is A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

IMG_4405IMG_4407October 31 is Reformation Day, a day that altered the course of history more than any revolutionary war.  According to the journal HistoryToday, “it would be difficult to identify any other individual who, without wielding political power or leading armies, more decisively changed the course of history.” My purpose isn’t to list the innumerable contributions Luther made to society, which extend far beyond changes to the church and into the realm of economics, the arts and politics.  What I will suggest is that you absolutely visit Luther’s home town of Wittenberg (which since his time has added the moniker Lutherstadt – Luther’s city).  Because Luther became a notable historic figure during his lifetime, people knew every trace and remnant of his life needed to be preserved.  Luther’s home is still intact and well as many other historical sites in the city.  You can see the pulpit from which he preached and the books from which he read and annotated in the margins, including his personal Bible.  Luther’s home is part of the in-depth, extremely informative and fascinating Reformation Museum.

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The Parish Church St. Marien, where Luther preached.

We visited Lutherstadt-Wittenberg on a brutally cold January day.  (As I recall, most days in Germany in January are brutally cold.)  We were some of only a dozen non-locals strolling the slushy pavement.  Our industrial German stroller was certainly the only one leaving treadmarks on the sidewalk.  We easily reached the town by train from Leipzig.  Once in the medieval town, everything was within walking distance.

IMG_4376It’s been several years since we visited, so I have had time to reflect.  Of the entire city, the one place that made the greatest impression on me was the Luther family dining room.  The room, down to each floor board, has been perfectly preserved.  You can walk through, but only on a narrow boardwalk.  In 1712 a visitor touring the historic home carved his name on the threshold of the door in the dining room.  They have since installed plexiglass so current visitors don’t get any ideas.  Or maybe they’re just trying to preserve the graffiti from 1712 – it was written by Peter the Great of Russia.

But that’s not the aspect of the room that left me with the deep impression.  I could visualize Martin and Katharina sharing meals, breaking bread, with students and visitors as they graciously did every day.  They had an open home and impacted individuals on a personal level, not just through Luther’s published writings.  The illustration below of Luther in his dining room with students is from Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier.  I recommend this book as a resource for those who are interested in learning more about – and sharing with your children – the significance of Martin Luther’s life.  If anything, it would provide a foundation for a good family discussion while you walk your neighborhood collecting candy.

Luther in Dining Room

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In preparing this post, I discovered that Lutherstadt-Wittenberg is planning an expansive 500 Year Jubilee celebration for October 2017.  It’s not too early to plan your trip to participate in the historic church servicse and commemorations along with viewing the concerts, theatrical productions, period market and other events.  View the city’s website for more information.

Cast Out Fear – a post for autumn

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Over the past two years, this post has become one of the most popular I’ve written.  WordPress allows me to see how people find my blog – through search engines, Facebook posts and other online links – and this is one post people find through various searches on children’s literature and Barbara Cooney.  Originally published in May 2012, I’m posting an abridged version in honor of autumn and the fabulous illustrations of the seasons by Barbara Cooney, as found in the Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall.  The broader topic of the post – teaching children through literature to not fear the unknown – is still relevant today.

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No parent needs to be reminded of the importance of reading to their children.  I try to read to mine regularly.  Yes, it helps in their brain development and prepares them for school and all those things that are so important.  But I’ve also recently discovered that reading to my daughter is teaching her to not fear.  I’m not talking about the fear of monsters under her bed.  I’m talking about the fear of the unknown.  She doesn’t have that fear.  I think that fear in large part is a learned behavior.

Ox-Cart Man’s Autumn

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is a book that draws in my daughter.  The ox-cart man and his family work hard through the seasons to make wares for him to sell in town.  “When his cart was full, he waved good-bye to his wife, his daughter, and his son and he walked at his ox’s head ten days over hills, through valleys, by streams past farms and villages. . .” (page 10).  Blue mountains and the flaming colors of a New England autumn spread across two pages as the ox-cart man walks a winding road.  “I wanna go there, mommy,” she says when we reach that page.  “Me too, sweety!”  Who doesn’t?

Another favorite book is Read-Aloud Bible Stories Vol. III by Ella K. Lindvall with simple, full-page illustrations by H. K. Puckett.  On pages 74 and 75, the sun is rising across a vast, tan desert wilderness where a mass of Israelites are wandering.  When I reach that page while reading, she often says “I wanna go there, mommy.”   But she’s never been in a desert, so she doesn’t know that deserts can be fearful places.  I always say excitedly, “well, maybe we can go there someday!”  Really?  You want to go to that desert?

Is there any place she doesn’t want to go?  I don’t think so.  At least not at this age, until she’s learned – from me, or other people, or her own experience – to fear.  Fear of unfamiliar tastes, people, places, languages, smells and experiences.  My hope and prayer is that my daughters will love and desire to have new experiences and seek to know the unknown.

“Treasures” to toys

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P1060051When we travel and stay with friends and family, we have time to do things I would like to do more often at home – like go on walks.  Few other house responsibilities call and, without their regular schedule of activities and toys, I have to ensure the children have things to occupy their minds.

In Germany last month we wandered the paths everyday.  How could we not?  The scenery was breathtaking, the wild fruit was plentiful and there were so many little treasures to gather along the way.  One afternoon we brought those treasures home and had a blast glueing them together into figurines.  I wielded the glue gun and each of the girls told me where to put the glue so they could assemble the figure from their imagination.  Much hilarity ensued.  When we were done and the figures had dried, the girls played with them until they fell apart, back into the pieces they had originally been – a simple acorn, leaf, twig or flower.  For this activity, the joy was completely in the process.

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