Monthly Archives: June 2014

day 1: living below the line

I won’t bombard your feed with updates every day this week but today is the first day of the Live Below the Line Challenge so I wanted to let you know how I got started. As you may recall from my previous entry, the challenge is used as a means to bring awareness to extreme poverty, in which the average person living in said category lives off of $1.50 a day.

Last night was my grocery shopping for the week and it was uninspiring, to say the least. I began to feel panicked, like I wasn’t going to have enough to eat for the week. I slowly started to realize my meals would be much the same and would be meager amounts, to boot. There would be no meat, no coffee, no milk (I don’t drink milk but if I did, I could see why you would forgo it. Why would you waste money on it when you could save money and drink tap water instead?), no sweets, no treats. My shopping trip felt sad and I felt hungry even though my challenge hadn’t even begun. My total bill came to $5.50 in the end, with bananas, eggs, 2 packages of ramen, a 4 pack of off brand yogurt, and a frozen bag of broccoli. I have $2 left that I will spend later on in the week, hopefully on a more substantial dinner. I’m thinking pasta with frozen vegetables? Perhaps some sort of potato dish? We’ll see how far I can actually stretch $2.

Breakfast: A cherry yogurt. It actually tastes surprisingly decent, with bits of cherry throughout. I’m used to eating a less than thrilling breakfast (usually a granola bar) so the yogurt is satisfying. I miss my morning coffee, though.

Lunch: Banana. It is decent enough but I’m so sleepy. Having to do without caffeine is going to be so challenging this week, I can tell. Not to mention a lack of nutrients or a variety in nutrients. I can already see that extreme poverty robs our children of their potential, by stealing their energy and ability to focus. It affects adults in the workplace who struggle to concentrate on the work at hand.

My dinner tonight will be 2 scrambled eggs with salt and pepper. I’ll keep you posted in a few days but for now, just know that on $7.50 a week, the budget requires you to eat a lot of the same. There won’t be much changing up with the exception of a few dinners.

I’ll see you back in a couple of days!


living below the lines

I’m excited to be taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge next week. Did you know that 1.2 billion people globally live in what is categorized as extreme poverty? The challenge is a global movement that focuses on raising awareness and ending poverty.

In the United States, a person living in extreme poverty has $7.50 to spend on food each week. I will be documenting my experience of living on $1.50 a day for 5 days beginning Monday, June 30. (My children will not be partaking in the challenge and will be eating all regular meals so I will be eating separate dinners from them for the week.)

I know that once the challenge is over, I can simply return to eating my normal meals but for billions of people, this is a daily reality for them. The purpose is to get a true grasp of what it means to live on such a meager amount. I know what it is like to be poor and live on very little. I have even been on food stamps before. But food stamps allowed me plenty of meals and snacks and I never went hungry. It was a lifesaver for my small family when we couldn’t make ends meet living on minimum wage. I imagine life to be very different on $1.50 a day, where hunger is a constant. Once the 5 day challenge is over, the fight doesn’t end there. I hope to continue working with the cause, raising money to help families living in extreme poverty. When you sign up on their web site (details below), you will get a personalized page that gives you more information on goal-setting, how to raise money for the cause, and all the tools and ideas you will need to make it happen.

If you would like to join me or just want more information, check out the web site, Live below the line: United States.

meriam ibrahim has been released

I could cry tears of joy because Meriam Ibrahim and her two children have finally been released. As you may recall, she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery followed by a sentence of death for committing the crime of apostasy because she refused to renouce her Christian faith in Sharia-ruled Sudan. She and her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a US citizen, have plans to start life over in the USA. “Obviously this is good news and it shows that the appeals court sought to uphold rights. This is the outcome we were hoping for because there was a clear legal basis for releasing her…It’s quite possible that international pressure had an influence,” said Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch, Africa division.

The power of your voice can be mighty when joined together. The release of Meriam is just a small step towards reform that needs to happen but it is a step nonetheless. Let’s keep pressing forward, calling for more progressive change.

UPDATE: Meriam Ibrahim has been re-arrested at an airport only 1 day later while trying to leave the country of Sudan. No reasons have been given at this time for the detainment.

in regards to slacktivism

Slacktivism: a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.

Some examples of “slacktivism” are the popular #nomakeupselfie and …wait for it… #bringbackourgirls. The hell, you say! That was my reaction, too. I have a bone to pick with this term. I find it quite offensive! It seems to imply that by being active online you don’t care as much or that you have a blasé attitude about injustices. It is derived from the word slacker, after all. But I would argue that raising social awareness about specific causes is very important and #bringbackourgirls opened so many people’s eyes. It shined a light on Nigeria’s corrupt government and brought people together despite race and gender. Even though so many people feel helpless around the world, at least we can feel united with something as simple as a hashtag. As my inspiration, Malala Yousafzai, said: “The girls in Nigeria are my sisters.”

People who look down on “slacktivism” argue that it does little to evoke a change. To be sure, there are some social media causes that don’t make a lot of sense to me, like the aforementioned #nomakeupselfie. When I saw this popping up on my newsfeed, sometimes the post wouldn’t even mention breast cancer or provide a link for donations. Even more confusing are the posts that simply state what color bra strap the person is wearing. Perhaps instead of looking down on these people who I feel have good intentions, we can start a conversation with them. Encourage a link to the charity or campaign they are trying to raise awareness about. Ask them why they feel passionate about the campaign.

When it comes down to it, posting something is better than nothing at all. (Except for those “Save the Ta-Tas” or “Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base” awareness campaigns because seriously that is objectification and demeaning and reduces women to a pair of breasts but I will save that rant for another day.) Stop being all sanctimonious in your endeavors because no one likes that. If a simple hashtag enlightens one single person then I would say that’s better than nothing.

should you really be eating that?

Until recently, I have felt extreme guilt for eating “bad” foods. You know the ones I’m talking about. Chocolate, ice cream, cake, pasta… Pretty much anything that isn’t leafy or grainy or “high in vitamin” WHATEVER. I know I’m not alone, either. This feeling is so prevalent in our society that comedienne Amy Schumer winked at it in a sketch on her TV show, Inside Amy Schumer, in which four women lunching lament over the calories they have consumed and console each other. They are so focused on the guilt of their food intake that they bypass their bigger problems. “I was cyberbullying my niece on Instagram the other day and I literally ate 15 mini muffins,” Schumer says. “It’s okay, they’re the opposite of big and basically nothing!” her friends tell her. So funny and so very poignant at the same time.

Putting food into these categories (good, bad) is damaging. We start to tie in our own self- worth based on what we put in our body and we often start judging other people for their choices. A good person is someone who eats fruits and vegetables and a bad person is someone who eats fast food and ice cream. I eat fast food and ice cream therefore I am a bad person. Thinking you are a bad person because you indulge in “bad foods” can lead to overindulging which then, because of guilt, can lead to deprivation which NEVER works so the cycle continues. It is emotional turmoil. It is imperative that we stop thinking of food in these terms. Spending so much time focusing on what you should or shouldn’t eat instead of listening to your body’s natural cues creates an unhealthy relationship with food and problems that are sure to last a lifetime.

In order to move past the “good food/bad food” dichotomy, you have to cut the noise around you. Don’t buy into the media’s hype surrounding junk food, sugar, endless eat this/ not that lists… You get my drift. It ebbs and flows with the latest trends anyway so how much can it actually be trusted? One moment non-fat is the way to go to keep the pounds off and then the next moment, studies show full- fat will help promote weight loss. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body’s natural hunger cues. After I let go of my food guilt, I almost never go back for second helpings– not because I am ashamed but because I wait for my body to tell me what to do. Most of the time, after about 15 minutes, my body tells me it is satisfied and full. This isn’t always the case and I have no problem getting more if I am still hungry, though. Another thing is to be mindful when you eat. Are you eating because you are simply bored? Stressed? Tired? When you are mindful about your eating decisions you are listening to those cues and can act accordingly. Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge in some late night Phish Food while watching marathon reruns of Full House (yes, I was doing this last night and no, I am not ashamed!). Foods are one of the many simple pleasures of life and sometimes are just meant to be enjoyed.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choices (I’m looking at you, Special K). And don’t you dare make anyone else feel bad about their choices. Seriously, guys, there’s more to this life than incessantly feeling guilty about what we put on our plates. Now if you’ll excuse me, a scoop of jellybeans are calling my name.

Suck it up! Or rather, victim blaming needs to end. Now.

The other day, I was happily eating ice cream and playing on the internetz when I came across a meme that read: “We will never, ever get rid of bullying. We should teach kids to stand up for themselves and cope instead of wearing pink shirts and passing anti- bullying bylaws. We are creating a society of victims.” I put down my ice cream because memes like this really leave quite the bitter taste in my mouth. It’s not so much the meme, really, as it is society and its take on what it means to be a victim.

The LGBT* community are commonly found to be victims of bullying. 9 out of 10 LGBT* teens report being bullied at school with almost half of them resulting in physical harassment, according to Most bullying incidents go unreported, however. I think there is a fear that their concerns will be brushed aside or the tables will be turned against them, like in the case of 9 year old Grayson Bruce, a 9 year old from North Carolina who loves My Little Pony (a show that has a massive cult following in the gay community) so much he carried a lunchbox with the characters on the front. Grayson became a victim of bullying because of his lunchbox and so the school told him he couldn’t bring it anymore because it was a “trigger for bullying”. Fortunately, when word got out around the country, Grayson was overwhelmed with supporters and the backlash against the school was extensive. He was allowed to return to school, with lunchbox in tow. Even teachers are getting in on the bullying action, like a California teacher who drew an “S”, short for sinner, on a teen’s hand who was wearing a t- shirt that said, ‘Gay is Good’.

It doesn’t stop there. George Will of the Washington Post is under a lot of heat for his recent article in which he claims students on college campuses are coming forward to report rape because “victimhood [is] a coveted status that confers privileges.” He goes on to say campuses are “making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimization.” Stop being so sensitive, you guys. It’s not like a quarter of women attending university are victims of rape or anything (sarcasm).

I think the meme is right in the respect that we do need to teach our children how to cope with bullies. And it is true. Bullies will never go away. They were around when I was a kid (as I was definitely a victim of bullying) and they will be around long after I am gone. But to trivialize what our children or even adults are going through and then to shame them for not standing up for themselves—I think we are letting our brothers and our sisters down. They deserve to have a support system and people championing for them when people are being… Well… Assholes. Bullies need to be held responsible for the disgusting things they do and they need to be dealt with appropriately. Their effects on young people can linger for a lifetime and can cause emotional turmoil that eventually leads to suicide. 38% of frequent bully-victims reported suicidal thinking or a suicide attempt during the past year, according to the Megan Meier Foundation. WAKE UP. THIS IS NOT OKAY. We have to end this thing that we do which is making the victims feel responsible for the heinous things that happen to them. You may not be saying it so much in your words (or maybe you are if you are George Will), but you are sure as hell saying it by what you don’t do when you turn your backs on these people.

“real women have curves” and other atrocities

Oh, boy. Here we go again. The “real VS… not real…?” body fight. This time it is being brought to our attention after the Miss America pageant contestant, Mekayla Diehl, or Miss Indiana, took center stage during the bathing suit segment of the pageant. People across the nation took to Twitter to show their approval: “Finally, a contestant that’s not a bag of bones.” and “The fact Miss Indiana is not a complete twig makes me really happy.” Look, I think she looks fantastic. She says she eats lots of vegetables and lean meat and doesn’t obsess over her weight which sounds pretty healthy. But the issue I have is with people thinking it is okay to call other people a “bag of bones” or to say one body is more real than another. There’s been little criticism in the world of “thin- shaming” and I have to wonder why. Thin girls and women are just as likely to feel insecure about their weight as their curvy counterparts so why do they not deserve support? What makes them less real? I know plenty of thin women who eat just as much as I do and because of their genetic predisposition, they simply won’t gain any weight or have a difficult time doing so. That deserves body snarking?

While I do think it is crucial that all body types are represented in our media, I think it is equally as important that we end body shaming of all kinds. It sustains the idea that objectification is okay and gives the green light to put everyone under scrutinization. We all lose this fight. I guess what it really boils down to are childhood lessons learned: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And always skip instead of walk. Is that a rule? It should totally be a rule. Always do that, too.