Tag Archives: chicago

Mothers Don’t Get Sick Days

Tea ~ Lonestar Chai
In a mug and in my oatmeal this morning

[Reflecting on surgery to remove my gallbladder 2 months ago while recovering from a major lower back injury from a bike accident. Throw in the process of moving just for kicks.]

Can you call it recovering when it gets worse everyday for a month and no amount of chiropractic adjustments or painkillers, prescribed or otherwise is relieving the pain? I was in this accident to avoid seriously injuring a toddler who was where they should not have been, unsupervised on a bicycle with training wheels on the lakefront bike path in Chicago during rush hour. Did I mention that this path sees 30,000 people a day during the summer months? I thank God that Z was not with me on my bike like he was the day before. And I will never again ride my bike in Chicago. It’s just not worth it.

For 5 weeks, this injury was worse than post-op, but also at the same time as post-op. I say to you – Don’t ever take your health for granted. We say or mean “health” as nonchalantly as “food” or “water” in our culture of privilege. It was the hardest 3 months of my life when the 4-hour stomach cramp episodes started out of nowhere in May. They increased in frequency, with a traumatic instance of vomiting and nearly fainting on the CTA red line and hitting my then 5-month-old’s head into the hand rail in the process of pushing my sweet guardian angel, Katie, an off-duty OB/GYN from Evanston, out of the way so I did not throw up on her while I handed him to a complete stranger. I also handed this stranger my phone and had my husband’s phone number up and ready to go should I indeed pass out. Greg picked me up at the next el stop to take me to the hospital. The ER nearly sent me home because my symptoms were gone after 4 hours of waiting, but not before I insisted on an ultrasound thanks to the suggestion of my brother, Phil, at breakfast that morning. Katie asked me if I was ok. I deliriously replied, “I need to have my gallbladder taken out.” She thought I sounded ridiculous. She also thought I was falling asleep before she came over to my side of the train to check on my baby and I.

Thankful for my health does not even begin to express that need as a mom. Mothers do not get sick days, especially nursing ones. I could not lift Zeke for 5 weeks. I could barely stand upright. I cried…a lot. I called my mom to come 2 days early before surgery because I couldn’t even take care of myself, let alone my baby. It was an extreme emergency. She couldn’t even understand me on the phone because I was sobbing so hard that it was difficult to make out any words. I’m so thankful for my mom! She is perhaps the coolest, most selfless person I know and one of my best friends. My parents are such a blessing! My childhood best friend, Kim, also came to do the heavy lifting for a few days all the way from Baltimore. Greg tried to work from home as much as he could while transitioning to his new job in Indiana.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I made it through all of this. Strength and healing from the Lord sustained me through all of your prayers. I’m so thankful to be PAIN FREE. No stomach cramping, no back issues. It’s been about a month without pain. I can run, bike, lift moving boxes from room to room and wear my baby! I think I missed wearing him the most – at the grocery store, going for walks, out on adventures and hiking. It’s the easiest way to bring him contentment. But don’t ever take your health for granted; you can lose it in a second.

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

Be encouraged!


Traffick Free’s Top 10 List of Products Made with Child and/or Forced Labor

134 goods in 74 countries were reviewed in the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor for 2012. Check out the List for a detailed record of those products and countries that have reported child labor or forced labor.

“The International Labor Organization (ILO) has produced new global estimates placing the number of people trapped in forced labor at 21 million, including 6 million children forced into labor or sexual exploitation. The ILO also estimates that 215 million children are working as child laborers, of which about 115 million participate in hazardous labor.“

Here is Traffick Free’s Top 10 List of products you may be shopping for this holiday season that could be contributing to labor trafficking worldwide, based on the Department of Labor report:

  1. Diamonds, Gold, Minerals, Metals & Gems – 90-95% Child Labor (CL), 5-10% Forced Labor (FL) – of 34 countries reported to have used Child and/or Forced Labor
  2. Cotton, Garments, Leather, Jute, Silk, Textiles, Thread & Yarn – 80-90% CL, 10-20% FL – of 25 countries reported
  3. Coffee & Tea – 100% Child Labor – of 16 countries reported
  4. Embellished Textiles, Fashion Accessories & Footwear – 90% CL, 10% FL – of 7 countries reported
  5. Cocoa/Chocolate – 100% Child Labor – of 6 countries reported
  6. Nuts & Seeds (Brazil Nuts/Chestnuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds) – 60-70% CL, 30-40% FL – of 6 countries reported
  7. Flowers (Real & Artificial) – 50% CL, 50% FL – of 4 countries reported
  8. Soccer Balls & Toys  – 100% Child Labor – of 2 countries reported
  9. Electronics – Both Child & Forced Labor – of 1 country reported
  10. Christmas Decorations  – Forced Labor – of 1 country reported

Some notable findings:

  • 60% of child labor worldwide is agriculture

  • Over 55% of the world’s forced laborers are in the South Asia region

  • The highest concentrations of forced labor in manufactured goods are found in the production of garments and bricks.

  • Agricultural goods with concentrations of forced labor include: cotton, cattle, and sugarcane.

  • Manufactured goods such as carpets, fashion accessories, footwear and garments are often made with child labor – developed countries are not exempt!

Goods associated with a notably high concentration of child and/or forced labor include cotton (17 countries), sugarcane (16 countries), coffee (14 countries), cattle (12 countries), rice (eight countries), fish (seven countries) and cocoa (six countries) in the agricultural sector; bricks (18 countries), garments (eight countries), carpets (five countries) and footwear (five countries) in the manufacturing sector; and gold (19 countries), diamonds (seven countries) and coal (seven countries) in the mining/quarrying sector.

With the 2012 update, the List includes 123 goods in the “child labor” category:  58 agricultural goods, 38 manufactured goods and 26 mined/quarried goods, as well as pornography. The relatively large number of agricultural goods produced by child labor is consistent with the ILO estimate that 60 percent of child labor worldwide is in agriculture.

With the 2012 update, the List includes 56 goods in the “forced labor” category: 26 agricultural goods, 18 manufactured goods and 11 mined/quarried goods, as well as pornography. Agricultural goods with notable concentrations of forced labor include cotton (eight countries), cattle (five countries) and sugarcane (five countries). Among manufactured goods, the highest concentrations of forced labor were found in the production of garments (eight countries) and bricks (seven countries).

*A country’s absence from the List does not necessarily indicate that child labor and/or forced labor are not occurring in the production of goods in that country. Data can be unavailable for various reasons, including both research and policy considerations.

*Some countries with relatively large numbers of goods on the List may not have the most serious problems of child labor or forced labor. Often, these are countries that have more openly acknowledged the problems, have better research and have allowed information on these issues to be disseminated. Such countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda and Zambia. The number of goods on the List from any particular country should not be interpreted as a direct indicator that these countries have the most extensive problems of child labor or forced labor.

If researching where to buy products is overwhelming, consider buying less…or buying 2nd hand stuff – go with used, pre-owned, refurbished, last season, sale rack & thrifty!

For fair trade recommendations on websites, shops & apps to help you with your holiday shopping this year, see the What You Can Do! post on the Traffick Free website. And please consider participating in #GivingTuesday and donating to Traffick Free this year as a gift to the abolitionist in your life or to support our work (and my personal work).
giving looks good on you

Heavy Burdens

Tea ~ Jasmine Pearls

Anyone who knows me well would probably describe me as a passionate, hard-working person. Most would say how great those qualities are and what a strength it is, but in recent months & years, God has revealed what a weakness it can be and what a temptation to take on too much can do.

With the work that God has called me to do with Traffick Free and the issue of human trafficking that I think about on a daily basis, it doesn’t take much for me to feel overwhelmed because the topic itself is overwhelming. I sometimes find it hard to allow myself to experience good or pleasurable things because I know that there are people in the world that have nothing, face disease or oppression constantly, have no home or family or that someone will purchase them for sex and abuse or exploit them later that night. It pains me. Just last week, Greg & I watched The Whistleblower, “A drama based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal,” as recommended by a friend. *WARNING:  GRAPHIC CONTENT* I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for a scene in which a young girl is sexually violated by a metal pipe because she ran away from her pimp and got caught. And even worse, was to make the other girls held captive watch in horror while they made an example of her. They didn’t even show any part of her body during this scene, the terror and reaction to this act were enough to get the point across.

I had to turn it off. I spent the next 20 minutes sobbing on my husband’s chest while he held me. How can I sleep at night when there are women out there being treated this way at this very moment? I wanted to ask Rachel Lloyd of GEMS in NYC (an amazing organization and program that Traffick Free hopes to incorporate their model into ours when our housing gets up and running) a similar question last year when she came to Chicago for her book release party and our expert panel event. “How do you do this kind of work everyday without taking the weight of it onto your shoulders?” The real challenge is that she lived it. She wrote about her time in “the life” as well as the work she’s doing now to end human trafficking in NYC in her memoir, Girls Like Us, which I am in the middle of reading, and it’s wonderful so far.

The truth is, a year ago I had to really pray about and think through coming on staff with Traffick Free because I know that my temptation is to take the weight of the world on my shoulders. We were involved for 10 months before I made a commitment to a director role because I had to be sure that this was what I wanted to do. It wouldn’t be fair to dip my toe in, have others in leadership rely on me, only to be wishy washy about the whole thing. So how does one deal with heavy issues that can easily become heavy burdens?

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   ~ Matthew 11:28-30

If you are reading this and are not a follower of Jesus, I don’t know how you do it. I am unable to do life on my own strength. These words in the book of Matthew are a comfort to me as I seek to rest in the Lord. If I wasn’t resting in Him, I wouldn’t be resting at all. I am a work-aholic and my default mode is to carry the burdens of others on myself. In this interview with Moody Radio that I was asked to do this week, I talked about the one and only time I’ve felt compelled to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-3737-888, save it in your cell phone right now and report any suspicious activity) in a small, rural town called Bridgman, Michigan, last fall (not far from where I grew up). One woman commented later on our Facebook page:  “I can’t stop thinking about the story of the woman & child in the back seat.” Please listen to the interview to hear the story as well as how I heard about human trafficking 2 years ago and what I’m doing about it. I would love your feedback!

What heavy burdens do you carry that you could give up to the Lord? Please be praying for me about this area of my life. We are not meant to carry and bear the weight of this broken world when Jesus already has. And we are made perfect in weakness. By admitting this weakness, I am made stronger and whole again. Join me in doing the same with your burdens so that we might find rest. And my birthday is next Thursday, support this ministry with a donation as I donate my birthday to Traffick Free!

Be encouraged!