Beginner’s Guide to Laos: The Opposite of Hate

I married a man who everyone assumes is Chinese because of the epicanthic folds of his eyelids. I didn’t know Laos was a country until I heard my husband explain over and over again that no, Laos was not another name for Cambodia. That was the beginning of the idea of a book, loosely based on the experiences of my Laotian in-laws as they immigrated to the United States. I say “loosely” because in the tradition of Hollywood, the inspiration for the story then veered into characters who behaved other than the real life events.

Nearly 3 years later, and on my 8th wedding anniversary, here’s a look at how history can bring us together and life tear us apart in the Land of a 1000 Elephants where more bombs were dropped during the Secret War than ever before.

Opposite of Hate

Possible: A Surprising Health Care Model for Nepal

mother and childI generally have a policy to say yes whenever it makes sense. In the last week this led to my serving as an auctioneer for a breast cancer fundraiser, and also a guest at a dinner discussing health care experiences.

The dinner was hosted by Possible, a non-profit that is offering high quality care to the world’s poorest populations. If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t, but it is complex work. If you’re wondering why others haven’t done it before, perhaps it’s because they don’t have the passion you see shimmering in the eyes of Possible’s staff, including CEO Mark Arnoldy, who is among Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list of global changers.

Here’s some information about the amazing impact Possible is having in Nepal. I am going to make them my holiday charity for 2014: instead of gifts, I’ll ask people to consider making a donation. Consider doing the same this holiday season as a way to engage your friends/family in being a blessing to causes you care about.

1. Why Nepal?

Nepal has some of the most progressive healthcare policies in the world; the constitution guarantees the right to health and universal healthcare for the poor. But executing on those policies remains a challenge in rural areas, and millions don’t get the care they need from the traditional private, public, and charity approaches to healthcare. Our model of durable healthcare enables us to be paid by the government to deliver healthcare within their infrastructure, and allows us to solve for the patient while aligning revenue with care.
Secondly, we were repeatedly told our vision for healthcare might work in some places, but not in Nepal. Which is precisely why we embraced the challenge, and charged forward determined to defy expectations. We knew that if we could create a healthcare model that worked fully for the poor in a region labeled impossible, our innovations and proof would be more powerful.
2. How many people have you reached? With what services? 
To date, we’ve treated over 218K patients who make less than $2 a day and walk on average five hours to reach our hospital. We treat an array of medical issues, including: TB, HIV, safe births, fractures, malnutrition, dental, and mental health. We treat patients at our hospital, our surrounding clinics, and through our referral care program (with partner hospitals and our crowdfunding partner Watsi) for advanced treatments.3. How can we get involved?
You can directly invest in our work here. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates, and sign up for our email to receive patient stories, impact data, and more. 

4. What’s the future look like for this program?
For the next five years, we are committed to improving and expanding our durable healthcare model in Nepal. We are going through a 2-year hospital expansion project to turn our hospital into the first rural, accredited teaching hospital in Nepal. We also plan to expand our number of health clinics to 72, and employ over 900 community healthcare workers to cover the entire Achham District, a population of over 250,000 people.

Breakfast for Sunday Supper

We love breakfast in our house, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I have a picky four year old eater (though all he did was eat homemade baby food when he was an infant) so trying out coconut flour pancakes – with Nutella to sweeten the deal, and peanut butter to balance out the chocolate – was a hit. Low carb and healthy, a crowd pleaser for all ages.

Whip up a batch and you’ll have enough for more than 12 medium size pancakes.

3 Ways to NaNoWri with this Mo

You may have passed other years without hearing about National Novel Writing Month, but not this one. You may have had a book idea lingering in your mind for years, but November is the time to sit down and write it. I’ve finished two novels this way and can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can sign up for me to be your writing coach all month in an informal, online learning environment.

You could also sit down and write 1667 words a day. Which is pretty much how I’m planning to do it: one chapter at a time.

A Letter to My Son’s Bully

The public conversation about bullying has opened up to include friendship benches at schools and campaigns for inclusiveness. As the Indian child of immigrants who grew up in the southern parts of America, I heartily support both.

Bullies are going to happen, whether on the playground or the workplace; they are a ritual of childhood as much as the joy of a driving license.

When confronted by three four year olds, hands over their ears, laughing when your child enters the room, your mettle will be tested.

When I realized where their glances were going, I let the boys know if that ours was too loud at any point, they could ask him to stop. I asked them to please put their hands down. One out of the three did. The other two carried on.

In that instant, two ideas crystallized:

1. I cannot protect my son from negative events in his life.

2. Not everyone is going to like my child.

I diverted his (and my) attention away from the ones who still had their hands over their ears.

“Who’s excited to see M today?” I asked the class at large, gulping past a lump in my throat that no one would reply. Thankfully two other children raised their hands.

“What’s your name?” I asked a dewy eyed girl who bounced in her chair.

I redirected my guy towards her.

Yet the brief incident stayed with me on my thirty minute drive to the office. I called my husband; we discussed our concerns and also the opportunities.

As an adult I am someone who is comfortable in her skin – even if this means other people are put off by my frankness.

I didn’t have an ideal childhood but that worked in my favor as I grew older: disappointment, hardship, and tragedy did not pull me under as it did some of my other more sheltered friends.

While my heart still twinges when I think back to that moment, I am thankful for this incident. How we react to adversity shapes our character from a very young age. Even as early as 4.

As much as I want to protect them, I want to give our sons resilience even more. What other people think about you is a reflection of them, not you.

I thank those three four years for helping me formulate my parenting strategy toward adversity.

What are your thoughts? Have you had to deal with bullying?

Sunday Supper: Soup’s On – Asian Style

While the rest of the world enjoys the beginnings of autumn, we in the desert celebrate temperatures in the mid 80s. Cool enough for me to bring out the soup pot. This is an easy use-what-you’ve-got soup recipe I adapted from One Perfect Bite’s Asian Style Soup.

I was inspired by dehydrated mushrooms I spied in the grocery store; essentially to cook with them you rehydrate by immersing in boiling water. I threw in eggs, shrimp, edamame, celery, and sprouts, sauteing in Siraracha, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and soy sauce.

When you’re ready, pour in broth (I used ready made veggie broth cubes). Hope your table is set because this goes straight from pot to table!


Make your own Asian soup night! I was inspired by a bag of dehydrated mushrooms in the grocery store. #nomnomnom #homemade #instafood #instagood #Octoberunprocessed #weekdaymeals

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Haters Going to Hate …. Especially on 17 Year Old Female Pakistani Nobel Laureates

The whole world was not rejoicing with Malal Yousafzai. In fact, people in her country, Pakistan, were amongst the most virulent opposers. Here’s an example from the Twittersphere: “Many girls out there who suffer/suffered far more than Malala but their fathers aren’t CIA agents like Malala’s. ?#?MalalaNobelPeacePrize?“. I worry about a young person bearing the brunt of so much scrutiny; this is what many in Islamic culture would consider “the evil eye” or bad luck raised from jealousy. Blessings on Malala and her family. If teenagers, like Ms. Britney Spears, found fame difficult to handle in their 20s, then I can’t help but wonder what Malala will encounter in her own 20s (may she live long, as people would say in Islam as a blessing).

The audacity of a teenager, standing up to the Taliban, gaining the international community’s attention, and being undeterred throughout, has brought out the conspiracy theorists in full force.

She’s a puppet of India, America, both, or the CIA. Her father is a salesman; she dances to the tune of the West.

In addition to her long list of accomplishments, Ms. Yousafzai can add exposing the misogyny, fear, and envy to her list.

Sunday Supper: Meatless, Unstuffed Cabbage

You won’t believe how easy this dish is! Instead of cooking the insides, rolling them up in leaves, and baking, you can stir fry all the ingredients, adding them one at a time, until viola! you have a pan full of yummy goodness.

I substituted ground beef with ready made veggie meatballs which I had stacks of in the freezer and no real plan on how to use. Once you roast your ‘meat’, then you can add the rest of the ingredients, one at time, until tender. So yummy, even the herbivores in my circle chowed down.



Unstuffed cabbage! Instead of ground beef, meatless meatballs crumbled as substitute. #nomnomnom #homemade #veggie #vegan #instafood #instagood

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Writer Wednesday: Truth is Relative by @Jensenborger6

TisR-SALE-TOUR-ADI’m finishing (or hoping to) revisions on my next novel, a historical tale set in the Southeast Asian country of Laos in 1975. On the back burner is an idea for a detective story, the first in a series, and my first foray into crime.

That’s why I’m pleased to host J.J. Lyon, the author of the Truth Inducer crime series. You’ll see an excerpt below to the first book and can follow a few links to get more information about J.J., her books, or the giveaway.

Do you read mysteries, suspense, crime? What are your genre favorites as a reader? The flawed investigator or comedic sidekick? All ideas welcome.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 gift card.

Chapter One from Truth is Relative (an excerpt)

The Monday before Thanksgiving, my car disappeared. Or it might have been late Sunday night. The day was half over before I even looked outside. Instead I focused on an ugly painting until I realized I was hungry. I was out of bread and low on groceries in general. I cleaned my brushes, grabbed my keys, opened the front door, and stared at gray asphalt where my Mazda used to be. A few dead cottonwood leaves swirled there before the wind swept them off.
I didn’t bother calling the police. My car hadn’t been stolen, it had been repossessed.
My cell phone buzzed. It was my brother, Bart. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey, Bro. How’s life in the Big City?” Bart wasn’t being ironic. Compared to our hometown of Jersey, Cheyenne was enormous.
“It’s good!” I stepped back into Sam’s Café and tried to think of something else to say. Something that would back up my lie.J-J-Lyon
“Great. When are you coming for Thanksgiving?” Bart asked.
My brain scrambled, too busy to pay attention. I didn’t need a car. The abandoned café was a great studio, with north-facing windows and indirect natural light. My work happened right at home.
My work was also stacked against the walls, waiting for a gallery to accept it. The art that was already in a gallery had hung there for months. I needed a day job. A car would help.
“Tony? Hello?”
“What about Thanksgiving?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Whaddaya mean? I thought you were your own boss.”
“Yeah, but I’m pretty …” I glanced out at the empty parking place. “It’s hard to get away right now.”
Bart was quiet, and when he spoke again he sounded unusually hesitant. “So how are you really?”
“Fine. I’m doing great.”
“Yeah, okay. You know what you need? A night out.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. I can tell you’re depressed.”
“I’m not depressed.”
“C’mon, Tony. Think of everything we could learn about the beautiful women of Cheyenne.” Bart could afford to be fascinated by my new ability. He didn’t have to live with it.
“I’ve got to go get some groceries,” I said.
“Fine.” Bart sounded annoyed, but he didn’t argue. “Fine, I’ll talk to you later.”
I turned away from the café window and walked to my bedroom, which was actually a converted storage area in the back of the café. A walk-in cooler had once taken up most of the space, but it had been ripped out and sold the last time the place went out of business. There was room for a twin bed and a battered dresser from Goodwill Industries. I pulled my wallet from the top drawer and retrieved my old bike from the back of the building.
It was a cold ride to the store. Cheyenne’s legendary wind pushed against my side and cut across my hands. I’d forgotten my gloves. I zipped my jacket all the way up, stuffed my hands in my pockets, and kept pedaling, glad I had at least one useful talent. God gave me excellent balance.
My mind whirled as fast as my bike wheels, tallying my other useful abilities. I was decent at hanging Sheetrock, and I could tape and texture as long as the customer didn’t mind it a little antique and heavy. As for roofs, I’d done it all—patch, replace, steel, asphalt. If I had a truck I could rent myself out as a handyman. I could work in blissful isolation most of the time.
A gust of wind broadsided me. I went down in slow motion, shifted my weight, scuffed on the pavement with my feet. In the end my shoulder hit the road before I could pull my hands out of my pockets. The car behind me screeched to a stop and a woman got out.





Signs You are Discriminating

Last week, the sports world was left scratching our collective heads when the Asian Games authorities in South Korea asked the female Qatari basketball team to remove their headscarves. Hijab is not like earrings or other headgear which is prohibited under the rules of professional basketball matches.

Covering your hair is a religious obligation. Those who ask a woman to take off her veil are as bad as those who would force her to wear one. They are two sides of the same coin of domination and have been since colonialism, when European governments thought to unveil women as a sign of progress (read: Westernization).

Let women choose what they want to wear. Whether abaya-less in the Amazon or scarved in Seoul, let’s give Qatari women enough credit to decide what they want to wear. That’s the only position that makes any sense. Right?



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