Missing the Mark – Our Valentine’s Day Fail

I have a friend who is great a making family traditions for holidays (even those lame Hallmark ones.) April Fool’s Day is even a big deal in her family!  Just ask the friend who ate a chocolate gnash covered cotton ball while visiting. (I’ll admit that one was a pretty good prank) She inspires me to put effort and details to create memories and traditions for my family.

So this year I thought I would try to make Valentine’s Day a little more special.  I missed the mark and that’s ok.  My perfect day had more of the elements of  a drama and endings of a romantic comedy.

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Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around The World ~ Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

meijer gardens

During a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, I visited Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Several people had told me that it was a beautiful place to visit around the holidays and a tradition that a lot of families look forward to each year.

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Favorite Finds at Art Prize in Grand Rapids

favorite finds at art prize

I enjoyed another great year of incredible art at Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan this year.

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Why Art Prize is Road Trip Worthy

Why art prize is road trip worthy

I just got back from a trip to Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have never heard of Art Prize, I feel compelled to passionately tell you why I LOVE it so much and why you should add it to your roadtrip list.

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The Manasseh Project Interview with Andy Soper- Why You Should Care About Human Trafficking

I want to introduce you to Andy Soper. Andy and his wife Marcy are the heart and soul behind The Manasseh Project. Conversations with them about their vision for changing the lives of woman have really impacted me.  I am proud to call them friends and they continue to inspire and challenge me to care about people who can be forgotten.

This past fall my boys and I got to volunteer a shift at one of the stations for The Manasseh Project during Art Prize. The three week long event was a family affair and sacrifice for the Soper family.  Their kids were also serving along side their parents helping pass out balloons and water at various stations. I love that they model giving back to the community.

Our station encouraged people walking by to share what relationships in their life have left them feeling vulnerable.

Some of the responses were so heartbreaking. You can learn more about how The Manasseh Project really brought awareness of Human Trafficking to the forefront this year at Art Prize here.

Marcy says she is just Andy’s biggest cheerleader but I can personally tell you that she is so much more than that! I have personally seen that she has risen to action to reach out to girls in need by being a listening ear and also by helping with physical needs the girls have as they rebuild their lives.

I asked Andy to share about The Manasseh Project because I think we all need to be reminded that we can do something to help make someone else’s life better. So here we go!

What caused you to start The Manasseh Project?

I had seen victims of trafficking at Wedgwood Christian Services for most of the time I worked in residential care. More often than not, they were victimized by parents or by a boyfriend. Many were substance abuse kids who were looking to get sober.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t really moved by their stories. They were just clients. I was just a staff member. I didn’t get emotionally involved.

However, when a 13-year-old girl I worked with was lured away from us by an older boy at school and then trafficked by a woman in downtown GR, my callus broke. As a team, we looked for her whenever we could, knowing she was being hurt.

Through the entire ordeal, I noticed a lack of services for her and a lack of education in our area about what happens to children who slip through the cracks of our systems. They’re chum in the water for perpetrators.

We made it our goal to educate professionals, do excellent prevention work with youth, and advocate for victims in our area.

What’s the story behind the name?

Early in our search for funding, I was filling out an application for a local bar that gave out money for start-ups. When I arrived at the ‘name of organization’ section, I was completely at a loss. We hadn’t thought that far ahead. Naming hadn’t come into consciousness yet, but naming is powerful.

I’d been reading through my Dad’s Bible that week. My father passed away when I was a kid and a friend of his had dropped off his Bible along with a number of other items that they’d had for 25 years. Reading through my Dad’s Bible was a way to understand him. What had he underlined? What words had he sketched in the margins? I’d just finished documenting his work in Genesis. He’d underlined the words ‘Manasseh’ and ‘Ephraim.’ These were Joseph’s sons. After abuse, neglect, forced labor and (probable) sexual assault, Joseph looked at his firstborn and named him, Manasseh – ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.’

For the children we work with, a future often seems improbable, at best. However, our hope is that, like Joseph, they will ‘forget’, grow through, and thrive in spite of their abuse.

Why should we care about human trafficking?

I confess that I can honestly say it is difficult for us to care about it. The majority of the slavery in the world today is labor trafficking. When we talk with people about sexual exploitation, they can easily shift it away saying, ‘I’ve never bought someone for sex, so it isn’t my problem.’ This may be true. However, we all have products and food directly tied to slavery – chocolate, coffee, electronics, jewelry – that make us comfortable and beautiful. We are inextricably tied to the humanity on the other side of this supply chain.

Booker T. Washington said, ‘You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.’ As we grow comfortable and apathetic, we miss the reality that we are consuming others and, indeed, consuming ourselves.

Human Trafficking is simply a symptom. It is the tragic culmination of dozens of violent root causes – poverty, sexual abuse, cultural violence, oppression of women, obsessive consumption, etc. When we promote the violence of unjust consumption, we ignore the plight of thousands, ruining us all in the process.

What is currently being done to stop trafficking domestically and internationally?

Hundreds of NGOs work daily to heal victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent future abuses. Several European countries have excellent laws pertaining to prosecuting human trafficking. New shelters spring up each day, each one devoted to providing a healing environment, practical skill, education, and peace.

Action is being taken in the US as well. While we fall short legislatively (including our most recent legislation), we’ve seen a dramatic rise in our level of awareness and action. However, there remains a sticking notion that this isn’t happening in our communities, so we raise money for overseas organizations and neglect kids in our neighborhoods. While I support the efforts for overseas aid, the reality that trafficked domestic children have far fewer opportunities for help than foreign-born victims.

Currently, many states are looking to place Safe Harbor Acts in their legal cannon. Safe Harbor protects children under 18 from being charged with prostitution, gives civil recourse for victims to recoup money from their traffickers, and can lead to having criminal charges removed from their records. New York, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and a handful of other states already have this legislation in place. Michigan is currently drafting their bill. I cannot encourage you enough to reach out to your state senators and representatives encouraging them to protect children.

What can we do?

No answer we can give will be practical. In fact, they are largely impractical. Solving this issue involves deconstructing our myths about consumption and sexuality. First, from a cultural perspective on sexual exploitation, we have to begin to answer for the media and cultural attitudes that oppress and objectify women. Advertisements make sport of women, turning them into consumable products. Products are de-contextualized. Their value lies, not in the product inherently, but in the purchasers use. If women are simply objects to be taken in, then their value lies in their consumer, not in the woman herself.

Tearing down these cultural structures is difficult. More specifically, they are difficult to root out in our own minds. Men can be hardwired to consume and women can be programmed to vie for the opportunity to be consumed. We need to look no further than an Axe Body Spray commercial for evidence.

This issue speaks to the demand for degrading commercial sex, but it also speaks to prevention work. 90% of trafficking work is preventative effort. Professionals and volunteers alike do this work in K-12 schools around the country. Educating students about personal value, pouring positivity into their minds and actions, and correcting unhealthy cultural attitudes. However, as is the case in so many districts, bodies are sparse. To end human trafficking and/or exploitation of any kind in your neighborhood, mentor a child. Be the positive adult who can recognize signs of distress or success in a child’s life. Know their ticks, their affect, their peccadillos. Cries for help are often silent, but written in the actions and facial expressions of a hurting child.

From a labor trafficking perspective, our lot is equally difficult. We’ve got to become responsible for our buying habits. Begin to explore the supply chains of the products you buy using tools from free2work.org. When you discover that your favorite foods or products come from companies who disregard human life, stop buying. Or, if you absolutely love the product, love the company by letting them know how much you enjoy their products, but can’t support them because of their standards regarding slave or unfair child labor. Change happens when we love each other enough to confront unhealthy or abusive actions or attitudes.

It is easy to say, ‘If slavery pops up in everything, then I can’t change things. It is inevitable that I’ll buy something with abusive connections.’ I would encourage you to understand that ‘inevitability’ is the language of the empire. Empires exist to promote their own growth and sustainability at any cost. Injustice is not inevitable, it is permitted. Rooting it out is difficult and disruptive, but necessary.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a revolutionary pastor during World War II, said,

‘We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.’ Pity for victims does nothing. More victims will grow to replace the one’s we’ve patched up. But if we disrupt and destroy what crushes – oppression, poverty, substance abuse, rampant and abusive power, war, and apathy – then we prevent the necessity of bloody bandages.

 

Thanks again to Andy for sharing with us today.

 

The Manasseh Project offers several services to the community. They educate first responders, youth, faith based/ social organizations, provide victim advocacy and has recently opened the first Michigan safe house for victims.

 

***Andy guest speaks about education and awareness of human trafficking all of the country. You can contact him at manasseh@wedgwood.org

 

You can learn more about volunteering and supporting The Manasseh Project from their website.

Favorite Entries at Art Prize

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I made a quick trip to Grand Rapids to take in the sites of Art Prize. I enjoyed the event so much while living in Grand Rapids for the last 2 years, that I had to come back and see what the artist would come up with this year. The boys and I joined the Grkids.com team on the Art Prize trolley that made strategic stops all over the downtown .

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40 Fall Bucket List Ideas

40 Fall Bucket List Ideas

Don’t let fall slip away without trying a few of these seasonal bucket list items

 

1.Go pick apples

 

2. Jump in a pile of leaves

 

Jump in a pile of leaves

3. Go on a hayride

4. Go canoeing or kayaking

 

 

Go canoeing

5. Attend a fall festival

Attend a fall festival

6. Climb a tree or take it to the next level with extreme tree climbing

climb a tree

7. Bundle up and gaze at the stars

8. Go horsebackriding

Go horseback riding

9. Go to a corn maze

visit a corn maze

10. Take a bike ride on a scenic trail

Bike on a scenic trail

 

11. Launch an apple or try target practice in the woods

shoot apples at a target

 

12. Eat a carmel apple

 

13. Paint a pumpkin

 

paint a pumpkin

 

14. Get crafty and try to make something seasonal using sites like pinterest,  “at the picket fence” and “a bird and a bean“.

 

15. Implement the “candy tax” if you take your kids to a lot of Halloween/ Harvest events. That means mom takes a cut of the loot.

 

Candy wrappers

 

16. Try a pumpkin spice or seasonal apple drink or dessert

 

17. Bribe your kid to put on that adorable costume that is too small just one more time. The 5 minutes of cuteness is worth it.

 

Halloween costume that's too small

 

18. Go pick out a pumpkin

 

pumpkin patch

 

19. Try a themed fun run like the “run like hell” 5k

 

run like hell

 

20. Do a nature scavenger hunt on a hike

 

hike in the woods

 

21. Visit a local farm

 

visit a farm

 

22. Try geocaching

 

23. Have a chili cook off with friends

 

24. Take a trip to the zoo or an animal park. This picture is at Boulder Ridge Animal Park.

 

Boulder Ridge Animal Park

 

25. Go camping or just make a bonfire and eat smores

 

Bonfire

 

26. Host or attend a costume party

 

Costume party

 

27. Take a nature hike and take pictures of the beauty

 

 

28. Attend a family harvest festival

 

29. Watch a pow wow or cultural event that makes you appreciate modern conveniences

 

historical museum

 

30. Eat a cider donut

 

31. Drink apple cider

 

32. Watch or attend a football game

 

college football game

 

33. Take a day trip to a small town you’ve never been to

 

covered bridge

34. Take a walking tour of your city

 

modern sculpture

 

35. Bundle up and see a drive in movie one more time

 

36. Go to Art prize. Here is why you should go.

 

Art Prize

 

37. Take a walk down a trail you’ve never been on

 

wooded trail

 

38. Find a few crazy friends and dress up like zombies. We helped at the zombie dash 5k. ( It was for charity …. and a cider donut)

 

zombie

 

39. Take a fall family picture

 

fall family picture

 

 

fall family picture
40. Find a farm or event with one of theses amazing bouncing pillows and bounce on it.  You day will improve dramatically.

giant bouncing pillow

Did I forget anything?
Leave a comment and let me know what’s on your fall bucket list.

Why I LOVE Art Prize

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Art prize was my favorite event that I attended while living in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is an event that I feel everyone should check out at least once. It’s the world’s largest art competition, and it completely takes over the city.

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TRYathlon – Pushing past fear and excuses for My 1st Triathlon

I was super nervous about trying my 1st triathlon.  Keyword: TRYING!!!

I was talked into it by my 62 year old friend who is also a cancer survivor.  She suggested at yoga that we all do one together.  Our ring leader even recruited another friend who still had to learn to swim before the race.  My thought was, at least swimming was something I was average at.

This event was technically a “sprint” triathlon which meant that we would be swimming .4 miles, biking 14 miles and running 3 miles.  I thought I could do 2/3 of the race but the swim was super intimidating.

My excuses seemed to lose validity as our ring leaders enthusiasm for life challenged all of us with the “why not?!!!”

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What’s new at John Ball Zoo

What's new at John Ball Zoo

We took an early morning tour to see some of the new changes at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids,MI.

The zoo has expanded it’s size by 50% and is currently in the mist of a 3 year plan to add new funicular, forest realm trail, bear and tiger exhibits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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