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Give the gift of loving-kindness this Valentine’s Day

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I hate cards. It’s okay getting them, but I don’t like buying them. It seems so impersonal and as a writer, I feel like it’s just lazy.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit where he shops for a card: “I guess that is something I’d say. I guess I’ll sign here.” And then he hands the card to his loved one: “See what that other person wrote about how I feel about you.”

See, seems kind of dumb.

Maybe I’m too focused on the giving of the card and not what the most important part is: the shopping for the card. In those moments of shoebox greetings and Hallmark hell, you stop and think about someone you care about….

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An opportunity to give: The Slum Library

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Douglas is a taxi driver who lives in the Mathare Valley slum where most kids grow up without books in their homes. So he decided to turn his home into a library. At first, he wasn’t sure how he would fill it with books, but they just started showing up courtesy of his neighbors. Now the library has 3,000 books. He covers 50% of the monthly costs himself and the other 50% comes from community members. Members don’t pay anything but each of them brings in newspapers to sell to the recycling center. No matter where you live in the world or what you do, you can make a big impact.

When I first posted about the library on Instagram and Facebook many folks said they…

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10 Years: Reconnecting with Nari & Ai

2007

I was 28.  I got engaged and bought a home and left the country to meet the people who made my clothes. I had a few small assignments that would pay me hundreds of dollars for three-months of reporting that would cost me thousands.

Nari was 25. She was living with 7 other young women in a room that was maybe 100 square feet. She worked in a garment factory making Levi’s. She paid a $50 bribe to get her job, which paid her $50 per month. She sent half of her money home to support her family in her village. She wasn’t shy.

Ai was 24 and shy. She was one of Nari’s 7 roommates. She missed working in the fields at…

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The beauty in the thing you feared

Hiking in the rain in New Zealand in 2002

This rainy morning as I hustled out the front door and into my car, I thought about the freedom of hiking all day in the rain.

You go through life avoiding getting wet. And when you’re hiking and the rain starts, you do the same. You get out your poncho, you jump over the mud puddles, you hide under a tree, but then you slip on a rock and your shoes get wet or you realize that the rain isn’t stopping and you no longer fear getting wet. At some point you can’t get any wetter.

When the rain saturates us there…

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Connecting with Germany

 

I’ve been to Germany. I spent one night sleeping in a subway with a group of homeless folks in Frankfort.

So, really, I’ve barely been to Germany, but my words are there.

A few years ago a German textbook publisher adopted an excerpt of WEARING or of an article I wrote on WEARING. I don’t really remember. Now each year I get emails from German students asking follow up questions to the story. At first I tried to answer them all, but that became a bit like work. Now I offer to Skype with the class.

I just got off Skype with the enthusiastic students above, one who reached out to me on Twitter.  They stayed after school…

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When not to ask me about Indiana politics & other thoughts from running a half-marathon

Runs With Politics

“What do you think about this new law in Indiana?” The man in the white hat asked.

I was on mile 9 of the Charlottesville half-marathon. And although I had spent much of the previous week speaking about the RFRA law my home state had passed and even more time dealing with people boycotting the state (and an organization I’m a part of), I did not want to talk politics.

You know, I really don’t like to talk politics with strangers at any point in time, but most definitely not while I’m running up a hill during a half-marathon for which I only ran five training runs. Another runner near me wasn’t sure what the man…

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I’m looking down on Times Square

I was scrolling through Facebook, wasting time, not expecting to see a picture of a picture of me on a Jumbotron in Times Square. Why would I?

But there it was…

“That’s cool,” I thought. “Probably photoshopped, though.”

The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Author’s Awards had shared the photo. I haven’t officially mentioned it here on my site, but I won the Emerging Author Award. (I should write about that later. It was an awesome evening and honor.) The photo featured Norbert Krapf, the regional award winner, Michael Shelden, the national award winner, and me . . . in a suit . . . a borrowed suit.

I never wear a suit.

I had to ask if this…

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Places I’ll be telling stories: Iowa, Minnesota, Florida, Indiana, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Texas and beyond


(I love this photo by Gail Werner of Gail Werner photography because it looks like I’m about to tell someone to F@#K off! For the record: I wasn’t.)

Have we met? Here’s my speaking schedule (as of 8/13). If I’m at a city near you, let’s grab a coffee or beer or come hear me speak. I’ll bring the novelty underwear and the banana. Wait? That doesn’t sound good. I mean that in the least sexual way as possible.

Seriously though, during these events I’m telling all sorts of stories, which I love to do. But do you know what I love to do more? I love to hear stories. I like to shut up and listen. It’s probably one of the…

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Cocoa Farmers Who’ve Never Tasted Chocolate – GASP!

The above video of cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast tasting chocolate for the first time has been making its rounds, and, in fact, has  been pointed out to me about eleventy thousand times already. (Seriously, thanks for thinking of me folks; I’m not complaining.)

Like the reporter in the video, I traveled to Ivory Coast to meet farmers and lugged along some chocolate. I assumed they had never eaten chocolate too and that I would blow their taste buds with Hershey bars and Hershey kisses.

I assumed wrong.

Here’s a video from my own experience followed by an excerpt from Where Am I Eating? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy:

In much of the reporting on Ivorian chocolate, a reporter asks if…

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