Thursday, March 15, 2012


So, have you been DYING to know what YueYue looks like?! You HAVE?! Well, I talked to her mom yesterday on the phone and helped her figure out how to email pictures to me! Get ready to DIE over the CUTENESS of this little darling.

This is YueYue at Dragon Park.

Katie brought her there while she was visiting her over the Spring Festival.

YueYue and Katie at Dragon Park.

YueYue with her Daddy. Don't they both look so happy to be together?
YueYue at home (at her grandparent's house) last summer.
Isn't she ADORABLE?! You can really tell that she is loved and cared for. :) We have another package we are sending to Katie with clothes for Kate, and a dress and hairbows I made for YueYue (pictures forthcoming, you can count on it!). If you want to donate to help them out, let me know! They could also use a lot of prayers, as Katie is starting another job (still in the same factory, just making a different part for watches) and Katie and her husband are living away from YueYue. Also, prayers for YueYue's grandparents would be appreciated. They are getting old, and if they fall ill, Katie's future will become very unstable.
Thank you!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Spreading The Word vs. Saving The World Sixteen Small Stones is about Spreading the Word, and NOT about Saving The World. It took me a while to grasp this concept. I want to share this idea with you so you can better understand Sixteen Small Stones, and how you can be a part of what we are all about. :) When I first lived in China, I had a fantastic, uneasy experience. I was uneasy because I was in a new country. It was fantastic because I tried to embrace the new culture. Each night, the other foreign teachers I was with would head out to shop, go to bars and clubs, or meet up to watch American movies. I was kind of the odd one who did not participate in their activities. Instead, each night I would hike across the field to the "other" side of the campus. The school campus was set up so that on one side were the "foreign" things: the foreign teacher housing, the foreign teacher cafeteria, the foreign language building where we taught English, EVERYTHING "foreign" was on one side of the huge field in the middle of campus. Across the field were the Chinese things: student dorms (yes, the kids as young as three years old lived on the campus), the Chinese cafeteria, the Chinese classrooms. After the sun set and the foreigners were busy doing their American things, off I would go to the other side of the field. First, I would go see my students in their dorms. I would "talk" with them (even though I didn't know much Chinese and they didn't know any more English than what I had taught them...consisting of "Hello", "I like penguins", etc.). I was learning about their lives, but in retrospect, I see that somewhere in my mind, I was still holding to my life. (Of course, it was natural I would do this! I had never experienced this culture, so of course I would use my own culture as a gauge to their culture.) It wasn't that I was unwilling to change, it was that I didn't even realize I was staying the same! It was a shock to see that the way the children "bathed" was by pouring hot water, heated in a tea kettle, over themselves as they stood in a sink. I felt sorry for them that they slept in rooms without air conditioning as the temperatures outside soared in the summer heat. I ached when I saw their caregivers hit or kick them. I still was reacting to situations through the American filter. It wasn't until I had returned to America that I realized how much I had changed. How I had been influenced by China. How I had begun to realize that my way wasn't the only way, nor was it necessarily the RIGHT way. I now knew that bathing in a sink still got you as clean as bathing in a bathtub, and that sleeping in a room with no air conditioner was actually good for your health! Have you read the blog ""? It is the blog of a young woman living in Africa. When I first learned of KATIE, I thought she was saving the world. I LOVED it! I wanted to save the world, too! I wanted to take children with old clothes and give them new clothes. I wanted to give the farmers in China houses rather than mud huts. I wanted to give them a "better life". Then, I read something about Katie. Katie was living in Africa, helping children and adults, and a family was living with her at her house. They were in old, worn out clothes...and Katie was not giving them new clothes! I brushed aside a feeling I had that this was wise, and felt so upset that she wasn't doing more for them! More to "HELP" them!! Soon, though, that nagging feeling made its way to my consciousness and I realized what I knew all along. Katie was not CHANGING the world! She was, instead, telling her story as a way to show people in America that there was suffering. That aid was needed. But not to CHANGE anyone in Africa. The people with whom she was working needed some aid in the form of clean water or education, but they didn't need to be changed!! That is when I started to realize that this is what Sixteen Small Stones was all about. We are NOT here to "change" the world! In fact, we are not here to CHANGE anything...unless it be ourselves and our hearts and our awareness. We ARE here to AID where it is needed! It has been a process coming to that point. Moving from the idea that I need to CHANGE something! I don't. What Sixteen Small Stones DOES need to do is 1) bring awareness to the suffering of people, and 2) provide aid to relieve that suffering. Suffering is a relative term. What I saw as suffering in sleeping without a/c was actually a lifestyle that did NOT need to be changed. There was nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, the kids I saw starving in the streets WERE suffering. But they didn't need change. They needed AID! Someone to HELP them. Someone to tell their story, spread awareness and do something to bring them AID! To bring aid, we DO have to bring change! But not to any situation "out there"! The only change that needs to be done is in our hearts and our ideas and our motivation. We need to CHANGE our own goals. Sixteen Small Stones is NOT trying to change the world! We are trying to AID THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING...and that suffering is defined only by THEM, not by us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kony 2012: Part 2

So, have you had time to think about Kony 2012? Have you read the reports AGAINST Kony 2012? Because there are a LOT of them. Here are two, but there are MANY more. HERE HERE From what I can see, there are a few major reasons people are against Kony 2012. From what I can gather, these are the biggies: 1.) People don't think the organization behind Kony 2012 (Invisible Children) donates enough money to the children. 2.) Kony himself is no longer in Uganda. 3.) There are other problems in Uganda. 4.) Not many people in Uganda are concerned about Joseph Kony. 5.) He has not killed and/or abducted many people recently. Here is what I have to say about that! 1.) They may not donate much, but how much have YOU donated? Aside from that statement, there are actual responses to this complaint, and you can find what Invisible Children has to say about it HERE (and I ALWAYS think the horses mouth is the best place to find information). 2.) I don't really care WHERE Kony is. He is an evil man who must be stopped! Kony and the LRA has moved through Africa, causing terror and leaving destruction and death in their wake. Just because they are no longer in Uganda doesn't mean they are not SOMEWHERE! When they were not in Rwanda, they were in Congo causing death and harm. When they left Congo they went to Uganda where they killed, raped, maimed and kidnapped. Now that they are not in Uganda, why would we think they should just be ignored? Like leaving Uganda means they have decided to be "good guys". 3.) Yep. There surely are. But just because there are other problems doesn't mean we can't help with ONE problem!! If your child has a cough, a fever and a runny nose, do you not give them medication for their fever? Do you think they just have too many other problems and the fever should be ignored? Of course there are other problems in Uganda! But that doesn't mean we should not do what we CAN to help! If all we can do now is raise awareness about Kony, let's do it! 4.) How many need to be worried to take action? Also, what people are not concerned? The ones living in safe cities in gated communities? Of course they are not worried. It is the villages the LRA attacks, so those in the city would naturally not be worried, would they? If I live in down town Las Angeles, I would not be too worried about a wolf attack, but that doesn't mean I can't support a law regarding wolfs and wolf safety for those living near Yellowstone in Wyoming! 5.) This last one gets my blood boiling. Despite how angry and fired up I am about this, I am going to try to remain level headed and composed so I can keep my thoughts clear and concise. First, let me ask you a question. If your neighbor killed intentionally kidnapped, tortured and killed your child, should your neighbor be punished? What if your child was the only one he had done this to. Should he still be punished? How many children would he have to harm for you to feel he deserved punishment? What if he had killed hundreds in the past, but only killed your son this year? Should he still be punished, or would you be satisfied if someone said he only killed one child this year so he should not be punished? That is how I feel about what Joseph Kony and the LRA has done. So what if he "only" killed so many last year?! How many have they killed in the past? How many more will they kill? And even if they ever only did kill "that" many, don't you feel that one life is enough to evoke justice? There is another point I want to state. I do NOT know the best course of action to take against Kony and the LRA. I do not know that a full-blown military invasion is the best course of action AT THIS MOMENT. The LRA still has many children in their custody. Threatening Kony at this time could bring about the torture or death of those children. They could be caught in the cross-fire and many children could be massacred. Also, the LRA still has a lot of power and control. If we threaten Kony, he may respond with more violence, more abductions and more terror. I believe there IS a solution, however. Even if we have not thought of it yet. It may be the best defence against Kony is to offer protection for the children to keep them from being easy targets for abduction. Remember hearing about the night commuters? Maybe offering more safe places for them to hide at night would be one small step towards safety and peace from the LRA. Another solution MIGHT be in education. I do not KNOW this would help, but PERHAPS educating the children would improve income and more would be able to live within the safety of the cities rather than in the countryside or in the bush. Regardless of how a change should come about, I feel that a change MUST occur. It is shocking to me that this is not a unanimous feeling. I am applaud and sickened that so many believe Kony should just be ignored. That the LRA should be overlooked. Anyway, I believe that the best way to promote change is through AWARENESS! When I was 22 years old, I gave a speech where I talked about an epidemic that is killing thousands of people. It can be found among the poor or wealthy. It does not discriminate among race or religion or gender. It is fast spreading and far reaching. The worst part is most people do not know when they have it! And when some are told they have symptoms, many deny it or simply do not care. The effects are devastating and deadly. What is it? Apathy. I stand by what I said eight years ago. Being apathetic IS deadly. And I think it is what we are facing today. People are so caught up in the logistics, the donations, the statistics, that they are hardened and don't even care about the individual. That single child who is at this moment marching through the bush on their way to be trained by the LRA to be a soldier. They do not care about the young woman being raped at this moment. They do not care about the little boy who is watching his mother being hacked to pieces by a soldier of the LRA. They are only worried about how much money is not being donated, or if enough people were killed last year to care. AWARENESS. ACTION. CARING. CONCERN. COMPASSION. KNOWLEDGE. EMPATHY, NOT APATHY. This is why I want to be involved in Kony 2012. Not to march someone in to Africa and cuff Kony! But to show I care. To raise awareness. To increase knowledge. To show compassion. To take SOME action, because it is better than sitting and watching the horror. This is what Sixteen Small Stones has always been about. Making a difference, no matter how small, and raising awareness. Remember the story of where the name Sixteen Small Stones came from? Let me remind you: In a book of scripture believed in by some, a man wanted to help his family cross a great water (during the time of the Tower of Bable, when God confounded the languages, for those who believe in the Bible). The man prayed to God, who showed him how to build enclosed, water tight vessils that could be used to cross the water. The vessils were safe against the waters, but were completely dark on the inside. The man pleaded with God that he provide light in the vesils so that the man and his family would not have to cross the great water in the dark. In his great faith, the man molten out of the mountain sixteen small stones (enough for two for each of the eight vesils). He brought the sixteen small stones before God and asked that God would touch the stones as he had faith that God could make the stones glow. God touch the stones, which then shone forth in the darkness. In this story, electricity was not invented. Nor did the man try and create a way to light the ocean so it would not be dark. Rather, this man brought what he had, sixteen small stones and all of his faith, before God. Sixteen Small Stones is not all about drastic measures, or earth shattering changes taking place in a huge and explosive way. It is about doing all we can. It is about sending diapers to Africa keep little kids clean and comfortable. It is about sending a single Valentine to let an orphan know they are loved. It is about sending stickers to a little boy with burned feet and no mommy to kiss him and help him feel better. Sixteen Small Stones also exists to raise awareness. To let people know what is happening outside of their neighborhood. To stamp out ignorange and bring light in to the dark places in the world. Isn't this what Kony 2012 should be about, too? That is the way I see it. And because raising awareness and encouraging change, even in small ways, is what Sixteen Small Stones is all about, I MUST be involved in Kony 2012.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kony 2012 Part 1

Let me begin this post by saying I am SO SORRY I cannot get paragraph seperations to appear in this post. There is seperation between paragraphs in the editing scene, but when I click "publish", those seperations dissapear! I am so sorry. This blog post reads something like a run-on sentance. :) Also, please bear with me as I try and cover a lot of information in one post. I know it is a little confusing, especially without paragraph breaks! For years (since I was about 22 years old) I have been following the story of the unrest in Uganda. At first, I didn't really understand all that was happening. This is something I feel EVERYONE should be aware of, so let me tell you what I know so you don't have to spend years trying to figure this all out. :) (Let me make one thing perfectly clear!! I don't know everything there is to know about the LRA and what is happening day to day in Uganda and other places in Africa where the LRA moves. The tiny little bit I know comes mostly from personal accounts of people who have been in Uganda and experienced the effects of the LRA.) The story begins with understanding the warring group, the LRA. So, let's start with answering this question: WHAT IS THE LRA? The LRA (or LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY) is an army lead by a man named Joseph Kony. You can read about the LRA HERE. Basically, this army exists to fight against the central government. The LRA uses children as their soldiers. Fighting against a government is not a new concept. What makes the LRA so horrific is the means by which it fights. Absolutely horrible stories exist of how the LRA enforces it's power. I am hesitant to share these stories, and if you do not want to hear horrible, heartbreaking stories, please just skip this part of this blog post. The only reason I am sharing is so people understand that this is not just someone speaking out against government. When speaking of the LRA, we are not talking about picketing, or even full blown riots! We are speaking of absolutely inhumane, horrible acts of violence to prove power through intimidation and fear. I won't personally tell all the stories, but have related two and I have links to others. PLEASE, PLEASE do take the time to follow those links and read the stories. Do not just "skip over" them. Please read them! It is important to know these stories! Please read them. A man and his young teenage daughter were on a crowded bus in Africa. The LRA stopped the bus and came on board. There, the soldiers killed many passengers. When they came to this man, they threatened to kill his daughter unless the man sexually molested his daughter. At gunpoint, this man was forced to perform such a horrible act against his daughter as the LRA soldiers watched. The LRA came in to a village and killed many adults. Many of the children hid at the school. The LRA captured them. One boy later told that the LRA forced him to kill the members of his family by chopping them to pieces with a machete. He was then forced to carry a piece of his father's body with him as he walked the miles and miles with the other captured children to the LRA training area where they would be trained to be soldiers for the LRA. This is a news report from this month found in the Las Angeles Times. Please read it HERE. If you want to see an excellent documentary that tells stories of the LRA, watch "War Dance" (streaming on netflix!!). One family has devoted their lives to serving orphans, including those in Africa. They have many stories of how they have helped children who are victims of the LRA. HERE is one account of the actions of the LRA. Organizations exist to help free the children who have been forced to work as slaves, and others exist to help them return to society. Most have seen so much horror in their young lives that they cannot simply walk back in to normal life. One amazing young woman has started an organization, eXile International, to help former child soldiers of the LRA. HERE HERE you will find a speech the founder of eXile International presented in September of last year at the International Criminal Court Symposium. Now, let me ask you a question. The LRA is stated to have started it's hardest rampages almost ten years ago. For how many of those years have you been aware of the LRA? How long have you known about the atrocities of the LRA? How long have you known the name "Joseph Kony"? When was the first time you learned of the LRA? What if you had been made aware before that time? Would you have done anything different? If only that meant offering one more prayer on behalf of the children kidnapped by the LRA? Do you wish you had known longer just so you could say you had not been ignorant to the suffering of others? Now, let me pose another question. What if there were a movement NOW to bring awareness in America of the Lord's Resistance Army? What if there were an organization working to just educate people, to let people know that there is the LRA, and that they are hurting and killing people? Now, I will tell you: there IS such a movement! It is starting NOW! They have called it "Kony 2012". So, I am certain most of you have heard about the movement: Kony 2012. If you don't really know about Kony 2012, you can check out the video HERE. There is a LOT of debate about this movement! Want to know MY feelings about Kony 2012? Come back tomorrow!

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Won't Stop

I was not ready to see this today. I know it exists. As the founder of Sixteen Small Stones, I am always, always, always thinking about it. But sometimes, not enough. Sometimes, it is like thinking to breathe. Somewhere in my mind, a synapsis is telling me to breathe, so I guess at some level I am, indeed, "thinking" about breathing all the time...but how much? When a famouse opera singer is on stage, they are very aware of their breathing. When a yoga master is meditating, she is very aware of her breathing. But the average person, sitting on their couch watching tv? Not so much. That is how I am with orphans. I am sitting on the couch watching tv and even though the thought of caring for orphans is going on in my mind, I am not always aware of it. Is that okay? Is it okay to NOT think about orphans? Today, I saw this post. And now I know it is NOT. It is NOT okay with me to stop thinking about orphans. When I stop thinking, I stop acting. I stop being their voice. I stop fighting for them. Is it okay to spend a few minutes NOT doing those things? What if I take 5 mins to put the orphans out of my mind. Would five minutes really make a difference? I read this post, and I decided that those five minutes DO matter. To me, five minutes is nothing. I may sit on the couch and read facebook for 5 mins. I may stand in the kitchen for 5 mins and think about what I want to fix for lunch. I may stare out the window for five mins and daydream. Five minutes in my life is a small amount of time. In the life of an orphan, five minutes could feel like an eternity. If you don't have time to read the entire post, scroll through and look at the pictures. (They are not photoshoped. They are not fabricated. And they are not the exception to how "most" orphans live.) As you look at each picture, imagine how five minutes would feel to an orphan. Look in to the eyes of one of the children and think what he is feeling for 5 mins. How long would five minutes feel to that child? So, I will not stop thinking of the orphans. I will not stop fighting. I will not stop advocating. I will not stop speaking for them. Not until they are all brought home. Will you? Read here.

Who Will Be Sleeping on The Pillowcases I Donate??

Want to see who will be laying their sweet heads on the pillowcases you donate? Here are some cute videos of the kids at the home in India where we are donating the pillowcases...AND some of the Valentines for Operation: LOVE will be going to these sweethearts, too! THIS video is from India's National Day. THIS one is of the kids outside. Aren't they darling? :)