Empowering women with CARE

CARE cow milk

Prior to my career in media, I spent about seven years working for the local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organization.

I saw firsthand the results of a woman finally understanding that she did matter, that she didn't have to put up with her violent partner, that she could leave and survive.

And how our nonprofit's support, both emotional and financial, had been key to her success.

That experience turned me into a passionate advocate. Whether they live in my own community, or in a tiny village somewhere overseas, I want to be an active part of empowering women to be happy and healthy in their own lives.

Enter CARE. Have you heard of them?

CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls.

Women like Kallani in northern Bangladesh, who struggled because the family milk cow was underproducing. Thanks to CARE’s Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain program, she was able to learn how to best feed her cow for optimum production — and now, not just surviving but thriving, Kallani teaches other women to do the same, helping to improve local conditions in their village.

And women like Maria in Ecuador, who went from hauling water up a mountain to meet her family of 11's daily needs, to working with CARE to learn to harvest water from mist on their foggy days — to use not just for her family's immediate concerns, but to water a small farm and to earn money by selling at market. The extra dollars she's earning? They're being set aside for a savings nest egg and to support her children's education tuition.

CARE is helping lift families out of poverty.

These are just two examples of ways that CARE is working internationally. If this has peeked your interest to learn more, I encourage you to visit the CARE website, where you can watch videos about Kallani and Maria, and read about the myriad ways that CARE is doing good.

Join CARE's email list and, if you so choose, give a few dollars to a program that makes your heart swell.

P.S. Do you know the origin of the phrase "CARE package"? In 1945, CARE invented the concept as "a way for Americans to send lifesaving food and supplies to a Europe flattened by World War II." The packages ended up being so popular that the term became a synonym for the fun and thoughtful gifts we now send to far-away loved ones. Cool factoid, eh?

Today’s post is sponsored by CARE, but my enthusiasm for their humanitarian programs is all my own!

Sharing your story can change a life — win a $100 gift card to pass the good on


Dogs rock my world.

Actually most animals rock my world, but in particular I have a soft spot for the ones that are so ugly they're cute, and even more so, those who've ended up homeless in shelters.

As a long-time animal rescue volunteer (and mama to four different rescue animals over the years), I've most recently taken on the role of foster mom to dogs who are healing from some sort of injury or needed surgery. My first, Tilly, came to me with a cast for her broken toes. My most recent, Martha, arrived with a mouth wire to help reset her broken jaw. And I've loved sharing their stories and our journeys along the way. It's a passion project for me.

I think that's why when I saw the "Live On. Give On." campaign, I was struck by Bakken Invitation honoree Krystal Boyea's message:

Sharing your story can change a life.

In Krystal's situation, sharing her story means telling others in her home country of Barbados about how to live a healthy, happy life with Type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at the age of 10 and struggled with feeling different at school and in her community because of the attention she had to pay to the disease (insulin shots, altering her diet, etc.). After years of challenges, she decided to step up. Today she is the face of diabetes in the Caribbean, and tells her story everywhere she can to help change others' lives as well — hence, the recognition from the Bakken Award, which honors those who have overcome health challenges and are now making a difference in their communities.

For my fosters, I know that I'm not just helping them heal. I'm helping them find new forever families. And by sharing my experience with fostering, I might recruit a few of you to the program, thereby changing even more furry lives.

MarthaAndMeTo help you give back in your own way, I've got a prepaid $100 Visa gift card to pass along to one of my readers. Visit the Bakken Invitation website, read the stories of this year's honorees, come back here and let me know in the comments whose message inspires you the most and why. One commenter will be randomly selected on Dec. 30 to receive the gift card. The winner is free to choose how the money is spent, but ideally it will benefit your community in some way. (Participants must be 18 or older and U.S.-based.)

I thank you for getting involved and giving back. And Martha (who is currently looking for her forever family) thanks you too.

Many thanks to Medtronic for sponsoring today’s story and encouraging me to "Live On. Give On."

A cottage cheese journey

Hello dear readers. I'm writing today with some blog news. Over the past few months, I've been approached by a couple of companies to jump into the world of sponsored posting.

When the first email came, I thought, hmmm, not sure that's for me, and moved on.

When the second email came, I thought, I like this company's style, but not their product, which happened to be ... cottage cheese. Which I haven't eaten in years because I think it's kind of gross and couldn't bring myself to even contemplate promoting it, whether or not there was money involved. I'm sure I could have figured out a way to bake with it, or feed it to my husband, or something, but that felt like a big cheat. And completely inappropriate.

So I told the cottage cheese marketing reps (yes, apparently there are cottage cheese marketing reps) the truth. I can't stand cottage cheese and I'm not a good fit for this. If you ever have other promotions though, let me know.

And they did this week. And it's pretty cool.

I have to admit I've got conflicted feelings about sponsored posts. I don't want this blog to turn into a series of advertisements. And yet, I've been recommending books that I love and nonprofits that impress me and food that I want in my mouth now for most of my life. I like to connect people to the world around them.

Years ago, pre-social media, I remember (and some of you might as well) sending out a few-times-a-year email newsletter of sorts just letting friends and family know about some of the cool things I'd recently discovered or fallen head over heels with. It included everything from my newest favorite pen (back then, the Uni-Ball Vision Elite Rollerball in Blue/Black — which, by the way, I still love because it's super smooth and an awesome shade of ink) to giving opportunities through Kiva (if you're not familiar with Kiva's microloaning, get yourself to their website immediately). It was a true project of love.

After becoming more and more familiar with the blogging world, I've realized that now I can do the same thing, and make a little cash through the process too.

I promise you that I won't ever recommend or write about something I don't believe in or feel in some way connected to. If a post is sponsored, it will be clearly labeled as such. And you will still always get an honest opinion from me about anything I set aside space for here. Sometimes you'll have an opportunity to win a cool prize, as, assuming all goes as expected, will be the case later this week.

It's a new part of this freelance writing journey. If in six weeks or six months it's not settling well with me, you'll find the whole thing tossed out ... with the cottage cheese.