From A Distance

September 30, 2010

lesotho 2010 288I’ve been home, now, for a few of days, and I think – I think – that I’ve recovered from travel fatigue – 28 hours it took me to get home from Lesotho – and jet-lag and the brain fog that comes from traveling halfway around the world and back in less than a week. But I haven’t quite recovered from what I can only describe as soul-lag: the existential exhaustion that settles upon you when you’ve experienced something that changes you so profoundly that your psyche has trouble catching up to your transformed heart and soul.

I have soul lag. It’s getting in the way of writing anything meaningful or informative about everything that I saw, everything that I learned, everything that changed me last week. It’s clouding my mind and tangling my thoughts and every time that I sit down to write I am faced with a screen that demands, now, something better than before, something worthy of the stories that I heard and the stories that I was part of, and as I stare at that screen something inside me sags and crumples. I tell myself that it will all come, in time, as my heart and soul and psyche reconcile themselves to each other and to the clock of my here and now, and as I find the words to do those stories justice, but my self is not entirely convinced. My self is also not a very good listener, but that’s not really the problem here.

I wrote last week about being confronted by my own privilege, and in particular by the privileged character of my discourse, of our discourse, and I remain confronted, and so I am unable to simply slip back in to the easy flow of the narrative that puts me first, that sets my anxieties and issues and concerns as the driving action, that, among other things, establishes my experience of motherhood – my very privileged experience of motherhood – as the conditio sine qua non for understanding the condition of motherhood and womanhood and fulfillment and happiness and life. I lived for a very short while in a different experience, I was exposed to a different experience, and now my own experience seems so very, very partial, and my view of it so partial, not to say, in some ways and at some times, distorted. And I’m not sure, yet, how to accommodate the broader view, how to address the distortion, how to make sense of my (privileged) stories and my impulse to (privileged) storytelling and my expectation that those stories will get heard within the context of a world in which those stories are, really, in so many ways, so insignificant.

Blogging, now, feels like self-indulgence – which, of course, it is: what greater expression and active assertion of privilege than to narrate one’s own privileged experience and to share it and debate it and dissect it in the public sphere? – and so I’ve fought the urge, the very real and in some moments very pressing urge, to just bag it all in, chuck the blog, forget social media, cut the electronic cord and be done with it. I’ve fought the urge because I still believe that there’s still something very important about what we do here, about sharing our lives and our experiences and our stories, privileged or otherwise, and because this medium allows me – allowed me, this past week – to share stories that might not, that would not, otherwise get told.

But the urge was there, is there, and it’s taking some effort to process it, because although I don’t want to give in to it, I don’t want to lose sight of it, either. I don’t want to take for granted my voice and this medium, and I don’t want to forget that my ability to exercise and make use of both is a privilege and so should be put to the best possible use. Which doesn’t necessarily mean never bitching about lack of sleep or bad hair days or debating the ridiculousness of the term ‘helicopter parenting,’ but it does mean always keeping those things in the proper perspective, and making sure that there’s more, much more, to what I’m doing here than just that.

We’ll see how that goes.

(Yes, I’m still hoping that you’ll read and sign and support. Donor countries are still pledging, so the show of support still matters.)

(There’s a Flickr group and Facebook page with more photos from and information about the trip, and links to updates about the cause. You should check these out, because I said so.)

(If you’re local, and you’re interested in more frivolous things – I’m still interested in frivolous things, even though I feel guilty about it – check out the contest that we have going at the Bad Moms Club. It’s for a fun thing, and I promise that I won’t say a word about Africa or HIV or saving the world if you win it. Unless you ask, then all bets are off.)


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    { 54 comments }

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting September 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t think that having privilege means that we shouldn’t use it or take advantage of the benefits that it brings us. But I do think it comes with a responsibility too. The work that you have done in spreading the word about HIV and the importance of taking action on HIV through your visit to Lesotho is a great example of how we can use our privilege to help others.

    If you didn’t have a popular blog about “lack of sleep or bad hair days or debating the ridiculousness of the term ‘helicopter parenting” then you may not be in the position to be able to spread those important message and calls to action to so many people.

    So keep writing. Write your stories. But also keep helping to give a voice and an opportunity to the stories of those who are not as privileged as you.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Cora’s Story- The hidden disease of congenital heart defects =-.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:06 am

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, it’s not so much feeling pulled to not use it because of the awareness of privilege – it’s more a kind of writer’s block, a difficulty in wrapping my head around words after seeing so much that was so much more than words. The writer’s block (the soul-lagged writer’s block) made me/makes me feel that my heart is less in the right place for writing about bad hair days. But I agree with you, definitely. I have this platform for a reason – and it would be wasteful, in a way, to not use it.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    karengreeners September 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to reading about your experiences, and they afford us a look we wouldn’t otherwise have, so don’t question the relevancy of what we do too much. It’s good to be changed; that change will stay with you. You definitely don’t have to chuck it all in order for your experiences in Africa to remain important. xo

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

    @karengreeners, thanks for that :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    kelly @kellynaturally September 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I think… that while blogging for some (all?) may be self-indulgent, it also, when within a broader venue – as you have with this blog – can be a vehicle for change. You have the ability to inspire, excite, frustrate, anger, cheer, and gather support for causes and ideas that you find important (hi, Tutus for Tanner). To stop blogging because your guilt at privaledge… would be more selfish, in my opinion – because of the reach you have.

    Take what you’ve learned, and incorporate it in the blogging for which people respect & keep coming back to you…. and with it, you’ll pull in more readers – and thus spread your messages further.

    I find your work both interesting & inspiring Catherine. I think your recent experience presents great opportunity for growth.
    .-= kelly @kellynaturally´s last blog ..A Giant Elephant and the Jersey Shore =-.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    @kelly @kellynaturally,

    “To stop blogging because your guilt at privaledge… would be more selfish, in my opinion – because of the reach you have.”

    Totally agree. It’s what keeps me from stopping.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points September 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    You may never ever leave the internet. Ever. I mean, I just found you! You can’t leave NOW. It’s not my fault I didn’t find the bus faster! I’m bad with directions! I lost my map! I was drunk!

    Need an excuse? Ask Lori!

    I think your soul-lag will ease. We are such amazing flexible creatures, we are. And it will settle and shape and turn into drive and imperative and a gear that helps keep wheels moving. Powerful things do that to us – and for us – I think. At least, in a career of health care and powerful stories and daily reminders of how lucky I am – it has done that for me.

    And I wasn’t even drunk at the time.

    And you stay put there missy. Don’t make me get my switch.
    .-= Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points´s last blog ..Ask Not Martha – Your Points Questions Answered! =-.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    @Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points, well, if you put it that way… ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    Sarah Neely September 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    http://t.co/pvEejoq -> A post where I completely agree with you about materialism and this spoiled, first-world life we live (and link to Kristen at We are THAT family who would wholeheartedly agree with you… in fact, they just changed their entire lives because of it.)

    In other news: Hang in there. Your voice is important. The things you do are important. You now have something amazing to continue to share with the world, please do it!
    .-= Sarah Neely´s last blog ..Percy Jackson and the Learning Disability =-.

    Lynn September 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Oh please, please, please don’t leave!! I have so loved reading your blog and this trip to Africa just broke my heart. While in college, my Psychology sorority group took on Aids/HIV education as our yearly project. Wow, what an experience!! To be able to go into the schools, community and educate was just eye opening. That was over 10 years ago and education has come a long way.

    Thank you for everything that you do! Don’t LEAVE!!!
    .-= Lynn´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

    Jessica September 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I completely understand you. Seriously. I studied abroad in Colombia, South America, and during those months I experienced SO MANY things I will never forget. Events that have imprinted themselves, permanently, in my brain.

    These eye opening experiences lead me to make drastic changes in my life:
    -live in the moment (don’t rush to the next day or even hour) enjoy even the boring things
    -never take anything for granted, I mean ANYTHING (like a drinking fountain is such a privilege)
    -be more open minded and try to understand others instead of comparing them to ourselves
    etc….

    But the most important of all is to avoid feeling guilty. Everyone must do the best they can with the cards they were dealt. One must only feel guilty if you had the ability to help and CHOSE not to.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:15 am

    @Jessica, I don’t know about avoiding the guilt entirely. I think that awareness of what might fuel that guilt is something to hang on to. But yes, you’re right – one should not let it weigh them down or stop them from acting.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    aqua September 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    As a historian I think that our experiences and debates – be they as silly as the one over helicopter parenting – are meaningful. Because if we don’t find meaning and depth in our lives, privileged and shallow as they are, the alternative would be total paralysis. I mean think about it. Life ends in death, sooner or later. All life, all people, are subjected to pain and total annihilation. It’s mind boggling; it’s absurd and ridiculous and just plain unbearable. When I really think about this I feel like screaming.
    So keep writing and keep complaining about bad hair days. Because, really, bad hair days is what makes life bearable.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    @aqua, I totally agree. I wrote my dissertation on women and mothers and the private sphere, and have argued passionately that this public space in which we share our (sometimes banal) stories is revolutionary simply because it is so public, and the stories are therefore visible as meaningful in a way that they’ve never been. Even the bad hair stories ;)

    But still – there is that pain in recognizing that being distracted by bad hair comes from privilege that would be unimaginable to some. And I don’t want to lose that sensitivity.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    Jessica September 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    We are privileged. It’s a fact. It’s also a fact that what makes a difference is what you decide to do with your privilege – and what you are doing is wonderful. Your blog reaches many people, and you use your platform to promote important things that you feel strongly about. We can’t help where/when and to whom we were born, but we can certainly use any opportunities that are available to us, because of those things, to help others who weren’t so lucky.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Im Not An Addict =-.

    ahdra September 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    @Jessica, Amen to this comment.

    And please, HBM, never, never leave the internet. Maybe it will make your blog less palatable to some to be more often dipping into more serious matters (maybe not, too), but, maybe that is the point.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    @ahdra, it’s already less palatable to some, for that reason ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant September 29, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Reading this post, I’m reflecting on one of yours from years ago about another mother on the subway, pushing a stroller that wasn’t appropriate for her baby’s age/size.

    Think of the perspective you’ve gained, even before you learned about Born HIV Free and The Global Fund. Your perspective is now that much broader, having been to Africa and seen firsthand what many people never will. You have online and offline reach that allows you to bring your perspective to others.

    I think it would be more indulgent *not* to press forward and continue writing. What you do here is important.
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Good parenting means more than a mere physical presence =-.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

    @Julie @ The Mom Slant, that early post (and the follow up to it) was eye-opening for me. It’s an excellent example.

    I guess it’s a question of HOW I press forward.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    GingerB September 30, 2010 at 2:39 am

    I got soul lag visiting Ethiopia a few years ago, with a group sponsoring education for girls, and I know what you are feeling, I think. (See Children of Ethiopia Education Fund for yet another worthy cause). Educate a girl and she educates the world. We did visit an AIDS ward in Addis Ababa that became one of the most powerful events of my life. All that I saw, the families in grass huts with a cooking fire in the center and a baby goat tethered near the family’s bed, the slums of Addis, the children who are forced by their parents to beg, all of it overwhelmed me. When I came back I had difficulty going to American grocery stores, having a me of just my own could house eight Ethiopian fmailies, all of my privilege was hard to handle. It gets easier with time, although maybe it shouldn’t.

    You should never abandon the internet Catherine, because you raise the level of discourse, even if we are talking about things that are the most mundane aspects of motherhood, you bring the level up, and we would be the lesser for you leaving us. So stay!
    .-= GingerB´s last blog ..The SQUIRREL! in my head- brain injury- you can bite me Oh- you did =-.

    Chrissy September 30, 2010 at 10:27 am

    As a writer, I know what you mean…it’s like you have this daunting task – this burdensome gift that you’re not quite sure what to do with. It’s huge and it’s heavy and you know you have to open it and share it but you’re afraid you won’t do it justice…that it will crumble and fade away into nothingness like other gifts you’ve been given.

    But after reading you for a few years now, I’m pretty sure you’ll handle everything you’ve been given beautifully.

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve seen so far – there is SO MUCH LOVE coming through your writing these days. xoxo
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..New Page =-.

    troll faced troll September 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Ack. Could any of this be a bigger cliche? Look, I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s personal experiences, I guess. I guess. But… come on. Every bit of this, and especially all the uber-cliched photos that come with it, I knew to recognize as one big cliche by the time I was four or five years old. No one is going to change the world or even their world with these kinds of stories. Just the opposite: the suffering-but-smiling black kids who smile in pictures with the “OMG-I’ll-never-be-the-same-again” white people who come visit them are a staple of our culture at this point. If they weren’t suffering-and-smiling like that, we wouldn’t get to take a nice vacation from our indulgent-but-frustrated lives once in a while to stand next to them and get to feel so simultaneously humbled and self-satisfied. This whole act has been rehearsed so many times by so many people. I’m sure it’s very moving. Really. But personally, I would never go to Africa just because I don’t want go through the whole Africans-as-predictable-props-in-predictable-white-person’s-story shebang, and turn myself – alongwith the endless supply of adorable little black kids that area always (sob) dying only to be (yay) reproduced at sufficient rates so as to never interfere with whitey’s big vacations and subsequent viewing pleasure – into a giant walking cliche in the process. Honestly, I wonder if just once one of the people who fly over there get told by one of those kids: “suck it bitch! I’m dying here and don’t have time for your photo op!”. Probably they say that once the cameras are off or under their breath in their own languages. But maybe they just really can’t get enough of being part of the white man’s emotional journeys. I don’t know. And hey, I’m all for making western white people feel bad about their lives: after all, we are a bunch of self-indulgent, pampered, exploitative ignoramuses. But I have the strong sense that these sorts of trips and journeys reinforce those tendencies: that’s why they’ve become such a cliche. It’s like those recent studies showing how the more people think about their own humanitarianism, they less inclined they are to charitable giving, etc. This is all a pleasant diversion for us. No one is changing their life. This – the whole big go-to-Africa and feel all overwhelmed and all – is *part* of our lives: smiling dying black kids somewhere over there and all. One big ass cliche. Now I have to text snarky comments about Katy Perry’s boobs on my way to visit my analyst.

    Catherine September 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    @troll faced troll, well, if you’d read any of my posts on the subject, you’d know that I struggled – and struggled and struggled and struggled – with the clichedness of it all. Your critique here, in other words, isn’t saying anything that I haven’t been saying for the last two weeks – it is, in fact, the source of most of my hand-wringing (which as I’ve said repeatedly, is itself a cliche).

    You’re wrong on a few counts, though. None of this is pleasant. My trip was not a vacation. It was difficult and challenging and uncomfortable and really-not-fun-by-anyone’s-definition. (Taking pictures was its own kind of not-fun, involving its own set of soul-challenges, even though in all cases permission was granted and in many cases we were swarmed by people (kids mostly) begging to get a picture – there was no blithe, happy clicking away… we all agonized over the politics and ethics of what we were doing.)

    But end of the day, sharing the story and the pictures mattered, because getting support in the form of signatures mattered, because donor countries were and are looking to those indicators of support in deciding whether or not to keep funding programs like BornHIVFree. And BornHIVFree DOES make a difference, does save lives, and it’s worth swallowing my own anxiety over being a cliche to contribute to that effort.

    So if the alternative is to sit back and feel superior about not succumbing to those cliches – by, of course, sitting back and doing nothing – I’ll take the cliches, any day.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..From A Distance =-.

    natalie September 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    @Catherine, perfect reply.

    Frankly I’d be worried (and would dislike you) if you didn’t feel cliched or remorse or soul lag….because how could you NOT feel those things.

    I’ve never been to Lesotho, but I’ve travelled to enough disadvantaged countries to understand these feelings and empathize with them. I would even dare say that they have helped shape MOST of my choices in life.

    BUT…to cast aspersions on the goals of your trip, to pre-judge you when it comes to your personal aspirations and to make “not-so-veiled” comments about you having illusions of grandeur and are ignorant of your privilege….is below the belt. To feel too superior to even TRY….(and instead sit back and critique those who do) is perhaps the ultimate decadence.

    Bravo to you for going, for writing about it and for taking time to sort through the intense feelings I am sure you are going through. I’ve read about your journey with much wonder, sadness, frustration and curiosity.

    thank you
    .-= natalie´s last blog ..Ingrid Michaelson- The Way I Am =-.

    Loralee September 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    @troll faced troll,

    I am a fan of “fight the cliche”. However, cliches exist for a reason, you know?

    Sure, I guess we could all sit back and tend to ourselves and not do anything. Or just send money and let someone “else” do the heavy lifting over there, but meh…some people actually like to try to do something to stop such suffering.

    Will it work?

    Dunnno.

    On a large scale I can see the hopelessness. It’s a gushing artery that is trying to be stemmed with bandaids and duct tape, but I don’t think that “it’s not going to change anything” is a reason to not attempt it.

    As for the photos, well…that is what people do, isn’t it? Photograph their experiences? The people they meet? And bloggers, well…they write about them.

    So, really. It’s fine if you don’t go to Africa because you just cannot stomach and be bothered to participate in such a trite cliche. Even for the possibility of helping one dying child. (Because, guess what? They are dying in droves over there. Every day. And yes, it is sob worthy. Try having one die in your arms sometime. You might change perspective on that)

    People like Catherine will pitch in and do the work for you.
    .-= Loralee´s last undefined ..Response cached until Thu 30 @ 21:27 GMT (Refreshes in 19 Minutes) =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    You just made me cry. Probably because I could hear your voice, but also just, because. xo

    Loralee October 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    @Her Bad Mother,

    “You just made me cry. Probably because I could hear your voice, ”

    Perhaps one of the highest compliments I’ve ever had. xo
    .-= Loralee´s last blog ..Sideblog- My three words in response “I utterly disagree” =-.

    Kfiore October 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

    @troll faced troll,

    Congratulations to you for avoiding being a cliche by doing nothing. Definitely the more noble position in this case.

    Jenny, Bloggess September 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Never leave.
    .-= Jenny, Bloggess´s last blog ..sigh =-.

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Send me Xanax and I’ll think about it.

    another troll-faced troll September 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I completely agree with your previous troll – your feigned anguish is exhausting, let alone the “I don’t know if I should write any longer. It’s all so overwhelming. Please tell me you love me. Please.” Way to take the tragedy of others, children no less, to make this about you. You’ve portrayed yourself as being so much better, so much MORE than everyone else for so long, and here you are pretending you need affirmation from your fans. It’s all too, too much. Stay or go, but get over yourself already.

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    At risk of prolonging this – I thought that I was quite clear in this post that I WASN’T going to stop writing – I was just writing about the thought process, as a way of unpacking some of the issues that the other troll thought I’d ignored. And the plea to readers was tongue-in-cheek, which I though was obvious, but perhaps you are much more subtle than am I.

    If you think that this is all feigned, then you have a way better imagination than I do. I can only imagine that sustained feigned anguish is more exhausting than real anguish, and that it would turn someone into a zombie, which would probably make for some really great fiction.

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Also, how does one ‘get over herself’? That sounds like some complicated gymnastics.

    Just asking.

    Suebob September 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    This is my favorite kind of critique. The “why bother because it is all so useless and cliche and you won’t do any good anyway.” Someone else got this the other day from someone who said the writer was “sad” because they required external validation and they shouldn’t even be posting their work on the internet.

    I’m an expert in this kind of thing. I grew up with a family member whose motto might as well be “Why try? It will all turn out badly in the end and it is futile and useless and will just make you tired so don’t bother doing anything.” I was constantly warned about the futility of trying things. God forbid I should try and fail. That would just be confirmation that the Doing Of Things wasn’t worth it.

    Yes. Better to sit in a corner and not try anything and not learn and not fail and not accomplish. You’ll be safe from anyone expecting anything of you or of them criticizing your accomplishments, because you won’t have any.
    .-= Suebob´s last blog ..Becoming Creative =-.

    red pen mama September 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Well, the troll-faced-trolls aside (at least they were nice enough to call themselves out, eh?), I agree with a lot of what’s been said here.

    Don’t leave the Interwebz.

    You will do something amazing, something akin to Tutus for Tanner, with your experience in Lesotho. Of that, I have no doubt. Whether it’s at your blog, or with your family, or through tweeting — something will grow. And flourish.

    And a thought, to the soul lagged writer’s block: Have you, could you consider fiction? Maybe a story told by one of the women or children you met? Maybe the soul finds its own voice inadequate, and wants to try another one?

    The trolls may think this is all cliched navel gazing hand wringing, this blogging and so on. I’m not a philosophy student (in the least!), but didn’t someone once go on about “the life unexamined” being not worth living? hmm? Self awareness and even a critique of one’s own self awareness isn’t a necessarily bad thing.
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Random Thoughts- The Unthemed Edition =-.

    red pen mama September 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    *aren’t* necessarily bad thing*s*.
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Random Thoughts- The Unthemed Edition =-.

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Ah, fiction. Yes, I’ve considered it. I have drafts of chapters of unfinished novels. It’s actually one of the things that I thought about giving this up for, except that I worry that I’m a terrible fiction writer ;)

    Her Bad Mother September 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    OH, WHOOPS. **FEIGNED ANGUISH ALERT**

    klcrab October 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    @Her Bad Mother,
    hee hee, nice one. I appreciate that you are trying to engage them trolls in meaningful dialog, keep up the feigned anguish!!

    bekala September 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Has the internet evolved so much that the trolls are now all self-identifying and organizing?

    Eh, I’ll take the cliches. I’ll read the supposedly trite and over-done story of white woman goes to Africa, sees the poor people in their poor surroundings, comes back home to her “regular” life, and tries to process all that she saw–some things so far from her own experiences, some things so very close–in a public space. Was Catherine’s narrative of her trip predictable? Perhaps, but thank God she isn’t the first to go to Lesotho, Kenya or insert-sub-Saharan-African-nation here, that she isn’t the first to tell the rest of us cliche-livers what’s going on there, thank God that her effort just plain isn’t the first, that she’s following a well-established pattern of *doing something* to help stop AIDS. I’ll take my cliches as Catherine has dished them out here, because the alternative is another cliche in itself: the “smiling dying child” in fact dying while clueless “whitey” fumbles along in her own life an ocean away.

    ahdra September 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    You know the “oh that’s so cliche” (and cliche in and of itself, no?) kind of pisses me off. Seriously? So what is better? Show us your originality, trolls, since you feel qualified to cast stones. We are all ears.

    You do what you can.

    Here is where I get ridiculous, but, whatever. We got the “You think you can change the world, but you can’t!” from our parents, no less, when we laid the news on them that we were adopting a couple of African kids. First of all, who ever said we wanted to change the world? Eff that. We just wanted to adopt. Instead of conceiving children. Because we can and because we felt it was what we were able to do. Because there are children who already exist that need families. Yes, it sucks that they will ostensibly lose their birth culture. Yes, it would be better that they are with their family of origin. But, can I personally change the system that is already at work? No. So, I work within that system until it gets better.

    You do what you have the ability and desire to do and leave the rest to the next person. So we screw it up sometimes. We are human and highly fallible. The next person often comes behind and learns something from those fails.

    Yes, it’s great to wrestle with the effectiveness of what you mean to do. Yes, it’s great to be bothered by all shades of exploitation of another human and avoid it.

    It seems that HBM has done both.

    But is there any profit in sitting back in judgementalism to critique someone involved in actually, imperfectly DOING something? Really?

    And who knows, but some measure of change may be brought about through the platform that she has gained and the training and talents that she has received.

    Kait October 1, 2010 at 9:43 am

    @ahdra, Amen and thank you! We have had so many people argue with us about adopting from Lesotho on the grounds that we can’t save every orphan and we’re hurting them by taking them away from their birth culture. My reaction (because I am a reasonable person) is usually of the “You know, we never thought of that. You’re so right! Better they grow up in a crowded orphanage with limited resources and education but part of their birth culture instead of in a family with limitless resources and a deep desire to help them experience that culture however they want!”
    .-= Kait´s last blog .. =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Of course you can’t save every orphan (and – hat tip to the trolls above – isn’t adopting orphans from impoverished countries SO CLICHE?) But adoption isn’t about saving. It’s about loving. And welcoming the love from children from ANYWHERE is just indisputably GOOD.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “Who ever said we wanted to change the world? Eff that. We just wanted to adopt.”

    Bravo.

    jaelithe September 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Write the change you wish to see in the world.
    .-= jaelithe´s last blog ..Paying Attention =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Perfect.

    Alli Worthington September 30, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Beautiful.
    .-= Alli Worthington´s last blog ..Celebration of Friendship =-.

    Old School/New School Mom September 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    You must never leave the internet. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I agree that blogging has an element of self indulgence. It’s sort of like verb masturbation. But, as we release our selfish thoughts and feelings, we are allowing others to relate to them, which is an unselfish act.
    .-= Old School/New School Mom´s last blog ..Crying in Front of Your Kids =-.

    Old School/New School Mom September 30, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    You must never leave the internet. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I agree that blogging has an element of self indulgence. It’s sort of like verbal masturbation. But, as we release our selfish thoughts and feelings, we are allowing others to relate to them, which is an unselfish act.
    .-= Old School/New School Mom´s last blog ..Crying in Front of Your Kids =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I might need to borrow ‘sort of like verbal masturbation’ as a tag line.

    Table for Five October 2, 2010 at 11:01 am

    @Her Bad Mother, “sort of like verbal masturbation” would be the best tag line ever. That troll faced troll can suck it.

    Lara October 1, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I went through something like this after my first mission trip to work with AIDS orphans in Malawi, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. I came back and wondered how I was supposed to go on living with all the material JUNK in my life after everything I’d seen and experienced. Talk about reentry shock. But ultimately, what is the purpose of learning these lessons, if we shut off all contact with others who might learn from our growth and change? Is reflecting on what we’ve learned really so bad, if through that reflection we can both inspire others and improve ourselves?

    Now admittedly, my brain goes a little wacko during the school year, when most of my “IRL” time is spent doing serious deep work changing teenagers’ lives for the better, my blog posts are a little less reflective and a little more inane, but my point certainly remains true. Well, in my opinion anyway, for whatever that’s worth.
    .-= Lara´s last blog ..R-E-S-P-E-C-T =-.

    Kait October 1, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I visited Haiti for the first time as a 13 year old girl. I stood in an orphanage and held babies who would later die and felt my entire soul crack into tiny pieces as I wondered how I would ever go back to my “normal” life. Once you can put a name and a face to the suffering of other people, how can you go back to being self indulgent and greedy and selfish?

    You can and you will. It will take time.

    Please write about Lesotho. I sent you an email a few days ago about this very topic. Every time my husband and I tell someone that we’re adopting from Lesotho they look at us like we have four heads. No one knows where it is. No one knows what HIV and AIDS are doing to this country. People need to know and need to care. A little bit of soul shaking compassion is good for everyone.

    This struggle you’re currently in, it’s a cliche for a reason. It happens to a lot of people. It changes your whole world. You need to help it change the rest of the world too.
    .-= Kait´s last blog .. =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I read your email – have been working to wrap my heart around to respond. It’s starred in my gmail inbox, and I will absolutely be responding :)

    But, yes, THANK YOU. These stories DO need to be told.

    (Also – did you follow the link to the Flickr page? Lots of pictures of lots of Lesotho children there :) )

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