Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Armchair Activism: Making A Difference in 45 Minutes or Less

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” --H. Selassie

Instead of some pathetically whiny plea aimed at getting you to do something about the genocide and population displacement occurring in Darfur, I am going to cut to the chase and tell you what I have done to help alleviate the situation. It's not much, but it is a whole lot better than nothing.

First, I am making darn sure that I am not funding the Sudanese government and the militias that they arm. Sudan is rich in oil reserves. They do not, however, have the resources to extract this oil, so the Sudanese government sells that right to major corporations. Seventy percent of the funds obtained by the Sudanese government are used to fund the military. The military, in turn, supports the janjaweed militia groups that have raped, tortured and attempted to annihilate the people of Darfur.

Your mutual fund, 401k, or pension fund could be investing in one of these corporations. This means the money that you work hard to earn might be funding the rape, torture and murder of innocent people. Now that you know this, you have serious ethical issues if you can go to bed tonight without checking up on it.

You can research whether your pension or mutual fund is investing in one of these corporations by visiting You'll need the exact name of your fund, or better yet, its ticker symbol (those capital letters in parentheses). This website is great because it lets you know whether your pension fund is investing in a "highest offending" company. If they are investing in one of the corporations that fund genocide, you can initiate a a plan to practice "targeted divestment."

Targeted divestment targets those corporations who invest in sectors of the Sudanese economy that most benefit the Sudanese government, such as energy and oil. It does not, however, target corporations that are involved in the production or distribution of consumer or agricultural goods. Nor does it target services intended to relieve human suffering or services intended to promote health, educational, religious or spiritual activities.

Imagine my horror when I entered the ticker name of my Roth IRA and found that my fund invests in one of these highest offenders. Now, to my irritation, I had to write a letter to the fund manager to tell him he better shape up. I said something to the effect of, "Did you know that this company is very, very naughty and it is bad for our karma to give them money?" Actually, you can go to and view a template of the exact letter that I sent. If you do not know the name of your mutual fund manager, just go to Google, type in your fund's name and the phrase "fund manager." The address that you can mail this correspondence to will most likely come up, as well.

I sent my letter out this morning and I am waiting to see what my fund manager is going to do. If he doesn't do anything about it, I am going to reinvest with a fund manager who is more bothered by the thought of feeding, clothing and arming people who gang rape women or set innocent children on fire in front of their parents. (And, yes, this is exactly what is happening in Darfur.) If I do reinvest, I will be sure to send a follow up letter to that heartless jerk and tell him exactly why I am leaving.

In addition to scrutinizing my personal investments, I also want to make sure that my tax dollars are not going to fund genocide either. Currently, there is a bill scheduled for debate in the Senate called the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act (SADA, S.2271). This bill, in short, makes sure that corporations that the Federal government does business with must certify that their business practices do not fund genocide. Furthermore, it ensures that state and university pensions and fund managers retain the right to divest from companies that fund genocide. I wrote to my senators and told them that they better see this one through.

I didn't want my Representative in the House to feel left out, so I wrote him a letter, too. But, first, I checked out his voting record on the issue at It was a sad and dismal display, and, in a very respectful way, I told him that.

All of this, not including some research which I have already done for you, took me about forty minutes. Do not tell me that you don't have forty minutes to spend in the cause of the Darfuri people. Literally, you could complete this action plan in the commercial breaks of two T.V. shows. It's simple, but just in case, let's review:

1, Go to, and use their Sudan Screening Tool to see if you are inadvertently funding janjaweed militia who are responsible for the rape, torture, displacement and murder of Darfuri civilians.

2, If you have money invested in such a fund, write to your fund manager. This information can be obtained through a quick Google search. Write him or her a letter. You can review the template I used at the above mentioned website. I know the issue of divesting from a corporate matched 401K might be problematic, so I will write another post regarding solutions to a sociopathic, hell bound fund manager who refuses to divest from the offending company.

3, Write to your Senators and urge the passage of the SADA. You can read the full text of this bill at

4, Look up your elected officials at and shame them for scoring anything less than an "A" on their report card. And if, as was the case with me, on of your senators has an "A" (shout out to Bill Nelson!!), thank them, and tell them to keep it up.

Last , but certainly NOT least, every time someone brings up Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, TomKat, Michael Jackson or some other piece of celebrity trash who is a total waste of oxygen, I am going to say, "I know they are sooo crazy (laugh casually, then sigh). But, you know what is even crazier? The fact that none of these media outlets are reporting on what is happening in Darfur. Did you know that..." and I will launch into a one minute or less speech which covers the following talking points:

1, Five hundred thousand people have perished in this genocide. Over 4 million are in need of humanitarian aid, and over 2 million have been displaced from their homes. Half a million have been displaced in the last eighteen months.

2, UN Security Council Resolution 1769 was passed a year ago and authorized the deployment of 26,000 peacekeeping troops on behalf of an African-UN effort aimed at protecting Dafuris, yet because not a single nation has, of yet, given the helicopters necessary for the operation, nothing has been done. Additionally, there is no funding for the initial phases of this project. The U.S. FY2008 falls about 186 million dollars short of America's needed contribution to the effort. 186 million? I bet you could find that in the bottom of a sofa in the oval office.

3, Women whose husbands, sons and fathers have been murdered are routinely gang raped while doing basic chores such as gathering firewood or fetching water. Some Darfuris have said that, in their culture, it is better for these women to be dead than to be labelled rape victims.

I will then say, "Can you believe that CNN/Fox News/MSNBC are insulting our moral conscience by thinking that we don't care about these issues?"

The number one thing we can do about this situation is simply create awareness. Tell people to go visit a site like for more information. Or tell them to read this blog posting so, at least, they can do something with the extra forty five minutes they might find in their week. I'm sure you will agree that doing a little bit is a lot better than doing nothing.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Place Review: Franklin Covey Store, Lake Mary, FL

The year is almost over and it's time for 2008 planner pages. I've been a SevenHabitest for about ten years now, so my obvious choice is the Franklin Covey Day Planner. I've been using the 7 Habits planning pages for years and they've worked great. Recently, though, I converted to Morgensternism (Julie Morgenstern, Time Management from the Inside Out), and I was worried because the 7 Habits pages don't necessarily fit with how I want to implement some of Morgenstern's suggestions.

Long story short, Morgensternism happens to be a sect of SevenHabitism and Ms. Morgenstern has designed planning pages which are available at the Franklin Covey store right here in Lake Mary at the Seminole Town Center. Could life get better than this?!

I walked into Franklin Covey last week and noticed that, hey, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. There were classy, and strategically secular, decorations sparsely placed in key locations and the store was cleverly arranged to highlight their extensive "afterthought" items such as pens and planner markers.

Most of all, though, what made it really look a lot like Christmas were completely inexperienced staff members who were clearly trying to earn an extra buck for Christmas shopping lists. This was one of the most annoying, wasteful and, yes, inefficient, shopping experiences I have had since I haggled some imitation mother of pearl coffee table coasters from a kid in front of the Taj Mahal.

When I asked for the Morgenstern product, I was handed a "demo." I asked two or three questions, each of which was answered with a blank look and half hearted gesture towards the "demo." The problem was, and I found this after I bought the pages, that the demo planner was incomplete. As a result, I ended up buying duplicate items thinking they were not included in the package I wanted to buy. After all, every time I asked a question, I was referred to the all mighty and powerful "demo."

What was most annoying about this experience is that all this happened not at Wal-Mart, but at Franklin Covey, paragon and lasting symbol of the 20th century paradigm shift, integrative business practices and the famed "First things first" philosphy. They should be training their store employees to be effective before they sell items intended to make others effective. How's that for putting first things first, Steve?

Money wasted on non-returnable duplicates: $15.
Gas driving back and forth from the mall: $2

Satisfaction knowing that I can buy these products on the Internet next year, thereby avoiding the hassle of having to deal with a totally incompetent sales staff: Priceless.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rule #1 - No Parenting Magazines in the Tub

A few months ago, I thought about starting a blog for my daughter. First, every parent reading this should know that I think starting a blog for your child is a fantastic idea. Unless, of course, like me, you are a breath away from needing medication for your OCD, perfectionist, guilt-ridden personality. I positively know that if I had not kept up that blog I would have felt like the worst mom in the world.
I stay at home with my daughter and she is not in school yet. I am with her every moment of the day, and most nights she sleeps in my bed. We go to the park three times a week, "mommy and me" twice a week and usually one play date a week. Do I really need the added pressure of physical documentation to this routine?? "Today, my daughter and I had a play date. Now, I am writing about that play date..."
I do deeply respect and recognize the fact that many mothers enjoy writing blogs for their kids. I also love looking at those blogs, but I sincerely hope that all the parents writing those blogs have caught up on all the books they have been meaning to read, gotten their roots done, called their friends back, gone to the gym, answered their personal e-mails, gotten manicures and pedicures and watched Oprah that day. If you have done all that, and are not a gazillionaire with a foreign accented nanny, and still have time to write a blog, please start another blog detailing how I, too, can learn to be as fabulous as you are.
Essentially, I think it's best for a stay at home parent to devote a significant portion of his or her free time to something that has nothing to do with children. Honestly, I think it's best for our children, too. The other day I caught myself obsessing over my daughter's cautious nature and how I could construct play dates that would help her become more outgoing. When I say obsessing, I mean I was pretty much in tears because I believed that my inability to make her "come out of her shell" was going to scar her socialization skills for the rest of her life.
At the end of that painstaking night, though, I realized that my daughter doesn't have to be outgoing if she doesn't want to be. Because I am fairly intelligent and a natural problem solver, I actually ended up creating a problem for my daughter that I needed to solve. Not only was this emotionally exhausting for me, it was totally unfair to my child.
This is also precisely the reason why an intelligent woman who stays at home full time should carefully and consciously pursue interests outside the realm of child care. If you do not find projects for yourself, your child will become your project. I'm beginning to learn that it is possible to focus so much on a child that you risk not actually seeing them at all. More specifically, because you are so "mommied out," you are always seeing that little person as someone you have to teach, protect and mold instead of occasionally seeing them as a distinct and separate person with their own identity.
When your husband or sigot offers to take your children to the park when he or she gets home from work, do not clean the house while they are gone. Do not make dinner, fold laundry, put away toys, or work on your kids' photo albums during this time. Do not call home every fifteen minutes if you are out and they are being watched by someone else. If you find a few minutes to take a hot bath, do not take a parenting book or Parents magazine with you. Somehow, the human race perpetuated itself without parenting books and magazines, if you don't get to read them your child will be fine.
If you find the time to call a friend, especially one with children, please do not spend more than ten minutes talking about your kids. This is neurotic and annoying. Having been a teenager myself, I can absolutely guarantee that when your children are old enough to know that you are obsessing over them in this manner, it will drive them crazy and they will dislike you intensely because of it.
Following my own advice regarding this matter has been the hardest thing about motherhood so far. People assume that if we are not focusing every spare minute on our children that we are somehow being selfish. I maintain, however, if you do not carve out time for yourself, you are being even more selfish. It's selfish to focus constantly on your child, especially if they are a baby or toddler, because they are delightful, beautiful and fun. You also happen to be the center of their universe which is great for your ego.
But, there is a selflessness in realizing that it's not just you that needs space, but that your child needs a little space, too. I think there's merit in starting to experiment with that concept right now instead of in response to slammed doors and inappropriate body piercings. Learning to prioritize yourself, even if it's only for a few minutes a day, is a daunting and difficult task, but definitely a necessary one for the sanity of your entire family. So, stop reading this and start practicing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Service Review: FawnFeather Day Spa, Lake Mary

Someone once said that day spas were my mother ship. When I am obnoxiously wealthy, I am going to add a wing to my home devoted exclusively to the pampering and beautification of my person. I'll even build bedrooms where the massage therapist and aesthetician can sleep. Until then, though, I'll have to make do with the day spa.

FawnFeather is a conventional day spa located in Lake Mary/Heathrow, and was recently voted "Best Day Spa" in both Seminole County and Orlando. It offers all of the services that you would normally expect, such as massages, body wraps, hair services and facials. The staff is experienced, friendly, and most importantly, very down to earth. Nobody is going to shake their head at you or raise their perfectly shaped eyebrows if you went a little too long in between colorings or facials. Despite their humility, I find that the staff here is exceptionally well trained. I also love this particular day spa because they are constantly offering promotions for their spa services and you can usually get a good deal.

Be warned, though. If you want an "ethereal" experience at the spa, you should probably try another place. Although FawnFeather is certainly a calm and relaxing environment, I think the overall descriptor that best applies to it is "comfortable." On very rare occasions, I like to visit a spa that makes me feel like I might bump into Paris Hilton while I am there. FawnFeather doesn't exactly exude elitism, but, at the same time, I'm adamant that this attribute stands out as one of its more impressive features.

Beauty, after all, is about upkeep and you want to go to a place where you feel comfortable enough that you visit it frequently. FawnFeather offers elite service in an unpretentious and friendly environment, and definitely holds the potential of becoming your mother ship, too.