If you've seen the news recently, I'm sure you're well aware that more than 130 people died at the hands of suicide bombers in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. As I sat beside a friend and watched some of the footage Sunday night, I wondered what it would be like to see those images from his perspective. You see, I've never walked the streets of Baghdad, but he has. In fact, Baghdad, Iraq, is the place he calls "home."

Gabir* was a professional in the city, and as such, became a prime target for insurgents. On his way home from work one evening, he was abducted, brutally beaten, and eventually left for dead. Through an incredible series of events, he was able to move with his family to the U.S., where he, his wife, Sanaa,* and their three children now live as refugees. I can't imagine being forced to leave behind friends and family in exchange for safety, but this is the reality they live.

While they are thankful everyday for the opportunity to raise their children here in the United States, they are finding it difficult to make ends meet as he is unable to work due to his injuries, and his wife serves as his sole caretaker. After living in the States for one year, Sanaa is in dire need of dental care which is uncovered by Medicaid.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be selling hand-crafted earring holders to raise money for this family. If you or anyone you know is interested in purchasing an earring holder for a suggested donation of $20 (plus shipping if needed), one hundred percent of the proceeds will fund the dental work needed by this family. The earring holders are beautifully crafted, hand-made, and they make great Christmas gifts!

I will be taking orders for the next few weeks, and will have the holders in your hands in time for the Christmas season. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to read and consider this note. I hope it finds you well!

If you would like to help, please email Kristen.

*Names changed for security purposes.

My tear ducts runneth over

When I was in college, my creative writing juices flowed best at night. So I wrote many a paper in the wee hours of the night/morning. I like to believe that is when I write the best...or I could just be telling myself that so I don't feel quite as bad for staying up WAY past my bedtime (whenever that is).

I think part of the reason I write better at night is because that is when my mind seems to, unfortunately, run like wildfire. Thoughts that I haven't entertained all day, week, month, will all of the sudden pop into my head. Tonight is no exception. Though it may help me to be more creative, it is rather annoying not being able to shut my mind off. I like to be in control of myself, but the mind doesn't like to be controlled.

In my 26 years of life, I have experienced a lot - for that I am grateful. Though I'd like to say all of my 'lot' is good, there have been some bad, painful and disappointing occurrences, too. I am not sure what made me think of this tonight, nothing happened, no one said anything to me that sparked this memory - it just came to me. Maybe it's the Lord's way of using my awake-I-can't-sleep time for his liking? Maybe he wants me to deal with this difficult situation? Writing has healing power, even if I don't measure up in the eyes of some.

I am, for the most part, a non-confrontational person. I don't like to get in fights. I am not a thick-skinned person. I never will be, it's not how God wired me (I love who I am btw). And I don't like to "be in trouble." Most people don't like the latter, but some handle it better than others. I am one of the "others." Being the emotional person that I am, I have a superb talent of losing all control of the tear ducts in my eyes. I cry during movie previews, commercials (especially the most recent Goodwill ones), when music is really good (you know, where you feel it to your core), reading a good book, hearing a touching quote, story, song. Heck I even cry for people - if you are hurting (or happy), I can cry with or for you, whichever you prefer.

A perfect example of my overactive tear ducts is when I was pulled over for speeding (my only speeding ticket) in Dawson, Ga. I'd driven this stretch a million times. I knew there was a speed trap, but my mind was elsewhere that day. I saw the blue lights behind me and I felt the tears coming on, I tried my hardest to stop them. I had NO reason to cry. None. But I had no control over it. It was humiliating. As I handed the police officer my license and registration, I blubbered a million times that I was so sorry I couldn't stop crying. I'm sure he thought I was just some stupid woman trying to get out of a speeding ticket. Nope, not the case for me. I could NOT stop crying. It was terrible. And to make it worse, it was an ugly cry. You know what I mean, snot and all. I guess the snot kept him from being sympathetic because he gave me the ticket anyway. I looked ridiculous. Not sure if I would have had sympathy on me or just thought I was so pathetic that I deserved the ticket. My officer fell in the latter. Oh well, that was so 2005. :)

A couple years later, another "citation" was given to me. Episode of uncontrollable tears? Check. Looking back on this situation, I wish I had stood up for myself more than I did (more like didn't). I was accused of NOT doing some things that another thought I should have done. (NOTE: To this day, I stand by my decision of not doing what this person thought I should have done.) I went with my gut. I made the right decision, no matter what other(s) may think. I was called out on this in a pretty severe way. The "calling out" was based on what another, who was not present at the time of my decision-making, brought to the attention of someone else (who was also not present for the decision). Though I was asked about this, it was not until an opinion had been formed by the accusing. It didn't matter what I said. I felt out of control, not just with myself, but with the entire situation. Maybe even if I had defended myself better, it wouldn't have mattered? My tear ducts took over. I was transported to the 2005. I couldn't speak. I felt like an idiot. I was humiliated, again. Control...what control?

What's ironic, is this happened around the exact time as my previous post about "not measuring up." I was at my lowest. Some days I feel like I am still pulling myself back up, only to slip on some rocks and start falling down again. I do know one thing, something I believe with all my heart, but I (admittedly) struggle to claim as my own: everything happens for a reason and everything can be used at one time or another for God's glory. I haven't had the chance to use the events mentioned in this post and my previous to help others yet, but maybe one day. Unfortunately, many days its so much easier to believe that nothing good will come from this miry pit I feel I've been drop kicked into. I've gone through therapy because of this (how's that for transparency?). Some days I feel I'm healing more than others. Have you ever felt this way? Like you'll never recover from a "fatal" blow? Did you recover? What did you do?
I do I just wait for it to go away?

I love advice.

Hi, my name is "I don't measure up"

Life is so different from what it was one year ago. I have moved from Virginia to Tennessee, I've gone from employed to unemployed, and I've changed my surname from Travis to Delph. I also haven't written for myself in awhile. This is my attempt at rekindling what I loved for so many years - until recently.

It's been quite a ride so far - good but quite. Challenges I never thought about before, now face me on a daily basis: washing clothes for two people, cooking dinner every night, sharing a bed with someone who is 6'5", etc. Surprisingly, keeping my own house has been exciting. I have an extreme desire to keep it spotless - especially the kitchen. Married life is great - I highly suggest it.

My true purpose for writing is this. I'm struggling and have been for quite sometime.

A few months ago, one of the ministers at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tenn., preached about "naming" one's self. In a nutshell, he went on to explain that he has named himself "manipulative," because he had a person in his past accuse him of that. Over time, he (with the enemy's help) convinced himself that he is, indeed, manipulative. Knowing this person, that is one of the last words I would ever use to describe this genuine, God-fearing man.

I realized during this sermon, that I too have named myself. My writing doesn't measure up. No matter what you or anyone tells me, I do not and will not measure up. Someone I once held to the highest regard paid me these hurtful words. From that moment on - almost a year and a half ago - I have lived with this statement: I don't measure up. Why does ONE person's statement have this effect on me? I wish I knew the answer to this question. I've pondered it on many, many occasions and sought the counsel of friends. They all have encouraged me to write again. But what if I can't? What if what this person said is true? I've wanted to be a writer since I was 14 years old. I knew I'd never make the "big bucks," but I didn't care, I lived to write. I am not writing this blog to complain, I am writing this for me. I've been encouraged by many, some whom I've worked with, that I need to write again.

So this is me, writing for - well, me.

The idea of blogging makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I hate that feeling because when I'm vulnerable with someone it leaves me wide open to get hurt. It also leaves me wide open for Satan to remind me that "I don't measure up." I think it will take me years to overcome the hurt I've carried from those words, but I've healed some. I know I have.

I recently applied for a job as a staff writer at a publishing house in Nashville. For those who know me, that is a big deal, as I thought I would never write again once leaving Richmond - not because I didn't want to, but because no one would want me. I received an email from the publishing house saying they had received more than 300 resumes for the position and that they'd be in contact with me if they were interested. I knew for sure they'd eliminate me because I could never "measure up" to their standards, expectations and desires.

A week later I received a call requesting me to come in for an interview. Most would feel honored to be chosen out of 300, but I was terrified. I knew for sure they'd see the neon label flashing across my forehead stating "I don't measure up."

But this was different. I realized in the interview that I could do everything the job required, and I could do it knowledgeably. I walked out of the interview feeling somewhat confident - something I haven't felt in a long time. I want to write again. I want to prove that I do, can and will measure up.

I am in a valley, it's not pretty. I'm staring up at a mountain that is smocked in opaque cloud cover. The only way to see what is through the clouds is to climb up. The mountain is steep, but I know I can make it. I have to remind myself that I can make it.

Please pray for me as I struggle to overcome this hurtful name I have been given. I don't want to be known as the one who doesn't measure up. I want to write and use this talent God has given me. Pray for me to gain confidence in my craft and for me to completely forgive my name-giver. Pray that if it's the Lord's will, that I get this job. Pray that I will be able to use this situation for God's glory.

Unacceptable Disrespect by United Airlines

Below is a letter I sent to United Airlines. I will never fly United again if I can help it. Their agents yelled at a disabled lady...

To Whom it May Concern:

Customer service offered by Shawn/Sean at IAD, gate A3/4 on 4/27 at approx 10pm was unacceptable. I have flown all over the world, and been on hundreds of airplanes, but this was by far the rudest encounter I have ever experienced. According to your web-site's customer service promise, "In the air and on the ground, online and on the telephone, our customers have the right to expect — to demand — respect, courtesy, fairness and honesty from the airline they have selected for travel." Shawn was disrespectful to a women his senior, a woman who PAID to fly with your company. He was NOT courteous nor was he fair. I was looking through the 12 points for customer commitment...are these just to save face or does your company really uphold these standards? If they are for real, then step number 7 needs to be shown to Shawn/Sean.


7. Readily, Capably and Respectfully Accommodate Travelers with Special Needs

United’s commitment:

We will provide our customers who have special needs, including individuals with disabilities and unaccompanied minors, with the level of attention, respect and care they deserve.

Below is the encounter btwn Shawn and the elderly lady who couldn't walk (he yelled at her).

A flight to Allentown was overbooked/overweight so they bumped 8 people. Shawn announced they would bump all those who paid the cheapest fair price. One of those people was an elderly lady who couldn't walk. She had two medical bracelets on her arm, one pink and the other yellow. One said "fall risk." She was told a wheelchair was coming to get her and take her to customer service where she could get on another flight the following morning. When no one showed up she asked a United agent about it when he walked by. He blew her off. She began to get visibly flustered. She got out an inhaler and used it twice. A few minutes later, another passenger reminded Shawn the lady needed a wheelchair, he said one was on it's way. At this point it had been almost 30 minutes, and still no wheelchair. The lady began to get more flustered and started to shake, muttering about how she needed to get home to her son. She took out a portable machine and wrapped it around her wrist. I believe it was a blood pressure machine, because she said she needed water to take her blood pressure medicine. Shawn then yelled across the room at her, saying he told her 30 minutes ago to go to customer service - there was still no wheelchair. She said again that she needed water to take her blood pressure medicine, and he yelled again to go to customer service - STILL no wheelchair. This lady could NOT WALK. How was she supposed to get to customer service? She was waiting for United to provide her the services she required, but instead she is humiliated in front of other passengers. So a few ladies, myself included, went to help her. I got her water. She was shaking so badly that she could barely get the pills and water in her mouth. She spilled it on herself, the chair and the floor because she was shaking so severely. She was slightly disoriented from her blood pressure getting so high and was also beginning to sweat. Shawn never once helped or treated this elderly woman like a human being.

I am APPALLED that your airline would allow this to happen. She had someone escorting her during her other flights, and then because she was bumped, she is left high and dry? This is unacceptable. To treat a helpless, handicapped woman, who cannot walk and obviously has medical problems is an atrocity. I have emailed, twittered and facebooked about this and I plan to continue to. I want everyone to know how United treats it's disabled passengers. It is unacceptable. Shawn needs to be punished or fired. If you claim you don't know who I am talking about, I took a photo of him with my phone, so there is no confusion. Here is a link to the photo: http://s618.photobucket.com/albums/tt266/emtravis/?action=view&current=UnitedShawn.jpg

For Shawn to humiliate this woman the way he did is unacceptable. I have only flown United a few times, and every single time I have been delayed going out of IAD. But the way your personnel treated a PAYING DISABLED passenger has sealed the deal for me. I will never fly United again. And I will NEVER suggest it to anyone. I have already told a number of my friends this story and they have agreed that they cannot fly an airline who treats people this way.

United needs to review the 12 points with their agents. I have never seen such disrespect by any other airline. A number of the passengers on my flight 8009 to Richmond said they plan to write and call as well. I plan to report this event on any other website I can. It is unacceptable. I would be glad to talk to someone.


Describe waterboarding to me. Other than it "simulates drowning," as the media puts it.

Waterboarding consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. By forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences drowning and is caused to believe they are about to die.

In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, waterboarding precipitates a gag reflex almost immediately. The technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage. It can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage or, ultimately, death. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/04/05/open-letter-attorney-general-alberto-gonzales

A World War II account:

Chase J. Nielsen, one of the U.S. airmen who flew in the Doolittle raid following the attack on Pearl Harbor, was subjected to waterboarding by his Japanese captors. At their trial for war crimes following the war, he testified "Well, I was put on my back on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. The towel was wrapped around my face and put across my face and water poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I'd get my breath, then they'd start over again… I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death."

A more recent account:

In May 2008, journalist Christopher Hitchens had himself waterboarded in order to experience "as nearly as possible what real waterboarding might be like." Though sympathetic to those who believe that "when contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay."

Hitchens ultimately concluded after being subjected to it twice that "if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

You can read Chris' full account here. Or if you are a more visual being, click here to watch the video of his waterboarding experience.

"The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means," said retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence.

"The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

For all those (Dick Chaney, Condoleezza Rice, former-President G. W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, etc.) who claim it's "not torture" and just an "interrogation technique," maybe you should have someone waterboard you.

Bottom line: IT'S TORTURE

Information from The Washington Post, The Columbia Journal for Transnational Law, Human Rights Watch, The New Yorker, ABC News, thinkprogress.org, Vanity Fair, CNN

Way to go Miss California!

I am intrigued by all the publicity Miss California (a.k.a. Carrie Prejean) is getting for her answer at the Miss USA pageant. She was asked by Perez Hilton (self described queen of media) if she thought every state should follow Vermont in their decision to legalize same-sex marriage. He ended with "Why or why not?"

Apparently he didn't really want her opinion. Carrie told him and the rest of the nation tuning in that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite[-sex] marriage. And you know what? I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman -- no offense to anybody out there -- but that's how I was raised and ... I think that it should be between a man and a woman."

Regardless if you agree or not, there is no reason to bash her (Perez). Perez asked her a question, followed by "why or why not?" What did he expect? Her to answer the way HE wanted her to? Then it's no longer a question of "why or why not?" she believes in something...maybe he should have just told her what to say? But then it wouldn't be a question...

There is speculation that her answer (which she was asked for HER opinion) lost her the crown. She finished runner-up to Miss North Carolina, but she says she has no regrets about her answer.

Being from California where the high court legalized "gay marriage" last year only to have voters reverse that ruling by passing Proposition 8 adds to the controversy surrounding her comments.

"By having to answer that question in front of a national audience, God was testing my character and faith," Carrie told Fox News. "I'm glad I stayed true to myself."

She told NBC's "Today" show, "It's not about being politically correct. For me, it was being biblically correct." She added, regarding her missed opportunity to win the crown, "It wasn't what God wanted for my life that night."

I commend Carrie for standing up for what she believes in. I think everyone should - regardless if it's "politically correct" or not. That's the beauty of our country, you are free to give your opinion. But what's not a beauty is when your answer goes against some sort of "status quo" and you are then mocked for your OPINION. Please.

Prejean is a student at San Diego Christian College in El Cajon just outside San Diego and a volunteer at Shadow Mountain Community Church's International Ministry Center, where she helps refugees learn English, the Christian Examiner reported. Shadow Mountain is where popular TV and radio minister David Jeremiah is pastor.

(some material taken from bpnews.net)

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