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Freedom Starter Kits #Mondayblogs

Back on November 5th, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a group that did a holiday soup kitchen.  I know we are rural and at times disorganized, but somewhere there had to be someone handing out hot turkey sandwiches with a side of cranberry sauce to those who are lonesome and less fortunate on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I had some really good suggestions.  Several people recommended contacting our local Salvation Army.  Turns out, we don’t really have a local chapter of the Salvation Army.  There are several locations in Hampton Roads which happens to be separated from us by a body of water.  I want to hand out those turkey sandwiches to my wayward neighbors.  Traveling to another area defeated the purpose.  There are local churches that have designated days of the week they provide meals for the hungry.  That didn’t quite fit what I was looking for either.

Friday afternoon a brilliant idea came to me.

Freedom Starter Kits.

Freedom Starter Kit MJM

Some of you may know that many moons ago I was in a horrible relationship. Like many women in bad situations, when you leave you often leave with just the clothes on your back. When I was finally brave enough to run, I can’t tell you how devastating it was to realize I didn’t even have a toothbrush.

I started putting together care kits for the Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The care kits include 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner, a comb, tampons, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste and body soap. I’m hoping these ‘Freedom Starter Kits’ will help victims of domestic violence though a very challenging time in their lives.  It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back… or the lack of a toothbrush.

At first, I posted a picture on my Facebook page asking my friends to help by donating or sharing the photo.  It wasn’t long after that I decided to up my game.  Facebook has become a popularity contest and it is hard to get your post seen by your friends.  I created an event and invited all of my friends.  The response was immediate.  People joined the event and invited their friends.  An official donation list was created.  Three drop off locations were established.  This was all done in less that twenty-four hours.

I currently have six completed Freedom Starter Kits in my possession. The interest in this project has absolutely exceeded my expectations – which is FANTASTIC! What is frightening is how many people have said, “I’ve been in that situation myself.” This tells me that I was not a minority all those years ago. Domestic violence is real and it is going on all the time right under our noses.

I know many of my followers are far and wide so donating to this particular cause is not reasonable.  I bet there is a similar group in your area that could use the same sort of project.  When it comes time for you to share your holiday cheer, branch out and think about those groups overlooked during Christmas.  Let’s give someone a fresh start on a brand new life.

For updates on how this project is going, please join the Facebook event : Freedom Starter Kits. 

How do you give back during the holiday season?

****UPDATE****** A GoFundMe campaign has been set up at gofund.me/freedomkit for anyone who would like to make a donation!

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A #WordlessWednesday For My Mama

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Soul Pancake…stress reduction the right way:)

Melanie Jo Moore:

Love this! How do you rent a box of kittens for thirty minutes?

Originally posted on Rethinking Life:

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Birding Under The Weather #mondayblogs

Thursday I felt a little “funny”.

Friday morning I felt “not quite right”.

By Friday afternoon I could feel myself starting to slip in No Man’s Land.  I was coming down with the disgusting cold that was going around my workplace.

I’m proud to say that I can shake most colds.  I may have a quick symptom or two and the short lived bug moves along to its next victim.  However, this has turned into one of those colds that cause you to stare at nothing and occasionally moan.  Stupid cold.

I was treating it with the best known remedies in my arsenal.  First, I was eating Mrs. Fearnow’s Delicious Brunswick Stew.  That’s right, ailments.  You should be in fear now of this delicious Brunswick stew.  My family has fed me this time and time again. (My grandmother would also throw in Caffeine Free Coke for good measure.)


I recommend popping the top and eating it right out of the can.


Too much of a wuss to do the real deal and eat it straight out of the can with a spoon?  I hear you.  In that case, put it in a coffee mug with a cat on the front.  Before enjoying your stew, you should down a shot of Dayquil.


You see that right.  That is indeed a shot glass of DayQuil.  If you are going to hang with this cootie infested gangsta… you’ve got to be real about your DayQuil.  Get out the shot glass and be a real G.

This was how I was planning to spend Sunday.  Downing the DayQuil and drowning my sorrows in Mrs. Fearnow’s Delicious Brunswick Stew.  I was ready to veg out and get better.  Then I received this message from my bird watching mentor.

“I know you are sick but this bird is worth getting out of bed for…..”

That, my friends, is the Western Kingbird.  Isn’t he gorgeous?  Absolutely amazing in his natural setting.  The thing about the Western Kingbird is he should be in the western United States, not Virginia.


Saturday and Sunday, the bird had been spotted perching on a power line twenty miles south of my home.  For someone who doesn’t fly (read:me) this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this bird.  I could barely slink off the couch but I knew I had to go find this bird.  At this point, he may have continued migrating on his lost route but I had to try.

After getting dressed, I grabbed my Honey -n-Lemon Hall’s cough drops, my Sibley’s Field Guide and my binoculars.  I stumbled to my car in a way that may have caused a neighborhood panic about the Zombie Apocalypse.

I know what you are thinking.  “Mel, you sound like you may have been too sick to drive.”  Don’t worry!  I thought about that.


I brought Cody.  You may ask, “Why on Earth did you think Cody was up to the challenge of driving if you couldn’t?”

I can tell you that the best sign that a dog is ready to take care of you in a time of illness is if he tries to lick the snot out of your nose.  See the look on his face?  That dog is determined to help.

A side note here.  If you are asking your dog to drive the car for you, you will want to make sure he is wearing his best winter coat.  A recent study showed that police officers are much more lenient on unlicensed dog drivers if they are dressed nicely.


We headed South, Cody with his nose out the window and I with my brain in a fog.  We turned off the highway and began patrolling a three mile area of country road where the bird had been spotted.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  I gave Cody an accurate description of what he should have been looking for on the power line.  This was either a ballsy move to trust a dog who doesn’t understand eating plastic is bad or a true sign of my mental stability while sick.

An hour later, the only thing we had found was a neighborhood of concerned citizens to why a white blazer kept driving by their houses at ten miles an hour.  I pulled off the road and blew my nose.

“Cody, I think we are going to have to give up.  It’s been an hour and we haven’t seen a thing.  We missed him, Cody.  We missed him.”

Now, that dog doesn’t understand bird watching, but he does understand disappointment.  (Examples:  Cody, why did you eat that plastic?  Cody, why did you pee on my new flowers?  Cody, why did you chew up the azalea bush?  Cody, why did you tear open that bag of coffee beans?  Cody, WHY?)  After I declared our failed birding attempt, he sighed and placed his head on my shoulder.

“Let’s go, Bud.”

Moments if not seconds after I put the car in gear, the Western Kingbird suddenly appeared.  I drove in panic mode to the closest driveway and jumped out of the car.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to see something that is so rare even if you are sickly.

I also can’t tell you why no one called the cops on us.  It had to be quite the scene to those homeowners.  A girl hobbling up their driveway, peering with binoculars at the sky and then in their backyard.  The girl who may be infected with some sort of plague is yelling to her dog in the car, (“Cody!  Are you looking?  Did you see how yellow his belly was?  This is AMAZING!” *cough, cough, cough*) and to the trees (Mr. Kingbird!  I am so thrilled I had the chance to meet you.  I’m so sorry you are off course but this is truly an honor!)

Some time passed and I realized it was time for us to move along.  I hopped in the car to head back to my couch but not before stopping at the Machipongo Trading Post and getting a celebratory snack.


Mmmm… brownie sundae and Bac’n’Cheese dog cookies!

That’s another thing about Cody.  He doesn’t understand birding, but he certainly understands the post-birding reward system.


For more birding adventures with Cody, check out That Dog Won’t Hunt and From The Desk Of The Dog:  How My Summer Flew Away. 

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You Bought It, You Read It: The Poisonwood Bible #Mondayblogs


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I do love me some Barbara Kingsolver.  I started book crushing on her back in the early 2000′s when I first read Prodigal Summer and then The Bean Trees.  It’s safe to say that I’m no Kingsolver virgin.

The Overview From Amazon:

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband’s part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father’s intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

Dancing between the dark comedy of human failings and the breathtaking possibilities of human hope, The Poisonwood Bible possesses all that has distinguished Barbara Kingsolver’s previous work, and extends this beloved writer’s vision to an entirely new level. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers.

My Review:

With over two thousand reviews on Amazon and an average rating of four stars, Kingsolver has obviously won over most readers when it comes to this book.  Did I enjoy the story?   Yes.  Was I glad that I took the time to read a book that some reviewers said was just too long?  Yes.  Were there times that I wanted to strangle some of those lead characters?


I’ve never quite figured out how I feel about missionary work.  I am totally down with people donating their time and resources to help improve the health of communities in need.  That is all well with me.  I get wishy-washy when the agenda of the mission is to force Christianity down the throats of people who chose to believe in another god.  Teach them about disinfecting, fine!  Proper hygiene to prevent disease, great!  Tell them Jesus will save them from their heathen gods… now that’s where we don’t see eye to eye.  I guess years of my own ‘religious potpourri’ (you can thank my sister for that term) has made me realize how church pushy some certain followers can be.  It’s nothing personal people.  You have your God.  I have Buddha, some saints, a few Jewish holidays and a love of Mother Earth.

We could go on about religious differences and when it is or isn’t okay to brainwash indigenous people.  Let’s talk about all the bitch slapping I would have done if I was a character in this book!

The father needed a good bitch slapping and I said so out loud on numerous occasions.  I read this book during the summer when I had the mockingbirds and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them is off in the woods saying, ‘he needs a bitch slapping’ right now.  I understand that he wanted to help the people in this community of the Congo, but at some point you have to say to yourself, “my children are going to be toast if I don’t get them out of here.”  PS – stop trying to baptize a group of people in a river they know is full of man-eating crocodiles.

The mother needed bitch slapping for staying when she knew the risk.  I don’t understand a lot about motherhood but I can tell you this … if my dog was in danger of dying of malaria or at the hands of armed men… you bet your ass I would be carrying him to the fastest mode of transportation out of there.  I don’t care what my God fearing preacher man husband would say.  Get the dog ( or children, whatever applies best to you) and get the hell out of there.  Every man for himself!

The oldest daughter needed a good lashing, screw the bitch slapping.  Every chapter from her perspective would bring on more evidence she was a self-centered idiot.  My phrase for her chapters were, “are you for real?”

Throughout the book, you are made aware from the mother’s recollections that one of the children dies.  They all have horrible moments that make you sure they are done for, but wait … they are still alive!  By the time one of the children did die, I was almost convinced that I had been misreading the mother.  Were any of these kids going to die?

They will. Patience.  They will.

The final chapters seemed to be the hot topic for a lot of reviewers.  Kingsolver almost does a ‘Where Are They Now’ section.  I myself enjoyed this because I really wanted to know what Kingsolver thought would happen to these characters.  It gave me some much needed closure from the circus that had occurred in the previous four hundred pages.

As always, I found Kingsolver’s method of writing magical and captivating.

I do recommend this book because I think it is good to read books that push your buttons and force you to live outside your comfort zone.  It gave me some very interesting perspective on missionary work and the dangers they may face.  It’s not my favorite Kingsolver book, but I’m not going to give up on her because of it.

Find out more about Barbara Kingsolver on her website.

Next on You Bought It, You Read It:  The Dog Year by Ann Wertz Garvin.

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