(Not at all) Wordless Wednesday: Happy World Toilet Day!

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Toilets in Nicaragua. Photos by Jennifer Iacovelli

Is it weird that I’m excited for World Toilet Day? I mean, what other day allows for potty talk all day long? And you can get away with making a photo collage of latrines.

World Toilet Day was created by the United Nations to recognize the life-saving importance of toilets and sanitation and to raise awareness about the fact that one in three people around the world have no safe and sanitary place to “go” when nature calls.

If you follow me, you know clean water and sanitation are important causes for me. You also know that WaterAid America is an organization close to my heart.

I was honored to have traveled to Nicaragua back in March to see WaterAid’s work on the ground. I saw how women and teenage girls were being trained to build and maintain wells and toilets, giving them skills, income and a better way of life for their entire community. I stayed at Linda’s house where I ate dinner with a headlamp on, slept under a mosquito net, and climbed up rickety stairs to get to the outdoor toilet (pictured in the above collage on the left) while dodging livestock.

While there are times I wish I could go back to the simplicity of Nicaragua, the sheer lack of clean water, sanitation and infrastructure still boggles my mind.

WaterAid released the Child of Mine report today. The image below gives you a snapshot of the findings. The statistics are staggering. (Download the full 12-page report)

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So what is WaterAid America doing to bring awareness to these issues on World Toilet Day? On Friday, November 21 Hallie Tamez, WaterAid America’s Associate Director of Major Gifts, will  be carrying a 40-pound jerry can filled with water across Manhattan in solidarity with the women and girls across the globe who have no choice but to do this every day.

How cool is that? (Actually, I told Hallie she was pretty badass. Because she is. Just look at that photo below.) Hallie says:

The #Steps4Water event will highlight the daily experiences of women and children living without clean water. As we shed light on this issue, we look forward to welcoming new supporters to help raise funds on #GivingTuesday, December 2, 2014.

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Go, Hallie, go!

You can find Hallie’s route on WaterAid’s website. If you spot her and post a photo to Instagram, tagged with @WaterAidAmerica and #Steps4Water, you could win a dinner for two at Spasso NYC.

So what can you do? Here are some action steps for you on World Toilet Day:

  • Stay tuned for updates from WaterAid America CEO Sarina Prabasi on Twitter via @SPrabasi and @WaterAidAmerica on World Water Day as she talks about open defecation and the challenges for women and girls at a special UN panel alongside representatives from UN Water, the Republic of Singapore and more. The event will be webcast on United Nations Web TV from 1p.m. to 3p.m. EDT on November 19.
  • Ask Congress to support the Water for the World Act. The US House Foreign Affairs Committee will be debating the bill on November 20. It’s our last chance to get the bill passed before year end!
  • Celebrate the importance of toilets with WaterAid and their friends at Go Green Environmental Services at a World Toilet Day celebration (PDF, 300KB) with live music, free food and beer at 119 Rocky Point Road, Middle Island, New York on November 19 at 4p.m. EDT.
  • Test your toilet trivia and learn more about sanitation at the Eww! What’s Eating You? exhibit at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas.
  • Read more about the sanitation crisis

Clash of the Couples: Lynn vs. Scott

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I recently had the opportunity to be part of the cover reveal for the book Clash of the Couples. You may remember that Clash of the Couples is the follow up to the book I co-authored, The Mother of All Meltdowns. In that cover reveal post, I mentioned that I actually know several of the authors via the blogging world and that four are from the state I reside in, Maine.

Well, I also know one of the authors personally (as in I actually see her in person from time to time!). In fact, Lynn Shattuck and I used to work for the same nonprofit mental health agency. That’s how we met. Ten years ago.  Over the years, I also got to know her husband, Scott. So when Crystal Ponti, the managing editor for Clash of the Couples and fellow Mainer, asked if I was interested in doing an author’s question and answer session, I immediately suggested interviewing both Lynn and Scott. Because there are two sides to every lovers’ squabble, right?

Before we get into the questions and answers from Lynn and Scott, I want to share a quick quote from Lynn’s story in the book entitled “A Hypothetical Situation.” 

I glanced at his profile, strong and handsome. Our disagreement had started innocently, with my offhand remark. But throughout the course of our conversation, as was my pattern, I’d swallowed the argument whole, convincing myself that this ridiculousness mattered. Seriously, would he think I was still hot if I was obese or limbless?  Why, in the name of all that is right and holy, couldn’t I get in his belly? And, dammit, why couldn’t we have mocha-skinned, sapphire-eyed little muffins?

You’ll have to buy the book and read the full story. It’s hilarious.

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Photo credit: Kevin Ouelette of Amazing DJ Sound and Photography

Now for the interviews!

Lynn’s Q & A:

How did Scott react when you told him you’d be contributing to a book called Clash of the Couples? Were you nervous at all? (Personally I found it a bit intimidating to contribute a story about my worst meltdown as a mother when I was asked to be in The Mother of All Meltdowns.)

I actually told Scott about the call for submissions for ridiculous arguments couples have, and he instantly mentioned the one I ended up writing about, which I’d forgotten about! Since his role in the story was the more rational party, he didn’t mind that I’d written about it and was excited for me. I was nervous that people would think I was racially insensitive, but so far haven’t heard that from anyone.

Was it hard to pick a story to share for the book? Or did you have plenty to choose from? (Tell the truth!)

While Scott and I have had plenty of arguments, I definitely think I captured the most ridiculous one!

Do you have a favorite story in the book? Which one and why?

I really liked Kathryn Leehane’s story about a sandwich. I love her writing, and she definitely captured the silliness that can happen in a relationship.

Do you have any advice to share with couples on how to not clash so much?

As far as advice for other couples on not clashing? I am certainly no expert. I’m working– very slowly– on not reacting when Scott asks something of me that I’m not happy about. Also? Couples therapy is priceless.

What’s next for you? Any other books in the works?

I’ve recently become a blogger for mom.me, and that’s been really fun. I also have a story in an upcoming anthology called Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor.

Scott’s Q & A:

What do you think about Lynn being in a tell-all book about lovers’ squabbles and relationship spats?

I am all for it, particularly since I knew she would keep the cannon pointed at herself based on the stories she was talking about including. She had actually forgotten about getting angry that I “wouldn’t let her in my belly” so I like to think I added to the story a bit.

Men and women tend to see things differently, as illustrated in the book. How accurate is Lynn’s story? Anything you want to add to it? (This is your chance!)

It was quite truthy, although I would expect I am much more hilarious and handsome than I came across.

If you were to contribute to the book, what story would you tell?

Honestly I would have picked the ones she did, and perhaps our first ever fight about changing names upon marriage. That one ended when she asked me why I didn’t change my name instead.

Have you read the book? (Tell the truth!) If so, do you have a favorite story? (And you’re not allowed to say Lynn’s!)

I have not read the whole book I’m ashamed to say, but I did read some of the stories in the advance. OTHER THAN MY DARLING BRIDE’S HILARIOUS AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING STORY (lest I provide fodder for the book’s sequel already) I really enjoyed “I Can’t Believe You Ate My Sandwich.” Hell hath no fury like someone who messes with a hungry individual in our house.

Do you have any advice to share with couples on how to not clash so much?

You mean take my advice since I clearly don’t use it? Consider not just what you’re saying but the tone with which you say it.

Point well taken, Scott.

Well, there you have it. They are clearly a cute couple and even picked the same favorite story. I guess the “vs.” part in the title wasn’t really necessary.

Be sure to buy the book Clash of the Couples to read Lynn’s and all the other fun couples stories. It’s a great read. You can also read Lynn’s blog at The Light Will Find You.

Do you have a good couple clashing story? 

Philanthropy Friday: Heart of Haiti

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

Disclosure: I received a beautiful tobacco leaf tray as a gift from Everywhere Society as part of their Macy’s Heart of Haiti initiative. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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With Thanksgiving in just two weeks, gratitude is on the mind. As I head into my first Thanksgiving as a single mother, I am overcome with the amount of things I am truly thankful for this year. Three healthy, resilient and loving boys (two of the human kind and one of the canine kind). A slew of friends, new and hold, who have shown more love and support than I ever expected. A great new place to live. A successful business that is my passion. Amazing trips and opportunities. I could go on an on.

I cannot think of anything I truly want or need that I don’t already have right now.

When I was in Nicaragua earlier this year, I experienced poverty at a level that I had never seen before in person. I was told it was the poorest nation in the western hemisphere second only to Haiti. This January marks the five year anniversary since the devastating earthquake shook Haiti and caused catastrophic damage in an already third world nation. Thinking about the circumstances in these countries keeps things in perspective when I’m having a bad day. We have so much to be thankful for here in America.

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Haitian artisans make tobacco leaf trays. Photos provided by Everywhere Society.

Macy’s went to Haiti shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake and realized that, despite the devastation, there was an artist community that existed. They were eager to bring the products of these Haitian artisans to market. Macy’s launched the Heart of Haiti product line for sale online and in stores, including Macy’s Herald Square, Brooklyn Downtown, Metro Center, Chicago State Street, Northland Center, Seattle Downtown, Portland Downtown, San Francisco Union Square, Biltmore Fashion Park, South Coast Plaza Home, Mission Valley Home, Dallas Galleria, Lenox Square Mall, and Dadeland Mall.

To date, Heart of Haiti has employed 400 artists. These artisans are able to create beautiful, unique items using only the scraps and materials they have around them. Materials like old paper, cement bags and tobacco leaves like those that were used to create my gorgeous tray.

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Every item purchased from the Heart of Haiti product line from Macy’s provides sustainable income for a Haitian artisan and her extended family. To put the impact of a Heart of Haiti purchase into perspective a bit, the average Haitian’s annual income is only $400 for an entire year. With an estimated 400,000 artisans (out of a 10M population) who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income, no other sector of employment even approaches such numbers. Macy’s, using a Trade-Not-Aid approach, has paved the way in helping to rebuild this important sector of a fragile economy.

As we move into the holiday season, I urge you to consider gifts that also give back. Macy’s Heart of Haiti product line is beautiful, affordable, handmade and provides sustainable income for Haitian artists and their families.

What are you thankful for this season?

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