Wednesday, February 28, 2007


People reports -- Angelina Jolie's latest role is that of foreign correspondent – penning an op-ed piece for Wednesday's editions of The Washington Post in which she sheds light on the growing violence in Darfur and calls for justice in the region.

Justice for Darfur

By Angelina Jolie
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; Page A19

BAHAI, Chad -- Here, at this refugee camp on the border of Sudan, nothing separates us from Darfur but a small stretch of desert and a line on a map. All the same, it's a line I can't cross. As a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I have traveled into Darfur before, and I had hoped to return. But the UNHCR has told me that this camp, Oure Cassoni, is as close as I can get.

Sticking to this side of the Sudanese border is supposed to keep me safe. By every measure -- killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages -- the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni.

Attacks on aid workers are rising, another reason I was told to stay out of Darfur. By drawing attention to their heroic work -- their efforts to keep refugees alive, to keep camps like this one from being consumed by chaos and fear -- I would put them at greater risk.

I've seen how aid workers and nongovernmental organizations make a difference to people struggling for survival. I can see on workers' faces the toll their efforts have taken. Sitting among them, I'm amazed by their bravery and resilience. But humanitarian relief alone will never be enough.

Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice.

Accountability is a powerful force. It has the potential to change behavior -- to check aggression by those who are used to acting with impunity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said that genocide is not a crime of passion; it is a calculated offense. He's right. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killers' calculus will change.

On Monday I asked a group of refugees about their needs. Better tents, said one; better access to medical facilities, said another. Then a teenage boy raised his hand and said, with powerful simplicity, "Nous voulons une épreuve." We want a trial. He is why I am encouraged by the ICC's announcement yesterday that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader on charges of crimes against humanity.

Some critics of the ICC have said indictments could make the situation worse. The threat of prosecution gives the accused a reason to keep fighting, they argue. Sudanese officials have echoed this argument, saying that the ICC's involvement, and the implication of their own eventual prosecution, is why they have refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

It is not clear, though, why we should take Khartoum at its word. And the notion that the threat of ICC indictments has somehow exacerbated the problem doesn't make sense, given the history of the conflict. Khartoum's claims aside, would we in America ever accept the logic that we shouldn't prosecute murderers because the threat of prosecution might provoke them to continue killing?

When I was in Chad in June 2004, refugees told me about systematic attacks on their villages. It was estimated then that more than 1,000 people were dying each week.

In October 2004 I visited West Darfur, where I heard horrific stories, including accounts of gang-rapes of mothers and their children. By that time, the UNHCR estimated, 1.6 million people had been displaced in the three provinces of Darfur and 200,000 others had fled to Chad.

It wasn't until June 2005 that the ICC began to investigate. By then the campaign of violence was well underway.

As the prosecutions unfold, I hope the international community will intervene, right away, to protect the people of Darfur and prevent further violence. The refugees don't need more resolutions or statements of concern. They need follow-through on past promises of action.

There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene -- airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment -- but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice.

In my five years with UNHCR, I have visited more than 20 refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Congo, Kosovo and elsewhere. I have met families uprooted by conflict and lobbied governments to help them. Years later, I have found myself at the same camps, hearing the same stories and seeing the same lack of clean water, medicine, security and hope.

It has become clear to me that there will be no enduring peace without justice. History shows that there will be another Darfur, another exodus, in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and retribution. But an international court finally exists. It will be as strong as the support we give it. This might be the moment we stop the cycle of violence and end our tolerance for crimes against humanity.

What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That's what we should deliver.

The writer is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Virus of Death

It took down the 5th kid, moved on to Will, and finally, got me too. Maybe "death" is a bit of an exaggeration, but there have been moments over the last 19 days of illness (yes, I'm counting!), that any one of us might have chosen it. This is one NASTY cold!!!

Grandma and Grandpa returned to their snowy home on Friday. It's a bummer that their entire visit was taken over by sick people, but they were still relieved to have the chance to thaw out for a few days. They returned just in time for another snow storm, and to see my sister off to Korea. She and her husband will be living there for the next 10+ months while he serves in the Army. It has been a long 2 months for a couple newlyweds to be apart since he deployed in January. I'm sure the reunion will be sweet!!

I took my four oldest kids in for physicals this week. I'm pleased to say that everyone got a clean bill of health. One notable moment came when we looked at the growth chart for my 4 year old. We knew he was big for his age, but would have never guessed he'd fall into the 125th percentile for both height and weight! He is completely off the chart!! Holy Moly!!!

I'm off the go drink some more hot tea, and cuddle up to my box of Kleenex.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

6 Years Ago Today

We met the Sunday after I was widowed. When he approached me, I had no idea who he was.

He said, "If you ever need to talk to someone that kind of gets it, you can call me."

"And, you are?", I replied.

With a surprised look on his face, he said, slightly embarrassed, "Oh, I'm Will McC. I'm sorry. I guess I thought everyone knew me by now."

As soon as I heard his last name, I knew exactly who he was. It was only a few weeks before that I read about his wife passing in the church bulletin. I politely thanked him, and quickly headed out of the church before the next round of tears started.

A few weeks later, we ended up at a church function together. Since we live in Southern California, we rarely see snow. The previous week, a TON of snow had fallen on the nearby mountains. A member of our congregation, that lived in the mountains, was gracious enough to invite all that wished to come, to play in the snow at her house. We both knew our kids would love it, and all of us needed a joyful moment in the middle of all the grief. So, in between snowball fights and sled runs down the nearby hills, Will and I ended up in our friend's kitchen. We chatted about this and that; nothing too deep or important. When he discovered my age, he teased me about being little more than toddler when he was already playing high school ball. It was a fun day, but not remarkable..

As the months went by, we greeted each other as we picked up our children from their classroom on Sunday mornings. It turned out, we had children in the same class; a fact previously unknown to both of us. We even attended "Brown Bag Lunch" together a couple times. This was a time that church members could just come to the church to share lunch with the Pastor and staff. It was completely informal, and a great way to get to know other members, and become more of a church "family".

Finally, as the Summer was drawing to a close, it was time for "Family Camp". I was a bit unnerved about trying to camp with two young children without my husband to help me out, but I knew my church family (who had been SOOOO supportive) would be there, so I moved ahead with my plans to attend. We drove to the site with a good friend, and were overwhelmed with love, help, support and understanding when we arrived. In no time at all, my tent was set up, my children were playing happily with the other kids, and I was enjoying a much needed social time with other adults. I felt as blessed as I had ever been!

As darkness fell over our group campsite, I saw what seemed like a million stars in the sky, and could hear the waves pounding on the beach. As beautiful as our campsite was, I longed to walk in the sand and to watch the beautiful waves roll in. Since my kids were asleep, and many dear friends had offered to keep an eye on them for me, I started asking around to see if someone would be willing to walk over to the beach with me. You see, as lovely as it was to look at, this was definitely not a calm stretch of sand, and a highway had to be crossed to get there. Therefore, one of the camp "rules" was that we could NEVER go to the beach alone. By this time, most people were tired, busy playing a game, watching over their own children, etc.I was feeling very disappointed, and was about to give up, when Will approached. He asked me if anyone had agreed to go to the beach with me, and when I told him they hadn't, he offered to go. I was thrilled!!

We chatted casually (if a bit uncomfortably) as we walked through the campground toward the beach. We waited for a couple cars to go by, then darted across the highway. No sooner had we set foot on the sand, but a falling star was right in front of us. We both halted, and stared at it's loveliness. After a moment, we walked silently down the beach. A few minutes later, we started to talk. We talked for hours. During our conversation, we saw multiple falling stars, and what seemed to be neon in the foam of the cresting waves. It was as if God was putting on a show just for us. It was chilly in the ocean breeze in the wee hours of the morning. I hinted that my hands were cold, but both of us were far too timid to make the move to hold the other's hand. We finally decided to head back to camp.

The second night of camp, after the kids were asleep, we chatted around the campfire with friends. The final night of camp, we repeated our walk on the beach. It felt magical, but kind of scary. What were we doing? What did this mean? We were both too afraid to make a move.

On the way home from camp, I stopped for lunch with my kids. Out of nowhere, a man came up and offered me four tickets to a local sporting event. Since he was there with his wife, and handed me the tickets right there on the spot, I decided it was OK to accept them. All the way home, I wracked my brain about who to invite to go to the event with me. A few people came to mind, but I kept coming back to Will. You see, he is the ULTIMATE sports fan!! Through a mutual friend (and her husband), I set up a double date.

I had butterflies in my stomach as the big night approached. Part of me was terrified to take a chance like this, knowing what I could lose, but the other part of me knew the treasure that was this wonderful man. Our date could not have gone any better. When Will took me home, and kissed me on the front porch as we said good night, I knew he was the one for me. We ended up on the phone for hours that night, and have hardly spent a day apart since. I had truly found my soul mate!

After a few short months, Will asked both sets of my parents (Mom & Step-Dad, Dad & Step-Mom), and my In-laws (late husband's parent's), for my hand in marriage. With all of their blessings, he asked me to marry him, and I happily accepted! We were married in front of our children, a few close friends, and A WHOLE LOT of family; six years ago today. The losses that led to our marriage were incredibly sad and difficult to bear, but it truth, I wouldn't change a thing. Our broken hearts rejoiced in the new found joy, love, comfort and healing, in a way that would have been impossible without the pain and grief of the previous months. While I often struggled to understand, I am so grateful that God knew my heart, and had a far greater plan for me than I could have ever imagined. I am especially grateful that it included Will!!

At the 11th Hour

We did manage to get away from the house tonight. So really it was 8:00pm when we finally left, not 11:00pm, but it sure felt like a near miss!! In truth, nothing is guaranteed. Hence, the reason we are staying 15 minutes from our house. The good news is, Grandma Carroll seems to be rallying, one kid went back to school today, and Grace has been fever free for 24 hours. The downside, one kid (the pre-teen girl) is feeling just well enough to have some of her spunk back (Heaven help us all!!), one kid is in the worst part of this particular virus, and the four-year-old (bless his pea pickin' little heart) is having EXTREME melt-downs. This is either virus related, or he has lost his ever loving mind!! Of course, I haven't even mentioned the fact that we have never left Grace overnight, and only twice (for a few hours) during the day. Fortunately for Grandma, Grandpa John is flying in on Sunday morning to help her out.

Thank you to all of you that have offered up prayers on our behalf so far. Obviously, they have been working, as we were able to leave on our trip. Just please keep praying that our much needed break will not have to be disturbed by a frantic call from Grandma. You all are the best!!!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

We now have a 4th sick kid! Grandma Carroll, who came out from Colorado to watch the kids so Will and I could go away for our Anniversary this weekend, just had her doctor call in a prescription for cough syrup because she is starting to feel less than 100%. Things are not boding well for our trip. Dang it!!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tournament of Champions

Just a minute ago, my four year old came running into the family room to announce, "Hey, Mommy! Between you and me, Grandma's the worst Slap Jack player EVER!!"

Concerned about protecting Grandma's status and pride, I asked, "Really? Why do you say that?"

He quickly responded, "Because I'm a professional, and I beat her!"

World's Best Husband

Instead of giving me roses today....

Will filled EVERY vase in the house with flowers (roses included)!!! This was the first thing I saw when I walked into the kitchen this morning....

And, just in case you might have thought he forgot to indulge my sweet tooth, check this out....

MMMMMMmmmmmmm!!!! I guess it's a good thing I did a little Valentine's Day shopping myself, huh?!

I love you Sweetheart!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Puking, Fevers & Phlegm, Oh My!!!

My two biggest kids, and now the youngest, have been down with high fevers, vomiting and severe congestion, with coughing, since Friday afternoon. The doctor told us that we are looking at a "severe" head cold, with croup and laryngitis.So far, no antibiotics, but lots of Tylenol, Motrin, Mucinex DM, Sudafed and now, Phenegrin with Codiene. They are also sleeping with humidifiers and large bowls next to their beds. The rest of us are keeping the carpet cleaner and anti-bacterial soap handy. Please keep us in prayer.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beautifully Stated

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let us down, probably will. We will have our hearts broken, probably more than once, and it's harder every time. We'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. We'll fight with our best friends. We'll blame a new love for things an old one did. We'll cry because time is passing too fast, and we'll eventually lose someone we love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt; because every sixty seconds you spend upset, is a minute of happiness you'll never get back. Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.


I don't know why this is hitting me today, but just for me, go hug someone you love. Tell them, "I love you." Even better, make it someone that you haven't told in a while, or will be surprised by the revelation. Live! It's a precious gift.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What the heck....

....happened to Winter?!?!?!

It was 88 degrees here today. Ugh!!!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More Practice

Since Grace's hair is too short for most styles, Kayla was nice enough to let me practice some of the new stuff I've been learning on her. She wiggles a lot less than Grace too. 8^) One of the ladies in the Hair/Skin Care Group recently said, "If you can do these styles on slippery Caucasian hair, then Black hair will be a breeze." I don't know it that's true, but getting Kayla's long, slick hair all parted and put up was not an easy feat. I'm pretty happy with the results though, and even more importantly, so is she. 8^)