Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hike at Ralph Stover State Park

On Sunday, Frank and I decided it was a great day for a hike! We love hikes for a number of reasons including that they are good for exercise, but also we enjoy the fresh air, element of adventure, and the absolute beauty of nature. We've been on this particular hike several times, but in the past we have only gone as far as a small cave we found and enjoyed sitting in. This time, we decided to find the cave again, but we then continued our hike in the opposite direction and ended up climbing over a barrier to create our own path down a very steep hillside to get to the river at the bottom in the valley at the end of the trails. As we were venturing down this steep hill, we found gorgeous cliffs and rock climbers. I would not recommened jumping over the rail as we did (apparently we were tresspassing! oops!) but I would recommend this hike to anyone!

Ralph Stover January 2010

Ralph Stover November 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A couple delicious recipes I used today...Reggio Shrimp & Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Reggio Shrimp:

1 lb. Shrimp
1 red bell pepper (or roasted red peppers)
2 tbls olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs. aceto balsamico
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
chopped parsley

Clean shrimp & remove tails.
Saute mushrooms in olive oil, then add half of the garlic. Add bell peppers, mix together. Add shrimp, aceto balsamico & wine. Add rest of garlic. Bring to simmer. Season with salt/pepper (hot pepper if you want), garnish with parsley and serve with rice or pasta.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe 
Pumpkin Spice Cookies


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 1/2 cups white sugar 1 cup canned pumpkin puree 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups confectioners' sugar 3 tablespoons milk 1 tablespoon melted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

When Helping Hurts

 When Helping Hurts - By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

           So, the book I've been mentioning in the past couple of posts... When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself By: Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert turned out to be a very controversial book! During our Zimbabwe team meeting this past Sunday, we all were supposed to discuss the book (since we were all supposed to read it), but it turned out to be less of a discussion and more of a brief "book bashing", if you will. I was pretty upset, because I found the book extremely profound and helpful. However, the majority of the responses to the book were something like, "It offended me!".
           Although, I will admit that this book tends to generalize a bit and come off alittle strong at certain points, I found the message to be extremely informative. I was offended too! But more offended that I have at times had the wrong attitude when helping someone in the past and did not realize that some of the things I thought were helpful were actually quite hurtful.
           Anyway, I will leave it for you to decide. I will continue my post with some of the highlights of the book. Let me know what you think about all this!

The introduction starts off with the authors proclaiming their 2 convictions: First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world...And, in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America. We do not necessarily need to feel guility about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn to strive to do something about it...Second,...when North American Christians do attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor. Our concern is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.
I resonate with both of these arguments, but the question that comes to mind is, "Well, how can we respond to poverty differently?" And, "How do we spread these 2 convictions to the entire American Christian church?"

The authors go on to explain that there are four different kinds of poverty and that often Americans tend to treat only the material type of poverty. This they claim is only treating the symptoms. They say:
When a sick person goes to the doctor, the doctor could make two crucial mistakes: (1) Treating symptoms instead of the underlying illness; (2) Misdiagnosing the underlying illness and prescribing the wrong medicine. Either one of these mistakes will result in teh patient not getting better and possibly getting worse. The same is true when we work with poor people. If we treat only the symptoms or if we misdiagnose the underlying problem, we will not improve their situation, and we might actually make their lives worse.
I've found that the main point of the book comes down to this one phrase, "Spending yourself" often involves more than giving a heandout to a poor person...
and also that, human beings are multifaceted, implying that poverty-alleviation efforts should be multifaceted as well.

This book explains that as non-poor people, we need to experience a change in the way that we see the poor and the causes of their poverty so that we can then change the way that we help the poor. The authors hope that this will help us to more adequately alleviate poverty and in the process prevent doing harm along the way.

There is WAY more important stuff in this book including examples of true stories and practical ways that we can help better. I encourage you all to read it!! But for now, I'll leave you with those words.

Here's a link to the website for the book: http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/
It has examples, exercises, and will give you a general idea as to what the book is about.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I love anything pumpkin flavored!! Found this GREAT recipe! Enjoy (it only has 100 calories per cupcake!)

Pumpkin-Pie Cupcakes 
By Jennifer Iserloh
Serves 8


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 egg white

1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided

8 mini muffin liners

2 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese, at room temperature

2 teaspoons trans-fat-free margarine

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt

Grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)


Heat oven to 350°. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt until combined. Set aside. Mash granulated sugar and butter in another bowl until combined. Stir in egg white, then pumpkin, milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Add dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Pour batter into lined mini muffin cups to three quarters full. Bake until cupcakes spring back to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes. Beat cream cheese, margarine and confectioners' sugar in a bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Add yogurt and remaining 1/2 tsp vanilla; beat until combined. When cupcakes cool, frost and garnish with zest, if desired.
111 calories per cupcake (without zest), 4.7 g fat (2 g saturated), 14.9 g carbs, 0.5 g fiber, 2.1 g protein

Castle Hike

So, Frank and I love to go for hikes. We haven't been on a good hike in a long time and a couple weeks ago he brought me to this really cool place in Ramapo, NJ. At the top of a really steep hike up a small mountain (yes, it's pretty steep) there are ruins of a stone mansion that appeared to be burned down at some point. There are 3 fireplaces in the house, beautiful brick detailing above the huge windows, and a guest house in the front. We also found an inground pool and a tower they used for energy further up the mountain. I would encourage anyone to do this hike! It also has a breathtaking view from the top and a very clear view of the New York City  skyline. Enjoy the pictures!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Zimbabwe Team Picture :)

Hey! So this is a picture taken at our last Zimbabwe meeting at the Pavkov's house. From Left to Right, top row, then bottom row: Maria Vesper, Nathan Tuckey, Jeremy Moore, Bonnie & Ken Pavkov, Steve Sargent, Rose Stapely, Me, Alicia Waranis & Dan Arthur.

The trip is coming up soon!! I'll post later about the book we had to read...so stay posted.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

My "Crisis"

So lately, I've been having this crisis.
A number of things are involved, including:

-As I have been working in a residential treatment center for adolescent girls with behavioral and psychological problems, I have noticed the often unending cycle of hospitalizations and placements that these kids have been facing for their childhood, teenaged years, and some of them will still be stuck in this cycle throughout the rest of their lives. As I go to work everyday dealing with stories of their past trauma, current struggles, self-esteem issues, medical issues, familial issues it strikes me as extremely unfair that these kids are being stigmatized as "sick", when really, much of their suffering is due to other people in their lives as well as some issues in our society that perpetuate their illnesses, trauma, and do little to improve their care. As much as I love seeing these girls everyday I work, it is becoming more and more draining to watch as these girls continue through the cycle of: trauma, hospitalization, placement in a facility (where education is minimal), then back into the home environment that caused the trauma (or into another placement facility)...trauma ensues (or lack of proper care)...and the cycle repeats. It's painful to watch and to be a part of it is completely frustrating.

-As I am preparing to travel to Zimbabwe in a couple of months I am reading a book about how to help without hurting in the process. Although I am not finished with the book, I am still dumbfounded by the amount of harm we can do while we feel that we are helping others. It's unintentional (most of the time), but still, it's something we should all be aware of. (I will work on a post specifically about this book when I am finished reading it.) Meanwhile, I have been thinking about all of the pain and suffering present in our very country (as I have been exploring social welfare policy history in school) and also in other countries (as I learn more about the pain and suffering in countries in and around Africa. It is overwhelming to think about. And although we are consistently taught that we can make a difference and that it starts with one person...it's overwhelming to think of how much change is needed.

-I am feeling the weight of the pain and suffering others face and my extremely passionate desire is to do SOMETHNG even if that little something is only a little help to a couple people.

With all this said, my "little crisis" was not a fun one. For the past couple of days I have been asking questions like:
What could I possibly do that's meaningful to other people who are struggling far more than I ever will?
How can I get other people on board?
How much change is needed?
Is it more worth my time to love or to change? Is there a way to do both?
Are my goals and aspirations going to be helpful or hurtful?
Will I ever actually get to make changes that will impact others? Or will my efforts be in vain?
How can I possibly relate to someone who lives in a completely different set of cultural norms in completely different geographical area?
Will I ever stop feeling so small compared to all that needs compassion in the world?

And the conclusion that I came to is that I need to step out of my "little crisis" and start finding answers. What does God say about this. What does our country say about this? What do current and past politicians feel about this? What would change involve? What about Zimbabwe? How did that country become so impoverished and traumatized? So, I am going to research. I am going to share things I've learned and questions that I have and bring you, my readers, through the process of my "little crisis".

The first thing I am going to do is finish reading that book so I can bring you up to speed on what that book says...then it will be time for some more exploration & reflection. Hopefully I will learn something valuable and practical in order to give me a new perspective heading towards my trip to Zimbabwe, as I try to figure out how to escape the rutt I am in at work, and as I continue through my social work education at Rutgers.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

What do Social Worker's Make? (a story a friend shared with me)

This is powerful. And I would show this to anyone who doubts the value of having a truly meaningful job over the value of an amount on one's paycheck.

What Social Workers Make

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man decided to explain the problem with social services. He argued, “How’s a person going to benefit from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a social worker?” He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about social workers—“bleeding heart liberals.” To stress his point, he said to one of the guests, “You’re a social worker, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, “You want to know what I make?” She paused for a second, and then began. “Well, my colleagues and I make safe places for abused children and battered wives. In the process, we do our best to make them feel that they didn’t deserve the treatment they got, so they can go out and do better in their lives.“We make arrangements for the elderly to go home from hospitals with adequate care, and run support groups so their caregivers don’t burn out. “When a young widow or single mother doesn’t know where to turn, my colleagues and I make sure that she knows—whether people like it or not—what benefits she’s eligible for. And we do the best we can to make sure she doesn’t get lost in the bureaucracy.“We make plans with clients so they can get jobs and homes. And this is only a start.

“You want to know what social workers make?” Bonnie asked again. She paused and looked at every person at the table.

“We make visits in neighborhoods that a lot of people wouldn’t go to on a bet, because we know that people there are in need. And we make friends there who invite us back to their weddings, their luaus, and the opening of the community center that we campaigned for. “We make time to listen to the elderly, the mentally ill, the lonely. And we have knowledge and skills to help them make real improvements in their lives. “We make appointments with officials and testify before the legislature to get everyone in the community a fair shake.“Some of us teach, to make the next generation’s social workers.“And sometimes, we make plans with our friends and families—and then have to break them because there’s an accident, a fire, a disaster here or in another state or even another country, and a social worker is needed.”

Bonnie paused one last time and then continued. “So when people want to judge us by what we make, we can hold our heads up high and say, ‘I make a difference. . . . What do you make?’”

HIV/AIDS response Africa: "Church Families on The Front Lines"

Here's a blog by the missionaries we will be meeting in Zimbabwe, Bud & Mandy Jackson...It had a GREAT slideshow on the HIV/AIDS problem specific to areas of Zimbabwe. TAke a look:

HIV/AIDS response Africa: "Church Families on The Front Lines": "A strategic team from Clinton, New Jersey will be in Zimbabwe in January, and another will following a few months later. Pastor Ron Christ..."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zimbabwe...more details on the why, when and what about my trip :)

As some of you many know, while I was in college, I learned about the genocide, poverty, disease, war and immense suffering present in many countries in Africa. Since then, I have been carrying a burden for this continent and have been attempting to learn all I can about how I can help. I want to go to Africa and learn about what is going on there from the people themselves. I want to hear their stories, see where they live, experience their culture, religion, and suffering with my own eyes. I want to hear from them what it is that they need, instead of guessing from afar and risking my help being irrelevant, un-received, or even worse, hurtful. My plans for doing something for the people on this continent are not completely clear at this moment, but I have been praying that God would show me how I might use my skills and passion for these people to do something that would be helpful, not hurtful.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to meet a great couple who are serving in the country of Zimbabwe as missionaries there. I was able to talk to them and share with them my burden and love for Africa as well as hear their stories about the experiences they’ve had in Zimbabwe. During this conversation they told me about an orphanage with which I might be able to partner. The man who organizes this orphanage is looking for help working on a program for the older kids so that they might learn ways to cope with the pain and trauma of their past, and ways to move forward and live successfully. They further suggested that I come to Zimbabwe to meet some of the people working there with them and experience what Zimbabwe culture really looks like. Shortly after this conversation, I was invited to go on a trip with 9 other members of our church in Clinton, NJ to travel out to Zimbabwe and do some work there.

I will be traveling to Harare, Zimbabwe on January 7, 2011 and will be staying there with missionaries Doug & Nancy Everswick and Bud & Mandy Jackson. Some of the things that we will be doing there include, but are not limited to:

• Learning about the African church, and more specifically the Zimbabwe community, praying to be sensitized to the needs of the people who live there, and hopefully catching a glimpse about how we can extend ourselves to meet their needs.

• We will be visiting the Hands of Hope ministry, which is the orphanage the Jacksons told me about in June. I encourage you to go to their website to see more about what this ministry is about at www.hohafrica.org.

• We will be visiting the Foundations for Farming ministry which is an organization built there to partner with churches and people to help them learn to grow and sell crops and to help them strengthen the farming industry in Zimbabwe. I also encourage you to go to this website to see more about what this ministry is about at www.foundationsforfarming.org.

• We will be traveling to a hospital called Karanda, which is mainly for prenatal care and Aids victims, for several days. We will be hearing about Karanda’s response to HIV/AIDS and learning about their Home Based Care program. While we are there we will be learning, but also visiting with people in the hospital wards and participating in Home Based Care-related visits with the Karanda workers in the surrounding villiages to hear people’s stories, pray with them and witness the work that Karanda is doing for them.

Zimbabwe is an extremely poor and suffering country. The population there is approximately 12.5 million, with 43.9% of that population being children under the age of 15. The infant mortality rate is 32/1000 births (US for comparison is 6/1000 births). In Zimbabwe, 17% of children under the age of 5 are underweight (US for comparison is 2%). The life expectancy is 45.8 years of age and 1,300,000 people living in Zimbabwe are suffering with HIV/AIDS, 15.3% of those people are adults. Approximately 140,000 Zimbabweans died from AIDS in 2007. This country is in need.  (statistics were all given to us by TEAMworld organization)

I am excited about this opportunity and grateful that I even have a chance to meet some of the people from Zimbabwe. I am writing this letter, not only to tell you about the exciting opportunity I have, but also to invite you to participate with me. Here are a couple ways that you could participate in my trip to Zimbabwe:

1. It will be a challenging experience for all 10 of us. We will be flying for about 25-30 hours each way and will be immersed into a drastically different culture for 8 days including risks of disease, injury, as well as emotional stresses we will experience as we meet and learn about the intense suffering of these people. Please pray for our safety and that we would be humbled and made aware of the needs and truth about the lives of people in Zimbabwe. You can also pray for the Karanda hospital, the Foundations for Farming ministry, the Hands of Hope ministry, and for the Everswick and Jackson families.

3. I will also be collecting school supplies and used games/clothing/toys for the children in the orphanage. If you would like to participate by donating items that I will take to Zimbabwe you may contact me at: shortstack1030@gmail.com. I will be getting a more clear description of the items we will need to collect sometime in late November.
I appreciate all your prayers and support and will update you with pictures, stories, and my experiences when I return. If you would like, you can visit my online blog where I will be posting updates on the development of my trip as well as entries about my experiences in Zimbabwe at shortsimplestack.blogspot.com. (which is here!!)
With Love and Gratitude,