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A Girl and a Goat from Gaonli

When I was four years old, a missionary from India came to my Sunday school class. I don’t remember her name, just her sari. I had never seen one before and I was captivated.

She told us stories of the faraway land of India, of monkeys and camels and elephants, of the crowded slums of Mumbai and a woman named Ramabai Mukti who founded an orphanage and school for unwanted children.

It was a lot for a four year old to digest, but the woman and her stories made a huge impression on me. For years I was obsessed with India. I studied the country, its culture and history. I read alot about Ghandi. I asked my mom to take me to Devon Avenue in Chicago, where I purchased a sari of my own.

From the time I was 4 until I turned 16, I told everyone I met that I was going to be a missionary to India. As a religious kid in the Midwest, that seemed the best option to me for visiting this exotic land. Certainly my family would never have the money it took to travel to a place like that–we went to Indiana on family vacations.

And besides, I wanted to help. Even as a really young kid, I was struck by the idea that somewhere across the world, there was a girl like me.

But while I was born into a family who loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to follow my dreams, whatever they might be, this girl was born into a culture where she had no worth, no value, and no options. It seemed like a very random assignation of destiny to me. Why me? Why her?


As I got older, simple answers like, “Because it’s the will of God” didn’t work anymore. And although I renounced my future career as a missionary in my mid-teens, my fascination with India remained.

And finally, 37 years after I first heard of India, I set foot on its soil.

Last November I traveled to Jaipur with Tea Collection. My colleagues were there to shoot an editorial catalog for our Spring 15 collection, which is inspired by the beauty and culture of India. I was there as the storyteller, to record the sights and sounds and smells of our visit. To take notes on what it felt like to be there. To observe, to ask questions, to internalize the experience so that later I could make it real for readers who hadn’t come along on our journey.

But I had a second purpose. Tea Collection partners with the Global Fund for Children, and I and my coworker Jessie were to spend a day visiting a GFC grantee in Jaipur, an Indian-run nonprofit called Gram Bharati Samiti.

The day we spent in rural villages with Bhawani, Kusum and Sarita was the best day of my whole trip to India.

Better, even, than my birthday two days later when I was surprised with a chocolate cake and a gorgeous photo taken by our photographer Hideaki Hamada.

The people I met that day, the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti and the girls and women in the villages we visited–their faces will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I wrote a blog about my experience for Tea–you can read it here, and please do. You’ll find all about a 6-year-old girl named Buja and the amazing gift (baby goat!!) I was given by another girl named Rekha. It’s the best story, really it is.

Hardly a day has gone by since I came back without me thinking of those girls, those villages.

Someday I’m going back. I’m going back and I’m taking Bruce and Lucette with me.
We’ll ride elephants and tour palaces and go back to Gaonli village to see if Buja’s still there.

And then we’ll hop on a plane and head south to Mumbai. I want to see where it all began for me, I want to visit Ramabai Mukti.




-Lo, who can’t believe 2014 went by without one. single. word.



every day is a cliché


every day is a cliché

the things you do to keep hope alive
to keep yourself from falling
to keep her satisfied.
the things you do are worse
than you expected
and far more dull.

every newborn morning
comes your chance
to make a run for it until
the clock beats its ringing hammer
against the drum inside your ear
singing: “No more dreams,
bring no more dreams.”
and every morning
you wake up
and fall for it.

the floor devours your feet
the mirror’s horrified
to see you. the toothbrush
shrinks away in terror from your teeth.
your daily routine is blinding
you to what you have become.

once you were a denizen
of imaginary continents.
once you sang an aria
in a papier mache dress. once
you were a pirate. a bareback
ballerina. you were anything
and everything
all the time and all at once.
you had impeccable timing
for making believe.

but once upon a time runs out
and then
a paler version
takes your place
fingers your pulse
changes the dress code
talks you safely away
from the ledge and further
flights of fancy.

Her logic is immaculate:
“You need a marketable skill.”
“Get a degree. And a real job.”
“Poetry doesn’t pay the bills.”
“After the man comes the house. And the dog.”

and it might be wrong
but it soon feels right
and this is how
these things become
the things you do
to keep yourself
from falling…

-Lo, who wonders if dreams are stunted by safety nets.

The Leeches Are Coming!

Mood: Mystified
Drinking: Fountains of soda

It was late. I was dreaming.

Boy and I were on vacation. Location? Absolutely no idea. But the LeeLoo was there with us. And from the (blurry, nondescript) place where we were staying, we could see, over yonder across the water, the famous Island of Cats.

The Island of Cats is, apparently, a happy place not unlike an 83-year-old spinster’s apartment, where cats of all shapes, sizes and temperaments roam free. They hang from the palm trees. They frolic in the sand. They prowl through the tall dune grass. They feast on island rodents. They leave land mines of kitty poo all over the beach. A magical place, indeed.

Anyway, apparently when planning our dream vacation we didn’t consider the danger of bringing the Loon (a.k.a. Extreme Cat Hater) on a trip within sniffing distance of the Isle of Cats.

It didn’t take long for dream LeeLoo to smell out the offending felines and take off, swimming (which she would never attempt during waking hours b/c she has a healthy fear of drowning), through the choppy blue waves to the Island of the Fierce and Foul Felines.

Boy and I were horrified and leapt into the water after her. (I couldn’t tell you if it was warm or cold. Apparently dream water has no temperature.) So there went the three of us, swim swim swimming. And since LeeLoo got there first, you would think she got to happily chase down oh, about a thousand furry beasties. But no.

Suddenly, the dream Island of Kitties became the Island of Sucking Leeches. Yes. Leeches.

So Boy and I spent the rest of my dream pulling long, brown, slimy leeches from underneath our skin (yes, they burrowed beneath the skin in a most nightmarish fashion). We magically had buckets of salt on hand, so we would carefully pour the salt onto the leeches and they would turn green.

Yes. Green. They wouldn’t die screaming or anything. They just turned green.

The end.

I usually don’t remember my dreams upon waking, but this one is just too weird to forget. I mulled it over on the ride to work this morning, which means I nearly crashed into about 7 different cars b/c I kept thinking about cats, leeches, and salt.

I have no idea what it means. Perhaps it was just an after-effect of the two Twinkies I consumed after 10 p.m. whilst watching The Daily Show.

I welcome your bizarre and hilarious interpretations.

-Lo, who definitely dreams in color.