My Girl’s Goin to Disney World !

Anyone reading my blog who is friends with me on facebook, or in “real life” (What’s that? 🙂 ) knows that my girl Jordan was accepted into the Disney college program. And they also know that I am so very happy and proud of my girl! So if you are sick and tired of hearing about how happy and proud I am you don’t have to read further…I understand and would probably say “Dawn, shut UP already” if I were you. But I can’t help myself, I feel the need to document my feelings, and explain to anyone who cares to read exactly why I am so happy and so proud. And just maybe, somehow, someone may stumble across my silly little blog and be inspired by Jordan’s story. That would make me even more happy and proud.

I have written before about Jordan’s genetic metabolic disorder…please read this past post if you want more details of how Jordan came to be diagnosed with Very-Long Chain Co-Acyl Dehydrogenase Deficiency, or VLCAD for short. As I wrote, Jordan is deficient in an enzyme that breaks down fatty acids into glucose. So when she’s sick and can’t eat, or if she over exercises, her body can’t get enough energy and the fatty acids build up in her system and that causes many problems (and before her diagnosis, almost killed her).  The disorder is totally manageable now, she just has to make sure that she eats regularly and she probably can’t run a marathon.  She has learned what she needs to do to make sure she avoids trouble, and I think she would agree that on most days it doesn’t impact her life in any major way.

But, as I also wrote, she also suffered mild brain damage from the initial crisis. As I always say, Jordan’s IQ is in the average to high average range, and her emotional IQ is off the charts. And she has re-gained much ground from that dark time of her diagnosis. She’s just a little forgetful at times (aren’t we all?). Math is hard for her, as are most tests (more on that later) She has to work extra hard at some things, is all. Sigh. Even after writing all that, I can’t seem to capture, in words, all that I want to say about Jordan, and all that she’s been through, and why this Disney program means so much to her and to me. So this may sound jumbled, but I’ll try to just write from my heart, and try my best to explain…

Jordan in her signature pigtails with Mickey

Jordan in her signature pigtails with Mickey

I remember the year that Jordan was so sick, it was right after her diagnosis. Again, I will do my best to spare you all the gory details but she developed something called Eosinophilic gastritis. On top of the VLCAD Jordan also had multiple food allergies (we’re not sure at all if there is any relation), and soon after her metabolic crisis it seemed that her food allergies “flared up” to the point that she became allergic to almost every form of protein, which caused the lining of her stomach to swell (the eosinohils), which caused the outlet to her stomach to close almost completely shut…she began to vomit almost everything she ate, which then triggered the VLCAD…it was a nightmare of a time and we ended up rushing her to the ER at Johns Hopkins (only several months after she almost died), and she spent over a month in the hospital, on an IV while they gave her prednisone to relieve the swelling of her stomach tissue so that she could tolerate this special formula that they developed at Hopkins.

After spending over a month in the hospital we returned home (I say we because I spent every night with her there on a “chair bed” in her room, except for the night in the ICU when there was no chair bed and I crawled under her crib because I couldn’t sit up anymore and I refused to leave her and a nice nurse gave me a blanket and pillow) and Jordan, who was almost 2, had to survive on this nasty concoction of formula mixed with this special oil and vitamins that she had to have for her VLCAD. No solid food. Eight servings a day.  So I made it a special time and let her watch videos while she had her “milk”, and she watched every Disney movie I could get my hands on. Over and over, she sat there drinking that potion that was keeping her alive, for months, holding on to her Goofy or Mickey or Donald Duck doll, until we went back to Hopkins and she spent another couple weeks there being reintroduced to food. (For those who are wondering, Jordan outgrew most of the food allergies, but childhood was hard, especially birthday parties because she was allergic to milk and eggs and she couldn’t have ice cream and cake. Sigh. So we’re thrilled that ALL she’s allergic to now is peanuts, which is dangerous, but compared to what she’s been through, a piece of cake).

Here she is on her 2nd Birthday, eating some nasty rice four, egg-less oil cake...

Here she is on her 2nd Birthday, eating some nasty rice four, egg-less oil cake…

And another Lion King themed party...pure Jordan face

And another Lion King themed party…pure Jordan face

So Jordan grew out of the allergies but never out of her love for Disney…she loved all of the Disney films, but the one that really resonated was the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Nope, no princesses for my girl, she loved Simba too, but the Hunchback was her fave.  I know that she definitely felt a kinship with him, with anyone who was “different”, Jordan’s “differences” weren’t visible and they weren’t nearly as bad as what others have to suffer, but I know that she must have felt different from the other kids in some way, and so she loved Disney’s Hunchback.

Jordan and her Hunchback, in Dalmatian wear...

Jordan and her Hunchback, in Dalmatian wear…

And for me, it was a balancing act, how to not be overprotective on the one hand, and how to not be in denial on the other hand. I remember the time in Kindergarten, Jordan was in a private (awesome!) school in Boston and I was looking into where to send her for elementary school – I had found this affordable hippie lefty school that I thought Jordan would love – and the oh so kind principal of her kindergarten, who loved Jordan, pulled me aside and said, in her crusty New England direct but caring voice “You really need to send Jordan to a public school -she needs special ed services and they won’t be able to accommodate her in any of the private schools here”. So that was the first time it really hit me that Jordan’s crisis had caused some brain damage, which was confirmed after many visits to neurologists and tests and mores tests, so many tests. She had IEPs and 504s and all of the other special ed acronyms all through school, documents that said things like “Jordan needs to sit in the front of the room and she needs cues to stay on task”. “Jordan needs to be allowed to go to the nurse’s office whenever she needs a snack”. “Please ensure that Jordan has noted her homework assignments”. “Jordan requires additional time on tests”. “Jordan should be allowed to write in the test booklet”…ahh that last one, we finally figured out why Jordan failed all those miserable standardized tests. She just doesn’t fit the model, and in our test-crazy society that meant that she really bombed on the SATs, which, combined with her average grades (I won’t get into how I feel she was let down by her high school, that’s a whole blog post on its own), pretty much meant that she had no choice but to go to community college. Which is a good thing, and many kids do that and I’m happy that she’t thriving there, but she missed out on the opportunity that so many of my friends’ kids had, which was to go live in a dorm with a bunch of other girls…it just wasn’t an option for her. But now, thanks to the Disney College program, she’ll have that opportunity…she’s already been in touch with several girls in the program and they have formed a nice little support system. They ALL love Disney and video games and all the things that Jordan loves. Wow.

That makes me particularly happy because Jordan also suffered from bullying, particularly in middle school. My heart still breaks open when I remember the time she cried over a really mean thing that some of the “popular” girls said to her. It still brings tears to my eyes, because despite all of that, despite everything you’ve just read (thanks for sticking with me!), Jordan has THE sweetest, THE happiest disposition of anyone I know. I wrote on facebook that if anyone deserved to be in Disney World it’s Jordan…she is the only person I know who could tell people all day long to “Have a Magical Day”, and sincerely mean it. I think that maybe that’s why she was teased, she has such a child-like joy in the simplest things, in just about everything.  She just said to me today: “When am I never smiling”? And I had to admit that I can’t think of many times.

When we went to the “real” Notre Dame in Paris last year, she was literally shaking with excitement…and it all started with that Disney movie: “Mommy I Hunchback, you be Frollo, chase me” she’d say, and she’d laugh and laugh as we ran around, me yelling “Come here Hunchback”…I have to be honest and say that so many times I’d think “Oh God, please, I just cannot be Frollo for one more minute”. But now, it makes me smile, and I feel so proud, so proud. Jordan, you are my hero, you with your non-cynical, accepting, non-judgmental nature…all those things make you the smartest person in the room as far as I’m concerned. You deserve this. You rock, and you are my rock…I love you forever, Mommy (aka Frollo)

Jordan as Simba...practicing for her future role?

Jordan as Simba…practicing for her future role?

Jordan and Ariel...led to this:

Jordan and Ariel…led to this:

and I should add: Major congrats to Jordan’s fiance Kevin, who is also goin to Disney World…he made the College Program too and leaves in August, YAY!!

Disney lovin lovebirds...

Disney lovin lovebirds…


A Different Kind of Journey

I wasn’t sure what to write in this blog post…or whether to write it, or whether to post it…it’s all so complicated, this world of social media. I am a shameless facebook addict, I admit. I put my personal life and my photos and my political views out there…I fly my flags all over the internet. Maybe it’s the result of having been shy as a child, hiding behind my written words and notes but scared to say the same things in person. I read once that introverts are the biggest “sharers” online, because it’s just you and your computer. I don’t think I’m an introvert…I get my energy from being around others…but I do think I share more via the written word than I do in person, for better or worse.

All that to say that I am posting this on my blog to say that I am on a new journey, this one personal. I signed separation papers this past week. The reasons I decided to separate from my husband are complex and personal and hard and tangled and not easy. A life, 13 years with a person and 7 years of marriage. No regrets, but no reconciliation. It’s past that, as painful as that is for me to write (my decision, but still painful).

So this marks a new chapter in my life, and changes the dynamics of my blog. I don’t know what direction either will take. To anyone who met me though my husband and who is reading this blog, I am open to continuing a relationship with you, all of you. If you choose to not do that I will understand; these things are never easy, and while I will never ask anyone to choose “sides”, I understand that people might. It’s ok…you can defriend me, just do what you have to do, And please be his friend…I want all of my friends to be his friend as well.

I saw this quote on facebook once, it’s often attributed to Dr. Seuss, whether he wrote it or not I don’t know, but it’s how I have to think so that I can move forward: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I hope that all the people who I love accept the above…I hope y’all don’t mind, and that you see into my heart and know that it tries to be open.  I’ll end with another quote from one of my mentors in life, the simply amazingly awesome Reverend Kim Crawford Harvie of the Arlington Street Unitarian-Universalist Church in Boston:

“Let us join hands,
and I will walk this road with you.
May our broken hearts be opened,
and may we love one another with broken-open hearts.”

Amen sister! I love you

I look forward to walking my new journey. I hope you all come along. I love you all with my broken open heart,,,



Chevy Chase’s Vacation Ain’t Got Nothing on Mine

Almost all of my people are away this week…husband and stepsons and stepson’s best girl – are fishing it up in Ocracoke, an island off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, It is one of said husband’s favorite places on the planet (mine being you-know-where), and I do have to say that for a beach vacation, there are few places more lovely when the weather is good and the fish are biting.  Jim took his boys there every year from the time they was babies, and when I came into the picture I was invited along, and it was where I fell in love with said boys, all 3, especially after Tom chased me with a sand crab for the first time.

Here is a picture of said best girl fishing at sunset:

peaceful, non?

peaceful, non?

But alas, Ocracoke is also the place where we had the vacation from hell. An award-winning comedy of nasty vacation badness. And as I was regaling the sad tale to my friend the other day she said “You should write this down”, and I said “yes, I should!” And since she encouraged me to do so, here is my story in all its vacation hellish glory:

The year was 2004. It was the first time that Jordan was able to accompany us on our summer vacation. (FYI: She was 11 about to be 12 and the boys were 12 and 15). Everyone was excited.  Two weeks at the beach! Lots of preparation, and since there were 5 of us we decided to take 2 cars: Jim’s jeep, which pulled his newish boat, and my 4 year old Toyota, which I was ALMOST finished paying for, yea!!  We packed everything we thought we’d need for 2 full weeks of FUN in the SUN!

Aside: Right before we left Jim informed me that he was going to quit smoking (for the 100th time). We were closet sneaky smokers at the time, heading off behind the chicken coop when we thought the kids wouldn’t notice (Which in retrospect I’m sure they did). OK,  I figured I’d give quitting a shot as well, as I rightly assumed that it would be more difficult to sneak off at the beach. This is a very important background fact to the story, as it adds a big ole layered slice of stress to the tale.

Back to the story: As I recall the vacation started off well…everyone was happy and we had one or 2 good days in spite of the nicotine withdrawal. We were happy that our dear friend Doug and his son had decided to take a well-deserved break and spend a few days with us. They arrived and all was well, until, the day after Doug arrived, we awoke to a pouring rain. There had been predictions of a storm but man, this was really quite a doozy!! The winds were whipping and the rain was coming down in sheets, and it soon dawned on us that this was no mere storm but something tropical…could it be a hurricane? Why, yes it could! We later learned that we were not evacuated, as they usually do when there is a hurricane on Ocracoke, because the storm had intensified so quickly that it wasn’t safe for the ferry between Ocracoke and the mainland to operate. But I’m ahead of myself…

We lost electricity but thankfully Doug was there and among his million and one gadgets there was a generator. So we hunkered down feeling smug and lucky that we were among the few power-full. We watched the raging weather as conditions continued to deteriorate.

“Oh, cool! Look at the water, it’s rushing down the street!” ” What a fierce wind”!! “Hey there’s a lake in the yard…Sweet!”

“Umm, why are all those cars parked up on that bridge?” “Uh oh, maybe we’d better check on OUR cars”


Yes, that’s right, by the time we figured out that this was indeed a hurricane, my car and Jim’s jeep had filled up with rain and sea water. Both. Vehicles. Totaled. And we were stuck on the island, as the ferries were not running. Doug thankfully did not lose his truck in the storm, so we did manage to have a few somewhat entertaining moments driving through the water-full streets in Doug’s two passenger tiny truck to go to the store and to survey the damage. But for the most part, the day following the storm was a nightmare of nicotine-withdrawal-fueled angst and calls to insurance agents and trying to figure out how we were going to get back to civilization with 5 people worth of stuff not to mention a boat.

We bid a fond farewell to Doug, who had to get back to work and who left as soon as the ferry to Hatteras opened, and we made plans to take the other ferry, the two-hour passenger one to the Swan Quarter part of the NC mainland, where we had scheduled a car rental. We booked a reservation at the only time slot available, an ungodly 7AM, and since were were car-less we had to walk  a few miles to the dock, meaning that halfway there Jordan started having leg pain (see this post  to understand why), so the boys had to take turns carrying her and we barely made it on the ferry. Wheeeeee

The next part of the trip was a blur, I guess we made it to the car rental somehow and we rented a car to make the 10 hour trip back home. When we arrived back in Oella we were greeted by our next door neighbors, who, before we could begin to tell of our ordeal, had informed us that the teenager who lived in the house on the other side of our house had decided to throw a party a few days before…in our house. Thankfully nothing was broken and miraculously the house hadn’t burned to the ground, so after a nicotine withdrawled  fitful sleepless night, the next day we drove the rental car to Carmax where Jim bought a truck and drove it out of the showroom that very day, teeth gritted and vowing “I have one more week left of vacation and I am going to have it, damn it!” So we dropped off the rental car and we all piled in the truck to make the 10 hour trip BACK to Ocracoke, where we were greeted with unbelievably beautiful weather. The calm after the storm?

Not really, because Jordan started feeling bad on the way back down, and by the next day she was burning up with a fever. So I took her to the clinic on the island, where upon learning of her metabolic condition, ( the kindly doctor suggested that I take her to the hospital, in Nags Head…80 miles and a ferry ride away. So I strapped her in the new truck and drove the 2 hours in a state of complete and utter breakdown exhaustion (stopping at the 7-11 to  surreptitiously buy a pack of Benson and Hedges Menthol 100’s, one of which I lit with my trembling hands as soon as I was able to sneak off alone), Anyway, we made it to the hospital and Jordan was diagnosed with some mysterious viral infection (we never did learn what it was) and she had thrush. They gave her an IV and some antibiotics and sent us on our way several hours later.

I can’t remember the next day, or was it several days? Jordan’s illness had sent me over the edge and I was a bundle of stressed-out nerves. Jim was still gritting his teeth determined to have a vacation if it killed him. Everyone tried to laugh and have FUN, I, however, was beyond fun. I was SO ready to be done with this “vacation”.

And what do you know? I got my wish! The day before the official end of the vacation we learned that there was another big storm on the horizon, and they were evacuating the island. We managed to get everything in the truck before it started to pour, of course everything was getting wet because it was piled in the bed of the truck, our jiffy-rigged plastic cover laughing at us as it flapped in the wind. There we were, the 5 of us, Jordan in the middle of the back seat with her thrushy mouth, the boys on either side…Jim still gritting his teeth, trying to drive through a hurricane at 1AM.  Me, a stressed out high strung big ole bundle of nerves shaking in the passenger seat. And hungry, we were all hungry because we hadn’t had a chance to eat. The only thing open was a Wendy’s, so my last fast food meal ever was a Wendy’s fish fillet. Everyone else had a burger, and the last tale from the vacation from hell is actually the most junior high school funny one, as the Wendy’s feast caused everyone to have the worst gas ever, and we couldn’t roll the windows down because of the rain. A fitting end to a foul day indeed.

I went back to work the next day, wild-eyed but nicotine-soothed after having sneaked off for a morning cigarette. My colleagues all asked how I enjoyed my vacation…oh were they in for an earful! 🙂

From LA to NOLA, Tales of Life

Just checking in to record for my own posterity tales of my recent travels (as that is the noted purpose of my blog). What a whirlwind couple of weeks this has been!  Preparing for the first ever CEPR Hollywood shin dig. Crazy, how did I ever find myself at the home of Oliver Stone, at a party in honor of my humble little think tank that could, the Center for Economic and Policy Research? I am in awesome debt to everyone at CEPR for the opportunity, especially since I had never been to LA. I dug it.

Santa Monica beach at sunset

Santa Monica beach at sunset

Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard (h/t Jo)

Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard (h/t Jo)

I was surprised at how much I liked LA, so much so that I  had to leave my east coast snobbism on Santa Monica Boulevard…the weather was perfect, and LA is just beautiful, and yes, chill in a good way, yes Ms. Sara you are right. She’s my colleague from the west side whose apartment I stayed in and whose mother was such a gracious host, in addition to being a fabulous novelist, and a beautiful woman to boot. Thanks Alicia. You are awesome. And Sara, you are the best co-worker ever and I’m not even going to think of you going off to NYU this fall.

And, ACK! The party was an experience I will not soon forget. Lots of famous people there. I just hope it eventually brings CEPR many riches along with our proud memories.

Oliver singing CEPR's praises to the crowd...

Oliver singing CEPR’s praises to the crowd…can you guess who that is in the leather jacket?

And when I miss Ms. Sara I will look at this picture and smile…Sara and her HS musical muse. Rage on sister…

Sara and Tom MorelloSara and Tom Morello

The MOST famous attendees...:)

The MOST famous attendees…:)

And it made me think a lot about celebrity, and people. I went to a similar kind of shin dig just a few days ago, a fundraiser in DC for a “progressive” PAC (the word being relative when you talk DC kind of politics), and that party was not so much fun (except for my co-party comrade of course). Really DC vibe, with the conversation 100% focused on polls and who was up and who was down, and it was all about who you are and who you are connected to. Whereas the LA shindig was more real, if you can believe that. Hollywood talking more about reality and DC all up in the noise. Or perhaps it’s just that I am tiring of the DC scene? I want to talk issues, not poll numbers. And a big aside, I want to lift up people like my girl Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, who spoke the truth to power the other day. You rock Medea.

Yes, perhaps I just need to get out of the DC cesspool more frequently. Cause I also had a fabulous time in NOLA, just one short week after LA. Whew! Whirlwind craziness. But I had to go to see my boy Tom T Follz Lobell graduate from Tulane.

Me and the graduate

Me and the graduate

So, so proud of him! Neuroscience! Such a great graduation too…who  could ever argue with NOLA jazz and the Dali Lama and Dr. John and Alain Toussaint, all rockin the Superdome where the Ravens just won the Superbowl not too long ago.

Tulane graduation

It was nice to share all of that with my boys (and their girls)

My people and their Po BoysMy people and their Po Boys

New Orleans is a very friendly city, unique and fun.

Voo DooVoo Doo

And beautiful.

New Orleans

And H-O-T, or more to the point humid. That might be hard to get used to. But the vibe is great. I loved where we stayed, the Royal Street Courtyard in the funky Bywater hood.

Royal Street Courtyard

Royal Street Courtyard

We had lots of good NOLA food and drinks, bien sur,

Shrimp Po Boy

Shrimp Po Boy

and we went out for a walk on the bayou where I saw several alligators, for reals, and that was real crazy y’all.

look closely....

look closely….

And me being me, we also took a drive to the Lower 9th Ward, so that we could be reminded of Katrina. And of the vast gulf in race and class that we have to endure in this country. I wondered what would have happened if the levee had broken and the French Quarter would have been under water and all of the elites had been forced to live in the (redone) Superdome? I do ponder these things. I felt bad taking these pictures with my phone, but I wanted to testify. So much empty space, where houses used to be. Note, an X means that someone died in the house that’s no longer there. We saw lots of those. So sad. We can do better as a country! We must…

Lower 9th 1

Lower 9th ward

lower 9th ward

This is life, the sunshine and fun and the proud and the beautiful and the sublime, and the dark underside, and the ugly and the serious. All wrapped up in a trip across the US of A…next up, BASQUE country, hons. Please stay tuned (and for anyone who reads my blog and is wondering about those babies in Fallujah. I am going to work with Ross, the amazing ex-marine founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project. He’s making a documentary on the siege and the aftermath, and I hope to help him to raise some funds for that, and eventually some of the money from that will go to the babies. Stay tuned as I hope to have another blog dedicated to those efforts.  I would be humbly grateful if you read both )

Tales of Travel and Babies Not Forgotten

Hello dear friends and fellow travelers and seekers,

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted in my blog. So many chores and trying things and stressful things and adventures and happy times and excitement and LIFE in between. Breathe sister! I’m just checking in to state, on the record, that I am still trying to find a way to help those babies in Iraq, and have some good irons in the fire. I hope to start a new blog devoted to that really, hopefully really, soon, just working things out. But I can say that I will never give up on those babies. I won’t.

Because I decided to TRY separate my complicated lives once again; to focus in my other side in this blog, the travelin side, the side who needs to step away from the work every now and again and go to France and eat some damn good food and drink some damn good wine, and dance, that side. And that other side? The one who rails and rants against all the injustices in the world, the one who wants to save those babies and who wants to save Social Security and the one who is pro-union and pro-LGBT and anti corporate anything, well that one will devote her energies to Twitter (once she figures it out) and sometimes facebook and her new yet-to-be-created-but-will-be blog.

Sometimes the twain shall meet and there may be crossover, like next week when I travel to LA for the big CEPR fundraiser, well there may be some social commentary seeping in – please tune in to see what transpires.

And thanks for coming along on all of my journeys. I can’t wait to see where we go next…

PS: Please watch this clip if you haven’t already. I am hoping that I get to have the honor of working with the ex-marine featured in the post. I think he is amazing…

More on the Babies of Fallujah and Basra

So, here’s where I am with my latest obsession, those babies in Fallujah and Basra:

Alone, not sure where to go, but still determined to try to find a way to help.

Pictures and images like this are imprinted on my brain:


I’ve been exchanging emails with the courageous doctor mentioned in the Democracy Now piece, below. Here’s a link if you want the full story

And here’s a portion of the  transcript, emphasis mine. It helps to give some background to my efforts.

DAHR JAMAIL:  And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.

And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings. These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. And it is ongoing.

And she—lastly, to really give you an idea of the scope of the problem, is that this is happening now at a massive rate. And she said her being the only person cataloging and registering cases, with no help from Baghdad, who is denying that there’s some sort of problem like this in Fallujah—she said that she could probably safely estimate that the number of cases, as high as the rate that she’s seeing, could probably be doubled, because so many people are having their babies at home and just taking care of it. You know, most of these babies are being born dead, and then they’re not reporting it whatsoever. So, this is an ongoing crisis. And the rate has not increased since last year, but it’s not decreased, either. It was still—when I talked to her last year, it was 14 times greater rate of malformations in newborns as compared to the aftermath areas of the nuclear bombings in Japan, and it’s the same when I spoke with her about this one week ago.

I’m back. Dr Alaani told me that she is in dire need of diagnostic equipment. She doesn’t have any. And if you read the transcript I’m sure you can figure out why. The Iraqi government doesn’t want to know. And what do you think the U.S. government thinks? More on that in a minute…

First, this BBC (note, the BBC) clip that features the hospital in Basra, and the other doctor who asked me to help him to raise money for the families, the one who takes up a collection among the doctors for the families every month. I promised him that I would find a way to help. I need to live up to that promise.

As an American citizen, I am ashamed and disgusted and dismayed by the NON-response by our government. As the reporter says in the clip: “When we contacted the America Defense Department. They didn’t respond”. Well, isn’t that nice.

This piece was on Sky News in 2009.

2009! Where is CBS? NBC? Save the Children? Where in the hell is the US government?

I just can not let this go. I can’t. I got involved because those pictures moved me to tears and I naively thought that I would find all kinds of aid groups working with the families and raising money and helping the families and the doctors. I had no idea of the complete and utter abandonment that these people, the doctors and the families, are experiencing. This is a nightmare, caused by Bush and Cheney’s folly, and these babies are just the latest victims in a long line of victims. But they have no one to speak for them.

And now that the “10 year anniversary of the Iraq War is over”. the media will move on as well. Not that they noticed in the first place.

I want to speak for these babies. I need a name for my project. Nothing I can come up with does the project any justice. So I am thinking of calling it simply The Children of Fallujah and Basra Fund. (unless someone reading this blog can help me think of something better). I want to start a crowdfunding campaign like indiegogo. I need to figure out how to get the equipment and the money to Iraq. I need help and support. Please join me: those families need our help and support.



We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Program for an Important Message

This blog post is really different from any other I’ve written, well, except for the one on Thanksgiving, and maybe the one after the election, but not really. It’s ok, I totally understand and accept and am ok with the fact that many of my friends who happen upon my blog are mostly interested in my ramblings about my love of Paris and France and my trips there, and that’s really OK. I will always love Paris and France and will definitely blog about our upcoming June hopefully totally awesome vacation in the Basque country. So if you leave please come back!

Because this post is about my current passion, and it’s not so fun, but I’m driven and have been working hard and I need some help. So to those of you who want to continue to read please do, because I really need your help and support.  And if not, it’s ok, I will look forward to your thoughts on my Basque adventure.

But for now my mind is far away from Paris, it’s in Fallujah and it’s in Basra. My head is full of images of the babies. It has been this way ever since I saw this picture.


Here is the link to the story that grabbed me.

And then there are these.

fallujah 4

fallujah 2

Here is an additional link if you want to get the full story

The short story is that there has been a spike in birth defects and cancers in the cities in Iraq where there was the most intense fighting, Fallujah and Basra.  They’ve been seeing some really horrific, never before seen birth defects.  When I read that the current rate of birth defects for the city of Fallujah “has surpassed those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II.”, I was speechless. What can you say? This was news to me – no mainstream media has ever covered this. Do you remember seeing these pictures on the NBC/ABC/CBS News? No, me neither.

OK, so I saw this and heard this and cried, and thought ok, there has to be something that I can do, there has to be some group here in the US who is raising money to help these children and their families. Wouldn’t you think?  So I was all ready to offer my fundraising services to some really great group who was raising funds for these families. But, hours of research later, I was dismayed to find, well, very little.

One group I did find was the Justice for Fallujah Project. Started by a vet who was in Fallujah. What can I say to that? He’s awesome and gave me lots of information. Like, I’m correct in thinking that there’s very little being done for these families.  Politics. Cause you know, if the U.S. or Iraqi governments addressed the issue then they would have to admit that there’s a problem. Admission = responsibility. We’re not going there.

I’ve also been in touch with the journalist who was featured on the Democracy Now piece.  He put me in touch with the Doctor in Fallujah who is featured in the Al Jazeera piece above. This is what she wrote to me:

Thank you so much. The most important of our needs is the Ultrasound machine & the Karyotic system that help detecting congenital malformations  Chromosomal abnormalities in early fetal life,  in addition to the need to check the DNA , we have asked the help of many authorities , organizations & persons & didn’t yet get any response other than some few false promises … we appreciate all efforts to help our mothers & children….

OK, yeah. And then there’s the other doctor here in the states. She is an Environmental Toxicologist, based in MI. Here’s what she said to me:

Dear Dawn:

Thank you for your kind letter. My work is research and I have been trying to get funding to continue my work in Iraq. But I also know medical doctors in Iraq. Let me consult with them and reply to you. I know that the medical infrastructure is weak in Iraq in general. So, I will talk to my colleagues in Iraq and see what they say.

I received a reply from a doctor in Basra, who said this:

we are group of doctors related ro the general medical council non govermental.nonrelegios and we had nothing to with business and we collect 50 $ monthply from doctors to help these families.

That’s pretty much it, my people. This is where we stand. Ross, the guy from Justice for Fallujah Project, sent me some links to a few other organizations. There’s one that is doing some work raising some money for, from what I can tell, the hospital in Fallujah? But they’re really Christian-based, and I don’t want to be involved in a religious mission.

There’s also a group called No More Victims that has a model where communities “adopt” an Iraqi child and fly them over to the US for treatment. While I think that this is a noble effort, I also think that you can’t possibly fly every child out of Iraq. I want the money to go directly to the children’s families and to the doctors on the ground.

And finally, there’s a great group in the UK called the The Cancer and Birth Defects Foundation that has done some brave work for Fallujah. ( But they are more about funding (much needed!!! ) research.  I asked Ross about the NGOs. And, as I suspected, not much happening for the families. And too much shady stuff.

I think I may need to create an organization. If I can’t find anyone out there that’s doing the work, then I will. I am thinking of doing some crowdfunding campaign, and a facebook page. I need a name for this. We did this,  all of us here in the US. With our tax dollars. I can’t accept it. I won’t.

So, there we are mes amis Pretty much square one. I need help – Ideas. Thoughts. Suggestions. Inspiration. Prayers. Help. Please. All ideas, suggestions, all welcome.

In gratitude. Dawn

UPDATE: Seems that the mainstream media may be clocking on. Here’s a link to

that mentions the Dr I heard from and her study (Mozhgan Savabieasfahani). But  note this telling quote from our friendly Department of Defense:

However, the U.S. Department of Defense believes the evidence is insufficient to determine whether war pollutants caused a rise in birth defects, said department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. For example, researchers did not account for whether mothers had adequate nutrition or access to medical care during pregnancy, and they did not always consider whether the parents were cousins, she said.

“The studies have instead relied on the occurrence of conflict during specified years, and then presumed exposure of individuals to specific munitions,” Smith told “The studies have also presumed specific health effects from the claimed exposures without benefit of any scientific evidence proving the association of health effects with those exposures.”

Stay tuned.