Monday, June 9, 2008

And so ends another school year...

For the past few months I've been tutoring a young lady here in Baltimore, a recently resettled Meskhetian Turkish refugee who (as you can imagine) is struggling a bit with life as a 9th grader in a large American public school. She absolutely kicks ass in math and science (and dreams of going to Hopkins to become a doctor), but government class is much more difficult and so has been the focus of our weekly study sessions. As always, I feel like I've probably learned more than I've taught, and revisiting subjects like Brown vs. the Board of education and the electoral college in her company is kind of amazing given the discrimination and persecution she and her family have faced.

I thought we were in the home stretch with the end of the school year upon us, exams wrapping up, etc and was planning to do something fun this weekend since the pressure to study would finally be lifted. Until my phone rings tonight, and its Lutfiya, and she's calling with a question before her last exam (government, of course!) tomorrow:

"Dana, what is the Declaration of Independence?"

Crap! So much for my tutoring skills since I seemed to miss covering this one, uh, sort of important piece of American history. If only I could smash all the episodes of HBO's John Adams into one night and have her watch them before the test tomorrow...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Long overdue France and Spain pictures

I keep telling myself I'm going to better organize or share the pics from our France and Spain trip last August, but let's be honest-- it's been almost a year. So here they are...most have captions, and most will only be interesting if you are a huge book nerd like me and my husband seeing as the point of the trip was chasing down Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and all the other American expatriates living in Europe in the 20's and 30's. Lots of uh, pictures of buildings and bridges and what have you...and you'll have to check with Mr. Ledyard for the download on the significance of bridges (and/or wait for his thesis to be done later this summer!)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Stimulate this, G dubs!

Our economic stimulus package hit the bank account today, which was a nice surprise on a rainy Friday. Brian says we're putting all $1200 in the bank just to spite the current administration (who obviously wants us to spend it), but then again sometimes he gets a crazy look in his eyes and says we're taking it to Atlantic City and putting it on RED. Any opinions on the ING orange account vs. the AC red account would be appreciated :)

All gambling jokes aside, I had a mild panic attack a week or so ago on the bus as I read the article in the NY Times called "Confidence Falls as Home Prices Decline" (though reading articles about confidence declining is probably a major factor in continuing confidence declines!). Turns out home prices peaked in July 2006 (appx one month before B and I purchased the casa Ledyard) and have proceeded to fall FIFTEEN PERCENT. Ugh. I can't help but feel like instead of $1200, somebody owes me more like $20 large as they say on the Wire.

I know worrying about the economy won't change it, and I'm not sure we would do it differently if we had it to do over again (I love our house!). And nobody likes a whiny blog post, and we're both incredibly lucky to have stable jobs and enough funds to cover the increased food and gas prices of late. BUT-- our timing could not have been worse, and it's our first house, and I'm starting to feel like we'll have to live in it until we're 50! Are there any other summer 2006 home buyers who want to start a support group and moan about our rotten luck?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In honor of the beautiful, sunshiney day outside

I love this tree. Although this is (unfortunately) not my house, it's directly across the street from us so I get to stare at the pink explosion every time I come and go. This picture is from a few days ago so now their entire yard is pink with fallen petals!

Another sign of spring in Baltimore-- lacrosse lacrosse lacrosse. While I have been accused of sports fanaticism of my own, lacrosse in Baltimore really takes it to another level...and being outside the beast, I find it vaguely wierd and annoying. Mostly because it tends to dominate my husband's life come springtime, and I can not stomach the obsessive tyrant parents who freak out about little Timmy getting a scholarship to Princeton (and no, explaining that little Timmy is still on the JV, and not even a starter, does nothing to quell the craziness). However-- last week I got to watch three major parts of my life collide when Ohio State played UNC in a lacrosse game in Baltimore. I almost took a picture of the toddlers behind us running around with their baby lax sticks as evidence of the oddness that is Baltimore, but instead focused on the game:

Buckeyes pulled off the upset, 14-11! Made me proud of my midwestern heritage :)

Hopefully this good weather sticks around for the weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Go easy on me, it's been awhile...

I was watching the American Idol charity special last week and without even realizing it, started composing a blog post in my head. It was so horrifying and yet sort of awesome all at once it really got the juices flowing again...BUT, I've decided I should save the negativity for another day (cause let's face it, it was mostly just horrifying) and instead come back with some love and happiness to offer. Since I've ditched the 2 hour daily commute and transformed into Zen Dana, it just seems more appropriate.

It's also appropriate that the target of all this love and affection is the place that inspired me to start blogging in the first place-- GlobalGiving. More specifically, my now former co-workers (ack that is sort of sad to even type) who threw me a rocking farewell party last Friday night. In the midst of lots of bowling, drinking, eating, laughing, and catching up, they also showered me with some ridiculously generous and thoughtful gifts-- including a donation registry for one of my favorite project leaders, Stella in Kenya! Over $800 has been raised so far for a fantastic woman doing amazing work in Kenya (fingers crossed that things stay peaceful) so click here to check out the registry action and/or make a donation.

To the GlobalGiving team-- yall rock. Seriously. It was a privilege to work with all of you for 3 years (plus of course the internship in 2002 of course) and will probably go down as one of the crazier and more exciting things I've ever been a part of. It is a testament to how hard everyone works, and the insane pace that you keep up to build the marketplace, that my going away party had to happen a few weeks after my real departure...but the wait made it even more fun and it was great being a part of the team (if only the bowling team) for a couple hours! Remember, Baltimore isn't so far away, and I hear there is this great commuter train that will bring you right to Penn Station...marathon in October anyone??

Lastly, since I'm back on the blogging train (as of about 10 minutes ago) I feel like I can actually join in on the BlogHer challenge. BlogHer is rallying the blogging community and their readers to support five awesome women-oriented projects on GlobalGiving-- from Nepal to Darfur, these are great projects and I love the concept of "harnessing the power of women online". Check out the great widget below and spread the word!

Friday, January 11, 2008

10 (not 53) places to go in 2008...

Cross posted from GlobalGoodness...

My parents were Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1970’s, so I usually blame DNA for my frequent urges to travel. Despite growing up in homogenous suburban central Ohio (with a lovely Canadian island as my only international adventure as a kid), as soon as I headed for college I was able to indulge my need for adventure and interest in learning about new places, cultures, and geographies. From 1999-2003 I spent every summer south of the equator (thus making my summers actually winters) traveling to Tanzania, Bolivia, Madagascar, and South Africa. I even managed to snag a hiking job in the French Alps as my first gig out of school!

Living with the travel bug that my trip leader in Tanzania called “itchy feet”, I was particularly interested to see the recent NY Times travel article about the 53 places to go in 2008. Although most of the swanky destinations they listed are far out of my price range ($70,000 for a week at a Swiss chalet? Seriously?) I was interested to see 10 of their 53 locales overlap with places where GlobalGiving has projects. GlobalGiving loves having volunteer travelers tack on a project visit when our friends, colleagues, donors, and readers find themselves in places where our partners work– so if you want to get an up close and personal look at development in action and meet some fantastic project leaders– let us know. And take me with you!!

Bonus prize– if any intrepid readers can identify all 10 places in the NY Times list where GlobalGiving projects, I’ll send you a $10 GlobalGiving gift card (email me your answers at I’ll even give you the first one for free…

Renovate 3 Elementary Schools in Laos

Double bonus prize if you can guess where my parents served in the Peace Corps (and yes, it’s on the NY Times list!)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A petite new year's request...

Although I'd like to kick off the new year with a blog that's fresh, funny, optimistic, resolution filled, etc-- for now I'm just going to post a mass email I just sent to most of my address book. I'm torn between shame for mass emailing and excitement about taking action for something I care deeply about...and hopefully the big bucks will start rolling in shortly!

Hi all,

I don't usually do this-- despite working for a nonprofit I am loathe to actually ask people for money-- but the current situation in Kenya, and a personal friendship with a Kenyan woman named Stella, has driven me to make full use of my email address book. Feel free to stop reading, delete, or de-friend me on facebook if offended by the mass email. I promise not to do it often!

I've worked at GlobalGiving for about three years, and one of the best parts of my job is getting to work with (mostly over email and phone) some amazing people around the world who are doing amazing things in their local communities. Stella Amojong Omunga started a small NGO in Eldoret, in western Kenya, doing health and education work with teenage mothers. We became fast friends over email-- she is funny, eloquent, enthusiastic in a way that even spills over into electronic communications, and totally dedicated to her work. Her reports about her use of funds are detailed down to the penny, and while some people will tell you that only large donations make a difference, Stella was always deeply grateful for any $10 or $20 or $100, and could stretch it to do amazing things.

I got increasingly worried watching the news after the Kenyan election, especially after dozens of people were burned alive in a church in Eldoret where Stella lives. I emailed Stella to see how things were going and the first sentence of her response made me pause: "I'm terribly ashamed to be Kenyan right now...what we are witnessing is beyond human comprehension! I'm even taking a huge risk to check my mail, our country has been turned into a war zone: no food, no drugs, no transportation...its simply hell!!" She described the lack of food, medicine, and supplies, and how she is personally sheltering women and children at her home. "We are regrouping and doing anything in our power to provide humanitarian assistance." (full messages below if you're interested)

GlobalGiving has created a fund to support Stella and our other partners who are responding to the situation in Kenya and we're trying to raise some funds quickly in order to get them to the ground where needed as soon as possible. You can donate online here: (or for you Tar Heels in the crowd, Carolina for Kibera is a great organization working outside Nairobi: I know things can be tight after the holidays, but I promise that even $10 will be well spent in Stella's capable hands. And if donating isn't your thing, forwarding this message or the link or just spreading the word is helpful too.

Thanks for reading, happy new year, and here's hoping for peace in 2008.


From: Stella Amojong Sent: Sun 1/6/2008 8:25 AMTo: Dana LedyardSubject: RE: situation in Kenya
Hi Dana,

I'm glad that people like you exist...we are quickly reaching a melting point here. The last few days has seen mass evacuations of displaced families while the few remaining in safe havens still face startvation. I'm glad that relief has started trickling in but many fear that the worst is yet to come.

I'm not sure getting foodstuff or other supplies would be a good idea: all roads are barricaded by armed youths and unless you have heavy paramilitary escort, getting to the ground/villages is simply hard. Relief agencies, like Red Cross, are donating basic food to the displaced families, but this is not enough. Our bank has been opening the local branch sporadically and I believe it will continue doing so next week. We have had to sell some domestic electronic equipment (fridge, cookers, TV) to raise some quick money to buy food. Prices are quickly escalating and supplies are beginning to diminish but we still hope for the best.

My preference would be to send in the money and we can use our local networks in sourcing for basic food, drugs and other necesities. Indeed you can direct other donors to our project so we can have as much impact as possible. The key word here is URGENT.

Once again, thanks for you quick response to our plight. Say a small prayer for us.


From: Stella Amojong Sent: Fri 1/4/2008 4:20 AMTo: Dana LedyardSubject: Re: situation in Kenya
Hi Dana,

Thanks for your concern. I'm terribly ashamed to be Kenyan right now...what we are witnessing is beyond human comprehension! I'm even taking a huge risk to check my mail, our country has been turned into a war zone: no food, no drugs, no transportation...its simply hell!!

Yes, indeed they are now even burning people who have taken refuge in churches. The situation in Eldoret is the worst and believe you me, GEMINI has not been cowed by all this. We are regrouping and doing anything in our power to provide humanitarian assistance and on a personal level, I'm providing shelter to the most vulnerable women and children and psychological counseling to the affected families in a nearby church compound.

If there is anything that GlobalGiving can do to enable us alleviate the situation, we would be so grateful. What we currently need is lots of foodstuff, drugs and clothes. We will still have a lot to do after all this is over and we look forward to a year with so much tears...but with your assistance, things will be OK.

Thanks so much....and, oh by the way, Happy New Year (You are the first person to hear this from me!!!)