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Where I’m going. And you’re coming with me.


in big gay liberal post,introspection,not New York,politics

There’s nothing like a September 11 birthday to make you really take stock in your life.

I’ve gone through this interesting period over the last decade or so, from ignoring my birthday, to reclaiming my birthday, to gentle celebrations with small groups of people I love. But this year seems different.

When people have asked me this year how I’m spending “my day” I haven’t had much of an answer. Honestly, I’ve been thinking more about how I’m spending my life.

Funny, I don’t feel old until I look back and photos like these and and think…wait, that was how many years ago?

birthday 1986

Me with great friends around my birthday circa 1985. Thanks for the memories, Ben.
Thanks for the braces Dr. Whats-His-Name.

liz gumbinner, isabel kallman

Me with great friend Isabel Kallman around my birthday, 2012.
Thanks for the hair straightening products, beauty industry.

Maybe it’s about it’s hitting that ripe midlife (eep) age of 44, but the days now seem to matter as much as the years do. They go faster, but each one also has the potential to be more meaningful in ways. Looking back at my older posts, I think it’s something I started to feel back in 2010.

Recently, I was struck and moved by my stepmother’s observation that the older she gets, the more she realizes “this is the only life we get.” And that one day, we’ll have to look back and say to ourselves, well, this is how I spent it.

That means there are some changes that I need to make this year; I want to make sure I can answer that question well.

One of those changes is to recommit a bit more to the world outside my proverbial backyard, especially in ways that my children can see.

The shot@life campaign was an amazing first step–I was amazed at how totally committed I felt and how personally I took on the mission to help generate comments for all the blogs that participated. There was hardly a day that passed that I didn’t tweet about a post or email friends to comment; seeing the very tangible effect of one’s words is a powerful thing.

We saved 10,000 lives. With words. You saved 10,000 lives. Pause on that for a minute.


Last week I wrote about living in bubbles, and how easy it is to forget our impact on the other people in the world; and the impact the other people in world can have on us. Suebob Davis (one of the most non-bubble people I know) wrote ” It is easy to forget that everything we do – from how we walk and drive and hold doors (or don’t) and speak to cashiers and random strangers – all of it – creates the world in which we live.”

There was also some discussion about the internet creating its own kind of bubble and keeping us from participating in the world. While there’s some truth to it, I don’t agree that it can’t also be a door outside as well. More than watching a show on TV. More than reading a book. My online community has connected me to the world in many ways.

And here’s where I tell you that as I type this these words, my arms are still sore from the immunization shots I received 5 days ago.

I’m going to Ethiopia.

I’m going to Ethiopia!

A week with Jeannine Harvey and the ONE Moms to Addis Ababa and its environs. A week with some of the women I love and respect and admire most in the world–and many I don’t know but can’t wait to know. A week to bear witness to the stories of the mothers and children there, and to see firsthand the essential benefits of now dwindling U.S. aid to Africa. Like Asha Dornfest confessed on the ONE Moms blog, I know much less than I should about the region.

But this time next month, we’ll be there.

Oddly enough, today also happens to be the Ethiopian New Year, or Enkutatas. They say there are no coincidences in life, huh?

Bing Map of Ehiopia

I’ve explained to my children that while it’s hard to leave them, they know I’ll be helping kids, the same way they like to help kids. I hope they’re proud of me. I hope they internalize it and grow to be people who have these kinds of opportunities too. Or heck, make their own.

I hope they know how much I need this right now.

It’s now been 11 years since I was on the ground in Sarajevo working with refugees from the Bosnian war–not as a poverty tourist (a term that makes me want to vomit) but as a writer and a storyteller, as a future mother, and as a citizen of the world. It shaped my life and my worldview in ways I have yet begun to articulate.

11 years is a long time though, and while I’ve done so much in those years, I’m feeling a stronger pull than ever to reconnect with that aspect of myself, to bear witness, to share someone’s story besides my own, to give voice to those who don’t always have one.

I’m thinking it’s an excellent way to describe how I spent my 44th year.

And that’s where you come in. I hope you’ll join me for the journey, if only through my blog.

This morning, my mother shared the advice, Look in the mirror every morning and ask yourself, “Am I the best person I can be today?” If the answer is YES, get on with your life.

The answer won’t always be yes. But you know? Let’s get on with it.

94 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Kathy September 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

Great post, God bless and good luck!


Tanis the Redneck Mommy September 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

Good for you. You will do ONE Moms proud. I can’t wait to read the stories you will share upon your return home.

(And I totally dig your hair a la 1985. Happy b to you. xo)
Tanis the Redneck Mommy recently posted..That’s All She WroteMy Profile


Morgan (The818) September 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

Happy Birthday Liz. I can’t wait to follow this journey with you!
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Marija September 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

Congratulations! Bursting bubbles of our own secluded lifes is what all of this is about. We are fortunate enough to have everything, but we have it only because we are standing on shoulders of giants (i.e. generations before us). Now it is our time to lend our shoulders to someone else in need, and lift up the whole society in the process. From simple smile to cashier to the vaccines for poverty-caged Africa, everything counts. Go and make us all proud, as you always do.


Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama September 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

That’s fabulous news and you are a wonderful addition to the ONE Moms cause. It’s so important to see outside the world we live in and while things here are home are also important, it provides a completely different perspective. I will never take for granted what I learned during my time in Haiti and it’s part of the reason why I’m so committed to going back and continuing the work we started while there. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip and experiences!
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Nancy letts September 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

Today’s post marks the Beginning of the New Beginnings. I marvel at all you’ve become and all you have left to be.


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:25 am

Thank you. Sniff.


AmyeToTheRescue! September 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Ditto Nancy!
And Happy Happy Birthday dear Liz!
You have never ceased to amaze us.
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Julie Marsh September 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

I’m so excited for you! You and the other ONE Moms can absolutely count on me to be an attentive listener.
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Rebecca September 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

I can’t wait to go along, even if it’s just vicariously. And also, have to say even back in the 80′s you could rock some very fab jewelery. I hope you have an incredible year ahead – it’s certainly off to wonderfully meaningful start!
Rebecca recently posted..What I Want My Daughters to Know About 9/11My Profile


Karianna September 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

Wow! Congratulations, and good luck, and all those wonderful things. I’m in awe, and will enjoy reading about your journey.
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Alma September 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

I’m looking forward to your commentary. Have you read Jacqueline Novogratz’s book “The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World”? I’m curious about how her perspective on aid v. investment jibes with what you learn.
Alma recently posted..How I told the kids we’re going to Disney WorldMy Profile


Marke September 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

Amazing post. Very meaningful as two people I know died way way before their time. Liz you never cease to amaze me. Keep on doing it.


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:25 am

Thanks Marke and I’m sorry for your losses. It still hurts, doesn’t it.


Katja of Skimbaco September 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

Happy Birthday and thank you for sharing such great news – even on a day like this. I think the need for great news is even greater on days/dates like today. I’m so happy you will get to go on the trip, and looking forward seeing you do more great things that you truly are passionate about.
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Rachel, BacknGrooveMom September 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

Looking forward to the adventure.

This is such happy news to hear on 9/11.

Hope your year is wonderful -
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Danielle Tropea September 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

That’s wonderful. I mean ONEderful. Happy birthday my friend!


whoorl September 11, 2012 at 10:31 am

Happy Birthday! I can’t wait to follow your journey with ONE moms – you are such a wonderful addition to the team.

p.s. – I think your 1985 hair is pretty fantastic, actually.


magpie September 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

that’s very cool, Liz. have a great trip and do good work. happy birthday!
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Laurie September 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

You were in my annual latenight September 10 stew of people, places, and things I think about as I process another year past 2001, and what it always has and still means. I’m glad to wake up to this news from you. I’m glad you get this chance to go and do this. You’re so right. There is only today, and how we spend it.

Happy birthday.
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Pam September 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

There is not a bow big enough or sparkly enough for the gift of perspective. (Though the 80s-hair tried awful hard.) What a great way to start your 44th year — Can’t wait to see what good things you do.


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

You always have such a way of putting things Pam. Thanks.

Although crap, I’m actually starting my 45th year aren’t I? Now that just sounds old.


Cheryl September 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

Wishing you all the best on your trip and in the year ahead. I especially liked your line about how the days matter just as much as the years. I’m finding that, too.
Cheryl recently posted..No Day But Today (9/11)My Profile


Katherine Stone September 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

Wow. I’m so VERY excited for you and can’t wait to hear more about what happens there. Go Liz!!
Katherine Stone recently posted..On Postpartum Depression & The Family of Warrior MomsMy Profile


Terre September 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

Right on, girl. You’re a huge inspiration. Fly on, love. x


leanne September 11, 2012 at 10:48 am

Such exciting news! (I’m still working on picking my jaw up off the floor.) You never fail to inspire me.

Happy Birthday, Liz!


tobe berkovitz September 11, 2012 at 10:49 am

Your very old professor is very proud of you. You are an inspiration to all of our students at COM.


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:21 am

Thank you so much Tobe!


amy sue nathan September 11, 2012 at 10:50 am

Safe travels, Liz — to Ethiopia and on the rest of your amazing life’s journey. Thanks for sharing it all with the rest of us.


Mir September 11, 2012 at 10:50 am

Happy birthday, my friend. And Godspeed on your journey—I know you’ll do ONE Moms proud. :)
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Julie Machado September 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

How exciting!! I am so excited to read about your adventure and good will journey!! I am encouraged (for myself) to see you design your own “bubble” and pass that message onto your kids! Very inspiring!!! Happy Birthday!
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Dawn @ thedalaimama September 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

Ethiopia is an amazing country and one so near and dear to my heart (both of my children are from Ethiopia). I have had the pleasure of traveling there twice-spending a total of 3 weeks with the amazing people of the cradle of humanity.

It is a nation that taught me that no matter how little you have–what you can give will help someone one else. It is country that lives in my life everyday. I am so happy that you and Kelly are going and will share the beauty and struggles honestly.

The stories of girls who walk 6 hours a day to get water. The 5-year-old boys who sheppard animals to and from market. The mothers who only want to keep their children healthy.

Have an awesome time. Bring back their stories.
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:21 am

Oh Dawn, we need to talk. I can’t wait to hear your advice and your stories. It already sounds so much like what I learned from Sarajevo – the people with the least often give the most.

Sage’s best friend is also from Ethiopia and I can’t wait to be able to share some of her own history with her too.


Expressing Motherhood September 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

Happy Birthday Liz, you give fresh perspective on everything .


Alyssa S. September 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

Happy Birthday! Good luck on your trip half way across the world. I bet it will be a gift to you as well as the people you meet.

P.S. I have more than one of those pictures of myself circa 1988. I think I still know that girl in the picture. She looks a lot like me, only cooler :)
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

No way. We all look cooler as we age, right?


Boston Mamas September 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

Liz, this will be so life changing. I still can’t believe I’ll get to experience this with you.

Happy birthday sweet one.
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

You know I feel the exact same way Christine.


Observacious September 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

What a wonderful outlook. Enjoy your journey. I look forward to reading about it.

And, happy birthday.
Observacious recently posted..I Still Don’t Believe That 9/11 HappenedMy Profile


dusty earth mother September 11, 2012 at 11:13 am

Burst that bubble, amazing woman. And Happy Day. Much love.


Korinthia Klein September 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

Amazing! Can’t wait to follow your adventures and hear about what you learn.

(And I have to say, it was nice when scanning my facebook page this morning that along with the 9/11 tributes I was reminded to stop and wish one of my favorite bloggers a Happy Birthday. That made me smile on a morning when I think it’s important to remember to do so.)
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

Ha, glad my birth can give you a break today. As for me, I stay away from pretty much all media that isn’t my twitter @ feed today.


Meagan @ The Happiest Mom September 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

This is awesome, Liz! I’m so excited to hear about your trip…not to mention inspired to live today with a little more intention. Thanks!
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:33 am

As you always do, Meagan.


UpsideUp Laurie September 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

Congratulations Liz. And happy birthday! That’s really exciting news. How lucky we are that we get to go with you :)
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Kristin Wilkins September 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

What a fantastic post. Thank you for the gentle reminder to always strive to our best selves.
Have a safe trip. I look forward to reading all about it when you return!


Deb September 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Awesome. I’ve also done some pro bono work in Africa and it really just changed my life. Can’t wait to hear about your experience.
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Jason September 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

How great is this? Very.


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

I think so too Jason, thank you.


Marinka September 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

What an amazing journey. So excited to virtually join you. (Happy birthday!)


Leigh September 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

So well said… Happy Birthday. You are certainly adding something positive to the world we live in. Inspiring!
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Cindy - The Reedster Speaks September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Happy Birthday Liz – you go hug all the beautiful people of Ethiopia for me. And if you happen to be around Hosanna, hug them extra tight. My daughter’s birthmother is from there. We love her and we miss her every day. xoxo, Cindy
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Sondra September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

What a wonderful way to celebrate your next year, looking forward and knowing that what you do makes a difference must be the best gift you could ask for!

By the way, one of my dear friends from college was born and raised in Ethiopia. She is one of the most prolific, intelligent and beautiful people I have ever known. I have no doubt you will meet some amazing people there who have wonderful stories to share.

I can’t wait to hear about your adventure.
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Liz September 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Happy Birthday Liz!!
I think it’s absolutely amazing what you are doing and I can’t wait to go along with you, if only virtually.
I also love your mom’s advice – I’m going to start doing that!
Liz recently posted..Wednesday WisdomMy Profile


Diana September 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

This is a beautiful post! I can’t wait to meet you.
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Gabrielle - Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm

You’re one of my very favorite writers, Liz. Each post is better than the last.

Happy Day!
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Thank you Gabby, and you know you’re one of my very favorite bloggers. I can’t wait to see you soon. IN AFRICA.


Trish Sammer Johnston September 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Wow. Congrats on this opportunity. As a regular reader, I can say that I have faith that we’re in good hands — I’m sure you’ll bring us stories that will challenge us and make us think. I look forward to reading them.

I hope the girls are proud of their mommy! Happy birthday!
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Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

That’s really nice of you Trish, thanks so much and for always being so supportive.


Karen September 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Happy birthday, Liz. I hope the coming year is full of everything you want and need. :)
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kristy September 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Liz, your Enkutatas are real, and they ARE spectacular. Hooray!


Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

That made me laugh so hard!


Beta Dad September 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Happy birthday and congrats! This is very exciting, and I’ll be reading every word you write about your experience.


Kristin September 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm

This post brought tears to my eyes – and I’m not sure why. Excitement for your adventure that awaits? Realizing that moving on is finally where we’re at – and it’s a very good thing? A reminder that my 43rd birthday is coming up – and it’s a very good thing!

I look forward to reading about the experience and the good it will spread. Because if there’s one thing I’m sure of, Good *wants* to spread. It really, really does.
Kristin recently posted..Landing in a Soft NestMy Profile


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