Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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5 Years of Chronic Illness

freestocks-org-126848April 30th marked five years of chronic illness for me. I’ve improved, for sure, but I still feel like I have a long way to go. Some days, that thought gives me hope, and some days it pains me more than I can say.

I got sick when I was 35, and last September I turned 40. There is, of course, a flood of feelings about hitting that milestone regardless. For me, most of them revolve around the realization that I spent the last half of my thirties—half a decade—sick. I mourn what might have been.

Sure, I made some great memories. A lot of them, actually. I know that I am extremely blessed. And I accomplished some big things, like starting my own business. But I am also deeply saddened by the people and places I missed, either knowingly or unknowingly. I skipped parties, occasions, trips, coffee dates, and numerous other events big and small because I just wasn’t physically or emotionally up for it. I’ve spent so many hours in bed or on my couch that I sometimes joke that I should’ve created my own line of lounge wear by now. At the very least, I should’ve bought stock in Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

I also know that some of these feelings can be part of the territory that comes with turning 40. I am certainly not immune to the baggage that can come with turning that corner, while looking behind you. But, obviously, I have to factor in my other extenuating circumstances as well.

Spring 2012: I was under a lot of stress and working really long hours. So, I just assumed that not feeling well more frequently was due to those two things.

April 30, 2012: I finished up my big work project the week before, and was headed into the office on Monday morning. Shortly after I arrived, I realized just how bad I felt—and it was bad. Like being hit by a tsunami and a 18-wheeler at the same time. I turned around and went home immediately. That entire week I thought I had the flu. I had a lot of the signs, and was more exhausted than I knew was possible. After it didn’t get any better, I went to the doctor. Turns out I had mono, a really bad case. Adults aren’t supposed to get mono, especially a 35-year-old.  I still don’t know how it happened, but sadly, it wasn’t the fun way. 😉

What I knew about mono is that it felt a lot like the flu, except for making you a lot more tired, and that it lasted for several months. So, because I’m an adult with a job and bills, I chose to work from home in May, and a good bit throughout the summer. I was just waiting for this thing to pass. Meanwhile, my symptoms improved only slightly. I still had extreme tiredness, aches, fever, and more—every day.

I just keep my routine as best I could. And I didn’t really feel like I had any options. (I only found out last fall that I could’ve applied for FMLA.)

September 12, 2012: I had a work trip to Tampa for an event with a bunch of my co-workers. It was just an overnight trip, so again, I thought I’d just tough it out. That night I began to feel pretty, well, horrible. In fact, I had to miss most of the next day due to just how bad I felt. I worked a little bit at the event the latter half of the day, and then we got back on the plane. One of my co-worker even remarked that I looked a little “green” to her. That weekend, no improvement. At this point, I knew something was wrong other than the mono, but it was the weekend and I couldn’t see my doctor. But, you know me, I waited it out.

Understand that, up until this point in my life, I’ve never really had anything wrong with me—not even a cavity. Maybe the occasional cold. So this was all uncharted territory. Monday morning I called my doctor, only to find out she was on vacation. Then I thought that maybe I should go to the ER. But again, I had no idea what it felt like to make that decision. I’d never been to the ER! However, I thought at this point I should go see exactly what’s wrong. So, I got up, grabbed my keys, and headed for the door—until I realized that I didn’t even know where an ER was. Yep, no reference. So, I Googled one nearby, and went there immediately.

I was actually pretty certain now that it was a kidney infection since I’d had those once or twice before. My back and side had really started hurting. That, on top of the mono, seemed like a bad recipe. An hour or so later they started running tests. Yes, it was a kidney infection—oh, and my gallbladder needed to come out immediately. WHAT?!?!?!

I was checked in and put on some sort of “standby” list for the operating room. They wouldn’t even let me leave to go pack a bag. Sadly, I had to wait a few days for the gallbladder surgery, but it eventually came out. I actually lost about 10 pounds that week! Not the diet I recommend, but it is extremely effective. So, my first case of mono, my first trip to the ER, and now my first surgery. That’s when I concluded that 2012 was trying to kill me.

November 16, 2012: I’d seen my naturopath, Nelli, about a year and a half before. She actually helped me with a gluten intolerance. I was gluten-free for over a year before I started seeing her, and haven’t had any problems with it since. So, now post-surgery, I wasn’t feeling a whole lot better. In fact, I was pretty much a walking zombie. I knew it was time to call her up again. She could see immediately from looking at me how bad things were. Actually, even not being an expert, you probably could have too. I kept thinking about the quote from Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

The mono was still really bad, and now my body was coping with losing an organ, even a damaged one. And I was getting sick all the time from every little bug that floated by.

So, I began regular biofeedback treatments with her, accompanied by supplements. To be completely honest, I think she and biofeedback saved me. Biofeedback is utterly amazing. I’m such an advocate for it. The healing progress was incredibly slow, but it wasn’t getting worse, and I believe it totally could have. I have read horror stories about people becoming bedridden over similar conditions.

My primary doctor was also supportive of the process because she knew that there was no magic pill for me. There is actually no pill at all. So she encouraged me to do whatever I could that might help—and she knew it wasn’t going to be her. (Side note: Emory is now starting to look into biofeedback. My doctor is a part of the Emory system.)

I also learned about adrenal fatigue at this time. It was actually the “egg” to my mono “chicken.” Adrenal fatigue isn’t recognized in traditional medicine. But I am a big fan of natural medicine, and with some of the things I’ve dealt with, alternative medicine was the only thing that could explain, and treat, them. Anyway, I learned that severe adrenal fatigue had already set in early in the year from the stress and long work hours, so that’s what opened the door for mono. And it’s the reason that I still felt as bad as I did months later.

Everything in my life had changed at this point. I rarely left the house unless I had to, because I was so tired all the time, and also usually felt bad. I went into work late, left early, took a nap, and continued working as much as I could. I was like a toddler who couldn’t make it through a day without a nap at this point—sometimes two per day.

September 2013: After seeing Nelli for almost a year, I was still seeing only incremental progress. That wasn’t due to her expertise, it was due to what my body was dealing with and other life conditions. However, naively, I just kept thinking I had to push through and time would heal the wounds.

It was this month that I developed a thyroid problem. Yay—now, I’m a triple threat! I gained about 50 pounds in a little over four months. Again, my body was revolting against me. And I could feel the additional strain. I was still taking daily naps, and though, not feeling like as much of a zombie now, still dealing with how badly I felt on a daily basis. I was also still getting every virus, cold, and infection that came along. And, of course, with the weight gain, my self-esteem took a big hit. In researching mono, as I have done all these years, one of the bad “side effects” is that it can lead to depression (something I already struggled with) because you just feel so useless and unable to live a regular life. But again, I did what I always do, and just plugged along.

(Side note: I never took thyroid meds for two reasons. First, I absolutely refuse to take a pill for the rest of my life. Second, the meds would stimulate my adrenals, making them work even harder, thereby potentially causing even more harm than good.)

I also had some conversations with co-workers around this time who knew of people with, not exactly similar, but not completely dissimilar conditions to me. And, sadly, I learned from them that with the hits my immune system had taken in those long months during 2012, it could take me years to rebuild it. I was devastated by this news, but it also made sense. I had obliterated my immune system in three, huge stages, and now, despite the time that had already passed, I was still looking at a very long road ahead.

January 27, 2015: Nelli moved to a new clinic now, which was a good move for her because she’d been practicing solo the last few years. So, now she’d be working with a team of holistic practitioners. In my first few visits with them, they told me the same thing Nelli had been telling me. They were all shocked that I’d been able to carry on as much of a normal life as I had until this point with how sick I was. In fact, they were surprised I was still able to work full-time. I don’t believe that’s any real kudos to me, but a nod to how remarkable and adaptable the human body can be.

I also started using an essential oil brand, doTerra, at this time. I loved the ability to live even more naturally. I’m a big fan, and use them daily for all kinds of things.

Over the next two years, I saw my team of naturopaths frequently. (Yes, it is extremely expensive because it’s not covered by insurance. My health is the reason I’m still in debt, but it’s also the thing I can’t afford to lose.) We slowed the biofeedback down in favor of some of their other techniques, to see if we could get different (better) results.

I was still napping almost daily, sometimes just for 15 minutes, and sometimes for up to two hours depending on how strenuous my week had been. I love traveling so much, but it was/is very hard on my system. So, effort like that or a really busy work week would take a lot out of me, and it could take me a week or more to return to my new “normal.” Everything was a battle between me and my immune system, because we certainly didn’t seem to be working in tandem.

In seeing them, Nelli, and my primary care doc, one consistency kept coming up in every conversation. My job circumstances had to change. I had a fairly demanding job, as is the nature of marketing and sales. And I wasn’t the same person who’d started that job only seven months prior to acquiring mono. My capacity had changed drastically and I was fighting to keep my head above water, despite the fact that the events I was responsible for marketing were all doing great and growing. But it was taking a bigger, personal toll. And, you know the effort that it takes you to get ready for the day when you have something like the flu? I felt that every single morning. I woke up every day like I hadn’t slept. Between the severe adrenal fatigue, mono (my levels were still insanely high), and the thyroid issues, my body was so worn out, and worn down.

December 7, 2015: It was on this morning, over breakfast with my mentor, that I decided to leave my job. (I chronicled a bit of that, and the impact of planning a personal retreat, in this guest post for the Yellow Conference.) I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired, and my job was one thing I had control over. And that’s when I started making big plans to launch my own business. If you’re still hanging with me, some of you may be thinking that there is still a ton of work and stress involved in starting your own business.

While that’s true, I also have the ability to tailor it to my own needs. I don’t have to get dressed and go into an office. I can work during the hours I feel best. And I can take off on the days/hours I feel really bad. And I desperately needed those things.

May 25, 2016: This was my last day as a full-time employee. I even took off during the month of June to rest. I had never taken that much time off before, and hadn’t even had an unplugged vacation in over six years! Yes, it has definitely had it’s challenges, but I wouldn’t trade them. I’ve seen the greatest leaps in my health, for the better, since making this change.

Up until this date, I’d only gone two stretches of seven days without having to take a nap. Two weeks out of four years! I’d get maybe up to three or even four days at a time now and again, but really infrequently. Most every day required a nap, and yes, some of them still required two. Unless you have dealt with something similar, you cannot begin to imagine the toll this kind of sickness and tiredness can take on your life.

May 13, 2017: I now rarely need naps, at least by my previous standard. But I still haven’t had a single day where I felt normal. I wake up every morning feeling the symptoms of my sickness.

I’m also still a virus magnet since the mono is remains at abnormal levels, but it’s much better than it used to be. I’ve had mostly minor, but a few major cases, of the flu every other month for the past 16 months. Luckily, I am able to treat it solely with essential oils, and sometimes over the counter meds.

Being able to work from home, and set my own guidelines has allowed me to get more rest (a key to my three ailments), sleep longer at night (when those three said ailments aren’t cause insomnia, as they do), and exert less effort each day by not having to get dressed and made up. There’s still a lot of stress, and a whole lot of work, but the tradeoff for my health improvements has been totally worth it. And I love working with a variety of amazing clients who are improving the world.

I’m still friends with a lot of my co-workers, and my old job still hires me for contract work now and again. I love the work they do. I absolutely support the work they do. But I needed the change.

What now?

After leaving a full-time job (hear: full-time salary with benefits), I had to slow working with my naturopaths due to the cost. I still take supplements daily, but less of them. And I only see Nelli and the naturopaths every couple of months. However, due to the other big changes, it seems to be ok for now.

Another change I made last December that I know has made a positive impact is that I started taking doTerra‘s Life Long Vitality Pack daily. I also internally take a few additional immunity boosting oils, including Melissa, every morning. These, coupled with the other supplements, have made a difference.

As I mentioned in the beginning (and thanks for hanging with me), I am not out of the woods yet. I still wake up with the weight of this three issues every day. I feel them throughout the day. I fight their urges. But I do know how far I’ve come over the past five years. With the distance I still have to go, it is unimaginable to think of how bad things might be if I hadn’t walked into Nelli’s office, and started using natural treatments. There are still no real answers in traditional medicine, and I could’ve very well ended up one of those bedridden individuals otherwise. I thank God for Nelli!

You can see that the progress has largely been slow and incremental. It’s like mono, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid issues are all a Catch 22 for each other. And the learning curve never ends.

I hope that I write another post before too long about my first symptom-free day. I hope shortly after that I write a post about complete healing. I don’t know how long either of those things will take, but they are much closer than they used to be. And I cling to that hope.

I don’t have a lot of answers. I still have a lot of questions. One thing I can tell you is that, if you’re dealing with chronic health issues, you’re not alone. And that both saddens and comforts me, as I’m sure it does you. I have a friend who dealt with mono and a few other things for 15 years before she found healing. But, she has.

It’s not the most fun club to be a part of, but it is a reminder how connected we all are. If chronic illness doesn’t effect you personally, you probably know someone who struggles. Show them kindness, grace, and love. Be someone who improves their lives.

But if you are suffering from a chronic illness or long-term health issue, and you care to leave a comment about your situation, I will be more than happy to say a prayer for your healing as well. I hear you. I empathize with you. I am one of you.


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The Orange Conference: Live Stream

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Photo courtesy: The Orange Conference

I may not work for Orange anymore, but I’m still a big fan of what they do! And The Orange Conference begins today!

If you aren’t going to be on-site at the event, you might want to tune into the live stream, starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern TONIGHT.  You’ll be able to see the opening session this evening, which is always full of good music and great speakers, including Reggie Joiner, Orange’s founder. You can also see the full live stream schedule there on the site. It’s going to be a great couple of days. Tell the church leaders and volunteers in your life.

I’ll be there in person again, but hope you can join us virtually!


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The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat

Personal retreat

Photos by: Valerie Denise Photos featuring The Created Co. mugs

I’ve talked several times before on this blog about my personal and business retreats. I’m actually out on another one this week, but more on that later. They are incredibly valuable to me, and I recommend them to everyone.

In fact, I even shared specific tips on how to plan one for this guest post for The Yellow Conference last week. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

A few quotes:

  • “Anxiety was growing. Stress was building. My head was swimming. And I had more questions than answers. This was December 2015 for me.”
  • “Until that time, I’d always considered retreats a luxury. Something wealthy people did. Something people who were offered sabbaticals did. I thought, a retreat wasn’t something ‘regular’ people did—but there I found myself.”
  • “It was during this intentional, introspective time that I resolved something huge—I needed to start my own business.”
  • “Of course, I didn’t leave with all the answers. But this time did, however, become a catalyst in taking my next steps.”

Read the full post: THE IMPACT OF PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT


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Sharing Jesus in 1,500 Languages

I made a new friend on Wednesday when an old friend came to town, and a group of us got together for lunch. My new friend works for CRU, Campus Crusade for Christ. She and I got to chatting, and mentioned the app above.

I’d heard of The Jesus Film, which debuted in 1979, but I had no idea it was still in use. And, actually, she told me that it was still being actively promoted and had resulted in millions of people coming to know Jesus since that time.

One of the coolest things about the project, she told me, was the app.

She gave me a tour of the app in just a few minutes time, and yes, it’s pretty cool. In it, you can watch the film, and also a number of other video series, including a lead up to Easter. Even more extraordinary, with a few clicks, you can watch the app content in almost 1,500 languages!

The app has over 30 short and feature length films, which touch on a variety of topics. And CRU has a goal of reaching over 5 billion people by 2025! This app will definitely help do that.

I thought the ability to watch the app in that many languages makes it pretty remarkable, and I wanted to share it.

Maybe you need it. Maybe you know someone who needs it. Or maybe you work with a church, ministries or missionaries who could utilize this powerful tool.

We’re on the heels of Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And this is, in my opinion, more good news to celebrate.

Be blessed, and share the blessing.


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The McCain Institute Trafficking Event

mccain-institute-eventA few weeks ago I was able to attend another trafficking event, but in DC this time. So, I’m certainly making headway on my goal for attending more human trafficking and slavery events in 2017!

And this one was definitely unlike any other I’ve attended before. I actually didn’t quite realize to what degree until I showed up. My friend, Becca, is on the email list for The McCain Institute, founded by Cindy and John McCain. I kinda feel like I knew they had a foundation or institute or something, but I didn’t realize it had such a strong trafficking focus. Evidently, it is a real hot-button issue for Cindy McCain. I don’t really align myself with any political party, but I’m willing to listen to anyone who is passionate about this issue. Plus, there were a lot of interesting people on the roster.

Anywho . . . Becca forwarded me the info for this event at the end of December. Once I saw it was in DC, I kinda ignored it for a while. But several weeks later, I was sorting through my emails and looked closer, after I’d made the decision to start attending more trafficking events in 2017. I then realized it was free! So, it quickly moved up my list. 🙂

Plane tickets to DC were incredibly cheap at that time, since early February is not a popular time to visit, and I had hotel points to use, so we jumped on the opportunity. Less than two weeks later, we were headed to DC.

And, of course, you can’t go to DC and not go to any museums, so I decided to fly in the day before to enjoy the city. It’s such a  beautiful place, and there are so many cool things to see. Since I was trying to keep the trip as cheap as possible, I chose a free Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of American History, which was fantastic! It was also a good fit for my hotel choice, The Hamilton Hotel by Crowne Plaza, which I totally recommend. And I was finally able to visit one of the Founding Farmers restaurants that I’d wanted to try since my last visit. I chose Farmers & Distillers because I could use the $20 OpenTable.com certificate that I’d earned. Bonus—it was delicious! So, besides cheap, are you noticing a theme? Yes, I’ve been pretty constantly listening to the Hamilton soundtrack! 😉 In fact, I’m headed to NYC in about two weeks to finally see it after trying to get tickets for almost a year. I’m a little obsessed, and DC allowed me to indulge a bit more.

Ok, back to the event!

I mentioned it was unlike any other event I’ve been to, trafficking or otherwise, and that’s because of not only the people onstage but the people in the audience. There were only about 200 people in attendance, so it was smaller that I thought it’d be, which was actually great. But my friend and I seemed to be two of the only people who didn’t work for a huge government agency or nonprofit, or that even came from out of town to be there. That was also the case for the event I attended in January, but to a much larger degree.

These people were from places like the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Polaris, GEMS, Thorn, etc. So, these are all people I read about pretty often, subscribe to their newsletter, follow on social media, and look to as experts on this issue. And I got to be in the same room (and table) with them—and talk to them! Cindy McCain even stopped by to shake my hand and thank me for being there. I totally felt like everyone was going to find out who I was and ask me to leave, ha! But it was really cool to meet the people on the front lines of this issue, and that have big voices in the fight, even setting some of the policy and legislation. Ashton Kutcher even pre-recorded a message for our audience since he couldn’t be there. I did sit in on the breakout done by the CEO of the organization he and Demi Moore co-founded when they were married, Thorn, and to hear what they are doing is simply remarkable. (BTW, they are both still on the board, and Ashton is very active. You can see his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from last week here.) What a cool day!

Here are my notes:

  • The use the hashtag #endtrafficking.
  • Panel of survivors
    • Tina Frudnt, founder of Courtney’s House, and former trafficking victim
      • Faith-based and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are key in helping victims. It can’t just be the government that we rely on.
      • We have to educate people at all levels. It effects everyone, and takes people everywhere to invest in the cause.
      • Embassies need to be trained.
      • We need more awareness and victim services.
    • Chicago survivor
      •  Grew up in poor area, and would’ve have trusted calling the police or information on a poster. Taught to be skeptical.
      • Big believer in changing policies and not prosecuting victims.
      • Its hard to provide services when the laws don’t line up! (YES!!!)
    • Shandra Woworuntun, founder of Mentari, former trafficking victim from Asia
      • We need to provide victim empowerment for lasting change. They need to feel like they can have a different life.
      • We need more funding for programs.
      • We need to leave the ego at the door in favor of victims. It has to be everyone working together, and not about the person or organization that did the rescuing.
      • We should wait five years before the victim gets involved due to treatment and some mental/physical distance.
      • We need to have more training and awareness for school-age children. She is using a comic book in Indonesia for this purpose. Lots of hurdles to addressing this group in the US. She is petitioning the Department of Education for this reason. But we can educate teachers and counselors. It takes a multi-prong approach.
    • Victims need to sit on committees and be actively involved because they offer an invaluable perspective, and can say what victims actually need or want.
    • We need more consistency in training. – SOAR: Health and Human Services Training
    • We also need more mental health services and training. Most survivors deal with these issues growing up as well.
    • HEAL network
    • Caring for Victims Handbook
  • Mary Mazzio, Filmmaker
    • Made a documentary, I am Jane Doe, after she saw a Boston Globe article about “Jane Doe’s” going after Backpage.com. #iamjanedoe
    • Backpage.com was formerly the Village Voice, and is one of the largest online perpetrators of sex ads.
    • Section 230 of the law is usually why survivor cases lose against places like Backpage.com because it was written after the birth of the internet saying that sites aren’t responsible for third-party content.
    • She is still hearing from lots of journalists who didn’t know this was an issue, so we still need awareness.
    • They are just starting to show screenings around the country of the documentary.
  • Technology and Trafficking Breakout by Julie Cordua at Thorn
    • There are an estimated 21 million victims, and there were only 6600 convictions in 2016.
    • Their org brings the engineers, creators, power of tech to the issue. Created tech task force to combat this issue rather than just having lawyers and policy advisors do it. The latter is needed, but it usually stops there or takes too much time.
    • Many of the girls actually write their own online ads.
      • Thorn’s algorithm (Spotlight) can detect their approximate age when this happens by reading their emails and keywords. All of our writing creates a pattern that helps identify things like your age through the words you use.
      • The data also looks at their physical movement, and is 90% accurate. Meaning, they posted an ad in Dallas, and later posted one in Maryland, so you can “see” that girls are being trafficked.
      • Currently over 4,000 officers around the US using Spotlight. It’s expanding to Canada and Europe this year.
      • Partnerships are critical.
      • Over 350 million escort images are in their database, and they are now building facial recognition.
    • Business lessons:
      • It’s usually a good idea to pay for things so that funding can move more quickly and not be held up, or dictated by others.
      • It also helps to have your own team to not rely on others for getting the work done.
      • Additionally, fail quickly and move on.
      • Think narrow to begin. Start by solving a problem, even a small one. Then figure out how to expand and scale. If you have a large goal in mind for the end, you may get stuck. Think about what you can do, rather than throwing your hands up. They started by thinking about how a small group of local cops could find just a few girls through their digital footprint.
      • Understand your work and parameters thoroughly before expanding, which is why its been a few years before they move outside of the US. Things don’t translate 100% culturally or systematically. They had field office partners and data to work with.
      • They commit to testing, not implementation, as to not use funding for non-productive projects.
      • When meeting with a tech company, make the meeting small and include engineers.
      • When making the case for companies to get involved, use risk management and corporate responsibility angles, not shame.
      • Don’t try to build a system. Try to solve a problem. And define your problem completely, and on a human level.
    • Women Seeking Men and City Vibes are where Backpage’s escort ads have largely moved to. Also dating apps/sites like Plenty of Fish, because they have less requirements than other sites.
    • Dark web is less prevalent because it relies on anonymity whereas trafficking relies on face-to-face.
    • Now moving more into legislation.
    • On the East Coast, the I-95 corridor is a hot spot.
    • Check out the Money Now App which promotes transparency for workers. The Labor Voices App is for employees to report anonymously about their employers.
  • International Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Global awareness is spreading.
    • Policies are developing and changing.
    • More resources are now invested, leading to more success.
    • 3,000 orgs working on the issue report to the Global Slavery Index.
    • Still an infant movement in a lot of ways.
    • Collective action is needed (public, government, NGO)
  • Labor Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Department of Labor report from September 2016 offers a lot of comprehensive info.
    • Public needs to pressure companies for better standards and reporting.
    • Need more data and resources to act on.
    • Labor trafficking laws and statues are needed to expand and find ways to compound on each other than what we have currently.
  • Domestic Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Foster care desperately needs to be revamped. There are too many victims and perpetrators in this system.
    • Systems of care need to be better linked and cooperative.
    • 16-18 year-olds are at a gap in resources. There is less available to them, and we need therapeutic foster care centers.
    • More preventative services are needed.
    • Need more effective response to demand.
  • Lunch program – Cindy McCain and Emanuel Medeiros, CEO of International Center for Sports Security (ICSS) Europe
    • The trafficking/slavery issue is no different in the world of international sports. Victims are promised a new life, and they are then trafficked, usually for labor.
    • We need to create a mindset of transparency, accountability and responsibility.
    • This is the moment to do what’s right!
    • To acknowledge that this issue happens in sports is to give it validity.
    • We need to build toolkits for action and also bridges.
    • We can all make a different through small, humble acts, but we must keep moving the issue forward.
    • Name and fame, but also name and shame.
  • Molly Gochman, Red Sand Project
    • Vulnerabilities are all around us. We just have to take the time to recognize it.
    • Vulnerabilities can lead to exploitation.
    • People are trying to take care of themselves and their families, and sometimes they find themselves exploited over a lack of basic access.
    • Her project uses red sand to fill in cracks. People take pictures and upload them to represent this issue.
  • 2 pm panel: Bradley Myles of Polaris, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Malika Saada Saar of Google and Carol Smolenski of ECPAT-USA
    • We must name the violence for what it is. Then we must enforce (or create) laws that punish. Rape is rape, whether its paid for or not.
    • Norms have to be changed, as well as laws.
    • We need a roadmap for how to prosecute using existing laws to better ensure success. also, we need all states to adopt the Washington laws that actually prosecute commercial exploitation and trafficking.
    • Most people who purchase sex are upper middle-class white men with an average income of $110,000.
    • Racial justice needs to be a bigger part of the issue as these girls are often asked to grow up earlier than white girls. They are “not afforded a lengthy childhood.”
    • Black and brown girls are often looked at more as prostitutes than white girls, even when underage.
    • One survivor said her phone was most active on Monday mornings, often after the man has spent the weekend with his family.
    • Bradley Myles – Use the privilege you’re afforded to support and educate others who don’t have the same ability.
  • Panel: Senator Bob Corker (TN), Senator Amy Klobauchar (MN), Congressman Ted Poe (TX)
    • Corker is working on international combatting efforts.
    • Klobuchar worked on bill for flight attendants training, Safe Harbor bill in MN, and working with Truckers AgainstTrafficking and also in the hospitality industry. It is also try to urge more public pressure.
    • Poe helped legislate laws that target demand (ex: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act)
    • Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is up for reauthorization again this year, but shouldn’t have any problems.
    • Poe: Government needs to zero in on faith-based orgs to work together. And fathers need to be role models for their sons.
    • We must continue to inform and have relationships with ambassadors who have relationships with other countries to help spread the message.
    • TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report does carry weight and is helping to bring about change.

I do really wish that more people like me would’ve been there. It was amazing to meet the people there, as I mentioned, but I hope more and more citizens, small businesses and nonprofits, and those interested in the issue will be able to take part in the future. It will take us all, at all levels, to fight this issue. The McCain Institute has some other pretty cool events coming up, so I hope to be able to join them again in the future. Sometimes they even live stream their events. I’d encourage you all to find an organization you can learn from and get behind!