Standing in Solidarity. Or not?

Image may contain: 16 people, people smiling, crowdFor 40 years I did not attend any type of public gathering for a cause…. No protests, no vigils, no walks.  This year I am on number 3.  The Women’s March in D.C. will likely never by topped.  What an amazing experience.  I then stood with other protesters in the snow at GR Ford Airport to protest the Muslim Travel Ban.  Immigration is very important to me and I was proud to stand there with my sign (except I had a word spelled wrong on it…shame on me).  Last night I decided to “Stand with Solidarity” in support of Charlottesville.   I hemmed and hawed about going, but ultimately met up with a friend as we both came to the conclusion that we have to stand for equality.  We cannot allow White Supremacy to be tolerated.


We strolled into Rosa Park Circle with other “standers” wearing black.  There were signs and flags and a comforting police presence.  There were a lot of white people. There were inspiring speakers who challenged us to keep the conversation going. The first speaker started by saying “We are standing on stolen ground”.  Which is such a hard truth.  There were speakers who talked about love.  In fact the overwhelming message was this: We will not tolerate hate and to combat it, we will love.   But as it is said, actions speak louder that words.

There were two men wandering around, both in full camo, both visibly wearing guns. Now I am 100% not cool with that.  Guns, visible or not, should stay at home.  Or even better, stay with the police.  And I will be the first to tell you, no matter what these guy’s motivation was, I wanted them out.

But I was not at all happy about what happened.  A speaker decided to vote if these guys should leave.  Then people started screaming about these guys leaving.  Then people surrounded them and screamed and chanted at them to leave.  Literally seconds after preaching love, people started to hate.


I wanted these guys gone.  Their agenda was not white supremacy, but it was also not Standing in Solidarity.  Not the time. Not the place.  But a perfect test to those of us who showed up and wanted to send a message to Charlottesville, to White Supremacists, to those who don’t see racism alive and well in this community.  And we failed the test. We changed the agenda.  We made it about something else completely.


I marched. I walked and contemplated the horror of Charlottesville. But I was dismayed. I lost my zest and  passion for what I was marching for.  My hope was to stand with Charlottesville. Show them the support from our community.  Let them know we are watching, paying attention.  Let them know that we do not tolerate hate.  And that message was drowned out.  Because, you guessed it, hate.


4 voices

A perfect summer night, a chance to see some of my favorite voices in concert in an intimate setting… Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.  I listened to them sing and I sang along.  And there was this moment, a totally perfect moment that I just took everything in…Joan dancing with her shoes off, Mary singing with her incredible raspy voice, Emily and Amy playing background and singing harmony, the sun setting and a breeze blowing.  I just felt.  So deeply. I just felt perfectly me. This moment, this is who I am.

These women and their lives and lyrics, so perfectly embody what I want to say and how I want to say it.  These women who are able to capture my greatest self, bottle it up and sing it back to me.

This brief moment of wholeness gave me a reminder of who I really am.  Underneath all the hats and before all the letters and titles.  Underneath the Social Worker and the Mom and the Wife and the Professor. Putting aside the anxiety and ignoring the pressure, I am something that is so much more than words.

I am thankful that there are four voices out there that can help me find me.  Who can remind me that I am. And remind me to keep finding that sense of self.  Not to hide it or shame it or ignore it or excuse it.  But to live being me.

Although I should end with a quote from one of these amazing women, I will instead ask Dear Evan Hansen to help me close:

what is love

Love is when your partner, who gets up at the crack of dawn, to work a 12 hour shift, taking care of very sick people, realizes there is only enough cream for one cup of coffee and leaves it for you.

Love is when your partner, who gets up at the crack of dawn, to work a 12 hour shift, taking care of very sick people, doesn’t have enough time to wait for coffee to brew, but still starts it, so you can have hot coffee waiting for you when you get up.

Love, is knowing your partner’s love language is coffee.  62.jpg

Love is also knowing your partner doesn’t like blogs written about him, so you use very general language and keep it totally anonymous.


Rosa Lee & bootstraps

41un9xa0wil-_sx326_bo1204203200_Last summer, I taught a class which required reading the book Rosa Lee: A tale of generational poverty and survival in urban America.  Check out the link for the details. It was a powerful book of how a seemingly stereotypical poor, black woman.. she uses drugs, she is a prostitute, she has 8 children with different fathers who are not at all involved.  She has subsidized housing and is on medicare and welfare.  And who wants to  know the details behind that story?  Who wants to have an emotional connection with someone like Rosa Lee?  Who wants to think that her life could be anything but her fault.

Leon Dash did.  Mr. Dash is a reporter and wanted to know Rosa Lee.  Understand her. And then he shared her with us.  Rosa Lee’s story is not one of failure, but one of survival.  One of having to choose between to horrible choices.  A story of getting through on day at a time.

I highly recommend the book.  As we discussed it in class, a few students did not see Rosa Lee as a survivor.  They saw her as a person who make bad choices and then worse choices and wondered why should could not just “pull herself up by her bootstraps”.  We had a good discussion as a class about this notion, but it was clear we not going to agree.
1343040238947_8411368This is a message I hear all the time from the world.  Bad things happen to people because of the choices they make. Everyone has the same opportunity for success.  So I will challenge this thinking.  Rosa Lee was born in horrific poverty.  She did not have the opportunity to go to school, to have any kind of education.  The only way she was able to get food, clothes, etc was to steal.  Right here, lets just pause.  You are a child, helpless in the world, you don’t know when your next meal is.  Stealing is your only option.  You wear a new clean outfit for the first time ever and people compliment you.  For once you are not being teased because you finally are wearing something that fits and matches.


I was meeting with a client the other day who had to choose between bringing his daughter to the hospital for psychiatric care or losing his job.  You see, he received sole custody of his daughter after she had been physically and emotionally abused by her mother.  She needed to be enrolled in school and he had to meet with teachers.  He had to take time off to work with Child Protective Services. He had to take time off when his daughter overdosed on medication.  And so when I met with him, and told him, “I am sorry but your daughter needs to go back to the hospital” he realized he was going to lose his job.  He had taken more than three “sick” days in one quarter.  This is company policy.  Even with a strong support system, this man was falling farther and farther behind.  No job means no money which means no rent, which means no housing… you get the drift.

10946206_388045098033464_1228906099_nI know another woman who arrived in this country at 10 years old.  She was undocumented and her parents had hired a “coyote’ to bring her to the US.  To safety.  What she went through in her country of origin, even at 10 years old, is unspeakable.  She has lived here for 18 years.  She has a husband and children.  She could be sent back at a moments notice.  She has very little if any legal protection.  She has a plan for her children if one day immigration shows up to take her.  Can you imagine? She is trying to do anything she can to gain citizenship.  She was brought here at 10 years old.  This is all she knows.  But none of that matters.  She is amazing… volunteers tirelessly at her church, is involved in her children’s school, she has a job as does her husband and is a part of a large supportive family.

We privileged people have no idea.  We make assumptions, we judge and stereotype and have a great idea of how we would handle things differently if we were in those situations. But we don’t know.  We have no idea.  We cannot compare our lives to others and think we have all the answers.

It  has never been easy for people in poverty.  It is has never been easy for minorities.  It has never been easy for immigrants.  For mentally ill, for disabled, for chronically ill.  And now, when you have already felt that things cannot get worse, the bottom falls out again.  But go ahead and reach down and find those bootstraps people, this is America after all, the opportunity is just laying at your feet.




Self Care (contains adult content)

I have become pretty darn good at self care over the years.  I am a veteran social worker and a working mom.  I have an anxiety disorder.  I have tried a lot over the years.  First and foremost, the ‘Conceal don’t feel” method.  Which is super fabulous until you want mushrooms on your cheeseburger and there are none so you cry for 3 solid hours.  Or you stub your toe and the anger explodes out of your mouth in a string of swear words that you didn’t even know you were capable of.

RX Prescription Drugs Pill BottleI openly admit I take medication daily for anxiety.  Because it helps.  Because I lived in a
world without it and it was hell.  Because I am find owning up to a chemical imbalance in my brain that a small pill can balance out and give me a solid foundation on which to deal with all the other stuff thrown at me every day.

And therapy is great too.  I have had a couple horrible therapists 20 years ago, which turned me off from therapy for a while, but I have also, more recently had a couple of amazing ones.  And I recommend it.  Highly.


I write, journal, blog, etc.  I surround myself with positive quotes and affirmations.  I excercise and spend time in nature.  I do yoga.  I take a lunch and breaks at work.  I take days off and vacations.  I sleep at least 8 hours every night and drink lots and lots of water.

I read Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton and Dan Harris and Jen Sincero and more recently started a book on Buddhism.  I watch all the TED talks. And tonight I started a class on meditation.  And it is all great.  And 90 percent of the time I am good.  This summer I might have said 30 percent.


So all this work is really making a difference.  But I recently discovered something new.  And it has changed my life.  I feel light and giddy.  I have optimism and a smile on my face all the time.  This is free and it is easy.  But you may judge me.  So please at least try it before you make horrible assumptions.  But the thing is, I don’t even care, because it has made my life so full of joy.

imagesIt is a pod cast.  It is called…. drumroll please…. “My Dad Wrote a Porno’.  You see, this British guy, Jamie, his dad wrote an erotic novel and it is the single most worst piece of “literature” that has ever been written.  Ever.  And every week he gets together with two of his friends, James and Alice, and he reads a chapter.  And it is so completely horrible, and the comments made by the threesome are some completely hilarious and on point that i cannot even breathe for laughing so hard.  And I will think about something ridiculous from the podcast throughout the day, and I will just feel happy.

Everyone needs this podcast in their life.  It is in no way “erotic” but in every way completely and utterly horrifyingly funny.  So I ask you to give it a chance.  Listen to Jamie come to terms with his father’s new hobby and enjoy the pitiful grammar, the insane “plot” and jump right into the life of Belinda, the new sales manager at Steele Pots and Pans and all that goes with it.


*NOTE: i am sure that this is not for everyone, if you are uncomfortable with incredibly awkward and somewhat disgusting “erotic” scenarios, you may not be able to find the humor in it.  So how ever you can find consistent laughter in your life, like laugh out loud (LOL or ROFL) for at least 30 minutes 2x a day, it will not have the healing effect of the great novel “Belinda Blinks”.



Yoga: Namaste or namastop?

Tonight as I was getting my boots on to go to yoga class I kept tipping over and missing my foot.  Josh laughed at me and said “You’re going to yoga class and you cant even put your boots on?”  I say that to show you just how inflexible and unbalanced I am.  And I did go to yoga.


I was encouraged to go to a yoga class by a friend.  I figured, It’s yoga, how hard can it be? Then answer is freaking hard.  That first class, I laid on my mat and cried. I cried so hard I had to blow my nose in my shirt.  I could not even hold myself up in the most basic poses.  My arms shook, my legs gave out and i could not even sit up straight.  And as I laid there sobbing I was saying over and over to myself: “You are horrible! You are the worst! You are weak!” And so on.  So the cycle just continued.  I would try a pose, collapse into a heap, cry and tell myself that I sucked.  And then at the very end of yoga class, about the last 10 minutes, you are instructed to lay on your back and the lights go out and soft music plays and you just lay.  And in that 10 minutes, I became a new woman.  I laid there and thought “You did it!” “You stayed!”  Suddenly just staying in the class, surviving the emotional and physical agony was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.



I decided to try again. This time with a Yoga 101 class, which came with 2 weeks of unlimited yoga.  I tried a few basic classes and some restorative classes.  It was going well.  A few of the basic classes left me sitting in the car afterwards trying not to puke. After 2 weeks and maybe 6 classes I decided to buy a punch card and commit long term.  Except, i learned a few days later, that during that class I broke my hand.  Yup.  I was so bad at yoga, I broke my hand just trying to hold myself in a basic pose.

The following are images of poses I cannot do:

8 weeks later, I jumped back in.  Focusing on the restorative classes.  Focusing on the meditative aspects of it.  And even though classes continued to be hard, I would leave feeling, well, restored.  I couldn’t really understand why this was working.  Why I hated so much of it, yet felt so good at the same time.


Tonight, my teacher set her theme for the class as awareness.  She always has great themes and we set our own intention and start class.  And let me pause here to talk about how even the simplest part of class sitting cross legged at the beginning is one of the hardest things for me to do.  It is so uncomfortable and you are supposed to just sit there and breathe, but I sit there and think how uncomfortable I am, and usually miss the entire theme and intention setting because I am trying not to slouch.


So I set my intention as awareness.  (Usually my intention is survival, I kid you not).  And it was a harder class for me tonight.  A few things I just couldn’t do.  And I am okay with that.  And my teacher started talking about how in yoga you become aware of how you handle learning about your body.  How you handle limits of your body.  And I don’t handle it well.  But at the end of class, as I push through all the poses, I end up feeling good.  Proud.  And it is like that in life.  I get frustrated easily.  I want to give up often. I push feelings away, I am not aware.  I hide.

But I am learning in yoga that pushing through is the only option.  It is okay to use props, take breaks, lay in child’s pose for the entire hour, but you show up and you stay.  And you do what you can do.  So even when 90 percent of the class can bend in half and do the splits and I can only touch my knees, I am doing my best and showing up and staying.

So I will keep showing up.  I may never touch my toes.  But I will be there.  Doing.




March on

I marched.  I marched with millions of others.  It was surreal. It was amazing. It was powerful.  And then I completely fell apart.  I sobbed my entire drive home from work on Monday.  After I got mad at a bunch of people and decided there is not point in marching or fighting or trying to change anything.

I am not sure what I expected, but maybe something from the president.  Maybe even a tiny acknowledgement of what the millions were saying.  Instead he talked about himself. And his importance.  And he went to the CIA to talk about how the sun came out for him.  Not only did he ignore millions of women, he continued to make every single thing about him.  And I berated myself for this being the only time I marched and felt like it was meaningless because it was an “easy march” or at least that’s what the critics said.

So I listened to the RENT soundtrack and sobbed.  And then I watched Jim Gaffigans new special and slept and woke up ready to fight.  I watched this cute video:

and how can that not make a person’s heart completely full.  And then I talked to my allies.  And Then I starting planning a post card happy hour.  And it felt better.  And then I read a bunch of #alternativefact tweets and felt a ton better.

But at the end of the day, what really inspired me, was this message from Mark Ruffulo

“Each on of us, by doing one tiny thing together make an incredibly powerful whole”

And so I thought about my tiny things.  I teach 30 student social workers every week and I have been for 5 years. I can help them learn about social justice and activism and being a voice for the most vulnerable.  We talk about the dignity and worth of all human beings.  This is something.

I thought about the adult survivor of child sexual abuse I met with today after she finally disclosed the 10 years of sexual assault she endured.  I helped her breathe.  I told her it was not her fault.

I think of the work I do every day, to not only help child victims of sexual abuse, but to change the stigma the community and media puts on victims.  I think of my kids who watched the Women’s March coverage on Channel One news and they could say “My mom was there!”

It is so hard to feel that I am making a real difference.  It is so hard to see how we can overcome this terrifying administration.  It is so hard to feel like I am either overreacting or under reacting.  So I will surround myself with allies and advocates.  I will do small things and if possible big things.  I will honor the feelings I have no matter how irrational they may seem, because I know that irrational is the new reality.  I will take a deep breathe and watch cute three year old singing Disney songs.