“the good old days”

I am teaching a new class this semester: Social Welfare Policy.  Its insanely awesome.  I can’t even handle it.  This week the topic was Historical Influences of Social Welfare Policy.    As I read through it, planned my lecture, and thought of discussion questions, it was very clear to me we should watch the documentary 13th. It has been a while since I watched it.  In fact it was before I thought it even possible that Donald Trump could be president.  (For the record I still don’t know how it is possible).

This documentary is summarized as follows: “Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.”

I think you should watch it.  And if you already did, I think you should watch it again.  Because in the less than one year it has been out, things have changed.  A lot.   Today, watching it, one phrase struck me.  It was from a Trump campaign rally in reference to African American’s protesting.  Trump said: “In the good old days this doesn’t happen because we would treat em rough… In the good old days they would rip him out of the seat so fast…In the good old days, he would be carried out on a stretcher”.  Just watch this clip.  2 minutes.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/10/14/about-that-viral-video-of-donald-trump-talking-about-the-good-old-days/?utm_term=.e03dcdd2e233

CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA – AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It makes me ill.  Sick.  Because let’s think about what “the good old days” really means.  It means “Separate but equal” It means Jim Crow.  It means inequality.  It mean sub standard everything for those who are not white and rich.  It means black people and native people could not vote.  It means black people and native people could not own land.  It means KKK and white supremacy. It means slavery.  It means dehumanization. It means killing and beating and raping.  The good old days were only good for a few select people.

How is that okay? Don’t just come up with your scripted defense.  Really think.  How.is.this.okay?   It’s not.  No one. And I mean NOT ONE PERSON is better than or more deserving of human rights than any other.  But when the President says “good old days” he is saying that.  I am better.  And those who support him are directly and indirectly saying “we are better”.

We walked into this country and killed a nation of people.  We took from them what was their’s.  If the Native American’s referred to the good old days they would be referring to pre Columbus.  Pre “Discovery” of America.  Except that is white European language.  We didn’t discover America.  It was here.  Inhabited. Lived on. But Trump isn’t willing to go back that far.  The we went deeper…We headed to Africa, another continent that we had no business invading and took people, who were living their lives, with their families, in their communities in their own countries and kidnapped them.  Stripped them of every single thing.  Every.Single.Thing. And bought and sold them.  And we expect healing to come from some legislation?

No.  We have a lot of work to do.  And the only work being done right now is becoming more divisive, more polarized and hiding behind more fear.  Our National Anthem came from a time of slavery, racism and hatred.  How can we move forward when we can’t see that?  When we pick people apart for asking us to face their truth.  We can’t.  But we need to.  So I am making sure my social work students are ready to take over.  They are going to live out the core values and ethics of the profession.

  • Service.
  • Social justice.
  • Dignity and worth of the individual.
  • Importance and centrality of human relationships.
  • Integrity.
  • Competence.

And it is going to be A.mazing.


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.