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.


It’s not okay: forgetting

wieselnightcov260pxhI have been very inspired? humbled? awoken? by Elie Wiesel.  I ordered his book Night and started and finished it in 24 hours.  It is a quick book in that way, but I cannot say it is easy. To hear a story of a Holocaust survivor is horror but often followed by triumph.  Night does not allow triumph.  Or maybe my now realist heart does not have room for triumph.

Mr. Wiesel states the following in the forward of his book regarding why he decided to write:

 “I knew that I must bear witness.”

“And yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it as to speak.”

“Those who kept silent yesterday, will remain silent tomorrow.”

“He (the survivor) has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous, but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

“He does not want his past to become their future.”

Do you see that Mr. Wiesel is writing to us?  He is telling us so we don’t do it again. So we do not become complacent and vulnerable.  So we remember that human beings truly are capable of the very worst.

And if you cant take history’s word for it, look around at today… Syria.  Sudan.  Somalia.  And i just picked one letter.  Genocide happens.  It is happening.  And we are only a plane ride away.  This is not another world.  This is not something that doesn’t impact America.  This is humanity.  Our humanity.  And where we have been seen as a place of refugee, our people will now be seeking refugee.

I can see people rolling their eyes at me.  “Sarah can be a bit dramatic you know” is what you say in your mind.  Less that 50 years ago, people did not believe that Jews were being corralled, stripped of rights, dehumanized and killed.  But they were.  And Elie Wiesel, and many others, lived.  And they took their life story, their story of horror, to show what can happen.  We know it is possible and we know that every action or words we shrug off as no big deal, more people are being forgotten.  More people become vulnerable.20121209-sss-elie-wiesel-quotes-2-600x411

The president elect speaks of registering muslims.  Trevor Noah says we will register with them.  I say we have to stop this before that decision even needs to be made.  Elie Weisel speaks of a Jewish man in his community that was transported out sooner that the rest of the community and survived a mass execution.  He came back to tell the tale and Elie states: “But people not only refused to believe his tales, the refused to listen”.  Are we listening America?

Elie talks of his father who thought the war would end before Hitler could do anything to the Jews in his community.  His father says: “The Yellow Star, so what? It’s not lethal…” to which Elie responds: “Poor father, of what then did you die!”.

We need to hear and to listen.  Elie’s life’s work cannot be in vain.  Let him bear witness.  Let us listen.  Let us remember.  Let us act.


It’s not okay: passivity

There are so many people, people I look up to.  People that are my guides for navigating the politics of the world.  People who are mature and well read and well researched.  People who have their biases  in check.  And many of these people have called for acceptance of the election results.  To give Trump a chance to prove himself.  To wait.  This is not okay to me.  Im not about to go out and blindly bash in car windows and set things on fire.  But I will be active and I will be vigilant.  I watched the documentary 13th a few months ago.  It was really great.  It ends with this quote from Bryan Stevenson:

“People say all the time I don’t understand how people could have tolerated slavery, how people could have made peace with that? How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that? How did people make sense of the segregation, this white and colored-only drinking… That’s so crazy. If I was living at that time, I would never have tolerated anything like that. And the the truth is we are living at a time like that and we are tolerating it.”We have spent years tolerating injustice.  We have spent years thinking it will go away, or it is not directly affecting us.  Or someone else will take care of it.  We watched as Donald Trump stood at his podium of self-righteous narcissism and promoted hate, disrespect, and tyranny.   I sat and watched.  I did not see this as a possibility.  I really though that this would go away, melt into history as an embarrassment.  I should have been active all along.  I should have been active every day.  I should have recognized my white privilege and checked it at the door.

And I didn’t.  Just like Bryan Stevenson said,”and the truth is we are living at a time like that and we are tolerating it.”  I laid in bed the night of the election and though: “I will hide gay people i8432dc3d4e70497892f25691737b3b75n my attic”.  Because I realized that the government could easily decide to round them up and do who knows what.  But now I realize, I cant just decide to hide people, I need to advocate, fight, demonstrate, write, talk, march, protest, protect, stand up… so I do not need to hide people.

We have already waited and we already see.  We know.  We know that 3 white boys in Mississippi put a noose around the next of a black boy and tugged it.  And we know when that boys parents went to the police they asked them not to report it.  We know that white middle schoolers made a human wall so a minority student could not walk into school.  We know people have told minorities to “go back to your country, this is Trumps American now”.  We know woman have had a rise in harassment, we know that women have had their hijab ripped of their head. We know.  So we act.


It’s not okay: acceptance

I have heard a lot of people saying really gracious things. “We have to accept the election results” “We have to give him the benefit of the doubt” “We have to believe he will rise to the occasion”.  “We can’t act like the republicans have acted the last 8 years”.  “We go high”. “We have to wait and watch”. I get it.  I really do.  I am not going to act childish.  I am not going to refuse to accept the election results.  I am not going to be a martyr or stoop to rock bottom level. I am not going to hate.

But here is what I am going to do.  I am going to fight.  I am going to advocate.  I am going to be a voice.  I am going to hold people accountable.  I am never going to let racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic views be okay.


I will not be complacent.  I will not be a bystander.  I will peacefully protest.  I will be proactive in the fight for equality.  It has always been easy to talk about social justice.  It has always been easy to be make assumptions that passive support is enough support.  And this is what happens when I feel that equality is moving in the right direction.  When I make assumptions that we will keep moving forward. When I believe that because marriage equality has happened it can’t go away.

Now I know better.  A passive approach is not the way.  I listened to over a year of campaign promises from a man I never believed could be president and I was passive.  I was outraged.  I was furious.  But I never thought it could happen.  He talked about “grabbing pussys”for crying out loud!  He insulted and mocked a reporter with a disability!   He was okay with the fact that the KKK supported his candidacy.  He is nominating people to his circle of advisers that are openly white supremacists.  He insulted and degraded ever group of people that are not white heterosexual males.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.


It is a part of my white privilege that I did not consider it could happen.  Well no more.  It happened.  It should not have and I did not do enough.  So I will not be passive and I will not assume the best.  I will not stand back and wait.  I will be active. I will be assertive (not aggressive, assertive).  I will hold people accountable.  I will not be okay with people hiding and justifying their vote.  It is overdue for me to show up.  And if our president elect does good things, the I will applaud him.  But truly good things cannot be done with bad motivation.


And I will do all this out of love and hope.  But my love and my hope are fueled by anger.  And I know that’s okay.

*here are some links where people said what I am trying to say a lot better:

Cory Booker

A Time for Refusal



It’s not okay: Nasty Woman

I have stared at this blank page for over a year.  I have had so much to say and no ability to say it.  I could not be vulnerable because my vulnerability had been taken advantage of. So I stayed quiet and watched from the background.  And this past week, I have had a shit ton to say.  And not I am not saying it because I am trying to be really good with the words and not really angry with them.  But anger is okay, as long as it is not hatred.  Anger is necessary to motivate action.  So is fear.  So i am grieving and scared and angry and have lost a lot of trust and I want to fight and be proactive and be assertive and surround myself with like minded people and think of next steps.  I want every place I go and every person I see, and drive by, and wait in line behind to know that I am a fighter for equality and an advocate for marginalized.

I have written so many blogs in my head.  I have had so many reactions and thoughts and words I want to put down, but there is someone out there already saying it.  And I love those people.  But I realize I also need to say my words.  Maybe not for you, but for me.  And then I don’t know where to start, because there is so very much.  But I will start somewhere. And today I will start with a pin.

14991983_10154698695554805_109407734302793482_n  I was gifted this at the Hilary rally the day before the election.  I took the day off and stood in line at Grand Valley State University on a picture perfect day.  I felt such a part of a community.  Strangers who immediately became friends. And this pin made me proud.  It gave me courage.  I tucked it in my pocket at the polls and felt the power of this message as I filled in my circle on the ballot for Hilary Clinton.  As a democrat, as a woman, as a uniter, as a person who stands for equality.  And then I went to bed at 9:30 on election night because the unthinkable never occurred to me.  And when I woke up at midnight… well maybe thats another story for another day.

So fast forward to Saturday.  4 days post election.  4 days of many other stories for other days.  And I put my button on my coat and went to the grocery store.  And to yoga. And out for dinner.  And what I found was my reaction to this button was completely different.  I looked down and I no longer saw this button as a statement of defiance.  I looked down and thought: “I am now officially a nasty woman”.  I thought: “It’s not a joke anymore”.  I thought: “The man who called his opponent a ‘nasty women’ will be our president”.  I thought: “It is acceptable to call another human being a ‘Nasty Woman'”.

And I took my pin off.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am going to get some Sh*t done.  That is not at all the issue.  But there is no more joking around about being a “nasty woman”.  Because it is not okay.  And as I type that I think that will be the name of my yet to be written blog post series.  “It is not okay: Nasty Woman”.  (You saw this title first, but when I wrote the blog, I had no title.)

I am a Strong Woman.  I am a Brave Woman.  I am a Fighting Woman.  I am a Hard Working Woman.  I am a Loving Woman.  I am an Inclusive Woman.  I am a Safe Woman. I am a Woman who will not quiet my voice.  And if that makes me nasty to some, then game on.

Culture Shock

I remember the first time I went overseas and walked through the city of Tirana Albania and saw soldiers with machine guns and became frozen in my tracks. “Don’t you have soldiers in your country” my host asked? Well, yes we do, but our soldiers do not walk down the street with machine guns. The same person looked at me confused as I was taking pictures of cows. “Don’t you have cows in your country?” Of course we have cows in our country, but they do not meander down the middle of the busiest road in the capitol city. (I suppose I should not have been shocked since the airport runway had to be cleared of cows as well landed, but I was pretty naive back then). We both looked at each other with great confusion trying to understand each other’s normal.

Culture shock is easy to pick out when you are half way around the world, but I have also had my share of culture shock in my own community. When I went to grad school at Grand Valley State University for example. Here I was 22 years old and I had never been to a public institution before. Christian school from preschool through college then working for a Christian agency for years, and here I was with people who did not have the same faith as I did. I was blown away almost every day. At Calvin College I was so liberal I thought maybe I was a communist. At Grand Valley I was one of the most conservative people there. People lived with their boy friends and didn’t go to church. I was in my early 20’s and had no idea people lived like this and certainly did not think they talked about it if they did. These were the great secrets you keep if you lived in the conservative community of Grand Rapids.

As I settled into adult life and found myself and figured out who I was and who I wanted to be, I was still a part of a culture. I worked for a Christian Organization. An organization with a mission and values that I also stood for. An organization that did work I believed in. For my entire adult life. 15 years to be exact, this is where I learned and grew. This is where I made life long friends and had amazing mentors. This was my culture. My world. Of course there were days that were crummy and people that I did not agree with and eventually my career path and my values and ethics reached a fork in the road and I decided it was time to take that “road less traveled”.

And for the first time in 39 years, I began working for a small organization that was not affiliated with religion. Talk about culture shock. Not bad, and actually quite refreshing and interesting to be a part of a group of very diverse people. Not in race, but in every other aspect of culture. And as I settled into my new role, I became baffled at the differences in my new word with the only other world I had ever known. I was less than a mile from the organization I had been with for 15 years yet a world apart. We had meetings and no one prayed. This is seriously something I never really thought about until it didn’t happen. It seems so small, but it is also so big!

So a few weeks ago, when I was working on a presentation and wanted to put in a quote from a famous person who also happens to be a lesbian, it occurred to me that this would be absolutely a non-issue. Because, it was a big issue for people I worked with a few years earlier. This is the difference of cultures. When I saw the irony of being able to post a picture of wine on facebook when years earlier I got in trouble for posting a similar picture I realized the complete difference in cultures.

I think some people may think my pointing out these differences between old job and new job think I am bashing my old job. Here is the thing though, I am not bashing, I am struck by the complete difference in culture.   It blows my mind how completely different my worlds are. How completely different people are and how organizations are run. It is not about right or wrong. It is about, for the first time in 39 years, I am a part of something completely different that I ever have been before.

Is it a better fit? In some ways it absolutely is. Does it take anything away from the last 15 years of my career? No. But it says something to me that in the back yard of where my adult life has lived, is a completely different world, way of thinking and working. And I love it. And it may be a much better fit for me. And it is culture shock. And to be honest I feel so much freedom.

I regret not one single second of my professional career. I think the agency I worked for did and does great things. But as I continue to grow comfortable in my new world, I will likely encounter more moments of clarity and disbelief and, well, culture shock, that, I may share with the online world. Not because I am hateful or bashing or have lost sight of all the good, but because these moments of finally being able to be myself without worry of consequence is completely and totally amazing.  And because sometimes, it hits me how completely bizarre some of these incidents really were, and I was not the bizarre one.  I was not a bad person for liking Ellen or wine.  I was just me.  And that is okay.

Just Mercy

c9781925106381I want to share with you someone else’s words tonight.  Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, an activist, a system changer.  He wrote the most inspiring book: Just Mercy.  This book made me angry and joy filled, sad and happy, horrified and hopeful.  It reminded me of the reality of the world we live in.  The reality that there are really horrible selfish close-minded people but also the reality that there are amazing, loving, hardworking, justice promoting people.  I hate more than anything all the bad things that happen in the world, but there is nothing better than watching great people come around brokenness and bring hope and healing.

Here are some passages/quotes that impacted me:

“Proximity has sought me some basic and humbling truths, including the vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.  My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth: The opposite of poetry is justice.  Finally I have come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measure by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged and the respected among us.  The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned. ” (17-18)

“‘We’ve all been through a lot, Bryan, all of us.  I know that some have been through more than others.  But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed'”(126) (This from a couple who helped their grandson’s accused killer graduate from high-school and paid for his college)

“All of a sudden, I felt stronger.  I began thinking about what would happen if we all just acknowledged our brokenness, if we owned up to our weaknesses, our deficits, our biases, our fears.  maybe if we did, we wouldn’t want to kill the broken among us who have killed others.  Maybe we would look harder for solutions to caring for the disabled, the abused the neglected and the traumatized.  I had a notion that if we acknowledged our brokenness, we could no longer take pride in mass incarceration  in executing people, in our deliberate indifference to the most vulnerable” (291)

The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the underserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent- strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.  It has the power to heal the psychic hard and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration” (294)

“All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence.  All those judges throwing people away like they’re not even human, people shooting each other, hurting each other like they don’t care.  I don’t know, it’s a lot of pain.  I decided that I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other. “ (308) (Words from a women the author met at the courthouse for a appeal hearing)

soraya-m_2-e1272496175664This book is full of stories, success stories and stories of injustice and despair.  But I loved how the author called readers out to look deeper into the humanity of people.  I love the idea of being a “stone catcher”.  The image of angry people full of hate, or sorrow or anger, throwing a figurative stone at someone to try to make sense of their despair, but we can be the person who catches that stone.  A person who protects, who stops hate, who shows other ways to cope; to “hope better for one another”.