Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Want to Celebrate Rape History Month

Act #59:  Make (it) history.

There are just under 50 nationally designated months during the calendar year.  Many celebrate the accomplishments and historical impact of collective groups - Black history, Italian-American Heritage, Gay and Lesbian Pride.  But about half of them are labeled "awareness" months and rather than celebrate, they serve to highlight critical social issues and health epidemics that require cures, legislative action, increased funding, and commitments from every day individuals like us, to change - mental health awareness, cancer awareness, or domestic violence awareness.  

Today I am headed to my state Capitol to attend the official kick-off of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  We will talk to legislators and thank them for their support of critical state legislation like House Bill 3 (which provides added protection and services for victims of human trafficking) and House Bill 9 (which offers added protection in dating violence).  At noon we will gather in the Capitol rotunda where we will rally to raise awareness about this horrific atrocity that we allow to perpetuate in our state.  When night falls, we will sit down to dinner as we recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on eradicating sexual violence in Kentucky.

While I recognize the importance of our presence at the epicenter of systems change for our state, I really wish I didn't have to be a part of today's activities.  Not because I don't believe that it is incredibly critical, relevant and desperately needed.  But because I'm jealous.  Of Asian Pacific Month and Carribean American Month.  I wish that today, we didn't have to designate an entire month  just to get the state's attention.  That we didn't have to shout to the world that in Kentucky, a rape is committed every 5 hours.  That's 812,000 female victims of sexual violence.  And 313,000 male victims.  I wish that today I was celebrating the fact that as a nation, as a state, as individuals, we took a stand one day - through legislation, through funding of services, through individual action to intervene before a sexual assault takes place.  And that our actions worked.  And we successfully eradicated sexual violence and lived in a utopia where power-based personal violence did not exist.  Where streets and dorm rooms and work places and campsites and children's bedrooms were safe.   I wish our children and grandchildren could one day look at their calendars and say, "How silly to dedicate an entire month to celebrate rape history!" Because they had no concept what that world was like.  Because in their world, rape and sexual violence no longer existed.

Note:  While the nation designates April as Sexual Assault Awareness month, Kentucky designates the month of March, so that it doesn't take away from the significance of yet another month we'd like to make history - Child Abuse Awareness Month.  For more information on National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, please visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/.

 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I Refuse to Grow A Penis at Work

Act #58:  Act like a girl.

This week, with the stroke of a pen, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer eliminated the option for her employees to work from home.  In March Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg plans to release her book titled,  "Lean In", which cites that women are their own worst enemy in the workplace, by holding themselves back by by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. According to Sandberg, this is why men still run the show.

Both Mayer and Sandberg subscribe to the philosophy that the success of women in the workplace lies in our capacity as a society to be gender-blind.  That women can and should have it all.  As long as they act like men.  Just had a baby?  Get your swollen, lactating self back to work ASAP so that your male colleagues don't view you as weak and not committed to your future.  Faced with an employee who is not performing?  Be assertive and cut the touchy-feely crap, discipline them.  Harshly.  There are all kinds of articles offering tips on how women can rule the world, that range from choosing a prominent spot at the board table, squeezing the living dead out of someone when you shake their hand, not developing female friendships at work so you aren't viewed as gossipy, speaking to colleagues with authority, asking for more to do and - killing yourself in the process - just to prove that you are hard-working.

This is my tenth year that I've held a director's title.  In other words I've been someone's boss since I was 31 years old.  And you know my secret?  Ms. Mayer and Ms. Sandberg would die. 

I don't act like I have a penis. 

I try to remain authentic to my core by not playing the game, not strategizing on how I can personally move up the next rung of my career ladder.  Not carefully calculating every decision based on whether or not I will be perceived as the weaker sex.  And certainly not sabotaging relationships just to prove that I've got the balls to do so.  Here's a novel idea.  Value people.  Stick with the mission.  Sounds a little too simplistic?  Well let me tell you, it's not.  It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I'm by no means done figuring out how to do so effectively. It takes investing in human beings, caring about individual circumstances, giving people the right tools to do their jobs, allowing someone to be defined by more than their title, and yes, it also means valuing someone enough to hold them accountable when they are not contributing adequately.  Throw in that mission piece and you're juggling all kinds of ethical balls in the air, constantly weighing personal employee needs with needs of the organization.  

Last night I joined six other female colleagues and feasted on celebratory Chinese and bubble tea.  For the past 2 months, we have been working collaboratively (gasp!), in teams, to write a $115,000 grant proposal to expand our non-profit services in the region.  Five of us presented to a panel of community investors last night, but we were the ones who walked away feeling invested.  In the process.  In each other.  In the mission of our small little non-profit.  I didn't perfectly position myself at the head of the table.  I didn't firmly squeeze the hands of the review panel.  I didn't intentionally speak with authority.  In fact I spoke with humility, grateful for the opportunity to partner with others in my town, in my organization, to respond to our community needs. 

And at the end of the night, I hugged my colleagues and told them how grateful I was for them. If valuing people and caring deeply about a worthy mission prevents me from advancing any further in my professional journey, I guess I can always open a gourmet hot dog stand.  http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-i-almost-opened-gourmet-hot-dog.html


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Five Things That Prove I'm Really Appalachian

Act #57:  Seek commonality.  You'd be surprised at just how alike we are.

My five-year old has always called pants, britches since he began talking.  I giggle with adoration every time he does so. Not because I'm mocking him in any way, but there's just something so unexpected and beautiful about a kid with predominantly Asian features referring to his faded, second-hand blue jeans as britches.  Having lived in either Kentucky or North Carolina for the past 20 years, I've developed a deep and genuine respect for Appalachian culture, not in the "tourist appreciation" kind of way, but simply because I see myself so clearly in its very fibers.  The first blog I ever wrote was actually titled "Adventures in Appal-Asia" where I documented daily parallels of Appalachian and Asian life.  My son was the perfect subject matter at the time, and while I wasn't able to keep Adventures in Appal-Asia going, the term "Appla-Asian" has come to truly define me, my family in extraordinary ways.  Here's how.

1.  We exist in extended family units.  A couple of years ago, we transformed our first floor Master bedroom into a one-bedroom apartment, and moved my parents in.  It was quite a transition for all of us when my parents moved from Las Vegas (yes, really Las Vegas) to our small town in Southeastern, Kentucky, but now we can't imagine how we even existed before then.  This is a typical day:  I take off work in the morning to accompany my parents to my dad's doctor's appointment so that I can help translate complex medical terminology into slightly less complex medical terminology.  I go on to the office, and around 2 p.m. my mother heads out to pick up my son at his school, and then entertains him with year-round hot chocolate and ninja battles until my husband arrives home.  Upon entering their apartment, my mom hands my husband a plate of roasted chicken and before he leaves, he changes all the batteries in their smoke detectors and runs a virus scan on her laptop.  It took a few family meetings, a couple of blow-ups, and a crazy commitment on all of our parts to make this work, but at the end of the day, we wouldn't have it any other way.

2.  We are part of a community.  The other day I was at our local retail mega-chain and upon check out, a vaguely familiar cashier said to me, "Please tell your mother I said hello.  How is your dad doing anyway?"  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  Our Italian-American neighbors are our best friends and we routinely swap spring rolls for gnocchi.   Not too long ago, the nice lady across the street called my mom to ask her to check if she had closed her garage door before leaving town for the weekend.  My husband routinely comes home with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies given to him by a sweet elderly woman whose computer he keeps alive.  In this great big world where it's sometimes hard to find your place, it's so very comforting to belong.

3.  We like to tell stories.  Since my parents moved in, I learned that my grandparents were 18 when they eloped against their parents wishes.  I learned that we have lots of extended family who migrated to Australia and who still live there. Over the years, I also learned other fascinating tidbits about our ancestral line - my grandfather worked in a shipyard, my great-grandmother was half-Portuguese, my grandmother gave up Buddhism when she married my Muslim grandfather.  My mom almost died from typhoid fever when she was a little girl.  And that my son wiggles his toes every night in his sleep just like his great grandfather did.   

4.  We gather around food, we show love with food.   Every Sunday, rain or shine, our family sits down to a Sunday supper and our menu might look something like this:  homemade baked macaroni and cheese, slow-cooked pot roast with potatoes and carrots, steamed shrimp dumplings, and eggplant stir-fried with basil and sweet soy sauce.  This past Christmas I was responsible for delivering about 300 of my mom's Thai spring rolls to my dad's cardiologist, my son's kindergarten teacher, my co-workers at our holiday party, and the receptionist at my mom's doctor's office.  My mom has also agreed to have a few of interested community women (a college professor, a work-at-home mom, one of my colleagues, and a neighbor)  over to learn how to make those to-die-for steamed dumplings.   #2 and #4 intersect frequently.

5.  We never knew we were poor.  Between the ages of 8-14, my family lived in Thailand, a third-world country the size of Texas, where rural communities live way below the poverty line, and where six years of public education is a luxury to most.  While my family lived in the nation's capital, I remember spending summers in small outlying beach towns and driving through beautiful rice pastures, wild buffaloes roaming freely, children with no shoes and tattered clothes clinging to their mothers with the biggest smiles on their faces.  They lived off the bounty of the land and fiercely guarded those things that came to define them - their home front, their heritage, and their  connection to their land.  To them, poor was merely a state of mind, and as long as they had these things, they would never be without.

So as a Chicago-born Thai-American, you may find it odd that I see myself in my friend Courtney Brooks' blog called Reclamation Proclamation http://thereclamationproclamation.blogspot.com/, where she talks about poverty and riches in Appalachia, folk medicine, and activism, and family.  That I see myself in my friend (and renowned author) Silas House's novels http://silashouse.weebly.com/, where he paints beautiful pictures of Appalachia in his breath-taking works of fiction.  And when my son asks me what we're having for dinner, referring to our mid-day meal at 12 o'clock in the afternoon, I can't help but giggle with adoration, and with the satisfaction knowing that he is right at home, even though he's being raised thousands of miles from his ancestral land.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why My English is So Good

Act #56:  Use language to communicate, not to divide.

If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that my English was so good, my parents probably wouldn't have had to immigrate to the U.S. in the first place.  This happened quite often during my adolescent and early adult years and I would typically just smile coyly and mumble something like, "Well, my family has been here for a long time." or "I grew up in the Midwest."  Last night when introducing actress Selma Hayek, Oscar host, Seth McFarlane could have mentioned that she was a former nominee for an Academy Award for her role in the movie Frida.  Or that she served on the national board of V-Day,  a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.  I know, snooze.  We wouldn't want to put the audience to sleep, right?  So instead Mr. McFarlane said, "We have no idea what they (Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz) are saying but we don't care because they're so attractive."

I can't begin to tell you how back-handed racist and sexist comments like these, cloaked in humor, are detrimental to any progress that we will ever make as a society, to break down barriers and to seek commonality.  Unlike me, Selma Hayek's English wasn't good enough, but thank God she is easy on the eyes, so for all we care, she can just shut up and stand there looking hot. 

Clearly the norm for people like Mr. McFarlane is that it is perfectly OK to mock the fact that many immigrants struggle to acquire a language that is not their own, just to be accepted by privileged white men like Mr. McFarlane himself.

I wish somebody today would ask me why my English is so good.  Because this time, I don't think I would smile coyly and just pray that they would go away.   I would tell them this:  My English is so good because my parents, who immigrated to Chicago in the early 70's, didn't want their only daughter to experience the racism that they did, and while it almost killed them, they committed to only speaking English inside their home, in hopes that she might one day fit in perfectly with the Seth McFarlanes of the world.  My English is so good because just like Mr. McFarlane, I grew up watching MASH, Eight is Enough,  Mork and Mindy, and other boringly Midwestern shows, listening to, picking up small tidbits of the perfect American dialect.  My English is so good because unlike Ms. Hayek, I don't have dyslexia hindering my capacity to easily acquire another language, and it came easy for me to pick up a second language...........Thai.  My English is so good, Mr. McFarlane because English is actually my first language.   Because my parents hoped for a better life for me.  My English is so good because my parents wanted so badly for people like you to never single me out just because I was born to immigrants.

 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Surprising Lessons On Feminism From Kim Kardashian

Act #55:  Stop judging our sisters.

I hate reality television.  With a passion.  I’m in no way judging those who subscribe to it.  I get how fueling one’s curiosity with raw, intimate moments of people you wouldn't normally have much in common with, could be exhilarating.  Even addictive.   The reason I personally have such a disdain for reality television is simply because awkward silence makes me uncomfortable.   I believe that if I am going to pay for satellite service, make the time to turn on the television, the programming should be seamless and beautiful, and should not make me squirm in my skin.  Naturally, my disdain for reality television also lends itself to a disdain for reality stars.  I used to cringe when I saw Paris Hilton or Jessica Simpson take up valuable media space in news outlets.  I cringed even more when Kim Kardashian became one of the top five most Googled "celebrities".  I mean, at the surface she is basically the anti-me.  Her fur coats.  How her self-worth seems to always be tied in with her man flavor of the day.  The fact that she has a gazillion man flavors of the day.  The way she purposely accentuates the more well-endowed parts of her body to call  attention to herself.  The fact that I've never really heard her speak, although I would imagine a whiny, nasal, high-pitched sound coming from her mouth.  For the longest time I imagined that her brain must be the size of a small, bright, green pea. 

Although I've not publicly declared this in any way, until now of course, this lent I'm making an effort to give up judgement.  Of women.  Particularly women who seemingly have absolutely nothing in common with me.  As a feminist, I've come to recognize that often times we are our own worst enemies.  And that in our haste to demand equal rights, equal pay, equal treatment, we sometimes alienate those who really might need to join the sisterhood the most.  So today, I give you.... Kim Kardashian, the feminist:
She's a fierce female entrepreneur.  She's worth an estimated $38 million dollars, has an empire of reality shows, her own clothing line, her own perfume, and countless endorsements.  She is the top earning reality star, bringing in $6 million dollars a year.  Clearly, her brain is not the size of a pea.
She embraces her heritage.  As an Armenian-American, she is a strong supporter of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and on numerous occasions, she encouraged President Obama to consider its acknowledgement. On April 21, 2011, days before the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Kardashian wrote about the issue on her blog.
She embraces her curves.   While it usually pains me deeply to see how skin-tight her leopard print cat suit is painted on to her body, she defies Hollywood standards with her voluptuous curves and by golly, she wears them proudly. 
She loves freely across racial lines.  From mid-western Caucasian (Nick Lachey), to African-American (Kanye West), to French-Canadian (Gabriel Aubrey), to mixed-race (Kris Humphries), this woman quite literally, sees no color.
She demands respect.   In 2006, she gained notoriety when a home sex video she made with singer Ray J. was leaked.  Vivid Entertainment attempted to release the film and Kim sued Vivid for ownership of the tape.  In 2007 the suit was settled and she walked away with $5 million.  
She cares about more than herself.  Really, she does.  Last year she became the face of the Kiss Away Poverty campaign launched by Fusion Beauty and the Seven Bar Foundation.   For every lip gloss sold, $1 went to fund women entrepreneurs in the U.S.
So this lent, I'm going to try my darnedest to reserve judgement on my fellow sisters, on all the Kim Kardashians of the world. You never know what you might find behind someone's glittery push-up bustier.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Top Five Reasons to Marry A Geek

Act# 54:  Get rid of your check-list.


For the longest time, my idea of the perfect man was this:  He had to be at least 6 feet tall. Political, even if he was from the other political party, he needed to be passionate about it and able to articulate exactly why. He would have dark hair and eyes that contrasted with his olive-toned skin. He would have a fine palate, drink dark coffee, and have the ability to whip up beautiful, fresh gourmet dinners with little effort. He would watch indy films and sunrises with me. And have a wicked sense of humor...and style. He would read. Alot. And he would write about his world travels in his tattered, leather-bound journal. It didn't matter what he did for a living, but he would be fiercely passionate about his job. Oh, and he would be a bad, bad boy. With an edge and a hidden tattoo.   He would always leave me wanting more.

Now let me introduce you to my husband of almost six years. He really is 6 feet tall. And that would be the last of the qualities that I would be able to check off my list. He is a self-proclaimed Geek.  For those of you who have no idea what that means, allow me to break things down for you:  My husband likes Star Wars, subscribes to the science fiction book club, and yes, he plays video games.  On our first movie date, he took me to the midnight showing of the King Kong remake.  To celebrate his 34th birthday, we went to the San Diego Comic-Con.  He's also the one who talked me into quitting my job last year to pursue "that which feeds my soul".  The one who got on a plane with me (despite his fear of flying), 6 months after our first date to sit at my father's bedside when he was in a coma.  And the one who came up with the idea to give our family Christmas shopping money to those who need it more than we do. 

I couldn't imagine how my life would have turned out if I had only stuck to my perfect man check list.  If I had discounted my husband simply because I bought into the myth of 30 year old men, playing video games in dark corners of their parents' basements.  In order for us to change the world and to challenge perceptions, might we begin by challenging our own pre-conceived notions about the perfect mate, about marriage, or about qualities that make someone a good partner?  So for all of you out there who have a perfect man list similar to mine, let me offer you some insider's knowledge about why you might consider opening your heart up to a different kind of love potential.  Please keep in mind that all Geeks, like all men, aren't created equal and this list by no means represents the vast variety of thought and perspective shared by self-proclaimed Geeks world-wide.  Just the one that I live with.

1.  They are wicked smart. 
Seriously, have you ever picked up one of those 500 page sci-fi novels?  I have a few advanced degrees under my belt and let me tell you, they are way over my head.  My husband can also perfectly articulate to our 5-year old son how band-width impacts the speed in which his Sponge Bob Youtube video loads, the science behind the eruption of volcanoes, and what  makes a cumulus cloud a cumulus cloud.  He can also talk to me for hours about feminist theory, gun control, economic privilege and other topics that turn a woman (like me) on immensely.

2.  They are home-bodies. 
Over the years I've heard other women complain about their husbands staying out a little too long at the bar, on the golf course, at the office.  My husband can't wait to get home after 5 p.m.  The only reason he even holds down his IT support job is so that he can spend his hard-earned money surrounding himself with all of life's comforts.  A cozy home, the ability to sit down with his family every night for dinner.....in front of a 42-inch flat-screen with surround sound.  You know, all those things that really matter.

3.  They are great fathers.
I'm an only child and playing with a kid doesn't come naturally for me.  It really, really pushes my comfort zone to engage in imaginative play with plastic action figures or to dress up as a pirate and made to walk the plank.  Fortunately for me, my husband is a pro at this and enjoys the process.  Something about re-living his childhood.   Father-son Star Wars battle = quiet writing time and a glass of wine for mommy.   You see the beauty in this?

4.  You will be at the cutting edge of technology. 
Want to start a blog?  No worries.  Download an e-book made for the Kindle on your iPad?  You got it.  Watch a documentary recorded from your satellite dish, two years ago, while you are 100 miles from your home, with no internet access?  A piece of cake.

5.  They are true to themselves.
Most self-proclaimed Geeks that I've met are somewhat introverted and while my husband can charm dinner parties of 8 or less in our home (see #2), large formal obligatory parties make him squirm in his skin.  To him, it's all about creating authentic relationships with people that matter.  Or with the latest technological gadget.  In all seriousness, he actually inspired me to slow down, to be more intentional about the people I surround myself with, and to invest time and energy only in the ones who add value to my life.

So all you single people out there still looking for love, still carrying around your own perfect man check-list, that for some reason hasn't served you well over the last 10-20 years, for the love of God, give geeks a chance.  Oh, and my husband looks nothing like this Googled stock photo that came up when I typed in "Geek".  And one more thing that I was actually able to check off my list:  he always leaves me wanting more.




Friday, February 22, 2013

How I Almost Opened a Gourmet Hot Dog Stand

Act: #53:  Find your deep gladness.


When I was 18, I moved to a small town in a state that I had never been to.  Like much of the international world, the only thing I knew about Kentucky was that it made some finger-lickin' good fried chicken.  Clearly, the natives wanted to keep the real delicacy, biscuits and gravy, a secret from outsiders like me.  The first week I stepped foot on the picturesque campus of Berea College, I wandered a few blocks to the local fast food chain, Hardee's, and saw this sign:  "All you can eat biscuits and gravy 99 cents every Sunday".  One year, 52 Sundays, and 30 pounds later, I knew that I had fallen hopelessly in love with biscuits and gravy, with Kentucky, with the town of Berea, and most of all, with Berea College.

If you're not from Kentucky, you may have never even heard about Berea College.  Founded in 1855, by abolitionist John Fee, Berea College was the first inter-racial and first co-educational college in the South. Please allow that to sink in.  Blacks and whites were sitting side by side in classrooms and living together in dorms before the Civil War.  Before desegregation.  Every student receives a full-tuition scholarship.  Every student works.  Most students leave with an inclusive world view and a nagging conscience to be an active contributor to bettering the world.  A nagging conscience that would later pluck me out of Raleigh, North Carolina, where I had been living post-graduation, and pull me right back to Berea College to head up the Alumni Relations office for 9 years.

I was 31 years old and had spent the years prior to that, doing what Berea instilled me to do - save the world, of course.  I volunteered for a year in the AmeriCorps program in Pikeville, KY.  I worked at a domestic violence shelter, a refugee resettlement center, and spent the bulk of the remaining years as a civil rights investigator.

Working in college advancement was quite new to me, but asking others to support such a worthy mission came surprisingly easy.  I had an incredible boss who was 90% mentor and 10% supervisor, who challenged me, gave me room to make mistakes, and treated me like I was the authority of all things alumni relations.  So I  had no choice but to become the authority of all things alumni relations.  I grew beautifully into my role, flourished as a professional, and became deeply invested in the campus and the continued legacy of future Berea College students.  My boss had this extraordinary way of keeping me connected to Berea's mission - to provide education to students with great promise.  So I could be planning a fancy donor party in New York City or taking out the trash after a reunion, and it didn't matter.  Because I knew that my small actions were indirectly transforming the lives of thousands of untapped gems, many who would have never had the opportunity to even attend college.

For the longest time I pictured myself growing old in this campus community, maybe retiring and then finally coming back to a reunion I wouldn't have to work.  And just when things were perfect and cozy, and comfortable, two life-changing events took place:  1.) My boss and mentor retired; and 2.) I attended what would be my last commencement ceremony during which author and peace activist, Parker Palmer challenged the graduating class to find that place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep needs.  Suddenly I was left alone to try to convince myself that the act of appeasing a disgruntled, racist alumnus, somehow indirectly helped to transform lives of future students.  It was becoming increasingly more difficult to do so.  My new boss, while incredibly gifted in all things fundraising, and would have been greatly supportive in moving me through the institutional advancement ranks, had little connection to Berea's mission herself, and I was finally forced to face the truth:  I never saw myself as an Alumni Director.  The job was just my way to meet the world's deep needs.  But it never really served my deep gladness.  So at the age of 40, with the extraordinary support of my family I quit my job and almost opened a gourmet hot dog stand.  Yes, I really did.  I mean, I even talked to the small business development folks, started testing menu items like Caribbean Jerk Tofu dogs and Teriyaki Chicken Sausages.  I had no idea what my deep gladness was, and I always wanted to own my own business.  So I was going to run a weenie stand by day, and find myself by night. 

The Universe would have different plans for me and my hot dog dreams would have to be put on hold until retirement.  I consider myself incredibly humbled to wake up every day to serve alongside 16 world-changing women, fighting against violence, and for peace.  I finally found my deep gladness.  It was inside of me all along and I would have never found it if it weren't for the valuable life lessons that Berea instilled in me.

For more information on how you can help my two loves, both places of deep need, please visit www.berea.edu or www.bluegrassrapecrisis.org.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why We Left Our Christmas Lights Up (Is It Really Almost March?)

Act 52:  Embrace Tacky Lawn Ornaments. 


For the past few months, my family and I have been bombarded by neighbors with clipboards, letters in our mailbox, and friendly calls from folks who live down the street - all with the same intent of asking us to support the creation of a formal neighborhood association with enforceable rules and regulations.  Just yesterday, one of my dear neighbors called and asked for my e-mail address and telephone number to be included in a neighborhood directory, an informal way for the community to connect with each other to report suspicious activity, a neighborhood watch of sorts.  "Community", however was defined in a fairly limited way, and did not include the entire neighborhood, but only the four back streets.  The street that is the main entrance, the one with (in her words) the "smaller" and "less attractive" houses, the one with the "tacky" lawn ornaments, would not be included in this directory.  My neighbor then proceeded to tell me that the developers promised that in the future we would have our own entrance and would no longer have to drive through the tacky street in order to get to our houses.  We would eventually be spared from daily interactions with the family of ceramic deer.  The colorful gnomes.  The year-long plastic poinsettias.  And yes, even the gargoyles.

Despite all the visits, calls, and letters.  Despite the fact that one of the reasons we moved to this neighborhood was so our son could grow up in a tight-knit community where people welcomed one another with home-baked pies.   Despite the fact that we sometimes get annoyed when neighbor kids routinely leave their bikes and basketball goals in the middle of the road.  Or when people down the road burn their trash in their front yard (yes, this really does happen).  And despite the fact that we actually do kind of pride ourselves with having decent design taste and have consistently adhered to the notion that ornaments were meant for Christmas trees and not lawns - my family and I decided that we would not support the creation of a formal neighborhood association.

Please allow me to paint a picture of my neighborhood.  We live in a small subdivision with mostly brick homes.  Upon entering, you would have to drive through phase 1, one street of about 25 starter homes, nestled closely together.   Then you would enter phase 2, four streets of larger homes, mostly one-story to maximize views of the Pinnacle hills that surround the back streets.  The Pinnacles are the sole reason we bought our home.  We moved in when our kindergartner son could not yet walk, and until about a year ago, we - well actually just me - were the only people of color in the neighborhood.  Last year an African-American family moved in one of the phase 2 houses and I got giddy with excitement, hopeful that my son might actually grow up with a little diversity in his immediate surroundings.  Then the family did the unthinkable.  Gasp.  They built a huge shed in their backyard.  A super fancy shed actually.  You know, the ones you could probably park a car in.  And that is when all hell broke loose in our little picturesque community.  First the petitions to have the shed removed.  Then the efforts to establish a neighborhood association.  Then the calls about the neighborhood watch directory.

Again, might I remind you that I live in a neighborhood where people actually burn trash in their front yard.  You'd think the natives would have more of an issue with the possibility that our entire neighborhood might burn down - not to mention the fumes our kids have to breathe in - than with a shed that isn't  "made of the same brick material as the house".

With all the divisiveness surrounding us in politics, in legislation, in religious thought, in the world -I refuse to allow the place where I lay my head down each night, the place of refuge and sanctuary for my family, to be used as yet another battle ground with restrictions and rules and penalties.   A place where expectations are seemingly different for people based on the color of their skin or the dollar amount on their paychecks.  A place that gives us all yet one more reason to divide, than to bring us closer together. 

So we did the one thing that we knew how to show solidarity with the family with the shed.  We left our red and white candy-cane striped lights up.  Yes, they are still up today, and at this rate, we're just down-right too lazy and may leave them up till Christmas.  For all we know, there's a petition going around about us.  And we are just fine with that.

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are You Also Numb to the Killings of Innocent Children?

Act #51:  Be outraged.


I have a friend who used to be a student worker in the college advancement office where I once worked.  He was brilliant, articulate, compassionate and even then, I knew that he would be a game changer someday.  He used to tell us about his hometown - he grew up in a bustling city that had a breathtaking 32,000 acre national park, where the locals gathered at annual street festivals and little boys played sports in public parks.  On weekends, families would buy fresh fruit and other local foods at the farmer's market. 

On Saturday 12 children were killed at that local farmer's market.  Little boys and girls, holding their mother's hands were laughing and picking out fresh baked breads one minute, and the next minute, they were violently attacked and left for dead.  I remember the sick feeling in my stomach that wouldn't go away for weeks after the Newtown Connecticut shooting that left 20 children dead.  I remember the outrage, sense of helplessness that I shared with the rest of the nation, even though I didn't personally know a single person from Newtown.  I didn't have any connection to any of the victims, but I mourned with them, imagined myself in their shoes, and was left heart-broken. 

Twelve innocent children were killed in my friend's hometown this Saturday.  He had to take a break from social media because the faces of those killed began to look familiar to him.  Unlike me, he knew those faces.  He knew the farmer's market where the bloodshed took place.  Yet I didn't lose sleep, nor was I left with that same outrage or sense of helplessness that I had following the shootings at the elementary school in Connecticut.  Because I didn't know about the killings.  None of my friends that I spoke with shared the outrage.  No rallies took place.  There was barely any news coverage on the local stations.  No churches held vigils for those children.  No cards were signed and mailed in mass numbers to grieving families. 
 
You may wonder why you have heard very little (or maybe nothing at all) about the 12 children killed this past weekend. Unlike Sandy Hook, the killer was not a single 20 year old man, but was rather a suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden water tank, who rammed the vehicle into buildings at the crowded marketplace.  Probably because the killer's name was not Adam, but Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization.  Probably because the children in this town didn't play softball and football, but they played cricket.  This hometown was not called Newtown, but was called Quetta, Pakistan.  And this Saturday, a total of 87 people were killed, including those 12 children. 

Looking back at the last few days, I remember seeing something on Cnn's website.  I remember seeing my friend's Twitter feed referencing the terrorist act.  But I went about my busy week, not even taking a moment to pause and reflect on the innocent lives lost that day.  Not even taking a minute to reach out to my friend who was mourning those losses.  Not sharing the sense of outrage and helplessness he must have been feeling, solely because the children killed weren't American children and solely because violence in that part of the world has become so frequent, so "expected" that I became used to, even numb to its impact.  God help me and the rest of us, if we can become  numb and unemotional to the killings of innocent children, no matter where they live in the world.  Violence in Pakistan warrants our outrage and shock just as much as violence in Newtown Conneticut.  While we can't all fly to Quetta to help survivors, or personally demand an overhaul in governance and in legislation that would make the streets of Quetta safer, there's certainly nothing stopping us from being outraged.  From mourning the lives of innocent children, just as we did in Newtown.  From speaking up and demanding peace, where children can walk down any street in the world without becoming victims of senseless violence.

I have never been to Quetta or Newtown.  But I actually know someone who grew up in Quetta.  I have a personal connection to someone who was impacted, who is, right this moment, personally grieving the losses of these senseless deaths.  Now I feel outraged.  And helpless.  That's a start.
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to Get a Free Admission Ticket to Join the Movement

Act #50:  Join the Movement.


The "movement".  What a term.  What exactly is the movement and what exactly are we trying to move?  When I refer to "the movement", I am talking about the organized action of a group of people with a shared ideology - in this case, the ideology is to make the world less violent, less oppressive, and more cooperative for everyone.  So often, activists of the movement seem unattainable.  "Those" people that go to rallies or "those" people who are highly educated.  The truth of the matter is that if you share the desire to better your community, you too can, and should, join this movement.  In fact without everyday people making small differences, the movement will never happen.  The following are some common misconceptions about my personal qualifications for being a bona fide ticket holder with a season pass to the movement.

I majored in Women and Gender Studies or Peace and Social Justice in college.  I actually majored in one of the least profitable undergraduate majors - Psychology.  And during my counseling internship, when I started creating life plans in my head about how people should fix their problems, I quickly learned that I would make a horrific therapist.  Some of the world's most influential activists didn't even go to college.
 
I went to an ivy league school, am a researcher, and am an expert on all things social justice.  I went to a small liberal arts college in the south whose mission is to provide education to those with high promise, but limited economic resources.  I failed statistics the first time and got a C the second time.  I struggle to keep up with the social injustices around the world, and only remotely am able to do this by reading the news each morning on the internet.  Cnn.com is my best friend. I also follow all the "experts" on feminism, the middle east conflict, the Keystone Pipeline - you name it - on Twitter.
 
I am a feminist.  I am.  But I dare say, that you are too if you subscribe to the notion that women are human beings worthy of equal rights and treatment.

I dedicated my entire professional life to advocating for peace and justice. I wish.  My first job out of college was actually at the front desk of a hotel.  Prior to entering the non-profit world, I spent 9 years planning parties for my alma mater.

I watch Downton Abby and listen to NPR. I feel so left out on Sunday nights when Facebook and Twitter are exploding with Downton Abby critiques.  I have no idea what folks are talking about.  I think someone died this past Sunday.  I do listen to NPR because I have a 45 mile commute and don't always make it to the library to get my weekly selection of books on tape.

I know all of the names of my congressmen and women.  My best friends are:  http://www.lrc.ky.gov/Legislators.htm and http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/KY

I have a thorough understanding of the most pressing social issues and all the world conflicts and have recommendations for solutions.  See #2.

By the time you are done reading this, you will have figured out that you are WAY cooler than I am.  That I am the most boring, the most ordinary person in the world, who just happens to believe that I can make a dent in this world.  So can you.  So here's your free admission ticket.   You don't have to be a Dartmouth-educated scholar on peace and social justice who listens to public radio and knows your senator by first name.  You just have to care about doing your part to make your community a little better, a little safer, for everyone.  

Join me?




Note:  Today's blog was inspired by a Green Dot training that I attended yesterday.  Talk about a movement.  For more information, please visit:  www.livethegreendot.com.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Day I Realized I Wasn't a True Democrat

I actually wrote this blog last September on the day that I returned from the Democratic National Convention as a Kentucky delegate. Several of you have asked to see this again, and it naturally lends itself to a daily act of activism.  So I'm re-submitting this as...  (And how cool, I get to sleep in tomorrow!)

Act #49: Cross Party Lines

 
Following the perfect storm of unexpected conditions that involved my underrepresented census status, being in the right place, knowing the right people, at the right time, I haphazardly found myself on a plane, on my way to Charlotte, NC as one of 73 delegates from the bluegrass state. I can’t tell you just how much sleep I lost in anticipation of my departure. You see, ever since I entered adulthood, I was weak to the magnetic, electric pull of the Democratic political machine. I was that girl who drove all the way to Washington, DC to protest against the war in Iraq. The girl who paid $150 just to be in a room with possibly the nation’s first female president, Hillary Clinton. The girl that stood in line, in the rain, for two hours just to hear the voice of then senator from IL that would soon change U.S. history, presidential-hopeful, Barack Obama. Being a delegate to the Democratic National Convention was like a dream come true, the chance of a lifetime, and I could hardly contain myself.

So there I found myself, in the midst of it all. On the first day alone, I came face to face with California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Vice Chair of the DNC, Donna Brazile, and Wisconsin Senate hopeful,Tammy Baldwin who could become the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate. I savored every speech, every panel, every caucus like I was at a rock concert and I had somehow scored a free unlimited pass with front stage access to all of my favorite bands, except these were my long-time feminist role models. Everywhere I turned, there were people who actually looked like me, who cared about the same things I did - accessible health care, policies impacting women, equal rights for the LGBT community, eliminating poverty, protecting the environment, and educational access.
Every day, the crowds would be brought to their feet with spirited enthusiasm. Flags would wave fervently, and witty political signs would magically appear at just the right moment. Delegates from all over the country would chant “U.S.A.!” , “Yes, We Can!”, and “Fired up and Ready to Go!” in unison. Every time the opponent’s name was mentioned, we would boo with disdain. We were the Democratic party and we were here because we cared about the country and by golly, we were going to show you just how much we meant that.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it hit me like a ton of red, white, and blue bricks. Hard. You see, the week before,the Republicans gathered in Tampa, FL doing the same exact thing. Maybe the platform was slightly different. But they too chanted in unison, rolled out a plan that they believed would change the course of the country. They too were there because they cared, were passionate, and wanted to impact change. All of a sudden, I felt like I was in a cult that only 50% of my friends had access to. Suddenly, the chanting of “U.S.A.!” felt more like ethnocentric arrogance than patriotism. The thought of me waving the witty political signs that magically appeared, felt unauthentic (we weren’t allowed to bring our own signs) and staged. And the booing of Mitt Romney, pitting “us”against “them”...well, felt animalistic, uncouth, and left no room for what I truly longed for to my very core - partnership and cooperation.

So there I was at the single most electrifying political event I will ever experience in my lifetime…and I felt completely and utterly out of place. And like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I will probably always vote Democratic because I personally align so closely with the party’s platform, social policies, inclusion of underrepresented groups, and advocacy for the rights of women and the LGBT community. But as we complain about grown men in congress unable to play well together on the playground, stalling critical legislation that impacts health care reform,victims’ rights, the economy - are we really any better at these political conventions,by framing our entire country in the context of a highly-anticipated NFL game, complete with banners, party hats, and noise-makers, where fans of opposing teams can’t even sit next to one another? Where our perspectives are increasingly polarized, our opinions increasingly combative, and our rhetoric dangerously divisive?

How on earth will we as a country ever accomplish anything of substance without sitting down together, at the same table and stop yelling long enough to……………..wait for it……………listen? Yes, I’ve been called naive and unrealistic about the ways of the world. They will never listen to us. They will never understand us. You, Jane, aren’t even invited to the table as a pro-choice woman of color who supports gay rights.

Bleak as it all may seem, this is the greatest hope I have for myself, and for my five-year old son: hope for basic human respect of differences in thought. Hope for non-partisan cooperation. And hope for ashared willingness to come together - regardless of political affiliation - to work for the common good. Now that’s something that would make me jump to my feet, compel me to wave a universal flag of peace, and move me to chant in unison with my Republican brothers and sisters, “Yes We Can!” (or “We Did Build This!”)

President Eisenhower once said: Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead us to the dawn of eternal peace. Call me an idealist, but I’m not ready to give up on that notion yet. So that’s why it’s getting harder and harder for me to call myself a Democrat. Not because I don’t perfectly align with the party’s platform, and not because I don’t have the utmost respect for the party leaders, volunteers, and supporters who are deeply committed to working tirelessly to make the world a better place. But I fear that by labeling myself in that way, or in any way, I’ve automatically shut the door to any potential possibility of constructive cooperation…with my Republican, Libertarian, and even (gasp!)Tea Party counter-parts.

In case you’re wondering, I’m still a registered Democrat, and will probably always be. And yes, I will cast my vote for Barack Obama in November. But I think I’m going to call Mitch McConnell on Monday and ask him to join me for lunch - to talk about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and how together, we can help protect and change the lives of countless women in our great state. I’ll even leave my “Yes We Can” button at home. This time.

How You are Fueling the Sex Trafficking Industry

Act # 48:  Stop buying sex.


You’re not going to want to hear this.  If you are like me, the thought of your own child being abducted, swept into a dark underground world, and made to have sex with adults day in, day out, threatened to be killed every day if he tried to leave – makes you sick to your stomach, and is just too unfathomable to comprehend.  Surely this can’t be happening here.  Surely this is a twisted Hollywood plot.

The shocking truth is that sex trafficking is a thriving industry – the second most profitable illicit business globally.   In the U.S. it is estimated that 50-75,000 victims are trafficked into America for sexual servitude, not including the 100,000-300,000 American children that are forced into prostitution. 

There are a million recommended solutions to this problem:  Educate your children about strangers, about sex.  Reach out to vulnerable children and provide them with support so they are not easy targets to traffickers.  Be mindful of possible victims, and unspoken cries for help.  Don’t prosecute victims.  Report suspicious businesses like massage parlors, etc.  Speak up and raise awareness on this issue.  Rally your lawmakers for stricter penalties for perpetrators, more money for victim services.  Millions of dollars, thousands of people, unimaginable hours are dedicated solely to fixing this pervasive and complex problem.

 I offer you one simple solution:  Stop buying sex.

This industry would cease to exist today if there wasn’t a market for it.  If people were not willing to pay for sex.  If people did not see sex as a commodity that could be bought and sold.  I know you are sitting there thinking, “Well, I would never buy sex!”  It’s those people who are the problem.  How do we get them to stop?  What if I told you that you and I were the problem.  That our own actions help to create a cultural norm where it is acceptable to view sex as a commodity.  Where it is normal for someone to pay for sex.

I’d like to call your attention to the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the Swimsuit Edition.  See for yourself.  Not a swimsuit in sight.  Unless of course you swim in your underwear and a long-sleeve furry hoodie.  In 1997, the Swimsuit Edition grew so exponentially that it became a stand-alone entity, separate from Sports Illustrated, and has brought in more than $1 billion dollars in revenue.  Someone, somewhere (lots of someones actually) is buying this publication and a multitude of others, not because they want to know the latest swimwear fashion, but for its sexual content.  Obviously, buying a magazine is not quite the same as pulling up to a dark street corner and offering someone money in exchange for sex, but at the end of the day, if you purchase this magazine, you are subscribing to the notion that it is OK for you to trade your hard earned cash for the chance to sexualize and objectify someone.

Throw in pornographic internet sites, strip clubs, Playboy magazine, massage parlors, Hooters, scantily-clad cheerleaders at football halftimes, the movie, video game, and music industries.... the sex-for-sale industry is massive and hugely profitable.  And every day people like you and me, and our husbands, sons, and yes, even our fathers are fueling its very existence.

So if you want to do your part to ensure that your children aren’t lured, kidnapped, or coerced into having sex with strangers for money, if you want to eliminate societal norms that sex, sexiness, and sexuality are commodities of trade, if you want to help stop sex trafficking once and for all, the simple answer is right in front of you.   Stop thinking that it is OK to pay to see someone take their clothes off while they slide down a pole.  Stop buying beer, cars, and crunchy corn chips that use half-naked women to sell those products.  Stop frequenting restaurants that have mediocre food, but gorgeous waitresses in skin-tight hot pants and tops that barely contain their breasts.  Stop watching music videos and playing video games that objectify women.  Stop perpetuating an environment where it is the norm to trade money for sex.  Stop buying sex.  If we don’t buy, there will be no demand to sell.  If there is no demand to sell, sex trafficking will cease to exist.  Over-simplified?  Na├»ve?  Wishful?  Maybe.   With 100,000 – 300,000 American children currently being trafficked, isn’t it worth a shot?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to Score a Free Valentine's Dinner

Act # 47:  Don't be afraid to bus some tables every once in a while.


On the evening of Valentine's Day, Ron Deaver took his wife and teenage daughter to dinner at their local Thai restaurant that has been feeding his small hometown Thai and Chinese cuisine for over 20 years.  It's one of those places that is ingrained in the culture of the locals, where loyal generations of people return more to support the hardworking namesake owner (who serves as chef and the only cashier) than for the Pad Thai.  Everyone has some sort of connection to this place.  Either you've waited tables there in college, or your kid used to get almond cookies "reserved especially for him", every time you checked out. 

On Valentine's day Ron and his family arrived surprised to find an unusually long line of agitated customers waiting to be seated.  Clearly, nothing says love like green chicken curry.  Tables were dirty and piled with dishes.  Not a server, a chef, or a cashier in sight.  If it were anyone else, they might have deemed their Valentine's day plans officially ruined.  Anyone else might have stood there increasingly impatient, dramatically using their body language to demand that someone, somewhere better show up soon to serve their needs.  Anyone else might have turned right around, given up on the establishment and went across the street for some chicken and dumplings at the chain comfort food restaurant. 

But not Ron Deaver.  To the dismay of his mortified teenage daughter (She would later come around.  With a father like Ron, she's cursed with those "compassion" genes as well), Ron rolled up his sleeves, marched into the kitchen, grabbed a dish towel, a tub, and started bussing tables, wiping them down, and bringing dirty plates back into the kitchen.  Oh, but he didn't stop there.  He then began grabbing menus and seating the impatient customers.  A couple of incredibly valuable take-aways from this sweet, touching story:

1.  Ron's daughter will forever remember the Valentine's day that her dad demonstrated true selflessness - how to step out of one's comfort zone to lend a helping hand to someone in need.

2.   The impatient customers had to have been humbled.  While they were tapping their toes, sighing deeply, arms crossed, bewildered that someone dare leave them standing unattended for multiple minutes, Ron humanized the owner and workers of the restaurant, acknowledging that they were probably trying their best, and could have used a little help.

3.  The owners of the restaurant learned that day that despite the fact that they were implants to the region.  Despite the fact that they did not look or talk like most of the townspeople, they were truly part of a caring, compassionate community.  That those regulars coming back every weekend were coming back for much more than hot and sour soup.

And while the Deavers later filled their hungry stomachs with Pad Thai "on the house", their hearts were even fuller.  As were the hearts of the many people they touched that night in their small home town.


Friday, February 15, 2013

5 Blunt Reasons Someone, Somewhere Needs Your Ten Bucks

Act #46:  Fight injustice with a ten dollar bill.

No matter how much we speak up and speak out, the harsh reality of it all, is that social change takes cold hard cash.  It takes $1.1 million dollars for the rape crisis center that I’m affiliated with to provide services to 17 counties in central Kentucky.  It takes the small liberal arts college that I previously worked for, close to $40 million dollars a year to provide a quality education to about 1500 students.  Everything costs money.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to take on, all the awkwardness and discomfort associated with the act of asking for money for a good cause. I’d like to bluntly offer 5 reasons you should consider giving as little as $10 to your favorite charity. For the sake of this blog, I will use sexual violence as an example (since that’s what I know), but giving to any cause that you believe in is important and can have a huge impact on your community.

1.  Crisis counselors like sushi every once in a while.  They also have kids and mortgages and car payments just like you.  While social workers and non-profit employees are amoung the most underpaid employees, they still deserve a livable wage above the poverty line.  I can't tell you how hard my colleagues work, nights, weekends, whatever it takes.  You should know that the sad reality of this is that most have to make tough financial choices every month about their limited income, and often times luxuries like sushi (or eating out for that matter) are the first to get striked off their list.
2.  Life is like a box of….Girl Scout cookies.  You buy Girl Scout cookies, don’t you?  Who doesn’t love Thin Mints, right?  Who doesn’t feel good about forking over $10 to help empower the next generation of female leaders?   Well, what if I asked you to give $10 to support rape prevention education and the chance to help stop sexual violence before it even starts?  And rather than a box of cookies I would offer you a glimpse of a world where it was safe for your daughter to walk alone in a dark alley?  A step closer to a world where all children felt safe in their own homes?   Yes, your $10 (along with the $10 from a few others) would really, really have that kind of impact.  True, you might not walk away with ooey gooey goodness, but you would walk away with the amazing feeling that you were taking part in bettering your own community.  You may even walk away with hope. 

3.   Ten bucks goes a long way.  If everyone reading this blog gave $10 to the rape crisis center (currently there are about 400-600 of you in any given day – thank you for reading my ramblings!), this is what could happen. Your $10 would really make all of these things possible:
·       We would be able to launch a 6-week equine therapy group for victims of rape and sexual   
       assault (some victims of this type of trauma do not respond well to traditional talk therapy and
       horses are magic.  Really, they are.)
·       We would be able to accompany 5 victims to court and provide them with legal advocacy
·       We would be able to provide rape prevention education to all incoming freshmen at your local
       college
·       Our staff might be able to go out for sushi on Friday night.   Now we're just being frivolous.

4.  We can’t count on VAWA.  If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ve seen all the drama associated with our congress’s passage (or rather unwillingness to pass)  the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that helps to fund millions of dollars in programs that prevent violence and provide critical services to victims of violence.   Many non-profits are heavily reliant on federal and state funds, but all it takes is for one bill not to pass, one change in administration, one national crisis, and quite literally half the rape crisis center offices could be shut down over night.  Continued financial support and backing from people like you, who are invested in your own community is crucial.  These programs directly benefit you, or your sister, son, mother, or a co-worker. 

5.  Jane really wants to wear a cape.  I wish I could tell you that I spend most of my days in a cape, flying around stopping perpetrators of violence in their tracks, and personally helping each and every victim feel safe again.  But the truth of the matter is, I spend much of my time writing grants, connecting with people who share in their desire to eliminate violence - and giving them opportunities to contribute to a worthy cause (some have coined this term “fundraising”) , and planning events that help raise awareness and support for our work.  While I actually enjoy this part of my work, there is SO much work to be done that I don’t currently have time for – like working more closely with hospitals for a better response to victims of rape, or providing sexual assault awareness at the elementary school level, or more effectively addressing human trafficking in our region, or reaching out to vulnerable populations like the elderly, the disabled, and ethnic minorities, and the list goes on.

Please don’t take this as an appeal to stop buying Girl Scout cookies.  I certainly won’t.  I’ve got two boxes of Caramel Delights en route as we speak.  But, do take a moment to give some thought on how you might be able to set aside some of your resources, regardless of the amount, to regularly support the greater good, to support causes and issues that you care about.   Whether it’s the Girl Scouts, the Rape Crisis Center, or some other peace and social justice organization, trust me, they need you.  They need your $10.  By sharing your financial resources with worthy non-profits, you’re pretty much wearing a cape of justice and personally fighting crime, violence, poverty, waste, discrimination.  So keep on buying your Girl Scout cookies, but I hope you also consider investing in hope.




Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine's Day to Remember

Act #45:  Rise.


She pulled up to her destination - curb side and was immediately greeted at the front counter.  She had called ahead of time so they were expecting her. She was seated in a private room, reserved just for her. Three different people came by to wait on her, to ask her story, listening intently. One offered her something to drink. 
 
Then someone came by and told her to take her clothes off and to change into a hospital gown.  She spent the next two hours undergoing a rape exam from a sexual assault nurse examiner. She then told her story a fourth time to an assigned investigator.
 
Last night while many of us were buying last minute Valentines and getting excited about our upcoming romantic dates, I was in my local ER with a 15-year old rape victim.  Needless to say, she won't be enjoying chocolates and candy and heart-shaped Hallmark cards.  Or the rest of her childhood.
 
Today is the 15th Anniversary of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.  One in three women will be raped and beaten in her lifetime.  One billion women violated. 
 
She spent 4 hours in the ER last night.  Do you have 3 minutes to watch this video?  This V-Day, 2013, rise to end violence against women and children, once and for all.  I rise because no 15-year old girl should spend Valentine's day in the ER.