Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yes, YOU Have Something to Say

Act #181:  Find your voice, no matter what it sounds like:  loud, quivering, soft, or even the one that lies deep within you.  Trust in it. Embrace it.  Listen to it.  Use it.

Six months ago, I wrote the below inaugural blog, not fully understanding just how transformed one might become after waking up at 5 a.m. for 180 straight days (yes, that includes weekends and holidays). You see, it took me 40 years to find my voice - 40 years to find the courage to believe that I mattered.  And the funny thing is once you learn to trust in your voice, no one can take it away.  Sometimes people start listening.  And if you're really lucky, you might actually inspire someone else to find theirs. 
Thank you for listening.  I think there were a good 30 or so people who read my first blog.  These days about 800-1000 of you visit with me every day and share your personal journeys as you too, struggle to make small differences in the world.  I am inspired by your collective will to do good.  I am inspired by your belief in a world that is good...and just...and fueled by the best part of human kind - love.  I am inspired by your voice.  Here's to 180 more days (at least) of speaking up and speaking out.

How It All Started: Add Pink to Your (Son's) Closet

To be an activist is to "act" in support or opposition of a worthy cause.  I've never seen myself as an activist.  Like many of you however, I often get completely and utterly overwhelmed with the suffering and injustices that seem to be multiplying all around me - in humanity, in our environment, in our spirits.  As a Generation-X female juggling a career, motherhood, a 2-hour daily commute, and aging parents - for years I struggled with the question:  Can a 5-foot-one, painstakingly average, already-stretched, 40-year old woman living in Berea, Kentucky really make a difference at all?  This blog is an attempt to commit to one small act each day that supports the principles in which I believe - fairness, a violence-free world, cooperation, diversity, respect for the earth, and basic human acceptance.  You're probably already demonstrating "activism" in your daily life without even realizing it.   Trust me, if a regular 'ol gal like me can call herself an activist, so can you.  It's gonna take all of us.

January 1, 2013
Act #1:  Adding pink, glass slippers to my 5-year old son's dress-up trunk. Allowing my kid to be a kid, to imagine and create freely without the confines of gender stereotypes.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Six Things This Rape Crisis Center is Giving Up

Act #180:  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

1.  Cop and Donut Jokes
For years, our highly trained social workers, counselors, and advocates went head to head with law enforcement, distrustful of interrogation tactics in a society where rape culture is normalized, unwilling to believe that anyone else might possibly have a victim's best interest in mind. This year we renewed our commitment to foster positive and collaborative relationships with law enforcement, and have since partnered with and provided trainings to some amazing and highly-committed local police departments as well as campus security offices of local colleges and universities.  Together we hope to provide a safe and respectful interrogation and legal experience for victims in order to minimize re-traumatizing and victim-blaming.

2.  Secret Safe House Status
We're no longer waiting at our doors for victims to come to us, because in reality, we are missing the chance to provide services to some of our most vulnerable populations:  people of color, immigrants, members of our LGBTQI community, the elderly, and the disabled.  This year, our local government has awarded us a $75,000 grant to implement a pilot project to partner with faith-based groups in two specific communities targeting African-Americans and Hispanics.  Over the next 3 years, we plan to expand the implementation of this pilot to all of the other targeted vulnerable populations.

3.  The Therapy Couch
While historically, our highly trained and experienced clinical staff has excelled at providing the most effective research-based individualized talk therapy, we are expanding to incorporate a broader and more innovative trauma-informed therapy model for our increasingly diverse victims.  We have launched a strategic exploratory committee to identify new psychotherapy techniques and have recently received two mini grants to implement an EMDR program (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing - a powerful and proven psychotherapy technique highly successful in helping people who suffer from trauma), Equine Assisted Sexual Trauma Therapy (In partnership with Central KY Riding For Hope), and expansion of our psycho-educational groups to include elements of yoga and other forms of movement, art, and healing.

4.  Awareness 
It's no longer good enough for us to make the community aware that the pervasive problem of sexual violence exists.  We want more.  That's right.  We want people to step it up a notch and actually feel empowered to own the problem so that we can help prevent it from happening.  While most of our funders are interested in funding direct victim services (which is important), we have realigned staffing and resources to invest in Green Dot prevention education  with schools, colleges, and community partners.  We recently applied for a grant with our local Junior League (cross your fingers) to implement a 900 Second Campaign (who doesn't have 900 seconds, right?) where we train women leaders in the community to become ambassadors equipped to give high-powered and effective 15-minute spiels to businesses and community groups about tangible and practical ways to intervene in high-risk situations.

5.  Case Management
Who are we to "manage" anyone?  Especially anyone who has recently been stripped of all of their power and decision-making.  While we recognize the importance of providing continual support (beyond counseling) to victims who may have ongoing needs regarding safety and the legal process, we will be broadening the scope of our advocacy work to incorporate research-based and up-to-date techniques for not only individual advocacy, but also systems advocacy, in hopes of getting to the root of government and organizational rules and policies that adversely impact the eradication of sexual violence and/or harm victims.

6.  Proprietary Rights
You heard it hear first.  This rape crisis center is giving up ownership of the problem (and hope for a solution) of rape and sexual violence.  It has never been clearer to the 16 of us, covering 17 counties in central Kentucky, that we are nothing without the communities who house and support our work.  We all envision a world free of all forms of violence and oppression.  We all want to live in communities that offer safety and compassion. We all believe that it’s possible for people to live in empowering relationships characterized by respect and equality.  We will no longer carry this alone.  We share this hope with you.  
For  more information on how you can join the movement, please visit the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center, at

Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm So Done With White Privilege

Act #179:  Can we at least consider this to be possible?

Really, if the term "white privilege" is so divisive and offensive, we don't have to call it that.  We can call it "intangible benefits you didn't even know you had".  The concept is not meant to make you feel guilty about a past you had absolutely no control over.   Nor is it meant to label you as an oppressor.  Or urge you to see African-Americans as victims.  It doesn't imply that certain people have no control over their fate.  Or that they deserve special treatment or hand-outs. It doesn't assume that white people don't also have struggles with poverty, unemployment, or other forms of discrimination like sexism or homophobia.  It's simply to challenge us to at least consider how "intangible benefits you didn't even know you had" might come into play throughout the course of your lifetime, and as we figure out how to all cut each other a little slack, and maybe learn to get along.  

Disclaimer:  I'm not white or black.  I'm a sideline observer extraordinaire, not only because I sleep with a white guy, but because I have the privilege of not really fitting in, but also of being cautiously accepted by both whites and blacks.  Most of the time. 

So you go to a party and, presto, you are surrounded by a majority of people who look like you.  You're not the only one standing out in the room?  IBYDEKYH (Intangible benefits you didn't even know you had)

You have a teenage son and you don't have to repeatedly teach him to keep his hands out of his pockets when in the presence of a police officer.  IBYDEKYH

You've got a whiny 3-year old girl and God bless her, she wants a baby doll that looks like her.  Kids can be so demanding.  You don't have to go from store to store, or make a special on-line purchase just to try to find one.  IBYDEKYH

You save up your paycheck for that piece of jewelry you've been eyeing and you walk into a fancy department store and no one sends undercover security to keep an eye on you.   IBYDEKYH  (I was a civil rights investigator for a number of years and I assure you that this happens both formally as company policy, and informally)

Got a boo-boo?  Lucky for you, that "flesh" colored band-aid blends right in to your skin.  IBYDEKYH

Shopping for make-up or hair products?  You've got aisles and aisles of options that actually might compliment and enhance your beauty. You don't have to find the "special" section.  IBYDEKYH  Wondering why people with dark skin can't just use "regular" beauty products anyway?  IBYDEKYH

Moving to a new apartment complex or neighborhood?  You can be assured that your new landlord or seller just wants your hard-earned cash, and doesn't care how the color of your skin might bring down the property value.  Your neighbors will at worst, not care or be neutral towards you.  They might even bring you a pie.  IBYDEKYH

Given up at birth?  As soon as you hit the adoption "market", you are valued at significantly higher rates than anyone else.  IBYDEKYH

It's movie night!  99.99% of this week's new releases have people who look like you playing the lead.  Sure there's always the black sidekick or best friend (and thank God for the ambiguous Vin Diesel for holding that 1%).  IBYDEKYH

You're checking out at a grocery store.  If you use cash, the cashier simply thinks it's because you have some, not because your credit is ruined.  IBYDEKYH

You're a woman and you've made it.  You speak your mind and are celebrated for being strong, opinionated.......not angry.  IBYDEKYH

You're a man and you've made it.  You speak your mind and are celebrated for being a great leader.  No one's ever secretly questioned whether or not you are a product of affirmative action.  IBYDEKYH

You attend work or community meetings and you don' feel isolated, singled-out, feared, unrepresented, or unheard.  And you're not expected to speak for all white people.  Ever.    IBYDEKYH

It's your anniversary and you have reservations at a fancy restaurant.   You can rest assured that you will be treated pleasantly, that other patrons will not stare at you when you enter the dining room, and that you can blend in.  You don't even understand the need to "blend in"?  IBYDEKYH

You are a man over 6 feet tall and no one's ever asked you if you played basketball in high school?  IBYDEKYH

Got a complaint?  While you may be viewed as an ass, at least no one's accusing you of pulling the race card.  IBYDEKYH

Never have to teach your young children how not to stand out, how to articulate and enunciate a so that people will take you seriously, or how to protect themselves if and when they are singled out because they are white?  IBYDEKYH

Late for a meeting?  No worries, people will think you must have hit a red light or that your previous meeting got held over. You haven't just let the entire white race down for perpetuating a stereotype.  IBYDEKYH

So if the term "white privilege" is threatening the very purpose of efforts to acknowledge it - so that we can all (yes, even bystanders like me) understand some of the layers and layers of complex and institutionalized racism that continue to exist - maybe we shouldn't call it that.  Maybe it doesn't matter what we call it:  intangible benefits, unseen perks, institutionalized favoritism.  But it's my fear that if we can't all, at some level, admit to ourselves that this really does go on, we will continue to live comfortably in our own separate, but drastically different realities. 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Universal Language Of Women

Act #178:  End it.

El Salvador


Saudi Arabia

South Africa







Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seven Questions You Should Ask Yourself This Morning (No, I Mean, REALLY Ask Yourself)

Act 177:  Politics aside, love first.

What if the fate of your family’s existence lied solely in the hands of someone you never met?

What if your ordinary routines like kindergarten drop-off, date nights, and Sunday pancake breakfasts were frowned upon by the world?

What if you finally met the one person you could imagine growing old with, but knew you never could?

How would you survive if your employer told you that your spouse and children were no longer offered health insurance?

How would you feel if someone told you your love for your spouse wasn’t real?

Would you love him or her any less?

What would you do if today, the love you have for your family, or the promise of ever experiencing such love, was questioned by nine strangers?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How To Help Your Kid Overcome Stage Fright: Don't Make Him Get On Stage.

Act #176:  Also celebrate boys who are non-adventurous.

This summer, I signed my five-year old up for Ninja camp.  Well, at least that's how we sold it to him.  In reality, it was a week-long camp put on by the local children's theater based on the children's book, Wink the Ninja. My normally, shy son had just successfully completed Lego camp and loved the experience so much I thought that maybe Ninja camp might be a safe, gentle way to encourage him to build some confidence.  Granted there were only two children in his Lego camp class, and the other child was one of his childhood friends.  So there we sat in our car on the first day of camp, in front of the theater.  And my son cried, pleading not to go to Ninja camp, refusing to get out of the car.  But you'll learn to make nun chucks, baby.  I'll buy you a toy when it's over.  It's only 3 hours and I'll pick you up.  If you don't like it after the first day, you don't have to go back.  We'll go get ice-cream afterwards.  Don't judge folks, I had a meeting to go to in the next half hour, and I was pulling out all the stops to get this boy in the door.   Nothing worked.  So then I decided to listen.  No, really listen between all the snot sniffling and blubbering.  Turns out he wasn't afraid of meeting new kids.  Or being in a new environment.  He was actually excited about learning to be a ninja.  He was however terrified with the prospect of getting up on stage in front of all those people.  On the last day of camp, his class was to perform a brief production of Wink the Ninja for family members.  What can I say, my child doesn't like to be the center of attention.  After about half an hour of pleading, he let me walk him in only after I promised to stay with him for a bit, and only if I promised that he didn't have to come back the next day if he didn't want to. 

At pick-up time I ran into one of the other moms who asked if my son finally let me leave.  Before I could even answer, she proceeded to tell me that both of her kids were really outgoing and that they got their adventurous spirit from her.  That sometimes you just have to toughen them up by cutting the cord.  I smiled politely, but later that night, after hearing all about my son's day, and after I had time to reflect, I wish I would have told her that my non-adventurous kid didn't need toughening up.  That he had a blast creating his Ninja hat, inventing his Ninja special power - Jack, Ninja of Fire, and that he worked beautifully alongside 13 other little kids in creating an entire paper bamboo forest for Friday's set - but he still begged not to be in the play on the last day of camp.  We might be quick to label this "stage fright", and some parents might very well think that the best approach would be to push him a bit beyond his comfort zone.  But I got to thinking - why wouldn't we celebrate a kid who enjoyed creativity behind the scenes?  Who didn't need external affirmations to make him feel validated.  Who genuinely enjoyed interacting and working with, and alongside other kids.  And who could care less about being the center of anyone's attention?  What if all the kids in his class wanted the lead part of Wink the Ninja?  Who then would write the script, build the sets, play Wink's friends, or pull the curtains?

Furthermore, why does having an "adventurous" spirit trump having a creative one, or a compassionate one?  Since when did we begin placing greater value on individuals who climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, backpack across a foreign continent, or hike the Appalachian the snow?  What about those who spend their days reading or writing in silence.  Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of Americans couldn't even afford to do any of those things, even if they had "adventurous" spirits.

So today, I celebrate my remarkable and wonderful, little non-adventurous Ninja of Fire. And on Friday, I will not "push" him to get up on that stage.  Truth be known, this particular five-year old could probably work all the sound and lighting equipment with his eyes closed.  After all, somebody's got to set the scene for all those adventurous kids.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gender Roles 101

Act #175:  Know your place.

Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said that young boys and girls should take classes on traditional gender roles in a marriage because there are some things fathers do "maybe a little bit better" than mothers.  He went on to say, "You know, maybe part of the problem is we need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what's important. This is what a father does that is maybe a little different, maybe a little bit better than the talents that a mom has in a certain area. And the same thing for the young girls, that, you know, this is what a mom does, and this is what is important from the standpoint of that union which we call marriage."

In this spirit, should this brilliant proposal come to fruition, I wanted to offer some possible lesson plans for such a class. I would recommend the class take place over a six-week period, targeting elementary-aged children.  The earlier we get 'em, the better.  Georgians will be happy to know that polls show Mr. Gingrey leading the GOP Senate primary in Georgia.  God bless America.

Week 1:  Cooking
Boys:  How to Boil an Egg (And Other Basic Cooking Skills) 
Girls:  How to Empower A Man to Feed His Own Face (And Maybe Yours Too Sometimes) 

Week 2:  Parenting
Boys:  How to Love Your Sons Even if They Throw Like a Girl
Girls:  How to Love Your Daughters Enough to Teach Them to Love Themselves

Week 3: Decision Making
Boys:  Shutting Up:  How to Share Key Decision Making With a Woman
Girls:  Speaking Up:  How to Share Key Decision Making With A Man

Week 4:  Recreation
Boys:  Tickling, Wrestling and Foreplay, Oh My!:  It's Not Fun and Games Without Consent (A View From OnTop)
Girls:  Tickling, Wrestling, and Foreplay, Oh My!: It's Not Fun and Games Without Consent (A View From Below)

Week 5:  Economics
Boys:  How to Celebrate Your Wife if She Makes More Money Than You Do
Girls:  How to Demand Equal (Or More) Pay, and Let Go of Superwoman Aspirations

Week 6:  Combined Seminar 
How to Disarm Your Penis and Vagina.  Contrary to Popular Belief, They Are Not Hidden Power Sources.

Recommended Follow-up Summer Courses: 
  • What if I Don't Even Like Girls (or Boys)?  How to Fit In When The Supreme Court Says I'm Not Allowed to Get Married
  • Adult Spanking:  Pleasure (If That's Your Thing), Not Punishment - Part 2 of the Recreation/Consent Series
  • How To Vote For Sane Lawmakers Who Don't Try to Legislate Sexism

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Skip Dance Camp This Year, And Send Her to Robotics Camp Instead!

Act #174:  Help send a girl to science/math camp this summer (or next).

This week, Susan Wojcicki, Senior Vice President of Advertising and Commerce at Google wrote an open letter to the girls of the world inviting them to step up to take part in the future.  It is expected that opportunities for careers in technology will grow exponentially, yet fewer and fewer woman are earning computer science degrees (18%), and only a small fraction of software engineers at tech firms are women (22%).  With less and less women at the table, women will miss an important opportunity to literally help shape the future of technology.  Google considers this issue to be so critical, that it supports a program called Girlstart ( that provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to girls through after school programs and camps.   If you have a daughter......or if you have the opportunity to encourage a niece, granddaughter, or goddaughter to explore a math and science camp this summer, do it!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ten Things John G. Fee Would Do Differently

Act #173:  Be bold enough to live your legacy.

One year ago, today, I packed up and walked out on a 20 year relationship.....with my alma mater.  There are few things I genuinely love as much as Berea College - a remarkable, small, private, liberal arts institution that has been educating blacks and whites, and women together pre-civil war (since 1855), and where every student receives a full-tuition scholarship.  Seriously, is this place even real?  Well I assure you that it is, and I am living proof of its extraordinary impact - a graduate, its former alumni director, and a continued invested alumna.

Now that I've been away for exactly a year, I'm blessed with something I haven't been privy to for over two decades:  outside perspective.  And there is something so liberating, so transparent and so very refreshing about being able to look at something you are no longer a part of, with the same commitment, but with renewed clarity and honesty. 

A couple of disclaimers:  1.)  I support and have great confidence in Berea's ninth president, Dr. Lyle Roelofs.  I was fortunate enough to serve on his search committee and have come to deeply respect him and his wife, Laurie for their servant leadership and for their genuine commitment to the mission of Berea.  This is not addressed to him, but rather to all of us who have a vested interest in the future of Berea;  2.)  I believe that places like Berea can literally transform the world;  3.) I'm an idealist;  4.)  I recognize the complexities of the operations of institutions of higher learning and I certainly don't profess to have all the answers; and last but not least, 5.)  I'm not complaining, or whining.  I just really, really care.  And down the road, if I'm not banned for being that annoying, radical alum, I'd really, really love to help in whatever way that I can.

In 1855, founder John G. Fee had the courage to stand up against popular notions like racism and sexism.  He lived out his faith through the expression of impartial love, and dedicated his life to giving a voice to the oppressed. In this spirit, I offer a few humble thoughts on how my alma mater might consider remaining true to his founding vision.   If he were alive today - and I mean this with every fiber of my being - I believe that he would want to see these things happen.

I certainly would.

1.  An African-American Vice President.  
It's past time, and not just because it's something the first inter-racial college of the south should do, but it's something it must do to be responsible, to be true to itself, and to offer real perspective and representation to the diverse student, employee, and alumni populations.

2.  A reciprocal and nurturing relationship with surrounding communities and the Appalachian region.  
The annual Appalachian tours, while wonderful, are simply not enough to bridge the divide.  I think Fee would want to see real and genuine efforts to create more business partnerships, more joint education opportunities, more grassroots collaborative community organizing, and more shared pride in the shared history of the institution and the region.

3.  A designated position for sexual violence prevention education and victim support services. 
Like every other college in the country, Berea College students are among the most vulnerable populations likely to experience rape and sexual violence.  With stigmas associated with rape culture and the propensity for victim-blaming, it is essential for every college, really, to demonstrate a firm commitment of intolerance by designating resources to prevent and address sexual violence.

4.  Non-separate governance structures, opening convocations, and orientations programs for staff and faculty.
There's no better way to foster conflict or to discourage partnership, than to have different standards for, and to assign different values of worth, to employees.  Sure it would be bold to explore ways to bring staff and faculty to the table as equal partners.  Sure there would be challenges in finding spaces and schedules to do so.  But there is something just so un-Berean about starting out every academic year with either an invitation for you and your spouse to the president's house for an evening catered reception (faculty) OR an invitation to the student center for some biscuits and gravy (staff).

5.  A more authentic approach to fundraising and public relations.
Rather than communicating "to" alumni and donors with staged photos and polished student stories, instead, genuinely valuing them enough to work "with" them, in partnership to promote and highlight the institution's need and impact.  Instead of the same 5 people sitting around a table every week trying to figure out how to motivate people to give, why not spend that time trying to help make Berea the kind of place that compels people to want to support it?

6.  Opportunities for the board of trustees to regularly connect with day-to-day lives of real students and employees. 
Berea is blessed with dynamic and generous trustees, but often times they are carefully guarded from what really happens daily on the ground.  Berea would be remiss if it didn't afford the college's top decision makers the chance to truly understand the plight of those impacted by their decisions. 

7.  An environment that values a variety of thought and encourages open and free expression of different and bold perspectives.
Towards the end of my tenure, my immediate work environment, as well as my broader work across campus, seemed to slowly evolve into an environment that was more punitive than empowering.  I watched those around me transform into loyal, passionate advocates for educational access to minimally-committed employees, silenced, and resigned to just "stay under the radar".  Are we really going to allow the most radical institution of it's time, to go down in history books as merely agreeable, and safe?

8.  A staff/faculty make-up that eliminates, as much as possible, those who just seek a paycheck, in order to make room for those who are truly passionate about the mission.
Berea is not just a college that churns out degrees, it is a powerful force that has the capacity to transform not only people, but entire communities through education, and by helping students see themselves as future contributors to the greater world.  I work with social activists, community organizers, and social workers on a daily basis.  I have been blown away by the collective power generated from passionate people who are committed to a cause.  There are plenty of such individuals who would be honored to be a part of a mission like Berea's.  Why not make room for them? 

9.  An investment in preparing students for life after Berea.
Sure Berea students graduate with complex and extraordinary world views, and astoundingly less debt than their counterparts at other institutions.  But many also graduate with no professional networks (many are first-generation college students), unrealistic notions about the options and expectations of graduate school, and no apartment deposits or down payments for cars (they are not permitted to work off-campus).  Imagine the impact of Berea's short-term continued investment to help them through that transition phase.  Imagine those students being better prepared to then turn around to invest in other students someday.

10.  A tough and honest approach in tackling the challenges of racism and multiculturalism on campus, and in the world. 
Despite it's worthy founding mission, faculty are still tweeting racist tweets about students, students are still being called n****r when they walk down town streets, international students are still being called entitled and spoiled, and campus diversity initiatives are still reluctant to discuss diversity in a more inclusive way that embraces the increasing Hispanic population, or to anyone who is not black or white.  The college was ground-breaking and bold 158 years ago.  Can we really afford to stop now?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Paula's Right, Her Use of the N-Word Was Pretty Harmless

Act #172:  Lay off the $9.9 million butter, folks.  It's bad for your arteries.

OK, Paula, you're right.  You have every right to call the black man who robbed a bank at which you used to work decades ago, n***er.  Especially since "it was a different time back then".  The joys of living in this free country is that you also have the right to think that it's cute to be served by an all-black wait staff.  Just adorable.  But here's where it gets a little sticky.  And I'm not talking about butter, ma'am.  While your sweet, southern, charming self is really entitled to your own personal views about your fellow human beings (many who were probably - up until this week - contributors to your financial stability), let me be the one to tell you what you don't have the right to do.  You know, that thin line between casual hater to lawbreaker, per the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  For starters, you don't have the right to create a work environment that condones racism and sexism like you apparently did at the restaurant you co-own with your brother, Bubba.  You don't have the right to violently shake black employees, have separate entrances for black employees, or refuse to let black employees use a customer bathroom that white employees are allowed to use - all allegations in this current hot mess of a lawsuit that you've found yourself involved in these days. 

And ma'am, there's more.  Not only is it illegal to be mean to black people who work for you...well, you also can't sexually harass people who work for you.  I know, I know, so many rules!  You should probably tell your dear brother, Bubba not to play porn in his shared office with the female manager or on the kitchen monitor.  Or to tell female employees who just got dentures that her husband might like them.  Or to joke about the perks of having sex with women with flat heads, "because you can sit your beer on top of her head while she is giving you a b**w job."  It's also unacceptable for Bubba to kiss and then spit on the face of his female manager.  Or any manager.  Or any human being, really. Not sure how ya'll did it back in the day, but just to be clear:  not acceptable today.

And while it might be your own personal little fantasy to be waited on by black people, when organizing a work event with your professional staff, you probably shouldn't verbalize the fact that you want "a bunch of little n***ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around..."

Bless your heart, this must be so terribly confusing for you - but there's one more thing.  While you may be entitled to your own oppressive, racist, and hateful thoughts within that sweet little southern mind of yours, just know, that we (the public) are also entitled to take back the chunk of your empire that we so graciously made possible for you during your glory days.  Perks of living in a free country, ma'am.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five Reasons THIS Working Mom is Better Off

Act #171:  Stop with the guilt trips.

As if I'm not already guilt-ridden for making the decision six years ago to shove my 12-week old baby into the arms of total strangers.  As if I don't already wake up at 4:45 a.m. every morning just to have some uninterrupted personal time that doesn't impact the daily routine of the rest of the family.  Social media has been relentlessly unforgiving this week in helping to remind working mothers like me that we are indeed the sole cause of the decline of the moral fabric of society.  That we are single-handedly responsible for everything ranging from overall unhappiness, to unfulfilled childhoods, to failed marriages.

Take this fine blog piece for example:  The author's main point is this - don't marry a career woman because "research" shows that you you'll probably get divorced, she'll cheat, you won't have kids, and even if you do, she'll be unhappy.  Your house will be dirty.  If she makes more than you, you'll both be unhappy, and you'll fall ill.  Doom followed by gloom.

Well, I've had it.  But before I go off on my rant, let me first point out, that I respect whatever personal choices families make to balance child care and income needs.  Some of my best friends are stay-at-home moms who are brilliant, intelligent, incredibly fulfilled, and work just as hard as I do for the well-beings of their families.  I wish I could say that I knew some stay-at-home dads who also fit that profile. 

Let me then tell you, that I personally would be a pathetic reason for a human being if I stayed home with my child full-time (like most working moms I know, I would however love to live in a society that supported more of a work-life balance.)  While I'd relish in the chance to work less weekly hours, contributing my skillset to the world and contributing financially to my home, are the two main factors that make my family (and our overall quality of life) better.  How so, you ask?

#1:  Giving power back to my husband.
Ironically, I've given power back to my husband.  I mean this with utmost seriousness.  When I met this man, he did not know how to fry an egg.  He had never changed a diaper in his life.  He would rather donate a kidney than clean a toilet.  He went from the arms of his mother to the arms of his first wife.  Both who, with all good intentions, showed love by taking care of some of his most basic needs. Seven years later, my husband is empowered to do all those things and so much more.  He is an equal and contributing partner in our family and you'd have to ask him, but I dare say he wouldn't have it any other way.

#2:  A deterrent for infidelity and divorce.
Talk about cheating and divorce.  I'll tell you what would make me cheat! If I spent every second of the day tending to the needs of everyone else around me, and my bread-winning husband came back home each night with that expectation.  Can't think of a quicker way to throw me into the arms of a high school boyfriend that I reconnected with on Facebook, when my kids were down for a nap.  And as for divorce?  As a working mom, I literally don't have time to even ponder divorce as a viable option for conflict resolution.  Yes, the scheduling can be stressful at times, but not as much as having to split up property or work out shared custody of your child, people.

#3:  Model civic responsibility for my kid.
I get to show my kid day in and day out, that I can change the world...and someday, he can too.  I work as the director of a rape crisis center, or in a 5-year old's mind, My mommy helps to end violence.  There's nothing more powerful than teaching by doing, and leaving no question in my child's mind, that making the world a better place is not only a possibility, but a responsibility.

#4:  The money sure doesn't hurt.
Who are we kidding folks, it takes a double income (at least) to manage these things:  Lego camp, prescription meds for your aging parents, the occasional memory-making family vacation, health insurance for a family of three, and the remote prospect of a sufficient college fund 12 years from  now.  I won't lie, it takes every ounce of the double income to do these things - and this is already after mom has given up designer shoes and all unrealistic notions of annual exotic romantic get-aways.

#5:  You're welcome, future daughter-in-law.
If my son grows up straight, and if he chooses to marry, he will have no preconceived notions about the limitations of a woman....or of himself.  And maybe, just maybe, 15 years from now if and when he gets married, the point of this blog will sound completely and utterly absurd to him.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It Happened to Me: My Kid's Summer Camp Tried to Send Him Home WithAnother Asian Woman

Act #170:  Learn how to tell Asians apart.

So I'm a 40-year old woman with a five year old son, who is a bit overprotective, to say the least.  It took everything in me to find the courage to send him to a daytime, week-long summer camp.  My irrational fears ranged from:  Do camp counselors have background checks from every state?...... to...... What if they send kids home with the wrong parents?  Perfectly absurd and paranoid, huh?  Think again.

Here's what happened.  Yesterday, at the pick-up desk, a camp counselor tried to send my son home with another Asian woman.  No, she really, really did.  OK, there are a few disclaimers.  That woman was my dear friend Marisa, whose mother is Thai (both of my parents are Thai).  Marisa's 5-year old little girl, Bella was also in my son, Jack's summer camp class.  We decided to enroll them in a Science Lego camp where they would be building an entire Lego city all week. All fun and games until they try to switch mommies on you, kiddo. 

So I guess it could have been a little confusing.  Two somewhat Asian-looking kids (Bella has blond hair by the way) in the same class, and two very Asian-looking moms picking them up at the same time.  To make matters worse, we happen to all know each other.   A bunch of loving, happy, friendly Asian-y folks at camp.  Perfect storm.  As Marisa approached the pick-up table with her secure ID number to tell the camp counselor that she had arrived to pick up her daughter, the camp counselor proudly proclaimed, "Jack, your mom is here!"

Surely, one could see how a naive college kid might have mistaken another woman with long, black hair to be my son's mom - especially given the familiarity we had between all of us.  But let's break this down a little bit, shall we?  What is the point of the secure matching ID numbers if counselors are just going to arbitrarily hand over kids to someone who might bear a slight resemblance to them?  I noticed that there were plenty of other parents who knew each other and whose kids attended this camp.  Did the counselors also get the friendly white moms mixed up?  Perhaps, they tried to also send blond kids home with the next blond woman who walked up to the pick-up desk?  I don't think so.  At the surface, a simple, innocent mistake was made.  But at the core, someone who I was entrusting my kid with for 7 hours every day, for an entire week, was incapable of discerning physical differences between two people simply because they were of the same race.  Even if this particular counselor was not blessed with such discernment, as the professional responsible for the safety and security of these kids, she should have just followed protocol and confirmed the matching ID numbers.  What does this say about this person's judgment, as she is charged with watching over these kids for an entire week?

So, at the end of the day, my worst fears about camp (and life in general) came true.  Will I send Jack back tomorrow?  Yes, the boy's got a zoo to build for his city.  Will I have a talk with the camp director about the importance of safety protocol, and maybe some sensitivity training for staff?  Absolutely.  Will I show up early at pick-up every remaining day to make sure they don't send my kid home with that Indian mom I saw yesterday?  Probably.

For tips on how to tell Asians apart:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Letter to Twelve Year Old Girls

Act #169:  Choose the messages you wish to receive.

Dear 12-year-old Girls,

Today we give you permission not to accept what is being marketed to you.  No matter how glittery the packaging, how flawless the messenger - ask yourself, is that who you want to become?  Glittery and flawless?  This is not some underhanded effort to radicalize you into future feminists, because truly, you already are one deep down inside.  Yes, it's true, you were born with the same intellect, drive, and power that your male counterparts have - and if you haven't already discovered this to be true, it's probably not your fault.  You are working against a powerful force that reduces you every day to a boy-crazy, competitive, drama-ridden aspiring teen singer, her dim-witted girlfriend, her self-obssessed fame-seeking sister, or her sarcastic, mean-girl frenemy.  You are being told that if you don't fit neatly into one of those categories, you are a mere outcast who won't get invited to the parties, who won't get the spotlight, and who won't get the boy.  Not to mention the fact that it's OK if you don't even want the boy.  You are being told every day that beauty comes only in size 2, long shiny straight hair, pale, light skin tones, and tight-fitting mini skirts.  You are being told that your greatest achievement is whether or not you can attract attention from a guy using every ounce of that painfully narrow definition of beauty. 

Twelve-year old girls, you should know, that to those behind this manipulative force, you are a mere statistic, a target audience, "12-year old tweens".  Someone that is being profited from, marketed to, so systematically that there are entire staffs devoted to figuring out how to break down your inner feminist, so that you may be influenced to buy accompanying soundtracks, beauty products, toys, and video games perpetuating over and over again, the notion that you will never be good enough until you become like those images staring back at you on the television set, on your laptop screen, and on your iPad. 

Twelve-year old girls, today we give you permission to believe that you are perfect just the way you are.  Even if your dress size is 10 sizes more than the girls on the screen.  Even if you have kinky hair.  Even if you can't sing.  Even if a boy never gave you butterflies in your stomach.  We give you permission to rise above that which is being preached to you day in, day out.  To break the social conforms of shallow, competitive, female relationships, and to invest in true friendships based on trust, support, and kindness. 

Twelve year old girls, today, we give you permission to be twelve.  To trust in your inner feminist voice that is telling you that you are worthy.  That you are indeed beautiful.  That you are enough.

All the former 12-year old girls who finally learned to love themselves.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons....

Act #168: ....make pink lemonade!

This week, five-year-old Jayden Sink set up a "Pink Lemonade for Peace" stand at the Equality House - a rainbow-wrapped home located directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters in Topeka, Kansaas.  It recently came to her attention that those affiliated with WBC were spreading hate and she wanted to stage a peaceful protest to raise money to put towards spreading messages of love and peace instead.  WBC most recently set up a website attacking victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes for being sinners, but the website was quickly turned into a donation page for victims by a brilliant hacker activist.  So many chances for activism, so little time!

Can't make it to Kansas to buy lemonade?  You can donate to Jayden's efforts on-line at:  100% of the proceeds will go to Planting Peace, - the folks behind the Equality House!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

How Not To Give Up on "Punk" Teenage Boys

Act #168:  Hold our youth responsible.  They'll thank you for it one day.

On the day my husband learned that his 91 year-old grandfather died, he was driving home and had just entered our neighborhood.  As he approached our street, two 14-15 year old boys were walking in the middle of the road.   They saw him coming, looked at him defiantly, and continued to take up the entire road without moving to the sidewalk.  One had a water gun in his hand.  My husband, though annoyed, drove carefully around them.  With so much on his mind, he was eager just to get to his destination.  As he passed them, one of the boys pointed the water gun at his car, and God bless him.........he squirted the car.

On any other day my husband might have just continued on his way, but today was not a lucky day for these boys.  Brakes were slammed, and the car dramatically went into reverse, the boys bolted out of the way.  The driver's window was down and ready by the time he pulled up to them.

The boys were horrified.

He asked them where they lived and told them to point out exactly which homes were theirs. They complied nervously.  He told them that there was no need for them to act like punk kids because there were enough of those around and that if they wanted the world to respect them, they needed to start respecting others.  He apparently lectured them for a good solid five minutes while their heads hung in shame and their conversation ended with multiple apologies and "yes sirs".

I wrote a blog a while ago, about the power of intervening when witnessing child abuse:, and I can't help but wonder if there is merit to approaching teenage defiance in the same manner.  What would our communities look like if we just simply didn't tolerate disrespectful behavior and we called out young people when they exhibited these behaviors?  My first inclination would be that it's none of my business, and possibly unsafe.  But how is this any different from me intervening with a 5-year old bully like I did in this blog: ?  These kids just happen to be slightly older - but do we just give up on kids because they've passed a certain age?  Harmless as their actions may have been that day, if we simply submit to the "boys will be boys" mentality, aren't we sending a clear message that those actions are acceptable, that they can continue, and that when they enter adulthood, they are entitled to take up other people's space and use intimidation to illicit attention?  Who knows if these boys will think twice or not before pointing a water gun at someone else.  Maybe we'll see them walking in the middle of the road again tomorrow.  But maybe we won't.  Maybe there's a tiny chance that they got a glimpse of how their seemingly innocent acts of boyhood rebellion, might impact real people who live in their own neighborhood.  Maybe, just maybe, my husband might have changed the entire course of their futures, and prevented 2 bored kids with water guns from growing into two grown men with real guns.  You never know.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Life Lessons From The Imperfect TV Dads of My Childhood

Act #167:  This one's for you, men:  Consider mentoring a young man so they can see real-life examples of kind, loving males beyond the TV screen.

James Evans, Sr., Good Times
Some things are worth compromising, some things aren't.  
While his character was a hard-working father who often worked 2-3 minimum-wage jobs to support his family, when he had to, he grabbed his pool stick and snuck out to hustle up a few bucks in order to feed his family.  But perhaps his most important contribution was his real-life refusal to accept the producers exploitation of his television son's (JJ) character, as a less-than-intelligent, dy-no-mite preaching, cringe-worthy buffoonish, stereotype of a black man.
Howard Cunningham, Happy Days 
Always look up from reading the paper.
As a child, this is what I thought my Thai American family was supposed to look like.  Complete with heart throb, family friend, Chachi of course. Mr. C was always mild-mannered, always loving, always successful (as the owner of a hardware store)...and always looking up from his paper on that Lazy Boy, whenever his family needed him.  Might have been cool for him to actually get up out of the Lazy Boy every once in a while to say....fix himself a sandwich, or maybe give Mrs. C a break?
Phillip Drummond, Different Strokes
Anybody can be a dad if they are willing to mentor someone.
Single dad, Phillip Drummond navigated the complexities of blended families, tackling issues of race and privilege along the way.  The most shocking revelation to the 8-year old me:  New York apartments fancy enough to warrant stairs.  
Tom Bradford, Eight is Enough 
Sometimes, you just need mom.
Who are we kidding, this kind-hearted working dad of eight, couldn't have possibly managed without his first wife.....and then his second, shortly after he widowed.
George Jefferson, The Jeffersons
Usually, the tough ones are mush on the inside.
Opinionated, rude, bigoted, witty, and painfully politically incorrect, George Jefferson finally brought to life the portrayal of smart, successful African-American families, "moving on up" during a time when formal racism was no longer sanctioned, but its enduring impact were still oh, so prevalent.  George Jefferson seemed to aggravate just about everyone - his wife, his maid, the interracial couple who lived in his building, but at the end of the day, his character proved to be complex and rich way beyond the wealth that he accumulated.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Sisterhood of Slow and Subtle Body Image Suicide

Act #165:  Stop the fat talk.

I am fortunate to always find myself in the company of close girlfriends who are diverse and beautiful in very different ways.  We spend much of our time supporting each other's aspirations and our multitudes of roles as professionals, mothers, and everyday feminists.  We uplift one another and no matter what the world, the media, men try to tell us about our self-worth,  we remain unfazed, strong, and defiant.  Our fierce and protective propensity to believe in each other leaves little room for us to not believe in ourselves.  In this sisterhood, we are our own biggest fans - non-paid accidental life coaches and motivational speakers, who can turn the most sweltering, oppressive day into a journey, a lesson, a teachable moment that only makes us stronger.  We celebrate our rich and unique paths and the different ways we contribute to the world.  Whether we've chosen to put our careers on the back burner in order to clean preschool snot and tend organic gardens.  Whether we serve as partners in downtown law firms.  Or whether we've found ourselves half way through our lives, still seeking to find that which feeds our souls.

Pause.  Rewind.  Hold up.

If we indeed have the power to nurture, support, and celebrate the beauty of our imperfections, the extraordinary nature of our differences, then why do we still talk to each other like this?

You look great, did you lose weight?

I'd kill to be as skinny as I was in college.

I need to stop stuffing my face.

I've got to get back on my diet.

I went down two dress sizes!

Bikini ready by our beach trip!

Did you see that woman's abs?

This cheesecake is gonna cost me an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill.

I'll never be able to get my fat-ass in these jeans.

Try this, it's fat free.

Only five more pounds to go!

Do you know how many calories are in that thing?

We are our own biggest supporters.....and our own worst enemies.   I say it's time we change things up.  Won't you commit to changing the way we see each other, the way we see ourselves, and how we shape our language towards each other?  I'm in no way suggesting that we stop supporting one another in leading balanced healthy lives, but maybe we can just stop obsessing so much...... about our eating........our work-out routines.......the number of calories we ingest.......our muffin tops, cellulite, underarm fat, our thighs that rub together, and whether we'll be bikini ready in time for summer. We all know, that as women, we are defined by way more than our current dress sizes.  Let's start treating each other like we believe this to be true.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Change humanity in three minutes!

Act #164:  Invest in her and she will do the rest.

   Got three minutes?  Watch this.
The Girl Effect
The girl effect is a movement. It's about leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families, their communities, their countries and the world. It's about making girls visible and changing their social and economic dynamics by providing them with specific, powerful and relevant resources.  Created by the Nike Foundation in collaboration with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Coalition for Adolescent Girls, the girl effect is fuelled by hundreds of thousands of girl champions who recognize the untapped potential of adolescent girls living in poverty.


How YOU Can Change Humanity
Make the case for girls.  Start by visiting:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What To Say To a Stranger Threatening to Grab Someone's Tits

Act #163: Be the kind of bystander who speaks up.

If you find the use of the word "tits" in a blog title offensive, I certainly hope you find the story I'm about to tell even more offensive.  Hopefully, offensive enough for you to do something about it.

Yesterday a dear young friend of mine was having a lovely day, daydreaming about an upcoming visit from her boyfriend, as she rode home on a public bus in Boston.  She sat next to a man, whom she barely noticed - well, because she was daydreaming  - when he looked over at her and stated, Nice tits.  At first, my friend, who is never at a loss for words, tried to ignore him.  Maybe she heard him wrong.  The bus was crowded.  She didn't want to make a scene.  He continued, Do you just hate black men or do you hate all men?  She tried to pretend like she didn't hear him, hoping that he would arrive at his destination and get off the bus soon.  Then he whispered, Nice tits. You know what I am gonna do to them.

The bus was crowded.  People near by had to have heard this exchange, but all the other passengers were so engrossed in their smart phones they didn't seem to notice.  Or at least they didn't seem to care.  And then my friend defied all nice girl stereotypes, all socially-acceptable bus-riding norms, and she proclaimed loudly, This man I've never met before keeps saying I have nice tits. I need assistance back here.

Kudos to the bus driver, who immediately intervened and removed the man from the bus.  But her fellow passengers weren't so honorable.  Every single one of them continued to read their e-mails and the daily news on their phones - most not even looking up.  What would you do if you were seated behind my friend and witnessed this act of intimidation?  Would you simply mind your own business?  Maybe you would think that my friend was capable of handling things on her own?   Maybe you wouldn't want to face the possibility of getting into a fight with a stranger.  Or maybe, like most people, you simply wouldn't know what to say.   Bingo.  If you've found yourself in this situation and didn't speak up because you didn't know what to say, well, here are some suggestions:

1.  Why don't you take my seat?  Help to physically remove a victim from the situation.

2.  Check out this Youtube video.  Divert attention away from a potentially volatile situation.

3.  Hey everyone, let's help this young lady get to her next stop safely!  Solicit the help of others.

4.  How 'bout them Red Sox (insert any team name here)?  Intervene verbally by changing the topic.

5.  Or, you can just spill your drink all over yourself.  Seriously.  Oh, and make a scene.  It's a small price to pay to distract unwanted attention away from a stranger who is making physical threats on a woman. 

So the next time you see someone's daughter, mother, or sister getting sexually harassed, go ahead and speak up.  You now have five ways to do so effectively.  If you don't want your kids to grow up in a world where sexual violence is acceptable, make this your business.

For more information on how you can promote the intolerance of violence and for more ways to intervene as a bystander, please visit or contact

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to Believe In a Little Girl

Act #162:  Tell them they can fly.

I was eight years old the first time I flew on an airplane.  I was completely fascinated by the flight attendants - then called "stewardesses".  They were so graceful, so poised.  And everyone seemed mesmerized by their charm.  As I got off the plane I remember proudly proclaiming to my mom, "I want to be a stewardess when I grow up!"  My mom turned to me gently and whispered, "You could definitely be a stewardess honey, but you know you could also fly the plane."  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Five Things You're Saying To Your Gay Male Friend That Are Offensive

Act #161:  Check your patronizing language.

1.  I'm a fag hag.
You may have lots of friends who happen to be gay, but think about it people - if you only choose to befriend someone because of their sexual orientation, how special do you think that might make them feel?  

2.  He's my kid's gunkle.
Tori Spelling tried to start this trend much to the dismay of gay people all over the world.  If you truly valued your gay friend, why wouldn't he just be your child's uncle?  Do you refer to heterosexual uncles as "strunkles"?

3.  You are just fabulous.
What exactly does that mean?  Try diversifying the descriptive adjectives you use when praising your gay friends - like kind, brilliant, wonderful.  Better yet, feel free to treat them like your straight friends and tell them they are an ass whenever they act like one.  Surely they're not fabulous all the time.

4.  I have the best gay-dar.
No, no you don't.  You may have the capacity to identify painstakingly stereotypical feminine characteristics of gay men, but you do not have some superpower to identify homosexual attraction.  Even if you did, seriously, should that earn you bragging rights when most of us have had straight-dar since we hit junior high?

5.  Don't you think he's hot?
Believe it or not, gay men actually think with their brains (and not their penises) just like you do!  Some even write novels, advocate for youth, and create brilliant artwork.  Try asking them about those things too every once in a while.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Questions About Dying from a Five-Year-Old

Act #160: Listen to the voice of a child. 

Yesterday my family and I spent 12 hours laying my husband's 91 year-old grandfather (whom we affectionately referred to as "Pop") to rest.  From the small funeral service at the local funeral the cemetery for some private graveside moments before burial....on to the family gathering over fried chicken and potato salad at his widow's home, and then one last impromptu sunset family drive out to the cemetery.  Because my husband played a significant role in supporting his mother and serving as pallbearer, I was fortunate to have spent those 12 special hours with my wise and curious 5-year old son holding my hand the entire time.  What a gift that was for me.

Being the interfaith family that we are, my son was not raised with preconceived notions about the after-life, nor did he have the solace of any particular religion to ease his loss or answer his questions. Here are the profound questions he posed to me yesterday. 

Did you know that pop was in the military?  He had guns!
To him, this 91-year-old man who is no longer with us in the physical sense, was still amazing and heroic to him.  I suspect that he always will be.

Will my people be there?
My son was referring to our extended family, but I had never heard him refer to them as "my people" before.  Interesting how times like these truly define one's frame of reference and place in the world.  My typically active kid laid around comfortably during the post-burial family gathering at pop's home.  We were there for 5 hours with no toys and no other children.  (We may have had a little help from the Cartoon Network though.)

Why is Abby crying?
It never occurred to my son that his 12-year old cousin might be sad - because in his mind, this was a celebration of pop's life.

Can we get cake for pop's party?
It was beyond his comprehension why we wouldn't continue to honor pop by getting his favorite cake.

Why is the graveyard not even spooky?
Between Scooby Doo and Halloween, I guess he was expecting the worse.  Our sunset drive out to the cemetery was quite memorable.  He skipped happily and comfortably between gravestones, stopping to read and pay his respects to various strangers.

Do zombies have souls?
Damn that Scooby Doo. 

Aren't we all mortal?
At this precious young age, my son was already able to grasp the notion that death and dying was a natural part of everyone's journey.  What he chose to focus on was not what happened to pop after he was laid in the ground, but rather how he impacted those around him over the last 91 years.

Can't pop just live inside my heart?
Why yes, son.  Yes he can.