Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Plain Jane All Talk?

Act #304:  No matter what, don't remain silent.

This week I found myself confronted with the quintessential Plain Jane test.  In order to protect the identity of those involved, I am altering the facts a bit.  There I was at a lovely, lovely fundraiser speaking with two lovely, lovely individuals: one, a stunning woman who was a huge funder of anti-violence work and my organization specifically.  The other a gay, male (this is relevant, I promise) community member.  I was just reflecting on the beauty of my community in coming together to support such worthy causes.  And just like that, it was over.  I'm not sure how this came up, but about 5 minutes into our conversation, the woman shared how unhappy she was with a local grantmaking organization that pulled funding for an organization that would not hire gay individuals.  I couldn't bring myself to look over to the male to my right, but I could tell he was nodding slowly and politely. 

On one hand, I had a big supporter of a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  If I said anything to offend her, I would clearly put my agency at risk.  But if I said nothing, and allowed her stinging comments to linger quietly in the awkward silence that followed, I would put my soul, my integrity, any hope for a better world at risk.  And so I took a big gulp of my wine and say, You know, I bet that was a really hard decision.  Both are such great organizations for this community.  And she says, How could anyone just pull funding like that?  And I gently follow with, I imagine a community funder like that wants to make sure everyone in the community feels included.  And she continues, But it's the manner in which it was done - so abrupt.  Jobs are going to be lost and programs are going to be shut down.  And I say, You know, I'm a firm believer that human beings can work just about anything out if they sat down and talked.  I bet you, what I know about the leaders of both of these organizations, they have probably done that extensively and are probably continuing to do so.  They both care so much about our community.  And her final words, You know, I'm not against gay rights.  I have friends who are gay.  I just don't agree with the way this was handled. At this point, I glance over to our male companion and he is offering an occasional nod, but I can't read him beyond that.  We then both say something along the lines of, Well I'm glad you were able to find ways to continue supporting great causes in the community.  And the three of us eventually went our separate ways.

Did I change this woman's mind?  Of course not.  But I also didn't set her off in a defensive rage that would guarantee no future opportunities for us to have a conversation.  Did I betray the gay male standing right next to me?  In some ways I feel like I may have.  If I was in the same situation and someone began talking about women of color in the same manner, I probably would have felt betrayed if the conversation continued politely....and nicely.....and all hunky dory.  My ultimate goal was to break down walls and barriers for communication.  Could I meet this woman where she was, and perhaps persuade her to at least consider the other perspective?  Who knows.  I left feeling unsettled.  Uneasy.  Disappointed in myself.  Disappointed in humanity.  This business of changing the world is not easy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deconstructing George Clooney As Arm Candy

Act #303:  Beware what you read.

Amal Alumuddin's mystery man is revealed!  The international, human rights, extradition and criminal lawyer was spotted out on the town with a hunky brunette last week and E! News has learned that the lucky man in question is George Clooney.   The two were seen grabbing a bite to eat at Berners Tavern and were all smiles as they rode off in the same cab.  In a solo shot, George was seen walking out of the eatery, flashing a huge grin while dressed in a stylish black blazer, jeans and a funky belt.  Is that a smile that says, "I just had dinner with none other than Ms. Alumuddin?" Why yes, it does seem to be.  But back to the point at hand…is there something romantic brewing between these two?!  It may be too soon to tell...

Note:  The above excerpt was taken almost verbatim, from an on-line entertainment news source.  Words in red were changed to reverse gender roles and to explore a world where powerful international lawyers might be identified first by their high-profile cases (Ms. Alumuddin is representing Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, in his extradition proceedings with Sweden), and less by the size of their earrings (the actual article feels compelled to call out her "giant" hoop earrings).  In this crazy alternate universe, the handsome actor is actually the "lucky" one for being Amal's chosen dinner companion.  So lucky in fact that the smile that he flashed was just as news and noteworthy as the ensemble he wore during their date.

Sexy George is so smitten by all that intelligence!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What's YOUR Spring Roll?

Act #302:  Find your spring rolls....and then share them with others!

The other day I went to pick up my mother's prescriptions for her at our local pharmacy.  As the cashier handed me my order, I heard a voice from behind the counter, "Tell your mom she needs to open up a restaurant with those spring rolls of hers!"  Uh....ok....stranger pharmacist lady who I've never met in my life.  As the holiday season approaches, I'm reminded of that entire week in 2012 that I spent driving between 3 different counties delivering my mother's spring rolls to two different primary care physicians, my dad's cardiologist and his physician's assistant, "that nice lady that answers the phone" at the cardiologist's main office in Lexington (who my parents have never met in person), and my dad's entire physical therapy staff.

Here's a little 4'9 Thai lady, who makes up 1.3% of the Asian population in her state, and probably more like 0.2% in our little town - completely and utterly oblivious to racial and cultural differences, breaking century long barriers with her perfectly crisp (but not oily), chicken and shrimp spring rolls (not to be confused with egg rolls - these babies are made with a special kind of Thai wrapper).  In her culture, no good deed goes unappreciated and a verbal thanks just doesn't do it.  Some of her other random beneficiaries have included my son's kindergarten teacher, my friend Nolan - who helped stain our deck, and my entire staff at work.

My dad's physical therapist, Rodney, isn't much into Asian cuisine and asked if my mom could make the spring rolls without all the vegetables, and maybe add some cheese?  My mom indulged him by holding the cabbage, but of course refused to add the cheese.  And adoringly, she told him, "That would be a taquito, Rodney, not a spring roll."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ready to Reconnect With A Long Lost Friend?

Act #301:  Reclaim who you were.  It's never too late.

Someone who didn't distrust strangers
Shocked at the status quo 
The kind of person who had to see a waterfall at night 
Believer in the impossible
Aspiring lawyer
Aspiring pilot
Aspiring psychologist
Aspiring street worker combating human trafficking
Aspiring (anything is possible)
An 8-year old who daydreamed about being Wonder Woman 
A little girl who sat in her front yard for hours making leis out of little white wild flowers, thinking of nothing else except the joy of being right there in that exact moment
Your turn.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Happens When You Raise Your Child Without Organized Religion

Act #300:  Step aside every once in a while.

Ever wonder about those kids who grow up without organized religion?   What moral framework they will draw from as they make decisions and navigate the world as an adult?  What network of safety and comfort they will have to provide context for the pain and suffering they will inevitably experience in their lifetime?  Yeah, me too. I deeply contemplated all of these questions when I first learned that there was life growing inside of me six years ago.  I wanted to offer my child an environment where he could develop a relationship with a higher power, but I didn't want to impose my personal beliefs and create that reality for him. 
And so here he is growing up, not attending church, with no organized faith system, but with a Muslim grandmother who prays five times a day, a Buddhist grandfather who reads Sanskrit prayers before bedtime, a paternal grandmother who believes that Jesus Christ is the only way, a father who is an eternal seeker and questioner, and a mother who relishes falling beautifully somewhere in between all of this.  I know he's just six, but it has been a profound experience to watch what happens to a child when he is given the freedom to develop his own relationship with God.  Some of these experiences have simply been unexplainable, and in my mind miraculous.  Like the time he was just a toddler, and had just started talking - out of the blue, from the backseat of my car, he told me, "Mama, God sometimes talks to me and he wants you to tell me more about him."  This is a child who, at that point, had never stepped foot in a church, and quite honestly, we had not even introduced him to the concept of God yet.  I got a little chill as I continued driving down the road that day.  Or the first time he saw my mother covered in white from head to toe as she prepared for her daily prayer - and the sight of her did not startle or scare him the least bit.  In fact, he acted like he didn't even notice her attire. And the time earlier this year, when his great grandfather died and he asked why we were visiting his grave site when he wasn't really even there.   Or that day the sunrise was unusually breathtaking as we drove him to school and he suddenly began talking about God.  He made the connection entirely on his own.  Or just yesterday when we were visiting a Buddhist temple and he took on the posture of Buddha, crossed his legs, rested his palms gently on his lap, and told me that in meditation you should focus on one word, "God".  Each time something like this happens, I ask him where he has learned these things and each and every time he tells me, nowhere, that he just knows.
Maybe my son's experiences are a result of his environment, what he's heard and learned subconsciously, cues he's picked up by watching how we live our lives.  But maybe, human beings with clean slates and untarnished spirits have the capacity to connect directly with the truest and purest form of Good....if we just step aside and let them.  So I will continue down this path of creating for him an environment that nurtures him to ask the questions (he has many, many questions), but I will also continue to not fill in all the blanks for him, not give him all the answers, and not impose and organize religion in a neat little package for him.  As it stands, he already seems to have more answers, and way more of a connection to his higher power, than I do at age 41.
“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”   
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Little Prince”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Asian Kids Are Getting Bullied And It's Probably Your Fault

Act #299:  Ask yourself the hard questions.

Did you know that 54% of Asian teens between the ages of 12-18 experience bullying in the classroom?  That is on average, a staggering 20% higher than the bullying that White, Hispanic, and Black teens experience.  Please allow that to sink in.  1 out of every 2 Asians that you meet will have experienced bullying in their lifetime.  The study also showed that 62 percent of Asian Americans reported online harassment once or twice a month, compared with 18.1 percent of whites.  

Is this acceptable to anybody who is reading this?  And please don't give me the "kids will be kids" justification for this - that kids are just mean to each other, that it has nothing to do with race - because if that was indeed the case, why then would an entire category of children experience bullying 20% more than their peers?  In case you want all the statistics, here are the results of the 2009 survey conducted by the U.S. Justice and Education Department which interviewed 6,500 students from the ages of 12-18:

54% of Asian-American teens reported bullying in the classroom
38.4% of Black teens reported bullying in the classroom
34.3% of Hispanic teens reported bullying in the classroom
31.3% of White teens reported bullying in the classroom

I know what you're thinking.  Not my kid.  We take him to the international festival every year, and I have Sriracha in my fridge!  My kid couldn't possibly grow up to bully someone because of their race.  Well, newsflash people:  someone's kids out there are contributing to these statistic and there's a good chance they could be yours.  And if so, chances are, that you probably should bear at least some responsibility for this.  Yes, I know that is a hard pill to swallow, particularly for all my fellow Obama-loving, peace-rallying, petition-signing friends out there.  You did not raise a racist.  I hear you.  But could we collectively be contributing to a culture of prejudice, non-acceptance, and violence towards Asians without even knowing it?  Well, let us explore this possibility.  

Are you planning on wrapping your family up in soft, flannel blankets on the couch this holiday season with steaming cups of hot chocolate while watching "A Christmas Story"?  Will you giggle at the Chinese restaurant scene when the waiters sing Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra and the "smiling" roasted duck head gets chopped off at its neck?  How else will you model to your kids the perpetuation of stereotypes that portray Asians as socially inept, barbaric, and perpetually foreign?

For all the privileged:  during your last family vacation, did you ever consider selecting India, Thailand, or the Philippines as a destination rather than Italy, France, Australia..........or perhaps Disney World?  Or is it more in your comfort zone to vacation amongst people who already look, act, and talk like you - and thus never affording your children the opportunity to be immersed in the regular and ordinary lives of people who don't?

And for the not-so-privileged:  have you ever taken your young children to an Asian grocery store where you can get fresh, beautiful basil by the bunch four times cheaper than you can at Kroger?    And if you do this, please don't treat the experience like a trip to the Smithsonian, and patronize the regulars by making every aisle a teachable moment to your kids.  THIS is how the rest of the world lives.  Not everyone shops at Kroger.

When's the last time your family talked about the diverse contributions of an Asian-American (and other ethnic minorities, for that matter) at the dinner table?   And Connie Chung was so last decade.  Here are five more contemporary Asian-Americans your kids would love to hear about:

For the love of God, would it kill you to have more than one token Asian friend?  I mean, I enjoy the attention and all, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings for you to spread the love around a bit.  Really.

What I Learned From the Diversity Conference

Act #298: Confront your reality.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If I Win The Lottery, I Will Start Hanging Out With Rich People

Act #297:  Fill in the gaps.

I never, ever play the lottery, for two main reasons:  1.)  I never win anything; and 2.)  I'm intimidated by the process - the mere thought sets me immediately into middle school scan-tron test-taking anxiety attacks.  But there I was on a road I don't typically drive, fetching coffee at a service station I've never been to, and all three people in front of me say, ".....and I'll have a quick-pick Powerball too."  The universe was encouraging me, so who was I to deny the universe?  And right this very moment I may indeed have the winning Powerball ticket sitting in a messy drawer in my kitchen. My friends asked me, what would I do if I really won?  What would be my first purchase?   Would I quit my job?  Would I move somewhere else?  And the answer is pretty simple. I would find a way to fill the gaps.

The Plain Jane Foundation
I would create a national grant-making foundation (most likely with a cooler name) that provides funding for new and innovative start-up social enterprises and non-profits organizations whose missions were to significantly impact and reduce economic and social injustice.  Think Silicon Valley for social change.  But wait.... (GAP #1) I wouldn't just hand out money to worthy causes that push the boundaries.  I'd provide these start-ups with the best, the brightest technology infrastructures, financial management resources, and marketing and public relations tools - things that are few and far between luxuries for most non-profits.  What else you say?  (GAP #2) I'd provide an on-going leadership training institute for the directors of these non-profits to share ideas and resources, offer continued support, collaborate, and identify best practices.  But I couldn't just stop there (GAP #3), I'd require the boards of these non-profits to have the following representation:  a local government employee or elected official, a researcher from a local university, a local business owner, another community non-profit organization with aligning missions, and wait for it.............a client or someone the organization would typically serve.   And finally, (GAP #4), I'd require these non-profits to offer paid, month-long sabbaticals for every employee who has worked for five years, in order to hit the pause button and set aside intentional time to reflect on individual and organizational possibility, potential, and capacity for innovative social change.

Of course my lottery winnings would run out eventually, hence me hanging out with rich people, to sustain and carry on the work of the foundation.  Just in case I don't win though, I hope some other person of wealth goes ahead and steals my idea.  It's not copy-written or anything.  You'll have my grant application on your desk by Monday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

There Go the Brown People Stirring Things Up Again!

Act #296: Adjust your view towards diversity training.

Out of 16 staff members at my place of employment, three of us are people of color.  Of the three, two of us are attending a "Dialogue on Diversity" conference this Friday.  To be fair, during my year-long tenure, three white staff members at various points have shared information on cultural competency, or have intentionally spoken with me about being a more inclusive work environment.  But the individuals who have repeatedly and consistently set aside time to wrap their brains around the issue of workplace diversity......have all been brown.  So at the surface, we're falling right into that expected cliché - there go the brown people stirring things up again.  Why they gotta be so angry all the time? 

Why DO we care so much?  Can't everyone just do their jobs and get along?  Yes.....if you happen to be in the cultural majority, that is.  You see, the workplace is made up of subtle and not-so-subtle norms that usually accommodate the majority culture.  Norms in communication standards, leadership capacities, work styles, and in my line of work - norms in the way we treat survivors of sexual trauma.   I can't speak for every brown person in the world, but as an Asian-American woman who has been in a leadership role for the past decade, I know I have been challenged with certain expectations.  I should share my personal feelings more (although I grew up in a culture that values personal reflection and limited expression of personal feelings).  I don't "pull the trigger" enough (because collectivist cultures value collaboration and consensus over individual decision-making).  But when I do "pull the trigger" and take on individualist cultural traits like directness and assertiveness, it's usually jolting to people who are subconsciously expecting a sweeter, more soft-spoken, traditionally Asian girl. 

And this is precisely why so often, it is the brown people who seek out opportunities to educate ourselves, and the work environments to which we belong, about how our backgrounds shape our work personalities.  How our work styles sometimes, but not always, reflect those backgrounds.  And how all of these factors influence the way we communicate with the people we serve.  Our goal is not to force everyone to walk around on egg shells, but rather to help us understand the impact of our complex cultural backgrounds........and the power of our own perceptions.

So this Friday two of the three brown people are yet again, shelling out $75 and giving up a whole day of work to join others across the state to "engage in thoughtful and instructive conversations about the relevance and role of diversity" in our lives and in our work.  Because the alternative to "stirring things up" is settling.  And that's one thing this brown girl just doesn't do well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

8 Reasons We Fight In Front of Our Kid

Act #295:  Teach conflict resolution.

1.  So he has realistic expectations of the complexities of living with a domestic partner.

2.  So he is exposed to healthy and non-physical ways to disagree without being abusive or being a bully.

3.  So he has the opportunity to witness respectful, gender-neutral, non-sexist debates of differing opinions.

4.  So he understands the beauty of compromise.

5.  And listening.

6.  And that it will take both of those things to sustain a long-term relationship.

7.  So that when he is on the playground, or in high school, or when he moves in with someone, he remembers that it is normal for human beings to occasionally disagree.  And that there is always a peaceful way to approach conflict resolution.

8.  So that he might in fact help change the statistics.  And that one day, 20 years from now, one in four women will not have to experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 
To learn more, please visit:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just Like Any Other Wedding

Act #294:  Love is love.

My six year old hasn't been to many weddings in his short lifespan.  Maybe a total of four?  Two were at the local Baptist church in our small community, and one at a darling boutique hotel on a south Florida beach. If you have a kid under the age of 6, you should be no stranger to the restlessness and  shortened attention spans they come with - and hopefully you will understand the feat that it is to make it through a 2-3 hour event.  Yet still, yesterday we decided to bring our son along for his fourth wedding that took place on the stone steps of a breathtaking, cascading babbling brook.

It was a picturesque, brisk, perfectly clear fall Sunday outdoor wedding.  And just like any other wedding we've been to, I began telling my son how the couple Italy.   And as we got settled into our perfect seats overlooking the deck where the vows were to be exchanged, just like any other wedding he's been to, about halfway through the ceremony my son began asking about the flavor of the cake.  And just like any other wedding he's been to, as the couple kissed, my son whispered "eeeeeeeeee-ew".   As the late afternoon chill began to surround us, the three of us clasped hands, maybe just a little tighter - our hearts overflowing with just a little more hope, a little more emotion. 

And as we walked away, we were grateful to be invited to share in the celebration of love between two human beings.  Just like any other wedding. 

Congratulations Thom and Paulo...
October 20, 2013

Walk on Earth

Act #293:  Walk on earth.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hanh


Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's My Party And I'll Do Nothing If I Want To

Act #292: Do nothing.  Guilt-free.

This weekend I will be celebrating a birthday and I've given myself a gift.  I've asked my friends and family for a "commitment-free, schedule-free" weekend.  That's right - a clear calendar and the permission to wake up and just go with the flow, do that which inspires, or do nothing at all.  So far the weekend has included snuggling up between my husband and my son while watching Saturday morning cartoons, an impromptu visit with my dear friend, Kelly and her family, writing some hand-written notes to people who have been on my mind greatly, holding baby Liam.....and who knows what else is in store for me?  I'm of course missing some scheduled events with some of my favorite people today, but the thing about true friends is that they get you, and they'll still be there.  In my line of work, my therapist colleagues always stress the importance of "self-care"- that we can't be there for others unless we are first attentive to our own needs.  You know, the whole, "place oxygen masks on yourself before your kids" notion.  In a world where we're constantly challenged to do something, it's not always easy to do nothing.  But it is so very important.   So you might not want to wait until your birthday, or designate only one day each year to carve out some time for yourself.  Try it.  I promise you, you'll be a better friend, parent, daughter, son, boss, employee, human being for it.  Cheers to 41 years of memorable somethings and even a few memorable nothings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Today's News Headlines: Hide, Flaunt, Change, Sell, or Hate the Female Body

Act #291:  Recognize how women are portrayed in the media.

Every morning, I wake up at 5 a.m. and scan the headlines on three different news websites seeking blog inspiration.  Today was no different - but rather than being inspired, I was saddened.  Saddened that like most days when I start scanning the daily news, images and stories of women almost always fall under two distinct categories: 1.)  The obsession with the size, shape, and bodies of women; and 2.) Acts of violence against women.  Today was no different.  Here are the first five images connected to news stories that popped up in the front page of one of my news outlets:

1.  Elle magazine flaunting actress, Melissa McCarthy's "plus-size" throwing an oversized coat over it.

2.  Why are we still talking about her?

3.  Moldovan volunteers fighting to prevent human trafficking through participatory theatre, where spectators are asked to change the outcome of the play.  Moldova is one of the main source countries in Europe for sex trafficking and forced labor.

4.  Kim Kardashian's selfie flaunting her post-baby body, suggesting 5 different types of diets for women who want to lose weight following a pregnancy.

5.  12-year old Rebecca Sedwick jumps from a concrete silo tower after being cyber-bullied  by two school mates aged 9 and 12.

Sometimes Grown-Ups Really Don't Have A Clue

Act #290:  Always question the grown-ups.

When I was in fifth grade I knew Christopher Columbus as the greatest explorer who ever lived.  The courageous and adventurous man responsible for discovering America - someone whose bravery, we celebrated with a national holiday.  At least that's what my history books told me.  And as a 10 year-old fifth-grader who was I to question the grown-ups? 

This week, 10-year old Lydia Peach of Berea, Kentucky did just that.  She questioned the grown-ups.  As part of Berea Community Elementary School's Literacy Week, she wrote a 1-page essay on the story of Christopher Columbus titled, "Eager Explorer or Cruel Killer?", challenging the notion of Columbus as a hero, and exposing his cruel treatment towards native Americans during the European colonization of the American continents, that included slavery and acts of genocide.  You go Lydia.  We'll be watching for you in about 15 years.  I have a feeling, this won't be the first blog about you.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

To The Man Who Probably Shouldn't Have Worn a Blue Shirt Last Night

Act #289: Never stop.

I was in the crowd last night when you got up to the podium during the city council meeting following a proposal by our local human rights commission to extend protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations to individuals based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.  I wanted a chance to talk with you, maybe help answer some of the questions you posed, but in all the chaos, I missed the opportunity to do so.  Also, the four armed police officers standing guard at the door made me a tad nervous.  So today I am hoping that the magic of Facebook brings this letter to you.  First and foremost, I applaud you for your courage to be the lone dissenting voice in the room last night.   Really, I do.  I know it was probably not easy to get up there in the sea of blue fairness supporters, and ask the city council NOT to adopt a fairness ordinance.  Particularly since you probably had no idea that organizers asked citizens to wear blue to demonstrate their support for the ordinance.  During your remarks, you challenged the council with this question:  Where does it end?  If we start protecting the gays, how far will we allow our government to go?  Who else will we have to protect? 

You see, that's the thing.  Call me simple-minded, but I think it actually ends right there.  If sexual orientation and gender identity are added to the classes of people protected, virtually everyone in our awesome little town can work, live, and visit a restaurant freely, equitably, and without harassment.  Currently the LGBT community is the only group of Bereans that we are legally allowed to discriminate against.  Yes, it's true - I can fire someone right this moment just because I don't agree with their "lifestyle".  Our local pizza joint can refuse to deliver a pizza to someone based solely on who they love.  You said that sometimes that's just life.  That people suffer all the time and they just need to get over it.  That once you were laid off from a job and you just dealt with it.  And yes, life does come with some unexpected blows, and people do lose their jobs for various reasons.  But how would you feel if you lost your job that day not because of a reduction in force, or a factory shut-down, but simply because you were married to your wife?  Seems hardly fair, right? While I understand that we can't protect every single American from unemployment and heartache, at a minimum  I would hope that every American would be afforded the freedom to at least start off on an equal playing field.  Isn't that what you said you were fighting for when you were enlisted?  Freedom?

You said that when you first publicly declared your Christian faith, you were prepared for a life of persecution, that you didn't ask the government for protection.  You didn't have to.  The Civil Rights Act already protects you from discrimination in employment and housing.  The local Berea ordinance protects you from discrimination in public accommodations.  You asked, Who is protecting you from this "offense" to your faith?  And I humbly ask you, sir:  What exactly is offensive in allowing people to work, live, and visit public establishments free from discrimination and harassment? I promise you that there's little to no chance that any of those in this particular class will be forcing their way through your church doors as you fear.  The sad thing is that if your Christian God is the same one that I've known all my life, He would never, ever close His doors to anyone, especially those who are not protected, not accepted, and not welcome by people like you.

Where does it end?

With the revision of the ordinance extending protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations to virtually the only remaining non-protected individuals, I dare ends here.   But at least to me, the more important question is this:  Why would we ever want to stop until every single human being was treated fairly? 

The Girl Who Just Can't Stop

P.S.  Cool shirt.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why I'm Willing To Be The Token Today

Act #288:  Prove you're more than a token.

Today parents at my son's elementary school will be voting for the "minority" parent representative for the SBDMC (Site-based Decision Making Council) to help assess, monitor, and evaluate the policies and programs of the school and to create an environment that will enhance student achievement.  While I really, really hope someone without a 2 hour commute and two other board memberships takes on the challenge, I reluctantly put my name forth for consideration.  Why do you ask?  Because the school actually requires a minority parent representative to serve on the council to ensure equity and inclusion.  And because as a parent, I want to ensure a learning environment that enhances student achievement for every child - especially the ones that might bring with them different learning styles, cultural influences, life perspectives, and modes of communication.  So here I stand yet again, stepping into the token minority role.  Not because I don't think I had a chance in the "regular" SBDMC elections, but because my community put into place an important measure to ensure equal opportunities for children like mine.  And if I don't step up, who will? 

Hopefully you will.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Who's Your A-Team?

Act #287:   Surround  yourself with awesome.

So I run a small non-profit organization with a budget a bit over $1 million.  In my former life, my colleagues and I often complained about our laptops being too slow, or not getting raises more than 3%.  These days, I scrounge just to have working computers for my staff and raises are but a distant dream.  The funny thing about resources and money is that it takes money to make money - and with a skeleton administrative staff of only three, raising money can be quite the challenge.  In an ideal world an agency like mine would have a communications coordinator, an event planner, a web and social media coordinator, and a graphic designer on staff to help with public relations and messaging....which would in turn help promote awareness about our mission:  to eradicate sexual violence......which would then hopefully elicit communities and individuals to want to support that mission either through action or through donating time and resources.  And the catch is this - most funders do not want to fund positions that do not provide direct services to survivors, and we have to raise funds through private donations to cover all non-direct service positions. 

And there lies the dilemma.  It takes money to raise money.  And without people raising the money, we don't have the help pay for their salaries.  A vicious cycle, that most people might find completely and utterly overwhelming, but for some insane reason, I find completely and utterly invigorating.  Here's why. 

I discovered early on that clearly, we are not in a position to allocate $200,000 to pay for salary and benefits for four new staff members for duties that we so desperately need.  So what's a gal to do?  Two simple things:

1.  Reach out to all the movers and shakers that I have met in my lifetime.
2.  Ask them out for coffee.

Up until two years ago, I had no idea just how fortunate I have been to cross paths with such talented people.  I'm talking untapped innovation, creativity, and passion who should (and sometimes already are) running their respective professional fields.  And after many, many e-mails and phone calls, and over many, many lattes and hot teas with me laying out my crazy vision to eradicate violence, I now find myself surrounded by what I like to call, my "Creative Team of Awesome".  Not only are they awesome, but they are incredibly passionate about making a difference.  So now my little non-profit is graced with a former communications director of a college department (that I used to casually cross paths with at community organizing events), an amazing local feminist artist who does beautiful graphic design work (who I knew socially, but haven't seen in over 8 years), and a former event planner who just received her MBA (who used to be a student of mine)...............all working for a tiny fraction of their professional worth.  Over the next year, this Creative Team of Awesome will create a messaging and communications plan for my agency, transform our public presence, and allow us to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with the communities that we serve.  I can't tell you how much their contributions mean to our agency, especially when I know that they are making at least three times as much doing the exact same work for others.  No, I can't afford to have these folks on staff full-time, but there is no doubt that they are 100% committed to bettering not only this agency, but the world around them.   I am humbled to be serving my community alongside such remarkable individuals.  While it may take money to make money, it also takes awesomeness and passion to transform the world.  And there's certainly no shortage of that around here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Moved In With Someone Else The Day After My Break-Up

Act #286:  Pass on the love to others.

For nine years I lived with an incredible man.  We threw parties and fundraisers that people would talk about for weeks.  Together, we survived as many heartaches as we celebrated new loves.  We spent winter months wrapped up in blankets, watching hours and hours of HGTV, and summer months planning how to put all that knowledge to good use in our backyard.   And after almost a decade together……I am leaving.  He is replacing me with someone that is more suited to his evolving tastes.  More simple, more streamlined, in his words, “more sophisticated”. 
And I couldn’t be happier.   Because in this case, his loss will become someone else’s gain.   I’m moving in with someone else.  To a new home where I will undoubtedly feel needed and appreciated beyond measure.  My simple presence will lift up broken spirits, provide refuge to weary bodies, and offer comfort to hopeless hearts. And I will find myself "at home" once again. 

The Red Couch That Is Ready to Cozy Up To Someone New
*** The Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center, and many small non-profits, survive and thrive, on the generosity of supporters such as the owner of this awesome "new to us" red couch.  Before you break up with something for good, take a moment to ponder how much joy it might offer someone else.  Thank you for showing the love to your local non-profit!


What Some People Are Doing For the Holidays

Act #285:  Check your privilege this holiday season. 

This past Friday, I received these two notices in my son’s backpack.  One was an invitation for a free Thanksgiving meal at school, the other for Christmas assistance.  Both programs were sponsored by the family resource center, and both were needs-based.  And just like that, my recent effort to upgrade our dining room table “in time for the holidays” seemed completely and utterly absurd.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Reasons No One Has Ever Come Out To You

Act #284: Make it easy for someone to trust you.

One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian.  Chances are, someone very close to YOU is gay.  When someone chooses to be themselves with you - to open up and trust you in this way - they are making a conscious choice to let you into his or her life.  If you do not know a single gay person, the sad truth is that you may be acting in a way that might make a gay person think twice about being honest around you.  You may not mean to portray yourself as someone who is intolerant.  You may have religious convictions that have essentially created a wall between you and people "unlike" you.  Look around, if you have no openly gay friends, could you be doing one of the following?

1.  You regularly "check in" at Chick-Filet on Facebook.  Those mouth-watering chicken sandwiches might be oh so tempting, but when the CEO of this giant fast food chain took a public stand against gay rights, most allies stopped visiting this establishment based on principle alone. 

2.  You don't speak up when someone makes a derogatory comment.  Even if you are not participating, to a gay person, your silence is enough affirmation.

3.  You don't currently have a single gay friend.  Once people see that you accept gay people in your life, they will be more open to accepting you into theirs.

4.  You express your faith in a way that makes others feel unworthy.  No one is asking you to denounce or hide your faith here - but do you practice in a way that is preachy, judgmental, and makes those around you feel like they will never be able to live up to the standards of your higher power?

5.  You laugh at, or make jokes about gay people. Funny, I'm never around anyone who does this.  The thing with being an ally is this: once you come out as a supporter, there's no going back.  And what a privilege that is.

Today, October 11th, marks the 25th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.  If you want to be the type of person who is trusted, check out this guide from the Human Rights Campaign:  Coming Out for the Straight Supporter,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who You Callin' Beautiful?

Act #283:  Acknowledge more than her beauty.

I was at a public event yesterday and like most events I attend, there were a number of male speakers who each made some form of mention of their wives.  Three to be exact.  And yesterday every single one of them used this adjective when describing her: "beautiful".   So at first glance, that's kind of endearing, right?  Aww...a distinguished dignitary getting on stage in front of all those people and publicly declaring his affection and attraction towards the love of his life.  Not quite.  At least not for me.  Call me a raging feminist, but to me, it all seems so.....patronizing.  There I said it.  See if my husband ever publicly acknowledges me again.  The whole public nature of this felt very staged, political, like each of these men just casually wrote this into their speech as an afterthought:  must throw in one-word compliment of wife so people believe I'm a nice guy.  If you are going to take time to mention your wife in that forum, it might be nice to give it a tad more thought, show a bit more complexity, maybe describe her in a way that is different than the other two dudes on stage?  Ever hear female politicians or speakers get up there and talk about their "handsome" husbands?  of course not.  They are always "my husband, the doctor" or "my  wonderful husband", or my "supportive husband".  Never something as shallow as "the guy who looks hot in a suit".... even if he does.  If a spouse has nothing to do with the topic at hand, why mention her at all?  Because when you do in that cursory way, it seems obligatory.  And let me tell you, there's nothing worse than treating the love of your life like an obligation.  Trust me, it doesn't help raise our self-esteem when you get up on stage and compliment us.  In fact, it's kind of embarrassing.  If you are going to give us a 2-second shout-out during your forum, try something with a little more dimension, more depth.  Call us extraordinary, world-changing, passionate, brilliant, innovative, savvy, insane.  Call us anything more original than "beautiful"?  Or better yet, just hand the mic over, handsome.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thank You: To All Of You Who Didn't Believe In Me

Act #282:  Turn negativity into motivation.

To the following people, I mean this from the bottom of my heart: thank you for never believing in me, or for trying to convince me not to believe in myself.  Your deep influences have helped shaped the very core of who I've become.  Because of your collective power, I've finally discovered my own. 

The girl who pushed me down just as I was about to pass the finish line at the kindergarten sack race.  I've finally let go of the bike I thought I should have won that day.

All of you that, day-in, day-out, all through elementary school, who tried to tell me how black and ugly my skin was.  I've finally learned to not only accept it, but to genuinely love it.

That guy in tenth grade, who started taunting and mimicking Chinese sounds when I walked into Science class.  I may have dropped my book bag and ran away embarrassed that day, but today your words probably wouldn't hurt me at all.

That professor who called me a dreamer for wanting to save the world.  You should dream more too.

That alum who recommended my termination to the president for not representing the best interests of people "like him".  I hope you came to realize that in fact I always did.

That supervisor who gave me only one choice to stand up for my walk away.  I'm so grateful that I did.

The colleague who told everyone that there's no way in hell someone like me could run this non-profit. I guess we'll see about that.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This I Believe

Act #281:  Look for the miracles.

I believe in miracles.  Big ones and small.  Life-changing and subtle.  In fact my whole life has been a series of miracles.  If you just listen to the silence, you may be surprised to find that yours may have been too.  From that day four decades ago when those two starry-eyed new Americans from the same third-world city, who had never met, happened to arrive in the same Chicago suburb at the same precise fall in love and to set my journey in action.  To the day I was trying desperately to graduate from high school while living on my own in New York City.... and I received a magazine from a small little college in the foothills of Kentucky. 

I believe that hope can rise from your deepest darkest moment when you are covered with nothing but a blanket of despair.  Like the death of fairy tales upon my divorce, only to be replaced with a deeper belief in humanness and the kind of crazy, beautiful love that way surpasses the confounds of happily ever after.  I believe that sometimes miracles come in the form of clarity.  Clarity that allowed me to once again trust in love, with someone who I seemingly had nothing in common with, but who shared a very part of my deepest soul. 

I don't always believe what doctors tell me - not because I don't respect their profession and training, but because sometimes miracles come in the form of an unexplainable medical phenomenon.  When I met my second husband, Adam, it was miraculous enough that we discovered that we both shared the same kind of brain tumor - a pituitary gland tumor to be exact.  We were both previously married for about ten years.  We both tried to have children during those marriages.  Our different doctors told us both that we would most likely not be able to have children because of our tumors.  We were pregnant within eight months of meeting. 

And sometimes miracles come in the form of second chances.  We miscarried.  And for the first time in my life I learned what it felt like to have a panic attack.  To breathe into a paper bag just so you don't drown in the unbearable grief that slowly rises above your head.  And sometimes the miracle is this: just when you don't think you can ever keep your head above the water, it recedes.  And the very next month we found ourselves pregnant again.  This little guy was determined to enter the world.  Truly our miracle. 

And throughout my life, I continue to experience so many miracles.  Like the time the ER doctor 2000 miles away got on the phone with me and told me to come now, that my dad would not be making it through the night.  That was seven years ago, and every night when I kiss my father goodnight on his forehead I remember that moment, and the miracle that he is. 

I believe that life itself is a miracle.  That it comes in many forms - but we often fail to recognize them because we allow the bad, the noise to overwhelm us.  Fate.  Unexplainable medical phenomenons.  Second chances.  Clarity.  Healing.   Life itself is a miracle.  This I know.  For this I am thankful.  This I believe.

For more information on "This I Believe.", an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives, please visit

Monday, October 7, 2013

What To Do When Your Kid Starts Whining About Going To School

Act #280:  Tell them about Malala.

Today my son returns to school following a full week off for fall break.  Like many six-year olds, he whined a bit last night, stating that he wasn't looking forward to getting back in the routine of things - he had quite a week off visiting pumpkin patches, having play dates with friends, playing miniature golf, and decorating for Halloween.  In the next hour or so, I imagine that he probably won't be that enthusiastic about waking up.  I imagine he might even begin to complain about sitting at a desk for 7 hours learning how to read and write.  And if he does, I will tell him about Malala Yousafzai.  I will tell him what it is like to grow up in a place where little girls are not allowed to go to school.  I will tell him how much little girls like Malala are willing to give up just to sit at a desk for 7 hours a day to learn how to read and write.  I will remind him just how fortunate he is, how much of a gift it is for him to be able to walk through those front doors every morning.  This week, the Taliban issued yet another threat to kill Malala, who is now living in England and has returned to school.  When the Taliban struck the first time, exactly one year ago on Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was on a school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman got on, asked for the girl by name and then shot her three times.  Despite what she has had to endure, Malala's commitment to campaigning for the rights of girls to receive an education is stronger than ever. On her 16th birthday, she gave a speech to the United Nations and she is the youngest person to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  So in the next hour or so, if my son wakes up and starts whining about going back to school, I imagine I will hug him a little tighter, and pray a little more earnestly for his safety and well-being today.  And I will tell him about Malala.  

Why You Should Get Naked and Invite Everyone Over Sometime

Act #279:  It's OK to be vulnerable.

This past weekend I attended the wedding of one of my best girlfriends, and had the pleasure of spending two days with her new husband's family who hails from Northern Michigan - the Upper Peninsula ("the U.P.") to be exact.  Can I just tell you how much I love this family?  Everything about them - their graciousness, warmth, the way they pronounce the word about ("aboot").  Among many things I learned about them over the weekend, by far, the most fascinating was their love for saunas.  "Love" actually doesn't really quite describe just how important saunas are to this family, and most U.P. families with deep Finnish roots.  In the late 1800's, Finns flocked to the U.P. because of the plentiful mining jobs, abundance of farm land, and the cold, cold weather.  And they brought with them, their saunas.  In fact, when they first settled, the first structures built were not houses, but saunas. The sauna provided everything families needed to survive - protection from the elements, a stove on which to cook, benches on which to sleep, and of course a bathing facility. Many families lived in the sauna through their first winter and only then, would they begin to build their houses in the spring.  The sauna served as both social event and cleansing time. Farms that had a sauna would take turns inviting the entire neighborhood over for weekly sauna time.  They would breathe in the heat and allow it to purify their bodies by opening pores and letting the toxins flow out of them.  And in the midst of this ritual, they would tell stories.  They would connect with one another in a way that only being completely bare and vulnerable allows you to do.  So it didn't surprise me one bit to learn that my friend and her new husband already have plans to build a Finnish sauna in the basement of their new house located just outside of Cincinnati. 

In just a few minutes I will get ready to jump in my single person shower, alone - because I'm not quite ready to get naked and vulnerable just yet AND because, as usual, I'm running late.  But as I breathe in the hot steam, I will take a moment to reflect on all that I am missing at that precise moment: community, family, renewal, purifying, cleansing, vulnerability.  And someday when my friends (hopefully) invite me over to their new basement for sauna time, I will take that as the biggest compliment in the world.

Excerpts from "It's a Sauna Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" by Jeff  Smith,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reclaiming Your Maiden Name

Act #278:  Do what feels right for you.

Later today one of my dearest friends will be walking down the aisle for the second time in her life.  Rather than taking her new husband's last name, she has decided to reclaim her maiden name.  She has two daughters, and has, up until now, kept her first husband's last name following their divorce - because she thought it might be important to her girls to share the same last name as their mother.  

But one day her 10-year old told her that it made the most sense for her to go back to using her original last name after the wedding.  Because, in her words, "Why should you have to change your last name?  Why doesn't he?"  

Her new awesome husband-to-be fully supports her decision and is even contemplating taking her last name as his middle name - a move women make all the time, but I don't think I personally know any men who have made the same move.  No judgement here against women who choose to take the last names of their husbands, just one big high five to ALL women who give themselves the freedom to do what truly feels right for them, the men who support them no matter what that means, and all those budding little 10-year old feminists out there in the world.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five Ways "The Man" Is Really, Really Irking Me These Days

Act #277:  Go ahead, call your representatives and give them a piece of your mind.

1.  Not permitting me to drink wine with my dinner despite the fact that the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition of alcohol sales 80 years ago.   If you are perplexed, 1.)  You must not live in Berea, KY; and 2.) Google the following words:  Dry.  Town.

2.  Systemically condoning a culture where it is legal to fire, evict, and refuse services to someone based on who they love (or choose to sleep with.)

3.  Handing a sexual predator a 30-day jail sentence, while his 14-year-old rape victim is driven to suicide.

4.  Sending two outstanding women (a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and a Public Health Manager for the Center for Public Health Quality) who are near and dear to me, to the unemployment office due to forced furloughs.

5.  And last but certainly not least:  Bickering and fighting over the number of hoops we should send people through before letting them go to the doctor.   

C'mon, you moan and groan and send your food back when it's cold.  You call customer service when your barista is rude to you.  Regardless of where you sit on the fence, if there was ever a time we needed to collectively complain because things just aren't functioning (and nearly every American is impacted), this is it.  Just do it:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What To Do When Your Son Checks Out A Woman In A Bikini

Act #276:  Teach your sons not to objectify women.

So we were watching a kid's movie - yes, a kid's movie - when suddenly the image of part of a young woman's torso, swimming face down in a bikini, with a butterfly tattoo on the small of her back, appears on the screen.  In slow motion.  I guess someone wanted to make sure that their 5-15 target audience wouldn't miss all the intricate details of that tattoo. And this is when my 6-year old son, (quite disturbingly) and almost in a moaning voice declares, WOW.   In slow motion.  My baby, who makes me cut the crust off his grilled cheese and who cries during flu shots just looked at a woman in THAT way.  And so I take a deep breath and ask him nonchalantly, "What did you mean by that WOW, dear?"  And he told me that she was beautiful.  And I asked him how he knew she was beautiful since he didn't even get to see her face - and he told me that her skin and her hair were beautiful (but that the tattoo "so close to her butt" was gross.)

So over the course of the next few days I did the following very, very subtly:

1.  Pointed out beautiful skin and hair in women AND MEN of different shapes, sizes, and colors.

2.  Emphasized and called out intelligent female characters in his cartoons and books.  Subtly interchanging the words "beautiful" and ""smart".

3.  Right there and then, I made mention of the fact that none of the male torsos in the movie were zoomed in on in slow motion.  Now isn't that interesting, son?

4.  Asked my son what else he knew about this character besides her beautiful skin and hair.  Turns out she was an artist, ran her family business, and had a degree from Harvard.  

Next on the agenda: exposing him to the beauty of tattoo art.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For Everything There Is A Season

Act #275:  Look for life's metaphors.

I believe the universe is trying to tell me something.  My modem at home is broken and I have no power in my office at work.  So for the past 3 days, I've been writing this blog with one thumb on my iPhone.  And I have to be honest, the process does not lend itself to much inspiration.  So rather than fighting the universe, I am going to embrace the simple gifts of nature that are so often drowned out by the loudness of technology.  Fitting that almost overnight, it seems like autumn has arrived at our household - the pumpkins on our front porch, the crispness in the air.  

Almost two years ago, I read a book by Parker Palmer titled "Let Your Life Speak:  Listening To The Voice of Vocation".  Six months later I quit my job to find that which feeds my soul.  Today, with one thumb and no modem, on this second day of October, I offer you "Autumn" by Parker Palmer.  Because I am listening to the universe.  And because it's much easier to copy and paste with one thumb.

Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring – and she scatters them with amazing abandon.

In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life.

But as I explore autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fixated on surface appearances – on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.

In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time – how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.

This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we – who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene – cannot see? How shall we understand autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?
For me, the words that come closest to answering those questions are the words of Thomas Merton: “There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.” In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight: diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other – they cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe out. But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.

When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing.

Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why WE Never Feel Like Shutting Down

Act #274:  Talk it out, people.

Dear Friends in the District,
It has been a challenging year for my organization, to say the least, with me being new and all.  Some of the things that have been a source of discussion and debate: our education priorities, measuring outputs for our clinical work, defining "advocacy", turning down funding that does not align with our mission, insufficient funding and resources in the first place, competing organizational priorities, supervising vs. mentoring, our crisis line rotation, outreach goals, our own cultural competency.  And on top of all that, we've been working under your looming threats of sequestration.  

Sometimes it can all feel so overwhelming that we want to hide and not get out of bed, but we do anyway - because we know that people are counting on us.  Not only is it not an option for us to refuse to work until we all agree on everything - but it is our calling, our responsibility, our privilege to provide services to survivors of sexual violence and to prevent violence from happening in the first place.  Can you imagine what our community would look like if we stopped working?  Victims would arrive at hospital emergency rooms alone.  There would be no 24-hour crisis line to call, no counseling, no legal advocacy.  But perhaps the worst consequence would be this: there would be no one out there believing that we can in fact transform our communities to effectively speak out against violence and to change individual behaviors that lead to violence.  

I won't lie.  This is hard work.  And sometimes we go home and literally cry ourselves to sleep.  But we push through.  We keep talking to each other.  We keep doing what we do, while never letting up on seeking ways to do them better.  Because in the end, we know that this is not about us.  It's about the people who need us, and who trust us to be there.  Someone had enough faith in us to hire us to do this work. And so we shall.  Willingly and with conviction.  Even when we can't figure out who to blame for the dirty dishes in the sink.