Recently, while sharing stories about her family, a coworker mentioned that she kept finding knipples in her mother’s house. After an awkward silence, she explained that “knipple” (pronounce the “k”) was a Yiddish word that meant a woman’s secret stash of money. That got me thinking—this sounds like a pretty good idea.

When a woman has money, it gives her more options and more power to make her own decisions. This makes her life more stable and gives her flexibility to respond if things go south (like in her relationship). Sure, it’s important to have community resources like affordable housing, food banks, and so on. But nothing gives you freedom, and that includes freedom from abuse, like cold hard cash.

Knipple

It would be great if we all had a rich uncle who could overnight us a boatload of Benjamins, but we’re not all so lucky. We need to find ways for women to access cash when they need it, promote financial education, and protect and expand welfare programs that already exist. Because, at some point, everybody needs a little knipple.

you can love someone who does bad things

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

8 Terrifying Ways People Restrict Abortion “An overturning of Roe v. Wade would be instantly disastrous, thanks to many cases in which anti-abortion laws are waiting in the rafters of state legislation, including four states with laws on the books called trigger bans, which would instantly impose criminal bans on abortion if the case was overturned.”

The Kids Who Rocked the Racial Justice Movement in 2016 “From the Flint native who propelled her city’s water crisis onto the national radar to the girl who rallied Latinxs to vote their interests, here are the young activists whose intersectional battles inched us closer to freedom in 2016.”

Ariana Grande Defends Anti-Objectification Comments “Expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect !!! just like wearing a short skirt is not asking for assault …You are literally saying that if we look a certain way, we are yours to take. But we are not !!! It’s our right to express ourselves.”

When I was a little kid, my friend Jan and I beat a path through the tangle of brush in the vacant lot that separated our two homes. We were always so desperate to be with one another that we did this to cut 23 seconds off the time it took to get to each other’s door.

Our bedroom windows were facing and we would flick our lights to signal our mysterious childhood doings. Once we even tried stringing a tin can “telephone” between our windows. “Can you hear me!?” we screamed into the cans. And we could.

Path to a house

Today, I am looking out my window and noticing that my neighbors and I have beaten similar paths. At times like these, we are desperate to be together. Knowing that there will be some form of comfort, of reassurance.

In this solstice season, with all the fear and strife in our country and in the world, find the paths to your loved ones. Linger in your hugs. Share your savories and sweets. Care for one another more deeply than you ever could have imagined.

2016 has been rough. So when the calendar reminded me that I had to work on a Saturday, I wasn’t too psyched. It had been a long week, which was attached to a long month, at the end of an even longer year. But because of our partnership with Goodwill for our Refuse To Abuse 5k, I was scheduled to  give a talk at Goodwill’s Youth Aerospace Program about healthy relationships. So, even though my vibe was NOPE, that’s how I found myself driving up to Marysville on a Saturday at 7am.

As soon as I got there, I knew I was going to leave happier than I started. The room was full of young people and their parents, all of whom had come together to talk about healthy relationships and their hopes for the future. So that’s what we did.

We did In Their Shoes: Classroom Edition. I encouraged the parents to let the youth lead, and they did (even though it was sometimes hard). It was remarkable to watch the youth in the room take charge, make decisions, and go boldly forward. Each group walked through the story of one of six characters who experience unhealthy and violent relationships. And then we talked about it.

yaaass-horseYouth shared their perspectives and their desire to create new ways of doing things. Their parents listened and then shared their hopes and fears about letting go and standing beside their beloved teenagers as they enter into their first relationships. We talked about the things to look out for and the things to celebrate. And then we reminded each other to continue to ask questions, listen up, and stay connected no matter what.

There was so much love in the room that Saturday afternoon, my NOPE attitude turned into YAAAS! And as I look forward to 2017, I am heartened that although there is still a whole lot to feel down about, talking with young people about their relationships will always be a YAAAS!

Are we there yet?The year is almost at a close, and boy, what a year it’s been. There were good things, there were bad things (I’ll spare you the top list for this one), and then there was the election.

On election night I was one of those shocked white people that couldn’t believe what I was watching unfold. I went to bed thinking, “how could this happen?” I woke the next morning feeling numb and in disbelief (obviously, my white privilege had taken over, so that’s something I’ve had to work on). I’ve had moments of denial, disbelief, and just plain being scared. In a way I felt paralyzed, like I no longer had any control or say in what the next four years would bring.

But no matter how discouraging and dark it may seem, now more than ever we need to get up and take action. So before 2017 hits, here are some things you can do to make 2016 a little better.

  1. Don’t argue, talk: A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the arguments my father and I used to get in and how we figured out a way to have respectful conversations by putting our relationship first and our differences second.
  1. Organize: Join organized resistance like the Injustice Boycott.
  1. Try to understand: There is a lot of interesting analysis out there on why people voted the way they did. It’s helped me understand the state of our country and where people are coming from. It doesn’t make me feel better, but at least it puts some of the puzzle pieces together. After all, if we don’t understand the whole problem, it’s hard to find a solution.
  1. Register for Advocacy Day: Talk with your legislators about local issues that impact survivors. It’s more important now than ever!
  1. Pay attention to people: In a time when things feel so divisive, take a moment and ask people how their hearts are doing. Slow down, really listen, and find common ground.

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

I had a miscarriage. Fetal burial rules would only amplify my grief. “My son would be turning 20 this month. He was due on December 15, 1996. But in June of 1996, when I was entering the second week of my second trimester, I had a miscarriage — in medical terms, a spontaneous abortion — while preparing to deliver a paper at a prestigious women’s history conference a thousand miles from home.”

The Progress and Pitfalls of Television’s Treatment of Rape “Sexual assault is a human experience. It happens to men, children, elderly women, and it’s all traumatic. So why do screenwriters almost exclusively reserve rape for sexually attractive young women on screen?”

How white supremacist hatred drives acts of violence against powerful women “In the U.S., girls and women are twice as likely to die in school shootings as boys or men. During the past 30 years, 97 percent of the school shooters in the U.S. have been male, with 79 percent of them white. That the media has failed to attach relevance to these clear facts is “identity politics” that few people even notice.”

Flying While Fat presents the voices of fat passengers as they talk about the hatred and stress they encounter upon boarding.

This morning, I woke up thinking of lines from Marge Piercy’s poem, The Art of Blessing the Day.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

Last Friday, I drafted a blog post about how to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. I tried to keep up with the most urgent calls to action, as the situation on the ground shifted by the hour.

standing rockThousands of people from around the world have gathered to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s peaceful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The proposed route for the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s water and sacred land. Police action against the water protectors has recently erupted into violence. Hundreds of unarmed people have been injured by water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussive grenades. The threat to the water protectors escalated as the Army Corps of Engineers set a December 5th deadline to leave the area, and the North Dakota governor ordered immediate evacuation.

So much is at stake. The waters of the Missouri River and the well-being of tens of thousands who depend on it. The right of sovereign tribal nations to protect its citizens. Native women and children who are the targets when oil industry “man camps” bring a massive influx of sexual violence. The fate of the planet, as oil consumption fuels environmental devastation.

Then Sunday night, a surprising victory. The Army Corps announced it would deny the pipeline project permission to tunnel under the river.

The celebration reminded me of another sweet moment, nearly four years ago, when Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. That victory came after a long standoff, 500 days of negotiation. It was a triumph of unprecedented solidarity among advocates, and the courageous leadership of Native women.

The victory was not complete, but it was real. After the win, it took another kind of grit to insist on celebrating it. The next threat loomed. The inevitable strategic failures immediately came into focus with 20/20 hindsight.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not hurt.

By yesterday morning, the oil companies made it clear they would continue construction of the pipeline despite the government’s decision. It is hard to imagine the little relief that has come from the Obama administration will last once Donald Trump is in the White House. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the fight is not over. Meanwhile, the next battles are already happening.

What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

Here is what you can do right now:

  • Call or email your Congressional Representatives. Ask them to do everything they can to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Give money to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Help cover legal costs and equip water protectors for the harsh winter.

Celebrate. Get ready. Fight. Repeat.

People who are abusive only use the amount of force necessary to maintain dominance in their relationship.

When I say this to someone, I often see them pause in their reaction. Most people imagine that abusive people are out of control, or lash out when angry. And that the use of physical abuse―like hitting, slapping, punching, or forcing sex―is frequent and consistent over the length of the relationship. From that perspective, the idea that they “only use the amount of force necessary” doesn’t make sense.

But survivors tell me that their partners are often manipulative and violent in ways which do not include physical violence. No matter how an abuser’s behavior looks to an outsider, their tactics are deliberate. Like embarrassing a partner at a party or undermining their participation in religious activities. Or sabotaging a survivor’s connection with their child. Taking a child and disappearing for a couple of days is an effective way exert control over a partner. Also charming other people to get them on the abuser’s side, like the abusive partner I heard of who gratefully and coolly greeted law enforcement with “oh, I see you’re here to help me with my wife. She’s disoriented because she’s been in a car accident.”

Abuse can be pressuring a partner to have sex to prove their commitment to the relationship. Or asking a partner not to call friends or family because it interferes with their relationship―a subtle way to isolate someone. And if that doesn’t work, scaring friends or threatening a family member until the survivor returns to the relationship.

Any time we question a survivor―it doesn’t seem that bad, you say he doesn’t hit you, he doesn’t seem out of control―it gives the abusive person even more power. When we really listen to and believe a survivor’s experience, we take power away from the abuser. It’s one thing we all can do to make a difference for survivors and their children.

Nine things to know

Nueve cosas a saber

Like many of you I am worried about our country’s future. It’s all-consuming. In an attempt to be informed and not retreat to the places where my privilege protects me, I’m digesting as much as I can about the coming changes. IT’S SO HARD. I realize that I have to give myself some space to feel sad and scared as well as mad and ready to fight for all the people that are being threatened by the new proposed federal policies.

We often encourage advocates who are working with survivors to remember to take care of themselves. To do the things they need to do to come back the next day with renewed energy and focus to help others. I am realizing that I must do the same now if I’m to be any use at all to the work ahead. And there is quite a lot of work ahead.

I’m not a religious person, but I confess to LOVE the Christmas holidays. I love houses covered with twinkling lights, puffy fake snow in store windows, and giant trees filled with glittery ornaments. I’ve decided one way I can stay energized to pay attention and act for justice is to dive into the holiday season early. Christmas carols are going to fill the house and head’s up neighbors―my yard is about to get lit. And I’ve found the perfect thing.

This. Holiday. Dragon.

blow-up holiday dragon

Isn’t she amazing? So if you are feeling like I am, take care of yourselves so that you have the energy to stay tuned in and to show up. Holiday Dragon, bring us joy and light our path.