Reading is an act of resistance

OMG―it’s Election Day y’all! Thank goodness! I know I’m not alone in being officially OVER it. Now it’s time to vote, panic, and act―whatever the outcome.

No matter what ends up happening today, we are all responsible for creating the world we want for each other. I want a world that is kind and just so tonight, like most other nights, I’ll be reading to my children. I’ll choose books that broaden their horizons, challenge them to think differently, and encourage them to be the bright shiny stars that they are.

miss rumphiusI recently found this list: Books to read to your kids if you want them to be kind and brave (yes please!). And I was excited to see one of my family’s treasured stories included! I have read Miss Rumphius to my kids many times because I love its central charge: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

In this book, Alice grows up hearing stories from her beloved grandfather and longs to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and live up to her grandfather’s request to do something to make the world more beautiful. And she does. She travels the world (I love an independent woman!), lives in a house by the sea, and after much thought (and a little luck) finds her way to making the world more beautiful. She plants lupines all around her and makes her mark. Lupines are a beautiful metaphor for all of us trying to figure out how to make a lasting impression.

I find this book comforting and stirring. It allows for us to be who we are and also challenges us to do something for the greater good. It is a helpful reminder that each of us can resist. Each of us can stand up and do something; we just have to find out what our something is. For me, working to end violence and create justice makes the world more beautiful and I am doing my darndest to make it happen. For Miss Rumphius, it was planting lupines. I am curious to see what it will be for my children. What will it be for you?

LupineSo go home tonight and watch the returns. Then snuggle up with your favorite little person and read a book. Together we can read, resist, and love a little harder, no matter what tomorrow brings.

Freshman syllabus

college-just-aheadI dropped off my twins at college. Two separate colleges. They were handed all sorts of orientation materials – maps, rules, class lists. But nothing to orient them to this life transition: learning how to believe in yourself in a competitive environment, trust a friend with secrets, or figure out if a friendship is becoming intimate. There is no syllabus for having a fair fight or managing jealously.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a life transition syllabus? It would be helpful to know something about what is ahead when building new community and habits in an unfamiliar place. Here are a few benchmarks that I would include:

Comfort:

  • People may look fine from the outside, but lots are struggling and not talking about it
  • Finding people that make your heart sing takes time―lots of time
  • You have to introduce yourself over and over again and it is really awkward

Confidence:

  • Say hi to the person sitting alone in the dining hall
  • Exposure to different people and experiences will build your skills for the next time
  • You are stronger than you think
  • Fantastic teachers will inspire you

Autonomy:

  • You will figure out how to balance class demands with all the rest of campus life
  • The first people you connect with may not be your friends at the end of the year
  • How you look, sound, move through the world is unique

I want my daughters and all young people entering college to know that they are good enough even if other people feel smarter or cooler. You are fabulous enough to take up space, get your questions answered by a professor, and be taken seriously by your peers. You, just you, are enough.

If you’re going to lean in, you need support

baby-diapers-and-wipesJust as I was beginning my career, Lean In was becoming popular. In true lean in spirit, I was told to pursue my ambitions, ask for more, and change the conversation to what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t. I totally bought into the idea that if I put my mind to it I could (and should) do everything in full force.

Then I had a child.

Beyond the baby shoes, ducky washcloths, and teeny tiny onesies, it turns out taking care of an infant is a LOT of work. Even with my husband right by my side, the majority of the care landed on me after he returned to work.  Soon enough I found myself exhausted, overwhelmed, and disconnected. Even if I could do it all, maybe I didn’t want to?

There is no denying the level of pressure women feel on a daily basis to be a certain kind of mother, partner, friend, and professional. I’m all about encouraging women to ask for what they deserve but expecting women to be more, do more, and lean in more is not always sustainable.

I wish we would stop asking women to do more and instead ask ourselves what we can do to give women more choices. And not just choices but also the resources and support to make choices work, like how to end an unhealthy relationship without losing your housing, how to stay in a career but still be able to spend time with the ones you love, and how and when to start a family.

We don’t need to pressure ourselves to lean in, we need people and resources that support us to make the choices that are best for ourselves.

Back to school

school-backpacks

This week kids across Washington State headed back to school.

According to our state constitution, educating our children is the paramount duty of government. It is the greatest collective responsibility we share as a community.

Of course, there is no lack of debate or dispute over what that duty requires.

Washington State has been ordered into court on Sept 7th by the WA Supreme Court to answer questions about the ongoing impact of the McCleary Decision, which has been fining WA State $100,000 a day for over a year for not making significant progress on special education, teachers’ salaries and a host of school basics.

Arguments over “teaching to the test” continue to brew. School bathrooms have taken center stage in the growing conversations and controversies over gender. The Department of Justice has pointed out the dangers of the “preschool to prison pipeline” where African American children, poor children and foster children disproportionately find public education not a path to stability and achievement, but a process of escalating surveillance and criminalized discipline that results in imprisonment rather than empowerment.

And a recent study by the NW Network and the National Domestic Violence Hotline demonstrates that fear of mandatory reporting to police or CPS by reporters such as school teachers and counselors results in young people delaying or avoiding seeking help when they are experiencing harm.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the storms that surround education. But, instead of turning away from the challenges that face our schools, let’s get educated about these challenges and the positions on education held by every candidate seeking office this fall. Let’s make sure we have all our kids’ backs as they head back to school.

Hermandad (Sisterhood)

Niños gritando y peleando por el mismo juguete, canciones de Sabina a todo volumen, papas con chile viendo una pelicula, historias de la familia, en fin, memorias inolvidables que se quedaran marcados para siempre en mi corazón. Esta fue la visita recente de mi hermana y su peque en pocas palabras.

Nuestra amistad no empezó asi. Hemos ido construyéndola desde hace muchos años pues entre nosotros hay 15 años de diferencia, y ha sido hasta los últimos años ya como madres las dos que nos hemos acercado mucho más y desarrollado una amistad, una amistad que nos une aún más que nuestro lazo de familia.

sisters-feetMi hermana y yo somos distintas, tenemos una manera de ver la vida diferente y al mismo tiempo nos complementamos mucho pues lo que una ve, la otra no. Hemos aprendido que es necesario tolerarnos y respetarnos mutuamente para tener una buena relación. Y asi en los momentos donde nuestras emociones nos ciegan, la confianza entre nosotros prevalece.

Vivir en distintos países no es fácil, sin embargo nuestra unidad y amistad prevalece en la distancia, se hace grande y más sólida cada día y cada vez que la vida nos regala tiempo juntas, puertas se abren y aprendo cosas nuevas. Esta visita me hace contemplar la tolerancia y la conexión, las cualidades que crearon una experiencia mágica de nuestro tiempo juntas. Cualidades que son también los pilares que necesitamos para crear un mundo sin violencia.

“Qué grande es el mundo, mami” le decía a mi hermana mi sobrinito de 4 años mientras cruzábamos el lago Washington y sus palabras por alguna razón se quedaron en mí.  Si, el mundo es grande y las posibilidades en él, inmensas.

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Children screaming and fighting over the same toy, singing Sabina’s songs out loud,  sharing chips and salsa while watching a movie, family stories, and unforgettable moments that will be in my heart forever. This was my sister and her little boy’s recent visit.

My friendship with my sister has not always been like this. We have been building it for many years now as there is a 15 year age difference between us. It wasn’t until recently, when we both became mothers, that we have become much closer and developed a friendship, a friendship that unites us even more than being sisters.

My sister and I are very different; we have different ways of seeing the world. What one of us sees, the other does not. We have learned that for our relationship to be a good one, we must tolerate and respect our differences. In moments where our emotions blind us, trust between us prevails.

Living in different countries is not easy, yet our unity and friendship prevails in the distance, it becomes bigger and more solid every day, and every time that life gives us time together, doors open and I learn new things. This visit made me think about tolerance and connection. They are what make our time together so magical. And they are the pillars we all need to create a world without violence.

“How big the world is, mami!” my four-year-old nephew told my sister while we were crossing Lake Washington. His words for some reason stayed in me. Yes, the world is big and the possibilities in it, immense.

An open letter to my son

"Almost done"Last Thursday you sent me this picture with the message “almost done.” Your dorm room was clean and you were packing up to come home. You have done more than survive your first year of college; you have done well. You ran with discipline, you took your classes seriously, you made friends, you found your way. I’ve told you I’m proud of you, and here it is in writing. I mean it.

I’m glad you’re home. I always need to look at you, have you close, to know that you’re still whole. These are troubling times.

I had intended to write to you about the Stanford rape case. I want to know if you read the victim’s statement. And what do you make of what Brock Turner’s father said? I had thought I would write about justice and how I don’t think the answer is to give Brock Turner the same sentence a Black man would get. That’s the wrong twist on equality.

I want you to be invincible, especially now in a world that seems so destructive, but I worry about how invincibility contributes to momentary lapses in judgment that can have devastating consequences. I worry about you being hurt. If you are, I will do everything I can to help you heal and be whole again. I worry about you hurting someone else. If you do, I will do everything I can to help you take responsibility and to explore a justice that can help everyone with healing and wholeness.

I was overwhelmed by the last paragraph of the victim’s statement. I read it over and over―her promise to girls everywhere. In spite of what she has been through, she claims her power and extends it to others, with love and with hope. It was a victory of sorts―she will not be defined by what Brock Turner did to her. None of us will. Not the young women you run and party with. And not you. That’s the point. You are not Brock Turner. You can stand with her.

That would have been the end of this letter. But then the shooting in Orlando happened, and I can’t ignore it. The airwaves are exploding with information and opinion. It’s as if the piecing together of timelines and facts will make sense of something that makes no sense at all. There should be no war of attribution here: ISIS, homophobia, domestic violence, guns. The protections we have created, and the ways we enforce them, don’t work. Could any amount of knowledge and any number of warnings have stopped Omar Mateen from doing what he did? Punishment and isolation are not the antidotes for hatred. Already this is coming through with Pride.

My thoughts are not as coherent as I want them to be. All I am trying to say is that your humanity has been compromised by Brock Turner and Omar Mateen. There are limits to what a mother’s fierce love for her son can provide. Until you return to campus for your sophomore year, I can have the illusion of making the world right for you and keeping you whole. Today that is what I have. I’m glad you’re home.