Colin Kaepernick doesn’t owe white people a defense of his actions.

I’ve been having some real disaster social-media conversations with people over the past few weeks, regarding race and privilege in the United States. The term “white privilege” has become the dirtiest phrase out there, among so many white dudes (and let’s face it, it’s usually dudes) who bristle at the slightest suggestion that yes, they are in fact privileged, despite not having an excess of wealth. As much as it makes my eyes involuntarily roll….I kind of get it. I mean, don’t mistake me, I think they’re totally wrong, but I grew up in an environment where this sort of mindset was the norm. And if you don’t take the step towards the uncomfortable, necessary education that these issues require, you remain stuck in that space. And it’s a space that has never seemed OK to me.


Jokes with racist connotations, inflammatory words and phrases, the general expectation that dating a person of color was not OK, the assumption that black people were entitled, aggressive, lazy, that black men were predatory, and thus, to be feared. At home, at school, in the community-these things were part of the landscape, in one way or another. Compounding this, was that my community growing up was lily-white, conservative, and not well-educated, on the whole. The most “progressive” of those professed not to see color, which is, by all accounts, ridiculous and invalidating. It has always seemed so small-minded and silly, but I’d be lying if I said I never internalized a fair chunk of it. I did. And for that, I am ashamed. It appalls me to even write these things, but I do so from a place of humility, and from a place that recognizes that we all need to get real, and face facts regarding our own biases and values and inclinations. Because, I promise you, they are there. Dig a little.

 I have had a long road to getting where I am, and I still have a million miles to go in my education and understanding of racial inequality and privilege, in this country. And for that reason, I talk about it. A lot. I engage in those HORRIBLE “debates” on social media, that sometimes devolve into me being threatened with physical or sexual violence. I ask questions. But I shut up and listen when a person of color is talking. Please, for the love of God, stop saying “But I’m not that sort of white person.” On some level, we are ALL that sort of white person. It is not up to us to determine the narratives of other communities. People who disagree  call me condescending or suggest that I labor under the impression that I have all the answers. On the contrary, I have these discussions and allow myself to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of knowledge (even if it brings up parts of myself that make me embarrassed to confront) because I have learned enough to know that I don’t know shit. And it’s my responsibility, as a white person, to educate myself, wherever and whenever possible. To recognize that my experiences and opinions are limited, and finite. And it is certainly not the responsibility of the oppressed to soothe our feelings about these issues, or to feel obligated to educate us-you gotta do the work, my friends. We all do. 

 I want to touch on the Colin Kaepernick situation as I wrap up, because it’s causing a lot of strong feelings, from various points on the spectrum. And I’m going to break it down for you like this: that flag, that anthem? Yes, it does represent the sacrifice made for freedom…and one of those freedoms is peaceful protest. Also, you don’t get to yell and scream about black people protesting “aggressively”, but then decide that Kaepernick’s silent approach isn’t acceptable. You can’t have it both ways. It is not, and has never been, the role of white people to tell communities of color what they should and should not be troubled by, and how to handle that frustration….but it sure as hell hasn’t stopped them from trying, anyway. Just like with the people in our lives, we can love our country, flaws and all, and still expect better of it. CK’s position of power and privilege as a wealthy athlete isn’t a notch against him-it’s his responsibility to use his influence and convictions to raise others up. Privilege is not something to be ashamed of; rather, the critical action is to have an awareness of it, and utilize it to act in solidarity with others. And I commend Kaepernick for doing just that.


This article can also be found on the Huffington Post, here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_57c7ae11e4b06c750dd8ba2f

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I’m done hating my body.

I remember the exact moment I began to wage a war on my body, one that would last almost 30 years. I was around 8, and I was jumping off the pool deck into the water at my parent’s house, with my brothers and sister. Drinking in summer’s delights in the way that only small children truly can. I was wearing a rainbow bathing suit, with black “paint splatters” over it, with a giant circular cutout at the belly, a tiny little ruffly skirt underneath it. I LOVED that bathing suit. My mom was sitting there, and turned me to her. She patted my stomach and said, “You better be careful. You’re getting thick in the belly.” She really didn’t mean anything by it-she was raised in a family of incredibly vain Italian women, who constantly commented on appearance. Nonetheless, it stung. It was the first time I recall ever feeling like something about me was defective.

On top of that, I developed breasts at a really young age. I was wearing a bra in the third grade, and I remember wearing a white shirt to school one day, and this boy, Brian, teased me about the fact that he could see my bra through my shirt. I still will not wear white shirts, at 35. My chest became a part of “me” by high school, in that it was a way people identified me: “big tits”,I think, was the phrase I heard uttered most. I tilted my spine inward in an attempt to shrink them, shrink myself. Looking back at photos of myself when I was 16 or 17, it was evident that I had a body that belonged to an adult-it was a common topic of conversation, particularly among the boys I counted amongst my friends. I knew I was supposed to just laugh along, accept it as some sort of compliment. It never felt like one-it felt like a liability. I know now that it was a liability.

As women, our bodies are ALWAYS liabilities. You’re too fat, too thin, too busty (and likely a slut), too flat, too tall, too hairy, too masculine. Our bodies are public domain for comment, for possession, for violation. Leers, comments, touches, judgments.  I remember squatting down at my locker in high school when I was a junior, and my then-boyfriend came up behind me, yanking the waistband of my jeans up, propelling me forward into my locker. “Pull up your pants. I can see your underwear-you look like a slut.” It seems enraging to me now, almost laughable if not so sad, but at the time, I believed him. I thought I did something wrong. Again, shame.

Into adulthood, I became less active and more heavy. For the past 15 years, I have swung so widely, weight wise: there is almost a 90 lb. difference between my lightest and heaviest. Reproductive and endocrine disorders have continuously conspired to make this even more difficult. The problem is, I have always felt huge, a massive distortion from what is acceptable. No matter what size I am. Thick in the middle, as my mom said. I feel invisible and overexposed, at the same time. I lay in bed at night, running my hands over the soft flesh of my abdomen, avoiding the extra fat on my thighs and arms with my eyes,  disgusted by it. As a freshman in college, I noticed a series of tiny, silver stretch marks running along the part of my arm where it meets my chest, and I felt utter horror. Meanwhile, this discovery happened in the midst of an idle moment of a volleyball game, one where my strong, capable body was performing well. But all I really saw, were those marks. Marks that shamed me. The shame I have always felt from my body has felt as normal as a body part-it’s a part of me.

But, I’m tired of feeling bad about my body. My body has carried me through so much in life-a successful athletic career as a teenager, sustained me during times of deep sadness and stress that I thought would overtake me, and perhaps the most incredible of all-it sustained a pregnancy that doctors said would never happen, and delivered the most beautiful boy into my life. Those breasts I hated so much? They provided my child’s nourishment for 15 months, helping him grow strong, into the beautiful little boy he is now. It carried me through the crushing blow of my mother’s death while simultaneously bringing that little boy into the world. While everything around me felt like it was crumbling into dust, I felt so much confidence in my what my body is capable of.

And over these past few years, I’ve become less and less interested in quantifying my worth by my pants size, my weight, my belief in an unrealistic ideal. I am kind and funny and accomplished in my work, smart and driven and eternally optimistic about the future and the goodness of people. Who the fuck cares if my pants aren’t a size 6? I’m tired of chasing one-dimensional concepts of what I think will make me content. I am enough, just as I am. Beautifully crafted at my core.

It’s hard for me to expose these things about myself, but I want other people to stop hating their bodies, too. And in order to do that, we need to stop feeling so isolated and shut out by it. The garbage we are fed by the culture and the patriarchy about what about bodies should be, and the bogus value assigned to it, are never going to stop, unless we force it. So, for anyone who has ever thought, “Things will be better once I lose weight, I will be better when I lose weight”…I’m with you. I AM you. And I promise you, you are enough. 

Armchair activism doesn’t stop rape.

By now, everyone has heard about the reprehensible sexual assault that took place at Stanford by Brock Turner, a 20 year old student athlete, who was convicted and sentenced to a mere six months in jail for his crime. This alone caused an outcry, and then his father, seemingly the most tone-deaf individual on the planet, wrote a letter defending his son, and lamenting the mental and emotional toll his ’20 minutes of action’ and their consequences have had on him. As someone who has experienced sexual assault, and as a human being in general, this story has made me ill. It’s made a lot of people ill-everyone has been talking in depth about it across social media, sharing their strong reactions to the heinous act, as well as the abdication of justice, with Turner being given such a short sentence. Good, I thought. People need to be talking about these things. And then I came across a blog post that I am assuming has gone viral, as many of my friends have reposted it. It’s titled “We With the Pitchforks”-you can read it here.

I share in the author’s frustration, as well as those who re-posted it. And a large part of me agrees with every single word written. But, there is something about the angry mob mentality that just seems counterproductive to me.I say this not out of defense for Turner…he doesn’t deserve defense. He’s dug his own grave, and this will follow him for the rest of his days, both personally and professionally, as it should. I say this out of a pure desire to want better for us, as a society. Armchair activism so easy, in the age of social media. It’s easy to share a blog post on social media, it’s easy to rant about it over a dinner party (and these are all things I’ve done, about a myriad of issues, myself). What’s not easy, though, is to change the culture of rape that we’ve so blindly allowed for far too long. This happens every single day, across the world. Fighting a hateful act with more hate is not the answer. Filling the world with the righteous courage necessary to act up against the institutions and systems that treat these crimes as permissible, is. And it’s not just about sexual assault-it’s about all forms of gendered inequities and violence.

My point is, by all means, share information…but share productive information. Share statistics on the prevalence of assault across the country. If you know someone who is willing to share their own story of assault, help them put it out into the world. Learn about rape crisis programs in your area, and support them, whether financially, or through interfacing with your legislators about the importance of these services. Stop teaching little girls and women that it is THEIR responsibility to avoid being raped, and start creating the expectation for boys and men NOT TO RAPE. Stop laughing at jokes about gender stereotypes, or sexual assault, or feminism. It’s not all in good fun. It creates an environment of acceptability, and of women being lesser than whole. If you’re a dad or uncle or any other man with a special child in your life, model how to respect and speak about and equitably interact with women. I promise you, they are ALL watching. Challenge your own beliefs and values (you too, women, because we all internalize it) on relationships and interactions between men and women, and how we view “roles.”

Let’s create a world where the Brock Turners fade into the ether, a bad dream, and where women can move freely without the threat of violation.

Defining death. To a child.

I love words. I love reading and writing and hearing peoples’ stories, and telling them, myself. Anyone who knows me will freely say that I’m not often at a loss for words. I’m finding, though, that as a parent of a nearly three-year-old child,  attempts to describe or define the meaning of words and actions often leave me without the means to accurately convey a concept. To be sure, some of it is developmental; small children are not the most abstract thinkers. But beyond that, there’s a desire to shield him from the ugliness of the world, at least for now, while still making good on my values to raise him in honesty and reality.

As we walked through the cemetery in our neighborhood yesterday afternoon, I thought of my mom, as I often do, and that I should visit her grave. It’s been awhile; I have a hard time ascribing meaning to that space. I asked D if he wanted to visit Grandma Patti’s cemetery, and he said yes. He immediately started chattering as we walked home, about seeing her, bringing her some of the chocolate strawberries his dad had made for me the day before. We talk to him about my mom a lot, show him photos, tell him stories, to help him understand her importance in our lives. It broke my heart to listen to him, knowing that I needed to try to explain the reality of the situation.

We got to her grave, and he smiled, recognizing my mom and dad on the etching in the headstone. “Is Papa Steve coming here, too?” he asked. I told him no. A car pulled up, and he stood, wondering aloud if that was Grandma Patti. He really believed he was going to see her. I took a breath, and asked him to sit with me. I said, “Grandma Patti isn’t with us anymore.”He asked where she was. Knowing that he attends church with his other papa, I tried to use terms that he might have some concept of; “She’s an angel now. She’s all around us. She watches us.” He just looked at me. I finally decided to try to level with him, as leveling with a three year old is always the smart choice (ha ha). I said, “Honey, Grandma was really sick. There was something in her body that made her very, very sick, and it made her heart stop working. We need our hearts to live-so we can breathe, and play, and be with other people. She can’t do those things anymore. Her body didn’t work, and now it’s here, in this ground, to be kept safe. This big stone helps people to remember who she was, and lets us come visit her and think about her.” The entire time, I kept telling myself to stop talking, to stop being so pseudo-biological and blunt about it.

He listened, looking at the ground and running his fingers through the thick grass around him. “She’s in heaven?” he said. “Yes, baby.” “Oh.” For a moment, he looked like he might start crying, and I regretted all of it. Enough of us had shed tears over her loss, and I didn’t want him to take on that burden. Not yet. He never even got to know her, just being held by her once, when he was three days old. And then she was gone. But, I think he understood, as much as his three year old abilities would permit him. “You miss your mommy, Mom?” I blinked back tears. “Yes, I do.” He gave me a little smile.

We started to get up to leave, and I said my goodbyes aloud to my mom. He followed my lead, and said, “Bye, Grandma Patti. I love you and miss you. The doctors will come and fix your heart to work again, and you will come back to life”, blowing her a kiss. More blinked-back tears. That innocence over the permanence of death, the desire to make someone else feel better, made me both incredibly sad and happy at the same time. He’s trying to understand how others feel, while learning to manage his own emotions within those contexts. That’s a hard thing, something that most of us struggle with well into adulthood.

As I drove home, him watching a show on my phone, I thought about what happened. Maybe it was OK that I shared what I did; after all, life does not exist within an absence of conflict and sadness. I want him to grow with the understanding that it’s OK to display emotion, to communicate pain in a constructive manner. Maybe he can’t really grasp the concept of death, but he can understand sadness and hurt and love. Something that my mom instilled in us was empathy, and to truly see people and their complexities, even if they aren’t on full display. This experience with D yesterday made me hope that perhaps I am starting to lay the same foundation for him, to help him intuit what is in other people’s hearts, even if he can’t fully know what has hurt them.

She’s back. And breaking my heart all over again.

I love Adele. Nothing lets me suspend my belief that I can’t sing, like scream-singing “Hometown Glory” and weeping in the car. She’s just so good.So, this comes on the scene a few days ago, and I can’t take it. This song gives me that anxious, stomach-hurting sort of feeling, it’s so good. Sort of like Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (RIP, JB). It feels like there’s already a memory associated with it, which of course, is not the case (unless you count the 80 times I’ve listened to it).

They say that scent is the closest sense tied to memory, that smells most easily conjure up experiences of the past. While that certainly has merit, I would argue that music does the same, at least for me. An old girlfriend and I used to trade “mixtapes” as a way of connecting with one another, to help bridge the geographic distance between us, her in Utah and me in New York. I remember how carefully she chose each song, offering each to me with the understanding that she would never get those songs “back”…and neither would I, with the songs I chose for her.

No matter what, hearing those songs would always be shaded by the memory of one another. Sounds romantic when two people are in love…not so much when that love has cooled. This has been true of any song associated with any person I have loved…listening to your music becomes akin to crossing an auditory minefield, stepping carefully to avoid what might hurt you, blow up those parts of your heart that feel otherwise strong. Sure, it tends to fade with time, becomes tolerable, but nonetheless, those feelings are there for good. You have given them to the other person.

But that’s the beauty of music, of art, right? Art is simultaneously meaningless and incredibly meaningful, it reminds us that we are alive…that we love, we lament, and that we scream-sing in the car, remembering a million little moments of happiness and loss.

Wherein I ask for a favor from you guys.

Whether you know me personally, or a reader of my blog, you know that I lost my mother to cancer, in 2013. It was a horrific ordeal, and honestly, it’s the only thing in life that truly was as awful as I imagined it would be. Actually, it was even worse.
My point is, no one should have to experience that. As a patient, or as a loved one, watching someone waste away. Cancer is insidious, and non-discriminatory, but there are incredibly significant strides being made to combat it. But that requires funding. Funding to continue research, trials, and preventive screenings, among other things.

So, that’s why we formed a Relay for Life team. If you’re not familiar with Relay for Life, you can learn more about it here. Members of my family, friends, and extended circle are working to fundraise for the American Cancer Society.

And this is where you come in. We are seeking donations for our team, and I am hoping that you, dear readers, can help us out. Every little bit helps move us closer to our goal, and closer to better treatment and support services for those living with/affected by cancer.

If you feel moved to contribute, you can do so here. Thank you in advance for helping us out!

What’s warming my heart and making me cry on this Tuesday.

So, those of you who know me, know how much I love Michael Franti. I love his spirit, his music, his message, and his heart. I also love his partner, Sara Agah, who is also an incredible human being. Together, they created the Do It for the Love Foundation, a nonprofit, wish-granting organization for those with life-threatening illnesses, and other traumas. In short, they are two amazing people individually, and even more magical together. This weekend, they got engaged. Michael posted this video on YouTube that he made for her as part of the proposal.  I have probably watched it 10 times today, choking up each time.  Finding love is a beautiful thing, but it’s made even more beautiful when you share that love with the world around you. Take a look, and feel free to weep tears of joy along with me.

Also, if you’re so inclined, get involved with Do It For the Love!