When a friend has a mastectomy

Hello friends,

Well, I’m not sure what’s going on in the world, but too many people in my life these past few months have been diagnosed with cancer; have received the great news that they have moved into cancer survivorship; or who are no longer fighting the battle.

For some, this is a very private moment.

For others, like yours truly, it’s a very public journey.

For my friend Kathleen, my sisters and I only found out, by accident, that she had already passed on from this world.

While the diagnosis is difficult for the patient and for the family, it can also be a very isolating and confusing time for friends.

This post is for friends. 

I hope you read it. I hope you do something awesome for your friend.

And, if YOU are the warrior reading this, I hope you send it to people who are struggling to find ways to help you. 

Before I share with you a list of things that can help, please take this part to heart: Help is only help if you are actually being helpful.

Let me write that again.

Help is only help if you are actually being helpful. 

Too often, we insist that people want or need things that WE want or need, but that they don’t actually want or need. In fact, sometimes our helping because really problematic. It is unbelievably important that you know the difference. It’s important to know when to push and insist that “you aren’t too good to fold some underwear” (thanks to my friend Cathy who actually DID come over and fold my underwear) and when to realize that your warrior is giving you some subtle hints.

Here’s an example of being problematic: Like when you know that your warrior doesn’t like kale but you insist on bringing over kale salads each night because you heard that it’s good for her, so you bring massive amounts of kale salad over. Now, your warrior’s fridge is filled with friggin’ kale and she has nowhere to put the downright amazing lasagna that her other friend brought (note: I actually DO love kale salad, I’m writing that for a friend).

Got it? Crystal clear?

Okay, then, here are ways you can help (all the while being mindful about the purpose of helpfulness):

  • Schedule. Be that person who puts together the Lotsa Helping Hands Care community. Once you set it up, you can give this link to others so they can just insert themselves into the schedule. Your pal might be shy about wanting the network to do so much, so be sure to ask about all the little things to like watering plants or washing dishes or walking the dog or buying cat litter.
  • Make meals. (see above) Make meals that do not need any preparation and label it carefully. And, if you know that this person has a large network of help, please only make meals for that one night. Trust me. As delicious as every single meal was, people very generously brought over 3 nights worth of food but someone else, the next night, brought 3 nights worth of food, etc. etc. etc. If the warrior has children, make sure that you considered all allergies, food preferences, and even a little treat (if that’s what your warrior allows). Send things in dishes that s/he can keep. The last thing s/he is thinking about is which dish belongs to the owner. If your warrior does not have much help, then ignore everything you just read and COOK AWAY!
  • Clothing. Urgh, mastectomy. Splurge on your friend and buy her a few button down top pajamas — ones that she’ll actually like. It’ll be weeks before your warrior can lift her arms, so a button down is her best friend! She’ll have to wear a compression bra for a few weeks, but after that, she might want a nice comfy bra. I get absolutely no kickbacks, but Coobie Bras rock. I love them and have them in just about every color. They are great 5 years after mastectomies, too! And, I’m about to tell you, don’t buy everything in pink ….
  • Limit the pink. I know. I know. You really want to buy her that pink blanket and pink hoodie and pink socks and pink ribbon shirt and pink ….. everything. She’ll get plenty. And, honestly, after a while, she’ll hate everything pink. It’ll remind her of cancer. So, if you must, go ahead. But, know that she probably doesn’t want a Pepto Bismal wardrobe. That said, I love my pink “cancer sucks” socks that my friend Amy bought. I still wear them!
  • No books. I mean, unless she loves books. With so much medication, exhaustion, and then random blurry vision, I didn’t read for months. I did, however, watch a ton of Netflix. But, I dunno, if your warrior loves reading, then maybe. I just couldn’t even bring myself to read anything. And, I definitely didn’t want to read anything about cancer. Everyone’s different, but, fair warning.
  • Be willing to get her some Starbucks. Sometimes, the best errands are ones that have nothing to do with cancer. Did your warrior get a Starbucks or Peets or Dunkiess coffee on the way to work every day? Now, is she holed up at home with drains and a contraption that squishes her implants? Well, by golly, text and ask if she wants you to drop off (and maybe stay or not stay) her favorite drink pre-mastectomy. (I’d love a vanilla ice chai latte, thanks).
  • The Pre-Surgery Care Package. I think I wrote about this before, but there are just some little things you can give her a day before surgery. Chapstick, some flushable wet wipes (imagine having your chest all messed up and then having to reach “back there” with some scratchy toilet paper), minty gum, a water bottle (careful with all the pink, remember!), straws (she’ll hate lifting cups up to her mouth for at least two weeks).
  • Fruit. Oh, the number of fruit deliveries I got! YES! It was the best! My dear friend Barbara sent (and still sends!) us fruit each month. It seriously was the only fruit I ate for the first six months! It made me happy!
  • Cleaning. I didn’t want a cleaning crew to come in, so I was thankful that my friend Elma and my family came over and cleaned. Vacuuming is a no-no with the chest, and laundry was impossible with the 3lb lifting limit. So, someone to clean up was a huge gift!
  • Gift cards for treats when she’s feeling better. My friend Catherine sent a gift card to my favorite ice cream store (she lives in Ohio, I’m in MA). It took me about 4 months to get there, but I had that gift card in my bag and celebrated the day I got to go and use it! So, little lovely treats would be awesome!
  • Baked goods from afar. The Dreizen sisters sent my favorite brownies just nights before my surgery. I may or may not have eaten them for breakfast the day after my surgery…
  • Cards. Letters. Love. I still have the big box of cards and letters and sweet photo books that my friends from around the country sent. I was so touched to receive this while I was recovering, and I’ll keep them with me always!
  • Your prayers, intentions, wishes, and thoughts. It’s not underestimated, friends. Whatever helps. Whatever brings you comfort and allows you to be the best supporter possible is what your warrior needs.

That’ll get your warrior through the first few weeks!

Wishing all of my newly diagnosed warriors, my forever celebrating survivors, and the blessings of all of our cancer angels much love and comfort during these times.

Peace and health,




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To Stir the Conscience

What do you think about when it is silent?

I started my teaching career at a Quaker school in Long Island, NY. I had made the transition from working in higher education; had moved from Connecticut to New York; and was getting ready to marry my sweetheart. New job, new place, new friends, new life. 

Though those were major transitions, for sure, I was not prepared for a different transition. I was not ready for silence. 

As a Quaker school in a wealthy, suburban community, we did our best to uphold values of simplicity and honesty; humility and service; and kindness in the light of each other. While we sometimes fell short of those ideals, one thing we did well was silence. Every week, our community came together and gathered in the Meeting House. 

In my own upbringing, I was raised Catholic and actively practicing. I was used to the singing, prayers, recitations and even, what we joyfully refer to as, Catholic aerobics — the up-down-sit-stand-kneel-stand routine that occurs in a 60-minute Mass. 

But, Meeting for Worship was different. Meeting for Worship meant we walked into a downloadwooden shelter, walked into the space in silence, and sat. We just sat. At first, I was so uncomfortable. I kept looking around at others. I kept twiddling my thumbs. My eyes darted back and forth from row to row and seat to seat. I kept looking at my watch and wondering how much longer I had to sit on this uncomfortable, rickety, wooden bench. Only 2 minutes had passed since the last time I looked. I felt awkward when members of the Facing Bench, a small group of elders or community leaders, were sitting across from the rest of the gathering. I didn’t know whether to look at them, past them, away from them, or down at the floor. 

I remember the day that Meeting for Worship changed for me. I was feeling particularly unsettled and just wanted to go home, curl up on my couch and watch television. I filed in silently with the rest of the school. I sat on the bench. And, I took in a deep breath. I began to feel a wave of warmth come over me. I felt my heart racing. And, I took in another deep breath. Then, I felt my body settle into the silence. In that moment, a deep sense of peace came over me. My mind was open; my heart was filling listening to the words of community members who were moved to speak; and I felt my body lighten as my own tensions eased away.

I spent four years in the practice of attending Meeting for Worship. After I left Friends Academy, I continued some of the practices I had learned. I started each meeting with a moment of silence. I taught my students to end each workshop in silent reflection, speaking when so moved. 

But, time slips away and my life returned to the busy day-to-day world. Before I knew it, nearly 12 years had passed since I worked at a Quaker school.

Speed Dialogue Activity

Last night, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote address to the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference. And, after I gave my address and facilitated an activity, I could leave the conference and begin the long drive home. As I began to pack up my computer and grab my jacket, the conference organizers announced that it was time for Meeting for Worship. And, I felt that same sense of deep peace — just at the mention of the phase Meeting for Worship — and sat down.

For the next 40 minutes, I allowed my mind to settle. I gave myself over to silence. I listened to the words of community members who were moved to speak. And, I felt my body lighten as my own tensions eased away. 

I reflected on the theme of the conference: (In)Equity, Past, Present and Future. I reflected on my own activism, my collective roll in this world. I reflected on my own stereotypes, biases, and powerful messages that I received about (M)yself and about (O)thers. 

And, in that silence, I began to think about what stirred my conscience. I began to think about the power behind my own words and ideas. I began to think about the power behind the systems I am a part of and the ways I treat others. 

What stirred my conscience is that silence is not the absence of noise; it is the presence of peace. 

A wonderful friend and student from FA

A wonderful friend and student from FA

Peace and Park, 

Ms. Talusan

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Talking about Water Justice

Flint water before and afterMy family and I have a 75-minute ride into work each day. While it is certainly not ideal in terms of waking up early each day, it does mean that we get quality time.

And, in this quality time, there is quite a bit of negotiating: negotiating which radio station we listen to; negotiating who gets the warm pink blanket and who gets the equally warm (and equally functioning) maroon blanket; who gets the blueberry cereal bar and who gets the strawberry cereal bar. Basically, there is a whole lot of talk.

Sometimes that “talk” comes in the form of our morning NPR news. Sometimes that “talk” comes from the children arguing. Sometimes that “talk” comes from me.

When that “talk” becomes my turn, I always bring up current events.

Lately, on my mind and in my heart are the tragic and absolutely horrifying events coming out of Flint, Michigan.

“Son,” I begin, “Tell me what you did this morning.”

“I woke up, ate breakfast, washed my face, brushed my teeth and washed my hands.”

“Good. So, did you think that your water was clean (it was, son, by the way)?”


“Girls,” my girls are older than my son, “Do you pretty much trust that the water we use to brush our teeth, to drink, to wash our dishes, to make our coffee, and to make your hot chocolate is safe? Like, our city has done things to make sure that the water is safe?”

“Uh, yea,” they respond as if that was the weirdest question I could have ever asked.


I then told them about what was happening in Flint, Michigan. I told them about the population of Flint, the demographics of people who live there, and what we reasonably expect from our government. I told them about the water crisis, the outpour of support from people providing bottled water shelters, and then the requirement for people to show ID.

My oldest child said, “Wait, I get that you have to show ID because, well, they want to know you are actually from Flint. But, what if you don’t have an ID? Like, if you don’t have the money to get an ID or if you aren’t able to get an ID.”

“Yup,” I respond.

I told them about the people who had come together to provide water for those who did not have identification, for fundraisers that are raising money to buy water, and…

“and…” said my 9-year old, “That’s great, but don’t bottled water companies already make lots of money? Can’t those companies help out and donate the water?”

She beat me to it.

“Yup,” I respond.

For the next half-hour, my children began to identify ways in which the system/System was not working. They talked about the structural problems and the human problems that this caused. We talked about race, class, and how years of lead poisoning can impact lives of children.

As we pulled into our school parking lot, I realized that my children learned more about race, class, education, structural inequality, and structural racism in those 30 minutes than they might in a full day of formal schooling.

How can we, as teachers, educators and parents engage more deeply in these dialogues? What can you do to help young people learn about the world around them? How might we work in solidarity with those in Flint, Michigan?

These views that follow are my own and do not represent any organization to which I am affiliated:

  • If you are looking to financially participate, a scholar who I admire greatly, has begun a GoFundMe initiative. I firmly trust her.
  • On the flip-side, filmmaker and activist, Michael Moore, has asked for, not money but a revolt. Check out his piece here.

Whichever path you take, just do something.

Peace and love,



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My Weighty Goals

Yes, it’s just after January 1st. Yes, I have embarked on another list of resolutions rebellions. I have to admit. There is a bit of a public vs private message here. On my blogs and in my status updates, I write about body acceptance and loving oneself. In my mind – not written down – I promise myself that this is the year I’ll lose weight. Just a little. Okay, a lot.

It’s the struggle, I believe, of being a body-positive feminist and being the product of a system that has, since I was born, told me I needed to be slim, thin, and attractive.

I started dieting when I was six years old. I don’t remember who told me, but someone said to me that I had a big butt. I remember that person pointing out a picture of me where my butt curved out from my back.

I was six.

It didn’t end there.

For as far back as I can remember, I have tried to be thin.

Now, as a practitioner in an elementary/middle school. I can admit this here – there were times when I told my mother I was too sick to go to school. She would leave for work with my dad. When I knew they were gone, I changed into workout clothing and spent the next three hours exercising. Jane Fonda and Gilad were my babysitters for those next few hours.

I skipped school — learning, engagement — so that I could be thin.

I was twelve.

I had battled negative thoughts about my body up until the time I was pregnant with my first child. That was the turning point. I saw the power of my body as being more than just a shell. It had become a miracle. It had made life. It was capable of more than just leg lifts and pushups.

But, I became pregnant when I was twenty-seven years old. I had spent 21 of those years believing my body was not enough. I spent 21 of those years believing that my body was something to constantly change — a goal for which to strive.

And, here again, in January 2016, I started to think about all the ways I wanted to get healthy change my body.

The other day, I caught this Melissa Harris-Perry segment where she commits her letter of the week to Oprah Winfrey. We all know that Oprah Winfrey has had a public journey with her weight. Back when she lots tons of weight in the 1990s, I bought her audio cassette and listened to it on repeat while running on the track. So, not only do I know her journey well, it inspired me to want to change my own body.

But, listening to Melissa Harris-Perry changed me today. As Oprah starts her video with “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be,” I know what that’s like. I know what it’s like to wonder if the woman on the inside matches the woman on the outside. I know what it’s like to wonder if people perceive body size as an indicator of who you are and what you have done.

As I start my busy travel season, I’m already having thoughts of “What should I wear?” or “Will those people think I’m too fat to be smart?” Will they think to themselves, “She’s the person we paid all this money to come and talk to us?” I’m not joking. I actually think that shit.

But, MHP reminds Oprah that “Oprah, you are already are the woman so many want to be.”

There is nothing Oprah would have done better with a size 25 waist. And, though I have, indeed, gained weight over the past few years, I have also accomplished more in this world than I ever dreamed of attempting.

I know that my contributions to eradicating racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and inequity in our communities, classrooms, and hearts could be done at any weight and body size.

I know that my research and scholarship and (so close to achieving) earning my doctorate were not dependent on whether I was a size 6 or a size 16. I wrote a badass dissertation, and it wouldn’t have turned out better if I was 50 lbs lighter.

I know that my writing, blogging and consulting that have comforted women, men, children and families who are facing cancer were not affected by my weight gain in the past year.

I know that my continued learning about the lives of others, and working towards allying with people, were not hindered by my size 16 pants or my XL shirt size.

I know that my strength to call out microaggressions both in my life and wherever I go do not diminish when the scale goes up.

I know that my work at the national level providing leadership in communities that I care deeply about are not affected by my dress size.

I also know that the effects of racism can kill me. I know that the stress of working in justice can increase my blood pressure. I know that the time consuming acts of traveling to different schools, flying, driving, and crossing over time zones takes a toll on my body. Because of this, I certainly will not let racism take hold of my health. I will strengthen my body and mind in order to fight the daily fight that I have been called to do.

But, my weight? Nah. I have already achieved more weighty goals in my life than I ever imagined that I  — a single person — was capable of doing.

My weighty goals — those of love, compassion, justice, humanity, intelligence, education — those are driven not by my waist, but my belief that there isn’t time to waste.

Peace, love and achieving who we are meant to be,


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I have, indeed, turned 40.

Lordy lordy, I have turned 40.

Okay, I turned 40 a few months ago, but I’m starting to feel 40. And, I’m not happy.

For years, I was convinced that I was absolutely looking somewhere in the, oh, I don’t know, age 30-35 range.

But, for the past few months, whenever I flash my signature smile, I see these tiny little creases under my eyes. Yes, I ran out to buy some of the most wildly expensive eye cream (I mean, c’mon, eye cream is like such a sign that you’re getting older) and still, those little lines keep staring back at me.

When I was 39 years old, I could run a few miles and feel that oh-I-love-working-out soreness for the rest of the day. Now, at age 40, when I work out, I feel like I need to sleep it off. For real. Today, for example, my family asked if I wanted to watch the 2+ hour movie, The Martian. I said, “hell no. I want to go to bed by 11pm!” My son, he’s 6, said, “But, Mom, it’s only 6:30pm.”

Silence, boy. Silence. I don’t remember asking you any questions.

My feet hurt at the end of the day. I stretch constantly because I feel my bones shrinking. And, I’m just waiting — just waiting — for that moment of instantaneous happenings when my current contact lens prescription just isn’t cutting it anymore. According to my dad, an eye doctor, it happens just moments after you blow the candles out on your 4-0 cake.

The good news about being 40, though, is that I totally think I rock. Yes, that’s right. I’m much more confident at 40. I’m much more aware of who I am at 40. I’m much more kind at 40.

Except right now. With my achy back. My grumpy disposition. My failing eye sight.

Is it time for bed, yet?

Forty winks,



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Couch Time

P13318481L(cross posted from To Loosen the Mind)

We called it “couch time.”

It wasn’t therapy. It wasn’t a time to sleep or nap. It wasn’t a pity party.

It simply was a time to be.

As the director of multicultural affairs at a predominantly and historically white college, I, daily, had to navigate feelings of hope, dread, anxiety, fear, celebration, fierceness, sadness, compassion, anger, love, defensiveness, offensiveness, push-in, pull-back, humor, excitement and seriousness.

And, as a person of color at a PWI, that can happen in one 60-minute meeting.

Throughout the day, I could cycle through any – and all – of those emotions numerous times.

Those highs and lows, even in just one day, does a number on someone. And, we oftentimes needed to just decompress.

So, years ago, my staff and I initiated “couch time.” We, at any point during our day or week, could get out of our individual offices, go into the middle of the multicultural center, and just sit on the couch. No one would ask you, “Why aren’t you working?” No one would ask you, “Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere?” No one would look at you strangely, question your presence, or make you do anything. And, no one would ask you to explain anything.

We just knew.

We knew, collectively, that, as a person of color at a PWI, you had just come out of battle — a meeting, an interaction, an advising session, or a class — and you needed a time-out.

Sometimes, though, students came into the center and sat on the couches because they needed an escape from the racial battle — the battle of roommates making microaggressive comments about why they “had to speak Spanish when they were on the phone and why couldn’t they just speak English and why are you talking about me in Spanish….”; the battle of classrooms where they were one of a few students of color and the lesson plan for the day was about race and racial issues in the United States and they could “feel the stares of everyone in the class”; the battle of overhearing someone complain that all the students of color were taking up the financial aid that they, themselves, “deserved money more than those Black kids who just got in because they were Black.”

That’s when it got tough.

That’s when our personal-staff couch time became a time to absorb and process the pain and frustrations of our students. After all, we got into this field to help, support, and build up students of color to be leaders, change agents, and activists.

The other day, a colleague of mine who works at a prestigious university that was going through some campus racial issues, emailed to see if I had any articles she could pass along to her faculty about “how to support students, and ourselves, through racial battle fatigue.” I Googled. I Google Scholar’ed. I went through all of my books about critical race theory, racial tensions, and navigating difficult conversations. I thought about all the workshops I had presented nationally about race and racism. But, there wasn’t anything I could pass along about “supporting our students, and ourselves, through racial battle fatigue.”


Well, because so long as we live in a society that is fearful of talking about race; in which people must prepare to battle rather than prepare to believe; in which some people must bear the burden of absorbing and process, then I’m afraid we won’t find those resources and solutions.

So, how do we create that space?

Well, sadly, I walked away.

I left that multicultural center. I left the couches. I left the students who needed me to absorb and process when I barely had enough room to breathe. Cycling through those emotions every single day led to my own serious weight gain, high blood pressure, stress-related insomnia, depression, and a short-fuse which I only felt safe lighting at home with my family. And, so, by default, my young family suffered from the side effects of my own racial battle fatigue.

This, for me, was the cost of fighting every single day. This, for me, was the cost of racial battle stress. This, for me, was the outcome of a system that didn’t acknowledge or support that people of color experience an environment differently than people who are white.

So, I left.

I’m in a new environment now — still doing strategic, personal and faculty diversity and equity work. But, I’m doing it in a place where my voice matters, where my experience matters, and where my desire and action to shape a better community is not mine alone. I am surrounded by people who not only say they want to “make a difference”, they actually show up with their sleeves rolled up and ready to work.

I no longer have a couch.

Instead, I have two comfy chairs — just enough room to sit and decompress.

But, instead of people needing to recover from battle fatigue, people have come in to get energized, to be a part of a movement, and to ask how they can help. They want to change the system, they want to tweak, they want to rebuild and activate equity. And, they don’t want me to do it alone.

The system is different.

How do we support ourselves through racial battle fatigue? We call attention to the systems that make racial battle fatigue exist. We call attention to the way that racial battle fatigue is an outcome of the well-oiled machine of racism. And, we find ways to not just include those voices and experiences that have been marginalized, we make them central.

We can all create “couch time.”

Truly, those couch times saved some of my students. Couch time was often the only way i could make it through a day. Couch time was the reason why my students didn’t transfer out, why they chose leadership positions on campus, and why they continue to make changes long after I have left that institution.

Couch time validated how we were feeling, our frustrations, and our belief that we weren’t the “only ones” that saw or heard something racist. Couch time allowed us to not have to defend our position or educate others. Couch time meant that we could rebuild ourselves after we had been on the brink of destruction all before lunch time. Couch time meant that you were seen, that you were visible, and that you belonged somewhere even when the rest of the world was trying to push you out. Couch time meant you could take care of yourself, even if just for a few minutes, so that you could go on getting your job done. Couch time meant you were asking for help, and that, if you wanted it, you would get it.

How do we support ourselves and our students through racial battle fatigue? See them, hear them, give them a space to cycle through all of those emotions without having to justify their purpose, and believe them when they do not have the energy to rebuild.

Make that time for others. Make that time for yourself. Acknowledge that there is a compelling system that creates racial battle fatigue. Find a way to slowly dismantle the machine.

And forgive yourself when you simply can’t do it alone.

Peace and love,

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Great Books for Children

If you believe the local grocery stores, then Christmas is right around the corner. (for real, can’t we just get through Halloween and Thanksgiving??). And, I’ve become that Auntie/Friend/Tita who insists on buying books for birthdays rather than toys.

One of the benefits of working at a school that has rockstar librarians is that I often get a “Hey, Liza, check out these books” heads-up. These three did not disappoint! I’d actually like to get into the habit of sharing great books that help to raise awareness of community issues that are parent/family/child friendly.  Of course, so proud that our school intentionally thinks about intersectionality and providing books that serve as both windows and mirrors into experiences.

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Carl Best and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Really beautiful book about a child who navigates her world using a white cane (the book does not go into detail as to why) that focuses on self-awareness, encouragement, and differentiation. The young girl struggles with feeling singled out, but also clearly enjoys a lifestyle in which her friends, school, and adults support her as she spreads her wings. Definitely a book that sparks great discussions about friendship, safe limits, and expanding boundaries! I also love that the girls, teachers and families in the book represent racial diversity and interaction. I think this is a good pick for grades K-3.

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer and Eric Velasquez

I was so glad that I was tucked away in the corner of the library while reading this book. At first, I thought it was too heavy with the topic of segregation and inequity (the book’s theme hits race, inequality, and socioeconomics pretty hard). I hadn’t seen a children’s book call out racial inequity as forward as this one — key moment: when the little Black girl makes note that the little White girl gets served first all the time. I wanted to put the book down and shy away from its mature content. And, then I turned the page and then the next page. And, I found myself tearing up. It’s a beautiful story of both inequity and coming up with community based problem solving. After I closed the book, I took a deep breath and wiped away my tears of hurt, pain and joy. Such a great book, likely for older ones (grades 2-5) but absolutely a good read for anyone who is interested in introducing their young ones to big topics.

Stella and Her Family by Miriam Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown

Compassionately written and lovely! Stella is faced with her class celebration of “Mother’s Day” which doesn’t feel quite right given that she has two Dads. I appreciated how the topic was presented in terms of Stella’s perspective; but I especially loved that there were characters who also had two Moms. And, in the end, the children with two Moms would have to face the same questions on Father’s Day. Rather than simply say, “We just won’t celebrate either”, the families come up with inclusive solutions. Beautifully written and a great gift! I think this works for preK-3 and all others!

Check out these books and think about adding them to your library (or a friend’s library!)

Peace, love, and rockstar librarian friends,


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Latino Heritage Month

In the United States, September 15 – October 15 marks the month-long celebration of Latino and Hispanic communities, issues, and contributions. While it is important to practice active inclusion all year, we honor this time to pay special attention to the many ways in which Latino and Hispanic communities and individuals have strengthened who we are as a country.

My family is multiracial and multiethnic: both of Asian American/Filipino and Latino/Puerto Rican heritage. Therefore, it is important to our family that we continue to honor and appreciate the rich diversity within the Latino and Hispanic communities as well as highlight important contributions of Latinos and Hispanics in the United States. Oftentimes, these contributions are left out of history books, and it becomes increasingly important that we send positive messages — and provide opportunities for critical thinking — to enrich their perspectives.

Below are just a few ideas that you might also include as we focus on Latino and Hispanic communities, issues and contributions in the United States. These are divided up by age group, but each activity provides rich opportunities for dialogue, discussion and engagement.


  • Include books during your reading routine (or begin to establish one if you do not have one) that include issues impacting Latino and/or Hispanic communities or feature characters from Latino and/or Hispanic backgrounds. Some great suggestions that we have loved are Abuela by Arthur Dorros; Grandma’s Chocolate by Mara Price and Lisa Fields. Yes, I admit. We’ve also read and included episodes from Dora and Diego or Maya and Miguel. My children loved those growing up! (Me? I think I’ve seen enough episodes of purple backpack to last me a lifetime).
  • Play music during your commute or when you are home together. Or if you are a teacher, have some music playing in your classroom. One of my favorites can be found on iTunes called “Cumbia Essentials” which is a great mix of different music.
  • Most children at this age are familiar with piñata. Print out sheets for them to decorate their own piñata and share with the class what they made and why.

Grades 3-6

  • Great opportunity to introduce different people from Latino and Hispanic heritage who have made an impact in our lives. You can introduce them by categories (e.g., sports, science, entertainment, law, gender identities, country of origin, contributions) or connect people with the fields you are studying or that correlate to your current curriculum.
  • This list here are Latino and Hispanic Americans who I really think of/look up to, but of course, there are hundreds and hundreds more who others would put on their lists.
    • Dolores Huerta, co-founded the United Farm Workers labor union
    • Justice Sonia Sotomayor, first justice from Hispanic heritage on the U.S. Supreme Court
    • Carlos Santana, musician and pretty much his music has been on rotation in my favorites since I was a teenager
    • Gloria Estefan, musician, I’m a child of the 80s and 90s, so yes, I know all of her music by heart
    • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate author of Colombian heritage
    • Isabelle Allende, writer, I recently read her book House of Spirits which was a riveting, haunting and beautiful novel
  • Again, lots of great book series that provide biographies of Latino and Hispanic individuals

Grades 6-12

  • PBS.org has a great list of documentaries on their website — short clips that highlight an individual from Latino or Hispanic heritage that are so worth watching! You can find them at http://www.pbs.org/specials/hispanic-heritage-month
  • Great printables and activities can be found here from PBS as well
  • This age group is ready to talk about immigration and the impact of policies on people in the United States. One more advanced opportunity is to ask students about systemic oppression — what are rules that keep people out of opportunities? You can connect that same theme to their lives related to sports, school, clubs, and even “friend groups” of who gets in and who is left out

College +

  • One of my favorite discussion questions always gets at “first messages”. One good one for this month is “What were your first or earliest messages about Latino and/or Hispanic communities? What were your first messages about people who identify as Latino or Hispanic? Where did you get those messages? What did those messages mean?”
  • When I worked with college students, the homework I always gave out was “Go through a whole day – start to finish. Who do you notice or see who might identify as Latino or Hispanic? Where were you going? Where did you see people? Where do you not see people? What does that say about your community? Your commute? Your destination?”
  • Find good opportunities to interrogate stereotypes or existing ideas and ideals

This is just a small list of great ways to engage your family or students! And, remember, we hold this time to highlight and focus on issues impacting people and communities who identify as Latino and/or Hispanic. However, we must integrate and include experiences, issues, and critical thinking about privilege, oppression, systemic racism, and inequity throughout the entire year and throughout our entire education!

What ideas have you implemented?

Peace, love and inclusion,

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9910-quinoa-tabbouleh-mYes, you read that right. Quinoa hates me.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law, Jenny, made this amazing dinner: avocado, tomato, corn, red onions and quinoa. As the lone vegetarian in a household of caveman-like meat eaters, Jenny was always trying to get my family to eat healthy vegetarian.

I ate bowls of it.

Loved it.

It was filling, the texture was crunchy and smooth, and the red onion gave just the right kind of zing.

A month or so later, I decided to make it myself. Huge bowl. I’m talking like a week-long festival of just eating this creation.

Two bites in, however, my stomach began to feel all wiley (my autocorrect tells me this isn’t an actual word, but, this is exactly the sound my stomach was making). I managed to still eat it, but went immediately online to see if anyone had the same problem.

All I came up with was how amazing quinoa was. How awesome it was for people who had celiac disease (which I don’t have) finally find a grain-like food that they could digest easily. Pretty soon, pop articles about the benefits of quinoa, the miraculous nature of quinoa, and the flexibility of ingredients with quinoa flooded my facebook feed.

So, what did I do?

You know it! …. I made those recipes….

And, each time, my stomach hurt. Just a little bit.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, four times, five times … well, I’m a dang fool.

About a year ago, I was on a flight to Los Angeles. As a new airline-sponsored card member, I had just found out that I got a huge percentage off of my in-flight meals. Guess what I bought? Nope, not the roast beef sandwich. Nope, not the cheese plate. Nope, not the spicy cold noodles.

I bought the fucking quinoa.

Within a few minutes, (I see you shaking your head), my stomach seized up into a knot. I unbuckled my seatbelt, thanked God I was in an aisle seat, made my way to the bathroom, threw up massively, and spent the rest of the flight sweating in my seat and eyeing the white, lined bag in the seat pocket in front of me.

Damn you, quinoa.

That brings us to today.


Just minutes before I was to give a brief presentation in front of my new colleagues in my brand new job talking to them about the brand new position that I had stepped into, I ate quinoa. Delicious, savory, buttery quinoa.

Yes, feel free to judge.

I cleared my plate, walked down the hallways, and made my way to the front of the auditorium. Oh no.

Our Head of School began his welcome to the faculty, and but all I heard was the sound of voices past saying, “You idiot. Quinoa? Really??”. Then, I felt my stomach leap out of my body. I leaned over to Jorge, who was on the schedule to present after me, and said, “Uh, if I’m not back, you do your presentation next. I’m about to hurl.”

Thanks to poor lighting and a background in performance, I’m told that no one noticed that I had just hurled 1 minute before I stood up to speak. Whew.

I’ll spare you all the major details, but it did involve me thankful that no one was around to hear my post-quinoa wretching and then laying in the fetal position on my office floor.

Needless to say, if you ever, ever, ever see me reaching for a bowl of quinoa, feel free to just kick me in the stomach. It’ll hurt less than the 7 hours of pain I will be in if I eat it.

Peace, love, and quinoa free,


PS: there was only one blog post that I found that mentioned this type of pain and quinoa, which makes me think it’s pretty uncommon. Some say it’s because of saponins. But, frankly no one had any suggestions or solutions .. I mean… other than stay away from the damn thing.

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Lest the title of today’s post fool you, I am not talking about a pair of jeans or a new skirt. So, feel free to keep reading as I gnaw on my never ending container of Starburst.

This morning, while skipping my daily 5:00am run, I sat on the couch and enjoyed a cup of coffee. I had already done my daily creep of Facebook and Twitter. Already let the dog out, only to let him back in again 5 seconds later. And, I had begun to check my email.


And in my email were all these messages (which, reminds me, I need to unsubscribe to those messages) about the elusive work-life balance.

Ah, good old work-life balance.

I actually hate that term.

Balance what?

For me, I’ve always talked about and lived work-life integration. Maybe it’s my work style. Maybe it’s my personal style. But, it’s likely the result of doing race, diversity, equity and inclusion work as a person of color. So, yes, the work is the life. 

But this July, I started a new job in a somewhat new field. This meant the perfect time to redraw the map of work and life.

Back to my coffee….

After I had deleted all the work-life balance emails, I turned on a TEDx Talk by Nigel Marsh. You guessed it, it was about work-life.

But this was different. This speaker was asking us not to figure out how to “fit” our lives into our work, but how to create, from scratch, the kind of day you want to have. Not the kind of day you DO have. The kind of day you WANT to have.

This TEDx talk was also on the heels of a conversation my husband was telling me about. A friend of his got so tired of others saying, “Oh, I’m so busy” that his response to them was, “Well, then get out of my office and go do what you need to do.” Sharp? Yes. But, it also made people think about why they felt the need to lead with “Oh, I’m so busy.”

So let me spare you the day that I DO have. And, here is a peek into the day that I WANT to have:

5:00am – Wake up and work out

5:30am – Get ready for work

5:45am – Write my dissertation (15 minutes a day!)

6:00am – Kindly wake up the children 

6:15am – Be present with them as they eat breakfast 

6:30am – Begin commute to work

8:00am – 5:00pm Fully engage in my work life and responsibilities

5:00pm – Commute home with the family

6:30pm – Fully engage in children’s activities/sports/lessons

7:00pm – Dinner

7:30pm – Talk about homework and school assignments

8:30pm – Send the children off to bed with a book or a 1:1 talk

9:00pm – Hang out with my husband and watch a show

9:30pm – Go to bed, sleep 8 hours

Is that so different from what I do now? Hell yes. My old “what I do DO” was filled with multitasking of checking email, yelling at people to hurry up, eat while doing something else, text message or make phone calls while the kids are in sports/lessons, get angry that no one finished their homework, shout “go to bed!” from the table as I finish up emails, and fall into exhaustion only to do it all over again.

But, this schedule is what I WANT to do. Will there be exceptions? Of course. However I’m starting with this. I’m starting with my priorities. I’m starting with expectations of who I am and what I believe is important.  Note that it doesn’t mean I’m not as productive, functional, or responsible at work. This just means I commit to focusing on what needs to be focused on.

What is the schedule that you WANT? Do you run around and tell others you are “busy”? To what end? For what purpose?

And, though we tell others we are “busy”, what do we signal to those who benefit from us the most?

Peace, love and making it fit,


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A few months ago, Joli and I took a trip to see her ocularist — the wonderful and brilliant professionals who created her prosthetic eye. It had been nearly 10 years since she first received her prosthetic, and it was time to create a new one.

Ten years.

It has been ten years, today, since the day she was diagnosed with cancer.

Ten years.

A full decade.

Back then, life was simpler. Joli was our only child, and as the first grandchild, there were plenty of hands to help out. Since her cancer diagnosis, we have added on to our family (two more children, and many more nieces and nephews). She has added new Aunts and Uncles by way of marriage. New cousins. There have been new houses, new pets, new schools and new friends. New fashions (including the blue hair she is currently rocking). New technology (e.g., FaceTime, iPads, Sirius Radio). And even a new President.

So why does the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis never get old. 

On the day that Joli was diagnosed, Jorge had just begun a new job. He hadn’t made many friends or connections in his first few weeks because all of the teachers and most of the staff were on summer vacation. Yet, within weeks of starting, we were hit with Joli’s diagnosis. Quickly, strangers became friends.

Now, ten years later, after a few years of moving around to a different state, our entire family is now at this school. It’s funny how life brings you back to where you belong.

Ten years ago, today, I was rocking my 2-year old back and forth as we waited for a second opinion. We were told she needed to have her eye — the one that had been destroyed by cancerous tumors — removed. We were warned that she may need to have both eyes removed.

I remember the feel of the cold, grey waiting room. I remember her wet tears pooling in the shallow of my collar bone — her cries begging for food that we could not give her. “Just in case we have to operate this afternoon, she needs to have an empty stomach,” we were told.

I remember the feel of her soft curls tickling just under my chin. Weeks later, I would remember the sight of those soft curls on the top of my pillow case, slowly dying off after chemo treatments.

I remember the feel of the newly installed carpet as I kneeled down next to the bed. Praying that God would give me her cancer. Praying that I would wake up from this nightmare.

Praying that I hadn’t, somehow, caused it. Maybe it was the time I fell while walking the dog. Maybe it was the time I drank two cups of coffee. Maybe it was the time I ate too much sugar. Got too deep a massage. Was too angry. Maybe.. maybe.. maybe.

I’ll never understand why it happened, but I do know that our lives are better because it did.

Because of cancer, my 12-year old daughter is the kindest, strongest, most compassionate person I have ever met. Because of cancer, my child has become my teacher. Because of cancer, my girl has learned how to cross boundaries, to engage with different types of people, and to look past the physical characteristics of others.

Because of Joli, my fear that I had done something wrong is fading.

And the reality that something — someone — so right is present.

Peace, love, and wishing Joli a happy cancerversary,


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It’s been a while, friends. I know. The great news is that I actually took a vacation (which I promised myself I would unplug as much as possible) and started a new job. It’s been a fantastic transition, and I’m so thrilled to start this new adventure.

But, of course, starting anew after over a decade of predictability and stability was certainly a risk. A calculated one, no less, but a risk. I had spent over 16 years working in higher education and building a solid career. With this move to secondary and elementary education, I was leaving familiar waters, familiar boat mates, and familiar routes. But, I had never imagined how tired my soul was until I arrived at my new job. Within three weeks, I have felt a renewed sense of spirit, of community, and of hope. I didn’t know it was even missing.

For the past few months, I have been regularly waking up at 4:45am and meeting my running buddies to start our day with a commitment to ourselves. While I still sluggishly roll out of bed and fumble around for my sneakers in the dark, I always feel better during and after my run than when I started. Most days, we head up to an empty parking lot where I bring my dog, KoD. In that lot, I let KoD run off leash and he just takes off (KoD spends most of the day laying on the couch or walking around our small, fenced-in yard. It’s strange to say this, but nothing brings me more joy on those mornings than seeing my dog sprint back and forth across the parking lot — his legs whipping underneath his small body, the tags on his collar jiggling as he picks up his pace, and his ears perked up ready and alert.

At 5:00am, the world is still quiet. The birds are not quite chirping. My busy street is empty. And I can hear the sound of my cushioned sneakers striking the pavement.

But, one sound I do not like is the sound of rain.

I hate rain.

I hate running in rain.

In fact, I don’t run in the rain.

Last night, my running buddies and I did our usual check in. This time, however, it included: “So, if it’s raining, you know it’s an automatic rest day, right? Let’s check-in in the morning and call it.”

5:05am: it’s not raining. But the sky is a thick grey and the sun can’t seem to rise behind the clouds.

“Yes? No? It’s not raining now but will eventually downpour soon,” I typed into my phone.

“It’s your call,” she replied. “If I say yes, it will pour. If I say no, it won’t rain at all.”

“Damn it,” I texted back. “Let’s just do it.”

For most of the run, I focused on the sky, wondering when I would be caught in the storm. It is going to rain? Am I too far from home? How messed up will my clothing/phone/watch be in this rain? How smelly will my dog be after being caught in the storm?

In the middle of the run, the clouds seemed to disappear. The sun finally made it’s way into the sky. The air felt cleaner. I felt stronger.

As I rounded the corner, I saw this beautiful sunrise.

5:40am sunrise

5:40am sunrise

And I thought about how much we miss when we never take a risk.

Peace, love, and dry clothes,


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h/t to my former student, Cliff Mason II of www.masonreport.com

h/t to my former student, Cliff Mason II of http://www.masonreport.com

This past week, my husband and I have been like two ships passing in the night. I had spent 3 days out of state doing equity and inclusion training in Vermont, and my husband has been busy with end-of-year, late night school events. But, last night, we finally sat down and talked. When we do sit down to talk, our conversations usually include something about the latest television show about zombies or science fiction that he loves (and that I, as he knows, would likely hate); a project that one of us is working on; or a ridiculous conversation that we had or overheard one of the children saying.

And, far too often, including last night, we have been talking about tragedies in our country that have continued to render people of color — most specifically people who are Black — as less than human, less than equal, and less than valued.

But, c’mon people, this is not a new pattern. Not a new behavior. Not a new mentality in our country. It’s just that I’m tired — fatigued — from the same shit happening again and again with no change.

Oftentimes, I am asked to facilitate trainings, workshops and dialogues around the country. Whenever I do the pre-consultation with the organizers, I always ask, “What is it that you want to get out of this? What are your outcomes?”

Nearly every time, the answer is “Tell us what to do to be better” or “We only have an hour so, you know, whatever you want to do is fine.” That’s usually when I answer, “I’m probably not the person for you. What I do is about understanding our personal connections to oppression and how it influences our work/job/lives.”

To fulfill those 1-hour workshops or delivering a “to do” list like that simply means that I am collecting a paycheck. Sure, I can tell you what to do, but it won’t actually make any change in your organization, department, behaviors, and lives. And, as above, me telling you doesn’t equal you understanding.

And, understanding takes time. Like, real time. Like, active, engaged, difficult, ugly, painful, raw, terrifying time. My process involves asking you about what you believe and how you got there. My process involves asking you to think about your identities and how they influence who you are, how you treat people, and how you see people even before you see people. My process involves asking you what parts of your identity serve as barriers to engagement and what parts bring you closer to engagement. And, if it feels $hitty and horrible and ugly and terrifying, then it’s likely worth doing.

One of the most brave things that I have seen came from my friend Emily (read her beautiful blog here). This morning, after many articles circulated social media calling for allies who identify as White to stop listening and start doing, Emily posted publicly on my Facebook wall. She published with intentionality, knowing that she couldn’t possibly be the only person who was struggling with how to move from listening to doing in a way that made sense. And, given the number of likes and comments, Emily is not alone.

Emily, like many of my socially-just minded friends, identifies as an ally, has active conversations with her children, openly challenges race and racism among friends and family, and shares posts about race and justice on social media.

Does this sound like you, too?

If so, then you’re likely one of the ones struggling, too. Struggling with how to go deeper, move further, and engage more actively.

This is for you. It’s not comprehensive. And, I’m actually writing this with a particular group in mind — a group of people who live in racially White homogenous communities; who go to school along side and who play soccer/swim/neighborhood tag in communities that are homogeneously racially White; and who aren’t going to uproot the family and move to a racially diverse community for lots of very valid logistical reasons (note: living in a racially diverse community doesn’t mean that positive racial interactions happen, either. I live in a racially diverse city and still manage to, every single day, hear racist comments and witness racist behaviors).

What do I (because, I don’t speak for all people of color) need you to do?

I need you to make your commitment visible. 

I am quite confident that people know where I fall on certain issues. Even given my identity as a practicing and faithful Catholic; even given my identity as a heterosexual woman; even give my identity as a cisgender woman; even given my identity as an Asian American who neither benefits from White privilege nor who experiences violence as people in the Black community experience; even given my identity as an emerging scholar; even given my identity as a practitioner; even given my identity as mother/wife/parent — it’s pretty clear and visible what my views are on just about every social issue.

I have made my commitment visible.

I have made my mistakes visible.

I have made my questions, my struggles, my journey visible.

I have publicly interrogated my own beliefs and values about nearly every issue from race to gender to sexual orientation to gender identity to class to education to activism to injustice to service to parenting … and so on. I have moved beyond listening, which I still do intently, and have made my journey visible.

But, I have not attended a march. I did not get on one of the many buses from Boston to Selma to walk the bridge. I did not carry a sign at a rally. I have not chanted and demanded justice by protesting in front of a store or a business. I have not participated in a die-in nor a walk-out. But, every ounce of me has wanted to, emotionally, but it’s just not authentic for me.  I am thankful for my many brothers and sisters for whom this avenue of activism is authentic. I have watched you from afar, wept openly at your commitment, and prayed for your protection from harm.

I have been visible in other ways.

The way that I have understood is authentic for me is through written word. I showed up in my news feed and in the news feed of others. I made my beliefs and struggles visible when I blogged, tweeted, or updated my status. I engaged in public conversations and private conversations. And, when I am feeling brave and willing to risk being criticized, I have shouted.

I spoke quietly, firmly, and honestly to my children. I made visible the reality of our world so that they can create their own authentic responses.

I cried on a couch with my co-worker.

I sat in silence, in a community circle, and listened to the breathing of others as paid attention to the Light within.

I broke bread with a friend and talked well above a whisper about identity and Blackness and discourse of performing identity while at a public restaurant.

I pinned a rainbow heart on my bag, my lunchbox, and my backpack in addition to having the only outward-facing rainbow flag on an office window at the Catholic college where I worked.

I ask people for their preferred pronoun(s) and smile when they look at me confused, mostly because they have had the privilege of never being asked.

I openly and regularly use language like “partner” or “parent/guardian/support system” or “place you consider home”.

I use people-first language and both role model and correct others when they do not.

For a while, I tied a black string around my wrist whenever there was violence perpetrated against someone who was Black. People asked me what it was. I told them. And then, soon after, I ran out of string.

I am the first one to bring up race in a conversation, making it visible before there is time to diffuse or shift it to something else.

Sometimes, when I believe that it might matter, I challenge a comment someone writes that may be classist or sexist or heteronormative or racist or veiled notions of all of the above. Sometimes, I stay with the conversation and we both grow. Most times, yes, even in my own friend group, I end up being attacked and marginalized and told that I “have offended someone by implying they are racist.” Then I remember how deep, pervasive, and well-oiled the machine of Privilege and racism is, and how that successful operation has made it possible for them to be offended.

On days when I have more energy, when my heart is less broken, and when my soul is less weary, I do more than “share” an article. I comment, I highlight, and I interpret and interrogate it in my own lens. Hitting “share” is too easy. Actually articulating why I’m sharing it is making my journey visible.

And, yes, none of this is possible unless you listen. I do listen. I listen with my whole being. I begin listening with this one statement that I repeat over and over to myself: “For this person, this is true.” I believe in their truth. I believe that their truth is informed by their life. And, if I am given the gift of this testimony, I take it with me and hold on to it tightly.

But, it is time to move beyond listening. It is time to stop calling ourselves allies and, instead, ask ourselves what it means to ally.

I’ll write that again.

I don’t need you to BE an ally. I need you TO ally.

In the world of my children, I have heard them say time and again, “So-and-so is my friend.” My follow up question is usually, “Oh, that’s great. Well, what makes that person a friend? What does that person do to show you she/he is your friend? What has that person done to demonstrate what it means to be a friend?” 

It’s the same thing here, Allies.

I need you to understand what it means to ally. I need you to understand it for yourself. I need you to figure out how you can make yourself visible. I need you to figure out how to make your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, struggles and journey visible for others to see in a way that is authentic for you. I need you to be brave. I need you to move into spaces that are uncomfortable so that you aren’t just listening but you are participating.

If I asked any one of your friends what YOUR opinion, stance, belief, or value was about any of the social issues you say you privately care deeply about, would they know what it is? Would they know where you stand? Would they know what you believe?

What will they say you have done?

In true definition, we do not individually claim Ally. Rather, a community claims you as an ally. The community with whom you are working towards solidarity says you are an ally.

If you call yourself an ally to the Black community, would the Black community — people who are Black — say you are?  Would they say you show up? Would they say you make visible your commitment to them and to issues impacting the Black community?

Would they say anything about you at all?

If not, then what will you do?

It’s time to do some real soul searching. It’s time to ally. 

Peace, love and using my strength in the service of my vision*,


*”When I use my strength in the service of my vision, it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  — Audre Lorde

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“My friend is mad at me.”

Usually when my daughter comes home from school, she ignores me or, at best, answers me in one-word sentences. I knew to run quickly into this open door.

“What happened?” I asked, anticipating her middle-school answers of “She thinks I like this other person” or “I wouldn’t sit with her at lunch” or “We wore the same sweatpants and people thought we matched on purpose.”

“She’s mad at me because I think people who are transgender are normal.”

I wasn’t expecting that. Yes! sang my inner activist-Mom-soul.

“Tell me more,” as I swung the door of conversational opportunity wide open.

“Well, she asked me what you did for a living. I told her you do diversity stuff. She asked what that meant. So, I said that you try to end racism and sexism. I said that you talk to people about privilege and that you try to make the world more fair for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

This is awesome. Why? Because when my other daughter was 5-years old, she told people that I did aerobics for a living. I have no idea…

“So my friend said that she thinks transgender people .. and I corrected her and said ‘people who are transgender’ … but anyways, she said that she thinks it’s disgusting and against God.”

“She said it was against God?” I asked. I, myself, had just come from church that afternoon, and that comment hit me in a particular way. “Okay, that sounds interesting. What was your response back to her?”

“Well, I told her that everyone has a right to their religion, but that I was taught that God made us and chose us for a journey that we were meant to have.”

“Wait, wait,” I interrupted. “Can I film this? Because, for real, I think you’re about to drop some serious knowledge and I want other people to see and hear you say this. Can I?”

“No.” There’s the one-word answer I was looking for.


“So, she then said that God doesn’t make mistakes and so if God made you a man you should stay a man.”

I held my breath. I couldn’t believe my 11-year old was having this conversation at lunch.

So, I told her that when I was in your belly, that God gave me cancer. And, when I came out of your belly, I had cancer. And, when I was two years old and finally realized I had cancer, I had to do something or I was going to die. I had to take out my entire eye — an eye that God gave me — so that I could live. If I stayed the way God made me, I would be dead.”

I began to cry. She’s eleven. 

And, I told her about how many young people who are gay have killed themselves because they felt that God made them and that they shouldn’t be gay. And they weren’t accepted by their families. And, they died. If I didn’t change the body that God gave me, I would be dead, too.”

I can’t even….

She continued, “If someone is born in a body that God gave them, but that body isn’t right. Then they might make a choice to change something about their bodies so that they can stay alive. That’s what I had to do. If someone is transgender and they need to be in a different body, then they should do it.”

Okay, then what happened?”

“She said, ‘No. They should just deal with it.’ She got really mad at me and then she walked away. I wasn’t mad at her, but I know I had offended her.”

I couldn’t speak. I was overwhelmed. My heart, my soul, and my spirit were overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by her sadness. Overwhelmed by her compassion. Overwhelmed by how readily she could articulate faith, gender, acceptance, and understanding.

“I’m really sad that she’s mad at me, Mom. I’m sad that she’s mad about me not agreeing with her. I know that you do this kind of stuff for a living, but I am going to do it for my life.”

That’s exactly why I do it, too, Joli.

Peace, love, and brave conversations,


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Donate. Keep. Throw. 

Twice a year, I go through my closet and drawers (for the record, I have 1 small closet and no real drawers — just two small cubby shelves) and switch out my wool pants/sweaters for cotton tank tops/shorts. And so it goes in New England. We go from freezing cold to hot and humid.

Each time, though I have good intentions, I hold on to so many clothes that don’t fit; clothes that don’t look great on me; and clothes that I don’t even like but have some sort of sentimental value to them.

Maybe it’s that I just left my job of 11 years. Maybe it’s that I’m in a weird limbo phase of consulting gigs and workshops. Maybe it’s that I’m eager to start my new job.

But, I decided to do a real clean sweep of my clothing.

My criteria?

Only keep items that make me FEEL fabulous TODAY.

To do this, I asked myself two questions:

1) If I put this on right now, could I wear this anywhere?


2) If I put this on right now, would I feel like a rockstar? A confident, badass, fantastic rockstar?

If the answer was “No” to either, it went into the donation pile.

This included the shirt that still had the tags on it from 3 years ago that, when I cleaned out my closets last year, I swore, “Oh, I’m totally going to wear this sometime this year.” It included the soft cotton shirt that had the tiny hole in the armpit (c’mon, admit it, you have one of those shirts, too!).


If I wasn’t willing to put it on today; and if it didn’t make me feel like a badass rockstar who could go from work to the baseball field, then it was going to someone else.

I filled 8 bags for donation.

Yes, there was still hesitation. More than once, one hand held the piece of clothing and the other hand held the red, plastic drawstring on the white garbage bag. “Well, I liked it when I bought it” or “I wore this red shirt when I met Alyssa Milano in LA!”.


And, now, it’s done. My closet is filled with clothes that I like, that I wear, and that make me feel fabulous. And, I have plenty. No post-closet-clean-out shopping spree. If anything, getting rid of that much stuff made me confront the privilege I have of even owning so much. I sat on my bed, stared inside my closet, and gave thanks for the people who made it — and, I am well aware that many of those items were likely made by people who were not paid well and who worked in inhumane conditions. And, though I don’t need anything, I have set an intention that I will know where my next pair of clothing comes from.

Over the next 30 days, while I am living “in-between”, I am committed to clearing out more clutter in my home and in my life. In these next 30 days, I have no work email to check (because, I literally have no email work accounts); no work voicemails; and no work deadlines. It’s time to declutter other areas.

Because, it’s no secret that I’ve got to make more room for fabulous.

Peace, love, and making room,


I wasn't kidding about the red shirt :)

I wasn’t kidding about the red shirt 🙂

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In August 2005, my daughter Joli was just 2 years old. On August 17th, we found out Joli had cancer and had to have emergency surgery to remove her eye. Even though her surgery was surprisingly quick, the road to recovery would be long and difficult.

Just a few days after we came home from the hospital, I was driving around town getting prescription medication, bandages, gauze, and some other supplies for Joli post-surgery. My sister, Grace, was with me and we decided to go and grab some takeout from the local Thai restaurant.

We called ahead and Grace ran inside to get the food.

I remember that feeling of awesomeness — in all the hustle and bustle of our now cancer-lives, I hadn’t paid any attention to how I was feeling. I was in pure survivor mode. 

But, this was my treat. I was looking forward to my full plate of pad thai with the crunchy peanuts sprinkled over the top; the delicious spring rolls that I would dip in the sweet-and-sour chili sauce; and the Thai ice coffee that was my extra indulgence.

Grace walked towards the car with the large brown paper bag in one hand and my ice coffee in the other. Hurry up, I remember thinking. That’s my food! I could feel my saliva building up in my mouth.

As soon as Grace opened the door, she placed the food in the small space between our seats. YES! That smells so… so …. so… 


The watery saliva in my mouth that was preparing for the sweet, spicy, and tangy noodles became acidic and unbearable.

I felt my body sweat. My stomach turned. My heart began to race.

Liza, it’s the stress. You’ve been keeping this all in, said Grace. It’s true. I had been. I had been the rock that my family needed.

No. I’m pregnant, I told her. I know I am.

Sure enough, in the midst of my first born’s chemotherapy. Her enucleation. Her prosthetic fittings. And, her exams under anesthesia. I was pregnant. 

At first, I couldn’t believe this was happening. Wasn’t it enough that my daughter’s body was going through unbearable torture? Now, my own body was going to be distracted?

Throughout the months, as Joli’s head became more shiny and bald, my belly became more round and pronounced. As Joli threw up from chemotherapy, I threw up from morning sickness. Many times, we were both snuggled in her hospital bed.

My pregnancy brought me closer to Joli. But, it also kept me at a distance. When she needed her diaper changed, I had to suit up in a paper covering and double plastic gloves just to make sure none of the chemotherapy drugs passed from my skin to my growing baby. Eventually, my belly grew so big that I could no longer snuggle my sick child in the bed. The hospital pulled out a rolling cot for me.

Each month, when we returned for chemotherapy, the nurses on staff would comment about the baby and how big my belly was growing.

They watched me fight for one life and grow another. 

Joli finished chemotherapy in late February.

On April 22, 2006 — Earth Day — that growing baby decided to make her appearance.

Quickly, on that morning, Jada was born.

My sunshine.

To this day, Jada holds a very special place in my heart. She was a gift in my darkest hours. She was a life force. Whenever I felt angry at the world during those months of treatment and surgeries, I felt Jada kick. It was like she was telling me to “Get a grip, Mom. Seriously.”

Outside of the womb, Jada still says that to me.

Jada is exactly who she was meant to be.

Her laugh lights up a room. Her smile brightens the darkest corners. Her brilliance shines beyond walls. She is feisty, sassy, and assertive.

Jada is the best of all of those difficult months.

I want to believe that all of the things we had to go through during 2005-2006 was to prepare me to be a strong mom, and to prepare Jada to be a strong human. She fights for what she believes in. She sees the good in all the bad. She is unafraid of speaking her mind.

Jada is my sunshine.

She is warmth, she is heat, she is light.

april 22 jada potato

Photo 57


Happy birthday, Jada. Thank you for all the ways in which you were meant to be.



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Well, I THOUGHT I was taking it slow….

Alas, despite my best efforts to completely ease into walking and running, my “almost-40-year-old-knees” decided differently.

Yes, friends. I’ve been hit with patellar tendonitis, otherwise known as “jumpers knee”, otherwise known as “runners knee”, otherwise known as “#^@&$^#&@###$@#”.

Thanks to a couple of medical professionals in my family, the course of treatment is simply ibuprofen for the swelling, ice, and a whole bunch of strengthening exercises. You can check out a great resource from Mass General here.

I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty pathetic. When I told my brother that I was having a pain in my knee, he replied, “Well, just cut back on your mileage.” I laughed and said, “Well, that would just put me back on the couch.” After all, it’s hard to cut back on 1.0 miles ….

So, if you’re a new runner, and you’re feeling a bit achy and sore, well, join the club. But, I know well enough to rest and then to try again.

This is also the push I needed to get myself to the running store and get FITTED and buy new shoes (I’m a huge fan of getting fitted… no more “I think these might fit” days). My current shoes have hundreds of miles on them, and it’s time to get new ones. As soon as I can walk normally again, it’s ON!

If you want to still push ahead and follow the training plan, then here are the three gifts (aka workouts) this week:

1 mile total for distance (you might want to try walking .25 miles and then “walking faster” for .25 miles)

12 minute walk-walk faster (alternating every 1 minute)

15 minute walk-walk faster (alternative every 1 minute)

I might be a week behind as I wait for this knee to settle down. But, I hope you keep gifting yourself these workouts!

Peace, love and resting for now,


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10 Minute Walk/Walk Faster

Ever wanted to start running? Cool! Join me as I move from a very slow walking phase to a half-marathon in a few months. If you’ve been following me for a while (or if you’re new!), you know that I’m a full-sized (or plus-size, or awesome-size) woman committed to better health and stronger organs. 

I have run a few half-marathons, but the winter usually destroys all evidence. So, each spring, I start with a half-marathon goal. Join me as I start very slowly! Stay tuned and stay in touch!

To check out the official Day 1 workout (which was Day 4 of a “Liza, get off your butt” plan), check out this vlog here: http://youtu.be/7IAOehF23zg

Today’s workout was just a 10-minute phase of 1 minute walking and 1 minute “walking faster than you just did”. Alternate those until you get to 10-minutes. 

Coming up next: Walk/walk Faster for 12 minutes. You got this!

Peace and love,


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Long Spring Walk

If you lived above ground, you know that we New Englanders had kind of a rough winter. Thankfully, the weather seems to be turning and we are in Spring Season mode!

This week starts the official “half-marathon training.” But, rest assured, it starts off with a 10 minute run/walk. That’s right, once this week, just do a 1-minute walk and 1-minute jog (and you can define “jog” however you’d like). Do that rotation 5 times. Easy peasy. 10 minutes. That’s all. 

Because this weekend was just so beautiful, and because of some planning, I managed to gift myself a 5-mile walk. A slow, leisurely walk. The kind of walk where, if there were flowers, I would have stopped to smell them. But a walk none-the-less. 

You can check out the video here: https://youtu.be/QEXf5CuduCo

So, this week, try to get that 10 minute workout in. Think of it as a 10 minute gift to yourself! No stress!

Peace and love,


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Hello, everyone!

First, thank you to all of you who posted on Facebook, Twitter, or emailed me about wanting to join me on this beginning journey. I’m so thankful that you’re with me! In fact, this post is because YOU’RE keeping ME on the right track! This video is because you keep me accountable!

Just to keep track, so far, I’ve only done a 20 minute walk. Nothing fast. Nothing fancy. Just walked the dog for 20 minutes. If ONE walk counts as “doing well”, then, high-five to me!

Until this morning…

Yes, it’s true. I don’t run in the rain.

I barely even run when there is impending rain.

Don’t ask me where that comes from — I have no idea whatsoever.

But, what I DO know is that I committed to going on this journey towards getting back into good physical health. Today, my alarm went off at 5:30am and, though it was still dark, I could tell there was IMPENDING rain (see above).

Snooze. Bed.

Without my accountability to all of you, I probably would have just gone about business as usual. But, I knew I had to keep moving forward. So, I signed up for a virtual ballet class. Thanks to Gina’s absolutely busy lifestyle and her commitment to fitness and dance, I have been using VirtualFit on and off for 2 years. It’s an incredible way to get a great workout, to have a LIVE class, and to do it all from the comfort of my 4’x5′ rug in my bedroom. What I love about the class (vs a pre-recorded workout) is that I get to wave hello, someone on the other end says, “Great job, Liza!” and I see other moms struggling with the second set of sit-ups, just like me.

Tomorrow is a new day. I have my walking/running clothes by my bedside, again, in case it’s not raining.

Not too late, if you haven’t moved forward today. Before you go to bed, just take 5 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Or, if you can, get up and take a 10 minute walk tomorrow. Take the longer route back from class. Park just a little bit further. Go to the bathroom stalls on the other end of the building. I dunno. Just move a teeny bit more than you did yesterday.

Peace, love, and praying for sun,

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