Tag Archives: family


…for summer vacations, for the legacy of those who have gone before, and for the opportunity to help raise the next generation of champions for justice.

And, as promised, elusive photos of my incredible kids, here on the Internet. Spreading the thankfulness.

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On the capitol steps in Montgomery. It was here that a reporter who had been following Dr. King turned to his companion and said, “I really think they’re going to win this thing.”

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Timeline of the civil rights movement

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In front of Dr. King’s church in Montgomery

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And the Greyhound station where Freedom Riders were attacked

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On the Freedom Trail between Selma and Montgomery: grateful for a husband who stopped at every.single.marker

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16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I’ve been before, but not as a mother. I cannot comprehend the agony of those parents.

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“We ain’t afraid of your jails.” And they weren’t. Incredible.

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Taking the time to be frightened, and to imagine their fear and appreciate their courage

Thankful Week

I’m doing something different for this week of thankfulness this year.

Thursday, I’ll have my usual roundup of links and celebrations and shout-outs, but, today and tomorrow, I am sharing some photos of my travels and adventures this summer, especially those that connect to social justice and parenting, two journeys for which I am most thankful, indeed.

Learning about court cases around desegregation with my oldest son

He studies civil rights on the steps of Little Rock Central HS

Cool quote in the memorial garden in Little Rock

Road honoring Daisy Bates, a grown-up behind the Little Rock 9

The new ‘mommy wars’


I am all for more Mommy Wars.

Not the ‘stay-at-home’ v. ‘work-full-time’ type.

Those are offensive (because they totally ignore the reality of families’ economic needs for two incomes, and the policies that have driven them, as well as the ongoing gender imbalance in the workplace and in domestic responsibilities), soul-sucking (because being a mother is hard work, and the last thing we need is more alienation), divisive (our biggest challenges are not each other), and, ultimately, really misguided.

No, I want more of the ‘Moms v. Injustice’ type of Mommy wars, the kind where Senator Mitch McConnell has to walk past lines of moms in strollers to get to his office, after leading the charge against mandatory background checks.

The kind where mothers and children celebrate Mothers’ Day by demanding immigration reform that will stop separating families.

The kind where mothers (and fathers) work together, across lines of class and race, to demand sick-leave policy to protect their families and preserve their jobs.

The kind of collective ‘mom war’ on what’s besieging our families, perhaps starting with the lack of recognition of the value of the caregiving work that women do–whether they also work for pay outside the home or not–and the need for society to share all of our responsibilities.

This year, for my birthday, I’m making donations to MomsRising, and I would love for you to join me.

My hope for this next year of my life is that moms–self included–feel less ‘stressed’ and more angry, together.

  • Angry at lack of affordable childcare and flexible workplace policies
  • Angry at society’s failure to take basic steps towards protecting our children
  • Angry at the gendered nature of caregiving and the reality of ongoing pay discrimination
  • Angry at the politicization of health care–for women and also for our families
  • Angry at how often women, in the U.S. and around the world, are expected to pick up the slack created by policy gaps, and at how unrecognized women’s work is, despite being the lifeblood of the economy
  • Angry at messages that convince us to compete with other moms or to focus inward on achieving ‘balance’, rather than seeking justice at home and work
  • Angry at forces that push us to tear each other down for our ‘choices’, instead of revealing the false nature of many of the options we face

We need a war on the system that tries to turn public failings into personal problems.

And Moms are just the ones to wage it.

Goal-setting like kids

It has been established that one of my favorite things about my kids, even when it’s simultaneously maddening, is their unreasonableness.

Because they are unreasonable.


Especially the youngest one, who has that toddler’s expectation that she can smack me in the face, pull my hair, and then sweetly sign “water”, and I’ll come running with it.

She dares to ask, and to anticipate, what most of us wouldn’t even dream.

And I think we need a lot more of that.

Not the smacking and hair-pulling, of course, but the rather outrageous demands: those we need more of.

What would a ridiculous goal look like in your area of work? For Room to Read, it’s every child (every) in the world learning to read. For one of my clients, it’s providing a service to every single person who contacts the organization, no exceptions. Some organizations working on homelessness have staked a claim to the goal of ending chronic homelessness, starting with specific cities.

I guess what I think, when I see my kids expecting that they can build a tower that will defy the laws of gravity or convince me to bring them yet another cup of water at 2AM, is that I’m tired of goals that are strategic, measurable, actionable, realistic, and targeted.

You know?

We need to end poverty and close gender pay gaps and ensure that every child starts school ready to learn.

And we need to do it soon.

So we don’t need more sophisticated ‘adult’ understanding of the constraints of reality.

Those voices are in our heads all the time already.

We need more outrageous goals, a focused determination to reach them no matter what, and the tenacious (read: stubborn) insistence of my children that other people drop everything and come along with us.

If you need any mentors in this field of audacious goal-setting, I have four experts in mind.

Parenting and advocacy, again

One of my favorite parenting principles is “assume positive intent” (Google it if you want to hang out with parents online for the next several hours).

It works like this:

When my oldest son is climbing on the countertops (kicking his brother in the face in the process) in order to reach something in the upper cabinets, I say, “I know you were trying to be self-reliant and not bother Mommy with what you needed, but it’s not acceptable to climb on the counters” instead of “What in the world were you thinking?”

The great thing is that sometimes, even when my positive assumption is totally baseless, it can still bring out the best in my kids.

I mean, they want to be the person that Mommy just assumed that they were, and, so, they aspire to live up to even my misguided assessment.

And it occurred to me, at some point during a conversation with an advocacy client last week, assuming positive intent is a place to begin in advocacy, too.

As you sit down with a legislator: “I am sure that you are concerned about rising incidence of hunger among children in your district.” (maybe not, really, but who wants to admit that?)

As you begin a new coalition: “We know that we are all here because of our shared commitment to reducing out-of-home placements of at-risk children.” (except the two organizations that are just there because it was a grant requirement, but that’s a place to start!)

As you approach your Board for buy-in to build an advocacy agenda: “Your passion for addressing health disparity brought you to this organization, and advocacy is another way that we can pursue that common goal.”

For me, as a parent, positive intent means that it’s not always important to be right.

Or to discover true motivations. Or prove a point. Or even gather information.

Sometimes I just want to minimize resistance and get what I want.

Sound familiar, advocates?

Eisenhower and Opportunity Costs

I took the kids to Abilene this summer.

Because, you know, it’s where all the kids want to go.

Mainly, of course, it was for my oldest son.

Eisenhower isn’t Sam’s favorite, by far (he could give you the ordered list, if you’d like), but he is quite enamored of anything having to do with victory over the Nazis, plus, it’s a Presidential Library in Kansas, so you can’t miss it.

I had this quote, in Decisive, in my head when I was there:

“The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants each serving a town of 60,000 people. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people” (Eisenhower, 1953, on p. 45).

Set aside, for a moment, the obvious: Holy different Republican Party, no?

Because the point that Decisive was making, and that I am struck with, is that we must acknowledge opportunity costs in our advocacy.

We must account for them in weighing the policy options that we advocate, instead of (guilty as charged, here) pretending that our new policy innovations are all ‘upside’.

We must include them in our consideration about whether or not to even advocate in the first place, since there are obvious costs to directing our energy to these social change goals, sometimes including the expense of pulling us away from the provision of vital services.

We strengthen our case, I believe, when we demonstrate that we have accounted for the loss of these alternative activities, as valuable as they may be. And we can use opportunity costs to our advantage is pushing against proposed policies, too, sometimes by arguing that, as laudable as a particular objective may be, it may not be enough to be worth what we would have to give up in return.

When and where do you calculate opportunity costs in your organization? In your advocacy? What challenges do you face in this accounting? And, when you’re honest with yourself, what are the opportunity costs that haunt you the most?

Families modeling service, seeking justice

I have kids celebrating birthdays today, which means it’s a very family-focused day around here.

So I thought that I’d take this opportunity to share some inspiring stories of families showing their children why serving others matters, and, more importantly, how to do it. I’m always looking for examples, and for ideas of how we can volunteer together as a family.

We raise money for projects quite often–Sam had a lemonade stand to support agricultural assistance to farmers in Africa last year–and we give ‘alternative’ gifts for every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and for Christmas and other occasions, too. We have packed food at our local food bank, and we have done voter registration and community awareness activities, too.

For me, as a parent, the messaging matters.

Volunteering isn’t something we go to do for other people, because we pity them or because we have something they lack, even.

It’s something we do because we’re part of a connected world, and because it’s how we live consistently with our values and give ourselves the opportunity to connect meaningfully with the larger society.

The cliche, of course, is that volunteers ‘get as much as they give’, but, for me, it’s not about how good I feel when we help, it’s about what I’m doing to cultivate the kind of kids I want to raise.

Those who serve because they crave justice, I hope.

Because it’s my kids’ birthday, if anyone wants to gift us some great ideas of how children can volunteer–organizations renowned for working collaboratively with our youngest servant advocates, or inspiring models–we would be grateful.

And, on this special day at my house, a toast to family–that which lives within our walls, and that which surrounds us, in all humanity.