We Are Writing History

In the storm of news that has happened over the past week, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write. So many emotions, so many thoughts. Where to start?

I’ve felt terrified of the rapid authoritarian take over of our government, the silencing of dissenting voices, the usurping of power by a small group of racist, xenophobic, white-supremacists like Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions. One only needs to read the news to see the pattern.

The government banned Muslims last week. It’s not a far stretch to imagine the Chinese will be next. China has long been portrayed as the enemy of the West. It’s not a big leap to imagine that I’m next. That my family is next. The idea of internment camps, concentration camps and refugee camps gnaw at the edges of my mind. My fear is real and, at times, crippling.

I’ve felt heartbreak for innocent people separated from families with futures in limbo, people whose lives have been crushed and hopes have been shattered. I’ve felt helpless in my desire to help.

I’ve felt anger at people who voted Trump into office, whatever their reasons. I’ve felt anger at people who continue to defend him and his actions, people who seem surprised at the way he has abused his power, spineless politicians unwilling to stand up for ethics, and morals. I’ve felt angry at leaders who are more concerned about their own positions than the welfare of our country and the future of our democracy. Yes, there has been a lot of anger.

I’ve felt a strong distancing from people who have the privilege to walk out of the room when things get uncomfortable, who have the privilege never to walk into the room at all.

I’ve felt a deep disconnect from people who shut out the news because the dismantling of our democracy and the persecution of millions will not affect them. I’ve been baffled by people who live so deep in their privilege they don’t believe injustice will happen, though it happens around them daily. People in denial are almost worse than the people who publicly proclaim their oppressive agendas.

I’ve felt shock – probably bordering on anger too – at people who continue to walk with blinders complaining about the “politics” on their Facebook feeds, seemingly unaware that we’re not fighting about politics anymore, but for the freedoms and rights of our Constitution.

Think that I’m sensationalist and overreacting? I say, I know history and I know where this path can lead.

Then yesterday, I got a Facebook message from a relative. It simply said, “I don’t know anything about politics. But I don’t like anything that’s happening right now. What do I do about it? Where do I start the fight? Please give me the first steps for someone who knows absolutely nothing.”

Wow.

It was a shot of hope, like adrenaline coursing through my veins. I probably needed to read her message more than she needed any advice I attempted to provide. I needed the reminder of hope. Everyday, more people join the resistance.

This morning, I watched the Senate hearing for Betsy DeVos. Yes, there were several new additions to my little anger balloon. But, I felt inspired and relieved to hear from Senators who spoke truth about the real priorities and needs of our failing educational system. I loved listening to the Senators who blasted DeVos’s conflicts of interest, historically negative effect on schools and complete lack of qualifications. It felt good to know there are people in the government standing up too.

I feel hope knowing that teachers are on the front lines in schools, because teachers are some of the most resilient, bad-ass people that I know – especially urban teachers, who are the breed I know and love best. We know how to fight hard every single day and we do it for our kids.

I feel hope knowing that every time I’ve called a Senator’s office, the lines are busy. People are on top of their resistance game these days.

There are a lot of crazy things happening in our country, but I will not succumb to anger and fear. I will forever cling to hope.

As yesterday’s message reminded me, it’s never too late to learn. It’s not too late to rise up. It’s not too late to fight back.

We are living in pivotal moment in history. It is time to learn what we would have done during the Civil Rights movement, during Apartheid, during the Holocaust, during Japanese internment, during the Chinese Exclusion Act, during Columbus’ genocide of Native peoples… If we’ve ever wondered where we might have stood, what we might have done in the turbulent tides of history, we are standing there doing it now.

It is a time when we test the strength of our democracy. It is a time when we test our own moral courage. Perhaps at no other time has our system of checks and balances been stretched and distorted by people as dangerous or power-hungry. Can we withstand and hold strong?

Behind the nagging fear of what might come, I also have the rising feeling that we choose our future.

History doesn’t just happen to us.

We define it ourselves.

We will write our own stories.

We are in this for the long haul; there will be no resistance fatigue until we change the injustice, oppression and attempted destruction of our democracy.

For every woman, child, man who is waking up now to their own responsibility and power and voice.

Rise up.


Photo credit

Introducing Splash Siblings

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Andy and I are thrilled about the baby girl that will be joining our family in April 2017!

Carter is thrilled that he will finally have his very own Splash Sister to hoop with at home. He thinks she lives in my belly button and pokes it every night to “tickle baby.”

After our miscarriage this past June, Andy and I were surprised and overjoyed when we found out I was pregnant. We feel tremendously blessed and know that our lives are guided by a Father in Heaven. Sometimes, life feels like it is split into many buckets – family, work, school, friends, health, hobbies etc – and in different seasons different buckets either runneth over or feel wanting.

The little one growing in my belly button is a daily reminder that God hears our prayers. He answers in his own time and way. He has a plan for our lives. When I feel like I am lost on my journey, I can rub my tummy and remember that He knows the way. His plan is more perfect than the one I’ve mapped out for myself.

I still have so many unanswered questions. I wish I could see the end from where I stand now. But, this active little girl kicking around inside is the blessing I’ve desired most this year. I know everything else will fall into place. I am filled with gratitude, hope and love.

 

 

 

 

 

On Pressing Forward after the Election

My son is curled up next to me, snoring in his sleep, battling the 101-degree fever that started around 1 am Wednesday morning – right when the election news was rolling in. He has not allowed me to leave his side and even curled up in my lap through two movies and about 100 books. If you know him, you know this means he is really sick. Or really scared. Maybe he has internalized my pain.

In some ways, caring for him yesterday postponed my processing of the election. But, more importantly, it filled me with love.

img_7641
We will always be proud of how we voted this year.

Love
I genuinely believe that love trumps hate. That light drives out darkness. That in times of great division and fear, we must turn to love. But what does this really mean? And what does this mean right now?

To me, it means to love as Christ did. To see others as Christ sees them. To see their humanity and to recognize our kinship as children of God. Our Father in heaven loves all of us. We must do the same, even when we disagree. Even when we are wronged. Even when we are hurt. We must embrace love.

This love must be unconditional, but it does not have to be blind. Christ loves us, so he shows us our weaknesses and asks us to repent. He tells us when we are wrong, when we make mistakes, when we sin; He asks us to be better. He gives us a way to be better. So, like Christ, we must love and we must listen. But, we must also call out hatred and injustice and bigotry and ignorance when it exists.

We love, and we fight for light.

Acknowledgement
To fight for the light means we must acknowledge that darkness exists. It is not enough to say let’s just be kind to one another. To do so without acknowledging the ugly is more harmful than good. To do so implies the privilege to ignore realities that so many of us have lived for generations. We must be honest. And we can do it with love.

It means acknowledging that yes, many of the white people in middle America feel abandoned and betrayed by government. That people have lost their trust in a government controlled by money and business and lobbying. It means recognizing that most of us feel the same way and want to see change. It also means acknowledging that every marginalized community has always been treated this way and worse. And, regardless of economic circumstance or location, white people still have more power.

It means acknowledging that though there are other factors involved in peoples’ voting decisions, consciously or not, race was absolutely an issue.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-12-22-44-pm
CNN exit polls

It means acknowledging that the person elected to our highest office represents big money and big business and an impunity that harms our democracy and values. That this man rallied his supporters despite a documented background in direct opposition to many of their concerns and needs. It means acknowledging that his narrative was created through rhetoric and bigotry and lies too countless to mention.

It means acknowledging that a man who ran a campaign founded on racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, white nationalism, bullying, fear and lies had the support of enough Americans to be elected to the White House.

It means acknowledging that while not everyone who voted for Trump is overtly hateful or racist – and that many voted for him reluctantly to support political agendas – some are. And they have been given permission to become more vocal and public in their hatred. It has already begun. It means acknowledging that those who voted for Trump, but who professed not to agree with his messaging were nevertheless willing to overlook, accept and support it with their ballots. It means that nearly half the voters in this country willingly chose to perpetuate racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia and discrimination. It also means they can say they weren’t supporting those things – because for them, those are just ideas, not active threats. But regardless of how they justify it, the overall results endorse bigotry.

It means acknowledging that while some people have the privilege of claiming this is just about politics, for marginalized communities – people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, disabled people, women, Muslims, immigrants – this goes much deeper. This is about humanity and survival and life.

It means recognizing that for us, the fear is real. The trauma is real. The terror is real. This is not leftist political fear-mongering or over-exaggeration. This is a genuine response to Trump’s threats and words and actions. Just listen to the children. Listen to the teachers who had to go into classrooms Wednesday morning to talk with youth filled with terror. Pay attention to the things that have already started happening, even in liberal strongholds. It is a response to a legitimization of white nationalism. To the silencing of women and the acceptance of sexual assault. To the vitriol against Muslims and immigrants. It is knowing history and fearing its repetition.

It means learning about reconstruction, Jim Crow, eugenics, the Chinese Exclusion Act, DAPL, indigenous history, Tuskegee, and farm workers’ history, just to name a few. It means learning about voter suppression, the resurgence of voter ID laws and this year’s attack on voting rights.

It is about admitting that the ugliness exists, even if the brighter part of our souls wants to believe it doesn’t. It’s about choosing to confront the ugly rather than try to interpret it in a way that makes us feel better. Some people have expressed surprise. Not all of us have lived this privilege of looking away. We invite you to see the world as it has looked from our eyes all along.

I am afraid. I am terrified. I think about internment camps and concentration camps. About medical bills and an environment destroyed. I fear a loss of rights that took years to achieve. I fear a nation pushed backwards fifty years into a hole that will take generations to escape.

I fear. I tremble. I’m angry. But, I won’t wallow here. I will harness my emotions into power.

Empathy
For now, please don’t tell me it will all be okay. One must have a lot of privilege to say it will be okay. Most people saying this are White. Maybe it will be okay for you. And, to be honest, I’m glad about that. At least it will be okay for some.

But, it will not be okay for everyone. No Child Left Behind was not okay for the generation of students forced to practice taking multiple choice tests at the expense of genuine learning. It was not okay for students who never got art or music or physical education in schools. It will continue to have lasting effects on individual lives, schools and society for generations to come. The economic collapse of 2008 was not okay for people who lost homes, lost savings, lost jobs, lost everything. Maybe you were able to choose a neighborhood or pay for a school that provided a progressive education and more opportunities. Maybe you had enough of a buffer to survive and even benefit from others’ economic tragedy. But not everyone had that choice.

It will not be okay for the families who are torn apart. It will not be okay for the refugees who are turned away. It will not be okay for young people who will be ripped from schools and jobs because they were brought to our country as children. It will not be okay for people threatened by or hurt by violence. This is literally a matter of life and death for some. It will not be okay if millions of people lose their health insurance. It will not be okay if our economy collapses. Maybe you will be able to weather that storm – but remember the privileges that helped you get where you are. Not everyone has those.

It will not be okay for anyone if our planet and our environment are destroyed. No one has the privilege of avoiding those effects.

This is how I feel today. Maybe many of these things are fears that will never find fruition. I hope so. I hope the man who campaigned is a different leader than the person he presented as a businessman and campaign figure. As Hillary reminded us, we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. But, I am more than a little skeptical.

Don’t tell me things will be okay. Don’t ask me to keep you comfortable. Listen and tell me, we will get through this. Because we will get through this implies difficulty; it implies perseverance and hard work and action. Things won’t be okay unless we plan and prepare for the changes that may come, until we acknowledge the real and lasting effects they will have. Until we work through things together.

img_7632
We will look up toward hope and light.

Hope
Still, I have hope. There are still so many reasons to hope.

I have hope in my husband, who has the courage to share his opinions publicly despite hurtful responses from beloved extended family members. I have hope in former students who voted for the first time, got out the vote in Philly, studied to be informed decision makers and protested in the streets. I have hope in Pantsuit Nation, whose stories and posts have been inspiring and moving. I have hope in the people who reached out to me today, in the hugs and communities that are being galvanized toward action. I have hope in the group of Mormons I talked with last night at a book-signing event – faithful men and women who are devastated, empowered and willing to act.

I have hope and tremendous pride in a California who voted forward as the nation turned backward. I have hope that we will again be the rebel state leading the country back into the future.

I have hope because Hillary won the popular vote. I have hope knowing the majority of voting citizens did not choose the ideologies and rhetoric of division strewn by Trump.

I have hope that yesterday’s election will catalyze action among those who have been complacent. I have hope that people will be motivated to share opinions they have previously held close for fear of judgment or offense. I have hope people will realize these fears are what prevent us from generating dialogue toward change.

I have hope because, as Theodore Parker once wrote, history shows that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is painful and slow, but it always does in the end.

I have hope that the emotions of the moment will turn into committed actions over time.

As for me, I will keep writing. I will sign petitions. I will go to protests and donate money. I will fight DAPL and stay informed about issues. I will vote in every election and write to elected officials. I will make my home a refuge for those that need one. When my home fills up, I will make room elsewhere. I will teach my children.

I will practice civil disobedience. As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

I will not sit idly by to watch as others fight on. I will fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. All of our voices and our actions matter more than ever.

Be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great. – Doctrine and Covenants 64:33

Angel Babies

“Oh, Joanna.”

“The baby stopped growing at five weeks. There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”

Andy and I stared at the ultrasound screen, searching for hope. But there was nothing. The strangest part is we were devastated, but we weren’t surprised. Instead of being filled with joy about my pregnancy, I had been consumed with worry and fear for eight weeks. I couldn’t sleep at night. When my doctor told us the news, it almost made sense.

I couldn’t stop the train of self-blame running through my mind. Was it something I ate? The thyroid test I put off too long? A work out I tried? Stress? Weak prayers?

Fear and doubt followed soon after. Would I be able to have more children?

There were bouts of total calm and random attacks of uncontrollable crying. There were waves of gratitude. For Carter. For Andy. For an early not late-term miscarriage. For those who prayed for our family. For Christ and the comforting touch of the Spirit.

The miscarriage happened when I was at the EPAPA graduation, celebrating with former students and colleagues. Between speeches, hugs, pictures and laughter, I ran to the bathroom every few minutes as my body bled. Though the clash of conflicting feelings was jarring, this timing felt like a tremendous blessing.

The EPAPA community of students, parents and teachers became my second family when I worked there. My students will always be my babies – even if they think they’re so grown –  and my colleagues became my closest friends. Graduation was a reuniting of family members in a celebration of dreams fulfilled. The love and joy of the occasion lifted my heart and spirits. I was genuinely happy. It’s crazy, but having a miscarriage during graduation gave me the love, hope and strength to endure my heartbreak. God truly works in mysterious – and perfect – ways.

He blessed Andy and me in other ways as well.

When Carter was a newborn, he used to smile and babble up into the corners of our room, gazing intently at nothing my eyes could see. I think he was talking with angels.

A few weeks before the devastating doctor’s appointment, Andy and I lay in bed trying to put Carter to sleep, but Carter goofballed around. At one point, he played at our feet laughing hysterically and babbling toward the corner of our bedroom. Andy and I laughed, flabbergasted because we had done nothing funny. Carter Bao Bao, I remember asking him, Are you playing with your baby brother? He’ll be here with you soon.

IMG_6568
Carter told dad the big news with his Big Brother shoes. We will save them with hope it will happen one day.
I believe we live as spirit beings before we are born to gain our physical bodies. I felt sure that the baby’s spirit had come down to pay his big brother a visit.

After the miscarriage, I couldn’t stop thinking about this bedtime moment. Was it the baby coming to say hi, I’ll be with you soon? Or was the baby saying goodbye, see you in heaven? Had his spirit entered the embryo developing inside me? Did the baby I lost have a spirit? Or was it just a collection of dividing cells?

One day, Andy hugged me and whispered, Our baby’s spirit didn’t come down yet. We didn’t lose one of our children. A feeling of peace washed over me. I knew he was right.

And like that, I began to heal and feel hope again.

I know I have a Father in Heaven who watches out for me. He sends me angels. I have Carter. I have Andy. I have family and friends who lift me with love. I have so many people to love. Even in times of deep pain, God finds ways to ease the burdens and give me peace.

I hope that my angel babies are still up there waiting to come down to join my family. They will come when the time is right.

Leaping Over the Edge

IMG_2777

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
And they flew.
-Christopher Logue

I quit my job this week. I’ve been planning to resign for over three months now, but had not felt inspired to do it until this past Monday. It’s been a journey, to say the least. But after fasting and praying this past weekend, I went to work on Monday and the answer was made clear. After my morning meeting, I felt prompted to read my scriptures where I had left off, so I found a private place to study. The Lord confirmed my morning prompting in Ether 12:7. I felt Him telling me, “wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of [Joanna] out of the land of [Reset], that he might be merciful unto the seed of [Joanna] that they should perish not.”

I’m leading you out. Don’t be afraid to follow me.

So I drafted my resignation letter and quit my job. There are a lot of logical reasons I should be worried and sad, but instead I feel free. A burden is lifted. I feel hope. I feel whole. I feel my world opening up and opportunity ahead of me. I feel joy.

This leap over the edge is one that seems to go against reason, but it’s because we don’t see as He sees and don’t know what He knows. Am I crazy to quit a job before I have another one lined up? Everything wants to scream a big fat YES, YOU STUPID COW! But, revelation tells me, do it now, follow me, trust in me. This is right.

And maybe just saying that seems crazy to some. But, I know revelation is real like I know that I breathe. I know I have a Father in heaven who loves me, hears my prayers and is guiding my life. He has led me step by step on this most recent journey. He is holding my hand and shining a light just ahead of each footstep to show me the way. I am walking a journey of prayer, uncertainty, and seeking punctuated by moments of absolute clarity in which I understand the Lord’s will and make a choice I know is right. The peaceful confirmation that follows is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world.

Tomorrow is my last day at what I thought would be my dream job. Now, I am running full speed and trampolining over the edge. I can feel the wind below me, lifting me. There is tremendous learning behind me and a horizon of opportunity and growth ahead. I feel like laughing. The Lord will give me wings to fly.

I’m ready.