Archive of ‘Civil Rights’ category

Adventures With My Racist Bus Driver

mean bus driverI was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I looked down at the somewhat less than stylish clothes I was able to pick up from T.J. Maxx with the small budget my parents had set us aside for “back to school”, knowing that whatever I had just wasn’t going to cut it. I had watched “Pretty in Pink.” I knew what I was in for.

It was the early nineties and it was my first day of school at Rutgers Prep, a stark departure from the public high school most of my friends would be attending. I had applied for an academic scholarship and after multiple rounds of tests and behavioral interviews – wonder of all wonders – I won a spot at the school. My parents wouldn’t have to pay any tuition for my time there, as long as I maintained my grades, but they would have to carry the burden of buying all my textbooks and buying me a whole new prep school ready wardrobe.

They kept their first half of the bargain, I’ll give them that. The wardrobe idea never really gelled with them. Let’s just say that I was not prepared for the J.Crew and Land’s End clad wardrobes of my classmates. This girl was no longer in Kansas.

I knew that one of the biggest changes for me was that I was going to get picked up every day at my house on a bus that would ultimately deliver me to school which was roughly an hour away. I waited for the bus to arrive at my house, wondering what kinds of new friends I would be making.

As the short bus made it’s way up my driveway, I waited eagerly with a bright smile for the door to open, ready to greet my new friends. The door swung open and I took my first step onto that bus, not knowing exactly what I was in for.

A bleached blonde with a heavy fake tan sat in the driver’s seat smacking her large wad of gum. She looked me over a few times, up and down, taking in my inventory of my not so classy skirt I got on the clearance rack at K-Mart. I bet she was wondering if she had one too.

I tried to maintain eye contact with her throughout her intense scrutiny of me, but it was a little discombobulating with all of her shiny layers of teal blue eyeliner and matching mascara.

She pulled out her pad, “Ok, so, which one are you?” Her accent bled Jersey. I don’t know what that means, but I imagined it involved spaghetti sauce.

“I’m Kiran.”

“Kir-WHAT?!” She asked/yelled in what I would later learn was just her way.

“Kiran. Like the Japanese beer.” She looked at me blankly. Yeah she probably didn’t like too many international brews was my guess. But I tried anyway, “Oh, it’s Kirin, Kirin, Kirin, when you’re beerin’, beerin’, beerin’.”

She looked blankly at me and I felt a little deflated that she did not know this song, after all something about her blue eyeliner and the raspiness of that voice made me sure that she liked her beer.

I turned around to take my seat. Since the school went from K – 12, there were kids of all ages on the bus. I found a single two seater and was about to breathe a sigh of relief as if I had passed some test, when she turned back to me and said, “Honey, my name is Sheryl. And don’t you forget it.” With a flash of what smelled like Charlie perfume, she spun her head back to front position.

I was unsure why I would forget it, but I had a feeling that Sheryl had a whole lexicon of language that I would become familiar with.

There was a boy on the bus named Jeremy who had been going to Rutgers Prep for a long time. He was quite wealthy and came from a different social strata than I did which he liked to point out whenever he could. Jeremy was one of those guys who was just a natural asshole when he was younger. The kind of guy who always knew who felt weak and how to demoralize that person. I am sure (ish?) that he is a lovely person now. But back then he was kind of a douchebag.

Sheryl of the bleached blonde hair and Jeremy struck up a relationship almost immediately. They may have been separated by all sorts of socio-economic boundaries, but they had one thing in common. They were jackasses. They could smell and abuse fear in a way that only the most alpha bullies can.

I recall one day, Sheryl having a really loud conversation with Jeremy. She sounded drunk, but I don’t think she ever was. She just said such stupid shit sometimes that you just kinda hoped she might be drunk? At least for her own sake, if not for all the children she was driving all over Central Jersey.

“You know what I like about you Jeremy?” Sheryl asked. “Even though you’re Jewish…”

I cringed inwardly. In my limited experience, I knew that usually when one starts out a sentence this way, it does not end well.

“…well, you’re just different. I mean, you’re a Jew and all. But you’re not like a really, Jewy-Jew. I can’t freaking stand Jewey Jews. They’re almost bad as the Hindis and the Goddamn Islamicists.”

Since I was pretty sure from pictures that Sheryl had shown us of her husband, that he could have been a Skinhead, I kept my own thoughts to myself on that matter.

Sheryl could run hot. She could run cold. She could pick you up with the biggest smile on her face or she could pick you up and tell you to shut up, “because I’m on the rag and I’m hemorrhaging out a Cabbage Patch doll here.”

The younger kids tried not to look too scared.

One day, Sheryl was feeling nostalgic and wanted to play us some of her favorite songs on the long ride to Rutgers Prep. I think the playlist that day went something like this:

1. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

2. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

3. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

4. Hot for Teacher – Van Halen

5. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

6. Paradise by the Dashboard Lights – Meatloaf

The only reason we were even able to get a little Meatloaf was because one of us pointed out that it was really weird that one of the kindergarteners seemed to know all the words to “Stroke Me.”

Sheryl wasn’t always all bad. She’d smile so wide with her bubble gum pink glossed lips and remind you that there was warmth in her. Like the time when I was feeling bad about a recent haircut I got and Sheryl tried to cheer me up.

“Look, I mean, I ain’t gonna fuckin’ lie to ya. It looks like shit. But it will grow back. And besides! You’re pretty for an Indian. Most Indians I know are butt ugly! But, you got it going on girl!”

“I mean, look at you,” She expanded. “You don’t wear no dot on your head. And I mean, what is that? Is that dot surgically implanted on your mom’s head or something? Damn, fuck, I bet that hurts!”

One day she saw my older brother, who was temporarily living with us at the time, running. “Damn, Kiran. You’re brother is pretty cute. I don’t see many Indian guys I would do. But your brother – um hmm.”

I tried not to puke in my mouth as Jeremy, the not so Jew-ey Jew laughed along with Sheryl.

Meanwhile, back at home, my parents started wondering why I had started cursing like a sailor. The word “fuck” seemed to enter my language without any prompting, as in, “Would you pass me the fucking mayonnaise?” This seemed odd to them since this new behavior seemed to coincide exactly with when I started going to private school. After all, wasn’t private school supposed to create a safer environment for me?

Over the year, Sheryl would come up with some real gems on her thoughts on race in America.

Like, when the one hit wonder, Gerardo, came out with the song “Rico Suave.”

“He is so fucking hot. I mean, he’s a Puerto Rican but he’s not too, ‘Spick-y’ if you know what I mean.”

Like when she saw my mom wearing a sari.

“Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. I’m down with that shit. I could be down with wearing one of those rags wrapped around me as long as nobody made me tie a turban to my head.”

One might wonder why nobody complained to their parents or to the school. After all, we were late to school every day. Sheryl would sometimes drive around in circles if a song she liked came on as we got closer to school.

“You all are cool with this, right?” she would bark at us, giving us the blue eye-lined stink eye.

“Oh, we’re fine.” We would nod along.

The truth was, we were all scared shitless of Sheryl. Not only was she our chain smoking, shit talking, bullying, racist bus driver, but she knew where we all lived. The combination somehow seemed lethal.

I had started dreading the thought of going to school every day. My adjustment at Rutgers Prep was going a lot better than I thought it would. I stumbled every once in a while since Jeremy wasn’t the only entitled asshole in the place. But for the most part, I had started making friends and loved my teachers.

The school was fine. It was great, actually. It was sitting on that bus for two hours every day that scared the living daylights out of me.

And unbeknownst to me, the ride with Sheryl was only just beginning.

More on this adventure in my next blog post.

Lean into Glass Ceilings: Letter to My Daughter


469900_10150901616128562_1456999965_oDear Shaila,

I have always leaned in. Long before Sheryl Sandberg penned the book about how women could excel in the workplace without giving into the double standards. I was leaning in. Before Sandburg espoused about the challenge that so often impact women as we approach the duality of balancing motherhood with our careers, I was leaning in.

Sure, I didn’t know it. I just thought I had bad posture. But I was leaning in so far forward that I’m surprised I didn’t fall smack on my face. To be fair, that only happened a few times in college and it was because alcohol was present when I was leaning. So the lesson learned is do not drink unless you are sitting in a recliner or at least an upright chair.

Really, the lesson is just don’t drink.

Ok. Ok. You can have Sprite.

Without understanding at the core what was driving me, I sought perfection in all that I did. I wanted to be the first kid to learn the times table by heart. I wanted to be the fastest girl in my class. I wanted to beat the boys. At everything. I wanted to get the best grades in the class. I wanted to make it to the spelling bee for my school every year. I wanted…

I just wanted. To be the best, the brightest, the hardest working and while I may not have understood it deeply at the time, I wanted to be all those things while also earning respect and feeling appreciated.

Those things mattered to me.

They mattered to me when I won a competitive academic scholarship into one of the best private high schools in New Jersey. They mattered to me when I made the decision to rescind my scholarship a year later because I was too much of a public school student at heart.

They mattered to me when I spent laborious hours trying to transform myself from a mediocre jogger into a legitimate runner, one who would later be a Captain of the Cross Country team in High School.

They mattered to me when I worked my little hiny off in High School (Yes, little. I was doing a lot of cardio, see above) to fulfill my dream of going to my reach college, The University of Virginia. All the arduous hours I spent practicing for the SAT and years of passionately reading and studying had helped me pave that road.

Leaning in mattered to me during the trials and tribulations of college, but perhaps during this time in my life, I will concede that I relaxed a little and learned for the first time that I could also lean back. That I could breathe a little. That I wasn’t meant to be an automaton striving for the next best thing always. I think the fact that I did start drinking and also dating when I went to college may have had something to do with my more relaxed stance on leaning. I mean, I still leaned, but maybe it was more like a slouch?

Again, lesson learned. Don’t drink. Also, you can slouch sometimes, but not with boys.

That brief respite was just that though – a respite. The leaning in began aggressively again after University as I paved a way for myself in technology consulting when Accenture first opened its doors to me after college. I found myself working my way up the corporate ladder – sometimes making small jumps and other times, large leaps. I changed companies a few times, but I was always hell bent on growing.

I was leaning in so far that I was like a downhill skier. I think you would have been proud. Especially since Mommy can’t ski!

Over the course of the years, I got married, because that’s just what you did. Don’t get me wrong, I love your father very much. But the idea that I could be “complete” in some way without being married was just not how it was generally done.

So me and your daddy went all “Jerry Maguire” (One day you will understand. There is some mild nudity so you will have to wait) and “completed” each other. But I quickly realized I wasn’t complete. I was in a job that I was no longer going to grow in and so I decided to take a leap of faith and join a burgeoning start up.

I worked my butt off, to put it bluntly, my dear. Because you and Nico were not yet here, I could work some crazy hours and travel to Europe for last minute meetings at the drop of a hat. (Or Dallas. Yeah, most of the time Dallas.) During this time, I found myself on a fast path to growth that further continued after my company was acquired multiple times.

You came along and then your brother. Sure, things changed. Of course – they had to. But we managed and got the help we needed while both your father and I pursued the opportunities we felt were best for us and you guys.

Then came the BOOM. In 2011, something happened to me professionally which threw me for a massive loop. Suddenly, my fast track path had a roadblock thrown in the way and I could do nothing to move it. I felt powerless and not at all the the strong woman I had always been, nothing like the girl who used to beat boys at the 100 yard dash in the playground.

Professionally, I retreated a little. I took some time to lean back and evaluate what I needed and what I was looking for. I briefly took a role at a software company as the Director of Consulting, only to realize that the company didn’t just want me to proverbially lean in – they wanted me to work myself to death in the process and forget the fact that I had you and Nico at home. I was there very briefly, but just to give you an idea, within a five week period, I had earned around 30,000 miles on United Airlines. And not the kind of miles you earn by spending money.

I couldn’t function like that. That wasn’t leaning in – that was just losing me. And you guys.

(They also just weren’t very nice. One day, we’ll talk about how important it is for you to be kind to people if you manage them. Yes, lean in all you want, but never do it by treading on those around you. Kindness matters, even at work.)

I shortly thereafter found my footing again and then Sheryl Sandberg wrote that gosh darn, Lean In book and I knew I couldn’t just throw away the years and years of consulting, software and management experience that I had amassed.

So I rejoined corporate America, working for a company where many knew me, where I was known for delivering excellent work and had worked closely with members of the leadership team.

And then a funny thing happened, Shaila. Well, not funny like “ha ha.” More funny like, WTF? (Just so you know, that means “Why’s That Funny?”).

I found that no matter how hard I tried to lean in, that for the first time in my life, I could feel very firm hands pushing me upright again. Almost pushing me to lean back. Encouraging me to not look at the path forward but to be happy with where I was and maybe even take some steps back.

And I reached up in the air and for the first time in my life, I felt it.

Knock, knock.

Are you GD kidding me? (GD stands for “Good Dog”).

The glass ceiling. The one I’d heard so much about but never really encountered myself. There it was, taunting me with its steadfast smugness while I watched others being escorted around its enclosures.

The thing was, Shaila, I was still that girl in elementary school who wanted to be it all. The one who wanted to achieve great things and dream as big as my dreams would allow me to.

I felt like for the first time in my life, I was being told that my dreams were too big for me. And that I should dream smaller.

It hurt me, Shaila. I felt demoralized in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I started to doubt who I was and what I was capable of. The realization that there was no longer a seat at the table for me, the one that Sheryl tells us to so boldly take, stung. I couldn’t sleep at night and it really impacted my emotional well-being.

I guess what I’m getting at is this. There may come a time in your life when all you want to do is lean in. You may be fully revved up and ready to go. You may have all the experience, all the tools and all the talent you need and yet …

When you lean in to push that door open, it may remain locked. And you’ll be all like, “That miserable SOB!” (That means “Sister or Brother”).

Here’s what I want you to do. Never forget who you are. Never for one second. Be the girl who leans in and pound and pound on that door till it opens for you. Don’t worry if you’re knocking too loud. Sometimes, we women have to use our voices to be heard above all the other BS we’re being told. (BS means “Baloney Sandwiches”. Baloney is a processed meat. We’ll discuss another day).

And if you keep knocking and nobody lets you in? Well, darling. It’s not your door. That’s all there is to it.

I don’t know whether you will decide to lean in on motherhood and stay at home with your children and give them some of the things that I was unable to give you in my desire to stay the professional course. But if you do decide to go back to the workplace, remember the following:

If you want something badly enough, you will most likely have to fight for it. Leaning in is not always going to give you what you need.

No matter how badly you might want something, there is always another path forward. You can’t lean in to stone. Course correct and find another path where people will support you and embrace your dreams.

If you knock on that door and it doesn’t open, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something for you on the other side. It just means you picked the wrong door.

Always carry yourself with integrity and kindness. At the end of the day, no promotion matters more than your character.

Glass ceilings were meant to be broken.

I know this was long, but I hope one day it means something to you when you’re ready to understand it.



Simply Om

Dear Friends,

For a while, I’ve been talking about starting a yoga inspired jewelry company called Simply Om. I’ve had the idea for a long time – I kept thinking it was interesting how many people did yoga and didn’t know what the word “Namaste” meant.

I’ve written this before, so bear with me if you’ve seen it already.

Namaste, loosely translated, means the divine in me sees and honors the divine in you.

I sat on the idea for a while. Wouldn’t it be great to bring this concept, the idea behind namaste, to people in some way? Maybe, through fashion? Not just that, but in a way that was empowering, that was authentic, that gave back to those in need in some way.

As you can tell, I had pretty lofty dreams.

But then, it got even more complicated.

As I started figuring out how I was going to source this journey, I began to realize that it wasn’t just about selling something with a message. It was about ensuring the creation of what I was selling had a message too. I realized that the manufacturing of jewelry often has a not so beautiful side of it, to put it mildly. A side where child labor, unfair wages and unsafe working conditions can be really prevalent.

“Well, that sucks,” I thought. I was starting to realize there was nothing “simple” about creating Simply Om at all. The word “Om” in Sanskrit is associated to consciousness. Where was the consciousness in potentially knowing this jewelry was from a sweatshop somewhere in Bangladesh or Thailand?

And so I started doing research and just a whole lot of digging around fair trade into the early hours of the morning. And what I discovered is that there are amazing brands that are emerging in this world that are trying to help people in hugely oppressed situations, both economically and sometimes, socially.

Often, these two things go hand in hand.

Most of these brands are working directly with women to empower them. While they all have different missions – at the heart of it is the belief that if you empower a woman and give her a future, by training her and giving her an opportunity to sustain herself in an otherwise bleak situation, she will not have to beg. She will not have to turn to prostitution to feed her children. She can take care of herself with the right healthcare access and give her children the opportunity to thrive.

When I ask you to check Simply Om out and spread the word, it is not about pity for these people. It is because I love what they have created, with all of my heart. And I will do what I can to help spread the word, because I do believe that there are ways we can shop NOW that can pave the way for enormous social change.

People say you can’t change the world.

I disagree.  Simply Om is a product of the collective belief that we CAN.

The jewelry is a link to these women and their lives. The pieces made in Ethiopia out of recycled gun casings by HIV positive women whose only option might be to beg. These pieces are beyond words when you see them and wear them. They are stunning. But I think what’s more stunning is knowing what they mean. The many colorful, bright and bold pieces we carry made by women in Uganda out of 100% recycled paper. They signify the importance of sustainability – not just for our planet, but our fellow humans who are full of talent and hope, but often without opportunity.

This is just the beginning. I have a lot more site to build, a lot more awareness I’d like to create and a lot more jewelry design teams & brands I’d like to partner with.

In the meantime, thank you helping me get here. If you could help spread this message and hit share, I would be so grateful.



P.S. Here are some pictures which can all be found on the site. But just in case you miss them…

hedieh and hana small

The bracelet and necklace above are a combination of silver and gold beads made out of recycled gun casings. They are so intricately made and are fabulous.

rowena face on acai

This beautiful necklace and bracelet wrap comes in lots of bright colors for the summer. They are made in Ecuador with Acai berries from the rainforest, and gold beads.

Hedieh blue dress acai necklace and bracelet edits

Acai Berries and Pambil Seeds – all from the Rainforest. Because of the high demand of these beads and seeds, they are actually creating a greater effort to preserve the rainforest.


heather in steel

 This bib necklace is made out of Tagua Seeds from the rainforest and have been dyed to make amazing statement pieces in all sorts of colors.

P.P.S.  Some of you have asked who these gorgeous women are – the first is Hedieh – she is my incredibly talented hairstylist. She is in pictures 1 & 3. In picture 4 is Heather, our Au Pair from Wales. You might know her as the girl who talks to dead people. And the lovely redhead is Rowena, Heather’s friend who was visiting from Wales.

So, yes. All the models on the site are friends. Yes. I have good looking friends. Not intentionally in an Abercrombie kind of way, but I am fortunate they, along with their nice cheekbones, have supported me!

Closer to AMAZING

“I’m trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
 And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all”

Some of you know this about me. I love music. (Look at the top menu bar. It takes up about half of the drop downs). It is one of my greatest passions and has been since I was a child. Musical influences have had a huge impact on my life.

Music has been love and warmth when I felt I had none in my life.

Music has been inspiration when my mind and heart didn’t know which way to go.

Music lifted my soul like love, or what I thought was love, often couldn’t.

I discovered the Indigo Girls when I was in high school. They were an anchor for me in a time in my life where I couldn’t even find my way back to shore. They centered me, grounded me, and opened my eyes to what was missing in my own life.

I don’t think I understood the enormity of what the Indigo Girls were saying when I first heard “Closer to Fine” in high school decades ago. Perhaps if I had, I would have realized that I wasn’t so alone, that there were people who were dealing and coping and getting by.

And in the end, it’s only life after all.


Amy and Emily from “The Indigo Girls” are without a doubt two of the most influential musicians in my life. While I always loved the Indigo Girls, it was in my mid twenties that I really turned to them. I had come out of a bad breakup and was a little worse for the wear.  After begging, and Begging and BEGGING and B!E!G!G!G!I!N!G! my ex to take me back (he didn’t, but I wasn’t really asking or anything) and then telling him I hated him (I didn’t, but I DID, but I didn’t, ya know?) and then drinking and crying to repeat this vicious cycle, I decided I needed to well…

Maybe find a hobby.

So I did what I knew. I put on my running shoes and I ran.

And ran.

But it wasn’t enough and I just wasn’t having my “Forrest Gump” moment. I needed something else. Something other than the following options which I had exhausted and had done little for me:

  • I had to stop calling my ex and calling him bad names while pleading with him to come back to me. I quickly realized that this was bad form. Not pathetic, exactly. More like, extremely pathetic.

There’s Some Scary at Scary Mommy

I wrote a post yesterday about how I feel about recent gun violence in America. It’s over at Scary Mommy today. I want to make a few points clear:

1) My post does NOT call for the disarmament of Americans.

2) My reference to technology is to bring the discussion back to the point of perspective. We keep going back to the 2nd Amendment as if it is infallible or impossible to believe that it needs to be revisited. I am not suggesting the revocation of the law, but for us to evaluate what that means under the context in which we live.

3) Yes, driving a car without a license is illegal in all states, despite the Twitter storm that tried to tell me otherwise. For the guys who were on my back yesterday trolling the guncontrol hashtag on Twitter, if you have found some nuanced way under some provisional law where you can operate a vehicle without a license and not have the vehicle registered, congratulations. Those are not the guidelines most Americans live under.

And I don’t know many cops who would pull someone over and say, “Oh, you don’t have a license? Don’t worry. I just need your Passport. You only need a license to buy booze anyway.

4) This post does not in any way imply that we DON’T have a mental health situation on our hands in America. Proper mental health care, support and evaluation are a necessary component to a healthy society. We have a LOT of problems in America that contribute to crime. This post is strictly talking about what kind of regulation and enforcement should be in place around guns.

5) I believe that people should have the right to own guns for self-defense, protection and hunting. That is not being contested. What I am asking you to do is to set aside the guns for a moment and ask what the limits are to keep society safe and civilized. To keep our children safe. If you really believe that arming every American is the answer, I ask you to tell me what your vision is for this country. For our children.

Tell me with a straight face that you believe that’s what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

If anyone tells me that Thomas Jefferson’s vision was for us to applaud the idea of a Rambo nation in America, that person is clearly not familiar with anything about TJ, the founder of my Alma Mater, UVA.

6) Since Newtown, I have heard people call the massacre a “ploy” by the Federal government. I have seen a man who saved children that day being called an actor and a pedophile by gun control advocates. I have seen parents grieve but I feel like their grief is tarnished by those who are so extreme to call this a conspiracy.

I mean, I can’t even believe I have to write this, it’s so completely ridiculous.

I don’t know much about you people, but I have feeling a lot of you are part of the discussion over at Scary Mommy.

Thank you for confirming what I have thought.

I really should be scared. We all should.

My post was written with the knowledge that even if I just asked why we don’t call for greater regulation and enforcement around gun laws, that I would get a lot of opposition. That my words might be twisted or misinterpreted.

It happens.

Excuse me. It happened.

You’re either here because you agree. Or you’re here because you have issue with my sentiments.

In either case, thank you for visiting.

Before you comment I ask you to read this incredibly important piece. Wrestling With Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing. It’s a hard piece to read. One person in the article said, “I didn’t need to read that” about the kind of detail that was shared about what the guns actually physically did to the kids in Newtown. And what their bodies looked like when the parents wanted to cradle them in their arms.

We can handle the inconvenience of reading that. Just like those children had the horrifying inconvenience of living that and like their tormented parents have to remember after seeing that.

Every American needs to know what that means before they weigh in.


Like My Gake?!

Most of you have probably seen this picture by now, which is making its rounds online. It’s a  young woman’s coming out letter to her parents. The young woman, Laurel  also leaves a cake for her family to sweeten the message.

The message reads:

Good morning parents,

I’m gay. I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. I thought doing it this way would be a piece of cake. I hope you still love me. I mean, it’s hard not to love someone who baked you a cake.

All my friends know and still love me. Your acceptance would be the icing on the cake.

I hope you, much like this cake, are not in tiers.

I hope we can look back at this and say, “boy, this one really takes the cake.”

It gets batter.



(Sorry for so many puns)

I posted this on my Facebook wall as soon as I saw it. Because I think it’s brilliant. It’s funny.

It’s vulnerable.

And I have wondered after posting this how Laurel’s parents received the message. What approach did they take when they heard the news?

And of course, how the cake tasted.

Approach One – Love it and Embrace Her for ALL of it.

It’s obvious from the letter that Laurel has a great sense of humor. I wonder if her parents were the ones who imparted Laurel with their humor and spirit. Did they laugh and throw their arms around her? Grab a slice of cake and tell her how proud they are of her, no matter what? And, how did she know they had been craving cake?

Approach Two – Greater Reservations – Need Time to Process

Or…. did they look at each other in shock, the father absentmindedly going through the normal routine of brewing the coffee while the  mother read the letter again, licking some frosting off  her finger. Did they take a slice of the cake to the table with their coffee before they sat down and held each others’ hands to talk about the message?

To talk about what all of it means.

That response would be okay too. Not everyone would be jumping up and down in the air about a declaration like this. Some parents need time to process this.

When did Laurel know?

How long has she been trying to tell them?

They might need time to figure out how this changes their expectations of things. To understand how they need to support their child.

To maybe even grieve a little.

Why grieve?

Because that mother may have had an idea since Laurel was born that she would have a traditional wedding. That she would have a traditional family. That she would one day be a grandparent to Laurel’s beautiful children from her husband.

And while some of those things can still happen, what she envisioned won’t ever align to what will play out in reality. So it’s important to acknowledge and understand that she might need that time.

Approach 3 – Don’t Accept

And maybe, just maybe. Did one of the parents look at the cake and throw it across the room while the other parent looked at the note and say, “You thought you would buy us a cake to tell us that you’re a goddamn lesbian? What the hell kind of message is that to give to your parents? With a Duncan Hines cake?”

And I am really hopeful that Laurel did not see that kind of reaction.

What Approach Would I Take?

So here’s where I am going. I don’t know what happened in Laurel’s house. I pray that her family is loving and supportive and will do everything they can to make sure she knows that their love for her does not changes.

If my kids left me that cake? I would probably cry. Tears of joy and love and happiness that they feel they have enough support from their parents to know that we will always love them. I would be ecstatic. Even if I don’t like cake. I would eat every calorie in that cake.

I have always said I will embrace my children, no matter what their sexuality is. Things I worry about as a mother are my children falling down the wrong path at some point in life. I worry not about the sex of the partner they choose – but the quality of partner that they choose. No matter what, I just want them to find love in the truest way with someone who loves them back as selflessly as I know my own kids will love.

There are so many things I want for my kids in this life, but ultimately, it’s their happiness that matters the most to me. Their fulfillment.

So I guess the question is, how would you respond if a child came out to you this way?

For now I am off to bed. But when I wake, let them eat cake!


Stop. Drop. And Play Dead.

The other day (okay, a few weeks ago), I was working out at the gym, taking a break between sets during an intense leg workout. Well, let’s be honest. It was a leg workout, made intense by the fact that it involved work.

I don’t know what triggered the thought, but as I finished taking a sip from my water bottle, I remember thinking to myself,

“If a shooter were to walk in right now and start shooting up this place, would I have anywhere to hide? Where is the emergency exit? Do I know how to play dead?”

Not so bizarre. Not anymore.

I find myself thinking about those things more and more these days. I don’t think it’s hubris – I’ve never been one to be paranoid about protecting my life. I will jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, go on the most daredevil, heart-pounding roller-coaster and can go on a passionate carbohydrate binge that would have me banned from South Beach forever.

When I was in elementary school, we did fire and safety drills all the time. Every year, the firemen would come in and reiterate the same message about how the real dangers of fire were not in the flames, initially, but in the fumes.

“Stop! Drop! And ROLL!” We were taught and we would have to demonstrate one by one that we knew how to do the roll.

“Roll away from the smoke!” The firemen would indicate where the fake smoke was coming from.

And we would have to get on the floor and roll down the hallway or the pavement, with our arms pressed against our sides.

And now I wonder if I am supposed to be teaching my children how to play, “Stop. Drop. And play dead” instead.

Reality Check.

I watched the news the day of the Newtown shooting from my office. When I first saw word of the gun shooting online, it had estimated two dead. When I was leaving the office to grab lunch and passed by the TV, my heart dropped when I saw the revised numbers.

A few of my colleagues were standing with me and one of them said, “Yeah, just watch the gun control freaks have a field day with this one.”

My idea of field day is quite different than anything I saw in the news that day or in the following weeks about what happened in Newtown. See, having a field day involves doing things like a 50 yard dash or playing tug of war. Jumping towards a finish line in a potato sack.

It doesn’t involve children being slaughtered to death.

“It’s not guns that kill people!” my co-worker explained. “People kill people.”

Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. People kill people. Usually with guns.

Of course there are other weapons and other means to kill. But that doesn’t mean that anything has the power of an assault weapon of the caliber used in Newtown.

So call me a freak. But first call me an American.

I am an American. Born and raised on this soil, I am proud of my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country. Like most things I love, like my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even myself – I love my country, not with the false belief that it is perfect. I am under no illusions that my country is perfect.

A blind love is never a healthy love, you see.

Being a patriot to this country is not just in honoring those who fight in the name of this country. It’s not standing with a hand on my heart during the pledge or even the fact that I often cry during the National Anthem.

Being a patriot to this country also means acknowledging the imperfections that tarnish the soil that we love. It means acknowledging that what was done to the Native Americans in a quest to drive them away from their homes was a travesty. It means acknowledging the stains of our own intolerance in the Japanese internment camps that were a part of this land.

“This lands was made for you and me.” It’s a beautiful song. But it’s hardly one that we have always sung together.

Being an American patriot means acknowledging that slavery existed in this country even while the Founding Fathers were writing a document that we immortalize with reverence.  There was a time when American fought against American in this land because of the difference in opinion that we could “own” the bodies of other men and women. Our fellow brothers and sisters. It means recognizing that segregation in this country existed until just a few decades ago.

So I’m an American. I love this country but I won’t ignore the flaws of our past and look at anything in our history or any document in our history as beyond questioning.  As unquestionable or perfect in any way.

The Founding Fathers. They were mortals. They wrote the Constitution under the crushing pressure of trying to obtain freedom from England.

They were people who made mistakes. They were people who did not have a crystal ball. They were Renaissance men, the lot of them, yet they had no concept of things like the Industrial Revolution. They never imagined cars. They didn’t ever foresee large vessels that could fly across oceans in the air or do the same things in the deepest recesses of our oceans.

They never saw a television. They never saw a man walk on the moon. They never imagined the mass production and unethical means in which we would harvest our animals. They never had the internet. Or a phone. Or electricity.

They owned muskets. They had harpoons.

Muskets, people.

They never imagined gang wars. They never saw the technology that could create guns that could kill so many people so quickly. They never saw an AK-47 blow someone’s head off. They never imagined the number of civilian deaths, that would take place and grow each year on American soil

I will tell you one thing. They never imagined Columbine. They never imagined Newtown.

“Don’t take away my Second Amendment freedoms!”

Settle down. First of all, let’s stop looking at this as religious scripture. And stop attacking anyone who asks if guns should not be better regulated in this country. Well, if the laws we have are not enforced, then we don’t need more laws. We need enforcement and we need laws that make sense.

I feel like we are sitting at a critical juncture as a country. There will be another shooting. There might be another Newtown. There is just a sense of when, how, where? that I feel smothers us like a blanket.

I just want to know why I feel like the moment I question better regulation, people feel like their rights to own guns are being threatened? Hey, nobody’s saying you can’t hunt. Nobody’s saying you can’t own guns for self-defense. Heck, keep your arsenal for your hypothetical militia.

We have a problem here. An epidemic, if you will. Why is proper licensing of guns not considered acceptable? Why are more stringent licensing practices not being issued?

I keep hearing, “Well people will get guns without licenses!”

Probably. But it will be illegal and they should be penalized under the law. A person cannot legally drive in this country without getting a license. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t driving illegally every day. But that’s no excuse to stop overseeing it.

And why do we do that? Why do we require driver’s licenses? Because we like waiting online at the DMV? Because we like the way we look in the pictures? Does anyone actually like to go through the process of car inspections, vehicle registrations and wasting half a day at the DMV. Every stupid year? For every vehicle you own?

No. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass is what it is. But you do it. And it makes sense.

We do it because we know the power we hold behind the wheel. We know that we can kill, we can destroy, we can maim if we don’t know what we’re doing.

So why then? Why, why would we allow people to own guns without the appropriate training? Without appropriate documentation of what guns are where? And if it’s because we are going to talk about the people needing a way to raise a militia against the government, the people who are raging about wanting to have a right to raise a militia are usually the people I would NEVER want to see raise a militia.

That’s right. You people scare me.

I don’t know what will happen if I am at that gym in a middle of a workout and a gunman comes in raging. I haven’t thought through that yet. But I know that I think about my children every day. And my friends’ children. And my neighbors’ children.

And I’m not ready to teach them to stop, drop and play dead.

Something needs to change.