This is Angel. She lives on the streets of Seattle with her dad. When I met Angel, I told her dad he named her perfectly because she was a real sweetheart. He looked at me without a beat and said, “She is my best friend.”
Last Saturday was my first day volunteering with the Doney Clinic, a free vet clinic for homeless and low-income people to bring their pets. Every other Saturday, two dozen volunteers set up mobile veterinary services and a pet supply donation center in the basement of the Union Gospel Mission Men’s Shelter. Angel and her dad were the first pet-parent couple I met. They were near the front of the line that stretched all the way down and around the block. They had been waiting in the cold for six hours so that Angel could get free winter clothes, food, toys, a harness, and a check-up.
Angel was one of a hundred dogs and cats that came through the doors that Saturday. Amidst the chaos, we clipped nails, cleaned ears, drew blood, gave vaccines, and more. I helped a homeless woman bundle her long-haired Dachshund back up in his winter coats. She instructed me that the clothes were put on in a specific order. The pink jacket was the first of the six coats to go on her furry companion. It would drop below freezing that night.
Every single person that came through the clinic was extremely grateful for our services—I mean extremely grateful. But I found myself thanking them for coming in, for being such caring and doting pet parents, and for helping to restore some of my own faith in humanity.
Admittedly, volunteering here for me isn’t a selfless endeavor. I’m trying to fill a void in my heart that’s calling for me to give back more to this wonderful planet and amazing community that has done so much for me. I’m trying to understand the individuals behind the homeless epidemic, trying to find a channel for my compassion that doesn’t compromise my safety.
I will be journaling about my experiences with the Doney Clinic every month in an effort to help the clinic continue its services and to share my own transformative journey looking in the eyepeople and animals that too often are passed by.
Under the streets of Pioneer Square in the heart of downtown Seattle in a bustling basement on a cold winter day, I saw hope and a reciprocated love that, between man and his best friend, remains unconditional.
When I saw who TIME named Person of the Year and then read the article and watched the video, I cried a puddle of happy tears.
At the turn of the 2017 new year, I vowed that I would start standing up for myself. It has not been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
I have a tendency to let people walk all over me or to turn the other cheek way too many times. I am the first to stand up for others but the last to stand up for myself. This is because I’m a peaceful person who sees the good in everyone, but those traits have also been my downfall. Like every year before it, 2017 has been a year of change and growth.
Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to mean throwing daggers. I started off the year by negotiating the crap out of an unexpected rent increase, presenting a professional and well-informed counter-proposal. In the past, I would have just whined and written bigger checks, but I work damn hard for little money and I’m a good tenant. It was a learning curve for me to acknowledge to myself I that could negotiate, and to realize that the worst I could hear back was no.
This newfound courage carried over into my professional and personal lives, and for once, I was respectfully fighting for myself with dignity and grace. It ruffled some edges, because it’s admittedly a shock to witness me, once someone who would roll over, now engaging in confrontation to protect myself. But those who stuck with me are the ones who value my own self-worth, and they’re the people I want in my life.
And of course, the biggest and most meaningful way I stood up for myself this year was in breaking my silence by not keeping my sexual assault a secret any longer. I’d been working up the healing to share my story for the better part of a year, and, coincidentally, I was ready around the time that the #MeToo movement began taking off.
We live in days filled with so much terror, hate, confusion, and fear. Imagine how much love and prosperity we could generate if we enabled ourselves to nobly stand up for what is right and just?
TIME Magazine did right by naming The Silence Breakers as Person of the Year. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution chasing inherent human dignity, for women, for gays, for blacks, for Muslims, for the handicapped, for the poor, for everyone. The movement starts within you.
Be the spark that starts the fire. Be Bold. Be Brave. Be You.
When I was twelve years old, I sat in the back seat of my dad’s car rifling through the beach bag looking for something to drink. I saw the word “lemonade,” opened the bottle, and took a swig.
“Dad?” I said. “This lemonade tastes weird.”
My dad peered in the rearview mirror and calmly told me, “That’s because that’s not lemonade.”
I gave him a confused look.
“That’s alcoholic lemonade,” he said.
I promptly proceeded to spit out the window and dab my tongue on a towel, following that up with a dramatic montage that involved me asking my dad what was going to happen, was I going to be drunk, was I going to die?
When I was 23, I poured some of the punch bowl contents into my cup at a party, being sure to plop the enticing sorbet on top. I then filled up my cup again. I was really unexpectedly emotional that night. I found out later that was spiked punch. Considering I had zero tolerance for alcohol, that may have explained my emotional state. Maybe.
When I was 24, I was playing with my plastic water glass and my friend’s plastic whiskey glass, which looked exactly the same. I took a swig of what I thought was water, then immediately spit into the cup. I told my friend I’d pay for a refill of his whiskey. He denied the offer. He wasn’t mad; he was simply amused.
Those are the only times I’ve ever had alcohol in my life.
In the first five minutes that I begin talking to someone new at a restaurant, based on my ordering, they ask me two things:
1. Why are you vegan?
2. Why don’t you drink?
Despite my attempts to steer the next 30 minutes of conversation in another direction, the table topics continue to revolve around my lifestyle choices, usually due to incredulity and discomfort from the other party because, ohmygod they could NEVER give up cheese and have I really NEVER had alcohol?
It exhausts me.
I’m so very tired, people, of being the spotlight of attention just because I am different from you. Just because I make unique choices. Just because I make you uncomfortable.
I don’t sit at that table and lecture people on their cheeseburger and the beer they are sipping, but somehow, my salad and water make people uncomfortable.
I am all for deep and meaningful conversations, but this is not going to turn into one of those. This is going to be 30 minutes of you trying to mask your judgment of me but failing miserably. This is going to be 30 minutes of me hearing the same insulting jokes I’ve heard a hundred times before. This is going to be 30 minutes of me taking deep breaths while the walls close in and I get backed into a corner with no one to defend me but myself, bored at this point and just waiting for the organic leap to the next tête-à-tête to determine if you’ll ever be able to get past me being different.
Why do I have to explain myself? Why does my being different make you uncomfortable? Why do you feel you have to defend yourself when all I’ve said is “No, I don’t drink” and “Yes, I’m vegan”?
Since I’ve already put out there why I don’t eat animals, I’ll talk about my sobriety, since at this point in our table talk, without knowing my full and short-lived relationship with liquor, you’re probably weighing the odds of me being a recovering alcoholic or a crazy religious nut. I can assure you, I am both. (Just kidding.)
I don’t owe you an explanation for why I don’t drink, but I’m going to give one to you anyway. And you’re probably not going to like it. You’re probably going to have some reflexive retort back at me because I’ve somehow hit a button I didn’t know was there to push. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll say, “huh” and move on.
I don’t drink because I want to be in control. I don’t drink because I like reality. I don’t drink because I like to be present in the moment, no matter how shitty it is. I don’t drink because I like to face my problems head on and then learn and grow from them.
For the record, I don’t smoke pot for the same reasons (and yes I live in Seattle where I CAN HAVE ALL THE POT IN THE WORLDDDDD).
I am in fact often mistaken for being drunk–sometimes the drunk person–at a bar because there I am making my own dance floor with my signature crazy legs moves, singing at the top of my lungs, laughing my loud and wild and pure and unrefined laugh, and making an utter fool out of myself with absolutely no care in the world.
Maybe I am weird because I’m different. Because I naturally have no inhibitions. Because I’m not easily embarrassed. Because I’m okay with staring my fears and insecurities in the face without any vices and letting the world wash over me leaving me scarred and scared and oh-so-bring-it-on ready.
Because I want to always be wholly, truly, honestly and authentically me.
My lifestyle choices don’t define me. I am not just a vegan and just a sober person. I am a woman who craves integrity and humor, who has insane attention to detail, who is increasingly more curious about the natural world and our role in it, who loves love, who speaks her mind, who has lived here and there and done this and that.
So please. The next time you meet someone who is different than you, don’t define them by a label. Accept that they are different, embrace that they are different, ask yourself why their being different bothers you, make a mental note to address that issue with yourself later, and move on.
I held the pink, laminated reusable boarding pass in my hand, rubbing my finger over its bubbled edges. The weight shifted in my backpack as I re-situated it on my shoulders and picked up my laptop case. I handed my paper ticket to a woman behind the metal fence and walked along the concrete to the plane’s steps.
No security checkpoint and no overhead storage bins awaited me. My ears would not be alerted by an announcement that the plane was about to lift off. I could reach into the cockpit and touch the pilot. I could hold hands with nearly everyone on the plane without having to leave my seat.
Though it felt like the 1940s, it was 2015, and I was leaving the place I’d learned to call home.
I was saying goodbye to an island whose people, simplicity, and natural beauty I’d come to love.
And yet, at that moment, I wanted to be away from people, floating on a cloud among the birds of the sky. I wanted to be free but have all the answers, I wanted to feel loved and worthy and adored, and I wanted the fissure in my heart to be miraculously healed.
As the plane took flight, I leaned against the thick, sweating window glass, trying to become invisible. I didn’t want to look outside because that meant accepting the daunting truth that those turquoise blue waters I’d come to know would no longer be present in my daily life. I didn’t want to look down because then I’d see that I was moving away from those white sand beaches of quiet isolation, not toward them.
I didn’t want to look out the window because then I might see my reflection, and that would feel like staring into the face of someone I didn’t know.
Instead, I closed my eyes tight and hugged my backpack to my chest, trying to shield my face from the other passengers on this 14-seater plane, trying to hide my pain. But the tears falling down my cheeks coupled with my silent sobs gave me away to the man sitting across the two-foot aisle from me.
Wordlessly, he removed a tissue from his bag. I was burying my brokenness into the nylon cover of my travel backpack when he tapped me on the shoulder. I raised my head a couple inches to see the tissue dangling by my cheek.
The stranger on the plane smiled at me.
Without saying anything, I took the tissue and wiped my eyes and runny nose. I crumpled it into a ball for later use and then made eye contact with the man. My lips turned up ever so slightly, a genuine smile but one that took effort nonetheless.
The stranger on the plane nodded his head and turned to look forward, giving me privacy to process my feelings.
His kindness reminded me that I am not and should not feel alone in this world, and that I am also allowed to have my feelings–no questions asked.
I didn’t know that the next two years of my life would be the hardest two years of my 29 years. I didn’t know that they would also be the most rewarding.
I didn’t fully understand all that I was leaving behind, that it was a testament of self-love to jump headfirst into this new unknown–lost, scared, confused, sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, and in that moment, so very broken-hearted.
I didn’t fully grasp that taking this first step on the next part of my journey would, in time, prove to be one of the most valuable and meaningful chapters of my life.
It took me two years to recognize that abandoning the island life to chase opportunities in the city was one of the most courageous things I have ever done. Two years and I realized that leaving that island home–one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done–was also one of the most loving things I could ever do for myself.
I am not, I was not fearless. But I did stare fear in the face while navigating an increasingly rocky path to become the incredibly self-aware woman I am today.
If you asked me if I’d do it all over again, I don’t know that I’d say yes. But if you asked me if the loneliness, heartache, and utter confusion were worth it, I’d look you in the eyes and tell you that believing in myself and knowing who I am and what I want in life is my biggest achievement, and I have those feelings to thank for that.
My junior year at university, I held a campus-wide project for religious tolerance in which students and university staff were asked to “express their faith” on a piece of fabric. I later pieced the patches together to create a unity quilt that hung in the student union. “I love the Church of Baseball” was next to “God is my rock” and above “I am Jewish” and below “I believe in humanity.” It showed that our differences can unite us.
Now more than ever, this country, this world, needs acts of love. We could all use a break from politics.
Let’s express some togetherness next week. Join me on Sunday, Nov. 20 @ 1 PM to Create Unity at the Seattle Gum Wall.
This is not a protest. This is a showcase of the good of humanity.
All you need is yourself, some packs of chewing gum, able mandibles, and an open heart.
I’ll be wearing a bright yellow “hi I’m a tourist” poncho so that you can spot me. Bring friends. Bring strangers. If you can’t attend at this time and date, I encourage you to leave your mark of love and unity anytime on the Gum Wall, or to do a random act of kindness at 1 PM next Sunday (and every day).
My roommate found my rice sock in the oven the other day. I had to explain to her why a lone reindeer sock was sitting in a casserole dish ready to be baked at a low temperature.
In case you’ve never heard of them, rice socks are exactly that: socks filled with rice. When heated, the rice retains its warmth for a long time, so you’ve got yourself a cheap yet efficient heating pad. I use them for period cramps.
So when my good friend, Simon, WhatsApped me one rainy fall morning asking me how I was doing, I told him honestly, with details. Because you know me. I never hold back. And because Simon is a mature and caring man, he didn’t crawl away into cyberspace when I started talking about my bleeding vagina. He engaged himself in period chat, and humanity is better off because of it.
Me: Simon! Can we trade uteruses for a day? I need a break from mine.
Simon: Erm. I can’t find mine.
Simon: Is that bad? It might still be lost in my previous life.
Me: It probably means something medically. I wouldn’t worry about it until you become symptomatic.
When I thanked my friend for humoring my menstrual comedy, he wanted to know what it was really like when my floodgates open every month. (And for that, Simon, I am truly grateful.)
Simon: Do you get very emotional during this time?
Me: Oh my God, I get everything. My bed and pants always look like I went out and committed a homicide in the middle of the night and then just slept it off.
And then I continued to explain to him the glory of my womanhood.
Me: And I get really cranky and extra irritable. And crampy. And back pain. And diarrhea. And nauseous. And dizzy. And clumsy. And tired. And can’t sleep. And I eat a lot more than usual, which is A LOT.
In other words, I’m like a bear about to hibernate but trying to fight nature.
And then he needed clarification on the homicide. I first had to excuse myself to change the tampon I’d just put in 45 minutes ago because I was leaking onto my underwear.
Simon: But all over the bed and pants?
Me: Sometimes I find a trail when I wake up in the morning. Into the bathroom.
Simon: Ok. So yes. I am reading this right.
Me: Once, I bled on my slippers. I considered that an accomplishment. Skills.
And then Simon wanted to know more.
Simon: Are there ways to not bleed on everything?
Me: If Old Faithful isn’t shooting out from your vagina, then most definitely. But I was blessed with a very heavy flow.
Simon: So do you like use darker sheets? Tampons? I heard some girls talking about a cup.
And then we discussed tampons and pads and cups and my bedtime period ritual to try not to stain the mattress. I had to explain to him that my cup would overfloweth, that I could benefit from a transfusion when I’m menstruating.
So now Simon understands that for one week out of every month, my period bloat makes me feel like a disheveled 55-year-old man with a beer belly eating Fritos on the couch with his hand down his pants. I really look more like a zombie from my sleepless nights and anemia. But I wouldn’t mind sitting on the couch eating Fritos.
However, I am forced to ignore the cramping, bundle up, and hop on my bike to head to work on this rainy day, where I cry when a dog looks at me because it’s just too much, and where I must paste a smile on my face despite my irritability at the fact that that table won’t stop getting in my way.
At other work places, I used to secretly dip into my backpack to grab a tampon and slither to the bathroom, hopefully camouflaged in my purple scrub top against the beige wall. Now I work at a place with all females, so when I get to the toilet and realize I need a tampon that I don’t have, I can confidently shout to my gal pal colleagues, “Help a sister out!”
But workforce period etiquette isn’t the only place where fully embracing our monthly apocalypse gets stifled. Culturally, there are contrasts in appropriate ways to deal with the red-headed Aunt Jemima.
Simon is from Jamaica. We discussed periods across cultures, because when I lived on a remote island in the Bahamas, I had to order tampons off Amazon on account of the limited grocery supply due to cultural differences.
In America, we are fighting for women’s rights. I’ve lived in, worked in, and visited many countries in which such a fight is centuries away from anyone’s mind. But that doesn’t mean the fight isn’t worthy. Hey, newsflash. Women represent 50% of the global population.
My sister is writing a book about the taboo of menstruation across cultures. So, we talk about periods in my family. My dad was the only male in a house of four females (unless you count the dog), so he’s pretty well-versed in feminine monthlies. When my period poem (yes, I wrote one) was published in Witty Bitches magazine, my dad apologized that I had to go through this every month. MY PRECIOUS FATHER. What a man, what a man, what a jolly good man.
I predict that few men will read, like, or comment on this post, because too many men are not drawn to a story that has the words “uterine” and “womanhood” in the title, let alone want to engage in commentary about the subject. But that’s the topic of this post, so I didn’t think I’d be doing it justice if I called it “Beer, Cars, and Sports.” (That’s what men like, right?)
Too few people are proud enough to call themselves feminists, because they forget that being a feminist is, perhaps, the single most caring thing you can do for your best friend, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or sister.
Really, we should all call ourselves feminists.
Men, this is your chance. Prove me wrong. Prove to us women folk that you care what goes on inside our bodies. Ask us what it is like to lament about not being able to wear white for one week every month, not just after Labor Day.
If you’re a man offended by this post, I will set a crazy pregnant lady upon you.
If you’re a woman offended by this, please open up a discussion about it. If we keep our mouths closed, we are just as guilty as Donald Trump throwing sexual insults at us from the podium.
P.S. Simon gave me permission to use his name and our menstruation conversation. That’s a good man, people.
P.P.S. Please do yourself a favor and google period memes. (I made the first one, and I’m pretty proud of it.)
Detroit’s ban on Pit Bulls means recently adopted “Smiley Dog” Internet sensation might have to go. Adopted by Dan Tillery last week, Sir Wiggleton turned Diggy dubbed “Smiley Dog” is making headlines. His owner registered him as an American Bulldog, but authorities aren’t sure. They will decide on a veterinarian of their choice to determine the dog’s breed, and based on that vets say, the dog might have to go.
Are all Pit Bulls bad? In fact, the most dog attacks occur by the littlest culprits, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russel Terriers. Why? Because owners nurture their Napoleon complex.
And yet Pit Bulls get a bad rap.
Pit Bulls are some of the most lovable dogs I know. Chihuahuas and Yorkies are the canines that lunged at me most while trying to take a temperature in the exam room. Pit Bulls licked my face.
But Pit Bulls are the ones getting the boot.
Legalized prejudice against Pit Bulls is like regulated racism against humans. It’s akin to saying every black person will rob a store, every Muslim is a terrorist and every Catholic priest is a pervert.
This needs to end now.
Sign the petition to save “Smiley Dog.” It takes less than one minute and could make a happily ever after for man and his best friend.