Sick days


I have a little summer cold this week. Nothing unusual or severe, but I took a sick day and stayed home.

Do you take sick days? Probably not as much as you should. All morning I wrestled with whether to stay home or go to work. I had no meetings on my calendar or particularly urgent deadlines. But, I told myself, I also wasn’t that sick. Sure, I have an annoying cough, drippy nose, foggy mind and am tired. Those are things I, like all of you, have worked through before when I had to finish a project or attend to another important commitment. When I was pregnant with Clark, I came down with an awful cold the morning I was scheduled to lead a major strategic planning discussion with 60+ community members. So I did it, then came home and crashed.

Sick days aren’t just for you! They also help prevent the spread of germs and illness! I don’t want my coworkers passing around their germs to me, so why should I come to work and risk them getting sick? What about all of the people with compromised immune systems, that I may or may not know about, who I could come in contact with throughout the day? Also, how gross is it to listen to my sniffle or blow my nose all day? So stay home, please.

An important recognition: I have paid sick leave at my job. I believe everyone should have access to paid sick leave. It’s a basic worker right and one that too many people don’t have. My organization provides paid sick leave to all full-time employees and we’re working on phasing in part-time employees too. It’s a financial risk. It’s cheaper to not provide it. But offering paid sick leave is the right thing to do and trust me, I know the stresses that come with balancing an organizational budget and how these costs add up. It’s also my experience, though, that most workers do not use anywhere near their allowed sick leave and I don’t have any personal examples of workers taking advantage of our generous leave policy. You can watch me talk about why I support paid sick leave here, if you’re in the mood for some local labor activism.

Back to today. We’re made to think that if we aren’t at work, we’re not productive and that if we’re not productive, we’re not worthy. I love my job and I love that it allows me to work on behalf of something I feel strongly about, but it doesn’t define my worth. Nor do the number of loads of laundry I do or whether I accomplished anything at all today except resting. I kept getting up and thinking, “Oh it’s a lovely day I should go for a walk or plant some flowers or do an errand or reorganize my closet.” But the whole point of sick days is to rest, heal and not spread your germs. So please, if you have paid sick leave, use it!

I’ll confess that I did grab my laptop this morning after I brought Clark to school, but it made me feel better to have it and check in a little bit so I’m still counting this as a restful day.

There was an amazing article on The Onion, or maybe McSweeney’s, making fun of people who think they are too important to take a sick day when they need one and are desperate to prove how tough they are at the risk of infecting all of their co-workers and their families. I can’t find it though, but if you have it, please send the link.

A few helpful tips for making your holiday donations

If you’re feeling generous this holiday season and wondering how to make the most of your charitable giving, head on over to my recent post for All Over Albany and learn how to be a great do-gooder. Hint: give from the heart, give with trust and respect, give regularly, give unrestricted donations, give money instead of things (usually) and… ask your chosen nonprofit org what they need. No bizplaining or hysteria about “overhead” necessary :)

Families belong together

"Change the world one friend at a time"

I paused in my car to hear the end of a story on All Things Considered with a recording of young children crying at a detention center. I heard the sounds of their trauma, the terror in their cries, the heartbreak and heartrage of their parents and the wild-eyed frantic desperation their mamas felt when their babies were stolen from them. 

I paused again on my walk inside, up the beautiful new path we paid to have built to our door, in the backyard of the home we own, in a city where we feel safe, close to family, with heat and air conditioning and clean water and stability. Where my ethnicity and race and language and education afford me privileges that others are systematically denied.

I stepped inside. My husband and toddler greeted me with their handsome grins and hugs. Clark was having a tough night. He spent much of it crying and whining and tantruming, which is unusual for him. For a fleeting moment I thought, "Here I am, enduring my son's inconsolable cries just like those mothers seeking asylum." What a foolish thought that was. No, this was nothing like what those mamas at the border are facing. Clark was crying because he wanted a pop. He wasn't crying from fear or terror or trauma. He wasn't afraid for his body. He wasn't wondering where his mommy or daddy was. He wasn't crying for human touch that the guardians of the stolen border children aren't allowed to provide. He wanted dessert, that's all. When he eventually calmed down, Chris and I quietly poured ourselves a drink  and the three of us set out for an evening walk around our neighborhood. We weren't afraid that anyone would take Clark from us or that one of us would be arrested or deported. We weren't fearful for the safety of our own bodies, or imagining the bullets or handcuffs or humiliation that might come upon us. We were a young family on a walk, nothing to see here.

How do you reconcile your immense gratitude for your life with your visceral, shared pain of the world? I'm having trouble finding that edge and balance. I still fret over picking out new couches to brighten our living room. I still concern myself with my weight and my skin and my clothes. I'm worried when all Clark eats is cheese and toast and strawberries. I admonish myself for not having planned a family summer vacation sooner because all of the charming Airbnb rentals are booked. Flip that:  I have a home and a living room and money to buy couches and cheese and toast and strawberries and paid vacation time and the luxury to still worry about all of those things. 

I guess what I'm saying is, there is a lot of pain in this world and today I'm haunted by the cries of babies who have been torn apart from their mamas and daddies. I hear the pleas of brave parents who risked everything they had to save their babies, to leave their homeland in search of safety and freedom. 

There is no such thing as other people’s children. We will fight for these kids like we’d fight if they were our kids. Because they are. We will fight for these mothers like we’d fight if they were our sisters. Because they are. If my country was ravaged with violence and my children were in constant danger, I hope I’d have the courage to do whatever it took to get them to safety. I hope that when we got there, we’d be cared for instead of terrorized. And if I were ever separated from my children, I’d hope that some mothers, somewhere out there, would care enough to get them back to me.
— Glennon Doyle, founder of Together Rising

You know what to do. Find an organization you trust who is doing the work to end this crisis and give. Give more than you think you can and please, for the love of progress, don't complain about their overhead expenses or employee salaries. Listen, love & give. If you need a nudge in the right direction, Together Rising has been doing an incredible job researching and connecting with on-the-ground organizations to pass through 100% of the money they raise. You can also donate through ActBlue and have your donation split among several trustworthy orgs. Cup of Jo published a great piece dispelling myths and suggesting ways to help. Families Belong Together is organizing non-violent actions and rallies as well as encouraging support for organizations on the ground. 

On feeling deeply


I feel more deeply now that Clark is here. Many of you possess this superpower without having kids. You are next-level feelers and empathizers. I salute you, and assure you that I don't think this ability belongs only to parents. Yes, I've dedicated much of my professional and personal time to social justice but I have to be straight with you, it wasn't because of a particularly deep human connection but rather a vague framework of and belief in justice and fairness and equality. But Clark came along, and now when the newspapers show photos of babies who died from sarin gas or from drowning trying to flee their country or starving from government-created famine, I see Clark's face. I see his little chubby hands grabbing up for me and I hear my whispers that I'll always keep him safe, always. I think about what it must be like to know with absolute certainty that I won't be able to keep that promise. I think about not being able to feed him or protect him from violence. I see his innocent eyes twinkle and picture them looking at me as bombs drop or the boogymen come. Many of you have always been able to see this, to feel this, but it's a new experience for me. Whether I want to or not, I feel everything so deeply and painfully these days.

Which is why I call bullshit on the border wall and the refugee ban and the lack of empathy and compassion being broadcast from the highest levels of government in our country. You can't take military action in Syria and pretend it's to save Syrian babies, and then deny them and their families refuge. You can't cut off foreign aid because you believe that American babies are worthier than non-American babies. You can't slash social services and health care because you believe poor babies deserve less than middle-class or rich babies. You can't make the choice for a woman about whether or not she even has a baby.

Today, I stand with #womenforsyria. I mourn for the mothers who can't protect their babes in Syria and also in Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and South Sudan and here in the United States. I mourn for the mothers in my own country who think that these other babies deserve their starvation, trauma and fear, who don't yet feel the tug of sisterhood imploring them to act with compassion. I mourn for the damage that nationalism continues to inflict on our world and our neighbors.

I've always lost sleep over "world news".  But now my mind plays a reel of Clark's face in every desperate situation, and then it's the burning anger when I think how if he were a different race, religion, from a different country or born to another family... the world might turn a blind eye to his suffering. That is as unacceptable for my baby as it is for babies and women and men all over the world.

Photo above of my beautiful, smiley, delicious baby boy who is already eight months old. Parenthood is a time warp, and I feel like time is slipping away from me like never before. Every day I feel more urgency to not only write, but to share, to search for common ground, to tell truth, to dismantle shame and to let light shine in. So, less editing, more publishing. Maybe.

Precious lives

File Jul 08, 11 04 27 AM.jpeg

It's been a tough few weeks in the world, but I know that every week brings with it violence that is often not reported, or at least not reported here in the U.S. My heart is heavy for those who suffer violence, for the black men who have died at the hands of police, for the police officers who died at the hands of cowardly snipers, for those who died in horror at their safe haven in Orlando, for victims of terrorism in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Baghdad and countless of other places in countries I've never been to, for the women and girls around the world who are used as pawns in bloody wars, for those who face physical or emotional violence every day just because of who they are or love. Others will say and do more than I can right now, but I will continue to hold space and light for those suffering today.