Archive for the ‘I am’ Category

At 30-years old, I hit a metaphorical wall.  I was exhausted and burned-out.  A social entrepreneur, I had poured my whole self into the venture I began at 24-years old and it seemed there was nothing left of me, for me.  I had a hard time getting to sleep.  I cried a lot.  I was broke.

I looked for role models, for other feminists who had dedicated their lives to changing the world by leading organizations to see how they did it.  I saw just two choices.  Either I could keep going, personal sacrifices be dammed, and find myself an old, bitter lady fighting the same battles year after year, with increasing exasperation and exhaustion. Or, I could quit and find something less taxing and also, less meaningful. I thought this was a false choice. I wanted a third-way, a path where I could be a leader with a joyful heart and a full life.

I set out to make that path. You might say, I leaned in to the challenge. (more…)

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*This post was originally published on the blog of WITNESS, the international, human rights video advocacy organization* 

Once you put a personal story into the world, you have no control over where it goes.  Someone can label it with a hashtag, add it to a tumblr, or remix with other stories. It can become an entirely different story altogether.  It happens all the time–just ask Carolyn Jones or Kassi Underwood.

And it just happened to me. Again.

As filmmakers, writers, publishers, activists, and leaders we work with others’ stories. We are storysharers more than storytellers, and we have an obligation to prioritize the original storytellers’ voices and messages. We cannot just look for stories that best convey our own agenda. My organization, Exhale, has written guides helping advocates to storyshare responsibly and to help women make decisions about when and how to share their stories.

As a storyteller, I was thrilled by an offer — from an online news source dedicated to progressive women’s causes — to republish an excerpt of my work. They had chosen my essay, “My Abortion Brought Us Together,” from Nothing But the Truth So Help me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection.

What could go wrong? (more…)

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I was stoked to find out that Feministe named me Hero of the Day yesterday. And, rest assured, I confirmed that this was not an April Fools Day joke on me. 🙂 Feministing took a moment to acknowledged me too. Wow. Thank you all so very much. It feels great to be recognized for all the work that me and my allies at Exhale have done to create a more supportive and respectful social climate around abortion. It is good to see how many people are with us.

The Pro-Voice Movement Grows…

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I am thrilled and honored to be recognized by KQED as an Unsung Local Hero in celebration of Women’s History Month! Read about me and my hero cohorts on the KQED website.


Jean Murrell Adams, ADAMS ESQ:

Lieutenant Lea Militello, SF Police Department:

Leslie Simon, City College of San Francisco:

Mary Howe, Homeless Youth Alliance:

Yay Womens Heroes!

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I had a lovely lunch with Elisa of Mother Talkers last week. Didn’t expect to be interviewed, but she brought the laptop and we got it done over sushi. She is smart and interesting and I had a great time. Lots to learn about blogging!

Some great comments on the Q & A:

I am staunchly pro choice, and had an abortion several years ago. Looking back on it, I would not necessarily use the word regret, however, I am not sure I would make the same decision today under the same circumstances.

I do think about how old my child would be now from time to time and definitely grieved this decision more than I thought I would. There are very few people who know, and less who understand the complex feelings around this.

Kudos to her and her friends for providing a place for women to talk!

my “other” child would be 8 years old. At the time I had no one who understood, and only a few people know that he/she could ever have existed. Since then, someone I am very close to had an abortion. We don’t really talk about it, but on the occasions that we have, it was so good to have someone who had many of the same feelings I did/do.

Fundamentally I’m pro-choice in that I don’t believe in criminalizing abortion and banning medical procedures. However, I believe there need to be major cultural changes in the true pro-life sense. I would like to see much more support for all women and especially women raising children. If people want to be truly pro-life, and I believe in the culture of life in the sense that we need to respect human life from conception on, there needs to be a shift toward lifting people up. Ronald Reagan did the worst thing for motherhood and those who would like to reduce or eliminate abortion by creating the image of the “welfare queen” Not only is it divorced from reality but it appeals to those who can’t stand the thought of someone else getting a break

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TV & Flying – My Favorite Things


One of my favorite things about Bones is how resourceful the characters are, especially Brennan. While investigating a murder on the plane, she was able to use carry-on supplies like powder blush and denture cream — and a knitting needle to use as a probe, on loan from a semi-obsessed murder mystery fan, and, surprisingly to me, allowed to be brought on the plane — to create a cast and identify a murder weapon. Our generation’s very own MacGuyver, and she has no idea how cool she really is. (I would say “24”‘s Jack Bauer is not far behind, but he has to know how cool he is.) And you really can’t lose when Booth tries to get Brennan to play sexy librarian while she’s using an elderly passenger’s deliciously retro reading glasses — and she doesn’t get it.

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I remember when I first started asking foundations to grant Exhale.  I applied under “organizing & advocacy.”  Exhale was an organization founded by women who had had abortions to address an unmet need that our community of women faced – the lack of non-judgmental emotional care services for women.  The way I saw it, a group of us got together, organized around a common need, organized a service to address it (we were all volunteer at the time) and began advocating with health care providers and services to refer to Exhale as an improved response to their clients. 

The foundations told us no.  We weren’t “organizers” the way they defined it.  Basically, unless we got the name and number of every woman that called us and organized a lobby day in Sacrmaento where these women advocated for a policy goal – like abortion rights – we weren’t organizing or advocating.  Really. 

I believed them for awhile.  I lost myself,  that idea of myself – as an organizer and advocate – for awhile, and tried to be what they wanted – a professional, someone who spoke health care jargon and was building an instition, a leader and an idea that could be bent and folded into the mold of the status-quo (they were leaders after all, right?) – but I wasn’t happy.  I wasn’t working within my strengths.  I wasn’t excited and challenged by my vision.  I wasn’t organizing anymore.  I had become a manager.   Uh oh.

When I read things from advocates about the non-profit industrial complex and how the revolution will never be funded, or even the conservative-critics of the liberal movements and how they are creating a social-service government, and I look around the feminist and reproductive health movement (a movement once defined by bucking the trends and being daring) and see degree after degree of professional affiliation and a public health professional approach to our vast and untamed lives, I feel like we are trapping ourselves in a system of our own creation.  

Degrees aren’t  bad (I have one!), but they don’t make you smart or bold or give you good ideas.  Social services aren’t bad (I run one) but the last thing we want is government creating more obstacles for people to take care of themselves and their families, creating a culture of co-dependence. Public health is important (tame the diseases please) but can it really address the scope of human sexuality? 

I started to organize again.  I remembered my vision.  I remembered what was fun about the early days of founding Exhale and started doing that again.  Meeting new people and offering them the chance to participate in the creation of something new and special.  I stopped trying to make it nice and easy for everyone else and claimed the parts of this that were risky and unknown.  Instead of nice professionals wanting a steady paycheck, I surrounded myself with believers, people wanting to do what it took, people in for the challenge and up for the adventure, smart people, experienced people, people who were professionals in other parts of their lives but who find a chance to let their spirit and their dreams fly with Exhale. 

Some days I laugh b/c while I know the “right” way to run an organization – I’ve read the books, taken the classes, even taught some of them, and actually tried it – the way Exhale has found success is when we stopped doing it right.  When we did it the organizing and advocacy way.  We’ve never followed money but now we specifically focus on people – we find people, champions, people that get it and build relationships.  We don’t even think about money (not totally true, we run a well-oiled financial machine, but money isn’t in our eyes when we talk to donors).  That’s it.  Everyone of us – board members, staff, volunteers, donors, allies – we are a recruitment machine, every day looking for the kind of people we need to help us grow and thrive and offer them the opportunity to join us.  We don’t need lots and lots of people, just the ones that truly believe and take it on. 

The money really does come.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the board and the staff when the cash is looking low:  “I don’t know where the money will come from, but I know that if we follow our hearts and the relationships we have, we stay focused on our vision and keep doing our work, it will come.” 

It always does. 

I’m known for being a good fundraiser.  Today, I’m proud to say that it’s because I’m a good organizer.

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