Inspiration, Palm Oil

Inspiration, Palm Oil

I’ve heard a lot of people say things like, “Why do vegans share so much ‘vegan propaganda’? Stop forcing it on others.” But case in point: I was inspired to look into veganism thanks to someone sharing a video.

I’m continually inspired by others sharing. Speaking of which, today, I saw this:

Funny how one year of veganism felt easy…then I realized there’s more to it, like animal testing and the very horrible impact of ingredients like palm oil (a cheap oil that’s now found in EVERYTHING). But this very simple tweet reminded me of that letter to Trader Joe’s I’d been meaning to write. I had a few moments free…so I did:

I’m a careful label reader and have been surprised by the number of TJs products that use palm oil. Will you please consider moving to an alternative source of oil? The impact on humans, animals, and the planet is massive: https://www.ran.org/palm_oil

What’s more, I think this would the amazing marketing opportunity for Trader Joe’s. I don’t think customers know the environmental impact of this ingredient–specifically, the fact that it is driving the extinction of orangutans. If your well-loved company were to speak out against palm oil, educate customers, and stop carrying it–the story would be huge. And I believe your customers–who, frankly, worship you guys–would be willing to pay a few extra cents in order to save animals. I know I would.

Thank you for your consideration,
Molly Elwood

The thing is, I’m not the only one talking about palm oil, but it’s not being widely shared just yet. But if more people were inspired share news articles or research, or to even write to their grocery stores–and, obviously, stopped buying items made with palm oil–maybe we could make a difference.

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Photo from Daily Mail

Again, it was the tiniest thing, that tweet, that moved me to take action. I might be easier to get motivated than others, though. 🙂 What inspires you to take action? What kind of actions do you take on a regular basis? I’m always looking for new ways to make a difference.

Vegankit.com

I went vegan on a whim

I went vegan on a whim

I can’t remember how it started; I had to scroll back through Facebook to see the last picture of a meal with meat in it. It was a Coney Island hotdog in 2014.

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Pescatarians of Convenience

I didn’t mean to go vegetarian. It just happened. It was 2011 and I had a vague uneasiness about eating animals. It isn’t something I ever looked at straight on, but more like something in my peripherals that depressed me (and this is something I’ll write more about at a later date). And by peripherals, I mean, I thought about it with the same concern I had about kitchen sanitation and the fact that we didn’t have a dishwasher.

My husband Zach and I became “Pescatarians of Convenience.” This was a term we came up with as we were keenly aware that the word “vegetarian” (and its implications) came with a lot of baggage. We wanted to be easy going. We wanted to be accepted by our friends. But mostly, we wanted our choice to be easy on us. So we made up a very simple rule: we won’t eat any meat we paid for (except seafood; we could–and did–eat a lot of seafood).

So we’d eat meat at a friend’s house to be polite. We’d bend the rule to eat meat while out for a friend’s birthday party “…to be polite.” I’d eat meat at work when there was a free lunch. It was easy.

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And… I kinda felt like a hypocrite, even though I was technically helping. That’s what Zach and I starting telling one another. “Hey, you’re doing your part.” “You’re shrinking your foot print.” “You’re reducing demand. “Even a little bit helps.” But… I don’t know. Looking with some horror at a pile of chicken bones at Fire on The Mountain, I came to the conclusion: the label of “convenience” was really just a convenient excuse.

Pescatarian

Going pescatarian, too, was impulsive. I wanted to see if it was possible. It was still 2011, and Zach, who was raised pescatarian, was game to try.

Eating out was simple and delicious, and as Zach’s the cook, eating at home was a cinch. Visiting his pescatarian parents: super easy. Visiting my parents–not so much; however, my dad loves fish, so this “phase” of ours was something that could easily be ignored. There was a hiccup in that my parents insisted we serve American-style food–including meat–at our 2012 wedding. I was too nervous to stand up for myself. But it was a beautiful event and I didn’t say anything. I just enjoyed my salmon and shut up.

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But I hated microwaving fish at work (as did my coworkers). I hated the smell of fish in the house. And then I watched a video of how the megatrawlers catch fish, and I realized I couldn’t ensure that the fish I was eating was caught sustainably.

So I told Zach I would only eat fish I (or someone I knew) personally caught. We never went fishing, so I never had to address it…until a few months later, in Mexico, when we went fishing. It was then that I realized I wasn’t willing to kill a fish. So someone else took my barracuda from me. And he clubbed it. I watched it dying, flipping in the bottom boat…and my heart felt funny. I felt pity. I felt guilty. And I felt silly for feeling pity and guilty.

We ate it in ceviche, and I felt ill. I thought about how, the day before, we’d helped release baby turtles into the ocean, as a way to save them from poachers.

Save one, eat the other.

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A couple months later, with this strange feeling still heavy in me, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals; ironically, I’d given the book to my pescatarian father-in-law years earlier at Christmas, back when I was still eating everything that breathed. When I asked him if he liked it, he’d answered truthfully, “Actually, it’s stuff I already knew; it’s aimed at people who eat meat.”

Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Vegetarian

After reading Eating Animals, I stopped eating fish. It was 2014 and suddenly, I was vegetarian. I was still scared to say the “V-word” to friends; at first, at parties, I would stealthily only eat side dishes and Zach would cover me by eating twice as much. As someone who was raised on seafood, he at first felt vegetarianism wasn’t necessary. “Fish are like insects,” he insisted.

I did cheat. I ate that last hotdog I mentioned above, in 2014. I was in NYC for the second time, and it was my first visit to Coney Island. I felt it was my duty as a tourist. I felt I was owed it. I skipped the chili (what an arbitrary line to draw). And it was truly the best damn hotdog I’d ever had (it had a snap I’d never imagined a hotdog should have).

But…

Mid-way through, I realized it wasn’t worth it. Not one bite. Not one bit.

“Whether we’re talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that’s not the question. Is it more important that sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That’s the question.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

It was 2015 when Zach finally read Eating Animals. It was specifically the section on bycatch that changed his mind:

“Imagine being served a plate of sushi. But this plate also holds all of the animals that were killed for your serving of sushi. The plate might have to be five feet across.
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

And for a year, we were both vegetarians–and frankly, we were surprised. It was easy and there was no smugness as it wouldn’t have felt earned. Even in the middle of nowheresville, there were grilled cheese sandwiches and salads smothered in mayo dressing. Veggie omelettes, pancakes, french toast–it was stupid easy. We wondered why everyone wasn’t vegetarian.

I’d just started a new job and I put up a Food Fight! sticker on my desk on my first day; Food Fight! is a vegan grocery Zach and I loved, the perfect place to pick up meat alternatives.

“Are you vegan?” a coworker asked me excitedly. I told her I was vegetarian.

“Oh,” she answered lightly.

It turned out, two of my coworkers were vegan, and three were vegetarian. It was strange, like a perfect circle of kindness; I felt so lucky to have them as I was finding my veg footing. And as for the two vegans, neither ever brought up why they were vegan or asked me if I’d ever considered it. They didn’t talk about their food and would sit politely when we took them out to team lunches where there was nothing for them to eat. They never complained. And seeing as I didn’t know anything, I assumed they were just health nuts.

Vegan

I didn’t mean for us to go vegan. I honestly didn’t. It hadn’t once crossed my mind, even knowing vegans IRL.

It was February 25, 2016 and I was traveling for work. I was swiping through Facebook, and a Humane League video popped up. It shows what happens to male chicks in the egg industry. It’s not graphic, it’s just…messed up.

I immediately cried.

Then I texted Zach.

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The text that is missing is the next one, where I correct myself, saying, “Can we be vegan?”

Look, let’s be honest: I probably didn’t even mean it when I texted him. Who is vegan? How can anyone be vegan? It’s expensive. It’s extreme. It’s unhealthy. Zach wouldn’t do it and I would have to do it alone. It’s hardly even possible–in fact, it’s likely impossible. 

But Zach’s response?

“If you think it’s the right thing to do, sure.”

And that’s when I knew I had the best partner ever. I mean, don’t get me wrong; if I were serious about it, I would have done it without him. But it would have been a harder and longer road, especially seeing as he is the main cook. And frankly, when things are difficult, I tend to not do them. I’m only human.

But by Zach accepting what I suggested, something shifted. I’d lost an excuse.

Waking up

Honestly, if I hadn’t seen that video, I don’t know how long it would have been until I started asking questions. But that video–wow. I sobbed. I realized what I was still contributing to. Sure, I was buying cage-free, free-range, organic eggs when I could find them, but what about the eggs in my donuts? The eggs in my brunch omelette? Those precious, colorful, innocent macarons? How could I track down where the eggs came from without looking like the characters everyone mocks in that funny Portlandia sketch asking, “where did the chicken come from?”

In the moments after watching that video, I knew if I looked into it further, I would have to change.

Up until then, I’d always rationalized that I didn’t have to look, because these videos were probably filmed just once, in the worst places, a long time ago. They couldn’t represent where I got my food from. (But that was wishful thinking. I’ve since seen the ads looking for people to do these undercover investigations. They’re ongoing. And they’re heartbreaking.)

I knew if I looked, I’d be complicit in how the animals are treated and how the workers are treated. I’d eventually learn that 99% of the meat in the US comes from factory farms, factories that put profit and efficiency first, and how the dairy industry feeds into the beef industry.

I rationalized there were only two outcomes:

  1. I could just imagine what’s happening, so I don’t have to watch videos or read up on it, but assume it’s horrible and try to reduce what I’m eating.
  2. I could actually find out…and hopefully figure out there’s is nothing I can do about it anyways.

That night, I decided not to look away. I chose #2 while sincerely hoping I’d find out there was nothing I could do about it so I could still eat cheese and dairy.

“However much we obfuscate or ignore it, we know that the factory farm is inhumane in the deepest sense of the word. And we know that there is something that matters in a deep way about the lives we create for the living beings most within our power. Our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerless, to the most distant, to the voiceless–it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one way or another.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

I started Googling. Googling everything. I realized where chickens most come from. I tried to find facts to support my vegetarianism and that’s when I found out, at age 33, how the dairy industry really works. I later talked to others my age who didn’t grow up near farms who were also surprised to find out that cows aren’t just this miracle animal that gives milk their entire lives. WHAT.

Just a side note: We are so removed from our food sources that this stupidly common knowledge never got passed down.

Side-side note: It’s understandable that rural americans would find this entire discussion amusing. “How removed is this city-dweller is from reality?” But the reality is that the majority of people do not live on farms. Also, they don’t hunt all of their food or grow it all themselves. They go to grocery stores. They go out to eat. They’re participating in suffering.

In short, by the end of the night, I knew I had to at least try going vegan. But I was sure it wouldn’t stick. It would be ridiculous to be vegan.

“Experimenting”

The next day, I carefully chose vegan breakfast foods at a restaurant, and vegan snacks in the office. We randomly went to lunch at Whole Foods, where I saw this book, But I Could Never Go Vegan!, a mere 12 hours after thinking it was ridiculous to even try it. I impulsively bought it and read it on the plane home. (Later on, I would recommend this same book to a semi-vegan co-worker, who started cooking from it for her omnivore husband. A combination of the good food and watching What the Health?…and he decided to go vegan.)

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When I got home, Zach read this cookbook as well. We tried recipes from it and were weirded out when things like jack fruit tacos tasted good.
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And then we watched Cowspiracy together. And Earthlings. And we jointly wished these names didn’t sound so cult-like, so we started reading and sharing from scholarly sources so people wouldn’t think we’d joined a cult. We read and listened to podcasts, so we could A), make sure we weren’t making some huge stupid and unhealthy mistake, and B), be ready to fight answer questions (okay, B is mostly me).

Zach and I had long discussions about what we learned, and what veganism meant about our beliefs, about our past. I didn’t want to be the only one passionate about it, and I found a kindred spirit in him all over again.

“I know when I have no logical arguments against something,” he said. “Even when I ate meat for 15 years, I always knew it was unnecessary and mostly cruel.”

Our friends were wary at first (one actually thought “vegan” meant “raw foodist” [?], but we cleared that up), but mostly, they’re quiet on the subject, the way you never mention a friend’s weird new interest in something like home duct work. I’m sure it’s because they’re afraid I’ll proselytize, like I’m doing right here. And of course that’s what I’d want to do. Of course. I’m not playing around.

But some friends were excited to try out new recipes with us. Some didn’t work, but I think my cooking successes pre- and post-veganism are about the same.

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Sadly, my team of veggie and vegan coworkers left my office, but not before they taught me to keep my chin up and my mouth shut at work events planned around food. (Okay; not so much. I started asking for vegan options immediately. But in a nice way).

At a departmental event making pizzas at Ned Ludd, I got my first “who’s the vegan?” question in front of everyone, followed by some gentle ribbing from the chef. I was immediately flushed and embarrassed. I wasn’t ready to “represent” veganism. Within minutes, I found myself having to politely listen to coworkers talk about hunting and canine teeth (turns out there’s a game called Defensive Omnivore Bingo I can play in my head; it’s pretty accurate and fun). That night was also the first time I was teased. People mocked the sauce and veggie pizza that I made, but I stood my ground. This photo shows how I felt all night:

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But we also get to do this and not feel weird.

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Full vegan

A year and a half later, Zach and I are both still vegan. I got a vegan bumper sticker for my car. I’m considering a tattoo because why not? This is the first thing I’ve been passionate and knowledgable about. We’re both healthy; Zach actually had some health problems that were present before going vegan but he thinks veganism may have helped with his symptoms. We have figured out how veganism is more than what you eat, but choosing cruelty-free products and avoiding products like leather and down. It still feels like a semi-gruesome scavenger hunt–find the animal parts!–but we’re winning.

However.

Veganism is hard

For me, veganism has been hard. But it’s not what you think. It only took a month to figure out how to shop. Zach took to vegan cooking like a savant. I became obsessed with vegan baking. And many of Portland’s top restaurants and bars are vegan (go here and search of the page for “vegan”). Every day, I’m amazed it’s not just possible, but enjoyable. We regularly high five over a fab dish of soy curls or a slice of normal-tasting cake.

But veganism is hard as I want to tell people about it. However! That joke, “How can you tell if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” usually stems from someone offering me a donut and I’m mad that I can’t eat it…followed up by conversations because meat-eaters start talking or awkwardly joking about it.

I’m not from a religious family, and I assume this is a similar feeling that drives people to go on missions. I want to knock on neighbor’s doors, free copies of Eating Animals in hand, asking, “Have you read the good word?”

Most of my discussions, though have been online. I admit that I start them because I feel the urgent need to share the knowledge I’ve so ravenously acquired.

I had a friend suggest that I not share facts on social media, “just show the food!” But when you get down to it, let’s be honest. Good food isn’t enough to change someone’s mind about cheese and bacon. Both taste amazing, but I say that’s how bad animal agriculture is. It’s so bad, I stopped eating cheese and bacon.

(Does that comparison work? Could be a great billboard.)

Personally, I think people will change their mind when they learn about the impact on their health, the environment, or on the animals themselves. The fact that the food is good is just icing on the (vegan) cake.

(I’m aware now that most vegan activists say it should be for the animals. However, I think whatever the entry point, animals’ plight will become very apparent very quickly.)

Since going vegan, Zach and I’ve had two friends also choose to be vegan–the very same friends we fished with in Mexico. They asked us questions, we answered them lightly, then they did the research on their own…and came to the same conclusions we did.

I’ve never been more inspired to stay quiet and wait for people to ask questions, even if waiting for someone to ask feels like this:

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Why did I write this?

I wrote this blog post as, for the last couple of months, I’ve been trying desparately to start this conversation with strangers and I’m feeling creepy about it. I’m obsessed. I need to focus my energy in a way that isn’t hounding my friends or stalking strangers or brands (brands are the most fun, though).

So I’m going to start blogging about veganism here. What better place than where strangers may become friends–or where friends might spy it and click some links? 😉 Or where I might attract some trolls to share some science-y links with?

In the meantime, here are some of my pictures of yummy and totally edible vegan food:

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A teeny bit interested in learning more? Check out: Vegankit.com

~

“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory–disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

A Jive love song

A Jive love song

I just reread my one-year Jive anniversary blog post and realized how much of it still rings true. I wanted to share it with the broader world, to tell what it feels like to work at a company that gets it. Much love to you, Jive.

May the Fourth Be My Jiversary
May 4, 2015

me First off–yes, I am very much aware of how auspicious it is that I share my Jive anniversary with May The Fourth. I did it so I would never forget my work anniversary–and so I would never forget this important “Star Trek Holiday.”

One year ago today, I arrived at Club Fed with uncertainty and a righteous cold. I spent most of my first week at Jive coughing in the bathroom, winning last place in Jiver bowling, and making fast friends with my coworkers at a healthy distance of ten feet.

I also learned that we do not use the Oxford comma, but this is my own blog post and I will do as I damn well please.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of videos and infographics and posters and blog posts and emails and and and etc.  I’ve never worked at a place where I’ve been allowed to be so prolific, or to take ownership over my projects. It’s really exhilarating and empowering. And (now I’m just stealing the words of our customers) there is something electric about working at a place that connects me with everyone.

“OMG. A COMPANY THAT COMMUNICATES AND ALLOWS COMMUNICATION–IMAGINE THAT.” – Me

Ok, so I still carry a lot of baggage from a previous employer who did me wrong by not having a way to communicate to our 100-person workplace that we had a company softball team. It’s a cut that runs deep. This is why Jive means so much more to me than just software. All the copy I write to promote Jive? It’s to help out poor, isolated Past Molly who had no way to share information with her team other than through emails that got ignored. And who had no way to assert herself or have a voice or get recognition or share a George Costanza GIF with the people to whom it mattered most.

koolaidSo yes. I don’t just make the Jive Kool-Aid, I also drink it. And the beer.

Oh, and speaking of Jive Kool Aid…JiveWorld. Holy holy holy crap. My first JiveWorld was an epic example of how awesome it is to work for a place that sells something people actually love and use.

I also loved experiencing Jiver Elation over a job well done IRL! (I will never run out of high-fives for my partners in video-adventure-land, Jessie Edwards and Kosheno Moore.)

IN CLOSING! After a year of collaborating with all you wickedly brilliant, creative, giving, and fun Jivers from across the company and the world, I’m more excited than ever to be here. I can’t wait to make more stuff with you all.

Much love to my near and dear Club Fed Octothorps for making Club Fed feel like home, and thanks to all the GNAKS near and far who make each day on Brewspace lovely.

Kindness and the Women’s March in DC

Kindness and the Women’s March in DC

On Saturday, we marched for women’s rights. For Black Lives Matter. For LGBTQIA+. For immigrants. For refugees. For indigenous people. For the marginalized in our own country. For the war torn abroad. For equality. For healthcare. For the environment. For love, no matter what. We marched against hate, ignorance, xenophobia, misogyny, and fear. This was a place for every human cause. Every humane cause.

The marchers were kind. The police were kind. The store clerks were kind. The Trump supporters (for the most part) were polite. We stood shoulder to shoulder — if not closer — with thousands upon thousands of hopers and helpers, dreamers and doers, and there was no violence. No arrests. When met with barricades, we slowed to keep everyone safe. When help was needed, every hand reached out. People climbed trees to scout paths. The crowd played telephone to share information about a missing child or an uneven step or a violin left on a train.

The Women’s March was emotional, for everyone. When the young child of immigrant parents spoke in Spanish, telling immigrants’ children to not be afraid, that the marchers will look out for them — we wept.

When we spied an eighty-year-old woman leaning deeply into her cane, eyes shut against hour four of the rally — we wept.

When we heard our own voices echo “Sí, se puede” off white buildings, 500,000+ voices ringing on in the hushed silence that followed — we wept.

And when we marched by a Syrian refugee who held his sign to face us, a sign that expressed his gratitude for America and its people and his support of all of our freedoms, when someone gave him an American flag, when that Syrian waved it over his head, and when he wept — we wept.

We wept openly for those oppressed. We wept in hope, in fear, in anger, and in elation. And we wept because we saw that we are not alone.

Two days in DC and we didn’t sightsee. Instead, we met with women and men and children and families, connecting over what went wrong and what we can do now.

Now. Now.

The word repeated itself. “What can we do now?” We can’t change what has past. And tomorrow may be too late. Now. It is what we have.

So we spoke to Americans, Canadians and British. To people from Delaware, Montana, Seattle, Utah, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado. We spoke in the march and on the Mall; in parks, trains, subways, cafés, shops, Lyfts, national monuments, museums, airports, and airplanes. We cheered and chanted, high-fived and hugged, nodded and winked. We shared our shared experiences, our unique experiences, and overlapped each other in praise of the planning, and in wonder at the kindness of half a million densely-packed people.

And we repeated Our Numbers to one another, the ones that mattered to our hearts: 100,000 in Portland. 3,500 in Anchorage. 250,000 in Chicago. 250,000 in New York. 750,000 in Los Angeles. 6,000 in Salt Lake City. 3.3 million across 550 cities and towns in the U.S. And support in Paris, in Mexico City, in Berlin and in Sydney; in Cape Town, in Nairobi, and in Paradise Bay, Antarctica.

“I wish you could see yourselves,” gushed one speaker from the stage, blocks and blocks from where we stood. “You are so beautiful.”

We smiled, but didn’t know what that meant until we saw the photos from above, after it was over. We had no idea. We had no idea we were so many or so powerful.

We were — and are — united. This global rising showed us that we are not alone in this. And while it may feel, at times, that we are too late, that we are too divided, that white women came too late, that allies have been asleep — we aren’t now. We are all awake. And we all have now.

 

To my aunt from Alaska and to my best friend from college: Marching in Washington DC may have been the most impactful experience I’ve ever had. I can’t thank you both enough for being beside me. I will never forget this.

To my husband’s uncle who housed us in Baltimore: You are a saint and a champion. I loved sharing this with you.

And to those who say they didn’t need to march, who say that women like me, with food in my belly, clothes on my back, and the money in my pocket to fly to DC , do not have a reason to march; who say they personally do not feel the pain of inequality, the ache of poverty, the oppression of their race or gender, the panic of being without healthcare, the fear of rape or violence or abuse, the crushing burden — or the impact, or the bodily harm — of an unwanted or forced or unviable pregnancy, to those I say:

This is why I marched. So that everyone may feel your comfort. So one day everyone can enjoy the same complacency you do. We didn’t march for ourselves. We marched for everyone.

I took the march’s message to heart: we can not rest when the least of us suffers. We can no longer say, “that isn’t my issue.” Because all of it is our issue. So I will continue to actively fight for kindness. And hope. And equality. And I hope you will too. If you have questions, I will answer them. If you have ideas, I want to help. If you have complaints, I will listen.

And if you, like me, have a renewed sense of what you need to do — I will stand beside you.

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“No hate. No fear. Everyone is welcome here.”
“My body, my choice.”
“We will not go away, welcome to your first day.”
#thisiswhyimarch
#womensmarchonwashington
Women’s March on Washington