Monday, January 16, 2017

Buckle Up and Do Something

A million years ago, the summer before I started kindergarten my mom and I were on our way home from the grocery store when a car drove right through a stop sign and into us. I was sitting in the front seat. Neither one of us was had on seat belts (it was way before there were any kind of laws about wearing them). It was bad. My mom suffered from a punctured lung and a bad head injury. I broke my jaw. It was a long recovery, physically and mentally, for both of us. 

A year after the accident my mom was ready to do something. She started going into elementary school classrooms talking to kids about the importance of wearing seat belts. She made t-shirts with a seat belt superhero on it. She brought in seat belts for kids to use to practice "buckling up!." I helped her sometimes. Mostly I listened and watched and learned. I learned the importance of seat belts, and doing something.

My mom didn't lobby our state legislatures but I believe that she helped encourage children, their parents and a few teachers to buckle up. She used her stories for activism. She turned the bad and made it into something useful and good. 

It's more than positive thinking, it's positive action.

Over the years, I've tried to turn the bad into good and always find somewhere I could do something. Sometimes it was a lesson in my living room to my own children about compassion for a child at school or something we saw on the news. Other times it was taking my kids to DC to take part in an environmental protest on the steps of the Capitol. I wanted to show them, like my mom had over 30 years earlier, that we had a voice and a purpose and could do something.

And then Trump was elected and everything feels turned upside down and scary and weird.

I can't do nothing. I can't just watch and shake my head. I can't just panic. I can't. I have got to do something.

Last week, I went to DC with a group that I work with called Moms Clean Air Force, and my daughter Lucy, to meet with Senators and their staff to encourage them to vote no for Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 
Heading up to the Hill with our signs, shirts and enthusiasm!

We went to a lot of offices. 

The buildings are marble-y and beautiful with huge doors and high ceilings and important meetings and guards and metal detectors and a lot of old white men in suits and a lot of young people answering phones. Fun fact: Senator Cory Booker's office was the sunniest and the most alive and busy--nice, friendly staffers and phones that would not stop ringing.

Did you know there is a trolley underneath the Capitol that connects the offices? Um, I didn't. I rode it this time. It felt very Hogwart-y or like a fair. I would love a job that I got to go on a ride everyday. 

We met with young staffers and a few senators. We had talking points but mostly they all just wanted to hear stories about our lives. Stories used for activism, just like the seat belts all those years ago. In one office, I even discussed the Netflix show "The Crown" (if you watch then you know I brought up the London smog episode!) with a few men in Senator Stabenow's office. 
Right after we talked about The Crown, we took this picture.

I watched a woman in our group start crying while telling the story of her asthma and her fear for her child. When she stopped and apologized to her the senator from her state, the senator told her to keep going. "Keep telling your story, it's important," she warmly told her.

This is Senator Baldwin from Wisconsin. She and her staff were very welcoming and kind. After we talked they served everyone platters of Kringle (a very tasty Danish-like treat made in Wisconsin).

The press conference was fascinating. Some of my friends from Moms Clean Air Force spoke.

There was press everywhere in the halls of the buildings and outside. There were protests. There were so many old white men in suits. So many. 
This picture is hanging in Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. We need more women and women of color! 

This is my new friend from Michigan. We carried signs and delivered them to Senate offices. Trying to navigate the tunnels and halls of the Senate offices felt like an episode of The Amazing Race. It was fun.

I've been to DC a lot over the years when we had different Presidents--Clinton, Bush, Obama--and have never felt the vibe I felt last week. It's a weird mix of fear and hope; anxiety and electricity. Everywhere I went in my Moms Clean Air Force t-shirt people thanked me for the work I was doing. People asked me how they could get involved. As I walked down the street and through the halls of the Capitol office buildings, I got knowing glances, head nods and even a fist bump full of solidarity from a stranger in the elevator. 

Lucy was next to me the whole time, sometimes helping and hopefully watching and learning the importance of stories and activism and doing something.

We took a short break and took another tour of the Capitol. Here's Lucy in front of the statue of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

I hopeful that is what a lot of people will do.....something. Because it matters. 

Walking around the Capitol and watching the podium being built where Donald Trump will be sworn in made me sad. My truth is that I wish he wasn't going to be our President. I do not support many, if any, of most of the Republicans in DC. I struggle with the hateful rhetoric tossed around online and on camera. I try to, but do not, understand the heated anger from some of Trump's supporters. I feel uncertain and worried and concerned.

BUT I also feel so hopeful. I am hopeful that more people will get involved and call their senators and tell their stories; go to Washington and their state capitols;get organized and vote. I am hopeful that more women will run for office at EVERY LEVEL of government. I am hopeful that there will be more peaceful protests and more living room lessons about compassion and tolerance. I am hopeful that some of the hateful rhetoric will be shut down with positivity. 

It won't work unless we do. Just like my mom told the first grade classroom all those years ago, "let's buckle up." Tell your story, do some good, find the light and turn the panic into positivity.

To learn more about Moms Clean Air Force click here.

Here's some musical, get moving inspiration:

Move by Saint Motel:

Milky Chance's Doing Good:


  1. Great story! I've been inspired to act lately. I started with poorly worded phone calls but I'm getting better. Yesterday I went to the health care rally in Macomb. Keep up your good efforts! It is so great that Lucy got to go with you. Kyra has been interested in getting more involved too!

  2. This made me cry, the good kind of crying. There IS good, and there IS hope, and change will come when everyone takes a few minutes and does something. Thanks for being you, always.