Friday, June 21, 2024

How Do We Cope with the State of the World?

This week I attended a web session facilitated by a group called “DC Peace Team.” It was a space for RESULTS volunteers like me to share how global conflict affects how we show up as advocates.

Image: Tourists in South Korea shield with
umbrellas against stormy weather by the sea.
Our facilitators asked us for a “weather report,” a summary of how we felt about the state of global conflict put into a weather metaphor. I think people find it easier to talk about the weather than share such personal feelings immediately with strangers. The reports varied, but none of them were sunny! We had “stormy,” “in the eye of a hurricane,” and even “cloudy with a chance of meatballs." I described myself as living in the musical Hadestown, where the weather is either oppressively hot so that I can barely function on my normal issues (like poverty or gun violence) or frozen because I just don’t know what to do on unfamiliar issues that seem out of my control (like Ukraine or Gaza).

We talked through a lot of more specific feelings, but I’ll cut to the end to give you takeaways I found most helpful to get moving again.

Remember you are ONE

“I am only one, but I AM one.
I can’t do everything, but I can do SOMETHING.
I won’t let what I can’t do interfere with what I CAN do.“
Image: Cindy (bottom left, pink jacket) standing in front
of the US Capitol as one of many ONE Campaign activists.
Our session leader shared this quote, and it resonated with me. It’s a paraphrased quote by American author and Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale (sometimes mis-attributed to Anne Frank) in 1902, but it rings as true now in 2024. Sometimes the magnitude of problems before us can lead to that "frozen" or "moving through molasses" feeling. But if I can free myself from the misconception that I’m supposed to do everything and remember that I am part of a large movement of people all working together…then I can refocus on doing my part. This is not entirely new to me. I once wrote a blog about how pulling on my own little thread of justice helps unravel the whole cloth of oppression. In that post, I said, "Don't become so frustrated about how you can't solve everything, that you fail to do something." Still, a new quote or metaphor can breathe new life into an old truth.

If you'd like a song along these same lines, I recommend Pat Humphries' song "In This Life," which contains the lyrics, "I am one, but one of many single voices in the silence that refuse the lies that bind us. We are worthy, we are safe."

Celebrate and amplify good news

When it seems like the world is full of bad news all around and then a piece of good news finds its way to you…celebrate! Share it with others who might need that boost, too! Maybe it’s something personal, like your child graduating from high school. Or, maybe it’s something huge and global like yesterday’s win for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that RESULTS, Shot@Life, and the ONE Campaign collectively campaigned for this year!

Image: Cindy smiling in front of a Shot@Lifebackdrop
holding a sign for Sustainable Development Goal #3:
Good Health and Well-being
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden announced a U.S. pledge of at least $1.58 billion over five years to Gavi. An early, increased pledge from the U.S. was NOT a guarantee even a few months ago. Advocates building bipartisan backing in Congress played a HUGE role in this. With major threats to global aid funding, a bold increased pledge to Gavi is an extraordinary sign of commitment...even more so in an election year!

It’s the first time the U.S. has ever made a 5-year pledge, the largest U.S. figure ever, and it is the first government pledge to kick off the road to Gavi’s replenishment, making it a really important signal to other donor countries. Gavi has already reached 1 billion children with lifesaving vaccines, and now have a plan in place to reach ANOTHER 1 billion children in HALF the time. They'll reach more kids, with more new vaccines, faster.

Writing this blog and telling you about the Gavi pledge is part of how I’m celebrating and amplifying today!

Start small, but start now

One of my long-time fellow RESULTS advocates reminded me of a quote from our colleague Nick Arena who said.

"Don't wait to be inspired to take an action. If you want to be inspired, take an action!" 

I find that if I can summon the energy to take even a small, easy action (like writing a two line postcard to Congress), that will usually kindle a little momentum to move me toward a bigger action (like writing a letter to the editor or organizing a bunch of people to write letters). Go ahead. Impress yourself! 

Do something for yourself that benefits no one but you

This one is about your own mental health. I picked up the phrasing from my new friend and fellow St. Louis activist/author Ben V. Greene, author of “My Child is Trans, Now What?: A Joy Centered Approach to Support." At his book launch talk, he responded to a question about activist burnout with this advice and added that for him that might look like Dungeons & Dragons. For me, it might be a glass of wine and a puzzle or an ‘80s arcade game. Whatever it is for you, set aside time to do the thing that regulates your senses and restores your equilibrium.

Cartoon by Gemma Correll 2022 of
a person trying to relax.
I saw a cartoon from Gemma Correll’s Instagram of a stressed out person trying to relax and thinking, “There must be a way of relaxing that’s more productive.” Ha! That’s totally been me as a multi-tasking, stressed-out mom-activist. But NO!...unless you're a crafter. I do relax by quilting and sewing and get immense satisfaction from a finished product. So, crafters get a pass on that one if we get joy just in the thing's making.

Share your thoughts

I hope this post is helpful to folks weathering their own storms, but it’s not a comprehensive list at all! So, you tell me. What do you do to help yourself get moving again when you feel overwhelmed by the state of the world?

Image: Book cover

Buy an autographed copy of "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started" at my website or order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any independent bookstore!

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Planning a Meaningful Mother’s Day for YOU

Image: Cynthia holding her book and wearing a shirt that
says,"Mothering is an Act of Revolutionary LOVE"

Did you know that Mother’s Day wasn’t originally about giving mom flowers and taking her to brunch? In fact, the commercial version of Mother’s Day was offensive to the creator of this national American holiday! After spending six years campaigning to create it, Anna Jarvis spent the last years of her life denouncing its commercialization and urging people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.

Where did Mother’s Day come from?

Image: Cynthia dressed as Wonder
Woman at a protest for women's rights
So, what is Mother’s Day supposed to be about? There were several factors that fed into our American Mother’s Day. All of them had to do with activism for the lives of children and creating a peaceful world for them to live in. Here are three notable milestones.

1858: Ann Jarvis, a young homemaker, organized “Mother’s Work Days” to improve the sanitation and avert deaths from insects and polluted water. Her groups later worked for unification after the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” when mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

1872: Julia Ward Howe - a poet, pacifist and women’s suffragist - established a special day for mothers and for peace after Franco-Prussian War.

1914: Ann Jarvis’s daughter, Anna, memorialized her mother’s life of activism with a campaign that succeeded when President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation making Mother’s Day a national holiday.

How should we celebrate Mother’s Day?

Image: A rubber duckie cake
As an activist, I’m proud to know this history and feel like I want to honor those early pioneers in mutual aid and peace activism. As a busy mom who highly values self-care, I also very much want a morning brunch with my family or maybe someone to make me a rubber duckie cake. But good news! There are 24 hours in Mother’s Day, so I suggest a balanced bit of everything that makes sure you honor yourself and the spirit of the day. 

Cynthia's Recipe for a Happy Mother's Day

  • Do something nice with your family: a brunch? a walk? a game?
  • Do something nice for yourself: a nap? a book? a bath?
  • Do something nice for your mom if she’s in your life: a text? a phone call? a visit?
  • Do something nice for the world: an online action? a phone call to Congress? a letter to the editor?

You likely have ideas on the first three, but in case you need inspiration for the last one, here are some links on issues important to moms that will lead you to some quick, but meaningful, actions with non-partisan advocacy groups. You don't have to do all of them at once! I'm just giving you some choices. They'll still be there on Monday, too!

Image: Book cover

Buy an autographed copy of "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started" at my website or order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any independent bookstore!


Saturday, May 4, 2024

2024 Mother's Day Gift Guide for Mom Activists

Image: Cynthia smiling in front of the U.S. Capitol 
wearing a "Big Mom Energy" t-shirt from MomsRising

Mother’s Day is coming up fast on Sunday, May 12. Do you have a mother or a mom-friend who thinks flowers are just okay, but she’d really prefer a cleaner planet, paid family leave, gunsense policies, health care access for all children, or reproductive rights? Here’s a quick list of ideas for presents for activist moms in 2024. IN A RUSH?? Scroll down for gift suggestions that can get there quickly, especially if you have Amazon Prime.

T-shirts and journals from MomsRising

Image: Woman wearing a tshirt saying "Raising
our children, Raising our voices" is an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all moms, women, and families in the United States. They’re a fantastic group for beginning advocates who like to take regular on-line actions on a variety of mom-related issues. They also have some of the cutest mom-advocate merchandise around! I’m especially fond of my “Big Mom Energy” shirt and floral “Raising Our Children Raising Our Voices” shirt. They also have a “Mom Power Planner” journal for her to keep all her plans and schemes for the future! Visit their store here.

Image: Hands holding a notebook that says
"Mom Power Planner"

T-shirt, wine glasses, or journal from Moms Demand Action

Image: The classic red Moms Demand
t-shirt in a maternity size
Is your mom committed to ending gun violence in America? Then she may appreciate something from Moms Demand Action. Aside from the iconic red Moms Demand shirt, two of my favorite things in their store right now are a “You messed with the wrong mom” scoop neck t-shirt (on sale now for $21 down from $35) and the “Be Nice” notebook with a favorite quote from Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, that says, “Be nice to each other, it’s really all that matters.” They also have stemless wine glasses with the Moms Demand logo perfect for toasting gun sense policy victories! Visit their store here.

By the way, the red t-shirt comes in MATERNITY SIZING! I've never seen an organization have maternity logo t-shirts before and I love it!!!

Image: Woman wearing t-shirt saying "You
messed with the wrong mom."

Apron from Mothers Out Front

Warning: Do not buy this unless your mom genuinely loves to cook or this could go badly if she thinks you just want her to cook for you.

Mothers Out Front is an organization of volunteers coming together climate issues and racial justice. One of the most practical items in their store is a blue Activist Adjustable Kitchen Apron. Visit their store here.

Image: Woman wearing a blue apron with 
the Mothers Out Front logo


Advocacy How-To Books

Image: Cover art for "From Changing
Diapers to Changing the World"

If a mom would like to build her advocacy skills to create the world she wants to live in, here are two advocacy books that can be an antidote to political hopelessness. Both can give her skills to apply to any social justice issue she is passionate about. If you have Amazon prime, you can have them shipped for free quickly!

The first one (full disclosure…I wrote it) speaks especially to moms who need a boost stepping into their own maternal power or want to become more powerful by learning new advocacy skills. From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started is full of inspirational stories and step-by-step instructions to take actions on any of her favorite issues. You can get an autographed copy from my website inscribed with her name in it. Or, it’s available on Amazon where the ebook price is 50% on sale through May 15 and the hardcover version is 54% on sale while supplies last. 

Image: Cover art for "Reclaiming
Our Democracy"
My next recommendation is the new 2024 version of Sam Daley-Harris’ Reclaiming Our Democracy. Sam is especially great at empowering those feeling hopeless about the state of politics and democracy in American today. He educates folks about transformational advocacy that can have a profound impact on both members of Congress and the volunteers who lobby them!

Donation gifts from Save the Children

Image: Boy playing soccer barefoot
wearing a Uganda jersey. Picture 
Gifts of charity donations can always be printed out and presented immediately! 

Save the Children is a direct service charity that works in over 100 countries doing whatever it takes — every day and in times of crisis — to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. At their online gift catalog, you can make a donation to buy certain things to help the children they serve. For instance, you can donate $15 for a soccer ball or $20 for a clean water kit. Visit the gift catalog here.

Image: Book cover

Buy an autographed copy of "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started" at my website or order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any independent bookstore!