we can keep trying, but

People who are abusive wait for bad things to happen to you so they can swoop in and save the day; that’s how they gain control. They want you to trust them, they want you to be vulnerable, they want you to lean on them so that, when you need them the most, they can pull the rug right from under you.

It’s a terrible lens – being wary of the “helpers,” coming to believe that anyone who is helpful is probably manipulating you, probably abusing you. That’s not usually the case; there are other red flags, plenty of other red flags. But it’s the helpfulness that’s the most immediate. It’s the helpfulness that makes me cautious.

We all need help. And when abusive people make you wary of helpfulness, what they’re doing is isolating you – making you afraid of the good helpers while getting close to you, learning what you want and need, and selling it to you. They’re helping you and they’re isolating you and they’re making you dependent all at once, so that when they pull out, you’re fucked.

I wasn’t confused this time, just angry at myself for letting it happen to me again. But I am grateful that I have an amazing support network now, and they were there to help. To truly help.

She worked me for a full year. A full year. I knew better than to trust her again. I kept her at arm’s length. But a full year had passed without an incident, and over time, I kept letting her in, she kept inching her way in, guilting me, helping me, guilting me, helping me, making me believe I needed her, making me believe Max needed her; and this Thanksgiving, she showed me that I made a mistake. Again. The same mistake I always make.

Forgiveness is not the same as giving someone the power to hurt you again. Forgiveness is not the same as giving someone the power to hurt you again.

Every time I go back, I’m so convinced – I so want to believe – that this time will be different, and it’s never different. I’m just always surprised by all the inventive ways she’s found to hurt me.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 893549685493869x over the course of 26 years, and what the fuck am I doing?

pumpkins and painting

I totally killed work-life balance today, though life for sure gets +1. Bonus points because I barely went outside, except for playing basketball and blowing bubbles in the morning and eating lunch on the patio in the late afternoon.

This morning, CASS’s strategic planning committee came over to strategically plan. I got some work done throughout the day, especially when Max napped, and then I took the rest of the day off to paint and play and make pumpkin things.


We never got around to carving our pumpkin in time for Halloween, so we tried to paint handprint turkeys in honor of Thanksgiving instead. My handprint came out a lot better than Max’s tbh, but he rubbed paint in it before I could draw any turkey eyes or…beard (beard?).


We got paint everywhere.


Even a little on the sheets.


…because a certain monkey decided he wanted to jump on the bed.


I roasted pumpkin seeds – it’s super easy, you just wash ’em, season ’em, and bake ’em. And eat ’em.


I also made pumpkin bread and pumpkin smoothies (not pictured because Max spilled both – possibly on purpose).


He thinks it’s very funny.

Why Criminalization Won’t Stop Gender-Based Violence

For a long time, the night that I was arrested was a source of shame for me. That night, my partner at the time was drunk. He was banging on the front door of the apartment we shared, and I was holding it closed. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and ran back to the front door — threatening him to make him leave. But he shoved his way in and grabbed the knife out of my hand, cutting his own palm when he wrapped his hand around the blade. I heard someone outside say that they were calling the police. He came toward me. I grabbed another kitchen knife. Then he pulled out his phone and called the police, too, telling them that I had a knife. I felt foolish and afraid. I put the knife down. When the police arrived, they arrested both of us.

At CASS, we’ve been having discussions about our position to oppose the criminalization of street harassment because of the way the criminal legal system disproportionately impacts marginalized communities and fails the people most at risk of sexual harassment and assault: women of color and LGBTQGNC people.

And while I wish there could be a solution as quick and easy as “call the police,” I know that it’s not that simple. I know that a recent Urban Institute study shows that many homeless LGBT youth in New York City engaging in survival sex — youth in need of support and services — have been abused by NYPD officers and that the abuse has taken the forms of verbal harassment, physical and sexual assault, and refusal of help. I know about the sex abuse to prison pipeline, showing that girls, specifically girls of color, who have experienced sexual violence as children are more likely to end up behind bars as a result.

I know about my own experience: In 2012, I spent a night in a D.C. jail cell next to the cell where my abusive partner snored. I was awake all night, ashamed for what I’d done and feeling that I was just as guilty as him. When we were released the next day, I believed him when he said, “It’s you and me against the world.” My night in jail reinforced the idea that I was to blame for the abuse, and it made me sure I’d never leave.

But I look back now, two and a half years out of the relationship, and I have heard the stories of women like Marissa Alexander who went to prison for firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband and Meagan Hockaday who was shot and killed by police because she was holding a knife during a domestic dispute, and I know that the criminal legal system is not a viable option for support or justice for women of color like me.

I also know that, while my white, male, and abusive former partner may never spend more than a night in jail for each assault he commits, an innocent black man in the same city can’t even stand in front of a bank and hold the door open for someone without being subjected to excessive force by the police.

Criminalization won’t stop gender-based violence because the system was not designed to protect and serve the people at greatest risk. Instead, many argue that prison feeds our culture of violence.

For black and brown bodies who are most likely to be objectified, abused, and policed, the only solace we can offer is our support and our work to create long-term change in the movements to end sexism, racism, and violence.

my bloomingdale

Today I threw a pillow into a wall. Really hard. And it felt fucking great.

I’ve been bottling a lot over the last two months. I’ve been doing that thing that I do where I’m desperately clinging for dear life onto anything I can grasp, anything that’s concrete, anything at all.

And it hasn’t made me happier; it has only made me more confused.

Today I did a search on padmapper for apartments, except I didn’t limit my search by location. I feel like I’m ready to go anywhere. I’m glad that my landlord made sure that I had a new gate. I feel much safer now than I did when I didn’t have a gate or a proper door. But I still don’t have a proper door, and I don’t understand what’s taking so long, and the longer it takes, the longer I feel like I have to cope with the trauma of having my home broken into in the first place. To make matters worse, there was a flood last week. Just a little flood, but just enough floodwater to fuck shit up and ruin my week.

I know I’m not usually so vulgar, but I think I really have to be right now.

The break-in, the identity theft, the new challenges that come with parenting a toddler, the flood, the campaign that thought it could. It’s all weighing on me. On top of that, I feel like my choices are constantly under scrutiny by a heteropatriarchical society that just doesn’t get single motherhood – that sees it as a flaw or a source of misfortune, that puts added pressure on me to compromise what I want to meet its definition of family, even if it’s not right for me or Max (or Lucy).

I’ve had friends who I thought would be major parts of Max’s life, and not all of them have consistently been around him, but this inconsistency doesn’t matter to people; it’s romantic relationships that matter, for some arbitrary reason that no one can define.

I think I can define it: You, perhaps unknowingly, believe that there’s only one way to have a family, and for some reason, my way doesn’t fit.

I am stressed, but I’m happy with my perfect little family – and with all the villagers who have come into our lives in loving ways. There have been so many.

I think that’s the hardest thing about really leaving. This apartment – with all its flaws, with all its history – is my home. I’m happy here. I love Bloomingdale. I like being the lady that neighbors can come to for cookies and beer. I like being well-known on my street, in my corner stores, at my parks. I love the community that I’ve built here, in the very strange three years that I’ve lived in this lovely, tiny, doorless but gated basement apartment. I’d hate to leave this place.

I hate to leave on such a cliffhanger, but I have to complete day two of my 30-day fitness challenge.

Balancing relationships

Balancing work and parenting came as second nature to me. These are two huge aspects of my life. Working helps me remember that I’m more than a mother – that there’s more to me than caring for someone else, and there will be when he grows up and moves out on his own. I’ll still have myself; I don’t want to lose that. And parenting filled a void for me that had been empty for such a long time: motherhood gave me family. I already have everything.

But balancing relationships has proven to be so much trickier. For me, for whatever reason, it’s been easy to be a single mom. I’ve never had to compromise. My way is always the right way. I’ve never had to worry about how much time I was spending with my son versus with a partner. I’ve never had to share him or share responsibilities. I’ve never felt jealous because he wanted someone else; he always wants me. I’ve never felt overburdened because he only wants me; he always wants me. It is my reality; it has always been this way.

iphone 011

Now I’m trying to be a mom and an activist, I’m trying to do a job and also have a social life. It’s sometimes hard to have conversations with my peers when the conversations aren’t about work, just because my life outside of work is very much still “Where the Wild Things Are” (and sometimes “Donde Viven Los Monstruos”). My life outside of work is, “Please don’t eat crumbs off the ground; you can have more Cheez its.”

What else is there?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to live for the late-night conversations with my lover about our pasts and about the ways we’re broken and the things we want to do in the future, on our own and together. I like brainstorming backyard projects and weekend trips. But I can’t help but feel guilty.

Max and I still have so much quality time together. We have our Spanish classes on Saturdays and our play groups on Fridays. We have dinner together every night. But this week has been hard. He hasn’t been waking up as happy as usual, and I think he senses that he doesn’t have as much of me as he always has.

(He’s also teething and has a canker sore, so it could be all that…)

I honestly don’t know how married people do it.

flaws and frustration

I’ve come to believe that
making a relationship work is not about
finding someone who’s perfect.
it’s about finding someone just as flawed as you are,
someone who’s willing to accept you and be patient with you,
and gently push you to be better than you were.

I’ve come to believe that
just about all our problems are solvable
if we listen and we learn to communicate and we’re patient,
and we put ourselves in the shoes of everyone we meet,
and we try our best to be kind.

I’ve come to believe that
the same principles that apply to love and parenting
apply to nearly every context —
we just need to use our listening ears,
and when someone doesn’t have their listening ears on,
we need to gently remind them or sometimes let it go.

I’m at a weird point in my life.
it’s a weird year – kind of a transition year.
I’m doing well, and in some ways, I’m happy to be in a place where I know I’m not so needed,
because I’m needed elsewhere – I’m needed at home,
and it’d be so hard to be so needed in so many places,
so it’s the right thing for me right now.
at the same time, it’s frustrating
to feel stalled, to lack control,
to strike the perfect balance between patience and assertiveness,
and always fall short and hit frustration again instead.