Yeah! So excited to get my friend Amy as part of my interview series!! Over the past couple of years we’ve followed each other on the blogs, and during that time realized that we both live in the same town – cool huh! So this January, we met for the first time and did open mic together of our poetry and have been great pals ever since. She’s an incredible writer (check out her blog, She Writes) with a brilliant mind, great sense of humor, artistic eye and kind heart. I’m so glad to call her my friend.
What or who inspires you most?
The answer to this is fluid and always changing. Currently, one of the professors at my university, whose courses I take every time I can get in, is profoundly inspirational to me. She is warm, brilliant, and open minded, but what inspires me is her ability to engage others in critical thinking about their ideas/ideals without provoking them to an argument or causing a defensive response. The ability to get people to a place they are willing to weigh their hard-set values against new information is a gift I am inspired by.
What do you turn to when you need strength?
It may sound counterintuitive, but for me spending time alone is where I tend to gain strength. Sometimes life seems to bring a string of circumstances that are draining and yet must be attended to. I must get to a place where I can drown out all the noise, and ask myself what I really need, want, can change or offer. It is when I am without all the voices, ideologies, and pressure to please everyone I wish to, that I remember where I have come from, all of the times I have risen to occasions I would never have foreseen, and the fact that I have found my way through many situations I would have thought I couldn’t bear, that I can feel myself drawing on an inner strength that has always been there.
How can women best support and/or empower other women?
Women receive many subtle and not so subtle cultural messages that we are competing with our own sex. I could spend an entire interview on this topic alone, but in the interest of giving answers of a reasonable length, I will simply say we need to be one another’s allies. As women, we see the various talents, strengths, skill sets (whether intellectual, emotional, physical and so on), and potential of women around us. We need to tell each other what we see. There is a line in the film adaptation of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club a mother tells her adult daughter in a break through moment between them. The line is simply, “I see you.” It is what we all long for, to be known…to be seen. Rather than compete, we must use our voices to help each other gain momentum and a solid place to stand as we rise.
What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday?
I love to grow tomatoes more than anything else. I could eat them like apples and cherries if I could grow enough on my crowded deck! I have planted red begonias nearly everywhere I have lived in the last ten to fifteen years. They are the scent of a nostalgic time in my childhood I cannot place but find comfort in.
Someday I would like to be in house with a spot to grown a garden again. There would lettuces, and herbs, and cucumbers, and various squashes, and tomatoes to eat by the armfuls.
What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t?
Writing, gardening on my deck, and looking at possible art projects at Pinterest for the future are my favorite outlets.
In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element?
I am in my element in academia, in conversations with critical thinkers, listening to artists, and when my eight-year old daughter slips her hands into mine while we are walking.
Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?
- Planned Parenthood – because I care about access to individuals, male or female, to healthcare. Human sexuality is an important part of life and I appreciate Planned Parenthood’s work and mission.
- Families with Children from China – I am a huge advocate of adoption, as I was adopted domestically at age twelve, and I adopted my daughter, at the age of nineteen months, from China. I was one of their coordinators for about two years shortly after I came home from China with my baby girl. International adoption is an ever-changing world, but I have been deeply touched by adoption and will always look for ways to be a support in that community.
- Bark – They are doing a lot of awesome projects and I want to get more involved with them. They attracted me because of their opposition to the Nestle bottling plant.
What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next?
The biggest change I have made in the past year has been to carry a big purse that I can stick all kinds of stuff in. This is a small effort that has probably paid off more than I would be able to easily estimate. Hundreds of bags have not come home with me to be dealt with at all. I have also become fastidious about recycling in the past several years. I started with rigid attention to paper only about seven years ago, but over time it has moved to other things. I have a long way to go, but the other change I have made is to avoid purchasing food with GMOs and to intentionally support local, organic farmers and businesses.
Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why?
Home is my sanctuary. I created a Happy Wall where I keep pictures of my daughter and me, her art, and small things (like quotes) that I like. It is kept current and I rotate what’s on it. It makes me happy to look at and reminds me of what is precious right now on a daily basis. It is one of the ways I remind myself to be present.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to figure out who matters to you and who loves you as soon as you can. The more we learn about our most critical relationships, the more we can dismiss the multitude of voices we are flooded with to choose the ones that matter. Raising a daughter, I am constantly reminded of how mean young children can be to one another. For instance, when my daughter is confronted by a cruel child’s words, and she tells me about it after the fact, I advise her very differently than I was advised as a child. First, I ask her how the situation made her feel. I want her to be comfortable recognizing and defining her own emotions. Then I ask her who the child is to her. I remind her if the child is not someone important to her, than neither are their mean words. As an adult, this is a skill I have to cultivate. Realizing not everyone is going to like us, nor treat us nicely, is a part of life. I would want my younger self to know it’s okay and normal to not be liked by everyone. I would let her off that hook.
How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
Education must start early, be ongoing, and mandatory. We cannot become complacent once we know better. If only all of us realized the impact we can and do make as individuals. We need to be taught to think globally of the earth and our impact as human beings.
What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did?
My biological mother cared about trees. She boycotted Mc Donald’s when I was around six or seven because she read somewhere that a disturbing number of trees were being cut to make the paper for Mc Donald’s convenient to go packaging. We never went there again. She did not believe in any kind of cruelty to small creatures (like butterflies) while my friends were allowed to experiment on insects as children. She loved nature. I was given my love for the earth by her.
How do you live simply?
I live in a small but comfortable place. I walk as many places as I can. I buy local. I am not driven to own more, but to figure out where I can be content with less.
Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver