Poems on International Women’s Day


Dear Mimi,

Poetry has immense power as we read it aloud, let it stray in our mind, hold on to a metaphor or a word or the entire piece.  In honor of feminist solidarity, here are a few written by women, for women.


Be Nobody’s Darling
by Alice Walker
“Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.”

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Today my mom turns 60.  She approaches this milestone age, one where many attempt to redefine who they are and question things they previously hadn’t, with grace and confidence in where she is and unafraid of what lies ahead.

As we come of age we spend so much energy defining ourselves as individuals in an attempt to discover our own truths.  In adulthood, as we become closer to knowing ourselves, we have a clearer view of the forces that have gotten us to where we are and a deeper gratitude for them.  My mom is one such force in my life.


Here are just a few things I love about her:

I can’t think of anything my mom hasn’t accomplished when she’s decided it was important.  During the 80’s when our family lived in Tokyo, my mom took my sister and I – two toddlers – all over the city.  She started groups and taught a workout class at the Tokyo American Club and entertained with my dad and exposed us to botanical gardens and temples and cemetaries during cherry blossom season.  I remember helping her pass out rice cakes to homeless people living in the subway.  Back in the States, she decided to get her teacher’s certification and excelled in a top-rated program.  As a second grade teacher she raises ducklings with her students and has them put on a play about a fictional child who escaped American slavery.  She spearheaded a district-wide creative writing program and mentored the school’s student council.   She has been active in political campains and PTA and Junior Garden Club and charity work and historic commissions, engaging in her surroundings and getting things done.

Mom is artful at making people feel special.  I grew up with parties and homemade cakes and thoughtful presents on birthdays, and lots of mother-daughter dates no matter the occasion.   She has made a point to visit every place I’ve ever lived for the purpose of learning about my life and pampering me.  This includes trips to rural Ukraine (with Dad) and to tight quarters in Brooklyn (several times).  She talks with people in elevators and on airplanes, engaging people in a way that makes them confortable sharing their life’s histories.  She remembers details and writes handwritten notes.  She hugs easily and compliments quickly.


She is an awesome Grammy to Mimi.  One recent source of joy is watching my parents become grandparents.  As a grandma, my mom is playful and creative and open-minded.  She was one of the few people to get consistent smiles from Mimi, who loves her Grammy and spontaneously kisses the phone when we Facetime.


Mom values quality experiences with those she loves and creates traditions that encourage relationship-building.  As a kid her and my dad would take us on “mystery trips” — adventures that included trips to a ball game or a musical or even Disney Land.  Mom always created a sense of importance around our togetherness, whether we were making weekend breakfasts at the cottage or hosting Christmas Eve dinners or taking our anual road trip to Panama City Beach for a family spring break.

Mom and my dad have been in love for nearly four decades.  While her life and his are inextricably linked, she is decidedly her own, very strong-willed, very opinionated person.  Which I almost always love about her.


She beautifies spaces and appreciates beauty.  She notoriously adds flowers to hotel rooms.  Homecoming after a long flight often includes candlelight and hors d’oeuvres and a fire in the fireplace.  She just designed and decorated a cottage that is straight out of a home design blog.  She loves gorgeous views and historic buildings and beautiful cities.

She asks for what she wants.  A table by the window.  Emotional presence.  Time with her granddaughter.

She seeks adventure and has talked at times of moving to a (well-appointed) mud hut in a temperate climate or to an Airstream on the open road (good luck, Dad!).  She is a wonderful travel partner and we have had lots of memorable trips together to Chicago when I was 13, to Paris ten years ago, to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, to Whidbey Island.

Mom is curious.  She loves stories and history and music and theater and books and travel.


In the coming decades I expect Mom will face decisions and change that come with age.  I know that she will embrace this change with the same positive spirit that has always driven her and that has allowed her to build strong relationships, have fun, and stay true to who she is.

I love you, Mom.  Happy 60th!





Dear Mimi,

You have this book that you like, Rad American Women A-Z, that introduces you to women who found a place in history:  “A is for Angela Davis,” and so on.  We can learn so much from other people’s struggles and triumphs, ones that may directly speak to our own journey or ones we may never know.   In the tradition of looking to strong women for inspiration, I want to share with you on this blog stories of women who lead.

Last week, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren opposed Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination to U.S. Attorney General on the senate floor.  Warren is smart with a humble background and a career devoted to supporting middle- and low-income Americans.  She founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  She reminds us that our social contract requires that when we accumulate wealth, we “pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Sessions, however, has been a loyal Trump supporter, is skeptical about climate change, and has a racist track record that prevented his confirmation to the federal bench in 1986.   He is staunchly anti-immigrant, with the Southern Poverty Law Center opposing his AG nomination because “Senator Sessions not only has been a leading opponent of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, he has associated with anti-immigrant groups we consider to be deeply racist.”

It was Sessions’ racist record that Warren confronted last Tuesday on the Senate floor, indicting Sessions with a letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow Coretta Scott King opposing his bench confirmation thirty years ago.   King wrote, “Civil rights leaders . . . have fought long and hard to achieve free and unfettered access to the ballot box.  Mr. Sessions has used the awsome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.  This simply cannot be allowed to happen.  Mr. Sessions’ conduct as U.S. Attorney, from his politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.”

But before Warren could finish reading King’s letter, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell invoked a Senate rule, claiming that she improperly impugned the character of fellow senator Sessions.  McConnell explained his selective muzzling of Warren in neutral terms, “She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”

In response, Warren stepped outside the Senate door and read King’s letter on Facebook to six million viewers while the debate continued without her.  The Senate later confirmed Sessions.  Warren voted no.

I want you to know about this moment in history, Mimi.  This was a moment when Warren showed her leadership, her resilience.  She gave a voice to King’s words, a white woman using her privilege and position to elevate the writings of a black female civil rights leader.  She was measured and strategic and creative, using McConnell’s power play to her advantage.  She was true to her values, pursuing her criticism of Sessions not necessarily because she thought she could block his confirmation, but because it was her duty to try to stop an overtly racist man from holding the position of our nation’s top attorney.  And finally, she persisted despite being punished for, well, persisting.  One day we will stop using the very compelling hashtag #neverthelessshepersisted.  I want you to remember to persist when you know that what you are fighting for is true to your beliefs and benefits the greater good.  Persist.




on the road: Montana


There is nothing like processing a really difficult news cycle to make me dream of lighter days.

This past fall our family of three took an impromptu road trip from Seattle to Montana.  Mimi was ten months old, and we were ready for a family adventure.  We packed up the car and hit the road, relieved to arrive in Missoula twelve hours later (we stopped many, many times to attend to baby needs).  All the elements of a true adventure were present – new landscapes, sweeping beauty, a certain level of risk, lots of good conversation and delicious food, and the ability to be spontaneous.  That we got to share it with Mimi made the experience that much richer.


Missoula is my kind of town, with its mountain views, historic buildings, good coffee, delicious-but-no-fuss food, locally owned boutiques and shops, a weekend farmer’s market, riverside trails, and a state university.  The school gives the city a liberal vibe, a welcome change after all of the conservative political signs peppering the open expanses east of Seattle – not the most welcoming to this multiracial family.

Missoula was full of exceptionally nice people.  We met up with friends who insisted on treating us to brunch and who offered to babysit Mimi for us, though they had just moved houses that week (we did not take them up on this).  Our Airbnb host left Mimi puzzles and gifted her a hat and adorable Smartwool socks.  We loved the crew of bakers and baristas at the French bakery across the street from our place.  And the woman who owned this knitting shop made Mimi some mittens on the fly so she’d be warm on our camping trip.


We then drove to Glacier National Park to hit the trails, where one in three people we passed joked about how easy Mimi had it, limbs dangling from the backpack carrier (we borrowed something like this and recommend it).  We stayed in a “kabin” at the Kampground of America, where we caught the end-of-season retirees who had hitched up their rigs for the week.  And on our first night in Glacier we watched the sun set at Lake McDonald, a stunning welcome.


Our favorite hike was to Virginia Falls.  We started from the park’s west entrance early in the morning, stopping at Lake McDonald to rent bear spray.  We drove on Going to the Sun Road for two hours, winding up into the mountains and getting some incredible views of the valleys and the ever-receding glaciers.  From the trailhead we hiked into rich forest, bumping into a fawn on the trail and passing the double cascade of St. Mary Falls.

We hiked another half mile and emerged from forest’s cover at Virginia Falls, a gorgeous 50-foot cascade not visible until you are standing at its base.  Only one couple was there, and after we exchanged greetings and took photos for each other, we had the place to ourselves.  Mimi giggled at the refreshing spray on her face, and Sheikh and I marveled at the peace created by the waterfall’s raging descent.  (Great information about all hikes in Glacier, including Virginia Falls, is here.)



Despite the immense beauty we had already seen, we experienced the most impressive landscapes from the car on the drive back to Missoula.  We took a spontaneous detour onto 28, cutting west and then south to drive through endless expanses of prairie as we crossed the Flathead Reservation.  The midday sun created miles and miles and miles of golden landscape, highlighted by its shadowy contours and the beautiful, big, open sky.  I had never seen anything like it.  We found a lovely play structure for Mimi in Hot Springs, where we stretched and snacked and did not look for hot springs.



A little research about our surroundings revealed that we were not far from the National Bison Range, which boasted bison, antelope, deer, ramhorn sheep – it promised to be a pastoral American dreamland.  And it was.  We looped around the reserve during the final hours of the day, Mimi sleeping in the back seat, and happened upon a herd of bison sauntering toward us.  Sheikh and I watched the prehistoric-looking creatures approach us and cross the road in front of our car, mesmerized by their size and quiet power.


This was such a formative trip for our family, and we haven’t stopped talking about it.  We’ll be back, Montana.


showing up in hamtramck

Hamtramck, Michigan’s emergency protest against Trump’s executive order.


During the past two years, I sat out a lot.  I had a clerkship that required political neutrality, so while I felt especially drawn to Black Lives Matter ally work, I never felt like I could be caught on camera protesting.  I also wanted to spend any extra time I had with my baby and husband.

When the 2016 election season was in full force and my job had ended, I also skipped out on diving into election work.  While I was watching my baby become a toddler, I leaned on others to do the protesting and writing and lawyering, work that I knew needed to be done.  I believe that sometimes we have to sit out a round in order to be kind to ourselves.  But most of the time, we need to show up.

While in Detroit for my Mom’s birthday, I read about Trump’s reckless executive order banning many Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S.  I got a text of outrage from my sister, who is an entrepreneur in Detroit, and later a text to see if I wanted to meet her at the rally in Hamtramck today.   So I went.  I was grateful that she had held me accountable and was proud to be part of something important.

Did you protest the ban?  How?  Where?


we are immigrants


Friday was a dark moment in American history. After ousting top officials at the State Department, the president issued an executive order broadly construing his presidential powers to keep Muslim immigrants out of our country.

My husband is a Muslim immigrant.  My daughter is the grandchild of Muslim immigrants.  This country is made up of immigrants and refugees and those seeking asylum.

In his order, the president appealed to fear and xenophobia and racism, citing the 9/11 attacks to recklessly rupture U.S. relations with countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The order imposed a 90-day suspension of immigration to the United States from certain predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (note that the perpetrators of 9/11 were from none of these countries).  Greencard holders in those countries were blocked reentry to the U.S. The order also placed a 120-day ban on entry of people with refugee status and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

This resulted in crisis for many.  People flew into the U.S. with their refugee-status visas and personal possessions and were detained rather than allowed to enter the country. Those who have obtained visas and remain outside of the U.S., but who fall under the order’s sweeping provisions, may not use their visas to enter.

This is un-American.  Where we board up our shores and wall our borders to those seeking refuge or opportunity here, we alienate important allies and strengthen our adversaries. Most importantly, we lose sight of our values that gave us the Constitution, ensuring rule of law, equal protection, and checks on power.

I am heartened by the outpouring of support protesters gave to those detained at the airports, by the ACLU attorneys who challenged the executive order, by the courageous Federal Judge Ann Donnoly who stayed the order, and by the journalists covering this and announcing where and when protests are happening.

These are the moments when we must offer our minds and bodies and voices to create change.   We must cash in on our education and privilege and show up.  We must teach our children to be kind, informed, and passionate.  We must garner strength from the hope that came out of Friday’s events, support each other, and forge headlong into tomorrow.  No matter how big the adversary, for our Constitutional values to prevail, we must never give up.

required reading


I began reading to my daughter Mimi right after she was born, eager to share a love of language and books.  On those long, wet winter days during my maternity leave, I would cozy up on our couch in a room full of natural light, open up Shel Silverstien’s Where the Sidewalk Ends or Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir My Beloved World, and we would read together until Mimi had a need that shifted us elsewhere.

At fifteen months, Mimi plucks a favorite book off of the shelf, hands it to me, then turns around, slowly backing up until she can plop down onto my lap, eyes studying the book as we open it together.

Books are the toys we value most so we have a lot of them.  There are a few, though, that speak to raising a strong little girl who is proud of who she is, kind to others, and full of imagination.  In today’s climate these books feel particularly important to introduce early and often.

And they were particularly helpful in spurring early conversations with Mimi about the Womxn’s March we took her to this weekend in Seattle.

A is for activist by Inosanto Nagara

Courduroy by Don Freeman

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

What books would you add to this list?

why we marched


To My Fierce Little Lady,

We marched in the Seattle Womxn’s March today as a family.  We joined over 120,000 people, many carrying creative signs and wearing handmade pink pussy hats.  In Washington, D.C. over 500,000 people marched, and many, many more marched in cities around the country.  (Your aunt said that the march she attended in Detroit was a spiritual experience.)  

These are trying times that challenge even the most hopeful spirit.  On Friday Donald Trump became the president of our country.  He has consistently used his financial and political power to bully people and the press and, I fear, now, other countries, failing to take responsibility for the harm he creates.  He has been publicly racist, sexist, bigoted, and hate-filled.  He plans to fill his administration with self-interested, wealthy business leaders who in some cases do not believe in the protections the agencies they have been nominated to run are meant to enforce.  The spate of Senate confirmation hearings last week heightened my fear that we may be facing attempts to completely dismantle government services we take for granted, like a public school system.

Trump has a Republican House and Senate and a vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court, which would in many cases provide a fifth and deciding conservative vote.  (And let us not forget that this was President Obama’s to fill when Justice Scalia died in February of 2016.)  Because of this consolidation of power, Trump is certain to undo years of progress in civil rights, climate change, education, healthcare, immigration, reproductive justice, campaign finance, and more.  He threatens to undo the fundamental pillars of our democracy.  He has shown consistent disregard for rule of law, and enters his presidency in direct violation of the US Constitution’s prohibition against presidential conflicts of interest due to his massive and intricate business dealings he will not give up in a manner that resolves those conflicts.  He has aligned himself with foreign leaders who employ abusive tactics to maintain power.  And he lies openly, compulsively.  

It was important to me to share today’s historical march with you because I want you to understand that even in the face of all of this, you have a voice and your voice matters.  Your brown skin and female body and multiracial and multiethnic background mean that you will experience sexism and racism and at times you will feel defeated.  In those moments I want to remind you of this one.  Today young people like you, of all colors and creeds, joined their moms and grandmas and great grandmas to send a message to the world and the new administration.  Today we showed with our collective power our resolve to be heard.   We told the new president and his supporters that we will challenge policies and practices that harm those already at society’s margins.  We said that in the face of pervasive incitement of fear, we are not afraid.