Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's 2 Letters...What's so Confusing?

It's a really short word, but it should be one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary.

I understand how the meanings of these top 10 longest English words can be confusing, but there's a whole lot more discussion, confusion, and debate about the meaning of 'NO'.

From Yale's Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges parading in front of the women's dorm chanting the disgusting and debasing "No means yes. Yes means anal" to Bud Light's most recent messaging that suggests they may have imbibed too many brewskies before vetting their new slogan, "Bud Light... the perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night. #UPFORWHATEVER",  it seems 'no' confuses people.

When does the word no fracture and dissolve from the compact and unmistakably definitive utterance of a toddler announcing his or her authentic power to a towering adult, "NO!", to a wimpy nebulous word that is so easily dismissed.

If 'no' is so confusing, perhaps we need to place our trust in verifying intent with a resounding 'yes'.

UPDATE: Budweiser quickly responded to public outcry about their slogan, "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night". Vice President, Alexander Lambrecht stated, “It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it.” While they cannot recall the bottles in circulation, they indicated no further bottles would be labeled with this message.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Investing in Homeless Persons

There' always an uncomfortable line between homelessness and a community's economic vibrancy. It's not that business owners don't care about the homeless. Saratoga's Code Blue totally disproved that myth; without the generosity of our local businesses 83 people would have been forced to spend 85 nights on the street in frigid temperatures last winter alone. Instead businesses like Longfellows and the Old Bryan Inn provided meals and  Cudney's laundered bedding and afforded the guests the ability to launder their clothing. It's not their mission, but these businesses saved lives this winter.

But street homelessness can also detract from a safe and vibrant business district...and those very caring business owners find their customers aren't walking through their doors. The solution isn't simply charity for those in need. It's investing in programs that help homeless persons to find the way past their struggles; first by providing humanitarian aid for basic needs, but moving past that to provide support and accountability as they work toward a better life. This may sound simple and naive, but everyday local nonprofits like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN, EOC and Wellspring achieve these outcomes and help people attain personal dreams.

This video set in a corporate boardroom   demonstrates that when  businesses and nonprofits work together toward solutions they can create powerful change... that's mutually beneficial. I loved watching the tense, fearful expressions on the business persons transform into radiant hope as homelessness was humanized with just one surprising story. We often don't think about what a thin curtain divides 'us' and 'them' until someone opens the curtain and let's the light shine on us.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NFL Game Changer

Jane McManus was an early and outspoken voice on the NFL's handling of domestic violence among their players. In the most recent case involving Greg Hardy, McManus, who has often been highly critical of the NFL's response praises their actions in bringing experts in the domestic violence field to the table as these decisions are made. These experts can quickly note the nuances that others may overlook, e.g., the injuries on Hardy's victim's neck indicating 'she had been choked'; domestic violence advocates know that strangulation is a key indicator of increased lethality risk.

McManus acknowledges there were several factors that resulted in the suspension 'being at the high end', including  the presence of guns and not one abusive incident, but in fact 4 different assaults. McManus notes that while the NFL has put in place strategies to help players address abusive behaviors and patterns, these are only effective if the player is receptive, " If Hardy really believes he did nothing wrong... it will be difficult to see how therapy will be effective." With this 10 game suspension, it's clear a new era has dawned for the NFL, "This decision puts the NFL on notice. If you want to take a risk on somebody like Greg Hardy, go ahead, but you may not have him for ten games... and that is a significantly larger risk."

It takes such immense talent, perseverance and dedication to become one of the elite athletes of the NFL... with this shift in the NFL's response they've upped their game-- players may need to add 'law abiding' and 'of good character' to the resume.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Volunteers are not paid --
not because they are worthless,
but because they are priceless. Erma Bombeck

Job opportunity:
Extensive training commitment
Sincere patience, compassion and resilience
You will be exposed to frequent stories of grief, despair, fear, violation and inhumanity, which you'll use as the basis for building a path to safety, healing and transcendence.

Nights and weekends and may often involve  being awakened from deepest slumber with the expectation of being immediately ready to provide 110% caring and focused response, sometimes to someone in crisis... sometimes to someone who is just finally ready to talk.
Other tasks may involve speaking to groups of people about topics they generally prefer to avoid thinking about.

Pay Scale:
Priceless-- with everything you do, you may help to save a family... or  a life.

Last year Wellspring volunteers provided 25,705 hours of service, though hotline, speakers bureau, ambassadors, general assistance and legal clinics. And that's not counting the contributions of our board leaders.

Truly, Wellspring could not provide 24/7 services to help survivors as well as prevention and outreach to all  communities in Saratoga County without the dedication of our volunteers. And yet they never want thanks.... in fact, they often thank us for the opportunity:

I am not sure who benefits more—me or the caller.
I could be that caller or it could be my daughter or son.  
I know the time I volunteer can really impact the lives of families. This is the best part of my week!

To all our volunteers... thank you for sharing in our mission.
Together we can end relationship and sexual abuse.


The miracle is this-
the more we share, the more we have. 
--Leonard Nimoy 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weather or Wisdom?

We all talk about the weather, seemingly endlessly. Most of the time it's  banal commentary. But today I'm reminded of two women's stories about the weather that reflected far greater wisdom about life .

Not  too long ago I was at Saratoga Hospital with someone who was going through a very difficult time. A wise and compassionate nurse there asked her what at first seemed like an odd question for someone who was so clearly suffering, "What's your favorite season?" The patient replied with a season that couldn't be more different than the one we were in. The nurse said, "Over the years I've learned that no matter how things seem right now, the seasons always change and suddenly my favorite season comes again. We just have to hang on and soon this will seem like a distant memory." Yes, to everything there is a season. It's been a long winter, but it's over.

Was it yesterday or today? That magnificent day when we shrug off our sweaters and jackets and it feels like we can finally forget winter and luxuriate in the sun's radiant warmth. Each year on that glorious day, I remember with gratitude the words of a woman. She gave meaning to the work we do at Wellspring. So as my skin is warmed, my soul also basks in gratitude- for her words, for the staff and volunteers who are there day and night to help survivors like her, and for the hope that spring brings each year.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rape... a Nation-Wide Hunting Ground

Like a cat toying with a mouse , John Stewart's "Fact~ish" comedy segment analyzed Rolling Stone's response to their journalistic fact-checking sloppiness in their explosive story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia. Stewart feigned being amused, confused and bemused before his final pounce that laid bare the chilling truth of this whole debacle,
 "Campus rapes happen with shocking frequency; victims need support... 
but somehow in  a sea of verifiable assaults, 
you [Rolling Stone] managed to Where's Waldo 
the only rape story 
 that not only would fail to get your point across but 
set the cause back."
That's the biggest tragedy here; every future story about sexual assault  will live in the shadow of doubt cast by that Rolling Stone article.

As we read that story it was horrifying, but it wasn't unbelievable. Why not? Because rapes like that happen far too often on college campuses. Tonight I watched the screening of The Hunting Ground at the Spectrum Theater.  It's a look at the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses and the injustice victims often face when they rely on their college for support and justice. These stories of victimization and transcendence are a place to start the discussion on how to change a system that's not working. 

The Hunting Ground is showing again Friday, April 10th at the Spectrum; make the time to see it. Our sons and daughters deserve an education without fear; let's figure out how we can give that to them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

1 in 5

Soroptimist International works to improve the lives of women and girls globally, nationally, and right here in our community. During Sexual Assault Awareness month they're advocating for policies to reduce  sexual violence on college campuses, afford survivors  support and access to justice  and increase accountability. With just a click of the mouse you can let Congress know that reducing sexual violence on college campuses is important to you.


Maggie, research shows that campus sexual assault is epidemic.
So what are colleges doing to address this problem?
Not enough.
Urge Congress to support the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which will better protect students and increase accountability and transparency on college campuses.
Use your voice now to help women learn in the safe and supportive environment they deserve.Sign your name!
Thank you for your commitment to helping women and girls live their dreams!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What Would You Do?

Be an Ally

See Something- Say Something

Don't Do Nothing
Bystander intervention-- it's the hot  topic today but it's not a new issue. Way back in 1964 we began pondering why people choose to intervene or not when news headlines reported that 30+ neighbors looked on without intervening as Kitty Genovese was brutally stabbed to death.

It's a fact though, that one person noticing and taking action can deter an assault.  You don't have to be an authority figure; anyone can make a difference. In  this video a sexual assault could be prevented by some small action by: a best friend, a bartender, apartment mate or even a stranger. Seeing an evening on the town spiraling toward a probable rape is troubling,  but seeing the many  opportunities to intervene... and how simple it is to help out is inspiring.

Even more, watching a short video like this and thinking about it prepares us for how we could help someone if ever we are faced with that split second decision.

And of course there's one more person who wasn't identified who could prevent the rape... the rapist, by choosing not to commit the sexual assault.