When We Don’t Fund Public Education


Wisconsin’s Overpass Light Brigade light up the night with a message in support of public schools.  Courtesy: http://metea.weac.org/2015/02/09/parents-community-come-support-public-education

The narrative surrounding higher education in Wisconsin is yet again being defined by those who do not work in higher education in Wisconsin and unfortunately, as we’ve seen before, this line of attack is incredibly successful.

“The No Confidence vote isn’t really about President Cross or the Board of Regents. The radical faculty at UW-Madison are rejecting the values and expectations of the people of Wisconsin. They are backhanding the middle class families who are pleading for controls on tuition and an end to wasteful spending in the UW System.” -Sen. Steve Nass

“This action by the governing members of UW Madison shows an arrogance that doesn’t serve the University or its students well. It’s a clear example of the complete disconnect between UW Madison faculty who seem to expect their job to come with…

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Electing A President Without Facts


ellmedia literacy


“We need media literacy as much as we need to learn to read.”- Jennifer Pozner

“The world will not be a better place when these fact-based news organizations die.  We will be propelled into a culture where facts and opinions will be interchangeable, where lies will become true and where fantasy will be peddled as news. I will lament the loss of traditional news. It will unmoor us from reality.” –Chris Hedges

I like facts.  My Facebook feed is somewhat abnormal in that I have more links to articles and news sources than pictures of my friends’ children or the plate of steamed mussels they ate that day.  I consider myself to be media literate.  I work hard to find accurate information, so it disturbs me greatly when I find myself fact-checking sources I once deemed credible.

Normally, I criticize mainstream American media news outlets for…

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Yes. I Suffer From Mental Health Issues. I’m Not Ashamed. You Shouldn’t be Either.

Dissent and Cookies

Yesterday, I woke up feeling overwhelmed, sad for absolutely no reason, and just wanted to stay in bed and cry all day.  I haven’t had an episode like this in quite a long time so it scared the absolute shit out of me.  I texted a few very good friends who know me well and who would know exactly what I needed to hear, I took my medication, and slowly, throughout the day, things got better.  I still felt exhausted.  I still felt sad.  I still felt anxious about being sad but today I’m better.  Rationally, my brain knew this would be temporary, but physiologically, I was already in that head space, and there was nothing I could do to “snap” out of it.

My old therapist used to call this “getting on the bus.”  She said to me, “Kelly, if you saw a bus being hijacked, would you choose…

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Will the Adults on the Left Please Stand Up?



I am exhausted.  I spent the entirety of yesterday with my mother in  the emergency room until she was admitted to the hospital, had a breakdown when I got home because it’s scary when a parent is in the hospital and you have that moment when you realize your mother isn’t immortal.  She’s going to be ok, but I’m exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.  I just wanted to take a nap when I got a message from a Clinton supporter friend of mine regarding BernieBros.  And I almost lost it.

I made a mistake last week.  I tried to engage someone in civil debate on Facebook.  I know, I know.  I should know better.  I know the internet is horrible.  The comments section tends to be particularly horrible.  In a piece I wrote recently, I was called a “Disgusting supremacist Nazi.”  So there’s that.

So why did I…

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A Feminist’s Guide to Critiquing Hillary Clinton



Fair warning:  This blog is not going to be angry.  It will not be written in all caps.  There will be no vulgarity.  And it probably won’t go viral.  I don’t care.

What I do care about is the fact I’ve read over 70+ articles in the past two weeks alone discussing the 2016 election and what I see is a total lack of nuance and a lot of critiques that overgeneralize or underplay the very real role gender plays when people talk about Clinton and/or any other women who dare to step into positions that for so long have only been held by men.

What I do care about is how on my Facebook feed and elsewhere, I see well meaning folks called out as sexist jerks for simply offering legitimate critiques of Clinton and what a Clinton presidency might look like.

I like nuance.  I like messy.  I…

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Why I’m Not Giving Up on Humanity

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The last few weeks have been filled with tragedy upon tragedy causing my Facebook feed to fill with expressions of exhaustion, pain, and grief.  It is easy to lose faith in humanity; to feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness.  I’ve even seen many post about questioning bringing a child into a world so dark.

And there is much in this world that is senseless, violent, and cruel.  And one would be naive to think that our world will cease to oftentimes exist in that senselessness, violence and cruelty.

But I don’t believe in coincidences, and there is much around me that reminds me of the good in people, in the miracle of friendship (as a good friend put it), and the beauty even in suffering and in death.

So to all out there who are having a hard time seeing the world without a lens of hopelessness, I offer this.

This morning I awoke with an unshakeable sense of loneliness.  Perhaps it was because I spent the better part of yesterday with my wonderful mother and through the laughter and love that we always share when we’re together, we also cried for my stepfather who passed very recently.  I think in being strong for her, my body has shut down my ability to mourn and today I wept for him as if I hadn’t cried in years.

And then a friend reached out to me.  He shared some beautiful words about friendship and just wanted to remind me that I was loved.  That was it.  He had no idea that I had been in such pain just minutes before but somehow that message got to me when I most needed it and when I least expected it.

Friendship is indeed a miracle.  Romantic love may come and go, but to those in my life who have spent years forging bonds with me, who have pulled me out of the depths of sadness during the hardest times in my life, who have stood by even when I was miserable company-know that I would not be who I am without you, and that the kindness and love you have shown for me never goes unnoticed.

Life can indeed be absolutely unbearable.  Some days getting out of bed seems impossible.  But every time I have those days, somehow by magic or intuition or God or everything, I am reminded that I am loved and worthy of love.

Because on those days, I’ll get a handwritten letter in my mailbox expressing condolences for my stepfather’s death with a note to listen to a certain song that couldn’t be any more a perfect antidote for what I’d been feeling that day.

On those days I’ll get an email from a former student telling me that he had an operation on his heart, that he’s cured of this rare condition, and had I not had faith in him, he never would have graduated and has decided to become a teacher.

On those days, I’ll go out for a drink with a friend and end up crying over shared tragedy, love, and loss and by the end of the night, we’re fighting over who loves the other more.

On those days, I’ll get a text message from my mom letting  me know that the roads are really icy and that I should be extra careful and I’m reminded that even at 36, she will always be my mom and loves me so much that she couldn’t let the day pass without warning me about dangerous weather conditions.

On those days, a friend will come over and we’ll end up singing together and it’s beautiful and wonderful and perfect.

Yes.  There will be many dark days to come in my own life and throughout our wild existences.  But there is so much love.  There is so much light.  None of this is to trivialize the events of the past few weeks, months, years–all the acts that make us question if this world is really worth fighting for.  But it’s impossible for me to see the love in my own life and  in so many cracks and crevices and moments all around me and not be comforted by that.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to live so long without losing someone and I’m still navigating the process less than gracefully.  But as a good friend who recently lost a loved one who was very close to him reminded me regarding the loss of my father and in terms of my heartbreaking sense of isolation this morning said, “Let his passing remind you of all that he would want for you–forgiveness first and foremost, and celebration.  You will still get to live with him.  In some ways more profoundly then when he was here.  I can’t explain that.  I am more skeptical about all of that, but I can tell you as I walked home from a stupid race in tears yesterday, it was because I was sharing a moment with my uncle that was real.  You will feel that too.”

I have friends who say things like that.  Who with the power of words can bring calm and perspective and peace in a matter of moments.  For that I am so grateful.

Like every piece I write, this is probably more for me than anyone else, but I am forever an optimist, an idealist, a dreamer, and do believe love will always win.  Call me naive.  Call me hopelessly optimistic.  Seeing love gets me through the day.   Feeling love and allowing myself to be loved makes me push harder to work to live in a better world.  Today, I don’t feel hopelessly alone, isolated, and disconnected anymore.  Today, I will be ok.  In the end, I believe we will all be ok.


Learning From Great Men: A Eulogy To My Stepfather

fernandez school

My stepfather died this morning.  He is no longer suffering.  He is no longer in pain.  He is at peace.  Yet he is gone.

I saw him yesterday and now he is gone.  I spent a good part of the day crying with my mother, but also celebrating his time here.  Sharing stories, knowing he wouldn’t want us to be sad, and though I will grieve with my mother, and will probably have a number of breakdowns in the moments when I’m reminded of him–the first birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas when he won’t be there–I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that even for a brief while, I was privileged to call this man my father.

I am grateful that my mother found the love of her life and got to spend 18 years with him.

I am grateful for how much he taught me about loving people, about humility, about how to be a human being in this world.  Because he wasn’t only my father, he was a mentor, a teacher, a friend.

The picture above is of the school that bears his name.  Yes, you have that correct.  My stepfather has a school named after him.  The Charles F. Fernandez Center for Alternative Learning.  I could give you a list of all of the awards he has received over the years, but they’re too numerous to count, so I’ll just link to a few so you get the picture:

Perhaps what encapsulates him the most, is a clip from this video when he is asked how being an OVEA Gold Honoree (a national award given to the volunteer of the decade) made an impact on your life and work as a volunteer, he said, “When you’re doing something for your fellow man–that has made me conscious of the fact that that’s what it’s really all about.  Being able to help others.  And it has given me the incentive to continue to improve the work that I do and also to get others involved in this.”

To those who knew my stepfather, they knew of his humility, and if he were alive today, he would be embarrassed knowing how much I’m gushing about him right now, but the lives he has saved, the hours of his life he devoted to helping others, myself included, I want not to go unacknowledged.  He will never be famous, but I’ve said it before, if a person’s worth was measured in how many lives they’ve impacted or saved, he’d be a billionaire many times over.

Though he was an agnostic, he was the most Christ-like man I’d ever met.  I remember the stories he’d tell me of visiting the juvenile detention center working with at-risk teenagers and how years later they’d turned their lives around.  I remember the pile of what we’d call “prison candy” by the door that he would take every time he’d visit a new juvenile offender because oftentimes it was a way to get them to talk to him and to trust him.  Simply by taking them candy, listening, and asking nothing of them other than to know that he was there for them and would help them in any way he could.  Prison candy.  That was Charlie.

I remember all of the people in hospital beds, unable to speak English, who were able to get relief by having him there to ask questions to their doctor when he was regularly interpreting there and in the court system.  Getting calls at midnight when someone was in labor and driving in total darkness to help a woman deliver her baby and calm her in those intense moments when you want and need to know what’s happening but cannot express those needs because you and your doctor cannot communicate.

And I remember living at home every summer during graduate school to save money and having lunch with him discussing how best to reform education, how to be a good mentor, teacher, and role model.  I will forever treasure those hours long discussions with a man so wise who, well in his 80s, still wanted to make the world a better place.  I think that’s why he lived as long as he did.  He just had too much work to do–too many lives to make better.

I am the teacher I am because of my stepfather.  I am the person I am because of my stepfather.  Though we share no DNA, at times I have felt closer to him than anyone biologically related to me.  He loved me like I was one of his own and was the father I always wished I’d had.

I will miss him.  I miss him so much already.  But I miss the man you see in that video, and as anyone who has seen someone in their last days knows, that man has been gone for some time.  The man who was dying was suffering–surely depressed because the one thing that gave him such joy–helping others–he could no longer do.  He couldn’t drive, he was home bound, deteriorating, and ready for the labored breathing to stop.  For his stomach to no longer feel nauseous every day.  For the hurting to end.  He was ready, and now he is at peace.  I know he never believed in a God, but as a Christian, if there is a heaven, I’d like to think the God I pray to has already opened the gates and welcomed him with open arms.

Today we lost a great man.  A man I wish more had the opportunity to know.  I’ve met very few people in my lifetime that have dedicated their entire existence to making life better for other people.

But in darkness there is such beauty.  In the kindness of neighbors and loved ones and friends who have already expressed such profound love and respect for my stepfather and well wishes and prayers for my mother and our family.  Just today a woman he helped years ago sent her daughter to deliver tamales to my mother.  A childhood friend of mine came over with food and stayed with me and my mother while we drank tea and talked about life, death, sadness, grief, and how to get through this dark time as he experienced something much more tragic very recently.

I write this as I write most of my pieces because they give me a sense of catharsis.  I want people to know the man he was and appreciate the incredibly large footprint he’s left on this world through the ripples of everyone he’s touched.  I also write this because I know I will be too much of a mess to give an actual eulogy at his service.

And I don’t want your condolences, or sympathy–I truly wrote this for myself, to process what I’m feeling right now and to pay homage to the man who has had such a profound impact on me and so so many others.  But I will say this.  If I had one more day, I would have hugged him tighter.  If I had one more day, I would have looked in his eyes and made sure he knew how much I adored him.  If I had one more day, I would have laughed with him one last time.

So even if you didn’t know my stepfather, I would ask all of you to do this: love those around you as if they could die tonight.  Hug them tighter.  Never let one day pass without them knowing just how much you deeply love them.  Don’t hold grudges.  There are never “one more days.”  Love and love fully.  Love like my stepfather did.  Live as he did–with humility, dignity, kindness, respect, and total selflessness.  Imagine what the world would be if there were more Charlies in it.  That’s the world I want to live in.  That is the work I will carry on in his memory.  Peace and love to everyone in my immediate world and across the globe.  Let us take better care of each other not only in moments of sadness and loss, but in our everyday lives.  Love will win if we choose that path.