A Mother’s Day Reflection on the Juggle between Parenting & Art-ing

May 8, 2019

A couple weeks before Mother’s Day, the folks at the Creative Action Network reached out to see if I could send them a few thoughts on how I juggle making art with being a parent for their Mother’s Day blog featuring some of their mama artists. In responding, I realized how much I have benefitted creatively through raising my children because of the interesting parameters and lessons that come with managing the lives of little humans.

Becoming a parent was one of the most creative transformations of my life–each day is filling a canvas to help young minds learn about the world in unique and powerful ways. My life is a constant juggle of finding time to create, managing the schedules and lives of three little humans, running a business with my husband, and working on projects to help save our democracy, fix our criminal injustice system, and heal our planet. The apple doesn’t fall too far in that our 7-year old daughter is also a Creative Action Network artist and created one of the bestselling “Vote” pins for the pivotal 2018 election.

I usually go to sleep at 8:30pm just after tucking in my three girls aged 7, 5, and 3 years-old, so I can wake up at 5AM. That peaceful time each morning before everyone else wakes up is my sacred opportunity to solo paint and write. In addition to taking advantage of my alone time, I also try to make art when my kids are around so we have the shared experience of creating together. I’ve turned our family dining table into our Mama-Daughter art studio–with paper, paints, glue, markers, crayons, and more. My kiddos have free rein of our makeshift studio so making art has become central to our life as a family. The kiddos often paint and create art while my husband and I are making meals or doing work, yet we are all just a few feet away from each other in the process.

My children inspire my creativity–they are the prime example that we are all born as artists. Give a child tools and materials to make art and they will blow your mind. They aren’t inhibited by what others think or the rational sides of their brain. They continually remind me to see the world through curious eyes and to not judge what comes out of my pen or paintbrush.

The Creative Action Network is a community of artists making art with purpose. My “Everyone Welcome” print has been a featured piece in their What REALLY Makes America Great campaign that was then published into a lovely coffee table book to celebrate the diverse tapestry of ideas, principles, and things that truly make our nation great.

Steps You Can Take To Help Us Save Democracy.

Oct 9, 2018

Like most Americans, Chris and I were hoping rationality, fairness, and compassion for our fellow humans would prevail in the 2016 elections. Whoops.

Since then, as our democratic way of life is under assault every day, many of you have asked, “What do we do now?” Early on, we didn’t have good answers to that question. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Together with our Chief of Staff, Clay Dumas, who joined us from the Obama White House, and countless advisers and researchers, Chris and I dug into what went wrong.

In 2016, Democrats made some fatal errors. A lack of good data combined with old-school insider bias led to bad decisions about which races to invest in. Failure to adapt to an evolving media landscape meant Democrats were using weak and costly tactics in trying to reach voters. Even worse, the establishment’s intuition about which messages would persuade and inspire voters was dead wrong. All of this was compounded by too many local races without Democrats on the ballot. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Understanding what went wrong has honed our approach to 2018 and beyond. We found we need to:

Focus On The House

We need to win back at least one chamber of Congress, and the expected likelihood of turning the tides in the House is higher than in the Senate. Don’t get us wrong, America would be in much better shape if we won the Senate, and we’ve personally contributed to multiple efforts on that front. But, the best bang for the buck is in the House races. As part of this, we also know that compelling down-ballot candidates can bring more voters out when it matters and position us for fairer redistricting in 2020.

Spend Our Money Smarter

As much money as Democratic candidates are raising from the grassroots, SuperPACs and dark orgs will ensure the other side has a lot more cash saturating traditional and digital media. Campaigns with better creative, research, testing, and mobilization tools will be much more effective and efficient.

Persuade More People To Vote For Democrats

In many districts, we won’t win just by turning out our base. We need to find support in the middle and across the aisle by using smart and well-informed messaging to help voters understand why it’s in their best interest to choose us, and we need to get those voters to show up.

Run Everywhere

A failure to recruit candidates for hundreds of local, state, and federal races in 2016 cost us seats in Congress and state houses across the country. Running for and winning these seats means we will have more power to shape legislation, we will be able to reverse the most egregious cases of gerrymandering, and in the long run we will have a bench full of candidates with integrity and a commitment to service.

With these principles as our guide, we spent the last year-and-a-half going deep with the entrepreneurs, organizers, and volunteers who are working to elect Democrats. Dozens of new startups and organizations have launched to help run better campaigns and turn out voters. We made it our mission to find the teams and services that will make the biggest difference in the 2018 midterms and beyond. Rather than only supporting individual candidates (which we’ve done a lot), we’ve been funding tools that will help literally every Democrat running for office.

In that light, we’ve been giving millions of dollars to organizations and democracy startups that are building a new generation of tools for engaging voters, creating and testing the messages that actually get people to vote, making certain that someone great is running in every damn race, and ensuring that the will of the majority of Americans is never again ignored.

Here's What You Can Do to Help

After meeting with a staggering number of teams, studying their product roadmaps, evaluating how they’ve performed in special elections, and cutting a bunch of our own checks we were able to draw some solid conclusions. What follows are our recommendations for how you can donate your time, talents, and dollars to help save this country we all love.

Swing Left | Take Back the House, District by District

Swing Left is a national grassroots organization of volunteers supporting Democratic candidates to flip the House in 2018. They channel people’s energy and dollars into the swing districts closest to where they live. They’ve done the hard work of figuring out which districts actually have a chance of flipping to blue. In each district, they’ve been hard at work 1) recruiting and training volunteers to walk door-to-door and make calls and 2) raising money into “District Funds” where it was held until the Democratic primaries wrapped up. This ensured that millions of dollars in grassroots donations didn’t fund Democrat-on-Democrat fighting.

It works: In Conor Lamb’s special election in Pennsylvania last Spring, Swing Left volunteers generated half the calls (200k), knocked on roughly 8,000 doors, and raised $124k for the campaign — directly resulting in hundreds of additional votes in a race whose margin was only 627. Swing Left is hustling to ensure upsets like Lamb’s play out across the country on November 6th. Overall, giving to Swing Left is the most efficient way to invest your time and money in politics in 2018.

Volunteer: No one makes it easier to change hearts and minds in key races when it matters most: thelastweekend.org. We promise nothing will make you feel more connected to democracy than talking one-on-one with your fellow Americans.

Donate: If knocking on doors isn’t your thing, Swing Left makes it easy to donate directly to the most competitive races where Democratic challengers are in need of resources: swingleft.org/impact. Chris and I have helped fund Swing Left’s operations, so your donation goes further and directly into the field where it will be immediately effective.

Team | Persuade Friends To Vote

If you’ve ever volunteered on a campaign, you know the roles and resources can be limited. Team, built by The Tuesday Company, gives us all a new way to volunteer. It draws on social media to help friends persuade friends to vote. Frankly, it’s the tool the Hillary campaign wish they had in 2016.

In campaign lingo this is called ‘relational organizing.’ All that means is drawing on existing relationships instead of talking to strangers. There are a few different startups working to bring it online, and we believe Team is the most effective. An early focus on Facebook and texting, together with their experience as field organizers, has resulted in one of the best new campaign tools to emerge this cycle. Team is being deployed in the most competitive Democratic campaigns in the country, with a special focus on House races.

Download the app: If you have a few minutes and you want to help connect your friends with your favorite campaigns, start using Team today by downloading the app here: go.jointeam.com.

Jobs:  They have a number of full-time roles and internships in New York: tuesdaycompany.com/jobs. If you’re interested in applying, send your resume and a sample of your work to hello@tuesdaycompany.com.

MobilizeAmerica | Connect Volunteers With Campaigns

MobilizeAmerica is the indispensable platform for campaigns and political organizations to recruit volunteers. Before Mobilize, the best way for Conor Lamb’s campaign in Western Pennsylvania to get people in the door was to list the office address on their website and hope people showed up. Mobilize made it easy for Swing Left and nearly 100 other grassroots organizations to recruit volunteers on behalf of the campaign. Between late February and the special election in March, campaigns and organizations on the MobilizeAmerica platform scheduled 4,041 volunteer shifts for the Lamb campaign, helping to turn out thousands of additional voters in a race that was ultimately decided by just 627 votes.

This Fall, MobilizeAmerica is directly supporting more than 300 of the most competitive congressional and statewide elections, and they’ve got deals in place with everyone from Swing Left and MoveOn to the DNC and DCCC. Together these partners have more than 20 million members that they’re pushing to volunteer on hundreds of campaigns. With MobilizeAmerica as the backbone of volunteer recruitment, there’s the potential to book more than one million volunteer shifts in competitive races across the country. We’ve never had a tool like this before, and it could prove to make all the difference.

Volunteer: Chances are the campaigns closest to you are already running on Mobilize. Find the highest impact opportunities to volunteer here: events.mobilizeamerica.io.

Jobs: They’re hiring for engineering, design, and partnerships roles: mobilizeamerica.io/jobs. To apply, interested candidates should email: jobs@mobilizeamerica.io.

Democracy Works (Turbovote) | Makes Voting Easy

Democracy Works is a team of software developers and civic organizers working to upgrade the infrastructure of American democracy. Their best-known product is TurboVote, an online service that helps anyone in America vote in national, state, and local elections.

This year, they’ve quintupled their users from one to more than five million. That includes 486,966 on National Voter Registration Day (September 25th) alone, thanks to deep product integrations with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Google. Working with these platforms along with companies like Starbucks and Salesforce with lots of employees and even more customers, they’ve set a challenge to increase voter participation to 80% by 2024.

Democracy Works is also the team behind the Voting Information Project, a data collaboration with Google and the states which makes it possible to search online for your polling place, and Ballot Scout, a digital tool that helps local election administrators keep track of millions of mail and absentee ballots so that they make it to voters in the first place and get counted in the final tallies.

Sign up: Make sure you’re registered and receiving updates about elections by signing up here: turbovote.org. Send that link to all of your friends and share it on social media.

Donate: You can donate here to support Democracy Works: democracy.works/#donate. This is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization that spends every dollar it raises building technology that makes voting simpler and more seamless for all, so you can be proud of the impact your contribution will have.

Resistbot | Democracy via SMS

Resistbot started out with a simple premise: make it easier for people to contact their elected representatives. In the early days of the Trump regime, ResistBot built an SMS bot on Twilio that turned text messages into faxes, allowing constituents to register their opinion with Congress. As old school as it sounds, Congressional staffers all say that faxes go a long way in influencing representatives. Working with a volunteer force of engineers, Resistbot grew to more than 4.3 million users in year one — the biggest SMS list in politics.

The next test for this incredibly lean team comes this fall as they work to convert all that energy into votes. First, they built tools to check if you’re registered, remind you about keys dates, lookup your polling location. Now, they’ve launched the first ever SMS voter registration tool. It’s currently live in California, Colorado, Florida and Illinois.

Sign up: Text VOTE to 50409 and pledge to vote on November 6 and contact your representatives. Then tell your friends to sign up too.

Volunteer: Resistbot is churning out new features, and they could use some extra hands. Email them at volunteer@resist.bot if you want to move fast and fix civic engagement with them.

Donate: You can donate here: resist.bot/#donate. Confidently know that every $1 you give funds messages to over 100 people.

Run For Something | Inspiring, Authentic Candidates

In 2016, 40% of down-ballot state legislative races went uncontested. Run for Something is fixing that by recruiting young and diverse candidates to run in each and every down-ballot race across the country, from school board to state senate. So far, 18,000 people have registered their interest to run for office with Run for Something, and this November they’ll have 406 candidates on the ballot, exactly half of whom are women and nearly 40% are people of color.

In addition to recruiting people to run, they help them win. They’re on the lookout for candidates who are progressive, rooted in their communities, and focused on making face-to-face contact with voters–the scientifically-proven most effective way to increase voter turnout.

In 2017, they endorsed 72 people across 14 states, and 50% of their first-time candidates won. The win rate for first-time candidates is usually closer to 10%. Of those winners, 51% identify as women, and 40% as people of color. In 2018, they’ve already endorsed over 630 candidates in 48 states, making them essential to taking back the state houses and local governments that can keep America on track. Run for Something will turn out voters for school board and state rep which has a documented reverse-coattails effect on candidates higher up on the ballot. So this is as important as anything else we support.

Donate: Knowing that every dollar raised helps bring down the barriers for more young and progressive candidates to run for office, make a donation here: runforsomething.net/donor.

Run: The surest way to make a difference? Run for something yourself: runforsomething.net/candidate.

Higher Ground Labs | Ycombinator For Democracy

Higher Ground Labs incubates and accelerates companies that help progressives reach voters, organize volunteers, and manage campaigns. Think of them as a YCombinator for democracy. In just over a year, this lean team of Obama campaign staff-turned-entrepreneurs has established itself as an indispensable clearinghouse for Democratic campaigns and a center of gravity for political tech. Higher Ground Labs is both a magnet for the most talented startups and a trusted brand among the old-school party committees. That means the best new tech is coming out of Higher Ground Labs and immediately getting the biggest Democratic orgs signed on as customers. We have funded both the accelerator itself, as well as some of the companies that have graduated. These investments are already paying off for Democrats, but more innovation and scale depends on support from you.

Jobs: Their jobs page is full of opportunities across their portfolio: highergroundlabs.com/jobs.

The Arena | Coaching The Next Generation Of Leadership

The Arena coaches promising first-time candidates in storytelling, organizing, and campaign management to help them reach voters with their most compelling messages. They’re a diverse team of former Obama appointees, campaign managers, and technologists who recognized the need to invest in new blood. They work on both federal and state races, helping candidates like Lauren Underwood, who captured the Democratic nomination in Illinois’ 14th congressional district. In March, Lauren–who is 31, black, and a former appointee to the Department of Health and Human Services under Barack Obama–captured 57% of the vote in a 7-way primary where the six other candidates were white men. In addition to coaching candidates, they’re publishing toolkits and templates that help a broad set of young and first-time office-seekers get up and running.

Use your talents: If you’re a creative who can help candidates tell their stories through words, design, or video, your talents are needed. Please email Ravi Gupta: ravi@thearena.run.

Donate: Every dollar they raise helps the Arena add candidates to their roster and increases their chances of winning. Donate here.

Creative Action Network | Art With Purpose

The Creative Action Network is a community of artists and activists making art with purpose. They run crowdsourced campaigns around causes, inviting artists of all stripes to contribute their own meaningful work. After the election of Trump, they ran the What Makes America Great campaign to focus on the many things that truly make this country so special. Then they turn campaign designs into posters, apparel, and home goods that they sell online and in retailers across America. Proceeds from every purchase go to support causes, from national parks to civic engagement. The Creative Action Network grew out of a grassroots collective of artists and designers during the Obama campaigns who discovered the power of art to make change.

Use your talents: Calling all artists and designers to contribute work to one of their campaigns: creativeaction.network/pages/contribute-art.

Purchasing power: Check out the many inspiring pieces of art and books that have been contributed by artists from across America. Buying and displaying art like this where you work and live will both support the underlying cause and remind all who see it of what matters most.

One note, I created this Everyone Welcome piece which has become a favorite and can frequently be seen in store windows or on classroom doors.

*   *   *

The vast majority of Americans agree–this childish fraud has been a disaster. His policies are cruel and ignorant. The damage he’s doing is traumatic and potentially irreversible, yet the GOP is complicit and fully embracing the trampling of American history, values, and norms.

To see him separating kids from their families at the border, stoking the flames of racial bigotry, prying healthcare away from hard-working Americans, shrinking public lands, legitimizing white supremacy, starting pointless trade wars, defiling the environment, bullying his opposition, appointing craven hacks to the Supreme Court, and denying the climate crisis are among the countless things that make us sick.

On top of that, he’s abusing his power, assailing civil servants, de-funding critical programs, undermining law enforcement, encouraging violence against the press, shattering our global alliances, embracing despots, and outright lying to the American people multiple times a day all while lining his own pockets with fraud and corruption right out in plain view. He is a dark stain on the fabric of this great nation.

If you are also furious, anxious, and just downright exhausted by this evil, feckless tyrant and his enablers, please take these actions right now to unseat his power and save the United States of America.

International Women’s Day Must-Read List

Mar 16, 2018

For International Women’s Day, I decided to share my list of must-read books on women and gender. Each book has influenced the way we raise our three daughters to grow up to be bold, powerful, brave, kind, gutsy, intuitive, creative, compassionate, confident, empathetic, comfortable with and proud of their bodies, and in touch with their own unique feminine power.

Here’s my list of must-reads:

1. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein dives into how gender bias begins in infancy and is set in stone through the toddler-preschool years thanks to the proliferation of the Princess Industrial Complex.

2. B by Sarah Kay. This beautiful poem about daughters and mothers makes me cry every time. Take a moment to rewatch Sarah Kay’s powerful TED talk “If I Should Have A Daughter” where she shares her poem on stage.

3. Redefining Girly by Melissa Atkins Wardy shares definitive tools for making change starting at home (before your kids are even born), with family and friends, at school, and through mobilizing our power as consumers. This book is why my girls consider pink just another color in the rainbow versus the defining color of their wardrobe.

4. Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein scared the hell out of me when I read it. My girls are in preschool and kindergarten, so to face the daunting new sexual landscape of today’s teenagers and college students made me sweat. This book addresses the hidden truths of modern day sexuality complicated by technology and the unreal expectations from pornography. With the advent of the #metoo movement, this is one of the most important books of our generation that will help us educate our children and young adults about sexuality– from consent, to limits, to the benefits of pleasure. In addition to reading this pivotal book, I highly encourage you to watch Peggy’s TED talk “What Young Women Believe About Their Own Sexual Pleasure.”

5. Your Story is Your Power by Elle Luna & Susie Herrick is a beautifully written and illustrated guide to understanding each of our unique feminine stories. Elle and Susie provide tools, questions, and prompts to help us harness the power of our individual truths to change our futures. What I love most about this book is that it celebrates women’s voices, intelligence, compassion, and courage.

6. Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul & illustrated by the amazing Wendy MacNaughton inspires lives of bravery, confidence, and adventure through tales of Caroline’s life as a firefighter, paraglider, and ice luger–not to mention other impressive girls and women throughout history. We tend to model the images and content we are raised with, so all kids and their parents need to read this book. Also, watch Caroline’s TED Talk “To Raise Brave Girls, Encourage Adventure.”

7. Don’t Call Me Princess by Peggy Orenstein is a compilation of Peggy’s most important essays collected in one place. She covers often taboo topics such as miscarriage, the infertility industry, the emotional complexities of motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture, and the benefits of girls’ sexual pleasure.

I encourage parents of girls AND boys, to read these books to reshape how we raise our children to live in a more respectful, equitable, and just world.

Breathe, love, and own your pain to bring your baby into this world.

May 16, 2016

Last week I got an email from a good friend the week before she was due with her first baby:

Beautiful pals,

With one week until our due date, I’d love to solicit your wise words regarding labor/delivery and bringing a new bebe home. All thoughts welcome, especially around:

  • What did you wish you knew or really heard going in?
  • What surprised you in a good way?

I know how much y’all have going on so this is an “as you think of it” request.
Sending lots of love!

Her email was a prompt to both process and share my experience of bringing three amazing little humans into the world over the course of the last five years.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hey mama-to-be!

You really are the best lifetime-learner and curious mind out there. You never cease to amaze me, even in your final week of pregnancy. You are going to be the best mama/parent/inspiration to your little one!

I always say, birth is truly the most powerful thing/event/transformation you can do as a woman. It’s primal. It’s natural. It’s fucking scary. It’s fucking beautiful. It’s almost like a drug experience, you feel outside your body, but if you can harness your yogini-powered breath which you’ve spent years mastering this will be all yours. It won’t be easy, it will hurt like hell, but it will be truly amazing, meaningful, and powerful. Remember, 300,000 women give birth each day around the world. We are meant to do this.

The pain is part of the process. If you work with it, you know when your baby is coming. You know when to push. You know when to let up. You know when to breathe. Own the pain…use it, harness it, and breathe through it like you know how to because of those thousands of hours on your yoga mat.

First make the room yours, whether in a hospital, birthing center, or your own bedroom. Turn off all the lights, there’s nothing worse than fluorescent lights when trying to touch into your primal self. Go get a box full of those remote controlled LED candles from Target (best $30 you’ll ever spend) and place them in your birthing room. They are also wonderful for the recovery room when you want to see your baby, but not turn on the overhead lights. They provide a lovely, warm glow.

Also, make sure you wear your own little black birthing dress, so you don’t feel like a patient. Who says you shouldn’t look good, and feel good, during birth by wearing something that makes you feel hot and sexy? I wore this dress: Pretty Pushers in black for two out of three of my births. Put it on when you plan to go to the hospital, throw yoga pants on underneath, and top it off with a light wrap on top. All layers can easily be removed as baby gets closer.

Additionally, music gets you out of your head so don’t forget to create your very own birth mix made up of your favorite tunes that you can play on a Jambox. My birth playlist was a crazy mix of Kirtan (Sharon Gannon, Bettie Roi, Jai Utal), Michael Franti, Kanye, Jay Z, and Frank Sinatra. The key to birth is getting out of that left brain and tapping into what’s deep down inside. Music is your friend here.

Also, don’t forget to bring your own squeezable water bottle. Chris handed me mine in between every contraction. Much easier than the hospital paper cups that make you feel like a patient. Hydration is key. Also, bring your own warm cozy throw blanket, your own warm socks, and your own pillow cases (nothing worse than hospital linens).

Make the birth room your sanctuary. Don’t be afraid to ask everyone to leave. Your partner can be the guardian of the den. If someone is bothering you, ask them to go. Also, during birth you never know how you will feel. Chris and I practiced all the birth positions and massaging, etc, and in the end I didn’t want him to touch me during the actual contractions. I’ve gone on to learn that this is a really common reaction and many women want to be left to birth with as much space as possible.

You are going to be amazing. My mantra through all three births and to help me breath through each and every contraction was “this too shall pass.” Write it (or your own) on a sheet of paper to put by one of your candles. Trust your body and your breath.

Keep in mind that there’s no one right way to give birth. If things happen to veer off of your original birth plan, just be sure to stay informed and roll with the birth you are blessed with. If you have to intervene for some reason, then flow with it. All that matters is that you go home with a healthy baby.

Once baby comes, let him spend time on your chest after the marathon of birth. Nothing beats coming into this world and being skin-on-skin with mama. Well-intentioned nurses will want to take your baby to wash them up or run some tests, but really there’s no hurry at all. Savor these first special minutes, and just be right there.

Breastfeeding is natural, but can be difficult for various reasons. My first two had no problems latching right away, but my third had some issues from how she came out the birth canal which meant she wouldn’t latch for over ten hours. It was scary, but we listened to the doctors and nurses and eventually had to have her suctioned before she would eat. Since then, she hasn’t stop. I highly recommend using the lactation consultants, there are so many tricks to breastfeeding that they can help and share. With each baby, and with each new lactation consultant assigned by the hospital, I learned new tricks of the trade.

Enjoy the first special moments, and first few days, just the two of you and your baby. We made a concerted choice not to share the news with anyone, not even family in the waiting room, until we had our first hour alone with our girls. Then we shared with family, but not on social media for a few days or even a week. That way we could just focus and be present during those first days. You never get those back.

You are a goddess. Breathe, love, and own your pain to bring your baby into this world.
Healthy and happy.

Happy birthing, my friend.