Saldaña: Flip, or Flop? Depends on the Day

In December 2016, Sandy Naranjo filed litigation against Mickey Kasparian for gender discrimination and retaliation. Kasparian is the President of United Foodservice and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135, and at the time was also the President of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

One week following the filing of Sandy’s lawsuit, former UFCW Local 135 employee Isabel Vasquez filed a second lawsuit, alleging years of quid pro quo sexual harassment. From the complaint: “The sexual abuse committed by Kasparian included occasional demands for oral sex in his office at Local 135, sexual intercourse in hotels paid for by Local 135, and similar acts at Local 135 events (e.g., in his car outside the event).”

Kasparian claimed these suits were spurred by other labor unions, and denied all claims.

Within the weeks following, UFCW 135 employee Anabel Arauz began experiencing retaliation for her support of her former mentor, Isabel Vasquez. She was demoted, had her status as union delegate removed, sent to out-of-town branches of UFCW and told she would be fired if she couldn’t obtain last-minute childcare to do so, and became increasingly isolated at work.

On February 1, 2017, I helped organize and send a letter, which was signed by 46 San Diego Democrats and Progressives, to the Executive Boards of UFCW Local 135, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the San Diego County Democratic Party requesting an independent investigation into the claims against Kasparian.

Lori Saldaña was a signatory to this letter.

February 10, 2017, San Diego Free Press posted this piece that I authored, with further detail of the allegations and relevant details at that time: In This Post-Filner Era, the Democratic Party and the Labor Council Need to Do Better.

March 24, 2017, Anabel Arauz was terminated from her employment at UFCW Local 135. She filed claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation shortly thereafter.

May 8, 2017, after months of investigation by the AFL-CIO, Mickey Kasparian and Dale Kelly Bankhead were removed from the San Diego Labor Council. The same day, they announced the formation of the splinter group, the “Working Families Council,” which included SEIU Local 221. 221’s Executive Board was not included in this decision, and several members, including Executive Board member Melody Godinez, were shocked and angry at the announcement.

One June 16, 2017, San Diego Free Press published another piece I wrote, detailing a more comprehensive timeline: The Mickey Kasparian Scandal, Six Months Later.

On June 25, 2017, at the monthly meeting of the San Diego Labor Democratic Club, Lori Saldaña joined the club to argue against the Labor Unity Resolution, which was passed at that meeting and included this language: “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Diego Labor Democratic Club reaffirms its recognition of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council as the sole legitimate collective voice of the local labor movement.”

I spoke with Saldaña after the meeting, expressing my opinion that the time to address Party failures to address issues of sexual harassment within the ranks is in a non-election year. She disagreed, saying it was an election year, and asserted that the women who were protesting the Party’s inaction regarding Kasparian were “weaponizing their victimhood” and would never heal if they kept up their vocal opposition to his positions of leadership. I responded that Kasparian had never admitted any guilt – that they couldn’t heal if the issue was just swept under the rug by our community, and that the legal system was inadequately slow when so many women were making similar claims against one powerful man. We did not reach any agreement.

In December 2017, Melody Godinez filed her own lawsuit against Kasparian, alleging sexual assault, which seems to have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Several elected officials, including Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, expressed concern at the allegations in that litigation, and called for Kasparian to step down from leadership positions.

Shortly thereafter, Kasparian resigned from his leadership position with the San Diego Democratic Party, stating he had a lot of work to do focusing on his own union.

The political scene has become increasingly interesting during this electoral endorsement season, with Josh Steward of the San Diego Union Tribune establishing a spreadsheet and contacting several local Democratic candidates to ascertain their position on Kasparian, the Working Families Council, and whether they would accept contributions or endorsements.

On January 4, 2018, Stewart posted his spreadsheet, which indicated that Saldaña would accept donations from the Working Families Council. In response, she tweeted: “the chart is incorrect- I have no plans “to accept a contribution, an endorsement, or other types of campaign support from UFCW 135 or the Working Families Council while Mickey Kasparian is president.””

All litigation has now been settled out of court, and the terms of each settlement are believed to be confidential. Kasparian continues to head the Working Families Council and UFCW 135.

February 9, 2018, Saldaña appeared on the Voice of San Diego podcast. This is a partial transcript:

Andrew Keatts, VOSD, re: Saldaña’s stances when others were calling for fomer Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation: “Also, around that time, you were pretty outspoken in saying…”

Saldaña: “Women needed to come forward… and eventually, they did. Because I didn’t want the same thing that happened when I spoke up and women refused to come forward out of professional fear that they would lose their contacts with his office, they would lose professional relationship with his staff, so I made it very clear: these women have to come forward. And, just like the #MeToo movement, until and unless women are willing to speak up and say, ‘This happened to me,’ … the legal system and the court of public opinion tends to disregard the allegations.”

Keatts: “And also during the proceedings, as the situation heated up you also were pretty oustpoken about saying, ‘He nonetheless deserves due process, and he should not be forced out, forced to resign’…”

Saldaña: “It became highly politicized. And we’re seeing that again this year. And my concern was: If you force someone out without a process, then you have no process going forward to force other people out. Because it’s just done on their own volition. And we’re seeing that exactly in Sacramento. There has now been a ‘Hurry Up Measure’ put forward in the Senate to how do we extend a suspension of a measure because Tony Mendoza, a man I served with, has not been playing ball there. He’s supposed to be on voluntary suspension and he’s still carrying out his duties. So if you don’t have a very strict procedure, and I’m a community college teacher. And I’ve been in the district here in San Diego for decades. We have very clear policies on how you handle these types of complaints and disputes. And the reason is to protect everyone involved. So there’s no question, there’s no ‘Well he left, so it’s okay.’ It’s like, no, it’s not okay. If he leaves voluntarily and we never get to the root of how this happened, then it’s going to continue to happen. So that was why I said, “We need a process.” It was as much to protect future women from having a similar abusive relationship where they could say, ‘Well, last time that guy left on his own terms, it’s happening again, do I have to wait until he leaves on his own terms?’ It’s like, no, we need procedures that protect people proactively.

Keatts: “Okay, so, during the latter stages of the Filner saga, your concern was really around the process it, it wasn’t that you were standing by him.”

Saldaña: “Absolutely not. And that’s where it does – unless I have time, and I’m grateful for the chance here in the podcast to sit, explain why I wanted procedure, it’s because it protects people proactively, going forward, the next time someone… and we know, there always is a next time. I mean, we see it now. Now we can say, “Well look. Here’s the things that have to happen. Either to prevent it or to conclusively deal with that person right away and get them out of the (place).”

Keatts: “I don’t know if this has been a conscious thing that has happened in Sacramento, D.C., in boardrooms, and Hollywood and Wall Street, I don’t know if this has been conscious, but it seems to me as an outsider that, and maybe this is your issue, is that people actually prefer if it’s just public pressure that forces a resignation (LS: “Absolutely”); it’s cleaner, there’s no lawsuits, or there might not be a lawsuit, or the lawsuit comes later…”

Saldaña: “So let’s look at that in the Donald Trump perspective. Look what he is accused of now. And look how the community, the public sentiment is. If you had allowed previous Presidents to be paying off people, to make payments to people because of affairs, to acknowledge grabbing women inappropriately, if you had had any previous President acknowledge any of those offenses, the public sentiment would have been markedly different than it is for this President. Why is that? Because we don’t have any firm procedures. It’s just public sentiment. And that’s the danger to all of us. Because if someone can get away with abusing one population, one part of the population…. Even Evangelicals say, ‘Well, hate the sin; love the sinner.’ So that’s why I saw, if we don’t have agreed-upon procedures and a process that we use whatever institutions are there whether it’s legal, judicial, legislative, then it’s up to whatever the majority thinks is okay at the time.”

Keatts: “So, I promise we’ll get to your campaign-related issues.”

Saldaña: “This is a lot about the campaign, though.”

Keatts: “That’s good then. … So let’s lead this into a related discussion that’s going on right now, which is some of the turmoil in the local labor movement (LS: “Absolutely”) and the local party. So, you told me that Mickey Kasparian is the leader for the UFCW. And…”

Saldaña: “We have these two factions.”

Keatts: “… and it’s the UFCW members who should decide whether he is their leader or somebody else is.”

Saldaña: “They elected him. They have a process to get rid of an elected official within their organization.”

Keatts: “Okay, and so, to your way of viewing things, Mickey Kasparian, whatever is alleged to him in these lawsuits, it is UFCW members who make the decision about whether he retains that role.”

Saldaña: “Again, to understand what’s going on, we have to take a step back, and how did this Family Council evolve? Well, there was something going on with the Labor Council…”

Keatts: “Sorry, the ‘Family Council’ is Mickey Kasparian’s splinter group.”

Saldaña: “Right. Well, it’s not a splinter group. I mean, they took 60% of the revenues from the Labor Council when they left because of the size of the unions they represent who went with them. So that’s not a splinter group. A splinter group is the Labor Council that’s struggling to hold on with less revenue, by 60% less revenue. So you have a real battle going on between these two organizations.

And one of the things that astonished me, just as when the allegations against Carl DeMaio came out in 2014, I was one of the only people saying, “Look, this does not meet the smell test. These allegations to me are so outrageous, and used in such a politically motivated way, that we have to be really careful of how we establish their veracity.” And sure enough, after the election was over, Todd Bosnich was found guilty in Federal Court of obstruction of justice. That he had lied, that he had mislead investigators, but it was too late. The election was over.

So in the same way, when these allegations about Mickey Kasparian started coming out, I met with the women, I heard their allegations, I signed the letter of support, and then they went to court and I said: “Okay. From my perspective, they have a process, it’s moving forward.”

Then I started hearing, well, this really was generated from the Labor Council, that these allegations were the result of their being upset about neutralizing a person who walked away with a lot of their money, what they thought was their money, and I thought…”

Keatts: “Well, the allegations came out before anybody walked away.”

Saldaña: “I don’t think so.”

Keatts: “Yeah, no, the Working Families Council was established in February of last year, the first allegation against Kasparian was in December, four months earlier in December 2016…. There was already fissures between the Building Trades and the Labor Council at that point, but there hadn’t, it hadn’t resulted in the Working Families Council.” (Sara’s note: The WFC was established in May, 2017.)

Saldaña: “Alright, I’m getting it… I had a busy 2016, so pardon me for convoluting some of these timelines.”

Keatts: “So are you now skeptical of the accusations against Kasparian?”

Saldaña: “I never said I was skeptical of the allegations. I was saying the way they are being handled, and I wrote about this in the Union Tribune, let’s not politicize these allegations. Because then the survivors get pushed to the background. Then you lose track of the people, the human beings whose lives are changed forever by these incidents and instead it becomes a political witch hunt. And you start going after people to weaken them politically as opposed to getting justice, and restorative justice, for the people who have survived the abuse.”

Keatts: “And so this situation culminated recently in the Labor Council had their early endorsement meeting, or their strategic endorsement meeting….”

Saldaña: “What troubles me about those strategic… those came through, well first, I and others had contacted Keith Maddux, who’s the trustee taking over operations at the Labor Council, and said ‘We are interested in your process.’ ‘Well, we’re working it out.’ And I was given a timeline beginning in March of when they would start accepting endorsement applications. Suddenly I get emails from friends saying hey, we’re sitting down today, January 19th, based on recommendations from labor, different labor unions who had strategic candidates.

So I checked with other labor folks and said, ‘What’s going on? This timeline got bumped up by weeks. I never heard a thing about it.’ And I heard, ‘Well, we used to do strategic endorsements, or strategic races, but not endorsements.’ So the Labor Council, under the Building Trades leadership primarily, started following the same process as what the San Diego County Democratic Party did. Where they used to identify strategic races, but not strategic candidates. And then they would let the candidates work out their bonafides that they campaigned.”

(Interview continues.)

Last week, SEIU Local 221 voted to leave the Working Families Council. The news appeared related to the impending announcement of Working Families Council endorsements, which included an endorsement of Lori Saldaña, in direct opposition to 221’s earlier endorsement of Nathan Fletcher for County Supervisor District 4.

As the Working Families Council is under the direct control of Kasparian, Saldaña’s cozying up to him, insulting the Labor Council, criticizing their endorsement process which excluded her, criticizing the San Diego County Democratic Party for also endorsing Nathan Fletcher in an early strategic endorsement – all of these appear directly related to her desire for Kasparian’s endorsement.

The self-proclaimed Champion for Women, Lori Saldaña, is nothing more than an opportunistic politician who will say whatever is needed at a given time for political advantage, regardless of her prior stances on the same issues.

Pointing out another area of hypocrisy via Twitter is MaryAnne Pintar, Chief of Staff for Congressman Scott Peters (initial tweet in response to mine):

Given that the one constant about Saldaña is self-serving inconsistency, I wanted to capture this latest chain of events at this point in time.

In her own words: “The best indicator of future performance is past performance.” ~ Lori Saldaña



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Love, Power, and Justice for Children

My junior year of college I took the most collegiate class ever, at my Christian university, from Dr. Leffel. It combined principles of Nazarene (Wesleyan) theology and psychology, and included challenging deep texts and high-level conversation. I loved it.

But one premise in the class bothered me. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs seemed in conflict to me with the teachings of Jesus. Leffel told us that humans cannot live to their fullest potential if they do not have not only food, clothing, and shelter, but also don’t live with fear of wanting for any of these basics. At the time, I felt this was in conflict with the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor…” I’ve pondered this over the years, observing the experiences of myself and others. Sometimes financial insecurity forces us to value our families and relationships more. Sometimes wealth comes with a whole host of other problems. What’s best? I don’t know. But of course: food and shelter are necessary to basic heath, regardless.

I digress.

There was one time I really stumped my professor, unfortunately, because I really wanted an answer.

Dr. Leffel was talking about the power of personal narrative. He gave the anecdotal story of a mother and her son. The father had died when the boy was too small to have many memories of his dad.

Leffel said the mother knew the importance of a child’s need to feel connected to both parents for proper emotional development, so she helped fill in the child’s healthy memories of his father.

“He would take you fishing, and the two of you would sit quietly on the riverbank for hours.”

The mom frequently repeated that story and others, then she eventually took the boy to help him learn to fish. Even though his father was gone, he could later go fishing alone, and each time would feel connected to the man who loved him so much but could not be physically present. The boy was walking in and reliving memories his mother helped reconstruct, and it held the emotional benefits as though his father was with him the whole time.

In this way, the mother helped her child develop healthily psychologically, despite the physical absence of his father.

It was such a beautiful story, and at age 20, I fully embraced it. But I asked Dr. Leffel:

“What if it’s fake? What if her son’s father never actually fished with him? What if he was never around, and the mother invented these stories for the sake of the child? Would the boy still feel loved despite the absence and develop in a healthy manner?”

I never got my answer. I hate it when teachers can’t respond, fumble around, look embarrassed, and change the subject.

But the premise has stuck with me in the 20 years since. It’s full of so much wisdom. Children need to fully have access to and love for all their parents, as much as possible, for healthy emotional development.

I’m interested in how this principle plays out in adoptive families – to surround children in an atmosphere of love, safety, and healing, especially if birth parents are not present.

“You are loved. You came into this world in love. You are safe. You will always have our love. Even if you act in ways that are angry, disobedient, or say and do hurtful things, you will not ever step outside how much we love you and are here for you. The parts of you that reflect each of us as your parents are worthy of love. Everything will be okay.”

Every child deserves to be bathed in this nurturing message, every day, no matter what, as a birthright. We need to help parents who work hard at survival so they have enough energy every day to give this comfort and care to their children. We need to support our public school teachers, who are sometimes the only ones in a position in children’s lives to tell them they are worthy, valuable, and loved.

And we need to love ourselves and our children enough to be kind, gracious, gentle, and yes – even loving – with our exes who are the parents of our treasured children.

Rage that’s not filtered by love perpetuates cycles of violence.

Rage that is filtered with love gives courage to see the bigger picture and choose the nonviolent actions that create change.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.”

Onward and upward, so the next generation can walk in healing. Nothing gets better if we hold to bitterness until it becomes a crippling false identity. There’s always a new, best path forward. For ourselves and our children.

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Know better, do better, help children thrive post-divorce.

Last night as I was pretending to sleep during a bout of insomnia, some of my worst memories resurfaced.

My early adulthood was traumatic. I was married at 20 and had my first child at 21. We scraped by on food stamps, his full time service industry job and my two part time, slightly better than minimum wage jobs. Before I was done nursing my first daughter, by some miracle (because the relationship had deteriorated by then) I was pregnant with the second.

That pregnancy was the most isolated I have ever been. My Aunties, cousins, and Grampie were my only local family, and I didn’t tell them or my Mom, Dad or Stepmom that I was alone with my toddler every day. That things were combative or sullenly quiet every evening. That many evenings he would go back out and I would be alone again with my suicidal thoughts. Only the love for my growing, talking, snuggly child kept me going.

In that state, I mostly felt shaken, broken, and vulnerable, but a couple times I lashed out in ways I deeply regret.

I filed for a legal separation a week after my second daughter was born. My Mom and Dad flew out and helped pack the house in a weekend. I was unwilling to file for divorce, since my only goal when I married so young was to give my child(ren) an in-tact family, and I held out languishing hope that we could reconcile.

I spent that summer in Maine, partly in my Aunt and Uncle’s loft, and partly at camp. Two babies in diapers and an existence of sorrow and rage.

Their Dad was lost at the time, unsure of his place in the world or as a father. I was lost and depleted, too, but I at least knew he needed to be in their lives if they were to have their best chance at a healthy life. I vowed never to speak ill of him in their presence, because I had appreciated that from my parents regarding their divorce. Beyond these, I didn’t know what to do.

I returned to San Diego at the end of that grievous summer, with no job prospects, a lot of pain, but a glimmer of hope for the future that I felt at the core of my being. It ran deeper than my sadness and fear of the unknown.

For a long time in the early years following that decision to return, I mostly regretted it. Within a couple years we were battling over custody of the girls. I wished he would disappear. I wished he would remarry and have other kids so I could have “my” two to raise without him. I felt so betrayed, I didn’t want him to have any influence over them. As terrible as it is, my blame at him for my status as poor, body-ruined, life-ruined young divorcee made me wish he was dead – or at least that he would take off to sea captaining boats like he wanted at one time.

After the passage of that phase of angry existence and we reached some court-ordered stability, I was able to let go of some of the inner turmoil that had so consumed me. I began to cling to the hope of that first summer and the slightest positive vision I had – that one day, we could coparent and celebrate the girls without being skeptical, mistrusting, or critical of one another. That we could have birthday parties for them together.

I didn’t know how to get there, but I wanted it.

For years we would still have occasional blow-ups over holiday schedules or other issues. We could still quickly wound each other, and we were both acting in fear of not enough time with our girls. But sometimes after an angry email, he would pick up the phone and call me to neutralize the toxicity. Or sometimes, I would apologize first (even when I didn’t think it was fair, or I thought he was more wrong.) We began to value peace and respect more than being “right.”

We both dedicated ourselves to being healthier for the sake of all of us. A combination of those, the support of my Mom and the girls’ stepmom, and grace has brought us to a beautiful place, nearly 17 years later, where we are truly family. Love lives in our homes and our hearts.

I couldn’t imagine if people knew the details of how we acted toward one another at our worst, gossiping about us, taking sides, and passing judgment. Who we were back then – shaped by elements of our childhoods and our not-yet-adulthood that did not prepare us for relationship success – it wasn’t pretty. We would both be “justified” in holding our grudges or blaming, but then we would be stuck with the pain and bitterness.

I don’t want to think what things would be like for my girls or who they would be without their father. He taught them to stand tall, shoulders back, and to walk with confidence in this world. He has created opportunities and encouraged them through regular family conversations about countless issues to find their own voices and to take up space comfortably. He has instilled in them the pride of their heritage through his side of the family, and he has warned them to avoid mistakes he has made in life.

This doesn’t scratch the surface of the loving force he has been in their lives. I couldn’t see back then how he would step into the role of father. I deeply regret the stretch of time that I angrily wrote him off, focused instead on my own survival – the circumstances of which I thought were 99% his fault. Now, I love him, his wife is as beloved as a sister to me and I’m grateful for her help raising the girls, my Grampie is their Grampie, and my Mom has been the glue. The girls have maybe had TOO much supportive parenting from our collective approach, but we laugh at ourselves, too. It’s good.

I have heard snippets of conversations lately from people who are looking at the deeply personal marital situations of others and drawing conclusions. I hear gossip at work about such things among people I don’t know sometimes, and it makes me a little sick. I know there are people specifically trying to tear apart others for unrelated reasons, and they’re justifying it with tortured logic. It is so destructive, and speaks to the character of those gossiping more than those trying to rebuild their lives.

Instead, let’s help each other rise to our better angels. If we lift up and see the best in each other, especially other parents, we help create a healthier community for children. It’s a gift to the next generation.

If you are a friend going through a relationship at its most toxic, it can be better. You can help make it better in time. This does not define either of you forever. A relative short stretch of not being your best will not ruin your child(ren) for life. Dig deep and find some true care and respect for your former partner. The effort will not be wasted, and healing is accessible.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Sara’s note: This is a re-post, shared via Facebook one year ago today. Children are not pawns, and when charged statements about personal matters are made, it is important to question the motives of those spreading the (likely skewed) information and speak directly to the subject whenever possible.
The next generation deserves better.
Our community must lead by example if we are to usher in societal and individual healing…
… and we all need healing.


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Anatomy of an Apology, and Living Atonement

So, how does one apologize?

If things have become so broken and toxic between two people that the parties no longer speak, and either via spoken or unspoken agreement there is no contact, how does one extend a for-real, heartfelt, growth-evident, highly specific apology, perhaps seeking but not expecting forgiveness?

And if such deep wounds require layers of cyclical healing to mend, such that additional apologies over time would deepen accordingly, how can complete peace be achieved in the absence of communication?

If a heart-wrenching “I’m sorry” is cried in the middle of the wilderness and there’s no one there to hear it, does it do any good? And is it still helpful if no forgiveness will ever be offered?

Often, social norms and our stoic legal system prevent healing. The icy, quit-cold-turkey separation that is necessary for a time serves to sever unhealthy connections and cycles, but that’s a tourniquet. It serves its purpose to stop the bleeding and prevent re-injury.

At some point, the initial remedy, if not replaced, will hinder healing rather than aid it. The wound underneath will begin to fester, and toxins will enter the blood. A medical fix intended to be temporary will prevent the cure.

I used to feel sorry for myself, ruminating on injustice, wishing I felt morally free to tell the “whole story” rather than a narrative that protected those who I felt had ruined my life. I am twice divorced, and now generally prefer not to remember. But back then, for a time, I wanted to air the ways I had tried so hard, poured myself out until I was depleted time and time again, yet in the end felt taken for granted and betrayed. I wanted Justice (capital “J,” bold). I wanted to sit atop a high throne of righteousness, with my sweet, sweet innocence and the wronging done to me on display, and I wanted sympathy.

I replayed hurtful memories like a sad movie over and over again, re-injuring myself each time. I wanted those I associated with my pain to witness the dramatic art show of my shattered innocence, the purity, wholeness, and happiness that was stolen, and I wanted them to be crushed by guilt and sorrow and pain like the pain that consumed me. (Of course, they were living their own versions of this hell on earth, in part caused by me.)*

But more than that, greater than fantasies of emotional vengeance – especially as a young 20-something (which are so embarrassing to remember now!) – and the impossibility of an “easier” way out of the difficulties of being a young, poor, disconnected, very sad single Mom, I wanted to find the new best path forward for the sake of my daughters.

I knew that harsh words, consumption by anger and hurt and lack of healing, fears for my daughters, raw grief that I may never find love and they would be broken because of my failures to provide a whole, healthy, in-tact family for them, and my sheer loneliness: I knew that if I acted on these and stubbornly stayed stuck in that place, their childhoods really would be at risk.

So instead, I quietly set my jaw and leaned into what felt like gale force winds. I hardened myself to the stark elements of my reality. I determined: “If I have to live through this, I’ll learn all I can so I can help others. I know I am not the only one with a similar experience, and I can use it to love others once I get through. Because I have to get through.”

Most importantly: I established and maintained a high standard of communication to give them the most seamless two-home situation I could. I determined that the girls would never feel torn by our disagreement and anger, though we did engage in bitter battles they were not exposed to in the early years.

When they tearfully asked why they didn’t have one home, why we weren’t all together, I deflected, and talked about how much they were loved and how safe they were in each home. I gently comforted them, saying how lucky they were to have so many loving adults looking out for them.

My stomach in my throat, body trembling, I filled their hearts and minds with the healthiest portions of the truth of the life challenges they did not choose, but were forced to adapt to. For the most part, they were protected from the issues caused by and to be mended by adults.

In my utter brokenness, I put them first.

Slowly, it became easier, and the early, optimistic, blurry vision I had of eventually peacefully sharing life events such as joint birthday parties for the girls began to sharpen into focus.

I hope my daughters don’t see me as weak or broken because sometimes they witnessed my sadness, which at times seemed bottomless. I carried such guilt for not preserving the marriage and for living paycheck to paycheck, including living in a shabby, moldy apartment that caused asthma for my eldest daughter part of the time they were in preschool. These self-judged parenting failures aside, mostly I think they see me as their loving, goofy, nurturing, occasionally spacey, smart, optimistic, earnest Mom.

The best part? They don’t have to think too much about it because they’re living their own rich lives, investing in their interests, education, and friendships. Figuring out life on their terms. Because as candid as I have become with them about activism, my work life, and some limited elements regarding dating relationships when I think there’s life lessons they can learn, it’s not their job to carry my burdens nor worry about me.

I am their parent. They get to be the kids.

And I’m not their only parent who took this approach.

Our daughters would be nowhere NEAR the successful, loving, free, hilarious, and healthy teens they are now without the connection maintained with all their parents. I feel guilty that my early fear and anger prevented some of that free connection with their daddy when they were very young and before they had their own cell phones. That access improved over time, but it should have been greater.

We raised them with a child-centered focus, and we have each individually matured through the parts that were temporarily self-centered. The early, tenuous sacrifices we all made pay off daily.

At some point along the way, I eventually came to realize: their father was the same kind, loving, talented, nurturing person I met at eighteen and knew then would be a wonderful man and father, though it took time for me to see that in him again. Even now, we continue to strive to become our ideal selves. We are closer to being the wholesome people we were always meant to be, before other areas of our own immaturity and less-than-wholeness tried to run the show.

So, how does one find this peace and healing, if they cannot say or receive the words “I’m sorry” sufficient to capture and honor the deep chasm of pained memories?

Believe me – I looked for the magic button for a lot of years, and never found it. You cannot fast forward the process. But you can fake it ‘til you make it.

Day by day, with reflection, and with commitment to change the places that created the hurt, even if the other is not present nor able or willing to see it. Living with hope that someday, some morning, eyes will open to see telltale signs that a new, more healthful reality has been slowly emerging. The old paradigm has forever shifted. Hope and faith can begin to stand on wobbly, new fawn legs that will strengthen, and that soon, youthful bounds of joy will usher in a new season. Grace can begin to breathe.

Spring will bring renewal. Each passing year will bring more freedom and peace. Even if the most thorough apology is never expressed nor accepted, layers of healing will come to those who seek it and live it.

And it’ll be okay.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


There are as many sides to this story as the people who lived through it. I honor and love them, and thank them for participating in the healing process that continues. If I didn’t think this could help other hurting families, I would not ask them to wade through these old personal tragedies with me. I hope our efforts increase justice and wholeness for ourselves and others.

My second husband is a lovely person, probably surfing the coast of Mexico somewhere. We wish one another peace and happiness. As it should be.

AND: if you can avoid divorce, please, by all means, do. Don’t just stick it out without change, but seek every form of support you can find, especially if you have children. If you think marriage is hard, try co-parenting with an ex! Then if you’ve tried it all, at least you know you’ve left it all on the track, and it’s time to renew your energy to take on a whole new challenge.

In all things, be love, and it will be okay.

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Leadership Qualities and Presidential Candidates ~ The Deal with Trump

I’ve read a lot of hand-wringing statements over the years about ‘What’s Wrong with this Nation.’ I agree with some, and many are blown way out of proportion. Many are essentially the same kinds of generational worries that have stressed out humans for millenia (“Kids these days ain’t got no upbringin’ at all,” Dad used to joke).

We tend to have selective memories about the “good old days,” waxing nostalgic about ‘simpler’ times because the bad stuff didn’t apply to us. Or, like childbirth, we survived the excruciating parts but got a wriggly, living bundle of joy with happiness that completely overwhelms the memory of experienced pain.

That said, I’ll throw in my own “What’s Wrong with this Nation” statement: We have experienced too few admirable leaders in recent years. Servant leaders, with great strength in their ability to listen, respond, and lead. Not roll over under the auspices of negotiation, but able to compromise effectively. Able to apologize and grow from occasional mistakes. Able to take an uncompromising, unapologetic stand when needed, but porous and humble enough to adjust policies to encompass broader perspectives wherever possible.

The stalemating and strong arm tactics between Congress and President Obama have made his many compromises to accommodate his political enemies look weak, though he is still loudly blamed for executive overreach. Our media-frenzy- and dirty-money-fueled two-party system has every politician screaming bloody murder and pointing fingers at the other side, with no tact or rightful respect for elective offices.

If you trust one pundit or politician, and they’re spewing carefully tailored, angry political rhetoric, they strike fear and hatred in your heart. You care about this nation, yet they are manipulating that care for financial and political gain and making us all miserable.

It’s no way to live.

Enter Donald Trump. Because there are so few commendable leaders, not only in politics but our daily lives, his hate speech sounds like strength. He sounds like a guy who could go to Capitol Hill with guns blazing to force needed change.

Such war language, especially that which denigrates and raises suspicions toward other Americans, does not bring healing to a hurting nation. Hate does not create peace and prosperity. It’s all bluster and no substance, and it is damaging us.

America is more populated and diverse than ever before. We need a leader who will consider the whole and knit us together with words of unity, not disparagement. Not one who gets attention by saying the most extreme, shocking statements that bully the underrepresented.

Politics is a mess, and one leader isn’t going to fix our nation. But electing a person of grace, inclusion, and strength in leadership is a necessary start.

Check your own internal responses to the things you see and hear. Do you find yourself saying, “Yeah!” out of a sense of inspiration and optimism for the future, or out of fear and anger that some group of people that aren’t “The Real America” might be threatening how you envision our shared country?

We used to have 30 minute sitcom-length attention spans. Now 15 second Instagram videos or Vines seem long. We need to take more time for introspection and reflection.

There can be no political savior, but there can be a great leader. A leader will strive to serve everyone on this soil. I’m going to attune my ears to healing language this electoral cycle, and pay close attention to the red flags of language that inspires or doubles down on division.

The healing of America must come from within each of us. We can help lead our country to new greatness by taking captive the thoughts that separate us. We are accountable for our own attitudes and how we feed them, and we must give leadership positions to those who foster growth and feed our best potential, not our worst.

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Comments on “San Diego Forward”

July 15, 2015

Rob Rundle                                                                                          via electronic mail
Principal Regional Planner                                                    
401 B St. Ste. 800                                                                     
San Diego, CA 92101

Re: Draft San Diego Forward Plan; Draft EIR

Dear Mr. Rundle, SANDAG staff, and Members of the Board:

Thank you in advance for your consideration of my comments on The Draft San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). While I serve as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, I submit these comments in my individual capacity as a 20-year resident of San Diego County. I am a parent, taxpayer, and citizen engaged in volunteer efforts to advance social justice and environmental protections. I want San Diego to be an amazing place for tourists to visit, but primarily I want the region to be the best it can be for current and future residents from all walks of life who call San Diego home.

With great power comes great responsibility. SANDAG is one of our region’s largest agencies, and you are responsible to use the full extent of your expansive budget, power, and influence to serve the best interests of all San Diegans. Some of you, in your official capacities as SANDAG board members or representatives, have made public claims that the agency’s role is limited in scope and responsibility. When you attempt to limit SANDAG’s great potential to make a beneficial difference on climate at this critical time in history, you are shamefully abandoning your political and professional responsibilities. You are choosing politically charged language to abdicate your duties to we, the people who live here, who are impacted daily by your decisions and pay your salaries, and you are doing so in order to maintain a fundamentally broken approach to transportation planning. It is a failure of leadership.

In analyses of various mobility options to serve the growing San Diego population, the presupposition is that SANDAG must build roads. No other approach to moving people and goods throughout the region is given equal consideration. The “balance” you acknowledge you must consider and implement to provide a variety of transportation options to serve the whole of San Diego’s population has long been weighted in favor of roadways. This is a failure in your own terms when you use the word “balance.” ‘Widen freeways now and promise a few transit projects later’ is insufficient to actually provide a variety of functional mobility options, and you are far overdue to shift the priority to other modes of transport to correct the imbalance. The longer you delay implementation of functional, integrated transit, the more it will cost. It is imperative to prioritize transit infrastructure now, without further needless delay.

Your bias favoring roads has served to create polluting congestion with limited non-car options that is our current reality. This continued approach does not take into account one of the most important segments of our population: the young who will be middle aged and older adults by the time many of the roadways projects listed in the DEIR will be built, and who have a declining interest in personal car ownership and driving (Exhibit “A” The Clearest Explanation Yet for Why Millennials are Driving Less, CityLab, July 13, 2015).

We can’t pave our way out of the current problem, and more pavement certainly will not serve to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions, stormwater runoff pollution, nor traffic congestion (Exhibit “B” The One Chart That Explains All Your Traffic Woes, CityLab, March 2, 2015) and will not adequately serve the San Diegans of the future.


Clearly, as referenced in Figured 4.8-1, priorities must shift if we ever hope to reach the greenhouse gas reductions targets necessary to achieve climate stabilization. There is a remedy. It is an approach to transportation that can exceed state emissions reductions requirements, provide complete mobility choice, benefit the local economy, and protect San Diego’s future without expanding roads and their negative impacts. You, our heavily funded transportation agency, are obligated to study it, seek federal, state and local funding for it, and prioritize implementation of it.

Your current proposal contains all the same road-based projects as the prior iteration of the RTP, although as the years have passed cost projections have increased. Thus, transit projects have been removed (including the incredibly important below-grade transit station at UTC) in the DRTP to fund your hallowed freeways, and the region thus fails to meet regional greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets set by Executive Orders S-3-05 and B-30-15. While it is not currently a requirement for SANDAG to adhere to the additional emissions reductions set forth in S.B. 32 (Pavley) (which, if passed and signed into law will go into effect January 2016), the trends are clear that California’s legal framework is evolving to include increasingly stringent requirements to limit climate impacts.

The writing is on the wall. You, our leaders and representatives at SANDAG cannot continue to plan in a vacuum as though scientifically deduced targets for the continued viability of humankind are arbitrary guidelines to be ignored.

While some of you give lip service to such principles as “Vision Zero” and its goal of zero pedestrian and traffic deaths, you continue to perpetuate the paradigm that can only induce more traffic-related deaths; not only from collisions, but also the slower forms of death caused by particulate matter emissions from vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Much like the discussion of human health impacts in the DRTP concluding in a veritable shrug (‘impacts are inevitable, because we build roads’), you among SANDAG leadership refuse to meaningfully study or adopt any vision for the region that does not include an expansion of existing freeways.

This is despite documented benefits of a no new roads plan to accommodate the transportation needs of the region by maintaining (but without expanding) existing freeways and instead adding significant investments in light rail transit networks and safe active transportation infrastructure.

Although presented to SANDAG on multiple occasions by various individuals and organizations, I include here a copy of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s 50-10 Transit Plan: A World Class Transit System for the San Diego Region (Exhibit “C”), which lays out the feasibility and framework of implementing fifty years’ worth of projected transit in ten years. Realistically, the first phase of such transit investments would build out capacity along existing rail lines within the first ten years, which would lay the foundation for the expansion of the network arterials in the following decade.

More recently in April of this year the same renowned expert, Norman L. Marshall of Smart Mobility, Inc., released a supplemental report: “The 50-10 Transit Plan: Quantifying the Benefits,” (Exhibit “D”).

The human and environmental benefits of the proposed planning approach as discussed in the new report so significantly outshine those documented in the DTRP, the plan deserves more than a dismissive response by you who hold San Diego’s transportation future in your hands. Roads and rail direct growth patterns, thus San Diego’s land use future is also in your hands.

I encourage thorough consideration of the documentation enclosed, primarily the quantification of the benefits of the 50-10 Plan. It is your duty to build mobility options for San Diegans that will not exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions to further degrade our health and increase climate instability.


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Help us help San Diego!

Dear friends:

As a board member of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, I have been an advocate for better transit and San Diego’s urban quality of life as responsible anti-sprawl solutions for many years.

In that time, we have utilized our limited funding on experts who have done the work our tax dollars SHOULD do: identifying key areas already zoned for density in San Diego, funding thorough, professional comment letters on our local transportation plans demanding they prioritize building low-pollution, functional transit alternatives to highways, producing and submitting our own “50-10” Plan: a transit-first vision for San Diego and recently released study quantifying its benefits, and winning litigation when our agencies fail us as residents.

The next phase of CNFF’s advocacy has begun, both in defending our prior court wins and in yet again giving our local transportation agency highly qualified transit-first input regarding the next iteration of our region’s multibillion dollar, multi-year mobility plan.

Our historical successes have been fruitful in establishing some of the good projects and policies around the city and a modification of some language in the new Plan, but we must continue to engage to ensure SANDAG implements responsible planning. So we must continue our efforts.

My biggest request right now: Please help us fund this critical work.

Additionally, there are two upcoming public forums hosted by SANDAG. One is tonight, 6-8:30 p.m. at Jacobs Center (404 Euclid Ave., SD). This will be live streamed at, though you will not be able to submit questions and comments at the forum if you view the live stream. The final forum is tomorrow at UTC Forum Hall, 6-8:30 p.m., 4545 La Jolla Village Drive, Suite E-25.

You can also submit comments on the latest Regional Transportation Plan through July 15, 2015.

Thank you for being a friend and an ally, protecting San Diego and making it a vibrant city for the future, and thank you in advance if you are able to make a donation to support our work.



Duncan Points to San Diego from Descanso

Duncan Points to San Diego from Descanso

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