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We’re Not Done Yet. Oh No.

When I was 13, I had an amazing group of teachers, one of whom was Mr. Meinecke, who taught social studies. He was a long-haired hippie who wore cowboy boots and jeans every day, but he was razor sharp and world-weary. Two things about Mr. Meinecke stick out in my mind: once, he caught me trying to pull my hair back with a rubber band (not a hair elastic, and actual, office supply rubber band) and he said, “Sarah, you’re going to absolutely RUIN your hair that way”, and the other was that he introduced me to the term “feminist”.

“You’re a feminist, you know that?” he said to me one day during classroom banter.

“A what?” I asked. I wasn’t often labeled.

“A feminist. It’s someone who fights for women’s rights. Equality and whatnot.”

I remember being genuinely confused. “There’s a WORD for that? For wanting equality?”

It would be far from the last time I wore that moniker.

In high school, we were asked what our career paths were. There were standardized aptitude tests – those tried to sway me towards “administrative tasks” or “educational careers” – or there were sessions with guidance counselors. There were so many ways that we were encouraged to explore our potential, but you know, not TOO far.

My sessions always went like this.

“So – checking name on the paper – Sarah, what would you like to be when you grow up?”


:: crickets ::

“No, really. What would you like to be?”


“Okay, president of WHAT?”

“The United States. President of the United States.”

“Let’s try and focus on realistic goals.”

It’s actually in our senior time capsule and in lots of my senior year memorabilia – I wanted to be President of the United States. I look at that now and I think, I never said the first female president. I just said President. Because I had faith I wouldn’t be the first.

I could list the #YesAllWomen experiences here that I’ve had – the guy who brought me a banana daily to watch me eat it, the radio director who called me a whore in a staff meeting when I asked for a day off, the many MANY hands in inappropriate places when I was a server – but the truth is this: every exit interview I’ve ever had ended with my (always male) manager telling me, “You’ll never succeed in this new position. You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

I’ve had most of those guys work for me since. I’d like to say I’m better than that, and it’s a momentary victory, but it’s a victory nonetheless.

I have cried so many times this year in particular as I’ve watched women around me struggle. If I look at the statistics, how the demographics of women in management decline dramatically as you go up the charts of either age or management ranks, I have to concur. It’s because the stakes get bigger, the roadblocks seem more insurmountable, and the boys club gets airtight.

I remember on International Women’s Day (which, I can’t help but note, is also National Dog Day) that I shared my feelings The glass ceiling is just a façade that hides an iron barrier. You think you’re shattering something, but it’s only to stop us from trying once the shards fall.

I love politics. I’ve debated running – still debate running – to help institute change. But in my professional career, I’ve had much more effectiveness in positions where I could stay agile, unfettered by red tape or bureaucracy. I’ve satiated my political hunger by working through civilian forums – grassroots efforts or local council engagements – but maybe that time has ended.

Today was a monumental day.

I voted for a woman for president. President of the United States.


So America has made a declaration today. And because I’m an eternal optimist, I cried my eyes out all night and again this morning, but I came into work and looked at these people – my coworkers are my family, I love them deeply without reserve – and I knew that most of them voted on a different ticket than I did. I can’t assume that they were voting pro-misogyny or pro-racism or pro-homophobia or all of the things that were my BIG TICKET ITEMS. I have to assume that they are making a declaration in some other arena, not supporting the man behind the podium or his ill-conceived, small-minded words but supporting the party they believe in. I’m choosing to believe that we need to listen, to understand, to heal, and to recover. And we will.

This morning, I took a long hot shower, applied copious concealer under my eyes, penciled a smile on my lips, and straightened my glasses. We’re just getting started, y’all.

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Being a Woman in the Workplace, a Summary

True story – 99% of my unpublished drafts circle around what it means to be a woman in the workplace. I’ve written them out of anger, or out of a need for awareness, or sometimes even out of humor. I’ve written them in short bursts, long-form prose, and even (I promise) limericks. I think this is an important point because being a woman in the workplace is a very varied experience. Even my own views morph from day to day or interaction to interaction.

But let’s talk about the Woman Card.

Being a woman in the workplace is a challenge. And I’ve just come to realize that when someone (almost always a man) accuses a human being of using the woman card, it’s because the woman has been offered the usual courtesy and respect that they (almost always a man) has come to expect.


A man is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. He is given total freedom to speak until he concludes. The group of people asks questions; the man answers. The man is utilizing “team work.”

A woman is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. She is given total freedom to speak until she concludes. The group of people asks questions; the woman answers. The woman is utilizing “the woman card.”

I’ve watched this. I’ve spent years in the back of the room for meetings, team reviews, program deep-dives, proposal efforts, what have you. I’m in the back of the room by choice; I could lean in and sit at the table, but the back of the room gives me a larger scope of view. I can see more. I can watch the dynamics of the room, and that always speaks just as loud – if not more loudly – than the players in the room. I see body language, unspoken cues, and facial expressions that most miss.

The Woman Card almost always can be reduced to a woman demanding the same time, respect, and attention given to her male counterparts. And the ones quick to point the finger at the “card holder” is naturally opposed to this level of respect being automatically offered.

CAVEAT: just as there are women who are truly awful and use unfair means to gain this basic respect, there are men who offer it without question. I’ve been at this for almost 15 years now. I’ve seen good examples of both.

I could give you a laundry list of scenarios where I’ve watched women try and claim the same level of HUMANITY that their male peers are offered just because of their genitalia, and I’ve seen people accuse them of terrible untruths – they’re obviously sleeping with someone in power, they’ve got dirt on someone, or they’re playing the Woman Card.

Instead, I’m going to insist we all take a step back. If you’re a man, take a breath before you exhale about the Woman Card. Examine what’s actually happening here. And make sure that you’re not part of the reason that it’s still A Thing. If you’re a woman, keep on insisting that you’re equal. Don’t stop pushing. But look at your methodology: make sure you’re not being aggressive beyond reason or purpose. Hear the cadence of your team and match it.

My favorite quotes of all time are relevant every single day that I go to work.

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. – Timothy Leary

Well-behaved women rarely make history. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Got a great story to tell where you played your woman card? I’d love to hear them! No, really, I would – let me know I’m not alone. Tell me about the time when an entire meeting stopped to ask you to take minutes, or when they walk past five of your male counterparts to ask you where the coffee was. LET ME KNOW I’M NOT ALONE.

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2015 Wrap-Up

2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008   As always, inspired by the always inspiring Sundry.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? I made a male decision. I know how silly that sounds, but Jennifer Lawrence wrote this amazing piece for Lenny about how (once she discovered how much less she was making than her male costars) she decided to negotiate like a man. I really took that to heart and when an opportunity came up, I answered like a guy would. I remember being afraid and freed by it. And while it didn’t materialize into anything, it made me realize that I can. I can advocate for myself. In fact, I SHOULD.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Yeah, um, 2015 was just a Year of Getting By. There were some great, happy accidents that happened, but for the most part? We were just thrilled to call this year DONE. I don’t even think I made resolutions for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Shit. I hate this question. Because, yeah, probably? Maybe? You guys, I can’t remember what I wore last week, much less who gave birth 11 months ago. But I will say that we’ve got a lot of babies coming at work VERY soon, and I am over-the-moon excited about it.

4. Did anyone close to you die? I always hate this question, because I feel like I should know this off the top of my head. I attended no funerals.

5. What countries did you visit? No countries. Not yet.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? Balls. I wouldn’t say I lacked balls in 2015, but I think it’s time for me to man up and take control of things.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? February, I got a new job title at work – one that I’d wanted for awhile. March & April were traveling like a mad woman. May was Mac’s first birthday, and June brought Jack a learner’s permit. July was when Bryan went back in to teaching. October was a fantastic family vacation followed by a trip to L.A. to shoot a national commercial, but then brought sadness when we lost Belle. Tony got his yellow belt in November.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? It got me absolutely nowhere, but exercising my political rights was a really, really big thing for me this year. Tony’s school moved to a building across the street from a women’s clinic, and when the protesters lost their right to protest directly in front of the school, they moved to our school grounds. I took up a flag (supported by a great group of school parents) and sought help from every avenue we had. It was stressful and exhausting and ultimately pointless in the end, but I felt like I had to do SOMETHING.

9. What was your biggest failure? School, or my lack thereof. My one semester off to have a baby turned into two semesters and then three, and now I just need to do it. God, I don’t want to. Like, at all. I just want some accredited college to gift me a Bachelor’s Degree of Hard Knocks and let’s call it a day. But I need to. I know that. – from 2014, but it’s still true. And 2016 looks like a prime year to fix that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nope! I mean, outside of the occasional cold or flu-like thing. I did have some ear infections this year and HOO BUDDY those things are awful! No wonder the kids go nuts when they have them! But we were fairly okay this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought? On a whim, I bought a glamour session from Bookout Studios. It is the most vain thing I’ve ever done, and the money I spent on three pictures is OBSCENE, but you know? I would do it again in a heartbeat. I went in feeling so run down and exhausted and overwhelmed and then to see the pictures? I’m like, damn, woman.. you’re a hottie.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tony. TOOOOONY. Tony is the best kid to ever walk the earth – seriously, the child is amazing – and he often gets the shaft because Vinnie takes up every single ounce of attention that we can muster. Not only does Tony never, ever complain about it, but he still keeps straight As in school and is thriving in karate. The kid is an amazing big brother to Vinnie (and little brother to Jack) and I just love him to pieces.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Humanity’s, really. Several times this year, I have come this*close to deleting all social media from my phone (which would be my lifeline because I don’t use a computer outside of work) because I am just so DISAPPOINTED IN US as a species. I have a feeling that’s going to get worse before it gets better. Those happy little compilations of “21 Times 2015 Was Awesome” are worth their weight in GOLD because it masks the 38u739782frillion other times we were just total douche-canoes.

14. Where did most of your money go? The usual – daycare, mortgage, cars.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Going to Washington DC. I was lucky enough to go a few times this year, and I just love that city so much. Like, really really.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015? “Watch Me (Silento)”  That damn Whip/Nae Nae song haunts my dreams.

17. Compared to this time last year: a) better hair or worse hair? b) more organized or less organized? I decided last June (2014) to not cut my hair until SLS launches, so it’s just longer, but the same fierce red. I love it. And organization is definitely still on point. I may drop the occasional ball, but I catch the eggs, damnit.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Budgeting. You know how some people have a brown thumb, and can’t keep ANYTHING alive? Like, even succulents and cacti die in their care? That’s me with a budget. There’s got to be a better way for us to keep ahead of our money, but I’ll be damned if I’ve found it yet.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Pointing fingers. It’s incredibly easy for me to blame someone else for something terrible that happens. It doesn’t solve anything and doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m working on it.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Trying to predict whether or not we’d have to evacuate due to local flooding. Our area got 6+” in a matter of hours. It was a mess around these parts!

21. Did you fall in love in 2015? I hate this question.

22.What was your favorite tv program? This is the year I fell in love with Doctor Who. Like, I’m ALL IN. I’m realizing the joy of being part of a fandom and I’m just all about it.

24. What was the best book you read? I’ve given up on reading books. It makes me sad and makes me feel.. uneducated, to be honest, but I just don’t have the time or attention span. Now, I’ve learned that this doesn’t mean I don’t read – quite the opposite. I read a LOT. More than most folks I know. It’s just all online news. I read TONS of online research and articles and I feel just as smart as the rest of y’all.

25. What was your greatest food discovery? Turkey necks. Actually, my greatest discovery was to travel a lot and ask the server what they recommend. Usually, I would even phrase it with “If you had to pick your last meal from this menu, what would you have?” It’s almost always something that I would never have picked on my own, and very rarely has it let me down. I love food. Oh, also, wine. I’m a wine drinker now.

26. What did you want and get? A (generally) happy year and a (mostly) healthy family.

27. What did you want and not get? Unanswered prayers and all that.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Snowpiercer, which was the weirdest, most cult-ish flick I’ve seen in ages and I loved it so so much. (If you watch it based on this alone, please.. well, I’m sorry.) Also, I can’t remember any single movie I’ve watched. OOOH, WAIT, THE MARTIAN. Such a good movie! Saw it twice!

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 35 and was treated like a queen both at work and at Bridge Street later with the family. We rode the carousel, the train, and threw coins in the fountain.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I honestly wish I had written more. I need to get back to that.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? I actually made a big step and simplified my wardrobe. I have six or so pairs of black pants, about as many white tops, and tons of blazers and cardigans. So 99% of my wardrobe is already chosen. It’s made life SO much easier.

32. What kept you sane? My husband. My work family. My kids. (Note: these things often also kept me INsane a lot as well.)

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I already mentioned Lenny, the new online magazine founded in part by Lena Dunham. It’s introduced me to tons of powerful women who all have tons of goodies to share. I’ve been really impressed by female stars who are starting to not accept the status quo – folks like Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, and the always great Fey/Poehler duo.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? The refugee crisis is something I still have to be careful about exposure to. It eats me alive. So many children are in a bad, bad way and we’re arguing about helping them. I don’t get that. Maybe my world view is too naive, but I just don’t understand. We have enough to help. Why wouldn’t we?

35. Who did you miss? I missed YOU. I missed being able to come here with no bra on and three day old hair and you’d be here, happy to have me. Man, I missed y’all. Can we FIX that this year?

36. Who was the best new person you met? On top of a really terrible memory, I also have this thing where if I like you, it feels like I’ve known you forever. So if I met you this year, but I couldn’t recall you specifically now, it’s because you’re already family to me.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. The only thing standing between you and your goals is that bullshit story you keep telling yourself. Change your story.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.“Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s good.” – Into the Woods

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The Hardest Part of Love

There’s a song in the musical Children of Eden called “The Hardest Part of Love”, where God talks about the hardest part of love being letting go .. of his children, of his control, of everything that happens once free will wanders into the equation.

On Sunday, Belle was clearly not well. She was lethargic and unmoving, which is odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab, and we wondered if she had eaten something that disagreed with her. (Which is not odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab.)

By Sunday night, it was obvious that the not-wellness was worsening. We looked at our meager checking account and thought, “Okay, we’ll take her in to the vet tomorrow.”

I’m not going to lie. When money comes in to the equation of life and death, it is the worst feeling in the world. The fact that we debated how much we could spend on her health made us feel incredibly low. Angry at circumstance (that we arguably have put ourselves in) and low. Helpless, at the least.

The vet suggested we xray her and found some foreign matter in her stomach. They said we could opt for surgery – a monetary commitment we couldn’t wrangle – or just let it pass naturally. We opted for the latter.

Yesterday, I came home at lunch on a hunch and found her in the backyard. It was raining, and she was laying on the furthest point of our property. She growled when I approached her. I’ve had enough dogs in my lifetime to know what was up. I told Bryan it was time to make some decisions.

He took her back to the vet and we figured out financially how to take care of the surgery. The vet seemed optimistic and we jumped on that optimism and ran.

They called two hours later. Once they got in, they realized it was far, far worse than an xray would ever show.

Bryan handed me the phone; it was my call. I listened to the vet explain – with amazing professionalism and compassion – what we faced. Belle’s intestines had twisted on itself, and cut off blood supply to most of her small intestines. On top of that, it had grown around several lesions. Not enough of her intestines were viable. She said Belle had a 20% chance of survival if we continued.. and probably not even that high a chance.

“I can’t have her suffer,” I choked out. “Please don’t let her feel any more pain.”

“I’m so glad you said that,” said the vet, choking up. “I can’t ever recommend that we let an animal go, but if this was my dog, I would recommend the same thing.”

We adopted Belle when she was 6 months old. She had been adopted and returned to the Decatur Animal Hospital, so she was actually available at a reduced rate. She was our Sale Puppy.

She was every bit of why I wanted a lab in our house. She was amazing with the kids, teaching them (always with a soft mouth) when they’d gone too far in playing with her, but always always ALWAYS by their sides. When looking through my pictures of her last night, every single picture of her had a boy on her. She was what I needed when we lost Mabel three years ago: a dog to raise my boys with compassion and empathy.

I write this, obviously, to memorialize this amazing animal but also to implore those of you reading to PLEASE adopt from shelters and rescues. Belle was actually a purebred, but we got her for $25. A lot of animals in the shelters are close to purebred. All of the animals in the shelters deserve a chance. Don’t buy into breeders. Watch the shelters and rescues if you have a breed in mind; jump when you see one available. Rescue a dog.

Let them rescue you.

To my Belle Pepper, who was such a happy nuisance. My sale puppy, whom we would’ve spent a fortune to save, who was taken too soon. To the dog who played Robin to Tony’s Batman and who cuddled with Vinnie whenever he was still. We were so lucky to be your people, Belle. Thank you for .. all of it. Thank you for you.


A boy and his dog, man.

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on


10/EighteenBelle, our baby, in a rare STILL shot for #marchphotoaday

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What Social Media Says About You

I am, by no means, a social media expert. I have, however, been around this sandbox long enough to have noticed a thing or two about how it can be done well, how it can be done gracefully, and how you should never ever do social media.

About two weeks ago, there was this really horrid video that made the rounds called “Dear Fat People” or “What I’d Like to Say to Fat People” or something – the video has been taken down and I wasn’t able to find it when I wrote this. Full disclosure: I didn’t even watch the video. My autoplay on my phone ran it for a second or two, with no sound, and her gestures and animations were such that I thought, Meh, I’m not gonna give this my time.

But yet, the video showed up in my media feed because one of my friends liked it. Not just liked it, mind you, but commented “Yes! I love this!” when she saw it.

That person was my Beachbody coach.

That person has made money off of my being fat.

When Whitney Way Thore (from “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”) posted a response video, THAT I watched. And she did it the right way – using video excerpts from the original to combat the incredibly arrogant, hurtful, and thoughtless things that had been said about fat people. And as I watched it, I couldn’t help thinking, “Gah, my ‘coach’ saw this and thought I agree with these things about fat people and yet. Yet I am among them. Therefore, she thinks those things about me.”

I think people need to be aware – as we enter into election season, especially – that in most cases your “likes” and “comments” can be seen by everyone who is Friends with you. So even if you don’t post it, it may still appear on your timeline .. and looks like you’re endorsing it.

There’s a lot of things I’m willing to be okay with. Diversity of thought is FINE. I appreciate it, actually. I encourage it. We’re all grown adults and having people think differently is not only what makes this country great, but it’s where innovation comes from and where we all learn a little something. It’s in the dark, uncomfortable spaces that are unfamiliar to us. But thinking such vile and hateful things? Not okay. Even when I was trim and fit, I never, ever EVER thought it was okay to think these things.

I am fat. Look, until life eases up, I’m gonna be fat. That’s okay. It’s not okay to wish ill on me because of it.

By the way, this is me .. fat.

Bookout1Bookout2Courtesy Bookout Studios, whom I can’t recommend highly enough.

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