Still We Rise: Marching in Corvallis for the Women’s March 2018


This young feminist is one of my heroes now. 

Today, I participated in the Still We Rise Rally and March in Corvallis, Oregon on the anniversary weekend of the Women’s March on Washington DC (2017). Last year, I marched in PDX. This year, I marched in the city where I learned to be a social justice advocate. If was fitting to be in Corvallis to hear the speakers talk about the people who weren’t at the march, those who decided to sit out as many of us angry white women stepped up to the plate to advocate for ourselves and our rights as women. What the speakers reminded us was that we should be participating in the intersectional kind of advocacy that forces us to learn about and support people who may not share our identities.

I’ve been silent about my disgust for the policy changes that have been terrorizing transgender folks. I’ve been silent about my frustration with the health care religious freedom reform that essentially guarantees the sort of Nazi-like discrimination and heterosexism that will hurt many of my fellow humans. I’ve been silent about my frustration with the lawmakers who continue to make horrible policy decisions that privilege the wealthy and widen the socio-economic gaps for the rest of us.

Why have I been silent? I’ve been overwhelmed with the insanity that has cloaked our country and world this past year. My daily work allows me the privilege to support international students coming to the United States to study on F-1 and J-1 visas. In doing so, I encounter students with hardship, many of whom show concern for the things happening here in the U.S. and in their home countries. They’re college students – they should be able to experience life in college with learning and growth in a way that doesn’t force them to worry about visa denials and angry Customs and Border Protection officers, let alone xenophobic lawmakers in DC. But, they do worry about these issues. And it’s my job to help them think about their experience and guide them to resources that can help them navigate their struggles and feelings within the context of this mercurial world in which we live.


To do this work, I have to use my voice to speak out against the marginalization that continues to plague our society. 

Because of my work, I often feel tapped out emotionally. But this feeling of being “tapped out” is cloaked in my privilege as a white person.

This past Monday, I attended the MLK event on Oregon State University’s campus. I heard an amazing speaker and spent some time reflecting on what MLK means to me. At the end of the speaker’s presentation, there was a Peace March in Corvallis. I could have attended – I had time, but instead, I met up with my friends. I’ve thought about this a lot. Why didn’t I march then? Why did I decide to march today, but I didn’t add an extra hour to my MLK celebration to truly respond emotionally to the impact of the Civil Rights movement?

The answer is anything but simple. To understand it, I have to go back to a conversation I had about three weeks ago. I was hanging out with a friend of mine. He moved to Oregon last fall and has been living in Corvallis ever since. He told me that he went to Portland pretty often for a chance to be around more diversity. And then he asked me what it was like to grow up in Oregon. My answer: “I don’t know. I mean – I just grew up here. I didn’t really know it was so white until I got older,” I said. I went on to explain how I always wished for something different which was what lead me to travel internationally. I find it difficult to explain Oregon and the culture here. It’s still my home. But here, I continually have to work to challenge many of the ideological issues that allow racism, sexism, and other prejudice to fester and taint our society.

When I think of why I didn’t participate in the MLK march, it’s partially that struggle – I don’t always know how to actively engage in the struggle – which is why now, in 2018, I’ve been hiking a bit. I either hike alone or go with friends who get the struggle. One of my friends challenges me a lot – when I say a blanket statement that isn’t helping the situation, she’ll challenge it. I need that! I need to be challenged to continue the fight. And honestly, my friends and the green pieces of Oregon called nature are helping me work through the psychological impact of the state of our world in 2018.


Still We Rise Corvallis was incredibly well organized and the speakers all pushed us to think of the intersectionality of this movement. 

I marched today. This made me incredibly proud and also very aware that there is a lot of personal work I must continue to do as I build my life of advocacy for social justice and social change. Because honestly, it takes more than having the job I do and marching for feminism once a year. True advocacy requires the difficult conversations I’ve been avoiding with family. It requires me to speak out at work, on the bus, and at a friends’ house to question the prejudice and bias that continues to spread us apart rather than bringing us together as stronger, wiser communities. It requires me to march for MLK and for Women. And honestly folks, I gotta step to the place and do more every day.

Once again, today is a day I commit to advocacy and equity. I’ll have to remind myself to do this again tomorrow. Are you with me?

Tata for now.



Remembering MLK

The first time I learned about Martin Luther King Jr was back when I was in grade school. I remember my teacher talking to us about race and this guy named MLK. It was the first time I heard someone talk about the color of one’s skin. I’d never really thought about my skin color before- I’d just been jealous of my sister Shelli for her darker skin – she never seemed to burn in the sun like me and she had the darker skin tones that went well with her brown hair. I was incredibly confused by the idea that we humans would be treated differently based on our skin color and made a pledge to myself to always treat my fellow humans with dignity and respect.

Little did I know that the classroom where I first learned about race was in the middle of a White Utopia – AKA the state of Oregon – where few people of color were woven into the fabric of culture and society in this PNW Wonderland.

Fast forward to today. I was tired, crampy, and unclear if I wanted to drive the 50 minutes north to listen to the MLK keynote at Oregon State University. I had arranged to meet some friends after the lecture so I texted to see if they were still in or if I could gracefully back out for a day at home of nothingness. They were still in. So I put on my purple Keds and headed out.

The keynote speaker was Melissa Harris-Perry, a kick-ass professor from Wake Forest University. Her lecture took us through the last 50 years since the last birthday MLK celebrated. She showed pictures of what happened from January 15 through April 4 of 1968 – black children being shot by police, working class African-Americans speaking out for economic justice, organized marches to seek change – all things that are happening today in 2018, 50 years later. She asked the question, did MLK’s Life Matter? The answer was yes – of course it mattered, but she said that MLK ultimately failed. He was a martyr fighting for a cause for which there is yet to be a solution – equity and justice is not present in the U.S. We try, but we fail.

The other day I was thinking to myself about my political stance on a lot of things. In particular, I was working through how I could bring up capital punishment with a guy in my life. I wanted to know his thoughts – to hear whether he – like Charlie from the West Wing – would want revenge on the person who hypothetically killed a family member. I’ve asked myself this question so many times. Would I ever pull a gun on someone? Would I ever kill someone who was endangering myself or my family? The answer is no. I don’t like guns. I don’t believe in killing. And I certainly don’t believe in capital punishment – our government’s attempt at filtering through the “evil people” in the world. I do believe that some people have tainted hearts, but I don’t believe people are evil. I believe people lose themselves in a psychological abyss full of darkness, frustration, and forgotten tears. I see capital punishment as a true failure of our government that only perpetuates inequity and injustice to people of lower socio-economic status.

To me, capital punishment taps into the economic injustice MLK fought, a fight that continues to this day. I often find myself going down the rabbit hole of wondering – what is the answer? How can we change the system? How can we have true redistribution of wealth? How can we really help with housing and rehabilitation services? Where I live in Eugene, I ride public transport and ride across town with many individuals who move their full shelter every morning. As I observe my fellow humans on the bus, I wonder – how does this work out this way? How did I end up where I am in a job I love with many life experiences behind me while my peer on the bus is now living in a shelter for the first time in the last four years? I honestly don’t believe this has to do with hard work or my dreams. We all have dreams. There’s something bigger – there’s a system of inequity that runs though our world and continues to advantage some and disadvantage others.

I try to avoid the rabbit hole which is part of why for a while this morning, I considered staying home. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to sleep, knit, and drink tea. But turning off my brain to sleep more and worry less isn’t helping anyone, least of all me. I think the greatest thing I heard today was when Melissa Harris-Perry said that MLK didn’t do the advocacy work for himself; he did it for all the others. Life shouldn’t be about making my life easier to live for myself. Life is really about trying to make a mosaic of the experiences, people, and places I encounter. And I want that mosaic to be beautiful – one that brings joy, laughter, and emotions to all who are part of it.

Today, on MLK’s birthday, I wasn’t reminded of specific quotes about a great man who led the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Instead, I was reminded of the fact that I’ve got to stay woke. I’ve got to remain engaged and concerned and I have to speak out more and write more about the chaos that continues to challenge my life mosaic. And honestly, I need to remember that it’s not MY mosaic. Life, earth, they are ours. We’re all in this together. So it’s time to refocus our energy on creating a more equitable, just world. And I, for one, pledge to start again every day. Because, when I’m honest, I know that I need to restart every day so that I can continue to do and say things that will help fight the injustices and challenge the White Utopian ideas that continue to shape our nation, my home state, and the very culture that grew up in. If I want to live in a world where humans really aren’t judged by the color of their skin, I’ve gotta do something to help that happen.

Until next time,


Sharing My Peace Corps Experience

Last night, I had the fantastic opportunity to share my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer with students at the University of Oregon by participating in a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Panel Discussion!

a. tanya, me, and babycya copy

Serving in PC Ukraine from 2005-2007 was amazing, largely because I was able to be part of the amazing Kytsiuk family. In this pic, I was making Pelmeni with Aunt Tanya and Baba Masha. 

It was great. I was able to share very briefly about my experience in Ukraine and answer questions students had about living abroad and experiencing life as Peace Corps Volunteers.

Here’s my general takeaway and advice for anyone considering serving in the Peace Corps.

  1. Do it. If you have an inkling that you want to do it or if it seems like it’s something you would do – Do it. You could do many different things – go straight to grad school, get married, start a family, begin a dream job in Washington DC, but I need to be honest with you – the two years you spend in Peace Corps will impact your life in a way and challenge you as a person in a way unlike anything else. Try it. If you’re willing.
  2. Take something quirky with you to keep your head on straight. Peace Corps can be lonely and can really challenge one’s sense of identity. I recommend you to take one material item that has some meaning to you. I took a ViewMaster with me to Peace Corps Ukraine. I had several sets of the Viewmaster films that my sister would send to me every few months. That Viewmaster kept me entertained when I was tired of rereading the books on my shelf and needed a break from reality.
  3. Don’t be so picky about where you go or what you want to do. The beauty of Peace Corps is that you have a chance to go to a place that needs your help and expertise AND – they are ready to share their culture and community with you! So try it. Trust the Peace Corps placement people – I think they’ll do a great job placing you!
  4. Be okay with missing out what’s going on in the U.S. There are many sections of pop culture and modern history that I missed out during my Peace Corps experience. And I missed changes in my friends’ and familiy’s lives – that’s okay. Be okay with being absent. Be okay with having a different direction in your life. And be okay with coming back to changes to your world in the U.S. after two years.
  5. Journal and take photos. Give yourself a chance to document your experience and keep those memories. When you come back to the U.S., you will have so many opportunities to work on the Third Goal of Peace Corps, sharing your experience. So make sure you’ve gathered enough material. And be at the ready to share it when you get a chance.

I would not be who I am today without my two Peace Corps experiences. I am so proud of what this organization provided for me, the people I met and loved along the way, and the many things I learned both in Ukraine and upon returning to the U.S. So truly, if you’re considering joining the Peace Corps, do it.



My Crush on Aaron Burr

Ever since I first listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack over a year ago, I have been struggling with a very serious issue. After listening to every rhyme and every lyric of every song, I have completely become attached to Aaron Burr. I know! This is appalling! He’s a menace! He has no morals and changes his opinions to fit fall fashion. But he’s also incredibly sensitive and sweet and charming… or so I think. (It could be that I find Leslie Odom, Jr. to be the most attractive cast member, but that’s another issue.)


The Hamilton Soundtrack is a full win, every time. 

What I like about Aaron Burr’s character is that he’s so relatable. He’s like so many people I know: students studying majors they hate in order to please their parents, sisters adhering to their husband’s desires and wishes for their homes and careers, neighbors working jobs they don’t believe in to pay for their rent and transportation costs, and advisors like me enforcing regulations that were created to restrict learners from experiencing higher education in the US as fully as it should be. Aaron Burr was human. And humans have faults and struggles that make them… people. 

And people are flawed.

Despite what the hero, Mr. Alexander Hamilton thought of himself, he was also flawed. I think of Hamilton as that guy in meetings that you hate seeing. He’s the guy who makes you feel like your work isn’t enough, that you haven’t done your part to make the world a better place. He’s the one who would want exchange change immediately and wouldn’t learn a thing about the way things work. Hamilton could easily be me when I get on my high horse on occasion. And no one likes me on my soapbox. Or anyone on a soapbox for that matter; it’s unattractive.

So… to put this in perspective, I’ve come to the following conclusion: to be a reasonable candidate in the dating world, one needs to become a politician like Aaron Burr. Correct? Or am I way off? Dating is all about being relatable. Am I right or am I right?

Tata for now!


That Time We Got Lost On The Way to Canada

My parents and I are seasoned travelers. We’ve traveled Western and Eastern Europe together, gone on roadtrips to Washington, hot spots in Oregon, and even Disney adventures to California and Florida. This weekend was to be the first time the three of us traveled up north to our neighbors in Canada. Only… it has taken us 22 of the projected 8 hours of travel and adventure and we still haven’t made it across the border. Here’s what happened.

Around the time we passed Seattle in I-5, my mom asked me to look up the route to Anacortes. “That’s where we’ll catch the Ferry to Victoria,” she said.

I looked up the route.

“We need to travel to Friday Harbor,” she said while driving.

“Do we have to take another ferry from there?” I asked.

“No. We go to Friday Harbor,” she said.

I looked at the map on my phone, sure that there was more to the route.

“After we get there,” she said, “there will be bridges.”

That makes sense, I thought. Because between Friday Harbor and Victoria, there was definitely a bunch of water.

I didn’t question her too much. You see, my mom is a smart cookie. She spent a good chunk of her formative years in Washington state so by default, I see her as a complete expert on all roads and things related to this wonderful state.

But she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

After we first checked in to the Ferry line at about 6:00 PM, we ended up getting a reservation on the 10:30 Ferry. So… we got out of line and went into Anacortes to spend time in the city – eating dinner and playing a card game our family holds dear.


From Instagram: “When you realize at 11:33 PM on a ferry… in the middle of Puget Sound… that you are lost on your way to Canada. Yes, my passport might work, but my mom’s navigational skills are slightly challenged. Glad Pa Bunn is asleep right now. #ShouldaGrabbedMyRoadAtlas #RoadTrippingItToCanada #TravelWithTheRents #Travel

At about 11:35, when we were on the Ferry on the way to Friday Harbor, my mom came up to me and said, “Rece, I think we’re on the wrong Ferry. This doesn’t go to Canada.”

“There’s not a bridge that goes over to Victoria?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said, as her eyes continued to soak in the shock.

“Canada is avoiding us!” I said. “Like the guys on Bumble.”

And we both laughed.

My dad woke up out of his mini sleep and I had to tell him the news. He thought it was a joke. Nope. We’re really still going to be in Washington State tonight.

Then I brought up the first ferry line we had gone through– “When we passed the lady our passports, she sort of laughed us off and said we wouldn’t need those.” I just assumed that the word, “Yet” was the natural ending to that sentence.

My parents both shook their heads.

“We didn’t plan well on this trip,” I started to laugh hysterically. “It’s like when a group of four-year olds sneak into their parent’s car and pretend to be ready to drive to Canada.”

Really. That’s what yesterday was like. We were a small gaggle of children taking off on an adventure without a proper map, the critical thinking skills to question our intuition, and a bag of Halloween Oreos; clearly, the perfect combination for an amazing adventure.

Tata for now.


Adult Friendships with the ‘Rents

I’m friends with my parents. It’s unlike many of the other friendships I’ve formed recently such as when I’ve forced co-workers into friendship through humor and stimulating conversations. And it’s different than the friendships I’ve had since high school when we became friends because of our love for coffee shops to order Italian sodas after school.

This friendship with my parents has developed through travels, both domestic and abroad, and from the various times I lived with them as an adult as I figured out my next life step.

I haven’t lived with my parents in over four years, but I do still travel with them, visit them at their house for a weekend every now and again, and attend Oregon Ducks football games with them. Essentially, we like to hang out now and again.

But today, my parents are exercising their squatters’ rights at my apartment. What am I talking about? Well, my parents came to stay with me Friday night before the Ducks game on Saturday. Then had planned to go home after the game, but my dad was tired so they decided to stay a second night. When my mom realized that an NFL game was on this morning, they decided to stay a bit longer. I find it hilarious. My TV is a 13-inch VCR/TV combo that I bought back in 2001. It’s a crap television, but I have cable. My parent’s don’t have cable so watching NFL football real-time on my 13-inch TV is absolute heaven.

When they started joking with me about them overstaying their welcome, I laughed. I really don’t mind as long as they respect my decision to blog and write letters while they watch Marcus Mariotta and company take on the Oakland Raiders. (I’m not really a football fan; I attend Ducks games entirely for the social aspect.)

I think it’s fun to be friends with my parents. It changes the dynamics of what we’re able to do and how I can spend my time with them that likely differs greatly from how my siblings interact with them.

One of my prouder moments of our friendship also came this morning when my dad and I talked about women’s equality. He told me that our conversations in the past year about women’s equality have made him notice things differently. He noted that movies from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to films made in the 1990s depict female characters in small, traditional roles of secretary, mother, etc. and that there were no strong, female leads in films he has seen. My immediate thought: Duh, Daddy. It’s relatively recent that female actors are in key roles in film. But – as Tina Fey joked in her sheet cake skit on an edition of this summer’s SNL Weekend Update – people won’t show up for those powerful films with strong female leads. It’s frustrating. And yet honestly, I am incredibly grateful that my dad is starting to notice this and that he finds it weird. His friendship with me alone should show him that sassy and strong female characters make any story, travel, and adventure more interesting.

I enjoy being friends with my parents. Despite the fact that I disagree with their politics, I find them quite wonderful people. And I appreciate having an adult friendship with folks who are the very reason I was brought into this world. It’s kind of cool.

And honestly, if they want to exercise their squatters’ rights in my apartment any given Sunday, I’ll just learn to make due and enjoy it.

Tata for now.


Long-Term Relationships and Beards

I didn’t realize that men with beards were better for long-term relationships. Clearly, they have longer-term commitments to their facial hair and food scrapings therein, but whether their beard would affect how long they could be in a relationship with me never crossed my mind… until today.

This morning I learned that researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia did a study with 8,520 women to see how men were rated based on attractiveness. Men with full-beards were rated as the best for long-term relationships.

I guess this might be accurate. I mean, at this point, both of my sisters are married to men with full beards and they are in long-term relationships so… that’s enough proof, right?

While this article has taught me a bit about us women’s perception of what men will bring us relationship-wise. I don’t know how accurate or real this may be. Does perception ever equal reality? Don’t some men grow long beards simply because they know women are starting to think this brings stability? And how damaging is it to those of us women who might actually really believe beards equal long-term commitment when guys read this and start growing out their facial hair to get more action?

Though I appreciate the effort the researchers at the University put into this study, I think it might be a load of B.S.

Until next time,