voices in our heads

musing on the never ending barrage

Screaming into the Void

Today I woke up at 6:45am, angry.

Like scream and cry into the void angry.

Last night was INFURIATING.

I’ve spend the last year on the Gender Equity Committee of LAOUT, advocating for women, having discussion with my male and female friends. It’s been exhausting and emotional. So when Stephanie and Ronnie posted their experience with the Aviators yesterday, the CLEAR reality of women being treated as second class citizens in our ultimate community was a blow. My heart breaks for them, and for the community of women who are fighting for change. I’m angry.

My anger is fueled by the fact that the Aviators owners and players came to a lot of our Gender Equity meetings and seemed GENUINELY interested in learning and growing. Personally, I spent time last year reaching out to the Aviators owners and coaches who were friends of mine — listening to their point of view and attempting to get their perspective. They are well meaning and overworked. They’ve had a lot of leadership changes and challenges to overcome. I am empathetic to the struggles they face starting a new business and trying to keep themselves afloat. Because of this, last year, I didn’t say anything publicly, wanting to wait and see how this year would play out, hoping for the best. Honestly, I dream of a world where we have mixed and women’s professional competitions. A world where if I ever had a daughter, I could tell her — I was a part of making that happen. “She could be that girl.”

But the reality that article painted was very different than the words that came out of the leadership’s mouths.

And it made me furious. At the bar Tuesday Night Game after After Party’s game versus Skeeter, I asked various men in the Ultimate Community what they thought about the article, and a lot of the men were equally upset and supportive:

“Are we really saying ‘puss’ in 2019, who talks like that?”

“Seeing them forced to wait outside the locker room was really upsetting.”

“I don’t see how if they saw they were left out (of the locker room), they wouldn’t have made accommodations. Like you would make for ANYONE who feels left out. This is Ultimate.”

“On the field tonight, our Captain was making an effort to correct himself and say guys AND girls and I thought back to the article when she said, ‘I just want to blend in be treated the same…but I’m not the same.’ And I noticed that for the first time how we were actually pointing them out in an awkward way. And I really felt it. It was eye opening.”


A drive-by comment gets lobbed up by a prominent male player — admittedly having NOT READ THE ARTICLE —

“Oh they’re just whining cause they’re not good enough to get the play time they wanted.”

And there it was.

In one sentence, he undercut everything about these women’s personal story while absolving the male owners (and players) of any responsibility.

I looked at the other men around me in disbelief. One rebuked him, “come on man” as I threw up my hands, screaming — “This is what I was talking about. Welcome to my fucking world.”

And I left.


They leave. Cause they don’t want to endure this shit from the men.

Yes, men. From you.

Because we suffer through comments like this all the time — from work, to school, to random strangers yelling at us on the street.  But it’s EVEN harder when it’s comments from our friends in the Ultimate community.

Comments that invalidate and undermine the experiences of women and create a male dominated narrative that is a LIE: “She was asking for it.” “She’s just a gold digger.” “She’s just a bitch.” “It’s her fault she made me so angry.” “She’s just mad she’s not good enough.”

Lies that blame WOMEN for the failings of our male dominated society. 

And if this indictment makes men uncomfortable or angry


Cause EVERY time I leave my house, I am uncomfortable and angry in this world that MEN have created. Just to give you an idea of what MY experience is like:

I worry that if I’m too angry, too passionate, too ANYTHING, men will dismiss me as being emotional, irrational and unfit for my job. 

I worry that I’m working twice as hard and getting paid significantly less than my male counterparts while enduring their sexual harassment and misogyny.

I worry that if I confront these men about said sexual harassment, I will get fired.

I worry that if I walk my dog after dark, I will get followed/assaulted/raped.

I worry that if I yell back at the guy leaning out his van window catcalling me while I walk my dog, I will get followed/assaulted/raped.

And when I get to Ultimate…

I worry that as a Captain, because I have have a ‘puss’ I’m not going to be taken seriously.

I worry that the men are only PRETENDING to take me seriously cause they’re trying to get in my ‘puss’.

I worry that even though I’ve been playing for 19 years, men won’t listen in the huddle when I speak.

I worry the men will question my calls and my leadership.

I worry about the women on my team not getting thrown to. 

I worry about them getting criticized for every mistake.

I worry about them becoming too afraid to make mistakes and hence —

I worry they’re not growing as players, as women, as leaders, and general badasses.

I worry about them being afraid to speak up and defend their calls.

I worry about them getting cut off by men on the field, or worse, injured.

I worry that if I don’t speak up, if I don’t encourage them enough, if I don’t constantly stay vigilant on their behalf, I’ve failed as their leader and advocate.

After the game…

I worry that if I’m not nice enough to the creepy guy at the bar talking to me, everyone will think I’m a bitch and being mean.

I worry if I’m TOO nice to said creepy guy, he’ll follow me to my car and kidnap me/assault me/rape me.

I worry that if I turn my back on my drink, I will get drugged, and then kidnapped/raped/assaulted.

I worry that if I get too drunk, I will get raped.

I worry that if I walk to my car alone at night, I will get assaulted/raped.

I worry that, WORSE, this might happen to my female teammates if I’m not watching them. If I don’t check in and make sure that creepy guy at the bar isn’t harassing them. Make sure they get to their cars safe. And they do the same for me. 

Starting at a very young age, women are trained by other women to be vigilant — to be constantly uncomfortable because it’s “our fault” when we’re sexually assaulted. And we know from history and our friend’s experiences that we won’t get justice and EVERYTHING about our lives will be dragged through the mud if we attempt. Worse, we’ll have to relive that trauma over and over in the courts.

And MOST OF US have been sexual harassed or assaulted. Including me.

The world is uncomfortable for women. 

And so what I ask of you, the men of LA ULTIMATE be a LITTLE LESS COMFORTABLE sometimes. A little less comfortable saying stupid shit — in bars, in your GroupMe’s, on the fields. Less comfortable with your status quo. Less comfortable with your privilege.

Emulate the men who are accommodating women with their words and their actions. Even if you fail in the attempt, please, MAKE AN ATTEMPT.

Be like the players at the bar, who rebuked the man who made the comment that Rigby and Ronnie were “whining.” Who spent his night at the bar defending the work we’re doing with Gender Equity and LAOUT’s decision not to partner with the Aviators.

And regardless of where you stand on the Aviators, be the man who is supportive when a woman shares her experience. And if you’re not sure how, here’s a primer:

ADMIT you don’t know what it’s like for us. ASK EMPATHETIC questions so you can learn.  APOLOGIZE for the actions of yourself and other men. THANK the women for sharing.  ACKNOWLEDGE how hard it is for them to speak out.  STAND UP to other men when they shit on us for speaking out.

I thank the men in our community who ARE standing up with us in this fight. Cause it’s exhausting. And I appreciate the encouragement of the men and women who reminded me today as I shared my anger and frustration — weeping — that we’ve come so far. And we are making progress. Things have changed. They are changing. They will continue to change. And we cannot give up.

And for the Rigby’s and the Ronnie’s who are left sitting outside the locker room like second class citizens — I stand with you and say it’s NOT OK.

It’s NOT your fucking fault.

You are NOT fucking whining.

You are FUCKING BADASSES for speaking up.

You make us better for sharing what you went through. 

I ask the men and women of our community to hold accountable the men in power who failed them and the men who were complicit in it through their apathy.  I am publicly stating that I will not not give my money, time and efforts to the Aviators until the culture of their organization changes.  I will not advocate for them when they do not advocate for us.

That being said, I encourage us that it’s GOOD TO FAIL sometimes. It helps us grow. I hope that men in our community use this as a launching pad for change. That all of us use it as a teaching moment.

I was angry last night. I still am.

Because I love Ultimate. And I love LA and this community. And I know we can do better.

And we are going to. 


A Letter to My Evangelical Republican Parents

Dear Parents,

You raised your three girls to be the intelligent, thoughtful and kind people. To pursue our dreams. You treated us equally. You listened and adapted when we went off into the world and came home with views you didn’t previously hold. You view the Middle East and the wars there differently now that I’ve worked there and loved the people. After Christie studied environmental science you got solar panels and drive a Prius. You yourselves are thoughtful, intelligent and kind people and I’m proud to be raised by you. So I write this in hopes that as you have grown and changed with your girls over the years, that this election you will grow and change with us again.

Unfortunately the world is run by a lot of Donald Trumps. Where I’ve have to suffer routine sexual harassment and lewd comments in public, in private and at work. The sad part about Trump’s latest scandal was that I WAS NOT SURPRISED nor SHOCKED. I’ve heard the same terrible “locker room talk” as part of my job as a Hollywood assistant, on phone calls, in the writer’s room, on set — none of which, by the way, are actual LOCKER ROOMS. And I’ve learned to shrug it off. But I’m sick of it. I’m tired of how women are treated. I’m tired that we have to CONSTANTLY fight this battle.

Which is why I am SO excited to vote for a woman! To finally have a female President — we’re on the precipice of a historic moment and I can’t wait to tell my daughters one day that I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton as I cast my vote for our first Black President eight years ago! And I’m proud that I get to vote for someone as qualified and hard working as Hillary Clinton and who has had to overcome more push-back and media bias towards women and a cheating husband and a whole lot of other shit that I can’t even imagine. Is this idealistic and maybe naive? Yes. Do I care? No! I want to be excited!!! We’re long overdue!!

But this is a polarized world. Growing up the Clintons were the worst ever — it wasn’t just Bill. Hillary was an ambitious ugly bitch. Feminists were Nazis. And these things shaped the way I thought about women in power. Ambition in a woman was bad. But guess what — I’m SUPER ambitious. All of your daughters are. And I don’t think you’re lying when you brag about us and tell us how proud you are of all we’ve accomplished! We needed ambitious women to get us the vote, to get us birth control, to get health care for mothers and children, to get rights for the disabled, to get us athletic funding and access to higher education and equal pay for equal work. We need more women in power advocating for these things!
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There are moments in life that bring us to our knees. A song. A sunset. Kisses from a puppy. An unexpectedly vulnerable conversation. They speak to something greater than yourself. A break in the fog of our plodding routines, our incessant complaining and jostling for a relatively meaningless place in the world. Moments that make you believe again. In love and magic and mysticism in the universe. That maybe you’re going to be OK. That life is beautiful. That you are loved.

I had that moment tonight.

At the end of the year you’re supposed to look back and reflect. Celebrate. Make changes. But every time I tried to look back on this year, I just cry. Because 2015 was just one of those years. My sister Katie got thyroid cancer. The doctor assured us that it was cancer with a little “c”, but it was still not fun sitting in a hospital room watching her shaking and vomiting as she attempted to croak out a request for more pain meds and then immediately vomitting those pain meds up once the nurse finally responded. Then I went to doctor for what I thought was a simple infection and instead ended up with a long-term “pain management system” for an auto-immune disorder. And then I capped off the summer at my friend’s funeral, she was in her forties with two beautiful young kids under seven. Selfishly, that was the worst for me. Because she was that friend where I could show up at her house, no make-up on, in sweats, crying and no matter how depressed she was, she took me in and we’d sipped wine and watched the sunset and inevitably we’d end up laughing and having a dance party on the bbq with the kids. And then one Monday morning she was just gone forever.

Don’t get me wrong, the end of the year has gotten better, but no matter how awesome life is, in the back of my mind, I guess I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the next round of tragedy and illness and pain. On one hand, 2016 stretches before me with endless possibility. I’m writing my first episode of television. I’m in Honduras staying on a beach scuba diving with my whole family. But I’m in paradise and I can’t relax, stressed about what the future holds. I’m not sure if I can take another year like this one. If the next tragedy will be the time where I don’t make it — where I just give in to the fucking shit hole that is this world and just stop getting out of bed.

But tonight, my sister Katie (who has beaten aforesaid cancer with a little “c”) signed us up for a night dive. I did not want to do it, but Katie is way cooler than me and I like hanging out with her, so I decided to just keep my mouth shut, try not to panic and go on the dive. I also told her she was under legal obligation to hold my hand when I freaked out.

On the boat, as the sun set over the water, our Dive Master gave us briefing for the dive, which all seemed very normal until she got to the part where she said. “And then we’ll turn our lights off and let our eyes adjust.” Read the rest of this entry »


Tarazout is a small beach town that rests along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Beautiful stretches of natural white sand beaches, swarmed with Moroccans, tourist, and surfers. I had been in the Spain/Morocco vicinity for a few months and had decided extend my time in Morocco because my sister Katie was bringing a group of students and thought my French speaking skills would be helpful. Also I was actively avoiding returning to the States to a boss I hated and a job I had recently gotten “fired” from. I say “fired” because in the non-profit world everyone is so nice that they just say thing like “we think your skills might be better served in another area.” But essentially, I’d been fired for screaming at the aforementioned much-hated boss. Ten years later, I have the experience and wisdom to say that he was a complete asshole and I’m surprised I hadn’t cussed him out on multiple occasions. But at the time, I was super ashamed of myself and decided to stay in Morocco.

We had a day off, so my sister and I rented scooters with the students and drove out to Tarazout. Katie and I took turns throwing the frisbee for each other as the other ran and gratuitously dove in the ocean and got tumbled by the waves. My California upbringing made these moments feel normal in the midst of a very foreign land: the drive having taken us passed herds of camels, mosques and endless groups of men incessantly cat-calling.

After a brief dip in the ocean with my co-worker, Robbie, I stepped on something. To this day, don’t know what. It felt like I sliced my big toe on a little piece of glass. “OW!” A little sliver of blood trickled from a tiny black dot on my big toe. And then —  PAIN.

Pain comes in various forms: There is annoying, distracting pain. The shoulder that makes a weird clicking sound and starts to ache by the afternoon, that ankle that never fully recovered from an ultimate frisbee injury and gives out when it rains, the 4pm post-caffeine headache that seeps into your skull.  Pain that makes work miserable, and difficult, but you push through it. Grumpy and annoyed, quieter than normal, but nevertheless, you function. This pain was none of those things.

This was an all encompassing, blinding white, paralyzing pain. It shot through my foot and leg. I couldn’t walk. Robbie carried me back to our stuff, and laid me down my towel.

The world around me narrowed to the patch of blue, cloudless sky directly above me. Towels, sweatshirts piled on me as I started to shake. Wet and cold. Going into shock.

No one could explain what was happening. The Moroccan lifeguards on the isolated beach said it was a “fish” that had bit me: And then they started beating my foot with a ping-pong paddle. [I’m not kidding. This actually happened.]

It did not help.

I grabbed my sister. “Katie. Why? Why are they beating me?! It hurts!” Forcefully she got rid of them. She can be really scary when she wants to be. For this I will always be grateful.

The group of American 20-somethings hypothesized as to what it was: They thought I must have been stung by a jellyfish. Only, I’d been stung by a jellyfish before: The tentacles wrap around you leaving visible welts. You can see the jellyfish in the water, and avoid them… I had stepped on something in the sand beneath shallow water. Unseen, burrowed beneath the surface and it most definitely wasn’t a jellyfish. But my reasoning ability was trumped by the pain. The jellyfish theory won out.

The beach was remote, and had no bathrooms. So my male co-workers — using wisdom derived from television and movies — decided to pee in an empty soda bottle and soak my toe in it. The site of the supposed jellyfish sting. My frisbee was commandeered. Pee poured in. Foot went in after that. My laughter and utter disbelief at what was happening helped with the pain. Their urine did not.


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Leaving isn’t difficult. It’s coming back that breaks you.

“So how was teaching terrorists all summer?” my aunt asked contentiously as we lay on the beach at the lake, August 2000. Like every summer since I was two, we were taking a week of family vacation to waterski and tan and fight over nothing. And like every summer, I was pretty sure I was going to punch a family member. But now for legitimate reasons.

I had just returned from the Gaza Strip where I had been teaching English to Palestinian Jr. High students. To this day, Gaza remains one of the most crowded, most impoverished, most hopeless places I’ve travelled. And I’ve been to a lot of shitty places. Beautiful, hospitable people, caged in like cattle. And that was fourteen years ago. Fourteen more years of siege. Of bombing. Of a relentless de-humanization campaign. Of tunnels and kidnapping and retaliations, and “you’re right” and “I’m righteous.” A city being razed once again by some delusional belief by all parties that more violence will solve it.

And yet, the summer of 2000 was filled with laughter and dancing and friendships. On the brink of peace or war, while Barak, Clinton and Arafat holed up in Camp David, deciding the fate of the little strip of land, I hung out with a gaggle of privileged kids, teaching English at the one Catholic School in the Strip, learned their history, their reality, and let them steal my heart. They also bugged the shit out of me. But mostly, I loved them. I planned on going back every summer, determined to give my life to learning and hopefully finding a way to help towards peace.

I’ve never been back to Gaza. The doors slammed shut that fall when the second intifada started, and Israel barely allows foreigners in. Occasional press, few aid workers. I don’t know what happened to my students. The emails stopped coming that fall. Some had citizenship elsewhere and hopefully they escaped. Most probably joined in their people’s rebellion. Throwing stones and crudely made bombs at the American-financed Israeli tanks and body armor. A generation locked in a pattern of violence so senseless, and yet held onto with such self-righteous victimization.

But I will remember them as they were that summer. Sporting Leonardo DiCaprio TITANIC t-shirts, the girls flirted and giggled and the boys used pagers and too much hair gel. We called them our “pimps” and “beauty queens”. Their parents insisted we come over and force fed us too much food. The girls huddled to close to us on the humid, sticky, bus rides all over the Strip, needing to hold our hands. Pet our hair. Tell us they loved us and make us promise we wouldn’t forget them. They insisted we spend our free time at their houses, or at the beach, their parent’s force fed us food and got in our business and we all cried when we left. Walking through the long-cattle-like trough back to Israel. Not realizing this was truly goodbye.

Leaving isn’t difficult. It’s the coming back that breaks you. Because everything has stayed the same. Everything except you. And suddenly you no longer fit into the rhythms and patterns of a world that used come as naturally as breathing. And you fear you never will again. That you’ll spend all your family vacations trying to explain how those kids were no more terrorists than you and I are because our country sells their enemy the bombs that kill them. Explaining that they were just normal kids born in a beautifully tragic place where all they had known was war and violence and occupation.

But the greater fear is that  slowly over time, you will forget to tell people what you’ve seen. You yourself will forget the details. The faces, the names. The promises made. Forget to debate and share and fight. Forget to weep for the death and destruction and lives lost.

Because over the years I learned, that for me, leaving is always the easy path. But staying, that’s the challenge.


Echoes of the morning prayers reverberate through the dusty walled city. A slow, opening of the eyes to a mosaic tiled hotel room. My small, hard bed. Another morning in Morocco. Little sleep. Last day. Relief mixed with anxiety. Somehow I, Stephanie Hicks, twenty-five years old, am in charge of forty-two Air Force Academy cadets spending their spring break doing a quick, six-day jaunt through Morocco: A near impossible feat as the three locations they were volunteering at are all ten hours away from the airport they flew into, giving them a mere four days of volunteer-time. I had inherited this mess of a trip as my welcome gift upon moving back to the United States. Now, a month later, I was back in Morocco, back in this sleepy dusty town. And everything from the plane tickets, to the Jamaican student who didn’t have a visa and was turned away in London, to the leadership’s micromanagement, to the extremely tight budget, swirled around my brain. Get up. You’re almost done. One more day.

My student-leader Beau greets me in the narrow echoey tiled hallway, interrupting my morning download with, “Umm…you need to see this.”

“Ben’s sick. He’s been coughing that up all night.” He points at a liter coke bottle, with an inch of black liquid filling up the bottom. Thick.

It’s the last day. This is not happening.That looks like blood. Yup. That’s blood. In the coke bottle. It’s the last day. This is not happening. Can I put him on a plane like that? Probably not.

Ben retches from the bathroom. Exits. Informs me he’s been throwing up blood. “I think it’s cause I was swallowing it. So I started spitting it out.” How long has this been going on? All night? Definitely cannot put him on a plane like that.

I attempt to download the day to Beau who is now going to be in charge. The problem is, none of our hosts speak English. It’s a mix of Spanish, French and Arabic. Beau is learning Russian.

I put Ben, myself and the Coke bottle in a taxi and take him to the only hospital in this ancient, remote town of Taroudant. The “hospital” is a one-story-adobe-clay building, with large open windows with no screens, the rooms filled with cat and flies. You have to stand in line to pay before anyone would see you. Then, if you needed treatment you had to walk across the street to the pharmacy, buy a needle, the IV and fluids, and bring it back.  Same for the X-Rays, painkiller, blood tests, all standing in different lines. Bossy Moroccan ladies pushing me around. Pushing me to the front. Communicating in broken French.

Finally they take Ben in the back to X-ray his chest. All 215-lbs Air Force Academy Linebacker crumples over the punitive Moroccan orderlies. Out cold. It takes three of them to hoist him on a gurney. For the first time, I got scared.
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I write this blog in tears. Fearful. But knowing that when I write, it brings me life, healing and truth. And I share that journey with you, my reader, in hopes that maybe another will not have to go through what I did. Although, fatefully, I feel we are a species oft condemned to repeat each other’s mistakes. I am a strong, independent, well-educated woman, who has travelled the world, has a master’s degree, a career and a healthy life with family and friends. I grew up with not just one, but three examples of strong loving Dad’s in my life who treated their wives and families with respect, love and commitment. But somehow I spent half my year last year bound to an abusive man. Crippled with fear, anxiety and doubt. I was unable to leave. Trapped in the cycle. Ashamed. Lying to everyone around me. Worse: Lying to myself.

Last summer, coming off a recent break-up, I was just looking to date. Have fun. We met on an muggy summer Saturday night. A snarky online-dating-website-exchange finally leading to drinks. I dragged myself out of the house. I was pleasantly surprised. He looked good in a dark bar. Brooding, deep and thoughtfully assertive. Appreciatively checking out my ass when I went to the bathroom. And I stayed for two drinks. I never stay for two drinks. He was completely engaged by me. I was an angel to him. We got each other somehow. Mostly in a negative way, I see now. A mythical connection of disillusionment with the Los Angeles stereotypes. Looking back, I realize there was no laughter.

One should always be wary when there is no laughter.

He was passionate, communicative and intense. He constantly texted me, checking in. Making me feel wanted. And we had fun at first. Going out, drinking beer, yelling over an overly loud cover band. Making out in the car. And finally me ending up in his bed. It was supposed to be a fun summer. But then, suddenly, he wasn’t OK when I had plans and we couldn’t see each other for five days. He “wasn’t going to do well.” Whatever that meant. Oh… I found out what that meant. Angry passive aggressive texts questioning my motives when I went to a baseball game with a male friend. I laughed at the absurdity.

And instead of telling him to back off, I pressed in, sure that I could clear things up. Spent the weekend with him. Smoothed it out. And then suddenly I was spending every weekend with him. He complained if I was tired and wanted to stay at my house, or changed our plans. I blamed my own exhaustion for leading to fights. But he was subversively pushing beyond my boundaries, getting into my head. Projecting thoughts onto me. Suddenly I not only had imaginary feelings for said friend, I wanted to fuck that guy on my ultimate team and I was pining away after my dim-wit-loser ex. Wait. No. I didn’t want anything of these things. He accused me of using him for sex. Not wanting anything serious and being a whore. What? Seriously? I would laugh at first, write him kind notes, do caring things like cook and buy him groceries to try and persuade him with my actions that I was faithful. I meant what I said. I was excited about us and our future.

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Gaza City was sticky. Thick Mediterranean air hung over the capital. Slowing everything down, the movements limited, stunted, as if checkpoints and borders and vast Israeli army complex was not limitations enough. Even the air resisted the Palestinians. With no room to build out, the million and a half residents could only go up. Everywhere there were buildings and people and construction and destruction. A sense that nothing was going anywhere.

Maybe it was because I rarely went anywhere that summer of 2000. Teaching English at the lone Catholic school where we slept and ate and worked and shit in the same concrete complex of classrooms. The roof, offering a brief opening of air.  If the Israelis hadn’t shut off the electricity we would venture out to shop or use the internet. We always caused a stir. A culture of men hanging out on the street, staring. Commenting. Always in groups, standing outside their shops. Spitting. No shame or discretion in their studying of these foreign women. Full-body-turning, stop the conversation, I’m-stripping-you-with-my-eyes kinda staring. As if we were walking down the street naked, instead of in our Amish-esque dress code of long skirts and blouses still drawing too much attention in a sea of black and head scarfs.

This became common in my travels. Being stared, hollered at. Harassed. But over the years it rarely led to anything more than the idle pick-up line in broken English. To retaliate, or say ‘fuck off,” only made them more aggressive. There was nothing to do but suffer in silence. And keep walking. Eyes focused on an imaginary object in the distance. Internally, the cause of great anger and anxiety, externally it was merely an unsettling annoyance.

I was groped for the first time at the end of my summer in Gaza. Taking pictures on graduation night, a young man of around thirteen or fourteen put his arms around me and a fellow female teacher. And then his hands slipped down and squeezed our breasts simultaneously. It took us a minute to catch up. Mostly there was shock. Did that just happen? Yes. What do we do? I don’t know. We told our male American counterparts, who told their Palestinian counterparts, who promptly gathered a mob who went to the boys house to enact justice. Not exactly the result we were looking for. Come to find out, the kid had run away from home, fairly certain he would have been maimed for his violation of the American guests.  Everybody could look. But there was NO touching.

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Summer of 1999. An overcast muggy San Diego summer, I spent stuffed into a tiny dusty hole of an apartment in downtown San Diego. A social experiment called “Urban Project.” Eight of us from UCSD were given a bus pass, a place to live, and $20 a week to live on. I lived with two girls who were few years older than me. Our room was so small there was no space between bed. I often woke up with Jen halfway in my bed. She found it amusing. One week, instead of my $20 bill, I received a piece of paper saying “your child is sick and needed medicine.” We pooled everything anyway, so things were just extra tight that week. We could only tithe four dollars at church, so I was elected to get change for our five, as the offering basket was passed. Suburban middle class girls in the inner-city needing that dollar to eat dinner.  Poverty renders one shameless.

Time seemed slow,  simple and beautiful to me that summer. Before internet and cell phones. We couldn’t afford TV or a landline, handed over credit cards and check books at the beginning of the summer. I used my parent’s calling card to check in with them a few times a week. To email we had to go the library, internet eternally slow and useless. The eight of us would gather in one or the others apartment at night. Tell stories. Cook our cheap-ass dinners. Laugh. We rode the bus everywhere. A slow, rhythmic pace to our movements. Time was relative. Hours spent people watching and staring out the window. Most of the time, that summer, people watched us. We were the anomaly. Riding the bus miles closer to the border to hit up the extremely cheap grocery store. Lugging our groceries home. On more than one occasion a watermelon would escape and roll down the aisle.  They were cumbersome, but cheap. We took the trolley and went running out of the boardwalk in the AM. An occasional day off, we’d ride the bus to a bookstore. Read. Ride back. I volunteered at an inner city summer camp. An after-school drop in center. One week, literally took the kids away to summer camp. There was a simplicity in poverty. I had everything I needed and nothing I wanted, and was perfectly content.

I lived this way most of my twenties. My choices re-enforced by my profession’s self-imposed poverty. These days people are calling it the minimalist movement. Paring down your life. Not joining the rat-race of capitalism. For me,  the stuff never held appeal. If you could get it for free, perfect. If you didn’t need it, even better. But even I can fall victim.

Living in the same house for three years, and really hating shopping and buying things, my closet had become unmanageable. Last month, I slowly moved rooms, and started sifting through the drawers.  My problem is not that I can’t get rid of things. But rather, I have a hard time saying no to free things people give me. The “potential mindset” combined  with the thrifty. It has been the downfall of a generations of Americans. I want to live simply, and don’t want to buy “new” things,  so I keep all the old stuff around, “just in case.” This is my father and grandmother’s way. Why would I buy something new, if I could just keep it forever on the off chance potentially I might need it  someday.

Ironically, my dad sent me the following email about my post, PAINT, last week.

To Stephanie Hicks

Yes, very nice. It is good to paint. But watch out for the stuff. It will accumulate. Like your Grandmother Teddie’s house. And like your father’s house. Beware of the hoarding gene. It runs in the family.

love Steve Read the rest of this entry »


Airports have a smell about them. Unique of their city. A collision of exhaust, luggage, people and jet fuel. The light. The air. Everyone harried, impatient, filled with their own importance. There is an agenda to fulfill, a destination to hurl towards. Packed with energy, moment, life. I’m going somewhere new, or somewhere old. Doesn’t matter. I am getting away.

I love airports. Even LAX, possibly the most poorly designed international hub in the world. I drive through its tacky globe pillars with a certain glee. Get out of the car, breath in the air, and adrenaline rushes through my body. Despite the fact that today, I am not flying anywhere. Merely chauffeuring my friend Katie, as I have many times in the last three years. As she unloads her bags from my trunk I duck in to use the bathroom. To my delight, it is at the opposite end of the terminal from my idling car. I semi-jog through the people checking in, dragging their kids, looking confused. Some ignore me, some stare. I don’t care. I am a mysterious world traveller once again, rushing to my flight, off on an adventure. Alone, anonymous, alive.

My twenties were spent in airports across the globe. I lived out of bags carted around from car to check-in to plane to taxi to boat to train to hotel.

Upon graduating from college my aunt gave my sister’s and I paintings. My older sister’s was a wall-sized, gorgeous landscape of the hills of our hometown San Luis Obispo (SLO). My painting was tiny in comparison. Eight inches by eight inches. On the back she wrote,

To Stephanie, 

Upon graduation, 2002. That you may always have the hills of SLO no matter how far you go.

 Love Kathye.

A fortuitous gift, as for the rest of the decade, I never lived in one place for more that six-months. I worked for a non-profit in Colorado, never said no to travel, the next adventure. I fed off the energy of new people, new places, new challenges. There was a constant driving voice in my head, pushing me to take on more, go somewhere new. A story that moved me. A life that needed help. Who was going to save them if I wasn’t?

Everything I owned could fit in the cab of my pick-up truck. Anything more became a hinderance.  Plants and pets were out of the question. Surrounded by similarly jet-setting people and a rotating flux of students, there was always someone coming or going, giving something away, needing something to use while you were abroad. We bunked in dorms. Had a free-boutique, where you could leave jacket, take a jacket, leave sheets, take sheets, leave backpack, take a backpack. All free. I rarely bought things. Someone always had it. If I was lucky, I kept my room while I was gone. More often than not, my belongings would go back into the truck. Kathye’s painting could be hung on a thumb tack. Be packed and re-hung and repacked less than a minute. Sheets on the bed, a clamp-on-light on the night-stand, hang the painting and voila: Home.

I’ve attempted to map out those years. They appear as little blurs, each replacing the other in such quick succession. I made attempts to grasp them. Write that down. Take a picture. But for everyone captured, there were thousands lost.  But the decade went something like this: Read the rest of this entry »