Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage for all

Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all individuals have a right to marry the person of their choice! I can not express my excitement to being here to witness such an amazing day in history, even here in South Dakota, we have couples already being issued licenses and marrying!

Unfortunately, there are some haters out there. Those that do not believe everyone has the right to make a legal, long-term commitment to another individual of their choosing. I will pray for these individuals to accept the equal rights of ALL American citizens.

Some common themes across my Social Media pages that I would like to address:

*The courts did not define marriage, so they can not redefine them.
~Well, technically we did. There are two definitions for marriage, that of a specific church or religion and that of the state. We have this thing in America called separation of church and state that allows couples to marry outside of a church and still have a legally binding union. Can anyone say Vegas? 63 years ago we also had to rule that it was legal for individuals of different races to marry, changing the legal definition of marriage.

*Churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriage.
Nope. Not even a little bit true. A church has the right to refuse to perform a marriage in any way they choose. Churches choose to not perform marriages for all sorts of reasons: people of different religions, previously divorced, unwed parents, etc. The same policy will hold true for those who choose to not perform same-sex marriages. That's fine, couples can take their money and business elsewhere. Who wants to be married in a church who doesn't support them? The better news, thousands of churches across the nation already supported same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies!

*This ruins the sanctity of marriage.
The beautiful thing about marriage is that is indented to be a unconditional life-long commitment to another person. Modern culture has tarnished that with the high divorce rates and marriages that last less than 3 months. (I am not saying divorce is always a bad thing, that is another blog post.) As a culture we have less of a emphasis on committing to something long term and many of our young people have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. That is what we should be focusing on. If a couple who has been together over 50 years, we should be celebrating that. NO MATTER WHAT!! Also, couples threatening to divorce after this decision....um, what? How does that help the image of marriage?

*Love wins.
I am always a little apprehensive to connect love winning to the issue of marriage equality. The idea that anyone should marry someone they love, gay or straight, makes me a little uneasy. Marriage is more than love and much deeper. This is probably not a popular idea, but today people, won same-sex individuals won, and marriage equality won.

Lets Remember:
* We are all born sinners and we all die sinners. As humans we do not have the ability or right to judge another for the decisions that they make. Who am I to say that one sin is worse than another? What is important is that all sins can be forgiven. As a Christian, this is my belief. Other religions have other beliefs. Everyone believes they are right, but that doesn't mean we can't accept that someone else has a different look on life. Acceptance is one of the strongest gifts we can offer each other.

John 8:7 "When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'"

*We are not done yet! Discrimination still exists and we as a society have to continue to fight to right these wrongs. Celebrate today, but remember tomorrow we return to fight a good fight. (or maybe monday!)

"While we celebrate today, our work won't be finished until every American not not only marry, but live, work, pray, learn, and raise a family free from discrimination and prejudice." -Hilary Clinton

P.S. For my readers who would like to move to Canada following this ruling....Good Luck. Gay-marriage has been legal there for 10 years, they have an awesome government run health care system, and high taxes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

#ysocialwork

As social work month comes to a close and I am finishing my final projects before graduating with my MSW, I decided to reflect back on why I chose he social work profession and what keeps me here. Fighting for not only social work clients, but for the social work profession.

If you search the hashtag #ysocialwork on a variety of social media websites you will see a number of reasons why individuals chose the wonderful world of social work.

Social Work is one of the most miss understood professions out there, and that is just what it is, a profession. Social Workers are specialist in what they do and the training, education that they receive. Misunderstanding of social workers greatly stems from the complexity and variety of roles that social workers are able to play in their community. We do everything from direct therapy work day in and day out to lobbying, to creating social justice movements across the country.

The #ysocialwork campaign was started by a Masters of Social Work student. "y" refers to Generation Y and the next wave of social workers entering the work force. I found this idea so neat! Truly a way to re-brand social workers and help show the public that we do more than take away people's kids. Please take the time to search #ysocialwork and learn more about why we generation y-ers are getting into the social work  field. Or if you want to watch this awesome short video that someone who is better at computer things than me compiled.

"I believe this is one of the most honorable professions  (social work) that there is to be in....and I am honored to have all of you as colleagues." -Dr. Fredric Reamer 

So, why did I get into the social work field and what keeps me in the field? For me, it was actually a really easy choice. As a sophomore in high school I first started learning more about the profession. I knew I wanted to work with people. I knew I wanted to help individuals build better lives for themselves and families. I have always believed and saw the best in people, so here I am.

"I believe everyone deserves the chance to
 make an impact in their community" #ysocialwork
My journey through the social work profession has been wonderful, and at some point I have thought about working in about every area of SW. I originally thought I would work with foster care and adoption like many social workers. Then, I moved to an interest in developmental disabilities to doing more clinical work and therapy.

Then, as an undergraduate student I took my first social work policy class. This was the moment that I discovered that I could be both a social worker, a policy nerd and JOBS EXIST to fit those roles! Mind blowing, making me so happy! This was the final point in decided that I would be shifting my focus from a clinical route to a macrolevel social work. Since then, I believe my strengths and opportunities just skyrocketed in that field, affirming that choice along the way. This lead me to the University of Nebraska at Omaha for their dual degree program with MSW and Masters of Public Administration. This lead me to opportunities to create strategic plans, change organizational policy, conduct research, all with a higher focus on the big scope of social work.

Which brings me to the hear and now. As shown in the picture above, I did my own #ysocialwork statement. I really social work because everyone deserves the chance to change the world and impact the community around them. This comes in so many forms, just like social work. Impacting your community could look like teaching, getting a education, living one extra day through the help of medical coverage, running for office, volunteering at the local nonprofit, or sharing your good will with your community. I get to do this everyday by simply talking about social workers and the amazing work they are doing. I am honored to have had the chance to advocate for this profession as a lobbyist for NASW-SD in our state capitol. Getting to talk about and educate about what makes social workers unique was amazing!!

So that is Why I Social Work. There are statistics that say over 90 percent of people will have a social worker help them though something in life. I would guess that the number is closer to 100 percent. Social workers are the unsung heroes working behind the scenes with little recognition. Take the time to thank a social worker in your life for the work they do.

I leave you all with this quote that sums up Social Workers and #ysocialwork from the founder of Social Work herself, Jane Addams.

"Progress is not automatic; the world grows better because people with that it should, and take the right steps to make it better." -Jane Addams



Also, Here are some great articles and videos about Social Workers changing the world:
Kelo Land-The need for Social Workers in Rural Keloland
Twitter Chat Tackles Questions about Social Workers and Politics
Merging Personal and Professional-Social Work Leads the Path to Change
Why Social Work as a Profession

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

That South Dakota Love

What is it that not only keeps young people in South Dakota, but draws them back to the state after they leave?

Like many young successful people in South Dakota, I chose to leave the state to pursue educational, professional, and new experiences. Also like many, I have returned, because I LOVE SOUTH DAKOTA!

That is a statement that I have never been ashamed to tell someone. I am proud to say I grew up in South Dakota, to say that I want to make a home here and I care a great deal about where this state goes in the future. But why? South Dakota has certainly given me plenty of chance to fall out of love with the state, especially with some of the policy choices of our majority party and leadership.

Sure, it would be easier to move to a more progressive state like Minnesota, where the people fighting for people are appreciated and listened to. (Doesn't that sound amazing!)

There is something that keeps drawing me back to my home state. Even when I was living in Nebraska the last 3 years, it is no secret that my heart and interest was still back in South Dakota.
My sister bought us matching rings for my birthday last year.
A physical reminder of where my heart has always been. 

Is there a gene somewhere in us that draws us back to the state? Is it something that we are brainwashed with? I believe it is passion, at least for me. I want to be able to give back to a state and communities within that state that gave me so much growing up. Roots run very deep for me in South Dakota, my siblings and I are 6th generation South Dakotans. Not many people get to say that.

I also enjoy the challenge and the conversations that we are able to have as members of a South Dakota community. We are much more respectful around here and I am almost always able to have a conversation with someone, without argument, even if we are on complete opposite sides of the issue.

The biggest thing bringing me back and keeping me in South Dakota, the opportunity. Here, the whole state is a community and a young person has the opportunity to play so many different roles in their smaller community and the state as a whole. I learned this growing up in a small school where everyone was involved with everything. We didn't have band geeks, theater geeks, and athletes....they were all the same people! I have opportunities to have many irons in the fire, and I love it. I don't have to limit myself, because I have to be able to be diverse in my abilities. As a person I have so many more options to grow both personally in professionally.

So I am going to keep loving South Dakota and hopefully helping lead other intelligent motivated young leaders in this state to stay here. I understand if you need to leave temporarily, but we need you here in the state. It is not an easy road, but that is the fun and adventurous side of things.

I know there are many out there who have a similar drive to come back to our great state. What keeps you here and coming back? Share! I love to hear stories and have those conversations.

Leave you with two quotes from 2 great South Dakota men:

"I learnt more about politics during one South Dakota dust storm than in seven years at the university"- Hubert H. Humphrey (Who was born just 20 min. from where I grew up!)

"The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain." -George McGovern

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Election Day Hangover

All my fellow political nerds know what I am talking about. The day after the election day is worse than any other hangover you have ever had. Think about it, after a long 4-day binger (a.k.a. GOTV) you are left tired, broken, emotionally unstable, and not quite sure what the hell happened last night.

This morning, many of my friends and I woke up with this feeling. With a huge swing in the GOP's favor we were left feeling broken and defeated. Yet, we still had some wins like a statewide increase in minimum wage and a name change for Shannon County. Many of my friends won their state legislative and local races in states like Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota. Congratulations to all the awesome candidates that succeeded in their races. You give us the hope we need to keep moving forward in this crazy world.

Life as a Midwestern Moderate Democrat has never been easy and that will probably be true for a while yet, but I try not to let it get me down. There are some things that I am deeply upset about that happened yesterday in South Dakota. In my home District 2 we elected someone who hasn't represented Dist. 2 professionally or with an opened minded approach to what all the people of the district have to say, only to those who agree with him. Then, we decided to elect his mother to the house. We choose him over an ex-teacher, coach, and school superintendent who was one of the hardest working freshman legislators in Pierre and who has worked so hard to make sure everyone's voice is heard in Pierre. We overlooked a energetic and positive woman who would have worked hard for South Dakota farmers and youth who have been deeply ignored in recent years.

Okay, we made our choices South Dakota and I hope we are all prepared to live with them. I hope I am not right when I predict we will see much of the same corruption and backdoor dealings that have plagued the capitol for years. I wish our candidates luck and I very much so hope that they are willing to listen to me and other individuals who may not share their views on issues and take that into account as they vote on issues that affect everyone. Mostly I'm confused South Dakota, you voted for an increase in minimum wage (Which is AWESOME!) then re-elected the same people who defeated that effort in Pierre.

Today is the day to heal our wounds and tomorrow we can hopefully keep moving forward. Every one of us that decides to give up is a win for our opponent. Every one who keeps fighting the fight because they care about people and the state is a win for themselves and the people of South Dakota.

Think about this quote and I hope it to be a mission of all our elected leaders from every level of government.
"Let us not seek the Republican answer, or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."- John F. Kennedy


Monday, November 3, 2014

I'm Back! Because Midterm Elections Matter!

Okay, Okay, I know it has been over a year since I have blogged and for that I apologize. I solemnly swear I was up to no good.

Just kidding, school and work tasks have overtaken my time. Quick summary of my life since then has been school, work, back to school, cattle show, barbecue contest, work, school, work and about 10 weddings in-between. Caught up? great!

 I am putting this all aside tonight because you all need to know that Midterm elections do matter and you need to get out and vote tomorrow! If you are like myself and have already voted for your candidates of choice, YAY! Good for you!


My Voting Booth selfie! I was able to vote in
my home county and help my grandfather
get his ballot and vote from home!

Too often the general voter brushes off the importance of our Midterm elections, but they are so important in many ways I view our midterms in South Dakota and much of the Midwest MORE important than presidential elections years. We elect our local government officials, state representatives/senators, governors, US House Representatives, and US Senators in midterms. We vote on important issues like minimum wage. Why let a smaller portion of the population decide these things for you. These are issues and individuals who are affecting you as the voter directly, whether you chose to believe it or not.

I'm tired of the constant bickering and fighting in Washington, my state, and my local government. As a voter I want to see that improved and I voted for the candidates who I believe can do the jobs the best. Giving up on our government system just allows for more of the same to happen election cycle after election cycle, nothing. Everything will stay the same!

Is that a country you want to live in?

Have I convinced you yet to get out and vote tomorrow? No? Well check out this article that USA Today. A great newspaper started by a good old South Dakota boy born in Eureka! Bonus, the article contains special recognition to my two places of residence at the moment for their effort to raise minimum wage. I promise not to vote shame you, but  I still think you should vote.

If you want more information on where to vote, the candidates, or issues involved let me know! I would be happy to offer as much assistance as I can. Whatever side of the aisle you tend to lean, it doesn't matter. I will get you the information regardless and try to be as unbiased as possible in my delivery of this information.

Protip: If you are voting, don't take a picture of your ballot. In many cases this is against state law and you can be faced with penalties or charges.

I leave you with some quotes about voting!

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting." FDR (not always true, but that's another blog post!)

"Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world." Sharon Salzberg

"Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process." Hilary Clinton

"Young people need to vote. They need to get out there. Every vote counts. Educate yourself too. Don't just vote. Know what you're voting for, and state by that." Nikki Reed

So what do you say people. Record breaking turn out for midterms?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Senator Tim Johnson: Gladiator for South Dakota

After 36 years of service, today Senator Tim Johnson from my home state of South Dakota announced his retirement. This is a bittersweet moment for South Dakotans like myself who have looked to Senator Johnson as a role model to helping change things for the better for South Dakota citizens and all of the United States.

I had the honor and privilege to work in Senator Johnson's Aberdeen office as an intern under his amazing staff starting in the fall of 2010 through May of 2011. With this opportunity I had a unique opportunity to see what Senator Johnson and his staff get to work on everyday. I was able to see how much he and his staff cared about the constituents and worked so hard to have their needs met. Even in my sort time I gained more respect for him and his diligence to make life better for his constituents.

My admiration for Senator Johnson has grown as I have matured and my political beliefs have been more defined. Senator Johnson had proven to be a true gladiator for the state and whether it be during his time in Pierre, in the House of Representatives, or his time in the Senate he has always put South Dakota first. His non-partisan and moderate approach to policy earned respect from his colleagues from both sides of the aisle. His dedication to South Dakota helped to pass legislation like the Farm Bill, Violence Against Women Act, renewable energy policies, and economic development opportunities for our state. I admire his way of always handling himself in a very professional way and able to intelligently articulate his points of view.

It is very difficult to articulate how much he changed my life and the lives of so many other young people in the state of South Dakota. Always willing to sit and speak with young people about the issues that they are the most concerned about, he gained even more of my respect. He was also young when he got involved in politics and knows the struggles that many young people face.

We will be happy to have Senator Johnson and his wife Barbara back in South Dakota and fighting again on the home front, but it is sad to see a great era of him representing us in Washington, D.C. come to an end. Looking forward, he next senator for South Dakota has some big shoes to fill, however I think we have some pretty amazing people who could really honor what Sen. Johnson has done for our state.


I leave you with this quote from the great Senator:
"I am committed to adequately funding important federal student financial aid programs to ensure that all students regardless of income are able to use their God-given talents to pursue their dreams of a quality post-secondary education"

Thank you Tim for fighting for all South Dakotans!!

What Marriage Equality Really Means

How many of you have seen this picture today on your Facebook timeline? Maybe you changed your profile picture knowing that it was in support for marriage equality, but what does that really mean for our nation?

Today the United States Supreme Court will discuss Proposition 8 which made gay marriage illegal in the state of California in 2008. This is the proposal that prompted the NO H8 campaign that has spread throughout the nation. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will discuss the 1996 the constitutionality
 of the Defense Against Marriage Act that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

By not allowing a entire population and communities of people to marry the person they have chosen to spend the rest of their life with is wrong, but something historically we have been very good in this country. It wasn't that long ago when interracial marriage and women voting was illegal.

Making marriage legal for everyone would not change marriage. We aren't forcing everyone to get married, we aren't forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages, and we aren't forcing another moral or religious belief upon a population. We would simply ensuring that every United States citizen has the right to marry the person they have chosen to spend the rest of  their life with. Marriage will still be a special bond between two people and a lifelong commitment.

This is not a religious issue. The government is NOT telling churches that they will be forced to marry a same-sex couple. Churches may choose to not marry a couple for numerous reasons. There are churches who will not marry a couple if one or the other is not baptized in the same denomination. They may choose to not marry a couple because one or more individuals are divorced. Legally, all these people can be married under current United States law.

I don't know about your God, but mine and my beliefs have always told me that we accept everyone for who they are. Transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are children of God just as everyone else. How is it our place to judge another human being for who they are and who God made them? It isn't, that is not our role or our duty to tell someone who m they should or shouldn't love or marry.

Homosexuality is found in almost every species, its a natural thing. Why do we keep fighting against nature? It is not a choice. Who would honestly choose to be hated and discriminated against? No one would chose that. Human sexuality can not be viewed as being black and white, there are many gray areas that we have to accept. These people are real persons, and should be treated with the same respect and dignity that we want for ourselves.

My last point is the economical impact that marriage equality can have for communities and states. In Iowa, it was estimated that marriage equality generated $12 to $13 million dollars in 2009 and 2010. It added an estimated $850,00 to $930,000 in tax revenue. That kind of money could be extremely significant in the current economic state of our country.

This is an issue I am obviously very passionate about and strongly believe in. I could continue, but then this blog would be impossibly to long to read. So what does marriage equality mean, it means we are giving a basic human right to everyone, not a select few. It means we will stay out of other people's marriages and relationships and not intervening. It means that we accept the fact that it is not our place to judge a couples relationship and love with one another.

I leave you with this quote:
 "If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love...then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that American dream." ~First Lady, Michellle Obama

P.S.: Speaking of people from Iowa, if you haven't watched this amazing young man stand up for marriage equality than you are surely missing out. Someone I have looked to for political inspiration and hope for our next generation. This video has gone viral a couple of different times and it is so incredibly inspirational! Watch it here!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Prayers to Pope Francis I

As a person of faith, I am very hopeful about the election of Pope Francis I. I am not a Catholic and in the past have been in disagreement with the Catholic church on certain issues and aspects of their religion. I have always found the Catholic religion to be interesting and fascinating how it has grown into really a world power of it own and a influence on all religions around the world.

Just a little over a year ago today, I was in Italy. I was in Rome and had the blessed opportunity to visit the Vatican, stood in thee square, and stood in "ah" at the amazing art by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. I remember thinking this is a very holy place and how blessed I felt to be able to experience something that so many are unable to, and some who experience it, but are unable to appreciate the beauty of it all.

Our first night in Rome we too a Rome by night tour to see all the attractions. These pictures do not even begin to capture the beauty of the sights. 
The light in this picture is the Pope's room. He was home while we were there. 

 Interestingly enough, as much as I loved visiting Rome and the Vatican, it was not my favorite place, or the place where I felt most connected to my higher power, that place was Assisi, Italy. Many do not know much about Assissi, but it is a beautiful and very holy place. Also the birth place of St. Francis, the first saint to receive the stigmata (marks of Christ), the father of the Franciscan Order, and a man of sin who found his faith after a long journey.

What many do not know about St. Francis is that he was a man who came from a very wealthy family and as a young person lived a very reckless lifestyle and did not believe in God or the church. He aspired to be a noble and a knight, with no aspiration for anything in holiness. His fate was shown to him in a dream from God. He then visited the Church of San Damiano and chose the path of faith.

The cross from the Church of San Damiano where God appeared to Francis. Now is held in the Basilica of St. Clara who was a Franciscan Order follower and also born in Assisi.

 Francis was about simplicity and giving himself to the people of the church. God told him, "Francis, repair my church." At a time where the Catholic Church was filled with corruption and greed, Francis was encouraging individuals to return to God and the obedience of the church. He was well known for helping all of God's creatures including individuals from every walk of life and animals.

This is why I am hopeful, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was known for being a advocate of social justice and living among the impoverished people of his Argentina. I hope that he continues this message as he begins his journey through papacy. I believe that it is significant that he took the name of Saint Francis and is the first pope to do so and I hope that he will continue the message that St. Francis created so many years ago. As I said earlier, the Catholic Church and Pope Francis I will be influential on all churches throughout the world and if we see a message of social justice for our impoverished people there may be some hope to see serious change and help implemented for God's people. So send a little prayer for Pope Francis as he begins this journey, that he will seek the wisdom of St. Francis from whom he took his name.

I will leave you with the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is one of my favorites:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it in in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen."

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