Oney “Ona” Judge

via Vice Media

Oney “Ona” Judge is a name you should recognize but have probably never heard before. In the US we consistently misteach and mischaracterize the history of slavery in schools; sometimes the entire era is completely glossed over or “white-washed” to the point of erasing the struggles of those in bondage completely. Like all people, Oney’s life and identity was intersectional–she was a woman, a woman of color, a mother, a slave, and poor–also factors for her story not as often told. She defied one of the most important men in the United States for a freer life.

via the National Park Service

Oney was owned by the Washingtons. Yeah, those Washingtons. Coinciding with the absence of black narratives in American history books, we’ve also failed to have conversations around what it means when many of the “founding fathers” owned human beings. Washington himself knew that slavery was wrong (he wrote in his will to free his slaves after his wife’s death) but still passed some of the harshest slavery laws while he was president.

But the focus of this story is Oney Judge. She escaped slavery and lived her life constantly fearing that she could be recaptured. Oney suffered crippling poverty and heartache, but for her, the struggle was a small price in exchange for her own freedom. Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar states:

“We have famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass… but decades before them, Ona Judge did this.”

Schuessler, Jennifer. “In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington.”

I first learned about Oney last year on a November flight from Charleston to Cleveland. We had a crazy early flight (6am, no thank you) and as I scrolled through my podcast app for new episodes, I saw that I had an alert from Uncivil, the amazing Gimlet Media program hosted by Chenjari Kumanyika and Jack Hitt. “The Fugitive” is one of their last episodes of 2018 and if you haven’t subscribed, you need to reassess what you are doing with your life.

Born around 1773 to a slave (mother) and white indentured servant (father), Oney’s entire existence was serving George Washington’s wife, Martha. As a child she moved with the family from their plantation in Virginia to their mansion in Mount Vernon, New York, and finally to the then-capital of the United States, Philadelphia, when George became the country’s first president. Oney was a house slave and later interviews told the story of the harsh treatment she experienced while enslaved by the Washingtons. Her interviews helped rebuke the idea that slaves outside of the fields lived an easier life.

Oney was one of only nine slaves chosen by Washington to move to the President’s House in 1790. Philadelphia had its own set of laws regarding slavery, different from the rules set by New York and Virginia. The Gradual Abolition Act (1780) stated that enslaved people living in Philadelphia for longer than six months would be given their freedom. Washington, who claimed himself a resident of Virginia and not Pennsylvania, rotated his nine slaves every five months outside of state lines so they would remain his property. For Oney, this was her first time witnessing what life could be like for free black Americans as Philadelphia had one of the highest free black populations during that time.

In 1793, George Washington helped pass one of the most important slave laws in the United States, the Fugitive Slave Law. This law:

“gave slaveholders the right and legal apparatus to recover escaped Africans and criminalize those who harbored them.”

Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

It also provided an enforcement arm to the constitutional slavery clause. This meant that now even “free” states were required to assist slave owners with the re-capture of their runaway slaves.

For Oney, the punishment of recapture was not as terrifying as returning to the south. In 1796, just three years after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law, she discovered the Washingtons’ plan to present her to Eliza, Martha’s granddaughter, as a wedding present. On May 21st, while the Washingtons were hosting a dinner party, Oney quietly left the President’s House and walked toward the Delaware River. There, she took a boat operated by free blacks to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

While it took five days to reach Portsmouth, it took even less time for George Washington to begin the hunt for his runaway slave. Embarrassed that she may have left on her own accord, the Washingtons invented a story that the 20-year-old fell for a Frenchman, who tricked her into leaving the house; a plea to find “Oney Judge” with a $10 reward was published in the advertisement section of the Philadelphia Gazette just two days after her escape. Even in a “free” state, Oney still had extremely limited options as a runaway slave. She lived an impoverished existence and maintained a low profile as she knew at any moment she could be forced to return to Philadelphia.

Artist rendering of Oney Judge

A friend of Martha Washington’s granddaughter spotted Oney in Portsmouth and immediately informed her grandfather, who was still the President of the United States at the time. Washington contacted the Secretary of the Treasury, making the “federal government into his own personal slave-catchers” through the power of the Fugitive
Slave Law. John Whipple, a customs agent, was sent to New Hampshire to bring Oney back. Whipple’s family recently freed their own slaves and he did not believe the story that Oney had been bewitched by a Frenchman into leaving Philadelphia. Whipple wrote Washington, asking for Oney’s emancipation following Martha’s death. George responded:

“that the request was ‘totally inadmissible’ and granting Judge any say in her fate would only ‘reward unfaithfulness’ and give ideas to others ‘far more deserving of favor.’ Washington also reminded Oney that her family still remained under his ownership.”

Schuessler, Jennifer. “In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington.”
Letter from George Washington to John Whipple (1796).

While Oney lived in poverty and in constant fear of being recaptured in Portsmouth, she did experience joy; she married Jack, a free black sailor and gave birth to a child, Eliza. For Oney, her fear of losing her freedom intensified after her children were born:

“All the while, she was property because the inherited status of slavery followed the apron strings of women. So, Ona Judge passed the disease of slavery through her lineage to her children, making Ona and her children the property of Martha Washington.”

McCarthy, Hannah. “Unsung: Ona Judge.”

Even though Oney had escaped to a free state and her child born to a free father, she (and her future children) still remained the property of the Washingtons because of the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1799, Washington attempted to bring her back once more by sending his nephew to Portsmouth, but Oney disappeared with her children before he could recapture her.

Artist rendition of Oney’s escape.

Although George Washington passed away after this second attempt to bring Oney back to Philadelphia, she still was not free. Washington freed his slaves in his will, but on the condition that their freedom would only be granted following his wife’s death. Even after Martha changed George’s will to free his slaves before her own passing, this did not change Ona’s situation:

“The grandchildren would inherit the claims to Ona’s body. Because
of the laws that George Washington helped to put in place Ona’s bondage would just be passed down for the remainder of her life.”

Kumanyika, Chenjari and Jack Hitt. “The Fugitive.”

Living the rest of her 45 years in New Hampshire, Oney was in constant fear that she could be recaptured and her children enslaved. After the passing of her husband, she continued to live in extreme poverty, outliving all of her children before her death in 1848. Following the lineage up to the emancipation of the slaves, Oney’s last owner was Martha Washington’s grandson’s daughter, who married Robert E. Lee.

Oney Judge’s interview with the The Granite Freeman (1845)

While living a fearful and impoverished life, Judge died at age 74 knowing that she had defied one of the most important men in American history for a freer life. Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar states:

“She lived as a fugitive for the entirety of her life. But she lived as a
free person, and that, to Ona was worth more than pretty dresses, nice shoes, stockings. It mattered not. She was able to live her life.”

McCarthy, Hannah. “Unsung: Ona Judge.”
Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 made it legal for George Washington to pursue and recapture Oney even after she escaped to a free state. Two years after her death, the federal government passed an even stricter second law to protect the interests of slave owners: the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Oney Judge’s story should be remembered as a fight for freedom at all costs. In interviews with The Liberator (1847) and The Granite Freeman (1845), Oney was asked if she regretted escaping slavery when she suffered so much in New Hampshire. She responded:

“No, I am free, and have, I trust been made a child of God by the means.

In 2008, Philadelphia began celebrating Oney Judge Day at the President’s House. Thankfully, her story is becoming more well known and celebrated.

via the Historical Marker Database


Glass, Andrew. 2014. “Congress Enacts First Fugitive Slave Law.” Politico. Available here.

Kendi, Ibram X. 2016. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. New York, Nation Books.

Kumanyika, Chenjari and Jack Hitt. 2018. “The Fugitive.” Uncivil, Season 1, Episode 13, Gimlit Media. Available here.

McCarthy, Hannah. 2019. “Unsung: Ona Judge.” New Hampshire Public Radio. Available here.

Mires, Charlene. 2012. “Invisible House, Invisible Slavery: Struggles of Public History at Independence National Historical Park.” Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies: Contestation and Symbolic Landscapes, edited by Marc Howard Ross, University of Pennsylvania. 216-237.

Schuessler, Jennifer. 2017. “In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington.” The New York Times. Available here.


Reading: Heavy: An American Memoir (Kiese Laymon)

Watching: The Kroll Show (Comedy Central)

Pastries All Day: Lisbon, Portugal

View of Lisbon from the castle.

Last winter we had the amazing opportunity to travel with our two favorite exploring friends, Heather and Karl, on our now annual European trip. Chris and I had just spent nearly a month in the US and were able to tack on (always the planner!) a short trip to Portugal and Spain before heading home. Our vacations together are very much walk around+drink wine +play cards+make fun of Philip Rivers and this was no exception.

Loved this weather after weeks in gray Ohio.

Lisbon is a beautiful city to just simply walk through. I like to think of myself as a constant wanderer with an eventual destination. Thankfully, Heather is also in a similar mindset (typical conversation: “what kind of succulents are these? Do you think there is gelato nearby? Wonder what kind of recycling streams they have here?”) much to the chagrin of Chris and Karl, who as Heather says, are always in a hurry to get nowhere.

Pastéis da nata! These pastries were developed in 1837 and remain a staple in Lisbon. For us (minus Chris) these pastries were consumed throughout the day: breakfast, after bus snack, post-dinner snack, random do-you-smell-that-bakery-snack.

Where are we?

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and archeological artifacts show that tribes from all the back to the Neolithic period inhabited the area. The history of the city is absolutely incredible. While Lisbon is recognized as the capital, this designation has never been confirmed officially; its simply the “de-facto” capital of Portugal as the designation was formed through constitutional convention, rather than written form (any other Poli Sci nerds out there fascinated by this? Just me?).

View from our apartment.

Located right at the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country. During WWII, as Portugal remained neutral, the country’s dictator, António Salazar, allowed spies from both the Nazis and Allies in Lisbon. The connection supposedly inspired Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond series. The capital also houses the world’s smallest bookstore, although I missed that when I was there.

View of the city from the castle.

The Sites:

First Soccer Match:

Our first match ever! The hometown team Benefica scored four goals on Feirense for the win! The atmosphere was AMAZING and the crowd was awesome. We had great seats (thanks Karl!) and a rowdy group in front of us actually broke a few of the seats on accident. You can watch the highlights and look for us here!

Wandering this Beautiful City:

We stayed in the historic district of Alfama which is absolutely beautiful but also meant we were working those calves climbing up all the narrow streets (worth it!).
View from our street.
I love the holidays in Europe. Every street was decorated and bright.

The Waterfront:

Wandering aimlessly. I loved living near the coast for ten years and I really miss views like this now that I live in a landlocked country.
Tagus River.
Love these painted and stacked rocks.
Chris: “Where are they? When are we playing Borderlands?”

Praça do Comércio:

The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is located on the river. On the right is the Statue of King José I that was finished in 1775.
Special holiday edition of the plaza.
A closeup of the Rua Augusta Arch that was completed in 1873.

Rua Nova do Carvalho:

Rua Nova do Carvalho (Pink Street) was previously the Red Light District in Lisbon. Now home to a ton of popular bars and shops, we walked along the Pink Street on our way from lunch.
Photo Credit: Heather

National Azulejo Museum:

National Azulejo Museum (National Tile Museum) was a beautiful stop and a great way to learn more about the tile that is used across the city landscape.
The museum is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (1509) and became a national museum in 1980.
The museum includes exhibits from the 15th century to present-day.

Speaking of Tile:

The blue tile used across Lisbon is incredibly beautiful.

Castelo de S. Jorge:

Originally built as a citadel, the castle’s walls and towers can seen from the city below.
Archeologists have found evidence humans lived here in the second century BC and some type of fortification was built as far back as 48 BC.
Hi Lisbon, I love you.

Random Sites:

Stay mindful.
A reminder (graffiti at the LX Factory).


Copenhagen Coffee Lab:

We were super lucky to have Copenhagen Coffee Lab up the street from our apartment and we stopped by for breakfast on our way to Spain. If you remember, this breakfast made my highly prestigious “Best Brunches of 2018” list.
Chris: “Seriously can I just eat my breakfast sandwich?” Karl literally ordered this for second breakfast after he saw how good it looked.
Heather and I both ordered this avocado toast + egg combination along with sweets for the flight because great minds and all that.

The Time Out Market:

The Time Out Market is a giant cafeteria-esque building that has over 40 restaurants to choose from for all of your lunch needs. Seafood, burgers, dessert, and wine were all represented. I was mostly focused on this gorgeous pudding and now realize I should have documented everyone’s Portuguese seafood dishes.

The Saj Bakery:

We stopped at the Saj Bakery on our way to lunch (#vacation) and grabbed a spicy wrap to go. I was really excited about this spot because I LOVE Lebanese food and I don’t often have the chance to eat a vegetarian wrap in Hungary. All the heart in eyes emojis.

The LX Factory:

Or as Karl referred to it, the FX Factory (which ended up sticking in my head even as I went through my pictures looking for this post. Blame it on Archer).
Located in the Alcântara neighborhood, the LX Factory is a converted 1846 fabric production plant that now has over 200 business–markets, restaurants and shops.
Hi, I’m here to buy all the meat, cheese, wine, and honey. We stocked up for our infamous card games. Sadly, I was caught attempting to smuggle the honey to Spain where my “But is honey truly a liquid?” argument was not met with amusement from the airport security staff.
Heather and I stopped at this adorable food truck for sangria.
How beautiful are these cabbages?

Primo Basilico:

This. Pizza. Though. Primo Basilico serves pizza “al taglio” (by the cut) and they have options for everyone. We stopped by after our day trip to Peniche and each ate about half a pizza. It was sooooo good.


In classic Heather and Ashlyn fashion, we had to find the best gelato in all of Lisbon. Giallo definitely meets the requirement. Located in the Alfama neighborhood, they had a variety of super cool and interesting flavors, plus breakfast! What else do you need in this world?
My apology for the shaky picture; I only had gelato on the brain. I ordered the pistachio and mascarpone/strawberry.

So happy to experience this amazing place with awesome friends.

Friendly Reminder: You can see all my favorite travel spots on the fully downloadable Middle World Adventures Map.



Reading: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Isabel Wilkerson)

Watching: Game of Thrones Season 5 (HBO)

Larry Nassar Abuse at USAG & MSU: March 2019 Update

Check out my latest update here if you need a recap of where we currently stand in the wake of Larry Nassar’s abuse.

Ready for the next steps in our continued journey of “how institutions totally mess up actually holding themselves responsible for enabling sexual predators and make false promises to create meaningful change”?

Michigan State University

Survivors and supporters gather outside the Hannah Administration Building on Michigan State’s East Lansing campus.
  • In January, the U.S. Department of Education found Michigan State University in violation of federal law “by failing to comply with requirements that aim to ensure a safe campus, systemically underreported crime statistics, and — in the handling of sexual assault allegations against former athletics physician Larry Nassar — demonstrated ‘lack of institutional control’.” These violations of the Clery Act (passed in 1990) spread across MSU and included Greek Life, athletics, residence halls, and others; the report found that the university did not even have a “minimally adequate” system in place to report sexual abuse. Some of the violations include:
    • (2016) A strength and conditioning coach failed to report a call from a former MSU athlete detailing how Nassar had “touched her inappropriately.” Rather than adhere to the rules required to report abuse, the trainer instead brought the report to an associate athletic director. Neither the coach nor the associate athletic director reported the incident to area police or MSU’s Title IX office.
    • (2016) MSU’s Sexual Assault Program did not know they were required by federal law to report abuse on campus. As a result, the crimes reported to SAP were never included in the campus’s safety statistics. Additionally, “the Sexual Assault Program couldn’t give federal investigators any documentation at all about the crimes reported to them because ‘the University stated that the SAP office did not maintain such records’.”
    • (2014) Mandatory Reporting Training is basically, yikes. In 2014, the institution could not identify who on their staff qualifies as a a campus security authority. This designation is important because federal law requires anyone considered “campus security authorities” to report any serious crimes that occur at the university. MSU records state that they believed there were 50 such staff members at the time (today that number is 1,500). The training for a CSA included a Powerpoint and quiz that is emailed to the employee; however, the university “has no way of knowing whether the CSAs complete the training and quiz, and thus, no assurances that the CSAs are capable of performing their assigned duties”.
  • The Clery Act requires institutions to report accurate crime statistics including publishing reports of sexual abuse. Currently MSU’s application for recertification is on hold while they work to actually adhere to the requirements of the law. Their punishment includes lack of federal financial aid ($423 million dollars in federal funding per year) and fines per violation. It is important to note that the largest fine charged was the $2.4 million levied against Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky abuse was reported.
  • On February 28th, MSU opened a temporary fund for survivors of abuse and their parents. To receive funding for counseling and mental health services, the abuse had to occur either at MSU or to an MSU student-athlete. Remember that the old fund was halted in July of 2018 amid concerns over “possible fraudulent claims”. Then-president John Engler stated that the money set aside for the fund could be used instead for lawsuit payouts.
  • The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs filed complaints against two MIchigan State University trainers for “giving false statements to police about their knowledge of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar”. Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and Lianna Hadden (who both still work for MSU) can face fines and have their licenses suspended or revoked. Remember that Teachnor-Hauk failed to report abuse stated by softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez and also was one of the medical experts interviewed for the 2014 Title IX investigation of Nassar, an investigation which eventually cleared him of all charges. Two student athletes disclosed abuse to Hadden in 2000. Teachnor-Hauk was her supervisor at the time.
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated in her first news conference on February 22nd that “a full and complete cooperation of MSU, frankly, continues to be a challenge… They have fought us every step of the way. It’s time for Michigan State University to do the right thing.” The university did not turn over 7,000 documents to her office; a portion of the documents (1,000) were eventually given after the state took MSU to court. Nessel further pleaded with the Board of Trustees to promote transparency and help with the investigation.
  • Former Michigan State student and athlete Nicole Casady, shared her story of abuse by Larry Nassar. First assaulted at a training camp and later at the university, she said she abused over sixty times.
  • The preliminary hearing for former MSU president Lou Anna Simon, charged with lying to police about her knowledge of Nassar’s abuse on campus began on February 5th.
  • Kathie Klages, former MSU gymnastics coach and one of Larry Nassar’s longtime friends, is currently awaiting trial for two counts of lying to police (seeing a trend here?). On February 7th, she filed a motion to “prohibit the release of certain personal information”.

USA Gymnastics

Li Li Leung is the new CEO of USA Gymnastics and is the fourth person in the position in two years.
  • Li Li Leung was named the new CEO of USA Gymnastics. Leung is a former gymnast at the University of Michigan and a vice president for the NBA. She also has a sports marketing background. She replaces Mary Bono, who resigned after four days in the role.
  • On March 5th, USAG filed a motion in bankruptcy court to pay Leung an annual salary $450,000 plus discretionary annual performance bonuses and a moving allowance of $15,000. It is important to note that USAG “forgot” to pay salary claims made by 2018 world championship coaches.
  • Leung’s announcement was met with controversy from survivors who found her background too similar to former CEO Kerry Perry and her work with the NBA (an organization with its own issues of abuse by athletes and staff) discouraging. Many were not happy that they were not represented in the hiring process.
  • USAG is suing 30 of their insurers for failing to pay the organization’s legal costs related to the 100 lawsuits brought against them by 300 women and girls relating to Nassar’s abuse. The battle over their insurance coverage (and whether their insurers will foot the $150 million bill) is related to the organization’s decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court is now responsible for deciding whether USAG had the proper coverage and if the organization was negligent in their responsibilities to their insurers: “the potential ultimate payouts to the victims is complicated by the mix of negligence and fraud claims USAG faces. Fraud and other intentional conduct claims are usually not covered under typical general liability insurance policies, experts said. USA Gymnastics is suing over both comprehensive general liability policies and directors and officers policies, according to its complaint”. They certainly failed the responsibilities they had to keep athletes safe.
  • During the bankruptcy hearing, survivors Rachel Denhollander, Tasha Schwikert, and Sarah Klein questioned the CFO of USAG, Scott Shollenbarger on the process. He could not answer many of the questions raised; Schwikert, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, called the meeting “one big I-don’t-know.”
  • The deadline to file claims against USA Gymnastics was extended to April 26th.
  • The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) will double the funding to the organization’s Safe Sport program to $6.2 million annually. Safe Sport is funded by the Olympic governing bodies in the US and is charged with investigating any reports of sexual abuse.
  • One of the USOC’s insurers, Arch Specialty, claims that the organization knew about the Larry Nassar abuse in USA Gymnastics before applying for their $8 million policy in 2017 (!!). In a Colorado court Arch Specialty reports that their policy only covers sexual abuse that could not have been foreseen by the organization and they are therefore not liable to pay out for any settlements related to Nassar’s abuse.
  • As of March 8th, the USOC has paused steps to decertify USA Gymnastics as the governing body for the sport. USOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland stated: “We believe that USA Gymnastics’ intention in filing bankruptcy was an attempt to resolve litigation they are facing in an expedited and organised way… We believe that is a really important step for USA Gymnastics and don’t think disrupting that in any way by pursuing the section eight hearing at this point is helpful to that process”.
  • A bill extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases an additional three years in Indiana was stalled at the statehouse last month. The bill, designed to give survivors of abuse more time to file reports, was developed after Indianapolis based USAG was found to have allowed years of abuse of athletes. The Judiciary Committee’s Chair, Sen. Randall Head, sent the bill to a summer study committee stating: “The topic of statute of limitations have some implications that have not been testified about this morning. If we open the statute of limitations for everyone until 2022, it’s possible that victims could get justice. But then 10 years after that there could be other people that say, ‘Wait, you need to open it up again.’… I don’t think we’re ready in this committee this morning to make a decision regarding the statutes of limitations and all of those implications”.
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also stated that her office will investigate former coach and 2012 Olympic Team Head Coach John Geddert. Eaton County began an investigation into Geddert after multiple survivors came forward with stories of physical and mental abuse in his gym, Twistars; “no timeline” was determined for when that investigation would be completed. Nessel has now taken over the case and put prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark in charge of leading the investigation and that “any and all potential crimes will be pursued”.

For all of our sanities, I want to end on a high note.

This quote by Simone Biles will hopefully get you through this madness:

“A badass is a woman who has confidence in herself, along with a bit of attitude and some swag.”


Reading: The Marrow Thieves (Cherie Dimaline)

Watching: Abducted in Plain Sight (Netflix)

Listening: Lux Prima (Karen O & Danger Mouse)

Extra special thank you to Gymcastic for all of their continued coverage.

Today’s Rain is Tomorrow’s Whiskey: Edinburgh, Scotland

View from Edinburgh Castle and one of the times I’ve broken my strict “never climb an old volcano” vow.

Sigh, Scotland. Edinburgh has been at the absolute top of my travel list since I first saw Danny Boyle’s (equally both amazing and scarring) Trainspotting. 

Well, but me and Scotland

Edinburgh is a gorgeous city filled with a ton of history, culture, and of course, whiskey. Get ready for a loooooong post filled with Scottish adventures including murder legends (obviously), cocktail villages, and of course #alltheharrypotterthings. Somehow I even managed to find Russian pierogi (but are any of us actually surprised?)

Old Town, Edinburgh

Where are we?

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is the seventh largest city in the United Kingdom. Its name derives from the Brittonic Celtic word “Eidyn” and although the meaning is unknown, scholars believe the term references Castle Rock, the location of Edinburgh’s Castle. Castle Rock was formed over 350 million ago out of volcanic rock. Often compared to Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills.

Earliest human inhabitation of the area goes all the way back to 8500 BC. In 1706, the Treaty of the Union combined the Parliaments of Scotland and England to form the Parliament of Great Britain. This was largely opposed by many Scots, which led to numerous riots in Edinburgh. During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Edinburgh was occupied by the rebel Jacobite Highland Army until their defeat by the British at the Battle of Culloden. Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom today.

Or as we all know, the premise to the first season of Outlander.

Known for its distilling, brewing, and printing industries, the city’s Old Town has its trademark smoke-stained buildings and the winding, cobblestone streets feel like you’re stepping out of a Harry Potter novel, which of course makes sense because much of J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the series came from the time she spent in the city.

There is so much to see in Edinburgh! We only had a couple of days but you could easily spend a week just wandering and exploring this beautiful, historic city.

The Sites:

Overwhelmed by all the things Edinburgh has to see? SAME. Friendly reminder that you can find all of the sites (including my personalized Harry Potter walking tour) in the Middle World Adventures map.

Trainspotting Dreams Coming True:

First #myheartisexploding moment came immediately after exiting the bus from the airport into the city. Our stop on Princes Street is the location of the infamous “Choose Life” scene at the beginning of Trainspotting, when Renton and Spud are being chased by police officers.

While the storefronts have changed (there’s now a Next department store and a greeting card shop), it was still such a cool nerd moment for me to be standing at that stop.

Lovely Places:

The National Art Gallery of Scotland first opened in 1859.
The beautiful Princes Street Gardens
St. Giles’ Cathedral contains buildings built in 1124.
The Merchants Hall in New Town

True Crime Spots:

I wish we had time for a tour of the Surgeons’ Hall Museum! They have the Burke Death Mask on display. William Burke, half of the infamous Burke & Hare team, murdered 16 people in Edinburgh during the early 1800s. During the time there was a huge demand for bodies by anatomy schools in Edinburgh; Burke & Hare delivered the corpses of their lodgers for cash. After being discovered by police, Hare was granted immunity for confessing the murders. Burke was hanged and his skeleton (and face mask) was put on display where it remains today.
The view from Mary King’s Close. A “close” is an ancient alleyway and Mary’s is one of Edinburgh’s most famous as well as most haunted sites in the city. This passageway (to the left of the picture) is named after Mary King, an affluent merchant who lived here in 1635. After years of disease (including haunting descriptions of the bubonic plague and how it was treated yikes), overcrowding, and poor living conditions, the Close became a site for underground trading. Parts have been demolished, but a portion under the city remains open for tours.
View from Grassmarket: Grassmarket was the site of public executions in Edinburgh. One of the most famous stories is that of Maggie Dickson. The wife of a fisherman who deserted her and left her destitute in 1723 (#boybye), Dickson left the city for Kelso. There, she found work for an Innkeeper and also fell in love with the Innkeeper’s son. After becoming pregnant, Dickson gave birth to a premature baby who passed away a few days later. The baby’s body was found, traced to Dickson, and she was charged under the contravention of the Concealment of Pregnancy Act and the murder of her son. After being found guilty, she was sentenced to death and hanged in the Grassmarket Gallows on September 2nd, 1724. After being pronounced deceased, her body was transported to Musselburgh, where, on the way, she awoke. Since the sentence had been carried out, Dickson could not be tried again, and she lived another forty years with her husband (boy, welcome back, I guess).

Harry Potter Tour:

Nicolson’s Cafe, now Spoon, is where J.K. Rowling wrote many of the chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This plaque is located at the corner of Drummond Street.
The entrance to George Heriot’s School, J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts.
Me about to break into Hogwarts (via Kristin Ariel Photography)
Victoria Street is rumored to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is a graveyard near Old Town that was established in 1861.
One of the graves, Tom Marvolo Riddle, is said to have been the inspiration for J.K. Rowling ( He-Must-Not-Be-Named’s dear old dad)
Searching For Tom Riddle’s Grave: Our Edinburgh Adventure
One of my absolute favorite places in Edinburgh. I could have easily have spent hours here just wandering around. Photo credit to Casci for capturing me #livingthatbackpacklife

Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2018:

It was a (very) happy coincidence to visit Edinburgh during their 2018 Storytelling Festival. While I was hopping-up-and-down-ecstatic at all the nerdy possibilities, my friends were the absolute best and came along on a couple of stops. Unfortunately, due to the limited time we had in the city, I could really only see a couple of exhibitions.

Absolutely breathtaking to see in person!
The National Library of Scotland featured an exhibition of the work of Frederick Douglass. Douglass, born an American slave in 1818 and making his escape to freedom in 1838, is one of the most famous activists of the anti-slavery movement. He arrived in Edinburgh in 1846. The exhibition was amazing.

Edinburgh Castle:

Image by Kristin Ariel Photography
View from the trek up to Edinburgh Castle
Photo by Kristin Ariel Photography

Jack White:

We saw the always amazing Jack White during his Boarding House Reach Tour.
I only cried twice. Okay, three times.

Restaurants & Pubs:

My Favorite Meals in Edinburgh:

The Painted Rooster: We found the Painted Rooster for breakfast and happily, take-home pierogi. I had vegetarian haggis while a friend braved his first haggis tasting. After speaking to the Russian server and owner, Chris and I 100% brought back to-go pierogi, promptly eating them as soon as we were back in Hungary.
Elephant & Bagels: The most adorable cafe located smackdab in the middle of our Harry Potter tour, Elephant & Bagels has a great menu and was absolutely packed when we stopped for lunch. I had my go-to: everything bagel with honey, brie, and walnuts.

Edinburgh Cocktail Week:

Happily, we were in town for the 2018 Edinburgh Cocktail Week and were able to visit the Cocktail Village–a large tent filled with the city’s best bars and their unique cocktails created just for the event.
We loved the Cask Smugglers stand (Kristin Ariel Photography)
Our favorite stand was the Pop Up Geeks! They were fully immersed in the world of Willie Wonka (Kristin Ariel Photography). I was 1000% fan-girling the bartender.
I love this so much.
Best Marketing ever?
❤ this girl! (Kristin Ariel Photography)

Whiskey & Folklore Class

How can you not sign up for a whiskey and folklore class while in Edinburgh? We attended this class and had a blast. Our host discussed the history of whiskey distilling in Scotland as well as the city’s best true crime murder stories (be still my heart). It was an amazing start to our trip. Whiskey tasted: Auchentoshan (Lowlands), Glenlivet (Highlands), Old Pulteney (Wick). and my favorite, Lagavulin (Islay).

The Pop Up Geeks:

The Pop Up Geeks is an absolute must-visit while in Edinburgh. Every few months they choose a different nerdy theme and apply it comprehensively to the entire bar including the menu, the decor, and the marketing. While we were visiting it was everything Lord of the Rings (“There and Back Again”). My friend Kristin was SO EXCITED and not being a LOTR fan myself, I was just thrilled to be there with her. Make sure to reserve your spot.
Photo Credit: Kristin Ariel Photography


Located on Victoria Street, John Kay’s Shop is a beautiful combination of new and antique books right in the heart of Edinburgh. I was eyeing a couple of special edition Brontë novels but exercised my limited self-control and purchased postcards instead.
“Smell the Old Books for Yourself!” proclaims Armchair Books, a used bookstore located in West Port near Grassmarket. The “very nearly” organized chaos of this shop made my heart incredibly happy.
Absolutely adored this bookstore.
Happily, Bonkers Gift Shop was located right next to our Air BnB and I was able to pick up on all of my favorite tourist purchases: strange, hand-drawn postcards, obscenely specific greeting cards, and various pet-related gifts. So cute.

Edinburgh absolutely tops the list of my favorite places. I can’t wait to plan our next trip.

Darling, I love you more than whiskey.
(Kristin Ariel Photography)

Extra special thank you and love to Kristin Earwood, an insanely talented photographer and wonderful friend. Check out her amazing work here.


Reading: Josephine Baker’s Last Dance (Sherry Jones)

Watching: Lorena (Amazon)

Listening: Boom! Lawyered (Re.Wire: Season 2)

The Larry Nassar Sentencing: One Year Later

Survivors of Nassar’s abuse are awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in July 2018.

One year ago Larry Nassar was sentenced to, or as Judge Aquilina stated, given “his death warrant”. The largest sex abuse scandal in sports history now has over 500 survivors. What have we learned? What has changed?

Judge Aquilina in 2018.

While Nassar is behind bars for the rest of his life, it is important to remember that both the culture and institutions that allowed him to abuse hundreds of girls over twenty years remain intact. Nassar didn’t act alone. People in positions of power helped cover up his abuse and silence victims. We still have a long way to go to change these institutions and hold enablers accountable.

Part of creating change is to continue to talk about it. Warning: this a wordy post but let’s get up to speed with the hot mess that is Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State University

Banner at MSU supporting survivors of abuse.

Insanely enough the backlash against MSU has grown due to continued missteps by the institution. Let’s update their latest disasters:

  • Special counsel Bill Forsyth, tasked with investigating MSU, stated that “nearly a dozen MSU employees learned of Nassar’s abuse from the victims themselves. It said employees were aware of the abuse allegations as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2015. But in nearly every case, the employees — who included coaches, athletic trainers, fellow doctors and the school Title IX office — did nothing…”.
  • President John Engler resigned last week amid even more statements against survivors of abuse at the university. Remember that Engler was the interim president after Lou Anna Simon was forced to resign following reports of the administration’s failure to hold Nassar accountable surfaced. Engler has continued to speak negatively against survivors, first by offering $250,000 to Kaylee Lorincz and lying that others had accepted cash. Then, just this month, he accused survivors still working for change as “enjoying the spotlight.” Engler also canceled an issue of the campus alumni magazine that detailed the abuse and made seriously questionable decisions regarding hiring. He released an 11 page (!!) letter along with his resignation. Also important to note that if he did not resign, the board would fire him.
  • The Healing Assistance Fund, put together by MSU to pay for survivor counseling, was closed in July of 2018 amid concerns over fraud. The alleged fraud never materialized and the fund was not reopened. Then-president John Engler wrote that the remaining balance of the fund could be used pay out the lawsuits brought forth by victims of sexual abuse (classy right?). The university recently voted to establish a new fund for mental health services, but details have yet to be released.
  • Former president Lou Anna Simon was arraigned in November for two felonies and two misdemeanor accounts of lying to police.
  • Former coach Kathie Klages was arrested for lying to police and currently awaits trial. If convicted, she faces four years in prison.
  • William Strampel, former dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine (and Nassar’s direct boss) will go to trial for four criminal charges: felony misconduct for using his position to “harass, discriminate, demean, sexually proposition, and sexually assault female students”, a sexual assault charge, and two counts of willful neglect of duty in relation to the Nassar’s 2014 Title IX investigation.
  • Michigan State University will pay the legal fees for Klages, Simon, and Strampel as the institution has a policy to “support trustees, officers, faculty, and staff who were acting in good faith with the university.” All of the legal fees incurred by Klages and Simon (both charged with lying to police) will be paid for by the university. Strampel, who is currently awaiting trial for sexual assault allegations and misconduct, will have his lawyers and civil lawsuits footed by the university as well as 50% of his criminal defense.

USA Gymnastics

Sure, USAG. Sure.

Similar to Michigan State University’s stumbles, USAG continues to crash and burn rather than actually work to create tangible change:

  • Former CEO Steve Penny was arrested for removing documents from the Karolyi Ranch connected to Nassar’s sexual abuse; he has pled not guilty. The felony charge means that if convicted, Penny could face ten years in prison. Remember he pled the fifth to the Senate last year.
  • USAG’s Chief Operating Officer Ron Gallimore resigned in November. Gallimore was one of the largest holdovers from the Nassar era and held his position even after the CEO and Board of Trustees were replaced. He was one of the officials that provided Nassar with a cover story in 2015 while he was under investigation. Rather than explain why the former team doctor was not at competitions, Gallimore and others maintained that Nassar was ill. He continued to abuse patients during this time (remember that USAG and MSU both employed Nassar and separately investigated him).
  • Debra Van Horn, a former trainer for USAG, was indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. She was charged as an “acting party” with Nassar.
  • The United States Olympic Committee filed to revoke USA Gymnastics’s status as the governing body for the sport in November 2018. However, it is important to note that there is evidence that the USOC also knew about Nassar’s abuse as early as 2015 and did nothing. Too little too late USOC. You don’t get to be the good guys in this shitshow.
  • In December 2018, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy. With over 100 lawsuits representing 350 individuals, the decision could potentially mean less funding for victims (although the organization stated that their insurance is still intact) as well as maintaining documents that could protect USAG. The filing also includes a “restructuring” that delays the decertification process brought on by the USOC.
  • Documents published on January 18th, 2019 show that USA Gymnastics paid former CEO Penny $470,000 in severance. These payments were made even after he was arrested and included a check for $36,666 days before filing for bankruptcy. Survivors of abuse have yet to receive a payment. YIKES and DOUBLE YIKES.
  • Additionally, several other severance payments were made in late 2018: $425,000 to former CEO Kerry Perry, who held the position for 8 months before being forced to resign and $18,000 to Mary Bono, who was in the role for less than a week after also being forced to resign.
Anyone else relate to this gif after reading this?

I know there is a long way to go and a lot more people that need to be held accountable. Keep holding their feet to that dumpster fire.


Reading: Josephine Baker’s Last Dance (Sherry Jones)

Listening: The Teal Album (Weezer)

So It Goes: Dresden, Germany


I’m incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to visit Dresden with a group of friends last autumn. On the quest to visit the town where my friend was born, we had quite the adventure as a group wandering the streets (and festival foods) of Dresden.

Embracing my inner book (and history) nerd, Dresden has always been one of the cities I hoped to visit while in Europe. Get ready for #allthethings Kurt Vonnegut and WWII debates (or just keep scrolling).


Me while packing my bag for the trip.

Where are we?

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Dresden is the capital of Saxony, a state in Eastern Germany. The first settlement in the area is thought to have been established in 7500 BC by Slavic people, then grew due to the an influx of Germanic populations. The name Dresden (Drežďany) is Old Sorbian and translates to “people of the forest”.


The landscape and population of the city drastically changed during WWII. From 1935-1945, the Jewish community fell from over 6,000 to 41 due to Nazi persecution and migration. Yeah, you read that correctly: 41. By the time of the US and UK bombing in 1945, the city housed over 600,000 refugees, nearly half their population.


Between February 13th and 15th 1945, British and American forces dropped 1,181 tons of incendiary bombs and 1,477 tons of high explosive bombs on the civilian city of Dresden. The combination of the bombs both damaged the city’s buildings while also burning their wooden structures; the historic inner city was destroyed and scholars estimate that 25,000-35,000 civilians were killed:

“Victor Gregg, a British para captured at Arnhem, was a prisoner of war in Dresden that night who was ordered to help with the clear up. In a 2014 BBC interview he recalled the hunt for survivors after the apocalyptic firestorm. In one incident, it took his team seven hours to get into a 1,000-person air-raid shelter in the Altstadt. Once inside, they found no survivors or corpses: just a green-brown liquid with bones sticking out of it. The cowering people had all melted. In areas further from the town centre there were legions of adults shrivelled to three feet in length. Children under the age of three had simply been vaporised.”

Even today, seventy years after the bombing, many argue whether the event constitutes a war crime by the Allies: the city held no military significance, caused thousands of civilian casualties, and had no real impact on the war. Kurt Vonnegut, an American POW who survived the bombing and later based the novel Slaughterhouse Five on his experience stated in an interview:

“VONNEGUT: . . . Only one person on the entire planet benefited from the raid, which must have cost tens of millions of dollars. The raid didn’t shorten the war by half a second, didn’t weaken a German defense or attack anywhere, didn’t free a single person from a death camp. Only one person ‘benefited’ — not two or five or ten. Just one.

INTERVIEWER: And who was that?

VONNEGUT: Me, I got three dollard for each person killed. Imagine that.”


A digital composite image of the Theaterplatz Square in 1946 and in 2015 (via The Atlantic)


The city center in 1945 and 2015 (via The Atlantic).

Regardless of how you align in the debate, the bombing did impact the way we define “legitimate use of violence” in war. The history, culture, and rebuilding of Dresden are truly incredible. Our few days wasn’t nearly enough to explore everything.

The Sites: 


Dresden Frauenkirche has one of the largest domes in Europe. Originally built as a symbol for remaining Protestant under a Catholic rule, it is now a sign of reconciliation between the two religions.


The church was destroyed during the bombing and the ruins served as a war memorial until the reunification of Germany. From 1994-2004 the church underwent reconstruction.


Dresden Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross) is the largest church building in the Free State of Saxony. The southeastern corner existed as far back as 1168.


The interior of the building was destroyed in 1897 and again suffered fire damage during the bombing of Dresden.


One of the oldest buildings in the city, construction on Dresden castle began in 1533 (!!). The castle has now been connected to the Dresden Cathedral.


Katholische Hofkirche (Dresden Cathedral) is one of Dresden’s most important landmarks. The church was founded in 1739 and was rebuilt after the bombing of Dresden and further restored in the 1980s and early 2000s.



Dresden Castle


Kunsthofpassage was one of my favorite spots! The pipes on the outer wall “sing” when it rains. A location outside of the historic part of the city, but definitely worth the short tram ride. Also the site of an AMAZING craft beer shop on the first floor. 


The five courtyards are now an art experiment known as the Ginkgo Project and are filled with adorable shops and art installations.


The Panometer is an absolute must visit! This display is held in an old telescopic gas holder (built in 1879) and is 89 feet high and 344 feet around.


There are two displays: Baroque Dresden (which depicts how Dresden may have looked in 1756) and Dresden 1945 (showing the city after the bombing).

(via Panometer)

The Food:

Dresden Farmers Market:


We stumbled on this gorgeous farmers market our first day in Dresden. There was a ton of amazing cheese, meat, and vegetables for sale.


Technically not food, obviously, but how adorable are these?


Happiest Ashlyn is post-farmers market (via Kristin Ariel Photography)

Cafe Toscana:

Brunch at Cafe Toscana was amazing and the perfect way to start our trip to Bayreuth. I ordered an omelet with homemade vegipan, a seeded bread that is perfect with butter and coffee. Thankfully, a friend and I went halfsies on porridge and it was one of the best ones yet.


Cutest coffee timer EVER.


The most gorgeous porridge on the planet.

German and Hungarian Festival:

How lucky are we that a German and Hungarian fall food festival was taking place while we were visiting? We ate here at least twice and the food was amazing.


So cute! (via Kirstin Ariel Photography)


Hi, I’d like all the potatoes and mushrooms you have. Extra garlic sauce please. The woman who served me definitely remembered us the next day when we stopped by for breakfast.

Slaughterhouse Five:

Technically this should be listed under “sites” and it certainly is, but my love of the book requires me to give Vonnegut his own section. Slaughterhouse Five inspired me to study history and political science.


I first read the novel in middle school and was immediately enthralled with the structure and writing of the story. The life of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier during WWII, is described by the narrator non-linearly, jumping back and forth in time (and space as Pilgrim is abducted by aliens). Pilgrim (and Vonnegut) survive the bombing of Dresden by taking cover in Schlachthof-fünf, or Slaughterhouse Five, an underground meat locker.

The first description is described as:

“The Americans arrived in Dresden at five in the afternoon. The boxcar doors were opened, and the doorways framed the loveliest city that most of the Americans had ever seen. The skyline was intricate and voluptuous and enchanted and absurd. It looked like a Sunday school picture of Heaven to Billy Pilgrim.”

I can second the loveliness of Dresden. The landscape and buildings are absolutely gorgeous to the point where you can imagine the cast of a Disney movie stepping onto the stone walkways. Pilgrim later emerges from the locker and found the previously “heavenly” skyline to look like “the surface of the moon… the entire city was gone.”

Today, there is a small Google Maps marker for the location of Vonnegut’s shelter. Completely destroyed during the bombing, the site is now a sports complex on top of the former underground meat locker.  The basement houses a small memorial to Vonnegut.


Unused nearby building.


Miraculously, the statue of the bull survived the bombing. The sports complex (back) now sits on top of the old underground meat locker.

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel and very much so. The point of the book isn’t the number of bombs dropped on the city or the number of people who died. The point is that the destruction of Dresden is just another massacre. It’s not the first, it certainly wasn’t going to be the last. One of the greatest aspects of the novel is simply the humanity of it.


(via Kristin Ariel Photography)


Reading: The Souls of Yellow Folks (Wesley Yang)Ashlyn (2)

Watching: Outlander Season 2 (Netflix)


Check out my girl Kristin’s beautiful photography (so many photos featured here!) on her site.

Further Reading:

Overy, Richard. 2006. “The Post-War Debate.” in Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945. (editors: Paul Addison and Jeremy A. Craig). Ivan R. Dee: Chicago. 123-142.

Taylor, Ann. 2015. “Remembering Dresden: 70 Years After the Firebombing.” The Atlantic. Available here.


Year in Review: 2018

How is it already January? Anyone else feel like the winter Olympics were last month (probably just me)?

November and December have been absolutely crazy months for us. We were in six different countries (seven if you count a week in the UK during mid-October) including about a month away from home. I’m REALLY far behind on updating everyone on the amazing places we’ve been this year, along with the continuous atrociousness that is USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the USOC (spoiler alert: it’s even worse if that’s possible, but I’m sure you already guessed that). 


Because we’re in a new year and I love making lists, this post will include 2018’s #allthethings : life things, my favorite things, traveling things, food things. You know, my usual rambling.

Here’s the Thing: Sometimes Life is Good and Bad.

Like most things, 2018 was both wonderful and terrible. This year I was forced to really start to put a lot of my own experiences in perspective; a combination of the #metoo movement, Nassar victim impact statements, and constant discussion of abuse made avoiding my own history inescapable. I learned that I need to start taking my emotional and mental health more seriously rather than continue my usual tactic of ignore, ignore, ignore.

I learned that I’m not alone.


Bratislava, Slovakia: One of the best memories of this year is streaming the Larry Nassar sentencing from my phone with a friend in a Slovakian speakeasy. A pretty perfect representation of my 2018.

This year I laughed until my stomach hurt, sat at the edge of the world, and ate an obscene amount of sweets with my coffee. I was able to see my family, my friends, and experience new places with the people I love. I had carrot cake cheesecake for my birthday, walked Prague with two of my favorite boys (Ike and Chris), won a fantasy football true crime league, and hosted more get-togethers than I can count.

Looking back, my heart is both broken and full. I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I have and accomplished this year.

There is pressure during the new year to make a fresh start. In a lot of ways a new beginning sounds great, but in a lot ways it doesn’t.  I’m in a sort of weird in-between limbo right now. And you know what? That’s fucking okay. I am striving to just be content with where I’m at rather than put pressure on myself to move too quickly (one of my intentions for 2019).

Saying Goodbye:

Ike in 2016.

Before I start my lists, I want to take a moment to speak on one the hardest months of my life. In January Ike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. We were completely devastated. At only eight years old and in great health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock.

My little bandit.

Ike came from a longggggg line of Boston Terriers; we adopted his grandad Skittles when I was in middle school. He (and Porkchop) have always been such a constant in my life that letting him go was one of the absolute most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Thankfully the diagnosis proved to be incorrect in that the masses on his liver and pancreas weren’t in fact cancer. That news however, was coupled with the fact that the small mass in his chest (right between his lungs and heart) could prove to be fatal.

Best of brothers.

After two months of chemotherapy, I had high hopes that he could recover. Ike was a tough and stubborn dog; his abdominal masses were shrinking and he was doing great. When he started having issues breathing I hoped it might just be due to the change in the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The mass in his chest was growing. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.

Look at these babies! Ike was constantly judging everyone.

The vet told me this was a difficult way to pass away… and we would know when the end was here. We didn’t want our best boy to suffer. Even now, I can’t even talk about that day and the morning I had to make that decision, never knowing if it was right. I’m just so incredibly thankful to Chris, my friends here in Papa and far away, my family, and of course,  Porkchop and Arya.

Ike and his new sister Arya in 2017. She actually found the skin issue on the back of his neck (you can see it here in the picture too) that led to us beginning the tests.

I still expect him to grumpily come inside out of the rain or itch his face on the covers every morning. Chris still looks for him when he comes back from traveling for work. Arya and Porkchop were both really confused at first, but I think are doing better. PC really misses his little brother. We all miss this little guy.

Ike’s favorite pastime: sunning himself. On his last day with us he had all the sun.

I don’t really know how to end this except to say how heartbroken I still am. Some days are easier. Other days are really hard. If you’re reading this and are working through something difficult that happened to you this year, just know that you’re not alone. And its 100% okay to feel sad or guilty or angry or a combination of any and all the emotions. 

Best Places of 2018:

This year we saw incredible new places and had the opportunity to visit old favorites.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Places we visited in 2018:

  • Belfast (and the coast), Northern Ireland
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Charleston, USA
  • Cleveland, USA
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Kethely, Hungary
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Peniche, Portugal
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Seville, Spain
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Zagreb, Croatia

I’m extremely thankful to have the chance to visit a couple of our favorite spots with friends and family who made the leap over the ocean to spend time with us in Europe.

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

Choosing my absolute favorite places is virtually impossible. Taking into account a number of factors, here are my picks for 2018 (in no particular order):

Coast of Northern Ireland

Christmas in Zagreb

Seville, Spain

Edinburgh, Scotland

Honorable mentions go to Budapest because of so many reasons, but specifically the Budapest Beer Week that was absolutely awesome.

Favorite Concerts of 2018:

This year was THE year of shows for us. We saw a ton of our usual musicians (Pokey LaFarge) and a couple of new ones (FINALLY Flight of the Conchords went on tour). Here’s a list of everyone we saw live in 2018:

  • A Perfect Circle
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three
  • They Might be Giants
  • Jack White

My favorite shows of 2018:


Middle school Ashlyn was absolutely ecstatic to see Franz Ferdinand. They were great–full of energy and fun–and sold out a huge space. 100% recommend. (Prague, Czech Republic)

Flight of the Conchords at Capitol Theatre

Finally saw Flight of the Conchords in real life. (Dublin, Ireland)


Of course Jack White is at the top of the list. He was amazing (as always) and just as incredible as when we first saw him play in 2005. (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Special shout-out to Jane Goodall, who spoke in Budapest this year. Technically not a band, but it was truly a dream come true to see her in real life.

Favorite Books of 2018:


via Cutiosities on Etsy

This year I surpassed my goal and read 41 books! 2018 was definitely a year of nerding out both in fiction and non-fiction. I joined a couple of book clubs (one here in Papa that connects readers from all over the world, Now Read This! A NYT/NPR collaboration, and of course Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf). My favorites are definitely influenced by a lot of the personal struggles I had this year. Here are my top books published in 2018:

#8. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out (Erin E. Moulton): An anthology of stories of sexual assault, Things We Haven’t Said is a powerful book on why survivors struggle with speaking out on their experiences through providing an outlet to victims who typically don’t have one.

#7. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Kate Manne): A professor of philosophy at Cornell University, Manne states that misogyny is “a social and political phenomenon with psychological, structural, and institutional manifestations” that enforce gender roles that continue to influence society today. Detailing the impact of these ideas both culturally and institutionally, Manne’s book provides context on why we expect (and allow, and in some ways, forgive) actions of one group of people over another. 

#6. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Terese Marie Mailhot): Mailhot’s memoir is raw and at times difficult to read. A Native author, this beautifully written book details her life in crisis: poverty, overcoming multiple disorders, losing custody of her child, growing up with an absent mother, and life on the Seabrid Island First Nation Indian reservation in British Columbia. 

#5. A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson): This slim book (128 tiny pages) is a discussion on race in America by the leading civil rights leaders in the field. Their conversation on inequality and changing culture and institutions was one of my favorites this year.

#4. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens): Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeously written story of a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I adored not only the descriptions (it reminded me so much of Charleston) but also Kya’s story of persevering on her own and in her own way.  

#3. Educated (Tara Westover): I finished Tara Westover’s memoir in two absolutely brutal days. Educated tells the remarkable story of Westover’s life from being born (sometime, her actual date of birth is unknown) to survivalist parents.  Their mistrust of medicine and education meant that she had very little experience of the outside world. Her desire and determination to leave home for education (eventually a PhD and at the disapproval of her family) is one of the most incredible (and impressive) stories I’ve read all year.

#2. One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy (Carol Anderson): Anderson discusses the implications of the 2016 election–the first in fifty years to be held without the complete protections of the Voting Rights Act–and how voter suppression systematically blocks the ability of many Americans to submit their ballots. Her work details the impact of Jim Crow and voter requirement laws implemented after the abolishment of slavery, the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters leading up to the Civil Rights Act, and the continuous suppression through various laws and redistricting today. 

#1. I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara): My favorite book of 2018 is McNamara’s account of her obsession to help catch one the of the most horrifying rapists and murderers in United States history, the Golden State Killer (a name she coined). I’ll be Gone in the Dark is so well-written that you feel her passion and dedication to find the man who assaulted more than fifty woman and killed ten people on each page. The chilling final chapter–McNamara is speaking directly to GTK–and her prediction of how he might be caught is eerily similar to way it actually happened in reality, although she passed away unexpectedly before he was arrested.

There are also a ton of great books I read this year that were published before 2018 including Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram W. Kendi and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 

Favorite Brunches of 2018:

It’s no surprise that brunch is my absolute favorite meal. Here are my favorites from 2018:


#8. Blueorange (Vienna, Austria): This everything bagel from Blueorange was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had in 2018 (a big accomplishment considering Chris is the king of making them). Brie, honey, walnuts, and greens… what else do you need in life?


#7. Munchy Food Truck (Zagreb, Croatia): Who says it isn’t appropriate to order a homemade waffle covered in Nutella and bananas at 10am? If you dip it in coffee, it counts as breakfast.


#6. Holy City Brewing (Charleston, SC): It’s no secret that HCB has my favorite brunch in Charleston. My last minute visit meant I had only one Sunday for brunch and this crunchwrap was absolutely the best decision I made all summer.


#5. Urban House (Bratislava, Slovakia): The best Bloody Mary of 2018! Look at this amazing spread. My favorite dish is their vegetarian English breakfast–the greens are the tastiest part of the meal.


#4. Maggie May’s (Belfast, Northern Ireland): Maggie May’s has the absolute best diner food. A small, cash-only restaurant in Belfast, their menu is extensive and the food is so genuinely good.


#3. La Jeronima (Seville, Spain): This croissant was stuffed with roasted eggplant and honey marinated tofu (I can feel the collective “ugh” from meat-eaters reading this and the “ooooh!” from my veg friends haha). This tiny cafe in Seville had such a unique menu that I wish we were able to have breakfast there every day.


#2. Copenhagen Coffee Lab & Bakery (Lisbon, Portugal): So here’s the thing–I love a solid avocado toast and this was hands-down the best I had all year. Heather and I chose this PLUS sweets with no regrets. Not pictured is the hot ham breakfast sandwich that Chris ordered that smelled so good, Karl had to get one for himself (second breakfast for the win).


#1. 3FE (Dublin, Ireland): Look at this scotch egg! These hash browns! In addition to their amazing menu 3FE also hosts coffee tastings and training for those interested in learning more about roasting their own blend. This tiny cafe earns my favorite brunch of 2018.

Favorite Podcasts of 2018:


I love podcasts. Sometimes I don’t turn on our TV for what feels like weeks because (nerd alert) I’ve discovered a new show and binged all the episodes in a few days. Similar to my book choices, my favorite podcasts are heavily influenced by a lot of my personal struggles and growth this year. Here are my favorite podcasts published in 2018:

#8. Believed (National Public Radio): The goal of Believed is to answer the question so many people have asked: How did Larry Nassar get away with decades of abuse to hundreds of girls and women? Their interviews with survivors and parents can be an extremely difficult listen, but necessary if we want to learn how to change the system that allowed for this abuse to occur for so long. 

#7. Keep It! (Crooked Media): Keep It! is my weekly guilty pleasure podcast. Hosted by Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, they hilariously discuss the intersection of pop culture and politics. Kara also has my favorite frustrated statement of 2018: “people just need to read!”

#6. Uncivil (Gimlit Media): The only reason Uncivil isn’t number one on my list is because  most of their episodes were published in 2017 and therefore didn’t qualify as a “2018” show. Discovered late this year, this was one of my binges of 2018. Each episode “ransacks America’s past” and tells an untold story related to the Civil War.


#5. My Favorite Murder (Exactly Right): My favorite true crime podcast, MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgarariff and Georgia Hardstark. Each week they share stories of murder, cults, and hometown stories from listeners. Not only discussing true crime, Karen and Georgia are also super open about their own struggles with mental health, finding time for self-care, and sparked a million taglines including the famous “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad”, and my personal favorite: “can’t you see from my really thick black eyeliner that I’m no one’s mother?”

#4. R U Talkin’ REM: Re: ME? (Earwolf): As stated by Scott Aukerman, it truly is the year of R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me. Hosted by the superfan Adam Scott Aukerman (Adam Scott [Parks & Rec] and Aukerman [the hugely underrated Comedy Bang Bang!]), this podcast discusses the impact of R.E.M.’s music album by album. Their banter is hilarious and each episode is filled with smaller episodes (“Is this an episode of ‘I Love Films?'”) that Chris and I always played during our hours on the road this year. 

#3. GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast (Gymcastic): Definitely a niche podcast for fans of the sport, Gymcastic makes the top of my list not only because of their analysis of the sport (and mostly hilarious takes on competition, scoring, and love for the athletes) but their unrelenting dedication to discussing the Larry Nassar abuse that finally began to garner mainstream media coverage this year. Each week hosts Jessica and Spencer held MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC accountable and provided an outlet to athletes and survivors. Their coverage of not just the abuse, but of the cover-up and mismanagement makes Gymcastic one of the my favorites this year. 

#2. Serial Season Three: The Cleveland Court System (This American Life): Rather than focus on one particular story (unlike seasons one and two) season three instead tells the “extraordinary stories of ordinary stories” taking place at a courthouse in Cleveland. These  largely untold narratives of people working through the complicated (and convoluted) justice system was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking podcasts I listened to in 2018. 

#1. Scene on Radio Season Three: Men (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University): I loved season two (“Seeing White” featuring Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, host of Uncivil) so I was really looking forward to season three of Duke University’s podcast. With the goal of discussing “How did we get sexism, patriarchy, misogyny in the first place? How can we get better at seeing it, and what can we do about it?” hosts Jown Biewen and Celeste Headlee tackle a topic each week and provide feedback on how we can combat these systems. The episode “Himpathy” was the most difficult and impactful for me; it featured input from Kate Manne on not only why survivors of abuse feel sympathy for their abusers, but also how society does as well. 

Extra love to Pardon My Take and Fantasy Football Focus, which I binged throughout the entire NFL season. 

Favorite TV Shows of 2018:

This year I hardly watched any new shows (too much reading and podcasting I suppose) so my list is embarrassingly small. But here are the shows you absolutely need to watch:


#5. Ballers Season Four: If you know me, you’re not surprised by this choice. Listen, I love the Rock. I love Rob Cordray. I love football. Is this a ridiculous show? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Does the plot matter? Nah, not really.


#4. Better Call Saul Season Four: One of my favorite shows continues to get better with this newest season. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are still absolutely amazing as Saul and Mike. The return of Gus Fring (one of the best characters of Breaking Bad) makes this season binge-worthy for sure. The season finale nearly gave me a heart attack.


#3. End of the F***ing World: Technically the show premiered in the UK in 2017, but it wasn’t picked up and added to Netflix until 2018, so it counts for me. I loved this show. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther are superb as Alyssa and James. Their relationship is endearing, odd, and their adventure to find her birth father completely drew you into the show; the final episode was amazingly filmed. I’m so glad it was picked up for a second season.


#2. Game of Thrones Season Seven: Finally, this year I got into GOT. I always begrudgingly sort of paid attention to the show over the years but never committed (why is everyone so dirty?) until this year. Maybe call it the revenge of Arya Stark or the undeniable affection I have for Tormund, but I’m 100% in moving forward. Better late than never.


#1. Sharp Objects: Yep, Sharp Objects beats Game of Thrones for me. The combination of Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen gives me LIFE. Incredibly creepy and at times jarring, Sharp Objects was my favorite show of 2018. Closer was my favorite episode that also creeped me out the most.

Here’s to 2019!




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Currently Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Currently Watching: Ozark Season 1 (Netflix)Ashlyn (2)




Octavia E. Butler

Welcome to the inaugural Queens You Should Know post! This is where I’ll discuss a woman you SHOULD know but for patriarchy reasons, maybe haven’t heard of yet.


The QUEEN Octavia E. Butler

I first learned of Octavia E. Butler in 2011 when one of her novels, Kindred, was assigned in my Political Science capstone. My professor studied dystopian fiction and the course, my final Political Science class of undergrad, was centered around the intersection of politics and literature. Kindred tells the story of a woman who travels back in time to the plantation owned by her white slavemaster ancestors. The book is great and I highly recommend reading, especially for young adults.

Butler herself was an amazing woman and an absolute genius; she’s the only science fiction writer of any gender or color to be awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, literally known as the “genius grant”. The “grand dame” of the genre, Butler inspired countless writers of color through her work. Her stories center around a strong female lead struggling to overcome the world around her, very much a reflection of Butler’s own life.


Octavia E Butler

Google honored Butler on her 71st birthday this year with a doodle.

“I began writing about power because I had so little,” Butler notes in The Science Fiction of Octavia Butler by Carolyn Davidson. Born July 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California, Butler’s parents were a housemaid and shoeshine man. Her father passed away when she was young and as a result, Butler was raised by her mother and a strict Baptist grandmother. Both women greatly influenced how Butler saw the world: she grew up learning stories of the blatant racism shown to her mother by her employers.

As a young girl, Butler described herself at the time as “ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless” (which honestly haven’t we all felt that way at least once in our lives?)  and grew to love reading and writing because of her shyness and dyslexia. Spending most of her time at the local Pasadena library (a woman after my own heart), Butler decided she wanted to become a writer. This choice was met with harsh criticism, not just from society–but from her own family as well. Her aunt told a young Butler: “Honey, Negroes can’t be writers” a reflection of generations of structural racism and segregation experienced by women of color.


via Etsy

Butler could not be deterred from pursuing her dream of writing. While many science fiction authors use the genre as an escape from reality, Butler instead wrote “as a pointed reflection of the most minute and magnified experiences that frame and determine the lives of those who live in black skin.” She attended Pasadena Community College, enrolled in writing courses at UCLA, and participated in numerous workshops before selling her first story, “Crossover” in 1971. Harlan Ellison, a famed author at the time, purchased Butler’s stories for two anthologies.

However, Butler’s success was not immediate. She worked temporary jobs that allowed her more free time to write. As she grew older and more experienced, Butler became increasingly irritated at the lack of female representation noting in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories”:

“Why aren’t there more sci-fi black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.”

Finally, Butler was able to write full-time following the publication of Patternmaster (1976) and the prequels to the novel, Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), and Clay’s Ark (1984). Kindred, the novel I read in my Political Science capstone, was her first mainstream success. Inspired by comments made by a classmate regarding the history of subservience of black ancestors to white people, Butler hoped Kindred would tell the story of a “silent but courageous survival”.


In 1984 and 1985 Butler won the Hugo Award for her short stories, along with the Locus Award and the Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award for Best Novelette. She then published the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989). The Parable novels were published in 1993 (Parable of the Sower) and 1998 (Parable of the Talents). The story of a girl escaping a society torn apart due to climate change, shit governance, and wealth inequality, the Parable novels “effectively cemented Butler’s place in the upper echelons of science fiction.” I read Parable of the Sower this summer (thank you Colleen!) and it truly is an amazing story.


Butler’s notes for Parable of the Sower (1989) on display at the Huntington Library, Art Collections.

In Parable of the Sower, again Butler lets us all know that we are not alone in our sometimes negative feelings about ourselves; she describes herself in the author section as:

“Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial — a hermit.… A pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”


Hell yeah.

While Butler hoped to continue the Parable series with four sequels, she found the research too depressing to finish. In 2005 she published her final novel Fledging, a work that combined Butler’s unique sci-fi with vampire lore.


A collection of Butler’s novels

Butler used her wealth not only to help others but also, and for probably her most radical resolution, to do what is right. In “Break in Case of Emergency: Octavia E. Butler’s Legacy” Gary Dauphin notes:

“that resolution is not just in her framing of personal wealth and fame as means to ameliorative largess — ‘I will send poor black youngster to Clarion or other writer’s workshop. I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons. I will help poor black youngsters go to college.’ — but in Butler’s daily commitment to the details of her life.”

In 2006 Octavia E. Butler passed away at the very young age of 59 in her Washington home. Her novels and simple passion for doing what is right continues to inspire writers and performers today. While “doing what is right” may be simple in words, it is not always easy in practice. For Butler, growing up in a segregated America with little representation of women, especially women of color, she dedicated her life to combat structural racism and show that yes, we are here and have the right to occupy space too.


A slide from the 2016 conference on Butler’s work, Shaping Change. via Instagram.

Embrace your inner Octavia and support your local library, do what is right, and be your best self, even if that means embracing all your qualities that may annoy you (just like Octavia did). You can learn more about Octavia and her work online and at her’s estate’s display at the Huntington Library.



Brown, Mike. 2018. “Octavia E. Butler: How Science-Fiction Author Battled Racism in Her Works.” Inverse. Available here.

Dauphin, Gary. 2017. “Break in Case of Emergency: Octavia E. Butler’s Legacy.” KCET Online. Available here.

Ngangura, Tari. 2018. “Octavia Butler and America as only Black Women See it.” SyFy Wire. Available here.

Sommerlad, Joe. 2018. “Octavia E. Butler: Who was the Black Science Fiction Writer who Overcame Prejudice and Poverty?” The Independent. Available here.

Vonn, Kodi. 2018. “The Forgotten Genius of Sci-Fi & Feminist Author, Octavia E. Butler.” Medium. Available here.


Queens You Should Know

For a number of reasons (mostly patriarchial but that’s for another time), our history books and literature are dominated by white men. By omitting the contributions of women, we are essentially erasing their impact; this is particularly true for women of color. Sure, it’s great to know the societal contributions of men (give us the ENTIRE story though), but that occupied space is at the expense of telling the stories of women who have also shaped our history and culture.

Don’t believe me? Let’s check:

  • How many female scientists can you list?
  • Are there any historical women you can name that are noteworthy not only because of who they are married to (bonus points if you have examples that are not popular because of their beauty/sexualized version)?
  • Name five female literary authors that are also women of color.
  • What is the percentage of women serving in the United States government? How many of THOSE women are POC?

Huzzah to you if you were able to answer even one of these questions because according to one study, women make up 50% of our population but yet only .5% of our recorded history. Research conducted in 2016 found that 40% of respondents thought women did not impact history as much as men. Ahem.


The purpose of  QYSK is to tell those untold stories of women who have contributed to the arts, sciences, politics, justice, AND THE WORLD that were left out of our history books. We’ve always been here; you probably just haven’t heard of us. In the words of the Spanish protestors during the first International Women’s Day: “If we stop, the world stops.”

Post-Nassar Fallout Continues: October Updates on MSU and USAG.


The US Women’s Team (from left to right) Ragan Smith, Morgan Hurd, Simone Biles, Kara Eaker, Riley McCusker, and Grace McCallum

This week the United States women and men compete at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. These athletes are competing amid new controversy and unrest (what a surprise, oh wait, no this is the new norm) surrounding the leadership at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

Here we go:

Larry Nassar recorded himself drugging and raping a student-athlete; MSU covered up the abuse.


Larry Nassar in 2018.

As the September 10th deadline for lawsuits approached, a shocking (or at this point is it?) account was filed that detailed the drugging, rape, and as a result, impregnation of former Michigan State University field hockey player Erika Davis by Larry Nassar. The assault occurred in 1992 and the university, even when presented with video evidence, not only refused to fire Nassar, but also forced Davis and her coach to resign.

Davis was 17 when she was seen by Nassar for “treatment” after injuring her knee. Nassar, not a licensed physician at the time, was working as an athletic trainer and a student at MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. During her examination, he used his mouth and hands on her breasts while be recorded by an unnamed man in the room. At the following appointment, Davis states that she was given a crushed pill without explanation; this made her immobile and. a short time later, realized that Nassar was raping her.

Davis then reported the rape to two close friends and her coach, Martha Ludwig, who confronted Nassar in May of 1991. George Perles, the Athletic Director for MSU at the time, forced Ludwig to return the tape, drop her complaint, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Davis then reported the abuse to a “dorm mom” after realizing she was pregnant with Nassar’s child as a result of the rape. Following a miscarriage, Davis, along with two friends, reported the rape to Michigan State University. According to the lawsuit:

“The police told them that since she was an athlete, she had to report it to the athletic department. The detective explicitly told them that he was powerless to investigate anything that takes place to the athletic department and to go to the athletic department.

Davis also alleges that the sergeant who gave her this information called Perles a ‘powerful man’ and suggested she drop the issue. Perles took over as the university’s athletic director in 1990. He stayed on as the football coach through 1994, but stepped down from his post as athletic director in May 1992, around the same time that Ludwig approached him, according to the lawsuit.”

Davis lost her athletic scholarship shortly after reporting the abuse. Ludwig was forced to resign. Perles is currently a trustee on MSU’s Board. In August, the NCAA cleared Michigan State of any violations after allegations of assault were made against the university’s football and basketball teams (see this post for more information on those claims).

MSU Victim Fund Temporarily Halted


Michigan State University established a counseling fund for the survivors of Nassar’s assault in early 2018. Former MSU student-athletes, health clinic patients, and parents of survivors had access to the fund to pay for counseling, mental health services, as well as reimbursement for past appointments. This counseling fund is separate from the settlement made by MSU to the over 300 survivors.

Payments from the $10 million fund have been halted after a concern over “possible fraudulent claims” were made in July. Details on the alleged fraud, how the investigation will be carried out, and the length of time payments will be unavailable were not made public. Survivor Trinea Gonczar stated:

“’It’s almost like we’re back at square one, and you feel like you’re starting over and you’re re-victimized and you’re back in the trenches all over again,’ said Gonczar.

University officials said in July they’re stopping payments from the healing assistance fund over fraud concerns.

‘There’s no allegation that’s actually a victim, or a survivor,’ said MSU Interim President John Engler.”

Former & Current MSU Employees Under Investigation


A protest outside of Michigan State University

A number of current and former Michigan State University employees are under investigation for their involvement with Nassar’s abuse:

  • Former MSU Psychologist Gary Stollak surrendered his psychology license after failing to report Nassar to authorities following a 2004 session with survivor Kyle Stephens. After telling her parents about Nassar’s molestation in their family home, Stollack brought Stephens, her parents, and Nassar into a session in which her parents were convinced that Kyle, six years old at the time, was lying. Nassar abused her for the following six years. Her father later committed suicide. One of the few women abused in a non-medical setting, Kyle was the first survivor to read her statement during Nassar’s hearing.
  • Sports Trainer Lianna Hadden is under investigation while still employed at the University. Two survivors (Tiffany Thomas Lopez and Jennifer Rood Beford) reportedly spoke of Nassar’s abuse to Hadden in the 2000s.
  • Destiny Teachnor-Hauk (still an athletic trainer for the gymnastics team) and Dr. Brooke Lemmen, (no longer employed) are currently under investigation as they contributed to the 2014 Title IX complaint against Nassar. Their medical testimonies helped clear the former doctor of any abuse. Lemmen also removed patient files from Nassar’s work computer.
  • Dr. William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nassar’s boss, was charged with felony misconduct, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and two counts of willful neglect of duty that occurred while Nassar was being investigated.
  • Kathie Klages, former Head Coach for the women’s gymnastics program, was arrested for lying to police during the Nassar investigation. Klages has also been accused of failing to report Nassar’s abuse on multiple occasions: two women told investigators that they informed Klages of the molestation in 1997. During the investigation, Klages told the mother of a survivor that the thousands of child pornography images found on Nassar’s computer was planted, as well as forced her athletes to write the former doctor a support letter after he was arrested.

More Survivors Come Forward


Tasha Schwikert is the tenth Olympian to come forward as a survivor. From left to right, top to bottom: Tasha Schwikert (2000), Jordyn Wieber (2012). Aly Raisman (2012 and 2016), Jamie Dantzscher (2000), Simone Biles (2016), McKayla Maroney (2012), Madison Kocian (2016), Gabrielle Douglas (2012 and 2016) and Kyla Ross (2012). Not pictured: Morgan White (2000).

Last week Olympic and World medalist Tasha Schwikert came forward as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. The 2000 Olympian tweeted:

“’After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar. I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Tasha’s sister, Jordan,  a former USA Gymnastics athlete and UCLA Bruin, also stated that Nassar abused her as well.

Schwikert is now the second member of the bronze medal-winning Olympic team to come forward; she was the youngest athlete to compete for any sport at the 2000 Olympics.

Schwikert noted that former USAG president and CEO Steve Penny pressured her to publicly support USAG while the Nassar abuse story began to gain traction with the mainstream media:


Tasha’s statement posted on USAG’s Twitter account at the same time her former teammates were interviewed by 60 Minutes.

There are now more than 333 survivors that have publicly come forward.

Interim CEO Mary Bono Resigns


Former California Representative Mary Bono.

Interim USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono resigned last week after only five days in the position. The decision to appoint Bono as CEO was problematic as she formerly worked for Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm that represented USA Gymnastics against the athletes that filed charges against the organization during the Nassar investigation.

The decision outraged many former and current gymnasts including Aly Raisman:


While the law firm is global and represents a number of clients, the choice to appoint a former attorney that worked for an organization paid to cover up Nassar’s abuse proved to be too big of an issue to overcome.

In addition to the concerns over her work with Faegre Baker Daniels, Bono also tweeted her opposition to Nike’s decision to create a campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the civil protest of kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness for racial injustice and police brutality. In her tweet, Bono posted a picture of herself covering the Nike swoosh with a permanent marker.

Simone Biles, in her first year competing since the 2016 Olympics, is a Nike representative, survivor, and current National Champion. She tweeted:

“’mouth drop don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.’

USA Gymnastics has been without an apparel sponsor since Under Armour announced that it was ending its partnership with the organization in December.”

Bono resigned less than a week after being named to the position.

Former USAG CEO Steve Penny Arrested


Steve Penny’s mugshot following his arrest.

On October 18th, former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics Steve Penny was arrested after a grand jury indicted him for tampering with evidence related to the Nassar investigation. The third-degree felony states that Penny ordered documents from the Karolyi Ranch (the US Olympic Training Center) illegally be removed and brought to USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis:

“The removal of the documents was done for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents.


The Texas Rangers and the detectives believe that those records are material to their investigation and that the removal of the records by Penny prevented them from reviewing documents that would have helped in their investigation of Nassar as well as assisted with the investigation of other offenses that may have occurred at the Karolyi ranch.”

Penny, who resigned from USA Gymnastics in March 2017, received a severance package from the now near-bankrupt organization of over $1 million dollars. When testifying before the Senate earlier this year, Penny pleaded the fifth and walked out of the hearing. Former Senior Vice President of the Women’s Program, Rhonda Faehn, also testified at the hearing; she stated that medical records had been removed from the Karolyi Ranch. Former World, Olympic, and National Champion Jordyn Wieber stated in her lawsuit against USAG that her medical files were missing.


The US women compete in the qualifying competition of the 2018 World Championships tomorrow and are expected to win. If they do, they will have done so despite their governing organization, which has proven repeatedly that they are incapable of appointing qualified leaders to the highest positions.

Simone Biles has proved to be the most important person in USA Gymnastics and has seemed to find her voice in this role. During the National Championships, Simone publicly criticized then CEO Kerry Perry for her lack of leadership while also wearing a teal leotard to support victims of sexual assault. As the greatest gymnast of any generation, she singlehandedly closed down the Karolyi Ranch as the National Training Center. On how she disagreed with the appointment of Bono as the interim CEO Biles stated: “I said what I said. Maybe after Doha, I’ll be open to more questions about that.”

The fact that the team is currently at the World Championships, training well and seemingly positive, while the chaos of USAG ensues, is a testament to their mental and emotional strength. Regardless if they win gold or finish last, this is a team that has persevered.

Currently Reading: Praise Song for the Butterflies (by Bernice L. McFadden) Ashlyn

Currently Listening: Sharp Objects Season One Soundtrack