Betty of the Month March 2016

It gives me immense joy, as well as tingles in unexpected places to introduce you to this month’s Betty. She meets all the criteria:

Soulful? CHECK!

Joyful? CHECK!

Brilliant? CHECK!

100% Real? ALL DAY , ERR DAY!

Let me introduce you to Liesl Santkuyl. I met Liesl in passing some time ago as happens in the nonprofit community.  I had the pleasure of getting to know her, serving the city along side her working with Stand for Children.  We have both since moved on to other positions but the love and respect I have for this blue eyed beauty has only grown.

Liesl grew up in Hartford, Wisconsin with a Venezuelan mom and a German dad.  Any time Liesl talks about her family, I get a little more understanding of how she came to be the badass Latina that she is.  She is that magical woman we all cling to that makes life beautiful by loving the absolute shit out of you thru belly laughs, supporting your every move and being your willing partner in crime on pretty much any occasion.  Case in point: Liesl help us win a jukebox race war at a local motorcycle bar.  The old bastards kept loading up country songs to drown out the hip hop and funk.  Liesl wasn’t having it.  Not only did she load up more tunes, she joined in an  impromptu Electric Slide right there in between the darts and the pool table. She’s so down, y’all. So so down.

A testament to her commitment to serve, Liesl joined the Peace Corps in Guatemala as well as working at a migrant health clinic. Liesl came to Tacoma after an intense job search, sending 157 resumes out to potential employers.  This was before email mind you, so she spent a killing on postage (this is another classic Liesl move; she just does what needs to be done).  She accepted a position as the first Health Educator at Sea Mar in Tacoma. She remembers getting told by her supervisor that wearing her bright dresses from Guatemala were inappropriate and “unprofessional.” She was crushed as many of us are when we are told that who we are (clothing, hair, language) must be left behind in order to find success. Never forgetting the damage done by racist and sexist policies, Liesl is the eternal advocate, friend and ally.  She has an uncanny ability to call bullshit and question authority in a tone as sweet as caramel cake.  I’m telling you it’s a talent!

Let me tell you how much i love this woman:  I suppressed my deep rooted Black girl tendencies to hike with her in the pouring down rain.  There I was, getting wet down to my unmentionables, dragging my LeBron’s through the mud, afro puff dripping because why?  Cuz it’s Liesl.  She has a deep connection to nature and it’s nothing short of amazing watching her engage with Mother Earth.

What are your greatest joys?

I experience joy every day; in my kids (Eli and Zane), in people, and in the present moment. I experience the world intensely and never take life for granted.

What will you do if Trump becomes president?

I’m moving to Venezuela! I have dual citizenship and would be on the first plane out of here.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Madonna in the Like a Virgin video.  She was brash, non-conventional, and in your face. I loved it. I also fell in love with Kate Shugak, the protagonist in a series of books by Dana Stabenow. She is a real badass; an Aleut detective solving crimes in the Alaskan north.  And of course, Antonio Banderas, every Latina’s dream- the melty eyes, the voice, you can’t go wrong.

Who are your personal heroes?

My dear friend and colleague, Sara Irish.  She tells it exactly like it is.  She gives freely of herself and demonstrates a deep kindness. She has integrity and this boldness that I respect.  She has a great sense of humor and most importantly, she uses dirty words in everyday life!

Now for a round of Kiss, Marry, Kill.  Let’s start with Elmer Fudd,  Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck.  

I’d marry Elmer because well, I am already married to Elmer (lets out her famous laugh)! I’d kiss Bugs.  He’s charming and witty and would be my side piece.  I’d kill Daffy, to include plucking and roasting him.

How about Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock?

I’m sorry but Jennifer’s got to go.  I just find everything she plays trite and uninteresting.  She’s just annoying.  Angelina is great so I’d have to kiss her.  And Sandra I would marry.  She just seems more real than the others and I know she would make me laugh.


Liesl is currently the Project Coordinator for Leaders in Women’s Health, a coalition dedicated to addressing and eliminating health disparities for women of color in Pierce County. I’m so honored to know her, and I can’t wait to get in some more mischief with her soon.

Do you know someone that should be featured as a Betty of the Month?  Contact me!  I’d love to hear your ideas! 





When You’re a Girl

When You’re a Girl

When you’re a girl, something is inherently public about you. Directives, mandates, unsolicited advice and demands are your life. Give him a hug. Fix your hair. Straighten your hem. Be nice. Be sweet. Be happy. But none of these things will ever make you happy.  They didn’t make me happy. I was quite sad in fact.  No, angry.  I was angry at the barrage of opinion. Though I was small I was put off and pissed at the world’s determination to craft, frame, and mandate all of what I felt was precious about life:

Food.                   Fun.                      Frock.girls


When you’re a girl, food is something you cook but don’t eat. It’s what you use to establish your place, prowess and power in a house you rent. It’s how you find a niche to get invited to parties you actually loathe but must attend to ensure you are invited to more parties. Food is a skill. Food is the language we speak without voices in the kitchen. We speak through seasoned cast iron and bamboo spoons with cracks down the middle. With the scratched grease stained pyrex. This is only dish in which you are allowed to make Muh’s cobbler. Ever. Sometimes new stuff is best.  Other times, only old will do.  This is truth and law.  And it is annoying.


When you’re a girl, fun is redefined a revised a thousand times for you. And you must keep up. Keep up with what’s up. It’s fun for girls to have fun.  Girls just want to have fun.  That’s what the song says, see. Fun is girls only. No boys allowed. But it’s fun to talk about boys. Want them. Attract them. But not fun to fuck them. Ever. THAT is the opposite of fun. If you fuck them, you’re fucked.  Your girlfriends unfriend you and you are left alone to find your own fun. No fun.


When you’re a girl, you dress out of consideration of others. Like with manners. Like elbows off the table and napkin in your lap. But instead of a salad, you are dressing your body.  But it’s kind of like their body.  And they want your/their body to remind them to not look at you.  Because you are a girl. Girls can be the death of a boy. And girls like to chase boys. It’s fun. See, sometimes fun and frock meet in the middle of a girl.  This is where it gets interesting. You and the girls go shopping (fun), and find fashionable yet modest outfits that remind boys not to try (frock). Exasperating.

When you’re a girl, you sit. You sit for so many things. At desks and church pews poised for instruction. Waiting for curls to set and for the doctor to return. You sit at trials to defend your son and yourself. And you learn very early to sit in judgement. Mostly of other girls. Girls are the worst. I want to be a woman.


Betty of the Month: August 2014

In my mission to honor the wonder of other fantastic female creatures in this world, I’m beginning a monthly series called Betty of the Month I will highlight women who put the B in Badass, those who sustain and inspire me, and those whose stories are much like ours. We must remember that we are so much more alike than different, and our lives can be blessed by each other’s stories.
So, raise your supple hands to give snaps and hootie hoo’s for our inaugural Betty of the Month: Carolyn Linden. At first glance she was the chick I would go out of my way to stay away from. White, slender in a hard earned pilates carpooling kind of way, piercing eyes, and eyebrows I was certain were judging me. Of course, I was projecting all of my shit on to her. And as always, God puts the most perfect, most extravagant expressions of His wisdom in our paths. And now? Well now, Carolyn is my people.

She comes from hard working very well educated parents, and a wealth of opportunity, privilege, and support. A product of an all girls’ Catholic school, Carolyn took a delicious turn when she cussed out Sister Suzanne Cooke in front of a group of her peers, and became a bit of a “behavioral problem.” And the saga began to unfold. Carolyn is a Betty because:

1. She owns her journey, whether it aligns with others or not. She graduated from high school early and was determined to go into the Coast Guard derailing her parents’ wishes for a traditional educational trajectory. However, she failed the physical exams. Unshaken in her choice to put college off, Carolyn worked 3 jobs and rented a room. The juicy twist is revealed when I learn the landlord is her now husband. Gasp and swoon, people…I love a little naughty in my middle class mom.

2. Carolyn has the greatest way of paraphrasing curt and ugly assessments. For example, you hear: “She’ll be ok…or she won’t. And that’s perfectly fine.” What she’s really saying: “I could give two shits whether she has a problem or not. I shall not be moved.”

3. She embraces and expects the messiness of humanity. And she sees it as heavenly and beautiful.

4. The way she says the word asshole. She seems to save it for those who are a particular affront to civilization. There is a particular emphasis on the “hole” portion, as if she is expelling a special brand of venom in honor of the jackass in question.

5. She’s raising a daughter who stands up to bullies by threatening to eat their eyeballs. Is there anything more precious?

20140729-094213-34933031.jpg carolyn and pat carolyn at go skate

Other fun tidbits:

Motto/Mantra: Leave it better than you found it; don’t complain without offering a solution, and don’t be asshole

Biggest, most infuriating pet peeve: Bad manners, ignorant grammar fails

Phobia: spiders

What drives you crazy about yourself: perfectionist with procrastinator complex

Guilty pleasures: oversize glass of cabernet and

When Carolyn ran down Ani DiFranco’s “Letter to a John” as one of her jams, I dug her even more. If you see Carolyn around the 253, give her a head nod or a fist bump, or better yet buy this hard working chick a drink (she loves a vodka gimlet, or anything that is deemed “refreshing”).

For Carolyn, In Honor of Ani

You were never the condition.
You were the symptom.
The evidence of my ailment,
grating and chronic
my cross wrapped in heart strings
neck and shoulders bloody raw
My temples pulsing, primed to submit.
Your slick words living in my mouth,
sweet everythings kept in
hat boxes full of hatred and hope
stacked in my sore chest.
A pocket full of transfers,
my underwear rolled up in
my coat pocket,
day in and day out of dumb.
The lights went out and
I woke up to whatever,
cruel, vague wondering
round and round til
you jumped off the ride
and left me with a clammy
fistful of tickets.
You were a sinister beauty
and I collected your lies
in every one of my pocketbooks.
I’m the lucky girl you left behind
for the world to swallow whole.

Send me your ideas for Betty of the Month, as I know there’s no shortage of fascinating women in our community.


Letter to My Daughter

Hey Little Girl,
As I watch the world continue to make you promises it has no intention of delivering, I feel it’s my job to help. Not just to cushion the blow of what’s to come (because unfortunately, some hard lessons are inevitable), but to help you take in, process, and digest the world around you. I want you feasting on life. And mind you, some of that shit tastes gross, makes you sick, and gets stuck in your teeth. But don’t you pass up the chance to take a chance. Be uncomfortable. Act a damn fool. Walk where others were scared to, or where they couldn’t. Then come back and share your blessings with others who come behind you.

Here are a couple of things I know in no uncertain terms.
1. I love you. Unconditionally. Seriously, no mistake, decision, pregnancy, conviction, or stupid ass comment will change that. You may not feel you need to hear it now, but when it gets real heavy, just know that you are loved. You have den of “other mothers” that love you just like I do. And above all, God loves you already. Just as you are.

2. Nothing you wear, say, or do makes you a deserving victim of racism, sexism, rape, or oppression. Nothing. Don’t judge victims of these crimes. Rather, be their voice when you can, and call those in power to task. If your sisters and brothers are in struggle, so are you. Period. Read Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Angela Davis, Paolo Friere, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, Cornel West, Marcus Garvey, . Take in what you are told, but ask questions. Read books. Ones with actual PAPER pages. Google does not equal an informed citizen.

Yep, that ends my list of certainties. Everything else, I’m winging it, kid. It’s a little known secret: MOMS DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. We lead with fear and love. I’ve been scared you’d fall, scared your fever wouldn’t break, scared your Dad would hurt you, scared you’d forget to look before you crossed the street, scared you’d take the wrong bus. There’s literally no end to it. However, the only real fear I have with you is that you’ll let fear lead you. Let it rip, little mama. Anxiety and worry have robbed our people of far too many opportunities. “What if’s” always become “I wish I had’s,” and you deserve better than that. So speak your mind, own your journey, and please don’t forget about your mother when I’m on a fixed income and need you to drive me to the store. I’d also like my liquor cabinet stocked, courtesy of you and BevMo.

I love you madly, and grow every day from knowing you.



Go Betty, It’s Your Birthday!

I looked up to find that this time last year I had just launched Brown Betty. I’ve managed to sustain this for over a year. This is no small feat considering the only thing I’ve managed to keep alive that long is my children and my pug. As I reflect on this first anniversary, I am humbled by the support and encouragement from my peeps, male and female, young and seasoned, who have not only inspired my posts, but supported my process, shared my work, and got in my ass when I fell off.
I am blessed to know you, and so grateful to watch you in this world. I want to share my favorite posts from this year. I picked these greatest hits based on how quickly I teared up reading them. While it’s not a scientific method, it’s definitely a valid measure of movement; in my soul and spirit.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

1. The Launch My very first post. After much deliberation and trepidation, I published this first post while on a work trip in DC. It felt good as a new form of release. I didn’t care if anybody read it. I cared that I followed through on something without knowing where it would lead. It was the first faith I had placed in myself since I did the dead man’s drop off the monkey bars in elementary school.

2. We Wear the Mask As a member of any oppressed group, you master the art of code switching. You learn the art of navigation and the importance of intuition. It’s how we outlive time; how we thrive despite obstacle. We are the love child of God and resilience. This post reminds me of the endless pursuit of survival, and the costs of this struggle.

3. How Deep is Our Love The scars of oppression are real. And unfortunately, new wounds are made every day. Self-love evades us as a people, and this post reminds me of my personal responsibility in celebrating self.

4. Art In Our Own Image
I’m still thirsty for real and dignified images of the black female form. I want our beauty honored without ulterior motives. Period.

5. Love Overboard Ah, the bittersweet reminder that parenting is spirit stirring, thankless buzzkill. Trusting your gut and leading with love will never steer you wrong. Traditions be damned.

As I embark on my round 2, I anticipate love, nausea, travel, hang nails, tears, mind blowing sex, finally finding a green leather hobo to compliment my wardrobe…you know a usual year in the life of a single mom.

I thank you for continuing to love on me. Your comments, shout outs, and virtual fist bumps make Betty’s heart skip a beat. Never leave, hear?