Stories of my friends: Sarah

Sarah Kickler Kelber is a typical feminist killjoy. To wit: She has the sign; she’s nice, chatty, smart, charming and funny; she does yoga and she likes reddish-purple (a fact she recently discovered, after wrongly believing teal was her signature color).

When Sarah first started on the design desk at Fun Job, I worried that she would be conservative and dull, given the current employee climate, but then she hung up “FEMINIST KILLJOY ” and I knew everything would be fine.

Since then, I have learned that she likes colorful yoga pants, runs from the Blerch, strives for her feminism to be intersectional, has two sons and is building a photography business.

Although we no longer see each other at work, we share a yoga studio and a book club. And, Sarah was with me for two (2!) transformative events in the last year — the Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay lectures at Willamette.

So, she obviously has good taste in humans. Which means, of course, that she is the perfect photographer for this project. Yes, Sarah is in the process of taking pictures of my friends for their stories, which is the nicest thing ever.

Like Sarah.

Me: Hi, Sarah. I like that you’re taking pictures for me. Why did you want to do that?

Sarah: Hi, Jill. Hmmm, well, some if it might be a little selfish. Taking pictures is one of my favorite and most fulfilling pastimes, and I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I love this idea you have of telling your friends’ stories, and I thought, as a reader, it would be nice to see the faces of the people you’re writing about, that it could add another aspect of personality to these already personality-filled profiles. Then I thought, “Maybe I could take the pictures?” Then I worried that it would seem like I was jumping into your project mid-stream, but I guess the shortest answer of all is that I want to play too.

Me: Good answer. You can totally play, too. Do you miss journalism?

Sarah: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. A million times yes. I’m two years out of the game, and (while I love my job) it’s been a true grieving process, trying to extricate myself from this thing that I love, and to extricate this thing that I love from my identity. But the way the industry is right now, especially in the place where I want to live, I can’t participate in it, doing quality work and staying sane and getting to see my family regularly and paying my bills. I tried, hard. And maybe things will smooth out a little in the future, and I could get back into it. I’m not sure. But for now, I’m a journalism cheerleader and a journalism consumer, and I’m looking to other means to incorporate the things I miss about it into my life. There’s nothing like a newsroom, though. Sigh.

Me: Plus, journalists have street cred unlike, say, people who work for software companies. Sigh. Let’s see… Do you have a favorite author?

Sarah: I’m going to say no. My favorite books are all over the place, not one writer, not one genre, very few common denominators. I feel like if I started listing even a few authors, I’d just keep going and going. I do have a most-read book, though. I have read Richard Russo’s “Straight Man” I don’t even know how many times. Twenty? Forty? It’s like my comfort food. If I feel like reading, but I’m not in the middle of anything, I might grab it and open it in the middle and read a couple of chapters. And the main character — a 50ish professor at a liberal arts school in a failing town in Pennsylvania who had one hit book and a whole lot of nothing since — is not necessarily someone I immediately identify with, but his story is told in such a relatable way that I go back to it again and again. Plus, the dude can craft a sentence.

Me: I am excited about the bell hooks book, by the way. And you’re brave to lead the discussion.

Sarah: Ahhh, me too! I’m excited and scared, but I think it’s really important. I’m so jazzed about the new feminist book club, and we’re working off some really thorough and inclusive lists. But let’s be frank: We’re in Salem, which is not exactly a hotbed of diversity, and despite our best efforts, we could easily slide into looking at feminism from a white women’s lens. When we saw Roxane Gay last year, she mentioned the bell hooks book as a good primer, and it really is. It so gets to the heart at the issues of lack of intersectionality in a lot of feminism and gives so much history that I was just flat-out unaware of. I think we need that context to inform our approach to all the other books, too. I do not feel qualified to lead this particular discussion, but I think the discussion needs to be had, and I am trying to be braver and more proactive in my life, so I raised my hand.

Me: What one or two events/people/whatnot had the greatest impact on your life?

Sarah: Ooh, that’s a tough one. I mean, obviously, my whole family, but if I start naming names, it will take up the whole article. I’ll throw it back to sixth grade English class. My teacher Mrs. Swiantek was one of the first people to make me think I might be good at writing. By seventh grade, that had evolved to dreams of working for a newspaper, which I did until I couldn’t anymore. I had a lot of supportive teachers through the years, but I have this crystal-clear memory of getting feedback on writing assignments in her class that gave me a push in that direction. She saw me as the shy kid searching for a safe way to express myself and helped me, maybe not find that voice, but start the process of realizing that voice existed.

Now I’m totally going to cheat and say as my second answer “Judah and the kids.” Judah and I have been together more than half our lives now, and while we both have a strong sense of self and individual identities, we have basically grown up together, and the impact of that is impossible to quantify. Nobody gets me like he does, and I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say the reverse is true as well. And these kids … I mean, that they exist at all seems like a miracle some days. (Shout out to science! And also biological surprises!) I always wanted to be a mom, though I was in no rush, and when Judah and I first started dating, I could tell by how he interacted with our niece and nephew that he would be a good dad someday. When we started trying to have a baby a decade or so later and were not successful for a while, it was gutting. Now, we have our two boys, under circumstances we couldn’t have imagined when we first got together when we were 18, and they’re just hilarious. And smart. And sweet. And they work each other’s nerves. And ours. We each have a mini-me, looks wise, but these kids are so their own people. I love just being a part of their lives, even when they’re exasperating.

Me: What are your future plans?

Sarah: Right now, I’m just focused on being content, and on just being. There could be a degree of drama going on outside our family unit, of course, but things in our household are good right now, so I’m just trying to roll with it, appreciate it as much as I can, and not worry about if and when the other shoe will drop.

Me: How do you feel about socks?

Sarah: I love the idea of socks. I love cute socks. I love funny socks. I love novelty socks. I own a lot of these socks. I can rarely be found actually wearing socks, which is probably just fundamental laziness. When I’m running out the door with my hands full, I usually go for the slip-on shoes or boots.

Me: I already know the answer to this, but how do you feel about yoga pants and/or leggings?

Sarah: Like I said with socks, I love a good novelty print. Lineagewear hooked me with its green peacock print workout leggings a couple of years ago, and as you know, I have amassed quite a collection since then. Pants that make me happier in general also make me happier when I’m working out, and I will take my motivation anywhere I can get it.

Me: Say something nice about yourself.

Sarah: I asked Isaac, and he said that my hair color is the most wonderful color in the world. I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely true that I’m glad that I’ve gotten braver and developed more nerve as I’ve gotten older, which has not only manifested itself in my hair color.

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