that dirty f-word

Dave & I joke that my sailor-mouth (with its infinity for the four-letter f-word that rhymes with fuck) (see what I did there) was birthed on the way up my first 14er in Colorado. In fact, it propelled me.

But today, I want to talk about another dirty f-word.

Feminist.

I am petrified of that word.

I really didn’t know that until recently.

But it’s true.

You see, all my life, I have not only accepted the patriarchy… I have operated my life, gladly, on its axis.

But recently my therapist–with her damned & damning questions–asked me:

What does it mean for you to be a woman?

[insert mind blown emoji her]

Um…

I think about my 3rd grade report card when my teacher gave me glowing remarks punctuated with a slap: “She is bossy.” Would she have said that about a boy?

I think about how even as a teenager, I came to the conclusion that my innate capacity to influence & guide & speak & inspire was mismatched to my gender & so… I gave it up. I gave up on what I could never achieve because I was only meant to bloodily birth the world, not to boldly lead it.

I think about how I was molded into & corrected into & discipled into the form of a submissive & demure & skinny sidekick for my first boyfriend. But it didn’t fit. And then I was rejected. Which in my math-word-problem-world meant that who I was as a woman was rejected.

I think about how after that I read Fascinating Womanhood & studied Proverbs 31 & convinced myself that yes, I could do this, I could be less to be more. This was, after all, what He proclaimed; it was His way.

Even my god was male.

How does that happen? How do we reduce the Thing that is Everything to only half? How do we stuff into a labeled box the Cardboard that the Box is literally made of?

Speaking of boxes: GOD DOESN’T HAVE A PENIS PEOPLE.

I sound like an angry feminist, don’t I?

Ugh.

I have spent my life in resistance to the racist & classist systems of oppression that keep students down, all the while ignoring the system that is holding ME–a woman–down.

And as I turn inward, as I simultaneously devour & regurgitate The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, I realize that I have lived my entire life wishing I was a man.

Because…what does it mean to be a woman?

Wrong. Less. Worse.

I was in an institution created by men and for men. (Sue Monk Kidd)

I don’t even know where to go. I don’t even know what questions to ask.

I don’t even know if I’m ready.

But on this International Women’s Day, it just felt right to reflect, to confess, to publicly wave a white flag.

To tell the truth about my life.

joy: a poem

I went to the spa today.

And as I was relaxing in the steamy swirling bath, the b.u.b.b.l.e.s.,
like glaciers, parted and gathered in the corners of the tub, building their glittery molecule caverns.

I reached out. I played with them & watched their opal shades shift in the filtered sun. Iridescent bubbles in the palm of heart.

Is this joy?

What when the bubbles dissipate?

To answer this question, I looked above.

To ask this question, I looked above.

And there, creeping across the dirty skylight, dancing between the binaries of tree branch shadow and sun kissed light, was the inchworm.
He bent. Then stretched. And true to his legacy, inched forward.

Contraction. Expansion.

Inhale. Exhale.

Moving forward one cramp at a time. Progress via minuscule pinches.
Is only that one moment of infinite freedom joy? When the body is elongated & fulfilled? When the stretched soul sings like strings of a cello?

Then what of the other half of his life?

No.

No.

The moment of joy is the bend, the ache and breath and reach and bridge between, the ascending arch towards the heavens.

When he is neither here nor there. When he is both here and there.

That is joy.

The and.

If you really knew me…

In some ways, the 2020 quarantine has been way too easy for me.

Dave & I, just living that home life: games, day drinking, comfy pjs, throwing money at our lemon-puppy Maya, porch conversations & Netflix marathons.

Naturally, it has also been a time of reflection.

And all this alone time in my head got me thinking about friendships & my relationship to friendship.

My therapist told me this week that the reason I might have such a hard time connecting with people is because what I project is not what I really am.

Well, f*** you very much.

But…

she’s right.

Damn it.

& ouch.

Ever since then I’ve been thinking about the profoundly powerful practice from Challenge Day: if you really knew me.

If you know me, you might think that I am the life the of the party. But if you really knew me, you would know I am one of the most socially awkward people I know.

If you know me, you might think that I am brave & confident. But if you really knew me, you would know I am plagued by insecurity.

If you know me, you might think I am good with my words. But if you really knew me, you would know I hide behind them.

If you know me, you might think I am a good listener. But if you really knew me, you would know I am deeply desperate to be listened to.

If you know me, you might think I ask great questions. But if you really knew me, you would know I use them to redirect from my own vulnerability.

If you know me, you might think I am full of compassion & love. But if you really knew me, you would know how suffocating my judgmental nature is.

If you know me, you might think I am funny. But if you really knew me, you would know I use humor as a control mechanism.

If you know me, you might think my voice is fierce. But if you really knew me, you would know how petrified I am of conflict & confrontation.

I process these tensions with equanimity. I hold both the light and the shadow.

I do not know where I lost myself, or if I ever had myself, or if this is myself.

And that is ok.

All I know is, right here, right now, this is my full truth.

be (not) still, my bleeding heart

What’s wrong with a bleeding heart? I am trying my hardest to understand why that has negative connotations.

I am trying my hardest to understand what Republicans are voting for, why they are keeping a man like Trump in office.

I saw this on a friend’s post on Facebook recently:

I hear you.

You want rights. Rights to guns, rights for unborn babies, rights to profit, rights to patriotism, rights to justice, rights to speak and act, rights without limit. You are important. You matter. You are powerful. You have the fucking right to protect your motherfucking land, damnit!

And I guess therein lies why my heart bleeds.

NOT for me, but for others.

My heart’s blood runs for the brown women housed in concentration-camp-like detention centers where their bodies are invaded. Yes, yes, I have the right to my body (somewhat), but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the black men who are called thugs because the system has been designed to do just that: thuggize them. Their history has told them they are not human, and their (very) white house criminalizes them. Yes, yes, I have the right to law and order, but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the babies who are forced into a world that cares only about them in the womb. But once they’re out, where is the attention and protection “commanded by God” then? Where are the wraparound services? Yes, yes, I have the right to protect the unborn, but who protects the born?

My heart’s blood runs for those living in poverty. Brown. Black. White. They are poor. They are the least. They are the ones making money for the big guys. Yes, yes, I have the right to profit as much as I possibly can, but even if it comes at their sacrifice?

My heart’s blood runs for those born into the wrong gender, or those who are called to love the same gender. Yes, yes, I have the right to live and act as I please, but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the streams, the trees, the air we breath. Yes, yes, I have the right to use nature as a utility for me, but what of downstream? What of tomorrow?

So, what am I voting for?

I guess the answer that I can be most proud of is… others.

I do not vote for the individual, but the community. I do not vote for the greatest, but the least. I do not vote for me, but for them. I do not vote for my voice, but for those who are silenced.

Yes, yes, even if that means I lose some “rights.”

I guess I vote for selflessness.

Even knowing the donkey is just as corrupt as the elephant. And they both are. Let’s face it…it’s an all-around shit-show-circus.

But I would rather vote for corruption that protects the other over corruption that protects the self.

So yes, do I have a bleeding heart? Without fail.

Run blood river, run.

41 blessings

This past week I turned 41. I never thought I would be the person who worries about my age, but alas, it turns out, I am. All kinds of questions loom about the life I’ve lived: is it good enough? am I a good friend? do I make a difference? blah, blah.

At the same time, on the other hand, in that paradoxical way life breaths, I am counting so. many. blessings. I have lived a life of adventure with countless memories for which I am so grateful. So, to mark my birthday in this shitshow known as 2020, I thought I’d celebrate those.

  1. My legs have carried me 13.1 miles, through a russet ribbon canyon.
  2. Through years and transformations, I have given myself, my husband and God the space to be known anew.
  3. I have been mesmerized by the dance of aspen leaves in the shifting sunlight.
  4. Friends old and new gathered to party with me in Nashville, Tennessee for my 40th birthday.
  5. Dave and I left everything familiar and moved to a foreign land.
  6. I have had to scramble to hide my bible in a forbidden Christian meeting in China.
  7. I acted as a witch on the Globe stage and stood humbled in the shadows of Stonehenge.
  8. I am a paid and published writer, contributing at Edutopia.
  9. Students past and present call me their “Mom.”
  10. I lost both my pets and both my parents in a handful of years, but, still, I live free from bitterness, with a grateful heart.
  11. I have chased and caught a ski-pass-thief through Telluride, Colorado ski lines and shops.
  12. I have seen a black bear climb a tree in my backyard and grizzly cubs cross a stream in the wild.
  13. I am known for being a great hugger.
  14. I have witnessed glaciers pop like Rice Krispies and then calve in an Argentinian lake–the same lake we kayaked.
  15. I have ascended a 14,000 foot peak.
  16. I have disappeared into the alien-worlds of tide pools on the Oregon coast.
  17. I helped my husband and my godson save an old man from drowning in a glacier lake in Montana.
  18. I have sat in the sound of silence and the sheer terror of my head for five nights and six days.
  19. I am a certified yoga instructor.
  20. I met a red-headed angel.
  21. I have sampled over 1700 unique beers since I started tracking them.
  22. I have been in 3 earthquakes, always when traveling for work.
  23. I have swam the waters where the Amazon meets the Atlantic.
  24. I have loved the intimacy of the Badlands over the vastness of the Grand Canyon.
  25. We have sunned and funned in Cancun with our best friends.
  26. I have harmonized under a night sky to an audience of flickering fireflies.
  27. I have spotted a wolf in Montana and a puma in Chile.
  28. I am a Grauntie.
  29. I have built a cairn in an Arizona canyon.
  30. I have traversed Patagonia on the back of a horse.
  31. I have been given the honor of speaking at graduation.
  32. I survived a sprint triathalon.
  33. I have road tripped highway 1.
  34. I have eaten dinner at 10pm in Buenos Aires.
  35. I have howled in the middle of a pack of wolves, and then stood still in wonder as they took over.
  36. I have had to carry my dog up and down a rustic ladder on a hike in Utah.
  37. I married into a family that is more than just “in-laws.”
  38. I have have felt minuscule in the Redwoods.
  39. I have been carried on my sister’s hip like I was her own.
  40. I am a licensed cosmetologist.
  41. I have watched a whale swim off the coast of Ipanema Beach in Rio against the backdrop of the most glorious sunset.

A list like this humbles me.

I. am. grateful.

I. am. blessed.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures from Psalm 16:

Yes, yes I do.

remembering for him: a tribute to my Daddy

I lost my Dad almost a decade ago.

But really I lost him long before that… to that terrible thief Alzheimer’s.

And so today, on Father’s Day, I want to take some time and do the thing that he was robbed of: remembering.

My Daddy loved the water. Every time we visited West Virginia, he made sure to take me canoeing at Babcock State Park. In all our family travels, there wasn’t a hotel pool that we didn’t enjoy together. I remember in the beginning stages of his sickness when he confided in me: “I feel something special when I’m moving through water; I can’t explain it.” He was shy to say it, thinking it was one more confusing curse of his disease. But I got it. I get it. I share this with him always.

My Daddy loved being outside. He climbed rocks and played with abandon. He always pointed weeping willows out to me. He toyed with snakes while my Mom screamed in the background. I remember taking walks with him around our neighborhood. Every time we were visited by a cardinal, we stopped and he called to it. I still do that.

My Daddy loved music. I remember dancing with him in the living room. We would twirl and then he would shoot me through his legs and rocket me up in the air; it was magical. He had this special whistle melody that he sang wherever he went; to this day I kick myself for not recording it. During the holiday seasons, we would play Christmas tunes in the car and we would sing and whistle along. He loved Frank Sinatra and Yanni. Even near the end of his decaying mind, he would sit on the couch and put in his CDs and close his eyes and tip his head back and disappear into the sounds; music was one thing he could remember. And now music reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being active. He taught me how to catch, putting in hours with me tossing around baseballs with our tried and true gloves. I remember how much he loved golf, and how much he loved it even more when his family was involved. When I was a child, he would tip a cup over on the shag carpet and we would lie on our bellies and pool-shoot the golf ball into it. Later in life, I’ll never forget that one time I chipped in for a birdie… both of us were surprised and overjoyed. My athleticism reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being adventurous. He loved traveling and road trips. As I look back at pictures, I have so many with him all around the country. I remember a white water rafting trip that bumped him out of the boat into the rapids. I was paranoid but we just got him back in and moved on downstream. Horses were my Mom’s and my thing. But, despite not being interested and slightly afraid, he did it anyways on one of our yearly trips to Kentucky. I’ll never forget when his horse neared home and took off and galloped down the hill and my Dad was sprawled-eagle with arms and legs flailing in the wind and reins everywhere but in his hands and then he was on the ground. We laughed at that story for years. I live a life of adventure now, too.

My Daddy was selfless. When I was a teenager, despite him not really supporting my religious fervor, he drove me back and forth from Oak Park several times a week for various meetings. He had this mocking way of saying “Oakkkkkk Parrrrrrk” when I would ask, because it was so common and so ridiculous. But he still did it. He always asked me true questions about how I was doing and what was going on. (I still have regrets for not answering him when I could. Maybe this is why my love language is questions.) He was selfless even in his sickness. I was so scared he would be too far gone to walk me down the aisle. But he did it, even though he didn’t fully understand what was happening…and I’m sure he was afraid.

My Daddy LOVED my Mom. When we would fight, all he ever said was: “don’t talk to your Mother like that.” It was never about him, but about her. When they weren’t doing well, he would talk to me about it and what was wrong and how it could change and why was it like that; he was petrified of losing her. In his sickness, the conversations revolved around us taking care of her when he was gone. This shaped my pursuit of a husband, and I am blessed to have found someone that evokes this strength of my Dad.

I love you Daddy.

I remember you Daddy.

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what in the hell does “transformation” even mean?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~NASB Romans 12: 2

I have spent most of my life fighting a transformation battle. 

As a preteen, in a Baptist church you could find in any suburban neighborhood, I met my first ultimatum film: choose Jesus or choose hell. A carful of teenagers, after a fatal accident, were being lowered down to the sinner’s inferno on–of all places–a freight elevator encapsulated by steel bars. As they descended, their ghostly faces were obscured by the rails, but not the harrowing screams and leaping flames engulfing them. 

After that, and not surprisingly, most of my youth—my formidable years–was marked by a paralyzing fear of the judgment of God. I had regular dreams of the second coming of Jesus. One recurring dream still sticks with me: I was looking out the window from my teenage bedroom, my hands tilted toward the sky as it churned like a gray, stormy sea and softened into a blurry and muted End. When the full moon dripped blood-red in the sky–for scientific reasons that I now know–I was reduced to a crying puddle of terror. Sometimes, when looking out from my dorm, the clouds hung low and the lights glowed warm and the air grew still, I whimpered into my folded knees. 

All of this despite being a dedicated and disciplined Christian! I was in the right church. I was pure in my romantic relationship. I was a reputable leader in the youth group. I was an active recruiter of non-believers. I did not party. I did not cheat. I did not lie. I confessed my wrongdoings and expressed my gratitude. I sought counsel and always followed the advice of my leaders. I rebuked the sin in others. I withheld my voice and strength so as not to overshadow men. I worked hard to be good, damnit.

I knew the will of God, in all its good and acceptable perfection, but what hovered in mind was this nagging question: how come I wasn’t transformed?

Eventually what I used to label as the absence of the fruits of the Spirit, like peace, joy and faithfulness, the doctors diagnosed as anxiety. One winter, while living in a ski town, we were the first responders on a flipped car. A few weeks later, we drove by a car that had slid upside down into the icy river. These scenes–much like the ultimatum movie–became a part of both my narrative and my anatomy: I was near crippled with the inability to be out on winter roads. 

Not so long after this, I raced to my dying father’s bedside; Alzheimer’s would finally cease to exist in his body as his memories had years before. As time behaves, this blurs together with receiving the call that my Mom had breast cancer. And then lung cancer. And then fatal cancer. And then I was holding her still hands, wet with my tears, in a hospital bed. Now, the winter roads that had paralyzed me became the blood coursing through my veins: cancer was inevitable; death was mine to have at any moment. At every moment.

Despite my best spiritual, therapeutic, and pharmaceutical strivings, I could not escape these weights. I could not transform. Like one of those cunning and scratchy finger traps, in my chasing of it, transformation eluded me. It was exhausting. It was depressing. 

But, unbeknownst to me, something within me was sprouting.

I found myself equally repelled by and drawn to being alone with my soul. I would spend weekends at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in the beige foothills of Colorado, my first experience with Noble Silence. There I channelled the vacillating and extreme emotions of David the Psalmist. There I grieved the death of my parents. There I bathed in nature. Back home in my day to day life, I found peace in yoga: the communal breathing introduced me to presence. Yoga for me was also an introduction to meditation.

But, when I arrived at a 5 night silent meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center in New Mexico, I had no idea what I was getting into. 

As any similar retreat goes, we spent the entire day meditating: sitting uncomfortably on cushions, walking like Zombies in a field, chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and bringing fork to mouth during meals. Everything was slow. Everything was silent. Everything was smudged. The first few days, I was going absolutely crazy. I could not, for the life of me, get my mind to stop wandering. And then I would berate myself for not doing it right. And then I would be so discouraged at how unkind I was to myself. And then I would seek escape. 

But, alas, there was nowhere to go. Session in and session out, I met my mind on yet another battlefield of transformation. 

I began to see how this harsh treatment of myself paralleled the patterns of my life. In an effort to be better, or holy, or peaceful, I beat myself into submission. 

But just like with fear, with hypochondria…it did not work. 

My unremitting striving became my very own hell.

And so, slowly and tentatively, days three and four and five brought with them a new kind of mantra: You, too, are welcome here. Instead of condemning myself for failure, I welcomed failure. You, too, are welcome here. Instead of berating myself for distraction, I welcomed distraction. You, too, are welcome here. Instead of fearing fear, I welcomed fear. You, too, are welcome here. Like Rumi’s “The Guest House,” I began to open the door for my visitors–all of them.

Since then, I have pursued a deeper commitment to meditation. More retreats. Daily practice. Professional development so I can also lead mindfulness in my school. 

And, without even seeing it, and most definitely without even trying to make it happen, I changed from the inside out. Winter roads and scary diagnosis do not derail me anymore. I have moved overseas to Brazil, where I do not speak the language and everything is new–a feat I would never have dreamed of in my old state.

I still am anxious. 

But I also am peaceful. And I am brave. And I gracious with myself. And I now see how I misread Romans 12:2. First comes the renewing of the mind, THEN comes the transformation. 

I am grateful to God that my mind has been renewed. I have been transformed. 

on yoga: failing and succeeding

I failed at yoga today.

It all started with an invitation to play with inversions. The posture cued was side crow, which even at my peak was never accessible.

But I did have a hankering for flying squirrel, or flying pigeon, or if you’re speaking Sanskrit these days: Eka Pada Galavasana.

I braced my hands on the sweaty mat. I squatted into figure four. And, whelp, that’s as far as I got because my legs were screaming TIGHT at me and this weird-ouch-in-my-arm-that’s-been-lingering-but-I-don’t-know-from-what yelled REMEMBER ME.

And immediately I felt that disappointment creeping in. You know the one. “Missing my glory days.” “Back in the day.” “I’m getting old and fat.” “I’m so out of shape.” “Oh how the mighty have fallen.”

Blah to the blahbabetiblah.

I’ve been feeling it a lot lately. Damn that stupid app Timehop that I loathe to love but love to hate. Just recently, a much slimmer self of mine appeared post-half-marathon race, but here I am today, and I can’t seem to run at all without my forty-year-old feet killing me.

And, so, you can see why I’ve failed at yoga today.

One of my favorite Scriptures that comes to mind on a wallow-day like today is:

Image result for isaiah 43 18-19

I love it so much because it is my tendency (dare I say our tendencies) to dwell on the past, to get stuck in what used to be. But I don’t want to sink into that mudhole anymore.

I want to be here. Now. Present.

And that is why I failed at yoga.

Although, remembering this, coming back to this reflection, is really what it’s all about.

How can I be present, right now? How can I be my healthiest self, right now? How can I be grateful, right now?

That… that is the yoga.

weight and Light

My heart has been heavy recently.

As Timehop likes to remind me, this week’s history carries its own weight. Three years ago: our cat died. Five years ago: we were cleaning out my Mom’s house to put it on the market after she died. Six years ago: one year before she died, she had part of her lung removed to combat cancer. I carry all this with me, in my bones, in my blood, viscerally, almost as if the years are on parallel planes. And…in the future, this week will now carry the weight of a heavy diagnosis for someone I care about.

I carry the weight of my students. Senior year is not easy. Senior year as an IB student is definitely not easy. Senior year suffocating under pressure of your parents’ expectations is heartbreakingly not easy. I stopped curriculum last week to have a circle with my students as a time to process, to cry, to hug, to sit. still. I asked them the question: how is your heart? Oh the weight. My students are grieving the future they do not have access to while simultaneously mourning the impending loss of their childhood home and comfort. All this with deadlines and fatigue and sports and college applications and rising rates of depression and hard looks in the mirror and… the list goes on. Sometimes the most important thing we can do as teachers is to carry some of our students’ baggage.

I carry the weight of my colleagues. Tomorrow, Brazil will probably experience an election similar to the US’s most recent: where the people elect a man who prioritizes national identity and fiscal gain at the cost of the marginalized. I now carry the weight of my students on scholarship. The weight of my homosexual friends. The weight of the “other” who is, in essence, me. And you. And us. I am tempted to be angry, to be bitter–exactly my response after Trump’s election. But then I think about the energy I put into the world

and so I pick up Light and carry its weight.

 

 

 

 

grace: microscopic new beginnings

There is something so dramatic about New Year’s Eve, isn’t there? Even the fireworks declare, “hey, even you can start anew?”

I like those kinds of new beginnings. They are easy. They are believable.

Not so easy when it’s, say, minute 4 of meditation and I’ve been struggling to be present for the last 3. I just want to quit. Escape. I don’t want a minute 5; I need a New Year’s Eve: a dramatic restart, a new year, a grandiose gesture that I can start over.

But I realized on my most recent meditation retreat that it is minute 5–not New Year’s Eve–that truly encapsulates grace.

[bctt tweet=”Grace, at its most glorious, is the tiniest of new beginnings. Imperceptible to others. Almost invisible to even me. But under the microscope of my heart, when I am still enough, and small enough, I can see it. I can be it.” username=”@eternitymod”]

And that’s all that matters.

As I wrote about, I meditated every. damn. day. last year. And I kept it going this year!

Until, July 10th. In a cabin in Breckenridge overlooking the Ten Mile Range, I completely forgot to meditate. I just forgot. I didn’t even realize it until the next day! And oh how my heart broke when I broke my streak of over 550 consecutive days.

But, alas, there was no New Year’s Eve on the horizon.

I had to start over, on a nondescript day in the middle of an ordinaryJuly; I didn’t even get a glass of champagne!

Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.

I’ve learned a lot this summer about myself. About my heart. About how I treat other people. About how I care for my own soul. About how I connect with God. And with another school year beginning, I’m sure I will revert to some of my ugly ways. Probably on a daily basis.

And I will want to wait for a New Year’s Eve to start over. Because it’s so much easier. And more believable.

But.

Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.

 

 

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What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.