Stand free 

Stand free they say from their Ivory Tower. 

Speak louder, 

but not too loud. 

We will tell you what volume is acceptable. 

Do you speak Mexican? 

Your skirt is so short, you must want some attention? 

Words spoken from a plantation mansion, 

still echo in the current White House it seems. 

Ignorance and privilege wrapped in a navy blue business suit. 

Knowing what is best for people who are different from their bland white bread. 

And yet never tasting the flavors of chipotle, 

saffron 

and cumin. 

Just salt and pepper please, 

but really, 

just salt. 

Why are you raising your voice? 

Does my intelligence upset you? 

Will you educate, placate, dominate and subjucate until I’m too weary to stand? 

No. 

You won’t. 

Why? 

Because I am a woman, 

a mother, 

an ally 

and a friend. 

While you are golfing, I am reading. 

While your wine chills, we are organizing. 

While you are playing the stock market, 

we are  lifting up difference – 

because it is beautiful. 

So, no thank you for your patriarchal oppression, 

your judgement and your hate. 

Your cages no longer apply to me, 

because I am a woman. 

A loud, 

educated, 

cooking with all of the spices, 

mama, 

and I am standing free. 

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Being OK with Where You Are

20141213-110627.jpg Anyone who has ever been alive for awhile knows that life as ups and downs. One could say it’s a roller coaster but that seems a little dramatic or cliche. But there is some truth to the exhilarating yet nauseating ride, with beautiful vistas.

I have been thinking recently about we deal with our natural and yet uncomfortable feelings that go with life.

For a long time I thought I was doing something wrong if I was unhappy. I thought happiness was what we are supposed to experience here on this blue and green ball floating through space, all the time. I sought happiness for a long time, because THEN I will know I was doing it right. As I have been growing and meditating over the last few years on life and love and growth and happiness, I have realized differently.

I don’t mean to bust your bubble, but I don’t think we ever get to a place where we are happy all the time. I know, it’s a big downer. Or maybe not.

You see, all of the striving for happiness means that we are not really as present in the daily moments of our lives as we could be. If we have an overall malaise, and assumption that when we have a perfect relationship, body or job, then we will be complete, we are missing the boat. We are missing the moments that make up a life. A joyful life.

I’m a single mom. That means I have all kinds of non-glamourous duties like figuring out what to do when the power goes out, how to transport all three kids to activities that start at the same time, and searching for coins in the middle of the night because the tooth fairy is late.
More than once I have cried into the toilet I’m plunging after a 12 day at work.

It’s hard and beautiful at the same time.

I’m the one that tucks them in and kisses their sweet foreheads, I fix things with band aids, a hammer and superglue. I clap loudly at performances and sporting events. This is the real stuff that makes up life. A joyful life.

I’m mostly over the “I shouldn’t have to do this by myself – woe is me” narrative… unless I’m plunging the toilet. Mostly I just feel incredibly grateful to be gifted with these three children to care for with more love than I thought I had the capacity to experience. They have changed my life.

So am I OK where I am? I am. Is my life easy or happy all the time, nope. But that’s ok. Because this is the good stuff, the stuff that makes up a life, a real life, a joyful life.

May you truly see and appreciate the love and happiness you have in your life. Today, and all of the days going forward.

What you’re looking for you aren’t going to find on Facebook

IMG_0597.JPG Because of my community work, I seem to know a lot of people and run into acquaintances at the grocery store all of the time.

Social media seems like the “go to” way to connect with each other in an increasingly busy society. But sometimes it just feels soulless to me. I “like” a lot of positive sites so that my news feed is filled mostly with inspiration. I am able to stay connected with friends all over the world, but I don’t really because there are just too many people.

I like the photos of my friend’s kids and then when we run into each other, we say you look great on Facebook, hug and move on to our next activity. It’s funny how being surrounded by people can actually be lonely and how social media can shortcut true, connective relationships. I want to know how my friends REALLY are, not just the edited version for Facebook.

I’ve hosted gatherings at my house, helped create Mother Daughter groups, started conversations about community matters over bowls of soup and yet they all seem to fizzle. People’s lives are so busy and there are so many people, events, school activities that the social fabric I am trying to weave doesn’t seem to stay together.

Does it really have to be that way? Are we all really ok with this socially connected but ultimately disconnected way of being? The anthropologist in me wants to study how life, connection and communities have changed over the last 20 years. A lot of people used to go to church but these days, a lot of “spiritual but not religious” folks would rather not be involved in organized religion.

Maybe the social media phenomena isn’t the issue. It’s that we are trying to find connection and meaning in something that is ultimately not for that purpose. Maybe we have to meaning make in our lives and not post it on Facebook because then we would be authentically in that experience instead of making sure we look cute in our selfie.

I watched this great video (on Facebook) the other night and it was very thought provoking. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/11/if-youre-feeling-lonely-youre-not-alone-powerful-video-on-you-social-media/

So my suggestion is that we learn to appreciate the benefits of social media and then get off of it often and create the connection and meaning you we looking for in our lives with real 3-D with actual people. Sustained connections with people we love are what really weaves the tapestry of connectedness. Happy weaving!

Questions from the parking lot

This evening, I have been observing the people around me. Usually, I’m too busy on the way to here or there.

Tonight, as I sat eating my tofu noodle soup, a group of people dressed in goth talked about computer games, tattoos and joked rudely with each other.

A crying child in her carseat, her prescription on top of the car as mom tried to give her medicine and console her.

A yelling woman came out of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting yelling “call the police, I don’t care!”

Somedays there is so much struggle in the world it makes me want to run and hide under the covers.

I wonder how social workers, nurses and counselors release what they have seen during the day and come home with kind smiles for their families.

I see why monks meditate, why adults drink, and kids play video games to escape the realities of their days.

I pop a dark chocolate in my mouth and read the message in the wrapper, searching for the answers to my questions.

Why is there struggle in the world?

Why are some people born into wealth and luxury and others walk miles in the rain lugging bags of groceries from the discount store?

Why do some people find a love that lasts a lifetime and others grow older searching for love?

Are all of our paths pre-determined based on astrology and destiny or is it all happenstance?

A man lights a cigarette before he gets his baby girl out of the car.

I overhear a woman telling her friend about bi-polar syndrome.

The rain starts, and people drive off to their next destination. I wonder if they are asking questions about life like this too?

As for me, I will go grocery shopping and then home. And tonight I will hug my kids just a little bit tighter.

Observations on a rainy day

I took a minute today, just to observe. My anthropological brain noticing patterns and traditions. I sip my soy vanilla steamer, on a gray and drizzly day, and just notice.

Mini pink umbrella held tightly in a little girl’s hand.

Fashionable mom and teenager, twins.

Flannel clad evergreen student, carrying purchases in a box, not plastic bags.

Older woman listening to a favorite oldie on the radio before braving the rain.

Middle-aged couple rushing to the next activity.

Clickity, clack – heels of a mom picking up groceries for dinner.

Toddler telling his mom an exciting idea.

Raincoats, sweatshirts, t-shirts.

The speed of the shoppers.

The challenge and length of time it takes for a elderly woman to put groceries in the car,
juxtaposed with the multitasking cell phone walk-and-talker,
texting with one hand, a large new pillow in the other, walking.

Some embrace the rain with laughter, others scrunch up their faces as if in pain.

Isn’t that how it is in life?

Will you rush through it, or smile knowingly?

Observing the passersby today, I’m reminded life is a gift.

I’m opening it up, savoring it and smiling at the rain, as if it is a long lost friend.

How will you choose to embrace this day?

Where do I go from here?

move onI traveled a lot in my younger days. Flying across the United States to do a three week road trip by myself, backpacking Costa Rica with a friend. Looking back it looks blissful. No fear or worries. Innocence, as they say, was bliss.

Now days? I do things a lot more cautiously it seems. I open cans carefully, I check the labels on food, I have my kids wash their hands after school. I worry when my blood sugar is too low. I worry about the Megaearthquake I just read about or the Connecticut school disaster. I worry that I need more space, I worry that I don’t play enough with my kids and their childhood is passing by. I worry that I will never have time to do things that I *really* want to do. And on and on and on… It’s exhausting.

Perhaps it’s because the world has gotten more complicated than my pre-kid traveling days. But mostly I think it’s because I feel responsible. If I mess up, someone could get hurt, or feel bad, or I could get hurt and then what? I am all they have. It is scarier than I ever thought to be a solo parent. And while I know I am resilient and this situation has turned me into someone I am proud to be, it can also feel worrisome and lonesome. When I was married or before kids, I felt like someone had my back or at least I was only responsible for my own mess ups. Single parents talk about how challenging it can be but no one ever talks about how vulnerable you can feel.

I have heard suggestions over the past few years like, “Find a nice guy and get married” or “Don’t worry so much, it’s all going to be ok.’ Well you know what, I hear that and thanks…but it wasn’t ok. It wasn’t ok at all and I don’t ever want to go through something like that again, ever. I nursed my newborn baby in front of the Family Law Judge, while getting divorced. I watched my valedictorian ex-husband’s car get repossessed because he got fired and won’t be paying child support. I saw the look on the cashier’s face when I pulled out my food stamps to pay. I have dried the tears of my kids countless times when they want to know where their daddy is. Life is not fair. And that’s just my story, which is pretty tame but comparison to a lot of others.

I notice that some people go through life’s challenges and end up retreating and feeling scared. While others report a new zest for life and want to live each moment to the fullest. Why is that? What’s the difference? I don’t know exactly but I think a lot of it has to do with how you look at it and what messages you say to yourself. (I don’t think my messages are always so helpful.) So even though my heart aches for the life I “planned” on leading and it aches for my kids…they are so beautiful. And even though it’s hard or challenging, we all deserve a life that is rich with love, energy, joy and magic. And it’s our job to make it happen. And to remind ourselves that we can.

So, here I am. Where do I go from here? For starters, I say goodbye to the old dream. And then. I create a new one. Sounds easy, but there is practice that will go along with it. Meaning, we can focus on what did/didn’t happen and how much it sucked for yeeeeeears. And some people get stuck in that, unfortunately. Or, we can focus on what we want today, next week, next year. We can move TOWARD the life we want instead of away from the stuff we don’t. So, starting with the basics, I want scrambled eggs for lunch and then a walk in the sunshine. I want to do “art night” for the third time this week with my kids. I want to travel somewhere new this year. And moment by moment, when the habit of worrying or reviewing the past wants to creep in, I breathe and remember that all is good in this moment, and I not only am I moving towards I life that I love every day, I am living a life I love in this moment, right now.

How are you creating a life you love? Happy travels in your journeys.

Vision, remembered

248893_551366214880118_394759242_nA long time ago, in a far away place, there lived a soul similar to mine. I say similar because I feel her essence in moments of my days.

She studied the basics of reading and arithmetic, but anytime she could, she moved towards philosophy, art, geography and maps of any kind. She studied Buddha with her morning tea, the traditions of South Africa under the Willow tree and daydreamed of far off places and love.

She dreamt in hues of turquoise and magenta, she smelled of fresh jasmine and she breathed poetry to life.

Her essence flows through those moments to this one.

Today, she holds a paintbrush with me, adds love and spice to a colorful meal, and holds the vision of far off places and love.

I forgot her for quite awhile and now, 

I remember.

Vision, remembered

248893_551366214880118_394759242_nA long time ago, in a far away place, there lived a soul similar to mine. I say similar because I feel her essence in moments of my days.

She studied the basics of reading and arithmetic, but anytime she could, she moved towards philosophy, art, geography and maps of any kind. She studied Buddha with her morning tea, the traditions of South Africa under the Willow tree and daydreamed of far off places and love.

She dreamt in hues of turquoise and magenta, she smelled of fresh jasmine and she breathed poetry to life.

Her essence flows through those moments to this one.

Today she holds a paintbrush with me, adds love and spice to a colorful meal, and holds the vision of far off places and love.

I forgot her for quite awhile and now, I remember.

Travelers wisdom

I heard a story once of a group of American travelers on an African Safari adventure. The Americans connected with a group of Native people who guided them, provided food and carried their gear. They woke up each morning, ate breakfast, broke camp and began their walk for that day. One day, the Americans woke up and everything was quiet. No breakfast, the tents were still all standing. Confused, the Americans asked, “What is going on?!”, a member of the group said,”We have been traveling for many days, this is the day we rest and allow our souls to catch up with us.” And so it was, all of the travelers passed the day quietly as their souls came to catch up with them. Wise.

The New Normal or Not – It’s your choice.

Among other things, I am a Cultural Anthropologist. I chose to study Anthropology at the University of Washington because the rhythms, rituals and perceptions of people and cultures fascinate me. I focused on religions, native cultures, nonprofits, low income families and more recently American single parents. As I have personal experience as a single parent, I have taken more of a coaching approach to my work lately.

Our American society is fascinatingly beautiful in many ways. And fascinatingly out of whack in others, if you ask me. For example, we have brilliance in music, art, dance…we have a network of nonprofit organizations helping those in need and empowering people/animals/the earth towards their greatest goodness.

On the flip side, we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Born perhaps out of the industrial revolution, we are constantly doing more, achieving the next great invention/internet craze. While achievement and progress is good and commendable, growth without balance is unsustainable. And so we find ourselves in 2012, with a 40 (or more) work week, 2 weeks of vacation a year, more children being born to single mothers than ever before, and our country is obese.

It is only common sense to me that if we are running at high velocity, and add new challenging factors, we short circuit. Perhaps that explains the rise in Postpartum depression in new mothers or PTSD within the military, I don’t know.

So what are people doing to deal with the out of balance work/life expectations we have? I watch people I care about handle it in different ways. Some run marathons, others overeat, some people talk with therapists, some dance, others take antidepressants, some unplug, others move to smaller towns, some choose religion, some choose mindfulness.

We all cope in different ways but to me the question is not how to cope, but why cope with something that I don’t think right? It’s too much America!

In the Little House on the Prairie days, people got up, fed animals, fed themselves, worked on their property to provide food, cooked, maybe sang and read and called it a day when it got dark. Now? Get up, shower, meditate, make caffeinated substance, cook, drive kids to school, go to work, sit in front of a computer, microwave your $10 lunch, drive home, stop at the grocery store to buy something in packaging, pick up kids, do homework and cook, eat, get ready for bed, don’t forget to floss, do laundry, pack lunches, pay bills, surf the web, drink bedtime tea, sleep and repeat. Oh and feel guilty for not parent helping enough, calling your friends, exercising, blah, blah, blah…

When are we going to stop? If this is a rat race… #1 I am not a rat. #2 Neither are you. Let’s choose differently. I hear people talking about the “American Dream” in new ways. The Center for New America has some thoughtful ideas.

I see a lot of people in our society moving towards a more wholistic lifestyle. Here are a couple of things I am choosing to make our lives more enjoyable:

Choosing local and organic foods. Try out a CSA (community supported agriculture).

Make sure to have time with friends. Laughter is essential.

Rethinking what I love and spending more time doing it. Art, cooking, playing on the floor with my children.

Talk about it. I enjoy talking with people about their perceptions of this life we lead and sharing ideas and resources.

Slow down. Easier said than done but you owe it to yourself. Take a walk at lunch, get up 10 minutes early and ask yourself, “What do I want in this day?”

I believe that inside all of us we have an intrinsic knowing. We are born with it and it develops with us over time. That is, if we continue to carve out the space to get to know it. As children, we naturally do this through play, especially in the natural world. As adults, with so much to do/achieve we can loose track of our own knowing just by keeping ourselves too busy/distracted as we attempt to function at the pace of today’s world. We find ourselves lost and turn to our favorite distraction to numb our discomfort at being separate from our knowing.

A favorite quote of mine from a good friend is, “Whatever the situation, our choice is our reaction to it.” So I can continue to plug along at the velocity that this society deems appropriate, or I can choose my own pace.

I choose a my own pace. Here is a little secret… Our knowing, our intrinsic right action and visions are within us all of them time. To access this space, is easier than you can imagine… just breathe. And repeat. And carve out a little time to get know what you already know.

If we all did that, they world would become an even more beautiful place.