Falling in love with life

Tonight as I tucked the kids in, I fell in love all over again.

It was a long day, full of too much. I came home to a beautiful dinner, sweet kids playing various things, doing homework, being at activities.

My partner and I split the day with a sick kid. He fell asleep in the chair, head tilted to one side, with his computer on his knees. Such a hard working, loving man. My heart swelled with love and gratitude.

As I tucked each of the four kids in, we talked about our gratitudes for the day. One said friends, another said family, one said the rain, and the other said our cat. I love hearing their joys and sorrows of the day. It makes me feel like I am the luckiest person in the world. It witness these moments is pure magic.

As I say my gratitudes tonight, there are too many to list but for starters it’s our little family, my loving mom, working with people who advocate for equity and education, the rain and my partner who lights my days with laughter.

Tonight, I fell in love with my life, all over again.

May love and gratitude fill your days .

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#metoo

metooI was reflecting last night on the #metoo movement. The number of women I know who have experienced sexual violence, unwanted advances, and nonconsensual sex outnumber the women who have not experienced it. That is NOT ok.

How is it that men feel so entitled to a woman’s body without her agreement?

How do I raise my daughter to stand in her power and my boys to never ever pressure someone for sex?

It started in Kindergarten for me I think. A little boy named Bobby flashed me his privates and tried to kiss me. I ran and told the teacher. Bobby got in trouble.

In Elementary school it was boys looking under the table at my legs, or truth or dare kisses that I didn’t want but I had no voice to say it.

I won’t go into all of the details but let’s just say that consent was not something I learned about until later in life.

Let me break it down for anyone who might not know.

No one has a right to a woman’s body. Take your advances, glares, comments, suggestions and desires and knock that shit off. No one wants to feel like an object, a piece of meat that someone else is entitled to devour. We are not your prize, a notch on your bedpost, a number in your little black book.

We are radiant women of God who will be respected, cared for, revered and IF we decide to share our bodies with you, you will treat us with respect, love, and kindness.

Oh, and we can change our mind anytime. It doesn’t matter if you bought dinner, or you are in a relationship, or it’s prom night. It is a consensual agreement. Everytime.

There is so much hurt walking around these days. So many women who have been mistreated. This stops today. It stops by speaking about it out loud, but educating our children, and just saying no to the media’s crazy portrayal of sex.

Love is supposed to be just that – loving, caring, kind, empowering, and supportive,.

I am teaching my kids this kind of love.

Because no young woman every should have to say #metoo again.

 

Celebrating the little things

Today started with a radio interview downtown about the importance of funding education. I walked past beautiful murals in the alleyway, my coffee steaming as I strolled past the European shoe store and the local bakery. The homeless women they call blonde was having a vibrant conversation with the universe, the glass door on the station was smashed and covered with duct tape, “someone got frustrated after leaving the bar Thursday night”, the station manager said.

The interview went well (I think).

Next I headed to the grocery store where I took a little extra time for shopping. A small gift to myself. I treated myself to fresh flowers, a grapefruit, and cilantro. Then picked up an extra bouquet for the family who had my son over for a sleepover last night. It was such a nice experience, like looking through a magazine, it seems luxurious.

I picked up the sweet boy, delivered flowers to a happy friend, visited a delightful cat we are caring for this weekend, and came home with bunches of groceries.

The tall girl roasted chick peas, the little one and I made a basil, tomato, cucumber and the middle one cleaned out the fridge and did the dishes while singing the favorite song of the moment.

Next we went to a birthday party for a 10 year old child. Balloons, piñata, and my new favorite game bananagrams. We immediately went to Target and bought it.

Then off to the last elementary school carnival. With three kids in school, I have been volunteering and driving across town for about 10 years. Cheers to being almost done with that!

A ton of fun was had by all.

On our drive home I asked for a volunteer to help me make dinner. Not surprisingly, no one did, it was like crickets. Post lecture about helping when asked as a sign you love the person, I had a volunteer.

We worked together to make barbecue chicken, salad, and mango sorbet. Light, fresh and colorful, just like summer that is slowly arriving.

It’s moments like this that add up to a beautiful day. Yesterday, I wrote about creating comfort for oneself. Today, was a very good step in the right direction.

Remember to celebrate the little things, it creates joy in the moment and adds up over time to create happiness, we just have to pay attention.

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. 

A Day to Shine, Commencement 2016 

The day approached. Garment bags, unused since last year, unzipped and dusted off.  Regalia placed on the shoulders of the leaders of the institution. Tassels and hoods to honor achievement in academic excellence arrive in a rainbow of colors. We, the teachers and administrators, gathered in our finery to reminisce about a long, yet successful academic year. Bubbles flew skyward, umbrellas shielded us from the liquid sunshine of the moment.   

And then, we saw them approaching. The 1,700 students who will be receiving degrees on this commencement day. The 1,700 reasons we all do this work. Royal blue from head to toe, with honors cords and diversity scarves they walk, a little taller today.  

The bagpipes begin, in two lines we process on the field, find our places to stand on either sides of the aisle, the welcoming group to the class of 2016.  Led by our Dean of Student Engagement, the students walk onto the field to take their rightful place as graduates after many a long journey to this place.    

We are seated as our College President takes the stage. He announced the important people and speakers and then he paused. The week before in Orlando there was a mass shooting of 50 Latinx people at a LGBTQ nightclub. The President, member of that community felt this pain deeply. He read a poem he wrote the night before entitled “Feel our Pulse”. There was not a dry eye among us. As he finished speaking and the Bagpipes began to play Amazing Grace to honor the lives lost in this tragedy, the sun shone through the clouds for the first time. In fact, the clouds started to dissapate, and a rainbow appeared. It did not rain another drop all evening. 

Next, our student speaker was invited to the stage. This remarkable young man started as a running start/high school student in spite of his high school counselor telling him he shouldn’t go to college, the military was the right choice for him. Once at SPSCC, he became a peer mentor to help other students, he started the Black Student Union and coordinated many service projects to help out community. This compassionate young man is going pre-med. He wants to be a doctor for two reasons, 1 to show other African American youth that you can succeed in the medical field. And 2, he has watched his mother struggle with health issues his whole life, and he wants to be the one to cure her incurable disease. He spoke words of strength and wisdom to the crowd, an inspiration to us all and a friend to so many, this young man is our future. 

After his speech, the announcement of degrees started. Dental, business, nursing, humanities, art, welding, automotive, culinary and the list goes on. We are a community college, women carried their babies across the stage, at one point I heard a little girl say, “that’s my Grampa graduating”. We are the goregous rainbow of society and today was a day to see us shine.

As the last student walked across the stage, the class of 2016 was announced. The graduates, families and friends rejoiced. Hugs and bouquets of flowers filled field. As I watched the celebrations, I thought to myself Congratulations class of 2016, this is your day, from this moment you can do anything, spread your wings and FLY

  

The longest day in the world and the wall of love

I had seen this day coming on the calendar but I didn’t realize how full it was going to be.It started with attending a breakfast with 850 people and one former Seahawks player. I saw so many people I know and talked about all kinds of projects I am working on with them. I moved forward a trails project, a scholarship, a microloan fund and all before scrambled eggs, just by being in the same place at the same time with so many community members. photo: my coworker and I with Marcus Truphant

Because I left the house at 6:45am and didn’t sleep well the night before, I drove home and feel asleep for a 30 min powernap, it was genius. I called my mom on my way to the office, she was on her way to Chemotherapy and in good spirits, I told her how much my love surrounded her on this day and everyday. She is a fierce warrior on this journey called cancer, I am amazed by her strength and sense of victory, everyday.

I went to office, talked about scholarships and the amount we spend as an institution on diversity – $84,000 last year and a $30,000 increase from the previous year. Not bad but we have more to do to serve our underserved populations.

For lunch, my coworker and I went to a community partner lunch hosted by one of our local credit unions, they supports many community organizations. We sat with our friends from the YWCA, and GRUB and visited with Community Youth Services, United Way and many others. At lunch, the Executive Director for a local youth empowerment via gardening nonprofit and I drummed up plans for a veterans community garden on our property. This would both support our community by providing fresh food to our local food bank as well as supporting our veterans population in skillbuilding and therapy for PTSD. I can’t wait to see where that project goes!  photo: my coworker and I with credit union partners

The afternoon held meeting with one of my favorite tribal elders to create a project to support STEM learning and Native youth. This was followed by an interview for an open position on my team.

Right before the interview, I got a call from the school principal…. oh dear. It appears my sweet child got into an argument with a friend that turned into a pushing match, which turned into 2 days of suspension. My sweet son is a sensitive little guy, the world sometimes feels big and loud to my introverted dude. Should he push a friend because he was overwhelmed? No way.  I have never seen anything like this from him and it shows that we have some work to do to create new tools for his life toolbox. Needless to say, I was pretty shaken up.

Next we set up for our final Artist and Lecture Series VIP reception with 50 women community leaders. We drank wine, enjoyed North Indian cuisine provided by our culinary department and talked about the future for students and how we can make a strong pathway for their success.

 photo: another coworker and I at the VIP reception

I walked into my house around 8pm, tired and worried about my son. How was I going to talk to him about this, what if I didn’t do it right? I prayed for guidance. I turned the corner in my house and bam!! My friend and her husband had created a wall of love. There in front of my eyes were pictures of the kids and I all over the wall. Baby pictures, adventures, pictures of my mom and dad, it blew me away. I just stood there speechless with tears streaming down my eyes for what seemed like an eternity.Unbelievable.
 photo: the wall of love

As I went to sleep that night, I thanked God for the day and for the kind people that fill my life. Sometimes on days like this, I feel like I just give and give, and I love that don’t get me wrong. But this day, I got the feeling like good things do happen to those who pour their heart into loving the world.

I am so grateful for the longest day ever. The multi-faceted, community filled, overcoming challenges, and wall of love longest day ever. Thank you.

Writing your story 

 Last night I had one of those moments when life wanted to teach me something. 

Our college invited author Jamaica Kincaid to campus as part of this year’s Artist and Lecture series. It had been a long day for me by the time she arrived. I had one kid at home sick, who I was calling every few hours. I went home at noon and made him lunch. The rest of the day included donor and scholarship meetings, microlending and planned giving strategies, fundraiser and board meeting conversations. 

As the evening began, I was the hostess of the pre-lecture reception. I was chatting, handing out books, and making sure the President knew where the microphone was.

I sat down to dinner next to one of our English faculty and a guest I hadn’t met yet. Her nametag literally said “guest”, she attended with her sister. As we chatted, it turned out she was a blogger too. Her blog, Daughter on Duty, is a thoughtful account of the realities of being a caregiver for an aging parent. 

As the evening went on, I sat between my new friend and the English faculty, discussing the power of writing. I learned a number of things…

1. I write because I have to. I have to get that feeling, those words, out of myself and on paper, it’s healing.

2. I write in case it helps someone else. The comments that say. “Thank you, you made my day”, or “your story is an inspiration, I am forwarding this to my daughter who could use some inspiration”. Those comments and the feeling that I might help someone else makes it all worth it.

3. It’s time to be brave. I have heard this from several people recently, so apparently I need to hear it. I’m brave in a number of ways but with sharing my writing, not so much. I know that sounds ridiculous because I have a blog. But, I don’t share this much with people I know. What if they don’t like it? What if they realize I’m a single mom of three kids working everyday on being the best person and mom I can be? Oh here’s the worst, what if they feel sorry for me? I don’t need any of the “poor Tanya, I don’t know how she does it” vibe. I’m making lemonade here, you can all join me, but please don’t tell me it’s sour. I’m filling the lemonade with mama and kid love, which is the sweetest sugar there is. 

So on I go with today, scrambled eggs, headache medicine for a kid, lending a scarf to another kid. On I go to drop kids off at school, lead a nonprofit organization with vision, and embrace this day with bravery, compassion and love. 

Gratitude – Day 18 – Education

  

Today was “Education Day” for the Leadership Thurston County group I am fortunate to be part of. Each month, for a year, we tour different sectors of the community and learn how the operate. 

Now, I work in education so I thought I knew the landscape pretty well, I turns out I learned a ton on education day. 

We started at a college and then boarded a school bus (I haven’t done THAT in awhile) to visit the New Market Skills Center. New Market was amazing. It’s an alternative high school where you can focus getting your diploma and on a the trades such as, culinary, automotive, construction, etc. These students found traditional educational environments challenging or boring and at New Market they are excelling. 

From there we visited the robotics,  aeronautics, orchestra and community schools areas of a local high school. We met with the school’s student leadership, and inspiring group of young people.

Next we came back to our college, enjoyed an incredible lunch provided by our culinary staff/students and toured the campus. We visited out Diverity and Equity Center, Career Services, and Running Start programs, followed by a panel of college presidents who spoke about leadership and the challenges in education today. 

As I listened about the need for access to education for all, low income, underrepresented students, I was reminded why I do this work and why I love it. As a foundation director, I am doing just that, working on increasing access for students. Because truly, education is a bridge to prosperity and doing work what is meaningful, that you love and that pays a living wage. As I walked out after this marathon day, I felt reenergized and grateful to work in education. 

Today I am grateful for education, the doors it opens for everyone, the community of educators from early learning to college level who are passionate and committed to students and supporting them as they thrive. 

Gratitude – Day 16 – Generosity 

Tonight was our annual scholarship reception. 400 guests, 1/2 scholarship recepients, the other 1/2 donors. 

It was a blustery, wet evening in Olympia with weather alerts warning us of flooding and heavy winds. And yet, out came all of these people to celebrate generosity in our community.

As the Executive Director of the Foundation, my role is to welcome everyone, thank our guests, and emcee the evening. The cold I’m packing was an interesting addition, my frog voice and I did okay, thankfully.

We gave out $380,000 in scholarships this year because of the incredible generosity of our donors. Generosity comes in so many ways. It’s the generosity of spirit from the volunteer photographer who stayed late to help us clean up. It’s my children, my mom and my dad who cleared plates and garbage so we could go home. It’s the volunteer who helped put together all of the centerpieces. It’s the little sister who saved the big sister in the story of overcoming abuse we heard tonight. It’s the $15,000 and the $5 given from the heart.

As I was on stage this evening, I took a moment to look out at the crowd, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. 

We all have something to give. Tonight I’m thankful for generosity, and the many ways it brightens our lives.

Gratitude – Day 9 – our Ancestors 

  

Today I had the honor of witnessing a sacred ceremony honoring a partnership built to support students. At our college we host a Native Students Day where 150 native youth come for the day and experience – A day at College. Three of our local tribes have been involved in helping us plan this event from top to bottom. 

Today, we had the honor of being presented with a special blanket and drums from the tribes. These sacred gifts had been blessed by the elders, and handed to us in friendship. As one of the elders said a blessing today, I could feel generations of those who walked before us blessing us as well. 

We hung the blanket in our Student Union Building for everyone to enjoy.

Our President accepted these gifts and then spoke. He spoke about our thankfulness for the land that our college rests on, and how we are careful stewards of this land because it doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the tribe and we are simply borrowing it. He spoke to our partnership and commitment to educating our youth, especially underserved populations like our native students. As his presentation came to a close, he shared that our gift will be giving scholarships to several of the students who attend the Native Students Day. This will act as a symbol of our commitment to educate future generations. And so the circle goes… from ancestors… to us… to future generations.

Today I am grateful for the wisdom of our elders, our ancestors who have paved the way  for us today, and for the blessing we shared today honoring future generations.