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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Dear Universe, thanks for the reminder.

Yesterday will go down in history as one of the more eye opening days of my life. 

First, let’s recap the situation… I’m a single mom with three very active kids, my mom is dealing with cancer, I work a robust job as the Executive Director for an educational organization. 

My boss took me to lunch yesterday, which was very kind. Basically, through the course of the conversation I realized this was a “you need to slow down” intervention. First of all, how awesome is that? My boss literally said, you’re doing a great job, cut yourself some slack, it’s ok to coast for a little while when you have a lot going on in your personal life. Oh. 

Now if you are anything like me, I just go. I wake up in the morning with the prayer “please let me be a blessing today” and then my feet hit the floor. My plate is filled with passion until I crawl into bed at night, and I love it. And… as I keep learning there are more sustainable ways to exist than others. 

I left the luncheon in awe and reflection.

The theme seemed to continue throughout the day. It’s like the universe said “I’m going to help you get my point”. 

I called a dear friend and told her about this conversation, she said a lot of wise things, as usual. “Don’t let fear get in the way of your loving truth” was the one that really stuck with me. She too said, it’s ok to slow down and savor this time with my kids, and my mom. 

Next came several conversations with my team, exec committee, and board chairs. My boss suggested I started telling people what’s going on in my life, so I did. The result was so surprising. A felt a huge outpouring of support and kindness from my community. While it was scary to share, it was so worth it. 

I think I have been in on autopilot, just doing the next thing in front of me while adding more and more to my plate. I haven’t wanted to tell anyone because I was afraid of their judgement. What if they think I can’t do all this? I need to believe I can. But the truth is, none of us can do it all, we all need support and that doesn’t make us weak or less of a superstar it just makes us real. 

As Lent starts today, I could give up sugar or Facebook and while those aren’t bad ideas, I think life is calling me to look deeper. I plan to give up trying so hard. Instead, I will work on allowing and embracing life. It takes intention and more space, to allow myself to feel, vision and love more fully. It’s a more vulnerable space, and that’s ok too. Who are we not to fully embrace life? Do not let life make you hard. Let life help you grow tall with empathy, sprinkled with kindness, may you deeply know love. 

And dear universe, thank you for the reminder. 

 

Where do you want to go? 

It’s a regular Tuesday morning, time to get up and bustle kids to school. 

Facebook says the United States is still in a mess of arrogant power and injustice, with a side of hope by a growing group of truth speakers. People are protesting, marching and speaking up for truth. 

All of this can be discouraging today the least.

The question in my mind today is, “where do you want to go?” In this day, in life, on a walk. 

It can be so easy to feel stuck or just stop moving forward when outside concerns feel out of our control. 

And yet, we have the power to choose our own reaction to whatever life brings us. We can put one foot in front of the other and keep walking in the direction of our dreams.

Today, I choose to walk in the direction of love. I choose to bring peace with me into this day and pick up some joy and an extra helping of laughter along the way. 

I choose kindness and empowerment of my fellow walkers. I choose health for me, my family and the world. 

As I walk into this day, I am clear and focused on where I want to go. I will not be detoured or distracted by stress or injustice. I will stand in my power as a woman, daughter, and mother. I will walk with love. That is where I want to go today. 

Where do you want to go? 

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. 

Life on purpose

 Do you ever feel like you would like the world to stop for a minute so you can catch your breath?

Most of the people I know have kids, a big job and family that they love. They also have interests, hobbies, exercise and friends. How does one human being manage all of this and enjoy living a life they love?

We all talk a lot about balance, stress management and nutrition. All of those are important, but what we should be talking about is how to live each day with a sense of purpose. The kind of purpose that comes from that still inner voice within each of us.

My sense is that most of us are on autopilot, doing the next priority in front of us, until either something happens that wakes us up or we have the chance to be quiet and hear ourselves.

What if we flip that and choose to live our life with intention, on purpose. To do this, we must fill or tank daily by connecting with that “knowing” we all have inside.

The top autopilot excuses I hear are, tired, too busy, work, kids, etc. The list goes on. 

There will never be another day like today. 

For a long time I thought I would work hard and then “arrive” at a blissful place where I had it all figured out. I finally get it, there is no place to run too. There are moments of bliss constantly, we just have to be available to enjoy them. 

The more connected we are to our intentions and the more effective our life toolbox is, the more we can gracefully embrace life’s joys and withstand the struggles. We all have to figure out what those tools are for ourselves through our walk with life. 

A few of my tools are:

Laughter, singing, nature, creativity, walks, play, hope, writing, friendships, baths, Jalapeño cheese puffs, chocolate ice cream, hallmark channel, and sleep.

What’s in your toolbox? Are they tools that build you up and make you feel strong? Or are they less than helpful?  (ie cheese puffs in my case.) 

When we stop running to the mystical land of awesome and realize we have already arrived, things start to change. We focus more on the now and less on the when, we hug deeper, laugh richer and acknowledge that while life isn’t perfect, it’s still amazing.

May you embrace the beauty of today, there will never be another day like today. 


The workout 

 Somedays in the life are just a workout. Today for example, I got three kids up, made breakfast, and took my daughter to school with her mountain bike in the van. Let me tell you, removing a bicycle from the inside of a minivan in heels is not the easiest thing ever.

I made it to work with oatmeal, coffee and oh yeah, that yogurt I forgot to eat. I was the first in the office and successfully opened the doors with hands full of breakfast, go me!

I went into a leadership meeting from 8:30 to 10:30, followed by an executive cabinet meeting with the president until noon. We walked to lunch, shared fries and salad with a coworker, stopped in on the Mardi Gras party.

Next, a meeting with veterans about scholarships, followed by a visit with the city manager about our new brewing and distilling project. Right before the board of trustees meeting, I got a call from school saying my kid had pushed another kid. Good times. 

The trustee meeting was 3 hours long with reports on diversity, student achievement, faculty and student leadership updates. I only saw 2 deans sleeping. 

As we finished, one of the trustees asked me to stay and talk with her. She sat me down and said she had heard about the illness my family member was dealing with. I was caught off guard, I didn’t tell her, who did? I have been trying to keep my work and personal life separate, so this reminded me that I need to clarify to the coworkers not to share that information.

I composed myself, drove home, and called my mom. When I walked in the house, chaos was an understatement. The boys were wrestling, my daughter was “trying” to do homework, our nanny had made bean burritos (thank goodness). We sat down at dinner and talked about our days. I got cool reports of an artist that visited today, the play and Spanish class. 

After dinner, I spent an hour talking to my son about using his words instead of pushing. We worked on the “when you… I feel… ” language, worked through feelings and talked about tools for success. When I was done with him, I talked to the other 2 individually. Good, family building, caring connections with these amazing growing human beings.

We listened to music, and then at bedtime I tucked them in, gave backrubs and told them each how much I love them. 

The thing is, this life of mine is a workout. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. But it’s a good exhausted, because I know  I helped kids grow today. I know I worked hard for a mission I believe in, loved boldly and sent love from my heart to those too far away to see. 

While I didn’t make it to the gym, I had a great workout today. I’m exhausted on a variety of levels and yet grateful to be a blessing in this day. 

Tomorrow I will wake up, enjoy my workout, and be very grateful for the opportunity. 

Creating a healthy community. Let’s work together, right now. 

Today was “Goverment Day” for our Leadership Thurston County group. We were visited my mayors, commissioners and other elected officials. We toured the State Capitol via a personal tour by a state representative. It was inspiring to hear from these committed, passionate leaders – all working to make our community a better place.

The wheels in my brain were turning all day. We have this many inspiring people working on better social services, climate change and afforable housing, and that is tremendous. And… I wonder what would happen if we had more people helping or we all focused our efforts on one issue?

I’ve read studies on “collective impact” where exactly that happens, the community comes together and actually “solves” a community problem. As a lifetime social service worker, “solving” a problem is a mind-blowing concept. Examples of this do actually exist like the Road Map Project out of South King County and Changing the Odds Salt Lake City. I want to know how.

In our community, we have a number of initiatives attempting to bring the community together like Thurston Thrives as well as many jurisdictions and organizations striving to improve community conditions. And that is awesome, and complicated and…not fast enough. Not fast enough for the homeless veteran sleeping in a doorway, the domestic violence victim who doesn’t have a place to stay in our town, or the young person who is moving to the next foster home. It’s just not enough.

I don’t know how people can go to Black Friday and care about sporting events when one of us, in our community is out in the cold tonight.

Someone called me a passionate nerd tonight and I guess they are right. I am passionate about our community. Every religion I am aware of says we should care for others, the sick, the poor. How are we doing with that America?

Imagine what would happen if we put down the remote control, big mac or beer and instead spend that time or money on something that helps the world. Guess what, in an age when antidepressants are doled out like candy and we “connect” via social media, helping others is exactly the medicine our society needs.

So what’s the hold up? Why aren’t there more people outraged by the living conditions of our homeless families? Is it because we are so desensitized by the media, or cable TV? Is it because there is a “that’s their problem” mentality? Or are we just so overwhelmed by the pace of our society that we just don’t have the capacity to help another human being?

I don’t know. But you can bet I will keep asking the question until I do. And keep working on a solution until there are enough warm homes, adequate food and hope on ther hearts of our community. That is the vision I hold, share this vision with me.