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Minding Your Mind

what we have thought

She said it without even realizing it, “my sister got the good genes.”

I stopped her.

“Don’t say that.”

“Say what?”  She asked; she hadn’t even noticed that she had so easily passed judgment about her own appearance.  Except that deep down inside, she had.  Subconsciously the things we say or even just think are always noticed and noted.  It is those judgments we pass about ourselves that ultimately hold us hostage to a negative body image.  And the negative judgments we have about ourselves can ultimately hinder more than just how we dress.  It changes how we interact with people, what goals we attempt, where we go, what we believe about or want for ourselves.  Contrary to what most people believe, it is not our body that needs to change in order for our body image to improve.  It’s our mind.  Here are four steps for you to take to better mind your mind so that a negative body image is never what holds you back again.

Pay Attention. Too often, we don’t even consciously notice what is we think about or are saying about ourselves.  So start by tuning into what it is you think or even say aloud.  How do you perceive yourself? What are you communicating to yourself and others about who you are?  You can’t change your thoughts without knowing what they are so step one is all about getting really aware of what you say.

Wonder Why.  We tell ourselves stories for a reason.  Every belief we try to adopt is meant to serve us in some way, even if it is a bad belief and in a misinformed way.  So now that you have been paying attention to the racket in your head, consider why it is that you have chosen to believe it.  How is this racket “serving” you?  We are not meant to be perfect nor are we imperfect either.  We are each uniquely made and so all that rubbish about good genes or bad genes, good hair or bad hair, etc. is just a way to place a limit on ourselves.  Why is it that you are placing this limit?  What are you afraid of or avoiding?  How have you been using this thinking to, ironically, keep you safe and small?           

Consider what you really want. All of our thoughts serve a purpose. They can inspire us, or they can keep us small, especially if we are scared of growing or reaching outside our comfort zone. So, we have these negative thoughts for a reason, maybe to keep us from taking a risk that might secretly thrill us but more overtly terrifies us. Now, it is time to push past them. What is it that you really most want in your life? What is your dream? Picture that because it is only with having a new vision in mind that you can begin to let the old ideas of yourself go. If you want to take this exercise a step further, create a vision board brimming with your possibilities.

Reframe your thinking. With your new vision in mind, it is time to reframe your old thinking. As you catch yourself rehashing this old, nonproductive, limiting thoughts, rewrite them. When you think your sister got the better genes, reframe your words to reveal that she simply has a different body type. For every negative thought, there is a way to redirect it and, even more important, a way for you to affirm all the gifts- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that you bring to the table. Never let a negative thought linger. Instead, embrace who you are and what you have to offer by using those occasions to retrain your thinking to celebrate you. With practice, you’ll soon be using your positive energy to achieve exactly what you dream.      

 

Friday Reflections

 

photo[4]

Every Friday, I reflect on the week that has just passed by doing a little sensory exercise.  This practice is a gentle, easy way to tune into how we are doing, what we are experiencing, and what we are grateful for while more acutely tuning into our senses.  It’s a whole heart exercise with plenty of bodily input, if you will.  Because this practice has been so good for me, I want to encourage you to do it, too.  Building some gentle reflection into our weeks is a nice way to stay grounded while maintaining some big picture perspective.  So please join me in this week’s Friday Reflections (with each sense as your inspiration, consider how experiencing it impacted your week).

Here is my sensory round-up for the last week:
tasting ::  chicken wonton soup, a California roll, caramel brownies, roasted broccoli, spaghetti with mushroom ragu, berry smoothies, boiled eggs, honey crisp apples 
hearing ::  Beautiful tributes celebrating a dear friend’s father who passed away this week.  Such an incredible loss but his life was just so inspiring, a powerful reminder of who he was and how was in the world and who and how I want to be.  Also, gorgeous renditions of This Little Light of Mine and Blessed Assurance.
smelling ::  just the slightest touch of fall in the air, a sudden rain coming in, baking brownies.

seeing ::  my sweet parents as I surprised them while I was in town for the funeral, friends from childhood, and Happy joyfully practicing karate.   

feeling ::  tender-hearted and contemplative.

wishing ::  to hold the sweet example of a life well lived at the front of my mind.

What about you?  What were your sensational experiences this week?  Please share!

This post was inspired by Teacher Goes Back to School who was inspired by Pink of Perfection’s Five Sense Friday.

It’s time to love you.

SONY DSC

Are you ready to fall in love with life because you have finally fallen in love with yourself?

Are you ready to be energized by who you are and what you have to offer?

Are you ready to give the world your gifts because you are no longer distracted by what you perceive as your flaws?

Then, it is time for First, Love You.

Imagine You:

  •     CONFIDENT- able to bloom because you have finally embraced your essential truth.
  •     COMPASSIONATE- armed with the tools to honor yourself in the same way you have always honored others.
  •      INSPIRED- to live your full expression so that you may inspire others.
  •     AUTHENTIC- unafraid to embrace who you are and open to the transformation authenticity brings.
  •     VIBRANT- ready to take your newfound knowledge out into the world to live your passion and purpose.

Join me at First, Love You: a soul-warming where you will connect with a thoughtful group of dedicated women, learning tricks and tools that unleash your authenticity, honor who you are and what you are meant to give to this world, and give valuable insight on how to move forward in self-acceptance.  You will be guided in contemplative and creative self-awareness and self-acceptance exercises. You will experience what it feels like to be held up to be your best self in a relaxing environment and you will learn how to move yourself forward with your own care, acceptance, and love.

October 14 from 12 pm to 2 pm EST on your phone ♥ $40 includes pre-workshop playbook.

October 16 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Triple Play Farm in Davidson, NC  ♥  $50  includes refreshments, supplies, and pre-work.

Show Your Support

There are so many misconceptions about eating disorders:  they are a rich, young white girl’s disease, that you can diagnose them just by looking at someone, that guys don’t have to worry about them.

And, yet, what researchers, treatment professionals, and those who are in treatment or recovery would tell you about eating disorders is that they are incredibly complex.  They cannot be contained in pithy myths or assumptions and our out-dated and small understanding of them is limiting our ability to prevent and treat them.

We have to do better.  And doing better starts with knowing more.  Which is why I was excited to learn about an awareness and advocacy effort started by Cate of ASPIRE (Adults Support Peers In Recovery from Eating disorders) in Australia.  Cate’s idea was to raise awareness about eating disorders while raising funds to support research.

Here is what Cate said about her inspiration and effort:

I would like to see a challenge that has 3 main outcomes: firstly, truly raises awareness – ie: educates. It’s lovely to get EDs talked about, but not if the same old myths and inaccuracies are being rehashed. Let’s get some facts and figures out there and break down the stigma attached to EDs. Secondly it has to have nothing to do with food or exercise. Given my history of exercise addiction, the thought of suggesting someone run to raise awareness somehow strikes me as uncomfortably ironic. And thirdly, of course to raise money – but for whom? Charlotte’s Helix would have to be my pick. It’s a charity set up to support AN25K – an international scientific research effort investigating the genetics behind EDs.

So here’s what I’m suggesting:

1. SHOW YOUR SUPPORT

Literally SHOW it! Write it on your arm and wear it there for the day.

eep your arm message short and on point. Steer clear of body love aphorisms as the intention is to raise awareness specifically for EDs. Other suggested messages might be:

  • Stop Eating Disorder Shame
  • Eating Disorders – The Deadliest Mental Illness
  • Eating Disorders Affect Anyone and Everyone
  • You Can’t Tell Who Has An Eating Disorder By Looking
  • Eating Disorders Affect Men Too
  • There’s No Age Limit To An Eating Disorder
  • Eating Disorders are Nobody’s Fault

Then of course spend the day explaining to every person you pass what your message means. And don’t forget to tell them some scientific facts and figures. If we want EDs to be taken seriously, we have to send a serious message. Tell them things such as:

  • In the US 10 million women and 1 million men have eating disorders.
  • In Australia around 2 million people suffer from an eating disorder.
  • Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all other mental illnesses.
  • In the US research dollars for Alzheimer’s is around $88 per affected individual – for eating disorders it is around $0.93 per affected individual.
  • In Australia there are only 22 public hospital beds designated to ED sufferers nation wide: Vic (15 beds), Qld (5 beds) and NSW (2 beds).
  • Despite recovery being possible, around 20% of ED sufferers never recover

And don’t forget to tweet, instagram and FB your message. Use the hashtag:  #EDShowYourSupport

2. DONATE

In honour of the 20% of eating disorder sufferers who will die from their illness, please donate $20 to Charlotte’s Helix.

3. CHALLENGE

Keep the conversation going by challenging a friend to Show Their Support too. It definitely doesn’t have to be someone with an eating disorder. Anyone can help raise awareness – and the more that do the faster understanding will spread.

So when Cate challenged me to show my support, I was, of course, in.  I decided that the best day for me to show my support was on a Friday, when I teach Body Image Class so I could share the experience with my students.  In fact, one of my students “tattooed” my message to my skin because I decided it would be best to write it around my wrist since I so often have a cardigan on and that would hide the message if I wrote it on my forearm.

Eating Disorders Do Not DiscriminateMy message (since it is wrapped around my wrist and cannot fully be read in the photo) is that eating disorders do not discriminate.  #endED.  

I was able to have a good conversation with my class about the message as well as a friend who I met out for lunch and the woman who checked me out at Target.

And I was also able to make a worthwhile donation to the cause.  I wanted to donate to Charlotte’s Helix because eating disorder research is so important, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the donation work from the US (it kept asking me where I lived in England when I tried to put my donation through and even when I chose a fairly tale location, it rejected my donation) so I opted to donate to the National Eating Disorders Association.

While I would love for everyone to support this education and advocacy effort, I also want to honor Cate’s request and directly challenge someone to show her support.  So I am challenging the amazing Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga to show her support!

If you decide to take the challenge, I hope you’ll share your experience here!

Redefining Good

being good

“Being good hurts so much,” one of my Body Image class student shares and around the room she is met with nods.

We are discussing a chapter from Courtney Martin’s book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters.  In it, Martin talks about how a generation ago, women needed to be good to meet society’s expectations, but good is no longer good enough.  Now, girls need to be perfect.

And so we are talking about good and perfect and the pressure that comes with trying to achieve both of them, and I am struck with how particularly easy it is for me to empathize with my students right now, to remember exactly how it is they feel, because of how the timing of this discussion has intersected with my life.

Just days before we started breaking apart good in class, I was cleaning out the attic and came across some mix tapes I had made (clearly years ago).  One of them was the mix tape I put together (and shared with my best friend) when we discovered my boyfriend had cheated on me.

What exactly does one put on an early 1990s heartbreak mix tape, I wondered, before shoving the tape into my car’s tape deck.  I guessed Walk on the Ocean by Toad the Wet Sprocket, Inside My Head by The Connells, Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman, More Than Words by Extreme, Never Say Goodbye by Bon Jovi.

Funny, I thought, that this tape that was likely the accompaniment to tears 20+ years ago would now be a laugh track to me.  And, yet, when I finally heard the tape, it wasn’t quite so simple.

Side One definitely had some wallowing to it, but Side Two was something markedly different.  It was much more “I have more important things to worry about; this too shall pass; whatever, dude, I’ll be just fine.”  And once I got over my initial surprise of hearing “Shiny Happy People” on what I thought was going to be a total heartbreak tape, I remember how incredibly conflicted I had been about who I was and how I though I needed to be in the world at that time of my life.  The music reflected that tension.

When I discovered the cheating, it was a defining moment, and, for my definition, I chose what I always had when it came to being in relation to someone else: calm, rational, good, nice, and forgiving.  If I broke up with him, I reasoned, then I would simply be allowing the situation to make me a different person- a vengeful, jealous person, maybe, and that’s not who I was.  So I called the girl and said I wouldn’t make things awkward, the issue was between me and him.  At school, I walked past her with my head high, said hello like I always had because to vilify her over him in this matter was contrary to my sense of justice.  I listened to his teary pleas, challenged him some, said it would be hard for him to earn my trust again but we could try.

Needless to say, it kept happening.  He’d kiss a girl here, another there.  It’s what he did.  What I did was figure out how to appear firm while still being nice. Meanwhile, I was the friend that my friends came to with their troubles.  I was a good listener, and I was always clear.

“You deserve more,” I would tell these women that I loved.  And I meant it.  I wanted to see them honor their right to be fully cared for—by themselves and by whomever they let into their heart.

“We teach people how to treat us,” I would insist, and, yet, it took months for those words to ring true in my own ears.  There was a disconnect between the girl who championed others and the girl who couldn’t champion herself.  It wasn’t enough, though, to believe in the worth and dignity and rights of everyone else.  After almost a year of choosing what seemed like good, I realized that it didn’t feel good.  I had to offer myself the same justice I insisted on for others.  I called him, one spring night, and ended it.

My friends were relieved.  Over time, they had grown mortified by what he was doing.  By then, I was only mortified by what I had done to myself.  Somehow, sometime I had bought the bag of goods about what being “good” meant.  The reality, though, was that the societal messages I received about what good girls did, how they acted, were getting in the way of my truth.

That spring night, I went out and danced until the moon was high over the sky calling to me with its lightness.  I returned home in the still of that early spring morning, mesmerized by my empowerment and committed to never staying again in something that didn’t fit.

As I looked at my Body Image students on Friday, I found myself wanting to find the words to empower them to give up good for the sake of good, to refuse to fit into boxes that they didn’t even choose for them, to realize that goodness is not what they think it is.  And I thought of forty-year-old me, doubling over in both laughter and tearful tenderness as For Just a Moment came over my car speakers while I drove the country roads of my town, listening to this time capsule of such a distinct moment in my history.

It may have taken me a long time to learn but, with sweet relief, I know what I am now trying to teach my students.  Being good isn’t about being pleasing.  Being good is about being just to others while also being true to your self.

Friday Reflections

a pit stop on our way home from school

a pit stop on our way home from school

Every Friday, I reflect on the week that has just passed by doing a little sensory exercise.  This practice is a gentle, easy way to tune into how we are doing, what we are experiencing, and what we are grateful for while more acutely tuning into our senses.  It’s a whole heart exercise with plenty of bodily input, if you will.  Because this practice has been so good for me, I want to encourage you to do it, too.  Building some gentle reflection into our weeks is a nice way to stay grounded while maintaining some big picture perspective.  So please join me in this week’s Friday Reflections (with each sense as your inspiration, consider how experiencing it impacted your week).

Here is my sensory round-up for the last week:
tasting ::  black bean pie, pho, sautéed chicken sausage with potatoes, zucchini, and peppers, oatmeal cakes with raspberries and pistachios, the most perfect watermelon, plums, grapes, and oranges, teriyaki chicken wings  
hearing ::  Jimmy Fallon and The Roots with classroom instruments performing with hit makers during an after dinner family dance party
smelling ::  teriyaki chicken wings, the rain coming in with a front.

seeing ::  Happy’s jubilant face each afternoon when I pick him up from school. Absolutely my favorite part of the day.  We have just under a mile walk home from school, I come with snacks, we stop all along the way, studying bugs and flowers, and it is just the best (when he’s not whining about not being able to watch TV on school nights).  

feeling ::  the fluffy down on Lola’s neck while giving her big, daily rubs.  She just got a major cut, though, so the fluffy down is a little less full.

wishing ::  for a happy weekend (and a Fantasy Football win), some exciting new work, another great session with my body image students this semester

What about you?  What were your sensational experiences this week?  Please share!

This post was inspired by Teacher Goes Back to School who was inspired by Pink of Perfection’s Five Sense Friday.

Sprout something (and other creativity boosters)

cant use up creativity

A confluence of events has me thinking a lot about creativity these days.  Just a couple weeks ago, I submitted a book proposal to a publisher (all body parts crossed!) and as I was writing the proposal and its sample chapters, I was reminded about the intricacies of my own creative process.  In just a couple weeks, we’re hosting our annual Equinox retreat at Triple Play Farm and the focus of that retreat is creativity.  And, finally, Happy just started kindergarten which gives me a couple more hours each day to work and so I am dipping more deeply into the things that fire up my creativity to build this next phase of my life.

A lot of people think creativity is something you either have or you don’t, but the reality is that we all our creative and use our creativity daily- from organizing a project to getting dressed in the morning. While each of us is inherently creative, it may not feel all that easy. But here’s the good news: no matter how much of a stretch being creative feels, it is always possible to build your creative capacity and enhance every part of your life. Try these seven tips for a creative booster shot.

OCCUPY YOUR MIND (JUST A LITTLE BIT). Have you ever noticed that your most brilliant ideas happen in the shower? You aren’t just imagining that. The act of showering is just active enough to turn off your hyper-vigilant inner-censor without being so mind-exhausting to numb your inner creative. Hence, when you are doing something that loosely occupies your mind- driving, walking, showering, cooking a familiar meal, washing the dishes- your inner creative will often blurt its idea out to you because it knows that you will be more receptive. Give yourself time everyday to work your conscious mind just a little bit so your subconscious, dreamy side can make itself heard.

TREAT YOURSELF TO AN ARTIST’S DATE. I learned this concept years ago from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I still love the idea.  Give yourself a block of time (an hour is enough) each week to take yourself out on a date to scope for inspiration.  From browsing a book or antique store to checking out children’s artwork at the local library, inspiration is everywhere.

SPROUT SOMETHING The Artist Date is all about inspiration. Sometimes the best way to instigate your own creativity is to be inspired by someone else’s. Check out some visual art or a poem that strikes you and create your own art from it. If you are using a painting, create your own piece inspired by a technique, an idea, or an image that you found in the work you select. If a poem is on your mind, take one line from it and write your own poem with it.

PUSH PAST FALSE FATIGUE. It is so easy to give in when we feel blocked and, yet, if we could just persevere past the block, we often reach the sweetest stuff. If you are a painter, set an aggressive quota like 50 5 inch by 7 inch paintings. If you are a writer, your quota might be 2000 words or 15 poems. Even if your inner-censor is telling you that the work you are producing is awful, keep going. Proving that you have quantity in you really does boost your quality.

CAPTURE YOUR INSPIRATION Start gathering inspiration from magazines, catalogs or anywhere else and display it all on an inspiration board. You can use a cork board, foam board or a poster board to capture anything that inspires or strikes you.  When you are hungering for an idea, go to your inspiration board, take it all in, and see where it leads you.

GET SCHOOLED. Sign up for a class that will challenge you to think differently.  From oil painting to Italian cooking, there are so many educational experiences that can give your creativity a spark. 

DO NOT GET CAUGHT UNPREPARED. There is nothing worse than having an idea and not having a way to capture it. Carry a small notebook in your purse to record ideas and quotes that strike you or capture turns of phrases or little fragments of ideas with your smart phone voice recorder so that you never lose a good idea- not even while you are driving!      

What are your strategies for nurturing your creative side? 

Want to join us at Equinox?  Check out the details!  

Friday Reflections

Happy enjoying his Goodbye Five, Hello Six book

Happy enjoying his Goodbye Five, Hello Six book

Every Friday, I reflect on the week that has just passed by doing a little sensory exercise.  This practice is a gentle, easy way to tune into how we are doing, what we are experiencing, and what we are grateful for while more acutely tuning into our senses.  It’s a whole heart exercise with plenty of bodily input, if you will.  Because this practice has been so good for me, I want to encourage you to do it, too.  Building some gentle reflection into our weeks is a nice way to stay grounded while maintaining some big picture perspective.  So please join me in this week’s Friday Reflections (with each sense as your inspiration, consider how experiencing it impacted your week).

Here is my sensory round-up for the last week:
tasting ::  butternut squash barley “risotto”, spaghetti squash fritters, turkey meatballs, sautéed mushrooms,  grilled peppers, mushrooms, onions and corn, couscous and lentil salad with mint, arugula, tomatoes, and cucumbers, pesto pizza on naan bread, quinoa salad, cauliflower and brussel sprouts salad, parsnip fries, roasted broccoli, an incredible lemon brownie
hearing ::  playing cousins squeal and nag and tease and carry on as we all converged on my parents’ house to celebrate Happy’s birthday, Happy say that school is “the best”, “great!”, he loves it every day as we walk home.
smelling ::  our Ella B South Union candle as we (BF and I) completed our Fantasy Football draft.  It is Fantasy Football time.  Woohoo.

seeing ::  Happy’s little office get a much needed update with a big boy desk, a big reading chair, a dry erase board on one wall for writing practice (which looks like playing Hangman these days) and drawing, the beginnings of a gallery wall above his toy and book shelves, etc.  There are a couple little to dos left but it is coming along nicely on a budget.

feeling ::  the heat (how odd that the first week of September is one of our hottest weeks of the summer), the sweet relief of the pool on its last open day, all of my muscles quiver as I take Pure Barre classes.

wishing ::  for really incredible work flow next week as I officially get to move back into the shack for regular work hours and see what having a little bit more time to work each day yields

What about you?  What were your sensational experiences this week?  Please share!

This post was inspired by Teacher Goes Back to School who was inspired by Pink of Perfection’s Five Sense Friday.

What must I do today to keep my baby safe?

BW Best noses

September 2013

We are going to the bookstore.  As I do for most anywhere we go, I give Happy a head’s up about what the plan is.

“Hey, we need to go in the bookstore really quickly to get a gift,” I tell him.  “Today, the bookstore visit is just for the gift.  We need to be fast to make it to the party.  So we’re just getting the gift, not anything else.  Okay?”

He nods.

We run into the bookstore and a holographic wolf bookmark near the entrance catches his attention.

“Can we get this?”

“Not today, baby,” I say.  “Let’s go find that book.”

In the kids’ section, we hone in on some options.  Happy wanders off.  As I debate which book to get, I hear him talking to the shop owner.  Satisfied with our choice, I rush to the counter and make small talk as she rings us up.  Casually, I turn towards Happy as he continues to talk.  His hands are stuffed under his shirt.

I look more closely.

The bookmark is under his shirt.

I drop to my knees, look him in the eye and stick out my hand.

“Buddy, you cannot do that.  You have to pay for everything in the bookstore, and today we are only getting the gift.  You need to apologize right now,” I tell him as I return the bookmark and he offers his apologies to the shop owner.

Outside, we talk even more about what he just did, about how it is illegal, how he can get in trouble, how it is important for us to always do the right thing.  I am not even sure that my barely five-year-old understands what he was doing and, yet, I am desperately trying to make him understand the consequences to this thing that he just doesn’t get.

By the time we reach the car, I am shaking.

I turn to him, each of us seat belted in, and implore him to understand that you cannot take things from stores without paying for them.   That if he wants something and I am not willing to buy it, he can always ask if it is something that he can use his money for and, if so, we can get his money and he can buy it.

“So I will get in trouble if I take something,” he asks.

“Yes, honey.  You can get in very big trouble.” I emphasize.

“With the police?”  He wants to know.

“Yes, you could.”  I tell him.

There is white noise rushing through my ears, anxiety knots my stomach.  I am fast forwarding over my boy’s life.  What if this happens again at twelve or fifteen or twenty?  The fear is like the ocean drowning me.

“What will the police do to me,” he asks.  “Will they put me in jail?”

This question makes the white noise deafening.  My head goes where I do not want it to go, to the raw, devastating wound in my heart of a young black man gunned down by a police officer the week before in Charlotte.  A young man whose crime was that he got in a car accident in the early morning hours and walked, hurt, to the nearest house for help.  When he knocked on the door at that hour, the homeowner called the police and then he walked, dazed, wounded, in pain, towards the police as they pulled up at the house and was riddled with ten bullets.  He died looking for help.

Several times a year, my boy and I get the mixer and food processor out and bake chocolate chip cookies and scones for the helpers in our community.  We load everything into plastic containers and make our rounds to the police station, fire department, and library.  As a mother, I work hard to help him understand how important it is to help, to know who the helpers are, to help him have a relationship with them.

What happens when the helpers hurt?

 April 2014 

We are arguing over school clothes.  Happy hates buttons.  He hates zippers and pockets, heavy cotton and structure.  If he could have his way, he would wear elastic gym shorts and soft t-shirts all the time.  That is what the boys at school wear, and it is not lost on him.

In actuality, I could care less what he wears.  I had these same disagreements with my mom when I was a teenager and wanted to wear torn jeans and t-shirts every day.  But even though I don’t really care what he wears, here is what is not lost on me: my boy’s skin is the most glorious chocolate brown.  And people sometimes already have an opinion about chocolate brown boys before they even get dressed.  My goal, then, when helping him get dressed is to find a way for his clothes to not communicate something naughty or rambunctious (now) or dangerous or defiant (later) to someone else.  My boy is just like any other boy, I want them to understand.  He is just as loved and just as valuable—not just to me but to society.  I, like so many other mothers of brown and black boys, am haunted by what happened to Trayvon Martin.  A brown boy in sports gear or baggy clothes doesn’t always get the benefit of the doubt.  I am not naïve enough to play otherwise.

And so we compromise on clothing.  To school, he dresses for the occasion, like he is showing up to take care of business.  When he is with me or his daddy on the weekends, he can wear the softest, least structured, baggiest clothes there are.  Ten years from now, navigating this style conversation will be harder.  I won’t be able to play like it is just about the clothes or how we show up for school.   I dream of a world where my boy can wear whatever he wishes and not be feared, not be judged, but, right now, I cannot play like I don’t know better.

June 2014   

Happy’s feelings are hurt.  He has a profound sense of justice, and I can tell just how offended he is by the way he crosses his arms and glowers as he spits out the words to tell me why his face is bleeding.

If I understand correctly, he asked two boys that he did not know if he could play with them at camp.  They told him no.  It didn’t sit well with him so he snatched the hat off the boy’s head that said no.  The boy reached for it and scratched Happy’s face (I am sure it was an accident, Happy is not) in the process.  The scratch drew blood.  There is very little that undoes Happy more than blood.  And so he is hysterical.  Telling me this story with great big tears rolling down his face.  We deal first with the blood and the pain.  And when we are recovered from that, I give it to my boy straight.  You cannot taunt your way into a game.  You cannot sulk when someone tells you no.  You may not like it that someone tells you no but you have to respect it.  And if you don’t think its fair then the one recourse you have is to always be the kind of person who includes everyone, who says yes to anyone who wants to play.

Later, a family member sees the scratch and asks what happened.

I explain the story, making it clear that Happy was in the wrong.

“Well, I am glad he fought back,” she says of Happy.  Because Happy is adored by his family and they believe he is infallible.  Little kids deserve great affection and while that is not lost on me, it occurs to me that I need to make sure that it is not lost on our family that there is a layer to Happy’s experience that we cannot turn a blind eye to as he grows up.

Happy simply cannot strike out when he’s frustrated.  Because it is wrong, first of all, and also because striking out as a boy of color will not be taken casually.  As a former public school teacher, I know too much about the disparity in discipline when you look at skin color.  I explain this to her, how Happy has very little room for error as a black boy.  How he cannot be even the least bit aggressive and expect grace, how he has to learn how to walk away, how to find peace within when he isn’t sensing it outside of himself, how the most dangerous thing he can do to himself is be provoked.  And how the most dangerous thing we can do for him as his family is to act like being black doesn’t still come with assumptions and consequences.

August 2014   

Ferguson is on fire.  Another black boy shot dead.  I sit in my bed and watch my Twitter feed scream at me.  I watch the images of police officers wearing more combat gear than my dad had on his war tours face down men that once looked like my boy.  I watch tear gas pour and Molotov cocktails seer.

I stare in disbelief.  My fingers cover my mouth.  Dear God.  Dear God.  Dear God.

Feeling the pounding of my chest speed up, I know I am probably not equipped to take in any more information right now.  But I cannot help myself.

“Oh mama, mama, mama.  I am so sorry, mama.” I whisper and weep for Michael Brown’s mother.  Every single day it feels like what I am doing as a mother is everything within my power to keep my boy safe—mentally, yes, spiritually, yes, emotionally, yes, but physically, too.   Every mother everywhere feels that pressure, feels that responsibility, begs the question. What must I do today to keep my baby safe?

The next morning, I am red-eyed and delirious from my late night consumption of rapid-fire news, from the heartbreak, from the devastation, from what feels like hopelessness.  The news is on as I slowly try to get ready for my boy to wake up.  Suddenly, he flies into the room, bright eyed with anticipation for this day.

I race to the television and turn it off, but not before he catches a glimpse.

“What were the police doing, mama?”  He asks.

I tell him I didn’t see.  He is just five years old.  Soon enough, it will not be so easy to keep the truth from him.

“Where is my good morning hug,” I ask him and stoop down to scoop him up.

As I take in his morning breath, his little boy scent, the shea butter conditioner in his hair, I ask the eternal question of motherhood, Dear God, what must I do today to keep my baby safe? and feel the unbearable weight of not having the answer.   

10 Things I Loved in August 2014

10 Things I Loved in August 2014

At the end of each month, I take stock of the previous month.  What went well?  What did I learn?  What brought me a simple joy?  These monthly reports are a way to encourage myself to take delight in the littlest of things.  I find that Ten Things I Loved allows me to always see the silver lining, even when there are hard moments in a month.  And taking joy in the simple things is paramount to how I want to live, making 10 things an invaluable tool for me.  Here’s this month’s simple pleasures.

Professional

Pitching a book.  So I have been sitting on a book idea for about a year now and this summer I had the breathing room to get a couple sample chapters down and last week, I sent the full proposal and two sample chapters off to be considered by a publisher.  Every body part crossed as I am aching, aching, aching to write it!  You know when something just feels like the next natural of course?  I am so feeling that with this book.      

Passion. Purpose. Plunge retreat. Another amazing PPP retreat this month.  It is such a touching experience for me to work with women who are in powerful moments of transition clarify what they want next, why they want it and how to get there.  I am really honored to do this work.

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The Circle de Luz planner.  I was able to work on several Circle de Luz  projects this summer since there weren’t as many week to week details to focus on (our programming is very light in the summer).  While all the projects were important and even fun, my very favorite project was designing (well, I did the conceptual design not the physical design) a planner for our girls to help them really learn how to organize themselves and keep track of their lives.  The amazing Erica de Flamand of The Summer House donated her amazing talents and time to the project and realized the conceptual vision with this gorgeous, gorgeous planner that the girls were thrilled to get started using.  As you can imagine, this was a really fun project for me because it combined two of my loves—supporting the amazing young women of Circle de Luz and organizing.

 

Planner collage

Circle de Luz Board Retreat, Leadership Meeting, and Back to School Meeting.  In early August, the CdL leadership got together for a day of team building in the woods and then some very focused planning for 2014-2015.  These women are AMAZING.  I am honored to work with them and humbled by how much they give to the program.  We also had our annual Circle de Luz back to school meeting.  It’s a time that we all gather together—leaders and hijas- to focus on the new year.  It is always so great to see the girls after a couple months off from programming and their families who have become like our families.

Body Image class.  School started back for me and I was happy to meet my newest group of students.  They are already interesting, thoughtful, supportive of one another, and funny.  This bodes well.  Read my first day of school letter to my class.       

Personal things

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Carowinds.  We took a day and enjoyed the closest amusement park and had a ball with my sister and her kids.  We spent half our time riding rides (I was almost put into traction by a kiddie roller coaster) and then the other half of our time in the water park where I became the slide queen as I was the only one of the adults sucker enough game to ride the super slide over and over again.

Cannonball Challenge.  I learned how to swim at 34.  I’ve never been off a diving board.  I am woefully accident prone.  And, yet, I totally casually told Happy and BF that I would do a cannonball off the diving board at the local swimming pool.  Most nights, BF and Happy go to the pool before dinner and no one is there.  Of course, the one night I join them to complete the cannonball challenge, it is busy and, of course, the people that are there are ones I know.  Nevertheless, I fulfilled my commitment and then double downed with a can opener.  Goodbye, pool.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  A good, compelling read.

Kindergarten.  Whoa.  Happy’s in the big leagues now.   Oh, my heart.  He’s so excited.  Here’s to a great year that fills him with a love of learning and deep compassion for his friends and neighbors.

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A 6th birthday.  On the same day that he started kindergarten, our little guy turned 6.  Our celebration included a chalkboard countdown to his birthday, lots of decorations around the house, a balloon avalanche, cinnamon roll breakfast on a You Are Special plate, a note and cookie in his lunchbox, dinner and dessert out of the house, a treasure hunt (complete with maps) for his gifts, and then a night and two days at Great Wolf Lodge. Safe to say that six was joyfully ushered in.

So, what did you love in August?