Seattle, WA
Poet, blogger, lawyer, educator, sista, sister, aunt, daughter, mentor, friend, dog owner, lover of music and all things gluten free... Writing about all of this and more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ever run 26.2 miles in one morning?

Me neither. But my brother did! Yesterday he finished his second marathon. He's always been an athlete, but until last year, he was never really a runner (although his years playing college basketball were definitely good training).



Bill has shown time and time again that when he focuses on something, he is FOCUSED, MAN! You can't steer him off course once he's decided he's going to do something. The fruits of this, in addition to his marathon accomplishments, include his own business, a degree from Cal Berkeley (boooo Bears! Give 'em the axe!), and a beautiful family of little scholar/athletes. Bill is never satisfied with his past accomplishments, but it's a healthy dissatisfaction. It's ambition-fuel that pushes him to do more.

I'm excited to see what he does next. Congratulations, Bill! Love you bro!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dreams

I'm on a writing-roll and have been reflecting lately on my childhood. Something that recently returned to my memory is the fact that as I child there was a period during which I felt over-run with bad dreams. I don’t remember exactly what happened in my recurring nightmares, and I don’t remember how long they lasted, but I feel as though they haunted me for much of my early childhood. It seems I was plagued by the same three nightmares from age 5 to age 10. The falling dream. The Big Bad Wolf chasing me through the alley. And the dream where my mother is not my mother--she’s some woman who looks exactly like my mother and who everyone else believes is her.

What I do remember, though, is how I coped with the bad dreams: placing shoes at the foot of the bed to scare monsters and ghosts away, something I had read about or heard about somewhere; confronting the ugly wolf in the middle of one of the worst chase scenes; telling myself, “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming…” until I woke up.

I wish I could put shoes at the foot of my bed to scare away the fear, the grief, the anxiety about things over which I have no control. I wish I were brave enough to confront the ugly wolves of my wakened reality--indecisiveness, self-doubt, circumstances at work, etc. And if all else failed, I wish I could, in the midst of the storm, just convince myself that I am only dreaming.

But what are the coping skills of reality that do work?

One thing I’ve been working on is strengthening my faith in God in a real and substantive way. After all, faith is passing through storms, confronting ugly demons, and seeing your circumstances for what they are but also, importantly, for what they can become. Faith is believing that God’s plan is for you to survive these “I wish this were just a bad dream” moments and to look back at them with a clearer understanding of His plan for you. It's the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

I'm interested to hear from others. What are your bad dreams? How do you confront the Big Bad Wolf?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A blog I really like and a post you must read. That is all.

Check out this sister's blog, entitled I Dreamed A World. It's awesome! Seriously.

If you don't have time to browse everything, you have to read this post, Put A Ring on It. I have one word: insight. The post asks you to reflect on what commitment really means to you. I hope you'll at commit to reading the post! Check it out:

While marriage is often put in a league of its own when it comes to commitment conversations, in reality, every commitment we make or avoid defines the course of our lives in the same manner that marriage defines our direction. We make decisions everyday to flirt with, date, or marry the circumstances of our lives….our jobs, our families, our spirituality, our passions, our purposes and even ourselves. (Keep reading)

Happy reading! 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

when in doubt, don't.

"when in doubt, don't." i read that the other day in an article about the importance of hitting pause when you don't know which direction to take. when you're doubtful about which way to go, don't go. just be patient, be still, and wait for a clear answer before you take off running in any old random direction.

i like it. often times i feel like i'm the turtle in the race. i feel like, why am i not just pushing forward like so-and-so? why can't i just move like such-and-such? well, this advice of "when in doubt, don't" nudges me and reminds me that maybe i'm supposed to be still for a minute so that i can make the right move instead of moving for movement's sake. there's nothing wrong with pausing if you're doing it to make your next move your best move.

but the danger in that advice lies in the fact that some of us are perpetual doubters. self-doubters. others-doubters. debby-downer-doubters. now that particular brand of doubt is dangerous. for instance the other day i was given some positive feedback about myself that surprised me given its source and timing. it also caused me to realize that in underestimating my own potential for leadership and growth, i had been exercising self doubt and may have blocked off some nice opportunities for myself. despite being proud of my accomplishments i admit that i often strain to see what others see in me. i hate to admit it because i know its silly not to see yourself as capable of doing anything you put your mind to. but i still have to say, i do it more often than i should.

to not take a risk or put yourself out there due to self-doubt means missing out on a wealth of opportunities--for personal development as you learn more about what you can do, if put to the test, and even for personal development as a result of productive failures.

while in some areas of life the advice, "when in doubt, don't" can ring true, when the doubt you're experiencing threatens to impede your own personal growth or advancement just be sure not to get stuck on pause.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You are here

Mom,

Today marks the 8th anniversary of your departure from this world. I was a girl-woman when you left--had just turned 21, was trying to figure out life after college, was in love with a silly (silly) boy, was in the midst of trying to assert my adulthood but clinging to you as your little girl because I knew what was about to happen. I knew what was happening and I didn't understand what I was supposed to do next. I didn't understand what it meant to live without you here with me.

I remember so many things about that evening. I'll keep them between you and me. But the main thing I remember is just the numb, silent, stilness of my mind afterwards. What is this? What now? what does this mean?

In the years since your passing, I've thought about moments like when you told me I'd be okay if you were no longer living, and I got angry, but you just had this knowing look on your face that both scared and reassured me. I remember one time, long before you were sick, when you took me to your own dad's gravesite. I remember just being in awe of the idea that you can still feel so connected to someone after they are long gone from this world. In these past 8 years, I've come to understand. While I still wonder "What next?" all the time and have moments where your absence is a sharp, deep pang that just has to run its course, I now know one thing that comforts me: you are still here. It's just different.

You were there in that room, with your brothers and sisters, when I was sworn in last week. I could feel you. You snuck up on me! And I know that you know my own plans, and that I shouldn't feel any pressure to follow a path that you or any one else prescribed for me, but that I just need to cut my own path and not look back. I will. I am.

I just want to say thank you for your continued presence. This is a day--a season, really--when tears will flow unexpectedly. Maybe it will happen as I order my coffee or as I'm brushing my teeth or maybe, even, while I'm working with the kids in my program. But it will happen and it's okay. Because it is merely a reminder that your love is still so real and so relevant.

I will be crying because I wish I could hug you. See what you look like as you grow gracefully towards 60. Hear your laugh. Even scorn your advice. I will cry because I wish I could do this but I will also cry because, beautifully, I still feel you and I know you're here and I'm so thankful for that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

in this world

this weekend i started reading this great book by j. california cooper, an author whose work always, inevitably, moves me and strikes me in its simplicity and accuracy as it depicts the human condition. she just gets it, puts it down on paper, and it touches you.

this new book i'm reading is called "some people, some other place." the narrator is a being that is not yet born. i guess she's a soul preparing to be born, telling the story of to whom she'll be born and the world into which she'll be born. the narrator begins by telling us about the world she (i assume it's a she, but actually i don't know) currently knows: the world as she sees it before entering the compromised state of being human, a world to which we each belong even though we might have forgotten about it.

she describes the process of transitioning from her current state of full awareness of what the world is all about, into her muted awareness of this reality once she becomes a human being and has to learn how to survive as such. she explains that as babies we are unable to talk for so long because we need this time to unlearn what we already know and focus on the task at hand: survival in our human form.

this struck me as really interesting, especially since it seems like so many of us spend time praying and meditating with the hope of learning ultimate truths about life... maybe truths we know somewhere deep inside but have suppressed as a result of our humanity?

what would this narrator say to another soul about the world? or what would she say to a human being seeking to understand the world better? Maybe this:

The world is made up of people. Billions of different souls with different experiences, different perspectives, different personalities, different sources of suffering and joy. This is beautiful.

There are people who need nature to live—need to be in the dirt, in the fresh air, in the sun, digging things up and planting things in and climbing up or scaling down or swimming through. There are people who need cement, mortar, and technology to live—need to be in a clean, whitewashed environment, need metal and brass and need to revel in humanity’s genius, to take advantage of these conveniences, to master them and manipulate them and own them. There are people who need other people to live—who must be in the middle of the crowd, making it laugh or cry or captivating it with their stories, who must be held by a stranger or a loved one, who must see other people and understand them, who want others to understand them. There are people who need to explore the contours of their inner mind in order to live—who need to reflect, to meditate, to sit in peace and solitude and quiet, who need to write but don’t need to share what they’ve written, who need to pray but also just want to listen. There are people who other people want to be and there are people who everyone pities. There are people who are beautiful and people who are ugly, either physically or internally, or both. There are people who are just beginning to figure it out and there are people who think they’ve got it figured out and there are people who know they know nothing. There are wise people and there are wise-asses. There are smart people and there are smart-asses. There are ignorant people and there are people who are humble blank slates, sponges waiting to be filled.

All of the world is made up of people and this is all God’s image. To think about the world outside of oneself is to contemplate God, who He is, what He is. It is difficult to do, but important because it helps us understand. Maybe all the world is a composite of God’s heart. And maybe contemplating what it is that makes the world what it is and humanity what we are is a good start to understanding God a bit better.

If we want to see ourselves we have to see outside ourselves, be open to differences, shared experiences experienced differently. Can humanity do that?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

it's sunday night and i have to be up in six hours and i can't sleep. my mind is brimming from a full weekend. saw for colored girls... started my vision board... and spent sunday afternoon with family and friends and just feeling so full of love.

from the movie, the poetry inside of me is just percolating, bubbling phrases and sputtering images that are begging to be, begging me not to neglect them, myself. there were moments when the transition from poetry to the screenplay was awkward, but i have to say i really enjoyed the experience of that film. there were scenes that definitely moved me. there were scenes that didn't, and that's fine. but the point is the film did something. it made me feel something. and it reminded me that that's what i love about poetry and about writing in general. it's a gift to share. even though i'm no ntozake shange, i believe i have a story to tell. i know i do. and i'm telling it bit by bit. watching the movie put a fresh log in my fire and it feels nice.

also my birthday was a few days ago and that has me thinking about the future. next year is the big 3-0. i'm excited. i'm nervous. i feel a sense of urgency around making my goals HAPPEN. not that 30 is the cut off point, at all, by any means. i just want to know that i'm living each day fully. i had a little gathering of girlfriends and brunch and making our vision boards. it opened a door for me and now it's like something inside me keeps whispering, what's next? it was inspiring to share the time with girlfriends and hang out, chat, laugh, listen to music, and take a minute to ask ourselves what our visions are for our lives. it was exciting see what we all have in store for our lives. it was validating and eye opening to see what themes we all had in common--both the questions we had and the points of clarity we shared.

from the time with family i'm realizing that i'm at the beginning of a new era for myself. in a lot of ways, my twenties have been dominated by loss. i've defined myself by it. it has shaped me, no doubt, but lately i've begun to see more fully just how amidst tremendous loss i've been flooded with so much love, an outpouring of it that at times is, frankly, overwhelming. but in a good way, in a way that says, girl, you better take all this love and just be glad!

i'm gonna be so tired in the morning. but i'm going to just live in this moment and feel the gratitude. it's good.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday 5K for Mom


The old adage goes, "The race is not always given to the swift, but to those who keep on running." ~Author unknown.

I thought about this as I ran down Embarcadero in San Francisco on Sunday, an abnormally warm and sunny day for San Francisco in near-October. I was running about a 12 minute mile, which was slower than my pace even as I practiced for the Race for the Cure. The difference? Everything that the race signified for me, and for the two thousand or so other people who gathered to run that morning, had finally made its impact on me. It wasn't weighing me down, per se. It was just... significant. It was something I needed to observe, which meant I was running a little slower than I wanted to but experiencing the event the way I needed to.

I'm running for Mom. On what would have been her 57th birthday. I'm seeing women and men that look like the world--they're from everywhere, they look like everyone. And we all want breast cancer to be a thing of the past, and we all want to do something beautiful and celebratory to honor those who've fought it, be they survivors running alongside us, or loved ones we now miss. I'm running for Mom and the lady next to me is running for Aunt Kristin, and the little boy to the left of me is running for his Nana, who is here at the race waiting for him to reach the finish line. And the Stanford Rugby women and the Cal Cross Country men with their pink shorts and tutus, they're running because they can and should run, because they have the lungs and legs and spirit to do it.

As I took it all in, I can't deny that it was bittersweet. I absolutely thought, Mom should be running here too, with a hot pink Survivor Shirt on.



As I encouraged myself to keep running, swift or not, I also thought about those who couldn't run. I also wondered, for the millionth time, why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? Why do things happen the way they do?

Some say that old saying about the race not being for the swift was a reference to Ecclesiastes 9:11, which reads: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

In other words, to answer my questions, "Who knows?"

I sure don't. But I do know that I believe God has a plan for me and my life, and that as clueless as I may be to how it will all pan out and why, I'm confident that I'll be okay. I also know that as long as I can live--and run, walk, smile, laugh, fight, survive, WRITE--I will do it with gratitude.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall's Coming (Haiku)

One last stolen kiss
Lingering, still, on summer
Warm September day

Monday, September 13, 2010

For mom, against cancer!

September 26th is my mom's birthday. She would have been 57 this year. I try to picture the 57 year old version of her. Can't. I'm sure she would have still been as youthful as she always was. She's been really really on my mind lately. I mean, more than in the usual every day way. So I wanted to do something special to recognize her this year.

I thought about signing up for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, which is a 60 mile event that takes place in Seattle on her birthday weekend. It sounds like such an amazing and inspirational event and I was getting really excited about doing it, until I went on an 8 mile hike that kicked my booty and reminded me that I actually have to condition for these types of things. (Note to self: "you are neither 18 nor invincible. Act accordingly." #myahamoment)

But I did some research and was so happy to find out that there's a Race for the Cure in San Francisco on her birthday. A 5K, this is much more within my current abilities (but shout outs to Mirenda darling for doing the 3 day and signing up for the 5K this year!). So in honor of her courageous 11-year battle against breast cancer, and to celebrate what would have been her 57th birthday, I will be participating in the 2010 Race for the Cure in San Francisco. My goal is to raise at least $570 (but $5700 would be nice!) to support the San Francisco Bay Area Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in its efforts to fund breast cancer screening, treatment, education and support programs, as well as Komen's national research grants program.

Interested in donating? This can be done online by clicking here. Your tax-deductible contribution will help women who need it now, by supporting local breast cancer programs, and will help protect women in the future by supporting Komen's national research grants program.

I will keep you posted on my progress! Also, please add your loved one's name, or your own name if you're a Survivor, if you want to give shouts out to those you love who have fought this disease.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

No thank you.

Doing another writing excercise from the book, An Old Friend From Far Away. Thanks Jace! This one asks you to write for ten minutes and everytime you feel yourself coming to a pause in typing, you are supposed to write "No thank you..." again and finish that sentence however the spirit may move you. I like it. Here she goes:

No thank you, I am not interested in living a compromised life, just because you lived it and you're "doing okay" and so I should follow that course too.

No thank you, I will not have a stale life where I settle for less than my wildest dreams because that's the practical thing to do.

Do you ever feel like as you get older and more "practical," some of the magic of being a dreamer fades? I hate feeling like I'm sinking into, rather than blooming into, adulthood. I think a lot of us abandon parts of the child within that should actually be given the chance to flourish now that we have more agency than we did as kids. It makes me think of the movie Drop Dead Fred, where the little girl would always imagine what she would be like when she grew up. Then she did, and it was just a sadder, less vibrant version of what she could have been.

Now, I'm not saying this is me. I'm not some shriveled up prune or anything and I don't feel like I've strayed so far from the path that I'm not the same person. But I do sometimes find myself fighting to hear that inner voice--call it intuition, the Holy Spirit, your conscience, your heart, or just YOU--when really it should be the world outside that's struggling to get a word in edge wise. It should be all the nay-sayers and those who aren't me but think they know all the answers that have the most trouble breaking through to me; not myself, the person who God speaks to about what His plans are for me. Seems almost ridiculous to even have to write that, but I know too many people who have looked up one day, looked around, and not recognized themselves, so I have to stay aware of the danger of that happening.

I'm going to take up meditating more often. In a recent post I wrote about how writing is like my meditation, and how meditation is like the soul's way of speaking. Well I gotta listen to that. I'd encourage others to do the same. I will say that as the praying type I find it easier to rely on my own sense of self when I'm tapped in to prayer. After all, that's a type of meditation, isn't it?

I don't know why I'm on this whole, like, "Here's some advice" tip lately. Last post it was about self-reflection during the Fall season. Today it's about listening to that inner voice... I hope I'm not being redundant! But for some reason that's the message that is resonating with me right now, and so that's what I gotta share on this blog.

So, anywho: no thank you to anything that silences my inner voice or sets me off course from my designated path. No thank you to anything but living an authentic life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Itchy

In my front yard a couple of weeks ago, I worked hard pulling up all the nasty weeds that flourished from my neglect of the garden throughout the entire summer. It was serious labor. It was a legitimate work out, y'all.

Later that evening, feeling that sense of accomplishment one feels from both meaningful physical activity and a successfully finished project, I sat on the couch with my feet up and a blanket over me, watching t.v. Slowly, I began to notice the beginning tickles of a bug bite on the back of my ankle. And then another on the top of my foot and then another. The more aware I became of it, the more bug bites I began to discover. I think there were six or seven on my two feet. Gross.

This reminded me of the time I had chicken pox. Well, I believe Monty had it first; then Chantel, then me, then finally Chalon. I might have the order wrong, but in a short period time we had a little chicken pox pandemic going on at my Gram's house, where my cousins and I all went after school when we were kids. I remember the discovery ("Is this it...? Is that a... a chicken pock?"), I remember how my mom fretted over me and made me not want to get better because I liked the attention, and I remember Calomine lotion, that pinkish white stuff with its distinctive smell that sat in my nose, taunted me into wanting to actually taste it even though I knew it would be disgusting. I could never bring myself to do it, thank God. And I remember the oatmeal mix. Now that I wouldn't be surprised if I had eaten... Terrible!

I'm sure I must have felt sick and miserable. Chicken pox are no joke, after all. But seriously, all I remember now is that my cousins and I still got to play together because we all had it, so there was no harm. And I remember sitting on the floor at Gram's house, with blankets all over me, just straight chillin. When people reminisce about the 80s, I think about stuff like that time we all got the chicken pox. Must have been '86. I feel like that music video for the song Supersonic was out and I can picture us singing, "the S is for super and the U is for unique, the P is for perfection and you know that we are freaks..." and I can see the adults looking at each other because they hated for us to say the word "freaks" but they wouldn't explain why.

Ahh, good times. I don't know why I'm writing about that! Except that it's funny how one thing can take you all the way back to some other, seemingly completely random thing. And it's interesting how sometimes the most draining and miserable experiences can be mitigated, even transformed into wonderful memories, just by the sheer presence of good company and loving people.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Change gon' come

The rain this morning felt appropriate; the grey, interrupted by short flirts of sunshine, almost comforting. Outside my window at work, leaves on the maple tree are starting to brown a little and something in the air this morning smelled of the crisp coolness of Fall. While these things signal the end of hot sunny days and sunglasses, I actually welcome it.

I can never say that I want Summer to end, but there's always something about Fall arriving that makes me feel like things are happening in a fresh or exciting way. School starts, for one thing. Because I work with students, that means gearing up for new programming, winding back up to the energy level required to deal with K-8th graders. I also have a Fall birthday, so perhaps the start of the season gets me thinking about this marker of my time here on earth, gets me taking inventory on what I've done and what I want to do.

Fall feels kind of like New Years to me. This time of year is when I find myself more motivated to get things in order and clean house. Right now my priority is finishing my writing project. I've been writing more often, thankfully. Every day.

I have some other professional goals that I am newly motivated to pursue as well regarding my passion for education. I don't know why I'm being so secretive about it, but suffice it to say that I've got lots of ideas and I'm looking forward to figuring it all out.

Welcome back to school, kiddos! And for the grown ups, I hope this time provides a good opportunity for you to do some nice self reflection.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing back to the heart of me

Having "one of those days" and wondering what has me all off. Of course I know what external factors contribute to the melancholy, but that doesn't make it feel any better, nor does it explain why I just can't shake it. I tried to rally myself to go out and be social but just couldn't get that together. Tried some retail therapy, tried getting some things crossed off of my to do list, tried some pampering, tried prayer... It all helped a little, but that deep-down blah feeling just wouldn't give.

Then I realized it: I haven't been writing. Like, at all. Haven't been making time for it, haven't even been reading other people's work lately. And because writing is my way of checking back in with myself when I feel out of whack, I think that may be a big part of the problem today.

I came across the following quote today: "Meditation is the tongue of the soul & the language of our spirit.”--Jeremy Taylor. So true. For me, sitting and writing sometimes helps me plug back into what my soul/spirit are trying to say to me. Neglecting to write often leaves me feeling like I'm out of touch with myself, like I've been ignoring that inner voice for so long that I've gotten a little lost.

Recently I've put a lot of time and effort into goals like studying for and taking the bar, getting my office at work organized, cleaning out the garage at home, etc. I have so much more to do, and so little time, and so little money, and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. But even when I'm successfully getting things accomplished, I feel like those things aren't meaningful if I'm not also in tune with what's most important to me.

Perhaps all else will start to flow together if I first and foremost remember my heart, which has a deep passion for writing and the creative release it provides for me. And at the same time I remind myself that my largest goal for the year is yet to be achieved: to write a book. I need to refocus on this, both because it's cheaper than the therapist's couch (I know), and because it's who I am. I got an encouraging note recently reminding me that sometimes other people enjoy my writing too (thanks Ratha!), so that gives me all the more reason to motivate myself to jump back into the craft and get myself back into the writing practice. Perhaps this will help me get it together and feel a little more "in touch."

Yeah.

I feel better now.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Midnight Thoughts

So I should be studying, or sleeping, but I'm finding that I can do neither. When I try to study, I feel myself aching to go to sleep. When I try to sleep, my mind is racing: What are the elements of murder 2 again? And when is a warrantless search justified? What are the 4 types of easements? Is an income generating property acquired before marriage community or separate property if both spouses work to maintain it? What makes a valid codicil? What is Indian Country? Why do they still call it that, in 2010?

Gross, right?

Meanwhile, real life is going on. Dumb stuff (Oh shoot, I didn't run the dryer, the towels are going to be all wet and gross. I keep forgetting to buy soap! I didn't pay the electricity bill this month. I need to work out). Random stuff ("Hello, Ex-who's-now-married, you're in town from across the country? So awesome!"). Serious stuff (Father-daughter dance at good friend's wedding has me bursting into tears. Relationship challenges. I miss my parents. I miss my friends but I can't hang out or talk).

What do we do when the task at hand calls for 100% focus, but we're, like, human and real, thus creating little nuisances like bills that must be paid, incomes that must be earned, relationships that must be tended to?

I don't know the answer. I know I've tried to achieve balance, but right now I'm just feeling the intensity of it all.

I know it will be okay. I know that I will keep studying hard and keep praying and keep trying to be focused. And, if I don't pass... I'll pass. But if I don't, I'll be okay. I know too many incredibly smart people who've had to take this thing again, and lived through it.

Amen and hallelujah. Back to work. Or sleep. Whatever comes first.

P.S. I miss writing.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Closed for maintenance?

Of course the time when I feel I have all these thoughts coursing through my mind so much of the time, and so much I want to write about, and when I have found myself having more and more intersting conversations about purpose, passion, politics, all the great "p's" of the human condition, of course that time would coincide with me studying to take the bar exam in a month.

Lawdamussy.

So aside from the very sporadic, very short rant of a midnight i-can't-sleep-gotta-get-up-in-5 moment, I will check y'all in a month (God willing!).

Until then, I do hope you'll peruse all the ingenius content already posted on this a-here girlwomansoul's blog.

Thanks!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In My Father's Closet

Who knew that throwing away my dad's expired vitamins in the back of the cupboard would send me deep into contemplation?

A few weeks ago, to make room for new roommates I undertook the fantastic task of cleaning out the kitchen cabinets to clear the way for new stuff. For those who don't know, I live in my childhood house. I moved in when my dad was very ill and he shortly thereafter passed away. That was going on two years ago and I haven't moved out since, although I plan to move out in the Fall. It's weird because it's always been my house, but now it's like, my house. All that to say, because there was never any true cleaning out and filling up of the space, a lot of stuff has stayed the same since Dad passed away. So when the new roomies came there was a need to make room for the new.

So I'm cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and I find all kinds of goodies--expired prune juice, glutinous pancake mix from 2005 (seriously, that's dangerous. Google it), old vitamin supplements--stuff, stuff, stuff. And it felt so good to throw the stuff away. (It also felt quite wasteful. I took care to compost and recycle what I could. But I just couldn't help but feel a little guilty about all these products that were purchased and never used.) And because it was just food it wasn't really an emotional experience. (To contrast, I won't even begin to write about cleaning out my dad's closet. I still have half of his sweatshirts and t-shirts. I still have some of his size 10 men's shoes. Oh boy.) No, instead it was just... interesting. To think about the "stuff" stuff that we leave behind, the truly unsentimental things that nevertheless are a sign that we were once here... interesting.

But I am now inspired to minimize, minimize, minimize, so I can have plenty of room for things that matter like relationships, activities and issues that inspire me, dreaming about Possibility, refining and revising my own boundaries, etc. And that I really mean, not in a mushy fluffy way, but in the real sense that when you feel like you've got too much stuff you don't feel like you're able to get up and move to where you need to go when you need to go there. I'd be screwed if I had to move to Central America in 3 weeks (but not if I had to do it in 3 months... see above where I said I am now inspired to minimize).

Now to take it to the pie in the sky existential place I somehow always find a way to visit no matter how mundane or simple the issue. The experience of cleaning out the cabinet set me off thinking about letting go. When do you let go of things, and when do you ignore the expiration date and stretch it out? What things in our lives simply don't have an expiration date and will always be in our shelf, maybe in the shelves of our heirs after we pass away?

They better be more important than some old prune juice, I tell ya that.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Speak to Me Update

The Speak to Me Event was fantastic. It was a very small, intimate group and the Gallery is a beautiful space. The poets boasted a range of styles and talents and really brought it, yours truly included, if I do say so myself.

About the Artwork
Because of permission concerns, to view the painting I suggest you just click here and you should be able to follow the link to the portfolio of Shirley Rudolph, the artist who created the painting "Temporary Fix," which inspired my poem, "A Poem for People Looking for Answers."

It's a great painting. An array of country flags set across a black background are then overshadowed by stark-red question marks splattered into the foreground. Slogans and phrases related to politics, political ideology, and political dialogue are quietly placed around the flags.

The painting was the visual representation of how I often feel about following world politics, and the following is the poetic inspiration that came from it:

"A Poem For People Who Want Answers"

An ocean of ink spills across page,
A cleansing, rewriting worries into problems solved
Painting this troubled canvas til it looks like Freedom,
Is ready to wave itself high

Fly, above war torn families who can’t stomach a Memorial Day barbecue
Above fist-pumping youth on the Gaza, now just bodies, who wanted answers and got them, wanted aid and got none

Above "Dear Leader’s" muffled masses, fearing nuclear vengeance from unexplained sunken warships

Ready to wave itself high, fly
A freed bird, unsoiled by blackened waters
Untouched by dark addictions that have long seeped into the culture of we changelings, we hopefuls who said, “Yes We Can!” but didn’t know how we would

If I could, I’d let the ink spill across every newspaper page
Paint over rage and hateful laws that tell us the solution to all of our angst is to question each other’s right to be
Right to stand on this patch of soil or that
Right to speak this colonial tongue or that
Right to write our opinions on page, paper or web, and invite others to dialogue

I’d paint mountains into those sharp lines that trace the movement of the Euro, the Dollar, the Yuan
Splash blood-red dancing question marks across each country flag, begging the question

Who are we?

Will we ever be able to gather all our politics and in one giant cipher have a moment of reckoning where we see our own political guesswork as it is, acknowledge how fragile we, and our so called solutions, really are?

Will we ever commit to discarding flimsy slogans and empty rhetoric, because deep down we all know we need more than a strong cork to plug this oil spill?

We need real, true, progress that only happens through struggle, through community, that only emerges when we refuse to act with impunity, when we accept ourselves as flawed, fumbling, bumbling things who've been looking for a temporary fix to long term problems and have only found ourselves getting dirtier and more confused in the process

If I could, I’d let ink spill across newspaper page and canvas, rely on divine inspiration to paint a clear picture of who we are and who we must become if we intend to leave this place in one piece and in working order for our children
I’d paint over this troubled canvas until it betrays a glint of hope, and I’d let the page wave high, fly, like a freedom flag we all would willingly and sincerely salute

An ocean of ink spills across page,
A cleansing, rewriting worries into problems solved
Painting this troubled canvas til it looks like Freedom,
Is ready to wave itself high


The event was inspiring, a great communion of artists. I'm glad I was a part of it!

I learned from the experience that when I pour a little into my craft, I get good results--people seemed to like the delivery of the poem. (In fact, I won $25!) More importantly, this means that if I were to pour even more into my creative interests, I just might approach the level I am aiming for.

Gotta get on it then.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Speak To Me--Tonight

So it just occurred to me that I'm excited about performing a new piece tonight! It has been such a busy time it's like I don't allow myself to get excited about the next moment until it's upon me.

What's tonight? Speak to Me: Visual Art Poetry Fusion Show at C Art Gallery. If you're in Seattle, come through!

Thursday, June 3, 2010
5:30-7:30 p.m.
C Art Gallery
855 Hiawatha Place South
Seattle, Washington 98144

The premise is pretty cool. I've been to plenty of shows where a visual artist will create a new piece as a poet spits, but this is the other way around. The poet will perform a piece inspired by a painting. The painting will be presented and the poet will perform.

For more seasoned peformers, this may sound like no big deal. But participating in this is great stretching for me and my creative work. First, I have been wanting to put myself out there a bit more lately. Second, usually I just kinda sit back and say, "What shall I write about?" Or on a whim I decide, "I'm going to go to this Slam/Open Mic, and I'm going to perform X piece." This was a different experience for me. I had no idea what the artist's piece would look like, who the artist was, whether I'd find inspiration in it, etc. And I had to put myself out there by providing prior work as a means for them to select me as one of the 6 poets.

I'll be interested to see what the artist thinks of my interpretation of her piece. Can't share it now, but I'll post an update on how the whole thing went a bit later.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Cleaning

So this past weekend I went off to NY for a whirlwind trip. I took a red-eye Friday night, arrived at 6am, and didn't stop hitting the pavement until I got to the airport on Monday evening.

What was my business? Had to retrieve some boxes from my past life, go through them and ship back to Seattle anything I wanted to keep.

I easily throw away the first group--expired toiletries, broken decoratives that I had used in my Brooklyn apartment, three-quarters burned out candles, shoes that the Salvation Army wouldn't salvage. Then came tougher stuff--papers from law school that I won't let go of because I over-value my intellectual property. Photos of people who I could not identify but hesitated to get rid of, because isn't it bad karma to throw away someone's photo? Then came gems--heartfelt cards my mother sent me in college for my birthday and Valentines Day; old love letters; poetry written on napkins from 1999, 2003, 2006; journals.

I felt like I had accomplished a great task when I was able to reduce 4 and a half large boxes down to three small ones, giving one great box of things to Salvation Army and another box of linens and dishes to my friend who housed my stuff for free in his attic for almost two years, and throwing away another large box of stuff.

With the loss of my parents I have been faced with the task of throwing away their stuff as well--something which, almost 8 years since losing my mom and 2 years since my dad died, I still have yet to complete. I often wonder whether something I consider trash is something they would never have consented to being thrown away. What does it mean to throw away, recycle, give away, and sell things that were once part of you? Why do we let things become such a part of us? And how do these same things eventually transition into discardables?

These and other random thoughts passed through my mind as I sat in my friend's dusty attic, sneezing incessantly, sifting through all sorts of things like pictures from my childhood, framed degrees, old papers and books from school and work, old jewelry and knicknacks, etc.

When the stuff I've shipped from New York arrives in Seattle, I wonder if I'll throw away anything else? Oh, life. Maybe. I'm on a minimalist kick. I need less baggage!

One thing I don't think I'll ever willingly throw away is my stuffed camel, Chosun. He's no teddy bear. He's unique and thoughtful. He's got more substance than a mere bear. He's been with me for 28 years. He's here to stay. Which is good to know.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home is...

This is what my homegirl says about where home is for her. Check it out and please thank her for sharing!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

People Watching

It’s wrong and creepy and voyeuristic, but I just can’t stop myself from watching this couple that is sitting in the car parked right in front of my window. I’m at my favorite coffee shop, have just finished up my Bible study, and am preparing to write. I look out at the warm gray gloom that is any given Sunday in spring in Seattle, and I see them, sitting there in the car, her face covered and his arm around her shoulders.

I’m touched by their tenderness. The woman is clearly truly distraught. I imagine scenarios. Maybe they are breaking up—perhaps she has cheated on him and is overcome with grief over what she has done. Perhaps he has just informed her that he has found someone new. Maybe she just learned that her brother has died. Maybe they just lost their baby. Maybe she is simply overwhelmed by a range of mundane things—the unpaid telephone bill, that leaky shower head, and the final straw, the fact that their dog didn’t hold his bladder this morning—things that, lumped together, form one big overwhelming, dreadful sense of void. Then it occurs to me that maybe the two are not a couple, but friends, or siblings.

Either way, the man is a tree for her to lean against, a willow to cover her. It is beautiful, although her grief seems very real and raw and painful.
I have now decided to turn my back to them because I know recognize this moment and I know it needs to be theirs alone. But I can’t help but wonder—what happened? I can’t help but appreciate that no matter what the circumstance a friend’s arm can be a blanket in a cold world.

Who is a blanket in a cold world for you? I am blessed to count many brothers and sisters as such.

And of course, there is God, my ultimate Blanket in a Cold World. Today I have been reminded and then reminded again that even in the midst of the deepest sorrow, we have to remember our blessings--the blessing of a good friend, a loving hug, a reminder that we are loved. So I'm feeling Thankful.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Been a long, long time comin'.

Warmin back up...

Been doing a lot of thinking since my recent writing frenzy, mainly about how to build a more regular writing process, and also how to step my spoken word game back up. As an update, I did make my 100 page goal! Three days after my goal deadline, but I'm proud of myself for trying and seeing it through. One thing that I experienced in the process was a lot of internal pressure for each word I write to be something I consider golden. I think I'm over that now.

For some reason, the blogging piece has been lacking lately. But I just felt a need to post as an update the fact that I am still writing, regularly.

More to come soon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's D-Day...

I'm SO close. So close! I'll announce my final page count by the end of the day. Lordy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Lifetime Summarized in Ten Minutes

As I contemplate the direction of the Soul section of my writing project, I see that there are so many things one can cover. What is soul and what is the soul? What is soul in terms of artform and what is the soul in terms of human form? What makes us who we are? What are the common links that make humans human, and what are the unique ingredients that make one soul distinguishable from the next?

To explore some of these questions I pulled some exercises from a fabulous book on writing memoir and one such exercise asks the reader to tell the story of her life, giving herself ten minutes to complete the task. Serious stuff! I’m game. My Life In Ten Minutes. Go:

Well there are details like how I was born in Seattle and first lived in a tiny two bedroom brick house with a dobermin puppy and my mom and dad and my brother Billy and some goldfish and rabbits, and a strawberry shaped toy box. And how we moved in with my grandma while our new house was being built, and how vast and mansion-like this new house seemed, with its extra rooms—I had a room just for toys! And the mysterious green forest across the street from us and the other that I explored that was just one house down from us.

And then there are details about school and being the quiet one, the short one, the youngest one in the class, the smart one, the “gifted” one that the teachers liked, and then shortly later one of the only black girls in the class, one of many “gifted” students and. And how I put quotes around that to this day because from this experience I learned how children are tracked and segregated and some are made to feel special and others are made to feel mediocre, and these expectations are set and most of the time we live up or down to them, depending where we fall. And how in school I generally liked boys who didn’t like me but once I liked Jeff Zimmerman and he liked me back, but he was white and I was afraid, even in the third grade, to understand whether that meant anything of any significance at all.

And then there are details about what kind of child I was, like how I wrote in a journal from the age of 8 and how my mom was tall (5'10") and elegant and I always thought I’d be tall too, and how here I am, 5’4” and all, but that’s an inch taller than I was when I went off to college so I guess I shouldn’t complain. And mom would always tell me I should be happy to be petite, that it means I can date anyone of any size or height, but how I used to only date tall boys/men.

And there’s how my mom died when I was 21 years old and she was 49, of breast cancer, and ever since then I’ve been petrified of breast cancer and convinced that every single secret vice or indulgence or sinful thought or selfish act will ultimately lead to my demise from breast cancer. And how my dad died when I was 26 and he was 56, from lung cancer, and how I was absolutely furious at God and the world and confused and missed my daddy and was utterly pissed off because we had just now started to “get” each other, and I had just now started to accept the past in terms of him and mom, things I couldn’t change but had held onto in bitterness for so long.

And how I went to law school but got on the plane from Seattle to D.C. to start the first year and from when I stepped into the airport terminal in Seattle I knew something wasn't right. How I endured the first year and now carry many scars from the experience but also some medals of honor. How I finished and saw my dad smiling with pride there at graduation. And how I had moved to New York and not taken the firm gig and thought this was a pivotal moment in my life but also found myself sucked in to New York City in a way that didn’t exactly nurture my spirit but if nothing else did earn me yet a few more stripes and give me some adventure and some laughs and many funny “remember the time when” stories to share and review with my friends.

And how when dad died I moved back home to Seattle and took a job that I liked but knew that wasn’t the end of my story, but just the beginning.

As for the future, I see many possibilities, but I suppose the optimal is: I then move on to grad school and become a published writer. I become a professor of African American studies and a writer of poetry and essays and short stories. And I write and profess and mold young minds and speak about and think about and meditate on and write about blackness and identity and creativity and soul. And I learn languages and travel and marry a wonderful man and am not afraid of cancer or life anymore. I drift into public service, helping shape education policy and reforming public schools. I’m not beaten down tired by work—I serve thoroughly and with love and diligence and I am energized and refreshed and happy and in love with life and work and all of it.

And when it’s time to retire, I don’t. I keep going. I am consulting, teaching, and always writing, because it’s my life’s work, my lovework. So I don’t mind, in fact I would mind not being able to do it.

And I have at least one child and he or she is a good person. And I remain close with my nephews and niece and I meet their children and love them like a grandparent would love a grandchild.

There are the details and the accomplishments and the paths I take in career, love, geography. Is this my life story? I think there’s more I have to say about who I am. More at the end of it all that I would want people to know. Like I am a person who loves people—who really does try to see the goodness in people and sometimes this means that I see people for their potential and not for their reality and sometimes this means I open myself up to people who do not mean well, and I don’t really care, because usually it means I open myself up to good people. Like I am a person who someday (at the age of 28 perhaps, if I get on it quickly enough) learned to say no when I needed to, but remained willing to say yes when I really needed to even if I didn’t want to. Like I am an artist and a person who values creativity and difference and authenticity and loyalty to who you are. Like I’d love to be a good storyteller, I mean spoken stories. I’d love to be the person people gather around and listen to and laugh with, although the thought of this simultaneously freaks me out because I don't like to be the center of attention unless I'm teaching or performing spoken word.

Truthfully, I can’t really see my life story past age 50. I hope that’s just because I’m too young to see that, and I have trouble seeing beyond five years down the line. I hope it's not that my parents’ short lives have impeded my ability to see the possibility that God’s plan is for me to live a long, beautiful, prosperous life. I appreciate that I don't take this for granted and that I know God's will is His will, but I hope I also don't go too far into limiting the possibilities.

The mysteries of time and place and other future details aside, my plan for this life, what I truly hope to be able to say in my “story of my lifetime” is that I served God well in this lifetime, and humanity too.

What's your life story? It's okay to give yourself a little more than ten minutes to write it out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stripping.

Finally watched Erykah's video. Happy that I heard the song and came to appreciate it for what it was before seeing the video, because I think this allowed me to digest this creative work of hers in a different way. But, the way I take the lyrics to the song and the meaning of the video and all, I totally feel her (and am considering incorporating more grits and cornbread into my diet. Haha).

When I heard her song it was like a breath of fresh air. I could imagine myself driving or riding with the window down and the sun hitting my face and a brisk wind blowing and maybe the song playing:

So can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye

but I need you to want me
I need you to miss me
I need your attention, yes
I need you next to me
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction
somebody say come back
come back baby come back
I want you to need me
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back


People, I say I feel her on that! We all have moments of just wanting to get away and be free and indulge in a little solitude where we have the freedom to just do whatever--to have a chance to fly, a chance to cry. That's a gift we don't often get in this busy world we live in. It's something I probably should carve into my life since it's not really an option that's going to be set in front of me.

As for the video, I think this was Erykah's way of just taking that gift for herself. She literally allowed herself to just strip off everything that was weighing her down. She needed to get out of whatever it was that was restraining her, to do what she needed to do without worrying about whether people were looking (which, most of them weren't, interestingly. Something I think worth exploring, too). Isn't that what we all kinda wish we could do sometimes? I mean, I'm not exactly looking for the opportunity to show all my business to the whole world, but in a sense by doing the writing I'm doing, I kind of am. I'm opening myself up and sharing pieces of who I am with others, and the goal is that I'll do that with no apology and no explanation beyond that which I wish to offer.

But in the end, what's the cost of this? In this world is the act of seeking freedom in a radical way something that has potentially fatal consequences? Why did Erykah get assassinated in the end? Or, did she just die to the world she knew before, the world where she even seemed a little bit invisible? After all, in the end there she is again, radiant and smiling (with her eighties slash blacksploitation slash whatever-looking but she's still rockin it hair).

Anyway, the video just sparked a lot of reflection for me. It actually got me back on track with my writing, too. Good stuff.

what will it be, what will it be?

i just found this in my e-pile of half-written poetry saved on my comp. what will it become, what will it become? it's totally unfinished but i think i can do something with this so i'm sharing this little fragment of what it is in hopes that it will then inspire me to revisit the piece and complete it. in fact it already has inspired me to do that. thanks for reading! comments welcome.

no title yet

I’m so sick of love poems and broken hearts
They’re off target like a blind man throwin’ darts
I’m trying to start it like the way a fire grows in sparks
And builds upon itself like a tornado’s blowin’ starts

I’m sick of butterflies, breaths held, and eyes closed
Ain’t got no time to indulge in the heart's sigh-woes
I’m tryna find the flyer higher prose that gets us out our silos,
Discover rhymes that help us climb together to the higher roads

Cuz the path to revolution ain’t paved in gold
It ain’t gilded, golden bricked, it can't be bought or sold
We gotta build it with our hands feet bodies, our souls
We got to nurse it got to feed it so it grows and grows

So it goes and goes like jump forward git back
So I feel u feelin’ me even if I ain’t said s#!* yet
And you get that, and we accept the kismet
We just let we do our thing like it ain't been did yet...

That's what I'm tryna do, I ain't tryna sigh at you
I ain't tryna vy for you, I'm just trying to die for you
I'm just trying to die to self, share with you what makes me melt
put my ego on the shelf with poetry that can be felt

Poetry that can be felt by everyone down to the core
I'm talking home grown soul tongue sown and not no grocery store
chain conglomerate made, processed, manufactured thing
no I'm talking poetry that grows from me and blooms in the spring of my mind

I'm not talking blue violets or tired lines
I'm talking dirt and fertilizer, rain and sunshine...


that's it so far. i was in a totally different frame of mind at the time i started this--it is actually one of those subway poems, one of the poems i wrote on the c-train. so that was at least two years ago. time flies. wow.

thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Give Thanks

Word Poem (perhaps worth considering)
by Nikki Giovanni

as things be/come
let's destroy
then we can destroy
what we be/come
let's build
what we become
when we dream

Shout outs to Nikki G! Dream big--we are works in progress if we are living up to our purpose and potential!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why I Write

I write because I have a story to tell and because my soul demands that I tell it in written form and through the spoken word. I write because it is who I am. I write because it is my therapy. I write because I want to share something lasting with others and with the world. I write so that I can make new friends long after I'm gone from this world. I write because I always have. I write because I always will. I write because it would make my Gram proud. I write because not doing so would be wrong. I write because the future me will want to know what the present me is thinking, just as the present me benefits tremendously from what the former me has to say. I write because it helps me remember. I write because it helps me forget. I write because it is what I love to do. I write because it is the way I pain, sing, and dance; it is the way I communicate soul, identity, pain, love, aspiration, inspiration, imagination, shame, delight, curiosity, anxiety, joy, and art. I write because it is my worship--it is my way of giving glory to my creator because it is fulfillment of His purpose for me. I write because that is what I must do in this life, if I want to do this life well.

This is beautiful

http://alligatorlegs.blogspot.com/2010/03/wake-keeping.html

Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Minutes...

From "An Old Friend From Far Away," a writing exercise. Spend three minutes writing each of these:

The Best Song of My Life:

I don't think I can do song, but I can say the best album for me for my life has is by Erykah Badu. Is it Orange Moon? It's the album that has that song on it. It must have come out around 2001 or so, and ever since it first came out it has spoken to me, calmed my spirit, got me riled up, got me crunk, got me dancing, got me feeling better, or allowed me to sit in my own self-pity without feeling too, well, pitiful. I love Erykah's soul-voice. Actually, now that I think of it, if I had to have a soundtrack for this blog, that whole album would probably be it. She's the bomb, that lady. You know how you hear a song and it transports you back to a time in your life? That album is like that, but each song takes me back to various points in my life. It's awesome.

What I Can't Live Without:
Hmm... I want to say the organic gummy cubs from PCC grocery, or something silly like that. I honestly don't know, at least not right of the bat. Well, I've got three minutes to try and figure it out. I would say it would be very difficult for me to live without access to music. But then again, I was just writing about the best music of my life so perhaps that's why that comes to mind. One thing, as crazy as it sounds, that has been a part of my life all of my adulthood, has been the routine of going to a coffee shop, posting up with a notepad and pen or a good book or my laptop or just a pencil and some napkins, and doing something word related--writing, reading, or both. I guess I would be hard-pressed to try and live without the ability to write down my thoughts or create new art through words. I don't even want to think about that.

What I Can't Forget:
There are things I wish I could forget that I cannot, like scenes from my life that changed the way I saw life for the worse or just were filled with so much pain that I am now unable to be the carefree, happy-go-lucky person I used to be. People are often surprised to hear pieces of that story because I can be such a cheerful person. But my cheerfulness is just a way I approach my daily, public life. I also have dark moments and I have to say these probably come from things I can't forget but wish I could. I won't even get into it much further than to say if I could forget them I would. On a lighter, happier note, I don't think I could ever forget John 3:16 or my ABCs. Those were so ingrained in me at such a young age I would literally have to be lobotomized to forget them.

At night I think Of:
So many things that sometimes it's difficult to get to sleep! I think about my life and my purpose and time... how it just flows on by without our consent and out of our hands. As I approach 30 I'm beginning to recognize the fact that the time is now to live out our dreams and try new things, take risks, live fully, make mistakes. I think about death, too, which is a morbid and dark thing to think about, I know, but it's there... just somewhere in the future, so I think about it. I think about mundane things too like what bills I have and haven't paid, what I will get or make for lunch tomorrow, what I will do first at work, how long I can truly stay in bed and still get up and make it to work on time. Sometimes I think about my family and wonder what they are thinking right now. Sometimes I think about things that I avoid all day, but in the quiet of the night they come back around to the forefront of my mind and look me straight in the eye, demanding my attention.

Okay, that was three minutes apiece. I like these little exercises in here. Thanks for reading my totally random thoughts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Page Count: 41

Progress report: 10,175 words, about 41 pages (based on the standard manuscript page length of 250 words)!

Let me just say, Woop woop! Well, actually let me slow my roll and not start celebrating just yet. After all, I have 16 days to write the remaining 59 pages. That means I gotta be on point and write about 3.7 pages per day.

Prayer, y'all, prayer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Funny how it all comes together...

I wrote this poem a good while back but as I delve more deeply into the writing process (no ugly facebook profile, that's my vain motivation!) it is requiring me to re-explore my past. The poem is, quite obviously, about having a broken heart. Interestingly I think it works as a good precursor poem to the new one I'm working on, Lumps and Scars. So I just tacked that one on to the end to see how it flows--what do you think? I think it's very interesting how things come together... Here it is (for now, untitled):

You didn't know how to love me so I had to do it myself
Had to grow bigger arms that could hold me, fight for me
Had to brew my own tea to sip when weary
Sing my own comfort songs and run my own bath water and craft my own pep talks

Don't mistake my independence, my strength, for inaccessibility or coldness
I welcome a tea-partner
someone with whom I can stand back to back, fighting,
chest to chest, holding,
or hand in hand, singing

But you didn't know how to be that person so I had to be it myself
Had to write our names in the sand and watch the tide wash them, wash us away
Smell the salt air, let it stick to my lungs
penetrate my wounded heart like rubbing alcohol
Embrace the pain, knowing it was only the beginning

I'm embracing the pain because I know it's the beginning
I know it comes right before beauty, like birth
I'm letting the hurt work in me to create newness and life and joy
I'm allowing myself to feel it, letting the salt sink into my wounded heart

A scab is a shelter for my healing heart, ugly only to keep the thieves out
black-blooded armor that will only peel back and pour sweet oxygen onto fresh flesh when it is strong enough

I pray patience and gentle handling of this miraculous healing work
No rush, because deep scars yield bitterness and I only need quiet, loving reminders to be kind to myself
I only need scars that tell stories I can tell without my voice cracking or tears spilling out...

And I've got them, lumps and I've got scars
and I've cried tears
and counted stars
and wished upon them
Seen them shooting across the sky while leaning against my love's chest
and I've plucked flower petals with bated breath
with faith to move mountains, and hope that their outcome would lead to love

I've got scars and I've got lumps
and I've run races
skipped and jumped
suppressing grunts and gasps and grumbles
Holding it all together, watching my faith crumble into smaller-than-mustard seed remnants of innocence
but balancing it all in my hands, cupping it closely like water

I'm Hope's daughter
and She reminds me that
these lumps and scars are warrior-markings
they make me beautiful
they are physical proof of my dutiful, diligent nature
that, when this part of me sleeps i can easily wake her
with my cry for freedom
my freedom song

I've come a long way, running through brick walls and scaling fences
pushing through brush, crawling through trenches
conditioning my muscles with this resistance
crying freedom in every instance where air fills my lungs

I've clung to this warrior identity
sustaining lumps and scars and cuts and bruises
holding mustard seeds and water in my hands
Because I know the Plan and I'm running after it
With all my strength

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Page Count: 13

Not bad for week one. But I gotta have 42 by next week so I better re-up!

Monday, March 15, 2010

100 pages by April 8th or an UGLY FB PROFILE pic

So last week on my Goals Group Blog I acknowledged that I needed to implement some drastic steps to get my goal of writing a book by Nov 4, 2010 accomplished. In that spirit, I pledged to write 100 pages (out of an estimated 200-page piece) by April 8th. The rationale for this semi-crazy proclamation is that I'm way behind on my goal and I really want to achieve it.

Since the original posting last Tuesday I have made significant progress (final page count TBA tomorrow). I have made a concerted effort to sit and write this past week, and I am prioritizing building it into my routine, slowly but surely.

But... I was thinking, I need a little more heat under my butt. This ain't no good faith deal. What, you thought I was supposed to just report back that I did it, no verification necessary? Naw, naw, naw... I need PRESSURE!

So, as truly vain as the motivation may be, I think this will be effective. Here's what I'm adding: if I don't achieve my goal in time, I promise to put up a truly embarrassing photo of myself on facebook and leave it up there until I have written 100 pages. And if I don't come through on this or if folks are unimpressed by what I consider to be an embarrassing photo, I give my friends free license to go ahead and find a photo that is more suitable for the occasion and post it to my wall or even put it up as their facebook profile.

So, dear friends, please do me a favor and find a horrid pic of me and be ready to post it if I don't come through! Also, because I don't want to just publish 100 pages of my product on the blog, please let me know if you'd be willing to be my third-party person to verify that I actually did it.

Yikes! The lady, she means business! I'm scared of myself!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On De-stressing

Okay. So I've been feeling super stressed out lately. My dear old dog is sick, a young lady I mentor has been struggling with some extremely serious issues, my job has been more demanding than usual, and I have been presented with some significant decisions regarding my dad's house (my house, I guess, now) and my short term future. So, yes, it's been a little crazy. And I promise not to complain too much, but to make matters worse I have acted in backward fashion and added to my plate in terms of community involvement/obligations instead of paring down, meanwhile cutting down on my writing time (hence my recent absence).

I'm not the only one. I have a handful of friends who have recently expressed to me that they feel very overwhelmed by the various stresses in their lives. Be it a sick parent, the ongoing grief from the loss of a loved one, a change in relationship status, stress at work, relocation, or a battle with mental health, we all have brushes with stress.

So how to deal? I don't know. I know that for me, it helps to write... and pray... and allow myself a day or too to feel glum. But if none of those things work for you, I thought I'd share something I found while looking into resources for my mentee. A simple little list of reminders of things you can do to mitigate the effects of feeling stressed out.

Self-care strategies for dealing with stress, trauma and crisis (courtesy of Crisis Clinic):

1. Stay away from mood-altering substances, including drugs and alcohol
2. Get plenty of rest so that you feel rested and relaxed
3. Eat well-balanced meals
4. Practice stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, mediation and visualization
5. Give yourself permission to feel bad. Schedule it in your day
6. Let yourself cry
7. Give yourself permission to feel good
8. Make small decisions daily to get control of your life back
9. If possible, put off major life decisions
10. Give yourself permission to focus on someone outside yourself
11. Structure your time and develop a routine
12. Lower expectations on what you think you “should be doing”
13. Take breaks from periods of isolation
14. Talk it out – even with a professional
15. Give yourself permission to do something that could feel good to you
16. Give and get physical touch. A hug can do wonders
17. Exercise – even a little bit
18. Remind yourself that your reactions are normal
19. Engage in practices that are meaningful to you such as prayer, walking in the woods, sitting quietly, reading inspirational material, talking a bath or journal writing
20. Do something that puts a smile on someone’s face

Smile :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Listening to my grief

Thought I'd share this. I recently was interviewed on a local radio show, Here for You with Candace and Winona, about recovering from grief and loss. After the interview I felt good because the whole thing was actually quite cathartic. But a few hours later I was hit HARD, y'all. Everything that I had been dealing with truly hit me and it was quite an experience sitting in the reality of it.

The writing experience has always been a form of therapy for me as I've processed grief, but talking about it on the radio show was a whole new thing. Listening to the story of the brother who also spoke about his grief was also quite an experience.

Anyway, I'm currently listening to it and will post something later if so moved. But check it out if you want. Thanks for reading (and listening).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love recipe

You measure and I'll pour
and let's stir this pot together
Set it over a warm fire
and see what we can make
I don't usually follow recipes
I just let the flames blaze
Toss in a few spices
Rely on nose, fingertip, tongue, even eyeball
Crack my knuckles and dive in
blind-hoping it all comes together deliciously
And if not I'll eat it anyway
But for you...
I want to cook with some intentionality
I won't abandon my creative freedom
but I don't want to burn the rice as I sometimes do
I want you to eat and be satisfied
with hearty, love-filled, soul-feeding goodness
And I want you to know that this dish
was made just for you

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

pondering love

So, bell hooks has some WISDOM on the subject of love in her (aptly titled) book, "all about love: new visions." I read it years ago, but this weekend I cracked her book open again and, wow, is all I can say. This woman breaks it all the way down to the ground, puts it back together and then breaks it down one more time.

Just one of the insights she shared that really resonated with me was this: "Commitment to truth telling lays the groundwork for the openness and honesty that is the heartbeat of love." How often do we put up fronts or wear masks in relationships, not just romantic ones but all of our significant relationships? But when we decide to allow ourselves to be ourselves and the other person accepts, even embraces and nurtures that, that's some deep stuff.

I think the commitment to truth telling starts within. You have to be honest with yourself about who you are, what your vulnerabilities are, what your flaws are and what makes you fabulous, what you like and what you hate, etc.

Monday, February 1, 2010

lumps and scars, part two

i said i was still working on it. well, here's phase two. i've figured out now what this poem is about. like, i knew i was going somewhere with it, but to be honest, i wasn't sure where. haha. it sounds strange, i know. but anyhoo, i've added to it in light of this new perspective on the piece.


I've got lumps and I've got scars
and I've cried tears
and counted stars
and wished upon them
Seen them shooting across the sky while leaning against my love's chest
and I've plucked flower petals with bated breath
with faith to move mountains, and hope that their outcome would lead to love

I've got scars and I've got lumps
and I've run races
skipped and jumped
suppressing grunts and gasps and grumbles
Holding it all together, watching my faith crumble into smaller-than-mustard seed remnants of innocence
but balancing it all in my hands, cupping it closely like water

I'm Hope's daughter
and She reminds me that
these lumps and scars are warrior-markings
they make me beautiful
they are physical proof of my dutiful, diligent nature
that, when this part of me sleeps i can easily wake her
with my cry for freedom
my freedom song

I've come a long way, running through brick walls and scaling fences
pushing through brush, crawling through trenches
conditioning my muscles with this resistance
crying freedom in every instance where air fills my lungs

I've clung to this warrior identity
sustaining lumps and scars and cuts and bruises
holding mustard seeds and water in my hands
Because I know the Plan and I'm running after it
With all my strength


At a recent poetry joint a performer noted that she'd worked on one piece for two decades. Well, that's inspiring. Reminds me i can take my time and let my creative work product become what it will in its own due time, as long as i keep tending to it.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where My Heart Is

I've got this great book on memoir that my dear friend JC got me for my birthday (thanks, Jace!). One section asks the reader/writer: Where is home? The trick is, just write for 10 minutes or so and see what happens. Here's what I got:

Home is...

...a split level house in the South End of Seattle. It's that house on Christmas in 1988, filled with the scents of homemade food. My big brother is home from college. I'm seven, toothless, smiling, wearing ruffles, warm, watching my handsome uncles tease my lovely, elegant aunties. I'm listening to my mom's laughter travel from the kitchen to every other room in the house. I see my dad standing like a redwood. I hold my Gram's hand, comb my Mother Dear's hair.

Home is a two bedroom home in Holly Park, a public housing section of Seattle where my grandma Mother Dear cooked the best stew and grew the best greens and filled crossword puzzles, stitched quilts, collected bric a brac, watched Mr. Ed, made me eat a teaspoon of honey and lemon and a sprig of spearmint when I was sick. It's her big hands, her soft hair, her gentle laugh, her warm hug, her sweetness.

Home is a two story brick house where my grandma Gram welcomed everyone, young and old, to make themselves comfortable and at home. I have a room there in my pre-adolescent years and it's there where i feel safest to be curious, different, creative. My imagination flourishes there, under the shade of her crab apple tree and behind the old shed that leaned into itself, even in the dirt of her rickety red, falling-down hot house, or in the ocean deep puddles under the pear tree after the rain, in the wormy worlds of the flower bed.

Home is mom's apple tarts. Gram's peach cobbler. Mother Dear's cornbread. Dad's cinnamon lattes. I can replicate them just close enough to be reminded that I miss them.

Home is, funny enough, wherever I am writing--just me and my thoughts, maybe a sputtering espresso machine behind me, setting the tempo to the slide of ink over paper or the click-clack of computer key. It's wherever I am that allows me to look back and smile, to look forward and know that it'll be alright.

For anyone who feels so inclined, Where is home for you? I'd like to know!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surf/Love Calls

Snapshot moments have me riding serious waves
Boogy boarding
Hopin the dips and sways send me higher
Never down

But sometimes your choppy waters cut me cold
Slip salt into old wounds
They sting like new
Leave me gasping, gulping for air

I shake off dispair
But I consider swimming back to shore
I'm not too far out there just yet
I could make it home safely

Then I think of The Big One
This could be it!
The Big Air!

That wave that sends me high flyin
salt water kissing my face
making the wind whistle at us

I picture a smile, ocean deep eyes
And figure there's no harm in trying again
Just once more

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pray for L'Haiti

I hope and pray that the Haitian people can receive the comfort and relief that they need right now. You can text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to the earthquake disaster relief. Also, American Airlines is taking doctors and nurses to Haiti for free. Please call 212-697-9767. And a friend and trusted source highly recommends Partners in Health as a good organization to support as they send aid to Haiti. And if you do #Haiti on twitter, you'll find lots of stuff too.

As I work on the "Soul" section of my writing project, I have been doing more Bible study and reflection lately. So perhaps that's why in regards to Haiti, in addition to my heart just going out to the victims and survivors on a purely human level, so much is also on my mind about the disaster from a spiritual standpoint.

I recently read this passage in John where a man who has been blind since birth comes to Jesus and asks for healing, and receives his sight. There's actually a LOT going on in this passage but the thing that stuck out for me, and which applies to the Haiti disaster, is the fact that the disciples were stuck on one question about the guy: they wanted to know why this man was afflicted with his condition since birth. They wanted to know if his situation was the result of sin. This reminds me of Job's story--how all his homies came to console him after he lost his kids, his land, his animals, got sick, etc. Anyway they come to comfort him and end up just insinuating that he must have sinned against God, and that he should just get over with it by cursing God. Gee, thanks guys, that helps.

Now, 2010, enter Pat Robertson's judgemental ass and his cockamamey (excuse the spelling) rationale for why this disaster befell the Haitian people: he claims they made a deal with the devil a long time ago. Are you freaking kidding me?! Pat, you need to check yourself! Seriously. His response is sad, crazy, and sick. But so consistent, I guess, with the way human nature works a lot of the time. I think a lot of us do that on a smaller scale; we see someone who is down on their luck and we wonder what they must have done to get there. Perhaps this is just a natural response, but for me I'm going to try to focus instead on what I can do to help another person, rather than judging and assessing what they must have done wrong to deserve their circumstances. Cuz if that's the way things work--we're all in for it.

A comfort: God isn't like that. Yes, the Bible says that the wages of sin is death, and that sins get punished. But luckily, with God we have second chances and we have grace. Also luckily, Jesus was (and IS) about healing people, saving people, rather than condemning and persecuting. I'm still figuring a lot of stuff out about myself, my spirituality, religion, etc., but at least for the moment, I'm very comforted at that thought.

Again, I hope and pray that Haiti can find some comfort. Haiti, j'ai une coeur blesse pour vous.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lumps and Scars

Still working on this.

I've got lumps and I've got scars
and I've cried tears
and counted stars
and wished upon them
Seen them shooting across the sky while leaning against my love's chest
and I've plucked flower petals with bated breath
with faith to move mountains, and hope that their outcome would lead to love

I've got scars and I've got lumps
and I've run races
skipped and jumped
suppressing grunts and gasps and grumbles
Holding it all together, watching my faith crumble into smaller-than-mustard seed remmants of innocence
but balancing it all in my hands, cupping it closely like water

I'm Hope's daughter
and these lumps and scars are warrior-markings...