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.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

go, baby!

This baby's got soul. Our kids are absorbing EVERYTHING we do. Who knows? This could be the next Nas (once he starts speaking a recognizable language). Amazing!

Monday, November 28, 2011

poetry revival

i close my eyes and listen and my mind's all muffled drums
beating like they're bleeding, i know where the struggle comes
from, and it's like walking through a graveyard for dead poetry
stillborn and murdered, there's a killer, and i know her, she's
me, and she be on some ol' "oh i'm so busy"
fills her life with so many to-do's you could lose yourself, get dizzy
from the distractions whizzing past you, taking up your breathing space
so i'm in this grieving place
remembering the sweetness
tasting the time i used to let my mind go boom-clap-bip-bop
now it's muffled, muted, whispered beats, and yet they don't stop
so i don't place any flowers on no headstones for my art
i lay hands on that dead soil and resuscitate the hearts
of those withered things
dried up words like dead moth wings
my prayer brings grace and resurrection
another chance to create life through introspection
my repentance and confession is i fail to count my blessings
in this artform, which feeds me, teaches me life lessons
from now on no half steppin and no time for second guessin
it's just time to unplug my mind's ear, time to hear each session
of drum beats in clear succession...

still working on this, but in its own spirit, i think it's important to throw out what i have so far.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

ambition

you said instead of aiming for the stars
you like to shoot for the moon
you do the practical, won't allow yourself to get consumed
by silly daydreams and fluff
i say the moon ain't enough
(and if i get some stardust i'm gonna savor that stuff)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writing About Mom

Those who read this blog regularly know that there are some pretty consistent themes to my writing. One of the biggest themes is Grief. Today marks the 9th anniversary of my mother's transition out of this life that we know and into the next stage. I have grappled with what this stage might look like, with where she is--is she looking down at me? Is she simply resting? Is she with her parents, my father? Is she anywhere?--and while my theological beliefs have helped me find peace with many of these questions, the reality is that only God really knows and it's my job to just accept reality.

I don't really want to write much this year. I just want to feel what I need to feel, go about my day doing the things I need to do, and remember her. One might think that nine years would be enough time to help you not be a mess, but it doesn't work that way. My dear friend over at Alligator Legs put it well when she said:
at moments like these, it is apparent that time is only time; it does not comfort, heal, push you forward. grieving is real work and time does not, of itself, heal all wounds.


That said, I do think it's important to share something about Ms. Charlene. She is remembered and I feel compelled to remind. So here are some things I've written in the past. They still apply, so I think we're good:

You are here.

Dreams from my mothers.

Mother (poem)


Miss you mom.

Thanks for reading :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

mile·stone/ˈmīlˌstōn/

noun: A stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
An action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Synonyms: landmark - mile post - milepost


A milestone in the physical sense is a posting along a road that indicates either how many miles you’ve traveled or how many remain until you reach your destination. It’s a sign that you’re moving forward, making progress, getting there. In professional fields, milestones are moments that call for a project team to stop and examine how their work is progressing, asking, “Do we need to change directions? Do we need to modify our course? How far along are we?”

Here I am on the other side of the 30 year milestone. What does reaching this mark along the road really mean?

In many ways the significance of milestone birthdays as opposed to that of others is completely arbitrary. Why do we celebrate a 5th birthday any more than a 6th one? Why is 21 so important, but not 23? Who’s to say that 32 or 28 are any less important or transformational years than 30? That said, I have to admit that 30 does feel different in some way. We can acknowledge the arbitrary nature of days/events like this while also embracing the utility of having something to remind us to appreciate and be reflective and evaluative about life.

In years’ past, on my birthday I would revisit and revise my “plan”-- be it a five year plan, a plan for the year, or otherwise. I have not yet crafted an up-to-date 5 year plan. I did, however, take a look at the one that I wrote at age 25. Imagine the shock and awe I experienced seeing all the things I didn’t do--live in South Africa or Chile or Ghana or Paris for six months, publish a novel, learn Spanish... I can’t deny that I had a moment of panic looking at this list of things undone. I wondered, am I going to look back at the end of my life and feel regret over all the things I haven’t done?! Where did all the time go?!

But this is what I’ve realized: when I wrote this plan I was a different person. Loss and other life experiences change you and they change your priorities. They also change the decisions you make and your motivation behind them. The thing that needs to happen over time is that you should be getting more and more grounded in your faith in your ability to modify “the plan.” Yes, I do kind of wish I had done more of the things on my old 5-year plan, but I also feel like I'm moving in the right direction and I don't feel inclined to change course. That's an excellent feeling.

For me, this 30th year milestone marks a shift in focus, away from my "wish list" of experiences and towards deepening important relationships and growing as a person. I believe it will always be a part of who I am to have a wish list of things to do--places to travel and live, for example. I think having an appetite for new and interesting things breathes life into, well, life. But I also know that this isn't the measure of a life well lived. Instead, I really want to know that I've poured myself into enriching the lives of my loved ones and becoming a better person.

In terms of that goal, a milestone birthday is no better occasion to take stock of how things are going than any other day in life. When you wake up in the morning, this is reason enough to celebrate and also think about how you're doing in terms of your path towards being who you're supposed to be. But since I suffer from chronic distraction, I'm certainly glad for the opportunity this birthday has given me to remember to do some of this reflection.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

30 Things I Do Know

This is not an attempt to be deep, and at any rate this is certainly a shorter list than “Things I Don’t Know Yet.” So in celebration of age 30, here’s my list of 30 Things I Do Know:

1. How to make delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookies from scratch.
2. How to write a poem that comes straight from my soul.
3. How to draw a man's face, starting first with the number 2, 5, or 7, thanks to Uncle Carl.
4. How to make peach cobbler, thanks to Gram.
5. How to listen and talk to a child, thanks to Mommy.
6. How to release myself from a wrist grab, thanks to Pops and thanks to his black belt.
7. How to cry.
8. How to pray
9. How to worry, worry, worry; and that I need to stop that because it’s unproductive.
10. Relationships are the most important thing in life and they’re pretty much all you’ve got at the end of it.
11. God is REAL, even if we humans can’t stop bickering over the details of His/Her whereabouts.
12. Money doesn’t feed the soul, but it sure enough feeds the belly.
13. You know love when you see it, do it, feel it, receive it.
14. It’s important to get sleep.
15. It’s important to get exercise.
16. It’s important to eat healthy food.
17. It’s important to enjoy delicious, not so healthy food, every now and then.
18. It’s important to be able to say no when you need to.
19. It’s equally important to be able to say yes when you don’t want to.
20. It’s important to know how to let go.
21. It’s important to challenge yourself to open up and let people in.
22. Plans are just as important as dreams, even though dreams are certainly much more inspiring.
23. With all the forces out there competing for your time, you’ve got to make space for the things that are most important to you and stay firm on these boundaries.
24. Your passions and inspirations will keep waiting at your door. It’s better to feed them early and often. This way you won’t find yourself weighed down with regret when you finally open the door to find a wasted, neglected thing that could have been beautiful and strong.
25. Re: #24, that said, it’s never too late.
26. Grandma knows, child, grandma knows.
27. Poetry, music, art = medicine.
28. Children are prophets.
29. Grief sucks.
30. Life is short.
(and a bonus: 31. Life is sweet.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

more hotness

from 1872. that new new! my favorite line is highlighted.

Lord, speak to me

Lord, speak to me that I may speak
In living echoes of Thy tone;
As Thou has sought, so let me seek
Thine erring children lost and lone.

O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
The wandering and the wavering feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
Thy hungering ones with manna sweet.

O strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the rock, and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea.

O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things Thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.

O give Thine own sweet rest to me,
That I may speak with soothing power
A word in season, as from Thee,
To weary ones in needful hour.

O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart overflow
In kindling thought and glowing word,
Thy love to tell, Thy praise to show.

O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where,
Until Thy blessèd face I see,
Thy rest, Thy joy, Thy glory share.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

wow.

the hotness:



you're welcome if you didn't know.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Telling our stories



I recently watched a great video about education paradigms. It's a short segment and definitely worth the time. As I scribbled some notes down while watching the video for the first time, what kept replaying in my mind was the question: What is the education story of our day?

As the video discusses, back in the day the story went something like this: Education is the great equalizer. You go to school, study hard, and graduate, and you will get a good stable job and be able to make a living to support yourself and your family.

Today we know that that a) doesn't always happen, or doesn't work the same way for all people, b) isn't the only way for a person to achieve security, and c) doesn't carry the same appeal to young people who are thinking differently about the future they want.

Given that, what is that story that we tell our kids to get them excited about learning and getting educated?

What is the story that they tell us about what they want out of their education experience? What do we tell ourselves that gets us motivated to think bigger and more creatively about our approach to education? What are the outcomes we want and how do we then track back appropriately as we design new systems of educating our youth? Final question, what do we need to do to fill in this story about troubles, challenges, and deficiencies in our existing education system, with equally important bits about solutions, successes, and newly discovered resources that are making things better for people?

As these things go, with this on my mind I found myself involved in two very interesting, related conversations. With one friend we discussed the power of storytelling and the need for educators and other education advocates to find and share powerful narratives about successful education efforts and the underlying values that fuel this movement. With another friend we discussed the importance of examining these very values that draw us into the education reform conversation in the first place. Understanding these values is what helps us unearth both the things we're trying to do, the things that fall outside of our work, and the proper methods for accompishing our goals.

Serendipity. You know things are going well when the universe drops gems in your hand. Specifically, just randomly on twitter I came across this great resource created by The Black Girl Project. It's an e-guide to college and what I like about it is that it takes me back full circle to the lingering question I had from watching the video about our education story. This project and its contributors are re-writing that story as we speak.

Here's the video I'm talking about:


As I gear up for the school year and my upcoming work helping students prepare to apply for, get into, and then stay in college, I've got my pen in hand to put my two lines into the storytelling piece as well. And perhaps more importantly, I hope to help more of our youth contribute to that storytelling process too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are you the person the person you are looking for is looking for?



I know, that's a mouthful. But it's worth repeating to yourself. Are you? Are you that person who your ideal mate would be looking for?

A few friends of mine have gotten married this year or will be getting married soon, and I never lose my enthusiasm for these new unions. It's a beautiful thing to see, especially since we see, hear, and sadly also experience so many stories of love not working out. It's good to be reminded that good love is happening around us every day. But as romantical as these weddings are, we all know it's not like the fairy tales. I ain't saying nothing new when I say that those unions that are really, really good, are the product of a lot of thoughtful work, reflection, sacrifice, and investment.

I recently had a conversation with my cousin about The List. You know what that is. Most of us have one even if it's just a mental checklist. Some of us even have several editions of it, printed up, laminated and taped to the fridge or bathroom mirror. (I don't, but hey, no judgment! Visualize!) The List is a person's requirements for an ideal mate. What is she looking for in a partnership and in a partner?

Crafting such a thing is, I'd argue, a great tool for helping make sure you are seeking out the right types of people, making the right choices, etc. But as my cousin and I were discussing, it's just an outline and in real life modifications, amendments, and redactions take place. And some people go just plain overboard, with height and weight specifications, what his fingernails must look like, precise income ranges, even skin tone. I just think that's too much! But I do think the exercise of identifying what you want/need can be good if done practicably and sensible.

At the same time, how many of us flip it and ask ourselves how many of these must-haves we actually have? You know, so that the person who fits our needs would actually give us the time of day when they met us? In other words, how often do we ask ourselves if we're that great catch that we're seeking?

I'll never be tall (Mom, why didn't you give me your height?!?) so there are obviously some things on my list that I will never fulfill myself. Lots of those things are silly anyway. I mean, if he's got everything I'm looking for except for height, I think I'll be alright. But the true character traits--humble, hard working, passionate, kind, driven, compassionate, giving, God-focused, intelligent--now those things are worth some self-assessment. As another friend recently said, it's more important to work on being the right person, than to focus on finding the right person.

You know what's even better than our lists? God's list. I've heard this passage frequently, you know with all the weddings and what not, but 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 provides a great one:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


Pretty good list to me. What do you think? What are we doing to make sure that we fit the bill too?

For more, check out this "Are you the person the person you are looking for is looking for?" sermon and this "Be the person you are looking for" blog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Throwback

Here's a throwbaaaaack. I think I wrote it about 4 years ago.

my brother
uttering mothering, almost smothering, words
sending my heart fluttering like butterflies tumbling down to absurd depths
then taking flight
racing, beating, tracing light
shaking, making, creating right
when wrong seemed all there could be
but starry nights and the heights of flying eagles remind me i'm still free
and fresh mountain air in my lungs remind me i can still breathe
though i may drown
cuz you be so way down deep in who i'm is
like from since back when we were two little ashy knee'd grinning kids
so much a part of me that you're like my heart to me
or maybe a twin soul, living whole and yet apart from me
but still connected...
please know i don't forget it
and it will not go neglected
that little yellow flower that you planted in my heart with your words

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More awesome, inspiring stuff.

A few posts ago, I shared links to different awesome, inspiring stuff. More please? Yes, thanks.

I love music that celebrates Seattle, blackness, hip hop, and/or reminds me of 1996-1999, the years when I discovered my love for soul music, first in the form of hip hop and later in the forms of jazz and r&b/neo-soul. Some joints that are relatively new or brand new, and which have that same old life-breathing effect on me include The Physics Three Piece Album
and also this song:



Also, because I am one, and because it's just smart and funny and relevant and unique, I totally heart the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl web-series. Am I semi-obsessed? Sure, whatever you like. This is my favorite webisode I think:



Watch, listen, love it. Have a great day!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Daddy.

Happy Birthday Dad! You would be 60 today. I love and miss you!


Dad, Tori, Bill, and Me in front of the White House. Dad trying to regulate against someone trying to get in the shot.

Friday, July 29, 2011

On Remembering

I forget things. People recall events I can't remember, offering detail upon detail to help take me back in time, but to no avail. Sometimes I wonder if the pain of loss has affected my memory or my desire to remember. Like, remembering is a dark place, a deep place, and traveling there is too exhausting so instead I bury my memories, pack sand on top so that I don't go back unless I really need it... But I think remembering is very important.

Each soul has a story. Some are sorrowful, others reflections of the joy that is possible in this world. Most are complex weavings of the tragic, the comic, the ironic, the fateful. Untold stories are the most troubling and disheartening of them all because they are lonely stories that gather dust, losing flesh, waiting in vain for an eager ear to consume it, maybe even carry it on.

Three years now from the death of my father, and almost nine from that of my mom, I see now that the nature of my grief has changed over time. I am grieving not just for the loss of their contribution to my future, to the twists and turns to come of my own soul story; I also grieve the lost pieces of their own stories, those they left untold, those which perhaps they intended to tell a friend, maybe even me, one day.

Sometimes I imagine what they would have said to me one day. When I got married, had children. What interesting anecdotes from their own lives they would have shared with me as tools to apply to mine. What confessions would have surfaced with time. What yearnings. Ours was a safe space, so know that these things would have happened, eventually. Did God want me to figure it out without these tidbits? On my own?

I found my dad's journal. In it he disclosed hope, gratitude, and vulnerability that I saw in his depths, but which I hadn't seen explicitly in such a raw and honest form. I know it wasn't my journal to read. I know that wasn't cool. But it was like I was hungry for some newness, some new piece of him that would signal to me that even though he's not here, there's still more to discover about him. I was hungry to feel like it was possible for him to share more with me.

I had a similar experience with mom. In fact, I've discovered several little notes to me in journals and books over the years. It always makes me cry and always makes me glad that I didn't toss all my parents' stuff without making sure I wasn't getting rid of something valuable.

These experiences reaffirm my conviction about journaling. Not only do I learn new things about myself through the process of journaling, but I also preserve parts of my story for someone to find when I've moved on from this place, or for me to prepare to share with them. As I return from Thailand, I'm glad I've been pretty consistent about chronicling this experience. If my mind can't remember, at least I can read about it! And there are lots of great lessons to learn from looking back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thailand Haikus

#1--Travel Lust
Worlds to be explored
Islands hopped and mountains climbed
Wander, wayward soul

#2--My View
Longtail boats adrift
Waves crashing, lapping, singing
Ocean breeze whispers

#3--Floating
Rest in ocean arms
Feel yourself being embraced
by your Blue Mother

#4--Ocean Song
Listen to the waves
Hear their song as they come home
and then part again

#5--Girl on Beach
The baby girl laughs
Splashes, kicks, swims, runs, and plays
We should follow her

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Koh Lipe: Beautiful Paper Island

(Written on July 22)

I'm not quite sure what day it is! I think it's July 22. If so... happy birthday Maiz!

Upon arriving in Bangkok late Tuesday night, KPeezy and I roughed it like soldiers and took a day's journey to Koh Lipe. First we took the commuter rail, which was just like the Metro/Subway/LightRail/CalTrain. We took that to the rail road station, where we stepped back in time and boarded an old school railcar for a 15 hour trip down South. Some cars had no glass in the windows. Our car was a sleeper car, and it had bunks that come down at 6:30pm. Trust and believe that we got in our bunks and called it lights out early, but I did get up a few times to peer out at the countryside, the lovely farms and gardens and forestry.

We arrived in Hat Yai around 7:30 am the next day and we were greeted by lots of hustlers trying to get extra baht from us. Kiran was a professional squasher and she put all that to rest. Instead, we took a taxi (it was a truck, the flatbed of which had been converted into two rows. It had a souped up stereo and flatscreen situation going at the rear of the cab. It had a roof to protect us from the elements.) to the minivan station. The minivan took us for two hours to the ferry. The ferry took us for one hour to the island. Once arriving on the island we boarded a vehicle that is like a motorcycle with a sidecar that has been converted into an area that will seat 4 or 5 people. Kiran sat on the back of the actual bike. Dude was NOT gentle with the turns and bumps. Yikes.

The harrowing journey spat us out on Paradise Island, complete with palms and forest, longtail boats peppered along the coast like sprinkles on blue frosting, and a smattering of grass-top huts, cabanas, and bungalows, depending on which of the dozen or so resorts you were passing through.

Our resort, CastAway Beach, boasts beautiful cabin style bungalows with grass roof tops, hammocks, and mosquito netting canopy beds (probably more necessity than glamour, but still), as well as high ceilings reminiscent of an attic or a cottage in the woods. Gorgeous!

I said that on this trip I would seek out new forms of beauty. Well I've already seen it.The board ride to Koh Lipe afforded me a moment of pure awe and gratitude for what God has done on this planet. Even a sight as simple as people fishing from their boats, with the sun showering down on them and the water glistening and the air and the heat and the sky and... everything, it was all I could do not to shout for His glory. How insanely beautiful.

Not beautiful is my reaction to the malaria pills. I hate medicine and for this medicine, apparently, the feeling is mutual. Dizziness? Check. Nausea? Ok. Wooziness? Yep, you got it! Not cool. But I've figured out that if I just have tea and rice for breakfast with this bitter little pill, my tummy appreciates it. And of course I am glad to be able to take precautions against malaria. Yes, malaria would be far worse than dizziness.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm on an elephant right now. Maybe.

Right now, as in the time at which this post will publish online, if God wills it I am in Thailand enjoying beauty that is new to me, food that is filling, and my homie Kiran's wonderful company. But right now, as in the moments spent actually typing this blogpost, I'm just at home preparing for the trip and writing and thinking about all the good times to be had.

Because life is short, I have decided to take this trip to the Land of Smiles and to leave my computer behind so that I'm not overly wired out there. But because I am a writer through and through, I still have my good old fashioned journal and pen, from which I intend to transcribe volumes and volumes of interesting, deep, and entertaining content to later post on this blog.

I have pre-scheduled a few posts until my return. Other than that, just picture me on an elephant... Or kayaking through a river in the jungle... Or praying at a temple... Or bartering at the marketplace... Or just picture me rollin...

I recently learned that the Thai people believe that life should be "sanuk/sanook," or that life should be fun. To that end I hope you're having fun somewhere and I intend to be doing the same thing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Psalm 34:1-10

I really like this Psalm. It was read at my uncle Carl's memorial service. It embodied his attitude, especially in his last days with us. It is definitely on the aspirational side for me. I want to live like this. Love it:

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.

3 O magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.

6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

9 O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.

10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.

Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swinging.


Sometimes to start you have to just start. So this begins as a post about nothing, except I suppose life updates and reflections thereon. It's starting as a post about nothing because I feel like I have too much to say and the pressure is getting to me a little bit. So instead of expecting myself to write an epic work of staggering genius, I am just going to write this post about nothing and see where it takes us. (Right now, the inner-voice that is overly critical is saying, "That's right, Kia, set that bar nice and low!" But it's okay because that sassy inner-voice just retorted, "My low is well above the average girl/woman/soul's reach!" Watch out now! Just kidding. Sort of. Haha.) Anyway, here she goes:

I'm having one of those moments of clarity right now. More like a month-long "moment". There are definitely still some areas of my life in which things remain to be understood, but I think that's just part of the territory of being an over-thinker who nonetheless relies heavily on intuition, feeling, gut. So there's that, but in general, I feel like right now I see what I want, I see what I need to do to get there, and I feel like God is preparing me for a season of tremendous hard work that will be followed by a season of abundant harvest. It just might be the natural order of things. So many things have seemingly gone wrong in the past several months, perhaps it only makes sense that there's nowhere to look but up. I say this as a person who doesn't throw pity parties. Stuff has gone down. My family has experienced loss yet again, and to cancer at that. This has been a transformative experience, about which I will share more soon. It has been life changing and for that I'm grateful, even while it has been a very rough time. There have also been many points recently when I've felt my career path has been completely overrun with barriers and blockades, including those I put down myself. Some important personal relationships have changed, fallen away, and broken off, and as a result reshaped some very core aspects of my daily life and forced me to examine who I am and who I want to be. So in a nutshell, it's gone down. That's right. It's been real, son!

But, like I said, I feel like things are on the cusp of turning upward in a big way. Right now I am preparing to travel to Thailand and visit a good girl friend, I'm getting my new, wonderful living space the way I want it to be, and I'm catching up on some much-appreciated quiet time. Thank you God! I feel like I'm getting a brief little resting period before it's about to be on and poppin. I can feel it. And it feels great.

It also feels scary. Maybe because otherwise things would be too easy? Or things would be boring? Maybe both. But it reminds me of how I felt the other day when I took my nephews to the Family Fun Center (arcade, laser tag, rides, batting cage, go-carts, you get the picture) and we got on this thing called the Flying Swing. I don't have good spatial/depth perception but it felt like this thing took us up hundreds of feet in the air. You're just swinging around as you're strapped onto the metal pendulum and there are points where you're in the Superman position, just chillin in the air hanging on to this piece of metal but feeling like you might as well be on a shoe string. As we swung upward, I felt my stomach lurch down, I felt my throat close, my eyes widened, and I definitely felt a bit of dread. My nephews screamed. Billy even gave the signal to stop the ride, then proceededto beg the conductor to let him stay on. Embarrassment! But I digress. Once we were back up and running, as we made it to our high point and lingered in the air for what seemed like several seconds (couldn't have been, could it? No. Funny how the mind works though), all the yuckiness and dread went away and it just felt exhilarating. I looked around with intention (and not merely horror/anxiety), I breathed my surroundings in, I relished the sound of my nephews squealing, and I found that I couldn't stop laughing. It felt good!

I feel like the past month or so has been about swinging up. It's been cold metal strapping me down, second thoughts about whether this is a good idea, clammy hands, uncertainty, fear. Even while knowing that God has my back, that this ride is going to be rewarding in the end. I've had lots of that queazy, uneasy feeling lately.

And now I'm ready to laugh and to see the upswing.

Watch out, because Annie Sunshine is about to make an appearance--just briefly. She wants to remind you, as I have been reminded, that it's true what they say about how our dark moments provide the contrast through which we can truly appreciate the light. Even if you're like me, and there are some lingering shadows, and there remains some heaviness that is making the upswing a bit more labored than you'd like, just try to stay focused on that point of exhilaration and joy. It's coming.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let's All Graduate!

Cross-posted on The Education Capital Project:

Lately I've been having some very inspiring conversations with passionate people who are working to establish equity in our public education system. Topics have included the importance of ensuring that job availability and job-readiness are part of the college readiness conversation; reducing disproportionality in gifted and advanced placement programs; teacher accountability; the success of STEM programs; and other fascinating issues that inquire into the substance of this educational equity work we're all doing.

In the midst of these exciting conversations I've also found myself in the middle of a graduation bonanza--no weekend has passed by without a friend, mentee, or relative graduating from something. I've found myself often drawing back to the education equity conversations I've been having, thinking about the value and the importance of education and reflecting on all of these ceremonies and parties to commemorate graduations. It has me wondering how we can duplicate the successes that happen every year (evidenced in part by these graduation ceremonies) in a way that produces systemic progress? How can we look at what's being done well and what's being done right in education, and duplicate it in a way that advances an agenda for educational equity?

I think to do so, we have to change the graduation conversation. We have to recognize and state out loud something that I know we all already know, but something that gets lost in the excitement of graduation. Namely, this work is not simply about conferring more degrees to more people; it's about transforming minds and equipping people with tools for life.

So to go to basics, I looked at the definition of "graduate":

Graduation, grad·u·ate (grj-t)
v. grad·u·at·ed, grad·u·at·ing, grad·u·ates
v.intr.
1. To be granted an academic degree or diploma.
2.
a. To change gradually or by degrees.
b. To advance to a new level of skill, achievement, or activity.

I was really struck by definition 2b. If we think of graduation as advancement to new levels rather than cap, gown, diploma, and if we see it as simply one step along the way, then maybe we change the way we do the process of getting people to the ceremony. And maybe in doing so we necessarily address the factors that get folded into graduation data, like intrinsic/extrinsic motivation of students, teacher expectations, core competencies, etc.

The obvious truth is that we all know it's not really about just getting the piece of paper, that instead it's about getting to a new level of awareness, competence, and skill. And we know the degree is not the end, nor is it a guarantee that a person is prepared for the work they want to do. Everyone knows that person who graduated from the elite university but couldn't think his/her way out of a paper bag, and conversely everyone knows the whiz kid who didn't go to college but is an amazing intellectual force. That piece of paper, however, is important. It's what gets many of us the opportunity to put our new skills and knowledge to use. It's also a tool that helps mitigate the racial and socio-economic biases that exclude many people from opportunities to use their gifts/talents.

Graduation is often necessary but not necessarily sufficient to equip young minds for what they want to contribute in this world. I think it's important that we all remember this. We've got to work and study hard so that we can "graduate," or advance to a new level of awareness, about the value of education. We must be willing to constantly test and challenge our notions of what education is for, what works in education, and what the work looks like to increase access to it for all people.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Different Awesome Inspiring Stuff

I've had yet more loss in my life as well as some pretty big transitions and changes. While some of this (like my recent career switch) is inspiring beyond measure, much of it has left me feeling... well, a range of things, among which includes feeling bogged down in my writing practice. No bueno to that. So, when I find myself unable to draw on my own internal creativity I draw on others' for a little push. There are some seriously amazing thinkers and writers that I have the blessing to know, admire, and call "friend". Their work is helping me get back to my craft, and hopefully stay there.

Just in case anyone else out there is in need of a little inspiration, here's a short list of the awesomeness. I love these people and what they have to say. They're pretty much amazing. Yep:

I Dreamed A World blog by Kimberly Brown, youth advocate and Philosopher Queen.

Gabriel Teodros by Gabriel Teodros, teacher, amazing hip hop artist and social justice advocate.

Alligator Legs: Writing, Art, Life by Iquo Essien, beautiful African woman, writer, film maker, and dancer.

The Education Capital Project, a new, burgeoning hub of conversation about education and equity, founded by teacher, doctoral student, and food justice advocate Amber Banks.

Urban Cusp, an awesome new magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change, and global awareness, by minister, poet, and teacher Rahiel Tesfamariam.

Simultaneous Duree by Professor, critical thinker, and connoisseur of vegetarian delicacies Matt Birkhold.

Go be inspired! That is all...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Warrior Woman

I don't know what the 4:30 am poem is going to end up being, but here's a shot at a part two. I think the poem is now called Warrior Woman.

She is her mother's daughter
She remembers what she taught her,
She dips her feet in pools of cool warrior water
And is ready for battle
All horse and saddle, bow and arrow, eyes narrowed,
She breaks chains and makes bars rattle
She aint playin
She's ready for war, know what I'm sayin?
Muscles flexed and mind focused
Her foes don't know what they in
For
She knocks on doors and then she promptly breaks them down
Asks nicely and politely and then quietly shakes them down
Makes them sound alarms, ring bells and raise their hands
In the air and she don't care
She's got a list of demands:

I need air
I need to breathe and see my babies grow
Not as neglected weeds on rocks and dust
but oaks whose branches go
towards the sun towards the sky
whose roots are strong and deep
whose leaves are green and trunks are strong
against whom i can weep

I need to weep
I need to cry and know that I'm not weak
To let my tears be cleansing waters
for my weary cheeks
And steady jaw and faithful soul
To let my tears run hot
To let them purify my heart and clarify my thoughts

I need thought,
I need a spot to stop and think and pray
To talk to my creator about my purpose and His way
And plan for me, this soldier girl
Who's fighting for a reason
Who's arms are steady, mind is ready
to struggle for our freedom

....

You know, it's interesting, I usually don't write a poem in multiple sittings. It's kind of a cool process.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today, I woke up.

So, a whole lot has been going on recently that has been challenging me personally, professionally, and spiritually. I think the past few months can be described as: a time of frustration and stagnation, followed by a time of reflection and inspiration, and finally, a time of mobilization (now, thank God).

I don't know about you, but I feel like sometimes my soul falls asleep and my body/ and mind just operate in drone-mode. Maybe that's weird to say. It definitely is weird to say. But it's true. What I mean by that is, there have been times when I haven't been careful and conscious and I've slipped into a strange way of operating that renders me as powerful a change-agent as a piece of gum on the sidewalk. And thank God something shakes me back awake and I realize that, no, actually I'm a person with passionate views and ideas and talents and values to uphold, work to do, relationships to cultivate, plants to water. But before that, I'm just going about my little robot-business. If someone pushes me over, my arms and legs still move. If someone picks me up and turns me around, I keep walking straight in the wrong direction. Not okay.


In what ways are you asleep right now and just need to be shaken up a little bit? What's a daily reminder you can create for yourself to stay motivated and keep going? Do it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The 4:30 a.m. Poem

Middle of the night, I dream up this poem and can't go back to sleep until I write it down. We'll see what happens with it next but I'm so thankful that God inspires me even in my dreams, especially when my waking moments are sometimes too stressful or distracting to pay attention to the poetry. Thought I'd share it as a reminder that even when we sleep, our passions are working in us and on us. Here she goes:

She is her mother's daughter
She remembers what she taught her,
She dips her feet in pools of cool warrior water
And is ready for battle
All horse and saddle, bow and arrow, eyes narrowed,
She breaks chains and makes bars rattle
She aint playin
She's ready for war, know what I'm sayin?
Muscles flexed and mind focused
Her foes don't know what they in
For
She knocks on doors and then she promptly breaks them down
Asks nicely and politely and then quietly shakes them down
Makes them sound alarms, ring bells and raise their hands
In the air and she don't care
She's got a list of demands:

...


I don't know who this poem is about, but I like her and I hope she is me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Introducing Seattle Urban Education Examiner... me!

Hey y'all. FYI, I just started writing on the Seattle page of Examiner.com. Exciting times! Here are my first two posts:

Mark Your Calendars: Education Advocacy Trainings THIS Saturday
For folks who made a New Year’s Resolution to become more civically engaged, this Saturday, January 8th presents two wonderful opportunities to learn more about getting involved in education advocacy in Washington State.The Washington State...

A look ahead: Seattle urban education in 2011
With most Seattle schools out until January 3, much of the education world is now on a much-deserved vacation. This vacation time and the impending New Year create an opportune moment for more than sleeping in. It's a chance to reflect about...

More to come soon. Check out my profile on the Examiner page.