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.

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...