Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls

By Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times:
"DOZENS of heavily armed terrorists rolled into the sleepy little town one night in a convoy of trucks, buses and vans. They made their way to the girls’ boarding school.
The high school girls, asleep in their dormitory, awoke to gunfire. The attackers stormed the school, set it on fire, and, residents said, then herded several hundred terrified girls into the vehicles — and drove off and vanished. 
That was April 15 in northern Nigeria.
These girls, ages 15 to 18 and Christians and Muslims alike, knew the risks of seeking an education, and schools in the area had closed in March for fear of terror attacks. But this school had reopened so that the girls — the stars of their families and villages — could take their final exams. They were expected to move on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers.
Instead, they reportedly are being auctioned off for $12 each to become “wives” of militants. About 50 girls escaped, but the police say that 276 are still missing — and the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to recover the girls."

#BringBackOurGirls is the movement for raising awareness of these missing young women. It's May 6th. They have been missing for 21 days. Twenty one sleepless nights, terrifying days--and God knows what else.

As a human being, I can't not recognize and realize the utter horror the parents of these children must feel. But I am literally on the other side of the world--my helplessness is seemingly complete.

And yet, tonight I was invited to join a group in a day of fasting and prayer for these girls. I was given a name, Hauwa Takai, to pray for. Hauwa is a child who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery, she is a person with hopes and dreams not unlike my daughter who sleeps safely in the next room.

Perhaps Hauwa dreams of becoming a scientist like my daughter. Perhaps she dreams of flying, traveling, healing, learning, loving and being loved in return. Perhaps Hauwa is looking up at the sky at this moment and hoping that this hell will be over soon. Who knows how many times she has breathed this wish in the last twenty-one days. And just maybe, she feels a tiny gleam of hope that her prayer will not go unanswered another day.

So I must pray. I must join my heart with hers and her mother's and father's and I write her name on my arm in permanent marker so I won't forget that she is breathing and hoping that her freedom is at hand.

If you would like to join us in a day of fasting and prayer (or whatever personal ritual you choose) please join us here: Bring Back Our Girls Day of Fasting & Prayer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One Year Ago

One year ago we drove away from our beloved friends and our turn of the century Arts & Crafts home that was literally spattered with our blood, sweat and tears. The day the truck was loaded, I spent at the home of friend struggling between relief and sadness at leaving. There was a lot of laughter that day (mingled with tears) and as I turned the key for the last time on that door that groaned each time I opened or shut it, our next chapter began.

I wish I could say that this last year has been the best of my entire life. I wish I could say that our kids made a seamless transition into their new schools without tears. I wish I could tell you that in the last year of living here that I crossed off everything on my 40 by 40 list, mastered the samba, and joined a band. I wish I could tell you that the days have been unfolding unto me a "knowing"--that a wellspring of moments brighter than the sun at noonday have framed each waking moment with utter and complete joy.

Alas, there have been no illuminations of genius, no cosmic confetti erupting from a "new beginning". Ever the drama queen, I've been a little disappointed that the blue jays that dance between the branches behind our house don't break out into song when the sun rises or bring me needle and thread when I need to darn Mountain Man's socks. (FYI, I don't darn socks, but the gesture would be nice just the same.)

What has been revealed at the center of the last year has been solitude.

To be honest, I'm not great at stillness. For me to exercise stillness it requires four Advil P.M. and two shots of Nyquil. Quiet is not my strong suit.
But there is it, anyway, wanted or not: Solitude. Space. A wilderness.

And so I try. I try each day to remember that the wilderness does not last forever, that I will soon emerge from the long night of the forest; that the sun will rise over the distant hills, maybe even as soon as tomorrow. Until then, I get to be still and breathe deep and realize that (in the words of Zora Neale Hurston) "there are years that ask questions and years that answer."

I am trying to be still.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To the Next 40

I'm turning 40 next week.
I've been kind of down about it.
I'm sagging. Everywhere.
There is a copious amount of gray hair on my head.
My knees hurt almost all the time.
I groan when I get up of the floor.
I can no longer sleep on my right side because the muscles in my back seize up after five minutes.
I get up to pee like three times a night because I have the prostate of an 80 year old man.
And after I wake up, I can't go back to sleep.

I'm freaked out about turning 40.
I've been feeling a little down.

Or, at least, I was until this afternoon.

I was finishing up the last of my Christmas shopping this afternoon and a woman stared at me with the strangest look. I caught her eye as she said, "You hair. It's so...gray. Why don't you color it?"

My gray hair elicits very strong reactions in women. Take for instance, my friend Tina who used to do my hair before we moved: Tina wholeheartedly supported my grayness and looked for ways to enhance the thick brillo mane that I was born with.

On the other hand, the woman who now does my hair has a strong disapproval of my hair color. She spends the first ten minutes of every appointment quizzing me on why I chose to go gray. It's not personal, she's just reacting to a lifetime of fiction she's been fed about what a woman is "supposed to" look like. (If you've been under a rock for the last few decades, here's the short version according to the amazing Tina Fey: "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”)

Anyway, for whatever reason, women tend to have very strong reactions to my hair. It's either, "Oh my gosh! I looooooove your hair!" or the opposite--like my "friend" in the store this afternoon.

First of all, let's be honest here: I DO color my hair. All the dark parts on top? Yeah, totally fake. A few years ago I looked over at Mountain Man's thick dark head-o-hair and thought, "He is never going to catch up with me." Every month or so, I get a mohawk of thick blackish pieces painted through my gray. When it grows out I touch up the pieces with mascara until I can get to the salon. Come to think of it, I kind of look like the Bride of Frankenstein but in reverse.

My point of this post is this: I was playing into the idea that 40 signifies my steady decline into old age and infirmity until this afternoon. Instantly, the creaky knees, hurting back and wobbly bits just melted away. Indignation rose up from my toes: I refuse to feel bad about aging.

I refuse to apologize about sagging breasts that fed two HUMAN BEINGS for a year--each.

I refuse to feel bad about my aching back that can lift heavy things, the crows feet that frame my eyes with a perfect record of every laugh, and I REFUSE to apologize for my gray hair, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people feel.

But all I really want to say to that lady in the store this afternoon is this:
Thank you.
Thank you for igniting my fire again. Thank you for helping me see what a waste of time it is to focus on a number.
I am not a number, and neither are you.

Here's to the next 40.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Filling In the Cracks

I totally messed up. It wasn't on purpose, and I didn't wake up yesterday morning and say, "Ya know, today, I think I will forget to put my emergency brake on so my car will roll into someone else's car in a parking garage."


I actually did that.

I was in a hurry.
I forgot.
I feel totally embarrassed and ashamed.
And now I'm telling the whole world about it. 

After feelings of mortification washed over me for being forgetful and in a hurry (and creating a mess for someone I don't even know), I realized (yet again) that being human is just downright hard. Most of the time, we do our best, and sometimes, we epically fail at keeping our ducks in row (or our car in park) and our actions hurt others (and their bumpers).

The universal truth is this:

We are human. Synonyms for the word, "human" include, "vulnerable, fallible, forgivable" To say that we are fallible implies that we are human. Being human means that we are messy and chaotic. We screw up. We forget one another. We forget ourselves and we forget that we are human and when we finally DO realize it, it's too late. We've already forgotten to engage the emergency brake; the car has rolled away and we are left with nothing but shame.

Our humanness sometimes creeps up on us like the sneaky bastard that it is. Our humanness ambushes us in moments that will take our breath away. Our vulnerability surprises us. Our imperfections leap from our mouths like daggers.
And we are surprised.
Every. Single Time.
These moments of imperfection crack our confidence, expose our most hidden shame and damage our souls.

However, the damage can be healed. The Japanese have a tradition that when they find cracks in their pottery, they fill the cracks with gold filled resin. It's called Kintsukuroi. The belief is that the object is more beautiful and valuable with its history revealed for all to see. On an intuitive/spiritual level I think most of us know this--it's our cracks that make us whole.

Society, however, has another story. We are taught to keep our humanness a secret. We guard our shameful moments like a warden. We don't speak of our imperfections. We cover them with addiction, anger, gossip or lies. We lie to ourselves and to others and we try to keep the shame at bay in a vain attempt to deny our vulnerability, the very thing that will deliver us to a path of authenticity and joy.

If we can embrace our vulnerability, give a nod at our shame and honor our experiences and feelings, we will slowly, yet surely, fill in our cracks with gold and reveal our true self. Amidst the brokenness there is a beautiful soul; it is flawless and overflowing with golden light. It is whole and full of grace for all. Filling in our figurative cracks means we extend love, compassion, kindness and understanding to others. Filling in the cracks means we first must break. (Don't worry about this step, living assures it.) Then we must have the courage to pick ourselves up, gather the pieces and gently put ourselves back together. 

Feeling the sharp sting of my inadequacy made me feel extra vulnerable today. I couldn't separate myself from my mistake. I immediately leaped to, "I'm such an idiot!" I was embarrassed and ashamed. Brene Brown says, “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling." The lens could not have been any more zoomed in today. The crack was formed.

But, "[Our] Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together."  We are all in this together. We are all wonderfully, beautifully, divinely human. We are all cracked. Here's to helping each other fill in our cracks and carry bear our burdens together because living is heavy, and my back hurts like hell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giving Thanks, Breathing Into It

I started out this month with the intention to give thanks every day for some small thing in my life--but here's the deal: As I fall exhausted onto the couch each night, I feel like I'm just scrawling some things out to "giving thanks" just so I can hit the publish button on my blog and go to bed. The meaning behind the action has lost its savor to me.

So, I may post for the rest of November...and I may not. But the important thing is, is that I will be breathing into my gratitude and putting meaning behind the posts instead of just trying to catch up. Sound good?

In no particular order--here are some of my grateful moments over the last week or so:

  • Mountain Man used his mad McGyver skills and illegally cut a hole in a fence that is leads to the adjacent neighborhood. A-hem. I meant to say, Mountain Man and I legally made our way through the woods to a nearby neighborhood for a lovely walk. I can now walk to the library and the store without being hit by a truck. 
  • Dear friends came to stay for the weekend. We laughed and talked and just enjoyed one another's company. It's good to have friends. 
  • A wonderful friend checks in with me almost every night via Facebook. We don't live near one another at all, but she sends her love via cables and cords and the mystery that is the interwebs, she's kind of a Roxxstarr. 
  • It occurred to me that the "littles" are so little anymore. Straight Face will soon be 15 and Master A is 10. We have two children both in the double digits. I find myself wanting the break out into "Sunrise, Sunset" more frequently than is appropriate. 
  • I almost fell down today--but didn't. Win!! 

How about you? How's your week going so far?
Is there anything that's bringing gratitude to your door? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Thanks Days 4-7, Catching Up

It's raining here today in Portland. No shocker there, right? It's gorgeous outside and I'm sitting here staring out the window and reflecting on the last few days. Here's to having good intentions, dropping the ball then catching up.

November 4: I'm grateful for Mondays. After a long and hectic weekend, it feels good to catch up in a quiet house.

November 5: I painted all day today. I'm grateful for a garage to get messy in. It felt good to stretch those creative muscles.

November 6: Mountain Man took today off. We went to the DMV, yeah, we really know how to have a good time. I'm grateful we finally got licenses and car registrations changed--it's only been nine months--A-HEM, I mean thirty days since we moved here.

November 7: I'm grateful for skipping school. We all got up at the usual time this morning to rush off to school--but instead, I flexed my dictatorial parent skills and made the executive decision to take a mental health day. We are watching "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" and marveling at it's train wreck-like drama--I just. Can't. Turn. Away. This was a long paragraph to say, I'm grateful for mental health days.

What are you grateful for today?