Becoming


There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming. But more than that, birthing the kind of woman who can authentically say, "My soul is my own," and then embody it in her life, her spirituality, and her community is worth the risk and hardship. 
-Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter

Up in here, up in here.

This summer has been such a good break. Right after school got out, our girls flew with Jake's mom to Oklahoma. That had been planned for quite some time, even before I was working at WNS. We weren't sure if I would have a job that would require me to work through summer, and one of Cora's favorite holidays is "Church Camp" with Community of Christ, so we wanted our girls to be able to go. In the midst of their summer plans and getting a new job, Alice the Poodle figured out how to get out of our apartment. 

Enter Crazy Town. 

After she figured out how to get out, we talked with housing about getting a knob, rather than a handle. The answer was no. We figured out how to set up a barrier to keep her from reaching the handle. She couldn't get out, but she started barking. And barking and barking and barking. She was miserable and couldn't be left alone. We were prisoners because someone had to be home at all times. We haven't been to church as a family since March. Jake taught a course during the last quarter, so we found a great doggy daycare, but we were spending a small fortune. 

We decided it would be best for Alice (and all of us) if she went to live with my parents. She's stayed with them a couple of times before, and they love her (and she loves them!), BUT, both of them work, and they live in Arizona where Alice can't be in the backyard while they're away. As we started to see the severity of Alice's separation anxiety, we thought it best if she went where she had a constant companion. Jake's parents have a dog, so she would always have "someone" with her. They graciously agreed to be Alice's keeper for the duration of our time in grad school. 

That was a long story to say that right after Jake and I dropped Tracey and our girls off at LAX, we hit the road for Oklahoma with Alice. After a few days in Oklahoma, we flew to DC where I had a conference for work. The conference was great, mostly for the other educators I was able to meet. Four full days of workshopping together made for some fast connections. I was the only West Coast educator there, the others were from the DC area and NYC. I conferenced from 7:45-3:30 every day, and then we set out exploring. My favorite part of DC was Georgetown, and my favorite memorial was Lincoln's. We saw both of those things on a day when we walked over 13 miles. We were visiting the Lincoln Memorial when a sudden thunderstorm happened. It was wild! And it was so fun to watch the storm roll across the city. Earlier in the day we were visiting Georgetown University, and we were stuck in the middle of another downpour, but we were inside Healy Hall, which was amazing!
(Healy Hall, Georgetown University)

(View of Washington Monument from Lincoln Memorial not long before the rain came)

After DC, we flew to NYC for a long weekend. Everyday we walked over 10 miles. I loved the energy of the city. We continued the rainy trend, but I didn't mind. It rains so infrequently in L.A. that I welcomed every drop. My favorite parts of NYC were Greenwich Village and Washington Square, the sunset from The Met, and The Cloisters. I also loved when we wandered into the Cathedral of Saint John. It was right before a mini organ concert, and happened to be on the Fourth of July. The sampling was all patriotic. The last piece was an improv on America the Beautiful. I was overwhelmed. 
(An area at The Cloisters)

(I'm obsessed with Mary/Baby Jesus art. This was one of my favorites at The Cloisters)

A few other random things - 

Some of my irrational fears: Small towns and Walmarts in small towns.

Beach bum: Since coming back to Los Angeles and hanging out on the beach, I'm like 22 shades darker. And my hair! It's so much blonder. Certainly not pre-pregnancy blonde, but I stop and stare at it when I pass mirrors.

12 years and 8 months: That's how long it's been since I've been to the dentist. Um, that's how long it had been since I'd been to the dentist before I went today. Yes, T W E L V E years. And E I G H T months. 3 pregnancies (that's not an announcement, but counting my first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage at 12 weeks), hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), 35 months of nursing - all of which can be taxing on teeth; I was prepared for the worst. I'm happy to say that I'm still cavity-free. I have experienced some mild bone loss from some calcifications that had grown on my four lower middle teeth where my permanent retainer is. He said my teeth were really clean, which was a relief because I'm admittedly not a regular flosser. Yay for the luck of good teeth!

Gluten-free: I've been fully gluten-free for a little over a month. About a year-and-a-half ago, I was doing some major elimination dieting trying to cure the rash on my face. In doing so, gluten was something I eliminated. One of the things I really noticed during gluten's turn being taken out of my diet was that I didn't have as many migraines. I took note, and moved on, eventually reintroducing gluten. About three months ago, my migraines started coming back with much more frequency. I thought back to the gluten note, and eliminated it completely (I'd already greatly reduced my consumption of gluten). I've only had one migraine in the last month. This is HUGE! They'd been coming 2-3 times per week again. It is definitely debilitating. 

Because I'm 98.2% vegan, going gluten-free has been a bit of a curveball. I hate labels. I wish I would have never said that we were "vegan" when we went vegan almost 6 years ago, it was just a word to describe how we ate. In the last month, I'd say I'm much more of a gluten-free vegetarian, but I don't want to wear that label either. I try to eat food that makes me feel my best - Mentally, emotionally, physically.

Not done yet: Tomorrow morning we're heading to Colorado to spend time with Jake's parents and bring our girls home, but not before stopping in Utah for Jake to do a bit of research and for some cousin time. When we get back to L.A., Jake will start teaching a summer course, and the girls and I will have a few weeks before we start school. Jake is on the job market this fall. There are two job openings so far, and we can't wait to see what else will roll in. I'm grateful this summer has provided a much-needed reprieve, and especially that Jake and I have had so much time together. 

Final note: I took a picture and sent it to Jake after the dentist today. I couldn't help but think back to when I posted a photo of the rash that had consumed the right side of my face. Today I'm make-up free (minus mascara) and rash free. I was left with scarring, but it's still surreal that I have my skin back.
(February 2015. Yes, it was painful.)

 (Today)

I have no idea.

I can't turn my brain off tonight; I have no idea what to make of what is happening in the world right now. I am truly shocked at how desensitized I've become. I used to pray that I would be less sensitive. Events would leave me so unnerved, I'd be reeling about them for days and weeks. I had to find a way to shutdown and restart because the weight of some news was so debilitating to my system.

I didn't shed a tear over Orlando. Not one. I don't know exactly why, but I think it's because it wasn't a surprise. It wasn't just a hate crime, it wasn't just an act of terror, it wasn't just an example of our country's obsession with firearms, nor was it solely an example of religious fundamentalism going awry. It was all of it. Everything we've grown so used to. I hate that I'm used to it.

The most recent headline grabbing shootings (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police shootings) are what I'm thinking about right now. 

Black Lives Matter. Yes.
Systemic racism is prevelent and harmful. Yes.
The color of my skin affords me a certain privilege. Yes.
What do I do about any of this? I have no idea.

It's that last part that is keeping me up. I'm a big picture person. I need to have an idea of how all the parts work together to see how something can work better. I feel like there are so many issues at play in the national conversation that boiling it down to Black and White is where I get stuck. 

I keep thinking about one of my former students, and a paradox in which I found myself. She is black and lives in a wealthy, predominately white neighborhood in Los Angeles. She told several stories of people walking by yelling out racial slurs while she and her siblings were playing in the front yard. Or being questioned by neighbors as to why she was walking around the neighborhood. One asked where she lived, and when she pointed to her house, that person didn't believe her. None of that is okay. It makes me so angry and frustrated and sad. She also talked about how when people are always expecting the worst from you, it's easier to let that show. 

The paradox:
This is also a student who said in class that her dad hates gay people. I know she's struggling with where to stand on the issue, but she still resides in a place of using her faith in God to justify her belief that homosexuality is a sin. I would stand up for this brave, bright, lovely girl any day of the week to someone who let their prejudices and fear rule the way they treat her. And I would also stand up for any of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters when they're faced with her prejudices and fear. 

At the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, there's a point at which one can pass through two doors. One is for those who have prejudices, and the other is for those who have none; you get to choose the door you go through, but [spoiler alert] the unprejudiced door is locked. We all have them. We all carry fear of the Other, though what constitutes other is different for all of us. 

I know that Black Lives Matter is a very specific movement talking about a very specific issue (police brutality unfairly and disproportionately affecting the Black Community), but it's a specific issue that requires tackling a whole host of issues for progress to be made. Because I'm a big picture person, I can't just look at one part without seeing how it fits into the whole, or, if viewing one part as the whole, how all of the other parts fit together to create it.

When breaking down all of the parts, my answer is always Fear less and Love more. I have to work harder at seeing how to apply that answer in any given situation, but I know that's always the answer to which I come. That also looks different to different people. Fearing less and loving more might happen in a conversation with open hearts and open minds. It might come in a stand of solidarity at a rally. It might come when you're up late and have no idea what to do about any of it, but suddenly burst into tears. I do my best to move through these issues [with no easy answers] in my work as a teacher. 

My students and I read To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee and Night by Elie Wiesel during the last trimester of the school year. Their final project was called "My Commitment," and it needed to include significant parts from both novels that inspired them to stand up against injustices they see in the world. The writing project was done in the form of a letter to whomever they desired, many chose to write theirs to Elie Wiesel. These letters ended up being powerful pieces of writing. They came up with tangible ways to combat fear and work towards standing up against oppression. This came after amazing class conversations where we asked really hard questions. An open dialogue around important ideas is so important. One of the hardest parts is knowing how to start, but I've never seen a good conversation not move people to a new place of understanding.

And because I'm still awake and my mind is still rolling over so many, many parts, and because I spent so much time with Wiesel's words recently, and because I'm still mourning his loss, I'll leave you with a quote from him that seems especially fitting right now:

"Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."

Moonrise over New Mexico on our Eastward Journey

I wish everyone could have been with me to see the moon rising large and lovely over the desert of New Mexico this evening. The man on the moon was shining through, and the corner of his smile was a little higher, almost concealing his laughter at being cast in a coral hue. 

It made my heart feel like it might explode and brought a tear to my eye that the universe continues to pour out its wild magic for all of us to see.

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