Mammy and Family and Ornaments

Jake's Mammy used to work at a Hallmark store, and every year she gave her grandchildren a new ornament for Christmas. She passed away two years ago, right before Christmas.

Admittedly, when I was 19, and Jake and I were decorating our first Christmas tree together, and I was pulling out the Bat Mobile and Shaquille O'Neal ornaments, my dreams of a gorgeous, ribbon-wrapped tree trimmed to the nines were dashed. I tolerated the ornaments that so perfectly represented a boy's childhood and threw every sort of color on a tree that I'd envisioned as having silver, gold, and red. And green, but only because of the tree.

Our collection grew. She and Meemaw (Jake's other grandma) and Jake's mom added for big life events, and all of a sudden they weren't just his, they were ours. Ornaments commemorating our wedding, our children, our lives.

And now I'm just sitting here in a puddly crying mess looking at our tree and not being able to imagine any other trimming meaning as much.

I'm looking at the ornament we got in 2006. Two days before Thanksgiving, we received the results of a blood test confirming we were six weeks and some change along with our first baby. We told Mammy the day before Thanksgiving at Pizza Hut in Holdenville; she'd taken all of her grandkids who were available out to lunch. We passed a napkin down to her with a little message breaking the news. She was so excited. She showed up the next morning with the napkin pinned to her lapel - proud as proud can be.

I ended up starting the miscarrying process on New Years Day when we were twelve weeks along. The ornament for 2006 is a hen sitting on an egg while knitting and a rooster reading a book on parenting. Her excitement, and the ornament tradition she started in her family that allowed us to keep a sweet reminder of a sweet time, that didn't quite turn out as planned, are so special to me.

This year, we decided to keep the tradition going with our girls. We took them to a Hallmark store and let them pick whatever ornament they wanted. We hung them up this morning before Jake took them to see The Nutcracker.

Someday when they're putting up their own trees, I want their significant other to open up a Frozen ornament that sings "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and not quite know what to do with it. Or the teddy bear drinking hot cocoa that Cora picked. And then over the years, as the future S.O. is included in the tradition, I hope they find themselves all choked up looking through years of ornaments that were thoughtfully chosen and excitedly received. With the addition of popsicle stick reindeer and toilet paper roll Christmas tree ornaments, our tree is full of loving gestures and fond memories.

I couldn't love it more.
Jake picked out a family ornament this year. Yes, Batman, Shaq, AND Clark Griswold are on our tree.

Gallstones and Bleep.

I was in undergrad, probably twenty or so when I was first awakened in the middle of the night feeling like I was being stabbed through my right ribs and out my shoulder blade in the back. It was my gallbladder. I've lived with its antics for over a decade now. I limited many of the trigger foods (fatty, greasy, spicy, fried) and things got better. And then I went vegan, and things got waaayy better. I've become a bit complacent about my eating habits since going back to work full time and eliminating gluten from my diet. It's like whatever isn't the flesh of an animal or doesn't contain gluten goes.

And so went my gallbladder. It's been acting up in the last month. I was actually puzzled by it on Sunday. It didn't present as usual. I was short of breath and my whole chest/back/shoulders/neck hurt. It takes A LOT to get me to the doctor, and the pain I was having wasn't something I associate with my gallbladder. By the time I rolled up to the ER, and got out of and back into the car twice (I'm indecisive), I went in, quickly made my way through triage and was in a bed in the hall in no time. About 5 minutes after being in my new spot, the pain centralized, and I knew without a doubt Gally was acting up. Yes, I've dealt with my gallbladder so much that those who are close to me know that I lovingly refer to it as Gally.

If I would have known it was Gally from the get-go, I likely wouldn't have gone in. But now I'm kind of glad I did, just because now I know what I'm dealing with. And what I'm dealing with has me on the fence. They were pretty close to emergency surgery-ing on Sunday night, but I'd passed the stone I was passing, and ultrasound confirmed it wasn't stuck anymore, and the pain was subsiding (Thanks, Morphine!). Ultrasound also showed that there were more stones where that one came from. My liver enzymes were elevated, but the one they extra worry about was not elevated enough to warrant emergency surgery, so five hours later, I went home!

Now I have a choice to make. I visited with my PCP this afternoon and got a referral to a surgeon. I've lived with gallbladder attacks for a pretty substantial amount of time now. I know what living that life is like (except for the weird way the pain presented on Sunday - but now I know that too), what I don't know is how my body will react when I no longer have a gallbladder. For some people, the relief is heaven sent. For others, they essentially become chained to the toilet, or need to be in really close proximity to one after they eat. That sounds terrible. And if there's even a tiny chance that my life will look like that without a gallbladder, then....

My gallbladder wasn't enlarged, and I have no infection. All good things. That's not to say a stone might not get stuck someday and wreak havoc, more than the terrible pain of it passing through my ducts (my cystic duct was quite inflamed), but it hasn't done that yet.

Another thing that showed up on ultrasound: a kidney stone. Bleep. That's new.

My consultation with the surgeon is on January 3rd. I'm glad I have plenty of time to think about things and more time to read up on life without a gallbladder. If prolonging our time together in a non-painful way can be achieved by being more aware of what I'm putting into my body, I'm cool with that. If things flare up in a way that feels out of my control, the ER is always open 24/7, but I'd really love to keep all of my organs if possible.  

PS: I really need Kimbra, Lana Del Rey, or Florence + The Machine to set some tour dates.

Pumpkin Muffins

These are the best ever.

I woke up knowing I needed one. When I went to Post Punk Kitchen for the recipe, it wasn't there. Well, it was. Sort of. The link took me to nowhere. Over and over again. The website is transitioning to a new domain name that bears the name of the brilliant vegan recipe maker, Isa Chandra. I feared that my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe was a casualty. After a few failed google searches, I reached out to a friend to see if he happened to have the recipe. He did not.

As panic was setting in, I did a few more searches, trying to remember anything I could from the recipe. Finally, I got a hit at Vegan Peace. What a relief!!! I am documenting the recipe here (and I printed out a hardcopy) so that I will never again face the fear of not having the perfect pumpkin muffin.

Without further ado....

The Best Pumpkin Muffins. EVER!!


1 3/4 C all-purpose flour*
1 1/4 C sugar
1 TBL baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 C pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 C soy milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 TBL molasses


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and molasses. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy it with all your heart!

*I substituted Trader Joe's gluten free all-purpose flour to make the muffins gluten free. Vegan and gluten free. Winning!!

Reflections on Sleep and sleeping next to someone

Jake is in Canada. This means I have the rare opportunity of sleeping alone. Admittedly, in the past, I have reveled in the opportunity to spread out across my bed and sleep in stillness. Jake and I have always had a full-sized mattress. What's more, both of our children slept with us on a full mattress. (Rarely both of them at the same time, but we were co-sleepers.) Being able to spread out is a luxury.

The last few times, however, I haven't had my magical, euphoric sleep-alone experience. It takes me a while to fall asleep, and I get cold. Sleeping with socks is a must. I'm not super sentimental in the "Oh, Darling, I just can't sleep a wink if you're not here" department, but I have grown rather fond of [just about] falling asleep next to someone. (I stay pretty close to Jake until I'm almost asleep, and then I retreat to my side of the bed until I wake up.) I'll be interested in seeing how the next few nights go.

Random facts:
I prefer to sleep with the blinds/curtains open. That can get a bit tricky depending on where windows are or if there's an ill-placed street/porch light that shines in my window, but living higher up here gives me ample chances...but I only sleep with the curtains open here if Jake isn't home. In Dot, one of our bedroom windows looked out onto our front porch. I usually closed those blinds. But "my window" looked out to the east and was tucked away behind our sunroom, and because I'm a side sleeper - always on my left, though I always [just about] fall asleep on my right side before switching over last minute to sail away to dreamland on my left side - I fell asleep and woke up staring out my window. Our window here also faces east, but our bed is on a different wall so I have to lay on my right side to look out. Perhaps all of Los Angeles gets to be my stand-in for Jake during my falling asleep phase.

I rarely wash my face before bed, and I only have white sheets, so there are always little black mascara smudges on my pillow. I try to be conscious of this when I sleep on other people's pillow cases, but sometimes I fail. If I've ever left a mascara smudge on your pillow cases, or if I ever will, I'm sorry.

Unless I'm sick, I hardly move at night.

I LOVE sleeping with Alice. I've been missing her tremendously lately.

I'm currently reading Polygamy in Primetime, Hillbilly Elegy, and The Mind Of Jesus (again and still).

This has nothing to do with my sleeping/reading practices, but I'm working hard at not thinking about the fact that Jake is on the job market right now. So much anticipation goes into big unknowns, and I know that eventually I'll know where we'll be, but in the meantime I'm reminding myself of all of the really great things that exist here and now. The one thing I know right now is my job. I love it dearly and still feel so lucky I get to show up there everyday. And not just that I get to show up, that my girls get to show up with me.

PS: This is really unrelated to anything in this post, but I am terrified of mountain lions. It's been on my mind. Now you know.

Locker Room Talk and Trauma

This post isn't about Donald Trump. It's about Women. It's about you, and it's about me, and it's about sexual assault.

I don't give Donald Trump credit for much. I'm still in a place of holding out for someone to say "Haha, j/k, Trump's not really running." I know it's not going to happen. He's definitely running. I do my best not to get riled up by anything he says because I don't take him seriously as a candidate. I was not surprised when his "Locker room talk" video was released. To me, it's par for the course for him.

What I was surprised about was my emotional response. I've been writing this post in my head since it became the number one topic of conversation. For anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault, myself included, these words burn. Despite reliving the trauma, I'm really glad that it's opening up a dialogue. The amount of women who have been sexually assaulted is staggering; in fact, I don't know any women who haven't been verbally assaulted at the very least. But here's the deal: NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT IT.

Let's talk about it.

I've addressed verbal assaults twice on my blog. You can read them here [Enough is Enough] and here [What I wish I would have said]

I'm not going to go into any detail of the times I've been physically sexually assaulted. My social media accounts, including this blog, are all public, and there are too many pervs who would get off on the details.

When it happened when I was younger, I thought it was my fault. I used to try and rationalize it away - "He didn't really mean to." "I could have done something more to stop it." "What did I say/do that allowed this to happen?" I've come to terms with those things - I came to a place where I could say with a surety that I had been assaulted (even claiming abuse was difficult for me). I'm not angry about those times anymore.

What I am angry about is the most recent time it happened.

It was in June of this year. I was a thirty-one-year-old woman riding a bus home from UCLA where I'd spent several hours in Powell Library writing comments for my students' final progress reports. A man got on a few stops after UCLA and ended up right next to me. As the situation unfolded, I felt the blood drain from my face. I kept thinking over and over again, "Is this really happening?" The bus driver kept telling people to move back because the bus was filling up. He didn't move. He was the one who needed to move because he was blocking the aisle with plenty of room behind him. I kept waiting for him to move. He never did.

I'm angry because I said nothing. I didn't know what to say. Have you heard about assuming positive intent? Sometimes that's the wrong thing to assume. When I realized there was nothing mistaken about what was going on, when what was happening really sank in, I removed myself from the situation. I went to the back of the bus and waited for my stop. I was shaking. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I was furious.

WHY DIDN'T I SAY ANYTHING?!?! Why didn't I yell at him or push him away? I'm a strong, confident, intelligent, independent woman. But in that moment, I was paralyzed.

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Yes. It really happened. It happens all the time. And perpetrators get away with it all the time. It catches us so off guard. There is shame, even though victims shouldn't be the ones who carry the shame. Why would anyone ever think that violating the comfort and safety of someone is okay? That's what's shameful. But I still can't shake the shame of losing my voice when I most needed it - losing my voice when using it might have meant saving someone else from an assault.

While I hope there isn't a next time, the likelihood is that there will be. The way we talk about women is deplorable. All over the world. The way some women talk about themselves is devastating.

"Locker Room Talk" is NEVER okay. "Boys will be boys" is not okay. For the most part, people can't control their thoughts, but they can certainly control their words, and especially their actions. I am the mother of two daughters, and I know that the odds of them facing some form of sexual assault is just about 100%. It makes me sick. It has to stop. We have to stop giving perpetrators passes.

Nearly every woman in the world carries trauma from sexual assault. I'm reliving that trauma right now. Many are. Please, please, please, let's not stop talking about it. Let's stand up for one another. Let's take the shame away from victims and put it where it belongs.  

It's the Little Things

This is a fitted sheet. I folded it. First time ever. It only took four YouTube videos and a little cussing in my head.

[Please pardon the wrinkles; it spent much of its life wadded up in the linen closet.]


Today is a day we will celebrate forever in our family. August 26, 2016. You can celebrate it too. 

On this day, Cora said "Cora" clear as a bell for the first time ever. 

Cora, not Coe-wuh. I fell over, literally. And then I cried, and laughed and cried and laughed and cried. We had a big celebratory hug. And then I cried all the way to work. 

She did it!!! SHE DID IT!!! 

The weird weight of naming her a name she couldn't say was instantly lifted. 


And in writing this, after she's tucked into bed on this new celebration day, I'm crying again. This is superstar, ultimate, highest achieving status.



Cora, Cora Cora!

I still need to check in to see how "Grace" is coming along (her full name is Cora Adeline Grace), but dang it, she can say Cora!!


When I was in high school, I remember thinking it kind of strange when my friends started passing their mothers in height. I don't know why, it was just one of those surreal moments of growing up. I never passed my mom, but while I was still growing, I had high hopes that I would. 

I was going to be 5'11". One inch taller than my tallest aunt. 6' would have been okay too, but I knew I was going to be 5'11". And while it's hard to believe now, I used to be taller than average. In fourth and fifth grade, I was occasionally called Long Legs Lund. 

Long legs. Ha!

I stopped growing in seventh grade. Most of my friends passed me in 8th grade, almost all the rest did so in 9th grade. I think it's more normal to go from being short to tall. I went the opposite direction. I was tall, and I ended up being short. I remember feeling self-conscious in the locker room at the conclusion of our weigh-in at the end of seventh grade. I crossed the hundred pound mark - a feat that was ahead of many of my peers. Why is that such an impactful number? Why do 7th graders care how much they weigh? Why did we used to get weighed in gym class? I came in at 5'2 3/4". 

My grand total height came that summer. 5'3 1/4".

I grew up only knowing my mom's family, and so many people are really tall. I ended up shorter than everyone. I have 38 cousins on that side. I am number 39 in height. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel cheated. ;) 

Meeting my biological paternal grandmother earlier this year gave me a new perspective. She's 5'4". I come by it naturally. 

Cora is tall. I keep waiting for her to slow down, but she hasn't even a little bit. Today she took off from the park in my shoes, leaving me her flip-flops. When I put them on, they were so close to my size. I couldn't believe it! 

Because I had such a funny awareness of mothers outgrowing their daughters, it seems crazy that my daughter is outgrowing me so quickly! She's just above my shoulder now, and her feet are 2-2.5 sizes smaller than mine still. There's still time. 

When I was 10, I got my first pair of "heels." They were a baby 2 inches, with a block heel. They were size 4. (I felt so grown up!) Cora is a size 4-5 depending on the shoe. At 8. I used to wonder if she would be tall and then just stop like I did. But even if she just stop in 7th grade, I think she'll have me beat.

Until she does pass me, though, there is something nice about being able to kiss her on the top of the head without bending over.


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.)


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.


Tonight, this girl said "girl" clear as a bell for the first time in her life! After so many years of speech issues, THIS IS HUGE!! This made me cry. This is a victory.

She didn't even realize she had done it, and when Jake stopped her, she said, "Now don't make me practice saying girl over and over." But that's when we saw the little light where we knew she knew she had it. 

She is quite resistant to change, and right after the "light," she asked, with a little quiver in her voice, "Does this mean I have to start talking right?" The way she speaks is important to her sense of self. For as triumphant as it feels as her parent, it's nice to be reminded that it's still a transition for her. While still acknowledging that sensitivity for her, I can't deny that I am one proud mama.

Credo Statement

Almost three weeks ago was the last meeting in a 6 week course I participated in called Building Your Own Theology. The course was designed as a space for those with a wide variety of beliefs to come together to discuss several common readings and exercises. Throughout the course, we examined our religious and spiritual traditions and where we all were on our journeys. There were Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Scientologists, New Agers, Humanists, and a few others. It ended up being a lovely community to be part of. At the final meeting, each participant shared a credo statement they'd prepared.

I wrote mine really quickly. I've always had a difficult time trying to put my beliefs in written form. During my last semester of college at Oklahoma City University, I took a course called Literature and Spirituality. One of our assignments was to compose a poem that described our spirituality. What a task then! And what a task now. I went into the BYOT course quite comfortable with what I believe, and I left with those same beliefs, but found a new sense of comfort with how to express them. In all honesty, my beliefs aren't very different from my full-time in-the-thick-of-Mormonism beliefs, but how I describe those beliefs has changed. How I feel and live and acknowledge those beliefs sounds different from the Mormon vocabulary I grew up with, and that evolution of understanding through new descriptions feels better. The words mean more to me. They move me closer to that which I am seeking.

While my personal beliefs run far deeper than the series of words I jotted down, I feel like this is a good summation of where I'm at right now. And I love knowing that there is a fluidity to how I describe my beliefs now versus how I might look at them in the future. There's always a level of difficulty in change, but I'll take the difficulty as it comes because it's a quiet reminder that I am still learning and growing, that I am always becoming.

I grew up in a world where truth was held in the highest esteem - in a church that proclaimed it was the only true church on the earth. I believed it. I defended it. And then one day, after years of trying to fit myself into a box, that claim broke my heart. 

I came to a place where I found peace in knowing less and asking more. I believe in questions more than answers. I live my life in the questions; they drive me forward.

I believe in a universal force. I call that force God. I imagine that force in human form. It is both father and mother to me. 

I believe in gender equity. That stereotypes have negative effects on both men and women, but that women have been getting the short end of the stick for all of history. I’m tired of it. Enough is enough.

I believe in the power of prayer. In focusing intention. 

I believe in a savior. That savior is love. Examples of love are my guiding force. I still obsessively study the life of Jesus. I continue to learn and apply his teachings in my life. 

My path of discipleship is important to me.

I believe in simplicity. In kindness towards all living things. In reciprocity between humanity and the earth. 

I have hope that life continues on in some form after we leave this body behind. I have no idea what that looks like or how it works, but I hope for it just the same. 

I believe in the connectedness of humanity, in working to unite all people regardless of time and space. I believe in the power of relationships, in family, in friends, in traditions and meaningful conversations.

I can only be a force of peace in the world if I have peace within myself. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” 
And with you. 
And you. 
And you.

When weeks feel like eternity. Or something like that.

Sometimes it takes a minute for life to catch up. I feel like I've been working at my new job forever. 3 weeks compared to forever is quite the overstatement, but maybe forever brings with it a certain sense of familiarity. Going from working 20 hours per week to 43.5 hours per week is something I'm still adjusting to. I think having to be at work at 7:30 was the biggest hurdle, only because I really love sleep. Magnolia didn't sleep through the night for 20 months. I feel like I'll be catching up for the rest of my life.

7:30 hasn't been so bad. I'd actually been waking up before my alarm every day until daylight savings happened. That. Hit. Hard. Maybe tomorrow will be a little easier. Have I ever mentioned I hate daylight savings? I do. 

Many things have happened in the last 3 weeks. The first week brought news from Oklahoma. One of our old neighbors on our block in Mesta Park was badly injured in a car accident. She is the glue in her family in so many ways. Another family of Oklahoma friends lost their adult son in an accident at work. They are the sweetest family. They love and care for one another so deeply. The last bit of news we received that week is still news I haven't quite let sink in yet; it makes me so very sad. One of my aunts went in for surgery to have a spot removed from her lungs. When they were able to look closer, they found that that one spot was the largest of many. She has opted out of treatment, hoping to make the most of the rest of her life and time she has with people she loves. I'm glad she feels comfortable and confident in her decision. Even with the love and support I have for her, I'm praying for miracles.

I've been attending a 6-week long course called Building Your Own Theology. Tomorrow is the last night, and it culminates in a reading of each participant's personal credo statement. I've thought about mine, dreamt about it, repeated portions in my head over and over, but I haven't actually written it yet. I'm so good at putting things off. :) 

I started BYOT pretty sure of what I believe, and that hasn't changed, but I've grown so much listening to the stories of others. I've thought a lot about Mormonism. One night we made a collective list of all of the good things we experienced in the religious traditions we grew up in/came from, then we made a list of the good things coming from our current religious experience and compared the two. I didn't know how to succinctly say all of the positive things that are part of me because of my Mormon experience. I did, however, know exactly what to say about the positive thing with where I currently am with my faith community. I won't share it here, but it was an epiphany. I was surprised at how quickly and strongly it came to me. I was glad for that moment of clarity. To me, there isn't a "previous" and a "current" to my experience. My spiritual life is one continuous thread. It doesn't start and stop depending on where I am on Sunday. It's all of who I am, all of my experiences, all of the ways I've found new understanding, all the ways I've come closer to love.

I have about 940,000 more things to say, but I'll leave it there for tonight. 

Here's How it Happened

In August, I was hired to teach supplemental remedial English classes at Santa Monica College. I had a six-month contract, with the chance of being hired on permanently as the enrollment and budget allowed. My initial contract was set to expire on February 29th. I found out three weeks before February 29th that my contract would definitely be ending. The budget for supplemental instructors was gone at the end of fall semester, so no new permanents would be hired.

That's when I got really serious about finding a new job. Don't get me wrong, I'd done plenty of applying before then, including applying at Starbucks! They didn't call me. I didn't let it affect my ego [too much], and I found a position covering a teacher's maternity leave through the end of the year at an Orthodox Jewish school. I applied. The next day they asked if I could come in for an interview. And the day after that, I was there having an interview. I was invited back to do a demo lesson the following week.  Between the interview and the demo lesson, I applied for positions at four different schools for the 2016-2017 school year.

Here's a timeline:

2/10: Apply to Orthodox Jewish school [OJS]
2/11: Hear back from OJS
2/12: Interview at OJS - invited to teach demo lesson in one week
2/17: Apply to 4 different independent schools for the 2016-2017 school year
2/19: Teach Demo Lesson

This is where it gets interesting...

2/21: Wake up to an email from the head of one of the independent schools I'd applied to on 2/17 saying they were pretty far down the candidate list for the position next year, but there's a spot open immediately through the end of the school year. He wanted to set up a time for a phone call that day. I responded with my available time to call, but said I preferred to meet in person. I met him at 2 that afternoon, and around 3:15 I all of a sudden had a job. And he wanted me to start the next day. The assistant head of school and I both said "Whoa."

2/22: I went to SMC and told my supervisor about the new job and asked if I could get out of my contract a few days early. She thought that was fine. I emailed the OJS letting them know I'd accepted a position at another school.

2/23: My last day at SMC. My colleagues there were fantastic. They threw a sweet little going away party and sent me on my way with a thoughtful card.

2/24: This was supposed to be my first day at the new job, BUT I got a phone call at 2:30 that morning from my doula client saying it was time. I got to the hospital around 3:30, and made it home around 7 that evening.

2:25: My official first day as the new 8th grade English teacher at a PK-8 Independent School.

Today marked my seventh day there. It's a great environment. I teach all of the 8th graders. All 44 of them between three sections. When I heard how many students I would have in my interview, I almost fell over. Back in my days teaching high school in Oklahoma City, I had over 100 students each semester. I literally couldn't have dreamt up a better daily schedule. My hours are a little longer than they were at a public school. I arrive at 7:30 each morning, and I leave at 4 every day except for Monday, which is 5.  

In all of my applying and most of my not hearing back, I just kept praying for a job to come along that would be a good fit for me and my family. It was very much a trust thing, turning over the worry so I could spend more energy hoping that the right job would come along. It absolutely did. In the waiting to see if I would continue on at SMC, and the search for a job when I found out I wouldn't, I found myself being really aware of having and keeping faith that everything would work out just as it should. It's such a powerful lesson every time something like this occurs. And it's a lesson that is worth learning and reinforcing over and over again.

Being back in a classroom reinforces my love of being in a school and around students. Students are my favorite part of teaching. I have a good bunch. I'm grateful for that. It's funny how life has circular patterns sometimes. I spent so much time while I was staying home with my girls trying to figure out what I would be doing differently when I went back to work, in large part because of how little teachers make, but some things just fit. Spending time with students working through literature and writing reinforces something really powerful in me. I like what 17-year-old-me decided she wanted to do for her career. And I like that almost-31-year-old-me knows there's a fluidity in life that allows for one to be exactly where one is supposed to be at any given time with room for change along the way.

Jake has gone to Wichita this weekend to play for the auditions for Music Theatre of Wichita. (He's the accompanist for auditions, not auditioning.) I plan on soaking up every second with my best little friends, Cora and Magnolia.


Cora is 8!

The morning started with her running into our room at 6:30 declaring that it was her birthday. We cuddled for a bit before she decided she wanted donuts for breakfast, so Jake took her and Magnolia to Winchell's at 6:45.

While they were gone, I wrapped her presents from grandparents. After she ate, she got to the business of unwrapping. 

In the afternoon, she had a fun party with some friends. We did our parental duty and served more sugar in 2 hours than what our girls get in a month. This year, she wanted a My Little Pony/Equestria Girl theme. 

In the middle of the party, we had our own version of Cupcake Wars. There were three rounds with three participants in each round. Each group had three minutes to decorate their cupcake to their heart's desire, and we admired each one when it was over. 

There was pin the Cutie Mark on the pony and a few other crafts, including a DIY bookmark because everyone knows cool kids read.

It was fun and loud, and we're all exhausted. 

We watched Muppet Treasue Island and continued our party food binge for dinner. Right before bed, she decided she wanted to try on her new clothes. I'm so glad she did, it was adorable and included twirl tests! 

When she was cleaning up her school game right before bed, she went through a rite of passage: she swore for the first time. She was pointing to a map that had a rock formation in Kentucky. Pointing to it, she said, "What the hell is that?" I paused and said, 

"What'd you just say?" 

She replied, What's that, it looks so weird. 

Me: Oh, it's rocks. But how'd you say it the first time?

C: What the hell is that?

Me: Yes, that! Where did you hear that?

C: I dunno, from movies?

Me: ...going on to explain how there are words we just don't say.

I know exactly what movie! We've been watching The Sandlot. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. I'm so proud of myself for not completely falling a part laughing. 

Yep. My girl is 8. 


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