Collecting gold stars.

I’ve long since been seen as a “free spirit” who “does her own thing.” And for the most part, it’s true. And as an Enneagram Type 4, it’s real easy for me to post up my flag as the odd (wo)man out, the “different” one. All the ways that “one of these is not like the other.”

This was especially noteworthy (and painful, because I didn’t understand, and dammit I wanted to be included and liked and right and appreciated and seen for all the value I was bringing to the situation…) ahem. I digress. This was especially noteworthy in my early 20s when I was teaching a Sunday School class for high school seniors. I was only a few years older than them, but I was their teacher.

On a church trip to New Orleans, we had some free time and were allowed to roam about a local mall. As I remember it, I was the chaperone for a group of about five of my high school girls, all 18 years old. I had known them long enough to get to know their mothers. Their siblings. Their family dynamics and relationships. While I was their teacher and chaperone, I was also their friend. Part of their support network as they navigated high school.

We had a specific time we were supposed to be back at the shuttle. My group arrived at the same time as another all-boys group, led by a male chaperone. “Gold Star for being on time” said Jay, the Youth Director, to the boys group. I was confused, because…I wanted a gold star…and I also arrived back at the same time… only me and my crew arrived with 6 new piercings. My own, and five belonging to each of the teenage girls I was somehow supposed to be leading/guiding. The curse of the piercing was clearly the beginning of the end of my Sunday school teaching career.

My life has been bookmarked by these moments, and this is my opportunity to go back, insert curiosity and the pause (sometimes a really long pause) and respond from today’s most authentic self.

Today I would call it out. “I’m on time too! Is there something else you’d like to talk about?” I had gone through a thoughtful conversation with each teenager. This was before the widespread use of cell phones, and none of us had them. But we did the pre-technology due diligence. The girls who got their ear pierced were 18. They knew their mothers wouldn’t mind (I mean, most of them had belly button piercings) and they were very clear that if there was fallout from their parents, the piercing was out. No more questions asked. In my own mind, I was responsible. I had asked the questions. There were no “no piercings or tattoos” rules stated. But Jay didn’t ask any more questions. He just withheld the gold star.

Revisiting that uncomfortable feeling from 20+ years ago, it’s still so familiar: Being misunderstood. It makes my chest physically ache to think about my younger self, not knowing how to navigate that instant pang of insecurity, the regret of decisions already made, the rapid yet muddled replay of how I navigated the situation correctly or poorly …but Jay doesn’t know or care about any of that. And I don’t know how to invite the conversation. My throat locks down, words escape me, hot tears well up in my eyes. I’m not enough. I did it wrong.

I had a more recent situation where I felt misunderstood. I still don’t like it. It’s still uncomfortable. But I understand myself now. I can identify what’s going on – and I can say, “Would you like to know more about what happened from my perspective?” Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Regardless of their response, I can acknowledge my own needs, own feelings, own ego.

And for that, I finally get that coveted gold star.

Small talk struggles.

I told a friend recently that I struggle with “small talk.” I never know what to say when someone says, “Hey! What’s new?”

In my head I think… uh…what’s new? Well, I bought a bracelet that says “YOU ARE ENOUGH” because I need a reminder every damn day that I am enough. That what I am doing / contributing / learning / being is enough. It made me cry when I read the words and so I bought it. (But I don’t say this.)

I think … I’m getting up every morning to meditate. And some days I crave getting on my mat and being in that quiet place of solitude before my children rise and the day takes off, and other times I struggle through it and don’t want to get out of bed and every fiber of my being resists it. But I still try. And I don’t understand why the things that are so good for me are the same things that I resist. (But I don’t say this.)

I think … My kid got sick in the middle of Starbucks and I had to give us both a half-assed shower in the bathroom and find other clothes for both of us to put on and apologize profusely to the underpaid barista who is now mopping up the contents of Hadley’s stomach and feel so under qualified and overwhelmed to be the adult taking care of the situation right now.  (But I don’t say this.)

I think … Every day I’m trying to open my eyes + ears to the white privilege I experienced as a child growing up in the deep south. Every day I try to peel back a layer and examine how I have contributed to the racial divide in America today, and how I can begin to bridge that divide and teach my children and live differently and not just know multiculturalism as a word but as our authentic experience. Embracing diversity in my actions so that I can be part of the shift. (But I don’t say this.)

So that’s “what’s new” but I don’t think that’s what you were looking for. So I smile and nod and make an awkward response about having a new coffee routine that really fills my soul er uh I mean really fills my cup – haha – awkward laugh makes it less awkward, right?

And then I wonder when the authentic response – the vulnerable response – the response that invites someone into my life – is actually the most appropriate one. Why do I stand at the threshold and not walk through? Why don’t I extend the invitation?

And then when the opportunity comes to reciprocate the question – how are you? What I mean is – how is your soul today? How is your heart today? Where is your head today? I am safe, and I want to know how you are doing. I care about the You beneath the surface. I care about how you care for your sacred self, how you show up and engage and thrive or fail.

I care about how your date was with your husband with whom you haven’t felt a connection in months, how you experienced celebrating the first high holiday since your mom passed, how it’s going navigating a new relationship after your divorce.

I don’t care about what you do for work. I care if you love your work. I care if it meets you in a place that is meaningful and fulfilling and if not, why do you tether yourself there?

I care how you spend your time, what books you’re reading, how you align your values and priorities and do life accordingly.

I remember a long time ago, my partner at the time told me that I wasn’t a good conversationalist. Assuming he was correct, I started watching football and reading books from someone’s best sellers list, and engaging in the politics of the day, all so that I could become better at engaging in small talk with people.

As it turned out, following football or politics certainly allowed me to ask questions and have some knowledge about current events that I could speak to. But I never wanted to talk stats, or if I thought there were or weren’t weapons of mass destruction hidden in a middle eastern desert. Looking back, it was such a false sense of connecting with people for me. I didn’t leave a conversation feeling heard or seen or valued for my contribution. I left the conversation. That’s all it was, a conversation, not a connection. Even back then, while still asleep at the wheel, what I truly wanted was connection. I sought it through conversations about sporting events and work and the latest John Grisham book.

These days I do less of those conversations. One-on-one or small group conversations are my jam and I can feel more of that connection I so desperately crave. I don’t watch football anymore. I follow politics because I find it relevant to my life, my community, necessary in finding my voice, not because I think I need to have a conversation with someone. In honoring that craving, I have found a handful of people who will go there with me. “How are you” isn’t going to elicit a “fine, good, thanks!” response. It’s going to yield a deep sigh, a thoughtful answer about how their ancestors are meeting them, how the hard conversation went, how the universe unfolded to offer a new perspective. I want to engage in the meaningful talk, and as a result, I have been gifted a circle of those who want to give and receive the same.

I miss out on some of the details of life, because I don’t do the small talk. Because I don’t know what her husband does, or how they make money, or what they’re doing this weekend.

And then I wonder … is the small talk part of the connection?

Morning rituals.

So I’m taking this class through my dear buddy at Educare Unlearning Institute, and well. Suffice it to say, it’s been the best ass-kicking that my heart and soul so desperately needed. It was the right time for me to dive back into radical self-care, and this has been the deep dive I needed. In our last class, we talked about meditation practices. We practiced several of them over the course of the weekend together, and I decided to continue the practice afterwards. After all, meditating for one weekend every quarter is only going to take me so far.

Before the birth of my first little person, I was pretty committed to a morning ritual. I did “morning pages” or journaling, most always outside, for as long as my Soul wanted to write + listen + write. I would breathe, start my day with intentional quiet space, and it was magical. I’m pretty sure I drank warm cups of tea and wrote with nice Staedtler pens that all had functioning tips. And though my intention has been to get back to that, I just haven’t. I’ve tried guilting and shaming myself into doing it again, which turns out wasn’t the right approach for me. I couldn’t find my way back to that sacred, nurturing, peaceful, quiet space in my mornings, and so I just didn’t do anything. All or nothing. Hours of peace or no peace. No peace, literally.

I remember growing up, I would often find my mama in the mornings reading her bible. She would be in the front room of our house, still in her pajamas, reading. Writing. Taking time to nurture her heart and soul, before she nurtured me and my big brother’s hearts and souls. Sometimes I would snuggle down on the sofa next to her, cozy down under a blanket and enjoy the quiet before the day began. I remember she had a cup of coffee, and her hair was a mess, and I remember that she prioritized her soul readiness before anything else.

These days my morning ritual doesn’t include lengthy stretches of time in any contemplative practice. It’s not 90 minutes or an hour, or really, any specific amount of time. But there is time. I climb out of my bed and onto my yoga bolster. I put one hand on my heart, and one on my belly, and I just breathe. Sometimes I count my breaths, other times I just breathe, seeing if I can find the very top of my lungs, if I can find the softness in my belly. Sometimes the tears roll down my cheeks in gratitude for the small gift I’m giving myself, other times I struggle to stay present and can barely count to ‘2’ before my mind is wandering somewhere. Sometimes I read an entry in a meditation book, other times I offer a few sun salutes to the day ahead. Sometimes my littlest sits on the bolster with me and I hold her as I breathe. I wonder if she’ll remember those quiet mornings with mama.

There is time. There is peace.

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This isn’t the book I read in the mornings…but I’ve learned some good lessons from this dear children’s book.

 

Nature therapy.

Every Wednesday, the girls and I connect with two other families for a day of exploring Orange County and beyond. Some days we go to a local park for a few hours, other days we cover miles to hike to a specific place, other times we park umbrellas at the beach and explore tide pools and have “chocolate pies” made out of sand served up by the most adorable sand-covered children. Yesterday we explored an OC Park that I often frequent on a bike, but rarely on foot. Our destination trail was only accessible by foot.

Anabelle said, “Mama, you’ve never seen this because you never get off your bike.”

And in her innocent comment, it hit me…what do I miss when I don’t get off the bike? Hiking with my kids keeps me present, slow and steady, focused on the beauty around me … most of which I miss when I’m zooming by on a a bike. And how does the bike represent other ways I miss life when I won’t get off my own agenda? When I won’t let go of the plan? When I don’t choose to take off my shoes and choose the 5-hour pace? I wonder what kind of beauty I miss when I am racing along.

Part of my intent for this year is to slow down. To say no. Even to things that I really want to say ‘yes’ to. Finding the balance in presence instead of packing it all in. It feels super awkward as I work my way into it, but maybe it will get more comfortable as I implement the practice. img_7016.jpg

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Princess of Power.

 

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My TinCan Princess

I remember the first time I was put into a position of “power”. I use quotes there because, well. It was at summer camp when I was about 15 years old. I mean…how much power could I really have here?? But I digress. I was nominated for Kiowa Tribe Princess, which meant I would represent the tribe the next year. Cultural appropriation aside, I was STOKED to be nominated. Humbled. Honored. I never knew how badly I wanted to be the 2nd term Kiowa Princess of 1991 until I was nominated.

And then I was put in charge of a group of younger campers to do something really important like paint banners.

And. Turns out I was a total jerk. Like Jerk Jerk with a capital J-E-R-K. I had expectations of these young ones but didn’t have the words to clearly explain what I wanted. I didn’t take anyone’s advice, didn’t value anyone else’s opinion, just had my way of how I wanted it done, and heard myself barking these orders without a hint of kindness, love, togetherness, or camaraderie. Even my 15-year old self was a bit awe struck by the power hungry would-be princess.

Perhaps this is needless to say, but my fleeting dream of being the one-term Kiowa princess was not realized.

I’ve had a few opportunities to harness my “power” and use it in a more gentle and encouraging way since that fateful summer painting imperfect banners. I mean, hold your applause, but I managed one person back when I worked in an office. One person y’all! And while our Dynamic Duo was in fact truly dynamic, it was probably more impressive that I didn’t hold onto that summer camp management style.

And now I have daily, no… moment by moment opportunities to check that power, when interacting with my kiddos on the regular. In the moments when they are awesome, in those moments when they are not awesome, or I am not awesome, or life is just not awesome. I check in with my Perceived Power (hereto referred to as PP) with regards to their learning and education, with their food choices, what they wear, when they wake and go to bed. I trust in their abilities in a way that I didn’t trust those v young 14-year old campers who I needed to boss around. (They are 6 and 3.)

And I also have learned that I can choose in the moment how I want to react. I can see the princess-nominee wielding her PP and shut that shit down. Take a breath, redirect, move forward in a different way. In authenticity, letting my tender, vulnerable soul shine. Even if it means that I say I have no idea how to paint this “banner”. Can we make a plan and paint together? I don’t have to know how to do all the things, but I do want to embrace all the kindness and love, and even when it’s scary, choose to put forth my most authentic self. Baby steps.

Baby steps.

Choosing vulnerability.

When I shared my intention of choosing vulnerability as a strength, it invited several converstations. One specifically stuck with me … “How?” How do you choose vulnerability as a strength?

I chose vulnerability as my strength because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deny it any longer. I have pushed it down my whole life, disavowing tears and emotions and the absolute fear of saying “I don’t know.” I don’t know what that is, who that is, how to do / say / pronounce that. etc times a million. And so I would smile and nod and be nice because I didn’t want to be the fool that didn’t know something (as if I could somehow have known ALL THE THINGS. Giant compassionate eyeroll at my younger self.)

I was afraid to speak my opinion because:

What if it was wrong?

What if it incited a debate/heated conversation?

What if I sounded dumb / ill-informed?

What if I actually have no idea what I’m talking about?

What if my truth is different from your truth?

What if my voice cracks?

What if I cry?

What if…. (ad nauseam)

That fear hasn’t totally washed away. It’s still just beneath the surface or, in the passenger seat. Present but not driving. And so I ask questions. I claim truthfully that I don’t know. I’m open (okay this is still hard sometimes) to feedback and advice and new perspectives.

It’s like I’m finally stepping out of these ill fitted clothes, and into something perfectly tailored for me. My authentic self. My full, vulnerable, brave, messy, vocal, question asking self. And damn, it feels like I’m clad in platinum and diamonds. It feels so good. It feels so me.

 

On (re)birth.

I can feel you trying to be born

I can feel you like a storm

Little twister making a fuss

Rising up from the dust

I can feel you inside of me

Tossing and turning endlessly

We don’t know just what’s begun

We won’t know until it’s done

I can feel you like some fate

All that pushing still you’re late

You’re just yearning to be free

Still not sure what you’ll be 

In the blinking of an eye

First we’re born and then we die

I can feel you trying to be born

I can feel you like a storm

Little twister making a fuss

Rising up from the dust

Rising up from the dust …

Laura Chandler, I Can Feel You

Recopied from Return to the Great Mother 

It seems laced in every conversation I have these days … the idea of “something big” coming. The birth of self, the birth of ideas, new business ventures, relationships, hope and dreams. Keep laying the bricks on the path, taking those steps towards yourself, towards your birth.

Rooting and Rising.

The birth of my first child was an awakening for me. An awakening I was unprepared for, and frankly, ill-equipped to handle. And so began a long journey of opening, chipping away at who I thought I was, and becoming. Becoming a mother. Becoming a part of a mama tribe. Becoming a healer of old wounds. Becoming someone who asked for help. Becoming sensitive in ways that had long been buried. I am six (and a half) years into to awakening, and it still catches me by surprise nearly every day.

The name of this blog is Rooting and Rising. Rooting down is a forever practice for me, thus written in the present tense. Rising comes alongside the rooting, also a forever practice.

The lotus flower cannot blossom without being rooted in the mud. Rooting, rising into something beautiful.

My intent is to write weekly posts. Sometimes reflections to my younger self, if only a week younger. Mostly writing to myself, questions and curiosities I’m sitting with, and if they speak to you as well, I look forward to sharing the journey.

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On being a badass.

I remember pre-kids, someone that all the guys referred to as a “card carrying badass”. I believed at the time they were referring to her physical strength. This girl could ride bikes all.day.long and seemingly never get tired. She also did it all while managing a full time job, a husband, a ministry, AND a positive attitude.

Card carrying badass, indeed.

I remember that longing to be referred to as a badass. To be seen as strong and capable and endurance-able. I believed it was all tied to my physical capabilities. Which were significantly lacking in comparison to hers.

As I’ve leaned into being a mother, learning to navigate new titles and balancing schedules and juggling responsibilities, I also leaned into a new definition of badass. Being a badass became more about taking care of myself. Recognizing that I am capable, strong, able. It turns out, it has very little to do with physical ability. It has very little to do with how far I can ride my bike, or how strong my booty is, or how many packs I have in my ab-pack.

It became more about consciously mothering my girls. Consciously mothering myself. Giving myself grace to fail, and embrace vulnerability in asking forgiveness from my knee-high children. Peeling back the layers of myself so that I can be my most authentic human, mama, wife, friend, daughter, sister … all my roles.

I am surrounded by a lot of badass women, doing the quiet, soulful, powerful work of waking up, living in their most authentic selves, taking the intentional steps towards their true essence. And let me tell you friends, THIS is the work of badassery.

Maybe that’s what those guys were referring to all those years ago. Her complete badass package. Awake. Aware. Living life in her most authentic way.

May we all experience this badass life. ❤