Category Archives: Life goals

The Climb

Standard

da boys

I am home with the kids and revising all the time what that means to me.  I am not gonna lie; at first, I  had every intention of going back to teaching in September, when my youngest was six months old. After all, teaching and being a working person has  forever been part of my identity.  But… the economy had different plans and after several job applications and interviews took me nowhere, my partner and I revisited our family budget and realized that it more than works for me to stay home.

Budgeting aside, it’s been far from easy.  This baby was not a regular sleeper and there is still the older child to think about… its much different from just having the one kid…in many ways it would be easier to be work outside the home because at least I would get some mental space, some time with adults, even just an opportunity to complete a thought.  ( If this blog is any example, I’ve been drafting this and several other posts on and off for several months!)  But, as with everything, we’ve learned to adapt and adjust. With the support of my partner I take self-care and me-time very seriously. This support is not something I take for granted since I know and (and feel myself) how very strong the current of “status quo” is on mothers and women in general in terms of caretaking and valuing what we do.  As much as I understand and want to change gendered roles and the effects of patriarchy, that shit is so deeply woven even in the most “woke” of us that I often stumble.  So, no, I could not do this at all if my co-parent wasn’t the determined badass that he is.

With that said, once I get over the ever-present mom-guilt, I try to get writing time in at least one evening a week, go to excercise classes at the local YMCA a couple of times a week, and get together with other moms and in general, grown-ups as often as I can.  Winter time feels isolating enough as it is, but not getting out and about while taking care of young children felt extra isolating. Now that the baby turned one and with Spring around the corner, the care taking load feels much lighter and life, less overwhelming.  I encourage all moms new and seasoned to find their tribe.  We were never meant to go at this alone. That is why I decided to include this lovely comic by Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.  This hit me right in the feels:  “To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy … but it’s still allowed.”  

So while my “life’s meaning” might have been defined in one way when I was a 22-year-old new teacher, I am allowed to revise what that means to me know that I am 32-year old mother and always in the future.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing…and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you are doing…

Yes, yes, and yes!  Oh my goodness does this ring true in a million ways!  I needed this reminder that self-care, self-love and just being in the moment is a revolutionary act. After all, these kids will grow up in a blink and the work world will still be there waiting for me…

o-WATTERSON-900

 

Thanks for the reminder;)

Advertisements

On Inspiration: Making Space for Creative Thought Daily

Standard

Writing daily is tricky while caring for children, a home, a partner and oh yeah myself!  But thinking creatively and finding inspiration doesn’t have to be…in fact, its deeply necessary and essential to an artistic mind.  blog picBelow are some quotes that I’ve kept in my “inspiration” list.  This is a living document, something that is constantly growing and changing over time.  I enjoy collecting  these tidbits, images, quotes, or thoughts for various reasons including simply reminding me that I am still immersed in the writing life, even when I don’t have a moment to write.  This helps jump-start my writing or just makes me remember the joy of creation, particularly on days when that’s furthest from my mind. Enjoy!

This is a classic one for me since discovering it in college:  “The first act of the conquered is to imitate their conqueror.” ~Ibn Khaldoun

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve always been a fan of political poetry/spoken word and this one introduced me to this new writer as well:

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
~Warsan Shire

LAMAR1

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You were raised to believe anything was possible, but in a threatening sort of way that meant seemingly inanimate objects could pose very real danger.  ~Edward Gorey

I accidentally discovered Gorey after buying a desk calendar… but what a nice discovery indeed.  One day I’ll visit the Gorey house!

Unknown

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You were born for these transitional times. You came to create. You are here to make a difference. You are a player in a grand experiment. You are a change agent. You are an emissary of our New Earth…”

Astrological thoughts to inspire deed as well as character creation for a fantasy novel…!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Any observation or information about pre-1948 Palestine always gets me:

“There is little evidence of the people who lived here because their houses were razed to the ground after 1948 by the Israeli government, but blue Mesopotamian irises continue to grow on the grounds of the village cemetery. The custom was to bury the dead with three irises: one placed on the head, one on the stomach, and one by the feet. Today, the succulent buds poke through the earth of the cemetery of Sar’a, as nature continues to both witness and renew.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darwish is the man:

And I have vowed
To fashion from my eyelashes a kerchief,
And upon it to embroider verses for your eyes,
And a name, when watered by a heart that dissolves in chanting,
Will make the sylvan arbours grow.
I shall write a phrase more precious than honey and kisses:
‘Palestinian she was and still is’.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A remembrance of the sacred is key
 This is not a world that sustains our models of economic growth and consumer desires.
This is rather a world of wonder and magic, and a world that needs our attention

Unknown-3

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Writing ideas/advice:

“In short stories there’s more permission to be elliptical. You can have image-logic, or it’s almost like a poem in that you can come to a lot of meanings within a short space.” – Karen Russell

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“A short story works to remind us that if we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention”— George Saunders, in an interview with Ben Marcus on Granta, quoting Marcus’s introduction to New American Stories
(via poetsandwriters)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally, from the writer Salman Rushdie’s new book Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

Unknown-1

“To be thin skinned, far-sighted, and loose tongued, he said, is to feel too sharply, see too clearly, speak too freely.  It is to be vulnerable to the world when the world believes itself invulnerable, to understand its mutability when it thinks itself immutable, to sense what’s coming before the others sense it, to know what the barbarian future is tearing down the gates of the present while others cling to the decadent, hollow past.  If our children are fortunate they will only inherit your ears, but regrettably, as they are undeniably mine, they will probably think too much too soon, and hear too much too early, including things that are not permitted to be thought or heard.” 

Unknown-2

Welcome to my last week of being a 20 something…

Standard

I have just about one week left untill I turn 30…whoaaahhhhhhh! Party Time! But of course I need to slow it down and take this time as an opportunity to review and give gratitude to the past before plunging forward to my new decade.

So to Recap! During my 20’s I am so grateful I…

-Worked all sorts of jobs from administrative work study college gigs to high school teacher, college advisor, retail at the mall…

-Learned how to live off very little money… and on my own… and as a single mom…

-Traveled to Cairo, London, Paris and Montreal…

-Rode trains for the first time

-Graduated undergrad

-Went to grad school in Cambridge ( thus acquiring a large body of student loan debt…)

-Became a teacher and met lots of amazing young people and their families

– Became a mom

-Made so many new amazing friends

-Got published

-Got my nose pierced

-Dyed my hair purple… and red

-Learned to forgive but not forget

-Started learning about medicinal herbs

-Married Love-o-my-lyfe!

keep-calm-i-m-just-turning-30

 

In my 30’s I hope to:

-Spend more time with my lovely friends

-trust and let go…

-Unlearn all that ‘on my own’ stuff without forgetting the lessons in it

-Get a bike

-More yoga, singing  and dancing…

-Hike more

-Take more trips

-Learn to knit

-Travel to west coast of Canada and US and visit other countries ( Greece, Turkey, Italy, ect…)

-Own house/land

-Start a garden

-Get Tattooed!

-Write soooo much more!

-Know more about natural medicine and herbs

-Maintain financial stability

-Keep learning…

….What else can I try to get in this week before the big 3-0 ??!

20130211-163330

Winter Solstice Reflections: The fine mingling of letting go and holding on

Standard

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

Mandela on Day After Release

Mandela on Day After Release

This quote was brought to my attention recently and I couldn’t help but recognize it as execeptionally fitting given not only Mandela’s passing, but also my heightened sense of personal growth as it relates to letting go of habits, thoughts, and feelings that no longer serve me.  In order to live the life I’ve been blessed with, I need to activily let go of what no longer serves me.  ( most noteably- habits Ild developed as a single mother- of a divorced person, of an economically challenged life, of constrained gender expectations…)

This past year has brought me many changes, a supportive partner and co-parent, a new home, a different job situation, opportunites for creative expression, and deeper relationship with the Earth. The future is very much unwritten, with endless possibilities- I dont want to cloud the possibilities with the heavy heart of a painful past… part of my growth has been the recognition that how I choose to move forward  is very much a choice. That recognition is the first of many difficult steps towards becoming the woman, mother, partner, teacher, and writer that I strive to be.

images

Fittingly, the month of December is a time that  highlights the need to let go while honoring what brings us joy. It was clear to me that although I’ld already come a long way from the me from last year, it was clear I still needed had some personal work ahead of me.  For example, transitioning from single parenthood towards a trust filled, healthy partnership was a huge shiftt in the day to day routine ( oh so i dont have to work nonstop all day? Dinner is already cooked? like whoa.)

That was something I was able to immediatly feel relief from.  But, on a deeper level, I still had a lot of letting go to do.  I was still prone to jump into autopilot when it came to craming house work alongside childcare instead of simply asking for help, still asumed the worst during those times of exhaustion /heightened stress that my co-parent was not going to have my back or would react in an unhealthy way.  I found myself replaying scenes and dramas from long ago, times where I felt like I needed to downplay my exhaustion in order to shield my son from the less patient co-parent of that time. That was a  short, yet highly emotionally charged time where my protective instinct overpowered my desires of self care. These past traumas-as brief as they might have been, (and as logically picked over and sorted as a leftover thankgiving turkey carcass), still had power over me- still controled the way I shaped my reality.  

And that was the last thing I wanted, to live in a self imposed prison…

December 17:  Use this full moon to expand your sense of what could be. The time between this full moon and the Winter Solstice should be honored and quality time should be carved out to do what brings you joy. What needs expansion and more inspiration?

 What do you need to let go of?

7793090_orig

December 21: Winter Solstice-Do a ceremony around honoring yourself and your own truth. Your desires should be given top priority. Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you are still feeling the weight of what you have carried, changed, released, processed, started or created in these past months, release it somehow in a fire or other ceremonial way.

For more, check out power path-  http://www.thepowerpath.com/index.php/power-path-home/the-power-path/monthly-forecast/583-december-forecast-2013

images-2

 

“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”  ~Havelock Ellis

________________________________________________

Kindness poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.

images-3

How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.

_________________________________________________________________________

Creating that balance…

Letting go...

Letting go…

How Uncivil! Ray Kelly Protests, Providence Student Union, and Why Liberal Politics Suck

Standard

The following post was penned by my partner and fellow creative resistance specialist ( cause yeah, i can make terms up…) Christopher Rotondo:

Reflections on the Providence Student Union (PSU), Ray Kelly, and the Nature of Protest

images

Recent organizing efforts and protests in Providence, most recently, the protest of New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly at Brown University, have not only received the ire of reactionary conservatives, but also established “progressive” voices. Certainly, the conservatives have a lot to lose in capitulating to the demands of groups like the Providence Student Union (PSU) or the organizers of the Kelly protest. Those with opposing ideas of how society ought to be must confront each other. The more dismal component of these debates and contests however, are those allegedly “progressive” voices, who, from the sidelines of any struggle, use their privileged access to the media to denounce the  methods or tactics of organizers. It’s important that this debate between these progressives (and so-called “civil rights leaders”) be settled in favor of an analysis that values justice over civility, promotes the liberation of oppressed people rather than defending the “rights” of oppressors.

Ray-Kelly-Protesters-on-Street-584x442

So much of the criticism, and in some cases, outright dismissal, of the Providence Student Union (PSU) is focused on their tactics. Caricatured as a “sideshow” and otherwise cheap political theater, the protests and actions of the group seem to be the only thing up for debate in the minds of conservatives and professed “progressives” alike. The Union’s demands to rescind the NECAP standardized test graduation requirement, along with the largely unarticulated contention their work raises – who should decide how and what Providence students learn – don’t seem worthy of consideration.  Perhaps the reason we – so conveniently, it seems, for the arguments of the pundits criticizing the PSU – don’t get anywhere with so-called “education reform” is because no one with formal decision-making power actually wants to change the direction we’re heading. More testing, evaluations designed to undermine teachers’ unions, and privatization of everything, from entire schools to busing. The conclusion one is bound to draw from the focus on superficial aspects of the situation – “how” the PSU goes about making its point- is that whomever is pandering this kind of analysis must have some stake in the status quo. No argument over the Union’s “tactics” is going to result in change, especially when the context in which the students struggle to find a voice is almost entirely ignored.

sddefault

Many critics of the PSU would have us believe that the group’s alleged “sideshow” tactics are unnecessary, some going so far as to say they’re just looking for publicity, not trying to address a social issue. Yet no one seems capable of articulating how these students might otherwise voice their position in regards to NECAP or any other policy of their schools for that matter. Without a proposed alternative, one is forced not only to question what stake these critics might have in keeping things the way they are, but also where the root of their angry response to the Unions “tactics” truly lies. I would argue this ugly root is actually shaped by bigotry based on age, race, and class.

images-2

Coupled with a general fear of change (along with the power and paychecks involved) there is a deep undercurrent of hackneyed prejudice to the majority of the criticisms of the PSU. One could imagine, based on her crude comments, that Board of Education chair Mancuso doesn’t believe any 16 year old should have a say in her own education. I suppose she’d rather decide for students, in private meetings, what and how they will learn (and subsequently, how they’ll be valued as workers and adults). In Mancuso’s myopic, white-washed world, perhaps this is enough to try and wrap her mind around. But, because the PSU is based in Providence, because its members are mostly African-American, Latino, South East Asian, because many come from immigrant families, there is a lot more than the chair’s distaste for kids at stake. Though banal arguments about “tactics” obscure (intentionally in most cases), the fact that racism and class privilege are undeniably present in this situation, anyone savvy enough to understand the history and political-economy of public education in this country should not be duped.

images-5

Context matters. It matters in any debate over the Union’s demands, and it matters in one-dimensional diatribes about “tactics.” The real questions we ought to be asking ourselves are: should the students of the PSU (and students in general) have a say in how and what they learn? Who and why might someone argue that they shouldn’t? Why would the PSU employ the “tactics” they have? What other options were and are available to them? These questions, unlike the ones being posed in the majority of commentary, might get us closer to the issues underlying the work of the PSU and the roots of the arguments against them.

images-3

Based upon the response from policy-makers, school administrators, conservative and progressive commentators, it would seem that no one criticizing the PSU actually believes students (or perhaps these students) should have a voice in their own education. One of the fundamental beliefs that the PSU’s protests challenge is that administrators, far-removed policy hacks, and, increasingly, profit-seeking education corporations and their consultants, ought to decide how and what students learn.

images-7

By organizing – a concept it appears few still understand – the students of the Union are part of a long, dynamic history of how change happens in this country. One of the most prominent examples, the gains of which many PSU critics implicitly or even explicitly in some cases, work to roll back, is the Civil Rights Movement. The foundation of that widespread movement for racial justice was organizing, not the idolatry of Martin Luther King – which many of the Union’s “progressive” critics stake their reputations upon. That foundation was laid by the localized, person-to-person work being done, largely uncelebrated, by Black women in the South. Organizing, against the Jim Crow of the mid-20th century American South, or the current Jim Crow system of mass incarceration, police terror, and yes, a deeply racist education system, means opening the moral, political, and physical space for the oppressed to challenge the system of white supremacy and class domination that day-to-day largely tramples on unhindered.

images-6

The direction, militancy, and horizons of the Civil Rights Movement came from those without recognized political power, whose dreams of a different life, fueled by their daily experience of white supremacy, made them uncompromising in their struggle for justice and perhaps even revolution. These “common” visionaries, often pushed the limitations of their alleged leaders, driving the movement on to it’s next important strides towards a racially just society. Those who would seek to denounce the students of the PSU, and thus make crucial decisions for them, rather than with them, would do well to take lessons from history. Again, where do these detractor’s ideas about who should run the public education system derive from? From the brutal, white supremacist and capitalist status-quo. They aren’t doing themselves, or any of us for that matter, any favors by seeking to suppress the liberating energies of the Union’s student organizers. They are, as usual, simply lining their own, as well as the usual suspects, never-ending pockets. All in the name of “progressivism,” or even, “civil rights!”

images-4

It should be no surprise that the same antagonists who have been moralizing the PSU’s tactics would apply their reactionary logic to the recent protest of New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly. In the alleged defense of free speech, self-proclaimed civil rights leaders (along with, thanks to the Providence Journal, conservative think-tanks) have admonished the student and community organizers who prevented Kelly from speaking at Brown University. That Kelly was heckled off the stage is being called an “uncivil” disruption of his right to speak and the audience’s right to hear him. These detractors claim that the protestor’s would have been better off engaging in “civil discourse,” held up as the backbone of any progressive change.

Two related points need to be made about Kelly’s “rights,” as well as this vague and much-touted concept, civil discourse. Firstly, since when did rights have nothing to do with power? What tradition of civil rights are these alleged spokespeople upholding? Kelly, wielding his control over the policies and practices of the entire New York City police department, has established a system of race-based oppression, intended to generate fear in the people of color of New York. This is the institutionalized, highly-resourced, and undemocratic (he was appointed, no?) power Kelly holds. In this position, he has had ample opportunity, not only to voice his opinion, but to actually put his ideas into practice!

images

How does Kelly’s power, and subsequently, despite what many commentators would like us to believe, the breadth of his rights, compare to that of the organizers in the crowd? The organizers had no institutional backing whatsoever, except for those small, mainly volunteer-run institutions they had built for themselves. It should be easy enough to see through the straw man about Brown’s “liberal” professors and “culture.” The self-proclaimed “liberals” being touted as the scourge of conservatism on campus are the ones deriding the protestors! It’s certainly not a liberal conspiracy to toss out someone like Kelly. I imagine that if those “unruly” protestors and their ideas were really running things at Brown, we wouldn’t have seen Ray Kelly on campus at all, let alone for a huge honorarium and in a celebratory fashion.

Unknown-1

Moreover, these organizers and protestors were, in the majority, people of color – the targets of policies like Ray Kelly’s (which, by the way, have been the norm in Providence for years, the Providence PD simply does not have a nationally recognized, formal policy of racial profiling. They prefer to deny that profiling exists.) Whatever limited power these organizers have, Kelly’s policies are designed to undermine, using near-constant threat of harassment, violence, and incarceration. Though indignant commentators would surely gasp, it’s clear to these organizers (and to those willing to accept the actual history of this country) that Ray Kelly and his policies are buttressed by hundreds of years of colonization, chattel slavery, and systemic racism, while the protestors instead struggle to overcome these bulwarks of American society.

Unknown

Are we to believe that, given this glaring imbalance of power, Kelly and the protestors would have been on a level playing field had they simply engaged in civil discourse? Asked polite, but “tough” questions at the end of the man’s speech? Wrote patient and explanatory articles in the Brown Daily Herald? What incentive then would there be for Kelly’s policies of stop-and-frisk to be put to an end, either by Kelly himself (presumably after hearing the protestors impassioned, reasoned arguments) or by public opinion (which might, heaven-forbid, empower people in New York City to resist stop-and-frisk…oh wait, that’s already happening!). How easy it is to moralize in a vacuum! How simple-minded to presume, against undeniable evidence, that there is no imbalance of power mediating our rights. Again, like arguments against the tactics of the Providence Student Union, one must ask: is this innocent ignorance, or are those making these claims protecting something, intentionally obscuring reality, admonishing those who rupture the everyday through protest, to suit their own comforts, “rights,” and privileges?

Unknown-2

It’s a massive betrayal on the part of anyone claiming to uphold the banner of civil rights to decry protestors (mostly protestors of color!) fighting the representative of a racist police policy, without even a nod to the fact that racism or massive disparities of power and influence exist in our society. Not content to simply obfuscate the reality of race and class power, some have gone further, infantilizing people’s reaction over an “emotional issue” as a substitute for any real analysis of the situation. Surely New York’s stop-and-frisk policy and the long history of racialized terror from which it springs are worthy of more than a plaintive wail about how they must make people feel!

Perhaps this is related to the bastion of liberal problem-solving, civil discourse, which has been tossed about not only as the reason to disdain the protest of Kelly, but as an inviolable pillar of our “tolerant” society. The alleged leaders called upon to comment on the protest are, rather than championing the rights of those terrorized, locked up, and brutalized by Kelly’s policies, defending their favorite straw man: civil discourse. They would have us believe that impatient and crude activists are always assaulting this discourse and preventing real, painless change from occurring. Kelly’s speech sheds light on what this “discourse” ultimately amounts to. The argument goes that the protestors, rather than “silencing” the commissioner, should have politely heard him out, then posed their challenging, yet civil, questions during the established Q & A. The result would have been a genteel and unremarkable event. And those local policy-makers and police, who only want to fight crime more effectively, would have heard their racist views and practices reaffirmed by an exalted cop, maybe steeling them to push “proactive” policing further in Providence. The Brown undergads on the verge of tears for the display of free-speech bashing would not have had to be so traumatized!

images-1

Yet, what were the protestors after? A statement. A statement against clearly racist policies. From the initial request to cancel the lecture (and spend the honorarium somewhere more appropriate), student organizers sought a disavowal of Kelly and the type of world he represents – a world that is anything but civil. If the protest made you uncomfortable, made you fret over rights, perhaps you might imagine (if you haven’t already experienced it like so many others) a stop-and-frisk. Or, consider not just an isolated incident, a one-off of humiliation, terror, and potentially life-changing consequences, but a generalized, daily routine of surveillance and random violence – the explicit goal of Kelly’s policies. One would hope that champions of civil rights would view the depravity of institutional racism as more discomforting than the heckling of a university’s honored guest. US racism was, after all, built within the genteel, civilized society of the plantation South. Not exactly a concept that we ought to be touting.

images-3

Between the Providence Student Union’s confrontation over the future of the education system and the uncivil discourse of protesting Ray Kelly, it’s clear that comfortable, establishment liberals, like their forbears, simply will not choose sides, despite an increasingly clear war over the direction of our society. It’s moments like these that expose liberalism’s inadequacies of vision and analysis. How can you participate in the struggle for justice if you become squeamish over challenging the speech of the overseer of a racist police system? How can you envision a new society if your inviolable method of change is limited to civil discourse? Who has access to this realm of discourse? Apparently Ray Kelly was welcome, while the “rude” protestors were not. So those directly impoverished, violated, too often even murdered by the systems you and Kelly quietly debate are to sit on the sidelines, face more incarceration, deprivation, and injustice, until a civil solution is worked out by those worthy of the conference room?

images

It’s long been time for those shielding themselves from the obvious conflict going on by hiding behind civility to declare a side. For the oppressed may not fit your description of civility. Those on the side of the oppressed might, reasonably, take your actions to mean that you have chosen your side – that of the existing system and its elites. Perhaps, despite the fact that it will not be a civil contest, folks have chosen to fight for a fundamental revolution in society, to fight for their rights to imagine, create, and live to achieve their full human potential. To defend the rights of a man like Kelly against the bold and uncivil action of those his policies oppress is to choose Kelly’s side of history, the losing side.

So, stop trying to build careers by placating those with power and influence, stop demanding civility and start demanding justice, and decide which side you plan to fight with. I for one, will follow the leadership of those bold organizers and protestors who heckled Ray Kelly offstage. I will follow them to victory over racism and capitalism, and I will gladly be uncivil doing it.

Unknown

Clearing the debris: My ode to Spring

Standard
I won a raffle for this badass house warming cake!

I won a raffle for this badass house warming cake!

The coming of spring is inevitable, but our renewal is not.  Its a choice like everything else. I have to choose which story to believe. What to hang on to and what to let go.

This lesson is not one that was dropped into lap.  Up until recently I would go through the seasons of my life simply reacting- an observer, not participant. It was only after the dissolution of unhealthy relationships, the shedding of toxic cycles, and active spiritual work did I learn to unlearn what no longer served me.  As a result, I have stronger boundaries and love myself first.

We choose our narratives, consciously or not.  During my two year MFA program I almost talked myself out of completing it for several reasons, citing bad timing (post divorce and newly single mother of a 2 year old) and struggling through a  period of unemployment… everything was more important than writing at that point.    Survival trumped art. Until I realized that survival demands creativity.I am ever grateful for my choice to stick out my MFA, because it taught me to put my trust in my power of creation, to write and live a different narrative.

Tulips

Another recent example has been the dissolution of a decade long friendship. This occurred simultaneously as my divorce, acceptance to graduate school and all those life changing events…There was a long, painful period of holding on for me…of reacting…of allowing others to dictate the narrative of what might have gone wrong, of what might happen next.  My heart broke more over the loss of my best friend than my ex-husband, she was a supporter and witness of my son’s birth, a fellow artist since our teen years…the most painful part was the question mark of “what happened” that hung over the circumstances, there was never any clarity, never any ‘final’ discussion or argument.  For a long time, I felt that the narrative wasn’t mine to tell…that I could only be in ‘react’ mode and wait for her to speak her truth.

stopping to smell the lilacs.

stopping to smell the lilacs.

~~~~

While packing for the big move, I came across a card from her- to celebrate my first mother’s day.  The words she wrote were beautiful, inspiring.   Ali was only 2 months old then and I had stuffed the card somewhere and totally forgot about it. Even though I was in cleaning mode I couldn’t help but weep over it.  I realized I was still holding on to the narrative of ‘maybe’ and the confusion surrounding it.  Even though I intellectually knew it was over for months,  in my heart, it was a different story.  As I sat there rendered helpless by a damn hallmark card, my partner gently reminded me that its okay to be sad and its okay to celebrate it happening in the first place.  My story didn’t need to focus on the end, I could change the narrative, remember it for the wonderful things it was…and at its best, it was supportive, beautiful, and fun.

Daffodils were coming on up...with or without anyone's help.

Daffodils were coming on up…with or without anyone’s help.

That’s what I needed to hear to take my power of creation back…after allowing myself to mourn, I choose to reflect on it from a different chapter…one I own. Much like the daffodils that are sprouting up around our new house, they were due to emerge from the ground whether I prepared for them or not.  But my choice to rake away last winter’s debris, to make room for them to bloom… has resulted in a much more vibrant renewal this spring.

Here.

Here.

Write or be Written.

Writing after MFA: Kinda Like Sex After Childbirth…

Standard

With every post MFA blog post I am realizing that writing after my MFA has kinda been like sex after childbirth.

pelvic-floor-exercise

No really, stick with me here.

My son is 4 years old now, but i didnt exactly have the a normal time healing from 3rd degree lacerations ( his shoulder was stuck for a while). After 10 months of poop ( and other) discomfort, I finally sought and received physical therpy of  my pelvic floor ( yeah, that’s a thing) and thank goodness for my amazing physical therapist, my pain is gone, and I learned that no it is NOT normal to not “ever be the same” after childbirth.

Contact this amazing PT for more info or help!: http://www.womensmedicine.org/oth/Page.asp?PageID=OTH132991

pelvic

Attempting to write since the high of my MFA graduation this past summer is feeling a lot like sex after childbirth… terrifying.  So, ima take what I learned from giving birth and take it slow… one blog post a week to start, pushing myself to story outlines and nonfiction essay ideas next. Teaching middle school immediately following MFA isn’s exactly helpful to keeping up a regular writing routine… but that’s always been the challenge for me and I am sure for other writers/working moms…and the advice I always hear? Be consistent! keep all those muscles working and lubed up…

hmmmm yes.

tumblr_malp0eX69t1ro6j7co1_500

Note: I wrote this in a cafe where in-spite of my headphones I could hear the conversation about the resurrection of Jesus and a bunch of bible verses over my shoulder as I was typing about lubed up pelvic floors…Allah loves healthy pelvic floors y’all, keep writing!

Where were you in June ’04?

Standard

on June 5 is the long anticipated Venus transit, a rare event in which Venus eclipses the Sun. There is potential for us to create a balanced expression of the male/female energies (interesting that Mars and Venus are both in retro aspects at this time) within ourselves and the world. Where do you hide these aspects of yourself, which one do you think is more powerful, and how is that expressed in your life? And, what were you doing in June 2004, when the first half of the Venus transit occurred? Whatever was revealed or incomplete then will have closure or completion now. How far have you come since then, is there more you can do, and how have you changed? Watch your thoughts for these answers because they will enlighten you as to your next steps.  read more: http://spiritlibrary.com/uriel-heals/the-energies-of-june-2012

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have been framing so much of my experiences around the divorce/breakup/transition of two years ago  that I was taken aback reading this section of an article on the rare Venus transit happening tonight.  My life narrative (as well as that of this blog) has centered so much around the events of 2010, that it never occurred to me to reflect back 8 years to 2004 when the first half of the transit occurred.

June in 2004?

I almost jumped when I read that combination of month and year… I hadn’t though back to that time in so long.  In June of 2004 I was on the cusp of an amazing, life defining adventure: my study abroad trip to Cairo, Egypt!

That 6 month long trip did so much to help form who I am as a person today, everything from my fashion sense, (I stopped relaxing my hair and let my curls go natural)  my career, (I loved my time informally correcting papers of students who’s first language was not English) my activism ( I formed RI college’s Students for Justice in Palestine upon my return), my spirituality, My writing,  My future travels, My friends…the list goes on and on and oooonnnn… If I then step back and broaden  my perspective, widen my lens and look at these past two years as simply being a part of this wider picture, then the breakup and all that messy aftermath (as well as rewarding healing ) encompasses a much different narrative.  One that was very much about taking risks, overcoming fears, and redefining my boundaries and expectations… What was revealed was the importance of taking care of myself before expecting to take care of anyone else, among so many more important life lessons.

It’s immeasurable how far I  have come since then and how much I have changed…and not because I was only a 20 year old…but because that was the first time I allowed myself to take control of my own life path instead of just waiting for life to happen.

Next Steps…Sky’s the limit

PS: Our first week in Egypt we went to Mount Sinai for a sunrise hike, but I was too chicken shit/home sick to climb.  This is what I missed out on:

A couple months later though…I  redeemed myself pretty nicely- Sharm el Shiek/Red Sea

This is Etcetera: MFA Wrap up

Standard

In preparation for graduation, we are asked to write a letter to chronicle our journey at Lesley University’s MFA program.  Here is what I came up with:

 

My time at Lesley helped me not only develop my writing but my overall sense of commitment to the writing life.   These two years have allowed me to lay down roots into myself by providing me with the opportunity to ground my life through my creative process.  Lesley has set the stage for this commitment to transform into a lifetime of developing stories and essays.

My journey as a writer began when I learned how to write in English after fleeing the Gulf War in Kuwait. I would write stories about princesses escaping invasions or monsters transforming into people.  Writing was my safe zone, my shock absorber.

 

 

But being a refugee made me feel as though I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time- as though my life couldn’t truly begin yet and I had to delay creative expression.  I needed to save it for another place and time.  Year after year, my mother would set off to explore other cities-traveling to Montréal, Detroit, Orlando, Santa Fe, even San Diego-with the hopes of leaving Rhode Island behind- (which we never did)- since we had to leave Kuwait in such a hurry, I understood that she was trying to make an informed choice about which community to lay down roots.  However, this constant re-imagining of my future had the effect of distancing me from my present reality.

 

I lived in an imagined future, which, for an only child who lived in my mind to begin with, didn’t need much encouraging. From that young age that I was being set up to never truly commit to the present moment, to continue to live in the purgatory of if’s and maybe’s.  Little did I know that there was no such thing as the perfect time.

___

                My Lesley journey began shortly after I left my first teaching job.  I taught at a charter school with a unique model, one that places teachers with the same group of 15 students all day for all 4 years of high school. One of my students, Ryan, I regarded as a member of my family after our long talks, family meetings, and journal writing sharing.  Ryan and his family suddenly passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty water heater installation on New Years Day.  I had to face the reality that nothing was guaranteed and life was not waiting for me or anyone else. I found it difficult to put off writing and my creative pursuits for another moment.

That summer, I started researching creative writing programs and visited Lesley’s summer session in June 2008.  At that time, I had no writing sample, felt little inspiration, and had very little confidence, as I hadn’t written in years and had no idea where to begin.  Apparently life had other things in mind because shortly after visiting Lesley I found out I was a pregnant with my son.  The pregnancy, birth, and time to myself allowed me to begin the process of committing to my word and when my son was eight months old, my writing sample poured out like a flood.  The sample that started out handwritten on journal paper turned into The Birthing Tree, my first story to be published (in the Masters Review), which I scribbled between nap-time and cooking.

 

After two years at Lesley, I developed my thesis, a collection of short stories.  I feel that the stories represent my first years of immersing myself in the writing life well.  I have covered an array of themes, narrative styles, and created memorable characters.  My strengths include having varied interests-from science fiction to cultural and generational clashes.  My ideas will keep me inspired for a long time. What I need to continue to work on is to just keep writing- by giving myself more time with my writing each day and continue learning about the world of publishing and business side of writing.  I also need to keep my connections with my fellow writers strong and develop a routine of exchanging stories.  I am looking forward to continuing my Lesley connection strong by becoming involved in the Alumni group.

Overall, I feel that were two years were well spent. I learned how to respect myself by respecting my writing time. I learned to quiet that negative voice in my head long enough to let my imagination do the talking at the keyboard and I learned how to feel out a story by listening to the characters. My first semester I developed my scene building skills and with my second semester, I focused on writing realistic and complex characters. Taking on a full time job during my final year threw me into the fire of the writing life and forced me to face some tough questions about whether it was the best idea to continue with the program.  Only this time, instead of letting outside forces control my sense of timing, I committed to controlling it for myself and decided to stick it out.  As a result, I wrote more than ever in my final year.

 

 

My plans for the future include writing fiction, non-fiction and science fiction, and teaching English to middle school students. I plan on attending next year’s RAWI conference-a conference of Arab-American writers, as well as the AWP conference and staying in touch with my Lesley community for years to come. Most notably, my plans for the future include my continue commitment to my writing, as it has served as both my anchor and  my springboard.