Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Dear Anna Leo...

Dear Anna Leo,

More than 20 years ago, I was a dancer in your studio class. I was the awkward, overly-eager one.

One day, you rolled out a skeleton on wheels and taught our class about connection, balance, and standing tall. You taught us how to stand before we moved. Then we moved, danced, leapt, stretched. Then you brought us back to standing: Tadasana.
The first time you said Tadasana, something inside me shifted into a more familiar place and I was at once home in my body. Thank you for that.

I am now a yoga teacher and every time I re-stack my bones - remembering to connect, to balance and to stand tall - I remember you and send you gratitude, love and light.

I googled you recently and found your faculty picture: your body poised in Crane Pose.

Something inside me celebrated and my brains said, "Of course!"
The Crane is a bird that mates for life and has become a symbol of loyalty, love, and dedication. Just like you! For decades you have remained loyal to the art of dance, the power of yoga and sharing that with others...like me.
You are a Crane, a beautiful Crane, and all of your students thank you for that.


Monday, July 31, 2017


Bruno Munari wrote a book about drawing a tree.
He was inspired by Leonardo (from Vinci) who found a basic pattern in the growth of a tree, a pattern that underlies the unique twists and turns that happen as the tree grows.

He writes, "The tree spreads its branches and, as the years go by, its trunk gets bigger and bigger and the branches more and more numerous. Every leaf at the top of the branches has a tube that goes through the trunk which keeps it in contact with the ground. It uses the tube to suck up its nourishment. The trunk is where all these tubes are grouped together, which is why it is larger than the other branches...We can establish a rule of growth: the branch that follows is always more slender than the one that precedes it."

I am in a Women's Group on Tuesdays. Every time we meet, we visit like trees coming together in a forest. We compare our slender branches and the strength of our "tubes to nourishment."
If we were all to become one tree, in that one hour on Tuesday mornings, then we would be branches reaching out like hands, reminding each other to use the tube for nourishment, reaching down through our common trunk together, seeking God. God is our root system, our food source, our trunk.

Sometimes we don't always look like trees that get along well in the forest. Sometimes our coming together is not always happy; sometimes trees can hurt and grow and be sad together.

Lately, E. lost her kids to DHR again...T. lost her job because she couldn't find childcare or transportation...J. burned up her new apartment's kitchen...K. found out her mom has stage four cancer...B. went to the hospital with her husband who has a flesh-eating bacteria, and she forgot to pack compassion in her purse...S. is drinking again...C. went back to an abusive relationship where she is not safe because the shelters were too difficult to navigate...C. has not been to group in months and is not answering her phone...D. got a new tattoo of maybe a new boyfriend's name and lost possession of her apartment...

Sometimes the branches of a tree look disorganized and bent by the wind. Maybe they are a little scrawny and haven't produced a leaf in years. But they are still connected to the tree. There is still a tube through that trunk.

That gives me hope for my beloved Group that I look forward to each week...Our branches are weird and scrawny and tatted-up, but we are connected but tubes and roots, wrapped in the sturdy trunk of God.
Amen to that.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cades Cove 2017

To celebrate one year from Husband's Radiation Vacation, two of our three kids and I joined him to retrace his steps.

There was, of course, the heart-squeezing-brush-with-mortality-cancer-is-so-scary part of the reflection, and then there were celebratory moments watching synchronous fire flies, hiking trails, runs with Leroy the Dog, and splashing in the freezing cold creek.

We walked about 1/1897 of the Appalachian Trail, and I am sure there are lovely sounds along the trail...like birds singing and water rushing and wind moving things...while hiking, this is all I heard:

C: Look at that! Totally poison ivy! Wo...don't fall off that cliff...oooooooo a ROCK! Can I throw it? 'Member that time? Wait, can I tell you something before we remember that time? OK, look. at. that. cave. Let's take a picture! please? now? here? GO!
Us: On the way back we'll take a picture. Let's keep seeing things!
C: (reluctant) Okay...I'll DOG EAR that one.
(and she did.)

C: (while hiking) The Law is No Texting and Hiking.

While waiting for the synchronous fireflies start, H and C:
"It's just some light-up bugs...can we just GO?"
"Let's go back to the camper. I'm ready to snore."
(later they thanked their Dad profusely for the cool lightning bug viewing).

There was also the drive to the campsite when we realized...if you have a three-legged stool and you take away one of the legs, how does the stool stand?
With one kid missing, the other two did not know how to get along. Hashtagfamilysystemstheory.

In the car:
"You are a giant brat."
"I just saw a sign that had three sight words!!! She. Rat. On."
"Don't put your gum on me!"
"Seriously?? For real?"
"S/he started it!"
"Do you want to have my fidget spinner for life? .....PSYCH!"
"You are disgusting."

An important, necessary, fun, adventurous milestone we needed to make.
The fireflies were icing and an accessory.

Dear Mr. Andrews...

Dear Mr. Andrews,

Thank you for for taking my tendency to be a one-dimensional thinker, and writing a two-dimensional book to remind me to stand up and get a three-dimensional view of life. Perspective is a 3D process.

The Noticer changed my life. A friend gave me a copy and told me to read it and pass it on. I waited about 7 months, then picked it up. I was nervous. I wasn't sure I wanted to "notice" anything else in the days I already found overwhelming. I was comfortable with my discomfort.

I thought of so many friends while reading the story of you and Jones, but one in particular, Sunshine, received my copy. She read it and, along with a few other resources and hope-sources, found a new perspective. She, like me, realized that it wasn't just vienna sausages and crackers in the sand. It was surf and turf by the sea!
Sunshine found a spot in a women's shelter, then secured an apartment and is on her way to getting her daughter back at home to live with her - no more sleeping on the streets.

Another friend, moved by Sunshine's story and her insistence that our entire Women's Group read your book, bought copies for the whole group.
I can't wait to see what these ladies do with the fresh three-dimensional perspective you write about.

Thank you so much, Mr. Andrews.


Seen & Heard

Last week, I had to slam on the brakes.

I'm in a Women's Group that meets weekly, trying to bridge gaps across party lines, skin tan lines, money lines, chip/dip preferences lines, and smelly lines. Every. Single. Week.

Last week was hard. It was a whole lot of fun with our first road trip together across state lines! It was also tiring to do the hard work of showing up to difficult questions.

So I slammed on the brakes.
I wrote down my tough questions.
I showed up. Invited some friends.
It was mostly awesome, but kinda sucked.

Here are the questions:

1. Why do I go to Women's Group every week?

2. Why volunteer time anywhere?
               (TBC, I am not a volunteer at Group. I am a member and participant. Sometimes the building that houses Group needs volunteers and then we take turns stepping up and in.)

3. How much am I motivated by Guilt? by Goodness?
               Wisely noted by another member of Group: Guilt is not always a bad thing. It can offer a moral and ethical boundary.

4. What are the instructions in the Gospel for generosity?
               My feeble understanding is to give away 100%; there is little-to-no mention of how to manage the continuum of enabling and empowering.

5. How counter-cultural can we behave (as the New Testament encourages) and still function in our culture?

6. Why continue...when it will never be enough?

7. How do you keep Groups everywhere that cross racial, economic, religious barriers from becoming "crutches" for the underserved and instead make them "launching pads" for all to areas and situations with sufficient resources?

8. What is it about being human that encourages us to focus on what is different about our neighbor, rather than what is similar...and is that a learned behavior?
           Propaganda touched on this at a Catalyst conference, naming it the Deficit Model: when you approach a problem or a person concentrating first on what they lack. With this model there is always an implied inequality.

Those were the magic slam-on-the-brakes questions I showed up to hear. Even with thoughtful friends and a two-hour lunch, we have no answers.

We agreed that the point of Group was that all in the circle would be Seen and feel Heard. That's all we can do on this day.
Seen and Heard may look like listening, crying, laughing, writing, sharing money, passing around essential oils, creating new oil blends to share, praying, arranging rides, or finding more aluminum foil to wrap around leftovers and send home with a sister.

Part of the hard work of showing up is allowing the rules to form and change over what Seen and Heard looks like and feels like.

I will continue to sit with these questions.
As I'm ready, I'll ease off the brake and slowly roll forward...

Dear Mrs. Roberts...

Dear Mrs. Roberts,

It's Mollie - we ran into each other the other day at Books A Million? You have been on my mind since then and I wanted to tell you something.

I first met you when I was in sixth grade (1987). I was new to HMS and you were on the stage in the old gym and I was in the crowd on that red rubber floor.
You taught us how to Pas de Bourree: Step in place with the Right foot. Step the Left foot out to the side, transfer weight into Left foot, lightly lift Right foot. Step Right foot back down and bring Left foot next to it. Sixth grade was my first year in Homewood and I was nervous and tragic, like all other 6th grade girls. I did not take dance lessons like the others...but I would fall asleep every night to the radio hoping "my song" would come on so I could dance one more time before sleeping. I loved it so much.

You said step in place first: know your space and claim it before stepping out. That was my morning in the safety of my room.
You said step the other foot out to the side - take a risk, try something new, put your weight there. That was my school day.
You said come back to the center, bring your feet next to each other and stand strong. That was me safely back home at the end of the day.
You blew my mind with that Pas de Bourree. You were patient and repetitive. You taught us all despite levels of experience. I felt important learning from you. It was my first invitation to dance and it felt like a glass ceiling breaking and disco balls spinning and everyone smiling.

I went on to Cheerleading for 3 years (in order to dance more) then danced with the Star Spangled Girls. I took classes at BSC then Emory University, as well as dancing with 3 student-run dance companies while at Emory.
Now I teach yoga and I regularly lift you up with gratitude for that first dance breakthrough that helped convince me I COULD DO IT. All I have to do is first step in place, then out to the side, then come back to my center and stand strong, feet side by side.

Thank you, Mrs. Roberts.


Dear Glennon...

Dear Glennon,

Sister, let me join your long line of fan mail and exclaim, I'M NOT MAD AT YOU ANYMORE!

You see, sister, we met a while ago when you came through my town and when you walked on stage, I jumped up clapping and you gave me the first hug. I'll never forget it.

In your presentation and conversation, you touched on the process of sistering in carpentry. You had written about it before and I read it with my eyes, but hearing you explain it was clarifying in a magical way. I was born into a family that provided me a sister, one I call every day and lean on and she props me up when I can't go on. My sister sisters me. And with her help, I get to sister so many women with whom I don't share a mother.
The very concept makes my jaw drop and my hands go out - just like you did when explaining it on stage. I call it the Sistering Face:

This was all before Love Warrior came out.

When I read Love Warrior, I was nauseated for three days. I felt free and hopeful and embarrassed and a little violated that maybe you had read my journal. I was so lost in my happy, polished, neat and clean marriage. I painted the image of the Love Warrior on a board and hung it on my wall so I would see it roughly 17 times an hour.
I got out paper and pen and did the hard work of self-discovery and awareness by journaling and drawing. I prayed. I called my therapist and saved my pennies.
And here is where I went wonky: I became so engrossed in your story and the similarities with mine, I forgot that I held my own pen and my own paper and my own part of my marriage.
When the next step in your journey did not look like mine, I was angry. Wait - go back! That's not my next step I yelled at you through my laptop (so healthy). I felt betrayed. At the root of that betrayed feeling was fear.

Once I found my big girl pants, I went back to thanking you for your bravery, for your vulnerability, for modeling how to be a Love Warrior...and inviting me to be my own Love Warrior. Not your version, but mine. Simple...and so very difficult.

With a chorus of other sisters, surrounding you near and far, once again, THANK YOU.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Hamilton, 40, & Not Shushing.

Hamilton is real and happens, y'all.

Also, I turned 40 this past year and all of my edges got softer and most of my clothes shrunk.
During the same period, there were some shifts in leadership and government and a presidential election.  Then I realized that I could not watch or read the news for days and my day-to-day life would not change.
Another weird.
My brain was soft...and it needed more edges.
Body soft, mind sharp.

So I looked up my State Reps and Senators. Then my D.C. ones. I looked for a huddle. I attended a meeting about How To Talk With Those With Whom I Disagree. I tried to figure out what I really believe. About each issue. (Still working on it).

AT THE SAME TIME, I fell in love with the smash Broadway hit Alexander Hamilton. Suddenly, this story in American History became accessible to my brain and understanding through rap, hip hop and rhyme (THANK YOU LIN MANUEL MIRANDA).
Then Svea and I got tickets to Hamilton (thank you dear friends) and we saw it over Spring Break. I had studied; I was ready.
We were in the balcony. Svea had the binoculars.
First Act, I did not sing out loud (just mouthed the words) but I used some hand and arm motions for emphasis.
Second Act, the guy behind me SHUSHED ME. He asked me to "tone down the choreography." I was horrified. I had ruined his experience! I had annoyed him and his people around him! We were 4,000 feet up from the stage, but I had been Too Much! I kept my elbows glued to my sides and my lips sealed the whole Act II.
After several days of breathing and grief, I realized I SHOULD NOT BE SHUSHED. My choreography was relevant and full of joy! Hamilton himself (as well as Eliza and Angelica) would not stand for shushing. I cannot Tone It Down.

My soft brain freaked as I connected the boldness of our Founding Fathers with our current political climate along with my new-ish challenge to sharpen my brain, and I committed to Less Shushing, More Listening, More Engagement, Deeper Understanding.

Y'all. Figure out what you believe. Call your Reps and Senators. Be nice to your neighbor. Stop talking and listen. Do not be shushed.