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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Flying for an angel

For the past few years I have taken an angel off of the Salvation Army Christmas tree. I usually get an older kid because those are the ones less likely to be chosen. They ask for bigger gifts. I heard that the kids are told not to ask for anything too extravagant. I understand the reasoning behind that, but isn't that what kids do on Christmas? Ask for really big stuff and maybe getting some of it? I know I did. Actually, I am not sure if that is what I did. I always got what I asked for so I am not sure if I asked for inexpensive things or if my parents went into major debt on Christmas. Maybe I will ask.

Back to my angel. I chose a 12 year old girl. My mother, a friend, and I divided up the list. We managed to get the girl everything she had on there. Some things were challenging like the bike. We may have gotten it too big because we do not know how tall she is. We know that size clothes she wears, but that does not tell us if she is tall or short. But the bike is pretty so that should count for something, right? Yeah, maybe not. We did our best. I will admit that I said that I was not buying an expensive bike for a child that I did not know. That is because I do know how she rides. I do not know what kind of a bike she needs/wants. I was guessing. The bike is pretty which as I mentioned before may or may not count for much. The bike is new. And I hope she loves it.

A few people said that they just got one thing on their angel's list because well, the children has nothing so one thing is better than nothing. Another person said that they were not going to spend a lot of money getting a stranger's child gifts that just might get stolen. And the list of why people were not buying or buying what they bought was astounding. Especially since I did not even ask.

I wanted to get everything on my angel's list. Why? Because it is Christmas and perhaps the family had a crappy year. Maybe something great needs to happen for this child. No strings attached. How I managed my list is in no way saying anything about what anyone else did. In fact when people marveled at what I (and my mom and friend) did and then relayed their tales of woe I simply chuckled to myself. I am not the Christmas angel police.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Flying above the clouds

I like to think of myself as being very grounded. I tend to notice things from differing viewpoints and while I may not always agree with those points I do acknowledge their presence and respect them as much as I can.

This latest round of Georgia elections has me puzzled. Or maybe dismayed is the better word. I do not understand how someone thinks that an ad pointing a rifle at a teenager is acceptable regardless of the platform. It gave me pause and I am not completely against the right to bear arms.

I am trying to figure out exactly when our elected officials turned from being the voice of their constituencies to being the voice for individual power. Or maybe I just had not been paying close enough attention most of my life. Perhaps when it happened does not matter. The fact that it happened is of greater concern.

If those we have elected do not speak for us who does? Or must we constantly rely on being arrested for protesting, posting outrageous incidents on social media, and writing letters to the editor to be heard?

When will running for public office be available for those who cannot pay the high filing fees, party dues, get advertising dollars, and whatever else is necessary to simply run a campaign? I hear the argument that not everyone should run for office. Okay, that is true and it is even more true for some of those who have the means to run and do.

I do not have the answers. All I can do is give my students the platform of a safe space to talk about our differences. To talk about those things that make us uncomfortable. To share experiences that have jaded us and those that have made us whole. The least I can do is listen and not react, not flinch, not roll my eyes, and not speak. This is how I learn. This is how I instill trust and respect. Only then am I able to ask the questions that often pierce the depths of ugliness and prejudice. And even that does not always work.

Where is the table where we sit to talk about what is not working? How do we come to together to make this nation better for ALL OF US? Why is doing a good deed considered heroic? Why isn't it normal behavior?

I do not have the answers. I just have tons of questions. And every now and then I get the opportunity to see the world from a different vantage point like above the clouds. Above the clouds with the sun rising. From this point everything seems beautiful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Flying with the vote

Today is the day to vote in the midterm elections. There has been a huge push for people to vote early and this year over 2.1 million people did which is a state record. We have held voter registration drives on our campus and I know that at least one person who registered for the first time in his 30+ years actually went out and voted. I will admit that I do not understand that how someone that old never thought about registering to vote, but that is fine. It happens and it happens more than I could ever realize for a myriad of reasons. Fortunately for me, on my 18th birthday, my dad took me to wherever one registers to vote in Wedowee, Alabama (yes, that is a real place). 

We are voters in my family. We just never talked about who to vote for. I honestly do not know who my parents voted for in any election. I can surmise, but I honestly do not know. Except for the Roy Moore run-off. I told my mother that we needed to talk about that election. She looked at me and said something like she was not stupid and she knew who to vote for. She said that she did not vote for him before and would not vote for him now. So I quietly stepped back into my place of silence. And that is the only conversation I have ever had about voting in my family. I mean, I think my parents voted for President Obama. But I really do not know and I am grateful for that. I was allowed to make independent voting decisions. 

I will admit that I did not always take that responsibility with the full value that it deserves. There are times when I did not research the candidates and simply voted based on what I heard/saw in the media. I thought that my vote did not count, but I had to do it because too many people died so that I could vote. And now I know that votes do count. And earlier this year I co-founded the Civil Rights Race series which organized a 51-mile relay from Selma to Montgomery in the exact footsteps of those who walked in 1965 for the right to vote for blacks. I also did a presentation at the Beach Institute here in Savannah on Pilgrimage to Sacred Spaces: Commemorating Selma. So I have no excuse not to vote and no reason not to encourage others to vote. 

And today is the day to show up and be counted, yet again. Today is the day to redefine or maybe further define our nation. (I stole that from one of my students). This isn't Selam in 1965, but it is a historical moment and we must rise to the occasion. In Georgia, we have the opportunity to have the first black woman governor in the freaking country with Stacey Abrams. It is difficult to believe (okay, maybe not really) that there has not been one yet. Not only is she a woman of color, but she also has an actual platform. (I never advocate for voting for someone based on skin color or gender since stupidity, greed, and a list of other negative attributes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors). 

Anyway, make today a great day. Get out and vote. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Flying with Jessamyn Stanley

I met Jessamyn Stanley Not only did I meet her I was able to breathe the same air as her. I was in her space. I was all up in her stuff. Not really, but I stared at her a lot. I do not think she noticed or maybe she was just to polite to say anything. She was wonderful.

For whatever reason, I felt free in her class. Not that I felt overly constricted in other classes. Or maybe I just did not know what feeling free actually felt like. But I know it now. And it was wonderful. I did poses that I would never dare try before and did others much deeper than ever before.

I am not sure why that is. I do not think I knowingly not do poses. I mean there are certain instructors that I vibe with more than others. There are only a couple that I trust enough to close my eyes in savasana. I think that is a holdover from my military days. I just do not feel safe in many environments and rarely close my eyes when the instructor tells me to. When I teach I generally say "Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Know that I will keep mine open. You are safe." And that resonates with people.

Tammy, Jessamy, and me
I will admit that there was something about Jessamyn being front and center that gave me permission to just be. It did not matter that my skin was darker than many in that class. It did not matter that I am not a skinny stick figure and that I did not have on Lululemon apparel. It did not matter that I am not the bendiest (I am surprised that spellcheck accepted that word) person. She reminded us that yoga is not a performance. It is a sense of being. We should only do yoga for ourselves. No judgments from ourselves. Peace comes from within. The poses are just a small part of yoga. What you do on your mat is what you do even if she does not direct me that way.

Those words somehow lifted my soul. I need to do me. My mat is my own. I knew that. I had heard it before and yet being told that again in that space with her made all of the difference. She made the difference.

There is something to be said about seeing someone who looks more like me than my other instructors. It is not just about outward appearance. It is that silent acknowledgment of understanding the journey. It's like knowing where we have been even if we were there at different times and perhaps in different places and spaces. It was about the collective unity of our souls. I thought I understood it. I even wrote my research paper for yoga teacher training on "Why is yoga so white?" Logically I got it. And yet that day I really got it. It was like I was given permission to get it. And none should have been required. Do I need permission to just be? I thought I was living my truth out loud. And yet I felt so completely unencumbered during the three hours that she guided me through pose after pose after pose.
We could not stop laughing and hugging

I did not know how much I needed Jessamyn. I did not know how much I needed to witness this beautiful woman of color move in perfect harmony with her own spirit. Unapologetically moving. Not asking permission, but granting it to herself.  I am not sure I do that. Okay, I am sure that I do not do that. I have created a perception of what/how I should move and it is blocking my own natural beautiful movements. I am blocking my own harmonious breath spirit soul connection. I am also not allowing others to see it and be set free by it as Jessamyn did for me. Isn't that why I took yoga teacher training? I have the ability to do more than I am. I guess it is time to start.

Thank you, Jessamyn, for simply being the best you and allowing me to feel the love that you have for yourself unequivocally. Some lessons are best learned by example and you have set a great one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Flying in Mobile at the FOCUS conference

Last Friday I was honored to be among many phenomenal women to speak at the FOCUS conference.  The sessions were very powerful and intriguing. It was hard to pick just one to attend during the time slots. Fortunately, a few were held more than one. That led to my concern that very few people would attend mine since it was not a hard-hitting professional topic and I am not a familiar name in Mobile. 

I could not have been more surprised when the women started arriving and they did not stop. It was standing room only. We ran out of chairs. We were all crammed into that tiny room. It was magical. Being so close we could not help but rub elbows with those around us. We took an oath in the beginning not to repeat the stories of the those who were brave enough and dare I say comfortable enough to share their job stealers. We turned the cameras off. I had no idea what would happen within that room, but it was awe inspiring. The women bonded. The women shared. We laughed. We held our breaths in certain moments. We talked. We listened. We hugged. 

And we smashed the hell out of the pinata that was filled with 150 pieces of Dove chocolate because we were grown ass women and we want the good stuff. I could not figure out how to hand the pinata and Kendra forgot the bat so I laid it on the floor in the middle of the circle and we all went at it. Why? Because "Life would be a million times better if there were pinatas strategically placed throughout the day". It was just that simple. 

It was wonderful to see women come out of their shells to bash the pinata. This was so not the traditional workshop. These women dug deep. Some sought validation for their feelings. Others just needed to say their issues out loud just be heard. We accommodated them all. It was fun. It was exhausting. It was real. It was truly a workshop because we all worked. I probably needed the workshop more than any of them. I gave the kind of workshop that I needed. That in itself was powerful. And the fact that my friend Kendra introduced me and was my room captain was the icing on the cake. 

I would love to be invited back, but if not that is okay. I gave myself what I needed and a few other women benefitted as well. That was the goal and I achieved it. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Flying on task

There have been many changes at work. The massive layoff created a lot of stress and anxiety. Those of us left are torn. We are happy that we still have a job for the moment yet devastated by that loss for our colleagues. Survivors' guilt. It is difficult to rationalize and we probably should not even try. There is a plan and just because we are not privy to it does not make it less of a plan. We can argue the best practices of organizational management, but there would be no point. So like good soldiers we march on. 

I was in the midst of this turmoil of emotions when I was asked to conduct a workshop at a women's business conference in Mobile, AL. I had applied to be the keynote, but I will gladly admit that even I would have chosen the woman they chose instead of me! So now I had the task of developing a workshop that was drastically different from the topic and outline I proposed for the keynote. I asked for suggestions and the answer surprised me. They wanted me to do a workshop on joy. 

This is completely out of my comfort zone. I am used to doing workshops on empowerment, handling criticism with dignity and grace, networking, tooting your own horn, job searching, and many other work-related skills. Joy was not one of them. But maybe it should be since right now in my life joy was missing or at best overshadowed by 'stuff'. 

So while on my cruise I asked people what brought them joy and the entire workshop (at least a rough outline) came together. I am now excited to present this workshop and I will on Friday, October 19th. I am not using any visual aids. This will all be me conducting a full-on workshop where the participants will get their hands dirty while digging deep to figure out their individual joy mantras. This will be a no holds barred journey, unlike anything I have ever taken before. And it came just when I needed it. 

Now I am trying to figure out what to wear. I have decided to shop in my own closet even though I bought a pair of black patent leather peep-toe pumps from Ross for $10.99. Hey,  there was no line and there is always a line at Ross. And who does not need a pair of black patent leather peep-toe pumps? Joy is wherever we find it. Right?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Flying after Alaska

A few days ago I went to Alaska. I am trying to finish my journey of visiting all 50 states. I now have 8 left. Yippee for me. Anyway, I went to Alaska. I had seen pictures of Alaska. But what I saw in person was better than anything I saw or could ever imagine.

I did something that I do not remember ever doing. I disconnected. I completely disconnected. My phone was only used to take pictures. I was unaware of anything happening outside of my immediate focus. I was completely obvious to the fact that one of my friends thought someone had stolen my car when she drove by what she thought was my house which was in fact someone else's house. Seeing that in a text message when I returned from Alaska gave me a quick heart attack, but by then the issue was resolved. I am blessed to have people who love me that much.

Back to Alaska. I needed the disengagement from my daily life. I needed to be away from my friends who lost their jobs, the unknown of my upcoming class schedule, unpacking the boxes in my now much smaller and smellier office, and many other things that had been percolating below the surface.

I craved the crisp fresh air. It had been a very long time since I lived in Washington and yet the memories came flooding back to the point where I questioned living in the south. And I love the hot weather. Maybe it is time for me to do something different, to be somewhere different, to meet someone different, to just be somewhere different.

Truthfully, I am not sure I could live in Alaska. It gets very cold there. But the beauty that surrounded me day in and day out was cause for pause. (Hey, the rhymed). I wish I had spent quality time learning about the First Nation people. I wanted to bring home a piece of native art or jewelry or the memory of a chat, but that did not happen. Perhaps next time.