The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

Cute Little Black Boy

Some days I forget that I am raising a Black boy. Some days I erase my knowledge of the world around me and get in my bubble and live the day as if it doesn’t matter what race is attributed to my son and that who he is and what he is capable of and responsible for and expected to be is solely based on the truth of who he is. Some days I parent him as if his chances of living up to his highest potential are the same as any other boy’s chances.

I did not experience the world the way my son is experiencing the world. I did not expect to be raising a Black boy. And in this country. Thus, I did not prepare myself for it. I did not ask questions to try to understand. I did not listen intently to experiences that were shared with me. I didn’t seek out books about Black boys and Black men in the United States.

But here I am, as on most days, carrying this weight of knowing that my son is a Black boy in the United States. I understand this weight is only a tiny fraction of the weight he will carry. And Tamir Rice is on my mind.

In an ideal, truthful world, my son would not be any race. He would not be any race because race is not anything – it’s not genetic nor biological nor anything at all other than a social construction. Something we made up and agreed to and live by as if it’s something real.

In a slightly less than ideal world, my son would be multiracial (I’m Indian and his Daddy is Black). He would be seen as multiracial because everyone would acknowledge the deep influence of each of his parents’ ancestry, culture and experiences.

In the far from ideal world we live in, my son is Black. He’s Black because the influence of the one-drop rule STILL legitimizes race as biological. His Indian ancestry and the influence of his mother having been born and growing up in Tanzania and Zambia is often overlooked unless I am around to state it.

Call it serendipity, but well before I even dreamed about the funny, loving, witty and loyal man that I married, I became aware of and was disturbed by my experiences as a teacher and what I became conscious of concerning Black boys. I had no idea, at the time, how personal this would all become for me.


“That little Brandon is just so cute, I could eat him up! Guess what he did today?!”

“Oh my gosh! Kevin said the funniest thing today. He is so cute, that boy!”

“I just loooove K.C! I can’t get enough of his cute little personality!”

I was in the teachers’ lunchroom and once again subjected to stories about another “cute little Black boy” told by a White middle class teacher. More often, the stories were told by my White, female colleagues talking about Black male students in their Kindergarten classes for whom they had developed a special affection. It was always the younger grades, never 3rd-5th grade cute little Black boys. The cuteness seemed to have disappeared by the time they got to those grades.

One teacher in particular, Belinda, regularly talked about a Kindergartner in her class, Ronnie, whom she thought, was “just the cutest little Black boy in the world.” It wasn’t unusual for her, like it was for several other teachers, to have had much contact with the child outside of school. Belinda had, on various occasions, invited Ronnie on a family outing to a basketball game, for lunch on a Sunday, the zoo on a Saturday and for various other activities. Always on Belinda’s turf. Never on Ronnie’s. I certainly could not imagine her going to Ronnie’s church on a Sunday or spending time in Ronnie’s home other than the time it took to pick him up to take him somewhere on her turf.

As comfortable as my colleague was with Ronnie, I was aware that outside of school, Belinda had practically no contact with other Black people – nor any other people of color for that matter. Her life was quite typical of many White, female teachers who lived in suburban areas that were a fair distance from the diverse (read NOT White), low-income schools in which they worked.

I was torn. On the one hand, it was pleasant to hear a teacher enjoying her student so much that she was compelled to tell stories about him to the rest of us. It should have been especially pleasant considering all the negativity associated with low-income, Black students, particularly Black, male students. But on the other hand, something about the frequency of these stories from the Kindergarten teachers did not sit well with me. I could not, at the time, articulate what is was, but something about their attachments to these particular individual students – cute, little, Black boys- and the general under performance of these students on standardized tests did not make sense to me. It would have made more sense that if White, female teachers so easily connected with and loved on little Black boys, then it would set them up to be successful in school from an early age. But the numbers did not show that to be true.

I often wondered how long Belinda would continue her relationship with Ronnie. At what point in the lives of these students, I wondered, did teachers’ perceptions of them change from “cute little Black boy” to “scary, criminal Black man?” At what point in Ronnie’s life, I wondered, would Belinda begin to see him as a Black man, and, therefore, one whose reputation is questionable according to society’s stereotypes? At what point would Belinda (or would she?) become fearful of Ronnie? Might there be a day when Belinda would find herself in an “urban” area and see, but not recognize a fully grown Ronnie, and clutch her purse a little tighter while crossing over to the other side of the street?

I wondered these things because Belinda is a not bad person with bad intentions or even someone I would label racist. Belinda was a likable, competent teacher. In fact, most teachers choose their profession because of their desire to do good and make a difference in kids’ lives.  I wondered the same of all the White, middle-class teachers, as well as teachers of color, who work with “cute little Black boys” while consciously or subconsciously carrying negative perceptions of Black men. What causes teachers, and possibly society as a whole, to perceive the child version of Black males as a separate or innately different being from the grown version of Black males? And what influence do these teacher perceptions have on Black boys as they grow into Black men?

In an activity I do with my college students who are pre- and in-service teachers, I ask them to list all the stereotypes they know about various groups such as “Asian woman,” “Latina,” “Gay,” “Lesbian,” “White man,” “Black man,” etc. Prior to generating the list, my students always want to clarify that I am looking for stereotypes they’ve heard of but to which they do not necessarily subscribe. We are sensitive to accusations about prejudice. After they have silently written their descriptors under the headings on chart paper, we have a discussion about where they first became aware of the stereotype, the source of the stereotype, how the stereotype is perpetuated in society.

The list under “Black Man” knocks the wind out of me. EVERY time. No matter that I am aware of the stereotypes. It hurts. It angers. It saddens. It worries. It perplexes.

Inevitably, among the list of stereotypes of Black men, are the following descriptors: thug, lazy, playa, athlete, unemployed, drug-addict, rap artist, bling-bling, well-endowed….you get the picture.

It’s not this:


Nor this:

David 19

Nor this:

I could get carried away with opposite images I have…

On the flip side, the list for White man is usually more varied and includes: rich, can’t dance, hard-worker, good husband, privileged, provider, executive, regular guy, educated, etc. The world is far more open to different ways of being for White males. There are more options. More options that depend on the merit of the man.

It takes a lot out of me to see these lists. It’s become even more unbearable on the days I remember that my son is Black. I think of this list when I tune in to what people say and how they talk to and look at my son. I think of this list when I listen carefully to what teachers tell me about my son. I’m sensitive to hearing about my son’s behavior before I hear about his mind and his heart. I feel desperate and vulnerable because I don’t know what’s really happening in their subconscious. I don’t know if they see him as a child to be managed or as a child to be nurtured to his fullest, incredible potential.

I started writing this piece years ago and have sat on it and played with the words several times. But these last two days have had me thinking about Tamir Rice again. I was compelled to finish and share it.

We should talk about these things. We should ask questions and we should listen carefully to try to understand. We should take risks with our vulnerability and own our prejudice.

Black lives matter. Tamir Rice’s life matters. My son’s life matters. Yes, he’s a cute little Black boy. The cutest one I know. He’s also funny and witty and loving and generous and thoughtful in the most delightful ways.


Some days I forget my son is Black. Today, I’m thinking about Tamir Rice and remembering ever more seriously that my son is a Black boy.

Truthfully yours,







Revisionist History, Herstory, Mystory

I’ve been thinking about history quite a bit lately. In my classes with future teachers we’ve been exploring the way history is taught and how strange it is that we tell kids lies about the way things were and who came to this land first and why they came and what they did. The predominant narrative in most schools begins with “… in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Honestly, I don’t feel like adding a link to the poem for anyone reading this post because I don’t think the poem needs to be recited anymore. End that story. Period. That revisionist history is not a simple lie, but quite simply, a thick veil that has held this country back from progress as human beings. To tell the truth about the history and herstory and ourstory will be the beginning of the story of human beings who see each other as part of the same story.

But those are not the stories that I sat down to write this morning. The stories I’m thinking about are revisionist stories of my own life. I recently listened to someone who gave me a gift of seeing the word revision in a new way. Actually it was a way of seeing the word as it truly is and always has been. Revision. Re-vision. To see something again. To look at something in a new way. I got to thinking about the stories of my own life that I have told myself and told others many different times over the years. But when I took another look at some stories I started to wonder if there might be a way to revise…re-vision…them. One of the re-visions shook me up a bit.

You see, when I was six, I experienced something that left me with many feelings including shame and fear and smallness and helplessness. It left me with a story in which I was the person something happened to and there was nothing I could do about it and it was an awful thing to have happened to a little girl. The experience and the story led me to see myself as not much of a risk-taker and not very brave nor courageous, a play-it-safe and anxious person who didn’t like too much of the unknown and only took on challenges she knew she could complete successfully. Yep. It’s quite a sad, sad way to see yourself. But I did it. Even when nobody else could tell it was how I saw myself. I got very good at hiding fear and smallness and shame and I imagine few people could even guess at helplessness.

But then, upon re-visioning the story, I started to see another version…vision…of the story. The story didn’t end there with the experience, and what I came to believe about myself was not truly the way things were. When I looked carefully at what actually happened with that experience, I began to see a whole other story. A story of a little girl, who for years, lived with an experience she was too scared to tell anyone about so she kept it inside her. And she was so strong to keep going. She was so brave to keep her heart open and to keep being loving and funny and kind and to seeing people for who they were. She kept herself open to love and trusted people despite the betrayal of trust by another human being at such a young age in her life.


Okay, so that was hard to write and I realized that I was writing about myself in the third person the same way I wrote about the experience sometime ago here. Let me try that again because there are these words that have stuck with me:

“This is, perhaps, the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”

Cinderella, 2015


When I revised and wrote my revisionist history, I realized that my story didn’t end there and much of what I had held on to was not even the truth of who I am. It turns out that I’m not really a timid, scared, worried girl only walking above safety nets. All along in my life story, I have been brave and daring. When I add up the pieces of how I have made decisions on a daily basis and lived them, the fears and worry were certainly there, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY. That’s exactly what my good friend (who knows nothing of my existence but we’re so close in my head) Brenè has been saying for a few years now and I’ve been striving to do. But I’ve actually been doing it all along. I could have, at age six, balled myself up and built an armor around me to protect me from hurt. I could have built an armor that told the world that I did not trust people. I could have closed up my heart and stopped letting people in because people can betray and hurt. BUT I DIDN’T.

Note to Oprah: Not trying to steal your friends, but isn’t Gayle enough for you? P.S. I love you.

I got on an airplane for a 48 hour trip on 3 flights at age 18, by myself for the first time, to come to a country I had never set foot on, and go to a college I had never seen before, with not a single soul that I knew. I met people and asked and answered all sorts of questions. I took on a teaching a job in a country I had not been to school in and I kept my heart open to people. I left teaching to finish up a degree and lived off a tiny babysitting job then took a risk in buying a townhouse while living off a meager stipend and some savings while working on another degree. And then I got up in front of college students and TAUGHT COURSES!!!

I even kept my heart open to love and fell in love…more than once…and then married the love of my life. All of it took great courage because nothing was safe about any of it. There really were no guarantees for success. And I continue to take great risks, to dare greatly. Heck, I even sometimes APOLOGIZE to my spouse and kids.

So there, I’ve written my revisionist history. My new stories are helping me make different decisions. I no longer accept that I am not brave enough. I no longer accept that I am too anxious or fearful. I plan to continue to show up and be seen as I truly am.

So what’s your revisionist story?

Truthfully yours,



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Raising Kids or Raising Test Scores?

I was reminded just last night by a friend that I hadn’t posted a blog for a while. Well, as I sat down to write today, I came to the realization that it has been five months since I last posted something! This means it’s been that long since I wrote about truths in my life. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right to have set aside what I dream of for so long. My friend is a dreamkeeper.  Dreamkeepers are those special people who listen intently and eagerly to our dreams when we share them and store our dreams in their hearts and bring us closer to them every chance they get. I’m lucky to have a few of those in my life. We all need them, don’t we?

A wise woman described good teachers who work with students whose dreams are often overlooked or ignored by society as dreamkeepers. The good teachers of these students never once forget their students’ dreams, though, and at the center of their work is keeping those dreams safe and helping to fulfill them. The wise woman’s name is Gloria Ladson-Billings and she wrote a book about it. I highly recommend it for all teachers.

So much has been happening in the world in the last five months and, frankly, I’ve been feeling a little drained by the great space I am in as a teacher of teachers and the even greater space of the context of education. This is a scary time for education. So much is influencing education and education can influence so much. While I don’t want to step into the politics of education on my personal blog, I believe that all politics stem from what is personal to each of us. The question I keep asking myself is, “Are we raising children or raising test scores?” My sense, increasingly, is that we are losing sight of the true purpose of education.

Recently, I was in a clearly well-run classroom with a pleasant atmosphere  – the teacher was calm and respectful, the children seemed content and engaged and there was a sense of efficiency as everyone went about their business. Throughout the lesson I heard certain phrases that seemed foreign to my days as a teacher years (and years) ago. I heard things like “learning targets” and “objectives” and “goals” throughout the lesson. This was not merely the language of a lesson plan, but that of the teacher AND the students. It turns out all the kids knew their group and individual learning targets for every lesson and activity.

For a moment I thought, “Huh. How efficient.” I mean, each child knew what they were supposed to be learning. The teacher and each child could focus on this target and know at the end of the 30-45 minute segment of time whether or not and how well they had achieved their learning target. I could certainly see how all this efficiency would contribute to higher test scores. After all, the learning targets were the ones that would be assessed during the standardized test. For a moment, I questioned how I could have ever thought that I was an effective teacher in my past when this had never been part of my practice. I doubted my ability to even support the student teacher I had come to visit. What did I have to offer that could complement or improve what was happening in the room?

And then I heard a resounding scream in my gut and a WTH just inside my mouth.  I also felt overcome by an immense sadness at the thought of what we’re doing to our children on a larger scale. Again I heard the question in my mind, ‘Are we raising kids or raising test scores?” Have we forgotten that schools are filled with children? Children are new to the world and are learning about the world and how to be in it well. School for them is just a part of their human experience. They are simply having a human experience. That’s sacred. We have to preserve the sacredness of their human experiences! I wondered what happened to the kind of school experience in which a few kids might have a good idea and in the moment the teacher could help them run with the good idea? How could that be possible when there was a learning target specific to a content area for each minute of the day? What if a child came in from having greeted his new baby brother during the night? Was there room in that case for reading some books about being a big brother and for everyone to write notes of advice and congrats to the new big brother? Or would the teacher have to quickly check to see if there was a learning target for such an activity? And how about if two new Syrian students entered a classroom having just arrived in the neighborhood two days earlier. Could the teacher then take some time to help the students learn how to welcome and care for and understand what it might feel like to be in the shoes of the new classmates? Or is knowledge about the Syrian crisis a learning target for later in the school year, or most likely, NOT a learning target?

I’m worried about the state of schools and what surrounds schooling in this country. I teach teachers and I believe and uphold the value of good teachers. I consider it an honor to work alongside teachers on their journey into teaching. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hear about the daily little and big wins that my former students experience as teachers. But I have to admit a hard truth that, these days, when I tell my students they can be amazing, wonderful teachers, I feel a knot in my gut as I wonder about whether or not they really can become amazing and wonderful within a system that does not support their potential. And not only does it seem like the system does not support good teachers, it seems more and more, that the system is actually attacking and depleting good teachers. This is not an academic blog so I will spare you the details, but teacher burnout is real and the teacher shortage has arrived.

I used to insert humor so effortlessly into my blogging, but it’s not coming to me right now. I feel worried and a little defeated. In the next few weeks my darling, creative, imaginative, little and mighty girl will be sitting through two sets of days-long tests and I will feel the same knot in my gut each day I send her to school. I will feel helpless and worried about the human experience she will have. And I will count on her teacher to keep her dreams while she takes her tests. I will hope for and count on the dreamkeepers at her school to smile and notice and consider her human experience on a daily basis. I have no happy or funny ending to this post today. What I cling to and am grateful to have are the dreamkeepers that wake up early each morning, get their armor on and insert the dreams of our children in their pockets and walk into their classrooms to teach. Tonight, I send out a wholehearted THANK YOU to the dreamkeepers who teach our precious young humans.

Truthfully yours,



Ressurection Sunday and I Can’t Get Out of My Tomb

Ugh. Days like this. Mornings that start with a frown in my heart. No matter the smile I tried to paste on in the hopes that it would etch into my heart instead. I don’t like this. I don’t want it. I don’t even want to unpack it for fear it might be too much to deal with in the time that I have for it. I tried hugging and kissing on my daughter and I tried loving on my son, too. Even at almost nine years old, he loves hugs and kisses. I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen that was left…waiting for me, I suppose. I refused to put away the mass-purchased items left on the breakfast table. That’s when I realized the peace I had found in the cuddles and hugs was beginning to dissipate as I realized that people were doing things TO me. The peace was only on the surface. All it would take was a tiny more disturbance. Breathe, Rhina. Deep breath. Smile again.

Kitchen mess cleaned up and moving on to breakfast for the family. Breakfast production is for me to do, after all. Quick check – it’s not Mother’s Day and it’s not my birthday and cereal is not an appropriate option for a Sunday…thus – breakfast production is on me. TO me. And while I’m at it, practicing happy thoughts sweeping the mess into a pile in the corner of my heart, another unnecessary fight erupts out of nowhere with my two kids. Silly, ridiculous stuff. And I lose it and I yell at them and grab the damn light saber that was used as a weapon and chase after one of them with it threatening to use it. I’m pissed off at the mess in my heart and I use the moment to express my anger and annoyance.

They run off and I throw the light saber into the pantry where it continues to flash and moan while I stand there alone in the kitchen and let the moment that just happened sink in upon the frown in my heart. I feel sad and angry and disappointed and worried that I have forever ruined the opportunity for a great relationship with my children. I want to shut everything out, including the light and roll around in the mess in my heart. I want to run out to my son and my daughter and hug them and make it all better. I’m not ready, though. I know I would only make it worse because they’re not ready either.

And it’s Easter Sunday and the kids want to dye eggs but it’s not my thing. I used markers where I grew up. I’m not too particular about carrying on this tradition of celebrating the spring equinox and new life and fertility – yes, also known as Resurrection Sunday for Christians. I loved my childhood days of celebrating Easter and searching for the hidden eggs. We never talked about an Easter rabbit or bunny. So maybe it would be nice to carry on the celebration tradition with my kids.

But I’m not feeling peace in my heart and I feel like I’m stuck in my tomb of dissatisfaction. I want to get out and I can’t. And I know it’s up to me. I know that only I can make it better. Unlike the time when I was six and fell down at school and didn’t get up until my eldest brother came and picked me up, I have to pick myself up. I need to pick myself up. I have to claim a different day. It’s Resurrection Sunday. Of all days in the year, this should be the day that I walk out into the light and peace and a beautiful day. I can leave the box of mess in the tomb and move on. I’m beginning to believe less in the unpacking of mess when it can just be buried instead. Life is too short to not be lived. Life. New life is always available to me. Getting out of the tomb is always an option for me. Resurrection.

You got me, Jesus. Good message. I’m getting out now. I’m going to have a beautiful day. I’m going to look and look and look until I find my Easter eggs and the promise of new life. I am going to look for what’s beautiful in every moment of this day. I can do this. I already know what’s beautiful in my life. I just need to keep my eyes and my heart focused on the beauty and not the mess.

As I end this…I can hear my two upstairs singing a made up chant with the words, “We’re sister and brother, we’re sister and brother, we work together, we’re sister and brother…” And they’re stomping and laughing and as close as ever. Beautiful.


Truthfully yours,



The Truth About Pants and Boxes

I had a moment of truth a few weeks ago when I was getting dressed and pulling up a pair of pants and coming to the realization that I would not be needing a belt that day for a pair of pants that have always required the use of a belt. They were snug. They fit just right on the waist and even a little too snug on the rest of the curves I possessed. Could it be? Might I really have grown my curves some more????!!!!

I stood there and attempted the usual mode of making sense of the situation.

Maybe it was because they had shrunk in the dryer? Nope. No reason for this to be the first time they had shrunk in the dryer after so many cycles of washing and drying.

Maybe it was because it was that more “sensitive” time of the month when my womanly body stores extra water? Nope. Not that time.

Maybe it was because they were just too old now so they had finally given in to the last wash and dry? C’mon, Rhina…

And then I accepted the truth of the situation.

This situation has been on my mind a whole lot since then. In truth, this situation has plagued me my entire life it seems. It goes way back into my childhood when my cheeks were constantly squeezed by all sorts of adults and I was told I had such cute chubby cheeks. Sometimes  I was told that I wasn’t fat, just plump. As a preteen I noticed with horror that my thighs filled out – especially when I was seated and looking down at them. I found myself looking in the mirror and trying to figure out just the right way to sit so that my thighs appeared smaller. As a teenager, it seemed that all my friends were slimmer and, thus, more ideal.

I swam and played a variety of sports and even competed in some sports in school. I participated in synchronized swimming, for heaven’s sake! I played badminton – and if you have played it seriously, you’d know it’s not a garden sport. I’d mention being an avid chess player, but I may be pushing my luck to make the point that I was sporty. Interestingly, I never saw myself as athletic, because my sister had that descriptor covered. I’m not sure what the obsession was, but everyone around us had to offer their comparisons of us out-loud and to us and we both took in the messages and kept creating and adjusting our images of ourselves without having the chance to actually see ourselves as we truly were.

She was the athletic one. I was book smart. She was the outgoing one. I was a homebody. She spoke her mind. I was peace-loving. She was adventurous. I preferred safety. She made friends easily. I had the hardest time making friends because I was shy. She was fun. I was sweet. She had a magnetic personality. I had a pretty face. And on and on it went. With each label, we picked up our paint brushes and changed our self-portraits just a little bit. Sometimes with a  heavy heart and sometimes with pleasure. But each time I did it, I felt a tad bit more fitted into something and therefore a tad bit less free. I suspect my sister felt the same way. Still, we grew into our labels and then remained there for the most part.

Until now. Lately. The last several years, even. The box in which I was fitted into, like my pair of pants, has gotten too snug and uncomfortable. The truth is that very little of the off-handed observations made by people who barely knew us were true. We didn’t need to take on their limited and limiting view of us and how I wish we hadn’t. We were BOTH capable and we BOTH possessed all of the qualities they noticed. My sister is also a book-worm and a homebody and peace-loving and sometimes afraid and shy and extremely sweet and beautiful. See her here…


My beautiful sister, Nancy.

And I have been known to be a social coordinator who uses her voice and words to advocate. I went whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River into which the Victoria Falls spills. And I did that with nobody I knew on the raft with me. I also took my first solo flight at age 18 to a whole new continent with three connecting flights along the way which were delayed by hours and led to me missing flights and me having to command a taxi driver to get his hand off my knee while driving me to my final destination in Atlanta. For the longest time I did not even see this about me even as I did these things. I did not see that I was outgoing and outspoken and adventurous and a great friend, too.

And then came this little opportunity called motherhood that has taught me and filled me up in ways I did not know were possible. This has been the opportunity that truly showed me that the box I had fit myself into had always been way too small for the truth of who I am. Becoming a mother the first time around revealed the amazing capability of my body to make another human being. That’s some kind of power!

But it was the second time around, when I became a mother to a daughter that I realized just how small and tight that box had been all along. My daughter, Kaya, fills me with wonder and a deep sense of pride in the way she is in this world. I have often noticed her in quiet moments of wonder and admired the strong, independent, confident, free-thinking and carefree girl that she is. I realize that I can see those pieces of her because she is exactly how I wanted to be as a child. Well, all except for her ridiculous hot-messiness, but that’s for another blog post with a much more shallow message and lots of necessary humor.

Kaya on Mount Trashmore, VA Beach

Kaya on Mount Trashmore, VA Beach


The night before she started Kindergarten I had a conversation with her about goals and intentions. Yes, I am THAT mother who talks about these things in the hopes of creating memories and influencing their futures. I spoke for a while about the difference between goals and intentions. I explained that goals are the things you want to do but they have to be guided by your intentions, etc. After all of that I asked her about her intentions  for this year in Kindergarten. Her answer after thinking for a moment was simple and sweet and very matter-of-fact:

“My intention is to be myself, Mommy.”

There were no more words left for me to say so I kissed her on her forehead and smiled on the outside and nearly burst with pride on the inside, wiped away tears and said, “You do exactly that, my girl. Just be yourself.” Because what else is there to say when you realize that your 5 year-old daughter has learned the lesson that is taking you forty some years to learn?

My daughter teaches me how to be in this world. She is one of my greatest and most favorite teachers on how to climb out of the box and live in the world. I fear I may not be able to live fully until I climb out of the box and carefully and intentionally and bravely stay out of any other boxes. Who knows what I might do this year? I might participate in a triathlon if I want to. I might even join a team sport. Or perhaps I’ll write that book I’ve been wanting to write or learn to ice-skate well (as in without holding on to gripping the side bar) or climb the Tetons like my adventurous husband did. Okay so Tetons are out, but maybe the others. The world is mine and I am of the world.

Rest assured, I’ll keep my pants on, but it may have to be a different pair. For a while, anyway, until my new athletic ventures help me fit back into the old pair again.

Truthfully yours,



Singing My Song

Recently, I heard a woman singing her soul’s song. It was as if that song, those words, the music were created just for her voice and her voice for the music. It was absolutely beautiful and I could feel the song as if it were coming right out of my own soul. There’s a certain kind of joy I get when I am witness to someone who is in the moment of doing exactly the thing he or she was meant to be doing. When someone is at the top of their game, it is almost intoxicating to be in their presence. It’s that awe I felt watching Gabby Douglas in the Olympics or Tina Turner on her stage or my favorite professor in my undergraduate years at Agnes Scott College, the late Ayse Carden, while she was teaching. There’s something about being in the presence of someone who is in their MOMENT of fulfilling their life’s purpose that leaves me in wonder and joy. I know you must know the feeling.

I believe I feel that overwhelming joy when experiencing another person in the middle of the thing they are here to do because it’s like looking into a mirror of possibility. It’s like seeing and knowing what I am capable of. It’s inspiring because it’s my highest self expressed. There is a sacredness in those moments in which we are living up to our fullest potential. We recognize those moments when others are in theirs because they are OUR moments, too. After all, we are of the same spirit, the same source, the same life. So even when it’s not me in that moment of being in the presence of somebody else’s moment, I am also able to feel it as if it is mine, too.

I am in search of the truth of who I am. I have a general sense of the essence of who I am but I’ve been feeling a certain restlessness lately that’s telling me that maybe I’m not singing my soul’s song. This morning I listened to a talk on the Authentic Self. Funny how when you’re searching for answers, the lessons (and teachers) come flying at you and the closer you get, the more it feels like being in the storm. I’m feeling tossed and turned amidst these thoughts and trying to learn the lessons as they come and hoping that I am moving into the eye of the storm where I can feel the calm once again.

There is a beautiful story floating around about a group of people somewhere in Africa.  Side note – I rarely say such things as “somewhere in Africa” because very specific regions and countries and towns are home to me and vary greatly. However, not knowing exactly which tribe and where in Africa, I can only hope that Alan Cohen knows the truth about them. The piece is called Sing Your Song from his book, Wisdom of the Heart. Go on – click on the link and read it. It will open in a new tab. You’ll be glad you read it if you haven’t already. It’s beautiful and it brings tears to my eyes. It reminds me to seek, know and be guided by the truth of who I am. It reminds me that I have a song. It brings tears to my eyes to know that there are special, special people who know my song and always will. It reminds me that I came into this universe intentionally and to live out a purpose in a way that only I can. And it assures me that there will always be people around me to remind me of my song by singing it to me.

Today, one of those special people in my life sang me my song. I needed it. She sang it and I listened and I remembered my song. I may not have figured out my life’s purpose, but I remembered my song. I’m settling into the acceptance that, mostly, I’m living out my purpose without ever knowing what my purpose is. It’s not necessary for me to know my life’s purpose all the time. It’s only necessary to sing my song. To live out the truth of who I am. Ultimately, if I do anything in the spirit of true love, I am living out my purpose. Even when it’s really, really hard. I must remember that. And I must remember my song. I am deeply grateful for those special people who know my song and sing it to me.

So although I’m not clear about my life’s Purpose, I know I have been in the moments of fulfilling my life’s purpose. Some have been big and wild and had fireworks in the background, while others are quieter, simpler moments of knowing. Like right now, while writing, I know I’m in it. I like this. I feel calm and excited and happy all at the same time. I am in the eye of the storm in this moment.

And as surely as I sit here in this quiet Moment, I also know that there are bigger Moments to come as I live out my purpose and as you live out yours. I commit to daring to sing my song as loudly or as softly as necessary.

Truthfully yours,


P.S. Sometimes it takes me a while to make the connections and I just had an Aha! moment that forced me to update this post. This morning, I took a moment to sit outside on my deck to be in my feelings of feeling lost from my self. As I sat there, I saw a hummingbird in the distance hovering over some flowers in our yard that often attract hummingbirds. I always feel lucky to see hummingbirds. This one, however, hovered right on over in my direction and came all the way to 3 feet in front of my face and looked right at me while hovering!!!! It hovered for several seconds, gazing at me, then went on its way. I knew something special had happened in those moments with my humming bird.

And it took me until this evening to realize that it was a HUMMING BIRD. Get it?! – a humming bird. Humming birds hum. It came to hum my song to me. Without a doubt I know that it was God-sent. No doubt.


Saying YES to the Universe

There is so much that needs to be written out of my head and heart that I feel I might burst if I don’t. I actually just began to write something quite profound and then in walked my 5 year-old with books to read. With the intention of going with the flow and accepting invitations from the Universe, I said sure and enjoyed a few moments with her and a couple of books.

I was then joined by my 8 year-old who wanted to quietly sit near me while his mind woke up and before his energy levels and vocal cords rose from 0-100 percent. Again I said yes.

Then, having sufficiently enjoyed the moments, I shifted to my computer to write. I’ve been itching to write. So much has been on my mind and in my soul and this is the way I let it out. This is my therapy (and it’s free, which I like).

So I sat down and returned to my profound thoughts…only to hear a piercing, high-pitched and very long drawn out sound from one of my kids. I don’t really know what it was and why right THEN, but there went my profound thoughts as I fell right back into my real world of trying to juggle the everyday pieces of parenting and working and living.

Except that this morning is quieter than my usual mornings and I took a moment to say yes to The Universe – to writing as well as to precious time with my children.

This blog post is short but a much needed therapy session with the Universe that I said yes to. As I write, in this moment, my two most amazing gifts are beginning to engage in “sibling love” that is escalating from…scoot over…stooooooppppp…I’m just trying to get comfortable…stop pushing me off the couch…I’m not touching you…heeeyyyyy…what are you trying to do???…I’m trying to sleep…stop!…you’re snoring…I thought we were trying to sleep…I don’t like it when you snore next to me…etc., etc., etc.

Life is good. As is.

That’s my prayer today.

Truthfully yours,


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The Big Bad Wolf

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived simply and happily with her family. She loved her family and her family loved her. Then one day an uncle, who was not really an uncle but a friend of her parents and whose families knew each other well, came to visit. He played with her and her little brother and big sister and he seemed to be a lot of fun. He made them laugh. He gave them hugs and kisses. He made them all feel special. So the shy little girl opened up a little and played right back and laughed when he tickled her.

Then one afternoon, he offered to read to them all before he took a nap. Of course they all wanted to hear a story. So they gathered around him, eager to hear the story and see the pictures. And when he said he had to touch her while he was reading, she felt a strange new feeling in her tummy. Her heart and her throat hurt a little. But there seemed to be no questions about it and it seemed like a normal thing to happen. He was a grown-up after all and she was taught to obey her elders because they knew about things and they took care of you. So while he read the story and touched her, her mind took her away from her body. She became the character in the story who had an adventure and was running away from the big bad wolf. She ran really fast. Faster and faster, her little heart pounding harder and harder. Fear taking over her entire body. And the whole time she was not in the room in her house that was offered to her parents’ friend. She was in the woods, in an adventure. Running for her life and her sanity. She got away from the big bad wolf. In her mind at least.

And when the story was over, she walked to her room with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind. When she got to her room, she crawled up into a ball in her bed and cried and cried and cried. And she never told anyone about the big bad wolf. It was a story after all. And who would believe that she had run so fast and gotten away from such a big bad wolf? And who would believe that her parents’ good friend was a big bad wolf, anyway? She only knew that she would avoid that big, bad wolf whenever she was in the woods. Maybe she wouldn’t go into the woods again. She would stay away when he came to talk to her and play with her and pick her up to swing her. She wasn’t sure she could run that fast again. 

Wake up, parents and everyone else who takes care of young children! Open your eyes and keep them open! Talk to your children. Teach them to listen and pay attention to strange feelings in the pits of their tummies and in their throats and in their hearts. Be very clear about their beautiful bodies and teach them to protect their private and very special body parts. Give them and practice the words and actions they should use to respond to any attempt to touch them inappropriately. Without those tools, it’s far too easy for those who prey on children – boys and girls – to take advantage of their gentle, trusting and loving spirits.

Unfortunately, the people who do this NEVER look like big bad wolves to children. They look like uncles and family friends and good neighbors. They think about and plan and create friendships and build trust with you first, knowing that your children are so much easier to get to when they go through you. You are their protector. You are their gatekeepers. And listen to your children when they tell you they don’t like particular adults. Tune in to their subtle reactions to the people you bring into their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I love people and I love having lots of good people in my life. And I believe MOST people are good. But even if it’s to protect my children from the one out of the one hundred or one thousand, I know I have to do everything I can to protect them, including having uncomfortable conversations.

And if your children are brave enough to tell you about something that happened, please, please don’t brush it off in the hopes that it’s not true or to avoid an awkward situation. Address it head on. Our children deserve that from us. And it’s time we started talking about this openly with each other. I am constantly amazed by how many people I know in my circles who have been molested or abused and who never told anyone. There is no shame in having been a victim! Tell the story. Tell everyone – especially if the predator is still out there. Chances are that predator is preying on some other child. It’s not okay. And while we’re at it – can we please get serious about how we feel about it in this country. Committing such crimes on our young children deserves more than a mere couple of months in jail and an early release back into the world. The problem is that we simply “frown upon” but don’t really, really detest and abhor the crime enough.

The little girl grew up and one day her father called her to tell her about the death of the uncle that had read to her when she was very little. She was silent on the phone as she felt her heart get lighter and her tummy unwind. She took a deep breath and said, “Oh,” to her father and added silently as she looked up, “Thank you…”  

The End.

Last week while helping my daughter to wash her hair, I, once again, took the opportunity to remind my little girl about her private, special body parts and talk about when it was okay for someone to touch her there (the doctor while one of her parents was with her). She brought up a variety of other scenarios and we discussed them until she was satisfied and clear about what she should say and who she should tell immediately. A few minutes later, dried, lotioned and dressed and playing with her baby doll, I watched her cradled her baby doll close in her arms and whisper, “Ava, don’t let anyone touch your private parts. Okay, Ava? Mommy loves you so much!”

I giggled and my heart swelled with pride and gratitude that I could talk with her and teach her these things. And then I felt the usual ache of fear that she might, one day, need to use her skills.

Truthfully yours,



Nine Lessons About Marriage From My Nine Years In It

A year ago, Brian and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I stumbled over the word celebrated because we didn’t really celebrate the day in any dramatic kind of way with bubbly and balloons. We did go out to eat with the kids and it was a beautiful evening at 246 in Decatur, GA. We exchanged special words in true 21st Century style on Facebook and received many, many beautiful greetings and wishes that warmed my heart and made me feel so loved and celebrated. However, there were a few comments made by lovely people that left me feeling a little off. I couldn’t quite understand the comments and didn’t feel quite right accepting them. So I decided to write about them in the hopes of making sense of them.

The comments that stopped me and sat like bricks in my gut were these:

“Happy Anniversary!! Thanks for being such a great team & giving hope & love to us all!”

“May God continue to shower blessings on both of you. You are a shining example of marriage.”

“What a beautiful example of marriage the two of you are!! Happy Anniversary! Continued blessings!!”

These sorts of comments puzzle me. They feel good to hear and are beautiful sentiments, but they leave me feeling puzzled. You see, I don’t view my marriage this way. I am aware that Brian and I have many great things going for us – things we have in common, amazing family, cute kids, humor, a shared Alma Mater, degrees and place of employment, love for travel, etc. And we’re very lucky in this way. But when I think about where we are in our marriage, I think about how the hard parts have been a constant through all the beautiful parts of marriage.

I want to feel like I truly deserve those comments offered enthusiastically by loved ones. Somewhere in my being I can see a truth in them. I can see how the universe really has conspired to bring us together and we really could be “a great team” and give “hope and love” to others. We really could be “a shining example of marriage” someday. But I haven’t earned this yet. I guess that’s why those comments don’t sit well with me. I love them but I want to earn them. I see the possibilities for our marriage, but I want to get there.

Fast forward a year and we’re celebrating 9 years of marriage on May 21st, 2014. I choose to honor this day by recognizing 9 lessons I have learned in my 9 years of marriage. Here goes:

1. He is NOT my everything. Contrary to the messages that bombard us about finding your one person that will fulfill your every dream, Brian has never been that for me. I’ve never actually believed in the possibility of one person that will be everything for you and this has been confirmed in my marriage. In fact, it would be too much of a burden on him (and on me for that matter) to be everything to each other. No, we are two people on our own journeys whose paths are intertwined. For each of us to fulfill our dreams, we must have spaces between us and interests and joys and friends that are our own. When we got married, we chose to include one of our favorite lines by Khalil Gibran in our wedding program.

“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Little did I realize exactly how true this would be for us. We are meant to live big and wild and free next to each other and not in each other’s shadows. And if one of us were to live in the other’s shadow, we would never be able to see exactly how beautiful the other is. He is not my everything and I love being able to see everything about him that is beautiful.

2. There is a very, very thin line that sometimes fades to invisibility between love and hate. This is real. This is truth. My truth at least. There have been moments in which I have loved and hated everything about my spouse. These have been extremely confusing moments in which I have wondered if this might be exactly what it feels like to be have a split personality or if indeed I really could medically be labeled so. For me, the struggle to communicate well frustrates me to no end. The pride and stubbornness and incredible measures we take to protect our egos break me down sometimes. In those moments of brokenness I find it hard to imagine even one more day with him in my life while in the same moment unable to imagine a life without him in it. It is exactly in those moments of being a fragmented soul that I realize I am no better and no worse than any other human being on this Earth. It is exactly when I see all I am capable of in the mirror of marriage and I realize how fragile I am. How fragile we all are as human beings.

3. Teamwork is necessary and you can’t keep score between team members. This is a lesson I KNOW to be true but one I still struggle to implement. There was a time when I would put off cleaning up the kitchen or folding the laundry because it was HIS turn to do so. I would pretend not to see the piles of dishes or clothes in the hopes that he would get to them. It would mean that he was holding up his end of the deal. Lately, mostly for my own sanity, I take a deep breathe and do it anyway and remind myself that he picks up in other ways.

Parenting together requires teamwork. REQUIRES. This is hard for me. My constant battle to preserve my independence while knowing that a serious amount of co-dependence is necessary in a marriage is confusing and exhausting. I depend on him and he depends on me for our lives to happen in a less than chaotic manner. And teamwork does often mean giving the best you are able in any given moment and trusting that your teammate will do the same.

Apparently, we’re doing it. We’ve played our lives well enough that our kids are well-nourished, generally happy, loving, joyful and adventurous. We have a home and jobs that we like and we keep showing up for the game with our game gear on.

4. It’s all about me.This is the ultimate truth – it IS all about me. When I’m happy or sad or mad or frustrated or just pissed off, it’s because I have some stuff to work through. I’m on my journey (see #1) and everything in my life is here to teach me lessons that will get me to the end. I have a purpose and it is to love wholeheartedly. And I have to learn to love and then I have to practice, practice, practice. This is why my partner is in my life. He is here to be part of my learning and he is teaching me to love. What he brings to the table is lessons and practice for me to learn to love wholeheartedly. I must learn to be wide open. Forgiveness is about me. I must learn to love. I learn to do this by looking in the mirror that he holds up for me everyday. When I see something in him – good or bad – and it causes a reaction in me, it’s because I am seeing what’s actually in me. If you can spot it, you’ve got it. Get it?

5. It’s all about him. I realize that while he is here to teach me, I am also here to teach him how to love. I play a role in his life and in his learning to love wholeheartedly. I have choices in how I respond to him in any given situation and each response is an opportunity for him to love better. There are many times that I don’t know what’s going on for him but I have to trust that he is doing his soul homework. I don’t have to take on his stuff when it doesn’t feel like mine. He’s able to handle whatever comes his way. I know this also means that I have a deep responsibility to God to love in the best way I know how at any given moment. He’s on his journey and when stuff doesn’t feel like mine, there are times when it’s really NOT mine and I have to let him have it.

6. Chilling out is necessary. Translate that however you will – chilling out as in a chilled cocktail with girlfriends or taking a chill pill along with some deep breaths. Chilling out means those things along with the laughter that accompanies it. Laughter is good. Laughing at myself and not always trying to save face is necessary. Chilling out with Brian is even better and sometimes I have to take the initiative and pour the Patron or figure out the babysitter and make time to be together away from the everyday busyness that can blind me from the fun guy with whom I fell in love. There’s nothing that takes me back more quickly to those falling in love days than doing something new and laid back with Brian. And being reminded of those days is necessary.

7. We are not with the person we married. I have learned that, while life does not change the truth of who you are, life changes how we are in the world. Along with most cells (but definitely not my neuron in my cerebral cortex) in our bodies being replaced by new cells over the past nine years, we have also changed based on what we have learned about being in this world. This means that I have to let go of seeing him the way I did years ago and expecting him to be the way he was years ago. I don’t expect (nor do I get) an excited and captivated man who cleans up his entire house prior to my arrival.

This also means that I have to try to see him for who he is today and notice when he makes an effort to do better and be better. I know I have worked hard to get better at speaking my truth and forgiving more quickly and NOT resorting to the silent treatment when it gets hard to talk about hard things. I know I’ve worked immensely on daring greatly by being vulnerable (thanks, Brene!). And I want him to see me this way and not expect me to be how I used to be. I have to keep looking at him with fresh eyes so that I don’t miss out on who he is becoming. We are not the people we married and that’s a good thing.

8. We stand alone but are supported by a village.The success of our lives and the state of our marriage depend, ultimately, on us. We do the inside work on our own and mostly in the privacy of our life together (except for this blog post, maybe). However, we are held up by a village of people who love us. People who encourage and challenge and listen and pray and cheer us on in our marriage. This village includes our parents, our siblings, our extended family members, our children, our friends and our colleagues. This is our community.

This village matters so very much to me. We live on a big, big planet with so many millions of other people, but this little village that surrounds us and supports is precious to us. There are days when I am carried almost entirely by the people in my village who believe in us and care deeply about our marriage. I feel a deep gratitude for this village. If you happen to be in our village – THANK YOU!

9. We ARE part of a Divine Design. This lesson and truth has been seeping into my being on a daily basis in my nine years of marriage. The universe really has conspired to bring us together and the Design has been in place from the beginning. I dreamed this life with Brian into being because it was already in place to happen. And I don’t write about this in an “up in the clouds” sort of way. I write it with the understanding that life is serious and sometimes seriously hard when it come to learning the truth of who you are and loving from that place. Growing into love and in love are a part of my spirit growing towards Spirit, God, I Am, Source (insert whatever special names exist). I believe without a doubt that Brian is intended to be with me and me with him in this way. The Universe is relentless in growing us in love and we must be open to the lessons.

There. Those are the nine lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps they are not new to anyone but me. Perhaps they are not glamorous enough. Perhaps they reveal too much truth about me. Perhaps nobody else can relate to any of them and all other marriages are butterflies and rose gardens free of thorns.

This year, unlike many other anniversaries, I looked up appropriate gifts according to the number of years married and bought him this piece of pottery (what is to be given at 9 year anniversaries – yes there is such a list and I found out about it a couple of years into my marriage). I’ve seen a few Facebook posts about this Japanese art form and love the story behind it.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, repairs broken pottery with seams of gold. This repairs the brokenness in a way that makes the object even more beautiful than it was prior to being broken.

Isn’t it beautiful? The pottery becomes more beautiful because it has been broken and repaired. The breaking of the pottery is the beginning of it becoming more beautiful. It’s the perfect story of marriage for me. It gives me hope that in the hardest of times when we get broken is exactly when we have the opportunity to become more beautiful. And this is what I see in my marriage to Brian – not that we have a perfect marriage but that we have the perfect opportunity to keep becoming more beautiful. And this opportunity is one I receive with open hands and an open heart.

Happy 9th anniversary, Brian. I look forward to continuing to break and mend with you as we journey on.

Truthfully yours,




A Letter to a Phenomenal Future Teacher

I teach teachers and wannabee teachers. There’s a special place in my heart reserved for teachers and the work they do. This work with teachers challenges me daily because of who they are and what they’re getting into and with whom they will work. I spend a lot of time thinking about each one who comes my way and admiring and caring deeply for them because they have chosen to be a teacher. Because they have chosen to be on the front lines with our children. Because they have chosen a career that matters in this world and if they are among the good ones, they will never get paid their worth. It’s impossible. We should try, but it’s impossible.

It’s the end of the semester and, sometimes, if I am lucky enough, I give this letter to future teachers when I leave them because I see that they will be the good ones, the heroes. If you happen to be one of them, this letter is for you, too.

Dear Future Phenomenal Teacher,

I’ve had the opportunity to say a lot to you in this course. In the end, however, I realize that most of what I said will, likely, be forgotten. I decided that if I chose what I consider to be the most important things and put them on paper, maybe then you would remember. Three seems to be a time-tested magical number so, in the spirit of being unconventional, I will go with four. Here goes…

             First, know everything you need to know about good teaching and apply it. Learn about content and pedagogy and content pedagogy. Learn about how children learn, what they love, what motivates them, what scares them, what sharpens their minds and what dulls their minds, who loves them, and who does not consider them. Learn about the world – its people, its problems, its future, its wonders, and its fragility. Learn about how curriculums get developed and chosen, how schools get and use their funding, who makes decisions about standardized testing, why you have to do what you do. Know your worth as a teacher and show it.

             Second, know the students who enter your classroom. Really take the time to know them. Don’t underestimate the importance of informal conversations, eye-contact, humor, and attentiveness. Know your students so well that you can’t help loving them…or at the very least having a deep concern for their well-being. Ask them about themselves, ask their parents, ask anyone who cares about them. Actively take the time to know them and then be sure they know you know them. Acknowledge their presence daily. Speak to each of them at some point everyday. Let what you know about your students guide the way you teach them. Be the teacher that will stand out in their minds as the one that challenged them to realize their potential.

             Third, be an advocate for children. Discover what you stand for and be the teacher that speaks up for it, knowing that you will be empowering others to do the same. Challenge those things we do to children in schools and in society that we know are harmful to them. Determine your comfort zone and then challenge yourself to step out of it, when necessary, to advocate for what is best for children. Be an advocate, not just for your students, but for all children. Become political.

             And fourth, love life. Make a sincere attempt to thoroughly enjoy your life. Go to movies with happy endings; go to the beach and swim in the ocean; walk barefoot on soft grass; ride roller coasters; laugh every chance you get; fall in love with another person; try new foods; remember hilarious jokes and tell them every chance you get; talk to strangers; dance; sing out loud – off key or not; eat good ice-cream; have dreams and hobbies and books that have nothing to do with school and teaching and social justice. Be passionate about life. Enjoy life to the fullest because you will need to refuel yourself as you go through your career as a teacher and take on the lives of your students. Many will come to you from fortunate backgrounds, but so many will not. And whether or not you like it, you will take on and feel their pain. So fill yourself up on the good things in life as often as you can to balance out the tough stuff.

Teach to change the world…one little person at a time.

Truthfully yours,



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