The Truth of Who I Am

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

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…

Nancy

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,

Rhina

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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,

Rhina

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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,

Rhina

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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,

Rhina

 

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Sweating the Small Stuff – My Messy Beautiful

Today I’m struggling with embracing the mess in my life so I thought it was the perfect day to write about how beautiful it all is. At least, I’m trying to convince myself of that. I like a good challenge and I am definitely sweating the small stuff.

EVERYTHING is ridiculously messy at this moment because it’s been exactly 7 days since the two women who bring me joy every two weeks last came to clean this house. Every flat surface has been claimed for old and new mail, back packs, dirty dishes (that I keep telling the kids will not be picked up by the servers who quit a long time ago), random boxes, science stuff, cut up pieces of paper, crayons, cards, remote controls, shoes, clean and dirty laundry, and also art. Yes, it’s definitely art when it’s your child’s. And it’s a lot. And it looks nothing like the beautifully organized and displayed art I see on Pinterest all the time. They don’t tell you what to do with all the REST of the art once you’ve displayed the ones you’ve managed to display. I have this set up in my laundry room:

And I thought I was winning and reveled in that smug sort of way I just KNOW those Pinterest-posting people feel. I felt, for about 3 days that I was one of them. It’s impressive, right? Okay, so I didn’t actually use the leveler nor did I drill holes into the wall or hang the wire. I could do all that if I wanted, but someone else around here loves levelers more than I do so I sacrificed my opportunity to bring joy to this man that I love.

After the 3rd day, the other MILLION works of art proved to me that I was not Pinterest-worthy because what do you do with the rest of it?! I’m not one of them. The Pinterest-posting folks are still on my pedestal and I’m not on it with them. Oh – and please don’t notice that those masterpieces have been up there for 2 years now.

I’m still searching for beautiful in the mess. Still sweating the small stuff. I’m also feeling a little miffed that I came home and spent an hour planning and cooking what I consider to be a nutritious, delicious, veggie-packed, made-from-scratch, natural, mostly organic and definitely no high-fructose corn syrup nor Blue no. 7 nor Red no. 40 meal only to have it all negated by a giant-sized cookie packed with an entire bag of M&Ms – and the kids tell me that Daddy is so nice because he sits and watches TV with them (I was cooking, remember) and also lets them eat the stuff they like to eat (said cookie containing a bag of M&Ms each). Seriously, we should have a rule about this. The rule should be that you can only destroy what you built. I think they have this rule in Kaya’s pre-K class. It’s not fair to be the one putting time and effort into the good-FOR-you stuff and also be the unfun parent.

I was quite hurt. When the dinner was all ready, they were not excited enough to come eat. They requested longer in front of the TV (with Daddy). Then, when they finally came to the table, they looked suspiciously at their plates and poked at the few beets I placed on their plates – just to try – don’t judge me. THEN they argued over whose plate belonged to whom, i.e. the plate that looked like it had the fewest veggies was most wanted. Then there was crying. Well, I did take away a plate and muttered something about the food not needing to be eaten because there were other kids in the world who would appreciate even a bite of what was on the plate. No need to force anyone to eat this great meal was my rationale. So the crying was sort of expected. Still, don’t judge me.

And I was still searching for the beautiful in the mess and still sweating the small stuff.

So then I left the house in the hopes of getting some retail therapy. Retail therapy is real. You can’t convince me otherwise. I drove all the way to the closest mall, enjoying the first quiet moment in my day. And then when I got there and opened my door to get out of the car, I shut it again quickly because it was way too cold and windy to step out of my car and walk in for my therapy session.

So I drove back home thinking about it all and wondering how to stop sweating the small stuff and how to truly live out all the beautiful quotes and stories and messages I have received from the universe my entire life through the Glennons and Oprahs and Freires and Brenes and Mayas and many, many self-help and spiritual books. The truth is I know so much more than I live out in my everyday life. I could stop reading all of that and know all that has ever been written and all that will ever be written about truth because it’s all inside me and it’s also all inside you. I know it  and you know it when we come across it because we recognize it.

Living out these truths is my quest in life. It’s my journey. It’s our journey.

And I realized another truth and that is that there will only be one time in my life when I will have arrived at that place of perfection and it will be when I take my last breath. Until then, I must keep at it.  The mess will always be there whether physically or emotionally or socially or mentally. The mess is part of life and if we didn’t have it, we would never see the beautiful that exists in it all.

And then, while writing this post amidst the mess on my desk, because I contribute to the mess, too, of course, I see this:

IMAG0917

Do you see it? There, in middle, but not entirely hidden was a See Beautiful sticker from a remarkable woman and friend who started a movement to get the world to See Beautiful. If you haven’t come across her website or blog or Facebook page, you must. She has encouraged and challenged and pointed out the beautiful in this world at all the right times and in the best ways and sometimes when she doesn’t even know it, e.g. the sticker showing up at the bottom of my messy desk on a day that I was struggling to see beautiful in my messy life. See Beautiful is all about spreading beautiful through messages, projects and sales in the same way that Monkees do. And since I’m writing this post as part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project by Glennon Melton of Momastery (one of my favorite blogs), it seems appropriate to spread the word about the See Beautiful movement.

I’ve stopped sweating the small stuff for now (as in just for today until my slightly neurotic PMSy self returns). And I can see my messy, beautiful life again.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

To learn more about the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Low Expectations and Cheers to The Truth of Who I Am!

So today is the one year anniversary of this blog. A year has gone by as if in an instant since I created this blog. I imagined that I would, somehow, magically, have something really important and profound to write about and that it would have oozed out of me effortlessly as all my other blog posts have. But nothing so far. I’ve been a bit disappointed in the way things are turning out on the anniversary of a day I got up the courage to start delving deeper into my truth. I had great expectations for the blog post that was supposed to have been completed ahead of time.

And maybe that’s what the thing of it is. Maybe it’s BECAUSE of my expectations – my great expectations – that I have further to fall into disappointment over them. A quirky relative whom I love in a special way very decidedly explains himself to the rest of us by telling us that he sets the bar really low for others’ expectations of him so that when he rises even a little bit above them, he wins. I can see how it works. It works. I’ve witnessed it. People around him celebrate and have a hoopla about little big things he does. He barely has to hit average to be showered with praise and appreciation.

High expectations can certainly cause some problems. My marriage and parenting comes to mind. I seriously imagined that when it came to problems between my spouse and I that we’d calmly, of course calmly, communicate with each other by explaining our feelings and hurt and then at the end of it all we’d embrace each other in mutual compassion and forgiveness and pure love and move on back into our joyful, playful, happy, flirty, loving union. Yup. I have a wild imagination.

Parenting – I imagined that my beautiful children would gather around me, very Sound of Musicish, and cup their chins while listening intently to my wisdom as I explained to them why it was important to be kind and loving to each other and also why it’s not best for our planet and their parents’ budget to pour out all purchased liquids such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath, lotion and toothpaste just to feel it as it pours out and into the drain. And after they listened and having learned, they would never repeat it again and they would embrace me lovingly and feel the joy of a mother like me. Then of course, we would run on the mountains in the wind singing…well…you must know the rest or you can listen here.

Imagination. Expectations. Gotta love a wild imagination and great expectations. And a sense of humor. Yes, a sense of humor is a MUST. The thing about great expectations is that they may be a bit unfair to a situation that can’t promise to deliver. I think it’s been one of the things that’s caused much disappointment in my marriage because I often missed the beauty of the reality because I was too busy waiting on what I was expecting and then feeling disappointment over not getting what I expected.

The truth, I’m learning, is that there is beauty in what’s real. While I can certainly have great expectations about the important things in life and in a spouse, such as character and commitment, I have to let go of the great expectations over the little stuff. Yes, he should be truthful. No, he doesn’t have to complete a laundry cycle from gathering dirty clothes and washing them to drying, folding and putting away. Yes, he should feed our children when they need food. No, he doesn’t have to offer them servings of green, organic vegetables with each meal. Yes, he should contribute to the care and maintenance of our home. No, he doesn’t have to sort through all the mail immediately.

About those kids – same thing. Yes, they should listen and learn. No, they don’t have to get it right henceforth. Yes, they should not waste purchased liquids. Yes, they should never do it ever again. I mean…stepping into a side story…the girl has been POURING out a whole lot of purchased liquids. The other day, I came upon large globs of a newly purchased tube of toothpaste in the sink and, knowing that she and her brother have been counting money lately, I declared that she would have to start paying us back for these things she’s wasting and $2  seemed like a reasonable price for the globs of toothpaste in the sink. So, very happily and Sound of Musicish, she dances away and then comes dancing back and lets me know that she put the $2 under my pillow. No worries. All was solved.

Later that night, when all was quiet and she was supposed to be asleep, I hear her tip-toeing down the stairs and to her Daddy in another room and I hear her say to him in a cute, small voice, “Daddy, the sink is blocked because I put tissues in it. But don’t worry Daddy, I’ll pay you two dollars for it, okay?” Apparently she doesn’t get the value of her dollars OR she’s just Miss Moneybags and I need to worry about her thinking she’s going to pay her way through life.

All along, I have missed out on great opportunities to see the beauty of what’s true in my life because I was too disappointed to notice it. And now that I am conscious of this lesson and truth about who I am, I will probably do better but maybe not every single time.

So there. In the last moments of this beautiful first day of spring and the first anniversary of this blog, I am finishing up an average post about loving what’s real and true in life. I created this blog with no expectations and simply a wish to be courageous and to do something I love to do, which is to write from my heart, and to do it my way and, in the process, to share the truth of who I am in the hopes of connecting with the truth of who you are.

It’s been just what I needed.

Thank you to every single one of you who has read a post or two or three. And I especially appreciate those of you who encouraged me along the way through hugs, smiles, comments, knowing looks, Facebook likes, phone calls and all out joy and kind words about connecting with me through my posts. I have been surprised and humbled to know that anyone took the time, much less enjoyed what I wrote. I have absolutely loved connecting with you through my writing.

Here’s to low expectations and lots more finding joy in the truth of the matter!

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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My Girl. Our Girls.

There’s a little girl I know. She’s 7 and bubbly and smart and precocious. She joined me on a walk with my dog and our friendship grew to where she’d come knocking on my door whenever she could and bring her friends to meet me. She staked out a very special place in my heart and I happily welcomed her in. Her family came here from Iraq as refugees. She’s one of the most delightful people I know. She could light up any room with her smile and her bright eyes that dance when she looks at me. I love this little girl.

Except she’s not 7 anymore. She just turned 19. And she’s been serving time in prison…a two year sentence. Long enough to smother her bubbly, smart, precocious personality. Long enough for her to learn lessons that could harden her for life. Long enough to see and hear things that could change her forever. Long enough to slow down her path to college and independence and a happy life.

How she got there through the ridiculously flawed justice system sickens me to my stomach. The punishment far from fits the mistake (NOT crime) she made as a teenager. Far from fits it! The fact that the juvenile system left her case sitting long enough for her to be tried as an adult is beyond problematic in itself. The fact that the prison system is using her as a means to profit is despicable. Have I said enough about how I feel. To protect this young woman’s privacy, I will not delve into the details of her case, but trust me when I say that SHE DID NOT DESERVE ANY OF THIS. ANY OF IT. If you knew the details, you would agree with me. I have no doubt.

I am deeply disturbed about the path of girls like her, who live in a world where the right opportunities are just enough out of reach so that the wrong opportunities get taken. It’s girls like her that can change the world. Girls like her, who are bright and lovable and precocious growing up in a community that bears the brunt of poor decisions we’ve made as a society, can make a big difference. Girls like her grow up to become mothers who make choices about the education and care of their children and about the things they tell their children about the world. Mothers who have to teach their children how to know the difference between the right and the wrong opportunities. Mothers who could know about the opportunities that are available and how to get access to those opportunities. Instead, our system, more often, leads girls like her to grow up to be mothers like her own mother whose heart is a little broken because, no matter how much she loves her children – and she does – she did not know of or have access to all the opportunities that could have helped her along. There is a way and a need to change the systems that aim to punish rather than teach our young people – systems that capitalize on the mistakes of some teenagers knowing that they cannot afford to pay for a good defense. We have to change the systems for girls (and boys) like her.

This is what “the girl effect” is all about globally. This girl – my girl – is one of many girls. We have to start seeing them as OUR girls. I’ve said before how much I believe in the power of women – in the way we know and nurture and love and make wise decisions for the people around us. I believe in the power of us women and I also believe it’s our time. Our innate nature and the wisdom of that nature has a purpose on this earth and it’s our time. It’s our time to say STOP and to begin tapping into the wisdom of our nature. Time to listen to that voice, which for some of us has been been quieted down to a whisper that’s barely audible.

The louder voices that silence us often come through the media. We are told that we are not strong enough or smart enough or creative enough or tough enough or able enough to change the world. We are told that we are here to be pretty – not even for ourselves but for others. We are told that we are princesses who live in castles and get saved by knights in shining armor and that our purpose is to do all we can do to be ready and recognizable and pretty enough to take on the role of a princess.

Kaya Pirate

Yes, we’re in a bit of a princess-free zone around our house and whenever talk about princesses comes up, I find a way to have educational discussions about royal families and monarchies and freedom. I try not to lay it on too thick. Really I try. But I do have an aversion to princess talk and I am bored by the big eyes and long hair and feet that remain pointed even while barefoot. There’s just too much else in this world to occupy my children’s minds to let them get stuck on princesses. I’ll admit that I sometimes feel a twinge of doubt and guilt when I pretend not to hear my little girl’s request for a princess doll. But I still mostly believe I’m doing what’s best for her by holding off on the princess and Barbie dolls and teaching her to question the meaning and value of beauty.

But I digress. I believe, with more conviction everyday, that women are the answer to today’s human problems. There’s a certain kinship and consciousness brewing in the last few decades that’s preparing us to change the world. And it’s going to take us tapping into our womanism. It cannot come from understandings of power in the way that our current society has established. It cannot come from the historically male-dominated society that we are in. And let me clarify that womanliness is not exclusive to people born with the physical body parts of women, but is open to anyone who is truly in touch with that other side of “manliness” that has become the standard by which we measure power and success and strength.

-Sojourner Truth

I believe change will have to start with women. Change will have to start with womanism – a way of being and knowing that has been around the world for hundreds of years. Womanism is an idea that differs from and precedes feminism. We need to reach back into the wisdom of our woman souls. Layli Maparyan wrote about this in her book The Womanist Idea. Womanism reaches back into the nature of who we are, into our core spiritual nature, and calls us into activism. Womanism is what drew women together to care for each other during birth and celebrations. It’s what drives women to do impossible things in the name of love for our families. It’s the no-nonsense, go-getter, put-up-with-bullshit so we can take care of what needs to be taken care of wisdom and strength we carry inside us. It’s what makes us fierce and phenomenal when necessary. We need to understand and tap into our womanism. And we need to teach our girls about the womanist idea when they are young so that they know better than we know about the Divine feminine force within them.

Hindu Goddess Shakti: The Feminine Divine Force

The kind eyes of a little girl whose face could be from any part of this earth watch me from a vision board that hangs near my desk. She represents my girl. Our girls. She beckons me whenever I look up and reminds me that the work needs to begin. This beckoning may just be another truth of who I am. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my girl. Our girls. I know there’s something brewing in my heart. It’s a wish and a whisper I’ve carried in my heart for a while now. I may even have been born with this wish that refuses to quiet down. The little seven year-old girl that joined me on my walk and chatted up a storm right into my heart gently awakened the dream in my heart. Her last two years have beaten up my heart. It’s to the point where I can no longer ignore the dream.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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A Gift From an Angel

Who knew when I went to bed feeling blah and then woke up this morning still feeling blah that I would be meeting an angel? I believe the Universe knew. But I had no idea.

I was having just that kind of morning in which tears and cuss words were on the brink of falling on whoever was in my path. Feeling restless. And angry. And disappointed. And misplaced. And scared. And so very guilty that I was not waking up wholly and completely joyful about all the amazing things I have in my life. After all I have a good (and handsome) partner, two hilarious, darling kids, co-workers whom I love and who blur the line between co-worker and friend, a comfortable home and a body that works well (but could use some exercise and a couple vegetables daily).

So being on the brink of tears and cussing makes me feel scared that the Universe might snatch it all back just so I REALLY appreciate the beauty in my life. And I feel guilty for feeling restless and wanting something else because I feel a little lost. With all the quotes I see daily that remind me to love and to be positive and to be brave and to just do the thing that has to be done, feeling the unrest seems so wrong. But there I was leaving the house with all of it and venturing into an elementary school to observe and offer feedback to budding teachers. I would much rather have stayed in bed and wallowed in my pity and negativity.

As I sat in the atrium of a lovely school and got irritated at the sight of pictures of kids who looked nothing like the kids who attended the school advertising STEM education, I heard a loud thud out of nowhere and found a young boy sitting next to me in tears. There was no-one else in that big room and I could have sworn he came from the sky or wherever angels live. He was mad and sad. He was NOT having a good day. Neither was I, so I immediately connected with him and scooted closer and patted his back. That simple act ignited a tiny spark deep inside me. After some probing and angry tears and through a shaky body (all him, not me), I managed to gather that 1. he did not feel like he could do anything right, 2. a friend had just said (loudly) inappropriate things about his mama (!!!!!), 3. his teacher had not been helpful and 4. he wanted to move to another country where he would be more liked. Apparently we were sharing the same experience under different circumstances.

That’s where I got to use my magic. See, THAT’S what I do really well. I can comfort a child like nobody’s business. I can help people – friends, strangers, loved ones – feel better. It’s sort of a gift I’ve been given.I can’t play any instrument well nor do I have a stage-worthy voice. Line dancing stresses me out and sports have failed to keep my attention for very long. It took me a large part of my life to choose teaching as a career, even. I used to wish I had a definite talent that propelled me through every choice including WHAT I WANTED TO DO WHEN I GREW UP. I never liked that question because I never knew an answer. I’m still not sure I have an answer, actually. But I have learned that I have this gift of being able to get people feeling better – even if it’s simply feeling better while still feeling their sadness or hurt or disappointment. I know it’s a gift because I receive it every time I give it away.

My ten minutes with with my angel boy were the best moments of that day. I lit up from the inside the moment I started to share my gift and the little spark grew into a bonfire by the time I left him. I drove home thinking about him and wondering what it might be like to do that all the time, everyday. What might it be like to ignite my spark and feel a bonfire every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Goals and Intentions and the difference between the two. One of Oprah’s friends wrote about it and it stuck with me. Intentions are more important than Goals. You can fulfill your intentions through a variety of goals but goals should always begin with an intention. For example, it’s been my intention to nurture teachers into their most authentic and successful selves in the classroom. My goal of getting a Ph.D. came from that intention. Or another example – my intention is to be a GOOD mother and raise kind, happy children. My daily goal is to be patient and to NOT yell at my kids even when it’s the 51st time I’m making a request. Another example – my intention is to bring out the best in people, including myself. And I translate that to mean simply that we live from our souls, from our insides, from the place that God resides, from the truth of who we are.

I had to pause a moment after that last line, and even before it, because I didn’t see it coming. I just stated the intention of my existence. I realize, in this moment, that all the things that make me sad or mad or frustrated or disappointed or pissed off and on the brink of cuss words begin with not witnessing myself or others living from the truth of who we are. The opposite is also true – all that makes me feel happy and joyful and loving and amused and peaceful comes from witnessing myself or others living from the truth of who we are. Funny – I didn’t know when I named my blog that I was also naming my life’s intention. I suppose my goal of starting a blog fits with my Intention.

As for my little angel – our talk was just what we both needed. He walked back to his classroom with a lighter step and a promise to me to tell people and show people who he is on the inside so that they would know. And if they knew, then there could be no other way to feel about him than to love him. Same applies to the rest of us. Sometimes, the truth of who we are is harder for others to see because we’ve gotten so good at masking it. The truth of who we are is our Divine Self and all anyone could ever feel when they come in contact with our Divine Selves is love.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Color Me Beautiful

When I was a little girl, I often looked in the mirror and wondered if I was pretty. I’d stare at my reflection and study my features and my full eyebrows and wide cheeks that had been squeezed by aunties and uncles often. It’s a bit embarrassing to write about this because I have never told anyone about this insecure or maybe superficial side of my past self. It’s a truth about me that I don’t want to shed much light on, but I’m willing to bet that if I had such thoughts, then someone else out there has had similar experiences.

Pretty was not something my mother ever talked nor obsessed over. In fact, I could count on one hand and not need all my fingers how many times I remember my mother wearing makeup. She was a firm believer in Vicco Turmeric Face Cream and some Pond’s Talcum Powder. That was it. She noticed, and still does, beautiful fabrics and designs and took pleasure in wearing eye-catching saris and dresses, but I never got the impression that my mother was overly concerned about being pretty. I believe she has never needed to concern herself with being pretty because people around her connect with her gentle, no-nonsense, joyful, spiritual self.

My mother and I. Can you see how she delighted me?

So I’m not even sure why I would look in the mirror and wonder if I was pretty. I’m not entirely sure what in my world set me on a quest to be pretty. I’m not even sure what I was looking for in my reflection that would confirm pretty for me. My ideas of pretty developed in the midst of African people with a side of Indians and Europeans. While I’m not sure exactly how I developed my ideas of what pretty looked like, I do remember the only two Barbie-knock-off dolls that we somehow acquired looked pretty to me, as did the White paper dolls and Snow White and the golden-haired, freckled dolls that my father brought home from various work trips. I used to hold my dolls and stare at them and study their features and blue eyes and think how pretty they were. My best friend in Grade 4 was Vanessa with red hair and pretty freckles and my best friend in Grade 5 was Caroline from Canada. I think the fact that they looked like my dolls and the stars of the fairy tales I liked made me partial to them. They looked pretty to me. But I did not look like them. And I sort of knew that.

I just finished watching Oprah’s Lifeclass on Colorism and I’ve already experienced a range of emotions from sadness to irritation to frustration to anger. So what’s a girl to do but write a blog about it. Colorism is defined as discrimination based on skin color, skin tone, or skin complexion. The discrimination happens within the group and also from outsiders to the group.

Before going close up into colorism, let me take a step back to acknowledge the ridiculousness in the fact that we humans are so hung up on the color or shade of the skin that covers our incredible bodies. Take a step back with me and think about it. Of all the different and amazing, fascinating pieces that make up who we are and how we function and LIVE as human beings, how trivial and ridiculous is it to focus on our skin tones as a marker of anything important? ???!!!  We are ALIVE and able to breathe and move and communicate and connect and aspire and create and LOVE!!! How could the complexion of our skin possibly matter to anyone in deciding how valuable or worthy or beautiful one is? In the midst of the incredible way that humans came to exist on this planet in this solar system, how did we figure out a way to place so much importance to any one organ of our body?

Back to the close-up of colorism…

Colorism is not a new topic of discussion for me. At some point in just about every course I’ve ever taught, we talk about colorism. This video A Girl Like Me starts off the heated, painful, liberating, confusing, frustrating and empowering discussion well. There are 3 seconds of the clip that move me to tears EVERY SINGLE TIME I watch it. The clip cuts deep for many as we try to make sense of the phenomenon.

One of the differences between the discussion on Oprah’s Lifeclass and my course discussions, however, is that her show had an audience of only Black women of varying skin tones while my courses include men and women of varying races, nationalities and skin tones. In both situations, I feel sadness and frustration, but there was far more irritation and aggravation while watching Oprah’s Lifeclass because that discussion centered around why light-skinned and dark-skinned women “do it to each other” and how this is a phenomenon that is now considered a mental health crisis!!!! What????!!!!! Seriously????!!!!! A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS????!!!!!

I don’t often get indignant when watching Oprah-led shows, but this infuriated me just a bit. I watched another 45 minutes of the show and it continued along the same lines of how the light-skinned women felt and how the dark-skinned women felt. I cried a little and continued to get more annoyed that the focus and the blame seemed to remain entirely on the Black women (and other groups such as Indians and other Asians who got honorable mention for participating in colorism).  The take-away was, basically, “You have to love yourself and stop judging each other, women of color.” As in, “It’s all on you, women of color. Stop doing this to yourself. Just see beauty in your skin color the way it is.”

Do you hear the message? Do you get it?????!!!!!! I’ll tell you why I’m so irritated. The problem seems to be placed right back on us, women!!! This phenomenon is not something that Black or other women of color “do” to each other. We didn’t get born and decide on our own free will to judge ourselves and others based on the color of our skin and the texture of our hair and the shape of our lips and hips and breasts. The show did discuss the roots of the problem being in slavery and colonization. Thanks, Oprah and crew, that was the HISTORY of it, but can we talk about the CURRENT structures that support and promote colorism? Can we change those structures, please? The media with a capital M, for one – and not just what’s on TV or in movies, but EVERYWHERE – magazines, billboards, children’s books, advertizing, comic books,  catalogs, commercials, even porn (which I don’t study deeply). And then there’s toys and and make-up, beauty products, hiring processes and employment opportunities, language-use, tracking and re-segregation in schooling.

It’s no wonder that we can’t just “love ourselves and stop judging each other” because all the other messages seem so loud and consistent and ACCEPTED by everyone. The problem goes far deeper than simply a history that started it. The problem is perpetuated heavily by current structures in our social and professional worlds. It’s NOT us doing it to ourselves. Although we can teach our sons and daughters to be aware and critical, it’s not enough to stop there. And until we bravely explore and challenge and dismantle those structures that influence our minds from a very young age, we are going to make very slow and little progress in solving the problem of colorism. It’s time to stop taking in messages about ourselves blindly and to open our eyes and our souls and notice and refuse to accept the messages we receive on a daily basis.

Since my people only got honorable mention, let me share from my own experiences of being told to avoid the sun so I wouldn’t get “too dark” or watching many, many Hindi and Malayali movies with light-skinned Indian women as the good and beautiful and wanted ones and the darker-skinned women in the evil and undesirable roles. This is still true of Bollywood movies. In fact, with the arrival of a few popular westernized Indian movies, most people’s impression of Indians is that they are light-skinned. The truth is that Indians come in every shade and most are much, much darker than the majority of Bollywood stars  – who happen to get their starring roles BECAUSE they are lighter shades of brown. Lighter skin is what you hope for when you’re having a baby. I remember hearing people ask, when they heard about the birth of a baby (girl in particular), how dark she was. To be fair (no pun intended), all other features were always about the same – brown eyes, black hair, definitely hair. The catalogs and magazines and books I read did not depict characters like me. Skin lightening creams were easily accessible and advertizing like this were and still are accepted as truth:

I let go of looking for pretty in the mirror a while back in my life. I’ve seen so much beauty in women (and men) that looking for pretty felt trivial and boring. Glennon Melton said it well on her blog post, Don’t Be Pretty – Be Beautiful in 2014. She wrote just the words I want to use with my own daughter as she tries to understand pretty. Pretty is something defined for us everywhere we look and sometimes when we are not even looking. Beautiful is what we get to define for ourselves every single day. I leave you with a little timely video snippet from the Golden Globe Awards show (which has been on in the background while finishing up this post). When I learned of these women this past year, I saw so much beauty that it brought tears right out of my heart and soul. And I can see beautiful in each image because it’s me and it’s you and it is US. How we are colored is not who we are nor what we can do in this great big world. Let’s forget pretty and let’s color ourselves beautiful.

Now let’s get to the work of questioning and creating and imagining and doing and loving and changing our world as we know it.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Easy Like Sunday Morning

Or not.I’m a little conflicted about who and how I am on Sunday mornings. Seems like for the past several weeks I’ve been waking up very early (for a Sunday morning), throwing on WORKOUT clothes, and heading to Stone Mountain for a 2 or 5.6 mile walk with a friend. The invigorating walk then leads me to energetically prepare a great Sunday breakfast for the family and we enjoy those Facebook-status-worthy family moments in which Brian and I proudly notice what we have created and I feel a hint of Bridget Jones’ smug marriedness and ignore it for a bit while savoring the smugness of it all.

Then. THEN I look up at the time and realize there are not enough minutes left for me to get myself showered and all of us dressed in time to make it to our Sunday Morning Place – still not sure if I attend a church or center or what. Inevitably, a very unSunday side of me rears its very ugly head and I hear myself speaking in loud crazed-mama tones at my kids while they appear to be indifferent or, possibly just exercising their right to selective hearing, which OF COURSE takes me to a really crazy crazed-mama tone. The rant lasts for approximately all of the 21 minutes until we are in the car and pulling out of the garage.

Then I realize once again, as in EVERY WEEK, that none of the last 21 minutes is in line with ANY of the spiritual teaching and learning that I believe in. I also consider that since I have sunk so low, whatever I would get out of the Sunday talk would only serve to bring me back to where I was prior to the 21 minutes of crazy. The truth, I realize is that those 21 minutes were my opportunity to practice spiritual integrity and I just failed it all the way. Not even a D+ but an F. Failed. And the Sunday talk just brings me full circle to where I was at the end of last week’s talk. That’s a truth of who I am. I lose it on Sunday mornings at the worst possible time of day – right before I enter into spiritual restoration.

I then spend the entire drive to my Sunday Morning Place apologizing for my response to their indifference/selective hearing and trying to problem-solve with them. I’m sorry I got so angry but I wish you had responded to my calm and loving requests. I was wrong to yell at you and get so impatient, but can you think of what you could also have done better to help the family? Clearly Mommy needs to take care of herself better to be more patient. I’m sorry. I’m sure I made you feel so bad when I yelled at you and rushed you to take a shower and get dressed so quickly. I’ll do better next time. I love you two so much.

I know, I know, there are so many ways to parent and many of them go out the window when guilt is laid out on the table. Right after a crazed-mama episode is not my best time for remembering some of those great parenting tips. At that point I’m just confused and guilty and frustrated that I have still not figured out how to get the zen parenting right and my mind is, instead, extremely puzzled at the way in which an adorable five year-old and a delicious seven year-old could possible evoke such a reaction out of me. I mean – I KNOW, and many Facebook friends and also family members tell me, that these two kids are quite special. They are. Oh how clearly I know of their specialness! They are the heartbeat of my little world. And they are also two very important teachers in my life.

I started writing the post above a couple of weeks ago and this Sunday morning was not much different even after a beautiful week of thankfulness with extended family. Today, however, my Sunday Morning Place turned up the joy in me through an incredible voice that was no less than a gift of love as she sang a message that reminded me of the value of the mountains we are offered to climb. She sang the words:

For every mountain You brought me over
For every trial you’ve seen me through
For every blessing
Hallelujah, for this I give You praise.

As she sang the words in a voice that touched the inside of my heart, I closed my eyes and pictured the times in my life when I cried because of a broken heart or stayed up nights worrying about the outcome of a situation or questioned a painful response or struggled to forgive an act of disloyalty or prayed in anguish out of hopelessness, or wept at the loss of a loved one or sank into regret over something I could never redo. I realized that all those mountains I had to climb were gifts. They were blessings, and had I not accepted them, I would not have become this person that I am today. I got better at seeing myself as a human spirit and I got better at seeing others’ beautiful Divine selves through all of their hard stuff. I felt pure joy in the realization that mountains are gifts and it has to become my practice to say “thank you” whenever I am offered mountains, valleys, sandy beaches or smooth-sailing rivers. This journey is my life and my spirit is constantly moving to higher ground.

I am moving to higher ground. EVEN when there are only 21 minutes left to get us all dressed and in the car. Even when I am in my state of unSunday morning and not-so-easy, I’m still on my journey and I have a choice in every moment. The truth is I am not writing this post believing that I will always choose joy and thankfulness from here on out (who would I be kidding?!), but I am writing this post knowing that I do have a choice and whatever I choose still manages to take me higher if I just show up and acknowledge the gift at some point. I may not be easy like Sunday morning, but I could choose to spend the rest of the day restoring my spirit and finding joy and gratitude in the gifts I have been given.

And, hopefully, I will begin my work week with a mindful Monday rather than a manic Monday. Go ahead click on the link and listen and enjoy – you know you want to.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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