Free Hugs and The Art of Burning Like Fabulous Yellow Roman Candles

I’ve always been enamored by idealists, the dreamers. The mind-speakers. The norm challengers and status-quo re-writers. The people of second and 99th chances. The ones who stomp in puddles and sing in the rain while everyone else is inside dry, … Continue reading

Audacious Freedom: Screaming YES ‘Til We’re Breathless

Susan B. Anthony once said about the bicycle, “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” I get that feeling every morning and afternoon as my feet touch pedals, epitomizing that freedom she talked so wisely about in 1896. And tonight, two days in from the dawning of Daylight Saving Time, I’m delighting in this audacious freedom again and again as fresh air fuses with endorphins. A smile creeps up inside of me that simply cannot be held back.
And so tonight, as I’m about to go into my house and say goodnight to another beautiful day of freedom and bikes, something catches me outside for the umpteeth time. Maybe it’s the clear sky above me. Or the fact that I am out here in a t-shirt for the first night after a long winter that developed its own vocabulary (“polar vortex:” who can forget that, and what it feels like).
But I lay here.
I should be preparing for an interview tomorrow.

But I lay here.
I should probably go inside and get proper rest.

But I lay here.

All I can see above me is the moon, this ever present wonder in the sky that shows up night after night to remind us that life moves on, moves forward. 
Stars scatter the sky daring us to notice them, not to show off, but so that we will show up. To be here now. To stop missing the beauty that’s above you, watching over you day after day, night after night.

So I will lay here.

Freedom and life surge through my veins, a restlessness that can only be quelled by uncharted territories and taking chances and by the story that comes from when you start doing the things you’re scared of. When you stop waiting for feelings of confidence and reassurance and do it anyway, unarmed and unfettered. 

There’s no time to waste when all around you, the stars, the birds, the infantile crocus pecking its way through once snow-covered ground each beg your soul to awaken.

And so just for tonight, I won’t care about what time I go to bed.

I won’t frantic over tomorrow.

All I will care about is filling my heart with this Earth, overjoyed by the ability to walk, skip, and jump on it, along with all these beautiful people that inhabit it.

Copyright MO 2012

Copyright MO 2012

I look up at the moon once more. It’s traversed a part of the sky and moved what looks like just a few feet to the left, but indeed it has moved so many more. I try to picture it in the exact spot where it was an hour ago when I first came out here, but it begs me to let it go and stop trying to rearrange life and all of its pieces the way that I want them all to turn out.

   
I’ll let go.
And stay up too late.

And binge on open sky that opens hearts which open mouths and together, we’ll speak from bodies standing tall, hands outstretched screaming “YESSSS!” until we’re breathless.

Copyright MO 2009

Copyright MO 2009

Finding My Voice (and a little pep talk for the young girls out there)

keep the earth below my feetI had a professor in college who taught us about the “principle of leaving and entering,” i.e. one cannot move forward to the next [life stage, opportunity, job, city, destination, you fill in the blank] without making peace with what you’re leaving behind [be it college, your hometown, you get the idea]. At the time, I was dreaming about volunteering abroad after college, and ready to leave behind the America I knew. But what I didn’t realize at 22 is that the next stage of life would be just as much about putting things behind as it would be about pursuing new things.
A couple years after college, I burnt out.
I. simply. Couldn’t. keep. Up.
I lost myself and become bitter and cynical towards much of what I saw around me.
It wasn’t until 2011 that I realized just how many voices of the past were still lingering in my head, like flies in desperate need of a fly swatter. Voices of a spiritual community that said women were to be submissive, to “let their husbands lead.” Churches that said males were to be “pastor, provider, and protector” of his wife. Voices that said being a female pastor was a sin. Voices that made sure everybody knew what Christianity stood against, but left the world puzzled as to what we actually stood for. Voices that tried to rescue souls from hell, while ignoring the literal hells and Gehennas in the world going on right now. Sexual slavery. HIV/AIDS. Extreme poverty. Orphans without homes. Should I keep going?

In 2012, I began a journey towards freedom- freedom of religion, of dogma, of other people’s demands, of paved paradises- into a personal journey of development and enrichment. It’s looked like lots of open spaces, lots of gathering ’round the table over wine and sweets and savories, lots of finding and losing myself on bicycles. In this freedom, it’s as though God took me by the hand to lovingly, but firmly, (because the lesson was too important to miss out on) teach me that the thing about the past is just that. It’s in the past. It cannot hurt you again. It cannot continue to hurt you or frustrate you unless you let those voices zap your energy from the present moment.
For far too long, this woman’s listened to voices of the past that were squelching life, joy, zest for the moment. Alas, I looked myself in the mirror, a good ol’ stare yourself down, straight-up-talk, with a little bit o’ lovin’, and a lot of bit of firmness. I looked in the mirror, and noticed a cynic. Ugh. I hate that word. To me, it’s synonymous with a passive, complaining, do-nothing-to-change-anything kind of persona. So I asked God to silence those voices, the ones that were slowly, painfully, hauntingly taking away my joy, my peace, my resolve, and silence them one and for all, to free me from the people and places and noises that were no longer helping me become the person I want to become. I asked God to change me from cynicism into activism. Hurt into compassion. Bitter to better.

Somewhere in the process, I learned that I don’t need to fight anymore.. not against those voices, at least. A little whisper breathed into my heart,
You’ve been freed.
Let your load feel lighter, your burdens from heavy rocks to little pieces of shiny yellow sand.
Put the boxing gloves down.
Breathe.
You no longer have to defend, nor strive, nor try to make yourself understood.”

I thought it would feel easier. But then I realized that that’s not quite the way it works. The moment you stand for something, there is something you are implicitly standing against. The more and more you become the person you want to be, the voice that isn’t God’s will try to steer you off course. When you become YOU, not someone else’s version of you, you will disappoint people. But let me tell you something, you will become the person you were made to be. The more you will realize that the very people still standing beside you are there because they really do love you, they really do care, and they really do desire God’s peace and love and blessings upon you, not out of pity, nor spite, but out of a selfless kind of love that has found its way through the broken chains of redemption, giving voice and beauty to the very fact that you and I are both humans, composed of flesh and blood, and you and I have both been created in the womb.
I am freed now from what’s been zapping precious energy, and I can’t wait to learn, and love, and do, and grow, and experience with this new found freedom what God can finally place in my life in the thoughts and corners and crevices of my heart that were once holding onto hurt, bitterness, and a seemingly endless desire to be understood. I am free. I can only imagine what will go in those pockets of my heart now. I can love without mountains of expectations or fears of being hurt.
I can express bona fide joy—my smiles will no longer be a veil, hiding a voice that’s afraid of being mistaken as impolite, too afraid to speak up.
I can operate out of a place that points to the horizon and feel alive in my soul, and my bones, and my eyes; to live the story, full and raw, not dependent upon things be one way or another, but ever confident that this risk of living a better story is so much better than living in the choking weight of others’ voices that try to drown out the one true voice of who you want to become.

Go point to your horizon.

MOVE.
You don’t have time to respond to your critics.
You simply don’t have time.
Be you, the REAL you, ALL of you… that’s what the world needs.
Go seek.
Go ask.
Because what I hope that the girls of new generations come  to realize is this: that if ever there was a time for women to rise up and unite, the time is now. Oh yes, I’m thankful for my sisters who gave me the ability to vote. For women who went to college and challenged typical professions. But there is so much work we still must do.

Advocate.
Preach.
Lobby.
Dream. Louder.

May you listen to that one constant in your heart.
May you give voice and flow to all that longs to leap inside of you.
May your songs be peace, may your dance be love, and may your love bring freedom.

Because you have a voice that’s no one else’s.
We’re ready to hear it.

For all “Mankind:” Promoting Gender Fair Language In Everyday Use

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wise,” I read from my morning brushing-my-teeth book: “The Daily Book of Positive Quotations.” What about women? I think to myself.

It’s remarkable how accustomed we are to hearing “men” used generically to mean both “men and women” that we forget how exclusionary is to not include women in our word choices. 

I bike to work and see a man in a white coat portraying a doctor on a billboard for a healthcare company. I turn the other corner, and there is a car parked outside of a gentlemen’s club advertising the club with several  half clad women in bikinis. I cringe, frustrated that often when one stops to scrutinize advertising, you’ll encounter gender mores that give us hints as to how we grow up to believe or assume certain qualities of genders.

It’s amazing how customary it is to see, at times, distinct, dichotomous portrays of male and female “roles” or activities. 

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My Ironman backpack I use each day for my commute- and yes, I did use permanent marker to say “IronWoman.” Photo: MO 2013

Ironman. Savageman. Eagleman. Quarry Man. Hammer Man. Chesapeake Man. These are just six of the many “man” triathlon races in my state. With a name that includes “man” in it, we are subtly suggesting that men are more so the targeted audience for these multisport races than women. We can be hopeful, though, for more gender equity in the sport, as women continue to be a key growth component in the sport – 55% of newcomers identified in this study are female.

When we use the word “man” and correlate it to a typically male-dominated activity (sports), we propel the stereotype of men being encouraged to play sports, while women can simply tag along if they feel like it. 

I hope that these critiques can point out the need for gender-fair language.
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has an excellent resource which provides great food for thought on how to make language word choices more gender equitable in our everyday conversations. I pass this along not to chide anyone for not being “feminist enough,” rather, to offer a platform for discussion about gender fair language. After first reading this, I became acutely aware of examples every single day in which we hear “gender-fied” words which subconsciously divide the two sexes. When we use gender fair language, we affirm the inherit dignity, worth, and value of every person, female, and male. We inspire children to realize that they can be a nurse, doctor, law enforcement officer, teacher, irrespective of one’s biological sex. No one gets left out. Everyone is included. And we realize there is room at the table for all of us- men, women, transgender, rich, poor, black, white, tan, or in between, all loved, all valued, all respected.

www.ncte.org/positions/statements/genderfairuseoflang

choose inclusionary alternatives

Comment below with your questions, comments, or thoughts.

When is the last time you heard someone use “man” or “men” to mean both “men and women?”
When is the last time you heard someone challenge stereotypical norms, such as citing an example of a nurse as male, or an example of a police officer as a female?
Do you think that if the media portrayed men and women in occupations or roles that aren’t “traditional,” we would inspire young girls or boys to pursue their interests (and not what they think they should pursue as a male or female)?

Just a few thoughts before race day about not being silent and changing the world…

Opportunities in life don’t always come for the swift, the fastest. Sometimes opportunities come for those who are willing, who are looking, who are ready. And so, sitting here in this plane listening to the songs that guided me through … Continue reading

Boulder, 2013 ((Transforming Inequality Through Peaceful Rebellion))

“Swatting the air with the back of his hand, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme says he has nothing to say to a group of female cyclists hoping to one day ride in the sport’s greatest race.” That familiar grit returned to … Continue reading

These Plastic Little Veils

Sometimes the way that we do things
Spins circuitously like chipped horses
on brass carousels

Hiding, quieting, yet moving
It’s Like being covered in plastic little veils
Silencing even our shadows
Yet still shadows dance with the light
And swords can turn to ploughshares
if you learn to meld them right

But I won’t wear
These plastic little veils
No I won’t wear these plastic little veils

I tried to stand in your waters
But I always found myself sinking
The view from the shore
Stands still drenched in thick beauty

But I won’t stand here at the edge of not yet
When my soul just aches to dive in
I’ll go way out there
I’ll go Way out there
I’m way out here

They warned of falling off too far
But there is magnetic connection
That spark between water, earth, and sky

And sometimes the only way to find the other side
Is to try
‘Cause there’s a way to leave
Without leaving it all behind

There wouldn’t be a need for lighthouses
If we all stayed anchored to the shore
There is no science and progress
Without posing new questions
So I’ll raise my voice a little louder
And look you in the eye

And I won’t wear
These paper little veils
And I won’t wear these paper little veils

I’ll meet you out here in yellow
And ditch satin white lace
I’ll greet you barefoot in fields of sunshine
No aisles, No false pretenses
Rhetoric has died
All that’s left are a few, simple words embossed in beauty
Sewn together from the heart
Everyone will listen to the sound
of rushing water through mountain cracks
And dance with the fireflies and crickets
We’ll sail away in hot air balloons
And travel the sky

So raise a hand for unorthodoxy
Create peace out of madness
Ask the obedient ridiculous questions
And take off plastic little veils

I won’t sing
Unless I can scream
And I don’t speak
Unless I can shout

‘Cause I won’t wear these plastic little veils
No I won’t wear these plastic little veils

We can love uncovered
Let every word come out

We all will have something to learn
When we lay down our righteousness
And turn in plastic little veils

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