Saturday, May 12, 2018

to work. to live. to love.

I grew up with wide open spaces, coming and going, some of my most vivid memories in transit. Looking out car windows, airplane windows, train windows. Still to this day, every time I fly, I press my forehead against the glass, listen to my favorite music, and almost always cry. Nothing exists 30,000 feet up, it's all blank sky and blurry green, blue, brown earth. All going towards something and leaving something (and always someones) in the disappearing horizon. A literal in between of spaces and even time.

I remember watching for border lines as a small child. Where did this country end and the next begin? It boggled my mind when I couldn't see them. Location was such an essence of human communication: where are you from? Where are you going? Where do you live? But through few square inches of opaque plastic, none of that seemed to really matter.

We fragment the Earth, staking places, giving her names, drawing our identities. She blends, smudges lines, scarred by our enforcement of our boundaries, and still always crossing them with her life and beauty.

As many of you know, our family lived for a year in Kenya in 2012. We moved there truly believing we would raise our family there, just the way I had been. But it wasn't meant to be, for a variety of reasons (which you can find digging back in the archives of this blog).

Living in Seattle has been an immensely important season for us, and one we are so excited to continue. We love the Northwest, we love our friends, our home, our neighbors. We love what we do each day and who we do it with. We have grown into adulthood here, wiser, more content, more sure of who we are and what we want our days to consist of.

But living here has been a daily acceptance of a loss as well. No matter how perfectly Seattle fits us, it remains incapable of filling the part of me that will always belong from somewhere else. Certain times are harder, when the weather and daylight hours are almost the same as Nairobi's, when there is a smoky smell in the night sky that floods me with memories of Limuru and Kawai, when someone asks, "where are you from?" and their eyebrows always raise when I say, "I grew up in Kenya and now I live here."

So many times I've heard people say something along the lines of "we'd do something different, but we're just stuck. It's too late for us now."

And so, as we've put roots down here, and truly relished in the constancy and belonging that only comes with time, we've also kept one eye to the door: how do we make sure we don't get stuck?

And so, about 9 months ago, when I saw a wide open window on my grad school schedule that coincided with the kids summer break, I approached my handsome husband (guys, seriously, he's like a fine wine...better and better with age). "I have an idea...I think we need to go somewhere overseas for at least 12 weeks."

The idea has morphed over time, and it's taken a lot of scrappy thinking, and at least a dozen things out of our control falling into place, but it's finally come together. And here it is: from early July to early September, we will travel through Costa Rica, Colombia, and Peru. The hubby will work in each country for a couple weeks, collaborating with local partners and working remotely on larger projects. The kids and I will spend that time exploring, enjoying one another between two very full grad school years, and learning Spanish.  I'll also continue to develop a research proposal I'm working on, and continue working my Beautycounter business and running our Airbnb from a distance (words cannot express how thankful we are for my flexible income sources; we truly couldn't do this trip without them).

We'll get about a week to vacation in each country, and will do a variety of things, including meeting up with friends in Costa Rica, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, and going to the coffee belt in Colombia. We'll stay in Airbnbs, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and maybe even a hostel or two.

Why are we doing this? Because we want our kids to know this one simple thing: the whole world is a viable place to work, to live, to love. 

In a hundred years from now, our borders will have done one of two things: fortified and caused deeper scarring, or blurred even more as we finally embrace with our Earth already knows - we are all part of one sacred thing: life.

And so we're off. To show that blurred life to our children, to learn from it ourselves, to do our small part in making it more whole, peaceful, and equitable.

Is some part of me scared? oh absolutely. Is there risk involved in what we're doing? you bet. Have I cried over this trip yet? Nope, but I sure will.

But we've never once wondered: should we really do this?

Fear is worth facing. Risks are worth taking. Tears are worth crying.

This trip has not come together easily: there have been so many conversations, going back to the drawing board over and over, thinking it wouldn't happen, canceling reservations, spreadsheets upon spreadsheets, phone calls to teachers, doctors, principles.

But we never let go of the dream when we hit an obstacle. Because we know one simple family value we hold, and one we'll pass down to our kids as best as we can:

the world is worth seeing. people are worth knowing. dreams are worth pursing.

 I hope it's contagious. I hope our trip inspires you. I hope you see it and catch the thought that says, "no way we could do something like that." and I hope you turn that no into a different kind of yes. It might look totally different than what we're doing. But I hope you take risks, I hope you dream big dreams, I hope you blur lines.

Because I know, from 30,000 feet up, sometime over the past 30 years, I've flown over you, my face pressed up against the window. And do you know what I saw? You. Making up the blue, green, brown blur of Earth. You. Borderless, beautiful, full of possibility. You. making the whole world a place to work. to live. to love.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Concentric Circles

"What are you doing, babe?" I whispered sleepily as you tiptoed towards your daddy's dresser at 6:15am.

"just grabbing the hair gel before I make breakfast burritos."

I smiled and rolled over, but couldn't stay in bed much longer, pulled out of bed by the thought of you making breakfast burritos. Sure, there was a bit of concern regarding the eggs shells, gas stove, and cheese to egg ratios, but I mostly got up because I didn't want to miss it. I didn't want to miss my sneak peek into watching you grow from a boy into a young man.

Parenting feels a lot like driving through a series of tunnels to me. There are long stretches of monotony, sometimes feeling disoriented. And then suddenly, we burst into the light and the landscape is totally different.

Sometimes the new landscape isn't so friendly either - the topography of arguing, rudeness, and short-temperedness sometimes makes me wish for another tunnel. But other times, it almost takes my breath away.

I recently began to think of parenting as a series of concentric circles, with the center circle representing the youngest years of our life and the outside circles representing the years we fully become grown-ups. We start together with our children in the very middle, figuring out our small boundaries and fairly simple roles of engagement: you cry, I try to comfort. you cry, I cry, and then try to comfort. You laugh, I laugh. You laugh, I cry.

And eventually we grow to the edge of that small center circle and break through to the next. The thing I've slowly come to realize is that my children lead the break through. They determine when it's time to move from one set of norms in our interactions with one another, to the next.

For years, he wanted sung to while he fell asleep. Today, he rolled over and said, "ugh, not that song again."

For years, he needed me to squirt his toothpaste. Today, my toothbrush was waiting for me by the sink, toothpaste already on.

For years, she needed help with her socks. Today, she walked out of her room, dressed better than me, looked at my outfit and simply said, "nice, mom."

For years, she wanted coaxing and encouragement for the simplest of tasks. Today, I heard a thud in the other room - when I peeked in, she was picking herself up from the floor, "one handed cartwheels for a 5 year old! gotta keep practicing." and went straight back to it.

They burst through the walls of the concentric circles without much warning, and unless the way has been paved for them, they'll go into a free fall - taking me along. It turns out, I'm meant to lay the foundations for the next state of independence and exploration before we get to it. But too often, I forget and we enter free fall. Or, more likely, I miss that you've broken through into the next phase of being your own person and I'm still trying to hold you to the place you have now outgrown.

This feels especially poignant today as I stood hand in hand with middle schoolers at my kids school participating in the #enough walkout to honor the 17 students and faculty who lost their lives a month ago in Parkland, and to voice their simple request, "we want safe schools."

Whether any of us saw it coming or not, the youth of this country have burst (and in some ways been forcibly evacuated) into the next phase of their development. No longer only concerned with college applications, snapchat filters, and 80s-throwback hightops they're also advocating for their own physical safety and feeling a strong sense of responsibility.

I listened to a one of these students today read a poem written by a classmate called "bullet proof teen." It was powerful, eloquent, and one line hit my core (and I apologize to the author for any errors in my recall of exact wording): "we are bloody flesh but we must be kevlar. we must protect the little boys and girls behind us."

They were talking about my little boy and my little girl. I looked around the heart-shaped gathering of tomorrow's leaders, todays self-identified children and change-makers and saw on their faces a willingness to die for my 6yr old and 8yr old who walk the same halls as these teenagers. I stood in silence, feeling the tears at the back of my throat, facing the justified slap those words probably never intended to bring, accepting the fairness of the question it implicitly asked "why weren't you there to defend me?"

We're in free fall, dear ones. We missed it, you and I. The grown-ups, the decision-makers, the money-spenders, the ones intended by creation's design to protect, to prepare for, and to welcome those younger than us as they keep on through life. We missed building the stable footing for our young people and we are all feeling the free-fall, but none more than our youth and their parents.

So what platform will you build today? Are you building a platform that is actually a plank, only wide enough for you and your dear ones? Are you walking on a gated platform that leads to nowhere but more separation from the rest? Or are you using multiple materials, aware you have a critical piece of the platform and the stranger next to you does too?

My husband and I were 2 of 3 adults standing on that heart-shape with students today. We went to simply be there, not to speak, not to control, but just to be.

The rest of the adults present (most of whom were teachers) stood back, taking photos. I truly believe this was out of respect to our youth and their pain, but presence is more powerful than distance in easing pain and absence is not empowerment. My husband talked to two of the MS organizers afterwards, to thank them for their leadership and allowing us to be there. They replied, "thank you for being here, and thank you for being close."

They're paying attention - those sleepy, tousled heads of your own children confidently making breakfast burritos, and those frontal-lobe developing fierce leaders shouting at our elected leaders through loudspeakers. They're paying attention to us, they want us close, and they've burst through to the next circle. I'm right there with them, doing everything in my power to build the platform we should have built years ago, and also looking to what the next circle is and how we can build that platform too.

We can't afford another free fall as a country and unity is the only way to avoid it. Find a stranger, make a friend. Find an enemy, make peace. Find a resource, build a platform. The circle is getting bigger, and I need you next to me because it's too much pain for one person or one generation. But together? I truly believe we have all we need.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

eight square inches

i do not intend
to listen
when you tell me
i cannot
change the world

i ripple impact.

these eyes
have shed a thousand tears
have looked shame in the eye
transforming it to healing grief

these ears
have bathed in beauty
bled from pain
remained open vessels for new learning
maintained slopes pouring growth
to the heart
out through hands
moved to act. touch. heal. push aside.

this tongue
has formed whispers of comfort
launched rockets
of just anger
fought back fear
eaten hope

these lips
have kissed away heart wounds
tasted the sweetest strength found only
in a welcomed lovers skin
curled upwards to the sun
silent power shot across to another
striking loneliness a death blow

this mind
has learned, unlearned, relearned
wrestled with demons in and out
chosen the painful tenderizing of opinion
so perspective never hardens to hate

this heart
has chosen to stand still
instead of flee
to fight and sometimes relinquish
to face defeat but never be
to break wide open
and over
and over

eight square inches of my face
a house for all this
and more

eight square inches of my face
i see infinite

you see flesh and wrinkles
tell my eight square inches
"you cannot change the world."

i respond with silence
a composed canvas

but inside
i reverberate a force
rendering your words hollow

"i already am."

and though you don't see it, i do.
you are too

sixteen square inches.
infinite world changing impact

there is only one difference
to how you and i
change the world

i intend to do it
on purpose

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