Sunday, December 31, 2017


"On days like today, when a new year is on all our doorsteps, I feel so clearly that I have never really known where I am going.  And I think I might be getting old enough to feel okay about that now." SC Lourie

I am fundamentally unsure of how to tell the story of 2017.  So I sought out resources, which ironically is exactly what this entire year is about.  I will tell the story of the last twelve months by utilizing a personal inventory, a map.  It's the only way I know how.  You can find this inventory or yourself at I Love Namaste.  

1. My personal mantra for the second half of 2017 was the word "momentum".  I began the year believing my word for the year was "fill", and a few months into 2017 I couldn't have resonated less with a word.  In May life began to change drastically for my small family and I kept hovering around the word and symbolism of momentum.

2. An epic quality I unearthed in myself this year was my capability.  I began the year struggling to acknowledge my worth and my ability.  I questioned myself, doubted myself, and for a while I allowed myself to remain in multiple situations, which did not bring out the best in me.  Throughout the year, however, I was able to acknowledge in myself a true capability I had not recognized before.

3. In 2018 the epic quality I want to unearth in myself ... is bravery.  

4. In 2017 my favorite self-care practices continued to be lifting weights in the gym, but also a newfound practice of mindfulness.  Through my courses in my graduate program, I was able to access endless information and resources, which helped me incorporate some Mindfulness Practice into mine and Judah's daily life.  

5. I am not sure very many people supported me in my self-care efforts this year.  I honestly feel I used up all my "help" to get through the hectic schedule of graduate school.  If anyone supported my efforts for self-care, it might have been my clinical supervisor.  But also myself.  I was my own best advocate this year in regard to what I needed to regain health or maintain a habit a self-care. 

6. In 2018 I hope to encourage the people I love to risk, to challenge themselves, but also to take care of themselves.  We have learned, by pure accident and despite society's definition, self-care does not look like massages and comfort food. More often it looks like quality time and listening and filling up each other's tanks.  It may look like a change of pace, paying attention, or eliminating distractions.  I hope this year I am able to listen better and anticipate other's needs, especially Judah's.  

7. 2017 was full of events I didn't expect.  My heart has worked long and hard at healing from most of these events, which will remain private.  Fear and loss were ever present demons in the first half of 2017 and the grief that accompanied them permeates most of my early year memories.  However, maybe the third most unexpected event in 2017 was being accepted into graduate school, into the competitive Integrated Behavioral Health program, being awarded a scholarship, and moving home to Winchester for the first time in eleven years.  

8. Noticeable changes, which occurred because of all of these events, include an obvious change in environment for Judah and myself.  For myself I developed an avid and intentional desire to pursue healing and process hurt in a way, which allows me freedom.  Throughout this year I have intentionally studied Buddhism and pursued simplicity and intentionality for both my physical and emotional health and wellness.  Mindfulness and my research on the Buddhist principles surrounding expectation and attachment have elevated me in remarkable ways. 

9. In 2018 I have new tools to handle the unexpected.  Specifically, these tools look like new knowledge and the ability and opportunity to obtain more.  Also the intentionality and continual development of healthy and secure attachments.  Mindfulness and the practice of loving-kindness also allow me to experience life with less judgment.  

10. My biggest health and wellness success in 2017 continues to be my pursuit of strength.  I have continued to research and identify weaknesses in myself, pursuing balance and power in the activities I have engaged in.  

11. My personal style has changed dramatically over the last few years.  In 2017 I sold almost everything I own and this impacted my style dramatically.  Not only my personal wardrobe but the items I choose to exist in my space have been pared down and for both style and practicality's sake, I am selective.  I own very few clothes and have changed the way that I choose products for my hair and skin.  I am more intentional these days and willing to invest, but also willing to go without.

12. This year was not one of clarity.  However, what helped me live in simplicity was when I began to associate simplicity with freedom.  Walking away from our home of four years, selling our belongings, parting with things which served no purpose or held no value has set us up for a freedom I've not been afforded in years. 

13. My top four core values this year are the same ones I teach Judah.  Kindness, bravery, generosity, and curiosity.  I wholeheartedly believe these are fundamental qualities needed for us to be our best selves.  

14. I want to keep all these core values in 2018.  I would like to cultivate creativity and discipline as additional core values in the upcoming year. 

15.Looking back, everyone I have encountered has helped me live out these core values.  Those who love me the most have especially encouraged my bravery and curiosity.  However, I honestly believe Judah has encouraged these qualities in me more than anyone else.  Teaching him what's important has helped to further instill these qualities in myself and held me accountable for exercising them as often as possible.

16. In 2017 I was given a laptop to use for grad school.  I was encouraged to take a risk and was given a sweet gift before it all fell apart.  Just a month later, someone stole that laptop out of the trunk of my car.  I was devastated, felt violated and discouraged, and my great aunt who is also a social worker sent money to me to replace the laptop.  I chose to invest part of that money into refurbishing an old laptop and saving the rest for Christmas for Judah this year.  I am forever grateful for her generosity.  I was shown kindness by Sprint employees, my family, classmates, and coworkers. 

17. In 2018 I can practice kindness by being patient, by paying attention, my affirming with my words, by keeping my word, and by showing up when and how I can. 

18. I don't know how to answer this question... but I will say I experience kindness through thoughtfulness, by being shown I am seen, and through encouragement.  Anyone who has offered an encouraging word, picked up Judah when I could not, bought my coffee, hugged me and let me cry, checked on me, told me to snap out of my moods, or fed me this year is someone for whom I am grateful. 

19, 20, 21. I keep my friends.  For years and years.  I am thankful for the few new friendships I made, and am continuously grateful for the long-standing relationships, which have changed and evolved over the years.  

22. I did not struggle too much in the latter half of 2017 with procrastination.  In the first few months of the year, I experienced an immense amount of hurt and I put off the hard work of healing until May when it all surfaced and had to be dealt with.  The last seven months of 2017 I no longer had room or space to procrastinate and I have healed dramatically due to intentionality and time.  One area I continue to procrastinate in is making changes to my dietary habits in order to obtain some physical healing and wellness.  I also put off going to the dentist/oral surgeon.

23. In 2018 I intend to graduate grad school with a cumulative 4.0.  I intend to find a job somewhere, sell my rental home, and continue to take charge of my physical wellbeing.  I am scheduled to have my wisdom teeth cut out next week.

24. My friends and family who helped me move, who helped repair my home, who helped take care of Judah on nights I had class, helped proof-read papers, and listened to me cry over research projects. 

25.  I did not reduce stress in 2017.

26. In 2017 I felt the most at peace when I pulled out of our townhome for the last time.  I knew it was the right decision and I knew what was coming next was what was right for Judah and me.  I was sad, but I felt an undeniable sense of peace and confidence in my decision. 

27. In 2018 I hope to cultivate calm by generating calm and peace within myself.  I hope to be able to tackle what comes next for us with a greater amount of grace and assurance regardless of the chaos or hardship, which may occur.  

28. In 2017 I felt confident about almost nothing.  I removed myself completely from my comfort zone and threw myself into an environment, which required astronomical amounts of humility and flexibility.  I do remember feeling confident in my interview for the IBH program. I remember thinking, I know how to work with doctors, I know how to be a social worker... and choosing simply to answer questions with honesty and humor.  I was told 24 hours later I had gotten into the program.  

29. I was bravest throughout the process of applying for grad school, quitting my full-time job, selling my belongings, and renting out my house.  That took more bravery and was one of the greatest risks I have taken in years.  I was also brave in walking away from multiple situations and circumstances, which were not best for Judah and myself.  For making the hard decisions for our family, and no matter how long it took me, removing us from anything which intended us harm or did not contribute to our best life.

30. In 2018 I hope to be more confident in my ability as a clinician and as a parent.  I also hope I am confident in areas of interpersonal relationships -- romantic, platonic, community.  I hope I am able to feel confident about what I bring to the table and what I contribute to a relationship as well as what I can hope for myself in the interim.  

31. I am grateful for Judah, I am grateful for my family who has sacrificed space and money to help us this year, I am thankful for best girl friends who live all across the country and answer my panicked texts at most hours of the day and night, I am thankful for a job that allowed flexibility even after I put in my resignation, I am thankful for a gym with childcare, I am thankful for a practicum site with doctors who value my time and experience, I am thankful for a new baby nephew and a baby cousin and a niece on the way, I am thankful for people who spoke hard truth (whether with kind intentions or not) which helped me grow, I am thankful for the College of Social Work, I am thankful for those who left and helped me create space for healing and progress. 

32. Gratitude journaling was particularly helpful this year.  As a mindfulness practice, gratitude helped me alleviate some of the pressures of anxiety and remind me to attend to the present moment. 

33. This year I hope to give back by finding ways to volunteer.  I am hoping to find a community of people we can invest in who could use the skills I have. 

34. The biggest change I have made in 2017 was our entire life.  Looking back, I am nowhere close to the person I was when the year began.  

35. Three qualities I've fostered in 2017 that will help me live an empowered life... are vulnerability, intentionality, and perspective.  

36. In 2018  I hope to graduate in May, take Judah on a vacation, meet my new niece in June, find a Social Work job before kindergarten starts in August.

Bonus: what word captures how you want to feel in 2018? 

I would like to rephrase this question, as I am not sure I want to put so much emphasis on a feeling.

One important lesson I learned in 2017 is the opposite of depression is not happiness.  

It is vitality.  I hope for vitality this year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

deep breathing

He sat there, bottom lip hanging low, eyes red, not what I had expected.

He bent over, rocking back and forth in the chair.  Barely audible voice.

What happens when a child cries and you're not allowed to hold him?

What happens when the world breaks a child early, quietly, for no reason.

And your job is to sit across the table from him and tell him it gets better.

Breathe in, you count one two three four.

Make your belly big, blow it up like a balloon.

Breathe out, count for me.

Let it all go.

This doesn't work, he whispered.

And he's right.

Breathing through it won't make it better.

It won't ease the pain.

But she had said, "pain doesn't like calm".

And I have to believe this.

That within us is a quiet place, and the quiet place protects us from the pain, maybe.

Maybe the quiet place can get bigger, so it's not so hard to find.

And we can run there, when all else goes to hell.


His eyes filled with tears and his face pour with spit and snot.

He wasn't scared of me, just uncomfortable.

I didn't do anything wrong, but could I please stop talking about it?

They wanted a pill to make it go away and I stared at him.

Cracked open.

No facial hair.  No deep voice.  Skin smooth and face full.

She knew what he had been through, she whispered.

She took the pill that made it go all away.

Debilitated, was the word she used.

Her high expectations were clear.  Performance was important.

Paramount, perhaps.

And when we expect so much, when we demand so much, it can eat us.

So little warmth.

Maybe because the world breaks us ruthlessly.

And unless we are surrounded by those who teach us how to rebuild,

Sometimes we stay living in the rubble.

Whole face flushed and wet, he rocked.

And my arms hurt.

Do I want that role?  The role that can't comfort?  The role that can't soothe?

How do I learn how to soothe, provide relief, in any way except for listening.

Deep breathing doesn't make the pain go away.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

gun control

"I have the right to protect myself and my family how I choose".

"The only answer to a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun".

"You'll be thankful for people who carry when you're in a situation where your life is being threatened".

"It's not a gun problem".

"You can't take my rights away". 

"Criminals are obtaining guns illegally so changing legislation won't stop them anyway".

"Now is not the time to politicize human suffering".

These are just a sample of the statements I've heard, read, and listened to from people over the past couple of days.

I am infuriated.

I woke up Monday morning to the news that another mass shooting had occurred.

My first inclination was to be frustrated because so many people were already mourning and "praying" and asking how to help, while they'd been ignoring Puerto Rico for a week.  How, I will never understand, do we grieve harder for those who are victims of violence than we do for victims of natural disasters? How do we mourn the things we can prevent when things out of our control are terrorizing us as well?  It seems misplaced.  But I digress.

My second inclination was to sit back and listen because I knew we didn't know the whole story yet.  I knew narratives would begin to be spun and rumors would spread and facts would be misconstrued so I waited.

And it happened that way.

Now we know some of what happened, although my gut tells me we will never know the whole truth.

But what has grown out of this is another debate about guns.

And I have had it.

Had it up to my ears.

Here is why.

At the end of a week where everyone fought and condemned others for kneeling during an anthem, prioritizing a piece of cloth and a song written for the British, we are now prioritizing pieces of metal over human lives.

Hear me out.

I am a solutions woman.  I believe in finding answers and implementing interventions.  I don't want "I'm sorry"s when I don't feel well.  I want answers.  I want remedies.

So during a tragedy like this, I 100% do not have patience for thoughts and prayers.

They are useless unless they are married to action.


Not because God isn't real.  Not because I don't believe in a higher power.  Not because I'm telling you not to believe in Jesus or rely on your faith.


Sitting back and doing nothing is more than likely how a 64 year old man got through a high security hotel to the 32nd floor and set up an arsenal of illegal weapons and murdered almost five dozen people and traumatized hundreds.

I am being engaged, just barely, by people from the pro-gun side of the argument who are saying on a loop the list of statements I shared already.

"We don't want mental health restrictions because what if I felt depressed a few years ago, but don't feel depressed anymore."  


"don't you think Bipolar Disorder is a little bit of a gray area?" 


"we already have to jump through hoops. We already have to get background checks, what more do you want?"

But when I flip the script and ask for solutions, no one has any for me.  "Okay then, so what's the answer?"


Except for the article I read this morning, which suggested it's not a gun problem, it's a heart problem.

It's not that America has a problem with guns, the article said, its that we don't have Jesus in our hearts so we can't behave right.  We can't act right because morals are driven by religion and despite what the Left believes, moral code cannot exist without a religious framework.  The author believes we are falling apart because we've deviated from our "religious" foundation.

When I ask for solutions I am blocked, comment threads are deleted, and the loop sets back in motion.  \

"It's not a gun problem!"


Is it not?

This is all being categorized and labeled as a problem with the Left.

We politicize everything.

Because as I'm learning, politics is a bad word.

We don't want it in our sports.  We don't want it in our schools.  We don't want it in our gun safes.  We don't want it in our healthcare.  We don't want it in our entertainment.  We don't want it in our mourning.

Unless we want it to control your marriage or your vagina or your uterus or your wallet or your Visa.

Then we want politics.

Otherwise, leave politics out of this.

To some, advocacy and policy are mutually exclusive to compassion and empathy.

In my world, you cannot advocate well without empathy and empathy on a macro level is worthless without advocacy.  In my world.

So here's my question.

Because I refuse to entertain the idea that our forefathers who were imperfect men, slave owners, rebels, and newbies to the whole policy thing.... knew everything.  Refuse to accept they could write an everlasting, eternal, flawless document.

This is where I laugh out loud, since there are amendments.  

Americans were afforded a right, centuries ago, and they're getting defensive about it.  They don't want their rights to be taken away.

So my question is,

Am I supposed to just pray?

Send Judah to school every morning and pray that everyone's heart would be pure and Christ-like so that no one makes a dangerous decision?

Take him to the movies on Christmas and pray no one is so depressed on the holidays that they take others lives and their own?

Just pray about it?  Pray for the hearts of America and sit back and let you have your guns, with no accountability?

People are going to hurt people.

People are imperfect.  I'm beginning to believe people actually are evil.  That we err on one end of the spectrum or another and the more I see and the more I learn, the more the dark parts of people are apparent to me.  People will use whatever is available to them to wreak whatever havoc they can on whomever they can.

I do not trust strangers to have mine and Judah's best interest in mind in case of emergency.  

I do not trust people to not be irrationally afraid of my big, brown child.

I do not trust people to not use poor judgement.  

I do not trust people to aim well.

Making guns illegal is not the answer.

But ask yourself something.

Why do you want your guns?

I read where someone argued that she uses her guns to hunt for food.  And that this was her only source of sustenance and gun control would ruin her livelihood.

I've heard some complain that the government can't control us that way.

I've heard some say they trust themselves so much with their weapon they trust that in the middle of crisis they'd turn into Rambo and save the day.

I've heard them say they have guns for fun.

Why do you want your guns?

How do you feel when we talk about making guns harder to get, or holding you accountable for owning one?

I am sure there are extremists out there who want guns eradicated.

I am a realist.

This is not my agenda.

But since I'm asking you for a solution, I will also offer mine.  Because while waiting for the NRA, second amendment proponents to answer me... I've been met with silence.

1) background checks.  I understand this is already in place.  I want it enforced.  By every seller.  And for sellers who don't enforce it to somehow be persecuted.  I am not educated enough on this piece and have no problem admitting that.
2) mental health clearance.  I understand HIPPAA law better than most.  Doctors should have to issue a letter of clearance, without divulging PHI, in order to obtain a firearm.  We have to have physicals for work.  Drug test for work.  Be licensed to drive a car and held accountable when we don't maintain these requirements.  Someone with persistent mental illness should not be allowed to obtain a firearm.  This is not the same thing as situational depression or even generalized anxiety.  Educate yourself.  Find a balance.  I also stand firm that in order to be a LEO you shouldn't have persistent mental illness either.  But that's another story.
3) situational awareness, crisis intervention, cultural competency and deescalation training.  yearly.
4) a gun safe required for gun, at registration.  Maybe even trigger locks
5) no assault, automatic or militarized weapons

If you want to argue that this would increase the occurrence of illegal gun sales and the black market, I would also argue that the same thing is happening currently with the war on drugs but you don't want to do anything to change that.

When you're ready to legalize a few street drugs, let me know.

I have zero patience for inaction.

I have zero patience for the double standard.

You can pray all you want for the hearts of Americans who aren't behaving.

But there is reliable evidence that Philandro Castile had a conceal and carry.  And you saw what happened to him.  To bear arms is not every man's right.  This is the white man's right.

I do not feel more safe knowing that white men and women are carrying firearms everywhere we go because they feel afraid.

The same way you shouldn't spank a child when you're angry, you shouldn't be wielding a weapon when you are afraid.

You should be held accountable for your skill when you are in possession of something that was designed to take the life of another human being.

You should be held accountable.

If you are resistant to being held accountable, then you are the problem.

If it's a heart problem, America, how do you propose we fix it?

If it's not a gun problem, it's a people problem, what's your solution?

Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Doing nothing is killing us.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Grad school has made me realize one thing so far.

Maybe two.

1. I don't want to be a therapist

This is the thing I know for sure.  Maybe I'll change my mind down the road, but some really important parts of myself are sleeping right now and I want the tools that therapists use in my toolbox.  But I don't want to work solely in an office.

The other thing I've realized is something I'm trying to process.

But it sounds a little something like this:

I want to be with people who are alive.

I am so drawn to people who are vivacious.

I don't mean people who are money hungry.  I don't mean people who are pursuing fame.  I don't mean people who are popular on social media.  I don't mean people who are desirable.  I don't mean people who can wear white without getting dirty and

I mean people who are absolutely thriving.

Who are you?  The ones who are taking risks.  The ones creating art.  The ones loving each other well.  The ones deliberately and diligently working towards a goal.  The ones who think -- who deeply think and consider and contemplate.  The ones who fight.

There's so few out there.

So few people living their best life.

So few people you can engage in a meaningful conversation, leaving you full and satisfied and hungry at the same time.

The people who spark something inside of you, which pulls at your mouth and fills your eyes up with light.

When I think about who I want to end up with one day, the man I'll call husband, these are the qualities I think about.  Is he the kind of man who can problem solve? Is he the kind of man who makes people feel better when he walks in the room?  Is he the kind of man who sets standards for himself and his family?  Is he the kind of man who has a global perspective and is attuned spiritually?

I want to be those things as much as I seek those attributes in other people.  Friends, lovers, partners, colleagues.

I am in learning mode.  Everything I've been experiencing lately has been due to a desire for more knowledge and better understanding.  Whether it's graduate school, my practicum, sexuality, mobility, mindfulness, vulnerability and rising strong, and holistic health.

There is so much I don't know.  I am so acutely aware of the distance between where I am and where I want to be.  So sensitive to the disparity.  Brene Brown calls this curiosity.  Ironically, the way we become curious and increase our desire for knowledge is by becoming aware of how much we do not know. And curiosity, it turns out, changes our brain chemistry.

Community has all but disappeared for me over the last six years.  But I know now, when it's time to rebuild and reinforce my tribe, the sort of people I'm pursuing.  

I come alive when listening to other people talk about their passions.  When I can share in someone's enthusiasm.  When I can learn from you, I am enthralled.  When I can teach you, I am delighted.

I am looking for those who can join me on whatever journey comes next -- who can have a beer and dance with me at night and talk with me about our life's purpose and dreams and push me to take care of my body and work alongside me as we care for others.

They're lofty expectations.

I can't wait to meet you.

Friday, September 8, 2017


took me by surprise.

but also im not surprised.

just here.

we are here.

it makes sense and somehow, i think i just blinked.

deep breath, somehow i am here.

on the other side.

i am declaring this: the other side.

whether it wanted to be or not.

whether fate intended for it to be so or not.

i am saying so.

may it be so.

Monday, September 4, 2017


I think I've told you this story before.

It was so long ago now that it doesn't feel like mine to tell, but I'm here to try.

I'm also here to tell a new story.  One I've not strung together before.  But I'm here to tell the truth, as true as I know it to be, and I am scared.  As Anne said... "if people wanted us to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better".


It was over seven years ago.  When we ventured down Second Street together for the first time.

Miranda and I remember stopping at one particular house with all the squeals and barking coming from inside.  The sound of frantic footsteps pounding, screen door creaking as it was thrown open.

I ended up with a child in my arms that night.

We evolved from a tiny group in a clinic on Lexington's east side, to throngs of people on Tuesday nights.  To dozens-- almost a hundred some nights -- of children on Friday nights.

We delivered food.  Furniture.  Played kickball.  Ate pizzas.  Told stories.

Every time there's a tornado siren i remember sitting there, with all of them, feeling the most protective I've ever felt in my life.  Remember David driving the truck.  Remember standing in the gravel with Marcus.  

I remember when the cars got broken into.

I remember getting chased out of houses.  

I remember attending graduations.  

Goodness was there.  Goodness is still there.  Relationships were built and foundations were laid.

But we didn't know better.  Because we weren't asking the right questions. And we weren't asking the right people.   I didn't know that back then.

I just remember when things started to not feel so pure.

I ended up leaving. One of the first to do so. In the middle of a storm, when it hadn't rained on a Tuesday night in years.

I begged who I knew to be God.  There had to be another way than leaving.  Leaving felt like abandonment.  It felt like a cop out.  It felt like failure.  But staying felt wrong too.  What I had watched happening around me was no longer harmless.  Most were not doing the right thing for the right reasons anymore.  Most did not understand the implications of their beliefs and actions.  Most did not understand the systemic racism and bias and covert prejudice we were engaging in.

But the God I knew back then was shutting doors.  He was redirecting traffic, and that last night he let the heavens open and let me know, at least for now, I was done there.

It was not my place to engage in the power struggle.  And it was not my place to watch grassroots overtaken by agenda or corporate organization.  It was not my place to pretend I could save anyone.  And all the helping we were doing was hurting.

I didn't leave everywhere though.

Earlier in the year I had started a practicum with a local non profit agency.  I had been helping all year, in the after school program, in and out of the school systems, and we held camps that summer.

I remember crying in the car with him, after a particularly hard day.

I remember tables being flipped.

I remember cocaine being cut.

I remember spelling words that somehow changed my life.

I remember lessons about leadership I teach my own child to this day.

Coming around the bend was my last year and a half of undergrad work.

Everything I knew about culture and race and poverty and outreach and being a helper would soon be tested.  Would be challenged.

Every ounce of privilege I have would be exposed.

It would take meeting people who'd lived the lives the children were currently living for me to understand.  It would take falling in love with people who had lived this journey but did not need my help.

It took me laying next to him on the floor on fourth of July that summer, to know the true need.

It took me traveling to the another country and watching with trepidation and... disgust... as I realized we were well-intentioned voyeurs.

I have so many stories.  They're swollen inside of me right now.  Hurt, to the touch, as I walk through the memories lacing this together.

He is why I am here though.  Eight or nine years old.  Riding down Second Street on a RipStik with his little brother, with an identical haircut, trailing along behind him.  

It's scary to tell the truth.

I was seeking.  And hurting, deeply.  I was alone.  And I was young.

Bad things happened.

I was overlooked and thrown around and turned down.

And in January of 2012 I found out I was having my son.

It wouldn't be long after that that I was asked to leave.

The one place I had left.  Where I had chosen to invest myself.  Where I had found a home.  They no longer needed me.  They no longer wanted my help or influence.  They no longer respected me.

This hurt me worse than anything had previously.  I was lost without my family and felt like, again, I had failed my kids.

But my focus had to shift.

To graduating.  To having my son.  To being a single parent.  To providing for us.

I became determined that my child would not ever be labeled an at risk youth by any sort of white helper who came barreling through the door.

I moved into... or as close as I could get... to the neighborhood I had once worked in.  And familiar faces showed up at my door.

They met Judah.  And my heart burst, having them there together.

Sat on my back porch and ate popsicles.

Sat on my front porch and ate cookies.

Rode through the neighborhood on bicycles and I got to listen when they taught each other about leadership.

One by one, familiar faces moved away and landlords increased rent and people were driven out of the neighborhood and I had fraternity boys and single, childless women for neighbors again.

It was last year that I felt this raging passion and desire to become involved again.  To participate in meaningful work.  I was working in a job, which gave little fulfillment, and I had just ended a horrible cycle of interpersonal violence and abuse.  I searched my heart for the last right place and mustered all my humility.

I reached out to someone in the area who was in charge of a non profit which works with single moms.

Could I help? Did I have anything to offer?

I was responded to with more venom than I knew was possible.

Her women were God's children.  And I was a quitter, she said.  She remembered I had issues.  And she wouldn't let me hurt them.

Without knowing the whole story, someone had looked at the timeline of my life and just assumed that I left whenever I got bored.

Not knowing the power and control taking place, the hurting, the enabling, the exercise of privilege had been what pushed me to the door.

Not knowing I had been asked to leave.

Somehow, as a single mother of a beautiful child, I was not God's child.  But her single mothers were.

Something in my heart closed.

I ventured into a job where there was promotion but also so much distrust.   No one trusted my voice anymore.  No one trusted my leadership.  No one trusted my intuition.  I began to believe not only was I not wanted, I was not capable.

However, I continued to learn more and more about how deeply the systemic injustice was rooted in our culture.  I learned about the hard conversations.  I learned what it means to advocate.  I learned to listen.  The part of my heart that hated what was going on so many years ago... it grew.  I became more passionate about killing the idea of white saviors.  I paid attention to those who thought Jesus could save the Black people but voted a tyrant into office.  I paid attention to who pushed back against Black Lives Matter but quickly hashtagged the support for the blue lives.  I paid attention to people who used the word "obey" and "division" and those who made subtle implications about the broken world and its need for us and Jesus to save it.  I paid attention to whole congregations and staff who were complicit with their silence.

I paid attention to who used pronouns like "they".

And I sorted through my own shit.  The part of me that felt defensive, the part of me that felt hurt.  I had my own to work out.  I had to get to a point where I recognized how what I had done before was not helpful.  How I had contributed to the problem.  I was trying.

How to raise a sweet brown boy into a strong brown man.  How to protect him from wolves in sheep clothing.

This week there was a mama who couldn't protect her baby.

And that's why I am here.

She was the mama seven years ago who expected, required, her boys to ask permission before they left the house.  They had curfews.  They were grounded.  They were disciplined.  The two of them had matching haircuts and he... he rolled up and down Second Street on a ripstik with no shirt on.  We love him.  

And Saturday night, his life was taken.  

And I was catapulted back into a memory space where everything aches.  

There are times, with all its dysfunction, that season is still my last right place.  The last place I felt whole.  Because of them.  Because of children like him.

But I have learned so much since walking those streets.

These last two days I've done nothing but mourn my mistakes.

My inability to learn and stay simultaneously.

Mourning the time with them I lost.

Mourning my hesitation to take initiative in certain ways.

Mourning what was ultimately maybe not the right decision but was the only and hardest one.

Mourning that I've never found my way home.

Mourning that as I watched a community respond I still hear the same...

"you need us", "let us help save you", "let us help fix you". 

I made mistakes.  I should have said fuck them all and stayed.  I should have been more brave.

I shouldn't have let the opinion of a few, separate me from the ones I love.

I should have been creative and courageous and I was not.

I was not.

Because the one truth I have learned in the last seven years is that at risk children, the urban poor, don't need me.

I cannot save anyone.

I can educate people.  I can advocate.  I can fight.  I can lobby.

I am an ally.  I am an advocate.  I am a friend.  A sister.  A listener.

But I am not a hero, because that's not what anyone needs me to be.

They don't need me to take pictures of them for likes.  They don't need me to make a production of our relationship.  They don't need things.  They don't need me to announce our time together.  And they don't need me at all if I refer to them as the work I do.

But we needed each other.

We needed each other and I let others get in the way.  I let myself be edged out because I believed the lie there was not room for me.  I believe the lie that whoever God is had placed love in my heart but it was not as good as what the next person was contributing.  That because I do not have the privilege of flexibility in my schedule and I do not have the privilege of having no bills or because I have not had the privilege of turning my passion into a job... I wasn't welcome or wanted.

I let myself believe that one or two people's hatred could be enough to keep me away.

I needed the time.

What I've accomplished in the last six years has changed who I am and it has changed my heart.

Redemption is a thing all its own, where even the wrong decisions, even the pain, can transform us.

I needed that time.

But I can still mourn what was lost.

And tonight... I am mourning him.

Mourning a life lost so young.  Mourning everything he won't have the opportunity to be.  Mourning his joy.  Simultaneously mourning and celebrating his bravery and courage.  Mourning a precious life lost.  His precious life.

Mourning I wasn't there for him. Not because I could have saved him.  But because I truly loved him.

Truly loved so many I've lost in different ways.

I don't want to make the same mistakes again.

Falling for the lie that what I have is not wanted.  The love I give is not needed.  That the opinion of a few should be able to drive me away.

The memories hurt tonight.  Exposed nerves.  What does grief do to us when you are grieving not just life lost but life missed?

How do we make it better?

I could sound like my child and say, "I have no idea".  Which would be the truth.

Monday, August 14, 2017

movement pattern

My spine is crooked. 

It started curving some time in my childhood, first one way, then another, then twisting another way.  A dangerous way.  It pushed my heart and lungs against my ribcage and the only way we knew anything was wrong, was the twisting disfigurement. 

I was thirteen years old when we went to the hospital to have x-rays done and I was scheduled for surgery--urgently--for a month later. 

I have a scar running the length of my back and two rods on either side of my spine, holding it in its new position.  Straighter than before.  But not actually straight by any means. 

I was given a few days of healing in the hospital, a few days of physical therapy, and I was sent home with a few exercises printed on a piece of paper.  Some weight restrictions.  Lots of activity restrictions.  And appointments for the next few years. 

They prepared me to be able to function again.  Right in the middle of when I was learning about living at all.  But they didn't prepare me to function well.  I was just so thankful to not be as disfigured as I had been, I didn't think I needed more than I was being given.  More preparation, more healing, more therapy.

It would be ten years before I'd ask for those things. 

But what's hard about asking for those things, is the sharp left turn you must take.  The sharp left turn which leads you into difficult territory.  The hard work of starting over.  The hard work of resistance. 

And so much pain.

The body is a master at compensation. 

The body is designed to operate.  Almost no matter what.  It's designed in a beautiful way to make up for where and what we lack.  The dangerous part though is we grow used to operating this way.  Sometimes we compensate in such a way we don't quite notice what's going wrong.  Maybe we don't even feel like something is wrong.

Until it hurts. 

Like a car with alignment that's off. 

Until the tire's tread starts wearing unevenly, until we start veering in the wrong direction, we don't even realize something is amiss.

And it took me closer to fifteen years to find the answers I needed.

The heartbreaking part is I can't fix what's broken.

The empowering part is that I can do more than just function.

That's this journey.

Following the continuum from functioning to optimal functioning. 

Whatever my optimum may be. 

In the training world, mobility and soft tissue work is now my prescription.

There's an expert in the field who I turn to for teaching and in an instructional video the other day he put a lacrosse ball under his back and laid down.

Wriggling around he said, "find the ugly and go to work".

He was, of course, talking about tied up tissues and locked up mobility.  Teaching us to find where it hurts and put pressure there, help increase blood flow there, loosen the knots there.

But I heard it differently.

Pema Chodron says, "when we are willing to stay even a moment with uncomfortable energy, we gradually learn not to fear it".

This is becoming my truth.

When I find something that hurts, when I discover a way in which I am not functioning properly, and I am willing to get down and find the ugliness... if I'm willing to sit with it, to breathe through the uncomfortable, to exhale through the hurt, that's where I'm going to find healing.

Kelly Starrett, the resident expert on this subject of mobility and soft tissue training, also reminds us that we can do work all day long but if we do not correct the errant movement pattern we are just treating symptoms.

If we don't change the way we move, we're going to keep having symptoms to treat.

If we don't change the way we move, the body is still going to compensate and we are still going to hurt.  We are still going to have pain.  We are still going to have tight muscles and sore tendons and inflamed joints and broken hearts.

Changing our movement patterns is painful in a way that recovering an injury isn't.

We have to take off all the weight.

We cannot change our movement pattern and expect to be able to bear the load we carried before.

We have to reestablish balance.

And we have to move slowly.

What's done must be done with intention because we must retrain.  We must defy the pattern which is instilled as automatic.  What we want to do, what we are inclined to do, is not what must be done.

We have to nearly start over.

Humble ourselves and become a beginner again, hoping that moving forward we will find a way to function in wholeness.

That even though it hurt before, we can find a way to move which causes less pain.

We can find a way to move, which is more truth that adaptation.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


I can feel the undertow pulling at my ankles.  If I'm not careful, I will look up and be yards away from where I started.  If I'm not careful, what's moving beneath the surface will carry me far away from where I thought I was.

Everything around me swells, rises, exhales.  Taking my body with it.  I can see the wave coming, building farther out, rising in a way that prepares me.  But then it changes and the crests are closer.  They rise higher, they crash harder.  Instead of cradling, water pushes.  Pushes from above, tugs below.  Before long there's not enough time to catch a full breath before the next wave broadsides me.

Looking up, variations of blue and gray and salt expand each way I turn.  Dragging feet through the water, grit slipping over and under my feet, pulling away.

I'm hit head on, towed away.

How long could this last?  Fighting against the body to move, to stand, indistinguishable tears fall.

Whatever compels me to turn, to move shoulder and face away from the wavelength.  But I cut through, tossed as I go, and rest against what is now behind me.

I am carried.

I breathe.

The farther back I rest, the gentler what carries me becomes.

The submission, maybe, was what it was after.

What was all gray now breaks.  The end of it comes.  Rising up beneath my feet, still pulling, still dragging, but also rising.  What's around me encloses, also propels.  Still with the power.  But  without the fight.

And I am delivered.  By the thing I thought would destroy me.  Delivered home.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

prescribed burn

It was a couple months ago, I guess.  Judah wasn't feeling good and so I took him out to the arboretum to get some sunshine and fresh air.  We pulled in and there was a large sign warning about a prescribed burn.  Don't call the fire department, the sign warned, this is a controlled fire.  

As Judah and I walked around the park, a memory flickered to the forefront.  Ethiopia, seven years ago.

We were down country.  In a part of the world where there were no city lights to block out the stars.  Sitting outside, listening to drums and hyenas.  I remember looking up at the mountains and noticing they were on fire.  Don't worry, Jake had said.  It's a controlled burn.  They set the mountain on fire on purpose to clear all the dead brush and leaves so that in the dry season there's less danger of a natural fire causing damage.  It's preventative.  It's on purpose.   

If you were to research prescribed burns, you'd learn that after a fire the soil is richer than it was before.  You'd learn it yields greater crops the next time a field is planted there.  You'd learn fires are prescribed as a way to prevent greater destruction.  To heal, to increase vitality.

Our seasons need a name.  Our experiences need a name.  Often I seek metaphors to as a way of coping.  This is my way of identifying a struggle in order to move beyond it, to rise above it.  I've often compared the seasons of my adulthood to the seasons of a garden.  Often woefully complaining about the tilling season or the fallow season.  I latched on to this particular metaphor, probably because at the end of it is a harvest season.  At the end of the cycle is a season of abundance.  So if I'm enduring the weeding and the hoeing and the dormant years, a harvest is coming.  I believe in cycles.  Avidly.  

But I always have felt like my cycle got reset prematurely.  Maybe I had a harvest season or two, but they were short lived.  And there I'd be, right back digging up roots and rocks.  

Last year my sister's neighbor's house burned down.

For months and months this shell of a house sat charred and ghostly on their block.  Catching mine and Judah's eye every time we went to visit.  

Until one day we came and it was gone.

Torn down, there was a hollow space on the block now.  Like a missing tooth.  Foundation dug up.  Dirt turned over.  Debris removed.  Ready to be rebuilt.  

It stopped me dead in my tracks that day.  

I am sitting in our room in the back of the Long Avenue house.  This room hasn't been a bedroom in ten years this month.  Now, what little I have left to my name is stacked on the shelves.  Judah's laying beside me asleep right now, as the window AC unit kicks  on and off.  I think it's sunny outside, but it's dark back here.  And I am just sitting.

For the first time in weeks.  I let myself sit still.  So it all caught up.

Rapidly, engulfing.  I slowed down and the wave crashed down.

I rented out my house this week.  Our first home.  The place we've laid our heads for the last four years.  The safe space I built for us.  I handed the keys to someone else on Friday night.

Friday night, when the skies opened up and the torrential rain poured.

Poetically inconvenient, Larry said, that it would pour the rain again.  It did this when I left the hospital last year, when I left Lighthouse, when I left east end.  Rain came, to wash everything clean.

Before leaving, I sat on the floor of the little townhouse and I thought about praying.  I tried not to cry.  I tried not to imagine other people's belongings filling our old space.  And so I just sat, for less time than I thought I would take, and soaked it all in.

I willed every heartbreak to stay put.  Every tear shed.  Every moment of fear, every moment of lack, every moment of uncertainty, every moment of abandonment, every moment of and rejection. Stay there.  Stay where I leave you, I pleaded.  All the loss, buried there.

I prayed it would remain.

We walked out and locked the door behind us and ran into the rain.  I told the new tenants about the light switch that controls the outlets and the way the back door sticks in the summer time and about the kids in the neighborhood who don't watch for cars.  And we left.

That's the thing about prescribed burns.  In the words of my professor, sometimes we have to experience a measure of pain to preserve our function.  Theoretically as people we live in the tension between enhancement and preservation, and the tension can be painful.  The tension smolders as the flames lick up all the debris left behind by the ones who could not stay, by the fears that bog down our feet, by the dreams fallen heavy from our shoulders.  

It was time to start over.

The intentional deconstruction of our life has depleted me the last few months.  To look at what you've built, and to say definitively it is no longer enough, it no longer serves its purpose, and begin to un-build takes a strength I am still not sure I have.

A methodical deconstruction of every measure of stability and every construct of security I had worked so hard for over the last five years.

But we had to.

What we had built was not big enough for the life God wants for us.  What I had built was not bad.  It was not insufficient.  But it had carried us as far as it could.

So after months of being picked apart by a professional community who did not value me, I took a risk.  I asked to be seen.  I asked for an opportunity.  I asked for the privilege to learn again.

And it was granted.

I was seen.  And heard.  And valued.  And accepted into graduate school.

A one year full time program.

Then I asked for another opportunity.  I stepped up to the plate and advocated for my family and handed over the tools I had obtained over the years, asking quite cautiously if they could be of any use here?

And the door was thrown wide open for me.

Come, they said.  We could use you.

A one year full time program with the College of Social Work at UK.  Accepted into a competitive program for Integrated Behavioral Health and placed at a local pediatricians clinic system to help provide mental health services to young children.

Classes started at the beginning of June.

So I quit my job.  I resigned from the professional community, which had left me worse for wear after  seven or eight short months.  My last day is this Thursday.

I do not have another full time job lined up.

I do not have another part time job lined up.

I sold almost everything we own, except what can fit in a 5x10 storage shed.

I rented out our house to a young married couple.

And Judah and I moved back to Long Avenue Tuesday night.

For one year.

For one year we are going to live as simply as possible and I am going to work as hard as possible.

Because the fire came.

It came and it has been burning everything since.  Smoldering and licking through the forest floor, destroying whatever was of no use.  Whatever served no purpose.  Taking it all, with very little mercy.

To make us safer.  To make us stronger.  To make us more alive.

everything is still hot to the touch.  tendrils of smoke are still rising and the air is heavy with the smoke.  

And then the rain came too.

Friday, June 23, 2017



And here we are.

I didn't think we'd get this far, and there's a small part of my doubting heart that wonders if Thursday will ever come.  But it's Tuesday.  It'll get here.

Our apartment is starting to get boxed up and I'm remembering back to the last time I boxed everything up.  When I was pregnant with Judah.  And all I had was a bed.  And moving to a small apartment with more than one room was an improvement.  The hard, big decisions I had to make to provide for Judah. 

Despite how heavy, chaotic, stressful it all feels, I look at my life and realize we have not regressed.  I say this with trepidation since I don't want to eat my words.  But I think it is ok, from time to time, to be wildly proud of yourself.  To look and see that we have kept moving forward, despite all the harrowing attempts to keep us still.  To pull us down. 

And so last year was a move from a one bedroom studio to an apartment without a washer and dryer.  I will be sad to leave this place, knowing this was Judah's first home.  Fourteen months we lived here, and he won't ever remember it.  Much like I don't remember living on Redding Rd with Larry and Tamera over twenty years ago.  But we were there.  And we are here, for just a few more days. 

Until we go to this new place.  The first place we might stay indefinitely. 

Deep breath, sigh. 

I don't know what comes next.  As do all things in our lives, it teeters precariously and I know one strong wind in the wrong direction and it all comes tumbling down.  But I do know I drove past yesterday, the empty place that waits for us.  And my soul stirred a little.  Maybe I imagined it.  Maybe I made it all up.  But I heard the good things are coming. 

This is entirely counterintuitive for me, because this entire time I have struggled with the idea of making such a huge decision and cementing Judah and myself in our current situation.  We are now immobile.

And there is little to no room for his baby clothes. 


I started writing this a few weeks ago and stopped... ran clean out of words.  We are moved in now, to the new place.  Most of the boxes are unpacked and sit empty by the kitchen door, and it warms my heart a little to know I have a house with a kitchen door.  But I can't quite get rid of the boxes yet because I don't know that we've really accepted this new home.  We're not going anywhere. 

Deep breath, sigh.

Life has hit us hard, fast.  It has been unkind the last few weeks and we have had to fight, scrappy.  If ever I wondered if my character was to have gumption, it has now been tested.  Can my lungs hold that much air, that much survival, can my shoulders bear this much weight?  It has all been tested. 

And here we are, so there's something to be said for that.

It feels a little like pouring brownie batter.  A little like the shaking it takes to even out the chocolate and meet the edges of the pan.  Just a little like that.  Spread thin, all shaken up. 

Or a little like living in someone else's house, in a hotel room.  Except I have to make the beds. 

It doesn't smell like us yet.  And I haven't figured out how to sleep through the night yet, even though Judah has. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I feel obligated to be here.

When all the words have dried up, I do my best to return at least once a year.  For review.

But I feel like I just wrote last year's words.

And I sit here at Starbucks, eyes welling with tears as I read them--the old words.

Desperately wanting to reach out to 28 year old Anna and whisper lots of things and help bolster her, steady her, for what would come next.

I thought I had been through hell then.  I thought, and though it wasn't untrue, it wasn't over.

Tears are hot under my eyes.  29 year old Anna is afraid to hope it's over.  Afraid to hope that the storm has died down.

If I look at the pattern of my writing for the last few years, I can now see the waves.  One after the other.  Ready to crest and crash and push me under and try and steal my breath.  Ready to take away my footing.  Thank God we can only see this in hindsight.  Thank God we only know how hard it will be looking back.

A hard life is not a bad life.

When I left my job last year I knew it would be hard.  I didn't expect anything easy.

But did I know it would be one of the most traumatic years of my life?

I didn't.

I knew I would have to work hard and I knew I was taking a risk and I knew we'd get where we needed to be.  But I had no idea the turns we'd take.  No idea how the waves would crash one after the other.

Naively I had believed it wouldn't get worse ever again.  I believed we'd summited.  Not that I believed we would never face hard times, I just believed maybe for a while we'd seen the worst of it.

Maybe we are allowed to believe this so we will continue to move forward.  So we will relax.  So we will breathe.  Because if we knew what laid ahead we'd just give up.  Throw in the towel.  Maybe not in a literal sense.  But all aspiration would cease.  And we'd take the path of least resistance and least challenge and we'd coast.  Maybe we are allowed to believe in calm so we don't leave the path.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

left room

I didn't want to be alone.  In fact, I was actively avoiding being alone.  I knew if solitude came, loneliness came, quiet came, so would the tears.  That the monster who'd been hiding would peek its head around the corner, asking for recognition.

I didn't want to be alone.

But life plays mean tricks sometimes.  Plans fall through and people fail you and you turn the key in the lock and open the front door and it all falls down.

We have to go through the hardest grief alone sometimes.  Door opened, and my house was empty and the tv couldn't come on quick enough to fill the silent void.  And I crawled on the couch, because it had all found me, the moment I stepped in the door.

Grief scared me to death.  Like so many monsters who are terrifying without a face or name.  Grief lingered around that corner and I was certain that if I faced her, she would kill me.  If I let her show her face, she'd never leave.  

But there she was.  Asking to be seen, asking to be held.  

And I curled up on the couch, with post basketball game commentary humming in the background, and she crawled up there with me.  

Out of the shadows she came and her smallness devastated me.  

But she came and stayed a little while.  Curled her body up against mine as I wept tears, which had been hiding under the surface for more than a year.  If my boy had been here, he would have wiped the tears from my cheeks and told me it was okay.  "Don't cry, mommy.  It's okay."  

But Grief let them fall.  Finding the hollow place in my belly and quietly letting me feel the dangerous things.  

Salty, swollen eyes kept searching for someone else to walk in.  Someone to save me from this ritualistic necessary.  Somehow I simultaneously knew what was happening would both wreck and save me.  But getting there felt heavy.  An ocean of water above my head, pressing on my lungs.

She invited me to the thoughts.  To hold them in my arms and feel their weight and examine their nature and decide where they belong.  To rename them, so I could find their place.  

Secrecy is not the same as privacy, Grief reminded me, as I counted all of her fingers and toes.  And she began to whisper about how, no matter how much I had feared she would, she would not be staying.

I whispered I was sorry.  Through tears and swollen eyes, I suddenly bemoaned how little room I had for her.  That somehow I had not made more space for her to stay.  As she prepared to go, going seemed worse than the staying.

It's not okay, but I forgive you.

Feel all of it, she encouraged me, so you don't have to feel it anymore.  Let me in, she had said, so you can feel something else.  And the bright lights became fuzzy. What had been dizzy, bright, and cold I was then allowed to put behind me. 

It was time to feel something else.

 In the quiet, basketball commentary bleeding into 11 o'clock news, I went to bed.  Navigating a jungle floor littered with Siberian Tigers and Brown Bears and Black Panthers.  

I woke up this morning and she's gone.  The hollow space in my belly has folded over on itself and all evidence remaining is in my swollen face. 

More dark rooms are coming.  I have more doors to open, leading to unknown spaces.  Spaces where room needs to be made.  Spaces, which are asking to be filled.  Spaces where maybe the light will come.  Spaces where the monsters hiding their faces in the corner need a name.

So much bravery is required for the filling and the redeeming.  

Grief left and made way for the courage though.  Her forgiveness left room for the good.