Why I Turned To Writing

 

I lie in bed, turning over again and again, sleep no where in sight. With each physical turn of my body I was breathing new life and energy into the thoughts and questions plaguing my mind, peace and sleep stood no chance. One nagging question was the impetus for this mental storm, refusing to subside until I stare at it in the face, see it and address it. So I rolled out of bed, leaving warmth and comfort, at 1:00am determined to do just that, face my question.

Why? How does a three letter word carry so much power? Despite it’s simplicity in structure, that word has the power to bring even the sturdiest of minds to its’ figurative knees. So here I sit, blinking curser daring me to get it down lest I forget. For yes, I do believe I have the answer.

Bare with me as I take you on a bit of a detour as I eventually answer, why?

I can blame a friend for this latest bout of insomnia. He posed the question while sharing a cup of tea and mulling over my latest writing project. He reminded me that without knowing the “why”, my writing journey would be longer and more arduous than necessary. Why writing?  For years I have enjoyed words. I would play with them for hours. I love learning new ways to string them together, to tell a story, to convey emotion, and using them to capture the thoughts that would keep me awake for hours.  I can still remember toying with rhymes, barely able to write, I would rehearse them for hours until I either fell asleep or give up and succumbed to writing them down. To this day I have a special blue folder filled with random sheets of paper with my scribbles.  Now, not being naturally gifted with words, this is something I have to work at. Yet, loving it as I do, I do just that.

My latest writing project began three years ago,  writing as a means for answering questions that would arise from my profession as a social worker and early childhood educator. My staff loved it and found it helpful, so I kept at it.  I fell into blogging, rather haphazardly, more as a means to an end; a format for meeting a professional need. Yet, I found the process more than moderately satisfying. The challenge lie in answering a question, and doing it in such a way that had my reader nodding their heads and feeling satisfied that they had in fact learned something of value. Even then, I found myself not wholly satisfied after awhile. It was definitely not the writing aspect, though after some tossing and turning and late night writing, I discovered it was the theme of my writing that had me yearning for something more.

As someone who gets an idea and isn’t afraid to literally run with it, I began to write about things that I love. I began mentally writing on my daily walks through my neighborhood.  Thoughts I would have during my walks would turn into ideas for a new writing project.  I began to write about the things dearest to my heart: travel, human connection, urban living and love. Yet, the question still remained, why? Why write about these things in a blog format? I even grappled with scrapping the idea of a blog and just keeping a journal. Yet, it seemed the purpose in my writing was not just for me. I have learned that the greatest gift we can offer the world is to share what we love. Delving deeper into the “why”, I began to wonder why this writing would be important. And in that “wonder” lie the final answer.

One more detour as I round the corner to “the answer”, bare with me just a bit longer.

I was in Paris on Friday the 13th, 2015. I was within close proximity to the horrific acts of that night and I was traveling alone. Yet, before that evening, I had spent three lovely days in” the city of love”, and I wrote about it, in real time. What a gift that turned out to be. For the events of that Friday have since changed me and changed me in a way that just wouldn’t make it possible for  me to capture the flavor of those first three days. For that I am grateful. I am grateful for no amount of fear or chaos can steal from me what those days meant, they are forever captured in my own words for me to relive at anytime, untainted.

In the days following, after cutting my trip short, I struggled emotionally. I struggled like so many impacted directly from the events of that night. I wanted to make sense of something that we can only conjure about. Though in the end we will all have to make sense of it for ourselves. For me it was just another part of this journey. As I wrote about the events of that evening I experienced emotional release, a plethora of emotions that I just did not know what to do with. Though, I discovered it was no different than the emotions I carry around about poverty and homelessness, in short human pain and suffering.  We all, ultimately, want to do something about the things in our world that we find unjust. Yet, so many turn to apathy as coping a mechanism. It seems easier to say “fuck it”, avert our eyes and walk away hands up in the air in resignation. It seems easier than to admit our feelings of helplessness and ultimately inadequacy.

In my own personal journey, the final puzzle piece fell into place when I decided to turn to baking to deal with my crippling feelings of hopelessness. And baking is what I did. My children and I baked over 10 dozen cookies and I packaged them into little baggies to share with strangers and made care packages for the people we cared about. The children shared them with friends and their teachers and I shared them with people I hold dearest to  my heart. I walked the city determined to do what I love, though was having a hard time reconnecting with my gift, smiling and making eye contact with everyone I meet. I found that the events of that Friday had left me disillusioned. So what better way to reconnect with my heart once again than to have in hand something tangible I could share, I didn’t have to worry that I didn’t want to smile, I could just offer folks who asked for money something tangible. And that is what I did. “Do you have some change to spare?”, was answered with “I don’t have any money on me but my children and I just bake some cookies would you like some?” Over 100 cookies later I have yet to be refused. Everyone smiled as I handed them their tiny bundle of homemade love. I smiled and a part of my heart began to heal. A healing made possible through a genuine act of love.

So “why” write? I find value in putting into words and sharing with others my own journey in making a difference. Maybe it is just a smile. Maybe it is just a cookie. Yet connecting with others with a smile and a cookie tells them they are important. It is my way of letting others know that when I look at them in the eye,  I see them and when I see them, in that moment, they belong. Human connection and belonging are the answer, at least to the challenges of world as I see it.  My only hope in writing? Simply to inspire others that they too can find a way to make a difference, for even in the smallest of gestures one can find great love. May you all find the answer to the “why” in your life. For it is in knowing why I write that I feel a deeper connection to my purpose in this life, ever changing, writing allows me to continually understand my evolving sense of purpose.

 Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Kiss the broken. Befriend the lost. Love the lonely.” — Unknown Author

Here’s to spreading love and kindness, may love always win.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~

 

 


Fostering Mercy

Since May 2010, Escuela Viva, a bilingual early childhood program I began in 2004,  has shared a neighborhood with a church/dining hall where they feed the hungry. Living in Portland Oregon, we are no strangers to the burgeoning houseless population. Our school community has watched the houseless population grow right before our eyes. Our closest neighbors live in lean-tos, tents and run down motor homes. Portland is often cold and wet, making life for those living on the streets arduous.

As the situation for the houseless grows more desperate, everyone feels it. In our own school community parents worry about how the needs of the  houseless might clash with the needs of their children. We all worry about the safety of those living on the streets, some with addictions, many with mental health challenges, all just struggling to make it day by day. We tried for the last 6 years to work with the city to establish no camping zones  around early childhood programs like ours. Our pleas fell upon deaf ears. We found ourselves frustrated, tired and without hope. Then we stopped. We took a collective breath and decided to regroup and change our approach. Why not work with the houseless, listen to their needs,  share our needs and begin from there? And that is what we did.

Our first “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation” was amazing. At first there seem to be some trepidation on their end, and who can blame them? Everyone wants them to move out, yet move where? Until we can offer better, more comprehensive mental health and addiction services, until a family can afford housing making minimum wage, and until a family can afford to be poor, the best answer I can muster is mercy. Mercy is the act of showing compassion and/or grace toward someone with whom it is within our power to punish or harm. As we demonstrated mercy with our neighbors, their guards came down. They expressed concern with the level of camping near the school. They offered to help do some clean up if we could offer the supplies and perhaps warm dry socks.

 Today, March 18th, 2017 we held our first Clean Up Day. We had a small crew available, mostly parents from our school community. As we began to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAshare with our neighbors why we were there, many expressed thanks. Several took plastic bags and began filling them with their own trash. I was particularly struck by one neighbor, who shared that he and several others had moved their tents around the corner after our first “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation”. He was clear that he is not a drug user, yet he knows that by moving he is modeling for others to give the school and the kids some space.

A small group of junior high girls and their group leader brought pastries and coffee. They passed out treats to our houseless neighbors and the clean up crew. Watching the girls smile and share joy with each poured cup of coffee, I couldn’t help but feel that we accomplished much more than a cleaner brighter neighborhood. This was merely one of  many steps we will be taking as we work to build a shared sense of community. Yet, today as the rain gave way to sunshine, as we got dirty and cleared away a dumpster full of trash, we moved closer to a common vision of a neighborhood. A neighborhood where we care for one another. A neighborhood where an early childhood program can share space with the houseless.

Watch for the release of DelightfullyUrban merchandise, where 80% of the profits will go to fund sanitary services for the houseless.

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Beyond Tolerance

I roll over, the sounds of the early birds chirping outside my window, ugh! The clock reads 4:22am. Waking at this hour is not unusual for me, unfortunately. Some mornings I can ease back into sleep, yet, this morning, not so much. One of the first images to fill my head is that of Chyna Gibson, a transgendered black woman murdered in Louisiana. Just one of 7 black transgendered women to be murdered between January and the end of February 2017 in the US. The one question that I fell asleep contemplating, and was still with me at 4:22am, why?

One word kept tumbling around in my lucid brain at this ridiculous hour. Tolerance. Sounds nice, right? If only we lived in a more tolerant world? Yet, I can’t seem to embrace this word as others have. It never quite sat well with me. Though I understand the sentiments, I still long for more. The Christian, the Buddhist, the Universalist in me yearns for more. I want home, school,  community and this world that I spin around on to value human life, all life. Perhaps we don’t fully understand one another, I for one don’t understand a great deal, yet I don’t hate or devalue what I don’t understand. I might wonder about it, marvel at it a bit, yet hate?

I know I won’t ever be Jewish (at least I don’t think so), I can’t ever be Black, or Asian, or transgendered, or a multitude of “others”. Yet, isn’t a beautiful idea that we can look at someone and think and feel in our hearts “You are a human being just like me”. On average, in terms of DNA sequence, all humans are 99.5% similar to all other humans. No two humans are genetically identical. Can ’t we start here? With the 99.5% of us that are absolutely the SAME. Yet that .5% is what makes us 100% unique, like no other. Marvelous. Wonderful. Valuable. Extraordinary. Fabulous. It is what sets us apart. It is what fuels this world. We won’t all be mothers or fathers. We won’t all be engineers, teachers, computer technicians, fire fighters, politicians, garbage men, migrant workers, bartenders, authors, activists, mechanics, linguists, students, etc. The world needs all of us to be exactly who we are, it wouldn’t work otherwise. So what blinds us to the beauty of us? Yep, there’s that word again, hate.

I have quoted Shel Silverstein for years. His work has a way of humanizing the silly in us all. Yet there are a few of his pieces, even as a children’s author, that hits home and nails humanity on the head like none other. One poem that I think embraces this notion of a shared “us” better than I ever could is this one:

No Difference

by Shel Silverstein

Small as a peanut,

Big as a giant,

We’re all the same size

When we turn off the light.

Rich as a sultan,

Poor as a mite,

We’re all worth the same

When we turn off the light.

Red, black or orange,

Yellow or white,

We all look the same

When we turn off the light.

So maybe the way

To make everything right

Is for God to just reach out

And turn off the light!

“No Difference” by Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends. © Harper Collins, 1974. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

We don’t have to live as others do. We don’t have to look the same, sound the same, dress the same, to understand that beneath it all, we are the same. There is great liberation and beauty in acceptance. We can live in a home, go to a school, be a part of a community that honors the uniqueness and the divinity in us all. We can begin to see diversity as our Deities way of creating beauty, a vast array of loveliness just as was intended. The only way, perhaps, for us to get to this place, is for the God in each of us, to reach over and turn out the light. So I begin with me, and I am turning off the light, the light on hate, and will shine a light instead on what binds us all together, love.


Dear Orange One

It’s 2017, right before your inauguration. I have dreaded this day, though not certain just how afraid I, and those like me, should be. Are we afraid yet have no reason to because your bark is worse than your bite? Or are our fears real, and we need to buckle up, keep our eyes and ears open, and stay keenly tuned in to your every step? As I have pondered these two dichotomies a story comes to mind from my early twenties. My mom and I were remodeling a home that would soon be my very first home. It was in complete disrepair. It didn’t have plumbing,  electricity, or even walls. Yet, I knew just how beautiful it was going to be. One day as I was pulling wire, the contractor working with us began using a sawzall. I was mesmerized by just how effective this tool was, and powerful too. The contractor noticed me watching and asked if I had wanted to try using it. I quickly said “Oh no I am too afraid. It is a very powerful piece of equipment.” He smiled and said “Yes it is. Ready?”, as he handed the tool to me. I shook my head and repeated my fear, “No, I am too afraid I will hurt myself.” He quickly replied “Well good”, handed the tool to me and continued with, “You are less likely to hurt yourself then.” So he addressed each of my fears and as he addressed each fear, I began using the tool. As I did I found that my fear was a good guide for what to consider, questions to ask, and how best to handle this powerful yet effective tool. Fear was just my reminder how careful and considerate I needed to be, but by no means a reason to not proceed. So proceed is what I did, and with much success I might add.

So as I think about how I will proceed with these next four potentially dangerous years, I will use my fear to guide me. Yet, my fear for what you might do with the next four years won’t stop me nor paralyze me, in fact it will be what reminds me to ask the right questions, read and stay current, speak out when I need to, and be more active politically than I have ever been. Just like the sawzall, you have the potential to do a lot of damage, a lot of people could be hurt, our environment negatively impacted, a woman’s reproductive freedom at risk, the poor disenfranchised further, the liberties of LGBTQA threatened, and our national security in peril.

I, and those like me, will use these next four years to be kinder, more aware, and more active in our local communities,  standing with and along side those further disenfranchised by your mayhem. I personally won’t let you or your hateful views of those you don’t deem worthy change me in a negative way. I will be more patient, reflect greater compassion for all, and use all of the resources at my disposal, creative and financial, to deflect any threat you might spawn over these next four years. And I know I am not alone. Your luster for the dramatic, your gravitational pull towards hate only draws those guided by love and mercy closer together. We were dazed and confused for a moment, yet don’t take that as a sign that we will succumb to you or any destruction you may muster. We will be watching carefully, we will mobilize and yes we will be loud.

We will find solace and strength in the famous words of Haruki Marukami “When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” You may be a storm like we have yet to see in our life time, yet we will use this time to become a stronger America, one united in our founding principals adorned at the base of the statue of liberty “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” For it is in these words that we find what has and will continue to make America truly great.

Sincerely,

DelightfullyUrban

And to the rest of you,  remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger


Today I Will Go Easy on My Neighbor

Maybe it is because I had 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep, or maybe it’s because Mark (my favorite barista) made me the yummiest 16 oz almond milk latte ever, or perhaps it was sharing the road with a big man on a small bike singing at the top of his lungs; whatever the reason I made a decision this morning to take it easy on all those I come in contact with today.

I won’t scowl at the man who doesn’t stop at the cross walk. I won’t holler “Slow down this is a school zone!” at the young lady speeding well over the posted 20 mph. And I won’t think unkind thoughts about neighbors who refuse to pick up their dog poop in front of our house. No, I won’t do any of these things today. I can’t guarantee how I will hand these inconveniences tomorrow, but today I will be grateful when children get safely home from school, when someone eventually stops for us to cross the street and will, with a smile on my face, pick up the poop in front of our house because I have an extra poop bag. I will be grateful for the squirrel chasing his friend across the power line, I will smile at the neighbors who do pick up their dogs waste and I will happily stroll down the street just because I can. I have way too many blessings in my life to let the everyday struggles generate frustration in me. For when I focus on what is wrong, I fail to notice the beauty in everything else. And today I make the choice to let beauty win.

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Here’s to letting beauty win!

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger


When We Can’t Have What We Want: Letting Go

There are many things we can not have in this life. For far too long I placed more value on these than was necessary or healthy. Though truthfully, I rarely let these interfere with my ability to be grateful for the many blessings in my life. Yet there, in part of my brain and in my heart lie one big “I can’t have”….we all have at least one, right? The healthy part of me knew it was time to acknowledge my loss and say good bye to the pain.

The one big “I can’t have”? A loving, nurturing dad. You know the one I speak of, you’ve seen him. The dotting father who gets a twinkle in his eye when he looks at his little girl. The one who would do anything to protect her from the pain of the world. No, I didn’t have that, I never have. He didn’t walk me down the aisle when I got married, either time ;). He never threatened the men who wanted to date me with a giant baseball bat. He never got teary eyed at the thought of me growing up and leaving home. Nope I didn’t have that either. Though not having it never stopped me from longed for it. And let’s be honest, there will be a part of me that always will. Yet, if I am to move fully forward in this life, I have to let go. I have to walk away from the pain of what will never be if I am to fully experience all that life has to offer.

When I wrote my New Years blog, I wrote about letting go. Admittedly, this is going to be the biggest letting go of my life. I have let go of many things, painful things, in my life, though this will be, by far, the hardest. Yet, of all the things I know about myself I do know that once I set my mind to something there is nothing but death itself that can stop me. This will be the greatest gift I can give myself this year. I start the process of letting go right in this moment. I remind myself that 42 years is a long time to hold on to something, it may take me a minute to get there. Though in the end, the light that will radiate through me will be blinding. Get ready to pull out those sunglasses folks! Here is to letting go!

Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.

Your DelightfullyUrban Blogger~



Good News

Are you as tired of the news making our world seem cold, dark and dangerous? Me too! That is why I don’t watch television and seek out uplifting stories. In this section I will share stories that show how amazing people can be, for there are far more amazing people than the news would have us believe.

Do you have an uplifting story you want to share? Please do!

Your Delightfully Urban Blogger~