Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Tuesday, August 25, 2015



The past few years I have become more versed in conversations on identity. I have known three people who have gone through three very different journeys that hinged on gender identity and transgender issues. I have witnessed and celebrated the new milestones in tolerance, acceptance, and compassion the country has gained in regards to gay rights. I have seen movies, comics, books, and television embrace open discussion and exploration of a wider variety of characters that including everything from a 16 year old female, Muslim, Pakistani superhero to a transgender prison inmate. 

Two women passed the rigorous US Army Ranger training,  a bi-racial man became our president, gay marriage was legalized. The world has been opening its eyes to greater possibilities.

Racism took center stage as people struggled to have their voices heard as they spoke out about the burdens and inequities they face daily.

Through it all I continued to primarily identify as the same things I have for most of my adult life.

  • (Cis-*)Woman.
  • White.
  • Heterosexual.
  • Artist/Knitter/Writer
  • Dancer.
  • Friend.
  • Daughter/Sister/Cousin/... then Aunt.
  • Environmentalist
  • ...
Yet I've found a few things have changed... (*the added "cis" being one of them)

When I went to graduate school to become a teacher, and even after my first year teaching, I still struggled to see myself and my identity as being a teacher. Now I don't struggle, but I don't see teacher as a stand alone identity. Just as my role in my family has multiple facets/titles, I feel my role as an educator has multiple facets:
  • Teacher/Social Justice Advocate/Loving guide to children/Concerned Voter & Citizen
I cannot separate being a teacher from the love and concern I have for the 75+ students I have called my own. I cannot separate my concern for them and the struggles they currently face and will face in the future for my concerns for our country. I cannot separate the importance of my personal job from the importance of education as a whole for repairing damages and creating futures for our country and EVERY child in it. This responsibility is huge and if I don't work hard to limit myself can sometimes be overwhelming.

Being a teacher and the stress and anxiety related to it might have also contributed to my next identity:
  • Depression sufferer
After an extremely difficult first year of teaching, and a principal who would publicly and privately shame teachers, I went into a bad cycle of anger and shame and shut out the world for a while. It took a long time for me to get back on my feet and even longer to fully come to terms with the damage done and the foundations of that damage in my system of values and beliefs. 

After making it through a school year on anti-depressants, I started therapy. In therapy I recognized in myself many things that I was unaware of or did not want to admit to. I embraced therapy and became determined to be open and honest with myself and others. I have talked openly with others about my depression, about my difficulties, and about my therapy. I have embraced vulnerability and honesty. In doing so I also recognized that one of the labels I would have assigned myself in the past does not currently hold true. It has perhaps been one of the more difficult pieces to be honest about because in some ways I wish it were true and it would be easier if it were true.

So here is my honesty. My vulnerability.

While I was raised within the Baha'i Faith, and have spent much of my life identifying as a Baha'i, acting as a Baha'i, attending Baha'i events, and making Baha'i friends, I do not currently feel as if I am a Baha'i. While I continue to search my heart and my mind to grow as a person, I do not think this belief is something I can hold or seek to hold on to right now.  I know that this switch may cause disappointment and pain to some of my friends and family. I know that it may mean losing some friends. It is not without great thought that I have come to this conclusion, but it is with honesty that I feel I must address it and let those who know me best become aware. This in no way changes the deep love I have for my Baha'i friends and family or for many of the teachings of the Baha'i Faith. I will continue to be an advocate for peace, for empathy, for compassion, for equality and for the elimination of all kinds of prejudice, but I will do so as an individual, representing only myself and my own views.

So it's said. Now I need to find the courage to publish it and share it. May I have the strength to deal with whatever may come (and the money to cover the therapy sessions for anything beyond that.)

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

"I don't understand..."

Lately I see a lot of comments that begin with phrases like: "I don't understand why people would say..." and then go on to criticize, villainize, or dehumanize a person, a group, a concept, or an idea. I find this frustrating. Maybe it's the teacher in me. Maybe the world-traveler. Maybe the empathizer.
You will NEVER understand anything you don't actually try to understand. (pause, let it sink in, reread if necessary)
You will NEVER understand anything you don't actually try to understand.
Let's say, for a hypothetical you don't understand why anyone would advocate for laws that allow people to terminate pregnancies. I'm sure you also don't understand why when abortion was illegal there were women who were willing to either commit suicide or risk their own lives when they put themselves in the hands of virtual butchers to try to terminate unwanted pregnancies. When you can truly understand the desperation of that woman, when you can empathize with her on a human level, regardless of your feelings about abortion, you will UNDERSTAND why she feels the way she does and why people who know her and care about her or someone like her don't want her in that situation. You will understand as a human.
We'll make it even and say that you don't UNDERSTAND why someone would advocate laws that prohibit women from terminating pregnancies. You may also never have known the grief of losing a child you had loved to miscarriage, or of loving a child that might have never been born. You may not know how it's possible to attach the degree of love and attachment to a "bundle of cells" that a family that has gone through miscarriage of a wanted child has suffered. You may not know the spiritual grief an empathetic person feels every time they think of those lost children. When you empathize with this person and recognize their emotions you will UNDERSTAND why they feel the way they do. You will understand as a human.
There are no monsters here. No evil creatures with unknowable designs.
You can't understand the decisions of those you disregard and refuse to empathize with. If you cannot understand a person's decisions it does not make them illogical or a monster, it makes you ignorant of what they are thinking.

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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Listening as part of healing is more than hearing the words someone says...

I've been thinking about my students, thinking about myself, thinking about family, thinking about my coworkers, thinking about America, and thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and I'm drawn back over and over to the idea that we can only hear the words, viewpoints, experiences of others through the filter of our own beliefs and experiences.
Students can not separate the relationship they have with their teacher from what is being taught. Coworkers cannot help but filter their relationship to their job and their boss to their conversations with coworkers. Family cannot separate their lifetime of experiences together from the conversations they have with each other. And we, as Americans, cannot separate our history, both as a nation, and our own personal histories, from our individual perceptions of the realities and conversations on race.
How then can we even hope to dialogue successfully without first taking the time to listen, recognize, empathize, and accept as valid the experiences and lives of the speaker and address their needs- be it for acceptance, for agency, for voice, for empathy, or just someone to sit and listen without judgement or doubt?

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


Dear People who want to shop at IKEA alone (for need or sanity), You can do it! So long as you don't buy anything you can't lift on your own or put in/on your car solo you're fine. First- Park near the end of the store with Returns. Then SHOP! Load all of your belongings on whatever carts or trolleys you can push. Then pay for your items. Next take your items towards the exit where people doing returns enter. Flag down someone who works there (really anyone will do.) Tell them you need someone to watch your purchases while you fetch your car. Finally fetch your car, go retrieve your purchases from wherever they put them and load up! Congratulations, you shopped IKEA without having to bring the circus, consult with others, or talk someone out of buying another Billy bookcase or CD organizer. Go you!

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