I'm called to support people to embody their calls in this world.
As an artist, yoga teacher, runner, and farmer, I'm committed to honoring and caring for all kinds of bodies--across genders, races, abilities, and sexual orientations.
I'm called to support people to embody their calls in this world.
feet, you are so often the last thing I bless before I run. tonight I give thanks for the bone and sinew and blood and muscle that you will carry through 26.2 miles. I give thanks for each toe and freckle and skin cell. I marvel at the strength you'll bring me.
lungs, you will remember to breathe in calm and breathe and peace. you're stronger than you remember
legs, you are so powerful: bone wrapped in muscle, these miles will fly by.
eyes, take in everything you see-- let your heart be full as you run through this city you love. take in the details and cherish them.
tongue, taste the sweat and rain that will mix on your face. drink enough water and take in enough fuel.
ears, listen for the groans of others and use your joy to encourage. listen for the birds and squirrels and cars and people. do not miss the people who will cheer for you.
nose, you will be in the crowd. you will smell the sweat and blood and fear and courage. remind me that I am not alone.
remember that each step is a blessing and that the journey will be enough.
don't forget to breathe, to love, to laugh, to sing, to dance.
and feet, i love you.
this is a post about running, but only because i chose this year to run, and to make running the non-negotiable thing for me. i ran in mud, and up mountains, across rivers, and next to two oceans. i ran in three countries and in the city of my heart. i ran to listen and to grow and to pray and to learn.
in the twilight of this year, here are some of the other things i learned in the last 365 days:
i. just because you've been friends with someone for more than a decade doesn't mean they're not toxic. the loss was real. i miss her and the light she once was in my life, and i'm so grateful for the friends i get to love now: BFF, peermentor, partner, anam cara, my favorite queen, co-creator, sisters, presbyterian soulmate. see? i'm so very lucky and i want to hold gratitude for that luck in my heart.
ii. mentors are a rare and tender gift, especially the ones who hear you, the ones who know intuitively the words to say when really everything is hard, and the ones who know when to reach out and hold your hand and say "jump." and they're a little terrifying when they have the right poem for the moment. there is, however, always the perfect poem for every moment.
iii. this is the year when one of my very favorite people got very sick, and i decided not to be afraid of loving the people i love. that proverb that life can end in an instant is real, and i do not want to regret love.
iv. this is the year i started saying publicly the name of the man who raped me (but not here because he doesn't get to own this space), started saying that what happened to me in one of my first real ministry jobs was assault, and started saying that the people who hurt me will be held accountable. i continue to hold this part of my life gently, letting it grow not into resentfulness but strength.
v. six weeks of sabbath in nicaragua and peru reminded me to take a deep breath and to find the water that gives me life. those weeks reminded me to trust the earth and to listen for the heartbeat of the next generation.
vi. i fell deeper in love with the friends who have been by my side this year-- i'm in awe of the joy, hope, strength, wisdom, adventure, and fierceness in them. i'm so grateful for the cards, texts, fb messages, runs, and calls (in addition to the offers to edit my work or collaborate with me). when my heart faltered this year, a great cloud of you held me close.
vii. i'm in awe, too, of the work i get to do-- to love God, creation, and neighbor. the work i get to do for pay, for study, for trade is a humbling gift, and i do not take this gift for granted. some of my work feels like a fight for life, and there have been moments when i didn't know if my tears were from grit or for giving up.
viii. my family --biological and chosen-- are the best. i re-learn this over and over.
ix. my nieces, nephews, and godson are hilarious, kind, brilliant, and loving. i knew this, but this year i learned it again.
x. i learned to choose joy. every day. in the morning, i wake up, go through my morning ritual, and then choose joy. in the evening, i brush my teeth, put in my braces, and then choose joy.
in the new year, i know i'll run again in the city of my heart and in at least three countries. may my heart be open as my feet carry me into these new days. xo
it is my practice to write a blessing for my body on the eve of a marathon. my next race is in two weeks, but my birthday is tomorrow. And so, I want to honor this body I get to live in and the years its given me.
dear scar on my lip from when I was a toddler and put a pillowcase over my head and ran around the house while my grandmother was babysitting and I ran into a door and cut open my mouth: i don't remember the tears I must have cried or the blood I must have shed. I catch glimpses of your white line and give thanks for the woman who let me play with abandon, and who trusted that my body would be resilient.
dear right knee: remember when there was a scar on you that was in the shape of a bird and when you bent, she would flap her wings? she flew away finally when I scraped you open in another fall, but sometimes I see the shadows of her feathers, and I wonder what new skies will open up before me.
dear left hand with your scar from the turpentine in high school from that first great big mural I painted: I remember when you split open, and the chemicals and yellow paint and blood mixed together. the stinging sensation. the smell. the flecks of paper towels that clung to my skin as I stopped the bleeding, and then I couldn't decide just exactly how to clean the cut.
dear right shoulder with a scar where there used to be a mole in the shape of a flower: I used to tap the petals of the flower when i was thinking, and I still sometimes finger the scar, touching the bumpy tissue when I need to recall forgotten information. I still sometimes wonder if the flower will bloom again, and I still sometimes wonder why I didn't trust it's bizarre but steadfast shape.
dear nose, with your crooked nostrils that only I notice because I spent too many pre-adolescent hours staring at you: I love your ring and the way you squish down into my lips and the way you wiggle when I remember my sense of humor,
oh dear feet, great love of my body with your scars and bumps and bruises and the extra toe bone and words of love etched into them: you keep carrying me into this fiery and fierce life, one footprint in front of the other. you have carried me through sprawling adventures and rested with me in moments of Sabbath. carry me still, my beloved.
thank you, sweet body, for holding my sinew and bone, muscle and fat, tissue and nail. thank you for the stretch and strength of you. thank you for too-long eyelashes and too-small ears and big eyes and solid ankles. you are enough.
i ran around the corner from my parents' house and turned up the hill to my childhood's elementary school. this hill was always terrifying to ride a bike up, but as i faced this hill, there were tears streaming down my face.
i grit my teeth.
my body was feeling the weight and the break of weeks of Trump allegations and vulgarities, my body was reliving the traumas of my life.
so: facing this hill, I put my face upwards and tilted my hips forwards.
up and up--past my first piano teacher's house, past my art teacher's house, past the place where i crashed my bike.
weeping. letting my body feel all of this place--all those stories--all those memories in this time and the times of my youth--letting the trauma seep from my eyes and be flung out with each breath, the demons trampled by the strength of my legs, the inhale and exhale of my lungs claiming a new story,
the leaves on the trees in the front yard of the house where that girl from my girl scout troop lived--they're changing: yellows, and oranges and light green. i am changing too, letting the crunch of the leaves echo the crunch of each heartbeat.
later, i'm taking the stringy pumpkin intestines to the compost pile, following the well-worn path between back door and garden. my breath--opaque in the cold--leads me and i dump out the bucket. what broken-gross-old-messiness.
this is the brokenness that yields the best soil. this is the decay that ensures that my parents' tomatoes will grow next summer, flourishing from what seemed like the end.
my feet are aching. and my heart is happy.
these are the words i will need to hear at mile fourteen... and when it's raining... and when it's mile twenty-five.
brain: you are the captain of this bodily vessel. do not confuse mile two with mile twenty-two, and do not be afraid to play "let it go" four times when your heart wants to give out. remember that chasing children around the school was part of your training, so that you would find joy.
legs: you are the power. remind the rest of me that this is when you are happiest, and let that exhiliration melt into the rest of me.
right hip: you cannot give out. you are resilient and you are gritty. you will carry me when my left knee starts to give way. may you remember that your arthritis does not define you.
left knee: you will be the time keeper. may you remember your strength and may you relax. you do not need to compensate for my right hip.
arms and hands: you're in this too. remind the rest of me to dance and play, and do not be afraid to turn on carrie newcomer when my brain starts to fail.
heart: do not falter. you must buoy my brain when i want to give up at mile two. cling to the challenge of running along highway one and find courage when the hills in sacramento try to mimic the real cliffs of our ocean. you will want to break open at mile fifteen. remember that all will be well, even when eleven more miles feels like seventy seven more.
feet: oh dear feet. you will catch me. I have no fear.
This summer has tested the general sense of American justice, in ways that have addressed what it means, on a national level, to be an American. The historic decisions of the Supreme Court that will have lasting repercussions for the shape of our collective future, the high-profile deaths of people of color that may very well trigger a new consciousness of the deep-seated racism undergirding our country’s structure—these are national events that touch people all over the country. If you haven’t noticed broad brush strokes of the evidence of systemic oppression, you haven’t been paying attention.
I cried over what I hope will be seismic shifts in the American landscape. I cried over the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage for all and over the shootings at the AME church in Charleston. I cried, and then I went back to work with Puente, in a very local community, on the rural South Coast of Northern California where I’m the volunteer coordinator and liaison to area faith communities.
On the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, I met 24 Latino teenagers at Puente’s office in the tiny ranching and farming community of Pescadero. Together we boarded a bus to ride more than an hour into San Francisco, which would be crowded, we knew, with celebrations of the Supreme Court decision that happened to coincide with the usually robust Pride weekend. But our destination was not the legendary Pride parade. After ninety minutes on a city bus we found ourselves at the historic Flood Building in downtown San Francisco, just in time to meet with a woman of color who ran a financial planning firm in a century-old landmark building that now boasts retail headquarters, consulates, non-profit organizations, and other tenants from all over the Earth.
On the bus, my co-facilitator and I tried to explained appropriate city behavior to the Pescadero teens: watch your stuff, don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk, don’t be afraid of people who live on the streets. We emphasized the importance of that particular day and the jubilation that might surprise them. Don’t stare too much at the naked men who will be in the streets, we said. Avoid words that are hateful. Ask questions. Celebrate.
I imagined that the ninety-minute ride carried us from one side of the planet to another. We arrived early and had to wait in a hallway made out of marble that magnified even the softest whisper. A well-dressed white woman came out of her office to tell us to be quiet. The group had clearly pushed her buttons. I wondered when the last time was this woman had seen a group of latino teenagers in one place without thinking they were a gang—and I wondered if she could dream that these youth are very rarely out of their little town just a few miles from the ocean. I felt her reprimands under my arm hairs and at the base of my neck. My white skin wouldn’t protect the Pescadero youth from this woman’s harsh words.
My co-facilitator and I gathered the two-dozen youth together and told them they must be silent, more rigid than necessary because--like any group of teenagers--they were antsy, and “silent” would inevitably be translated to “quiet.”
After our group met with the financial planner, who shared her story with the Pescadero teenagers, one fifteen-year-old boy taught the rest of the group what stock is, and one sixteen-year-old girls asked detailed questions about the benefits of investing in a Roth IRA or a regular IRA.
Later, as we left the offices and headed to the elevators, one of the boys asked if he could take the stairs. Irritated at the prospect of splitting up our group, I said no. His pace slowed as we got to the elevators.
As soon as we boarded our elevator, a different teenaged boy pressed several floor buttons: 10, 8, 6, 5, 2, 1.
“We have to stop at all those floors now,” I said.
He looked at me as we started our descent, but he said nothing.
“When was the last time you were on an elevator?” I asked. Still, he said nothing .
An unsuspecting passenger got on at the tenth floor. The doors slid open again at floor eight, then six.
The people from other floors shifted and grumbled, their trips down to the parking lot and street and Pride parade longer than they’d anticipated.
It dawned on me, finally, that the teenager who’d pushed all the buttons did not know what I was talking about—that he might not know what pressing all the buttons might mean.
There are no elevators on the South Coast.
As the doors slid open at the fifth floor I nonchalantly said to the boys in my elevator that this was the longest elevator ride I’d taken in a while.
When we disembarked on the first floor, the boy who’d asked to walk down twelve flights of stairs said he felt closed in when riding an elevator. He said he hadn’t been on an elevator in two years. I can’t remember the last time I was in an elevator because it’s so ordinary.
Later that afternoon, as we explored Fisherman’s Wharf, all of our students were polite and engaged, taking the “big city” and all its complications in stride, getting ice cream at the wharf and patiently waiting for the crosswalk signs to change instead of scurrying across the street without a glance at the cars.
As we caught the bus home, I realized that I’d made so many assumptions about what our youth knew and what they didn’t know about San Francisco and its inhabitants, what they knew about the way the world works. My assumptions about these incredible youth pegged them as small-town kids and were just as limiting as the woman who had shushed them in the marble halls of the Flood Building.
Over the last few of weeks, life has changed on a global scale. My world has changed, too, in a little way that widens the whole world.
originally posted on http://www.apiarylife.org/blog/2015/8/26/pushing-buttons
when i was 17, i experienced some acute trauma. it wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but it was close. it was a defining moment in my life, in my relationships with my family, my church, myself. i've spent the last twelve years trying to unpack that trauma, badgering myself because i'm not yet over that trauma.
my first response to the trauma was to gain a lot of weight. about 80 pounds of it. i remember sitting in a class in seminary--i know i was supposed to be paying attention--and doing the math of just how much weight i had gained. my spirit felt the heaviness and my soul just cried out, blaming the trauma.
i want to be clear: what happened to me was not my fault.
but i had tried to protect myself from the effects of it by eating and transforming myself into a shadow of a shadow of the person i'd been before. i hated that this one event in my life was still controlling who i was and that my physical self was a reminder that i was still hurting.
soon after this realization, i started running. running because my sister is a runner and because i'd never been a runner before. i wanted to be transformed.
i was so slow. but i ran with friends who showered me with encouragement even when i had to walk parts of my first 5k races. i ran with friends who would meet me at 6am next to lake michigan even when it was 17 degrees outside. i ran with friends who listened to my stories and told me their own.
i ran on my own and, when i moved to california, i trained for my first half marathon. i ran on my own and invariably i would get to some part of a longer run and struggle to find a second wind. in those moments i would turn on music that reminded me of the trauma from years ago and i would think to myself, "you're stronger than that shit. you've got this." and i would somehow run a couple more miles. when i got lost in the middle of my first marathon, i thought, "well, this is not the worst thing that's ever happened to me. i'll be ok."
four half marathons later and last fall i signed up for my first full marathon. my sister and i are running in gettysburg, a place that our grandmother used to tell us about. our grandmother taught us a lot about being intelligent, stubborn, badass women, turning my sister into a writer/historian and me into a presbyterian minister and us both into feminists.
i am not afraid of this run. i'm ready and i can't wait to explore gettysburg with my sister (and i'm sure we'll be those runners who stop to take photos to send to our younger sister).
this week i encountered something that even six months ago would have made me relive the trauma of my teenage years. but instead of getting angry or sad, i just stopped, found a lot of grace, and moved on. the moment stays with me only because it was so normal, so un-triggering. reflecting on it later, i realized that in the whole time i've been training for this marathon, i have not relied on this trauma to fuel my runs. i have not reached to it as the thing that another mile might overcome.
instead, these miles have been my own.
next weekend, when we get to the hard miles, we'll tell each other stories and reach for the stubbornness that's ingrained in our midwest bones. when we cross the finish line, we will be our selves--influenced by our grandmother and transformed by miles that are ours.
it was a run like any other of the hundreds of miles i've run, except it was in pennsylvania and it was with my sister.
we were feeling each other out for the marathon we'll run in april, checking our pacing and letting our legs and hearts lead us around my sister's neighborhood, past the little houses with square windows, past the worn storefronts, past the streetlights.
five miles in and three blocks from home, my right pant leg caught on the edging of someone's garden. fabric in the teeth of the wood siding, i stopped mid-stride, face and hands first onto the cement.
i heard a crunch and immediately reached to my face to check my glasses. lenses intact. i handed my glasses to my sister--i think--and stood up. blood pooled on the skin of my right knee, my palms ached, my head pounded. slowly we walked home, my sister calling her partner so that home would be ready for us.
once inside, my sister surveyed the damage and i finally let out the breath and tears that had been held deep in my lungs and eyes. my body was aching.
she cleaned out my knee and palms, reassuring me that all would be well. my sister's partner made me a drink, reassuring me that all would be well. we took pictures of my bruises and scraps and sent them to our mother, telling her that all would be well. and looking at the photo of my broken palms next to my broken-open knee, my sister's partner suggested that this was a stigmata.
we wrapped my two smallest right fingers together and wrapped my hand up. they wrapped me in blankets and told me to rest.
and later we went to a jewish history museum, full of aching bodies and broken hearts and breath gone too soon.
and later still, i got home to the other side of the country and unwrapped my hand. blue and purple and green.
and later even still, i looked at the xray of my fingers and palm, the gaps and breaks, the white light of the bones.
bones that knit themselves back together. bones that needed rest--enough so that my whole body gave out for three weeks. no running. no yoga. no headstands.
bones that knit themselves together imperfectly but completely, making me whole again. making each run ever since a little bit holy.
private yoga: $100/hr (and sliding scale available)
zumba for groups: $80/hr
feet are weird.
I’m thinking about my own feet, and the stories they tell about me. I was totally that girl in college who went everywhere barefoot—including the cafeteria—so that my feet kind of always had a dirty tinge to them. I pulled all the muscles in the bottom of my feet once-it’s a long story—and spent three months on crutches and in Birkenstocks—in the SNOW—while the tendons healed enough to walk on them. I’ve had surgery on both of my big toes, and I’ve lost two of my toenails from running and I have a weird extra bone on the bottom of one of my toes. Feet are weird but they carry stories about where you’ve been and what you’ve done with your life and who you are.
Think about your own feet.
Your feet are probably weird, just like mine, but they’re yours and they tell your story.
originally preached at first presbyterian church palo alto, march 17, 2013.