Not quite right.

I arrived wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair and my slippers. The yoga studio is 2 minutes from my house and I was 2 minutes late. I was thirsty and rushed as I unclasped my watch, dropped it into my purse and headed in to select a mat. I grabbed a pink one, took a step forward and stopped. Definitely not pink today. Where’s that black yoga mat?

Yes. Black like my soul.

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I’ve been having trouble getting my feet underneath me since Soulfire 2016. I’ve felt sluggish, disconnected and turned inward. Invitations are lost on me. Pajamas are all I want on my body and my bed is the only place I want to be.

I’m not depressed, I’m emptied out. My charge is depleted. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been trying to do the bare minimum with the hope that my come back is on its way.

Do you hear the upbeat music kicking in? Here it comes! It’s almost…Nope. I’m going back to bed.

I’m laying on my deeply dramatic emo black yoga mat thinking;

I’m just not feeling okay. I’m just not okay with how I’m feeling. I’m not okay with working right now. I’m not feeling quite right. Why can’t I get my mojo back? I’m not feeling okay enough to do much these days.

My thoughts distilled: I am not okay.

I usually take a week off after big time events but this week went awry. I made some commitments that I shouldn’t have and then one of my children had to stay home from school sick. A come back is not in the cards for this week.

Things are not quite where they should be in my soul.

I’m invoking a Do Over for next week that will include auto responses, critical tasks only and loads of leisure time with the people I love the best.

I’m not okay right now but I will be.image

Sincerely,

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PS – This is helping.

Come Dance With Me

It has been nearly two months since #Stargazing2013.

I wore my Joanie dress. That’s what I love to call the green dress that I feel channels Joanie’s style from Mad Men.

The room was filled with family, friends and even a few strangers. I was nervous. I nearly lost my temper looking for my other earring. Emotions were running a little high.

Don’t worry. I founded it and kept my cool.

Once I arrived, warmth, love, hope and encouragement seemed to be hanging from the ceiling. It tinkled like crystal chandeliers and inspired hugs that rose out of the ground and up through entire bodies.

I told my story. I cried. I even got that verklempt voice. You know the one that sounds like a duck. I kept it together. Breathed. Paused. Continued.

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It was not easy but it wasn’t terribly difficult either. Love is a funny thing that way. It inches stepping stones closer together and opens bolted doors to meadows filled with fireflies.

I shared my big and scary dream.

I started an organization that aims to –

Honor the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma with a community invested in the healing of their whole being.

It’s called The Firecracker Foundation.

I want to make sure that children who survive what I did, have the love, therapy and support they need to have a healthy and happy future. I think our community should be invested in their healing.

I know that we should not leave them behind to fend for themselves.

I asked everyone who attended #Stargazing2013 to join our community. I told them – you belong with us.

Everyone agreed.

Some donated. Some pledged. Some volunteered.

Offerings of gifts I do not own.

And then we set some stuff on fire.

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You are looking at a very bad idea.

Sparks flew. The fire launched and it seems to be heading for a steady blaze.

Just a few days after the event, Louise Knott Ahern told my story in the Lansing State Journal and then it was picked up by the Detroit Free Press.

Thirteen men and women volunteered to share their stories and images in a calendar project that will be sold as a fundraiser. Their vision turned art photography will impact the hearts of fellow survivors and gift others a deeper understanding of what it means to have to live with the consequences of sexual trauma.

FC - Survivors 2013

Yoga studios around town are offering donation based classes to fund yoga classes for trauma survivors. The first one was yesterday and you can view a full schedule here.

My board of directors is training, strategic planning and committee building. Grants are being researched and programs are being built with the honor of our youngest survivors in mind.

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Holy cow.

And how do I feel?

It’s taken me a few exhausted days of stumbling about to figure that out.

I am proud.

I am proud and deeply in love with what is happening around me.

I am proud, in love and filled with so much gratitude, I can hardly contain it.

And, if I were being completely honest, I would admit that I’m a little frightened.

A good healthy fear never hurt anyone. I’ve heard that pride goes before a fall but perhaps if it’s tempered with crashing waves of gratitude, I’ll be able navigate this sea without too many shipwrecks.

Most of all – more than anything – I feel…

Over heartache and rage
Come set us free
Over panic and strange

I want the whole damn world to come and dance with me. 

Dancing so hard,

Tashmica

Old School: The College of Mommy Guilt

It has been 11 days since I last posted here.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed.  It has been a crazy week for so many.

It felt like forever for me.

It’s not that I wasn’t writing.  I write constantly.

My job requires well crafted emails, letters, posts, tweets, reports and occasionally the nicely drafted handwritten card.

Add to all of this, school work.

That is right, ladies and gentlemen.  I have just completed my first week of college after a nine-year break.

Have you met my nine-year old son, Isaiah?

I am taking a creative writing course.  I foresee that school commitments will affect my family, derby career and my social life.  Those decisions are already starting to chafe.

This is precisely why I get so irritated when I see advertisements or articles offering women a strategy to having it all.

Here is a strategy you can count on.

If you want it all, you must want very little.

If you are willing to make sacrifices, you can commit your life to deep loves but not much else.

Take it from me.  I am a expert on the topic. :)

I am already a bit tired and hyper vigilant when it comes to my calendar.  Thanks to a coworker, I have my profesh and personal calendars all synced.  I have never been a calendar girl.  No pun intended.

I now live and breathe by Google reminders.

What about my boys?

They start Karate next week.  Two times a week they will learn their hi-yas and ker-chops.  They are both in school and need help with homework.  I have a nightly study partner in Isaiah, who needs as much practice spelling as I do in mathematics.  We are riding the routine struggle bus as we adjust to stupid early mornings and regular friggin’ bedtimes.

I am still waiting for the world to recognize the value of a slow start of 11am.

Vito is confidently sauntering into daycare waving to the drooling toddlers and teachers alike.  He has no fear.  I am not completely comfortable with him having such an independent life.  He is the first of my children to attend daycare.  It is only part-time. Why do I feel like a part-time parent?

My husband is getting emails from me regarding where he can pick up the photo I had printed for Isaiah’s class.  I invited him to view my calendar so that we can also sync.  We are thinking about having a weekly morning coffee date to discuss…whatever the hell we want to when we are not running around like a team of two people out numbered by three children.

Paul has even changed his schedule so that he can be there to pick up our boys at school and help out on days when I work from home.

This week has left my family a cranky, whiny, exhausted mess.

Why, in the name of all things educated, did I need to make things so complicated with my career, my continued education, my roller derby and my friends.

There it is.  There is the millstone around my neck.

Mommy guilt.

The internal belief that I, as the best mother in the world, am responsible for fixing, making right, soothing and coaxing the Pleasantville life I used to see on T.V. for my family.  If my children throw temper tantrums, it must be as a result of my lack of parental focus.  If my husband, can’t find the ketchup, well darn it if I forgot to organize the pantry.  If my mother-in-law shops for our school supplies, it is because I am too busy after partying with the Vixens.

Well that part might be true. :)

Do you know what I remember about the time my mother put herself through college and graduated with a degree after my father died?  I don’t recall substandard meals, missed appointments or her general disorganization.  I can’t remember one spinning plate crashing to the ground even though, I am sure it must have happened.

I boast about the kind of woman who raised me while pursuing that degree.  I am proud.

I have a feeling that in the next 16 weeks and perhaps for the several semesters that follow, I will need to remind myself that I do not have to manage it all to be successful.  I need to remember that my children benefit from my role modeling and the lifestyle I provide for them.  I need to be reminded that their behavior is the result of years of loving discipline and not a few hours I spend away after bedtime.  I may need to be reminded that my children volunteer, do yoga, attend bouts, ride motorcycles and know many trusted and loving adults that are the village I have chosen.

Most importantly, I need to push my monster mommy ego out of my own way.  My family’s life does not need to revolve around me.  I am not at the center of the universe nor am I controlling its balance.  We are a family.  Just like I sacrifice so that I can afford Karate classes my children will more than likely quit before the Olympics, they will sacrifice by reading quietly so mommy can study sometimes.

This week has been difficult.  Sacrifice is difficult.  Seeing those ends you hold together come apart is a humbling experience.  Recognizing that your lifestyle of love, peace and grace has made it possible to stretch those ends through loved ones is humbling.

We can all consider this the first lesson of the semester.

I wonder if my children will ever cease being my greatest teachers. 

Enjoy your weekend,

Tashmica

 

 

Equally Limited

We traveled through the busy roads of Kampala until we came upon the sign and a single Muzungu (besides myself, of course) standing in the road waiting for us.  He guided us down bumpy, hidden back roads to where the orphanage was situated.  The gates at M-Lisada were covered in a painted mural.  Outside the gates painted with the smiles of children playing instruments, were children playing together.  They stopped to see the new muzungu pass.  Curiosity disturbed them.

I grabbed my camera and climbed out of the car to finally introduce myself to Chris.  The story of how we came to meet in Uganda is an unlikely one.  His mother Pam, sent me a handwritten letter at my day job to see if we knew of any resources that she could use to mail supplies to M-Lisada.  You can read about that here.

I wanted to see what other organizations were doing to help serve the AIDS Orphans of Uganda.

M-Lisada has a different plan than ours.  They are an orphanage.  We are a school.  When you hear the stories of both founders, you can kind of understand why their routes were different in attempting to solve the same problem.

Jackson Kaguri grew up in Nyakagyezi, Uganda.  His family strained to pay for an education that was believed to be the one way ticket out of poverty for all of their children.  Jackson studied hard, excelled and returned to find devastating poverty hanging heavy over his hometown community.  His answer was the answer given to him in his own childhood; an education is key to combating poverty.  The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project set about building schools and creating a holistic system to keep the children in classes/

Segawa Bosco was a street kid in Kampala.  He and a band of young men like himself longed for the opportunity to learn how to play musical instruments.  That passion united them to combine their resources to gain an education, pool their resources and start an orphanage.  This is the statement on their facebook page…

We are a home for street kids of Kampala, Uganda. We use the power of music, dance, and acrobatics to discover the family within each of us.

M-Lisada is now home to 80 street children between the ages of 3 and 18.  They all participate in some form of liberal arts and raise operation funds through their performances.

I wandered around their home heartbroken.  It wasn’t a sense that they weren’t being cared for.  Just that day, a group of volunteers had arrived with school supplies for the children.  I was excited to watch this exchange.

   

Children celebrating and cheerful givers recording the moment for those unable to make the journey.

I wasn’t heartbroken because of the facilities.  A home with eighty children will have its challenges but this place was clean, cheerful and full of laughter.  You could see how connected the children were with the staff as they came home, changed out of their school uniforms and came to greet us all.

That was how I met Beatrice.  She came to me proudly with school books filled with perfect handwriting.  I encouraged her by saying that I knew many adults who could not write as well as her.  She was smart as a whip.  A little conversation was all it took to see the light firing in her mind.

After a little while, the children gathered around and started asking me about my tattoos.  We chatted about school and then it was time for the jazz band to practice!

Beatrice then asked to use my camera.  She started snapping away.  This photo was my favorite.

The heartbreak didn’t come from the talent of the children playing their hearts out.  They played jazz standards led by Chris.  Counting, snapping and scatting along with their enthusiastic renditions.  I smiled and posed for another of Beatrice’s photo.

The heartbreak choked me a couple of times and I swallowed it back.  I stood in a tiny room with these two children and counted the beds triple stacked.  I watched them go in and out of the bathroom changing their clothes and putting away their school things.  I saw children standing outside the gate, milling around.

The heartbreak made no real sense.  These children were being given a safe place to lay their heads.  Most of them were in school and many children in the community use M-Lisada like an after school program.  They are doing good work.

At the end of the day, I shoved money in the Directors hand and stumbled out the door.  I could not fathom him thanking me.  I quickly escaped his gratitude.

The heartbreak is the limits.  The limits of my income.  The limits of the world’s generosity.  The limits of the funding.  The limits of the children that they can serve.

The sky is not the limit.

Today, eighty is the limit and standing in their home, that is heartbreaking to me.  I think of the backpacks I help my children clean out.  I think of tickling each of them and barely making my arms touch each of them equally.  I think of the times they fight over sitting next to me on the blanket, at the table or in the theater.

My arms, my love always stretching to the ends.

Dear world,

I wish I could turn you over and shake you out.  I wish our limits measured how little poverty we will allow as a global community.  We can do better and we don’t.  That is my heartbreak.

An equally limited.

Tashmica

Heart Is Home

Something very exciting came in the mail the other day.

No.  It was not a pair of shoes this time.

It was my brand spankin’ new passport.

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It was all official and shiny.  I cheered its arrival.  I was not sure when to expect it.  The website said it could take an eternity (exaggeration font) and it only took two weeks.

Do you know what an updated passport meant for me?

It meant that I could book my trip to Kampala, Uganda where I will finally meet our Country Manager and take a bus 10-12 hours south down bumpy roads to a village called Nyakagyezi.

And so that is exactly what I did after flashing my new papers at the office.

Nyakagyezi

That is where I will find more than 500 students all walking miles to get to school.  That is where I will find the house that birthday money we raised built for Grandmother Guderia and her family.  It is where I will see the faces of people I have been talking about, advocating for and humbled by for over a year.

I am extremely nervous.

I will be gone for two weeks.  I have never been away from my children for that long.  They are already staging protests.  This is going to be hard.

I am battening down the hatches.  I am starting to make plans to help bridge the gap of my absence for them while I am away.  I plan to have my girlfriends swooping in and encircling them with so much motherly love, they will request that I receive and extended stay.

This is not because I lack confidence in my husband.  He will miss me but he is well versed in sharing responsibilities.  He can handle this house and our boys.  I just want them to know that I love them, even when I am far away.  I want them to know that months before I was gone, I was sending them hugs, bounce houses and hot dates with beautiful, salt-of-the-earth women who want nothing more than to feed them ice cream.

I love my boys and even if I feel the need to trek off on this tiny mission, my heart is always with them.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – This is my official notice to you lovely lady friends of mine that I will start scheduling dates as of NOW.

*Space is limited. Offer only valid to those who are my besties and have been properly screened to spend time with my children.

PSS – I do intend on bringing you all with me on this little journey.  The next step is vaccinations!  (ouch!)  Don’t forget that you can sign up to subscribe to my blog via email.  Up a little and to your right.  You got it!

See For Myself

It has been a very busy week at the office.
Who am I kidding? It has been a busy month.
We were relocating, planning a fall fundraiser, trying like crazy to win a fancy schmancy Nike Girl Effect Challenge and sending out a newsletter (the first one I crafted all by my lonesome). 
No big deal.
I live on adrenaline and ridiculous expectations.
In my rushing about to do this, that and the other thing, I had to stop by PostNet to send out some mail.
The sign in the window said PASSPORT PHOTOS HERE.
Um, what?  Yeah, I need a passport photo for my trip to Uganda.  Today is the perfect day because my hair AND my makeup was did.  (no, not done.  I said “did”)
So I asked the gentleman to snap my photo.
I just so happened to have my old passport in my purse.  I had been carrying it around for at least a month after discussing with Jackson (see: Executive Director) my trip to Uganda.  For those of you who are new around here, my friends and family raised over $1,000 in honor of my birthday to help me build a grandmother house.  Reading all of the notes they left on my wish page made me tear up. 
It is required that I visit our projects in Uganda during the first year of my employment.  That milestone was met over a month ago.  Life got in the way.  The daily function of my job got in the way.  I didn’t press for it.
That may have been a mistake.  I know my work is important.  I know that their are grandmothers with access to better housing and children wearing sharp uniforms I helped raise funds for.  I know that there is clean water in pots and fresh milk in young bellies.  I know that grandmother baskets were shipped all over this country because I drove them in my swagger wagon and dropped them at the FedEx shop that knows me so well, I don’t even have to stay for my receipt.
I know in my mind but my eyes have yet to see the evidence.  I have only met one of our students.  I have never met any of our Ugandan staff members.  I haven’t seen the beautiful Desire Farm and all of the fresh food grown in it.  I have not seen the children sing and dance songs to prevent HIV/AIDS in their community.
So now I have asked that my trip be scheduled for the end of January.  It is time to go and see for myself.  I have a hefty amount of high fives to hand out to my star students and at least one grandmother house to check on.
Don’t worry.  I am sure you will hear all about it. I mean, if you like my mother flippin’ fan page you will. ;)

Shameless plug…

Nyaka is participating in the first ever Nike Girl Effect Challenge to win a
portion of the funding from the Nike Foundation for the next year. We have
19 days to secure the most unique donors. If we win, The Girl Effect will 
continue fundraising efforts throughout 2012 that could mean up to $75,000 
towards programs for girls living in poverty. Please click here to make a donation!





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Wordless Wednesday: Grandma’s House

I am turning 31 in about 3 weeks.  I will be a 31 year old woman.  I think I can remember when my own mother was 31.  Strange to think of such a thing.
I have been very busy.  I have gotten myself a new job (Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project), joined a new team (Lansing Derby Vixens), started writing for a new paper and magazine (The New Citizens Press and Urban Mainstream Magazine) and….*panting* continued to try and raise compassionate little people while keeping a healthy relationship with my guy.
It is time to celebrate!
Instead of asking for gifts (which I normally do…in multiples) I am asking that those that hold affection for me, honor me by making a donation to build a house for this family.
This is Pauline and she is a grandmother in Uganda that cares for her own grandchildren who have been orphaned by AIDS.  She lives in poverty and her home is a shack.  For $700 I, along with my generous friends, can build her a new home.  She will be dry when it rains, warm when it is cold and secure when others look to steal from her and her children.  Right now, I have raised $412. 
Please visit my birthday page and give what you can: http://wishes.causes.com/wishes/251302
Who doesn’t want to be able to say that they built a home for a woman like her? 
Happy Birthday to me! :)