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.

Happy to help!

I want my children to grow up to live a life that fills their spirit with bliss. I want them to walk with purpose and offer compassion in their own unique way. I want them to wake up every morning with a fire in their belly for social justice.

I’m not going to lie to you. I want my children to be activists.

You wanna be a lawyer? Oooh, how about immigration law or The Innocence Project.

You wanna be a doctor? I hear there are kids with cleft palates who could use someone like you. Have you ever heard of Patch Adams?

You wanna be a fireman? Do it. Saving lives, protecting families is an honorable gig. Be safe. Bring me stories.

This probably doesn’t surprise you. It shouldn’t. Conversations in our home revolve around the celebration of their interests and guidance towards how they might use their day job to serve others.

I will admit that I’ve also told them to make it so mommy doesn’t have to work. I recognize that these are conflicting instructions but I figure either way, I CAN’T LOSE!

Real talk. Nobody saving the world is rolling in bank but they are rolling deep in the good.

My kids watch me. As they all do. They 11136651_10152893200734022_8788192720637140555_ncome to the events, they sit through the meetings, they help their momma empty the car after the latest event. They know my elation and exhaustion. They know my successes and my frustrations. They get to witness it all.

Should make for a great book someday.

Lord, help me.

I often worry that it’s all too much. That I do too much. I worry, like mothers do.

And then, I get an email like this:

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Have any brochures coming up that I can help with? If so, let me know.

He ends his email in the same way I do.

Happy to help!

It’s never too early to learn grassroots organizing. #amiright

As a side note: that’s my best friend’s face making a cameo appearance. Hey girl, hey!

So, my son is sitting on the Teen Yoga Committee for my foundation. He is the brother of the founder of the Dog Olympics. I’m thinking, he will be learning some communications this summer. And the best part?

It’s all because he’s happy to help.

My children will be who they are meant to be. I enjoy watching them change, grow and become more and more independent of me. Different than each other and bringing their own brand of amazing into my life and the lives of others. It is a remarkable privilege to give my children the room they need to be who they are and then watch the magic happen.

Wouldn’t you agree?

May the life I give my sons now, lead them towards their own bliss. Amen.

Love,

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Just a job

A couple of weeks ago, I stood by my table among many other entities seeking out interns at the MSU Earn, Learn and Intern event.

I felt awkward.

I am proud of my work. I believe that there is no end to what a student might learn working with me and my team of firestarters.

But I watch.

I say sexual trauma and children in the same sentence and I watch the recoil.

The step away and back. The inner shudder.

I know, guys. I know.

It’s hard words. It’s hard truths and ugly realities. I know it and if you work here, I won’t shield you from it.

When we go into the darkness, we go all in. There is no dipping your toe in. It is a full push into the muck. It is a deep dig into the dark to find the light.

A friend shared an article with me over the weekend.

It start’s out:

“Sometimes when the phrase trauma survivor is mentioned, there is such heaviness in the air, such hesitation and deliberate conversation that I just want to shout—”Don’t be afraid of survivors; don’t back away. They might be you and you might be them.” So instead of starting with what is challenging, stressful, and complicated about working with survivors, I want to celebrate our strengths:”

The article is called, “Survivor Strengths:” Excerpt from “Survivors on the Yoga Mat

I read it and then thought, “Ah ha.”

You see, I don’t believe in convincing people to work with me. Not here. Not in my place.

I think you have to want to be here. It’s that good. It’s meant for you. Or it’s just not.

However, after reading these notes on how survivors exist beyond their trauma, my perspective began to shift.

Imagine: all of this good wrapped up in one person who has been badly injured.

A person that sees more for having seen less. A person who understands what you’ve been through and knows that silent compassion is the best medicine; today. It may be different tomorrow and that’s okay.

This and so many other things that survivors of all kinds of trauma hold out as true gifts refined over time.

Perhaps, my job is not to convince. That still rings true. Earn Learn Intern

There are members of my team who are survivors. I am a survivor.

What if the lessons are in recognizing that survivors can be a source of inspiration, great healing and hope despite real, devastating tragedy?

What if the lessons are in not fearing survivors as a community?

I think I am going to print this off and pass it out whenever I hand out my internship positions.

I don’t have just a job. So why would I have just an internship to offer.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – Just in case you’re curious, here’s the link to The Firecracker Foundation Internship Opportunities.

 

 

Capturing Soulfires

Yesterday afternoon, I received an unexpected phone call.

It was Mrs. P’s.

“‘Hi honey. Will you have Jena call me?”

I’m sorry? What?

My 5th grade teacher just called me up to ask if one of my dearest friends would call her.

Strange.

“Do you trust me” she asked.

“Yes.” I answer.

Because seriously, I do. More now than ever before.

More now than when I unburdened myself of that dreadful secret.

More now than the day that she said, “I believe you. It happened to me too. You’re going to be okay.”

Because since then, I’ve spoken to her regularly and she’s given me the advice of someone who knows.

She’s sent me newspaper clippings and letters of her own from the days when she trail-blazed advocacy work in my hometown of El Paso, TX.

You know, just in case it would spur an idea or an inspiration for me.

She’s sent me a yearbook from the time I knew her and a card telling me how proud she is of me.

Actually, that’s the one thing she tells me the most.

“Oh honey, I’m just so proud of you.”

And now she is pouring out of my heart and into Jena’s all the way from Colorado.

Why?

Well, because Jena and I are being spirited away on an adventure.

It’s time to shoot another calendar of survivors and this year the theme is solidarity. This year we are asking survivors to invite someone who was invaluable to them as they struggled to heal.

Click here to see last year’s photos.

This year, I offer an opportunity for us all to say,

“Thank you. You saved me. I felt rescued. Blessed be.”

My path was clearly lit by the souls of many strong women willing and able to pour good things into me.

There was and still is Catrina, Jude, my mother, my grandmother and my Aunt Debbie.

I have never been alone. Not ever.

For this project, I’ve chosen to invite Mrs. P’s – or Lisa as I now call her (because I’m a grown up, ya’ll!) because she is where my healing all began.

She put me on the path that led straight to the others.

On August 4th, Jena and I will fly to Colorado to meet Lisa together.

So as of yesterday, Jena McShane and Lisa Griffin have some kind of secret. I’m not allowed to know and Jena is not telling.

Stinkers.

That’s why she’s coming along.

Sure. She is a talented photographer. Supa dupa talented doesn’t even do her justice.

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You should totally vote for her in this competition. #ShamelessPlug

Jena creates images from a place of empathy. We shared a wadded up handkerchief with another survivor. We are committed to eating burritos and going hiking if my emotions get the best of me (or us both). I’m sure their will be cocktails, hugs, selfies and truly intimate moments but Jena is special.1236309_10151927620928824_1726302796_n

She’ll get it.

Sometimes…okay, all of the time, we refer to each other as #McCracker because obviously.

She told the survivors who have already volunteered for #Soulfire2015 that as our photographer,

“Instead of capturing souls, I will capture soulfires.”

I told her that we are just beginning the Sisterhood of Traveling Soulfires.

And then we giggled. And teared up. And geeked out because that was super cheesy and I don’t even care.

I know. I know.

I can’t even stand myself right now.

I’m not even sure what this means for me. I get a little choked up just thinking about it.

All I know today is that I am following a journey of gratitude.

My good life is a testimony to the way I was loved.

Today and everyday, that love is gifted to those around me.

It expands. It surrounds. It grows.

It inspires the creation of the foundation now and into the future.

So this is the cat. I release it from the bag.

And in a few weeks, I take it on the road.

Boom. #McCrackered.

Faithfully,

Tashmica

PS – To keep up with us, follow the hashtag #Soulfire2015 or #McCracker. You know, what evs.

I made it up.

When I was in 5th grade a new family moved into the rental house next door. Out of the four children who lived there, two were the exact age as my brother and I.

We were delighted.

Well, I was delighted because I was a born extrovert who loved making new friends. I’m probably projecting those feelings onto my brother. Nonetheless, we played together during the last summer before ‘playing together’ became ‘hanging out’ in 6th grade.

In their backyard, we were invited into an old, dilapidated greenhouse. The wooden structure was rotting from disuse and weeds grew up between the stepping stones. Some of the heavy windows were leaning in on themselves or littered on the ground.

The potential was enormous.

The next day we brought our offerings together. Leftover paint, discarded dishes, pillows and a few books all piled together to improve the livability of our new digs. We repainted the wood – complete with our own handprints – and the loose windows were pressed back into place. We even hung up some sheets like curtains.

Once we were done, we rested comfortably in the space we created from the best of what we could find to share with each other.

This weekend I hosted the first orientation and advocacy training workshop for volunteers of The Firecracker Foundation. We announced it’s existence about a month ago and the response surprised me. Out of 25 spots available, 21 people registered and 17 were able to participate.

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That’s a lot more people than I expected.

They were each required to obtain a DHS Clearance as well as proof that they were not listed on either state or federal sex offender registries. They had to register for the training and give up 4 hours of their day on a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. The commitment was big.

They jumped through all of the hoops with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. Again. I may be projecting.

Come Saturday morning, they were there and ready.

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I was there and nervous.

I don’t know if you are aware but I have never done any of this before. I’m basically making this up as I go along. However, let me also reassure you that I am not flying by the seat of my pants. I’m humbly asking questions, seeking advice and asking for a lot of help.

There’s a little flight too. I dream and plan and hope for what this foundation can be in spare moments, notes, emails and phone calls to friends. I have high hopes.

I am then taking all of the best I can gather, piling it up and making it an offering to the community. I am not alone in my efforts.

Together we are learning how to protect children, how to serve their families and how to take care of ourselves through the process. As a team we are gathering the best of what we have to offer and laying it at the feet of a community of children who have been injured. We are helping them renovate and rehang the windows.

In my mind, that greenhouse is being fervently repaired and tiny buds are starting to sprout.

As most things do, it will flourish with love.image

Spring is certain.

Tashmica

 

 

Finding Your Thing: Lessons from the Voluntold

I make my kids do a lot of things.

Most of it is for their benefit. I make them eat healthy foods, brush their teeth, hold hands in the parking lot and generally do things that will prolong their life.

Some things I do purely for myself. Why have children if you cannot ask them to shovel the drive, clear the table or take out the trash? It would just be wasted free labor if I didn’t.

There is too much work to be done in our home to have little idle hands hanging around.

In addition to domestic duties, my children have been subject to my insistence that we are a family of volunteers. They have passed out flyers for my roller derby league*, “worked” in a Habitat for Humanity home and placed stamps on appeals for Nyaka.

Isaiah and Isaac being volunTOLD at Nyaka while Kinzer and Gwenny volunteer.
Isaiah and Isaac being volunTOLD at Nyaka with Kinzer and Gwenny.

My husband and I are the captains of the volunteer ship and rarely even ask if anyone wants to come along. We just place it on the calendar and make sure there are tasks safe for little hands.

As we say on the Vixens, my children are voluntold for tasks not volunteered.

I usually do explain the cause and why we are helping in the car on the way over.

Nothing dramatic.

We support mommy’s roller derby team. We believe everyone should have a home. We believe that all children deserve to be loved and protected.

They usually listen for about three seconds, ask a question or two, sulk if they’d rather be playing video games and eventually realize resistance is futile before pitching in.

It’s not always pretty. Their attention span – especially Vito’s *sigh* – does not permit the dramatic shifting of mountains.

I give my time because I am passionate about service. I believe that it is important to give of your resources but you cannot truly love something if you are not willing to invest sweat equity.

The family that sweats together, loves together?

I don’t know but it seems like if I want my children to love the world around them like I do, then they have to not only see me living by my own words but they need to participate.

Isaiah is now 9-years-old and has been subjected to this lifestyle since I could tie his warm little body onto my chest so my hands could be free. He is starting to ponder deeper questions about the world around him.

He got all googly-eyed when I mentioned liking girls the other day.

I. DIE. It was so cute!

I have always given priority to organizations that serve women and children. Next in line are issues that effect families and then the environment. I’m not huge into fighting for cures or animals. I just never have been.

We all have causes that appeal to us. We have our things. Those are mine.

But what are Isaiah’s things? Does he care about roller derby? Does he want to build homes? Does he care about orphans in Uganda?

I didn’t know because I have never asked.

So one day I asked him a question.

If you could choose one thing to volunteer for, what would it be?

He looked at me kind of funny and needed a little more information before he could answer. So I broke it down for him. Forgive me if some of these terms are not P.C. but I was talking to a child.

Would you want to serve blind people, old people, animals, the environment or….?

I took some time to talk about a few different types of organizations with different beneficiaries and gave him some time to think.

After a moment of deliberation, Isaiah said that if he could choose, he would serve animals and the environment.

Those would be his things.

I was blown away by the fact that his interests were last on my own list. My son loves nature and wants to protect it.

He did not get that from me. I mean, I’m glad for nature and glad for people who keep it together. I’m just not the girl for the job.536964_10151375560588588_911503900_n

As a Christmas gift, I signed Isaiah up to volunteer at the Capital Area Humane Society.

We both attended a short orientation where we were given the rules of how to handle the animals in the shelter.

Isaiah impressed me with his care and attention to details that keep the animals safe from harm.

When he completed his orientation, he changed into his volunteer shirt before going into the grocery store. He could hardly wait to put it on.

Isaiah is the captain of this volunteer ship. We have a set date on the calendar for us to make our monthly visit and we go more often when we have time. As soon as we walk in, Isaiah runs the show. I am only there to chaperone. We visit the animals that he wants to visit and in the order he wants to visit them.

I have learned that he gets overwhelmed if an animal is too hyper or too strong. He remembers their names and asks if they have been adopted when we return. He is incredibly gentle and uses a kind voice with all of the animals. He tries to understand what they want and acts accordingly.

We leave every animal saying,”We hope we never see you again”. Isaiah understands his role is to give comfort to the animals while they wait to be adopted by others.

Watching my son doing his thing has taught me more about who he is inside.

Isaiah volunteeringWhat an incredible gift.

Following him into those kennels has given me a new love for animals and the peace that comes from being their friend.

And this whole time I thought I was the one who was supposed to be handing out lessons. :)

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – Click here for more information on snuggling up on some sweet dogs, cats and bunnies with your kiddos.

PSS – As I was writing this post I remembered that Isaiah kisses our dog Charlie goodnight every night and I still never guessed his thing. :)

* Shameless promotion: Come watch the Lansing Derby Vixens take on South Bend on April 20th at the Lansing Center! Tickets are just $12 in advance and kids 12 and under are FREE!

 

True Value

Last night, my dream job announced a 6-week story telling series called, Story-A-Week.

The event kicks off with a beautifully done documentary short by the very talented Brenda Phillips.

It is so, so good. I just had to be sure you saw it too.

Watch the video for a little heart swelling inspiration this morning.

Wow. Right?

This all reminds me of how much I loved visiting Nyaka myself. The singing in the beginning of the video is a woman named Priscilla. She prepared all of my meals and laughed at me when I asked her for soap so that I could hand wash my knickers.

She didn’t believe a muzungu would even know how. :)

So many memories.

Please “like” the Nyaka AIDS Foundation on Facebook to hear stories that will keep your hopes high during what can be a stressful holiday season.

I love gentle reminders of what is most important. While the whole world seems to be crying out holiday sales, Black Friday and price cuts, I want to focus on compassion, hope and faith.

Let’s not forget where true value lies.

Sincerely,

Tashmica