winter solstice blessings

Happy Winter Solstice + Full Moon Eve, Dear Ones!

For me, it is a time to rest, reflect and
enjoy a balance of solitude and authentic connection.

In whatever ways you observe,
participate in, reframe or abstain from the festivities of this season,
may you honor that which has heart and deepest meaning for you.

3jewels.merryhappyeverything1!

hanukkah rededication

For the holy week, we lit candles each night to rededicate ourselves to practicing values that help us feel cared for and supported as a family.


My kiddo chose:

LOVE on the 1st night.
KINDNESS on the 2nd night.
LISTENING on the 3rd night.
GENEROSITY on the 5th night.

I picked:
PATIENCE on the 4th night.
LAUGHTER on the 6th night.
CURIOSITY on the 7th night.
TEAMWORK on the 8th night.

 


Creating a spiritual legacy: How We Hanukkah‘d in 2017.


Image Descriptions:

📷 #1 — In the background, an 8-year old fair-complexioned Black boy sits at a table, playing with an action figure in darkened room. In the center of the table are 9 burning tealight candles arranged to represent a hanukiah. In the foreground is a small piece of paper, entitled “Hanukkah Rededication,” with a list of family values in a child’s handwriting — 1) Love. 2) Kindness. 3) Listening. 4) Patience. 5) Generosity. 6) Laughter.

📷 #2 — Overhead view of 9 unlit tealight candles in the middle of a dark grey table (1 blue glass circular candleholder in the center on top of a colorful ceramic tile and 4 clear glass circular candleholders on each side of it)and an 8×11 piece of sketch paper with all 8 family values re-written in different colors including 7) Curiosity and 8) Teamwork.

📷 #3 — The same “Hanukkah 2018 Rededication” list posted on a refrigerator.

how we hanukkah

Blessed is light in the world;
Blessed is the light in humanity; Blessed is the light of Hanukkah.
— Humanistic Hanukkah Blessing

yesterday, stirred by instinct, i decided that we’d create our own hanukiah. (lemme take a sacred pause here to emphasize how Spirit truly moves through us because i had not even checked the calendar to see when Hanukkah fell this month!) only now as i write am i connecting this intuitively-inspired action to heart-seeds nourished by Sangha’s reflection on what we have inherited, the quality of how we give + receive, and what we transmit.

🕯 what have i inherited? the soul-deep call to explore the spiritual legacy of my jewish ancestors dora, gottlieb + mary roth.

🕯 how do i give + receive? by trusting curiosity + call to move beyond ideologies + orthodoxies about how to celebrate/worship. by telling new stories + making new practices + memories.

🕯 what do i transmit + pass on? imagination, creativity + openness to be expansive with how we live out the yearnings of our spiritual hearts, which are compelled toward what feels nourishing.

so on tuesday night, we took turns re-reading Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa + inviting the bell. i recited a prayer before K lit the first candles. then the kiddos ate brownies to sweeten the day.



first light of hanukkah:

the light of reason that teaches us the difference between right and wrong.
(*)
— Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism


d4m.howwehannukah1a.jpg

(*) dualistic language that I always expand to “skillful” and “unskillful” to acknowledge the range of context and conditions as well as the process of learning, stretching, deepening, revising, evolving as we grow through, test out and experience actions that create suffering/harm and those that cultivate freedom/healing from suffering/harm.

d4m.howwehannukah1b.jpg


#BodhicittaBookshelf

📚 Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

📚 Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa

📚 Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson

📚 Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg



the second light of hanukkah
the light of self-esteem that inspires us to believe in ourselves.

my little ray of light just might have been most geeked about learning how to use a lighter. these mudras were all him, y’all!

here i paused + cradled my heart for the devastating loss of young lives to suicide triggered by bullying. as much as i want to try to understand the unimaginable, i can hardly read beyond these headlines.

that these babies are suffering so deeply that voices of cruelty drown out voices of love is unacceptable. we must protect these babies — those who have been taught to harm + those who are the targets of harm — at all costs.


the third light of hanukkah:
the light of courage that gives us the strength to stand up for our beliefs. 

[king k + his “flamethrower,” lighting the 3rd candle last night!]

afterward, we talked about what courage looks like + read about courageous activist + Nobel Peace winner, Malala Yousafzai.

courage also looks like untethering ourselves from what no longer serves us — thoughts, values, beliefs, behaviors, practices, rituals, — particularly, if they are “inherited” or “borrowed” + not resonant with who we are or aspire to be.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaële Frier


the fourth light of hanukkah:
the light of freedom that reminds us to take responsibility for ourselves.

as we reflected on freedom, i was instantly transported back to Salus Center’s Whose Streets? workshop last saturday + heard the echoes of Dr. Koach Baruch Frazier declaring, “we have a duty to know that we are free!”

so what makes us feel free?

for my 7-year old: not having homework! 🤸🏾

for me, i told him, one of the many things that affirms my sense of freedom is being my own boss so that i can cultivate a skillful livelihood that enables me to stay aligned in Spirit while supporting others in being whole + free.

we read about Ida B. Wells who was born into slavery, emancipated as a young child, then became a celebrated journalist, crusader against lynching + a voice for justice.

#BodhicittaBookshelf
Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist by Philip Dray


the fifth light of hanukkah:
the light of love that enables us to care for those in need.


we celebrated love…the binding energy that defuses t(w)een-angsty squabbles + sustains sugar-fueled cousins + siblings through gramma’s holiday slumber party!


the sixth light of hanukkah:
the light of loyalty that helps us keep our promises to those who depend on us. 

[jedi vibes on this 6th night of reflection under the new moon (rosh chodesh). 🌑]

on this night we contemplated models of loyalty, dependability + trustworthiness, which include superheroes, trollhunters + dragonriders…and, in real life, parents who always got ya back!


the seventh light of hanukkah:
the light of generosity that encourages us give even when we do not receive.


we talked about the many ways we can practice generosity — like giving your cousin most of your goldfish. being patient, kind + helpful. spending time with those you care about. listening well. having a big heart. 💖


the eighth light of hanukkah:
the light of hope that leads us to a vision of a better world. 



k has thoroughly enjoyed his official role as “keeper of the flame” + surprised me by suggesting we add the buddha statue + goddess card to create this tableau.

(i’m sure his eye for #miseenscene has been influenced in some small way by all the episodes of #fixerupper he watches with his dad!)

on this very last night we celebrated hope + its connection to each of the seven virtues that came before.

hope can energize our capacity to embody + experience generosity, loyalty, love, freedom, courage, self-esteem, reason/wisdom. and each of these qualities can strengthen our hope.

The Eight Lights of Hannukah by Marilyn Rowens, Secular Humanistic Judaism

who we are | contemplating gender identity + expression

who we are,

how we embody + express

all of our identities —

namely, gender + culture —

and how we respect + support the wholeness of others in embodying + expressing their multitudes is an ongoing contemplation in our home.

Last month, we discovered Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and discussed the gender spectrum and the many ways to be a “boy”/”girl”/”kid”…PERSON!
While my little person was still nesting in the womb, I held a blessing ceremony and invited all who were present to speak love, life and possibility over my child. my own prayer was for my soon-to-be human-baby-person to have a compassionate soul.

Parenting with a heart for justice, liberation and healing compels me to ensure that this compassionate soul cultivates a “liberating lexicon” rooted in the skillful understanding that we have the power to name ourselves and we will continue to resist the oppressive forces that tell us otherwise.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

📷 #2: kiddo’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “boy.”

i am a boy.

i like building, drawing, games. 

📷 #3: mommy’s self-understanding + expression:

i have a body that made adults guess “girl.”

i am a girl.

i like reading. 

📷 #4: two of the places we descend from…opening up the conversation around how we express culture and ethnicity. specifically, how does a brownskinned, black-identified, multi-cultured, multi-ethnic, multi-racial child express/embody their “white” part? (#howsway)  my child’s answer was all levels of woke: he basically named a certain dangerous political character and his behaviors, indicating my son’s awareness of how toxic “white pride” is expressed. 

converging histories | stevie wonder

When a story on the legendary Stevie Wonder converges into a history lesson on music, our homestate of Michigan and our amazing “Auntie B” (the talented Teal Marchande) who interviewed Stevie when she was in high school!

  • 📚: Little Stevie Wonder by Quincy Troupe
  • 🎧: Songs in the Key of Life (vol. 1 + 2)
    Stevie Wonder — Song Review
  • 💻: Showed him videos for “Isn’t She Lovely, Happy Birthday (for MLK Jr.), Ebony + Ivory (because Paul McCartney’s Blackbird is one of his favorite bedtime songs), two of my all-time faves As + All I Do, and the episode of Carpool Karaoke with Stevie!

woman horizontal | the sound of him

all that motherhood inspires…

3 Jewels Yoga™

he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats

snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis

3jewels.allmannerofsound

mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans

jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
shuffling feet,
flexing knees,
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore

drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed

bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external…

View original post 87 more words

how we came to be: the legacy of mary roth + wesley rhodes

 

 All our ancestors are in us.  Who can feel himself alone?
~Richard Beer-Hofmann

Inspiration

In May 2003, my sisters and I returned to Lansing, Michigan to be with our grandmother Gene (Hayes) Merchant during her heart surgery and subsequent recovery. Facing the illness and major surgery of a beloved quickly puts the value of life, family, and knowing one’s roots into new perspective.

Over the next few weeks, Tamara, Atia, and I sifted through several boxes of photographs on a mission to label, organize, and preserve these aging, delicate treasures. We were fascinated by the stories Gramma told us, bringing hundreds of captured memories—smiling faces with familiar features who gathered to share joyous occasions, milestones, or simply everyday wonders—back to life. We had also come across birth certificates and other documents, which provided some vital information and offered us a clearer picture into the past. From that moment, I was inspired to renew the vow I had made when I was 12 years old to research and document our family legacy.

After attending my first Rhodes Family Reunion in Hamilton, Canada the summer of 1989, I was excited to explore our German heritage. But books on German genealogy indicated that most records had been destroyed in World War I. A little discouraged that I could not immediately begin my search, I remained determined to someday have the means to put together the story of how we came to be.

The opportunity finally arrived soon after I had returned to my home in Brooklyn, New York in July 2003. The journey began in the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy at the world-renowned New York Public Library (the one with the lion statues featured in dozens of movies) in Manhattan where I discovered that Wesley Rhodes had served in the Civil War. Along with viewing census records of my great-great parents, Sylvia (Rhodes) Hayes & James Hayes, I obtained a copy of Wesley’s file card from the Civil War Pension Index.

I immediately enlisted the help of Tamara, who lives in Maryland, to visit the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration in Washington, D.C. and copy Wesley’s file. I was amazed when she excitedly called some weeks later that August to tell me that there were actually two huge folders of documents. (It was the best birthday gift I could have asked for!) Neither of us expected there would be so much information! But, as you well know when the government is giving you money, war veteran or not, it doesn’t come easy: they want proof of the proof! As thrilling as it was to hear my sister read the documents to me, I was eager to touch this history myself and visited the N.A.R.A. in October 2003 to collect additional information.

Family, please know how blessed we are to have access to such valuable information. Many people cannot begin to piece together their genealogy, to verify stories that have been passed down orally for generations, or to come upon surprises such as Tamara and I did! Contained within those files are birth, marriage and death certificates, letters written by Mary (or perhaps her daughter Annie on her behalf) to the U.S. Pension Bureau, depositions and affidavits from friends corroborating Mary’s and Wesley’s history, and even a document of Wesley’s health examination, recording his height at 5 feet, 8 ½ inches, weight at 185 pounds and his various ailments.

This booklet is my first endeavor to encapsulate the remarkable legacy of Mary Roth and Wesley.  For me, it is one of love against odds, courage, determination and the quest for freedom.

Continue reading “how we came to be: the legacy of mary roth + wesley rhodes”

breathing beauty into the world: a mindfulness practice for children (who are learning to see with eyes of compassion)

Each day I rise, waking to a world of possibilities.

I breathe and smile, happy and ready to learn, grow and share.

I see the sky, sun, clouds above me.

I see the earth, plants, water below me.

I feel the air around me.

I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

I choose to see beauty in myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my community, and all living creatures.

I choose to speak words from my heart that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.

I choose to act from my heart in ways that are helpful, healthy, inspiring, and kind.

Even when I do not feel or act my best (whether I am sad, scared, confused or angry), I remember to place my hands on my heart and breathe.

I smile, knowing I can begin anew.
I can ask for help and comfort from those I trust and love.

Each night, I rest, thankful for all that I learned and shared.

I see the sky, moon, stars above me.

I see the beauty all around me. I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

[originally written Fall 2012]

This writing has multiple sources of inspiration:
  • My experiences as an aunt, mother, and substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program;
  • My experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, which is rooted in my practice of Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh;
  • My dear friend TaNesha Barnes, who asked me some time last year to create an affirmation for Beyond The Surface, the critical thinking and social justice academy she literally built in her own backyard!  A 21st-century embodiment of Wonder Woman, TaNesha is a mother, entrepreneur (t. barnes beauty), educator and social justice advocate with a clear heart-driven mission to empower students to become “global thinkers for equitable living.” When she recently posted the draft version of this piece (typed one late-night and stored as a memo on my BlackBerry) on Facebook, I was not only honored that she announced it would be recited daily in her upcoming program, Breathing Beauty Rites of Passages for Black Girls, but also compelled to add some long-awaited finishing touches! I am so deeply grateful to have lived, learned and grown up with TaNesha over the last 19 years and, on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (#MOW50), am excited to continue collaborating with her on programs that merge spirituality and wellness with social justice.

honoring king 2019

This day for me was not merely a national holiday but a holy day where I got to honor sacred rhythms of rest and contemplation.

Reflecting on King’s legacy, I recalled that my earliest childhood learnings about him where fraught with bellyache-inducing worry and fear about the KKK and other white supremacists who brutalized, jailed and ultimately assassinated MLK and fellow Civil Rights activists. By my teens, the quickening in my gut turned into quiet groans of exasperation and impatient disinterest at the same regurgitated stories.

In all fairness, it wasn’t was limited to King — history, categorically, was made boring by the majority of my teachers, in both the public + private schools I attended.

What I ask now, as a parent, devoted learner, homeschool educator and facilitator who values and cultivates liberating spaces:

Whom does it serve to keep us bored, disinterested, fearful, anxious and disconnected from the histories of our people?


“Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses…

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths.

To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education.

Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction…

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education…If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Purpose of Education


Thinking of all the WHOs, WHATs and WAYs that MLK’s life may have been inspired by, intersected with and inspired the stories/creators of stories represented in this sample selection of books we have read over the years.

I curate my kiddo’s learning in ways that bring context and build connections between people and events in our (ever-unfolding) history.

 

Read the full text here: The Purpose of Education

zen mom life | dirt + dharma

skate. bike. dig. 

small but sure hands, inviting the bell. mismatched socks tiptoe-ing around beetle skeletons through the labyrinth. 

pausing for hugs. bowing to friends. 

finding his own rhythm in breath + stride. sitting, knee-to-knee beside me, cradling a jagged cluster of citrine.

more sunday gems: #zeninlansing

 

 

 

children’s social justice reading group|civil protest

Oh, just learning about Civil Protest this morning:

The kiddo helped us check kids in, then later helped me lead the small discussion circle. And he came up with the words Fight For Justice for his protest sign all on his own!

📚: ¡Si, Se Puede/Yes, We Can: Janitor Strike in L.A.! by Diana Cohn

📚: Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkey

🎞: Andrea + Brian Pinkey Introduce “Sit-In” 

loving day 2017

d4m.walkintherosegarden

Today is Loving Day! A celebration that honors the courage of Mildred and Richard Loving, who boldly fought their way to the U.S. Supreme Court with a legal case against the state of Virginia for its racist laws banning intermarriage between whites and non-whites. The Lovings may not have initially imagined that pursuing personal justice — the right to have their marriage acknowledged and validated in their homestate without the threat of jail — would result in a landmark civil rights victory of far-reaching proportions for generations to come. But the Supreme Court’s decision, on June 12, 1967, overturned anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states, decriminalized interracial marriages, and set a precedent for the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015! 

On a personal level, June 12th is also an auspicious date for us — not only as an interracial couple, but for the chance encounter at a gas station one Saturday afternoon in 2004 that led to our reconnection after meeting briefly as teens more than 10 years prior.

Thirteen years later, we are parents to a child whom we are nurturing and teaching to understand and embrace himself as a black boy with multi-ethnic, multicultural, interfaith roots.

On the wall above his bed are a map of the world and of North America. I’ve finger-traced lines from all the places both our families have originated, across the many miles and borders traveled, to the city where the three of us were born. K tastes his Caribbean heritage in the meals I prepare and touches it during visits with my heavy-accented and dreadlocked Calypso-musician father and has learned of his German-Canadian ancestry from my maternal line and our visit to my late great-grandmother’s birthplace in Ontario. His connection to his dad’s maternal Czechoslovakian ancestry is less substantial because, for many reasons, we don’t encounter it those same embodied and sensate ways (especially since the death of my husband’s grandmother)…but there’s time to learn.

While the more complex discussions of affinity groups, intersectionality, and race as a social construct rather than a biological reality is a ways off, I’m curious to see how fluid or fixed his sense of ethnic/racial and cultural identity will ultimately become. We live in a town we jokingly call The Interracial Capitol* and are surrounded by bi- or multi-racial cousins (all on his dad’s side, by the way), friends, and neighbors, so his lens is very brown. And, his use of black, blackish, brown, brownish-white to describe himself (and to identify the similarity of our complexions while distinguishing the differences between ours and his dad’s) seems to be evolving from the basic capacity to articulate the concrete variations of skin tone toward a liminal and nuanced understanding of shared cultural experiences. Take this morning for example: As we learned about prefixes, K suddenly stopped to point out that seeing the word “multi-colored” reminded him of the books we read about segregation. Yup, those were the words that came out of his 7-year-old mouth. A total kiss-your-brain moment!

Despite all the interracial couples I know (of which, surprisingly, almost a dozen are black women married to white men), I’ve never heard nor seen any mention of this historical day being observed as a privately-hosted celebration or community event in our area. First steps: talking about the importance of Loving Day with my husband and son during dinner this evening; and adding our family’s story to the expansive legacy of love, hope, bravery and freedom that inspires us to keep fighting against injustice 50 years later.

*(To be very clear, having intimate, interpersonal relationships with an individual and a handful of their family and friends is not necessarily correlated with folks being “woke” and anti-racist. Receipts must be checked!)


bodhicitta bookshelf: The Case for Loving, co-created by husband + wife team Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, was among the books we read this winter as part of our exploration of social justice, civil rights, black cultural icons, and U.S. history.

the golden time of day

he crawls into the empty pre-dawn space daddy made, flings his legs over mine, and quickly drops back to sleep.

waking hours later, he speaks to me of colorful video-pixeled dreams.

reflections in the 7th year of #motherhood

i was initiated into “mothering” by practicing (with much fumbling + failing) on the many littles in my family who arrived before i became a parent 7 years ago.

then, on my son’s 1st birthday, it suddenly dawned on me that the celebration was not singularly for him, as culture and industry have dictated. it was a day for us to honor the blessing of our journey as parents, our vision for ourselves and our child(ren), and the circle of loved ones who support us in the process.

the day my son took his first breath holds most meaning for me and is what i officially recognize as mother’s/mothering day. it is when i became the mother that was seeded and nourished in the wombs of countless generations. through teresa, gene, sylvia, mary, dora and all the mothers before them, i bloomed into being. and it is this very specific moment in april 2010, that cord of memory, and those bodies that i wish to connect more deeply to — our collective labouring and birthing day.

and less and less to what feels fabricated and complicated by the realities of internalized grief and trauma, interpersonal strife, unjust institutional policies/practices that create inequities, disparities and barriers for children and caregivers/parents, and distorted gender-biased ideologies about motherhood that upholds a narrow vision of who can lay claim to the experience of mothering.

so i arrived at this day with mixed feelings for many deep-seeded/emerging/evolving reasons.

nonetheless, as always, i continue to celebrate:

mothers + all others who love, advocate for, educate, empower, inspire, nurture, and protect children. 

while also reflecting on the ways that consumer culture + commercial industry dictates who, what, when + how we celebrate. 

especially when, under the influence of profit + politics, these same commercially-driven institutions fail to advocate for (or struggle to protect) the health, education + well-being of children, caregivers, and parents.

this illustration by mari andrew is the most authentic expression of my it’s-complex-and-complicated “reframing” of Mother’s Day/Mothering Day.

spring cleaning fever

​when the kiddo wakes up before us, and we come down to find him tidying up!

unprompted. with no previous convo about chores. just straight-up took the initiative to clean house.

guess somebody got spring cleaning fever, and i’m totally here for it! these are the precious moments that affirm our decision to homeschool — to see the seeds we’ve planted, and water daily, are blooming beautifully. our son is not only demonstrating responsibility and an understanding of the value we place on taking care of our home, but also his own emerging appreciation for cleanliness.

…at least in the common areas of the house ’cause his room is not tidy at all! baby steps though.

d4m.springcleaningfever5

a boy + his dog hat

We cleaned out closets today to donate clothes and shoes that the kiddo has outgrown. But he ain’t lettin’ go of this hat his nana gave him back in 2011!

Even though he hasn’t worn it in years, his dad nearly became his mortal by suggesting it go in the donation pile. He’s totally his mama’s child in this way — some things are too precious to give away! 

See how serious K was: he napped* in it. I took it off so he wouldn’t sweat and, sure enough, when he woke up he came bounding downstairs with it right back in place.

(*this ultra-rare event was a gift of quiet for me.)