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!
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.
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.)
From crafting an all-in-one Valentine/Birthday card for dad in our homeschool co-op class, Project Penmanship, to writing a Love Letter to Lansing at Bloom Coffee Roasters, we found and shined some light on this dreary, rainy day!
My guy wasn’t feeling well enough to write more than his name, but I’m so glad we were able to spread a little love in our hometown!
As a Zen practitioner in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, my study of his teachings and personal history provided a surprising lesson about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This gleaming insight into their relationship renewed my appreciation and broadened my understanding of King’s legacy as it elucidated the global impact of his compassionate mission.
Several years ago, inspired by the “inter-being” between these two leaders as well as my own dharma as a Black American woman on this path of practice, I led my root sangha in the Touching the Earth prostrations to honor King and Thay as spiritual teachers.
Since then, my Monday evening Yin+Yang Yoga class has fallen on this national holiday. Each asana that brings our hearts closer to the earth (like these two favorites: Child’s Pose + Anahatasana) becomes a prostration, in which we fully embody the mindfulness practice of remembrance and reconciliation. We remember our origins and connections: to ancestors, by blood and spirit; to this Earth that sustains us and upon which our complex and interwoven histories have been built. We may began to penetrate the deep suffering emanating from our painful histories, which continue to manifest in new forms and to impact our experiences and abilities to relate to one another because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability and a whole slew of “differences” that seem to separate us. Breath by compassion-filled breath, we may began to reconcile these histories as we acknowledge, cradle, and heal our own suffering. We give it back to this wondrous Earth to absorb and transform it, as from the mud blooms a lotus.
In every class, I invite the practitioners to cultivate compassionate understanding of their bodies, minds and hearts through the alignment of breath and posture. Generating such mindfulness and loving awareness for ourselves teaches us how to skillfully extend compassion and loving-kindness to others.
When we abide in mindfulness, our senses become clear and fully attuned to the spectrum of beauty and suffering in the world. We acknowledge our own contribution to that stream–how our actions increase beauty or increase suffering. We make amends when we cause suffering and begin anew, watering seeds of compassion. Each heart-driven act–embodied on the mat, the cushion, among our beloveds and within our communities–commemorates the King’s legacy.
On this path, as teacher and practitioner, I know I am a continuation of Dr. King.
[Originally posted 31 January 2013; Updated 20 January 2014]
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel |The Way-Seeking Mind of Martin Luther Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. | King’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination Letter for Thich Nhat Hanh
Rev. Dr. Andrew C. Kennedy | Martin Luther King Jr. + Thich Nhat Hanh
[Broken links updated 16 January 2017]
Long before I began studying the dharma, Christmas had lost its tinsely-sparkle. My interest and effort to participate waned as I became increasingly disheartened by the conflation of generosity with consumerism, of Jesus with Santa, of prayers with wish lists. Wedged between this fall’s incendiary election and the new year’s looming inauguration, these typically family-oriented holidays became the fallout zone of politically-endorsed hate and division that seemed only to escalate distortions of faith. It further illuminated the problematic ideology of Christmas and its pervasive cultural narratives, which whitewash holidays in a Hallmark hue and subsequently generate carols of racist backlash that seeks to stake exclusive, rage-filled claim to the icons of comfort, joy, and holly-jolly cheer.
Letting go of Christmas has not only been a process of minimizing my participation in the “fanfare and frippery” of festivities for which I feel no personal connection. More than that, it has been a proclamation of both my commitment to center and uplift practices that make space for inclusive, inter-cultural understanding and my resistance to engaging in toxic cultural customs. Rather than occupying space as a mere bystander at a holiday gathering, I would prefer to cultivate “the enchantment” of the season through activities that bolster a lasting sense of goodwill, gratitude, and kinship with our community.
Celebrating the Simple + Sweet
We’re a keep-life-simple-and-sweet kind of family in general and are just as vigilant in applying that rule to holidays (and birthdays). Our son has reached the age where he’s aware that our way of doing things doesn’t necessarily look the way that other families do things. When he makes observations to that point, we explain how our values/preferences are reflected in these choices. If met with a request to make adjustments, we often brainstorm fresh ways to expand our perspective and integrate his ideas.
For instance: When K commented that we never put up a tree and lights, I told him that his dad and I weren’t interested in accumulating seasonal knickknacks. Instead, I offered to help him decorate his room. Then…we watched the Just Christmas Baby episode of black-ish, and he adamantly quashed my suggestion! (So glad to have dodged that.) Decorations aside, we may watch a few holiday movies and listen to songs. But we’re far more likely to get enthused about having enough snowfall to go sledding than we do for unwrapping gifts.
Of course, K loves gifts as much as any kid and gleefully receives them from family members under the auspices of Christmas. But we’ve explained to him that we simply don’t make a big deal out of getting gifts that we can otherwise purchase on any given day (though my husband will take advantage of the sales season for things we’ve already had in mind for the household). And, like most parents, we hope our child will have a healthy appreciation for material possessions balanced with a practice of generosity, a commitment to simplicity, and (the struggle of all struggles) a capacity to let go of things that are no longer useful.
The question always is how to embody and integrate those values in our daily experiences; and, during special times of the year, how to creatively channel the energy of the holidays to bolster what’s most important to us.
New Rituals + Renewed Hope
K’s old enough to sincerely comprehend how and why we put these values into action. So we enjoyed a “giving back” family outing — crafting cards, drawing pictures, and donating food for holiday baskets that a local non-profit organization delivered to those in need. While this was not the first service project we’ve participated in, it was the first one connected to the holidays. And, it was truly heart-warming to know that we could add a little more light to someone else’s celebration.
However, on a deeply personal level, the holidays remained lackluster for me. Drawing on my son’s enthusiasm and curiosity, I reflected on my own heritage for a spark of inspiration. My matrilineal family is of Jewish ancestry, but the cultural and religious practices did not survive the three generations of intermarriage and border crossings that would produce such multi-ethnic, multicultural, multinational descendants of a matriarch who left Germany as a teen in 1880. So, unsurprisingly, Hanukkah was not at all a part of my family’s tradition. As for Kwanzaa, I have only vague memories of my mother wanting us to celebrate it when I was in junior high. It’s very likely that my siblings and I groaned and begrudgingly allowed her to drag us to a public event once. But we never adopted it in our home.
To see these traditions with fresh eyes and to show K that there are other ways to honor this season, we read books about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Both uplift principles can be integrated into lessons beyond what are intended to be these holy days of reflection on endings, beginnings, transformation, rebirth, renewal, and spiritual fortitude.
Hanukkah Moon illuminates the lesser-told Sephardic Jewish traditions as it focuses on a special evening that a young girl spends with her aunt, who has recently moved from Mexico. They sing the Dreidel Song in English and Spanish, hang a dreidel-shaped pinata, and celebrate the luna nueva (new moon) at Hanukkah in which the faith of women in ancient story is highlighted (Rosh Hodesh). In her “author’s note” and glossary, da Costa provides a brief explanation of the settlement of Jews in Latin America as well as the significance of Hanukkah as the celebration of re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.
My First Kwanzaa is a primer on the seven-day celebration of pan-African cultural pride that is now in its 50th year. Though it is not a religious alternative to Christmas, Kwanzaa prayers have been written and incorporated into faith-based services.
Written from the perspective of a little girl who is experiencing the festivities for the first time, Katz illustrates in bright bold splashes the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Each concept is presented as a “special idea” matched with activities to honor each day. For example, on the third day, friends and family plant flowers in their neighborhood to demonstrate “working together,” a kid-friendly interpretation of ujima or collective work. (What didn’t quite translate well for me was the depiction of self-determination, wherein little girl asked her mother to braid her hair in a “fancy African way.” This principle could have been simplified as “making choices for ourselves” and the example strengthened by more clearly illustrating that little girl had been given the chance to choose her own hairstyle.) Like da Costa, Katz also includes a pronuniciation key for the corresponding Swahili word and an author’s note that explains the history and purpose of Kwanzaa.
However we ultimately decide to observe the holidays next December, these two books offered ideas that our family can lift up, reimagine, and put into practice all year round.
Follow your Curiosity:
Overhearing these two adorables wake up and tell each other what they dreamt about was the sweetest way to begin this final day of the year!
Until recently, my son couldn’t recall the details of his dreams beyond knowing if they had evoked scary feelings. So, being the archiving-curating-storyholding mama that I am, I was geeked when he launched into the wild Minecraft-esque adventure he dreamt back in October. He indulged my request to draw a story of it, which he called “The Disappearance of MJ.”
This morning, I could hear the kids rolling awake in their beds — sleepy voices brightening as they recalled dreamscapes filled with flowers big enough to sleep in, LEGO-built dinos and robots, and various characters and people from daylight activities superimposed onto a Jurassic World dimension.
More than being tickled by and capturing a cute moment, I hope to preserve and nurture the connection between these cousins — that they will continue to share their dreams whether seeded in heart, built by hand, or envisioned in slumber.
My little guy has become a more eager reader in recent weeks and, as he prepared his own lunch, pointed to his juice pouch and asked if it read “Heart Kids.” When I explained that it was honest, he surprised me by stating, oh-so-matter-of-factly, that it was basically another way of saying heart. And so my heart sighed, as I marvelled at his ability to see into and then extrapolate the meaning of one word toward another that we adults (it is hoped) come to learn are bound up in each other. It takes heart to be honest; and, when we commit to practicing being honest, we are living intentionally from the heart.
We’ve not discussed the definition of either word as part of a formal lesson on reading or spelling. So this moment was a wonderful reflection of the priority we place on modeling our values! We have demonstrated and openly discussed what honesty, heart, and their “offshoots”–kindness, love, fairness, forgiveness, patience–look and feel like. So now he is learning to identify it, even on a juice pouch. Proud mommy moment!
I told him that I love learning along with him because I like the way he thinks. Then my darling boy told me that he loves learning from me because I know everything. I am always honest and remind that I don’t have all the answers. But on this homeschooling journey, I am guiding us toward that which cultivates bodhicitta, the heart and mind of love.
all that motherhood inspires…
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
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
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…
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