Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Black Lives Matter

When I get extremely overwhelmed, my exposure to current events is limited to Facebook. I don't have time for much else. When I'm really, really overwhelmed, I don't even have time for Facebook. 

So when I got invited to a vigil for Sandra Bland, I didn't even know what it was about. The next day during professional development, two of our staff members led a session on culturally responsive education, and they showed the footage of her arrest. 

I can't even begin to describe what I felt while watching it. Outrage. Disgust. Desperation. A lack of hope. 

It was so hard to watch a smart, educated black woman--who knew her rights--try to defend herself against a racist, domineering, oppressive white man. She was irritated about being pulled over for a failure to turn on her signal when changing lanes. He asked her to put out her cigarette. She knew she had the right to smoke in her own car and she let him know it. She knew he could not make her get out of her car without telling her why and she told him so. As she defended herself, his need to control, oppress, and beat her down (figuratively and literally) continued. 

When I hear people talk about "police brutality," I can't help but think the real problem in this situation is so much bigger than police brutality. It's about a dominator-dominated society, who has power, and how they use that power to oppress other people. And it's about racism because who has power and who gets oppressed tend to fall along racial lines. 

I almost backed out of going to the vigil because I was overwhelmed with work and closing my eyes from fatigue at 7pm. And then I read a post from my friend on Facebook who said the least we can do as white people is SHOW UP. I knew he was right. I knew I couldn't live with myself if I used my white privilege to get out of a vigil for a courageous black woman just because I was tired. 

Because people of color can't ever get out of this. This is their reality day in and day out. Their people are getting killed by police in the streets, being punished in schools at disproportionate rates, suffering from health issues at disproportionate rates. If I were Sandra Bland, I can't even imagine how fed up I would have been. I don't even know if I could have talked to a racist white police officer as calmly as she did. 

I want to share an excellent piece of writing on this topic. I'm conscious of the fact that it's the white voices that get "shared," "liked," and heard more often. So I seek to share the voices of people of color as often as possible. This piece is a powerful read. 

"Sandra, from the beginning, refused to give up her power. And in that jail cell suicide may have been a form of resistance and an astounding statement of self-love. A statement saying I will not give you the power to kill me and I love myself enough to not endure you killing me slowly."

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Turning the Corner--Woo-hoo!

Oh, Friends, what a whirlwind! That's a common theme in my life, right?

I genuinely and honestly feel like I have turned a major corner.

Let me back track a little.

Two weeks ago, I was at my Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat with two wonderful women. (Kate, I'm sorry I haven't responded to your message; I have 465 messages awaiting me in my inbox!)

During my time, I realized that I am in desperate need of relaxation. I came to admit that even though my life with children is fun, it is NEVER relaxing. Even when we are in our backyard swimming together, I am supervising them or playing police officer or tightening masks and goggles. If I have "free time" on a Saturday morning, I go running or I clean the house. I almost never, ever relax during the day. Since I'm a morning person, relaxing during sunshine hours is important to me. 

My work to-do list has been so long this summer that I haven't had a chance to relax after the boys go to bed. I jump on a call or work on a document or try to clean out my inbox. 

The final push came these past two weeks as I prepared almost 80 hours of professional development for my staff. It takes SO long to draft a session, create the PowerPoint, and design the handouts. Even though I still feel behind going into the year, I feel like it's going to be a much easier year as a second-year principal. I'm looking forward to more balance in my life! Cue the celebration!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dreaded Chores

The house we stayed in for the Reflection & Rejuvenation retreat was absolutely stunning. It inspired me to want to take better care of my home (pictured above) because I am deeply impacted by my physical surroundings. For example, there are lots of maintenance things that need to get done on our house that are negatively impacting its beauty:
  1. The wood siding is molding and needs to be power-washed, scrubbed, and restained
  2. The deck paint is peeling off :-(
  3. We have some warped bamboo floorboards from water damage that need to be replaced
  4. Henry accidentally pulled one of the towel hooks off the wall and we haven't done anything about it
It's hard for me to prioritize these things because taking care of them is no fun at all. And yet the amount of work that is actually required pales in comparison to how good it will feel when those task are done. 

The other thing I want to do is rethink our bedroom comforter. I have always loved duvet covers over down comforters, but I feel like our duvet comforter is always slipping off and isn't comfortable to sleep on. Maybe I'll sew in some straps like this video suggests. I'm also thinking about getting a rug for the end of my bed so that I can easily do yoga each night without pulling down my mat. 

I hope I can follow-through with these minor task because I know they will have a major impact. 

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eulogy from My Son

I know that writing a eulogy for myself from the perspective of my son is a little creepy (okay, way creepy), but the exercise (thanks, Stephen Covey!) was actually really illuminating and clarifying. I enjoyed doing it at the Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat. It helped me pat myself on the back in some areas and set goals for myself in other areas. So here it goes...

I couldn't have asked for a better mother. She went out of her way to make me feel so loved and so worthy of love. When I was little, she would think of far away places and say, "Do you know how much I love you? I love you from here to Antarctica!" She would put notes in my lunchbox and send me care packages at college. She was always there to stroke my forehead or massage my shoulders.

I could come to her with any problem, and she would always be there. She would ask me whether I wanted her to help me solve the problem or just listen. And she would always hold true to my wishes. 

And she was always so much fun. No matter how important her work was, she would always make time to go throw the football with me or read me a story. She laughed at all my jokes and didn't shy away from talking about poop or farts. She never cared when I came home dirty. In fact, she would say, "It looks like you had a lot of fun!"

She supported me whenever I developed a new interest. She built a bird feeder with me and bought me model airplanes. She even let me plan a road trip to a remote island to learn more about horses I was fascinated with. We went on adventures together every year, and she always had such a passion for learning about new things and going to new places. 

She inspired me to work to make the world a better place for all people. She had so much empathy and compassion for diverse people, and she devoted her career to social justice. 

She lived with integrity and easily admitted whenever she made a mistake. She apologized easily. She always saw herself as a work in progress and strived to be better every single day.

Through her example, I have come to be the kind of person who seeks to make the world a better place in a joyful and loving way. 

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Back on the Exercise Bandwagon

This year has been up and down in terms of exercise. After the new year, I resolved to exercise at least four times a month. It wasn't a huge goal, but it was a 400% increase from what I was doing! 

I hit the 4 times/month goal, and then friends from Henry's school started a YMCA club, and we would go every Monday. With that commitment plus my frequent jog around the lake on Saturday morning, I started surpassing my goal. 

And then I threw out my back. And so I haven't been exercising at all. Just walking around the house was a big event for several weeks. 

My back is finally on the upswing, and so I am re-committing to bringing more exercise back into my life. I am so grateful for a body that can move without pain--I don't want to take a minute of it for granted. Our young bodies are fleeting, and I want to strengthen my body and take care of it as much as I can. Having two babies completely obliterated my core strength, which is why I want to bring yoga or pilates back into my life. 

We definitely don't want to incur more monthly costs, so it makes sense to attend classes at the YMCA, even though the timing of the classes is not great. I'll have to leave right after dinner and miss the bedtime routine. At least it's only once a week.

It's so hard to miss that time with my family. It feels so limited and precious. I also feel bad about putting extra work on Matt. But, at the end of the day, I owe it to myself and my family to take care of my body. 

On top of that, I'll try to jog two times a week: once on Saturday while the boys take Hoss to the dog park, and once during the week when I take Henry and Tate to the YMCA. It also looks like there's a Zumba class for kids on Sundays at the YMCA. I wonder if adults can do it alongside their children? That could be really fun.

Part of my feels really lame for being back in this space stating the same goals over again, but this is the reality of my life. Our lives are in large part our habits, and it's difficult to maintain healthy habits. It takes commitment and recommitment. So, I recommit to:

  • Running twice a week for at least 30 minutes
  • Stretching every night before bed
  • Going to a yoga class once a week
  • Treading water in the pool for 20 minutes as often as I can
These sound like lovely goals! And I'll be able to maintain the top three, even when the weather changes. Because the top three goals have specific slots in my calendar, it will be easier to turn them into habits. Hooray! 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Around Here Lately

This photo from our vacation in Tahoe is totally misleading!

Yes, I had a wonderful time in Tahoe with our in-laws, but my summer has not been all smiles and sunshine. My summer has been a lot of put-my-head-down-and-work. I feel like I want to make serious progress on my to-do list so that I head into the school year more relaxed and better able to institute a balanced routine. 

I didn't miss a single day of school this year, so I accumulated 15 days of vacation. I used them for the first three weeks of June. I would go into work really early in the morning while Matt handled the breakfast routine. Then I would come home and take over while he went to work. After the 6:30pm bedtime, I would get back to work. I was able to fit in about six hours of work a day. 

When Tate's birthday rolled around, I was feeling pretty stretched thin, so I pulled together a Tater party very quickly. I used Instacart to order everything I needed for a baked potato bar, tater tots, french fries, and potato chips and french onion dip. I even ordered the cake from Whole Foods. At least it was the same cake we ate at our wedding and the same cake we ate the morning after Tate's birth to celebrate his passage into the world. So at least it's a meaningful convenient cake! 

Between all the busy-ness, I try to soak it all in. Every funny thing my boys say, every time Henry wants to "snuggle," every time I get to hang out in the backyard with my boys. These are the days! This is the life!


Join us for the First Annual Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat in Austin, TX, July 10th to 12th!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Racist or Anti-Racist?

I’ve had the issues that I discussed yesterday at the forefront of my mind since then. I hope that I can continue to maintain the urgency I feel to actively dismantle racism.

On the plane ride home, I struck up a conversation with a pilot who was sitting next to me. He was reading a book about astronomy, and so we chatted about the stars. I recommended visiting the observatory outside of Marfa, TX. I explained that my favorite part was lying down and watching different constellations pointed out with the laser pointer. He shared that he had purchased his own powerful laser pointer for astronomical reasons. When he first got it, he opened the package and tried it out for the first time at a gas station. Suddenly, a nearby police officer was really agitated. Apparently, the laser was so powerful that it refracted off the windshield and ended up shining on a police officer’s chest.

I immediately thought of all the black people who have been killed because of their perceived threat to police offers. And here was a white male who doesn’t have to carry around fear in the same way. So I said, “It’s a good thing you aren’t a black person because that may have gotten you killed.”

After I said it, I realized that it could have been perceived as a racist joke rather than an opportunity to point out white male privilege in an attempt to dismantle it. I’m still not sure how he received it. In the end, I’m not sure it was the right thing to say. I know we need to talk about race and racism a whole lot more, but I’m still learning how to do it in ways that push the movement forward as quickly as possible. This work is definitely messy and complicated. 

Photo courtesy of Matt Bradford


Join us for the First Annual Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat in Austin, TX, July 10th to 12th!

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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Time for Anti-Racism Is Now

The news about the legalization of marriage for all hit me by surprise and with an overwhelming sense of relief. It’s about time that we extended the basic right to marry to all humans. How in the hell did we let it take so long?

More than 20 years ago as a teenager, I remember developing a social conscious and thinking about how ignorant we were going to seem as a society through the lens of time. I considered gay rights to be the most urgent civil rights issue of our time.

And then I started working at schools in low-income communities with primarily children of color and I realized that the work we have to do with regard to civil rights is actually much broader and deeper and impacts an even larger segment of our population.

In the United States, the zip code you’re born into is highly likely to determine your success (or lack thereof). Racism is built into nearly every institution,

Two weekends ago I was at a conference sponsored by Montessori for Social Justice. We were specifically talking about how to create anti-racist schools that work to dismantle the persistent existence of racism in the United States. And even at that conference, racism reared its ugly head. I don’t think it’s productive to call out those people in this forum, so instead I will share an anecdote of how I exemplified white privilege. Because here’s the thing about racism: it’s not about being a bigot with explicit prejudices; it’s about recognizing that our country affords certain people more power, more privilege, more opportunity, more respect, and even more safety (as it has become increasingly evident to white people lately) based on the color of their skin.

The first night I arrived at the conference, I found my people. The educators at City Garden Montessori public school are among the most thoughtful educators I have ever met when it comes to educating for social justice. I stayed up well past my bedtime in order to learn as much as possible from them and others and push myself as a white person to continue to understand my privilege and the persistent, systemic racism that still plagues our country.

The next day, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a session about anti-biased, anti-racist education, which I enjoyed immensely.

After the session, I was in the process of selecting my next session when one of my colleagues asked if I was going to go to the session about culturally responsive teaching. I said, “I’m getting tired of talking about this; I think I’m going to go to the session about classroom management.”

Later, one of my colleagues of color illuminated for me how that comment was, in fact, part of the problem. The fact that I could feel “tired” of talking about racism and step out of that space stems from the fact that I am white and the color of my skin affords me an incredible amount of privilege and immunity. My colleagues of color can never step out of that space because they face racism on A DAILY BASIS. For example, my colleagues of color have to teach their teenage sons two lessons about driving: 1) how to drive and 2) how to drive while being black. The latter lesson entails how to take extra measures not to give a white police officer any reason to shoot you. This involves asking for permission to even reach for your insurance card.

I will not have to teach my sons these same lessons because my sons are white males. If they are heterosexual, they will be at the top of the hierarchy. They will be at the pinnacle of power within the United States.

As a white person with a commitment to “liberty and justice for all”, I have so much work to do. I need to continue to understand my own biases, my own prejudices, my own upbringing.

I need to continue to analyze and unpack my white privilege and to research and learn about the ways in which racism continues to create an unjust world for people of color.

I need to listen more to people of color when they share about their experiences, and I need to partner with them to find my place in this work.

I need to have the courage to confront injustice and to be open to feedback when I am explicitly part of the problem.

I need to figure out how to teach my sons (and the children and families at the public Montessori schools we open) how to recognize and dismantle 400 years of racial injustice in the United States.

As much as I want to take a moment to celebrate our major step forward as a country when it comes to gay rights, I also want to stay focused on the struggle that continues for people of color and for white people who continue to live within a dominator-dominated structure that prevents all of us from living our fullest lives.

This struggle has been too long for too many people. The time to change it is now.


Join us for the First Annual Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat in Austin, TX, July 10th to 12th!

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