Clear & Compassionate


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pema quote“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
― Pema Chödrön

Orange Is My New Black

oitnblackBefore I say anything else, I need to confess that I am a binge Netflix watcher.

I don’t like mainstream television for the most part; a competition for everything under the sun, or better yet, a heaping helping of what people call reality, but looks like the worst family holiday party – ever.

So my secret indulgence is cozying up to Netflix on my laptop late, late at night to watch documentaries on art, yoga and fashion or even better, re-watch shows I adored from my past – LOST, Arrested Development, Frasier.

Then I got hooked on House of Cards, a Netflix original, which was amazing. Netflix held my attention as if they had successfully hypnotized me and I watched dutifully well into the wee hours until I had finished watching every episode. I loved it.

Imagine my delight when Netflix plopped a new show called Orange Is the New Black, in my queue! I jumped in like I did when I downloaded Gone Girl, but I never gave a second thought that the show might strike a chord with me, or touch a nerve, or speak some truth.

But, of course, it did. Orange grabbed my attention by smacking me in the face with my often incorrect first impressions of women in various stages of their lives. The show digs into the background of these women in a way that constantly challenges me to stop reading people, all people. Our stories get buried deep within this exterior shell, so how can we judge a book by its cover?

Episode after episode I devoured the stories like perfectly seasoned popcorn and then Sophia’s story pushed the pause button in my brain. The way the show revealed Sophia’s background felt sincere to me. I rooted for her wife like a cheerleader, so impressed that the show reflected a supportive spouse. Times they are a changin!

orange starNPR recently spoke with Laverne Cox, the talented actress who plays Sophia, and they talked about the lack of diversity for trans characters in the past… you know the ones, I don’t have to spell this one out. I’m grateful that the role of Sophia connected with this actress because the end result is powerful.

How refreshing that the stories on Orange Is the New Black aren’t all clichés, because isn’t that what live shows us everyday? Things aren’t what they appear to be, for anyone. We all have a deeper meaning, the place in our hearts that isn’t so transparent like the bumper sticker on the back of our car.

Maybe trans stories are reaching popular culture the way we had hoped, not as sexual deviants or sex workers who get portrayed in the same generic way as they have been in the past, but as individuals who are living their lives just like the people seated next to them on the bus. Maybe with the popularity of a show like this and the large viewer base like that of a giant like Netflix, the mainstream will start to connect with the love, struggle, triumph, challenge and humanity that shapes all of our lives.

A Great Roar


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IMG_6818I’m a fierce lion, when I need to be.

Sure, my old familiar Mama Bear is still in here, strong arms outstretched to both cuddle and protect, but I feel the rush of my lioness spirit no longer cowering behind my greatest fears.

They are still there, my fears, like old photos tucked away in an album that you pull out once in a while to playfully reminisce and appreciate that familiar piece of you not yet forgotten.

Today I stand with a roar in my heart because I cannot be broken when I fall. We’ve made it thus far on this journey and we continue on solid ground in truth. Not because it makes sense to anyone else, but because it is who we are, plain and simple.

As we hope to rise above the sea of judgement in the world, release your assessment of others. Stop yourself when making an assumption of someone on the street and replace that thought with compassion. Our negative opinions are useless, pointless. Release them, and see your world change.

Special Snowflake


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baksana dadEveryone in yoga class flew effortlessly into bakasana, a forearm balance that seems like it should be relatively easy, but is often awkwardly deceiving.

Several people leapt in mid-air and landed with their knees stuck firm and tight to the backs of their forearms while others had “performed” and had already flown back into chaturanga from their meticulous bakasana. Few people struggled.

Once everyone’s feet settled back on the mats I heard a faint voice behind me, “I’m a special snowflake,” she half-whispered in the calm silence.

Her feet didn’t lifting despite her various diligent efforts. She wiggled and sweat and struggled and glanced nervously around the room. Everyone else seemed to simply “have it”, and if I might humbly add, flaunt it.

For months I’ve thought about that moment, and how it feels to be the odd one out.

Later on in my classes when everyone floats right up into pincha mayurasana and I’m left clumsily shifting my shoulders, attempting to tighten my core that feels more overcooked rice noodles than the ripped muscles of a yogi, drips of sweat pouring into my eyes that I think, “I’m a special snowflake, too.”

I’m still here.

I’m present.

And I’m trying despite how futile my attempt might be.

I’m here.

We are all unique creatures of one Universe, and this revelation sinks into my heart and resonates more than ever. Me. You. Our children.

The wise yogis say that our most challenging asanas (poses) teach us the most because in those moments of what looks or feels like failure is a gift. The chance to look in the face of fear and be present. isn’t that what our children are doing every single day?

Making it look “right” isn’t what any of us are here for. We’re here to stand in our truth, breath deep amidst occasional discomfort and embrace who and where we are.

Naming Fear

One of the milestones in my daughter’s life will be the day she changed her name.

Although she’ll never speak of it, and I’m guessing it would take Will years before he tries to discuss it with his sister, her name remains with us. Years ago, soon after she changed it, we’d hear the name as we moved through the world and you could feel the collective wince. All of our faces frozen as if the longer we remained motionless and silent, the quicker the hurt would simply blow away, like a stray balloon from a party where no one showed up.

Some of her friends already had gender neutral names, and therefore, didn’t need to change their names. I’m not even sure if having a gender neutral name helps necessarily, considering the grand scheme of things, but you know what they say about the grass looking greener.

Above all, I know nothing comes without a price. If a child keeps their birth name, there are ramifications. If they don’t, there are a whole new set of challenges. I’m past thinking there is any free ride along this road so we are where we are.

My path’s roadblock takes form in a more permanent-ish decision – a legal name change. Part of me put it off for a while because I thought Hope should be older and have a bigger say in the matter. Part of me wanted to get it done sooner rather than later to protect her, and her privacy. Today I feel like I’m sitting on a fence just observing. Maybe I’ve hung out here for a while.

In the meantime Will wanted to leave the country as a special treat around his birthday. I knew this couldn’t happen because a passport would have to be in Hope’s new legal name, and that would require me to get off my precious perch and put the legal wheels in motion.

I couldn’t do it. The timing didn’t feel right. I could name a dozen reasons that it couldn’t happen, and so I dashed his dreams using bureaucracy as an excuse. My guilt no doubt met my confusion and the joined forces quickly invaded my conscience.

I needed to make a plan. This observing thing went on too long. I’m a do-er, a fixer, a planner, a cleaner. Some days I feel like the character in the mobster movies who glides in and “takes care of things” as a last resort. I’m responsible for the trash no one has the stomach to take out. That’s me.

If it were as simple as a mess, I could handle it. This whole name change is more like a game of chess, a delicate dance of strategy, positioning and timing, and even though I’ve made several grand attempts over the years, I’ve never been disciplined enough to learn. I know ultimately it’s not my life that’s at stake so how do I make the first move?

I know what Hope says she wants, but she’s still young, and sees her future in terms of spring break and summer. How do I put that responsibility on a child her age?

Ultimately what am I afraid of? Am I waiting to see if things change? Do I think that’s possible? Probable? Could she feel differently down the line or feel that I forced or pigeonholed her into a gender doesn’t feel genuine? I never wanted to be that parent that pushed their child to define their gender or assumed that it was my job as a parent. Up till now I have stood in my truth and followed her lead.

Somehow my modus operandi doesn’t seem to apply when faced with gender identity within the legal system. Things are changing. As she gets older she needs real identification that speaks to her truth. So why do I fear this step? Why do I hesitate? All these questions feel like my internal playlist that someone accidentally left on repeat.

Where is my crystal ball?



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