in the end, there was a beginning

“its the last hours of 2009. clean, cook, clear, sage, release, relinquish, meditate on all you will manifest in the next decade. then, celebrate. you are good.”

this is my main message for the day, and my plan.

the cycle continues, and the comfort that we gain from marking and organizing time is deep. it is the end of a decade, we named the beginning and end of it. we thought the world would end at the beginning of the decade we are ending now. many think this next decade will only last two years before it all ends again. time teaches us what we do not know and cannot comprehend. we celebrate it for our own egos – look at our lifespans, look at what we accomplished in this period of time, look at how far we came – we we here! but also to somehow connect ourselves to all existence – we study and examine and excavate, trying to place all of existence in time. to think of the turn of the century before and what plants and animals existed, how people communicated, what people believed the future would bring – that is all the foundation of our current existence. which means our lives, the species of this moment, our methods of communication and our beliefs are the foundation of any possible future.

there are many ways to manifest a future – envision it, write it down, tell everyone about it, mobilize masses towards it. i am most interested in embodiment. what can i be, now in this moment, that will manifest a future that is just, interesting, passionate, present, healthy, and in good relation with all that exists? how can i be that, not self-righteously but with humility – i am part of the whole, the whole is more important than the parts, my breath is worth the effort because i contribute to the whole, by being as whole a part as i can.

if that sounds abstract, i mean it to say – the longer i live, the more infinitesimal i realize myself to be. if all of humanity is a body, i am not the brain, or a whole hand. i am so much smaller than that. i may not even be a cell, but some part of the wall of a cell. i have to be whole for the cell to play its part, and the cells have to play their part for the hand or heart or brain to function.

i want to be everything that it is possible for me to be, and that possibility unfolds further and further as i relinquish any sense that i can truly know anything. it is all experiment, i am in it and of it, we are the living breathing “perhaps”. and in the next decade i hope to be as surprised and awed and filled with wonder by the unexpected and unimaginable as i was in the past decade.

towards curiousity then.

happy new year 🙂

sloth and celebration and remembrance

i’m wondering if there is any way to write a blog that touches on both gaza and mariah carey gracefully. i haven’t written in a while, because i have been taking a moment.

i spent most of the last week in a mumu and pajama pants playing abstract chase and surprise games with my nephew, old school nintendo and nerts with my family, EASILY not looking at email, facebook or twitter. this intentional sloth is part of our familial bonding process. watching movies, cooking and saying to each other, “i haven’t gotten dressed in X days!” is our big annual tradition.

this year i took a major step and had my partner join me, for what was her first christmas ever, and our first christmas with outside witnesses. early early on christmas morning i crept downstairs by myself and i felt what i understood to be nostalgia in the truest sense. i was the first one awake, just like when i was a kid. i was always the one to do reconnaissance to see what santa had brought to each of us. i remember being the big sister, the surprise and mystery of it all. i remember our dog for the years she was with us, pulling at the ornaments at the bottom of the tree and a couple of times pulling the whole thing over, which just upset her completely. i remember our first christmas after she died and how i kept looking for her to be under the tree. i remember christmases when we visited extended family and christmases when i didn’t want to…i felt the peace i have towards them all now. i just felt this weight of time, measured by these rituals of giving and anticipating and repeating, laying down the path of shared memory for our family. and now our family is growing in every direction, with new paths being laid down; none of us are children now, my baby sister is pregnant with her second child and the changes are so continuous and fast that there’s barely time to remember, to cherish, to honor the safe and loving place my parents created for us.

over the week, a new line of thinking and writing crystalized, which i want to explore in the coming decade. i can’t quite put it into words here, but it has a lot to do with the art of family as a central building block of community, learning how to be in the tension and familiarity of family, to work through, to find the right levels for that unconditional love when there are very complex and opposing politics and life choices present. i’m giving myself at least 10 years to flesh it out 🙂

i know i have been working too much because i completely missed that mariah carey came out with a new album. she long ago gave up singing the way i most loved – really blaring through her pipes like she had access to some unlimited source of air that didn’t require breathing. but i am still unexplainably pleased by her little soft high sounds, and at the very least should know when she releases an album.

i used to always pride myself on my personal sustainability, my commitment to weekends, hours spent making art and listening to music. i realized on the flight to see my folks that the last time i had spent a day not working was in the hospital…and while there i was wishing i could do work the whole time.

there is so so much work to do. not because of the places i work, which are a lot but manageable…but because of the world in which we live. there is not enough time in the day to do the work of justice, locally, internationally. i don’t even try to hold it all in my heart at one time, i don’t think humans are actually capable of maintaining both sanity AND awareness of our total suffering at the same time. but there are political moments that arise that need response – fighting, grieving, educating.

last year, right after christmas, israel launched an attack on gaza. this year, i am returning from vacation to reminders that we must remember this atrocity, which continues, as the oppression and violence against palestinian people is a daily practice by the israeli government, financially backed by the u.s. my friend angel is in cairo, in part of an effort to get medical supplies to gaza. i’m leaving now to attend a solidarity event here in detroit, and in 2010 will be working with the u.s. academic and cultural boycott of israel throughout the year, with events at the allied media conference and the us social forum to continuously escalate the pressure on the u.s. to withdraw financial and military support to the vicious government of israel.

Lessons from a Facilitation Evangelist

(posted by Jen on the IISC blog!)

Lessons from a Facilitation Evangelist

I attended a powerful, short workshop led by Adrienne Maree Brown (abbreviated from longer trainings she offers) and Invincible on how to facilitate high tension and/or high conflict conversations at the Making Money Make Change conference. Weeks later, ideas and exercises from that workshop are still sticking with me.

Adrienne calls herself a “facilitation evangelist,” because she believes that the world would be transformed if we all practiced facilitation intentionally and were prepared with the tools to do so. I agree with her. And this reminded me of something so basic – facilitation isn’t just for meetings! I hadn’t thought about practicing facilitation in tense conversations with family members, for example, but Adrienne pointed out that facilitation in these and other everyday situations, whether the role is explicit or practiced silently within oneself, can have a profound impact on peoples’ experiences – turning what could be explosive into something more productive.

Adrienne named three key tools to facilitating high conflict and/or high tension conversations.

1. Ground yourself with a practice that works for you (e.g., deep breathing both before and/or during your facilitation), and by making “four agreements” with yourself (from don Miguel Ruiz’s book of Toltec wisdom teachings):

* Be impeccable with your word (for example, say only what you mean and only ask questions for which you have the space and time to hold the answers)
* Don’t take anything personally (for example, listen to constructive criticism and use it to improve your practice, but don’t get defensive)
* Don’t make assumptions (speaks for itself)
* Always do your best (recognizing that for example, your best as a facilitator when you’re over-tired compared to when you’re well-rested)

2. Set a safe space, which the people involved must co-create. Invincible led us through a powerful trust-building activity, which she recommended using with caution because it invites people to be really vulnerable. She asked each of us to close our eyes and imagine a moment when we felt safe. I imagined ringing the doorbell of my Granny and Pouis’ house throughout my childhood, and the warm hugs and hellos they greeted me with each time they opened that door. Listening to others’ moments around the circle felt sacred and real.

3. Learn what your triggers are as a facilitator, and actively work to overcome them. Adrienne led us through an abbreviated version of a listening and coaching activity in trios. We each shared a couple of our triggers and gave advice to each other on strategies to overcome them. Sharing my own triggers and listening to those of others felt a little raw, and very helpful.

What do you think about these as core principles and practices for facilitating high tension and/or high conflict conversations?


Wow…having a deep experience of Detroit tonight.

I went to my first Detroit Kwanzaa event tonight. There were so many people there – artists, elders, organizers, city council. My friend and comrade Jenny Lee was being honored with an award.

I was particularly touched by this timeless woman Njia Kai. I have had the honor of meeting her and her energy just drops you down deep.

She said words that hit me so hard I can’t get them out of my mind:

“I don’t know impossibility.
I don’t know any excuses…we got through slavery, people.
I am recommitting myself to being busy in my community.”

I am recommitting myself to being busy!

I have been complaining a little more than usual, needing the family time and rest that begins tomorrow. But for 2010? I am recommitting to being BUSY. And positive about the healing work I get to do, because really, that’s what it is. Every piece of work I do is about building back up that sense of wholeness that we’re missing in ourselves, in our families, communities, organizations, lives.

To I spoke with local media friend Adele Nieves, who told me that she recently learned to crochet from her mother. She told me to ask my mother to teach me something…I am excited to do so, and encourage you to do the same.

Finishing up a piece on multiracial identity in organizing for YES! magazine which is truly a joy to write, and my work is a constant learning.

Its almost 2010, in a way that makes me feel like gasping when I think about how the turn of the century just happened, and so much has flown by. Things have come to pass that I have celebrated and grieved, things I would not have believed, had I been told a decade ago. This is teaching me to truly open myself up to the completely unimaginable in the next decade. I want to feel this well-worked, well-lived, and interested in 2020.

I do not know impossibility – that’s a life philosophy right there.

Handbook for 2010

This was forwarded to me by a friend, and its just useful {my little edits in brackets}:


1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat {a massive breakfast, mid-level lunch and tiny dinner}.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants..
4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games
7. Read more books than you did in 2009 .
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

11. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don’t have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13. Don’t over do. Keep your limits.
14. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need..
18. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree…

25. Call your family often.
26. Each day give something good to others.
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. Spend time w/ people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30. What other people think of you is none of your business.
31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

32. Do the right thing!
33. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
34. GOD {spirit and time} heals everything.
35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change..
36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
37. The best is yet to come..
38. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD {spirit and time} for it.
39. Your Inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

Last but not the least:
40. Please {pass this along} to everyone you care about, I just did.

somewhere between apocalypse and christmas

work sleep eat work sleep eat sleep eat work work work work blog.

did you know that we are on track to lose nearly half of the world’s population in next 200 years due to climate change? (via @aliciagarza)

today i had an absolutist thought, which happens rarely, inspired by the reports from copenhagen and other things in life: When it comes to climate & ecological justice, you are with the future, or you are against it.

now mind you, I just went to see 2012, and it was one of those fantastical relief moments. fantastical because of the very idea that you can outrun the apocalypse….hop in a plane and just take off as the ground splits beneath you, outrun a tsunami, get on a boat and outfloat the flooding and transforming of the world.

the relief was that there was an honesty about power and privilege in the movie – the only folks who would survive were heads of G8 states and billionaires who could afford a ticket.

there was also a relief because there was no human blame in the crisis. there was a big sunburst that shifted our whole {insert science talk here} and suddenly the tectonic plates under every major city in the world were shifting. it was deep to watch it, knowing that we are engaged in behaviors daily that make a slower catastrophe unavoidable.

knee-jerk reaction: entertaining, visually dazzling destruction. mr danny glover plays a commendable obama…or “other black president in 2009-2012”.


now the holiday season is approaching, and i usually spend the whole time making fun of my mother as she listens to non-stop christmas music. but here is a christmas special that is truly pleasing to the ears. the 34th minute when she sings “oh come let us adore him” with her cousins? i just like to watch this woman unleash her voice on people.

counting down to when i get to see my family and soak up their love.

now – back to work sleep eat, sleep eat work work work

feeling better

so feeling better is a process, right?

my process includes, but is not limited to:

– sleeping. i am engaging in a mobile hibernation practiced on planes, in guest rooms, in hotel rooms, and hopefully (soon) home.

– reading about and chatting with folks in copenhagen. i can feel the way history is unfolding there…the mix of need and disgust, hope and hopelessness, strategy and chaos. supporting from afar is it’s own breathlessness.

– getting my eyebrows done. if i don’t feel awake, i can still look awake. before her ‘black/hapa-face’ debacle, tyra banks was most exciting to me in her chronicle of smiles. when my eyebrows are done, it’s like i am smiling with my eyes at all times.

– amazing undergarments. i hope this is relevant to all my readers. knowing that your panties are fantastic/gorgeous and your bra is uplifting is like walking around with a secret weapon. my body was poked, prodded, pumped, pricked, and is bruised, battered, bone-tired. but can still work it? yes, i can.

– saying no. and meaning it. i am figuring out everything that isn’t essential, and saying no to it, because whatever the mysterious ailment was this past weekend, i ended up in a hospital bed pumped full of antibiotics and narcotics, powerless to do my work. watching the work move on without me was frustrating, and then suddenly a major relief. my thinking is, i can make that happen in my life in a less shocking, painful, exhausting way.

– feeling what health is like, how it looks on me.

– occasionally loosing a flurry of curse words at one of the following experiences: my to-do list, my inbox, my frustration at how foggy i still am, and so on. for a doggedly positive person, this feels sooo good.

– great financial news. today was full of lots of great financial news that means the end of the year is going to be ok, even though i missed days of mobilizing it.

– making a date with myself to rest. vacation starts december 20, with family and minimal conference calls, emails, and meetings.

and music.

i can’t stop listening to joanna newsom, sade’s new single, res’s free new album, or this singer named lissie i overheard in a restaurant in brooklyn last week – listen to wedding bells.


inner thoughts

I thought somebody somewhere might appreciate this. I am cracking myself up inside 🙂 This is a mini-collection of inner thoughts during my doctor interactions. (Specifically the drs, cuz the nurses are super awesome and my best advocates)

1. Them: Does this hurt?
Me: A little bit.
Inner Thought: Stop stab-punching me.

2. Them: Did you cut yourself on a clamshell/sleep in a bed with fecal matter/get bitten by a rodent?
Me: No, no, and not to my knowledge.
Inner thought: I would have mentioned that one of the first 13 times I explained what happened.

3. Them: You know, this might be a reaction to a spider bite. Which wouldn’t be impacted by the anti-biotics we’ve been giving you…
Me: Really?
Inner Thought: Really?? Not the same kind of spider bite I told you it was when I first arrived three days ago and showed you the bite marks I hope.

4. Them: Draining abcess, could lose arm, liquid pocket under flesh.
Me: Riiighht.
Inner Thought: Lalallalalalla, I can’t hear you!

5. Them: How is the pain?
Me: It’s pretty intense around the blisters and bites and the new red areas, when the meds wear off I can really feel a LOT.
Inner Thought: Give. Me. The. Medicine.

6. Them: Here is breakfast/lunch/dinner!
Me: Thank you!
Inner Thought: The nausea isn’t from the meds, is it?

7. Them: We’re going to have to keep you another night.
Me: Aw shucks…I am supposed to facilitate/work/travel tomorrow…
Inner Thought: I did not get this awesome haircut to sit in this hospital! Also…I am only staying here because it feels like my arm will fall off when I don’t get my meds.

8. Them: Now, tell me exactly what happened.
Me: Well, I arrived in Philly on Wednesday, and Thursday woke up with pain in my arms, by midday 7-9 bites were visible, several with double puncture wounds. I iced it, used hydrocortizone, baking soda paste, and lavender essential oil, but by Friday it was horribly swollen and I was tricked into coming to hospital where y’all checked me in.
Inner Thought: Please write this down and feel free to take pictures to go with the story and then share that with your colleagues, and I will just sleep. Ok?

9. Them: Did you have a bowel movement today?
Me: No/Yes.
Inner Thought: Has it come to this? So soon?

10. Them: Sorry hon, we have to give you an IV/take some more blood. Lets find a vein.
Me: Ouch. Ow. Ooh. That doesn’t feel right. Ouch.
Inner Thought: (actually can’t hear thought, as brain and body are screaming and arching away from pain of 11th vein poke in 3 days)

lessons from the hospital

i’m still in the hospital in philly – the infection in my arms is receding in some places and spreading and deepening in others. no one knows yet what it is or why it is, but i don’t get to leave till its all receding.

here are some lessons thus far:

no one should have to think about money at the same time as health, or as the only path to health.

health is a systemic process. normally when i say – this is hurting me, my arm is going to explode, my whole body itches, etc…the solution i think of is totally reactive. cream, ice, lavender oil, slicing it open…but what i have learned tonight is that there are systemic approaches.

things that feel good in the short-term can increase the pain in the long-term. like scratching.

tasks that seem simple, like going to the bathroom, are actually incredibly complex. the complexity is exposed when you have to do the task with an IV. even typing this is taking three times longer than usual because of the pain and the IV.

painkillers are good. really great good.

love = bringing steak and burgers to the hospital room, sleeping in a chair next to a hospital bed, and being the point of contact for someone’s family when that someone is too doped up to speak straight.

always stay hydrated.

nurses are angelic divine miraculous people who should be celebrated and honored and paid very well.

true blood is a hospital-worthy show. makes the bloody parts of being in the hospital more entertaining.

it really helps to have an advocate when struck by a mysterious infection.

its really hard for me to do nothing.

healing takes time and is unpredictable…the only requirement is a commitment to health.

enough one handed typing this out, time for more meds and sleeping.

E.R. in Philly

Night 1:

Im in the waiting room of the Penn hospital e.r. because I have 9-11 (yes, that number again) spider bites on my forearms and hands.

I say spider, but I didn’t see the creature who bit me. It looks like she started with my left arm, injecting her strongest poison there in 4 to 5 bites with one right on my pulsing vein. Then she worked my right arm, hitting my pinky, wrist, and outer arm. Or something else happened…

I got tricked to come here, told the line was short and I could be in and out. I’ve been here an hour, immersed in the misery of emergencies. Folks are being nice tho…we’re all vulnerable, we all need advocates.


Im in so much pain, my arms swollen in a hot, tight way that makes me wish they would both burst open and loose their caught venom.

Im running a fever, have chills and feel tired and poisoned.


The way I hate hospitals and doctors is learned behavior. I like them in theory, and sometimes in person. Help and save me, cool. But the practice of admitting to being unwell is a new one. Even now I am writing a blog and tightening my jaw when I kind of want to puddle, cry and call my mama. Ouch.


On the t.v. there’s a special on healthcare, which is reminding me of what a privilege I have, to have insurance, to be able to come here and know I am covered. But I would rather be home, or at the hotel where I likely got these bites, trying one special scheme after another.

I crafted a baking powder paste to suck the venom out, applied cleansing eucalyptus and calming lavender, hydrocortisone…and it just got worse and worse.

They’re admitting me now. For the night at least, perhaps the weekend. 🙁 Totally and completely Regretting that I got tricked into coming here, tho its probably best for avoiding a crisis. I thought the worst that could happen here was topical pain relief… they are poking all over me trying to find blood and talk about ‘systemic’ and ‘abcesses’.


I’m remembering now that I had this reaction in October, 2 months ago, to what I decided then were spider bites. I also remember that most alien invasions start kind of this way. Looking for silver lining, that’s a kind of big awesome one.


Now I am drugged up, watching harry potter and the sorceror’s stone. They had to prick me 5 times to hook up an IV and get blood out for bloodwork. Ouch. They marked up my arms to show the swelling, and gave me painkillers and antibiotics through the iv and since then I’ve had chills and felt a serotonin release.

ER nurses are a special breed, everyone here is being so nice and patient as I go through the process of realizing there’s no wireless, I may not get to complete my gig tomorrow, and I am not in control. Not to mention no one has any idea the level of bad that my situation is…but im remembering mark twain’s quote about worrying about things that haven’t happened. Being present, I will meditate on my health. They brought warm blankets to counter the chills that came along with the glorious pain meds. Sweet.


Slept through the night one-two hours at a time. Woozy, hungry, and wishing they knew what was wrong with me, wish I was responding better to the antibiotics, wish tv didn’t cost xtra, wish I could have more pain meds.

Fortunately, my sweethearts going to bring me a burger, the folks at Leeway who I am supposed to facilitate today are being incredibly kind and generous, and pain meds are wonderful. And I have a new novel to read when im not spinning off the meds.

Fortunately I can write on my little phone and feel connected to my loved ones.

They’re taking me for ultrasound now…wish me luck!