Sunday, January 31, 2010

Motivation and Fear

I watched a movie today called Lying to be Perfect. The main character creates a fake person to write columns and answer people's questions. She does this because she wants to write and give people advice, but she feels like she can't because she is frumpy and overweight. She tells her love interest at one point in the movie, "if you don't try you can't fail."

On House, Cuddy wants a baby and is planning to adopt one from an ex-drug-user. House tells her she won't be a good mom and keeps trying to convince her of that throughout. The ex-drug-user-mom gets sick with something that requires immediate action: wait to deliver and risk the mom's life or deliver now - 10 weeks premature - and risk the baby's life. Cuddy asks House for his advice because she's not sure if she is objective. She thinks the mom should deliver now, therefore risking the baby's life. House says she thinks that because if the baby dies, Cuddy won't have to find out if she's a good mother or a bad one. "If you don't try you can't fail."

This attitude comes out in life often. I have this extravagant weight loss plan but I have yet to go to the gym.
Last semester, I got overwhelmed by a research paper and couldn't find the info I wanted, so I gave up and took my F.
People don't apply to college.
They don't go take their driving tests.
They don't attempt to be the person they know they can be.
"If you don't try you can't fail."

When did we become such cowards? When did we collectively give up on the possibilities in life?
Maybe it was when people started saying things like, "Don't try. Just do it" and "Do or do not. There is no try." The human spirit is a fragile thing, prone to breaking when discouraged. So now we don't attempt things we don't know we can dominate. We live in fear of failure rather than motivation by the possibility.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Supreme Court Justice?

Allow me to disclaim this blog post with these statements:
I believe in the idea of our forefathers to run this nation as a democratic republic, a representative democracy. I believe that the theory is a logical one and I believe in the process. I think American democratic failures can most often be traced back to times when money meant more than ideals (which is most of the time) and times when there just wasn't enough participation in the process to really make it work.

That being said, I was appalled last night when I was talking to my boss and he told me about the Supreme Court's decision to treat corporations like people, and therefore allow them to donate obscene amounts of money to political campaigns.
Here is a column by a Washington Post writer about the issue. In her opinion, the Court not only made a bad decision but did so with "stunning...intellectual dishonesty." It seems like she's saying they committed a type of logical fallacy.

It's not that I'm not concerned with the logical (or illogical) steps the Court took to arrive at its decision, but I'm much more just angry that they think making it legal for corporations to buy candidates is some form of justice.

I'm not really looking forward to the 2012 election cycle.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

just a couple lines

"Being alone too long taught her to be afraid of people. 

The only references she has for intimacy or depth are sexual. 

All touches feel inappropriate and wrong. 

You can only hold her if she's safe inside her armor. 

We tried to uncover her pain - 

tried to let it breathe so it could heal -

but her fear bled out so rapidly,she scared us too. 

So now we hold her through her armor 

and we let her protect the wound."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Education and Testing - for Advanced Comp

My best friend, Jen, and I are both teacher candidates. She goes to Emporia State in Kansas and wants to teach high school and college math, while I'm here and want to teach high school and college English.

Yesterday we were talking about our classes and we came across the topic of multicultural students and their disadvantages in the classroom. In both of our programs (and hopefully most programs across the nation) teacher candidates are required to do their internships/observations/student teaching in at least one school with a majority minority students or where a majority of the students are of a low socioeconomic status.  She and I were discussing how strange it is that so many teacher candidates struggle through those placements because they want to teach in middle to upper-middle-class suburban predominantly white schools. 

We talked about the various struggling school systems in each of our areas. Jen mentioned that in Kansas there are a lot of Hispanic immigrants and a high demand for English Language Learning (our ESL). We got to talking about standardized testing and how kids who don't speak English as their first language categorically score low on those tests.  I told her that I would love to teach ESL but don't have time (to stay in school for it). She said she thinks there should be separate tests for native speakers and ELL/ESL students. I agreed with her during our initial discussion, but then after talking to my mom about it, I realized that I don't know if that's the best solution to the problem. 

Of course, most of we teachers and teacher candidates believe that standardized testing is too rigid for many students and some entire districts. But, that initial problem is compounded when there is a language barrier. According to the Center on Education Policy, Kansas test scores for 10th and 11th graders in reading went down from 2006 to 2007, but went up in math. In Oklahoma, all of our scores went up. Sounds like a good thing, right? Until you look at the Oklahoma City (mostly urban) Public School district. According to our state department's district report cards in 2003 and 2009, "minority" students and boys score unsatisfactorily in reading, with the exception of Asian students, who excel with the Caucasian children and the girls. The majority of all races of students score unsatisfactorily in math, with the exception of Asians. U.S. Grant High School, an almost half-Hispanic school (according to Public School Review), has been on the list of schools that need improvement for four years running.

I don't know what to do about the problem. But some of us need to put our heads together and figure it out. 

Saved (Draft, from October/November 2009)

Picture a girl
raised all around by strong personalities:
the kind of people who actually enjoy debating politics and theology,
people who show their love by the effort put into teasing.
Now grow her up in a strong academic environment,
introduce her to a poet or two who know how to touch souls with their lips,
teach her that expression is a good thing,
hand her a pen,
and then ask her what she believes.
You might get an answer that sounds something like this:

"Dear fundamentalist minds that claim to be in line with the King:

Life is  a constant searching,
checking the balance between myself and my Deity.
Faith has nothing to do with theology.
It doesn't stem from what I think or whether we agree.
And faith shouldn't be rooted in systems;
Jesus told us to follow and trust, obey, believe in, and love GOD.

This is why I don't understand
when you tell me to have a relationship with GOD
and then tell me to look for Them in this Book.
You tell me GOD is constant,
but when I ask you what GOD thinks about American politics
this ancient Middle Eastern text is where you look.
If GOD is constant, then Their words can not be contained between two covers.
If the Creator, Spirit, Savior are not bound by beginning and end,
then Their words are not limited to what was written then.

I am not seeking to invalidate the Bible - disjointed, incomplete, and lost in translation though it seems.
I know I cannot get where I'm going unless I know where the others have been.
But once I read the history,
once I understand GOD's trends,
let me believe in the GOD who says "I AM,"
let me love the God who not only was back then but who is.

I believe in a Savior, but Jesus doesn't just rescue me from a hell underground with fire and scary things.
My Savior seeks to save me from all places where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
My Savior hasn't invited me to a white-washed after-life heaven that lacks diversity.
Jesus saved me for the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth filled with justice and manifested peace.
I was saved from too much structure, from too many rules and legalities.
I was saved so the Word could live in me, take on my flesh and become Poetry
flowing like water that lives and breathes from this belly full-to-bursting with what this world needs.

I believe in a Spirit who roams this earth begging people to live for the reason Christ died.
My Spirit believes that the word "crucify" loses some of it's meaning
when we forget that the cross broke our chains and set us free.
Christ died peeling off the labels of man, woman, saint, sinner, worker, and thief.
Christ's flesh was put to death so that we might become partners with Perfected Deity.
My Spirit reaches into women's souls with hands that know
more than any man's will ever be soft enough to hold.
It speaks fluently every language that exists, even the dead ones,
and creates a space where, in Christ, these dry bones can stand up and live.
The Spirit knows more than any eyes will ever see.
It looks past deviant behavior to see beauty.
It loves the abstract representations of humanity
beyond the Pharisees' ability understand why all lines are not straight,
why some spheres are queer, and why it is always more important to record what people say than to interpret what you hear.

This Savior
This Spirit
This Love!
This is GOD by whom the universe was made,
Jesus by whom the path was paved,
and the Spirit-filled life for which we were saved.

Friday, January 8, 2010

This Present Moment, in love

So I don't usually post things like this, because I feel like it's easy for people to become offended or to misread what you're saying. But I couldn't help it this time.

I believe that all good and perfect gifts come from the LORD (that's Scripture; I didn't make that up). I believe that sometimes, oftentimes even, GOD will let bad things happen to people (many worry about the difference between the words "let" and "cause." I think it doesn't matter) in order for them to learn important life lessons.

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that 2009 was the absolute worst year of my life. It's not to say that nothing good happened, but there were definitely far too many small crises.

Looking back on the bad things (which ended around November) with a little bit of distance, I'm able to see how they all worked together to make me a better person. I feel better about my life at this present moment than I have in several years. I feel like everything is falling neatly into place where GOD wants it and where its most beneficial to a successful, happy, and useful life. I haven't finalized the details on a lot of things, but I have a peace that tells me everything is going to continue to work out just fine, better than fine (that's Scripture too, by the way).
Praise GOD from whom all blessings flow...
Since that part of the blog ended up being shorter than I thought it would, I'll go ahead and say this: I am so baffled as to why more people don't base their whole spiritual journey on this Scripture: "Love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hinge on these commandments."
I believe with all my heart that people get so hung up on the minor commandments and the Law that they forget, even while they quote this verse, how simple this life can be if we focus. Love GOD and love people (both of which imply a love of self) and THAT'S IT. Everything, not most things, EVERYTHING else hinges on it.

This message came home for me when I realized that I was my best self when I was loving others. I "being rooted and grounded in love" was able to see "the width and length and depth and height" of GOD's love for us. And for that reason, "I bow my knees" to my GOD. For that reason. Not because I'm scared of going to hell, or because I long for pearly gates and rivers of gold. Not because my family tells me it's what I have to do. I bow my knees because I was able to see the enormity of GOD's love. And once I saw it, I knew there was no going back. I love GOD because I was first loved by GOD.
I believe that if we show others that same kind of love, if everything we do is for the purpose of displaying that love in our actions and words, they (the masses) will come to bow their knees too.
I'm not an evangelist. I'm just trying to love the hell out of some people.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Can Hear the Bells

I realize that I still haven't posted about the beautiful wedding that I went to over New Year's. I'm not sure why that is; maybe I did all my gushing verbally and in photos and their captions on Facebook (if we're not friends, we should be ;-)). Suffice it to say: it was the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to (the first in a long time that I truly enjoyed) and it made me rethink my thoughts on weddings.

Allow me to divert a little by saying, I am extraordinarily stubborn. If I get my mind set to do something or act a certain way, you will be proven wrong if you think I won't make it happen (all the more reason I should be able to lose 50 pounds, right?). I have been that way since I can remember. The problem is that I often don't back down, even if I've lost faith in my reason for the initial decision. Easy Example: I might say "Men should never wear skinny jeans." And then someone might show me a never-before-seen photo of Chris Brown or Idris Elba or Lupe Fiasco (guys I think are very hot) in a pair of skinny jeans that completely pull together his outfit. In my mind I might think, "I was wrong; he looks hot in those," but I will not say it aloud. I would probably cover with something like, "Well, anything looks better than awful on CBreezy."
In my defense, once I've seen three or four hot guys look hot in skinny jeans I might say, "Okay, fine. Men can wear skinny jeans IF they are as fine as Lupe."
I mentioned my stubbornness because this post is one of those I-renege-on-this-condition statements.

Up until the wedding of my best friend, I was what my sorority sisters called a "wedding hater." Not a marriage hater, because I'm definitely a fan of marriage, but not so much a fan of the flowers, lace, invitations, dresses, and color combinations that make up a wedding. I don't need to make my case about weddings and their pomp and pagentry; most people who will read this already know my position too well.
What I re-opened my computer in the middle of the night when I have a headache to say is: I now know how weddings can be done tastefully. I also now see where some of my distaste for them was unfounded. I projected the bad behavior of certain people, especially women, especially women with lots of money, onto all people. I projected the nonsense of some weddings onto all of them. And worst of all, I projected the brokenness of some relationships onto many, varied relationships. I am glad I was able to see in person what happens when a woman who I would never call spoiled or vapid or superficial marries a man who is not passive or emasculate or archaic because they are truly, madly, deeply in love and committed to making their situation work, not because it was just that time, or because their biological clock was ticking, or to combine their incomes. I saw class and beauty and spirituality and diversity and love come together to show several of us what it can look like when done right.

I realized through the beauty (some have said "perfection" and I like that word too) of my dear friend, the bride, that a wedding can symbolize a relationship, that a perfect bride can symbolize a lovely woman. And I am now able to admit that part of the reason I was loathe to see myself walking down an aisle of adoring onlookers on a cloud of bridal bliss and poise and grace and class is because I don't consider myself to be someone to be adored, someone who possesses poise or grace or an abundance of class. I never have seen my life - present or future - as entitled to bliss or perfection or awe-inspiration.
On one level, I aim to be a bit more graceful, a bit classier in future. The world could use more of that. On another level, I appreciate some of my "rough edges" some of the things that will never look perfect in lace accessorized by something borrowed and something blue.

So I have outlined some things symbolic of myself as a woman to whom a man would promise: "forever and ever, amen."
I have an idea for a dress (likely tailor-made): white, strapless, T-length, with a cherry blossom tree growing up from the bottom hem in full bloom and color (shades of pink and green). This dress is accessorized mainly by the quarter-sleeve tattoo I'm getting on my left shoulder, pink pumps, pink nail polish. Simple, pretty, but never traditional.
I have an idea for a ceremony that is much less formal than the usual wedding ceremony and consists of several people (generally bridesmaids and groomsmen) speaking to or on behalf of the bride and groom. I think I'd like a non-pastorly-type to officiate; someone with a license but not someone who I know as Pastor So-and-So. I'd like them to be someone who speaks into my life on a more casual and likely more regular basis. I want to enter (walk down the aisle) to something like Anthony Hamilton's "Dear Life."
I have an idea for a reception that lasts until we're all finished dancing, not just until my husband and I are ready to start the baby-making. And a day-after brunch to gush and look at photos and spend more time being blissfully happy.

I am now inspired to become more like the beautiful friend whose man liked it so much he put a ring on it this past new year's eve, but to do so in a way that makes me, Najah, a better version of myself, not another version of her.

I hereby renege my angry statements about weddings being stupid and a waste of time and money (Oh my goodness. I actually felt a piece of my ego being severed from the whole - and it was a good thing). I maintain, as a point of contention, and because I still believe it, that weddings should never become a competition, a pageant, a ruse, an obligation, a burden, or a misrepresentation of the bride and groom. Make your wedding yours and your spouse's. Make it say your names. Make it exemplify who you are as a couple. Don't ever ask it to scream, "I'm better than So-and-So's wedding!" Your wedding attire should make you look like the best version of yourself, and that may not be a candidate for the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings. And that's okay.

Wow. That's what you call a come-to-Jesus. Thanks, Bestie.
Also, don't worry that I've let out too many of my wedding secrets. By the time it actually goes down (5 years, 10 years, 15 years?) this post will be so far back in the archives that it won't be remembered.

The end.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

School Days

Welp, it seems to be time, past time really, to make a definite, not-changing come-hell-or-high-water plan to graduate from college. I had a couple of different versions of that plan all the way up until July 2009. Then I transferred from Oklahoma City University, an exciting, top-notch, private, REALLY expensive institution, and enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma, a well-respected, public institution known across the state and farther as a great school to teach teachers (which is my degree path).

When I realized that at UCO none of my school expenses would come out of pocket, I had a heart-to-heart with myself and then with my best friend. We decided that we liked school and as long as it was cheap (or free), what was really wrong with staying in until you couldn't stand it anymore?

There are a few reasons all this is coming up:
1) I just got an exciting internship (TBA) and I might be able to get some course credit for it if I play my cards right. 
2) I am in the interview process for a change in one of my jobs (hush hush). This change would give me job stability and a potential raise (i.e. I could easily move out and not have to struggle).
3) I looked over my transcript and realized these things:

    a) I am only 3 classes away from a minor in journalism.
    b) with 4 classes, I could pick up a minor in public relations (one of which - Media Writing - is the same as a class I'd need for journalism).
    c) I am only 3 classes away from a minor in Spanish.

Here are the potential plans of action:
1) leave my spring 2010 schedule the way it is and graduate with a Bachelor's in English Education in May 2011. 
2) request a mass communications internship credit for my non-school related internship.
3) change my spring 2010 schedule a little by:
   a) adding Media Writing at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (which crosses a class off of both the PR and journalism lists). This would make my class schedule 17 hours rather than 14 (but two of my courses are block courses so it will feel like 14 hours rather than 11).

   b) adding Principles of PR at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays to decide if I really want to pursue a minor in PR (and if I do, I'd be one class closer).
   *Note: these changes in my spring 2010 schedule will NOT keep me from my BA in English Ed. in May 2011.
   *Note: I have mapped out a plan to graduate in December 2011 with a BA in English Ed. and 3 minors: PR, journalism, and Spanish. Yes, I would have an awkward semester of no school where I'd need a full-time job and it likely wouldn't be teaching...but if I do the job change that I'm currently working on, I can make that job work, or get another part-time to supplement it. "You can do anything for a year" (without it permanently damaging you) and that would only be 6 months. ;-)

Why get 3 minors instead of just 1? you ask.
My dad lives in Panama. It would mean a lot to me personally to be able to say that I studied Spanish and am proficient if not fluent in the language. You get more money on certain jobs if you know a foreign language, especially Spanish in Oklahoma jobs. My life is communications so I'm sure it'd come in handy. 
I started college as a journalism major and therefore finished several of those classes. I have no desire to be a journalist, but my exposure to PR came from journalism. A lot of the practices and concepts overlap. It just seems silly to only leave 3 classes hanging between me and a minor.
I have worked in public relations for the last calendar year. I find it fun and interesting. I have a knack for it, but I have no formal training in it. Because of the overlap in the mass communications field, I have a headstart on a minor. 4 classes doesn't seem that hard for something I really want, that would really boost my resume.

The only really weird/awkward thing with the minors (other than telling people I have 3 minors) is that the time I need to do both a PR and journalism minor will put me off to the point that it would be ridiculous NOT  to do the Spanish minor. Just because of timing. What I could (and probably should) do is make sure that I take care of the PR and journalism classes before the Spanish ones and make sure to take care of PR before journalism. 

Anyone have input?
(please say you do)

Friday, January 1, 2010


About a week ago, I had a moment when I decided there was no reason this shouldn't be a fantastic year. I feel like the unexpected things should be over and the hurtful things should have healed. I think the fear should be overcome and the handicaps should be made handi-capable. The tears are tears of relief and joy and awe, not frustration, anger, and futility. My glass is half full, and I am rooted and grounded, all dressed up, in love. 

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
(Ephesians 3:14-21)

That being said, I am so excited to start working out more. My sister Ashley and I are gonna train together for the OKC Bombing Memorial Marathon in April. This is important to me because my family is a healthy, athletic family and I want to create more opportunities for us to be together. Several of my cousins and my aunt and uncle run in marathons every year and I want to join in. It's healthy, it can be fun, and it's bonding time. I've done the weight loss thing before and I'm ready to do it again.

While I've been in Kentucky celebrating my best friend's wedding, my sisters and I have been discussing resolutions. Mine are short and simple. They are also things I've already started:

1) Read the whole Bible. I already have a plan with and I'm actually really excited about it. I'm excited to learn more and seek GOD.
2) I want my life to mirror this statement: "I am not praying. I have become a prayer" (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love).
3) I want my life to be the effect of this statement: "I am tired of painting myself 'will be' when YOU (GOD) are always 'I AM'" (Melissa May poem). I want to live in the now, focus on making each moment the best it can be.

4) Fit and healthy living. 

I have a lot of other mini-goals, but I think if I accomplish these 4 things, I'll be able to look back and say, "Yep, that was a perfect 2010."

I am happy. And I'm on way to looking like I feel on the inside.
"As within, so without"

Happy New Year!

More on the wedding later.