Monday, December 30, 2013

Almost A New Year

I do this every year and it challenges me and stresses me out and focuses me.  I love to hate it.

Last year's resolutions:
1) pray
2) praise
3) study
4) eat to live
5) sweat
6) teach
7) give love

They were basic.  And yet I failed them for the most part.  I did and do pray, but not enough.  I did and do praise, but not enough.  I did study, but definitely not enough - in fact I dropped out of grad school.  My eating was a roller coaster.  I did a vegan challenge and discovered how much my body wants to be healthy and then I started eating my stress again.  I did a month of the Shaklee 180 program and lost 6 pounds and several inches, only to gain it back in the next month by stress eating. I did not sweat very much, not enough.  I did teach, but the jury is out on whether I did so effectively.  And back in the summer I had several people tell me that I was open, warm, loving.  That was a blessing, because I didn't see that transformation happen.  The fruit surprised me.

Here are the things I did accomplish: 
1) Kids love me.  Not a day goes by that I don't believe I was born to be a teacher.  They confide in me, they connect to me, they ask me for help.  I wish I was perfect at teaching standards and scaffolding knowledge.  But there are plenty of teachers who are good at that but not good at relating to kids.  I'm glad to start where I am.  The skills can be learned, the love maybe not.
2) Finished my poetry book.  It needs an intro and cover art and it will be ready to print.
3) I got paid to perform twice.  I got asked to perform several times.  I have grown a ton as a performer, without slam.
4) I signed a contract for a job that I show up to everyday even when I don't feel well or don't want to.  In other words, I grew up a lot.
5) I bought a new laptop, a new phone, and a car.  I have a tiny retirement fund building.

This place in life is hard to be at.  Everyone acknowledges that adolescence is hard and smart people seek to help adolescents navigate through their hard time.  But people expect you to have a tight handle on all your coping and thriving mechanisms by 25 and they leave you out there to do it on your own.

I've spent winter break lamenting this. I don't feel like life should be hard, but it is. I don't feel like I should feel or be alone, but I am.  I should have accomplished a bunch of things by now that I haven't.  But I am determined to.

I am ahead of the game in some ways, because I know I'm doing at least part of what I'm supposed to - teaching, writing, performing.  Now I just need the other parts - where to live, how to make more money, what to do with my off-work hours, when to go to grad school and for what and where, whether to become ordained, whether to go to seminary (yeah, I said that), who to have in my inner circle versus who to love from a further distance, when and how to start traveling the world, whether to start slamming again, whether to marry...

And there is only one way to get the RIGHT answer to those questions. 

Society wants to tell you that there's no right way, no one answer, that it's all random, and life is a box of chocolates.  And I wanted to believe that for a while. Until I realized that the lack of purpose is what causes stress.  Maybe I have a deeper need for structure than other people, but I spend a lot of hours not at work, and even during the hours that I am at work, I spend a lot of time thinking about the bigger picture. And the bigger picture always always comes back to why.  Why is always supported or destroyed by how.  And I don't serve a God of uncertainties and questions and fear and anxiety.  I serve a God of answers and direction and order and peace.  So the only way to get the right answer to all of my questions is to go deeper into the Word, deeper into the personality of Abba God and the lover of my soul.

I said all of that to say this:
I only have one resolution in 2014: Give God the time He deserves.  A portion of everyday needs to be spent focused on God, His word, prayer.  Ideally, this year I will learn to tithe my time just like I tithe my money.  

I know to some this sounds crazy. Some of you probably think I already do "enough." I go to church almost every week, I serve at church. But doing things for God and knowing God are not the same thing.

I also realized a few things:

It really disappoints me that I haven't conquered my weight battle. For a week, I did yoga every day. I had a friend giving me accolades for it and that felt good.  But during those 7 days, I didn't spend adequate time with God.  I was so happy to be able to tweet #YogaEveryDamnDay but neither I nor anyone else cared if I tweeted about the revelation I'd gotten in the word that day, or the fact that I hadn't gotten any.  Not to mention, Jesus told us to go in our "closet" to pray, not for the purpose of being seen.  I decided after that week that if, this time next year, I was a skinny yogi who still didn't have the right answers to my questions then it was all in vain.

It really bothers me that I haven't accomplished any financial goals.  But I eat and I tithe and when I need something, as a general rule, I can buy it.  I could go get a second job and move into an apartment I'd never spend any time in, and infringe on my performance schedule, and my ability to support my kids at their games and extracurriculars.  Or I could stay where I am and seek God about how to get my money right.  Last semester I worked two jobs and I hated it. I was more stressed because my time was not mine.  And I was trying to work my plan instead of finding out what God's plan was.  Been there, done that. Don't want to do it again.

I didn't read enough books this year - I, the English teacher, and bibliophile didn't read enough books.  Because I was too busy working away at too many things. I was unfocused.  I could plan to read more books, but if I read all the books in the world but never finish reading the Bible than I am a phony.  The Christian bibliophile reads all the best sellers but has never read Chronicles, Lamentations, or Revelation? That is completely out of order and wrong.  In fact, I'm going to buy a Message bible - maybe I can find a Message-Amplified parallel.  I have study Bibles, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in studying that I don't take it in.  Pastor says "read the Bible like you're watching a movie" - imagine it, let it place vision in your heart.

I told myself I would learn Spanish by the end of the school year.  That was an arbitrary but understandable goal.  I want to be able to speak to my kids in their first language as well as the lingua franca.  But the original purpose of me learning Spanish (before I taught at a 75% Mexican school) was so that I would have two languages to minister in.  This goal dates back to junior high and high school mission trips to Mexico and the prophecy I was given a couple years ago that I would find my father's family and God would show me when and how.

And let's be real.  I am enjoying writing a book titled Christian Single Girl Swag.  I'd love to say it will be done in 2014.  I have been drafting it a lot over the last couple of weeks.  But I don't want to be single forever (the book is about living and loving to the fullest while you are single).  And I can't know who to love, who to steer clear of, who spend time with or give my heart to if I don't seek God about it.

I hope you see why there's really only one goal that matters.

Matthew 6:33 says "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added unto you."  I'm banking on the truth that God can't go back on His word, that I will seek the Kingdom and the weight, the money, the career, the ministry, the love will all fall into place after.  

I'm also starting the year with a Daniel Fast.

Here's to Him.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow Day 2013

Today was the first snow day of my career. It started sleeting and snowing as we left school yesterday and schools around the state were cancelled today.

So I spent the day organizing my life - which I do every break I get - and getting ready to publish my first poetry book, The Risk to Bloom.  I am done with my part of the writing.  I have two people writing introductions, though I might only choose one.  I need to write an author's note and choose cover art.  I am scheduling a promotional photo shoot. I have appointed a creative director - my best friend, Jessica, who I don't pay, lol. Yet!  And I am overwhelmed in a good way.

I wrote and edited a poem for a show next week. Procrastinor, much? But I like the poem. Working sporadically on memorization.
The show is going to be incredible.  I'm excited for Soul Williams and honored that I was chosen to be a part of the magic.

I have realized that listening to poets - specifically The Strivers Row - on YouTube while I write, edit, and rehearse keeps me motivated. So while I was doing that, I heard this and needed to post it.


Alysia Harris is everything. Everything.

She loves Jesus, too, if you were wondering. Follow her twitter. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Awakening

My friend Alton posted on Facebook about spiritual awakening today.

The students who need the most help are the ones who get suspended and expelled. One of the kiddos got arrested today - I don't even know what for.

People get sick with diseases that are simply attacks of the devil everyday.

One of my kiddos got a girl pregnant recently and has been all depressed about it in class.






My church is having 7 days of prayer this week - Integrity's Voice of Victory Church 44th and Meridian in OKC if you're interested - and I'm so motivated.  Corporate prayer has always captured my attention.

But the point of this post isn't really to invite you to my church.  It's to encourage you to try trusting God, try doing what He would ask you to, try loving like Jesus did.

I know there are a million reasons not to.
a hundred thousand complications
a thousand concerns and a hundred excuses
and then there is fear...

...but you'll never know if you don't try.

Wake up. Look around you. Look at your Facebook feed - 9 year old girls giving male toddlers lap dances, kindergarteners "twerking," people being abducted and killed every minute of every day. There is very obviously something wrong here.  And what we have been trying to do to fix it hasn't helped.

Obama came and he will soon go and things are not better. There has been little change.

There's really only one change agent.  Seek Him. Find Him.  Choose life.

Please. It's real out here. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sacrifice, Identity, and the Real You

This blog started with me discussing sacrifice in terms of fitness and body image. Now sacrifice is manifesting in a different way.

In the few weeks since my last post, 
  • I have been planning a really great unit with my team teachers on the topic of language and identity. I could teach different aspects of this all year, so I'm really really excited.
  • I had also been not working out due to a side oblique strain. Since I wasn't working out, I was stress-eating. Bleh.
  • I also had my boss tell me that I'm "making a lot of first-year mistakes" which I took as I'm sucking as a teacher.
  • I also turned in a really horrid paper for my grad class and realized that I had no idea what I was doing for the upcoming paper in my other grad class.
  • I had a really really refreshing and amazing coffee date with my friend Ericka.
  • I performed twice and went to show where a fellow poet invited me to Tulsa to perform.
  • I had a Twilight marathon with my Sheri and realized how much I miss her. 


In looking at my life, I realized that there were a lot of things out of order. Writing and performing doesn't really get to exit my life again (unless I hear it very authoritatively from the voice of God). It's who I am, who He made me. And I don't devote enough time to rehearsing.



On the other hand, I was spending an exorbitant amount of time on something He never called me to, something I ran to out of fear of the future and pride of the past.  Grad school is not a part of my right now. I never intended, and I don't think God ever intended, for me to be in grad school while I am a first-year teacher. One of them would suffer. In reality, both of them suffered.

And my body suffered. Part of my injury was lack of rest.
My stress-eating was, duh, stress-induced.

And my relationship with God suffered.

And my students suffered. My classroom management consultant friend kept reminding me that my students are "human beings not human doings." I realized that I ask them to DO a ton and don't ask them to BE much at all. And that also helped me remind myself that I am a human being not a human doing.

And the most rewarding spaces of being for me are these:





 So I looked at my situation and how I feel after every activity on my schedule and realized what needed to go. Grad school. Please don't think that I am quitting because that's the easier thing to do - it's not. And don't think that I am quitting because what I am learning is superfluous - it's not. I have gotten so many wonderful ideas for my classroom based on what I was studying. But, like I said in my previous posts on this topic - sacrifice is giving up something you want for something you want more. It's not a sacrifice if it's something you didn't really care about. What I want more is to be a good teacher, one that encourages students to BE great, not just pass their tests. What I want more is to be a good performer, someone who speaks to people's souls - their minds, wills, and emotions.  What I want more is to have time to love on people - old friends and new ones. What I want more is to have time to love on God. What I want more is to be healthy in my eating and my exercising and my stress levels. So that's what I'm doing. I am freeing myself to BE who I am. Several weeks ago in church I came upon an incredible realization - a rhema word (a revelation, divinely revealed knowledge).  WHATEVER YOU ARE HOPING AND PRAYING TO BECOME, YOU ALREADY ARE.  Underneath the layers of self-doubt and fear, of self-sabotage and undue restraint, of pain and rejection, of bad relationships and lack of inspiration you are exactly who you ought to be.  You just have to wake up in the morning and be that great mom - like my friend Jessica, that memorable artist - like so many I know and love, that incredible friend and lover (in a romantic way, or just to the world) - like Charmaine, that inspiring teacher - like Drew and Jordan, that dad that defies all the statistics - like Casanova and Jeremy.  That is who you are, NOT who you have to become. You might be looking at this and thinking that's a bold-faced lie. It's not. The way to BE who you are on the inside (even if you previously haven't been on the outside) is to emotionally rest and do all the things that person would do.  If the best dad doesn't smoke and you do, then wake up and refuse the cigarette.  If the best mom is a confident role model for her daughters, then wake up, look in the mirror and find something to love.  If the best teacher doesn't ever yell at his kids, then decide on a calming strategy and use it in the classroom today.  Don't worry about the past.  Don't worry about your tendencies or your shortcomings.  Just get up and do what you ought to. I'm off to grade papers, because good teachers turn in their grades on time. I hope your today is filled with something that helps you be the best version of yourself, in other words, be the real you. 
These photos are where I can be the best version of myself. 






Ever since I left OCU, school has never been the BEST version of me, just a version where I am used to excelling.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I Can't Give Up Now

I am guilty of a couple of things.

Several things really, but at this moment, relevant to this blog post, a couple of things:
1) glossing over the bad news and
2) being arrogant enough to think there will always be good news to report.

The reason it's been so long since I posted is because it's been so long since I've felt like I'm making progress on being WHOLLY successful and because if there has been a moment when I felt that, I haven't had time to write about it.

First year teacher - it's rough. I knew it would be rough. It is NOT rougher than I thought it would be. I'm just lonelier than I thought I would be. I thought they would be the problem, not me. But it's basically all me.
My first problem was having too much on my plate and not devoting enough time to my students. My second problem was treating them like a bunch of adolescent problems to be solved and forgetting to love them. Right now, I just want to go hug all of them and convince them that they can make it.  Too bad I'm not supposed to ever touch them. I have a lot of work to do this upcoming week, but I think I can do it. With God's help of course.

Weight loss, health and fitness - it was getting good. I was feeling better. I was seeing results. Now it's really rough because I have had to spend this week recovering from an injury. I believe that I am fine and that Monday when I start working out again, I'll be fine, but I am also PISSED. Normally I can't make myself workout. Then I make myself workout a lot and hard and I over-exert my left side oblique. It makes me very angry. The devil is a punk.
On top of that, I am an emotional eater. I think I have mentioned that before. It is so out of control. I honestly believe some days that ice cream or french fries or pop will solve the problem. It's insane. So I have definitely been eating my anger this week. I don't think I'm even going to look at the scale until Wednesday or so.

I have written some here and there. I read at the open mic on Tuesday night. I booked a show for Nov. 1st and another for Nov. 30th so that's pretty dope. I have a lot of rehearsing I need to do. I'm getting into the church arts scene which is great because that's where the anointing is. It is also scary because if you know my work, it is more real than it is holy. But that's why I'm writing new pieces.
My book is not THAT much closer to being published. It is a little. But not really. I'm searching anew for motivation for it. I'm finding it in the memories of how unaccomplished I feel. I have to finally do something.

I am so swamped with the aforementioned things and giving grad school just a teensy bit of energy that I am not at all a good business woman. I'm supposed to be building bridges for others and really I'm dangling over the edge of a cliff myself.

I'm listening to this song by Mary Mary "Can't Give Up Now" on repeat. The album is from 2000. I feel like this was one of my don't-kill-yourself songs in junior high.  It's great because it doesn't gloss over anything - the way I am guilty of. It doesn't sugarcoat.  It accepts responsibility and gives hope.  But the hope isn't some shiny thing made from far away dreams and infinite possibility. The hope is grounded only in the unflinching character of God.

"There will be mountains that I will have to climb
And there will be battles that I will have to fight
But victory or defeat, it's up to me to decide
But how can I expect to win If I never try.

I just can't give up now
I've come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me the road would be easy
And I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me

Never said there wouldn't be trials
Never said I wouldn't fall
Never said that everything would go the way I want it to go
But when my back is against the wall
And i feel all hope is gone,
I'll just lift my head up to the sky
And say help me to be strong

I just can't give up now
I've come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me the road would be easy
And I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me


If it were up to me, I'd give up. If it was just me fighting, I'd give up. But...at the end of it all...even though I'm limping and broken and a little beaten...I can't believe He's brought me this far to leave me. He's too good of a God for that. He has shown His loving kindness to me too many times for that. He never wastes a hurt. His ways are higher. He must have something on the other side. I trust Him not to be leading me astray. After everything else we've been through, after all the other times He's pulled me higher and made me stronger, as far away as some of my older trials look now...I have to believe that He is just taking me higher. He's making me like gold purified in the flames. I can't quit on His process.  He's been too good for that. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Let's Get Started

It's Monday, Sept. 9! Go weigh and measure yourself and sign up at myfitnesspal.com. Send an email to LW4PC@outlook.com and check out my cousin's blog for all the info.

If you want to see my thoughts and feelings on the process, look at najjustiz.tumblr.com . I'm not going to post them here.

If you have 10 mins, watch this video. If not, just do the steps I said above. This video is from last week, but don't be alarmed by the date. Just watch and join us!



Mistakes: Sept. 9 to Dec 30 is 15 weeks - two weeks longer than Shaklee's Turnaround program. Also, the metabolic boosting supplement is taken thrice daily, not once.

NOTE: You can - and I would love you to - join this challenge even without buying any product. But if you want product, I have some! And it's what I'm using.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Countdown to the New Year

Please pause for a break in our regularly scheduled programming.

I am not done with the identity series. I still want to tell you about womanhood and being a writer. Unfortunately I need to first tell you about race and "the N word"...BUT before all that.....

If there was one more thing I wanted to do by the end of the year, it would be lose several pounds. I know I talk about health on here a lot, and you're probably like: "why doesn't she get it together already?" But I am trying. I am a busy busy woman.

But thanks to my sweet cousin Autumn, over at My Fat 2 Fit Life, I am ready to go full speed ahead. And I think you should join me. Check out this video.


Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please let me know.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Identity: Teacher

Here's another video. I basically just ramble about being a teacher and what the first almost week was like.


 I will film an update this week, because it took me way too many days to edit this.

Note: I love the Teach So Hard movement and following other teachers on social networks. It's nice to have support.

Things are good still.
I'm taking this week away from TV and movies to pray more and get my schedule worked out. (I'm gonna have to ask my cousin to DVR Graceland.) Grad school starts this week too. I'm behind on everything. This past week was a sleepy, not totally productive week. Better this upcoming week, I know!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's REALLY Almost My Birthday This Time

Third Amendment:

Well, friends, on Thursday, August 1, I will be 25 years old!  That's right: a whole quarter of my life has passed.  I would be incredibly sad if I didn't know that I still have three quarters left, and if I was not completely convinced that the next years are the best years.  

(If you hate reading, skip this paragraph.  It is very interesting, but the info is not mandatory.)
This summer has been nuts.  I spent the first half scrambling to get my teaching certificate "in time" to get a job offer.  I then spent three weeks preparing lesson plans for ninth graders at the school where I subbed all last semester.  I finished the first month's plans on July 17.  Then, on July 19, I got a phone call from "my" principal saying the district had made cuts and I would not be able to work at that school.  I was pretty freaked out considering teacher in-service was set to start in less than two weeks (in OKC's district).  But my faith was bigger than my fear (even though my fear was a good size).  I applied to three schools in three surrounding districts (for crying out loud, why are there SO MANY districts?) and was ready to beat the streets finding a job.  I wanted to work in OKC but had reason to believe there were no English Language Arts (ELA) positions open.  Monday I called my old high school (that would have been fun, I think).  Tuesday in the midst of some other chaos (see later video blogs), I got an email from an OKC school asking if I wanted to interview.  Thursday morning I went in to a school three times the size of the one I was at last semester.  68% Latino (que bueno!) with updated facilities and technology.  The interview went well.  Not so well that I would refuse an interview from a top school in the 'burbs, when they called sounding desperate two hours later and wanting a same-day interview.  Shortly after that second interview, where I was very "candid" (read "ballsy") about my bent toward OKC's district, I got a call with the offer from my future employer.  I thought about it a few minutes.  Who doesn't want to work at one of the best schools in the metro (if not the state)?  This girl.  That school will find someone else, someone who is excited to teach their kids.  I am excited to teach the kids who really need good teachers, and to keep them from having to deal with a sub for the first few weeks of school, and to learn their (our) language, and to meet their families, and to watch them become all they can be

So, as I approach this momentous hallmark of adulthood - getting my first ever full-time (and some), salaried job with benefits, I think about what I want for my birthday.  It might be fun to have a huge dinner party where we all get dressed up and get to eat and drink and be merry.  But I find myself not really wishing for anything except the opportunity to be spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to give these kids my whole life - for a year or five or twenty or more (not counting breaks).  This has been a hard transition.  I'll work at the library until Tuesday night.  Teacher in-service technically begins Wednesday, July 31 but I am reporting for professional development Monday and Tuesday (7/29-30).  Classes begin Monday, August 5.  I don't know what grades or specific classes I'm teaching, my last half-check from the library system will be August 8, and I still have regular bills.  If I didn't walk with God I'd be so stressed out, I wouldn't be able to function.  Knowing God really does let you know peace.  Yet and still, when I think about birthday presents and parties and celebrations, my next thought is how sad I'll be if I have to wait until August 31 (my first teacher check) to buy what I need for this huge life transition.  Yes, I have a bright and brilliant personality, but the first 20 days of school will be much more manageable with the right number of dry erase markers, poster board, connector cord from my laptop to the smartboard (Mac user problems), colored sharpies, extra paper, pens, pencils, folders, binders, and things my students might forget or be unable to afford.  I'll need index cards, dividers, paper towels, Kleenex (because those are not provided and I personally hate drying my nose on toilet paper). And of course, prize candy, because sometimes you just can't motivate a teenager any other way.  I need to make an eye appointment and get new glasses.  My new school is 30 minutes from my house instead of around the corner like the old school was.  I'm trying my best to be healthy and drink Shaklee's energizing tea or use our chews instead of drinking coffee or energy drinks.  And I think adding yoga into my routine will help keep the health up and the stress down.  But everything costs money I don't have.

So here's what I'm asking: if I told you I was throwing a huge 25th birthday soirĂ©e at a restaurant of my choosing (probably the Cheesecake Factory), would you come?  And if you came, how much money would you spend on dinner?  It would bless my heart to no end if you would give that amount in cash, check, or via PayPal on the Internet into my keeping so that I can spend it on starting this school year
right.  I would love to gorge myself on cheesecake and sangria swirls, but my health and productivity are the kids' effective lessons and progress.  They come first.  Make a choice, make a change, make a difference.  Send me an e-card or hand-written one, and tell me how much you love me and how much you're praying for me and these kiddos, and then wrap your head around this: I believe that God will richly bless you if you choose to give into their lives through me.  You would be sowing a seed into the Kingdom.  Pay it forward past me to them.  Please.  Contact me in the comments, via email, or on Facebook or Twitter for my mailing address if you need it.  If you're using the PayPal method, just click the "donate" link to the right and follow the instructions.  When you do that, if you are then curious what HEAR OKC is click here.

In addition to your monetary donation to the dream, please include a mailing address and something that you would like me to support you in, stand with you on, or pray for you about.  A wise man (my pastor) told me to give out of my abundance, and I have been abundantly blessed with insight and the ability to encourage and intercede.  Give me a chance to use it for you.

P.S. I promise not to buy new clothes or new shoes, not get my hair dyed, not get a manicure or pedicure.  All of your money will go straight into the "Najah as a healthy, not-stressed teacher" fund unless you specify otherwise. 

P.P.S. Why cash, check, or PayPal rather than gift cards? Because there are things I will need other than what I listed above.  I might need a stool to sit on at the podium.  I might feel the need to paint my podium.  I might want to use material instead of paper borders.  I have to buy lunch at school everyday.  Who knows what stores I will find my materials at, or what kind of deals I’ll be able to make.  I don’t want to be limited to Target, Wal-Mart and Staples.  Also because you can just give me two dollars, if that’s what you feel led to give.  

P.P.P.S.  If you are not able to give anything, I totally understand.  If you are one of my Leo friends and I am not getting you a present because I have no extra income, I totally understand (and apologize)!  Please, at the very least write a little note and give me some encouraging thoughts and words as I prepare for one of the biggest changes in my life AND tell me what I can pray for you about.  I will most likely keep the best of these notes with me at school to encourage me when the kids are acting like knuckle-heads or when my lesson plan flops. 

Thank you a million times in advance (and expect a thank-you card)!! I love you!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Writer, Bridge Builder

I apologize for the long delay between posts. And for picking it back up on a Friday when people aren't really online that much.

I had opened a discussion about identity.  Who do you identify as?
Today I'm going to discuss the aspect of my identity that is a writer, and why.

"Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open." - Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Why write what's disturbing and scary? Sometimes so I can get it out of myself. Sometimes what we are silent about settles in our bodies and festers creating not only unhappiness, but sickness. Sometimes you have to split open and empty out before you can begin to heal.

"Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard." - David McCullough

Many people say I over-think. My rebuttal is that it's because I'm a writer.  When I don't export my thoughts onto the page, they run circles in my head and it makes conversations with friends a little confusing.  That's part of the reason for this blog.
Also, I believe that the thoughts I have are probably similar to the thoughts some other young women have.  So if I can think clearly about a topic and write about it, maybe I can help someone else think clearer.

"There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times." - Yevgeny Zamyatin, A Soviet Heretic: Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin

I want to explode someone's thinking about love, about why we live our lives, about God, about religion, about America, about beauty.  I want someone to read a book of mine and have their whole thought process changed. 
 
I want to help you get from here to there, from please to thank you, from amen (so let it be) to there it is.  Wherever you are in life right now, no matter how great or terrible, there is a better place. I want to help you get there.  For me, writing (and to a vaguely lesser degree, performing and speaking or preaching) is how I show people the bridge from where you are to where you want to be.  A blog post, a poem, a story, a book can be your bridge. 

That's why I teach high school, to help kids get from childhood to adulthood. 
That's why I teach reading/English/language arts, because if there is nothing else available, there will always be a public library with Bibles, books and periodicals to help you build your bridge.
That's why I write, to move people from one emotional or intellectual place to the next.
That's why I perform, to draw out people's feelings and inspire them to take the next step.
This is my heart, my calling, my ministry.

Health and finances are my personal areas of struggle where I needed someone or something to help me build my own bridge, and help me walk across it.  I am embarking on a journey to tackle both of those areas of opportunity at once. When I get to the other side, I can tell my story.  I need to be healthier so I can live a long life telling and retelling the story, helping people build.  I need to be more financially stable so that I have freedom to travel and give into the ministry and Kingdom.

I'm trying to get like my friend Jabee: "Build a bridge and get over it. I went from never leaving home to flying over it."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Identity

This blog was more or less created around the idea of identity. 
 
I identify myself by who I am and who I will always be no matter what: human, woman, Black, Latina...
 
 
 
...by what I am right now and love being, but have to make a conscious decision to remain as: natural, Oklahoman, following God, a high school teacher, not married (yes, this is a conscious decision), striving for justice and love, a writer, a performer, an editor...
 
 
 
...by what I love doing: a book lover, a baby snuggler, a thinker, a music lover, a dreamer...
 
 
 
...and by a couple things I know are temporary: a master's student, not married, trying to stay healthy.
  
For the purpose of not letting this be the world's longest blog series, I will narrow it down to the few identifiers I want to talk about. I have already discussed my God-following and health at length (and I'm sure there will be more in future). Over the next few posts, I will discuss being Black and Latina (or Latinegra or Afrolatina), being a woman and being natural (probably together), being a woman and being unmarried, being a writer, and being human (which will have a spiritual focus, of course).   
 
Here is a teaser quote:
"I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim songs. I am a woman. I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs." - Dianne Reeves
 
How do you identify yourself? "Hi, my name is _______ and I am __________"???

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Don't Be Such a Martyr"

We have all heard the phrase "Don't be such a martyr."
It means, stop glorifying your struggle. But it also means stop struggling, or sacrificing, for no reason. More often than not, people don't choose to sacrifice for no reason.  Fairly often, the reason for the sacrifice is something friends and family don't understand.  So it is seen as unnecessary and they are encouraged to quit when it hurts.

Now, we all know victims whose lives are hard because they imagine pain and trial where there ought to be none.  I have played the victim many times in my life.  And there is real pain bound up in that behavior, real fear that must be actively replaced with faith.

Majority populations and people in power often say that minorities or lower class people are acting like martyrs, claiming to be persecuted when really they just are not driven enough to rise above their circumstances.

In the predominant definition of a martyr, someone gives his/her life for a cause they believe in.  Many of us don't use martyr to mean that anymore because in western civilization in 2013 it is rare to give your life on purpose.  You either unintentionally die from illness or are killed in some tragic accident.  We are not a group of cultures that die for causes.  

So many believe that God's dominant desire from us is that we live as those who follow Him, rather than die in a blaze of glory.  As a general rule, I agree.  I know it is easier to die than to live through certain pains, struggles, and battles with losses as well as victories.  Martyrdom has been historically considered the ultimate sacrifice - giving up something you want, your life, for something you want more.  But for me, personally, giving up my life would be easy.  Staying alive and fighting through is the hard thing.  I have to give up simplicity and ease and predictability in order to glorify God in the way I have been called.

Some people might wonder why I am doing this forty-day book study A Call to Die, why I am making myself write so much, study so hard.  It's summer break, I could be relaxing. Relaxing can't serve God? (Of course it can. Sometimes it's the only thing that can.)

I never go many weeks without being approached by a man.  In general, it doesn't progress very far because we don't see eye-to-eye about the purpose of life and faith.  But in recent years I have met a couple of men who do hold to all the same ideals I do.  But it's not my time to focus on them or on romance.  Right now is a preparation season (another one) for my next several months of teaching and building bridges (more on that later).  So I have to give up romance, even healthy romance, for personal development.  Not every opportunity is the best one for this season.  Sacrifice.

Check out this poem by Janette...ikz.  It's called "HypoChristian."


Normally poems like that make me uncomfortable.  She is asking for too much (although everything that she challenges us to do mirrors the Bible) and she is asking for it so intensely.  But what she is doing right that so many are afraid to do is forcing us to come face to face with our priorities.  Do we want to be "Christians," to follow God, or do we not?  Because if we do, we have to do what God has said we need to.  We have to sacrifice.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Risk, The Sacrifice

I just finished editing my first chapbook of poems and sent it off for peer-edits.. There are just over twenty poems in it, many of which I have performed for crowds that liked or loved them.  I wrote these poems mainly during my college years, when I was searching, wandering, losing and finding myself by the week and month.

There is a quote from Anais Nin that I heard on Alicia Keys' album The Element of Freedom and it really touched me: "The day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom."
Last year I had a show called "The Risk to Bloom" and that is what I am naming my book as well.



I don't doubt that Anais Nin (and Alicia Keys) mean something different about freedom and about blooming than I do, but the quote is so true and so powerful.

 

Sometime during college I closed myself off to lots of emotions - many who knew me then would say that I never cried and sometimes seemed to feel nothing but laughter and anger.  I closed myself off to the piercing power of the Holy Spirit.  After a lot of meditating and reading old poems and journals, I think I was tired and afraid of feeling convicted, so I stopped allowing myself to give in to questions about my motives and my misbehaviors.

I couldn't close down everything, though. I let in beautiful words. I allowed words to feel for me so I wouldn't have to.

After college, that didn't work for me anymore.  I actually didn't write for months on end, close to a year.  Being closed off like that was really hurtful to my sweet roommate at the time.  It got me fired from a job I was good at.  It led me to a really dark place where I behaved as if there were no God to heal and protect and provide. I went through a ministry class at church, because I was asked to, and because I was sure that if I didn't do something "radical" I would not make it much farther. 

What I know now is that there is a beauty God puts inside each of us - namely women (inside the men, I am inclined to say He places a strength - not that women have no strength and men have no beauty but I am speaking generally) - and that beauty is precious and vulnerable.  The devil does not want the world to see that beauty.  The devil does not want the world to see your light shining to glorify the God who made you. So there is an attack on our beauty and on our strength. It is a ruthless attack.  The goal is that we would die emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and then perhaps physically as well.  The devil wants our potential dead because it is a reflection and a manifestation of God's potential - His omnipotence (same root word: potent).  I learned that our beauty is inextricably bound to God.  Without God everything begins crumbling.

Knowing that there is an enemy who wants to attack the strongest, most beautiful part of you makes you want to protect it, to hold it back, to maybe lock it away in a high tower where no harm can reach it...and no one can see it or be inspired by it.

I am thankful to be living after "the day" when I realized that hiding is too painful and detrimental.  But in order to fully grasp that, I must let go of what used to be and how I used to cope.  I must release the hiding and the self-protection in order to bloom.  I must release the people who are attached to who I used to be.  I must be willing to sacrifice what I once wanted - angsty poems that make people cry and applaud, that pull their heartstrings - for what I want more - to be whole and holy in God, and to show others how to get there.

I am afraid that my writing won't be as good without all of the angst.  I am afraid that it won't be as poignant, that it will draw a smaller crowd.

"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." - Marianne Williamson

I am afraid that many of those who nurtured my writing from the beginning will shun it when I consistently insist on putting God in the middle of it.  

"I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. And whoever falls on this stone [that the builders rejected] will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." - Matthew 21:43-44.  Jesus was quoting Psalms 118:22-23.  He was saying that He is who people reject, the "stone" or building block that "builders" reject.  Because we are all building a life, and we are either building it on Christ or on something else.  He is saying that the "nation" producing "proper fruit" is the nation that has "fallen" on Him and allowed themselves to be broken. He is talking about the people who have sacrificed what they wanted for the Kingdom and then used Him to build their lives on.  Those who won't sacrifice, who won't allow themselves to be broken are those whom the "stone" will crush.  I don't believe this directly translates to God reaching out to smite people.  I think it means that if you don't make the sacrifice to build your life around the Kingdom, you take yourself from God's protection and then life's trials and hardships can and will crush you. 

So I trust that whatever I create from here on out will touch who it ought, where it ought, how it ought to.  I do not have to be angsty and sinful in order to be creative or draw a crowd.  I can be whole and holy.

At some point I will have to sacrifice the freedom of having all the time in the world for the discipline of health.  I have to want health more than I want "free time." It's a change in mindset. I have to invest in the process, the patient endurance, the sweating at a low fitness level until I get to a higher one. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sacrifice

This week's topic is sacrifice.

This is hopefully not a blog where you have to read every post to understand what's going on. But today, you need to read Friday's post before you read this one.

"Sacrifice is giving up something you want for something you want more." - original author unknown. But I have heard this at church as well as in the movie Beautiful Creatures.

"If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).

"You can only be great at things you're willing to sacrifice for." -Maya Angelou

"The question isn't, 'Do you do what you want to do?' but 'Do you do what [God] wants you to do?' In this lies the opportunity to die." - David Nasser, A Call to Die

"Our struggle with excuses is the test of our commitment to Christ" - David Nasser, A Call to Die
"Life will test your commitment to your desires." - Pastor Charles Martin at Integrity's Voice of Victory Church

So I make regular sacrifices to follow God. I want Him more than a writing career.  I want Him more than a performance career.  I want Him more than attention from certain people.

I sacrifice sleep for work all the time.

But the question on the table is: do I want physical fitness more than any thing? I mean honestly.

Nasser says that when you live for the Kingdom of God, "Nothing else matters because, quite literally nothing else matters."

So what if God is calling me to improve my physical health so that I can reach people more effectively?  Nasser wrote, "above all else, God values our faithfulness to obey Him. Patient endurance is not all that exciting most of the time, and if we expect (and demand) spiritual thrills all the time, we will soon be disappointed..."

A question I am currently asking myself is: does this endeavor yield eternal dividends?    
There are levels of spiritual maturity - the most obvious ones being 1) living a life that honors God and 2) living a life that causes other people to honor God.

I think that I have a certain vanity about being overweight.  It's not a completely physical vanity, although I would never call myself ugly.  It's wrapped up in a more intellectual vanity that says, "Look at me. I have the best of both worlds. I am beautiful, but I am also so smart and self-actualized that I don't care if I'm over weight as long as I'm healthy."

I know that there are people who judge books by their covers and people by their appearances. What if my refusal - because it is refusal more than inability - to get fit is keeping me from being able to speak into certain people's lives? Maybe people who think that way are shallow, but am I only called to "bind up the broken-hearted," never to speak truth to the proud and vain?  I think not.

A minister, Kevin Wade, who I heard preach in April and whose sermon I listen to on CD in my car said that we ought to be walking, talking examples of the grace, goodness, and provision of God.

Am I?
God just got me a job that I've wanted for years. It was all Him. So maybe in that aspect, I am. But what about in other areas?

When we hear preaching, sometimes the Holy Spirit plants images in our minds' eyes to help solidify the concept God wants us to internalize.  When Rev. Wade was preaching that message, one of the main things on my mind was having a healed knee and being in great shape.

It's cool to say God is the most important thing in your life. And that can be true. God can be honored by your relationship with Him. But another level of honoring God, pleasing God, is letting your life, your light (Matthew 5:16) draw other people to Him. So if that's what He wants from me...I will give that too. 

"He is no fool to give what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliott quoted in David Nasser's A Call to Die

Friday, June 21, 2013

Stronger

I am not really going to say too much today.  It's Friday afternoon and y'all are just trying to make it to the weekend.

I also tend to skimp on media. I posted some photos earlier in the week, but my blogs tend to not be visually appealing enough. So for today, in regards to my personal health and fitness struggles and goals, I'm going to post two videos, and give just a tiny bit of background. 

The first video below I ran across a few weeks ago.  I follow several different tumblr blogs.  This one I got from Young, Black and Fit who also runs Young, Black and Vegan.  A fitness trainer receives a question from a YouTube channel viewer asking how he can make his girlfriend workout more. The trainer thinks this is a selfish and mean-spirited question and he gives his (very angry) opinion about it.  WARNING: He says a few curse words, but I posted it anyway because I have NEVER heard a man say things like this, nor have I ever heard a fitness instructor say things like this.


A year and a half ago, I was asked to participate in a poetry and art show around the theme: "The Body is Not an Apology." Before you start to think I'm some awesome self-love ambassador let me tell you: I'm not.  I'll never forget the lines from the movie Liar, Liar. "My teacher says real beauty is on the insider." "That's just something ugly people say." And for every time I have known a person whose face or body put them in the "ugly" category but whose spirit made them beautiful, I have judged someone's ill-fitting outfit.  So, I go back and forth between believing that we as a world need to allow full-figured, curvy, fat, odd-bodied people to see and know that they are beautiful too, I have believed that we only say that until we lose weight or find the hairstyle and makeup that works for us.

At that show, I read the poem in the video below.  I wore a short skirt that some would say girls my size shouldn't wear.  But I have two other skirts like that now (slightly longer - I acknowledge the immodesty factor and I have no excuse for it).


As I say in the poem: "If I look like this for the next 80 years, that will be just lovely."
I just want to live. I know that I am beautiful, in a way that not all people fully accept. But somehow I am fully convinced in my own mind and the mind of my friends and family.
It's just weird to live with a tension that also wonders "what if I were 40 pounds lighter?" Because I do have a goal weight - and that is it: 40 pounds lighter. What if? Will I be less radical? Less of an ambassador for inner beauty? Because so many ex-chubby people never believed they were beautiful.  Once they are smaller they throw out the old photos and promise never to get heavy again.  But I don't want to leave this girl behind. I don't want to look back at this poem - even minus 40 pounds - and say "I had no idea what I was talking about."

The guy in the other video, the fitness instructor, says you work out because you want your body to be stronger to sustain your life, not because you want to look different or because someone forces you to. I agree with him.  I do want to be stronger.  Seane Corn, the yoga instructor in one of my photos from Tuesday, says we practice yoga "in order to do the work we need to do in the world, in order to hold that light for spirit." She believes that what you practice on the yoga mat (concentrating more, holding longer, breathing deeper, not letting go even when it burns) translates to, or maybe flows from, inner strength. I agree so whole-heartedly.

I am about to begin a journey in holistic health.  I want to be healthy and strong, but I am scared to death that if I ever were to achieve that goal, I would become shallow as well.

I have a sweet friend - a hot guy actually, with a six pack and really well-defined pecs - who told me once "you are beautiful now and you'll still be beautiful if you get thinner."  I love him for saying that.  But I worry if I'll still be beautiful on the inside, strong on the inside?

(Note: I think next week's topic might be sacrifice.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let Go

Some say "let go and let flow" others say "let go and let God."

In the book I'm studying, A Call to Die, David Nasser says, "[God] will always amaze us with how He'll use us. We have to keep our eyes open because He will blow our minds with where He will lead us.  Sure, He lets us get into patterns that will give us some stability, but as soon as we are established, He leads us in new directions to new experiences of enjoying Him and letting Him use us."

Below are some definitions I find helpful.

Devotion - earnest attachment to a cause or person

Diligence - constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.
Discipline - activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training;
the rigor or training effect of experience Freedom - exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc., the power to determine action without restraint.

The three D-words up there are words that many people use interchangeably.  I found it really helpful to compare and contrast them.  

I realize now that I am devoted, but since devotion is more of a feeling (attachment) than a course of action, being devoted is not the ideal.  You can be attached to a cause or person that you don't spend a lot of time pouring into - like me and health and fitness.  That being said, devotion means a little something, because there are tons of things to which each of us is not devoted.  Like I am not devoted to American patriotic rhetoric and ideology.  I am not devoted to secularism, godlessness.  I am deeply devoted to religious ideology. 

I am only diligent about a few things - God, personal relationships, and writing (in that order).  Those are the only things for which I will stop what I'm doing to go fix it or go nurture it. I lost a lot of sleep last night with my writing partner Kashlee Banx.  I have lost some sleep and some gas recently with a new friend.  But I cannot count the number of times I have been unavailable to work or to go out or to join in because of a church function or a Bible study or a conversation with someone about God. 
I will have to become more and more diligent to teaching, to my studies and research, to planning and executing.  I seriously wonder if I will ever be diligent at exercise.  Devoted, perhaps. Diligent? I'm just not sure. 

Discipline is what I lack in all areas.  I hate being stuck in a rut.  I get bored with processes very easily.  Even though I spend time with God every day, reading the Word and journaling, reading devotional books, etc., it is hard for me to finish a book cover to cover.  It is hard for me to complete the same process day in and day out.  It's hard for me to follow a Bible reading plan.  I like to jump around and be spontaneous.  This is a problem because sometimes the payoff doesn't come if you don't complete the whole process. I think this is more true spiritually than in any other area.  I need to be more disciplined to finish what I start. 

Dictionary.com says freedom is about lack of external control or restraint.  I am free, perhaps a bit too free.  I am great at responding to the world around me, taking immediate instruction, helping in crises.  Many people are not.  Have you ever met someone who can never do anything that wasn't on their to-do list?  They can't meet you for coffee because right now is their scheduled study time; are you available in two hours? Maybe they can schedule you in for next Monday? There is nothing wrong with a structured life, but it has its downfalls just like an unstructured one.  I think sometimes (external) diligence infringes on (internal) freedom. Sometimes we don't see the forest for the trees. We sometimes take the beauty and adventure from life with the implementation of structure.  



Here is a story to close:

I am devoted to, diligent in, and fairly disciplined at maintaining pure relationships with men.  I believe that a lot of the problems in my culture can be traced back to an excess of freedom about purity and sex.  High demands, low standards, low expectations, low responsibility and weak will.  So I don't really date.  I don't spend much alone time around men.  I try to keep text messages and hang time regulated to daylight hours.  

Recently, I met a man while I was out performing.  We had a deep conversation with some other people one night and each realized that the other was intelligent and insightful.  He began starting conversations with me over social networking and invited me to spend time with him.  Because of our work schedules, the best time for us to talk was when I get off after 9 p.m.  This made me leery at first.  My perspective was that it simply is not proper to spend time with a man at this hour.  But our conversations are very pure.  He has never made a pass at me.  Nothing inappropriate has happened or even been hinted at.  And I recently have felt more and more comfortable talking with him about spiritual things.  I recently shared with him a sermon that I heard at church.  

I am not advocating lowering your standards or your level of responsibility.  Not all men are respectful or trustworthy.  Not all women are pure or innocent.  I especially don't encourage too much after-hours hang time between teenagers - there are too many hormones and too little experience with the world.  There is so much more to learn about yourself as a young woman or young man.  But I am glad that, as an adult, with a healthy foundation in discipline and diligence, I did not let the three D's keep me from being free enough to perhaps really encourage my new friend and plant some seeds for positive change in his life.  

Learn the limits of freedom and the beauty in structure. 
(Please comment or respond in whatever way you want to or can on this topic - even if you disagree.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Success is a Habit

The topic of the week is structure.  I don't have much of it, I typically don't want much of it, but I see how it pays off in others people's lives and I want the pay-off too.

There is a way to have too much structure, where there is no creativity and no room to "flex." There is absolutely a such thing as being stuck in a rut and scared to leave certain processes. I'll talk more about that tomorrow.

What gets less critical attention and more glory in the media and the world today is anarchy, spontaneity, free-spirited living.  These people are fun to be around, they bring joy and interest and beauty.  But can they complete projects? Are they financially stable? Do they keep their word?

A spiritual person I heard recently said, "God is not impressed by what you start, He honors what you finish."  That hit me like a punch to the gut.  I am an amazing starter and not a great finisher.  If no job or grade is pushing me to finish, I might not.  Because I am always thinking up the next thing.  I call it "obeying the Muse" or "going with the flow."

Yet we know that good results come from consistent work and progress.  You have to study diligently - as in everyday, or at least three times a week - in order to make good grades, earn degrees and credentials and move forward.  You have to eat right consistently - everyday, or at least more days than not (most healthy people have a cheat day) - in order to retain nutrients and repel fat and disease.  You have to exercise regularly to keep your muscles loose and strong, and to keep away fat and atrophy.  Many a washed-up athlete will tell you that if you do not use it, you will lose it. 

But consistency is hard! There is always something that seems more fun, more interesting, more immediately necessary.  There are only twenty-four hours in a day and so many of them are "lost" to work and eating and sleeping, that those we have leftover are guarded.

My pastor has done an excellent job of teaching us about consistency.  We practice the presence of God in order to create a habit.  He taught us that when we create a habit of seeking God - as in every day - then God comes to expect us to "knock on His door" ready to commune.  Our habit creates in us (because God does not need a specific location to meet you in) a habitat, or a dwelling place (Psalm 91) where we meet with God and share with Him.  This is how our faith becomes a relationship with God instead of a religious devotion to His principles.  We devote ourselves to His principles because of the love overflowing from our relationship.  We obey because we love.

So I am spending time today considering what habits are most important.  Here is my list so far:
  1. pouring into my relationship with God (I am determined to do this everyday.)
  2. writing (I have been doing this everyday.)
  3. healthy eating (I have been doing this well for more than three weeks now, with small cheats. It is much easier to eat healthy when you don't have a huge dispensable income. You cook what you bought at the store, because you can't afford to go out for barbecue.)
  4. cleaning (I have done a ton of this since school's been out.  But every task is done in bits and pieces and it takes a bit longer than it might for some, because I have to fit it in here and there.) 
  5. fitness (This is where I struggle. I can commit to at least one workout session a week - it's usually Zumba because the class meets on my one night a week off of work.  I am trying to make myself go at least three other times a week to do some exercises from physical therapy for my knee and to get in some cardio.  But it is so hard, especially when my knee hurts as it has been since I did too much working out last Wednesday [50 mins dance fitness, and 90 mins zumba].  I am open to suggestions for being more consistent in this. I want to do more yoga, but it is hard. I told myself if nothing else, I would do a few sun salutations everyday.  That only lasted about 3 days.)
Note: My devotion and writing time often runs long. Like today I have been at it for nearly four hours, and I'm not done (as in I haven't read what I said I would). I need to leave for work in just over two hours.  For this reason, I'll only get to finish one load of laundry instead of two or three and I won't have the chance to go to the store and use my coupons that are expiring. 
I think it helps to consider what your priorities are.  I ranked the above in order of how much it matters to me. Spending time in the presence of God and writing are most important to me so I do them even when that means I don't have time for other things.  Fitness always ranks at the bottom of my list, and yet I find that the images and ideas that most inspire me are ones like these:


       My DVD of Seane Corn teaching a class (Yoga From the Heart) is my absolute favorite workout even though it is so hard, and I often can't finish the whole thing.





I don't know who this is, but look at that pose. 


You do not become this good at yoga without doing it everyday.  You do not get to see and feel and experience this grace and beauty without commitment to the daily process.  These bodies are whole and healthy and pretty nearly perfect (albeit a smidge too thin - I like having something to hold on to).  I want to at least be something beautiful like this.  And I really think that this practice will prevent further knee injury.






 This is my former roommate and dear friend Sheri who is a professional dancer (who thinks yoga is boring).  She has danced on cruise ships and she is in a local company.  She teaches fitness classes as well (RIPPED, TRX).









I will make a large effort to go by the gym for maybe thirty minutes after work today, to do my physical therapy and some yoga, maybe a little cardio. 

UPDATE: I did not go to the gym after work. I went to my friend's bar to watch the game.  My girlfriends randomly met me there and we danced a lot. I don't know if that counts as cardio. But my  knee was really feeling it.  I did my zumba on Wednesday and then did 30 minutes of cycling and 20 minutes of circuit training (which was ridiculously hard).  I'm going to commit to at least that - 2 classes on Wednesday nights. That's all I've got at the moment.