it’s not about the flag

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It’s not about the flag. It never has been.

A few weeks ago (a month now, maybe?), Jon and I were lucky enough to receive free passes to a Nascar race at Sonoma Raceway. I say “lucky” because Jon grew up twelve miles from Talladega, in Alabama. Nascar is, at heart, a Southern thing.

It was my first race.

The weather was sunshine; the cars were flash. We didn’t even hit traffic. It was a good day. As we were leaving, though, we saw something . . . unremarkable. Well, it would have been if not for the commotion of the past few weeks.

The United States wants to do away with the Confederate flag. It represents racism and black oppression and all that is wrong with the world. So they say. Many Southerners — rebels, if you will — resent this. The Confederate flag is, to them, a part of their heritage, a piece of their past. It also does not represent racism. It represents their fight to preserve the states’ rights. They also “just like it.” So they say.

Since its beginning, Nascar has been associated with rebellion. The sport originated in the Appalachia with moonshiners and bootleggers during America’s Prohibition. Bootleggers needed fast cars to evade the police and deliver their “shine.” They modified their own for this purpose, and then, suddenly, one day, Daytona was a race as much as a place.

And Confederate flags were everywhere.

I am not a Southerner. I have never flown a Confederate flag. But even out in California (or should I say, especially out in California), I’ve seen them around. And when I’ve seen them, I’ve thought, “Ohhh, boy,” but I’ve never thought their owners were bringing our nation down.

Because, really . . .

Where have all the thinkers gone? What happened to A leads to B leads to C? The Confederate flag didn’t create racism, folks. People created racism. People in their narrow-mindedness created attitudes and perceptions and biases. People who lacked education or misused their education, who lacked love or embraced hate, who could not or would not see the humanity of their fellow man . . .

Yep, folks, racism is about people. The Confederate flag is merely a scapegoat. As such, you can do away with the “Stars and Bars” all you want — nothing is going to change. In fact, things are only going to get worse. In fact, they already have. Did anyone see the story about the former university cop in Cincinnati in the news today?

The only solution to racism is the opposite — acceptance. And love.

What happened to the love?
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The Confederate flag Jon and I saw at Sonoma Raceway.

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when it’s all said and done

JessicaI am SO glad I don’t have to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning and race 70.3 miles.

So glad.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not glad I did last week’s race. It didn’t go as planned — didn’t go well at all, actually — but it did go, and it was a learning experience. I am ashamed to say I didn’t complete the run. There were a lot of factors aimed against me — a late swim start and a 30-minute flat tire among them — but, ultimately, the failure was my own. I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be, and it hurt me.

Almost comically, before the race, the editor at the Windsor Times asked me to write an article about my experience. He would publish it in the paper; I would be in the news. Oh boy. I was excited by the prospect initially, but then . . . Really? I had to write about the race that I failed?

Below is the *article I sent him. You’ll notice I left out the race’s ending entirely. I just couldn’t admit to the world that I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t admit that I wasn’t strong.

Funny that I feel comfortable sharing that here, with you.

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A day in the life of a Vineman

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Finally! Almost time to swim.

4:30 a.m. came early. Ugh. Was it really time to get up already? I stumbled out of bed and gathered my things. Water bottles, electrolyte tablets, Bonk Breakers, goggles, running shoes, helmet, etc.—it’s amazing how much stuff you need for a triathlon. I’d made breakfast the night before—a nutrition shake and two scrambled eggs. In my previous event, the Monte Rio Olympic Distance Triathlon, I’d skipped breakfast and ended up “bonking” halfway through the race. That was not something I wanted to repeat.

The drive to Guerneville was smoother than expected. With approximately 2,300 athletes competing in the 25th Ironman Vineman 70.3, I’d been warned that traffic on River Road could be bad. But, as the twinkling stars dissipated and the sun’s rays began streaking orange into navy skies in the distance, the stream of taillights before me kept moving. There was no stop-and-go anywhere.

The race was starting at Johnson’s Beach. My boyfriend Jon and I parked our car about a half-mile away on Highway 116 and rode our bikes in. Jon wasn’t participating but had come to to cheer me on. All along River Road and on Guerneville Bridge I saw people jogging and stretching and completing various other pre-race rituals. I started to get nervous. I hadn’t been planning to warm up. Should I? But, I needed to save my energy for the race!

To be honest, I trained a lot for the cycling and running portion of this event but not as much for the swim. I was also unsure about nutrition. It takes a lot of calories to fuel an athlete through a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. This was my first half Ironman, and, without the experience of years, I wasn’t sure how to fuel or what to expect. I was about to find out.

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In line at the transition area, 6:30 a.m. Some swimmers had already started. My swim wave wasn’t until 8:42.

There were athletes everywhere and a buzz of excitement at Johnson’s Beach. At the gate I dismounted and got in line for the transition area. I needed to set up my bike and bike needs so that, after the swim, the switch to my bike would be easy. As I waited, I watched other waves of swimmers take off. “Honk!” went the air horn, and then the next group of swimmers moved in. I, unfortunately, was in the very last swim wave at 8:42 a.m. It was almost 7 a.m. now.

And so I waited and waited. Why had I gotten up at 4:30 again? My bike was now ready, my arms and legs marked, my wetsuit on, and . . . Finally, “Women 30-34.” I was in!

The rest of the race is a blur, honestly. The Vineman 70.3 course takes participants up and down the Russian River, through four different grape growing regions—the Russian River, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Chalk Hill—and then around Windsor High School. It is advertised as one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and, as many who raced Sunday would attest, it lives up to its name. We had incredibly good weather on Sunday, too, which made a big difference for me. Eighty degrees is a lot more bearable than 90. The only unfortunate thing was that I got a flat tire on the bike ride and, in changing out my tube, lost all of the carbon dioxide out of my CO2 cartridge. I’d only brought one, so I then had to wait for 30 minutes for the sag wagon to come help me. What a delay!

All in all, participating in Vineman was a great experience, one I hope to do again next year. There is nothing like the thumbs up or “Way to go!” from a fellow athlete when you’re plugging along on the field, and Sonoma County is truly a beautiful place to race. If I learned anything, though, it’s to spend more time training for the swim—I was shaky when I got out of the water—and to bring an extra CO2 cartridge!
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*To read the article in the paper, click here: A day in the life of a Vineman
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The Russian River where the swim took place.

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meant to be

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Jessica,

Thanks for writing that very nice article about us three new administratoris in Geyserville. It is always nice to see positive press in the newspapers, or at least a balance. You write very well–clear, concise, and not a lot of fluff. So, thank you again and let us know if you need anything else down the road.

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It’s comments like these that tell me I’m right: I was meant to be a writer. No, not a reporter. A writer.

The article this man mentions is located here. It’s an assignment I got as a freelancer at a local paper here in Santa Rosa. It’s a position I got after being rejected yet again for a full-time reporting job. It’s an opportunity to produce clips and, hopefully, make (more) connections.

My half Ironman was this past Sunday. It didn’t go as planned. I will write more soon, but, in the meantime, thank you–all of you–for your encouragement over these past few years.

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Image: mymodernmet.com

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rainbow wars

rainbow..
No, this post isn’t about various parties’ reactions to Friday’s ruling, though maybe it should be. Rather . . .
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And why a rainbow?

It occurred to me yesterday that I had no idea why, or when, a rainbow had come to symbolize gay pride. Growing up, and being raised Protestant Christian, I was taught that rainbows were God’s sign to Noah that he would never again destroy the earth. The next time the heavens would open — literally, anyway — would be when He returned during the Second Coming.

That’s what my Bible teacher said, anyway.

Rainbows, then, were a symbol of hope. They were a promise. “You’ll never have to go through that again, Noah. And, hey you — yes you, Man — I will return.”

Somewhere along the line, though, rainbows got mixed in with leprechauns and Lucky Charms, and then (I did a little research), in the 1970s, a man named Harvey Milk came along. Harvey Milk was the nation’s first openly gay politician, and, in 1977, San Francisco elected him to its Board of Supervisors. To celebrate, Milk challenged an artist friend, Gilbert Baker, to come up with a flag to symbolize the gay community. “The only thing they have to look forward to is hope,” he said. “We have to give them hope.”

And thus was born the rainbow flag. *”Hot pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.”

And here I’d been thinking rainbows were about Bible stories and unicorns.

The story does make me curious, though. The gay community was looking for a symbol of hope. The rainbow is a symbol of hope. Makes sense, but . . . Why not come up with your own symbol? Something a little different, something new? Why borrow from something that — originally, anyway — has nothing to do with you?

Thoughts? Anyone?

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*Sources: A Brief History of the Rainbow Flag, milkfoundation.org
Image: Google
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the *real* shocker

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Wow. Even the banner at the top of my editor’s page is a rainbow.

So, today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage. I learned of their decision this morning. A lot of people are happy about this; a lot of others are not. (Just sign into facebook — you’ll see what I mean.) But whether you agree or disagree with this decision, my question is: Are you really surprised? I mean, really? Continue reading

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more

In case you’ve been wondering: What on earth has been keeping you so busy? I mean, seriously. The school year is over. What on earth do you do with all your time?

Well, folks. Here it is. The Vineman 70.3 (Half Ironman) is less than a month away. I am not even close to ready. Below are pictures from an Olympic-distance triathlon I did at the end of May. The pictures may not show it, but I was suffering by the end!

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Smiling because the swim was OVER!

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I sought to write

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I thought to write,
but as it were,
my thoughts were but
a sully blur.
And eyes were glass,
and heart was pale,
oh, what an ass,
a sorry fail!

And still I tried,
I tarried on,
I sought to find
the words were gone.
But all they did
was laugh at me,
around and ’round,
“Tee-hee! Tee-hee!”

Determined now,
I hurried on,
Forget the night,
I’d seize the dawn.
I grabbed my pen,
I found my ale,
some coffee, too,
forget the kale!

And there I sat,
and sat, and sat,
’til glazey-eyed,
I saw a bat.
I swung and swirled
and tipped and twirled,
I missed the words,
but rocked the world!

And then I sat,
and sat and sat,
’til, eyelids drooped,
I heard the cat.
And in he came,
and out I went,
Forget the words,
this writer’s spent.

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Note: This is based on a real life story: After days at work, this has often been me. Oh, how I have wanted to write. Oh, how words have evaded me.

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For a (very bad) audio of this poem, click below.


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Image: Google — Kafka burning the midnight oil
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this

I love satire.

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Note: I have so much more to come. Thank you for your patience.

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will she ever . . .

post again? write again? rhyme again?

Stay tuned for a long-overdue answer.

In the meantime . . .

Is this guy for real? What does he think he’s accomplishing? I mean, really. Go get a job. Or something. Anything. Go feed the homeless, maybe. I dunno. But I’ll bet that that’s what Jesus would want you to do. Not . . . this.

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unspoken

lauryn..
Her home life’s a mess — no role models or stability. At recess on bad days, all she wants is to be near me, and to read.

You have no idea how much I want to take her home with me, or how much it hurts to know that I can’t.

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leisure

IMG_4018I haven’t posted any poetry in a while, and this time, I won’t be posting mine. Instead, I wanted to share a poem by William Henry Davies, which my dear friend Fraggle pointed out me yesterday. It is, I must say, both fitting and sublime.

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

— William Henry Davies

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Image: Liane Dimond — Bodega Bay Cows

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the busy trap

Mindfulness-and-Living-a-Busy-Life ..
Perhaps the problem isn’t “busy.” Perhaps the problem is the reason behind busy.

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There are people who have kids. There are people who have jobs. There are people who have kids and jobs, but, the fact is, the majority of our lives aren’t spent worrying about us. It’s spent worrying about others. Or money. Or food. Or _________.

And that’s the way it should be — to a certain extent, anyway. No one wants to be a narcissist. But there’s a part of us that’s important, too. We have to like ourselves, we have to accept ourselves, just the way we are, before all of the busy. We have to have goals for ourselves without all of the busy. Otherwise . . . the busy is just . . .

Busy.

Empty.

A cover-up.

A sham.

An attempt to hide what we really feel inside, which is, ____________.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my busy lately. Why am I so compelled towards perfection? Why do I feel better on a day I accomplish a lot than when I only do a little? Why do I seek to control my life when I know, deep down, that control is only an illusion? Why do I equate busyness with success?

011-Busy-is-a-Drug-webThe truth is: History’s movers and shakers have never been people who sat around. Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa aren’t remembered because they thought about doing nice things for others. They’re remember because they did something nice for others . . .

But even movers and shakers need quiet moments of reflection. Even they need a reason for what they do.

And I think that that’s my problem, and maybe others’, too. I get so caught up in the busy that I forget what the busy is there for. I forget what I’m trying to accomplish and where I’m headed. I ignore the fact that, in trying to control my life, it’s actually controlling me. And then I wonder why I get discouraged in the process — why my goals seem so far away.

My busy is in the way.

Every life has a purpose. It’s up to us to find that purpose each day. I hope you don’t get caught up in the busy like I do. I hope you find a better way.

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Images: Google

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friend or foe? the fine line called “busy”

agirofobiaIf I had eventhe time I need to record my thoughts every day . . .
I grew up busy. I had busy parents; we led busy lives. From sun up to sun down (and usually long after and before), my family was on the go. My brother and I did the usual “kid thing”: school, homework, varsity, instrument lessons, church programs, summer camps, etc. There was always cleaning and cooking and laundry and yard work to do. Mom and Dad worked full time. When they weren’t at work, they were working at home. If I ever saw my dad, say, sitting down on a Sunday morning, I wondered what was wrong. Was he sick?

They say busy is good — at least that’s the way it’s always been presented to me. And busy is good. Some of the most depressed I’ve ever been is when I was unemployed and had nowhere to go. Working gives me a sense of purpose and direction — I am doing something with my life. But . . .

How busy is too busy?

I wake up every day with a to-do list a thousand miles long: work, run, ride, swim, wash my car, do laundry, cook, clean, vacuum, dust, mop, make lunches, do dishes, pay bills, check email . . . My blog is important, too, and enters my thoughts a thousand times each day — Oooohh! I could write about this, or this, or, I wonder what they’d think about this? — but often (usually) gets pushed to the bottom of my list.

The only reason I’m writing tonight is because the laundry room at our apartment complex is full.

And I wonder, every night as I’m compulsively working on my list: Where does time go? Why couldn’t we sleep deeply like Roald Dahl’s *BFG so that we didn’t need eight hours of sleep every night (which, incidentally, I rarely get). And what is relaxation worth? Many people have no trouble sitting down and “chilling” after work every night. So, why can’t I? I pride myself in how much I get done in a day, but what about the things I didn’t do — the things whose results would, perhaps, would last a little longer?

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*Big Friendly Giant

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“thank you”

TypedThankYouShucks! A whole week gone and not a post written. Guess that’s what happens when spring break ends…

Got an email today from a student I taught at my last job, in San Ramon. It was a good way to end a rough week, and a reminder that no effort on a child is ever wasted.

Sorry I haven’t been talking that much. I don’t remember what I did for Christmas. I like the teachers at Eye Level but I like you the best! ;)

Aww!!! Thanks, A!

Never underestimate the power of “Thank you.” A’s sure made my day today!

Hope your weekend is off to great starts. Thank you for reading! Be looking for more posts soon!

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times are tough, but i’m in luck!

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True that, yo!

It occurred to me, as I was reading the headlines this morning, just how lucky I am. I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat. I have a job and a loving boyfriend. (Believe me, he puts up with a lot.) I have family close by and friends near and far. I have use of all four limbs and my hearing and eyesight. I have it good.

I am often quite hard on myself, but, the truth is, when comparing myself to others (which I shouldn’t do — I know, I know), I only look to those I consider my betters. Those with more money, more life experiences; those who have things “all figured out,” those I consider better looking. I forget to check myself and look at all of humanity and just how many people out there I can help, or would, or should. Continue reading

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looking for the bright side

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I had it all worked out. And then it didn’t.

I was working as a *teacher’s assistant, applying for jobs elsewhere. The teaching thing wasn’t going well: my student was a nightmare. I dreaded going to work every day, and then —

A reporting job came available. It was at a small paper twenty miles away, and it was perfect. The staff was small; the paper, bi-weekly. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but, surely I stood a chance here.

I had an interview; it went well. Wrote a test article; it went went well, too. And then I waited. And waited. The editor had had a few more interviews to do, so . . . Continue reading

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broken home

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I was talking to Mrs. V,  the other day. Mrs. V is the 1st grade teacher I work with. We’d had an assembly that morning to recognize students for good behavior and school work, and *Sarah had won Mrs. V’s class award. Sarah’s mother was at the ceremony, and with her was someone I guessed was her dad.

I was wrong. Continue reading

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dr. suess, you silly goose!

dr__seuss___pencil_portrait_by_mattlawrencestudio-d5dpzerDr. Suess turned 111 earlier this month. Well, he would have if he were still alive. But in elementary schools around the nation, his birthday is still celebrated. March 2nd every year means Dr. Suess stories, silly hats, green eggs and ham, and much more.

I haven’t read Dr. Suess in years, and, to be honest, I don’t remember reading him much in the first place. But this past week Lacy asked me to read with her at school, and the truth is, I was touched. Dr. Suess was a talented man and wrote and illustrated seemingly silly stories that — deep down — served a much greater purpose.

Below are a few of this most famous quotes. Many of them spoke to me. Do any speak to you? Continue reading

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the stories of our lives

atoz_assessmentI attended a private school growing up, as I have said. Private school was a “safe” environment — at least it was for a goodie-goodie like me.

The elementary school I work at now is not private. There are three kindergarten classes, three first grade classrooms, three second grade classrooms. Third, fourth, and fifth graders attend an identical school down the street. More than 60 percent of our students are Hispanic. More than forty percent do not live with their parents.

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Last week, *Marius was thrown out of school. He’d been a problem all year, had barricaded himself in the bathroom and was stuffing toilet paper into all of the toilets. He refused to come out, and, when he finally did, was chased down and taken to the office to wait for his grandmother. Marius has blond curls and blue eyes and baby chub. Marius is in kindergarten. Continue reading

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oh, kids

410_1target_group_kids_apparel_photography_los_angeles_mike_henryLittle kids are so loving. I’m working in a first grade classroom right now. “Your hair is so soft!” “Will you tie my shoe for me?” *Big hug* “You’re so pretty!” “I like your glasses!”

(They are far kinder to me than I am to myself.)

Then today, on the playground, a student named Morgan, blubbering: “Miss Jess . . . No one wants to play with me. I don’t know why, but no one wants to play with me.” His blue eyes pooled with tears. Continue reading

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will we never learn?

m-2339Bloody Sunday. Selma. These are names, places, that ring bells in many Americans’ minds. My boyfriend grew up in Alabama. He says every Alabamian’s skin prickles when they hear these terms.

No one has good recollections of Selma.

I won’t tell you all of the things that happened on Bloody Sunday. I myself didn’t know the story until recently. I was writing an article for the newspaper. A local man was there when it happened. He had his story to tell. So it goes.

So it goes that, back in the sixties, African-Americans weren’t allowed to vote — even though they legally were. In the South, in places like Selma, only two percent of blacks had been able to register. Because of this, and because of the senseless killing of a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson, protestors organized a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. They were trying to gain national support for their cause. They were trying to gain what should have already had: Equality. Continue reading

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on my way

pathwayI can only be me.

Must live the life I’m given,
and wear the skin I’m in,
be wary how I’m driven,
and of the walls within.

Must mind to whom I listen,
think deeply, unafraid,
to ask the questions hidden,
no matter where they’re laid.

Can only be . . .

And always kind to others,
must selfless, always brave,
think not of petty druthers,
a loving pathway pave.

Must worry not ’bout others —
their glories or their stays,
or envy all their treasures,
I’ll follow my own ways.

. . . me.

For when this life is over,
for when my race is run,
I’ll worry not ’bout Rover,
just want to see the Son.

And me is who He’s given,
so me is who I’ll stay.
And me has always thriven,
when me is on my way.

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*For an audio recording of this poem, click below.

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Image: Pinterest

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a very, very belated thank you

A year ago today, a friend sent me a message. He sent it to my email. Those of you who’ve ever contacted me through my blog know I am not always good at checking my email: I got his message after several days. Here is what it said:

allwin Continue reading

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just say no!

valentines-day-2014-roses-hero-HValentine’s Day. For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a fan. As I’ve described in previous posts, it’s an over-commercialized holiday that demeans romance, not exalts it. There’s nothing more romantic than a grocery store teddy bear and a dozen roses with baby’s breath, right? No? How about eating in a crowded over-priced restaurant alongside everyone else in town?

It’s even better when you’re single, of course. Happy Single’s Awareness Day, anyone? Gahhh.

For those who have kids, Valentine’s Day takes on a different meaning. Suddenly Valentine’s Day cards are being made and bought and glitter and glue are everywhere. Valentine’s candy is being passed out. Pictures are being taken. Nothing wrong with that, but . . . Continue reading

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to be or not to be worldly-wise

looking-at-the-earth-free-desktop-wallpaper-1920x1200..
My follow-up post may not be what you were expecting.

We wrote letters for a summer. Dated for roughly three years. We loved each other much longer than that, but, ultimately, he was meant to be a priest and I, to be a writer and meet Jon.

I love Jon.

So, no. This post isn’t about childhood sweethearts and love ever after. Rather, it’s about that 14-year-old and her reputation for being a “goodie-goodie” — a name that has stuck with her for many years. Continue reading

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