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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why I Love Photographing St. Louis





I have had the honor over the last three months to be in the process of writing and teaching my first creative book study through Brene Brown's Gift of Imperfection's with my friend and fellow blogger Andrea.  It has been an amazing journey into discovering who I am as a content writer for things I am passionate about and also being able to walk with others as they learn to be opened to their creative side.  As my psychiatrist says "we're all creative, we just gave up on that side of ourselves when it wasn't the first thing we were good at."  To be honest, that is what I decided about myself with math and science.  Anyway, teaching this class has come at a very poignant time for me.

Working in Ferguson, MO right now is like walking on egg shells. (Google Mike Brown if you are not aware of the happenings in Ferguson).  But having the opportunity to walk around St. Louis with some of the most  innovative minds I know has been very rewarding and cathartic.  Photo walks are like symbols of hope for me as I go through my work days trying to focus on teaching students Braille and technology but losing myself to overhearing teachers discussing the imminent community uprisings.  Photo walks are a reminder to me of who St. Louis is as a whole community.  From the brick streets of Soulard to the anxious Ferguson Community, photo walks can help us understand and tell visual narratives of the grit AND hope that lives in this 250 year old city.  The pictures aren't always pretty but is this a city that tells the truth, even when it hurts.

I am not in an emotional space to really dig deep on anything related to Ferguson through writing.  Instead, I am just using my camera to tell the story for itself.  Photo essays. yes. that is how I am doing it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sustainable Fashion in STL and Beyond

I know in the past I have talked quite a bit about clothing swaps, recycling your clothes, thrift store shopping etc.  I have had many people emailing me asking to list out places that do clothing swaps, recycling clothes, etc.  So I am going to do what I do best, make a Sustainable Fashion Resource List

Clothing Swaps:


Perennial is one of my favorite Not For Profits in St. Louis.  They teach sustainable furniture design classes among many other things.  Clothing swaps are just the tip of the ice burg.

Refresh is a fantastic thrift store in Brentwood.  Their clothing swap is organized by my friend Cristina Cousins.  You can sign up for the swaps on the St. Louis Clothing Meetup Site here.  You can also sign up for the kids clothing swap,  The Moppet Swap on the St. Louis  site as well.

Recycling Clothes

I take any clothes that I cannot swap to my local H&M.  They take everything!  Kid's clothes, fabric scraps, stained baby onesies (no joke).  Plus, they also give you 15% off an clothing item for using their recycling program.


Trade-Ins/Recycling/Swapping

Schoola is a new way to trade in gently worn clothes to raise money for your child's school.  I am just learning about this program and seeing how I can get my daughter's pre-school to be a participant.  Please check it out here.
 





Sunday, August 17, 2014

On Ferguson

It has taken me almost a WEEK to even want to write about Ferguson, MO.  Mostly because I have worked in this area of St. Louis County for 4 years and it feels odd that the whole world all of a sudden is taking interest in North County, St. Louis, a place that has taught me how to confront my own prejudices as I have learned to deeply love so many parents of children with visual impairments in North County over the course of the last 4 years.  Working in North City and North County has truly taught me how to deal with the most difficult sides of myself.  As one of my friends who works in ministry pointed out today, "when we confront areas of race, we have to look up (to God), look within ourselves and then act out our prayers to everyone (especially the people who live and look different then me).

See, when I started to confront the prejudices and dark places inside of me, I began to rethink my fears towards others.  I have learned over the years that my "fear of the others" in the world is my body's physical and mental response to things it has never experienced or fully understands. So REALLY, what I have learned about facing these types of fears is that it says way more about me then it does the person or place my brain is telling me to fear.  It is a purely biological feeling that may not be true at all.  We needed it has cave men to survive and sometimes that is still the case.  But my radar is  not 100% accurate, especially when it comes to people.  Here is another thing I have learned, "the others" also have this SAME primal gut reaction to things they don't understand. If I show fear to their differences then that fear is felt by them and projected back on to me.  Yes,  I have learned that I truly fear what I don't understand.

Working in Ferguson, North County and the North City has taught me that the initial primal response  to new things is not true fear, it is often times God's urging for me to step out of my comfort zone with people who would in fact become my greatest teachers.

So, if you live in St. Louis, I would recommend that you start hanging out in North County.  You have teachers waiting to teach you about beautiful ways of life that you can only learn in that area of St. Louis,  if you are a willing and humble student.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Places Shame Cannot Exist



Shame cannot exist in the places where I experience sympathetic joy, compassion and equanimity.

Shame disappears in the moments when we are accepting our current feelings just as they are.  

Shame doesn't exist when Natalie reads a poem out loud in our writing class.

Shame doesn't  exist when our family chooses wellness over sickness.

Shame doesn't exist when we are talking about shame.

Shame doesn't exist when Shyla is listening to her headphones, taking fierce actions toward healing.

Shame doesn't exist when I take my ADHD medication

Shame doesn't exist I share my blog entries, even the ones that are not polished and nice.

Shame doesn't exist when I can communicate with accuracy what I am feeling in a single moment.

Shame doesn't exist when I am in my therapist's office


Shame doesn't exist in the farmer's markets where people are buying food grown with love and compassion for the beings that their food will nourish.

Shame doesn't exist when two friends with a long history of their own struggles can laugh together.

Shame doesn't exist during meditation sessions on joy, compassion and equanimity or loving kindness towards my enemies (or really people I need to grow to love from a distance)

Shame doesn't exist when we can move from a place of long suffering anger to empathy and then back to equanimity

Shame ceases to exist when I acknowledge the presence of its existence in my head and heart and then take an action toward...

Shame resiliency...

Intentional Behaviors

Actions

That lead me 

back to joy

equanimity

compassion

freedom...









Sunday, July 20, 2014

Health and Wellness Flair



Hi Everyone!
As I expand my own definition of Health and Wellness in my own life, I wanted to invite you guys to join the Facebook group Health and Wellness Flair (click link to join).  Before you decide if this is something you want to do, I want you to decide if this is something that you want to be a part of based on the group's working definition of wellness (which adopted from the World Health Organization):

This group is about sharing ideas, recipes, etc on all thoughts regarding food and overall wellness. This group is for those that appreciate using food and wellness approaches to living and being well. By well I mean, the World Health Organization's definition of wellness:

"Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.

"...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." - The World Health Organization.
"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On Anger and Loving Kindness


There is a real monster inside of me that is hard to love.

She follows me around as my shadowy self

Showing up on even the brightest, sunniest moments

She is impulsive

She is selfish

She worries, endlessly, about the things that she cannot control

She gets irritable and frustrated at those she loves the most

But yet

All she wants is my attention

She wants to be acknowledged and loved

Despite her dark feelings

She wants me to know that her feelings of anger matter

And that she doesn't want to be angry but that she deeply feels

The pain of the World

And Others

She desires to feel metta

And to be deeply heard

And understood

By Me.

When this happens,

 Then she will

Be free

And whole

Inside of me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Headphones On Our Heads

A writing from last week's Metta Writing Class




The head phones that we wear connect our  head to our hearts with the fast beats of the Clash and the Cars rushing quickly between the 18 inches that exist between our head and heart. The fast beat and rhythmic sounds cancel out the decaying mixtape that is often times repeating itself in our heads  The headphones are an auditory reminder that we have to listen to sounds outside of our own mental beats in order to embrace the new sounds of loving kindness that come from the heart and into the head. These euphoric and strange sounds remind our hearts that we have the power to *choose* to listen to new sounds of loving kindness that come from outside ourselves and tells us we are beloved.

With  Flowers in our hands, a smile on our faces, we are reminded that we are like flower seeds in different states of blooming.  We sprout pedals when we learn to love those that do not know how to love back (yet). Our hearts and brain grow a few more inches when we decide we are worthy of own respect and loving kindness with no need to harbor subconscious anger from the past.