Dear Grandmom

Dear Grandmom,

Happy Mother’s Day, a few weeks late. We celebrated with Mom and Rick. I made this coconut chicken she really enjoyed, with special cauliflower rice and sautéed bok choy. We had coconut ice cream for dessert with a bite of cake leftover from church. I didn’t go to church that morning. I know, I should have gone, but I’m holding a grudge against that whole thing. I’m sure I’ll get over it soon.

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They miss you in Rising Fawn, a lot. And I miss you, too. There are so many things I want to talk about with you. Sometimes, some days, without realizing, I’m more connected to you than ever before. Today I got my first Remicade infusion. I don’t really remember you having to take that, but I know you tried everything to relieve your joint and body pain. I was on prednisone for the better part of a year to try to quell the inflammation in my guts. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis about a year and a half ago. Chronic diarrhea leaves me with little energy. I feel like I’ve been sidelined from my real life, and that one day the curtain will be pulled back—surprise! This is all really a scheme, some elaborate joke.

But it wasn’t a joke, and I shed a few tears driving to the infusion clinic on a sunny spring afternoon. What I would give to pick your brain about how you lived with arthritis, the reality of waking up in pain all the time, maybe for the rest of your life, and how that changed how you lived day to day. Your decision to go to church. The way you took care of us grandkids and your daughters.

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Clowning around in your apartment

I would also want to share with you the most exciting news—that in exactly one month, I will elope with my best friend, Charles Cole. I think you would like him—he’s quiet, tall and gentlemanly, though with an incredible sense of humor and humility. He makes life worth living as a pair, as a team, and he eases some of the pain of this chronic condition at age 30.

He also found me at a time when I could uncover my niche in the world, or at least for work. I’ve been employed at a public all-girls school near where we live. You would like it—it’s a wonderful place with a lot of heart and soul. I got to teach a class of 8th graders this last semester, and it changed my life. I wish you could feel the sensation of these young lives looking up to you, what it feels like when a young person learns something. The feeling of being able to facilitate knowledge, to expose them to something new and interesting, something about the world, about themselves that they didn’t realize existed before that moment.

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With two other inspirational teachers—Mr. Hansard and Mrs. Walker

Before my infusion today, at school, we had a tornado drill. It’s the next to last day of school, and one of the 8th grade teachers had just announced to her students that she wouldn’t be returning next year. Many of the girls looked shell-shocked, upset, and others were crying, hugging each other. I saw the teacher have a private moment in the hall just seconds before I walked in the room. She was obviously upset and emotional, but wanted to appear collected and calm to her kids.

So we all trooped down the hallway for the tornado drill. The students knelt and curled up against the wall. It was the second drill I experienced, and it hit me the same way. I had to hold back tears. I don’t know why, but seeing these young girls, curled up against the wall, their backs exposed, so tiny and vulnerable, just represented so much to me. Some of them were crying, still upset about the teacher’s news.

As educators, as adults, as humans it is our duty and responsibility to care for them. To ensure they have the best education and are prepared to live in the world independently. When they’re all lined up on the floor, practicing for the threat of natural disaster and catastrophe, it’s impossible not to see their youth, vulnerability and the growth they have ahead of them.

And all this in the face of drastic budget cuts for education, which hopefully won’t be worsened in Tennessee…but I’m realistic. I’m sure we’ll survive, but it won’t be pretty. You wouldn’t like this new president, not one bit. The photo of the first family posing with the Pope (who I think you would LOVE) is laughable. But I’ll save that topic for another letter.

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I write to you as a touch point as I swirl through these days, caught up in my work, my life and unfortunately my disease. Who knows, we may have shared some of the same genetic discrepancies that led to such things like rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. And maybe those diseases, or at least commonalities, will bring us back together again. Mom and I have remained close. I reached out to my cousin to ask her about her health. It’s a new calling, I think, connecting with other people who struggle with similar conditions. It allows me to use my words and language to connect, and hopefully soothe and reassure.

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I think at this point you would insert either some Italian phrase or anecdotal story, about how that’s life. And you would remind me to not take for granted the gifts I’ve been given, and the positive things I have going for me. I’m thriving professionally, I think; I’m marrying a wonderful man whom you would approve of; and overall I’m quite satisfied. But you would also appreciate the connection, the stories and shared wisdom I glean, not yet as a mother, but as a teacher. As an adult. As a woman.

Thank you for your genes, for better or for worse. Thank you for the gift of life, for your levelheadedness and love. I miss you dearly. I wish you could have met Charles, and I wish you could be at the wedding next month. But I’m sure you will be—we’ll leave a tiny glass of wine out for you, and make sure everything is salted just right, and never “too sweet.”

With all the love in the world,
Your granddaughter,

Laura

Love Came Via Priority Mail

Love came on stealthy fingers
And took me by surprise
I fell against my wishes
Though I was wise, oh so wise

For love to me was not a total stranger
I’ve seen it come and go and come again
I know the sweetness and I know the danger
Oh yeah, I know the pain

Love came, that old magician
Beat me at the game
Once more, I’m lost without you
I’ll never, never never ever be the same

For after all what would life be like without it
Nothing to be done about it
Might as well be happy while you can

Love came on stealthy fingers
And stole my heart away

For after all what would life be like without it
Nothing to be done about it
Might as well be happy while we can.

Love came on stealthy fingers
And stole my heart away.
(Bob Dorough)

I walked in the house, arms full with my bag from work and the mail. The BikeHaus was dark but inviting after a long day at work and an intense evening of teacher training.

Hillary and I gabbed all the way home from training about work, life, yoga, the process, our “gestation” period of becoming teachers. My day had been busy and full of excitement—my company was awarded 2013 Friendly Business of the Year by the Young Professionals Association of Chattanooga. We accepted the award at a luncheon and celebrated with a beer afterwards with another award winner, Mike Robinson of Fork & Pie and Brewhaus fame.

The afternoon unfolded beautifully, and an evening of yoga seemed to be the perfect way to come down from the buzzing energy of the day. Back at the BikeHaus, I spotted a package waiting for me on the table. Excitedly, with almost no hesitation, I grabbed it and carried it upstairs.

Through meditation, through my yoga practice, and more or less through my writing, I strive to find spaciousness and quiet. Quiet from the thoughts of self-doubt, questions about my future, my situation, my place. Quiet from the busy day to day buzzing and chaos that I so easily allow to take over my mind and heart.

As I opened the package, a light box, I pulled out a little tile inscribed with “love.” Beneath the tile I still couldn’t tell what was being held by layers and layers of bubble wrap, thinking and joking to myself that I would have so many boxes and bubble wrap to give back to Jeff…

I pulled out the final piece that held a small ceramic bird, eyes closed, that fit perfectly between my cupped hands.

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Little Lovebird

Something about holding this little bird, the sweet gesture, allowed a sense of quiet and peace wash over me. Tears welled up in my eyes. My love mailed me a love bird, in a big box nested carefully in bubble wrap. My lovebird arrived via USPS Priority Mail.

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy;
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you,
One girl you’re ev’rything to.

And just like this little bird arrived to me, carefully chosen and shipped, I feel like I’m creating my own little nest, choosing the right pieces to carry with me, the tools I need to find space, the comforts I need to thrive, and the support I need to grow.

Here I find peace and spaciousness, with the daily challenges and struggles I face, with hard work and dedication. Here I find space and opening, in love and with grace, like the calm little bird nesting, at rest and at home.

On Cookies and Giving Without Expectation

Sometimes when you ask for love, or put love out there, it comes back to you in ways you couldn’t have anticipated or maybe even imagined.

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Foggy morning at BikeHaus

Yesterday I got off my lunchtime phone call with Anthony at Bike Walk Tennessee and happily bounced back to my office. A colleague stopped me once I got inside. “The guard dropped something off for you,” he said.

I found a brown paper bag from Niedlov’s Bakery sitting by my desk, no note except for my name and company scrawled on a scrap of paper with instructions to leave it with the guard. Inside was a small bag of Brazilian coffee beans, granola and a box of cookies and a pastry.

I still have no idea who had this heavenly, sweet gesture sent to me. All I know is that starting a Friday morning with a melty, delicious chocolate crossisant is absolute decadence.

I e-mailed a friend yesterday afternoon and told him about the sweet gesture from an anonymous sender. “Unmarked, from I don’t know who, which seems to make it even more special. A gift from the universe; encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing. And how did they know I liked cookies so much?!?” I wrote.

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A melty, buttery start to Friday…

Last night, my meditation before practice focused on cookies: yes, my favorite dessert and well-known indulgence, usually some delightfully simple combination of butter, flour, sugar and chocolate. But also what a cookie can represent. The act of giving and loving without expectation or need for recognition.

Happy Friday, friends. Thank you for reading ❤

On Letting Go of Fear of Loving Others

“I know I can embody those values, but it scares me a little bit.”

In my medidation this morning, this somewhat scared feeling kept coming up. I think it was more discomfort at something new and unusual more than “scary.” Over the past few days I was exposed to and fully took part in intense training with my company. Mostly related to the culture, history and intro to SEO, etc. etc.

As I victoriously pulled into Chattanooga on I-75, I felt back at home, in my own space and in my community. Do I “fit,” so to speak, into my new spot then?

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Home is where the hearth is.

There is no need to worry about whether or not I fit in there, or if I can maintain those values and standards. I work with these people for a reason—I found my own set of morals and value guidelines through yoga. THAT IS WHAT BROUGHT ME HERE. And quite frankly, there’s no room for self doubt.

Do good work and the rest will fall into place. Don’t worry about trying to pick apart the shift and recent changes—it’s in the past. Move forward with confidence and grace, humility and respect.

And mostly, take away the concept of SERVANTHOOD. My job, my yogic path as an aspirant, NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE ABOUT ME. They’re about setting good examples, helping others find their path or “life’s work,” no matter what that is.

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Burnt Mountain overlook on the way home.

That’s the best takeaway. I have worked hard this year at fully loving myself so I can better love others. It’s OK to feel scared when I see that…it’s TIME. I always thought (or dreamed) that “loving others” so often would mean one person, a partner…and it does include that, but on a deeper level, LOVING others means SERVING others, with honesty, kindness and respect.

And that’s how I’ll move forward today, with butterflies in my stomach, a beating heart and smile.

Sisters in Cycling: Two Hemispheres, One Love

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Sister and her bici in Cordoba making transit strikes look easy breezy

My sister has always inspired me, from the way I always wanted to dress like her growing up to her multimodal mastery as a lawyer in East Tennessee without a car. She lives in Cordoba, Argentina, now, and tells me all kinds of stories about bussing and more recently cycling around and outside of the city. She sent this with the above photo…talk about making bike riding for transport look good!

Hi Loo! So 50% of Cordoba commutes by bus, and the buses have been on strike for going on 3 days now. Total chaos in the streets and no poor people in downtown. I’ve been riding to my morning class all year, but now I’m riding to my more formal afternoon classes and loving it. I took this right after giving my biweekly workshop on presentations at the gov’t agency where I teach. Eeeeee…I love my bici and my fab helmet!

Nutcase helmets in Cordoba! Spreading the love… She told me today the heart helmet gets good attention. Bici–and sisterly!!!–love on both sides of the equator. Ride on, sister!