To My Sisters

Hi ladies, hi friends, hi loves,

This morning I heard my town in the first headlines on NPR. Five students were killed in a school bus accident yesterday afternoon in Chattanooga. While I had heard of it last night, in a text from my dad and all over the innerwebs, the sentiments didn’t hit me til this morning. Whatever senseless acts of tragedy happen, I’m reminded of those folks I love. My family, who I am fortunate to see and spend time with on a regular basis, and my dearest friends, or my other family, who are spread out, from Knoxville to Louisville and Louisiana to California.

What’s going on? How have you been? What life transitions are you juggling? What do you have to celebrate? To share? To grieve and mourn for? What are you looking forward to? Who or what do you love right now, today? What are your fears?

I crave our conversations and shared space. I yearn for and cherish those connections. The ability to share freely, without fear of criticism. A true sisterhood. You prop me up and keep me going.

I must admit I’m likely the youngest in our group, and this year marked my 30th lap around the sun. My summer birthday was celebrated quietly with boyfriend Charles. I sat at home, drank a few glasses of wine, and commiserated with Kelly on FaceTime about the inherent wisdom that comes from getting older, but also these new feelings of aloneness, calmness, intuition and peace. Looking inward. So this is my way of connecting with you, beyond text messages, beyond Likes on Facebook, and in place of a random visit.

Just after overcoming a few flares with ulcerative colitis—this shit disease that keeps on giving and is severely aggravated by stress and major life transitions that shake my stability—I finally finished a year-long(ish) round of steroids. You helped me get through that time, even if we didn’t see each other. The reminder that a normal life—free from hyper-emotionalism, rage, a ravenous appetite, paranoia and unwelcome bodily changes—was just around the corner.

Some mornings I get up and so desperately crave coffee and breakfast in a house full of women friends, filled with nothing but music and gossip and talking and maybe sitting in a pile of blankets watching old movies. I wish it was closer—I wish we all were closer—but the distance helps me cherish those times even more. And I have a happy little circuit here in Chattanooga, a health routine that involves (you guessed it!) going to bed by 9:30, eating as healthfully as possible, tea with Chattanooga friends, and quiet time at home with Charles. It keeps my guts happy and helps me show up for life on a regular basis.

I recently started working as the site coordinator for the after-school program at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, an all-girls charter school a few miles away from our apartment in Fort Wood. It’s a part-time job that accommodates my ongoing freelance writing projects, but most importantly it satiates the overwhelming need I have to work in public service. It also was the manifestation of many intentions, many seeds planted, of needing to be of service. Of being in an all-women environment, of putting my writing and communications talents to use for others, and uncovering untapped skills along the way.

It’s not totally all-girls, as boyfriend Charles teaches high-school biology and environmental science there, also a nice convenience. But it is an incredibly challenging and rewarding environment, and I am so grateful for the shifts in perspectives, career and aspirations. So much of my own journey was fueled by your influence. Your guidance. Your listening. Your encouragement. Your persistence to take each rise and fall of this rollercoaster with loving kindness and compassion.

This election season reminded me of the power women share, even if we didn’t win. Women DO rule the world and we are strong beyond our belief. In my new position at CGLA, I feel so lucky to empower young girls to dream big, work hard, and find their own strengths and independence. I feel lucky just to listen.

I’m not certain if this is the best medium for sharing this with you, but it felt right, and it felt immediate. I am so grateful for the love and support you show me that spans great distances—physical miles, perceived distance, or space between communication, as we dig deeper into our own little lives, spread across the country like little wildflowers, growing and blooming where we are planted, at least for now. I want to stay in communication no matter what. Our connectedness, and our sisterhood is serious(ly good) stuff.

I hope sometime in the next year we can all gather, at a cabin or at the beach, to watch movies, do yoga, nap in hammocks, drink wine and talk. A lot. And someday, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll have a spare bedroom for you to crash, and we can sit around in the mornings catching up and laughing over shared times. (Though if my memory serves me, I am still that kid at a sleepover who is awake LONG BEFORE everyone else!)

Even if that doesn’t happen—that we all get to gather in one place—I want you to know I love you! I think about you as my family. You make me a stronger woman, and together, we are stronger. Keep sharing your wisdom, keep spreading your love, and keep your damn chin up. There are bright beginnings just around the corner <3.

Love and hugs to the moon, and send me your damn mailing address.

Laura Jane

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Golden moments: Napping in a park in La Cumbre. A late siesta.

Funny how quickly we revert to our childhood competitive ways, going back to fighting like the sisters we grew up as. The experience feels nothing short of territorial, me being the dog who can’t restrain myself enough to lose a pissing contest. Really? Is that who I’ve become under stress? Highly defensive, territorial. This all sounds like a normal stress response.

After dinner tonight, we’ll drive back to Cordoba. We left San Marcos this morning and after dropping off some hitchhikers, we headed to Oragami–the name of the place is beyond me now–to visit the spaces where Indians used to grind flour in mountainside caves. The drive was spectacular–we stopped to get olives and visited a shrine before arriving on the side of a great rock wall. There, we hiked for about 15 minutes, snapping photos before coming to a fork in the path. We climbed up, up, up to the top of the rocks. It was beautiful, and felt like what I imagine to be the southwestern United States.

We slowly hiked back to the house near where we parked, throats parched. We polished off two Quilmes and all of us shared a plateful of empanadas that were fried, not baked. Flies swarmed the table after we finished; the road we had planned to take out was closed after a bridge had washed out. So instead we headed back on our original path, ending at La Cumbre. After kicking ass at canasta, my new favorite card game, Wendy and Fer curled up on the blanket, now sleeping lightly. The breeze is blowing, and it is the golden hour, between 6 and 8 p.m. here when the light is just perfect, and we’re laid out in a park without a care in the world, save making it to “The Owl” for a beer and dinner before heading home.

Home. Where is home? Home is here, on a blanket with my sister y Fer, where we can bicker like children about card games before collapsing in a sleepy heap. Home is in the car, barreling down dusty roads in the countryside in what feels like a rally car.

Home is that shriek of joy I heard when I came around the corner from customs in the Cordoba airport, Wendy jumping up and down, excited to see me.

Home is realizing my own strengths and weaknesses, my own pain points and what drives my ego, the same games we played as children.

But now, HOME is putting those aside and just enjoying the time we have here and now. Not worried about getting to Tennessee, going back to work or even worrying about what time I’ll go to bed, when I’ll talk to my friends, wondering what the cold is like. No, none of those things. I waited too long to not totally soak in these precious, golden moments…

I am home.

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!