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Adventure.

November 29, 2014 1 comment

The other day, my friend told me he hoped I would write an insightful blog post about Thanksgiving. Now, he doesn’t know this, but the Holden Caufield in me immediately rejects ideas that other people want me to write about. My response is usually something flip like, “Sounds like you want to write that blog post.” However, here I sit at 3:07 in the afternoon on November 29th with absolutely nothing to do except indulge in some reflection.

But this isn’t, like, really about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is fine. I usually have fun on Thanksgiving. This is more like a statement of appreciation dedicated to my cousin, Noah. Noah is among my homegrown heroes. He stands as an example of someone who takes risks, who is curious, creative, and industrious. He loves the people in his life wholly and can connect with anyone. Observing Noah maneuver through his life always makes me want to step up my game. I admire him tremendously.

The thing is though, Noah is also a giant goofball. This quality might be as important to me as his industriousness. Noah and I come from people who make horrible, cringe-y puns and our joke-telling delivery is influenced by grandfathers in recliners. So while Noah and I can easily spend hours discussing how different cultural narratives can impact art and literature, we can also spend hours engaged in our own two-man vaudeville show while those around us roll their eyes and quietly leave the room.

Since Noah is equal parts Renaissance man and goofball, I can do anything with him and it will be awesome. Noah currently has a art piece in the African American Museum in connection with one of their exhibits. I missed the opening, but I wanted to see Noah’s work. I told him I was going to ride my bike down to the museum and check it out today since I had this nice four day weekend. Noah immediately responded, “I’ll go with you!” Now, it is 4.1 miles from Noah’s house in the suburbs to my apartment in West Philly. Then, it is 4.4 miles from my apartment to the African American Museum. On a crisp autumn day, this bike ride to and from the museum could be just perfect. However, I picked a day where it was going to be 28 degrees when we left in the morning. When I saw how cold it was and thought about our bike ride, I was relieved because I knew that among all the people in my life, Noah is the least likely to call me up and say, “Man, Lori, it’s freezing out today! It’s too cold to ride bikes. I’ll pick you up and we’ll drive down.” I knew that Noah, like me, would stay committed to the plan, whether or not it was a good plan. When Noah showed up, I laughed to myself because he was dressed like someone who was going to an art exhibit and I was dressed like someone going on a bike ride.

It was a pretty, quiet grey ride to the museum. We rode over the South Street Bridge, which is my favorite bridge to ride over. Although Noah is a grown-up man–husband, father, career person–he rides his bike as recklessly as a 13 year-old. He made me nervous at first, but then I decided to channel his freedom and audacity. I relaxed. We got to the museum and I felt ashamed that it was my first time there. Noah has been working with the African American Museum in some capacity for as long as I can remember. I shook it off though so I could take it all in. It was great to see Noah in this part of his world, gliding confidently through the building and introducing me to his co-workers. The exhibit itself was powerful. Then Noah showed me his piece. The African American Museum sits right across the street from Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center. Noah’s piece takes up about 3/4 of the expansive second story window which faces the detention center, evoking what it means for an African American cultural institution to share public space with a prison. Seeing Noah’s work made me feel small, but not in the bad way.

Afterwards, we went to the Reading Terminal Market. We drank fresh pineapple, ginger, spinach, and kale juice while talking talked coffee and all the things we like to eat (both reoccurring topics), which developed into a conversation about Ferguson, Black Friday, and the power of the Black dollar in capitalist America. Then we grabbed coffees for the road, and I soon had to abandon mine because I quickly learned that I’m not coordinated. We reached my apartment, gave each other a massive a hug, and Noah sped away on his bike, which used to be my bike when I was in high school, and therefore is way too small for him since I am 5’0″ tall and Noah is, like,  6’2″.

By 12:00 noon, I’d already had a fulfilling day. I stand 1,000% content. I feel the way you feel after you spend time with someone where neither of you has any expectations. You’re just in it together because you both know that any experience, large or small, can be an adventure. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Noah and I each have a compass tattoos. We are family, but we are bound by our sense of adventure.

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Haikuesday 11.25.14

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Mocking others’ pain

when they feel an injustice

shows an empty mind.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , , ,

Haikuesday 11.18.14

November 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Whether large or small,

I never finish the tea

I pour in my cup.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , ,

Haikuesday 11.11.14

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

This is when I choose

to let the pressure rule me,

or I conquer it.

Brand new.

November 10, 2014 2 comments

Today is my birthday. I think I have about 62 billion friends and acquaintances whose birthdays are also in November. There’s another significant November birthday that I almost forgot about until this past week. November also marks my dojo’s birthday. In November 2010, we move from our Center City location to our current South Philly home. Many years ago, before my time, our club was in South Philly. So for the judo program, it was like a homecoming and for our jiu jitsu program, South Philly was its birth place. I can’t believe it’s been just four years that we’ve been on Broad Street. We used to have barely eight people in our judo class and barely four people in jiu jitsu. Now we have people stacked up to the ceiling. We’ve grown so much and sometimes I forget how uncertain it felt when we first opened the new club. Four years. When I think of that time in November 2010, it seems like today is my fourth birthday, too.

2010 was the start of my new life. Late that summer, I ended a seven year relationship. That’s also when I set my heart on social work. In the fall, I started my Master’s of Social Work program at UPenn. During the months leading up to that break up, I fell in love with judo and in a way, judo was all I cared about. I wanted to be at the club seven days a week, and before school started, I was there five days a week. I trained at another club on Saturdays. After the break up, judo gave me focus and hope while I was mourning those seven years. Although I chose to end it with my former boyfriend, turning my back on seven years would grind on my conscience. But all the people I met while training were so brilliant, so creative, so dedicated, their presence reminded me over and over again that I made the right choice to move forward with purpose.

During the fall of 2010, I needed my dojo. It was another intense transition to go to graduate school. It was exciting for me to finally pursue my career in social work. I’d known for sometime that I wanted work that was complex, challenging, and had a meaning greater than myself. I wanted to solve problems and fight.  Like the individuals I met through judo, the field of social work led me to passionate, intelligent, and innovate people, several of whom I know will be in my life for a long time. Everything about social work felt right. But I almost cracked several times that fall.  Amid the pressure to perform, to achieve, to ignore sleep, and be excellent, my family life was chaotic and unsettling. I didn’t even felt at peace in my own bed. At least once a week, though, I could go to practice and be home. Judo had taught me about mental exhaustion and self-motivation, but it also gave me a safe place to let go and be all parts of myself.

I know who I was before the fall of 2010. I liked parts of me, but I was afraid to fail, afraid of confidence, and afraid of success. I would tip toe towards what I wanted, then double back when I got too close. In the fall 2010, I felt free. I was free to take risks, I was free to be incredible, I was free to fail, and I was free to suck it up and try again. I felt brand new.

So here I am, four years later. My dojo, judo, jiu jitsu, and my homegrown family are bricks in my foundation. I am working at the most challenging job I’ve ever had and I am dead set on succeeding. My friend, Dennis, encouraged me to publish a book of my haikus, and he’s working hard and guiding me to make that happen. My family keeps growing closer. I love my friends, I love my neighborhood, and I love my tiny little kitchen where I sit and write these words. I know I turned 33 today, and I don’t know what other 33 year olds feel like, but right now, 33 feels as fresh as four.

Haikuesday 11.04.14

November 4, 2014 1 comment

Can a flu vaccine

make you feel flu-like symptoms

days after the shot?

Categories: haiku, poetry Tags: , ,

It doesn’t make sense.

November 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I didn’t expect to get so upset. I think that’s because I didn’t expect it to happen. On Monday, I glanced at Facebook, and my newsfeed was filled with photos of my former co-worker. I knew Mike was coping with cancer. I knew he was really sick because he was very public about what he was going through. But I assumed he wouldn’t die. I assumed he would make it and live a gorgeous life well into his 80s. Mike was younger than I am. Mike was a gift to his community. It wouldn’t make sense for him to die now.

But Mike did die. I can’t stop thinking about him and I don’t know why. I worked with Mike for six months in 2010. I met him during a short Americorps term of service working for an out-of-school time program in North Philly. I was co-leader with Mike’s girlfriend, Daffodale, for a group of middle schoolers. After my six months was up, I left the program and my interactions with Mike and Daffodale were limited to Facebook and the occasional run-in on the street. That was all. So why do I keep crying over this kid I barely knew?

A part of me thinks that Mike’s death is just terrifying to me. A couple of people in my tiny universe are coping with cancer right now, and I have to believe that they will be fine. I don’t know what else to do. I believed Mike would be fine, and now he’s gone. So I know a part of me is scared of losing anyone close in my world. I don’t want to do that again.

I know, though, that I have a fragile spot for young men who go too soon. I’ve been thinking about my brother and how we’ve been cheated that he’s not here. And then I look at someone like Mike and it just makes me feel so helpless and angry. Mike was an actor, a writer, a poet, a musician, an educator, and an advocate. I think that’s the short list. When I met Mike and Daffodale, they were among the first young people I’d met in Philadelphia that were giving themselves to their community. Along with another co-worker, Brandi, I had these shining examples of passionate, intelligent, creative young people who worked hard and asked for nothing in return for their service. I met them as I was applying to MSW programs, and they made me believe that change is possible on the individual level.

So with Mike dying, this loss seems massive. One one level there is his profound absence in the lives of Daffodale, and all of Mike’s family and close friends.Then on another level, there is his absence in the arts community, in youth education, in Philadelphia. It’s a macrocosmic loss. I know we can hold on to his legacy and we can  honor him with our actions. However, I think maybe it’s better if he were just here. It doesn’t make sense.

I don’ t have an enlightened view of death. I think my view pretty childish and self-centered most of the time. Maybe I need to practice more acceptance. With acceptance, it doesn’t matter if it makes sense.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , ,