Ending the Year with Love

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. — Colossians 3:12-14 (New International Version)

I don’t tend to bring my faith (explicitly) into this blog a lot, but it’s something that’s important to me and fitting to end this year.  This past weekend, the message at my church service was on finishing the year strong with love, and I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting on this, on the last day of the year.

Whether you’re a person of faith or not, when I read the passage above, I think about the many privileges that I have and how important it is to use those privileges to act with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love.  2018 has been a year full of opportunities to either respond in anger or reactiveness or to act with compassion, kindness and patience.

Something I’ve learned in 2018, particularly, is that all of these qualities (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love) don’t mean that I’m not also fiercely advocating for justice.  In fact, how can we express true compassion and love without advocating for justice? But, what these qualities (when I’m able to embody them) do help me to do is remember that each person, as an individual, is operating from their own perspectives, biases and lenses, within social and societal structures.  If I can speak and listen to them, particularly with the people I know personally, and their humanity, they are more likely to hear what I’m saying.  Will we still disagree with each other?  Since I’ve considered my beliefs carefully and hold on to them strongly, yes, we probably will, on that point.  But, does it mean we can’t coexist peacefully and respectfully? In most cases, no. And, honestly, on the individual level, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the common ground we can find when we have conversations with one another across perspectives.

There are exceptions to this, where I can still hold love for the person, but in order to be compassionate to myself, I can’t interact with that person anymore, and that’s something that I’ve also learned in 2018. Sometimes, I need to walk away. Sometimes, I need not to respond.  Sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to leave a toxic situation. Sometimes, I do best to remember that change that makes an impact is structural and not individual, and I need to use my energy to dismantle structures, rather than focusing solely (or even primarily) on changing individual hearts.

Because I am trying always to embody the qualities mentioned above, I give away my time and energy in ways that aren’t actually compassionate, kind or loving to myself. I struggle most with being patient, forgiving and humble where there’s something that I need to get done or someone who needs more help than I can give.  I need to remember that I can’t be all things to all people (humility!) and that I can’t be anything to anyone, if I’m not first engaging in self-preservation.  And that’s challenging.  It’s something I need to continue to work on balancing as I move into 2019.

As this Biblical passage goes on, it talks about being grateful.  And, I am so grateful, for my community, that journeys alongside me, in life, and online, that remind me to be compassionate and kind, humble and gentle, patient and loving, to others and to myself.  I wish you all the best that 2019 has to offer and hope you end 2018 in peace, joy, and love.

Respecting Teachers

What would it look like if teachers were valued and respected as professionals? My students thought about what would be necessary to sustain a discourse like this and how a discourse like that might be reflected in society

I am a teacher educator. I currently prepare people who want to become teachers to get their teaching credentials, and work with teachers in classrooms to improve their practice. I do this at a large, regional, public, comprehensive university that serves a large percentage of students of color, many of whom are first generation college students.  Prior to that, I spent over 10 years in public school classrooms, as a teacher and peer coach.  In my 17 years as a public school and university educator, I have been on strike twice.

Now, I have many teacher friends and former students, in Oakland and Los Angeles Unified School Districts (2 of the largest public school districts in the state) who are poised to go on strike.

Let me tell you, your public school educators do not want to go on strike.  Being on strike is exhausting and not fun.  It is not what educators are trained to do.  It is not our passion or purpose.  When a district gets to the point of a strike, the working conditions have gotten so bad that teachers feel they have no choice but to leave their classrooms and students in order to fight for things that all students and educators deserve, things like: libraries, nurses, counselors, smaller class sizes that allow for more individualized attention, special education, early education and bilingual education support, and the commitment of our society to public education.

Yes, they would like a salary increase too, because salary reflects the value of the critical work that teachers do. It shows that we respect the work of teachers.  They’d like less standardized testing and less prescribed curriculum that deprofessionalizes teaching and takes away from instructional time. They’d like the opportunity to design and implement innovative curriculum that integrates 21st century learning skills.

Yes, there are teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms.  I’m not going to lie. There are teachers who struggle through our credential program and who I wouldn’t want teaching my own children.  My son, who has been in public schools for 7 years has had both exceptional and struggling teachers. I get that many people have had difficult experiences with public school teachers.  As a parent and a huge public school advocate, honestly, I have as well. And, as a teacher educator, I am working tirelessly (if you’ve read this blog, you know I work tirelessly) to prepare educators to do better for all students.

But these teachers are not the majority of the teachers I have worked with or continue to work with. These teachers do, however, get a lot of media coverage, and are often concentrated in schools and classrooms where students actually need the most supports but have the fewest choices.  However, even in those schools, there are great teachers who are fighting for students to have the best learning environment possible. Great teachers and students with so much potential exist in every school.  They need the resources to thrive and grow.

Of course, the answers to how we make public education work for everyone is complex.  Certainly, though, the answer isn’t to further make working conditions so untenable that great teachers can’t afford to stay in classrooms (either monetarily or for their own mental or physical health). And, it’s not to blame one another for these problems and scrap the system for a business model that allows those with privilege to gain more privilege.  Teaching under the conditions that many urban, public school teachers face is unfair to them and more than that, it’s unfair to public school students, all of whom deserve a quality education from their local neighborhood school.

Let’s actually show respect for our teachers and students. They are not only our future leaders, they are shaping our present society. They are our best investment.

Back to Life…Back to Reality

Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, oh yeah. (Thanks Soul II Soul and everyone who is now singing along to this classic–I’ve linked it here in case you want a soundtrack to this post)

We just got back home after a few days in South Florida visit my in-laws.  It was a fun, family, vacation with a trip to the Lion Country Safari Adventure Park  (which seriously everyone should go to if you have young children and are in the area), the beach, and Miami, for Cuban food and mojitos.  One of my favorite things about the trip was actually not a place that we went, or a thing that we did. Instead, what I most appreciated was just being with family, and not having constant reminders about all the things I have to do in my life at home.  I brought my laptop along, but used it mostly to blog, for social media, and to watch Food Network online.

It was a lovely break from the reality of cleaning out my refrigerator, from my dining room table (and the explosion of mail, books, holiday cards and assorted sundries that need to be put away laying upon it), from articles that need to be written, and from emails that need to get returned (I’m still observing that).  But, alas, here I am, back in the dining area, writing amongst the mess, blogging quickly, before heading out to get our dog from our friends’ place.

And, well, duty calls, but vacation was lovely.

#TeamNoSleep & the Quest for More Mindful Tech Use

That espresso in the corner symbolizes the #TeamNoSleep of this post; the rest symbolizes my quest for a more mindful relationship with technology

I’m going to start this post off by saying that I didn’t sleep well last night.

This happens when, every few months, I have a very strong coffee.  I am usually a tea drinker because coffee gives me the jitters, but I had a strong cup of delicious cuban coffee with milk and then I didn’t sleep.  So, if this post seems a little off, blame the indulgence of a cafe con leche.

That preface has nothing and everything to do with the rest of this post, which is on mindfulness is relation to technology.  It has nothing to do with the post because, well, it’s about sleep and delicious cuban coffee, and this is mainly a post about technology.  It has everything to do with it because it’s about mindful (or non-mindful) consumption.

In my life, I am fairly disciplined in terms of what I consume (within reason).  I know what makes me feel really sick and I know what keeps me up at night (clearly); I know that I need to eat, sometimes even when I don’t feel hungry or don’t love the choices presented to me; and I know that moderation is best for most things. I also don’t always make the best choices.  I generally choose well, but not always, and sometimes, I choose the opposite of the best thing for me in that moment, because, well, an occasional indulgence is part of life.  But, I’m very aware of what I eat and drink because my physical and mental health depend on it.

I can’t always say the same thing about my technology consumption.

I’m (ostensibly) working on a book about intentional tech use for sustainability. (I say ostensibly because I have the ideas for the book, but haven’t actually written a lot of it…) As part of my work on the book, I decided to buy, and read Mindful Tech by David M. Levy which is about bringing more balance into our digital lives.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile and I know I need more digital balance (I’m a Libra. I need more every kind of balance), but, honestly, I was worried that the book would prescribe some kind of technology fast (which I’ve done before, for Lent, with Facebook) which hasn’t really worked for me in the past.  I mean, I fast, but then once I’m back on, the old patterns return, and I find some other tech tool to replace Facebook while I’m fasting.

Thankfully, the book really isn’t about fasting.  It’s about observing technology use and then changing to be more intentional (mindful & effective), which, as someone who does action research, is exactly what I need to do, without judgment, and with a lot of curiosity and self-compassion.

Yesterday, I began the first exercise in the book, which was about observing my e-mail use.  It’s funny because Levy’s first exercise is about focusing on one technology tool (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of your choice to observe.  I thought I’d focus on Facebook because honestly, I think I have more of a problem with it than e-mail.  But, what was interesting was that I actually wasn’t even aware of how much e-mail rules my life. I check automatically, feel stressed when I can’t respond right away, manage mail across 3 different accounts, and allow it to distract me when a message comes up and I’m around others that I love.  Whew! That’s a lot to realize in 6 hours of observation.  It’s one of the first things I do in the morning, and I get extra annoyed when I see a number (signifying unread messages) next to my mail app.

What I love about mindfulness is that it’s really about accepting what’s so without judging it.  I see my use of e-mail.  I see how e-mail has been occupying (so much) space in my life in ways that aren’t aligned with who I am or my priorities in life.  With this awareness, I can make better choices (like I tell my 3.5 year old).  Even more importantly, if I can start to bring more awareness to how I’m feeling when my use of a tech tool is counter-productive (usually stressed and obligated, which means a physical pit in my stomach and tightness in my shoulders), then I can observe what I’m doing in that moment and (hopefully, eventually) work to change that behavior.

Awareness can empower change.  And I’m excited about this journey towards more mindful tech use.

The Importance of Friendship (or Friendship is Awesome)

Friendship is magic!

It’s winter vacation and I have a 3.5 year old daughter which means that, instead of finishing up a peer review of a book last night, I was watching the My Little Pony movie.  (That gif above actually captures my daughter’s expression as she asked me to watch the movie and my response)

So, full disclosure, I am actually a pretty big My Little Pony fan.  I’m a lot like Apple Jack, the orange horse, “raised in a barn” (it’s a joke in the movie). Apple Jack is honest and hard working, empathetic and caring, and she likes to eat.  I mean, she pretty much represents me.

[Movie spoilers ahead]

Anyways, the plot of the movie has to do with Twilight Sparkle (purple pony pictured above) who is the Princess of Friendship, but has doubts about the power of friendship.  She sees herself as less than the other princesses (of the sun, moon and stars) and is worried that the festival of friendship she has coordinated won’t turn out perfectly.  Enter the bad guy & his mean pony side kick (Tempest) who has her own trauma around friendship (she is a unicorn who lost her horn then subsequently got abandoned by her friends in childhood).  Eventually, after meeting a singing cat, a singing band of pirates, and some singing mythical underwater hippogryphs (there’s a lot of singing), Twilight Sparkle and her friends get in a fight.  You see, the hippogryphs have a magic pearl that could be the key to saving TS’s land of Equestria, and just as the hippogryphs seem ready to lend over the pearl through the friendship that they’ve established with the ponies, TS is caught trying to steal the pearl and they’re all banished to an island where TS’s pony friends (Pinkie Pie, Apple Jack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy), hurt by TS’s betrayal, not only of them, but of the power of friendship, take a minute, to reflect on the true meaning of their friendship.  At this exact moment, the antagonists’ henchmen come and capture Twilight Sparkle, taking her away.  Anyways, long story short, eventually, friendship saves the day, and TS learns that not only does she need to trust herself, but that friendship has the power to save us all (well, except the actual king bad guy who gets turned into stone and cracks into several pieces at the end–but the rogue pony ends up okay).

[End movie spoilers]

Even though, I’m much more of an Apple Jack IRL, I relate to Twilight Sparkle’s plight.  It’s hard not to have imposter syndrome sometimes, and it’s hard to trust in friendship when sometimes you feel like all the responsibility to get things done is your own. But, in the end, it’s friendship that makes life worth living, that brings us joy, and that can save us and our society.  If we can just connect with those that seem so different from us, our world can be so much more awesome.  It’s time to be awesome (it’s from the movie, which is now replaying this morning).

Peace in Routine

A picture from my morning run

Being on vacation is hard for me.

This may not be a surprise to many of you who know me, in real life.

Whether I am physically away from my home or at home, but choosing to actually give myself a break from my academic life to enjoy my family and friends, it’s hard for me to relax (I mean, until I get into hour 4 of a Chopped marathon with my son).  Or maybe, it’s hard for me to relax without feeling like I should be doing something.

This morning, I got up and went for a 3-mile run. I missed my training run yesterday and figured that it would be a good (non-academic) way for me to feel productive even when I’m being present with my family.  (It would also be a nice 30 minutes away from said family who were peacefully tucked into their beds.) I got home, showered and started on this blog post, my other daily commitment (at least for the next 19 days).

As I sat down to write, I realized that this is just enough.  The morning calm, to write a few words and run a few miles, is just enough.  While I am aware that there are more things to write (and read) and more miles to run, I am choosing a break with just enough productivity to soothe my restless type A self.

Reflections on Christmas

Christmas background decoration image courtesy of Pixabay

Christmas time is here.

I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning and saw wonderful images of friends and family and their Christmas celebrations. It was lovely.

In years past, these images spur the guilt I have of not having it all together, particularly given the proximity of the winter holidays with the end of the semester.

Of course, for my kids and my family, we exchange gifts and celebrate together, often with conversation and laughter.  Usually, I’ll go to a church candlelight service (as I did this year) and eat delicious food, texting friends and family with holiday greetings.  But, often this is tainted with a sense that I didn’t quite do enough, that I should have more adorable holiday traditions, that I should do or be more.

And in those feelings of inadequacy, I miss being present to the very best people and things in my life.

What I am appreciating most about this season this year is that I didn’t really push myself to get everything done and make it all perfect. My husband picked out gifts for his family (mostly off their Amazon wishlists). I didn’t get my family (of origin) anything (sorry, Family).  I had collected some small gifts for the kids throughout the year, but honestly, didn’t even wrap them. We didn’t host a dinner or attend many holiday parties.

And you know what? That was fine. In fact, it was liberating.

Instead, I spent most of today with my in-laws, my husband, toddler & teenager, and just relaxed. I ate delicious food, spent some time in nature, by the water, slept, and after this blog post, I’ll probably binge on some more junk television.

And that has made all the difference.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Courtesy of Jill 111 via Pixabay.com

This morning I woke up to the sound of my 3.5 year old calling for her mommy. I walked the few steps from my room to her room, and laid by her toddler bed, in her warm room, in a home we own, in the only home she has ever known, until she drifted back to sleep.

Last night, my husband and I were reflecting, before bed, on where our own parents were when they were the age we are now.  His family had just come from Peru, landing in Miami, when his dad was the age he is now, starting a new life with a 9 year old and a 6 year old (eventually, they would add a little girl to their family in the states).  My mother was caring for her own newborn (me!) when she was my age.  Soon, she would also begin a new chapter of her life, moving across the US from New York to California with a young toddler and an almost teenager, to be with my aunt, uncle and grandmother, during a difficult time of transition as she and my father divorced.

This morning, laying next to my daughter’s bed, I thought about the migrant children who are spending this Christmas Eve separated from their families in Tornillo, Texas.  I thought about the Cambodian-American children across the US separated from parents who were recently deported to Cambodia after years of peacefully living in the US, parents who had lived all of life that they could remember in the United States after resettling here as political refugees.  I thought about military families who are spending this holiday separated from one another as a family member is involved in an overseas engagement.  I thought about families separated from their loved ones by loss, grief, mental illness, toxic relationships, etc.

And then I looked back at my daughter, now joined by my 12 year old son. I thought about the first Christmas and the family at the center of that story, a newborn baby, mother and father, separated from their own community, but joined by a choir of angels, shepherds, wise men, who gathered to bring gifts and community when they might have otherwise felt even more alone and overwhelmed.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and if you, like me, are fortunate enough to be with family, I hope you’ll be a blessing to others, particularly those that may most need the blessings of community in this season. (And, I hope you’ll work, all year around, to bring families back together and address the conditions that lead to so much suffering in families across the nation and the world.  But, for today, if we could just bless one another, in spite of our differences, that would be a great start.)

Easing into Vacation

This is how excited I am about finally being on vacation

After waiting for a couple late assignments from students in one of my classes, I finally submitted my fall semester grades for my final class, and promptly took a nap, this morning.

Clearly, I’m on vacation.

Taking on a 30-day writing challenge during vacation is hilariously ironic because I have plenty of writing I should be doing, but my brain is going on “hibernation” mode for the winter, and I feel like what I really need is to write about the joyful mundane, at least for the next week or so while I’m actually on break, partly so I can remember the beauty of it in the insanity of my day-to-day life.

So, this vacation blog will be a mini-journal of my day-to-day, which this morning included getting up ridiculously early with my 3 year old, making a breakfast casserole from hash browns, eggs, breakfast sausage & cheddar, submitting my grades, dog walking with the kids (with them having adorable sidewalk races, which my 12 year old let my 3 year old win), taking a nap, editing Faculty Council meeting minutes, playing charades, watching some Vampirina and now doing this blog with a cup of tea.

We’ll have some family & friend time a little later, or maybe I’ll start my organizing, using my new amazing planner (which was a gift from my brother-in-law & his wife, thanks Jon & Linh), or maybe I’ll binge watch some Food Network show.

But for now, I’m going to do a whole lot of nothing, maybe while listening to some Christmas Carols…

These are a few of my favorite things…

I love fresh cut flowers, from a florist, prepared with care & artistry

On day 4 of the 30-day writing challenge I’m currently doing with my friends, Wes, Darlene (and now Anna!), Darlene did a post on some of her favorite things, which is a wonderful topic to spark the gratitude that I so deeply feel in my life, so I’m going to list some of my own favorite nouns (people, places, things, and ideas), not necessarily in order:

People (some of these people overlap and I’m putting the people in categories because I don’t want to forget anyone specific):

  1. My family
  2. My friends
  3. Many of my former students
  4. My church family
  5. My academic network & community
  6. My Team World Vision running group


  1. Home
  2. Hawaii
  3. Delicious fine dining restaurants (especially high quality Asian fusion restaurants)
  4. Bookstores
  5. Tea shops
  6. Somewhere quiet in nature
  7. Fancy hotels


  1. Car rides
  2. Fresh cut flowers (see above)
  3. A clean and organized room (you would not know this by coming to my house….ever)
  4. Learning
  5. Delicious food, all of the foods
  6. Running, especially in the morning, and to explore new places or when they give me shinies (that I pay for) to finish races
  7. Travel
  8. A perfect cup of jasmine tea
  9. Writing
  10. All things Pusheen & Hello Kitty, and most super adorable cute (kawaii) things
  11. When people actually listen to the words coming out of my mouth instead of what they think I’m saying and then respond appropriately (this is not happening, at this exact moment, in my home, by one of my favorite people)
  12. Singing


  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Love
  4. Compassion
  5. Gratitude
  6. Joy
  7. Peace
  8. Respect
  9. Mutual understanding
  10. Identity
  11. Humility
  12. Justice

So, now, if you don’t know me, you probably know me, because this is pretty much me, in a list of favorite things.