Tamales

I love this memory from my first year as a teacher. This is just one of many moments when I learned from my students and their families. 

They immigrated from Mexico
So their sons and daughters, my students
Could be educated
By someone with a degree
From the U.S.

Families prepared a meal
They want to show appreciation to los miestros

Gracias fills the room
My plate is full.

Hungry from teaching
I pick up a tamale
But a mixture of nos and giggles
Stop the tamale
Inches from my mouth

A brown hand
Warm from cooking
Takes the tamale from me

Without words
But with a smile
She peels back the husk
Showing me the inside
Showing me what I should eat
Educating me.

My ignorance makes me blush
But their smiles and hugs and laughter
Make me comfortable again.

Somehow earning my college degree
Never included a lesson on how to eat tamales
The mother who never finished high school
Educated me.

I went to receive thanks
And left feeling thankful.

 

Get Back On

The lessons I learned in the country dirt are helping me shape the lives of those in the city.

 

“It is not enough for a rider to know how to ride; she must know how to fall.” – Mexican Proverb

As a horse-obsessed little girl, I didn’t think twice about getting back in the saddle.  Falling is just a part of riding.  If you don’t need to go to the hospital, you hop back on.  It sends the wrong message to your horse, and most importantly to yourself, if you quit riding after you fall.

The first time I fell off a horse, my legs were wiped.  After cantering around the ring countless times, I just got tired.  I leaned in a bit too far on a turn and fell right off of the horse into the dirt.

I brushed the dirt off and hopped back on.

It’s one thing to lean over and fall into the dirt.  It’s another to get bucked off.  It’s another for your horse to jump right causing you to fly left.  I remember riding a horse with a “bad attitude.”  He refused a jump.  Instead of lifting his legs to clear the poles, he sat on butt and slid into the jump. He scrambled backwards when the poles started to fall.  He lost his footing and fell on me.

I  brushed off the dirt and hopped back on.

We cleared the jump the next time around.

Looking back on this experience reminds me a lot of my time in the classroom.  Some days I fail my students because I’m tired.  I’m tired from grading, updating paperwork, planning, leading meetings and the list goes on.  But some days I feel like I’ve been thrown in the dirt.  I have left my classroom feeling that I have failed to help my most challenging students.  They have resisted the hurdles I have asked them to clear.  But just like a rider, I remember to brush myself off, change my approach, and guide my students to clear the hurdle that’s challenging them.  I’m not going to quit when they want to quit.

And eventually they too will learn the gratification and success that comes from perseverance.

 

 

How Small Is Small? Part I

While living in Texas, I took a Greyhound bus to a border-town in Texas to visit friends.  It only took a few hours to realize I had left my wallet on the bus.

I hurried back to the station, hopeful that someone had turned it in.  No luck.

I cancelled my credit cards and went on with my day.

Fast-forward 48 hours later.  I glanced at my phone and noticed I had 12 missed calls from my parents.  Worried that something was wrong, I urgently called them back.

My mom answered.

“Sally, are you ok?”  She sounded panicked.

“Yea, I’m fine.  What’s going on?”

“Someone called saying they had found your wallet and cards in Mexico.  We thought you might have been kidnapped.”

Their concern was fair for two reasons. First of all, it is their parental duty to be worried about me at all time.  My parents are experts in this area.  Secondly, Mexico is notorious for kidnappings.  My students from Mexico warned me of this.  So did their parents.  So did the news.

My parents told me they had received a call from a neighbor, Henry Holmes*.  Someone from Mexico had called his house to share that they had found my wallet and my ID.

But my last name wasn’t Holmes.  Why did they call Mr. Holmes?

Holmes was my middle name.  On my driver’s license at the time, my name was formatted in the following way:

Last Name, First Name_Middle Name

The Good Samaritan who found my wallet misread the information, interpreting my middle name as my last name.  They looked up the name Holmes in my small town, and called the one number associated with this last name.  My hometown is small enough that a person in Mexico could call someone in my hometown that had no relation to me whatsoever, and still get ahold of me.

Country living doesn’t give you the conveniences of city life.  You’re not surrounded by trendy coffee shops, museums, and restaurants.  But you are surrounded by a community.  I’ve never met Mr. Holmes.  My parents aren’t particularly close with him.  But he was there for me and my family because we were a part of the same community.  I can’t say the same was true of the 20+ people that lived down the hall from me – literally steps away – in my apartments in D.C. and Houston.

 

 

*All names in this story have been changed

The Obstacle is the Journey

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

Coming back to the mat daily after being sick for over a month has been incredibly frustrating.  I feel weak.  I feel tight.  Since working on leg strengthening and opening last week, my knee has been killing me.  I was overzealous, and it did not serve me well.  This is why you should listen to your body .  I am eager to get back into my routine of flowing on the mat.  This is undoubtedly a practice in patience.

In order to try to make the most of this situation, I’m working on my upper body strength and flexibility.   Push-ups, pull-ups – they are my nemesis. Cow face arms –  it’s taken me a  year to touch my fingers behind my back – and that’s only on one side!   However, given that I’m giving my knee a break, I know this is the perfect opportunity to work on strengthening and opening my shoulders.

When I tried this pose, puppy pose a year ago, my chest was inches away from the floor.  I have definitely found some space with consistent practice.  This progress is my motivation as I ease back into a daily practice.  I have to keep reminding myself that these obstacles are not blocking my journey – they are the journey.

Namaste,

Sally

P.S. If you like the pants and want a 15% discount, use the code “sally” at http://www.altaregoapparel.com.  I have tried lululemon and omstar, and these pants feel just as good, but they’re more affordable.

Different Ships, Same Boat

Everyone got it wrong.

During my first week at the University of Virginia, no one could place my accent. When going through the list of get to know you questions, people would ask,  “Where are you from? Mississippi? Alabama?”

I thought, Really?  I grew up less than two hours away from here.  Chances are, I probably grew up closer to this place than you did.  

And we’re from the same state. VIRGINIA.    

Most UVA students attended high school in Northern VA, better known as NOVA on Grounds*.  I grew up in the Eastern part of the state.   Different ships, same boat.

I kept my response polite.

“I’m from Virginia.  I grew up in a small town called New Kent County, Home of the first, First Lady.  Have you heard of it?”

Slightly embarrassed by knowing so little about Martha, they’d respond with a speedy “Nope.  Where is it?”

“In between Richmond and Williamsburg.”

“Oh, cool…Insert knowledgeable comment about Richmond or Williamsburg.”

Did I really sound that southern?  No one had ever commented on my accent before.  And were some of the most well-educated Virginians at the number 1 public university in the country so unaware of what other citizens in their home state sounded like?  More embarrassingly, how the hell did I not realize that I sounded so different from everyone else around me?

This was my first moment of culture shock at Jefferson’s University**.

The realization of an accent is not necessarily what I would categorize as distressing. However,  it did make me aware that many of my childhood experiences, and beliefs, would be different than that of my peers.   This compounded the stress that already existed as a result of managing rigorous classes.  There was also that mildly stressing need to figure out what to do with my life.

It never occurred to me that I would be such a country bumpkin compared to my classmates.  I was on a different ship, and I was lost at sea.

While my discomfort ultimately enhanced my learning experience – I would argue it was the most valuable part of my learning experience at UVA – I just didn’t understand how I could be so culturally ill-prepared.  I graduated at the top of my class.  I took my advanced and AP courses, learning about people from all over the world, but I never had the learning experience of actually interacting with people outside of my small town.   And my peers that attended nationally ranked high schools in NOVA – taking roughly 100 times the amount of advanced courses I did in my bumpkin high school – somehow they didn’t realize that people in their home state could sound like me!  How had our ships never crossed paths?

As an educator, I constantly consider how to expose my students to people and topics that are foreign to them.  They should have at least some experience navigating the ocean of differences that exist in this world before setting sail for college.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”   Perhaps if more students were exposed to different ships on their educational voyage, it would be easier to see how we’re all in the same boat.  I wonder if I would see us as all in the same boat if my ship had never left my hometown?

Footnotes 

*Grounds – UVA students say “Grounds” instead of campus.  This is a UVA tradition and way to show others how cultured we are. 

**Jefferson’s University – A fancy way of saying you went to UVA.   UVA takes great pride in the fact that it was founded by the 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson also owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime. 

Photo 

Nothing says cultured like a stylish hat and a cucumber.

Leave me some comments! Did you experience culture shock when you went away to college?  If yes, how so?  Are you an educator trying to prepare for scholars for the demands of college? If yes, tell me how!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Mat

the-mat I believe you can cultivate strong habits on your mat that you carry with you off your mat.

Time on the mat reinforces the power of persistence and patience – it takes time and practice to see your body evolve.  Time on the mat cultivates optimism and courage – trying asanas that scare you and then succeeding in the posture shows you that you can face your fears.  Time on the mat humbles you – failing repeatedly reminds you of how much you still need to grow.  The mat is a powerful place, and your mat can be wherever you want it to be.

 

A Good Bleachin’

image-1

 

While I was in high school, I worked on a vegetable farm during the summer months.

Of all of the vegetables and fruits across all of the acres on the farm, I spent most of my time with tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and regular round tomatoes.  The biggest of the round ones we labeled as  “Hanover” tomatoes.  The infamous Hanover tomato.  The county of Hanover was a stone throw away.  The soil was the same.  But when folks came to the fruit stand to buy produce, they’d always ask something along the lines of, “Do you have any Hanover tomatoes in today?  Them Hanover tomatoes are delicious.  Nothin’ like it.”   We’d direct them to the “Hanover” tomatoes, and when they returned the following week, they’d say something like, “Your New Kent tomatoes are good, but they ain’t got nothin’ on those Hanover tomatoes.”  And then they would pay extra money, for just a slightly bigger than normal New Kent tomato, and swear up and down they could taste the difference, and it definitely tasted better.

Perception is reality.

Picking tomatoes was hard.  Picking anything was hard – I was bent over, the sun beat on my back, my body ached – but picking tomatoes was unlike anything else because it put a film of grime on my hands that was impenetrable.  As a teenage girl overly sensitive about my looks, seeing the dirt filled crevices of my scraped up hands put me in a state of social anxiety.  I did not want anyone to see my hands like that.   The first time I realized this layer of grime would not disappear with soap and water, I stuck my hands in between the bristles of the conveyor belt we used to clean vegetables.  Imagine cylinder shaped bristle brushes that circle around your vehicle in a car wash – it was like that, but on a much smaller scale.  If these brushes could clean the vegetables, maybe they could clean my hands.  Did I worry about my hands getting caught in the conveyor belt?  No!  My vanity had the best of me. Dirt could not be visible.

After several seconds with my hands between the brushes, I pulled them out, ready to see them looking as good as new.  No luck.  I still saw dirt.

I don’t know if I came up with this next idea, or if it was my sister.  Maybe it was one of the older women we worked alongside.  Regardless, the next step involved pouring bleach all over my hands.  Did I consider the possible side effects?  No.  Did I have a smart phone with the internet handy to tell me that bleach could irritate your skin, and, if left on for prolonged periods of time, cause tissue damage?  No.  And if I did know, would I still have bleached my hands?  Yes. Teenage me would have still bleached my hands.  It worked.  I could now spend time with my peers without the fear of them noticing my dirty hands.  I didn’t care if the dirt was actually gone, but I was satisfied that it was at least invisible.

So whenever I picked tomatoes, I knew a good bleaching was in store for me that evening.

How often do you think about the hand that picked your food?

If you’re interested in seeing an image of the conveyor belt I described above, check out this link:   http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/ae075e/ae075e07.htm