Waiting. Changing? Not so much…

Waiting for Superman is all the rave. It’s a documentary (now fact-checked as problematic). It’s also a book. And now it’s a call for action. Folks affiliated with Rethinking Schools, for instance, are pretty sure they are not waiting for Superman and urge us to do the same. Other education activists, social justice researchers and policymakers agree.

If you’ve missed out on all the hoopla, this is all about the dismal state of schools – what is being done about it, and the hope of a magic cure all. Superman.

The hero in all of this seems to be school choice, or more specifically, charter schools. Problematically, the news on charter schools isn’t much better than other public schools (unsurprisingly). The overarching narrative in education today advances the success stories of charters while secreting away the fact they aren’t faring all that well. Turns out that treating students like commodities and running schools like businesses is no way to successfully educate a diverse citizenry.

What’s the key? That’s just it. Snapping our fingers and wiggling our noses aren’t the answer. Nor is further dehumanizing people and treating them like widgets on an assembly line. I believe the answer lies, in part, on embracing a dialogic education. One that affirms the life of each individual, helping her to become a contributive member of society on multiple levels.

But I digress. I really just wanted to share this offering from NPR and the Root. More food for thought about treating our children like french fries.

Something wasn’t right at the high school that Darwin Bridgers’ son attends, so he sat in on the class to see for himself. All morning long, the instructor at the Washington, D.C. charter school pointed to a list of ground rules, a detailed list of rewards and punishments posted on a wall near the front of the class filled with black and Latino students.

Read more.

Day 2 – Love/Hate

I can honestly say I’m not moved by today’s task. We’re supposed to conduct a life assessment of 7 specific areas of our life. We’re to list what we love and hate about each area. Hate being strong, we’re encouraged to consider “strongly dislike.”

Welp, the good news for me is I don’t strongly dislike any aspect of my life. I live a happy, well-rounded, successful life. Things aren’t perfect, but even trying to frame things in terms of strong dislike simply didn’t ring true for me. This means my Buddhist practice is working, as the main goal is to build absolute (internal) happiness, not based on externals. Simultaneously, when things aren’t going quite right on the outside, we identify them right away and work to change them (again working from the inside out).

The 7 areas are: lifestyle, work, education, finances, health, family, and relationships. I jotted statements about how things are going, including what I like and what improvement I’d like to see. I’ll share the highlights:

My aunt and uncle at my graduation, December 2010.

Lifestyle: I love the freedom to make my own schedule. I would like to spend more time dancing and communing with nature. And dating.

Work: I’m in between jobs since I graduated two weeks ago and my jobs don’t start for another week. I’ll let you know how things are going once they’re underway.

Education: I just finished the highest degree offered in the U.S. I have things I’d like to learn/master including sewing, cooking, and specific genres of writing.

Finances: I have money saved. This is a great feat considering I’ve not had a full time job in 3 1/2 years. No complaints there. I have goals for this year including earnings, savings, and giving.

Health: I’m in good overall health, although I could use a check up. I’d like to lose 5 pounds and get to around 20% body fat (I mean what’s to hate if you only have 5 pounds to lose!). Spiritually I could be more focused in my chanting and study. I’ve already started working on both.

Family: I’m an only child of two deceased parents. My relationships were great by the time my parents passed. I also have a  half brother with whom I did not grow up, who is building a relationship with me now.

Relationships: This is the only area I feel is “lacking” but I have no “strong dislike.” I’ve definitely enjoyed being single and would like to enter a serious romantic relationship this year. I’ve done internal work, especially around forgiveness and welcoming. I continue to work on all aspects of my life in the belief that any future partner and I should both bring 100% to the table. I’ve met a lot of high quality men lately, so no complaints about that either. Hope to do more of that in the coming weeks and months.

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m a happy, well-adjusted Nicole. Looking forward to being better and brighter in 2011!

Day 1 – A Mantra & A Notebook

Today is the first day of 2011 and it’s also day one of the 31 Day Reset. The first exercise is to choose a reset notebook and a mantra. The first part was easy.

In the past few months I’ve really been embracing my divine feminine and connecting more with myself as goddess. I’ve done quite a bit of journaling and was in the market for a new book. A few weeks ago I discovered this:

I was drawn to it right away. It has earth tones, yet is multi-colored with warm reds coexisting peacefully amidst calming blues. The woman is surrounded by, and is in fact, nature. She looks at ease and totally free. She is goddess.

I connected with her energy and determined my thoughts would be at home between her pages.

I’ve had this journal for several weeks now and have only written in it twice. The first time was during the winter solstice/lunar eclipse. The second time was last night – to write out my new year’s goals.  It’s not an “empty” notebook, but it’s the perfect one. Part one – check!

The next thing was to find a mantra. Immediately I went to Emerson, whose essay, Self-Reliance, is full of gems. I thought about taking parts of various statements and creating an “ultimate” quote of sorts, but I didn’t exactly do that. In the end I decided to build from the passage that inspired this tweet:

When I am honest with myself, I realize the thing holding me back from that which I’d most like to do, is fear. There are many things about which I am timid, yet I do them anyway. Likewise, there are many things about which I am scared, but I muster up the courage to tackle them.

But there is one goal I have yet to reach, nor even strive toward. And when I am still, I hear the voice which whispers the truth of my desire, even as I silence it with my fear. And that, ladies and gentlemen, simply will no longer do.

In Self-Reliance, Emerson writes:

We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine.

Ignoring his use of the masculine (with respect to the reader and to God), this passage encapsulates the essence of my belief and my challenge. To live my purpose and mission is to honor the divine in me. To be afraid, to cower and even shun this work is, quite simply, to dishonor the divine. Although I’m one who is generally prone to gray interpretations, this is pretty black or white.

I’m doing the work or not. I’m living the life or not. I’m honoring my divinity or not. As I choose to honor my divinity and do my life’s work, I simultaneously honor all those I serve, which also includes God/Goddess/Nam-myoho-renge-kyo/the Law.

In an oft-quoted Buddhist text, Nichiren writes, “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (WND-1, p. 1003). What is the vow of which he speaks? He wishes for all of his disciples to attain Buddhahood and to lead others to Buddhahood as well. This is also the original vow expressed by Shakyamuni in his highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra (Expedient Means, Chapter 2). Quite simply, the work and point of Nichiren Buddhism is to challenge your own weaknesses, manifest your best, brilliant self, and help others do the same.

My best self is hidden beneath my fear. And whatever it is I have to offer to the world remains covered until I am brave enough to break through. This does not serve humanity. This does not serve the Law. This does not serve me. To that end, my mantra is:

Goddess will not have her work made manifest by a coward. I am am fearless. I am divine. I am total victory. I am Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

On the Timeliness of Untimely Calls

I was minding my own business. I had just pulled into the parking lot of a local pharmacy, where I aimed to return an overpriced item. My phone rang and an unknown Atlanta number flashed on the display. I’m not great about answering unknown numbers but 1) I have a new phone and all of my contacts didn’t transfer, and 2) I’m in the middle of job hunting and apartment hunting. Those things being the case, I picked up not knowing who may have been on the line.

A woman responded to my hello and stammered an introduction: “Um. Hi, my name is Sharon. I’m not sure if I’m calling the right place, or if you even have anything to do with it…so this may sound strange…but I used to work for…” She went on to explain who she was and how she knew my dad. She was a receptionist where he worked over 25 years ago. It was her first job out of college. He left a mark. She wanted to say thank you and see how he was.

She told me stumbled across a website about me while searching for his name. She offered me congratulations on finishing my doctorate and said she noticed a comment that seemed to imply my parents were deceased. I confirmed the sad news which prompted a series of sorries from her.

It is not unusual for people to contact me wondering how one or the other of my parents are, and it usually doesn’t effect me all that much. My mom passed away in 2003 and my dad in 2006. But today’s call struck me. I was nearly undone in the parking lot, suddenly missing my dad. I’ve never made it a secret of being a daddy’s girl and I was actually surprised I wasn’t more tearful about him or mom during my graduation festivities. But here I was, totally missing him, choking out thank you, but simultaneously present enough to wonder what he wanted me to know.

As random as this call seemed, I was suddenly sure it was very purposeful guidance. I’ve been sleepwalking the past couple of months. I just finished a 3+ year stint in graduate school with non-stop days (weeks? months?) of writing and thinking. I put myself on a vacation from “real life” while I transition from student to – whatever role I play now. I’ve been hibernating and whiling away my days, and my journaling and reiki practices have suffered. I’m no longer a leader in my Buddhist organization (due to moving around, not to lack of desire) and my practice has been a bit on the unfocused side. All of the things that help provide clarity and meaning in my life have been fading and blurring in the background. I’ve been on autopilot. Note: Autopilot isn’t a helpful setting if you’re trying to reinvent yourself and become clearer on your purpose and next steps.

And so here comes this call. While Sharon was talking, I scrounged up a piece of mail and a sharpie. I jotted what she said was most important to her and still rang true these decades later. She explained that my daddy was always calm and full of wisdom he was happy to share, he encouraged sensible solutions to problems, and told her (especially as a young person full of energy but no direction) to plan every step.

That definitely sounds like my dad. He was always quiet, steady, persistent, focused and driven. (And extremely silly too, just to be clear). I definitely believe this call was to nudge me back on track as 2010 comes to an end and the new decade begins. I take it as a reminder to both seek out and share wisdom, to take more responsibility in envisioning, planning and co-creating my future, yet to be patient as things unfold.

Here’s to the journey. Thanks Daddy! Happy new year!


Measure Twice, Cut Once

I’ve always understood what that phrase meant, but it leapt from the recesses of my mind and into full consciousness yesterday as I spent 45 minutes measuring and cutting pieces for my first sewing project. I had no accidents of cutting, although my adventures were not without mishaps. More on that in a moment.

For reasons I no longer understand, I forwent the sleeping mask in favor of the apron as my initial task. I spent the first 30 minutes watching and following the directions on the instructional DVD that came with my Singer. Threading bobbins and upper parts of the machine are not easy the first time, but I got it done. Then I was ready to tackle the pattern.

I used the apron card from Amy Butler’s Sew-It Kit. It’s pictured below along with my materials of choice.

Pattern Ease

By no stretch of the imagination was this a pattern for beginners. Any time you see the word “pleats” beginners should run very quickly in the opposite direction.

Seriously, this pattern is probably easy for intermediate sewers, and would’ve been easier for me if it were my 2nd or 3rd project. I underestimated the effort it takes to translate the language of patterns into embodied actions: (wrong side up, right sides together, adjoin neighboring pleats, machine basting, etc.). That, plus having to stop for thread that mysteriously unthreaded itself (multiple times), jammed bobbins, and other trouble shooting, made for a day full of learning.

It took me 6 1/2 hours all told, although a more experienced sewer could definitely do it faster. I can probably make that sleeping mask with my eyes closed now. (We’ll see…)

High Notes

I did it! I jest, but this was a great victory for me. My last experience sewing was a couple of decades ago. I took a sewing class in high school that shall forever remain a blip on my transcript. Moving on…

In other news, the quilter’s ruler is awesome. It’s a little weird to use effectively at first, but it once you get the hang of it, it’s a definite time saver.

The salesperson at the fabric store was right – it’s really nice to be able to see through the ruler to make your markings. But don’t pay full price! Mine was on clearance for less than $6.

Trouble Spots

Despite how slowly things went, I was doing quite well until I got to the trim bands. The apron has a top band and a bottom band. I diligently followed directions (or so I thought) until I realized I had expertly sewn the top band when it should’ve been on the bottom. I tried to ignore this – after all, both parts had the trim! Eventually, I had to face facts. My seam ripper and I became best friends as I spent 45 minutes undoing the (tiny, tight) stitches on both sides of the apron.

I was amazed to learn that whatever directions I followed had no bearing on the reality of the pattern and the bottom trim did not turn out at all like my first version of the top trim. I don’t know how I mixed up top and bottom and how I totally messed up the directions for that step, but I’ll take responsibility and embrace my new found understandings of pattern lingo.

Would You Make This Pattern Again?

Perhaps. It was a little weird because there wasn’t a pattern per se – there were just directions on how much material to cut and how to put it together. There were also a few illustrations, but I’m not convinced they were that helpful for a newbie. Now that I know what I’m doing, I’d do it again if I thought someone wanted or needed an apron. I would like to find a full body apron pattern though. I’m not sure I find the skirt-only pattern that useful.


Step One: Purchase a Machine

The Domestic LadyBuddha has already cooked a few new recipes, ala The Grit vegetarian cookbook and the Better Home and Gardens famous cookbook. Those happened a few weeks ago and I didn’t have the tools or foresight to document my process. But now, thanks to HoneySnaps, I have an iPhone. That means finally, a working camera! Yes!

And with that, feast your eyes on this:

Meet my new Singer 2263. I can’t say I did a great deal of research to pick this machine. It was a happy marriage of convenience, price, and brand loyalty. I seem to remember my mother sewing with Singer, and I’m pretty fierce about sticking with childhood brands (marketing gurus, take heart).

This little number (handpicked by Martha Stewart and labeled for beginners) came to her new home last night. I have two projects in mind to start. They are both courtesy of my cousin Avis, who maintains the familial tradition of sewing.

She heard of my interest to sew and sent me Amy Butler’s Sew-It Kit to encourage me. After many days of mulling, I picked out the sleeping mask and the apron as my first two projects.

I’m not convinced of their ease. I’m a *beginner’s beginner* and the directions say this kit is for beginner or intermediate sewers. o_O


I spent quite a bit of time finding all the materials any beginner sewer needs: hand needles, threaders, thread, straight pins, pin cushion, scissors…

But more than halfway through my shopping list, I found a handy beginner’s kit. I added a pack of safety pins for good measure, as well as a yardstick and some fabric pencils. I also needed a quilter’s ruler (specifically for the sleeping mask project). Quilter’s supplies are expensive (!!!), but thankfully I found one on clearance for only $5.

I’ll show you the fabrics I got now, although you’re definitely going to see them again when I blog about actually making something. Here’s what I’ll need for the sleeping mask.

And here’s the apron. I think the colors I chose for both are appropriately safe yet cute. It was actually pretty difficult to find stuff that grabbed me. But I was also a little overwhelmed trying to find the right materials (cotton, polyester, satin) in addition to the colors and styles. I decided to keep it simple as I get used to how fabrics even behave! I’ll be more adventurous next time, although, shopping in a store full of “Calico” and “Country Favorites” may not be the move either. Just sayin. But I was showing you what I got for my apron:


My Singer was $89 plus tax. The materials for both projects came to $16 (including thread since I had none, and an extra spool of ribbon since I was unsure about colors). My misc beginner’s materials (yardstick, the quilter’s ruler, safety pins, chalk pencils, and the sewing kit), came to another $43 bucks.

Grand total with taxes = $153.77. Your start up may be more or less, but there you go.

I’m excited and a little nervous about my first project. Because the sleeping mask requires quilting stitches, I’m thinking I may start with the apron. I should’ve bought a scrap of material to just play with. Surely there’s something in the closet I can use.

Until next time…

The LadyBuddha Goes Domestic

I threatened to cook more while I was working on my dissertation, teaching a new class, and simultaneously working on a huge research project. Suffice it to say, that didn’t happen. I stuck to the things I was comfortable with cooking, drank plenty of green smoothies (worth its own blog), and tried to buy organic or otherwise healthy food when I ate out.

Once I moved back to my home state I found myself nesting. My apartment has the same stuff overall, but some of it’s warmer. There are even pictures of tulips up. lol. Still not the perfect place I’d like, but hey, I was still working on the dissertation and ANOTHER new class.

Well, now I’m done and I’m feeling the pull to increase my creative and feminine energies. Although some of this translates into “traditional, woman’s work” I don’t have those hang ups about it. I want to cook delicious and healthful dishes. It feels creative and life-affirming, and I like the combination of art and science it entails. I also want to sew (how about that) for the same reasons. Both of these things are inherently useful and engage both sides of my mind. (As an aside, I genuinely think sewing is in my blood, but more on that another time).

In addition to cooking and sewing, I’ve been working on expressing my feminine charms more outwardly. In short, I’ve been dressing and simply BEing sexier (Shout to Sojo). It’s a little harder to pull off in the winter (and with my pathetic wardrobe), but it’s fun learning to express my inner diva. I play with essential oils, engage in temple building (exercise) and general kicking it up a notch-ness. This is me heading out to a holiday party a few days ago:

It feels wonderful. I only wish I could go back to warm weather and sundresses. (Sexy AND easy!)

But I digress.

I think I spent so many years birthing my dissertation and expanding my intellect that it’s nice to shift energies to manifesting, creating, and loving. I was already a damn good catch before, but now that the LadyBuddha is going domestic? Well…let’s just say you’ve been warned.

So in addition to miscellaneous posts about life, love, spirituality, and the like, expect some pointed tweets on my adventures in sewing, cooking, and learning to up my shoe game.


Mashups in the Literature Classroom

I’m always on the hunt for good ideas – especially those that are founded on new/21st century literacies. My friend Beth recently posted about a pedagogical experiment in her writing pedagogy class. Beth’s work was grounded in collaboration and multi-modal/multi-genre composing. Reports of such work are always interesting and helpful for teachers looking to expand their range. That’s why I was glad to see a related article in the Chronicle today.

A professor wrote about doing mashups in to help students explore literature more deeply. Doing this kind of work pushes learners into higher order thinking while leveraging the contributive and collaborative nature of modern literacies.

The best mashups juxtapose materials deliberately; they make the implicit explicit. They expose or highlight underlying features of the source materials—formal, thematic, or stylistic—that casual listeners, viewers, or readers might miss.

In my classes, I’ve experimented with mashups in order to help students think about literary style. I started doing this when I noticed that my students often sensed stylistic differences between writers, but had difficulty articulating those differences.

Read more.

A Note of Encouragement

A friend of mine is writing his dissertation. He’s in one of those difficult phases and he vented. This is what he said and what I shared in return.

I have been growing more and more unfocused and frustrated w/myself.

Please don’t do that. The more you judge yourself and become disappointed in yourself, the more of that you create. Then, the harder it becomes to overcome each little hump. Instead, I would go in the opposite direction – literally praising yourself and your efforts for every small success. This was the key to turning around my stagnation and transforming it into momentum.

I decided to pick one small, focused, manageable task each day. Not a list. Not several. Not a couple.


I made sure I could and WOULD accomplish that specific task and celebrate and praise myself for that milestone. If I had more energy, I would do other work, but there would be NO PRESSURE to do anything else that day. The next day, I did it again. After about three days I felt like I was floating on air. I had tangible, actual, forward motion. Each tiny step counts, so there’s no need to get bogged down in the “smallness” of a task.

Even if your task is revising one paragraph. Or writing a new intro to a section. Or outlining a *portion* of a chapter. You name it. It all has to get done anyway. If you truly understand the idea of a thousand mile journey beginning with a single step, you will embrace that your dissertation is nothing more than a thousand miles putting one foot in front of the other.

Even if it’s only one step in a day, it counts.

Missed You

I haven’t written in months. At least not here. I have posted a bit over here, although I was quiet there too because I wanted to post “safe” things. I’m getting over that but…

I’ve learned that I really hate separating my personal writing from my professional writing. And, in fact, my goal is to engage my profession as my spiritual, authentic self. The dichotomy seems pointless, and even unproductive. {And it reminds me a bit of this post by Sojo}. BUT, I’m job hunting. I’m wanting to show the person who matches the job description. It’s not a dance I normally do and it’s actually made me re-prioritize the types of jobs I’m searching for (again). It’s becoming pretty clear to me the kind of work I should be doing. What’s not so clear is the how or where. I’ll explain more later.

All of that to say, the fact that I felt I’ve *had* to play it so safe and separate, and the fact that I’m resisting it now, means I’m working things out…creating space for the real me. It’s a period of reinvention. I’m a little impatient about it all, but happy to reflect and refine.

Hope to see you more often.