Full Circle Hula (Mortified / Redeemed)

not me

We had just moved to an exclusive community on the north shore of Chicago.  My step-father, mom and I.  I hadn’t made any friends yet and I tagged along with my mom on many of her social outings as she got to know others in the community.  There was the church outing to the Art Institute – we took a giant air conditioned bus and ate lunch at a restaurant.  There was an archeological dig weekend at Koster, down in the southern most tip of IL.  And there was the Hula dance group I participated in…

Each week, 6 or 7 white, middle-aged women from my mom’s church would meet in a woman’s basement (Dorothy) and try our best to imitate the beautiful Hawaiian dancers we saw on the posters hanging on the walls. I would figure 8 my non-existent hips and imitate our leader who smiled coquettishly in the mirror – our pretend audience.   Offering up our plastic flower leis as invitation, swaying our grass skirts to imitate the trade winds.  

The class culminated in a performance for senior citizens at the local community center.  With acute adolescent self-consciousness I did my best to stay in the back (which was hard because there were only 8 of us!)

Much to my chagrin, a photo of the event was published in the weekly town newspaper – a bunch of women and me in our costumes. 

Fast Forward 43 Years 

Teaching my 5 year olds last week.  We are sitting in circle and talking about Hawaii.  Someone mentions hula dancing.  “You don’t know how to do that!” one kid says in a snarky voice.  “Oh yes I do!” I shoot back.  “Wanna see?” I say as one part of myself looks down from the ceiling in dismay.  And just like that…I am googling Song of Old Hawaii and playing it on my speaker.  The strings start and it all comes back to me.  My arms reach up to mimic the heavens, my fingers make the stars.  My hips start to sway.  I dance.  I sing.  The audience is rapt.  Riveted.

What to Do?


Roxanna Promo 4

Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone.  I read the California edition.  Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets.  Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations.  And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life.  Taking that chance.  It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.

I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep.  Stay outraged!  I agree.  Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb.  At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines.  Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now?  Are you able to write a check?  Can you make phone calls to your senators?  Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer?  Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life?  Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when  you get called to action?  I donate.  I pray.  I sign petitions.  I teach preschool.  I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.

This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week.  It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking .  It went like this:

Boy age 4:  (while holding the peace flower)  I wish I could wun as fast as you.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  Well, I run fast because I practice at home.  Maybe if you practice you can get faster.  (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)

Boy age 4:  But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going.  I want to be fast like you.

Me:  Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?

Boy age 4:  Yes.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  I bet you will get faster when you practice.  I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time!  (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison:  Friends.  And run off to play.  Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”)  Peace on the playground has been restored.

I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be.  They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky.  No place to hide.  Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.

When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person.  Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?

Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring.  The work is so dynamic!   There is no template for an “average” day.  Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs.  It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉  Truly.  These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries.  If I take it personally, I’m a goner.  They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often.  You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna!  Roxanna!”  Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class.  Haha.

I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids.  Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart.  As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:

In this troubled time we look to find the way.  To heal our world, heal our hearts.   In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other?  Come Together For Each Other.



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