hihi answering my own question here.
because my page is organized by many layers of templates, i was able to use ui:define at the top level and trickle this down to where i needed to use the data. the problem i had was not realizing ui:define does not work with ui:include... i had to change my templating to use s:decorate instead of ui:include
hope this makes sense.
Can you please show your code, what exactly you try to mean?