On Not Walking….

I love higher ed. I have a ridiculous adoration for the entire industry that taught me most of what I know. Higher ed changed my adult life in every single way.

I’m not walking at commencement tomorrow.

I obviously have some feels about that, or I would not have returned to this space that I unload feels. I’m not walking tomorrow, because “ain’t nobody got time.” (A phrase I use often.) I’ll miss the pomp and circumstance because negotiating childcare for the event felt ridiculously overwhelming. I’m not walking because it cost $90 for regalia. (Although I spent that on dinner tonight, so that’s kind of bullshit.) I’m not walking because bringing a family with 10,546 dietary restrictions to a restaurant sounds terrible (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, I don’t like veggies, it’s too greasy, can we share every plate kind of nonsense, and can we be seated far from the door AND kitchen kind of nonsense).

I’m not walking tomorrow because everyone else has actual real life things to do. And that’s it, right? Higher ed ceremony isn’t real, and it certainly isn’t the work. My people have tiny humans, concerns, feels, realities, illness, jobs, and the yard to mow that all rate higher than indulging in the absolute absurdity that it is commencement. An absurdity I love.

I’ve also done this before. It was really cool. It was even cooler when I gave the commencement address. I really do love it all.

I wanted to walk for my best girl, but she actually already gets it. She told me today that’s she’s going to do Poli Sci for her undergrad, than a fifth year MPA, and then law school because she will need law school to run for President. (Hello, UConn. I have a girl for you.)

The entire village rallied to complete my BA, but this degree was completed in the lunch hours, the after work hours, and during the Saturday sleepovers. I worked so hard to make sure this degree didn’t affect my family. And I guess I achieved that, because finishing is barely a change in the lives for all of my favorites.

So to all the students I ever told you have to walk at commencement here are the new rules… You have to walk if that’s what your family needs. You have to walk if someone needs to see a visual representation of your work. You have to walk if you have never worn regalia. (I’ll buy your cap and gown, seriously, hit me up via Venmo or PayPal.) You have to walk if it’s your BA/BS. You have to walk if you are the first in your family. You have to walk. I’m not letting you off the hook. You have to walk.

Like many things… it just wasn’t my turn this spring. It wasn’t my turn anywhere, and I guess I’m recognizing that in this extremely self indulgent space.

They will mail my expensive and hard earned paper to me. I think I’ll frame this one.

Congratulations to all the graduates, throw your cap for me.

I get do this now, and right now that has to be enough.

FDH, MPA

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Finishing Goals: What Completing Ten Years of Work Feels Like

I have a lot of feels about completing graduate school. Lots and lots of feels. There are several posts I should write:

  1. Was your grad degree worth it? (Yes, absolutely. I use it everyday.)
  2. How’s your debt? (Way less than a house, more than a Civic… almost manageable.)
  3. Would you choose the same path? (No, if I did it again, I would pursue Economics as an undergrad, but that is also a misnomer… I carry enough privilege to use my simply gorgeous liberal arts education, and it wouldn’t be my story if I did anything differently.)
  4. Why and how…. AHHHHH (I have no idea…)

I can’t actually answer any of those questions fully, yet… because I am still sort of free falling in the feels of completion. I set out on a journey in higher education because I knew I was smart. I knew I could accomplish the things. I also knew that I knew nothing… Never in a million years did I think I would land here, with actual real life credentials. Grownup credentials. The experts suggest that a Master of Public Administration is a terminal degree, because it is both enormous (48 credits), and there is no additional degree to pursue in public administration. I learned so much.

However, all that isn’t really my point yet. Ten years ago I returned to school with a nursing baby, and absolutely zero dollars. I aced my first few classes, and remembered that I love to read. It turned out that with the right teachers I was really, really good at school. It also was a surprise to learn I really enjoyed every minute of it…

Earning my associates at Three Rivers remains a blip of warmth on a fast moving timeline…  I just put my head down and did the work. I loved it. At home I was this super struggling mama, and at school I was good at things. My work earning my bachelors at Trinity College continues to remain catalogued as my most privileged years. The ability to sit at the smart kids table was pretty freaking amazing. (I can say that I never missed a reading during my entire AA and BA. I read every assigned sentence…) I never felt that I belonged…

Pursing graduate school was waaay more messy. I started and left one grad school. I took the LSAT, twice. I wanted to make meaningful impact in marginalized communities, and I didn’t know how to do that. I assumed working within the law would do that. I still might go to law school someday. Every lawyer I know tells me not to…. and this is the part of the of the explanation of completing ten years of work I think is most important.

At every damn moment of opportunity someone told me it was a bad idea. (Why do we do this, and consider it good advice..?) Even today, lawyers tell me not to go law school. Teachers with terminal degrees suggest grad school is a waste. Colleagues do not understand why anyone would pursue a liberal arts education. But I think they all got the rhetoric wrong…

We (spouse, parents, and village) funded, supported, and ate every financial and opportunity cost along the way…. Why? This was my goal, and they all believed in me.  Earning credentials was my goal. So, what if we undid the “anti” rhetoric, and supported the dreamers?

I have things to do. I also have a mortgage, and a family to support. I needed credentials. I also needed more than a “good” job. I needed to own an investment that is priceless and never at risk. I needed to learn to raise a family. I needed to learn to make meaningful impact. I needed to learn. I also needed to undo a challenging past. I needed to rise above… I needed to feel validated.

So what does that feel like? I wish I was spraying champagne from rooftops, and flying high… but the work never stops. The day after I finished grad school I had two conference proposals due. I have a training to give this week, and a conference to present at… I am only getting started… again.. so I might as well pursue more credentials… (kind of kidding….)

I also maybe believed that someone would release balloons, higher a clown, host a magical event, and sit and relish in the journey… But like all of the nonsense I have heard along the way, it doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

Ten years ago I set out on a foreign journey. I had no idea where it would take me. How much it would cost. If I would survive. If it would be worth it… Let me tell you, it feels powerful to learn all of the things. I survived. We did it. The stats tell me I had less than 2% of chance of completing college… In this case the naysayers and the stats were wrong.

I add MPA to my email signature today.

Raise Them, you say…

My sweet love,

You my dear girl are perfect. (I hope every parent feels this feel.) Everyone adores your company, your smarts, your appropriate sass, and your compassion. You my sweet girl radiate kindness.

We don’t know the appropriate next steps… we don’t know what to do. Academically you are a rockstar, and every project you touch you persevere through. You have unbelievable tenacity and grit. (Things I have studied.) At a whole nine years old you hold more of these traits than most grownups I know….

And you are so like me. A bad day ruins you. You don’t know why they throw mud, because you only see it as a super poor choice…. and you don’t comprehend why people make super poor choices. You don’t understand when your peers do not value their work. You get super frustrated when an adult treats you like a child. You were born late, and looked a month old on your birth day. You were born wise beyond your years.

And as your mama I have to decide what to do with all of your awesomeness. It breaks my heart when your peers treat you like crap. It breaks my heart further that you are already exhausted of the “boys will be boys” rhetoric. It breaks my heart that you already know that phrase… and could file it under “restless energy.” No one deserves mud throwing… not even if it’s restless energy. No one should ever be called stupid. It’s not language we use. You know this.

You are angry. You are mad that we hold you to the highest standards… that “restless energy” will never be an excuse for a poor choice for you… because I wouldn’t allow it. You know this.

So now we have to figure out our next steps. I’m tempted to follow your lead, sweet girl.

You had a bad day. They threw mud, and said unkind words…. and you don’t even understand why anyone would do these things…. because you legit think mud is poor flying material.

I love you. You are amazing. We will figure this out. I promise.

– Mama

It’s a Journey #beyondceliac

I haven’t updated our journey living with a tiny human with an auto immune disease in a while… It’s sometimes tricky to discuss, and other times I just can’t utter the words “gluten free” one more time without wanting to actually lose it.

Winter is hard. We learned that a common cold will knock down a tiny human with an auto immune disease faster than you can imagine, and lasts weeks longer, which can be pretty defeating. Her last cold sparked a hepaformis dermatitis outbreak… it caused significant hair loss…. sigh… At least we know what it is. We also learned that my affectionate way of saying bshe was a “young three” was because she didn’t develop much for almost a year.

Our grocery bill is pure insanity. (It’s almost embarrassing.) I realize it doesn’t have to be quite as insane as it is, but that’s not our reality. We still have tiny humans that hate food. I’m super fussy about organic animal products (different families make different choices). We have a new vegetarian, and melding all the needs is challenging. We gave up cereal. (It’s an occasional snack.) Gluten Free cereal is full of sugar and is super expensive. So, now I make banana muffins every weekend that are stuffed with protein and fiber. I could in theory do this for a lot of things, but I work full time, and I am finishing grad school, and there is only so much I can navigate in a week. So $6/loaf bread it is.. with $5/jar almond butter. We go to three to five stores a week. (Yes, it’s a privilege.) We shop several times a week. When we find something healthy, gluten free, vegetarian, and organic that the tiny humans will eat we legit jump for joy! So we obviously buy fancy oat bites for $5/8 bites… obvs… And fancy vegan, gluten free, veggie burgers are a new hit in lunch boxes…

I’m notating that being the older sibling of a special needs younger sibling is showing it’s challenges. I’ll write more about that later. It’s tough, because O has more ability and intelligence in her pinky finger than most adults I know. So expectations are high… maybe at times to high.

We had a tough day. I’ve been sick for days.. and I had so much school work to do. Oo was not her best self, and I wasn’t my best self in response. (Starting the day at 7:45 am in urgent care doesn’t actually lend itself to many kind words.)

She reminded me today that she can’t wait to be ACTUAL FOUR AND A HALF (May). I remembered how little she is… and I feel terrible for some moments of today. Especially when I look back on the last seven months and realize how far we have all come.

Seven months ago I almost quit my job. Seven months ago everything was hard. Seven months ago she couldn’t get dressed, and we didn’t go anywhere without an iPad because her behavior was that I manageable. Only seven months ago…

And now she’s growing. She’s thriving at school. She’s developing at a rapid rate, and her vocabulary is amazing. (Brings me joy.) Our entire house is gluten free. We provide 84 gluten free, mostly organic, many vegetarian meals a week! We are doing this. We really are. We have all worked hard these past seven months.

And this…

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She will always be the tiniest. She didn’t grow for a whole year. #itsathing #buckethat

This girl got on stage with her peers and preformed in the winter production. (Seven months ago I would have thought this impossible.) In her own time, and in her own way she is reminding us all that we are living #beyondceliac

It’s a journey… We have more blood draws next month, but at least now we have amazing health care, and I won’t actually have to spend hundreds of dollars on pain.

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When A Sandwich is Hard

The Celiac journey is something we are quickly figuring out. Six months in to this reality we do gluten free. Our friends do gluten free play dates. We never leave the house without food and water bottles. I haven’t lost an Oo water bottle in six months, because I can’t, because we have to keep her safe. Our house is gluten free. We even are slowly mastering gluten free baking, and my colleagues would admit that our GF cookies are freaking delicious.

Navigating the world is hard. We can’t ever grab a “quick bite.” We can’t ever be without her water bottles. We can’t ever ad-hoc dinner plans… or lunch plans… That’s hard… It is hard to be out in the world, and know that no place is safe to eat for your four year old.

Well… we had a win today, and it basically made me weep. The rumor on the Celiac boards was that Jersey Mike’s had trained their employees on how to be Celiac safe… and several parents were commenting that they were super impressed with their local Jersey Mike’s.

On a payday Friday, after a very long week, and a random day off of school… I just had to go see if we could really eat at Jersey Mike’s.

I immediately told the sandwich maker behind the counter that my daughter had Celiac. He cleaned the slicer several times, with a clean cloth every time. He retrieved the well sealed Udi’s gluten free sub roll. He washed his hands twice, and used new gloves. He cut her gluten free bread with a new knife from the sterilizer, and laid out clean paper. He washed the entire counter that sandwiches are made on… when I mentioned we needed fresh mayo and a new utensil for her sandwich, he informed me that they have different condiments for gluten free, and pulled out a squeeze bottle that never touched the bread…. They are serious about gluten free, and the risks of cross contamination. I was sooo impressed, and basically ready to cry with joy because when you live a life where a sandwich is hard someone making you a gluten free sandwich with kindness is a gift. When I said she needed her own bag, they gladly provided her with one. When I asked for cup further down the stack, they said of course….

Salami with American Cheese

All of the staff was ridiculous kind. They enjoyed being helpful. As we were leaving, I took a picture of Oo… because sandwich shop and Celiac is a pretty epic moment.

The manager and a female worker watched the exchange, and they said “glad we could help you enjoy this.”

It mattered. It is important.

They provided equity for a tiny human who needs more care for her to enjoy a sandwich. They did it with kindness and compassion. They bought a customer for life.

Today, a quick lunch, and a sandwich wasn’t hard. It was just a regular Friday lunch after a busy week, that I really wanted to treat with subs. The subs were delicious.

New Years & Finding Resolution

I have some feels about the New Year….. It feels like change is suppose to happen, but we adapt to new normals with every season and semester like most New Englanders, and families with growing tiny humans. I’m not seeking change. (Sigh, wow, it took a lot of years to get here.) I live the life we built, and most moments of it… I love the shit out of it.

On Resolutions….

I’m not going to exercise more or less… I’m not planning some insane diet. I have no notions that I’m going to save a gazzillion dollars by giving up Sixbucks. These things just do not fit right now. I have spent some time thinking about what I need and want in this new year, and what we all need and want in this new year, and here are my two ideas that I hope will guide my next year.

The first is a fairly traditional resolution. I want to read more. I’m an avid reader, and complete the entire NYTs almost everyday however, I rarely read a novel. I want to read more fiction simply for the love of a great story.

The second idea is a little more messy, and isn’t quite fully formed in measurable parameters… 

I’m going to love the shit out of my life. I’m hoping to make choices to love it more. I’m going to make time to love the shit out of this gorgeous, ordinary, and beautiful life I get to live.

I plan on spending the year loving the shit out of this life, and all the people I get to share it with. I organized books yesterday, and realized how many stories I haven’t shared with Oo yet…. I want to share those stories with her because she’s my favorite (I have lots of favorites), and I will love the shit out of sharing these moments with her. I want to identify, and make happen all of the things that help us all love this life. We use a simple phrase in our family, “does it bring you joy?” If it does, then do you my friend.. do you. #findjoy

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My joyful circus…

My resolution is to remember what I already own, what I already adore, what already brings me joy, what I already hold, what I’m already good at, and love the shit out of all of it. #lovealwayswins 

So This is a Thing 

I’m bad at feeding at myself.

My children eat curated meals of Whole Foods, while I scrutinize ingredients…

It must be organic.

It must be nitrate free, 

Hormone free, 

Grown in a certified fairy village, 

And gluten free…

I’m bad at feeding myself.

Their food must be joyful, and let’s only talk about nutrition….

Never mention when something might only taste good…

Never mention when it’s bad for you.

Never mention when it’s joyful.

Never mention…. 

Never provide that paradigm.

They are girls. 

The world is going to fuck up their relationships with food. 

It’s going to torture joy.

I’ll spend $50/bag at Whole Paycheck for your favorite. 

Your favorite fairy imported, gluten free substitute…

I’m bad at feeding myself.

I love the way a real tomato will drip juices down my chin, but no one eats tomatoes here…

And I love the way cauliflower tastes with roasted with garlic… 

And I love the way chocolate mixes with salt…

And I love real coffee.

Caffeine is terrible they say…. 

I’m bad at feeding myself.  

The experts say fat is terrible.

The experts say sugar is terrible.

The experts say calories are terrible

The experts say…

The experts say eating is terrible… 

They are young women. 

They will learn how to order a salad. 

Bacon never tasted so good. 

And I’m bad at feeding at myself.

Is it gluten free? 

The Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… 

It was fine.

It was perfectly scripted. I am friends with a real live college math professor, and he knows things, like all about impartial differentiation. And he gave me books, and he helped me triumph my first problem set. He said I was fine, because theoretically I knew what the math was trying to achieve, and that I just didn’t know the rules. He said just learn the rules. Done and done. #learntherules #econ 

It was perfectly scripted. My sweet fourth grader left for fourth grade. She had a terrible day. A new teacher, new rules, new classroom, it was all awful. She’s nine… and I spent an hour convincing her to “trust the process and respect the journey.” This hour was spent after work (with tiniest in tow), after learning Calc, and after going to night class an hour away…. all the great shifts… all the great learning. 

For the first time in many years, today I suffered with crippling anxiety. The kind that leaves you feeling like you spent the day crying, but you didn’t actually shed a tear. The kind where you can’t have coffee. The kind where you can’t eat, because you will just vomit. The kind that physically tightens your chest. The kind that makes you feel like you are on the brink of straight panic…. The kind that makes you want to check out. 

I didn’t. I put on masacara, my favorite heels, threw Oo in her best twirl dress… and we did it. Barely, but we did it. I got my shit together. #getupdressupshowup

The day was perfectly scripted. I saw my favorite people. We had an epic snuggle session when I got home. It was a ninety minute check in about how hard change and new is. 

I had to push through the final leg of the journey; I was about to leave during the break of my night class. (He doesn’t take attendance twice.)  And then I got this text….  “Breathe, maintain presence where you are. You are smart and capable….” So I did. I even participated in the discussion.  

Real life crippling anxiety.

I spent the break laying on a bench in downtown Hartford… breathing… or trying to…  I anticipated my work at home… because I knew there was some serious feels. 

I guess the whole point is that change is hard. Calculus is hard. Fourth grade is hard. New teachers are hard. New is hard. And sometimes new is terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad. 

Anticipatory Agitation 

My brilliant and dear friend coined the title of these feels. I take zero credit for this epic alliteration.

“Anticipatory agitation” is waiting for the big shifts we know are arriving. The waiting is agitating, because we are anticipating the change that isn’t actually real yet. Academics, educators, and care givers of school aged children (I’m all three of these things) feel the anticipation of the new school year. It is so close, and we feel the chaos in our bones long before it begins. I can’t do anything about these changes right now, but I’m already anticipating the work and the trials of transition. 

Professionally, once again, I’ll do more with less. I have more students, a smaller budget, bigger goals, and higher institutional expectations. Riddle me that. The equation is fairly insane, but I’ll get up, dress up, and show up for my students. Four years in, and I’m finally beginning to feel like I know what I’m doing. #slideone

I’m almost done with graduate school (three classes will complete a decade as a student in higher ed). I have capstone work to complete that is currently a woeful pile of notes, and a single shakey research question at best. 

Personally, and I’ve saved the best and worst for last, this fall is the season when all of the tiny humans will attend school. I have no more babies at home, or part time at home, or hanging out with grandparents and friends a few days a week…. They will all go to school Monday through Friday – 8:30 am – 3:00 pm. I’m having some serious anticipatory agitation about real full time school for all of my littles.

Go live and learn your best life, sweet love.

For nine years I’ve parceled out necessary childcare around part time schedules, and family. For nine years there was at least one tiny human home, at least one day during the work week. For nine years I could be called upon to help my full-time working friends, and take on an extra tiny human as needed. For nine years I was my own resource, and I exhausted every creative measure in my arsenal to get it all done, because a tiny human was always there. For nine years the “work week” didn’t really belong to me. I was always a mama during all, many, and some of these hours. 

For nine years I packed backpacks and water bottles and took toddlers everywhere I could find that would bring them joy… on any random Tuesday or Friday. We went to the beach. I would nap in the afternoon, while they napped, because the mental load of the tiniest humans is exhausting… and it was a long time ago everyone stopped napping. I would shower, and change into clean yoga pants. I would find friends to raise my tiny humans with, and we would find empty playgrounds on Monday’s at 1:00 pm. We went to Broadway on a Wednesday. We took tiny human music class on Tuesday’s at 11:00 am. We shared a gazzillion story hours at every local library in the region. I drank coffee and ate bagels every Friday morning with the sweetest group of mamas I know. For nine years I built our community, and that was my work. On rainy days we watched movies, baked, and crafted. For nine years there was some part of the work week that was carved out for mothering, and only mothering. These past nine years are the times I will look back on, and I will know it was our best lives.

My sweetest littlest tiny human is going to school, and her 8:30-3:00 doesn’t belong to me anymore. I’m having anticipatory agitation about this loss. 

I’m sharing her with the world. (The smallest world we could manufacture at our tiny local Montessori school.) I’m sharing her best hours because it’s time for her to learn how to be her best self. She’s ready. I thought I was too, but it turns out there’s a lot of agitation about these feels. A Montessori education trains tiny humans to thrive in independence. She will learn that…. I’m anticipating the loss of these hours. She’ll excel. She’ll kick ass at being a school girl. It’s in her blood. We are a family of school girls. 

I really cannot even begin to express the sheer amount of privilege I own that gifted me all of these years home, semi-home, and home again, and home most of the time…. I love these tiny humans with my entire being, and I hope I did them justice during their youngest years. It continues to be my most important work. 

My anticipatory agitation is losing them, and losing all of the hours where we only built love and security during the work week. Friday’s at the zoo will no longer be our game plan. I will no longer own their rainy days. They all now have different work… I can only hope that my work stays with them. 

The anticipation of our different work makes me proud of these lovely tiny humans, and I’m already anxiously anticipating the nostalgia of the years they only belonged home. My mama heart is mourning the loss of the most epic chapter of my short life. Schooling is going to capture her heart (it’s already her favorite), and I will miss them. I’m agitated by change. 

It’s time for them to go be awesome, and I anticipate nothing short of amazing for these school girls.