To The Second Genertion 

My tiny humans are more fortunate then they know. They wake up everyday with a team of grownups who care so deeply for their well being. 

My tiny humans have grandparents. Grandparents that attend birthdays, and pay for swim class. They have grandparents that send books from Amazon, and birthday cards. They have grandparents that call an extra time when they have colds to check in. 

Today I was inside our beloved Montessori classroom, and was at moments overwhelmed that this is where my tiny human gets to learn. This Montessori education would not be possible without the help and support of grandparents. 

My dad builds cucumber trellis for their garden, and he rocks his MDS sweatshirt at every opportunity. 

My mom is going to Disney on Ice tomorrow. (That deserves it’s own day of recognition.) 

They marched alongside their grandchildren shouting “MDS is awesomeness.” I think they are awesomeness. 

It takes a damn village. It takes a people witnessing your life, and believing in your choices. Today I’m beyond grateful for my mom and dad. They love my babies, and how do I not love that? 

(They still drive me crazy, but today isn’t that day.) 

Sometimes We Cosleep (Or whatever fancy term you want to give it.) 

I was inspired by this post to share some feels… my tiny humans are pretty good sleepers. They generally go to bed after long and lavish routines… They generally sleep in their own beds, and in their own rooms.

Four nights a week my toddler wakes up and crawls into our bed. I welcome her. I don’t even mind. My spouse once mentioned being annoyed, and I said “okay so bring her back to her bed if it really bothers you.” He answered “I can’t, someday she won’t want to snuggle so I’ll let her stay now.” 

That’s it, right? That these amazing tiny humans are only so little for so long. That they are learning where their comfort can be found. They are learning where their safe spaces exist. 

I want to be their space. So while I insist on bedtimes, and beginning the night in their own beds, if they need us… we welcome them. 

Being a Helper 

I sometimes lay awake at night thinking of human need. I work with the hungry, poor, and disenfranchised, so it is natural I suppose to feel connected to causes.
I always return to one of my favorite quotes during these times. Mr. Rogers told us to “Look for the helpers.” I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a helper, and that position matters in how I decide to live this life of mine. Some seasons I help a lot, and some seasons I help a little.

What I have learned is that helping always fills our souls more than we need, and way more than we have ever expected. On my helping days I am overwhelmed with how much people in need teach me, and teach my children. I have learned I never exclude my tiny humans from joining me in helping. We have passed out food at pantries together, we have raised funds for endangered animals together, we have hosted lunch for students together, we have collected coats together, we have met the needs of an angel tree ornament together, we have filled miracle bags together, and we have taught English together. I think this is why it has always filled my cup more than I deserve, because I include my family.

My new friend, and our favorite tiny human.

Helping is not exclusionary. The helpers do not have to be a population of extremely privileged people, and it doesn’t require a babysitter, and it doesn’t require lots of money. It does mean your time will be given, but I promise it is worth it. It does not have to be extravagant. Perhaps you donate $5 a month to an organization that shares your values. Maybe you call the local food pantry and find out there need this month, and you drop it off (it is usually coffee and shampoo). Maybe your local school needs story readers. Maybe a local library needs help putting away books. Maybe your local Planned Parenthood needs greeters.

Helping makes me feel good. It fills my soul, and contributes to my community. I like being a helper. I suspect you will too.

Necessary Late Nights

I crave the night time hours. The quiet and dark that settles my soul and provides the respite needed for the next day. I never choose sleep. I always choose stillness. 

Sometimes I write, and often I read every blog, every news article, every tweeted link… Sometimes I watch an excellent documentary, and often I watch epically garbage TV. Sometimes I snack, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I chat with a friend, and often I don’t. 

In my teens I was always the last person off the couch in my family. In my twenties I always kept the party roaring until breakfast. Now, I throw logs on the fire and breath in the quiet. (I also hate mornings, and sleep the latest.) 

There is a famous story about my Granny who sat up late every night, and the mice would come out and join her. She declared that she would have to get along with the mice, because she wasn’t going to bed. She needed the quiet. #grannysquadgoals

I think, in 2017, I’m learning more about my own adulting needs. I’m (finally) becoming more thoughtful with my words, and with my choices. (Hey, I never followed the traditional path.) I think I’m figuring that if I don’t fill my own cup, I simply can’t fill others. And I’m learning how to fill my own cup. 

I need my late nights. I need the dark and the quiet to watch garbage TV and read Buzzfeed. 

I need this quiet to work super hard during the day. This week I have felt super “in it” with my work. It was reminiscent of my undergrad days… I woke up and started working before the coffee finished brewing. It is exciting, and it is soul filling. 

I read lots of stories, and used kind and thoughtful words with the most important tiny humans in my life. I spoke thoughtfully with my partner and avoided an argument. I painted my nails, and ordered cute tutus for a friend. I think to do these things, I need to choose stillness…

Maybe in my 40s I’ll choose sleep, maybe not. #findwhatfeelsgood

Cocooning In

We will all choose different ways to cope and survive during this next season of our united history. We will all choose different paths to walk, and different causes to champion. “Do you” I say, #findwhatfeelsgood . 

On November 8, 2016 I stayed up until the early morning hours of the next day. I was so afraid of what was happening that I could not look away. The days that followed were surreal. I was a mess, and I would burst into tears at most of the news. I am terrified about my future rights and access to healthcare, employment, and safety. I am heartbroken for my students. I could share a lot of stories about my students, who are simply terrified, but I am still carrying these stories, and the weight of theses stories is to heavy to write about… at least for now. I could share stories about my friends and family devastation, but they are not my stories to share.

I felt that I spent 2016 desperately seeking advocacy for myself, for my children, and for my students. I felt that the choices I was making, and the environments and policy that surrounded my small world were making everything feel absolutely insane. Nothing felt right anymore… and I know I need to take a minute to find what feels good, again.

I do not think I am going to find what feels good out there, right now. I suspect I do not have the strength or the skills to navigate out there, right now. I suspect my voice will be silenced, and my feelings of complete helplessness will be amplified out there, right now.

I am deciding to cocoon inwards, around my tiny humans, and within my communities, because this is what feels good, for right now. I cannot protest, because my voice is wavering. I cannot advocate, because I am still learning the rules. I cannot take any more time away from the tiny humans, because now more than ever they need us.

I am cocooning in. I am going to work hard to be with my tiny humans, to love more, to laugh more, and to watch them more. I am going to focus on kindness and compassion within our own little family.

I am cocooning in. I am going to continue to work for my students.

I am cocooning in. I am going to work for a small non-profit independent day school that teaches and rewards kindness and community.

I am cocooning in. I am going to finish graduate work in public administration so that I am better trained and more skilled to play in this game, that needs me to know how to play at an expert level.

I am cocooning in. I am going to take better care of myself.

I am cocooning in. I am going to train to be smarter, more resilient, and raise tiny humans who will be kind souls for the next generation.

Right now, I will not find what feels good out there.

I will again soon, I suppose, but not yet… not right now.

Welcome 2017, I am going to breath you in.

My goodness, 2017 is actually here.

We all needed a little Christmas to prepare for this New Year. We had a lot of Christmas, and it was glorious.

looo
Tiny Humans, Christmas 2016

We have done basically nothing with our week off. It jives with my own inner mantra for the next year. My feelings about how to live this next year are still a jumbled mess, but I am working on sorting them out. They include the words on this list. I had a professor once who suggested writing lists when I couldn’t write accurate sentences.

2017 Concentration List

Less

Stop

Breath

Patience

Work is not my entire life

Read

Cook

Eat

Enjoy

Yoga

Find Joy

Slow down

Watch for laughter…listen

Listen

Smile

Mindful Mothering

Move

Sleep

The data person in me is a little agitated by this list, because half of it is not measurable. I can measure the meals I cook, the yoga I practice, and the smiles I capture. I can do that. Some of this list I can’t measure, and it is an exercise for me to remember what I am assigning value this year.

sunlightmat
There was a lot of sunlight on my mat this morning. 

Our 2016 was stupid hard. I did a lot of yelling, and not enough sleeping. I could resolve in 2017 to yell less, but that is not really a goal, because it is not sorting out the root cause of yelling.

I’m determined to live a better year. Mostly, I am determined to smile more.

That One Time We Dropped Out of Preschool for Love

I am not completely sure why I have not shared this experience yet. It is a super important issue to draw attention to. It is one that affects so many people. And, for whatever the reason… maybe the politics of this choice, the protection of the people involved, the judgment, and the urgency of needing to make a super fast decision left me unable to validate the feels enough to be ready for public consumption. (Truthfully I share things, because I learn from all of you, and I hope to be a contributor to the lessons our generation will hopefully catalogue.)

Quality, affordable, accessible, safe, and loving childcare is like finding a rare unicorn hair in a barn full of chickens that are allergic to unicorns, and in a world where unicorns do not exist. However, after exhaustive searches, and extensive vetting, and actual full days of pounding the pavement we always have managed to find the most epically amazing childcare providers close to our home. We have found the unicorns, a few times even… We have found the people who wrap my tiny humans up in so much love that we want to send them daily roses, and provide annual trips to Disney. (Obvs, we can’t do this, but I do buy a lot of extra Dunkin’, and drop off wine for the hard days.) We have found the people that not only love our tiny humans, but also love our whole family, our dog, the new baby doll, their skinned knees, their need for snuggles, their smiles, their challenges… We have found the providers that treat and love our tiny humans exactly like they would their own. They set expectations, and provide lots of love and guidance, compassion, they validate feels, and understand…. And they model what it means to be a family… because they even love threeangers, and eight year olds who refuse to do anything logical. (They also love their grownups, and believe in the value of the grownup work.)

Then life happened, as it does, and our magic-unicorn-hair-childcare-provided could no longer care for the tiniest. Because life…. Because 2016…. This year though…. (We are all super hopeful that their absence is temporary.)

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I took this news in stride (after I cried a lot). I researched, and thought “okay, new place, we will do this… I have a job to do, and the tiniest human is resilient.” I thought she is technically preschool aged; we can rise to that. (Although, the reason she wasn’t in preschool was because she wasn’t ready to be in preschool.) I selected a wonderful, warm, friendly, well vetted, and kind program to replace our magic unicorn. You can’t actually replace magic unicorns with strangers, especially for tiny humans who are not ready.

It was a disaster from day one. We gave it three weeks. During the third week the tiniest started waking up with night terrors about having to attend preschool. On her last day, the look of sheer terror on her face will be one I never ever forget. She didn’t just miss her momma. She was afraid, and I was about to sacrifice three years of working to teach her security… I drove to work in tears, and researched FMLA laws… I realize we all have our parenting struggles – this day was one of my hardest. I will never forget her face of terror. (On this day she got to bring hot pink Frozen cupcakes to preschool to share with her new classmates, and she was ready to abandon the cupcakes so she wouldn’t have to stay. Imagine being three years old and giving up hot pink Frozen themed cupcakes?) It wasn’t working. It was traumatic for all of us.

I knew all along that I had a village of people who might be able to care for our sweet tiniest human, at least until the end of the semester. But for some ridiculous reason I was worried about continuity of care, and the burden of asking for help. I didn’t realize that the tiny human didn’t need the continuity of a single provider if people who love her always surrounded her (and surrounded her momma).

So… we dropped out of preschool, because we are not ready. And the village offered to help until the New Year. (I finished an entire undergraduate degree one semester at a time.) I will figure out next semester… when I need to.

I was chatting with my mom tonight who asked how our ad-hoc childcare was going. (She’s a piece of the village helping.) I said the tiniest keeps having so many great days, and she just knows her people, so it’s not even a thing. My mom said she likes her bubble, and fair enough, who doesn’t? She continued to say that at barely three years old that we need to protect their bubble… if they love their people they are doing okay. My tiniest loves the people and their families that love her. She loves the people that have witnessed her entire life. She loves the people that love her mom, and her sissy, and her daddy – that is who she trusts, because that is who we taught her to trust.

I could wrap this up in a lot of ways… we are preschool dropouts. I think what matters was I made a super quick choice against advice that “she would eventually settle”… I’m sorry toddlers don’t need night terror. I rose against the advice that “it was good for us.”

I picked my mama heart. I picked my gut. And our people offered help. Because when other people love your tiny humans they become magic unicorns. Magic unicorns bring tears of relief for my family, for my work, for my students, and for the sweet tiniest who just loves her people, because she isn’t ready for preschool, and that has to be okay.

The tiniest chooses love. Because that is what makes sense to her. I don’t anticipate every drop off to be without tears, but I can go to work, and serve students, knowing that the tiniest guided us all towards love, because she reminded us all that we do people who love.

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to The Academy, Again.

The loss is nuanced, and people will think I’m completely insane for mourning this kind of loss.

Today, I let “Zoning Is Sexy” Finn walk away. I made a choice to let “Mama” Finn and “Professional” Finn thrive. I watched the opportunity for independent quantitative research walk out of the room.

Background (I tell undergrads this is a super important piece of their writing.)

I returned to higher education as an adult thinking I needed an education that matched a job. So, I was going to teach elementary school. Then I actually spent some time in a public school, and was all “Yay!” but “OMG, I don’t really like this even a little bit.”

Fast forward a few years, and I had discovered the Liberal Arts and research, which I love. I had a lot to learn, and I don’t write well enough for the academy, but sheer grit produced research that people cared about. I was hooked. I was completely in love with academia. Academia is a prescription that continuously rewards my accomplishments with awards, funding, opportunities, and accolades.

Despite wanting to look at terminal degree programs, my advisor gave me a morsel of advice that I often I repeat. Students need to go do something meaningful before pursing graduate work. (Listen, students. Do this.) So I did.

Meaningful Work 

I got a really neat job researching and writing (the thing I’m terrible at) for large federal grants. Again, I got to research, which is the most fun. Except, I had very few practical skills outside of an ability to coordinate large research projects and collaborative writing assignments. I actually couldn’t use Excel. I couldn’t figure out Outlook. And the worst part was I didn’t have the credentials to back up the skills I did have. (Sorry students, the paper matters.) I also was working as a professional writing tutor. (The most ironic pathways for me.)

Almost Returning to The Academy

After about a year of this work I started to look at different graduate programs that would pair with the skills I had learned with my fancy Liberal Arts degree. I selected a very expensive program to earn an MPA. Winning, or so I thought, because lets face it, those who know #classicfinn know that the ultimate career goal is to run things. (Clear career goals, friends. Obvs.) The program was an enormous let down. It lacked the academic rigor and pursuit of knowledge that my undergraduate environment provided. The environment that I had thrived in, and that I still gaze back on as my most privileged years.

I transferred to a different institution. I found an MPA program that would offer both the ability to pursue real quantitative research, and learn public finance. (Public Finance is a skill I need to run things.) I am in my third semester, and I haven’t been disappointed. The program has extremely dedicated faculty, quality advising, content relevant courses, and admits smart and prepared colleagues. Transferring was an excellent decision. 

The Loss (The one that makes me crazy.) 

The department recently overhauled their programs. Today I was faced with a choice, again. I could pursue my MPA with only five classes left to finish, no thesis requirement and only a final project to complete, or I could easily move into the other degree offering with significantly more classes to finish, but with the carrot of independent quantitative research at the end. (The department was beyond gracious, flexible, and thorough in our hour-long meeting. I would not lose any previous course work, and I could pick the best fit program. This is not a fault of the institution. I fully believe thriving institutions change to meet market demands.) 

I looked at the plans of study for both programs, and I knew I would not write a second thesis.

When I ran into a trusted faculty member on the way into this meeting, she assumed I would be heading into the research-based program. Regretfully, I admitted that I was thinking no, because right now, I just needed to credential up. She actually totally understood, and was beyond kind.

It sounds awful to me… I do not look at higher education like this. I do not believe education is where we go to credential-up, but it kind of is, because the papers matter. I am pulled into a direction that doesn’t fit my life or my skill set, and a direction that I have spent years romantizing. 

So, can I still be one of the cool kids?

My current program is amazing, and certainly this piece is not meant to suggest otherwise. I use the skills I am learning in this program everyday. I am learning program evaluation, and how to analyze every step of the policy process. I am learning about finance, and management, and how to write for a professional audience. These are the skills I need to run things.

However, my current grad program is not preparing me for a terminal degree. I will not pursue independent research. The data I have meticulously collected for the last year will only be used for professional development. (There are no IF/THAN or VLOOKUPS in my current academic path.)

I know this means that I have different work to do, like my goal to run things. I know that I will still be the designated researcher on the task force. I still have professional development funding to pursue student success research. I still can be an academic in a public sphere. I know this. However, today was the day I made a choice to not lose my mind and write another thesis. Today I made a mindful decision to learn the skills to run things, and I watched independent research walk out of the room.

I’m sad. Maybe next lifetime I’ll be the academic I dream of becoming, and maybe I will even have better writing skills to help that destination become realty.

See ya later “Zoning Is Sexy” Finn, until next time. I’ll save the data, and we will be cool again, but first – FDH, MPA.

If I Lose Myself, Who Will Find Me? 

Dear Lonliness,  

Our lives, and the expectations and realities of our lives change all the damn time. A short two years ago I was home with our tiniest, and loving every minute of it. Now I have all the great things to do, in addition to raising the tiny humans. I have all the great responsibilities and pressures that come with the choices to continuously add all the great things to my adult life. 

The additions are kinda awesome, and I’ll save you all from the “I am blessed” speech. You know it’s good. I know it’s good. We are good. 

We might even be thriving. Although 2016 has been challenging AF, it’s still kinda awesome. I mean I gave a commencement speech – that’s some cool shit. 

What I was unaware of as our lives change is that I might be lonely. (I am surrounded by some amazing people that I am so fortunate to call my friends, and a crazy family that continues to support Finn in all the insanity.) 

This is an existential loneliness… #firstworldproblems

I simply didn’t expect that the next few years might lonely. I didn’t realize that my stories would be less significant, less valued, less listened too. I didn’t realize I was making choices to add things to my life that do not align with values and choices of many people. (Family Phrase: Different families make different choices.) I didn’t realize that the older I get, and the more nuanced my choices are might mean that less people will care about them. Even the people I love the most. 

When I completed my undergrad at TrinColl I befriended the sweetest and kindest group of young women (10 years younger, and we drank coffee in expert solidary). I don’t have that same comradery these days.  

When I was newly at TRCC I was surrounded by fellow colleagues begging students to please just learn how to write. I don’t have that same comradery these days. 

I have a paper to write. Research to conduct. Data to analyze. Courses to attend. Another paper to earn, and increases in enrollment in my program. For me, it all has to matter.  It all has to contribute to the discourse. 

I guess I didn’t know that loneliness might be a reality of my heart craving need to produce meaningful work.

With love, Finn