Monday, May 29, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Moment of silence

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Today is Memorial Day. A national holiday that for many Americans has lost it's meaning. As a child, I remember taking a stroll through the cemeteries and seeing veterans from my grandfathers' generation handing out poppies. I remember seeing the flags, the service men and women dressed in their military best. And I remember the tears for those who gave their lives fighting for this country.

Though due to inclusivity, I'm no longer making announcements about veterans in my classrooms. But it doesn't mean I won't do so on my personal time. 

For all those grieving the loss of someone who gave their life in service, I'm so sorry. But I also am honoring your loved one for their sacrifice. For your sacrifice. Giving a moment of silence

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Sandwich Approach

Walks have become a daily ritual for me. Whether it be hitting a wall with preparing course material, needing a break following an over-stimulating conversation (either good or bad) or simply as I way to regroup and think, this 15 minute break that occurs regardless of the weather (and I mean regardless) has become essential towards maintaining my sanity.

It's on these walks, as I allow my mind to wander, that I find myself reflecting on all the craziness, both internal and external, that has been affecting my life. And it's amazing what observations that can come during some of these mind wanders. Whether it be observing spring flowers.

Or stumbling on a mini-petting zoo.

An aside: every place of work should have a petting zoo during periods of major deadlines.
All reminders that life can be insanely simple and complex all at once.

So what's been happening that's been keeping me from writing? That's instead put me into observation mode that involves reading and reflecting? The answer to that is both complex and simple. Fear and uncertainty mingled with guilt, complex emotions and a craving for simplicity in at least one area of my life.

To make sense of it all, I've been taking the sandwich approach. Similar in format to the ever popular "compliment sandwich," I've been allowing myself to acknowledge the hard and the fucked-up while inserting the good/amazing in the middle. Because without that middle, that amazing filling that fuels, what am I left with? And why try.

So let's start there:

  • In March, I learned that my position is being transferred to another department. What this means is both my appointment goes from a 10 month appointment to a 12 month, comes with a formal training plan and a director to oversee my progress. Which is insane to think that I'll be getting feedback on my career path choice.
  • This appointment also comes with a raise. A substantial one.
  • In April, I was called to a last minute meeting with this director to discuss a potential teaching opportunity for the fall. Within 5 minutes of sitting down at the table with 2 other people I had never met, I realize that the chair of the department was offering me a course for their first year graduate students to help design and implement for the fall. After taking a minute to recover (which included some insane laughter and me resting my head on said table), I accepted the offer and am in the process of working with another faculty member to map out a schedule/syllabus for the fall. It's still all surreal.
  • Grey has been rocking at his job, with his team making great strides with their project. Between the new commute, the work and the people he's working with, I haven't seen him this happy in years.
  • We are officially out of diapers. After almost 6 months of no diapers during the day, He-Beat made the final leap to being dry at night (She-Beat has been there since last fall). After the experience of 16-20 diapers a day, it's amazingly freeing to only have to worry about underwear.
  • The Beats continue to grow and thrive. Which is amazing to watch and a daily reminder of how lucky I am. 
  • A new relationship is brewing between Jaxson and Daisy and the Beats. With the discovery that both Beats are skilled climbers (Grey says they're in their monkey stage), have figured out all the baby-locks (and have future careers as cat-burglars) and can open the fridge without much effort has come some interesting moments of intervention. Combined with their daily chore of feeding the cats and the realization that it's far more effective for the cats to wake up the kids than to try to get me out of bed, a new alliance is forming. Grey predicts the adults are screwed.
Looking over this list, it's a good middle. Which helps me whether the following:
  • I start teaching summer school in less than a month. Though I am excited about this course and what I'll personally learn, it's also an intensive 7 week course (3 hour lectures!!!) that teaches half-a-year of college level biology. A meeting with the previous instructor that ended with "don't be afraid to fail people" has left me more than a bit concerned about what's ahead.
  • In addition to this, Grey's contract at his current position comes due July 1. As of now, we don't know if he'll be unemployed again in a month, which is terribly frightening. Apparently management is meeting, so we're hoping he'll have an answer sooner than later. Still....
  • We're moving. For two different reasons. The first being that 800 sq. feet is far too small for two soon-to-be 4 year olds, two adults and two cats. But the other reason is....
  • I've had a falling out with Martha. With the Beats growing has come the noise complaints and the accusation that kids are "harming the house." Attempts to work things out have been completely ignored or refuted, so we're in a weird place of avoiding one another. I'm both heartbroken but also resigned.
  • The cherry on top of all of this is that we put our condo on the market. 24 hours later, we got an offer. A very good offer. Potential buyers immediately signed off on the resale certificate (which I really didn't expect) and 24 hours after our counter-offer, we found ourselves in contract. There's still the appraisal to get through. There's also the fact that they could break contract. But right now the close date is set for July 1. 
So the sandwich. Especially following moments where the fear seems so intense and walking doesn't quite take the edge off. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Activity directions: +1 for statements that are true; -1 for statements that are not true. Write down total score at the end.
  • Your success (academics/career) is generally attributed by others to your intelligence and hard work.
  • Your accent/use of language is not perceived as foreign or strange by most people.
  • At least one of your parents went to college
  • Your family has never been referred to as "Broken.
  • You are not seen as a "credit" to our race/ethnicity/socio-economic status/gender.
  • Holidays you celebrate are commonly recognized and observed.
  • You've never had to seek academic accommodation 
  • Most of the people are your place of work/campus look like you.
  • You've can speak openly about your significant other with relative certainty that others will not raise an eyebrow.
  • You've (almost) never had to modify the way you speak.
  • You've never been questioned about whether or not you work at your company/attend your institution as a student
  • You've (almost) never had to worry about your physical safety.
  • You are not/were not a first-generation college student.
  • You never had to worry about having enough to eat.
  • Medical care has (almost) always been accessible.
  • You do not live with PTSD, depression, anxiety or another mental illness
  • When you discussion future occupations, you can envision workplaces where people who look like you are working.
Privilege. Just the word is enough to cause an awkward moment in any conversation. The idea that unearned benefits to a subset of people solely based on their identify or upbringing is enough to make any anyone uneasy. But what's most provoking is when that accusation has been laid squarely on you. We have a stereotype of what privileged individuals look like: lazy, vapid, narcissistic, all with a polished exterior. And yet the truth is that those who are privileged are often just as hard-working as the rest of us. The difference lies in the safety net.

The discussion of privilege has been an ongoing one between Grey and I since we first met. Though Grey is a white, cis-, heterosexual male, he's also a first generation college graduate who's father actively discouraged him from doing any higher education. His sister was the one who blazed the trail to higher education and all of them went the community college followed by transfer to a 4 year institution route. But it wasn't easy as his family's social circle didn't know how to support college students and often there was jealous and a sense of betrayal for all of them moving beyond what this circle understood. This same support was lacking to from those that he would soon consider his peers as Grey struggled to fit into a world where a certain standard of behavior/mannerisms was assumed. My own background is better as college was rarely questioned, but my mother was highly threatened when both my brother and I chose to go on for more education outside the standard 4 year degree. Hence my own struggle to social fit into a world where those around me seem groomed for from day one, adding a fun layer to the imposter syndrome.

Yet, neither Grey nor I are allowed to talk about this. Any mention of our situations and struggles is quickly silenced or we are admonished for daring to assume others haven't had it hard too. Most recently sitting in an inclusivity workshop, a vast amount of time was spent calming those who immediately felt uncomfortable about facing their privileged. They were quick to cite all their hard work and hardships. All while suppressing the very population they supposedly wanted to better serve.

In May, the Washington Post ran a powerful article about "Black Branding." The theme is a simple one: those with money and resources displacing those that have lived in an traditionally impoverished area, usually from several years. Gentrification is a recognized problem in many American cities, but what is most toxic about this is the attitudes from those coming in. From organic food to school choice to child care, they claim attraction to areas due to diversity, but they don't actually integrate.

It in these settings, where the differences between haves and have nots is glaring. Yet opening the discussion is extremely difficult as most of those in positions of privilege have honed their defense mechanisms. Grey and I both have been accused of not being mindful of diversity by these very people, all while counter arguments are quickly squashed and shunned. After all, their intentions are good. How could that possible make them in the wrong with their actions?

It's frightening to witness.

Back in January, Bent Not Broken wrote a beautiful post confessing her privilege. On the heels of the Women's March, she talked about all privileges she had that she felt should not be privileges at all, but basic rights. For the past 7 years, starting with infertility to loss to a difficult pregnancy to going amazingly into debt to having to relocate just to exist, I've wondered aloud the exact same thing. And what I've come to realize is that the only way we're really going to see these changes is to start with the difficult inward and outward analysis. In means listening to others, even if we disagree with their viewpoints or feel insanely uncomfortable about what they are suggesting about us. It means stepping outside our comfort zones. It means realizing that real change only comes when we agree to be open to all, even if it requires us to do the hard work of address our core beliefs.

Where we've seen this in my classrooms is creating inclusive environments where learning goals are the focus and all students are welcome, despite their background or beliefs.

Which has meant including those that may be in the minority of political views, letting those know who voted for Trump that they will not be bullied or minimized.

It means not acknowledging veterans publicly as we have students from war-torn areas with families that were destroyed.

It means encouraging students to complete group work in libraries or other public spaces.

It means quietly pulling some students aside when they make jokes or comments that may be inappropriate and allow those who may have been offended to make the first move instead of assuming.

And it means often times listen to stories or opinions that trigger a deep-seating fury calmly, with curiosity and with an attitude of trying to understand.

Because at the end of the day, despite all the hardships and hurdles, Grey and I know we are privileged too. We are the privileged majority from the infertility community who is parenting. We are the privileged graduate students who are working in key institutions where we are making an impact. We are privileged to have access to medical care, to healthy food and a clean source of water. We are privileged in that we can now afford to pay our rent, our heating and electric bills and not have to worry about that happening.

And we are privileged because we finally have something of a safety net that we can build under us. Something that we can actually give to the Beats and hopefully generations to come.

Monday, May 22, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Purpose

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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