gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here, working mother

Chase joy

I have a friend whose family immigrated to the United States after fleeing from an authoritarian, genocidal regime. My friend just had a baby, and observed privately that  her mom doesn’t much care about the things we find joy in — hobbies, careers, simply living — but that the baby… “babies are life.” And her gift to her mother is that joy that we all take for granted, which her mom is finally finding in the baby.

Today as I dropped my baby off at daycare, and watched her run around like crazypants with her friend Max, and then show Audrey and Elaine her painting she made last night, and listening to her tell Miss Molly and Miss Elaina about how she had potato soup for breakfast… I wanted to cry. That’s life. Right there. And how lucky am I that I can go have the career I love while leaving the kid I love at a place where she is so incredibly happy?

Very lucky.

I stopped on the way out of daycare to tell Miss Lori that I was grateful, and nearly started to cry. I’m exhausted. Justin’s sick, Gwyn is 3, I need to work more than I am to stay caught up, the stupid Christmas tree is still up, the laundry is overflowing, my husband and I are sniping at each other because we’re both tapped out and then we’re sad about being jerks, and I have a migraine brewing. So I walked from Childcare to my office chanting “You can do this. You CAN do this.” Then I noticed a student ID card on the ground. I picked it up, and turned it in at the PACES office, thinking about how that student needs her ID to eat today. When I got to my office I emailed her, telling her that her ID had been turned in, because if that’s her lunch card, well. She needs it.

And that’s how I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it one small kindness at a time. Thanking Miss Lori. Returning the student’s ID. Nominating staff members for awards. Helping every student I can help. Raising my child. Loving my husband and building a home. Bringing joy where I can, and safety and comfort where joy isn’t possible.

Please do the same.

change change change

Weekly actions report

This week I: 

Explored a couple news apps to see what tool I can use to get the information – from multiple sources – that will help me stay informed. 

Contacted my reps about several of the Cabinet appointment confirmations to express my concerns. 

Engaged in very limited rational debate wth people who disagree with me, and refrained from name calling to the fullest extent possible. 

Made the majority of my politically oriented posts on Facebook public, to resist the urge to just hold up in an echo chamber. 

Put a lot of effort into the planning and early implementation of the Freedom Series at work, educating our students about their rights under the first amendment. 

#mightyifitkillsme, food

#mightyifitkillsme: Eat what you love

There are two things I love about recommitting to paying attention to food: Discovering new things I love, and remembering things I love but had forgotten about. So here’s a new one, and an old one for this week.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow cooker Indian food? Okay. I’m in. I found two options that made sense to me, and combined them my way. I gave this one a shot because given the ingredient list I ended up with, the worst case scenario was that it would be a little boring. It wasn’t boring. It was yum.

In your slow cooker, combine:
1 can full-fat coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground ginger (could use fresh!)
1 can tomato paste
1 to 2 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Add:
2-3 lbs pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups quartered mushrooms
2 cups carrot rounds
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes

Cook on low for 6 hours. In the last half hour, season and thicken with cornstarch if desired, and put jasmine rice on to cook. Serves 6-8 for about 300 calories each.

Chopped vegetable salad

I really hate lettuce. It’s boring and annoying and bleh. I’ll eat a good spinach salad; spinach has flavor. Mixed spring greens can hold my attention via texture. But really, just skip it. What I want about salads are the other bits. So now I make salads out of just the other bits.

Combine:
1 cup chopped raw broccoli
1 cup chopped raw cauliflower
1 cup grated raw carrots
1 cup diced apple.
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (cherries, apricots, raisins, etc)
1/2 cup nuts or seeds (sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans, sunflower, etc)
To dress it, mix together:
Oil of your choice
balsamic vinegar (in whatever ratio suits your taste)
1tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of hot pepper relish

Whisk until blended, then salt to taste, and add cayenne if you need more kick. Pour over the salad, and divide into 3 portions of about 400 calories each. Enjoy!

change change change, insert emoticon here

This week, in service of building the world I want to live in, I am going to commemorate something we’ve been working on since March, but which was publicly announced today.

SUNY Potsdam Launches New Law Enforcement Training Institute

Early in the year, Toby White, our Director of Experiential Education, came to me to say that he was working with Sonny Duquette, former Director of another local police academy, on a proposal to build one at SUNY Potsdam. I was honestly baffled. A … police… academy? I know nothing about law enforcement training, and we’re a liberal arts college. Did this make sense? But Toby was sure it did. So I started doing research.

It makes all the sense in the world. There’s an academic article to be written about the process, the fit, the administrative hoops, the curricular integration, the needs assessments, but it sums up to that. It makes all the sense in the world.

We have a thriving Criminal Justice program, in a vibrant Sociology and Criminal Justice department. We are proud of the quality and appropriateness of our CJ curriculum, which prepares students for law enforcement careers. And we’re committed to applied and experiential learning. All the pieces are there.

So why is this part of my making a better world goals? Simple: Social change.

We have a student body that skews female, and which is 30-40% minority. Those groups are both underrepresented in law enforcement. So we’re opening the pipeline to a group of potential law enforcement officers who are more diverse than might otherwise be found in the employment pool.

We have a student body that skews towards economic disadvantage, and first-generation college attendees. In both cases, these students are focused on getting meaningful jobs straight out of college. By taking the academy while enrolled at Potsdam, they will hit the job market better qualified than many other applicants, and it will cost them less (or cost their hiring department less, thus making them yet more employable).

And we will be producing law enforcement professionals who have a four-year degree behind them, with a focused course of study in the principles of criminal justice systems, an understanding of social forces in America, the history of our institutions, beliefs, and laws, and more — and the New York Division of Criminal Justice police academy curriculum. The police officers with whom I’ve discussed this are thrilled that this is the caliber of officer candidate that we’ll be educating.

That last part is important to me; I don’t want to be the liberal asshole who says “our educated officer candidates are better than normal officer candidates.” I don’t mean that. I know there are police officers who graduate high school, attend the academy, and serve with honor, distinction, and skill. I do not mean, intend, or desire to demean that contribution. But I also believe that those officers can sometimes be disadvantaged by the things they don’t know, because their education to that point didn’t prepare them with more depth and nuance of knowledge and understanding.

So we’re going to help prepare officer candidates. We’re going to help open the door to law enforcement for more New Yorkers, and offer our police forces a different kind of pool to choose from when hiring. We can’t, and shouldn’t, change the criteria those forces use when they hire, but we can offer them more choices to pick from.

I’m proud of that.

insert emoticon here, storytime with G, The Tiniest Capen

Last night Gwyneth was screaming about how much she didn’t want to go to bed and how she needed Mama, which then transitioned into how much she didn’t want to go to bed and how much she needed Daddy when I came and swapped with him. I lay down next to her, and started telling her a story.

“Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gwyneth.”
She paused in her yelling, looked at me, gathered her breath, and screamed for Daddy again.
“She had a good friend named BaBa who was a little blue dog.”
Pause. Yell.
“And Gwyneth and BaBa decided to go on an adventure. They decided…”
Heaving breathing, but no more yelling.
“…to go find dinosaurs.”
Rapt attention.

Never underestimate the power of distraction, I thought. Once Gwyneth and BaBa had journeyed down the river to the jungle and into the big valley and seen the tyranosauruses and stegosauruses and ridden on the velociraptors, we did a solid 20 minutes of her thrashing and rolling and kicking and twiddling and twisting and basically not falling asleep. And I realized she was 100% distracting herself from sleeping. She was in zombie mode; when she walked into the living room earlier to protest that she was attempting bedtime without a parent (which she had requested ten minutes earlier), she literally was leaning on the wall in order to stay upright. Tired. Zombie. But distracted.

So I started the litany. “Close your eyes.”
She closes her eyes.
“Quiet feet.”
She thrusts her legs out straight and stops kicking.
“A big breath.”
She whooshes a breath in and out.
“Nope, close your eyes.”
They snap shut again.
“Now, snuggle BaBa.”
She tucks him under her chin.  Within moments her eyes are open.
“Close your eyes.”
Then she starts waving BaBa in the air.
“Snuggle BaBa.”
Toes start kicking me.
“Quiet feet.”

And repeat.

Five minutes later, she was out. And I thought, “I could get up and go do stuff. Or I could just hold this little bundle and …” I closed my eyes. Took a big breath. Relaxed my shoulders. And snuggled my daughter.

change change change

this week, I:

  • Signed up for Greenpeace alerts about environmental issues.
  • Contacted all my legislators at the national level about the importance of pollinator protection laws and regulations.
  • Contacted Rep. Elise Stefanik about my concerns about the Trump administration’s transition team and unqualified Cabinet appointees.
  • Put Stefanik, Gillibrand, and Schumer’s Watertown and Syracuse office phone numbers into my contacts for easy outreach.
  • Signed petitions and contacted appropriate offices via online campaigns in support of the presidential election recount efforts in Michigan.
  • Shared as widely as my network reached the need for donations to our campus food pantry.
change change change

I decided this morning that i’m setting myself a weekly challenge: On Fridays, I will share what I did this week to promote the issues I care about and shape the world into one I want to live in.

So.

This week, I contacted Rep. Jason Chaffetz asking when the House Oversight Committee would begin their investigations into the President-Elect’s conflicts of interest.
I signed and shared a Change.org petition demanding that New York taxpayers not be held financially accountable for the Trump family’s decision to live in NYC.
I purchased a subscription to the New York Times to support credible journalism.
I signed up to attend the Atlanta Women’s March on January 21 to demonstrate my support for women’s rights.

What did you do this week?

The Tiniest Capen

Hi

I lie down next to a sleeping Gwyneth, and in adjusting the pillow we share I wake her. Though I can’t see her, I can feel her waking up, her rumpled confusion in the dark. Instinctively, hoping to soothe her, I say “hi.” She answers, without hesitation, a chirpy “hi!” that belies her not-awake-ness. Realizing my mistake, and hoping to redirect, I calmly say “I’m going to sleep.” With equal calm she declares “I wake up.”
And then she burrows into my shoulder and falls back into unconsciousness. 

insert emoticon here, The animals, Uncategorized

King Jack


I’ve spent 15 years with Jack by my side. I nursed him from the dying kitten I found at PetSmart into the asshole young cat who stole pizza off my plate to the cranky middle aged cat who sat on Miles and tried to eat his face off to the old cat who wheezed like a freight train and yowled like a maniac but always purred when he slept on my pillow. All along I fed him clavamox every 6 months or so, knowing that someday it would be an upper respiratory infection that killed him. An upper respiratory infection (with extra bonus renal failure) is killing him. I’ve been waiting for this day since the vet told me my 2 pound kitten had lost nearly a pound and was going to die and reluctantly told me I could try to save him but I would end up sad. I saved him. I syringe fed him warm ham and beef baby food for days until he perked up and decided to live. When he got sick again three months later, then three months after that, then six months after that, well, I knew what life with this cat was gonna be like. 

And I didn’t care. 

My ex husband hated Jack. I should have known. 

Justin loves Jack, and Jack loves him back. They sleep together, many nights, with Jack against Justin’s side, head folded into Justin’s hand. When it’s a bad migraine day, Jack stays by his side, a silent sentinel. Justin has been syringe feeding him, and running his IV fluids. 

But this is it. He’s not getting better, despite those measures. The heartbreak is here. 

It was a good 15 years. Thanks for sharing them with me, buddy. 

The Tiniest Capen

Tiny Siren

Find the common thread:

  • the One Cup Of Cider rule
  • wearing a shirt
  • sharing building blocks and design control
  • hairbrushing
  • turning off Daniel Tiger
  • the No Snacks If You Reject Dinner Entirely rule
  • bedtime

If you guessed “things Gwyneth has had screaming angry tantrums about today,” you win a set of raw nerves and a headache. 

I gave in on the shirt, because who the hell cares. But the rest… it’s a wonder she has a voice left. 

I’m assuming we’ve reached “threenager”. I could do without it. Fortunately, she’s remarkable the rest of the time. It really does make up for it. I think the snuggles and kisses and conversations and play are like the hormones that flood your body after childbirth – they fog your mind to the reality of the preceding moments and make it possible to do tomorrow.