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.

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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. 

Sitcom life, The Tiniest Capen

Once upon a time there was a being, and it met a girl named Felicity Brewer.

The Being needed Felicity, so she chose him for her own. And her love made The Being grow so big, that the Brewers had to leave their home. The Being’s the best friend anyone could know. “He’s the greatest thing ever. I really think so. The Being’s so loyal, he’s there when you call. I love The Being who sought me out!” So they packed up the family car and the Brewers left the city. They moved to Birdwell Island and found many new friends waiting there to greet The Being and Felicity. “The Being’s so much fun, he’s a friend to us all.
I love The Being who sought us out!”

So, that’s obviously a story pitch for a feeder from another dimension who met a girl, confused her with a perception filter and began eating her emotions, then as it gained power convinced her to move to a remote island where the whole village, drawn by its power, came out to meet them and were assimilated as prey.

Or it’s the theme song to Clifford, the Big Red Dog, with names changed to protect the innocent. Your call.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

On Tuesday night, Justin and I left Gwyneth with Kyle (where she happily played hide and seek for at least 2 hours, repeatedly hiding under her bed, which made Kyle’s job a lot easier…) and went out to dinner and a movie. We had a great meal, laughed and clapped at Dr. Strange, and talked. We talked about the Venn Diagram of urban fantasy and space opera themes, and how our various favorites fit into them (the diagram seems to have the following categories: Romance and Sex, Weapon/Fight/Ship porn, Worldbuilding Depth, Metaplot, Character Depth). We talked about Kingdoms of Novitas. We talked about parenting. We talked about life.

We also talked about how I’ve recently increased the dose on my antidepressants, and it seems to be helping. I’m still worried, but I’m acting, whereas for the last few months I was pinned under the anxiety, fully aware of the issues I was facing and unable to find solutions. On Monday I started solving things again. So hooray!

Except then the election happened and the electorate betrayed my belief in who we are as a country. And I spiraled down again, late Tuesday night, after we came back from a perfect evening. I curled into Gwyneth’s bed with her, arm wrapped around her back, my cheek on her head, and wept. And whispered apologies into her sleeping ear. I’m so sorry that I brought you into this world. THIS world. I’m so sorry.

And on Wednesday, having not really slept, I stayed home from work and dealt with myself. I meditated. I did yoga. I went grocery shopping. I cooked. I read. I pet my dog. And I thought.

Here’s where I’ve landed.

Facebook no longer has a place on my phone. If I’m going to check in, I’m doing it sitting at a computer. The echo chamber and the reality channels posing as news are no longer getting pride of place in my personal time. They aren’t going to live in my pocket.

I will do what I can, where I can. That means my family, my friends, my community, and my elected officials. And I will be intentional and thoughtful about voicing my opinions, sharing my concerns, and agitating for change where I can. I will fight for my world. I will fight for my daughter’s world. I will listen to my friend Jill, who is reminding us that social change is possible at the local level, and that the local conversation is what informs the national one.

I will direct my energies in my library into fostering freedom of speech, building an understanding of our governing processes and our history of protest in our student body, and ensuring that everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — feels welcome in Crumb provided that they adhere to actions that support our mission.

And I will not dwell in the horror of what I see in the American people right now. I will remember that Italy has survived Berlusconi, if only barely. I will remember that the Civil Rights Movement was effective. That the Suffragettes succeeded. That feminism is not dead, and that equality is possible. Love can win. I will dwell in that place. Hope is the thing with feathers, and as long as I breathe, I hope.

The Tiniest Capen

This morning during daycare dropoff, as Miss Molly and Miss Elaina cheerfully managed the slightly special needs kid in Gwyn’s class, I walked out with that kid’s grandma. We both stopped in the office to compliment the teachers to their boss. And then we talked outside for a minute.

The grandma told me how grateful she was that the teachers integrate her grandkid, instead of placating or ignoring the “problem” that he can cause. I told her that when Gwyneth recites the list of children she’ll play with at daycare, she includes him in the list. The grandma said “which means they’re *friends*. He has *friends*.” with wonder in her voice. And then went on to say “sometimes he’s just so far ahead, and sometimes he’s really hard. But if you write him off, you’ll miss out. He won’t miss out. But you will.”

Gwyn’s not gonna miss out.