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.

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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.

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. 

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.

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Justin has Lyme Disease. (We believe; his doctor does, too, and there’s lots of circumstantial evidence like 3 other people testing positive from the same camping trip, but his test came back negative.) That means that for the last two weeks he’s felt absolutely awful. Exhausted, in pain, feverish, and generally sad and frustrated.

As a side effect, I keep wondering in the dark of night if I also have Lyme Disease. Or maybe mono (which has also been diagnosed in one of our Pennsic companions). Or cancer. Or a heart problem. (I LOVE my late-night anxiety.) Because I’m just tired. So tired. Tired from working, from parenting (Gwyneth is flatly opposed to daycare this year), from taking care of my sick husband, from having my household transition (Maggie went back to college, Zara moved in for the semester), from having my work transition (students are back!), from my own pain issues (bad shoulder times). Just tired. I took a sick day yesterday to take care of Gwyneth so Justin could rest, and I ended up taking two naps — one unplanned for an hour because G wanted to snuggle in the morning, and then in the afternoon while she slept. Both times she got up, and I didn’t even notice. Apparently the second nap she came and told me she was awake and I should wake up and I have absolutely zero recollection of that. I slept straight on through. So my exhaustion means I wonder if I’m silently dying. Thanks, brain.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Last night Justin didn’t have much more energy, but he seemed like himself again. He was laughing. And making sweet jokes. And just… he was there. He was present. He was more than a sad, sick man. He was my partner. My Justin. This morning while I was at the chiropractor he got Gwyneth dressed for school, tortured her with a hairbrush for a while (let’s discuss toddlers and curls, shall we? NO. Let’s not.), and fed her breakfast. And I came home to a kid who was ready for daycare, and a husband who was smiling at me. He still feels like shit, but he’s back.

And just in time; today’s our wedding anniversary. We’ve been married for three years, now. I was 4 months pregnant when we got married, though we’d decided to get married well before Gwyn was conceived. Justin was the most patient partner I could have asked for during my deeply neurotic bouts of worry and concern and perfectionism while I was pregnant, and during my postpartum phase where I was even more uneven. He is an amazing father, and this life is what I wanted. And I have it.

There were the years before we got married, too, though. Those matter, too. We met in 2003, shared a circle of friends for years. We got together romantically in 2009, after the dissolution of our previous relationships. We were both pretty fragile, deeply frustrated, and uncertain about where we were going, at that point — lots of “anywhere but here” in our lives. But there was a whole lot of chemistry, and a whole lot of convergence of values and dreams and goals. We built this relationship on those three pillars, and we’re still building.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. It’s our wedding anniversary, but the three years since we got married are just a small part of who we are and what we mean to each other. It’s a marker to celebrate, though, and it represents the entirety of who we are to each other. And I can’t express clearly enough how glad I am to see my Justin emerge from his illness. I missed him. He’s crucial to my well-being. Just being with him and knowing he’s there makes me feel less tired, and less anxious. And that… well. I couldn’t ask for more.

I love you.

insert emoticon here, working mother

Hey, world. PSA for those looking for me this week, and wondering about radio silence.
Saturday I spend the day doing laundry, packing, and playing with my kiddo as much as possible. Saturday night I head to Montreal, and Sunday morning we fly to Santa Clara, Cuba, then we drive to Cienfuegos. I’ll be there for a week — coming home next Sunday. I don’t expect to have much useful internet access for most of that week.
I’m really, really excited.
I really don’t want to leave my daughter.
More from the other side.
gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here, working mother

Do not check your email.

Last night I listened as my daughter counted to 10, independently, by picking up 10 strawberries and naming the number as she put them down. Justin and I stared at each other in joyful amazement. What an awesome thing the human brain is. Of course, shortly after that she decided to run to the kitchen naked while getting her diaper changed for bedtime, and she finished her snack of strawberries and pears in the nude… and then peed all over the toddler tower. When it became annoying to her that there was a puddle, she put her feet out at the very edges of the platform and stood around it.  So we’ll get to potty training when she’s damn well good and ready, I think. Because right now she does not give a single fuck, and I have no extra energy to give to things she just does. not. care. about.

On that same theme, I had a fury breakdown at work last week. So mad I got up and left a meeting. Never done that before. But then I came back, and continued the dialogue, and we found common ground, and we agreed to a path forward, and our followup emails agree we did find common ground… it’s a good thing. I stood up and left, and walked the perimeter of my library, breathing and thinking, because I needed to let go of the emotion — release the thing I just do not care about — and find the core of strength that is my determination and confidence to accomplish the things I do care about. There’s a whole lot of negative energy flying around campus these days (the end of the semester is chaos time), and I need to release it from my head.

As part of that release, I went away from the real world this weekend — it was the May Kingdoms of Novitas event — and left my kid with her “brother” and extra parents. KoN is my home away from home. Those people are my family away from my family. That world is my world away from this one. I disconnected, I didn’t check my email, I trusted Gwyn’s happiness to Sam and Suzy, and I just played. I trusted that I can do this. That I am allowed to disconnect. That it’s okay if I don’t work — on housework, at my office, solving all the problems that were ever problems — every day, all day. And I played. LARPing is creative play for adults — and we always say children need play. I say adults need to play, too. And playing doesn’t have to involve drinking or sports with teams and rules… sometimes it can involve improv acting, storytelling, hiking, and hitting other adults with sticks. With rules. And teams. Some of them sort of mafia-like. But I digress.

I played. I hiked 5 miles. I told stories. I practiced my improv skills. I problem solved in a scenario where all problems had resolutions.  I ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. I sat in the sun and laughed. I spent 36 hours with one of my families. I did not check my email. I did not think about whether my daughter talks enough, or when she’ll pee on the potty.

Worth it.


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Today in a staff meeting the saying “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” came up. I smiled. I heard it.

This week has sucked. Suuuuuucked. I texted Justin this morning and simply said “I hate everything.” Another series of annoying things happened and I was coming to this text box to write on this blog about how much everything sucks and list the litany of sucky things that have happened to me this week. But, really, I don’t actually want to live that way. Be that way. And I don’t want any advice or assistance, so … why put it out there?

Just know this: One more stupid/bad/frustrating thing happens to me today and I might just lie down where I stand and pull my scarf over my face and go to sleep. Sleeping in the face of adversity seems like an epic success of coping mechanisms.