A year of accomplishments, scatterplots, new resolutions

Poor, sad, little neglected blog. I used to think that I did not have time for writing while I finished my dissertation. This year demonstrated that a preoccupied mind prevents reflection as well. I have been working on this draft for many days and struggling to verbalize the happy and not so happy of it all. Americans are supposed to be the outlier on the happy scale, more upbeat about their days than most people. When we are not in that place, it can be hard.

FT_GDP_Scatterplot

At the end of last year, I was not selected for a promotion that I fiercely wanted and had stringently prepared. It was a position I had strived for in the past, only to be discouraged from applying due to lack of a terminal degree. This “job” was not the driving force behind completing my Ph.D., but the degree was one of a series of steps that I took to prepare for a “next step” in my career. Side note, being rejected from a dream job five days before holiday vacation is not ideal for one’s self-esteem and seasonal jocularity. I recommend against it all costs.
This year began with a new boss (not getting the “job” meant working for the person who did) and the adjustments that come with a change in leadership. It also began with a new opportunity.
A position with an education non-profit came on the horizon and a new job search began. For those of us who lament the prodigious time required for campus employment, this process reached new heights. Non-profits include a scaffolding of decision makers. Whether in discussion with a screening committee, organization leaders, elected board, and the membership; each audience sought a different answer and a different set of skills. The job posted in January and concluded with a hire announcement in late September (more on this later). A colleague termed it as the job search that rivaled a pregnancy.
Meanwhile, real life work this year included financial shortfalls, intense budget negotiations, staff reorganization to address financial shortfalls, a staff member on family leave, and a staff member following a partner to new employment. Even knowing in advance, it is difficult to prepare for the transition of a dedicated colleague. Rewriting position descriptions, preparing a search committee, waiting on HR approvals, the calendar was inching along. And all of this while attending to the needs of smart and amazing students (who sometimes have tragic days) and doing my best to be a good leader and mentor for the amazing student staff and graduate assistants that I am lucky to employ. The wiser than her years, Stacy Oliver-Sikorski, recently opined “There are really awful days amidst the really great days, and we need to be more honest with ourselves and others about that.”
Facing those “awful” days and separating work from family needs was complicated this year. I am enormously grateful for a loving and supportive partner who keeps me grounded. I am happy and proud to be mom to an amazing teen and tween who are high achieving and in search of their strengths. They are my most important work every day.
I will be embarking on a new adventure in the not so distant future. Despite every obstacle, 2014 will be remembered on the happy scale as the year that I resolved to get my dream job. And succeeded.
More soon. Happy 2015!
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Images: 2011

I enjoy recording days and travels with my iPhone. I have never been good at remembering a camera, but usually have my phone, so it’s nice to keep track of life. Here are a few images from 2011.

Many of these photos are taken with the Hipstamatic app. It allows you to alternate your lens, flash or film to create photographic images that look less digital, more real life. You should try it.

I like form and shape and strength in pictures. ~Herb Ritts

Craggy light

Winter’s craggy light (January)

Electrical platform, Hoover Dam (February)

Electrical platform, Hoover Dam (February)

Stacy and Debra, Chicago (February)

Drawer knobs

Drawer knobs (March)

With Mini-Me

With Mini-Me (April)

Fat lip

Mini-Me stops soccer ball with face (April)

Cloud

Storm cloud (May)

Hair Ball

Hair Ball (May)

Fire tower

Fire Tower with lens flare, Eureka Springs, AR (May)

Bridge

Golden Gate from Fort Point (August)

Mini-Me at Golden Gate

Mini-Me at Golden Gate (August)

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach, San Francisco (August)

Turbo prop engine

Radial engine, Ottumwa (September)

Old Mill

Old Mill, Providence, RI (October)

autumn tree

Stubborn autumn leaves (November)

reflection

Sun and chrome reflection (December)

Set Phasers to Stun

Our family just returned from a visit to my in-law’s home near an artist community in northwest Arkansas.

After enjoying a wonderful afternoon of shopping and a delicious meal at a local restaurant, our crew stopped by the grocery to grab a gallon of milk while the grandparents, who had driven separately, headed home to unlock the house.

I ran into the store and quickly dashed out with milk in a paper sack and wallet in hand. As I approached our car, the bag disintegrated, the milk and my wallet went bouncing across the parking lot, and dollar bills went flying with the wind. Doubled over in giggles I looked to my family for help, but they were laughing even harder. I ignored them and the other shoppers playing witness to my clumsiness and rushed around to gather the milk and my money. As I jumped in our car, none of us could speak or breathe as we were brought to tears with the hilarity of the situation. They finally explained that at precisely the moment my grocery sack collapsed, my son had shot me with his new gift from grandma, a Cosmic Blaster.

Safe for children ages 3 years and older. Dangerous for mothers who forbid their sons from using them in the car.

Not the Alice you were looking for

My partner and I have daily conversations about who can depart work at what time and transport our children from school to home to soccer/piano/library/name your favorite miscellaneous activity. I mentioned that we need an “Alice” to help keep our busy schedules.

The Dad: Alice? Do we have zombies running around?

Me: Huh? You know, Alice. Alice from The Brady Bunch.

The Dad: Oh, I thought you meant Alice from Resident Evil.

First-Year Experience Prep: The Quiz

Our dean of students office contributes to sessions throughout the university’s fifteen summer orientation programs including a welcome, faculty panel, family program and resource fair. Prior to the faculty panel that I facilitate most mornings, our orientation staff shares a list of discussion questions, a quiz of sorts, for parents and families to share with their student on the ride home from orientation. This quiz is a handy tool for any prospective first-year student and for the families they leave behind.

What is something you learned at orientation that surprised you?

What are your academic and social expectations for the first semester of college?

How will you handle things if your expectations aren’t met?

How often do you think we’ll talk and communicate during your first semester? What
will be the best times for us to connect?

How do you feel about your class schedule? Are you excited about your major?

What will you do if you get yourself into a jam?

How we should approach discussing money while you’re at school?

What information will we share through third-party access at the university?

What kind of meal plan do you think will be best for you?

How will we prepare for move-in day?

What will it be like to say goodbye?

When you think about beginning your first day at the university, what are you most excited about? What are you most nervous about?


What other topics should first-year students and their families discuss before the fall semester?

Catch and Release

The story of an Italian family who so smothered the social growth of their 12-year old boy that they are now being charged with child abuse was featured in Time Magazine this week. The boy had the motor skills of a toddler and had been so overprotected that that he could not mentally or physically keep up with children his own age. The article also cited a recent psychological study finding that 37% of Italian men from the ages of 30 to 34 still live with their mothers. Which makes me think that perhaps the hovering helicopter parents that we encounter in U.S. higher education are not all that bad.

In my student affairs work with first-generation college students and their families, I am frequently reminded of the Chinese Proverb,

Give a person a fish, and you feed them a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.

Parents will call or email with questions regarding a program, service or special campus event. They are not seeking information for themselves; they are questions for their student. Although the intent is well meaning, I will generally invite parents to have their student contact me. My reasoning is that it is critically important for students to build their own networks of resources, on campus and in life. The “teach a person to fish” proverb is essential in all matters related to a college education. There is a lot to think about for an 18-year old in the transition to college. Parents and families need to set the teaching example, not just do the job for students.

Transcending feelings

David Letterman isn’t generally someone I look to for parenting advice, but last night in his discussion with guest, Julia Roberts, the joy and love that he feels for his son and for parenthood really came through.

Here’s the other thing, if you want to get spiritual about it, why doesn’t that feeling, that everyone on the planet has, why doesn’t that transcend to keep us from killing one another?

Yeah. Why is that?

This video includes the discussion within the first 1:20.