They Are Wrong…

communicationAt 6:45 this morning our daughter asked us a question that sat us right on our butt.  I’m still in shock.  I’d expected questions like the one she posed, but certainly not in kindergarten.  Hubby and I have even had hypothetical conversations about what we would do in “X” situation.  Yeah, you can’t prepare for it and especially not at 6:45 in the morning.  Our daughter asked,

Why would someone say that white people and black people shouldn’t mix?

I’m a Sociologist.  I talk race for a living.  I can facilitate the heck out of conversations whether online, face to face or using an interactive video system.  I get high ratings for this kind of work.  My eloquent first response this morning?  “Uh…” (deer in headlights, WHAT THE HELL running through my brain, and there isn’t enough caffeine in the world for this face).

Hubby stepped up and quietly (like he was approaching a time bomb) asked, “Honey, where did you hear that?” Dr. Sociologist is still saying, “Uh….” At this point, Munchkin sees our faces and knows that she has said something wrong, but we do not want her to get upset because she NEEDS to be able to ask us why someone would say these things.  We know this is one of those moments.  I finally snap out of it and hug her reassuringly and tell her we’d really like to know where she heard it.  From this, we deduced it was at school though she is still pretty cagey about where in school.


A million things were running through my head.  I was thinking about a conversation I’d JUST HAD LAST NIGHT with a friend about race, education, and a pretty messed up situation. I was thinking, “IT’S 6:45 IN THE MORNING!”  I was thinking,  “Why has my baby been exposed to this thinking?!”

And, I knew we had to keep it simple.  We had to keep it on the level of a 5-year-old.  We very slowly told her that we love all people.  That all people can love each other.  That love isn’t just for some people and not for others. We talked about all the people in her world who are wonderfully unique that she loved and who loved her.  We talked about how much better her life is for knowing those people.  We talked about how much she would be missing if she did not have them.  We bumbled through.  We stumbled.

We then told her, and I think this is key, that the person who said those things is WRONG.  We did not chalk it up to “some people just think differently.” No.  We flat out told her that they are WRONG.  We also took it a step further that might land us in the teacher conference one day, but we also told her that when she hears things like that she has our permission to say it is WRONG.  I feel like we at least did that part alright.

I feel like at age 5 that is about the best we can do for now–keep it simple while also giving her a voice to tell someone that kind of thinking is wrong.  We can try so hard to protect her, but I cannot protect her from playground talk, talk at dance class, things she may overhear in the grocery store.  But, I can teach her how to respond to these situations and remind her of the values and people we hold dear.

I’m sitting at work writing this now.  I’ve spent the first nearly 2 hours at work writing welcome messages to my online students in race, class, and gender and to my sociology of gender students.  I’m reminded how important these classes are in trying to overcome these early messages kids get and then they carry into young adulthood.  I’m not often at a loss for words, but this morning just kicked me in the stomach and made my heart hurt.



The Road to Independence


First Day of Kindergarten!


When Munchkin went off to kindergarten 2 weeks ago, she did so excited, confident and, frankly, like a boss.  In fact, she told me after we brought her in, “You can go now, Mama.  I’ve got this.”  And, she certainly did.  On day 2 she didn’t want us to bring her in.  She wanted to be dropped off and walk in on her own.  By Tuesday of the next week, she decided our flimsy excuses of why she couldn’t ride the school bus didn’t match up and so she started riding the bus home.  Part of me, like any mother doing this for the first time, was a little sad that she did all of this without needing her old Mama very much.  The other part of me was reminded that this is what I am training her for.

At 5 it seems a little extreme to say I’m training her for independence.  She still needs Mommy and Daddy in so many way and will always need us as her parents.  But, even as she hits kindergarten there are things we are doing that increases her level of independence and self-sufficiency a little more each day.  She thinks it’s complete crap that I won’t jump up and get her whatever she needs.  She is perfectly capable of getting herself a drink, getting her snacks and, as her Daddy wants to push, even start making her own sandwiches for lunch.  We war over cleaning her room, picking up her toys and doing chores around the house.  She looked at me a little shocked this summer when I told her it was part of the gig of being the younger cousin that you sometimes were teased (in a loving, but definitely older cousin kind of way).  I am reminded of my own days of being “Donde-Magombe” though now when they try to call me that I tell them it is “Dr. Magombe” to them.  Good laughs.  Good memories.  Horrible nickname.

But, she is perfectly capable and needs to learn from these early tasks that she can take care of things herself.  It starts now so that it is not a complete surprise the first time she is told to figure it out for herself.  She needs to learn the skills early on so that when bigger challenges come up she can feel confident in creating solutions on her own.  This includes learning to deal with conflict in school, being able to handle it when she fails at something, working hard toward a goal and feeling the great sense of accomplishment when she does it and learning, as much as I do not want to think this way, that Mommy and Daddy may not always be around to fix life’s challenges.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have always felt this way.  I was raised with an emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency mainly due to circumstances.  But, this was brought to the forefront again this week with seeing the devastating loss 11 children are going through in Oxford, MS.  It was brought to the forefront with the responses of those children in the light of tragedy in considering how they will take care of their brothers and sisters.  Those kinds of attitudes just do not appear in children.  They are carefully cultivated by parents.  I was reminded once again in a very stark and sobering way, that as much as I want to be there for Munchkin and be the one to make sure she’s never hurt or in trouble or has to need for anything, life may deal a very, very different hand.  I was reminded once again that my task is not just to love my child unconditionally, but also do the very hard work of building all of those really hard, difficult skills they need.  I have thought of those children constantly and also of those parents who probably never dreamed of this outcome.

I was much older when I lost my precious father and there were many things I still depended on him for—a listening ear and his humor just to name a few.  That void alone has been difficult to manage.  But, again, those skills of coping do not just happen.  You do not suddenly reach a specific age and BOOM!  Coping skills!  Those are also learned through a life time of challenges and problem solving.  So, next time when she yells that I am, “Completely unfair and I am ruining her life!” over making her do something she does not want to do, I’ll just keep remembering that one day she may still yell that something is ruining her life, but she will know how to pick up and get to figuring it out.  And, it is with all of my hope that I am the one there to provide a little humor and a listening ear as she rants and raves about whatever it may be she is facing but also with pride as she figures it out.

What I miss…

dad and abigail



Today I’m thinking about all those things I miss about having Dad healthy and here with us.

It goes without saying that I miss everything. Some things make sense in terms of what I miss, but others are memories that mean a lot to me and may seem trivial to others.

I miss his voice.  I do have a DVD with clips of family reunions where his voice is heard.  I play that more than I probably should.  I was devastated when I learned that my cell phone had automatically deleted his voicemails to me and there was no way to get them back.  I get scared sometimes that I cannot hear his voice in my head.  I miss his voice.

I miss his special ring tone and text tone.  We talked or texted everyday.  I’d hear his text tone and get a smile and welcomed the break to text for a few minutes.  Or, I’d give a small laugh after I made his ring tone drum corp and he’d call.  Yes, I miss talking to him and sharing with him.  But, I miss that sound that tells me he is on the other end.  It seems strange, I know, but when you are used to those sounds and what they represent you miss them.  No one else can be my “gong” or “Drum Corp” notifications.

I miss his reassuring hand on my shoulder.  Dad and I could have deep conversations about life and about things going on in the world.  Sometimes, during really bad times, at the of our conversations we couldn’t say anymore and he’d put his hand on my shoulder, his lips would be tight across the front and the only sound that would come out would be, “tut.” He got it.  I got it.  I knew we’d be okay.

I miss his fried potatoes.  Man, I do not know what that man did to those potatoes, but I’ve never been able to recreate them.  Hubby loved Dad’s breakfasts when we were home.  He did them right.  Dad would laugh and tell me they are just normal potatoes fried in a pan, but I don’t believe him.  He was saying something to those potatoes to make them so good.

I miss him complaining to me that I am messing up his lawn.  He would OCCASIONALLY let me mow the lawn at the house.  But, boy, he would pace (he’d exaggerate that pace to make it dramatic) but not really because he loved his lawn and loved having it “just so.”  Hubby now takes that task because, like Dad, he doesn’t think I can mow a lawn properly. But, I love being on the riding lawn mower at home and coming over every inch of the land he loved, but miss the ball cap being thrown to the ground (in a comical manner) and the clutching of his heart (Fred Sanford style) when I would mess up the mow lines.

I miss him giving Abigail Pepsi, ice cream sandwiches, candy, cakes–you name it–he’d give it to her and then tell me he “forgot” I didn’t give her that kind of stuff.  I miss him sending a weekly DVD for her.  I miss him calling just to listen to her babble.  I hate that my daughter will never know the kind of Grandpa he wanted to be.

The list could go on and on, but for some reason these are the ones on my mind.  But, I also miss something else.

I miss the person I was before he died.  The saying “Death changes everything.” is no exaggeration.  There is no way I can be the same person before as I am after.  I live a full life.  I laugh.  I joke. I love.  But, I’m not the same. You are fundamentally altered after such a loss.

While it will be sad to see another year pass without him, I will remember to laugh as much as I can during this hard month because I am so fortunate to have so many things to miss and love about that man.










Today fear hit me in such a way that I am still processing everything that happened and my own feelings about it. Writing seemed the only way to be able to start reflecting on the events and a part of my new reality I haven’t confronted before.  One that is always in the back of my mind, but I never dwell on it instead choosing to believe it will be sometime in the far, far distance.

It was a regular day.  I was grading papers at my desk thinking toward my afternoon class.  My phone rang. It was Mom. Except when I answered it wasn’t Mom. It was her co-worker telling me she was having chest pains and needed to go to the hospital. I RAN from the office and probably broke a few laws getting to my Mom.

Mom on the gurney. Mom hooked to machines.  Mom looking SO pale and frail.  The calm nature of the doctors and nurses. Me screaming in my head as I observed all of this, “Why are you so calm?  Don’t you know this is my Mom?  Don’t you know this is the only parent I have left?”  Me speaking to the nurses in my own calm voice answering questions about her medical history, family medical history, current medication–so many questions.

Waiting–oh the waiting!  I thought answers about heart attacks would be quicker. Nope–a 3 hour wait to evaluate cardiac enzymes or whatever they are called. Pacing, sitting, standing, looking at my phone, pacing some more, sitting some more.

And then finally the non-answer. She didn’t have a heart attack, but the heart is a funny, funny muscle. She could have been feeling something but only tests from a cardiologist will be able to tell us more.  The ER visit today was to solely tell us she didn’t have a heart attack.  Then, he kind of made me laugh when he essentially told us he was also going to treat her for gas, because you know, it could also be that.  I brought Mom home and then proceeded to nearly give her a heart attack with the number of times I crept into her room to check on her.  And, I will likely do this for some time to come or until we have more answers.  I definitely will be these doctors worst nightmare in the weeks to come as we have these tests.  I want to understand every detail.

But, I’m also sitting here thinking about my support system.  Wow, these people cover me in love and concern when I need it.  Hubby was home ensuring Munchkin was happy and content and, above all, oblivious to what was happening. Texting and checking in.  Making me laugh even when I didn’t want to.  My sister–stomach all torn up with worry right with me–feeling the same fears.  Mind going a million different directions–none of them good.

Two other women, the most unlikeliest of friendships, like always were ready to do whatever I needed.  These two women have been the most amazing friends since we moved to town.  I’m the youngest, J is 10 years older than me and R is 10 years older than J.  I do not think I would have been able to stand, stay focused and be as healthy as I am without their constant friendship.  I do not thank these two women enough for being such good friends and strong examples to me about motherhood, friendship and overcoming challenges. They jumped in and took care of what needed to be done at work and then just kept in touch with me and would have been in that ER in 10 minutes flat if needed.

Later, I reached out to some family to let them know what was happening.  I was scared.  Just needed some reassurance.  They always provide the level headedness.  And, as always, I wish my Dad’s family was just a little closer distance wise during times likes these and that my sister in law was just down the road.

I got home and I reached out to my silent, constant–K.  She knows the deep rooted fear since she lost her father many years ago now. She was right there and you know what, I know with out a doubt in my heart that if I had said, “K–I need you here.” 8 hours later she would have been in my driveway.  She shared how she’s dealt with the fears.  The healthy ways she’s tried to channel it.

And there are many more.  I know that.  And I know I am so blessed in having this support.

But, I’m not going to lie.  It freaking sucks to have this fear of losing my one parent.  I have many friends who have already lost a parent or both and I think, “How do we do this?”  How do we keep all the fears in check or how do you keep the grief in check?  How do I make sure this episode doesn’t put me back into that dark place I was a year ago; two years ago? I just don’t know.

I know I will have this fear, this far reaching, deep fear of losing my only parent.  I know that I have to recognize the fear, deal with it in a healthy way and then handle the future with the same calm on the outside with hopefully more calm on the inside.  I also know that I still have an amazing circle of people around me who will help me with whatever comes my way.


What Do you Do for a Living?



This morning I was reading the comments about the firing of a university professor in Missouri. This post is not about that situation. What I was astounded by were the comments people were making about university professors. Here are just some of the lovely words: stupid, dumb, libtards, ideologues, brainwashers, faithless, godless, lazy, cushy jobs, all deserve to be fired, not worth our time, not worth our money and I could go on and on.

It’s not the first time I’ve railed against the way people talk about this profession. But, maybe I do not do enough to educate people about what exactly the job of a university professor entails. Maybe I do not do enough to dispel the stereotypes (like we are all sitting in our ivory towers, collecting a pay check doing nothing). But, then again maybe this wouldn’t do any good because it seems that these days we are happier with our over-generalizations of the world and explaining the world through sound bites and memes.  I’ve certainly seen it with other professions. But, I’m going to try.

I’ll tell you this much. These perceptions of our profession matter as we are going through this budget battle. It matters if our legislators believe these stereotypes because they will make decisions based on those and not the reality of the university professors across this state that devote their lives to educating our young people so they can compete in the 21st century economy. Research tells us that it is often perception, not fact that rules the halls of policy making.

I first want to start with the perception that we do not want to be here. Or better yet the perception we do not want to be in the classroom teaching. Like any profession I encountered some that were better at the art of teaching than others. But, they always had time for me and were passionate about the material they were teaching. I encountered professors that did not spend much time in the classroom. Why? Because they were doing brilliant research and making a difference in our social world in that way. They were making the key medical breakthroughs. They were inventing the next round of engineering technology. I also encountered wonderfully passionate graduate teaching assistants (who, by the way, contrary to public perception all have a Master’s degree and are working on a PhD. They are not just some person off the street we stick in the classroom. In fact, as a starting point they all have more education than many of the hard working teachers in K-12). Are they young? Mostly. Are they inexperienced? Yes. But show me a profession where new people are not inexperienced. I also work with wonderfully committed adjunct faculty who, in some cases are practitioners in their field, but in other cases are the under-appreciated and under rewarded backbone of our universities. . In my lengthy educational career I’ve encountered 1 professor that I thought should probably retire and their heart was just not in it anymore. I’ve encountered professors that probably needed some work on their social skills. I’ve encountered professors that are not always the best communicators. But, I do believe every profession in our economy has the same. It’s called working with people with different personalities.

I’ve debated hard ideas in the classroom as a student and as a professor. It is not brainwashing to talk about different perspectives. It is not brainwashing to ask students to consider how empirical research matches up with public perception. It is not brainwashing to ask people to stop over generalizing. It is not brainwashing to ask students to critically reflect upon the messages in the media. It’s not brainwashing to help them develop good analytical skills. It is not brainwashing to teach in an in-depth way about the effects of social structures on our daily lives. It’s called education.

My colleagues work HARD to provide relevant experiences, internships, study abroad, community based research, community partnerships, for our students. These things do not just happen. It requires us to be in the community making connections so that we can place our students. I spend just as many hours evaluating the quality of an argument made as I do correcting grammar, helping to make them better writers, providing opportunities for public speaking, teaching basic math so we can do statistics. I spend time in my office talking about ideas one on one. I spend hours preparing good lectures, activities, and readings for students. More times than I can count I was quickly restructuring class because of a major event in the world that they needed a space to discuss what happened. I also spend a good deal of my time as a cheerleader telling them they CAN do this and they CAN become a college graduate. I spend time connecting them with career counseling, financial aid, mental health services, been called on to accompany students to a difficult court hearing, written dozens and dozens of letters of recommendation, cried with students who’ve experienced loss, jumped for joy as they’ve accomplished their goals. And, in my spare time I also do research. I serve our local community and university in my position as professor. I serve on boards, committees, attend multiple events just to support the residents of our city. I do all of this in the capacity of a professor. The idea that we are all sitting around “doing nothing” is preposterous. The idea that we only teach 1 class a semester is ridiculous. We wouldn’t be educating the sheer number of students we do if every professor in the United States had a teaching load of 1 class per semester. Professors that have that kind of load are in their labs the rest of the time WITH students. Just because they are not in the traditional classroom does not mean they are not teaching.

Let me say again—I am modeling the experience I had in higher education from my Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s degree and PhD. My colleagues are modeling the same thing. We learned this from our professors. I am listening to the activity going on in my halls right now. I’m hearing advising appoints happening, calls being made to bring more classes to our students, and I am about to start a morning of skype and conference calls with my students who I teach online as I do every Friday morning. I am modeling what I experienced—the great professors I had that did the same for me.  And, I’m not giving this laundry list of what we do as a list of complaints.  I am giving it for people to understand the role we play.

If you do not know what is happening in our halls of higher education—ask. Visit. Come see for yourself.

Do we get this business of higher education right all the time? Absolutely not. Are we sometimes our own worst enemies? Sure. Do we heatedly debate the ideas of what higher education should look like? Yes. Does this debate get ugly sometimes? Yes. Do we have people that do not always represent our profession in the best light? Yes.  As an institution do we need to be more flexible to change?  Yes. Do we work with people we do not always agree with?  YES.  Do we sometimes view the world differently?  Yes.  But, is that really a terrible thing?

Do not take the over-generalizations and stereotypes as the measure of what we do. Do not take that as a measure of the amazing women and men who walk into the classroom every single day to teach the young adults who will be leading our future businesses, designing the latest engineering and medical innovations, solving our hard social problems, policing our streets, teaching our children, making judicial decisions, and creating new ideas about how we want to be as a society.  And, when you hear these misconceptions–speak up.  Just as you should when you hear anyone lumping every single person into a single category.  SPEAK UP.  SAY SOMETHING.

And by the way, I just got off the phone with a former student who just had to call to tell me about a new idea she’s had to work on and see if I had some more information that I could share.  THAT is what your professors in higher education are supporting and doing.

Owning Success



Today I attended a women in leadership conference at my university.  It was a fantastic day of both learning from some very accomplished women in academia and talking with others recognizing  we share some common characteristics when it comes to how we operate as women leaders.

I took a lot away from today.  Women are less likely to own their success.  We are more likely to downplay accomplishments.  Further, we are less likely to apply for jobs if we do not feel we meet the requirements 100% where men will apply for a job when they only meet 50% of requirements.  I gave real thought to what I want to do in academic leadership.  I thought deeply about work/life satisfaction.

But, there was one take away that fit me like a glove and something I’ve decided could be detrimental to the future I want to make in academic leadership.  I am not very good about owning success.  I am terrible at taking credit for things I’ve accomplished.  Anytime someone points out things I’ve done I 100% of the time talk about the people who opened doors for me.  I am not exaggerating when I say I doubt I’ve even uttered the words, “I’m successful.” I am incredibly uncomfortable talking about the time and energy I’ve devoted to my career and the outcomes I’ve had.

Today, I realized that it is ok to claim my success.  Yes, I’ve been very, very fortunate to have amazing mentors.  I’ve had incredible opportunities presented to me. I have a fantastic support system. But, today I recognized that I walked through the doors and I have worked very hard to get to where I am.  It was not luck.  It was not chance.  I intentionally worked toward my success.

I’m a numbers person and three statistics that were presented today really made me think about this idea of owning success.

.3 percent of Native Americans hold a PhD

2 percent of the US population hold a PhD

Only 30 percent of tenured professors are women

When I look at those stats I realize that I need to own my success not just for me, but for the young women I am committed to mentoring. I need to model confidence.  I need to model that it is ok to share about the long road of work it took to get to where I am.

I’ll still struggle with this.  Even now, I read this and think, “UGH, I sound like such a big head. What an ego.”

But, I look at the picture at the top of this post and know that I owe it to my students.  They need to hear about our stories and know our successes to strive for their own.  Until today, I’d never thought about how downplaying my success perpetuates a cycle.

So, from now on I will still recognize the beautiful collaborations I work with, but I will also acknowledge my own hard work.  And, by writing it down and making it public it makes it more likely I will follow through.


Could you Get on the Bus?

do it now


Each time I teach Collective Behavior and Social Movements I show the documentary, “Freedom Riders:  Could you Get on the Bus?”  This documentary brilliantly tells the story of the Freedom Ride movement and gives extraordinary insight into what compels people to join social movements.  But, not only what compels people to join movements but what drives them to put themselves at risk, even in the face of death, for a cause.  I’ve watched this documentary no less than 20 times now over the course of my career and every time it forces me to consider my own commitment and passion when it comes to social justice issues.  But, today it caused me to think, “What is my bus?”  How am I participating in creating a more just society.  Have I lost my motivation?  What am I really doing?

Most often when we think of social movements we think of participation being in the form of protests, petitions, organizations that promote change, etc.  I haven’t participated in a social protest or march for some time.  I don’t often write op ed pieces speaking out on those social issues I am passionate about.  I see fellow colleagues that do those activities quite well.  Their words inspire.  Their participation in protest inspires me.

I look at our global society today and so many situations break my heart.  I still see us wrestle with racial inequality.  I see our girls inundated with messages that are detrimental to their definition of self.  I hurt for the poverty I see not only in my own backyard, but also the world.  I become infuriated when in 2016 a city such as Flint, Michigan is without clean drinking water–a basic human right.  I cannot even comprehend or wrap my mind around the suffering of those children, women and men making the journey from Syria.

Then, I listen to all the noise I hear and see on a daily basis.  I hear the ideologues.  I hear the media screaming.  I see the memes.  So much of this closes off people to really talking through and listening to the reality of people who are unlike us or have experienced life in a much different way.  It causes us to define hard social issues as simple, “either you are with us or against us” causes.  It causes us to think that a simple picture or meme can really explain complexity of social life.  Just because people have a different experience than us does not mean our experience is wrong or their experience is wrong.  But, it does mean that we must talk about why they differ.  It means we have to do more to understand each other.

In all of this I’ve decided that my bus is the classroom.  My bus is allowing students a quiet space to have these debates.  To learn from each other.  To have the opportunity to grow.  By creating that space it may mean I take the hot seat for allowing controversial conversations to happen.  I may make some people mad. I may be told we shouldn’t be talking about those kinds of things.  But, I will stand my ground.  I will take the criticism.  I will allow people to think what ever they want of me.

If I come to the end of my career and I’ve continued to allow a space for students to talk then I think I’ve contributed in some small way to fight inequalities.

I cannot recommend this documentary enough.  It is the story of struggle, determination and love for fellow man.  It is hard to watch.  It is hard to digest.  It is hard to wrap our minds around.  But, it is indeed OUR history.  It is OUR story.  To ignore that does a great disservice to the young people who put themselves in harms way to make a change.  Embrace it.  Own it. Learn from it.



A New Start


Letchworth State Park, New York State


I woke up on January 1, 2016 and I felt different.  I just felt lighter, more motivated and that inkling of “me”–the person I was before overwhelming grief.  the person I was before where I didn’t question every decision I’d ever made.  The person I was before where I didn’t feel an overwhelming guilt.  Even now, 25 days later I cannot quite put my finger on it.  I’m still grieving.  Today proves that–I’m having an angry day. I still have those moments where I question the decisions I made.  I still have a lot of regrets.  But, my outlook on the future, what I want to do with my family and what I want to accomplish professionally is suddenly clearer again.

I’ve found myself in the last 25 days reaching out to my friends again.  Over the last year and  half I just simply didn’t have the energy.  Not that my friendships take a lot of energy.  They don’t.  I have a great circle of women who just let me be.  They understood.  They knew I needed time.  They didn’t take it personally.  They loved me from afar.  But, even just picking up the phone and trying to explain how I was doing was a task.  I had no words to explain.  I couldn’t talk about how I was really doing when I couldn’t explain it to myself.  I turned inward toward my family–those who knew and loved my father best–and just sought their comfort.  I needed that and now I feel stronger and more able to articulate my feelings.

Hubby and I are making plans again.  We are thinking toward the future and the kind of lives we want to lead, the experiences we want Munchkin to have and we are actively pursing those.  We are taking steps to make our shared dreams come true.  We are actively seeking new adventures.  We are excited about potential opportunities.

I’m excited to start the semester.  The last two semesters I had no excitement of being back in the classroom.  This was nothing against my students.  I just didn’t have the energy like I normally did to give them all they needed.  I beat myself up for it.  I hated feeling like I was giving less than 100% in the classroom a place that holds my passion.  I hated feeling like I was putting on a show and going through the motions.  But today, 3 hours from my first class of 2016 I am energized and ready to go.

I also feel Dad saying, “Good for you!”  As much as I miss him.  As much as I want him here.  As angry as I sometimes feel that he’s not with us–I know he’s encouraging me to have a new start and take what I’ve learned about myself in the last 18 months and do good with it.  As he always said at the start of football season about his beloved Buffalo Bills, “This is our year” and in many ways I feel this is mine.  To continue learning to live without him, to enjoying my baby girl to the fullest, to continue going after dreams with my hubby and to be a good daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

Here’s to 2016 and all it may bring–whether good or bad–I’m ready to tackle the future with a fresh, clear outlook.

Disney Extravaganza!!


A dream is a wish your heart makes…


This BLT Mom blog post is very different. It is my trip report from Disney World to share what I learned and our experience with my fellow Disney addicts. I will say–we picked a great week to go crowd wise. We had our moments–this was our first major trip as a sandwich generation family and so we learned a lot about traveling together. I felt my Dad a lot throughout this trip. In fact, right after a character meet and greet in Animal Kingdom Munchkin and I were walking up a tropical path alone and a single white feather floated down in front of us. Feathers have always been my sign and I just smiled and teared up. Always close at heart…

I am thankful that we were able to take this trip. It was everything I’d hoped and more!

Trip Report 12/10/15—12/15/2015

Travelers: On this trip it was me (36), hubby (35), my mother (58) and our daughter (5). This was the first big trip for our new sandwich generation family and Mom’s first trip using a scooter due to mobility issues. Hubby, Mom and I have been to Disney several times. Most recently hubby and I took a trip in 2013. This was our daughter’s first trip. I spent months creating touring plans through I had it down to a military science. And then we arrived.

Method of Travel: drove 12 hours from Kentucky in a rented van and then used Disney transportation for the rest of the trip. From our resort (All Star Movies) we did not wait any more than 10 minutes for a bus. Our longest wait was an evening wait for a Disney Springs bus. For our return trips from the park we tended to wait in the parks shopping while the bus lines went down. This was a great way to do a little shopping and avoid a long line. I don’t know that we will drive again from Kentucky. The trip down was just fine. The 12 hours back was pure torture. I didn’t think too hard on how tired we would be after 5 days at Disney.

Accommodations: We stayed at the All Star Movies. On previous trips I’ve always stayed at either moderate or deluxe resorts. However, because on this trip we would need 2 rooms we decided to stay at a value resort. The rooms are fairly basic (think Holiday Inn Express but smaller). They have a refrigerator. We paid for preferred rooms and were in the Toy Story section. This was a quick 2-3 minute walk to the pool, transportation and front desk area including cafeteria. The outside of the hotel is very neat. Our daughter loved walked to the different sections and seeing the huge characters in the courtyards. I used the touring plans fax room request option. I intentionally selected rooms on the backside of the resort to hopefully have a quiet room. We got the exact rooms I’d requested and they were very quiet. We ate in the food court one evening. The food was ok—nothing spectacular, but filled the void. They had kid’s activities going on and our daughter had a blast watching movies and playing video games with the other kids. It gave me a chance to kick back and enjoy a hot cup of tea and talk to the other parents.

Magic Kingdom: We did MK 2 days. One regular park day (5/10 crowd level) and 1 Christmas party (sold out). For the Christmas party we focused on rides and not the special meet and greets. We walked onto several of the big rides but for others had no more than a 10 minute wait. We also did Be Our Guest for dinner before the party started. It really is about the experience. I ordered the Shrimp and Scallops as did my Mom. The food was overall pretty good just really small portion sizes. Hubby ordered the braised pork and said it was seasoned well. Our daughter had the steak and it was a little on the dry side and over cooked. BUT, our daughter was just so happy to be in Belle and Beast’s castle that it made everything seem insignificant. We watched Wishes from what is typically the Fast Pass spot for Wishes. It was a really great spot. We then moved to main street for the parade. As expected, fireworks and parade area were very, very crowded. But the fireworks were the best we’ve ever seen at Disney and the parade was a lot of fun. I do it again.

On day two we had a 10:35 Boutique appointment for our daughter. My plan was to be in the park by 9:00 a.m. and do a FP at Peter Pan. She was so exhausted from the party the night before that my plan went out the window not only on this day but every other day too. She and I went on our own as a special mommy/daughter date. We arrived at 10:30 and by 10:35 she was in her chair. Our attendant was FANTASTIC. Her name was Kelsey. She was so much fun and Abigail just adored her. They had the photo pass photographers so I just got to enjoy and not worry about taking pictures. We finished within 40 minutes and then met the rest of our group. We did Fantasyland and then had lunch at Cinderella’s Table.

Abigail loved meeting all the princesses. This was our main reason for doing it. The food was nothing to write home about. Mom & hubby had the special which was salmon and I had the chicken. Abigail had steak once again. She ended up eating my chicken and I her dried out steak. Salmon was tasty. But, again you are paying for the princesses and the experience not the food on this one. But, honestly, I felt rushed at CRT. Snow White was by so quick I barely had time to snap pictures. Aurora and Jasmine stayed a little longer and Ariel was great—she stuck around a good bit.

The rest of our day we did Frontierland and Tomorrowland. Abigail is big on rides so we did all the must do big coasters. I had FP for Mine Train, and splash. Everything else standby and waited no more than 15-20 minutes. I was really impressed that there were very few rides where Mom couldn’t ride her scooter right into the attraction. That really helped her. We finished out MK by eating at Cosmic Ray’s—typical fast food. We met a few characters, but the Tremaines were the BEST! Really try to meet them. We were back at the hotel by 7:30 p.m.

EPCOT (7/10 crowd level): This day was a bust for us. Abigail did not like this park at all. She normally likes science, but just wasn’t feeling it. She did Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. We convinced her to wait to meet Belle—line was too long for Mulan. We canceled our ADR at Teppen Edo (thankfully they waived the fee) and my Mom took her back to the hotel pool while hubby and I enjoyed an evening at the World Showcase. It was packed, but we still enjoyed eating our way around the pavilions. Definitely try Tangereine Café in Morocco. VERY good counter service place. I got our spot for Illiuminations about an hour before and had a great view beside the Mexican pavilion. I think this is a toss up park for young kids. I thought she’d like the KidCot stations, but again she just wasn’t interested. Her most fun was the fountain in Morocco. I finished her KidCot Duffy bear with stamps and signatures. It was fun! And traveling with Nana had its perks–a date night at Disney. WHAT?!

Animal Kingdom (5/10 crowd level): We arrived in the park about 10 a.m. and Kilimanjaro Safari was down. I took a chance on Conservation Station because Abigail loves animals and science. It was a GREAT idea! She loved every minute of collecting her badges and learning. She got to pet a snake. She also got 5 meet and greets on the island—Miss Bunny, Thumper, Chip, Dale and Rafiki. She got so much time with them since there was no one around. By far the best character interactions of the trip. We spent nearly 2 hours over there and then hit Festival of the Lion King. If you can get near the front your child has a chance to participate. Abigail got selected and she was thrilled. We did lunch at Tusker House. Once again, fantastic character interaction. We didn’t feel rushed at all and I was glad for that. Each character took their time. The buffet was pretty good. Lots of selection. I enjoyed trying the specialty dishes. We did Expedition Everest twice—1 fast pass and a 30 minute stand by. We ended the day by meeting Pochahontas who, again, just spent a lot of time with each child.

I felt like we packed in a lot that day (even though we didn’t remotely see everything), but didn’t feel the rush I felt at Magic Kingdom. I think that disappointed me. Everything from character meet and greets to rides to meals just felt like we were in a constant race. I know they are trying to get a lot of people in, but it really all seemed like a blur. After our day at Animal Kingdom I really noticed it.

Hollywood Studios (6/10 crowd level): I’ve heard people say this is now a ½ park. I don’t see how. We really enjoyed our day here. We did Star Wars, Toy Story, Rockin Coaster (standby—1 hour but I didn’t get FP because I wasn’t sure Abigail would make the cut height wise), Launch Bay, Frozen Sing along, Tower of Terror, Osborne Lights, Fantasmic, Honey I shrunk the kids playground and I know I am leaving out some other things. I think we did the most actual shows/activities this day and it didn’t feel rushed at all. Maybe we were getting into the groove? Our wait times were pretty low even on a 6/10 crowd level. We waited 20 minutes for Chewy and 30 for Darth Vader. But, I didn’t think anything was outrageous. We wouldn’t have waited so long on the Aerosmith coaster, but it broke down for about 20 minutes making our wait an hour instead of 40 minutes as posted. The dance party is a really fun thing for the kids. I’m so glad we got to see the Osborne lights before they are taken down. Though **rumor alert** a CM told me lots of people were murmuring that they may be relocated to Disney Springs. Take that for what it’s worth—haha. We did Minnie’s Holiday Dinner. The food was good—very similar to Tusker House. Abigail had a great time meeting Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. We saw them all twice. I didn’t feel rushed in the least bit.

Disney Dining Plan: We did the plan this trip. We did 3 character meals and knew we wanted to snack our way around EPCOT. We didn’t leave behind a single credit and even used our resort mugs quite a bit. In the end it was worth it to us. Next time we go we likely will not do as many character meals so I will probably not purchase it. So, just do the math for your family. I will say this—for my price conscious hubby it was great because when the $200 bill for a buffet came to the table I could say it was paid for. This mattered to his attitude and my happiness a lot. 🙂

Scooter: We rented from Buena Vista Scooters. The scooter was waiting on us. We never had a problem out of it. It took her some time to get used to it. It made the trip possible for her and she got to enjoy every minute with her granddaughter. So, when someone accidentally cuts in front of you in a scooter or you get behind one who is going a little slower just remember they are trying to have some magic too.

My last thoughts:

1. Remember to bring allergy meds that work best for your family. I didn’t even think about the weather change and Abigail was miserable the first full day.

2. Plan an extra day just to hang out at the resort. Other than the EPCOT meltdown we didn’t see much of a really neat resort not to mention all the other great Christmas decorations.

3. Plan! Plan! Plan! What!? I thought you threw out your touring plan! I did. But, because of all that planning I still had lots of ideas of how to handle the changes and didn’t just feel lost.

4.—I used this website obsessively in the months before our trip. I learned so much from the chatboard. I don’t think our days would have been near as successful without the time I spent with the people on this website. I was thankful one of my Facebook friends turned me onto it. After checking out the statistical models they use to predict crowd levels, etc. I was hooked.

5. Expectations: This is Disney World. People expect them to hang the moon, rotate it and then put it in their room at night. Disney is a special place. It is magical. But, there are also jerky people, melting down kids, grumpy CM’s, rides break, etc. You have to temper your expectations that everything will be perfect. We had so many imperfections on this perfect trip. It was perfect because we spent 5 days together not worrying about work, the outside world, etc.

6. I bought Memory Maker. I LOVED this product. I simply wish they had the photographers in the character meals as well. It is a pricey product and the meals are pricey. We should have access to the photographers. I came home with 369 photos where I completely enjoyed the experience and not worrying about capturing it. For that—it was worth the money.

7. I’m a foodie. I like good, quality food. I think I’ve changed in my definition of quality food because my 20 year old self thought the food was fantastic at Disney. My 36 year old self not so much. I ate some really good things (bakeries in EPCOT, Tangeriene Café), but they were the unexpected places and not the places that herd through 500 people in a seating.

8. I’d stay at a value resort again. Without reservation.

9. Weather: in December pack for it all. It was 80 during the day and 60 at night and we needed a light jacket.

10. I think my biggest mistake in Magic Kingdom is I let the CMs rush me. I can think back now to times that I should have spoken up and just taken a few more moments. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take the time you need.

Well, hopefully something I said is useful to you. Enjoy your trip. We loved ours and Abigail is still humming Disney tunes. I have my Mickey ornament on the tree and I smile every time I look over to it. Eight months of planning for 5 days of pure joy. It was well worth it!!

The Sum of Our Mistakes

sum of mistake

The sun rises on a new day allowing for a new chance every time it comes up and sets.

I have a lot that I want to say under that title, but am having a hard time really organizing my thoughts.  In the last month I’ve had several experiences that lead me back to the phrase, “the sum of our mistakes.”  It’s been reading the work of my students and them sharing pieces of their past.  Pieces of their past with stories of pain, poor decisions and triumph.  It’s been observing people I love overcome their past.  Seeing them take positive steps forward everyday.  Knowing that everyday it both a struggle and success.  It’s been me reflecting on my own shortcomings and thinking how I can be a better person.  How can I look toward the best in people and situations and not be tempted to only remember the bad.

Why are the mistakes the easiest to remember?  I know for me I can beat myself up over mistakes for years.  I can replay the “what I wish I would have done” over and over.  Why is it that you can see someone you haven’t had any contact with for YEARS and yet the only thing that comes to mind is what you may have known about them 20 years ago?  Why is it we can so easily believe someone is only the sum of their mistakes and not see the totality of what they have overcome?

Some might argue that is having rose colored glasses or rewriting history.  I disagree.  To acknowledge the past is one thing.  To understand the mistakes made.  To acknowledge the hurt and pain they may have caused.  This is necessary in the path to healing.   To make people continually relive their past by our actions and our judgement is unacceptable.

I fall short everyday.  I allow past prejudices and hurt enter my mind as I deal with people.  I fail to acknowledge my own mistakes.  I recognize this.  I also recognize that The Creator never intended for us to be the sum of our mistakes.  It is this that allows me to cherish the beautiful times I’ve had with people that haven’t always been perfect.  It is this that allows me to put into perspective the hurt they may have caused.  It is this that allows me to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.

For me, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are always time of deep thought.  And, whether we are the sum of our mistakes has been heavy on my heart. I don’t believe we are no matter how people may treat us.

As I finish this blog, while sitting in my office on a Saturday grading papers, I almost feel like I want to go back and add it onto the papers of some of my dearest students.  I want them to know that they are not the sum of their mistakes.  I want them to know that just being in the classroom and succeeding is proof they are not the sum of their past–no matter how hard it may have been.  I want them to know they are valued and that their progress is recognized.  Who can you help to recognize this today?  Who can you encourage that has walked a hard path?  How can you better forgive yourself for the mistakes?  It’s a season of thanks, love and giving.  How can we be more giving to those around us and ourselves when it comes to forgiveness?