Category Archives: Family

My Summer of Loss

What a summer. Talk about having the wind knocked out of you. About a month after I gave birth to the twins at 36 weeks, my very special handsome boy Henry (my oldest golden retriever) decided to pass on his supper one night and there began my nightmare. All my subsequent doctors’ visits and surgical procedures, and adventures in injecting pain killers are well documented at our George and Henry website. 20140902-212318.jpg

I got Henry when I started grad school in 2004, seems like a million years ago. Just feels like he’s always been there. Grabbing balls out of the chuck it, dropping boulders on my toes, doing jujitsu on my legs while trying to steal a soccer ball, gently babysitting my two year old, torturing anyone who would throw something for him to fetch or catch, cavorting in the river, running in the woods – plume of a tail high in the air. Always, always there. Sweet, loving, gentle, athletic, heartful, and so very, very handsome. I knew from the beginning, after we managed to pull through the red mange he had as a puppy (genetic disease), that he was an angel, honest to God, an angel. I’d only get him for a little while and I’d have to give him back. I knew it. I just didn’t think it’d be this soon. There’s a heavy, deep hole in my heart. The raw and sharp pain of loss lessens a little each day, but the ache of missing him feels like it will never go away. He’s everywhere. Here on the farm, in my car, around town, in the eyes of my other dogs, and two weeks from now, I’ll see him everywhere I go on Nantucket. Aside from River Rock, that was his most favorite place on earth.

At any rate, I felt like writing about him and I wanted to share this little story about him: This is a photo of our chimney. The stonemasons we hired to work on our house are two highly skilled brothers. This story involves them, but first, let me set it up a bit.

We built our home over the course of a year, basically the first year of our first son’s life. So Henry was going through a big change – he was learning to share me a little (with the baby), and he was doing so well. Mainly because he’s such a likeable easy going guy. There was a team of three guys who built our home, but we had lots of subs in and out during this time also. Well, once Henry figured out he could sucker almost anybody on our building team to toss him a ball or a stick or even a rock, he was over at the jobsite almost every single day, rain or shine. He’d follow Christie over every morning after the walk and he’d stay long after she left.
Here’s where the stonemasons come in. Both fellas grew particularly fond of Henry and would entertain him for hours, throwing sticks, rocks, balls, whatever, and sharing their lunches with him. They had him running quite alot. A good portion of Henry’s arthritis might be attributed to this relationship. At any rate, the stone masons were really impressed with the size and sheer number of rocks Henry would bring up from the River. They joked that he was adding to their pile (all the rocks they used were quarried from our river bed). One day they were so chuffed they decided to use this one rock in their work on the chimney. In fact, they made sure that when they placed it, it would be low enough that it would always be at Henry’s eye-level. He could trot by and see his contribution to the chimney anytime. It’s a beautiful pinkish hued River Rock in the shape of a heart. And that’s my Henry. Not only did he get me, but he got to me, and he got to everyone else, too. He was a very special dog – this is his rock, it hides behind the hydrangea now.

I found this poem last night that hits close. I don’t know who Holly Gray is but I feel her grief. It’s awful quiet around here.

To our Golden Retriever, Shockoe

I sit and try to write the words, I want your heart to hear.
Hoping to find some comfort, in the fact that your not here.
I look out into the open field, that you once occupied,
Knowing now that field is empty, because my love, you’ve died.
I do believe with all my heart, that your soul has gone to be,
With all the other angel dogs, that you were meant to see.
We will have to stay behind, until God calls us too,
So do not be afraid, that he’s only called for you.
The water is still, in the pond that you played,
And your bed is so empty, where your pretty head laid.
Our bed is to empty, where you once laid between,
the two people who LOVED you and now only dream,
That one day our eyes will shut one last time,
and you will come greet us, angel of mine.
Until then, I’ll keep trying to see through my tears,
with memories you left us, to reflect through the years.
We’ll never forget one minute we spent,
of loving and laughing, of places we went.
And I dread the day that your scent disappears,
for it’s “proof” to me, Shockie, that you were just here!
But one day will come, when we’ll start to see through,
the pain of the moment, and remember just “you”.
Now you go and play, and look down when you can,
remembering we love you, and this isn’t the end.

-Holly W. Gray, Shockie’s mommy


Red Rubber Boots, Trader Joe’s & Running Dreams

So there are three things on my mind. Well, right, there are a million things on my mind at all times, but there are three that I feel like jotting down. 1. Every night when I lay down with my big kid to read stories (typically gathered from the library) there’s a little voice in my head that says I should document and share the really good ones. Tonight I’ll share Red Rubber Boot Day. 2. I love Trader Joe’s. I didn’t want to, but I do. I actually found myself saying out loud as I drove past it the other day on our way back into town, “Jeeze, I feel sorry for all those people that don’t have a Trader Joe’s.” 3. I REALLY REALLY MISS RUNNING. WTF. I never in a million years thought I’d miss something I used to dread doing, but I really miss it. So much so, I dreamed about it last night.

So, here’s number one:

Red Rubber Boot DayI apologize for the shiteous photo, but I was trying to squeeze in the author and illustrator. Author: Mary Lyn Ray and Illustrator: Lauren Stringer. My kid loves to jump in muddy puddles and we are so GD sick of snow and icky wintery-ness that we picked this book at the library Saturday to remind us that spring is on the way! Tonight was the first time I read it to him and it’s absolutely beautiful. I started to think that when I hit this page:

Boots and Bare FeetYou can literally feel the “green rain” squishing between your toes and under your arches. You can smell the muddy puddles and feel the cold drops. The drips from the leaves, and I swear it’s only the latter half of the book that takes place outside. The rest of it is just as beautiful but it was at this point that I started to feel it. I recommend this one. It’s very simple, so young kids (2-4 I guess).

Now, Trader Joe’s. The berries, the full fat creamy little tiny yogurts, almond milk, sunflower seed butter, coconut oil, lava cakes, salsa, pasta sauces especially the vodka sauce, olive oils, organic butter, whole chicken in brine, fresh flowers, belgian pancakes, dried fruits. Not the veggies, not the lunch meat. The veggies go bad quickly and my kids don’t like the lunch meat. Also, they have Kind bars at the best price in town. You can’t do all your grocery shopping there, but you can find some treasures. Lots of whole foody type stuff at regular people prices. I love you, Trader Joe’s.

Last night I dreamt that I was running in shorts on a hot day. My legs looked awesome – tan, long, lean. I had no belly. What pregnancy? I remember that my shorts were orange and pink and that I kept looking at my fit bit that was somehow also timing my run. I was absolutely besting any PR I have ever dreamed of for a mile. Like, for real, my time was something ridiculous – maybe 6:24. Only in my dreams. But it felt so damn good, running, taking in the road, the sights, the sounds, the people, the warmth, the sunshine and the day. I miss it. I miss it. I miss it. In fact, I hate running in the pool so much that I actually got out at the 30 minute mark today and swam 500M at speed, in the lap pool. MUHAHAHAHAHAHA. Take that, twin pregnancy! July 9. Get here.



Morning Lament: from the gym to filling up diesel cans.

In my notes, I called this post the Day of Buttheads, and while I still feel that way, I also felt as though that title wouldn’t convey the general idea quite the way it should. Because, really, who am I kidding? I’m just moaning here. My list this morning was simple: Swim, Go by kid’s school, Pick up library books for kid, Dollar Store for potty training prizes, Diesel for the farm. Home. This is the true story of how it actually went. Looking back, I’m slightly put off that my hunger seemed to really take the driver’s seat for a bit.

My day started off by getting run over in my lane while swimming at the gym. Now, I have been known to lane leap once in a while (generally while back stroking and usually when I get water up my nose), but not when freestyle lap swimming especially in the first 500M of a morning swim. I digress. This morning, some pasty, pudgy, slightly hairy douchebag totally swam right over me. And that was his way of letting me know he was joining my lane. No warning, no standing at the end so I’d see him while turning. Nope. He just got in, started swimming and ran right over me. Jackass. I’m still pissed just thinking about it. You know how much I loathe swim day anyway.

So, I shower and head off to the kid’s school to drop off his paperwork and another check. Activity fee. For a 2 year old. WTH. Whatever. I thought I picked the route with the least amount of construction, instead, the stoplight was out, two lanes were closed and the city’s finest were directing traffic. Yay.

On to the library for said kid’s books. Glance at clock. Nope. No time for library. Text from wife – “pick up bras for me please.” Hey that actually sounds fun! A. I get to shop for small bras – I never get to do that, and B. I get to shop for my wife’s lingerie. Fun.
Well. It was fun until A. I tried on bras, and B. I missed the free bra by one square on my ‘bra and panty club’ card. I’m not making this crap up.

Starving. Must check my calorie counting fitness app to see what I can eat because I’m low on time and getting crotchety and faint with hunger. It looks as though the grilled chx wrap at chikfila (which I don’t like doing because of the gay stuff and it’s still technically fast food) will suffice and it’s next to the dollar store so I can hit that after.

Left turn lane closed. Really? It’s 12:30 and the left turn lane into the Rio Hill Center is closed. Really great planning there. I keep going, do a uey at the next light, head back.

I’m totally distracting myself with my little fitness app, but I still manage to notice how effing slow this fast food line is. I’m not even supposed to be eating this crap. Shh. Check clock. I’m losing precious dollar store minutes. I watch the lady in front of me order for her entire apartment building.

Tick tock. (Or as Ke$Ha might say, “Tik Tok.” Jeeze she makes work outs fun.)

Dollar store window of time is gone.
Why, you may ask, did I need the dollar store. I’m attempting to potty train my oldest. Sort of. Anyway, someone recently told me they wrapped up individual little prizes and kept them by the toilet to help with potty training. Sounds like something the kid would go for – he loves prizes almost as much as his mommy. I thought the dollar store would have some nifty little crap toys to wrap up for such a thing. BUT IT WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANOTHER EFFING DAY.

I’ve got to get diesel and get home before the nanny leaves. Woe is me.

Just standing here pumping diesel into my 6 gallon can when older nosy professor type next to me glances over. He watches me place the can in my car. “Does that thing not have a cap on it?” He is incredulous. I respond, “No, it sure doesn’t. Bummer.” What I wanted to say was, “Yessir, that’s how we roll back in the hollar.” Looking back I wish I would’ve said that. He waits a minute, then leans over again, “You should at least get a plastic bag and a rubber band for it. Jeeze.” I say, “Uh huh,” as I pretend to rummage around for something to cover the damn thing with so he’ll shut up. He says, “I’d hate to think what might happen if you have an accident.” I grit my teeth, smile and say, “I know. I got it.” Just shut up already. We’re all tired of you. You’re ruining our good time. Go home. Everybody hates you.
Whoa. That one got away from me. Sorry.
Good thing I didn’t really say that because he followed me all the way to my turn off.
At which point I had to stop and wait for a leader car because one lane was closed. Seriously. I’m not embellishing. I swear.
I’m home. It’s only 1:40.
What a morning.

Rise of the Unpaid Intern (or the Systematic Devaluing of the American Worker)

WARNING – some personal rambling and then a succinct summation (I hope).

So there are a number of things that disturb me about this spate of articles I’m going to link to today. Simply (and perhaps crudely) synthesized, all of the pieces I’m sharing pertain to the value of a worker, and more importantly, the effect of the unpaid internship on said value. In my mind, there are three levels to this discussion. Due to the demands of children (and because of them, the number of martinis I’ve consumed over the last few weeks), I’m not guaranteeing complete clarity, but I am going to attempt to connect all these dots.

At the first level there are unpaid internships, usually taken on at the college level, sometimes the graduate level (although in a recent Vince Vaughn film even 40-somethings aren’t immune to this ass kissing, non-forward moving position), with the faint hope that the experience might lead to at least an eventual interview for a position, either in that company or in one similar to it. At this level I can personally remember being more concerned about building my resume and learning skills than actually obtaining the job. At the second level I am starting to see how the unpaid internship cripples the job-seeker. It is certainly easier to give work to one or more unpaid interns than create a position with benefits for someone who is either just starting out or is career switching (in my case career switching just means that you can’t find a job doing what you originally set out to do because somewhere along the way you stopped to have a life (read: babies)). At the third level, and on a slightly more specialized plane, there is the world of the non-profit where the dependence on unpaid interns and a cadre of overqualified volunteers has become much more entrenched than ever before.

I have heaps of experience working in non-profit: As a student intern (Habitat for Humanity, Legal Aid, etc.); As a young person at the entrance level of the working world in higher education (Admissions); As a slightly older and surely more wiser adult serving at the mercy of federally funded grants (in a university while working on a PhD); And more recently, as an extremely overqualified part-timer in a scholarship organization.

As a student, it was all about the experience. In my first few ‘real jobs’ in admissions and financial aid, I just loved what I did so much that I totally took for granted my wage (pretty good) and benefits (darn near awesome by today’s standards). I never made a whole lot of money but I felt taken care of and appreciated. Adventure in SalzburgAt the next level in a more professional atmosphere working in research at an R1 university, I definitely understood and appreciated my wage benefits as slight as they may have been. I had health insurance and I made a part-time salary (I was a full time student) that equalled something like $25/hour. Pretty sweet gig and I earned my PhD while I was doing it. All of my travel and conferences were paid for (see giddy picture of me in Salzburg, post-conference, of course) and I was racking up the professional university experience.

Lastly, I switched back to the much less glamorous world of non-profit work where the emphasis is quite severely on fundraising and ass kissing. Seriously, anyone who works in non-profit knows that no matter how much you truly do believe in the mission, you still feel like an ass kisser most of the time. Now, at my prior R1 I was paid a good salary and benefits even if I worked only 20-30 hours per week. At the non-profit level I worked consistently more than 25 hours per week and received no benefits and an hourly wage that remained consistent to what I was earning prior to my PhD. I received absolutely no benefits (unless you count a warm heart, and that doesn’t go very far when you have a family) and very little room to grow, i.e.: 1. Attend, much less present at applicable conferences; 2. Publish in academic journals; 3. Serve as director of events I had conceived; 4. Distribute or manage funds I brought in; 5. Direct those areas in which I was told to oversee. Instead, I served as an extremely overqualified intern. You can imagine the shape of my ego and confidence after this experience. If you can’t imagine it, here’s a pretty good animation – Squidward at left.

Here are a few articles that I’ve enjoyed perusing over the last few weeks while I’ve been thinking about the value of my own work. I do believe that the unpaid internship has morphed into something that serves a completely different purpose than that for which it was originally intended. It now sits precariously in the way of job creation and the forward movement of the economy (maybe a tad dramatic, but you get my drift). Additionally, for those of us in the world of higher education (proper), internships are a necessary part of the process and without them we wouldn’t have the opportunities we need to grow. In the ‘outside of education’ world of non-profit, the role of the internship has become the extension of the working office. Most small and many mid-size non-profits rely far too heavily on unpaid workers and this inhibits growth and creativity. As an organization (or a business), when you devalue your workers, you devalue yourself and your mission. Full stop.

Level 1:

NPR Piece on Unpaid vs. Paid Internships

Blogger Response to Unpaid Internship Issue (full credit to Quote from this blog: “If you are genuinely seeking the perspective of the folks you want to serve, you need to be hiring someone other than a grad student who can afford to live in Manhattan for three months without a salary.” This is one HUGE reason that the scholarship program for which I used to work actually provided cost of living for students to take on unpaid internships. It really helped cut the gap between the haves and have nots; HOWEVER, I know of no program like it to assist middle class kids who simply can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship, even if they’re just trying to make book money over the summer to help their parents pay for college.

Level 2:

An Online Discussion from ProPublica Biggest takeaway from this piece for me –  “I have a friend in PR that went through 2 rounds of interviews for a job before being told they’d decided to split the position’s work between two interns instead of hiring someone,” said commenter Jess. I just LOVE this and I’ve heard it before and I’ve had it happen in a department in which I worked – “We can’t really hire right now, so we’re going to give this work to some interns.” In my higher education world, that ‘intern’ was often an already underpaid lowly person on the totem pole.

Level 3:

Inequitable Salaries at Non-profits From the Chronicle of Philanthropy; Quote that will stay with you: “Women and human-service workers are systematically underpaid, and organizations are increasingly turning to volunteers as unpaid but essential labor. Philanthropy, for its part, tends to reward those organizations with the lowest investment in human resources while simultaneously creating programs aimed at lifting underpaid laborers such as immigrants, single parents, and veterans out of poverty.” TYPICAL – SO TYPICAL. We make enough money to do what we do (just barely), but we’ll never be able to pay our staff. We can make up for that shortfall in other ways, but we often don’t have the time for that.

The piece on recommendations for leaders of non-profits I’m not a big fan of necessarily but this article within an article has some really sound advice for leaders of non-profit organizations – how to collect, groom, and keep really talented individuals.

Advice for leaders:

Pay reasonable salaries and provide good benefits. Financial sacrifice should no longer be part of the nonprofit business model. Passion will not trump decent pay and reasonable work hours.

Engage in succession planning. Periodically ask if you are still the right person for the job, and be proactive in attracting and retaining talented staff who might be eligible for future leadership.

Advice for the BOARD:

Pay reasonable salaries and provide benefits to staff.

-Look beyond the Executive Director and make sure that leadership is being developed deep in the organization.

Advice for FUNDERS:

Avoid behaviors that make things worse for nonprofits and their leaders. In the study, the challenge of accessing institutional capital was one of the causes of executive burnout. Plus, among next generation leaders, an aversion to fundraising was the primary reason people gave for not aspiring to nonprofit leadership roles.*

* “…aversion to fundraising” = ass kissing just plain sucks.




iPad Thrills with Granny

Perfect photographic demonstration of Apple’s main demographic for iPad sales. Toddlers & grannies.