Tag Archives: life

A Letter to my Daughter on the Eve of her First Birthday

I usually reserve this space for posts dedicated to professional reflection, sometimes with a touch of the personal. But today, I am out of my office, home with my daughter as she fights off an ear infection, and I’m not thinking much about digital learning, professional development, software, hardware, or 1:1 initiatives. Instead, I’m spending time with my daughter, who turns one year old tomorrow. This post is for her.

Dear Josephine,

A year ago today, I knew you were about to arrive, but I didn’t know anything about you besides that you were most active at night, waking me with kicks and somersaults, a nightowl from the very beginning. I knew my life was about to change, but I didn’t know exactly how — or how much. Your Daddy and I were excited to meet you, to find out who you were, to learn how to do this parenting gig together, to hope you would forgive us our inevitable mistakes.

A year ago, Tomorrow.

A year ago, Tomorrow

A year ago tomorrow, on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, you arrived at 3:33 pm, after a grueling 36-ish hours of labor. I vividly remember the moment they placed your squirmy, slippery self on my chest. You were finally here, and you had the lungs to prove it.

I have learned so many things from you, and you aren’t even one yet. You have taught me how to find joy in every moment. You smile big, with your whole face, with your whole body. You have done this since you were four weeks old. You smile at everything. At everyone. For you, life is exciting, beautiful, and most importantly, full of joy. Your smile is contagious, your joy infectious.

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Your four-week-old smile

I have also learned that I only need about three consecutive hours of sleep to function, but I need about five to participate; a lesson I could have done without, but useful information nonetheless. I have learned that hugs and kisses should be given liberally. I have learned that meatballs are the best food in the world. I have learned that socks are overrated, that one doesn’t need toys in a world full of kitchen utensils, and that an open window with a light breeze is the best way to induce a state of pure zen.

Your first year, my love, has been a challenging one in so many ways. Your Daddy and I moved across the country before you arrived, and it’s difficult not to have the helping hands of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as we teach you about the world. We started new jobs before you arrived, jobs that challenge our minds and our time. 2016 has also been a difficult year for the humans of Earth for a number of social and political reasons, which I imagine (or hope) will be a distant memory for me, and something you’ll read about in history books.

You make any challenge life throws my way easier to face. You greet every single day with a smile and a giggle, sweetening my morning coffee with your still relatively toothless grin. You recently started walking, and whenever you lose your balance, you plop down on your butt and just keep trying. You pick up new skills, preferences, and words at a breakneck pace that astounds me daily. You don’t give up in the face of a challenge: why should we? You never let a day go by witho20160504_182224ut learning something new: why should we?

It’s your first birthday tomorrow, and we will celebrate with presents shipped from the Midwest, with cake your Daddy will bake tonight, with a celebratory supper that you probably will eat some of before you throw the rest on the floor for the dog. It’s a celebration of your first year, but it’s also a celebration of our first year — with you. A year that has looked nothing like the well-organized, schedule-conscious, on-top-of-things life we had come to know before you, and has been perfect and beautiful in its blonde-haired, blue-eyed chaos.

Happy birthday, boop. You are my best thing.

<3 Mommy

Why I’m Not Writing

Scratch that, I am writing: this counts, right?

drawing of person face-down on table with sleep "z's" above their headMy plan for tonight was well-hashed. I was going to leave work around 4 and head straight home, knowing full well I’d beat my spousal unit home by a couple hours. I was going to carve out some time to write. And by write, I mean work on an article that received a revise (handily) and resubmit about a month ago, before conference season blew up my calendar (#NCTE14 and #LRA14 were pretty epically worth it, though).

By the time I had gotten off of the train and sprinted to my bus (I made it… barely), I was ready to fall asleep in the seat. There’s something weirdly calming about looking out a bus window on a cold, dark night that makes me comfortably drowsy. By the time I got home and took the pup out for a walk in the freezing cold wind, I was ready for a pot of chamomile tea. By the time I made the tea and sat in my overstuffed recliner, my phone had alerted me to 13 new emails. By the time I sorted through emails, my tea was half gone and my muscles were becoming one with the chair. I opened up the article, tweaked a few sentences, and tried to wrap my head around a shift in my theoretical framework before I gave up and decided to write about why I simply. can’t. write. right now.

To be clear, I’m not complaining. After a somewhat taxing end to last week, today was optimistically productive. Collaborations are rolling, people are communicating well with one another, and I’m excited about the work that promises to fill every minute I’ll let it. So before I launch into my reflections on how my life simply isn’t allowing me to write right now, let me just say: the choice to work in a K-12 institution post-PhD is not one I regret. 

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When I was first considering taking a job in K-12, I met with one of my mentors at my university: someone who knows me well and whose opinion I trust. She was, to say the least, a little surprised… until that moment, I had always voiced wanting a job at a research institution. But at the same time, she was not surprised. She knows me well, and knows how much I enjoy working directly with educators.

She provided me with three warnings related to taking a job in K-12, one of which I forgot. Here are the two I remember, because they’ve proven true: (1) Your time will not be as flexible, and (2) It is hard for such institutions to make the space for you to write and research.

The flexible time thing doesn’t bother me, because I thrive on a busy routine. The research and writing time thing, on the other hand, is proving a bit of a struggle. 

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Why the struggle to write today? To some extent it’s about being tired at the end of a long day, about there never being enough hours for all the things, and about the fact that I should know better than to check email before I sit down to write. However, it also has to do with a number of other things:

  1. I’m still processing the defense. Even though revisions are submitted and accepted and I officially receive my degree on Sunday, I’m still thinking through the comments and conversation that took place in late October as a room full of really smart scholars helped me further complicate and contemplate my work. I need time to think more about their ideas and comments before I can launch meaningfully into the revisions of the article I’m working on.
  2. I’m still in conference mode. “Conference mode” looks like building and fostering collaborations — thinking ahead to the next project, the next study, the next connection. In the past three weeks, I have developed ideas for future conferences, outlined a few new papers in my head, and even planted the seed for a book (it. will. happen. I don’t know when, but it will.) “Conference mode” makes me look forward, which is making this article-derived-from-the-diss a little mind-numbing at the moment.
  3. Writing is hard. This is obvious, right? No. No it’s not. Good writers make it look easy, but for realsies, peeps, writing is hard. Writing articles is really hard. Revision is when writing gets real, which means revising articles is really, really, really hard. And as you can probably tell from my use of super descriptive adverbs like “really,” I’m feeling particularly articulate tonight (*snerk*). Which brings me to my last point:
  4. Forcing it is futile. Sometimes you’re in the mood to think deep theoretical thoughts, to synthesize those thoughts with concrete data, to process the feedback from anonymous reviewer person who wrote you another article’s worth of comments. And sometimes you’re just not. And guess what? It has nothing to do with how awake you are (not very), how much tea you brewed (three cups), how many miles you ran that morning (none), how many busses you rode today (two), or how many inspiring people you talked to today (five)… it just ain’t happenin’. If there’s one thing that writing that book-shaped thing called a dissertation taught me, it’s that forcing it is entirely futile.

So that’s why I’m not writing. Er, why I’m writing about why I’m not writing. I will need to find ways to work this whole writing thing into my new normal one way or another — even on days when it’s a struggle. Advice, anyone? Tweet me (@lizhoman): how do you make writing happen when, in the words of one of my mentors at #LRA14, “your time is not yours?”

Thanks

My coffee, in my favorite mug — the Polish pottery one my grandma sent me to congratulate me on my new job — pours steam into the air beside me. I need to leave to catch the bus soon, so I only have a few moments, but after my beautiful walk with the dog this morning, I wanted to pause and write before the hectic day began.

I’m feeling inspired by last night’s #edtechchat on Twitter, which was all about being thankful for the educators who have shaped our lives. I don’t normally get all warm and fuzzy about Thanksgiving — I prefer to thank the people who have shaped my life throughout the year, in the small ways that I can: with smiles, time spent, conversations had, help given.

However, last night’s chat really left me thinking about how blessed I have been this year. It has really been a pretty epic year for the husband-person and I. We have moved across the country, run marathons, seen me through the last bit of a PhD and him a post-doc, started new jobs, and begun a new life.

And a few things have made this transition easier, or at least more manageable in the face of so much change. So here are a few things I’m thankful for this morning, and this holiday season:

  1. The view as I climb over my favorite hill in Dorchester, next to an elementary school, when the landscape opens up and I can see the harbor in front of me, the skyline to my left. More than once I’ve thought, coming over that hill, pinch me… is this really my life?
  2. My sister’s courage as she braves her way through her first year of teaching 1st grade.
  3. My mother’s constant and dependable support and mentorship as I re-entered k-12 education this fall (and always).
  4. My husband’s passion for our little family and for his work. I can always depend on him for somehow intellectual AND light-hearted conversation at the end of the day.
  5. Food. Specifically, SEAfood. Which it turns out is plentiful around here, and which will grace our Thanksgiving table this year.
  6. Running. Running, what an epic year we’ve had. Thank you for helping me find my center in the midst of much chaos.
  7. My friends and colleagues here in Boston and across the country — you make my hard work (and my hard play) so much more meaningful.

Happy holidays, wherever you are, and however you celebrate. It’s off to the bus for me, and back into this hectic life I love so much.

Dissertation Buddy

I got a dissertation buddy. She’s a dog. She’s my dissertation dog.

Perhaps more appropriately, my husband and I got a dog that happens to have arrived right around the time I need to start doing data analysis and writing my dissertation.

Her name is Gertrude, and she is crazy cute. She’s a weimaraner, and she’s 8 weeks old. Here’s a picture of her helping me finish (finally) Catch-22. She wasn’t much help, really, but it made reading that book a little more pleasant.

Helping me finish reading Catch-22.

I’m sure I’ve been annoying the crap out of all my friends on Facebook by continually posting pictures of her. I’m trying really hard to stop posting pictures of her, guys, but she’s really all I have to talk about. My life has revolved around her for the past week.

This is because she likes to chew on everything in sight, and we’re trying to train her not to do this (and to keep her from electrocuting herself on a cord). Also, she can only make it in her crate for about three hours before she needs go out, so that means every three hours, one of us needs to go out. When she’s up playing, it’s more like every 20 minutes. When it’s 3am and storming outside — like it was last night — the prospect of marching my ass downstairs to go out in the rain and thunder with a puppy who’s going to scream bloody murder because she hates the feel of rain on her ears and can’t piece together that I’m holding an umbrella so she might want to stand under it is… well… not appealing. But she’s damn cute and I love her. So out into the rain we went. And scream she did.

But holy crap, this dog is smart. Which is awesome — maybe she’ll inspire me to be smart for the next two years (and hopefully longer), too. She can sit. She can stay. She can let me know when she needs to potty (when she’s in her crate, anyway). Pretty awesome after just a week, I think. She’s also stubborn as hell. Which means she’s perfect for Kristoff and I, who are definitely more stubborn. Or at least equally as stubborn.

This week, I’ve been trying to settle into a routine that will allow me to get some work done while still paying attention to her during the day. This means dogsitters on long days, at least while she’s still this little. This means I only work in short bursts of intense semi-productivity (“semi” because I’m really not very good on operating with little sleep). This means I’m not sure how in the hell I’m going to write that paper for my social network workshop class while still collecting data.

But it’s awesome to have a dissertation buddy. And she’s a very sweet puppy. And I’m going to put her in her crate now so I can go to the dentist’s, where I’ll probably fall asleep in the dentist’s chair while the hygienist scrapes at my teeth.