Friday, June 29, 2018

Donate Your Birthday

Greetings faithful blog readers,

As my 31st year comes to close, I cannot believe what a life changing and exciting year it was. From finding out we were expecting to giving birth to our beautiful baby girl to helping her grow into a three month old, this year has brought big changes and the most intense love. The year also brought exciting opportunities: my chapbook with PANK was released, I had the opportunity to attend the Tin House Summer Workshop, and I celebrated five years working in a place I love. I spent this year in many exciting places: Taos, NM; Portland, OR; Connecticut and Maine, Austin, TX; Tulsa, OK; and Maui, HI. It was a very special year: one that fills me with gratitude and appreciation beyond what I can express, and now I'm excited to spread some good karma and give back a little.

I started participating in Donate Your Birthday the year I turned 25. The concept is simple: each year, donate your age in dollars to an organization of your choice. I always look forward to this small way to give back.

Often, my charity picks are inspired by books I'm reading. I've thought a lot recently, after reading Evicted, about the needs that we all have, and the need to feel safe and loved tops the list. After the loss of our Pediatrician this month, I read that one of the charities she loved was Centers for Children and Families, so I went to the website and read all about it. This center offers individual, martial, and family counseling to residents of Midland and Odessa at reduced or no cost to the participants. No referral from a doctor or agency is required, so there is not "red tape" in accessing these services. They also offer bilingual therapy, therapy dogs, and free services for military and their families. The credentials of their counselors are so impression. From the website:

"We currently employ 11 Licensed Professional Counselors, ten of whom have Masters Degrees, and one has her Doctorate and is a degreed nurse.  We have a counselor available who is bilingual and is a Registered Play Therapist who helps children/teens heal from stressful or traumatic experiences. We also have a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, two counselors who are certified in Anger Resolution, five who have received Trauma training and one who is a Licensed Chemical Dependence Counselor."

Clearly, this organization is doing important work out in our community, and it feels wonderful to support them.

I also donated to Midland College's SOS (Support Our Students) fund. When unexpected emergencies crop up, they can hinder a student from completing courses they've started and that can create major barriers to completing their educational goals. Examples of emergencies this fund can help with include food, housing, daycare, legal help, transportation help, medical assistance, and utility bills. 

Do you donate your birthday? If so, what organizations do you love? 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What To Do, What To Do

Greetings faithful blog readers,

You may be wondering if my two week disappearance is because I'm too busy to write while taking care of a baby. The short answer is no. The long answer is that I'm so horrified by some recent actions of our administration that I feel like I cannot in good faith write about planners, breastfeeding, my chapbook, working out, or all the other day in the life stuff on my mind. Instead, I took my friend John's advice and read this book (more in a minute), donated to this organization in honor of my brother's birthday, emailed my senators, and did some serious soul searching about what I believe our country should be, what I believe humanity means, what is in my control, and what isn't.  What is one to do?

I highly recommend reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. This book is an excellent ethnography that gives the reader an emotional connection to each person profiled. The writer does an excellent job removing himself from the third person narratives, and his agenda is really quite simple: we need to have more compassionate policy that helps all people have an opportunity to parent, work, and live with dignity. After you read this, watch The Pruitt Igoe Myth on Amazon Prime. I re-watched it after several years: it's so heartbreaking and related to the issues Evicted discusses. Honestly, both this movie and book changed many of my view points and increased my awareness of how our country works as did my experiences. A few more thoughts:

Point #1: Don't be afraid to is too short to feel like you need to spend it defending or justifying your past views. You can't work to change systems you don't really understand, and you can't really understand without looking at the bigger picture.

Point #2: Don't let yourself become saturated by news that depresses you without taking action. Even though I'm pretty sure my senators do not listen to my views, I still write to them. I vote. No excuses. I also continue to live and enjoy my life. To let your great fortune and the wonderful memories you could be making pass you by would be a tragedy.

Point #3: I discovered the meaning of life, and I really strive to live by it. Spoiler alert: it's not all about me (or you). We have to help other people. That's what makes human beings human beings: our ability to empathize and step outside our own bubbles and imagine what someone else is going through and then extend a helping hand. This is what draws me to reading and writing. Reading is always a good use of time.

Point #4: Thinking about what we can do locally is a great use of time. Since we don't get to influence national policy nearly as much as we can influence local policy and organizations, try to figure out where you are needed. After learning that Dress for Success is starting a chapter in the Permian Basin, I will be combing through my professional wardrobe for gently used pieces to donate to a great cause.

Point #5: Some issues are really not about politics but just about doing what is good and just. We've had some pretty terrible laws that oppressed people or allowed violence to perpetuate. We shouldn't use laws to justify our behavior or letting the bad behavior of others slide (read Emerson and Thoreau for a beautifully worded version written by someone that doesn't have to change their sheets right now).

Point #6: To me, one thing that makes America so special is the diversity of our population. Honestly, diversity is our strength, but some are trying to turn that into our weakness. We shouldn't turn against each other.

Point #7: I don't have all the answers but neither do you. Remember that no one ever knows it all. Keep striving to understand other people: people that aren't just like you aren't worth any less than you are. Everyone is loved by someone. I always remind myself of this.

Point #8: Sometimes you need to take a yoga class or participate in some form of self care. Do it.

Point #9: I think all Americans really want to think of ourselves as good. We shouldn't be so quick to think everyone is out to get us. The world is changing but we can't just "pass the buck" when it comes to our responses. What do we want our children's children's textbooks to say about this period of our history?

I don't have a tenth point, and I have to change my sheets.

I hope to check in with some upbeat content. But it felt good to brain dump.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Austin Recap + Summer Plans

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Thanks for sticking by me whether I'm a fast or slow blogger! We returned home from Austin on Saturday and have been getting back into our normal groove this past week.

Austin was a fun and exciting break from the norm. In addition to the family reunion, we got to catch up with a lot of friends. Willa had two play dates with other babies (though I can't say she really knew what was going on--at least the moms had fun!) The secret date that I mentioned in my last post turned out to be dinner at Blue Dahlia Bistro and seeing Paul Simon in concert. Brendan scored us amazing seats right on the floor, and I could not help but tear up during the opening song--America. It was a spectacular concert, but I told Brendan I refuse to plan him a secret date because his will be impossible to top! Thanks to mom (Lelie) for babysitting. It was nice to be together and out on the town...though (true life) I did have to pump in the car before the concert.

I took Willa out on the playdates on my own; it always feels like such an accomplishment getting us both ready and out of the house. Here we are in our brunching attire. 

It was great to have some family time and friend time. I didn't get pictures, but we also did a couple's date with Matt and Amanda at DK Sushi and went to Lick Honest Ice Cream after. So good. I love our double dates and will take all the cousin time I can get!

We had friends over for dinner, which made it easy for me to be with Willa for her dinner. 

Cassie Meets Willa 
I also got my hair done, and Brendan used a Christmas giftcard to pick up some new equipment at Precision Camera. The week went by so quickly! 

Beyond seeing family and friends this summer (in Austin, Connecticut, and Maine), we don't have any other summer plans. We're both really enjoying the time off and thankful to be able to spend so much time with Willa. She continues to be a happy and easy go lucky baby. That may not last, but I'm enjoying it while I can! 

While I joke that we live in "groundhog day" in which everyday is the same (feed, change, play, nap, repeat), the truth is that everyday is a new adventure too. Even something as simple as a baby pool turns into something neat when you're with someone experiencing it for the very first time. 

While I do have some goals in mind (writing, organization, and future planning type stuff), we've been taking it easy since we got home. I've been binge watching season two of 13 Reasons Why and catching up with friends via phone dates. Going from giving birth to caring for a newborn to finishing the semester to teaching an online class to traveling with a two month old was a lot, and I'm content to relax a bit. I've been able to ease up on the pumping schedule too and now only do that three times a day (in addition to breastfeeding all day...but it's better than the six pump per day schedule I had before Austin).

On a terribly sad note, Brendan and I were shocked and very saddened to learn that Willa's pediatrician, Dr. Ackerman, a mother of three, was killed in a cycling accident last week. We've given our condolences to her family and will be donating to one of her chosen charities in her honor. We saw her a lot as we troubleshooted Willa's slow to gain issues, and she was a really kind person. Please, please, please drive safely and remember that distracted driving is never worth it. I cannot stop thinking about her family and how this loss will affect them. Be careful on the roads, especially during the summer when more kiddos are out playing.

We hope everyone will have a fun weekend. We're looking forward to celebrating Brendan's first father's day on Sunday.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Austin Family Reunion + Baby Road Trip Tips

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Brendan and I are having quite the eventful week, and after weeks of staying home and not leaving the house much, I was definitely ready for a change of scenery. It was a crazy challenge finishing up our grades for the online interim courses, preparing a new house/cat sitter, packing for three, and taking a road trip with a baby, but I'm happy to report we made it (though it took much longer than usual!) The occasion was a family reunion of sorts: a big gathering at my aunt Elaine's that included almost all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sometimes in life, you get fortunate, and one of my greatest fortunes is certainly the family I have. It was so wonderful to see everyone and introduce people to the newest member of the family. Here's a big group picture:

 This is my dad's side of the family. For those of you that remember reading about Mimi, our much missed matriarch, this is just a piece of her legacy.

We did photos by generation. Here is my dad's generation:

My Mimi's children spanned over a decade, and the cousins (their children) span over two. Here we are (minus Julian and Elena) with our significant others. 

I'm pretty sure my generations' children will span three decades by the time it's all said and done. Missing Skylar here. 

Highlights of the day included Graham and Erynn meeting Willa for the first time: 

Willa getting to meet so many people and staying in a great mood all day (we were there for over eight hours!) 

My aunt Elaine's quilt she made for Willa. 

and the Red Sox beating the Astros (Note: that was probably Brendan's true highlight!) 

And now for our baby road trip tips: 

  • Leave immediately after feeding the baby. Willa slept for the first half of the trip without waking. 
  • Buy a car adapter for your pump, and make sure it can extend to the backseat. I thought pumping while Brendan gave a bottle of pumped milk would be a "big time saver," but the joke was on me...if baby doesn't eat first, pumping takes twice as long so...
  • I'm glad I also had my favorite breastfeeding pillow for stop #2.
  • If traveling with bottles of pumped milk, bring a cooler with ice. You can also add any milk you pump on the go into this cooler. If traveling with freezer bags, you probably want dry ice. 
  • Get on Amazon right now and order the 8 inch rainmaker. This will mesmerize your baby and turn a fussy baby into a sleeping one. We rush ordered this thanks to tips from my friends Lauren and Cher, and it was so worth it. We plan to leave it in the car so it doesn't lose the magic. 
  • Make sure your diaper bag has a changing pad. You can't depend on gas stations to have changing tables, but fast food restaurants with playgrounds are generally safe bets. 
  • Keep on hand in the backseat: pacifiers, toys, diapers and wipes. 
  • Be patient: you aren't living life in the fast lane anymore. 
But, at least you have the cutest road buddy: 

We hope everyone's week is off to a great start. Brendan and I are kicking off our official start to summer with a "secret date" tonight planned by Brendan. I've never been on a secret date, so I'll report back! 


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