Tag Archives: thoughts

feeling nostalgic

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I’m feeling oddly nostalgic these days, although I’ve been busy enough to be able to tamp down those feelings for the most part. E’s middle school years came to an end last week, and now we have a high schooler in our midst. That feels big to me.

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I don’t post as many things about the girls on the blog. They are getting older, and we share more than enough on Instagram with close friends and family. When I started this blog ten years ago, a good portion of it was devoted to E – every drawing she made, each book that she read, the funny and sweet things that she said and did. She seems so little when I look back to those early posts – just look at this first blog photo and then the photo below (upper left corner) taken last Friday!

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Montage 7

It seems like ages ago, but here we are on the sidelines, watching her lead her team to victory with goal after goal after goal, all arms and legs and high fives and smiles.

Montage 8

I think she mastered middle school in a way that I never did. She managed high academic expectations, a busy schedule, clubs and sports and events, and the very real work of navigating these tricky years of early adolescence and group dynamics with a dimpled grin on her face and a heads down work ethic when it was required.

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Now that we’re on the flip side of middle school (for the first kid), I’m wondering what I’d tell past-me – the mom of an upcoming sixth grader beyond “it will be fine”? It’s always easier to reflect on experiences once they’re finished, once the nerves are eased and the jitters subside. But I still think it’s a valuable exercise to do as I think about the coming changes over the next four years of high school.

Montage 3

I’d tell past-me to trust these guiding principles – they work. I’d tell her to lean into the new and the different. Look for opportunities that offer new perspectives at the fundamental level, not ones that reinforce the familiar. Sign her up for camps and classes in neighborhoods we rarely hang out in, with people that she’s never met. Drop her off at the door, don’t linger. Read and reread the mission statement of the organization, but ignore how the building looks from the outside (or even the inside). Seek out the scrappy – they are innovative in ways that ample budgets don’t always allow.

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Expose her to experiences where she is not the presumed leader, where she might be the odd one out. She will walk quietly into new rooms and listen. She will find her voice and insert it when she wants to. She will become comfortable with the uncomfortable, and then she’ll seek that out on her own. She is the center of the universe in this family, a featherbed to collapse into, spent and spinning. But out there you want it to be different – you want her to assume nothing and test everything. At times this might be trying, but she will know herself to the core.

Montage 2

You have done this for her since the moment she took her first breath, so trust it. You exposed her to an ever-widening circle of people unlike you so that she would understand that love and respect and nurture comes in a million different packages, all vital and important to our collective soul. You wrote it in a letter penned before she broke the surface of the earth. You promised to love her first and fiercely, but to not hoard control of her raising. You swore you’d let her know the love of as many different people as you could, and you’re doing it. Keep doing it.

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I cannot slow the days, I know this. That hits me in my core some days; I catch my breath on it. I revel in the time I took to collect these little snapshots of her year and I promise myself to collect more in the coming years. She’s ready for high school, her joy is catching.

#changeforCHANGEinSTL – why we give

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When I moved to St. Louis twenty years ago this fall, I was excited to move to a midsized Midwestern city with beautiful neighborhoods and museums and gardens and parks. I still remember looking for my first studio apartment, settling into the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood within walking distance of Washington University where I would complete my graduate studies in architecture two years later.

Even now I can distinctly remember many of those first conversations I had with St. Louisans. Oftentimes, within five minutes of meeting someone, I was already schooled on this city – where to live, where to eat, where to explore – and, where NOT to go. I knew about the Delmar Divide long before I ever signed that first lease or walked into my first classroom. St. Louis sized me up upon arrival and presented itself to me in a neat little compartmentalized package. There was an organization to this city, and rules that should be followed.

When I think back to those early days, I force myself to imagine a variety of responses that I could have had to those initial interactions regarding how this city draws its boundaries along racial lines. I could have been grateful for the free advice. I could have allowed that insider information to guide my future choices, to shape my social circles, to inform me as I moved out of academia and into my early adulthood. I could have drawn upon it when making that initial call to a realtor, or when we filled out that first application for kindergarten. I’m grateful for that buffer period that graduate school afforded me – it gave me the space to listen and observe and draw my own conclusions about how this region is divided and what my role in that division could be, for better or for worse.

I draw on the language that was used in my family growing up that pointed out or explained these institutional and historical patterns of segregation and racism. These weren’t always lengthy in-depth discussions – oftentimes they were just observations (and statements) of our privilege – when pulled over erroneously by a state trooper on a Florida highway, or when noticing the redline lending maps framed and displayed on the wall of my grandparents’ bank. They were snippets of history pointed out on our annual trips to visit family in the south, and sometimes they were more heated discussions following the vitriol spewed from a visiting pulpit.

I draw on the friendships that I had in my later high school years, in a majority white school, but within a relatively diverse tightknit group of students in the college track classes, conversations around academics and affirmative action and race. I draw on the experiences at a large public university in the south, the way my ears were listening, the very names on the buildings giving me pause and then a reason to dig deeper into the history of the institution. I draw deeply on the mentor relationships that I had in the summers of my undergraduate education – strong women who invited me into their circles and conversations that brought a level of awareness and openness that really pushed me in ways I needed to be pushed.

These conversations might seem like small things on paper – bits and pieces here and there, insignificant. But they weren’t. In a childhood that offered me plenty of mirrors – reflections of what talent and success and hard work and passion could look like for people that looked just like me – I was also given windows to a bigger story beyond the small towns where I lived and traveled and studied. I craved the world outside those windows and knew that the only way I could be part of that was to understand the role I play in how those barriers are either strengthened or weakened / replaced.

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Our family supports We Stories because we see it as an actionable extension of our family’s mission to live within, and learn from, diverse communities. We live in a hyper-segregated city and region, and research tells us that conversations about race and racism are not happening equally across the board. The most important thing that we can do for our two girls is to challenge this system of division by rooting ourselves in diverse communities, teaching them to notice the systems of power and priority within them, and arming them to work diligently at breaking down those systems that divide us.

And as a white family, that work begins first and foremost within our own home; it sits squarely on us. Supporting We Stories means supporting this work in living rooms and kitchen tables and bedtime rituals throughout our region. The work can feel small in the moment, but I am a firm believer that those conversations are vital and lasting and important and necessary to changing the conversation in St. Louis. It challenges those very rules that were presented to me twenty years ago as a new arrival. It sets the stage for a more equitable future in the city where my girls were born. They will be the ones greeting newcomers to this place one day. I believe in them and the new story they will tell.

I hope you’ll join our family in supporting We Stories today.

#changeforCHANGEinSTL

Celebrate and learn more during this Give STL Day on the We Stories Facebook Page.

since we last talked

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I didn’t mean to let the silence linger here – I was on a roll, but one of the first things to go when I get busy is that tiny little sliver of early morning time to write. Sometimes I just need to hit the snooze button. In my absence I turned forty-two, in what turned out to be a really lovely, low-key kind of way. The sun came out and the temperatures rose. My garden membership was renewed, the most beautiful flowers arrived at my desk, new books arrived in my lap, and family also donated to We Stories in honor of my day. I met up with M and the girls on Friday afternoon to meet Chelsea Clinton (a real birthday highlight), and then we ate late night tacos across the street to continue the celebration.

I was still riding pretty high on the birthday vibes that weekend, and then we suffered a pretty significant setback on the house project. One week out, and it feels manageable, doable, a bit more hopeful. But in the moment it felt like a suckerpunch. Insurmountable and gut-wrenching.

That pendulum swing can be difficult to navigate – it always is for me. I’m pretty good at giving a challenge all I’ve got, but it’s far more difficult for me to revisit a challenge that I thought was behind me. I move on, I’ve moved on. I’m not always willing (or optimistic) about stepping back a few steps.

I went for a long run on that following Sunday night, and I really turned my thoughts (and myself) over to the idea of revisiting. Linear progressions are much more predictable, which makes emotions (and reactions) easier to modulate. Even a birthday weekend is a linear thing – another year completed, a new one begun. But if I’m honest with myself, and I look at the things in my life that are the most meaningful and long lasting, I have to acknowledge that none of those things turned out exactly as planned or along a predescribed timeline. As M pointed out to me – we have the tools in our toolbelt to handle this – this is what we do. And he’s right. This is what we do.