It is a dangerous narrative to believe that at some point we could find our dream job, stand on the peak of our own greatness, or accomplish all that we are destined to do by the end of our lives. We are trained at a very early age to believe that we stop when we get what we think we want. This is ridiculous! Why is it so hard for us to welcome a life path littered with disappointments, detours, and setbacks? What we want should evolve as we learn more about who we are, what we are capable of, and what passions are worth pursuing with every fiber of our being. The journey to our authentic self is just that- a journey. We never stop. Ever.
How do we find the passion and motivation to keep going? Why is it important for us to not only pursue our dreams but bring others along with us on the journey? What ways do our stories inspire others to have the courage, excitement, and the intention to be their best selves too?
We thought about these questions a lot as we were ending 2020. It was a tumultuous year with many set backs, but it was also a great opportunity for us to reimagine the way we would like to make an impact in this world. That's why we started the Let’s K12 Better podcast and that was the impetus behind the What's Your Why, January series.
We know we're not the only ones create ripples in large and small ways; building communities of allies, accomplices, and collaborators; or meeting the moment with courage. We also believe in human potential and know that each and every one of us has the ability to build better systems and ecosystems, but many of us either don't know how or may not fully believe in our power and capacity to do so. That's why we listen to the stories of others living and pursuing their passion because it inspires us to do the same.
I felt a bittersweetness fill my cup on Inauguration Day. Honestly, I was holding my breath in anticipation of error, hatred, or further danger. Living the overt trauma of 2015-2021 has undoubtedly taken its toll on me. Though excited for new beginnings, I had grown accustomed to what was translated as random acts of violence and hatred and had grown weary in the long slog toward a promise of better days ahead. And for those who were privileged to experience the abridged version of my trauma during 2020-2021, it’s safe to say that many of us were looking forward to a collective sigh of relief.
The tradition of Inauguration Day is a symbolic gesture of peace and joy between parties where all of our officials come together as one body politic to present the new executive leader to the people of our country and the world… and somehow on this day, I felt sorrow.
As I watched the festivities unfold on YouTube and watched as our men and women in our military rightfully display the might required to protect our nation’s capital and the proceedings that day, I was reminded that a few bad apples actually do spoil the bunch. A few, rather a mob of enraged insurrectionists pushed the access of our democratic spaces further away from the people on January 6th. In order to bring stability and peace of mind to the process and ensure the safety of our elected officials on January 20th, Washington D.C. was in effect a military state.
With what we've collectively experienced in 2020 - all of the discussions we’ve held in our homes, work spaces, and classrooms; all of the personal reflection; all of the protesting and demands we’ve made of ourselves and each other, now is not the time to forget our commitment to anti-racism. After witnessing white nationalists, their compatriots, and sympathizers invade the Capitol Building in an attempted coup, those of us watching in shock have a responsibility to see this for what it is; a blip in a long history of entitlement afforded to people, specifically white people, who believe this country and its privileges are available to a select few and not everyone.
It's been an interesting year with many of disappointments and many moments of joy. But if it hadn't been for 2020 we might not have started our podcast, pushed ourselves in ways we never imagined, or explored new interests and ideas. For that, we have to give thanks.
Join us on New Year's Eve for an hour of gratitude and reflection. Episode 27 of the Let's K12 Better podcast will be LIVE (and of course re-shared later).
When: Thursday, December 31st 12pm EST
Where: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (MomOfAllCapes Channels)
More on giving thanks...
Listen to episode 25 of the Let's K12 Better podcast Let's Talk About... Gratitude or learn about our month long gratitude journey by reading our Gratitude Jar Challenge.
Did you miss it? Watch the recording on YouTube.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I realized the job I had ahead of me with nurturing and strengthening an empowered, aware Black child was never going to be easy. Rewarding but not easy. How would I release an empowered civic minded and self aware Black child into the world? I've dedicated every ounce of my parenting time to this personal challenge. It seems like this personal challenge ramped up for me (and many other parents) after witnessing the protests this summer, the continued murders of unarmed Black people, and the contentious 2016 and 2020 election cycles.
How do we have discussions about race with Black children? How do we teach Black kids to self-advocate? What should parents raising Black kids make sure their kids learn before they leave your home?
The first lesson that Black kids should learn is that they are loved and valued. Love is a revolutionary act... particularly Black Love. Cultivating and nurturing Black love is a challenge on it's own, but it is totally worth it. We have to affirm Black kids in their value and their ability to be loved. We have to push back when society signals that Black love is irrelevant, obsolete, invisible, or non-existent. In order to do this, parents raising Black children, have to balance building resilience (tough love) with compassion (connecting with community). This goes for classroom educators as well... which is a whole other conversation I'll have later.
So... How do we get this done? First, think of your home is as civic space. Your home is a community space that prepares children to want to contribute to the well being of their social and physical environment. Doing chores, taking turns, asking about another person’s day; these are contributions that kids can make to the home community.
Raising kids to be community members builds resilience. You can build resilience by having standards that are collaborative in nature. It does not have to be an authoritative environment in order to build resilience. In our home we have four pillars:
When we build community and encourage our children to participate and contribute to making our home community better, stronger, more efficient, etc. we are building resilience through accountability. We are also building compassion through connectedness. This goes beyond cleaning the house and yelling at our kids when they make a mistake, instead we hold discussions about why a missed dishwashing session prevents the success of everyone in the house and how that is not equitable. We invest time in walking kids through how their missteps may prevent the community from moving forward. How am I being selfish? How can I become more selfless? How am I also making sure I make space to listen to others? Am I using my voice so that I may be heard?
Catch more questions and tips like this in this awesome conversation with my favorite millennial couple - Khadeen and Devale Ellis!
Dig deeper into our journey in raising Black kids:
Listen: Talking to Kids... About Race
Listen: #SayHerName... Connecting the Dots
Watch: Racial Issues in Roblox: Blackface in Roblox
Watch: How to Raise a Socially Conscious, Anti-Racist Child
Read: How to talk to kids about race and racism
Read: All Lives Matter...
Read: Black Hair Challenge And Racialized Aggression
Right now we are in a season of gratitude and reflection; a time when groups and individuals take time to look back and plan ahead. Gratitude is a social emotional skill that doesn't just come to us, we must cultivate this skill through the entirety of our lives... especially when times are tough. This was a very challenging year for so many people, but there is always something to be thankful for. What are you and your family thankful for?
As we reflect, there were many disappointments that we faced together, but there's a lot that we are thankful for this year. We finally started our podcast and newsletter; we were forced to step away from our insane schedules to prioritize what is most important; we are thankful for our good health and for family. We are not shy about giving thanks. In fact, at one point we even expressed gratitude for dinosaurs! For us, giving thanks is an opportunity to think deeply about our contributions to making our family run, our commitment to each other, and how reciprocity is a form of love and selflessness.
So... we hope that you and your family will join us for the next 30 days to center gratitude and reflection for a few minutes each day until New Year's Eve.
Join the Family Gratitude Jar Challenge!
This exercise should invite everyone in your home to consciously think about one experience or opportunity each day that they’re thankful for. Give each person the space to give thanks.
The struggle is real. We’re in a global pandemic, we’ve experienced a contentious election cycle, and are continuously witnessing injustice and inequity unfold before us every day on our smartphones. It can feel daunting and overwhelming and many parents are struggling to find answers and solutions that work during these unprecedented times.
Recently I contributed to a Harvard Business Review advice column on parenting during COVID-19. Check out Your Questions About Work, Caregiving, and COVID-19, Answered. I think it's beautifully written and the experts' advice meld together for a perfect pick-me-up.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about how parents in this era are literally winging it every day, much more than their own parents or grandparents had to. There is no manual for these times. NO MANUAL. And we could all use some relief and great advice… But more and more I’m realizing that parents are experts, we just need the encouragement (and the confidence) to pull out the wisdom that is living deep within. We can do this ya’ll!
Regardless of your political opinion, it’s important that you use your voice to vote in all elections - presidential and midterms. All though, the president is an important part of the democratic puzzle, the other two branches of government are just as important. All three work together in a delicate dance of checks and balances.
Presidents appoint Supreme Court Justices, engage on the international scale, and can sign executive orders, but presidents DO NOT MAKE LAWS that govern the inner workings of your daily life. When you head to the polls remember to pay attention to your local and federal legislators.
470 seats are up for grabs this November. So as you zone in on the executive branch, don’t forget the legislative branch, THEY’RE the people that determine how our funding is administered, which programs are deemed most important, and how our communities are funded and supported. When simplified, it seems as if the president is all-powerful. However, the relationship between the president, the legislative branch, and the judiciary serves as a dance of dueling power and responsibilities. Think of it as the ultimate Rock-Paper-Scissors game, but with laws and government. The president can veto or sign a bill passed by congress; congress must confirm a president’s supreme court nomination; and the supreme court interprets laws and can overturn rulings from lower courts which influence legislation at every level.
When one branch becomes too powerful, the other branches have guidelines that help them to tip the scales back so that government functions in a more balanced way, but that's only if the people elected and appointed to the position in those branches are capable of exercising their rights under the Constitution. That's where you the voter comes in. YOU THE VOTER ARE THE ULTIMATE... TRUMP CARD. You get to fire and hire the people who serve the needs of our communities and our country. Your taxes pay their salaries, their retirement, and their health care. Your taxes support their ideas - ideas they should be getting from your needs and pain points. So if you're not happy, it's time to fire people from their job.
470 seats at the federal level can do far more damage than the 1 seat everyone is hyper-focused on right now. Read up on who has been sitting in your Senate and House seats, failing you or benefitting you. GO VOTE. Once you vote, follow up your vote by holding your elected official accountable, paying attention to how they vote while in session, and which bills they introduce on the floor. There are plenty of nonpartisan resources that can alert you and educate you on which bills are on the floor and how your representative voted... we've shared some of them below! Don't forget to make this a family affair. Get your kids involved by reading together, educating yourself as a family, and having discussions as a group about how policies impact you!
Resources and Reads We Love and Need:
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There’s a growing trend of self-reflection across every sector these days where companies, individuals, and entire fields are doing the work to analyze how white supremacy, racial inequities, and other injustices are perpetuated through historic and contemporary policies that uplift a singular narrative or provide advantages and disadvantages across demographics. This is long overdue work and welcomed from my perspective. In order for us to create a society where all people are truly seen as equals, we must be honest and open to feedback, scrutiny, and engage in the necessary (and sometimes painful) investigative work that analyzes where our systems break down or fail to administer justice.
On September 27th, the LA Times released its equity statement “Our Reckoning with Racism” and it blew me away because it wasn’t like any I’ve seen before. Yes, organizations are releasing statements of acknowledgment that they will embark on the work necessary to listen to black voices, strive for more equitable hiring practices, stand with black and brown communities in the fight for racial justice, or even going as far to explicitly state that Black Lives Matter. This is all fine. But the LA Times' statement was not just your average run-of-the-mill equity statement. It was an admission of their role in supporting, fueling, and participating in a system that upholds and perpetuates harmful narratives about black and brown people. The Twitter thread and subsequent articles explicitly provide examples of where and when the LA Times failed BIPOC* communities in their reporting.
National Voter Registration Day is one of my favorite days of the calendar year. In the time between the 2018 midterm election and these fraught moments leading up to the 2020 election, I have been getting more prepared and even more excited about casting my ballot and making change. There are tons of obstacles ahead but I’m ready. I mean, 20 years ago I voted for the first time in a purple state during the Bush v. Gore election. No AP Gov or AP Comparative Political Systems course could have taught me what I actually learned by participating in that election at 18 years old. In that moment, I was introduced to the intricacies of voter suppression, the confusing importance of the electoral college, and the role that the Supreme Court plays in moments of intense election drama.
This week however, as the sun set on National Voter Registration Day, we all learned that Breonna Taylor’s assailants were charged with a class D felony and not her murder. When I heard the verdict, I cried inconsolably alone into my iPhone screen. Breonna Taylor could be me, a child, a sister, a mother, a cousin, an aunt, a friend. Her unfortunate death means that yet again, the systems that we pay taxes into can fail miserably and produce devastatingly disappointing results which echo messages from the pre-Civil Rights era.
Many of us fighting racism in our own microcosms -protesting in streets and town squares, in meetings with school boards, or within the organizations we work- we know that this is exhausting, labor intensive work. And before the verdict, I could see how the light that was burning so brightly during the summer was beginning to fade. But we can’t give up. We can’t throw away the whole thing even when it hurts so bad. We have to see the large and small opportunities to make change. We can’t be discouraged. We can’t discourage others.
Breonna Taylor’s verdict proved just how important it is for us to vote. To be informed voters. To be anti-racist voters. In this podcast episode, my daughters and I discuss how informed voting can be an act of anti-racism. We discuss how important it is for eligible voters to show up and take their vote seriously and hold their elected officials accountable.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.