July 21, 2016

Suspicious Package

I recently spent four days at an academic conference in Dallas.  Things went smoothly enough. However, when I returned to Atlanta, the most heart-wrenching, bizarre thing happened.

I had a relatively early arrival time of 3:20 pm, so my husband was unable to get off work in time to pick up from the airport.  Atlanta traffic is horrendous daily from about 2 pm to about 8 pm.  I had two choices:  catch an Uber or have my 19-year old son pick me up.  I was not in the mood to ride in rush hour traffic with a stranger after spending four days with strangers.  So opted for my son to pick me up.  

I was a bit nervous about this because his driving record is by no means stellar, and Atlanta's airport is a beast.  So, he found me, uneventfully, without having to negotiate parking.  I was beat down by the heat and the heaviness of my carry on luggage by then.  As he pulled up to the curb, I was in full "Mom mode" and trying to usher him out of the car to help me with my bags.  He debated with me briefly (as he is won't to do these days) about how to put my rolling bag in the trunk.  While he was doing that, I had to relieve my left shoulder of my heavy laptop bag that contained more than just a laptop.  I noticed he was a little nervous about the traffic and the rush at the airport, so I told him I would drive.  We switched seats and we were on our way to my parents house to pick up the little kids who had spent the 4 days with their grandparents.

We were about 15 miles from the airport up I-85 North when I noticed my phone battery was almost dead.  I asked my son to reach in the back seat and retrieve my charger from my laptop bag.  

He said, "It's not back there."

The panic was building in my chest when I said, "What do you mean, it's not back there?  It has to be back there!  Look again."

I had left my laptop on the bench of the Delta curbside service area!

I sped across 6 lanes of traffic to the nearest exit.  We were going to go back to that airport and get my laptop!

My mind began racing about all of the collateral damage that would result in the loss of that laptop. Yes, it was insured, but did insurance include loss or theft?  Who knew. 

Wait! All of my coursework from my doctoral program was on that laptop!  Yes, I had backed up most of the documents to the cloud, but the two assignments that were due Friday had only unfinished drafts in the cloud.  The completed drafts were on my hard drive.  I had finished them on my flight home, and I did not want to spend the $6 for the in-flight WiFi just to save those documents to the cloud.  I now lamented that choice...

I was screaming and crying inside.  I would need to ask for an extension.  No, I couldn't do that. I just started this program.  Get it together!  I would just use the rough drafts in the cloud to duplicate my efforts to the best of my knowledge and turn them in.

Replacing this laptop would be expensive (if the insurance did not cover loss or theft).  I just purchased it the week that the graduate program started.  I didn't have that kind of money to just turn right around and purchase a new one.  How was I going to survive for 2 weeks or so without a laptop! I was actually crying now...

My planner was also in the laptop bag (this was why the bag was so heavy).  Although it was only $30, it contained notes and plans from the last 3 months of my life.  That is not replaceable.  

The traffic was abysmal.  A sea of vehicles lined I-85 South from N. Druid Hills into midtown and passed I-20.  During this creeping expedition, I was yelling at my son to call his grandparents on his phone (as mine was almost dead) and let them know what happened. He was perfectly calm.  In hindsight, this was either because he keeps a cool head under pressure or because he's just a self-absorbed 19-year old who could give a damn about my laptop.  

And because my phone was almost dead, I wanted him to search for numbers to the airport Lost and Found.  He finally found a phone number, and I remained on hold until we pulled up to Delta's curbside again.  

I put the car in park on the curb (illegally), hung up the phone, and started my quest.   

My first stop was Delta's Lost and Found.  There I was told that all "suspicious packages" are turned in to the Police, and that I should try the airport police department first. "Suspicious package?" I thought.  

I was running at this point, because I knew my son was illegally parked and might not know what to do if asked to move.  Once I got to the police department in the North Terminal, they told me that I should try the airport Lost and Found.  I did not have the time or the energy to be pissed off about the misinformation.  I just ran to the next stop, which wasn't where the police officer told me it would be. Apparently, the Lost and Found staff move from one office to the next from day shift to evening shift.  

When I finally found the airport Lost and Found, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  But when I told the lady at the counter that I had lost a bag about 40 minutes ago, she started asking me to describe it and tell her where I left it.  At that point, I knew she had it.  Once she presented it to me, I burst into full-blown balling tears. The customers that had accumulated behind me started cheering. I explained that I was a graduate student, and my whole life depended on this laptop.

The Lost and Found lady explained to me that someone reported a "suspicious package" to the airport police department spotted on the bench at the Delta curbside area.  The police investigated "the package" and found that it was only a laptop.  At that point, the police sent it to Lost and Found.

Before 9/11, someone would have opened my bag and walked away with a brand new Macbook.  But now that we live in a society guided by fear and suspicion, my bag was labeled as a "suspicious package" and no one wanted to go near it.  Indeed, people wanted it to be "disarmed."  Imagine that.  And I missed all of this excitement while I was barreling down I-85 in a fit of terror.  The only thing that was required of me was my signature and the date, and my coveted Macbook was in my arms again.

July 10, 2016

A Movement

This is all happening, right now, right here, all around us. Our country's refusal to heal the wounds of slavery 151 years later has brought us to this historical moment. I don't want black men murdered by the police, systematically or otherwise. I don't want police murdered by black men. I don't want any of this violence. But this is all inevitable, isn't it? We are a country that has lived by the sword since its inception. We fetishize guns, yet we lament over gun violence. We have legally sanctioned the murdering and maming of black people as a part of the "southern way of life" since the dawn of the 18th century. Yet we are perplexed, if not outraged, by black people simply proclaiming#blacklivesmatter just as much as white lives.

I am the mother of 3 black sons. I live in fear every day God gives me that someone who sees no value in their black lives and black bodies will murder, maim, or incarcerate them basically because they are black and therefore don't matter. My middle son, John, did an extremely brave thing Saturday night. He exercised his freedoms of citizenry and marched in the #blacklivesmatter protest in downtown Atlanta. I was at once proud and petrified. It had to be done. If not young black men like him, then who? But we know all too well how these things can end when black bodies are the ones facing off with police. But my son is a young, educated, black man now. He is a student at GSU and he is learning civil disobedience as a strategy for social change and social justice. My husband and I have raised him as an advocate, if not a radical. I applaud his bravery. I will always fear for his life. He came home in one piece (thank God). He is a man, a black man, and his life matters.

June 27, 2016

Three Things I've Learned this Month

1.  Change the change agent

Something hit me like a ton of bricks during our first Qualitative Research class.  Our cohort were all having small panic attacks about the "destabilizing force" of the new doctoral journey.  All of us shared our feelings about being overwhelmed, out of control, and de-centered in varying degrees.  Our professor noted the irony - we all chose this doctoral program in order to become leaders of change, yet we are disillusioned by the "destabilizing force" of the change that we are experiencing...Enough said.

She also said that this process of adjustment should take 6-12 months. We are expecting too much of ourselves.  Instead, we must surrender ourselves to the process.

And so, I am surrendering...

2.  Inspire Trust

The action research methodology requires a great deal of reflection from all involved parties, and of course that reflection must start with the researcher (me).  So, in a discussion board from the same Qualitative Research seminar, a colleague asked what I believe has helped me to foster democratic collaboration among groups.

I'm only now reflecting on this because she asked me.  When you are charged with so many grandiose goals, you forget about the little victories along the way.

I think what has helped me achieve democratic collaboration with my teams is fostering trust.  People want to know that you value them as human beings and that you value their work. Ask what they think, what they would do if they had their way.  Then implement some of their ideas, and give them credit publicly.  I mean, these are just a few ways I've built trust within groups.  I have to concede, though, that a leader may never gain the trust of some people/groups, because sometimes their mistrust is based on something within themselves or past experiences that had nothing to do with that particular leader at all.

3.  Fitness is important

I have realized very quickly that I not only had to prepare myself intellectually for this journey I am embarking upon, but I have begun to prepare myself physically and metaphysically.

I started running again (almost daily).  In order to focus and engage in the immense brainwork of doctoral studies, my body must be fit.  I find that if my body is out of shape, my mind is out of shape too.  I have also decreased the amount of wine that I drink significantly.  Too much drink clouds the senses, and my senses cannot afford to be clouded.  I am also eating more healthy.  I have significantly decreased processed sugars and simple carbohydrates, and I have started eating a good breakfast each day.

The funny thing is - I did not "intend" to do these things in preparation for my doctorate.  I came home from the retreat and realized I had to "make space" and prepare.

And so here I am, a month and a half into the journey, and I have surrendered to the "destabilizing force" of the process.  I received my first "A," and I no longer feel like an imposter.

May 23, 2016


So, we're supposed to reflect everyday.  In fact, the name of my first doctoral course is "Reflective Practice Seminar."  Specifically, the course requires us to reflect on "past and current work experiences in adult education used as a basis for systematic reflection on practice," and this is my first of such reflections.

We just spent three intense days getting to know our cohort (of 12), our faculty, and the concept of Action Research.  Two days later, I am left with he deep abiding sense that I am incredibly fortunate. I am at peace with the decision that I now know I did not make alone.

For the past 3-4 years, I have been "searching" -- that is indeed the word -- "searching" for a doctoral program.  I kept returning to the Doctorate in Learning, Leadership, and Organization Development at the University of Georgia.  I now know that it is as Marianne Williamson says the thing calling me to it.  That is the nature of desire.  We only truly desire things that are meant to be ours.  It is a symbiotic relationship - desire.  We yearn for the thing, because the thing is calling us to yearn for it.   

I even engaged in a bit of self-sabotage during the admissions process.  A week after the admissions deadline had passed, I was sure I had sufficiently blown off the whole pursuit.  That is until I received an email from the admissions team to schedule my graduate interview.  This couldn't be, I thought.  I missed the application deadline.  I returned to the admissions website to find that the deadline had been extended for another 30 days.  Although the interview went well, I was still convinced that "I wouldn't get in."  My imposter syndrome securely in tact, I just knew they would see my terrible Math GRE score and say, "Nope.  Not that one."  So imagine my shock and awe when the acceptance letter arrived.  After a few days of feeling pretty damn good about myself, I started to sink back into the familiarity of self doubt.  "Maybe they made a mistake," I convinced myself.

So, it wasn't until Day 3 of the three-day retreat that an overwhelming sense of belonging washed over me.  We meditated and did breathing exercises and shared stories and cried until I realized, once and for all, that I really am good enough -- intellectually fit enough, tough enough, smart enough, and committed enough to pursue and complete the highest degree in the land. All of my life, every step of the way, God has been leading me to this point.  This is the beginning of my destiny fulfilled.  And for the first time in my professional life, I know that this is where I belong, and I am at peace.  I feel completely capable of overcoming all of the challenges along the way because this doctorate is already mine.