I’m Coming Home

I remember the day I left. When Milwaukee became a temporary home. I had packed all of my clothes and a few other things in bags and waited in the living room for my friend’s dad to pick me up. We were on our way to college. LaCrosse, Wisconsin to be exact.

I was the last to be picked up. Our friend’s dad driving the three of us up I94 then across I90. An almost three hour trip. I was 17 and worried, scared by what I was getting myself into. The drive is beautiful and goes quickly. I always looked forward to the smell of the brewery right as we passed the 35th street exit.

I came home at the end of my first year of college. Spent two months working at a frozen custard place and spending time with my family and friends. The next summer I decided to stay in La Crosse. August of 1994 was the last time I lived at home.

I don’t know if I ever came to terms with the idea that Milwaukee was no longer home. There was always a part of me that felt pulled, that wherever I was living, was not really home. La Crosse, Ames, Madison, even Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved aspects of everyplace I’ve lived and have met some amazing people along the way. I got married and started a family in Chicago. I became a foodie in Chicago. So it’ll always have a special place for me/us. But there was always something calling me home.

By the time you read this (this is a scheduled post), I’ll be making my way to Milwaukee.

I’m coming home.

Unsure of what this new adventure will bring, I know that I’ve only been more excited 3 other times in my life. When she said yes, and when my kids were born. Here are some things I’m looking forward to:

  • Spending more quality time with my family
  • Helping my mom make tamales
  • Hosting dinner parties
  • Watching my kids grow up with their cousins
  • Being more active in my community
  • Getting involved in the poetry scene
  • Trying new restaurants
  • Launching a new website focused on Milwaukee things (more info to come)
  • Raising my family in Milwaukee proper
  • Reconnecting my heart with the city I love

This is not a final list. I’m sure it’ll change once it hits me that I’m a Milwaukee resident again.

If you’re reading this, and you’re from Milwaukee, I am not asking for a homecoming.

I’m just asking for a welcome.


New Adventures In…

At 5pm central time on Thursday, July 2nd, I will have completed my last day at DePaul University. I’ve been here for 6 1/2 years and both it and the city have been a tremendous part of who I’ve come to be. I moved here for this job, but also to live in the same city as Mariana.

We got engaged here.

We had our children here.

We baptized our first born on DePaul’s campus.

And I met some truly amazing and remarkable people here that have had a tremendous impact on me and by extension, my family.

I learned a lot in my time here. I’ve learned to show up more authentically. I laugh out loud more. I make people laugh more. I have become more reflectively and thoughtful here. I’ve become more of a big thinker here. I fell in love with making food here.

And I feel like a made a difference here. And for all of those things I am grateful for the staff in the office and across the division of student affairs that have held me up and encouraged me to grow.

But my time has come to an end here.

I don’t necessarily know what’s next for me. I have one application out and one more that I’m working on. I’m an uber driver on a part time basis. I am also working on Milwaukee Beautiful. But more importantly, I’m dreaming about what could be. And allowing myself the space to wonder what might be next for me.

I’ve been told by a lot of folks that they couldn’t do it. Leave the security of a full-time job in order to pursue the unknown. But I’ve come to embrace that unknown as an opportunity to explore and engage with my self.

One of the things that has always driven me is the notion or idea that things happen the way they are supposed to happen. And more importantly, we end up being around the people we’re supposed to be around in that particular time and space.

So to whatever happens next, I will embrace it and make sure that I get what ever it is that I’m supposed to get out of that experience.

Cute Kids and Grown Men

I found myself last night looking at a photo of a one year old on facebook and thought “that dude is so cute!” but I didn’t post anything. I didn’t even “like” the photo the first time I saw it. I did “like” the photo the second time. But I was also reminded of the fact that only women have ever commented online and in person on how awesomely cute my kids are. ( I swear, I am humble!)

So I went back to the photo of said cute kid and left a comment. “dude. srsly. the cuteness is strong.”

In that moment, I made a commitment to myself. To share what I’m thinking. To share my emotion. To swoon in the same way that women do when the cuteness is strong. And I encourage you to do the same.

It may seem like a small thing, but I think it’s a symptom of a larger system of masculinity that handcuffs men in certain ways and limits our ability to express what we are thinking and/or feeling.

This also has me wondering if said cute kid is a boy or a girl also matters. (I think it does.) If we are more likely to engage the cuteness of girls than boys. (I think we are.) It definitely is deeper than the cuteness of kids, but it is something tangible that I can start doing moving forward.

So if you see cuteness, say cuteness.

On Why Expulsion Was The Only Option For The SAE Students

As you may have heard, the President of Oklahoma University has used his executive authority to expel some of the students who lead the disgusting, racist chant by the OU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 

I’ve seen it posted on several Student Affairs related Facebook pages and I’m astounded at the number of folks who have talked about their uncomfortableness with the decision, mostly citing their desire to engage these white men in educational opportunities that would help them understand how their behavior was problematic. 

I get it. I do. I served as Social Justice Education Coordinator in a previous role and I strongly believe in the role educational experiences can play in the lives of student, staff, faculty and administrators on our campuses. 

As Student Affairs professionals, we have long been told by our graduate programs and institutions to challenge and support. It’s an underlying tenet of the work we do as higher education professionals. 

But if you believe that’ve should find a way to challenge and support these particular students, and excuse my candor, please miss me with that. And take several seats.

And here’s why.

This is the type of behavior that needs direct and tangible repercussions. Expulsion is that. The language used in the video is merely a symptom of a larger and more perverse and pervasive way of thinking that exists on all of our campuses. 

Educative opportunities should exist when the outcome is reasonable. If social justice is a lifelong process, let them invest their own time on their own time to make meaning of how they ended up expelled. Their continued presence on campus will have a detrimental impact on many. 

More importantly there are numerous black and brown boys and men that have made bad choices and will not have an opportunity to atone for those choices because they are dead. They have died at the metaphorical hands of the system of racial oppression that told these fraternity members that it’s okay to refer to black men as n-words and make reference to their lynching. But their deaths are not a metaphor. They are directly connected to the behavior and attitudes and beliefs highlighted in that video. 

If you truly believe, as SA professionals that Black lives matter, then you will stop calling for the opportunity for these young white men (and women) to learn from this experience rather than be expelled from their campus. 

Believe this. 

Expulsion as the only option is more of a cry that Black lives matter than a retweet, a blogpost or a changing of your profile pic. 

Uncertainty, Risk and the Start of Something Beautiful

The morning commute to Chicago.
The morning commute to Chicago.

I don’t know how I came across his blog, but Seth Godin has the ability to make me think with not a lot of words. He challenges me in ways that I have never been challenged and I continue to be moved, if only a little, by most of his posts.

One of his more recent ones, attempts to draw a distinction between uncertainty and risk.

Often, the most important work we do doesn’t bring a guaranteed, specific result. Usually, the result of any given action on our part is unknown.

Uncertainty implies a range of possible outcomes.

But a range of results, all uncertain, does not mean you are exposing yourself to risk. It merely means you’re exposing yourself to an outcome you didn’t have a chance to fall in love with in advance.

I’ve never considered myself a risk-taker. In fact, if I were to be honest, I would actually consider myself to be risk-averse. Well, until now. Since reading this particular post, I actually believe that I’m more averse to uncertainty than I am to risk.

I have a fear of the unknown. A fear of the uncertainty that comes with making big decisions, or starting something new. Maybe that’s why I haven’t left the college campus environment since graduating. Maybe that’s what’s keeping me from diving in to the ideas that I have. Maybe that’s what keeps me from working harder at Codecademy courses, or taking advantage of the free access to Lynda.com.

The image above is from my morning commute. A couple months ago we made the decision to move to Milwaukee. Mariana has a job here already. I still have a job in Chicago. Maybe this decision was a step towards embracing the uncertainty.

In an effort to find more ways to embrace the uncertainty and to expose myself “to an outcome [I] didn’t have a chance to fall in love with in advance” here are a couple of ideas that I’m committing to bring to fruition in the near future:

  • A friend (Amanda) and I are building a website to highlight the beauty of Milwaukee that don’t get a lot of shine. What you’ll find on this site, you won’t hear about on local news sites, nor will you read about on the various “what’s awesome about Milwaukee” websites and listicles. There’s nothing on it yet, but it will be here.
  • With the rising costs of college tuition and the stagnant growth (and in some cases the decline) of both financial aid and family contribution ability, there is a need for something that will help students and their families make sound financial decisions about the college going/enrollment process. I know there a lot of organizations out there that help students one on one, but don’t think that can scale to reach the most number of students and families as possible. This idea will take either me learning to code, or partnering with folks who know how to code, or both.

Both of these are full of uncertainty. And both have the potential to have an impact.

Be on the lookout. Something beautiful is coming.

poem 9/30 ode to Bobby Petrino #fb

you don’t get to

crash your motorcycle

joyriding with your girlfriend

while your wife and four kids are home

and keep your job.

somewhere in arkansas

your fans will rally for your return,

boosters will threaten to pull their money

because you’re a winner.

but you are the tiger of college football coaches

your name should carry its weight in mud.

men must talk about your misgivings;

judge you not by your wins,

but by your choice

to tuck your wife and four children in your back pocket

while you played sugar daddy to a former student

poem 6/30 – 5 words from beto jr.

No longer with us in the flesh
her memory is a survivor.
Stuck in our head like our favorite bands best song.
we can recite her personality easily.

Mimi loved to sing and dance.
Perform with mother’s hairbrush
while we tried to watch football games
she was our halftime show during every quarter.

Her brother, Beto,
learned to love football early.
the best player on every team he was on
chose 23 for his number.
Maybe he’ll bloom like Jordan in college.

It’s hard to know how children will live with death.
Especially ones they can’t fully understand.
Ones enveloped with words like tumor and inoperable and cancer.

During his first year on varsity
he had stickers and sweatbands made.
they read RIP Mimi.
It was easy to get his teammates to wear them.

his parents passed them out to family.
his cheering section was the biggest
that high school had ever known.
every touchdown
an upward glance and a point,
a thank you and a miss you
to his angel.

poem 5/30 sweet, sweet dance moves

I learned how to dance before my teens.

fascinated by the rhythms of cumbia

I would sit on the edge of my seat,

heel tapping against the linoleum dance floor

as men traversed the tables searching for a dance partner.

my mom made my cousin take me out there.

hands lifted to make a clear line of sight to our feet

she yelled instructions through the predictable bass line.

count with the beat

1 and 2, 3 and 4

back and forth, back and forth

I don’t remember coming off the dance floor.

my little one is already dancing.

a week past ten months,

she shakes her body

off rhythm

whenever she hears something that could be music.

today she danced on command

no sound other than my voice

baila, mama. baila

she’ll learn real dance moves long before I did

because that’s what little girls do.

wear dresses to parties so they can twirl

while grandmothers gush

at how cute their baby is.

and I won’t blame them

I’ll just be sure to teach my son to do the same