My letter to colleagues

This is my last week of work and I wanted to mark the milestone. I took some time writing these words and figure I should save it here rather than letting it get lost in email folders.

Dear Colleagues,

I cannot believe I have arrived to my final week with USAC. To mark the milestone, I have been wanting to attempt to express my gratitude in some way. I suppose I’ve been writing this in my head over the last few months and last night, this is what I came up with. Additionally, I very much desire to keep in touch. If we are not friends on facebook, or following one another on Instagram (@la_kenta), please reach out! I’ve also kept a blog for the last ten years. It’s been rather sparse since children came into the picture, but I hope to continue to let it be my digital collection of stories and thoughts and pictures and to give it more of my time. So here it goes….

When I read a book, I like to skim the acknowledgements section that comes at the end. I like to hear what I interpret to be deep expressions of gratitude—this always feels more powerful from a book I absolutely loved. It’s a reminder of the community that surrounds the author even though it’s just their name on the front of the book. I grew up with parents who had the belief that it takes a village and thus always felt an awareness of the community that surrounds me. I’ve been reflecting on my time with USAC a lot and am thinking about it as if it were a book. Chapter 1 would begin when I decided to study abroad in Costa Rica; the final chapter would be this one, where I say goodbye. And rather than telling you the whole story, I’ll skip ahead to the acknowledgements section to attempt to share with you, the community that surrounded me as the author of my book, the gratitude I have for the story of my time here and how much I will miss you all.

To the USAC Mission Thank you for assembling an incredible collection of individuals who believed in you and worked tirelessly to see you through. We all came and circled around you and your impact gave us strength to keep going even when things were hard.

To the VSG and Annex Thank you for being a space for my 14 years of work. Your walls, your doors, your kitchens and hallways will always be in my memories—primarily with laughter.

To those that were here Joel, Fritz, Josh, Shelly, Cami, Dominique, Sabrina and Andrew—you saw me in those early eager Graduate Assistant days all the way to now. I was in my 20’s, single, living with roommates and there wasn’t a single grey hair on my head. Thank you for being with me through all the days that led me here: days away from turning 40 (USAC and I were born the same year), 3 kids, 1 husband and lots of hair dye later….

To the ES team It has truly been the greatest privilege to lead so many staff over the years. It is absolutely the best part of this job for me. From an early part of life (I think it was at the age of 2 when I became a big sister) I took a great interest in service to others and have let cultural and servant leadership become a cornerstone of who I am. I owe some much of my best days at USAC to all of you and working together. Emily and Tylo (and the many others who have moved on), I count you here too 😊

To the USAC students Thank you for never staying the same and creating an eternal sense of job security as your needs continued to change faster than our ideas could keep up with. The square pegs and round holes created countless meetings, ideas and challenges to keep creativity flowing. And thank you to the handful of you that came back to work in our office—because like me, you saw something in USAC that felt special and wanted to become part of it. Even if just for a little while. I thank you the most of all the USAC students.

To the RD’s Thank you for all the ways you shared your home countries with me over the years. Some of my most treasured USAC memories are when you came to visit Reno and we inundated you with meetings and meals and you shared with us all the things that make your program locations amazing. I loved every minute of it and love knowing that I have a friend in every single time zone around the globe. Special thanks to the Spain RDs who spent time with me when I came to visit (on my honeymoon) in 2012. Patricia, Luis, Ibon and their staff made time to share their city with my new husband and me and I’ll never forget it.

[cue the music to get this lady off the stage amiright?]

To the Enrollment Department You have been my home during the work day since 2010 when I began full time work, and since 2008 when I was a graduate assistant in the department. I am not even sure how many department structures, staff members, retreats, meetings, potlucks or virtual themed meetings we have had, but they add up to a feeling of family and togetherness that carried me through when the work felt relentless. We have revised policies and procedures over and over, introduced new and improved systems and work flows and I feel so much accomplishment when I look back and consider where we began. It’s really remarkable what we have been able to achieve together. Keep doing what you do and keep your function as the center from where the spokes of the wheel extend that turn to move this organization along. Kara, thank you for the friendship, guidance and for believing in and trusting me with this work.

To the readers and watchers Thank you USAC book club, and the rest of you who would indulge me in impromptu conversations about TV shows and movies. I have absolutely loved hearing your thoughts on the most recent Game of Thrones or Ted Lasso episode and getting your recommendations on what to watch next. You all are my favorite.

To the mysterious brass mice Thank you for creating a true USAC mystery that goes on unsolved. To whoever has left me the brass mid century mouse figurines in my office over the last 18 months (there are 4 of them), reveal yourself and allow this mystery to be solved!

And finally…

To USAC  Thank you for giving me a space to learn and grow. A place to truly experiment with my leadership style and sharpen my saw. I’ve been able to see things from other angles, test my defenses and tamp down my stubbornness. I’ve been able to teach and learn at the same time, grow my network and expand my horizons. I will miss this very natural way to connect with people and work towards a common goal. Please know I’ll remain a fierce USAC Study Abroad supporter and hope to someday be sending Hugo, Cora and Esme somewhere in your caring hands.

With so much gratitude, I leave this week (and previous 14 years) with a collection of memories, skills, belief in mission based work and so many friendships.

All my best,

Jillian

Well hello, 2017

Another year quickly passes by and from what I can tell, this will continue to happen faster and faster! As you might guess, 2016 was quite busy and full. Life as parents is still a role we feel new with. Having a second kid within such a small time from just starting has thrown us into full kid mode nearly 100% of the time. This is a challenge we are up for, and confidently move forward with little by little each day. It is the remembering we are also a couple that often takes a back seat and requires the most energy after the kids have been cared for. Again… Little by little.

We have enjoyed every moment of getting to know Cora. She is so refreshing and turns any tired I have into energy. Recently, her schedule changed so I don’t see her in the mornings and I am feeling the decrease in my own energy when I have to go to work without having seen her. I have to say, it is an adjustment. I miss her terribly. She is such a happy baby. She smiles every time I go to get her out of her bed, even if I wake her! So I eagerly look forward to her smile (along with her brother’s) when I get home each afternoon. Here are a few recent pictures. img_3831 img_3872

The holiday season was great. We had a nice Christmas. Of course we bounce from one house the next which is so much more exhausting tugging these kids and all their creature comforts along, but it was all worth it. Sharing these holiday memories with family is absolutely priceless. Of course, this is about how we feel while wrangling the kids every which way!

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But our holiday photo in pajamas turned out just fine in the end after a little bit of settling down.

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Hugo of course has become fun to shop for as his interests grow by the minute. He loves anything with a lid, and likes to put things inside bags. Currently, his favorite mischievous activity is sneaking into the drawer with the foil and ziplock bags and pulling out a gallon size freezer bag and putting as many of his little objects inside of it as he can. His mouth is filling with teeth, his mobility on his feet is ever more sturdy, and he is getting closer and closer to talking each day. His clever and exploratory mind is usually pushing him to constantly be moving and touching everything, but every so often, his sweet sensitive side comes out where he is sharing with his sister, cuddling with his mom, or giving his handsome dad a big hug. It is an incredible thing watching him grow.

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And so we forage into another year, looking for more time in the week and hours in the day. But my goal this year is to try to focus on the time that I do have with these little kiddies instead of complaining about never having enough time for anything. I am lucky to be a mom, and lucky to share such an experience with a wonderful husband and friend. Yes we are ambitious and always trying to fix the house, buy the next helpful thing, and do what we want for the kids, but if we always focus on what we haven’t done, we will forget about what is happening now. So, reprioritizing and feeling more gratitude are my goals for the year.

That time I spent 12 weeks at home with Hugo

My time home with Hugo has been magical. Learning how to be a mom, to be patient, to go without sleep, to sacrifice showers, to be a home-body, and to really love this little guy has been an experience that is difficult to describe. I guess the best way to put it is like this: Before Hugo, there were always events we were looking forward to, things like our wedding, other weddings, our honeymoon, vacations, births of other children, and so on. There was always something coming up and then when they were over, there was a little bit of a let down. Like, now what? I don’t want you to think that our lives were built around anticipating big events and there was nothing else in our lives. There is plenty else in between, but this is just my way of explaining this. What I have realized over the past 12 weeks is that we now have a lifetime of upcoming moments. There is always something to look forward to. Right now, it’s the little things such as, when he can sit up on his own, when he rolls over, when he begins to crawl, when he starts to eat solid foods. This is what we are anticipating and looking forward to and will always be out there. He is going to have so many firsts that we get to guide him through. Other moments will be be bigger. Potty training, kindergarten, high school, driving, etc. Right now, we are reveling in these little moments. Smiles, grunts, scowls, wiggles and grabs are so exciting that we really can’t imagine anything else being more….anything…fun, captivating, fulfilling, you name it. I couldn’t be happier.

Over the last 12 weeks, he has grown and changed so much. He started out in the 5th percentile for his size at birth. He proceeded to lose a whole pound because he wasn’t getting what he needed from breastfeeding. So for the first several weeks, he was sure a little peanut! At our appointment at the end of July, we were happy to learn that he has grown his way into the 50th percentile for weight and 75th for head size and length. It seemed like he was only wearing newborn sized clothes and he is now well into 0-3 and 3 month sized clothes respectively. I know from here he is just going to grow grow grow.

Hugo and I had some nice memories at home. Ok, he wont remember but I sure will. Staying home might have seemed a little boring to an outsider. I didn’t leave the house very often but this was just want I wanted. I kept Hugo on his schedule and while he slept I kept the house clean and took care of other stuff, you know, like shopping on Amazon! When I think back on this time, there are two things that I will think of that are a little nutty. Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. These are two shows that I got into and obsessed over. I mean, Hugo is cute and all, but I am only so entertained by his laying on his back and batting at his little activity gym. The shows are what got us through some down time 🙂

Now that I am back at work, I am in the middle of some strange adjustments. It isn’t as though our current schedule is something we should get used to. Kris is staying home with Hugo until our Au Pair arrives in the coming months so I suppose I feel like I am in a holding pattern. I am looking forward to establishing a schedule and figuring out a way to balance my work life with my home life. Home life is being a mom and managing a home which I have learned that this part truly a full time job if you let it be. I am not sure how life will be like when we have someone here, living with us to take care of Hugo while we are at work. Will we still go for dates? or will we simply be happy here at home with Hugo because we will miss him so much? Since Hugo arrived, one of us have stayed home. Losing this and adjusting to someone else caring for him will be pretty tough and will create a distraction at work. We will see how it goes.

Anyway, I am wandering and am more tired than ever! Off I go. Maybe my future posts of thoughtfulness about being a mom will be a little bit more put together.