Karchamb Ponders…

Thoughts on education, work, and life as a professional and new mom

Why I’ll Walk 17 miles April 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 9:49 am

In less than three months, I’ll walk 17 miles overnight for suicide prevention but  I’ve been raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for about 12 years now. I’d like to share with you why I started and why it matters.  12 years ago, a friend called me and shared that she was having problems with depression.  I had a degree in counseling but felt helpless.  I had no idea what to do to help.  Later that week, while riding on the metro in DC, I saw a sign for an upcoming AFSP walk, the first Out of the Darkness walk.  I would have to raise $1000.  I would have to walk 26 miles.  And finally, I had something I could do.  I asked my friend to stay with me through my journey.  I am thankful every day that she is still around.

A few years later, I signed up for the next walk, this time in Chicago.  I still walked for that friend, but had also learned about others — the twenty people I trained with for the first walk, one of whom lost her battle with depression, friends who had never before talked about their depression, friends who sought and didn’t seek help, and a former professor who had taken his own life.  On the walk, I heard more stories — brothers, sisters, friends, children, who both survived and lost their battles with depression.

At the end of June, I’ll walk again, this time in Philadelphia.  We’ll begin and end on the art museum steps and celebrate life.  Please join me in supporting this cause by donating online at http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=8777    No gift is too small or too large.  Thanks in advance for your generous support.


She don’t want no one around, cause she don’t want anybody to see… July 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 9:36 pm

The full quote for this title is “She don’t want no one around, cause she don’t want anybody to see what she looks like when she’s down- cause that’s a really sad place to be…”  It’s from a Counting Crows lyric, and when things go badly, I understand it in a very personal way.  You see, despite what those who interact with me might think, I am an introvert by nature.  When the world around me gets chaotic and challenging, I find peace and strength in being able to be alone and recenter myself.  

This has been one of those weeks — as if the hot water heater going wasn’t enough, I also “lost” one of my air conditioning units on a 90 degree day and had water flooding my basement when the skies finally opened up and released all that humidity that’s been building up for the last few weeks.  Add to that some fairly severe medical problems for two family members, and you can picture me running for the hills.  

And in moments like this, I think about how this hurts me professionally.  I think often about the obvious ways that, in this field, introversion can be a crutch.  I cringe at group ice breakers.  I become visibly uncomfortable when someone wants to bring me into a new group of people.  I am fully aware of how bad I am at small talk (known professionally as “networking”). 

But I’m also aware of the many ways that my introversion allows me to excel.  I am exceptional at working to task independently.  I can spot an individual’s needs in a group because I am focused on the individuals present rather than on the group dynamic (which I acknowledge I rarely understand).  As a manager, I am able to focus on the development of each of my staff and having meaningful relationships with each one — I find both comfort and solace in individual relationships.  

So, while my flooding basement and my lack of hot water heater will drive me to the hills, the process of understanding one’s own process for rejuvenation is nothing to scoff at.  Better to embrace the introvert in oneself in a genuine way than to try to be someone you are not — it is the lack of the genuine that will set people off, not the desire to have a bit of alone time.  


Trayvon, revisited July 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 5:47 pm
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Back in March of 2012, I wrote about my personal feelings on the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  At that point I was writing about the need to view critically, to assess globally, to put ourselves in the position of “other” though we may never know that feeling.  To see what I wrote then, check it out at https://karchamb.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/on-trayvon-martin/

Now, more than a year later, and a judgement later, I am struck by how little we have learned.  I have friends, close friends, who don’t understand why this case is about race.  I remind them that, if it were their son or daughter, they would have been taken home, out of the rain.  I have heard others talk about the “fact” that the law was served.  This is not untrue– the jury did not evade the letter of the law in their decision. But they were far from the spirit of it and certainly very far from justice.

We live in a society in which too many of our life choices, good and bad, are made for us.  We have the options we do because of our race, gender, ethnicity, family of origin, social and economic status, and education.  As a white person from the suburbs with a doctoral degree, I carry with me both privilege and confidence: it is the equivalent of the old Roman addage, “Civis Romanus,” by which Roman citizens could freely and safely walk the earth without fear.  I can claim that I am safe because I am an American, but it is actually because I am white, I am middle class, I am well educated.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”  This is not the time for Trayvon Martin’s mother to protest; this is the time for me, and those who look like me to rise up and say that we are outraged.  We are outraged that one of our own, our children, was taken from us.  This is our time to say that no child is safe until the black teenage male can walk freely.  This is our time to memorialize the historic march on Washington, not to praise ourselves for how far we’ve come but to protest how far we haven’t — to demand justice for our children; to demand freedom of expression for those who may not dress in a way in which others are comfortable; to demand equality; and to recognize privilege and fight against it.


Back again… June 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 9:28 pm
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I missed a few days in my effort to be a daily blogger. Today’s blog reverbbroads prompt ventures too far into the personal for my comfort, so given that I missed a few days, I am opting instead to write from yesterday’s prompt instead. Hey, it’s my party and I’ll blog if I want to.

So, yesterday’s prompt: What skill have you learned in the past year that you are proud of?

Usually, when I think of a skill, I want to imagine something tangible — I learned to fly a plane, unclog a pipe, or rewire the electricity in my house. While I already knew how to unclog a pipe, I have not yet mastered or even attempted the other two. But the skill I’ve learned this year is, I think, far more valuable. I have learned, at least in part, to relax.

You see, one year and one month ago, I walked in the graduation ceremony for my doctorate. That was the culmination of a lifetime of education. While I had taken breaks occasionally — after my first masters and again after the second — there was always a recognition that I would return to school. Once I finished, it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure what needed to be done next. Of course, I had work; of course, I had my family. But what would be my next major “accomplishment”?

What I realized was that I didn’t need to know right away. It was okay to just let things go. It was okay to sleep late, to spend a Saturday doing nothing but watching a movie, or to NOT think about work. It was okay to read a book for fun. I’ll admit that I struggled at first. I am not naturally good at relaxing.

But what was perhaps most important was that I learned that I could relax and take a day or two off and not lose momentum. I have accomplished a lot this year — I presented my first (and soon to be second) keynote speech; I taught a class I had never taught before; I wrote my first book chapter (to be published this fall!); and I assisted my staff in rethinking our department and refocusing our work. But I also adopted a new kitten, who loves nothing more than to lay on me; I read books that had nothing to do with higher education and had meaningful enough conversations that I was able to recommend them; I went ice skating with my niece and carved out time to help her do her sparkly makeup for her talent show. A year ago, I would have had excuses for why all of this would not have fit into my schedule, not because it didn’t, but because it was too difficult to just relax.

I recognize that, like with any new skill, I am far from perfect only a year into my practice. Like the electrical rewiring or the plane flying, I cannot expect that this new personal skill would be perfect to someone who is still very much a novice. But I do recognize the value in this relaxation, and the need for me to work at becoming better and better at it. For those to whom relaxation comes naturally, this idea of working at it probably seems counterintuitive. But I would probably say the same of those who have to really work at those things that come so naturally to me.


Be excellent to each other… June 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 12:11 pm
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Today’s #reverbbroads starter: Come up with a new Constitutional Amendment. from Art and Soul

The greatest disdain that I have for politics is not for those who disagree with me, but for those who treat our governance system as a game, or even as a toy.  In the most recent years, I have become increasingly enamoured with those who can politely speak their minds and express distaste for a particular policy without resorting to name calling or speaking badly of people’s character.  While I would certainly like to see a constitutional amendment that outlaws DOMA, solidifies the ERA, and (really and truly) outlaws discrimination, my hope for this country is actually much more simple.

I would like to require that elected officials, at least while serving in those roles, refrain from disparaging comments about others character, that they remain focused on the issues at hand, and that they, if unable to do so OR if they do nothing more than stagnate legislation, be removed from office for behaving otherwise.  The greatest danger to this country right now is not that it is headed in the wrong direction politically, but that it is headed in no direction other than one that demonstrates distain for political discourse.  While I would in no way look to limit the free speech of every day individuals, I would argue that, constitutionally, certain behavior can be seen as a job requirement.  We do, after all, pay these folks to speak for us, regardless of how ineffective, nasty, or disrespectful the speech.

I realize that I am babbling a bit — this constitutional amendment lacks the focus that I would like to see from myself (as well as from those who represent me).  But you get my drift.  In the wise words of Bill and Ted (and their Abraham Lincoln), we should, in fact, be excellent to each other…


Already slacking… June 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 12:33 pm
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So, I’ve already slacked on the effort to blog daily in response to the #reverbbroads starter questions.  So, today, I’ll attempt to negotiate my way through integrating the two posts, “Who are your role models?” and “What did people tease you about growing up?”

Honestly, this isn’t as big of a challenge as it may seem.  The only thing I really got teased about as a kid was that I was brainy.  I was the stereotypical brainy girl — glasses, braces, and a need to raise my hand in class when a question was asked and no one else was volunteering.  I wasn’t an outcast — I always had a pretty big group of friends at school — but I didn’t quite fit in either.  I never thought that I was smarter than my friends, but I knew from an early age that I was more cerebral.  Smart or intelligent might be viewed as inherent.  I just thought a lot.  I read a lot. I asked a lot of questions.  I was political and argumentative at an early age.  The only real problem with this (beyond the teasing of my sister and family and occasionally someone at school) was that I always assumed that no one would understand me. I was in my own head too much to share much of myself with others, and I therefore saw myself as being outside of the way that kids were supposed to act.  If I had been teased mercilessly, other than by my family, I probably wouldn’t have noticed — I was too busy thinking.

So, when I think about role models, I’ve always looked to strong women who weren’t afraid to think.  My great-grandmother, who came to this country alone and as a child, and always seemed to have the right answer for everything. My Aunt Irene, who despite being traditional in many ways, never cowered to anyone and always knew that her brain was her most valuable asset.  And others — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who looked to her friends for help with her children so that she could rewrite the Bible in a way that didn’t degrade women, Alice Paul, who was willing to push outside of even the more progressive women of her time, Margaret Atwood and S.E. Hinton, authors who certainly wrote as strong women but who also understood the world around them.  I could say that I admire so many others — certainly those who advocate peace and truth, justice and integrity. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi certainly come to mind.  But more often than not, I look to those who women who have the strong moral compass, are unafraid to use their minds, and who are willing to push the boundaries.


June 2 – Reverb Broads Day 2 June 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — higheredmommy @ 11:00 pm
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Today’s #reverbbroads blog starter comes from Kassie at bravelyobey.blogspot.com. Her question: What gives you nightmares?

The truth is that if I look at this literally, the answer is “nothing.” I say this because I am that person who never remembers dreams or nightmares. I suspect that this comes from not getting enough sleep and therefore never being able to really get deep enough to have that kind of great transformative sleep that I used to have when I was a kid. But, if I look at this more in the spirit in which I think it was really intended, the answer is a lot broader, with a lot more to say. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite answer. So, when I ask the question as “what fears keep you up at night” the answer is “just about everything.”

My only real fears are needles and fires. I desperately fear needles because of a traumatic experience when I was about 9, the result of which was a broken glass syringe in my arm and a wrist to bicep black and blue. Fires are a little more complex, but still a childhood obsession. I suspect it comes from being told that the best way to prevent being killed in a fire in your sleep was to keep your bedroom door closed and, of course, mine did not actually close correctly.

My more mortal, day to day fears are much more expansive. I am constantly afraid of household problems that will bankrupt me (4 years in a 50+ year old house has taught me more than I wanted to know about plumbing, gutters, sewer lines, leaky window wells, and roofing). I fear missing deadlines, failing my staff, doing something that will cause harm to my students, and generally failing at what I am supposed to do. I fear the death of a family member or close friend, and I (perhaps even more so, except in the case of my immediate family) fear the illness, injury, or death of my 15 year old cat. I realize that that may make me sound like a crazy cat lady, but he has been my constant and is perhaps the most empathic creature I have ever had the pleasure to know. Someday, I will again have to go through a difficulty without him by my side and the knowledge of that eventuality saddens and frightens me.

When I think, though, about the one thing that truly keeps me up at night, it has not changed in more than 20 years. My great fear is in being a disappointment to my parents. Intellectually, I know that their love for me is constant and that I was raised with the kind of love that so many dream of. I have never known a lack of love. I have never felt abandonment or that sense I see in some of my students — that there is no one in the world who would care what happens to them. And, financially, emotionally, and psychologically, I have never been without a safety net. Perhaps this makes me feel more responsible to them. This has, over the years, become my driving force. To become someone whose actions are beyond reproach, of whom they can be proud.