Note From Jen

family smiling at camera

Note From Jen

By Jen Paul Schroer

Oh my gosh! Summer is coming to an end, and this back-to-school season has me stressed. Friends were waking up early and waiting in line for hours to enroll their kids in after-school care at Genoveva Chavez Community Center, only to discover that it decreased its capacity. This left many parents and grandparents scrambling to find an alternative. The unexpected, abrupt closure of Santa Fe Waldorf School rocked the community and social media. Parents were desperately searching for another school at the last minute, and the community mourned the loss of an educational treasure. Turquoise Trail Charter School purchased and distributed clear plastic backpacks and lunchboxes to every kid at its back-to-school night, mandating every kid use them. I totally understand the precaution, given the teenager who brought a gun to school last year, but dang; it freaks me out. The thought of school shootings keeps many parents up at night. And on the lighter side, please don’t get me started on the required school supplies!

The back-to-school season chaos will always be difficult for families, teachers, and school administrators, but it also comes with so much joy. My 5-year-old son, Ryker, came home from school and told us all about the sounds that vowels make and how the letters S and H are brothers and they tell people to “shhhhh” at the library. Aviva, who is 3 years old and started an early childhood program at Ryker’s school, came home and told us all about her new best friends Tomas and “the girl with brown hair.” It is super cute.

In the midst of all this chaos, guess what I decided to do? I accepted a new job the week before school started. For the past four and a half years, I’ve worked at the Tourism Department, best known for the New Mexico True brand and publishing New Mexico magazine. Best job ever, folks! I worked with editors, designers, program specialists, marketing gurus, creative artists, and more. After the pandemic, this small but mighty team led one of the strongest tourism economic recoveries in the world. The Tourism Department’s work is often held up nationally and internationally as the gold standard and something other destinations should aspire to. I loved the work. I loved our team. I loved our industry partners throughout the state. My heart was full.

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Unbeknownst to me, a new passion was growing inside me the last couple of years. I took on health-related special projects throughout the pandemic, and after, I continued working on social service projects. A year ago, we lost my father-in-law too soon, which might have been preventable if he had accessed a particular test for preventive care. (Grandparents—request a calcium test for the heart! Most health insurance companies do not cover it, but it could save your life.) Two years ago, Justin and I bought Tumbleweeds, and I’ve been learning more and more about our community’s challenges and needs. Recently, I started to help my aging parents navigate our troublesome healthcare system.

So when I was offered a new position at the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, I surprised myself when I accepted; it felt right even though I never imagined my career taking such a sharp turn. I was deeply honored to be entrusted with protecting adults from maltreatment, connecting seniors and those with disabilities to resources, and being a voice for some of the most vulnerable populations in our state. 

Deep breath! You know the feeling when you get when you buckle yourself in on a rollercoaster and it starts climbing up, up, and up to that first massive drop? It’s a mix of fear, excitement, and anticipation. You have to put your blind trust in the safety of the operations, the engineering, and that seatbelt-harness thing. This was the feeling pumping through my body when I officially accepted the position. But what made it even scarier was that the tourism team I deeply trusted and respected were not getting on this ride with me.

As I reflected on leaving the tourism team, I was scared that I was failing them by leaving. I did my best to empower the leadership team, put a strong acting executive in place, and collaborate with them on a transition plan, but it all happened so fast. We held an all-staff meeting and I shared my heart and gratitude with everyone. The Tourism Department had many successes over the Past four years, and it was because of the talented team who chose to work collaboratively and committed to a unique level of excellence that made the department second to none.

Change is hard for everyone, and as I walked into the Aging and Long-Term Services Department carrying a box overflowing with my office stuff, I realized the team here must be nervous, too. They didn’t know me. I didn’t come from the healthcare industry. I am not sure what was racing through the minds of 252 employees, but I am so grateful they gave me a warm welcome. Understandably, leadership transitions can feel unsettling and it usually brings change. My job is to make tough calls; there will be team members who will not agree with my direction. But I truly believe that we will come together to improve the lives of our fellow New Mexicans in every corner of the state. It will, however, take some time.

Even through all this chaos, change, and pressure, Justin and I needed to deliver on our passion project, Tumbleweeds. Magazines have tight deadlines and require a lot of coordination among a diverse team. Thank you to the entire Tumbleweeds production team because I was not as available or timely as I usually am through this round. And a special thank you to the very talented Cody Johnson who has done the graphic design for the magazine layout over the past two years. He was instrumental in bringing Tumbleweeds back to print, and his design was awarded first place for page design of a magazine by the NMPW. This Fall issue is his last Tumbleweeds design. (And yes, we are looking for a new designer for the Winter issue. Contact me if you are interested in learning more.) 

This Fall issue includes our popular family-friendly Calendar of Events, a special Health and Wellness Directory, and inspirational life stories from our contributors. Momma Kiki is back with an article that brought me to tears, tears of joy that renewed a sense of hope. A brave New Mexican mom, shared her journey of shepherding her blended family through a marriage and the deeply personal experience of parenting a step-child through a mental health crisis. Also featured is an incredible testimony of how a service dog helped a young adult manage his autism and Turrets, giving him a new sense of independence and comfort.

To all the families in Northern New Mexico, we will get through the back-to-school transition. Our daily lives flow through seasons, some more difficult than others. Before you know it, we will be gathering in the Plaza eagerly counting down for the holiday lights to be turned on for the winter season. 

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan W. Watts

Let’s dance,

Jen

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