Lineage.

by jennifermshoop

In this inaugural post, this ceremonial ground-breaking, I feel it only appropriate to begin at the beginning: with my parents.  And specifically, today, with my father, to whom the title of this blog is an homage.  (Mom, don’t worry — there will be many subsequent posts extolling the many lessons you’ve taught me, values you’ve instilled in me, and–above all–deep love you’ve shown me, for which I am eternally and daily grateful.)

My Dad is, among many other things, a brilliant scholar, prolific bibliophile, loving father, amateur historian, Vietnam War veteran, philanthropist, fly fisherman, businessman, carpenter, practicing Catholic, and dedicated runner.  He claimed law as his trade.  He never defined himself by the practice of the law, however, and I recall him retreating to the toolshed behind our home in the tree-lined Rock Creek Park area of NW D.C. on most weekend mornings to tinker and build.  (I suspect the shed also provided him with refuge from our estrogen-filled home: four daughters and a wife — bof.)  He later told me that the practice of law didn’t “build” anything, and that he needed an outlet for his creativity.  He would later build in other ways: he would write and self-publish two books, tremendous labors of love that deserve their own blog post some day in the future, and serve as a formidable entrepreneur through various charitable and for-profit ventures — but those mornings in the toolshed spent woodworking and repairing have long represented for me the kind of alcoved outlet I crave in my own life.

This blog, then, is my toolshed.  I hope to vision, tinker, and build here, specifically around the topics that keep me up at night: technology, education, and entrepreneurship (the latter from a specifically female standpoint).  It feels pertinent to specify that I am currently living these topics on a daily basis in my role as Chief Innovation Officer at a start-up non-profit focused on financial literacy.  I am fortunate to feel such synchrony between what makes me tick and what I do to earn a living–something I will never take for granted–but as a result, there will often be a lot of crossover between what I’m doing at work and what I’m thinking about here.  This toolshed will therefore be less of a retreat and more of a hallway between two worlds: the professional and the personal.

I’ll close with one other important genealogical note, this one from a lineage of a different ilk: the literary.  Before I entered the ed tech space, I earned an M.A. in literature and was contemplating the Ph.D. and a career in academia.  Literature has, therefore, been a formative influence, and though I do not prioritize it nearly as much as I should in my everyday life these days, to quote Flaubert: “Me and my books, in the same apartment: like a gherkin in its vinegar.”  I will credit and reference my most cherished luminaries from the canon and beyond in these posts because they have, to shakily and shamelessly pursue the analogy, served as the brine for my intellectual development.  Seamus Heaney, Arundhati Roy, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Wallace Stevens, James Joyces, Charles Baudelaire, Gustave Flaubert.  Hello, gentleman and one lady: thank you for my up-brining.

I embody these lineages everyday: my husband tells me I have inherited my father’s exacting, cerebral quietude and his intensity of focus; I see my mother in the way I use my hands, over-organize my life, and interact with others; and feel myself standing on the shoulders of all of my literary greats in the way I think about, describe, and frame the world around me.  In short, I write this feeling very much as though — in the words of edupreneur John Hunter as he described seeing his mother in himself — I am a continuation of their gesture.

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