Posted in This is me

Restless

It’s the day after Easter. I’m sitting on my back deck and enjoying my coffee for what is really the first time this Spring, and I’m restless. I don’t even know that that is really the right word to describe it, but it is the word that I have for today.

The past year has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. In just a little over a year, we have sheltered in place, worn masks, not worn masks, cancelled school, gone virtual, flipped education totally around, missed a junior track season and junior prom, missed graduations, missed the last third of junior and 6th grade years, missed 6th grade track season, worked from home, bought a boat, started a podcast, renovated an office, became part owners of a gym, gone back to work, changed to a faculty position, trained someone else to do my old position, taken it all back because that person left, taught way more hours than I should have, dealt with countless student issues, celebrated holidays in new ways, had snow on Christmas, turned 40, celebrated 20 years of marriage, ordered senior pictures, picked a college, quit track for the senior season, had wrestling for 7th grade, starting track for 7th grade, got some new furniture, had family to the house, said goodbye to David’s mom as she moves to Alabama, missed sports, watched sports, played with the dog, and that is just what I can remember. That’s a lot in a year. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, but I am still restless. Waiting on the next big thing to come down the pike, but wanting to do it with peace in my heart.

I sit and I wonder about the things I still want to accomplish in my life, and some of those things seem like they will never happen. What is my next big thing? How many more big things will there be? I’m not being morbid, I just keep wondering that. You grow up and think of all the things you will accomplish by the time you hit a certain age or what life will look like when you reach a certain milestone, but do we actually hit those milestones and see the things we dreamed of when we were younger? I’m not complaining about my life. In general, my life is wonderful. I am blessed with family and friends, a job I genuinely love, and a home. So what am I waiting on? Why am I constantly dreaming of the next big thing? When do I look at the things I have now and find satisfaction? Is it the perfectionist in me that keeps looking for better? I’m sitting on the deck today, and although I love it, I am looking at all the things that I wish were different. I’m thinking about how much I wish I was in a different house and in a different part of town. How I wish I was smaller, and had more motivation to make things happen instead of wishing they would happen. It’s even the weird little things. Wishing I could take the dog off the leash and know she would stay instead of running off (she’s kind of an escape artist). Wishing I was motivated to work on my bedroom and make it a space that is welcoming and calming instead of chaos. Wishing I had paint and could paint my cabinets white today, but knowing that even if I went to get the stuff for it, I wouldn’t be able to get it finished because of too many other things going on.

I’m not writing this because I am sad or to get people to point out how blessed I am. I’m truly just wondering if we ever find satisfaction in life, or are we more like the song from Hamilton than we would like to admit? What gets us to the satisfied stage, the stage where we could want for nothing more and feel happy with ourselves and our surroundings and accomplishments? The point where we look around and say it is good. Does reaching that point mean we have given up? That we have lost our drive? Life is so confusing sometimes. I don’t want bigger or better necessarily, I just want different. I guess I’m just restless.

Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome

Tackling Imposter Syndrome

I think it is really important that we take a look next at how to tackle imposter syndrome (or battle it or whatever word you want to use). There are a ton of resources out there (and more being put out everyday) about imposter syndrome, why we have it, and how to overcome it. In my mind, in order to overcome imposter syndrome, we have to look first at what some of the reasons may be that we are suffering from it.

What makes us questions our own worth and what we bring to the table?

For me, there are several things that I think contribute to my imposter syndrome, but one of the ones that I think might contribute most is the idea of humility. Not to get too regional about things, but I was born and raised in the South, and that is still where I live. In fact, I live now in the same city where I grew up, the one I said I would never come back to when I left for college (We see how that turned out). What does this have to do with humility? Well, one of the things that you hear constantly in the South, or at least you heard it a lot when I was growing up, is don’t brag. Don’t gloat (unless your football team won), don’t tell everyone your accomplishments (they should speak for themselves), and don’t flaunt your gifts (because it isn’t fair to the people that didn’t get them). These were all things I heard growing up. When you couple that with what the church (mine was Baptist, but I am guessing it goes across most major religions) says about pride and all the wonderful little cartoons (thank you Aesop and Looney Tunes) that talk about not being prideful, I think I can see where the heart of my imposter syndrome lies. Make no mistake, I still think these are good things to teach our children and for us to remember. I just think we have to learn to balance that with gracefully accepting a compliment about something we have done or taking the credit for our amazing work without feeling bad about it.

I feel like we have gotten the concept of confidence confused with arrogance somewhere along the line and, for me, when you couple that with this desire to please people and have humility while doing it we have created imposter syndrome. A point in which not only can we not acknowledge our own accomplishments or “toot our own horn,” but also where we can’t accept the credit others give us without feeling like someone is going to think we are being arrogant and where we are constantly waiting on someone to call us on being a total fraud. We preface things we say with words that automatically downplay our contributions. We put off things because we have to do it perfectly, then get stressed trying to be perfect under the wire.

So how do we fix this? I think the first piece of the puzzle is to acknowledge that we have it. Acknowledging that a constant feeling of not being enough or waiting on the person to figure out you don’t know what you are doing is not right or healthy. Sitting in our offices or classrooms looking around for someone to be in charge isn’t why we are here. For most of us, we have gotten jobs based upon our intelligence and accomplishments. Let’s start by acknowledging that singular piece.

We didn’t get to where we are in a vacuum, and it is wonderful to give credit to those who helped us. However, it is also important to give credit to what we have done as well. The second thing I think we need to do is to talk about it. I can’t begin to tell you how much writing this blog series about imposter syndrome has helped me. It helped just to hear that others were having the same feelings. To know that I wasn’t existing all alone in this crazy world of feeling like a fraud has been so helpful. So step 2, if you are battling it my way, is to find people to talk to that feel the same way and acknowledge that you are not alone in this. I will say that it helps when the people that you find are dealing with this are people that you think highly of and view as well-respected people in their field.

The third thing I think is important is to create your own hype file. I am a sports fan, and I love to watch the hype videos that get put together before a season. They make me feel positive about the direction the team is headed and give me hope for the season, and trust me when I say there hasn’t been much hope for my team in about 20 years. I’m not saying you have to create a cool video, although it isn’t a bad idea at all. In fact, if you have the ability to create a cool hype video, DO IT. I’m going to say create a hype file. A place where you store your accomplishments, the kudos people give you, any certifications you earn, thank you notes, etc. This gives you something to look at when you are feeling particularly bad about whether you deserve or are worthy fo the good things happening in your life.

The last thing I suggest is to flip your thinking. Put a post it somewhere you can see it that says “Why not me” and refer to it when you feel like you can’t possibly be the one that should be doing this. There are a ton of personal mantras that you can adopt to help yourself feel worthy or hype you up, but this single question has helped me more than you can imagine. Instead of constantly trying to figure out why I was chosen for something, having this one question taped to my computer reminds me to get out of my own head and do the job.

I have a good friend that constantly reminds me that I am chosen for things because I am dependable and intelligent. She also suffers from imposter syndrome, and when we talked about it her other thing besides why not me was to remember that when I devalue myself I am devaluing others as well. When she asks me to do something and I constantly ask why me or feel I am not the one to do it, I am also questioning her ability to choose someone for a task. I truly respect her and value her wisdom (and think she is one of the smartest and most capable people on the planet) so turning that why me to why not me allows me to try to see things from her point of view (which is a much more positive thought about myself than what I typically have).

I think that wraps up Imposter Syndrome for the blog. I’m not sure, and it will probably pop up again sometime, but I think I am finished writing about it for now. I have not conquered it, but I am a work in progress. I don’t have all the answers, but I have found some that have worked for me. I am not complete, but I am a work in progress. I am learning to be okay with that. I am learning that I can be proud of myself without being prideful. I am learning that humility is not the same as self-degradation. At the end of the day, I am learning to be a better me without saying the current me is bad or fraudulent. Isn’t that the real purpose of this?

Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome, Inspiration, This is me

Imposter Syndrome Continued

First off, let me just say that I was truly overwhelmed by the response to my post last week about Imposter Syndrome. I was amazed that my post seemed to resonate with so many people, and that so many of the people that I heard from were people that I never expected to feel the same way. Since there was such a response, I have decided to dedicate the next few weeks to taking a deep look at imposter syndrome and how it changes my life.

Let’s start off with actually defining what imposter syndrome looks like. The common characteristics (according to verywellmind.com) include:

  • Self-Doubt
  • An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Berating your performance
  • Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
  • Overachieving
  • Sabotaging your own success
  • Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short

For some people, imposter syndrome serves as motivation to achieve something larger than what they are currently achieving. I happen to have this as one of the ways it manifests. It causes me to work harder than necessary and push harder than I probably should in an effort to keep other people from finding out I am a “fraud” and sets me up that I see the reason that I succeed as the direct result of my extra effort. I ask myself (on a more than regular basis) what gives me the right to be doing the things I am doing. One of the funnier things about this is that I just got my degrees hung in my office after Christmas, and I am continually looking at them for reassurance that I really am qualified to be doing the things I am doing. Doing things well doesn’t even make me think that I am qualified because I keep going back to the only reason that I succeed is because I worked my way or lucked my way into it.

It is said that 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in life, even though it isn’t an officially recognized disorder in the DSM-5, but it appears to show up in multiple different ways. Strangely enough, I can recognize parts of each of these in my own journey.

The first one is called the perfectionist. I definitely fit within this one most of the time. I tend to focus on flaws I see in myself or mistakes that I have made. I am the first to look at something I have done and see the 5 ways I could have done it better. I also tend to set very high goals for myself, even though I go totally off the track towards my goal when I first make a mistake or don’t make the progress that I think I should have made.

Picture credit: mgriblog.org

Another “personality” of imposter syndrome is the expert. This manifests by never being satisfied with the level of skill or understanding that I have and continually writing my own expertise and experiences off as not enough. This is one of those spots where I jokingly say I am looking for the adultier adult in the room or looking for the person that is supposed to be teaching the class only to realize that I am the one who is supposed to be teaching and I am the one in the room that is supposed to be the one with the most knowledge or responsibility. It is important to realize that this is very different that just seeking more knowledge. Seeking more knowledge on the topic is something that I feel I should be doing just as a responsible person.

Picture credit: mgriblog.org

Another way it shows up is as the “natural genius.” The way this one shows up is that it hits people who are used to succeeding or things coming to them “naturally” but when there is something that they can’t figure out quite as easily or they don’t get quite as fast as they perceive others to be getting it. It often leads to thoughts along the lines of if I was smarter, this would be easier or if I was better, it would come more naturally. The natural genius tends to have a hard time when they don’t succeed at the lofty goal they set on the first try.

Image credit: mgriblog.org

The soloist tends to looks at everything as something that should have been accomplished with no help from anyone else. These people tend to prefer to work alone, and perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence, regardless of how much it could benefit them.

Image credit: mgriblog.org

The last one is the superhero. The superhero has an overwhelming need to be the one that does it all. They need to be the “fixer” of anything that has gone wrong and feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard (or harder) than humanly possible. These people (and I am one of them) tend to have a need to feel as if they are indispensable to others, and use that thought process as proof that they have to work harder to get to the same spots as others. They also have a hard time taking a break, can shut down from the smallest pieces of criticism, and think they should be great at everything.

Image credit: mgriblog.org

Like I said, I can see myself in all 5 of these at any given point in my life (or sometimes in my day). I can’t say that it makes it easier to get past this by knowing this is what I am doing, but I am trying to get a little better each day about recognizing what my thoughts about myself are doing to me. I have also started trying to make an effort to at least label which of the 5 types I am in the middle of when things happen. My hope is that drawing awareness to what I am doing and how I am thinking will help me to move beyond those thoughts. That being said, how do you see these “personalities” manifesting in your imposter syndrome? Is it helpful to know about the different types? Next week, I am going to look at ways to cope and start moving beyond imposter syndrome.

Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? It is a term that I have heard thrown around for a few years, but interestingly enough I never heard it until I started working in higher education. Verywellmind has a great article talking about imposter syndrome, but the definition is basically when a person feels that others view them as more competent than they feel they actually are. I sometimes think of it as when I am looking around for the adultier adult only to realize I am the adult in the room.

I realized recently that I have struggled with this most of my life. More importantly, I realized that I am not the only one that has these thoughts or struggles with feeling “not enough.” Logically, it is crazy to think of having 4 degrees and being in a faculty position at an institution of higher education and still feeling like someone is going to figure out I’m actually not smart. However, logic is no match for insecurity in most situations. I have tried to battle this, but have not made much progress. Instead, I ended up working myself into a frenzy and thinking everything that went wrong was my fault.

I decided a little while ago that I was really going to try to work on this aspect of myself. The first thing I felt like I needed to do was admit that I feel this way to some of the people that I trust most in my life and that I am around the most. I checked that box and then tried to figure out my next step. I decided that I should push myself to do something that was outside of my normal comfort zone that would require a commitment. I decided that I would move forward with the suggestion that David had made about us starting a podcast. Now, you have to remember that I struggle with the thought of anyone being interested in anything I have to say, so this was way outside of my normal reality. Out of that has come our podcast, Perfect Chaos, which you can learn all about at our Perfect Chaos blog. Now, I am to the point that I want the podcast to succeed, but am afraid to step out further with it. I’m not telling you that to promote the podcast, but to illustrate that I still have a long way to go.

I have finally decided to do something I probably should have started with in the beginning. I’m going to do some research. I want to know more about IS so that I can learn better how to deal with the feelings of inadequacy that I struggle with on a constant basis. I want to learn how to take a compliment without feeling like I have to devalue what I have done. The crazy part is, it has taken hearing other people say they feel the same way (people that I deeply respect and feel like have their stuff together) for me to decide that there has to be a way to move past this.

I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can promise that I will try to blog my way through it in the hopes that it will help someone else who feels this same way. Isn’t it crazy how much time we spend telling others that they are enough only to tell ourselves we aren’t enough?

Posted in Uncategorized

Changing the Monday Mindset

I was watching Instagram stories this morning, and I came across this graphic shared by someone I follow:

Monday Mindset

As I sit here today, working from home because of a migraine and some wintry weather, this graphic spoke to me about the way that we normally think about Mondays. I am as guilty as anyone of starting to dread Monday on Sunday afternoon. In fact, I have seen several memes about how Sunday just can’t be enjoyable because it is Monday Eve.

This has really gotten me thinking about how much of the bad feelings about Monday are made worse by our mindset? It is interesting that I talk about mindset to my students, and even to my kids at home, but I still can’t manage to make it past those Monday blues. When I saw that graphic this morning, it really stuck with me that this would be a great way to try to change my mindset about Mondays. These are things we can do every day, but it seems like it is even more important on Mondays.

I also think it is very important to keep in mind the A from this graphic. It seems like most of us spend way too much time down on ourselves instead of acknowledging what we have actually accomplished. It has been far too easy in my life to look at the to-do list and see how many things I didn’t get accomplished during the day instead of acknowledging how much progress I actually made during the day. We so often try to give others the benefit of the doubt or try to make up the difference ourselves, when we have already taken on more than what we should have. Once we have taken on all the things, we beat ourselves down for not getting everything accomplished. Perhaps it is wanting to check everything off the list or maybe it is a quest for perfection. Either way, the tendency that we have to keep adding to the list and then beating ourselves up for not getting the list finished is extremely harmful to the way we think about ourselves overall. In other words, we really need to be giving ourselves a break instead of constantly striving for perfection. Don’t let your Monday Mindset be a negative start to your week.

Life is too hard for us to be continuously hard on ourselves. There are enough people waiting to knock us down or criticize us without us leading that charge. This week, I am issuing a challenge. Start your week with a better Monday Mindset and live the week being intentional about not beating yourself up over everything that doesn’t go wonderfully.

Posted in Inspiration, This is me

I Refuse…

It’s a big week. This is going to be a big week for our country (regardless of which side you are on), a big week at the gym, a big week at school, and a big week for me. The country part is fairly obvious, and all I will say is I just hope people can start to Be Kind again, regardless of whether we agree or disagree. I miss when we could disagree on something and it was okay. I miss when the push wasn’t to be a keyboard warrior, but to be a good person. Politics aside, I sincerely hope we can start to heal and come together to celebrate our differences instead of fight about them. In fact, I will just say it. I refuse to not be kind.

It’s also a big week at the gym. This week we have our first seminar, and it is about setting goals. I am a huge goal setter, and I actually teach how to set goals in my classes, so I am super stoked about this event. I am also a little nervous about it. We haven’t done this before, and I am in charge of planning it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things well, and that can lead to being pretty down on myself if something doesn’t go exactly as planned. Let’s be clear, it isn’t because I think I am perfect that this bothers me, it is because I feel like I let someone down. Something will happen not according to plan, and that is how we can learn and do better for the next time. This week, I refuse to forget that flaws are how we learn and grow.

This week is also a big week at school. It’s the first (almost) full week of classes. Granted, we don’t have class on Monday because of MLK day, but it is the first time most classes will meet more than just the day 1 syllabus talk kind of day. I love the beginning of a new semester, but it is also a time that is a little nerve-wracking for teachers and students of all ages. For those of us in higher ed, each new semester or quarter is like starting a new academic year. There are huge hopes and dreams that are mired in expectations and standards, and those can be overwhelming. When you tack the normal stuff on top of a pandemic, a country at odds from within, pandemic fatigue, and lots of outside noise thinking about the beginning of this semester can be a little overwhelming. So this semester I refuse to get mired down in the constant stuff outside of my classroom so I can simply control what is happening within my classroom.

That gets us to it being a big week for me. Personally. Now, you may laugh about what I am getting ready to tell you, and that’s okay. I’m kind of laughing, too. It is still a big deal in my head for whatever reason. This week I turn 40. I don’t know why I am having a hard time with it. It is the first birthday where I can say that I finally feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and have a career that I love. It’s also a little hard to look and realize that I came into that career really late. I’m 40, with one semester as a full-time faculty member under my belt. I’m 40 with a daughter that is going to college next year. Life is changing a lot this year, and maybe that is why I am dreading this big number. Why couldn’t it have been 39? Anyway, I really don’t like the way I am feeling about turning 40. I also don’t like that I am dreading my birthday. It could also have something to do with the fact that I am pretty sure the day before my birthday is going to be slightly nuts. Regardless, I am going to try to stop it now. In fact, I refuse to let myself dwell on getting older.

That seems like a lot of negativity for a space that I don’t normally let get negative. Maybe it isn’t negative, it is just me thinking about what lies ahead. In actuality, I am really trying to take a stand against the negativity that could typically find a way into my head to prevent it from getting in there and multiplying. One of the things I have found about myself is that it doesn’t take much for the negative thoughts to start and it takes even less for them to multiply exponentially. This is my way of drawing that line. It is the way that I am going to remind myself about growth when I feel overwhelmed or like things aren’t going right. It is how I’m going to remind myself to cut myself the same slack I cut others. It’s how I’m reminding myself that age is just a number. I refuse to let this week get the best of me.

Posted in Inspiration, This is me

New Year, but Not Necessarily a New Me

Happy New Year!! It is once again that time of year where people set goals to be better, fitter, nicer, healthier, more intentional, more prayerful, calmer, more peaceful, etc. Every other advertisement I see or hear is chanting the words, “New Year, New You,” and showing beautiful people. I am not judging, in fact, I have been a person that said New Year, New Me multiple times. I have set the goals that sounded great and were right in line with what other people were doing, and I have even been picking a word for the year for the past few years.

This year, I am just not feeling it. I keep questioning why it has to be a “New” me or a “New” you. Why are we setting goals for the pretty? Are we actually reflecting and thinking about how we could improve? Are we actually thinking about whether the goal we are setting is attainable? I teach students how to set SMART goals in one of my classes, and the things that I continually have to help them revise are Specific, Measurable, and Attainable. It seems like some of this push to be New is actually also pushing to not appreciate where you are and where you started.

I don’t want to be a new person, I’ve worked to hard to get to the person I am

In all actuality, after doing this new year, new person thing for all of these years, I want off this ride. I have finally, this year, started liking who I am more and recognizing all the things I have done and worked through to get to this point. Maybe it is because I turn 40 in just a couple weeks; maybe it is because I am finally in the career that I want to be in and I am doing the things I want to do; maybe it is because I am afraid to set another goal about getting fit that falls flat because of injury; or maybe I am just scared to set a goal in this weird time in which we are living. I don’t really know, but I do know that New Year, New Me (or You) is really rubbing me the wrong way this year.

But, where does that leave me? Can I just not do the resolution thing? Spoiler alert: I have really bad FOMO, so that probably isn’t an option. Can I just ignore the ads and the people around me? Spoiler alert #2: I’m not great at ignoring things that irritate my soul. So, what do I do now? And why does this bother me so much? I think it bothers me because I want myself (and others) to want to grow without losing what makes them uniquely them. I don’t want to turn into a new person, I just want to be a better version of this person. Heck, there are even some things that I think I do pretty well and don’t want to change. I think I will just keep the trend I have done for the past few years and choose a word for the year, set some goals to enhance the person that already exists, and then put my nose to the grindstone. The word thing is something I found several years ago (2020 – Intentional, 2019 – Pause, 2018 – Grace) and it is the thing that has helped me conquer the FOMO and try to focus on bettering myself. I got the idea from a friend, then quickly went and researched on blogs and OneWord365. For me, the word is always something that just comes to me during the last couple of weeks of the year for the next year. It sticks around in my head until I admit that is the word, then I try to set mini goals for myself with that word in mind. By mini-goals, I really mean little ones. Sometimes it is as simple as a goal to make myself stop and breathe with no work or music for 5 minutes a day for the next 5 days (Pause) or to eat lunch away from my desk (Intentional). They aren’t necessarily large words, and they are not necessarily large goals, but they are always things that allow me to feel like I am moving forward to becoming a better _____________ (fill in the blank with whatever thing I am trying to accomplish at that moment) while still maintaining who I am at my core.

So, this year, the word that kept coming to me was Routine. To be totally honest, I hated it. It sounds boring and unimaginative, and I just couldn’t think of any way to jazz up routine. I also knew deep down that I really needed to work on establishing better routines in my life to keep me from being overwhelmed. I thought about it some more, then went to Facebook (because that’s what everyone does, right) and asked the OneWord365 community for suggestions on what to do when you don’t like your word. I got several suggestions, including a change to the word that makes it exactly what I wanted, and more importantly what I need.

Word of the Year 2021:  Rhythm

Rhythm speaks to me on so many levels, and so that is how I am setting my goals this year. That is how I will enhance the person that I already am and grow towards being more than what I am currently. This year, I want to work on my rhythm. The rhythm of my life, the rhythm of my work, even the rests that make the rhythm mean more. So, if you are like me and hate New Year, New You, or just don’t get the resolution thing, try choosing a word. Maybe your word will be for the month. Sometimes I choose a word for a day (typically it is Breathe and happens when things are way out of rhythm). Whatever you do, do it for you. Do it to grow in who you are and who you want to be. Just don’t forget who you are now.

Posted in This is me

Lessons from a White/Pandemic Christmas

Well, Christmas has come and gone. It was different, which we knew was going to happen because of the pandemic, but it was also beautiful. For someone who thrives on tradition and control, this Christmas season has been unlike any other. It has been trying, frustrating, and even depressing at times but, as I sit here with all our Christmas celebrations completed, I see beauty, patience, and some self-realization that happened throughout this Christmas season. The snow may be melting, but the things that I learned this Christmas will be burned in my heart and mind for a long time.

So how did it start? What was the first lesson learned this year? It started back in November with the realization that I am not superwoman. I am one of those people that wants the trees up the day after Halloween. I have memories of the Christmas when I got 10 trees up and had everything bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving. I had decided that this would be the year that I would have everything done by the weekend of Thanksgiving, and I was going to start with surprising my kids when they got home. I worked it out with my mom that the kids were going to her house to spend the night after school on a Friday night so I could have all day on Friday and the beginning of Saturday to get everything decorated and the tree ready for ornaments. David was going to bring everything over from the storage building that Friday morning and we could get it all ready for the ornaments when the kids got home. The best laid plans … In actuality what happened was that he didn’t get home until after I had picked up B from school and Alyssa was home. They came home because Alyssa was ticked that I was asking them to go to mom’s and wouldn’t tell her why. That resulted in about 15 different reasons why she couldn’t go, then finally one more reason she had to come home. I finally just gave it up and told them they were coming home and to never mind. And that was how the Christmas season began. Plans that didn’t work out due to circumstances beyond my control. Not a great way to begin for a self-professed control freak. Lesson #1 – I am not as in control as I like to think I am.

With such an auspicious beginning, it then took me over a week to get motivated to get everything decorated, and it was not everything that I remembered decorating that wonderful year that I keep remembering as the perfect Christmas. Lesson #2 had to do with traditions. I have a ton of Christmas decorations, in actuality I probably have too many for my little house, and they each have a specific place they go. When I finally got motivated to start decorating, I realized/remembered that we had gotten rid of 2 big pieces of furniture this year. Those 2 big pieces of furniture typically house my villages and my dancing snowmen and cookie jars. I sat among the boxes of stuff for 2 days trying to figure out how to get these things out and where to put them once I got them out. Snowman central ended up on top of my kitchen cabinets, which I think looks even better than it did in the big piece of furniture. My villages ended up split into a residential and business district. I didn’t light the villages up this year, but I have already figured out how to do that for next year, so I am looking forward to that. Lesson # 2 – It is okay to make changes to what has worked before. Sometimes it will even turn out better with the changes.

The next lesson I learned happened on Black Friday. I always go Black Friday shopping, and typically get almost all my shopping finished when I am shopping that day. I don’t do that crazy overnight shopping, but I typically pick up mom or Lindsay around 5:30 and we hit the road. That was the plan this year, and we took off for Knoxville. I altered the route we normally take and started in West Knoxville hoping to beat the crowds. We definitely beat the crowds. In fact, most of the stores weren’t open, and we ended up waiting on Panera to open to go get breakfast before we ever got started. It was almost eerie how few people were out shopping. The ones who were out were pretty much all wearing masks. The longest line we saw all morning was the line of people waiting to get in a huge wine store. I’m not sure what they had on sale, but I definitely feel like I need to go back and investigate that store. It must be an amazing place to go because the line to get in was down the sidewalk, turned a corner, and blocked a few other stores. It was crazy. Mom and I shopped until I had totally worn her down (she’s not really a shopping fan) and I had almost everyone’s gift bought. The Tahoe was full, and we decided to stop at Target on the way home. I mean Target has Starbucks, and why would you go to Knoxville and not hit Target on the way home? This is where Lesson #3 was firmly cemented in my brain. Before we ever went into Target, I said something funny and we both ended up laughing until we cried. Lesson #3 – A good laugh should happen more often because it is absolutely energizing.

Lesson #4 goes back to planning things out. David and I decided we wanted to redo the office to make it more conducive to working from home because we are both thinking that we will be working from home again at some point in the future. We went and ordered a countertop to become our desks and it was supposed to be here on 11/24. We had already torn the office mostly apart in anticipation of this, and we knew that I was coming home to work after Thanksgiving because my school was going online after Thanksgiving break. The hope was that they could do the install really quickly after the countertop arrived and I would be able to work from home in the office for the month of December. Back to that best laid plans thing… The countertop didn’t arrive until December 11th, and they weren’t able to install it until December 21st. That meant our Christmas wonderland had an extra table in the living room for me to work from plus the decorations for the office that I had left on a part of the couch so I could decorate it as soon as the countertop was finished. Needless to say, the delay put my controlling tendencies into a tailspin and the extra stuff in my living room really got under my skin and left me not super focused. It was hard to finish the semester, and I ended up going into the office to do some of it because I couldn’t get in a good rhythm at home. Lesson #4 – Delays are inevitable, don’t let them totally ruin your plans.

We finally got the office finished (not decorated for Christmas, but finished), all the presents were wrapped, some plans for Christmas were different but everything was going along smoothly. I finally felt like we had hit the Christmas groove. Then the meteorologists started calling for snow on Christmas Eve. I live in the south, we don’t do snow. In fact, the past several Christmases have been about 70 degrees. They call for snow, but it is rare that we get more than just a dusting if we get anything. We all got excited about the possibility of any snow on Christmas, but knew that this was probably going to turn out the same way it has in the past and we were going to be snow disappointed. Christmas Eve got here, we had plans for that night, and it was raining. Then the rain turned to snow, and it started sticking, and it was a ton of snow, and this is the south where we don’t know what to do with that kind of snow. My aunt got stuck coming home from work, plans changed again, and we ended up loading the truck and heading to mom’s to spend the night (with the dog, another change in plans). The snow happened, and then it happened some more, and then it happened some more, and we had the first truly white Christmas I can remember. This was wonderful, but started changing plans again. Instead of going to my grandfather’s for Christmas dinner, we came home after opening presents and having breakfast at mom’s house. That sounds great, right? A low-key Christmas night at home. That would all ring true except for 2 things. When we got up on Christmas Eve, the lower half of the Christmas tree lights were out. That brought tons of tears from me. Problem number 1 with a calm Christmas evening at home was that I didn’t even want to look at my Christmas tree because it looked so horrible to me without half the lights. Problem number 2 was a little more of an issue. I had not planned to eat Christmas dinner at home, so I hadn’t gone to the grocery store. Luckily, we bought part of a cow this summer and still had some meat in the deep freeze. Christmas dinner became cubed steak, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs. Did we end up having a nice night? Absolutely. Did I end up seeing some beauty in this old tree with half the lights out? Yes. Lesson #5 – Sometimes, when we think there is nothing there, we can put together a whole thing. We just have to think outside the box. Lesson #6 – There is beauty in everything, even when we have to struggle to find it.

This has been a crazy year. It is not getting any less crazy as time has gone on, and it doesn’t appear that it will get any less crazy in the next few days. There are so many more things than this that I learned this year, but I think 6 life lessons in a month and a half is quite a bit. By the way, that snow is still hanging around on the grass, and we ended up with between 5 and 6 inches of snow. That’s a ton for where I live. We did end up rescheduling Christmas at my grandfather’s, and David’s mom was able to come down for brunch yesterday morning. This Christmas has not been what we expected, but if has been an amazing Christmas season. The normal things that have marked Christmas in the past looked different or didn’t happen at all this year, but it was still an amazing experience. I have a feeling, once everything is said and done, we will look back on this year in much the same way I am looking back at Christmas. Things were different, and not everything happened the way we wanted, but we grew from it and became better people because of it.

Posted in Perfect Chaos, This is me, Uncategorized

Finally…

For roughly 2 months, I have been talking about redoing our home office. I’ve been dreaming about redoing it for years. We actually took the big step and ordered countertops to create a desk over a month ago. I bought the paint a month and a half ago. Today, it finally happened. When we decided what we were going to do, David started cleaning out the old office. That turned things slightly upside down. Little did we know how long it would remain turned upside down. I even left Christmas decorations out to put in there when we put up all the decorations everywhere else in the house. As a reminder, here are a few pics from the beginning of this craziness (September 27th was when I took these pictures).

Chaos definitely describes it, but it certainly wasn’t perfect. In fact, I couldn’t even work in here because it was so chaotic. It wasn’t always like this, but it quickly became like this when David and I, and the kids, all got sent home to do work and school in March. As fall semester rolled along, I kept having this really bad feeling that we would end up being sent home again. Luckily, that did not happen, but it made me want to get the office in shape to where we could function if we were all sent home. This particular room has served as an office, the first bedroom for both kids, and then back to an office. It is a long, skinny room, and it is hard to use as a bedroom because of that. Luckily, my husband is pretty much a saint and goes along with my crazy ideas of doing stuff with the house. Here are some pictures of the office as it looks right now, and some pictures of the process.

If I said I am loving the new office, it would be an understatement. We finally have a space that works for both of us. We will be able to work in here together, record our podcast in here (anchor.fm/perfect-chaos), have a nice place to meet with people if we need to do that (hence the blue chair), and make plans together. I am absolutely over the moon with our new setup. I know there are some things we still need to get or do, and it will get changed a little as we start using it more, but I am actually motivated to do some work again. Here’s hoping that it will provide a great place for us to work when we need to work from home.

Posted in Academia

Dear Mr. Epstein…

I normally write this blog about things that aren’t super controversial, but come from my heart. Today’s blog also comes from my heart, but it may be a touch more controversial than my normal writing. Last night, shortly before bed, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across an opinion piece published during in the Wall Street Journal and written by a Mr. Joseph Epstein about the use of the honorific Dr. by Dr. Jill Biden.

By the time I finished reading the article, I was angry. It isn’t uncommon for me to become angry reading things that are linked on social media, but it is highly unusual for me to still be angry this long after I read it. I have seen multiple responses to Mr. Epstein today written by colleagues in academia, as well as those with other doctoral degrees. I have finally decided I need to respond so I can quit thinking about the article. I promise to return to regular blogging before next week.

Dear Mr. Epstein,
Your opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal concerning the use of the honorific earned by Dr. Jill Biden seems to be best described as ramblings of someone who just likes to be heard. I noticed, after doing some research into your background, that you earned a BA from the University of Chicago. Congratulations on earning your degree. Congratulations also on your award of the National Humanities Medal and your multiple appointments as editor, writer, and lecturer. Congratulations also on your awards of the Ribalow Prize and the Heartland Prize. And, while I am at it, thank you for your service to this country in the US Army. I would congratulate you on the award that you were given of the honorary doctorate but, as you said in your article, you did nothing to achieve that.
I was slightly confused when reading your OpEd as to whether you were intending to be snarky or if you really have a problem with Dr. Jill Biden. You see, it seems like your problem is not only with her, but also with the whole of education in general. You basically claimed that the only doctors are medical doctors. I do wonder if all the medical doctors know they aren’t to be called doctor unless they deliver a baby, though. To that aspect of your article, I do wonder what implications that has to those who have a PhD in Nursing. Do they get to be called Doctor, or is that reserved for only MDs who delivered a baby?
You also seem to be of the thought that those of us with that lowly Ed.D. Degree would be so foolish as to answer that we are a doctor when the flight attendant asks if there is a doctor on board. I can promise you that we know very well that our Ed.D. does not qualify us to perform in flight surgery. In fact, most of us would run the other way if that was what we were being asked to do at any point. No, we realize what our role is, but I question whether you actually realize what those of us with Doctorate of Education actually are trying to accomplish.
I have one of those Ed.D. Degrees, and let me just tell you from a personal perspective why I got that degree. Believe it or not, it was not so I could be mistaken for a medical doctor. In fact, it had everything to do with being a better educator. I wanted to teach in higher education, as a full fledged faculty member. I do realize you have also worked a stint at a university as a lecturer with a BA, but that was not my goal. I didn’t want to be a guest lecturer, I wanted to be full time faculty. That requires a terminal degree. There are 2 options for terminal degrees in the field of Education, the Ed.D. & the Ph.D. I chose the Ed.D. In my case, my dissertation was on the ways that CTE teachers are indoctrinated into the field of education. Dr. Biden’s dissertation was on retention in community colleges. I realize that with your “extensive” experience and research you have deemed community colleges as ridiculous and unnecessary. In fact, your implication was that community colleges aren’t worth worrying about. I do sincerely hope that you aren’t in need of assistance by one of the MDs that started in the community college system or one of the lawyers that began their study of law in an intro to law course at a community college.
I am certain that you thought through the implications you made about the erosion of the Ph.D. & how that would affect your own credentials. It does seem, in fact, that Northwestern no longer even wants to claim you as having been a lecturer, so you may wish to strike that from your resume. It seems your very desire is to knock the field of higher education, while at the same time profiting from it. I’m certain you were paid at Northwestern, and I imagine you were paid by Phi Beta Kappa. Perhaps you could find it in your heart to donate the money made from those endeavors to someplace that provides counseling for those students who are broken from defending their Ph.D.s.
That brings me to my last point about your article. Not every doctoral student is brought to tears in the defense of the dissertation. There are definitely some that have had this experience, but that does not mean they were more or less prepared to defend than anyone else, and it certainly is not a reflection of the coursework the completed to get to that point. I had a supportive dissertation committee with a chair that called me once a week to remind me to breathe. I happened to be raising 2 kids, teaching, and supporting my deployed husband as I wrote my dissertation so that reminder was what I needed for my mental health. I wish you had experienced something like that in your education. Amazingly enough, I still managed to write a dissertation that mattered, although I am certain that you would disagree. If you are so inclined, you can find my dissertation at: https://www.cn.edu/libraries/tiny_mce/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/Dissertations/Ronda_Blevins.pdf
In closing, I realize that you have achieved what you wanted by writing your OpEd in getting people to say your name. I would even bet that people have bought your books because of this. However, I am left with just 2 questions for you.
1. Would you have written this same piece if Dr. Biden’s doctorate was in something other than Education?
2. Would you have written this same piece if Dr. Biden was male?

Feel free to think hard about those questions. While you are thinking I have one more:
Where would you like those of us who have the useless degrees to work since we are obviously not worthy of working in academia and who would you like to teach in the many institutions of higher education to replace us?

By the way, Mr. Epstein, I don’t fault you for your opinion. Everyone gets to have one of those. Yours just happens to come across as misogynistic and elitist at best, out of touch and jealous at worst.

Very Respectfully,
Dr. Ronda M. Blevins