So, every once in a while, you have to step out on a limb. That is what David and I are doing, stepping out on a limb. He came up with this idea (which i honestly thought was half-baked and kinda crazy) this summer for us to do a podcast together. After putting him off for a couple of months and us kind of batting it back and forth, Perfect Chaos is now well on the way to being a reality.
Last weekend, I created a logo and we recorded the first actual episode, in addition to creating a schedule that gets us through the end of the year and David creating the account to publish the podcast. We recorded our first episode with one microphone and while we were sitting outside on the deck.
Through the process of recording the first episode, we determined that we needed to not record outside, and David determined that we needed to change the way we had things set up for recording. He ordered some more equipment, cleaned up some of the stuff in the office, and set us up to record our second episode this weekend.
We have now recorded 2 full episodes and 2 trailers, and are now making plans to redo our office (which we have been talking about since we were all sent home in March to work and learn together). Stay tuned for more pictures of the morphing of this space which was the first bedroom for both of our kids, has been an office at multiple different points, and is now going to morph into an office/podcast studio that fits both of our tastes and is comfortable for us both to work in consistently. It should be a fun ride, and I will document it all on the blog. So, in the interest of truth, these before pictures were not taken until this afternoon, so he has already done some work in there. By the end, pretty much nothing you see will look like it does now, and most of what you see won’t be in there at all anymore.
This room is a very narrow room, so it will definitely be interesting to do what all we are wanting to do in there, but the vision is a change in color, a desk that goes along the whole window wall, a shared table coming off the desk where the card table is currently, and some seating. Wish me luck as we navigate this while still trying to keep all the other balls in the air. Hopefully, when we finish, we will have a nice area that works well for both of us individually and works well for us to do projects together as well.
Are you unnerved by silence? I have been for years. I could be really funny and blame that on the fact that I have kids or the fact that I did band for so many years. I was never traumatized because of or during silence, so it isn’t anything that has happened in my past that caused this. I just don’t like total silence.
I have always heard people talk about meditating or praying and doing it in silence so they can hear the response, and I tried that, at least 2 or 3 times. I used to get so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t do “the thing” correctly. I have finally, at almost 40, figured out why I don’t like silence. You see, the problem is that I am one of those people that doesn’t like to pause. I genuinely like to be busy. It makes me feel alive. It helps me to know that i am doing something that is contributing to my world.
I can remember many basketball games with the UT pep band or UT Alumni pep band where the arena has gotten totally silent and someone, usually a trombone player, screams, “Awkward silence!” We all laugh and noise starts back up but, for me, that brings a sense of relief. It is like I can breathe again.
The strange thing about this is that I also love to be at peace, with not a lot going on. My favorite places are out on the boat in the middle of a cove or on my back deck listening to it rain. I am writing this very blog post sitting outside under the awning with the fire pit going and listening to the rain while I wait for the sun to rise.
So, if I don’t like silence, why do i crave quiet? I think I have finally figured out why the quiet brings me such peace. I actually crave the stillness. Yes, I love to be busy, and I love to work and think, and I actually love to go and do the things. However, when I can sit and just listen to the small sounds around me, I can work on things (like writing a blog post), recharge my personal battery, appreciate the amazingness of where I live, and, for just a small moment, find my peace.
In the Southeastern United States, many of us are living in areas that have entered into “first fall.” Now, if you aren’t from around here, we have multiple seasons (all 4 of them actually occur here) but sometimes those seasons decide to come and go like a pendulum swinging. First fall is a wonderful time of the year when the days are finally getting cooler (the high on a sunny day has gone from being in the 90s with 85% humidity to a lovely forecast of 71 today with rain stopping around noon), the air starts to get a little crisp, if you live near the mountains, you wake up to see lots of fog, and, oh yeah, it’s football season. For me, although I love summer and spending time on the lake, and I love Christmas with the glitter and glitz of the holiday decorations, Fall and Spring are my favorite times of the year. You see, these are the seasons when I can really sit outside and enjoy my version of silence.
So, why did I write all of this? Because sometimes, what we are needing in this hectic and crazy world is just the sound of silence. Whatever that is to you. For some people, it is true silence, and that is wonderful. For others, it is the sound of animals rising to greet the day or their sound of silence is waterfalls or traffic sounds. Sometimes it can be the sweet sounds babies can make or the peace that comes from watching a movie or listening to music with family.
I think the word silence could use another definition. I think, perhaps, silence is not just the absence of auditory noise, but perhaps the absence of the “noise” that goes on around us continually. Maybe, just maybe, the silence that we are looking for is much less about actual sound and much more about pressing pause on the world around us. For now, try to find your silence, no matter what that sounds like, and take a few breaths. There is nothing more vital than that at this moment in time.
Weary, exhausted, tired, and worn out. These are all words I have heard in the past week from some of my students who are teachers. These aren’t the only thing I have heard, though. Disconnected, stressed, alone, anxious, overwhelmed, and spinning are also words that I have heard from these same students. Amazingly enough, not only are my students who are full-time teachers expressing these sentiments, my undergraduate students are using some of the same words and phrases.
I have lost count of how many times a student has been in my office in the past week worried about a family member, or how many teachers I have talked with that are concerned about the lack of engagement in their classrooms. A small group of us had a conversation the other day about it feeling like our students aren’t really “awake” for what is going on in class, even when they are right in front of us and doing an activity.
It would be easy to throw a Bible verse out there during these conversations. Matthew 11:28 comes to mind as one that may typically be said to someone with these feelings. I mean, I do work at a Christian university, so that would be a perfectly acceptable response to my students and colleagues.
I just don’t have the heart to give that as a response right now, though. I still believe it, but right now I don’t even know that we can find the rest He gives because of all the other “stuff” and all the noise coming at us from every direction. I think He is trying to give us rest, I really do. Man, it sure is hard to stop and listen, though.
I started this semester with huge hopes, big goals, and a ton of thoughts about how this one would be different. This semester was going to be the one where I stayed on top of grading, thought more out of the box (I mean, we are all still teaching in a pandemic, so out of the box has to happen, right), and even managed to plan ahead more in an attempt to work less when I am at home. We are now 5 weeks in, and instead of those thoughts towards greatness and student engagement, I am starting to have the same feelings my students are having.
So, how is it that my own children in middle and high school, my undergraduate students, my graduate students who are also full time teachers, my doctoral students that I am still advising, and my colleagues are all saying and feeling the same things? There has to be a way to stop this, right? There has to be a way for us to all start to feel like we are on the other side of this thing and we finally have it figured out. Oh, how I wish that was what this blog post is about. I wish with all my heart and all my soul that I had the secret for us all that would make this year be everything we had hoped for when we were all so excited to see our students and colleagues again.
So no, I don’t have the answer that will make everything right again. I honestly am struggling just as much as everyone else. And while I can’t make it all go back to “normal,” I can give you a couple of ideas that should help things feel a little better.
So, here it is, my list to take a little bit of the edge off of this crazy year, whether you are a student or a teacher, or both.
1. Schedule some time each week (at least each week, but it would be great if you can find something each day) for some self-care. This doesn’t have to be something huge, maybe it is 15 minutes outside drinking coffee in the morning before everything gets rolling. Perhaps it is a short yoga flow (I kind of like Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube for short yoga stuff, but I’m not very bendy) or a workout (I like to lift the things – can’t right now due to a back issue but, if that works for you, own it). Perhaps it is 30 minutes before bed with a good book, some music, or even practicing your own instrument. It can be any number of things, just spend some time that is solely yours. I know this is hard, but it will absolutely change your day, that I can promise.
2. Eat somewhere other than your desk. I set a goal to stop eating lunch at my desk about 3 weeks ago. Some days it has been a quick 15 minutes with a co-worker at a table in my office, but I have managed to not eat lunch staring at my computer screen in my office. I have even had some working lunches, but always away from my desk. If you can get out with a good friend or co-worker and actually leave your job for a few every now and then, that is even better. I have a co-worker who is my person at work. When either of us are overwhelmed, all it takes is a text that says Queso date and we immediately find a day within the next week to do lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. It is nice to be around someone who isn’t depending upon you for anything other than nice conversation.
3. Give yourself some grace. This may be the most important of the three things. We all had expectations for what September of 2020 was going to look like, and I am betting it doesn’t look like any of our expectations. I’m pretty sure no one got it right in 2015 when they were asked where do you see yourself in 5 years. There are things in this world that we cannot control. Trust me, as an admitted control freak, I get that this is throwing us for a loop. It is ok that we maybe haven’t hit every goal we set for the week or checked everything off the to-do list for the day. For most of us, the work can, and maybe even should, wait until tomorrow. Unless you are putting off some life saving emergent procedure, cut yourself some slack.
For many of us, our energy banks are depleted, ideas are slowing down, circumstances seem overwhelming, and the world seems to be closing in around our heads. I “gently reminded” a co-worker today that she is no good to anyone if she isn’t taking care of herself.
This isn’t my normal thing to write about, and I promise to get back to good old sarcasm and crazy educational stuff next time. I just felt like maybe this needed to be said tonight more than anything else I could say to you.
So, until next time: ~Remember that everyone is trying their best ~Give yourself and others grace ~Choose joy in the morning when you start the day, it won’t keep crap from coming throughout the day but it will help you deal with the crap that happens.
Do you ever wonder how you are supposed to make your mark? Recently, my job changed from being the Graduate Advising Coordinator to being a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor of Education and the Coordinator of the Job-Embedded Practitioner Program. I am so excited, and this is a position I have been working towards for several years. It is so strange to me to think of myself as finally being where I have worked to be for all of this time. All of a sudden, I have new professional options for how I can make my mark on education. I have ideas that previously seemed unattainable that now do not look so far away, and a renewal and validation of the thoughts that I have had regarding education, relational teaching, educational technology, and the roles we should take as professors and teachers. So many ideas and goals, and not a clue how to start.
The easy answer is, “You made it into academia, now you need to start researching and publishing if you want your voice to be heard.” What does that look like? How do you even get started down that road? I have always been someone that would rather teach or present than write. So how do I get started with this need to publish that exists in academia? How do I fill the need to publish and balance it with my personality trait of needing/wanting to teach?
Today is International Dot Day. If you have never heard of Dot Day, I strongly urge you to visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ and learn more about this fun day and different ways to celebrate it. You may look and think that most of the celebrations are for young children. I thought so initially, but I ordered the book (I actually ordered the creatrilogy on Amazon) and decided I would read about it to see if there was any way it could apply to my students. I quickly discovered that it not only applies to my students, but also to me. You see, I realized through reading the book that I am now both Vashti and Vashti’s teacher. I have realized my role of Vashti’s teacher for years. Encouraging students to make their mark; helping build their confidence; and celebrating their accomplishments, no matter how small, are things that I have been doing for a long time, even before I was an adjunct faculty member or teacher. Those are the things that come naturally to me, and the things I love to do. I now find myself in the role of Vashti, at a loss of how to proceed.
I read The Dot to my class of graduate students last night, and plan to read it in all 3 classes I teach today. As I have planned my lessons to incorporate this children’s book, I have thought about what that book means to the different groups of students I teach and that has also forced me to think about what it means to me. Sometimes, we just have to make a mark. Once we get our mark made, then it is time to sign it and keep making marks. I can remember writing papers in graduate school that were easy to write once I could finally get started. That is how The Dot works. It is getting started. It is encouraging our students to start somewhere, even if it is just a dot.
So, I am getting started. I have started my dots. Some of them will be frameworthy, and some will need to be thrown away. Regardless, today I will celebrate International Dot Day with my students, even though they are not the typical students who would be celebrating this, and we will make our mark. Go out today, do something that may seem a little unusual, make your mark, and sign it.
So, after an extremely long few weeks at work, I am finally on Fall Break, and I had a realization this morning. It is right at 16 months before I turn 40. I was sitting here, trying to decide what to do with my day, and I thought about going to get a book to read. That, of course, led me down a rabbit hole on Pinterest trying to figure out what book I wanted to go get, which eventually led to me figuring out how long it is until I turn 40.
16 Months. Just 16 months. I don’t feel almost 40. I mean, I guess my knees definitely feel over 40, but in my mind I don’t feel like I have been alive that long. Since I realized how close I am to getting there (after David did since he hit 40 this year), I decided I want to do something special, set a goal to reach between now and then. I am actually going to set 2 goals.
Starting this month, I want to read 40 books before I turn 40, but to do that I need your help…
I have no clue what I want to read. I have spent so much time reading for education or reading to/with my kids that I don’t even know what to read anymore. Leave me a comment with your top books so I can make my list.
I am going to do 40 hero/memorial workouts in the next 16 months. I will probably have to scale them (see the over 40 year old knees comment), but I really want to do something cool between now and then. Leave me your favorite hero/memorial WOD in the comments, too. Get ready Mossy Creek Fitness, I am ready to come back from this stupid mono thing with a vengeance!
My plan is to blog about each book and workout as I finish it, but I really need help finding all the books and workouts. Let’s see if I can hit this goal!
I feel like I am constantly talking about this, but I also think it is one of the most important things we can do as people.
This week starts the CrossFit Open, for the second time this year. The Open is changing format, and that has created a second Open in just a few short months. For the past 3 years, I have diligently signed up and participated in the Open, and I am actually a little sad that I can’t this year.
I am not what most would consider the typical CrossFitter, and while I will never find myself sitting on top of the leaderboards, that isn’t really what the Open is all about. You see, for 5 short weeks, the whole CrossFit world makes wild guesses about the workouts, watches announcements with baited breath to see what the next thing they will have to do is, and then gathers en masse in the local CrossFit box (looking at you, Mossy Creek Fitness) to workout and cheer on friends that feel more like family as we all push through whatever torture Dave Castro has come up with for that week.
You see, the Open is the time when CrossFit shows what it really is that makes it special and different from other types of fitness. It is the time when we come together as a community, regardless of anything else going on, and spend our time encouraging each other and pushing beyond the limits that we have envisioned ourselves as having. Sometimes it is just a physical limitation we thought we had, sometimes it is the thought of stepping out and working out in front of people instead of in the back of the room, sometimes it is even the fear of being the one that looks like they don’t belong. I know this because I have personally experienced all of these, but the Open is the time when we are able to move beyond those limitations that we have imposed upon ourselves and come together as a community.
So, while I can’t participate in the Open this time because of illness (stupid mono), I will be there cheering on my friends as they push past the limits to become even better versions of themselves. If you haven’t signed up, get signed up this week at games.crossfit.com, and for a few short weeks experience people putting everything aside to come together as a community. Break your own record, do something you’ve never done, step outside of your own fears. If you have never experienced CrossFit, find your local box and try it out. If you’re in my area, I have a great one you should check out.
If you know me, you know I am a slight control freak. By slight, I actually mean living in a constant state of having a totally over the top need to know exactly what is going on, how it is happening, when it is happening, what the next step is, who is going to be there, etc. I don’t really like when plans change (shocker), and I am not a huge fan of the unknown. Somehow, all of those things that I hate managed to happen this week. B was invited to a huge Jr. Young Leaders Conference this summer, which is great. The not great part of it is that it is almost 9 hours away form home. I decided, about a month and a half ago, that instead of driving back and forth so much, I would get an apartment on AirBnB and David, Alyssa and I could come up and spend the week. Of course, plans didn’t work out the way I had them set up. David had meetings he couldn’t move, Alyssa got her wisdom teeth out, and when they released the schedule for B, he had to be there earlier than we thought. After thinking through all of that, I ended up in an apartment 9 hours away from home by myself.
As much as I enjoy having some time to myself, this, plus a few other things seems to have thrown me into a tailspin this week. I never really thought of myself as having anxiety, but last weekend it has practically paralyzed me. I cried all weekend. I managed to be ok for most of the drive, but then we hit traffic. It was at the point that we hit nasty traffic that I truly began to realize how much anxiety I was having. I got B dropped off, then made my way back to the apartment I had rented for the week. Keeping in mind that I was tired, and starving, the actuality of bursting into tears when I even thought of having to go find some food happened quickly. I finally got it together enough to go to a grocery store about a block and a half away, and managed to get food to last me through the week. That was Sunday night, and I didn’t leave the apartment again (other than to go downstairs to the Starbucks on Monday morning) until Wednesday.
So why am I telling all this on my blog? First off, to dispel the myth that I have it all together. For the past few years, I have had people say things like, “I don’t know how you do it all” and “You manage to balance everything, how do you keep everything together,” but in actuality, I don’t have it all together.
It’s also been hard to navigate being off my normal schedule while I am also trying to deal with the anxiety. Without workouts with my Mossy Creek Fitness family to burn off steam, and without my family around to distract me, I have actually had to face the anxiety as it hit. Thankfully, I had some great help. With lots of talks with my husband, lots of soul-searching and journaling, and a great visit with my cousin, I managed to get out of the apartment yesterday. We went to Arlington, and had a great time!!
So, while it hasn’t quite been the week I had planned, it has definitely been a week that I will end up celebrating. I managed to work through some things, and figured out some ways that I can work through things in the future. I also learned a lot about myself.
I am definitely a small town, southern girl.
Big cities are nice for vacation, but I miss my mountains and cows.
I like to go on vacation, but not by myself.
I like alone time, but not this much alone time. I love the time I have been spending on my back deck this summer, but I also love being able to go inside and spend time with my family.
I do not do well when I skip devotions. I have never been someone that set aside my time for God. In fact, I have tried to do that in the past few years, only to get bored, or feel like I am not doing it correctly (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post). Since I have been setting aside time for devotions this summer, I have really begun to look forward to that time each day. I missed my time on Saturday, and on Sunday, but when I made time on Monday, it made a huge difference in my day.
I am definitely ready to be home, and I can’t wait to hit the road tomorrow. I am even more excited that I get to spend the next week on vacation with David, the kids, and my parents! There might even be some mountains involved.
So, this morning, after I went and worked out, as I was sitting on my back desk with my coffee getting ready to do my devotions I noticed the “smoke” in the hills. Around here, it is not an uncommon occurrence, but it struck me as extra beautiful today. The thought of the new mercies we receive every morning from God was sticking in my head, and I took a picture, just because it was pretty. Now, in the south, in June, you have to catch it early because the fog burns off pretty quickly as we heat up. I took my picture, then got started with my devotions.
20 minutes later, as I looked up from my devotions expecting the fog to have lifted, I was shocked to see it had gotten thicker.
All of a sudden, I was struck by how much this mimicked life. You see, we keep looking for this “abundant life” as being life with lots of things and people, without challenges and difficulties. We watch for the clear picture of who or what God wants us to be, then despair because it isn’t clear. In actuality, we are living our abundant lives when the fog gets thicker. It is our abundant life because God is with us, even though we don’t see him through the fog. He handpicks us and, just like the mountains, is there whether we can see him in our current circumstances or not.
My community has had a rough 6 weeks. We have lost people suddenly and tragically, and it feels like our small town has been touched by something that we don’t think of as happening here. It feels like things have changed and may never go back, but, I’m also seeing people pull together in support and compassion. That is our abundant life. God is here, just like our beloved mountains didn’t go anywhere when I couldn’t see them for the fog. It is not easy, and there is a lot of difficult healing that will still have to take place, but eventually the fog will lift. For today, I’m just thankful that God is there, in my abundant life, whether I can see him or not.
So, my job is titled Graduate Advising Coordinator. When people ask what I do, it is always a little hard to really put it into words, but I decided today, while I am in the thick of it, I would give you a glimpse into what my days entail.
It seems like there are different seasons to my job every semester. Right now is the beginning of advising season. That means that for the next 6 weeks, I will spend all day everyday meeting with our graduate students and doing their advising sessions. These happen over the phone, online, in my office, and through email, so I am pretty much at my desk for everything but meetings for 6 weeks. I am in charge of advising for 10 different graduate education programs and have around 650 actively enrolled advisees. I also work with the readmission process for those that took a break in the midst of their program, advise and register the new students that are being accepted, and spend a good chunk of time helping with our processes and tracking things. That seems like a lot of really boring desk work to most people (me included) and that is why I say it is so hard to put into words what I do everyday.
The conversations that I get to have with our graduate students are inspiring. Sometimes my job is to be their shoulder to cry on. Sometimes it is to be the one to tell them to get focused and get it done. I get the privilege of sharing in their successes and being a confidant for many when life is hard. That doesn’t really fit well in a job description. Since most of my students are online students, I don’t get that many that come in my office on a daily basis. Kinda seems like it would be lonely, doesn’t it? Luckily that void is filled with undergraduate students that need a place to hang out or unload about what is going on in their life.
I’ll let you in on a secret … the thing that I loved most about teaching were the relationships I made with my students and helping them more than they thought they were capable of becoming. Fortunately for me, that is now what I do all day every day. I’m not a counselor, just a shoulder to cry on. I’m not their mom, but I will share my life experiences with them. I’m not the one with all the answers, but I will help you figure out some possibilities.
A lot of people would look at my job from the outside and say that I spend all my time with spreadsheets and emails. I prefer to look at it from this side and realize that I really spend my time with people. People that may share some of the same characteristics, but who are unique individuals that are working towards a goal. It isn’t a job that you will hear much about, and it isn’t a job that you hear children say they want to be when they grow up, but it is my job and I am thankful for it.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to take the time to do something for someone else. It isn’t that we don’t want to help others, but we are busy. There are a million things on our plates, the stress level is high, the caffeine level is low (this can’t just be a thing that happens to me), the patience is worn thin, we are tired, we don’t feel good, we just want to be left alone, or we just aren’t in the mood. Remember, showing that you care doesn’t take a long time. Sometimes it can just be a simple email or text of encouragement.
2018, so far, has been all about trying new things that test my comfort zone. I started a bullet journal, which pushes my boundaries of being creative and is forcing me to step away from my computer more often; I started the year down one organ (everything is ok, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing how life changes without that extra baggage); I just finished the Crossfit Judges course (which is pretty comical to have thought this time last year that I would be judging other people on their workouts); and I have chosen a word of the year.
The bullet journal is something that I had looked at for a few years, but never committed to because I thought I couldn’t keep it up and that I wasn’t artistic or creative enough. We are one month into 2018, and I have been keeping up with it ok. This week I have not done very well, but I am trying desperately to give myself grace and remember that skipping one week is not the end of everything.
Speaking of “Grace,” I guess now is the time to announce my 2018 word of the year. I have chosen Grace. It kept coming to me when I was thinking about how I want to grow this year, so I finally just looked it up to see the exact definition of grace and determined that there are so many (8!) definitions (for real there are 8 definitions for the word grace https://goo.gl/Jkvbsv ) that it really fits what changes I would like to see in myself over the next year. With my bullet journal I am learning to give myself grace to not be perfect. Grace to let things slide every now and then. Grace to keep rolling when something doesn’t go as planned. I also want to push myself to give others more grace when they mess up or irritate me or don’t follow through. I am a slight (yes, I know you are rolling your eyes if you me in real life) control freak and I tend to not give very much grace when things don’t go as planned. Also, let’s just be real that the person who broke her arm falling off a box from a step-up needs a little more of the physical type of grace as well.
I have truly been making a concerted effort to show more grace and I am finding that I feel better about daily life when I am able to stop myself and give grace, whether it is to me or someone else.