Category Archives: my word

{reverb11} feeling the need to keep going

I have this wonderful friend named, Devon.  She is a conference buddy, but way more than that too!  I meet her and her partner, Michelle, years ago at a Computers and Writing conference in Detroit, and we have been friends ever since.  We always have the best time together.

my conference buddies

In lots of ways, I have always looked up to Devon.  She has achieved a career that is really what I think I want to do.  She is so sincere in the way she approaches people, and you never have to wonder where you stand with her.  She is straight-forward and caring, and she has the best southern accent!  And, daily I am in awe of how much she loves Michelle.

Well, Devon has participated in a challenge for a couple of years, that she explains here much better than I could, called Reverb, which is really a process that encourages you to look back over the last year before entering the next one.  Although it isn’t officially moving forward, a bunch of bloggers, including Devon, are working together to keep it alive for those interested in participating.  And, since I just finished up my personal {30-in-30} challenge, I thought I would informally post along with the group about all that has happened over the last year.

The Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

I have mentioned several times that I choose a word for each year instead of a resolution.  It’s a practice I picked up from a bunch of different people, and 2012 will be my fifth year choosing a word.

I talked about my word for 2011 here.  In that post, I revist my 2010 word, “proceed,” and explained why that word was so desperately important for that year, a rough chunk of days.  But, 2011′s word was “whole.”  My hope was that I would use the last 12 months to look at the whole of my life.  IMG_0919

My goal in that choice was to try to consider where my priorities were.  To try to achieve some balance in my life.  And, while I am not completely balanced (I am not sure anyone ever really is), I really think that considering the whole was a great reminder for me.  It was a great reminder when I was deciding what new projects to take on and which ones to let go.  It was a great reminder for the way I need to look at my physical well-being, and it aligned with some philosophies about grieving my family holds dear.

Losing my brother last year, colored the whole last year for me in lots of ways.  Whenever you lose someone, you need to work through the process of grieving, but when that person takes their own life, it is really hard to move forward.  Essentially, you are angry at the person you are trying to grieve.  And, I have been angry.  Angry that he didn’t share with me what was going on with him.  Angry that he didn’t trust someone, anyone, to share his burden.  Angry that he gave up on living.  But, through the last year, I have tried hard to accept his choice and look at the whole picture of things.  To remember the whole of his life and not just dwell on the final bad decision he made.

So, that’s what “whole” has been about for me.  And, again, that little word has been a wonderful guidepost throughout my last year.  It was reaffirmed again that choosing one word is a more effective way for me to focus my energy and practice success than just deciding a list of things that seem somewhat impossible or unlikely to accomplish.

Which, brings me to next year’s word.  The last two years’ words have been more about the thinking aspects of my life.  Contemplating the way I wanted to live and the type of person I want to be.  So, I would like next year’s word to be more action-oriented.

In the upcoming year, I will work to cultivate those changes that I have been thinking about.  I will work to cultivate my relationships, those both new and dear to me.  I will improve my life by labor, care, or study.  And, I will foster the growth of those things I want in my life.  I think it will be the perfect word for me.

checking in with my word….

This week, I turned 34.  Seems weird to write that down.  I am not one that is overly concerned by the number of my age, but I do care about how I feel at each point in my life.  I use my birthday as a place to do what a fellow teacher friend calls a temperature check, a way to test how you feel about something.

And, I thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with my word for the year.  There are a few things I have learned about my word so far this year:

1 | Looking at the whole scope of your life is hard. It is easier to compartmentalize things.  One of my very favorite shows on the Food Network is Chopped.  You can actually learn a lot from that show because one of those baskets full of mismatched ingredients is a lot like what your life can look like.  Very rarely does everything come together with all the same flavors.

When you watch those chefs work so hard and so fast to make the best possible dish they can with what they get, you realize the ones who are the most successful are the ones who are creative.  The ones who don’t play it safe.  The ones who look to try to make all the individual ingredients work together into “one composed dish.”   It doesn’t work to make a plate full of food that doesn’t work together, even if all the pieces taste really good.

What this teaches me is that each piece of my life can be awesome, but if they don’t all work together in some way, then everything can feel like too much.  I can feel pulled in a million directions.  This concept really best explains my goal for this year.  How can I make all the pieces of my life work together in a cohesive way?  And, what I am learning is that requires revision (see #3 below).

2 | Being a Mom is hard. Everyone always talks about this.  In a way, the phrase is becoming trite.  Like you should say it while you are rolling your eyes or something.  But, the past 18 months have proven to me that it is true, rolled eyes or not.  I read somewhere once that all first time moms have a little bit of postpartum depression.  And, I have found this true for myself.  The boy and I lived a really great life for ten years, and it has been hard for me to add a new little person into the mix.

The addition of the little man to our family has required a refocus of our whole life, and while I knew that it would, I didn’t realize how much that would affect me.  Now, I know there are moms out there that handled this shift just fine, and I thought that I would be one of them.  But, I wasn’t.  And, I still struggle with different aspects of motherhood from day-to-day.  I am sure we all do.

I think it is particularly hard when you try so hard to get pregnant.  There is something about the trying that makes you think that you are supposed to enjoy every moment of your tiny human.  But, being a Mom is hard.  And, I am coming around to the point where I know that it is okay that I think it’s hard.

And, of course, it is important to add the qualifier everyone needs in these conversations.  It goes without saying that being a mom is awesome and wonderful too!  There are moments that he is so much fun and so cute I can barely stand it.  And, when I watch him figure things out, it makes my heart swell I am so proud of him!  I am trying to focus harder on all those moments than the ones where he is pretending to be the tiny dictator!

3 | There are only 24 hours in every day, and I am responsible for how I choose to use them. I am going to do something I have never done before today.  Return the materials for a swap unfinished.  (As I type this, it seems so insignificant in the whole scheme of my life, but it symbolizes something for me.)

For the last two years, I have been in a virtual quilting bee.  I joined because I wanted to make regular sewing more of a part of my life, and I thought an external commitment would help me make time for it.  I have struggled throughout the two years to get things back to my fellow bee members in a timely manner.  It is something I feel a huge amount of guilt about.  Today, I am going to mail back the fabric for a block that I just couldn’t get to.  Again, huge amounts of guilt, particularly with this one because I really wanted to make her block.

Looking at my whole life has allowed me to realize that I was trying to turn my hobby, something I really enjoy, into just one more requirement.  And, I was pushing back against it in the same ways that I do with other things in my life that I feel like I am not going to be 100% successful with.  It confirms for me that if I reduced the load I place on myself, maybe things won’t feel so daunting (again, this feels stupid to write because it must be so obvious to some people), which in turn would give me the time I need to do the things I really want to do without the guilt.

So, I am going to let it go.  And, I am going to try to let go of the guilt attached too. And, just like I try to do in my physical space, I am looking for more ways to declutter my time.  I have already let go of at least two other requirements that I really already know were too much.  And, I am also thinking about only taking one class this fall.  It is a small start towards a much bigger goal.

Well, that’s it.  Three small things I have learned so far.  I know there will be more as I work with my word this year.  I will post back every once in a while about my progress.  Anyone else out there working with their word?

a little bit of funk…

So, there seems to be a little funk going around online, and not the good kind (happens to be my favorite of the Mastercard commercials too)!  Several people have mentioned it around the interweb.  Some are reporting it as a blah feeling.  That was the way Ashley Ann explained it over at Under the Sycamore.  I have definitely been feeling the same way lately.  I find that I always get this way at the point where seasons are changing, but it also comes around when my schedule shifts (moving out of the spring semester into summer, etc).

And, Ashley’s post resonated with me because I am realizing that one thing that happens at the point where my schedule shifts is that I usually have a little more time.  For me, this is both a blessing and a curse.  A curse because I tend to spend a little more time surfing around online.  And, when I read in Ashley’s post that quote “comparison is a thief of joy,” it was like a little light bulb went off.

In academia, we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to our classmates and colleagues.  After all, it is really clear that these are the people that we are going to be (or already are) competing with for money, awards, recognition, grades, admission slots, presentations, etc.  And, even though it is logical to do this, this thinking comes from a position of scarcity.  The idea that there isn’t enough.  And, this way of thinking is infectious.

In fact, I can see subtle ways that my ideas of scarcity have infected my whole life.  I watch myself think that there isn’t enough time, money, success, love, (fill in the blank).  And, unfortunately, when I am looking at other people’s creations as a comparison to myself rather just as what they are supposed to be…inspiration…then, I do realize that my joy is being thieved!  And, worse yet, I am letting it.

So, I am making a conscious effort to shift my energy towards abundance.  There is enough time to do the things I really want to do, but I have to decide what those things are.  There is enough money if I pay attention to what projects we take on.  I will be successful if I don’t define my version of success on others’ definitions and accomplishments.  And, I truly believe that with this attitude, there will be more love than I could imagine. So, a couple of nights ago instead of looking at other creations, I finished one of my own inspired by two of the many amazingly creative people out there.

I saw the US Map prints by JanuaryJones on Etsy a while ago. (I know I was directed there by somewhere else, but I am not sure where now.)  And, I loved the idea of creating some kind of road map to show all the places we have lived and some of the trips we have taken.

So, because I also firmly believe in supporting the artists selling their work on Etsy, I contacted Nic and Kristen.  They were super nice and got back to me immediately, but because of the unique nature of my project (and huge amount of additional design work involved), I realized pretty quickly that it was going to be cost prohibitive to order exactly what I was looking for.  So, I decided to take some inspiration from their “the roadtrip,” and I created “our map.”

Our Map Project

This map represents the journey my little family has taken over the first ten years of our lives together (1999-2009).  It denotes a proposal, a wedding, four houses in four states, a baby boy, two huge road trips, two overseas adventures, and one cruise!  It is a little more detailed and abstract than I thought it would be at the start, but I really love the way it turned out!  I am hoping to get it printed onto a canvas and hang it up stairs in my hallway or in our master bedroom!

This was a project that I had started a while ago, so I took the lead from Ashley and just finished it.  The coolest part was that I learned a ton more about Illustrator and Photoshop as I was finishing everything up, so now the next project will be easier to do.  Abundance, here I come!

And, to conclude, some gratuitous pics of the little man!  Someone was recently introduced to ketchup!  Needless to say, he is in love!

I don't want to miss any!

Do I have something on my face?

more about the whole picture…

When I was a little girl, I don’t remember thinking about the small details of what my life would look like as an adult.  I don’t remember thinking about how many kids I would have or what type of house I would live in.  I didn’t spend hours planning out my perfect wedding.  What I do remember thinking about was the way my whole life would look.

I grew up with two parents that were obviously in love with each other.  They would do gross things like kiss in parking lots.  They would fight and always make up.  They would shower together on Sunday mornings.  And, I don’t ever remember questioning how much they loved each other.  And, in a world where there were more and more divorces starting to happen all around me, this was a significant thing for me.  That is what I remember wanting for my life.

And, then one day in my senior year of college, I found my person.  The one that would give me to the long kisses in parking lots.  The one who would fight with me.  And, I am happy to know that our children aren’t going to have to question how much we love each other.  I hope we get to be the same example for them that my parents were for me.

However, what I didn’t see when I was growing up is that there is a catch when you find someone you love that much.  The catch is that you rearrange your lives for each other.  For Joe, I think that looked like not going after the coolest, most dangerous jobs.  I was at home reminding him how good we had it.  Telling him I didn’t want him to go – that I wanted him to be safe.  And, for me, that has meant moving around a lot which changed the face of my own career.

During those early years where I was picturing my life, I also knew that I wanted to be successful in a career.  I come from a long line of successful women.  Both my mother and my grandmother made their careers in the federal government, and they were both worked hard for all their accomplishments, carefully balancing their families and their careers, albeit sometimes more easily than others.  As a child to a parent like that, I know that my mother felt pressure to succeed, and I have felt much the same way.  But, I decided early on that I didn’t want to walk the halls of the Pentagon.

It actually worked out that what I have always wanted to do is teach because it is a job that has moved with us around the country.  As I tell people all the time, the ages of the children changed as I got older and got to experience my younger brothers in all their glory, but I knew that I always wanted to teach.  And, I have been lucky enough to create a circumstance where I have been able to do that by starting very young and picking up every class I could to build my resume.  More days than not I love my job, which really is all I think anyone could hope for.  The moving around part has shaped the course my career has taken, though.  I usually teach the intro-level courses, which sometimes means disgruntled students and significant work loads, and I have to leave jobs that I really love when it is time to go, which means leaving students I really enjoying working with.

As Joe and I look to the future and realize that we are most likely on the downhill end of his career, I find myself considering what my career will look like after we don’t move around as much.  What happens when I can stay in one place?  What do I want that to look like?

When I decided that I wanted to teach at the college level, I knew in order to reach the pinnacle of success that would involve getting a PhD.   And, I have tried to be as creative as possible about getting there.  First, I drove hours back and forth to class, finishing my masters quickly because I knew a move was coming up.  And, then I tried out a PhD program because of the location, but it wasn’t a good fit. After applying for the program I really wanted and not getting in, I knew that I needed to do something to help myself stand out, which is the main reason I am pursuing the Art History degree I am now.  But, I am wondering, as grad students often do, whether or not this is the right move for me.

What if I get the PhD and decide that all the things that make me crazy about academia now are worse after I am even more embedded in the system?  What if the picture of success I had when I was younger has clouded the path I really want to take?  And, what if the version of success that I had in my head is clouding the way I feel about my life right now?  What would my life look like if I didn’t try to cram in every available opportunity to build my resume and instead worked on building and enjoying my life?  What if I decide I do want to stop pursuing that pinnacle point and just live?  How does somebody do that after scrambling so long to get there?

So, that’s where I am.  That’s why I chose my word for this year.  It was time to look at the whole picture, and I am going to use this place to talk out some of these issues.  But, as I promised in the last post, I also have some cute baby pictures and crafty stuff to show you too!

word for the year…

For several years now, I have chosen one word to guide me through the year.  I originally got the idea from Christine Kane; although, the concept is pretty common now.  The idea is that you choose one word to focus on throughout the year rather than worry about a list of resolutions that you aren’t likely to keep up with.

The process I have used for the last three years is to posted my word at the start of the year, and at the end of the year, I reflect on how I interacted with this one word through the months, checking in occasionally along the way.  Sometimes this reflection has been as a guest post on another blog, but most of the time I just posted on my own blog.

For 2010, my word was “proceed,” and it turned out to be a perfect.  Proceed was exactly what I needed to do through the moments of transition and grief I encountered throughout these past twelve months.  Starting through those early hard days of motherhood, through watching the disintegration of one of my closest friendships, and finally through the death of my youngest brother.

I learned something about myself while I was just pushing through.  Some years will be about overall personal growth and accomplishment, and some years are just going to be about making it through it. And, I am eternally grateful that my Dec 2009-self knew that I would need those 365 days to just make it through it.  “Proceed” became my gift to myself.

Looking to 2011, I am hopeful that this year will be more about centering myself-about working integrate all the pieces of my life.  So, my word for this year is going to be

I think the focus on working towards one whole image of my life is one that will provide comfort.  I am ready to be undivided, not broken, and complete. So, here’s to a wonderful “whole” year for all of us!