Stray Thoughts Sunday: Planning for a REAL Break

It is unbelievable to me that in one week I will be on Spring Break.

And this year, I’m going to work really, really hard THIS week in an attempt to not work at all next week.  I have a lot to do.  I have a lot to do for work, at my house, and for speech and debate.  But, I really feel like if I push myself to get things done this week, I can take a real week off next week.  My plan is to check email once a day during break and that is it.  No grading.  No class prep.  No dealing with crises.  Just having it all done and relaxing, reading a lot, watching some movies, binge watching some TV, taking my DD in for her annual biopsy with a fun night in the hotel and swimming in the pool, etc. and a fun trip with friends to Turtle Bay (not the resort, just a small park with recovering wild animals and open space and some educational things).  That’s it.  But, that is going to mean I have to push myself this week.  I have to be productive and focused and probably skip some sleep.  But, it will be so worth it.  I have not taken a real Spring Break in quite a while.  I am so ready for one this year.

And here is where the stray thoughts come in this Sunday:

I am also contemplating where I am going with my life right now.  I really feel like I’m tugged in about 50 different directions and need to figure out what I want to spend my time doing.  I am considering taking a year off of coaching (if I can shift my job to just teaching for a year) to focus on other things and allow me a little (perhaps a lot) more flexibility.  I feel like I’ve been doing Forensics for some 20 years plus now and I haven’t taken a year to just be in all that time.  There are always tournaments happening and research to be done and paperwork to be finished and preparation and travel planning.  It really is a year around activity.  And I think a year off would allow me some perspective.  But, I’m afraid I will take a year off and never want to go back.  It is not an easy job and I think being away from it for a year may just give me a taste of freedom.  A taste I would want to continue to savor.  We’ll see what the remainder of this year brings and what some of my options are for moving forward in a more sane way.  I just feel like I’ve reached a point where what I’m doing is no longer sustainable for me.  I want options.

I also realize that I need to tame my grading monster.  I am going to really look at what I need to be grading and what I can make more automated and what doesn’t need to have a grade attached to it.  Right now, I just have too much that requires my attention each week.  I need some automation.  I need some systems.  I need routines.  And I need to minimize my teaching like I need to minimize my possessions.  I need to figure out what really matters, what really helps the students and what should and should not have points attached.  And then look at it even more closely and get rid of some more.  Minimalism should work with teaching like it works with managing the household.  I need to prioritize, purge and focus on what matters.  In class and at home.

So, yeah.  Mid-life crisis perhaps?  What do I really want to be when I grow up?  Or grow old, as the case may be.  I love so many aspects of my job, but it is also really hard to do and takes so much time away from family and my teaching and living life.  I just am not sure what to do at this point.  But, the REAL Spring Break should be helpful in my being able to sort some things out.  And if I am honest with myself, being more organized and on top of my stuff would make my job much easier, even with all the travel and planning and time away.  So, in part, I could fix the problem without having to take the year off.  But, a year of weekends at home sound really, really good to me right now.  Perhaps that is a Mid-Spring semester crisis?

Goodbye Christmas, Hello New Year!

You’re probably thinking that this post is coming out two weeks too late.  But, really, we just got rid of our Christmas tree tonight (sob) and I’m just now settling in to figure out the new year.  So far, I have not even been able to figure out what day of the week it is in the new year.  In fact, for most of today, I thought it was Monday not Tuesday.  Proving once again how much I need a routine in my life.  I wrote the wrong date on everything today, would have missed my DD’s swim lesson had my phone not sent me a reminder as I finished grocery shopping and I didn’t help out in my DD’s class this morning like I said I would on Tuesdays this semester.  Sigh…

But, 2017 is here and Spring semester starts next week.  I’ll be on a schedule again and I am looking forward to being able to eat dinner at a decent hour AT HOME every night of the week!  My meal planning has fallen to the wayside thus far.  Heck, most things have fallen to the wayside thus far.  But, I figure school starting will help me out with getting things together a bit better (send a prayer my way on this one).  Although, traveling the first week of classes is a little bit rough.  But, I will take it.  The holiday is over.  I need a routine and I need it now!

I’m shifting to try something new this year.  I have been using a 10 minute timer to get things done.  I have a long list of things that I need to work on and I work on one thing for 10 minutes and then move on.  But, I find this to be too short of a time (although I’ve adjusted to it and often will stay doing a task for longer when I’m in flow on it).  So, I’ve decided to use some block scheduling instead.  I find that I’ve really lost my ability to focus for long periods of time and do any kind of deep work and it is really negatively impacting my productivity on larger projects.  My schedule this semester lends itself to this type of schedule much better than my prior schedules, so I’m going to give it a shot and see if I can regain my focus, get more done and take more time away from the laptop!

focus

 

Nothing is Routine…Simplicity Sunday

I’ve spoken before about how much of a problem I have maintaining a routine.  I have come up with many, many rationalizations as to why I have an issue.  But, really, it comes down to self-discipline.  But, man do I pay the price for that lack of discipline.  Right now, for example, I can point to the intense amount of cleaning I had to do over the last two days, the misbehaving dog (who really, really needs to exercise), my exhaustion (due to not eating right and not exercising), a 7 yo DD who has no real routine in her life either and struggles with that a bit, food that has gone bad because I didn’t make it in time, forgotten tasks, etc.

SIMPLIFY JANUARY 2016

So, I once again want to get a routine together and implement it on a regular basis.  I feel like it would mean a lot to do it now and have it in place for a couple of weeks before we have to have my DD’s surgery.  Often, when we come home from the hospital, things are just completely out of whack for weeks.  But, if we have a routine set up and then can come back to it, I think it would help immensely.  Because, in our lives, nothing is routine.  But we are in desperate need of routine.

So, we’re going to try it again.  I have a lot to do everyday.  But, here are some things I want to happen everyday:

  • Walk the dog for 20-30 minutes (it would make a huge difference for the dog and probably a huge difference for me…I could listen to a podcast everyday during that time).
  • Unload/load the dishwasher
  • Do a load of laundry from start to put away
  • Feed and water the animals (dog, cat and guinea pigs)
  • Make meals – breakfast and dinner (sometimes lunch)
  • Do something active with my DD (not like sports active, but play a game, do a craft, etc.) for 30 min to an hour
  • Shower, do hair, makeup and such – I really should do this everyday, but I don’t.  I think I would feel much better about myself if I did all these on a regular basis.  I just kind of let myself go and then I end up feeling horrible because I look horrible and have not woken myself up fully, etc.
  • 10-15 min pickup everyday (although, I really want to work on all of us putting things away when we are done with them – it is now my mom mission for March).

Now, I don’t have to do all these myself.  And when I list it out, it doesn’t seem like much.  In addition to these, I want a list of chores to do throughout the week so they get done, but they don’t need to be done daily.  Things like vacuuming, changing the beds, cleaning the bathrooms, etc.

The routines are printed out (mine, my DD’s and a daily/weekly household one).  I’m going to post them and go to bed early to read (okay, really play Candy Crush, but I may run out of lives and end up reading for a bit) and be ready for tomorrow’s first task – walking the dog!  I’m going to lay out her leash and choker chain and my clothes and just DO IT!  I’m tired of lacking in doing what I know needs to be done.  Wish me luck!

Ch…ch…ch…changes – taking first (baby) steps

Welcome to Monday, which right now looks a lot like Saturday and Sunday in my world.   But, that is all going to come to a screeching halt next week and we’ll be slammed forward into a new school year – no air bags provided.

are you ready-!-

I’m not.  I hope to be more ready six days (!) from now when my DD starts back to school (I can’t believe she’ll be in First Grade…there was many a day when I wondered if she would ever come home from the hospital, and now she’s going to be a First Grader!).  I hope to be even MORE ready when I start back to teaching thirteen days from now (holy cow – that’s less than two weeks people!).  BUT…I’m not going to try to do the same things I’ve done in the past (which haven’t worked and I think Einstein was a pretty smart guy and he says its insane to continue doing the same things and expect different results).  So, I’m really trying to do things differently.  What am I doing differently?  Well, let me tell you!

  1. I am NOT trying to do every possible Pinterest perfect project for back-to-school.  We got my DD’s First Day of School outfit today and I’ll make a sign for her to hold before leaving that morning so I can take a picture.  That’s it.  No best breakfast or special lunch or crazy pre-first day party.  So, in a more wholistic view of things, I am being REALISTIC.
  2. I am starting a routine THIS week instead of trying to start on the first day of school.  My DD THRIVES on routines.  She loves a list and completing the list is a serious big deal for her.  So, I took an archived Kid’s Routine from My Simpler Life, changed it up a small bit and printed it out for her last night.  I posted one upstairs and one downstairs and she has one she can carry around with her.  It includes all the things I need her when school kicks in, but she is doing all the other stuff this week.  So, when school starts, she will already have a routine and will just add in school.  Brilliant!  She’s loving it so far.
  3. I am prepping my classes COMPLETELY for at least the first month of school.  I’m hoping that I can get even further than the first month, but four weeks being completely done and posted on Blackboard with notes in my day planner for what needs to be printed out or added in, etc. will be awesome.  Most of the time, I’m trying to do this the weekend before school starts and I never get it done, so I end up flying by the seat of my pants in at least half the classes and trying to make technology work for things that it doesn’t really work for and getting frustrated and overwhelmed.  So, now I have almost two weeks to get it all done and I think that will be enough time (I already have one class done through Week Three and just a couple of more things to add for Week Four).
  4. I am really looking for places to delegate.  This is a HUGE weakness of mine.  Part of it is my lack of organization makes it difficult for me to hand things off to other people.  I’m either so late doing things that I need to do it myself because it would take too long to bring someone else in on it or I can’t get my $#@! together enough to make it understandable to someone else and when I do, it is an abject failure which makes both them and me feel bad.  So, I’m trying to get ahead of the game, figure out where I need help and asking for it in plenty of time (e.g. babysitting in three and a half weeks – I need that…and I can start figuring out who is available now; having dinners figured out so I can tell my hubby what to do to get it on the table while I’m at work).

The book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is really changing my life.  And I’m only through 41 of 220 some pages!  I feel like Crystal Paine GETS me.  I’ve read other books and they always seem to be saying, “just do this and everything will be great.” and I would try to do the things and it wouldn’t be as easy as they said and everything was not great.  But, she makes it clear that it isn’t going to be easy and its going to require changes and we need MARGINS (spaces for us to make mistakes and still recover – time cushions, planning for disasters that are sure to occur, etc.).  It isn’t something that I haven’t heard before, but the way she says it is in MY language.

Anyways…I’m really trying to get to bed by 11 p.m. every night and up by 6 a.m. everyday.  Getting on that schedule/routine myself before school starts.  So, I’ve got to hit the hay.  Although I’m terrified, I’m also excited about the new school year and what it will bring.  I just hope I can stick with some of my new found baby steps!

What about you?  What are you doing, if anything to prepare for the new school year/new season?

Minimalism Monday – Getting rid of “stuff”

I’ve decided to start a new Monday focus – minimalism.  I am really serious about making my life simpler and minimalism (at least a slight amount of minimalism) seems to get me everything I really need.  Spend less, less “stuff”, less on my to-do list, more focus on family and well-being.  So, this first post is going to focus on the WHY of it all.

Simplicity - Longfellow

 I think the biggest reason I feel the need to simplify is that I am completely and totally overwhelmed.  My life is OVERSTUFFED!  My home is OVERSTUFFED.  I have stuff piled up everywhere.  And every time I clear off a surface, it is suddenly full of more and different STUFF.  I am disorganized.  My life is chaos.  I just read, “Defending the Family Routine” on Motherlode and I realize that we have zero routine.  I have a family schedule hanging on our wall from the latter part of the school year and I can count the times we stuck to the whole thing on one hand.  Sigh…

So, I’m really trying to “hit reset” on my life – this article over at Elephant Journal could have been written by me.  My key wake up call from it came in these words:

How you do anything, is how you do everything.

If your house is a disorganized mess, so then likely is your life. If your storage area is filled with boxes stuffed with your past, then you are probably also physically holding on to those emotions and wounds too.

If you are ignoring financial obligations, playing the role of the ostrich in your reality, most likely you are shortchanging yourself from prosperity in more than just your bank account.

If your calendar is so very full you have to check it just to see if you have time to make a phone call to a friend, there’s very good chance you are also experiencing adrenal fatigue.

If you consistently ignore the fundamental chores and repairs in your home, then you’re probably also not meeting your basic emotional needs. Just like the clogged bathroom sink you’ve avoided dealing with for a month, your emotions are likely starting to back up, and eventually, they too will flood.

Look around, see what’s in front of you, examine your household habits, then ask yourself— where else does that show up in my life?

The answer to that is EVERYWHERE!  At least that is what I feel like right now.  I am physically holding on to emotions and wounds from the past.  I am shortchanging myself from prosperity in multiple places in my life.  I am almost fearful of success.  I am probably suffering from adrenal fatigue.  Especially during the school year.  And I do have emotions that are backing up…have been backing up for multiple years.  It is the reason I can’t bring myself to watch movies or read books that have sadness in them – I feel like I may start crying and never, ever stop.  I feel like I have so much fear and anxiety that I mask on a daily basis that if I were to ever let it go free it might never stop flowing out of me.

That last paragraph makes me sound like I’m on the edge of a breakdown.  But, I don’t think I am.  I think I’m pretty strong.  I think I’m pretty capable of holding it all together even when everything is falling apart.  I’ve proven that.  But, I also think that holding it together has become tiresome and overwhelming.  So, I’m going to follow the article’s advice…some of it seems a little mystical/new age for me, but I feel like I’ve skipped number one and two (the acknowledgement of the past pains and the “setting it on fire”) and gone to number three – the clean and polish – but, I still need to acknowledge and release.

The remainder I will do, but in a more biblical way I think.  The saying “Let go and Let God.” comes to mind.  And settling into God’s grace and plan for me seems a little more of a relief than trying to hold it together myself.

Well, that turned out to be a little more of a serious post than I first planned.  But, it feels good to get that out.  Release.  Acknowledge.  Let it Go.  Move on.

 

Six Word Saturday – Summer Edition

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Can’t wait for summer fun.  Ready!

I am so ready for summer to be here!  I am sure you will tire of me saying that in the next couple of weeks, but I’m going to have to say it anyways!

I am finishing up grading at one of my teaching jobs (the full time one, so there is much more grading to do) and I have two more trips to reconcile and I am done there for the summer.  My other teaching job has another two weeks to go, but my classes are mostly just listening to students talk, so it isn’t too bad.  But, I’m at that stage where I just want it to be done.

The picture above is from last summer and that joy captures summer for me.  I am looking forward to swim lessons, hanging out at the pool with a book (on my iPad probably, but a book all the same), trips to Discovery Kingdom for the day (we got season passes again and Bean is big enough to go for longer periods of time and hopefully ride a few more rides this year), vacation trips, and I may even try a short camping trip this summer (with some others who have camping stuff, because I don’t have any).  My goal this summer is to (1) read a lot – I have missed reading and I want to take the hours and hours per week I usually spend prepping for class, grading and teaching reading books, (2) spend time doing fun stuff with Bean – this is her last summer of official pre school status and I want to make sure we do a lot of activities and crafts and such, and (3) establish a household routine that works for our family.  I really want to prepare this summer for next year and have some routines in place that will keep us ready for school each day – both Bean’s school and my school – keep the house somewhat clean and organized and give us a more relaxed work week than I’ve experienced in the past.

So, that’s my summer plan – what’s yours?  Any goals you have for summer?  What’s on your bucket list?

Six Word Saturday – Starting Over

Starting over is always an option.

I realize that the new year was only six short weeks ago, but I need a do over!  So, instead of waiting for the start of another month or even another week, I’m starting over today.  I’m not totally sure what this means other than I feel like I am in desperate need of a reset button right now.  So, I have been pretty productive the last couple of days – living room is clean.  My daughter’s room is clean.  The laundry is very close to being totally caught up (I think I can do it tonight, but there may be one or two loads of bedding left depending on my productivity tonight and tomorrow morning).  Our bedroom is more or less clean (and has actually stayed pretty clean the past few weeks).  Now, I just need to figure out how to keep things less cluttered, more tidy and more on track.

So, I’m starting over with ROUTINES!  I am a stubborn, stubborn person.  I constantly resist routines.  Maybe sometimes it is out of laziness, but mostly I think it is because I am stubborn.  I don’t want to give up control.  I can get things done without a routine.  I can fly by the seat of my pants and I’ve been doing it for years.  BUT, I am also a ball of stress with too much on my plate to keep track of it all.  I am constantly forgetting things, double scheduling my time, doing things at the last minute and under undo stress.  So, in the interest of making all of that STOP and providing my daughter with a bit more structure than she has had recently, I’m going to institute some very general routines.  I realize I have talked about this before.  But, I have not been at all consistent in forcing myself – and I do mean FORCING myself to actually DO the things in the routine.

But, I am now instituting the routines and will be using the mantra NO EXCUSES for a while.  I need to have high expectations for myself and I need to live up to them.  Starting NOW.

So, for those of you who have fallen off your resolutions wagon, join me.  Because starting over is always an option!