New Semester Resolutions

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Yes, it’s the end of January, but my life seems to be driven more by the academic calendar than the calendar year, so it seems like this resolutions post comes just in time.

In writing this post (and making sure that I hadn’t already written a New Year’s Resolution post because it’s 3 weeks into the new year and that seems like something I’d do…), I reread all of my posts this month. I saw a pretty clear theme. This month has been about finding calm in the storm, taking time to appreciate the beauty of moments, and taking a breath.

And that’s what I want this semester to be.

Here are my resolutions for this semester:

  1. Cook more. Eat out less.
  2. Spend more time with my family. Limit weekend and nightly commitments to what is REALLY important to me.
  3. Check in with an accountability partner before taking on ANY new commitments.
  4. Get 7+ hours of sleep per night.
  5. Run a half marathon in under 2 hours.
  6. Take a moment out of every day to reflect (and breathe).
  7. Write (something besides e-mail) everyday.
  8. Use my voice to advocate, in some way, everyday.

Any (academic) friends want to share their resolutions with me for this spring semester (or winter/ spring quarter)? Or anyone want to check-in with me to make sure these resolutions stick?  Growth is about accountability and this semester, I’m committed to growing in peace and community.

A Life in Overdrive

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It’s Sunday afternoon.

I’m home, with my family.

My children are playing on their electronic devices. My husband is nap watching the little one on the couch while the big one occasionally calls out, “Huh?!” when he thinks someone is talking to him.  I am watching the little one too, and blogging, and sending e-mails, and drafting welcome messages to my students. Today, I’ve already run 3 miles, gone to 3 grocery stores, fixed lunch, had a tea party and gone to the playground with my toddler, helped my pre-teen with a book repurposing project, and set up several meetings for this coming week. Yesterday, I spent the morning at my local Women’s March with my little girl, had 2 hours at home, then went to choir practice and church, came home, helped a former student with homework virtually, and tucked in both kids before crashing at 9pm of exhaustion.

This is my life at the beginning of every semester, and pretty much throughout the entire semester. It is a life of overdrive.

But, this blog post is an act of rebellion.  It is a moment among many moments where I am not going full force forward or zoning out (to avoid going full force).  It is a moment of reflection, a moment to breathe, a decision that I will not be completely overrun by all there is to do so that I cannot be present to what’s so.

It’s been a busy day. But this is a quiet moment.  And in that, there can be a smile and a silent celebration.

Grace & Responsibility

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As 2018 begins, I’ve been thinking more about responsibility rather than resolutions.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always an important beginning of the year reminder about my responsibility to keep pushing forward towards justice.  Mid-January is also an important time for me personally as it is a reminder of a time when I was very ill and had to take responsibility for my life and my choices, and work towards actively restoring my health. Yet, those reminders so often get lost in the busy-ness (and business) of starting a new semester, and I feel myself pulled towards overcommitment, doing a bunch of things, and being driven by tasks.

On my drive in to work today, these thoughts of responsibility swirling in my head, I realized that sometimes, I resist these reminders of my true commitments, and when I do, it is because I’ve taken on too many responsibilities in my life (FAR TOO OFTEN and non-judiciously), without according myself grace or space to consider that not every responsibility is mine.  I don’t know how to balance the tension between responsibility and humanity.  Everything is packed every minute. I must take advantage of every “opportunity,” such that it becomes a burden. Every time I make a mistake, I’ve dropped the ball and I’ve shown myself to be irresponsible.  I beat up on myself and sentence myself to the penance of more work.

On the same drive, this morning, I realized that I had forgotten something on my way to work and had to turn around (when I was almost to my office) to go home to grab it, putting me behind schedule.  In that moment, I flashed back to my irritation at my son, who also forgot something for a class recently (that I had to bring to him). In that moment, it struck me that I can’t extend grace to others when I don’t allow myself to make an occasional mistake.  Then a friend and colleague with whom I was meeting afforded me grace in regards to something I thought I had “dropped the ball on.” (Actually, this has happened several times recently!) I realized then that sometimes I think I need to do more than I actually need to do.

It’s actually not always that serious.

Not everything is my responsibility.

I’m human (and so is my son) and actually, since I’m responsible more times than not, people don’t actually see an oversight on my part as representative of every part of who I am (or as representative of my overwhelming irresponsibility).

I had to actually reflect on the fact that when people gracefully bow out of things that I had on my calendar, I actually feel relief and don’t say to myself, “Wow, they’re irresponsible.” I also had to reflect on the fact that all these things that I take on that I know I don’t need to be doing prevent me from being present to the very things that ARE my responsibility: a passion for teaching teachers; a passion for greater justice & equity in schools; my children.

Then, I reflected on the power of grace.  I need to remember to extend grace to myself and others. I’m sorting through many things.  I’ve dropped the ball more times than I normally do recently. But, things are going to be okay as long as I’m clear where I’m going, I keep moving forward, I keep acknowledging my humanity and I keep being responsible for what I take on.  I need to make more powerful choices with my time and be kind(er) to myself when I (inevitably) take on too much or take on the wrong thing.  It’s part of growing and learning.

So, grace and responsibility, and negotiating tension.  Sounds like plenty to take on in 2018.

Confession of a Literacy Professor

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What is the last thing that you read that really stuck with you and why?

It’s with this question that I begin my secondary literacy class.  I also begin by posting my own response to this question.  I want to use this discussion board to get a sense of who my students are, what they read, and what sticks with them.

I also want to challenge their ideas about the relationship that a literacy professor (at least theirs) has with text.  In that spirit, I might as well publicly out myself on this blog since I’m going to link this to my discussion board post:

I am not really a “pleasure reader” anymore. And, I rarely read fiction.

I know this seems odd, particularly if one knows my literacy history.  I used to love libraries, and knew the exact day of each month that Ann M. Martin’s new Babysitters’ Club book was going to arrive at my local independent bookstore.  I read ravenously throughout middle school.

At some point in high school, I stopped reading for pleasure, but I continued to revel in literature, and in college, I was a literature major for 3/4 of my undergraduate career (I eventually graduated with an American Studies degree in Childhood in America and a minor in French, but that’s another story for another blog).  In college, while I remained interested in people, I moved from fictional stories to facts, figures and memoirs.  I moved from novels to short stories, and eventually to journal articles and blogs.

It used to be easy for me to challenge perceptions of “literacy professor” as reader because I would often cite a blog post or a social media post or a quote as the last thing I read that stuck with me.  Nowadays, I cite audiobooks (which are the only way I feel somewhat literary, but still somewhat as an imposter…), but I worry that this is still too traditional and limiting to challenge my students’ ideas of what is okay to post on an initial discussion board post to “impress” the “literacy professor” with whom they’ll be spending the next 15 weeks.

Maybe my students won’t really care about impressing me.  I could just be projecting, but this is for those that, like me, when I was a prospective teacher (and an ENGLISH teacher at that!), may be worried that I will judge them for citing a quote or a blog as the last text they read that stuck with them: no judgment.  Who am I to judge?

And for my academic colleagues (especially those of the literacy ilk) that may be silently judging the fact that I don’t read for pleasure anymore, the cat’s out of the bag.  Please don’t deny me tenure 😉 I’ve been busy reading empirical studies…or maybe a few too many blogs and Facebook posts.

Learning to Choose

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I am learning to listen to my own voice.

In the past, I was not strong enough to set limits on my time, energy, value.  I would give and give and give until there was only enough to survive.  Then I would get really sick or collapse from exhaustion in order to give myself an excuse to say no.  Then another opportunity would present itself and I would say yes, and then another need would come forth and I would say yes, and then another duty would arise and I would say yes.

It was a cycle built on my sense that my worth came from my performance and all that I did for others.  There was an ever-present sense that if I didn’t take advantage of every opportunity then eventually I would not have any opportunities at all; if I did not give whenever I was asked, I would be selfish and greedy; if I did not do for others, then I would be left alone.

But tonight, I find myself alone, with a cup of tea, writing this blog, and watching television, and I feel a strange joy.

There is much to be done and I am forcibly resisting the urge to complete my syllabi or work on an article draft (that I am too tired to work on) before I write this blog.

There are people to see, and I am resisting the urge to text people to get together since I have a “free evening.”

I was asked to give more than I had today by someone close to me, and while I gave some, I also set limits.

I am recognizing that my energy, my time, my gifts, are valuable. And, more than that, they are mine.  I can choose. Sometimes the choice will be to work; sometimes to socialize; sometimes to give. But sometimes the choice will be to write; sometimes to be alone; sometimes to say, “Not this time.” These choices are all okay.

This is still hard. It is still not my nature. I still fight against myself. But, I am choosing what is right in the moment rather than what is most comfortable because I want to be able to better hear my voice.

On How to Be When There is Something to Do

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Part of my hope for 2018 is that it will be a year with more space.

I appreciate having fewer plans and more empty space because it allows for more time for creativity, and more opportunities for restoration and reflection.

However, often empty space on my calendar leads to hours of lost time on social media and feeling like I didn’t “get anything done.”

I am generally all about productivity, which is a good thing to be about as an academic who is also a mother since there is almost always a demand on my time.  I can take one day for restoration like yesterday but after a single day, I start getting antsy, and even yesterday, I still got a bunch of stuff done, I just felt more zen about it because I lit a candle and didn’t have anything planned afterwards.

So, here I am today, with a 4pm presentation scheduled (so there’s something upcoming to do and I need to stay in “get things done” and  “be professionally competent” mode), dinner in the crockpot, 4.5 miles run, a section of a new paper written, a bunch of articles downloaded for the lit review for that paper, a homemade rainstick (because I can’t find mine and I’m presenting on classroom management strategies) crafted, and a sneaking suspicion that I am supposed to be doing or that there are millions of things I should be doing in the next hour and 20 minutes before I need to leave.

Then I remember to breathe and blog.

This time is a gift.  So, I could stop and ask myself what I’d like to do with it.  That would be new and different.  But good and different.

So, I’m going to light a candle and make another cup of tea, check on the crockpot and that e-mail that came in while I was blogging, maybe put on some classical music and read something.  I can do this. This is what I want to do. Or it won’t be and I can give myself permission to veg out on social media.  It’s just an hour.

Working on being me instead of doing me this year. It’s a work in progress.

A Day of One’s Own

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Today, for the first time in a very long time, I had a day where I didn’t have any meetings, my children were at daycare and my husband was at work.  Today, I spent, for the most part, alone and in silence.

It was a great day.

I drank tea, read from my Bible and prayed, prepared for some upcoming presentations, ran some errands, organized my closet and dresser, cooked dinner, caught up (partially) on my friends’ vlog, and started a great new audiobook.

It was really restorative. It was really calm.

In the midst of a season that has been so much and so busy, it was great to be still (well, still for me).  And I am grateful to begin my year this way, with much needed restoration.