A transition of Grace

As I mentioned in my Transition Update life has gone from 0-60mph very quickly. Since I started teaching on March 11 today is the first day I feel life is leveling out and beginning to settle.

Monday night the 10th I attended our second week of Choir practice for the Easter production. Then Luke the next morning left for a VA ethics conference, on his birthday, in Minneapolis MN.

That day (March 11) I re-read and looked over my lesson plan for my first night of teaching a new course. I was obviously nervous. It was my first time teaching a four hour night class and I was feeling a little out of practice. This had made it difficult for me sleep . So tired and an odd combination of anxious and excited I ate dinner alone and headed up the hill to the community college to teach.

The first hour was a little rocky adjusting to student interactions, managing time, and bouncing between activities and my notes. But after that first hour I remember what it was like to teach again and it all came back to me. I came home beyond exhausted but still shared everything with Luke on the phone.

The next day I totally crashed. My mind couldn’t focus and I was all muddled. We had freezing rain and snow and I decided I just wasn’t up to going to the Y for my bi-weekly Zumba class. The next day I began to regroup and had a girls outing to attend which helped distract me from the empty house. When I came home I caught up with Luke as we looked forward to seeing each other the next day.

Since then it has been difficult to make it to the Y. I am still keeping our dinners healthy but getting even a half hour to work out at home everyday let alone doing more has been hard.

In this crazy time of transition I have to remember and re-learn to show myself a lot of grace.  I am a person who thrived on routines; they help me keep the everyday problems and anxieties at bay. So when that routine gets shaken-up it always takes me awhile to adjust.

This is especially true when the new changes require more responsibilities and/or more socializing. In that time of adjusting I often expect myself to keep up with the normal routine items such as :cleaning, cooking, dieting/eating right, and exercise. But keeping up these routines while the whole of the schedule/pattern is shifting is sometimes just not feasible. Still my control-freak mindset likes to have temper tantrums about this.

I have to remind myself that when new stressful situations occur it’s ok to take a nap instead of exercise, or cuddle up with a good book instead of brave the snow to go to the Y, or to eat a little extra because my brain is working overtime and trying to adjust to new/old patterns of thinking.

These reminders require showing myself grace. Because in the end, after the adjustment period has ended, I will come out of survival mode and be able to take on the new responsibilities and stressors and still maintain those important routines. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. It helps to look back and recognize I am still more balanced and overall my life is healthier than it was before even last year.

The hardest part is convincing myself that one or two weeks without the normal diet, exercise, sleep, or cleaning patterns will not be the end of me or the end of the world-just apart of a necessary adjustment while in transition.

How about you? In what areas of your life or times do you struggle to show yourself Grace?

Complacency vs. Contentment Round 2: Change up the Routine

In the post-holiday blues it’s easy to get in a pattern, used to a norm. Luke and I have begun to settle into a routine of married life. We ask the same questions to catch up at the end of everyday, get similar answers eat dinner, or exercise then eat, then watch TV, prep for the next day and go to bed.

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On some of the harder days that is perfect, just to rest and relax with each other is enough. But there is a fine line between a sense of contentment and complacency in our everyday lives and sometimes a thankful perspective is not enough on its own. (see Contentment vs complacency: thankfulness)

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Sometimes changing up our quality time interactions helps break up monotony. It’s easy for us to  get stuck in a pattern of Netflix and online catch up on TV shows until bed.  Although there is nothing wrong with this, if we only ever stick to one means of quality time then we can get complacent. Luke and I recognize that we always want to give to each other in all areas including those often neglected such as: intellectually and spiritually. So what does that look like for us ? Options we like do to include:

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Play Video Games/ Board or Card Games: Video Games offer some intellectual competition, or collaboration, as we communicate to figure out how to solve a puzzle, use the Xbox Kinect to act like fools dancing in the living room, or play superheros fighting “the bad guys”. Board and card games lead us to some great interaction as well, especially when we share/learn a favorite game of the other persons. (see The Game Chest).

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Read: It may seem like an individual activity but when I am reading, even if it is a fictional book, questions, thoughts, what if . ..  discussions come to mind and if I share them with Luke a great discussion can come up or vice versa.

Another option is to read the same book and share our thoughts. Or create a list of  books and/or movies that one of us has read and the other hasn’t. Books or movies have a large influence/impact on our lives. Creating then sharing a list of the favorites  is insightful into each other’s lives and place in life when the other person first read/was it and can bring up some good discussion.

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Listen to a lecture, talk, or sermon:  It doesn’t always have to be purely “academic” or “spiritual”.  Sometimes Luke and I will watch a short documentary on Netflix or watch a Tedtalk about a topic that interests us. Awhile back Luke and I watched a documentary on the history/art of Sushi and another one on Beer both were not only informative but led to some good laughs and discussion about ethics, values, and the big picture.

Pray/Meditate together: Luke and I will sometimes share our concerns/thoughts with each other before praying out loud. Or we will just sit in silence both praying and listening on our own; but together. No matter what you believe about ‘The Divine” we all have noises, thoughts, and voices to quiet in our minds let alone distractions we can see or hear. Getting quiet meditative time together can help lower stress and bring some peace to your mind and therefore your relationship.

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Girls/Guys Night, Small Group, or Couple Dating: Spending time apart or with other couples/ people at the same place in life as you can be just as helpful. Luke goes to a group often on Thursday nights to play a card came and relax. He needs this down time to have some friendly competition with “the guys”. We also will go on “double dates” with couple friends we have out to dinner or on a hike, or to each other’s houses where we drink coffee and play games. Getting time apart or with others make the time we do spend together better.

So there you have it-some great ideas to help change up your routine!!

What do you do to beat the winter blues?

Transition reflection

I’ve posted most recently about festivals, food,  and holiday decorations but I’m taking a break for this to reflect and share about some transitions ahead for A.Greene.

In 6 weeks and we will have been NY residents for a year! In this past year there have been many new experiences and challenges. For me a large portion of this was adjusting to living completely on our own.

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When we first moved I had little social interaction outside of skype, phone calls, or the grocery clerk. There were long periods of loneliness and boredom and a whole lot of time on Netflix. I struggled to adjust to the new life-pace. I had been in survival mode for months planning for a wedding while working. When we moved less than a month after the wedding I needed a large amount of down-time to adjust, everyone said so and told me I had earned it.

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But the adjustment wasn’t easy. I at first felt guilty and purposeless.  It took a long time to realize what I was supposed to be doing with my time. In the long run the time was not wasted: I learned how to create boundaries, how to balance my life, how to recognize stressors and handle stress properly, I got in shape, I learned how to maintain a household, learned how to cook healthy for two (check out my transcend category), edited two books, applied to jobs, and wrote more than 100 blog posts (see 6 months=100 posts!) None of that includes the learning and growing in my relationship with Luke! (For more on that just type marriage into my search engine and you’ll see plenty of recent posts).

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All of this to say, it has been a major year of transition and with this fall even more is coming our way.

Here’s what we are looking forward to:

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1. We are now going to be weekly co-leading a Young Married small group with our church. On Tuesday night we will get the opportunity to gather with people at the same place in life as us and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m looking forward to making new friends and to sharing our experiences adjusting to married life.

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2. I have some great job opportunities coming down the line: continued editing work and possibly teaching college-level English courses and/or substituting. I am curious to see what I end up doing, it’s hard to not get anxious wondering where I may be starting my career on the East Coast.

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3. Next weekend we will be celebrating our 1rst year Anniversary!! We are headed to Niagara Falls for a fun filled Groupon getaway!

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4. It’s months from now but: My parent’s are coming for Christmas! After a year of celebrating every holiday just Luke and I, we are ready for company come the holiday season. I’m so excited that it’s hard not to want to plan out every second of time together months in advanced.

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Plus in general we are just getting busier! In the past several weeks there have been birthday parties, dinner meetings, conferences, day-trips to visit friends, co-worker events etc. They are taking up our evenings and weekends more than ever before! It’s a great change (no more boredom or loneliness) but it has been a stretch.

Just as it was difficult to adjust to so much time on my own, so it has also been difficult recently to get out of my introverted state and get out there and socialize more. With transitions (even when they are good ones) there comes new stressors and challenges. As the routine shifts, I have to again adjust  and re-learn how to balance all over again. But it is so worth it.

As we move into the time of holidays what changes or transitions are you anticipating?

What adjustments do they require of you?

Contentment is . . .

“Contentment is a choice based in actively choosing a perspective of thankfulness”

I thought I would follow up my post Summer projects, the waiting game, and being content with this quote. It is easy to get frustrated when you are looking ahead and wanting to be there and not where you are. But awhile ago when I was just as discouraged, impatient, and frustrated with waiting and job search as I was a week ago, I wrote down this quote and put it up on my dresser mirror to remind me.

I need to actively look around to recognize I am in the here and now for a purpose. What will help me be patient is actively focusing on that which I am thankful for now. And there is plenty to be thankful for, many things I have learned to take for granted beyond a great family and wonderful husband. There is a large portion of the world that is not credit card debt free, or doesn’t have a roof over their heads, enough food to feed their family, a bed to sleep in, a working car, and means to pay the bills on time. I can easily forget thankfulness in this culture that teaches us consumers to be discontent so we want more.

Discontentment is wanting change or to add to life, to be somewhere or something else. I am wanting to be down the road about four months (anticipating by then I’ll have a class to teach). But I will get there when I get there. On the plus side, I have, as of last night, turned in my last application: seven different courses as an adjunct English instructor split between two colleges. So now I will try to contently wait to hear back.

How do you learn to be content?

Summer projects, the waiting game, and being content

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Well summer has officially started as of today. This calls to my mind what this season might bring for me.

Since vacation in May (see Vacation Highlights part 1 and Vacation Highlights part 2) I have felt pressure to work hard at my job: the job of finding a job. It is hard living in a place where you know no one because with jobs these days it really is all about who you know. And who do I know here? A handful of people by name and even then not well at all.

a card my brother game me after graduating from college

a card my brother game me after graduating from college

So then what do I do?  Gather all the needed materials, send it to any job in my field of experience then hope, pray, and wait. Last week I sent off a job application for several positions teaching at the local community college.  Every time I think about that application  many “what ifs” come to mind. You know the game: what if . . . they didn’t get it, it’s buried in paperwork, they are already done interviewing for the positions I was looking at etc. Then I remember the “what if” game gets me absolutely nowhere but very stressed and frustrated. It is out of my hands, in theirs and I need to choose to hope for the best instead of wondering.

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What do I do while I wait? Good question. This has been the longest I have been without a job, school, or some combination of both ever. My life and calendar=very open. So again-what do I do with my time? Well you are reading part of it. (Just in case you wondered why I post so often). Other than blogging I do some editing work for my mother-in-law’s who is an author , weekly catch up with family and friends from out West. Past that? My life consists of a  pretty mundane routine of  dishes, getting groceries, laundry, cleaning the house, prepping dinner, exercise, reading, and watching netflix shows. For some people this limited level of responsibilities would be bliss. For those busy women out there with several jobs and/or possibly several children I know you must envy my spare time. But for me it is torture.

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I am a very active person who enjoys deeply, fully investing in a cause I know I can make a difference in. I am ambitious, hard working, diligent, detail oriented. (I know I sound like I’m rehearsing for an interview or rattling off one of my more recent intent letters for job applications). But I promise this is just me being transparent with my readers about my personality. I told Luke the other night “How do you think you would do with having 8 months of no work, no school, and not having your own car?” He thought about it and realized “not too well”. I’ve been trying, really, to not be “not doing too well” with what I’ve been given.

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I  try a lot of new recipes, and gratefully appreciate time with Luke.  But mostly I do a lot of thinking about what my purpose is here in NY? What am I supposed to be doing while I am here?

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So now I come to the topic of summer projects. I don’t currently have any. I am a creative person and could apply myself to several new tasks or old hobbies and enjoy them. But I am also very purpose driven, so if I don’t have a practical reason to do these projects then I have a hard time starting them. Luke has mentioned trying to find me an electric piano because I haven’t played since we moved. I could finish a painting I’ve left undone for almost a year, start making or learning to make more jewelry (or sign up for a crafting class) but none of these would be investing in others or serving for a deep or greater purpose then taking up my time.

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I promise this post is not a  group invite to a personal pity party or written to pull your heart strings to elicit sympathetic replies. It is instead a realistic view of where I am at. I am trying to be grateful for the many details I can take for granted and continue to exercise the disciples of being patient and content. Two very difficult and necessary virtues.

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As for what I am enjoying about the summer season? The weather of course for one. This past winter left a pretty deep imprint on my mind. Secondly there is a new activity almost every weekend in the area. It is as if each little town, village, or city has it’s own weekend (or several) for summer festivals. And that is not including the county fairs, state fair, and farmers markets. Of course  there are also so many outdoor activities and places to explore : kayaking, hiking, camping, swimming at the many lakes, waterfalls, and wooded hills and mountains surrounding us. And last of all of course I’m looking forward to my brother’s wedding in August!!

Invite came in the mail this week!!

Invite came in the mail this week!!

I know I will enjoy this summer and that I should be  content with the limited responsibilities and activities I have. But I also know I would embrace the time even more if I knew that it was limited and had an idea of when it will end, knowing I am progressing towards some purposeful activities here in New York.

So answering my earlier question I believe this Summer season will bring me: sunshine, a great time celebrating with family at my brother’s wedding, and hopefully a job come fall.

How about you? What are your summer plans?

Spring is coming

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Cherry blossom tree at Easter in Seattle

It is still cold outside but there is hope as things are slowly thawing. We are not used to long winters with snowy temps. from October-March. We are told this was a normal to light winter-eek!

Fortunately spring is coming and we have finally moved out of the “settling-in” stage. Luke mentioned to me that he feels like we have finally arrived-things are beginning to feel well . . .  normal. We have been married for 5 months now and the newness of it all is starting to fade . . in a good way.

Our “settling-in” phase was such a scramble. Everything was new, scary, exciting, and anxiety producing. Any little task around the house, errand, or decision was a monumental “first” which involved talking, compromise, patience, and grace.

We are now ready for a new phase I call “branching out”;  it’s time to get involved in the community.

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Now that I have gotten a grasp of some of my wifely responsibilities I am ready to begin the job of finding a job. It is time for me to find my purpose and place here in New York.

As I make phone calls, email inquiries, send my CV to colleges and companies in the area; I have to stay focused on today and not worry about tomorrow as I wrote in The future is . . .

We have also recently been asked to lead a small group of young couples at our church once a week starting in April. We love to host events and build community. Plus I once again have a reason to bake goodies!!!

In addition, we are attending Financial Peace University at our church.  Luke has a good working knowledge of finances I   . . . do not. We thought this class would provide us with the framework/vocabulary for discussion on this stressful topic. This is us taking that desire to procrastinate talking about loans, debt, spending, saving, and shoving it out the door!

Last, we have been exercising. We got memberships at the Y in January. It took awhile to get into the routine. Fortunately the Y has a clean welcoming facility and everyone is polite. There is no judgment, no hogging the machines, no showing off, just genuine people taking care of their bodies whatever their shape, size, or age! It is a far cry from the LA gyms and fitness centers! Still we are looking forward to warmer weather so that we can exchange our indoor exercise for outdoor explorations.

Chinese garden Huntington Library this past May

Chinese garden Huntington Library this past May

Do you have any spring cleaning/changes or challenges ahead of you?

Becoming Mrs. ______________

It is interesting, in American culture, once a woman becomes engaged it is all about preparing for a wedding.

It is only after you get married the government asks: “are you sure?  . . . is this relationship worth the red-tape?”.

I don’t question the decision to get married. But the weight of what I consider to be a permanent legal change did not hit until I had to fill out piles of government paperwork. (I even learned to bring a personal profile of all my legal documents with me places to show proof of my name change.)

For those of you who are/will be engaged soon, let me give you a heads up on the legal stuff required after you get married to become Mrs. ___________:

1.  Your officiant has to sign and deliver the marriage certificate to the country clerk within 10 days after the wedding. Then you can file for copies which includes having your paperwork notarized. Once you pay the fee and mail off the paperwork you wait.

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2. Eventually you receive copies (more than one is helpful) of your marriage certificate. You can then file to change your last name with Social Security. This  requires another form, another fee, copy of your marriage certificate, and your passport/birth certificate. Then you wait again.

3. When your new social card comes you can go to the DMV! At the DMV you need your social, copy of marriage cert., your license, and of course the name changing forms. You take a new photo, pay another fee, and wait.

4. When you will get your new driver’s license  you can apply for a new passport! For this you need copy of your marriage cert., your old passport, new passport photos, the name changing forms, and another fee.

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So yes becoming Mrs. __________ on Facebook is the easiest thing you will do.

You don’t know how many times I became confused as to when to write/sign my maiden name and when to write/sign my married name. (Let’s just say I had to fill out some forms more than once.)

For any women the journey of adjusting to a new personal identity, becoming  Mrs. _________ is greater than the legal name-changing saga. Every piece of paperwork in the name-changing process or new piece of mail addressed to a Mrs. ________ is a reminder of a permanent change in social and lifestyle status. After four months of marriage I am still asking myself: who is Mrs. Amanda Greene ? What is or will be different about my identity or roles as Mrs. Greene over when I was Ms. Halvorson?

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Although my name changing process is finally over my  journey to become Mrs. Greene, to adjust to the meaning behind the name-change, has just begun.

For those recently married: any thoughts to share on adjusting to new roles/identity?

Any other newlyweds find it takes awhile for the name-change to sink in?