Summer Projects

My Spring semester of teaching ended mid-May, although grading and meetings continued after that life definitely slowed down. Then I thought I’d be teaching a 10 week ESL summer school but enrollment ended up being too low.

So I have this summer off from work. As those with teaching jobs know there is joy and difficulty in having time off in the summer. Summer time gives teachers an opportunity to step back from their work, see the big picture, review student surveys, and see what needs to change for next semester. It also gives time to read new books on the teaching subject, on teaching methods, and attend professional development meetings.

But it also means a lack of routine. I need more to do beyond making changes to curriculum and creating new class activities. I can “relax” without a routine for only so long before I’m caught up on Netflix shows.

House warming: Even though we’ve been living here for more than 6 months a lot of  necessary home maintenance items have come up and home decorating has continually moved to the back burner. Since we’ve had so much rain this month I’ve been able to get Luke’s help to fill holes, from previous owners wall hangings, touch up paint in the house, and plan house decorating. Even though Luke cares less about  what I decorate with he is helpful, and more particular about the where. Which is OK because he’s more spacial than I am. Of course decorating projects will be shared as they get completed.

Editing Website: I have been the editor in chief for my mother-in-law who is a self published book author for almost 4 years now. I started my own editing business more than a year ago but got busy with a move and new teaching job before I got to the advertising end of things. So I’m taking this summer to get my editing business on it’s feet with designing a website, logo, and making business cards. (More of this including a link to my new site to come).

VBS/Bible Study: Since I’m not socializing with co-workers on a constant basis I realized I need to get out of the house and with people during the week. I decided to join the women’s Bible Study at our church. It meets on Tuesday mornings so I may not be able to continue in the Fall but it is good to be with these women. Plus we are using one of my mother-in-law’s books for the study. I also have volunteered to help out with our churches’ VBS heading up the missions projects. I will be explaining  to the kids and how they can help raise money or collect cans for humanitarian needs in Nepal and Latin America.

Curb Appeal: We had a late spring and as I said earlier a wet summer but we are finally learning what plants we have in the front yard. I am working to clean up the front yard and garden beds around the house: weeding, cleaning out leaves, categorizing plants, transplanting plants , and buying new plants to add color and interest to our front yard. It has been a great learning experience since I’m not used to working with such moist and shaded ground. (more blogs on this to come).

Garden/Yard: This project Luke is leading right now. Because we live in a very shaded valley we need to clear trees and brush in order to create sunlight for a garden. Luke has been working in the yard to kill weeds, cut down trees, and do controlled burns on one of the hillsides of our property to create a garden space. We are hoping for a late summer/fall gardena.

So this is how I am staying busy this summer. What are your summer projects?

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?

Complacency vs. Contentment: Thankfulness

We have now been living in Corning for a little over a year.  The newness of the Finger Lakes region has started to ware off and to some degree the same could be said about our marriage.  The longer you stay in one place, in one pattern, the easier it is to not see the little things. The route to work with all turns becomes a blur, as do the days. Same can be said about life together in a marriage. Over time it is easy to forget or not even notice the little things as they days start to blur together. When this happens it is easy to become complacent.

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Complacency is settling, possibly unhappily, with the way life is. When life begins to buzz by it’s easier to complain and become grumpy. But instead of doing anything about it, complacency leads us to feel comfortable with the unhappy grumpy us in our mundane routine because it can be controlled.

Contentment instead is a state of satisfaction even if life is not perfect. It focuses on what is going right or well with a sense of thankfulness in and/or during our regular routine. This helps us let go of the pieces we can make us grumpy or irritated but we have no control over and helps the days feel more important, significant, less “blurry”.

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I am learning what it looks like to be content instead of complacent in our routine and current place in marriage. But what does that look like?

Saying thank you, a lot. I don’t have to think or worry about the bills being paid on time, the trash being emptied, the car having gas, or there being money in the checking account so I can buy groceries. Luke just takes care of those things for us. But because I don’t have to worry or think about them means I can forget they are getting done. They can become part of the routined haze unless I saying thank you; a lot: in a text, email, sticky note in a lunch pail or out-loud. If I say thank you it helps change my focus onto what is working well, what is going right.

Once I began to think with a thankful perspective and communicate appreciation for the little things, I began to see Luke’s actions differently. I began to recognize the “why” behind what he did big or little. For instance, my husband’s willingness to go to the store at 12am in the morning to pick up nyquil. That action showed me that he cares about not only my well being but that I get decent rest. Although I already knew these things to be true,I need constant vocal or physical reminders because let’s face it life gets to us and we forget just how much our spouse or loved on really does care about us.

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It may sound strange to, say: thank my husband for going to work everyday. But I see the deeper value or purpose behind his behavior. By always going to work, dressed professionally, on time, I see he has a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility to his co-workers and patients, and he cares about our financial security.  So when I thank him for a small everyday action, what I am really saying is I see and appreciate who he is: the roles he has taken on, and his values and ethics.

It takes discipline to remember to communicate my gratitude but overtime it helps develop perspective. I am able to see more clearly the emotions and values behind what Luke is communicating to me. In turn I am more aware of how I communicate and thank him through my behaviors back. It makes the little things Luke does for me or I do for him seem not so little anymore. Because when I get a small text in the middle of my day that simply says: “hey love u babe” it makes a big impact in how I handle the rest of my daily routine leading me more towards contentment and away from complacency

How about you?

What little things do you take for granted?

What little things are you grateful for/impact you the most?

Our Rochester Routine

Once every 3 months or so Luke and I take a weekend day trip up to Rochester, NY. It is our closest big city. The first fews time we drove up just to explore and find out what shopping/food options were available. Now we have made it a routine to stop at two specific areas:

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First up is Pittsford Plaza. This mall area has several stores we like to go to including the original (and nicest) Wegmans, a two story Barnes and Nobles, a movie theatre, our closest Cheesecake Factory, and Trader Joes. We usually stop in Barnes and Nobles to get Starbucks in the Cafe and pursue some books.

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We rarely actually buy books but as bookstores in general are disappearing we enjoy being able to  flip through a book before buying it for cheap online at Amazon. Awhile back we were looking at homemade beer recipe books (see Bottling our first homemade brew). This time around with a Christmas gift card in hand we perused the international cooking area. Taking pictures of the book info for Sushi, Curry Crockpot recipes, and a Korean Cook Book we ended up only buying me a new journal. But we left with ideas for birthday present books. 🙂

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Our next stop was Trader Joes. Growing up in SoCal Trader Joes were common and many. In fact my grandfather owned a dry cleaning business across the street from the original Trader Joes in South Pasadena. Trader Joes just has certain products (at certain prices) we can’t get anywhere else; so we stock up. This time around we walked away with frozen swordfish steaks, ginger snaps, crackers, and  a whole lot of coffee.  We enjoyed samples of cheese, vegi chili with corn chips, and I had a caffeine boost of sample size cup of their dark roast coffee.

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The second normal stop is a suburb of Rochester: Henrietta. Here is the closest Red Robin, Melting Pot, Play it Again sports (where we ended up getting my snowshoes), and several international restaurants and grocery stores. In Henrietta we usually stop at the Korean food market to pick up frozen beef for eating Korean BBQ at home along with a big container of Kimchee and rice pasta. In the same shopping center is also a nice game store Millennium games. We tend to stop in there to see what is new and double check any sales. When all our shopping is through we go get dinner at Red Robin, Sticky Lips (see Kayaking and BBQ) or most often Seoul Garden: for Korean BBQ.

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On the long drive back and forth we enjoy singing along to CDs, trying to find a decent radio station, looking out the window, and just talking-about anything. Sometimes it’s nice to have a long drive to bring up topics that don’t have to have distinct starting or ending places; just sharing thoughts.

In the end we get home tired but happy with our half date half errand day in Rochester. How about you? What date/errand routines do you keep?