Fill the Right Cup

Ray Bradbury explained, “We are all cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

Which cups do you fill? Do you fill the cups of optimism, pragmatism, or pessimism? It is important to think about where you expend your mental energy. Thinking back to my grad school days there were moments when the pessimism cup was the cup that I filled and that was not a good thing, but those moments of overwhelm and impostor syndrome were intense. I have to thank my peer mentors and faculty mentors for helping me fill the other cups.

My networks helped me stay grounded during grad school. Sure, we had our moments when would complain about our workloads and our financial situations, but overall it was pretty fabulous to read, research, teach, and write for a living. My peer mentors were primarily from the cohorts ahead of me and to this day some of my closes friends are from my grad school days. I met both of my best-friends in grad school.

Related to this, peer mentors listened. The listening cup was overflowing and there are times when I miss that interaction–the ability to have long conversations. The cup that we need to keep filling is the listening cup. Listening is an important part of a supportive and honest network. As I am working with undergraduates through graduate students, I am thinking about the importance of them finding good peer networks. I am only one part of the puzzle and know that the rest of the puzzle must include peers.

I knew that at home I had support, and my friends and networks at work in the department and larger academic community helped me through my grad school days. Peer mentoring is invaluable and if your cohort does not feel supportive, seek out peers ahead of you for guidance or go outside of your department. This advice is appropriate for those of us years out of grad school, too. And, if you are years into your career remember to connect your students to other students and to other faculty. Expand your students’ networks–this is part of the mentoring or coaching process.

 Fill the cups! Confer, trust, connect, mentor, listen, and celebrate your success…

 

Sustaining You

Who makes you feel safe? Friends and others who know you are safe or some might say: home. When I think of people I trust and respect, this networks of friends, family, and inner circle at work are supportive, good listeners, and are honest with their advice. I do not want a nodding head and mere agreement. I want someone to listen and then comment–especially if we disagree or if the friend has something to add. Again, a big part of this is listening. Try to stay away from emotional vampires who just take, take, and take. These people are exhausting to engage with on an ongoing basis. I find that I am controlling my time more and putting more distance with the emo vamps, as those conversations are usually not two-way conversations.

Affirm the good relationships and spend time with the people who add to your day. Remind your network that they are important collaborators, friends, and people in your life. These people challenge you to be a better person and they deserve reminders that they are important. This makes me think of places where I feel at home or safe. I’m thinking of the places or things that add to my day. The smell of coffee definitely makes me smile, and then the taste, well. I love coffee. 

When I think of where I feel safe or comfortable, I often think of the classroom. As a natural extrovert, teaching feels like home. I am not referring to talking at my students, but rather leading, facilitating, and listening to them. I want the classroom to embody a place where we can discuss, challenge, disagree, and grow. Do not assume that I mean that I expect the classroom to not be a place of contentious conversation–it is. But, when I walk into a classroom to teach or to give a presentation, I feel like I am at home or in a good place that I am comfortable.

What caused this stream of thought? This quote from George Eliot, “Oh, the comfort. The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person. Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words. But pouring them all out. Just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  Keep and nurture. Blow the rest away.

cloudsinmycoffee

 

5 Facts About Me

1.  I am committed to lifelong learning. I regularly read books outside of my area of education and training to learn and grow.

2. Related to number one, I am reading an array of books, magazines, and articles. I never leave the house or my office without something to read.

3. I have an irrational fear of zombies. My family and friends tease me about this. This fear does not stop me from reading zombie lit and watch terrible zombie movies. <This also didn’t stop me from buying a shirt about zombies liking us for our brains.>

4. My family centers me. Sitting around the dinner table or talking with them takes me to my happy place. As my kids get bigger I find that our conversations about life offer insight into the people they are becoming.

5. I will never get tired of working with students. The other day I shared an enthusiastic high five with a student, when I verified that he was ready to declare his major. This was his moment and we shared it.

 

2013 The Year of Reflection

I’m reading lots of top ten posts about 2013 and thinking about the last year. The last year was consumed with having to find balance. This was not having some idealistic want for balance, but rather out of necessity. What have I learned in these last 12 months? Well, I’m going to share my top ten thoughts from 2013.

1. Stay Healthy–this includes exercise, sleep, and eating right

2. Say no strategically

3. Work smarter–this meant rethinking my productivity

4. Make time for family and friends

5. Say yes strategically

6. Read, relax, and run

7. Be firm

8. Honesty is important

9. Unwind

10. Happiness is more important than just about everything

The list is in no particular order. I will say this there is nothing like a health emergency to force you to rethink everything. I am forever grateful to the family and friends who were supportive during the last year, as we coped. I am looking forward to 2014. I am sure it will hold lots and I look forward to tackling it with my family by me.

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Who Was I Kidding?

My last post was one after a family crisis and I really thought that I was back in the saddle. Ha! I am still catching up and feel like the proverbial hamster doing her run. Things are getting better, but I am behind. Behind with my research, emails, and other work-related things. But, I will say this, after these last two months, I am so happy for my good health and that of all my family members.

What did I learn during these last two months? Well, I learned that I had two types of friends: those who really wanted to help during my family crisis and those who only wanted to know what was happening. You can guess which ones I now prefer. I also found out who I could count on and it hit me the other day that many of the most dependable, selfless people I know right now are people who I first “met” on Twitter. These people have become some of my closest friends in real life and I have to give a deep thank you to Twitter for connecting us. I also know that others are colleagues from work, who have become close friends. And,I consider myself lucky in this respect.

It also became apparent to me that some students lack any semblance of compassion and were absolutely heartless in their expectations and demands–even though they knew that I had a family member in the hospital for two weeks. I was frustrated and saddened to have met with such harsh expectations and comments. But, I have to remember that some students really do not care about anything else but their assignments and their lives. I learned a good lesson with this–that some students do not want their professors to be human. And, well, I might have an invisible S for Superwoman on my chest, but this term that pesky Kryptonite brought me down to Earth. Hopefully next term I can do the usual 4-10 day grading turn around, but it didn’t happen this November or December!

I am back in the saddle, but not cinched in or seated properly! That’s life, right?

Managing Projects: Having More Balance

I did something radically different this Summer with my writing. I didn’t have a strict schedule and I worked daily on different projects. Normally I would have spent 60-120 minutes on different projects over the course of the day and work on multiple projects each day. This Summer was one per day–OK occasionally 1.5 per day. I have not decided which I preferred. Moments have taken place where I’ve wondered the veracity of this tactic. But, overall it’s freeing to try something new and then think about if it worked for me.

I’ve also made a point of taking some time off during my vacation this year. I ran twice a week with two close friends and kept this date firm in my schedule. I also was not the usual office rat. What this meant was that I did not go into the office every darn day, too. I was in the office 2-3 days per week. What I did differently–I worked at libraries, coffee shops, and outdoors. This meant more distractions and more conversations with people. And, looking at my bank account it also was a little more pricey. But, another way to look at this is that I was able to actually turn myself off from work. Some might say that this sounds unproductive or maybe less productive. Occasionally someone looked over my shoulder and would ask me some questions–even though I had my ear buds and music going. I was polite and engaged in some conversations. These interruptions were usually good. The best part was always the senior citizen who never believed that I was old enough to be a professor. I joked that they could go to the website and see me on the homepage. The screen shot below is of the new site that goes live in a few days, but the photo is the same one that has scrolled on the university website this Summer.

In all seriousness, I also spent as much time as I could outdoors–running helped me stay outdoors. I read outdoors–even if it was for only an hour. I am a Summer person and usually go back to Southern California for the Summer. I didn’t this year, so I tried to get as much Vitamin D as possible in Victoria, BC. This takes effort, as occasionally if you shower, you could miss Summer! No offense to fellow Victorians, but our Summer is sometimes forgetful. It seemed appropriate to try something different, since I was at home for the Summer.

I’ve thought about this again and again and at the end of the Summer I will evaluate what it meant for me and my productivity. To clarify, I am in a teaching tenure-track position and due to my heavy teaching load (8 courses per school year)–it really means that I have to write during the Summer months. Now, I realize that this situation is common for my colleagues who are lucky enough to teach half as much and more than common for my colleagues who don’t really get that much time off, since they have to teach year round to survive. Regardless, this Summer meant a few thing: write and relax! Oh, academe, thank you for these gifts! I know–I have a full-time job and should not complain. But, I’d like to remind that I did my time adjuncting (we call this sessional work in Canada) for more than 10 years.

Now that I’m in the last push before the term resumes, I can honestly say that I got less work done. I didn’t fret about it either. Oh, maybe I did a few times, but then I’d look at my kids and remember that I have to do better, as they observe and learn.  I had more balance in my life during these last two months. I spent lots of quality time with my family and by myself. Sure, I was in the office a day or two per week, but on my terms. The papers were revise (not ready to resubmit) and projects are further along, but I am happy. I won’t put a price on happiness, and all the time I spent with my two daughters. I also took up golf. Can you believe that? It was a great Summer!

The two photos are shots of my girls. I don’t post photos of them on my blog, so these are not direct face shots. My two loveys.

What single word defines you?

When I was at Social Media Camp earlier this month, one of the keynotes talked about what single word defines you. I think this was part of Erica Ehm’s presentation. It took me a few minutes, but then the word appeared in my head. Passionate. I am passionate about things I do and thing that I support. It was funny that I actually pictured some student evaluations or thank you cards that noted my passion for the material was infectious or kept them awake during the early morning class. This passion has allowed me to have great conversations with people, but also offers me moments of frustration. Passionate people don’t always understand why others don’t have a similar passion for their interests, work, and politics.

What is your single word? I’m sure that the word will vary.

Here I include a photo of me looking at a book. Books and reading are one of my passions. What is your single word for today, tomorrow, or that you live by?

11 Months Later: Revisiting the Life List

I decided to revisit this great exercise from one of the BlogHer 2011 pre-sessions.What do I think differently after this last year. I was reappointed unanimously by my colleagues, applied for an Associate Deanship and was shortlisted, didn’t get the job, had surgery, and then had a pretty rough term. The second term caused me to re-evaluate my priorities. Numbers 16-19 are new and I used a / to add to an original thought.

Life List exercise at the afternoon session for “My Blog as a Life Changer” was hard to do. Here is my first stab and again, unedited.  Try out the exercise. It’s fun.

  1. Go to Hawaii with Jason and both girls / See my family more. More quality time with them at home.
  2. See my family of origin more than one time per year. / Yes, see them more.
  3. Publish my books / I’m working on this and progress has been made.
  4. Get tenure / I was re-appointed, so step one is confirmed.
  5. Continue to Mentor / Ongoing
  6. Continue to Teach / Ongoing
  7. Learn French / I’ve heard more and have attempted to speak some. Does that count?
  8. Start a Women and Politics Center on campus / Oh, long term goal.
  9. Take kids to Grand Canyon and DC / Long term
  10. Work on either a Congressional , Senatorial or Presidential campaign / Long term
  11. Learn how to golf / Started learning in May!
  12. Spend time with friends in the US and elsewhere / Did some in March–ongoing want.
  13. Take kids to Europe / Long term goal
  14. Go to Harry Potter Theme Park / Long term goal
  15. Use sabbatical to attend conferences / To write book and to visit teen in university
  16. New to the list–take better care to relax. I am powering off my phone more and trying to not work for an hour or more every night. Balance
  17. Remember to schedule time for me and Jason
  18. Exercise as part of my daily routine
  19. Return to the life list once a year!

Mon Fun Facts: Things You Enjoy

This Monday I am mixing things up and posting a Fun Facts. My Mon Fun Facts is a reminder to do things that you enjoy. What makes you happy? I’ll share some activities that make me happy. First assume that my family and friends make me happy. That is a given. OK, a given on most days!

1. Exercise. I need to clear my mind. And, exercise is the best way for me to do so.

2. Reading. I actually get cranky if I am not regularly reading books and magazines. I have to fit these into the reading and marking of student work, but I do. And, sometimes I am more successful than others. I always have lots of books on the go.

3. Cooking and baking. I don’t know what it is, but I take great satisfaction in baking or cooking. I find the process and smells soothing and there is nothing like having my girls swarm the kitchen for some freshly baked cookies. And, the students are really happy when I surprise them with cookies.

4. Brain massage. Yes, watching a movie or some TV. There are times when I just need to plop down on the couch and get a brain massage.

5. Body work. Speaking of massages…I cannot say no to body work. I’ll include physio, acupuncture and massage in this category.

Remember to do what you enjoy and try to live a balanced life. We can get caught up in the rush of our daily lives and forget to take care of ourselves.

Fri Fun Facts: Things I Love to Do

Yet another great exercise at #BlogHer: Things I love to do. This was another writing prompt exercise.

1. Spend time with my family.

2. Yoga

3. Reading

4. Writing

5. Baking

6. Mentor

7. Teach

8. Blog

9. Network

10. Research

11. Talk with girlfriends (email/text/fb/twitter)

12. Feel the sun on me–warmth

13. Keep in touch with my mentors

I’m going to stop at lucky 13. I had 30. What are 13 things you like to do?