Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Grade Perspective

After seeing the impossible syllabus first day of class last August, I had decided I would do my very best, but that I would be happy if my best was a B for my Methods in Study of Literature class (aka Thursday class). I would never have said that in previous English classes/degrees. I did get one A- in my masters program and was mad about it for years because it gave me a 3.9 GPA. However, this time around, I have a different perspective. This class was HARD before I even started! It challenged me and made me doubt myself and fight to get through it. I was working hard as I could but asking God "please just let me get a B." (FYI: B's are not good in PhD programs and you can't really get more than one, maybe two, and expect to be awarded the degree.)

Grades were in end of last week. I received an A in the Brit Lit class, which I expected. And an A- in Methods?! For me, a grade has never been more amazing, more hard fought, or truly earned. And even the minus part of it couldn't be more beautiful. This time, the minus is the difference between an A and B, not a low A and higher A.

Part of me wants to think the prof rounded it up or took pity, knowing I tried but fell just short. Not only is my prof not like that (hence the difficulty of the class), but I also know God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. My A- and all the change it represents within me (cause God knows how this class challenged me in personal ways as well) is to God's glory.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Library - More Than a Collection of Books

The one thing I've been waiting for since we saw our new house for the first time almost a year ago is finally finished. My library - more than a collection of books now! A week and a half ago, we picked up nine of IKEA's Billy Bookshelves. Hand crafted shelving is hardy but extremely expensive and bookshelves in local stores are flimsy although extremely affordable. I was so pleased to find IKEA's shelves are sturdy and the prices comparable to Target and Wal-Mart shelves.

In three nights last week my husband pieced the bookshelves together and placed them accordingly. The room immediately transformed with their placement and the minute they were up, I unpacked tote after tote of books. My poor books had been packed up almost a year ago and although I knew I missed their presence, I hadn't realized how much it would feel like reuniting with friends as I unpacked them. My books have stories and hold memories...even if it's just the knowledge of where I was in life when I bought a particular book.

Front entry to library

View from front windows
So, the unpacking of books was glorious. With limited time that night - although I was up until 2 A.M.taking them out of totes - I simply stacked books on shelves according to genre. As only book lovers can imagine, that wasn't as easy as it sounds. I had to estimate how much shelving to designate for what I already owned and for how much each genre may grow in the future. Also, there's the matter of some books applying to more than one category. Let's be honest, I reveled in it.

That was Friday, 12/16. On Sunday, 12/18, my friend and fellow reader S.R. offered to come over to help alphabetize. I gladly took her up on it. What better way than to enjoy the project than with a friend? I want to say it took us about two and half hours. Seeing the empty space left when we were done was both sad and exciting. Sad because I had cleaned out my book collection before moving and now missed them, even if they were just to take up space. Excited because I haven't really bought a physical book just for the heck of it in a long time and Barnes & Noble will be exciting in a new way for the next few visits.

Anyway, I'm obviously excited, but who am I kidding? You just want to see the pictures!

The shelves along the back of the couch (left to right) hold Christian nonfiction and fiction, textbooks, childhood books, signed editions, and very old/first editions. The single bookshelf on the other side of the window holds biographies and general researched stories on people (mostly authors) and mythology/fantasy. The single bookshelf juxtaposed to it (only in profile here, but can be seen to the left in pic above) holds memoirs and general subject nonfiction.

The main wall has four bookshelves, where I decided to put fiction, since it is the largest genre in my collection and the most likely to grow. The single shelf juxtaposed to those contains Classics.

As you can see, there's room to grow. After that, well, who needs windows?

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Quick Hello

Not much posting going on around here, is there? Even now I'm supposed to be prepping for a final for tomorrow, but would rather throw out a quick hello to the blogosphere.

My bedroom/office. When we moved in August I
never bothered to put up a single decoration in
my room. It immediately became my work space.
First, finals week. I am excited to say that this time tomorrow I will only have one final to finish and the first semester of my PhD program will be done. I've worked so hard, so it's kinda depressing to realize that with all the steps I have to take I have only finished 1/4 of 1/4 of the requirements. Ugh. But for once, I may not be wishing away the hard work. Knowing there's something big this all leads to, I don't want to sleep walk through or wish away the lessons to learn and the character forming experiences. Among the things I hope to succeed at more next semester are time management and focus. I did what I had to do to survive this semester. Next semester I'd like to manage the work time I set aside better. That will mean learning to focus and will likely mean leaving my house to work more often. I knew I needed to study elsewhere this semester, but in the day-to-day it felt like a hassle to leave my house - see the pile of books in the pic above? At one point I had 40 some books checked out of the library - I brought the initial bunch home in a large 31 tote and will be taking them back the same way. You can't just casually haul that crap around! Next semester I will work elsewhere more often, thankfully with smaller texts.

This semester I've also surprised myself in some of my ability to "let go" of things. I'm a control freak. As many of you know, early in our marriage, my husband worked a night shift job that pretty much left him only with time to eat, sleep, and work...leaving me to make decisions and carry things out. It's very hard to drop that habit even though it's been years since he left that job.

Saturdays are big work times for me, so my husband took over the time consuming task of meal planning and grocery shopping, two jobs I did even though he's the one who cooks. He's done a great job and it's been a big help in relieving weekend stress.

I've also learned to live with a little mess - well in my car anyway (my house is still too new and exciting for me to let mess build up). I was so shocked by it one day that I actually took a picture. During a good bit of the semester my car floor was a mess of trash, books, bags, sweaters, and random other items from my travel between two schools. There's also a gallon size bag of cashews and almonds for snacking in there somewhere. Very not me, but again it worked for the days I found myself running from one place to the next, dinner in the car, and more stuff than my book bag could hold.

The excitement for this week isn't just finals though. We made our first ever trip to IKEA. We bought my daughter a desk and dresser - one as a birthday present and one for Christmas. With the move and school starting, the trip didn't happen until now and she's been patiently waiting for her "new room" to come together. I couldn't take pictures, cause she doesn't have everything arranged yet, lol. She'll be going to college full time next year, but has decided to stay home and commute to the local college where she has already been taking classes. We all thought it would be a nice fresh start with a new look for her primary living space. It's going to be a crazy transition next year, as college student life very much becomes living as an adult even if she is home with us...and it will likely be harder for us to adjust than her! Not that I mind the change, I just know I won't remember she's not a "kid" anymore.

My presents under the tree for now!
We also went to IKEA to buy my bookshelves for my library! There are nine total and they will cover three of the four walls. I am beyond excited. By the time finals week finishes up, they should be ready for my books and I'll have all the time in the world to arrange to my heart's desire. I can't wait. I promise to put up pics as soon as the library shelves are stocked and everything is decorated.

And FINALLY we were able to do something as a whole family. We went out to dinner after IKEA for our son's birthday. It's near impossible to have family time that consists of everyone these days. For us it becomes a matter of making sure we've spent time with all of the kids and each other at some points throughout the week. It's a new norm.

Hope everyone's December is treating them well. The month is flying by and that special time we wait for every year - (Christmas but also time off of work for those lucky enough to have it) will be over before you know it. Enjoy the time building up to it. Love.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's the Small Stuff That Counts

Last week was refreshing - a stop and consider type of refreshing. The kind that realigns your heart and mind, allowing your perspective to broaden. First, I realized I have only two weeks of the college semester left, that I've essentially made it to the end! All that crazy almost done. Hard to believe, but such a relief.

Then my son had a sleep over birthday party. I set a limited number of 12 year old boys who could crash at my house, but my husband said "No, invite them all." When I bulked (I don't "do" bigger groups of younger kids well) he said he'd take over the party. And that he did. I made sure the party had what it needed and hung out for happy birthday, then split. (Yes, I came back and spent the night listening to nonstop chatter except between the hours of 3am-6am, so I didn't totally abandon my husband to the mob!) But what a husband. Knowing I have limits to what I can take with a huge group of crazy younger kids, he was more than willing to take over and let me escape for the craziest part of it.

And escape I did, thanks to one of my best friends answering my picture and rhetorical question on IG about needing to escape the number of running, noisy bodies in my house. Hang out time and a movie and just a really nice night. It is rare to find people you can completely be yourself around. I have foot in mouth disease - the bad combination of a big mouth and a strong-will - so it's refreshing to find someone who knows who I am and I don't have to replay the night in worry later.

The weekend was also shared with a family friend who comes by once a week to watch movies with us. He owns over 2,000 movies and we've currently been binge watching our way through seasons of Survivor. We've been at it for 18 months now and we're on season 23...that's 11 1/2 years of Survivor! It's always a great night when he is with us - we usually eat dinner or have snacks and cheer or yell as needed at competitions that are years gone. Lol.

And the moments that started the refreshing of these past couple days were with my students. My Seniors, the majority of whom were my Juniors last year, started presenting their "Things That Happened to Me" slideshows last Thursday and finish up tomorrow. Based on Oskar Schell's photo book of the same name in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I asked them to choose a combination 20 pictures of their own and internet that show me who they are. I don't think I've enjoyed any other project as much.

Can't put up my students' pictures,
but this is where we meet.
My Seniors told me where they've been and where they're going; what they've failed and what they've accomplished; what makes them laugh and what makes them cry; who they love and who loves them; how the world has changed them and how they want to change the world; how they're broken and how they've healed. They've shared their families, friends, pets, jobs, favorite colors, hobbies, interests, secrets, and dozens of little things in between. I've enjoyed every word of every presentation the past two days. How could I not?

According to the state of Pennsylvania they're my job, but to me, they're simply my kids. And soon enough, after two years in my classroom, they'll be graduating. So this week, for now, I am going to enjoy my time with them and all they're willing to share.

Yes, we have work to do, friendships have tough times, my kids and their friends can be a crazy bunch, my husband and I may not always be so mindful of each other, and my current journey is CRAZY, but it's the day-to-day where life happens - memories are made, lessons are learned, and lives are fortified.

It's the small stuff that counts.