What’s with All the Questions?

You may have noticed that I end nearly every post with series of questions, asking you what you would do/ what you think/ how you do things.

I have a love/hate relationship with this concept – sometimes when I read a blog, it feels like someone scraping from comments; and sometimes I need someone to push me to that next step with a concept and the question does it for me.

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I started this blog back up because I want to share with the world; but sharing doesn’t just go one way.

I don’t know if you’re this way, too, but I have a hard time being vulnerable. No matter how many Berne Brown TEDTalks I watch or books I read, there is still this part of me that struggles to ask for help, admit my faults, and listen to the wisdom of others.

I don’t mean to need to be right. Maybe it’s just youngest child syndrome. Maybe it’s insecurity.

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Those tiniest of feet are mine

So as I’ve been thinking about the kinds of intentions I want to put into this incredibly public space, I’ve decided to use it as practice for the rest of life. I try to think through the process of each post and ask the questions that I don’t have the answer to right now, so that I can lean on the world to find them.

It’s helping. In case you were wondering. And I really would like to know if this is hard for you too, and what kinds of things you do to practice being vulnerable.

A. Rose (1)

 

How to Organize Your College to-do List

I talked a little bit in this post about the things that are keeping me sane while working full time and going to grad school.

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This guy is definitely high on the list

I made reference to the moderately flexible schedule that I’ve come up with for my classes, given what a usual day look likes.

For some context: I work full time at the university that I attend, which is a 30 – 90 minute drive from home, depending on the weather. I am a part-time graduate student, studying Adult and Higher Education, taking two classes on campus, which is a 20 – 60 minute drive from work.

The time piece is relevant here, I think. When you consider that I usually get home around 5:40pm and try to be in bed by 10pm, I really have four hours to, not only do homework, but also have my life during the week.

Start with the Syllabi

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Duh, right? It’s the plural that’s important. I learned this in undergrad when I took six classes a semester while working close to full-time. I grab up all my syllabi and start to write out due dates, in order. There’s a lot of flipping back and forth between them, so it’s helpful to have a large area to do this.

I only write down my major projects/papers/assignments. It will keep this part a lot cleaner.

Make Notes as You Go

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As I write out the assignments, I think about the timeline. For example, I have an Adult Learner Interview part-way into the semester, so I need to conduct the interview with enough time to actually write the paper.

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I keep doing this, and try to figure out if there’s more than one step involved. For example, on March 26, I have to write a Summary of an Adult Learning Site. So I need to visit the site at least two weeks in advance, which means I need to contact sites before that to ensure I can awkwardly sit in the corner while adults learn and I take notes on how they learn. #thisisgradschool #iloveit

In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to color code assignments or classes. I may try that next semester.

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At the end, it looks something like this (aka organized chaos). Then, I take a look at the syllabi again and start to think about my life. If I have class Monday and Wednesday night, I actually need to be done with my readings by Saturday, if I want to have an actual day off.

So I write it all together, with due dates on the side, categorized by week:

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I just keep going until I’ve written out each week of the semester. I end up with something like this, except longer:

Then, I do a quick double check and slowly enter all of it into my planner, on a large sticky note:

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The left side is school stuff and the right side is home stuff.

If you read my post about a day in my life, you know that currently D and I are trying to figure out how to best shorten the list on the right side. There’s just certain things that aren’t his to take on, or don’t feel right for him to take on given where we’re at in our relationship, and we want to be careful about doing things for each other that aren’t in line with where we are.

That’s it though. Rather than assigning days, I just try to get as much done as I can Monday – Thursday so that I can have a simple weekend. I’ve found that dedicating Tuesday and the Wednesdays that I don’t physically have to go to class to doing homework means that if I get a surprise visitor or just don’t feel like doing homework during the week I’m not dead on Sunday from the amount I have to do.

Total time to complete: about an hour and a half.

A Weekday in the Life

It makes me feel like a total creeper that I love to read Day in the Life posts from bloggers but I totally do. I did a half-hearted version when I talked about what my Saturday Morning looks like. But the other day, I read this one from one of my favorite bloggers and I thought about making one about the weekday, as a way to truly reflect on where my time goes. I thought it might help me. So, hold tight! Here we go!

Note: If it’s snowing or snowed the night before, all of the morning gets bumped up about 20 minutes, except the part where I get to work around 8am.

6:30am – “Wake up. For the love of all that is good, your day will be so much better if you wake up.”

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Alarm Clock

A few months ago, I realized how much I was on my phone, so I challenged myself to leave my phone in the kitchen when I went to bed. The first step to that was buying an alarm clock. I have yet to regret it.

6:32am – “Brushing your teeth will help you wake up. Seriously.”

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Similar Kettle / Travel Mug

I usually brush my teeth while I get a cup of tea started and take my make up out of the case. By the time I’m done brushing, the tea is usually ready. I pour the hot water in and sit down to do my make up.

6:37am – “I bet you can do your make up faster today than you did yesterday.”

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Dark Eye Shadow / Shadow Pallet / Light Eye Shadow / Brush was bought at Walgreens? like, a decade ago / Concealer / Mascara / Blush (similar) / Mirror (compact) was made by my oldest sister out of a Cover Girl powder that she hollowed out and put a Tori Amos quote on

I feel like that’s not the “normal” feeling about make up. I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to my face. Eye shadow, mascara, blush, under eye concealer and done. I don’t know if this theory holds water or not, but my mother has gorgeous skin. She’s 60 and I’ve never seen her have a breakout, uneven tones or any kind of blemish. She also has never in her life worn a full face of make up. I don’t know if the two are connected, but I’m going to roll with it, because it justifies me not having to spend the time on it. The result is usually something still tired but a little perkier looking.

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6:47am 
– “Why is my hair like this?”

I have weird hair. It’s incredibly thick (like, if I put it in two braids, one of those two is the thickness of most peoples one braid if they were to braid all their hair one time… if that makes sense…) – even the strands are thick – and coarse. It naturally curls in every which way and usually heat causes it to straighten out unless I use a crap-ton of hairspray. If I wake up late, it goes in a ponytail and I just roll with it. But, I’ve been trying really hard lately to actually do it because I feel better when I do.

7:12am – “Thank goodness I picked out my clothes the night before. Sheesh.”

There’s no picture of this because it would just be a picture of my closet. I just group four or five outfits together and that’s my version of setting out my clothes for the week. #lowkey

I always forget that I’ve picked out my clothes the night before until the point of getting dressed. I don’t always do this, but I try to. Sometimes, when I’m really on top of my game, I’ll pick out five outfits on Sunday night!  That doesn’t happen often.

I own a very limited number of work clothes (about 7-9 outfits) which helps to keep things simple if I don’t pick things out the night before. Maybe I’ll write some more about how I got to a point of a limited number of outfits. Would that be something  you’d be interested in?

7:20am – “Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch. Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch.”

Planner / Cat Clutch (similar) / Cup / Food Storage Container / Work Tote

I pack my bag in the morning. Sometimes I do it at night, but it’s almost always first thing in the morning. Depending on the day, there’s a lot of different things I might take with me. I almost always take breakfast and lunch. If it’s winter, then non-snow shoes come with for me to change into at work. School stuff and snacks are a must. On Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I leave my house at 7:30am and get home around 9:30pm, so I usually have a decent amount of food with me.

7:25am – “I shouldn’t wake him up. But I don’t want to not say ‘I love you’ and then drive through the ice.”

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D works four jobs with unpredictable schedules (ex. one of them is snow plowing, so sometimes he doesn’t have any hours of that for two weeks; sometimes he works 40 hours in a row without sleeping) and so I do my best to respect his sleep, and he does his best to respect mine. My most favorite and D’s least favorite part of the day is when I creep into the dark bedroom and say goodbye. He’s always warm and soft feeling and so I gently tell him that I love him and to have a good day. Often, I sit on the bed and put my socks and snow boots on while I talk to him. He hates that I wake him up as it’s happening. But every evening he says thank you to me for it.

7:30am – “I’m glad I have Spotify.”

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Seriously. This is not an ad. I just really feel that way. I drive anywhere between 30 – 90 minutes to work, one way. Having good music, where I don’t have to use my hand and skip the songs, is a must.

I also try to use this time to get ready for work. I don’t make a mental to-do list. I don’t get paid to think about work when I’m not there, so I don’t do it. Instead, I sort through conversations I had the night before; what kinds of things I need to do on my lunch break; and plan out my evening. Some days, a song comes on that gets me thinking about other things and I, instead, use the time to reflect on my relationships with friends and family. It helps. A lot.

8:00-ish am – “Tell the family you’re not dead. Don’t forget.”

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I’m really lucky to work in a place that’s flexible about what time you arrive when it’s snowing out. Most of the office lives 30 minutes away, with some as far as an hour and a half. So, when the snow comes, we all just adapt if someone’s not here. Before I get out of my car, I text my mom, dad and sister and let them know I got to work safely.

Note: I never did this before I lived here. My parents didn’t really care and my sister and I talk so much that she pretty much always knows where I am. But now that I drive on windy roads through fields with strong winds and big hills, my parents are always nervous, so I send the text. 

Slightly After 8:00 am – “Knock out what you can.”

I usually start my morning slowly. I drink my tea and check my emails and knock out as many little things as I can. This doesn’t always work as planned, but it’s what I try for.

Around 9:00am – “It would probably good to eat breakfast at home.”

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That’s what I tell myself every time I pull out a literal bowl of breakfast at work. I usually eat yogurt, fruit and granola. I keep the yogurt and the granola at work and just transport a mason jar of fruit back and forth.

Sometime between 11:00am and 2:00pm – “I should probably use my lunch break to eat.”

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I don’t though. I usually eat lunch around 2pm. Instead, I usually use my hour lunch break to take a walk and then do homework at my desk. I don’t really recommend this but I can’t figure out a better way to get through grad school.

My job is 50% database management, 50% putting out fires that are comprised of the very real emotions of young adults. Talking about a typical day is impossible because you never know who’s going to come in crying, who’s going to scream at you because they’re actually just scared, or if nothing at all is going to happen. I freaking love it.

5:00pm – “Maybe earlier than 5pm. Never later than 5pm though.”

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I leave work at 5:00pm. This time of year, the sun is starting to set. Depending on the weather and how much snow is on my car, I get home between 5:35pm and 6:15pm. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I drive directly downtown (about 45 minutes from the campus I work on) to the other campus to take classes until 9pm. But let’s pretend it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

On my drive home, I usually call D to figure out what he’s doing, and spend the rest of the drive home thinking about the good pieces of the day.

5:45pm – “I know you were alone all day. I missed you so much.”

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I snuggle the cat when I get home and then I change my clothes. When I lived in Florida, I would take a shower after work. I usually didn’t wash my hair until before bed, but I had to do something to get the heat off me and it signaled that I was home. Now that it’s the opposite of 100 degrees here, I just change my clothes and put my slippers on, because slippers mean home to me.

6:00pm – “What should we make for dinner, kitten?”

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I’m pretty good about taking meat out the night before for dinner, but it doesn’t always happen. Around 6, I start figuring out dinner and set up at the dining room table to start my homework. If D is going to be there soon, I’ll start dinner (if it’s my turn) while I read. If he’s going to be working through the night, dinner is usually a grilled cheese or some applesauce. If he’s there, he usually watches TV with his headphones on while I do my homework and we eat separately. Twice a week, he does the cooking and while he cooks, I put my homework away so we can talk. Either way, whenever we’re both done, we do dishes together.

8:00pm – “If you don’t stop doing homework soon you’re going to be writing in martian.”

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I know two hours isn’t a lot of time, especially compared to what I did in undergrad, but after a full day of emotionally draining work, two hours of theory is a lot. So, instead of trying to push myself past my breaking point, I do two hours every day, except the weekends. On the weekends, I get the bulk of it done.

I clean up the kitchen table and usually one other cleaning thing – the bathroom, picking up clothes, sorting through something. I try to do one little area so that I don’t completely lose my weekend to cleaning.

8:30pm – “What about a shower? I should take a shower. I should always take a shower.”

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I freaking love showers. My sister calls the shower her “reflection chamber” and feel like that’s 100% accurate. Most of the time D and I take a shower together – sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s actually because we do some of our best talking when we’re trapped in the same tiny place together.

9:00pm – “Remember that time you wanted to start a blog?”

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Yep, that’s right. 9pm is prime blog-writing time. No. No, it’s really not. I usually sort through pictures, come up with ideas for posts, try to figure out how people actually get followers, wonder if I actually want followers, get distracted by Pinterest, plan out next weeks meals, realize I was thinking about blogging, start over again from the beginning.

9:45pm – “Remember that time you said you were going to relax more? Do that.”

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9:45 is usually when I crawl into bed, turn on Pretty Little Liars, and lie to myself about how I’m just going to finish the 20 minutes left on this episode.

11:00pm – “Honey, you said you were going to sleep at 9:30…”

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Every night, D reminds me of my constant mission to go to bed on time and how I’m not accomplishing it. Not in a mean way. He just points it out. I make an excuse. He suggests that I might be making an excuse. I huff about it. He lets it go. Then we hug and go to sleep.

I’m not a good sleeper. And as you can probably math from all of this, I usually get about five to six hours a night, which isn’t good for anyone in my life, least of all: me. I really am working on it. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and have set a reminder for 9:30 to start winding down so I can try to be in bed by 10am.

D and I have been talking a lot about what I could take off my plate and put on his to create more time in my day so I can sleep. The housework is the big conversation because right now it’s technically divided equally (in terms of a time/effort combo that we agreed on), but I’m still either not getting enough sleep or not getting enough relaxation. I’m open to suggestions! For real! I know I won’t last long at this pace!

Javi No Eye

Thanks for sticking it out, if you made it through this whole thing. I actually didn’t know a day in my life would have this many details and it was really nice to reflect on it.

How to Survive Grad School (while working full time)

Truth? I don’t 100% have the answer for that. Classes started January 8. I’m taking two: one on Mondays and a hybrid one that meets six Wednesdays a semester. For context, I’m at work from 8am – 5pm and have anywhere from a 30-90 minute commute, depending on the weather. And usually on Saturday night I help D with work from 9pm – 4am.

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So, there’s not buckets of time, which I’m trying to figure out how to manage. So I thought I’d write down my top 5 things I’ve figured out so far, to help me remember.

1. Don’t be Hyper Organized

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I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but the thing is: life happens. And it happens. And it happens. I believe in being structured and having a schedule, but I include in my schedule the chance to miss a day of homework. I think it’ll help me out to actually write out how I came up with my current homework schedule, which is working really well.

2. Get Good at Saying No

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Yep. I know. Annoying. BUT, here’s the thing about saying “no” that took me a long time to figure out: you’re actually being kind to other people when you acknowledge your own limitsIf I tell you I can do something at a time when I’m overwhelmed, I will likely only give it a max of 80% of effort. How does that help you? Whether that’s a conversation or a pie, you aren’t helping by giving only a portion of your attention of something to someone else. So, get good at “no.”

I’m a big fan of “no, because, and.” “No, I can’t come over because I’ve only gotten 10 hours of sleep in the last three days and I want to be able to give you my full attention.” “No, I can’t take on an extra project because I have four going right now and I wouldn’t be able to give you my best work if I added another.” People almost always are like “Yeah! That’s totally fine!”

Note: use this with your boss sparingly.

3. Sleep is Your Friend

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My moms cat is hilarious

When I was 20, I could operate on 3 hours of sleep a night and still submit/create fabulous work. Now that I’m just a few months away from 30, getting around 6 a night is a serious struggle. I will adapt, but I also know that if I drop below 6, or don’t get more than that on the weekends, I’m going to turn into a zombie who can barely make sentences. I am willing to forego a lot to ensure that I’m getting enough sleep. It doesn’t do me any good to be half-asleep in class, and it’s risky to be half-asleep at work.

4. Meal Plan/Prep on the Weekends

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I cannot stress this enough. You can totally fly through life and never meal plan if you’re better at choosing healthy options than me. I just really like foods that don’t contribute to my overall health and what I’ve found is that when I don’t have something already with me, I’m not going to stop somewhere and get a salad – I’m going to stop somewhere and get a fried thing, or a carb-filled thing or a thing full of refined white sugar.

On the weekends, I fill up four mason jars with fruits (I keep yogurt and granola at work), make three or four salads, bag fruits and veggies for snacks and plan dinners. I look at my class schedule and my homework schedule and use that to determine how much of whatever it is I’m making. I take leftovers with me to class and on heavy homework days, I make sure to throw something in the crock pot the morning of. This is giving me good, natural energy and saving me a lot of money.

5. Post Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing

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In undergrad, I had to get homework done. I needed A’s and I needed to get through it to get a job. That was it. I learned a lot. I had a lot of fun. But it wasn’t in my soul the way this program is. On some level, I’m in grad school because I can’t move up and get a better job with more pay without it because the field I’m in. That’s never not going to be true. But what brought me here is the idea that I cannot stop caring about children and education and the things that influence both. I would stop being me if I stopped caring.

And so all over my desk at work and all over my house, are these reminders that the purpose of me going isn’t to get it over with: it’s to be fully inside of it and soak up every little detail as best I can. That’s what will make the difference in the end.