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Theme for the year January 4, 2016

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal.
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The past few days, I’ve seen a lot of posts about New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve never been a big fan of them.  When I decide I want to change something, I usually just decide to do it then and there.  Wanting to make more than one change can be tough, and doing so on an arbitrary date makes no logical sense to me.

I felt, however, I like I wanted to do a close examination of my mindset and see what it was I wanted to accomplish this year.  On my friend’s Facebook pages, I’ve been seeing a lot of “getting out of my comfort zone” and “trying new things.”  Reading those resolutions and goals kind of made me wad up into a bundle of wobbling anxiety.  No, the idea of trying news things right now makes me feel overwhelmed as what I’d really like is for things to settle down a bit.

Last night, it finally came to me: I want to finish things.  Lots of things. I have too many balls in the air and don’t feel like I’m handling them as well as I could.  (You’ve probably heard the analogy that life is like juggling glass balls.)  I know the answer to that dilemma: the best way to ease that situation is to remove some of the balls from the balancing act.  Some of those balls are small: I have several craft projects that are sitting half-done.  (And it didn’t help that I found more yesterday when going through a couple old boxes.)  I have some writing projects that are yet unfinished.  And there are a LOT of house and yard projects.  And a couple major life goals.  You know…the normal stuff.

I’m starting my list of things that I want to finish.  Over the next few months, I’ll be working on getting those big goals done.  The smaller goals will probably fit nicely in my 15 minute breaks.  At least that’s the hope.  And I plan to come back next year with a list of things I have finished this year.  I hope that once I finish, maybe I will stop feeling like I’m in danger of dropping all my balls.

So what are your big plans for the new year?

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New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

Welcome to 2014 January 12, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, personal, younger son.
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Despite all of my good intentions, it’s taken a bit more to get back into my routine.  The youngster went back to school on Monday.  I was relieved not to be teaching this week (or this semester), but I had a paper deadline this week along with a lot of other anomalous stuff.

In particular, a friend of mine passed away at the beginning of the week.  It’s made this week seem a bit surreal.

That’s given me an opportunity to think about my priorities, which was something I had started reflecting on over the break.  I’m not one to make resolutions, but it’s good to reflect on goals.  And nothing will make you think about your goals more than realizing they can be cut short.

My thesis has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I definitely reaffirmed that I want to finish my PhD, but it’s been hard and frustrating this past year, particularly the past three to four months.  I really anticipated being farther because I didn’t anticipate how rough the fall semester would end up being.  So I’m working on getting my schedule set up to have more time to devote to that.

Realistically, that’s the one thing I’m really not happy about.  It’s a big thing, so it’s not something as simple as, “I can put in 15 minutes a day on it.”  But I’m making an effort to rearrange a few things, particularly with kid schedules, to facilitate getting more time on things.

I also want to be blogging regularly again.  The holidays and grading threw an awful crimp in that one.  One day isn’t a data point, but you need that data point to start a trend.

I’m happy to report that our housekeeping effort is going well.  That is, the kids are doing a great job.  I gave up on trying to have them get things done before the weekend.  We just schedule a time for them to work on it and, when we tell them it’s time to, they do.  (We’ve found that it seems like we can’t get to it every week, but we’re holding steady with every other week at least.)  We pay them according to which jobs they do, and we match everything they earn with a deposit into their savings account.  The house is staying cleaner than when we had a housekeeper, and I think we’re actually spending less.

This is actually much more about the kids than it is about the house, though.  I’m really happy that they are both at a point where they are taking responsibility for their chores.  I hate breathing down their neck about anything. I also really am happy about the fact that doing chores is one thing they do cooperatively.  They have a system worked out – older boy does the tall stuff, younger boy does the floor stuff that older boy hates, etc.  They worked it out themselves and, even better, they seem to have fun doing it.

At the same time, the older son is getting ready to go to college this fall.  I anticipate that there will be a lot of changes despite his plans to live at home.  I’m impressed that he’s trying to move forward cautiously and not bite off more than he can chew.  I also have no idea how the big changes over the next couple years will affect the younger son, who quite adores his older brother.

I anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road this year, but I’m hoping that it will be uphill from here.  I guess I’d rather start the year on a sad note so that I can look forward to how much better it will get.

I didn’t do the math November 24, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in teaching.
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I came to a horrifying realization this weekend: I should not have assigned final projects for my class.  Or at least not this one.

I decided to actually use a textbook this year after being sent a review copy of one that lined up very closely with many things I was already teaching.  I pretty much stuck to my original plans for the class, except I made one big change.  I got rid of the programming project, deciding that I really didn’t have time to teach them much other than how to get really frustrated.

There are some assignments that come along with the textbook, and one of them is a 10-15 page essay on goal setting.  It’s a great project.  Students are given a list of several areas that affect a student in both major and minor ways (including thinking forward to what they’ll be doing after school).  The students are supposed to reflect on where they are and where they want to be.  Then they’re supposed to do some goal setting and try to figure out how they can get closer to the ideal that they outlined.

This might be a good project if I had 30 students.  I have almost 100.  And each paper is 10-15 pages long, so we’ll say 12 on average.  That’s about 1200 pages of reading I have to do.  I have two weeks to grade them, so I figured if I did 10 projects per day, I’d be good.  That’s about 120 pages per day.

I got started Friday but progress was limited due to our weekly family activities that occur Friday night.  I figured I would make up the difference yesterday, but came to an awful realization: grading projects is a lot more time consuming than grading programs.

I discovered that reading reports/projects, is really not much better than reading novels. I am an abysmally slow reader; I’ve never been able to figure out how to skim.  When I read a novel, I generally read at a 25 page/hour pace.  That’s about what I’m doing with the reports, too.  I can read about two in an hour…three if they’re shorter and I’m really cruising.  This means I’m spending about 4 hrs/day over the next two weeks to just grade this assignment.  Next fall, I either have to drastically shorten this assignment or do it far earlier in the semester.

I suppose it’s just deserts.  My students were very freaked out when I gave them the assignment and only three weeks to do it.  (Although, to be honest, I believe about 2/3 of them did it within a couple days before the assignment was due.)  If they knew I was regretting assigning it now, they probably wouldn’t be able to contain their schadenfreude.

New year’s…ahem…goals, Pt.1 January 1, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, running, younger son.
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It’s very easy at the end of every year to look at the numbers on the scale and feel disappointed that they aren’t smaller.  Or I can take measurements of my body and be upset that my diameter is definitely not where it should be.

It’s frustrating to me because I watch my diet fastidiously and am very physically active (well, when I’m not in front of the computer).  But here I am.

Granted, this year has been been better than most as a result of my celiac diagnosis.  I’ve been on the diet about 4 1/2 months, and it’s unbelievable the amount of positive feedback I’ve gotten about how much better I look.  So obviously things are going well on that front.  However, progress, as always is slow.

I also am not one to make resolutions as they can be easily dropped.  So instead I set goals.

I never try to set the goal of reaching a certain weight or size.  It turns out that since I started the celiacs diet, I haven’t really lost more than about 5 pounds.  However, people tell me constantly that I look it.  And, from what they’ve said, they think I’m lighter than I am.  Mike has made the observation that I appear to be denser.  However, after that comment almost resulted in physical violence, he amended it to “more compact”, which was, in my opinion, a more agreeable euphemism.

My goal, therefore, is to continue to improve my health by watching my diet and running.  (In fact, I have already signed up for a half-marathon in May.)  I am hoping that my efforts toward these goals will result in weight loss, but I will try not to shoot for a particular number.

There is one thing that makes me sad about my becoming “more compact”.  When the younger boy was about 4, I remember him wanting to cuddle on someone’s lap.  He decided to try dad’s lap as it had the closest availability.  He went and sat down on Mike’s lap…and proceeded to wiggle around for five or ten minutes, obviously unsettled.  He got off Mike’s lap, looking disappointed.  Then he came and sat on my lap.  With just a few minor adjustments, he ended up completely still with a contented sigh.

“Mom, you’re soft.”

I want to be healthy and will work toward that, but I want to be soft enough for little boys to want snuggle on my lap.

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