April 8, 2017

Looking Ahead to Summer

It is a very cloudy day here in Phoenix. The weather forecast says we are to have partly sunny skies, but all I see out of my office window is clouds. I am not complaining, mind you. I am loving the change of scenery, even if the only thing I see is my storage shed (LOL!) The gray skies peaking out above the shed, however, are a very nice change of pace, and I am very happy to see something different than the normal “sunny and blue” sky.

Today is Saturday, and I am praising the Lord for His blessed provision of rest. Yes, I am enjoying my day off. Actually, Saturday is one of my four days off, but for some reason, I feel particularly rested this good day. I didn’t sleep that well last night. I woke up twice, tossed and turned, and then finally pulled myself out of my nice warm bed around 8:30 this morning. My boys were waiting for me to get up, and Winston, who had been rather playful earlier in the morning (at about 4:00) was so ready for me to get up that he attacked my feet as soon as he saw me stirring. I love those boys! Right now, they are sitting here with me, Winston at my side, and Ike on the floor. I love these furry boys — they bring me such comfort, warmth, and delight!

Plans for the Day

So this good day is filled with grading — lots, and lots, and lots of grading. The funny thing is that I think most non-teachers really don’t understand how overladen we are with grading. I hear comments all the time such as “all you DO is grade” and “don’t you ever do anything FUN?” Well, grading is the life of the teacher, and while we love it when we are in front of our students, imparting wisdom and knowledge to them, in truth, we spend 90% of our free time grading and assessing student performance. It is the “dirty” part of the job.

My day, thus, is filled with teaching-related duties. I often just say “I am grading” since it is easier than rattling off my to-list when asked. I am sure, however, that my non-teaching friends probably think I all do is grade papers or essays, but that really isn’t the case. I do a lot of different things. Some of these I do in the evening and some I do before class in the morning. Other things I do during the day, as my time permits. I thought I would list them out since my duties are so varied. In the normal course of a week, as a teacher, I am actively doing the following:

  • Lesson planning
  • Preparation including creating power point presentations and handouts
  • Research and reading to review topics, themes, and important content
  • Scheduling assignments, assessments, and presentations during the semester
  • Grading quizzes, tests and essays weekly, bi-weekly or monthly
  • Attendance and participation including daily work that needs to be checked
  • Online discussion forum posts (one per student x 50-60 students)
  • Video presentations and other teaching resources for Blackboard 
  • Advising, mentoring, answering student emails, voice mails, and administrative requests
  • Meeting with my mentor, working with student advisors, and others at the schools where I teach
  • Extra duties such as assigned readers for student essays, literature SM for curriculum development
  • And then — showing up — and doing the real work of presenting lectures
I teach 3 days each week, but the other four are devoted to most of what is listed above — the out of classroom work I must do to remain prepared. In the evenings, when I come home from campus, some nights I have to interact with my online students. If I am lucky, and it is a low-week work wise, I can spend the evening relaxing. I stay up with my friends on Facebook, I do work around the house, care for my parents needs, or I sneak in an episode of “Midsomer Murders” or “NCIS.” I usually turn in around 10:30-11:00 and then my day starts all over again.

What is more is that for the nine months that I teach, I am actively engaging in all of these things (and more — committees and other requests for service). I have no real free time, save the odd day off (holiday). But, come summer, well — woohoo — I am free to enjoy the blessed rest. I get my free days and evenings, and even can think about taking a vacation or doing some fun things. Of course, when I was in school, my summers were filled with coursework and my own assignments. As I look at my list above, I cannot imagine how I did all of this work PLUS manage to complete a doctoral program and keep a perfect 4.0 GPA.

The only way I was able to do all of this work was through the Lord’s help and His grace to keep my schedule managed. The truth is that without His help in managing my schedule, I would never have made it through the program. More so, as I think about my life now, I realize that over the past 3-4 years, the Lord has prepared me to do this work. It is funny, really. I mean when I was working full-time in corporate business, I worked from 8:30-5:30 every weekday. I came home at night and I pretty much 1) fell asleep on the sofa or 2) cleaned house. The weekends were set aside for errands and other house duties like laundry.  My life was no different. I didn’t do anything FUN then either. I worked very hard at a job I liked, but didn’t love. I often worked overtime. My life was work. The only difference between then and now was the type of work I did and the fact that I was in an office M-F, all day long. Now, I work from home 3/4 time and I am on campus 1/4 time. I still have a lot of work to do, I just do it from home. 

Work, Work, and More Work

I think one of the reasons why my parents, in particular, as well as some other friends see me as a “workaholic” is simply because I mix business with my down-time. I spread my work around, so I may rest from 2-4 p.m. let’s say, but work from 8-9 p.m. at night. The goal is to complete the required task before I turn in, but I don’t always get up first thing in the morning and jump to work. Instead, I do what I am doing now, which is blogging, visiting with friends, doing stuff around the house. I prefer to do my “work” later in the afternoon and in the evening. I have always been this way, and it is the style that suits me best. I never, ever, liked having to get to work early in the AM. In fact, I loathed it. I always said I could never do much work before 10:30 in the morning. In reality, I probably do the majority of my work between 4-10 p.m. at night. I tend to do a lot of my work in the evenings. Furthermore, I like the fact that I can stay up as late as I want and sleep in the next day. I love it when I can plan my days so that my mornings are free to do nothing. I really am a “night owl.”

My ex-husband was a morning person. He was up at 5:30 every morning, and he liked to watch TV or read in the evening. I was a night owl from the beginning of our relationship, but rather than allow me to be myself, he put pressure on me to become like him. I did my best to accommodate his request, after all that is what marriage is all about, right? I changed my style. I forced myself to go to bed early so I could get up early. I was miserable. I often walked around like a zombie. After a time, I stopped even trying to tell him that I needed a different routine. In the end, our differences in schedules caused a lot of contention in the home. 

One of the things I said I would never do (post-divorce) was to change my personal style for someone else. I felt that some patterns are hard-wired. In fact, my son is very much like me. We get along really well because we don’t get in each other’s space. He and I often have good long conversations at night. We often do work late at night. We don’t force one another to change.

As a 54 year old, I have come to terms with my personal style. I am very comfortable living as I do. In fact, once I am on my own, I am going to really cherish my time. I do now, I mean, I make the most of what time I have, but once I am on my own, I will enjoy uninterrupted “me” time. It is a good thing, really, a good thing.

Some things I hope to engage in once I am on my own include:
  • Scholarship — reading, studying, learning — and writing of journal articles
  • Playing the cello again 
  • Learning a new language
  • Creating an art studio where I can paint and draw or perhaps sculpt
  • Visiting museums, galleries, and other places of educational interest
  • Going to libraries (especially the big ones)
  • Collecting more books, art work (paintings and the like)
  • Gardening
This is my life (my future life) in a nutshell. These are all the things I enjoy doing. I used to go to the museums in San Francisco all the time. I used to paint, sculpt, draw, and craft. I used to play the cello and visit music shops. School took all my time, but now that school is over, I intend to do these things again.

It is not like I cannot do these things now because I can. It is just that with my responsibilities here at home, I have to plan a bit more. Plus, I don’t have the space I need in this house. I don’t have room to practice my cello at all. I need a music room where I can store my cello, have a proper cello chair, and then keep my music near by me. The same goes for scholarship. I need an office where I can keep my books, and where I can devote some serious quiet time to studying and to research. I can do some of that here at home, but I really do need my own space in order to pursue it well.

My future life is full of many plans. I hope to be able to do these things AND still control all my teaching duties. My life is one of balance. I am, after all, a Libra (if you believe in such things). I strive for balance, for harmony, for peace and calm in my life. I have decided that I will never live in a drama zone again. I will never live in a place where there is contention and disunity. Even now, I get upset when I hear my parents argue. They do it out of frustration, I am sure, but the constant bickering gets to me. I love the peace and quiet of my home, and while I try to filter the noise out with soothing music, I cannot always do it.

In Closing

I realized today that “yet again,” I am having to defend my way of life. I am being asked why I am the way I am, why I do things a certain way, and why I am not acting, living, breathing, or simply being the way other people I think I should act, live, breathe, or be. I mean, give me a break. I am who I am, and I will not change my spots for anyone. I know that sounds harsh, but the fact that I spent nearly 30 years of my life being someone else, trying to please other people, trying to be a certain way just to keep others happy, well — I am not going to do it. I will not worship any man, woman, or even furry creature. I will be the way God made me. If my family, friends, coworkers, students, etc., do not like this fact, then they need to do something about it. I am who I am because God made me this way. What is more is the fact that God has never told me to change my life (well, my personality, I mean). He has never said, “Carol, I want you to be more this way.” Yes, the Holy Spirit has worked on me to soften the rough edges, to help me be more compassionate, caring, and more devoted to His will — but — never once has the Lord said that there was something “wrong” with the way I was wired. In fact, He has said the opposite to me. I am made this way for a purpose. He knows me well. He loves me just as I am, and praise be to God, He really, really, understands me.

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