Ten Things of Thankful: The New School Year Edition

The first week of school has been great, so I thought I’d dedicate most of this week’s Ten Things of Thankful post to the good things about the beginning of the new school year.

Without further ado, I am thankful:

  1. for getting a new teaching schedule the week before classes started. Even though it’s been “interesting” trying to prep for a new course, it is so worth it.
  2. …that I now have six classes instead of seven.
  3. …that I won’t have a variable schedule this year. I teach the same six courses next semester. (For those of you who didn’t see my post about the first day of school, most courses actually run across both semesters. They are typically two semester hours–though I did get one three credit one, which is what has made all the difference in the benefits of my new schedule.)
  4. …that even though I was originally given OLD information about new (to me) course, the syllabus, and even the book, I have it all sorted out now. And it turns out that my intuition about how to start the class for the first week was right on target. WHEW!  :-)
  5. …for the amazing students in my classes. Every single class started out well. I was able to engage students and to get them involved in first day activities with no problems. (OK, the one 8:00 writing class was a little sluggish, but I can’t get the department to understand that students already aren’t keen on writing in a second, and that when you put it at 8:00 in the morning, I have to really put on a show to keep them awake, let alone engaged. Luckily, I’m pretty good at putting on a show.) And I’m thankful . . .
  6. …that I only have one 8:00 class this year. I have had two days with 8:00 classes for last two years, so this development is pretty awesome.
  7. …for my colleagues who support me in various ways, but especially for Justin, whose willingness to trade writing classes with me (and give up a four-day weekend in the process!) enabled me to get this new awesome schedule. Thanks, Justin! You are awesome.
  8. …that I was able to figure out a CURVES schedule that works with the new teaching schedule. Especially, since the last time I weighed in and got measured, all my numbers were moving in the right direction. In ten months time, I’ve lost 30 pounds! (13 kilos!)
  9. …that I am feeling like myself again, and that I can immerse myself in the teaching experience.
  10. …that I have this place where I can share all my good news with all of you wonderful people. 

241 days til 60!

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If We Were Having Coffee: First Day of School Edition

admin-ajax.phpIf we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that the first day of classes at our university is actually tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure there won’t be time to chat with you tomorrow. So I’m happy to have this time with you now.

I’d also warn you that I have a lot to say about my teaching schedule and how things work at our university, since I’ve never really told you much about it before.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that my schedule of courses went through quite a shift on Friday.  I have to scramble a bit, but overall I’m pleased with the new schedule. It’s much more interesting (and challenging) than the one I had before Friday, even though I’ve spent part of the weekend prepping for the first meeting of a class I haven’t taught before.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’m actually happy about going back to classes, when it was only a couple weeks ago when I wasn’t so sure about whether I’d have enough energy, and ideas, and motivation, and patience. I am so grateful that things came together for me in time.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d respond to your question about what I am teaching this year. I’d tell you that my 13 credit hours of classes are spread out over three days–Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I’m teaching my first night class. I’d tell you that 13 hours works out to six classes, which will probably surprise you. Several of the courses at our university are two credit hours each, and many of them actually run for two semesters. Only two of my classes are the same, so I’ll be prepping for five different classes each week. Luckily, there is some crossover in terms of activities that I can use with the students.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that I teach for two departments–the English Language Center (ELC) and the Department of Applied English (DAE). What’s the difference, you ask? Well, DAE is the department for students who are majoring in English. All other students in the university, regardless of major, still have to take some required English courses. And that’s where the ELC comes in. They provide basic EFL (English as a Foreign Language) courses for non-English majors. The writing classes are two hours each–so that makes 6 hours.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that I teach three classes for the DAE, all writing courses. One of them is first year writing for the freshmen, and the other two are second year writing for sophomores.  In the ELC, I teach two classes of seniors, but one of those classes is a specialized one that I developed (and have adjusted over the last couple of years) for students in the Architecture Department. Architecture is one of the few departments that has students for five years (instead of four), and they’re usually so busy that they aren’t too interested in English class. So let’s just say that they can be a challenge; but so far, I have been up for it.  [These English classes for seniors (or other 4th year students) are 2 hours each--for 4 hours.]

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that my last three hours are my first evening class, which is an advanced English course (for non-English majors) who want more than just the basic requirement. It is a three-credit course called Oral Reports, and I am frantically putting things together for tomorrow night. (Of course, it’s on the first day.) But the good news is that I’ve been working on some ideas, and I’m feeling fairly confident about it. I will be able to access the past year’s syllabus in the morning, and then I can finalize things. [Luckily, I did get a copy of the TOC (Table of Contents) and the first chapter of the book.]

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d ask if you have any other questions about what I’m teaching, just ask me. I’d be happy to share.

If we were having coffee . . .

I’d tell you that it’s 246 days til 60!

 

Returning to Rome

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

Apparently when I leave Rome, I make it worth my while. I haven’t posted the last two weeks, so let’s start with a report for August 18, which was the last time I was here. Two weeks ago, things were real quiet in Rome, so I held off. Then last week, I had decided to take a blog break. I may actually post about that elsewhere, but for now it’s time to get back on track.

In spite of the extra time, I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. That might just be a good indicator that taking two weeks off from posting isn’t necessarily the best plan. Oh wait! I didn’t actually plan it that way. But you get the idea. On the other hand, with three weeks since I made this list, the report is bound to have lots of progress, right?

REPORT FOR WEEK OF AUGUST 18

(and including the weeks of August 25 and September 1)

1. Complete 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • editing project 1 (2 sections) (I actually finished the first run-through of editing on a major project!)
  • complete 2/3 of new editing project (that was a stupid way to set it up. I don’t know which fraction is done. Maybe 1/2.)
  • 2 sections of a work project (Sort of–I did more than two sections of a work project. Does it count if it’s not the same work project that I intended to do when I wrote this? If it showed up in my to-do pile, and I switched gears to meet a deadline?)  :-)
  • writing two sections of the mapped-out writing project  (I drafted one section and designed a worksheet)
  • make a basic plan for upcoming webpage (I have something REAL basic, but it’s a start)

2. Meet with J to plan collaborative project (done, and have actually completed a couple of the tasks)

3. Sew blocks for Clue 3 of Summer Mystery Quilt (done, I even sewed about a third of the blocks together to start the quilt top)

4. Continue visiting my fellow builders. (not really. The first week, there didn’t seem to be anyone building.  The second week, I was on a break.)

5. Write a post about decluttering; schedule launch.  (NO. and it’s really starting to annoy me. But it will be more of a priority soon!)

6. Plan out the next two weeks of the blog. (No, I decided I’m not doing any genuine planning until at least October. Just going with the flow for now.)

7. Catch up on 20 of my unanswered comments.  (Just no.)

8. Attend Friday dinner. (A lovely time was had by all.)

HABITS TO MAINTAIN:

  • CURVES – 3 times a week; walking 3 times a week. (one week Curves was only 2 times, but I did extra walking)

 

GOALS FOR WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 8

1. Complete 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • finish the paper editing project
  • start editing a thesis (if I hear back on it)
  • finalize syllabi and first week lesson plans (Classes start next week.)
  • complete writing Project A
  • submit proposal for upcoming webpage

2. Travel to Taipei to attend faculty meeting Wednesday.

3. Sew some more of the quilt top for the Summer Mystery Quilt

4. VISIT my fellow builders.

5. Write a post about decluttering; schedule launch. (PRIORITY)

6. Catch up on 10 of my unanswered comments. (Decide how important this is.)

7. Complete three 20-minute decluttering blocks.

HABITS TO MAINTAIN:

  • CURVES – 3 times a week; walking 3 times a week.

Good luck to my fellow builders. May this be a good week!

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This post is part of the Building Rome Project:

http://greenembe.rs/2014/09/08/building-rome-week-37-embracing-pain/

If We Were Having Coffee: Starting Again

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that it was a week with lots of contrast, lots of ups and downs. I’ve had some good news this week, and some not so good news. I’ve had some productive days, and some not so productive days. I’ve thought about starting to post in the blog again, and I’ve considered making the break longer-term.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that blogging is not a good thing for me to give up on an ongoing basis. While I was on break, it was too easy to just add another day, then another day, then another day to the break. It’s not that I feel there is a frequency I need to maintain or that I’m addicted to blogging. But as my husband pointed out, it is an important part of my process. When I suggested that with my schedule, it might be good to just give it up for a while, he jokingly said, “There are other things you could give up instead. Like sleeping, eating, . . .”  Wow! It hadn’t occurred to me in just that way, but he helped me recognize that like the exercise I’ve now incorporated into my life, this blogging and self-exploration is important as I move toward a different kind of life next summer.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that I got a haircut yesterday, the first one in nearly two years. (I’ve been cutting my own hair during that time. I’ve been really happy with the results until the last time I did it.) So with a faculty meeting this Wednesday and classes starting the following week, it was time. I’ll post a photo soon, along with my adventures getting my hair cut in a foreign country.  :-)

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that I feel overwhelmed with the things on my to-do list, with the things in my environment. I’d also tell you that I’ve started mapping a strategy to some clarity about what is important and what can be adapted or left behind.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that the best part of coming back to blogging isn’t necessarily the posting, but reconnecting with many of you. Even though I am officially returning to a bit of posting today, I started visiting blogs again yesterday. I appreciate you and the parts of your life that you share. I look forward to continuing the conversations.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you its 253 days til 60.

Gone Fishing!

me and cat on wallOK, maybe not exactly fishing, but I’m going to be absent from Blogland for a few days. I’ve now posted daily for over 40 days, and I’ve achieved several of my crazy blog goals that I set for August–knowing it would be the last month I had to devote that much time to blogging for a while. During the next few days, I will not be writing for my blog or posting on my blog. In addition, after the next 12 hours (a little time tonight and a little time tomorrow morning), I will not be visiting, commenting, or liking other blogs (unless I slip off the wagon) until my return toward the end of next week.

During these next few days, I will be focusing on a few deadlines and projects that need my attention. To be honest, blogging is more rewarding than some of the projects I need to do. The “responsible” part of me had considered a long-term leave from the blog, but the “rational” part of me vetoed that crazy idea. I learn so much about myself while blogging, and I am unwilling to give up the community that exists among the bloggers I interact with. My life would be so much less without blogging and the people I have met because of it. So I’m taking a short break–just a few days–to try to make sense of my schedule in a way that allows me to get things done and to honor this blogging thing, which has become so much more than simply a hobby to engage in only when I can squeeze it in.

During August, I intentionally made blogging a priority. I’m hoping that by telling myself that I’m taking a break, I won’t say to myself (16 times a day), “Oh, I could blog about that.” And I won’t be asking my husband, “Oh, could you get some pictures of that.” In other words, taking a break is intended to remove blogging (which I really enjoy) from the forefront of my thoughts as I figure out how it fits into my life during the normal schedule.

To help with my blogging withdrawal, I will spend some time doing some sewing on the quilt top for the summer mystery quilt challenge. Hopefully, I can begin to do some regular drawing practice. Or at least, alternate it with Zentangle. But my main focus is to create a schedule for the coming academic year that provides a balance between what must be done and what I want to do.  Such a schedule may be too big a project for a week, but I will see how far I can get, while knocking off a few things on the project to-do list.

I have a couple of blogging “questions” that you can help me with, if you are so inclined. First, I would be interested in how other people organize the reading of and commenting on other blogs. Do you have a system that you would care to share? Some of you seem to get around much more than I do, even when I spend some dedicated time on it. So any suggestions would be welcome.

When I come back (probably on September 4th or 5th), I hope to have a blog plan. The free-flowing thing I’ve been doing may become more structured. It may not. If you have any preferences about which of my posts you enjoy reading the most, I would be delighted if you would let me know in the comment section. You can choose as many as you wish. I’ve listed a few that you can refer to by number (see purple list below). Or if you have other ideas, that’s fine too. This is also a good place to ask questions if you have any curiosities about me. Although, I’m sure that’s not very likely. Right?  ;-)

1. Responses to challenges where you learn random things about me?
2. Posts about Life in Taiwan?
3. More about my family and the experiences that got me here?
4. Quilting and creativity?
5. The eclectic mix that I currently do?
6. A decluttering challenge.

OK, thanks for all your support. Your comments will help me as I figure out my blog plan.

I’ll see you in about a week!  :-)

261 days til 60!

Ten Things of Thankful: The Quick Edition

TenThingsBannerWe left the house at 6:20 am this morning, and got back at nearly 9:30 pm. But it’s been a good day. And that is something to write Ten Things of Thankful about, even if it’s quick. Details about today’s trip (with pictures) will follow, but it’s closing in on my bedtime.  :-)

I am thankful for:

1. The ticket agent who found us seats on the express train. We just had to change seats once we got to Taipei.

2. The lovely view of the ocean on our way to the Luodong train station.

3. The wonderful visit at the National Center for Traditional Art.

4. The puppet show and live theater performance at the NCTA.

5. A husband who takes cool photos for me.

6. A most amazing student from one of last year’s writing classes who invited us for this great adventure.

7. A most amazing iced latte at a local coffee shop.

8. An amazing breakthrough on two projects that I’ve been stuck on. (This could generate its own thankful list in a day or two if it continues.)

9. Getting a taxi with no wait at the train station when we got home.

10. Getting my 400th blog follower while I was checking email and blog comments after we got home. My little orange guy lit up with a new follower. I checked, and it was #400.

Awesome day!

Pictures to follow.

For now, I’m off to bed!  :-)

265 days to 60!

 

 

 

 

Sharing Music, Computer Games, and Dwarfs from My World

If it seems like you just read a Share Your World post from me, that’s because you did. I revisited a previous question before completing last week’s questions, so here I am: trying to get current. Better to do two than skip one and have you miss out on all this random information about me.  :-) Thanks Cee for your continued hosting of this cool challenge.

 

What is your favorite smell? What memory does it remind you of?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was difficult to come up with one smell, so here’s my list.

Freshly mowed lawn. Reminds me of summers growing up in Michigan, playing out in the yard, sitting under the plum tree, and generally being kids.

Bread baking. I’m not sure I have a lot of memories of bread baking, but I sure love the smell. On the other hand, it might be something that I wasn’t conscious of. (OK, so my color coding doesn’t work so well for bread. The tan is just too light, so you have to put up with this.)

Roasting green chilies (which I only smell in New Mexico, but it’s awesome).

The perfume my grandmother used to wear. One of the most amazing experiences I had after my grandmother died is having memories of her initiated in the most random places. Walking home from the bus, and I would pass someone wearing that perfume. And I could close my eyes and be with Grandma again.

Coffee, especially freshly roasted beans — no explanation needed.  But I do have a little story, because you know I often do.  When I was younger, I loved the smell of my father making coffee. But I never liked the taste. When I got married, my husband drank coffee. I loved the smell, but didn’t like the taste. Eventually, I found that if I started drinking coffee (with cream and sugar), that was pretty good. Then one of my bosses good-naturedly started hassling me about what’s the point of drinking coffee if I’m going to put all that stuff in it. So I gradually got to the point where I could drink black coffee, but I eventually returned to adding a little cream or milk to it. And I don’t do flavored coffees anymore. Just give me the basic stuff with some milk. Yum!

Name a song or two which are included on the soundtrack to your life?

Probably Tapestry by Carole King to represent all the rich and varied experiences (and my love of textiles), and Firework! by Katy Perry because I’m finally really coming into my own. And while I’ve done some awesome things in my life, I still have a few more sparks that need igniting.

Do you play video/computer game?  Which one(s) or most recent? 

I’ve played a few games in the past, though the names elude me. My current games if I need a little break include Spider Solitaire and Free Cell. I know, I lead an exciting life. Actually, I can’t get involved in games that suck me in, or I’d spend too much time on them.  ;-)

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best?  Plus what would the 8th dwarf’s name be? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey)

I guess I’d say Doc. I’m the problem solver, the teacher, the listener. It seems to be the best fit, unless I was Happy on a day he forgot his meds. As for an 8th dwarf, I’ll go with Crazy.

Sharing My World from Last Week!

Thanks to Cee for keeping Share Your World challenge going. I always discover something unexpected when answering these random questions. That’s why I’m answering this quickly before this week’s questions are delivered to my mailbox. On to the questions.

taiwan-mapDo you believe in ghosts? 

I live in a country where Ghost Month just ended. I have to admit though, I didn’t personally see any ghosts at any time during the month.

Irregardless of your physical fitness, coordination or agility:  If you could play any sport professionally what would it be?  Or if you can’t picture yourself playing sports, what is your favorite sport?

Figure skating or gymnastics. Or swimming. Or diving.

Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

I prefer Goldilocks hair. Not too short, not too long, just right.  :-)

If you were on an small island, who would you want to be with? And where is it?  How big is it?

Although it’s not very small, I actually already live in an island. And even though there are lots of people here, including my awesome husband, Dave, and many friends I’ve made over the past 5 years, there are many people that aren’t here. They live half a world away. So if I could add a few more people to this island (or get an island closer to them), I’d like my parents, my children, and my grandson Logan to be on the island.  But for me, it’s all in the timing.

I will return to the US next year, and then it will be the people on this island that I’m leaving behind. My husband will still be with me, but all of the people I’ve met here, the people who have become my family on the other side of the world, will be on the island, and I’ll be back home. It’s odd having a home on both sides of the world, but I feel pretty darn lucky to have this kind of oddity in my life.

 

266 Days til 60

 

If We Were Having Coffee (August 24)

Thanks to Gene’O for inviting us all over for this lovely gathering. I will be visiting some of my fellow coffee and tea drinkers later on.  :-)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If we were having coffee,

  • I’d tell you that I’m excited about the creative discoveries I’m making. I not only finished piecing my current quilting project — a mystery quilt, I also figured out the correct layout for the pieces ahead of the clue that will be released on September 1. It looks great, and since I got word that my solution is correct, I’m going to begin sewing the quilt top. I’ve also been enjoying my drawing practice and Zentangle.
  • I’d tell you that I’m maintaining my exercise schedule–going to the gym and walking, more than ever. The walking is in spite of the fact that the temperature is regularly around 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) with high humidity.  And my efforts are paying off. I’m steadily losing a little weight. I’d be a little happier if those promised endorphins would kick in, but I’ll keep going regardless. I can tell that I’m feeling stronger.
  • I’d tell you that I had an awesome time on Monday, visiting a city in northern Taiwan. The day included an awesome seafood lunch, coffee overlooking water and mountains, a trip to the seafood market, and a walk through the night market. The day promises a couple of blog posts–one with pictures of the things I’ve mentioned, and a second one that covers the other activity we did that day–kite flying!
  • I’d tell you that I’m struggling with what is going to happen with my blog next month. That is when I add full-time teaching back to all the other projects I’ve been working on this summer. I really have enjoyed exploring my voice these last several weeks, but it’s been hard to always fit it in. But realistically, I can’t keep up at that pace unless I get more organized and write several posts in ahead and schedule some of them. So for now, I’m thinking that I will try to post at least 2-3 times a week, and spend some time visiting my fellow bloggers. This environment has been great for me as I’ve tried to find my way through a rough spot this summer, so thanks to everyone who has been part of that great connection.
  • I’d tell you that I’m looking forward to a visit to another part of Taiwan this week, and that you should be looking for more posts and photos.

Have a lovely week!

297 days to 60!

What Should I Do Next? (SofCS)

The prompt this week for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: start with a preposition.

Who would have thought that the struggling with the prompt led to the topic?  haha

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Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With all the things I need to do today, you’d think I’d have gotten off to a better start. I did get to Curves AND do some walking, so it’s not like nothing got done. But when it got to be 2:00, and I was only getting to the first thing on the list, it was a little disconcerting. But I think I know part of what’s going on.

For so long, I tried to kid myself about the illusion of choice. I can do this, OR I can do this, OR I can do this. So many choices. And I waste time and conscious attention wandering around from item to item on my list, spending my limited mental energy playing games about what I feel like doing. Now that I know better, you might think I would do things differently, but today is one of those days that I was on the verge of squandering a perfectly good work day.

On my list for today are six items. I prioritized the list because I have finally learned that just making the list and doing all that pseudo choice thing (choosing something from the list based on what I want to do) just wasted precious time and energy. It took me a very long time to make the connection between my indecision and my tendency to procrastinate. I’ve had people tell me that I thrive on deadlines. NO. What happened in the past is that the deadlines take away choice. Deadlines demand focus, and so there is no illusion of choice. I just do what needs to be done. I don’t thrive on deadlines. Deadlines make choosing irrelevant.

About the only good thing to come out of the deadline realization was that it wasn’t that the stress of the deadlines was the motivating factor as much as not having to decide what I could or should be doing. Or I got trapped in the craziness of believing that I was a good multi-tasker. It could be argued (and undoubtedly will be) that it really doesn’t matter WHAT I’m doing as long as I’m doing something. But that’s not always true. Like everyone else, I find dozens of ways to kill time, and it’s not always a merciful death. So the trick is to make the list, put it in order, and move from one thing to the next. Not that I don’t take breaks, but when it IS time work, I’m actually working, rather than shuffling papers and ideas and possible activities. It’s not like it’s inflexible. If something comes up, I adjust as necessary, but I’m not getting in my own way, by stopping several times a day and asking, “Hmmmm, what shall I do next?” I have many more interesting things I’d like to spend my time thinking about. But I can spend my conscious attention on the actual content of the projects I’m working on rather than a pointless decision process as to what to do next.

Of all the things I’ve learned about the brain and how much conscious attention we really have, the illusion of choice may be one of the most helpful things. Even if the prioritizing is random, removing the choice just makes it easier to move from one thing to the next. I had the perfect example of this today when I sat down to write this post. It was next up on the list, cool! But sometimes I have a hard time making decisions (which is why prioritizing my list really is important). And today’s prompt threw me for a while, because I had to start with a preposition. That should be easy, right? There are LOTS of prepositions. I just had to choose one to start with. DAMN!

For someone who often has trouble making decisions, especially little ones, this prompt really drove it home. Luckily, I came up with a solution. I made a list–just like I do for my tasks. Then I randomly chose one and began. With each paragraph, I stopped long enough to think of a way to start with another preposition and then kept going again. And I know that it wasn’t necessary to use a preposition for each paragraph, but sometimes I embellish things a bit.

In the end, it was the usual thing. Once I started, it was easy to continue, and with each paragraph, I just looked at the list and grabbed one and went. Starting is sometimes the hardest part, but that’s why not having choices really can be freeing, even though that seems counter-intuitive.

At least, the post is nearly finished. It rambles, but I’ve once again learned some valuable things by letting the unconscious part of my brain go to town. That’s the great thing about stream of consciousness writing–you don’t have to think about it.  At least not once you get started.  ☕️

socs-badge

This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2314/

 

268 Days to 60!