Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lifelong Education

"Real ongoing, lifelong education doesn't answer questions--it provokes them. It causes us to see that the fun and excitement of learning doesn't lie in having all the answers. It lies in the tension and the stretching of our minds between all the contradictory answers. It makes us think for ourselves. It frees us all." ~Luci Swindoll

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Decision

I finally made a decision: I am going to participate in my undergraduate graduation ceremony. I'm trying to live a life of no regrets, so this is just one way to keep me from wondering "what if..." or "I wish I would have.." later on.

I've now got a date with a cap and gown on May 9th!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Still Conflicted: To Walk or Not to Walk

I can't decide whether or not to walk in my university's graduation ceremony. My thoughts have evolved in this order over the course of the past six months:

  • Of course, I'll participate! I worked hard!
  • I really want to walk so my kids will know that education is important.
  • I feel so distanced from school now that I've been away and moved on to grad school...maybe I shouldn't walk.
  • Honestly, would anybody really miss me if I didn't walk?
  • If I did walk, would my family just feel obligated to come. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to come.
  • The graduation ceremony is going to be like three hours long. In the sun. On a football field. And I only know a handful of people there. Hmmmm....
  • If it rains, the ceremony will be moved indoors and I will only have four tickets. That only leaves one extra ticket for anyone other than my husband and children!
  • I'm going to graduate from grad school next spring. Wouldn't I rather walk in that ceremony?
  • Grad school graduation will be farther away and we would have to stay in a hotel. Maybe I should walk now and skip grad school ceremonies? Plus, I won't know as many people there...
  • THREE HOURS in the sun and wind??? I dunno....
  • But my youngest daughter doesn't understand college or that I've completed something. This might help her understand.
  • Maybe I do want a day of praise and glory.
  • I don't want a day of praise and glory...that's silly.
  • I already paid for all of the graduation gear in my student fees...might as well get my money's worth.
  • Will I regret it if I don't walk? After all, I looked forward to it for years.
  • My dad told me the story of a man who drove hundreds of miles to attend graduation ceremony at this school. He thought it was important...maybe I should, too.
  • I already have plans for that weekend. It's Mother's Day weekend and we really need to visit my husband's mom. I shouldn't change those plans.
  • I don't know what to do.

This is another one of those situations where I wish someone would just step in and make my decisions for me. Right now, I have a signed "Graduate in Absentee" form sitting signed on my desk, but I have been unable to mail it (though I filled it out a week ago). University friends say, "yes--come back!" but they probably won't miss me (who knows if we'll even see one another). My family says, "it's your decision." My husband and friends like to give conflicting reports: one minute they encourage me to do it and the next they tell me they might not have walked if they had to do it all over again. It's honestly not as important to me as it once was, but I do wonder if participating might help my kids understand the importance, the sacrifice, and the honor of university studies.

Maybe I'll just flip a coin.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

Here we are at the end of another productive yet absolutely CRAZED semester.

Last week, my husband and I took a cruise to celebrate our 10th anniversary (it was two years ago--we're a little late) & the completion of my undergraduate degree. I left my cell phone at home and only checked e-mail once a day for five minutes in order to send a message to my kids back home. While I was on the trip, I enjoyed laying in the sun and reading (for leisure!), listening to music or napping. I enjoyed long, three-course meals and sharing interesting conversation with strangers. I enjoyed walking around a small Mexican village, watching the locals who obviously had fewer possessions and money but seemed equally (or more!) happy with life.

However, it wasn't until I got home that I realized how truly unburdened I had been on that trip. When I am at home, I feel compelled to check e-mail and Facebook twenty or more times a day. Many days, I don't enjoy the sunshine or feel the breeze because I am sitting behind a computer all day. When I am at home, my cell phone is in my possession almost 24 hours a day and I feel compelled to answer it each and every time it rings. When I am at home, I live and die by a calendar--never are there unstructured days for "wandering"--and taking a nap would just lead to guilt that time would have been better spent doing something besides sleeping.

Even worse, every time I travel, especially outside of the United States, I come home so frustrated by the things that occupy our time and thoughts....the things that we fuss and fight over/for...the things that we consider most important. Those things, for the most part, are utter ridiculousness. In the grand scheme of life, they are foolish things that don't really matter.

I am certain that life is for more than a busy calendar. I'm sure that I'm supposed to have enough quiet, unhurried time in a day to have thoughts or rest or simple pleasures. I know for a fact that I shouldn't feel like a hamster in a wheel.

I have decided that something needs to change in my life and I'm trying to figure out the best way to clear out the clutter and simplify my life somewhat. Waiting for the "next semester" or the "next stage of life" obviously doesn't work--getting to the next stage means things are just different, not less busy in my experience.

Right now, the best bet for simplification seems to be to shut down my photography business. My business is definitely "small" in all aspects of the word, but it can be very time consuming nevertheless. Though I have been mulling it over for a week (actually, I mull it over every year, it seems), I am still hesitant to do away with it completely for several reasons:

a) it provides income
b) people respect and enjoy the work I do
c) other than motherhood, I have held this position longer than any other job
d) it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment

This business has been my baby, my brainchild, my sweat and tears. Even though my hectic lifestyle prevents me from enjoying the work like I once did, it is difficult to say the words, "I'm done."

Also, there is the money matter. I am preparing to enter the teaching world. Education, as we all know, is not a particularly lucrative field. In fact, right now it takes me a month of substitute teaching (averaging twice or three times a week) to make similar take-home pay as one photography session. Now, before you start to think that photographers are making a killing and robbing you blind, let me tell you about one major difference. In education, I walk away at the end of the day with no further obligations (well, more-so than some professions--no job is 100% this way). With photography, the time committed for a photo session is just the beginning. I spend much, much more time editing, cropping, posting to the web, fulfilling orders, etc. Do you know what that means? There is no separation between home and work for me. Between my university classes, substitute teaching, hauling kids to ballgames, church obligations and the like, I crave time at home to be just that: time at home and nothing else. Besides, money isn't everything.

All this to say, I think I am on the verge of making a very important decision. It both relieves me and scares me, but something must be done. You know something is not right when you find yourself envying simple life of the Mexican senorita who sits on the sidewalk mashing masa and selling tortillas from an egg crate!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good Stuff

I feel like I have spent the majority of this semester whining on this blog. Shame on me. It hasn't been all bad, really! Sure, it's been stressful, I have felt even busier than usual, and my assignments have been super time consuming, I can still find some silver linings in the grad school clouds.

  • One of my professors was willing to negotiate our assignment list meaning many due dates were changed and several assignments were reduced in size or deleted from the syllabus altogether.
  • All of my professors are very understanding about the fact that we have families and jobs to juggle. Generally, if we have a hard time getting an assignment turned in on time, they are willing to work things out with you.
  • I expected to be in class every Monday night from January through May. Instead, we only met about twice a month and next week (still in April) is our final class date!
  • One of my professors was very organized and her class was very structured. Plus, she was very quick to respond to questions and grade assignments. It made life SO much easier!
  • I have one other classmate at my ITV location...thank goodness! Having someone to contact with questions was so helpful. I am so glad I didn't have to go at it alone. Plus, it always helps to have a classmate that you can vent with.
  • We always have plenty of time to eat dinner in-between classes. Honestly, I was very worried about this. Sitting in class from 4:30 until almost 10 p.m. without food or caffeine could only mean one thing for me: migraines. Mama's gotta eat! Fortunately, our teacher always gives us a 30-minute break.
  • It was tough reading so many books this semester, but I really enjoyed it. It helped me have a reason to read some books/authors that I wasn't familiar with and might not have read otherwise.

See? I AM capable of seeing the glass half full...are you shocked? :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Insanely Busy

I don't know why all my blog posts seem to come back to one theme: I'm busy and/or there's not enough time in day. So sorry for the boring, repetition, but it's so true.

This week has been another jam-packed one-thing-after-another week with a couple of unexpected events to deal with thrown in for good measure. It seems that April and December are the two busiest months in my year for some reason. Sure, they both contain the two biggest holidays in our household, but for us, Easter is not usually something that takes up huge portions of our month--it is very big spiritual celebration but not so much a time-consumer. I think it's because those two months are the end (or the near end) of semesters both for myself and my kids. Not only are school activities on overload, but we are also in the middle of soccer season. Plus, since the husband and I are taking a mini vacation/anniversary celebration/graduation gift cruise this month, it has added extra stress to my already nerve-wrecking schedule. Here it is, Saturday night and I haven't finished all of the homework due for Monday. I have one major project due a week from Monday but I also need to complete the work that is due the day after we get back from our cruise so I can just enjoy my vacation and leave the work at home.

Fortunately, I have cleared my calendar this week. I am only working one day (and that is subject to the weather cooperating) and I plan to slug away at homework. However, being the week before Easter, I will have daily mid-day interruptions as I attend our community's Holy Week luncheons. Not to mention the gigantic piles (and I am not kidding when I say "piles") of laundry waiting to be done. As always. I need to help my daughter with her 4H speech that she will compete with while we are gone. I need to gather things for my mom (who will be keeping the girls while we are away) and prepare for Easter. Oh--and I am in charge of my kid's Easter party at school this week. I guess I should also think about packing at some point when I'm not busy worrying about exercising/eating right/drinking enough water so I can feel comfortable in my bathing suit....or busy worrying about any of the above said things! *Sigh*

But on a positive note....only 4 more weeks of school left!!! I can't wait until MAY!!!!