The world keeps spinning

To my momentary surprise, the world keeps spinning and the days keep flying by.  Over the last three months, it has seemed as though life has been in a constant state of pause as things at work and in school have been in flux.  But, I’m beginning to reclaim them as my own.

Recently, my institution has found it necessary to lay off folks throughout campus, including a staff member in my department.  We found out two weeks ago, but learned it was going to happen nearly two months ago.  All of this happening at the same time I have been in an organizational change class.  This class has often left me in a state of near-paralysis with assignments.  I’m not always one to get my assignments and case studies finished an entire month before they are due, but it is also unusual for me to wait until the last minute to get them done.  With each case study I have needed to do individually for this class, I have found myself waiting until the night before or the day of to finish it.  It feels completely uncharacteristic, but I think it is where I can function right now.

Yet, over the course of the last week, I have been able to connect with my colleagues while attending both the national ACPA conference in Indianapolis and the NACA Northern Plains conference.  In finding and connecting with my colleagues at other institutions during this time, I have found ideas for my work, new ways to approach the same issues that have existed in the past, and explored the question of next steps.  I reached my breaking point a couple of times, once when learning that my half-written paper was on my computer at home and not saved in dropbox as I had believed.  Another time, I snapped when I was reminded of the reasons why we do our work, hearing jokes come out of a student attending the conference which left me struggling.  After several consecutive nights of functioning on minimal sleep, I struggled.

That being said, I heard the amazing Brene Brown speak, and if you have not seen her TED talk, you have missed out.  Brene spoke about being vulnerable and the ways in which this is necessary for authentic relationships.  And, to be honest, I am not very good at that.  There’s a bit of Midwestern stoic in me which makes vulnerability laden with so much fear that risks abound.  And we know I’m not very good at taking risks.  But, here we go.

So, as I continue to muddle through the 400+ emails in my inbox I was not able to get to while at the conferences, and as I try to figure out how to rework the functions of the institution in my area, I see signs of spring all around.  I planted apple trees and raspberry plants after work last night.  And I continue to try to see the signs of spring coming out of the long winter we’ve had, I am hopeful that forced exploration of the functions of our office will lead to positive reimagination.

Elvis Cupcakes

Elvis Cupcakes

For the first day of the semester, I brought in cupcakes.  But, confession time: I had planned to bring them in for the day everyone moved tables a couple weeks ago.  I didn’t get it done, because sometimes I don’t get things done on my timeline.  We moved tables on January 8 – Elvis’s birthday.  Most people might not know about it, but I know this day well because it’s also my sister’s birthday.  But, since I had previously purchased all of the supplies to make the cupcakes, I decided to make them for the first day of the semester, wedged between different new student orientation events and preparing to leave for Colorado.

I loved that they turned out as well as they did.  These banana-based cupcakes, with peanut butter frosting, and a little bacon garnish were a pinterest non-fail.  I searched on the internet and found the recipe  on the The Domestic Rebel site.  I followed the directions to a t with one minor change.  I made a batch that was gluten-free for some of my colleagues who are gluten intolerant.  In that batch, I did not add the pudding because I was not sure if pudding was usually gluten-free.

Elvis Cupcakes

My close up photo was before I got annoyed with the pastry-bag I was using, but not all of them looked as pretty, since I switched to using a knife to apply it.  I also caramelized the bacon using a method I found on the internet, so that made them a little bit different.

Recipe: Elvis Cupcakes

Banana Cupcakes:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup (about 2 medium) bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small box instant banana pudding mix

Peanut Butter Frosting:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About 5 cups powdered sugar

Caramelized Bacon:

  • Thick cut bacon
  • Brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with about 18 paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, mashed bananas, water, oil and eggs with a mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in the pudding mix to combine. Portion the batter evenly among the muffin tins, about ⅔ full, and bake for approx. 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
  3. For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the softened butter, peanut butter and vanilla until creamy and smooth, about a minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until light and fluffy. If needed, use a teaspoon of milk to thin the frosting out if it becomes too thick (I made a double batch and ended up using about 1/3 c milk to get it to the consistency I was seeking).

#100days

As I move forward in a time where the major renovation is wrapping up and will be finished in about 104 days, where classes are starting to wrap up, and where I’m trying to reestablish work-life balance, I’ve decided to embark on a 100 day challenge.  I know that this is do-able, and I hope it helps with my life goals in moving forward to continuing to become the person I want to be.  Therefore, I’m taking the next 100 days to seriously work on getting my life in order.

There are a few things I intend to do on my 100-day challenge, acknowledging there may be times when life gets in the way of completing these.  But, for the next 100 days (until May 1), I intend to do the following:

  • Walk to work each day
  • Shop local
  • Read one chapter of a novel (after reading this article, I’m especially inspired by this)
  • Eat real food
  • Do not drink soda
  • Make something each week (crafty-related. Maybe a dishcloth, quilt square, scarf, or the like)
  • Bring back New Recipe Tuesdays, but move them to Mondays, since I have class on Tuesday nights this semester

Each of these are things I have done for 40 day periods in the past, especially during lent, and now I am excited to embark on these and move forward.  I know they’re all for my well-being in mind, body, soul, and spirit.  I also knew they would be challenging to do on my trip to Colorado, so I wanted to wait until returning to make it happen.

Have you done a 100 day challenge?  If so, what has that looked like?  Are there tips and tricks to making it successful?  You can follow me as I hashtag #100days throughout the next few months.  I’m thinking about posting weekly updates here, but not going to commit to that at the moment.  We’ll see where life takes me in the next 100 days.

Another visit finished…

We are heading into our last semester with two courses and only one more trip out to Colorado where we are all together.  And it is a little alarming.

The last two days have been filled with moments of panic, moments of peace, and overall, moments of appreciation for my cohort.  On Thursday night, we were joined by the chair of our program at Café Vino, in Fort Collins.  After having a reception on campus, with several of the faculty and others from across different cohorts of students in the School of Education, we decided some group time was especially important for our cohort, with all of us present.

As I looked around the room and saw the members of my cohort, I was overcome with great professional admiration (aka professional crushes) for each of them.  Often times, our experiences are enhanced or made worse by the people who share our journey.  And each of these individuals have truly enhanced my journey.  I have dreams of us all coming back to cheer on the final member of the cohort as she or he walks across the stage, but there are so many things we’ll need to do to get from point A to point B.

Many of my cohort members have taken on new roles throughout the past few weeks, months, or years.  Some have married their partner, others have welcomed children into their lives, some have purchased homes, while others have new and more strenuous jobs.  Each of them amaze me with their talents and skills and the ways they embrace each change.  One cohort member spoke of feeling like an imposter while at work, waiting for others to find them out and learn they lack the skills necessary to achieve.  Instead, I feel like an imposter with all of these folks.

Each time we are together for class, whether online or in person, I learn so much from them and cannot wait to see their continued contributions to higher education through their dissertations and skills.  I love them.  I can’t believe we have only one more visit together in Fort Collins, and even though I said goodbye to some of them only hours ago, I cannot wait for us to get together and explore the city one last time, eat at restaurants together, and generally pump one another up for the semester ahead.

We’ve got this.  I’m sure of it, because we have each other’s backs!

Colorado State…a forever home

I am waiting in a new Behavioral Sciences building on the Colorado State University campus to meet up with a former colleague, from the days when I used to attend my master’s program here and it is amazing.  This building, the space, the environment created in here, with the mountains out the windows, reminds me of why I loved living in Fort Collins and why I am thrilled to come back and attend classes a couple times a year.

Beyond this beautiful space and the nature outside, I met up with a colleague who used to work at Cornell yesterday and when talking about her transition, she shared how Colorado State is not a typical college campus.  It’s not.  It has so many things going for it.  The type of student CSU is looking for would be the same that any of the private colleges at which I have worked.  It has such a small campus feel.  The administration, student support services, academic reputation, and innovation are all things for which CSU is known and reasons I often watch to see what they are doing, because it seems as though frequently, CSU can predict or adapt to the ever-changing environment of the campus.

I have loved my visit with my cohort members over the past two days and am sad this is the last January we will be out here, visiting campus.  It means our time is coming closer to the end, and I’m not ready to explore that yet.  Instead, I’ll focus on the sense of place that CSU offers – walking to meet up with my friend for lunch yesterday, I ran into someone who had been in the cohort in front of me and we had a quick conversation and caught up on everything.  Then, last night at dinner, I was messaged from another person who said she saw my twin in the Behavioral Sciences building that day.  Actually, she saw me.  So, now I’m sitting waiting for a quick catch up right now.

It’s been just amazing to be here and be reminded of my old stomping grounds, the great people with whom I have been fortunate to work, and the great people with whom I get to work every week through our program.  I’m feeling so appreciative of everything in my life at the moment.  While this is not without stress, I am anxious to see the future come together and look forward to the next steps…more to come on that soon.

I love airports

I love airports.  I know that for many people they are the bane of one’s existence, but I love the idea of travel, the goodbyes and hellos, the people who are there alone, the people who are there with others.  It’s great to see the expected and unexpected ways in which humanity comes together in airports and on airplanes.

Right now I am sitting in the Denver Airport terminal C as I await the arrival of my colleagues for our trip up to Fort Collins and our winter meeting of our doctoral program.  I am so excited for this for a few different reasons, and I’m sure I’ll continue to write about our goings-on throughout the weekend, but a few things I’ll highlight.

I began my morning at 3:30 when I could not sleep any longer in anticipation of my trip.  My dad phoned at 4:15 just to make sure I was up for my 5:00 departure from my house.  I guess there’s just enough sleeplessness in my family that it went all around.  When I arrived at the airport, I drove around for what felt like forever, looking for a parking spot, only to end up parking next a faculty member from my campus who has license plates which label both the institution and the department in which he works.  I love this aspect of living in a small town.

After arriving in Denver, the flurry of emails arrived from campus and text messages from friends wishing me safe travels, some who are also traveling, others leaving soon for great life adventures, and from my parents encouraging a safe flight.  One stuck out.  It was from a good friend who I met when living in Colorado as we worked on our master’s degrees together.  He asked me to call when I landed, and I thought back to the many flights and trips to the airport we had together, whether one of us picking the other up or dropping them off, flying back to the Midwest at the same time, or other situations.  Upon seeing the text message, I half expected to see him in the terminal.  Who knew airports could bring us together when we live miles apart?

After calling him back, I caught up on my email first and foremost and then started reading Buzzfeed, perhaps the greatest time waster that has been created recently.  One post struck me as a mother of a child with autism shared appreciation for the person sitting next to her daughter on their recent flight.  While I was reading that article, a woman came up to the couple sitting near me and asked where they got their food because it looked like it tasted good.  Would she have done that in a mall or another public space where people were not forced to sit together for a period of time?  It’s debatable, but I appreciated the simple compassion of this today.

When I first arrived at the airport this morning, I was thinking about the way flying used to be, with less security checks, keeping my shoes on, leaving things how I had packed them, and a hub for interaction.  Those were great days and I miss them, but it also seems that in this loss of privacy, increased regulation of safety, and general hurriedness of the world, airports are also the place where we can take the time to look up and smile at one another, recognize our common humanity, and lend a helping hand to one another.

This might be a little different than the other Wednesday encouragement posts that happen this year, but as we think about traveling and being present (stuck) at airports, I hope that we can all continue to show a little compassion to one another and recognize our common humanity.

‘Cause I gotta have faith

One of the best men I’ve ever known, Mike Baynes, who was a staff member at St. Catherine University when I was there as an undergraduate, picked “Faith” by George Michael.  While this isn’t a post about the song…MB is someone who helped me think about faith differently.

I’ve felt compelled to write on the topic of fait for a few weeks now…I think I probably had most of a blog post written as I drove home to celebrate Christmas with my family.  Between a conversation with colleagues about privilege around religion and television personalities claiming that Santa and Jesus were white, combined with a rewatching of the final season of the West Wing over the past few months, faith is strongly on my mind.

When I was in my graduate program, I worked on a presentation with a couple of colleagues and what came across to me as especially important was a definition by Fowler (1981), stating that faith is a the way we go about making and maintaining meaning in life.  There are amazing people in my life who spend their days sharing the new evangelization as a core of their Catholic practice and work life.  On the other hand, I find myself talking with students about their experiences, I see them share faith in so many areas.  Each is beautiful.

As I talk with students about struggling through determining what they want to do in life, or exploring relationships with friends and romantic partners, figuring out what works best for them, it’s not always about the area about which they are speaking.  More often than not, it is a crisis of faith.  The way in which they have always made meaning is no longer working for them.  I’ve had moments like this.  I imagine most of the world has had these moments.

I guess, right now, I’m pondering this as I wonder how we help support each other’s faith in others, faith in nature, faith in religion, faith in science, and ultimately, how we support one another’s faith.  Is there a way for the world to do that better?  I see a lot of polarization lately, which doesn’t mean I miss the ways in which I support this polarization.  But, in doing so, am I doing things that support others?  For this one semester, I want to try and do this.  Do more listening than talking.  Take time to find out where faith is found and how to work through these crises.  And do it without judgment, without insisting my faith practice is the only faith practice, but supporting those who struggling.  I don’t think that means I need to minimize my faith practices; instead, I think (and I’m thinking out loud) that these can live in harmony.  I’m convinced we can support one another’s faith practices simply by listening more and talking less.  Let’s engage in dialogue instead of act as though every conversation is a fight we are trying to win.  Let’s make the world a better place.

With some frequency, I ask my colleagues and my students what they are doing to make the world better.  This is my goal at the moment.  Please join me in making the world a better place.