What I’m Thinking – June 18

What I’m Thinking – June 18

Sundays are good days for taking things a little slower. For getting up a little earlier to weed the garden before it gets too hot. To not be bothered by the kids sleeping in. To have a quiet conversation with my husband. To give my son the brunch making duties. To hide away in my office for some blogging reflection.

I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days writing challenge. I started to build a habit of writing daily, and to push through the demon self-editor. I haven’t read my posts. OK, I have read one or two, but only to see if I had written about the topic before. To get through the challenge, I started categories to help me think of topics, hoping they’d be interesting. But trying not to think about if readers liked it or not.

It’s not that I don’t care if the reader is engaged. It’s that if I worry too much about what people think, I will not try. The fear monster gains strength and her greatest weapon of destruction is procrastination.

I’ve mentioned a daily blogger that I read, Seth Godin. There are too many days when his morning post supports the exactly thought I’m having. Today was spot on:
The 100 posts in 100 days challenge was like learning to walk. Of course, I stumbled. But I’m happy to say that I feel really good about persisting through the “ah, screw it” thought.

As a musician, I should know this is the only way to really learn how to do something. This mind set informs my own teaching as well. But I don’t always approach change this way. I’m sure it’s fear of ridicule, imposter syndrome, or showing signs of weakness.

But I want to be successful in other areas. Too many other areas. I have to make some choices and small changes. The biking to work goal is going well; but I have to manage saboteurs better.  Other health decisions are too easily passed to “ah, screw it” because I haven’t developed better choices that lead to long term habits. If I limit the choices, I may make better decisions. Funny, that’s how I got my toddlers to cooperate…
“You can have strawberries or bananas.”
“You can wear this outfit, or that outfit.”
“When you sit quietly through this lecture, you will get a reward of playing in a fountain. If you choose not to cooperate, no playtime in the fountain.”
“You either come with me now, or I’ll leave you in the park all alone to be eaten by wolves…” (This is what I say to them now, as 14 year olds.)

I’ve got to mother myself. Give myself less choices. Take smaller steps and be happy with the steps, not the distance covered in a day, or a week, or a month.

What I’m Seeing – June 15

When you have a friend kind enough to tell you there’s something stuck in your teeth, you are grateful.

When you have a friend who on a spontaneous lunch date listens to your whining about not going on your planned trip to Wisconsin, and wondering what to do with the time now available…. and before you can even take a breath for yet another droning….

“Get a hair cut.”

I’ve been growing out a pixie cut. First, as a lesson to my daughter that hair always grows back. She’s not buying it – loves her hair long enough to sit on. Then as a dare – how long can I let it grow before I’m completely disgusted. Mostly because pixie maintenance had to move off the budget.

Well, my friend saved me an impending episode of morning revulsion. I was happy to make an appointment with the stylist I like so much, I’ll follow her to any salon. She practices reflective listening, and has always managed to style my hair in to a flattering adaptation of what I say to what actually fits my face. And she doesn’t try to get me to color my hair. She actually styles the gray highlights as a face framing feature.

The stylist took this picture. I can see how the back of my head has more grays than I’ve seen before. I like how evenly they are coming in. But with hair color turning as I age, I shouldn’t let myself go without some grooming for so long. Today I went from scraggly mess, to a bob.

Guess this means tomorrow I drink water at the office out of a fancier glass.

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Note: Let me know if you’d like the name of my stylist. She’s amazing.

What I’m thinking – June 13

I was supposed to be going to bed early tonight so I can get an early start to a road trip to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in five years.

I was supposed to have an awesome time re-telling college stories, and visiting a place near and dear to my heart.

I was supposed to spend a couple of days with my mom before coming back to Bethlehem.

But my eyes aren’t supposed to float apart. So it means using the time to figure out how to pace the strain I put on my eyes to see if I can go a few more months before I finally give in to surgery.

One song keeps rolling around and around in my head for this moment:

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What I’m Researching – June 10

The first time I went to the doctor to find out why I was seeing double, my GP sent me to a neurologist. In 2010, the initial tests were for neurological disorders. I knew from the beginning, I wasn’t experiencing MS symptoms; and I was a little mad that we weren’t looking at less invasive tests before we went down the path of medieval spinal taps. (No thank you)

So I let it go for two years, until my work was severely challenged. I was driving many miles back and forth to Harrisburg for a fellowship in educational leadership. While the road became familiar, double vision isn’t fun in construction zones. So back to the doctor. This time, my husband suggested I see an ophthalmologist. He has to see one regularly for his MS.

Besides a pretty snarky bedside manner, I liked this guy. He diagnosed me with strabismus and gave me a prism clip to attach to my glasses to see if that would pull my eye back into alignment. It looked a little steampunk. I only clipped it on when I was alone in my office or in rehearsals. As much as I’ve been trained to keep looking at the conductor, I only want to see one of them.

In the last four years, I’ve had to increase the prism of my prescription three times. Each time, keeping with the same frames because my script is pretty pricey. I found out this week, that there’s no more prism increase for my shifting eyes. Surgery is the next step.

The procedure is common. Once he sees the condition of the muscles that are supposed to hold my eye in balance with the other eye, he would decide whether to weaken one muscle, or tighten the other. It would mean a week of recovery, and my eye will hurt, be bloody, and probably look like I was in a fight. Or worse, if the surgery goes wrong, I could end up looking like Marty Feldman. Which may be a blessing in disguise if I want to change careers and become a comic…

I thought the migraines were from weather changes. Turns out, I read more when it’s raining out. I also wear out my eyes with reed making, computer work, and writing. The reason I feel so much better when I cook is that it gives my eyes a break from close-up examination.

Next step is to determine the out of pocket expense. And how where I can find sparkles to bedazzle my eye patch! See gallery for some ideas I’ve found so far…

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When was the last time….? June 2

When was the last time….? June 2

Friday night. Both kids are away on an overnight band/orchestra school trip. They are in the capable hands of other parents and their music teachers.

The last time we were away from the kids for a night was more than a year ago when we had a concert opportunity we couldn’t refuse. Luckily, our neighbor helped us.

I honestly think this is the first time since they were born, that Steve and I have the home to ourselves. It’s fun, but at the same time, a little unbalancing. Something is missing.

I wonder how this feeling might grow in four years, if they decide to leave home for college. I’m just going to put this feeling here for now. It’s not a crisis, it’s not anything to be sad about. It just is.

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What I’m Thinking – May 18

Started the day pulling on work-out clothes to get the kids to early orchestra rehearsal before tonight’s concert. I don’t mind doing this as long as I don’t bump into anyone socially – I’m usually a mess.

Steve will take them in if he wants to get to his office early, or if I’m too tired to get up. I usually volunteer to do it to help get me out of bed. When I get home, I’ll start with a few household chores while I wait my turn in the shower. I needed to bake for tonight’s concert before the weather got too hot to turn on the oven.

In between making the caramel sauce, layering oatmeal crusts, sucking up pet hair tumbleweeds with the vacuum, and sorting my son’s laundry (turning out 17 socks and 15 other articles of clothing – pet peeve), it hit me.

Am I in a full-on gender role trap?

My son was researching a topic for school on “femi-nazi’s.” We’ve had a great string of conversations about feminism; text book definitions, and examples in real life.

I’m about to head to the office. I have a few hours there and an off site meeting before I get back to “mom” stuff. I think this post will be a two-parter…


The “office” was a great break from my thoughts. There’s plenty of work to be done. Exciting work. Inspiring work. Work that will have an impact. I’m with people who care about and love what they do.

My husband is awesome. My kids are awesome. My mom and siblings are awesome. My pets are awesome. My friends are awesome. The bike ride in didn’t hurt either.

Came home to chores done. Treated myself to another taste of the bars I made for the concert.

If I’m trying to find a balance between mom-housewife-career, it’ll be the fulcrum I choose. Dammit.

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What I’m Teaching – April 20

When launching a pedagogical experiment, it’s better to keep the students in the loop. Mid-semester, I decided to not give the students feedback. It’s been more of a social experiment for me than I anticipated. One that I’m starting to question. I’m questioning it because I’m feeling the students’ anxiety. My conviction is waning. Maybe I’ll give in….
The intention was to put students in a place of unknowing that was more like the real world. With entrepreneurship, you often have to go with your gut and do what feels right. My opinion doesn’t matter. It’s the people who will eventually support your proposal, be your partner, or invest in your idea.
To be a successful change maker, one must be observant, find problems and understand how they came to be. This kind of success won’t be measured in a grade.
But I wrote in my own syllabus how their grade would be determined. I haven’t held up my end of the bargain. 
A few years ago a friend gave me a link to this post from a writing professor in Indiana, Brad King. I’m not sure I would have been so completely with him when I was a college student. But having traveled the road of life with lots of bumps and disappointments, I was moved by his efforts to offer this wisdom to his students. If you haven’t read his Tigger Talk: On Life, the Process, and Everything, please do.
Learning outcomes are more important than a letter grade.
I come from the mind set of getting evaluated for a musical performance. I couldn’t cram the night before a concert. I had to show up for all rehearsals, identify my weak areas, and work them out on my own. There is not one judge of my performance. Feedback was from the audience, the ensemble, the conductor, but more critically, my self. The true test was whether or not I would win the audition. I had to learn how to identify all the problems I needed to fix in order to be successful.
I want the students to identify problems, find solutions, and create effective ways to present innovative ideas and solutions. The judge of their work will be their peers, their partners, their clients, their customers, their investors, their audience.
I have intentionally kept grading and feedback vague because I’m also experimenting with the course. The opportunity of minimal feedback is for students to see if they will be more intrinsically motivated for their own learning instead of being accountable to me. Every one of my pedagogical experiments have never negatively impacted students grades; only my course evaluations. I’m willing to take risks to make learning more meaningful. If students have been attending regularly and contributing to class discussion, they will be fine in this course in their final grade. I also expect them to submit all the assignments. For those students who are missing work, I track them down and we have a conversation.
This weekend is the big engagement weekend. The students are supposed to volunteer for a festival in some capacity, or participate in some other meaningful way. I’ve offered them the opportunity to experience the chili tasting part as an option as long as they buy a pass.
I’m still working on how I can guide their accountability. Having them write reflections are good ways for them to demonstrate what they’ve learned; but I’m more interested in what problems they’ve discovered. All along this semester, questions have driven conversation and reflection. I want them to go one step beyond the usual, “I learned more about Bethlehem’s Southside.” I’m interested in what they’re wondering about. Why didn’t they know the discovery before they participated in the festival? What factors might have led to them learning about these discoveries? How might they improve sharing the knowledge they acquired? Who will care about what they learned?
I’m prone to overthinking. This keeps me up at night, and makes me get out of bed in a panic. Maybe I should post grades. But I still want them to care more about what they are learning than their grade.
I can’t make them care. But I can keep encouraging them to experience and to tell me what they learned.
Help me, readers. Be bold. Judge me.
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