Pushing Through This Week with the Help of #Hope and #Pairs

This was the 2nd week of the semester, and it’s been a little rough. Change is always a challenge and more so when there is a lot, all at once. My husband is adjusting to his full schedule of classes. Meanwhile, I’m adjusting to a new class of students and getting ready to add a 2nd class next week. Add onto that that we are sharing a home with family, and another family member recently moved in and the challenges and adjustments that go along with that… yeah, it’s been stressful and challenging.

I have been more determined though to push through at times, and slow down when I need to. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a challenge for me to not put myself last. With that in mind, I am trying to put myself towards the top more. I am recognizing that if I spend some quality time reading a book, soaking in the tub, or playing my guitar, that I re-emerge more relaxed, and focused. I am also able to not let minor things get to me so much, and my “limited resources” are more available to me, and those that I wish to share them with.

I truly love my husband more than anything, and I want our marriage to be the best that it can be. I want to have a secure bond, and feel confident that it is so. I want to be supportive and engaged. Sadly, there are times when something is weighing on me, my mind is weighed down by it, and it weighs on my marriage often in the form of miscommunication or missed opportunities to connect with each other.

The tool that I have found to be most helpful so far is the Daily Temperature Reading from Pairs. There are 5 simple steps to check-in with each other. Appreciations allow me to share with Steve something that I appreciated about him that day and also for me to recognize that even during tough days there is always something about him or some little thing that he did that I appreciate. Sharing new information helps me to remember that there often is some little tidbit of information that I have to share with him, and I am able to share it before I forget to. Puzzles allows me to share what is confusing to me and sometimes helps me to find answers by talking it out, or other times it is something that my partner has an answer to. Sharing concerns with recommendations allows me to share my concerns, worries, fears, etc with my husband and be heard; I am also able to share ideas that I have to mitigate the concern. It helps me to feel that my concern is heard, validated, and together we are able to look at it and sometimes together we are able to see a better solution together. Lastly, we share our wishes, hopes, and dreams – at that point, I usually feel much less stressed, and more calm, relaxed, hopeful, and sometimes just really at peace.

One of my recent pieces of new information was that I was asked if I would be interested in participating in a research project “Caregivers’ perspectives on their experience living with a combat veteran”. I had mixed feelings initially, partially because I would be audio recorded, and partially because the idea of being labeled a caregiver feels uncomfortable to me. However, a possible benefit of participating is how my perspective and our story could impact future services offered to caregivers of combat veterans, and I have found that veteran couples and families like us are under-served, and under-supported. There simply aren’t enough resources available.

War and combat has significantly impacted my husband’s life, and together with that, my life, and our marriage. In some ways, it has brought us closer together, and in other ways it feels like we have to work so much harder than everyone else so that it doesn’t pull us apart. There are things that we are working to understand, adjust to, and work through. Luckily, we were able to get into family counseling at a veteran’s service center. However, while we’ve been there, it’s been difficult to get consistent appointments, there are times when the counselors are clearly overwhelmed themselves, and it’s sad to hear about how many families are not able to get in because there is only one family counselor at the center, and only 3 in our entire state. Maine has a significant veteran population, and yet there are only 3 of these counselors, 1 at each location, which is simply sad. I think that having more family counselors would help more veterans because it would help their families that help support them, and for some, I think it would also be the only way that they would find themselves in counseling in the first place because they may not seek out help on their own or for themselves.

I hope that sharing my perspective can make a difference somehow. I wish things would change. I dream about things like if I won the latest powerball, how I could really make a difference. I would buy us a house of our own, and do things like pay off student loans, and our family members’ debts, but I’d also like to build some sort of center so that there could be someplace for veteran’s, and/or their family or spouse where they could go for respite, recreation, and support – someplace that they could go where people understand their situation, someplace to recharge, and where they can be in a more controlled environment to enjoy some of those things sometimes. Maybe someday…

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#LetsMakeTodayBetterBy having courage and compassion

I am typically a compassionate person, and this may have played a part in my gravitating towards caregiver roles in my work and personal life. I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith. I learned that it was important to share with others, give even when you have little, and treating everyone with kindness. When I went to Catholic School, I remember learning in 1st grade from Sister Patricia the golden rule “do unto others, as you wish they do unto you”, and that in order to have joy, “Jesus comes first, then others, and then yourself.”  I think that this is one of the reasons that caring, and kindness towards other is easy for me.

In my current work, I try to spread compassion by talking with my students about things like common misconceptions about mental illness and how to fight mental illness stigma.

Sadly, the media uses sensational headlines about mental illness to sell their stories and politicians use mental illness to push their agendas. I try to counteract some of these things, even in the small world in which I work, live, and play. There are times when it feels my efforts are futile, and other times, I feel I’m really helping to make great strides. I hope that it helps one of my students someday to have courage and strength for their friends, family, partner, or themselves, so that they may get help if and when they ever need it. In the world we live in, it takes great courage to ask for help. In my work and in my life, I have seen firsthand how the stigma of mental illness has kept families and individuals from seeking help.

The world needs more compassion. We, as a people, need more compassion, but it also takes great courage. Let’s make the world a better place; have courage to throw kindness around like confetti!

 

Recognizing Progress

As a bit of a perfectionist, I continue to be faced with thoughts of things that I do are not enough, or good enough. I can always do better. I am finding though that I am gaining power though through continuing to explore and name my feelings, and then re-frame my thinking.

I think this is helping to diminish some of my frustrations, sadness, and disappointment. I had two more classes to teach this semester that were set to start in February, but I was waiting to find out if they would run or be canceled. I knew that each needed more students to enroll in them, ideally. I was informed that one is expected to continue and the other is canceled due to low enrollment. I understand that the decision has to be made within a certain time-frame so that the school can avoid having to pay me for canceling late, and so that the students can still add another class. While it remains a bit disappointing that one was canceled, I am choosing instead to be thankful.

I am thankful that it looks like I am going to have an awesome psychology class this semester! I am also thankful that I will also have another class that will be starting in February which will be an evening sociology class. I am thankful to have the mornings to sleep in when I choose and am able to. I’ve never been a morning person and I don’t see that changing. I am thankful that I get to enjoy fridays off with my husband. Soon enough, life will get busier again, so whatever downtime we can have together is always a blessing. I am also thankful that I am not overloaded with work while I am still getting the hang of teaching. I am glad that I can recognize the small gains and progress that I am making.

I shared my icebreaker experience with my department chair. She appreciated it, and asked to share it with my colleagues. There was a time when I was working in a really unhealthy environment before I was teaching, so I can really appreciate the freedom, support, and validation that I receive in my current work environment. Some of the students that I get to work with, really are a pleasure to have in class. The other day, one of them excitedly said “Your activities slay!” I’m trying to let go of self-doubt, and instead hold onto moments like those.

A Successful First Day Icebreaker in My Classroom

 

A successful start of class icebreaker

A post shared by Desiree (@dthompson207) on

 

I spent a lot of time searching for icebreakers that I felt would be of value for my class. I was hoping to find some to help make my students and myself less nervous. After a lot of searching, I decided that my initial activity would be an icebreaker with a lesson that lasts.

I gathered a cloth pouch courtesy of a holiday Crown Royal purchase (luckily there’s only branding on one side, so no one could see it), as well as 14 semi-random objects that I could fit in the bag. I chose a small ball of yarn, post-its, a pen, bottlecap magnets, a snowman ornament, an orange paracord bracelet, a tiny music box, a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, and a handful of small plastic animals. When it came time to start class, I began taking the objects out of the bag. I gained the full attention of a number of the students in the front, but some of the students in the back were still chatting away with their neighbors or were otherwise oblivious to what was going on. I returned all of the items to the bag, and asked everyone to take out a piece of paper and list as many of the items as they could remember. Some began making their list, some asked others for paper, and others had a minor meltdown.

I told them that I would be repeating this exercise, and took the items out again. Something very cool happened. I looked up to see that not only had I captured the attention of the students in the back, but now, many of the students at the tables in the back of the room were standing up, and peeking around the group in the front. I put the items away again, and asked the students to make a new list. Of course, they all got more items, and one student in the front was able to list all of the items.

One student came to the conclusion on her own as she said “Alright, I think I need to rethink my seating choice” and moved to the front. I was so impressed with this little activity! Not only did it illustrate that it is important to pay attention, and to arrive punctually and prepared, but it caught everyone’s attention and I think really hit home for them.

Starting a Snowy Spring Semester

So today is the start of the new semester for me. Winter has finally arrived in Maine it seems just in time for the start of the spring semester. For now, I will just be teaching one section of Introduction to Psychology, and later on in the semester I may have more courses start.

Last semester was a bit challenging for me with a larger class size, new textbook, and new course. With a larger class, I also encountered a wider range of student skills, abilities, and maturity. I also had a range of student satisfaction levels. Some said they really enjoyed class, looked forward to it, and learned a lot, but a few students expressed that they really didn’t enjoy the course, and didn’t feel they learned enough. In their reviews, it also sounded like they were appreciative of me as an instructor, and also some really disliked me as an instructor.

This semester, I plan to move forward and improve upon myself and my courses. I hope to gain more confidence in myself as an educator. I know that there are some things that I can improve on, and I also know that I am knowledgeable and experienced in relevant areas. I have begun to get feedback that my background is impressive even, which is really kind of strange to me. I am going to go into today knowing that I could have planned other activities, I could have done things differently, but the best thing to do is move forward with my plan, remember to breathe, and put my best foot forward.

With that being said, I am a little nervous and anxious about today, but I am also excited. I have some things planned for class, that I hope will be interesting, exciting, and well-received. I plan to do a little demonstration to allow students to get to know my classroom expectations, as well as me as a person. As an icebreaker, I also plan to do a personality test sort of activity as well so that I can get to know the students, and they can also learn a little about each other. I will go over the syllabus and other first day sort of things of course, and I think I will also show them an episode of Brain Games. I love how Brain Games takes pieces of psychology and makes them relevant, approachable, and fun for everyone.

Legit Opportunity to Earn with Social Media

Just like many other people, I am working on trying to earn as much as I can, and save what I can as well. In my current position, I work part-time teaching courses in psychology and sociology. I am fortunate to have some guidelines but also a lot of freedom and independence in teaching my courses. Course offerings vary by semester, and each class needs a certain minimum number of students to run as well. Therefore, it can be a bit difficult to predict what I will have for work each semester. It is also a bit challenging to find other positions that would match well with my schedule.

For the above reasons, I am interested in work at home opportunities. There are many out there, but not so many that are open to Maine residents. I am also a skeptic and it is a bit difficult to determine which opportunities are legitimate. I have spent a lot of time researching online, and sorting through reviews.


Get Sponsored by Big Brands

One of the opportunities that I’ve tried is Izea (aka SocialSpark). It is pretty neat. You can get sponsored to post on social media channels. It is free to join and start. I’ve had enough success with it, that I decided to try out one of the paid plans at $1 per month.

You don’t have to have a ton of followers to get started. At the time of writing this post, I have 378 Twitter Followers. I’m not sure of the exact number I had when I started on Izea, but I do know it was at least 100 less. If you have a low number and want to try it out, you can still make a little and work your way up.

Opportunities come through periodically and are subject to a bidding process. (Under the free plan, you get 5 bids per cycle.) You write a quick note saying why they should choose you and set your price, and shortly after the company will respond (although occasionally, the offer will expire before the company responds. (I’m thinking this means it was a maybe, but you were just lower on the list before time ran out… who knows really, but that’s my guess.) The bidding process is also made easy, as you connect your social media accounts and it will recommend a starting price based on your followings.

I really enjoy this little gig because it means I get paid for something that I already enjoy doing. So I just wanted to put this out there, I’ve tried this, and so I know it is legitimate. If you are interested in trying it, click the banner in my post, and give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised 🙂

Walkie McWalker

change-ahead-sign

 

I recently found out that I gained a little weight over the holidays and it was pretty disappointing, especially since I was down 20 lbs before Halloween. I guess I could mope about it, or I could get going and do something about it. I’m not usually one to make new year’s resolutions, but I decided this year that I simply want to be a happier, healthier me.

I have a bit of a cold and it was about the last thing that I felt like doing today, but I managed to get on the treadmill for some exercise. As I came out of the room, my husband greeted me with “Hey Walkie McWalker…” and gave me a kiss. That little extra acknowledgement and accomplishment felt good.

As for other tasks under my resolution, I aim to work on my photography, craft, and guitar skills. I also hope to improve my confidence, as well as my teaching. Furthermore, I plan to improve my relationships. It will be a lot of work, and a lot to focus on, but I think if I continue, I will be a happier, healthier me.

The Gifts of Imperfection

I’ve read a lot of books out of necessity instead of pleasure, perhaps that is why I don’t often read anymore. Recently our family counselor gave my husband and I “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brene Brown.

I am a bit of a perfectionist and so to an extent I am anxious about making mistakes and fearful that I won’t measure up. I have trouble with doing something simple and letting it be. It could be something as simple as writing an email; I’ll find myself writing, editing, re-reading and re-writing. This has served me well in academia as my papers have been well-written. Although, even when my graduate professors would return my papers with comments like “100 – This was excellent! I enjoyed reading your paper and learning about … I could not find anything wrong with this paper”, I still had trouble accepting that feedback and feeling satisfied.

This year, I made my new year’s resolution a bit broad, I aim to be a happier, healthier me. As part of this, I am reading and taking time to reflect on Brown’s words. In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brown discusses shame resilience, as well as courage, kindness, compassion, and connection. What I am learning to recognize and remember is that kindness and compassion towards the self is just as important as having these towards others. Furthermore, these are also important if we want to make the best connections with ourselves and each other. These are also key if we want to be and enjoy life in the moment.

With that being said, I am going to practice courage in starting a new knitting project, a Slouchy Beanie with a Visor. I am a new knitter and it will be the first hat that I have attempted, so I am a little nervous that it may not come out right. I am going to lean into that feeling though, and just go for it. All of my scarfs so far have come out lovely, so hopefully this project will too!

 

Save Amazon Prime Membership – this weekend only!

I read this morning that Amazon Prime is offering a discount on their annual membership fee, so I thought that I would pass this information along. (FYI: they offer a small reward to Amazon Affiliates, however, apparently this isn’t an option for Mainers. So I’m sharing this out of the goodness of my heart, not for any monetary or other gain.)

In celebration of the 73rd Annual Golden Globes, Amazon is dropping their Prime Membership fee to $73 for this weekend only (1/15/2016-1/17/2016). The sale starts Friday at 9:00 p.m. PT and ends at 11:59 p.m. local time on Sunday.

Amazon Prime Membership will give you the following benefits:

  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items
  • Free Release-Date Delivery on video games and more
  • Unlimited photo storage with anywhere access
  • Exclusive 30-minute early access to select Lightning Deals and events on MyHabit.com
  • Instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video
  • Read free books each month through Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
  • Access to over a million songs and hundreds of playlists, ad-free

You can sign up here.

 

My family enjoys similar benefits through Amazon Student membership which students can signup for (you need an .edu email address for verification purposes). Student membership is half of the standard Prime fee and excludes the media benefits. Although, I hope Amazon will extend full benefits to students in the future, as I’m sure they would also enjoy Prime Video, Prime Music, and the Kindle library benefits as well.