MANY years ago, I recognized how much I love all things Italian. Food, wine and shoes. I mean, what’s not to love?
So I set a goal and decided I would go to Italy for my 50th birthday (which was exactly one year ago today)!
Last year, as I was approaching the big day, I realized I would not have the time nor the funds to make that trip. I also realized that turning 50 was really not that much of an accomplishment. Okay, so I didn’t step in front of a moving bus, or take a tumble out of a giant tree, but otherwise, I managed to keep myself alive.
Graduating college after grinding it out for over six years of classes? Now there’s an accomplishment. So I began dreaming and planning, and in March, I booked the tickets. Prince Charming and I would celebrate this momentous milestone in Florence.
Then, there was a little snag two weeks prior to boarding. Prince Charming and I parted ways, and rather than sobbing my way through my dream trip, we worked it out for my daughter to be my traveling companion.
This required some rearranging, but we did it. It’s no longer a romantic bed and breakfast in the Chianti hill country. It is now 2 nights in Riomaggiore after hiking Cinque Terre and then 3 nights in Florence visiting museums and taking in the sights.
I am sad that the Italian man (remember my earlier mention of loving all things Italian?) and I weren’t able to do this together, but I am so very grateful that this trip is still happening. If there are melancholy moments, my girl is sure to pull me right out of them. (Her sister is 21 weeks along in her first pregnancy or she would have figured out a way to join us. Both daughters are bringing such joy to their momma this year!)
What happens when life totally throws us a curve ball? How do we proceed when we feel like we’ve been punched in the gut? Of course I can use the lemons and lemonade analogy, but that’s so overused.
Maybe when life hands you sour grapes, you let them ferment while you go on a wine tour in Italy. Stay tuned for the post-trip blogs that are sure to come.
This is the story of how fairy tales don’t always end the way you think they will.
Once upon a time, the lovely lady was enchanted with the man Prince Charming. Her life was rich and full and she was very happy before they connected. He only brought more joy and delight. The lovely lady had a big goal in front of her, and she worked very hard. He was very patient and understanding, and she was glad for that.
And then after many months, the lovely lady reached her goal! She suddenly had a lot more time to spend with Prince Charming. This was so wonderful as she dreamed of how they might live happily ever after.
And then the Prince gave the lovely lady some sad news. He no longer wanted to spend time with the lovely lady. There were logical reasons of course.
But love is not always logical.
The lovely lady was sad, because she loved the Prince so much. And yet she saw that he was unhappy, and tearfully accepted his farewell.
Her sadness faded a bit more each day, as did his. They agreed to remain friendly which was important because of their work together.
Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps not a moral for others, but certainly there is a lesson there for the Prince and the lovely lady.
Each experience, each season brings new things and new understandings. As we grow, we learn. And as we learn, we grow. Sometimes a couple grows together, and sometimes each grows their own way.
And either way, when their paths are intentional, they will both live happily ever after.
These were dreadful words when I was a teen. I didn’t understand how this was a punishment. Wouldn’t keeping me at home only torture my parents? Nope, they knew it was much more devastating to me. Alienation from the entire outside world. No parties, no hanging out with friends, no movies or dates or fun of any sort.
Nope, you’re not going. Not even for the AC/DC concert tickets you bought six months ago. You, young lady, or going nowhere. You are grounded.
Fast forward to the past week, or month, or year, or even ten or twenty years. I have not grounded myself as an adult, but I am about to.
It’s been lots of beach and sunshine and social time and friends and lounging. It was completely necessary and all very essential to my mental well being. My social life needed a little resuscitating after the substantial neglect that school work had caused. I was playing catch up, and I discovered that all of this is too much. I need to rest a bit.
I looked at my calendar from last week and said, “Who is this crazy person writing all this stuff in here?” And then, well, it was me of course. Too many things all at once. I need to prioritize.
It’s difficult though, because I’ve put so many things on hold for when I finished school. And now here is the ridiculous back log of things I want to do.
I am remembering to be grateful though. I do not dare for one second complain about the things on my list. Among these items are practice Italian for my upcoming trip and research some writer stuff. And some entrepreneurial stuff that has my attention. ALL of it is so very very delicious and fun and I’m here for it.
Isn’t it funny that as an adult, I want to be grounded. The way the yogis mean it, like, solid, centered, stable, peaceful. Grounded, like in a good way. It feels like an escape. A retreat of sorts. It isn’t a punishment at all. It’s actually more like a reward for being wise enough to stay put.
I have a comfy couch, Netflix, and the wonderful gift of time. As my favorite yogi Adriene says, “Rest, and absorb the nutrients of your practice.
So the previously overused excuse of ,”I can’t, I have homework,” is now, “I can’t, I’m grounded.” I’ll come out to play when I get back from Italy. I promise!
There’s this great moment at the end of each semester for course evaluations. Students get to freely voice their opinions of each class, and each professor (it’s anonymous). I’m uncertain as to the actual impact these answers create, but it’s nice to applaud a great professor (or in some cases, not).
After taking 40 courses in the last 6 years, I’ve made some keen observations regarding professors and their MO’s. With graduation behind me, I feel like it’s safe to make some non-anonymous comments (although I haven’t technically received the diploma yet!?)
For any would-be professors (or current ones brave enough to read), here are the points that stand out.
A Kick-Ass Professor Must:
Possess a passion for teaching. Leave your ego at home, and remember you’re in the classroom to teach (if that is not your reason, please do something else). Being a genius in your field may be impressive, but not always helpful.
Check your own work first. Review your material each semester, don’t just copy it and change the due dates. Keep it fresh and relevant. Are you clinging to an outdated text book? Are you using long-gone technology? The syllabus you wrote 12 years ago could use a refresh. Students need to be on their game, and the same goes for you.
Post the syllabus on time. It’s important to start off on the right foot, and respect is a two-way street. Students appreciate knowing what is expected. We’ve got one very short week before we commit our time, energy and money to your course.
Communicate! Answer emails in a timely fashion. Give solid instructions and a clear rubric for big projects. No need to leave us guessing. Not even your best student can hit an undefined target.
Let go of the busy work. Students are often juggling work and family responsibilities. Having a ton of small assignments is just plain unnecessary and even more, it’s annoying. College students are not third graders. Why create more work? Just don’t.
Give reasonable due dates. Post assignments well ahead of time, especially when it’s an online class. It’s unreasonable to put tight schedule demands on adults. Posting an assignment on Monday with a due date of Wednesday sets students up for frustration, and maybe even failure. Jobs will likely provide this insanity soon enough, if they don’t already. We don’t need to practice dealing with stress.
Make it fun! On the first day (or night) of class, plan an activity that allows everyone to connect with each other. One of the best things about college is meeting others. You can help this process and make your classroom way less awkward.
Be happy to be there. Obviously we all have days where we’d rather be lounging on the beach (no? just me?). The energy you bring to the class makes all the difference. No one really wants to be anywhere for three hours in the evening, I promise. If you’re only there for the paycheck, please teach online classes only.
Pass on the Group Projects. These should be assigned only under the following circumstances: a) you allow time in class for the group to work together, b) there is a reason for the project to be done in a group (teaching us how to work together is not reason enough), and c) you allow the group to grade their fellow members as a portion of the grade. The only students who like group projects are the slackers and the control freaks, so skip it if you can.
Award cash and prizes. I’m not kidding. Some of my favorite professors were known to throw out a $20 or a bag of candy for some friendly competition. Yes, we’re adults, but a little incentive goes a long way. *Disclaimer: we only swore not to tell the professor’s wife about the $20. I never promised not to blog about it.
Use the text book – if you require the textbook. Enough spent and said.
Give me a break. Allow a short break at least every hour. I will get up and walk out if I have to use the bathroom or get a drink. We all should not be sitting for hours on end (remember, you are probably standing, it’s much more tiring to sit).
Bring in experts. One of the best experiences you can provide is the connection to the “real world”. If you’ve got a dynamic connection in your field, bring them in as a guest lecturer. They may not have “professor credentials”, but can provide valuable insight to students.
Let us out early. If class is scheduled until 8:45pm, the latest you should EVER go is 8:30pm. Start on time, but finish early for the win.
Don’t be a jerk about grades. Drop the lowest quiz score. Offer extra credit bonuses. Grade on a curve. Round up! That score of 89.5 is its own kind of awful. We all have rough seasons, and life doesn’t care about the rubric. Students are people trying to improve themselves. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
Grade homework, papers, posts and quizzes as soon as possible. Better yet, make it multiple choice and it will grade itself. We work hard and like to know how we’re doing. Keeping it all a mystery doesn’t help anyone.
Show genuine interest in your students. Be accessible if we need you. Give out your cell. Have coffee together. If you want to make a positive impact (along with your decent wage), then open up. Sharing your time and energy only enhances the wisdom you share. And keeps your ratings high, your feedback positive, and your job secure (hopefully!).
So there’s my list. Fortunately, I enjoyed several such professors who possessed many of these very traits. When you boil it down, it’s simply being passionate about the work. Students may be younger and less educated, but we know it when someone cares.
Maybe I’ll offer a practical “how-to” course in the Doctoral program for those wanting to become professors. I can get paid for that, right?
This could very well be my new favorite word. It really means “beginning”, and that is exactly how I am choosing to view this momentous time.
Buh-bye school. Hello LIFE!
Of course, there has been plenty of life during my season of attending school. And I know the sacrifice of time, and the discipline of learning and studying has been worth it. But now it is time for other things.
What am I going to do with all of the time and energy that has been sucked up by school? That’s easy. Whatever I want.
Actually I have some catching up to do. With myself. With friends. With this very blog. And my studio. But it can all be done at a normal person’s pace, instead of the insanity that I have been practicing these many months.
Rabbit trail: One day last summer my friend Nadia said she was “pulling a Sherri”. She had booked like 6 major things into 2 days and had zero time to eat or change or rest in between. It was not a compliment.
Sure, I like efficiency. I like to cross items off my to-do list (and yes, I will write down things AFTER I do them just so I can cross them off). I like the feeling I get when I’ve accomplished things. But I also like to lay in my hammock, and stroll on the beach, and doodle. I like to read for the sheer pleasure of it. I like to take my time, and not rush so much.
I like taking care of myself, and this could mean cooking more than twice a month. It could mean taking yoga classes more often. And running again. It may mean sleeping better because my brain won’t have so much to process.
Hey there Life-After-School! You’re looking might fine. You’re right here, waiting for me. Thanks for showing me how to live well. I’m grateful for so much, and the degree is just a small part of that.
The most important thing is the people in my life, especially the ones who cheered me on, understood when I was studying, and listened to me whine when it was hard. There will be much less whining (and more wine-ing) I promise!
We’re headed out to a beach house for the next few days. This girl knows how to take a well deserved break and just where to park her beloved beach chair!
I am a great starter. I absolutely LOVE the beginning of new projects, like a freshly unwrapped canvas, or a new journal. Even the blinking cursor on a new page.
And then the place in the middle gets mucky for me. Slugging through it. Keeping my eye on the prize, and persevering through the not-so-fun places of the journey. The middle is my least favorite. It’s where I usually second guess my goal, get discouraged, and have often been known to just quit.
Finishing? Ahhh. That is the sweetest thing ever, especially when I’m satisfied with the result. How did the thing turn out? Can I stand back and give it a final look and be proud?
When I was running last summer, I enlisted the support of a couple of my more athletic runner friends. They each shared with me how important the finish is. To pour it on when you see the finish line. To always sprint at the end, even though you’re tired and just want to lay down and die.
There are TWO finals standing between me and graduation. And I have already checked my “what if” grade to see what happens if I bomb either of them. As it turns out, I’ll be just fine, and my grade will also be just fine.
But I am not going to bomb them. My version of “sprinting” to the finish is to forego an afternoon at the beach. Instead, I am reviewing 16 weeks of notes. It’s the worst part, but also the very best part. It’s the last time I’ll have to do this.
Sure, I’ll continue exploring and learning new things, but on my own timetable. I will certainly have more trips to the beach, more time with friends, and more time for just any ol’ thing I feel like doing. When I’m done with this.
Homework and tests and papers and finals – I’m not gonna miss you. It’s been a VERY long middle, over 6 years!! I’m not the same person I was when I began, but I’m so very glad I persevered. Besides, Game of Thrones will still be there waiting.
In just one week, I’ll be an official college graduate. I could just cry at the thought. I can see the finish line. It’s right there, and I’m going to sail across it like a champ.
Thanks for cheering me on! Until next time, Sherri
Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by people of all ages. I’m comfortable with this whether at work or school or wherever.
While some in my age bracket are grandparents, I never consider myself eligible for this category. The term grandparents has this “age-stigma” attached, doesn’t it? I tend to think of grandparents as, well, old.
Perhaps it is time to redefine this term. Actually now is the ideal time to come up with something more hip and modern. Why, you ask?
Because it’s a club of which I will soon become a member.
Yep, despite my youthful looks, energy and attitude, my eldest daughter is gonna have a BABY. It’s not like it’s completely bizarre, she’s in a committed, loving relationship. She’s a responsible adult who has been on her own for several years. And she is the exact same age that I was, when she came into the world.
*Note: I’m not sure this fact is at all reassuring. I’ll bet the other actual adults around me then, felt a bit like I do right now.
It seems like so long ago, and yesterday all at the same time. What in the actual world has happened? How is it that time deceives me like this?
No matter, if all goes well, and everyone stays healthy, this fall there will be a little one. Another generation coming along, and the warnings are hereby issued.
Warning #1: Grandma will NOT be my name. I’ll try for Gigi, but I am told the kid determines my actual grandma name. If you haven’t seen this before, it’s worth the watch.
Warning #2: I will be involved. Not like, move in with me and I’ll pay all of your bills, but definitely involved. Even though it looks like that wee one will be 1000 miles away for starters, that isn’t going to stop me.
Warning #3: The 1000 miles is in the direction of North. The self-imposed travel ban previously established from November 1 through May 1 is now lifted. Please send any winter clothing donations my way.
Warning #4: My daughter is now sharing her spotlight with whatever progeny she produces. This means there are still several more months for her to be front and center, and after that, it’s over. Her identity will be forever changed to ________’s mommy.
Warning #5: The focus of this blog will naturally shift with my imminent graduation in about 30 days (!!!), and now we have ideas for a new focus. I’ll bet you can guess. How many people transition from recent college graduate to grandparent in a span of a few months? I’ll have to look it up when finals are over.
So that’s a wrap for this bleary-eyed senior. It happens to be from all the studying, thank you very much.
A journey that began over six years ago is winding up and nearly finished.
After a lovely week of Spring Break, I had hoped I’d feel refreshed. I went for days without email, homework, schedules or alarms. I hit the beach and read non-cerebral books. After 8 full days of a whole bunch of nothing, I was beginning to feel a little bit like Oprah.
And then I had to return. Poorly explained assignments. Torturous final assessments. Mind numbing lectures. Group projects with people that can’t seem to align schedules. Extra meetings and bonus classes.
The real hilarity is that the same night I ordered my cap and gown, there were reps on hand to talk to us about the MBA program.
The only thing that is keeping me in this game is that I have not one, but TWO vacations already on the books – and paid for – to celebrate the upcoming commencement. The only big decision now is to how to bedazzle my cap for the big event.
If it weren’t for the letter saying I will be graduating with honors, I’d be so tempted to toss it all in the air right now and not finish another thing. But that would be silly. I’ve worked too hard to get lazy now.
Speaking of lazy, it’s 83 degrees with 44% humidity. I hear my hammock calling. I’ve spent enough time with my face looking at a screen today.
When some people write, they have their whole story perfectly crafted before the title comes to life. For me, almost without fail, the title is the first to surface. It’s a weird process, but it’s mine.
I knew last weekend’s events would become a blog post, and also I immediately knew it would carry this title. Weird again I know, but will make sense in the end, I promise.
My good friend Anita is the Youth Director at our church, and she recently took charge of nearly THIRTY teenagers for a weekend camp-out. Tents, hammocks, bonfires, the works. She’s brave. And some say gifted, but I’d say a little (actually a lot) crazy. Either way, those kids have a blast whenever they gather under her wing. With a three day weekend, ideal weather, and a huge campus, it was a teenage dream come true.
One of their typical scenarios is to break into teams and fully engage in some whackadoo competition. I’m not sure if it’s a lesson on the merits of being a good winner or a good loser. I’m not sure there even is a lesson. I think it’s just team spirit and shenanigans. Last weekend, as tradition would have it, the group divided in two and the nonsense began.
One activity was a late night scavenger hunt. Do this “crazy stunt”, take a picture, and the first team to text in all the pics is declared the winner. One such “crazy stunt” photo challenge was to tee-pee MY HOUSE.
This is an inherent risk of living close to their camp site. Also, when I was warned of this possibility, I gave Anita the green light. For the record, I’m not sure my permission actually mattered. She equipped me well for this late night invasion. First, she shared an approximate time frame, and then, she loaned me not one, but two nerf guns and a giant pack of ammo.
So I closed the gate, hunkered down inside, and waited. It was exhausting to pause Netflix to step out and investigate every little noise. As the 4th season of Grace and Frankie ended, I lost my enthusiasm and decided to call it.
The first team showed up in my final moments of flossing. By the time I stepped outside, armed and ready, they were long gone. There was plenty of evidence that Team One had scored. It was a good thirty minutes later when I heard the giggles outside my room from Team Two, and by then it just didn’t matter. I was not interested in crawling out of my comfy bed to defend my territory.
When I awoke, I couldn’t stop laughing.
What I failed to capture was my car, which was completely wrapped in Quilted Northern, which clung beautifully when it met the morning dew. I couldn’t help but smile as I envisioned them prowling around my yard the night before. Their harmless prank brought back similar memories of my own teenage tomfoolery.
Earlier that week, I had volunteered to heat and deliver their dinner that night. So I texted Anita that their evening meal would be held hostage until my lawn was tee-pee-free. I was sure they would want to right their wrong. Also, their very lives food was at stake.
When I walked outside to greet them, I declared that the mac ‘n cheese was safely warming in the oven and would be delivered unharmed later on. One of the boys, trash bag in hand, looked up at me sheepishly and said the most precious words…
“Wait, we tee-pee’d your whole house and car, and now you’re going to feed us?”
“Yes, that is correct”, I replied, “And it’s okay, there was no harm done. Thanks for coming back to clean it all up.”
He stood and stared in disbelief. It could have been the lack of sleep. I’d like to think that maybe it was a powerful moment of grace.
Isn’t that the way grace operates though? In the name of late night fun, I created a big mess for an innocent stranger. And the next day, the offended person is arranging a delicious dinner for me?
Yep, that’s grace for you.
So the next time your Youth Director friend wants to let her wily crew have a heyday in your front yard, let them. Just make sure you’ve got a pan (or two) of mac ‘n cheese on the ready.
There are times when I am perfectly content being on my own. Dining in a restaurant is not one of them. Especially on Sunday after church, when it seems most folks are connecting with family or friends, it seems weird to be solo.
Recently, this was the very situation in which I found myself. Because my daughter just began serving at a new restaurant, I drove there with the intention of being the friendly face in her section. I would give her some encouragement and a fat tip while enjoying a meal with Prince Charming. When he was unable to join, I found myself there alone.
Sure, I could have easily sat at the bar, but that wasn’t her section, defeating the entire plan. That’s when I noticed a single lady also waiting for an open table. I asked if she was dining alone. When she confirmed this truth, I confessed my discomfort and asked if she would share a table with me. She agreed, and we proceeded to enjoy a lovely lunch.
While we didn’t have a lot in common, our conversation was certainly pleasant. It turned out she had been recently widowed – a major life shift after 35 years of marriage. Grief is a heavy companion in the early phases, and my church experience helped me to proceed with grace.
I tried to simply be a good listener, but I think I may have been a little too forward in my suggestions for her healing. I tried to frame it with, I know this ___ has helped others, and this ___ has helped me. Be a mentor, volunteer somewhere, find a cause and get involved.
Why in the world would I know what she should do? I don’t even know what I should do most days, and I’ve known me forever! This woman and I had only met a few moments ago. My hope was that she was encouraged, but I’m not sure a bunch of ideas from me provided that. I know better than to offer my opinion so freely. It’s clear I still have work to do.
She did thank me at the end of the lunch, and I found a card to share my contact info. I don’t know if she’ll ever call, or look me up online, but I was glad for our shared time. Neither of us sat alone, and my daughter received her encouragement and a bit of cash.
My lunch companion shared that sometimes the messages we need to hear come in unexpected ways. The message I needed was that it’s good to reach out to a stranger, and also, that listening is better than talking. Maybe the message she got was to politely decline the next time a stranger invites herself to the table?
This is where having faith comes in. I’m going trust that somehow we both gained something good from our shared table. The next time I have an opportunity to befriend a stranger, maybe I’ll skip it and find the courage to dine alone. Or, maybe I reach out and practice doing a better job of listening.
It’s all about observing, and evaluating, and doing better than we did before, right?