Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Great Purge

There is no other ways to describe this house clean-out than with the word "purge." I'm being ruthless. If we have to move in the next year, I'm not taking all this crap with me. I've gotten off to a slow start this year because of a wicked cold that put me out for an entire week. I didn't go to dance, I didn't leave the couch, and I really didn't do anything that wasn't required to keep myself and my child alive. I'm better now, but that was awful. The worst part was knowing I had LOTS of things to do, but I just couldn't do them.

So, I've just done a little here and there. The other night, we were sans Elliott, so I took advantage of that and started tidying the upstairs. For some reason, I think to get St. Patrick's Day decorations, I went up to the attic and suddenly I was up there for an hour. Ugh. I found some great stuff I had forgotten about though! I found a set of curtains that would be just lovely in the office / guest room, as well as my pointe shoes and dance awards. I also found my old beading supplies. I loved making seed bead necklaces in middle and high school. They made me feel very cool. I have seen some neat crochet projects that require different beads, and so I brought the box down to see what I had. Well, what I had was a box full of bead containers that had opened and spilled...all mixed together. And last night...I re-organized them all. It was very relaxing, actually.

I also tidied the kitchen, and threw away a few bags of junk mail and general junk. I can see the counters again! The pantry has also been cleared. Despite my best efforts, I found things that expired before Elliott was born. How does that even happen?

My bedroom was a simple clean. I re-arranged some pictures and knick-knacks I liked, and I got rid of a bunch of jewelry (just costume stuff). It's much easier to dedicate yourself to everyday neatness when you don't have a lot of stuff to keep in order. I also organized my drawer at dance. I had too many shoes in there. I'm selling some at the school. We have a second-hand shoe sale that runs constantly. We can either keep the money or let the dance school have it.

The most challenging task was sentimental clutter. I keep way too many mementos. I finally purged cards I don't need to keep and other random objects that I can't even remember why I've kept for years, some of it dating back to the 1990s. Consequently, I opened up room in my closet, which was needed to spread out shoes, bags, and stuff for Sarah's wedding. I still kept a lot, but I created rules for myself that will keep it in check in the future.

The office / guest room is an on-going project. My desk is done, as are my craft supplies, thanks to a lovely anniversary gift of a set of pallet drawers. They can sit out and house my spill-over supplies. I still have filing to purge / organize, graduate research stuff to streamline, and books & CDs.

So far, I'd say I've removed 5 or 6 bags of stuff from the house. Much of it went in the trash, but other things are being shipped to better homes and to charity. As a result, I have four storage containers of various sizes that are empty. I thought I was going to have to buy a few new ones, but fortunately, I can use what I have. Isn't that the point?

Because the weather today is supposed to be pretty nice, I'm going to clean out my car. It's not bad, but after the winter, it needs it. When the weather gets even better, I'll take the car to my parents' house and wash it, vacuum it, and "detail" it.

I honestly enjoy writing about my progress with this project. It may take longer than Lent this year, but I'm already thrilled with the results so far.

 - M.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

30 For 30.

No, this is not a post about ESPN documentaries (although that series is incredible, whether or not you are a sports fan, so watch some on Netflix right now).

I turn 30 at the end of the year, and I've been trying to think of cool ways to celebrate this milestone birthday. I decided that I would squeeze all I can out of this year, all while celebrating the number 30. I'm not going to come up with everything right now, but you can check the "30!" tab for a running tally of what I'll be doing this year. I will also be tagging items related to the 30 countdown with #megan30.

If anyone out there has an interesting (but affordable) ideas, comment below!

- Megan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dance Update

We have been working hard at dance class this year, and both Elliott and I have really made some strides in the fall. At our school, technique is the primary focus in the fall. In the spring, technique is still emphasized, but we choreograph and learn the pieces for the spring recital. I love learning new dances and preparing them for performances. I'm definitely nervous to perform again, since it's been almost 4 years since I last danced on a stage, and 11 years since my last recital! I'm just hoping I get the right shoes on my feet and remember the dances.

Elliott has developed a lot as a person through dance. He's learning to follow instructions and take direction from someone who isn't Mommy, Daddy, or a family member. His teacher is wonderful and his classmates are just the cutest. Because of the class size, and because I'm already there at the school, I've become something of a permanent assistant in his class. He puts on his own shoes in class, which always makes me proud. He wouldn't put on his tap shoes for the first few months, but one day, he just asked his teacher if he could wear them. He loves making noise with his feet (what kid wouldn't!?). He is also working on his musicality and memory skills. He works hard and even if he doesn't stick with this for long, the lessons he has learned will help him in any sport or hobby he takes up. We are very proud.

I'm making different strides. In November, I was given a class to be the primary teacher of, which means I pick their costumes, choreograph their dances, and direct class each week. My class is a "level 2" class, which is pre-Company, but they are about 8 to 11 years old. For some reason, most of our our level 3 and level 2 dancers are the same age. Many of them also just "moved up," so we are still working on a lot of technique, and I will continue to do that throughout the recital preparations. It's been great to have my own class again. In my other classes, I find that my turns are improving. I'm definitely stronger than I was in high school. Somehow, being about 50 pounds heavier than I was then is helping. Leaps are a struggle, partly because I get shin splints easily. Since all but one of the classes that I take are almost all adults, my teachers are aware of everyones limitations and are understanding. The skill I'm most behind on is an "illusion," which looks like a cartwheel, but one leg never leaves the ground. I have the ability, but I'm sort of scared of them. I think its the action of swinging my head down to my feet.  I'm hoping that my ability to learn and remember the recital dances hasn't deteriorated. I am in 9 pieces, choreographing three others, and assisting with 4 others. That's a lot to keep track of!

I'm curious what my readers want to know about dance! Questions about sending little ones for the first time (especially boys) or about returning after years away or really anything!

- M.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015: The Year of the Yingers.

2014 was really a mixed bag. I went back and looked at my goals for 2014, and I did achieve about half of them (and they were all that's good). However, I definitely hope to have a more stable 2015.

In that spirit, I have declared this "The Year of the Yingers." I turn 30 at the end of the year, and that is sort of looming over my head. I'm not concerned with aging (it is inevitable), but more with making the most of 29.

I have a list of goals, but I'm primarily focusing on three buzzwords for the year.

1. Focus - Be present; one thing at a time. This is far more effective than the insane multitasking I had to do in order to finish coursework.
2. Balance - No one thing should overtake my life for long. I want a fulfilling job, but I don't want it to prevent me from family time or dancing (which has allowed me to maintain sanity and physical health).
3. Security - Financial security is a major goal this year. I'm not being ambitious with this. I just want to be able to pay off loans, save appropriately, and prevent life from unraveling because of one major expense.

My goals all tie into these, but they will help me focus when the specific goals need to take a back seat.

Goals for 2015:

1. Defend my dissertation, or at least be ready to defend for spring 2016: Once I finish, no more tuition, no more stalling. I'll have the degree in hand and can look for jobs that require the Ph.D. I'm in a good place with this, so as long as I keep working at the same pace.

2. Get a full time job with benefits.

3. Finish potty training Elliott: There will be no diapers in 2016.

4. Build an emergency savings account.

5. Pay off my car.

6. Complete the 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge (even if it takes more than 40 days).

7. Get Elliott and I through our first dance recital together: I haven't danced in about 11 years regularly, and Elliott started dance classes in the fall. I am responsible for choreographing 3 dances, remembering 4 others as an assistant, and performing in 9 others. Our recital is actually split into three separate shows to keep things manageable, so Elliott only performs in the 11 am "preschool" show, while I perform in all three. It's going to be a chaotic spring at dance, but really fun.

8. Be a kick-ass MOH at my sister's wedding: See also, being a kick-ass guest at 4 other weddings (at least).

9. Become a more confident chef: Jason is definitely the cook in our family, but I want to learn more dishes and techniques.

10. Finish my crochet projects currently in progress, get rid of yarn, and complete some bigger projects.

I have made lists in other years too: 2013, 2012

- M.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mom, A.B.D.

As of October 3, I am now A.B.D. For the uninitiated, it stands for "All But Dissertation," meaning that my only barrier to the Ph.D. is the dissertation. It's a big deal (not as big as the Ph.D., but I'm right on target for my program, and that's a positive thing), and I frequently get asked how I did it with a kid.

First, let me say, I have the most agreeable child in the world. He is very good at entertaining himself so I can write or grade, and he is patient to go to school with me to get errands run. This was a major factor.

Second, I am lucky to live near my parents and J's parents, who stepped up with alarming frequency to provide me with both study time, time to teach, and date nights. My mother-in-law was a constant saving grace because she watched E almost every day that I went to school. I seldom had to ask for help, because those around me knew what was involved and stepped up.

Still, getting it all done to this point (with or without children) wasn't easy, so here are some tips:

1. Get and Stay Organized: To me, this is the key to all success. I'm a huge fan of a good planner, a sturdy binder, and lots of lists. Use what works for you. I can talk for days about my Moleskin weekly planner and monthly planner and how I would be lost without them. But if your phone calendar works better, by all means, use that. If you have little hands around, keep this stuff out of their reach. Don't risk it.

2. Do YOUR Best: It's very easy to get competitive in graduate school. In my program, it's not worth it because we are all studying diverse topics. My friend's dissertation about women of science is in no way competing with my dissertation on corporate media. So, I just had to concentrate on doing my best work, not THE best work. It resulted in success for me because I was just confident in my abilities to perform quality scholarship.

3. Just Get It Done: It's easy to have flexibility in the timeline of a graduate program. Barring serious issues (illness, death, etc.), try to stick to the fastest timeline. The longer you take, the more money you lose, either in tuition or lost employment. It's easy to say, I'll just take one class this semester, but if you can handle two, by all means, get it done.

4. Be Proactive: Have a back-up plan for everything. Save your work to Google Docs or a flash drive every day that you write. Have a babysitter on call (or a way to take your kid to school with you if you are able). Don't wait to register for classes, because if you can't get the ones you need, you need to set up an independent study or readings course. Do not leave things to chance.

Now I'm continuing work on the dissertation, which is going well. I have numerous chapters in process, and I hope to be done in a year or so. I'll try to take my own advice.

- M.

Professional Blogger?

No. Well, not about my own life, anyway.

I follow and regularly read a lot of really lovely blogs. Some are run by friends that have really informative posts about their lives and their favorite beauty products, while others are women who have a gift for writing about their own lives in a way that isn't whiny, preachy, or lame.

I don't have that gift. I'm sure I have some interesting insights to offer on being a Ph.D.-mom or the job search or having a toddler. But I erase almost everything I write about it because it doesn't seem that interesting EVEN TO ME. Additionally, I am (contrary to my mother's best efforts) a very low maintenance lady when it comes to beauty. I can't wear eye makeup anymore (weep) because of an eye condition, and I've come to find what works for me. I can tell you about some excellent dandruff shampoos, but that's not glamourous.

I'm also terrible about remembering to blog, as you well know. If I make the effort, the posts seem stiff.

However, I do need to write more online. A lot of the writing jobs I apply for require an online writing portfolio. I need to create one.

So, what would you like to read about? My pseudo-academic lifestyle? Crafts? My very low-risk haircut? Starting dance again after years away from regular practice?

Let me know.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dance Mom.

When I found out that Elliott was going to be, well -- an Elliott, I had a moment of feeling like I might miss out on certain things I had hoped to pass on to my children, especially dance.

I started dancing at 7 at a pre-professional studio. It gave me an excellent foundation for technique, but we didn't like a lot about it. The attitude of the director was sort of last last straw, and when I was 9, we switched to Wevodau Dance Center, where I stayed until I graduated high school. I loved it, especially competitions and recitals. I made great friends and learned a lot. The main reason I got cast in a lot of early musicals was because I could dance. I came back for summer dance classes, but I didn't have the opportunity to return until this year. Wevodau's welcomes its alumni back with open arms, while most schools don't have any opportunities for adult dancers. I'm now an assistant teacher and I take a few hours of class a week.

I also decided to see if Elliott would like dance. He takes a class just for three year olds, with some ballet, tap, acro, and jazz. It's very cute. He likes his tap shoes, but he won't wear them in class (I think he's afraid of falling down). He keeps his shoes in my drawer (all the teachers get drawers in the break room so we don't have to schlep our shoes every day), and he likes getting a pretzel afterwards. However, it took until just this past week to have a class with no tears. If he's not with me, he is almost always with a grandparent or Jason. So, this was a new situation. The first week he cried at the end because he didn't want to go home, but then during weeks two and three, he cried during class. Last week, I subbed in his class, so he was less tearful, but still cried a little. I was beginning to think this wasn't for him.

This week, we had a busy morning and he didn't get a nap. I even considered not taking him, because it all seemed like a recipe for disaster. We arrived at the studio, he got his socks on with no hesitation, and we waited outside the room. I dropped him off, gave him a kiss, and he ran to his place in the front of the classroom. No fuss, no muss. At pick-up, I got a glowing report from his teachers about how enthusiastic he was. Since Wednesday, he has been showing off all his dance moves, not just the acro stuff. I'm hoping it sticks because it makes him happy right now. It's also fun that we have an activity we do sort of together. In June (if we both make it), we'll perform in the recital. Our studio has a special recital just for the pre-school kids, so it's short, sweet, and before afternoon naps. I'll be in all three shows that day, but I'll have to find a way to watch E from the sidelines. Apparently, the number of dances I'm in puts me in the on-stage dressing room, so that shouldn't be a problem.

And if he finds that dance isn't for him? Great! There are so many activities for him to do out there. I want to give him the opportunity to try stuff out, and dance works for us right now.

- M.