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 important...so 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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grandparents.

Recent events in my family have me thinking a lot lately about the role of grandparents in our lives.

A few weeks ago, my Pappy (my mom's dad) had a mild stroke, which has required him to spend some time in a rehabilitation center near our home.  My Oma really shouldn't drive much, and she has been staying with my parents during the week so she can be close to Pappy.  Each morning, I pick her up and take her to the rehab center, where she stays until my parents or my sister picks her up in the evening. Circumstances not withstanding, this has actually been something special. I see my grandparents with some frequency, as they live less than an hour away. That said, this is requiring me to make much needed time with them. As a result, E also gets to spend copious amounts of time with his great-grandparents. He loves them, and its a lovely relationship to cultivate.

I don't understand what is like to have living great-grandparents.  My family circumstances were such that I was only contemporaries with my Pappy's father, and only for a few months. Oma's parents never left Germany, and my father's grandparents had all passed away. Elliott is very lucky to spend this time with them, and I'm glad they are around to meet him.

My other grandparents, my father's mother and father, did not live long enough to even see me graduate  high school. Yesterday would have been my Grandma's 85th birthday, and I could tell it was on my dad's mind.  He was very close to his mom, and I was also close to her. We were kindred spirits, with our love of history and geography, really all knowledge. I have since developed a love for crossword puzzles, Jeopardy, and all things Irish. I get down thinking about the fact that Elliott will never know her. Next year will mark 20 years since she passed away. She died during the night after Mother's Day, and considering the wonderful mother she was to my dad and his siblings, it seems right that she should get every last Mother's day she could.

My Grandpa was a good grandparent, always sending birthday cards and celebrating our successes. When he was older, he was sick a lot, and my dad would take him videos of the plays Sarah and I were in, and I know he enjoyed seeing us sing and dance.

I think because of the limited time I was able to spend with my other grandparents, I appreciate my time with Oma and Pappy more. They have seen me get married and have a little boy, who they adore. They have six children, 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren (and counting). They celebrated 60 years of marriage in April. The relationship one has with their grandparents is unique. Most 28 year olds that I know can't say they have two living grandparents. I have a wonderful example of love in my life, and I hope one day I can be that example for some one else.