Graduate Admissions Purgatory

I’m not really sure how to write about this, yet.

I’m still processing, still worrying, and still having a hard time believing this is my life.

Five years ago, I received my letter of admission to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. This seems like pretty much nothing to the average person, but to me, it meant everything. I didn’t grow up like most kids whose parents encouraged them to do big things and pursue strong education–or at least, not the same kind of education, anyway. I really believe God must put certain people in our lives at certain times to give us the support and strength we need to do big things–sometimes these things are so contrary to every piece of the world we’ve ever known. For me, pursuing public education has been quite antithetical to my entire childhood and my parents’ values, furthermore, some, even still, might say it is antithetical to our spiritual beliefs. But, it was certain people, like my partner, Dan, who made the road a little easier–he pushed me to be stronger and better.

So here I am. Ready to graduate. Ready to graduate with high honors, even. I thought I wouldn’t be good at college–I wasn’t prepared, no one helped me get there, and I had a baby in the middle of it. Even though all of this was true, in 2016, my decision to pursue graduate work was solidified. I knew I wanted–actually needed–more.

And still, it was only a few months ago that my voice was shaking in my advisor’s office asking if she thought I’d be good enough to even try applying to doctoral programs. I tend to be highly critical of myself–I think a lot of people are like this–at least, I hope I’m not alone.

The application process is weird.

You find schools sort of based on who you want to work with and what you want to do. It’s not like you can just change your major the next semester. You really have to know what you’re doing, but the whole time you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

So, a prospective graduate student starts developing application materials early on by studying for the GRE, making a list of schools and people to work with and apply specifically to, asking mentors and advisors to write letters on your behalf, and by writing, and re-writing, and then completely re-writing again, some hodge-podge personal statements and maybe an essay here and there. It’s draining–especially to write about oneself and determine in written word one’s long term plan. Oh, also, the applicant must apply like an entire year before he or she would actually ever make it to the graduate school, which means if the applicant is an undergraduate, he or she is balancing applications, work, and the usual credit load (I was taking 21 credits at the time…whoo!).

And, once materials are in, you wait.

And, you wait.

And, you check your email.

Every five seconds.

And you hear nothing.

But you’re still checking.


And, this is why we call it graduate admissions purgatory because the applicant find herself paying for the sins of her undergraduate, or something like that, while she waits in this horrible indefinite limbo.

Some people never hear back.

Some people are waitlisted (which means more terrible waiting).

Even though I think my whole experience in graduate admissions purgatory was pretty, honestly, terrible, I was one of the lucky ones. I heard back from more than half my schools, was offered several interviews, and was offered a spot at every school I interviewed at. Even when I felt like my interview answers were garbage, even when I was literally the only applicant not wearing a blazer (I don’t even own a black blazer…I’ll Christmas list it), and even when I found myself sort of begging to be rejected to make my decisions easier once I’d been offered multiple spots.

I am grateful.

Because on the days when I re-read my admissions offers, I remember sitting at my advisor’s desk with a spread of documents–from GRE scores to blurbs about long-term goals, wondering if I was good enough despite being told repeatedly, “you have to apply. you are a serious candidate.

I remember the third day of sophomore year when I found out I was pregnant and thought I would have to drop out of the college I had worked so hard to get in to.

I remember my backstory and how none of my family supported my higher education.

And I remember that this is what resilience looks like.

In March of 2016, I knew I was interested in bringing the fields of psychology and education together, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like–I remember saying in my first practicum, “I want to be a school psychologist”, but I had a ways before I’d find out how to make that happen. I found Dr. Missall’s research at this time, and I remember sitting on my couch, sending my husband a text saying, “Have you ever thought about going maybe to Seattle? They have a really great program and someone I think I would really love to work with,” and I sent him tons of information about it. The place had never crossed our minds prior to that. At this moment in time, I was realizing my strong interest in the School Psychology field and the University of Washington would remain high on my list for years after that.

We visited last March, and we both fell in love with Seattle.

Fast forward to this year.

I thought I did terribly in my interview–I actually still think I did do terrible in the interview, but I think I demonstrated that I could be personable, which is important because academics are sometimes weird. But, I received my offer for admission on February 28th. This complicated my life because I already had several good offers, and I knew that the route in Seattle would be a little more challenging than others.

But, I am so happy to share that I’ve made my decision, and I’m out of graduate school purgatory. Our family will be relocating the Seattle area this summer.

As part of my application to UW, I wrote an essay using Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose”, comparing the difficulties in my life and the field of School Psychology to his words. You’ve seen it on my blog a few times before.

As someone who statistically should have never made it this far, I have to ask, did you hear about the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s law is wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.

The beauty about this decision is that this prepares me to be attentive to and aware of the well-being of so many others outside myself. We all have sincere room to grow in our consideration of others, and I can not think of a better way to spend my daily time and energy than to be considering, and serving, others, and researching ways to get better at that.

Thank you to all (although many may not have understood) who helped me through such a strange season in my life.

Special thanks to my family, Dan and Avery, for always being there for me. ❤

Back to my roots, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6.

– Jess




For the nights I feel so strongly and so deeply about the troubles of the world.

Do you ever wonder if it is emotion that spurs reflection?

Like, we have to be feeling something to begin to wonder why it is we feel that way

If we stopped feeling maybe we would stop reflecting

And, what is life without the consideration of it

To think, I guess we must also feel

– Jess


If you’ve been around in my life for any sort of time, you might know how reflective of a person I am. Always questioning, always considering what could be better, always wondering about what is good or bad about any given situation. The new year seems to spark extra reflection, because, we are, in a sense, closing a constructed chapter–we’re ready to start fresh.

I was thinking about all the things I was thinking about last year, and I realized I have some key points to share about how 2017 went for me.

1. 2017 was my last year of undergraduate work.

The other day, I was thinking of the last time I had a significant break. In the summer of 2016, I took 10 credits in 8 weeks, only to tackle 21 the next semester, with a January (2017) interim, and then 22 the next semester (Spring 2017), with a May interim and then 50+ hours between jobs for the Summer 2017 schedule, and THEN, another 20 credits this semester (Fall 2017). It’s time to student teach and graduate! While, I’m exhausted, I find no other work more invigorating and livening than learning and researching, and I am so grateful to be doing work that is fulfilling. Although this is the last of my undergraduate work, I’m not sure academia has seen the last of me.

2. In 2017, I saw the most growth in my political views and commitment to community.

It’s no secret that both 2016 and 2017 have been trying political years. I have always actively voted, but on a deeper level, I feel commitment to local voting and caring for my community. I have realized, in greater ways, how politics can influence society, education, and community–things which I deeply care about. I know this part of me is still growing, but my ability to consider what is occurring beyond myself has grown extensively in the last two years, and especially this year. Part of this has grown because of my research on societal factors that influence education, and I think, my entire life has truly been changed by this research.

3. 2017 marked 5 years of marriage.

I am fortunate to be deeply in love with my best friend. As of June 2017, we have been married for five years. In no other year of my life have I deeply valued and appreciated my truest partner and friend, Dan. Sometimes it took reminders like, two ladies sharing their marital stories at the brewery on Dan’s 30th. And, other times, it was the overtired and overdue sushi dinner dates. I can’t wait to still celebrate our friendship and commitment to one another in 2018. I am the luckiest of brides.

4. 2017 was the year I grew the most as a writer.

Early in the year, I felt a little bitter about receiving little feedback on my academic writing. I have sort of always been considered a writer, but this year I could see substantial changes in my writing thanks to sincere and valuable feedback. I am excited to see what is next and how academics and student teaching will challenge me in other ways. I know I will need to be a more adaptive/flexible person to succeed in student teaching, but I’m up for the challenge. Bring it on, 2018.

5. 2017 was full of memories made with family members.

My family has not always been the most present in my adult life. Without saying too much, one of the greatest parts about 2017 was making special memories with my siblings. I am so grateful for the gift of time and, honestly, technology, which makes communication slightly easier.

Thanks Rupi Kaur, for keeping me grounded and reminding me to dream and reflect this year.

In all, 2017 was the most grateful year of my life. I spent time intentionally expressing, and writing about, the pieces of my life for which I was thankful. And, while, some weeks were easier than others, I learned so many valuable lessons that will make 2018 better. I know 2018 will not be without significant challenges–we are expecting, and hoping for, a significant relocation–new places, new jobs, new schools, a new season–these things will not be without difficulty. But, it is my focus this year to express my gratitude more with those I love, rather than internally, or only through writing. It is my hope to spend more meaningful and intentional time with my family and friends, and to be wary about being unbalanced in any approach.

On this lovely, disgustingly cold, late December day, I can say I am grateful for this wonderful year and all who were a part. ❤

– Jess


I am at this weird crossroad in my life where I am a little scared, but entirely excited, about what is to come next. It feels like, just as I sort of found my place in a university, it’s already time to move on, and there’s something so bittersweet about that.

I’ve been doing plenty of writing lately–lots of papers, my practice edTPA, and a bucket load of personal statements and statements of personal history. Like writing tends to do, it’s got me reflecting so much lately on how the last four and 1/2 years have changed the entirety of my life. And, as student teaching draws near, I realize that I am about to leave a place that has been seriously influential on my intellectual and personal development–the Writing Center.

I was fortunate to learn of the Writing Center’s existence following a Literature course I took with the director. As a new transfer student, I was totally lost and unaware of all the resources available on campus. I did know that, I liked to write, but mostly, I loved to read, and I had the basic grammar rules down, but I didn’t expect to be asked to apply as a writing consultant. I threw myself out there and went for it, and to my delight, I joined the Writing Center as a consultant in 2014.

2014 was an overwhelming school year. I was a sophomore, and had no idea what was going on because three days into my fall semester, I learned I was going to have a baby. I was overwhelmed with credits, work, and anxiety about what my life was going to be in just a few short months. But one thing is certain, in 2014, I fell in love with the work I was doing.

I felt wildly grateful to have the opportunities to learn with so many students who were brave enough to sign up to work with me. I looked at countless papers, some beautifully developed, and others that were still in the works, but what working with so many different writers at different stages taught me was that everything is a process. We are constantly growing and learning, and what could be more beautiful than that? It’s easy to think we are better than one another, but when one takes the time to really work with another person–to wrestle with ideas, to play devil’s advocate, to creatively determine better wording–it becomes evident how much both parties are learning, and, we indicatively become incredibly grateful for the processes that we have each gone through. For me, it has become easier to accept the stages people are in and avoid cheap comparison with them since I’ve had to take the time to engage in the process with them. Growth is a process, and I love that working with writers has shown me that.

I wrote a paper not too long ago about some significant family values that influenced my educational opportunities overtime. I had to write about being the only girl among four brothers until my younger sister came along and how independent it made me. I can hold my own. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized how much people need one another. To me, this has only been emphasized by my work in the Writing Center. When I first started at the Writing Center, I had never used the service before. By my Junior year, when I had Avery, I needed second sets of eyes on my papers because I was writing between the hours of 1 and 4 am, when I could guarantee my newborn baby would sleep for a good chunk of time. I haven’t stopped using our service since because I’ve realized how much better writing can be and how much I can grow with the help of others. Wildly independent or not, it is important to be resourceful and learn from the expertise of others.

As a writing consultant, and also mentor, I’ve worked with people weeks after weeks, sometimes within the same day, even. I will never forget the excitement of seeing arguments blossom and writers seeing something from a new perspective. Even still, I won’t forget the excitement of feeling confident in a perfect APA citation or a perfectly placed comma. One of the most absolutely rewarding parts of my job is celebrating success with people every single day.

And, I think as I am nearing the end of my time as a writing consultant, I am getting rather sad. I have learned so many lessons in one space. I have shared so many joys in one space. I have met so many fabulous people at varying stages–you got it–in one place. It’s going to be bittersweet to leave a place I have learned to love.

Bittersweet–I think it’s my word for this school year.



For the nights when I am remembering where I came from…

do you ever have those nights

that end with tear-stained cheeks

and gratefulness

for all the things you never had

and for all the burdens no one else ever has to carry

– Jess

Hold on to Hope

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?

Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet.

Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.”

– Tupac Shakur

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

I recently read Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade’s “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete”. It is a rather inspirational piece, and if you listen to his TED Talk, you can get the gist of his message. I do not tend to err on the side of being emotional, so I am always a little leery of over-inspirational pieces. But, as inspiring as I found Duncan-Andrade’s piece, I also found it challenging. I think it is imperative to utilize the understanding of writings such as these to evaluate and reflect on our own practice and our own theories, and I’d like to share some specific takeaways for me, as an individual and as an educator, in relation to this piece.

Hope is Imperative

I tend to be rather analytical, observing issues from multiple perspectives and noticing the interconnections between views. It is true that this sort of critical thinking can also seem rather hopeless. When we realize the gravity of issues, ideas of change or positive pieces of the puzzle can seem rather pale, or even outside of the picture altogether. Duncan-Andrande did a nice job of explaining how false hopes actually contribute to hopelessness. He identifies these hopes as Hokey Hope, Mythical Hope, and Hope Deffered. What I liked about this piece is that is was clear what each of these kinds of hope were, they were defined as follows:

Hokey Hope (p.182-183)

A hope in which an outsider views the evidence and determines that all things can be overcome by working hard and paying attention. It reminded me starkly of the Protestant work ethic–regardless of the situation, one can pull herself up by her bootstraps and make a dream come true. However, this sort of “hope” disregards all of the disadvantages into which different individuals are born into, and thus, proposes a solution that does not always solve the deep rooted inequities individuals face.

Mythical Hope (p.183-184)

A hope that claims no sincere issues exist within our society. Issues of gender, class, race, and ability have been long put to rest. A clear example of this hope is the belief that racism does not exist post-Obama’s election.

Hope Deffered (p.184-185)

And here’s where I was blind-sided, a little.

This hope, to me, is the sneakiest of them all, and if I am entirely honest, I feel that I have recently grown “beyond” this view. This view is smart enough to avoid blaming the victim, but it is hopeless in that in blames systems for the issues in our world. It is content to know that there are systemic issues, but believes that these issues cannot be tackled within education or that these issues do not influence pedagogy.

Teachers can’t fix all the world’s problems, you know.

Right. I get it. But why does that sound so, terrible to say out loud?

Because it’s a complacent view. It’s a view that says, I do not need to ignite change, in fact, I can’t. It’s a view that, to me, feels so incredibly antithetical to the messages teachers are often encouraged, and often do, tell their students — each person matters, you can make a difference, you can change the world, your actions influence others.

And, so, I get it, we have to realize that we can’t go parading and changing the world in dramatic, over-the-top ways every day, sure. BUT. We have to care, too. It is not enough to tell each individual they matter and make a difference, and yet not let that penetrate our lives enough to transform our pedagogy and keep us reflecting on how to contribute to a better tomorrow.

Because when we are okay with being complacent, we contribute to hopelessness in this world.

So, what’s the right kind of hope?

Duncan-Andrade does not leave us with the hopelessness of the false hopes, rather, he offers a model that he calls “Critical Hope”, which he describes as “The enemy of hopelessness.”

This critical hope is overwhelmingly selfless. It proposes a deep interconnection between student success and teacher success. It requires that educators actively struggle against the inhibitors to student success. It is made of three elements: material hope, Socratic hope, and audacious hope. Each of these are explained as follows:

Material Hope requires that educators make what they teach relevant to the students they are teaching. This requires that teachers know and understand their students and communities. It requires understanding culture, and the strengths and obstacles of each individual student. It requires a flexibility of the teacher to teach what is necessary for the student body, given varying circumstances. The teacher, himself, is a material resource for the students, and in this role, the teacher has strong influence (p. 186-187).

Socratic Hope requires that educators painfully examine themselves, students, and the variety of forces at work. It takes time to be honest, to admit personal and professional failure and devote to change and growth. This kind of hope requires the rejection of complacency (p. 187-188).

Audacious Hope requires that we work together. That we reject preservation of the privileged, and instead, share the burden of undeserved suffering to work toward collective healing (p.189 – 190).

So what does this mean?

I think, for me, on a practical level, I feel challenged to demonstrate love for all people. I saw a great quote earlier this week, it read, “Justice is what love looks like in public”. It deeply resonated with me.

I come from a disadvantaged background. My friends know the complexity of my upbringing and my closed culture. And even still, I never quite understood the importance of community until I became an adult. I never quite realized how important we all are for one another–for our well-being, for the good of all people–for the happiness of the world.

And all of this reminds me, that, there is hope. But, sometimes it starts with us. It starts when we put our theory into practice. It starts when we are a little kinder, a little more humble, and a little less complacent. It’s a great deal of work, yes.

Which brings us back to the beginning–“you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

Most of my fellow peers argued that teachers cannot do it all. They cannot exhaust themselves in order to save the world. True, this is much too large of an endeavor for simply one person. But, I also think this kind of thinking can be taken too far where we are complacent. We are okay with failure. We forget to critically evaluate our own practices and beliefs and we are then, unwilling to change ourselves.

And, so we must have some sort of balance. A drive that is unwilling to be content with failure, and yet a buffer of an approach to failure as a way to learn and better ourselves. For this to work, we have to be sure we truly find our work meaningful.

We have to be sure what we’re doing really fills our cups–it should energize us, wake us up, fuel our practice. To do that, we must really believe in what we do. I mean really believe in what we do–take risks, advocate, give up the ease of remaining stagnant.

Through this, I am learning the balance of critical hope. I’m seeing how incredibly precious it is to hold on hope, and I’m dedicated to growth for a better tomorrow. Together, we can heal from past and present hurts, and together we can love for a better tomorrow.

– Jess



Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade (2009) Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete. Harvard Educational Review: July 2009, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 181-194.

Advantages of Being a Parent During Undergrad

There is a tendency in this world to look at so much critically. This is altogether necessary sometimes, hard sometimes, and easy sometimes. This is often my default, in fact. However, there are a variety of us facing our own unique and shared challenges, and it is necessary for each of us to feel supported and heard in our struggle.

One thing I have struggled through for the last two and a half years is completing my undergraduate degree as a mother. And, while my friends are constantly (1) Forgetting that I’m a mom (Is it because I look like I’m 12?), (2) questioning how I “do it all”, or (3) cheering me on, I have found a balance that has grown me in ways I never thought would need growing. And while it is true that there are so many difficulties in pursuing personal goals and maintaining family life, I find it necessary to share the absolutely wonderful advantage to having a sweet little one for the majority of my undergraduate.

1. Being a parent will keep you smiling.

15073468_10154685518453374_3493566278249910996_nI think, like many others, some days I get home from 8 or more hours on campus feeling exhausted, and maybe sometimes defeated. It is amazing how rejuvenating it is to be greeted by a tiny little face who adores me and is proud of everything I do. We all have our raw moments. I try to be very emotionally communicative with my daughter by telling her if I am feeling happy, or sad, or frustrated, but most times, I am flooded with happiness when I interact with Avery and tell her about my day and everything I am doing. I am thrilled when she wants to highlight articles next to me, and “do homework.” It is special and satisfying to be loved so much by one tiny human.

2. Being a parent has the power to keep you wildly productive.

Because I am gone so often for schooling and research responsibilities, I highly value the time I have with both my partner, Dan and my daughter, Avery. Because of this, I am an incessant planner who utilizes every minute away to be relentlessly productive. I do this so that when I am home, I can be home. It does not always work, true, but there is value in setting time aside for work and time aside for enjoying my family. I am grateful for Dan and Avery’s flexibility with my often hectic hours, but I think it is true that I am the most productive I have ever been since having my daughter.

3. Being a parent will help you see the big picture.

I am not sure if this one is specifically because I am hopeful to impact children positively12045415_10153668888398374_8888225234102027668_o throughout my career, but having a child has often reminded me of the big picture of my education and work. I see how intertwined parenting can be with child development and academic ability. I can understand parent attitudes in regard to education a little bit better. I can understand the difficulty of the home being a wreck and the laundry piling up while everyone is sick and eating too much junk food all at once. So much starts in the home. And so much influences even outside the home. And, as a parent and an educator, I get to see that first-hand. When I am tempted to do a little less as a teacher, I am reminded of what I would expect as a parent, and this keeps me doing right by my students and, in turn, the world we live in.

So, there you have it, a twinge of a strengths-based perspective from an undergraduate with a little one. And, although this wouldn’t have been how I could ever imagine myself planning my life, I’m so glad life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan it.

– Jess

So, Don’t Be Crippled By Fear

For B.

My to-do list is a million miles long right now, but I need to take a minute to write.

I need to take a minute to write about how difficult it is to spend every day critiquing and reflecting on one’s own actions and ability.


I need to take a minute to write about how we must persist.

Those who know me understand how passionately I pursue education for a variety of reasons. Many also know that I tend to take large credit loads at school while balancing many other roles at work and home. I have learned a great deal about balance since my daughter was born, and although I have done much too much since that time, many know that I do not feel I have learned enough (I’m not sure I ever will feel that I have). I have been working diligently toward an educational career that requires me to put myself out there, to work incredibly hard, and to always reflect and sort of assess myself–to grow as a professional and person in order to contribute as best I can to a field I feel so strongly about–education.

And, as I apply to graduate programs, I feel so intensely excited, but occasionally so incredibly doubtful.

I think what I’ve gathered from some friends who are in the same boat is that this is completely normal.

It’s this weird balance of feeling like you’ve never been so sure of anything before in your life, but then you are also feeling so positively unsure. We are a people who are always, always, ALWAYS, questioning–and this feels burdensome.

It feels like you’re the only one awake in a sea of people.

It feels like everyone is sleeping.

It feels like the problems you see in the world must be dreams because no one else is talking about them.

And, some days it feels like maybe you shouldn’t even try.

But, please don’t be crippled by that fear.

Because that questioning is contributing to your growth.

You’ll wonder about, and research, something small that will make a big difference one day.

That passion will transfer to others who will carry on the good work.

Don’t be discouraged. The journey doesn’t end at a graduate school acceptance or rejection, or anything else, really. We must always be willing to question ourselves–we must being willing to resolve to live with all of our might each day–what could be greater than that?

So on the nights where I feel most overwhelmingly doubtful, I try to practice some intentional gratefulness, if only for a moment.

And so, today, I’m grateful for the education that has made me. So it seems like I am right where I should be.


They Say, “The Grass is Greener Where You Water it.”

A few months ago, Dan and I found ourselves in Milwaukee for his 30th birthday. For his golden birthday, I planned a day to ourselves in the city. We spent it at a few breweries eating good food and drinking great drinks. Later, we headed to our first ever Brewers game. We smiled and laughed and talked about all of the weird pieces of our lives and our relationship throughout our five years of marriage together. Most of all, we simply enjoyed one another.

Amidst the birthday fun, these lovely ladies on their way to see PINK at summerfest started a conversation with us. They asked a little bit about us, and bought us breakfast shots in honor of Dan’s birthday. After we both learned a little about one another, the ladies told us to “hang on to what we had.” One of them shared how she had been through a divorce, and upon reflecting she told us, “You know, at some point in your relationship you might really, truly feel like the grass would be greener somewhere else. I had to learn the hard way that we don’t know how brown the other grass is until we get there.”

She paused.

“You want to know where the grass is greener?” She asked.

“Where?” We said politely.

“The grass is greener right where you water it,” she said. “Remember that. Spend some days like this, just the two of you, watering your grass.”

I think we were both taken back. After years of working hard, investing in careers, investing in the child we had not planned, we sometimes forgot to invest in one another. And I think amidst the business of life, it’s easy to “forget to water.”

So if you ever find yourself caught up in all the duties of life; school, overtime at work, the day-to-day and full weekend craziness. Pause, and remember that the grass is only greener where you water it. Then consider what is worth your time and sincerest effort.

Success requires focus. Don’t forget to focus on your loved ones, too.

Don’t forget to make memories and run off on some spontaneous, or planned, adventure. Laugh off the minor annoyances in life like the “I forgot to grab _____,” or, if you’re like us on family picture day, wearing wrong shoes (Love you, Dan!). Focusing on the wrong things will only crush the grass. Be intentional; water instead.

The grass is greener right where you water it.

– jess

(Photo credit: Alissa M. Schmidt Photography)

A Few Loves as of Late

This fall semester has been kicking my butt. It’s my last year of my  undergrad, and I have to say, I have really grown in just the first two weeks of school. So here are some things I am loving as of late.

1. I like fall more this year than I ever have in my life

Remember last year when I wrote about my horrible disdain for fall? I still hate it, but I am enjoying the cauldron-pumpkin spice coffee, the baked goods, and the beginning of the school year. I think I am loving fall more as I get into my teacher-y mindset. The beginning of the school year is a fabulous whirlwind of a time. I think, too, I’m getting a little more excited for the pre-January winter, when my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, happens, and when I get to see Avery really enjoy Christmas at such a young age. This is a weird admittance for me. And also, my love for Oktoberfest beers may also be influencing this…

2. Quality time is my favorite

There have been a few times already this semester where I have needed to simply step away from all the work I have to do (21 credits & 4 jobs keeps me busy…) just to enjoy specific, quality time with my family. In the past, I have had a hard time coping with stress enough to step away from my work and enjoy myself, but I think as long as I can get far enough away (usually outside), it works for me. This is new, and I find myself really soaking in the hour or two of specific, individual time with my daughter and husband. I have a feeling that coping with stress better will be a major player in this semester’s success. But also, I have been investing in my meaningful relationships. This is key, because I tend to focus on work first, and then relationships. I feel myself shifting in this, which has been healthier for family-work balance. So, I am grateful because the weather has been so warm these past few weeks, which has made our family bike rides more common. Maybe fall will stay a little warmer this year. FullSizeRender.jpg.jpeg

3. The more I am learning, the more I want to advocate

I have always loved to teach. Some of my fondest memories as a child have to do with teaching my siblings. I created my own curriculum and work books and spent my allowance on white boards and markers to teach my younger brothers a thing or two (if only I could do that now….hah!). But as I have grown in my understanding of people, children, and of personal-relationship building, I have grown deeper in my desire to be an advocate for all children around me. This passion has only been fed by research, and by classes I am currently taking, like Multicultural education. I think I used to be passionate about this in a way where I would judge everyone who was not. As I have been learning and growing, I have come to realize that people have different passions for different reasons, and that somehow, we must work together to make life better for those around us. Sometimes this happens through respectful challenges. There have been some very intelligent and passionate people challenging me to be better, and to try harder things lately, and that has grown me immensely this year. For those of you challenging my personal growth, you know who you are–keep it coming!

4. Collaboration is key

I think I came into college with a competitive spirit, ready to tackle it all and come out with the best job and be the best at everything. Can we all just LOL at that right now? that confidence has spurred me on so much, and I have grown in realizing the great benefit of individuals working together. It sounds cliche and ridiculous, but this girl loves to work alone, and that has also been shifting more for me lately. I have been surrounded by some wildly intelligent and passionate students and teachers, and the benefits have been overwhelming. I needed this in my life, and I am so proud to have a more collaborative spirit.

5. I feel a little more like myself

The last two years have really grown me, but man, having a baby and doing all the things is very difficult. I felt like sometimes I would look in the mirror and think, “You don’t even look like you.” For those who know Avery, you know she is a pretty independent child who does very well with structure and can be self-directed. As she has gotten older, this has become more prominent, which has destressed me exponentially. I actually feel like I can take a minute to curl my hair, or accessorize my outfit. I don’t consider myself very trendy, but I feel just a touch more put together, and that has been helpful. It’s absolutely horrible to feel “out of control”.

So here we are. Persevering, but all the while learning as I go. I absolutely cannot wait for what is next.