Better Living Through Time Management

unsplash-logoMajid Rangraz

I am someone who generally stays busy. I like it that way, I get bored if I don’t have much to do, and there are a lot of things that I want to do. I’m teaching full time, and I’m doing my master’s in Elementary Education. As a TFA Graduate Fellow, I’m also pursuing Creative Writing Club, which I organize and lead once every week. I’m also training for a half marathon in February. That sounds like a lot of things going on, but I’ve been able to hold it all down so far this school year.

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2018 >>>> 2019

unsplash-logoEmile Guillemot

This year has been a big one for me. Here are some of the things I did, in no particular order.

  • I ran a half marathon.
  • I ran a DIY half marathon.
  • I quit drinking alcohol.
  • I ran 541 miles.
  • I went to Birmingham, Alabama for spring break.
  • I went to Seattle, Washington over the summer to meet up with my friends from high school.
  • I went on a weekend retreat in the Delta as part of my graduate fellowship.
  • I started my Master’s in Elementary Education program.
  • I got all As in my first semester of my Master’s program.
  • I got a new job, teaching a new grade level.
  • I drove to Michigan and back three times.
  • I watched three of my friends get married (congrats!)
  • I started Creative Writing Club at my school.
  • I bought a house and moved.
  • I became an adult who bundles their homeowners insurance with their car insurance to save money.
  • I finished Teach for America.
  • I taught summer school.
  • I helped plan and promote a local event that is, honestly, the best new thing going on in Jackson.
  • I ate poké for the first time, then several times after that.
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Labor of Love

One of my favorite places in Detroit is the Detroit Institute of Art. I went there as a kid and fell in love with every bit of it, and I’ve been back again and agin.

The special exhibit they have right now is Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love, and I was lucky enough to see it today. Before I even entered the exhibit, I saw these new pieces in several galleries. Isabel Toledo created them in response to the art in each of those galleries. It reminded me of Steal Like an Artist, in that she’s taking these influences from other works of art and riffing on them.

The works below were large scale, taking up the entire walls as visitors entered the gallery. They are a response to the Diego Rivera frescos that are in Rivera Court, in the DIA. I love the Diego Rivera frescos, and it was exciting to see another artist’s interpretation of the subjects.

I was so excited to see this – it’s a drawing that Diego Rivera used to plan out the frescos in the DIA. In all the years I’ve seen the frescos, I’d never seen any of the planning put into them. It was exciting to see that connection between the finished piece I know, and the process that came before that.

The dresses, to me, were the heart of this exhibit – they were based on current political themes, and demonstrated how fashion relates to the political climate.

To finish out the exhibit, there was a collection of comics drawn by Ruben Toledo, parallel to comics drawn by Diego Rivera, both of which were critiquing society in different ways. This felt disjointed from the rest of the exhibit – we had all the dresses throughout the museum, and it was based on the Rivera works already in the museum, and then these comics were thrown in, feeling like an afterthought.

The Last Days of California

It’s Christmas, so that means one thing: It’s time to read books about the end of the world.

Of course, The Last Days of California isn’t about the end of the world, not really. It’s about a family and the lies they tell themselves and each other, and the complicated, broken way that they’re holding themselves together.

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

My friend who is the source of 90% of book recommendations, Kaitlyn, has been telling me to read this book for years. I finally had some free time after finals. I remembered that I enjoy reading books, and that I should, ahem, read a book.

The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a memoir about death. The author, Caitlin Doughty works at a funeral home in the crematory. Her reason for taking this job is a fascination with death, rooted in a horrifying childhood experience with death.

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Checking in on Goals

Luke Stackpoole

I set goals in the beginning of 2018, and I reviewed them mid-year. It’s the beginning of December, and I think December offers us an interesting moment as we relate to goals and New Years Resolutions. It’s the point when we start to think about next year, but we still have the chance to make a difference in our goals for the current year.

Health

1. Maintain my current level of fitness and make progress throughout 2018.
I have been consistent with this goal – I can run faster and further than I could six months ago, and I successfully completed my first half marathon in February. I have hit PRs in my one mile and 5k times this year, and I’m running a 5k on Wednesday. Depending on some variables in my life this fall, I may or may not be running a second half marathon in the fall, and I’ve registered for the Mississippi River Half Marathon in 2019.

This is the goal that I have met with the most success. I’m on track to run the Mississippi River Half Marathon in February 2019, and I did run a second half marathon in November – I did what I call my “DIY Half Marathon” which means I filled up my Camelbak, stuck some Gu in my pocket, loaded up an audiobook and ran 13.1 miles on my own. It was hard, but it was also faster than my first half marathon.

 

2. By the end of 2018, I will drink 68 oz. of water daily.
This is harder in the school year than it is in the summer. On a majority of the days this summer, I’ve been drinking 68 oz. of water – it’s so much easier in the summer because there’s more motivation. If I’m not well hydrated, running will make me feel like death because it’s 95 degrees outside.

I’m still working out how, exactly, to drink a bucket of water every day and also teach all day. It looks a little bit like drinking water first thing in the morning, then using the bathroom before school starts, then drinking a ton of water after school.

3. I will floss every day in 2018.

This is going well and I have also become a low-level flossing evangelist, which goes over really well at parties.

I’ve started using HabitBull to track my health related goals, and I highly recommend it.

I stopped using HabitBull for no particular reason, and my flossing has waned a bit. When I went to the dentist in November, I had two cavities that were between my teeth, and the dentist told me that I need to be flossing more effectively – making sure to get all the way between my gum and tooth.

Blogging

1.Write two blog posts every month.This one has not happened with consistency. I’ve met this goal in 2/6 months, in May and June. A major challenge for me has been finding time to devote to blogging, and finding ideas to blog about. I’m not great about keeping up an editorial calendar, which is silly – I have a degree in PR and I ran my college newspaper, I know how to do this. It just wasn’t a priority for me earlier this year.

I feel like I’m still in a similar place with this goal – it’s been hard for me to plan blog content out in advance, and while school is in session, teaching and grad school take priority over blogging. I’ll be super transparent – I’m writing this blog post over Thanksgiving break, and scheduling it to post in December. Maybe that’s the key – writing blog posts in a huge burst over breaks, then scheduling them to post months out.

2. Write one book review every month for the blog.
This one is embarrassing – I’ve written 1/6 book reviews, and I have another draft of a book review in Google Docs. Reading is lower on my list of priorities during the school year, and as a result, the book reviews haven’t been happening. Coming up soon will be reviews of a few nonfiction books I’ve read over summer break.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what book review I had drafted in Google Docs. I looked back through my Drive, and I cannot find anything, which is so frustrating. I read Ghost, and reviewed it last week. I have read The Book of Essie and Little Fires Everywhere, both of which were excellent, and both of which I need to review. I also read The Book Whisperer, and I can write reviews of all those books. I’m currently reading Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, which I can also review. It’s a matter of finding the time and making it a priority, both of which have shown to be a challenge for me this year.

Ghost

I picked up Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, in doing research for Creative Writing Club. I’m working on the fiction unit, and looking for a mentor text to have my kids read. In doing this research and preparation, I read the book. This is the first wholly young adult book I’ve read in a while, and I really liked it. Ghost is Castle Crenshaw’s nickname. Castle eats sunflower seeds all the time, a habit he picked up from his dad, who was abusive towards him and his mom. They ran away from his dad, hiding in the back room of a convenience store, and Castle has been running ever since. His dad is in prison now, and Castle is struggling, understandably, to cope.

One day, Castle is hanging out by the track near his house, and he races another kid who is on the track team. The coach notices how fast he is, and recruits Castle for the Defenders track team. As he joins the team and begins training with them, he becomes a better runner and builds a strong relationship with his coach.

In reading this book, I realized that I’ve read very few books that focus on sports, and I’ve never read a YA book that is centered on any kind of athletics. I liked it for that – it was interesting and unique, with a likable main character. I’m still working out the particular details of how I will include it in the Creative Writing Club curriculum. There are parts of it that I think my kids could learn a lot from, with how Reynolds fleshes out Castle’s character and shows the person he is.

On Gratitude

gabrielle cole

I am well aware that gratitude practices are actually a pretty significant key in leading a happier life, and I am a person who does, semi-regularly, think of gratitude. I think it helps me to cope with some of the things that happen in the world that are challenging- not by avoiding them but making sure that my thoughts have some balance, avoiding getting swallowed by awfulness. However, I am not always excellent at expressing that gratitude publicly – I’m more of an internal processor. Still, it helps to make it public, write it down and such.

I am grateful for my family, for being with them, and for their health.

I am grateful for a family that’s willing to engage in dialogue about challenging topics.

I am grateful for my health.

I am grateful for my friends.

I am grateful for friends who make time to see me when I come to town.

I am grateful for my friends who have maintained friendships for years upon years.

I am grateful for my stability.

I am grateful for my independence.

I am grateful for having somewhere to stay that is safe, warm, and dry.

I am grateful for my access to healthcare.

I am grateful for my reliable transportation.

I am grateful for a job that is meaningful.

I am grateful for my access to free graduate education.

I am grateful to every person who supported me and helped me along the way, even though they didn’t have to.

I am grateful to have a week off of school to rest and recharge.

In the fall, you will fly

I started running about a year ago. I started running thirteen years ago when I was on the cross country team in seventh grade, but a year ago is when I started running and kept it up enough to get stronger and better. I did my half marathon in February, and I kept running through the summer in Mississippi, when it was horribly hot and constantly drenched in sweat, grinding out my 12:30 miles and feeling like it was just too hard.

I go running with a friend pretty regularly, and I sometimes go running with the local running group. They’re all a lot faster than me, but it’s still nice to run with other people and have it be an event, rather than just me and my audiobooks. On one of those running group runs, where it’s 90 degrees and humid and you feel like you’re dying the whole time, the woman who runs the group said that these runs are hard now, but if you stick with it and keep training through the heat, you’ll fly in the fall.

This week, it finally got a little cooler in Mississippi. I don’t think we’re all the way to the end of 80 degree days, but the cooler weather has made running so much easier. Easier enough that I hit two PRs this week, which I’m incredibly proud of.

On Thursday, I ran a 5k with my friend. It was a smaller, local race, and I definitely went into it with the mindset of hitting a PR. My goal was running ten minute miles and hitting a PR.

I made it. 9:56 miles, PR met.

Today, I had a 6.5 mile run on my training plan. I woke up this morning, and it wasn’t hot at all, and I had that goal – hitting a PR on my 10k time. I also wanted to do longer than the 6.5 miles, because this week I’ve been thinking of this (silly? unreasonable?) idea of running another half marathon at the beginning of December, so I wanted to push up my long run mileage right now. I figure if I did 7 miles today, I can do eight miles next weekend, then nine, ten, eleven, and probably be good to go at the beginning of December.

I made it. 1:12:02. Somehow I ran a 9:44 mile after having already run five miles. Check it out on Strava, the splits are kind of ridiculous.

Running felt amazing today. It was cool, and quiet, and I barely saw anyone on the trail – it was perfect. When I felt tired, it was 100% in my legs, not my lungs, which is a good feeling, a nice switch from barely being able to breathe in the summer.

I’ve found that running can be a great push in helping me find a balance between teaching and life – having a goal that I care about, that I want to work towards, and that has nothing to do with teaching has helped me to put down the grading, put down the computer, and just focus on running.

Mid-Year Progress Report

Glenn Carstens-Peters

We’re halfway through 2018, which feels weird and unexpected. It also pushes me to evaluate the progress I’ve made towards the goals I’ve set towards 2018, and adjust my actions as needed. Here’s the post I wrote in December about goals for the year.

Health
  1. Maintain my current level of fitness and make progress throughout 2018.
    I have been consistent with this goal – I can run faster and further than I could six months ago, and I successfully completed my first half marathon in February. I have hit PRs in my one mile and 5k times this year, and I’m running a 5k on Wednesday. Depending on some variables in my life this fall, I may or may not be running a second half marathon in the fall, and I’ve registered for the Mississippi River Half Marathon in 2019.
  2. By the end of 2018, I will drink 68 oz. of water daily.
    This is harder in the school year than it is in the summer. On a majority of the days this summer, I’ve been drinking 68 oz. of water – it’s so much easier in the summer because there’s more motivation. If I’m not well hydrated, running will make me feel like death because it’s 95 degrees outside.
  3. I will floss every day in 2018.
    This is going well and I have also become a low-level flossing evangelist, which goes over really well at parties.

I’ve started using HabitBull to track my health related goals, and I highly recommend it.

Blogging
  1. Write two blog posts every month.
    This one has not happened with consistency. I’ve met this goal in 2/6 months, in May and June. A major challenge for me has been finding time to devote to blogging, and finding ideas to blog about. I’m not great about keeping up an editorial calendar, which is silly – I have a degree in PR and I ran my college newspaper, I know how to do this. It just wasn’t a priority for me earlier this year.
  2. Write one book review every month for the blog.
    This one is embarrassing – I’ve written 1/6 book reviews, and I have another draft of a book review in Google Docs. Reading is lower on my list of priorities during the school year, and as a result, the book reviews haven’t been happening. Coming up soon will be reviews of a few nonfiction books I’ve read over summer break.

I’ve also set other categories of goals – personal, finance, and career. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of all the goals in all the categories, but it’s interesting – I haven’t really told anyone about those categories, and I didn’t blog about them. They feel a bit less “real” than the ones I articulated on the blog, and I have a harder time tracking my progress towards them. Because I don’t blog about them, I don’t feel accountable to anyone. Any ideas for holding myself accountable, but in a way that’s more private? How do you set goals and track your progress towards them?