Tag Archive for growth

It’s a Matter of Perspective

When Shane and I first moved back to Texas from Ken­tucky, we lived in Gatesville, a small town about 45 min­utes west of Waco. Shane was the preacher at a church there. I became good friends with Amy, a girl who lived with her hus­band about 5 miles out­side of the town. When we talked at church or on the phone about what we would be doing the next day, she often told me, “I have to make a trip to town tomor­row.” The first time she used this phrase, I thought she meant that she would be dri­ving to Waco. That’s what I meant when I said I was dri­ving to town. Cool! Let’s go together. To me, dri­ving into town meant a long drive to the “big city.”

Living in the Country

Image cour­tesy of freefoto.com

But I soon learned that she did not mean that at all. Instead, when she said she would be dri­ving into town, she meant that she would be dri­ving the five miles into our town, not to Waco. She lived in the coun­try and “town” for her was Gatesville. I lived inside the city lim­its (and also came from the big city), so, to me, “town” was the big­ger city of Waco.

It was a mat­ter of perspective.

Last week I posted 12 rea­sons I like liv­ing in the coun­try. A lot of peo­ple read that post, and, since then, at least five peo­ple have told me, “You know you don’t really live in the coun­try.”* They have pointed out to me that since I have city water and city sewage, I do not live in the coun­try. They also used as evi­dence the fact that I do not have well water. No, I do not live in the coun­try, they say; I live in a “rural com­mu­nity,” “a small town.” One friend at my church even com­mented that she must have me out to their house so that I can see what liv­ing in the coun­try truly means.

In some sense, I agree with them. Yes, I do live in a city. It is rural and small, but it’s still a city. We have about 7,000 peo­ple liv­ing here. I do not have to “drive into town” for gro­ceries. I have neigh­bors. I have a city address. I live on a paved street. I do not have a well. I do not have a stock tank. I do not have cows or horses or pigs. I have inter­net access and it is fast. I have good cell ser­vice. We have 4G.

No, I do not live in the coun­try in the same sense my great-grandmother Meme did while she was alive. She lived in a single-wide trailer with noth­ing else around her for miles. No gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions, or schools. Not even a Wal-Mart. She used well water. She had cats run­ning all over the place. She had a big tank in her yard that we liked to climb all over. Skunks lived under her trailer and made a major mess of things. She lived in the country.

Shane’s grand­mother also lives in the coun­try. I love going out there to the ranch. She lives in the coun­try in a way that I do not.

But, in another sense, I do live in the coun­try. Although it may not be the coun­try in the tech­ni­cal sense of the word or in the same way my great-grandmother did, I still live in the coun­try in com­par­i­son to my expe­ri­ences of city life.

As I men­tioned before on this blog, I grew up in Hous­ton. For those of you who live in or have lived in big cities, this doesn’t need much expla­na­tion. For those of you who were part of my life in Hous­ton and knew what life was like for your­self and for me, you know what a state­ment like this means. Images of city life imme­di­ately take hold, and you can imag­ine what big city life is like.

But for oth­ers who have not lived in a city or a big­ger city, say­ing that may not mean very much.

When I grad­u­ated high school and first moved to Abi­lene for col­lege, I thought I had moved to the mid­dle of nowhere. Abi­lene was con­sid­ered a “small town” to those of us who came from big­ger cities. It was. About 150,000 peo­ple. Fast for­ward sev­eral years later to Gatesville: 10,000 people.

My def­i­n­i­tion of “small town” soon shifted. Gatesville was a small town; Waco was the “big city.”

How we regard life is a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. Where we’ve come from. Where we’ve been.

Our per­spec­tive shapes what we see. Our per­spec­tive lim­its what we see.

Only when we inter­act with oth­ers who come from dif­fer­ent places than we do, who have dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences, who believe dif­fer­ent things, can we truly under­stand how lim­ited, sit­u­ated, and incom­plete our per­spec­tive is.

Only when we get to know oth­ers can we truly grow in our own per­spec­tives.

*My hus­band was one of the peo­ple who told me that I am wrong, that, no, we do not live in the coun­try. I think this is inter­est­ing because, like me, he lived in big cities for most of his life. I think it’s even more inter­est­ing because he has  referred to where we live as the wilder­ness.

Teaching Writing in a Digital Age

This semes­ter I designed and taught a new course, “Writ­ing in a Dig­i­tal Age.” This course will soon become required for all Pro­fes­sional Writ­ing majors, and I am thank­ful to have been the first to teach it.It tops the list as one of my all-time favorites.

The stu­dents were engaged, ded­i­cated, and flex­i­ble.
The mate­r­ial was stim­u­lat­ing, new, and excit­ing.
The topic was rel­e­vant, inter­est­ing, and prac­ti­cal.
The clients were involved, atten­tive, and grate­ful. 

I learned. The stu­dents learned. The clients learned. And we all did so with atti­tudes of open­ness to the process, which is impor­tant when you’re teach­ing with and using technology.

My stu­dents pre­sented their final projects yes­ter­day. They showed us the web­site they had cre­ated for a local small busi­ness, and they reflected on the process of writ­ing for the web, work­ing with a client, and tran­si­tion­ing the web­site and social media pages over to the client. I was fas­ci­nated by what they did in six weeks. I am amazed at my students.

A few of the clients were able to come as well. I really enjoyed hear­ing their per­spec­tive about how dig­i­tal writ­ing mat­ters in small busi­ness. A few men­tioned that they did not know how much an online pres­ence would mat­ter for their busi­ness, but that, in just a few weeks, they can already see how use­ful it will be for their busi­ness. Awesome.

Here are some of the web­sites my stu­dents created:

In the future, I plan to expand this Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing project to the entire semes­ter. I think stu­dents and the client will ben­e­fit from doing so, and I can envi­sion many ways to expand the assignment.

Thanks for a great semes­ter, #DW4375!

Up In the Clouds or Down on the Ground: When Marriage Is Difficult

A few weeks ago I was on the couch read­ing a book. My hus­band was sit­ting on the other couch read­ing a book. We had been there a while when I glanced over at my hus­band. The title of the book caught my eye. Here is what I saw.

What If I Married the Wrong Person?

(Of course, I didn’t take a pic­ture of him actu­ally read­ing the book, so this pic­ture will have to suffice.)

Before I had a chance to process the title of the book, he caught my eye and smiled. Then he began giggling.

I asked, “WHAT are you reading?”

Appar­ently, one of his men­tors was clear­ing out some of his books and my husband–hilarious as always–couldn’t resist tak­ing this one. He and a friend even brain­stormed all the ways I should “dis­cover” this book, even antic­i­pat­ing how I would react when I saw it.

Know­ing the two of them, I laughed. It was a joke. He got the book as a joke. He doesn’t think that about me (whew!).

For sev­eral weeks since, I have been won­der­ing about this book.  It’s been sit­ting on the counter for a while. Lin­ger­ing. Wait­ing for one of us to read it. We still haven’t, and I don’t know if we will. But, I finally put it on the book­shelf next to C.S. Lewis, our Bibles, and some library books (for now). Guests perus­ing our book­shelf will see this…

What If I Married the Wrong Person? Bookshelf

I won­der what they will think when they notice the title.

I haven’t read the book, nor do I think I will, but I do think the book poses an inter­est­ing question,

“What if I mar­ried the wrong person?”

The week before I got mar­ried, I was rid­ing in the car with a female men­tor of mine. She had been mar­ried for almost 30 years at the time. She told me, “Kara, one day, you may regret your deci­sion to marry Shane. You may come to a point where you do not love your hus­band. You may want a divorce. You may become resent­ful, or angry, or dis­con­tent. And I want to tell you that it’s okay. At var­i­ous points through­out my mar­riage, I felt this way, too.”

As a per­son a few days shy of get­ting mar­ried, this con­ver­sa­tion, frankly, shocked and sur­prised me (yes, I was naive). I couldn’t believe that this woman I admired and sought to emu­late had felt this way about her hus­band. She always seemed so happy in her mar­riage. She respected, admired, and pub­licly demon­strated her love and devo­tion to her husband.

But she had gone through low times, too. She wanted me to know that if (or when) I felt this way to remem­ber that I was not alone. Oth­ers had been there.

My friend pro­ceeded to reveal to me what she did dur­ing these times.

She prayed.

She prayed for her hus­band.
She prayed for her­self.
She prayed that God would help her focus on the things she first loved about her hus­band.
She prayed that God would help her fall back in love with her hus­band.
She prayed that God would keep her com­mit­ted to her hus­band, even when her heart did not feel it.

I can­not count how many times I have come back to this con­ver­sa­tion through­out my soon-to-be 10 years of marriage.

I have remem­bered her words. 

When I was hurt by my hus­band.
When my expec­ta­tions were not met.
When I was dis­ap­pointed.
When I wanted to be alone.
When I was depressed and lonely and sad.
When I dis­liked some­thing about my husband.

I remem­bered: Per­haps my imme­di­ate sit­u­a­tion will not change, but, through prayer, the way I feel about it can change. I can’t con­trol what my spouse does; I can con­trol my reac­tion. I can con­trol my feel­ings about him. I can still choose to love him.

My friend may never know how much her words impacted me. And as I was soon to learn, mar­riage is not easy. But, my friend’s will­ing­ness to share some­thing so per­sonal, so real, has been a source of encour­age­ment to me again and again. You see, her words taught me, first, to take my strug­gles to God. And, sec­ond, to look at myself…the only per­son in the mar­riage I can control.

Note: I don’t mean to triv­i­al­ize mar­riage or the real dif­fi­culty of mak­ing mar­riage work. Mar­riage is hard. It, lit­er­ally, takes two peo­ple to work. I know many peo­ple who have tried for years to work on their mar­riage, only to be met with abuse, affairs, or an unwill­ing, unbend­ing spouse. I only point out here that being hon­est and real about marriage–rather than idealistic–can make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of young peo­ple about to embark on the jour­ney.

Anxiety Abatement: 12 Ways to Simplify Your Home

Today is the first post in my 12 series.

I write today about sim­pli­fy­ing your home by clear­ing out the clutter–physical clut­ter, such as toys, books, and decor; envi­ron­men­tal clut­ter that increases anx­i­ety; and emo­tional clut­ter like distraction.

I have my own issues with clut­ter. Last fall, I stayed home with my new baby. I work out­side of the home, but my won­der­ful uni­ver­sity gave me a semester-long mater­nity leave when I had my baby at the begin­ning of the term. Dur­ing this time at home–almost every sin­gle day–I came to real­ize that I did not like being at home. I was shocked by this rev­e­la­tion. I really thought I would like stay­ing at home.

I have a nice home. And I like my stuff. But I dis­liked being at home because of the con­stant mess. I didn’t like look­ing at the junk, and I mostly stayed in one or two rooms so that I didn’t have to see the rest of the house. Too much clutter.

I decided to do some­thing about it.

Today, I present to you 12 ways to sim­plify your home, to de-clutter your home so that you can find the emo­tional san­ity you need and truly live your life in focus. These items are not ranked in order of most impor­tant, but I chose to num­ber them to make it eas­ier to skim the list.

1. Con­sign, sell, or donate at least 2/3s of your toys. Seri­ously, do it. Over the past sev­eral months, I have been clean­ing out the toys. It’s been easy to get rid of the ones my kids have out­grown. If we don’t need it any­more, I’ve got­ten rid of it. I also tried to get rid of toys that limit cre­ativ­ity or orig­i­nal­ity, toys that come in such a pre-form pack­age that they do not allow chil­dren to use their imag­i­na­tion. My daughter’s Bar­bie dolls are the only things that I have yet to throw out in this vein. She has about 10 of them. I told her she can keep 2. She’s decid­ing which ones and then they are gone.

The hard­est part for me has been to dwin­dle down the toys to a very small stack. But I have tried. I only have one more room to do. The results? It’s been free­ing for my chil­dren. Their rooms are neater. Clean­ing up is not quite as big of a task. They don’t seem so stressed out or over­whelmed when I ask them to clean up. I’ve also noticed that they are play­ing more. They aren’t com­ing to me say­ing their bored. They know where their toys are, and they want to play with them and then pick them up. As I was sep­a­rat­ing the toys into con­sign­ment or dona­tion piles, I also added one more pile–a rotat­ing pile. I put the rotat­ing pile into one stor­age bin and moved it to our garage. Even­tu­ally, I will rotate the toys in the bin out with the toys in their room. My kids are enjoy­ing their clutter-free spaces. And I am enjoy­ing their bet­ter atti­tudes and their renewed inter­est in the toys they have.

2. Cook the same meals (or types of meals) each week. I like to cook gourmet meals. I like to eat good food. I like to watch cook­ing shows and dis­cover new recipes. And I must admit, I’m still try­ing to put this one into prac­tice. We have sim­pli­fied our weekly menu by insti­tut­ing Pizza Night, a tra­di­tion going strong for sev­eral years now. The prob­lem here is that I’m the only one who’s known about this weekly event. I cook and plan the menus and hav­ing one weekly meal on my list has made meal-planning and grocery-shopping eas­ier. My kids know that we have pizza a lot (it’s my daughter’s favorite food), but until recently, I didn’t call it Pizza Night. I am learn­ing, how­ever, that chil­dren need to expe­ri­ence antic­i­pa­tion, so I plan on com­mu­ni­cat­ing meals like “Pizza Night” to my chil­dren. Over the sum­mer, I plan to insti­tute “Meat­less Mon­day,” “Pasta Night,” and a “Mys­tery Dinner.”

If you were to take this tip one step fur­ther, you might even des­ig­nate the exact meal: chicken spaghetti, soup, chicken ten­ders, breakfast-for-dinner, lasagna, etc., so that the meals are sim­pli­fied even fur­ther. I don’t think this would work for me because of my own inter­ests as a cook, but if it works for you, great. Go for it. The goal here is to sim­plify meal-planning, cook­ing, and eat­ing and for all to expe­ri­ence joy at the din­ner table.

3. Get rid of all those extra cook­books on the shelf. Admit it, you prob­a­bly don’t use half the cook­books you have on the shelf. I just went and counted my cook­books. I have at least 50 (and I just got rid of about 30–still work­ing on the oth­ers!). I prob­a­bly only use 8 of them. But the oth­ers are spe­cial to me, so I’ve kept them. I still have too many, though. My sign should be that they don’t all fit on the book­shelf I have in my kitchen. Still trying…

4. Play a game. Indoor or out­door. As a fam­ily. With your child. By your­self. Play a pick-up game of bas­ket­ball. Play Horse or Knock-Out (I recently played this with my 7-year-old nephew and my brother-in-law Derek, and it brought back so many mem­o­ries of play­ing these games in mid­dle school and high school. I loved it!). Play a base­ball game where the trees in your back­yard are your bases. Play board games like Candy Land, Chess, Monop­oly, or Check­ers. Play Dou­ble 9 domi­noes, Uno, Spades, or Mem­ory. Any­thing your kid likes. Or, make up your own game, com­plete with mate­ri­als and rules.

5. Try to fil­ter out the adult world from your chil­dren. Try this for one week: No fights with your spouse. No neg­a­tive com­ments about other adults (friends, teach­ers, church peo­ple, the pres­i­dent, politi­cians, rel­a­tives, in-laws). No inap­pro­pri­ate con­tent com­ing to your chil­dren through the TV (espe­cially the morn­ing and evening news or cer­tain video games that can desen­si­tize us to vio­lence). Instead, be present with your chil­dren. Talk to them at the din­ner table or when they come inside from the back­yard. Lis­ten to them. Learn about their world, their inter­ests. And let me know how it goes.

6. Donate all those books on your book­shelf to your library. My hus­band and I both went to grad­u­ate school, where we were required to buy hun­dreds of books for our courses and our research. Most of those are at our respec­tive offices, but many have entered our home. If you don’t use it or think you will use it, get rid of it.

But grad­u­ate school books are the least of our wor­ries when it comes to books in the home. Nov­els, Chris­t­ian books, self-help books, biogra­phies, and children’s books are of much greater con­cern. I must admit that I am cheap when it comes to books. I don’t like to spend money on books. I go to the library at least once a week. Any book my local library doesn’t have I can get through my university’s inter­li­brary loan ser­vice (which is awe­some). That being said, I still have a lot of books. Peo­ple give books to me because I am an Eng­lish teacher, and, hey, I like books. But I don’t like books to clut­ter my shelves. I used to think hav­ing books in your home was a sign of intel­li­gence and bril­liance and being smart. Just think of all those movies where smart, rich peo­ple have these amaz­ing libraries with the mov­able lad­der. But now I don’t really care to live up to that stan­dard. Books and book­shelves lead to clut­ter. So, get rid of your books. Get­ting rid of the children’s books has been the hard­est part for me. I put some of them in the rotat­ing pile and got rid of at least three shelves’ worth. I now have three shelves of books–one shelf for each kid. That’s still a lot, I know. But we do read a lot and we read a lot of the same books, so I’ve kept a few.

7. Con­sign or donate your unworn clothes. Seri­ously, do it. It is lib­er­at­ing. Go through your clothes, your spouse’s clothes, your kids clothes. Con­sign clothes that don’t fit or that are out of style. If you have gained or lost a lot of weight recently, get rid of the clothes in the dif­fer­ent size. Even if you lose that weight (or gain it back), those clothes will be out of style. And it will make you feel bet­ter when you are get­ting dressed each day not to be star­ing at those other sizes.

8. Turn off the TV. At least 2 days a week, no TV allowed. Try it. It’s amaz­ing how much more time you have to do things you love to do–and things that will make you feel so much bet­ter about your­self than watch­ing 4 hours of TV every night. Read, write, cook, eat, talk, scrap­book, exer­cise. Find a pas­sion and turn off that screen.

9. When you feel your­self get­ting over­whelmed at the mess, take 15 min­utes to do a quick pick-up of the house. Toys and mess can be over­whelm­ing for adults, too, and set­ting a limit on how much time you spend pick­ing up is good for you, too. Get the kids involved. Make it a game. We did this recently and it was the fastest, most fun clean-up we’ve ever had. I set the timer and pro­vided an incre­men­tal count­down of how much time we had left. The older kids were so excited. They kept com­ing back to ask, “How much more time?!!” Fun will be had by all.

10. Read more. Take the time to read that moun­tain of books on your night­stand. You will have more to con­tribute to dis­cus­sions with your hus­band or your friends. You will learn some­thing. You will feel good about your­self. You will grow as a per­son.

11. Make it a goal to have 2 entire days or evenings of unstruc­tured time at home. Noth­ing planned. Noth­ing sched­uled. Except being with your fam­ily and let­ting your kids run free. They can know you are there and come to you when they need you, but don’t plan an activity–even in the home. If your kids get bored, tell them, “Well, then, some­thing amaz­ing is about to hap­pen.” Just be. Your kids will appre­ci­ate it in the long run. And you will, too.

12. Pray more, and dwell in the pres­ence of the Lord as often as pos­si­ble. In the rush of my busy life, I must admit that per­sonal time with God often gets lost first. I used to have quiet time in the morn­ing. But with young chil­dren, such a goal is ide­al­is­tic rather than real­is­tic, and I won’t beat myself up over not being able to have this peace­ful time the same way I did as a sin­gle woman. Instead, I have learned–through the gen­tle love of some older, wiser women–how to inte­grate prayer and God into my day rather than save a sin­gle time or space for it. I like this idea. I’m still not very good at it, though. I am try­ing, though.

This list is far from com­pre­hen­sive. These changes take time. Change is a process, not a one-time fix. I merely offer some things that have worked for me. They’ve helped make our fam­ily closer. They’ve allowed my kids to open up to me in ways they hadn’t before. They’ve decreased my own anx­i­ety and have helped me deal with the feel­ings I have being in my own home.

What tips do you have to make your home a peace­ful place?

Why I Like the End of the Semester

The last week of the semes­ter is upon us at Bay­lor and at many col­leges all over the coun­try. Next week is finals week, and then comes grad­u­a­tion. And, then, the semes­ter is over.

This time of year is one of my favorites. Yes, sum­mer is com­ing and stu­dents and teach­ers alike will soon get a much needed break. We don’t have to come back until August. But what I like just as much as antic­i­pat­ing the sum­mer hia­tus is get­ting to see what my stu­dents have learned. This is the time of the semes­ter when stu­dents sub­mit their work, work that high­lights what they have learned, accom­plished, and achieved through my course. I enjoy look­ing through stu­dent  projects and reflect­ing on what we have done over the course of 16 weeks and all that we have accom­plished together.

What is really excit­ing for me this semes­ter is that I designed and taught a new course, “Writ­ing in the Dig­i­tal Age.” This course has exceeded my expec­ta­tions, and I have really enjoyed the con­tent and the stu­dents who enrolled in it. We have had a great semes­ter together. Stu­dents cre­ated a pro­fes­sional blog and com­posed weekly blog posts on issues related to dig­i­tal writ­ing. They mar­keted them­selves and their work through Face­book and Twit­ter. They researched a topic related to dig­i­tal writ­ing, such as pod­casts in the class­room,e-books, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and the Smart­Pen.

Stu­dents also cre­ated an audio or video Pub­lic Ser­vice Announce­ment. Ali­son cre­ated a video PSA on Lupus, and Ari­adne com­posed a provoca­tive PSA on body image.Other PSAs exam­ined child­hood lit­er­acy, hunger, and binge drinking.

The last project of the semes­ter, which we are cur­rently work­ing on, asked stu­dents to locate a local small busi­ness and work with them to develop an  online presence–to mar­ket them­selves dig­i­tally to their audi­ence. Stu­dents built a Web site for their client and then cre­ated or updated their client’s Face­book and Twit­ter pages. Next week, we will have a cel­e­bra­tion party where we will view the final web sites and cel­e­brate with the clients. I have really enjoyed this project and plan to expand it as a semester-long project next time.

The end of the semes­ter is excit­ing for stu­dents and teach­ers. Edu­ca­tion, in all its embod­i­ments, becomes evident.