Phase III

16 01 2017

Phases.  Cycles.  To everything is a season.

In May of 1991, fresh graduate degree and commission in hand, my trusty little Mazda and I headed further south than I had ever traveled – to Biloxi Mississippi for Air Force tech training.  While there I spent weeks learning how to program databases in a software package called Enable and learning about the color arrangement of lights on the runway.  After class we ran the track and did drill. That July, my Mazda and I headed in the opposite direction – to Minot, North Dakota and my active duty assignment… where I never once programmed a database in Enable (Microsoft Office came out just as I arrived) and I never once was asked to explain the pattern of lights on runway.  I didn’t run a track much in Minot either – although I did pick up on the 90’s fitness craze of step aerobics (complete with snazzy purple spandex and slouchy socks). Still, that time in Biloxi was the start of an era.

We really never know what direction life will take and I consider it a strength that I never much obsessed over it.  My decision process has always boiled down to “which choice sounds more interesting?”.  Choose, and go for it. So, orders to Minot, ND?  No problem! Little did I know, on my first day in Minot that I would get lost trying to find my office.  Or, that the helpful guy that asked if I was lost and showed me the way that first day would end up helping me find my way for the rest of my life.

25 years.  Passed by in the flash of an eye.  Marriage, kids, more grad school, moves, job changes, struggles, successes – the stuff of “adulthood”.  Childhood, adolescence, college – Phase I.  Adulthood – Phase II. Then, the kids find their own wings and move on to their own phase II – and the transition occurs – Phase III.

By chance, we passed through Biloxi again last month, during another transition.  And again, the transition is taking me to North Dakota – this time with my trusty Nissan.  Another chance to explore an opportunity that sounds fascinating, if a bit overwhelming.  Definitely challenging.  I’ve been invited to teach graduate school pathophysiology in the physician’s assistant program. 2017-01-16-15-37-57

With new challenges, I work best by immersion – by focusing deeply and completely on mastery of the new task. So, soon, I head back to North Dakota.  It’s where phase II began – and I welcome the challenge of Phase III.  In a sense, North Dakota is home.  It’s where I met and married that helpful, supportive, and (mostly) patient guy – it’s where my two amazing kids were born.  Sure, it’s a little cold there… that’s why I’m headed there “soon”, not “now”.  I may always be up for a challenge, but I kind of need to ease back into those winters slowly…

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Facing the post-Thanksgiving massive holiday to-do list

28 11 2015

I’m an organized person.  Not a neat and tidy uber-clean person, but organized.  One of those people who makes lists of lists.  Color coded and dated lists.  Lists that aren’t procrastination – I get the items finished and checked off.  I’m motivated by checking items off lists.

But, even as an organized person, I have a secret to confess – I dread the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s not the shopping – that’s all done and stashed (accomplished online, of course).  It’s because the day after Thanksgiving is when all of my holiday and end of fall term/start of spring term lists are programmed to start alerting.  “Assemble lab kits”, “Inventory cookie baking ingredient spreadsheet”, “Program course updates – spring (sublist: 87 tasks)”, and on and on.  Since I take a school “computer break” from Christmas to New Years, and since I have a far-flung cookie-loving family, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my marathon.  It’s exhausting, but being organized helps. Sort of.  Some days I wonder if I might not be better off not seeing the massive day after Thanksgiving lists?  But, I try to look at it as a delayed gratification kind of thing.  If I get my list done before Christmas, then I know that I’ll have fall classes done, spring classes ready to go, and cookies to eat by Christmas Day.

Through the years, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks to accomplish what is important to me and my family – and to cut the things that aren’t.

  1. We don’t do many gifts. I pick up little things here or there, but I don’t stress over what to get for whom. I have a huge family – most people get cookies.
  1. Cookies. The list takes days to bake. I have no idea how many dozen I make – certainly more than I could estimate off the top of my head.  I am cutting back this year on the cookies and ramping up on the white chocolate covered pretzels – they are usually the first to get pounced on. (Side note: if I could buy the cookies, I totally would – can’t, peanut allergies, don’t trust anyone else to make cookies.  Plus, it’s something my grandma did, and she’s no longer here to do it).
  1. I make lists for the next year as soon as a finish a project each year. trello 1115The lists are programmed to alert the day after Thanksgiving the next year. As I said above, it’s overwhelming to see them all pop up – but at least I know I won’t forget something – and, I’ll get the sense of accomplishment that comes with marking things off a list.  I make lists of things like which cookies were the last to go from the plate (eliminate them from the line up) and who has which favorites.  I track cookie ingredients and recipes on Excel to make it easy to adjust batch sizes and to consolidate ingredients for a shopping list.  This year I’ve also started to use Trello to track my tasks.  Trello lets me color code task cards and either give each card a due date, or not.  Trello allows me to drag and drop and/or copy cards from list to list so that I can make a working copy without disrupting my original master copy list.  It allows multiple boards, each holding multiple lists with multiple cards per list.  Trello has allowed me to consolidate my holiday and school prep/grading lists from OneNote and Wunderlist to just Trello.  Anything that combines the functionality of two apps into one is a winner for me.  Plus, it’s universally accessible (phone, web).  I’m still faced with a massive list, but at least it’s one that’s both pretty and functional.

And, the things I don’t do?

  1. I very rarely do holiday cards. If people want to know how my year went, there is Facebook. Or, they can email me and ask.  One year I sent out holiday cards June 1st (start of summer vacation – my “new year”).  That was a hit – lots of good feedback on that, but that was before Facebook was a thing.
  1. I don’t put up a tree. We have a small pre-lit shrub somewhere we put on a table. Our kids are 20-somethings now so the tree isn’t really a must-do.  Plus, the kids still live at home (with all their stuff) so there isn’t actually room anywhere for a tree.
  1. I don’t worry about cooking traditions. On Thanksgiving this week our “poultry and potatoes” meal was chicken tenders and fries. Christmas will be pizza (actually, the Papa Murphy’s folks tell me Dec 24th is one of their busiest days of the year so we may be on tradition there).

For me, the holidays are a time of family and faith.  I’ve learned as I age that it’s not about the obligations, or the turkey or the tree, it’s about spending time with the ones you love and relaxing.  The holidays don’t have to match the Norman Rockwell pictures to be valid experiences.

Now, on to that to-do list…





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