Lost...one motivation. If found, please contact Seeking Solace.
I can't seem to find my motivation. It's not for lack of trying, either. I have tried my usual motivation tricks, like "OK, I am going to work on X task for 15 minutes" or "If I grade X number of papers, I can do Y fun thing." Even breaking up my tasks into smaller goals isn't working.
Methinks I am in the Winter Blahs, which usually hits around February. It was particular bad when I lived in Lake Effect Snow Central because of the gray, cold and overall crappy winters. It's not so bad in Elsewhere; winters here are mild with minimal gray crappy days. However, this winter has been out of the ordinary with snow and cold. On the plus side, I have been able to get out and get some Vitamin D, fresh air and exercise. I also take Vitamin D daily.
I have an interesting research project that I am working on for my PhD class. It's different from what I have been working on, which is nice because I've wanted to expand my research interests. Also, I have team project with a great partner. So, I should be plowing ahead, right?
I have several blog posts about some things that have been on my mind lately. I start writing, but end up in the lane headed towards writer's block. I can't seem to bust through it.
Don't get me started on my online class. For the most part, the students are good. I have a couple who are stellar. They have a great grasp of the material. Also, they have presented some great arguments in our discussion forums. I wish I had these students in an on-stie class, At the same time, having 33 students has been quite daunting, especially when some STILL do not have books. Trying to get everyone caught up this late in the game is frustrating.
I need to come up with something soon. I don't want to get any more behind that I am right now.
Lost...one motivation. If found, please contact Seeking Solace.
I got an email from a student in my online class. The email was very short.
"Professor Seeking Solace, I don't understand anything. I am so frustrated and I don't want to fail."
I responded with "Can you be more specific?" This lead to a back-and-forth conversation in which the student complained that he did not understand how to upload the homework to the online site or how to take the quizzes. I asked him if he had completed the online training before starting the course.
His response? "Not really."
After a few choice curse words, I emailed the student reprimanding him for not completing a vital part of the course. Then, I reminded him that the login page for the course has videos that give step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the online course. I also told him that I would allow him to make up the homework and quizzes; however, I would assess a one letter grade penalty and he would have to complete them on the date I assign for completion. I told him that I would work with him to make sure that he is progressing through the course.
Pretty generous on my part, don't you think? I threw this student a huge lifeline that I would not normally throw. Usually, I would say "Sucks to be you. You better get your ass in gear, if you are going to have a decent chance of passing MY class." I figured if he was really serious about doing well in my course, he would jump at my offer.
His response? "I just can't do it."
This response really pissed me off. It pissed me off because it's not that the student can't do it, I think he doesn't WANT to do it. Otherwise, why not accept my offer? I have three theories.
Pride and fear: I don't have enough fingers or toes to count the number of students who wait until it's too late to reach out for help. I ask them why they didn't come to me sooner? The usual response from the student is standard "I don't know", which I can quickly breakthrough to get to the real reason. It's usually pride or fear. Many see both as a sign of weakness. I constantly remind my students that no one can do college alone. No one can really get through life alone. We all have to ask for help sometimes. That's not being weak; it's being resourceful.
It's just easier to quit: I also think that this student has been allowed to quit any time something is too hard. No one has ever pushed him to stare down adversity and push through it. No one have ever said, before you give up, you need to exhaust all other remedies that are available to you. I think he is waiting for me to say "If something is too hard, you should just quit."
This student is not suited for online courses: Perhaps this student does not belong in an online class. There are those students for whom online learning is not the best environment. No everyone has the discipline and ability to self guide themselves in an online environment. There are those who thrive on instant feedback.
Maybe, it's all three.
I had posted quips about this situation yesterday on Twittter. A few folks commented about the overall issue of online preparation. A few commented that they have the same problem with the lack of online preparation with their students. Some students brush it aside or think that it is not important. Students are supposed to certify that they have completed the training before starting the course. So, how do I know, other than their word, that this is the truth? I supposed I could create a quiz as part of the first week activities to test that theory. Then, thee are those students who are just not comfortable with the online learning environment.
I really don't know what the answer is regarding online preparation. As a PhD student in Education, it has sparked my interest for research, particularly with adult learners/non traditional students. I really wonder how the assumptions regarding online learning are actually helping or hindering students. I would like to research what procedures are in place for online instruction. I am sure there is some research out there.
Until then, as far as my student goes, I've done all I can do. He has to decide for himself how he wants to proceed. I've thrown him a life preserver. All he has to do is grab on and dog paddle a little. My offer has an expiration date of this Friday.
At the end of the day, it's up to him to save himself.
Yesterday, I did yoga for the first time in a long time. It felt great.
I used to be very dedicated to yoga practice. I started practice when I got my first job as an attorney. The high stress environment put my already high stress, Type A personality into overdrive. Yoga taught me the need for calm and the importance of breathing. Yoga also helped early in my RA diagnosis. However, as the RA progressed, I found it difficult to practice yoga. Even with the props and modifications, it was difficult to complete and hold the positions. The weight gain didn't help matters as there was too much pressure on my already tender joints.
I've been wanting to get back into practice for a while. I missed the feeling of calm that comes with practice. Also, I wanted something to help tone my arms and core without excess pressure on my joints. I've used light weights, but I like the extra calm that comes with yoga. Also, my RA doc suggested that many of her patients with fibromyalgia have found yoga to be very helpful.
So yesterday, I broke out my old yoga mat and a Rodney Yee video. I found myself gliding through the practice comfortably, with only some minor modification. I noticed a huge difference in my ability to maintain the positions without the excess weight in the way. I also felt that wonderful sensation of calm that comes at the end of a session. I felt energized enough to get through my long Wednesdays.
My goal is to practice twice a week. I think that is reasonable given my current physical heath. And, the mental health benefits will be welcome.
Now, if only Junior would understand that when I do downward-facing dog, it's not a play bow!
I reached my goal of losing 50 pounds and getting back to my pre-RA diagnosis weight.
Long time readers are all too familiar with my weight struggles. (Remember the Active Academic?) Since my diagnosis in 2001, I've gained 50 pounds. Periods of steroid use, inactivity because it hurt too much and my own laziness attributed to the weight gain. Over the years, I had lost 10 pounds, here and there, only to gain it back...plus more. I tried a lot of different things, exercise, giving up foods, all of that stuff. Nothing seemed to click. I couldn't find the right combination of things to shed the pounds.
In September 2012, I began using Lose It, a calorie and exercise tracker. I told Lose It my start weight and my goal weight in 10 pound increments. I figured small goals would be easier to reach. I set my calories to lose one pound a week (the maximum is 2). Lose It set my daily calorie intake and I was on my way. I diligently logged in my food. I soon realized that my portion sizes were way too much. I started looking at labels to determine a proper portion size. I even investing in a scale to measure portion sizes. I didn't give up eating any food that I love. I continued to eat bread, pasta, sweets and drink alcohol. I just learned how much was enough. I never felt hungry or deprived.
I began to add exercise into the equation. I got off my butt and started walking in the neighborhood. Junior was quite instrumental in getting my butt in gear. Husband fixed up one of the bedrooms and dusted off the treadmill. I downloaded a pedometer for my phone and clicked it on whenever I would go shopping or clean the house. As far as I was concerned, any activity that raised my heart rate counted.
There were ups and down, literally and figuratively. I battled flares, illness and periods of not wanting to exercise. There were times that even though I was doing everything right, the number on the scale would not budge. In fact, the last 10 pounds were the hardest to lose. But, I would just look at my my status charts on the Lose It site and remind myself how far I had made it. I did the happy dance when I started wearing single digit sized clothes. I felt empowered when I was able to do a little light jogging. I could feel less impact on my body, especially my joints. My primary care doc and RA doc are pleased with my progress. I have more energy.
Now, that the weight is gone, the next phase to tone up a little. Because I lost the weight slowly, my skin was able to adjust. My legs are lean and strong, thanks to the many hills in my neighborhood.
However, I would like to tone up my arms and core. I've wanted to get back into yoga, mainly to help with my fibromyalgia and stress. I had avoided it for so long because of the impact on my joints. I think it will be a nice way to tone up and relax.
Also, I have to figure out how to go from weight-loss to weight maintenance. I've been in the weight loss mode for so long, that I am not sure what maintenance will mean for me. I now have an extra 500 calories a day to play with. I don't want to go crazy, but I don't want to drop any more weight. either. The good thing is that the changes that I have made are truly lifestyle changes that are easy to keep, I just need to find the balance.
In the meantime, I am going to bask in the brand new me.
Everyone has, or should have, that one piece of clothing that makes you feel fabulous, even when you don't feel fabulous. For me, it is my gray dress pants.
The pants are Nine West. I bought the pants many years ago at a store that no longer exists. They are a charcoal gray, straight leg pant with just the right amount of stretch. Since grey is a neutral, anything and everything would go with these pants. They were my "go-to" pants. No matter how I felt about my appearance, I could count on my grey pants. When I had dropped some pounds, I would pin the waist to make them fit. The stretch fabric made them fit well when I pushed past their size 14 tag. Amazingly, they held up well, over the years, never faded or torn. They look brand new.
The last time that I wore my gray was when I was working at Tech College. Although I was losing weight, I still held on to my gray pants. I would pin the waist to make them fit. I suppose I could have taken them to a tailor, but just never made the time to do it. Since leaving Tech College, I have not had the occasion to wear them. So, my gray pants have stayed on the hanger in my closet.
I've been in the process of replacing items in my closet as my weight drops. I have not purchased many items, mainly because I don't want to spend a lot of cash on items that will end up in the donation bag in a few weeks. Also, working from home and taking classes does not necessitate having a huge professional wardrobe. So, I've kept my purchases to basic things.
Now that I am within 2 pounds of my overall goal, I am looking at putting a few professional items in my closet. Also, with job hunting, I don't want to have to run out at the last minute to buy something appropriate to wear for an interview. So with end of season sales in full effect, I ventured out yesterday to find some key pieces that would meet that need and my new size. I found a great pair of all season Ann Taylor black dress pants that were 60% off, plus I had a $20 reward card, which brought the total to $25.00. I love the way the new pants looked in the mirror. Just like my gray pants, they made me feel special and beautiful. And, they show off my new shape quite nicely.
As I went to hang up my new pants in my closet, I realized that I still had the grey pants along with some other dress pants from a year ago. The size on those tags did not reflect my new size. In line with my "one in, one out" rule, I began to put all of the old dress pants in a shopping bag. When I got to the gray pants, I paused. Part of me did not want to let them go. They had been my "go-to" pants, my security blanket. I could just take them to the tailor and have them made to fit my new body. But, I also realized that I was entering a new phase in my life. It was time to let go.
I gently folded the gray pants and put them in the donation bag. The pants had served their purpose. It was time for them to help another woman feel special and beautiful.
Just as they had done for me.
A former colleague contacted me about a job at a university in the same city as Tech College. It's another administrative position that requires my skill set.I found another administrative position. This one is through an international business school that has partnered with PhD U. I have the skill set for that position, minus the ability to speak French.
During my periods of unemployment or underemployment, I have pounced on any opportunity that meets my skill set. I chalk it up to my anxiousness to get back into the game. I often worry about letting an opportunity pass me by. I worry that if I don't jump something, it will be a long time before another opportunity comes knocking. So, I apply, get all excited and dive into the unknown. Sometimes, it has worked well, like my first job in Elsewhere, minus the insanity during the last year that I worked there. But, there have been times where it may not have been the best move for me, like my job at Tech College.
Right now is one of those times. I am underemployed, teaching one online class at HBCU. I do not foresee any opportunities to move up at HBCU. Even if there was something, I am skeptical of the process after what happened, or should I say didn't happen, when I submitted an internal application for a faculty position. Part of me wants to get back in the game, full time. But then. there is this part of me that is still taking baby steps in getting back to a place where I can be full time.
Also, there is the PhD thing. I am making baby steps toward earning it. I need to fully matriculate which means taking the GRE. (The short version of this is that I get that my GRE scores from my master's degree are way old. But, even though I have a master's and a professional doctorate, PhD U seems to think that I still need to prove to them that I can do graduate work...go figure.) Also, I should do some scholarly writing to earn some credibility. I can't do all of that while working full time.
I think it's just my inability to be still for very long. I get bored very quickly if I am doing the same thing for a long period of time. I usually last about three years in any job, except for when I ran my own law practice. That lasted six years. I blame some of it on opportunities in which there was little to no chance of growth or growth that was promised but never came. The rest of it is all me, the classic type A.
I am trying to change that about myself. Learn to be OK with being still for a while. Finding opportunities for growth within the confines of my circumstance. I don't have to jump at every opportunity that knocks on my door.
So for these two opportunities that have knocked on my door, I will not answer the door
Flares are part of RA. A flare is when the illness rears it's ugly head, hell bent on making your life miserable. In the case of RA, it's the joint pain and inflammation, along with extreme fatigue. Basically, I go from feeling like I can conquer the world to not wanting to get out of bed or move because my body feels like I played four quarters of football...as the ball.
There are things that can trigger a flare. For me, it's usually weather or stress. Those flares do suck, but at least you know why it's happening. Sometimes, there is no reason for the flare, hence the reason RA and its cousins are called autoimmune diseases. In my case, my immune system just goes into overdrive and starts attacking my joints and body. These are the times when the flare happens because it can. Those are the worst, because even though you are doing everything right, a flare can just show up and f@#k things up.
This time, I can blame this flare on the weather. I don't think there is anyone who isn't battling the cold temperatures right now. The cold seriously impacts RA symptoms. That's why Husband and I decided to leave Lake Effect Snow Central for Elsewhere. I just couldn't handle it anymore. Despite having been a life-long Northerner, it was not match for the RA. For the most part, the weather in Elsewhere has worked out well. Only a couple of weather related flares. Most of my flares are either stress related or the "I just want to mess up your life" flare.
Normally, January temperatures are in the 50's in Elsewhere. Although, some here find that chilly, it's pretty darn good for someone who lived in the North all of her life. People would break out the shorts in Lake Effect Snow Central if the temps hit 50 degrees in January. But, like the rest of the country, Elsewhere is struggling with cold temps. Here, we have been in the teens and 20's, sometimes making it into the 30's or 40's. Just not normal for this neck of the woods.
With this recent flare and cold snap, I have not left my house since last Tuesday morning. That was when Junior and I went for our walk. By the time Wednesday morning hit, I went from my usually 0-1/10 pain level to about an 8-9/10. I went into my "flare-protocol" which consists of lots of rest, soaks in a warm tub and using heating pads or my electric blanket to keep the joints warm. Husband will make or bring home Indian food, which contains ginger. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory. Sometimes, he will make salmon, which is also great for inflammation.
If none of those things work, then I need to consider a steroid taper, which I try to only do as a last resort. The taper is kind of like jumper cables for a car. It gives the body a jump-start to running. But, steroids can cause some harmful effects over time and there is only so much the body can handle with them. So, I don't make the call to RA doctor unless I absolutely have to do so. I am one the fence right now of whether or not to make that call. Today, I am about 75%, not bad but not great either. It is much warmer today and my usual protocol appears to be working. But, we are in for another cold snap this week, so I worry that things could go downhill again rather quickly. I may just call the RA doc and get a script for the taper, just in case. If I don't use it, I'll have a stash for later. If I need it, I'll have it.
I really hope I don't need it.
- Seeking Solace
- I am a college professor who is fumbling through the chaos of academia, rheumatoid arthritis, working on my PhD and just being a 40 something woman. I used to be a lawyer, which made me a snarky little person. I have a wonderful Husband and a German Shepherd named Junior. They help keep me sane.