Another School Year Started

I took a break from personally blogging this summer, and need to get back into the swing of doing it at least once a month. For these reasons, I thought I would post about my summer and the beginning of the school year.

For starters, the first week of the new school year is over.  Woo hoo, 🙂 I did it!  I will say that I notice my energy went up over the summer, which is exciting.  Still, I am quite exhausted in the evenings and have spent a good bit of time sleeping this weekend.

I am still going to physical therapy at the local hospital to work on my continued recovery.  Yes, this means that I’m continuing to also improve physically too.  I do still have foot drop, but I have become much stronger, the spasticity has decreased, and I can walk faster.  One of my goals is to be able to run, and I am happy to say that I got to a speed of 3.5 on the treadmill (which is the lowest speed for running), and I can do that for just over 3 minutes.  Yes, to do this I wear a harness that is attached to the ceiling in case I fall, but I can still do it!

This summer I worked again on the book I’m writing about my January 2015 life explosion (as I now call it). I finished another draft of it in early August, and am having someone edit it for me now. I actually think it isn’t too bad, and might possibly be something folks want to read. I’ve kept it focused on the patient perspective of everything I’ve been through. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is worthwhile.

Third, I did get to go to my favorite place, Lake Vermilion, MN, this summer for two weeks. This year I had a chance to spend time with family, and I swam in the lake. I tried out a pool later in the summer too. FYI, swimming is very hard, but also very enjoyable. A special moment was when my niece taught me to do all of the swimming moves she learned from her swim instructor when I told her that I was afraid to swim. Like a good student, I listened to her instructions.

I also taught a summer course, which was quite enjoyable, and I prepared for my fall semester courses.  Now that I have a better understanding of my disabilities, I was able to be more strategic in my planning.  All of this is to say that I feel as though I’m both improving and adjusting…hopefully the first year back was the hardest for this “new” body I inhabit.

It was great to see the students both in classes this week, as well as those in the Western 1st Generation Society (W1Gs) group.  I am very excited to say that all of the students in the group came back to WIU this fall, and are prepared for the Activities Fair next week.  I anticipate it will be a great year thanks to all of them too!

Finally, no great year would be complete without a new dog.  He is a 5 year old PomChi mix that we adopted from the McDonough County Animal Shelter.  I know that not everyone is a dog person, but it is pretty awesome to have something SO EXCITED to great me each time I come home.  Dogs are the best! 🙂

Optimus Prime our 5 year old ChiPom mix.

Optimus Prime our 5 year old ChiPom mix.

Looking Within to See What is Out There

This is the second summer I’ve had the opportunity to help guide a book club with a great colleague, Stacey, for the First Year Experience (FYE) instructors. Last year, we facilitated conversations about Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do. It was a pretty quick, but worthwhile, book…and not just for those teaching FYE courses (really quite a good book for anyone interesting in teaching/learning).

This year, the book we’ve selected is Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. From what I understand it is sort of considered a classic to those that teach (my clue to this realization was the publication of an anniversary edition). I actually have already read it once, but it about 10 years ago, so am excited to be reading it again this summer.

Although the book club hasn’t officially started yet, I have begun to read the book. And in true Palmer style (I’ve read a few of his other books–which I highly recommend!) he’s got me thinking. Sometimes I think that he has some sort of magical power that enables him to speak directly to what I’ve been ruminating on the most. This was at least my experience this week (and has been my experience many times in the past). Since the school year has come to a close, and I’ve actually found myself experiencing a bit more stress free environment, I’ve been spending a lot of time consider how I see myself in relation to others, as well as how it seems that others are seeing me. Unfortunately in my experience these two “selves” aren’t always the same for a myriad of reasons, which can lead to frustration and curiosity. Lately it has led to much more curiosity, which has also been pleasantly accompanied by a calmness. I heard Palmer speak to my recent reflections when he wrote,

“..we cannot see what is ‘out there’ merely by looking around. Everything depends on the lenses through which we view the world. By putting on new lenses, we can see things that would otherwise remain invisible” (Palmer, 2007, p. 27).

And my response to him would be, “Yes!” However, I still felt just as contemplative after reading his thoughts. His words, though, were helpful in that they reminded me that there are always more ways, “lenses” to look through at our experiences. Sometimes I will admit that it can be quite challenging to kept such a perspective in mind. Full confession…it is terribly hard to keep this in mind when I feel hurt, upset, wronged, etc….synonym in any other negative feeling word because it is in those moments that I want to be right. That I want my way of understanding the experience to be THE way of understanding the experience. My lens to be the correct lens. And so when I consider the differences I notice between how I see and understand myself, and how other others might see and understand me, I cannot help but wonder what other perspectives besides just those two might exist? How I can find even more lenses to try on as I seek to understand my experiences, and how I can recognize my desire to be “right” in such a way that it becomes just one lens through which I am viewing the world?