Category Archives: Change

Hello From The Other Side

blog

Hey there. If you are reading this, then I’d like to congratulate you on staying faithful to the same email address for at least the last three years. That’s committment.

And it outlasted my relationship with this little corner of the Internet. I have a new corner, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

This summer I took an online writing course, my most formal attempt at cultivating my writing. One of the assignments was to write the chapters of our lives, past and future. After some eye-rolling, I ended up really enjoying this exercise and the self-reflection it inspired.

Most chapters were about major life transitions, but I titled one “Balance Overload” to mark the couple of years I was blogging regularly. It’s not because this blog changed my life radically or anything like that. But it reconnected me with my love of writing and expression, and that is a pretty huge thing in my world.

And then life — in its beautiful, ephemeral and distracting way — popped up, as it is wont to do. JB and I had just married when I wrote my last post at Balance Overload. And now, almost three years later, I sit here typing in between going in to snuggle a sick 18-month-old little boy, while his twin brother sleeps in the adjacent crib, miraculously undisturbed by his sibling’s cries.

As parenting ushered in my most significant transition yet, I felt my head once again full of ideas and thoughts that I wanted to express externally. But I believed it needed a brand new cyber home. I have often said that parenting is kind of like starting your life over, learning everything from scratch and with a completely new perspective. And while I didn’t want to necessarily write a parenting or “mommy” blog, I felt I needed a new space for these thoughts that are still from Caryn of Balance Overload, but seen through different lenses.

So after a lot of procrastination and stall tactics, I started a new blog called Journey to Napa. As I explain, the name represents my road to retirement (from work, in-the-trenches parenting, etc.). Obviously my retirement of any kind is a long time away (*knock on wood* everyone is healthy and all of those prayers up to the universe). But I wanted to have a broad palette to write about life. I have a few posts up and it’s a little all over the place (a lot seems to be about writing), but I hope to narrow in on topics as I go.

Even if you no longer have any clue who I am or why you ever entered your email address at this site, I want to thank you for following this little blog that fueled me in big ways to nurture my creative side. I have re-read many of my posts these last couple of weeks and I’ve especially enjoyed revisiting the conversations we had in the comments. I would be so honored to continue this dialogue (and learning about any new perspectives you have gained) at my new home.

What Makes A Great Professor?

Well folks, it’s been an amazing summer, but as the bell tolls for August 24 today, the literal and figurative honeymoon is over.

With the advent of the back-to-school season and the signs of life on campus, it has become very real that in, um, three days, I am teaching a college class for the first time. Call me Professor JB! (But actually don’t, because I don’t have a Ph.D. and people are really weird about that “professor” title).

But however you name it, someone has deemed me acceptable to welcome new freshmen into college life and stare into their “when will it end?” eyes every Tuesday morning for an hour. This will be one of my biggest professional challenges in my career and I want to do it right.

I’m not striving to be the coolest teacher in the building. Or the most inspiring one who gets mentioned as changing their lives when these students win their Nobel prizes or whatever grand award that business people get (ohmygosh, how am I teaching a business class??).

Basically, I don’t need to be the Dumbledore of the university. Though that would be awesome. Especially if I was a wizard and had wizardry. And a pensieve so I could go back in time. And do business teachers read Harry Potter?! THIS IS WHY I GET CONCERNED!

But anyway, I do want to provide value to my students through this one-hour class. I want to challenge them to work with their peers, contribute to a class discussion and connect with the personal goals they want to achieve while in school and beyond… you know, all those college-y things. While doing this, I want the students to walk away from this class feeling like they have built a strong (or at least middleweight) foundation for their business education and their college success. My biggest fear is that their evaluations at the end of the semester will read: “The instructor was nice and tried hard, but I didn’t really learn anything.”

Honestly, that one line of text that has yet to be written by anyone keeps me up at night!

So here is where I need your help friends and readers! Besides knowing the course material (which I figure I still have a whole weekend to learn, right?), what made your favorite college professor so powerful? What did they do to make an impact on you in class? Any tips are so appreciated!

If you’re a student, teacher, parent, or just have to start driving through school zones again, happy back to school!

UPDATE: I asked my friend’s 11-year-old nephew today what he believes makes a great teacher and this was his response: They are nice, patient, and don’t just call on the people who always raise their hands, but get the whole class involved. I thought it was so sweet and insightful, so I wanted to share. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!

Wedding Gut

When it comes to my gut, I’ve never really listened to it that closely. I mean, there’s the gut that tells me that even though I ate the equivalent of two entrees at the Indian restaurant (plus naan) I still have room for frozen yogurt. I listen to that one.

But that other gut, the one that deals with instincts over appetite, we don’t really communicate. I’ve never considered myself “intuitive.” Wedding planning has changed that.

I have a lot to be thankful for, including being able to plan a wedding where I can explore options and try to create the day I have always dreamed about, thanks to the generosity of my parents.

But what I have noticed is that my “dream” wedding is, in reality, very different from what I had once thought it would be like.

Take location. “Every hotel ballroom looks the same.” That was a popular refrain of mine during the days/months/years of planning my hypothetical wedding. Once wedding planning became no longer just for the “One Day” Pinterest board, it was time to secure my hip, non-hotel downtown location.

“What do you mean that price doesn’t include linens?” This — and similar variations — became my new refrain. Downtown just wasn’t working. We were *this close* to signing at my dream downtown venue when JB and I went to Ohio to visit his family. As I showed his parents and others the location, it just felt… wrong. It was beautiful and what I had always envisioned, but quite frankly, it was going to be a pain in the ass. Not to mention, in the wallet. I called my parents on my way home from the airport and it turned out they were feeling the same way, though were tying to make it work for my dream and all. I think we all felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

Resigned to looking at hotels, my sister visited one in a Dallas suburb that puts other suburbs to shame with how much of a suburb it is. But it was PERFECT! The date, the price, the ease for our guests, the staff.  The skyline views aren’t there, and honestly, the ballroom is a hotel ballroom, but it has always felt right.

From the very first decision, the tone was set for wedding planning — just about everything I’ve chosen from dress to invitations has been different than what I thought I wanted — and for a new way of thinking. In that one decision, and after 34 years, I think it finally hit me: When you have that nagging feeling (good or bad) and you listen to it, you feel contentment, peace, and confidence with your decisions. When you ignore it, you maintain anxiety and unease. Not very complicated, obviously, but I have spent my whole life basically disregarding it. I have become more attentive to this gut and what it’s telling me at work, with friends, and just life in general (though sometimes still ignoring it because I’m stubborn like that).

And when it comes to wedding planning, I guess it’s the same gut feeling you get when you know you are with the person you want to marry. And in the end, that’s the only gut that really matters.

In what situations do you rely on gut feeling?

And Now, A Poem…

Winter Break is coming to an end
The reality of work is just around the bend
My job is great
There is nothing to hate
But end-of-vacation blues are hard to mend.

This break has been calm and serene
Sometimes it’s nice to not be seen
There was sleep and travel
And watching the Cowboys unravel
And all the fuzzy things the holidays mean.

Still trying to finish a book
Kindle broke, should probably get a Nook
I wanted to read three
I guess it wasn’t meant to be
Because vacation goes by like a quick-glance look.

January is cold, but it isn’t all gloom
Since our favorite TV shows will finally resume
Midseason programming is usually trash
But I’m counting the seconds to NBC’s Smash
And football will thankfully be over soon!

There’s one thing I don’t get into much
New Year’s goals, I don’t have a bunch
My resolution is the same
As I always proclaim
Start brushing my teeth at work after lunch.

So on we go to 2012
Best wishes for all to be happy and well
May it be wonderfully fitting
For, I don’t know, a June wedding
And maybe just a little less Adele.

The End.

Happy New Year readers! Thanks for all your blog love and support. May going back to work tomorrow, if you haven’t already, not totally suck.

Goodbye Letter… To My Condo

Dear Condo,

I’ve heard the expression that the best days of being a boat owner is the day you buy it and the day you sell it. While I have never been a boat proprietor, I imagine it’s one of those sayings that is funny because it’s true.

I wondered if I would feel that way as a homeowner. I surely was excited the day I bought you. I rushed back to work and joyously showed my new keys to all my co-workers. I couldn’t wait to get you some new carpet and update your kitchen appliances. I couldn’t wait to make you my own.

A little over four years later, I showed up today for the “seller” closing appointment and signed you away to a new owner. Though a huge relief and I am beyond grateful for the relatively quick sell, it wasn’t quite the same rush I had the first time.

Although I had already moved out of you, it was comforting to know you were there. Yes, you were there with a mortgage and an electricity bill that I was not particularly sentimental toward, but you also still housed all of the furniture I had lived with since my first post-college apartment.

Remember when I actually used your new kitchen appliances? That one time? We cooked dinner for JB and set the little table that had never been set before. JB was so touched. I told him it was the beginning of me learning to cook.

I haven’t cooked dinner for him since, but you sure provided a great setting for what has turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Yes, with home ownership comes the handyman (who might just happen to drunk dial you), HVAC repairmen, plumbers, and Home Depot visits. Many Home Depot visits. Until the day I die, I will not understand why there have to be so many options for toilet seats. But you seemed to sense my lack of resourcefulness and gave me very few problems. Thank you for that.

Friends who visited often referred to you as “cozy.” My niece and nephew named you my “little house.” Yes, you were small. But you were the perfect size and place for me to transition to the next stage of my life.

I know the new owner is excited to make you her home. Enjoy getting all dolled up! What an exciting new adventure we both have ahead of us.

XOXO,

Caryn

Macy’s Day Parade and Me

Traditions abound this time of year. Most of these center around time spent with family and friends.

But one of my favorite holiday traditions is one that I keep for myself. Thanksgiving morning, wrapped in blankets (ignoring the high today of 70 degrees), drinking hot chocolate and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I don’t know when this tradition started in my adult life or how no one has managed to infiltrate it. I do know JB loves the guilt-free pass to play golf. (Don’t worry, I did invite him to join me in my holiday tradition of watching Love Actually, I’m not a monster!)

But back to the parade. As if Matt Lauer doesn’t have the most amazing job already (in addition to “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?”, just yesterday he had the privilege of interviewing this couple for absolutely no good newsworthy reason), he guides us through the three hours of parade coverage with Al and the current female co-hosting The Today Show.

Some people think you can just tune in at the second hour, when the parade floats have made their way to 34th Street. But for me, the first hour has some of the best action — the Broadway performances!

A great lead-in for the high school drill teams (miss you!), marching bands, and floats that will soon take over the TV screen — starting of course with Tom Turkey and ending with the much-anticipated arrival of Santa Claus.

Sure, there is a lot of NBC self-promotion and horrible lip-syncing. And it appears that the producers drink a vat of adult eggnog (which I will soon be imbibing!) and then assign the performers to their spot on the parade. Avril Lavigne on the Cooking Channel float? Um, okay!

But it is all part of the parade experience. As is crying during the St. Jude commercials and its meaningful tagline delivered every year by Marlo Thomas: “Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and give to those who are not.”

This solo tradition comes at a reflective time for me as I am just days away from turning over the keys to my condo — selling my home of four years that was a symbol of my independence. Combining traditions is truly wonderful and I’m so excited to do so with JB and his family, but I think having a few of your own is just as important.

One day I will, hopefully, share this tradition. I can picture myself sitting on the couch, wrapped in blankets, and sipping hot chocolate with a little baby on my lap. Sure, as Baby grows up, we’ll have to deal with questions about Santa and why he doesn’t visit our house and how that isn’t it fair and that Baby wishes he could live with Baby’s friends who have Christmas trees because they are more fun and Baby hates me for ruining his/her life.

On second thought, maybe Baby can go to the golf course with daddy. This tradition is mine.

Happy Thanksgiving! May we be thankful today and every day for the blessings in our lives.

Do you have a tradition that is all your’s? What is your favorite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float?

A Freshman Again

Just like the children popping up on my Facebook news feed in their proud parents’ pictures that I skip past totally love, I, too, embarked on a first day of school this week (though JB surprisingly did not feel the need to capture this moment in photo).

After five years at the same university, I was part of the energy and excitement of a fresh school year at my new employer. While students start trickling in prior to the first day, seeing a campus turn overnight from the quiet of summer to the buzz of college life is like stopping by a bar at 3 p.m. and then going back at happy hour.

There is a vibrant rebirth for sure, but there are nerves too — from freshmen, transfer students, and new professors getting ready to face a group of 150 18-year-olds with the expectation of being enlightened. And for the first time in five years, from me. I was the new kid just like everyone else, so I thought I would share some tips for me and all the others feeling a little out-of-place as they head back to school:

Don’t rush home the first chance you get. I have never felt so alone and homesick as I did the first (maybe also 2nd, 3rd, 4th….) week of college. If I hadn’t been 1,000 miles away, I’m sure my laundry and I would have been tempted to seek the security of home as much as possible. And in a new job, before you develop a sense of community, it’s easy to leave when the work is done.

But so much of college (and working at one) happens outside the office or classroom. It happens at residence hall move-in, the welcome back barbecue or the volleyball game (What? Some schools don’t have football!). And you have to be there to experience it. Besides, the washer and dryers in the residence hall now text you when your laundry is done. They TEXT you.

Remember there was a time you felt lost and confused in high school, too. But by the end of that first year, you were a pro. And eventually, you will be at college too. No one starts out Van Wilder.

At my former employer, I felt comfortable walking into any meeting and answering student questions (why yes, I do know how to get to that building). I walked across campus and the faces were familiar, if not friends. But if I really think back, I remember the first year when I never wanted to go to anything alone and was hesitant to speak up at a meeting because I didn’t trust my knowledge and ideas yet. If you give it time, freshmen students quickly become next year’s orientation leaders and freshmen employees become veterans.

Be in the moment. Finally, don’t start counting the days until winter or summer break. My wedding date has been set and it’s basically a school year away. I’m so excited, I find myself wishing it was already June. But life is way too short for that — I need to enjoy everything leading up to that time just as much.

Students take so much AP and dual credit these days in high school that by the time they get into college, they only have a couple of years left. And I totally understand this for financial and other personal reasons. But sometimes I wish they would just slow down a little and take it all in. Your “first day of school” moments are numbered.