Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Two Stories, One New Year’s Eve

Hi, friends!

Today I have two stories.  The first is that we went to look at a house, a house that we might consider buying.  The realtor warned us that it’s a fixer-upper, and indeed—that would be putting it mildly.  The lay-out of the house, the feel of the space, was fantastic.  It has such potential!  The downside is that in its current state, this house is a dump and needs major renovations to be a place that I might consider living for the next 5-10 years.  It may also have structural issues, with its uneven floors and door frames.  So we’ll see.  I think we’re going to move forward with the financial part of home-buying, and we’ll see if this place stays on the market for any length of time.

The upside is that when we returned home, I felt so grateful for our beautiful house.  It might be a rental, but it’s our lovely rental, and I’d be happy to stay for a while.

The second story is that we’re having a New Year’s Eve party tonight!  We’ve been cleaning and cooking, as you can see:

Kaitlyn's Delicious Toffee

This here is Kaitlyn’s delicious toffee.  We all tried it yesterday and loved it!  Kaitlyn (ever so kindly) agreed to make a batch for our party tonight.  She’s promised to share the recipe, so it’ll be yours soon, too.  Other items on our menu include:

* Courtney’s homemade nachos

* Hummus (a riff on this recipe, in fact), pita chips, carrots, and celery sticks

* Pau’s kimchi pancake (What’s that, you ask?  It’s a savory pancake made with kimchi, and it’s really good.  We dip slices in soy sauce and sriracha—yum!)

* Toasted baguette slices with cream cheese and a fancy jam

So our menu is more of an hors d’ouevre sampling, and we’ve asked our friends to bring the booze, if the spirit moves them.

Our house is feeling clean, cozy, and ready for fun tonight.

Emily in the Living Room 

Courtney Being Domestic

That’s our friend Emily in the chair, knitting, and that’s my roommate Courtney.  And yes, she’s wearing a bell hooks shirt because she is awesome.

As for me, I have some time before I am needed for more party prepping (like sweeping the kitchen floor), so I’m going to steal away for an evening walk before the festivities begin.  I wish you a very happy New Year’s Eve and a 2015 filled with love and good cheer!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do Better: Thoughts on My First Semester of Full-time Tutoring

The end of December marks the end of my first semester of full-time tutoring.  Ooh, boy, was this one a wild ride!  I wanted to take some time before the next semester is in full swing to take stock of this one, to mark the victories and hardships and to make notes about how I’m going to strive for an even better spring semester.

This semester was not what I thought it would be.  I thought that I would struggle to find work, that I would have a lot of time on my hands as I waited and hustled and prayed for students.  Instead, I had plenty of students and struggled to manage my time.  In the spirit of list-making, let’s walk through my victories and hardships, shall we?

Victories! are as follows: 

* I had as much business as I could handle.  I didn’t quite hit the weekly average for billable hours (I’m aiming for 20), but my monthly income was satisfying (and, quite frankly, much higher than I anticipated during this first semester).

* The students and parents with whom I worked were awesome.  I consider this such a blessing and one of the best parts of the work I do.

* I was able to pass my driving test in late October.  For the rest of the semester, I drove myself to my tutoring appointments.  I think my driving has improved a lot, simply because I needed to get better at navigating to new destinations.

* Paul and I were able merge our finances.  Even better than that, we’ve been able to find some common ground to make our financial conversations more peaceful.  Compromises were made for the greater good.

* As a reward for hitting 100 hours of tutoring on WyzAnt, I bought my first piece from Anthropologie!  I think this will be my new tradition for every 100 hours I bill on that site.  (I should snap a photo of myself the next time I wear my new top!  It’s super cute.) 

I had some real low points, too.  My hardships included:

* I struggled with the amount of commuting that I did for tutoring.  On some days, I would be in three or four different locations to meet with students, which was hard.  I don’t like spending that much time in the car or on the bus.

* It was a big challenge for me to have so many new subjects on my plate, including algebra, geometry, and science club for elementary students.  Overwhelmed was how I felt for most of the semester.

* In December, I had a major meltdown.  It was a combination of stresses that led to a pretty spectacular blowout—finals, supporting our still-unemployed roommate, feeling time-starved, our messy/dirty house.  I consider myself very lucky that Paul didn’t break up with me.  During December, I had the intense desire to live by myself, to be done with roommates and their messes and their problems.  That desire has now faded, only to be replaced by shame and self-loathing.  I’m trying to forgive myself, but it’s hard.  I will, however, be taking some proactive steps next semester to avoid a meltdown in the future.  

I learned a lot this semester, which is why I’ve got a list of…

Spring 2015 resolutions:

* Friday will be my official day off.

This idea seems super obvious (duh!), but it’s not something I scheduled deliberately.  What I learned is that I desperately need a day off from tutoring each week to recharge my batteries.  Teaching takes a lot out of me.  I love it, but it can be very draining.  The good news is that Friday is a low-demand day for tutoring, so I’m unlikely to lose much business and now I can count on getting that day off each week.

* I will schedule time for preparation and creating course materials.

I felt like I had NO TIME for this work, which is sad because I really enjoy it.  My best chance for doing this prep work is in January because the beginning of the new semester will be the slowest part of the season.  I’ve been pretty unmotivated enjoying my vacation for the last ten days (I needed it!), but I’m slowly starting to get excited about new students and new projects.

* I will strive for each of these things daily: meal preparation for my house, a chore, and exercise.

I felt like I had a breakthrough when I realized that my daily essentials can be summed up in such a short list.  I’m not including the basic self-care that I always do, no matter how busy, but I am including stuff that I know I neglected and that makes a huge difference in how good I feel about my life at the end of each day.  The exercise is especially important.  Part of my rationale for taking Friday off is to make sure I have a day when I can do a long run and have no pressing commitments afterward.

* I am allowed to say no if I’m feeling too much work fatigue.

This one is more of a permission slip than a goal.  When you’re a freelancer, there is the temptation to take on too much work because oh my god, what if there is no work next month?!?  It’s too easy to let panic make all your decisions for you.

I do think that a regularly scheduled day off will help a ton with the fatigue.  But if it doesn’t, I am giving myself permission to say no.  Not every student or tutoring inquiry will be a good match for me.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed or overbooked, I can seek balance by saying no.  It will be okay.  And honestly, when I have said no, it’s been a relief.  I am learning my limits, and I’m learning that it will be okay.

How about you?  Any victories or lessons learned in 2014?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Meet My Favorite Neighbor

Lady Tuxedo Cat Goes Hunting

Meet my favorite neighbor, Lady Tuxedo Kitty!  She’s a gorgeous tuxedo cat who hangs around our property.  I think she’s an indoor-outdoor cat who has a human family, but I’d adopt her in a heartbeat if my own cat would allow such a thing (she won’t).

Lady Tuxedo Kitty is marvelously affectionate.  When we see each other, she comes running over for pets and headbutts and lots of love.  She’ll often follow me for a while, and she’s too adorable for me to ignore, so I’ll stop and give her some more love.  However, on the day I took that photo above, she decided to go hunting for birds in a tree, and I got left behind.  The birds were too fast for Lady Tuxedo Kitty; as soon as they heard her scampering up into the tree, they were outta there.  See ya!

Saturday, December 27, 2014


December Dusk in Austin

After a sad and tumultuous December, I am returning to this space to turn over a new leaf in blogging.

Maybe some day I’ll write about the struggles that made this month kinda miserable for me.  Or maybe not—maybe they are too personal, too unflattering, and too painful to write about.  Seeing the ugly sides of yourself is devastating, and it might be stuff that is best left in a journal, not a public blog.

What I have decided is that it is time for me to start blogging more regularly.  I’m going to try something very different, at least for me, and that is a promise/challenge to blog every day.  I don’t have many creative outlets, but blogging was is one of them.  It’s a hobby that got pushed to the side this semester, in my single-track determination to make this new life in Austin work.  Work has been the theme of the past three months, and god I miss having time to reflect and write about my days.  My plan is to share smaller stories and snippets from my day, including photos (because of course that iPhone goes everywhere with me).  The days go by so fast, and I deserve to have a creative outlet.

I took the photo above as Paul and I were biking back from downtown Austin, about to get on the riverfront trail on our way to our neighborhood.  The sunset was so pretty, the end of a gorgeous warm day.  One of my favorite things about Austin is that we are within biking distance of downtown.  On this particular day, we decided to do a bit of post-Christmas shopping.  We hit up REI in search of a secret gift for Paul’s parents and ended up buying some woolly socks for me and a sweater for Paul.  From there, we headed to Whole Foods to buy a few things.  Our last stop was LOFT, where I continued my search for the perfect beige sweater but left empty-handed (but with an imaginary permission slip to buy that sweater when I find it!).  Having recently spent so much time in the car driving to tutoring sessions, being able to ride our bikes for some shopping is a breath of fresh air, quite literally.  And I love that Paul is as happy as I am to leave the car at home for a two-wheeled adventure.