2010 Word of the Year: Gifts (Part II)

     This is a continuation a previous post about my word of the year for 2010, gifts.  To see the first post, click here.

     Another thing that 2010 taught me is that almost every struggle or difficulty also comes with blessings or gifts.

One area where I struggle a bit more with being grateful, is in my job.  I am a “full-time adjunct” English professor, and I have experienced several false starts—I am told I am promoted, and then I am told it was a misunderstanding, etc.  It was tough to keep up morale at times over the year, but I have to focus on the good—aside from the salary/benefits issues, I enjoy what I do.  I love reading and talking about books with students, the interaction in the classroom, and teaching them about writing.  There are occasional highlights—chills when I am really “on” in a lecture, or when a student shows his or her appreciation for me.  I do love my office and being able to close the door.  I love the flexible schedule that a “real” fulltime job might not offer me.  Those things are gifts to me.  In addition, even in my adjunct status, I was awarded the opportunity to go to an information fluency conference in New Orleans during the spring semester.  Also, to create some new opportunities for myself, I registered for a program through ABCTE to earn my high school teaching certificate in English and Language Arts through an independent study and high stakes tests.  I passed both tests with “distinguished” marks and besides earning the certificates which I was working toward; I also won a distinguished teacher certificate.  I have put in my application for licensure with the State of Missouri, and am waiting to hear back.

     Toward the end of the summer, I read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and it inspired me to believe that a few small changes could increase my happiness exponentially.  So, I worked toward eliminating a task that I dread and that overwhelms me, that can knock out a whole day to complete it—housecleaning.  No, I didn’t hire a maid. Instead, I set up a schedule so I could do a few manageable tasks every day for thirty or forty minutes.  The result?  One of my favorite gifts—a clean and more orderly house!  It works wonderfully, and I don’t mind working on the house for less than an hour every day, knowing the result will be that I don’t have to spend four hours all at once on the task.  I also committed to having lunch our somewhere by myself once a week.  I love this alone time and opportunity to treat myself to exactly what I want.  I don’t go to fancy places usually, but I get a lot of pleasure out of sitting, people watching, and sipping a hot coffee after I have eaten. 

     Another thing that dragged down my morale was my long commute to and from work.  To make it more pleasant, I subscribed to audible.com and began to listen to books I didn’t have time to read, while I drove.  This made me actually look forward to my drive.  On and off for ages, I had felt guilty about having such irregular prayer and Bible reading times.  This year, I gave myself the gift of a book about establishing regular devotionals and took up the practice.  Now, I pray and read the Bible every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes.  I take time to write out my prayers, even if they are short.  Sometimes, they are lists of things I am grateful for; sometimes they are prayers for others.  They may be different every day, but this small change has made my life more complete and more focused, and I no longer feel guilty for not having time to pray for hours each day. 

     I don’t do a huge number of crafty type things, but I do like to crochet, and over the last four years, I have crocheted pretty afghans for everyone I know—except myself.  This year, I picked out some pretty iris colored yarn, and made myself an afghan.  It has a ruffled edge and it’s warm and I have spent many happy moments snuggled under it on the couch.  So simple—but it makes me so happy.  Why didn’t I make myself one sooner?  Another insight that stems from my word of the year “gifts” was appreciating and enjoying the blessings of my little town.  I moved from a larger city when I got married, and sometimes the offerings of a town of 200 and the surrounding towns that aren’t a whole lot bigger can seem pretty meager.  Well, about a year after I moved here, a quilt shop opened in the next town over.  It is a gift in and of itself—beautiful things to look at, fun class offerings, and a little ice cream shop inside, too.  I took advantage of this gift, by taking a class there, and making some projects to give as gifts.  I made a bird pin cushion, an embroidered pillow and an open view quilt.  Already, I have joined a 2011 block of the month club at this shop, and signed up for more classes.

     It may seem like I have covered it all, but this write-up about 2010’s gifts isn’t complete without touching on the gift of health.  In September, my eyes started bothering me.  This was the result of too many years of sleeping in my contacts.  I had to see the eye doctor several times, order new glasses, and stop wearing my contacts for a month.  This was a relief because I had so much pain in one eye that I was concerned that I had caused some serious injury by my neglect.  The visits to the eye doctor started the ball rolling—in the next couple of months, I got all new doctors and caught up on my appointments.  I went to the dentist, the dermatologist for a skin cancer check, the gynecologist, and I had my first two mammograms.  Yes, TWO mammograms.  I had a couple of health scares, but everything came out all right.  All it takes is one little scare or two, and the blessing of health gains new perspective.  It is a gift.  I am not sleeping in my contacts any more, and I am on track for keeping up with all of my appointments.  The fact that I really like my doctors helps too.  That is a gift.  Also, on a health note, I discovered a new exercise routine that I love—zumba!  I had been walking some outside with Scout, but found it harder to fit in when the fall semester started.  So, I tried a zumba class at the YMCA.  It is about a twenty minute drive, but the class is so fun that I don’t realize I am exercising.  It is twice a week and very reasonably priced, so no matter what, I am getting in two exercise sessions a week.  I also gave myself the gift of the zumba DVD set and zumba shoes, so that I can zumba at home when the roads are bad during the winter.

     I can’t believe I have gone on and on and on like this about gifts!  The funny thing is, before I started writing, I actually narrowed down the list of things I wanted to mention considerably.  The more you notice your gifts, the more you notice your gifts.  Thank you, 2010!

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