what’s next

After 20+ years, it’s finally coming to a close. I’m ready! Graduation is so close I can taste it. I’ve been too busy to get excited…until now. I am there.  21 years of school is no small feat. I have watched friends graduate, start jobs & make real money, start families, and move beyond the classroom. I’m ready for that. (Just wait, soon I will want to go back to school, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.) I’m just thankful that for the time being, this chapter of my life is coming to a close.  It’s time to take everything I’ve learned and give back to the community.

card

So what’s next? Graduation is in a few short weeks. I will wrap up my internship here in South Carolina. Then we’re moving home & I’m becoming a school psychologist in the fall. I’m interested to see how things go, as I’ll be working in the school district I grew up in. Overall, we are just excited and blessed for the opportunity to be close to family and do the work we love.

Graduating classes of ’09, ’12/’13, and ’16, here’s to you. To all the AP courses you took and the clubs you joined in order to get into a good college. To all the nights of cramming hours studying and writing papers to get into your dream grad school. To the days you thought you’d die from all the work and the nights that made you feel alive. This is it. We’ve made it.

new path trivia

Did you know…?
…boiled peanuts are the official state snack of South Carolina
…South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia, the great “peach state”

…this year’s freshman class will graduate 10 years after I graduated high school
…the last class of students from my undergrad will graduate in May
BaylorBound…I’ve been to more IEP meetings in the first month of my internship than in my entire practicum experience (and it’s not even the spring!)
…I’ll be working with preschool kiddos & high school students this school year

praise for new paths

babymeme

Today begins my last week of classes. No, this is not going to be another sappy post about all the things I’ve learned in grad school.  You’ve stuck with me through enough of those posts.  No, this time I’m writing about all the things that I’m looking forward to now that we’re wrapping up this path and beginning on a new-ish adventure. Here we go:

waltdisneypaths

  • Celebrating more than Christmas with family
    • Birthdays, EASTER, Thanksgiving, Softball games, Sunday lunches, life
  • Starting a “big girl” job
    • & praying for excellent supervision on my internship
    • & meeting new people who love working as school psychs
  • Living 2 hours from the beach and 2 hours from the mountains
  • New town (and new food places) to explore
    • farmer’s markets, bakeries, coffee shops…yes, please!
  • Praying for community and a church to join
  • Meeting new friends in our same stage of life
    • We’re planting roots this time, y’all.  Whether we’re there for a year or more, we are getting involved and making lifelong friendships.
  • Doing life with Case, wherever it takes us
    • that’s our mantra: doing life together. & I can’t wait to see what life has in store

Things I will actually miss about Wacotown:

commongroundsfarmersmarketpatneff

  • Sweet friends to share war work stories with
    • And the piano man
  • Authentic Mexican food
  • Day/weekend trips to Austin (my favorite)
  • Common Grounds (caramel coffee crunch=life)
  • Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market
  • The place where Case and I got engaged, started our married life together, and shared our first “home”
  • Believe it or not, Baylor.

last first day

IT IS FINISHED!…well, almost. The spring semester is done, and today is my last first day of school. Praise!  Someone take my picture and put it in a frame next to my first day of pre-school picture.  Yes, the one with the blue jean hat to match my blue jean outfit.  Thank you, ’90s.  Anyway, as a celebration for being almost done I wanted to write a post on some things I learned this year.  (Actual celebration to occur in real life with real people and real drinks to occur at a later date.  This will have to do for now.)

  • I found the right profession for me.
    Though I had my share of doubts some days I truly believe school psychology is a perfect fit for my passions and my personality. Organized and detail-oriented? Check! Passionate about kiddos and education? Check! Problem-solver and solution-finder? Check!  I love it–most of it.
    This year I started on practicum where I got to work in the schools with kiddos first-hand.  They’re so fun and fabulous, and I never went home without a story, good or bad.  I also got to consult with teachers, which I enjoyed more than I anticipated.

Victory

  • Many things require effort; few things require stress.
    My husband always says that I stress too much, and until a few years ago I just thought that was part of my personality.  I thought that a “healthy level” of stress was required to get stuff done.  This year it really hit me that my high stress levels affect those around me, so I tried to tone it down a bit. (Tried being the key word…)  Come to find out, you can get things done without stressing 24-7 over them! Imagine that!  I used the 4 A’s of stress relief to help!

perseveranceJames

  • I need positive affirmation daily.
    I will doubt myself until the grades come in, especially if I’m not getting regular feedback along the way.  This year I especially learned that I either need to give myself positive affirmation or ask for feedback.  It also helps to communicate regularly with supervisors and call your mom every once in a while just so she can tell you how fabulous you are.

Nevertoolate

  • It’s never too late…
    For all the things I’ve learned and all the successes I’ve experienced this year, there have also been times where I wish I had done things differently.  Well, it’s never to late to brush yourself off and try again. (You can dust it off and try again, try again.  Sorry, excuse me while I channel the ’90s and Aaliyah.)

I  seem to be good at the vague posts lately, so I guess I’ll just leave this one here as is.  Happy first last day of class to all of you in the same boat!

how I survived my first year in graduate school

As I start my second year of grad school, I’d like to reflect on how I managed to survive that first year.  It wasn’t easy, let me tell you.  I constantly relied on God, a wonderful support system of friends and family, and the wisdom and insight of my professors. Here are a few more things that helped me finish my first year as a Baylor graduate student…

I constantly remind myself of why I’m here: At the end of this second semester, a powerful thought hit me: Everything that I learn here applies to real people with real struggles. My first year learning about school psychology morphed the way I interact with people, especially in my graduate assistantship.  I’ve put strategies into place and noticed that I’m already helping people. I pull from articles I’ve read about study strategies and use techniques from my counseling classes, and I don’t know why, but sometimes I’m surprised to hear people say that I’m really helping. Below are just a few examples of things my undergrad students have told me since August:

  • “I hadn’t thought of that before.  That could really work for me!”
  • “What am I going to do without you next semester?”
  • “Thank you for all of your help!”

    While these statements are fairly simple in nature, in the context of all the struggles that my students experience each semester, these statements are huge!

gradschool

I set aside “me time:” I quickly learned that if I wasn’t careful, I could easily spend all of my free time either working on homework or worrying about my courses. However, it took me a bit longer to realize that I needed to carve out time each day for myself. Whether I’m reading a book for fun, reading other blogs, searching through Pinterest, watching a silly show, or just sitting quietly–I learned to find things that I enjoyed and make time for those.

I share what I’ve learned:  As a school psychologist, I will be an advocate for my students.  The best way I know to do that now is to share what I’m learning in my classes.  I talk with my family and friends pretty regularly about articles I’ve read.  (Sorry, not sorry.) Not only does this prepare me for the real world and sharing information with parents of students, but it also helps me learn the material better.

gradschooJake

I set realistic expectations for myself:  Similar to “me time,” I had to figure out what worked for me in terms of study time.  I quickly learned that it is unrealistic to finish all readings for class the night before.  I learned that I had to set aside time to read in advance, and I had to be honest with myself about how much time I would spend on each subject.  As an academic mentor, I’ve seen students who plan to study 20 hours a week and students who honestly plan about 3 hours a week to study, if they’re lucky.  Yet, I think the students who plan fewer hours perhaps have some advantage in that they are more honest and realistic with themselves. For me, it made sense to start by figuring out how much time I was already studying for each class, and then I increased that as needed.

I quit the comparison game: People LOVE to compare, and they will compare ANYTHING and everything.  How long is your paper? Have you started that project that’s due in 4 months? How long have you spent working on this assignment?  I totally bombed that quiz; what did you get?  (When they got an 80 on the quiz and you got a 60.)

I know the truth; you know the truth; everyone knows the truth:  When we ask what others are doing, we don’t really care what THEY are doing.  We just care about how they are doing compared to ourselves.  It’s selfish, and it will destroy your identity as a student and a person.

If I didn’t learn it in undergrad, I definitely learned this in my first year of grad school.  And I realized that it really doesn’t matter how much time or effort others put into their work.  What matters is how much time and effort I put into my work.  Just because others are spending more time and effort doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing better.  And if they are doing “better” (however you want to define that), as long as I’m doing my personal best, that’s what matters to me.

impostersyndrome

If you haven’t picked up on the theme of this post yet, it’s this: to succeed, you have to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your capabilities and limits.  Then surround yourself with people who are willing to appreciate you for you and affirm that (and consequently, people who will call you out when you’re not being the best version of yourself).  Seek wisdom.  Seek growth.  Seize opportunities.  Lean on Christ.  I’m out of short, sweet sentences, but hopefully you get the picture by now. 🙂  This first year has been a roller coaster ride, and the next year is shaping up to be the same way.  But I wouldn’t have it to any other way.  Here’s to more opportunities!

wrapping up the semester

Forgive my absence…in the past several weeks I’ve accomplished the following:

  • Received an A on a ridiculously intense group project. (Seriously, this is a miracle.)
  • Finished up the semester with a 4.0, which I am truly thankful for.  For me, achieving a goal of all As again this semester reminds me that I have truly found my passion. I’m on the right track.  I’ve always had a passion for education and helping children, and I learn new things each day that will empower me to be a great school psychologist.  I am truly thankful to have found an area where my God-given talents and passion intersect. (Seriously, this is also a miracle, given the four years I spent borderline-hating my undergrad education.)

gobearsgo

  • Mailed out Save the Dates to almost all of our closest friends and family. (Woo! Less than 250 days!)
  • Spent time with my dad while he was out in Texas on a work trip.

dad

  • Had a phone conversation/celebration with my little cousin, who only missed ONE question on her math CRCTs.  Glad somebody else in the family got the math gene!
  • Spent time with two sweet couples playing Just Dance and eating BOGO FRO-YO. (Doesn’t that have a great ring to it?)
  • Shopped, packed, re-packed, shopped again, and packed again for my trip to Costa Rica. (P.S. I’m still not done packing.)

puravida

  • Attended pre-marital counseling with the fiancé. (It’s going great, by the way. Perhaps I’ll talk about more in the next Wedding Wednesday.)

I’m thankful that this spring semester is over, and I am very much looking forward to this summer and all it has to offer!  I do hope you will continue on this journey with me.

Wedding Wednesday: the little things

It has been a crazy time with school right now, y’all, so forgive me if my posts are lacking lately.

This weekend my mom, aunt, cousin, and MOH went to an open house at my lovely venue, Vinewood Plantation.  I was super bummed that I couldn’t go with and even more bummed that I’ve barely had a spare moment to talk with them about their experience and their ideas.  But let me just say that I am SO thankful to have such patient, encouraging, supportive, and WONDERFUL people by my side during this stressful time.  Everyone has been encouraging as I struggle through my last few weeks of this spring semester, and I could not be more thankful for that.  I promise that I am thinking of you and thankful for you during this time.  I can’t wait to sit down on Skype and talk with everyone!  I know that everyone is so excited, and I can’t wait for this semester’s stress to be lifted off of my shoulders so that I can be excited too! (I mean, I am obviously excited about the wedding, but it’s hard to show it when I have 2 large papers along with several other projects and major finals here at the end of the semester.)

Another little thing: On Monday night, Cason and I stayed up SUPER late (like 2am, late) to see the lunar eclipse.  It was ah-mazing.  We mostly stayed inside and went outside every 10-15 minutes to see the progress (mostly because it was rather chilly outside).  Well when we went back out right after 2am (when the eclipse was complete), not only did we see an awesome red-colored moon, but we also saw a SHOOTING STAR.  It was incredible! It literally looked like it was shooting right towards us.  I was so excited! Apparently some other kiddos in the neighborhood thought it was pretty neat too, because we could hear them cheering in neighboring yards.  What a cool experience.  I absolutely cherish those little moments in time that cause us to pause and take it all in.

Oh, and today is mine & Cason’s first day of pre-marital counseling, eek!  We were supposed to start last week, but I think our counselor was out sick.  So here we go!

Also, I was going to add the pics that I received from the open house, but as of right now, that may or may not happen.  Check back soon!

I may not be the next Olivia Pope…

…but I did enjoy a nice trip to Washington, DC.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to NASP’s annual conference.  This year it was in Washington, DC, which afforded us a plethora of tourist-y activities for the week.

Washington DC - 29

First, we hit the monuments, from Washington and Lincoln to the various war memorials.  We also visited fun museums like the Natural History Museum and the Air & Space Museum, which are some of the coolest museums I’ve been to!  One of my favorites was visiting the Ford Theater to see the place where Lincoln was shot and died.

As far as the conference goes, I would say that the experience will be much more valuable in the next couple of years as I begin to work in the field.  While there were sessions geared towards grad students, I didn’t find them to be as helpful as one would expect.  Even those seem more applicable in your second year, as a practicum student. So, I’m looking forward to heading back to conferences over the years to continue to build upon the foundation I’m working on in grad school.

On Friday I took a detour and headed back to Georgia to see my family.  After a short weekend there, I returned to good ole Waco, Texas. Now there is only one week before I travel back to Georgia during spring break.  Then wedding planning will kick into high gear!

As graduate school has been taking up the bulk of my time, planning has been paused.  I am excited to get back to that because it really has been enjoyable. It’s funny though–I keep waiting on everyone to get tired of hearing about the wedding, but truth be told, I’ve found that I’m usually the one saying, “Let’s talk about that later.”  Don’t get me wrong, I do like when people ask about plans, but when I’m overwhelmed with other things, wedding planning takes a back seat.
I’ve just found that I’m a thousand times more concerned with preparing for my marriage than planning for my wedding.

frantic february

Since when did February become the busiest month of the year?  Since I came to graduate school and became an ADPi advisor, I guess.  Don’t get me wrong! For the most part, it’s a good kind of busy.  I’m just used to busy Decembers with finals weeks and the bustle of the holiday season.  But February? Really?  I feel like the nice, innocuous month of February planned a sneak attack this year!  Let me tell you what I’ve got going on, in pictures, perhaps:

Jan 31-Feb 2

ADPi’s District Leadership Conference in Tulsa, OK

ADPiCrest

First week in February

  • Giant Psychopathology Presentation–check! (I was stressing about this until the moment I was done presenting.  I hate being the first to go, and I really felt like I didn’t have enough time to thoroughly prepare for this presentation.  However, I did my best, and I think it went well.)
  • Alpha Ceremony
  • Alpha Event
  • Various ADPi socials which I may or may not attend
  • Ritual Reviews

Second week in February

  • First Valentine’s Day with Cason–making a pretty sweet gift, if I say so myself
  • Diamond Days

Third week in February

NASP

  • National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Conference in Washington, DC–I will be gone Monday-Friday this week.  Thankfully, because my teachers are in the field, classes are cancelled.  I will have a bit of work/reading to do on the plan, but I’m sure it’s manageable.

Last week in February

I can’t even think that far ahead, but I’m sure there’s something!

Maybe this doesn’t look like as busy of a month as I thought it would, but this doesn’t really take into account all the various assignments and quizzes that full-time graduate work entails on top of being a good fiancé, trying to make friends, finding time for me, keeping in touch with my family, and planning a wedding.  Life happens.  Everyone has things on their plates.  I’m still just trying to figure out how to balance it all, and I’m sure that’s something that comes with time and experience.
I feel like I constantly write about how much work grad school is but how much I enjoy it…but it’s true.  It’s just one of those things that you can’t understand unless you’ve been there, and I can’t explain if you haven’t been there.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to just make people understand the things that we cannot explain in words when they cannot experience it for themselves?  That would come in handy in a lot of situations.  My guess is that it would also make the world a more compassionate, patient, and understanding kind of place.  So, I’ll leave you with that.