praise for new paths

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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:

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  • 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:

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  • 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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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  • 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.

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  • 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.)

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  • 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.

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.

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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

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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.

let semester two commence

Psychology of Learning, Psychopathology, Counseling, and Assessment II…welcome to my second semester of grad school and life as an aspiring school psychologist. Considering that my first semester was unexpectedly and overwhelmingly successful, I feel significantly more confident going into this second semester. It’s incredibly hard to describe, but I think something has changed in me. I feel like I’m rediscovering myself.

My passion for serving students and improving lives through education grew early on in my undergraduate studies. I went from wanting to be a teacher to wanting to completely revamp education, single-handedly. I wanted to change the face of education in America. Now I recognize that while I wasn’t being realistic, I was a dreamer, and all change starts with a dream. Well somewhere along the way, I lost the dreamer aspect of myself. I still wanted to make a difference. I wanted to work as a school psychologist. I wanted to help children in their journeys through education. But I lost my passion. I lost my confidence, my drive, my dream. I was going through the motions, writing personal statements, requesting recommendations, and applying to graduate schools. Yet, I wasn’t confident that I would get in, and I was quite convinced that I would just live in China forever if things didn’t pan out with grad school.
20140119-185224.jpgBut as I’ve blogged before, I got into my top choice school. I moved halfway across the country for school, and it was tough. As some of my fellow cohort members were driving a few hours home every other weekend, I was trying to figure out what I was doing here. I felt like I was “doing school” all the time and still not doing well. Well, I shouldn’t have worried, as I did way better than I expected. Enter: renewed confidence and flourishing dreams. I feel it; it’s all coming back: my passion for learning, my drive to change the world (though I know I can’t do it single-handedly), my confidence that I can be all that I strive to be, my joy.

It’s all coming back, and not just due to a successful first semester in graduate school. I owe much of this to my supportive fiancé as well as the joy of wedding planning and merging our two families. And I could go without saying that all of this comes from a Creator who has my best interests at heart. My renewed joy comes from trusting in this plan of His. And while life isn’t always perfect, things are looking up. I look forward to learning how to be a good school psychologist, a loving wife, and a faithful Christian/friend.
20140119-185110.jpgPerhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned about life in general over the past couple of years is that there is always something to learn. As long as we focus on all of the things we can still learn, there’s no need to think about all of the things we’ve failed to learn. We will get there. It’s a process. & through this process, I vow to be kind to myself.

the proposal

My sisters are chatting about candle lighting ceremonies.  My cousin has made herself available to help with questions and contest entries.  Local friends have given me names and websites for photographers. My aunt and mom have already started planning.  I now own several magazines.  I have a rather large rock on my hand.
It’s official, I’m engaged!
For the story of how we met, click here.
And without further ado, here’s the detailed engagement story you’ve been waiting for…

Our engagement story:

On Friday, November 1st Cason went in to work and I planned an afternoon of shopping followed by an evening of studying.  I was at Target when Cason texted me to let me know they had too many people for his shift, so he got to go home.  I asked if we were making plans for the night, and he said he wanted to have a nice date night since we hadn’t planned one in a while.  (This is not unusual–we like to randomly plan fun nights, spur of the moment, where I put on a dress and he wears something besides athletic shorts.)  He picked me up at 6:30pm and we ended up going to dinner downtown at a place called Sam’s on the Square.  They had about 10 different kinds of tacos to choose from–I got fish tacos, and they were surprisingly delicious.  At dinner we did our fair share of people-watching; we constantly overhear tons of hilarious conversations among “college kids.”  So at first I didn’t notice how quiet Cason was being.  Towards the end of dinner I remember asking why he was so quiet–come to find out, he was super nervous.

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After dinner we went to one of my favorite places in Waco–Katie’s Frozen Custard.  We get Katie’s at least twice a week because it’s so delicious!  Then we took our frozen treats to Baylor instead of to my house to watch TV, which is perhaps when I realized something was up.  We parked on campus and walked towards Pat Neff Hall, passing the Judge Baylor statue and stopping in the gardens to sit and enjoy our frozen yogurt.  At one point in our walk I got pretty excited about the shrubs because they were cut to spell “Baylor Bears,” and I remember thinking it was strange that Cason seemed indifferent.  (We usually get excited about random/new things, but he had seen the shrubs before when he scoped out the location, and he had other things on his mind–which is obvious in retrospect.)

So we sat down in the middle of the garden looking at the glowing green Pat Neff Hall.  I’m trying to eat my frozen custard, but it was unusually cold outside for Texas so I gave up and listened to Cason tell me the history of the glowing green light.  (I’m still rather shocked that he did his research.)  After sitting for a few minutes I told Cason that I had to go to the bathroom, so he said, “Well then I will make this quick.”  (This is it!)  Then he got down on one knee, with the glowing green building behind him, and he told me how much he had always looked forward to finding the right person, how at times he wasn’t sure it would happen, and how he was blessed to have found me.  Then he said my full name and asked me to marry him.  I said, “Yes” through my tears and I got down to hug and kiss him.  Then he stood up and asked me if I was going to say yes (which apparently happens in more engagements than you would think), and I told him that I did say yes and that I do want to marry him.  So he put the ring on my finger and we smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged.  Then, since it was dark, he pulled out his iPhone and turned on his flashlight so I could see the ring. (It’s perfect, by the way.  We previously looked at rings, so he had a good idea of what I wanted, and he just took it and ran with it. 🙂

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We walked back to the car, giddy, and I asked all sorts of questions like, “Were you nervous? Did you think I would say no?” etc.  (Yes he was nervous but not because he thought I would say no.)  Once we got back to the car, we called my parents and face-timed them so they could see the ring.  Then we face-timed Cason’s parents, who were on their way to Florida with his youngest brother.  It was all very exciting to start sharing with family.  I also called my aunt and my nana, and my cousin’s reaction was priceless.

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People asked me if I was surprised, but I think the better question is, “Were you pleasantly surprised?”  Truth be told, if I had no inclination that it was coming, I would have been surprised, but I’m not sure that I would have liked it.  Cason’s proposal, for me, had the right balance of expectation and surprise.  So yes, I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a special moment shared between the two of us, which we will never forget.  Even now when I drive by campus at night and see Pat Neff Hall glowing green in the distance, I get this big grin on my face.

if at first you don’t succeed…

Downtown Oklahoma City–adorable.  Last weekend Cason and I visited some friends from home, who are now stationed in OK City.  They were the perfect hosts.  They took us to dinner downtown at this place called Texadelphia.  Cute little combo of Mexican and Philly cheese steaks.  Delicious.  Then we played Scattergories together and watched a hilarious Jim Carey movie.  I love traveling, and I really like that living in Texas now gives us opportunities to travel to new places without having to drive really far distances.

I had my first statistics exam on Monday, and I did well.  I’m thankful that I have this class my first semester in grad school because it is the one class where I’ve learned everything before.  Intro to School Psychology is good so far because it has mostly been topics about School Psychology that I researched when looking at different school psych programs.  Though my Psychology of Exceptional Children class is pretty new to me, a lot of it seems to be common sense so far.  There are loads of acronyms that I’ve never seen before, but I’ve learned them pretty quickly.  The biggest aspect of that class so far is that I will serve for 10 hours this semester outside of the classroom.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to tutor a 13-year old boy with Aspergers.  I’m really eager to get started, and I’m glad that I will be tutoring him in my favorite subject–math.

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Assessment is a completely new class; I never had the opportunity to learn how to administer cognitive abilities assessments.  Why would I have needed to?  Even though the class is new and sometimes difficult, the subject is interesting and necessary.  In order to do my job as a school psychologist well, I have to learn how to administer these assessments.  Today I will be administering my first assessment to another classmate.  After sitting in class for two weeks “learning” how to administer this assessment, I’m just ready to get the show on the road and actually do it!  It’s one thing to listen to someone tell you how to do it, but I have a feeling we will  learn more today by administering the test than we have learned in the past two weeks.  Experience seems to be the primary teacher in this field thus far.

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The theme for the next several years will likely continue to be, “Let’s throw them to the wolves and see how they do.”  The perfectionist in me doesn’t always like this idea.  I am a planner, and I like to have expectations clearly defined before I embark on a large task.  School psychology doesn’t work that way at all.  The only way to learn is to attempt, fail, and try again.  I like to watch others attempt and fail so that I can learn from that instead of making my own mistakes.  Well, that’s not an option here, so I’m still trying to get used to that.  Luckily, our first attempts and failures with administering this assessment are pretty low-risk.  So we make several mistakes in front of our peers–they’re likely to make similar mistakes.  Plus, I understand that they’d rather have us make the big mistakes with our peers and our professors instead of in the school setting.

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On another note, I get to fly home next weekend for my cousin’s wedding, and I am SO excited!  One, I love flying.  Two, I love weddings.  Three, I love Georgia.  Four, I love my family.  (That was in increasing order, if you didn’t notice.)  Needless to say, this is going to be a pretty awesome weekend.  Now I just have to get through five classes, several homework assignments, two quizzes, and one extra test administration & protocol.  Not too bad, right?  Honestly, it could be much worse.  I’m just thankful for three-day weekends and fun events to look forward to!

 

a tiny grad school update

Random updates from Baylor U.

  • Connecting with ADPi alum/Baylor advisors made my week last week.  We talked over an amazing dessert, and I’ll hopefully be getting more involved in helping with the ADPi chapter here at Baylor!
  • My first social circles group at the BARC (autism center) went as well as could be expected.  We had two kids who didn’t come last week, so I’m interested to see what tomorrow’s social circle will look like.
  • I meet with the parent of a 13-year old boy with autism today.  I will be tutoring him in math this semester.  I am eager to meet them and get started, but I’ll admit that I’m also nervous about this new experience.
  • I have resolved to be more intentional about connecting with people from home/Mercer.  The days are all a blur right now, so I honestly can’t keep track of who I’ve talked to and when.  Sorry about that!  I’m working on it.
  • I’ve been doing surprisingly well with my new budget!  Eating at home and packing lunches helps a lot!
  • I’m enjoying getting to know my cohort better and interacting more with them in class.  I’m ready to just “know” everyone.
  • Cason and I still love visiting new (to us) places in Waco.  We went to Katie’s this weekend, and it was by far the best frozen dessert I’ve had.  (They sell amazing frozen custard.)
  • Mondays are the absolute WORST.  I’m still trying to figure out how to successfully navigate those without crashing at the end of the day.  Work plus two 3-hour classes is more mentally exhausting than you would think.
  • Ending on a positive note, I’m very thankful to be a part of this program at Baylor.  I know that my experiences here will be invaluable to my future career and life in general.

how to survive your first week in graduate school

  1. BREATHE.
    Remember that even though you’ve experienced 4 years of college, graduate school is a new experience.  Amidst learning a new schedule, meeting new people, figuring out professors’ expectations, and completing loads of assignments, I have to take a moment to myself each day to pause and just breathe.  Some days just stopping to catch my breath, counting the number of slow inhales and exhales, relaxes me.  Graduate school is stressful, but there’s something about consciously breathing in and out that reminds me that I’m alive!  I’m going to make it!  It’s a great way to pause and refocus before moving on to the next task in a list of many.
  2. SLEEP.
    Gone are the days of staying up until 1 or 2am and sleeping until 10 or 11am.  Gone.  Now, 12am is a late bedtime for me, and sleeping until 8:30 or 9 is a luxury.  Honestly, I’m more okay with that than I thought I would be.  Completing tasks in the morning and early afternoon gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Waiting the night before an assignment was due never gave me that.
    Sleeping on a regular schedule actually reduces stress.  Yes, I know that people have told me this for years, but I’m finally realizing it.  Perhaps I’m a slow learner at times, but now that I’ve got this routine down, I feel indescribably better.  Sleep is now something that I look forward to, as opposed to a burden.  Getting a good night’s rest is crucial in graduate school.  The days will be long and miserable after a poor night’s sleep.coffee
  3. EAT.
    …don’t just eat–eat well.  Okay, okay, so I’m still trying to cut out those sodas at dinner and the fast food junk when I’m in a jam.  BUT eating well boosts energy and overall attitude.  Snacks that are high in protein have become a staple for me.  I keep almonds in my desk drawer at work; I’ll throw some low-sodium jerky in my purse for a snack; greek yogurt with fruit and granola is quickly becoming a favorite; and peanut butter will always be my protein comfort food.  I can definitely tell a difference in my attitude and energy level on days when I forget my snacks.  Nobody wants a tired, grumpy graduate student, so handy snacks are a must.
    Oh, and breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea.  My Keurig is great, but the caffeine from the coffee is not going to last.  Muffins, breakfast bars, fruit–a must.  I never thought I’d become a believer in breakfast, but I’ve been converted.
  4. READ.
    Do the assignments.  Do them ahead of time.  Plan every hour of every day and squeeze in reading time whenever possible.  I print out articles and carry them around in my purse.  I carry my books to the office and read between appointments.  I read over breakfast, lunch, and usually dinner.  I read constantly, it feels like.  Sometimes the professors cover the material and sometimes they talk about something entirely different.  Either way, completing the reading gives me a better idea of what to expect in class and enables me to answer questions and discuss things with the class.

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That’s the best advice I have, and just to be honest, I typed it out mostly for my own benefit.  My lifestyle changed drastically in the past three weeks, and it’s a good change.  This post will serve as a reminder to keep it up when I feel like giving in.

My first couple of weeks of class have been stressful, it’s true, but they have been overwhelmingly good.  Even though the work is never-ending, I am thankful to finally be able to focus on school psychology.  I’d rather read 5 articles and upwards of 10 chapters a week about school psychology than have a smaller load of gen. ed. classes.