Hello Summer. Hello Boredom.

In the 15 days since my last post the kids hit their last baseball of the season, they’ve started swim team, and school has officially let out for the summer. Temperatures in the national capital region have hit 90 degrees and we’ve been spending our evenings at the neighborhood pool. So despite it being a few days away from summer solstice, I’m officially declaring it summer for Team Huffman.

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Summer has been an interesting season in our household for awhile because we’ve moved each summer for the past three years. The little guy was four and baby girl wasn’t even walking the last time we had a summer that didn’t involve packing up our worldly possessions and schlepping them halfway across the country. Not that we didn’t have fun – we always use the transition time that accompanies a PCS (permanent change of station) to travel, visit family, and make the most of our uninterrupted time together. But for as much as I love experiencing new places and meeting new people, it can be quite exhausting to essentially start our lives over each fall. And there isn’t always the guarantee that I’ll bloom where the Army plants us. So the fact that we currently have an uninterrupted summer ahead of us seems downright exhilarating.

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So what are our plans for the summer? Well – the kids and I will be on our own a lot this summer but Clay will be home enough that we’ll be able to squeeze in a few family-of-four adventures along the way. We have our trip across the pond in a few weeks and I’m sure we will squeeze in a trip to the North Carolina coast and Lake Lanier, Georgia to visit family. We will take advantage of Blue Star Museums in the area and we will explore Washington DC beyond the standard tourist-fare. We’ll go hiking in the Shenandoah Valley and kayak on the Potomac River. And we will eat lots of Maryland Blue Crab and s’mores.

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That being said – these kids will also be bored. Their days will not be scheduled with camps, lessons, or schoolwork. They will harness their boredom and transform it into independent creative play. They will draw. They will paint. They will make a mess. And they will clean up after themselves. I will not comb Pinterest for activities to keep them occupied day in and day out. They will have time to think. Time to plan their own day. They will play outside unsupervised. They will build forts. They will fight. They will be sent to their rooms. They will read. They will be bored at times. And they will have a fantastic summer because of it. Research has shown that boredom can lead to happier and more creative kids with superior problem solving skills. So while we will have adventures and experience plenty of new things, the kids will also have a lot of downtime. When they’re able to use their own creativity and participate in unstructured play, they learn to keep themselves entertained – which is, quite frankly, absolutely essential for a happy and successful life.

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So hello summer 2018. Hello adventure. And hello boredom.

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Career Chronicles: Putting It Out There

Let’s Talk About Oprah. During my last semester of college, I taught US Government and Economics to high school seniors at a nearby school in order to graduate with a teaching certificate. My mentor teacher was nearing retirement and had lost passion for the art of teaching many years prior. I learned a lot about how not to teach and that death by PowerPoint is very real and very painful. At this particular school, teachers would monitor the halls in between periods by standing outside of the doors of their classrooms. A particularly joyful and boisterous woman taught English across the hall from the room in which I student taught.

I would marvel at the dichotomy between her room and the one I stood outside of – the kids were actually smiling and laughing as they entered hers. She and I would talk a lot during those 5-minute intervals. Having been born and raised in the South, she asked a lot of questions about the Philadelphia area and seemed particularly interested in Revolutionary-era history. But more often than not, we talked about Oprah. She loved Oprah Winfrey. Loved. I was often treated to the recap of the previous day’s episode and found myself riveted by her infectious laugh and her ability to empathize with almost every topic covered by the Chicago-based show.

Years later, when the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey show aired, I couldn’t help but think of the cheerful English teacher across the hall. For as beloved as she is by her fans, critics dismiss Oprah as a promoter of positive-thinking rhetoric that lacks weight and real-world adaptability. Others call her dangerous – a promoter of pseudoscience and the idea that the universe punishes those with negative thoughts. But I can’t help it – I love Oprah’s message of finding your purpose, the need for a spiritual life, and living in gratitude. It’s no secret that I am on the glass-half-full side of the fence. I admit that I don’t devour the self-help books that were featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show – I’ve never read The Seat of the Soul, The Secret, or The Power of Now and I side-eye quite a few concepts presented in such books. But I do believe that there is something to be said for living an intentional life, the power of positive thinking, and the need for gratitude and visualization.

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Putting it Out There. A few months ago, I wrote about the Lloyd Dobler Effect and What I’ve Done throughout my hodgepodge career thus far, which resembles a scrap quilt. And you know what? Shortly after – I received an offer for an instructional design contract. When looking back on my storied job history, I am able to see a pattern – when I’ve declared my intentions and have literally shouted them into the universe, the universe has responded. Even though it felt vulnerable to write about my struggles associated with my so-called career and a bit icky to write about having the luxury to choose between working and staying home with young children – I hit publish. And what resulted was a fantastic conversation across various social media platforms that inspired me while also showcasing the grit, determination, and capability within the military spouse community.

When I decide to do something, my initial reaction is to keep it close and guarded within the confines of my own thoughts. There are many reasons why – embarrassment, fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy, etc… And then there is just the general uncomfortableness of talking about myself – which, don’t get me wrong, I realize is silly seeing as how I write a blog. I am always apprehensive that I’ll come across as self-absorbed or self-congratulatory and it can be difficult to balance those anxieties with confidence and self-esteem. But every so often – I push those ugly feelings aside and shout my intentions in the universe. I write about them. I talk about them. I don’t keep quiet about my strengths and I actively work to address my weaknesses. And then the universe responds.

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Appreciate Left Field. Being a softball player, I’ve been known to use baseball terminology in everyday conversation – Every game is game seven. Never go down without swinging. Hit it out of the park. You’re killing me, Smalls! It’s a brand new ball game… When I throw something out into the universe, the response may not be what I initially envisioned but let’s be honest – some of the best opportunities are the ones that come from left field. Keeping yourself open to unexpected opportunities while thinking positive, expressing gratitude, and practicing visualization will always lead to something. It may not be what you initially wanted but it will yield a result.

I’m still learning how to navigate through these responses that the universe is throwing my way. I accepted the instructional design contract. The particular subject area isn’t my passion but I do find tremendous value and fulfillment in the art of course design so I know that my experience with this project will yield results that will only benefit my journey. There is still much more that I want to put out into the universe. I want to write. I want to see the most remote areas of our planet. I want to live with less. I want to understand more. And I want a meaningful career that benefits others more than it does me. It’s a tall order. But you never know…the universe works in mysterious ways, after all.

Previous Career Chronicles posts –