School’s Out for the Summer!!!

I realize that those of you with kiddos are probably gearing up for back to school, or have perhaps started already. And that is super fantastic for you and the kids! Structure! Brain workouts! Hours not spent entertaining bored children! I’ve loved seeing pics of my nieces and nephews and other loved littles as they head back to school this week.

However, as of yesterday morning I am officially out of school. I took a grad-level class this summer as a sort-of professional development project for my job. I work in higher education in my state and my job entails training high school counselors how to help their students be more prepared for college, including applications, FAFSA completion/financial aid, and the transition from high school grad to college freshman. The class I took focused on all those things and is geared for grad students in their final year of a Master’s degree in high school counseling.

You guys, I totally aced it. Like, a “98% A!” aced it. This is not to say that I didn’t learn anything, but the most valuable pieces for me were not the instructions and readings on methods, strategies, and programs to help students become college ready. My office literally wrote the curriculum for those sections and I live and breathe it every day at work. The most valuable part of this course was the discussion boards where I could interact with counselors and learn more about what they do outside of college advising. Did you know that helping students understand the college application/enrollment and financial aid processes are not actually part of a counselor’s job description but rather fall into “other duties as assigned” ?! No WONDER my high school counselor was not at all helpful as I tried to navigate that process as a 17-year old kid! More and more counselors are wanting to take on those kinds of responsibilities and work with students and families to facilitate a smoother transition into college…but dang, I was shocked that it is not required or even recommended and, until 2 years ago (at least in my state), there was zero training for counselors and counselors-to-be on how to figure out how to create a successful “college going culture” within their school. Zero.

I won’t get into all the details about college going rates for my state (fair, but not great), or college graduation rates (we have the highest drop-out rate for women IN THE COUNTRY!), or FAFSA completion rates (we have the lowest completion rate in the country–that’s the bad side of that scale), and all the other data pieces that land on my desk. But I do want to say that the program I run–focusing on helping students figure out the “getting to college” process–is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever been part of, I love going to work, I love the work I do, and I am learning to better understand the roadblocks I come across along the way (see above paragraph about counselor training).

You guys, at age 32 I feel like I am in my dream job. Sure, I’d love eleventy-jillion more dollars in my bank account, but I LOVE what I do and am immensely satisfied with my work-self. Which means it’s time to seriously consider a Master’s degree…. gulp!

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Weekends are for adventures

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I am halfway through a run of back-to-back weekends that I am off adventuring, gallivanting, traveling, and otherwise having a great time. This summer has been fantastic! For the last three weekends I’ve been exploring in Arizona, Montana, and California, and in the coming weeks I’ll head back to Arizona (twice) and also do some hiking in Great Basin National Park (Nevada). I am not complaining, I feel incredibly lucky that I have the time, funds, and friends to make these adventures happen. The idea of spending a week at work and jetting off on Friday afternoon to someplace fabulous to spend time with dear friends or my sweetheart is so…intoxicating. In many ways it fulfills the requirements for my Dream Life. (Of course, in my Dream Life I might have funds and ability to include places like Paris or Peru or New Zealand in my travels instead of, you know, the middle-of-nowhere Nevada.) I have loved having a half-packed suitcase in the corner of my bedroom, filling it through the week with the freshly laundered underwear and necessary wardrobe pieces for the next adventure. I have loved the insanely low grocery budget because 4 days at home requires so much less food than 7 days at home. I have truly loved and been nourished by spending time with the humans I care about the most in the world.

But do you want to know something else?

I’m also tired. I feel like I could use a 3-hour nap any given Tuesday (and Thursday) (and Wednesday). I day-dream about a lazy Saturday morning to sleep in and it is not completely unheard of for me to crawl into bed before 8pm, read for 30 minutes, and go to sleep. I’m sure my body will eventually get the better of my wander-lusting heart and demand I take a few days to recover…but it’s not today. As we speak I’m planning my suitcase for two separate trips, one this weekend and one the weekend after. And, despite the dark circles under my eyes and the incessant bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper at my desk, I think I prefer it this way. I’ll sleep when I’m dead and I’ll stop exploring when they pry my Road Trip app from my cold dead fingers.

So, basically, there will need to be a lot of dying before I’ll truly stop seeking the beautiful places. I’ll slow down, eventually, but not quite yet.

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Photo: Utah’s Highway 95, somewhere north-west of Blanding and not quite to Capitol Reef National Park.

Point Bonita, California

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Point Bonita is famous for it’s lighthouse, however due to some construction issues and early closing times we missed being able to actually visit the final outcrop of land where the lighthouse lives. (Sad panda!) We hiked out as far as we could go and just admired the wonderfully warm and fog-free weather and all the gorgeous views.

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You can see the actual lighthouse on the very end of this rocky outcropping, however we only made it to the door to the tunnel in the middle before our way was barred and locked.

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Waves crashing on the west, sealions barking on the right, the setting sun turning everything to gold.

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This bright reddish-orange lichen is all over the place and I just wanted to scoop it up and paint with it! This is the end of our trip, stupid locked/chained/barred door.

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These succulent-ish plants were everywhere with bright pink or lemon yellow flowers. We wandered around, watched the sun set lighting up the rocks and the Bridge as the fog rolled in (and it got chilly and too dark for picture-taking) then packed it in and headed back home.

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In another lifetime (and another blog) I spent almost half of my weekends in San Francisco falling in love with love, with the City, and with a very kind man. Seeing places with such wonderfully fond memories brought back so many happy moments and images of this city where I learned how to be a person again, how to love again, and how to be loved again. The boyfriend is long gone, although with only the best kinds of feelings for his future happiness. However, I will forever have part of my heart reserved for the City that brought me back to life. I’ll be back, San Francisco!

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