Sunday, February 27

It's All Good.

I’m trying to think of the best way to put it. “It’s all good” is what I’m coming up with. You’ve probably heard me say that before. I think I get it from my brother Billy, an eternal optimist and just one of those people with, all in all, good vibes. He plays the drum for a living, really.

You can check it at: I digress!

But seriously, it is all good. The path that we’re all on, right? This time of year can be intense and stressful and at the same time a bit suspenseful and super exciting. I’m speaking to our “older” scholars when I talk about all of the “fruits of your labor” starting to ripen. That’s a cheesy way to say that, huh? Really though, you all busted a-- this past summer and fall, and you’ve been traveling a here and there and a here and there – everywhere – as of late, all with the purpose of securing a future for yourselves that most likely will be including a graduate education.

I’m thinking of Kayla down as MSU and Freddy at IU just this past Friday. Jenn trucking down to Nashville and then Oklahoma. And, Bianca making “several” trips to Andrews University quite awhile ago actually, and then more recently “making a stop-over” or shall I say “stop-up” at North Texas. Blaise cruised down to Ohio; Amanda went there on two different occasions actually, in addition to making it over to Indiana. John was in New York and then South Carolina. Cyrus just scoped out Kansas. Freddy already hit up IU last fall (before his “formal interview trip” last week) and Arizona State University. Helena, gosh, where has Helena been? Jet setting to UNC in North Carolina, then Salt Lake City and then Alabama! Kayla is flying out to Denver this coming Friday and Lindsay is making a stop in Denton, TX before heading to Vegas for spring break. Whew! I’m tired just trying to recap that all.

Side Note: ask Jeanine how much she loves putting together our “travel summaries” for reimbursement and tracking purposes this time of year! Talk about challenging….

I love this time of year, even though I do get nervous. I try to remind myself – which is the point of this blog post in case you were wondering – that things will all work out as they are meant to. This is one big, sometimes complicated and convoluted process. I’m guessing that most of you would agree. It’s your life! I just wrote to Kayla and said that this stuff is important and we all need to put forth some serious effort (which in my mind, you all have), but then, I think it’s also about letting some of that go (you know, the stuff in your head) about expectations and worry and things like that. It’s amazing to see how the level of confidence among all of the scholars soars at this point in McNair. We see you come in the office, right before a trip, a bit nervous perhaps, but *really polished* in your intent and preparations for the trip. While we might not all get what we were thinking we would, we will all get what it is we should. We’ll all get ourselves onto a path that is meant for us. At least that’s how I like to think of it. And, I always have to throw this in there – we’re (your lovely McNair family) just really lucky to have been one part of that *really cool* journey, along the way! --LMC

Sunday, February 20

Throw Open the Curtains

I once thought that self-denial was the best strategy to surviving grad school. I denied myself sleep, good food, exercise, relaxation, and oh, so many things. After all, I was passing graduate level courses, maintaining a good GPA, fulfilling my duties to the McNair program, and most importantly, taking care of my family (although I always strive to do that better). Weren't my priorities in order? NOT!! Wasn't I taking care of business? DEPENDS!! I realized last semester, I had sacrificed so much in pursuit of a degree it felt as if the curtains had been drawn on my soul (melodramatic?). I was run down and burned out, not to mention I was not passionate about the topic for which I was making so much sacrifice.

I have taken steps this semester to make some major shifts in that self-denial approach to earning my degree.
  1. I have worked hard to get at least 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep each night though occasionally it has creeped closer to 6 hours. I am finding that I really can't do that anymore without feeling like doody the next day whereas I used to sleep for 4 hours and wake up ready to go the next morning.
  2. I have put myself on an eating schedule on which I have three decent sized meals and 2 snacks a day. Even though it is more daily food than I have eaten in years, I seem to be losing weight.
  3. Exercise, what can I say about exercise? That is what I have missed most since returning to university 6 years ago. Previously, I had been very physically active and enjoyed feeling strong and fit. I haven't felt that way in many years. So, I have been squeezing in a work out daily, even if only 20-25 minutes.

I have worked on my physical health but realized today that maybe I haven't addressed my mental sacrifice as well.

As I walked into my bedroom this morning to begin homework, I noted that the curtains were still drawn and typically are when I work in my room. Feeling a little deprived because I am currently overwhelmed with work, a powerful rebellion grew inside me and I hurried to the windows and threw open the curtains. At that moment I resolved to work with the curtains open from now on.

As I sit here writing this, I look occasionally to my garden and imagine the sun on my face, the grass green and fragrant, abundance bursting forth from my plants, and the pleasure all this brings. At one time, I was concerned that all these feelings might serve as a distraction and illuminate the self-imposed deprivation in which I engaged to be successful in grad school. I now realize that they are quite the opposite. These feelings need to be a part of my weekly experience (if not more frequently). When I revel in these imaginings, they are like mini vacations of the mind and they will sustain me until the snow melts and my academic schedule lightens. They are just as necessary as all the physical changes I have made and maybe even more so.

Of course, I hate the cold so the snow storm outside my window makes it a little difficult to imagine the sun on my face. Maybe I will go take a hot bath and imagine that... I am in a hot tub on a cruise ship. The waiter just brought me a Miami Vice and it is as cold in my hand as the sun is hot on my shoulders...

Wednesday, February 16

So I am definitely supposed to be reading an article for my research right now, but I was so inspired to write that I had to take a quick break. This week I went to yoga and the instructor read one of my favorite quotes. It's a quote from Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love. Here goes:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson

I first heard this quote when I saw the movie Coach Carter. I loved this quote so much that I printed off copies of it during my senior year in high school and posted it all over my room. This quote reminds me to tell myself that I am GREAT and I that shouldn't apologize for it!!! I think we all have those moments that we think man I'm nothing but a small insignificant specimen on this huge planet, who am I too think I am more than that? Or we might say who I am to think that I am a smart and beautiful person, that is so presumptuous? Well actually we're not insignificant and we're not arrogant for thinking we are amazing. We are not even being presumptous (yay I used a word on our vocab list Maureen should be proud) when we take the time to recognize our own greatness. We are taking the time to give ourselves that pat on the back that people otherwise wouldn't give us. This quote can be a great confidence builder, and a word of encouragement when we're feeling down. It helps us to look beyond just being ordinary to recognize the how extraordinary we really are.


Monday, February 14

A Great *Lunch* Idea

Here is one of my favorite - quick and easy - lunch salads, thought it would be fun to share!

Thai Corn Black Bean Salad
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalepeno chili peppers, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger root (can use dried instead)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt to taste

Combine all veggies and beans in a bowl. Whisk sesame oil with vinegar and lime juice in a small bowl. Toss it with the beans and veggies. Makes 4 - 6 servings. I recommend doubling it so that you can take it with you for lunch several times during the week!

Sunday, February 6

The Power of Affirmations

Today I am posting a short piece from Lou Tice at the Pacific Institute on affirmations since the new group will be turning in their first monthly tomorrow. I strongly encourage each of you to sign up for Lou's daily email (I know it's another thing to add to the list, but it is totally worth it, in my opinion). He sends out a *brief* message on a range of topics mostly related to living an awesome and fulfilling life. Please try it and let me know what you think. I tend to post some of Lou's stuff that coincides with McNair happenings and topics at hand, like the one for today! I have personally found Lou’s advice to be very helpful through the years…

Here is the link to sign up - you can always unsubscribe if you find that you aren't into it.

"Power of Affirmations"

One of the things that I talk about a great deal in my work at The Pacific Institute is the power of affirmations. You know, some communication systems, like those used by the armed forces, use the word "affirmative" instead of "yes." And that is what an affirmation is: saying "yes" to something. In a formal debate, the side that upholds the truth of the proposition is called the "affirmative side." So when you make an affirmation, you are saying, "Yes, I believe in the truth of this."

Affirmations, combined with visualizations or mental images, are a highly effective way of moving into new situations without anxiety. They can also help you achieve goals of every conceivable kind. Many professional athletes use affirmation and visualization along with practice to help them play at peak form more often. I remember a javelin thrower some time ago who had just surpassed his personal best record. He said, "It feels like déjà vu. I have seen myself do this so many times before in my mind."

You see, his subconscious didn't know the difference between a vividly imagined throw and the real thing. So he was training his body to throw perfectly with his mind. And it was no surprise when he finally did throw perfectly. The same is true for you and whatever you want to do. If you rehearse the future over and over in your mind and see yourself performing perfectly, you will be dramatically increasing your chances of bringing that future easily and free-flowingly into reality.

--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute

Friday, February 4

Funny Stuff to Sustain You

This will be brief. Do you ever feel alone in your struggle to reach lofty goals? If you do feel alone, look around. Typically there are others right along side you struggling as well. Sometimes these shared struggles can seem lighter if you can laugh about the insanity of it all. The same is with the craziness of grad school, you have to laugh to avoid letting it consume you. Stay strong!!

In order to promote humor, please check out the following link to Piled Higher and Deeper (Ph.D.)

Happy reading!

Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in here?

Ok, it is challenge time. I really want to know what you all are thinking. What is on your minds? Do you feel confident that the McNair program will be a positive force in your lives? Do you feel overwhelmed? What can we do to help? The challenge is this. Please consider posting on our blog and share your experiences. Lynn wants me to post on our blog weekly but I am wondering if anyone reads these heartfelt words. Let me know you are out there.

Since I am at a loss of what to say this week, and I am feeling like I might be shouting into a vacant abyss, I am going to leave you with the lyrics to a song that helped me at a time in my life when I felt all my efforts to make a difference in the world were for naught. In fact, there was a time that I was told that nothing I did to help others, no sacrifice I made, would change anything for anyone and I began to question whether my efforts were pointless. The world was the way it was and the actions of one person would do nothing to make it better.

The Change

One hand reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done
By saving just this one
It's like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm
And I hear them saying you'll never change things
And no matter what you do it's still the same thing
But it's not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me
This heart
Still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It's like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss

And I hear them saying...

Ok, I know it is a country song, but I love most all music (rock, classical, r&b, some rap, Hindi, Salsa...) and if you close yourself off from a particular genre you can miss some really neat messages. The message of this song helped to renew my passion to make a difference tempered with the realization that the influence one individual has on any problem may be small, however, a passion to make a difference can prevent you from becoming part of the problem, or worse yet, ignorant of the problem.