Special Annoucment!

I have moved!! This summer, I have been working on creating a new website for my blogs and I have just had the chance to finally finish it! From now on, my blog posts can be found on Jimdo. And there is a NEW blog up on that page.

I have also added some new features such as Frequently Asked Questions (with an opportunity to submit your own), and an About Me section.

If you have subscribed here on this blog, please take a moment to resubscribe for my updates at the bottom of any page on the new blog.

Questions or concerns: feel free to contact me at fawcbe01@luther.edu.

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Moving briskly along…

 

Once again, I find myself starting a blog post by saying…”I have been pretty busy recently probably in an effort to avoid the feelings I am having.”

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Blog post inspiration this evening.

It turns out that working three jobs, trying to learn a foreign language, and have a social life is like actually not possible…I spent the entire month of July trying to make it happen. Not out of necessity but as a way to avoid the anxiety of my upcoming transition.

I have to say, I came very close to my boiling point yesterday as I was faced with decision after decision and reminder after reminder of my impending departure date. But, I am happy to announce that I might be dealing with it effectively (still TBD).

It started last Saturday. I was at the Dollar General with 7-year-old, Madison. While shopping, the topic of birthday parties came up and she was reminded that Auntie Betsy will not be around next year for her or her little sister’s birthdays. My sweet, loving, niece turned to me and said, “you are the worst Auntie ever.” She had a smile on her face but underneath her words was a strain of hurt and anxiety. It was a bit like a kick in the gut. I know it isn’t a big deal, just a birthday party, but to her, that is one of the most important days of the year (next to Christmas) and not being able to be there will be difficult.

Next came the call.

Last Wednesday, I pull into my driveway ready to switch out one job’s paperwork for the next job’s paperwork when I received a call. In a heavy Ukrainian accent the man on the other end said, “Hello Ms. Fawcett, my name is Yevgeniy (pronounced yiv-gen-ee) from the Ukrainian Consulate in Chicago. I am sorry to inform you but, well, the FedEx delivery man left your package with your Visa materials in the street this weekend, and well, it rained, a lot. I am sorry to tell you but your passport needs to be replaced.”

Ha. What?

I took a deep breath. Now, was not the time to spiral into panic. I thanked him, asked him to send me my documents back and hung up. Immediately called my mother who said the sweetest words I have ever heard, it is not a big deal. We will figure it out.

(Update: ordered a new passport today, expedited hopefully it will be here in 2-3 weeks, I should have my visa by the week before I leave…nothing like a close deadline!)

The {almost} final boiling point came when I sat down to finally buy my flight tickets.  Anyone out there who has ever tried to buy flights under the Fly America Standards from the Federal government will understand how debilitating bureaucracy can be! Trying to balance Federal mandates, flight dates, and flight prices was not my idea of a fun night.


So, I found it humorous today when my mom asked me today how I could be stressed out about work when I have a damaged passport, no visa, no plane tickets, let alone an apartment, subpar language skills, and really no conception of what my life will be like in 6 weeks. I laughed it off, gave her a hug and said, “I’ll be okay.”

What I didn’t tell her was that the only way I can handle those things right now is by stressing out about work. By freaking out about the small things, keeping my desk organized, filling in the smallest demographic details on our grant, but mostly by never sitting still. This is how I am dealing with it.

I have been reflecting on how much has changed in my anticipatory coping skills in the four years since I graduated from high school. I am not kidding that four years ago,  to the day, I almost withdrew from Luther because I was so upset about being placed in Ylvisaker after I had PLANNED on living in Brandt. The uncertainty of that situation completely threw me off, and almost paralyzed me (forever to grateful to the people who told me to snap out of that!)

Now, four years later, I have learned to deal with uncertainty in a very different way. Maybe it is better, maybe in four years, I will be writing about how unhealthily dealt with this situation. Who knows, but I do feel that movement is at least a step closer to a healthy way to cope than paralysis.

 

 

Crazy Coincidences

This week has been crazy, filled with plenty of high highs and low lows. 

Being the one year anniversary of my time spent at The Nansen Center, I spent plenty of time this week reminiscing and reflecting on how Nansen and Peace Scholars changed my life. How the experience and more importantly, the people have changed how I see the world. These people: our mentors and teachers, the other Peace Scholars and friends I made in the program, have made the world a smaller place. At the end of the summer last year, I wrote that these people made me feel like the world was my home. They make me feel loved from every corner of the globe. nansen

These people also planted an important seed in my brain, that has now blossomed into my impending Fulbright experience. My ‘people’ from last summer were some of my biggest champions, my biggest cheerleaders through my Fulbright application process. I relied on my time at Nansen extensively throughout my application process as I reflected on dialogue processes and building bridges across cultures and divisions.

So it was odd this week, to reminisce about my time at Nansen while also beginning my Fulbright journey at my Pre-Departure orientation. PDO as we called it, was crazy and overwhelming. It was both reassuring and anxiety provoking. I had a crash course in teaching (to all my teacher friends out there…I learned ‘everything’ I need to know in 1.5 days but advice would be seriously appreciated right now). I was also oriented to Ukraine, to the other 27 Fulbrighters (6 ETAs and 21 researchers), and to the Fulbright program. In four days, they supposedly taught me everything I need to know.  While parts of it were terrifying, I am now feeling more prepared and know more about what I can expect has allowed me to start to get excited again.

 

A stroke of coincidence put these two events on the same week. One year apart.

And these two pieces, my Nansen anniversary and PDO, are intricately tied together. Many moments throughout the week I found myself feeling so grateful for the last year of my life. I know that I would not be going to Ukraine without the Peace Scholars program (aka the people I met) and I know that my teaching and my experience with my community in Ukraine will be influenced by my time in Norway and what I learned.


Right now I am working on updating my blog. Getting some more information in the ‘about’ section and changing things up a bit. AND I still need a new name. All ideas are welcome, so get creative my friends!

 

Leaving Luther & a Summer Update

As I predicted, leaving Luther and moving back home has been really difficult. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like being back home with my family, I am enjoying being back at my job at Weld, Riley, and I love Eau Claire in the summer. But, the adjustment to ‘adult life’ after living in such a tight-knit community is very difficult.

I went from having my friends, my intellectual sparring partners, my professors, and my coworkers down to the hall, to having everyone spread out across the United States. And yes, we have modern technology to ease the transition but somethings just can’t be replaced by a text message.

The adjustment has made me wonder, what does the future hold. How do I take what made me happy at Luther and turn it into things that make me happy outside of Luther? And the even bigger question, how do I find new things, activities, people, etc. to find fulfillment in my life? How do I find happiness when I am lonely, how do I find happiness with myself? I think I will continue to explore these questions, this summer and into next year and the year after that. Maybe continually engaging with these questions IS the essence of happiness.


Right now though, I am dealing with the transition in true Betsy fashion: by filling my schedule so that I don’t spend too much time moping around.

Last week I began working at Weld, Riley again, which is a law office I worked for in high school. It has been great to be back, everyone has welcomed me with open arms. It has also led to some interesting reflections on my part about how much I have changed in the four years since I last worked in the office. I have more experience, I wear makeup now (sometimes), I hold myself with a bit more confidence, and I am much more willing to answer the phones. (which, 4 years ago, I hated so much I would have nightmares about)

I also have Wednesdays off. So, on Wednesdays, I study Ukrainian. And for the GRE. And write blog posts!

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I have dove right into preparations for Ukraine. I spend my Wednesdays studying grammar and vocabulary until my brain starts to feel mushy (supposedly this is how you are supposed to do the language learning thing). While self-teaching is going okay, I am excited to start lessons with a teacher via Skype next week! I already feel bad for the poor soul who will have to fix my pronunciation!

The Friday before graduation, I received my placement University for my Ukrainian adventure. I am excited and anxious to spend next year in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine at The Kirovohrad Volodymyr Vynnychenko State Pedagogical University. Upon hearing this news, naturally, I have immersed myself in as much research as I can get my hands on about my future home. I have spent hours trolling around on the Google Maps street view, translating Ukrainian websites into English to gain little bits of information, looking at transportation routes in and out of the city, and trying to get a better understanding of the University I will be at. All the research gives me a new motivation for my Ukrainian language lessons-I want to be able to read the websites and I am realizing that being able to at least understand the language, will be very important.

When I get bored with Ukrainian though, I pull out my GRE book, write letters to my friends at camp, or read Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection (which I will probably write a blog post about at some point).

Simply put, the transition home has been difficult. But I am dealing with it in a (semi) positive way and Ukraine preparations are WELL under way. More to come in the coming weeks as I head to DC to meet the other Ukrainian Fulbrighters for my Pre-Departure Orientation and as I begin my Ukrainian lessons.

For now, I will leave you with a Ukrainian goodbye.  До побачення (do pobachennya)!

New Adventures

 

I love betsyLast summer, at the end of my first week in Norway, one of my friends turned to me and said “Betsy you should consider teaching English. I know some programs you might be interested in.” I immediately laughed it off. I was NOT going to leave the country for a year after I graduated. I knew what I wanted to do: go to DC, find a job, work hard, maybe go to graduate school. It was a great plan…a plan that was not going to be changed by some teaching English abroad fantasy.

Throughout the summer though, I kept getting little nudges . Friends nagging me about it, meeting with a Fulbright program director, an email from a Luther professor recommending programs. So I gave in, I started looking into programs and into countries.

And in October of last year, I submitted my application for an English Teaching Assistantship with the Fulbright program in Ukraine. Halfway through January, I received word that I was a semi-finalist.

I am excited, and terrified, nervous, and ecstatic to report that this past Tuesday, I received word that I have been named a Fulbright Grantee in Ukraine next year. It has been a long process (8 months!) but I am beginning to realize that the process is just starting.

To my family, professors, and especially my friends thank you for pushing me to do this. I would not have started this process…let alone finish it without the encouragement, positivity, and love from each of you.

The day of my interview in February, a friend asked me what I would do if I went to Ukraine and hated it. It took me aback a little bit but then I immediately responded by saying  “I’m not pretending it going to be easy. It’s going to be very difficult but I can learn and grow a lot and that is why I am doing this” Nothing has changed since I said that, I am excited but I am also terrified. It isn’t going to be easy but I am so excited for the challenge.

So bring it on.

Prioritize Play

Time spent playing is never wasted” 

~Dawn Lantero

In the busy-ness of my life, I often forget to do the things that truly make me happy. Nights spent watching Netflix and coloring, gallivanting in the woods, writing my blog. These things get pushed to the side in favor of finishing my senior paper, planning Senate events or taking care of my residents. And I am not unique in this facing problem. Let’s all admit it. We suck at prioritizing ourselves and the things that make us truly happy.

Last week, a February heat wave hit the Midwest. It was 60 degrees in February! And while this may indicate impending doom and gloom, the end of the world or at the various least climate catastrophe, my moments spent basking in the sun were rejuvenating for me. Spring weather always makes me more productive.

On Tuesday, it was clear that by the end of the week this taste of spring was going to come to a screeching halt with a blizzard dumping inches of snow on the cornfields of the Midwest, but that was the least of my worries. I had 10 pages of my senior paper to write, a Senate ‘emergency’, and I had just finished the most important and stressful interview of my life. I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was crawl into my bed and sleep (aka escape all my responsibilities).

So, when I got a text message from Alexa asking if I wanted to go for a walk, I started thinking of all the excuses I could share with her to get me out of going. I don’t feel well, I need a nap, I have too much homework, etc. etc. etc. But I also knew that as my best friend, she would see right through each of those excuses. So, reluctantly I agreed, “fine I will go for a walk” I said, “but it has to be short, I have too much to do.” The plan was to walk to Casey’s, get a snack and then get back and start homework. I was in of obligation mode. Let’s do this walk thing and get it over with.

Walking back from Casey’s, Alexa spotted the small playground near the pool in Decorah and in her jokingly serious way said, let’s go play on the playground. And at first (still in obligation mode), I rolled my eyes, we are too OLD to play on the playground. But, a combination of loving my time with Alexa, the sunshine, and the allure of the swings, I broke down and agreed.

For the next 45 minutes, Alexa and I played. We swung on the swing set, climbed the monkey bars, and even sat on the bouncy “spring riders” (see picture below). We laughed, we philosophized, we cried (just a little), we played. For 45 minutes, I didn’t think about my obligations, I focused on being on that playground with my best friend, in that specific sun shiny moment. And it was beautiful, rejuvenating.

I came to the terrifying realization last week that I only have three more months to play here at Luther. Hopefully, life after Luther will allow me to continue to play but let’s be honest, it is going to be different. So for myself, I am going to try to make playing a priority. I am going to try to remember not to try to make excuses when people ask me to take time to just have fun. I am going to do things that make me happy, even if that means sometimes sacrificing some of my responsibilities. As Einstein says, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

It is time to reprioritize play in our lives. Go play for a bit.

You are the savior we have been waiting for

16143086_10202567866314137_8987125867389312895_nLike so many others, the results of the 2016 election felt to me, like a sucker punch in the gut. For 18 months of my life, I worked to elect a woman who I considered a role model. Hillary Clintonis a woman that I aspire to be like. Strong, smart, a tiny bit awkward, and a lot bit nasty. I saw in Hillary Clinton a future for our country that was positive, progressive, and hopeful. I also saw a future for myself, living in a country where women truly could be whatever they wanted. I saw her as the savior that I had been waiting for. Needless to say, after the election, I felt lost, sad, and hopeless.

After the election, I was given the option to bow out of an internship that I had agreed to do in Washinton, DC. My boss knew that I had planned my internship largely to be in the city for the historic inauguration. But, I decided that the work they were doing, (helping women explore public policy careers) was even more important after the results of the election. So, I packed my bags and headed for DC.

Inauguration was three weeks into my time in DC and that day was difficult. Trump supporters flooded the city with Make America Great Again hats and some of them also donned hateful t-shirts targeting Democrats and Hillary Clinton. I carefully removed my Hillary button from my jackets to avoid any confrontations with die hard Trump fans. I coped with the changing of our leader by sitting on my couch, eating lots of chocolate, and watching Netflix. But I also coped by preparing for the Women’s March on Washington.

The Women’s March was exactly the healing I needed. After spending almost three months after the election feeling lonely, sad, and hopeless it was energizing to be in a crowd of 500,000 people who felt the same. The women’s march felt like being back in September of 2015 when Hillary spoke at Luther. The crowd was electrified and impassioned. We were fired up, and ready to go. For that day, I felt like everything was going to be okay. I felt empowered and I felt like we were going to be able to fight back, we were women (and some men), and we were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, this past week I have found myself slipping back into feeling lost, sad, and most of all hopeless. I see our new president making decisions that directly impact people I care about without heeding the voice of the people. For the first time in my ‘political life’, I sometimes feel like my voice doesn’t matter because no one is listening.

But in some ways, I think this is how Donald Trump wants us to feel, he wants us to feel powerless and hopeless, he wants to exhaust us. But we have to keep fighting, we have to find within ourselves and our communities, what it is that keeps us energized and willing to fight.

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I know for many of us getting involved in this fight is daunting. Where do we even start? I recently heard a friend say that to start, we should all pick three issues that are going to be our issues. These issues will the ones that we research, we read about, we watch, and we fight for. We cannot possibly keep track of everything going on but we can all keep track of three issues. I have also found a great website called Popvox that will keep track of bills in Congress and will send you weekly updates about events in Congress…and they put the information in real people language, so it is easy to understand. Bottom line, if we are going to fight, we better be informed.

I also encourage everyone to check out a few resources that I have come across in the last few weeks. First, the Indivisible movement, which has put together a guide for resisting the Trump agenda by going directly to our other elected officials (state and national Congresspeople). If you are in Decorah, the first chapter meeting will be held next Tuesday evening. Also, the Women’s March is encouraging people to participate in their 100 days of Action. Every 10 days, they will release an action item for people to engage in. The first action item is to write postcards to your representatives on issues the are important to you. Finally, if we are upset with the system and with our elected officials, we WILL have the chance to replace them. I am saying now, that young people like myself and many of my friends are the people we need to be running for these positions, and we shouldn’t sit around and wait until we are asked. Specifically, if you are a woman, with even an inkling that you may want to run for office, check out the SheShouldRun incubator to find support.

For most of the campaign, I thought Hillary Clinton was the savior I had been waiting for. She was the one who was going to come in and fix our partisan issues, she was going to show us all that women could achieve anything, and she was going to be my champion (she still is but that is another blog post). But if this election and the women’s march showed me anything it is that you are the savior we have been looking for and I am the savior that I have been looking for. So we better get to work.

#whyimarch

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Photo: John Minchillo, AP

I am proud to say that I participated in the March on Washington. And I am currently working on a blog post that sums up my experience. But today, something more important came up and I feel the need to speak up about it. This story exemplifies one of the reasons I marched yesterday.

Yesterday, I marched on Washington in support of women’s rights and today, I witnessed the degradation of a woman’s rights.

This morning, I boarded the DC streetcar to get myself home after spending the weekend celebrating the Women’s March with friends. Upon boarding, I realized that the air in the streetcar was tense. There were two men speaking in harsh tones to each other and a woman seated near them trying to read a book. I didn’t really think much of the situation, whatever was happening wasn’t my business.

But, it wasn’t long after the car started moving that I heard the men talking about the ‘pretty lady’ sitting near them on the streetcar. A younger man was chastising the older man for ‘trying to get with her’ and arguing that ‘he had no chance’. The pretty lady they were talking about was squirming in her seat obviously trying to ignore the men.

When the streetcar was forced to stop by a parked car, things got heated as the older man turned to the woman and tried to strike up a conversation with her. She said nothing, put her book in her bag, and walked to the door of the streetcar, pressing the button to try to open the door. But, the door wouldn’t open. The older man stood up and proceeded to stand near the door and near the women. She continued to ignore him, as he continued to talk to her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but the look on her face said she was uncomfortable. In an effort to support her, I moved myself closer to the door and tried to make eye contact. But it was obvious we both felt utterly helpless.

At the next stop, the women quickly exited the streetcar and ran off into a local business, for a moment the man tried to follow her but she was faster than he was so he board the train again. He immediately turned his attention on to me. Luckily, my stop was a short two blocks away which allowed me to escape before he was able to say anything to me. But his leer was enough to let me know he wasn’t a good man.

As I quickly walked home, clutching my keys defensively, I couldn’t help but realize the juxtaposition I had just experienced. Yesterday, I marched. Yesterday, I was elated. Yesterday, I felt strong. And in just two minutes this man made me feel worthless. He made me feel scared. And he made me feel powerless.

I would like to tell you all that this is the first time I have experienced this. But I would be lying. In my time in DC, street harassment by complete strangers has quickly become normalized. Most of the time it seems’harmless,’ just a strange man looking you up and down, or someone winking at you on the street. But sometimes it is really bad, it is a man who yells at you because you won’t say thank you when he ‘compliments’ you, it is two men following you down the street when you are alone, it is a man who won’t leave you alone on the streetcar.

I tell this story because it is a reminder that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to women’s rights in this country. On a macro scale, we need more women in elected office, but on a micro level, we simply need to allow women to feel safe. We need men to stop treating women like objects and that starts on the streets. We need men to leave us alone. And that starts with us having serious conversations about how we speak to and treat the women of this country.

By tomorrow, I will have finished my account of the women’s march which will explain the elation and the power I felt to be a part of a massive group of strong, nasty women. But today, I want us to really consider, how much longer it will be until women can feel strong on our streets, even when they are alone.

Four Reasons to Love Winter

 

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Lately, I have been feeling exasperated by the cold winter weather. I find myself complaining about putting on so many layers, never feeling warm, and having to constantly remove ice and snow from my car.

So yesterday, I decided it was time, that I sit down and make myself come up with a list of things that I love about winter. And this is what I came up with.

  1. Winter silence: I love the silence of a winter morning. No birds chirping, no people milling around, no leaves on the trees. The only thing you hear is the sound of you own breath and your feet on the ground and even those sounds you try to mute. Just to be able to experience, even for a second, a moment of silence.
  2. Unexpected warmth: Over Thanksgiving, I was showing a friend around Eau Claire on a particularly cold and windy day. We came across a spot, where sunlight was reflecting off a window and creating a hot spot. It was an odd juxtaposition of cold wind and being enveloped by the warmth of the reflection, but it made me extremely happy.
  3. Painfully cold temperatures: especially here in Decorah where bone-chilling winds blow off the bluff and penetrate any attempts to bundle up. That cold is rejuvenating. It resets my mind and helps me develop a different perspective.
  4. Newly fallen snow: this one is pretty cliché, everyone loves newly fallen snow. But I love the excitement of waking up in the morning to a fresh blanket of snow. It is almost like the new snow recreates the world, and recreates new possibilities.

Thanks for reading!

An update on my life: I will be heading to Washington, DC for the month of January to intern with the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)! I am excited to be out there and to see friends and to have a chance to explore DC.

I am just finishing up my last Fall semester at Luther. The idea that in five months, I will be leaving this place is starting to freak me out. But, I am also starting to come to terms with the fact that I am not meant to be here forever, and for me to continue to grow, I must leave.

I have decided that I will be doing a blog series next semester (maybe starting in January) focusing on the experiences and the people at Luther that have shaped who I am, so keep an eye out for that if you want!

How ya feeling?

Everyone is going to ask me how I am doing today. So instead of answering all of you, I will refer you to this blog post.

I am hurt and sad and embarrassed and scared.

For the last year or so, I have worked to see Hillary Clinton elected president. I have worked for her. Not against Trump, I worked for Hillary. So you can imagine my hurt and my sadness right now. Also, don’t even get me started on how dejecting it is to see an over qualified woman passed up for a job, again.

But what I want you all to know, is that we are going to continue to move forward. We have a difficult road ahead of us.But, we will continue to move forward. Now more than ever, I believe we need to be ACTIVE citizens. We cannot sit back and just watch what comes out of these election results. We need to be vocal, we need to work at the grassroots level, we need to work hard and let our voices be heard.

Right now, it is looking like Hillary won the popular vote. To me, that is a glimmer of hope. That means that a majority of Americans did NOT choose Donald Trump as their president. That majority, we need to now stand together and participate in our legislative process. We also need to protect our friends who will be targeted by this president.

I didn’t think I was going to go to class today, but when I woke up I realized that it is a sunny, and beautiful day outside. I realized I need to go and take advantage of the education that I am lucky enough to have. I was also inspired by all of my friends (especially the teachers) who forced themselves awake this morning to go out into the world and try to make some good. I am going to try and follow in their footsteps.

I might have more coherent thoughts at a later time but for now, that is all the positivity I can pull together. Keep trucking everyone.