Thursday, August 28, 2014

You Are Here

You Are Here

On the Bike Trail

Tonight I’m taking a break from genetics to catch up around here!  I know that blogging isn’t real work in the I-get-paid-for-it sense, but I always feel a tingle of accomplishment when I catch up on the just-for-fun writing that I do.

Paradoxically, we are settling into daily life in Austin as our schedule is about to become much busier with work.  I did well with my exercise last week, getting outside for some movement six days out of seven.  On Monday, we took the bus to downtown Austin, theoretically to buy me some study/tutoring materials for chemistry.  We checked out Book People, where they keep the college study references in just the right place: next to the incense!

Incense and College Reference 

They didn’t have any chemistry references for me, so I settled for a votive candle and Paul bought a new journal.  (We’re big on journaling in our house!)  From there, we headed over to Whole Foods to buy a few groceries, then we caught the bus home.  Note for the record that we did NOT go into Anthropologie because I’m saving it for a special treat: when I hit 100 tutoring hours on WyzAnt, I’m giving myself permission to buy something from Anthro if I want.  It’s a store that is, I think, generally out of my price range (and I don’t have the patience/desire to stalk sales the way other people do), but I’m happy to use it as a reward now that there is a store near me.

On Sunday morning, we headed out on the riverside bike trail for a LONG bike ride in the sunshine.  (The photos at the top are from our ride.)  This time, we didn’t get any flat tires, so we were able to enjoy our bikes all the way back home, where the uphill was so steep that I had to hop off my bike and walk it.  My legs were trashed by the end, but it was a deliciously tired feeling.

FLF_Week of August 18 cropped

And that brings this blog officially UP TO DATE!  Hurray!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard

At home, working…

She's Done with Her Homework

Study Time

…and out on the road.

Dallas

En Route to College Station

Another week over and another week closer to the start of the fall semester!  The week of August 11th was a good “work hard, play hard” week.  I made good progress on my tutoring work, and oh, Paul and I had our interview that week!  More on that soon if we get hired.  On Thursday, we headed north to Dallas to see friends and so Paul could go to a concert with another friend of ours.  I love the Dallas skyline and wish I could better capture it with my camera.  Alas, that third photo down (a rather mediocre shot) will have to do for now.  The fourth photo down is a photo of the sunrise as we made an early-morning drive to College Station to finish up some work there.

I did well with my exercise before we went to Dallas, but I didn’t keep up with it while we were on our mini-vacation.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: August is such a punishing month in Texas.  I miss being outside more often and can’t wait until we start seeing cooler temperatures again.

But hey, how cute is my work-out summary this week?!

FLF_Week of 8_11_14 cropped

Monday, August 11, 2014

The First Week in Austin

Out and about…

From the Passenger Side

Out on the Bike Trail

…and at home in Austin.

Hard at Work_Selfie Break

Big Belly Boo

Hello, hello!  I’m so ready to get back into weekly updates on this blog.  We’ve been settling into Austin quite nicely, though I’ll confess that much of my time here thus far has been spent at my desk.  It’s a good busy, a happy busy, as Paul and I get ready for the upcoming semester and try to get our names out there so that students can find us.  When I work at home, Lucy sprawls out behind me or she sneaks into the closet and sleeps on my slippers.  It’s pretty adorable.

When we sneak away from our desks, it’s often on bike.  On Saturday, we headed down to the bike trail by the river and enjoyed the sites, like the one in the second photo from the top.  Unfortunately, Paul got a flat tire on the trail, and we had to walk our bikes all the way home.  Since then, he’s done a bunch of work on his bike and on mine, which is fantastic.  I love dating someone who is so handy and caring.

If I head out of the house without Paul, I usually do so on foot.  I’ll tell you more about my future running plans in my next post, but suffice to say that I’m taking advantage of the newfound stability in my life to start training again.  I got two short runs in last week and I went out tonight for a longer run.  To illustrate, I present the following:

FLF_Week of 8_04_14 v3

Paul and I bought digitizer tablets for tutoring!  They’re like electronic notebooks that you can use for sketching, drawing, or, in our case, lots of problem solving with students.  I’m still getting used to the tablet, but I’ve decided to do my weekly work-out log on the tablet.  I like its hand-drawn quality!

How is your week going, dear reader?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July by iPhone

Tonight I write to you from Austin, TX.  We finally finished our move from College Station to Austin after a very long week and several trips back and forth between the two cities.  We’re still not fully unpacked, but we’ve bought groceries twice and cooked several meals in our new kitchen.  The feeling that “this is home” is startling to settle into my heart.  Truly, the next chapter begins.

In keeping with my monthly recaps on this blog, I’m going to skip lightly over June (because I barely remember it, to be honest) and jump into something more exciting: July by iPhone!  I am now the proud user of a refurbished iPhone.  Paul was able to fix an old phone from his sister, and we finally activated it this summer.  (I can’t even tell you how long it sat in my desk…let’s just say it’s been a while.)

July was a crazy, intense month.  We enjoyed the pants off of it, until the end when the move to Austin completely dominated our lives.  But before that, we had…

Late Night Joy Ride in the New Car

…an evening joy ride in our new car.  I took a terrible selfie to mark the event.  It’s an awful photo, but it marks a huge turning point for Paul and me: co-ownership of a vehicle.  I think it’s safe to say we love each other more than we love the new car.  (But we do love the new car!)

Connect Four at Hullabaloo

…Connect Four while waiting for our table at Hullabaloo Diner.  Hullabaloo is legendary in College Station, and I had wanted to eat there at least once before we left CS.  Lucky for me, the guys decided to go to Hullabaloo to celebrate our friend Matt’s birthday, so we drove out there for delicious breakfast-for-dinner entrees and a huge platter of green chili cheese fries.  I wish we'd had room for pie, but we were so stuffed that common sense got the better of us and we rolled outta there without dessert.  Next time! 

Before our table was ready, we sat outside and played some games.  Paul is a champion Connect Four player, and he whomped me thoroughly in several rounds.  But I think I got at least one win in there!

Wisdom from Courtney's Wall

…an important reminder.  On July 1st, Paul and I moved our roommate Courtney into our new house.  She took down her inspiration wall, but I snapped this photo before the wall came down.  Everything about what we’re doing is experimental, our living arrangement and career changes being the biggest experiments.  Of course I’m rooting for success and happiness, but it’s good to be reminded that failing at something does not make you unworthy of love…or trying again.

Miss Lu

…a furry companion at my feet.  While we were still living in the old apartment, adorable Lucy started using my work bag as her resting spot whenever I worked at home.  She’s so sweet and beautiful.

New Journal from Half-Price Books

…a new journal for a new chapter of life.  I finished up my old journal when I started working on May Cause Miracles, so when Paul and I were in Houston, I bought a new one at Half-Price Books.  They have the most gorgeous selection of journals.  I love that store.

* * *

Tonight I was able to go for a walk for pleasure for the first time in a week.  Very near our apartment we had spotted a walking path; it turns out that it’s a wildflower preserve!  I strolled through it and a feeling of utter peace and contentment settled over me.  I have a really good feeling about this Austin experiment of ours.  Austin is a place we can explore, enjoy, maybe even stay for a while.  It’s a good thing I bought a new journal because I think there is going to be a lot to write about.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

And Then I Pedaled Off into the Sunset

Yesterday was not a good day.

It started on a good note.  I had organized my schedule the night before so that I’d be able to get everything done: a morning tutoring session, a visit to see a car that Paul and I might purchase, and then lab time to get something done that I had started on Thursday.  I woke up early to shower and eat breakfast before I had to start my on-line tutoring session.  I felt awake and ready to tackle the day.

The not-good part started when a tutoring student canceled on me at the VERY last minute.  I really hate when students cancel.  It’s not so much about the money or getting paid as it is about wanting to be useful, and if I’m not actually tutoring?  Then I’m not being useful.  I don’t like that.  I’m not sure everyone appreciates how frustrating it is to not work when you really WANT to be working.  We focus so much on the money, but as much as I want or need the money, I’m still bummed when someone cancels yet volunteers to pay for the session that they had booked with me.  This feeling is how I know that for me, freelancing is not equivalent to “slacker who doesn’t want to work.”

After the tutoring cancellation, Paul and I never heard back about the car-for-sale, so we never went to see it.  On the bright side, I was invited to lunch with my old lab, the lab where I worked for three months before being laid off.  “Yay, lunch!” I said to Paul, so of course I went.

Lunch made me sad.  Having stepped away from an employment path in academic science, I felt deeply self-conscious about my status as a freelancer.  Three of the four other people at lunch, including my old boss, had found new, seemingly stable jobs.  And while I’m happy for them, I also felt like I had little in common with them any more.  When we talked about my upcoming move to Austin, they made it sound like living in Austin is my life’s dream, as though when I get to Austin, my work is over because I’ve achieved my dream.  And I couldn’t articulate the fact that no, once we get to Austin, my work has just begun.  But getting out of College Station will be good for me, this town that has been my home through so much heartbreak.  I want the fresh start.

When my old colleagues did ask me about my work, they asked about my lab job, which is a way to pay the bills for six months.  It is NOT my passion and not something I am deeply invested in.  I’ve tried to do a good job in that position, but I’ve struggled with my unhappiness in it.  I resent that I needed that job at all, after being promised a yearlong position and being laid off three months into it.  And I feel bad that I am resentful, because my current boss has been fair and generous with me.  Sometimes I feel trapped, like I just can’t win.  I need want the money, so I have to suck up all these negative or ambivalent feelings and just DO THE WORK.

Finally, I was upset about something that happened in my lab job yesterday, the details of which I won’t share here.  Suffice to say, by the time I got home, I was so disappointed that I wondered why I got out of bed at all.  But I hadn’t exercised yet that day, and while I could have gone for a run, instead I decided to hop on my bike and make the most of my evening alone.  (Also sad: Paul has been house-sitting across town all week, and Lu and I have been missing him.  She goes into his room and yowls in despair.  I’m glad he’s coming home tomorrow.)

Before the bike ride, my spirits were lifted by a Facebook chat with my future roomie, who listened to my sad day and sympathized.  Then I made a smoothie, topped it with Grape-Nuts and peanut butter, and watched an episode of Parks and Recreation.  It was tempting, at that point, to stay on the couch for the rest of the day.  But there was still sunlight, and a bike ride for fun is a surefire way to feel better.  So I pedaled off, feeling lighter and happier already.

Why is it that being literally in motion feels so healing?  With just my keys tucked in a cross-body purse, I felt like I could fly away from all the bad feelings, the disappointments, the insecurities, everything that had come up during the day.  It was just me and the bike and that big blue Texas sky, strewn with white clouds and the fading light of summer sunshine.  As long as my health was good and my legs were strong enough, I could count on that bike taking me away from the daily struggle and the feeling that I’m just waiting for the next chapter of my life to begin.

I rode my favorite neighborhood loop but took a detour to visit a favorite park.  There, I hopped off the bike to do a lap.  Halfway through, I thought of my friend Amber and her endlessly playful spirit, and I ventured off the path into the grass.  I was fully present in that moment, the texture of the grass under my shoes, the warm air on my skin, the feeling of being alive in this body of mine.  I did some gymnastics that I learned years ago, when I was more flexible.  Putting both hands on the ground, I stepped into an inversion, one leg straight in the air, the other bent with foot touching opposite knee.  I did that several times, trying to do it better each time, with a straighter leg and more grace.  Then I tried something harder, a cartwheel, and promptly got thistles in my fingers, one of which drew blood.

I stepped back on the path and continued my walk.  My thoughts took me back in time, to being 16 and 17 years old, a simpler time in my life.  My work seemed so much simpler: getting good grades, baton twirling and coaching, making a little money doing manual labor.  Pick some colleges, apply, receive acceptance letters.  I worried about paying for college, yet I marched toward attending a school that I really loved, undaunted by price tags.

At that time in my life, I didn’t carry the weight of professional disappointments and deep personal loss.  I’d never been in love.  I had yet to grapple, really grapple, with my inner demons.  I was self-centered in a way that was not only allowable, but really perfect for that age.  I hadn’t walked through the fire of graduate school, an experience that would forge me into the person I am today.

And yet.  Despite all of that, I was able to transport myself back to a younger age and feel the lightness and hope of age 17.  That’s such a blessing.  It was restorative on a night when I desperately wanted to shed all those bad feelings.  But now it also reminds me of how much I want to work with students who are in that stage of life.  I want to tutor high school students who are just now learning about chemistry.  I want to work with undergraduates who are struggling with genetics or cell biology, trying to see the big picture from inside the fog of facts that float in front of them.  They are the people who inspire me to want to be better at what I do.  They’re the ones I’m trying to serve when I write about research and graduate school, trying to offer advice that is encouraging, useful, and realistic.  Working with those students isn’t about revisiting my youth per se—it’s about being a bridge from a place of uncertainty to the next step in their path.  It’s about being a tiny part of their journey to adulthood.

And after all that thinking, I hopped back on my bike, pedaled home, and resumed my spot on the couch with Parks and Rec on the television.

It was a good night.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Seeing a Pattern

FLF Collage 6_21_14

Hello and happy summer!  It’s been a while, but here I am.  I’ve been writing on my personal blog and my professional site, and this one kept slipping off my to-do list.  Let’s chat!

May was all wedding and Michigan, and it was wonderful.  I’m feeling all talked-out about May, so I’ll let the pictures speak for me here.  After we came back from Michigan, we had a visitor and a trip to Austin, where we signed a lease for a new place to live.  Since then, things have been quiet.  Paul moved in with me, and we’ve been learning how to be domestic partners.  I have to say, it’s been a pretty easy transition for us.  Paul is a kind, thoughtful partner—he even bought a piece of art from a friend of ours because he knew I’d like it!  So sweet.  Our domestic partnership has got me thinking about what exactly constitutes partnership and fairness.  It’s a contemplation—I’m not upset or annoyed.  I keep thinking about the idea that the person who cares the most about something should do that thing…but the policy that works well for Paul and me is that if you want something, just ask.  So far, so good!

Fitness-wise, I’ve been trying to do something every day.  I made myself a star chart, and after a few weeks, I’m seeing a pattern.  Do you see it too?

Star Chart Through June 9

Squeezing that third run into each week hasn’t happened yet, but I remain hopeful.  On Sunday, I went for my longest run in a while, a whopping 20 minutes.  I know, right!?!  (As for yoga, what’s that?  My yoga consists of doing some stretches before bed.  I don’t know if that counts.)

I’m going to get back into the habit of writing weekly blog posts for tracking my exercise.  I’ve let myself slack A LOT in the fitness department for the past year or so—I have no excuses, it’s just me being busy and not making exercise more of a priority.  I’m getting a little nervous that my slacking is going to erode my cardio and strength ability, and it was that fear that got me out the door on Sunday for a longer run.

I’m going to keep working on that “run 3x a week” goal.  In the meantime, how about a photo of Lucy with the new-old camera that Paul bought from a friend?  It’s our newest toy, and as soon as I can figure out all the software we need for it, I’m sure I’ll be sharing some photos from it!

Lu with New-Old Camera 

How is your summer so far?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Catching Up + A Simple Summer Running Goal

FLF Collage 5_18_14

Hello, hello!  Long time, no write on this blog!

April was one rocket ship of a month, barreling forward with all the momentum of a semester coming to its end.  It was a very successful month, income-wise, and I’m grateful for that.  My wallet and I needed that boost!

Rather than doing a really tedious week-by-week listing of my fitness pursuits, I’ll summarize April by saying that I walked.  Nearly every day, I forced myself to step away from the computer to get outside for at least a 15-minute walk.  Some days I ran, but more often, I walked.  It surprised me how hard it was mentally to set aside my work or other tasks so that I could get some exercise, but the discipline was good to enforce.  Also, once I had a 10K on the calendar, I felt compelled to kick up my efforts a notch.  Moving into May, my longest run before our 10K was 40 minutes (about 4 miles, based on my pace estimate).  My niece and I did this work-out together: she rode her bike ahead of me.  I pushed her to ride a little further than perhaps she would have done on her own, but she did great!  And she was so proud of herself too, which was adorable.  Then we both promptly came down with a nasty cold, and running was not an option. 

I was able to rally for our 10K race.  It turns out that JD and I are both out-of-shape runners, which is to say that we aren’t at our fittest right now.  We decided that this is okay, that it wasn’t something to get anxious or upset about.  I think over the course of our respective running careers, we’ve experienced peaks and valleys in our fitness—JD was very well-trained for the Detroit Marathon that we ran together in October 2013.  In recent years, I have been at my fittest right before running my annual March half-marathon.  I know what it feels like to be in really good running shape, and I’m not there right now.

While I think it’s okay to participate in running events even if you aren’t at your fittest, I’m feeling tired of not being more fit.  I feel caught between compassion and self-acceptance (telling myself, “Your life has been busy and chaotic, running hasn’t been a top priority, having a set of healthy habits is more important than running, etc.”) versus feeling like ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  The time has come to reclaim my running life.

And really, the time could not be better than now.  I’m down to one job for the summer (unless I can pick up some summer tutoring…), Paul and I aren’t traveling much, and I don’t have any special events on my calendar until we move in July.  In short, I have time to reclaim my athletic life.  My goal for the summer is to establish a habit of running three times a week.  Minimum distance is one mile (or ten minutes) of running.  It’s a modest enough goal that I feel good about setting it.  Maybe I’ll even bring back the star chart to visually track my progress!  That would be fun.

What are your summer running goals, friends?  Any races on your calendars?