Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 87-mile Project

FLF Graphic 12_30_14

Here’s the thing.  I paid good money to run a half-marathon on February and yet my training efforts have been practically non-existent.  If there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s the fear of wasting good money, and spending money on a race that I can’t or won’t train for is definitely a waste!

Race day is in 46 days (thank you very much, website counter!), and I’m challenging myself to run 87 miles between now and the start of the race.  That’s one mile for every dollar I spent on my race registration.  (Holy COW, that’s an expensive half marathon.  Thank goodness that running, as a sport, is pretty cheap.)  87 miles divided by 46 days means I need to average 2 miles a day from now until February 15.  Considering that I am basically starting from running 0 miles a day, that feels like a lot.

Will I get there?  We shall see!  But I’m going to try.

Here’s my log that I’ll be keeping to track this project.  (I heart data!)

Day             Miles Run

12/28/14           3

12/30/14           1.2

12/31/14           0 (sick)

1/1/15              0 (still sick!)

1/2/15              0 (still sick!)    

1/3/15              0 (getting better…)

1/4/15              2 (whew! finally went out for a run!)

1/5/15              0

1/6/15              2

1/7/15              0

1/8/15              0

1/9/15              2.2

1/10/15            0

1/11/15           1.5

1/12/15           0

1/13/15           2 (13.9 miles total as of today—more than a half-marathon!)

1/14/15           0

1/15/15           2

1/16/15           0

1/17/15           0

1/18/15           0

1/19/15           2

1/20/15           0

1/21/15           2

1/22/15           0

1/23/15           3

1/24/15           0       

1/25/15           0

1/26/15           0

1/27/15          2.5

1/28/15           0

1/29/15          2

1/30/15          0

1/31/15          0 (woke up sick today)

2/1/15            0 (sick AGAIN!)

2/2/15            0

2/3/15            0

2/4/15            0

2/5/15            0.9 (run/walk: 1 minute run, 1 minute walk, repeat 8 more times)

2/6/15            0 (ugh, still sick…)

2/7/15            0

2/8/15            0

2/9/15            0

2/10/15          0

2/11/15          1.7

2/12/15          0 (I think?)

2/13/15          0 (drove to and from Dallas today to pick up JD) 

2/14/15         1.5 (short riverside run!)

2/15/15:        RACE DAY!

TOTAL:      31.5 MILES

Price per mile: $2.76

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Life Lately by iPhone + Runner’s World Love

It’s true that I’ve been quiet lately on the blogging front.  Life is good these days, but I’m still finding it so hard to carve out time for any creative pursuits.  This weekend, however, I had a slowdown from work, so I’m taking advantage of the time to write.  Looking back over my photos from the past two months, I found a few highlights. 

The View from the Trail

On the Bike Along the Riverfront

On my way home from UT’s campus the other day, I stopped along the riverfront trail to take these two photos.  I love living so close to such an awesome biking/running trail—what a treat.  One of my running goals is to get into good enough shape to run down to the trail, do a few miles, and run home.  That would require that I can handle an hour of running again, so it’s a great half-marathon training goal.

On that particular day, Paul and I rode together to UT”s campus.  What a fun ride to do together!  It certainly wasn’t the first time we’d been downtown together, but it was the first time we’d ridden from our home through downtown and over to UT.  Seeing familiar parts of Austin by bike makes them feel new again.  I love the feeling of exploring a city by foot or bike—it feels like I make a deeper connection to place when I am able to do that.

Gorgeous Flowers

Paul and I went camping a few weeks ago, and we passed through Whole Foods to pick up some food for backpacking.  The roses looked so luscious and beautiful that I had to snap a photo!  But then when we headed out to backpack, I left my camera in the car!  So I have almost no photos from that camping trip except…

Deer at Dusk

…this deer who visited our neighbor’s campsite the first night!  We were tent/car camping that night, and I was so amazed and amused by this wonderful creature that I had to document it.  Can you see him poking around the fire pit?

We had no deer at our fire pit, just a Paul who built us a fire on which to cook dinner.

Paul Building the Fire

Some members of our family chose not to go camping.  Such as Lucy the Cat:

Looking Up

Sleeping Kitty Showing Off Her Pumpkin Patch

Can you see the brown on her otherwise white belly?  I call it her pumpkin patch and think it is endlessly adorable.  Lucy continues to be my faithful companion.  She’s almost always in the room with me whenever I am home.  I like to say that Lucy is like a dog wearing a cat suit!

* * *

Do you read Runner’s World?  Have you noticed lately that they are putting out some seriously inspiring content?  They recently did a feature article on Deena Kastor (she of bronze medal marathon Olympic fame), and now when I go out running, I imagine myself running as easily and joyfully as I imagine Deena to be when she runs.  Also, she loves cooking and inventing recipes, so we have that in common too!

I feel like Runner’s World is slowly lighting a fire under me.  I flip through my newest issue and I remember: I used to be a runner.  I used to run.  And then I think: it’s not too late for me! 

I went out the other day for a 20-minute run (2 miles or so).  And it was really lovely, so nice in fact that if the rain lets up today, I’ll head out for another 20-minute run.  I have learned this year that guilt is not going to motivate me to return to running.  But a nice run, and then another nice run, and another, and another?  They will motivate me to keep running.  Also, and this is my newest secret weapon: laying my running clothes on the bed early in the day.  They are waiting for me right now, just as I am waiting for a break in the rain.  But if that break never comes, I’ll lace up and head out in a raincoat.

After all, I’m sure Deena Kastor has done more than a few of her runs in the rain.

Happy day to you!

Monday, October 20, 2014

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Half-marathon training is upon me again.  Not surprisingly, I’m not prepared for it.  It’s the story of my running life.

A while back, I signed up for the Austin Half Marathon, thinking (and hoping, maybe even praying) that it would give me the fire and motivation to train seriously for a half-marathon.  The problem with being inside a series of long-term transitions as I have been for the past year is that it becomes exceedingly difficult to make long-term commitments.  I really want to make commitments—I’m not scared of them—but economic pressure and employment upheaval have conspired to drain much of the energy I used to be spend on athletic pursuits.  Over the summer, during the hardest weeks, going for a daily walk was the best I could do.  During the thick of our move to Austin, I didn’t even get my daily walk because we were so flattened by our to-do lists.

But now!  Ah, sweet now.  Our move to Austin is history.  Sweltering summer temps have come down into milder October days.  My work schedule is gaining a semi-predictable rhythm.  We’re finding our groove in the house, working and playing together.  I’m starting to imagine that maybe, just maybe, I can find the time and energy for my running life again.

I know I’m not alone in my struggle to find a running groove.  It’s hard.  If it weren’t hard, we wouldn’t spend so many words talking about “motivation” and “time management.”  Running inevitably asks us to sacrifice something: free time, sleep, chores, time with family and friends, maybe even work.  By definition, I think a sacrifice hurts.  It pains us to give something up.  To put it bluntly, I suppose I haven’t been too keen on additional sacrifices in the last few years.  My employment ups and downs robbed me of any notions of career or financial stability.  Finding that stability for myself has been my top concern, my top priority, the thing I’ve been chasing most obsessively.  Running kinda fell off my list of priorities, as sad as that is to admit.

Much like blogging, I knew, deep down, that running was something to which I would return.  Eventually.  I love the way running makes me feel: calm, powerful, capable.  I love the rhythm of my sneakers against the path.  I love the way running serves as a release valve for stress and frustration.  I don’t want the Detroit Marathon to be my first and only marathon (gah, I never thought I’d say THAT!).  Despite my lack of consistent running, I still feel like a runner, and I still feel like running is always available to me, even if I’ve been a disloyal runner.

Which brings us to the present moment: late October, with a half-marathon on the schedule in about four months.  If I decide to give this race my best effort from now to race day, I think to myself, what’s the worst that could happen?  I run the race more slowly that I would have if I had started training earlier and better?  Is that not an outcome with which I can live?  After all, I’d still get my chance to restart my training.  I’d get to reclaim my identity as a runner.  I’d still get to enjoy my race day here in Austin.  And fingers crossed, my friend JD will make it to Austin for the race, and we’ll get to enjoy his visit together.

You know what?  All of that sounds AWESOME.  I have every reason to say YES now.  What’s in the past is over.  I remember writing my thoughts on imperfect marathon training and feeling so happy that I had been brave enough to continue with my training despite all the reasons I had to ditch the marathon.

There is truly no better day to go for a run than today.  I know that finding time to run will continue to be a challenge for me because of my freelancer’s schedule.  But what is life but a series of trying, failing, and trying again?  If it were easy, there’d be no glory in it, no accomplishment at the end of the finishing chute.

So here’s me, trying again.  Here’s to a running life, defined not by a single training cycle but by the return to running, over and over again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Back to Work!


Well, well, well!  Guess who hardly took any photos last week?  That would be moi, so you get a close-up of Lu’s face.  Check out those pretty white whiskers!

The cold front this weekend brought some spectacular weather to Texas.  It was cool and rainy and we all just basked in it.  I went running twice, only to realize how desperately out of running shape I am.  Oh well—it comes back, right?

FLF_Week of September 8 cropped

On a different note, our lives are getting busier here at Feels Like Flying headquarters.  The academic semester is picking up speed; all three of us here in this house have tutoring gigs this week.  I completed 12 billable hours this week, which is only 8 short of my minimum goal of 20 hours.  That might not sound like a lot, but when you’re freelancing and still pretty new to the game, landing billable hours can be really hard.  Or maybe it’s not so much that it’s hard as it’s a game of putting your best stuff out there and waiting patiently to see if anyone wants to work with you.  The waiting is hard.  Being patient is hard.  Doing the work?  That’s a lot easier.

But all of that is to say that we are all feeling hopeful that our house will land on its feet, financially.  I’m writing about some of this stuff over at my other blog in a series called “Budgeting for Freelancers.”  Rather than rehash the boring generic advice that one can find via a simple search, I want to tell our story and what budgeting means for us, real people with hopes and fears and savings and debt and the unknown future, winking at us in secret collaboration.

Because that’s what it’s all about, right?  Our stories.  Generic advice is meant for a generic audience.  But you, my dears, you are the ones to whom I tell my stories.  And even though I’m totally rusty at this writing thing, I’d like to start writing again more regularly.  Why is routine so hard at some points in life?  I’d like my routines back, please.  Or maybe I just want my writing time back.

Things may be getting busier, but they are starting to feel more like a routine.  Slowly, surely, I’ll get back to my running and writing routines, right?  Right.

Happy routine-following, my dears.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Let’s Do This

First some art…

Spider House

Good Advice

…and now something funny!


Hey, hey!  Happy September!  Even though my last post was on September 3rd, today’s chilly temperatures feel more like September than the close-to-100 temps we’ve had lately.  My friend Emily and I were joking that today is the day to do ALL THE FALL THINGS, like buying a pumpkin, eating an apple pie, and wearing every scarf you own.  We Northerners share a longing for the autumn we once loved.  Texas may win a prize for its spectacular springtime beauty, but autumn here is nothing to invite your friends to see.

My roommate Courtney (whom you can see poking out at the bottom of the semen donor photo) and I have been running around town putting up flyers for our two businesses.  She recently launched The Austin Writing Shop, a coaching and editing business for writers.  And I of course have gone full-time as a biology and chemistry tutor.  Together, we’ve gone out on three field trips to advertise our stuff around Austin; the photos above are from our trip to the University of Texas’s campus, where our first stop was Amy’s Ice Cream.  That was a good choice, as we needed fuel to keep us going for countless blocks of city walking, ducking in and out of shops to see who had bulletin boards and who did not.  Visiting that part of town made me really excited to get back to Spider House, a place I visited once with Matt.  It’s quirky, artsy, humming with a creative vibe.  It’s lovely, really.

On a different note, Paul and I had to abort our Sunday morning bike ride along the river trail after he fell off his bike.  We had just arrived at the trail and were about to start the scenic part of our ride when Paul was trying to mount his bike and it slipped out from underneath him.  He landed so hard on his bike frame that we think he broke a rib; he’s had some pain this week that would be consistent with a hairline fracture, I think.  He had some scrapes and bruises elsewhere too.  So this week he’s been recovering from that.  We probably won’t head out on our bikes tomorrow, which is super sad, but if he needs to heal, then it’s the right decision.

As for me, it was a pretty good fitness week!  I had forgotten that I ran twice, which is really good for me these days.  I’m still feeling really challenged by my lack of running routine; just how DOES one go about starting a new routine?  Between the heat, no consistent work routine, and my love for walking, running feels like something I used to do, not something I actually do now.  I’m kinda thinking about trying a streak for this upcoming week, just to break my own running stasis.  Run EVERY DAY?!?  It’s so crazy, it just might work. 

FLF_Week of September 1 cropped

Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with another update from this current week.  Until then, happy trails to you!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Slow Finish to August

First, a few photo highlights from last week!

Six Kinds of Quinoa

“Go buy some quinoa from Whole Foods,” Paul tells me.  I oblige, only to find that Whole Foods sells six (SIX!) different kinds of quinoa.  I buy the cheapest one because, starting at $4.99/pound, quinoa is much more expensive than rice or tortillas.  Still, the number of options was impressive, so I had to document them.


August has been a really nice balance of working at home and exploring Austin.  The mug above, featuring Austin’s best slogan, is from Book People, a wonderful independent bookstore in downtown Austin.  (The mug belongs to my roommate Courtney.)  I’m pretty sure that I myself am not weird enough for Austin, but I love the mug nonetheless.

Moving on to last week’s work-outs…

FLF_Week of August 25 cropped

It’s still, of course, beastly hot here in Texas, so I finished up August with more walking and a bike ride with Paul.  I promised myself that once September arrived, I’d get back into running, but I’ll save that story for next time.

After a pretty stressful summer of working and moving to Austin, we definitely took advantage of the slower pace of August.  I feel like my walking routine is symbolic of the ease that August gave us.  But now that August is over and we are getting down to business in Austin, I feel ready to run and maybe to even log more than 10 miles in a week!  Hey, that would be novel! 

Lu Likes Vegetarian Times Too

Finally, here’s Miss Lu, sitting in one of her favorite spots in front of the balcony door.  She loves the sunshine we get in the morning and will even wedge herself between the blinds to sunbathe.

Happy day to you, dear reader!

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.


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?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Back to the Usual

Inside today…

Recipe Notes

New Sleeping Spot

…and outside.

Patchwork Clouds

Week of April 14, 2014:

Monday: Walked 15 minutes

Tuesday:  Running work-out.  20 minutes total with 10 minutes running

Wednesday: Walked 24 minutes

Thursday: Walked 19 minutes

Friday: Biked to and from Shiraz for a lunch date + walked 23 minutes

Saturday: Running work-out.  29 minutes total with 20 minutes running

Sunday: Walked 22 minutes.

Total minutes walked/ran: 152.  Estimated miles: 11.1.

Now that there’s a race on the schedule, it’s back to the usual weekly updates…or at least that’s the goal.  I’ve had a really lovely weekend.  Paul and I went to his family celebration yesterday, where we ate and laughed and relaxed for a few hours.  His mom made a pan of absolutely delicious vegetarian enchiladas, which we loved.  She’s relatively new at cooking for vegetarians, and I’m so touched by her efforts to feed us well.  I’m hoping we can visit his parents this summer before we move to Austin.  (And just for the record, we like to feed them when we visit, so there will be lots of kitchen love, I’m sure.)

Today I alternated work time with fun time: general chemistry for the former and lots of my favorite things for the latter.  My friend Tonya came over today to meet Lucy; Tonya wanted to meet the kitty before agreeing to cat-sit for me next month.  It was nice to catch up with her just the two of us; it’s been a while since we did that.  For our coffee date, I made these cookie bars, and she brought over strawberry cake.  I brewed us a French press’s worth of coffee using beans from What’s the Buzz, our local coffee roaster who makes freakin’ fantastic coffee.  As I was telling Tonya about giving her the wireless internet password for my apartment and letting her know she was welcome to anything in the kitchen, too, I mentioned the coffee, and she said, “Well, in that case, I definitely think I’ll be happy to take spend some time here!”  So it turns out that really good coffee is the thing to offer Tonya when asking for a big favor.  I love that!

Work-out-wise, my efforts have been focused on daily walking.  It’s hard for me to tear myself away from the computer, but I’ve been very diligent about getting at least 15 minutes of “leisure” walking into my day.  (Leisure = not work- or errand-related.)  It’s a great healthy habit to cultivate, and I never regret going for a walk.  Running-wise, I can only hope to keep up with JD when we run our 10K together.  I saw on Facebook that he ran nine miles yesterday, while I ran…um…two.  We’re not exactly in the same place, training-wise.  But it’s okay—I’d love to be able to run that 10K with him; it is not, however, the end of the world if he finishes before me.  We’re out there to have fun and enjoy our sport.  My real running goal for the next year?  To beat my marathon finishing time (4:56:50) when I run Toronto in 2015.

The Toronto Marathon is a long way off, so until then, it’s daily walking and a few runs each week and (maybe, just maybe) a running habit that sticks beyond race day.  It’d be nice to stop being such a yo-yo runner (you know, like a yo-yo dieter, but with running instead).  I have forgotten what it’s like to have a regular running routine, which makes me sad.

 Until next time, sweet readers!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From Couch to 5…No, 10K!

At Lake Bryan

About two weeks ago, I started doing the Couch to 5K (C25K) program.  It seemed like a nice way to ease back into running after more than a month off.  Plus I have been walking as a form of exercise, and C25K seems like a perfect transition from walking into running.

I was perfectly content to do my C25K program as spring gives way to summer here…until my friend JD suggested we do a 10K when I’m in Michigan next month.  JD is my favorite running buddy and a great friend.  When he found the Heart & Sole Run/Walk in Chelsea, Michigan, I couldn’t say no—he’d found a 10K for us on the one weekend that I was available for a running event.  Perfect.  So even though I am most definitely NOT in 10K shape right now, I will be in 3.5 weeks!

How does one safely go from 0 to 6.2 miles in such a short span of time?  Well, I’m hoping that my overall good shape (lots of walking and biking these days) will be enough to support my running burst.  I’m planning to do two “long runs” each week, adding a mile to each long run and then doing whatever work-outs I feel like on my other days.  I think I can get away with this without injury because I’ve been running for years, and my body adapts well to running stress.  Plus it’s only a 10K—it’s not like I’m trying to run a marathon on a whim.  Right?  Right.

Tonight I went out for my first “long run”: one mile of running, plus walking warm-up and cool-down.  Not surprisingly, it was fine.  (I’m not that out of shape!)  Still, it was nice to return to running, and with a goal in mind, I think the motivation will get me out the door pretty easily.

Have you ever run a race just to run with a friend?  Tell me about it!

Happy running! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Forward

FLF Collage 4_05_14

Whoa! Look who’s back after disappearing from this space for a month.

March was, in a word, ridiculous. It started with the Armadillo Dash Half-Marathon (complete with awesome medal, which you can see above!), included a trip to Dallas, another trip to Michigan, and nailed me with one of the worst colds I’ve had in my life. It also included some pretty significant personal growth, which rattled me quite a bit but is, I think, ultimately preparing me to be a better partner and a better provider to those who depend on me.

I haven’t had as much time to write since I started working this year. As a part-time freelancer, time management is something I’m learning all over again: how to manage my time with an uncertain work schedule and much more freedom than I’ve had while employed.

How about a few highlights from Ridiculous Rainy March?

* Paul and I spent an AMAZING weekend in Dallas with our friends Amber and Jeremy. They are always wonderful company, but before that, we met my professor friend Cliff for a fantastic day of food and science. Cliff taught me organic chemistry when I was an undergrad, and by now, he’s probably taught well over a thousand students that carbon has four bonds and oxygen will attack a nucleus.  It’s been more than ten years since I was his student in the proper student-professor sense of things, and now I consider him my friend and mentor.  While he was in Dallas and escaping the bitter cold of Michigan, we visited the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  As Paul said, it was a very cool space in which to have hours of conversation about science and engineering.  With the exception of the crystal hall, we didn’t spend much time examining the exhibits; instead, it was more like the exhibits served as inspiration for our discussions.

On top of the fun of seeing the museum, Cliff got to meet Paul, which I loved.  They totally hit it off!

* After the weekend in Dallas, I flew to Michigan for my sister’s bridal shower.  Getting to Michigan turned out to be an unwanted adventure, but being there for the weekend was awesome.  Theresa and I got to spend an afternoon with our niece, and we celebrated the surprise marriage of my brother to his partner Thom.  The bridal shower was very fun and friendly.  Theresa’s future mother-in-law did most of the work, and it turned out beautifully.

* Even here in Texas, March was a cold, rainy month.  I got to enjoy a new pair of gray boots, and I’m so glad I decided to buy new boots because my old ones get wet really easily on rainy days.  With my uncertain income this year, I feel a lot of pressure to be very mindful of how I’m spending money.  New boots add so much to my overall comfort on a day-to-day level that I think they were totally worth the money.

* Did you guys catch the Ironman article in the April issue of Runner’s World?  I love Dimity McDowell’s writing—she’s funny and helpful and the kind of woman you’d like to call a friend.  Her Ironman experience was such an inspiring read.  (If you missed it, they published it on-line too!  Yay!)

* Speaking of exercise, I took it easy in March.  I wasn’t injured or anything, just super-busy and feeling too stressed to fit running into my days.  Instead, I made it a goal to walk every day…and then failed at that.  Sheesh.  This month I’m back at it, fitting at least 15 minutes of walking into each day.  (Though today, I think I’m counting my short walking commute to tutoring as my walk…that plus my bike ride to and from campus feels like enough for one day.)

* Finally, I’ve been doing some deep thinking about my relationships to money, work, and Paul.  I’m writing about my thoughts over on my other blog, if you’re interested.  Here is my latest post about two ideas that are giving me good reason to reconsider my money anxiety.  Enjoy!

Up next: my plans for April!  Have a great week, dear friends.  I’ve missed you and this little blog.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

“Forward is a pace.”

Eighth Annual Armadillo Dash

Medal Closeup

Watch Time

Today I completed my sixth half-marathon and fifth Armadillo Dash!  It was a humid, rainy morning, and I was undertrained for the race.  But I showed up, ran a decent 13.1, and earned a cool medal at the end.

My finishing time was 2:02:52, about ten minutes slower than last year’s race.  I expected to feel disappointed about this, but thankfully, I’m not.  I feel really happy about participating and not letting perfect be the enemy of good.  Today is the first time in several years that it’s taken me more than two hours to complete a half, but you know what?  That’s two hours I got to spend on my fitness, on my health, on my physical and emotional well-being.  It’s two hours that were well-lived. I love a PR as much as the next runner, but it makes sense to me that some seasons of life are more conducive to PRs.  Whether or not I’m setting PRs, running keeps me grounded and sane.  And apparently, I’m so innately appreciative of running’s benefits that a non-PR race day is A-OK with me.

Today’s post title came from one of the race signs.  It’s a good one, don’t you think?  I’m keeping that in mind, both on the course and in my everyday life.

Run on, friends!  And happy March!

Friday, February 28, 2014

42 Miles in February!

42 in February

February 2014

Week 1: 10.9 miles run

Week 2: 6.3 miles run

Week 3: 17.3 miles run(!)

Week 4: 7.7 miles run


Hi!  I just wanted to pop in tonight to brag share with you some awesome news: I ran 42 miles in February!  It’s the first time that I’ve ever met a monthly mileage goal, and what a fun goal to meet.

Why, I wonder, are running goals so satisfying to reach?  My best guess is that running is something we do for ourselves.  It’s the best kind of selfishness, because I think most runners would tell you that running is a way of taking care of themselves, which makes each runner better at the other things in his or her life.  Since we do it to take care of ourselves, most of our running goals are positive selfish ones.  Call it a paradox, but I think there is something wonderful about pursuing running goals.  They seem pure to me.  The best prize in reaching a running goal is the feeling of accomplishment, the “I can do ANYTHING!” feeling that always seems to follow.  At least it does for me.

Knowing how hard I can be on myself, I feel utterly justified in celebrating my 42 February miles.  I’m aiming for 40+ miles in March too, and I’ll start that off on a great note with the half-marathon on Sunday.

See you after the race, friends!  Happy weekend!

PS  I voted today.  Did you?