Thursday, September 24, 2009


I've been mentioning the s-word a lot lately (STRESS), and figured that I should at least mention why I'm stressed... I have a lot going on with school this semester. Here's a list of everything that needs to be accomplished by December 18th:

(Regular class stuff -- reading, attending classes, papers, tests)
Weekly reaction papers due on SATURDAY MORNINGS (yes, that's right)
6 or so hours of Statistics homework per week (and that's JUST getting by -- 9 or 10 hours would be preferable)
AnthroGroup duties (I'm the co-president, so I help run meetings, set up speakers, etc.)
apply for 2 PhD programs (applications due the first day of finals week)
apply for 2 fellowships to help fund my PhD work (one is due October 5th, the other November 5th)
study for and retake the GRE
help high school vball team with practice once a week (and attend games when possible)
run a 1/2 marathon (October 18th)
travel to be in 2 weddings (which I'm VERY excited about, but the money and time are both hard to come up with)
travel to Philadelphia in December to attend a conference and mingle with important Anthro people (phew -- that one makes me nervous just thinking about it!)
make time for self, boyfriend, family, friends so I don't go crazy


Now, I'm NOT complaining!!!!! I am a VERY lucky person to be doing what I want! And I LOVE doing all of these things (except 6+ hours of Stats per week), which makes it much more manageable. I'm just feeling like I have SO much on my plate, looming over my head, and right now, I'm just struggling to make it from day to day! I'm not sure how I'm going to start fitting more in as the semester goes on without letting some other things go, and I'm not sure how to decide what needs to be let go.

For now, yoga and running with friends keep me sane, coffee keeps me awake, and dinner out with a nice glass of wine and some chocolate to finish, on a night when I just didn't know how I was going to hold it together helps me relax, makes me happy, and helps me remember just how lucky I am...

Question: I couldn't come up with the "perfect" intention in yoga class this morning -- you know, the word(s) that matched exactly what I needed today. So, I went with the instructor's word instead: Joy.
If you had to come up with an intention today, what would it be?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Morning Goodness

Good morning!

I've had another post in the works now for the last couple of weeks recapping my summer and looking ahead to what's coming up this semester, but haven't found the time to finish it. This morning, I feel inspired to write to all of you about something a little different...

I've been feeling REALLY stressed out lately. Aside from finals week or the occasional major life-changing event, that's pretty unlike me, and let me just say this: I don't like it! I don't feel like myself. I don't feel like I have much to give to others, and I certainly don't feel very happy. Now, I know there are several "recommendations" for relieving stress: exercise, healthy (I would add balanced) diet, sleep, etc., etc. So, what do you do when you're already doing all of those things?!?!?! YOGA. Well, at least that's what I decided to do this morning.

My alarm went off at 5:15, and although I didn't exactly jump out of bed, I made my way around the dark house and managed to scurry into the yoga studio (Yoga Body and Balance) by 5:45 for a HOT Vinyasa class with Thomas. At the beginning of each class (which, I should mention, I haven't been to in nearly 9 months!), we are asked to create an intention. This should be a word or short phrase that represents something you want to remember throughout class, something that will help you feel centered when you repeat it, something you feel you need in your life, or simply a word that is going to represent your practice for that particular hour. This morning, my intention was: CELEBRATE! It's something I desperately need to remember to do in my day to day life, and it made me smile every time I thought of it. And as I moved through the sweaty flow, I continued to remind myself to celebrate and enjoy what I was doing. I walked out of the classroom, shirt drenched, smiling and feeling a little bit more like myself - a really peaceful version of myself.

Yoga was EXACTLY what I needed in my life this morning. I felt so happy to be back in the studio, relieved to be doing something only for me, and thankful that I had made the decision to be there. I drove home in a blissful state, petted a few cats, made some hazelnut coffee (yum!) and some banana nut oatmeal (double yum!), and settled down in my chair to write to you all. I really can't think of a better or more perfect way to spend my morning...

What about you? If you want to, leave me a post and tell me what your perfect morning would be... I'd love to know!

Have a wonderful day!


p.s. If you're an oatmeal lover (like myself) or have to make yourself choke it down (you know who you are!), here's what my banana nut oatmeal entailed:
rolled oats
1/2 of a large banana (1/4 cooked in for about 3 minutes, the other 1/4 on top)
a splash of vanilla
a little brown sugar
Give it a shot! It tastes oh so good, a lot like banana nut bread, and it's totally healthy!

Monday, September 7, 2009


This past Saturday, my mom and I drove out to Raymond (a small town about 10 minutes North of Lincoln) to attend a workshop called "Meditation in Nature" at the Common Good Farm. I've done some meditation before, in yoga class and sitting on the floor of my bedroom on the nights when I know I'm going to need some help sleeping, so I figured the workshop would be interesting. I was right...
The 12 of us, including the teacher, sat in a circle in the peaceful living room of the farm owners' home. I was totally exhausted after a late night and an early 8 mile run, so I sunk gratefully right into the big cozy couch and tried to soak in everything the teacher had to say. Now, I can't really give a blow-by-blow of the entire workshop (mostly because I don't remember what order the conversation went in...) but I can tell you what we talked about: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is something that I constantly battle with; day to day, moment to moment. I've always got a million things going on in my mind (and unfortunately for those around me, a lot of that comes out of my mouth at some point); I've always got at least 4 windows open in my internet browser, along with calculator, calendar, iTunes, etc., etc.; when I'm doing homework or reading a book, I'm thinking about the next thing that needs to get done; and when I'm listening to someone (anyone) talk, I'm almost ALWAYS formulating what I'm going to say next, rather than just listening to what they have to say. These are excellent examples of NOT being mindful; of allowing a constant stream of unconscious thinking to run through my head. I don't enjoy it. I feel so un-grounded and (dare I say it?) discombobulated when I'm doing one thing and always thinking of something else.
Ok, so after we listened to the teacher talk about mindfulness, her path to meditation, and how you can really, truly TELL when the person you're talking to isn't really listening, we got to practice mindful meditation. This was totally different from any other sort of meditation I've done. I had always heard that meditation was about clearing your mind and having a totally blank slate. Mindful meditation is not based on that. Instead, the teacher told us to focus on our breath, to open up to the noises around us, and to be AWARE of things that were coming into our minds. The first practice session was about 3 minutes long. Not so hard. The second was 8 minutes, and much more difficult - uncomfortable, even - than the first. Interesting, though, how that unconscious stream of thoughts starts and can go on unnoticed for minutes!
Next, we headed outside to do some walking meditation. We were instructed not to talk, and to give attention, without judgement, to the things we saw, heard, smelled, felt. So often (all the time, really) we see something, label it, categorize it, and move on, without really observing it or paying attention to it. So... We walked. Slowly. Very, very slowly. Slower than I've maybe ever walked. It was really hard. I felt like a bit of a weirdo walking around the farm that slowly, being "aware" of everything... Then, we stopped in an opening and sat in a circle on the ground and were asked to just sit and be mindful of our surroundings. We could pick a sense or two to pay close attention to - I picked listening and feeling. So, there I sat. Pretty soon, I felt a breeze blow across my face and through my hair... Interesting. Then the chickens started squawking... Then the sun came out from behind the clouds. I closed my eyes and just took it all in. I don't remember the last time I felt so calm, content, or at peace. It was pretty amazing. We finished our walk, went inside for treats, then headed home (after a drive through Raymond, my mom's hometown).
I've been giving this mindful thing some serious thought since then. When was the last time most of us actually LISTENED to the wind blow through the trees or chickens chattering? Sure, we all know what that stuff sounds like. We even hear it sometimes. But when do we really LISTEN? When do we stop in the middle of the hustle from our cars to work, or walking across campus to FEEL the sun on our faces? Listening is much different from hearing; looking is different from seeing; eating is not the same as really tasting; and knowing something is touching you is different from feeling.
It may not be realistic to think that I could go through life without multi-tasking, or that I can stop and give attention to everything that happens to me all day long. But, there are a few small things I can do to make my life feel fuller, richer, and to appreciate things just a little more...
First of all, I can close the 4 extra tabs I have open on my computer. Done. And I can do the same when I'm working on my homework. I can also keep a pen and paper near me so that when something I need to do (and don't want to forget to do) pops into my head, I can write it down and then continue with whatever task I'm working on.
Secondly, when I'm having a conversation with someone, I can stop thinking about what I'm going to say next and listen to what they're saying. One of the reasons people talk is because they want to be listened to. I believe that what other people have to say is important, but unless I listen to them, how will they know that? I will I hear what they're really saying to me?
Third, when I'm on my way to school and the sun pokes out from behind the clouds, I can stop for just a second and notice how it feels on my face.

If you could be more mindful of certain things in your life, what would it be???

Happy Labor Day!

All are of Common Good Farm except for the one of the baseball field. The baseball field is in Raymond, NE, and is the same one that my grandpa and great uncles played on back in the 1930's. I thought that was cool enough to post, even though it doesn't have to do with my topic today...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Food WE Eat

This is going to be a short one today, but it sort of relates to my last post. I ran across this post on Time Magazine's website, called "What the World Eats". Interestingly enough, I used a similar post from last year when I was teaching summer camp at my school in Taiwan.

First of all, it's so interesting to look at the different types of food that people from so many different parts of the world eat. As an anthropology nerd, this sort of stuff always fascinates me. It is also pretty amazing, though, to compare how people in other countries are eating to the way Americans eat. Although the American family had some tasty-looking food (that made me think, "mmmm... pizza..."), it was quite obviously packed full of high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, fat, and salt (now -- please -- don't get me wrong. I enjoy a Hostess cupcake or potato chips as much as the next guy. I just don't buy them in bulk when I go to the grocery store!). That, in and of itself, is quite sobering.

Secondly, when I showed these pictures to my kids, the response was not what I had expected. The purpose of the exercise was just to talk about the way people all over the world eat and to open their (the kids') world up to some different types of food (during summer camp, the teachers pick a new theme each week and teach about it in any way they like -- does it surprise you that one of my weeks was devoted to food???). Instead, the students' responses to the pictures opened MY eyes. They were eager to point out how MUCH food some families had and how LITTLE others had. They loved seeing food that they recognized (McDonalds, Corn Flakes, Pepsi), but were absolutely shocked by how much soda some of the world is drinking, and how many bags of potato chips the American family was allowed to have in their house! It made me think (and has again as I reminisce) about what my groceries for a week would look like... Would I display them and proudly send a picture back for my students in Taiwan to see? Or would I feel slightly ashamed and embarrassed? I think some weeks I would definitely NOT feel proud to show others what I'm eating, but others I would.

Think about this for yourselves... How would you feel about what you're eating if you really laid it all out there???

p.s. Picture #1 is of the classroom wall -- food pyramids, healthy snack ideas, and a sticker reward wall for the "Healthy Snackers" in class!
Picture #2 is of my Lion Class (the 3rd grade upper level English class). I miss them. *sniffle*