Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Lesson in Self-Compassion

I remember sitting with my friend Roslyn over drinks one Tuesday night in early September saying, "How am I ever going to get through this semester?"  So, the two of us sat for a while, strategizing ways for me to finish the very last of my PhD coursework and make it out with my sanity (and hopefully happiness) in tact.  Well...  I've done it.  Thank goodness.  It wasn't easy, but frankly, I think I learned some of the best lessons of graduate school during this last semester.  Lessons that people have been trying to teach me for years.  For instance, sometimes, life gets in the way of perfection.  I wanted to make it through graduate school with a 4.0 GPA, probably in part to prove something to myself, in part to prove something to all who doubted me along the way, and in large part because my true nature as a perfectionist was shining through.  I wanted that 4.0 so badly that at one point, I actually talked a professor into bumping an A- up to an A.  Yes, I really did that.  This semester, though, it just wasn't in the cards.  I was in a difficult statistics course and not in the right mindset to really give that class my all.    At some point, I knew that a grade less than A was nearly inevitable.  So, I began to come to terms with it.

When I was living in Lincoln and training for half marathons with the YMCA Marathon Class, the great and all-powerful Ann Ringlein must have said at least a dozen times that when goal setting, you should take into account all of the other things (besides training) that are going on in your life.  She told us repeatedly that sometimes life gets stressful and those times might not be the best for trying to run a new distance or a personal best time.  I always listened to her...  But I don't think I actually heard.  As a result, last spring I turned in a terribly disappointing half marathon performance.  I wanted to quit/die half way through and ran my second slowest time ever.  Ummmm...  Well, yeah.  Probably a training season in which I lost a loved one, got injured and missed almost a month of long runs, turned in my first grant proposal, had a full course load, and experienced a couple of other emotional personal losses was maybe NOT the best time to expect a stellar running performance out of myself...  Geez, Katie.

In any case, I think this semester I finally got it.  Sometimes, life gets in the way and you have to ease up on yourself.  You can't expect perfection from yourself in one arena of life when you're struggling with so many others (and let me just say - for the record - that while I expect perfection from myself, I absolutely know that I, myself, am far, far, far from perfect).  An A- or a B, while they will wreck my 4.0, are not the end of the world.  They do not mean that I'm not a good graduate student, they do not prove the nay-sayers right, and they will not keep me from getting the job I want or being successful in the future.  But my backing off of myself a little and being ok with the A- or the B (whichever it turns out to be) will help me be happier, less stressed, and more content now.

Interestingly, I have happened across a couple of articles on self-compassion over the last couple of days.  People are afraid to show themselves compassion because they fear it will lead to laziness, lack of discipline.  Some research has shown that self-compassion actually leads in the opposite direction of disaster, though.  Maybe in the past I was afraid that if I accepted the fact that I wasn't capable of going after what I wanted 100% that I wouldn't go after it at all?  Or that I would stop wanting it?  Or that I'd stop being motivated to do anything at all???  I'm not entirely sure.  I was very uncomfortable when I found out that I would be ending my semester, and thus my graduate career, with a less than perfect GPA.  My friend Meghan has also been telling me for years that a B here or there wouldn't matter at all.  I believed her.  Completely.  I just didn't want to have to find out.  But, I tell you what...  When the wheels not only go flat on the bus of life, but start to fall off and roll in different directions, there isn't a damn thing you can do about it.  You can be upset and stressed out and frustrated that things didn't turn out the way you wish they had.  Or, you can show yourself a little compassion, try your best to accept what is, and move on.  I know myself, so I know that I will forever struggle with this.  I also know that when I look at my transcript and see the A- or B, it will be a little painful.  But, I'll know that I did the best I could in the moment and that sometimes, that's really all I need to ask of myself.

Here's to the end of graduate classes!  Only comprehensive exams, a year of research, and a dissertation to go...  This is the "easy" part, right?  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Heroic Life

Hey everyone.  A lot has happened since last I posted.  Not the least of which was the notice last week that I received the first grant I applied for!!!  Wenner Gren, an anthropology funding organization, decided to fund my dissertation research project, which means that I'll be heading back to Bangladesh for a year or so next summer.  I'm so excited for the big adventure, so relieved that I don't have to continue submitting grant applications, and feel sooooo stinkin' lucky that I got funded so quickly.  So, in celebration, I want to post something I wrote a couple of years ago and never published (though I can't remember why)...

For some reason, I was looking back through old blog posts and stumbled upon this one.  After reading it again wanted to share it with you now.  I should note up front that while there are a few mentions of religion (gasp!) and politics (double gasp!), this is neither a religious nor a political post.  You should also know that while I certainly do not consider myself a religious person, I do consider myself a person who is always looking for inspiration, and this most certainly is about that...

Two years ago...

A couple of Sundays ago, before heading back to Missouri, I went to a church service with my mom in which the topic of the sermon unexpectedly hit me like a ton of bricks.  The pastor (I guess he's called "pastor" - as a severely lapsed Catholic, "priest" is about the only title in my repertoire) said that although we can't all be heroes in the way the woman was who pulled the ammunition away from the Tucson shooter (in the incident where Congresswoman Giffords was shot), we can all strive to lead heroic lives.  We can treat people with kindness and love.  We can stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.  And we can make a difference in people's lives in our careers, in our communities, and in our homes.  Amen.

I was raised to believe that the right thing to do is always to help others in need, to defend the defenseless, and to view others as equal, regardless of race, religious affiliation, nationality, or sexuality.  I believe in these principles and try to live by them.
Disclaimer:  It should be known that as a child and adolescent, I was hopelessly selfish and awkward when it came to helping people outside of our family and, frankly, I just plain didn't understand it.  In fact, I remember one Christmas Eve after mass, as my mom, my sister and I were headed out of church, with a plethora of traditions and festivities awaiting us at home, when my mom made us stop in one of the pews where an old woman sat, crying.  My mom sat with the woman for what seemed like forever to me.  When she stood up, I was ready to get on with things, but she announced that instead, we would be giving the woman a ride back to her nursing home. She told me later the woman had lost her husband that year and didn't have any family around for the holiday.
As an adult, of course, this story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking and gives me a sense of admiration for my mom that is deeper than I knew I could have.  My sister shares this ability to be completely and absolutely compassionate for others.  If she sees someone in need, she seems to instinctually know what to do and how to help.

But my point of telling you all of this is to say that while my mom and my sister seem to share this amazing ability in such a way that their heroism is so incredibly evident to me, I'm not sure that I am a member of this club.  I hope that in my adult life I have stepped outside of my comfort zone once or twice, but I think my propensity for heroism lies in my ability to educate as well as in my (often exhausting) desire to fight for people who can't fight for themselves.

... which, as I sat in church two Sundays ago, led me to question the inherent heroism in my chosen future career.

From where I sit, graduate school is seemingly one of the most selfish endeavors a person could undertake.  It is insanely time-consuming, complicates relationships with friends, family, and significant others, and seems to benefit no one but the student.  What one chooses to do with the education, on the other hand, can be selfless.  I have one friend who (you know who you are) has her PhD and devotes her professional life to counseling others and teaching students how to better counsel others.  I once had a professor at Hastings College who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and helped me find the courage to apply to graduate schools (I hope he's reading this).  I have an ex-roommate who is using her Master's degree to help high school kids stay healthy and play the sports that they love.  These people are undoubtedly heroic.  And it most certainly doesn't require a degree or even a career to live a heroic life.  I could write volumes about the heroism I witness in the people around me.

So, what about my own chosen career?  Is there a path to heroism in there for me?

Tonight, in his State of the Union address, President Obama recounted a story of a woman in her 50's who went back to school to become a mechanical engineer (or something like that) because she wanted to show her daughters that if they work hard enough, anything is possible.  They could become whatever they wanted.  And so they would understand just exactly what hard work is.  This seems heroic to me.  And it is a message that I hope to pass on to my own children someday.  I also want to teach my kids that following a dream is a worthwhile and necessary part of life.  Perhaps, this is the heroism that graduate school has to offer.

This concept of heroism - in the way that it allows one to make a difference in the lives of others - is one that I value and that is at the very core of who I am and who I want to become.  Now seems like a critical point in my life at which I can either choose to continue meandering down the path I've started on, or to reflect upon the career path I've chosen and determine whether or not it is consistent with one of the beliefs I hold so strongly.

Back to present day...

I'm so happy to say that I believe I have answered these concerns for myself.  My trip to Bangladesh last year showed me that the work I do will absolutely have the potential to positively affect people's lives.  In the two short months I was there, I learned that my research might allow the hundreds of people I work with to be offered access to free hospitals and clinics.  I also know that being a teacher, whether it's at the university level or the kindergarten level, is a great thing.  My professors and advisors have made an enormous difference in my life and I'll have opportunities to do the same for my own students someday.

I hope you're all having a lovely Sunday...


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taking a little break

Hey all!

I was alerted by someone (you know who you are) last night that I haven't blogged in a while, therefore, all 5 of my faithful followers may be giving up on me.  So, I thought I should blog...

The truth is, there are about a bazillion other things I should be doing right now.  For one, I have a grant proposal due on Saturday (who made that deadline decision??) that is in need of a total rewrite of the introduction and some major cutting to get it under the 5 page maximum requirement.  For two, I have a humungous stats assignment due one of these days soon.  For three, I'm heading home this weekend for *someone's* 2nd birthday party and I have done none of the following: buy a birthday gift, pack for the trip, or buy cat food so that my cat doesn't starve while I'm gone.  Ah, but such is life. Sometimes a short break in the middle of a busy day to do something creative (like write this blog post) can actually foster more productivity ... or at least that's what I'm hoping for in this case.

So, when I last left you, I was getting ready to leave Madison, which I did.  I packed all of my things, went out for one last breakfast at the best bagel place in the Midwest, said goodbye to my wonderful roommates and new friends, and headed for Missouri.  And cried the entire way to Iowa...  But never mind that.  Once back in Columbia, I finished and submitted a grant proposal, then made a short trip home to visit the fam and friends before my semester started.  Since then, I've been in the full swing of things, getting used to classes and homework again and getting settled into the routine of a new semester.  As a person who really, really dislikes change, you'd think I'd despise the start-stop-start again cycle of being in school but, in fact, I love it.  I like the clear beginning and end that each semester brings and I like making new schedules just as much as I like sticking to them.

I will say, though, that I have noticed myself feeling a sense of discontent lately.  I'm in that weird in-between almost done but not really almost done phase of graduate school.  This is my last semester of coursework.  Many of my very close friends are slightly ahead of me, so they aren't on campus a whole lot anymore and I spend a lot of time alone in my office.  I didn't choose the classes I'm taking because they interest me in any particular way, but specifically because they are required for graduation (except for the 5 hours of theory-heavy statistics I masochistically signed myself up for).  I've been in semesters like this before and know that the trick is to put my head down and power through it.  And it's not that I don't like the classes (again, statistics is teetering on the edge), but for the first time in a long time, I'm not finding the work particularly fulfilling.

I've been around the block enough to know that not everything in life will be fulfilling and that not every aspect of a chosen career path will make me want to bound out of bed in the mornings.  I also know myself well enough, though, to know that feeling generally fulfilled most days is important to my mental and emotional wellbeing.  So, I've made a list of the things that I find particularly fulfilling or that make me feel good about my day.  The list includes things like yoga, running, cooking, talking to friends and family, as well as things like reading academic articles in my areas of interest, brainstorming new ideas for papers, cleaning my house, and folding my laundry.  I'm going to make a very concerted effort for a while to include 1 or 2 things from my list in my everyday activities.  I'm going to make an even more concerted effort to come out of this semester with my sanity and rosy attitude in tact.

Wish me luck.

Oh, and wish this little(???) guy a very happy 2nd birthday!  :)  (And for those of you who don't know already, he's going to be a big brother this spring!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Me, in the news.

Yep.  Me again.

Just a quick one to pass along some sort of exciting news.

Last month, the journal article based on my thesis research was published.  Shortly after, I was contacted by a guy at the University of Missouri News Bureau who wanted to interview me about the article.  He wrote a short press release, which will be shared with the national news outlets (in case anyone thinks it's interesting...).  The release came out today.

You can read it here (there's even a picture included!):

Also, if you want to read the whole journal article, you can find it here:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Bus Stop

Hey all,

The official countdown has begun.  I have 7 days of Bangla class left and only a week and a half left in Madison.  I'm happy-sad about this.  It's been a great summer.

I'm actually writing today, though, to share this with you:

My Madison roommate, Becky, has this friend who has been married 13 years, is wise about all things relationship and always eager to share his knowledge, it seems.  He gave us this little gem the other night, and it's totally worth sharing.

The Bus Stop Analogy.
Dating is sort of like waiting at a bus stop.  You're standing there, and you're really not sure where the bus is.  It's possible you've missed the bus (which is why I, personally, recommend always being a few minutes early...), in which case, you're waiting like an idiot for a bus that's already gone.  However, it's also possible that the bus just hasn't come yet; that the bus is a little behind schedule.  In that case, if you're patient and just wait a little longer, you'll be rewarded with a nice, easy, free ride downtown to your destination of choice.  But the question is...  how long do you wait at the bus stop?  If you wait too long for an already missed bus, you're wasting time on a bus you were never going to ride anyway.  But, if you give up too soon and go back inside, you're going to miss a perfectly good bus that was just a little late that day.

I'd like to take this one step further and say that it seems there are plenty of nice, normal, good-looking busses (who have homes, jobs, and all the other things that responsible busses should have) that are driving around town with their "Not In Service" light on.  Frustrating.

So...  Do you wait?  Do you go back inside, grab your car keys and drive yourself?  Or, do you walk a few blocks over and see if a better, newer, air-conditioned bus is coming?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pics from Madison

Hello friends,

My time is winding down quickly here in Madison with only two weeks left before it's time for me to head south and start the fall semester.  I've continued to keep really, really busy, spending time with new friends, seeing the sights, going to concerts, parties, restaurants, and my first Major League baseball game (loved it!), and, of course, plenty of studying and work is happening as well.  My mom visted last week and we did a whole lot of shopping, saw a movie, and I introduced her to the glory that is dinner from the Whole Foods hot bar.  No doubt I'm going to miss Madison and the great friends I've made here, but I'm going to try to make the most of these last two weeks and will be very happy to see my Columbia and Lincoln friends soon.

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks:

Hanging out by the lake on a Friday afternoon...

Eating bagels on the Capitol steps with the roomies.

Friday on my lap.

Cornmeal pancakes at Saturday brunch.

Milwaukee Brewers game!

Cheering on the Brewers vs. the Washington Nationals

Friday, July 13, 2012

Checking in... from Madison

Yipes!  3 weeks have past since my last post.  A bit longer than I had intended (but this is almost always the case with me and this blog, it seems).  Anyway, I'm still alive and kickin' up here in Wisconsin, in case you were wondering.  Language school has kept me very, very busy.  I'm in class until 1:00 every day and usually have 3-4 hours of homework at night.  That might not sound like a lot but, as it turns out, language learning is HARD WORK!  In fact, after 4 weeks of 5-day-a-week classes and homework, I'm a bit brain-dead right now.  So...  I'll let my pictures do the rest of the talking...

Bangla homework

Swinging at the park (it's blurry, but that's what happens on the swing.  Duh.)

The view from the top of the building where I take my classes.  That's the lovely Lake Mendota, one of Madison's two lakes.  I live somewhere up along the shoreline.

I'm doing homework on The Terrace at the University of Wisconsin's student union.  

Sand volleyball on the lake.

Laughing at my roommates.

And again.

Kelsey, me, and Becky - finally a nice picture.  :)

After Concert on the Square near the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The last 3 days

Remember when I said I'd return to regular "Photo-a-Day" posting?  Apparently, I'm a liar.  But, I've been busy and Bangla class got HARD yesterday, so, as a responsible student, I spent a lot of yesterday evening studying.  Anyway, how about I share the pictures I should would have posted with you now?

June 19th:  Imperfect

On June 19th, I went for a run.  It was far, far, far from perfect.  It was 93 degrees out (at 6 pm), I was sick the entire week previous so this was my first run in 7 days, and I wanted to die.  But, I didn't (obviously), and I'm happy I went.  After 30 minutes of sitting in front of the fan, I felt like a new woman.  Running doesn't always feel good, but it's almost always good for the soul.

June 20th:  Fave Photo You've Ever Taken

This was a tough one to come up with, but, here it is:

This is Sanibel.  It is one of my favorite places on earth.  This picture represents everything I love about it.  Enough said.

June 21st (today):  Where You Slept

This one totally makes me feel like a nomad.  This is not my bed.  This is not my room.  These are not my sheets.  They are my pillows and pillowcases, however.  See how nicely they match the lovely burgundy sheets?  (Oh, and see how high quality this photo is?  I think I seriously need to invest some money in a new camera...)

Ah, well.  If I'm going to study nomadic people, I should understand how it feels to haul all of one's belongings from place to place, right?

Anyway, Madison is treating me great.  I have some awesome roommates, the city is beautiful, and I'm keeping very, very busy.  It was HOT here for a few days, but now it's in the mid-80's and breezy.  Just as summer should be...

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Day of School

Hey, friends.  Checking in quickly to assure everyone that I made it to Madison, made it to class today, and was careful not to sweat on anyone's belongings but my own.

From what I can tell so far, Madison is a pretty awesome place.  I had the easiest commute of my LIFE this morning, passing by the lake on the way.  Have I already mentioned that I live less than a block from a lake?  As a Nebraskan, this is a BIG F-ING DEAL to me!  I've never lived this close to a body of water before in my life.  I plan to take full advantage.
Anyway, I got in last night, hauled all of my crap up 3 floors (wishing with every. single. step. that I had packed less - as I always, always wish), watched basketball and drank a beer with one of my new roommates, and went to bed.  Today, I went to class, then to the biggest Target store I've ever seen, Whole Foods (where I wandered aimlessly for 30 minutes, but managed to stick to my grocery list), and Trader Joe's.  My new apartment is in a cool, old building with a big bay window in the living room.  My roommates seem like great - and extremely funny - people (who happen to be hosting a party on Friday night - let's say it's in my honor...).  And it seems like there are too many cool places to go, things to do, restaurants to visit in this town to possibly do it all in 2 months.  I look forward to trying.

I'll be back with more "Photo a Day" posts soon.  Today's phrase was "Something we don't know about you."  You know when you are in new group situations and the leader/teacher/coach asks you to go around the room and "tell us your name, where you're from, and something interesting about yourself"?  I always fail at that.  Like, miserably.  I can never decide what "interesting" thing I should tell people.  Well, this is no different.  I'm not sure what you do or don't know about me and I'm not sure that I'd really like to share most of the things that most people don't know about me on the world wide web.  Like, if there are things the majority of you don't know, there's probably a reason for it...  (It's embarrassing.  I don't know what "it" is, this mysterious secret information, but I can assure you that "it" is embarrassing.)

For now, goodnight.  I hope you're all doing well and had a good Monday.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Yellow (Or, Photo a Day: June something-th)

Technically, yellow was yesterday's word.  Technically, I'm, like, a day behind.  Whatever.  These are my new YELLOW running shoes and I really had to show them to you.  They're probably going to make me super fast, right?

Anyway...  It's off to Madison tomorrow and classes start first thing Monday morning.  Keep your fingers crossed that I a) find my new apartment with no problem, b) manage to remember to write down my new roommate's phone number, c) manage to remember to call her ahead of my arrival, like I said I would, and d) make it to my classroom, on time, without sweating all over everything and everyone (I'm riding my bike) on Monday morning.  That's a whole lot of finger crossing, but I have faith in you guys.  You can do it.  And, hopefully, so can I...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Time (Or, Photo a Day: June 14th)


Today's word is "time."  I thought and thought all day, trying to figure out how in the heck I was supposed to take an interesting picture of time?  I could take a picture of the clock and tell you what I'm doing at a certain time.  I could tell you how I'm passing my time today (booooring).  In short, this day is a pretty unexciting one.  I woke up (sick), took my bike in for a tune up, came home (to my mom's house), ate breakfast, drank coffee, answered some emails, surfed the web, and cuddled with some kitties.  (Oh.  So, I went ahead and told you about my exciting day anyway.) I have been battling a cold/flu/sore throat/upset stomach thing for a few days and today was the day I decided to give in and waste the morning away on the couch.  It feels good.  I could tell you that at 5:00 today, I went to meet my lovely mother for a shopping fest.  I could tell you all sorts of uninteresting crap.  Then this little gem showed up in my inbox tonight and saved my bacon.

I know you can't read the time in the picture, but it's 5:21 p.m.  And that's the time I was notified that my first journal publication has been made available online.  It's the time at which I became a real life published academic.  Yay!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Photo a Day: June 13th ...home.

"If I were a house, I would be a big, yellow house, with a yellow so inviting that if you were to walk by just being you, it would call to you, 'Come In, You and Your Heart sit down.' And if you did come into that big, yellow, inviting house, You'd know you were home."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Photo a Day: June 12th

From a low angle...

All packed up and ready to hit the road.  For the bazillionth time this year.  You should know, though, that I found out Madison has a Trader Joe's, a Whole Foods, and a Lululemon.  I may never leave.  Therefore, I may never pack these bags again.  Just kidding.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Photo a Day: June 10th

My favorite part of the weekend.  Lounging in my adirondack chair, catching some rays.

I'm a little behind with posting.  I'll pick it up today and post twice to get back on track.  

In any case, it would be impossible to pick my favorite part of this last weekend.  I got back into Columbia late Thursday night (technically, Friday morning) and spent my day on Friday resting, attempting (and failing) to get back on Central Time, and running errands.  Saturday and Sunday, though, were the greatest.  The weekend was literally full of time with friends.  As a grad student, summer is the time when people tend to scatter.  Some friends are in town some of the time and I'm in town some of the time, so when we happen to be in the same place at the same time, it's nice to see each other and catch up.  I'm leaving soon for my two months of language school, so this was my last chance to see my friends in Columbia for the next two months.  

I'm going to tell you a little something about me:  I hate, hate, HATE saying goodbye to people.  Even if it's only for 2 months and I know they'll be here when I get back and that we'll keep in touch while I'm gone.  I am totally that person who pretends like I'll see someone again once more before I go, just so that I don't have to actually say goodbye.  Sorry, friends.  It's totally selfish, but it does save me from the inevitable emotional breakdown, so you benefit a bit, too...

Annnyyyyway, though...  It was a fantastic weekend.  I didn't get photos of most of it because I was too busy enjoying myself.  I did manage to spend a little time in my yard yesterday, though, lounging in my new, awesome adirondack chair, working on my packing list (I heart lists), and soaking up the sun, and I also managed to take a picture of it.  So, it's my photo of the day, it was a great part of my weekend, but it wasn't my favorite.  My favorite was spending lots and lots of time with some really good friends.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Photo a Day: June 9th

My view today (yesterday).

So, I'll probably get in BIG trouble for this...  But my "view" yesterday morning included a surprise breakfast with a very great friend traveling through Columbia.  In case you're wondering, that coffee cup says, "Hot stuff here. (But enough about me...)"  haha

Friday, June 8, 2012

Photo a Day: June 8th

Today's photo theme was "Six o' Clock."

At 6:00 tonight, I was on my yoga mat.  I knew I needed to do some sort of activity today after lots and lots of sitting down while traveling and, luckily, there was a Flow class at my studio tonight.  I was feeling tired and stiff before class and not totally psyched to be there, but less than 5 minutes in I knew I'd made the right decision.  It felt good to sweat and stretch and boy did it ever feel good to lay in savasana after the sweaty, stretchy time.  I don't know about you all but, for me, savasana (the laying down pose at the end of most yoga classes) always feels soooo much better after a hard class.  It's relaxing and a great way to let all of your hard efforts from class sort of sink in.  This class also gave me a little chance to do some reflecting on my travels, how I've been feeling lately, and how I want to move forward over the summer.  All in all, my 6:00 was pretty darn good.

What were YOU doing at 6:00 tonight?  Anything interesting?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Photo a Day: June 7th


Loading up on fluids and vitamins after 2 weeks of traveling and a 12 hour flight.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Photo a Day: June 6

Today's word is "hat".  I didn't wear a hat today, but I did wear a helmet.  And here I am rocking it like a badass.  haha

A lot of people in Taiwan - especially younger people - drive scooters instead of cars.  When I lived here, I owned a scooter and while I've been back these last two weeks, I rented one from a scooter shop.  Aside from the fact that I look goofy in the helmet (that probably wouldn't protect me from a whole lot) and that it totally messes up my hair, I LOVE driving a scooter.  They're quick and speedy and when I'm driving one, I feel so ... FREE.  Also, the gas mileage is insane.  I paid around $6 US to fill up the gas tank last week and haven't even used half of it yet. So, I guess a little bit of helmet hair is worth it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Photo a Day: June 5


It might seem crazy to come all the way to Taiwan and eat a teriyaki chicken burger and fries for dinner, but 1. this particular teriyaki chicken burger is like none I've eaten in the US (I really should have taken a picture, but I ate it before I could...), and 2. The Freen was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Chiayi.  It's a locally owned (by a great guy named YC who is so sweet and welcoming, I probably would have kept going back even if the food hadn't been so great) and when I lived here, was the only place in town to go get a good sandwich.  Back then, they also sold local fruit, so in the summer, I could buy a whole pineapple and they would core it and cut it for me.  It was a quiet place where I could go eat lunch or dinner, do a little work, and see a friendly face.  I think that totally justifies the number of times I've eaten there on this trip...

Speaking of the trip, I've only got a day and a half left and will be so very sad to go.  This has been a wonderful getaway, and having the chance to play tourist a bit in a town I lived in for a year has been a lot of fun.  Today, I got breakfast, visited a friend, and sat in the park for an hour, drinking tea.  Yesterday, I had Thai food for lunch, went for a run around Lantan, a lake just outside of town, and had dinner with some good friends.  This trip has reminded me of all the reasons I enjoyed living in Chiayi - the sights, the smells, the culture, the food, but very most of all, the people.

I hope you're enjoying this Photo a Day series.  If you want to see more of my Taiwan pictures, go here.  I should tell you that while the Photo a Day thing basically necessitates my taking pictures with my iPod, all of my other pictures are also courtesy of the good old iPod Touch.  I brought my camera all the way here only to realize that it has given out on my completely.  Lucky to have a backup, but unfortunately, it means the quality of my pictures isn't always the greatest...

I hope you're all doing well and enjoying the summer time!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Photo a Day: June 4


You know you're on an island when you happen upon a giant hibiscus tree while out on a run around the lake.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Photo a Day: June 3

On my plate

Well, anyway, what was on my plate:  Thai food in Kenting.  Pineapple shrimp, rice, and papaya salad ... and a little chicken curry from Nick's plate.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Photo a Day: June 1


(This obviously doesn't come from Taiwan. It's currently Friday morning at home, but Friday night in Taiwan, so I'm using an old photo. Either way, this is one of my favorite morning pictures...)

June Photo-a-day

View from tonight's dinner table.
Hello from Taiwan!  I've already been here for a week and I have a week left.  Is it too early to be saying that I don't want to leave?  I've been having a great time, seeing friends, going to all of my favorite restaurants and places in town, getting a little R&R, and also managing to get some work done.  Tomorrow, Nick and I are headed to the beach for the weekend and I'm SOOOOOO excited.

So...  Have any of you heard of these "Photo-a-day" things?  Essentially, someone somewhere (probably the person whose twitter handle is printed at the bottom of the list...) comes up with a list of words and phrases for each day of the month, then you take (and post) a picture that represents the respective word or phrase.  I saw the list for June and thought it might be fun to participate by posting my pictures on the blog.  The month of June is going to be kind of nuts-o; I'm going to be in Taiwan for another week, all around the Midwest, then up to Wisconsin to start language school.  I'm not sure how often I'll have time to write an actual blog post, so this photo-a-day project will be a way to let you all know what I'm up to and show you some of the places I've been.

Here's the list of the daily topics.

I hope you all enjoy following along!  If you decide to participate in June's Photo-a-Day, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your own blog, I would love to follow - please post your plan below with a link to your page...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Trip and My Summer Reading List

I'm going to tell you something you probably already know about me:  I love to travel.  (Duh.)  After FOUR(!!!) international trips last year to France, Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Canada, I felt a little panicked for a while at the thought of getting on another airplane for any long amount of time.  In fact, I had applied for funding to attend language school in Bangladesh over the summer, and was slightly hesitant about making the trip.  As the semester was winding down, though, and it became apparent that I wouldn't be going to Bangladesh, I started feeling a little antsy and restless.  Soon, all I could think about was getting out of the country - even if only for a short time.

In a couple of days, I'll be on my way back to Taiwan and I'm psyched.  I've got some work to get done while I'm there, but mostly I plan to see friends, eat cheap Thai food and hot pot, and get some R&R.  I'll admit, it's really awesome to go somewhere new, but sometimes, especially when you want as little stress as possible, it's really nice to go somewhere you know.  That's how I feel now.

When I get back from Taiwan in a couple of weeks, I'll unpack then repack and head up to Madison, Wisconsin where I'll be in language school for the rest of the summer.  I found a place to stay via the internet and will be meeting my summer roommates on Skype sometime tomorrow.  I'm excited to live in a new town, meet some new people, and MOST excited that I'll be living only a couple of blocks from one of the lakes in town and a short bike ride from the Farmer's Market.  

I wasn't expecting a lot of adventure this summer, but it looks like I'm going to get it!  

With all of the travel, I plan to do some reading for fun.  In the past, some of you have seemed to enjoy hearing about what I'm reading, so here's what's on my list:

I'm currently finishing How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre.  I read it on my Kindle in the fall but enjoyed it more in paperback.

Next up is The Language of Flowers.  My mom read it first, then passed it along to me.  It was highly recommended by our lovely friends at the Sanibel Island Bookshop and my mom loved it.  I'm excited to start!

And if there's time, The School of Essential Ingredients.  Another Sanibel find.  The author, Erica Bauermeister, also wrote Joy for Beginners, which I read in the fall and really enjoyed.  As a lover of all things cooking and baking, I think The School of Essential Ingredients will be right up my alley.

That's all for now.  I hope you're all enjoying some mild, pre-summer weather.  I'll be back soon - talk to you from the other side of the world...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Positive Thinking

One thing that I really, really believe in is the power of positive thinking.  I know I've mentioned this before, but I was cut from more than one volleyball team in junior high and high school.  And it was positive thinking, positive self-talk, unconditional support from my wonderful mother, and unwavering belief in myself and my dream that kept me going and helped me become a collegiate volleyball player.

Today, I realized that, somewhere along the way, I stopped the positive self-talk and my belief wavered.  I have let self-doubt have way more power than ever would have been acceptable to my 15-23 year old self.

I'm not sure why I did that.  Maybe I let life get in the way a little?  Maybe once volleyball was over, I didn't have the same kinds of goals anymore and wasn't sure how to apply the same strategies to other goals that were less concrete (i.e. get a job as an Anthropology professor) and longer term (i.e. maintain a 4.0 in grad school).  I think a HUGE part of the reason that I decided to take up running was that I can set goals that I can physically work for and on race day, I know I'll be put to the test.

So, GUESS WHAT?!?!?  I'm bringing back the POSITIVE THINKING!  Tomorrow is the Lincoln Half Marathon.  It's RACE DAY!  It's the day that I get to go out and find out exactly what I'm made of.  I've been nervous about this race and have been letting self doubt steal away my positive thoughts.  Well, NO LONGER.

Today, I met Ben from Ben Does Life.  I watched Ben's video a few years ago and a few times since.  It makes me cry every time and I've always found his story inspirational, but, to be honest, I wasn't sure how it applied to me.   I wasn't running to lose weight (that wasn't/isn't my main goal, anyway) and I wasn't running to overcome some major life obstacle.  I was running to set goals and go after them and to overcome the little, daily obstacles.  Today, after meeting Ben and buying one of his t-shirts, I went home and watched the video again (and cried - again).

What I realized, though, is that tomorrow, I am running to overcome an obstacle.

I'm running to regain that unwavering BELIEF in myself that I used to have.

I'm going to leave you with Ben's video because everyone should see it.  To everyone running tomorrow, be it 5 minutes or 26.2 miles, have a great one.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Truth Time

Truth #1:  You haven't heard from me in a little over a month.

Truth #2:  I have started and not finished 6  different blog posts over the last month.  If you're reading this, it's because attempt 7 was successful.  Yay.

Truth #3:  This semester has been a total blur.  I mean, did any of you realize that it is now May?!?!?!  Did you know that today was my last day of classes for the semester?  Because I barely do.

Truth #4:  I have been in an "interesting" mental space for the last four months.  And I use the word "interesting" because there is no one word that can accurately sum up what my mental space has actually been.  I've been happy, I've been sad, I've been excited and disappointed, distracted, depressed, elated, occasionally focused, anxious, hopeful, stressed, etc., etc., etc.  There are a number of reasons why this has been the case.  Losing my aunt at the end of December has been hard on me and hard on my family, which, in turn, has been even harder on me.  It is always difficult to lose someone you love but sometimes, even more difficult is watching someone else you love feel the loss.  I have also dealt with a couple of personal issues, which I'll refrain from discussing on the world wide web.  On top of that, school has been stressful, I've been writing a dissertation grant application for the last couple of months, and I've been training for the upcoming (in 4 days!) half marathon, all while trying to maintain a (probably much too active) social life.  It's not surprising, I suppose, that I've been in a fog and in a funk for these four months.  I sincerely hope that after the semester ends, I have some time to relax and regroup and get my head screwed back on straight.

Truth #5:  In all of this emotional rollercoastering, I haven't been the very best student.  I have been just getting by, one week at a time.  Now, for those of you out there casting a mildly disapproving look in my direction, as my advisor put it, "Katie, your 'just getting by' is still getting you A's, so I wouldn't worry about it."  True.  But, does it mean I've been happy with the work I've done or what I've learned (or maybe in my case, not learned)?  Not especially.

Truth #6:  What I am happy with is that yesterday, I submitted the above dissertation grant application.  I struggled with it a number of times and I hated it for a while, but in the end, I am proud of what I turned in.  I think it has a fair shot at getting funded and even if it doesn't, it will be a great starting point for future grant applications (which, luckily, are coming up in August, September, November, and January ... yikes).

Truth #8:  Never have I known stress like the stress of writing a dissertation grant application (especially while simultaneously working 20 hours per week and taking a full course load).  I mean, for one, my entire academic and professional future rides on me getting money to do research.  For two, my name is going on this thing.  It's my work.  And people are going to read it and either decide to give me money to take me one step closer to my future or reject it.  Let me tell you, people.  A scary/sick/normal(?) amount of my academic self-worth is wrapped up in people accepting my work.  The result? S-T-R-E-S-S.

Truth #7:  Given how things have gone, I really have no idea what to expect in the half marathon on Sunday.  I went into training in January with a time goal in mind and was super motivated to go after it.  With a couple of injuries that necessitated time off and taking several weeks to get back into shape after said time off, I'm no longer sure whether or not that goal time is still realistic.  I've had some spectacular runs lately and am getting faster.  So, the way I see it, this race could go spectacularly, or it could be just ok.  But after all of the crap that's gone down since January, I am perfectly ok with 'just ok.'  There's always another training season and another race.  I'm planning on giving this one my all and seeing how it shakes out.

This has been a rough time for me (in case you couldn't tell based on what I've already written).  I have struggled mentally and emotionally in ways that I don't often struggle.  I haven't been myself in a number of ways.  But I can tell you for absolute certain that there is almost nothing I love more than crossing everything off of a semester-long to do list and tying up the end of a semester with a nice, neat, big red bow.  Things will get better, because they always do.  I will take a much-needed and well-deserved mental break and maybe a vacation - my god, I hope so - and I'll get back to myself, who is usually a fairly happy, upbeat (if not mildly overdramatic), somewhat motivated person.

Thanks for reading, friends.  Even when my posting becomes so sporadic.

Tell me...  What do you do when you find yourself in a funk?  Or down in the dumps?  Do you have any no-fail strategies to snap out of it? (One of the things that always helps me is looking at pictures that make me happy, hence the Sanibel pictures in this post!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Realism vs. Self Doubt

You want to know something that I love about running (aside from the fact that it makes walking down stairs just a little bit harder...)?  You can find so many spectacular metaphors for life in running.  Last Friday evening, as I was making my weekly ritual salad + veggies + spaghetti dinner, I was talking with my good friend, Beth (also a runner), on the phone.  As many of you know, I was in hard-core pursuit of hitting a specific time goal when I run the Lincoln Half Marathon on May 6th.  I was training to run the half marathon in less than 2 hours and 10 minutes.  But, with the recent knee injury, requiring a couple weeks of no running and a couple more of very limited running, I have been questioning whether or not my goal is still realistic. 

So, Beth and I got to talking a little about this idea of being realistic (crazy, right?).  And as we were talking, I realized that, for me, it's not realism I struggle with so much - at least not when setting running goals, or usually, any other kind of goals - but self doubt.  For example, last year, I also had the goal of running the half marathon under 2 hours and 10 minutes.  I trained well.  I was ready to go.  I had a terrible race (meaning I felt like absolute crap from the get-go) and still came in at 2:13:27.  My goal was realistic.  But I doubted whether or not I could run 13.1 miles at the pace I needed to in order to meet the goal.  I doubted whether or not I could maintain my pace after running up the 20th St. hill.  I doubted whether or not I could hold on during those last few miles.  And all of that doubt blew my realistic goal right out of the water.

This year, training was going spectacularly.  I was finding it easy to maintain paces around 10 minutes/mile and I was loving it.  Just before (or on the cusp of) the injury, I ran 5 miles in Lincoln with my good friend Lana and we ran the last two miles in at around a 9:15 pace.  Comfortably.  I was certain that 2:10 would be no problem this year.  Now, though, I'm getting back into shape.  I'm walking a very fine line between pushing myself to come back too quickly and getting back to pre-injury speed.  And as I struggle through the tough runs thinking, "I'm totally hitting a 10:30 pace right now" only to look down at the Garmin and see 11's and 11:30s, I can feel the doubt creeping in.  I wonder, "Is my goal still realistic?"  Or, "How am I going to run 13 miles at a 9:58 pace when I can barely run 3 miles at an 11:00 pace now?"  So, on the one hand, I don't want to set myself up for another injury or disappointment by hanging on to an unrealistic, unattainable goal.  But, on the other hand and more importantly, I don't want to let self doubt get the best of me...

Very, very, very luckily, I ended up having a fantastic long run on Saturday.  It restored my faith in my fitness, my current running ability, and myself.  It made me realize that doubting myself isn't going to get me anywhere that I want to be.

And that's where the metaphor for life comes in.  It's important to be realistic in life. I mean, walking around thinking I'm most certainly the next Sarah Hrdy (sorry for the inside anthro nerd reference) or that I can run a 1:30 half marathon also won't do me much good. 

But, self doubt, and ESPECIALLY self doubt masquerading as realism, isn't going to get me anywhere I want to be in my life.  Doubting myself won't help me be a better student, write better papers, or be a successful academic.  Doubting myself will also not help me be a better friend, daughter, or sister.  And it won't help me be successful in romantic relationships.  In fact, self doubt will most certainly hinder my ability to do all of those things.  Humility and realism are good.  But belief in yourself, trust in your own abilities, is even better.

Friends, please weigh in on this!  Do you more often find yourself in the "need to be more realistic" or "need to stop doubting and go for it" camp?  Where is the line between the two?  And how do you walk that line?