Monday, January 23, 2012

The Path Ahead

Hello friends,

The new semester has started and I am finally (after, what?, 7 months???) getting back into a routine.  I am a person who likes routine, so although I find my motivation for school a little harder to come by at the moment, I am happy that nearly all of my current life events fit neatly into an excel spreadsheet (only sort of kidding).

This weekend, I deviated from the plan a little and got some much needed R&R on Saturday instead of my usual morning long run.  I slept in until 11:30 *gasp* then got dressed and headed downtown to watch the Mizzou vs. Baylor men's basketball game over a giant beer with friends.  Yesterday, I made up my long run and was up bright and early to crank out the 6 miles ("long" runs are always relative - in a couple of months, I'll be up to 10 and 12 milers while my friends are running 18's and 20's, so I'm enjoying the 6's while I can).  It was one of those really great runs where you get lost in thought and the miles sort of fly by.  On the run, I realized:  I haven't really taken much time to think lately.  I haven't taken a lot of time to reflect on 2011 or to think about the things I really want for 2012.  I have been so busy dealing with the circumstances life has thrown at me over the last few weeks (or, for that matter, last several months!), that I failed to take the time to regroup and refocus.  Usually, I like to do that as a year winds down and a new one is still new.  But, I figure, it's never too late, and now is as good a time as any.

So, as I soaked up the hour of me time, I made a few decisions:
1.  I'm not yet entirely sure of the general direction I want to take my life in 2012.
2.  I think I have a WORD for 2012 (but I'll write more about that later).
3.  There are a few things that I know with certainty I want in 2012.  Goals if you will.

  • I want to put more emphasis on my relationships with family and close friends.  
  • I want to attend a Bengali language school in the summer (preferably the one in Dhaka).  
  • I want to write a successful grant application that allows me to get back to Bangladesh and back to research ASAP.
  • I want to submit 2 papers for publication this year (a decent number for a grad student, I think).
  • I want to run a sub 2:10 half marathon in Lincoln on May 6th.
The last four are more tangible and also have very obvious steps that need to be taken in order to accomplish these goals.  The first, however, is a bit more abstract.  It's something that I hope to write more about later this week after I've given it some more thought.  I also plan to write a little more about my running goal when the time is right and when I've settled on a definite training plan.

I know that there are many more things I want to accomplish in 2012 and I know that at the end of the year, I want to feel like the intentions I set for myself in January (or February - whatever) have led me down a path that feels authentic to me.  I don't want to flail through the year, dealing with one thing after the next, without a path ahead to guide me.

Are you someone who likes routine?  Or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person?  Do you take time (at the end or beginning of a year, on your birthday, or whenever) to set some goals or intentions for the future?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In Defense of Books (you know... the ones made of paper...)

Dear friends,

I own a Kindle.  I bought it in preparation for my trip to Bangladesh at the end of last summer.  I bought the simplest version available (for $114) because I wanted it to be as much like reading a book as possible and didn't want to be distracted by email notifications, etc. while reading (imagine my annoyance when, just 1 month later, Kindle announced their even simpler version for a much simpler $79...).  And it works out pretty well.  I can read a book with no e-Distractions from my e-Reader.  There are many other positives that come from having a Kindle (or any other e-Reader):  it's small, packs easily, it's easy to hold and I can "turn the page" with one hand, it's wonderful for travel because it allows me to take a number of books along on a trip without taking up much space and if I run out of books to read, I can download a new one as long as I have some form of internet. 

As a person who travels often, for long periods of time, and to non-English speaking countries, I really can't do without the Kindle.  But...  Do I love it?  Well, I have read 15 books on my Kindle since August, and not one of them made my Favorite Books of 2011 list.

I don't love it, but I couln't quite put my finger on why I didn't.  ... until our recent trip to Sanibel, that is...  One of the first orders of business for my mom and I on the trip was to stop at Sanibel Island Bookshop for some new beach reads.  (Quick plug:  this place is the absolute BEST!  The women that work in the shop will spend 30 minutes with you, talking about books that they've loved and books they think you'll love, based on what you've enjoyed in the past.  In fact, 4 of the 6 books on my favorites list came from this bookshop during last year's vaccation!)  As I was browsing the books, trying to pick out some new favorites, IT HIT ME:  the Kindle is great, but I just don't connect to books when I read them on my e-Reader.  I'm a totally visual and tactile person and there's just something about the feel of a book in my hands and the emotional connection to the cover art that draws me into a book and lets me escape.  I don't like walking through a bookshop and not recognizing books that I've read just weeks earlier.  I like noticing a book I've read and feeling the love that I felt for it when I closed the cover 10 months ago come rushing back to me (I feel the same way when I see my favorite perfume - I know... I'm strange).  I get that with paper books.  I don't get it with Kindle books.  Plus, BONUS, I love the way all of my paper books look stacked on my bookshelves!  I'm sorry, Kindle.  I like you, but I don't love you... 

Here is a list of some of the Kindle books I read that I think I would have loved if I'd read the paper versions:

Sara's Key (I know, I know.  I should probably buy the paperback and read it again because this is one great book).
The Paris Wife I could love this book for the cover alone!  It's not a super happy or warmandfuzzy book, but it's a good one, nonetheless.
How to Love an American Man  As a moderate feminist, I thought I was going to hate this book.  But, for anyone still looking for love, or just looking for a good, heart-warming (and true!) story, this book is a must read.
The Soldier's Wife If you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and loved it (like I did), you'll love this one, too.  Or, if you enjoy historical fiction (with a slightly "love-y" twist), this is a good read.
Joy For Beginners.  I liked this one a lot, but would have had stronger feelings (I'm quite sure) about the paper version.

And here's a book that I got from Sanibel Island Bookshop and read in a day and a half:

Here's another "If you loved Guernsey, you'll love this one" book.  So...  Like I said, I read this in less than two days.  Then, I ran right back to the bookstore to get Jio's first book, The Violets of March.  They didn't have the book for sale, though, but they did have an Advanced Reader's Copy that the author had sent to the bookshop but it wasn't for sale.  The woman working in the bookshop handed me the book and said, "Here.  Read it and bring it back when you're done."  But I was leaving the next day.  So, she said, "Well, just bring it back next time you visit Sanibel."  FOR REAL!  That happened!  I can't wait to read it... (and then take it back next year).

So...  These are my two cents.  I know some of you (mom) to whom I would never DARE give an e-Reader as a Christmas gift and I know others of you who LOVE your e-Readers.  To each their own.

Will I stop using my Kindle? Definitely not. When I take long trips, it will be my go-to reader. But, for the majority of the year, when I'm reading in the comfort of my own bed, paper books with their bright, dreamy covers are where it's at for me... 

What camp are YOU in?  Good, old-fashioned paper books?  Or e-Reader all the way?

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Year of Ups and Downs

Hello Friends,

Well, it's official.  2011 is gone and 2012 is already a couple of days underway.  I very much hope that you all had a couple of nice, restful weeks and enjoyed some time with family and friends. 

While my 2011 was full of lots of ups,

Sanibel, FL

Montpellier, France
Kennebunkport, Maine

Matlab, Bangladesh

Matlab, Bangladesh

Chiayi, Taiwan

Montreal, Quebec

Lincoln, NE
 unfortunately, my family ended the year with some sad news.  On Friday morning, December 30th, my aunt (my mom's sister) Annette passed away.  As you can imagine, this has been a difficult time for our family.  We have been so lucky, though, to have each other and to have the support of some really outstanding friends.  If you are the praying type, please keep my uncle, who lost his loving wife of over 30 years, my cousins, who lost a loving mother, and my mom, who lost her sister, in your prayers.

Thank you all and a very Happy New Year.