Friday, July 19, 2013

30 Before 30 Update: #4 Completed (Picture Heavy)

 In that brief space between Spring and Summer semesters, David and I took a mini-vacation up to the Grand Canyon.  We seriously hadn't had a vacation for just the two of us since our honeymoon 6 years ago!  It was wonderful to take a few days just for us, and as much as I love seeing friends & family, to not include anyone else for the main part of our trip!

We kicked things off by seeing Fleetwood Mac in Phoenix (which was amazing) and staying the night in the area with some good friends who recently moved up there from Tucson.  I was so excited for getting a bit of an edge on the day's driving by starting off a good 2 hours closer to the Grand Canyon than our house, but we ended up needing to take a detour down to Casa Grande.  I forgot my camera, of all things, and my father-in-law was awesome and met us about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix.  Driving all the way to Tucson and back would have added 4 hours of driving time!!

Anyways, it ended up being for the best, because he gave us a map and tipped us off to some ruins outside of Flagstaff we hadn't been to.  Now, granted, we had a GPS and our phones, but ever since we drove across the country 6 years ago, I've enjoyed having physical maps when travelling.  I think it makes me feel like "a real adult" since I didn't even learn how to read a map until that move.  Anyways,  we made excellent time, stopped in Flagstaff for lunch, visited the Wupatki Ruins, and continued on towards Grand Canyon National Park.

Our first night we are staying inside the park at Maswik Lodge, in one of their cabins.  The stand alone cabins have 4 separately booked rooms, but it really feels like you are in your own little cabin. We grabbed a snack and then headed out on our sunset bus tour I scheduled for us that evening.

It was breathtaking.  I mean, I know its a huge deal and people travel all over the world and yadda yadda yadda, but I guess I still wasn't prepared for how awesome it was?  I think it is good I did not do this when I was younger, because I definitely went through an "I'm too cool to get excited about things" phase and I wouldn't have appreciated what it meant to be at the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cancer Sucks: How to Deal When Someone You Love Has Been Diagnosed

One year ago today, my mom was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. The memory is both sharp and fuzzy, somehow. It was a Tuesday; I was at work when she called. I remember going into the next cubicle, crying.  I kept working, for a while, before leaving and calling my supervisor to let her know I was headed home.

Since that date she’s completed many weeks of treatment (and the corresponding side effects). She’s completed physical therapy to re-learn how to speak and swallow. She’s currently considered in remission.

Me and my mom, having fun at chemo!

When I told my mom I was writing something about coping with a love one's cancer diagnoses, she commented, “Yeah, you know, you took that pretty hard”. I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. Pretty hard? YOU HAD CANCER!!! OF COURSE IT WAS HARD!!!! WHAT DO YOU EVEN MEAN?!

But she was right (of course). I did take it pretty hard. Certainly, that is a natural reaction, a fully human response. I had already been struggling to balance full time work with part-time graduate school, and then after her diagnosis I felt like I was coming apart at the seams.

Hearing the news that someone you love (a parent, significant other, anyone) has been diagnosed with cancer can be life changing. Today I am going to share some of the things that got me through it.

1. Take care of yourself. 

I knoooow. Go ahead and roll your eyes. This is what you hear all over the place. “Take Care of Yourself”. What does this even mean?! you may be asking yourself. It means many things.

It means it’s ok to not be strong. I know you want to be strong for your loved one, and that is awesome. Seriously, awesome. They need a lot of support. However, being strong for them means you are going to need extra support yourself. Whatever you do that helps you feel grounded and centered, crank it up. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually. Before my mom was diagnosed I could skip a week’s worth of exercise or “Michelle time” without too much damage if I picked it back up the next week; after she was diagnosed I needed to be extra intentional about scheduling those activities for myself. Working in an office and going to grad school online meant I did not have a lot of movement in my regular routine; giving myself intense physical activity (whether it was yoga class on Saturday or going to the gym before work) was amazing as an outlet for stress and worry. Keeping in contact with my closest friends and taking time for myself were also part of my magic combo; feel free to find yours. Balance is going to be key in this area.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Even More Things I've Done (with Endurance!)

I'm beginning to feel redundant with blog titles. Anywho, I'm working on a series to remind myself I'm awesome. Because sometimes I like to compare myself with others and then I feel crappy about it. So instead I made a list of things I should be proud of.  If you'd like to catch up, you can read 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16. Today's entry is continuing on the theme of endurance.

17. Enrolled in a Graduate Degree Program
     I was always one of those kids that loved school and loved learning. I’m certain it’s at least partially due to the fact that academics generally came easily to me. However, I always remember having a difficulty in finding a focus: a particular subject that was easiest, or that I enjoyed more, or something I felt more passionate about. I remember taking a vocational assessment given to me by my high school guidance counselor that displayed results in a bar chart. I remember mine coming out flat- I apparently was equally well suited for all professions.
     I really loved my AP Psychology class my senior year of high school and simply chose that as my major. I spontaneously picked Neuroscience as a minor after my friend’s roommate implied I was too ditzy to complete it. I generally saw myself going on to pursue an advanced degree following earning my bachelor’s, but again found myself in the same position as high school. I enjoyed all my classes, but didn’t particularly feel a calling in any one direction.
     It took me nearly 5 years to decide to pursue a Masters in Library & Information Science. I was talking to a friend (who is a librarian) about feeling sort of directionless and interested in many different things when she observed that the latter quality makes for a good reference librarian. I had previously considered Library Science simply because I’ve always enjoyed libraries; my grandmother was a librarian and I had long admired her for returning to school not just to go to college but to earn a Masters degree after having 4 children.
     Once I made up my mind, it all happened very fast. I contacted some former professors for references. I applied to my first choice, and was in the process of applying to my second when my acceptance arrived. The whole process took less than 6 months (partially because I had taken my GRE’s less than a year after graduating). I’m now just over a year into classes, and I can definitely say it was the right choice.

18. Competed for two years on my high school track team
…despite coming in last place every meet that entire time.
     When I decided to join the track team, the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to do distance. In fact, I hardly liked running at all, so I decided to be a jumper. I competed in the long and triple jump, but avoided the high jump because I didn’t want to break my neck.
     I’m not fast. Never have been, never will be. What I do have, is endurance. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the opposite combination of skills needed to win at long and triple jump—speed is important, endurance not so much. However, I stuck in there, and even went a second year. If I could do high school over (which I’m actually glad we can’t because uuugggh), I would definitely still join the track team because I was in the best shape of my life…but I would pick a distance event.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Birthdays and Compassion

I never thought I would be one of those women (or people) who dislike getting older or won't reveal their age.

It always seemed so silly to me.  Like, everybody ages! Everyone gets older!! Be proud of that number!

The same goes with weight- I think we have a somewhat skewed idea of what weight looks like because there is this unspoken rule that a lady isn't supposed to ever say how much she weighs.

Well, earlier this month I turned 29 and suddenly it seemed like a "Big Deal".  I've written before that I sometimes question whether I am a "Real Adult" (and the answer usually is negative).  But, for some reason, 29 threw me a little bit.  It started out with me joking that I was entering the "last year of my youth", until I realized that I wasn't entirely joking anymore.  I have many friends who have passed 29, who have passed 30, and yet all of a sudden it was freaking me out.

I think overall keeping track of my goals on here has helped me to see the big picture.  That even if 29 isn't what I imagined it would look like at 19, that I have a firm sense of direction towards what things will be like at 34 or 39.  I'm making changes and making progress and usually feel like I'm on the right track.  But birthdays still sometimes mess with that.

It isn't just about the numbers, either.  When I started running again recently it felt much more strenuous than when I was in college.  I could have a few drinks, not get drunk, and yet still feel hungover the next day.  Realizing my body isn't going to stay young forever was surprising in that I couldn't believe it WAS surprising.  Obviously my body isn't going to be 22 forever! Except maybe?
This is what I look like after a party now that I'm sooo old.
Once I realized I was slightly freaking out over my age, I made a conscious choice to allow it.  I acknowledged that it is fine to sometimes panic about getting older, and that even if I knew I was working on stuff, sometimes the brain still wants to panic.  Once I allowed it, and let it be there, I didn't really notice it as much.  Once the resistance against the panic was gone (of being one of those people), the panic didn't really seem that bad.  It wasn't so much panic as...mild anxious thoughts.  And that is something I can totally deal with.

This was also a really helpful reminder about being non-judgmental of others.  That thing I was sooo condescending about last month or last year? Totally experiencing myself now, thanks Universe!  I needed that little nudge!  But seriously, a struggle is a struggle is a struggle, and even if someone else's struggle doesn't make sense to me, it doesn't mean it isn't just as valid (or that I won't one day have the same one).  So, as my last post was a reminder to myself about self-compassion, so this is a reminder of compassion towards others.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blog Series #4: Endurance and Giving Up

My birthday was less than a week ago, and I've found myself to be more reflective about my journey and who I am than usual.  Perhaps it was the recent loss of 2 family members within 3 months, perhaps it is that I'm in my last year of my twenties; likely both.  I began working on my next installment of "30 Things I've Already Done, Accomplished, or Experienced" and grouped together 5 items that all took endurance.  However, I was even wordier than normal, and decided to dedicate this post to just 1 item on that list, rather than knocking out 5 at a time.

For those of you just joining me (or have forgotten) this list is a reminder of things I've already accomplished that I am proud to have done. This is a list I can revisit when I have the blahs, or am feeling unaccomplished, or pront to comparing myself with others. Previous installments include list items 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15.

16. Gave up Dieting
As soon as I began writing this list, I knew I would include something about this. I’ve mentioned it before in less detail (here) but I wanted to talk about it more in-depth, as it is one of the single, most positive things I have done for myself (and one of the hardest). I’d say it was even harder than giving up smoking, as I started dieting way before my first cigarette.

I’m not exactly sure, but I probably began dieting around age 13. I remember disliking my body and worrying about my size as early as 9 or 10. I remember skipping breakfast and lunch and only eating dinner in high school so my parents wouldn’t know I wasn’t eating. So many diets, so much disappointment. And all this before I was “fat” (High school weight fluctuated between 135 when I started and I think was around 160 or so when I graduated).

I remember picking up running again in college, because runners were skinny, and if I were a runner, I’d be skinny too! When it didn’t work, I gave it up, despite the fact I managed to run 2-3 miles several times a week when previously I couldn't run for 2-3 minutes. (Since I’ve started running again I can’t believe I quit it so easily before, I think about how far I’d be now if I only had kept with it!). The year before I got married I obsessively followed the South Beach Diet, and managed to land at what ended up being my lowest adult weight- around 170.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The first 6 weeks of the year held two separate visits from out of state family.  Two of my younger cousins, Andrew and Ben, came to visit in early January, followed by parents during the last few days of January and into February.

Saguaros at the Desert Museum

Monday, February 11, 2013

#9: Run a 5k

On January 26th I participated in my first ever 5k.  I say "participate" because I'm not sure it would be completely fair to say I "ran" a 5k when the vast majority of the time I was speed walking.  However, I am so, so proud of myself for having completed this, and I'm already signed up for a second 5k at the end of March!

The day of the race was far from what I was expecting.  It was pouring rain when I woke up several hours before the start time, and it was pretty cold too- the exact opposite of what you would expect when running in Arizona.  One of the ladies on our team starting talking about possibly not running due to the awful weather.  I began getting a little nervous- what if everybody else on our team backed out? What if I couldn't finish? What if I hurt myself?  I put on my best game face and tried to get everyone else pumped up, and we all carpooled over to the race.

By the time the race started the rain was more of a drizzle than a pour.  Our team started together, although we didn't all stick together during the race.  Michelle F. and I stayed together (although she definitely could have ran ahead without me- she is way faster than I am!). I was happy the race wasn't timed, as I could tell I was going slower than usual to make sure I kept my balance.  Plus, I'm a nervous pee-er so I took a bathroom break about 2/3 of the way through the race.  (I'm really hoping I won't have to do this at the next race.)  It was pretty crowded, especially for the last kilometer or so- it was hard to get around the slow walkers without jumping in the way of the fast runners, and as someone who was sort of mid-paced I found it difficult to figure out where I should be, and occasionally just got stuck behind walkers.

Michelle F. and I did run to the finish line, which was exhilarating.  It felt sooo good.  To know that I commited to doing something I wasn't sure I could do, that even though I didn't complete it exactly how I wanted (run the whole time) I still finished.  Without falling flat on my face.

The one thing I did forget, however, was to set a metting place for my team to meet up with our carpool drivers- my husband and my dad.  I had been so focused on getting everyone together to start the race, it didn't occur to me to work out how we would find each other afterwards.  I didn't even have my cell phone with me due to the rain.  I found David easily enough, but it took us quite some time to find my dad.  They both say they were waiting at the finish line but somehow missed us (and we them).

I have another 6 weeks until my next 5k, which is part of the Arizona Distance Classic in Oro Valley.  My goal for this one is timing: 45 minutes (or less).  My current mile time is around 17 - 18 minutes, so this means doing the race at a 15 minute mile.   It'll definitely be a push, but I'm feeling confident!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blog Series Part 3: Fun & Confidence

     For those of you just joining me (or have forgotten) this list is a reminder of things I’ve already accomplished that I am proud to have done.  This is a list I can revisit when I have the blahs, or am feeling unaccomplished, or prone to comparing myself with others accomplishments.  The first part of the series is here, the second part here.

     These next 5 might just possibly be the ones I’m most excited to write about.  I was considering saving them for last, but I don’t think they are the most important, just the most fun. The theme for today is…

11.   Recorded Myself Singing.
     I have never thought I had a good singing voice. I always believed I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.  My husband went to Berklee College of Music and a large number of our friends are musicians, so this is always confirmed for me when we go to karaoke together. However, I enjoy singing and my husband insists my voice is not horrible. Ok, he actually says I have a good voice but I’m not sure I believe him that much. Anyways, he recorded us singing the Grouch Anthem.  This is the current incarnation, although it is possible that this recording will later become more “filled out”.  It was originally created as one of my Day Zero list items and submitted to a Jim Henson compilation that I never saw/heard the finished results of.  Regardless, the process was a lot of fun and I'm really glad I put this on my previous list.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

30 Before 30 Update: Items Completed! (14, 16, 29)

I am excited to report that I am already on track to completing my 30 Before 30 list.  I have 4 items completed, 2 in progress, and I'm feeling pretty confident.  Here is a quick snapshot of the first 3 items I completed.

#29: Buy a new mattress and bed frame.
This was the first item completed.  As I've mentioned before, our old mattress had springs poking out of it and was living on the floor.  We bought a new memory foam mattress and found a slightly used bed frame on craigslist.  This was actually completed while I was still in Connecticut over the summer, and my awesome husband and friends helped put it all together so it was done when I came home.