Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resolutions revisited and a better 2012

Apparently, it's that time again - resolution time!  I am not a huge fan of overly specific resolutions, but I thought I would revisit my resolutions from last year and make some intentions for next year.

When I entered 2011, I had high hopes.  Everything that was changing seemed like a positive thing - new job, new home with Brendan, new life here in Boston.  But everything changed pretty quickly when Brendan got very sick in the summer and spent time in the hospital on and off through the end of October.  Almost losing the man I love scared me to no end, and a lot of things changed during that time.  Goals were derailed, my current job became very difficult, and what was supposed to be our exciting time living together became a struggle.  But we came out of it strong, and that's what's important.  Seen through the filter of our experiences this year, any "failed" resolutions don't seem like such a big deal.  We have each other, and have our health now - those things are what matter.

But, without further ado, here are the 2011 Resolutions, revisited:

2011 New Years Resolutions & Goals

Fitness/Health Goals:
- Run more. 
Partial fail.  I did, in fact, run Broad Street in the spring (10 miles), and ran Bay to Breakers in May with my friends from school (12K), but I didn't train too well for those, and after that, my running tapered off a bit.  I kept up with a training plan for a while during the summer, but stopped running entirely when Brendan got sick in August.  I’ve been doing a little running on the treadmill at the gym, but am holding off for good weather in the spring to really start up again.

- Get more toned. 
Did it!  I joined my gym in October, and since then, have been doing at least one (if not 2-3) strength training sessions a week.  I’ve been going to Group Power classes and lifting weights when I go alone, too.  As of the weigh-in at the end of my “Biggest Loser” challenge at the gym, I had lost 4 pounds of fat and built up 0.5 pounds of muscle!

- Lose a bit of weight. 
Partial fail, partial win.  I gained some when Brendan was sick and I was scrambling to hold it all together – but since he’s back at home and I have time for the gym, I’ve lost 3.5 pounds, to bring me back to where I was when I moved in (but in better shape – see above).  I’ll keep at it this next year!

Career Goals:
- Finish my Ph.D. strong. 
Definitely a win.  Everything came together suddenly in January, as seems to happen in science, and I finished a decent story to get my second first-author research paper.  I finished writing my thesis, which I’m pretty proud of – and got my Ph.D. in April!

- Enjoy my actual thesis defense. 
Check.  I actually enjoyed giving this talk – it was nice to share all of my research at once with the people who love and support me.  The question part?  Not so fun.  But it was over before I knew it!

- Get a strong start to my postdoc. 
…and here’s where the major fail lies.  The postdoc I started just…didn’t work.  For several reasons.  I did manage to contribute to a few people’s projects, though, and we’ll see where that goes in the future.  Luckily, there’s a new start around the corner!

Life Goals:
- Become financially stable. 
This started out really well, and tanked out towards the end of the year with some unexpected car-related expenses and extra costs with driving back and forth to the hospital.  I have some $$ saved, but it’s probably just enough to pay taxes – I would like to get better at this this year.

- Take at least one vacation (or mini-vacation). 
We had planned to take a week trip to Maine instead of just a weekend – but that changed with the whole Brendan’s-health issue.  We did get up for a day trip to Maine, I got to spend a long weekend in San Francisco with friends, and I went home twice – other than that, major fail.  I still need a vacation!

- Enjoy all the life changes that come this year, and take them in stride. 
I have to say, life brought us more changes than we expected this year.  And both Brendan and I handled it.  Not to say that there weren’t a few minor meltdowns – but I think this one was successful.

- Work on not stressing and panicking when things don't go right immediately. 
Also, overall, a win – see above.

- Savor the first 7 months of living together with Brendan. 
This ended up being a little different than planned – most of the last 7 months have been filled with illness and hospital visits.  But we are really getting into a groove now, and living together has been fun most of the time.  So while we need to actually do this again this year – I think we got there eventually.

Despite all of the struggles of this year, I think I made it through what was a pretty crappy year with most things still intact.  And I've decided that 2012 will be a better year - the even numbers are always better, anyway :)

So what will 2012 bring?  I am in the process of lining up a new postdoc - I just need to decide exactly where.  And hopefully we will have our first full year in the house together, with no more little "detours."  I'm hoping that after a bit of shake-up at the beginning of the year, this year will be one of stability, relationship-building, and excitement.  Here are my resolutions for 2012:

2012 New Year's Resolutions and Goals

Fitness/Health Goals:

-        Stick with the gym.  I have been great at going to the gym since I joined, and have built my schedule around the 5:30 am Group Power and Spinning classes, which ensures I’ll go at least 3 times a week.  To stick with it, I need to stay committed to the schedule – which means going to bed before 10 most nights and getting out of bed even when I don’t feel like it.  It does help that after the gym and a shower, I can take a ~20 minute nap before work – I’d better enjoy that before we have kids some day and that all goes out the window!

-        Continue to get toned and lose weight. I have built some muscle this fall/winter – but I want to be in really good shape, for the first time in my life.  I want to be able to do the “abs” part of the workout classes without dying – and I want to be able to see some definition, which means burning some more fat, too.

-        Bring back some running and yoga.  I miss both running and yoga, and I would like to bring them back in some capacity.  I don’t want to go crazy, or I’ll risk burning out – but I’d like to maybe train for a half-marathon again next fall, which means keeping up some sort of base fitness.  And I probably won’t join a yoga studio, but I would like to do some at-home video classes instead of just stretching occasionally.

Career Goals:

-        Finish off this first postdoc experience gracefully.  I have been here for 7 months – I would like to feel as if I contributed something.  This means spending the next few weeks working hard to tie up loose ends, not just slacking off.  I want to make sure I give something back to the people who have helped me so much in these last few months!

-        Get a good start to my new postdoc. I want to really apply myself this time, as I know I can.  I will need to actually do reading at home, stay late sometimes, and come in on the weekends.  I know that all of these things are necessary to success – I hope that enjoying my new job will help me commit myself to doing everything I can to succeed.

-        Figure out what I want to do when I “grow up.” I have always heard that a postdoc isn’t necessary if you aren’t going to have a lab.  Well, it is definitely necessary when you don’t know what you want to do – but if I think things through now and decide to go on a different path, I will have a better idea of what I actually want to get out of a postdoc – writing experience, for example, instead of experience leading students.  Defining my career goals and researching my options will help me guide myself through the next few years more carefully.

Life Goals:

-        Become financially stable.  Yep, I’m calling a “redo” on this one.  I am successfully taking care of several financial obligations – but I would like to save more of my money, either in savings accounts for vacations, etc., or in my IRA for the future.  Depending on where I do my postdoc, I may qualify to apply for student loan repayment from the NIH – this is definitely a goal if at all possible.  They pay postdocs so little that every little bit helps!

-        Build our home and enjoy life together.  I have spent two out of the last 7 months alone in the house, so this one’s a bit of a redo from last year as well.  I would like to cherish this time in our lives, when we are still learning how our relationship works and we don’t have that many complicating issues.  We should continue to say “I love you” every day, say please and thank you, and enjoy the perks of young life together.

-        Learn to be confident in myself without the approval of others.  I have always needed the approval of my parents, my friends, my boyfriends, to feel confident in my decisions.  In changing jobs and choosing to stay out where I am, I’m ruffling feathers a bit, and there is a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the year.  I want to commit myself to loving myself and standing by my own decisions, even if I can’t make everyone happy.  It’s a big part of growing up, and it’s time I did it.

-        Improve communication with Brendan and plan for the future.  This is a big one.  Bren and I don’t fight often, but when we do, it’s often a result of poor communication rather than actually disagreeing.  I want to make sure we improve our communication this year and value respect for each other above everything else.  If (knock on wood) we are going to plan a wedding and a life together for the future, this is key.

So there you have it – my resolutions for 2012.  Here’s to a better year for everyone! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday spirit

To say that the last few weeks have been busy would be an understatement.  A few weeks ago, I went to Pennsylvania for my friend Ashley's wedding (which was beautiful, by the way, check out her pictures on her site!); two weeks ago was my visit to my parents' house to visit family and enjoy winter in MN.  Last weekend featured a visit from one of my college roommates and a lovely wedding (of our other roommate) - fortunately, near my house.  The stress of travel, work, and whatnot have been wearing on me - and we haven't even entered hardcore holiday season.

I am in the midst of changing my future - next week is my site visit at another potential postdoc location, and I am super excited!  It will be a major relief to finally get started doing solid work, save myself some time and energy commuting, and (hopefully) enjoy my job much more again.  But right now?  Right now, I am preparing to give a talk to a bunch of people while also trying to clean the house for visitors, decorate for the holidays, and wrap presents (at least I'm done with the shopping - thank god for Amazon!).  I'm trying to hit the gym with regularity, keep myself from getting sick, and take care of my boyfriend as he is still on the mend.  Let me tell you - doing it all?  Isn't really working out so well.

In the spirit of a beautiful New England Christmas and time spent with family, our house should probably look like this:


But....ummm....we're not quite there yet!  I will try to get a picture when everything is up, though - we may at least manage to get the house clean and decorated this weekend.  Nothing like above, but we'll manage :)

Growing up - even up through grad school, since I'd go home for a week or two on break - I always thought that the holidays were a happy time to rest, enjoy yummy food, open presents, and cherish family.  Now I see, much more than before, that all the time leading up to the holidays is so stressful - it just isn't quite as "merry" as an adult, is it?

But at the same time, the meaning of the holidays changes as you grow older too.  Getting to spend valuable time with friends and relatives, getting to share your love with your sweetheart (and kids, at some point), getting to give back to the community - it all means more than a clean and decorated house or a bunch of presents.

There you have it - I guess the holiday spirit really does change as time goes on.  Cue music:

I hope that whatever you are doing for Christmas (or whatever holiday) this year, you remember to cherish those you spend time with, give back, and be generous with your time, energy, and love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Is it really mid-November already?  When did that happen?

I can't believe how fast this year has sped by.  One minute I'm starting work on writing my Ph.D. thesis, and the next I'm facing another impending Christmas season in a completely different town......with a completely different job.....and a very different life in general, really.

I don’t really want to go into it too much, but I have been dealing with family-related stuff all summer and fall.  The amount of stress has really been ridiculous; although the fundamental setup of my daily life hasn't changed, pretty much everything else has.  Priorities have changed; for the short-term, life is much more uncertain than it was, too.  I can’t begin to describe the guilt: if I am at work, I’m not home, and if I’m home, I’m not working enough.  Not to mention taking care of myself – I haven’t done much of that lately.  Now, I know this is all stuff that working mothers deal with all the time – but I’m not a working mother (yet), and I have to hope that that stress is either less intense, or gets more bearable as time goes on.  For me, right now, the feeling that my life is imploding is the most identifiable emotion in recent memory.  Something had to give – and apparently, that something is me.

I’m now working on finding a postdoc somewhere closer to home.  The hope is that by getting rid of my 1-2 hour commute (each way!), I will be making time for both home and work obligations.  Right now, if I want to work an 8-hour workday (which is really short for a scientist), I am gone from home for up to 12 hours.  By working closer to home, I will be able to work 11 hours if I’m gone from home for 12 – and there is also the potential to work a bit less than that and have more home time.  My schedule will be more flexible – coming in at night or on weekends isn’t out of the question if it’s only a 25 minute drive.  There is a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m giving up – but really, I’m making a decision to salvage my career and preserve my home life.

What this all means is, I am a bit of a mess right now.  Trying to find somewhere to go, trying to close things up around here….it’s pretty overwhelming.  I will be around as much as possible, and I am keeping up on blogs pretty well (but not commenting as much).  And I should be back soon – things will settle down some time!  But if I am a bit scattered for now, please understand that my life is currently under construction.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I hope you all woke up to less snow than I did yesterday - we got 15 inches, and have downed power lines and trees all over the neighborhood.  It will certainly make for interesting trick-or-treating!  Our house is one of those houses - you know, the one that gives out king-size candy bars.  I hope that the snow doesn't deter too many of the kiddies from coming out - we have 50 candy bars to hand out!

Since we have apparently skipped straight from late summer to the dead of winter, I thought I'd share a few of the recipes I've been dying to try for fall.  I intend on making a few tonight, but I think we will have to stretch October well into mid-November to get these all in:

Pumpkin spaetzle with bacon - we plan on making this for dinner tonight!

Roasted pumpkin seeds - this year, we won't try to dry the seeds on paper towels and end up losing them all

Chocolate cinnamon bread - they used to make this at Starbucks, then gave out the recipe right when they stopped having it.  So glad they did!

Pumpkin smoothie - seriously, this looks ridiculously delicious.  Must have this week.

Normally I would end with some cute pictures of our jack-o-lanterns, but we still haven't carved them!  Hopefully we'll have some time to throw them together tonight......happy haunts, everyone!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Welcome to fall....and maple caramel coffee

I feel like I suddenly woke up and it's fall.  The air is much colder than before, and the leaves are starting to turn - Brendan and I even went up to Vermont last weekend to look at the fall colors.  The colors will be prettier in a week or two, but it certainly feels like fall already.  It's so much cooler here than it was in Philly during the fall!

The fall weather means that I have been having more warm drinks - hot apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes, and tea.  But I have been making a lot of coffee at home, too - those pumpkin spice lattes get expensive!  So I was thrilled when, as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I got free samples of Godiva coffee.  I got a bag of Pumpkin Spice, and a bag of Caramel Pecan Bark - along with a challenge to create a fall-inspired coffee recipe.  Bring it on, Godiva!

At first, I was a bit stumped.  I didn't want to go the pumpkin spice latte route - too obvious.  I looked around for some inspiration - and my eyes landed straight on a bag of maple sugar candies that I brought back from Vermont.

(um, yes, I'd definitely eaten most of the bag by this point!)

Now, of course, not everyone has fresh maple sugar candies just lying around - but I'm sure maple syrup would do the trick, too.  But none of that corn syrup-based stuff - you've got to use the real thing!  To go with the maple candies, I used the Caramel Pecan Bark flavor coffee.

The recipe for this is simple, but here's what I did:

1. Add one maple candy to a mug  (more if you like extra sugar in your coffee!)

2. Add coffee to the mug

3. Add milk, stir, and enjoy!!

The result?  A delicious drink filled with rich fall flavors.  It was really yummy!

For what's left of our weekend (really, just Monday) we are off to find pumpkins, drink even more cider, and go to the Topsfield Fair - we've got a wonderful day planned!

Oh, and last week I joined a gym!  More about that later on this week, once I try everything out - I will most definitely have reflections on Body Pump :)

Back again!

OK, so I kinda fell into a black hole.....sorry about that!  Hope that whoever reads my blog stuck around!  My disappearance was due to a little family medical emergency - but everything is ok now.  And hopefully I'm back for real now :)

Hope you are all having a wonderful start to fall and enjoying the best season of the year!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Where did the last month go?

It's now August 12 - and another month has gone by since I last posted.  This time I have a better excuse than my usual laziness general busy-ness.  I actually ended up being surprised by some last-minute grant writing for my new job - whether I should have been surprised is up for debate, but nonetheless it sucked up every last minute of free time I had in the last month.  On top of grant writing, I also had a few other deadlines - revisions for a paper my old lab's revising, a few other things for my new lab, and a deadline for a newsletter I edit.  This was one of those times where I'm not sure how I came out alive - but I'm here now, and I made it.  I even got everything done on time!  Whether I got out with my soul is unclear - but that's a subject for another time.

For now, a few updates:

- My garden is coming along quite nicely.  We have seen the comings and goings of several flowers, I've done some major weeding, and we've successfully grown tomatoes and strawberries.  More on that soon, I promise!

- I am now seriously considering what I actually want to do with my career.  This goes back up to the whole "did I get out with my soul?" question above - and I'll talk more about it later too.

- I am planning on running a half marathon in November.  I may be insane, since there may be snow in November and it's right before someone's wedding, but it's the soonest I could get together a training plan that worked, and I'm actually pretty psyched to run on Heartbreak Hill (even if it is the sane wrong way).  The training plan doesn't start ramping up for another few weeks, but I've been putting some miles in lately and I feel pretty confident that I will be ready.

- We are going to Maine in a few weeks and spending a whole week there!  We've never done more than a weekend, since it's always been me coming up to Brendan's, then us traveling out to Maine, but now that I'm here we're doing a real vacation.  I am so, so in need of a vacation, and Maine is my favorite place to spend time with my sweetie.

Hopefully I will be back soon with more substantial stuff (and pictures!), but I just wanted to say hi to everyone - and a special shout out to my old lab, who is currently spending the day at the beach without me.  So jealous!

Hope you are all having a much more relaxing summer than me.....can't wait for the fall, though!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our first harvest

OK, so the title is a bit excessive, given the size of our "harvest" - but we have a strawberry!  I mean, a real, actual, honest-to-goodness strawberry!

It was tiny, but red, peeking out from under the leaves of our strawberry plant.  Unfortunately, Brendan just had his wisdom teeth out today, so he couldn't share it with me - but I most definitely brought it in, washed it, and ate it.

And it was delicious - made even sweeter by the fact that I grew it myself.  So, so wonderful - can't wait to have more this summer!

Hiking adventure

Recently, Brendan and I went on a little hiking adventure.  It was a few weekends ago now, but I'm just catching up with a backlog of things to write about, so cut me some slack :)

We are total hiking novices, but wanted to do something a bit difficult and not just go for a regular walk outside.  We went to the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, which is a ski area during the winter, but has some really neat hiking trails during the summer.  We hiked from the visitor's center, and took what seemed like a relatively easy trail around the side of the mountain for a bit.  The map is here, and we started out at the little house icon at the right and continued down the Bicentennial Trail.

And then things took a turn for the interesting.  Somehow, we decided that the Loop Trail sounded like a great idea.  Here's me, looking optimistic towards the beginning of the trail:

You'll notice that even at this spot, there's not so much a trail as a bunch of rocks.  That's how it was the whole time, but it got progressively more difficult.  I don't have any pictures of the harder parts of the trail, but we took quite a few breaks along the way to just breathe.  It did pay off with a good view somewhere along the way, though:

The trail was REALLY hard after this, and I don't have any pictures, but it looked something like this, with more green foliage  - it doesn't quite do the steepest parts justice, but it's all I can find (source):

We struggled upward for a while, and had a bit of a meltdown when we started to worry that we weren't coming upon the trail we expected to - did we miss the trail sign?  Nope, we were just going that slow.  The whole trail was only about 1.5 to 2 miles total, but the terrain was so strenuous that it took forever to climb to the top.  We eventually did make it up to the Mountain House trail, and discovered with delight that we could take an actual road down for a bit and reach Pine Hill trail, which is substantially easier.  Instead of random boulders, Pine Hill has rocks stacked in a bit of a staircase formation, which is a lot easier to climb (up and down).  Here's Brendan looking accomplished near the end of our journey:

As we finally reached the bottom, exhausted, we weren't sure that we'd do much more hiking - but both of us realized that we really did have a lot of fun.  I have been begging Brendan to go back since we got home, and we might just go next weekend.  Now that we know how long the trail is and what to expect, we'll have a lot more fun!

Anyone have any ideas for hiking trips?  Next time we'll bring a water pack instead of water bottles, but if anyone has any ideas for making hiking trips more fun, or anything important to bring, I'd appreciate it!

P.S. For you crazy people out there doing ridiculously long trail races - I don't know how you do it!  I can't imagine running up even the easiest part of the trail we did!  Major kudos.