Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Life in Teacher Mode

Some weeks my work schedule is looser than others and I've learned to roll with work energy when it's here...and let things go when the work energy is less. Somehow it all balances out in the long run and everything more or less gets accomplished.

The beautiful thing of how the schedule has unfolded over the last several years is that I tend to work via prepping and grading for at least one solid weekend day in order to play hard on at least one solid week day. However there are other week days that also can be full of super long days of work.

Case in point:

I attended some work events at my original teaching institution on Thursday afternoon and picked up some work related books & responded to some work emails for my new institution on Friday. However I didn't do a ton of practical work things on Thursday & Friday of last week. I did check and respond to most emails those days and I set up meetings for this week. I took all of Saturday off and then put in about 1.5-2 hours of teaching prep on Sunday and spent about another 45 minutes doing some grading.

And then today happened:
--7 hours on site at the new institution (2 hrs of which were teaching, 3 student meetings, various emails, and dealing with two issues that came up)
--3.5 hours of grading at home for my original institution
--2.5 hours (home) online content review & analysis typed up for a phone mtg tomorrow morning

On Tuesdays I generally work for my original institution but tomorrow I'm doing 3 items for the new institution:
--phone mtg on program lay-outs
--prepping independent study that I just picked up with two students
--mtg with said students to lay out academic plan for rest of term

Then I will update grades for my online courses & review material for teaching...and then teach for three hours in the evening (for my original institution).

At some point Weds-Friday (yea for flexibility!), I'll grade online & in-person assignments for my original institution, follow-up with all of my mentor students via email, book my summer tickets, grade assignments for my 3 classes at the new institution, review syllabi for the potential 4 new-to-me courses I might be teaching next year, meet with the independent study students again and teach them course 1 material, prep said material in my own head, follow-up with a couple of community contacts and research others, and take care of any additional items that arise.

In theory, it's not a ton, but sometimes managing so many different items exhausts my brain. Two more weeks of the term at the original institution and then a few more beyond that at the new one. But the reality is that I'm trying as much as possible to soak up the flexibility of the schedule that I do have (and that I have been incredibly fortunate to have had for the last several years). I haven't mentioned this here but it's been on the table for the last six months that I might be transitioning to full-time at the new institution. While I'm still not sure (1.5 months out from said contract start) whether this will actually be the case, it's been a bit of a mental shift for me to contemplate working a regular schedule for the first time in six years. I'm excited for the opportunities it could create (plus financial benefits and better boundaries), but there are also some hesitations, especially as I also contemplate potentially letting go of my other teaching position....

Big changes could be unfolding....but for now I'm going to enjoy the chaotic freedom that exists...and trust that life will work out as it should during the academic year that will soon be arriving.

Now here's to skedaddling to bed :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NE Trip: Maine Stole My Heart

Ha--that title alone makes me sound/feel like a 13 year old girl :) And speaking of the past, here's a bit of back story on how Maine so fiercely wound up on my radar: via my first blog I connected with Heather at Townsend House. Over the last 10ish years, we've followed each others endeavors through chickens, gardening, and our attempts at more natural living. I've enjoyed seeing her raise her beautiful babies, and through the last several rougher years, she constantly encouraged me to come out to explore Maine. When this work trip opportunity came up (and I finally realized that instead of visiting cities, I needed time exploring nature), it just seemed to make sense to take some time to finally meet Heather in person and see more of the state of Maine. And I just have to say that I am SO GLAD that I did. Anytime you meet a blogger friend it's a new & fun experience, but I'm not even kidding that within the first three minutes of meeting this great gal in real life, I seriously wished we were neighbors and was so glad that we had taken the time and energy to stay in touch all these years. ********************

So without further ado, here's the Maine part of the trip:

My first stop this day was the small town where Heather lives which was a couple of hours away from North Conway. The drive there was great (although lots of construction on the roads as they get pretty torn up from winter!) and I was surprised by how many amazing lakes I passed on the way. (aka great kayaking territory) I also could tell right away without even being on the Maine coast yet that the state had the feel of a more progressive version of my hometown (on the Oregon coast). This alone made me start to fall in love with it a bit.

I met Heather in the super cute downtown area of her small town. She treated me to a coffee at the local co-op (THANK YOU!!) and then we sat on some benches in a little plaza area to chat about life happenings, Maine, and sociopoliticalecological topics (THANK YOU!!). As we only had a bit of time together, we then did a little walk about of the rest of the downtown area and checked out this area in the waterfront:

So awesome! And so great to see her. Definitely plan on meeting up again :)

Oh one word of note: toll roads in Maine---you absolutely need cash! They don't cost much but I was short on the first toll. I grabbed more cash for the second one and tried to pay up the shortfall but that sweet lil' toll booth lady wouldn't let me settle the difference. Maine! :)

Next I decided to head over to Acadia National Park. I'd already looked up the trail maps online and knew that the hikes weren't intense so I didn't feel like I'd miss too much if I just went for the views and not the mileage.....and man, those views did not fail. SO absolutely beautiful. You could just sit and stare mesmerized for hours.....

From Acadia, I drove down to Deer Isle and the teeny tiny lobster capitol of the US: Stonington. I'd found this cabin option (with kayaking available although it turned out to be too cold for it) on AirBnB. This site would be great for the on-season and I absolutely loved the host here. (Some reviews said he was "rough" but I thought he was great!) Luckily I got there before dark so was able to get my initial bearings and still make it to the one diner in Stonington to grab some food and a local brew. And while I knew it would be this way, Stonington is the type of place that when you walk in the diner, they know you aren't from around there..... Not that my purposely ripped jeans, leopard flats, and aviators gave it away by any means.....ha! :) Super friendly individuals but it's an incredibly small community. The town has one main street with just a few main buildings and that wraps around the small bay/harbor. I love these types of places as they're super off the beaten path however and I'm more of a small town gal to my core. Oh and at the diner, I had lobster mac n cheese!

The view from the diner with lobster boats in the distance.

After dinner, I went back to the site for the night and Bill had set me up in the better cabin option that had a heater--so awesome! After a bit of a cold shower in the bathroom quarters (about a football field's length away....this site wouldn't be for everyone....), I loaded up in layers and headed down to the nearby dock to hang out for a bit before bed, such a beautiful view:

This next morning I rolled out fairly early after exploring the property a bit more. I knew there wouldn't be coffee until I found some back on mainland Maine so I didn't really make many stops along the way. I did stop to snap this picture of the neat bridge that you drive over to get to Deer Isle however :)

And I stopped to snap this gem also because....Maine, it's just so beautiful!

It's the NE: white clapboard buildings everywhere! :)

Back on the mainland, I did finally come across a coffee shop where I stopped to get a cup of java and a pastry before continuing to head on toward Camden (which is a place Heather had suggested). As I arrived in Camden I saw the first thing I was looking for: the state hiking trails :) It was $6 for out of state entrance and the rangers were super friendly. The guy had done some hiking in Oregon so he gave me a suggestion of which trail to do and I set off up the hillside:

This is the overlook of the Atlantic & Camden in the background

Neat trek through the woods: There were options for shorter or longer versions, but I knew I was on limited time here.

Post-hike, I drove through the town which was pretty cute with many historic buildings (but I didn't stop). The gal I was staying with this night via Air BnB had been in touch earlier in the day and seemed a little particular so I felt like I was on more of a time crunch this day. I did manage two more stops however.

1) I stopped in Freeport to go to the flagship LL Bean store. Truthfully, not impressed (and generally I like LL Bean stuff but this day I just felt it was all overpriced and not of interest)....and not impressed with what I saw of the surrounding area of high priced retail stores here either. I literally walked through the store and out, around the block, and then got in my car and drove on.

2) I did happen to look up some running options for Portland, ME on the way and found one that was right next to the Old Port district and along the waterfront. I snagged an easy parking spot and then headed out for some jogging mileage. Lots of other joggers were out and this particular trail connects over to another as well. There also was a kayak group in the bay AND a dog park right on the shore. I (again) felt like I was right at home. (On a side note: this paved trail does take your jog right by the water treatment plant however....)

Post jog--I explored a bit of the Old Port area on foot. Very cute with lots of great restaurants and storefronts....and SUPER packed. This was the off season and I couldn't imagine how busy it would be during high season :) I did snag this fun picture of the lobster boats along one of the arms of the port however!

From here I jogged back to the car and then headed to the house in South Portland for the night. In some regards staying here was a good experience because it reminded me not to be so anal retentive as I continue to age. I think she was just being mindful....but there were instructions for everything and even every single light switch was labeled with a post-it. Luckily she was out for the evening when I arrived, so I took a quick shower, got my things settled in the room, and then walked toward food options. I ended up eating at this bustling BBQ joint where I ordered the big plate and a great local beer. (Are you noticing a theme here? :) I tend to drink lots of coffee and eat a pastry in the morning and then hit one solid meal and a "local" beverage at some point during the day when I'm on road trips.) Since I was flying out the next day, the rest of the night I spent getting my bags re-packed (with some pretty sweaty clothes at this point! :)) and everything in order. 

The next morning I was up early and out. There was a really cute bakery within walking distance of the house so I headed there for a cup of coffee & a scone. I also had a great conversation with the owners who were super friendly and had both been to the west coast Portland. People seemed to love it when they asked me where I was from and I said "the other Portland." One of the reasons I'd opted to stay in South Portland was that it made many of the lighthouses super easily accessible, so from here I drove to do a bit of a lighthouse tour and to find a lobster roll :)

One of the three lighthouses I checked out this day was also an old military location, so it was fun to trek around the surrounding area here. Getting to and finding parking was a bit of a challenge at one of the other light houses, but I eventually figured it out with a bit of help from a local and googlemaps. :) And in my final hours in Maine, I had an infamous lobster roll from The Lobster Shack

Before heading to the airport, I drove the rest of the loop around Cape Elizabeth, passing many local farms, and then back up through a different part of the city of Portland. The city itself is small feeling (which I loved) and it really only seemed like the Old Port area had a ton of people :) But truthfully I didn't spend much time overall in Portland. 

Because of the ding in the windshield, I got to the airport early so they could process paperwork on the damage. (Which eventually it was waived, then re-instated, then waived again. So far I've been super incredibly fortunate and haven't had to pay for the chip to the windshield---oof! Out of all the thousands of road trip miles I've put in and back roads I've driven of course the one time I would have a ding would be in a rental car :) and in a spot that I never would fix on my own vehicle! Ha!)

The Portland, ME airport is small. I grabbed another book and enjoyed perusing the gift shop. Look at this awesome gem....just another reason why I love this state:

I spent some time reading part of the book and had some great people watching before getting on board for my flights. From ME I flew to NJ and then on to "my" Portland. The gal I sat next to on the NJ to Portland flight was great to talk to and I had a great conversation with a guy at the airport bar in NJ. Both individuals were from very different perspectives on life and yet we found lots of common ground. These conversations also really sort of restored me in a sense. 

Altogether though this particular trip didn't really re-invigorate me as I'd hoped. Most of the time when I 'get away' I come back feeling refreshed but this wasn't exactly the case with this one. I'm not sure if it was the distraction of the guy I was talking to, the cold I ended up with on the way and the lack of sleep initially, the interesting array of AirBnb stays, and/or the fact that I was still working across the distance by grading and responding to emails. There were lots of beautiful moments, sites, and people interacted with, but I don't know that I truly felt as fully "present" on this trip.

In a sense, waiting a few weeks and then reflecting/writing about the trip has allowed me to really highlight the beauty that I did experience though....and I truly do want to go back sooner rather than later. :) There's just SO much to see and do...and in so many ways Maine (and Vermont) truly felt like a great location to appreciate and explore further. Here's hoping that in the next few years, I'll get the opportunity to head back for a bit more of a "present" time exploring....or.....living....we'll see. :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

NE Trip: Vermont & NH

From Plymouth I drove north past Boston (where I did get in a bit of traffic but luckily not too horrible), through part of New Hampshire, and over into Vermont. I have no idea how I thought that ONE day in Vermont would give me enough time, because it definitely did not. I needed AT LEAST a week and I most definitely will be going back some day. :)

My best intentions had me hitting up 2-3 lower mileage hikes (under 5 miles), stopping at a brewery, checking out some local farms, exploring Burlington, and looping around through rural highway prior to arriving at my lodging that night. Not enough time :) There would have been so many incredible farms to check out, cider & brew options, and so many hiking trails. I also didn't stop at the well-known coffee nor ice cream factories. Must return!

But here is what I did see in 24 hours or less:

From Hwy 89 in NH/VT, I'd cut over to Hwy 4. This Quechee Gorge was located just on the Hwy and it was neat to see something that reminded me so much of home :) Just shows how so much of nature is similar and holds within it incredible patterns. Hwy 4 takes you through the little town of Woodstock, which had a few farms to investigate nearby, loads of trails, and covered bridges. I only had time for a quick hike however so I headed to the town park and walked up Faulkner's Trail to an overlook of the town:

From here, I got back in the car and headed for Long Trail Brewery which was just a bit further along Hwy 4 and going in the right direction. After my late lunch, I headed along the rural highway with every intention of checking out a local farm....only to realize that the "open" hours would end before I could get there :) But the sites from the highway with mountains in the background and so many incredible family farms sprawled across the country side sure made my heart happy. I made it to Burlington about 530pm...and I quickly realized that I would probably love it there. 

Lake Champlain from Burlington. Burlington has a population of 42 thousand, it's a college town, it's situated alongside a huge lake with mountains easily accessible, local sustainable farms nearby, and that path in front of that bench is a running/biking trail. The options seem incredible here. I stopped just long enough to check out this park & chat with a local coffee shop owner who made me some great herbal tea for my throat and suggested a top-rated brewery north of where I was staying (didn't make it though....). En route to my evening location, I drove through some of the rest of the town which had a cute plaza area downtown and lovely buildings! (And I'm just going to mention that the ads alone on the coffee shop bathroom bulletin board made me feel at home :))

This night I stayed in an AirBnB on Camel's Hump, which turned out fine but a bit interesting :) I had a rock fly up off the highway and ding the upper left drivers side windshield of the rental. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful but the house was definitely located in the middle of no where. It also turned out that this guy is in the process of remodeling his home and the only furnished bedroom is his, so he literally rents out his own bed/bathroom. He was super nice (even offered to cook me dinner) and I didn't have any concerns with being there...just sort of a bit more awkward situation than what I'm used to with this sort of travel. We had a great conversation about my hoped for hike the next day and his little guy who lives in San Diego. 

Camel's Hump is one of the higher peaks that has not been developed in the state and thus it has blown up in terms of the amount of hikers (and preservation groups) interested in the area. (It was great getting a local's views on much of this!) I had a great time going up the first two-ish miles on this trail..... 

.....and then I hit the iced over trail that my host had forewarned me about. I've never had to hike with ice attachments to my shoes before (and I don't own them nor did I rent any for this trip) so at this point I turned around. Luckily I already knew this was coming and while he said I could probably navigate carefully on or around it, I didn't feel like it was worth it to get to the top at this time. Which can I just say that this was a huge example of how much I've settled down? Two years ago I would have hauled myself slip sliding across the ice to the top and shook off any bumps/bruises I gained on the way, but these days I'm okay with just taking life for what it is (and making sure to avoid injury). Besides, the trail run down was pretty awesome anyway :)

I actually had lucked out since I'd stayed on the mountain and had the trail to myself most of the way. As I hit the trailhead, three other couples were headed up and I met SIX other cars as I drove away. I agree with my host....it's getting over populated. 

From Camel's Hump, I turned off and drove through Montpelier. Super cute historical town, but I didn't want to pay for parking so I ended up not stopping for breakfast or more coffee here. From here, I'd had plans to stop on the west side of the White Mountains to do some hiking, but I decided to push on toward my night destination to check-in earlier and then explore the eastern side. (Plus since so many trails were iced over I figured it'd be better to get somewhere where I could ask around.) I drove along a variety of highways and I really enjoyed seeing so much of the "countryside" this way. Ironically it's not really the countryside because it's just the norm of the state. I also spent some time thinking about the lack of grocery stores, the true norm of the family farm, and I would absolutely love to explore more how this region functions in terms of food production and year round access. I have my own guesses, but it's definitely something to look into (and look upon as a model, which so many already do :)).

In New Hampshire heading toward the White Mountains. I stopped near here at the White Mountain Coffeeshop & Bookstore (finally...more coffee!!). It had amazing homemade juices, local food, delicious coffee (maple lattes) and I couldn't resist picking up a few books. I ended up with a hiking book for the White Mountains and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading the short stories found within Mountain Voices

It didn't take too long to drive through the bit of the White Mountains and arrive in North Conway where I was staying the night. North Conway is known as a hub for outdoor pursuits and I seriously loved the little room I had here in the historic Kearsage Inn. (Also was the best deal of the trip since it was the off season and a week day....and they had the friendliest staff.) In hindsight I wish I would have remembered to hit up the local outdoor store that the Plymouth host had suggested: IME and I also didn't stop at the AMC information spots. Both would be spots to check out next time. 

I did however head out for Diana's Baths and at the advice of a mountain biker I met (while trying to find the actual trailhead), I ended up getting in a great trail run that evening. There are so many various trails from North Conway and the surrounding region, but this particular evening the trail run was perfect:

Diana's Baths

After a shower and soak in the tub, I headed to SeaDog Brewery (which is actually a Maine brewery) in North Conway for fish tacos (yum!) and a blueberry beer (double yum and with blueberries floating in it!). After food, I made it back to the Inn to grade my online courses and then crash for the night.

Next up: Maine! :)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NE Trip: Boston & Plymouth

The train delivered me into Boston about 11am, so I grabbed a quick yogurt & a second latte from a coffee stand to fuel up. I'd researched online ahead of time and heard that you could stow your luggage at the South Boston station. It took a bit of asking around, but I finally was directed to this little shop that stows one bag downstairs in a locked area for a $5 fee. While not quite what I'd envisioned, it worked out great for my main suitcase. After dropping the bag, I headed out into what I discovered was a super breezy Boston setting. Who knew there'd be so much wind?! :)

From the train station I got my bearings and headed to check out the harbor aka the setting of the famed Boston Tea Party. They have a replica ship and museum but I didn't take the time to visit it officially, as I only had about 4 hours to trek around the city. From the museum location I walked along the harbor until I threaded up and over to the "Little Italy" area. While I really headed to this section to walk by Paul Revere's home and the original church where the messenger light was hung, it was pretty neat to see the Italian culture still thriving. I already had a spot in mind for lunch, otherwise I totally would have hit up one of the Italian restaurants here. In this section of town I also walked through a plaza dedicated to Revere and an old cemetery.

From here I crossed the bridge and reconnected with part of the "Freedom Trail" to head up to Bunker Hill. I really enjoyed seeing this historical site, although in its current context it's hard to really envision it being a massive hill and battle site.

I spent about 15 minutes wandering around the park at the monument here and then I trekked down the hill to Warren Tavern, which is supposed to be one of the oldest taverns in Boston and a location where some of the nation's changemakers drank beer. Uh, of course, I couldn't resist! :) I had an amazing Reuben, sweet potato fries, and a local cider while watching part of the Red Sox game, listened to great Boston accents, and charged up my phone so I could keep navigating my way around the city :)

From here, I walked to the historic Beacon Street and the main town square of Boston Commons (which is also where a lot of the finishers were as the Boston Marathon was happening this day). From there I headed back to the train station to pick up my suitcase and then walked the additional mile into a more industrial area to get to the rental car location. The guys at this location were a hoot though and I had my pick of SUVs. I went for the tiniest one both for gas mileage and parking reasons.

Luckily it also was a Boston holiday so I didn't have to deal with traffic as I drove out of the city at 430pm. From Boston I actually headed south to Plymouth to stay in this cute Cape Cod house with a sustainable farmer.

Ironically, the farmer ended up not getting home until later and this particular evening I really started to struggle with my cold so I crashed ridiculously early. I did have time to wander down to the coast line though and imagine some of my ancestors (yea for family history!) making the long trek by ship over the Atlantic and stumbling upon the shore.

I also checked out some of the reading material my host had on her shelves (including a great booklet on issues with FairTrade labeling). Had I been feeling a bit more energetic, I might have gone to one of the local eateries or some of the additional historic sites, but in reality, my stop in Plymouth basically ended up being a bit out of the way just to sleep for the night. On a side note: it also was interesting driving in this area of the NE. The emergency break-down lane can be used for passing on the right and I found the merging strategies of NE drivers to be so incredibly different than us here on the west coast.

I really enjoyed checking out all the various historical sites in Boston and it was great to be in Plymouth for a night as well. Definitely glad I was able to bumble my way along in both locations :)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

NE Trip: DC and Yale

I've always wanted to visit our nation's capitol but didn't really have any intention of getting there at this point in life. However when work offered to send me to a conference at Yale and one of my gal pals was going to be on a work assignment to DC, I decided that it just made sense to add a few days on to the trip to explore some of the great history and political scene that DC offers.

I took a red eye to DC (which I never do but it seemed to be the standard flight and I was going for cheap here....) with a lay over in Detroit. Side note: actually pretty impressed with Detroit's airport! However the red eye meant that I had about 3.5 hours of sleep under my belt by the time I arrived at the Baltimore airport (again, cheaper than DC's airport). Getting the transport bus at the airport to the train into DC was really easy. The directions at the train station weren't quite as clear but I figured out which side of the tracks to get to and which train I wanted based on asking people. For $7 it was a great deal and it just might have been my first time on a train like that :) 

Upon arriving at Union Station in DC, one of my old military spouse friends drove into the city to meet me. She picked me up and we went to the coffee house that is run by National Community Church (the church mentioned in the book the Circle Maker and where my gal friend attends). I hadn't had the opportunity to really chat with Erin since they moved away from our military installation in 2010, so we had about six years to catch up on. (We actually met through our dogs and her husband served in a different unit than mine. They left the military in 2010.) It was great to see her after so much time and to see what an impact the church has had in her life. She also has years of history in DC so gave me a quick run down of the neighborhoods, gentrification, and general idea of layout on our drive to where I was staying in Dupont Circle. It's always super helpful to have someone give a lay-out of the land when traveling (I also use an initial bus tour sometimes when I travel to do the same thing). 

Since I was staying with my gal Christina in a short term flat rental, I let myself in and then attempted to take a bit of a nap until she got done with work. Once she got there, we changed into running gear and headed out for a quick 3ish mile jog together. We ended up off the beaten path along some creek but totally just were glad to be getting some miles in together. Post jog, showers, and a bit of chatting, we walked a street over to this great dive-y restaurant that had great food and drinks on the menu. Getting back to the flat, we chatted for another hour and then crashed. 

Side note here to say that the upstairs rental neighbor was SUPER loud and a phone pacer who did not go to bed generally until 2 or 3am. I'm a light sleeper and Christina was having problems dealing with this guy's noise herself. I was so tired the first night that I got some decent sleep anyway...but this became more of an issue as the night's went on.

Day 2: I slept in like a regular lazy bones adjusting to East Coast time, which means I rolled out of the flat a bit after 10am (or 7am Pacific time). Even with a later "start" time, I used my time well. I walked from Dupont Circle through "Foggy Bottom" which ironically took me right by GWU's Milken School of Public Health as I was heading to the Lincoln Memorial end of the National Mall.
One of the many "circles" in the city.

The famous view looking out from the Lincoln Memorial.

Seeing all of the presidential memorials and reading the quotes selected was quite timely given our current sociopolitical climate in our nation.

From the Lincoln Memorial, I started walking the length of the mall....first stop was the Vietnam Veterans memorial wall. The wall itself is much larger than one envisions further putting the enormity of the lives lost into context. There also were several groups of older veterans and dependents who were visiting this day and it was especially moving to slowly walk along the wall surrounded by prior military personnel who had lost friends and family in this war. Having lived and worked with veteran populations, this always tugs on my heart, but this particular day the enormity seemed to hit home even more...I also kept wondering what type of memorial our Iraq/Afghan veterans will have...

From the Vietnam Memorial, I walked up past the White House (which uh, I almost wanted to stage a protest just to get one of those handsome secret service dudes to chat with me...) :) I did ask the (female) police officer if the  First Lady's veggie gardens could be seen from outside the property, but apparently they're only viewable from inside the gates. While it was neat to see the White House, it sort of "normalizes" the life of our political figures also. I mean, we're all just people right?!

From the White House, I walked to the other side of the Mall, past the USDA building (perfect place for that protest :) but I WAS impressed with the herb garden out front), and up to Capitol Hill. I attempted to check out some of the botanical gardens on the way but the garden was closed. I sat on a wall on the lawn of the Hill for a bit to rest my feet and then I started back down the other side of the mall. I walked through a neat park area and then stopped in at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. There was a great exhibit on Africa, a neat photography exhibit on Iceland, loads of great focus on climate change and the environmental impact that our oceans are seeing, and then there was a neat exhibit that looked at human evolution (with some great food oriented components). 

They also had this neat little interactive feature...here's me as a sexy awesome Neanderthal-ha :) 

The Smithsonian also was having an IMAX film on the National Park's but I decided to bypass it as I've seen a lot of that type of footage in the past. From here, I walked back to our flat in Dupont Circle to meet up with Christina. 

We'd already planned on doing a longer run so we headed out to do the rest of the National Mall that I didn't check out:  

WWII Memorial 

We ran along the newer MLK Jr & FDR memorials and then looped around to the Jefferson Memorial side.

Altogether it was a 6ish mile outing and incredibly beautiful with the sun setting. DC truly seems like a great area for running (and there were lots of areas that I didn't get to...). 

After showering we both were pretty tired this night, but we walked about a mile away to this neat restaurant that had great local artisan pizza and local beer on tap! :)

The next day I decided to give the Metro a try as transportation to Arlington National Cemetery. (I always think its worthwhile to try out public transport in new places, but in the end I realized I could walk by foot about the same amount of time as it took with all the transfers to get to most places downtown. 

So incredibly impactful. The headstones (and thus the lives) go on and on and on. I also was able to see JFK's gravesite but didn't feel it was appropriate to take a ton of photos here. The timing also worked out to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. BUT this whole morning also left me really upset at the general lack of respect and appropriateness that many showed. There are signs everywhere asking people to keep propriety and respect in mind and this particular site is just serious in nature. Yet I can't count the number of loud students/teens, the number of female teens hanging over memorials or jumping around things while their moms photographed them, and should I mention the guy who answered his cell phone in the middle of the changing of the guard AFTER we'd all been reminded to be respectful and quiet? After 1.5 hours with other tourists at this location, I was a little over hanging out with tourists or many other people. Instead of taking the metro back, I walked back across the river, through half of the national mall, and then trekked by the Ford Museum where Lincoln was shot. Huge lines were at this particular location so I quickly rounded the corner and instead decided to hit up a local brewery. It also was warm out this day so it was great to just sit, eat some decent food, and try out a locally produced brew. From here, I walked back to the flat and hung out relaxing until Christina got back from work. 

I should also probably note two things that further impacted just resting for the rest of this particular afternoon. 1) I still had limited sleep. I had decided to stay up grading until the guy was quiet the 2nd night. So while all my online grading ended up completed, this also meant that it wasn't quiet enough to sleep until about 4am. 2) Which means that whatever cold my immune system had been keeping at bay, started to overtake my body once my sleep stores were knocked out three nights in a row. (This same cold keeps getting passed around at work even now. There are 6 of us routinely hacking in harmony....)

Christina arrived to the flat a bit earlier than the night before so we decided to head out for another 3ish mile jog together. Then since this was our last night (and she officially signed the sale of her Portland condo), we went out to celebrate with a pretty incredible meal at The Lincoln: absolutely incredible drinks & the food was amazing. Amazing rolls with gingerbread butter, chicken and waffle schnitzel, sweet potato gnocchis, kale salad, salmon with lentils. Truly some of the best fare I've had in a long, long time. 

All in all it was really great to spend a few days with my gal and to explore the city. I felt like I saw almost all of the highlights in about a 24 hour window but there were several things that would be totally interesting to still check out (Mt Vernon, National Geographic Museum, nearby Alexandria, biking trails). I also was super impressed that DC felt more like a small town than a major city. I totally recognize there has been major gentrification that has occurred (and I always have mixed thoughts about that) but I felt completely safe wandering around the city and it felt like a foodie & runner's paradise while being totally walkable. I can imagine for people who live in DC, most time is probably spent on work and it might feel like there's not as much to do beyond the touristy items. I totally was impressed though and could absolutely see myself going back there. If housing prices weren't so out of this world, it actually would be a place that I would be open to contemplating for PhD programs...and I never would have imagined feeling that way before actually visiting. 

From DC, I took Amtrak (metro to the train station....super easy process actually and boarding the train in this setting was super easy too) up to New Haven, CT to attend the conference. (Side note: just like with plane tickets do not delay on purchasing Amtrak.....the price went up 60 bucks in one week as it got closer....). The train ride was a neat way to see a bit more of the country side (although in many areas the train doesn't exactly go through the nicest areas of towns) and I also got to see NYC from a distance. As the train was packed, I ended up having a really nice guy sit next to me. He had traveled much of the west coast and had also been to Argentina. He was originally a lawyer from DC who now lives in Vegas and runs his own business. (Somehow this seems to be a pretty common theme: male DC lawyer becomes independent contractor/entrepeneaur.) But he was a great conversationalist and we chatted off and on for a couple of hours. 

I'd booked a hotel via the conference that was really easy to walk to from the train station. The conference itself was pretty decent and it was nice to be surrounded by so many others working in the global health field. The conference as a whole wasn't exactly what I'd expected (SO many sessions that could have been streamlined....and what conference has NO food?!) but it had a lot of great presenters, I was able to connect a bit more with a couple of my colleagues, and it was great to see my students there engaged in the sessions. Being at Yale was an interesting experience and I didn't really feel like I'd missed out by being primarily raised as a West coast gal. It was a pleasure to see the campus and to sit in classrooms that have housed some of our nation's incredible thinkers. There truly is so much history there. But it also left much to desire in my book and it was disheartening to learn how much of a contrast exists between one of the wealthiest campuses in the US and the rest of the community that surrounds it. There is a big push within global health that local is also global....and I can see where there is much need in this particular setting as well. 

With one of the students on the Yale campus. 

While at the conference, we ate a few of the local restaurants and there were some cute shops around, but I mainly hung out in the hotel at the end of the conference days. I did get a pretty solid run and some lifting in using the hotel gym....and I loved indulging in my nightly hotel pleasure of chomping on ice chips :) 

The conference was over a Saturday/Sunday, so on Monday morning I was up early to grab the train to Boston. There had been a couple of options how to do the final part of the trip, but the cheapest rental car option was for me to take the train to explore Boston and pick up a car there......and that part of the trip recap is to come :)

General summary here: DC was awesome and I'd gladly go back to study/work for a few years. Yale was a great exposure but not anywhere that I would need to return to...although there's probably the option of next year's conference there.....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Reframing: Things I'm Loving

Earlier today I posted on FB about the little light bulb that went off the other night when I finally started thinking about the positives in my life rather than letting myself continue to stay in the mental rut I've been in for the last several months.

While I recognize that life is still pretty darn good, several of my friends have also mentioned that 2016 just feels sort of "off" to them. There have been some major work transitions on the table for the last six months and last week the plan that has been in motion potentially changed direction....again. This term I've also been dealing with some challenging student issues beyond the norm and more behavioral issues keep coming up. I'm a little worried that I'm starting to burn out a bit on academia ...but am continuing to plug along toward the upcoming year while starting to mentally explore steps toward other options. On my road trip I also connected with a fun "potential" individual....only to have to block that person when he turned out to be a creepster. I've never had to block a date before....so it's taken a bit to process through and re-evaluate that experience.

But without focusing too much on some of the stressors, I instead want to practice some of that awesome reframing and focus in on some of the great things of late that I'm loving:

I have so much gratitude for:

--the comfortable state of my home. I love the way each room currently feels and I've been relishing being able to financially afford to live alone.

--the weather. This spring has been unusually warm (80 and 90 degree days already!) but I've also enjoyed the days that we've had of rain. The mix of rain and sunny days has produced a beautiful floral spring and there's so much abundant green everywhere.

--the dogs. Seriously, cause their furry dog faces just win over my heart all.the.time. I feel like I've won the lottery when I come through the front door. And even with Anna slowing down, it's still so rewarding to get them out for some easy jogs or walking outings.

--time with Reg D. The first couple months of this year were a bit rough between us as we both transitioned through a few separate things. He's not heading toward the Peacecorps after all, but instead will be fighting fires in southern Oregon. I'm selfishly glad that he'll still be in Oregon...and I'm so happy that our friendship is feeling a bit more normal again. Life is just happier when my brother-from-another-mother is routinely a part of it. We were able to get together both last week and this week before he transitions south....and last night was full of so much laughter watching Captain America, drinking a brew, and splitting an awesome burger in one of our old haunts.

--having routine work. While I'm tired with work, I also find it incredibly rewarding each time I'm on site at the office and I truly do enjoy my coworkers.

--family. I feel like I have had some of the best role models via my parents and my dad's parents. My sister has been checking in quite frequently and it's been great to be communicating with her routinely. It's still so great also to be able to routinely get together for monthly family dinner.

--recent travels. The trip to the NE was a great initial exposure to a new region of the US. I absolutely loved Maine and DC, and would love to go back to do more exploring. It also was so wonderful to finally meet in-person one of my longest blog contacts. (I'll write more about the trip later....)

--Central Oregon weekend. In an effort to clear my mind a bit, last weekend I hit the road for a quick overnight trip to one of my favorite outdoor locations. I've been needing to just hang out with God for a bit and this particular location is also one that reminds me of my grandfather (we spread his ashes nearby). Thus a bit of time chatting with the Man Upstairs and hanging out with memories of Poppa did my heart and soul much good.

--prayer in general. My spiritual engagement has been pretty nil and I'd intended to spend more of my NE roadtrip focusing in here. As that didn't happen, I'm instead spending a lot of time now trying to hone in a bit more spiritually and also engaging in some regular daily prayer. When I reflect upon last year, I see His hand at work in so many profound ways....and I know that He's continuing to guide me even now....

--garden. The starts and seeds are in. The second round of weeds have been pulled. The slugs need to be battled. My medicinal herbs in the entry way are growing and there already are a host of things already putting on: kiwis, berries, radishes, grapes, leeks, onions, greens, peas. I'm excited for the harvest that summer will bring and the produce that can be preserved in the process.

--finances. The credit card is paid off and I just made the first larger payment toward paying my car off. I just paid for a decent vacation and to get Roxi's teeth fixed out of pocket. I'm finally fully making all my bills on my own while also making headway on debt reduction. Even with some work items in the air, when I calculated out how much I can save before summer, I could still choose to live alone through what tends to be my "tighter" budget months (although I did just put a guest room ad out just to keep the debt reduction plan in motion). I've finally become more or less financially independent in a way I've never been before....and should the original job plan pan out still then I would make some pretty significant headway on being debt free in the next few years.

--mileage. Somehow I hit 85 miles last month. I managed a speedwork run last evening for the first time in a long time....and I just downloaded a follow-up half marathon training plan. It's time to get a bit more serious about re-training for the half that is in July.....and while I know it'll be a bit more challenging this go around, I'm excited to get my body back up to a better performance level.

All really great things....and I just need to continue to focus there. Cause the more I focus on the good, the more "good" I feel deep down into my heart and soul. :)