First Friday of 2012

Only a week in and 2012 has started off on a good, yet very busy note.

  • Last Saturday: I rang in the new year in Nashville with friends.
  • Monday: Cari and I drove back to Tallahassee.
  • Tuesday: I met with the sleep doctor, who was thoroughly unhelpful, but I’ll be doing a sleep study at the end of the month and might get some answers then.
  • Wednesday: Classes started back up. I’m really looking forward to the subjects I’m studying this semester: performance studies, contemporary British theatre, and dramaturgy.
  • Thursday: I resumed teaching and had a lovely first session with my new students. I also attended two of my own classes.

Then immediately after class, I hit the road for Jacksonville. I made the impromptu decision to go for the Toubab Krewe and Galactic concert that was happening that night. I’ve been wanting to see Toubab Krewe in concert since I first heard about them in my world music class senior year and Matt was already planning on going to the concert, so I invited myself along.

Toubab Krewe:

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Galactic:

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I really enjoyed the concert. The music was good and the people watching was even better. So many weird groups of people meshing together. It was definitely worth the drive over, especially since the semester has barely begun and I don’t know how much more free time I’ll have to do things like that.

I left Jacksonville the next morning in a sea of fog, which ended up following me the entire way to Tallahassee.

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“Let us look instead for the aspects of wonder.”

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Once home, I accomplished some of my reading for the weekend before heading out to First Friday!

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First Friday takes place in the Railroad Square art community. There are a bunch of galleries, shops, and food places. It’s also a glorious place to people watch and take pictures, which is what our grad students did.

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Selling other people’s old photos for $2 a piece?

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Potential future wedding dress?

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Used lingerie?

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A pair of lips telephone.

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I’m confused by this lamp.

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Not safe for work, apparently.

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A pirate mannequin.

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An art piece composed of face/thumbprint sketches.

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A performance artist.

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“Viewers are encouraged to take one fingerprint from the pile.”

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So we did.

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First Friday turned out to be hippy-fest part two, complete with drum circles, dreads, and drunks.

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And that concludes my first week of 2012. Today I’ve done absolutely nothing, unless you count updating the blog. I’ve decided that my lack of productivity is a-okay and I will not feel guilty about it. I will resume my regular work schedule tomorrow.

Happy Saturday!

Say Goodbye to 2011, Bring on 2012!

Some years set the stage for changes to come and some years feature a series of whirlwind life changes.

2011 is an example of the latter, it was a year of major life events — I graduated, moved back to Florida, bought a house, and started a PhD program!

Since I’m finally settled down for a while, I plan on 2012 being all about self-improvement.

In 2012 I will:

  • Continue to work strength training. Ideally, I want to strength train at least twice a week. (Fitness)
  • Resume running and racing more regularly. I will run another marathon, but since the two I have in mind — Disney and 26.2 are early in the year, I will use 2012 to get back into shape and register for the races, but they will actually happen in 2013. (Fitness)
  • Finally get some answers about my fatigue and tiredness. Enough is enough and I demand some resolution this year. (Health)
  • Continue to improve my diet and watch what I am eating. I am not setting a specific weight loss goal, I just want to be healthy. (Diet)
  • Be fearless. I am going to put myself out there more. Meet new people, go on dates, maybe even give my number to random eligible bachelors, and live life to the fullest. (Social)
  • Stop procrastinating. Improve my time management skills. Hopefully an answer to my sleep issues will make this goal fall into place. (School)
  • Communicate more frequently. Blog more. Write more postcards. Send more e-mail. Check in on long distance friends. (Social)
  • Finally get that tattoo I’ve been wanting! (Fun)

I really enjoy looking back on the past year to see how far I’ve come and set new goals for the upcoming year. While I didn’t quite fulfill my established goals for 2011, I think that I more than accomplished the unspoken goals I had in mind for myself.

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I did try some new foods, but perhaps not 11. I didn’t meet my weight loss goals because my weight fluctuated up and down, but I did decide to refocus myself on being healthy and stop focusing on the numbers. I did save money for my move, but not the set $50 each month. I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs, but after the move I failed to find a new practitioner. I struggled to maintain a regular exercise routine all year long and will continue to work on this goal in 2012. As for the reading, who knows. I read a lot both for school and pleasure.

Regardless, I accomplished my main goals, which included my thesis, moving, and taking the next step in my career path, and that is the most important thing to keep in mind.

I spent the beginning of 2011 writing my thesis, applying to PhD programs, and finishing up my Masters.

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By April 15th I had been offered and accepted admission into a PhD program and knew where I was going to be living come August.

I graduated with my Masters on June 11th.

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I packed up my life and shoved it all in a U-Box.

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Then my dad, Charlie and myself headed back across on the country on June 21st.

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Once back in Florida, my first stop was a trip to my new house!

Buying a house was definitely not on my radar at the start of 2011, but it made a lot of sense to buy instead of rent for the duration of the program, so 2011 was the year that I became a homeowner.

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I spent the summer fixing up the house, along with lots of help from both my parents!

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Summer 2011 also included lots of time hanging out and catching up with Hilary! One of the biggest perks of being back in Florida is being able to see Hilary on a regular basis again.

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During the summer, I also turned 26 and celebrated the end of Harry Potter with my friends and sister in Tallahassee.

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On a sad note, just before I left for school, our family lost Pixy due to an unfortunate accident on my part.

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August marked the start of fall semester and beginning of my PhD program. Five years in the works, I was following my dreams.

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I’ve spent most of the past few months reading, reading, and writing.

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With regular breaks for home football games, friends, and fun!

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And a quick trip to Orlando to be a bridesmaid for one of my high school friends.

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It’s been a good year!

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I sure hope that 2012 continues on this upward trend and I’m excited to find out what’s in store.

New Years in Nashville

Happy 2012! Live it up, like it’s your last year on Earth!

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I spent the last few days of 2011 on a road trip to Nashville and hanging out with my closest friends — Ashley and Cari.

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The trip to Nashville has become a bit of a tradition. This was my fourth New Years in Nashville with Ashley and Cari, but unlike other years this was the first time I drove up and back from Florida. The first year everyone flew up, the second and third years I rode up with Cari and then flew back to Washington from Nashville. The roles were a bit reversed this year and Cari rode up with me, since she was the car-less one this year.

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As as result, we actually made a pit-stop in Tallahassee for Cari to drop off her car before we drove together to Ashley’s.

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Charlie also continued his road trip tradition and went to Nashville again this year. He loves road trips, his favorite activity is cuddling with the passenger during the drive.

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Cari and I witness this gem during one of our gas-bathroom breaks. A cemetery on a dead-end? How appropriate.

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As soon as Cari and I arrived in Nashville, the four of us, Ashley, Cari, myself and Charlotte (who was visiting Ashley as well!) all headed to McKay’s used bookstore and then tried out one of Ashley’s favorite frozen yogurt places.

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The night we also celebrated Christmas and Ashley’s birthday. Then we introduced Charlie to the menagerie of animals who live at the Schwartauhaus.

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Ashley’s family has three cats, two of which are orange bob-tail boys, and two small dogs. The meeting of the animals was rather anti-climactic. Charlie ignored all the animals except for Cosmo and Cheeto. He had a blast playing with the other orange kitties!

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He had so much fun in fact, that he got angry at me whenever I tried to play with him myself. He would cry and grumble at me till I let him go play again.

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New Years Eve itself was low-key and fun. It consisted of hanging out, playing games, and dancing up a storm. The perfect way to bring in the new year!

Ashley and her long-distance friends — Cari, Charlotte, and myself!

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Ian’s new bow-tie.

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Our typical faces.

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Ashley and Justin looking fabulous.

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Some serious dancing happening on the dance floor.

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All in all, it was a wonderful new years and fun was had by all, including the cats.

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Cari and I headed back to Florida on the 2nd and so far 2012 has gotten off to a whirlwind start!

I hope everyone else was able to ring in the new year with friends, family and fun!

Friends, Family, and Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Non-Denominational Day, or holiday! I spent mine with my friends and family and doing things that I love to do.

Before I get into my holiday celebrations, let’s backtrack for a moment. I’ve finally stopped being a delinquent blogger and caught the blog up on the past few months:

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I can’t believe that it’s December again! It feels like just last year I was living in Washington, studying for the GRE, applying to PhD programs and fretting about writing my thesis. In less than a year, so much can change.

Anyway, my family started the holiday by watching Elf on Christmas Eve.

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Then Christmas day was spent together unwrapping presents, prepping and eating way too much food, socializing with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and then hanging out playing Bananagrams and the guitar.

I’d call it a successful holiday!

Hilary gave my dad Albert the gator as a gag-gift, but Charlie showed his true Seminole colors and tried to attack Albert.

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After presents and dinner, the family moved outside for the usual round of pictures.

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Family picture 2011.

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Cousins 2011.

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We had a camera for each family and a variety of different people combinations.

I love this picture of my uncle taking a picture of the Nana + grandkids.

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Aww, my parents love each other. I think this might be one of my new favorite pictures of them.

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After the posed-picture taking died down, my uncle broke out the guitar and serenaded the family. He used to do this a lot during my childhood, so it was fun to bring back some of the old traditions.

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Later on we also watched some old family videos, which reminded us that we used to celebrate Christmas with a piñata. We’re thinking we’ll bring back the piñata tradition for next year, or maybe not, but it would be funny to watch a bunch of 20-somethings bash a piñata.

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And that pretty much wraps up the Holiday 2011 season!

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Winter Break Shenanigans

I’ve been free from school for the past week and thus far my break has been rather uneventful. I am definitely not complaining. I’ve been super fatigued recently and want to use this break to recoup my energy as much as possible before spring semester begins!

Despite the relaxing nature of break, Hilary and I did take a mini-roadtrip to St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach to visit friends and see the band Inspection 12 play their yearly holiday show.

The night before our roadtrip, Hilary had a party at our house and one of her friends brought mustaches, which provided much entertainment and picture opportunities.

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My mom, Hilary and I have never seen my dad without a mustache, but we thought it’d be funny to join dad in sporting the stash.

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A month ago, I asked Hilary to be my adventure-partner for the concert. Since Hilary doesn’t know the band and only sort of knows my friends, she asked if we could stop in St. Augustine first. I’ve never been and she’s only been once, so we spent the afternoon exploring and taking in the history.

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We stopped a local and asked for a lunch recommendation. Hilary wanted someplace with seafood and I needed to find a place with vegetarian and gluten-free options. We ended up eating at Casa Maya, a really cute little Mexican restaurant that serves all organic food.

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After lunch we continued exploring the sights.

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Fun fact: Aviles street is the oldest street in the nation.

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Flagler College is beautiful!

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Once the sun started to set, we headed up A1A to Jacksonville Beach to meet up with my friends and go to the Inspection 12 concert.

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The guys had fun harassing Hilary and giving her a hard time. Clearly, she’s not a bro.

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Overall, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the super-quick trip.

Up Next: My annual road-trip to Nashville in a few days. Cari and I are making our yearly trip to visit Ashley for New Years. It’s our fourth year going up there, which is pretty awesome considering I was in Washington for the past two years and Cari lives in LA now.

What big plans does everyone else have for celebrating the start of 2012?

Wrapping Up The Semester

First semester done, five more to go! It’s official, I survived my first semester of PhD Land.

So, what are my general thoughts about life as a PhD student and life in Tallahassee?

  • I am very happy with my decision to attend this program and school. I have absolutely no regrets. I can’t imagine myself anywhere else and feel like I’m part of a supportive, intelligent, and creative community.
  • Grad school is a lot of work, but I think it is possible to balance other activities aside from school. My biggest issue this semester comes down to my health issues, which at this point I have no control over. Hopefully I’ll get some relief soon and life will be a teensy bit easier.
  • It’s definitely important to take care of yourself, whether that means eating right, making time for exercise, or getting out the of the house and being social.
  • I actually love Tallahassee this time around. I love how this city is infused with so many happy memories from undergrad and yet I’m constantly making new memories.
  • Gosh, I love football season! Not only do I love FSU football, but it’s awesome how many of my friends come to home games and it’s a great chance to see everybody!
  • I do not miss E’burg one bit. I’ve decided that Tallahassee has just the right amount of seasons for me. It’s gets cold, but not too cold. The leaves change. It rains a lot. It’s just the way I like it.
  • Overall, I’m very very happy.

Since I didn’t get around to blogging much (or at all) after the beginning of November, here is what you missed:

The end of [regular] football season — FSU vs Miami football game.

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Classy Safety for Intimate Apparel.

All the grad students used opening night as a chance to dress up in our finest clothes for a night of theatre.

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A special and super quick visit from Terri!

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Tacky Santa Christmas Party

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Christmas Lights at Dorothy B. Oven Park!

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I’ve been waiting four years to be back in Tallahassee during the Christmas season, so I could go to see these lights.

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A faculty-student Christmas party

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That pretty much wraps up all of my various social activities for the month of November and the little bit of December that I was in Tally.

My goals for next semester:

  • Do not get behind in my work — I need to be constantly working ahead, but also realizing when I’ve reached my maximum work capacity for a particular day.
  • Continue trying to build running and strength training into my daily routines.
  • Get my fatigue and sleep issues sorted out!
  • Be more social! Make more friends and try to find some social activities outside of the theatre.
  • Find a roommate!

Most of all, have fun and enjoy life!

Plant Medicine vs. Western Medicine

[Note: This post is a continuation on a series of posts from this past summer. More explanation of PCOS and my history with it can be found in the original post.]

I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog how grad school’s been pretty rough this semester. Well, part of the reason it’s been hard has been because of health issues going on in my life. While I never expected my first semester of PhD Land to be a walk in the park, I feel like my ability to assess the work load has been skewed due to debilitating exhaustion that I’ve been experiencing for the past few months.

Part of the balancing act for this blog (and my life) focuses on being as healthy as possible and treating my body with respect. I’m definitely a work in-progress. This past year my goal has been to clean up my diet, stop taking any medications I was on, and focus on exercising. One of the main reasons for this is I wanted to go see an endocrinologist and get a new panel of blood work. Something’s going on with my body and I wanted to know what that something was. In addition to my PCOS issues, since I was a teenager I’ve never felt rested after a full nights sleep and I’m always complaining about feeling tired/exhausted.

So, let’s recap the ways I’ve been bettering my health on my own:

Exercise:

When the semester started I had grand plans about fitting into my life marathon training, strength training, and other forms of exercise. Basically, I fell short overall. Hilary and I considered and reconsidered our marathon plans a few times and ultimately decided that neither of us had the time to train for a full marathon and we ended up registering for the St. Pete Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

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Also, since I was running low on energy, completing my teaching responsibilities and doing my own course work became the priority. Getting the basics done was all I had the energy for and exercise fell by the wayside.

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Food:

I’ve continued to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Recently, I’ve also toyed with a diet completely free of added sugar and a gluten-free diet. I found out that my body doesn’t seem to be absorbing vitamin D properly and as a result I’m severely deficient. I take a multivitamin, I eat lots of dairy and my almond milk has added vitamin D, and I enjoy doing my reading outside, so I’m not sure why I’m deficient.

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I’m still drinking green (spinach or wheatgrass) smoothies on a regular basis. I’m careful to add lots of nutrients to my smoothies, like almond butter or Amazing Grass supplements.

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Acupuncture:

My foray into Chinese medicine has been put on hold. While I’m much more open to Chinese medicine treatment plans because I feel like they take into consideration the function and well-being of the whole body, unlike Western medicine, I haven’t found a new practice in Tallahassee.

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Education:

A couple weeks before my endocrinologist appointment I watched Forks Over Knives. It’s a documentary that was recently released and is now available on Netflix Instant-Play. It’s based on the book The China Study. The really shorted gist of the movie is this: you can reverse, stop, or cure heart disease through the diet choices that you make. Essentially, a plant-based (read vegan) diet, is the best for the heart.

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While, I think there is a lot of research that still needs to be done, I am fairly convinced that the Standard American Diet is detrimental to our health and we should be much more conscious of what our food is made of and what we eat.

Result:
Anyway, despite all these positive changes to my diet and lifestyle, I still haven’t not felt any better. In fact, I think the stress and pressure of grad school has exacerbated my fatigue issues and I’ve been feeling worse than ever!
In November, I went and saw the endocrinologist and had a whole new round of blood tests. Going to the doctor reminded me why I have grown to hate Western medicine. On the first visit, when the doctor saw that I had PCOS, she immediately tried to prescribe a pill to take everyday. She didn’t even consider anything else, just the diagnosis and the standard treatment plan. As for my fatigue? She didn’t know.
On the second visit, the blood tests all came back “normal,” with the exception of the vitamin D issue, which she ignored. Apparently, my diet and exercise changes have “cured” my PCOS, but I’m not so quick to believe that. I’m still exhibiting symptoms of PCOS and I tend to believe that idea of “normal” ranges need to be scrutinized a bit more. What might be normal for someone else, does not necessarily mean that it’s normal for me.
Since all my blood work looks normal, but I still feel like absolute crap, the next step in this adventure is to try and sleep study.
What do they say, when you hear hooves, think horses and not zebras? The idea is that perhaps I have a sleep disorder that has left me in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and is wrecking havoc on my body.
Regardless, I’m going to continue playing with my diet and exercise habits and I think I will always find the medical community suspect.

Embracing the Process

Oh my. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged and that’s because it has been a rough month!

I could go into details, but basically it boiled down to having three major assignments all due within a week and a half AND having to go out of town for a wedding during what should have been the critical work weekend. Lots of stress. Lots of sleepless nights. No time for eating, running, or blogging, but thankfully right now I have a short break before the end-of-semester stress kicks in.

Clearly, I’ve failed at my balancing act. But as I’m learning, grad school is all about embracing the work in progress status.

Moving on.

Aside from stressing over school, here are the few social events from the past month that have been captured on [digital] film.

Kiara’s wedding weekend in Orlando!

This was an excellent excuse to hang out with three of my favorite ladies.

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I think this picture captures our personality and friendship beautifully!

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Pre-wedding prettiness!

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Post-reception sweatiness! The bridesmaids were responsible for getting people out on the dance floor and boy did we work up a sweat!

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Then a couple weekends ago, amid the work, I managed to mix running with tailgating.

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I ran from my house to the stadium, which happens to be about 2.3 miles away, hung out with friends and then ran home. I really enjoyed getting out of the house and running on game day so many people-watching opportunities as I was running.

Then, the next day I met up with Casey and Jason for lunch at Momo’s! Roomies reunited!

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It’s sad that she no longer lives in Tallahassee, but I’m just happy that I got a chance to see her during her short weekend visit.

Then it was time for Halloween!

I wasn’t really feeling halloween-y, so I went with the easiest possible costume — static cling. I just pinned socked, mittens, and dryer sheets to my clothes. Voila! All done!

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I ended up having a really good time, even if I stayed out too late that night.

And that sums up my school and social life for the past month! I need to write about my marathon issues, but that will have to be a separate post for a different night.

Goodnight folks!

Marathon Commitment [Issues]

I have a confession to make.

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I’m a bad runner — I tend to stop running when I don’t have a race on my calendar and I almost always have a hard time forcing myself out of the house to go running.

Want proof? Remember back in August how Hilary and I picked races for our calendar and decided on a training plan?
Well, two months later, we realized that haven’t really started training, or running on a regular basis. Ugh.

When Hilary was up here a few weeks ago, we talked it over and decided that we still want to do the 26.2 with Donna race.

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I’m actually really excited about this race. Aside from the fact that I want to add another marathon to my list of accomplishments, and I really love the high and sense of pride that comes with running 26.2 miles, I think this race in particular will be awesome.

  • There is lots of course entertainment, so it’ll be like a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, but without the high registration fees.
  • It’s first-timer, walker, and Jeff Galloway friendly, which will be good for slow runners like me.
  • The fact that it’s in Jax Beach, means that it’ll be fairly convenient for both Hilary and I to get there from our schools on a weekend.
  • All the reviews say that it’s a fun, festival marathon. Lots of pink and women.
  • It’ll be a beautiful scenic course and the weather should be a nice change of pace for a Florida runner.

Plus, one of the aspects of running that I really enjoy is running someplace that I usually travel by car and realizing that my body is a strong, powerful vehicle, just like my car. Perhaps that sounds utterly cliche and cheesy, but for instance, when I run from my parents house to Indian Rocks Beach, which is a 30 minute drive, I find it mind boggling and neat. Anyway, my point is, the race course will take us on a running tour of Jacksonville Beach, and I’ve driven there a lot, but never run.

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So, we have 18 weeks to train, which is still an acceptable amount of time for marathon training, and since we’re not really going to a time goal, we should be good to go.

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Bring it on marathon training!

Training officially begins this week, but Hilary and I ran 4 miles when she was here, then I ran 5 miles last Sunday, and I ran 6 miles today.
Boom! I’m on a roll.

Also, in preparation for training kicking off, I bought myself chocolate goos and a camelbak!

When Hilary and I ran the Seattle race, we found these chocolate goos at the race expo and they turned out to be delicious. If you’ve never had a goo, then you should know that they taste about as delicious as they sound. They even make Hilary throw up. So finding a nutrition supplement that doesn’t taste slimy is quite the accomplishment.

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Hilary actually bought them first, but I went ahead and order myself a box.

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I kind of want to eat them when I’m not running too, but I’ve told myself they are a reward for running. 😉

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Then, on my long run with Hilary, we both got dehydrated, so when we got home I looked into camelbaks. The nice thing about the camelbak is that it has two decently sized storage pockets and holds 50 oz of water. I’ve never been crazy about the idea of a fuel belt and I suck at pacing myself when it comes to hydration, so this is the perfect solution — sip a little water all along the way.

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Plus, now that I figured out how to adjust it properly and I barely remember that I’m wearing a backpack as I run. It’s awesome!

There you have it. I’m a bad runner because I need some sort of incentive to actually get myself running. But I am training for this marathon, for realz. It’ll be good and these past few runs have reminded me how running provides me with a much needed mental break when school gets stressful.

So while I haven’t actually registered for the race, I am going to and that will really seal the deal. Then the marathon commitment issues will be in the past.

Question – How do you motivate yourself to run or exercise? Are goals enough to do it or do you need some sort of financial incentive?