A Letter to a Future PhD Student

Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.
– Ralph Blum

Yesterday’s 30 Days of Joy Challenge asked me to “Finish this sentence five times: ‘I am capable of . . .’ Now get on with your day and show us what you can do!”

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As my summer starts to wrap up, the reality of starting a PhD program is beginning to hit me, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out just a bit. Getting a PhD and going down this road is exactly what I’ve wanted since I was an undergrad and I know that I can do it, but I’m also allowed to stress out about my future.

In the past when I’ve needed to get my life going on a certain path, I’ve sent myself postcards as a reminder of what my current and future goals are. I sent one after finishing Team in Training about getting an internship and applying to grad school, then I sent one from London about what I needed to accomplish in my second year of my MA program and about the PhD application process.

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I was planning on doing that again, but instead in the form of a pep-talk for my future self. I know that I am capable of accomplishing all of my goals as a PhD student, but I also know that I might need a pep-talk every now and then. Yesterday’s task is a perfect reason for me to write that note before I get too bogged down in orientation. I think this time I’ll post it on the blog, instead of (or perhaps in addition to) sending a postcard.

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Dear Kate,

First off, congratulations on everything that you’ve accomplished so far — you took a big risk and moved across the country, you ran a marathon, you got your master’s degree, you have your own house, and more. How exciting that you’re about to start your first year of course work as a PhD student and this is something that you have been thinking and dreaming about since you were 20!

That being said, I know it’s not going to be easy. You’re probably going to experience a whole range of emotions, including being overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, maybe even “stupid” or wonder if you were crazy to pursue this degree. All those feelings are normal, just as long as you don’t let them take you over. Just remember that you felt the same way at the beginning of your master’s program and after the first couple quarters, you found your rhythm. It’s all part of the learning curve. Once you reach the top of that intimidating learning curve, then everything after should feel infinitely easier and you’ll be ready to tackle the future challenges. Also, if you start to doubt yourself as a scholar think about how far you’ve come in the past two years. I know you can do this! If it comes too easily, then you’re not being challenged enough and you want to earn your degree.

Some other advice? Reach out an ask for help when you need it. Make as many professional connections as you can. Seek out a mentor, or a few. Take risks, challenges, and do things that scare you — they usually end up being the most rewarding experiences.

When it comes to life outside of school, don’t give it up! While school is obviously your main priority, don’t forgot about your friends, family, social life, and healthy living interests. Taking an hour (or a few) a day to exercise is not being irresponsible, it’s making you healthier and providing you with a clear head to do your school work. Taking the time to plan out healthy meals and stock your fridge with fresh fruits & veggies will make you feel clean and healthy (and prevent you from gaining weight). You don’t want to live in a grad school bubble, so make time on a regular basis to go out with local friends, call up your long distance friends, or send out that e-mail that you’ve been meaning to send. You are capable of balancing school with all the other aspects of your life and you will be so much happier if you don’t give them up.

I think that’s enough advice to dole out for now. So get out there, make some new friends, learn a lot, and enjoy your first year as a PhD student!

Love,
Katie

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Okay, so I cheated a bit and didn’t follow the instructions exactly. But by writing this letter, I am already acknowledging that “I am capable of” succeeding at this program. What advice did I leave out that I should add?

Question(s) – What advice did I leave out that I should add? AND What are you capable of doing that you might need to be reminded of some days?

Finding the Joy

As I was sitting down to blog on Friday night I received a phone call that derailed my blogging plans.

If you remember, I spent last Saturday at the vet with Hilary’s cat, Pixy. After my long run + yoga session in the morning, I ended up with a wicked headache. I set out some ibuprofen to take when the FedEx man came to the door. I locked the cats on the other side of the house and took care of the door. When I came back into the kitchen, I noticed Pixy was licking one of the pills I had set out and another pill was missing. I immediately went into panic-mode. I googled cats eating ibuprofen, I called my parents, called the vet, called poison control, and after some tears, took Pixy into the vet.

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They gave her charcoal to soak up the medicine, flushed her system with fluids, and sent me home with cat pepto-bismal. During the course of all this, Pixy was acting completely normal. She was eating, drinking, looked fine. Everyone thought I was overreacting. The vet had never heard of anything as crazy as a cat eating headache medicine. I hoped that I was overreacting and maybe she hadn’t actually eaten the other pill.

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Well, on Thursday night, my mom noticed that Pixy wasn’t looking quite right. Her fur was matted, she wasn’t eating, and she was more lethargic than her usual lazy self.

Then on Friday my mom took her to the vet. After spending the whole day at the vet and then moving to the emergency vet, it was determined that the pill had caused her liver to shut down. The vet might have been able to stabilize her for the time being, but because her age and small size, the damage had already been done. It was also possible that she had already been in some sort of renal failure, due to her recent weight loss. Either way, her life was drastically shortened and she’d be in pain for the remainder of her life.

My parents and Hilary made the incredibly difficult decision to put her to sleep. They wanted to prevent her from the pain and suffering she would have endured otherwise.

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Pixy was Hilary’s childhood cat and she wrote a loving tribute to Pixy on her own blog — Ode to Pixy.

So that is why I haven’t blogged in the past few days. I haven’t really known what to say exactly and I’m trying not to blame myself or think the other negative thoughts circulating around my head.

Which makes yesterday’s Jar of Joy slip especially relevant.

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I’m trying to focus on the positive. At least Pixy won’t be in pain and Hilary was able to say her goodbyes. The vet is also giving Hilary and kitty urn with her ashes and a tile with Pixy’s paw print.

Backing up to Friday, what I was going to post about seems unimportant in comparison.

This was Friday’s slip.

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I think I’ll have to hold on to it for another day, but I did meet someone new and took a chance on an opportunity.

An acquaintance is looking for a place to live and wanted to know if I was interested in a roommate. I had her over on Friday to show her the place. I think she liked the house, but I’m not sure what the outcome will be. I wasn’t planning on having a roommate just yet, but if it does work out, it would put me in a desirable financial situation. So I’m glad I took the chance, now I can’t say I didn’t try!

On Friday I also made a trip to Goodwill to drop off some old clothes and see if there were any hidden treasures.

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I mean, who doesn’t want a whale chair for their house? It was tough, but I decided to pass on it… for now. šŸ˜‰

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They did have this nice couch. I’ve been scoping out Craigslist for couches and nothing just right has popped up yet. I also don’t have a truck to move the couch. Does anyone want to volunteer to help me pick up and move a hypothetical couch anytime soon?

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Then I found this cheese grater, which made me think of that Pinterest project. I nearly bought it, but for Goodwill I thought the price wasn’t right. Maybe I’ll go back and get it after sleeping on it for a few days.

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I did discover that clothes are 50% off on Mondays and they had some surprisingly decent clothes. Monday might involve another field trip to Goodwill for some clothes thrifting.

Other than that, I’ve been reading, reading, and reading.

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I hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday-Funday. I’m still trying to focus on the positive and enjoy the little things in life.

Question: What is your best Goodwill find? Or is Goodwill always a bust for you?

The 30 Days of Joy Challenge

Look at the sight that I woke up to:

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Charlie has been strangely mellow since arriving in Tallahassee and even slept during the night on the bookcase next to my bed.

I started my day by checking off some of my August daily goals. Took my morning herbs. Took my vitamins. Started my 30 Day Challenge.

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Today’s Task:

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I thought that today’s task would be a great reason to go check out the local running store — Capital City Runners.

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I’m not in the market for new shoes at the moment and when I do need shoes, I’ll probably go to Feet First in St. Pete, since I have a Groupon to use there. Anyway, the store is small, but it has a nice selection of clothes, shoes, and on-the-go nutrition. It definitely beats the running store options that I had in Ellensburg, which was nonexistent.

I did ask the employee if she could recommend some long run routes and she drew this detailed map that told me where to run in Tom Brown park. I’ve never actually been to Tom Brown park, so that will be another adventure for another day.

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Other than visiting Capital City Runners, I spent most of the day reading and talking to my mom and dad about some possible upcoming living arrangement changes. More details to come, if anything happens.

As I’ve been writing this post, I’m watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. I had added it to my Netflix Instant queue a while back, but after reading Katy Widrick’s post about it this morning, I decided to bump it to the top spot and watch it tonight.

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I second Katy’s comment that you should “watch it now.” It’s a great reminder about how the food that you eat directly impacts your body, health, and life. I will be starting tomorrow with a green smoothie for sure. I sort of want to go do a 10 day juice cleanse, but I want to do a bit more research before I dive into that idea.

Now it’s past my bedtime! I need my beauty sleep so that I can get up and do that run tomorrow morning — for reals this time!

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Floors and Flowers

Orientation begins in 12 days, school starts in 20, and the house is nearly finished — Thank goodness!

Today my mom helped me start my pocket garden and my dad taught me how to lay peel and stick flooring.

First the flowers.

Remember that garden pocket that my parents gave me back in June? Well, it finally has herbs and flowers in it!

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My mom showed me how to properly transfer the potted plants into the pocket. Then I filled them with enough soil to fill the pocket and pad them and gave them some water.

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I’m now the proud owner of a basil plant named Baze and a rosemary plant named Rose, plus two marigolds. Let’s call them Mary 1 & 2.

Now I have the urge to go make something that involves basil. Hrm, a project for tomorrow perhaps.

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The other big project of the day was laying the flooring in the kitchen.

Flashback to the ugly yellow-faux-brick stuff.

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Laying down a concrete leveling compound.

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Look at me learning how to lay tiles.

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Then dad came around and fixed all my mistakes.

Just kidding, but he actually did most of the work on the hard parts — the edges.

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I forgot to take a finished picture, but you can see how big of a different the new floor has made. The whole kitchen looks cleaner, brighter, and more fabulous than before.

We also worked on a bunch of other little projects, such as fixing curtains, adding shelving, organizing cabinets, assembling bookcases, unpacking boxes, and more, but I’ll save those pictures for tomorrow…

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Because tomorrow is Wordless Wednesday: The [Mostly] Complete House Tour Edition!

Finally Settled

Pack, unpack. Pack, unpack. Pack, unpack. Ugh.

The Summer of the Vagabond 2011 has officially come to an end. I’m back in Tallahassee for keeps and it feels so good.

Yesterday was a boring, lazy Sunday. Basically the highlight of my day was saving $37.98 at Publix. I’m still trying to figure out the coupon game, but I’m making progress. I did end up impressing the high-school-aged check out boy, does that count for anything?

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This morning I packed up all my stuff and loaded my car for hopefully the last time.

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I even brought my favorite travel buddy with me — Charlie. The fact that I’ve finally moved him to Tallahassee is another sign that my vagabond status has come to an end.

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The sky was angry and dark for most of the trip, but luckily we didn’t hit too much rain. Gah. Driving in the rain sucks; and it’s scary.

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I wonder if I drove one of those duck tour trucks if I would like driving in the rain a bit more. It would also have much more storage than my focus. šŸ˜‰

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All in all, it was an uneventful trip and Charlie was a perfect angel.

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As soon as I arrived home, I unloaded the car, unpacked a bit, and prepared for my parents arrival. They’re making a stop in Tallahassee on their way home from North Carolina.

The latest addition to my living room are these new end tables — do you like ’em?

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My mom rescued them from the trash and my dad sprayed them white with his paint sprayer. I think they help round out the living area, but the area needs a bit more color, in my opinion.

I think I might try and find matching lamps and putting them on the end tables and then move the brown floor lamp near the front door. I also want to get some colorful pillows and get some stuff onto my walls!

Can you guess how long it took us to go to Lowe’s after my parents got to my house? Less than three hours. We’re addicted. Is there a Lowe’s anonymous group, because we need to join it.

My favorite part of the Lowe’s trip? Buying plants! I am now the proud owner of two marigolds, a basil plant, and a rosemary plant. I feel like I should name them. Maybe it will give me added incentive to keep them alive.

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I promise better plant and house pictures tomorrow!

Completely unrelated — look at the different in “feels like” temperature between Tallahassee (left) and St. Pete (right) at 9pm. Ridiculous. I hope running in Tallahassee is just a smidge more enjoyable than it was in St. Pete.

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On that note, it’s time for bed.

Oh, and clearly Charlie is already feeling at home.

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Rise and Shine

At 6:10am, my phone woke me up with a loud beep beep beep sound — on a Saturday.
Guess what that means? This morning kicked off the start of marathon training season!

But before I get to the run details, let me back track to which races we’ll be doing and our training plan.

After some thought, Hilary and I decided to run the 26.2 with Donna on February 12, 2012 as our full marathon. I’m also planning on doing the St. Pete Beach Classic Half on January 15, 2012 and the Gasparilla Half on March 4, 2012. I’m still a bit concerned about my school schedule working with my running plans, but I think it’s important that I make the decision to run the races now now and then figure out how to work it into my schedule later.

Last night Hilary and I made an impromptu trip to The Globe Coffee Lounge in downtown St. Pete, where she worked on her blog and I mapped out our training plan. I figured out that we have about 27 weeks between now and the full marathon, which will give us ample time to gradually rebuild our base and increase mileage.

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I also went to Twitter and asked some of my favorite runners whether or not we should train beyond 20 miles.

During marathon training do you run more than 20 miles for your longest run? @ @ @ @

@ I only ran one 20-Miler for my first marathon, which worked out well. I'm planning three 20-milers for marathon #2.
@CarrotsNCake
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I ran a 22 miler for marathon training, it helped mentally but don't risk injury! @ @ @ @

Everyone pretty much suggested that it was better to do a few 20 milers and not go beyond 20 miles in training. I liked that idea, so I built it into our plan.

If you’re interested in seeing the training plan, you can view it on Google Calender here! I combined the Hal Higdon plan with the 26 week plan Hilary and I used for Seattle Rock n Roll marathon. I also built in the other half marathons into our training schedule, so we should be well trained for all the races.

Basically, Sundays are our long run days.
Mondays and Fridays will be cross training days (spinning, biking, swimming, and group fitness) and the days Hilary has TriGator practice.
Tuesdays and Thursdays will be run days.
Which leaves Wednesdays and Saturdays as rest days — it will be football season, so Saturday off will work out nicely.

In addition, I plan on building strength training into my plan, probably on Monday and Wednesdays, but focusing mainly on abs, core, arms, shoulders, back, and not my legs.

I’m planning on posting my weekly work outs once things get into full swing.

Cut back to this morning —
With the training plan complete, Hilary and I kicked things off today with our first 5 miler. Admittedly, it’s never easy getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning, so when 6am rolled around, I needed to convince myself that I actually wanted to be out of bed. I promise I really did, it just took a bit of self-convincing.

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We were out the door by 6:30am. We were out and running before the sun even woke up!

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One hour and five miles later we were done! It was 85% humidity during our run, which made it feel a lot tougher than I think the distance would have felt under different circumstances. Oh the joys of running in Florida.

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After the run, I quickly hopped into the shower and changed into my yoga clothes. My new friend Dee (via Twitter!) invited me to join her for some free yoga at the Tampa Lululemon. I’m so happy that I got to meet her before I leave for Tallahassee and I loved the yoga class. Thanks for inviting me Dee! Hopefully we’ll see each other again either in Tallahassee or for some of the Tampa Bay races.

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Doing an hour of yoga after my first long run in forever felt ah-mazing! Seriously, I almost want to do yoga after every long run.

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Later in the afternoon the Zen feeling from the yoga dissipated quickly when Hilary’s cat ate an ibuprofen pill and sent me into panic mode. So far she looks like she’ll be fine, but the story of how Pixie and I spent the afternoon in the pet emergency room is the story for another day.

Namaste everyone!

R&R Day – Reading & Running.

Watch out — it’s four days into August and I haven’t given up on my August Practicing Habits Daily. Woo!

Flossed my teeth daily, check. Read for school and pleasure, check. Started planning out my upcoming race calendar, check. Ran two miles tonight, check.

Speaking of running, did you see Hilary’s post about setting a race calendar? She basically took the words out of my mouth, so I won’t repeat what she wrote except to say that I think we narrowed things down to wanting to do two half marathons and the 26.2 with Donna Marathon. Hopefully tomorrow or Saturday I’ll have a post about my plan of attack for training for a marathon and keeping up my fitness while dealing with my first semester as a PhD student.

Today, though, was a day for reading. The morning started with a trip to the beach to tackle some literary theory.

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“I’m sorry sir, but Dostoyevsky is not considered summer reading.”

That pretty much sums things up. I’m reading introductions to literary theory and essays on literary theory as I soak up the sun at the beach. When I say soak up the sun, I really mean, I go to the beach between 9am-11am, I sport a big floppy hat and large sunglasses, and I put on my cover up after a bit to prevent burning, in addition to wearing sunscreen. Clearly I’ve become an adult.

I did put down the theory for a bit to enjoy some Harry Potter. It’s taking me forever to get through the Goblet of Fire because a) it’s crazy long b) it’s my least favorite HP book c) I wish JKR wouldn’t make Hermione so annoying about SPEW.

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After the beach got unbearably hot I came home for some lunch, computer time, a bit of napping, and I don’t know what else.

Then, because I can’t seem to read indoors, I went back out to Starbucks to continue reading my school books for another hour or so. Take that, August goals!

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When I got home Hilary convinced my to go for a run, because the sun was setting and according to her, the weather was nicer than it’s been for the past two days.

She lied. It was still crazy humid. I felt like I was swimming during our run.

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But I’m glad I went because I think I’ve run all of twice this summer and obviously that needs to change if I’m going to start training for a marathon.

Fact: The newscaster last night informed me that the only other place in the world with humidity like Florida’s is Southeast Asia. I’m not sure that is actually true, but it feels rather hardcore to say that.

That’s all I got for tonight.

If you’re looking to be entertained, you should read Hilary’s post about her relationship troubles with running. They’re going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment.