Warm Cuppa Tea

ImageMy brother and sister-in-law sent these mugs as an early Christmas present!  Perfect to get us in the Christmas mood, and to sip on my evening cup of tea. 

Perfect ending to a lovely day.

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How Running is Getting Me Through Grad School

As you know, I’ve had my share of ups and downs when it comes to grad school.  When I began, I was not sure what I wanted to do, I just figured that I should get started toward a degree if that was an option (which it clearly was).  Over time, I kept going and kept working — sometimes painstakingly, but always working toward my goal. 

Running (and all forms of exercise, really) has helped me get this far in so many ways. 

1.  One Mile at a Time.  I tell myself to just do one mile.  I never commit to more than this at once, even if I have an overarching goal in the back of my mind (4 miles, 6 miles, etc.).  I tell myself at each mile marker that if I feel too tired, if I hurt, if I have side stitches — I can stop.  I can walk for 2 minutes if I need to.  I never have to keep going.  This means that if I’m running, it’s because I choose to run.  If my legs are moving, it’s because I’m making them move.  No one is compelling me, I am motivating myself.

I do the exact same thing with grad school.  There’s no need to push myself further than I can go.  I take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one month at a time.  I look ahead to milestones (like “this semester” or “this publication”) and I commit to staying the course for only that amount of time.  This means that I always know I’m there, working my tail off because I chose to be.

2.  I Find a Mantra.  Brainwashing ourselves can be a huge benefit.  When I want to think about how my shins hurt, or how I just want to quit, I start repeating something to myself like “Right, left, right, left.”  Or “I can do hard things.”  Or “dig deep,” synchronizing the mantra with my stride. 

I do the same thing at work sometimes; I count off tubes as I pipet into them, “1, 2, 3, 4..” and I match a rhythm in my head. 

3.  Run Your Own Race.  This is huge to me.  If I try to match what the girl on the treadmill next to me is doing, I inevitably end up putting myself down.  To compare is to despair.  Comparison is always a trap and when I compare myself to others, I always lose.

Instead, focus on being kind to yourself.  Cheerlead for yourself.  You got out of bed this morning!  You are a champion!  Think back to a time when you couldn’t run a mile, and think about where you are now, you speedy little devil.

And for my degree program: it doesn’t matter how long it takes anyone else to do a project, or how many publications some other joker has.  What does matter is whether I am putting my best effort forward. 

The rewards of fitness are so much farther reaching than just physical health.  Exercise is all about our minds, our hearts, our beliefs, our self-perception, our self-image.  The healthiest version of me is the version where I am treating myself well, believing in myself and trusting myself. 

Exercise empowers me to do so much more than I ever dreamed possible. 

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What does running help you do? 

 

Weekend Recap

1.  I got my very first StitchFix!!

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I was pumped to open the box and see the clothes that had been hand-selected for me.  The gray-and-black striped hoodie is the only one I’m certain I’ll be keeping.  The other items were just not quite my style.

2.  Here’s my sweaty post-run face, for your enjoyment.  I’ve been doing 6 miles on Saturdays as my “long run.”  This is definitely long for me!!  It’s good to start my weekend with a big push, and then work in some foam rolling later in the day!  🙂

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3.  The weekend included a bit of this as well:

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I’m feeling bogged down lately, to say the least.   On Friday afternoon, I met with my research advisor to discuss my progress in my degree program, and we outlined the work that remains, standing between me and a PhD.  I feel like it would be easier to accept it all if I were certain that a PhD will help me to accomplish my goals.  The more time that goes by, however, the less certain I actually am that a PhD-level chemistry job is for me.  The weekend also included plenty of talks with husband Mark , mom and MIL/FIL about my future and what my goals truly are.  I’m just praying and hoping for clarity above all.  I want to know for sure why I am headed down this road.  If I have something specific to work for and toward, I firmly believe that the work will be significantly more manageable!  For now, I’m just waiting and hoping for that clarity.

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What did YOUR weekend hold?!

5 Workday Lunches in 20 Minutes

We all know the benefits of packing a workday lunch.  Bringing a lunch from home saves time during the day (no need to escape the office to go grab a midday meal), saves money ($4.99 for a tiny side salad at the cafe in my building?  Um, yeah, I can get enough spinach at the grocery store for about 5 salads for the same price!) and allows you to control the nutritional value of your meal.  Although we know all of this, it can be difficult to accomplish the task of lunch preparation and packing.  I don’t know about you, but my husband and I find that weeknights and weekday mornings can be a little hectic for packing lunches.  By the time we get home from work, have some dinner and clean up, we’re ready to collapse on the couch and relax!  Time can easily get away from us.  So, we’ve worked out a system for making sure that we have our lunches ready.

Mark likes sandwiches for his lunch — chicken breast and provolone.

I start with 10 slices of whole grain bread, spread with mayonnaise and sprinkled with some seasoning (it was garlic+parsley this week, sometimes it’s oregano, sometimes it’s an italian herb blend).

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Stick some provolone to the mayo glue.

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Then the chicken breast fillets…

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We’ve been loving the convenience of these frozen pre-cooked chicken breast fillets from Tyson!

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Flip ’em over…..

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Stuff in zip-top bags and freeze 4 of them!  (One gets immediately tossed into the Monday lunch bag)

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Of course, my husband and I have different taste buds.  I prefer salads for my weekday lunches.

I start with a mix of spinach and romaine (or whatever I’m feeling/whatever greens were on sale that week!)

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I dollop two tablespoons of hummus on top of the greens and chop up 4 ounces deli-style all-natural turkey breast to add in as well.  I find that hummus serves as an awesome portable salad dressing…no soggy greens, no spilling or leaking as I tote my lunch into work each day!  And the roasted red pepper flavor from Tribe?  Addicting.

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I box up three over the weekend, and then Wednesday evening I box up the remaining two.  I find that doing this prep twice during the week results in fresher salads for Thursday and Friday!

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Now that the “main courses” are done, weeknight lunch-packing simply becomes a matter of tossing some fresh fruit or yogurt into the lunch bags alongside the mains, and I always keep some rice cakes or corn tortillas, 100-calorie almond packs and protein bars in my desk drawer!

Give it a try this weekend — you’ll be grateful next week when you can quickly pack up your lunches even in the midst of the usual weekday morning hurrying-out-the-door.  ——————————

What is your favorite weekday lunch?

I Am So Much More Than a Number

Over the course of my weight loss, I became addicted to the scale.

I weigh myself at least once a day, and today the number was about 2 pounds higher than it was yesterday. Immediately I was tempted to stress, worry, make myself throw up, go to the gym (even though today is my planned rest day!) and in general be a grump.

But I will not! I am so much more than a number on the scale. That. Umber says nothing about who I am to my husband, my family, my friends, and truly it says very very little about my true health at this point. It is still 12 pounds lighter than it was 12 months ago. And about 5 pounds lower than it should be for me to be within a healthy weight range.

Today, the scale won’t rule me. I won’t judge myself based on this number, but I’ll judge myself based on who I truly am.

Science says jump; I say how high?

I left the house this morning before it was light. 6:05am.

I came back after the light was completely gone. 8:00pm.

This isn’t my normal schedule and I know that there are many others who consistently put in far more hours than I do at their workplace…but this, in my kind is too long for one work day.

It started with a 6:30 cell treatment, followed by breakfast and prepping to teach my 8am recitation. After the recitation, I dove into a western blot and an immunofluorescence treatment. I had a snack break at 12:15, a group meeting at 1:00, then finished my immunofluorescence prep. 3:00 I sat down for a salad with egg whites and hummus, then I was off to the microscopy lab to reap the rewards of the day-long immunofluorescence prep.

Except….no fluorescence in 4 out of 6 samples.

I was so disappointed, but grateful that I had packed a set of gym clothes in my backpack and that the campus gym was only a few blocks from the microscopy lab….off I went for a dose of endorphins.

For me, this is one of the best ways to deal with stress or disappointment: sweat.

It worked like a charm, I must say! I was all smiles again when Mark pulled up to take me home. Now, after more egg whites and spinach and peaches, I’m lying in bed just relaxing!

All day I thought about my job, both present and future. I’m realizing I want a job with boundaries; something more controllable and limit-able than what I’m involved in now. The frustration of research is that it’s unpredictable at times. I’m tired of not knowing whether or not I can be home for dinner with Mark.

This thought is nothing new. As evidence of this, I submit This fact: today I ordered a free trial of the NASM CPT training program. Starting to investigate…could this be the start of helping others find the freedom I’m also finding through fitness?? Stay tuned, my friends. 🙂

4 Steps to a More Organized You

Happy Sunday!!

I still feel like I’m getting adjusted to life with teaching responsibilities. It’s added just enough to my schedule that it makes my days and weeks pretty fast-paced. Which leads me to a topic I’d like to address: staying organized.

I had a conversation with two dear friends on Friday over lunch. We discussed how we “used to be organized.” In college I had it figured out. I managed my studying, set my priorities and I almost always felt like I was on top of things. Sure my responsibilities were far fewer than they are today, but still my classes demanded a lot of time and work, and it always found a way to handle that.

Then things changed.

Life is full of change and transformation. Stagnation is not healthy. Living things grow, transform and enter and exit various phases or seasons. This is good, healthy and normal.

Marriage, graduate school, family, friendships, housework, fitness, spiritual health. These are all endeavors that I have chosen and find tremendous joy in. But they place demands on my time and energy. It’s a constant challenge to stay on top of these endeavors. I’m so tempted to throw up my hands and say I just lost my organizational flare…but that’s a cop-out and a lie.
In reality, I need to re-learn organizational skills in each new phase of life. I’ll never be done figuring it out because my roles are constantly evolving!

So how do we do it? A few tips I’ve found myself to be re-learning:

1. Make lists. When you think of something as you’re falling asleep, grab your phone and put it on your Notes. When you’re in the middle of a task and you remember another task, just pause, write it down, and completes the original task before tackling that new one. We need a certain level of tunnel-vision to focus on one thing at a time, but when those thoughts and reminders pop up in your head, don’t ignore them. Just write them down and save them for later.

2. Deal with it the first time. If you can get something off your desk the first time it appears on your desk, do it. If the task is simple, do it. I find myself constantly tempted to procrastinate on the simple small tasks, thinking they won’t possibly take that long…and then I kick myself for letting the easy task be the one that trips me up.

3. Take a deep breath. Breathe in for 7 seconds. Hold for 7 seconds. Slowly exhale for 7 seconds. Now do it again. All of a sudden, you can take on the world, can’t you?!

4. Prioritize….honestly. It’s essential to be honest with yourself here. I find myself wanting to do my favorite tasks first, but in times when the to-do list is never slowing in its growth, it may be necessary to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you really need to bake those pumpkin protein bars, or will a store-bought bar be just fine, if it means you can use the time you would’ve spent baking grading exams, or even just hanging out with your husband. Evaluate and re-evaluate: what is my most important task right now?

Right now, it’s time for me to ignore the demands that will start tomorrow morning when I walk into lab, and instead of worrying or fretting, spend the rest of my Sunday relaxing with the love of my life. I’m so happy I get to be with him! And of course we will be watching Breaking Bad tonight! 🙂

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What do you do when you find your organizational skills starting to slip?

What’s on the docket for your Sunday? I hope it’s full of lots of time with the people you love.