Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
For years, each time we've visited my parents in their hometown for Christmas, she enlists each of us to sing in her church choir. Frequently, she asks my brother, Jeff, and I to do a duet with him playing the guitar and me singing lead vocals.
The piece she'd sected was a Spanish hymn. Alaru, alame.
She sent us to the music room to practice, but we kept getting distracted, jamming out with classic rock covers. Each time she'd come give us the fisheye, we'd pretend we were working on harmonies and descants.
The day came, and Jeff and I took our places. Jeff played the very identifiable opening five chords of Tom Petty's Free Falling. Then I started to sing, the Spanish words of her hymn. They mashed beautifully together.
Mom pretended to be mad, but she was secretly really pleased.
That's what kind of family I grew up with. We were always singing. Except during dinner. There was a rule: no singing at the dinner table. Of course, a second dinner time rule was that we weren't allowed to pretend that the backs of the kitchen chairs were harps to be played, either.
We never followed either of these rules.
Monday, May 9, 2016
A good woodsman has only one scar.
The underlying lesson behind this phrase in the story is that we should learn lessons quickly, and not continue to persevere in self-harming behavior. In this thought, the woodsman learns his lesson and never again allows himself to be harmed.
You've got to know your limits. Once is enough, but you've got to learn. A little caution never hurt anyone. A good woodsman has only one scar on him. No more, no less.
As someone with several scars, I wonder about this thought. Surely, as I've gotten older, I have become more cautious. As a parent, I've exercised more caution than I did as a single. But is every one of my scars a result of not being cautious enough? What if I have scars that I've earned through endeavoring to become a better human? What if I have scars that I've acquired via putting myself in harm's way to protect another? Does that not make me a good woodsman?
Dorothy knew a woodsman once. He had several scars. Because he loved the wrong girl, the witch caused his axe to slip several times, making him a hollow-bodied, heartless tin man. But very quickly, Dorothy found out that the tin man was gentle and kind.
Scars are interesting. People either love or hate to talk about them. I'll happily tell you about the scars on my hands and arms. It's the scars we have inside us, the invisible scars that are much more personal. Every time your heart breaks, you develop a scar. Every time you lose someone or something, a missing place scars your soul. But these scars are what makes each of us more unique, they give us a back story, an air of intrigue.
Kintsugi is the practice of repairing broken pottery and ceramics with gold, and is thought to make the object more beautiful. Our scars mark us like broken pottery, but when we inlay them with gold, we make ourselves more beautiful, more precious, more unique.
(Image taken from http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/kintsugi-kintsukuroi)
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Saturday, May 7, 2016
I have grown to love long run training days.
When I started running, which I did only a couple of years ago, I did it just to see if I could. I figured I'd try to run a 5k, and took up one of those couck-to-5k programs. Little did I know that a sport that I once detested would become part of who I am.
I ran a few little races, and found I really liked the 10ks better than the 5ks. The 5k races were populated by so many fast runners, I always felt so sluggish. The 10k races didn't have so many sprinters, but people more like me, who paced themselves.
I ran my first half marathon a little over two years ago, and loved it. When you run a half marathon, it isn't about winning, or being fast, but you are amazing if you finish! My first goal was to finish before the sweeper van picked up stragglers, which I did! I also found that running these longer races was different in that people who ran had dedicated months to training, and often still had energy to dance at the after party! This was my jam.
But even more than the actual half marathon races, I found that I absolutely fell in love with the training. The rituals of it, the rhythms, the long runs, this is what I thrive on. Here's how you train for a long run: You start at least three months out. You start by running three-five times a week. You need some shorter runs, some speed/hill training runs, and always one long run a week. Long run days are my absolute favorite day of the week.
Because I work in academia, I rarely work on Fridays, so generally long run day is then (although these last few weeks, I've had to shift to Saturday or Sunday). Oh, what bliss. I wake, have a light breakfast, grab my running partner (Copper), lace up my shoes and head out.
My friend calls her long training runs "Meditative runs" which I think is a great name. During a long run, I generally contemplate everything that has been on my mind. I have conversations with myself, and with the dog. I make plans, and promptly forget them. I find incredible peace in the beauty of the nature around me. I look for birds, I save turtles, I smell the plants, I feel the wind, the sun, the rain. Sometimes I listen to audio books, sometimes I listen to music, and sometimes I just listen to the sound of my breathing, my feet hitting the ground, and the wildlife on the trail.
One thing I always think about through my meditative run are my running statistics. I have a Garmin watch which calculates data for me. My distance is calculated with GPS. The watch also tallies my average pace per mile, and my steps per minute. Plugging it in at home, I can also see other data, like temperatures, elevations, fastest miles, etc. I love seeing the data collected while I run. I constantly do little math problems along the way.
If I maintain this average pace per mile, what time will I finish my run?
If I increase my steps per minute, how does that affect my pace per mile?
If I increase my stride, how does that affect my steps per minute?
Lately, Rob and I have done a number of long training runs together. He's finally agreed to run a half marathon with me, and has been training for the Wilds HM next week with me. When I run with Rob, I don't listen to music or audio books, and I don't think quite as much, but we do have a great time talking about everything along the way. I was super tickled today to learn that he likes to do running math, too! I thought it was just something nerds like myself did.
Maybe math isn't as nerdy as I thought...
Friday, May 6, 2016
I have a confession to make. I am 41 years old, and I have never bought a tv.
People sometimes look at me like I must be crazy when I tell them that, but it's true! Now, I guess I have owned a tv or two, but I've never bought one.
I've had several versions of sets wherein friends or neighbors have bought a new one, shifted their old one into the basement, and given us the basement model. Which is great by me. I don't watch a whole lot of tv. I prefer books. It's been years since we've had cable. And though I've been known to netflix a series or two, the condition of my tv has never concerned me.
Since we don't have cable, we're always a season or two (or seven) behind everyone else. Not only that, but since we are bad tv watchers, we often get distracted and way behind. Sometimes so far behind we give up. For instance:
We still havent "met your mother"
We just found out it was "Not Penny's boat"
Castiel is in the lake.
The gang is trapped in a boxcar at Terminus
Diane still works at the bar.
This last year, we started watching Game of Thrones. I'd read the first few in the series and enjoyed them, but GoT took some extra effort. It's not on Netflix, so I have to go super old school and check those out of the library on DVD! Through the fall & winter, we got through the first four seasons, and then deliciously/terribly had to wait. Not just wait for season 5 to come out on DVD, but also wait for it to come available at the library. Even though I put my name on the request list on March 1 (before the discs were released) I was still 15 down!
Today, hooray! I got the call that my copy was ready for me. With just a few minutes before the library closed for the evening, I hustled across town and checked it out.
To make the evening even better, Rob called and said "I know you've probably got something planned for dinner, but how about takeout Chinese?"
Sometimes life is pretty great.
Anyway, there's a lot of hubbub this week about what's currently happening in season 6 on GoT. Some people hate knowing spoilers like that. I guess I don't mind so much, probably because I am used to always having read the books before seeing movies (by the way, the books are better, 98.5% of the time!). It doesn't bother me in knowing plot points, as long as the story along the way is good.
But some people really are offended by that! And that's ok. So, I'm not going to say anything more about it.
I know nothing, Jon Snow...
Thursday, May 5, 2016
One beautiful thing about my job is that everything happens in cycles. A semester begins, a semester ends. There's a certain comfort in knowing that no matter how weird my teaching schedule is, or if there's a time-consuming student or two, that in a few months, all of that will change. I will have a different but equally weird teaching schedule, and a different but equally time-consuming student.
I teach, I test, I grade. There's a bit of zen in all of that.
It is nearing the end of the spring semester. There is one question I get over and over again, so I thought I'd address it here.
"What do I need to get on the (last graded assignment of choice) to get an A/pass the class?"
This is a concept that most students struggle a bit with, and it isn't hard, you just have to think about weighted averages.
You know that to find an average, or the mean of a set of values, you would simply add those values together, then divide the sum by the number of values you added. Well, a weighted average takes into account that not every assignment given in a course is weighted evenly.
In order to calculate the weighted average, you multiply each score by the weight it carries as a decimal.
For instance, Tommy has an average of 75% on his homeworks which are worth 10%. He had an average of 84% on the quizzes which are worth 15%. The exams were all worth 25%, and he got a 90% on the first exam, an 80% on the second exam, and hasn't yet taken the last exam.
So, Tommy needs to set up what he has:
So, if he skips taking the last test, he would receive a D in the class. That's not good enough! Tommy wants an A! Well, even if he geta a perfect score on the last test, that isn't possible.
62.5+(100)(.25)=87.5 that's a B.
Hrmmm, Tommy thinks. Well, if the best he can do is a B, what's the lowest grade he could get on the test to get that B? Just replace the test score with a variable, and solve.
62.5 + .25x = 80
.25x = 17.5
X = 70
As long as Tommy gets a 70 on the test, he'll have that B.
So, clearly, if the last assignment is worth 20% of the overall grade, then how well a student does on that assignment could have a big impact on the overall grade. But if the last assignment is only worth 5% of the overall grade, well, it's not such a big deal.
It's funny, students will get all worked up about a little assignment, but flake off during the big assignments. For example, a student who came into my office today told me that he was so busy completing the extra credit problems (worth 10 points) that he forgot to study for the exam (worth 100 points). See the problem?
But honestly, it's not just students and grades.
I'm guilty, too.
What is worth the most?
Tonight's post is late because I was taking care of high point things today: work, a run, making great food, spending this evening with my love.
The rest can wait for tomorrow!
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
I know! Gasp! What a terrible turn of events!
It wasn't raining, I had plenty of time to do it, but as I was getting ready, my brain was just buzzing with everything I had to do today. Most of the time, I would have gone on the run, because my run time is my serious thinking time. I could have quelled a few anxious thoughts out on the trail, but I still would have had a bunch to do.
So, I decided not to run, and instead took my normal running time to count my ducks.
What is counting ducks? Well, some people might refer to this process as "putting their ducks in a row." Damnit, though, I'm a mathematician. I am not okay with just lining the ducks up. I need to know how many ducks there are.
It's a number thing. It always is with me.
(Out of curiosity, I just looked up the origins of the idiom "to have ones ducks in a row." Worldwidewords.org states that this phrase possibly originated from the process of lining up target ducks at a carnival game, but the version they suggest that I like better is the process of a mother duck lining up her ducklings.)
So, I wanted to count my ducks. This is just taking a little bit of time to put my affairs in order to make life simpler. This is me lining up my ducklings so that we can safely cross the streets of Boston.
I work in academia, so my life works in cycles. Pre-semester is always busy- writing syllabi, preparing courses, doing a lot of computer work. Midterms and Finals times are also super busy, I give many tests, I grade many tests, and the next day I do it again. Right now I'm entering the last week of the Spring Semester, and like many people in my life, I'm feeling the crunch. It was good to take a moment.
What did I do then, instead of running? Well, I did some house cleaning- often times when work is quite busy, as with most people, my house can get cluttered. I've been staying on top of the clutter, but taking the time to give the house a good going over was well worth it. I swept, I vacuumed, I washed the welcome mats and the table cloths. I also did some food prepping. Because I teach so late on Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I don't often get a chance to make lunches for the next day. So I cooked some rice that I will fluff with some hummus and cucumbers tonight for tomorrow's lunch.
I was talking with Mia today, and she was stressed about the end of her semester, too. I suggested she take a moment to get grounded. She figured out that it was really one project that was giving her stress, and the only reason she was stressed was because her classmate/partner wasn't doing their share. Realizing the cause of her stress I think helped her. I also think it was good for her to talk it out and realize that she could do the entire project on her own, and didn't need her partner. She counted her ducks.
Take a minute right now. Count your ducks. What are you stressed about? What is one thing that you could do right now that would help your stress level? If it is vacuum, then you should vacuum. If it's going for a run, you should do that, too.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
This is not a rare phenomenon. I have recently talked to several separate people who feel unseen, disconnected, unsupported and even ignored. How can that be?
Well, one thing to keep in mind that if you use any type of social media to connect with others, you are subject to the algorithms of that platform. If you feel unseen by people IRL, you might be out of sync with their current schedules.
"Stop Pretending Art is Hard."
SPREAD LOVE <3
Monday, May 2, 2016
Rob: Hear what?
Me: Nahhh, we can't.
Me: OK, rule number 1 is that you must keep all of your activities confined to the floor area. If there is any scampering, skittering, or darting, it needs to stay on the floor.
Me: Rule number 2 is about your nesting and bathroom habits. If you could try to keep things tidy, I would really appreciate it. You'll notice that I no longer keep my baking sheets in the drawer below the oven. I've conceeded that space to you. But ONLY that space, understand?
Me: Rule number 3 is about food. If it is on the floor, it is fair game, but if you start nibbling into my supply of nutritional yeast or garbanzo bean flour, that is immediate grounds for eviction.
Me: And last rule, if and when you start procreating, please let your offspring know that you are not in development here. If they start moving out of the oven drawer and into other areas, I'm going to tell you right now, those are not friendly mouse zones. Are we in agreement?
Me: I take it by your total silence on the subject that you understand and will abide by these rules.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
I've been eating hastily lately. With travel, and evening classes, and hero flights, it is high time for a week of the cleanest, purest foods I know....
It is May 1st. I am very ready for the spring semester to end. The end of the semester gets so hectic! So I took time today to prep, grocery shop, and plan.
Yoga & walk
Breakfast: Blueberry pancakes
Lunch: leftover Pizza Poppers
Dinner: Avocado white bean crostini
Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Pumpkin ONOs
Lunch: Chipotle (Teacher appreciation day! Free tacos for me!)
Dinner: Tijuana Tacos
Yoga & walk
Breakfast: Blueberry Coconut ONOs
Lunch: leftover Tijuana Tacos
Dinner: Green smoothie
Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Pumpkin ONOs
Lunch: Mediterranean Rice
Dinner: Tico Taco Pie
Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Cinnamon vanilla chai ONOs
Lunch: leftover Tico Taco Pie
Dinner: Sweet Potato Curry Noodles
Yoga & run (12)
Breakfast: Breakfast Muffin
Lunch: leftover Sweet potato curry noodles
Dinner: Thai Taquitos
Breakfast: Tofu Sandwich
Lunch: leftover Thai Taquitos
Dinner: Vegan Potato cakes with mushrooms