Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don’t Look Back

Heading West into Texas

Hey, friends!  I thought we could sit down and have a chat.  I’m even drinking coffee right now—are you?  (Mine is a decaf Sumatra bean from Starbucks, French-pressed to perfection.  I am not a French press evangelist, but I do enjoy the sheer simplicity of that little contraption.  Brew, press, pour, and ta-da!  Fresh coffee, ready to go.)

I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just start big and say that life is so, so good right now.  I’m falling in love, and it feels awesome.  I think a younger version of me would have been afraid to say something like that so boldly, in public.  But having been in love before, I know what it feels like and I’m not afraid to slap a label on it.  Experience brings with it wisdom—that’s one of the gifts that comes with getting older.  And I have had enough experience dating people who were wrong for me to say that my new guy is a good one.  He’s Mr. Right Now, but I’m hoping he’ll stick around because I really like hanging out with him.  Do you know what I love most about him?  He makes me laugh and that’s my very favorite thing.  We just have so much fun together, and it’s wonderful.

I haven’t yet explained to him that by dating me, he is going to end up as a subject on this blog.  And until I do that, I don’t feel right about saying too much about him, though as you might imagine I am dying to tell you what we’ve been cooking together.  It’s been a delicious few weeks, I can tell you that much.  But once I’ve had the chat with him about dating a blogger who writes a personal blog, maybe I can tell you his name.  I think he’d be a touch offended that I called him Mr. Right Now, but I am so happy right now that it seems right.  It’s hard for me to worry too much about the future.  I just want to enjoy him.

That being said, I am working on future plans.  I have decided not to apply for a second postdoc position (which I can tell you more about, if anyone is interested*).  I’ve started working on a new secret project (which I will tell you about soon, I promise), and I’m applying for freelance science editing jobs.  Perhaps that comes not as a surprise to you, considering that I write two blogs and have a deep love for language and ideas.  And to be honest, the freedom that may come with freelancing is really appealing to me right now.  I have been so wedded to my job for the last 3.5 years that freedom is what I want next.  Or perhaps more accurately, some free time.  Along those lines, I’m starting to make my summer travel plans.  I’ll be heading up to Michigan for about two weeks for a friend’s wedding and to see my family.  After that, I’m trying to convince Mr. Right Now that we should head west to Colorado to see mountains and enjoy each other’s company.  Money might be kinda tight for us, since I may be unemployed and he doesn’t work in the summer, but if we road-trip our way over to Colorado and do some scheming to find reasonably priced lodging, then I think it could work.  Honestly, if I’m unemployed, I want to really enjoy some of that time free from work obligations.  Between grad school and my postdoc, I have spent the better part of ten years married to research labs and my long-term projects.  I’ve also lived pretty frugally, and I am happy to squander some of that frugality on a trip to remember.  Also: mountains.  That’s all I really need to say.

So all is well here.  After surviving the hell that was 2012, I did not dare to dream of such big things for 2013—new love, new jobs, new travels, new chances at happiness.  I keep thinking about what my boss said when he told me that our grant would not be funded: “Don’t look back.”  There’s no way I would be so calm about things had I not mentally prepared for the worst: that I would lose my job.  This month I’ve been able to get a grip on the reality of my situation: one door is closing.  One particular chapter in my work life is ending.  And that means I get to look forward to writing the next chapter, on fresh paper with new pens.  I am excited.  

* Is anyone interested in this?  I’ve been thinking about writing a post on this topic.  I am sure if I title my post “Why I am not Doing a Second Postdoc,” I will get a boatload of Google hits.  And I’m not sure how I feel about that!  In my blog stats, I saw someone did a search for “rebellious postdoc” and landed at this post.  Am I rebellious?  I don’t even know how to answer that question.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On the Effort of Getting Dressed

Photo Collage for 3_19_13 Post_JPEG

“Wear a tired, frumpy face and chances are pretty high that the world will give you its tired, frumpy goods, its gray silt and stones.  On the other hand, dress up for the day, insisting on optimism, and you’ll find that you have more love in you than you knew.”

The quote above comes from a story by Lauren Slater called “Getting Lighter.”  It was published in the April 2013 issue of O.  It’s the story of how Slater, who has suffered from severe, lifelong depression, decides to use grooming and dressing up each day as a way of beating back the darkness that threatens to swallow her.  Restricted by her depression to just a few precious hours of mental clarity each day, she muddles through primping and fussing with clothes each day and finds that indeed, her efforts are not in vain.  Her spirits are lifted by the love and attention she gives to her exterior, proving that beauty is anything but skindeep.

Mostly the essay made me feel grateful that for me, each day is a delightful chance to wear a dress, put my hair up, and pick out a pair of earrings.  And when I don’t get dressed on the weekends, it’s an indulgence, a choice.  I am lazing about, taking a break from my normal beauty labor.  Most weekends I do get dressed—three out of the four photos above are weekend shots—but there is a world of difference between choosing not to get dressed and lacking the time, the energy, the will to take a shower and put on real clothes.

Try to catch “Getting Lighter” if you can.  I haven’t found a copy of it on-line, but it should be on newsstands now.  And with that, I thank you for indulging me in a narcissistic post featuring pictures of ME, just like Oprah always puts herself on the cover of O.

(For the record, I do prefer to be behind the lens rather than in front!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Courting Temptation

Anthropologie JPEG_cropped

{Screen shot from here}

I’ve had this page open on my computer all day, and all I can think to myself is, Darling, we are in deep trouble if you do this.

I actually didn’t mean to end up on the Anthropologie site.  I swear!  Up and down, I swear it.  I was reading this lovely piece on joy (courtesy of Holly’s Friday post—hi, Holly!) when I clinked on a link for “The anthropologist,” which I did not expect to lead me to a commercial site.  It just goes to show: be careful with your clicking, people.  And that’s how I landed here.  One click led to another, and before I knew it, I’d found three new dresses that would be perfect additions to my Texas closet.

Grand total of said dresses is probably in the $450-500 range.  No biggie!  Hee hee ho ho…um…

The thing is, I could buy those dresses.  I really could.  My frugality (or select frugality, perhaps) means that I have consistently lived below my means since I started graduate school, way back in the fall of 2003.  For me, part of living below my means was not engaging in what we might call “aspirational spending.”  As in, “I can’t really afford this dress, but I’m buying it anyway.  After all, I’ll have more money in the future to pay the bill!”

Cue the buzzer here: WRONG!  None of us really knows that we will have more money in the future.  After all, who saw the crash of 2008 coming?  (Apparently a lot of people saw it coming, but that’s another story.)  Did you see it coming?  I didn’t.  And I have yet to be a working adult without the cloud of a recession hanging over us.  On top of all that, I’m going to be unemployed soon, so how wise is it for me to be perusing the Anthropologie site?  I should probably stick to buying dresses from Target, no?  (More on that soon, dear readers.  Oh, Target.  It’s like their designers look in my brain to find ideas for their lovely clothing!)

On the other hand, life is short.  We get to decide how to spend our money, and if what we want is a pineapple-print frock, so be it.  (It’s cute, right?)

As you can see, I’m torn.  Why does being responsible usually mean doing the boring thing?  For $158, can’t I just be fun and whimsical for once?  (Never mind that I’m dating someone who is prone to the occasional rant about consumerism.  Does he know how much effort it can take for even us “low-maintenance” types to feel happy with our appearance?  It might, for example, require a pineapple-print frock.)  At any rate, I am saved by one simple fact: I have no idea what size I would wear in Anthropologie clothing.  I’m scared to find out because that might open the gate to all kinds of recklessness.  Also, here’s a tip that I remember Tania shared on her blog: sometimes you can snag a good deal at Anthro if you put the item in your cart and then wait for it to go on sale.  Does that still work?  Maybe you shouldn’t tell me—I might not be able to resist!

Tell me, dear readers: are there shopping situations that you avoid because the temptation is too great?  I’m usually pretty strong-willed about these things, but spring is in the air and I am ready for bare legs and pretty dresses.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Just In: Farewell, Google Reader

This morning, I discovered something rather unpleasant: Google is “retiring” Google Reader.  Is anyone else weeping into her keyboard, sobbing, “WHY?!?”

According to Google, “We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go.  We’re sad too.  There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.”

See, this is why technology drives me batshit crazy.  I’m not a tech geek; my attitude is that if it ain’t broke, why fix it?  “A better user experience”?  You know what would make a better user experience?  Leaving my technology alone!  Does Google Reader really require that much maintenance on Google’s end of things?  (I’d love to know the answer to that question, in all seriousness.  If you have thoughts on the subject, please share them in the comments!)

That being said, to be honest, I have an ambivalent relationship with Google Reader.  I subscribe to a handful of blogs through Reader, but the accumulation of unread posts makes me feel guilty and overwhelmed.  So to combat this feeling, I failed to add a lot of my most-loved blog reads to Reader.  That way, I am only confronted with new posts from a particular blog when I decide to visit that blog.  On the other hand, one of the best things about Reader is its ability to preserve old blogs that have gone offline, like my favorite wine blog and a favorite style blog (anyone remember Between Laundry Days?).  When a blog goes into hiding, it’s sad for those of us who read and loved it, and Google Reader provides an archive that makes the transition less painful.

How are you guys handling the news about Google Reader?  Have you picked a new RSS feed aggregator?  In other words, what’s the next Google Reader that all the cool kids are using?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The View from Here

Hi there!  Those of you who read my running blog may already know this, but ta-da!  My Dell laptop made its triumphant return to me, and we are like two peas in a pod.  Or like an obsessive woman and her key to the world outside the biology lab.  Either or.

I am happy and relieved to have the computer back in my paws, but I’m also kind of overwhelmed by things I want to write about here.  I have too many threads, too many ideas, unfurling themselves in my brain, and I know not where to begin.  So let’s begin with something very simple.

I have a new stove.

New Stove from the Front

It came as a surprise to me!  It’s so modern-looking, with its glossy black surface and hidden burners.  My apartment complex is under new management, and they have wasted no time upgrading things around here.  Along with the stove, there is a new refrigerator and dishwasher in my kitchen, and I think the four of us are getting along just fine.

In other news, I’m eating a lot of potatoes these days.  I was really inspired by Ashley’s post about grocery shopping every other week.  I have a soft spot for a well-stocked pantry, and that’s essentially what Ashley is after with her strategy.  Buy in bulk to save money and then save money again by cooking your meals at home using basic, not-too-expensive ingredients.  Buying in bulk is something that even we singletons can do, at least with some pantry staples.  And with the “buy in bulk” mindset, I’m willing to do things like buy a five-pound bag of organic potatoes in the hope that I can be as creative and kitchen-productive as Ashley.  I can’t remember when I bought this bag, but I’ve made a pretty good dent in it.

Organic Potato Bag

The great irony of this kitchen thrift is that I’m offsetting it by dating someone new, and we can’t help ourselves: the meals we’ve shared together at my place have all featured wine and some sort of expensive cheese.  It’s hard for me to feel bad about it because I’m enjoying myself too much, despite my looming unemployment.  For now, it’s all homemade calzones and broiled halloumi and bottles of red wine.  I’m pretty happy to let myself float along with this plan.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Everything, All at Once

Hello, my dears!  Thank you all so much for the collective cheers on my last post.  It was such a joy to read your comments--I am humbled by your goodwill.

This week I've been thinking about planning and how futile it can feel.  I have literally planned my life around my job for the last year and a half, and poof.  Soon it will be gone.  But the thing is, I cannot imagine having done anything differently.  I've known for a long time that my postdoc position is unstable, that the money to support me indefinitely is not available, that I need to be...that I need to be what?  Constantly stressed out by the uncertainty that I've been staring at for a long time?  I don't even know what to think any more, other than to remind myself that I did the best I could.  And because of that, I have no regrets.

What more could I want?

This week, two of my favorite bloggers wrote pieces that resonated with me and my current nebula of emotions.  I'm happy and sad, angry and understanding, frustrated and at peace.  I am everything, all at once, and I have no idea what I'm doing next with my life.  I am overwhelmed by possibilities, and here is what Holly and Chrissy have to say about that feeling.

* Holly writes, "I think letting that go will actually help me feel a greater appreciation for where I am presently.  And where I am in the present IS A REALLY GREAT PLACE TO BE."

Amen, sister!  Let go of the past.  Let go of regret.  Be grateful now.  Be here now.

* Chrissy writes, "[Washing your bowl] goes just beyond that present moment.  It is, to me, about finishing the things we start (always an issue), of personal responsibility (wash your own damn bowl), of putting an end to procrastination (why is this so difficult?), of mindfulness, of doing one thing at a time and doing it well."

That idea, of doing one thing at a time, is something that I think I may need to tattoo on my wrist to help me get through the next three months.  I'm overwhelmed by what is happening right now, with a new romance blossoming versus the pressure to figure out what the shape of my future is going to be.  And given the seeming futility of my efforts to plan my future last time, it's too easy to conclude that planning is worthless, that carpe diem is the only way to live.  But I think if I can convince myself to stay more-or-less present in the moment and to keep peeking over the horizon to see what's next...well, that might be the best plan of all.

Some day I think this will all make sense to me.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On Hope and Sushi

Hello again, my dears!

After Friday's intense disappointment, I had a lovely, lovely weekend.  I have little photographic evidence for you because I'm computer-challenged this week, but I thought I'd share a few of the best tidbits, somewhat out of chronological order.

On Sunday, I ran my half-marathon and set a new Personal Record for 13.1 miles: 1:53:35.  I was floored and so happy to see that time in the race results--it was a huge boost to my confidence.  Even better, my friends Sam and Tonya surprised me at the end of the race with muffins and congratulations!  I was so touched that they came out to see me.  Later that day, we went out for a sushi dinner to celebrate and laughed our heads off about all manner of silly things.  The sushi was completely delicious, and the company was even better.

Between running and sushi, I was able to do a bunch of cleaning and organizing around my apartment.  Things had been sliding into the Yucky Zone for a few weeks--it was a slow, gradual slide that was the result of me being too busy/stressed to make much of a dent in the yuck.  But yesterday, I finally had some time to sort through a huge pile of mail and do a lot of cleaning and organizing to restore order in Ye Ole Pigsty.  It felt wonderful.  I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, but it does feel therapeutic to take control of one's space in a very physical way.

On Saturday, I ran errands via bike on an incredibly windy day, and I worried that the wind was going to trash my legs for Sunday's race.  (It didn't, but my legs were pretty tight throughout the whole race.)  I spent a nice evening by myself, making a lentil and rice soup from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, and I remembered how much I love collard greens.  Seriously: why did it take me 31 years to discover collard greens?  Also, here I wish I had a picture of my grocery bag with my huge bunch of greens sticking out the top.  Collard greens are kind of ridiculous, the way they don't even fit into most plastic produce bags or my wrapsack.  So there I am, riding my bike home from the store with my leafy produce waving in the wind.  I am such a damn foodie.

Finally, on Friday night there were indeed beers and mushroom burgers!  And here, dear reader, is the part where I tell you I've met someone.  I like him.  He likes me.  I would love to just freeze this moment in time, this magical feeling of finding someone in a town that makes women like me despair of ever meeting someone date-able.  What's really great about this person is that I keep unpacking all my objections to dating Texas men (he's a native Texan), and he just listens, ever so patiently, and then responds thoughtfully--no defensiveness, just genuine conversation.  On Friday, when I told him I'd received sad news, he came over to pick me up for our date, gave me a hug, listened to my story, and offered me a hankie.  He didn't offer advice or try to fix my problems like so many men do.  He was just there.  It was a lot for me to ask of someone I met so recently.  But he didn't seem to mind, and then we went out and had a lovely evening together.

I feel shy talking too much about this nice man on the blog here because it's new and we're just getting to know each other.  But right now, I'm feeling really damn lucky that we found each other at all.  Right now, that's good enough for me.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Meep! Out of Commission for Now

Hi, guys.  I have two things to tell you:

1)  To make a long story really, really short, a Dell repair technician came out yesterday to fix my computer, and he broke it.  As in, the computer won't turn on now.  Which means that I have no choice but to send it to the repair depot (which I was desperately hoping to avoid) to be fixed.  This blog will be much quieter for the next week or two while my laptop is away, so I apologize in advance for the lack of content.  I will miss you!  And if my commenting on your blog is sparse, well, now you know why.

2)  Perhaps you recall that my boss and I had a grant out for review?  This week he got the score back, and the news, dear readers, is not good.  The grant probably won't be funded, and that means that in a few months, I will no longer be working in my current position.  I'm pretty sad about the news.  I'm not going to lie: I thought we would get funded.  For many reasons, I thought we'd get it this time.  And, well...I was wrong.  So it goes in science.

Today's been a hard day--I'm kind of a mess right now.  But bad news deserves to be shared, and everyone has been so kind to me.  I'm grateful for that.  I'm not really mad about the news.  Instead, I just feel really, really tired.  Like go home and go to sleep tired.  What a day, right?  I have plans to go out for beer and mushroom burgers tonight, and it would be such a shame to pass up beer and mushroom burgers that I'm not canceling my plans.  Hopefully my date will amuse me with funny anecdotes to distract me from the day's dreadful news!

At least today is Friday!  I plan to spend a good chunk of tomorrow curled up under a blanket, reading a book and eating cookies.  On Sunday, I'm going to run 13.1 miles really, really fast and then curl up under blanket to read a book and eat cookies.  Clearly I have an excellent weekend ahead of me.

I hope your weekend is a good one too. xo