Sunday, February 27, 2011

overcoming play-doh fears

I spend my Sunday evenings leading a small group of two-year-olds at church, my Puggles. I spend those two hours a week playing, finger-painting, singing, dancing, and giggling with toddlers. It is my absolute mental break from the rest of my week. While playing with play-doh this evening, one little girl suddenly stopped playing with her glob of purple play-doh and fearfully exclaimed it was a turtle.

"Do you think your play-doh is a turtle?" I asked.

"It is a turtle and turtles are scary," she replied with wide eyes. She refused to continue to play with the play-doh and nothing I could say would convince her that the purple glob would, indeed, not eat her. Not until I squished up the mass so it resembled nothing like a turtle would she touch her play-doh again. We continued playing when again she let out a fearful gasp that the turtle was back. This continued several times until we decided the imaginary turtles contained within play-doh would best be left in the yellow tubs.

I feel maybe I do this to myself, too. No, I don't see turtles in my play-doh, but I do create my own monsters when looking at overwhelming tasks (specifically: my thesis). I re-read my professors' comments on my first chapter and they weren't as bad as I had originally thought. I created my own scary turtle, a mental block of a imaginary creation that was all my own doing. In fact, no turtles existed in the comments and edits of my paper.

I am happy to report that I completed several more pages of my second chapter this afternoon. I may even go ahead and notify my professors that I will send in my second chapter by next weekend (they both requested a week's worth of a head's up in order to plan reviewing my writing in their own schedules). But maybe not. I am not sure if I really want to operate under my own self-made duress this week. Maybe I will just write and see where this goes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

curiosity on curiosity

"'Human curiosity,' said Poirot. 'Such is a very interesting thing.' He sighed. 'To think what we owe to it throughout history. Curiosity. I don't know who invented curiosity. It is said to be usually associated with the cat. Curiosity killed the cat. But I should say really that the Greeks were the inventors of curiosity. They wanted to know. Before them, as far as I can see, nobody wanted to know much. They just wanted to know what the rules of the country they were living in were, and how they could avoid having their heads cut off or being impaled on spikes or something disagreeable happening to them. But they either obeyed or disobeyed. They didn't want to know why. But since then a lot of people have wanted to know why and all sorts of things have happened because of that. Boasts, trains, flying machines and atom bombs and penicillin and cures for various illnesses. A little bot watches his mother's kettle raising its lid because of the steam. And the next thing we know is we have railway trains, leading on in due course to railway strikes and all that. And so on and so on."

I read this excerpt from Agatha Christie's Elephants Can Remember last night as I drifted to sleep. It prompted me to remain curious about curiosity throughout most of my run this morning. I think curiosity is something we take for granted, but it is the spark-plug in the engine of ingenuity. I certainly have never attempted to ponder the roots of curiosity (in the history of the world, in our society, or even in my own life). I think we often quell curiosity for many reasons, though I think constant supressing of curiosity can be incredibly stifling.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

more voices

Wii Fat Girl yelled loud enough that a run would make me feel better. Indeed. The endorphins calmed my PMS Avenger (for now) and the time spent running in the sun helped clear my head.

I have a date with the library this evening and need a clear head to be my most efficient.

voices in my head

Over the weekend while visiting my sister, I thought it would be fun to play with her WiiFit game. Before starting, I had to pick my "Mii," input my height, and step on the "scale" so the game would have a place for me to start. The game takes the measurements and applies it to the Mii according to where the measurments rest on the BMI scale. I watched as the game made fun "beep" "boop" "boink" noises and then plopped my little me into my applied measurements. It made my little Wii girl fat! What!?! I don't look like that! Do I look like that?! Ugh.

I have struggled with self-image issues and ultimately my weight for a very long time. Seeing myself as a Carl did not help anything. So that little fat Wii girl has been yelling at me every time I eat since I played that game. She yells "eat more veggies!" when I think about a snack. She yells "noooooo!" when I pick up a box of Girl Scout cookies. She yells "good job!" when I eat whole grains and a salad instead of a bacon cheeseburger. But I hate her.

So this morning I saw the pan of brownies on the counter. "Don't do it!" yelled little fat Wii girl. So I started to prepare a healthy breakfast instead. Then a deeper and louder voice emerged from within. "CHOCOLATE," demanded this other voice, "CHOCOLATE NOW!" I know that voice. It comes once a month and lasts for a few days. It is a very tormenting voice, difficult to ignore. Any female knows this voice that shows up and dictates life for a brief period every 28 days. They know that these voices are loud, often louder than other voices including that of Common Sense, Compassion, Sensitivity, and in my case, Little Fat Wii Girl. This voice often encourages violent thoughts, especially towards those with stupid ideas. And males. Heaven forbid you cross me while this voice is imposing its will upon my life. I will call the owner of this voice my own personal PMS Avenger. I hate her, too.

So I ate a half brownie in an attempt to appease PMS Avenger while hoping for a little encouragement from Little Fat Wii Girl ("at least you only at half, good job"). Alas. I only made PMS Avenger laugh an evil cackle and demand more chocolate. And potentially a heating pad, movies, slippers, a blanket to snuggle under, and some Midol. And I made Little Fat Wii girl feel powerless. This power struggle occurs once a month, like clockwork. Add in the other opponents, like "I-Can-Do-It-Girl," and and "There-Is-Too-Much-To-Do-Woman" and my list of things I want to accomplish on my last day off in a long time. This is an all-out battle.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Forget Snakes on a Plane. Let's try for some productivity.

I had intentions of being productive on the plane. I wanted to make a grocery list, a to-do list (a short-term one and a long-term one), write out my notes for my presentation I am giving at the George Wright Society conference next month, write out notes for potential images for the power point for said presentation, outline a grant proposal I need to write, outline programs for said grant proposal, write a letter or two with my new stationary, and ultimately pull myself together for my return.

I read and napped instead.

So now I have a list of things to do (to include make a to-do list). I have been somewhat productive since my return, to include doing laundry, cleaning, and organizing my mail (completing the little things make a big difference). I am leaving tomorrow for Chester County fun times (i.e., a visit with my amazing sister and awesomest-brother-in-law-ever!). But first, I need to clean my room, pack, swing by a grocery store, and stay up all night with some wild and crazy middle- and high-schoolers for tonight's Lock-In. Bring it on.

P.S. Props to my Great Smoky Mountain ranger friend for her write up about our run last Saturday. You know, the best run ever.

Monday, February 14, 2011

best run ever

On Saturday, two classmates and I ran five miles on the trail that runs along the rim of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We took a few interval pictures (by "pictures," I mean "breaths"... 7,000 ft. in altitude makes a difference in the lung-burning sensation). One visitor shouted as we passed by "best run ever!"

I agree.

Granted, breathing was hard. And regardless of what my Great Smoky Mountain ranger friend says, those are hills. We have very few hills in Middle Tennessee so anything beyond a 2% grade increase kicks my butt. We had to take a few breaks and at home taking breaks would have been discouraging. But the weather was in the mid-50s, sunny, and calm. I could not have asked for a more spectacular scene to run past. And I am now looking forward to choking on the abundance of oxygen when I return to sea-level running.

P.S. On a side note, I think I am now getting sick (NOOOOO!) and that may interfere with anymore scenic runs while I am here (NOOOOO!). I am drinking lots of fluids and trying to will the germies away. That never works, but I have got to do something.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Your Bag Has Been Inspected by the TSA

I feel like I am being packed like a suitcase. You know, when you are going on a trip but have limited luggage space. You fold, roll, tuck, cram, and do whatever it takes to fit everything you can imagine into that suitcase. Upon arrival to your destination, your suitcase literally explodes in the hotel room because there was so much crammed in it. Good luck packing to go home.

This training has been beneficial and almost overwhelming. Thoughts and ideas roll around in my head during each session. I am constantly thinking about how I will use this when I get back or how that will improve my work. I also have been inspired with some new ideas to potentially implement at the park. And don't tell my thesis advisor- I even have had some resources I can tuck into my thesis to strengthen my arguments.

But I know I am only finished with my first week and still have one more to go. I also know that I am cramming all of this and when I get home, I will explode. All of my ideas are going to land in every direction and I won't know what to do with myself. I have been trying to write down as many ideas as possible, so not to lose them.

Tomorrow is a free day. I plan on sleeping in (what?!? I don't remember the last time I did that for reals since I got back from Germany). Then chillaxing around the South Rim and possibly doing laundry. Someone might call that recharging, others decompressing. I call it "weird." How often do I get to just chill? (Also. My cell phone service is pretty darn good here, but I don't have access to Skype. HINT for those who live in an unamed country with unamed relations to me who may want to call *ac-parents-choo!*).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

brain drain

You would think after sitting through eight hours of NPS law and practices and budget process that I would have found the mental time to develop a creative post. I didn't. It was not that I did not want a mental escape over the course of the day. I just felt like I seriously needed to know these things and pay attention. And now I am mentally drained. I feel better equipped, but drained.

I did get to see the sun rise over the Canyon this morning. I was just going real quicklike (I have to try and maintain some of my Tennessee-ness, or else I will entirely lose whatever I had to begin with) to pick up a van for our class and a classmate invited me along a hike. "Why not?" is usually my response to life's questions. I could not feel my toes, fingers, nose, or ears during our brief jaunt, but it was worth it. The sun rise picks out the reds and oranges that noon washes out. Unfortunately, I feel like no picture I take actually captures what I see here.

I think I am going to go to bed early tonight. Hopefully, none of the information I learned today will leak from my brain while I sleep. But I guess there are no guarantees.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I visited the rim of the Grand Canyon this morning for the first time. I have no words for the experience, the view, the wonder of it all. Unfortunately, I only got about 15 minutes to see the Canyon and most of that was obstructed with chatter from classmates. I will have to make a quiet trip out there while here.

I am always thinking and trying to make connections between my scatterbrained thoughts. During this class, I got very brief introductions to the National Park Service, its core values, its history, its mission. Today was just the intro-to-it-all class, so it was all brief. But I sat in a classroom of dedicated individuals who shared some of the same passions as me. We may not share the specific passions, but the fundamental ones. We know we work to protect and preserve. We know we work toward bigger goals. We know that we work hard to make our limited resources stretch farther. We know that each of our contributions make differences in each of their own ways. I know that I want to continue working with these amazing individuals who make up a pretty solid agency. We have got our faults and differences, but who doesn't?

I can not be thankful enough to have found a "job" so early in my life that I love to do. I don't even consider my work my job. It is my passion. It is my joy. I seriously ask myself sometimes, "they pay me to do this?" But I don't take for granted my work. In theory, there is never a guarantee that there will be a Park Service tomorrow. But for now, I will enjoy my days. I will appreciate my vistas, both the literal and the figurative.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's all relative

I am currently sitting in my hotel lobby in Phoenix. I just got back from a delicious dinner with a friend of mine. When you pick up a conversation after not seeing each other for two and half years, it makes you really consider that time. A lot has changed while simultaneously a lot has stayed the same.

I forget how much I love the Southwest. It is warm here! I wore far too many clothes (packing for the 40 degree highs I saw forecasted for the Grand Canyon). The high was 67 today and I felt I could run around in my skivvies because of the warmth (no, I didn't actually strip down to my skivvies...). My local friend made the comment that this weather was unusually cool and I replied that it was 34 degrees this morning when I left Tennessee. It is all relative.

Tomorrow I will meet the bus that will take me and my fellow classmates to the Albright Traning Center at the Grand Canyon for my National Park Service Fundamentals II class. I am about to sit through two weeks of NPS indoctrination and I can't hardly wait (yes, I know. I eat this stuff up). In the meantime, I am enjoying my quiet evening to myself. Maybe I will retire early tonight so I can get up early enough to enjoy a Southwestern sunrise in the morning. And add "so I can move back West" to my list of reasons to hurry up and finish my thesis. Ha. I said I didn't plan on thinking about my thesis for the next two weeks, but that was clearly a lie.

P.S. I completely forgot my NPS passport book and travel journal! I am so mad at myself!! Those are almost more important than packing clean underwear. Now I will have to create a temporary travel journal with a notebook and stamp a loose piece of paper or maybe some postcards. But arrrghharrrghghghgrrrrr! I also broke my suitcase while packing this morning, but didn't have the time to find an alternative suitcase or fix the damage. So I can only half-open my bag. And I only just solved the feeding-my-cats-issue this morning as my roommate dropped me off at the airport curb and asked if anyone was feeding the cats while I was gone. I love her. I have high hopes that one day I will actually have my together together.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

side note

My professor ended up emailing me her comments. And no where on the paper did she write "this stinks." I can see the work I have ahead of me and the bumps that I am likely to encounter with my editing and coaxing of ideas into solid arguments. But I am alive and will live to see another day.

Although, I have no intention of thinking about my thesis while Arizona.

travel-size memories

For my tenth birthday, my parents gave me (among other things) a travel toiletry kit. This travel set came with the standard matching shampoo and conditioner bottles, a toothbrush holder, a lotion tub, all encased in a clear, plastic zipper case. The case was see-through with colorful swirls and the bottles had color-coordinating lids. That gift meant so much to me. I remember holding the little empty bottles and reflecting on the pink-ness of the plastic. The zipper zipped so smooth! The plastic-y smell meant brand-new-all-for-me-exciting-travels ahead!

The May following my March birthday I traveled with my Girl Scout troop to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I got to go on a trip! Sans-family! I got to travel away from home! Like a big girl! I remember planning and planning and planning for that trip. I made goals, sold a bazillion cookies, wrote lists, attempted to pack well over a month in advance (and told that it was still just a little early for packing so put away my clothes and clean my room), and drifted to sleep every night thinking of my upcoming adventure.

Fifteen years later, while my excitement for seeing new places has not faded, my preparation time certainly has. I leave Sunday morning for the Grand Canyon for two weeks of training. I am trying to fight a cold/sinus thing and am having a hard time focusing. I have a stack of dirty clothes on my hamper (yep, there are so many dirty clothes that they no longer fit into the hamper, but rather on the hamper). I think I have suitcase? But maybe I broke it? Wait, and do I have a ride from the airport and someone to feed my cats while I am gone? I hope so.

I try to keep my travels on the down low, because I don't want to feel like I am bragging. Not only do I love my job, but I get to see cool places, too. But I can't hardly contain myself about this trip. I get to 1) go somewhere I haven't been, 2) get another NPS stamp for my collection, and 3) pseudo-escape from my crazy life for two weeks. I am so excited about that Arizona air! When I get back, I get to spend my days off with my sister and brother--in-law. I consider that my February-cherry-on-top.

I now have countless travel bottles and cases (seriously? how many lotions can I possibly need with me?). Maybe too many, in fact. But my anticipation for trips has yet to fade. [And on a side note, the only time I ever became a Junior Ranger was at Mount Rushmore. I remember the ranger swearing me affected me and I took my pledge as Junior Ranger very seriously. I could say that trip made an impact on me in more than one way...]