Sunday, April 29, 2012

Move/make: Week 5

Today's weight: 178.8 pounds.

Monday: Bike 7.5 miles
Tuesday: Bike 3 miles
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Bike 5.5 miles
Friday: Bike 2 miles
Saturday: Bike 20 miles
Sunday: Bike 10 miles

Thoughts on food:
I've eaten healthier since Thursday, including a vegetarian burrito and a seitan pita. I feel so much better. I've also discovered Clif bars (I usually eat Luna bars or Larabars). They've got more protein than the others, which I desperately need if I'm going to keep going on longer bike rides. I went out to eat a couple of times this week, twice with friends, and once by myself. This time of the semester always gets busy, though -- I need to make sure I'm making sandwiches to bring to campus.

Overall reflections:
After my mid-week reflections on Wednesday, I realized I needed to kick my butt into gear. I also went to the doctor on Friday and found out I can't run for at least two weeks. I wasn't expecting to feel as strongly as I did, but I really felt heartbroken -- running has been therapy for me. It's helped me through some dark times, and there's nothing that compares to it. I was also training for a 10K at the end of May. Because of my summer job, I won't be able to run many races, since I'll work every weekend. I'm worried that I may not get a race in before my job starts.

I decided to ride my bike more, though. My long ride yesterday was incredible -- I was worn out but not over-taxed. I wasn't even sore this morning. I've had a bike for as long as I can remember, but I've never really wanted to go on longer rides. I think I've always felt too out of shape. Thanks to running, though, those 20 miles weren't so hard. While I'm resting my foot, I'm going to keep riding. On off days, I'll go to the gym and lift weights -- something I need to do anyway.

Biking feels freeing in a different way than running does. I like running because you don't need anything other than a good pair of shoes. You can walk out your door and go as far as your legs can take you. It's empowering. Biking is nice because you don't feel stuck in a car -- I biked out to Target this morning to pick up some things I needed. It felt great. I wasn't crabby, like I've been feeling. I just felt ... happy. I wanted to keep riding, but I have work to do today.

Don't use my car at all next week; bike to campus and to run errands. Try and squeeze in another 20-mile ride at some point next week. On my off days, hit the gym.

My long-term biking goal is to ride to my parent's house (35 miles one way) and back. I want to do this by the end of May.

Food-wise, only go out to eat once next week.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Think/act: There's a name for that?

It is really satisfying to find a name for the theory I've been interested in all along.

Critical pedagogy.

I've had a couple of semesters of composition and teaching theory under my belt, and Paulo Freire's name has come up from time to time, but I've never read anything by him, or any of the other major names in this field. I'd never even heard the term "critical pedagogy" until now.

Maybe it's something that everyone but me was aware of. Maybe it speaks to the conservative nature of my program that we haven't been exposed to this -- after all, it's got Marxism, postmodernism, feminism and social action, things that rarely come up in my schooling. What a shame. The idealist in me thinks of how powerful a theory like this can be. This isn't just applying a Marxist reading to a given text, or looking at the gender issues at work in Faulkner. It's practical! Think of how we could empower our students, and transform the face of the modern university (which is in steady decline).

Though I've only read a little bit on it this morning, critical pedagogy makes so much sense to me. This is exactly what I want to do as a teacher: empower my students to think critically and take control of their own learning, and challenge that teacher/student power dynamic in the classroom. I'm not sure why this isn't just called "pedagogy," though, since empowerment seems like the most important thing for any student to succeed.

I've only just begun teaching, of course, and I realize that I'll be working toward to these goals for the rest of my career. And I haven't even touched that social justice aspect, though I want to.

It's probably the Type A part of me that likes to organize, list and label, but I find it immensely rewarding to come across a theory that so elegantly summarizes the things that are most important to me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Think/act: Clearing my head

Last week, I was lucky enough to give a talk at a teaching conference. I spent two days at a beautiful mansion-turned-conference-center, talking with other English instructors about different ideas to try out in the classroom. I spoke on ways we might reduce gender differences in class discussion. Both of my supervisors were there, along with a crowd from various local colleges and universities. I spoke in an intimidating, book-lined library.

The weather was beautiful: upper 70s and sunny the whole time. The conference atmosphere was very laid back, and we were encouraged to explore and socialize. I walked around the grounds with a group of people from my university the first night I arrived, and later went on a late-night walk with some of my friends and people from a local community college. The night walk was especially wonderful. We borrowed a couple of flashlights from the front desk. The sky was clear, the moon was bright, and we could hear owls and coyotes. We passed around a flask, and a couple of people had beer bottles in their pockets. Everything was relaxed and easy. Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, I roamed around the grounds some more, walking down to the main house (we stayed in a guest house on the property) to get water and explore some more. I stood outside for a while, looked up at the stars.

The next day, after giving my talk, I took a solo hike out to see some of the incredible statues the original owner had sprinkled throughout the expansive grounds. I spent an hour exploring. I brought my iPod but chose to leave it off, and instead tried to focus on how beautiful my surroundings were. Everything couple of yards or so, a cloud of butterflies would lift off the ground and flutter around me, only to settle further down the road. It was warm enough that I rolled up my sleeves. It was unreal.

The room I stayed in was gorgeous, too. It was a room for three people, but I only shared it with one friend from my department. We each had our own bedroom area. There was exposed brick, bright windows, and a screened-in porch. I brought a rocking chair outside and sat under a huge tree, getting some reading done for my feminist theory class.

The food and company was great, too. There were four of us from my teaching cohort who stayed in the rooms next to each other. We left the doors to our rooms open most of the time, and moved back and forth, talking and drinking beer in the evening. We vented about teaching, and dating, and so many other things. We bounced ideas off of each other on the long car ride back home.

I spent a lot of time clearing my mind and sorting things out. I've often felt like I didn't know what I wanted to focus on in school. I've often wondered how everything -- all my interests -- might come together. I've often felt like I don't know anything, don't really have an emphasis. I like literature, sure, but was never sure how that might fit into everything else I do. Being at this conference made me realize I want to pursue teaching and tutoring methods that are influenced by feminist theory and good examples of writing, and that I've already started to do those things. It made me realize that I might even be good at those things. I love what I do, but until now, I've often wondered how the different elements of my academic life might come together. What will I do when I graduate? What are my goals?

Though I don't have all the answers, I was able to better appreciate what my strengths are. Getting good feedback on my presentation helped, and it was also great to hear what other people in my field are doing. The conference was inspiring and rejuvenating. I also remembered how important being outdoors is to me. I don't know that I could live in a big city for long. I'd much rather look outside and see mountains, forests, trees older than anything else around. If I could get paid to teach and tutor writing and literature somewhere out west or in the South, I'd be happy.

I wanted to write this all down so that I can remember how lucky I am to be surrounded by good people, even when I am often unhappy with the larger program. To remember that I do have an emphasis within my studies -- feminist pedagogy. And to remember how beautiful things -- especially the natural world -- can be.

Look/hear: Wanderlust

With graduation looming nearer, I've been feeling unmoored. I don't know what my future holds. I'm not looking forward to my summer job. I don't know what I'll be doing in the fall.

What I really want to do is pack up and leave for the summer -- get lost in a forest out in Oregon or Washington, or hike through the Ozarks in Arkansas. I want to go alone.

The music I've been listening to makes me think of traveling solo, of getting lost in wild places. It makes me think of weird, unreal experiences in staggeringly gorgeous landscapes. The vibe is a little witchy, a little mournful.

Father John Misty, "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"
Spooky psych rock from J. Tillman. Makes me want to lay in a clearing in the woods, lonesome and delirious with exhaustion.

Damien Jurado, "Arkansas"
This song makes me miss my sister and the Ozarks something fierce. 

Dolorean, "Heather Remind Me How This Ends"
Another beautiful and lonely song, perfect for falling asleep outside.

My musical tastes always go in phases. Right now it's a mix of alt-country, folk and pysch. Songs that remind me of summer, of sickening heat, of leaving, of being lonely. Thanks to my roommate, I've gotten a lot of new, great stuff lately (Centro-Matic, J. Tillman, various Woody Guthrie tributes, and a lot more). This music feels right to me now. It helps placate that wanderlust ... a bit.

I also want to fit in as much fun as possible before my summer job starts, so I may end up seeing Father John Misty and Damien Jurado in the upcoming weeks.

Move/make: Week 4

Weight (as of Wednesday evening): 184.0.

Monday: Off day
Tuesday: Off day
Wednesday: Walk 2 miles
Thursday: Walk 2.5 miles, run 35 minutes
Friday: Run 50 minutes
Saturday: Off day
Sunday: Off day

Thoughts on food:
Things still haven't been great. I went to a two-day conference that had excellent, if not rich, food. I ate way too much of it. My eating habits at home have been pretty shoddy -- case in point: tonight I had Diet Coke and gummy candy for dinner. I feel miserable. I'm bloated.

Overall reflections:
I normally weigh-in on Sunday mornings. I have to admit, this number was disheartening. I thought about not writing at all, but I want to be honest with myself. I've been tired. I pinched a nerve in my foot, so I've been trying not to run on it, but I've also been unmotivated to go to the gym and do low-impact workouts in the mean time. Seeing my weight and the few workouts I managed to do makes me realize that I felt so much better when I first started this blog, and was working out nearly every day.

I had a great, relaxing time at the conference I attended last week, which helped pick up my spirits. But I also barely finished everything I needed to, and as a result, my workouts and eating were not the best. I did get great feedback at both my conference and my teaching observation. I also got great reviews from the students I tutor. So, at least professionally, things have been going well. I had someone important me hurt me in a pretty serious way last weekend, though, which also threw me for a loop. I'm still recovering.

Now that I'm more caught up with grading and work, I want to get back on track. Like last week, I don't feel well, physically or mentally. I've also learned I'm bad at following through with vague goals, so here are some specific ones for what remains of this week:

- Go to the gym or for a bike ride Thursday and Friday
- Go for a long bike ride with a friend Saturday
- Go for a run with a friend on Sunday
- Have a protein shake and/or vegetarian sandwich each day for at least one meal, if not two

I'm also training for a 10K this May, so I need to see a doctor about my foot either Thursday or Friday.

We'll see how I do come Sunday. This time of the semester is always insane -- even more so because I'm graduating. But I have to take care of myself, especially considering how poorly I've been feeling lately.

I have to remember how good it feels to work out and eat well. I was feeling wonderful when I started the blog. I know there will be good and bad weeks. I know I have to move forward, to let go of the things that exhausted me last week and this week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Move/make: Week 3

As of Sunday, I was at 174 pounds.

Monday: Ran 23 minutes
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Off
Friday: Ran 45 minutes
Saturday: Ran 45 minutes
Sunday: Off

Thoughts on food:
I was sick for the better part of last week, which made my diet and workouts pretty lackluster. Between not feeling well and a crazy week at work, everything went by in a blur. I went out to eat a couple of times, and ate my first holiday family meal as a vegetarian. My best friend came to visit with her son, and I managed to eat a healthy dinner out with them. Not my best week, food-wise, but not my worst, either.

Overall reflections:
My goals from last week didn't happen, thanks to my cold. I think I needed some days off, though. I was able to run 45 minutes without feeling winded or sore TWO days in a row. It felt amazing. I think I actually smiled through part of my run. I'm sure I looked like a fool, but I just felt so good.

Survive this week. I'm giving a paper at a conference, substitute teaching, having my own teaching observed, grading two rounds of assignments, and doing all-day training for a new job.

So far, I haven't worked out at all this week. I tried to run yesterday (Monday), but my running tights were falling down and I felt all-around miserable. My allergies have been terrible, and I've been sleep-deprived, malnourished and cranky. I'll be happy to survive. I always told myself I wouldn't run if it made me angry -- running is my escape, the thing that makes me feel calm. I'm looking forward to my first run of the week on Thursday, when I return from the conference.

This weekend and next week, I want to get back to healthy eating, biking and working out. I feel terrible, not only because of allergies, but also because of a lack of healthy, fresh food.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Look/hear: Jangle pop

This weekend, I found two new bands, and re-discovered an old one. I think this month's theme is jangly songs with pop hooks.

Zookeeper, "I Live in the Mess You Are"
I couldn't find the EP version of this song, which is a lot better and a little more twang-y.


The Sundays, "Here's Where the Story Ends"
A female-fronted band that sounds a lot like The Smiths. The opening guitar in this reminds me of "Cemetry Gates." How did I not know about them before this?


Traveling Wilburys, "New Blue Moon"
The best supergroup of all time -- Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and George Harrison.


Think/act: Changes

Last weekend, I was walking back from dinner with a friend, and she asked, "How are you doing out here by yourself?"

Answering her question made me realize just how much my life has changed in the last year. I suppose I've realized things here and there, but adding everything up and seeing it in front of me was surprising.

Last summer, I broke up with someone I had been with for nearly five years. At first, I was devastated and angry. Things didn't end on the best of terms. They were messy. He had moved to another state. And after several exhausting months of still talking and thinking about working things out, we officially parted ways. I didn't cry. I unfriended him on Facebook. I ran twice as far as I ever had before.

I originally started running when my then-boyfriend first moved out of state. I had been meaning to get in shape. My desk job had taken its toll. Running kept me from being as lonely and sad as I first was. But after we stopped speaking to each other all together, I realized that those months of in-between had been holding me back, physically and mentally.

After we broke up, I also quit a job that I had been unhappy with for a long time. I switched careers. I starting teaching and tutoring for the first-year writing program at my university. I wouldn't trade my job for anything.

After we broke up, I also realized I needed a roommate. I ended up living with a fellow English major. He was originally a friend of a friend, but he's become one of my favorite people here. Now, I wouldn't trade that for anything, either.

I've gone on dates, reconnected with old friends, made new ones, and met some amazing people, including many of my students. I gave up meat and fast food. I started biking to work. I've learned so much about teaching, tutoring and feminism. I can honestly say I am happy. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for more than a decade, this is the most content and settled I've felt in a very long time. I've worked hard to become healthier, more conscientious, and more appreciative of the things in life that are good. It's an ongoing process, but I am much happier to be the person I am now. I feel more like myself.

Being by myself has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I know what I'm capable of. I know how strong I can be. I don't want to give credit to a person I no longer respect or care for. Instead, I think I'll take the credit. The breakup might have been the catalyst for much of this change, but I was the one who did all the hard work. I usually hate to brag, but I feel pretty damn proud of myself right now.

Move/make: Week 2

Today I'm at 177.6 pounds, so maybe last week wasn't so far off.

Monday: Ran 37 minutes
Tuesday: Biked six miles
Wednesday: Biked three miles, ran 27 minutes
Thursday: Walked one hour, biked 4.5 miles
Friday: Ran 20 minutes
Saturday: Ran a 5K in just under 35 minutes, about two minutes under my previous time
Sunday: Recovery day

Thoughts on food:
Except for a few snacks at school, I stuck with my goal of not going out to eat unless it was with someone. Though I went out for dinner four times this week, I was lucky enough to share food with some wonderful people, and I wouldn't trade that for anything -- especially since I don't get to see many of those friends as often as I'd like.

I've been getting better at not eating junk, though my long days with no lunch breaks are making it hard to avoid the vending machines on campus. I bought some healthier snacks that I can carry in my bag and eat in the short breaks I do get between teaching and tutoring. I feel better and happier when I have something decent to eat.

Overall reflections:
I tapered my runs this week so that I wouldn't be worn out for the race on Saturday. I've been very sore this week, but I feel good about the race on Saturday. I noticed I'm able to run faster than before, and I beat my old time by two minutes. I ran with one of my very good friends, and we've got plans to work up to a 10K over the summer.

I've continued to have more energy and have been feeling much happier overall. The end-of-semester crunch is happening -- and is doubly stressful because of the job hunt I also need to start. I want to make sure I continue running and biking, at the very least, because it keeps me calm.

As for my goals from last week, I ran a full 5K distance before my original goal of Thursday. I didn't do much cooking for myself, and I didn't make it to the gym.

This week, I'd like to actually make it to the gym at least once, and work on weight-training. I also want to ride my bike to campus four days this week.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Look/hear: Running songs

I like to make myself a playlist for races, usually timed to last just slightly longer than it takes me to run a 5K. The songs have to be fairly short, fast-paced, and either restless or angry. Here are some of my favorite songs from past lists:

The Replacements, "Bastards of Young"
This is one of my all-time favorite bands, and the song epitomizes being frustrated and young.


Steve Earle, "I Ain't Ever Satisfied"
I like to run to songs about never being happy with what you've got. Plus, he was on The Wire!

Guided by Voices, "Skills Like This"
I like to channel Bob Pollard's energy when I run.

Move/make: Week 1

I weighed myself today -- I'm now at 175.2 pounds. I don't know if my weight a week ago was a fluke or not, as I haven't been in the habit of weighing myself for years, but I find it hard to believe I lost nine pounds. Either way, it's gone down, which is good, because I've been training hard for an upcoming 5K.

Ran 32 minutes on Monday
Biked three miles on Tuesday
Biked three miles and ran 32 minutes on Wednesday
Walked one hour and biked three miles on Thursday
Day off on Friday
Ran 32 minutes on Saturday
Ran 35 minutes today (Sunday)

Thoughts on food:
I ate out three days in a row with friends, but not eating meat forces me to make semi-healthy choices. I've learned that I really like seitan (made from wheat gluten). I try not to go out to eat by myself, and instead save that time/money for when I can make it something social. Spending time and sharing good food with friends makes me happy. It's nourishing in an entirely different, but no less important, way.

Overall reflections:
Thanks to a new running buddy, I've been running longer and more often than I ever have before. Before I quit running a couple of months ago, I was up to about 40 minutes of non-stop running. When I started running with my friend last week, we were only able to run 18 minutes. Now we've nearly doubled it, and our route includes about five minutes of steady incline. There's no way I would have made this much progress on my own. And, like sharing meals, I've found it's really comforting and inspiring to run with someone else.

I've also had a lot more energy. I visited my best friend and her nearly two-year-old son last week, and I chased him around the house for a while without feeling lazy or tired. I nap less, and I actually look forward to biking to campus every day. Running hasn't gotten easier to go out and do, but I have found that I start to hit my stride around 25 minutes or so, and it gets easier to finish the run.

Overall, I feel more at peace with myself.

By this coming Thursday, I want to run a full 5K, to make sure I'm ready for my race on Saturday. I also need to get better at cooking for myself. I'd love to make it to the gym for weight training, but I think I'll just be glad to get up to speed for Saturday.