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1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Went to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Touched a whale shark.
Swam with hammerhead sharks.
Hiked to 16,000 feet up a volcano.
Threw a baby shower and became a sort-of (sort-of because we’re calling ourselves aunts, though we aren’t related at all) aunt to Nate and Shelly’s baby Owen.
Began to seriously contemplate giving Owen a sort-of cousin.
Earned my PhD. Officially became a Doctor!
Published a paper from my graduate work.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make an official New Year’s Resolution for 2010. Rather, maybe, the nebulous get healthy/stay healthy goal. And I think I’ve done pretty well. Mentally, I’m in a much better place now than I was a year or even two years ago. Physically, I’ve taken care of some healthy issues, really started exercising more, and have even lost a decent amount of weight. So all in all, I’d say I did pretty well. And frankly, I’ll probably make the same resolution. There’s always room for improvement.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yep, Shelly did! To a beautiful little baby boy on Thanksgiving morning. This is also the thing I’m most thankful for in 2010–that two of my best friends became parents to a beautiful, healthy baby. And that Owen is a wonderful baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though we worried a lot about John’s grandmother due to all the things that contributed to her prolonged hospital stay, which included a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. But she’s doing much, much better now.

5. What countries did you visit?
Ecuador and the Galapagos (same country, but vastly different). Both were amazing.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Health care through my job.
More financial security.
A larger living space.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Owen’s birth.
My fifth wedding anniversary.
My dissertation defense date.
My graduation ceremony.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Earning my PhD.
Getting healthy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
With the goal of mental health, I’m not answering.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I threw my shoulder out again on December 26th, 2009, and thus spent the first 3-4 months of 2010 re-healing it.
I was diagnosed with a fairly non-serious medical disorder that is now under control.
Mild aches and pains at times, especially when I took up running again.
But in general, pretty healthy, especially right now!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Baby clothes for Owen.
A trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Perfect Christmas presents for everyone. It took awhile to find just the right thing for each and every person, but I did! This is, quite honestly, my favorite part about Christmas.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Rent and groceries and utilities and boring adult things.
Paying for my own health care for the second half of the year. Maybe I should have re-thought that whole graduating and no-longer-a-student thing. But it was worth it.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Owen’s birth.
Graduating with my PhD.
My new job.
Elizabeth’s residency here in the Bay Area, meaning she and Mark will continue to live here and we can see them all the time.
The San Jose Sharks pummeling the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Conference semi-finals.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Black Eyed Peas “I gotta feeling”. (Was that even this year?) But it was a good year and a good song.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

A bit thinner. Maybe happier.
Overall about the same. And happy with that.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Scuba diving.
Running.
Exploring California like we always say we’re going to do.
But in general, it was a really good year just the way it was.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Not much. Complaining, maybe, but I think it was a good year. I like it how it was.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Iowa, surrounded by family, extended family, and in-law family. Laughing, cooking, taking pictures, sharing memories, gossiping, eating, staying warm.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Um, I didn’t watch much TV this year, honestly. Except for sports, like Sharks hockey and college basketball. John’s new favorite show is “Wild Justice”, which is pretty good. “Better With You”. “Better Off Ted”.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
“The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer. Love it. Highly recommend it.
Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink”, “Tipping Point” and “Outliers”.
Atul Gawande’s “Complications”.
I’m sure there were more, probably in the romance category, but none that come to mind.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Songs on the radio I could sing along with.
Handel’s Messiah, as always.
Christmas music, at least for the last month or so.
The group Cage the Elephant, who’s music is great for exercising.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I think I only went to see two movies this year. A chick flick with Elizabeth, though I can’t remember what it was. And “Eat, Pray, Love” with Shelly. Both were okay, neither were a favorite.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28. My dissertation was due to my committee about a week later, so I probably spent the day working on it. Went to dinner with friends, if not on my birthday, then right around that time.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was great as it was. For others, better health for John’s grandmother. Less heartache in the beginning of the year for my sister. A Stanley Cup for the Sharks instead of for Chicago.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Comfortable.

26. What kept you sane?
John. My friends. My family. Scuba diving. Running. Graduating.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

Learn to be happy with who you are, or work to be who you can be happy being.

Have you ever hyper-extended a knee? I think I might have oh-so-slightly done so. The back side of my knee, along the inside, right where I imagine tendons or ligaments or whatnot are, hurts.

It hurts when I stand with my weight predominantly on that leg.

It hurts if I sit/lay with my leg straight out in front of me. But feels better if I bend the knee slightly.

It hurts when I walk. Strangely, it doesn’t hurt when I run. Go figure.

But I’m taking this as a sign to tone down the leg weight lifting, the treadmilling, etc, until it feels better. I’d like to avoid a trip to the doctor’s office if I can.

This year has already seen the Neck/Shoulder Injury Round 2 as well as a few other health problems that I think I’ll keep to myself (not gross or girly, just I don’t feel the need to share), and I don’t need to add to that list with just one month to go.

But it is frustrating to have this happen right when Jeannie, Dave’s wife (we went to high school with him, and I gave him the advice that finally pushed him into intending to ask her out, except she beat him to the punch line–love it!), well, Jeannie has me just about convinced to train for a half marathon.

And go to Florida to run one with her next year. Maybe. We’re debating our commitment, since it involves plane tickets and therefore money and time off from work.

I looked at 12-week training programs, and I’m already running the 8-10 miles a week that they recommend before you begin. And I can handle the weekday routines. It’s the build-up on the weekends, from 2 to 12 miles, that worries me. I need someone to run with. To keep me motivated, and to motivate in return. That’s really the only thing still holding me back.

So I’ll take it easy for a week or so and see how the knee feels. Ugh. Ouch.

I just planned out the next six-ish weeks at work, and it includes working about four of those six weekends. Including Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. Including Thursday this week. Not for long, but still.

I feel like I’ve been focusing so much on finishing up at the current job, and spending my free time either exercising or sleeping, that I haven’t had much time for myself lately. Probably why I’m also throwing posts together before collapsing in bed.

But here are some things I want to do, little things, when I have time time:

1. Finally write up my trip stories about Papua New Guinea, as well as Ecuador and the Galapagos.

2. Make an indentation on the stack of unread books on my bedside table. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of John’s comic books because the (a) don’t take brain power, and (b) I can read a few pages and put it down instead of getting sucked in and reading all night.

3. Work on some of the recipes that I’ve been reading and drooling over in the Fine Cooking that my parents send John for his birthday. They all look so fabulous and tasty, but the last thing I want to do when I get home at 7:45, sweaty from the gym and exhausted from the day, is start in on a big meal.

4. Find some new running routes, either by poking around online or by driving to some different locales and then just running. I know this kind of falls into exercising, but I’m thinking more in terms of the long, casual runs on the weekends. The ones that are about time and distance rather than speed, that are about getting out and enjoying the day rather than making it through a workout before the gym closes. Same goes for bike routes, though it’s getting cold so those are maybe a bit limited by weather, seeing as how they’re longer than a run.

5. This sounds silly, but catch up to where John is on a couple video games. He has a bunch, and I play a few of them, and it would be nice to, say, finish editions I and II so I can start on III, which looks awesome.

6. Declutter my house. It needs it and I need it. But then again, we’re looking to move in the next six months, so maybe I leave the decluttering for the packing and unpacking process? But I feel like I need some change in my living environment.

7. Spend some quality one-on-one time with various friends. For example, Cara. We see each other fairly often, but mostly with John and James in tow. It’d be nice to get in a girl’s night. Throw in Shelly and subtract one-third of the alcohol (she’s pregnant) and it’d be a pretty awesome time.

8. Go scuba dive for fun. I haven’t done this in Monterey in forever. It’s all been classes, which have their own rewards, but are not about me, underwater, blowing bubbles and making friends with fish.

9. Watch more hockey and college basketball. I’ve got to soak it all in for the next however many months before the summer drought (and baseball) settle in.

That’s it, off the top of my head, but I’m thinking I need to make some time to do some of this. Even if it maybe means a few less workouts. Or a few days longer at the current job. My mental health could probably use some or all of the above, just to make me feel happier and more centered and more grounded in my life.

I feel like I’m half-assing these posts lately, but I think I’m getting sick.

Yesterday it was the all-consuming bone-deep exhaustion.

After 10 hours of sleep last night, today I’m just tired.

Except for the headache that is making my eyeballs explode out of my face when the intensity of the light changes, and my ears emit puffs of fire and steam whenever there’s a loud noise.

Dinner and (likely drugged) sleep it is.

I ran cross country and track in high school. I was never great at it, but I enjoyed it. Cross country at least. Track, not so much. Running in circles never made much sense to me, which was why I always chose to run short distance even though I’ve never been all that fast.

But cross country was different. Something about those crisp fall afternoons, running with my friends. Our girl’s cross country squad had over 100 members, so there was always someone to run with. Plus we had the most awesome pre-race dinners ever.

Imagine all those 100 girls, plus various coaching staff, plus lots of helpful parents. Mounds of pasta and sauce. Baby carrots galore. And these wonderful chocolatey, peanut-buttery rice crispy treaty things. Scotcharoos. De-licious!

My sophomore year I set a personal best 2 miles in 14:37. I think. Something like that, give or take a couple seconds. It was at a race track that was a bit rolling, but no big hills. We ran there twice in a row, once for the season race and once for districts race. It was an awesome course, and I really pushed myself the second week, knowing I’d set a new PR the previous week and wanting so badly to beat it.

Which I did. By 2 seconds! But I still beat it!

Anyways, after high school, I never really ran much. But for some reason, on my recent health and exercise kick, I’ve started running again. A couple miles on the treadmill at the gym. A nice long run around the neighborhood. I’ve even done one local 5k with some cross country friends from high school who live out here now. And we’re doing another one in 2 weeks.

I’d forgotten the feeling of running mindless. Of being able to just clear my brain and go. There’s something satisfying about it. Granted, some days its tough, and all I can think about are how hot I am, or how much my shin splints hurt, or the massive cramp in my side, or just that I don’t want to be doing it. Thank goodness for my iPod! But then other days, I just fly. And that’s an awesome feeling. And no matter how crappy I feel when I’m doing it, I always feel good afterwards.

And though I’m not sure I’ll ever be as fast as I was 13-14 (wowza!) years ago, I’m feeling pretty good about my pace.

I’m even down to about a 9 minute mile for two miles. Go me!

So, question: does anyone have any advice for good running music? Something with a good pace/beat? I tend to run at the pace of my music, so slow doesn’t work so well. Any and all advice is truly appreciated.

I’d forgotten that one of the toughest things about NaBloPoMo wasn’t necessarily remembering to blog every day, but rather coming up with something to blog ABOUT every day.

Plus, today was a long day at work, though things are moving forward, so I’m not necessarily feeling motivated to do anything other than sit on my couch and eat dinner when John’s done making it. But I had a good meeting with my boss and some experiments are looking good.

Not much happened today. So some random thoughts as they drift through my overextended brain:

I didn’t make it to the gym today. I’d planned to run a couple miles. I blame work. Why is work-life-exercise balance never easy? And missing today means, since I skipped Sunday, I have to go every day for the rest of this week to hit five of seven days. Man, I wanted Saturday off too! But I’ve rediscovered a love of running that is really helping the process.

I did vote. Just not today. By mail. Several weeks ago. I wish there was a way to let the campaigns know you voted so they would stop calling and emailing and snail mailing and putting ads on TV and the radio and just leave you alone! I’m fed up with a lot of politicians in this country, but I voted, and I voted the way I always vote. Millions and billions of dollars in advertising didn’t change my mind. My party may not be the best, but I still think it’s way better than the other party. I’m sure you probably feel the same way too. So long as you’re reasonable about it, I have no issue with you, regardless of the side you’re on.

Mmmm, steak and asparagus for dinner. Made by John. For me. Mmmmm.

The Sharks lost to Minnesota tonight. On a 5-on-3 power play goal. But I’m still impressed with Nitty, our new goalie.

Our neighbor, whom we already suspected was certifiably crazy, apparently has a warrant out for her arrest. A policeman stopped us last Saturday to ask if we could verify that the warrant picture he had was, indeed, for our neighbor. Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to look it over and determine why. WHY??? This is now a vague obsession of mine. And it would be really nice if she were kicked out. Or just moved. So I may or may not have mentioned this to our apartment manager. Whoops. Does that make me a bad person? Oh well. Maybe our neighbor shouldn’t have been so annoying at all hours of the day and night.

My cats are getting old. One is in the early stages of kidney failure. The other has diabetes. They’re both doing okay on a new wet food, high protein cat diet. I’m not ready for them to be anything else. They’re ten years old, but I still want them to be around for awhile.

Except, maybe can I get a dog too? Puh-lease???

So maybe can we move and get a dog? That’s the plan!

Hrm, so it’s been nearly a year. Maybe I needed a break. Maybe I felt like I didn’t have much to say. Maybe it’s been nice just to not be tied to posting. I don’t know what it’s been, but I just haven’t felt like writing.

So I’d been thinking for awhile that November NaBloPoMo might be a good way to get started again, and lo and behold, it’s freaking November all ready. Yikes!

So, I’m diving into the deep end head first.

Here’s some things that have occupied me since I last wrote:

December: A wedding and a 90th birthday in the family! What fun to get everyone together and celebrate throughout the holidays. Very joyous, although the 5 year anniversary of the date we lost my cousin did dampen the spirit a bit at times.

January: Another massive neck/shoulder injury. Ugh. Xrays, several specialists, and back to physical therapy. Happy times.

February: We found out that there was going to be a baby! No, not mine, but my best friend’s! So excited for her.

March: Massive last push for data in the lab begins and ends. I basically decided what would and wouldn’t be in my thesis and went from there. Not much sleep occurred.

April: The Cough of Death and thesis writing were not a good combination. Too much sleeping, and the rest of the time was spent writing. Thank goodness for cough medicine!

May: I DEFENDED MY FREAKING THESIS AND EARNED MY PHD!!!

June: I GRADUATED! ALL OFFICIAL LIKE! THAT’S DOCTOR SARAH TO YOU NOW!

July: Month o’ Travel! We went to Ecuador for four days and the Galapagos Islands for eight. Massive amounts of fun, and stories to come. Promptly upon arriving home, we drove the 18 hours to Wyoming for a massive week-long family reunion that my mom organized for her 60th birthday year. Then, as soon as I got home and did laundry, it was off to Salt Lake City for a conference. Ugh. But I did get to see a friend who lives there now. Oh, and a snake. Never going back. Ever.

August: Oh crap, you mean I have to find a job? Two interviews, two job offers. Neither is perfect, but both work.

September: Realized I wasn’t as close to being done with the old job as I thought. Another interview, again not quite perfect. Must I make up my mind?

October: Hrm, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel to finish this job, plus some exciting job prospects–two tentative job offers that I’m super duper excited about! Things are looking up! Except for that downer where my grandmother-in-law shattered her femur and got shingles and had an allergic reaction to morphine that swelled her throat closed. Needless to say, we traveled home for an emergency visit just to be on the safe side. She’s hopefully starting to recover. And I have two tentative job offers

Now: The San Francisco Giants won the world series. Huzzah! And I started blogging again. Huzzah!

One down, twenty-nine to go!

It’s been two weeks since I’ve made it to the gym, which is out of the ordinary for me the last couple months.

Mostly it had to do with the massive cold I’ve been nursing the last week and a half.

Today, other than a slightly stuff nose, I finally felt well enough to head to the gym.

Which closes at 7:30pm.

I left work at 8pm.

Gah.

And now I’m heading out of town until Friday, so there goes another week!

Hope you all had a better, less hectic Monday.

Bad news comes in threes, right?

Friday, we found out that John’s aunt has breast cancer. In both breasts.

Saturday, we found out that my great uncle had a rare form of lymphoma–and that it had already traveled to his lungs and kidneys.

Sunday, after leaving here and arriving in the town in which my great uncle and aunt live, my mom ate dinner at a restaurant starting with “mc” and ending with “onalds” and possibly connected with a “d”–and promptly got food poisoning.

So that was our three.

Now here are three requests:

John’s aunt has surgery Thursday–a double mastectomy–please keep her in your thoughts.

My great uncle died yesterday, and I found out this afternoon–please keep him and his family in your thoughts.

And my mom recovered. Thank god. But any of you who want to keep her in your thoughts anyway, in the hope that her cancer never comes back, are more than welcome to do so.

It’s been a tough day. Kind thoughts are much appreciated.

You know what breaks my heart faster than anything ever?

It’s that hiccuping, gasping sob as Amy tries to hold back her tears long enough to say hello to me on the phone before she breaks down.

When she’s feeling down and lost, she calls me. And usually only gets out “Hi, how are you?” before she loses her composure.

And even after my moment of panic–what’s wrong? is she okay? are my parents okay?–passes, my heart just aches as I listen to her cry over the phone line, from hundreds of miles away, and all I can do is say “It’s okay!” without really knowing what’s wrong or if it really is okay.

Today, it was mostly low self-esteem/confidence leading her to feel that she wasn’t good at her job, that she was just fooling the people that she works with into thinking she’s competent, and that she’ll never make friends in the tiny town she’s just moved to.

This, from a girl with more friends than you can shake a stick at. From the girl that moved 1800 miles away to go to college, and ever after calling me nearly every night crying her freshman year, stuck it out and ended up loving her life in California. From the girl that then moved 3000 to the opposite coast and started over, making new friends and new contacts, with a new job and a new school and a new life plan and a new boy who is, I hope, going to be the love of her life.

She is strong and competent and smart and funny and friendly and organized. She’s good at her job. I know this without even knowing much about her job–simply because the things her job requires are things she excels at. She always makes friends, even if it takes time and effort–she will in this new place, too. And at the end of the year, if she’s still not happy, she can find a new job back out east, near the boy who she has fallen in love with.

I told her all this, and encouraged her to think positively and to choose to feel good about herself and to go see the boy and to come visit me and to call anytime she needs or wants to and to ask people to do things with her in an effort to make friends and to see that she is good at her job. And. And. And.

I don’t know how much of it broke through to her crying on the other end, but eventually the sobs stopped and she even laughed at a joke or two. It will help, until the next time her self-confidence takes a nose dive.

(As a side note, why are girls cursed with such low self-confidence? If there was one thing I could wish for anyone I knew, any daughter of mine, it would be self-esteem and self-confidence. Alas.)

In any case, I think it helped tonight, and it will help for a little while. And her weekend visit to the boy will help even more, I’m sure.

But sooner or later, my phone will ring again, and she’ll start to cry all over again, and my heart will break all over again. Because when that happens, I want nothing more than to maker her life all okay, to hug her and tell her it will get better, and instead, all I can do is hold the phone and talk to her for however long it takes for her to not cry.

That’s what sisters are for, I suppose. And I’ll be there, on the end of the line, however long she needs me.

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