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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.

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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.

We’re home. We actually have been since Sunday.

But Sunday was filled with arriving home and showering and immediately going to James F’s birthday party and catching up with all our friends there and then collapsing at the end of a 44 hour day.

And Monday was filled with doing laundry and restocking the fridge and arguing over who had to open the gear bags and avoiding the smell coming from the gear bags and then washing everything in the gear bags.

And today was filled with work. Le sigh.

But we’re back, and eventually it won’t feel like we’re going to bed at 5pm instead of midnight, or getting up at 1am instead of 8am. And eventually I’ll be caught up at work, and have figured out some stuff for this conference in November, and have sorted through 9 bajillion emails.

And then?

Then, my dears, oh I have stories! It was a TRUE adventure!

I’m officially off tomorrow for some rest and relaxation, some sun and sand, some great company (not just John, but some other great people, including Vince and Daphne, who we haven’t seen in a year or so but have traveled with before!) and awesome diving.

Two and a half weeks in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Four plane rides, a two-hour bus ride, and a boat ride, and then we’ll be at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere, having the time of our lives.

Of course, if I don’t come home, it’s because I either loved it so much I stayed, or because I died from some horrible disease or a falling coconut. (And yes, that is where we’re going–or at least the last airport town we travel through.)

I’ll have stories and pictures for you all when I get back, but in the mean time, stay safe and sane.

See you all in October!

Fun thing one: Birthdays!

We’re entering that time of year when the birthdays pile up. Greg was a week ago, Rae and Cara were this past weekend, and upcoming over the next two-three months are Amy, Ella (who will go from my favorite 1-year old to my favorite 2-year old!), Nate, Shelly, John and all sorts of other people.

Makes sense when you think about it–9 months after Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day!!

We had dinner at Greg’s sister’s house for his birthday last Monday night.

Saturday was Rae’s party, with a private catered chef and vodka infusions and everything. Super classy, and tons of fun, though it always reminds me when we hang out with her and Aaron about things like that that John and I are definitely in a lower tax bracket. Still, nice to enjoy it for an evening, and mixed berry vodka infusion is amazingly good!

Cara’s party was Sunday, with sushi followed by seeing a local cover band at a local bar. The two guys in the bad were really good, and really funny. They’ll be playing at James and Cara’s wedding, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. Not quite in the same league as Rae’s party, but Cara’s was very familiar and fun.

Now I’m trying to come up with some fun things to send Amy for her birthday this Friday, other than what she’s asked for. It’s always nice to have some surprises, don’t you think? Any ideas on small, light weight stuff that a person living on their own for the first time could use?

Fun thing two: Vacations!

Man, tons of people are taking vacations at this time of year. Elizabeth and Matt went off on their honeymoon (well, yes, more than a vacation, but still), and Sydney and her boy went to New York and Puerto Rico–I didn’t even get to see her in between her trips, but I’m hoping to catch up with her before we leave soon! James and Cara were up in the Pacific Northwest, and Nate and Shelly are about to head off to Greece.

And where are John and I going? Well, two weeks from Thursday, we leave for 2-3 weeks involving sun, sand, and diving. Here’s a hint: We’re not going to Australia, but we’ll have two 24-hour layovers in Brisbane on the way there and back. Any suggestions for places to eat, things to do, sights to see?

From there we’re off to Papua New Guinea–the last frontier in diving, theoretically. Everyone we’ve ever talked to has said it’s the best diving we’ll ever do. We’ll be at a very remote resort for a handful of days, then 11 days on a luxurious live aboard, diving to our heart’s content. At the resort, we’ll have access to the world’s best “muck diving”–diving to see all the little creatures that live in the silt at the bottom–plus skull caves, amazing hikes, and all sorts of cool birds and animals and fish. My goals, above water, to see a bird of paradise and an echidna–my dad has never even met anyone who’s seen a PNG echidna, so I want to try!

It should be an amazing vacation, full of as much relaxation or as much go-go-go diving as we want it to be. I can’t wait, and there’s still more than two weeks to go!!

Oh well, I’ve got some birthdays between now and then to tide me over. 🙂

The diving community lost a member yesterday. He was apparently a very experienced diver, but was doing an extra deep dive, down to 250 feet, where many things could have gone wrong.

I really feel for his family and friends, and I hope nothing like this ever happens to me, John, our friends, or any of our students, past or present.

EDIT: The name didn’t immediately ring a bell, but according to John, I had met this guy several times, and had even dove in a group of people that he was part of. Doubly sad.

We had a scuba class at the ocean this past weekend, helping 9 students become or get closer to becoming certified. It was, as always, a nice chance to work with all our friends on the staff, but this class?

Well, as Greg would say, it was a learning experience.

Four of the 9 were kids, ages 10-12. That changes all sorts of instructor-to-student and staff-to-student ratios. Fun times.

One of the 10-yr-olds was a perfect example of someone mature enough and ready to become a certified diver. Other than that she was physically small, and thus got freakishly cold really fast, she was a great student.

The other 10-yr-old, however, was a great example of someone who is more interested in digging in the sand than paying attention to an instructor, and who is just freaking not ready to get certified. Maturity-wise, ability to pay attention, ability to follow directions, all of it. Not quite a nightmare, but certainly not a lot of fun.

The rest of the students were pretty average–better than we expected from the pool when the class started, but not a rock-star group like we sometimes have. But all made it through just fine.

However, in the course of teaching 4 dives, the staff did, collectively, up to 6 dives. It was a lot. And Monterey was busy, so no hotel room, and so two 4:30am alarm clock wake-up-calls. Ugh.

I think I’m only now recovering. Sleep-wise, it’s going to take awhile, but physically I’m back to where I was. I only carried my gear out of the water on my bum shoulder twice. Shhh, don’t tell John or he’ll be super mad!

But it was a lovely weekend, fairly good diving, and fun times for the most part.

Some highlights:

a little shrimp burying itself in the sand

coming across the sand dollar fields

some sea nettles that were blowing in on the tide/wind (only really a highlight so long as you didn’t touch them)

lots of decorator crabs

an octopus!! during the day!! how cool is that?!?!?

and a job well done to staff and students alike

It’s been an interesting week. Lots of random stuff going on, and all I want is a good night’s sleep.

All my co-workers are away for a conference, so it’s been mostly just me in the lab, with the exception of one or two other people. It’s been nice, but I’ve gotten some cool data that I need to talk to people about. And I have a kick-ass experiment in the works that, if it works like I hope, will be super kick-ass! But I have to wait until next week at least to get the results.

Also, the reviews came back for my paper, and provided I can answer the reviewer’s concerns and change/correct/whatever what they had problems with, it should likely be accepted. But there’s been no one to celebrate with in lab, even if the celebration would be for a not receiving an out-right rejection as opposed to an acceptance. Such is life. In any case, HUZZAH! Not rejected! (Yet.)

On the flip side of work, we’ve got a weeknight scuba class going on right now with a bunch of kids in it, which I’m super excited about. So lots of fun there, although I’m discovering more and more that I love working with our staff when Greg and James lead things, but Ben’s lack of logistical planning makes me want to climb the walls. Luckily, he doesn’t do much leading.

The sticky part of this class comes in when all these kids, and the other students, get in the pool tomorrow night and the staff could really use the four extra hands and eyes that John and I provide. Especially with Shelly ill and James out of town for a week.

However!

My parents are coming to town tomorrow and staying for a couple days during their Great Road Trip of Western America 2009!

As Amy pointed out, this is probably the first time they’ve been able to wander where they want and stop and look at all the little brown jobies (i.e. non-descript birds, or LBJs if you’re in my family) with Amy and I in the back seat fighting or being bored or complaining about something. Or at least for the last 25+ years or so. So I hope they’re enjoying it.

So far they’ve visited a lot of the northern states, and angled into California yesterday and today. They’re staying with my grandparents tonight, then coming down here tomorrow. So part of me feels an obligation as a staff member to be there in the pool and help out, and part of me feels that my parents are only in town through the weekend, and thus I should spend time with them.

Either way, I’ve been working on cleaning the house like mad. And either way, I’m super excited.

Thank goodness because we were teaching another scuba class, and if something had gone wrong, that’s a lot of paperwork to file!

Especially good because I didn’t break myself, which I’ll get to.

I didn’t even break anything Friday, unless you count breaking my broken dish streak. 🙂

Anyways, the class rocked. Seven great students, a new instructor for Greg to keep an eye on (he’s a QA guy) who did pretty well, and good things to see.

4:30am came awfully early, as it always does, but Monterey this past weekend was a nice mix of gray clouds and bits of sun, and not to warm but not to hot. I never remember to put on sunscreen, so this at least saved me from looking like a beet. Plus, just fun times and friends.

My students spent most of the first two dives working on just figuring out the whole “I’m under the sea” thing, which is pretty typical. The did well on skills, enjoyed the dives, and had a good time. We did have one who got horribly seasick (underwater, even), but she handled it well and made it back to land safely.

We didn’t see much other than some decorator crabs. Above water, it was pretty clear that it was sea lion pup weaning time, as the little ones were everywhere. There was a lonely little pup up on shore, where most of them end up if they’re hungry/stressed/tired/sick. Of course, it’s where people can easily harass them. Sad. Animal rescue people came and got him eventually, but he was cute to see from a distance.

Shelly and I kept an eye on him whenever we were on or near the beach, and had to ask several people to not get up close and personal with the little guy, which is against the law here in sunny California–it’s harassment. One guy was pretty rude about it, and told me I was breaking the law too by being within 10m (or whatever the distance is) to the pup (I’d say I was 15ft away, about as far as I could get with students exiting the water), but he was within 1-2 feet. Idiot. James defended me, but the guy’s response?

“I’m an experienced diver!”

My response, had I not walked away in a huff, would have been, “That doesn’t mean you can be an asshat!”

Bah. Thank goodness the pup was taken into animal care. We saw a ton of them out on the rocks along the breakwater wall, but only the one sick one on the beach.

The only downside to the day was that both times I exited the water, I had students but no staff, and since I couldn’t leave the students alone, I had to head out with them, carrying my gear. All 80-ish lbs of it. Which I’m still pretty much forbidden to do by all sorts of people with medical training. Thankfully, not a lot of pain, and I only went as far as I absolutely had to. Here’s to not making the problem worse! (Sunday, James and John both forbade me from giving a repeat performance, but we all surfaced with our students at about the same time, so it worked out.)

The afternoon was filled with pizza, hot tubs, the usual Safeway run to buy gallons of water and Dove bars, plus some free chinese food from one of the other guys who dives through our same shop. Nice! We had a student stay with us in the room, but he didn’t seem to mind all our strangeness, which Greg pointed out made him good staff material. Plus, he was pretty damn good for a new diver.

We also watched “Pineapple Express”. Can’t say I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I suppose it had it’s moments. It also had it’s low points. Maybe I’m just not cut out for that kind of humor.

Sunday was also cloudy and about the right temperature. We were sort of hoping that the dense cloud cover would trick all the little octopi into thinking it was dark enough to come out and hunt, but alas, none were to be found.

My student and I had two pretty good dives. Not anything specific on the first dive other than just a good dive. On the second dive, however, we saw a good number of rainbow nudibranchs, these big reddish guys that climb up the tube anemones and eat them. Some were perched on top of stalks, having already eaten, and some were on the sand, but none were in the process of “hunting”. Or at least as much as a snail-like creature can hunt a non-moving creature. It’s apparently pretty cool to see the moment of capture.

We also saw a frilly white nudibranch that I’ve been trying to identify for a year or two, but to no avail–he’s still around, and frilly and white, but still without identification. Also lots of fish, as well as people. Tons of people out kicking around, specifically kicking the sand around. The visibility wasn’t as good as the day before. Just as we finished the sun came out, which made for a beautiful afternoon on the beach.

All in all, a great weekend, and John and I agreed it was really nice to be down there teaching with the whole staff, just like old times. I may have even convinced him to start Assistant Instructor training sometime soon!

Wednesday night, in an attempt to set a dish on the counter, I accidentally dropped it on the floor. Oops.

Thursday night, while putting my computer on the table, I knocked over a glass, which shattered perfectly around the middle into a shorter glass and a ring. Don’t know how I did it, but I did.

John asked, politely, if I could try not to break anything today, Friday.

So it’s a good thing that I took my breakfast out today on a plastic plate. I had to go get blood drawn before eating, so I took toast and a banana with me when I ran out the door. Then, on the way to the doctor’s office, some jerk pulled in front of me and I had to slam on my breaks. The breaks locked, I skidded a bit, but all was well and both cars remained intact.

The plate went sailing onto the floor, as did all my food.

At least my toast landed butter-side up!

And with just over an hour to go, I haven’t broken anything yet today.

Of course, with a scuba weekend ahead, there’s always toes and tanks to be wary of. Wish me luck!

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