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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.

The holiday grind is gearing up, just as the work grind is slowing down.

Next Thursday, when I come to work for the last time in 2010 (not work for the last time, as I’ll be doing some off-site work, but actually, physically come to work), it’ll be day 40 of a no-days-off-since-early-November stint. Ugh. I could really use a day off!

And I’m so glad I get to celebrate the end of my last day at work by immediately getting on a red-eye flight to Chicago! (Now where is that sarcasm font when you need it?)

Because the last time I did that it was all fun and games. Including a call for medical personnel while we were somewhere about half-way between the Bay Area and Chicago. Yeah, fun and games.

Although my work-life balance is already out of whack, and I have basically no time to myself these days, I am looking forward to the next week or so of holiday parties. Tonight with Mark and Elizabeth. Tomorrow with a friend coming into San Francisco for the week. Thursday night with another friend. Friday to myself, just to be at home with John. Oh, and make tons of food for Saturday, which is the big annual holiday party thrown by James and Cara. Sunday is a smaller party with just us, James and Cara, and Nate and Shelly. And the baby, of course. Then there’s another two dinners next week before we leave.

Speaking of tons of food, one of the things I’ll be making Friday night is my traditional Chewy Molasses-Spice cookies. Best cookies ever. There are some ass-less moles wandering around…. Ha, I crack myself up. And John too. The rest of you don’t have to laugh. BUT! I’ll be guest posting that recipe over on the lovely Abby’s Bright Yellow World, possibly tomorrow, so go check it out!

I can’t wait to give presents and hugs and love to all my friends. I love finding just the right present for someone, and then getting to see their face when they open it. In fact, I’m so eager for this that I already gave John his Christmas present last Saturday. It’s a book that I heard about and knew right away that he’d love, and figured he’d need something to read while we fly home! And he loved it! Go me!

It’s a good thing I love my friends and family so much. This is the pick-up I need right now to get me through the next ten days–something to look forward to nearly each night. Something to make work not seem quite so dreary when I continue to come into lab for five days after the university officially shuts down for the holiday break. Yeah, research doesn’t do itself, sadly.

And although I plan to arrive home early, early, early Christmas Eve morning, have breakfast with my parents, then lunch with my in-laws, and then face-plant on a couch somewhere for a much-needed nap, the whirlwind of the next weeks is going to be worth it.

May it all be merry and bright!

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.

1. My cat, who was the biggest Mama’s Boy until a couple days ago, suddenly wants nothing more than to cuddle with John. Instead of me. In someways it’s a relief from his constant neediness the moment I sit down, but it’s also a bit sad. My baby doesn’t love me anymore!

2. Work is making me so angry these days, mostly because I’m spending a ton of time correcting/working on some stuff that theoretically the person I asked for help should have done. And they’re the sort of person who you can’t yell at, or even tell them you’re angry, because they’ll take it personally and take retribution. And they’re in a position to take retribution.

3. Brussel sprouts baked in a bit of olive oil, some pepper and some salt are delicious.

4. My grandmother-in-law is back in the hospital, but doing much better, and they aren’t going to send her anywhere for awhile. Glad they’re keeping an eye on her!

5. John is going to Las Vegas for the day Saturday. I’m going to see family. We both win, in very different ways.

6. I need a good savory stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. My mom makes the best stuffing, but she says uses a different recipe every year. They all seem the same to me, and are so good.

7. I’ve been reading the comic Fable (highly recommended as a great comic story for adults), mixed in with the writings of Malcom Gladwell (interesting guy, great at getting a point across). Both a commentary on society in their own way. Both very good.

8. Tina Fey is really funny. Really, really, really funny.

9. In all the years I’ve bought running shoes, I’ve always bought them in some form of blue. My new ones are tangeriny-pinkish. I’m loving them.

10. (Geez, c’mon, I can get to 10, can’t I?) (Ummmmm…..) Peach tea is yummy.

11. Oh! Wait! Today officially opened the Stanford men’s basketball season, and Arizona opens tomorrow. Hockey and basketball are both back in my life–I love this time of year.

A year or so ago, in September of 2009, John and I went to Papua New Guinea. I’d just started to post about our trip, day-by-day, when I tapered off blogging. So I thought I’d catch up on those stories, and move on to Ecuador.

But before I begin, here’s the first and second post I wrote about the beginning of our trip.

And here’s something that John sent me right before we left. About coconuts falling. On people. And killing them. At least 50% of the time. That’s not a statistic I’m comfortable with if I’m going to be hit with a large yet tasty object.

I’d like to point out that that is the province and town we flew into at the start of our trip. Hence, the hospital we would go to if something went wrong. And there were a lot of coconut trees around the place we went, although I didn’t hear or see any falling the way we did in Fiji a year before.

At least if I’d been hit with a coconut, I still might have been able to contribute to science, if only as a statistic.

Happy Friday, everyone.

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!

We’re off home for the next week, where there will likely be little internet or time for it, but much fun, laughter, food, family and love.

I hope you all enjoy the same in the next week!

Thing One:

John and I are constantly quoting random snippets of things–books, movies, shows–at one another. They’re usually things that are relevant to the situation, but also we like to test one another to see if we can name the source.

One thing we did already, but with extra frequency, was quote Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country” at one another CONSTANTLY while in Australia. Neither of us could quite believe we hadn’t brought the book to read, but miraculously, the lady next to us on our flight home was reading it!

This book was (a) the first book to ever make me laugh out loud while reading, and (b) one of the reasons I so desperately want to go (back) to Australia and see it properly. Some day!

Thing Two:

I’m constantly making up songs that I sing to pretty much no one buy John and our animals. I have all sorts of songs, usually set to the tune of nursery rhymes, that I sing to the cats, and and an even larger repertoire that I used to sing to my baby bunny boy.

But while in Australia, I came up with a brand new one. While feeding the kangaroos and wallabys, there was a certain amount of material that accumulated on our shoes. Eww. Luckily, the zoo had a shoe cleaning station right outside, which was certainly handy.

Not perfectly clean, but good enough to pass muster.

However, this resulted in the following exchange the next morning while we were waiting to get on the plane to Port Moresby, PNG. I was singing. John wasn’t.

Me: I have ‘roo poo… On my shoe…
John: You’re cute.
Me: …What shall I do?…
John: You’re strange.

Good thing he’s learned to love my strangeness!

We flew from San Francisco to Los Angles to Brisbane, leaving around 4pm local time on a Thursday and arriving around 6am in the morning local time on a Saturday. No Friday for us, sadly. We headed straight to the hotel, which we’d booked online.

Our hotel was sort of a cross between a Holiday Inn and a family-run business, but the proprietor, Tom, let us check in immediately, and even gave us rooms! I have to say, after 20 hours or so of travel, a shower was incredibly welcome. Tom also provided us with breakfast, which he cooked himself. He told us he did everything but clean the rooms at the place, and indeed we saw him running around quite a bit as we sat and ate. And let me tell you–the Australians do bacon properly! Mmm. And I highly recommend the Airport 85 Motel in Ascot if you’re passing through Brisbane!

Laura had posted several comments here about things to do in Brisbane, and the one that caught my eye first was the Koala Sanctuary, mostly because I wanted to see a bit of Australia in the one day we had, even if that bit was not in the wild. Along with two of the members of our group, V and D, and equipped with maps and directions and good cheer from Tom, we set out.

Now, Brisbane has a large river running through it, and the first step on our trip was to take the City Cat ferry–a very civilized way to travel. The day we were there was part of, or the first day of, the Riverfire Festival, so there were plenty of people headed into town with us. The ferry jetted along, and each time it stopped, swallows would alight on the two front guide poles, only to take off and ride the air currents in front of the boat as we moved. Along the way, we got some excellent views of the city skyline. Much more fun than a city bus!

From the downtown, we took a bus out to the suburb where the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sat. We were expecting not much more than koalas, and were pleasantly surprised–it was very zoo-like, with many different animals. Lots of birds of all sorts, some huge fruit bats, wombats, wallabys, and of course, many, many koalas. We saw some very baby ones that could barely hold onto mom, and plenty of others. We even got to pet one (very wiry, not-quite soft hair) at one of the feeding demonstrations. We looked in vain for an echidna, which was supposed to be inside the wombat pen, but never saw one. As we were leaving, the guy at the exit told us that in the 10+ years he’d worked there, he’d never seen one of the echidnas either. Not to be, I guess.

My favorite bird was big black parrot–when he saw me, he came scurrying out of the back corner of his cage, all the way to the front. Once there, he started head-bobbing and displaying the red feathers on the underside of his tail for me. I think he liked me! Or maybe just the pink shirt I was wearing. Either way, he followed me across the front of the cage and back, and head-bobbed back at me when I did it to him. All with the constant red tail flashes. It was pretty cool. I had a new boyfriend for the day!

There were huge iguana-like lizards running around, and wild turkeys and peacocks wandering the grounds. Check out the Australian wild turkey–they have their tails on the wrong way! One turkey was dragging dead leaves and other plant material across several paths and down some stairs to his large bird pile of nesting material. He lost most of the material along the way, thereby just leaving a long tail, but that didn’t deter him from trying!

They had a reptile house which I braved, clutching John all the while. The people who designed the reptile house were very thoughtful–it was U-shaped, with snakes along the outer walls and frogs and lizards on the inner walls. This meant that I never, ever had to turn my back on a snake-for which I am very grateful. They had desert death adders, some tree snakes, and a taipan, the most deadly snake in the world. Now, cobras look mean to me, but the taipan looks truly evil. (You can google your own damn snakes–I’m not linking to them!) And while most reptile houses I’ve been in (which, I’ll admit, are few and far between) don’t have much in them that moves, nearly every snake in that place was in the process of moving somewhere else in it’s cage! Not a happy set of moments for me! But I made it in and out with little fuss, no tears, and only a few whimpers. Although after we exited, one of the big iguana-like lizards rustled the underbrush and about gave me a heart attack!

We also saw Tasmanian devils, dingos (very dog-like), cassowaries (those suckers have big front claws and can be mean!) and turtles along the way to and among all the koala enclosures. Our favorite part, by far, though, was the kangaroos–for a $1AUS or so, we bought some kangaroo feed and fed them for about an hour. We even had some moms with little joeys sticking out of their pouches! One mom had a tiny baby, with only three feet and a head sticking out. I managed to feed her some before the bigger males crowded her out. The baby pulled his head back in and she was left with just three legs sticking out of her pouch–very comical! There were also emus, which John was able to get close to but I wasn’t. We found a wallaby that must have been very old–he moved incredibly slowly and it took probably over five minutes for him to eat just a couple pieces of food out of John’s hand, but he was very stately about it all.

We ended up spending nearly the entire day at the LPKS, loving every minute of it. What with the festival, our plan had been to then take a bus back towards the South Bank, where Laura had suggested good food and shopping, but when we returned to downtown later than our initial plan, we found millions of people all converging on the riverbank. Part of the Riverfire festival was F18 and stunt plane theatrics followed by fireworks, and people were lining up for the show. We were all pretty tired and a bit jetlagged, and the huge crowds were very off-putting. Instead of South Bank, we took the City Cat (very empty going upriver away from the show) back to our area of town. While underway, we actually got an amazing view of some of the stunt plane acrobatics, so we did enjoy a bit of the festival!

We happened to have picked a hotel nearby some famous horse racetrack, and as we headed towards the hotel, many people were heading the opposite direction, most of them dressed up as if they were leaving the Kentucky derby–hats and all! And most of the women were barefoot, carrying their shoes. I can’t walk in heels all day, and apparently the average Brisbane woman who attends horse races can’t either! We thought they were heading for the festival, or a wedding or something (we’d passed a reception at a restaurant just after getting off the ferry), but our waitress, when we did find a restaurant, told us they were all coming from the races.

After a great dinner, it was back to the hotel to collapse, since we’d been walking all day and had more traveling to do. John, in true boy fashion, turned on the TV for a bit and we were entertained by both some Australian-rules football and some cricket. Neither made much sense to me, but I’ll admit my brain was pretty fuzzy at that point! I have no idea if he ever made sense of it, but I passed out fast asleep pretty soon after getting in bed!

All in all, I think we barely scratched the surface of Brisbane, let alone Australia, but I loved it and I can’t wait to go back someday. Thanks again, Laura, for those suggestions–we had a fan-tabulous day!!

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!

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