From One Year to the Next

Re-Capping 2018

2018 was a pretty eventful year. Looking at back at my goals, I was pleased to see what I accomplished.

  • Goal: Finish my PhD – Spring 2018 – even if it damn near kills me
    •  Follow up: I am actually happy to say that I did finish my PhD and in exactly 4 years. It almost did kill me and would say that I’m still recovering from the past 4 years.
  • Goal: Secure a job in academia for a Fall 2018 start
    • Follow up: I did secure an academic position (albeit a temp one) and I love it!
  • Goal: Stay strong
    • Follow up: I managed to not end up on medication, lost about 30 pounds, the anxiety attacks are decreasing, I randomly cry less, and have not completely lost my marbles or been committed.
  • Goal: Don’t be a disappointment
    • Follow up: Graduated on-time and have a job supporting myself – I think this qualifies as not being a disappointment.
  • Goal: No matter what, no matter where – don’t forget to find the positive and always keep a smile
    • Follow up: I’ve done a pretty good job of not losing my smile or sense of humor and finding the positive in the many interesting life occurrences.

A few of my fav photos from 2018 – it was one heck of a year!

Moving into 2019 (in no particular order)

  • Turn 2-3 articles into publications
  • Drop another 20 pounds and be at a socially acceptable weight by my birthday (April)
  • Be open to relationships (be it dating or new friendships)
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside my social comfort zone (I’ve joined an indoor volleyball league, I consider this a baby step)
  • Secure a tenure track position in a place where I want to set down roots
  • Get involved with a dog rescue organization
  • Not only tell my friends and family how much I love and appreciate them, but show them
  • Professional development – be a better professor and scholar
  • Be kinder to myself
  • Judge less, Accept more
  • Put positive thoughts into the universe and announce my gratefulness daily

All in all I deem 2018 successful. I learned a lot about myself. I have a deeper appreciation for my tribe. For all that has happened this past year, the good – the bad – the amazing moments – the moments I could do without, I think I can say that I’m more at peace with myself and the world around me. I’m more content and happy from within, something that I couldn’t say in 2017 or even portions of 2018. Growth manifests itself in many ways – for me it has been a long journey. A journey that propelled me to get a PhD and the adventures that followed. That chapter of my life is over (hallelujah!). Now I move forward, make new memories, have new adventures, and find out who I am post-PhD. A door has closed. I’m excited to see what doors will open and what lays on the other side. I’m looking forward to the adventures that 2019 brings.

”Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure”

– Bob Bitchin

Advertisements

Reflections: Viewing Cancer from the Outer Rings

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

Just over a year ago my amazing little mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was pretty hard to process. For the obvious reasons as well as this being the second go-round with cancer – the first being approximately 6 years prior when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

While the cancer and treatment hasn’t been a secret (hard to hide a tiny bald-headed lady who previously had a full head of jet black hair) it also hasn’t really been something that I’ve discussed on social media. It has been a journey, not just for my mom but for the family. Yes, my mom was the one having to deal with the chemo, the hair loss, the major life changing decisions associated with treatments, the radiation, the side effects, etc but as a family we each dealt with our own emotions of watching her go through all of this, both singularly and together. For me it was trying to make sure that I was there to support both Mom and Dad, in whatever that looked like.

I dealt with it everything happening by not dealing with it until I was just emotionally overwhelmed (commence meltdown wherever I happened to be. Question: why do the meltdowns always happen at the grocery store or while driving? Not cool!).

At the core of it all, I was angry, sad, guilty and amazed (in any given combination and order of occurrence).

  • Angry that the most amazing human ever, who lives the healthiest lifestyle ever, had to go through all of this not once but twice. There were so many statements I made to the Universe, most of them not worth repeating, but the general tone was pissed.
  • Sad that there wasn’t more that I could do to help. Sad that Mom had to handle all of the nonsense that goes with doctors visits, insurance, and dealing with stupid people while dealing with treatments, side effects, etc.
  • Guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to help and that I wasn’t there more. Guilty that I was so immersed in my PhD that I blocked out everything else around me which led to guilt that I felt guilty – because that seemed so selfish when I wasn’t the one going through the really tuff stuff.
  • Amazed at the strength of my parents, the support from friends and family, and the kindness of strangers.

I wasn’t around for Cancer Round 1 (probably part of the guilt) but I was around for Cancer Round 2 (which is going to be the last round!). Here is what I took out of all of it:

  • As a family, we are strong: The strength is cemented together with unwavering leadership and love from my father and faith in the Universe that we will be taken care of.
  • Focus on the positive: Dwelling in the negative is not productive. Going down that rabbit hole does no one any good and can only breed more hysteria. Been there and it wasn’t fun. Be positive, see positive, find something to be positive about. Thoughts have power – think happy thoughts!

“Promise me that you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” – A.A. Milne

  • Laughter and love are the cornerstone of making it through tough times: The jokes made in our household (many times started by my mother) are a bit irreverent but it feels so much better to laugh than to wallow in the misery of what is happening.
Mom

My lovely little momma

  • Accept that which you can’t change and make your way through it: When Mom lost her hair there were a lot statements such as “O you are so brave”. She just shrugged and gracefully said “thank you”. We never thought about it as being ‘brave’, it was more that this was the ‘new normal’ and forward march. (BTW: Mom totally ROCKED the bald head and you better believe the jokes were flying around the house!)

20180817_144514

  • Love and live to the fullest: Say ‘I love you’ – give that hug – do that thing you wanted to do with the person you love – (except when your mother wants to walk the bridge twice and you know she isn’t in as great a physical shape as she thinks she is, cuz chemo, then you say no! #truestory) – cherish every moment – have the meltdown and find something in the day to be grateful for.

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” – Tecumseh

So why this post? After chemo, surgery, and radiation…today marks THE LAST DAY of radiation treatment! 33 treatment completed! In the celebration…

(Trust me at home there is a celebration! In typical family style it will be complete with laughter and some meltdowns across the board. As I work on this post, my sister is in Publix buying flowers and balloons and adding some extra waterworks to the floral department (the dude working floral was not ready for work today #justsayin)…I shut the door to my office so that some poor student doesn’t walk in on my meltdown. #cleanuponaisletwo)

…there is also a reflection of some of the things that has occurred over the past year. In sharing some of it, from my perspective, there is closure. However, I can confidently say the entire family is happy to pen an end to this particular adventure!

“Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong, and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best” – Unknown

My parents are my heroes. My mother is truly the most amazing person – she has handled this past year with a strength, dignity, sense of humor, and selflessness that I can’t even fathom. She radiates (haha) sunshine even on the darkest days and is resilient beyond measure. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

20180807_154009

I came across the following that I think sums things up nicely:

“The real [person] smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

– Thomas Paine

Trotting Around UT/AZ

Thanksgiving this year was one for the memory books. My amazing friend came to visit me from Seattle (my very 1st visitor since moving to Utah and a super special visitor at that!). Wanting to make sure I got 5 stars on ‘FriendAdvisor’ as a host, I made sure to line up a Thanksgiving that would be memorable and delightful…I think I succeeded!

We stayed at a great little cabin, via AirBnB, between Colorado City and Fredonia. Don and Cindy at the Coral Pink Ranch were amazing hosts! Our cabin was a former one-room school house that had been converted into a cabin, with every detail accounted for. The property was great with views of the red rocks, a hot tub, fire pit (complete with firewood and fire starter) and even a little kitty host (her name is Ocean and she is a darling). The property is off-grid, run by solar power and gas. There is no cell phone service and the wifi is a bit rough – i.e. put the devices away and enjoy being unplugged! The cabin is equipped with a two burner stove and gas grill (no microwave as the wattage is too high) and all the amenities needed for a comfortable stay. There were even farm fresh eggs in the fridge! Our hosts were super knowledgeable and offered some suggestions on getting to Zion National Park – with a highway route or a ‘scenic’ route (that was technically shorter in mileage).

We took the road less traveled, because that is what we do.

(I will painfully admit that the first 3 miles were ROUGH and I mayyyy have considered aborting the mission – but my parents didn’t raise a quitter and I would have NEVER lived that down – so onward explorers!).

100% – ABSOLUTELY – COMPLETELY – MOST AWESOMELY WORTH IT!

By less traveled I mean REALLY less traveled…think beyond gravel roads to “unimproved roads” i.e. the most basic dirt road EVER! The views were STUNNING and absolutely worth the drive.

Note: If you do not have 4-wheel drive or a small SUV this route is not advised. Also, have a co-pilot to take pictures and let you know when to look up and admire the SPECTACULAR views. I wasn’t able to grab pics at the truly spectacular spots, as I was very focused on keeping us on the road without destroying the underside of my vehicle or putting us over a ravine – honestly the latter wasn’t my concern but my co-pilot made some pointed remarks about it (?). He captured some amazing photos that I’ve requested in print form because WOW!

fullsizeoutput_ac02

From the cabin – UT 59 towards Colorado City, to Main Street which turns into S. Bench Road which turns into another road, which then leads to 250 S where you can go to Grafton (a super cool ghost town) or to Rockville which leads to Zion National Park.

David really wanted to see a ghost-town, so that was stop 1.

Stop 2 was Zion National Park. I happily got to add another stamp in my NPS passport. We took the bus loop around the park and enjoyed the views.

fullsizeoutput_ac10

It wasn’t a particularly great day to hike so we enjoyed a picnic lunch before taking the highway route back to the cabin – where steaks and asparagus were grilled, wine was consumed, and a fire (with our fur-hostess) was enjoyed.

Note: I recommend taking the ‘scenic route’ to Zion as opposed to the opposite, the drive back is mostly uphill and void of the spectacular vistas.

Everyone enjoys a good campfire

The weekend was perfect. It was another reminder for me of how lucky I am to be in such a great location and how blessed to have friends to explore with. (Also, I’m pretty sure I earned 5 stars on “FriendAdvisor” :->)

As I looked at the door of the cabin in Grafton, it reminded me that I took the opportunity to move to UT on blind faith. Going on an adventure isn’t exactly something new for me. This time though, the Universe has provided me with a most magnificent experience since walking through that door. For that I’m thankful.

fullsizeoutput_ac0a

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” Paulo Coelho

From Sheep Parades to Hiking Canyons

“I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”  -Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Life in Utah has been one adventure after another.

Everything from Heritage and Livestock Festival…

To spectacular hiking…

I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest while I am.

20181103_113846

Always enjoy the scenery

Skiing into the Winter Season in Park City

So the state of Florida does not have a “Fall Break”. I found out that this is a lovely two day break in which there is no school! Since it has been about 6 or 7 years since I was last in Park City, I decided to drive up for the long weekend.

The trip wasn’t purely vacation, as I took the opportunity to schedule some site inspections. I forgot how amazing some of the properties in the resorts are.

The run-down:

The Resorts: Winter season – Park City and The Canyons are connected – which equals lots of skiing opportunities on one lift ticket! Summer season provides an opportunity for golfing and hiking. I was able to do some short hikes on the golf course (and ski runs). The vistas were spectacular, and walking straight up ski runs isn’t for the faint of breath!

IMG_20181021_105244_477

The Canyons: I was fortunate enough to stay at the Grand Summit. Great location (ski in/out in the winter, golf-course access in the summer), great amenities and becoming a Rock Resort has truly agreed with this property (I want to live one of these units). I recommend the breakfast burrito and grabbing a drink and bite from Legends Bar and Grill (their Cubano Pork Sandwich was delightful). If you really want to treat yourself, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the spa for a treatment.

Coffee with a view

Coffee on the patio of my Grand Summit unit

Other properties that I highly recommend: Hyatt Centric, the decor is very 70s mountain modern and I commend the decorators on a job well-done (great location and amenities); Waldorf : the lobby is absolutely divine, s’mores by the pool-side fire pit in the winter evenings!; Silverado and Sundial are both great properties for the budget minded but still provides an upgraded feeling. The nice thing about The Canyons is that everything is walk-able to the lifts and the village center.

Park City: I spent a good portion of an afternoon strolling Main Street and wandering in and out of shops. I recommend taking advantage of the public transportation (which includes several busses that are electric powered!). If you don’t have to stay right on the mountain then I recommend the Park City Peaks, the property just underwent renovations (skiers breakfast buffet in the winter) and the restaurant is a local favorite (so make reservations if you want to dine there).

I taste tested a couple spots including The Spur . In addition to the the Loco Moco, which was very tasty, they carry lots of local brews, and the upstairs dining has great outdoor seating and views of Main Street. For dinner, Shabu was absolutely divine! The service was impeccable and for dinner I had the bibimbap – it was excellent (I was also told that the firecracker shrimp was a good choice). Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a fun stop, however the real gem is Dolly’s Bookstore connected to the chocolate shop, be sure to say hello to the bookstore cat!

A good lunch stop for wood-fire pizza is Vinto Pizzeria, a very cozy location, and after you eat something walk into Old Town Cellars for a glass of wine (say hi to Stella!). If whiskey is more your thing than I suggest High West Distillery (I did a whiskey flight but the ‘hot toddy’ seemed pretty popular). The building is a converted auto garage making for a fun ambiance. They do serve food – so a good stop for lunch or dinner (and would probably be a very fun spot for an event).

Deer Valley:  Even if you aren’t staying in Deer Valley, I recommend taking a drive up. The views are stunning. Properties at which you can indulge yourself: 1) The Stein Collection: Stein Ericksen, Stein Ericksen Residences, and The Chateaux at Deer Valley. The Stein Lodge recently underwent a multi-million dollar property enhancement that includes a beautiful pool, game room, and theatre. If old-world elegance isn’t your style, then the Stein Residences are unmatched in modern luxury. Anddddd let me tell you about the infinity pool…better yet see below pictures.

2) If the Stein isn’t for you, then I recommend going down the mountain and checking-into the St. Regis. Even if you don’t stay overnight, you should have breakfast at the J&G Grill (recommendation: short rib hash). If you are on the mountain skiing, ski into the St. Regis beach and have a drink on the Mountain Terrace before skiing back down the mountain. If skiing isn’t your thing, take the funicular from the base area up to the St. Regis, enjoy the views and grab a drink (or visit the spa for a treatment).

All in all it was a fantastic trip and a mini-road trip that I very much enjoyed. Very grateful to the properties that took the time to showcase their amazing products. Also, a very, very big thanks to Alpine Adventures for helping me put this fab trip together. I can’t say how appreciative I am for being a continued part of the AA team.

From the Sunshine to the Beehive State

Initially, I was going to drive from FL to UT on my own. I felt deeply that I needed to do the trip solo. My mother had different ideas and used her powers of persuasion to join on the journey (i.e. guilt, the levels to which the Catholics can learn from); and so, “Thelma and Louise” hit the road for another great adventure.

  • We had fun in Austin, TX, with my amazing friend Whit. Austin was 1 of 2 stops that this trip was planned around (Go to Black’s BBQ and Flat Track Coffee)
  • We detoured to check out El Malpais National Monument (Conversation below)
    • Mom “O look, a national monument in 30 miles” (I have a habit of wanting to stop at ALL the NPS stuff, so it was a legit question)
    • Me (Road weary and moderately grouchy) “That’s nice”
    • Mom “Here is an exit, do you want to get off?” – Me “No, just keep driving”
    • Mom “Here is a second exit, you sure you don’t want to stop” – Me (big sigh) “Sure why not” – Fastest merge and exit ever
    • Verdict: TOTALLY WORTH IT! (Mom for the win)
  • Stopped at Cline’s Corner – which is basically in the middle of nowhere enroute to Santa Fe, NM. (A tourist trap the it one part creepy and one part kinda cool due to its history).
  • We explored Santa Fe, NM. Visited the Loretto Chapel (Mom’s one request for the trip), stayed at El Rey Court, checked out the Meow Wolf immersive, co-creative experience, and ate good food.

20180809_17462520180809_17422520180809_161721

Loretto Chapel

The story behind this staircase is beautiful. The staircase and chapel are a work of art.

  • Went through Petrified Forest National Park
  • Enjoyed the beauty of Lake Powell before cruising into Cedar City
Driving

Leaving Lake Powell and headed to Cedar City

  • Spent some time getting acquainted with the new living location before the Madre flew back to FL via Vegas (Side note of irony: I despise Vegas, long story for another day – it is the closest major city and airport and I’ve been there more since moving here than I ever wanted to go ever again.)

Farmer's Market

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, feeling tired, nervous, and sentimental, I looked at my mom and said “I’m really glad you are here.” She looked back at me and said “Driving this alone would have been awful, huh?” #momentruined

She is, and always will be, my favorite road trip partner.

20180817_144514

New Adventures…The Saga Continues

Over the 4th of July weekend a job opportunity presented itself and by the 9th of July I accepted a position at a university in the south of Utah.

I had conflicting feelings about everything and let me explain.

  1. Having just finished my PhD, it took me a little while to mentally wrestle with accepting that I wouldn’t have a job in the fall (feeling of failure, the right opportunity not presenting itself – even though opportunities were there – blah blah);
  2. After a talk with a very wise man (my father), I decided that I just needed to let go and let God. So I mentally said “the universe will take care of me and I’m gonna have one heck of a great time traveling and visiting friends – let’s do this.”
  3. The universe did take care of me. However, I was in the middle of having an EPIC summer walkabout and I wasn’t exactly ready for it to end…especially because I still had a great summer/fall season in MT! What the heck!?! I was conflicted!
  4. Having carefully listened to the details of the job, having had lengthy discussions about the opportunity with my dearest confidants and my parents, having asked all the questions and liking all the answers…my gut told me that this was THE opportunity. So, I took it.

All that stated…I am SUPER excited about this new opportunity. It has a 9 month time cap on it, for the time being, and I’m ok with that. I turned down two job offers prior to this because they just didn’t feel right – my soul and my spirit weren’t excited. But this was different…my heart is happy, my soul is excited, and I’m really looking forward to this new adventure.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, it hit me pretty hard that I won’t have my fur friend with me this time…she was my rock for the past two major life changes and this one is all on me. It was kinda strange loading up the car and filling her space with boxes instead of her bed…

IMG_4353

Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m really excited to start this new chapter but I will not take for granted, or forget, the lessons learned, friendships formed, loved ones lost, laughter shared, love and support that have led me to this next phase in my life and career. I’m blessed and I’m forever grateful to have the most amazing people in my life, who support me through all these crazy adventures and opportunities.

As I hit the road for my next destination, most critically, I will make sure to always remember to take a moment to “stop and smell the roses”.

Time to put the PhD to work…Utah, let’s do this!