Friday, September 28, 2007

Every day you don't cop out makes you stronger -- some thoughts on exercise

I am often tempted to skip my physical therapy exercises in the morning, because they take time, require me to put on shoes, and involve moving furniture. But every day I do them, my shins (and knees, and hips, and ankles) get stronger, and are less likely to hurt later on. And every day I don't cop out is a day I don't make excuses to myself, and builds a bank of days I can draw upon when I feel like copping out later on -- I can say, see? you weren't a wimp that day when you really wanted to be, so you can't be a wimp now, either! I like not being a wimp. :)

On a similar note, I went swimming today! I think I can truthfully (and somewhat abashedly) say that this is the first time I've been swimming in Oregon (in a pool, I mean -- I'm not counting the several notable occasions on which I have dived into shockingly cold lakes/rivers, because you can't really "swim" when you're gasping for breath). I bought myself a pair of goggles and a swim cap and rented a locker at the PSU gym for the quarter, in the hopes that I could drag myself to the pool a couple of times a week (all of this in continued efforts to strengthen my lower extremities without impact). And now that I've been, I do think I will continue -- it wasn't nearly as traumatizing an experience as I expected. :} I think Friday afternoon is a good time to swim -- there were only a few people there, so I had a whole lane to myself, which was nice, since I was pretty self-conscious, not having swum laps since highschool. My other options for times are Tuesday and Thursday mornings (though the open swim times are not ideal), Tuesdays after work, and weekends. I'll see what kind of regular schedule I can get myself into, because swimming is good for me! At the moment it doesn't take much of it to wear me out, but that's good, because it shows me how much potential I have for improvement. :) Now I just have to figure out how to get all of my hair under the swimming cap so there are no gaps and my hair stays dry and non-chlorinated -- any hints? (Cristie?) :P

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Small Pleasures

Some of the things that have made me happy recently...

~ Friendly seat-mates on homebound plane flights

~ An abundance of ripe tomatoes

~ An entire neighborhood that smells of freshly baked bread

~ Discovering that, after six years, I really can ride my bike with no hands

~ Strawberry blossoms in September

~ Just knowing that I have sourdough starter in the refrigerator

~ Local milk, yogurt & eggs from the co-op

~ Invigoratingly chilly morning biking weather

~ Huge batches of fresh homemade pesto, to be frozen for the winter

~ Free tickets to the opera

~ Realizing that, starting next week, I'll only be working 30 hours per week

~ Munching crisp Maine apples

~ One last weekend before school starts

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I had fun. I came home. :)

So ended the majority of Graham's and my childhood stories, and so was my wonderful Maine vacation brought to a close. Here are a bunch of pictures and a few stories, to give you an idea of the fun that Quena and I had.

Some General Pictures to set the scene

"The Big House." Still under construction inside, but everybody finally lives there.

The Playhouse, where WendiLou holds her daycare, "Skip to My Lou."


A sign in the Belfast Co-op Café, where we ate dinner prior to the contradance.

Quena, getting ready to go into the Belfast "Flying Shoes" contradance, played by the magnificent Nightingale. A truly wonderful dance it was. I got to meet a bunch of Quena's dancing friends, taught somebody the delightfully silly interlocking-elbows-nose-holding swing (I am hoping he will pass it on), and iced my shins all the way home.


Saturday is English Muffin Day in the Salman house, meaning fresh, homemade sourdough English muffins -- absolutely delicious! I got the recipe, and Wend even gave me some sourdough starter to take home, so I can make my own!

The view from Mt. Wallamatogus, commonly known as Togus Mountain for short, which is right behind the house. Quena and I hiked up and picked wild low-bush blueberries on Saturday morning. They're tiny, but delicious!

The "gravel pit," a lovely pond where Quena and I took a bath (complete with biodegradable soap and shampoo) in the afternoon after our hike. It was chilly but not too cold, so we could actually stay in and swim a bit. Oh, and there were very cool frogs and a turtle in it, too. :)

After our hike and swim, Quena and I baked rhubarb muffins, then went to an outdoor potluck party hosted by the family of a friend of hers, who live on a truly wonderful farm with a huge garden and horses and pigs and goats and the most beautiful brown cow I have ever seen. There was music and frivolity (and lots of pies), and Quena and I had a highly enjoyable cross-step waltz on the grass, uphill and downhill and around the food tent.


After a breakfast of sourdough blueberry pancakes, Quena and I braided our hair and Bella's, and the three of us went to Blue Hill Park. We were going to go blueberry picking in the afternoon, but it rained, so we took a nap and had a lovely evening at home instead.


Quena had to work on Monday, so I went into Blue Hill with her to wander while she worked. I went for a lovely walk up the road toward East Blue Hill, wandered around an old cemetery, discovered the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI, which is a lovely cheerful acronym), and found some library books to check out for Bella.

I had lunch with Quena at the co-op, and spent the remainder of her work hours in the cafe, because it had started to rain again. A couple of Quena's friends came in and we all spent about half an hour trying to figure out if there's a way to sew together 6 square faces of a cube in one continuous, non-overlapping seam. We couldn't figure it out, and we think it's not possible. But if you can figure out how to do it in fewer than four separate threads (non-overlapping), please let me know!

Monday was sushi night, because Reuben had caught a bunch of crabs that day. He and Eliza came over with the crabs, which we boiled and prepped outside in the drizzling rain (that's me in the black apron), and Royce and LouAnna came over and we had a wonderful sushi party in the tiny "cafe" kitchen. Delicious!


Tuesday morning we spent around the house, prepping the front entryway for laying bricks. Then Quena and I went to various small towns to check out thrift stores, and had a smoked seafood pizza for dinner at BarnCastle. Unfortunately, it was dark and rainy, so I didn't get any pictures of the place, because it was really cool - not called BarnCastle for nothing! :)


Quena had to work again on Wednesday, so I stayed home to do some exploring. I went back up Mt. Wallamatogus, played with stones, and found a gigantic patch of blueberries. I was wearing a small purse to carry my camera, and ended up putting my camera in my pocket and filling the purse with blueberries because I couldn't possibly leave them behind. :) When Quena got home we made a blueberry-rhubarb crisp, which was delicious.


Thursday held more Blue Hill wanderings while Quena was at work.

This lovely little bakery was attached to a bookstore. I had gone into the bookstore and noticed that the used book section was located in the bakery. When I got there, the baker was offering another woman a free croissant that was improperly baked (in a too-hot oven, so it was dark and crispy outside and somewhat gooey inside). I was grinning at his explanation, and he saw me and said, "You're smiling over there, do you want one as well?" I said "Of course!" and the three of us spent the next several minutes munching croissants and talking about Oregon and Shakespeare and other things. I also found out that the baker knew Quena, because he used to work at the co-op (and because Quena knows everybody in Blue Hill). So that was fun.

After Quena got off of work, we walked to the base of Blue Hill Mountain (which was a hike in itself!), and then up the mountain. It was lovely, and hiking up it barefoot was very satisfying.

The view from Blue Hill Mountain. If the picture were big enough, you would be able to see a bare patch on the top of another hill in the distance -- that's Mt. Wallamatogus!

I just liked this tree, with the leaf in it. It looks like some little wood-witch spirit standing guard over the path.

This was just a really cool bit of path that was mostly comprised of tree roots.

Us, in a roadside mirror on our walk back into town.

Thursday evening we went out to Quena's friend Jess's house and spent the evening cooking and eating and chatting with her and another friend, Kiera. We were going to watch a movie, but never got to it. :} Jess has a fantastic apple tree, and sent us home with bulging bags of delicious apples.


On Friday morning we drove to Schoodic (pronounced "Skoodick") and had lovely rocky beach adventures. Quena discovered that she could skip stones better left-handed than right, which was quite exciting. We then went and had lunch with Quena's friend Andrew, who told me how to make homemade yogurt, and who had rows upon rows of beautiful onions drying on his garage floor. It was very inspiring.

On Friday evening Quena and I baked two apple pies and a bunch of apple turnovers with the apples that Jess had given us (we only used about a third of them). WendiLou made yummy pizza for dinner, and then Quena read Harry Potter to me while I packed.


Saturday was once again English muffin day, so I had a lovely breakfast before Quena drove me to the airport. I flew in the smallest plane I've been in yet from Bangor to Boston -- the kind of plane where each passenger has both a window seat and an aisle seat at the same time, and the flight is pretty much full with 16 passengers. It was a very noisy, vibrating flight, but fortunately short -- the woman sitting across the aisle from me said she just thought of it as a nice long massage. :P On my flight from Boston to Cincinnati I sat next to another woman going home to Portland, so we had a lovely chat. Then on my flight from Cincinnati to Portland I ended up (after some seat shuffling when the captain announced that the flight wasn't full so we could all move around if we wanted) next to a very nice man from Boston, and we whiled away a good deal of the flight chatting. It was kind of nice - I don't normally do that on plane flights (usually my flights are so short that I just doze through most of them), but it certainly made the trip more enjoyable and quicker. He was very curious about Portland (he's from Boston), and talking to him about all the cool things going on here made me realize how much I really do enjoy living here. There's just a lot to like about Portland, and it was nice to be able to share some of it with somebody from out of the area.

So, that's my story. It was a wonderful vacation, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to WendiLou and Tristan for welcoming me into their home, to Quena for sharing her Maine life with me for a short while, to everybody that I danced with and chatted with and got to know just a little bit. And now I'm home, safe and sound, ready to face my daily challenges with a renewed perspective. Hooray for vacations!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Off to lands unknown... to me, at least

That's right, folks - I'm off to Maine to visit Quena!!! I probably won't have internet access while I'm there, but I'll be back on the 15th, hopefully with plenty of pictures and fun stories to share. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Note: Please bear with me as previous posts come tumbling down around my ears....

I've finally decided to go back to school. I've picked my favorite graduate program and spoken with the director to determine my class schedule and application prep for next fall. I've arranged with my boss to cut down my hours at work so I can take classes. I've posted an affirmation on my blog that I will only be in Portland one more year; after that I will officially be a masters student at CSUMB.

And now I'm questioning.

How do I know a masters program is really what I want? Should I spend more time exploring academically before choosing a program? Should I work in the field first to determine if I even need a masters degree to obtain work that is fulfilling?

What if all I really want is simply to go home, to be near my family?

What if I just want to go to CSUMB so I can go and work at the Lab as a jack of all trades, because I've done it before and it made me happy? What if I'm just using grad school as an excuse to go back to work at the Lab, even though I know it can never be quite the same?

I worry because I am a jack of all trades -- in all the personality assessment and skill assessment stuff I have done with my co-worker (a career counselor), my strongest specialty has been generalization. I'm interested in everything, I want to try everything (maybe that's why I have such trouble with restaurant menus), and I worry that I would (a) not be able to choose a thesis topic, and (b) feel frustrated with the resultant limiting of my scope. I want to take one class in every subject; I can't think of a particular focused topic that interests me enough to be the sole focus of two (or more) years of intense study and research.

It gets back to an observation I've made before about myself: I seem to completely lack ambition, in the conventional career sense. I am perfectly content to do whatever is needed, in whatever capacity I fit -- whether it be peon or project manager -- as long as I enjoy it. I have no desire to work my way to "the top" because, for me, that's an artificial goal. To me, being at the top means doing soul-satisfying work, and that covers a wide range of possibilities. Do I need a masters degree to get to the top? I don't know.

That's what I'm questioning.

It seems that second-guessing myself is also a fundamental aspect of my personality...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

One-Year Countdown

I am "putting it out to the universe" that I am only going to be in Portland one more year. In the fall of 2008 I will officially be a grad student at CSUMB in the Coastal and Watershed Science and Policy program. All I have to do between now and then is take care of all of my prerequisites, take the GRE, ask for letters of recommendation, and apply. :-D

I spoke with the director of the program on Friday, and it sounds like I'm actually pretty well on track to get all that done and be able to attend in the fall. I will be taking biology all year, and one or two statistics courses (goody, goody), and I will probably take the GIS requirements when I get there. Fortunately, my science credits do not expire, so all of my earth science, geology, oceanography, etc. credits from Stanford will be accepted. And I technically already have the statistics requirement done, but I don't remember a thing of it (it was 5 years ago and I haven't used it at all since then, so why should I let it take up space in my brain?), and since I know it will be a critical foundation course for graduate work, I'm going to go ahead and re-take the quarter that I took, and probably the next quarter as well.

I was also given the names of a couple of faculty members to contact for possible research and advising opportunities, so my next step is to follow up on those. It's like Cristie said in her comment on my last post -- once you make a firm decision and begin to move in the right direction, things start falling into place. Or, to quote The Indigo Girls, "The sweetest part is acting after making a decision." Here I go! :)