Thursday, January 28, 2010

lunchtime thought

My life has been a complete whirlwind recently! I'm not even pretending to try to run this week. But more on that later.

I just finished eating lunch--delivery from Jimmy John's. As I was eating, I had the same thought I often have as I eat at my desk: "Does my lunch offend anyone?"

It's a more complicated question than you might think. I've had officemates from Egypt, Nepal, Chile, Brazil, China, Japan, Scotland, Palestine, India, Indonesia, etc. Taste in food varies across these places, based both on religious context and cultural preference. So there are three things going on here:
1. I can't possibly keep straight the food rules that go with each religion common in each country
2. Academia is not exactly rife with devout folks, so there's a good chance that even if I could remember the popular religious affiliation of someone's country, it might not really apply to them
3. Cultural preferences come out of freaking nowhere. They are even more difficult to define than religiously-based food choices.

Take for instance one of my current officemates. He is from Nepal and tells me that in his country people of all faiths welcome one another, and cultures mesh easily. How literally does he mean that? Second example, a former officemate I had, from Scotland. Peanut butter like we know in the US just isn't available in Western Europe. It isn't something people grow up loving, and consequently even the smell of it made her sick, which I didn't know for a while. How in the world do you keep it all straight?

Perhaps the more fundamental question is this--what constitutes being culturally sensitive? Certainly behavior cannot be adjusted to be 100% acceptable to all people at all times. How boring we'd be, and crazy from the effort of it. So how do you navigate office etiquette in such a diverse workplace?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Familiarity and down time

Work has been going at an insane pace recently. In the tiny windows of opportunity that have come up, I've been grateful for the chance to run. On Tuesday of this week I got in a 6 mile run (I was overdue for a longish run) and today I did 4.6, outside. It was 34 degrees and the streets were no longer icy. Today's run was an example of how rooted our lives are in this place. In the span of 4.6 miles I saw three people I knew--the mail delivery woman (she goes to our church), a custom draperies installer I know, and one of the guys that built our house.

My run today was made possible by my taking the day off. Though I was away from work for some time around Christmas, there was virtually no alone time, or real down time in it. On top of the insane pace I've been keeping recently, a small breather was very much needed. The day went by much too quickly and left me wanting another. Aside from my run, I also slept in (a lot) and finished one scrapbooking layout I've been working on. I just really appreciated the time.

Mileage update:
10.2 + 6 + 4.6 = 20.8

Friday, January 8, 2010

A new challenge

What is it about runners that we can't back down from a challenge? Maybe it's part of why we took up running in the first place--wondering what we could achieve. I don't know. What I do know is that due to peer pressure a handful of Team alums, including myself, have signed up for a challenge on the website In competition with a team in Arizona, we are each challenged to run 1000 miles this year. That's 20 miles per week with 2 weeks vacation.

I joined the challenge team after being clear with Coach Mike that I almost certainly won't cover the whole 1000 miles. I am, however, going to try to hold myself accountable for at least 730, which is (for me) a more realistic 14 miles per week. Crazy? Not really. One of my former Team coaches averages 2,500 miles a year, and hit 2,800 miles in 2009. It isn't entirely clear when a person crosses the line from being a "jogger" to being a "runner," but if I'm going to have a blog called "Joanna Runs," I should be able to handle 14 miles per week.

So far, I'm off to a good start. At the end of January last year I had a paltry 12 miles. I will surpass that this weekend. I have to say, seeing my teammates' training logs on our challenge website does motivate me. It motivated me to drive to the gym through intense snow yesterday.

What the heck, I'm gonna pull my remaining thoughts together via list format--holla Type A!! This list is titled, "things currently motivating me to run."
  1. my challenge teammates' training logs
  2. the challenge itself
  3. a Runner's World article that said that shedding 5 pounds can take 2 minutes off your half-marathon time, combined with my desire to finally run a sub-2 hour half-marathon
  4. the discovery that I don't hate all treadmills, just the brand & model I happened to be running on for about 3 years. The renovated gym at work has a new model which I'm actually enjoying
  5. the realization that icy roads = treadmill running = a great way to train consistently

Mileage update:
2.2 + 4.0 + 4.0 = 10.2

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

I've been thinking all day about what to write in observation of the new year. I don't have a very coherent set of ideas. Here's what I have.

It's been a year of huge things, preceding another year of huge, life-changing things. This year I accomplished one of my life goals--I finished a marathon. I also got my first post-PhD job, which starts in August and will require relocation to another Midwestern city. It also requires that I defend my dissertation and graduate for the LAST time this coming May. I've continued figuring out this motherhood bit, with incredible and growing joy and love for my little boy. In all of this I've learned that I can do incredible things, just not all at once. That might be the one thing I'll always remember about this year.

In the past year I have committed myself more fully to running. I tracked my mileage for the first time. I ran my third half-marathon and my first full marathon. I bought nice winter running gear. It was news to me when a coach observed that I'm slightly faster than average for my age and gender division in the half-marathon. Strangely, that small statistic gave me a little more confidence that I can do this, and I can keep improving. It's hard to describe to the non-runner (believe me, I've tried repeatedly with my brother), but running makes me really happy. I love knowing what I'm capable of, and knowing that I'm doing something good for myself and for others through the Team. Last year's final mileage tally came to 463.3 miles. It sounds like a lot until you break it down. It's actually less than 10 miles per week. Here and now, I'm committing to surpassing that in 2010. It isn't something I'm willing to give up when motherhood, work and life take over.

I've learned that even though you cross the finish line by yourself, your Team gets you there. My Team gave me a home away from home (so to speak) this year, coached me through injury and frustration, and celebrated with me when I finished the marathon. On the surface, we're sort of an odd collection of people. You wouldn't, for the most part, pick us out of a crowd to be friends with each other. But I don't know what I would have done without this group of people, especially our coaches and our resident Gangsta. Actually, I do. I would have slept in rather than toe the line that October morning in Detroit. You might argue that I could have said this at year end in 2007 or 2008, when I ran my first half and a postpartum half. But this is different. There is something about finishing that first marathon. It's our big fat secret, but almost everyone cries at that moment. This year with my Team was something different for me. I more fully appreciate my little group.

When I say I'm unwilling to give up running when motherhood, work, and life happen, I must admit it's largely a luxury my husband affords me. My bigger point here is that 2009 taught me, in spades, the fullness of my husband's heart. People often ask me how I combine being a mom and a student. The truth is, I couldn't do any of it without my husband. We work together to cram all the pieces of our lives into the under-sized jar it often seems like we are given, and I appreciate him so much for that.

On a related topic, I've continued to learn the complexities of motherhood, and I've thought a lot about what it means for me and for my son. I've talked about it at length with my husband. It's a matter of the heart that doesn't have an appropriate home here, so I'm not really going to discuss it in detail, except to say that I'm in a good place. One less personal but related observation from the year: paternalism is alive and well! I never have and I still will not have any part of it. Criticisms of me and my family on this topic are senseless and categorically unwelcome.

I feel like I should say something about scrapbooking, but I don't really know what. More than anything, I feel like I've become much more focused in my hobbies, in the sense that I now have fewer and spend much more time (relatively speaking) on the few that I've kept. I think I've grown as a scrapper, largely as a result of better tools (yeah Slice!) and countless hours of conversation on the topic with N. I'm really looking forward to finishing the album I'm working on now...uh-huh, of 2005. Ha! It's coming along.

In closing, this is where I am right now. I'm looking forward to our life in a new city. How long until we know where things are? Until we have friends there? Until our lives feel rooted there? I remember feeling like this when I moved to Illinois. It seems a lifetime ago. I'm afraid that moving will scar my little boy. He's so small. So routinized. So in love with his daycare. How will he be able to understand? Will we find another church we love? What kind of house will we buy? In short, what will life be like in a year? I don't know, but for now I am in a pretty good spot--surrounded by awesome friends and anticipating a future we've awaited for so long.

This has gotten long and perhaps too personal, so I'm gonna wrap things up with, oh yeah, you guessed it, a NEW mileage count, from a run that got cut short by impassable sidewalks:

2.2 miles