Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday Blues

Today started badly but ended well. I woke up late with a splitting headache. Someone in lab said it might be the change in pressure from the Santa Ana winds. It was so intense, it made me naseous. Ibuprofen did nothing. It wasn't until I had a strong dose of coffee that my blood vessels constricted enough to relieve the pounding blood in my head.

In lab, I thought today would be the day I would meet with my PI and other post docs in the lab to go over projects. But everyone was very busy so I was sort of pushed to the side. I wouldn't have minded but these people had told me we would meet today so I had written it in my calendar as an appointment and had even prepared by re-reading relevant papers and outlining notes. So I spent the day reading and outlining. I'm hoping to demonstrate that I'm not an idiot when we do meet so that I can ask intelligent questions and have an interactive discussion. The thing that bugged me most was that when I tried to find a concrete or even semi-concrete time and date to reschedule, no one could give me a direct answer. So I have to keep bugging people and following them around. I feel like a nuisance.

Needless to say, I was kind of down by the time I got home. Babs let me hold her in my arms for over 30 minutes. She's such a doll. Well, to me, at least. I got angry over the events of the day, which got my blood pressure going. This ended up being a good thing because I felt like I needed to burn off some steam. I went down to the gym and had a really productive weight-lifting session, followed by an intense 4-mile run on the treadmill with speed and hill sets. I felt a surge of energy afterwards and ran around the house doing chores.

Now, I feel much calmer and more stable. I know it will take a while to settle into my new environment and work with different people. Tomorrow will be a better day. I feel more in control and things are in perspective. (That's why I love exercise.) I did nothing wrong and having nothing to feel guilty about. I will continue doing my best and be patient. Patience is not my best attribute. But things will fall into place. Sigh.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Lots of Seals

seals on rock in La Jolla

seals and gulls in la jolla cove

Lazy Weekend--Full of Guilt

Well, the title says it all. There were lots I wanted to do this weekend that I didn't do--play tennis, shoot hoops in the park, go exploring on the bike paths with Bluebell (my Felt roadbike), go on a canyon run, or swim in the pool.

Saturday, we walked around La Jolla Cove. I saw tons of swimmers and ocean kayakers out there. It looks so inviting. Lots of triathletes practice open water swimming there. Buoys pave the way, and the waters are calm. We saw Children's Pool where tons of pregnant seals basked in the sun (see pics above). I also saw protestors with signs reading, "Save the Seals." I didn't understand how the seals were threatened until it was explained to me later. Apparently, the beach was originally intended for people to enjoy but the seals liked it so much that they spend a lot of time there. Believe it or not, instead of being happy to be so close to seals and feel blessed with their presence, some people are angry that the seals "took" their beach. They want to kick the seals out! I guess they can't walk two feet to the left where there is a nice beach with tidepools, or go a hundred feet north to a huge beach where you can swim without bumping into rocks. Unbelieavable.

I watched the seals for a long time. They were so huge! Some of the little ones would pester the big ones until they grunted at them. One little guy would zip back and forth in the water (they are incredibly fast in the water!) and zoom up to shore, pop out of the water, and splash all the adults! It was amazing.

We drove out to Point Loma to the Cabrillo National Monument. It was "Gray Whale Weekend." We had hoped to catch sight of some of the whales on their southern migration to Baja to calve. I didn't see any but I think it was because of all the whale watching boats out there, probably scaring them off. I felt a little deceived because right in my neighborhood, I could go to the Torrey Pines Nature Reserve where it's prettier and quieter and get just as good of a view and probably have a better chance of sighting some whales because there aren't a lot of boats. Now that I know that, I may hop over there on my bike after lab one day this week with my binculars. I am determined to see a whale!

Anyway, after all that ocean and sunshine and wildlife, we were pooped. I napped a little and then we went out to dinner and stuffed ourselves with delicious Mexican food. Sunday was spent sleeping and watching t.v. I'm kind of mad for being such a vegetable this weekend. I need to be a little better about exercise. However, I may have pushed it too much on Friday. No slacking next weekend! I have a 10k. Yikes.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Okay, I did too much today. I biked to work. After 3 exhausting miles, I've come to realize I'm totally out of shape. I studied and then popped outside to watch Tiger Woods drive off of hole #10. Went back to studying and grabbed a quick lunch. Then, in the afternoon, went for a little run up to Torrey Pines Nature Reserve. It was fantastic. Came back, showered and changed, studied a bit more. Biked home. A little more slowly than in the a.m. because I was, admittedly, exhausted at this point. Crashed on the rug in front of the t.v. in the living room for an hour. Had some coffee and pizza (bad, bad) and watched a movie. Then, decided to clean the apartment at midnight. I'm just finishing up and it's 2:30 now. I'm just glad I've gotten a chunk done for the weekend. I'm hoping to see some seals and gray whales tomorrow! More later...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tired, yet settling into a surreal environment

Ugh. I feel so tired today. I took the day off from exercise. I'm hoping I can be industrious tomorrow and run before biking to work. I always feel so much better throughout the day if I can. I've been having to do a lot of background reading, and it's hard to do for 8 hours straight. So I kind of crashed when I got home and then couldn't get going again. At least the buns got a lot of attention. They liked that. It still amazes me how affectionate and cuddly they are.

I'm trying to acclimate to the lab and the campus. It's sooo different. Very quiet and studious. I feel kind of isolated but I know it will get better. Yesterday, I trekked down to the mouse house and learned about gestation periods, sexing the mice, weaning, and handling. It was nice to do things that were more hands-on. I got to practice handling them. I'm a bit relieved because there are all sorts of rules and practices in place to make everything very humane and pain-free for the little guys. I think I'll be able to handle it.

The lab overlooks the ocean. There are art sculptures and fountains everywhere. Everything is spread out and outside so I get to wander around outside a lot. I found the cafeteria and the library today. The library was nice. Big windows overlooking the ocean and the Torrey Pines Golf Course. I saw tons of hang gliders soaring around. I totally want to do that. The hang gliding port flanks the south side and the golf course is on the north side. North of that, within walking distance is the Torrey Pines Nature Reserve. West is the ocean and a nice stretch of beach to run along up to the Nature Reserve towards Del Mar or south to La Jolla beaches and the Cove. As I walked to the cafeteria, I stopped to watch the pro golfers on the putting green at the Torrey Pines Golf Course for the Buick International. That was cool. I'm not even that into golf. The whole place is kind of surreal.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

getting better

Today was better in lab. I felt more outgoing. I didn't even have to try. It was just there; a part of me. I had more to do. I went up to people and asked them to talk about their projects with me. I volunteered to help do mundane things just to learn the ways of the lab. I had a "mouse" class since I'll have to work with animals. Afterwards, I asked the lecturer for help for beginners, and he gave me a one-on-one basic handling session. I felt very involved and happy that I was "filling the big shoes" I'm supposed to fill. The time flew. Plus, I talked to other senior fellows about their experiences. I got all sorts of invaluable career advice and tips on working through the bureaucracy at the institution. I felt good at the end of the day. It's all about learning to be completely independent and self-sufficient.

I was exhausted, needless to say, at the end of the day. I had a quick, healthy little dinner: microwave, organic, spinach lasagna, salad with mushrooms and baby tomatoes, toast with light cream cheese and salmon. I topped it all off with some cookies, skim milk, and coffee (okay, coffee and cookies not so good). Anyway, the coffee didn't have the effect I had hoped. I took a 45 minute nap on the couch before picking Jason up from school. He gave me a great foot and back massage. I woke myself up and forced myself down to the gym. I had to wait for the treadmill so I squeezed in a quick weight and ab session before jumping on the treadmill for a 3.5 mile run. I'm feeling stronger and better as I go.

I'm just trying to do a little something every day. Not a marathon. Just something. I'm hoping to try going for a night run around the well-lit, safe UCSD campus with Jason tomorrow evening. I have a reflective vest and blinking lights that clip on anywhere. I've never been in an area where I could "night-run" before. So many people do it here! All I can say is...it's getting better all the time (Beatles reference). ;)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Back to the Grind

I started my new "job" on Monday. I'm so overwhelmed. I think it's started to hit me. Within a month, I've defended and graduated with my Ph.D., moved across the country, and started my postdoc at the Scripps. It's this incredible research foundation with overwhelming prestige, and I feel like I don't belong there. I'm daunted by everything that's happening to me, and the big shoes I'm expected to fill. I feel like I'm pretending to be an adult in "daddy's" clothes in a grown-up world, and I don't belong. Can I get the flu again and stay in bed with a good old-fashioned fever?

Maybe I started too soon. However, I was getting anxious. I have to say, it's nice to be back in a routine. But I just feel like I'm on a whole other level. Everyone is so serious. I feel very isolated and alone. And I don't have the energy to reach out and make friends. I miss college where opportunities were at your fingertips, and all you had to do was show up, and things just happened.

I felt a surprising twinge of envy today as I went through the UCSD campus to pick up Jason. It made me realize how much I miss being part of a college community. I think it's made me come to the realization that I might enjoy academia more than industry. Otherwise, I would miss being part of the community and all the understated, underappreciated benefits that come with it. Young, enthusiastic students, the chance to mentor and teach, the chance to meet all sorts of people and openly exchange ideas--I don't want to miss out on that.

I'm sure I'll start to feel more comfortable. I'm having to work hard to keep myself in check and not overextend myself. If I don't feel like doing something extra or being especially social, I don't have to. There'll be plenty of time for that later.

It seems I'm finally starting to exercise again. It feels sooo good. I think that's one of the few things holding me together. It's my most favorite activity that I look forward to each day. I joined the UCSD gym. There are so many opportunities there; I'm overwhelmed. I ran at the apartment gym on Sunday. It's very small and crowded though so it's not optimal. I weight-lifted afterwards. Monday, I biked to and from lab--3.3 miles each way. I'm very out of shape so it was a good little workout for me. ;) I know. I'm a wimp. On the way home, I stopped at the UCSD pool and jumped in for my first swim in months. I'm SO out of shape. I swam for 40 minutes--very slowly. My arms felt like they were going to fall off. They still feel like they're going to fall off today. It was nice swimming in an outdoor, heated pool. Very relaxing. However, everyone else in the pool is like an Olympic swimmer compared to what I'm used to. I've forgotten how everyone in California seems to be an adept swimmer. Even more so in this area. It's very intimidating. But I swallow my pride, and jump in. How's that for a metaphor?

My goal for right now is just to get comfortable, get into a regular routine, and have fun. I've decided to use a more holistic approach to my tri training. I want to build endurance but have fun too. Therefore, at this time, I'm going to hold off joining a tri club. The one here is HUGE, and famous. I'm just totally intimidated. When I belonged to one in St. Louis, everyone was SO intense, it sucked all the fun out of it. I wish there was a laid-back, just for fun, tri group. There seems to be a paucity of those. I get a lot of pleasure out of training solo, with Jason, or with a few friends. I may do a few relaxing, group bike ride with a touring group on the weekends (no pacelines, thank you), or eventually take a masters swim class (once a week; no more!) to brush up on my swimming skills but only when it strikes my fancy.

I also am going to go sans heart rate monitor and watch for awhile. I need to get back to the basics and just enjoy myself. Enjoy nature. Listen to my body. It's much more fun (and cheaper too). I don't need a lot of gadgets. I don't need aero bars. I have the basics--running shoes, bike, and helmet. What else do I need besides a healthy body?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Canyon Run

I went on an exploration run today. It's been hard to get started. I'm all alone in a new place. I get kind of intimidated and overwhelmed. I know it's silly. I'm afraid I'll go out, and some police guy/authority figure will yell, "Hey! You can't run here!" Isn't that weird?

Knowing my fears were ridiculous, I strapped on my running shoes and headed south of the apartment. I explored the community park behind the apartment. It has a 1/2 mile paved path around the perimeter, filled with soccer fields, baseball fields, playgrounds, a par fitness course, picnic tables, basketball courts, and a volleyball court (with sand). Very impressive. I continued south towards the canyon I had discovered a few weeks ago. Paths stretched both east and west. Multilevel trails zig-zagged all the way down to the bottom, where railroad tracks stretched endlessly in both directions. More paths zig-zagged up the the top of the other side of the canyon on the other side. Every now and then, a path would exit the canyon into a new, undiscovered neighborhood. My options were limitless.

Remembering that the canyon "ran out" to the east, I chose the shorter route, too overwhelmed to try the western route. Some paths were flat, some hilly. I couldn't believe my luck. It was so nice to escape the hard pavement and treat my feet to the soft, packed dirt. I reached a bridge, leading up to a road on the other side, one that I recognized from driving around the other day. The trail did not run out, but I decided to turn back, on the other side of the canyon. As I neared the point of entry, I realized running on the opposite side may have been a mistake. Trotting back and forth, I found a narrow path where the grass had been flattened, and followed it to the valley below. It led into a dry creek, completely surrounded by brush. I crouched and listened to my heart pound. It was an adventure. I was excited and on edge. I felt completely hidden. I burst out of the creek bed and made my way up the steep bank, trotting towards the railroad tracks. I was very cautious, eyeing the signs that read, "Danger. Keep out." I felt very exposed as the brush fell away. I approached the tracks timidly, listening, looking. Seeing nothing. Hearing nothing. I darted across the tracks and bounded up the trail to the other side. I felt like a wild deer.

I ended up going much farther than I had intended but it was so energizing and exciting. I can't wait to go back. I'm settling in somewhat. Finally. I feel like there's extra time on my hands to enjoy myself. Not like I normally do, when I'm overwhelmed with things to do. Work starts on Monday. I'm relishing my final days of freedom and trying not to think about how nervous I am about starting my postdoc.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

George's sign

Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of George's death. Deeply smelling his halter, I caught remnants of the scent that could instantly place me in the pasture beside him as he grazed. Since his death, I've been searching, waiting for a sign that his spirit lives on somewhere. Sometimes I think I'm blind to the subtle signs around me. Sometimes I'm filled with doubt. It's hard to forget the slight breeze that blew through his forelock after he fell to the ground and his breath had left him. It's hard to forget the flock of mourning doves that sat shivah for 7 days after George's death. I dream of him but my grief interferes with his messages, twisting the visions into guilty nightmares filled with pain.

To remember and honor his memory, I hiked through the Torrey Pines State Reserve. It was gorgeous, sunny, and surrounded by ocean. I found myself staring at the ocean atop one of the overlooks on the cliffs. A small black peak broke the water's surface in the distance, catching my eye. At first, I thought it might be a rock, interrupting the ocean's flow towards shore. But then it moved. I realized there were 3 or 4 of these shiny, black peaks, emerging from the ocean's depths momentarily before disappearing again. They were dolphins. They were so elegant and agile, quickly swimming through the water with eerie speed. I watched them for at least an hour, completely captivated.

I made my way to the beach. The tide was coming in, and I felt I was going to be swallowed up by the waves, which stood taller than my head. I had to look up to see the water's surface. I swallowed my fear, realizing how small and insignificant I was compared to the massive power of the ocean. I was totally at its mercy. I unwrapped 3 peppermints, George's favorite, and placed them on the edge of the lapping fingers of the ocean's waves. The waves ebbed and flowed with a methodical rhythm. Within 3 cycles, the peppermints were gone. The ocean had taken my offering.

I absent-mindedly collected seashells and pretty rocks, caught in a reverie of my childhood when I used to play on the beach. Occassionally, I looked up at the waves, searching for a "sign." Just at that moment, a man approached me: "Did you know you were standing below the fastest animal in the world." His words were so strange to me, I was immediately ripped from my meditative state of mind and instantly put on edge. He pointed at the cliffs above me, and I realized I was standing directly below a huge, majestic female peregrine falcon. Apparently, they can dive-bomb their prey at 200 mph, making them the "fastest animal in the world." He let me look at her through his binoculars. She was gorgeous. Although I didn't appreciate being approached by a strange guy, I realized later that it was the only way for me to notice what was directly above me. I had been searching for a sign in the sand or in the waves. Is it possible that the sign was above me the entire time?


Another spectacular ocean view from Torrey Pines.

ocean view Torrey Pines

You can see La Jolla, south of Torrey Pines. The view was spectacular.

Babs' new favorite pasttime is sunbathing in our San Diego apartment. She's quite the beach babe!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Visting Nor-Cal

I'm spending a few days with the parents up near San Francisco. It's much colder here than San Diego! It barely reaches 60 during the day! (small violin playing). I've been better about exercising and eating healthfully! Yipee! Last week was my first week back on the wagon (or is it off the wagon?). I ran and weight-lifted 3x. I'm trying to re-introduce my body to exercise. My goal is to work up to doing a little something every day. It doesn't matter what at this point. I can get more workout specific in a few weeks once my body begins to adjust. Right now, running and weights are the easiest. I do them back-to-back and get it all over with. Weights are kind of boring anyway so I just do it afterwards for 30-60 minutes in front of the t.v. I'm just happy I can still run 3-4 miles without dying! At least I can start somewhere!

I've been looking at all the biking, running, swimming, and tri clubs and events in the San Diego area. It's hard not to get overwhelmed. I'm just going to take it one step at a time. There's a little park in our backyard too with a 1/4 mile track, tennis courts, and basketball courts too! Perfect for cross-training. Only 1/2 mile from our apartment is a huge, long canyon with tons of dirt trails for running! And the UCSD campus is perfect for biking and running around--it has a 6-8 mile loop around the perimeter. Oh, there's also the 24-hour gym at our apartment. Plus, I have the bike trainer and weights in the apartment. I'm also signing up for the UCSD gym, which has a TON of facilities, including a HUGE Olympic-sized pool with awesome hours. And, I'll be commuting by bike to and from work so that'll count too! Basically, there is absolutely NO excuse not to get off my butt with so much to do.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Settling In

I guess I'm more tired than I realized. I've been sleeping A LOT. It's been hard to do anything. I'm totally unpacked now, and I know where all the local stores are and stuff. It's overwhelming. San Diego has so much stuff. It's been luxurious just to sleep in and watch t.v. and not do anything. I have to say that it's weird with it being 80 degrees in January. I'm actually hot!

One of my New Year's resolutions is to get back into shape and begin eating more healthfully. Boy, that's a lot harder said than done! Little and often. Little and often. It's hard because I used to be in excellent shape, and now I'm just a blob. At least my butt and boobs are bigger! I don't really need to lose weight but I definitely need a whole-body toning job and endurance building. I did break out the weights and mat last night and sweated through an hour weight-lifting session. So that's something. It's hard not to overdo it because I want to just jump back into where I was. Jason took me out on a 4-mile run on Monday (jerk--I only wanted to go 3). We went around the UCSD campus. I saw their awesome Olympic-sized pool. I can't wait to get signed up for that. Plus, we discovered all these trails around this never-ending, winding canyon only half-a-mile from the apartment. Lots of opportunities. The apartment has a 24-hour gym too. Bike lanes on every road. It's overwhelming.

The bunnies are happy. Taz and Oscar are inseparable. They play "chase" and "follow-the-leader" like brothers. Babs still hates Oscar. She has to be separated from him at all times. She Taz goes where he likes. Babs doesn't mind as long as she gets attention from me. She stays in one room at night, and Oscar likes snoozing under the bed during the day so they've worked it out. Sigh. I've never seen Oscar play so much. He's quite mischievous. Such a change from his old, grumpy, shy demeanor.

I'm trying to get over the feeling of being overwhelmed. San Diego is so BIG. There is so much to do, so many shops, so many choices. At some point, you have to say, enough, and just go out and do your own thing and be yourself. It's hard not to get swallowed up. You need to remember who you are and what you want. I used to think bigger was better (typical American). Bigger city, better weather, more choices, etc., etc. Plus, I grew up in California, and I've always wanted to move back. However, I've lived in many places between here and then. I've come to realize happiness has nothing to do with money or things or where you live. It can influence your state of mind, sure, but they are just empty things. What matters is knowing who you are, what your goals are, what you want out of life, and making them happen. Surrounding yourself with people you care about and who care about you. Taking control of your own destiny. I was happy in St. Louis, not because I liked St. Louis, but because I created a niche for myself. Between school and friends, volunteering and exercising, and riding George, I created a life for myself then that kept me in the moment and defined who I was, making me feel fulfilled and satisfied. Now, I'm starting over. I need to remember those principles so I don't get swallowed up by this larger society so I can carve out a new niche.

Happy 2006 everyone!