Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seattle to Portland - part 2

While wandering around on Saturday night I kept hearing rumors that the weather on day two was going to be even hotter.  The general consensus was that we'd have to get up even earlier to get most of the ride in before it got too hot.  This was not promising.  I managed to get into my sleeping bag by around 9pm... but there was no way I was going to be up for a 5am start time.  I didn't even bother setting the alarm on my phone.  I'd just sleep as long as I could.  This turned out to be not nearly as long as I would have liked.  


I woke up at about 4am to the sound of bike cleats on the gym floor.  Everyone had been very respectful of people sleeping - and aside from some rustling and snoring - it had been quiet all night.  But there's simply no way for that many people to get ready in silence.  

Grrrrr.... I rolled over and tried to ignore it.  Never mind riding another hundred miles - I didn't want to *move*.  I finally got up to go to the bathroom feeling like a zombie.  My butt was still sore and my calf muscles were locked up... I could barely open my eyes.   I shuffled back to my sleeping bag and agonized for a few minutes about whether or not to call it quits.  I knew I didn't have 100 miles in me physically... but mentally - I'm stubborn.  I'd spent the day before imagining myself crossing the finish line and thinking about how bad-ass it would be to do all 200 miles - despite riding alone, despite my heavy bike, despite my lack of training... I can do anything!!

This is that mental challenge that people were telling me about.  Mentally - I was there.  Physically however... my body was screaming no.  I sent a text message to my support person back home "I'm not doing this - come get me in Centralia, call me when you wake up."  But I knew she wouldn't be awake for hours, so I started trying to figure out how to spend my day in Centralia.  Ugh.  

It was only 4:45am, but by this point I was well and truly awake.  The gym was practically empty, everyone was already on the road - trying to beat the heat.  I headed off to the shower and changed into my normal clothes.  I started packing up all my gear.   I expected to be the last one left in Centralia - but when I exited the gym I saw a ton of people milling about.  Some folks still in their tents, others in line for coffee, as well as a bunch of folks just starting out on their bikes.
Centralia college - 6am
The mental / physical debate started up again... it's not really too late to start.  I'm walking now, so I can't be too bad off.  I stood for a while, indecisive.  I overheard a couple of older guys talking about the ride, one of them was still in street clothes.  Finally he said "Oh heck - I'll ride today."  I laughed and said I was trying to decide the same thing.  He stopped and thought for a moment.
"Have you had any caffeine yet?" he asked.
"Well, have a coffee and then decide".

The old dude had a point.  I'd only had an apple and some trail mix... and it was still obscenely early.  I grabbed my phone and texted my friend "Fuck it - I'm riding.  Call me when you wake up."  I knew I wouldn't make it 100 miles, but at least I could be further on down the road by the time she was ready to get me.  I quickly changed into riding gear and took my luggage to the moving van.  I got my bike out of the corral and was on my way.  It was only 6am.

Seattle to Portland - Day 2

Mile 100 - This isn't so bad.

Mile 101 - Actually... it really is.  My butt does not want to be in this bike seat, my legs are stiff, and I'm still really tired.

Mile 102 - My butt hurts, but if I shift a bit I can relieve the pressure a bit.

Mile 103 - A hill - this early, are you kidding me?

Mile 104 - Ok - now this part of my butt hurts, but if I shift a bit... hmmm...

Mile 105 - First rest stop of the day.  

A local community group is cooking up a pancake breakfast on their lawn.  I pull over and load up on eggs, sausage, pancakes, and yes - coffee.  Well, about half cream and sugar, half coffee - but it's caffeine.  The guys at my table are veterans of the ride - they're talking about gears and ratios and I don't understand a word of it.  One of them jokes about passing a granny on a beach cruiser going up The Hill  yesterday.  I laugh and say "I'm pretty sure that was me."  We chat a bit... and I mention that someone had told me there would be banana bread at the top of the hill - but I didn't see it yesterday.

"Oh, no... we haven't gotten to that hill yet - that's today." he tells me.
"There's another big hill???"  I cringe.
"Yeah - it's not quite as tall as the one yesterday - it's just longer." he says this as though it's supposed to reassure me.  
"I thought today was just rollers"
"Yeah the big hill first, then it's just rollers."
I finish up my breakfast and head out again.  

Mile 106 - Owwwwiiiieeee.

Mile 107 - maybe if I shift a bit....well, now my lady bits are squished but at least my butt doesn't hurt as much.

Mile 110 - The OTHER hill.  Head down, granny gears, owie owie owie, just keep pedaling.

Mile 111 - At the top of the banana-bread hill I get a text - my friend is up and willing to come get me, we just have to figure out where.  My route map is in the bottom of my back-pack on a moving van somewhere along I-5, so I ask around until someone knows where the first official rest stop is - Lexington Riverside Park.  Rescue secured, I feel a lot better.  

Mile 112 - except that my butt hurts.

Mile 113 - and it's actually really cold out.  

Mile 114 - here come the "rollers"... which is really just a fancy word for more hills.

Mile 117 - The people passing me are saying obnoxiously chipper things like "Good morning!" and I kind of want to throw a stick in their spokes.  

Mile 120 - maybe if I shift again... no, now that just hurts in a brand new way.  

Mile 123 - more hills?  Are you fucking kidding me?

Mile 125 - I'm really trying to use my momentum from the downhills to carry me up the next... but I always lose momentum about half way up... and I can't seem to click it into gear just right to carry me up.  It's a struggle each time.  

Mile 127 - Where are the cowbells?  How come no one is out with their cowbells??  

Mile 130 - For the first time, I'm stopping at the tops of the hills, just to get a breather and to get off the bike seat a bit.  

Mile 133 - It's really quite cold out, on the up-hill it's not bad, but going down I'm freezing - where's the heat everyone was promising?  Also - my butt hurts.

Mile 135 - Mini-stop at Castle Rock School.  I get off the bike and rest for a minute.  My friend texts me to say she's on her way and to verify the location.  I borrow a map from a couple of girls who look far more organized than I am.  Yup - only about 8 more miles to go.  I can do 8... 8 is nothing.

Mile 135.5 - How have I not gone not 8 miles yet!?!

Mile 136 - For serious my butt really hurts.  On the Hyperbole and a Half pain scale I think I went from a 3 "This is distressing, I don't want this to be happening to me at all" to 6 "Ow, ok, my pain is super legit right now." over the course of the morning.

Mile 140 - "on your left" "on your left"

Mile 141 - @#%%$^ %#^*& @#$%! %!$^&&** !() @$%!!

Mile 143 - Lexington Riverside Park.  I'm done.  I'm done done done-ity done.  It's the half-way point for the day, but it's the end for me.  I set Snowflake on the ground and grab a couple of snacks.  Right at that moment, my friend texts me that she's pulling into the park.  I see her and all but run to the car.  Get me out of here!

Don't cry because it happened... smile because it's over!

She tells me "You look pretty good!"  I tell her "That's because I know I'm going home."

Also, she brought her doggies with her:

Puppy action shot

Mile 147 - Cars are comfy... and warm.

Mile 151 - "Hey - can we stop at Burgerville?" - "You just finished a long ass ride - we can stop wherever you want"  Yum!!!

Mile 153 - Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Mile 155 - "Waah huh?  Was that thunder?"  Bang! Crash! The lightning flashed, and well, that's another story, never mind anyway....

Mile 160 - Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Mile 199 - "Should I take you home?"  "No, my keys are with my luggage - I need to go pick them up at the finish line."

Mile 201 - "Ok - just drop me off here."

Mile 202 - I am a horrible human being.  I am just genuinely a horrible human being.  I needed to get my luggage and the only way I could think of to get back to the baggage pick-up was to re-join the ride.  Like... a block or two before the finish line.  And I had to cross the street at a red-light, so I ended up in front of a whole group of riders who had presumably not escaped the thunderstorm by snoozing in a car for the past 50+ miles.

Oh well, I had to laugh.  Everyone was cheering and waving and ringing their cowbells.  I knew that technically I cheated, but I'd worked hard so I high-fived a couple of kids and smiled for the camera.  I will probably not, however, be paying $60 for the commemorative CD of all the ride photos.

Seattle to Portland ride - Day 2 over!

I got home, took a nice warm bath, puttered around online for a bit, and then fell asleep by 3pm.  I got up a few times and puttered around a bit more, but pretty much slept until my alarm went off at 5:30am for work. I woke up sore, but not incapacitated.

So, lessons learned?  Training matters, gear matters, support matters.  The mental aspect is important, but at some point you just can't ignore the physical aspect.  And this is an important thing for me to pay attention to.  I'm a thinky-thoughts kind of person - I live in my brain and don't pay enough attention to my body.  I have been trying to get better about that in the past couple of years - eating better, indulging in massages & pedicures, and biking for fun and exercise.  But now I've kind of gone too far in the other direction - forcing my body to do more than it was really capable of.  There is a fine line between challenging myself and masochism!  

Am I going to sign up for StP next year?  I'm not sure.  Of course the stubborn part of me wants a rematch.  I want to prove to myself that I can do it.  But the sensible part of me knows that I'll need to get the gear, training, and support sorted out if I want to do it.  And that's not easy, or cheap.  I have actually been eyeing a carbon frame road bike that would run me around  $3,000 - $6,000 depending on the components.

The Specialized Ruby Pro is a quick and efficient, FACT carbon bike, with OSBB and Zertz vibration dampers in the frame and fork, designed to cover long distances with maximum control, efficiency, and comfort. Dura-Ace/Ultegra drivetrain and Roval Fusée SLX wheels are ready for a gran fondo or local race. 

Then there's the clipless pedals for $40 and shoes for another $100, even just padded shorts would run me around $70.  Serious training would take the better part of each weekend for a few months... and finding a team that rides at a similar pace would take some time & commitment too.   How far down this rabbit hole do I want to go?

How far down this rabbit hole do I want to go while still in grad school?

I might do one more organized ride this year - one official century so I can say I did it properly.  But I think that'll have to be my limit until I'm out of school.  The StP can go on the bucket list to do someday.

Until then, I think I'm going to just go back to my old riding group (the appropriately named "NumBunz") - 40 miles around town and finishing with lunch and a beer.  That I know I can accomplish!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seattle to Portland - part 1

Back in February I decided to sign up for the Group Health Seattle to Portland ride this year.  It was ambitious to say the least.  I had never completed a century ride (100 miles) before, let alone back-to-back centuries.  And that's what this ride is, although some hard-core riders attempt the 204 mile ride in one day, most folks go half the distance, spend the night and then ride the second half on day 2.

People told me that the challenge of this ride was "mostly mental" but I don't think that's quite accurate.*  I think the three biggest factors that go into successfully completing StP are:

  1. The right gear.
  2. Preparation.
  3. A supportive team.

I think if you have at least 2 out of 3 of those things, you'll have a good ride and finish strong.  All three and you'll have a blast - it really is a beautiful ride and could be great fun.  If you only have one of those things - you'll probably finish, but it'll be tough and not much fun.

As for me:

1. I had an okay bike.  Snowflake (my Specialized Vita) is a workhorse, I take her all over the place - from my daily commute to fun rides around town.  Aside from an occasional flat - she's never let me down, rain or shine, uphill or down.  But she's not a road bike, she's a hybrid, with a big solid frame, fenders, a rack and thick sturdy tires.  She's not exactly designed for long distance rides.  I don't use clipless pedals or toe cages, and am not used to wearing padded bike pants.  My only concession to bike-gear was a jersey with pockets in the back so I didn't have to carry a back-pack.  My gear was not exactly high-tech or event-specific.

2.  I was not as prepared as I should have been.  I'd done a few 50 mile rides and one or two hill rides, which was nice... but again, not nearly enough for back-to-back centuries.  I'd scanned the route online to get a feel for the ride... but hadn't actually gotten out on the route to try any of it out.  My logistical planning consisted of signing up for the bus & lodging.   I knew nothing about the towns I'd ride through.

3.  My ride buddy unfortunately had to cancel but sent encouraging text messages from the road.  I was pretty much on my own.  There were lots of people riding together as teams, and there were lots of support vehicles leap-frogging from rest stop to rest stop and stopping along the way waving signs and ringing cow-bells.  I think riding with a team makes a difference.

So you can probably guess how my ride ended up - but I'm going to give you the mile-by-mile breakdown anyway.


I took the bus from Portland to Seattle.  This was incredibly convenient and well organized.  I put my bike on the moving van, and then hopped on the bus.  I chatted with a man who'd done the ride several times but hadn't done it in 20 years.  He gave me some pointers and encouragement, and was just fun to chat with.

We arrived in Seattle and I checked into a dorm-room at the University of Washington.  The vans with our bikes showed up a bit later.  I watched the volunteers unloading the bikes, sometimes just lifting them with one hand and passing them overhead to the owner of the bike.  My first ominous warning came when the volunteer reached for my bike, and remarked as he picked it up "Oh - this is a heavy one."  Hmmm.  I took my bike and headed up to my room to set out my clothes for the next day.

Cozy dorm

There was still plenty of time to explore the U District and I even got to have dinner with a friend before heading to bed early.

Saturday morning:

At about 3:30am I woke up to the sound of some big crash or bang... no idea what it was but since I didn't want to be awake for at least another hour, I tried to get back to sleep.

Next thing I know I'm trying to get ready, but I can't find any of my stuff.  I go ask someone where my things are - but he doesn't know.  I can't find the starting line, I don't know what's happened to my bike and I just keep getting sent in different directions.  I'm freaking out!!!

And then my alarm goes off, and I wake up.  GAH!  I spent the last good hour I had to sleep on an anxiety dream.  I mean, thankfully my bike, clothes and bag were all still in my room where I'd left them... but seriously - after all that dream-stress I still wasn't ready!  Fortunately getting ready in real life was easy and uneventful.  I followed the throngs of riders out to the parking lot, loaded my backpack & sleeping bag onto the moving van and by 5:30am I was rolling across the start line with thousands of other riders.

Not too sure about this whole 5:30am thing.

StP Day 1

Mile 0** - It is way too early to be riding.  What was I thinking?  I'm tiiiiired.  I wanna go back to bed.

Mile 3 - First slight uphill -  I'm passed by a guy on a hand-pedaled bike.  Suck it up Rebel, you're fine.

Mile 4 - Downhill - wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  The road curves around and the trees clear to show the sun rising over Lake Washington with a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Why would anyone stay in bed and miss a sight like this???

Mile 5 - I'm barely half an hour into this ride and I've already seen at least a dozen riders on the side of the road sorting out some issue with their bikes.  Schadenfreude brings confidence! Snowflake may not be much, but she can go 5 miles without dropping her chain!

Mile 10 - People are out on their lawns ringing cow-bells.  This makes me feel indescribably happy.

Mile 15 - There's a raccoon in the street in danger of being run over - she's chattering wildly.  I look up and see there are two baby raccoons on a branch hanging over the street.  Oh no!  She's going to have to wait quite a while to get across the street and up the tree again.

Mile 19 - Hundreds if not thousands of riders have already passed me calling "on your left" as they rolled on by.

Mile 22 - I'm hungry and wish I'd had more than just a handful of trail mix and an apple for breakfast.

Mile 24 - First official stop at REI!  Peanut butter tortilla wraps and an oompah band.  Yay, this is fun!  The porta-potties are tricky though, I'm terrified that everything in the pockets of my jersey is going to fall off into the bucket.  Luckily this doesn't happen, but I am exceedingly cautious each time.

There may have been chicken-dancing.

Mile 30 - More folks along the route ringing cowbells and cheering us on.  I don't know why, but it really helps.

Mile 33 - A guy rides by and comments on the fact that I'm riding a "mountain bike" - "It's a hybrid." I counter.  He tells me he rode his first StP on a heavy bike and traded it in for a road bike the next day.  "She's fine, she gets the job done!"   "You know those fenders add weight - you don't need them today"  Dude... fuck off already!

Mile 35 - A woman calls out "Hey - my Vita twin!" from her identical bike.  We chat about our twin bikes for a minute and she tells me it'll be fine - "She has great gears for the hill!"  yeah she does.

Mile 37 - It's getting warm out - someone's lawn sprinkler is spraying out in the road, I swerve close to ride through it - dang that feels nice!

Mile 40 - Members of Team Joy ride by - in honor of a friend who died of ovarian cancer. Joy's face smiles on the back of their jerseys.  I think this Joy lady must have been pretty awesome.

Mile 43 - THE HILL

Mile 44 - Head down, granny gear, just keep pedaling.   I may not be fast but I pass everyone who had to walk.

Mile 45 - A bit of a breather and then another climb.  Granny gear for the win!  I cried knowing I made it up Hell Hill without stopping.  The rest of the ride is downhill right?

Mile 47 - "on your left"  "on your left"  "on your left" hundreds more riders have passed me

Mile 48 - I pass another house with its sprinklers on and try to get close enough to get a splash.  I love the heat, I do, but it does take a lot out of you when you're riding in it for several hours.

Mile 51 - roadkill: chocolate cliff bar

Mile 53 - Another much earned rest stop, I grab some lunch and a corner of shade to rest a bit.  I swing by the first aid tent to reapply sunscreen.  Instead of just a bottle of sunscreen on the table, the volunteers are squirting sunscreen into our hands - I get my face and neck and start on my arms - the old guy in front of me starts rubbing the suncreen into my arms.  It's kind of creepy - but it also feels pretty good.  Did not realize my arm muscles were quite that sore.  I call it a free massage and get back on the road.

Mile 59 - More cowbell!

Mile 63 - It's hot, I'm tired, I'm fantasizing about swimming pools.  Out of nowhere a wild Starbucks appears!  One venti iced tea later and I'm feeling fantastic.
Never underestimate the power of caffeine. 

Mile 65 - There's a girl sitting at a bus stop near a red-light.  She asks us why we would want to be out on a bike ride in this heat.  One of the other riders tells her "It builds character."  Builds character indeed.

Mile 68 - I see a house ahead where someone has placed an old-school sprinkler right on the side of the road spraying into the street.  For the first time it dawns on me - they put these out for us!   I ride through and feel overwhelming gratitude for all the people supporting us on this ride.

Mile 71 - We leave the main road and head onto a bike-trail for the first time.  It's nice to be away from cars and surrounded by trees - the alternating patches of shade bring momentary relief from the heat.

Mile 77 - My gloves are starting to melt into my handlebars.

Mile 86 - Mini rest stop - the local basketball team has set up sprinklers and is handing out popsicles for donations.  I drench myself, grab a popsicle and chill in the shade for a bit.

Mile 86.1 - I leave the shelter of the shade and get back on the road.  Somehow it is now 4 million degrees outside.

Mile 90 - This is far longer than I've ever ridden before... my butt hurts, I'm hotter than hell, sunscreeny sweat keeps dripping into my eyes but I'm still rolling.

Mile 91 - Just keep pedaling.

Mile 92 - Just keep pedaling.

Mile 93 - "on your left" "on your left"

Mile 94 - JUST

Mile 95 - KEEP 

Mile 96 - PEDALING

Mile 97 - "on your left"  "on your left"

Mile 98 - Just keep pedaling.

Mile 99 - Centralia!!!

OMG  - I'm overwhelmed with relief.  I can't believe I did my first century! ***   There's a party atmosphere on the lawns, but I can barely absorb it.  I'm just done.  Despite drinking lots of water and gatorade, despite the generous applications of sunscreen - I feel cooked.  My skin is tight and my eyes feel tired, I know my internal temperature is up and my brain is fuzzy.  I think I'm about as close to heat stroke as I've ever been.

I walk my bike to the bike corral, pick up my luggage from the vans, and then check in at the Centralia College gym.  The gym is dark and looks earily like a grave yard.  Rows of chairs are lined up like headstones with sleeping bags and comatose riders stretched out in front of about half of them.  I find an empty chair and set my stuff down.  It's the first time I've sat down in miles... but I know that I need to shower and get some food & water in me before I pass out.

After a shower I feel slightly more human, and I venture out on the campus.  I swing by a first aid tent for more water and some ibuprofen.  There's a sports massage tent that looks too tempting to resist.  I sign up for 45 minutes.  I'm nearly asleep as soon as I lay down on the table.  But for some reason the massage therapist seems starved for conversation... "How was your ride?"  "Did you ride with friends?"  "Do you have kids?"  Umm... can you just shut up and make my muscles stop hurting?  But she was saving the best for last - I tell her I'm just tired and she tells me I'll do fine tomorrow "God will take care of you."  I murmur something non-committal.  "You believe right?"  OMFG!!!  Shut up lady - this is neither the time nor the place for a discussion of theology.  I'm tired and my muscles are sore and I would like to not be one giant knot in the morning.  Just do your job.  I don't say anything else - but she goes on about how this is her Sabbath and how god will take care of me etc.   I was too tired to make a big stink - but I did not tip her.  I paid for a massage, not religious guidance.

Weirdly inappropriate massage over, I got a quick dinner at a local restaurant and then crashed out in the gym/cemetery and slept like the dead.

Beautiful downtown Centralia.  

Seattle to Portland - Day 1 over.

*People also say that the ride is "mostly flat" but the 4,000+ feet of elevation changes proves that's not quite an accurate statement either!

** Mile marks are not accurate.  But then, if you're using this blog as a mile-guide you're in worse shape than I was!

*** Yes I know a Century is 100 miles, but I just dare you to call me on it!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grad school is hard.

Nobody said it wouldn't be and I certainly wasn't expecting anything other than to work my ass off.  But like most things, it's difficult to know exactly what to expect until you're in it.  And all I can say is that grad school is hard.

I started this whole plan of going back to school to get my Masters shortly after I returned from Thailand in December 2009.  I started looking into programs, and researching different options.  One of the first things I learned was that I would need to take two years of a foreign language at the college level before I could be accepted into the MA-TESOL program.  So by summer term 2010, I was enrolled in Spanish 101.  By March 2012 I had finished up my Spanish classes and just had two more pre-reqs. to take before I officially started graduate school in Fall of 2012.

So I've been doing this whole "going back to school" thing for a solid 4 years now, and it's not over yet!!  To revisit that Winston Churchill quote "This is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning", I would say that I am definitely in the middle of the middle.  If I continue to go to school part time while working, I have at least one more full year of classes, and then however long it takes me to do a culminating project or thesis.  So I'm just trying to take stock of where I am and what I've been doing.

(and not doing especially well at times)

Time-management has been hard.  The content of some of my classes has been hard.  Working with group members has, at times, been hard.  Coming up with new ideas and planning lessons for my classes and tutoring sessions has been hard.  But I think what's been hardest has been the constant mental and emotional roller-coaster I've been on.  When I'm at work, I need to have my work brain on.  Then I go to class and I have to switch to my school brain.  Then I go back to work and try to shift back into work brain without losing what I was starting to absorb during class.  After work sometimes I have to shift into my teacher brain.  Then in the few hours I have at home before I need to go to sleep - I make my brain try to produce things like syntax trees for class or communication exercises for my students.  I have been asking a hell of a lot from the three pounds of grey-matter between my ears lately.  Seriously - for an itty bitty little squishy thing, there's been a ton of work going on up there.

(this is the kind of thing professional language educators do apparently)

The process of becoming a "Professional Language Educator" has been hard.  I'm having trouble developing my identity.  I mean... that's a sentence I don't think I would have even written before starting this whole grad school thing.  But we talk about things like that - what kind of teacher do I want to be.  Do I want to be a skilled technician, a reflective practitioner, or a transformative intellectual?  Am I going to take a normative approach or will I embrace critical theory?  I thought I just wanted to be a teacher.... like, a *good* one.  Hmmm.... not sure what that means anymore.  One of my assignments was to write out my teaching philosophy.  I banged my head against that assignment over and over  - I still have no idea what my philosophy is.

There's so much to think about when you think about how to teach.  Content and techniques, of course, but then there's culture, interpersonal dynamics, and political systems at work on local, national, and global levels.  We are constantly being asked to reflect on our experiences in the program, as students, tutors, and teachers.  I broke down in tears in the middle of the computer lab while writing up one of those reflection papers.

As hard as it's been to develop my identity as a teacher, I'm also trying to merge that with my already existing identity, as a woman, as a single woman who dates men, as a traveler, as a friend, as an employee, as a crafter, as a geeky dorky nerd.  Who the fuck am I anymore?  I mean, I know who I am, and I do actually think I'm pretty awesome ... but if I try to articulate it... I get lost.  And a lot of the time I don't feel like I'm doing especially well in any of those areas, and that makes me sad.
(Apparently I am the girl who smiles in pictures regardless of how stressed out I am.)

I do know what I need though.  I need some time to process all of the things I've experienced this year but haven't had time to sort through.  I need to vomit out a lot of the crap that I've been subjected to, and find a way to reinforce my emotional boundaries.  And I need to fill the well.  I need to fill my soul up with good things.  I need to spend what time I can this summer taking care of myself so I can go into next year strong and ready.

One of the things that really helped me when I was living abroad and going through that whole transformation was having a blog where I could document and organize my thoughts... but also get a little feedback from people.  I mean, obviously I talk to people all the time, and Facebook is great for quick updates and witty one-liners.  But the kind of stuff I've been experiencing cannot easily be condensed into modern-attention-span-chunks so I'm going to give it the time and space it needs.   I enjoy reading blogs where people are authentic - and not just pinterest-perfect  - and I know I'm not the only one.  So hopefully little injection of authenticity will help me sort myself out but also show other people that you know, life can be hard sometimes.  But you know... you keep going.. and hopefully one day you look back and you realize what an awesome thing you did and it will feel good.