When I don’t have a routine, I forget how much I love them. When I’m not busy, I forget how much I love being busy. I forget how much I love rushing from one thing to the next and making it just on time; I forget how much those moments of rapidity remind me to slow down when I’ve got plenty of time. I forget how nice it is to see a broad swath of people, how much I enjoy learning about their lives – even (and especially) the day-to-day realities.
Yesterday was the first day of school. Technically, I suppose, the last first day of school (for the foreseeable future…but we all know I’ll be back at school someday). I had places to be, people to see, and things to do.
I left the house at 9am and didn’t get home until after 9pm. But when I got home, friends came over for berries and cream and a mini-homework session (or, in my case, a work-work session) that lasted until after midnight.
I got home late because I went to a tap class at a local studio (about a mile from my house). It’s been so long since I tapped like that! I mean, yeah, I’ve been tapping with Tufts tap ensemble, but this was *real.* This was challenging choreography for my feet and my brain. There were complex tap steps I haven’t done since I was a young teenager. Half the class was mentally challenging because we were dancing in 7-time (normal dances are in sets of 4 or 8 counts, and as you get more advanced you get used to 3 or 6 counts; but this was in sets of 7…) And I re-met random people I’ve seen at random, unrelated events around Boston.
I’m currently re-reading parts of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, because I wanted to remember his three types of people. One of his big points is that while we tend to value our close ties the most (e.g. our best friends, our family), the most influential people we know in terms of jobs, opportunities, and new experiences are our acquaintances. I’ve always felt like I am in the most solid place if/when I’m meeting and spending time with a wide variety of new people, so I’m very excited for this new group of tappers (a class of about 10 people of all ages – from my age up to probably 45/50).
Before tap, I had (yet another) physical therapy appointment. I haven’t really talked about them here, but I’ve been going to PT for my back/neck/head for a few weeks now. And yesterday, in addition to Marisa (my PT) telling me I’m getting stronger in the muscles I’ve neglected for years (forever?), I could feel it. There were exercises we tried a week or two ago that I absolutely could not do that were not easy, but definitely doable.
I attended part of Fletcher’s “shopping day” yesterday, where I learned about a class I might try to audit (Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy), although the definition of clean energy for this class sadly doesn’t include nuclear. But it is probably a good idea to learn what I can about the domestic and international policy tendencies in the clean energy realm, so I might take it regardless.
I got surprising amounts of work done yesterday and this morning – I’m relearning the “one hour at a time” art I had mastered in middle school. I’m prepped for today’s meeting about my independent study, I’m ready to lead the class I’m the teaching assistant for this afternoon, because the professor is out of town at a conference. I’m about to sit down to my first Czech lesson since I came home from Prague, and I sent my host family an email last night. (It is so nice to still be in contact with them!)
All in all, the semester is starting and I’m so ready. I’ve got a weekly calendar set up, regular meetings, appointments, and classes scheduled. I’ve got friends to see and work to do and my very last semester (foe as it may feel) to take full advantage of!
Until next time…
Fair warning: this is going to read like a diary.
I’ve been in a bit of a bind these days – weeks really – where I want to give but I feel like everyone is taking. And I know that doesn’t necessarily make sense, so I’ll try (but inevitably fail) to explain.
I like giving. I like giving my time in the sense that I want to listen to my friends and participate in events that benefit others. I like giving food in that I *love* cooking for other people (way more than just cooking for myself). I like giving people books to read, or presents for no reason; sending notes or flowers to just remind them they’re appreciated. I like giving smiles and hugs to people when they’re feeling down or just passing me on the street.
I know that I live a blessed life – I’m truly not wanting for anything. I have a job I love and I live in a beautiful city and I’ve got tons of friends and I am incredibly lucky that I can afford pretty much anything I want. (Obviously, I’m not drowning in wealth – I can’t buy a yacht or some nonsense like that, but I have enough money in the bank that I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, if some disaster befell me or I needed to fly home tomorrow, I could manage.)
And I know that I like sharing my life with people. I like giving where I can and what I can and I don’t expect anything in return. At least part of giving is that it feels nice to share, and I’m not ashamed to say that I like giving because I feel better afterwards.
But I feel like many of my friends have become complacent. They expect things from me. What was once give has now become take. I feel like I’m no longer giving, rather that they are taking.
I want to be the rock for my friends – someone they can always talk to. But there are only so many times that I can give my time to hear the same sob story before I feel like they’re just taking that time away from me. I’m happy to give my advice, but when it goes unheeded, I wonder if it was worth it at all.
I want to offer dinner to them, but when they come by every night and never even offer to help cook or clean or shop for ingredients, it begins to feel like a chore. They’re taking my food, my time, and even my enjoyment of cooking for guests.
I love sharing my library with friends, giving book suggestions and letting them borrow from my shelves. But when I come home, excited to start a book that has been constantly pushed down my list by school work and work work, to find that it has been taken by a friend on vacation without so much as a note, I feel like they’ve violated my trust.
I’m happy to share my dishes and appliances, and I know accidents happen. But when things of mine get broken and no one bothers to tell me until I ask, I wonder if I matter to them at all.
And all these thoughts lead me to wonder: from whom do I take? Are there people who I inadvertently take advantage of – because I know my friends aren’t taking from me on purpose. In reality, they aren’t taking from me at all. They’re leaning on me in times of support, they’re spending quality time with close friends and good food, they’re reading my favorite books and talking to me about them. Yet I often feel frustrated by their actions and annoyed by what I perceive as callousness.
I want to give, and I know I take. They’re two sides of the same coin, and neither exists without the other. But the thing is: we all know when we give but we rarely notice when we take. I try to notice, and I’ve been trying especially hard recently as I’ve been especially frustrated. And I’ve simultaneously trying to notice and let go of the feeling that I’ve been taken from. But again, who do I forget to thank? And how I do I know I’ve forgotten?
So if you are someone I’ve been accidentally taking from, recently or for years, thank you. Please know I appreciate everything you are giving.
It’s been a long five days. I went backpacking with my not-so-little-anymore brother, made him hike 25+ miles in 2.5 days and I think he might want to kill me now. Pictures to come when my dad gets around to sending them to me.
Following those three days, I packed my life up (again) and flew across the country (again) to what my housemate/best friend/also-just-acquired-an-official-government-badge-Amelia calls “nuclear camp.” Aka six weeks, twelve undergrads, five professors, one national laboratory, and a lot of equations. Thus far, we’ve been given a nuclear chemistry textbook written by a Nobel Prize-winning chemist (he discovered ten elements, but that’s not what the Nobel was for), biked around Brookhaven National Lab’s campus, found the pool, and covered in under three hours what my Physics professor took a month and two homework assignments to teach last fall. (The semi-empirical mass formula, if anyone’s curious.)
The people here are really great, and it has been fun to nerd out about chemistry. Eleven of the twelve are majoring in Chemistry (Guess who’s the odd man out? You’re right! Me!) and every single one of us has a periodic table poster. Two brought theirs with them, three people have already worn chemistry-based shirts, everyone laughed about my Avogadro’s Number shirt, and one girl has a blanket with the periodic table on it. We all have similar tastes in books – sci-fi is an unsurprisingly popular genre, but so are the classics and eclectic books like When It’s a Jar and House of Leaves. A good number of us like watching sports, so I’ll have plenty of people to watch soccer with over the next 6 weeks, and we’ve all got distinctly different backgrounds, so we’ll have lots of cool discussions about all sorts of things over the next six weeks. It’s not unlike freshman year orientation all over again.
I passed my Rad Worker I test, which means I now know the difference between Radiation and High Radiation Areas (between 5 and 100 mrem/hr and >100 mrem/hr of radiation exposure) and I’m allowed to enter both types of area unescorted. Who knows how long the training lasts, but for now at least my friends can say they’re CPR-certified and I can say I’m certified by the US government to handle radioactive materials. Tomorrow we have a Benchtop Dispersibles class, which means… well… none of us know what that means. Check in again in fifteen hours; we’ll have updates.
In other news, we get to meet five different nuclear and radiochemistry professors from around the country, will be touring a nuclear power plant in a couple weeks, and generally expect to stuff our brains with lots of science. Then I’ll be back in Boston for a month before I start my very last semester (my very last class, really) of undergrad. Then I might post pictures from graduation here on this blog. But probably not, let’s be real.
It is currently January, and I am sitting on a big comfy chair in front of the window with a cup of tea and some music and I’m watching the snow fall and the puppies play in the park across the street where we just built this snowman:
And even though I should probably be doing my homework, I’m loving winter, which is my favorite season (until the snow melts and the flowers bloom, then I’ll be head over heels in love with spring). So I thought I’d share some photos that I’ve collected over the past month or so.
First up: (surrogate) family photos from the snowman-making process. We kinda like each other.
We also love puppies, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with these beautiful dogs, Milo and Galaxy, who live just down the street. (Galaxy, with the gorgeous blue eyes, is both deaf and mostly blind.)
In case you weren’t sure that both Boston and Lake Tahoe are beautiful places to live, here is the Charles River, mostly frozen, and Lake Tahoe, mostly gorgeous.
Last month, after Christmas but before it actually decided to snow in Tahoe, Robby and I went for a walk around the lake and ran into these beautiful puppies
Also, can we talk about the fact that my baby brother isn’t such a baby anymore? It is very clear that he is past little boy stage too, and living on the cusp of manhood.
Halloween is the epic holiday in the United States – the opportunity for people to dress up, go crazy, and not worry about it the day after (minus the hangover, of course). In college, we like to call it “Halloweekend,” although the holiday fell on Friday this year, which puts a bit of a damper in the plans of those who want to use Halloween as an excuse to party for three straight days. Fortunately, that isn’t my reason for celebrating Halloween. I like carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds, using the holiday and dressing up as an excuse to make myself a costume, hang out with friends, and generally have a good time.
Tufts has an amazing tradition, in which the Great Pumpkin Master places pumpkins all over campus. This year, he/she/they did some good work and got pumpkins all over – including the top of Carmichael Hall and the tusks of the elephant on Dowling per usual.
We carved some pumpkins, courtesy of Tufts’ Rez Life and their “alternate halloween celebrations.” What, pray tell, is “alternate” about carving pumpkins? Aren’t Jack-o-lanterns kinda the point of this orange holiday?
I swear, Claire is normal. I swear!!
After we carved the pumpkins, we brought home a lot of people’s pumpkin seeds, and then I roasted them! We have a lot of pumpkin seeds… combine them with the jelly beans still left over from the Harry Potter party and the Halloween candy we bought on a post-Halloween sale, and you’ve got a lot of less-than-healthy snacking going on in our house.
In terms of costumes, I went as Rainbowfish, complete with the colored scales all over my dress and aluminum ones to share with all my friends, as well as beautiful makeup courtesy of Amelia!
And then, of course, there’s the absolute beauty of autumn that Halloween encompasses:
Over a month ago – really, almost two months ago at this point – I took a weekend trip to Acadia National Park up in Maine. It was the last weekend before school started, the last weekend free of homework and commitments and general stress. It was the last weekend to not feel bad about reading a book just to read a book (as opposed to for some sort of homework) and the last weekend to go camping. (I proved that wrong though, didn’t I?)
Regardless, the trip to Acadia was wonderful and beautiful and actually one of the more gorgeous places I’ve ever been. And it all started with StumbleUpon; it was here that Liz and Elizabeth and I found the “26 Best Places to Camp in the US” and we (jokingly) decided to hit one spot a year. One year, one spot. Aaaaannnnndddd…. it just so happens that Acadia was #1 on the list. Is it alphabetical? Maybe…but no.
The decision to start our list with Acadia was primarily a result of the fact that Acadia is near Boston but not near Boston. And by that, I mean that it is driving distance but not easy driving distance; it takes about five hours to get there, and thus needs more than a normal weekend to see it right. So Liz and I drove up for Labor Day – three days, three nights. Two tents, one hike, and a partridge in a pear tree.
No partridges, but we did see a wide variety of beautiful flora and fauna. I couldn’t catch most of it, but I brought my camera up and got a few awesome shots. It’s amazing how much more observant you can be with a camera around your neck. It was a determination to look for things that allowed me to find these little buggers:
But you don’t have to be that observant to find some other fabulous animals:
And we easily spotted a beautiful heron, about a million snails (here’s one!), and these ducks in the sunset:
Anywayyyyys… the fauna was beautiful. So was the flora. The trees were amazing. The flowers were amazing. The sunsets were amazing. The sunrises were amazing. And the rocks were amazing.
One thing I love about camping is the way it resets your clock. The way you have no excuse to stay up late – especially without a campfire – and no excuse to sleep in late. The way you can see the sunrise and the sunset every day, and it doesn’t even feel that early. I love getting a full night’s sleep and getting back to the ancient understanding with night. We used to go to bed with the sun and get up with the sun, and when we woke up in the middle of the night, we just enjoyed the night – thinking and talking and admiring the stars. I love the stars. Especially when you can actually see them.
I particularly enjoyed the company with this crazy cray:
And we somehow managed a few selfies, even with my giant camera (and its self-timer.)
We hiked up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, and were two of the first people in the country to see the sunrise.
And then we wandered around the island, saw some of the beautiful sights to be seen from around the park.
And ended the evening with dinner on the rocks overlooking the sunset.
My mom was kind enough to remind me that I promised a post about apples, then followed that promise with a post … well … not about apples. So here you go, Mom. Apples, as promised.
Fall in New England means apples. And crisp morning air. And reds and oranges and yellows in the trees. And scarves and sweaters and sometimes boots. I’m a fan of New England autumn for a lot of reasons, but mostly for the apples.
A couple weekends ago, friends and I hopped in the car, drove a mere 35 minutes to the edges of suburbia, where the farmlands back up against backyards, and meandered our way through rows and rows of apple trees. I picked $20 worth of apples, and I’m just about finished with them. I had one tonight on my way to class, and even two weeks after being picked, it was way better than any apple you could get in the grocery store.
Apple picking itself is lots of fun, minus the stomach-ache you inevitably end up with as a result of eating too many apples over the course of just a few hours. But when they look this good, when they’re that crunchy, and their flesh is so perfectly white, it gets really hard to resist.
But the best part about picking apples is what you get to make with them. The day after I brought my apple haul home, I made home-made applesauce for us all. Paired with a bit of Claire’s vanilla ice cream, it made a perfect mid-afternoon snack on a beautiful fall day. Technically, though, I don’t think it was quite fall yet… Needless to say, the applesauce got eaten before photos were taken. My apologies. I’m really bad at taking photos of food that I make. But I promise it was amazing!
And then, the next day, we made pie. Which also got eaten before photographed, but it is fortunately very difficult to eat an entire pie before you remember to take at least one photo. And yes, I did buy a pie plate for this very purpose. There are plans in the works for a honey apple cake, as described on Smitten Kitchen, for which a spring-form pan was also purchased.