(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Celebrating A Milestone

I can’t believe it’s late May! Every year this time, I think about my husband and the dedication he’s shown in his work and to his country. For many Americans, moments of national pride comes at the end of the national anthem or when the fireworks go off at a 4th of July celebration. For me, it’s when I see when my husband come through the front door in his uniform. This year we celebrate the 6th year of his commissioning.

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GOG 10 Miler Week 6 Update

This was a fun week because I did decently (and felt great) on my training runs and then had to take consecutive rest dates because of an event I participated in over the weekend. So let me tell you a little about this…

The week started out kinda slow and I only had time to run for 20 mins at a time. When things get crazy, it’s easy to just say nope, maybe tomorrow. One of the things I’ve been working on in terms of my motivation for fitness is to resist that urge to procrastinate and hold off. Instead, I decided that it’s absolutely fine that I have a busy life and I sometimes can’t find time to work out…so I squeezed those run in. I figure if I run 1.5-2 miles on two separate days, I would have logged 3-4 miles after those sessions. That’s better than nothing.

Later in the week, my fitness level picked up and my schedule opened up. I was at the gym one day and ran the best feeling 4 miles in a while. I also went back to my heavily cushioned Nike Zoom Structure that day to give my legs/feet a break and it felt like running on a soft cloud. The ride on the belt was smooth 🙂 By this point in the week, I probably had ran close to 10 miles. I felt pretty great because despite the shorter session earlier in the week, I ran hard! I cranked up the speed and I’ve also been pushing the last half mile of my runs…I read some where once that many athletes do that to teach their bodies to deal with stress when they are tired…good training…

Now here’s the fun part about this last week. On Saturday morning, I went to an event that my husband’s work put on for us spouses. This event was meant to give us spouses a taste of what training may be like for our soldiers. A lot of my friends were at this Saturday mornng event so I thought it’s gonna be absolutely fun and a  no biggie. Well, it was a lot of fun but it was also way more physically demanding than I expected. One of the things we had to do is take a (modified version of a) fitness test – number of push-ups in a minute, number of sit-ups in 30 seconds, and a one mile run. I can do about 5 regular push-ups (now, consider that I couldn’t do ANY a year ago…it just never occurred to me to work on my upper-body strength before last year). I seriously pushed it and did 5 good push-ups and 15 other not-so-perfect ones. Then I did about 17 sit-ups (and of course, I hardly ever use my abs in such capacity). Finally, I went all out and sprinted a sub-8 minute mile (and I felt like puking the whole time I was running). It was hard, but it was fun! I’m happy that I went all out on the run…it feels good to pass people. My running buddy was also on this run and I barely passed her on the final stretch. We both ran a sub-8 minute mile – I think our training is working out (if only just a little bit).

After the fitness test, we had several other “stations” and events. Some were more physically demanding than the others. During one of the stations, we had to put on pro masks (gas masks) and walk/run to our next area. Yeah, that was exactly what I wanted to do right after I sprinted for a mile 😛 It reminded me of my husband and when he used to do military competitions in college (there was one event where he had to run with full-gear and wearing his gas mask – you learn some breathing techniques from that). But the worst part of the day was probably low crawling and high crawling through the dirt (and loose gravel). Days later, I still have awful bruises from that…and A LOT of respect for our American soldiers who carry on despite the physical and mental demands of their jobs.

I had a great time at the event but I felt like crap the next morning. I was sunburned (hello high altitude UV rays!) and I felt as if  a truck had ran over me. There were no part of my body that didn’t ached at least a little. I could barely move. So, it’s been no running for me for two days now although I did went on walks (through the mall) in hope that it would help muscle repair. A friend of mine once told me that I shouldn’t take ibuprofen because it hinders the healing process but I’m not sure if there’s any truth in that. I didn’t take any that day just because I was on an empty stomach and had to wait.

I’m finally feeling better and will probably get back to training tomorrow (did I also mentioned the weather is cold and rainy again??) Alas, there are really a lot of ups and downs in training…and we can feel so different from day to day. But all the more, each day, that we can go out and pound some pavement, is a day worth living for.

Happy Running!

Wordless Wednesday: The Army Spouse Edition

It’s a rainy Wednesday here and I’ve been working slowly but steadily on my dissertation 🙂

A couple days ago, I finished going through some photos I took last week. I was really honored to have the opportunity to photograph an Army spouse event! These ladies were awesome and I loved how the photos turned out. I hope you’ll enjoy them too!

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Denim and Diamons – Army Spouse Dining-In

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A little western and a little sexy

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Ladies having a good time

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And some dancing too!

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Army spouses! These ladies are absolutely amazing!

Wordless Wednesday

There’s this road I often take to get to my husband’s office. It’s usually hustle bustle with cars and soldiers on crosswalks. Yesterday, I drove down the same road around 7pm and it was suprisingly peaceful and quiet. It reminded me of this Army journey we’re on – it’s a wild and hectic ride puntuated with moments of serenity and beauty.

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Redemption

A while ago I wrote this post about what I’m passionate about in the midst of some heavy self-doubt about my professional identity. I have always been pretty clear about my preferences and interests…my real problem was being scared of uncertainly, risks, and failure…all very real prospects for any academic who’s trying to “make it.”  For months, I’ve been looking not only for jobs (albeit half-heartedly because I was unsure about what’s going on) but also a sign. In my own way, I’ve been praying for higher powers to reveal to me the meaning of my life outside of my wonderful family and married life.

Back in September I made the commitment to go a regional professional meeting this past week. For a while, I was dreading the whole ordeal and briefly considered abandoning the trip. My logic was if I wasn’t going to stay in the field/profession, what is the point of “professional development”? Fortunately, I did have a travel grant to spend on this trip…so I thought why not go for the good weather, good food, and good company? It’s hard to say exactly why, but this trip turned out to be the sign I had been seeking. Here are some thoughts about this conference and how I felt while I was there:

1. I love research and all other academic nerdy stuff! On the first day there, I spent 5 hours in a room listening to people speak about their research and I was absolutely enthralled by the whole experience. Yes, by the end of the 5 hours, my back was hurting from sitting too long and I had developed a slight headache from waking up really early that day to catch my flight…but I held off going to the bathroom so I wouldn’t miss any minute of the presentation. In that moment, I felt alive, happy, and comfortable. 

2. I have the best mentors. In this academic life, it’s very easy feel alone or that you’ve been left behind in some way by your peers, life, and happiness. I know that sounds desolate, but this is a very lonely life. Being at the conference reminded me that I’m a part of a community of scholars and there are people out there rooting for me and willing to mentor me. All my life, I’ve always been blessed with the mentorship of great teachers. In Chinese, we call those who bless us with guidance and mentorship 貴人 (rough translation: good-person)…and I have them in my life. I am not alone. No one expect me to “make it” all by myself.

3. My very good friend and colleague MAG made a really good point…he said “academic is a part of your identity.” Identity is a funny thing and it’s actually a concept I occasionally use in my work. But MAG is right: being an academic is a part of me, which explains why I felt so wretched when I tried to “sever” ties with my academic identity. I once thought maybe I had been brainwashed and only clung to academia because it’s the only thing I know. After this past week’s experience, I don’t think that’s really the case. Although it is still the area I know the most about, trying to turn away from it just made me miss it more.

There are also several other events that made me realize other parts of my struggle with this academic quandary. For one, I thought perhaps my husband and I can allow his military career to be the dominant one and I’ll just do all that I can to support him. But sometime over the last week, our good friend J and his wife B said goodbye to us and moved on from military life. This made me realize one day, my husband will also leave the military: it might be in a year, in 5 years, or in 15 years…but regardless, he will leave it one day and be proud of all that he did. Where does that leave me? Maybe I’ll have children and be proud that I spent all my life supporting my family…but I don’t think that will be enough for me. I have to live out my potential beyond my home life.

Lastly, I don’t think I ever really gave myself the chance to make this academic and military dual career work. Yes, objectively, the conditions and the terms of these two types of professions are incompatible…but there are also ways in which it might work out. For example, aside from only working PT or being a stay-at-home mom, it is very hard to negotiate time off to coordinate with the big chunks of leave time that our military personnels enjoy. As a professor, it is actually very standard to have summer and winter vacations, which often coincide with summer/winter leave. It’s definitely not going to be perfect: if I do pursue an academic career, there will have to be serious compromises (e.g., living arrangements, children)…but I am hopeful (for the first time) that we will be able to coordinate so we can both become illustrious in our careers and become well-established in our respective chosen careers. I need to work hard and give it a chance.

Strangely, I feel that this conference was my redemption and it pulled me out of the depths of my despair. Even though the period of uncertainty and self-doubt really hurt my progress, I also believe it was necessary for me to fully appreciate what I have and who I am. Fall and winter is at an end; spring has sprung. And it’s wonderful I came to my revelation the day before Easter. I am so thankful for this gift.

Run and Friendships

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this past weekend. Whenever I think about Dr. King and the inspiration he is to so many, I think about love, the choice of love, patience, and compassion over violence. My husband is once again away from home for work. He’s been very, very busy and stressed out for the past 2 months…and every night, I have to remind him to trust God and everything will turn out OK. So for this long weekend without him, I had planned to spend some time down in Phoenix with friends and run my first half-marathon.

Yup, you read right! I ran my first half this past weekend and it was such a fun, exhilarating, and empowering experience. I will admit that I’m somewhat of a lazy-bum so I am probably slightly undertrained for all my races. I am also the internally competitive type, meaning I usually only care about whether I reached my own goals (and not what others are doing or have done). I wasn’t too sure what to expect for my first half so I set the goal of 1) finishing under 3 hours (OK, like I said, I am not only lazy but also slow) and 2) running all of the 13.1 miles. It turns out I ran the race at 2:42 and I was running/shuffling the whole way! I even pulled out a short sprint at the last 50-100 feet! It was very exciting :D

The best part though, about the whole experience, was running and sharing my weekend with friends. One of the best things about living this Army life is the friends you make along the way. My friend S and I had been talking about doing a race together for a long time. We finally decided to meet up in Phoenix for my first half. We were talking and laughing the whole time during the race and I am so happy that we were able to catch up again. My friend K and her husband (who’s an old friend of my huband’s) were also at the race. I just saw K and Co. in November. It was lovely to hang out together again so soon. You see, these are Army friendships. I live in Colorado, S lives in Texas, and K lives in Arizona, so we usually don’t get to see each other. But this time, we were able to all meet up at one place to catch up and share our lives. More than anything, this is one of the gems that makes this transient-like Army life bearable; this is the stuff that keeps us going.

While the trip was awesome, it was a short one for me. I was home the same day as my run (and I could barely walk to my car because my feet were so sore)! After some TLC the next day (lots of sleep, hot baths/showers, a relaxation massage with a foot scrub), I am almost back to normal. I will probably go on a short run later this week but it’s mostly back to work (aka sitting at my desk), yoga, and walking for now. Nonetheless, I will hold the experiences and the joy I felt this weekend in me for a long time. In a larger sense, this weekend was a reminder that despite all my #firstworldproblems, I am more than blessed. I recognize the beauty that is a life with friends and I cherish it. I thank the universe for all the love.

Finding My Passion

A lot of thinking transpires in my conversations with my BFF M.

I’m incredibly blessed to have a friend like M; she understands me and is always so encouraging without being patronizing. We are like sisters :) Something we’ve both been working on (and have been for a couple of years) is finding ourselves and our passions. I don’t mean “passion” in a frivolous sense. Obviously, we love cooking, baking, fashion, guilty-pleasure TV, and the Duchess of Cambridge (who doesn’t!) but those are more like “escapes” – something fun, entertaining, and a place to temporary forget our troubles! At least to me, those don’t constitute inspirations that I could build a career out of. So, what am I passionate about? Another friend of mine, J, gave up the trappings of an academic life to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer and working for a non-profit. She loves writing and she keeps an amazing blog, along with various writing/writer projects! J was the first person who recognized and pointed out how “boxed-in” I was by academia. I think over the years, I’ve talked myself into thinking finding that university/college TT job and the 7 year climb to tenure with no regard to the quality of life is the ultimate goal of my life. Now, by allowing myself to even consider something outside of the academy as my life’s work, I feel so liberated but also so lost. I’ve been thinking about this very often, especially as I approach the final stages of my PhD education (READ: existential crisis). So, I decided to apply some systematic thinking and problem solving skills to my dilemma (using that education…ha). I start out by asking myself two important questions:

What am I passionate about? 

Teaching, helping others, learning, welfare issues related to our military personnel (including veterans) and their families, the social and political status of Asian Americans, politics (in general)

What am I good/skilled at?

Research, problem solving, thinking analytically/systematically, writing, communication, organization (creating order from chaos)

If you look at what I have just written, it would seem strange that I am trying to look outside of the academy. Truth be told, I’ve never minded the content of what I do; rather, I’m turned off by the structure, the rigidness, and the abstract nature (i.e., sitting in the ivory tower) of the profession. Also, while this might be “blasphemous” (by academy standards) to say, I actually want a life – support my husband’s career choice in the Army, spend time with my family, possibly have children, travel and discover the wonders of our world…etc. I’m not naive enough to think I can have everything, but I am at least willing to consider all possibilities. Right now, I’m not sure if there’s a particular job/career path that fits the bill of what I just described outside of the academy, but I am going to start somewhere.

While I was going through a bout of days long existential crisis this past fall, I started to look around the internet for any topic that might interest me (let’s just call this research instead of wasting time). That was when I first became aware of the possibility of becoming an instructor, teaching Army Family Team Building (AFTP) courses for the ACS on post. Last week, while going through the ACS schedule for my FRG group, I noticed that there are instructor training courses being offered next month. After a brief call with a representative from ACS today, I decided to sign up for this course (3 day series). I think this volunteering opportunity fits the bill of what I would like to become involved in. We all have to start somewhere so I’m looking forward to this!