That One Time I Wrote (Most of) a Thesis

Hello world!

I hope you have all enjoyed your spring breaks, or are enjoying them right now. I’m lucky enough to have a long weekend here on campus, which I am spending by catching up/getting ahead, sleeping, going to all of the church (The Triduum. Catholics know what’s up.), and watching Game of Thrones.

View from a quiet prayer walk this evening.

View from a quiet prayer walk this evening.

The week after the half-marathon, I submitted a complete (ish) draft of my thesis! It’s complete-ish because it was just a draft and there’s a good deal of new stuff I’ll be incorporating in revisions. My subject is the role and impact of theater education in Chilean schools. I found a way to combine everything I study into one! Ha ha! It’s much better this way. Trust me. Theses are work, and the people who didn’t actually like their topics sounded miserable at the end of it. I, on the other hand, still really enjoy what I’m working on.

So. For those of you who may be venturing into thesis projects in the future, here is how I did it:

1) Again, write on something in which you are genuinely interested. A thesis should be hard, but the good kind of hard. The kind of project you’d describe as a challenge and not as a pain in the butt. A boring or unenjoyable thesis topic will make it that much harder to get it done. The topic that you love will still have its obstacles, but you’ll be much more motivated to get through them because you actually care about the work you’re doing.

See the tip below. Another thing I did was create a visual marker, which for me was a drawing of a "block of marble" which I "chipped away at" as I went along.

See the tip below. Another thing I did was create a visual marker, which for me was a drawing of a “block of marble” which I “chipped away at” as I went along.

2) Chip away at it. I frequently used a timer while I was writing. I would set it for half an hour, and for that half hour I could not check email, Facebook, Instagram, or do anything else except change the song that was playing. You’d be surprised how much you can get written or edited in that amount of time! You maybe only need a half hour to an hour every day to work if you start early and are prepared enough. Working in those short bursts of time, I’ve found, is much better mentally and creatively than attempting to turn out large quantities of writing over a period of hours and hours.

3) Start early. If you’re like me, sometimes you need a little deadline pressure to keep you focused and motivated. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for me to start at the last minute. I was very lucky to have a supportive advisor who requested meetings almost every week, and who made me submit chapter drafts every other week. This kept me on track, and made the looming complete draft deadline much less scary.

4) Get a buddy. Do you have a friend or classmate who is working on a similar topic? Or even just a thesis? Make library dates and go with them. You may find that you’re more focused if someone is sitting right there next to you writing and writing, and you’ll be less likely to spend half an hour on BuzzFeed quizzes. You’ll be able to talk out your problems together, or at the very least joke about chapter titles, share yummy snacks, and take those quizzes together.

Coffee can help too, of course.

Coffee can help too, of course.

5) Sleep and exercise as much as you can. Maybe for you, that means you’ll invest in nap time, or you’ll take brief walks. One of our professors said she started her yoga practice while she was writing her dissertation. I trained for a half-marathon. Exercise is so crucial to relieving stress and to clearing your mind. It’s also great for the creative process. You let your mind wander and you never know what kinds of solutions you’ll come up with! Getting enough sleep should be obvious. You have to give your brain and body time to reset, and there is no substitute or equivalent for sleep. No, coffee does not really count. If only.

6) When you’re done with a draft, you’re done. Let it be done until it’s time for revisions. You will have better insights if you give yourself a decent amount of time before you dive right back into it. You know how you can stare at a picture for a very long time and after a certain point you don’t even know what you’re looking at anymore? Writing is the same way. Let it go. (And watch some YouTube videos or something.)

46 pages, plus appendix and bibliography. It's legit.

46 pages, plus appendix and bibliography. It’s legit.

Right now I’m between number 6 and what will be number 7, making revisions. When I figure out that whole process- which will have to happen in a much shorter period of time than I had to write the whole thing- you’ll hear from me.

The day that I submitted my thesis draft, my mom arrived for my dorm’s Mother-Daughter Weekend! It was lovely. There was wine and tapas.

That wine was Chilean and it was awesome.

That wine was Chilean (duh) and it was awesome.

I was obsessed with this salad. Yeah, it had fruit and cheese and stuff but come on. It was delicious.

I was obsessed with this salad. Yeah, it had fruit and cheese and stuff but come on. It was delicious.

Lobster bites in a fantastic garlic cream sauce and then grilled pita bread. Gah.

Lobster bites in a fantastic garlic cream sauce and then grilled pita bread. Gah.

And then there were nachos.

I love that I have a mom who craved nachos all day and felt zero guilt ordering the deluxe nacho platter at the sports bar.

I love that I have a mom who craved nachos all day and felt zero guilt ordering the deluxe nacho platter at the sports bar.

Oh, and there was brunch.

I got the peaches and cream oatmeal. It was good. It could have used more streusel topping. (I mean really, what couldn't use more streusel topping?)

I got the peaches and cream oatmeal. It was good. It could have used more streusel topping. (I mean really, what couldn’t use more streusel topping?)

My mom ordered what I should have gotten, which was the waffle sandwich with eggs and bacon and maple syrup on top. Woof.

My mom ordered what I should have gotten, which was the waffle sandwich with eggs and bacon and maple syrup on top. Woof.

And now here we are and it’s exactly one month until my graduation. I’m gonna let that be, but all I will say is that I had an interview for what would be a pretty great job in Chicago last weekend, and I really really want this to work out (seriously, kids. Ask my friends and family how badly I want this job.), so I would appreciate all of your good vibes, prayers, and love. Please and thank you!

My dear friend and fellow baking devotee E. took me around her neighborhood while I was in Chicago. I loved it. So much.

My dear friend and fellow baking devotee E. took me around her neighborhood while I was in Chicago. I loved it. So much.

Special thanks go to my friends C. and E., who without even blinking fixed their schedules to hang out with me in Chicago before and after the interview. Your support means the world to me! It also kept me from getting lost on public transportation in a city I don’t know. So yeah, I owe you.

Goodness gracious. So more than 1100 words later, I will leave you with this YouTube video (which should lead you to her two other equally fantastic talks), which has stuck in my brain recently.

This says, "Where are you coming from?" On the other corner it says, "Where are you going?" The questions, you know?

I will also leave you with this Instagram. This says, “Where are you coming from?” On the other corner it says, “Where are you going?” You know. The questions.

With love,

Gaby

 

 

 

 

 

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That One Time I Ran a Half-Marathon

Hello everyone!

I know I’ve been missing for a little while here and haven’t been able to keep up with my biweekly post commitment. Here is a brief summary of what I’ve been up to:

1) I went on spring break! I visited my grandma, aunt, and uncle in Florida for about a week. Florida was much sunnier and warmer than the Midwest, and that alone would have made the trip worth it, besides the fact that I got to spend some time with my relatives without it being a big family get-together. When the weather was less than spectacular, I got some work done, and when it was nice, I didn’t touch my computer until the end of the night, when I started watching popular Chilean soap opera Soltera Otra Vez in bed.

Sand and ocean water are the best.

Sand and ocean water are the best.

A real, live flower in my grandma’s backyard.

A really great place to think about where you're going.

A really great place to think about where you’re going.

I even got a couple of days at home before I had to head back to campus. All in all, it was a much needed and well-spent break. Thanks to my family for everything!

Brunching!

Brunching!

And baking, of course.

And baking, of course.

2) I am writing a thesis. I am looking for a job. These things are probably more important than blogging. But the blogging is a nice break, hence, why I’m here right now.

De-stressing, not distressing.

De-stressing, not distressing.

My older gringa host sister K. sent me this letter, which I received upon returning from break. The timing was perfect.

My older gringa host sister K. sent me this letter, which I received upon returning from break. The timing and the Gospel passage were perfect.

3) I ran a half-marathon.

Okay, you’re not getting the SparkNotes version of that!

This shoes required almost no breaking in, and you can bet that they'll still be my workout shoes even post-race.

This shoes required almost no breaking in, and you can bet that they’ll still be my workout shoes even post-race.

As some of you may know, I have been training since the beginning of the semester for my school’s own half-marathon. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles (half of the 26.2 marathon distance). Para Uds que prefieren medir en metros, es 21km. Sí, estoy un poquito loca.

I followed a training plan, which was essential considering I have never run anything longer than a 5K, and I never even trained for those races. I used this one, which is appropriate for beginners who are already running regularly. If you can run 2-3 miles without stopping, you’re probably in good enough shape for this plan. There are plenty of others available for people who aren’t even runners, so don’t let that stop you!

The plan was 12 weeks long, and I started 11 weeks out, so I cut out one week of the plan. I also modified some of the distances and the kind of run, particularly towards the end of training. After I hit the seven mile mark, my knees started to bother me. It was then that I realized that six mile tempo runs and five mile hill runs (which, by the way, were only possible on treadmills because my campus has no hilly routes) were probably not going to be possible. Eventually I bought a knee brace and tried my best to stick just to the distance on the plan, either on the trail, the treadmill, or on an elliptical.

Race day arrives. Of course I can’t fall asleep the night before, and I know I can’t have my usual two cups of coffee or else I’ll have to pee like crazy by mile 3, and get crazy dehydrated. I fueled up with cereal, a banana, and a snack bar, and I tried to drink plenty of water. My friends and I headed over to the starting line right when they were playing the national anthem. And just a few minutes later, we were off and running!

I apologize for the lack of photos, but my phone was strapped tightly to my arm providing me with music, which is essential as water when I’m running.

Here is a sampling of my playlist, along with the thoughts going through my mind at each mile:

MILE 1:

Take it easy. Don’t try to keep up with or catch up to anybody. You are running against no one but yourself.

MILE 2:

That was a quick two miles! If I can keep this pace up I’ll be golden. Is it too early to listen to this song yet?

MILE 3:

All right, since I’m feeling good, I’m gonna kick it in a little bit.

MILE 4:

We were running around the lakes at this point and I was feeling pretty good. Nice and light, didn’t have much trouble pushing myself.

MILE 5:

How badly will people stare if I start singing and dancing along?

MILE 6:

Right around mile 6 I started to get heavy and sore in my quads and hip flexors. The big thought? “It is way too early for this, body.”

MILE 7:

True statement. I was ready to slow down. And then I got a surge of energy…

MILES 8-10:

And then I got heavy. And then I stopped remembering which songs were playing. It became a big mental game at that point: convincing myself that I had trained for this, and I was going to finish the darn race. It was also at this point that I started to walk a little bit here and there. I only walked three or four times- I had hoped to go the whole way without any walking, but I realized that if I wanted to finish, I would have to give my muscles a break from the repetitive motion of running.

MILE 11:

This is the final stretch! I was so ready to see the end of the race at this point. I was excited to be able to say that I’d done it, and get away from any possibility that I might not be able to finish.

MILE 12:

And that was that! We think that they may have tricked us at the end by making mile 11 a little bit longer than a mile, so that mile 12 wrapped up very quickly. But I ran hard through the finish, and I can say that I ran a half marathon without stopping! (Okay, except for like a few seconds around mile 8 when I was waiting for water.)

(Side note: I have such edgy, hip taste in music, right? Haaaaa.)

General thoughts: distance runners are crazy. I don’t understand how people can do a full marathon. My knees, my quads, and my hip flexors are all achy and tight. My feet are sore. My whole back tightened up after my shower, probably from the repeated impact of running all morning. But, I’m not as wrecked as I thought I might be. I put in all that training and it really did pay off. I might do another half-marathon, but not for a long time. The training is time-consuming, and running may not be the best form of exercise for me and my fitness goals.

Nevertheless, I’m really happy with my decision to do it this year! And I have to say a very special thank you to all of my family and friends who sent me so many wonderful thoughts and good vibes this weekend. It means so much to me, and I was thinking of you all while I was running!

Now excuse me while I go lie down and eat all of the carbs.

With love,

Gaby

 

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Getting through / Sobreviviendo

No encuentro una palabra que traduce bien el sentido de “getting through,” o “pushing on.” Si alguien tiene sugerencias avísame por fa.

Oh look! It’s another bilingual post! / ¡Oye! ¡Otro post bilingüe!

I’m just past halfway through my half-marathon training. That’s been fast, huh? I really felt good right up until week 6 of my 12-week plan. And then, just as I had anticipated, I got tired. I got busy. I lost the motivation to run. On top of that, and what’s probably my biggest fear/issue right now, my knees have started acting up. They get very fatigued, sore, and sensitive after my long runs (and when I say long, I mean anything over 7 miles). I’m treating them with a hot pack and using the elliptical instead of a treadmill or a trail for mid-length runs. But it’s discouraging. It also takes forever. If you don’t run under a 7-minute mile, distance running is time consuming! My body in general has been asking for a break. More sleep, more rest, less running, less worrying about how a cheeseburger will make me feel on my run the next day. So I’ve been trying to find the balance of not getting lazy, but also not hurting myself and pushing myself too hard.

Acabo de pasar por la mitad de mi entrenamiento para el mediomaratón durante los fines de marzo. Está volando el tiempo, ¿no? Me sentía súper hasta la sexta semana del plan de 12 semanas. Entonces, exactamente como anticipé, me cansé. Estuve más ocupada. Perdí mi motivación para correr. Sobre todo, y lo cual me preocupo más, es que me duelen las rodillas después de cada corrida larga (más que 10km). Las estoy cuidando con una bolsa de hierbas y arroz que se calienta en la microondas (que me la regaló mi mamá chilena), y en vez de correr las distancias medias durante la semana, uso la “crosstrainer.” Pero me desanima igual. Además, si no corras una milla en menos que siete minutos, correr las largas distancias cuesta harto tiempo. En general, mi cuerpo pide un descanso. Más sueño, más descanso, menos correr, menos preocuparme por cómo me voy a sentir el próximo día después de comer una hamburguesa con queso cuando corro. Entonces sigo buscando la balanza de no ser floja, pero a la vez no lastimarme y esforzarme demasiado.

Dusk at the law school. / Anochecer por la escuela de leyes.

Dusk at the law school. / Anochecer por la escuela de leyes.

Podría ser este invierno interminable, pero tengo una nostalgia impresionante para Chile ahora- o sea, a veces estoy tan “Chile-sick” (como homesick) que me da ganas de llorar. Cosas que ayuda: escuchar a la misma radio que escucho ahí (aunque toca música en inglés). Mirar una telenovela popular que no vi ahí (SOLTERA OTRA VEZ. Pero la encuentro muy bueeena!). Cosas que no ayuda: mirar a las fotos de los nuevos gringos de tu universidad que están ahí ahora para el semestre. Mirar a tus propias fotos. Revisar tus antiguos blogs. (Este último es lo peor.)

Maybe it’s this seemingly endless, relentless winter, but Chile is completely stuck in my brain lately. Things that help: listening to the radio station I listen to down there. Watch a very popular Chilean telenovela on YouTube (Soltera Otra Vez. It premiered while I was there the first time. It’s a hit.). Things that don’t help: looking at the pictures of the new gringos from your school who just got there for their semester. Looking at your own photos. Reading over your old blog posts. (That was a poor decision, friends.)

Full moons make me crazy. It's genetic. / Las lunas llenas me vuelven loca. Es una cosa genética parece.

Full moons make me crazy. It’s genetic. / Las lunas llenas me vuelven loca. Es una cosa genética parece.

Bueno, sigo adelante no más. Intento alimentarme mejor. Intento dormir más. Los días cuando hace buen (lee: mejor) tiempo, corro afuera en el sol. Descubrí nueva música. Y ya supe que iba a pasarme por una “ola baja,” entonces básicamente estaba lista. Disfruto de los placeres sencillos o pequeños: almorzar sin prisa con las amigas, comer pedacitos de chocolate, pasar unos momentos tranquilos en la Gruta.

When life gets boring or tiring or hard (and truly, my life isn’t hard), you just keep pushing through. I knew I would hit a bit of a wall, right around now, so I was almost ready for it. I try to eat (marginally) better. (Side note: Fat Tuesday is coming up. So…by better, I mean I eat vegetables with my indulgences?) I try to sleep more. When the weather is nice (read: above 25) I run outside. I found some new music. I think about the little things and enjoy them: long, unhurried meals with friends; my Dove dark chocolate I keep hidden in my desk; quiet, solitary moments at the Grotto.

Spring break starts soon. I’ll send you my love from the beach.

Después vienen las vacaciones de la primavera. Los mandaré saludos desde la playa.

Besos/With love,

Gaby

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The College Girl’s Guide to Dorm Baking

That’s kind of a bold title. Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be an expert about baking in a dorm. But I do know a few things. And since people ask me how I do it, I figured I would share it on the internet. Also, I’m not trying to be sexist by saying “college girl.” This is also for the “college guy.” Or “college gender non-identifying student.” “College student” just didn’t have the same ring as “college girl.”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” you’re saying. “Just show me the baked goods!”

This apparently is the first documentation I have of my dorm baking efforts. Fall of sophomore year.

This apparently is the first documentation I have of my dorm baking efforts. Fall of sophomore year.

One more disclaimer: the lighting in our dorm kitchen is less than beautiful, and many of these photos come from before I discovered Instagram and the magic of filters.

This guide is not for you lucky college kids who live in apartment or suite-style situations where you have your own kitchens, with your own fridge, drawers and cabinets to fill up with your own ingredients and equipment. Go read a real food blog and do what they’re doing. I’m talking to everybody like me, who lives in an older dorm with an ill-equipped, often less than spotless, communal kitchen, and must make do with the ingredients offered by the convenience store.

Oh, this light. So harsh and cold. I promise these tasted really good.

Oh, this light. So harsh and cold. I promise these tasted really good.

I started baking regularly in my dorm kitchen when I was a sophomore. I had been inspired that summer by my discovery of Joy the Baker, and subsequently, of Foodgawker. Both became a daily habit, and while I couldn’t make anything nearly as spectacular as the stuff I would find on those sites, I decided that I would try and do what I could with what I had.

These are super easy , a huge crowd pleaser, and I totally forgot to make them this Christmas. Maybe for another holiday soon!

These are super easy , a huge crowd pleaser, and I totally forgot to make them this Christmas. Maybe for another holiday soon!

I worked in an academic office that year, and my coworker and I started bringing in baked goods most Mondays. She had an apartment and brought in things baked from scratch, with multiple ingredients. I, on the other hand, learned how to use brownie and cake mix to make all kinds of cookies. And it worked.

The classic Funfetti cookie. You can never go wrong with Funfetti.

The classic Funfetti cookie. You can never go wrong with Funfetti. (Also, paper towels can substitute for cooling racks.)

So how did I do it, you asked? Here’s how:

1) Bring your own stuff and store it in your own room. Things disappear in communal kitchens, intentionally or unintentionally. I learned really quickly that there were only about three things I could ever count on being in my kitchen: muffin pans, vegetable oil, and an assortment of greasy measuring cups. So I went to the dollar store and to Walmart (real talk) and bought myself my own (really really cheap) supplies. These include: mixing bowls and spoons; spatulas (both the scraping kind and the flipping kind); cookie sheets; a rectangular cake pan; and measuring cups and spoons. I also recommend obtaining a whisk; Tupperware; potholders or oven mitts; and dish soap. Check out what kinds of ingredients your convenience store sells. If you have a grocery store nearby, or at least a way to get there, awesome. For me, I know that if I want to get anything beyond what is required for chocolate chip cookies, or boxed cake and brownie mixes, I will need to go to a store or bring it from home with me.

I made these with my RA, spring semester of sophomore year. These are coconut lime cookies, and we made something so "fancy" because she had a car and could get the stuff.

I made these with my RA, spring semester of sophomore year. These are coconut lime cookies, and we made something so “fancy” because she had a car and could get the stuff.

2) For the love of God, clean up after yourself. Chances are, the housekeepers or custodians in your residence hall are not responsible for washing the dishes people leave behind in communal kitchens- and they shouldn’t be responsible for it. You are almost an adult. Be a good person and leave the kitchen at least the way it was when you arrived. Create some good kitchen karma.

These are M&M cookies made from a cake mix batter. Yes, the taste and texture are a little different. But they're still cookies and they were easy!

These are M&M cookies made from a cake mix batter. Yes, the taste and texture are a little different. But they’re still cookies and they were easy!

3) Get good recipes based on boxed mixes. There, I said it. In my own house, I rarely use boxed mixes. I’ve used real flour in the dorm only a handful of times. The cost, the time, and the clean-up are much reduced when you go with ready-mixed ingredients. Click the links for the master recipe I use for cake mix cookies, and the recipe for my beloved brownie chip cookie. Is there a difference in taste? Yeah. Do your friends notice or really care? Absolutely not.

These are loaded sugar cookie bars, made from refrigerated sugar cookie dough and Valentine's M&M's. Super easy, super sugary, and a big hit.

These are loaded sugar cookie bars, made from refrigerated sugar cookie dough and Valentine’s M&M’s. Super easy, super sugary, and a big hit.

4) Make adaptations and learn about ingredient substitutions. For instance, maybe a recipe calls for melted butter. But all you have is vegetable oil. No problem! Melted butter and vegetable oil substitute for each other in exactly the same quantities. (Softened butter and vegetable oil do NOT.) Applesauce can replace butter in some cases. Maybe you need vanilla and almond extract, but you don’t have almond extract? Just add more vanilla. Trust me, you won’t miss it. Are you trying to bake banana bread but can’t find a loaf pan? If you have a rectangular cake pan (usually 9 by 13) or a muffin pan, perfect. Bake banana muffins! Or banana CAKE. (You can call it cake and it’s really just the banana bread recipe. Don’t worry. I won’t tell.) You can bake both brownies AND cookies in a muffin pan, assuming you don’t have to have that perfect brownie square or round, flattened cookie shape. (Can you tell how much time I’ve spent baking everything in a muffin pan?)

These are chocolate crinkle cookies. Made from chocolate cake mix!

These are chocolate crinkle cookies. Made from chocolate cake mix!

And we now skip over an entire semester of baking when I went to Chile (and you thought that we’d get through a blog post without mentioning Chile. HA.), and enter the era of the iPhone/Instagrammed pictures.

These are from scratch Oreos. My old RA came to visit and she brought the ingredients. Super tasty. (But most college students will opt for the packaged kind.)

These are from scratch Oreos. My old RA came to visit and she brought the ingredients. Super tasty. (But most college students will opt for the packaged kind.)

These were cake mix snickerdoodle cookies. Not the most outstanding. You really do need cream of tartar to get that little extra something.

These were cake mix snickerdoodle cookies. Not the most outstanding. You really do need cream of tartar to get that little extra something.

5) Keep it simple. Keep it easy. It doesn’t take a very complicated recipe, or crazy flavor combinations, to impress people and brighten their day. College kids in particular appreciate the little extra effort you’re making by baking something fresh. Even if it isn’t 100% from scratch or organic or a Dorie Greenspan recipe.

During hall staff training, I made these gluten-free muffins. The ones without chocolate chips are also vegan. They were hearty and great.

During hall staff training, I made these gluten-free muffins. The ones without chocolate chips are also vegan. They were hearty and great.

These started out as a snickerdoodle cupcake and turned into churro muffins. I need to bake these again.

These started out as a snickerdoodle cupcake and turned into churro muffins. I need to bake these again.

Fresh baked goods have a way of making people feel at home. Although I’ve complained plenty about my dorm’s kitchen being…not the best, it’s a favorite space of mine because it is such a great gathering space. Mixing something up in that kitchen has been one of the very best ways for me to see residents, talk to them, and get to know them a little bit. That’s why I bake.

Remember that one time I made alfajores entirely from scratch? That was work. And 110% worth it.

Remember that one time I made alfajores entirely from scratch? That was work. And 110% worth it.

Totally from a box. All of it.

Totally from a box. All of it.

I've made this in the dorm every Christmas since freshman year. This year, I bagged it all up for hall staff. And promptly forgot it in the community fridge.

I’ve made this in the dorm every Christmas since freshman year. This year, I bagged it all up for hall staff. And promptly forgot it in the community fridge.

Also, it tastes pretty good.

It's true!

It’s true!

With love,

Gaby

P.S. If you would like any of the recipes shown or have any of your own suggestions, please leave a comment!

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January: en fin

Oh heyyyy. I’m sticking with the biweekly post commitment, friends. I didn’t have any brilliant ideas or things to write about this time around. I thought about writing about baking, and I realized that I haven’t baked anything since I came back to school. I thought about writing about Chile-sickness, but I’ve dealt with that basically every single time I post. So I’ll give you a break this time. Then I remembered that I actually made New Year’s resolutions, and since a month of the new year has already passed (crazy talk), I decided that this could be a good opportunity to recap how those resolutions/possibilities/intentions are going.

So. I said I’d try Meatless Mondays. I don’t think I’ve done it even one Monday yet. Granted, I don’t eat meat at every single meal. If there’s fish, I’ll get fish. Eh. I’ll give it another shot. I also thought that I’d try to eat fewer carbs on the days where I don’t have half-marathon training runs. But what you eat the day or two before a longer run, not just the day of, really matters, and that includes good carbs. Also, I have fallen in love with the panini maker in the dining hall and can make a perfect chicken caprese AND an egg and cheese sandwich. So there’s that.

Speaking of the half-marathon…we’re seven weeks out from race day and training is going pretty well. I hit six miles this week and actually felt really good. My legs were kind of confused as to what had just happened, but I ran at a pace I was very happy with, and I was not miserably sore the next day.

A new favorite from Gabriela Mistral.

A new favorite from Gabriela Mistral.

Another resolution I had was to be in bed around 1 AM and get up at 8:30 every weekday. I mostly get up around 8:30, but bedtime at 1 is a little challenging. But I’m working on it. The nights that I turn the lights out before 2 are much more numerous than they have been in recent years, so I consider that an improvement. One thing I’ve been doing more often- which I thought I’d do all last semester but basically never happened- is reading a little bit before I go to sleep. Right now I’m working through an anthology of Gabriela Mistral’s poetry and essays. Mistral is one of my favorite poets. She wrote beautifully in Spanish on a wide variety of topics: Chile, faith, motherhood, womanhood, and education, among others. Her poetry often reads like a prayer, and that’s a nice thing to have right before bed.

I’ve also been journaling almost every single night. Taking five to ten minutes just to write down my thoughts on the day is so very helpful. It’s calming, and it lets me work out whatever happened that day and let go before the next day arrives. At the end of every entry I write down five things I’m thankful for, and five things I’d like to pray for. I strongly recommend doing this if you think you’re a busy person without time for much reflection- even if you don’t want to write a full journal entry, putting down five moments of gratitude and five moments of prayer can do wonders to deepen your faith, and the gratitude in particular can easily brighten your perspective on a rough day.

Candles at the feet of St. Bernadette at the Grotto.

Candles at the feet of St. Bernadette at our Grotto.

One resolution that I really need to work on is getting over to the Grotto, a very special place of prayer on campus. My goal is to get there five times per week- and I think I’ve been there less than ten times total over the whole semester thus far. It’s been very, very cold. A poor excuse, I know, but that’s really it. You can’t spend any time there because it’s so cold it’s almost unsafe to be outside. I always stop by the Grotto after an outdoor run, but it’s been beyond my cold tolerance to run outside. Hopefully the weather will finally warm up, and I’ll get down there more often. Or, I will refocus this resolution and just go downstairs to our dorm’s chapel. There really aren’t any good excuses for this one.

My shining resolution of the month, besides half-marathon training, was writing and sending at least one card or note to someone every week. I sent several during my first week back at school, and I’ve been good at coming up with new people to send them to each week. It helps that my youngest brother got me these adorable blank greeting cards that have a pretty dessert on the front and the recipe on the back. Even in the age of Facebook and Instagram, and the slow sad death of the post office, stationery and cards are still excellent gift ideas!

I think that’s all for now! Valentine’s Day is approaching. There will be sweet things to eat. And you will see pictures.

How are your resolutions going? Have you given up or are you still going strong? Do you have any suggestions as to how you keep pushing along month after month of the year?

Happy February, friends! With love,

Gaby

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Este dolor que se asienta en el corazón (The Pull)

Here’s an idea: I’m going to write in a mix of Spanish and English today. I’m fully bilingual, but I’m nonnative bilingual. You use it or you lose it. If you would like a translation, please leave me a comment!

Oye amig@s, voy a escribir en una mezcla de castellano e inglés hoy. Soy bilingüe, pero no soy nativa. Lo tengo que practicar, ¿cachai? (Literalmente pensé “practiquir.” Weeeena.) Entonces, si quieren alguna traducción del inglés, o si algo está escrito súper mal, corríjanme porfa!

Half-marathon training is moving along according to plan. I have run four miles without stopping twice this week, plus one day where I did 1.5 miles on the elliptical and finished out the other 2.5 on the treadmill once someone finished using it. Running is mental. For real. If you’re at a base level of fitness, you can become a runner. That last mile is not so much a physical feat as it is a mental one. Especially on the treadmill, when you have been stuck in the same spot for more than half an hour like a hamster on a wheel. I cannot wait to run outside again.

I am loving my new Sauconys. They're comfy and have required very little breaking in.

I am loving my new Sauconys. They’re comfy and have required very little breaking in.

It’s cold. It’s really, really cold and it’s also really, really snowy. It feels like living in a snow globe owned by a small child who is endlessly entertained by shaking it, and will not put it down until her parents take it away. And then she finds it again and the cycle repeats.

El otro día mi hermanita chilena me mandó un Whatsapp quejándose del calor y de la humedad en Santiago. Mientras tanto, yo estaba vestido así:

(The other day my Chilean sister sent me a message complaining about the heat and humidity. Meanwhile, I was dressed like this:)

En serio.

En serio.

And you don’t even see the gloves, hiking socks, wool sweater, and long underwear that I had on as well. To go to class.  Que nadie nunca más me deje quejar del frío del invierno chileno. I take it back! (I will never complain about the cold Chilean winter again.)

This is how it starts. It gets cold and gray for a while and that gets tedious. I do silly things like follow a whole bunch of Santiago Instagram accounts (if you’re a Chile-phile like me, I suggest @santiagoadicto, @santiaguista, and @thisischile) and stare at the pictures of hot, lazy summer and fresh watermelon and people sunbathing en el Parque Forestal. Busco blogs con el tag de “Chile” y encuentro otras personas que están empezando sus propios semestres o viajes allí. Reviso mi propio blog (necesito una vida, de verdad) y recuerdo todo lo que pasó hace casi dos años ya la primera vez, y hace casi un año la segunda vez.

Y además, me reconecté con algun@s amig@s chilen@s. Hablé casi una hora con mi familia chilena por Skype. Así se asienta este dolor en el corazón, lo que te sientes cuando reconozcas y recuerdes algo que una vez tuviste (¿tenías?) y que quieres tener de nuevo, pero no tienes idea cuándo lo puedes reclamar de nuevo. Bueno, aún existe, pero de otra forma. No es lo mismo.

Last year at this time, when I got Chile-sick, all I had to do was remember that I was heading back in May and that time was going to fly. I’d be back in the blink of an eye. And when I came back home last time, I figured I’d probably be back in October, maybe January, for thesis research. We all know by now that that didn’t happen, which was 110% for the best. I don’t regret a single moment of the five-plus months that I’ve been stateside. Not even a little bit. (El enero pasado, yo podía evitar la nostalgia para Chile sólo con recordar que iba a volver en mayo y que el tiempo ya estaba volando. Y cuando volví a los EEUU la última vez, pensaba que iba a volver de nuevo en octubre, quizás enero, para hacer investigaciones para mi tesis. Ahora sabemos que eso no pasó, lo cual no me arrepiento para nada. Ni por un segundo.)

Something was missing on that wall.

Something was missing on that wall.

Sin embargo, ya volvió la fuerza, “the pull,” digamos en inglés. Todos me dicen que voy a volver. Todos. Ya saben, la única cosa es que nadie sabe cuándo, ni cómo. Estoy completamente de acuerdo- lo sé, lo percibo, casi como presentimiento. Y ahora me están faltando las palabras en español. Tengo personas que abrazar, pan con palta que comer, noches tardes que pasar carreteando, y un idioma muy especial que hablar y escuchar todo rato. Skype y Whatsapp y Facebook son magníficos para mantener relaciones al otro lado del mundo, pero no reemplaza todo esto.

(Nevertheless, the pull has already returned. Everyone tells me that I’m going to go back. Everyone. They already know, it’s just that nobody knows when or how yet. I completely agree- I know it, I feel it, like a premonition. This is where my Spanish starts to fail me. I have people to hug, and pan con palta to eat, and late nights to spend all over the city, and a really special and kind of weird language to speak and hear all the time. Skype and Facebook and Whatsapp are amazing for keeping up relationships across the world, but they still don’t replace all of that.)

Entonces sigo esperando. En los dos sentidos de la palabra (tenemos dos palabras distintas en inglés). No soy una mujer muy paciente. Pero así es la vida no más. Y la vida siempre resulta como debe.

(So I just keep on hoping and waiting and keeping busy with, you know, the whole rest of my wonderful daily life. I’m not a very patient woman. But that’s just how life goes. And it always turns out the way it should.)

The view out my window, one of my last days in Santiago. I'll be back soon.

The view out my window one of my last days in Santiago. I’ll be back soon.

Besos/With love,

La Gaby

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These Ten Years

(In my last post, I mentioned that I’d be blogging biweekly. Although I just posted a week ago, I decided I’d get a jumpstart and write this week too.)

(Should you start a post with parentheses?)

So the other day, I took this quiz on BuzzFeed which, through a series of questions about my social life and lifestyle, determined that my actual age is 35. (For anybody who doesn’t know…that number isn’t even close to the real one.) And you know what? It made a lot of sense. I’ve always felt older than I actually am. 35 sounds like a nice, solid age to me: your career has been established, you’re probably married and have kids if that’s what you want, and maybe life is a little more certain than in it is in your twenties.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Then I went out to a club with my friends, to celebrate the start of the semester, and oof. While I love to dance and dress up and enjoy a big party as much as anyone else…drinking excessively and being pressed against strange bodies is just not my thing. Never has been. As I was battling the crush of people claiming their coats at the end of the night, I heard a fellow senior say, “I’m too old for this (crap).” And I was inclined to agree.

For a second I thought, well that’s lame. I’m in my twenties! I’m a college senior! I should be enjoying this. Right? Isn’t that what twentysomethings do??

So then that got me thinking, as I often have lately, about this thing that we call our “twenties,” or being a “twentysomething.” It used to be that you finished up whatever schooling you were lucky enough to achieve, usually right around the age of 20, give or take a few years. Then you got your job, you got married, you started having kids, and ta-da! Life progressed. People went more or less from adolescence straight into adulthood, and nobody (as far as I know) made a big deal of it.

In typical Gaby fashion, I had to bake just one more thing before I went back to school. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Practicing my domestic skills. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Now it’s become a kind of cultural phenomenon to be in your twenties. Just look at websites like BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog. We roll our eyes at teenagers, up until the age of 21, thinking that we know so much more than them. Because you know, you accumulate so much wisdom once you cross over into a new decade, and even more so once you can legally purchase and consume alcohol. (Sarcasm, friends.) But then pop culture- in my eyes anyways- has started to tell us that it’s normal and typical to kind of flounder about cluelessly, fluctuating between being a kid and being a grown-up, until suddenly somebody flips a magic switch when we turn 30 or get married and have a baby, whichever comes first.

So what gives? What happened? Since when did we get an extra ten years to figure things out? Was it because of college? And then the bigger and bigger need for a master’s degree? Was it when people started getting married later? When the job market started changing and the US became a services-based rather than manufacturing economy?

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy...for now.

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy…for now.

On the one hand, I’m not complaining about the fact that I don’t need to have everything ready to go, right this second. I mean, there’s a few things I need to get together in the next four months. But it’s nice that I don’t need to be worrying about homemaking and childbearing at this point, or be staring down the possibility of being an old maid. It’s nice to have some time.

On the other hand, I don’t like being in limbo. I haven’t started watching it yet, but from what I gather, I don’t think I’d like to be any of the characters in HBO’s GIRLS. The freedom and the sense of possibility are pretty cool, but there are also moments where I’d just like to jump from one step to the next and bypass the in between. I’ve written several times before about how transition and I are not the best of friends. In that sense, it’d be nice if someone did flip a switch one day and bam- you’re an adult! Or if one day you wake up and look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Yes. I am grown up.”

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

That’s just not what growing up is like, though. I think it’s more like Katniss coming up the tunnel in the Hunger Games- more like Catching Fire, actually, where she’s freaking out and suddenly she surfaces and has ten seconds and then she’s racing through the water and trying to reach the supplies without getting killed. Yeah. It’s like that, but without the killing.

Maybe I’m buying into the twentysomething thing just by blogging about it. Or maybe I should stop writing about it, and learn to enjoy it. Because, you know, once you turn 30, you have responsibilities and life is suddenly a lot less fun.

If it weren't for my beautiful campus, we'd all lose our minds in the gray.

If it weren’t for my beautiful campus, we’d all lose our minds in the gray.

With love,

Gaby

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