Archive for November 2011

The best laid plans of mice and men…

…often go awry. And so, it has, that with two pieces of information, my big decision has rather abruptly been made moot. As a result, I am about to return Stellar Path to its geeky roots of weight loss and fitness, but before I do that, I will at least explain WHAT my big decision was going to be and the two factors that have, for better or worse, derailed it.

As the big reveal continued, I was going to continue dropping hints. I was also going to disclaim, “This is actually pretty ridiculous, despite how serious it is.” And yes, my big decision was both ridiculous and serious.

It was ridiculous in that “I want to be a superstar!” kind of way, but it was also serious in the same way that thousands of people move to Los Angeles every year to work as waiters and waitresses and hope for their big break.

So, what was my ridiculousness? Feel free to laugh. But know that I was (and honestly, still am) very serious about pursuing this, even if it is now so back burnered it’s a little goofy.

I wanted (read: still want) to go into space.

Not as an astronaut, mind you, but as an astrophysicist. With my free tuition, I was going to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in physics here at WKU and then eventually transition into a Ph.D. program in astrophysics, get involved in some cutting edge research, and eventually, at some point before the day I die, go to Russia, blast off in a Soyuz shuttle (although by the time I got around to it, it would probably have been the Prospective Piloted Transport System that would get me there), and do some amazing research aboard the International Space Station.

I actually had a system in place for how this could potentially happen. I realize that it was pie-in-the-sky, odds so low they may as well be lottery odds, hopes and dreams that built this decision, but I had a plan. I was going to aggressively pursue science education in physics. Despite being a linguistic/literary/literacy person, I also have a strong knack for math. I can’t explain it. I’m weirdly two-brained in this way. I was going to get as heavily involved with research at the university level as I could, beginning as a third-time undergrad, that would hopefully help me make connections to higher and more significant research opportunities.

At the same time I was doing this, I was going to pursue the study of multiple languages. I’ve always wanted to be a polyglot. I’m currently barely/minimally bilingual (English and Spanish), but I knew if I could speak Russian and possibly an Asian language, it would definitely give me a leg up on the odds of getting to work at the ISS.

Furthermore, I was going to work on getting as fit and healthy as I possibly could. After all, fat people don’t go into space. (Don’t hate – but it’s true.) Obviously, I am going to continue to pursue weight loss and health.

I have wanted to go to space for so long… As a little kid, I would go to my grandparents’ farm and find a spot, out behind the barn where there were no lights, and just lie on my back, look up at the stars, and dream of being out there. I mean… my website is called Stellar Path. I can’t wait to move out of the suburbs and back into the country so I can live on a dark farm and set my telescope up and stargaze without worrying about light pollution.

I still want to go into space. And by the time my life ends, hopefully many decades in the future, who knows what technology may exist that such a thing will be possible? It’s entirely possible that affordable space travel will exist in the next three or four decades, and I plan to be here way longer than that.

But what things happened to so abruptly derailed my plans, just a few weeks after they were formulated while visiting the Space and Air Museum in Washington, D.C.?

Two things.

First of all, the more trivial of the two. I’m colorblind. And not in the “oh, he’s a man so he can’t match colors” way. I’m colorblind in the “is this green or brown” and “is this blue or purple” way. It doesn’t interfere with my life, because it’s all I’ve ever known. Geeking out a bit, it’s called deuteranopia. It affects roughly 1% of men. Color blindness is ridiculously common in men – 1 in 8 guys have some form of it. It’s really not a big deal for me. It mostly just means that my wife picks out most of my shirts, but from what I gather from most married men, that’s pretty common to just being a guy.

Well, I’ve always know that I couldn’t be a pilot because my colorblindness. Did you know that, even if I’m not flying the spaceship, I can’t be an astronaut, either? Yeah, I might be able to be the guy who just sits in the back and runs experiments, but from what I gather, going to space is SO competitive, that colorblindness just might cut me from the running. Shoot.

Secondly, my family has had some tragedy (and blessings) lately. My mother-in-law, who is a nurse who is active and not overweight, had a heart attack because of a genetic predisposition in her family to have plaque-filled arteries. This makes me worry for Tina, who obviously shares the same genes as her mother. She had a quadruple bypass a week ago, and fortunately and thank God, she is doing amazingly well.

In other tragedies, a cousin I don’t really know that well committed suicide yesterday.

Life is short. Dreams are important. But the here and now is so vitally important, too. I’m going to keep looking to the future. I plan to put my space dreams in my back pocket and pull them out and look at them every so often. But I’m not going to live for the future.

I’m going to live in the right now. I’m going to enjoy every moment.

Who’s with me?

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6 of 15 – How Things Change…

In some ways, I have always been fickle. I changed my major multiple times until I finally settled on my degree path. Even know, I am still not fully sure what I want to be when I grow up.

Right now, I am a teacher. I hope to be teaching for a while, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll be teaching for the rest of my career.

I’m meeting with my advisor at some point this week, because… well, I’ve had some thoughts. I had initially said I was going to take a break from the Master’s I am currently pursuing and immediately jump into Folk Studies. In fact, I made that very announcement on this blog a week ago.

Guess what? I’ve changed my mind. A little. A Master’s in Folk Studies is still, hopefully, in my future. However, the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I really should finish the degree I started. After all, I get free tuition, I don’t plan to leave WKU any time soon, and graduate courses expire. I could easily lose the nine hours I’ve taken toward this Master’s in Library Media Education.

There are two tracts I can take in this degree. One is Educational Technology. The other is Library Media Specialist, which is basically a school librarian.

The Library Media Education degree is one of the most popular Master’s Degrees at WKU. I feel that it could make me more valuable at WKU if I finish it. After all, speaking very selfishly, one of the big reasons I want to stay at WKU is the free tuition. If something should happen to my job, I’d like to have other options.

So, to sum up, Folk Studies is taking a bit of a backseat. I’m going to finish my LME degree now. I do, however, need to decide at some point whether I am going to take the Educational Technology route or the Library Media Specialist route. There are pros and cons to both.

To be perfectly honest, this degree doesn’t directly fit into my big decision. I started working on it before I made this decision.

But again, I want to stay at WKU, and this degree may help me do that, just by virtue of giving me a broader base to work from. One of the things that makes me a BIG anomaly in my field is that I do not hold certification. All of my colleagues do. Certification, if you work in teacher education (which I do), is a BIG deal. If I go the Educational Technology route, then I won’t have certification. If I go the Library Media Specialist route, even though it would be significantly more difficult, I would obtain that desirable certification. And frankly, I think I would enjoy the training to becoming a librarian. After all, I love books.

So, if I get to stay at WKU, at some point down the road, probably ten years into the future, I plan to start a degree that will very directly impact my big decision. It’s something that I wish I had done years ago, just because I really enjoy it.

I am eventually going to begin a science degree.

Specifically, I want to earn my Bachelor’s of Science in Astronomy and Physics.

Have I mentioned just how much I love science?

I still want to earn a terminal degree. If you had asked me ten months ago, I would have said that I want a doctorate in Literacy Education.

Today… well, I still might. I might want a terminal degree in Library Media Education.

Or I might decide to get a terminal degree in Astrophysics. Who knows?

By the way, this degree isn’t the decision. It’s just one potential step on the path to that decision.

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5 of 15 – Decluttering and Bold Choices

Thanks to those of you who prayed for my family after my last post. My mother-in-law came through her quadruple bypass wonderfully. She still has some significant recovery ahead of her, but things are going well.

On my whiny side of things, I have gotten a very rough sinus infection. This is undeniably the worst, fastest-acting sinus infection I have ever had. I woke up Saturday morning at 4 a.m. with an incredibly dry throat. I knew what it meant, but I got up, gargled with salt water and mouth wash (not at the same time), drank some water, blew my nose, and used my neti pot. I went back to sleep. When I got up at 6:30, I thought I might be okay.

By about 11 in the morning, I realize that no, I was, in fact, sick. I had to go to campus for an event with a student organization I am a faculty advisor for, so from 1 to about 5, I sat in my office, graded papers while technically supervising students, and got progressively sicker and sicker.

I was beginning to fear that it wasn’t a sinus infection and that I might have the flu. Because I had a sinus infection a few weeks ago that took me longer to get over than it should have, I hadn’t had the chance to get a flu shot yet. And working with college freshmen is like working with kindergartners, only they have more STDs and fewer pant wetting accidents. They certainly have their fair share of sicknesses, and it’s very possible that I’ve picked up something from one of the 130 plus freshmen I work with weekly.

After I left campus last night, I went to urgent care. I got there about 6:30, and I was told there would be a three hour wait. Yikes. Despite the fact that I felt horrible, I was not up for a three hour wait, so I decided to come back this morning.

I got there at 7:45 a.m., and this time, I only had an hour wait. And that’s with me showing up before they even opened at 8 a.m. Apparently, everybody is sick right now.

The doctor confirmed I did not have the flu. (Whew.) I just happen to have a really, really bad sinus infection. He gave me a prescription for amoxicillin and a steroid shot in the hip. I know this may sound weird, but I love it when I get a shot at the doctor! It may be placebo effect, but I have always believed that I get well quicker when I have a shot than just a prescription.

I also practiced a little home therapy, too. Thanks to BzzAgent, just yesterday, I got a voucher for a free bottle of Jim Beam! I’ll be honest – I’m not normally a big drinker. I am, however, a fan of free things, so that’s why I signed up for this particular promotion, the Jim Beam Bold Choice BzzCampaign.

Last night, before bed, I took about ½ cup of Jim Beam, two tablespoons of raw honey, and the juice of one lemon. This, mixed together, was microwaved until the honey melted. I drank about half of it, and my throat immediately felt better. I’m a big fan of homemade remedies, and this one, courtesy of my mother, is one of the best. It really opens up your sinuses!

It’s Sunday night, I have to go back to work tomorrow, and I feel better although I am clearly not well yet. I’ve got another amoxicillin pill to take before bed tonight, and I’m very hopeful that I’ll feel even better tomorrow. I’m counting on that steroid shot to chase this crud away!

Here’s the bad part – when I am sick, I eat horribly. I always have. I tried to make good choices, but I just didn’t. I ate what tasted good, and frankly, as horribly congested as I was, nothing tasted good. I know I went over my points. I certainly got in no activity, as I spent a good chunk of today taking a nap in my bedroom with Harry Potter weekend playing on the t.v. I’m going to plan out my food for tomorrow. Logically, I know that if I expect my body to heal itself, then I need to eat real food and not the processed crap that I’m craving.

Even though I haven’t addressed it yet, this is part of my 15 Blog Posts to explain my big decision. I just felt like I really needed to mention this, because in a way, it fits with the topic of this post.

Decluttering.

I know that I need to do it. I’ve decluttered a great deal of the junk in my head, (mentally, not snot-related), but I still have more. And frankly, I need to declutter my house.

I’m reading a great book called Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Big. It is literally a life-changing book. The book explores the notion that the same things that cause us to clutter up our heads and become overweight also leads to a cluttered house, and in my case, this seems to be very accurate.

For starters, my home office is a train wreck. It’s embarrassing. I’ll take a photo and share with you after I’ve tackled the clutter, but for now, let’s just say that I could probably earn a place on a certain show on A&E.

And I don’t mean Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Just so you don’t think I need an intervention, the rest of my house isn’t that bad. But at the same time, it isn’t the way I want it, either. The book brings up the great point that if your kitchen counters are cluttered, then you won’t want to cook. I know that for me this is definitely true. However, if you have a clean kitchen, then you’ll be more likely to want to be in there, making healthy, real food.

This really goes for all of the rooms in your home. Home should be a sanctuary, a place to rest and escape. I want my home, every room in it, to reflect that.

I’ve got a list of things I need to do. I started a Declutter notebook that contains detailed notes about what I am going to do.

Tina and I are giving ourselves until Christmas to get our house under control. We can do it! Because truthfully, my office is the biggest problem.

I’m not saying that having a clean home will automatically lead to weight loss, but I do think that there are commonalities between overeating and overindulging in stuff. I like to collect stuff. I like to keep stuff. I like to buy stuff.

I’m about to start getting rid of stuff. I truthfully have DVDs that I’ve had for YEARS that are still in shrink wrap and on my bookshelves. That’s just stupid. Eventually, I plan to open a page here at Stellar Path of stuff that I’m going to sell. And if it doesn’t sell within a month or two, then it’ll be going to Good Will.

Clean house, clean body, clean mind.

All of this will be necessary for the big change coming in my life

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4 of 15 – Working in Academia

Before I get into this post, let me ask anyone willing to do so to please pray for our family. My mother-in-law had what we thought was a minor heart attack on Friday. Cut to the cardiac catheter run on Monday morning, and we’ve discovered that, while it was a minor heart attack, she’s got some major blockages that could have led to a much more serious heart attack. She’s having open heart surgery today. Everything should go fine, but we’d still appreciate any prayers anyone is willing to give.

***

I’ve shared on more than one occasion that I LOVE my job. I am a literacy instructor at Western Kentucky University. I have the most amazing boss ever, my colleagues are fantastic, and I enjoy what I do. I teach students how to improve their reading skills. This is a population of students who already know how to read – they just don’t know how to read at the college level. In one semester, we can usually give our students the skills they need to survive the next four years of college, and that’s a nice feeling.

But…

This isn’t what I planned to do with the rest of my life.

Now don’t get me wrong. I fully expect to be in academia for the next twenty plus years. I plan to retire from here. WKU has amazing benefits, the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System (which I am now six years vested in – woo hoo!) is even more amazing, and frankly… I like being in a place that enhances learning. I like academia. I like knowledge.

Even if the knowledge that I am now imparting is NOT what I initially came to college to do.

As I mentioned in post #1 of 15, I came to college to study science and enter medicine. Who knows? I may still find myself in a medical field in the future. That is not, however, in the cards right now.

But you know what is in the cards right now? More education.

One of the perks of being a full-time employee of WKU is that I get 18 hours of free tuition a year. I’m already taking advantage of it and working on my Masters of Science in Library Media Education. However, at the end of this semester, I am changing my degree for two reasons.

One has to do with the big potentially life-changing decision I’ve made.

The other is because the degree I am currently working on isn’t for me. It just doesn’t fit. I thought this degree would be technology from an educational perspective, and while it is, it’s geared more toward elementary school teachers than college instructors. I’m going to finish the class I’m currently in (because I’m certainly not going to stop taking the class and hurt my g.p.a.) and then, I’m moving into a different field.

The field I’ve chosen? The next degree I’m going to get?

I’m going to get my Master’s of Arts in Folk Studies.

And yes, this is going to help me accomplish the next big step in my life, even though this degree is just one little baby step toward it.

I loved folk studies for so many reasons. I had a minor in it during my first Bachelor’s degree, and I loved it! Folk studies is about the study of what people think, say, and do. Honestly, those handful of classes I took for my minor were among the most interesting and most useful classes I have EVER taken. They’ve been beneficial at every job I’ve ever had, because I’ve interacted with people in every job. Studying folklore makes you very culturally aware, and for what I have in mind, that’ll be a great skill set to have.

In addition, I’m taking the thesis option with this degree. In my last Master’s degree, while there was a writing project at the end, it wasn’t a thesis. I love to write and I need to do some research (more info on that in a later post), and this will be a great way to get my feet wet.

Oh, and did I mention that I can get this degree for free? I love my job!

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3 of 15 – The Joys of Running

I think I’ve made it pretty obvious throughout this blog that I LOVE exercise. I enjoy fitness. I like lifting weights. I even like cardio. I LOVE the idea of signing up for races and collecting 5K t-shirts, moving on to harder races, and someday, maybe even claiming the title of Marathoner.

Please note – I love the IDEA.

The actual running itself?

Hate it. I hate it with the blue hot fiery hate of a superhot blue star.

I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried. I’ve seen what, from my perspective, seems like the vast majority of fitness bloggers take up running, discover they love it, and then run races all the time. I’m jealous.

This is what my experience looks like.

I start off. I manage. When I’m doing runs shorter than five minutes in duration, I even find myself enjoying it. At least a little. I look forward to the day when I can sign up for a 5K and just go run it without having to worry about EVERYTHING. But then… it starts to suck. I find that it takes recovery time after a workout. I hobble the next morning. My knees ache. And then… just like that… running sucks.

And I stop.

I’ve done this at least six times now. Maybe more.

Will I do it again? Probably. In fact, my big decision (ever closer, I promise) may require it, albeit indirectly.

This time, I am going to wait. I’m doing great with my weight loss at the moment (I look forward to sharing a big loss in December!) but I really do believe that I need to weight significantly less for running to be safe for me.

I don’t know how long I will wait, but it’ll probably be a while. I definitely do not see myself trying to run until I am below 300 pounds. My body just can’t handle the stress and strain.

Frankly, if exercise is not enjoyable and does not improve the immediate quality of my life, then I am not going to do it. I’m not writing running off forever. I’m just writing it off for now.

Right now, I’m getting my cardio in in a few different ways. For one, I have my Wii. It’s actually a surprising way to get your body moving. I go for surprisingly strenuous walks that don’t hurt my joints but definitely get me sweating and my heart rate up. And of course, I lift weights.

I want to be physically active. At some point when my financial situation is better (not that it’s awful at the moment, but we still have some minor credit card debt and some major student loans to pay off), I plan to sign up for taekwondo again.

I want to have a family with Tina, and I want to be physically active. Notice I didn’t say thin. Frankly, yes, I want to be thin and fit, but the fact also remains, even if I somehow can never change the way my body looks, I plan to keep exercising because it makes me feel good.

When I was overwhelmed with work earlier this semester, I ended up going about two weeks without getting any real good workouts in. Working fourteen hour days can just kind of do that to you. I didn’t feel good. I felt lethargic. I felt even bigger than I was. I just felt run down. I need to be physically active so that I have that wonderful endorphin rush and my heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode if the elevator is broken.

Even more than that, I need to be physically strong because what I have planned is going to require it. I need to be strong, fit, and athletic. For a long time.

And if you are guessing, no, I’m not going into the military, either. Stay tuned. I’m normally not one who is a fan of, “Keep reading! I’m not going to share yet!”

But yeah, that is exactly what this is. One hint – you’ll either think it’s cool that I’m actually trying this or slightly insane. Maybe both!

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