Thanksgiving is Cold

In a little condo in Avon, Colorado, Lynn, her mother, my classmate and good friend, Uma Thurman, myself, and some of Lynn’s friends who share the condo with her are enjoying the snow and preparing for a Thanksgiving meal. The four of us ladies slept on air mattresses blown up in the living room in front of the TV like a giant slumber party.

Yesterday, we drove up from Denver and spent the day snowboarding at Beaver Creek Ski Resort. I wore my GoPro and proceeded to tumble down the mountain with Uma Thurman.

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Today, we’re spending the morning with Thanksgiving stuffing fumes percolating through the condo while we study for our upcoming final exams and presentations. It’s a cozy feeling to be inside with close friends and family.

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Later, we will eat all the foods, watch football, and take a nap. An All-American good time!

If the Spirit Moves You

Let me groove you.

It’s been well over a month since my last posting. I’ve thought many times over the last several weeks, I need to make a rigtales post about this….

To summarize all those stories, I’ve been busy. As hell.  I’ve been taking exams on a weekly basis. I study daily until I can’t see straight anymore. I’ve played and practiced my violin and am supposed to play a song at an open mic night with Lynn tomorrow. I practice daily. I spend time with my new friends and classmates, learning about their expertise and exchanging stories and laughter. I’m dressing up in a lab coat and running around with children trying to excite them about science. I do this several times a week and couldn’t be happier with all that I’m learning through school, work, friends and hobbies.

Just before Halloween weekend, I found out my father would need by-pass surgery. After attempting to postpone, he opted to have the surgery done immediately. I went home to Texas. I RAN home to Texas. Within 10 minutes of hearing the news, I had cancelled all my work and took off 8 days from school, missing an exam to go home. I booked a flight and was back in mom and dad’s house within hours, packing a single giant purse. While supporting my dad and mom during this stressful and life altering procedure was clearly a priority, the truth is- I went for purely selfish reasons. After the operation went flawlessly and dad was up and walking around in recovery, I admitted to him and myself…

“I was afraid I’d never see you again”

Thinking about this now is a little shocking. I believe in science and modern medicine. I know open hear surgery is extremely routine in the USA and highly successful. But I felt all the feelings that week, proving once again that emotional arguments can be stronger than logical ones.

I was excited to see mom, dad and my sister. Speaking to my dad before coming home, I assured him I would take care of his pet tortoises during his hospital stay, and for that I really was excited. I love those animals.

I was overwhelmed trying to imagine how scared my father must have been. I once had heartburn, and that is the most extreme extent of any physical pain or medical condition I’ve had to endure.

I was stressed to be missing so much school and an exam, fearing I’d fall behind. These concerns were pretty much alleviated by my professors and department administrators who comforted me, “If it were my daughter, I’d want her to be there.”

Standing with my mom and sister around my dad’s hospital bed, we tried to shoulder his anxiety prior to him being taken in to the operating room. We told him funny stories. I reminded him of the time I crapped my pants as a toddler under his care when mom was out of town. We laughed. The surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to take him. We cried. I was beyond tears when I said bye to him before he was wheeled away for the surgery. Suppressing heaves, sobs and snot, I hugged my dad and laid my head on his chest.

I hope I never forget the intensity of those moments. A few hours later, there was little anxiety left. The surgery went great and dad was in recovery. Within a day he was eating and talking like normal. Within a couple days, he was up and walking around.

Again, the novelty of being home and no longer in Qatar has yet to wear off. I can’t believe I would have missed that. I’m back in Colorado and chugging along in the semester.

I study economics, learn violin, teach science, and call my parents every single day.

The Feels

As the sun sinks, my brow furrows and the jeans start to heat up my legs. I’m sitting at a large open window in bookbar of Denver. Their extended hours have lured me here from the loft. Occasionally my hand cramps and I get up to go to the bathroom to relieve my bladder and my knuckles from the stress of writing notes. I lower the shade; the sun eventually sinks; I raise the shade again.

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The focus feels familiar. I remember studying and taking notes, furiously filling binders and engaging my more senior co workers in casual discussions about tool theory and science. These days, I’m taking notes on decision making, probabilities, resources, economics, and math problems. It’s a new world, but it’s not really. I took my first grad school exam today and felt alright about it. It dawned on me that I haven’t been studying after dark. This similar phenomenon occurred in Qatar- where I wouldn’t go out with friend or work out or leave my bed once the sun went down (which is at or before 6:30 all year long). In short, I decided to consciously force myself to study later in the day, and hence my new existence at this “book bar”. I’d almost forgotten the feeling of accomplishing something cool when I checked my email between taking notes.

I got promoted at my science teaching job! While teaching science is not my primary focus of being here, it feels good to know I am doing a good job. It’s not just a fun job where I play with kids, I believe getting kids into science is extremely important. This week, I taught my kids about mirrors and optical illusions. I let them draw on the board and demonstrate how convex and concave mirrors worked. Lately, the kids see me and want to remind me of what we learned earlier. Currently, 7 and 8 year olds are using words such as “sinusoidal”, “oxidation”, and “polymer”. It makes my heart float to hear them want to tell me how much they remember from each lesson.

Economics are great, but science is something else.

Sound Waves

Teaching science has proved to be more eventful than I’d ever dreamed. I teach five classes. One of my groups of kids ranges from K-2nd grade. In this group, I have 7 girls and one little boy, lets call him Damian.

Damian is the youngest child in my class, and he loves to talk to me. He talks the hour long session. As a teacher trying to remain in control of a group of children who have already been in school all day, this is frustrating. As a former child who earned the nickname “Motor Mouth” from all her family, friends, educators, and baby sitters, I have a high tolerance and understanding for this condition. Us extroverts must talk. We must talk all the time. We must talk to everyone. We must talk about everything we think.

Last week, I was teaching this little group about sounds. I asked them to tell me their favorite song or kind of music before delving into some demonstrations about waves and such. In this discussion, Damian told me he plays the electric guitar and plays songs by “Fernando”. I don’t know what this means, but I gave him a high five, assuming that’s cool.

Throughout my introduction and demonstrations, all the girls kept raising their hands and claiming, “Miss, Damian is bothering me!” Patronizing them, I will turn and ask, “Damian, are you bothering them!?” Damian always looks at me with droopy sad eyes and says meekly, “No”. I move on.

Later, the children were standing and pretending to be gas, liquid and solid molecules. They move closer together with each phase and we simulate a wave propagating through each. Damian fidgets and a little folded piece of paper falls out of his pocket. Holding out my hand, he quietly picks up the paper and hands it to me. I place it in my back pocket and move on.

After I came home, I found the paper again in my pocket. Curious, I unfolded it to find this:

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I now know that Damian was, in fact bothering them. I wonder which little girl was meant to receive this. While this little note brought me much laughter, I can’t help but feel for little Damian, wearing his heart on his sleeve and writing love letters in science class. Us extroverts want everyone to know how we feel about them.

Never Gonna Quit

I wake up early and take my time getting ready. I pack my lunch, drink my carrot juice and bounce out the door and make the 25 minute commute to school. I park in the “commuter lot”, which is farther away from my classes than parking at the local grocery store near campus. There is a little rabbit who lives in the grassy area next to the space I like to park in. I see him everyday hopping and nibbling on grass. I want to catch him. Everyday I talk to him and work on gaining his trust…..I make the trek across the various other student parking lots, roads, buildings, and green space to get to classes.

I’m having fun being a student and every day I think about how happy I am to be at a school. I make sure to pay attention and take notes and read ahead and study, because six months ago, I really didn’t think I would get here.

To supplement my studying, I’ve taken a couple part-time jobs. I am teaching science experiments in elementary after school programs under the alias “Lanthanide Laila”.My other part time job is, once again, working at the YMCA.

Sometimes Lynn and I cook together and finish making dinner at 4 pm. We laugh at how ridiculous it is to cook and eat dinner before 5 pm and settle on the couch to watch YouTube clips on our projector. Sometimes we practice our instruments. Our girl band/variety group is called “Simon’s Bender”. Last week we sang karaoke.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

And All That Math

The first and second weeks of class have come and gone. My adviser and professor for a course titled Natural Resource Economics is a man by the name of Dr. Coal. Dr. Coal loves coal and tends to talk down about other minerals why he lectures. He’s a quirky man who skips from side to side while discussing the course materials. I don’t take notes, but rather write down funny things he says.

“If you’re interested in a subject, the worst thing you can do is go buy a textbook……boring as sshhiiiit.”

“Hit ’em over the head three times and things just stick.” -On how to write an effective essay.

“Screw Canada!”

“I think in stories, not math.”

“Let’s imagine you fell asleep and it’s 2 years later.” -On when to harvest your forest and invest the money.

“When I was younger and a little bit hipper, we used to go to this club in Seattle. They had two rooms: 80’s music and 70’s music. It’d be like, which room should we go to? Let’s go to the 80’s room and dance! So we go to the 80’s room. Then its like, well we can’t dance in here because it’s so crowded! Let’s go to the 70’s room. Then we’re like, oh its not so crowded in here but this music sucks. Eventually it gets to a point where they equally suck or they’re equally cool. And that’s just like economics.”

“I will look the other way and pretend you’re not doing something illegal.”

“So, if you like forests, you should be wasting paper….. That thing on emails, ‘Please consider the environment before printing’…. Yeah, those people are idiots. It’s like No, I’m  printing every freaking page. Because then people need timber, and they plant forests.”

As you can tell, I’m learning a lot in my economics program! Seriously though, I have to review and take actual notes after class.

Simon Bender

Lynn and I are settling into a beautiful roommate-ship. We have a shelf in the center of our loft displaying our sunglass collection. Though it started as a joke, the sunglasses are always put in place and easy to find. We both have an unspoken and agreed respect for novelty.

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I put a little telephone wire bowl next to our front door and we’ve both been putting our keys in it. Now both of us, who are prone to misplace things, always know where they keys are.

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The key bowl

I prepare food while she’s at work and suddenly have been inspired to try new recipes. Lynn says, “For someone who ‘doesn’t cook’, you sure know what the @#*& you’re doing”. Thursday, I made Pad Thai and we watched TV, played our instruments (Lynn is a rather talented guitar player and singer), and talked about life. I got a little over zealous trying to tune my violin and broke the A string. Today I will be getting it replaced.

Is the sudden urge to cook and organize and be creative a coincidence? Or is it maturity? We decided it’s neither, but rather the spirit of our predecessor in the loft, a man by the name of Simon Bender.

The mail is delivered into little mail boxes near the entrance of our building. Larger packages are just set below on the floor. For several weeks, Lynn keeps seeing mail for our unit addressed to a one “Simon Bender”. Usually this mail gets a note on it “Return to Sender”. However, the postman does not abide. Last week, two large cylinder containers came addressed to Simon. We were curious. We opened them to see what the hell is Simon up to? Neither of us could find this character on Facebook or LinkedIn or anywhere else on the internet.  Simon, if you’re reading this, I have your mail. Please contact me.

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The cylinders contained Grateful Dead posters.

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One came with a note, “Simon, Sorry I can not pay that much for a non-mint condition”.  We pieced together the clues and decided Simon made counterfeit posters and sold them out of this very loft. We now joke about how “Simon Bender probably sat right here and made this design.”  Anytime we do something out of character like clean, organize or cook, we say “Simon probably used to do this in here all the time”. He is our inspiration and explanation of all the possibilities.

Hit the Ground Running

I recruited my dear friend (We’ll call her Sherpa) to take off of work and drive a U-Haul trailer with me to Denver. I packed the 5’x8′ space with all my boxes and small furniture. We drove. I remembered the first drive I made to Denver back in March after I’d just come home from Qatar. This drive was much different. In March, I was so saturated with emotions and uncertainty, the drive was like a therapy. This last weekend, the drive had so much purpose and anticipation. As Sherpa put it, “Your holding period is over.”

She also said: “I can’t believe I ever considered NOT eating at McDonalds” This was in reference to our Double Breakfast stop where we got donuts AND McDonalds.

After 14 hours, we arrived in Denver and started unpacking the trailer. I am now living in Denver with my mentor, Lynn. It’s exciting to get to know her better and also exciting to be a student again with a roommate. We are sharing a large loft space, with no divisions or separate rooms, so it feels like a very mature version of toddlers having to share a bedroom. We are researching options to bunk our queen beds.

Sherpa and I spent the weekend and Monday exploring Denver. We came across this interesting piece of highway art.

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Before coming to Denver, I decided I need to have a part time job whilst studying. The summer off taught me one thing: I like to entertain myself, and I often overlook how much things actually cost. It’s in everyone’s interest if I get a job to support my traveling habit. I started looking and applying for jobs before I came out here. I applied for a job teaching science in after school programs, a job making pizza’s in the suburbs, and a job supervising sports officials at the YMCA. All three of these jobs yielded interviews.

Me: My passion is really pizza.

Mom: I wish it was cleaning.

Before coming to Denver, I decided I needed to join a soccer league. On day three of living in the city, I went to practice in the park with some players on my new team. I feel I’m so busy already with job interviews and social activity. I remembered the time I sat offshore and researched places I could live and activities I could do if I just didn’t have to be on a rig all the time. It’s really amazing to be able to live out something I used to day dream- however simple. It may sound so simple, but I really used to day dream about playing in a sports league.

I went to my new school to scope out the parking situation, have my student ID made, and most importantly get some apparel to show my enthusiasm to the world!

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Another fun fact about starting school at Mines this fall: The university just named a new president. This president just came from Arizona State, where he was the Dean of the Engineering schools. This man was my dean at ASU during my undergrad. I reached out to him over the summer to congratulate him on the position and express how excited I was to be under his leadership in this new chapter of my education. He reached back and asked me to be a part of a “Lunch With Students” program, where we have lunch together.

I’m getting settled and very excited for classes to start.

I Think I Love You

I don’t know you, but you make me tick. I don’t see you, but your presence is shrill.

Like an extension of my imagination, I had feel for myself that you’re really real.

You’re real and you’re talented. Calm and furious, I can’t explain how you intrigue me.

You’re illusive and you’re categorical. Wild and serene, I can’t get enough of you.

You make me think I have nothing to say. Silently roaring, you make me think.

I have nothing to say. I think I love you, but I don’t know you. Beautiful stranger! Are you real?

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Existential Flee

With less than a couple weeks to go before heading to Colorado for school, I decided to flee. I flirted with the idea of taking one last trip before needing to renew my passport. I flirted relentlessly, going so far as to complete a booking and let the computer screen time out. I looked up different travel combinations to get to and from London. I did this for a couple days, testing the travel reward points on my credit card account.

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I first booked a train ticket from Manchester to London. Ahead of time, these tickets are a small fraction of the standard rate. After booking a non refundable train ticket, I thought I can’t let that 20 GBP go to waste, and went ahead and confirmed my airfare as well.

It’s not a habit. It’s cool. I feel alive. If you don’t have it, you’re on the other side. I’m not an addict. Maybe, that’s a lie.

That little escape has put me back home with just two days to go before I will move to Colorado. I’m anxious about starting school. I’m excited, but I’m nervous. I’d rather be in England pretending I have nothing to do but travel carelessly about.

Sometimes I think sitting on trains.

I spent my last night in London at the same hostel my sister and I stayed in a year ago. I can’t believe all that’s happened in that time. I took a train to Manchester the next day. I wondered if it is even possible to regress. Does a personality evolve in a unidirectional fashion? Does it move fluidly between characterizations like a dance? Or back and forth or like seasons?

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In two days, I will be moving. I wonder if I’ll be the same, unidirectional development. Or, I wonder which period of my life will l be the same as. Will I have the urge to flee. Will I have the intensity to settle. Will I still stare out the windows, watching trees go by between stations. Because honestly, I went to the UK and my mind was blank for a week.

You say you got nothing, so come out and get some.