Thursday, September 10, 2015

Late summer, in snapshots

Although it's very nearly pumpkin time, the sudden spike of Sacramento heat has me thinking about the lovely last bits of summer. Or rather, the whirlwind that was August. In those 31 days, I nursed a dying man back to health (only a mild exaggeration), prepared three months worth of dinner, started a new job, and agreed to an insane bet. And a bunch in between, including these Thursday 13 highlights:

1. A recent photo:
Me and my favorite canine. It took 15 shots to get one with him looking at the camera.
2. Recent read: "Stiff" by Mary Roach. In case you wonder, I know so much about dead bodies now. This intensely graphic but exquisitely written book is about the interesting lives of cadavers. Fascinating but not for the faint of heart.

3. The Christmas Tree Diet: After betting the tree last month, I've been plotting ways to make sure the scale number goes in an appropriately Christmas-y direction. Lately, that means food prep, food prep, food prep.
Over a week, I put together 10 fast freezer meals for the crockpot. 
Brewed a vat of spaghetti sauce for lasagnas and pasta, and wrapped up four pans of enchiladas. Mmmm.
What lunch looks like now.
4. Last Summer trip:
Enjoyed a quick couple days at Dillon Beach.
5. My favorite flying father and son 
Mr. T and Ray-Dad working on the Bonanza
6. A magical transformation:
Before (and mid-move, even)
After! The traditional fifth anniversary gift is wood, and so, anniversary cabinets.
7. Adventures in Babysitting:
Little Miss Yogurt Hands reallllly wanted my phone at this moment.
Lady A and Grandma. LOVE.
Found this gem after deleting Lady A's 500, yes, 500, up-the-nose toddler selfies.
8. My new job:
Kendall Hall at Chico State!
Yours truly is now an assistant professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Chico. Unbelievably cool and still surreal.
9. In the garden:
Sadly, this year's tomato crop was more pretty than tasty. Meh.
Many mantises this year though!
10. His-n-hers happiness
Peaches and cream French toast from Bacon & Butter in Sacramento. So. Good.
Pre-brunch smoke oil acquisition for Mr. T. I actually had a pretty good time because Nordo (the legs behind the barrel and the owner of the truck) let me put away the mini-crane. No one ever lets me operate heavy machinery!
11. Summer flying:
Sadly, the Summer was light on flying lessons but I got a few good ones in last month including a couple trips to Calaveras where I will take my private pilot check ride some time soon.
Flew to Ukiah for a wedding and I got to see my niece and future aviatrix.
12. New wardrobe acquisitions:
After going Marie Kondo on my closet, I had to replenish!
13. My very own office(!!):
I'm ridiculously excited about having my own office again. With windows! And sans 7 other people. So cool.
Having a little too much fun customizing the bulletin boards.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A deal with the devil and Christmas is collateral

The fate of Christmas rests on my thighs. Or rather, my ability to make them smaller.

You see, I struck a deal with the devil last night. And the devil's name is Scrooge.

Feeling restless, I plopped down between Mr. T and a project he was working on. (Dangerous, yes, but I'm a risk taker.) Sensing a mood, he asked what was up.

"I need an incentive to lose weight," I said. "And I need you to help me."

His and-how-do-you-suppose-I-do-that eye brow lifted.

"Do you want to be guilt-tripped?"





"Um, no."

"Then what?"

I confessed, I didn't know. But I explained how good I am at accomplishing tasks with appropriate motivation. Like in January, when he promised to stop giving me crap about going to Disneyland if I got every single Christmas* decoration put away that night, which I did. And how over the last couple weeks, I've finally gotten my new blogs developed (more on that soon). The pressure of the new job starting got that motivation in gear.

But what could help in the weight department? I've been participating in a friendly "Biggest Loser" contest on Facebook, where a group of ladies and I throw in $20 each, and whoever loses the biggest percentage of weight in a given time period wins the pot. There's weekly weight pictures, motivational messaging, the whole nine. And I've lost (money, not weight) in the last two rounds since January. In fact, I've gained over the summer (thank you, Oshkosh fried everything). Blergh. And considering that I've tried calorie counting, willing myself into regular exercise habits, and posting skimpy, skinny pictures of myself on the fridge as motivation, all to no avail: I need something else.

So I thought, what about a present incentive? I proposed: "If I can get to my goal weight by November 1, can I have a Vitamix for Christmas?"

T said sure--I've been coveting the Vitamix for years now. “But that’s not enough. What happens if you don’t make it?”

I recalled reading an article** that said the keys to fitness goals were contracts and penalties. A team of economists examined the relationship between incentives and health behaviors. They wanted to see if workplace incentives and commitments would increase the rate that people went to the gym. Turns out, being paid to exercise will work, but when the money stops, so does the gym-going.

The researchers also found that when people put some skin in the game – risking their own money – they were much more successful at making gym goals stick. For instance, people would set goals and then give money to the researchers to hold. If goals were achieved, participants got their money back; otherwise, the money went to charity. Turns out, those who made commitment contracts exercised 25% more than those who didn't. And, it seems that the behavioral changes of exercise contracts are long-lasting. Meaning, the good habits last for years. Exactly what I need!

Talk about high stakes.
But I couldn't think of an appropriate stake. If I give T money to hold, it's really our money, and if I lose it, we still keep it? Not helpful.

After a few minutes, his eyebrow again lifted, now in a devious way. "I think I’ve got it."

"If you make your goal, you get the Vitamix for Christmas."

"Okay, yes..."

"And if you don't... you don't get to put up the Christmas tree."

An electric wave of shock and alarm ran up my spine. Oh. My. GAWD.

I screamed. I laughed. I cackled.

The man is a damn genius because he found the ONE thing that could seriously motivate me. The thought of Christmas without my 9-foot straight-out-of-Martha-Stewart-land tree? No foyer full of the fourteen boxes of decorations brought down from the attic?  No elaborate three-movie, Black Friday tree decorating ritual!? Absurd.

So, with sweaty pits and trembling hands (seriously), I shook on it. I will lose 13 pounds by December 1, or face the loss of Christmas joy as I know it.

I wrote out a contract on an index card and posted it to the fridge last night after we both signed. I'm not sure exactly how yet, but I am on the train to healthy town.

And my beautiful tree will have a fancy blender under it this year, dammit.


P/S HUGE props to T for successfully navigating the quintessential marital landmine. Trust me to take the "Does this make me look fat" quandary to epic proportions.

* This may seem like no big deal, but I am the person who left a Christmas tree up for an entire calendar year, and then some.

** Reference: Joe Pinsker's "How to make a gym commitment stick"

Related links:
"Stealing" someone's spot: Loathing and loving (?) fitness class characters
Fitness class characters
Humbugs and elves can co-exist, I swear
- Feeling like a summer sausage
- Magical thinking doesn't make my pants fit: Developing a fitness plan

- Applying "The Power of Habit": Making exercise a "keystone habit"
- Desperate times in the pants fitting department
- Rated R fridge art as diet motivation
- Decking the halls: A photo tour

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Guess who's a Wildcat?

I was a good 25 minutes up the road when I realized I'd left my cell phone on the bathroom counter. After some self-condemnation (and swearing), I considered whether I could make the 90 mile journey from Sacramento to Chico without GPS*. I'll admit, it was really the opposing bumper-to-bumper traffic and not my navigational prowess that made the decision. If push came to shove, I could stop and ask for help, right?

Well, as it turns out, I maneuvered just fine and made it to California State University, Chico with no trouble. Except the bitter pain of not having my camera phone to document the process of becoming a Wildcat. (Squeal!)

After filling out a ream's worth of HR forms, saying cheese for an ID card, and buying a parking permit, I am now officially a tenure track** assistant professor at Chico State! (!!!).

And I'm sad that I don't have a single snap to share, not even of my beautiful sea foam-meets-mint chip office (with a window!). Or the rooster that guards the parking lot. Or the gorgeous leafy green campus and cute downtown. Next trip, for sure.

In the mean time, I'm busy prepping classes and counting minutes until the first day of school. Ah!


* To those of you who say "But it's basically a straight shot!" let me remind you that I once got lost for hours on the way home from the Phoenix airport, pre-smart phone.

** Tenure track means being on a path toward tenure, which is a protected/almost permanent position. These jobs are thin on the ground and stupidly competitive. Yours truly was on the academic job market for three cycles before landing a job, and it feels like winning the lottery.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Six years in the blogosphere: The Blue Muse in review

Seems like just yesterday that I typed my Maiden Voyage post, launching the Blue Muse on August 3, 2009 as a mechanism to share my split-state doctoral journey. Now 882 posts later, I'm reflecting on where I started (sweet, picture-less commentaries on life between Sacramento and Cactus Land) and where I am now (diversifying into not one, not two, but three separate blog spaces).

Rather than yammer about this most interesting ride, I'll share some highlights. First, six of the most popular posts of all time. And then some of my favorites posts from throughout the years. Enjoy!

Top 6 Posts:

1. DIY wedding fleurs: How to make organza flowers and bouquets
A how-to for handcrafted organza bouquets, wreaths and more.
2. Dos and don'ts of dissertation writing (or really, any big writing project)

3. Southwest Flight 812: I prefer my plane without a sunroof, thanks

4. "Interesting," the most overused word in academia and perhaps, the world

5. Braving Bikram: What I learned about hot yoga, day 1

6. Back in the teaching saddle and loving it!


P/S Some of my favorite posts over the years...

Ode to the Reno Air Races

Shawna's Wedding Manifesto, aka the guide to anti-bridezilla-ness

A stinky start to 2010 aka Goliath's worst day ever 

A wedding in 13+ frames

Confessions, volume 1

"You're kissing me on purpose." Laughter, the key to a happy marriage and life

"Get your $*** done": Reflections on a social media moratorium

Alaska Adventures: Incredible Glacier Bay

Things you must know about EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh

You can call me Doctor Blue Muse

Fly Girl in Training: On flying completely solo for the first time

I didn't care about Trayvon until Ferguson: Why we need more empathy in America

An airplane fairy with Cessna wings

Coming to terms with my seasonal selves

The mailbox clam shell mystery

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You took the spot, now stay in it

In formation flying, there's an important skill called station keeping. This means staying in the correct position relative to other planes in the group. It's critical for safety as well as the symmetry of the formation.

Ladies of today's Turbo Kick class, I want to introduce you to station keeping. This means STAY IN YOUR DAMN PLACE, thankyouverymuch.

And it's critical to my safety since your dervish-like side kicks and uppercuts seemed to gravitate toward me at every opportunity and I spent more time watching you than keeping up with the crescent kicks and air jacks.

To be clear: It doesn't mean inching toward your neighbor during combinations. It is not traveling backward when kicking. And it certainly doesn't involve following me when I find a new position 10 feet away. No, it definitely doesn't mean that.

So kickboxers and you, too, Zumba chicks, I beseech you: For my safety and yours (because I really am getting good at round houses), stay. in. your. spot.

That is all.


Other fitness class rants:
- "Stealing" someone's spot: Loathing and loving (?) fitness class characters
- Fitness class characters
- Zumba, where have you been all my life?
- Not all Zumba classes are created equal
- Braving Bikram: What I learned about hot yoga, day 1
- If Zumba fitness is your New Year's goal, don't stop dancing
- Diary of Mad Muscles
- Mad Muscle Redux

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Anniversary the fifth

We'd just parked by the fuel pumps after an hour of Bonanza flight training. We'd gone out to get me comfortable in the high performance, complex airplane before our long trek to Oshkosh in it the next day. Sacramento's 100+ temperatures and mid-air bumps got the best of me though and I ambled down the ramp in search of water to splash on my face.

As I moved, sweaty and queasy, toward the restroom, I glanced around the beige buildings and rubber stained runways of McClellan Airfield. Five years ago on that particular day, I took a different walk. In a long white dress. Surrounded by family and friends. Hand-in-hand with my beloved.

July 17, 2010 the new Mr. and Mrs. at the California Aerospace Museum at McClellan Park, Sacramento, California.
Photo by the incredible Beth Baugher of True Love Photos.

So much has changed in the last five years. T became a corporate executive type. My sojourn to the desert came and went. T trained and became a leader in formation flying. Goliath had all but five teeth pulled. We visited Alaska. I became Dr. Shawna and started learning how to fly. We finally put in a back yard. T multiplied our fleet of cars. I landed a tenure track gig. And we've found excuses to throw awesome parties as often as possible.

What remains the same, however, is the love stuff. At this five year mark, I'm incredibly grateful to have a loving, faithful, funny partner who is so easy to love. Looking forward to the next five minutes and five years. Happy anniversary, T!


P.S. And because I can't help it...
Show-stealing ring bearer, Grant, who is so grown up now!
An original song by Brenda Malvini.
Signed, sealed, delivered. (Such a great recession song!) 
My favorite thing about Beth was how she captured the candid moments. 
A few quiet minutes before the reception.
B, me and Marm. 
Yeah, so my Wedding Princesses are now driving and/or graduated high school. Bizarro-world!
My favorite shot from the day. Who falls down in their wedding dress, really?
Still trendy in 2010.
With one of my favorite planes, the C-47.
So strange to think I was just an aviation enthusiast back then and not a pilot.
His cuteness.
Looking forward to seeing these folks next weekend!
My favorite ladies!
For Sacramento #avgeeks the California Aerospace Museum is a great venue!
I am such a lucky lady.
All pictures by the photo genius Beth Baugher of True Love Photo.