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I Am a Gigantic Idiot

Oh, yes. I really am a gigantic idiot*. Let me tell you why.

Yesterday. Went to the Y and did weight machines, two different types of bicep-training ones. Put on the most weight that I though I could handle so that I’d work my muscles to exhaustion like you’re supposed to.  Then I went swimming. Did 800 meters. Worked on my breaststroke (first time!) and the crawl.

Did all that the day before Starting Block‘s Urban Orienteering Race.

And I crocheted a bunch yesterday and pretty much all day today. Not typically heavy arm work-out, but I could feel it in my arms today for sure.

And tonight we ran 6.5 miles in the race. And I carried a water bottle, flashlight, and sometimes a clip board during the 2-hour downtown-Springfield scavenger hunt of a race.

I can’t bend my arms past 90 degrees without sharp, cuss-word inducing pain in the part of my bicep just before the crook of my elbow. But this is not the end of my attempt to convince you I am idiot. Lots of people over-train or occasionally forget to plain their workouts around races.

So when I got home, I took some NSAIDs (under supervision of the best doc in the world**), showered, inspected some chafing in sensitive places and applied the requisite Body Glide, and then went downstairs to heat up my rice heating pad thingy. Which had some safety pins on it from the last time I used it. I did not notice these before I put it in the microwave. I believe the relevant equation here is

metal + microwave = BAD

Yep, that’s it. Here’s the picture evidence. Look for the nasty black lines around the edge of the rotating tray. (Click for a larger view.)

Heard crackling. Remembered seeing those pesky pins and stopped the microwave. Reached to unhook the pins so I could throw the heating pad back in the microwave.

Well, guess what. Even when metal has only been in the microwave for 17 seconds, it is hot enough to burn you. Now I have a little white line on the side of my index finger exactly the width of a safety pin.

So, here I sit. Rice heating pad thingy balancing on my biceps, holding an ice cube between my index and middle finger. Typing with one hand.

See. Gigantic Idiot. I told you.


* Totally channeling from Sarah’s Brilliantly Creative blog.
** My daddy!

2011 New Year’s Resolutions

I always bask in the feeling of a dawning year; it’s quite similar to the beginning of a new semester… a brand new notebook, each page waiting to be written on with brand new pens. A clean back-pack that will be a silent, dependable partner during classes and late-night study sessions. Books without scuffs or folds in the pages or highlighting, full of wondrous knowledge to struggle with, memorize, and conquer. And grades—or reflection—on all that I have learned.

This year in the school of life, I’m going to take two classes: Reaching a Healthy Lifestyle (once I’ve passed, I can take Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle) and Strengthening Self-control.

Course Objectives: Reaching Healthy Lifestyle

By the end of this course, the student will

  • run 3 to 4 times a week (and it makes me feel so good!)
  • really like to eat healthy food, and will only eat unhealthy food in moderate portions.
  • consistently sleep 8 hours a night, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for a productive, focused day.

I am unhappy with my current weight or BMI, but don’t worry. This isn’t going to be another “Lose weight!” resolution. I don’t diet—never have—and I’m not starting this year. Instead, my goal is to take meaningful baby steps towards living a healthy lifestyle, instead of diving into a diet that no one could maintain forever. My focus is on being fit and making nutritional and exercise choices that put me on a track for the future I want to enjoy with my husband, my family, and my friends, and that future requires a healthy me! To spice things up a bit, Rob and I are having a little Mueller Household competition to see who can lose the most… I’ll keep you posted on my path to victory. ;)

Running regularly will be my biggest obstacle this year. I’m really good at finding reasons not to run: weather, work, exhaustion, “other.” But we’ve got a Y membership (cold/hot weather problem solved). I know that running in the morning is best for me. So if I can meet the sleeping objective, it will make meeting the regular running objective that much easier…

Course Objectives: Strengthening Self-Control

By the end of this course, the student will

  • spend money purposefully, so that we can travel and save.
  • use lists and project planning to manage responsibilities.
  • work during work time, so that I can truly enjoy off time.

As far as self-control goes, I struggle daily with keeping myself on task, as well as with spending. Unfortunately, the former makes me, by definition, a lazy procrastinator and the latter a spendaholic. I can say that I am now a recovering spendaholic, but that means that the urge is still there every time I see something shiny that I simply need to have. I’ve set some specific goals that will help me say no to meaningless crap that I want to buy, but I’m not posting them here, and I’m sure you understand.

One of my biggest focus problems is that I often don’t know the next action I need to take, so I put off just starting to work; I can’t see those proverbial trees for that proverbial forest and get overwhelmed. Making lists and planning projects out will help me overcome that gridlock.

Finally, because I work from home, I am tempted to schedule appointments and lunch dates and errands and chores whenever, but this year, I am going to be intentional about my time. I will have work hours during which time I behave as if I am at the office. I’m going to be strict with myself about this, so hold me to it, dear readers. :) I’m expecting this to be my most difficult objective in this class, and I’ve got some strategies to best it, but if you’ve got any tips, be sure to share them in the comments!

So what are your goals for this year in the school of life? Do we have any in common? Which do you know that you will struggle with the most? And how are you planning to overcome those difficulties and pass the class with flying colors?

Why I Hate Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering. I don’t remember much specific vocabulary from seventh-grade government class, but “gerrymandering” always stood out in my mind because I think it sounds funny.

The practice itself, however? Not funny. When politicians redraw district lines in order to guarantee their re-election it’s called gerrymandering. So why the uncharacteristic political rant in what is otherwise a politics-free zone?

I heard “Critics Want Redistricting Process Changed in [Florida]” on NPR yesterday morning and it made me mad. Drawing the district that will elect you so that it favors you is cheating. It’s wrong. It is not politics, and it’s about the furthest thing from a representative government as you can be without being some other form of government.

Tell me: why, in the first place, are the elected officials the ones who get to draw district boundaries in the first place? Who originally thought that was a good idea? Three words: Objective third-party needed.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on our dire need for a viable third political party.

[image source]

How Germany Changed Me

Röntgen Memorial in Gießen, GermanyNumber 56 on my 100 Things About Me list is “Germany changed me.” Ever since I wrote that list (and learned about myself in the process), I’ve been thinking about how Germany changed me.

Every day I experience something that floods my heart with some small experience I had (or made?*) in Germany. Images, smells, sounds, they come rushing to my mind’s eye. And I realize day after day who I was there and who I am here and how everything is just the same but still completely different.

Every day in Germany was a struggle, a heartbreak, an adventure, a lesson, a memory. The most mundane tasks—getting to work, buying groceries, even paying bills—were new and exciting, unique, exposing a different pace of life, different values, a different thought process. Not worse, not better, just different.

I loved it and struggled in it daily. Everything was a challenge for me, nervous that the baker wouldn’t understand my funny accent, excited when she did. Dreading picking up a prescription because the pharmacist asks important questions and tells some complicated, often vital details, thinking surely she would find me stupid for saying yes when the right answer was no. Floating as high as the Johanneskirche bell tower when I understood everything she said to me. Feeling like the village idiot when I couldn’t remember the German I word for “postage stamp” (it’s die Briefmarke) when that is the entire reason I made the trip to post office. But realizing the experience was at least useful when I used the story in class to ease a student’s mind when she blushed at forgetting a simple word.

In Germany, so many of my students had spent time abroad, many as au pairs, many as exchange students. They knew the fears and insecurities of being alone in your world&mash;for I was alone in many ways. Yes, Rob was there with me, but he belongs in Germany, understands it as I probably never will. Experienced it as Home for 21 years of his life, as I have America. Fully bilingual, he can joke in either language, enjoy movies, hear more than gibberish in a crowd on the street. It’s been more years than we’ve been together since he was where I was. I’m not saying he doesn’t remember, but time and success often soften memories.

Now that I’m back home, there is a part of Me that I fear very few understand. When I find a kindred spirit, it’s like a refreshing spring rain.

I can’t spell words I’ve known all my life because the German or British** looks right too (“travelling” will probably forever trip me up now). And I’m an English teacher, for goodness sakes.

I can’t remember the order that shorthand dates go in: is July 4th 7/4/2010 or 4.7.2010? I usually remember eventually, but I have to deliberate, and even then sometimes I’m unsure.

I’ve become stubborn in ways I never imagined I’d be. I refuse to buy eggs in Styrofoam. I avoid using a plastic bag at checkout, even if I don’t have my “Schütz unsere Umwelt” shopping bag with me. And nearly every checker here give me funny looks for that. I enjoy my air conditioning like never before, and blast it in my car until I’m chilly. We dutifully remove our shoes at the door and put on unsere Hausschuhen. I have a hard time understanding why so many people get upset about gas prices but couldn’t care less about riding bikes more or spending tax dollars on installing more sidewalks and greenways***. And having used government-subsidized health care for two years, why so many Americans all bent out of shape about it, for so many wrong reasons.

Germany taught me that environmental consciousness doesn’t have to be a burden. That having an entire house and yard all to yourself is quite the luxury, not to mention the amazing luxury of air conditioning. That not owning a car doesn’t have to be an inconvenience (and—shh!—it can even be fun sometimes!). That taking a big leap out into the unknown with only your spouse and the suitcases you bring with you is always worth the excitement, tears, and memories. That being comfortable and yet not wholly a part of where you live day in and day out wears your spirit down in some ways, but creates in you a new sense of Place and recreates your identity. And that Brie for a buck, fresh bread every day, and a semi-weekly farmer’s market full of the most beautiful flowers is a simple recipe for a contented life.

Even seeing my name (first and last) everywhere affected me. In America, I always have to spell my name out and connect it in people’s minds with a president whose first name is a homonym of mine. I could never buy personalized pencils at gas stations because the closest names to mine were always “Linda” (which I often get mistaken for, even when I spell it out) or “Lindsay.” In Germany, I could just say, “Linden, wie die Bäume” (that’s “Linden, like the trees”) and the German would know exactly how to spell my name and how to say it. Somehow, seeing my name so often, it even being a little bit famous, makes me feel more normal, more connected, more like I belong. Maybe you think this is silly, but maybe you went to school with three people who shared your name.

I am American. But I hope Germans aren’t too insulted when I say that I am German too; like an antithesis to Voldemort’s Horcruxes, I left a part of my soul in Germany because I Lived there.

* That’s for my GLC students, a little inside joke.
**Two of my colleagues were British (Scottish, to be precise) and Germans are typically taught the Queen’s in school.
***Be quiet, Springfieldians, I know; I am proud to live in a community where biking and walking is supported, but considering America in general? Not the same outlook, it seems.

100 Things About Me: A Textual Snapshot

Way back at the beginning of my second year of graduate school, Dr. Cadle has us write down 100 things about ourselves. I think it was part of an ice-breaker. I enjoyed the exercise then, and I’ve been hankering to write another list for my blog for a while. Been working on it during a few sleepless nights this summer, so here it is, just before my summer comes to an end with classes starting at both OTC Online and Missouri State next Monday.

100 Things About Me

  1. My right eyes waters. A lot.
  2. I have had two surgeries to fix this. Neither one worked.
  3. This is one reason I don’t wear makeup very often.
  4. The other is: I just don’t want to.
  5. Ich wunsche dass ich könnte Deutsch wie ein Deutscher sprechen.
  6. I love having my toenails painted passion red.
  7. I like my nose.
  8. But only from the front; I think profile gives me a huge honker.
  9. I love scary movies.
  10. . . . which has made me afraid of the dark and/or given me a wild imagination.
  11. . . . but I don’t really mind getting freaked out when I’m home alone. It’s an adrenaline rush of sorts. Some people jump out of planes, I make spooks and boogeymen out of creaks and knocks.
  12. My favorite letter is K.
  13. I’m also deferential to a’s and g’s since I changed the way I write them:
  14. My favorite part of speech is the verb.
  15. It doesn’t bother me one iota how nerdy that is.
  16. My favorite pen is the Uni-ball Vision.
  17. When I see others using that pen, I know we’re kindred spirits.
  18. I test the clickiness of pens before buying retractables, when possible. If the sound and resistance of the clicker do not please me, I won’t buy it.
  19. Sometimes I can’t stop saying “Gabourey Sidibe” over and over in my head. I love the rhythm of her name, I think.
  20. Rob and I have six perfect kids’ names picked out, three boy names and three girls names.
  21. We won’t use them all.
  22. And no, I won’t tell you what they are. We’re keeping them a secret.
  23. is my favorite number.
  24. Well, 10.23 is, but I have adopted just 23 for brevity’s sake.
  25. If you know why 23 is my favorite number, we must be good friends.
  26. I also like squares, 16 and 49 being my other favorites.
  27. I remember medium-length number strings (think phone numbers and birthdays / dates) very easily.
  28. I can type 70 to 80 WPM.
  29. I attribute this to 10 years of playing the piano.
  30. . . . and lots of Mavis Beacon as a nerdy teenager.
  31. Speaking of nerdy, my best friend and I spent our junior and senior high school years playing all sorts of card games, eating Cheez-its, and listening to the Beatles.
  32. Sometimes we’d play Monopoly, just to switch things up a bit.
  33. She’s the reason I started running.
  34. I was never an athlete in school.
  35. In fact, I had to go to the nurse’s office and the the doctor’s office after running a mile in PE class one day my junior year.
  36. If I hadn’t paced off a cross country runner, I might have been okay.
  37. Since January 2007, I’ve run several 5- and 10ks, 2 (utterly horrid) half marathons, and one marathon.
  38. I ran my first half mary 14 days after moving to Gießen.
  39. I was lapped by several Nordic walkers.
  40. That totally killed my mental endurance.
  41. I ran my second in Joplin this past June on the hottest day of the summer to that point.
  42. My running partner was 16 weeks pregnant at the time. She was pushing me.
  43. I am very greatful for that.
  44. I practically swam in the horse-trough ice bath afterward. It felt great.
  45. The first half of my marathon was just over an hour faster than the Joplin half.
  46. . . .and I followed that PR by running the second half!
  47. This bothers me, so I am determined to dominate a half mary one of these days.
  48. . . . but it won’t be on any of the 30 days in June (or July or August, for that matter).
  49. I ran my marathon in Berlin, and I loved it.
  50. . . . so much that I got the Brandenburger Tor tattooed on my left wrist as a reminder of what I have and can accomplish.
  51. I’m going to add “marathon runner” in red and in Greek to it later this year, on the 4,500th anniversary of the first marathon ever run.
  52. I like symbolism.
  53. I also like lists.
  54. . . . and sleeping in a cold room. If I could afford it, I’d keep my bedroom right around 63F/17C.
  55. I like being all snuggled under my nice down-alternative blanket.
  56. Germany changed me.
  57. Before we moved back home, I was very afraid that none of my old friends (or family, for that matter) would like the new Linden.
  58. . . . but they still do, apparently!
  59. So anyway, Germany proved to me how easy green living can be.
  60. . . . and it frustrates me how hard it is in the States.
  61. Even the country road we’d run on in Gießen had a nice, wide sidewalk. Here, I can’t walk the shortest route to Walmart because there are no sidewalks and it’s a busy, 4-lane main thoroughfare.
  62. Stores in Germany encourage shoppers to bring their own bags instead of just eating the cost of plastic bags like American retailers. So I always have a bag with me now.
  63. Sorting trash is mandatory and that is supported in every public place, like on the train platforms and in malls. So we sort our trash here and take to the recycling center what our trash service doesn’t take.
  64. Living there for two years convinced me that what I had believed since my first European trip at age 15 is true—that a part of Me is German.
  65. On top of that, living somewhere is to leave a piece of you (not dissimilar to a Horcrux) there. I miss Gießen, Schönow, and Berlin terribly some days.
  66. I fell in love with Rome while we were there for Holy Week 2009.
  67. I also fell in love with Gelato. We ate as much of it while we were there as possible.
  68. I also fell in love with Roman churches, which are on every corner (worse than Springfield, I swear!)
  69. I really got hooked on soccer. During the season (August to May), there’s a game every weekend day, and often during the week as well (we follow the Bundesliga, Premier League, and the UEFA championships/cups).
  70. Nothing beats live soccer when you can hear the fans’ cheers!
  71. I have a two-year hole in my already shoddy American culture knowledge; if It was popular anytime from September 2007 through September 2009, I probably don’t know about It.
  72. This does nit bother me, but it has made for some embarrassing conversations, (“How do you not know about THAT?!”), but also saved me from a few interesting characters (Lady Gaga, anyone? I barely know who she is, thank goodness; Paula Deen, same thing).
  73. I have a phobia of talking on the phone.
  74. It’s stupid, I know, and I’m working through it, but I still prefer SMSs or email/Facebook/Twitter.
  75. Some of my best friends share this phobia or have a general dislike of phone convos. I’m convinced that this is one reason we’re such good buddies.
  76. I’m working on a novel right now.
  77. It’s a weird one. We’ll see if it ever (a) gets finished and (b) gets published. I don’t have any illusions about the likelihood of (b), but (a) will happen.
  78. I understand how truly blessed I am to have the good friends that I do. I try to never take that for granted, but I often fail, I think.
  79. I have secrets.
  80. Some of them are in this list, but some are not.
  81. Listening to certain types of music (classical and jazz), along with certain meaningful songs, is a religious experience for me.
  82. I believe that “different” shouldn’t mean “bad”; it should just mean “different.”
  83. I don’t like talking about my political or religious beliefs because too many people let those topics be too divisive.
  84. Chocolate and peanut butter is my favorite flavor combination.
  85. I love the smells of bacon, leather, Aspen cologne, and this one particular type of men’s deodorant.
  86. I am a very deep sleeper, and I think that’s the way to go.
  87. I can pretty much sleep anywhere, especially (but not only) when I’m really tired.
  88. Throughout my high school years, I never ate in the cafeteria. My friends and I ate in the band room, outside, or in the classroom.
  89. I think I did that because the cafeteria always stressed me out. Maybe I don’t like large groups of people chattering all around me when I’m eating.
  90. I really, really hate ticks. They disgust me.
  91. Sometimes I’m convinced that I’m a pretty big failure.
  92. . . . but usually something will happen to remind that I’m not that bad and I can do things right every once in a while, that I do have some useful skills.
  93. I don’t like pulpy OJ.
  94. . . . or stringy bananas.
  95. I have a hard time remembering how to spell these words: definitely, bureaucracy, recommend, and words ending in -ance/-ence.
  96. However, I can usually feel that a spelling is wrong, rather than know it.
  97. I used to have the paragraph on the front of the Absolut vodka bottle memorized.
  98. My closet is organized by color within seasons and then dressy / casual.
  99. I usually sleep on my right side.
  100. I am left-handed.

So there you go. Now it’s your turn! Go write 100 things about yourself down. You don’t have to share the on your blog, but I bet you’ll find the experience as refreshing and fun as I did.

These Are the Moments That Change Our Lives

I’m reading Muriel Barbery‘s The Elegance of the Hedgehog for the Barnes & Noble Ladies Book Club. I wasn’t too impressed with the last two books we chose, Uglies and Winter’s Bone, but this book was already on my Goodreads To Read list, so I was hopeful. Last Saturday, I had a couple hours to kill at Barnes & Noble before Rob got off work and we went on a little date, so I got the book off the shelf, ordered a coffee, and started reading. I fell in love with this book by the end of the prologue, which is several chapters long.

I’ve been recording quotations from it, and there is one that I read last night that perfectly describes a sensation I’ve experienced before in my life but never tried to shroud in words, and I just have to share it here in my pensieve.

Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn–and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb. (91)

Have you ever experienced this?

Keeping the Gators Fed: Why I Crave Horror Movies (and Running)

Last week, my Composition I students had to write a blog post responding to Stephen King’s short piece called “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” The prompt asked them to persuade their audience that their method of “keeping the insanity at bay” is acceptable. Here’s my own response.

King hit it right on the nose: We are all crazy. How we deal with it, though, is individual. I love horror movies—so King pegged me exactly—and I love running.

Watching horror movies fills me with terror, fear. And I love it. I live a very privileged life. My belly is always full, I sleep in a warm bed in a nice house next to a loving husband. I have never been abused or neglected. My close friends are hilarious. The only emotion that I don’t experience regularly is fear, so I get that from horror movies. I give myself over to them, allow myself to believe the most ridiculous plot lines, in order to feel scared. They make me bite my fingernails, wring my hands, huddle under the throw blanket. And I love every minute of it.

Running, on the other hand, is how I deal with all other sources of mental illness. Stress. Depression. Temptation. Anxiety. Insomnia. Running (or getting your heart rate up in whatever way possible) floods your body with happy chemicals. That is one major reason that it helps keep the insanity at bay. But it also puts you face-to-face with life. There’s no faking it in running. You are either pushing yourself or you are working out at a lower intensity. Or you’re walking. It’s you and the trail. There are no illusions about the task at hand; you can see the miles ahead of you, can feel the miles you’ve already put behind you. When there’s no where to hide and nothing to hide behind, you gain a new clarity on life. That, and exhausting myself on a regular basis, helps me pass out when my head hits the pillow. (And getting enough sleep helps us all keep our insanity under control!)

We all have our own tried-and-true methods of safely indulging the insanity. Stephen King and Hal Higdon help me stay out of the straight jacket—who does it for you?

How I Met My Husband

Today’s post is a part of the Springfield Bloggers Association “Take It and Blog Fridays.” The  theme today is how you met your significant other.

Here’s the short story: Rob was playing drums in a band, Amsterband, and my best friend was dating the lead singer. She said, “I think you’d like the drummer. He’s cute, funny, and smart.” I went to a barbecue at Cedarbrook and we checked each other out, barely talking to each other. I called him a couple days later, we went on a date, and two years later, we tied the knot.

But the long story is so much more interesting!

Rob grew up in Marzahn, a somewhat infamous district in Berlin. I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, and Neosho, Missouri.

During Gymnasium (somewhat like American high school, but more similar in accomplishment to high school plus an associate’s degree), one of Rob’s good friends, Christian, was an exchange student to West Plains, Missouri. Christian became friends with Brian Roberts.

Brian, a guitar player, loves Germany, and during college, did an internship in Nuremberg. While there, he visited Berlin to see Christian and hung out with Christian’s friends. That’s how he met Rob. They engaged in general merry-making, which often included jam sessions.

Brian finished his internship and returned to Southwest Missouri State University, but stayed in contact with Rob. When he wanted to start a band, he emailed Rob and asked him if he wanted to come over to the U.S. of A. to play in his band.

Rob was at a unique point in his life. He was 21 and had just finished the required two-year civil service. He said yes, shipped his drumset and packed everything that was important to him in two large duffel bags. The band, soon to be known as Amsterband, is filled out by Luke, a fellow Zizzer that Brian knew growing up.

Meanwhile, Beth breaks up with her long-time boyfriend. Then she meets Luke at the weight room. They go on a couple dates, but then Beth meets Brian. Luke moves on and Beth and Brian start dating. During dinner one night, Beth tells me all about the interesting characters that live at Cedarbrook (the name all the guys use to refer to their house). There are 5 guys living in a 3-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house on North Cedarbrook. She tells me about the German guy and tells me we should go on a date.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Beth and I go to that barbecue and Rob and I spend the evening observing each other from afar. I call him a few days later and we decide to go on a date.

He still holds it against me that I made him watch xXx on our first date.

We date for a few months, and then I dump him. He’s getting too serious too quickly and I don’t like it.

We get back together after three days. Then I dump him again a couple weeks before Christmas. We talked a couple times a week for a month or so. Finally, I realized that this guys really loves me. That, despite having been dumped by me twice, he still has a pure love for me, not that nasty obsession that so many people develop after a break up. That I was living in the past, hoping that I could get back together with an ex. That Rob is here now and he’s sweet and funny and unendingly interesting because he’s from another culture.

We get back together in January, and the rest, as they say,  is history. We were married on our two-year anniversary in the church in Westport, Kansas City, where three generations of my family have gotten married before me. That was 5 years, 7 months ago, and we have grown so much, done so much, in that time. I am really excited to see what happens in the next 5 1/2 years!

On Regaining Balance

For almost a year, I have been struggling with balancing responsibilities with recreation. It all started when the Moving Home date loomed closer. I was so excited to move to Berlin, then move home to start the next phase of our life.

It was bittersweet, though. I did not want to leave Germany, and I miss it now at the strangest times. Getting in my car to go somewhere instead of hopping on my bike. Sitting at Hooters to watch football, instead of Cafe Wolkenlos to watch Fußball. Turning on my food processor and thinking of the Baileys and the many nights we used their Cuisenart food processor as a precursor to an evening of food, fun, and memories.

Still, I was ready to come home, so I lost focus. Now, that’s fine if you’re a 12-year-old and you get antsy the night before school starts. You’ve finally settled on The Perfect First Day of School Outfit and packed and repacked your backpack. But that excitement is over in a day. Rob and I were anticipating our return to America for months. Things that should have been important were back-burnered.

Once the summer semester ended, I found myself with Free Time. I filled it with whatever I wanted, reading through a collection of short stories, Facebook, wandering around aimlessly on the Internet, and enjoying six precious weeks with Rob’s family in Berlin. It was fun, but besides the family time and short stories, I felt like I was filling my soul with  only fast food when it desperately craved a well-balanced meal.

Last week, I had enough. I was disgusting myself with my level of inactivity. My soul was sick with poor nutrition.

I don’t remember which productivity website I found it on, but I read somewhere that, to help yourself stop getting distracted, you should record what you work on in 5 minute increments.

I tried 15 minutes, set the 4 built-in timers on PhD Timer (a simple yet effective iPhone app) for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes and started them all at the same time. When an alarm goes off, I stop, list what I did in the previous 15 minutes, and then get back to work.

It helped! Finally, something kept me on track. My own resolve has not been enough. My little mental tricks had not been helping. But this did, and that gives me hope.

There was a time, right after we moved to Germany, when I was super productive. I mean, I got my shit done, and I got it done on time, maybe even ahead of time, and it was done good. My desk was clean at the end of every day. I responded to emails in a timely fashion. I want to get back to that. It feels good to be productive and organized.

A very wise friend of mine believes in Baby Steps, and that’s what I’m focused on right now. I have made one small step towards regaining my former strengths, so now I can focus on the next one. It’s comforting to know that I am not alone, too, because it makes this funk feel more normal. Here’s to finding a way out of the funk, one day at a time!