Sunday, October 19, 2014

39. Fall in the Valley: Teaching, Participating, Continuing, Enjoying, Enrolling and Decorating

Fall in the Cedar Valley is my favorite time of year. I love the weather, the colors, the foods, smells and holidays. So far my fall 2014 has been spent:

-- teaching fall term which includes two composition classes and and intro to psychology class.

-- participating in a chili cook-off at work. I didn't win, but I sure did have fun.

-- continuing my search for the perfect PhD program. I want to do a PhD in clinical psychology because with this degree I can stay in higher education if I choose or I can practice in the field. It opens a lot of doors for me professionally and is something I'm quite passionate about. I may have found the program that is my "number one", but won't speak on it for sure until I make my final decision on which program(s) to which I will apply.

-- enjoying Autumn's early morning fog.

-- enrolling in a certificate program in industrial organizational psychology to make me more competitive for admission into a PhD program.

and, finally,

-- decorating some Halloween pumpkins.

I hope everyone has been able to enjoy fall, spend time with loved ones, try new things, and live comfortably.


Monday, September 8, 2014

38. The Search for Ethical Cell Phones

My current phone is on the fritz. It's not a smart phone--just a regular cell that only allows me to call and text and take some photos. I've had some less than savory experiences with my cell provider in the last month. They basically were telling me that I couldn't get a new phone through them without locking into a new two-year contract that would cost me hundreds more dollars a year than the no-contract plan I have now. Thus began my hunt for a different provider and my hope was to find an ethical phone company that was committed to NOT ripping off customers with unnecessary hidden fees and that was aware of labor issues and human rights violations that occur in the production of cell phones.

Basically what I discovered was: there is no such thing as an ethical cell phone or smart phone. This was based on an article I discovered on Salon that described the many problems with cell phone production and companies. Digging around a bit, I found a brief list of said problems.

1. Colton: All cell phones need colton to function. It's a mineral found mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it's become the new "blood diamond." The trade is often manned by warlords that cause much suffering to the workers and civilians. Working conditions often lead to loss of limbs and, even death. Children are also frequently employed.

2. Young Fast Optoelectronics: This company makes touchscreens used by most smart phone and tablet companies. The company is also notorious for using "sweatshops" where working conditions consistently violate human rights standards.

3. WinTek: Apple uses WinTek to clean screens on phones,. During the production of this cleaner, workers are exposed to harsh chemicals and the company is lackluster in protecting employees from the health hazards of these chemicals. It's a very dangerous work environment.

4. Big cell phone companies rip you off. AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Verizon. They rip you off with hidden fees. You aren't getting a phone for a penny when you sign up for a contract. You are paying for that phone probably twice over through the completion of your contract. This is a big problem for consumers who want to know where their money is going.

So, what's the solution? Unfortunately, there isn't one. The best we can do is use our phones to raise awareness of the problems. The company I will be going with myself is Ting. Their mission is to provide no-contract plans that display integrity and transparency in where you dollars are going when you pay your bill. I bought a used phone through one of their suppliers and I suppose that is better for labor rights than buying something brand new.

UPDATE: Since switching to Ting, my average cell phone bill went from $70 a month to $20 a month for MORE services than I had with my big phone company. Their option to buy used and refurbished phones also cuts back on participation in the new cell phone market, for those who want to be conscious of how the phones are produced and how we, as consumers, contribute to those conditions.

If any of you know of other routes or solutions, feel free to comment below!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

37. What's Poppin' On my Radar this Week

1. Tim Tebow spent some time with a young girl suffering from EDS. Check it out! 

Tim Tebow:

2. Emotional intelligence at work has been on my mind heavily lately. I found this article about setting boundaries to be solid information and advice. Check it out!

9 Things Successful People Won't Do:

3. Surviving the first week of a new term is a must for those working in academics. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an archive area dedicated specifically to this topic. Check it out!

From the Archives: The First Week of Academic Term:

4. Business Insider cites the behaviors that aggravate college professors the most which is great information from students, and totally validating for Professors. Check it out!

10 Things Every College Professor Hates:

5. Tenure track jobs are out there. I repeat: tenure-track jobs are out there. The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking a handful of disciplines to see where the jobs are and who is getting them. I'll be following this story closely as I haven't totally ruled out a Ph.D yet. Check it out!

Who's Getting Tenure Track Jobs:

What's poppin' for you this week?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

36. EDS Advisory Board Members Needed

Hello! I am currently working on a book project. The subject is EDS and the purpose is to create a survivor’s handbook full of coping strategies from survivors themselves as well as medical professionals. I want to hear your stories, experiences, and coping strategies and am looking to create an advisory board of fellow EDSers to contribute these to the book. This how it will work: I will collect email addresses and contact you when I am working on a specific subject of the book asking for your experiences, coping strategies and stories (gastroparesis one week, POTS a few weeks later, for example). 

The amount and what you contribute would be completely up to you. You will be given credit for what you contribute but I cannot guarantee monetary compensation as I have no idea if the book will even make money. You would be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement which just means you agree not to sell my idea out to another writer or researcher.

 If you would like to be a part of the advisory board, please let me know by October 1, 2014 as I’d like to get started on this project within the next 6 months. You can respond to this thread or email me at

Monday, August 25, 2014

35. Staycation: A Nerdy Girl's Paradise

Last week I took a staycation and turned it into a nerdy girl's paradise. I needed some time away from work in between summer and fall terms and I didn't have the funds to take a true vacation, so a staycation it was. The week was filled with all the things that make a nerdy girl happy. 

1. Doctor Who

I finally had time to sit down and explore Doctor Who. The updated version of the show is on Netflix streaming and has become so popular, I don't really need to take time to give it much of an explanation. So far what has impressed me most are the deep and meaningful questions each episode addresses. It's not just pure entertainment but a bit of armchair philosophy as well. I am only on the first season, so this might change as the show progresses, but I hope not. 

2. Lego Batman 2

I splurged and bought a copy of this game as I'm a Lego game fanatic. It is by far the best Lego game yet produced. The graphics are amazing and it has a consistent story. Highly recommended! 

3. Vampire Knight

I have a soft spot for this series because I feel like I "discovered" it. Really, I wandered into the manga section at the public library, saw a series about vampires and gave it a shot. The storyline is immature and meant for an audience far younger than me, but I still enjoy the manga and now the anime series as well. (It is available to stream through Netflix). The one thing I do truly appreciate about this series is the significant lack of objectification of female bodies. This is very, very rare for an anime. 

4. Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright

I finished this historical account of the life of Jesus during my staycation. It fits into the nerd-girl category because, you know, history and stuff. :) I found this to be a really fascinating read and it put a lot of the story of Jesus into a different and, what I believe, more accurate historical perspective than other books I've read. 

5. High Techie techie

I spent a lot of my staycation trying to figure out my next steps regarding my cell phone (which is an entirely different blog post in itself to arrive here later). I've also been thinking a lot about the concept of "personal branding" (another post to arrive later). You may have noticed different titles on both this blog and my photography blog. Without going into all the small and dry details about why, it is good enough to know that this is what I'm sticking with for my own "personal brand". 

6. Traditions

As per mother nature's tradition, it is always sweltering during move-in weekend at UNI (my alma mater and town's large public university). I felt nostalgic thinking about all the sweaty, dehydrated move-in weekends I had myself during my undergrad and graduate careers at UNI. As per my tradition, I stayed inside in the air conditioning as much as was possible during my staycation. It's sooooooooooooooooooo nice not having to move in this weather. 

Now that the fall term has started I will be doing less of this stuff and more work stuff. I'm teaching four classes this term, running the campus library, working on a research paper, a nonfiction book and a novel as well as the normal photography gigs, book review gigs, and freelance writing and editing gigs. Uff da!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

34. Trying Something New

I finished my master's in psychology in February 2014. By March 2014 I enrolled in more classes. I figured since work was paying for the classes, I might as well go for it. My initial intentions were good enough. I wanted to take accounting classes to learn more about business to grow my photography business. This isn't a bad idea in itself, that is, until I decided "hey, why not just get another degree only this one in accounting?"

The first several classes I took were excellent and provided me with the knowledge I was looking for in originally taking the classes (i.e. basic business knowledge). By the time I made it to class three and four, I started questioning my motivation to continue with this degree. I started to feel like I was spinning my tires.

See, the degree itself was fine. I wasn't struggling with the content and I found it interesting, but something was not right about what I was doing. I came to realize that I had jumped into another degree program because it is what I've always done. I've never not been in school. School is what I do. At this point though, it's pretty clear that I've got the school thing figured out. I know how to be a student and I know how to be successful in a degree program.

So I did something I've never done before: I quit school.

I quit school and it felt sooooooooooooooooooooo good. It feels amazing to be able to grow in other ways. I can finally focus on finishing my book. I can do more photography gigs and learn more about Photoshop. I can spend more time with my friends and get out into the thriving community where I reside.

School played an important role for me, many roles if we want to be technical about things. In the past five years, I was pretty sick. I had lots of pain, fatigue, and infections. I didn't know what I was dealing with and I was overwhelmed. During that time school was my way of feeling like my illness (which was a mystery at the time) wasn't in control of my life. It helped me feel like even though I couldn't really travel, take pictures without pain, or be in the community without exhausting myself, that I could still accomplish something and do something meaningful.

Now that I have my diagnosis, I've been able to take the steps needed to better control my symptoms. I don't have to be house-ridden any more! I can get out and do things without feeling like I'm going to die. I don't need school like I once did. I am a whole human without it now.

Don't get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for where my education has taken me. Who knows, maybe someday I'll go back and finish this degree, but for now I need to focus on developing in ways outside of school.

Cheers to a fresh chapters! :: clink! ::


Saturday, July 5, 2014

33. Things I'm Diggin' Lately

1. Advanced Style. This blog features fashion in the late ages. I love it because I behave and live like a 90 year old woman, I swear. Roommate and I hate late nights and we literally spent a Friday night watching old British comedies like Keeping up Appearances while I crocheted an afghan. We keep a notebook listing all our behaviors that line up with us being 90 years old. Seriously, it's a long list. Our theory is that we are the next counter-culture to follow the death of hipster culture. We're the late twenties living like late eighties cool least that's what we are telling ourselves.

2. Fantasy. The only hard fantasy I've read is the Lord of the Rings series. Otherwise I've read urban-fantasy, which is like "fantasy-lite," or "diet-fantasy." A friend of mine recently recommended Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series and I'm loving it.

3. The Body Positive Movement. My interest in the Body Positive Movement started after reading Marilynn Wann's book Fat! So? This movement is all about embracing your body, no matter it's condition. Fat, thin, tall, tan, pasty, able-bodied or otherwise, the Body Positive Movement asks you to stop apologizing for your body and to start loving it. Tess Munster is also a big name in the movement with he line of all-sized "Efff Your Beauty Standards" t-shirts.

4. Community. I've been trying hard to get out in the community more frequently. EDS has limited my life so greatly, it can feel pretty hopeless sometimes. Getting out in the community as much as I can is refreshing and helps me feel like I'm in the driver's seat of my life rather than my illness. Roommate and I went to Cedar Falls' civic celebration "Sturgis Falls." We were only there for a few hours on Sunday before I started having POTS issues, but a few hours was better than being home-bound. Here's a photo from that day:

So that's my June in a nutshell. Pretty simple, slightly boring. I hope you all are having a great summer!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

32. Embracing Where I Am

It's been a looooong time since I've had any activity here. I'd like to say it's because I've been too busy living my life to post about it, but that would just be snarky and pretentious. The honest truth is: I've had no energy for blogging or much of anything outside of work. The past few months have been a time of rest and reflection and I'm not sorry for being absent from the blogosphere. I needed it.

Sometimes our best traits and characteristics can also be our meanest demons. Something I have been known for is my ambition. I've wanted to do it all and never settle, always looking for that next step up. This relentless thirst for success has taken me places, quite literally. I've lived in France, presented research at conferences all over the United States, and even took a stand for women's and LGBT rights at the United Nations. I have one bachelor's and two master's degrees under my belt, completing all of them suma cum laude. I have worked as a professional writer, editor, and photographer. I became a full professor at a for-profit university at the age of 25. All of these things have been amazing experiences as a result of my fierce ambition.

Rarely is the darker side of my ambition recognized. Striving to get to the top for me is a strange climb. It's as if there is a rope that's come down from the clouds promising to lead me to the top--to great things if I just climb high enough. The trouble is, there is no "top"--just an endless line of rope.

As you all know, I have a chronic, incurable genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It causes chronic illness, fatigue and pain. My ambition and my EDS are not friends. They are constantly playing tug-of-war for my attention.

Eleven years ago, after my high school graduation, I made myself a time capsule to open this year. In the time capsule was a bucket list full of things like "Travel to France," and "Get a Tattoo." There were things on the list that simply are not realistically achievable (Go the Olympics. Pshhh....) and there were things that I no longer have any desire to do (Go Sky Diving). My bucket list needed some revisions.

Trying to figure out what to change or add to my bucket list, I discovered my well of ambition has run dry. What do I want on my bucket list now?

  • I want to spend quality time with the people and animals I love.
  • I want to be present and mindful of each date (not "checked out").
  • I want to use every minute I have wisely. With EDS, so much can happen to my body in such a short amount of time that tomorrow is even less a guarantee than it would be were I able-bodied. 
  • I want to do as much good for others I can without completely depleting myself.
  • If I have the energy and resources, I'd like to engage in my hobbies--reading, writing, photography and research. If not, that's ok too, so long as my first four are met.
  • If I have the time, energy and resources, I'd like to travel more. If not, that's ok too, so long as my first four are met.
That's about it. At this point, I don't know if this is me growing up or giving up. I don't really care what the answer to that puzzle is. This is where I am at right now and I've accepted it--embraced it even.