The spring 2016 semester starts in two days, but even thought it hasn't started yet, I wanted to post an update with photos about my break, my progress, and my goals:
My parents landed in the desert on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015. That was also the start of my two week, self-designated break from work. It was a really, really nice two weeks off. Refreshing and relaxing. We celebrated Christmas with my parents, took them to some of our favorite spots, visited the mountains in Payson, and watched the Green Bay Packers get creamed by the Arizona Cardinals. It was a nice visit. The photo on the right was taken just before Christmas dinner in our dining room.
The day after my parents left, we hit the road for New Years in Durango, CO. We spent about five days up there with some good friends. We read, played games, and celebrated New Years Eve by watching skiers ski down a mountain holding torchlights under fireworks. Pretty cool! And literally, very cool. We were freezing. Time in the mountains is always so refreshing, and we thoroughly enjoyed our mini-vacation. The photo on the left was taken a few miles from my Grandpa's condo in Durango. We are standing on top of a natural hot spring that has mineralized into the mound you see there. The spring is just off of the main highway, and it is a favorite for visitors and bikers to stop and take photos or baths at, respectively. The water is pretty warm and coppery tasting, though. Not great for a drink.
During the break, Wade and I binged watched the BBC reality show, The Great British Bake Off. It is truly a lovely show, and we became so invested with the contestants and the show itself. Even when I am breaking from my scholarly work, I am still enthralled by discussions and representations of food. Food brings people together. It speaks to culture, community, and identity in ways that no other medium does. The first challenge of every episode is the "Signature Challenge," where the bakers are instructed to represent a part of themselves in the bakes. I mean, so, so fascinating.
Over the break, I also read my first book of 2016. I read Mindy Kaling's newest memoir, Why Not Me? Again, even when taking a break, I still love to read memoirs. I guess that means my work in women's food memoirs really is what I should be studying. I love these glimpses into people's lives, specifically, strong, smart, accomplished women. Mindy's book is honest, funny, and inspiring. In her final chapter she writes, "work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled" (223). If that's not the mantra that I need to adopt to get me through this semester of conferences, my written exam, my dissertation prospectus, and finishing my class work, then I don't know what is.
The day in between my parents leaving and us leaving for Colorado, I received an email saying that my two portfolio papers and my compiled bibliography to be used for my comprehensive exam had been approved by my committee! This is a the first of the five steps towards completion of the degree, and I was really happy to receive that email even before the spring semester started. It is but one step towards completion, but it feels good to have it checked off after a year of drafts, revision, and feedback. It also means that I am now able to move forward on the other steps that I need towards degree completion. I am very thankful for my chair and committee that offer this feedback and are willing to help me advance towards my degree.
Finally, I want to address a personal goal that I have adopted for this new year, but one that will be intricately related to my work. I have been trying to think of a word to focus on in this new year in my prayer and mediation time, but also in my work and everyday life. Yesterday I attended my weekly yoga class with my friends and colleagues Casie and Jess, and the theme of the class was "presence." The instructor said several times that in presence there is choice. There is the choice of focus, attitude, and attention. So, this semester and this year, I intend to focus on the word presence. I want to explore what that means in all areas of my life.
Thanks for reading! I'll be back with a new post soon as this busy, but hopefully very productive, semester gets underway.