on 2010 – my year in review

I don’t usually pause for reflection. I often pine for days gone by, but that’s more of a feeling that, somehow, things were simpler back then (whenever back then happens to be at that moment). But as far as reflecting on all that has happened in a specific period of time goes, I have to admit I am really bad at it. I don’t think it’s because I’m not grateful  or happy or proud to have lived the things I have, it’s more that once an event is over, the spot that was reserved for it in my mind is cleared for the next new and shiny event.  The older I get, the more the days run into one another until entire years have gone by. I find myself losing track of the specific details of my life — I can’t even remember how I rang in 2010 — and I’m the one who is supposed to have the good memory. And even though my memory is quickly becoming a black hole, I still feel about the same, except maybe with a few more crows perched upon the corners of my eyes. Getting old is weird.

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So it’s with much painstaking deliberation that I evaluate the events of my 2010. I want to relive the highs and lows in writing so I don’t have to commit them my increasingly untrustworthy memory. And then, when I remind those with whom I shared these moments of the finer points of the last year of the first decade of the second millennium (or is it the first year of the second decade of the second millennium?), they won’t say, “Are you sure?” I can just point to this blog post and say, “Yes, I’m sure. That’s exactly how it happened.”

Winter-Spring 2010
The winter and spring of 2010 was a killer. It will go down in history as one of the grossest miscalculations of the amount of crap I am able to endure in one five-month period of time.

I started the year coming off a delightful Christmas retreat to Belize. I was tan and well-rested and this was a good thing, as I was about to test the limits of my sanity. After much agony trying to nail down the topic of my master’s applied project (and a 24-hour spirit-crushing span of time in which I believed my graduation would be delayed until December), I finally finalized my proposal and got the green light to proceed with my research. I am forever indebted to my applied project chair for making this happen.

My applied project nightmare coincided with the culmination of five months of training for the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. So, while my mind was being pushed to its limit trying to get my applied project going, I was also pushing my body harder than normal by running about 25-30 miles a week. I still don’t know how I didn’t fall apart. But on January 17 I finished my third marathon, besting my previous personal record by 13 minutes (4:44.48 is no race-winning time — even Oprah ran a faster marathon — but I did beat Sean Astin’s marathon time by 30 minutes. Suck it, Rudy!).

Once the marathon was over, my applied project took my full focus. Well, except for when I was working full-time. Virtually every week night and all day every weekend I was sitting in the office typing away on what would eventually become a 136-page behemoth. I honestly think I’ve blocked out how bad it sucked, how stressed out I was, how little I bathed and washed my hair and put make-up on, simply because it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I wrote a book. And, sadly, just 7 months later, I can barely remember what it’s about. Of course I’m kidding. It’s about the First Amendment and student expression in public schools. But when I read it, it feels like I’m reading something someone else wrote. I feel so detached from it. So strange, considering I pretty much breathed it every day for half a year.

We enjoyed the premiere of Ryan Page’s new movie, Blood Into Wine, at the W Hotel in February. It was a really cool moment for some of my closest friends, and also one of the last times I got to spend with Katy’s mother. I have grown up with Katy and her family has been a second family to me from Oklahoma through high school in Arizona to our time as roommates in San Francisco and beyond. It was devastating when she passed away a few months later.

In April I got some professional recognition by being named one of the Pride of Peoria. I have a really hard time with attention of any sort, so the whole ordeal was terribly embarrassing. I think people think it’s an act, my hypersensitivity to being acknowledged, but trust me when I say it’s not. I’m the middle child, for heaven’s sake. My job is to blend into the background. But in a profession where you don’t receive raises for a job well done (or at all, for the last few years anyway), and you are casually lumped into a group of your colleagues who, let’s be honest, are not always the best of company, it’s nice to be noticed. And while I could have done without the dinner reception (oh, the horror of the limelight!), the best part of the whole thing was the devastatingly heartfelt letters my students and friends wrote on my behalf. Reading their kind words was the best reward. I have read them many times, and I always need a Kleenex. Those little brats can be so amazingly thoughtful sometimes.

The spring did not go out like a lamb, but rather like a Tasmanian Devil. I was accepted to a Ph.D. program on the east coast, and while I waited to hear about funding, Tim was called away to the “Storm of the Century” in Australia. We put the house we had lived in for nearly 9 years on the market and were excited when we actually sold it. Except for the fact that we didn’t know where we going to move. So I waited and wrote and taught and managed home inspections and repairs through May, all while Tim was Down Under.

In early May I successfully defending my master’s applied project, effectively ending months of solitary confinement. I ceremoniously ditched my raggedy sweatshirt and sweatpants that had virtually become part of my body (à la Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom) in favor of a maroon gown and master’s hood in time for graduation. I enjoyed graduate school — especially the funny, intelligent and talented pals I gained from the experience — but I was so ready to say sayonara to ASU. The best part of the commencement event: enjoying it with three of my former students who were also graduating.

I had barely packed away the empty degree frame when I learned that my Doctor dreams would not be fulfilled in the near future. No funding for school meant no cross-country move. It also meant I better find a rental house in Phoenix and STAT. After weeks of what seemed to be a doomed project, I stumbled upon a Craigslist posting for a little retro gem in north-central Phoenix. We got everything packed up and moved out with one day to spare. Tim flew home in time to help finish the process, and we began to settle into our new place. Maggie was a bit undecided about the pool, but it was a nice addition in the summer heat. I thought I would feel more sadness in saying goodbye to the place we had called home for so long, but the hardest part was looking for the last time on the backyard where Buster, my first pup, grew up and used to play.

Summer-Fall 2010
The summer brought much-needed rest and relaxation. I devoted my attention to becoming best friends with Tony Horton and P90X. I got to enjoy Tim’s company for a while, and we enjoyed a few brief weekend jaunts — to Las Vegas and Lake of the Ozarks — before he headed back to Australia to rid the continent of dents. And though I was already feeling the stress of an impending school year, I decided to throw caution to the wind and join him in Oz in late July. Best decision I ever made.

Australia was just awesome. It was the longest flight I’ve ever taken — and I did it alone! — but V Australia made it seem almost painless. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Perth I felt like I was at home. Tim had described Perth as a lot like San Diego, and his description was pretty accurate. We stayed right on the beach, which meant plenty of incredibly scenic long runs along the coast in perfectly temperate winter weather. I loved everything about it — the friendly people with the totally cool accents, the wine tastings, the kangaroo feedings, driving on the wrong side of the road, the sunsets and the Tim Tams. Oh, the Tim Tams.

Spending time in Australia was revitalizing in so many ways. I got to spend some quality time with Tim, something that I’d been missing for much of the year, but I also got to explore on my own while Tim was hard at work (how humbling it was to see firsthand, finally, how hard he really does work when he’s on the road). Being able to drive around and explore the sights made me feel more like a resident than a tourist — and the thought of missing my return flight home did cross my mind more than once. Although the whole trip is a highlight of the year, one of the highlights of the highlight was the On the Bright Side festival. We saw several great performances including Band of Horses, Mumford and Sons and The Strokes. The Strokes!  One of my all-time favorite bands was in Perth at the same time I was. What are the odds? I was literally in heaven.

Inevitably, my trip had to come to an end. And what better way than by moving through customs alongside Richard Branson and then being personally welcomed onto the flight by his Sir-ness himself. So cool. From now own I will do what I can to fly any Virgin airline any chance I get … they do it up right.

As I have blogged in the past, I am a music fanatic. But for all my listening, I don’t often get to live shows anymore. In 2010, however, I not only got to see favorite bands like The Strokes and The National, I got up close and personal with a musical legend: Slash. Thanks to my dad, the ultimate Monster selling machine, we got to partake in a private concert featuring the Mad Hatter himself. What a show! I didn’t even miss Axl when Slash’s new singer, Myles Kennedy, belted out such G  n’ R classics as “Nightrain”, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and my absolute favorite, “Rocket Queen”. I was screaming the words like a starstruck teenager. It was truly one of the coolest musical experiences of my life. The next day we were graced with the company of my favorite Los Angelenos, the Agnews, and ate one of the best meals of 2010 at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Mozza. I am still dreaming of that tuna sandwich.

My running partners in crime, Lisa, Gina and I hit the jackpot and got a place in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October. Lisa and I ran the race in 2007 and absolutely loved it, so we were eager to get back and amass another Tiffany finisher’s necklace. Although my training was sub-par, we still conquered those hills in a not-entirely embarrassing time. More importantly, I got to spend four days in the town I love more than any other. I caught up with old and dear friends and reveled in being “home”.

It was colder than cold and raining buckets upon finishing the race, which made for a very tense and miserable few hours. But once a miracle taxi saved us at the Cliff House, I knew the rest of the day would be ours for the making. And make it we did, with an 8-hour pub crawl through the Marina. I love that I have friends who will run 13.1 miles with me and then join me in downing a few Bloody Marys.

The year went out with a bit of a whimper, with work taking up most of my time. We did stop to enjoy the company of the Agnews once again on an ambitious bike pub crawl through Old Town Scottsdale. I also ran my ninth half marathon, beating my PR by 2 minutes, and continued training for my 10th, to take place on January 16, 2011. I expect this to be my best race yet.

2010 was a heckuva year. I am often surprised I survived, but I guess since it didn’t kill me, it must have made me stronger. Here’s hoping I can put that strength to good use in 2011.

in front of a theater full of people

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