Happiness

E is for Expectations

Expectations.

That word, and the effects of that word, are soul crushers for me.

Do you want me to fail?
Do you want me to be upset?
Do you want me to judge myself harshly?

Expect me to do something. Expect me to be more.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. -William Shakespeare

One of my best traits is that I am a hard worker. When I open my life up to new avenues, whether it be a new position for work, or trying to conquer a weakness (like writing, ugh!), I do what needs to be done. I put in extra hours at work to overcome a learning curve, to get the science done, or try to catch up because I expected too much out of myself that week. I put in extra hours trying to think of words and how I could string those words into sentences so I could maybe, one day, write another article.

But when I feel like I am expected to put in the extra hours just because, I will under-preform. I will under-whelm.

There is a huge difference in results with the following pairs of statements:
1. I expect you to work 80 hours per week. (I will work 80 hours, but I will resent you.)
2. I expect you to get your work done. (I will work 80, 90, 100 hours, whatever it takes to get my work done.)

3. I expect myself to write an article a day. (Oh yeah! I’ll show you! … by never writing.)
4. I expect myself to write more than I usually do. (Easy-peasy. Writing one article is more than I usually write. But hey! I’m conquering something that is legitimately difficult for me.)

Is there such a thing as a negative and positive expectation? Because I feel that is what I just did there. In both pairs outlined above, the word “Expect” was front and center, but the outcomes were so vastly different.

Perhaps the difference, and the resentment, doesn’t stem from the word expect, but from the intention of that word. In the first scenario of both pairs, a rigid guide was established (you MUST do this in THIS timeline to be successful!) whereas in the second scenario, the guide was more fluid.

….

Maybe that is why I’m doing so much better … nay, so much more, when it comes to my fitness goals. I’m not expecting myself to exercise every single day. I’m not expecting myself to lose weight. Heck, I’m not even doing a “traditionally Nicole exercise routine” (you know, with weights and being hardcore and the like). I’m just expecting to have fun, and to move more, and maybe the weight will come off during the process.

AND IT IS!

Well, now my day has flipped completely around! Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening!

drseussyoureofftogreatplaces

Happiness: What does this mean for me?

As a graduate student half way through her 5th year (yikes!), I often wonder – when on earth will I be free of this misery? I look outside, and I see cheerful undergraduates, bunnies frolicking, falcons eating frolicking bunnies; basically, I see the world moving on. Is it moving on without me?

As I look out this window, I see my Grumpy Cat calendar that I was given for my birthday. This month looks a lot like this:

grumpy

“far, far away. losers.” That’s really what I say in my head.

Then today, I was asked a question. I asked this question to myself in December, and I still don’t know the answer.

What makes you happy? What two things can you not live without?

The first thought that popped in my mind was Kristi. Definitely can’t live without her. I was then promptly told she doesn’t count. (Darn!)

…….

…………..

I don’t know. Say something! What did you *used* to like when you had time? Sheesh, when was the last time you even attempted to do that? 

I just don’t know. Plain and simple.

 

(This song, called “Happy” by Pharrel, makes me happy every time I hear it. No matter what mood I’m in, this song brings me out of my funk, for just a few minutes. For that, I’m happy.)

 

(This song, called “Give a little” by Hanson, makes me SUPER happy. It was the last song at my wedding, and it makes me want to move every time I hear it. For that, I’m happy.)

 

I think this means I can’t live without music. So, that’s one thing! YES!!!

 

I don’t know of any other things right now.

 

What makes you happy?

 

A Trip Across Nebraska

Have you ever just jumped in a car with absolutely no cares in the world; letting the driver take you wherever, and all the while, you know that you will be safe, see many new places, … and pee on all the things? Me either. But, I never leave home on a road trip without my pups! And they just told me, they experience the above all the time! Could you imagine? (Ok, fine ….) Would you imagine? Imagine that freedom and that happiness … and all of that wind rushing through your hair.

If you are doing it right, you will find that you look just like my Daisy.
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[Dogs are seriously wonderful people.]

 

BUT – I am getting WAAAYYY ahead of myself. I didn’t start out this vacation on the road! I started it SICK! Like deathly ill. Well, not really. But, I was treated like death …. remember? Well, just in case you don’t remember ….

me_flu
[Me, as death.]

It started out with Reychl, my littlest sister, coming to visit me! … and I kind of, maybe, a little bit at least, forgot to tell her I was sick …. until she was on her way from Detroit (to Nebraska). Seeing as that is a 12 hour drive, without stops, she was mostly committed at that point. So for the first few days, we just sat on the couch, watching movies and having some quality time.

Then, I felt guilty.

Naturally, I did what any person would do. I took her to the National Roller Skating Museum a few blocks from my house.

Rollerskating

 

This place had some pretty interesting things inside … like roller skates for animals, movie memorabilia, and so many different kinds of roller skates. Like these:

skates 3 skates2 skates1
[
Cockatoo with skates]                                                         [Drew Barrymore’s skates from Whip It]                         [Skates for short people … haha, just kidding. Crazy people.]

That was all I could take that day. Too much fresh air for my flu. So, we went back home, probably watched more movies.

Then guilt settled back in the next day. So, right around closing time, I took Reychl to see the Governor’s Mansion. We pretended it was my house. Because, well …. why not? It was gorgeous, very historical, the tour guides were very nice, the first lady and the first puppy (Snickers – seriously, he has his own part of the Governor’s webpage) even came out to say hi!
governor2 governor1
[As a graduate student, I make a lot of money … what can I say?]

The guides here told us that we should hurry up and go to the last tour at the Capitol building. So, we crossed the street as fast as my flu would let me, and we crashed the Nebraska Farmer’s Bureau’s tour. We just kind of weaseled our way into their group like the flu in my lungs. It is such a beautiful building! Nebraska’s capitol building is one of three art deco style capitol buildings in the USA. How neat is that? What that means is … you are basically walking in an art museum. The tour guides at the Capitol were AMAZING! GLORIA WE LOVE YOU!

tour2 tour1IMG_0989
[Don’t those ceilings just make you want to cry?]      [GLORIA!!!]                             [Lincoln, NE]

Did you get my reference there?? I will give you a hint ….

lastholiday
[SUCH a good movie – makes you laugh and cry and laugh and smile and then you are happy. Watch it.]

Unfortunately, we didn’t watch this movie while Reychl was in town. But we should have. Because it is awesome.

I still felt guilty for being sick. I mean, wouldn’t you? Your sister drives across the country to come and see you, and you are dying on the couch? I needed to make this up to her! So, in my delirium, I thought:

“What would make this better? A ROAD TRIP ACROSS NEBRASKA!!”

Remember when I said I was a genius when I am sick? Well, I lied. I mean, who orchestrates a huge road trip, in the opposite direction of Michigan, the weekend before their sister has to leave to go back to Michigan? To be clear, we left on Saturday and came back on Sunday, and Reychl’s original departure day was Monday. Can you imagine just how excited she must have been, after driving 24 hours in the past 36 hours, just to drive 12 more? Good thing we brought the pups! When we got tired, they took the wheel. Don’t worry, they’re old enough.

Dogs_Driving
[Wrolea loves to drive. She is so serious!]

We stopped at a lot of places, and I’m probably going to get the order all wrong. I blame the delirium. So, here are some of the places we stopped, in no particular order, although, I will try to order them because of my O.C.D.

archway
[The Great Platte River Archway]

At the archway, we learned all about the emigration out West. What was really  neat about this place, was all the history you learn in here is reinforced along your drive (if you do road trips like we do – and stop at everything along the way.)

We learned about the original pony express station, and how there were just a few riders, and how they helped to deliver news to California about the Civil War! THEN BOOM! We drove to the pony express station!

ponyexpressIMG_0990IMG_0992
[Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, NE!]

We were in the habit of stopping at this point, so we decided to see what Boot Hill was all about. It turns out, it was a cemetery, and everyone was buried with their boots on. (Hence the clever name: Boot Hill.)

IMG_0996 IMG_0997 IMG_0998
[Boot Hill.]

THEN WE ARRIVED AT THE BEST PLACE IN ALLLLLL OF NEBRASKA!!! Seriously, I have been looking forward to going here since BEFORE I accepted admissions at University of Nebraska-Lincoln!

 CARHENGE

Seriously, I was GEEKED! What is Carhenge, you ask? Simple. You’ve heard of Stonehenge right? (Please say yes.) Just in case you haven’t, or need a quick reminder (for comparison purposes in just a few short seconds), this is Stonehenge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
[Source]

Nebraska doesn’t have Stone-henge; but, we do have Car-henge. (I hope you are picking up what I am putting down.)

Be prepared to be amazed.

Are you prepared?

IMG_1024
[Kind of from the same direction as the above shot of Stonehenge.]

Wait, there’s more.

IMG_1004 IMG_1007 IMG_1009 IMG_1018 IMG_1026
[There is graffiti all over the cars/trucks – but some of it was pretty neat.]

We then decided to go to some of the rock formations that are nearby (sort of) Carhenge.

IMG_1054 IMG_1055chimney2chimney1
[This is Chimney Rock, and it basically told all the emigrants they were about a third of the way. No big deal. We are SO BAD at squishing things in the background.]

We couldn’t get close to Chimney rock, because it is fenced in. Most likely due to fear of human-escalated erosion.

BUT, we could get close to Jail and Courthouse Rocks! They were also a little drive from here, but totally worth it.

IMG_1060 IMG_1061 rock4 rock3 rock2 rock1
[*No dogs were harmed when taking this trip.]

 

I forgot to mention the creepy dolls in the Governor’s Mansion. Some of the first ladies leave extra fabric from their inaugural gowns, and some of their hair, for these dolls to be made. Naturally, I took a picture of all of them.

IMG_0982 IMG_0983 IMG_0984 IMG_0985
[As creepster as this is, it is neat to see how history shapes the dresses. Not all of the gowns are shown, because not every Governor had a ball – you know, Great Depression and all. P.S. The first gentleman is also shown here.]

 

All-in-all, it was a great vacation. Even if I was sick.

I will leave you with a picture of carhenge – the graffiti said it the best.

IMG_1006

Plot Twists: Life Twists

When you think about a good book, there are usually plot twists. You know, the ones even a seasoned reader didn’t see coming. I especially like the ones I thought I saw coming, but then the author kicked it up a notch and made it extra twisty! That’s when I can’t put a good book down and I stay up for hours and hours (and hours, and more hours.)

But … have you ever thought how your favourite (or not so favourite) books would be forever changed if only one little thing was different? Like, if you were a time traveler, and you went back and changed something – and created a Butterfly Effect – and saw how the book changed.

For example: What if Voldemort was Harry’s uncle, or father?! Harry would be even more conflicted and he would have negative influences. Would he still be a Gryffindor? Or better yet, what if the chosen one was Neville, the other option? 

Neville
[Source]

What if The Walking Dead took place in the Northern states? We all see how the zombies smell terribly due to the rotting flesh, and we see that everyone seems to forget that they could once use that to their advantage. Would the winter slow the zombie down? Would it prevent their decay? How would the survivors’ health be affected by drastically changing weather patterns? It’s all a mystery.

Zombie
[Not to mention, this White Walker (GoT) is terrifying!!]

In the Hunger Games (since I am watching it right now with my sister Reychl), what if Prim went on to the games because Katniss never volunteered? Over the course of the trilogy, we see how much Prim grows up, so would that have happened? Or would the trilogy have died with Prim in the first games? OR, what if the tributes were actually fighting for food (as the name of the games implies)? How much more bloody and competitive would it be if it were up to that tribute to win food for their District for the next year? Or, what if Gale went to the games with Katniss?

Prim
[Oh Prim, you are so young!]

I kind of take it one step further and day dream about plot twists in my life. Not the typical ones like a death in the family, or a rejection letter – but major ones. Like zombie apocalypses with hunger games (to keep on track). I mean, if I were in each of these stories, I would have done things a bit differently. Would my knowledge have helped me? We all go through life learning a little bit of everything – areas of triangles, how to do our taxes, how to fight with medieval weaponry, how to cook, all of that science, you know, everything we could have possibly ever needed to save our lives one day.

What if I were Hermione Granger? What if I were the Goblin King?

What if the under-represented were actually represented on television in a realistic way? Not all GLBT are drug addicts with impeccable “Gaydar” and are highly fancied by everyone in the city. Not all poor people live in ghettos, are in gangs, are steal.

Man … now I’m in a weird mood.

I leave you with this adorable piglet!

pig1 pig2
[Source]

The love of my life, my wife: an unlikely pairing

I am brash, book smart, naive, kind, generally happy-go-lucky, no-touchy kind of person who is passionate about animals, human rights, art, and science (just to name a few characteristics of me).

My wife, the beautiful Kristi, is, for the most part, my opposite. She is affectionate, a fire-starter, street smart, and an honest person who shares most of my passions, except the in-depth love of science.

Us-placeholders

She loves aviation, I love science.
She loves basset hounds, I love Rottweilers.
She loves looking nice without a hair out of place, I love sweatshirts and crazy hair.
She loves the beach, I love not the beach.
She loves going out and having date nights, I love staying home and having date nights.
She feels love with physical touch and acts of service, I feel love with quality time and words of affirmation. **
She loves coffee, I love tea.
She loves cuddling, I love space.
She loves movies, I love reading.
She loves noise, I love quiet.
** These are part of The 5 Love Languages book by Gary Chapman. You can take buy the book on Amazon here, or take the free quiz to find out how you need love here.

You get the gist. … but Paula Abdul got it right! Opposites DO attract! If you actually watch this video, Kristi is Skat Cat and I’m Paula Abdul. Kind of. Well, for this analogy, we can be these people.

Now, on to the gushy stuff.

We met in Jacksonville, FL … actually, we met on MySpace while we both lived in Jacksonville, FL. We were just looking for friends, and she messaged me about my dog (instant bonus points, if you ask me). We started talking …. and it was impossible not to be caught up in this girl. I didn’t want to work that day, but I did anyway … just to rush back to my desk so we could keep talking. It was a Friday in January (perhaps the 12th) of 2007. After a long day of messaging each other, I told her I didn’t have the internet at my house, so we couldn’t talk over the weekend. She panicked, and asked me out on a date. The best mistake she could ever make, if you ask me. Once she realized I was directionally challenged, and despite living in the same neighborhood for a few years, that I had no idea where anything was, she offered to pick me up at my apartment. But only after I confirmed I wasn’t a 40 year old man. So, she showed up, and my heart was racing. I grabbed my groucho glasses, and met her outside. I LIED! I WAS a 40 year old man (hahahahha!, get it? … did I mention I have a very corny sense of humour?) She took me out to dinner anyway …. and this should have been the beginning of the end. If I could have been given a grade for this entire date, it would have been a F. Kristi took me to a nice restaurant, I didn’t order anything. Well, I had a water (because it was free). You see, I didn’t have any money to buy food, and I hadn’t been on a date in quite some time, and I forgot all the rules. So, instead, I watched her eat, and I talked. I talked, and talked, and talked. For-ev-er. You see, I have this thing where I talk when I am nervous, and nervous I was! She took me home, and I called my sisters telling them I had the best time but I think I bombed the entire thing. Next thing I know, Kristi brought me some food for dinner one night while I was working at the movie theatre. It was timed perfectly, because I couldn’t shut up to all of my theatre friends about the date and how amazing she was. Then, out of nowhere, here she is bringing me food! She didn’t know what I liked, so she brought me the meal she ate on our first date. I managed to woo her and we became official on February 4, 2007. She moved half way across the country to be with me in December 2009. We got married on May 23-25, 2013 (yes, it was a 3-day festival of love).

Oh! I failed to mention that it was quite strange that we had to meet online. She lived like 1 mile away from me, and we did all of our shopping at the same stores. I wonder how we never saw each other!

She really is my everything.

She is my wife.

We are perfect together, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Us-masks

Internet Quizzes, Wizards, and Science (oh my)

It seems that these last few weeks have been all about the Zimbio quizzes. Everyone I know has done at least one. So, I thought, heck! I’ll do all of them. It was mostly for research purposes (of course) because they all focus on the minutia. How are you most like a certain character, who may not be overly complex. But, we as individuals, are the exact opposite. Shrek says it best:

Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake!

We have so many layers and I don’t think just one quiz could even peel the first layer off that onion. This is why I did multiple quizzes. I wanted to see, in the end, how well they could analyze my character by asking questions like ‘out of these movies, which is your favourite?’ or ‘are you good or evil?’. In the name of Science, this was almost an unbiased test, as I don’t watch many of these shows and I haven’t read some of these books. So, I took the following quizzes (Which character am I in the Hunger games, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Mean Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, The Simpsons, Pretty Little Liars, Anchorman, and Game of Thrones, Which creature am I in The Hobbitt, and Which Disney princess am I) and got the below results.

KatnissEverdeen_HG Dumbledore_HarryPotter Tiana_DisneyPrincess Mulan_DisneyPrincess Obi_WanKenobi_StarWars CadyHeron_MeanGirls CristinaYang_Greys Lisa_Simpsons Caleb_PrettyLittleLiars Drogo_GOTWizard_Tolkien Veronic_Anchorman

Where to begin?

You’ll notice, there are two Disney Princesses up there. That’s because, I took that quiz twice. I forgot to save the result image, and when I took it again, I got a different Princess. Rather than say one was an outlier, I included both because there was some truth in both.

Some of the common themes amongst all of these characters (according to the descriptions given, because, again, the only movies/books I Have seen/read are The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Mulan, and Mean Girls. — my wife watches Grey’s Anatomy, so I’ve seen some episodes of that show, but not enough to say I could swing the quiz towards one character) are traits I highly value in myself, which is pretty neat.

Those traits are: honest (sometimes to a fault), ambitious, intelligent, and hard working. Even my introvert-ness came out in these quizzes, along with my ability to dream big and do whatever it takes to achieve those dreams (which can make it hard for me to fit in). I am selfless and giving and caring.

What’s pretty neat is, if I didn’t take all of these quizzes – and only took, say the Big Bang Theory one, I would have given up on these stupid things. Tiaras? Really? I can fit in, I’m not that awkward … So she and I don’t seem to make a huge connection (if you can call it that). But, when we combine her results with the rest of these characters, then the puzzle makes more sense.

Kind of like in science – the more data points you collect and the more technical and experimental replicates you perform, the closer your data approaches the true mean!

I know who I am, but now, you can see a glimpse of that for yourself.

Nice to meet you! I seem to be an awesome jaundiced wizard who can hold her/his own in the wild and I will always follow my heart and it should keep me out of trouble. But, when trouble comes, I can hold my own.