Mindfulness and Cognitive Science

New Adventures

Grad school has begun.

This journey began back in December 2016. There have been major accomplishments from GRE scores to putting my vision into words to acceptance into BICB to getting hired as a technician and research assistant in Dr. Peter Crawford’s lab. And now orientation is done and the program is under way.

But my own schooling is not the sum total of the new adventures in the Nelson household. Frey started school last week and Arthur began full-time school/daycare as well. For the first time in 6 years we are all leaving the house and going in separate directions.

As is common with change, I’m doing a lot of reflecting, so I thought I’d share.

Summer highlights

Back in April our family transitioned to me working full-time. I was hired as a technician and pending graduate research assistant in Dr. Peter Crawford’s lab. I’ve had the opportunity this summer to get familiar with the biology we’re studying and the state of the union of metabolomics before my program begins.

A brief aside: metabolomics is the study of all the metabolites in a given system whether that be whole organism or a specific tissue or cell type. Metabolomics uses analytical technology like mass spectrometry (MS) to detect compounds in a sample and identify them based on their chemical properties. I’m working with the data sets that come from MS to pull out real signals and try to identify what those metabolites are using databases.

That alone has made it a unique and satisfying summer. But for memory’s sake, let’s recap a bit more, yea?

  • In June I attended the annual conference for the American Society of Mass Spectrometry held in San Diego, CA. I got hit with a fire hose on MS state of the art and metabolomics specifically. Plus a week of great food and spending time with other UMN folks.
  • July 4th (and a weekend in August) in Brainerd is a highlight every year because we get to spend a few days with some of our favorite people playing and relaxing. This year we learned how to barefoot ski (including Frey!) and I experienced the most intense tubing I’ve had since high school.
  • In July we also celebrated our 7th anniversary. We’ve done a lot of reflecting on how our relationship has evolved and well, I still like the guy a lot. Probably even more than when we first started this whole thing.
  • In August we went to Fargo for my high school reunion. Truthfully, I’d been looking forward to it and was not disappointed. We had a great time reconnecting with old friends.
  • Finally, this summer we accomplished growing our entire garden from seed. Not all of it was successful but we did it! We’ve seen a shocking number of lemon cucumbers and even managed to beat the squirrels in harvesting our tomatoes and butternut squash.

I know at year’s end I’ll be scouring my notebooks for little snippets of journal entries to recapture the magic of 2018 – it’s been a big year for us. It’s been a mixture of harvesting the hard work put in over the last several years as well as a deeper enjoyment of the sowing for our future selves.

Habits for the Fall

I was a stay-at-home-mom for around 6 years. During that time I ran a business and had help from family & friends with my kids so I could work but all-in-all I was home. Now I’m gone 40+ hours per week. Over the summer the kids were home with Eric, forcing some new habits but also allowing us to keep mostly the same routines.

Biggest change was the kids completely taking over house cleaning. They’d work through a list each Monday and I’d come home to a clean house. I wrote more about what their help looks like (and how it developed) in a previous post.

This will change a bit with school but we’ll all be working together. I hope to have time to write more details but for now I’d like to share some of the habits I’m cultivating for our home life so we can all keep moving forward (and stay healthy).

  • I signed up for my first powerlifting meet and I’m using the UMN rec center to train. I’ve wanted to compete for a while but having the registration paid for helps me prioritize the type of training I want to be doing at the moment.
  • Dinner routine — every night has a “type” that makes meal planning really simple (like Taco Tuesday). I’ve transitioned us to fall recipes that are more crockpot friendly so meal prep can be faster when we’re all coming back together. Plenty of leftovers for packing in bags too.
  • Grab-and-go breakfast — I think food is the hardest thing for me to let go of. I’ve grown accustomed to always knowing what my kids are eating. Egg bake and a nutrient dense baked oatmeal help us all get good food in a hurry. I’ll share our favorite recipes in a later post.
  • Daily sync-ups with the kids and with Eric when we all get home. We’re used to using each other for brainstorming, problem-solving, etc plus it pushes me to put my work into simpler terms and take an account of my time.
  • Reading fiction. This has surprised me but I’ve been listening to / reading fiction all summer and while I’ve had to push through the “obsessed” stage into a more casual habit I’ve really appreciated the chance to let my mind go on something else without it being television. We’re also reading a series with the kids and after a long season of not really doing bedtime reading together it’s nice to reconnect before sleep.
  • Morning reflection + desired outcomes. This includes some gratitude and positivity practice then wraps up with considering what steps I’ll take today to improve + move forward. Big thing here is that everyday I’m thinking about why I’m doing what I’m doing. This season will be hard on us as a family so each of us have to give our best to fight for the future we’ve decided to pursue. It won’t just land in our laps.
  • Finally, writing! I spent a big chunk of the last 6 years studying the effects of stress on the body and how to maintain wellness while going all-in. I’d like to spend time writing in real-time about our life as a high-performance team. And, ok, maybe I want to show my mom we really are doing well.

For each of us there are things that felt really hard 12-18 months ago but little by little we have become different people…in large part because when where you want to go excites you more than it scares you, a whole lot more becomes possible.

And maybe you also become less willing to let all the small stuff stand in your way.