Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Saturday, I was with my sister and her husband and her baby.  It is a family thing for them to go running together on Saturday mornings.  Er, well, the baby doesn't run.  And actually, I don't know if it's a thing but it was enough of a thing for my sister to tell me to bring running gear.

Anyway, I went with them.  When I found out they were planning on running or biking for 90 minutes, I panicked and offered to take over the care of the stroller (and baby) and the water and the car keys, of course.

The result was that I jogged along at a snail's pace pushing the baby stroller on this biking/running trail.  Meanwhile, my sister ran on ahead and then returned every so often to get a drink of water and check on me and the baby before running on ahead again.

I was pretty sure that it took me 30 minutes to get through each half mile which was about the time that my sister would show up at the stroller again to get a drink of water.  When I told her how slow I was running, she just laughed.  The baby slept for most of the run but about halfway through, she woke up and started chattering in her baby talk.  So I would talk back to her, "Wow, that's so interesting.  Really?  Are you sure?  That's hilarious."  Which got me some weird looks from some bikers and runners but no more odd than the looks I got when I was reviewing Japanese vocabulary.

However, the most interesting part of the run was how other people treated me.  Whenever someone passed, they would make a point to glance into the stroller to make sure there really was a baby there or perhaps to simply check out how adorable she was.  People who passed me by going in the opposite direction would look up from the stroller to give me a nod as if to say, "Good for you, getting out after having that baby."  Some of them would even glance over my figure as if to gauge how I was progressing in my post-baby body.  One biker even congratulated me, "Way to go, Momma."

I just smiled and passed the compliment onto the real mom who was almost literally running circles around me.

But sure, let them believe that I gave birth to a baby who is as adorable as they get.  Sure, let them believe that I take care of that baby and can soothe her to sleep and still manage to find time to get in my exercise.  Sure, let them believe that the reason I was running so slowly was because I was getting back into shape after going through labor.

I'll take whatever misdirected compliments I can get.  :)  
Here is my niece, exhausted and in need of a nap, with her pacifier and bear.  
Any compliments she got were well deserved, right?  I love her so. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yes, We Are Engineers

About an hour after the two holes that were to compose our great plan to fix the vacuum pumps were completed, I managed to squeeze myself in between two walls and get myself not only covered in oil (becoming a regular thing now) but my entire front covered in grime.

This has been my day and the kinds of conversations we've had.

Tech: It's kind of like a torture chamber.  There is no possible way to be comfortable in this tiny space.

Ed: Let me see your hands!
Me: <shows him my hands, palms up>  <I felt like a child getting inspected before receiving the ok to eat dinner>
Ed: Oh!  They're clean.
Me: Yep!  I washed them really well <thinking to myself> It's a good thing you didn't see the backs of my hands (which were not so clean)

Tech: We'll get this thing fixed up, so bob's your uncle.
Lab Partner: Bob's your uncle?
T: Yeah, it's a phrase.  Haven't you heard it before?
LP: No.
Me: Yes, I have.
T: She's heard of it.  It must be Japanese.
LP: What is that other reference to Uncle, you know with the wars?
Me and T: ??
LP: Oh yeah, Uncle Tom.
T: ??
Me: ??
LP: You know, Uncle Tom wants YOU to serve in the Army.
T: Oh, you mean Uncle SAM.  Haha, I was wondering what war you were talking about.
Me: I just assumed it was some reference to the Vietnam war.  Like GI Joe, except it's Uncle Tom.
LP: I think I was thinking about that book: Uncle Tom's Cabinet.
Me: Hahaha, Cabin, NOT Cabinet.
LP: Close enough.
T: No, I don't think Uncle Tom ever served as President.
Me: And now we know why you are in Aerospace Engineering.
T: You'd never make it as a historian...or a linguist.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rocket Science

Sometimes, I look at my job and just marvel.  How many other people have jobs like this?

Here's the setup:
My arms are covered in oil from my shoulders down.  My lab partner has a paper towel to his head to help stop the bleeding after bumping into the sharp edge from our lab.  We're discussing our professor's recent suggestion to getting access to the broken vacuum pump: demolish the wall.

Here's the conversation:
Lab person: We're going to be running a few tests on our shock tube.  We just wanted to warn you.  You'll hear two short beeps and then a long beep and then a boom.
Me: A boom?
Lab person: Yes, we would appreciate if you could rate the boom on a scale from 1 to 10.
Me: Does it matter where we are?
Lab person: Anywhere is fine.
Lab partner: Erin, you stay here.  I'm going up to our office then which is closer to the test.
Me: You have a bleeding head! Are you sure this is safe?
Lab partner: Anything for science.

Me sitting in our lab alone waiting for the beeps and the boom, and anticipating the worst.

(Don't worry - the boom was less scary than the waiting for the boom.  My lab partner rated the boom as a 2 from the office.  I rated it as a 1 from the lab.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There's This Thing

In a rapid turn of events, I found myself in possession of a 3/4 violin case yesterday.  It holds a ukulele.

What?  Why?  How?

My friend somehow convinced me to come to a ukulele meet up with her.  So I went.  We walked in to the room and I met the very nice leader who asked me if I had ever played ukulele before and I answered honestly, "Nope, I've never held a ukulele before in my life."

He gave me a look.  "Have you ever played a stringed instrument, like the guitar?"

I smiled.  "Yes, the guitar."

He smiled.  "Great.  Then the chords on a ukulele are just like the ones on a guitar but on the fifth fret."

I gave him a look.  I knew what he meant, but as a self-taught guitarist, it really did nothing to help me.

Thus started the two hour jam session with people who actually do play the ukulele.  I messed up a lot.  I misplayed the chords about every other chord.  And somehow, in the process, I also managed to sprain my wrist.

However, at the end of it, I looked at my friend and said, "So, where can I get this music book?"  She smiled at me.

"So, this is a thing for you now?"

I smiled back, "Yeah...I guess it's a thing."

And then I went home and a friend stopped by and picked up the ukulele and played it really well and even wrote her own songs.  Some lyrics included, "Erin is going places with her life.  She's going to make a really great wife."

So, yeah, it's a thing.  It's just maybe not MY thing.  But still, I have a month to practice so who knows?

On Monday, a famous ukulele player, Jake Shimabukuro is coming to Cville.  Here he is, playing the Bohemian Rhapsody.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Peace, Be Still

Did you know that the antithesis of peace as I've studied it in the scriptures is disorder?  It's not war.  It's not discord.  It's chaos.

I'm having another one of those days.  The type of day when you turn on your pumps and it makes a weird noise and somehow that leads to setting off the fire alarms and then having to explain everything to your lab's director and then again to the police department and to the fire department and to the university's facilities management.  (I wish I was making this up)

My life is in chaos.  I'm trying my best to keep it together but with every new thing that goes wrong in my lab, I feel like I'm grasping at straws.  I'm running out of time.  My lab is running out of money.  I'm running out of things I can fix (but not, apparently, running out of things that can break).  I'm so close (or so everyone tells me) and yet the fight is just getting harder.

I was given some advice the other day from my friend.  She said, "Have you ever tried to stop asking questions, stop trying to work things out and just sit?  Just take some time to be with God and just be still?"

I looked at my friend in surprise.  Sit still?  Do nothing?  While my life stumbles along on a crash course to who knows what?

Well, after what happened today, I'm mad enough to want to go kick something really hard.  I'm frustrated enough that I want to go to a dark corner and cry for days.  I'm crazy enough that I might just give what my friend suggested a try.

So, I'm off to the woods where crying, kicking acorns and rocks or simply just sitting can't hurt anything but certainly might help.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life May Not Be Easy But I Know You Can Make It

Dear Ryo-kun (I'm the one writing this blog; I can call you what I want),

You probably thought I forgot about you, huh?  Of course, you wouldn't hold it against me.  After all, we are very different in just about every aspect possible.  And doesn't it seem somehow easier to keep tabs on the flashy Shinji, the professional Honda or the philanthropic Hasebe?  And isn't it true that a person can only keep tabs on so many things at once?

But I didn't forget about you.  "I wonder how Miyaichi is faring," I wondered.  Not well, it seems.  You smashed up your ankle in a game for Wigan.  I was saddened to see the picture of you writhing in pain on field.  (Part of me simply marveled that you always manage to look both cutely adorable and ruggedly handsome at the same time)

However, when I saw the picture of you on the stretcher, I just wanted to cry.  It's been a rough few years, hasn't it?  You signed with Arsenal in 2011 but you've been loaned out each year to a different team: Feyenoord, Bolton and now Wigan and your progress and growth as a player has been stunted with a string of injuries.  I'm sure things seem pretty bleak right now.

So, I did some more searching, kid.  I think you should know that a lot of people are rooting for you.  It seems everyone who watches you play or works with you falls in love with you.  We all want you to succeed.  We all want to see you show the world what you know you're capable of, what we know you're capable of.

Don't give up.  It's a fight but you're strong enough to overcome it.  It's a struggle but you're resilient enough to come off conqueror.

One day, may we both look back at this time and remember: to be tested is to be shown what we're really made of.


P.S. I may be writing to Ryo-kun but the sentiment extends to all of my dear friends who are struggling or feeling tested.  I'm rooting for you.  Please, please, never give up.   You can make it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

National Poetry Month

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  I didn't, until one of my English co-teachers told me about it.  We read Billy Collins in class today and loved it.

Then we divided everyone up to work on their own poems.  The results were amazing.  I wish I could have gotten a copy of them all.  (I should have asked.)

So, all I have is the poem I wrote.  I wasn't planning on writing one because writing takes a lot of energy and thought.  But since my students were working on it, I felt that I owed them my best effort as well.

Here it is:

Why My PhD is Difficult

There is a bug
that lives on the windowsill in my office.
All day long he and I work
at our respective jobs.

I move the files
from one drive to another;
organize them; compile them,
and prepare them to be analyzed.

He moves around on the window,
up and down, left and right,
trying to find a way to the outside.

Every so often he falls,
landing on his back
and struggles relentlessly to turn himself over.

I take pity on him
and hold out my pen so he can grasp it.
The moment I take it away,
he falls back down again.

I put my pen down on the windowsill.
I sit back now,
watching him pick himself up,
and make the trek back to the window,
to start his journey once again.

When he falls again,
I look at him understanding how he must feel.

I am not sure who is more productive.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jumbles of Thought

It's a copy and paste game with my files right now...which means a lot of waiting around.

So, I'm looking around me and finding old notebooks and opening them.  I keep notebooks like some people keep purses; everything goes in them.  Personal thoughts, school notes, beginnings of short stories, scriptures - you get the idea.  Opening one of my notebooks is like opening up my life for the few months I carried it around.  It's probably gibberish for most people who glance through it.  However, for me, I am immediately transported to where I was during that time.  I know what I was struggling with, rejoicing in, thinking about and focusing on.

Here are a few things that I found that I thought might be worth sharing:

From my "Japan" notebook - written while in a lecture from a woman who was born without hands and still managed to obtain an education and get married and raise children:
"There is something so beautiful about the tenacity of the human spirit to change one's circumstances, one's prospects and one's life.  There is something absolutely miraculous in the power of love to motivate ourselves  and others around us to change themselves and their lives."

From my "Japan" notebook - an excerpt of a story I started on the bus and never finished:
"My mother had a weakness for sleeping people; she could never pass a sleeping person without feeling the need to take care of them.  People who fell asleep on the couch in our house would often wake up with a blanket tucked around them, or to a cool fan blowing on them, depending on the weather.  Strangers in the park or in buildings might wake up to find a treat she would purchase at a nearby convenience store.  I always wondered what other people thought of my mother's interesting habit..."

I call it the "Korean" notebook because hangul accompanies these pictures throughout

From my "Korean" notebook - written in a church meeting:
"If I were to fail out of my PhD...then the Atonement is still real."

From my "Korean" notebook -
"Dear Makoto,
  Thank you for making a difference.
     For believing that you can make a difference.
        For inspiring others to believe they can as well."

The pictures in my "Korean" notebook are so cute

From my "Japan" notebook - from a Mormonism panel given at UVa
Fiona Givens: "Mortality is educative, not punitive."

From my "Japan notebook" - from notes on a talk I was working on but never gave
"After Christ died in Jerusalem, the American continent suffered great upheaval - earthquakes, fires, whirlwinds and tempests - followed by utter darkness for three days.  In the midst of that darkness, those who survived the destruction, heard a voice.  That voice was the voice of Jesus Christ and he pleaded with them, "Will ye not now return to me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?"  (3 Nephi 9:13)  Think a a moment about that situation.  Cities have fallen into the sea, been covered up by mountains, been swallowed up in the earth.  I'm sure many of those survivors sustained injuries, large and small.  The earth was broken up and the scriptures say, "insomuch that the [earth was] found in broken fragments and in seams and in cracks."  (3 Nephi 8:18)  All of the physical damage can be used as an analogy to show the emotional and spiritual damage these survivors suffered as well.  Broken earth is a terrifying reminder of damage but so also are broken families, home, relationships and hearts.  Physical injuries must be attended to but so are the internal emotional wounds inflicted by others or even ourselves through destructive choices or habits or trials.  When Christ, the Master Physician asked to heal them, to what was he referring?  Well, everything.  All of it.  He wants to heal all of our injuries, all of our wounds, all of our sufferings."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Please Teach Me

I'm out of things to say right now.

I look around my life and realize that I want a new perspective.  I want to learn something new about this dear world of ours.

In fact, I want to learn something so new that I haven't even heard anything about it.

So, I ask you, to please suggest subject matters for me to start investigating.  Please think of the types of subjects that you may know a lot or something or even nothing about but something that you think that I will never have even heard of.