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A lot is going to happen in my life in the next 90 days. I will complete my internship year at Coatesville. I will be extremely close, if not finished with my dissertation. I will almost be graduated with my PsyD. Maggie and I will be packing to move or have already moved to…somewhere. I will tackle P90X.

Internship has been a great experience overall. I have grown so much this year and learned a lot about myself professionally. Admittedly I was slow to adapt to the program and had to relearn a couple of things, but my professional confidence continues to grow and I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of many veterans.

My dissertation is stressing me out. I need 4 more participants and I am working to find them wherever I can. If you are yourself or know a gay male college student in the Philly area who might be interested in participating in my research on the coming out process, send me an email (jschwenker@spalding.edu) for details. Once I have the last 4 I can pull all my data together, analyze it, write it up, and get on defending to my committee. I’m ready to move this process along since my proposal was accepted by ISTSS for discussion at the 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Yay!!!

I’m not sure what our future holds. Everything is once again up in the air (or perhaps it has always been there). We’re currently stuck in PA paying really high rent while I scour the nation for a job or post doc that will take me ABD. Looking forward to a time when I can count on just a little bit more stability.

Finally, I have decided to tackle P90X. After 2 years of consideration and a lot of procrastination, I will begin the program next week. I’ve been auditioning the workouts the past couple of weeks, doing one to the best of my ability and taking a day or 2 off to recover. They’re difficult. No question. And I don’t think I would have made it through Plyo without having spent the last 90 days running and building up my stamina and leg strength. Plyo was rough, but I think the real challenges for me are going to be Abs, pull ups, and yoga.

I plan to approach this the same way that I did my running and, to borrow a phrase from Tony Horton, “do my best and forget the rest.” My goal is to complete the program. Do each routine from start to finish. Do all of the exercises. There are some exercises where I can keep up with Tony and the gang. There are others where I absolutely cannot, and that’s fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to do 25 of each type of crunch, but I am sure I can manage 10 and work my way up. The same goes for other exercises. I can do more than half of what they’re doing and work toward matching for the moment.

I plan on tracking my progress here for each of the phases (tracking my measurements anyway and maybe a few pics). I will be tracking my daily progress on Fitocracy now that I’ve managed to translate the P90X exercises into Fitocracy’s language. I have my calendar marked and my worksheets printed. I take my initial measurements tomorrow (Sunday) morning and I start fresh on Monday after work. All that is left is to do the work and stay focused, which applies to more than just my exercise.

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It takes the average person 90 days to implement a new habit. I talk about this process twice a week in the Biofeedback Clinic at work. We talk about stress management, relaxation training, breathing retraining, anger management, etc. “Skills not pills.” That sort of thing.

Research suggests that it takes about 3 months of consecutive effort to change a habit and/or replace it with something new. Research also says that we can change our brains and grow new neurons. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a good way to do this. Meditation is also. Exercise programs do 90 days (P90, etc.). Alcoholics Anonymous has a 90 meetings in 90 days program. This stuff works people.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to quote research here or provide links or references. I don’t feel like finding such things at the moment and my supervisor wouldn’t have built a career and a government funded program around something that didn’t have research support. Trust me on this one.

I have yet again fallen off the wagon, which is funny, because I was never really on a wagon so much as running down the street–literally. I started up P90 again and failed to be consistent. I have been mostly consistent with running on a weekly basis, but I got shin splints a couple weeks back and decided to rest up, which has made it hard to start back up again.

My strategy for running has been wildly variable. Some days I run for distance, other days for duration, and still others for speed. It mostly seemed like I was doing so on a whim, though I fed myself some logical exercisey reason that sounded like I knew what I was talking about. All it really did was add to my inconsistency.

And so, I submit to you here today my very simple plan to get back to being consistent…and staying that way:

Starting Monday, April 9th, I will run 30 minutes each day, for 90 consecutive days. My only rules are that I will run a minimum of 30 minutes each day. I can run outside, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, or whatever, but I have to do 30 minutes. It is tough to find an hour to run, this much I have found. Or at least it is easy to say an hour is too much of a commitment. Regardless, 30 minutes a day for 90 days. I met my last running goal, but it took me a lot longer to do than I had intended. I think this one is straightforward enough to work.

So that’s that. I will update a bit more regularly to keep my progress public and to hold myself accountable. It will also encourage me to write on my blog more, which I’ve been sorely neglecting. Which sucks really, since I had intended for the blog to be a way to communicate to everyone at home (read: friends and family) to know what I’m up to and how I’m progressing on lots of different things. That being said, here is a quick update on the things from my last post from January (/facepalm):

  • Update on my workout and running progress
See above.
  • Update on post docs
Struck out so far. Looking at other options and jobs. Post on this in the future.
  • Update on internship experience
Going well. One more month on my current rotations and ~5 months total left. Post on this in the future.
  • A post about living in PA
Wow. I need to get going on this. I also need to get out of the house.
  • Update on my dissertation
In denial. Don’t wanna talk about it. Future post.
  • Fantasy Football season post
Won some and lost some. If you’re really interested in this, comment below and I’ll post about it later.
  • Prolly a rant in there somewhere
You bet.
  • A post about food/cooking

Actually, I do want to post about this. I have been cooking a bit more lately. Expect a future post.

That’s all. Wish me well for my 90 day challenge. Let me know if you want to play along. Feel free to check in and follow my progress. I’m also posting on Runkeeper and Fitocracy. Message me on Facebook if you want to know my username(s), or click on links as they get posted to Facebook to follow my progress.

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Quick Update

It’s time for another one of those “it’s been a while since I updated” posts.

Enough said.

I will be updating more regularly soon. I am busy with internship, post doc applications, and dissertation. I’m really only writing this because I’m taking a break from writing cover letters for my applications.

Anyway, here is what you can expect in the coming weeks/months:

  • Update on my workout and running progress
  • Update on post docs
  • Update on internship experience
  • A post about living in PA
  • Update on my dissertation
  • Fantasy Football season post
  • Prolly a rant in there somewhere
  • A post about food/cooking

That’s it for now. I’m going to try to make this more of a habit.

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Smokey Kitty

This one’s gonna be a sad one folks.

Watching the birds.

When I was thirteen years old I got a kitten who was light grey in color and looked like he had stepped into and laid in white paint. Excluding the family dog Dingus and a small gerbil army, this was my first pet. I named him Smokey because of the color of his fur.

Early on he had a lot of energy and liked to pounce. He would run up and down the hallway and hide behind objects waiting for me to walk past so he could bite my ankles. Another of his favorite mischievous behaviors was to wait until I crawled into bed and pounce and nibble on my toes as I moved them under the covers. I also liked watching him stare out the large glass patio door at the birds flying around. I especially enjoyed when he would swat or pounce at them despite the glass barrier.

It wasn’t long before we acquired a second cat: Tigger. The two would chase each other and Smokey frequently showed the (slightly) younger cat who was boss. That’s when I started calling him the “old man.” Even though he was only about 2 years old, he had a quality about him that showed wisdom and respect. He reminded me a lot of an aged martial arts master who was quiet and calm but capable of taking on all comers.

I remember he had a big ear mite problem when he was younger and it led to him being touchy about his ears. Most cats will let you rub or pet their ears, and some even encourage you to do so, but he didn’t care for it. He would tolerate it in the moment and then shake his head back and forth as if shaking off water. I’ll admit, I was mean from time to time and rubbed his ears intentionally to frustrate him, but I also scratched under his chin frequently, which he loved.

Hanging out.

Smokey slept at the foot of my bed nearly every night I slept in that house. More specifically, he made a point to sleep between my legs which made it difficult to turn over without thwomping him. I blame a small percentage of my back problems to the fact that I slept in awkward yoga poses for most of my adolescence because of him. He did this every time I came to visit after leaving college for college as well. I’m told he adopted my mother after I left and frequently slept at her feet, as well as my brother and (at the time) little sister.

I stick my tongue out at you.

Smokey was a calm and quiet cat and seriously affectionate. He didn’t seem to have many of the more annoying personality traits that come with cats. He was rarely moody and not terribly shy, though he did like his isolation time. He rarely hissed at people and rarely left the front porch when we occasionally let him outside to see the birds for real. He would often sit next to people or perch over their shoulder and watch television, frequently grooming the person’s head in the latter case.

Whenever I would visit home while in college I would spend the first few moments after entering the house tracking him down and loving on him. I missed him a lot and even though I am living with other kitties (Zoie and Jasper), I still loved him and missed him. He helped us all through tough times and in a way represented a new beginning following my parents’ divorce. I watched him grow up alongside my sister who was born a year after we had Smokey–another new beginning.

Over the past year or so the old man has really been the old man. He was the oldest critter in my mothers house of 5 cats and a dog. He kept an eye on the younger critters and became a fixture in my mother’s home. He slept for long periods of time and spent a lot of time lounging in far corners of the house. He continued to be sociable, especially at bed time, but he was starting to show his age.

It starts getting sad here.

On the porch.

About a month ago I got a phone call from mom saying he was sick. He had developed tumors in his ears and throat. Mom cared for him of course as he began to decline steadily. He lost weight rapidly and his appetite waxed and wained. I went to visit him about 3 weeks ago and took some pictures. Even then he had lost about 3 lbs and was looking tired. The vet informed us that there was little we could do about his condition, even if we had caught it a year ago, and mom resolved to bring him home.

That’s the second time I’ve cried while typing this.

Smokey continued to decline and began to have difficulty moving around. Mom and I made one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make. I spent an hour with him at home sitting on the front porch Friday afternoon. I pet his soft fur and stroked his head and chin. I talked to him about a lot of things and told him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. We were surprised that he had hung on that long and mom had secretly hoped he would quietly pass away in the home. I realized that he was waiting for me. I have been traveling over the past 3 weeks and was unable to visit. He was waiting on me to say goodbye.

Mom and I were with him until the end. I don’t think either of us could have done it without the other.

Third time. Deep breath.

I miss him already. I tear up every time I think about visiting mom and knowing he won’t be there for me to find hiding in my sister’s room chilling out on her bed. He won’t be sitting on the couch grooming my hair. He won’t be sleeping between my legs at night. I won’t get to scratch him under his chin. I’ve honestly never felt grief like this before. No disrespect to family members who have passed, but this is as close to losing a sibling as I can imagine. I grew up with him and now he’s gone. I will never forget him.

Thanks to everyone who has given condolences and hugs. It means a lot to me. I look forward to seeing my kitties Zoie and Jasper and my wife Maggie real soon. I could use more kitty loving time and hugs.

Rest in peace Smokey. May 10, 1995 - May 6, 2011

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I’ve had a livejournal for years, mostly just for friends, but it occurred to me that I don’t update it all that frequently. I played with wordpress when I was writing a blog for my GW character (yes, I understand how sad it is that I updated that blog more regularly than the one about my real life). I really like the format of wordpress and I think I will move here and start over.

I’m making several changes in my life and I figure I should document them somehow. I will update this week about the progress on my PsyD, dissertation, internship, and other school related things. I will also update on my efforts to get healthier. I figure, since I’m starting a routine with working out and eating regularly, it can’t be too hard to update a blog on a regular basis.

That’s enough of an intro I guess. I need to update my “about” page and talk about what I want to, well, talk about on this blog. I intend to utilize this blog as a way for people to keep in touch with me and what I’m up to, as well as a forum for my random thoughts and interesting internet findings. I’d love to promote discussion, but I’m not sure who will be reading and, well, I’ve never done this sort of thing full out before. Wish me luck.

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