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Becoming Ariel

You got your own style, now let it come through. And remember no matter what, you got to be you” -Sebastian (Little Mermaid TV show).

Over the course of my university education (undergrad and grad school), I’ve found that I gravitate toward outreach opportunities. As an undergrad I led tours of our university’s touch tank facility (and loved pretending we were ‘divers’ when we squatted down low to see the tanks from an ‘underwater’ view) and in grad school was a “star” 3 years in a row at our open house ocean themed puppet shows. Something about educating the young and dressing up as fun characters while singing about the ocean, makes my heart sing too. When I started my fellowship, I wasn’t sure how much of this type of outreach I’d be able to do, so like the saying goes “sometimes you have to make your own job”. And that’s how I became a mermaid at the State Fair.

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I did a brief recap of this experience in “Goodbye Grad School, Hello Fellowship“, but I thought I’d share more about my spent time as a mermaid.

Becoming Ariel

Mermaid4When we fellows were asked if we were interested in tabling a booth at the State Fair in the Beach Buddy Adventure Exhibit, I jumped at the chance to do some outreach.  A couple of us ended up going out to visit with the head lady of the Beach Buddy Exhibit area to get a tour.  Seeing the small waterfall, “sandcastle” in the making, and stations teaching about threats to the ocean (ocean acidification, trash, oil spills etc…) I sort of jokingly/not jokingly said “I have a mermaid costume, would I be able to dress as a mermaid when I table?”.  We all kind of laughed, but it planted a neat idea because it would be cool to have a mermaid 🙂 So I worked out the logistics, got permission (the head lady of the exhibit was actually SO excited about it) and worked out a suitable, family friendly mermaid outfit.  Which meant, NOT using the top I made for Halloween a few years ago.

I thought I could use the skirt at least, but having done more Body Pump and cycling, my lower body has more muscle than back then, so it was uncomfortable to walk/sit in (still fit, but WAY too tight).  So, I made a new mermaid skirt from scratch (with blue, shiny, scaly fabric), got a cute sparkly tank from Amazon, and a FABULOUS wig from Amazon as well (only $17!).

State Fair Go-ers Reactions

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I got a range of responses when kids met me, everything from extreme shyness (yes I am a stranger, so I understand their reluctance) to full on smiles and chatting me up! Most people though, were actually SO excited to see a mermaid, especially little girls who love the movie “The Little Mermaid”.  Just wearing a purple top and having long red hair meant I was automatically branded as “Ariel”. While I was trying to go for an Ariel-like mermaid, I was still surprised at how many little girls would shout and point “It’s Ariel, its Ariel!”, while dragging their parents over to get a picture with me.

Have to say, it was quite awesome being a bit of a “celebrity”.  I also brought along my best friend Flounder, who was in fact, more of a celebrity.  When I asked the kids if they wanted to hold Flounder and get a picture with him in front of the CA Coast whale plate, many interpreted my motion of handing Flounder over to them as “I-get-to-keep-Flounder”. Lol. Then parents had to tell them to give my best fishy friend back to me. Sometimes I asked the kids if they wanted to say hi to Flounder, and many would actually say “Hi” and wave to him. So cute!

Some kids and adults asked why Ariel was at the state fair. So I would tell them that “I’m here on behalf of the Thank You Ocean campaign to help share Everyday Actions you can take to help protect my home, such as using a reusable water bottle and and carrying reusable bags to the grocery store”. When I made those suggestions, I would point to my Ariel reusable bag and a flowery metal canteen.  Since there were so many people passing through, that’s about the extent of messaging I could get across before something more exciting caught their attentions, like the bald eagle or sea otters (who can blame them, eagles and otters are super cool!).

TYO_statefairThe Flipside of Becoming Ariel

Many of the adults that made comments said things like “I love Ariel, can I get a picture?” or “My friend loves Ariel, she is going to be so jealous when I show her I got a picture with you!”. It really was fun to see that Ariel still holds a place in people’s hearts as adults (like me!). However, sometimes I would get the occasional comment (and very rarely mind you) to the effect of “You’re not a real mermaid”, sometimes pointing out “flaws” in my costume, sometimes joking, but other times it didn’t feel like joking the way it came off.  My main response was “Well I have my Masters of Science in Marine Science, so I’m about as close to a mermaid as you can get” while smiling and then turning my attention to people coming into the exhibit. However,  I was a bit sassy to one guy in my reply. When he said “Well you’re not a real mermaid” a bit snarkily, I quickly responded by saying “Well you’re not real nice” in a light tone and a full smile. When he was no longer in earshot, the person I was tabling with laughed so hard! She said “Ariel has some attitude! It was so funny how polite you were when you said it!”.

My thoughts in my head during comments like this: I know I’m not a mermaid, I’m here to spread the message of protecting our oceans and to do outreach with kids. I do know that my costume isn’t perfect, I purposefully made a functional and practical skirt to comfortably walk and sit in during the fair (knowing it would be and was 90+ degrees out).  If I were “locked in” to a “real mermaid tail”, what would happen if I needed to use the restroom (farther than hopping distance away)? Would someone wheel me in a wheel chair or carry me? Not unless I had my very own  prince Eric 🙂 , which would actually be awesome! This song line kept running through my head during those times: “Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade!” -Don’t Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl

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I’m SO GLAD I got to be a mermaid ‘for real’ (aka being Ariel = dream realized!). Also, I wasn’t the only Disney connection at the fair, the C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters at the front off the State Fair entrance were actually donated by Disneyland CA Adventure to the State Fair in 2012! Pretty cool 🙂

And for all of you wondering, yes I will be Ariel at the Princess Half Marathon in February. Ariel with legs!

“Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun. Wanderin’ free, wish I could be, part of that world.” – Little Mermaid “Part of Your World” lyrics.

Goodbye Grad School, Hello Fellowship!

“Your off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss. Through my fellowship, I’ve found my mountain and it’s called Sacramento (even though ironically I’m in the northern region of the Central Valley).

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Top: Large sturgeon fish at Sterling Caviar farm facility. Sacramento is the caviar capitol of the world! Bottom Left Tomales Bay Oyster Co. mudflat:, white “sticks” are where the oyster bags are attached. Bottom Middle: Manila Clams and Pacific Oysters (far back in red bags). Bottom Right: Hog Island Oyster sign for their Hog Shack.

When I first moved here to start my fellowship with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Aquaculture Program, I had no idea what awaited me. The first week was a flurry of meetings, new faces, and new subject matter for a biological oceanographer in an aquaculture world. I had to become versed in the kinds of aquaculture conducted in California, the aquaculture initiatives in place, and related legal documents like EIR’s (Environmental Impact Reports) along with the associated CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirements.

While it has been a bit of a steep learning curve, I’ve embraced the challenge and have already gained an immense amount of knowledge regarding aquaculture, related regulations, and the permitting process. While part of that was “behind the desk” type learning, the “real life” learning was a result of attending shellfish grower’s conferences and visiting shellfish and fish farms alike. As someone who’s never seen “aquaculture” in action before, it was very exciting!

Related Opportunities

CA Sea Grant fellows have the opportunity to work with and contribute to the Thank You Ocean Campaign (NOAA). Their mission is to increase ocean awareness by promoting everyday actions that protect the ocean via their website, social media and outreach events. So far I’ve helped update website content, posted content to their twitter and Facebook pages, and helped their outreach efforts.

My hands down favorite experience was working the Thank You Ocean table at the State Fair Beach Buddy Adventures exhibit. For a couple weekends, I was a “spokes-mermaid” for the booth and loved teaching kids about ocean friendly everyday actions they could implement. It did help that I was allowed to make and wear a costume to purposefully resemble a certain iconic red headed mermaid 🙂 Teaching and outreach are passions of mine, so I’m extremely pleased to have found a way to incorporate those into my fellowship. (P.S. I made the blue skirt!)

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Loved it when kids would say “Look its Ariel!” or wave back when I waved at them. One even asked “Can I visit your castle?” and I said “I’d even love to visit my castle”. Another girl (about 5yrs old) said she loved my hairstyle (her words) and pointed out that I have alot of freckles, lol. Kids are so cute!

Outdoor Activities

Even though I’ve otherwise lived my entire life within one mile of the ocean (confirmed via Google Earth), I’ve embraced what the state capitol has to offer. And as you know, I’ve been taking full advantage of what the state capitol has to offer fitness wise: REI Outdoor School, sprint triathlons in a lake (not the ocean), stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and SUP yoga!

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It feels so refreshing to finally do all the things I didn’t have the time, money or energy to do while in school. I know you all don’t really know what grad school was like for me (other than the fun things I posted like tours and puppet shows) since I really haven’t and likely won’t blog about the emotional side of my thesis journey. It was to say the least, tumultuous.  I can tell you all that I am glad I successfully completed a thesis that allowed me the opportunity to gain a very current and useful skill to the modern world (coding in MATLAB), successfully defended my thesis, and successfully completed all the requirements to earn my Masters in Marine Science.  And now, here I am now moving on to the wonderful things that await me in the world 🙂

My CDFW supervisor has encouraged me to take advantage of all the opportunities that this fellowship has to offer, so that I get the most out of my time here both at our agency and in Sacramento. I am truly grateful for his support because as a whole, I’ve been given the chance to meet all kinds of people, to travel to new places and to expand my life experiences. I’m a mermaid who’s found her mountain and I know that I’ll encounter even more wonderful things on the way to its peak.

REI Outdoor School: Intro Road Cycling and Sunset SUP Yoga

Hey all! I’ve been SO BUSY FINALLY living life again after grad school that I have so much to catch you all up on! Today I’ll start filling you in on some awesome REI Outdoor classes I took in June!

Intro to Road Cycling 6/8

Since I got real road bike in Jan, I thought this would be a good class to take to learn more tips on how to improve form, get questions answered about training and what to look for in new gear (clip ins, shoes, and maybe a new bike sometime next year….). Not only did I get ALL of that, but I ended up being the ONLY person in the class! (Disclaimer: this is NOT a normal thing to happen, but I’ll explain how this amazing chance occurred below!)

Originally there were 3 people signed up for the class (including myself). When I arrived, apparently one person dropped out after the 48hr drop period ended and the third person was running late.  When the 3rd person arrived, she took one look at us and said, “You look like legit bikers, I was signed up for this class as a gift and I think they signed me up for this as a mistake. I don’t even know how to ride a bike.” Long story short, that person was transferred to the other “Intro to Biking (How to Ride a Bike for Adults)” class going on that day, while my instructor and I went on a near 30 mile bike ride.

We went along the American River Trail, did some street riding, and stopped a couple places along the way for breaks (cuz riding hard in running shoes = feet fall asleep).  My instructor and I rode side by side most of the time at a good clip, but still able to hold a conversation. He told me all kinds of tips about riding, answered all the questions I had, and told me that my bike is a bit short (lengthwise) for my body. He said its fine for now, but I “sit up” a bit more than usual.

Who this class is for: If you have NEVER been on a road bike before, are pretty new to biking rules of the road, have a beginner fitness level etc… this class is for you. Normally, the ride is 6 miles out, stop for hour lecture, 6 miles back. Had I known, I would have taken this class in Jan when I was given this hand-me-down bike.  Since I’ve been riding and had already done a sprint triathlon on this bike, if this class were like “usual”, it would have been too slow paced for me, especially since I would be among 7 other people of a variety of fitness levels.

Sunset SUP Yoga 6/28SunsetSUPYoga

What is SUP? SUP = Stand Up Paddleboarding. What is SUP Yoga? Doing yoga on a paddle board! You work your core SO MUCH MORE! If you love yoga and are looking for a new challenge, try SUP Yoga! I LOVE IT!  This class was held at Willow Creek at a local State Park (had to pay to park) from 6:30-8:30 in the evening, but it was still 90 degrees out (so hot…).

How the class is structured: First we had introductions, all 15 of us: 1 yoga instructor, 1 safety officer, 13 students. Our yoga teacher had us break the ice by sharing our “guilty pleasure”. Many people said food types or shows, but I said “I’m taking guitar lessons to specifically learn how to play and sing all the Taylor Swift songs”, which people seemed to like. Yes I like Taylor Swift 🙂 And guitar lessons is another thing I need to blog about…. Anyway after ice breakers we were briefed on how to properly use a life vest, paddle board, carrying equipment in/out of the water, rules etc.. This took maybe 30-40 min.

Then it was time to get in the water! There are bungee cords attached to the top of the paddle board, so you can carry gear like water bottles, strap your shoes underneath when you are on the board etc. Very handy! Since this is a SUP yoga class, we only paddled out maybe 100 yards near a little rock island area to start our yoga class. We only use the life vests to paddle out and back, not during our yoga session (so it goes under the bungee in the meantime).

It was SO awesome being on the water, feeling the breeze, water at your finger tips (during some modified poses) and it is way more challenging to do balance poses! A few people fell in during the course of the class (all in good fun) and it was kind of funny going into a warrior pose and then hearing “Splash” “giggle”. We did about a full hour of yoga and then at the end, she opened up the opportunity for people to do headstands/forearm balance poses on the paddle board.  Honestly this is probably the best place to practice that since you fall into water instead of on the hard ground. I didn’t want to be soaking wet on the ride home, so I opted out, but my next SUP Yoga class is in the morning followed by an intro to SUP class right after, so I’ll be sure to try then! (and I’ll be dry by the time I go home)

Who this class is for: Anyone looking to expand their yoga horizons!

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Why you should take REI Outdoor School classes:

  • After each class you get 20% off coupon for REI or Novara brand item (no expiration!) after you fill out the class survey (rank quality of course, content, instructors).
  • Discounted classes for members (usually $20+ off depending on the class). So join here (one time $19 cost)!
  • Annual refund: For certain full priced items purchased, you get 10% back, so it all adds up! Like GUs!
  • Learn a new skill or hone one you are looking for additional instruction!
  • Meet new people and have fun!

Depending on your area, you might have lots of classes offered or a limited selection. Being in Sacramento, I’m fortunate to have access to ALL kinds of classes, whereas in the Monterey Bay area, they didn’t offer much at all (they had maybe 2 types of classes and not very frequently). So check out your local area on REI Outdoor School Classes online here.

Future Classes I’ll blog about:

  • Morning SUP Yoga
  • Intro to SUP
  • Sunset SUP tour

Have you ever taken an REI Oudoor School course?

Sad Reality of Having an Elderly 3 Legged Dog

Hello everyone, while I won’t get into what I personally have been up to since moving I did want to give an update on my dog Chloe.

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Quick history on how Chloe lost her leg: Chloe was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma in her back left leg in July 2010.  Due to large tumor and being intwined to her leg ligaments, amputation was the best option. Local lymphnodes indicated the cancer had not spread and we had been living cancer free for the past 3.5 years.

The not so fun update:  About two weeks ago before I moved north to start a year long fellowship (unfortunately she won’t be living with me due to last minute offer of this position, she will be staying with my mom for now), she developed a large round lump on her right front paw (literally within a few weeks). It felt more solid than her other lipomas and wasn’t discolored (her fur looks normal growing over it).  Last Friday (her 13th birthday) I took her to the vet for an early yearly checkup (usually in May) to aspirate the lump. I figured it wouldn’t hurt just to do a full senior exam (physical, urine, poop, blood) since we were already there.

Diagnosis #1: During the physical exam, the vet diagnosed Chloe with a heart murmur grade 2/3ish.  He wanted a chest xray to see what might be the cause.  The xray revealed she has a large heart for her size (but we already knew that in the emotional sense 🙂 ).  The vet explained that she could have always had a heart murmur (grade 1) that wasn’t discernible till now as a congenital thing or has a genetic predisposition for developing one in her older years.  While there is nothing to be done for a heart murmur (if her’s got worse medications would be an option), I do have to monitor her for any unusual sneezing, coughing, increased resting respiratory rate, early fatigue in a routine walk, and loss of appetite or fluids.  Last night I started a baseline for her resting respiratory rate and will do for another few days to get an averate. I recorded 16 breaths per minute which is a good sign since it normal for any dog. However, if her norm increases to above 30/minute, it means her murmur has progressed in a bad way.  The good news is that she is otherwise allowed to continue her regular routine walking around the block (1/2 mi) every day and taking naps.

Results of tests: Good news is that the bloodwork came back saying that she is still a healthy dog for her age. Bad news is that the lump has a good chance of being malignant.

Surgeon Consultation 

This evening I was on speaker phone with my mom and the surgeon regarding Chloe’s potential surgery.  After examining her (they took her to another room) the vet surgeon outlined these options:

1. Maximum Tumor Removal with Open Wound: excise as much as possible with 1cm margins and leave open wound that would take ~2months to heal. Best option if no follow-up with radiation, since radiation cannot be performed on an open wound (anywhere from another 2.5-8 grand). Highly aggressive surgical approach.

2. Some Tumor Removal with Wound Closure: excise a large portion of the tumor with enough left over skin to close the wound. Best option for follow up radiation treatments.  Conservative surgical approach.

My mom said she is willing to manage the open wound if I chose that route and considering the extraordinary cost of radiation, I’d rather cut off as much as possible now and give her the best chance in that scenario.  Also, the vet surgeon had a cardiologist listen to Chloe’s heart murmur and diagnosed it as a grade 4-5.  The vet surgeon said that they perform surgeries on dogs with that grade heart murmur all the time and it is just a matter of changing the procedure.  She did recommend having Chloe getting an echocardiogram in order to diagnose the cause to get a better idea of how to proceed during surgery, which they did this evening as well.

Results of that test was that it was ok for surgery. Apparently she has some atrial valve leakage, so we need to watch for coughing etc like I outlined before. Good news is that the cardiologist says Chloe doesn’t need meds for as of right now, only if it gets worse.

The Decision

Chloe will be going in for surgery tomorrow for option #1 and depending on her recovery, might be able to go home tomorrow (Friday) evening. Biopsy results will be available about 5 days after her surgery, so late next week.

My Thoughts

When faced with the possibility of cancer again, I had initially prepared myself to do nothing. What would the chances be that it would be another semi-treatable cancer like her previous? Apart from her heart murmur (which dogs can live normal lives with for years), she is healthy and has a good quality of life.  I want to minimize the amount of times she has to go to the vet/major procedures and can’t afford radiation, so I’m hoping that either 1. Biopsy reveals its benign.   2. Biopsy reveals low grade tumor with prognosis of ~2yrs since it will likely grow back. 3. Biopsy reveals low grade tumor and all microscopic cells were removed during surgery (nothing grows back).

Part of me wonders if the tumor will come back or not, but if it does, I’ve already decided its not worth playing a cat and mouse game trying to keep removing it.  This will be the one shot and if it works, great, if not, well as long as she is still healthy and happy, that’s all I can ask for. Its hard to know how long she would live in either situation, whether the tumor wouldn’t impair the time she had left or if removing it actually had a life prolonging effect (in a quality way, not just quantity).  If she still had all four legs, I would amputate again in a heartbeat since it has been over 3.5 years since her other (likely) exact same type of tumor appeared.  I’m convinced that the biopsy will be reveal the same as before, a low grade peripheral nerve sheath tumor, and that she must have a genetic predisposition for this type of soft tissue sarcoma (possible).

It’s sad to think about her life now on a shorter timeline, but I do have to remind myself that I have been able to give her every dog’s dream for the past 3.5 years she’s lived with me during grad school.  We have been able to spend most of every day together since I lived close to campus, she’s been my travel companion even on errands (since weather is so moderate along the coast) and has enjoyed countless hours walking along the beach. For every medical issue we’ve encountered, I can let her go knowing I’ve done all I can to make sure she’s gotten the best care.  She’s been spoiled with lots of obnoxious squeaky toys, treat balls and love.  Its hard to deal with the fact that she is getting old and won’t be around forever, but I know my mom will take wonderful care of her until I can find a different living situation (if she lives a lot longer).   I’ve told Chloe during our time in grad school that she has to live a healthy life until she is at least 15 and then is allowed to go to her final rest.  Fingers crossed this is benign or low grade/non metastasizing and allows her to keep on enjoying senior life on three legs.

Hugs to all you folks who have lost a beloved pet.  Chloe has been the first pet I’ve developed such a close bond to and I don’t like to think about her not physically being here any longer. I’ll keep you all updated as events unfold. Thank you all again for being such a wonderful community to be a part of, through the good times and otherwise.

Here’s a video celebrating last year’s ampuversary. I hope I can make at least one more this July for her 4yr ampuversary.

Quarter Century Birthday Recap!

So my birthday was last week, but I’ve been SUPER busy with training, thesis, work, fellowship application and life that I’m only now getting around to a recap of how I celebrated my quarter century birthday!

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Call me crazy, but I woke up at 5:30am for my weekly duathlon training (too tired to do it Sunday). Before I headed out, my mom and grandma called me up to sing me Happy Birthday over the phone 🙂

Instagram_birthday13Once the sun came up, it was time for training:  run, bike, run. It was a beautiful morning for sure! Plus I rocked my early-birthday-present-to-myself rainbow cat print leggings (which Jen ‘loves’ so much based her comments, hahaha) just because I could!  After a nice long stretch sesh and a shower, I headed down to  Sand City’s outdoor mall area to do some birthday and costume shopping!

Got a cute pair of spandex booty shorts from Target (on sale for $10), but goodwill for costume inspiration was a bust 😦 I normally hit the one in Santa Cruz (opposite direction) which is much bigger. P.S. later that week I scored an awesome find and I’m almost done with my Halloween costume! More to come in October!

IMG_5216After shopping it was down to Carmel to get my FREE bundtlet  from Nothing Bundt Cakes! I only signed up for their email services a few weeks ago after I bought and redeemed a Groupon. Apparently they are JUST starting to do this free bundtlet on your birthday deal!  I showed them my email printout and ID, picked out a red velvet choco chip bundtlet and saved it for that evening!

It was getting close to lunchtime, so I stopped by Safeway grocery to pick up lunch for Chloe and I to eat on Carmel beach.  Loaded with a chair, lunch and beach stuff, Chloe and I walked to the perfect spot to enjoy the scenery for an hour or so. I took this opportunity to catch up on some Runners World reading.

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Once home, I lounged a bit and in the evening, opened my cards and present from my housemate! Since my housemate was out of town working, I called my mom and grandma on conference to have them sing Happy Birthday again as I blew out the candles (as well as thank them for the cards/gifts they sent).  Then my next door neighbor hosuemate unexpectdly came over and took me out to dinner, which was very nice since my birthday was on a weekday and most of my closest friends were far away.  Overall I just took a day for myself, which was enjoyable, but its always nice to have a real person (other than Chloe) to spend a portion of it with!

Birthday_collage_2It felt like a weeklong celebration because a few days later my dad sent me a nice box of Peets tea and coffee goodies and Cascadian Farm sent me a box of their products as well! Thank you family, friends, blends and Cascadian Farm for making a milestone birthday a real treat! P.S. yes I did buy myself an entry to the Big Sur Half in Nov… I figure I might not have the opportunity to do it again for a long time and their medals have a cute little sea lion on them!

Next on the agenda, the Mermaid Duathlon in less than 2 weeks (Oct 6th)!