My Addiction to Office Supplies Goes Outdoors

New school supplies still make me happy. When I started college as an engineer, I graduated from loose leaf paper and spiral notebooks to logbooks. I learned that a scientist has to use a bound book so that evidence is documented in a tamper-proof way. I liked that. Ok, I loved that! Then, I discovered logbooks with page numbers and graph paper pages. Ah, heaven. Soon I justified buying a scale instead of a plain ruler and next thing you know I had a few French curves and a lot of colored pencils to my name.

Now, as I prepare for my journey to Iceland (sounds awfully adventurous!) I was instructed to buy a geological field book. This notebook, my professor explained, would be turned in for grading at the end of the course. It needs to have accurate drawings (uh oh) and be kept in chronological order documenting all of the sites we visit. The date, GPS coordinates, and observed weather must be recorded along with geological observations.

I ordered my notebook online. I learned that there are many profession-specific field books. They are rain-proof, as long as you use a pencil or a waterproof pen. I scoped out the proper notebook and added two mechanical pencils, one red and one black. I wanted blue and maybe even green and yellow, but they didn’t offer anything but black and red. I also found a cover to keep the notebook and pencils together.Geologic Fieldbook

Looking at this notebook, the epitome of all scientific notebooks, I think about why I am so drawn to it. The empty notebook is a new beginning, the blank pages waiting to be filled with new experiences. Back in college, I began each new semester as an adventure and a challenge. It was tough going and as I progressed through the years, I started to count down the remaining semesters at each new start. Better to just enjoy the journey, tough as it may be.

My new notebook has a table of contents. I like the orderliness of this. Life is chaotic, but with this notebook, this one aspect of my life will be chronicled in an orderly way. Built into the back of the book are twenty pages of reference materials. These aren’t the random references that some notebooks capture, but information very specific to geology. When I am out in the field, with no internet, this will be my only reference. It’s nice to know that most of the basics are already at hand. Before I leave, I will add references of my own, particularly a map of Iceland.

Opening up the notebook, I find that each left-hand page is a blank table and each right hand page is graph paper. I wonder if my observations will fit neatly into this format. I doubt it, but this is where I need to be flexible. Hidden in the back of the notebook, I find a treasure…a scale! It’s flat and waterproof with an arrow and a big N. In the field, I can set it next to a geologic feature and point it north. Then when I take a photo of the feature, I will know its exact size and orientation.

It’s often said that planning a vacation is more fun than the actual trip. I hope that they are equally pleasurable, but I do know that I am enjoying the preparations for my next adventure. I have my precious notebook and I intend to follow up with my professor to get it back after he grades it. I am already making plans to take his fieldwork class next year…Cypress or Puerto Rico.

Who knew that a passion for notebooks could mesh with my newly unleased passion for adventure! Find the Joy in the Journey…What’s your next adventure?


No Such Thing As A Typical Day

Today wasn’t a typical day, there is no such thing  for me lately. It was a day full of family, full of work, full of school, and full of complications.

I started out with an early meeting by calling in while I packed my lunch. I packed my backpack for school, including a protein bar, and decided to leave it at home to pick up later. At work, I was immersed immediately.

This week, my global colleagues are in town, so my focus turned toward them and their reason for being here. Simultaneously, I had to focus on a crisis. Oh, then there was my normal job…and some people-related projects that I needed to complete.

E-mail got the triage treatment and so did meetings. I went from meeting to meeting, ending up in a personnel meeting. I had carpool duty to get my daughter and her friend from basketball practice, but I couldn’t leave until I’d given my input on a particular issue.

When I got out of the office it was a quarter past four. Snow started falling as I walked to my car. I had to scrape some ice off of my car and I started worrying about the roads. I hit the highway during rush hour traffic and the snow continued to fall. Traffic crawled along. I called in to my next meeting, and my next. I arrived at my daughter’s school after five.

The girls were hungry, and wanted to stop for pizza, but I was trying to get to my own school by 6. I called into my final meeting of the day and dealt with even worse traffic and weather. I told my daughter that I didn’t really want to go to school…I hate being late. She, of course, told me that I had to go…no excuses! She got a kick out of throwing my own words back at me. After dropping the girls off and having my daughter run in the house for my backpack, I slowly drove to school a few miles over slippery roads. I was over half an hour late.

I slipped into the classroom as the professor was showing some of the students a well screen. It didn’t seem as if I’d missed much. Perhaps class had started late. I was dreading another quiz…it still takes me quite some time to puzzle through my homework. I know that the quizzes are his way of gauging whether or not we understand what he is teaching us, but they are stressful none the less. I’ve finally realized that we will get a quiz every week, but that doesn’t make me any less stressed.

At first glance, the quiz was something I hadn’t been able to do on my homework and I started to feel some panic rising …but he’d just shown us a chart related to the problem and suddenly I realized that maybe I did understand how to do it. I got to work. I plotted my data, drew my line, found my constant, and started solving equations. I was careful with my unit conversions, something drilled into me way back in college. Finishing up, I looked around and I saw that I was the only one who was done.

The professor hurried over to check my work. He smiled and handed it back with a nod of approval. When others finished, he checked theirs and made comments like, “that answer is way too large” or “that answer is way to small”…mine, it seems was “just right”.

After class, I packed up my backpack and walked back to my car. I took a deep breath of the icy air and smiled. I’m getting it, I really am!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the wonder of a lifetime of learning!