New Year, New Body

Our bodies are vast machines for storing: memories, toxins, dreams. What physical rhythms will you follow to loosen your scar tissue, heal old wounds, and stimulate the birth of new cells?

Last spring, I was a little workout machine. I successfully completed Insanity, even drove up to North Jersey to take a master class and meet Shaun T in person, and was staying very active. Then the summer hit, and after vacationing in Europe with my parents, I came back jet lagged and got lazy. Summer 2013 was mostly spent watching South Park episodes on my laptop in bed, which kept me laughing, but didn’t really help me much physically.

Then fall semester came, and I was in Richmond. My intentions were pure. I walked around the block to the Cary St. Gym, signed up for a membership, and tried to go at least twice a week. But then my father died in October, which brought me home for two weeks, and as you can imagine working out was the last thing on my mind. After that, I returned to VCU, where I played catch up and worked hard to complete my first semester as an Assistant Professor.

Now we’re halfway through the first month of 2014, and I’m getting my butt in gear again. I’m very happy to report that I’ve gone to the gym three days in a row this week, taking classes like “30-min abs” (left me SO SORE) and “Turbo Kick/Step” (left me very tired and sweaty). I have a plan to go 3-4 times a week and I’m committed to stay committed.

In addition, I also hope to get back into dancing again. I went to a couple of ballroom socials in the Richmond area, and they were delightful. This semester, I plan to go salsa dancing on Thursday nights with my friends, and I even joined a ballroom group I plan to check out in the upcoming weeks. Not only is dancing such a good workout, but it certainly feeds my soul. Ballroom was what kept me sane my last year of grad school; I probably wouldn’t have finished my dissertation if it weren’t for dancing. Plus it’s so much fun and I want to meet new people!

Finally, I’m trying to be more cognizant of what I put into my body. I’m trying to cut out soda, if not altogether (hello iced tea!) and I set a goal to cook meals more often (I’m on the right track, I went grocery shopping on Sunday and haven’t eaten out all week thus far, which is huge for me).

So there ya go – I’m making strides for a healthier, happier Rowena. Hopefully in six months I’ll still be on the right track, but only time will tell.

Gotta get back into my INSANE workout mode!

Gotta get back into my INSANE workout mode!

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Why I Love Hugs

Hugs: Touch is important in life. It helps to keep from feeling isolated and alone. It is quite important to emotional health. How many hugs daily do you give and receive? If this number is too low, how do you plan to change it? Who in your life could you hug more?

Those of you who know me know that I’m a pretty handsy person. I am very affectionate with my friends, both male and female. It should be no surprise that Physical Touch is a top love language for me. My touchy-feelyness has even gotten me in trouble with boyfriends in the past (whoops).

But I don’t know, I just can’t help it, I love putting my arm around someone, or patting their thigh, or playfully punching them. It helps me connect with people, and show that I care about them.

Out of all the things in the world though, there is really very little that I LOVE more than a good solid hug.

I LOVE giving hugs! And I LOVE receiving them even more.

I consider myself a very lucky lady, because I have quite a few friends in my life who excel at hugging, whose hugs lift my spirits almost instantly and make me feel all warm and gooey inside. 🙂

You can say so much with hugs. When you’re sad, a hug can show a person comfort and empathy. When you’re excited to see someone you haven’t seen in a while, a good hug shows how much you’ve been thinking about them and how much you’ve missed them. And that special tender hug, from that special someone, can make you feel like you’re the most loved person in the whole wide world, to the point where your heart bursts, because there’s so much love. *sigh* It’s so grand.

See why I love hugs so so much?

I’m not sure of my average in terms of daily hug distribution, but it’s most definitely on the higher end. In fact, just this past Sunday I went to a event for folks new to the Richmond area. We went bowling, and other than the friend who invited me, everyone else I had just met. By the end of the two-hour event, we were leaving and I gave all those people hugs goodbye. Those people I didn’t even know until just two hours prior. So there’s no doubt that I enjoy giving and receiving hugs quite immensely.

So friends, I challenge you to bring some more hugs into your day. It just might make you and your receiver’s day a little bit brighter.

See how happy hugs can make you?!

See how happy hugs can make you?!

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The last few years have seemed to be a real downer for everyone. So, indulge in the whiny and get it out of the way. There are some things we just can’t move on from until we’ve spent some time burning effigies. So, that’s what we’re going to do.

Tell us about a time when you’ve been heartbroken, angry, or even just annoyed. Tell us about something you just can’t seem to let go of or get over. Spread that grievous infection all around, and thin it out. Really lay into it. We’ll all feel better in the long run.

I’ll be honest, my heart kind of sank when I read this prompt. I just wrote about everything I have accomplished in 2013 – really great, fantastic things that anyone would be proud of. But now, one post later, it’s time for me to write about the bad things that happened this past year. And just as amazing as the good things were, the bad things of last year quite frankly sucked really really hard.

Those of you who know me well know what I’m talking about, in terms of the shitty things that happened in my life in 2013. But tonight I’ll write about something that has definitely been on my mind a lot lately, especially this week.

I was chatting on the phone with my sister before I got to blogging tonight and she said, “I can’t believe it’s already been three months since dad passed away.” My God, has it already been that long? It’s seems like such a hazy yesterday when I got the call, drove home to NJ, and went through the motions of the viewing and funeral. But it happened, and it’s become even more real in the last several weeks, when we spent the holidays without him and I found myself sitting at home in his recliner, wishfully thinking that maybe he’ll just come home and walk through the front door…

It’s been especially hard for me this past week for some reason, when I came back to VA. I don’t know if it’s because winter break has ended and I was feeling thoughtful and/or lonely, but that first night in Richmond I found myself writing a depressing Facebook status, followed by a late night phone call to a friend because I couldn’t stop hysterically crying.

Sad FB StatusIt’s just…I just miss him so much. Whether it’s singing karaoke in our basement, watching him care for his fish pond, or even the dumb mundane things like when he would get me oil changes so I didn’t have to wake up early in the morning…it’s those things that you try to remember and treasure so that you don’t forget, and you don’t try to take anything or anyone for granted ever again.

I’ll admit too, I’m a little angry. Angry that he continued to smoke when it was basically killing him. Angry that this addiction took a hold of him to the point where he still needed it even though he couldn’t breathe. I’ll never forget the last time I saw him alive, back in September – it was so scary, seeing him so frail with that oxygen tank. It makes me absolutely despise cigarette smoking, a disgusting habit that killed my father when he still had so much more to offer this world. If it weren’t for those fucking cigarettes, he would still be here. He would have seen me get married, have children, get tenure. But now I’m finding myself trying my hardest to believe that he can watch over us in heaven. Which brings me some comfort and peace, yes, but it’s still hard because I know deep down that it’s not the same.

So this is what I’ve been contending with, these past three months. Days go by when I’m fine and go about my daily routine, but then another day comes where I can’t focus because I’m just too upset, another day comes and I’m angry and hurt at my father’s life choices, another day comes where I just want to hear his voice again. It’s a vicious vicious cycle. And friends have assured me that it gets easier as time goes on, and I believe them, but I also know that I will probably never ever be fully “over it.” As one of my friends who lost her father two years ago has told me, you just never do. And perhaps in another three months time, or longer, I can come to terms with it.

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Cultivating Life in 2013

I was happy to get an email last night with my first #Cultivate14 prompt! I was out bowling at the time, and got home late, so I didn’t get a chance to write, meaning that I have a bit of catching up to do, but here is the prompt:

What did you set out to accomplish last year? What did you do to cultivate your goals and your life? Did your intentions manifest last year?

Boy oh boy. 2013 was the year of accomplishments.

First of all, I successfully defended my dissertation in April and officially became Dr. Briones. In May, I was hooded by my wonderful advisor and got to celebrate this amazing achievement with my family and friends. The celebrations continued with a graduation party my parents threw for me in June, which gave me some of the greatest memories of my father, who passed away this past October. By December, I successfully completed my first full semester as a brand spankin’ new Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, with no major complaints (from me or my students!) in the very slightest. So all in all, everything I set out to do last year was accomplished in a way that I’m super happy and satisfied with, so hooray for that. 🙂

What did I do to cultivate my goals and my life? Well, in order to graduate, I pretty much immersed myself in my dissertation. It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about it so hard, and when I did eventually fall asleep, I would have dreams about it. And once I got that hard-earned diploma and was able to hang it up in my snazzy office at VCU (you better believe it was the first thing I hung up in there, by the way!) I set out to survive my first semester by #1 – surrounding myself with great mentors. Not only did I have the honor and privilege of having an amazing School mentor (she’s the best!) but I also was blessed with being paired with a fantastic mentor at the University level through the Center for Teaching Excellence’s Junior Faculty Mentoring Program. I honestly don’t know how the semester would have shaken out if it weren’t for these wonderful mentors who were so willing to meet with me and talk about everything I needed in terms of the big three (teaching, research, service). So yeah, I consider myself extremely lucky in that regard.

In terms of more life cultivation, I mostly did this through my amazing support network, that is my friends. This past year I tried to make more of an effort to reach out to folks, which was great, because I got to play catch up with so many people I haven’t spoken to in a while, and the ones I do get to see on a fairly regular basis I got to see even more, which is a total win-win situation in my opinion. I’ve grown even closer to my sister over the past year, who I consider to be one of my best friends, and I couldn’t be happier. We particularly bonded over going to church, which is another life cultivating activity that I started in 2013 that will definitely make more appearances in future blog posts. Let’s just say that I’ve committed to the journey of becoming a more loving, Christlike person, and I’m excited about where that will lead me in 2014.

So overall, I’ll say that in terms of my career I’ve taken the right strides to make things happen, and I’ve strengthened many relationships in my life. I’m looking forward to how this will all progress in the upcoming year, which my pastor tells me is Rowena’s Year. So stay tuned!

A lot to be proud of in 2013!

A lot to be proud of in 2013!




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Happy New Year: From #Reverb13 to #Cultivate14

Well, just as it happened to happen last year, the end of the semester crunch totally got the best of me yet again and I never got around to participating in #Reverb13. Sadness.

Last year I ended up just answering the December #Reverb13 posts in the month of January. This year, I found another solution: I’ve decided to sign up for Meredith Shadwill’s #Cultivate14 January blogging challenge. Same concept, different prompts – I think it will still be a good way for me to reflect on 2013 and work on moving forward in 2014.

In the meantime, however, I really liked this last #Reverb13 prompt and thought I would answer it here, to get things warmed up and to serve as a preview for the posts to come:

2014 is going to be MY YEAR because…I’ve learned and grown so much in 2013, and am ready to take what I’ve learned into 2014. I’ve realized that I can no longer take my loved ones for granted, and that I should show them how much I appreciate them every single day. I’ve reflected on what my needs are, and what kind of partner should enter my life to fulfill those needs. I’ve rediscovered having God and faith back in my life, and how this completely changes how I’m going to live each and every day. I’ve reminded myself how truly blessed I was in 2013, and will continue to be grateful for the blessings to come in 2014. Overall, I just feel so much happier, joyous, positive, and at peace, which can only mean many more good things are to come in the New Year.

In 2014, I am going to do…whatever God intends for me to do. To help things out a bit, I’m going to try to be the best person that I can be in 2014. I hope to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and colleague and treat everyone with the respect that they deserve. I am going to try to give more – whether that is tithes to my church, or time spent with those I care about. I am going to try to reach my goals with mini habits – by way of keeping things simple and attainable, in an effort to not be overwhelmed by large, broad, grand goals that are too lofty and unrealistic.  I am going into 2014 guns a’ blazing, so get ready.

In 2014, I am going to feel…excited for the many opportunities that are offered to me at VCU. I feel so blessed that I have a job that I truly, truly love, with students and colleagues that give me a reason to get out of bed every single day. I am going to feel strengthened by the people I have met/am going to meet at Atlee Community Church through the service and study I do in 2014. I am going to feel nervous about dating again, but will not be discouraged by it, if it means that I could feel the zsa zsa zsu with someone all over again and embark on a brand new journey. I am going to feel sad that another year has passed without my father here with us, but I know that he is always with me, and he continues to show that to me in so many interesting and unbelievable ways.

In 2014, I am not going to…compromise my values for fleeting moments of pleasure. I’m not going to take advantage of the amazing people who have entered (and reentered) my life by making them feel as if I don’t love or treasure them. I will try not going a day without being thankful and grateful for everything I have experienced in my life – everything, good and bad, is a lesson learned that will help me move forward. I hope to be less greedy, jealous, angry, judgmental, and impatient. I vow to not be a miserable twentysomething and will embrace all the good surrounding me in my life.

In December 2014, I am going to look back and say…“Damn, I sure as hell made the best out of this year. I am truly, truly blessed.”

Get ready folks, there’s more to come in January 2014… 🙂

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My Biggest Accomplishment of 2012

Day 5: Accomplishments

Did you finally land your dream job? Did you have your first child? Did you finally find “the one?” What is your biggest accomplishment for 2012?

The biggest accomplishment for me in 2012 was successfully navigating the academic job market and landing a tenure-track assistant professor position…

…at Virginia Commonwealth University!

Yes, that is right folks, once I finish up my dissertation and graduate in May, I will be moving to Richmond, VA to start a job as a tenure-track assistant professor in strategic public relations and health communication. I am beyond ecstatic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the academic job process, it is definitely a long and exhausting one. For me, it started at the AEJMC annual conference back in August 2012, when I traveled to Chicago and conducted 13 informal interviews with different universities over the span of 3 days.

Then, in addition to taking my comprehensive exams and preparing my dissertation proposal, I also put together application materials to send to a number of different schools. All of these schools called for different things, but the majority of them asked for a cover letter, your curriculum vitae, and three references.

Then it’s the waiting game. For some schools you have an initial phone or Skype interview. Others just invite you to an on-campus interview to interview in person.

Now the on-campus interview is a beast in and of itself. Essentially you have to be ON for one to two FULL days (can be 8-10 hours), where you meet with various faculty, staff and students. Some schools have you do a teaching presentation, where you demonstrate your teaching abilities to faculty and students. Other schools also have you do a research presentation, where you talk about your research stream to faculty and students and get asked questions afterward.

A funny story is when I did my first on-campus interview, I left my house at 7:30 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., my mother asked if I was ok and if the interview went well. I had to tell her that I was still at the interview! I didn’t get home until after 9 p.m. that night!

In any case, I went through a number of these on-campus interviews and was able to be given an offer from VCU. It was a great offer, actually better than I expected, but I made sure to run this by my advisor and mentors to make sure of that (especially since, you know, I’ve never done this before!). They were all pleased with the offer, and so I called VCU to verbally accept the offer on December 20. I just signed the official contract yesterday, January 31.

And so, I was able to snag a tenure-track position before Christmas. A huge accomplishment indeed, and one that I was able to celebrate with many of my friends, and continue to celebrate today!


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2012 Words

Day 31: Elevator Speech

Set a timer for 2 minutes and sum up 2012 in as many words as possible, good or bad.

  • Sickness
  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty
  • Happiness
  • Engagement
  • Commitment
  • Opportunity
  • Friendship
  • Family
  • Career
  • Stress
  • Examinations
  • Defenses
  • Dissertation
  • Data
  • Crying
  • Insanity
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Writing
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Emotions
  • Love
  • Frustration
  • Hope

SIDE NOTE: I actually finished 6 secs early, but I thought ending the list with “hope” would be a good way to see 2013.

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