"Remind me why we're getting ice cream in December again?" I asked, sliding into the seat next to Nathan with a cup of triple-cocoa-oreo.

"Because we're STRESSED!" Cindy replied enthusiastically, crowding into the booth with her own cone.

Saturday had been a day of travel and decompression; brunch with Greg and his wife (also named Mel), a series of short flights and long drives home, fueled by airport food and conversations. Conversations about what I'd do next ("homework," I told Greg), about stroke rehabilitation with the friendly doctor sitting next to me on the way to Charlotte, about winter break with a group of students singing sprawled-out on the terminal floor during their layover (they handed me one of their ukuleles and taught me a few chords), about the respective merits of different form factors of cinnamon buns with the young woman who sold me dinner at the airport. And then I got home. And I wrote the public-to-the-world mailing list messages and blog post about moving on from Red Hat. And then I basically fell over.

But now it was Sunday, and I'd gotten lonely and depressed working alone in my apartment until Sebastian nagged me to stop feeling sorry for myself and go out and find people, whereupon I spammed my classmates "10PM STUDY BREAK RUN WHO WANTS A RIDE?" We'd intended to go on a late-night rootbeer float run at Triple XXX, but it was closed, so we ended up nomming ice cream across the street at Silver Dipper instead, trying to savor the moments of non-work. I finally left the office past midnight after annotating the living daylights out of a paper on crowd dynamics; Cindy was still there plugging away at data analysis, Nathan studying for his Semiconductors final.

I got back to my apartment to discover that Rafael had translated one of my comics into Spanish - an unexpected moment of complete and total awesome. I checked my inbox; Justin had uploaded a new version of our paper while I'd been out imbibing sugar and the 75th issue of the Animal Behavior journal. I grabbed it, merged in Dana's bibliography and Tosin's writeup on themes we'd spotted in our data (short version: engineering students bullshit their way through the research phase of a design project), and then spent far too long gritting my teeth over excising redundant prose and clarifying and restructuring overly terse explanations. Shipped the paper back to my team around 2am. Thankfully, my other team already finished our short film (and design discussion) earlier in the afternoon, so that was over. Now it's just one art project, one lit review, and one 9-page paper. Er, "just."

If I can get all that done in the next 60 hours, then it'll be winter break for real - and I'll only need to write a paper about Teaching Open Source for ASEE over winter break... and read a bunch of research on distributed computing, and sort out whether I need IRB for the open access independent study I'm doing in the spring, and try to work through the first half of the textbook for next semester's "German for Reading Knowledge" class (because I kinda, er, skipped the first class in the series).

But there's balance to this as well. I'm going home to Glenview late this week after classes are done and hanging out with my childhood friend Randy until my parents and brother fly in for Christmas (from China and California respectively), watching my high school roommate Sharon's choir perform in downtown Chicago, and just found out ICODA (where one of my former ASL interpreters works) is performing "Into The Woods" (in sign language! with voiceovers!) next weekend. I have many letters and emails and cards to write, and look forward to having the time to write them.

My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Liss, sent a card (responding to one I'd sent her) inviting me to visit her and explaining that she had retired last June - so I'm figuring out how to do that... The last time I visited my parents, I went to see my old piano teacher, Mrs. Budilovsky, for the first time in 11 years; she was as wonderful as ever, and I left her house with a renewed desire to someday properly play Lizst's Liebesträume #3, the last piece I studied but had to abandon partway through when I left home for high school at 14. (Side note: now that I can read the poem that piece was based on, holy crap is it depressing. Other more happy side note: Martha Goldstein has an amazing number of lovely classical recordings up on Wikimedia Commons - yay open audio licensing!)

So life is full, and lovely, and... I'm still finding my balance, but it's a dynamic one. And I will continue to dig deep and learn to breathe. But right now, it's 3:16am - so... bedtime.

Sweet dreams, world.