Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 things

I got tagged on Facebook, but for those of you not on it, here are my 25 random things:

1. I work best under pressure. I need a ton going on to keep me organized and motivated.

2. I have always set unrealistic goals for myself. I’ve never had anyone else put crazy amounts of expectations on me. I don’t know if it is an oldest child thing or what, but I feel the need to do everything and be successful at everything I do.

3. Because of #2, I have a very low opinion of myself. There is no way you can be the best at everything—I rationally realize this. But I try anyway, and when I don’t succeed, I feel like a failure.

4. Because of #3, I value myself more by the things I can’t accomplish than by the things I can. Take, for instance, the eating disorder issues I had in med school. Am I proud that I have (for the most part) overcome that? No. I’m upset that I still haven’t lost the weight I put on because of the eating disorder.

5. But, I am getting better. I am at least realizing my issues and trying not to worsen them. And I have gotten a little better with my personal expectations.

6. Having a daughter has been both the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever done.

7. There are nights, especially after I’ve had a long day, that I want to take Sophie out of her crib and snuggle with her. I miss her that much if I haven’t seen her. And now that she’s so active, she doesn’t like to sit and snuggle like she used to.

8. Ok, thinking about #7 just made me teary. But I do love this age—she’s such a little person!

9. Tim and I have been together almost half as long as I have been alive. In today’s world, that seems unreal.

10. I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

11. I have a huge fear about moving, which is not something that is good for a career in science/medicine. After moving so much as a child, and now having a child of my own, I don’t know how Tim and I could both have demanding jobs and not have family nearby.

12. But, I would love to pick up my entire family and move them warmer. There is a lot that is nice about Cleveland, but I hate snow.

13. I also hate earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes, so my possible geography is limited.

14. I am hesitant to do any serious upgrades to our current house after we lost so much money on the first house. Especially if we might move for residency or fellowship.

15. But, I’d love a deck and a finished basement.

16. I don’t have a good work-life balance. When I am at work, I feel guilty that Sophie is in day care. But when I have to miss work for her doctor’s appointments or because she is sick, I feel like a bad student/employee. And this is with working in a mostly female lab. It was even worse when I worked with mostly men.

17. Work is such a paradox. There are so many two-income families, and yet there are so few employers who actually understand family issues. Tim’s in a good company now, but I am still the one that primarily handles Sophie’s work-conflicting schedule.

18. I could never be a stay at home mom. I love Sophie with all my heart, but I can’t do it. I don’t begrudge women that do. It’s just that my career is such a part of who I am. It makes me feel fulfilled. But Sophie will always be first in my life. And the time I get with her is that much more precious because it’s not constant.

19. I am a fixer. Maybe that is what drew me to science/medicine. I want to solve problems and fix people.

20. This becomes a problem in my personal life. I want to swoop in and solve everyone’s problems. It is very tough for me to watch people make bad decisions. But I also need to step back and realize that what is right for me may not be right for everyone.

21. This is toughest in my family. I’m proud of them for so many of the good decisions they have made. But there are some long-standing personal issues that are constant sources of drama, and I feel like I have some answers that could help. But it’s not my place.

22. Al-anon meetings did a lot for me. I learned about healthy detachment. I haven’t been to a meeting in a little while, but it’s something I want to make time for.

23. There are lots of things that I’ve given up—therapeutic riding, church activities, other hobbies—that I want to make time for. But my time at home is so precious. While I miss those activities, I want to spend every minute at home with Sophie and Tim that I can.

24. Tim’s last class for his engineering degree is this semester. Thank God. I know he’s thought about getting a master’s degree, but I think two bachelor’s degrees are good for now.

25. Still, it’s a little hypocritical of me to tell someone else they have been in school too long.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing catch-up

So, what's been going on in the real world?

Yeah, I've been out of touch recently. I keep thinking that, as I check something off my to-do list, a magical block of free time will appear. Not so much. Take this weekend, for instance.

We got a very localized track of lake effect snow over my house Saturday morning. The snowfall totals were about 6 inches for our area. Meanwhile, Hiram got nothing. I knew there would be no snow cancellations this weekend, so I packed up about 10:30 and started the drive out to Hiram.

Once I got out of our neck of the woods, it wasn't bad. I got there about 11:45 and headed to the Weekend College office. And I sat there for a while. I had to finalize the paperwork, get my computer account, and generally get briefed on the basics. By the time all was done, it was about 12:45. I had just enough time to run over to my lecture room (where I found out the projection screen was broken and my laptop wouldn't project) and the lab (which was locked). I then had to head back over to the Weekend College office for emergency response training.

Class was scheduled to start at 2--at 1:45, I was just leaving the training. No one was available to help with my technical difficulties, so I was trying to feverishly come up with plan B. Thankfully, my undergrad TA showed up. He was able to get the projection screen to work while I loaded my presentation on another computer. Disaster averted!!

The actual class was. . . ok. I was both more and less prepared than I needed to be. I had planned out my lecture on slides, estimating how long each topic would take. For instance, I gave them a National Geographic article to read in class. It took me seven minutes to read, so I gave them 20. It took half an hour, by which time I just told them to break into small groups and discuss. They actually really liked the article and the discussion, so I wish I had planned to make that a bigger part.

On the other hand, I apparently expected too much from their math. I had a slide on converting percent to parts per million. I figured we'd spend five minutes on it--we'd walk through a few problems and be good. Not so much. Multiplying and dividing by factors of ten was nearly impossible for them. After half an hour, I just cut it off--I said they need to understand why we use ppm for small amounts instead of saying something like 0.00005%. I had slides later in the lecture to talk about scientific notation--I cut that out entirely.

I think the class likes the chemistry concepts part, but they are petrified of the science. And with only having seven classes, I don't have the luxury of spending an entire class on balancing equations. Plus, with classes being (generally) every two weeks apart, there is too much time without a class if they don't understand a concept.

What this means is that a lot of the basic chemistry may have to be lost. We talked about elements, compounds, and mixtures--and that took a while. I introduced chemical equations, but there's no way we have time to spend on balancing anything more than the most basic ones. And forget about half reactions!

I know that the syllabus says chemistry will only be introduced as needed to explain concepts, but I feel like if this is a class taught in the chemistry department, there should be some science.

And I was nervous about getting chemistry questions that I wouldn't be able to answer. Turns out I got a lot more questions about things like, "Is there such a thing as clean coal?" That means I need to prepare differently than I had anticipated.

Overall though, the students are good, and I think lab went much better than I expected. The class really got into the experiments. That will be a plus. I've got to prep for next week, but I'm hoping things will get easier as time goes on.

Of course, my Saturday was tanked--I was gone from before 11 to after 9. Sunday I ran errands, and we visited both Tim's and my family. I also helped my sister with her intro organic chem stuff--that was more along the lines of what I thought I would be teaching!

Yesterday was insane in lab. I was doing rat surgery all day, and there was a bit of drama with ordering and assays that I had to manage between surgeries, seminars, and experiment prep. We worked it out, but it was tense for a while. Last night I was trying to catch up on bills and paperwork. And tonight, we are supposed to get another big snowstorm.

I know I say it every January, but why do I still live in Cleveland? I hate snow! And I swear, we've had above average snowfalls every year for the last ten years. Cleveland's annual snowfall is about 60 inches a year. Meanwhile, we've been over that, with three of the top five snowfalls coming since 2002. Umm, if we have winters (like 2004-2005) with almost 120 inches of snow, doesn't that mean we should get one without snow, in order to average out?

And this winter has been extremely cold in addition to being snowy. Ick. Seriously, I need a break from winter driving (or at least something that handles better than my little Civic).

Anyway, with another big snow headed our way, I'm trying to make sure I'm regularly stocked with food. I didn't make it out last night, and it sounds like tonight might be iffy, but we should be able to make it to Thursday ok.

I'm teaching this Saturday (the make-up for the snow day), and then I've got a class the Saturday after, but I actually have a free weekend on Feb. 14th. Hooray! Maybe I'll sleep in or do something relaxing...

I do still have pictures and other things to update, but it may take a day or two. I am working on it though!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Soon, I promise

I know I'm still MIA. After I stayed up all night Monday finishing the grant, I got in Tuesday and found out that there were issues with submissions. I finally got that sorted out, and then I was all ready to submit Wednesday morning when they emailed with a deadline extension. Part of me really wanted to take the time and rework the app, but the bigger part of me just wanted to be done. I think the chances of this grant getting funded are slim to none anyway. So, on Wednesday, I submitted it.

You would think this means life has slowed down. Not so much. I'm now trying to get back on track with experiments. And daycare called yesterday about Sophie's draining ear goop, so I had to go get her. I was inclined to be aggravated with daycare (I had called the doctor, who said that clear fluid draining from the ear was normal, especially after a cold). But then I left and picked her up, and I knew she wasn't feeling good. Her ear goop was more prolific (and starting to turn solid colors), she had a fever of 101.8, and she wasn't herself.

After a nap, a bath, and some dinner, she went to bed. And when she woke up this morning, she was like a new baby. She still had some ear drainage, but the fever and crankiness were gone. My plan had been to call the doctor early this AM and get her in. But with no fever, I decided to pass.

Tim and I both caught the plague Sophie brought home. I've been blowing my nose so much that it is bleeding, and nothing seems to help. Gotta love daycare bugs.

On top of grant and home issues, I'm trying to finalize three lesson plans for Weekend College. Why? Well, I'm teaching one tomorrow, one the following week, and one the week after that. And since next week is a rescheduled make-up, I've already had students tell me they can't make it. So I need to have a detailed idea of what I am teaching so that I can give them specific assignments. Good times.

Did I mention I am no longer a coffee virgin? I'm typically a tea drinker, but I needed caffeine so bad on Tuesday that Jessica, the postdoc in the lab, bought me a latte. And I liked it. I just had my second latte ever a few minutes ago. Awesome.

And although I did hit a rough patch due to lack of sleep from about 8-9 AM Tuesday morning, I really did pretty well. I was able to function most of the day, and I didn't go to sleep until about 9 PM Tuesday night. Even then, I felt like I could've stayed awake longer. The coffee come-down was about 5 PM, which made me sleepy for a bit, but then being busy perked me back up. It was a pretty productive few days.

I'm teaching all day tomorrow, then tutoring my sister in organic chemistry on Sunday (which I don't remember at all). But four weekends from now, I have no teaching at all. I've got to think of something fun to do. Of course, that means it will blizzard. But I think I deserve a (cheap) reward for the hard work I've been putting in.

I finally brought food back into the house Wednesday night, I'm hoping to cook tonight, and sometime in the near future I'll clean my house. Then we should be almost back to normal, functioning household baseline.

Hopefully starting Sunday I'll be back on the regular blog schedule. I've got lots of pictures and other fun things due to be posted. Till then, I'm going to ride my caffeinated post-latte high and get more work done. Ciao!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Well, it's almost 5:30 AM. I've stayed up all night writing the grant, convincing my computer to not eat my grant, and footnoting all my references (all 80+ of them). I wrote some BS training statement (please give me money, I promise I'll do research, etc...) I think I'm done.

I can't believe I pulled an all nighter. This may sound silly, but I don't think I've ever pulled a true all-nighter before. I usually would work, sleep for a few hours, get up crazy early, and start working again.

Apparently insomnia is good for something. And other than having a stomach ache (why, I have no idea), I actually don't feel too terrible.

Of course, I'm sure that will hit me like a freight train tomorrow.

For now, I need to reassemble the mountains of paper strewn about into actual file folders full of articles. After that, it's time for a nice warm shower (although maybe not too warm--I don't want to get sleepy).

Hmm. An all nighter, with no caffeine added and general functions intact? I can only hope I retain this ability for med school and residency.

I'll have to thank Sophie for training me to work on very little sleep!

And with that, I bid the grant adieu. Hopefully some little finalization tomorrow, a click of the submit button, and it's out of my hands. It has very little chance of being funded (which I am trying not to think about), but at least I learned a lot. Like, start at least six months before the deadline, not three weeks.

Now, I've just got to plan 20 hours of teaching. What fun! But I think I'll try to sleep at least once before I attempt that. Planning lectures and labs does take some amount of concentration.

Good night! (or Good Morning!)

Monday, January 19, 2009


I know I've been MIA recently, but this predoctoral fellowship application is killing me. It should all be over soon though. We are planning to submit it tomorrow. Then I just have to make lesson plans for my weekend college class, go grocery shopping for the first time in a month, and tackle the ever-expanding to-do list that I've completely ignored in recent weeks.

And did I mention it's been an Artic wonderland in NE Ohio recently? I know I say this every January, but seriously, it's time to move south. Or at least move somewhere that maintains the roads.

I'll be back soon, I promise!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Common sense prevails!

I woke up this morning to about 10 inches of snow. When I checked school closings, my college was only delayed 2 hours--which wouldn't affect my afternoon class. I waited for a few hours. I finally called the office at 9:45 and asked if anyone else had cancelled class. One professor, who has a several hour drive, had cancelled, but no one else had. The dean said the roads were "typical for January in Northeast Ohio" (which means bad).

I had planned to cancel right then. But we got to talking about makeup classes and whatnot, and I definitely got the impression she didn't want me to cancel. I told her I'd check the forecast and call her back in half an hour.

Well, the forecast was calling for continued snow, about 3 inches an hour at some places. I talked to Tim (who had been very protective and dead set against me driving anyway). And I talked to my dad, who used to commute for a similar type of weekend college class for his MBA. Both said they would cancel class.

I decided to just suck it up and cancel. I was really torn: as a faculty, I have a responsibility to the college to teach when they have paid me to teach. And I have a responsibility to my students to be there in class. But I also have a responsibility to keep them safe. And I have personal responsibility for my own safety as well.

I was amused though--they had a short blurb up on the college's site about class only being delayed. There were a bunch of comments from students under the article about how unsafe it was to drive, how they had gotten stuck and had to turn around, etc. Eventually they disabled comments on the blurb. That did it for me--if students didn't feel safe driving, we'd figure out a way to make up the class.

So I called the college office back at 10:15. And the woman said that the dean had just decided to cancel all classes and schedule a makeup weekend. Finally, some common sense!!!!

So, I am home, safe and warm. And I have a hot date with a grant. But at least I am not driving.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Complete panic attack

I'm used to having a lot on my plate. But I think I've officially overdone it...

Tomorrow is my first day of teaching at my alma mater. It's 4 hours lecture, 2 hours lab every other weekend. I was supposed to have 10 students--I have 27. I was supposed to have a lab TA--I don't.

And at the same time, I am writing a predoctoral fellowship for my lab work. It's due the 28th of January. And I just found out that my grants office wants it by the 20th of January. And although we've been discussing it in general for a few months, we only started reviewing specific aims TODAY.

So, this has been a stressful week. To top things off, the weather is forecasting a winter snow storm. It's supposed to come in this afternoon (Friday), peak tomorrow, and linger till Sunday morning.

And I called the college, and they want me to come in by 7:30 AM tomorrow morning to get my ID, computer access, etc set up before I teach at 2 PM.

Which means:

-I have tonight to finalize 4 hours of lecture and plan the next class's notes (so I can assign reading/homework)

-I will have to drive through a snowstorm, on notoriously poorly maintained roads, in the dark tomorrow morning (long story--I was in a car accident in snowy weather on those same bad roads when I was in college)

-I need to be there waaaaay earlier than I planned, and I'll likely be there from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM. Which means I'll have to leave my house before 6 AM and be home about 10 PM if all goes well.

-Oh, and the undergrads aren't back yet, so none of the cafeterias will be open. And seriously, the closest food of any sort is at least 3 miles away, down some very curvy and hilly backroads

-Sometime this weekend, I need to write about 20 pages (single spaced) for my grant. I'm guessing that will be happening Sunday

This teaching gig seems like more and more of a bad idea as time goes on. Did I mention I am making very little money in all of this?

I know if I can get through this first class, things will be easier. And with the awful snow, I have to think a lot of students may not show up. But, I have to be there. And unless the college cancels classes tonight (which they never do--once in ten years, I think), I'll be there in the morning anyway. It would figure that they would cancel class once I'm already on campus...

Yeah, so I'm a little stressed. No wonder I haven't been sleeping much this week.

I'm most nervous about the snow driving. I have a history with these roads. There are some aspects of going to a rural college that are wonderful. And the hilly terrain really is beautiful. But rural + hilly = crappy winter driving. And my little Honda Civic isn't a big help.

So, if you are into it, say a little prayer for me tomorrow. I think God and I will be having a chat the entire time I am in the car...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy belated new year

I've been meaning to post for a while, but I haven't been sure of what I want to say. I'm still not sure. I know the traditional blog thing to do is summarize 2008, reflect on my 2008 resolutions, and then make a few resolutions for 2009. I thought about doing that. I've done it in the past. But I just don't feel like it's right for me this year.

2008 was fine overall--lots of drama, but also lots of good times. But I don't feel like I personally grew very much in 2008. I was so focused on getting through all of the drama--selling the old house, personal/family/day care drama, and then switching labs--that I didn't take time to really work on me.

So, when I set out to make my resolutions for 2009, I realized that they looked a lot like the ones I made for 2008. And 2007, 2006, etc...

Instead of just saying that this year will be different, I started thinking about how I can really make it different. And one of those ways is to not make "resolutions," per se. There are things in my life that I can do better. But there are also things in my life that I am doing pretty well. What I need to do is find a balance.

I am an all-or-nothing type person. That drives me to try to reach high standards, but it also sets me up for disappointment when I don't always achieve what I want.

For instance, let's take the perennial favorite "weight loss" resolution. I was all ready to get on here and post my hard-core plan: major diet overhaul, exercising hours every day, etc. What I realized was that the huge, sudden changes never last. I do well for a while, and then I slip up. Instead of acknowledging a temporary slip, my all or nothing sets in--I'm a failure, why do I try, etc.

I know that changes need to happen a little at a time. I've decided to not give up on my weight, but I am approaching it different. Each week, I am setting one small goal. This week was meal planning. Next week, I'll set another goal, but I'll keep meal planning. Over time, hopefully these behaviors will become permanent. And by changing one small thing at a time, I won't get overwhelmed as easily.

There are a few other things in my life that I am working on with small changes. I'm sure I'll tell you all about them in the future. But if you are looking for the yearly resolutions list, sorry to disappoint. I'm hoping this year will be different.