Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mostly Good News

So, sorry I have been so absent lately. It has been really crazy here. Lots of deadlines and projects…and more good news. I think we are getting another grant funded! At least the program officer has contact me and is asking budget related questions. So, things are really picking up for me. Now, if only I could get my papers published...

I received two rejections recently. One was for a paper from my postdoc. I physically can’t collect more data because I no longer have access to that set-up and no one at my postdoc knows how to do those experiments. So, I have been trying to publish what we have, even though more data would definitely make it better (and statistically significant). It was rejected for a 2nd time, so now we are going to send it to a conference and publish it as a proceedings. Not, my first choice, but I totally understand. It is not as though all the data is scanty, it is just that certain parts need confirmation and we just can’t get that. The other parts are suggestive and interesting, but if we published them by themselves, it wouldn’t be enough for a paper.

The second rejection is similar. I submitted a teaching paper in the anecdotal style, but with some data collected from a survey. The reviewers want more data, but since each data point is a class that I only teach once a year…it will be at least a year until I can get another data point, and since the class is about a technological innovation, it will become irrelevant rather quickly. I have already presented this at a conference so at least I got something out of it. And maybe that is as far as it will go.

These negatives are tempered by all the great things happening in my life. It looks like we will be getting two grants funded, and that pretty much sets up my lab for a few years. I might even be able to take a new student next year. On top of that two of my undergrads won NSF graduate research fellowships and one of my grad students just placed 3rd in a University wide poster competition. It is making me feel all warm and fuzzy!!!

So to celebrate, I took yesterday off. Completely off. (well nearly, I did check my email 3 or 4 times to make sure nothing catastrophic was going on.) I had the absolute best day. I actually spent a lot of time planning for it and trying to imagine what the perfect day would be like. For those of you without kids you might think that I would want to spend the time with my family, but I spend almost all of my non-work time with them. What I decided I really wanted was to be utterly alone, with no one asking me for anything, no demands, no nothing. So, after I dropped the kids off at school, I loaded my bike in the back and went to a local trail. I biked around for about an hour and then spent about ½ an hour watching the clouds move. I swear I haven’t done that since grade school. It was so invigorating. At first everything looks the same and unchanging, but then after a few minutes you can see subtle differences, motions.

After that, I went home and dropped the bike off. I hopped back in the car and drive an hour and half to a hiking area near our house with hills and caves. I hiked for about an hour and then tried to sketch some of the natural rock formations. I recently bought a charcoal set and sketch pad and this is kind of my new thing. I am quite sure I am awful, I have never been artistic, but what the heck. So after that I hiked back to the trail head and had a late sack lunch. I drove home and spent the rest of the afternoon on our deck laying in the sun and listening to the Fountainhead on my IPod. By the time my family got home, I was well rested and ready for them. I grilled sandwiches for DH and tried to fly a kite with the kids. All in all, an excellent day. Almost makes me not want to go back to work…almost. Because I do *still* love my job.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I promise I'm not dead

I realize I haven't posted in a while, and I want to reassure you all that I am not dead. I have had a rather tough month or so though. I had antibiotic resistant step and spent one week denying I was sick, one week on antibiotics that didn't work, a few days @ a conference with no antibiotics, and a week and half on antibiotics that do work. On top of all that, my computer died, twice. I ended up having to rebuild the system and start over. I have been installing software all week and am just getting back into the swing of things.

When I first started to get sick there were two weeks left in my class. I taught it anyway even though I was running a fever and could barely stand up without passing out. Finals were rough. I couldn't estimate the proper length because I was so sick that everything was taking longer than normal. My exam ended up being too long, but I curved it and it all worked out okay. The day I posted grades I was running 102 F and almost passed out twice. I had to come in though because the exams were here and I needed to talk to my TAs. That was also the day of our advisory committee meeting, but I managed to convince my chair that it would be a really bad idea for me to attend. During this time, I also did two oral candidacy exams (what was I thinking!).

After finals, I went to a two day conference. It was horrible. I don't know why I didn't cancel, but I was an invited speaker and I didn't think about sending a student instead or any of my other options. I pretty much spent all my time nearly passed out in my hotel room, venturing out for the required talks and lunches (etc.). After the conference, I spent two weeks on my sofa (with my new meds).

Although this sounds completely horrible (and I guess it was), two good things came out of it.

(1) After spending two weeks on a sofa not going into work and not responding to any emails (my computer had died by this time), I discovered that life can proceed without me @ work! Although there were plenty of things that I probably should have done, but didn't, my students seemed to get on okay and my colleagues weren't really bothered.

(2) I spent my time listening to the Twilight books on tape series and it was amazing! Actually, this led me to a deeper realization, which is that I work too hard. Since I got better, I have been more careful about the obligations that I accept. I have been saying no a lot, and I have been making more time for myself.

Note that I said myself and not my family or personal life. This whole incident made me realize that I spend too much time trying to please others. I work hard at my job and try hard to make my students happy (research and classroom), to make my chair happy, to make my colleagues happy. I also try hard at home. I work hard to be a good wife and mother, despite all the help that I have, I spend most of my time doing tasks and chores. I have very little time to myself, for my own pleasure, and two weeks on the sofa doing something that was completely pleasurable and not an obligation was definitely what I needed.

And in the midst of all this misery (and self-discovery)....I got an NSF grant funded! So life is...good.

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