Thursday, October 31, 2013

T minus 24 hours until...

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November and is one of my favorite months! It is an insanely busy month with my birthday, Boo's birthday, Thanksgiving and of course opening the gateway to my favorite holiday, Christmas! To add 50,000 words of novel writing to this jam packed month seems a little crazy, and yet I have been doing it faithfully for 5 years. This will be my 6th attempt at NaNo and I am hopeful it will not end my winning streak.

But, this year will be very different. Last year I was only teaching a few classes, home before Boo got off school every day so had writing time in the afternoon. Adding the full time PhD student/teacher/lab monkey, to the rotation will add new and unique sets of challenges. But I am determined to try! The real trick to NaNo is to write a little every day, always aim for the word count (1667) but know some days you'll miss it, but you'll make it up another day.

My BFF has already pointed out that is absolutely ridiculous to attempt NaNo this year. She might be right, after all I have a lot more on my plate than I did in the previous 5 years. But, NaNo is all about me. It's one of the few things I do that is 100% for myself. I'm not trying to be the world's greatest novelist, I am giving myself permission for one month to let my creative side dance like a fool. Would I like my stuff to be published? Sure, who wouldn't! But that's not my driving purpose behind attempting NaNo. What really keeps me coming back every year is the sense of accomplishment it gives me to see the word bar creep up, the joy I get from letting my imagination scamper free, the satisfaction of creating something unique.. NaNo is the one month a year where I give myself permission to explore my imagination and record the journey. It's almost therapeutic. While there will be times during the month where it is maddening, frustrating, and I will consider quitting, when I reach the end it is euphoric. I "win" random internet stickers and I run around like I personally defeated Zod. Then I will go back to all scientific writing all the time, maybe touching my creative works two or three times the rest of the year. Until we come back to November when we can start the extreme creativity explosion all over again.

Self-expression, self-satisfaction, that's why I NaNo.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Old Man Winter decided to arrive in spades this past week. It is not even Halloween but the temperatures have dropped to subfreezing at night and 40-50 with no sun and bitter wind during the day. We even had snow one morning this week. All of this makes me an unhappy camper. Though I live, by choice, in the midwest I hate the weather here! I'd be much happier in California or Florida or somewhere without snow! So to have snow arrive in October makes me very sad.

Another thing cold weather brings is the critters... all the bugs and rodents go OMG WTF IT'S COLD and look for warmth. Unfortunantly for me, the mouse population has found warmth IN my kitchen!! The other night I saw a mouse run away and disappear in between the cabinet and the dishwasher. Understandably enough, I screamed (hey there is a reason I am a plant biologist and not an animal researcher ok!). After telling Boo it was just a mouse and not to worry, I ran back to my room and called maintenance. They informed me that they could not do anything but if I set traps they would come collect any dead mice... I threw a bit more of a fit and they relented that the next day they would look at the hole under my sink and at least stuff steel wool in it. So being the ever so brave person that I am, we ran to the store bought some traps, set them and ran into my room where I barricaded under the door with towels and had Boo slumber party. (What? Did you miss the part where I said I am a plant biologist?!)

Next day, I took an exam that was absolutely horrid and the lack of sleep from freaking out about these mice turning into ROUS from Princess Bride did not help. Put Boo to bed, then went to watch some TV and prep the exam I was giving the next day when the rodent stuck it's head out from UNDER my couch right next to me! Once again seeing ROUS in my head I RAN back to my bedroom, stuffed a towel under the door and spent another night not sleeping.

That brings us to the exam I administered, a huge practical (60 questions, 18 stations!) that had to be set up, administer and break down. Then I returned home and found a dead mouse, feeling incredibly victorious that I got the little sucker we played Lego's in the living room. Until we saw TWO MICE at the SAME TIME under the couch. That did it, back to the bedroom to hide!!

I went to complain at the office and apparently some other units are having issues as well. Went away for the weekend, came back to all set traps, no dead mice, new poop so they are still here. Guess it's another night of towels shoved under the door and horribly sleep. Will be complaining again tomorrow!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Biology Retreat

There is this yearly tradition at the biology department where we escape the confines of the lab for wide open space of nature! Or at least the confines of a conference center out in the middle of the woods ;) Every lab is allowed to send one graduate student to give a talk and as many poster presenters as they want (translate everyone else in the lab brings a poster!). Obviously I've only been here 2 months so I don't have to do one right??

Wrong! I got to present my project idea with very preliminary data! Weeeeee!! I also had to do it as multiple PowerPoint slides printed out and taped up and not a single big sheet of poster paper like the rest of the professionally looking ones. The walls were covered in posters, the windows were covered in posters and even the doors.. where mine ended up! It was a pretty pathetic poster as you can see....

One of the professors was like oh hey look old school! Yes.. my poster is retro.. was totally going for that.. Thankfully I got a lot of positive feedback, excitement to see how the experiment works out.

There were several rounds of talks, then the poster session in the morning before we had lunch and some free time. Which to a bunch of biologists out in the fall woods means HIKING! The conference building sat up at the top of a hill, with beautiful, colorful trees, a lake and a few trails. One of the trails we took had a rope you had to use to pull yourself up the steep incline, no joke. It was highly amusing to watch my professor and lab mates try to get up the incline. I was able to get up but boy did I pay for it a few days later. I think we must have missed the trail because the way back down was almost straight down! A bunch of grad students formed a human chain to help people down, I took the more adventurous route and slide down the leaves/mud like a surfer :) Pretty sure someone got it on their iPhone.. though mercifully it has not shown up yet!

It started to rain while we were on our way back, thankfully it was refreshing rain as we were so hot from the up and down portion. When we got back to the center there were more talks before clean up and head back to the lab.

The day after the conference, one of the other new grad students asked me on the way out of class if I just ran out of time to do my poster and that's why I had to print multiple slides instead of the big professional one. Nope.. just have an adviser who is economically minded and it's a few dollars to print this way and almost $100 to print the big ones. I find it embarrassing though that it's assumed I couldn't get my act together in time to make a real poster.. the first impression I'm after!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

viral hell

So I can't decide if I am badass or insane.. I have some sort of viral gastrointestinal thing right now (maybe food poisoning) that is making my day a few different shades of hell. But I got through my day, went to a really interesting seminar on writing teaching statements, got a Bradford and a GUS assay run, organized my group's project meeting in the course I am taking, helped the undergraduate with his DNA gel, then came home and processed all my data between intense stabby evil pain of death. Thankfully Boo is with his grandparents this long weekend off from school because I don't think I could have taken care of him and myself tonight.

Votes? Badass or ridiculous? Respond in the comments ;)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Library Day

So every week they have library day at Boo's school. He loves books, loves to read and be read to. Our normal bed routine consist of him reading to me and then I read to him. So the other week on library day I asked if he wanted to read one of the new library books he had brought home to me. His response was they had too many words!  And he proceeds to pull out a book on Pearl Harbor and another one on motorcycles! They are large books, full of pictures and small print with lots of factual information.

This is not the first time he has done this either. Last week it was Robert Ballard's book on finding the Titanic and buildings, week before that Ferrari and sharks, list goes on and on. So I asked him, "why do you get books with so many words!"

His response was epic. "Well I just have to learn lots of stuff!"


Love of learning passed down to offspring achievement unlocked!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I must apologize, it has been 2 weeks since I posted and I have meant to post several times! But life got in the way! End of grading period at Boo's school meant parent teacher conference, some extra homework, and then we got sick! But I am back and have a few events to post about which should be coming out shortly!

I do want to report that my exam grade came back and I got an A-! Not bad for my first exam back ;) Exam 2 is next week! As is practical 3 for the course I teach.. need to write that..

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2 months

It's been exactly 2 months of working in the lab. I still don't have a project for my PhD, working on a pilot idea. I came in this morning with a plan, got my liquid nitrogen and headed back to the lab and had a thought of amazement. I am actually here... I'm in grad school! I'm working on my PhD! It was almost surreal as I opened the door to the lab.. this is my life now. I am a full blown scientist again!

Sometimes I find myself wondering if this is real.. I know I rant about how hard it is to be a Mom and a Grad student. These rants are totally and completely valid as it is difficult. I am not sure if I will be successful. But I am trying and I am enjoying the attempt :)