Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Scientiae: ThereIsNoIinTeamButThereIs_M_E

Attributed to my best friend, whispered during one of our track coaches' less effective pep talks.

"There is an M and an E in Team," may indeed be my style right now. Maybe the snark isn't quite so fitting, but it's a lot closer than being inspired.

I have been working on my research-based Master's since the fall of 2005. There are lots of perfectly good reasons why I haven't finished- field seasons, Booker's deployment, bouts of anxiety disorder, insomnia (MAJOR insomnia, like 3-4 hours a night for months in a row) and depression. Now I'm just outright embarrassed that it's taking so long. My personal life is mine to keep personal, much of it is things I wouldn't want to share with my advisor (I told him about some "health problems" that have now been straightened out) or committee, yet the past two years have strongly affected my performance. Uhh...where was I?

Yes, so now I am just desperate to finish and constantly trying to de-fang this whole thing. I totally hate my project and feel little to no passion for what I have been doing. A friend of mine once told me to go with that; instead of waiting to feel inspired, to just let yourself feel so pissed off that you want to be done. And I am. I really am. I'm also verrry self-involved and cranky. So this is how my "M and E in Team" is playing out:

1) I don't care about meeting the new grad students. Yes, you are nice people, I have been in your shoes before and will be again. But I don't care about you. I won't be here past December and I'm not interested in making new friends. Plus, they all come in starry-eyed and Pollyanningly say "Iiiiii won't be here forever. Iiiii am going to finish in two years." Whatever. Just you wait. This is an overwhelmingly fieldwork-based department; the average is 2.5-3 years, and those people who take longer are busting their asses just as much as you plan to.

2) I am working at *large retail chain* and trying to help support our little family. Therefore, I am not always available to go to the department seminar and do not appreciate snarky e-mails from program head that "only 12 of our 40 students came to the seminar." I consistently attended seminar for 3 years. Bite me.

3) Nor do I appreciate, upon telling people where I work, getting told, "Well, do what you have to." BTW, it tends to be faculty who do that. Are you that out of touch?? Some of us don't have tenure! My job gives its employees full benefits for working 20+ hours a week. Yes, health care for working 20 hours a week. I'd like to point out that as a TA, I didn't earn any social security credits, definately no 403(b) options, and the university fees and mandated health insurance cost us 1/3 of our stipend a year.

3) I am working at a job where I make $1 dollar more an hour than a job I had as a college freshman over 10 years ago. Except now I have 1.75 more degrees. Yes, I'm lucky to have a job of any kind, the economy, blah blah blah. It still stings when you have $60,000 in student loan debt.

4) Competitive lab mate does not want anyone to finish before her. The next time she tries to pry out exactly how far along I am in writing, I might very well turn around and fart in her face.

I think I'm going to enjoy my membership in Team M-E. Being the pissed off founding member has gotten me to finish a thesis chapter, which I had put on hold all summer. If inspiration is not your style, I highly recommend starting an M-E franchise!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Watch your fucking mouth!

Ok. I work at a certain retail store. It's not important where. Most of my coworkers are late teens and early twenties. We had a meeting today to go over some things and clear the air (there's been lots of silly gossip.) One of the things that I brought up was that *people*- and I included myself because I have a filthy mouth (fuck, shit, that kind of thing) - need to watch what we say, that the store is mostly loud but does have sweet spots where customers can hear us. The specific example I used is how 'r-------' and 'g---' are thrown around. (Yeah, and I am SO not okay with that.)

The reaction was kind of lukewarm, as in general agreement that yes, we should watch what we say but we all know it's not meant to be anything bad, etc etc. I beg to differ. Those offensive examples I gave to everyone don't include the times I've heard a certain specific group of people referred to in a negative way- the most outlandish being "---- people smell bad." Or the times I've heard f--, NOT in reference to a British term for a cigarette and (thankfully) not in front of my homosexual coworker. I've noticed that there's some editing. When my xyz coworkers are not there, things are said about xyz people. When the pqr coworker is not there, things are said- "jokingly"- about pqr people. More than once something that has been tossed out in a sarcastic manner has left me absolutely speechless, jaw hanging open. I try to throw out a "I don't like that word," or "What do you mean?"

I don't know. I guess I need to vent in an anonymous way. Mostly I can't believe what people think it is okay to say in any context, let alone at work. And that the most effective way to stop it seems to be "oh, we don't want the customers to hear." Am I the only one who was taught not to do that? Whether or not anyone can hear you? Is it a generational thing? Is it a regional thing?

I don't know if I should/ should not have said anything. 1) I just want to collect a paycheck and keep my nose clean at work and be cool with all my coworkers. 2) Everyone pretty much knows where I stand on some things due to my standard "I don't like that word" response. Still, I kind of got the feeling of a sense of -we're-all-adults-and-we-can-say-what-we-want-and-people-shouldn't-be-so-sensitive. But when all the terms are put together, and especially when you hear what some people say when others are not there, it paints a really nasty picture.


I just think that what you say MATTERS.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moving Forward

Not sure it's best for me to blog after taking my Ambien. I written a little bit about the insomnia and depression with whom I've been coexisting. The biggest part of my moving on has been in using these prescriptions which I very badly needed. I got a therapist.I got a part-time job. I think my head will eventually get out of the clouds enough to come down to earth to finish writing my thesis. Booker is taking a kickboxing class for fun, so now we both have the energy to deal with the house issues before we try to sell it. We're in a pattern now where everything i contigenet on everything else, so it's hard to move ahead. When the insomnia was bad, I was only getting ~3 hours a night. I honestly thoutht I was losing my mind. I couldn't think, stuttered halfway through sentences, and constantly felt like I was on a roller coaster. It was that dippy fluttery feeling in your stomach, all day and all night over and over again. Both being able to sleep and feeling calm and confident during the day has put me right again. The porfessional progress is still slow, but I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009



MJ Palmer @ The Bottom Liner

Hope it actually added! Having technical difficulties.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I've updated my blogroll, which I hope to do periodically from now on. I read so many interesting blogs that are just not (yet) reflected for my, oh, 3-4 readers of this blog:) I've added:

Aunt Becky @ Mommy Wants Vodka
Clarissa @ Tales of a Conservationist
post-doc @ Minor Revisions
dreamsintodeeds @ Turning Dreams Into Deeds
Janus Professor @ Janus Professor, My Travels in a Two-Body Life

Monday, May 18, 2009


Booker has just mocked his pseudonym, thusly earning an arm hair pull. He doesn't read this so I don't know why he cares.

Insomnia is Crazy-Making.

(Photo from

I've had problems with insomnia for the past 5 years or so. It seems to go in cycles, which have been running closer together, and for longer periods. It became unbearable this past winter, but I think I now have it under control. I still don't know what causes it, although I can eliminate an immune response to gluten. I know that it is in part anxiety-driven, but not completely. The insomnia is on 2 levels- the first, that it takes forever to fall asleep, the second, that I don't stay asleep. once awake, my mind starts spinning. At its worst, I was getting 3 hours at night and unable to nap during the day. I know a lot of people struggle with insomnia, so the point of this post is to let you what I've tried- I for one am always looking for new things to try to get some rest.
Caveat: these are suggestions only! I'm not a doctor, etc etc.

- Bed Time routine- I kind of wanted to hit the people who suggested that. Really? Can you tell me which way my underwear faces, because without you I can't function! So yeah, I have a routine of turning lights off, reading magazines, no phone calls or computer, and calming down in general.

- Benadryl, Tylenol PM, etc- Don't make me laugh. These may have worked 5 years ago when this started, but they have no effect now. I've read that a tolerance can develop quickly, and they are not meant for long-term use anyway.

- Valerian Root- doesn't work for me, but I know people who swear by it.

- Catnip tea- doesn't work for me.

- Chamomile tea, SleepyTime tea- no dice.

- Melatonin- doesn't work (for me), and it's not great to take for anything more than an occasional night. I've read that it can cause a feedback loop wherein your body produces less; what you want is for your body to produce melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm.

- Magnesium- the theory is that you need adequate magnesium to absorb calcium. It didn't make me feel sleepy, but it did relax me which is still helpful.

- Sunlamp- my husband has a therapeutic sunlamp. You're supposed to sit in front of it for at least 15 minutes in the morning; it triggers melatonin production. I don't know about sleepiness, but it did make me feel a lot more energetic first thing in the morning.

- Brain waves- Booker has some CD's that you are supposed to listen to with headphones. They re-set your brain waves for relaxation, concentration, sleepiness. They made me noticeably more relaxed, but at its worst sleep was still elusive.

- Tryptophan supplements- the amino acid in your Thanksgiving turkey makes you sleepy. It actually helped once in a while.

Ok, time to get serious. I saw the doc for:
- Trazadone. I took this for over a year, during Booker's deployment. It worked, until it didn't. I went off and was sleeping okay- not great, but sleeping- until a new insomnia cycle started this January.

- Seroquel- I only took this for 2 weeks. It knocked me out but I didn't like the way it made me feel.

- Gluten intolerance- got a blood test to check for an immune response, which I don't seem to have. Have not yet investigated any other food sensitivities.

- Ambien CR- worked great the first week. Then not so well, then not hardly but still better than taking nothing. It had only been a month when I called about switching. The nurse told me that it is the strongest thing on the market, so if Ambien doesn't work, nothing will. Cheery.

- Sleep study- Apparently I have mild sleep apnea, but not enough episodes to warrant the mask. Doc told me to sleep on my side, which is something I intuitively do anyway. Nothing else was really revealed. When I asked him what I could do to sleep, he told me to keep taking the Ambien CR and to have a bedtime routine (see the first bullet.) Seriously dude? This was after I waited 2 hours in an empty waiting room, because "the doctor isn't in today, but he's on his way in now." Um, I drove an hour and a half to be here for a 1:30 appointment, for which you did not have the courtesy to consider until I've been here 2 hours?

This last insomnia cycle took about 4 months to get stabilized. I am still deeply interested in finding out what causes it- if it's anxiety-based (I believe in part, but not entirely), if it's partly physiological (not confident I got rid of the tapeworm, maybe food sensitivities?), or what. But for now:

- I take an anti-anxiety medication in the morning. This issue is both separate from and part of the insomnia. It helps, to an amazing degree.

- I take Ambien CR at night. It seems to work better now that I'm taking the other med. I still wake up a lot at night, but now I am able to fall back asleep whereas before I'd just spin my wheels. For hours.

- Climbing out of the hole means I have the energy and drive to take on positive habits that had fallen by the wayside. Exercise, cleaning the house so it's not a pit, taking general better care of myself so I have pride in my appearance, cooking meals for us, hanging out with people for fun, etc etc. All of these go into sleeping better at night, and I was not capable of any of them until I could even things out a bit.

- No alcohol, at all, ever. I don't metabolize it very well on a good day. It actually makes the insomnia worse- something about the sugar or preservatives. Now that I have some prescriptions I just don't want to mess with it at all.

- Continue to limit caffeine, which I have done from Day 1. Unfortunately it is a vicious cycle- the less you sleep, the more you need something to face your day.

If you have insomnia, I feel your pain. Maybe something I have tried might work for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On the Rejection letter

Of all the snippets I've heard in the past year of this person and that person applying to a PhD program, virtually no one has been accepted. The only success story I've heard recently is a friend getting into vet school. At least there's some solidarity but man, it's a bad year. Does anyone see any evidence that 2010 will improve, in terms of funding in academia?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


- I do not blog enough. I will now blog more.
- I agreed to a petition-gathering project. I wish I had not. Soliciting, even for cause I believe in, is sooo not my thing. And this project has a quota. My town is dead right now, and I have major doubts about being able to gather signatures.
- I am going to my girlfriends wedding (Hi AJH!) in Boston in less than 2 weeks! I am so excited! 1), She and her fiance have been through the fire together. I know that she is committing to someone who can really be a rock for her. And vice versa. 2), I am in dire need of some girlfriend time. I have girlfriends in Grad School Town, but somehow all we ever talk about is research and academia. I am looking forward to going out on the town in Boston.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time Capsule

I'd rather forget these past few months, and make 2009 an eight month year.
My time capsule would contain:

- A pillow, to mock me. The insomnia had become so severe that I was only getting 3-4 hours every single night. Everything I could try without insurance had no effect (Seriously? Telling a major insomniac to drink camomile tea or take some Benadryl-I might hurt you.) Eventually insurance kicks in and I get a presecription for the strongest thing on the market. Which works less and less well every night.

-A butterfly net to catch the butterflies in my stomach. They are whipped into a frenzy all day, every day, all night if I couldn't sleep. Being so wired for so long with no respite made me feel like I couldn't take that anymore.

-A box of Kleenex for all the days my husband came home from work to find me in tears, for reasons unknown.

- A counseling book for the time I told him, "Why would you stay with me?"

- A pharmacy bottle contating the "better living through Chemistry" that has finally helped me get on my feet again.

And so there will be happy memories in the time capsule- a draft of my thesis, done by late spring and defended by summers end.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Well, I didn't get into a program for next year. I applied to 4 schools, but when it came down to it, only 2 were viable. The other 3 PI's I discovered late in the game, over the holiday break, and applied in the hope that they would be taking students. None of the 3 were, although they did give me some positive feedback. Which I will have to print out and refer to over the next few days while I nurse my wounds. Viable school #1 rejected me straight out a few weeks ago. It wasn't a surprise because I wasn't a very good fit for the program, and not even sure I really wanted to go there anymore. Viable school #2 stung though. I got the letter yesterday and I'd really been hoping to get in. The letter had language like "final review" (ok, at least I made it to the last cut), "unusually low funding," and "unable to admit all worthy candidates."

I think my GRE scores might have done it. My math scores were low. Still, it's very frustrating. Professionally, I did everything right. High GPA. Grants. Scholarships. Publications. Presentations. International experience. Research-based thesis. Well, sunofabich. It doesn't matter what you have going for you if you have one thing going against you.

So, we'll stay somewhat where we are. We're lucky, *very lucky*, because Booker has a nice stable job. In fact, starting school next year would have meant living apart again, in different states, for at least a semester because of his work commitments. It hasn't even been a year since his deployment ended, and that was a 15-month stint. We were both concerned about another separation, so soon. This way, we'll have a whole year of everything being NORMAL. No deployment/ Army/ Wedding planning/ Moving (well, we'll have to sell this house [eek] and move, but just the one move. Then we are renting.)No crazy field work. No grad school stress and schedules. Just some time to work and hang out and pay off some of these bills. In the end, we'll probably be glad it went down like this. I'll get those GRE scores up, defend and try to publish from my Masters, run the side project I wanted to do a year ago, and try again for fall 2010.

But rejection does suck, and I'm trying not to give in to those thoughts like: "Well, maybe you won't get in next year either and will have to give up," or "This pushes back your timeline and soon you will be too old to have a baby!" That one is particularly silly because I'm only 30. It's something to think about, but one more years' delay won't make it impossible. (Because I was hoping to work abroad in tropical ecosystems, this event was still 2-3 years off, with the idea that we'd crank a kid out as soon as I finish my research.)

Oh wells. Interwebs, I'd be happy to hear your tales of rejection, in solidarity.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

For M.F.M.

M.F.M. was a really amazing, beautiful person. I went to high school with her. We weren't friends, but she was one of those people who made you feel like you were, because she was interested in everybody, genuine, funny and kind. She fought cancer for 5+ years, and on Saturday, she found rest. She chronicles her experience here:

My condolences go out to her family and friends.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Effin', Fricken', Fracken', Focken'

So, I'm in the midst of turning in PhD applications (1 to go!) I did eventually find the delayed letter-writer, after calling him at home. Three times. Seriously, if you don't want to, then say no when I ask you, M'kay? But this individual is sort of notorious for the forgetting of the deadlines, and I didn't have much wiggle room since it is the person I have worked with most closely in this degree. But, all's well there.

Now for the next drama. One school had a Jan.1 deadline for their online application. So I sit down yesterday, Jan. 1, and the system will not allow me to select a term for which I am applying. In fact, there are no terms listed at all. The paragraph below the empty term box says that if no term is listed, then the deadline has passed. "But that deadline has not passed" says I, "The deadline is today." Tech support can only offer to contact the program department. No one is there, of course, because it's a big holiday. (Big shout-out to all you schools with deadlines on a holiday. Can't type what I'm actually shouting, though.)

The online application system will not let me submit my application without a selected term. I printed it and faxed it to the contact in the program office. I called that office and the office of admissions (voicemail.) I sent an e-mail to the program contact, along with screen captures showing the date and time and exact malufunction of the online system. And I berated myself over and over for not seeing this coming. I had hoped to be able to talk to someone today, but it seems like eveyone is out until Monday.

My big fear, is that they won't accept my application. I am totally biased, but that doesn't seem fair. At no point does anything say 'due at midnight on the 31st' or 'due by 8am Jan. 1st,' or 'can't access the system after the 31st' or anything. It just says the ambiguous 'deadline Jan. 1.' Subjectively, I probably should not have waited til the last day. Which Booker pointed out. Verrrrrrrrry carefully pointed out. I wasn't really receptive to constructive criticism:) But, deadlines are not subjective. Deadlines are objective and objectively, I ought to have been able to submit it online on Jan. 1.

Thoughts, Internet?